Eugene Needs Fruit! | by Brandon Stadnicki

     “I need fruit!” screams Eugene, punching a hole through his bedroom wall. “I need it so I can get strong. I absolutely must get strong.”

     He sticks his face into the hole.

     “But I’m naked and I can’t go to the store naked. I’m exposed. Vulnerable. They’ll kill me in there. I need to prepare myself. Anything could happen.”

     He dresses himself and opens his wallet.

     “Seven dollars. The exact amount of dollars I need for fruit. Almost ready for my adventure. So close. Just need one more item.”

     He goes into the kitchen and takes a pair of pliers from the junk drawer.

     “Never know when you’ll need to ply.”

     He puts the pliers in his pocket and steps out of his apartment. The landlord is waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. He hands Eugene some papers. Eugene doesn’t look at them. He points to the sun.

     “Hey, goofball,” he says, “the sun is shining, which means no werewolfs. Pretty good news for you, scaredy cat.”

     “I’m going to evict you, Eugene. Because I don’t like you and your hair is ugly.”

     “I don’t care. I don’t care about that and I don’t care about you. You’re not my close friend. You’re nothing. My apartment is nothing. My hair is nice. I’m going to get fruit.”

     Eugene pushes the landlord down and throws the papers in his face. The landlord starts crying. Eugene gathers the papers and hands them to the landlord. He kisses the landlord’s cheek and wipes away his tears. He jogs toward the store.

     A disheveled man approaches Eugene on the sidewalk.

     “Hi, beautiful,” says the man. “Can I please have some of your money? I’m disheveled.”

     “How dare you,” says Eugene. “Fruit costs precisely seven dollars so that’s how many I brought with me: precisely seven. What, you don’t want me to get fruit?”

     He pushes the man down.

     “You don’t want me to get strong, assboy?”

     He pulls the pliers from his pocket and holds the man down by the throat. He plies the teeth from the disheveled man’s mouth and collects them in his pocket. He stabs the man in the temple with his pliers. Blood gets on him. He tosses the pliers at a nearby bush and leaves.

     Eugene enters the store. The cashiers all turn and smile at him.

     “Eugene’s here,” they say. “Welcome, Eugene. We love you.”

     “Thanks, idiots. Here, I got something for you.”

     He holds out a handful of bloody teeth. The cashiers walk over to him crouch to eat the teeth out of his hand. He strokes their heads.

     “Yeah, that’s good, huh? Good, good, good. Now you’ll get strong.”

     Eugene walks to the produce section.

     “The Fruit Kingdom!” he shouts. “Everyone come over here, to the Fruit Kingdom!”

     Customers and cashiers gather round. One of the customers has a baby in a baby carriage.

     “I have a baby. Do you like it?”

     Eugene stoops to look at the sleeping baby.

     “Oof. Oof. No, I really, really don’t like it. It’s pretty awful. But watch this.”

     He picks the baby up and walks over to a mound of cabbages. He buries the sleeping baby underneath the cabbages.

     “Cabbage patch.”

     He picks up the baby carriage and throws it a few feet. Then he rubs his chin.

     “Hmm… I wonder who wants me to play the saxophone now…”

     “We all do, of course,” says a customer, handing Eugene a saxophone. “Here, use mine.”

     “Thanks, moron,” says Eugene. He pushes the owner of the saxophone down. “This is a song about how I need fruit.”

     Eugene plays a heartbreaking solo. Customers and cashiers weep.

     Eugene stops playing.

     “Stop crying. Stop it. I’m trying to be serious. But since you eggheads can’t act mature, I’ll play something else. This is a song about getting strong.”

     Eugene plays a jaunty tune. Customers and cashiers dance.

     Eugene stops playing.

     “Okay now we all need to settle down. We’re too rambunctious right now. Too much razzle dazzle. We need to cool our jets, okay? We need to just sit and be quiet for a while.”

     Everyone sits. Everyone is quiet for a while.

     Eugene stands.

     “Okay, everyone. Business as usual.”

     Customers shop. Cashiers use the cash registers. Eugene selects some strawberries and a cantaloupe. He waits in the checkout line. When it’s his turn he stands on the conveyor belt and looks down at the cashier.

     “Hey, lady. I have an idea: when you and the other cashiers said ‘We love you’ to me did you mean it? Does your face burn for my kisses? My tender kissie wissies? Because if you’re in true love with me I’ll share my fruit with you. And I’ll even play you a pretty song on the saxophone. It’ll be a song about us getting married over and over forever.”

     “I don’t know,” she says. “I don’t know if my heart is ready to be in true love with you.”

     “Well okay, because hand me a bottle of water.”

     She gets him a bottle of water from the cooler and returns to the cash register.

     “Look at my shirt,” says Eugene. “It’s red so that makes me like a fire truck.”

     He opens the bottle of water.

     “And you’re dumb so that makes you a fire.”

     He pours the water on her head.

     “I don’t appreciate what you did to me,” she says. “Now I know that my heart will never be in true love with you.”

     “That makes me feel extremely gloomy. The only thing I wanted in my life was your goofy little hand in marriage. Now being married will never happen to me.”

     “That’s fine. I’ll probably have a boyfriend soon.”

     He gives her seven dollars and she puts his berries and melon into a bag. He takes the bag and hops off of the conveyor belt. He grabs a fistful of candy bars.

     “I’m not going to pay for these.”

     Eugene walks to the doors. He turns around.

     “Hey, everyone, listen up. Tomorrow I’m gonna come here with a lot of bombs. Like probably a hundred. Really big ones. I’m gonna put the bombs all over the store and then as soon as I leave the bombs will explode. If you wanna die, please be here at two o’clock tomorrow afternoon. Oh and don’t forget to take that baby out from under the lettuce or whatever and put it back. Bye.”

     Eugene leaves. He looks at the full moon shining high in the sky.

     “The moon is a dork.”

     He throws candy bars at parked cars. He throws one at a lizard. He gets on his hands and knees and starts crawling home. When he gets to the disheveled corpse two police officers stop him.

     “Hey, can you help us?” says one, looking down at Eugene.

     “Probably not. I’m down in the dumps.”

     “What’s the matter, buddy?” says the other officer.

     Eugene stands.

     “Well, I wanted true love and marriage with the lady at the store. But she ripped my heart out and put it in the trash, even though I’m really good at saxophone, all because I poured water on her dumb head. I don’t think I’ll ever feel smiley again, even though I got fruit and I’m gonna get strong when I get home.”

     “I know just the ticket,” says one of the police officers. “Helping us solve this mystery will help you feel better about yourself.”

     “Okay, let’s give it a shot. What’s the boneheaded mystery you two crackerjack numbskulls need help with?”

     “We’re trying to figure out who killed this man here,” says the other police officer, pointing at the corpse, “but the full moon makes us too afraid of werewolfs to concentrate on the mystery.”

     “I’m too afraid of werewolfs to concentrate, too,” says the first police officer.

     “Werewolfs are not scary to me, a very brave kind of guy,” says Eugene. “If a whole bunch of werewolfs came up to me and tried to challenge me, I wouldn’t care. I’d just be like, oh hey, bogus punks! You want some of this biz?”

     He punches and kicks the air around him. The bag of fruit swings and hits one of the police officers in the face. Eugene stops punching and kicking.

     “I feel much safer with you here,” says the police officer who was hit with the fruit.

     “Please help us solve the mystery of the dead person, brave boy,” says the other.

     “I don’t think I can help you with that. I’m not good at mysteries. But watch this.”

     Eugene gets the bloody pliers from the bush. One of the officers gasps.

     “How did you know the murder weapon was in the bush?”

     “Sometimes murder weapons are in bushes,” says Eugene, kneeling beside the corpse. “You just have to check. Can we please focus here? For once?”

     “Hey, look! Dried blood is on you,” says the other officer. “We’re getting just a teensy bit suspicious, brave boy.”

     “I already know about the blood. I work at a hospital and also I’m a butcher. My jobs make blood get on me. And it’s not even real blood, so stop it. Knock it off. I’m down in the dumps, remember?”

     “I’m not suspicious anymore,” says a police officer. “I’m sorry.”

     “Me too. You had really good reasons, about the murder weapon and the blood.”

     “I don’t forgive you and I never will. Now pay attention.”

     Eugene plies the fingernails from the corpse’s hands. He stands.

     “Okay now watch what I do. Do like this.”

     He eats a fingernail and offers the rest to the police officers. They squat to eat the fingernails out of his hand. He strokes their heads.

     “Good, huh? This’ll help you solve the mystery. This’ll help you get strong.”

     “I feel it,” says one police officer, swallowing. “I feel like I’m getting strong now.”

     “I definitely feel like I’m also getting strong,” says the other. “And I’m not lying.”

     “Whoa! Hey! Gimme that fucking thing,” says Eugene, tapping a police officer’s gun.

     “That’s too dangerous for you, silly baby. C’mon now. Safety first.”

     The police officer gives Eugene the gun.

     “The other police can have a gun. The other police is mature. I can tell.” He puts the gun in the bag with the fruit. “I’m keeping these pliers because I lost mine today and I have a lot of things I need to ply. And don’t tell me I can’t have them because remember, I am very heartbroken.” He puts the pliers in his pocket. “If someone calls the police tomorrow and says someone put bombs all over the store, just ignore it. They’re lying. And the clue to your mystery is that a werewolf probably did it. And you’re probably next. Bye.”

     Eugene lies on the ground and rolls along the sidewalk to his apartment. He drops the pliers on the floor. He walks into the bedroom. The landlord is in his bed with the covers pulled up to his chin. He’s wearing a nightcap.

     “I’m too sleepy to evict you today. But I still don’t like you and your hair is still ugly.”

     “Cry me a river, candy ass. I got a girlfriend today. Her heart is in true love with me. And I solved a murder mystery. And obviously, I got fruit, just like I promised you I would. Look.”

     He shows the landlord the gun.

     “That’s not fruit. It’s a gun.”

     Eugene puts the gun back in the bag.

     “I told you a lie about my girlfriend. She will never love me and she wants me to die. And I tricked the police into thinking a werewolf killed the guy that I killed earlier.”

     “That does not interest me. Nothing about your life interests me. I don’t like you.”

     Eugene snatches the landlord’s nightcap and throws it on the floor. The landlord starts crying. Eugene gives him back his nightcap and kisses his forehead. The landlord stops crying. Eugene shows him the fruit.

     “Okay, you got fruit. So what? I’m going to evict you tomorrow when I’m not sleepy.”

     “Please don’t. Anyway do you have bombs? I promised my friends down at the store that I’d bring some bombs tomorrow. They’re really looking forward to it. I can’t let them down.”

     “I don’t have bombs. You know this about me, Eugene.”

     “You shut your ditzy little mouth and go to sleep.”

     The landlord yawns and rolls over. Eugene goes into the bathroom and drops the strawberries into the toilet one by one. “Oops,” he says as each strawberry hits the water. He slams the cantaloupe on the counter and slowly drops clumps of melon gut into the toilet. “Oops, oops, oops.” He fires all of the bullets into the toilet. “Oops.” The strawberries and cantaloupe guts swim with shards of porcelain in the pool of water on the floor. He kneels and picks up a strawberry. He puts it in his mouth. He spits it out. He returns to the bedroom and drops the gun into the hole in the wall. He takes off his clothes and puts his face into the hole.

     He sighs.

 

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Brandon Stadnicki is frequently polite.

twitter: @dentiphage

Annual Confession | by William Overall

     As always let me begin by reassuring that this experiment consisted of six willing and handsomely compensated volunteers. The participants were chosen after undergoing a standard (somewhat) physical and mental ((mostly)) evaluation . The applicants varied in age, gender and intelligence, but all included “the single flaw” identified by Dr. Johnstein (a great hero of mine), and all indicated different levels. The participants willingly signed a contract that was strenuously written by a \\\. The six participants proved invaluable to the research, but obviously the only two I am required to talk about are “Fuse and “Tack”. The two exhibited the highest levels of “the flaw”. Both were very badly riddled with the illness (poor \\\..).

     Even though much data was lost and there is still the lasting controversy behind the end result. It has become much easier to develop identification technology for “the single flaw”. An amazing silver lining! But I do not write to bask in my own research, or to clear my name, but to drag the truth farther into the (light) sun (and to comply with the state’s mandated terms of conviction). However, I would like to praise the faith and diligence of my team of students -a truly brilliant and sometimes ((to their brilliance)) calculated bunch of kids- and also sometimes little \\\’s. As always though I recount them to a true and lasting call to abstractions of the collective conclusion.
Continue reading “Annual Confession | by William Overall”

Two-Shot, Add Steam | by Carleton J. Whaley

     And some would have described her as a girl with piercing blue eyes, but we knew she was not the Main Character, so we left off with that. Interestingly, the next customer was a man with piercing brown eyes, which we hadn’t thought of before. However, this observation led more to us discussing what piercing really meant than to our decision about the man’s status as a character. In that way, he was allowed to be more real than the rest of us.

     Should we consider the contest? That was what some of us wanted to know, to define the rules, fix them to the board and our minds. Unfortunately, the line was starting to get held up. We served them coffee. Some had tea. When they needed eggs, they were cracked. When they needed lemons, they were sliced. We did more sometimes, but that was the gist of it.
Continue reading “Two-Shot, Add Steam | by Carleton J. Whaley”

Beauty | by Emma Hines

     I can’t wear the same outfit in public twice. Not because the tabloids will judge me, but because nothing I wear outside of the ten-foot high electrified fence that guards my house ever makes it back in one piece. Once, when I was feeling particularly masochistic, I looked up how much scraps of cloth that had touched my body were going for on eBay, and it made me sick.

     My hair goes for more, though, which is why I have so little of it left. Most of my money goes towards wigs, to hide the bloody mess that is my scalp, and makeup to hide the blotchy mess that is my skin.

     The line between a blessing and a curse is thin as the thread on a fairy-tale spindle. Continue reading “Beauty | by Emma Hines”

Detour | by Mike Chin

     I needed to get off the road because my eyes were blurring and each blink lasted longer than the one before it and each revealed a dream. I had a boyfriend in college who theorized every dream was an alternate reality we were stealing glimpses of. The theory evolved to suggesting we never knew if we really were dreaming or awake, because we accept the logic of a dream in its moment, no matter how absurd it might seem. I told him I dreamed of turning in a paper for our philosophy class where we’d met, and I was sitting in the classroom when I realized all the words that were supposed to be italicized—the titles of books, the points of emphasis—were cast instead in bold print and I felt certain I’d flunk the assignment. He told me I was boring and broke up with me, not in the moment, but it had might as well have been because, from ten year’s hindsight, what was the difference between a second and a minute and hours and days?

     Blink once, I’m with him.

     Blink again, kittens surround me and I’m trying to get them all not to eat daffodils, and not to trample upon rows of them beneath a warm summer sun. To get them to be still.
Continue reading “Detour | by Mike Chin”

Freebooter | by T. L. Jacobson

     Pirate Keith, as he insisted he be called now, held the kaleidoscope to his one good eye like a nautical spyglass. Since the accident that damaged his right eye had forced him to wear an eye patch, Keith had taken to acting like a pirate in stunningly quick fashion, much to the consternation of his Protestant parents who hoped he’d someday end up a lawyer or a dentist—something respectable. But it seemed the pirate life had chosen him, so Keith embraced it with verve.
Continue reading “Freebooter | by T. L. Jacobson”

An Impossible Sighting Over Vauxhall | by Jess Conway

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When they watch the bus get sucked up into the sky most people assume it is a stunt for television, possibly a trick by that famous magician. Some people are genuinely awestruck; others, occupied with waiting for their own buses, want the stunt to finish now, please, so that they can have a little clap and then get on with their day.
When the bus does not descend, the awestruck say, wow! That’s a really good trick, to keep it up in the sky like that. Despite themselves, the impatient find that their interest is piqued once more. Some start laughing at the absurdity of it all. Others feel nervous. Others feel fear. The bus station is a veritable smorgasbord of emotion. Continue reading “An Impossible Sighting Over Vauxhall | by Jess Conway”