Category Archives: Fiction
Just when you think that A Rrose in a Prose could devolve into a scuzzy place, full of identity thieves and clowns who forget to bring their makeup, we do something like this: book another great writer, class the place up, and even make sure to put the guy’s biography up before the show!
F. Douglas Brown, is the author of Zero to Three (University of Georgia Press 2014), recipient of the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and selected by Tracy K. Smith. Mr. Brown, an educator for twenty years, teaches English at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, an all-boys Jesuit school. He holds a MA in Literature and Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow, two organizations that cultivate the poetry of African-Americans and Asians respectively. His poems have appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), The Bat City Review, Toegood Poetry, The Sugar House Review, Cura Magazine, Muzzle Magazine, Transfer Magazine and Santa Clara Review. Mr. Brown was featured in Poets and Writers Magazine as one of their Debut Poets of 2014 (Jan/Feb 2015).
So come down and see Mr. Brown as well as Mr. Kalinich, Ms. Collins, Mr. Collins, and a bunch of other people who all have last names! Here’s that poster again, in case you have visual memory loss:
And hey kids, guess what? If you don’t come round to Stories Books at 2 p.m. Sunday and see F. Douglas Brown and the rest of our amazing authors give it all they’ve got, I have it on good authority that spiders are going to hollow out your liver and use it to breed centipedes.
-D. M. Collins
August 16: A Rrose in a Prose, ZZyZx WriterZ, L.A. Zine Fest, Poetry Palooza @ Echo Park Rising: Just Good Enough
On August 16, A Rrose in a Prose is making things even bigger and better, in collaboration with some of the smartest people in town! Maybe it’s TOO good for this month’s theme, “Just Good Enough?” Look how many double-plus good people are plans are converging on our neck of the literary nape:
- Stories Books and Cafe will be smack dab in the middle of all the Echo Park Rising action on that weekend, so A Rrose in a Prose is going to be a featured event of Echo Park Rising!
- We’re partnering with ZZyZx WriterZ this time out, as part of their “Poetrypalooza” fest! Poetrypalooza has been coming to every great venue in town one by one this month, with the express purpose of kicking poetic ass and chewing bubblegum, and they’re all out of rowdy, ruddy tears. They’ll be doing a lot of stuff at the end of our event that don’t normally do, including an open mic! So if you’re not reading as a featured performer at A Rrose in a Prose this time, expect lots of opportunities to share and create art. Think workshops, open mics, and other forms of collaborative art, all slated to happen right after our features conclude.
- We’re also getting some love from L.A. Zine Fest, who will have a TON of zines available to read and buy. Who knows, maybe some Zine Fest zenzations will be on hand to help you create your own?
- Oh, did we mention that Stories Books and Cafe also has ICED DRINKS?!? COLD thingies to make you COLD if it is not so COLD! Icey cold things, and lots of them!
- We also have a very special secret musical treat for all of you, slated to play at 5 p.m.!
Our list of featured authors and poets is as talented as it is joyous, somehow even during the “angry” material. You’ll leave brimming with new feelings and ideas after seeing this crew:
- Beverly M. Collins (Quiet Observations, and loud love!)
- Matt Sedillo (Grand Slam champion and socialist scholar)
- Emily Hunt (ARiaP newbie who may just outshine us all!)
- Laura Avila (young spoken word secret weapon!)
- Stephen Kalinich (Beach Boys lyricist and peace activist)
- F Douglas Brown (prized teacher/poet and DJ of words)
… and don’t forget hosts DM Collins and Art Currim, who will be organizing the entire afternoon along with great helpers from ZZyZx Writerz, soon to be announced!
Plus there’ll be a haunting, courageous floor show near the end, where DM will reveal that he was Cecil the Lion all along.
Are you still reading? Good! Then you are ONE OF US! See you on the 16th at 2 p.m. These partnerships are a one time thing, so miss it on August 16 and miss it forever!
Until we do it again.
So, the other day I was in an event based around the photography of Amy Darling… or so it was proclaimed. The idea was to pick one of her photos (many of which are of live shows, or music, or people around Los Angeles you might know) and base a piece of writing around that photo.
It was such an exciting premise that, once begun, I could not complete the task. I kept writing and writing, then editing and editing, until it was now past time for the event to begin; I finally was satisfied enough with what was on the page that I left home, went to the Echo Chamber, and got there two minutes before the event was scheduled to end–but the bastards ended three minutes before the end, and I missed my spot entirely. That’s probably for the best–it would take me about 15 minutes easy to read this.
I hope you take the time now. It’s a bit rushed, and maybe a bit abstract and moralistic, but hopefully it feels like controlled dada, and there ain’t nothing more fun than reining in a creative beast and knowing it’s been trained well. By the way, here’s the photo I chose:
As to why this is another piece of fiction from the perspective of a female character… well, I don’t know why I keep making my protagonists women. I don’t think men should speak for women, and it disturbs me more than it probably disturbs you that I’ve been doing so repeatedly in 2014. Maybe part of it is that I have a strong female side, and don’t associate with a lot of the rough-and-tumble of my male author counterparts. And maybe part of it is that I simply like women and want to hear stories about them, even if they’re coming from me.
In this case, though, I can use Amy’s photo as an excuse, because this boogie-ing gal clearly needed a narrative. Here it is.
(Sorry, one final disclaimer: I do NOT know the dancing woman in the photo above, nor do I really know any of the other people in this photo on a personal level. This is a complete, absolute work of fiction. Aside from the fact that I, too, hate traffic, please don’t extrapolate anything about the people depicted in this photo, or Amy Darling, or me, from the narrative below.)
Sleeping Through Work
She almost never dreamed. You have to sleep a long time before the dreams come, and she almost never slept. The drugs took care of that. She hated her tech job so much, testing a stupid website that sold expensive jewelry to women at a slight discount, bought by husbands who got rich by never paying full price for anything, that she had to take a fistful of Vicodin just to get through the day.
Normally Vicodin is a downer. But when you have a crazy, broken brain like hers, it invigorates you, makes you want to stay up all night watching TV series on Netflix and respond to all your old high school friends’ tweets. Every morning, just getting up for work was torture, but to pay for the Vicodin, she had to keep working at the job; and meanwhile, in what still seemed like a temporary, short-term delay of planning for phase II of her awesome life, suddenly she was almost at the end of her twenties. All the grand and important things she had planned to do with her life–or a least, the fact that she had planned for her life to be grand and important—seemed to be this quaint little thought, an artifact to be smirked at and shelved and gawked at for its innocent stupidity. All she seemed to know now was tired mornings, grey smoggy blocks of sky framing the gridlocked plastic and steel in her foreground, commuting to her hell. To her hell.
She’d started to have stupid thoughts. And she knew they were stupid, puerile, childish, Sylvia Plath BULLSHIT, the kind she had given up when she was fourteen years old and had stopped pretending that she got anything out of cutting herself besides the joy of feeling troubled. But now, twice that age, knowing the thoughts were stupid didn’t help. “What’s the point of even being here,” she’d think. It seemed, begrudgingly, logical. “I’m already in hell. Even if the worst is true and the Christians are right, and I wind up in actual hell for leaving here voluntarily, it will simply be a lateral move.”
There was only one thing she did that actually made her feel that life was precious. It was the only thing she seemed to like. And she couldn’t imagine it happening in an afterlife, a place that she believed was more akin to that Talking Heads song about Heaven, a place where nothing ever happens, not even songs by the Talking Heads. She’d kind of lost touch with music as college rolled into real life, when she found herself stumbling into the work force largely in a beer haze that looked cute enough in her tired twenty-two year old eyes to get her invited back for second interviews. Temping turned to a slot at a startup, and beer pong turned to cocaine with friends, then alone, and finally evolved into her current, more stable favorite. It seemed she had matured, in her own way, and her secret was no more shocking than most people’s marital affairs.
But then one day, she’d found herself at an after work drink party, realizing she had absolutely nothing in common with the men around her. And it was mostly men, because somehow, somewhere back during the days and nights of ramen and Tecate, luck and some well-timed moments of clarity had rolled her right into a job in the tech world. It was the most real thing in her life and yet it seemed like a fable, almost as if she was watching herself from the outside, like the character in a short story, the kind where she was not her own author. She was largely alone there, constantly belittled and ridiculed and hit on and ignored and passed by. But she met the challenge head-on, skipping work, turning in half-assed projects, napping in the server room, and rationing out the right lies to the right people so that they were all completely in the dark about how little she was really achieving, which was crucial to being a functioning drug addict. They weren’t there to praise her successes, so why not fail and give herself praise anyway?
But a few years back, she realized that there was something missing from her life that the drugs couldn’t massage away, probably something cultural—but where to go to get reconnected? In the end, it had been her dealer that had turned her onto her first event at the Nomad gallery. He was friends with a performance artist who made giant puppets and costumes out of felt and Velcro, and who would put on plays while people wearing her creations would dance around in character as monsters and animals. And she had gone to this show, and avant-garde shows like it, knowing no one, and not really understanding or enjoying much of the visual art around her.
But the music was something else! God, it wasn’t that she wasn’t picky, it’s that she didn’t know what she had always been picky for until she heard the band that night. What she wasn’t getting out of large arena rock shows by bands like Alt-J and Incubus she could get at places like this. The sound was inconsistent, and the bands made mistakes, but they wanted to be here so much! And they sounded like they found nothing more important than making the instruments in their hands match the sounds playing in their heads.
She quickly realized that the pills that kept her up all night had a good side, too—it was the energy! Her broken, sad brain meant that the downers made her go up, up, up, and she could dance all night. And she never felt nostalgic. There was no wistfulness here, no memory of herself as a young girl listening to young people bands that had now grown old and popular, no “gosh, I’m almost having as much fun as I used to!” There was only the eternal present, and she got caught up with it. Whether there were five people there, or 50, she was always there and always, well… always going out of her mind! She knew she was crazy, despite the fact that she was able to function as a drug addict and con everyone around her. And she was gleeful that this was the one place where her insanity was an asset. Everyone seemed to be feeling the music, but she FELT it. She fucking FELT IT! She is ALIVE and she UNDERSTANDS! And she is IN IT, even more so sometimes than the people playing it.
And she wasn’t a spiritual person, but she’d tried that on in her youth. And she’d read the Tibetan book of the dead. And she had forgotten most of it, but she remembered one little part, a part about how to have dream control. And she remembered that the monks in their waking lives would practice the same things over and over again, the idea being that if you ritualized the process of prayer enough, it would inevitably become the setting of a dream.
She remembered this with acute depression somewhere in her early twenties, when she started dreaming about cocaine. She would often find herself in a hallway, and couldn’t find the jacket that had her cocaine in its pocket. She’d be looking through closets, and hallways, and closets, and hallways, and would try to nudge up against friends and strangers and surreptitiously feel the outsides of their pockets to see if they had her cocaine. Now in her Vicodin lifestyle, she almost never had dreams, though once in a while, a lunch time nap would plunge her into that haunting sensation of something missing, or sad, or scared, like a tropical vacation where her parents were always barging into her cabana right as she hid the drugs, or about going through security at the airport and realizing there was a bottle of Vicodin in her carry on.
Now that she rarely dreamed, there was an added unease to her dreams, a state of half-clarity where the subconscious of her subconscious understood that this was all a dream, and that a real dream meant she probably had slept late. And that happened a lot. Actually it happened THIS day. She had set her radio alarm clock for 8 a.m., but having slept fewer than 6 hours in 3 days, her depleted body had no problems coasting right through its rhythmic nudgings.
And in the dream, she knew she was late for something, but it turned out to be a band at the Sancho gallery, and she wriggled through the crowd and stood in the front like normal just as their set began.
And in the dream, she wasn’t on drugs. There was something a little sad about her sobriety, but something remarkable too, and breezy, like she’d skipped the part where she’d had to rearrange her lifestyle and find a new sense of energy.
And in the dream, she had lots of natural energy. The band on stage was led by an old man in an angel dress complete with felt sewn wings on the back. He was bald, and an angel’s halo hovered over him affixed to his head with a wire that could have been from a coat hanger. He was playing the drums, and singing, and a group of similarly wizened guys and gals were playing along with him on keyboards and guitars, kind of a quirky new wave, perfect for her to dance to.
And in the dream, everyone was smiling, and dancing along with her, and giving her knowing looks, like “Isn’t this wonderful? And aren’t we all in this together?”
And as she danced, she could feel a thinning of the room that seemed a little unusual. And she looked back, and she realized that there were zombies in the room. Slowly but surely the zombies were grabbing the people in the back of the room, snapping down hard on their skulls with their teeth, cracking the skulls open so they could chew on the brains below. They’d take a quick bite of one person, throw the carcass to the floor, and grab the next person in front of them.
The band seemed unperturbed, as did her compatriots around her. It seemed certain that people had noticed the zombies, but they were going to wait until the last possible moment to move, enjoying the music as much as they were. She did see one or two people escape the zombies’ clutches, at least for a few moments of temporary safety. But for the most part, everyone had planned to wait just a little longer than they should have. And suddenly the girl behind her, one of the smiling winkers and acknowledgers who earlier had shared in this musical experience with her, was pulled backwards by a zombie. She could hear the girl shudder, and whimper–feeble, failed attempts at last words–as the zombie peeled back the skin on the crown of her head with his teeth in order to get a good, hard bite on the skull.
And in the dream, she ran through the band, who were still playing, to escape through a door behind them. They turned their heads and looked up at her, and she could see in their eyes that they had been zombies all along. Perhaps the whole thing had been nothing more than a zombie feast?
She ran out the door and into the yard, but there was no exit there, just endless cement walls and fences, and she kept running around the perimeter with zombies chasing her back and forth, not the kind that ran at top speed like in the new zombie films, but not the lumbering kind, either…. These were calculating, shrewd zombies, able to plan a clever massacre like this and who would not be satisfied unless they succeeded at achieving 100% of their goal of eating everyone in the room, of which she was almost certainly the last.
And as she scrambled to climb up the yard’s lone tree, and contemplated making a broad jump onto a nearby roof, just as the zombies below realized that they, too, could climb trees, she heard the pitter pattering drum machines of light 80s R&B on her alarm clock radio. She realized to her horror that it was now 10:48 and she had slept through a meeting.
And now she was the zombie, she thought to herself, her oversleep making her even more groggy as she went through the ritual of pulling on a dress and some stocking and shoes and hobbling down the stairs to her Subaru so she could jump on the 10 west. She was going to be in deep shit with her bosses, but if it was Brett, he acted more like a father than a mentor: she could always adopt her “oops I’m just a young dumb girl” persona to talk her way out of it. So why was she feeling so lost and worried?
She realized it was the dream—she had been cheated out of her victory. She wanted to be back in that world, where she had been decisive and exciting and bold and talented for a purpose, one she could have succeeded at. She needed a challenge, didn’t she? Maybe the whole reason for her endless cycle of drugs and work and drugs and work, ruining her every waking moment with the fatigue of the cycle’s incompatibility, was to fashion a crisis like the one in the dream. Most people would kill for a job like hers, but there she was every day, self-sabotaging, because it was so fucking easy, and these people were so fucking stupid, and fuck them. And Fuck them! And FUCK THEM! AND FUCK HER! AND WHO GIVES A FLYING FUCK?
She came to a screeching halt behind a brake-happy BMW and screamed a deep, resonant frustrated scream…. raaaah! It was now almost noon. And she realized to herself that there was some kind of spring music festival in Long Beach. It was an all weekend thing, including today even though Friday is a work day and not a holiday, and a bunch of the Burger Records bands were on the bill, but also a gaggle of comedians and Maria Bamford and all kinds of weird cool shit.
And as she drove near the 405, instead of passing it by to continue to her Santa Monica office, she got in the right lane and took the 405 south towards Long Beach. She was going to miss work altogether. And she almost wished she wasn’t going to be able to get out of the situation she was putting herself in. But she knew she would. From years of practicing the deceit of drug addiction, she knew she’d be able to convince her boss that there was some important new disease she’d caught, or another family death, or a pet getting run over in the street.
But she was done making excuses for herself! There was one part of her life that made her feel very awake and alive, and she wasn’t going to ruin it anymore. She wasn’t a fucking drone! She wasn’t a fucking coward in a cubicle, working with technology because that’s what life had thrown her way. She wasn’t a fucking clam to absorb life’s shitty, pissy silt breakfast.
Opening up her glove compartment, she found the bottle of Vicodin that she had procured recently from her friend who worked at a shipping company and who no doubt had simply stolen them and was making 100% profit at 6 dollars a pill to her. This bottle was like $600 just sitting there. And if it was still sealed, it might even be legal if she got pulled over. Probably that happened a lot, that relatives picked up medications for their older relatives? If she didn’t open it, she wasn’t even a criminal.
It had been two weeks since last she’d had to wean herself off these things so that she could get back on and start the cycle again with a less brutal tolerance. Now she was normally up to four Vicodin in the morning, with another 4-5 at night to help her stay up late.
“Who gives a fuck,” she thought as she unscrewed it, punched through the foil with her finger, and then scooped out about 8 pills from under the cotton. She popped them in her mouth, crushed them up a bit with her teeth, and then chugged them down with some of the Monster energy drink from yesterday evening that was still sitting in her drink holder. She cut off a bright red sports car in a very satisfying manner as she sped up her Subaru on her way to the LBC.
This month’s Rrose in a Prose is coming up! Once again, it’s at the Hedgehog Coffee Shop in Echo Park, so you can wash the whole thing down with coffee and one helluva sandwich.
The line-up this time has some really great authors and poets, including a return visit from the wonderful Jessica Ceballos, who wowed us a few short months ago. But it also has my old band mate, Asa Ferry, one of the best songwriters I’ve ever worked with and a man who really captures reality in a way not all of us catch or perceive–even if he just reads a sentence, it’ll make you float away later, looking at cumulus clouds and wondering why you’ve never seen the little shimmers that cascade from puff-pocket to puff-pocket before.
We also have Ryan Fuller from Fort King, and … goddam, there are too many people to talk about! Just read the list and kick yourself if you’re unable to attend:
Jessica Ceballos (Bluebird Readings)
Roy Rogers Oldencamp (Bluefat)
Beverly M. Collins (Quiet Observations)
Daniel Austin Warren (Black Hand)
Asa Ferry (Kind Hearts & Coronets)
Ryan Fuller (Fort King)
As always, this event is “hosted” by the not-ready-for-print-time player, L.A. RECORD’s D. M. Collins. That’s me!
A Rrose in a Prose
2201 W. Sunset Blvd
(same side o’ the street as Mohawk Bend)
in Echo Park
April 28th @ 3 p.m.
After taking a hiatus in February due to Zine Fest and utter exhaustion, we’re back with a vengeance for March.
March 24, we’re bringing a huge crew of awesome authors, poets, essays, and artists of the printed page, including graphic novelist/comic book genius Tom Neely, of The Blot, The Wolf, and of course, the famed fan-fiction erotica Henry & Glenn Forever.
We’re also having a poem/performance from Ian MacKinnon! If you haven’t heard him or heard of him (e.g. from Ian MacKinnon’s Gay Hist-Orgy), then you must not have eyes or ears.
And don’t forget Allison Anders, who will be reading from her tumblr blog about owning Greta Garbo’s record collection.
And we’ve got Flannery Lunsford from Allison and Kurt Voss’ film Strutter, and a return visit from Justin Maurer, author of Seventeen Television (and, oh, like about a thousand awesome bands including Maniac, Clorox Girls, and L.A. Drugz). Don’t miss this one!
… and I am the DJ. Or, at least a DJ (there are a couple DJs, it seems, and 100 bands and 10,000 readers/performers).
You should come party, because if you don’t, it means you hate community and hate literature. It means you wish people would stop reading and start shooting each other with guns. It means you are flippant and vile. It means you’re a bigot. You’re a sad, petty, bourgeois blight upon the world, and the only value you have to anyone is as a dire warning, or maybe as future compost, a chunk of organic offal to insert into the ground to counteract the garbage you strew–though then again the chemicals you fill your mind and body with may very well poison our dwindling water supplies and make some poor crawdad somewhere die.
What a scumbag you are… but it’s not too late to change the course of your life and ATTEND this event!
ATTEND! Make a last stand against the wretchedness and the filth that gurgles sick words of childish love to you when you look in the mirror.
ATTEND! Listen to readings by authors, real authors, people souls haven’t left their bodies and swum down the snaky pipe at the base of their own toilets rather than cling to the monster who birthed them.
ATTEND! Soyez présent!
DO IT IN FRENCH IF YOU HAVE TO! Take an Echinacea pill if you have to! For what better cure than a placebo for the world’s biggest lie?
ATTEND! ATTEND ATTEND ATTEND!
And stay until the end so you can dance!
… and a new name!
Someone (not our group, that’s for sure) put some posters on some light poles downtown a couple months ago–at least FOUR of them! That’s completely illegal, and I say that anyone who does it should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, far more than a mere $312.
Yet the name in the city officials’ misspelled documents was so wonderful, I had to steal it. Serves those vandals right!
So, compelled by the spirit of Dadaism, our literature/poetry/memoir/erotica/essay/rant event is now called:
The next one is September 23. Please come.
Our second A Rrose Is a Rrose event went VERY well. Thanks to all the people who came down with material to read–and thanks to the patrons who sat through my 4,000 plus word short story! I loved everyone’s work, and I loved how different everyone was from each other–including Marianne Stewart, whose own works differed even from one to the next. It almost sounds like I’m treating this like some kind of conservative’s nightmare of elementary school, where everyone wins and there’s no basis for comparison, but really, y’all were all good, and I felt pretty “blessed”: an odd word for an atheist to use, but I can’t think of a better one.
I gotta figure out next month’s lineup very soon–feel free to let me know anyone you think might fit the bill!
Oh, and thanks again to Erin from the Hedgehog for being a gracious host!
We have such great talent performing tomorrow: Marianne Stewart, Martin Matamoros, Erin West, Earnest Pettie, Gabriel Hart … and of course Stephen Kalinich, who I interviewed for the upcoming issue of L.A. RECORD and who had a great performance at the New L.A. Folk Fest. I’m also very excited to have Susan Burke on board, who directed an upcoming film that looks amazing called Smashed, and Paloma Alexandra Parfrey, who was in the Sharp Ease, possibly the best L.A. band of the aughts.
I worry that I’m going to be a crappy host, because I’ve been desperately trying to finish a short story, one that’s kind of dark and personal and which brings up icky feelings that make me want to crawl into a nook behind my record shelf. A lot of it is fictionalized, but the few parts that are real make me feel like a whole observation room is looking at me while I’m naked–except, you know, that I’d probably be totally fine with strangers watching me naked. Especially if the room wasn’t cold!
But the writing is taking its toll, both emotionally and in sleep hours missed due to staying up and trying to finish this shit. Here’s a short, raw cross-section, so you’ll know what to expect if you come to the reading and hear the whole thing. I’m thinking of titling it “Ice”:
Sam spent the rest of Saturday in his bedroom. He chopped a pile of speed, small so he could save the rest, again and again with the razor blade, finally snorting it as the sun went down. He lay in bed in the dark all night without sleeping, and then the next day and next night.
By Monday he had still not slept yet, and he had Italian class in five hours. He showered, put on a shirt and a pair of polyester pants, and walked towards campus, to use the computer lab before class. The grey day blended into the cement of the sidewalk. The street beside him was parallel with the sidewalk, and the lines in the sidewalk were perpendicular to the street, and everything lined up just as it should, and while he felt exhausted, at the same time he felt propelled, like he was on a conveyor belt, or the moving sidewalk of the Jetsons. Frat boys on giant wooden skateboards zoomed past him, all around him, but no one and nothing exists outside the self except what we perceive. We’re all alone, stuck in our own heads, and Sam was alone with the sky and the concrete and cement and the stale billowy puffs of dead-looking trees. The Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” would have been the score of this movie. A phantom razor blade, as big as the Jolly Green Giant, was chopping lines and pushing them against the sides of the sidewalk in front of him as he walked to school.