All posts by PULP Literature

Story Spotlight: Candy Apple Baby by Colin Thornton

Here’s a little snippet from Issue 14 to get your engine running this week …

Candy-Apple Baby

by Colin Thornton

It was a candy-apple red, metal-flake, chrome-plated Harley Davidson Low Rider, chopped down, pimped out, and fully accessorized, parked under a misty cone of light from a streetlamp almost as if it was waiting for Zoober to wander by.

For months he had fantasized about owning a motorcycle: tearing down the highway, a big, nasty redhead on the seat behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist, cheek resting on his shoulder.  Money was his problem, or rather, lack of it.  His old man wouldn’t pay for it, that’s for sure.  And there was no way he was going flip burgers for minimum wage like those other peons.

“Well now, looky here.  Someone left the keys in the ignition.”

He listened to the night, scanned the houses on both sides of the street — dark and quiet.  In the silence he could hear that chrome-plated angel calling out to him, whispering in his ear, enticing him, compelling him, daring him to do what most other sixteen-year-old boys would never dream of.

Although Zoober had never been one for going to church, praying, or any of that spirit-in-the-sky crap, he looked up at the stars and with all the sincerity he could muster, said, “Thank you, Jesus.”

 

JD is standing on a hoist, half a dozen fan belts over his shoulder, up to his elbows in the engine of a 1985 Corvette.  He holds out an empty hand, says, “Seven-sixteenths.”  His assistant wraps her fingers around the socket, slowly sliding it onto the wrench with a firm click and a gentle twist.  Brown skin, brown eyes, long auburn hair, naked under her bib overalls.  “Anything else JayDee?” she coos in a soft pillow voice.  Shivers of anticipation ripple up his inseam as she passes him the ratchet.  A smear of grease on her earlobe looks like a drop of chocolate sauce.  He leans forward to taste it …  Tic Tic Tic — Huh?  Tap Tap Tap —  What’s that noise?  Knock Knock Knock …  As Jennifer Lopez fades from his dream, JD realizes that someone is banging on his bedroom window.  Bang Bang Bang —  “JD, wake the fuck up!”  He squints at his clock, rolls over, and peels back one corner of the curtain.

Zoober is standing in the garden, urgently beckoning him outside.  JD shakes his head.  “It’s still dark out.”

But Zoober insists.  “Get out here.”

A beam of light shines through his bedroom door, casting a silhouette of a figure against the wall.  “What’s going on down there?”

“Nothing, Dad.  Nothing.  Bad dream, that’s all.”

“Well, dream quieter.”

Dad mutters something under his breath, flicks off the light and goes back to bed, closing the door behind him.

After a few minutes of quiet, JD slips into his jeans and T-shirt, eases open the back door, and sneaks out to meet his nocturnal friend.

Zoober bounces from foot to foot, arms crossed, shoulders hunched, hands tucked in his armpits.  “Jesus, man, I’ve been bangin’ on your window for ten minutes.”

“It’s four thirty.  What d’you want?”

“I need to put something in your back yard.”

“You woke me up for that?”

“It’s important.”

“What is it?”

“A motorcycle.”

 

Next day, sitting in the school cafeteria after classes, Zoober brags about his previous night’s adventure; the who, what, where, and when, saving the why for last:  “The keys were in it.”

In a lifetime of dumb moves, this ranks high on Zoober’s top ten list.  “Don’t you think …” JD asks, pausing to add the emphasis his slow companion needs, “…  someone might — miss it?”  And just in case the subtle point he was making was also missed, adds, “Might want it back?”

Zoober stares blankly.  Blinks.  “But the keys were in it.”

Before JD can explain the concept of impulse control, the Pappas twins, Chris and Nick, come into the cafeteria and straight over to their table.

Nick says, “Three guys in the parking lot looking for you, Zoober.”

“Big guys,” adds Chris.

“Brick shithouse big.”

“Ugly too.”

“Real ugly.”

“Capital UG ugly.

“Little guy has a cool tat, though.”

“Totally.”

Strangers in the parking lot could be anyone, but the coincidence is too much to ignore so JD suggests they take the back door out of school and cut through the alley to get home.

Seconds after stepping outside, a white Cadillac Escalade with blacked-out windows screeches to a stop beside them.  Three people jump out:  A wisp of a guy in a leather jacket with a tattoo of a snake on his neck and two sumo-sized bodyguards wearing mirrored Ray-Bans.

Minus the scales and fangs, the runt looks a lot like his tattoo — thin and wiry, bristling with aggression and nervous energy.

Snake’s jaw muscles twitch as he steps towards Zoober and JD, sizing them up, nodding and smiling to himself at some private joke.

He locks the kids in a cold-blooded glare, his eyes all pupil, like two lumps of tar.  In a breathy hush that somehow seems to amplify his rage he says, “In the car.”

Zoober and JD are shoved into the back and sandwiched between the two Sumos.  JD watches Snake’s reflection in the rear-view mirror.  His dead fish eyes, pale, cold, and glassy, scanning his prisoners, coming to rest finally on JD.  The intensity of Snake’s gaze feels like a corkscrew boring into his skull.  After what seems like an eternity, Snake smirks and nods.  “Punks,” he says, as if he was spitting a gob of snot.  “Two frightened punks.”

For a instant, Zoober looks at the door handle.  Just a flicker of a glance, a reflex.  “Don’t.  Even.  Think about it,” Snake warns.

He backs out of the service road, drives through the parking lot and onto Main Street.

For a long while they drive in silence.  Snake wants them to sweat, wants them to know who’s in control, give them time to let fear gnaw on their imaginations.  Eventually he says, “You have something of mine.  I want it back.”

Before JD can say turn left at the next stoplight, Zoober starts blurting out directions, leading them 180 degrees away from JD’s house.  Down the avenue, past the church, the strip mall, and Johnny’s Burgers.  Zoober points down the street.  “There,” he says.  “Brick house on the left.  Green garage door.”

Snake parks.  The Sumos haul themselves out of the car to let the prisoners out.  “We’ll be right back,” Zoober says and trots up the driveway to the side door, opens it, and walks in.

“What the fuck are you doing?” JD asks.  “This is Mackie’s house.”

“They don’t know that.”

Zoober walks right through the house, JD close behind.  Past Mackie’s bedroom and up the stairs into the kitchen where Mrs MacNeil is making dinner.  As easily as flipping a switch, Zoober turns on his choirboy charm.  “Hey, Mrs  Mac.”  She’s delighted to see two of her son’s friends.  “We have to study for a math test tomorrow,” Zoober lies.  “Mackie’s on his way.  He told us to wait out back.”

It would never occur to Mrs  MacNeil that her son’s friends would get into mischief like the delinquents she sees on TV.  “Nice to see you boys taking your schoolwork seriously,” she says.  “Are you hungry?”  So nice, JD thinks, the world’s best mom.  He feels like a cad for deceiving her.

“Thanks, but we really should study,” Zoober says, never thinking that the woman he’s dismissed as an airhead might notice that they don’t have any books.

Outside, JD hisses at Zoober.  “Are you suicidal?”

Zoober is so full of hubris it’s leaking out of his sneakers and leaving a slick on the deck behind him.  “I’m not going to let a dwarf and two Neanderthals with glandular conditions run my life.  Let’s get outta here.”

JD would like to kill Zoober himself and save Snake the trouble, but he feels helpless, out of control, as if he’s fallen into a river and been carried downstream into unknown territory.

They go down the stairs, across the lawn, over the fence, through the neighbour’s backyard and down the driveway to the next street, expecting freedom and finding instead a white Escalade — parked, engine running, one Sumo beside each open door.

This time they are thrown into the back seat and squashed between the two bodyguards.  Snake turns to face them — first Zoober, then JD, slowly shaking his head from side to side.

Zoober has an excuse.  “We —”

“Shut up!” Snake shouts.  Zoober’s bluster shrivels and dies like a worm in the sun.

He pulls out a gun, sticks it in JD’s face.  So close, all he can see is the end of the barrel, a silver circle of steel like a giant zero summing up his chances at getting out of this car alive.  He watches Snake’s thumb press down on the hammer and cock the gun with a click that echoes in his ears like a cannon.

“Have I got your full attention?” he asks.  JD nods.  “You’re out of time and I’m out of patience.  You know what I want.”  JD nods again.  “Now, where to?”

Read the rest in Pulp Literature Issue 14.  On sale now!

Colin Thornton studied drawing and painting in college, played music for a few decades while he built a career in advertising.  Today, his paints dry, drums on a shelf, marimba locked in its case, and his advertising days over, he writes short stories.  ‘Candy Apple Baby’ is a chrome-plated tale about theft, fractured friendships, motorcycle envy, and Darwin’s third law.  Colin rides a recumbent bicycle, not a Harley Chopper.

If you’re in New Brunswick you can catch Colin reading at the Frye Festival in Shediac this coming Sunday April 23rd around 3pm.

Literature & Libations: the Beer Bundle

As you know, we at Pulp Lit are all about the beer.

And because we are SO excited to celebrate the launch of our very first novel, Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, and the launch of our fourteenth (!!) issue we want to buy you a beer!

Pre-order your copies of Stella and Pulp Literature Issue 14 below, and we’ll include a  drink ticket (also good for wine, highballs, or soft drinks if beer isn’t your tipple) when you come to pick them up at our Double Launch Party on Monday April 3rd at the Steamworks Brew Pub in Gastown.

Even if you can’t make the event, this bundle of both books for $30 still saves you $3 — enough to buy a single bottle of beer at the liquor store and toast with us from afar.  And we’re feeling so giddy we’ve decided to offer two other bundles as well: Stella plus a subscription, in either print or ebook.

Image result for cc humphreys
CC Humphreys

Authors CC Humphreys, Mel Anastasiou, and Joseph Stilwell among others will be there so you can get your copies signed!

Beer Bundle #1 – The Radler

A digital subscription to Pulp Literature , the ebook version of Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, plus a free drink ticket at our launch party. $25 

Beer Bundle #2 – The Skyhigh IPA

Pulp Literature Issue 14, featuring stories from CC Humphries, Greg Brown, Pat Flewelling and more, the beautiful hot-off-the-press print version of Stella Ryman, plus a free drink ticket at the launch. $30

Beer Bundle #3 – The Dunkelweizen

The deepest darkest savings!  A one-year print subscription to Pulp Literature, the print version of Stella Ryman, plus a free drink ticket at the launch.  All for the cost of a regular print subscription. $50

You can also buy these bundles at the Creative Ink Festival this weekend if you come and visit us at our sponsor table.

Stella may be a devout tea-drinker, but she’s no teetotaller.  Join her — and us — at Steamworks for literature and libations.

Mel Anastasiou

Pulp Literature Double Launch
Monday 3 April 2017, 7 – 10pm
Steamworks Brew Pub
375 Water St, Vancouver BC
RSVP here

 

 

 

Last day for Creative Ink Passes!

Well, not the last day entirely — you’ll still be able to purchase passes at the door for $100.  But today’s your last day to get them online for only $80.  This is an amazing deal for three days worth of workshops, panels, pitches, blue pencils, and rubbing elbows with industry professionals.

All three senior Pulp Lit editors will be there (a rare chance to find us all on the same continent at once) and we’ll be doing an Hour Stories Session, and many panels and workshops — some involving swords!  Plus you can find us and our marvellous crew at our sponsor table in the vendors’ hall, and at the reading and booksigning where we will launch Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries.

In addition to Guests of Honour Eileen Kernaghan and Ken Scholes there are so many amazing speakers and writers attending that we can’t list them all.  Instead, go to the Creative Ink website and check them out yourself.  Whatever you do, don’t forget to register today and save yourself $20 to spend in the bar.

See you there!

Jen, Mel, & Sue

Where the Angels Wait

Pulp Literature Issue 14 is with the printer and will be available in time for The Creative Ink Festival (31 Mar – 2 Apr) and our launch at Steamworks on Monday April 3rd.  We’re delighted to have another story, ‘The Ankle Bracelet’, from our very first feature author, CC (Chris) Humphreys.

Chris will be on hand at the launch to give a reading and sign books, but in the meantime, let us whet your appetite with a snippet of the poignant ‘Where the Angels Wait’ from all the way back in Pulp Literature Issue 1.

Granada, Andalusia, Spain. August 1986.

Sitting on the edge of the bed now, listening. A door opened, shut, someone has come and gone, that much is certain. They’ve hidden them, and he must find them.

Unless they didn’t leave.

“Hello?”

No reply. He has to start. The drawers? Too obvious but he tries a couple. The cushions? He pulls them off the sofa, feels down the back and side, moves carefully because if they
are there what state might they be in? He finds a crumb covered coin, nothing else. On the high shelves then, at the back of the cupboard, rolling in dust? Or in a jar in the bureau, pickled, floating like onions? With others? Alone? Alone, yes, has to be.

He starts to move quicker. Grapes on the table, that’s frightening. Eat one? Too risky. Time’s nearly up, pull back the sheets, grope under the pillows.

“Who’s there?”

He lies back down. “There’s no one there,” he says, challenging the dark.

He sits up. He knows where they are. His father is in the doorway, making it look small, and he has them exactly where they should be.

“Looking for these?” Dad says, and starts to squeeze his eyeballs from his face.


Off the bed,
groping for a light, blundering in an unfamiliar dark to a wall, a door, a switch, filling the room with yellow, running to the window, pulling back the thick curtains. He thrusts his head out into fierce sun and furnace air and the heat brings him back. He remembers where he is.

It takes him longer to remember why.

Six PM. Jet lag muzzles his head like a warm, wet towel and he can’t figure if home is ahead of Granada or behind. No, behind, it’s nine in Vancouver now. Gwen will be getting Sunday breakfast. French toast. Wearing her blue smock to protect her church clothes. If he was there they’d eat, then she’d take the smock off.

“Coming?” she’d ask.

“Nothing to confess,” he’d say.

He’ll call, catch her before she goes, but after a shower. He wants to make sense when he speaks to her. Before the shower though…

read the entire story in Pulp Literature Issue No. 1, Winter 2014.

 

Introducing Renée Saklikar, the Magpie Award Judge

It is our pleasure to introduce the judge for this year’s Magpie Award for Poetry, Surrey BC’s Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar writes thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle.  Work from the project appears in journals, anthologies and chapbooks.  Renée’s first book, children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections, (Nightwood Editions, 2013) won the 2014 Canadian Authors Association Award for poetry and was a finalist for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Award.

Renée is currently a mentor and instructor for Simon Fraser University, and co-founder of the poetry reading series, Lunch Poems at SFU.  With Wayde Compton, Renée co-edited The Revolving City: 51 Poems and the Stories Behind Them (Anvil Press/SFU Public Square, 2015).  She is currently at work on the long poem, “Thot-J-Bap”, excerpts of which can be found in Eleven Eleven, The Capilano Review, DUSIE and The Rusty Toque, as well as in chapbooks published by Nous-Zot and above/ground presses.

Renée is the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Surrey and the 2017 UBC Okanagan Writer in Residence.  She collects poems about bees.

We are delighted to have Renée onboard as the Magpie Award judge. Thank you, Renée!

The 4th annual Magpie Award for Poetry is open until April 15th.  Contest guidelines  here.

The Magpie Award is Open!

M is for March, and M is for Magpie … which means the 4th annual Magpie Award for Poetry is now open.  Earlybird rates save you $5 until March 15th, so hurry and get your poems in now.

Submission guidelines are here.

To inspire your fine-feathered words, here is some lovely coloured pencil work by Sandra Vander Schaaf, on artwork by Mel Anastasiou from Colouring Paradise: A Renaissance-Inspired Colouring Book.

'Two for Joy' by Mel Anastasiou, coloured by Sandra Vander Schaaf
‘Magpie’ by Mel Anastasiou, coloured by Sandra Vander Schaaf

 

The Bumblebee Closes Tomorrow!

In between your chocolates and champagne, don’t forget to send in your sweet and fizzy short stories to the Bumblebee contest, which closes tomorrow at midnight!

loveofficesgirl2And once you’ve checked that box off your to-do list, relax with some candles and bubblebath, enjoying Valentine’s day content in the knowledge our judges will fall head over heels in love with your story.

Entry guidelines here.

Stay up to date on all our contest openings with our free monthly newsletter.

North Pole Blue

A Story by Bob Thurber

This Christmas tale comes with a bite, as all Bob Thurber stories do.  For more, go to bobthurber.net, and look for some of his short sharp stories in Pulp Literature issues 3, 6, & 12.

The first time I saw Santa’s eyes they were the same pale green as the plastic holly my mother hung on the door on a hook she left up all year, and the rawness of the flesh around them was the same blood-shot red as actual holly berries, which are technically ‘drupes’ and contain the plant’s seeds.  The second time I saw his eyes (a year later, same store, after waiting in a line for nearly an hour) they seemed larger, but less round, and their color had cooled to the crystal blue you find in glacier ice — which, at the time, I called North Pole Blue — and this made sense, even though I was only six, still too young to understand the density and compactness of anything so old as a glacier.  That was the year Santa asked my name, and, when I stammered Bobby, he said, “Ah. Bobby. Of course.”  As though we were old friends.

The third time I sat on Santa’s lap and looked up into the old man’s eyes they had changed dramatically, become far less wrinkly and slightly almond-shaped, with pupils the burnt brown of old acorns.  I got a good long view because Santa was focused on the camera the whole time, fidgeting like he had someplace better to be, and he repeatedly scratched the same spot of his beard; in a faint and tired voice he asked what ‘big gift’ I wanted for Christmas, and though I don’t remember what I said, I do recall that he didn’t acknowledge the request, or in any way signal that he had heard, so when I climbed off his lap I felt less sure of everything.  Oddly, my mother always liked that picture the best because of the shy, inquisitive, almost contemplative expression on my face, plus the camera’s flash put a dot of sparkle in my left eye, so there is, I will admit, a dreamy magical quality, but it’s purely an illusion, a trick of light, because my absorption at that moment was really my gut-wrenching disturbance at the weariness I saw on the man’s face, and my utter confusion at his not remembering me.

Years and Christmases and more photos went by.  Santa took to wearing glasses with wire frames made of gold or silver, which I liked.  Though, whether I looked through their lenses or above them, I’d be lying if I said I glimpsed anything other than vagueness.

The last time I had an up-close, personal view of Santa’s face I avoided his eyes entirely, focusing on his nose, which had not only widened and flattened but now contained tiny broken veins like intersecting highways on a roadmap.  He asked how old I was and I said ten.  He asked what I wanted for Christmas and I said, “A pocket knife.”

He shifted me slightly on his lap.  “You a Boy Scout?”

I wasn’t, though I wanted to be.  But I felt he didn’t need to know that.

His breath rolled out the smell of coffee and cigarette smoke.  I turned my head, found my mother behind the elfish-looking girl working the camera.  Mom was waving, trying to get me to smile.  She’d painted her nails a garish Christmas green, and I didn’t like the color.

Right before the flash went off Santa pulled me closer and I felt his beard brush against the top of my ear.  “You know,” he said, “you’re a little too old for this crap.”

And that man, I’m certain, was the real deal.

Nothing but troubleBob Thurber’s short story collection Nothing But Trouble is now available at bookstores everywhere.

‘Better Watch Out’ by Anna Belkine

By now our subscribers should have received their digital copies of Issue 13, and many of the print versions have arrived at their destinations as well.  In the errata department we issue our profuse apologies to author Anna Belkine, whose name was inadvertently left out of the table of contents.  Fortunately, her creepy Christmas story, ‘Better Watch Out’ was not left out, and for those you who haven’t yet had a chance to read it, here’s a sneak preview …

 

Better Watch Out

by Anna Belkine

Sally and I were terrified of Santa as children.  No, not those impostors who hung around shopping malls.  The real Santa lived in our air conditioning vent.  You could hear him moving in there, every once in awhile — a sort of wet rustle.  We knew our parents could hear it too, but they tried very hard to be dismissive about it.  This was just the sound old vents made in the winter, they said.  Santa was just a myth, they said.  But the terror in their eyes told me he was real.  They knew he was real.  That he was there.  And they were lying.

He came out only when we slept.  Somehow he could always tell if we were just pretending.  Like in the song.  You would hear him come out just as you felt your body go limp, just as your consciousness slipped heavily out of your belly and you were no longer able to command your eyes to open.  You could feel him, moving around the room, the large round mass of him, dressed in the sort of shimmering red hues that creep behind your eyelids on bright days.  And he talked, a lot, all the time, using mangled sounds neither pronounceable nor reproducible.  All we understood at first was that his name was Santa.  The way he said it, it sounded like a heavy scuffling, followed by the noise of something viscous dripping heavily on a linoleum floor.  Sssss— tah.  Tah.  Tah.

We had no choice but to listen to him scuffling and hovering and looming there in the dark, behind our closed eyelids.  He never threatened.  He was just waiting.  For the opportunity to be mean.  And we were waiting too, immobilized by sleep, like insects under a pane of glass.

Some nights, we could make some excuse not to sleep in our beds.  Some nights we managed to stay awake until morning.  But in the end, we were still made to lie in the dark by ourselves, with him behind the vent.  Rustling.  Eventually we understood that it was important to our parents that we do that.  They let him visit us.  That must have been the deal they made with him.  Sally and I were on our own.

Especially Sally.  See, I was the favourite child.  Our parents made a token effort to conceal it, but it wasn’t enough; we both knew it, we both felt it.  She was in their way.  An embarrassment.  It’s not like they actively wished her gone, no — but it was clear they would have been relieved if she were.  Just as I could feel the evil skulking around in our room, I could feel her loneliness and her rejection clinging to me, a skinny bundle of ribs, knees, and gasps.  Without me, she had nobody.

… find out what happens to Sally and her sibling in Pulp Literature Issue 13, Winter 2017.

You deserve a writing holiday

twotwentytwosmallFor those of us who clock in at our keyboards and notebooks rather than stepping through the office doors every morning, ‘holidays’ are often a mixed blessing.  We love the time spent with family, the food, the festivities, the break from daily routine.  But in the back of our hearts we feel the tug of the loved ones we’re neglecting: our manuscripts.

Writers love what they do, and enforced time away from writing when the work is calling is a special kind of agony only fellow pen-monkeys can appreciate.  To make matters worse, during the holiday season we open our houses to friends and family, busying ourselves with cooking turkeys, decorating, and wrapping gifts while our notebooks lie unopened, and our keyboards gather dust.  We are in our offices, but unable to sit down and do the work we enjoy most.

As writers, we need a holiday from the holidays.  That’s why at Pulp Literature we book the second weekend in January for our annual Muse Retreat.  It’s a time for us to put the hectic holidays behind us, forget deadlines and production schedules, and simply write for three days while Dan and Julia at The Lodge at the Old Dorm pamper us with luxury accomodation and gourmet meals.

The Old Dorm setting perfect for Samll Meetings and Family Gatherings

breakfastAs always, we open the doors for a few other writers to join us.  There are two spaces left and the price is only $899 until January 1st.

Non-writing spouses are invited to attend as well at a cost of $699.  Bowen Island is a beautiful and inspirational place for walks in the forest, kayaking, and simply escaping the bustle of city life.

Your Muse deserves the gift of quality time with you.  Register here to start 2017 with a well-earned break and come away with at least 3000 fresh new words on the page.

See you on Bowen!

Jen, Mel & Sue

outdoors