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Fiction

The Discarded Feast

Tears in Beers and Shit Like That

An Excerpt from "The Discarded Feast" by Scott Semegran

I slid the key into the dead bolt of the door to my apartment, turned the door knob, and in we went, to-go containers from the P.W. in our hands, smiles on our faces when we saw Mr. Whiskers waiting for us by the door. He always waited for me by the door. He was a good cat.

"Hey buddy!" said I, leaning down to scratch his head. He purred loudly. "I bet you're hungry."

I turned the lights on and we made our way to the coffee table, setting our food on it, plopping on the floor, our dining area. Alfonso noticed a gang of slaughtered roaches on the floor next to the couch, still twitching, almost dead, flopping on the carpet. Mr. Whiskers pounced on them, jabbed at them for the last time, then promptly ignored them. He lost interest for some reason.

This was a typical haul for Mr. Whiskers. When he was on the prowl, he liked to crouch low to the floor, digging his claws into the carpet, his tail slithering side-to-side like a snake easing through a forest, his eyes narrowing into focus, his whiskers spreading out, stiff, quivering, waiting for bugs. The roaches made their way from the sliding patio door to under my couch and my dutiful cat would watch them, the bugs tip-toeing around dust bunnies and cigarette lighters and waded up hamburger wrappers and sticky bent straws. My apartment complex was surrounded by oak and cedar trees, straddling creek beds that fed Town Lake a couple of blocks away, making fertile ground for bugs and rats and mice and snakes. To say my complex was infested with vermin was almost a stretch (almost) but it was not unusual for roaches to make their way daily under the sliding door from the rotting wooden deck behind my apartment, and that was where Mr. Whiskers would lay, crouched on the hearth of the fireplace next to the back door, his eyes aimed at the bottom of the door where the sliding rails were, looking for tasty bugs, waiting to pounce on them and rip their legs off. He was an effective insect exterminator. The roaches under the couch attempted to make it to the kitchen like starving idiots. Mr. Whiskers wound up his hind legs, sprang into action, jabbing his front right leg under the couch, and pulled the roaches out, his claws ripping the roaches open in one swift motion. As the roaches flip-flopped on the carpet, Mr. Whiskers licked himself clean, setting his paw on the roaches whenever they bounced around too erratically, keeping them in check until their demise. He would leave the bugs to die, alone, in the middle of the living room--or actually, Alfonso's temporary bedroom--as a symbol of his love to me and my new roommate. Fucking gross.

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Boys - cover

Dinner from the G.D.A.M.

An Excerpt from the book "Boys" by Scott Semegran

We sat across from each other in the small living room of my small apartment, on the floor around my beat-up coffee table, piles of coins and dollar bills on top, two tall boys of beer on ratty paper coasters from the restaurant there too, counting our tips. It was not a good night for tips but the quantity of coins and bills looked deceiving in their unorganized state, looked like we had a lot more money than we actually had. We enjoyed the optical illusion, briefly. We smiled as we pushed the piles of coins and bills around in front of us then raised our cans of beer to toast.

"To Pasta Warehouse," I said.

"To Pasta Warehouse!" my friend Alfonso said.

"Cheers!"

"No, say it the Mexican way. When you toast, say 'Salud!'"

"SALUD!"

We touched our cans together then gulped the cheap beers, crushing the cans when we were through, tossing the cans to the side on the floor, returning to organize the coins and bills, hoping to make rent. We were an odd looking pair of friends. I was lanky and short and white. Alfonso was massive and tall and Hispanic. But what we lacked in commonality of outward appearance was made up by similar character traits of kindness, empathy, and extreme loyalty. We were good young men and good friends to each other.

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Good Night, Jerk Face. Photo by uwimages.

Good Night, Jerk Face

A Novelette by Scott Semegran

My dreams were sturdy when I was young; they became more fragile as I got older. Summer of 1986. All I thought about was the car I hoped to get for my 16th birthday the following summer. That was all I thought about when I was 15, all day, all night. I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting the car I wanted too because I lived in a pretty good neighborhood and I thought my dad made pretty good money, and the majority of my friends got good cars for their 16th birthdays. The odds looked pretty good in my favor, at least. Plus, I made good grades. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. The car I wanted was a 1980 Mazda RX7. I really, really, really wanted that car, preferably a stick shift even though I didn't know how to drive stick shift, let alone drive a car.

Every summer since I could remember, I spent a couple of weeks at my grandparents' house in Moore, Oklahoma, probably to give my parents a break. During the drive from San Antonio, Texas to Moore, I read the classifieds of the San Antonio Light newspaper, scouring the used car section, looking for Mazda RX7's for sale, particularly 1980 models or ones that were close to that year like the '78 or '79, just not an '81 cause they were different. I found a few for sale with prices ranging from $4,000 - $6,000. That seemed like a pretty good deal to me even though I had no idea really what a good deal was for a car. I was only 15. I didn't know shit.

"What are you looking for?" my mom said. She was somewhat thin with auburn, short cropped hair, kind hazel eyes, and had lightly freckled pale skin. She gripped the steering wheel of her Toyota Camry confidently and sat up straight, ready to bear the heavy burden of the long, boring drive to Oklahoma.

"The car I want for my 16th birthday," I said.

"What makes you think you'll get a car for your 16th birthday?"

"Isn't that what you get when you turn 16?"

"Sure, some kids get a car for their 16th birthday. What kind of car do you want?"

"A 1980 Mazda RX7. Stick shift. Silver."

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The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen

The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen

A Short Story by Scott Semegran

The little boy sat on the floor in his room surrounded by his toys--Micronauts action figures, Hot Wheels race cars, Star Wars action figures and vehicles, Evel Knievel doll and motorcycle, Shogun Warriors in various sizes, and a pile of Legos intermixed from various sets. His name was William. His mother called him Billy, just like his uncle who died ten years earlier in the Vietnam War was called, but he liked to be called William. More than anything, he liked to play in his room all by himself with all of his toys surrounding him on the floor. In his room, he was safe. He liked that.

He had a vivid imagination and enjoyed introducing the different toys to each other, intersecting their fictional worlds into one. The few times that other neighborhood children were allowed in his room, they had an issue with that, the fictional worlds colliding.

They all said to William, "Micronauts don't fight Star Wars people!"

"And why not?" William said.

"Because Micronauts aren't in the movie Star Wars, dummy!" they all said.

The other neighborhood children weren't allowed in his room after that. William spent most of his time after school in his room although he would occasionally venture into the back yard, a large grassy area with a tall oak tree in the back near the fence, a mostly completed treehouse perched up in its canopy. With two rooms to play in--one inside and one outside--his world seemed rather large; there wasn't much need to go anywhere else except for school. School, to him, was an evil place. He hated going to school.

William stood up one of his Shogun Warriors, the one called Brave Raideen (the tall one painted red and black with a bow and arrow and a crazy, silver mask that made him look like King Tut or something), and he said, "What are you going to do about that jerk Randy at school?" William made his voice as low and gravelly as possible to speak like what he thought Brave Raideen would sound like.

"I don't know," William said in his normal voice.

"You should do something to scare him real good," Brave Raideen said.

"Like what?" William said, curious.

"You should get the thing in your mommy's nightstand. That'll scare him real good!" said Brave Raideen, then laughing an evil laugh.

"Yeah!" William said, jumping to his feet. He tossed Brave Raideen to the side, opened his door, and ran down the hallway to his parents' room, his long, lanky arms swinging like those of a spider monkey. His mother heard him running and called out to him.

"Billy? What are you doing?"

"Nothing, mom!" he said, entering her bedroom and running around the queen-size bed to where her nightstand sat. He laid down on his stomach in front of the nightstand and reached under the bed. "Randy is going to be sorry he messed with me."

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The Spectacular Simon Burchwood

Snaggle

An excerpt from The Spectacular Simon Burchwood, a novel by Scott Semegran

The best advice anyone has ever given me was this gem from my grandfather: Always, always brush your teeth. Insight from a 90 year old man (who still has all of his teeth, for crying out loud) is priceless. It's true. Unfortunately, old people get the short end of the stick from society most of the time. It seems young people get too caught up in the fact that old people can be forgetful or cranky or smelly or sentimental or resentful or all of these things rolled up into one cantankerous son of a bitch or one spiteful old witch. The one thing most young people gloss over is the fact that they themselves are selfish to the point of narcissistic catastrophe. It's really a goddamn shame. It's true. Young people can be a bunch of selfish assholes, the whole lot of them. Now, it is true that I've encountered some old folks who smelled like a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich that had been left in a sock drawer for an indeterminate amount of time, which is quite horrifying in the olfactory sense. But that is beside the point. So here it is: to live to be 90 years old is a real feat and any insight into how someone gets to be that old is important. Period. Because to be honest, I'm surprised that some of the idiots I encounter on a daily basis live to see tomorrow. It's true. Young people can be a bunch of goddamn idiots.

Back to what is important here. I was sitting with my grandfather and some of his good buddies one time when I was a teenager. They were all quite old, as old as my grandfather or close enough I'd imagine, but were all very lively and talkative and happy. They were all beer drinkers and very enthusiastic about making each other laugh so jokes were being volleyed about between sips of beer. They weren't much into being reflective unless someone asked and for some reason, I felt like asking for advice this time. Once I did that, the floodgates opened. "Finally!" I imagined them thinking collectively. "A youngster interested in what we have to say!" I wanted some general good advice, what to do as I moved forward in age toward adulthood. And here, in no particular order, is what some of them had to say:

  • Don't get attached to your job
  • Never hit a woman
  • Ejaculate at least once a day, either through intercourse or masturbation
  • Drink at least one alcoholic beverage a day, preferably beer
  • Keep in touch with your parents
  • Volunteer your time to people in need
  • Drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
  • Always ask for bacon on your cheeseburger
  • Follow your dreams
  • Never be boring
  • Be true to yourself
  • Eat ice cream when you're sad
  • Never judge a book by its cover
  • Etcetera

When it was my grandfather's turn, he said, "Always, always brush your teeth." Of all the advice given that day, this one piece of advice seemed to get the largest amount of consensus from the group. An agreeable mumble was groaned as they all nodded their heads. It was an amazing goddamn thing to witness. It's true. Their collective age must have been over 1,000 years and this was the best advice: Always, always brush your teeth. So, being young and foolish and curious and a goddamn idiot, I asked my grandfather why that was good advice. He said, "Son, of all of your bodily functions, eating is the top of the heap. They have remedies for the other functions but this one, it's the most important. If you can't walk, then they'll put you in a wheel chair. If you can't crap right, then they'll put a diaper on you. But if you can't eat, if you can't enjoy your sustenance, then there ain't no remedy for that. Life ain't worth living if you can't chew your own food." So there it was: wisdom from the elders. Who was I to question this wisdom? They obviously had lived a long time and I was just a little shit. It's true. It must be very important advice.

The reason I bring this up is because my coworker (who will now be formally nicknamed Snaggle) had the absolute worst teeth I had ever seen on a human being in my entire goddamn life. The slang term snagglepuss was invented specifically for Ryan, my young genius coworker, whose teeth looked like they had all been pulled out with pliers at some point in his early life and jammed back into his gums by a maniacal chimpanzee on mescaline. It's true. Snaggle had one busted-up grill. However, his dental condition didn’t keep him from socializing. In fact, he was at my cubicle at every opportunity to flap his gums and play a vigorous game of pocket pool, yapping about computers and software and programming and batch files and girls. He loved talking about girls but, I imagined, he probably had never touched a girl in his entire life. With the way his breath smelled, I was absolutely sure of it.

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The Spectacular Simon Burchwood

Dr. Todd

An excerpt from The Spectacular Simon Burchwood, a novel by Scott Semegran

I tried to call Jessica several times but she never answered her phone or returned my calls. She was really starting to piss me off. I mean, who the hell did she think she was, wanting to move to Dallas and take our kids? It was all a goddamn mess. It's true. And I'm sure Sammie and little Jessica didn't appreciate it either. All of their little friends were here in Austin. Their school was here. Their life was here. Their father was here. I imagined that they would have no interest in moving to Dallas away from everything they knew. But, then again, kids have no choice in the matter. They will do what they're fucking told to do and my kids were no different. They were good kids. It's true.

After getting the go ahead from my supervisor Rod, I realized I had one thing to do before leaving town. I had to go see my doctor. Weird, huh? Well, not really. I'm getting old, you know? It's true. This slightly pudgy, slightly balding "Adonis" isn't going to stay beautiful forever. Ha! Besides, everyone needs to go see their doctor every once and a while. It is a goddamn moral imperative. I made the appointment a couple of months ago after realizing I hadn't seen my doctor in quite some time, maybe before all my divorce bullshit. I had been compiling a list of ailments and weird goings-on with my body and health in general and I felt I really needed to discuss them with Dr. Todd, especially before leaving town. I call him Dr. Todd because his last name is so unruly and filled with dozens of unnecessary consonants that I'm not even going to waste precious keyboard strokes trying to spell it out for you. Just trust me, his last name is a goddamn Polish disaster. It's true. But Dr. Todd is a kind man with a caring way about him and I rather enjoy talking to him, even though I'm sure he will be examining my nutsack or prodding his finger in my poop shoot at some point today. Great. Just great.

Here, in no particular order, was the list of things that were bothering me over the last few years: constipation, left eye twitch, hemorrhoids, upset stomach, random headaches, weight gain, hair loss, weird dreams (duh!), knee pain, seasonal allergies, lower back pain, etcetera, so on and so forth. It was a pretty goddamn long list of ailments and nuisances but they were things that were really bothering me. I mean, especially for a writer, having distractions of the bodily nature can really put a damper on your creative spirit and literary output. Nothing is worse than a raging case of hemorrhoids to ruin a marathon writing session. You can't sit down for more than 15 goddamn minutes at a time when you have burning blisters poking out your asshole. It's true.

Anyway, I drove over to Dr. Todd's office. I pulled my car into the office building parking lot and parked in the back. The building was a pretty nondescript place tucked away behind a group of these massive oak trees in a decent part of town. Dr. Todd had his office here for years before I became his patient and I'm sure it would be here for years to come. On the outside, the building looked like one huge metal and glass box but on the inside, it was an elaborate maze of offices connected by a serpentine hallway that zigged and zagged in no justifiable way. If I didn't already know where his office was then it would be damn near impossible to find. I wondered if that was on purpose. Doctors do some sneaky shit like that sometimes. It's true.

I found his office after walking through the maze of hallways and entered quietly, standing next to the front desk. A nurse was sitting there, busy with something. She wore pink scrubs that had Winnie the Pooh and Tigger on them and her hair was long and blonde and styled in a way that reminded me of the TV sitcom moms from the 1980s. She didn't seem to notice me and I stood there for what seemed like a goddamn eternity while she scribbled on some forms on a clipboard. They must have been pretty goddamn important forms because she was carefully and intently filling in the boxes and checking other boxes and crossing her t's and dotting her i's and examining the hell out of that paperwork. Time really seems to stand still when you're waiting unnoticed for something. It's true. I decided to stop the madness and tap on the desk so she would notice me. I think I startled her. She about jumped out of her goddamn seat.

"Oh! I didn't see you there," she said, straightening herself, fixing her 1980s hairdo.

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In My Garage. Photo by Stacy Barnett.

In My Garage

A Short Story by Scott Semegran

It was the day before the end of the world, at least that's what the news media and the ancient Mayans believed. No one really knew what was going to happen at the end but it was going to happen, goddamn it. And no one cared about the details of how it was going to happen. The end was the end. The end. End. It just seemed so final.

A couple of years ago, I made a pact with my two best friends, Nolan and Jacob (I'm using codenames, by the way). We decided that we would spend the last night before the end of the world partying in my garage. We compiled a list of required items for the party: keg of beer, carton of cigarettes, liter of vodka, liter of spiced rum, mixers, ounce of weed, a pipe, a ten pound brisket, our favorite barbeque sauce, etc. And we agreed that if our lives were in a certain state by the time the world was going to end, then the three of us would convene in my garage, no matter what, and drink and smoke and eat ourselves silly.

And as luck would have it (if there was any luck left at all before the world was going to end), our lives were already ruined. So the party was on!

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The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood

New York, No Neck, and Boulders for Hands

An excerpt from the novel The Meteoric Rise of Simon Burchwood by Scott Semegran

New York, New York.  Before I knew it, I could see the sprawling metropolis from the airplane window spreading across the surface of the earth like a cancer.  But what a beautiful cancer!  The plane descended from the sky like a comet from God and I could feel the anxiety and excitement well up in me and throb in the pit of my stomach.  All of my dreams were finally coming to light, finally coming to fruition right before my eyes.  So many wonderful things were about to happen.  Besides my literary debut at the Barnes & Noble flagship store, I was supposed to meet my editor and her staff for the first time.  Through the entire goddamn publishing process, I never had a chance to meet them face to face.  It's true.  Everything was done over the phone and through snail mail and e-mail, from the initial submission to the first, second, and third revisions to the galley.  In case you didn't know, the galley is the first typeset version of the book that the publisher sends to the author for final revisions and approval.  Anyway, it was a long distance affair from start to finish.  Initially, I often wondered what my editor looked like, if she was attractive or not, a blonde or a brunette, thin or full-figured, lusty or prudish, with a fair or dark complexion (don't you think of these things?).  We spoke for quite some time without really knowing what each other looked like.  Of course, she eventually had the advantage because I had to send a photo of myself for publicity reasons (of course).  But I had the burning desire to find out what she looked like so I did some research and found a picture of her on the Internet.  I mean, it's pretty difficult forming a relationship with someone if you have no idea what they look like.  It's true.  How do you think all these women who write to prisoners actually get the courage to marry one of those bastard convicts?  At least with a photo, you know what you are getting into.  And when I found her picture, I was actually quite surprised to see that she didn't look anything like I had imagined.  From the sound of her voice, I had imagined a tall woman who looked and carried herself like Susan Sarandon, the movie actress.  You know, on the phone she seemed very smart and cunning and manipulative, logical yet emotional, and oddly attractive.  But what I discovered was that my editor looked more like Aretha Franklin.  I'm not kidding.  From the sound of her voice, I had no idea that she was an African-American woman with a hefty frame and not a typical inflection in her voice that would have given her skin tone and heritage away.  It's true.  It's really strange how your mind can mold images for you from clues and tidbits of information it takes in.  I guess you could say that my thoughts of her looking like Susan Sarandon could give some insight into what I think and like about women in general, what, considering that I really like Susan Sarandon's goddamn movies and all.  But it's also interesting how your mind can mislead you like that.  It's very interesting indeed.  Not that it changed how we dealt with each other or anything.  I mean, I'm not a racist or anything.  It was just a tiny revelation.  That's all.

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That Mouse is High. Photo by Jean Scheijen.

That Mouse Is High

A Short Story by Scott Semegran

The special day had arrived. I pulled into the parking lot, found a spot in the front, and ran in the party store. In an effort to save time, I had a concise list of supplies I needed to purchase: 12 napkins, 12 paper plates, one table cloth, and 12 gift bags, all with a particular Disney character on them. You know, the mouse? I also had to purchase six rubber balloons and one Mylar balloon to be blown up into a festive balloon bouquet, weighted down by a festive balloon bouquet weight. You know, because of last time? You don't know? Well, it's best you didn't know at this point. I was on a mission.

I found all the stuff on my list and waited at the balloon counter for the balloon girl to blow up my daughter's balloon bouquet. You see, it was my daughter's birthday, the most special day of all days of the year. Except for maybe Christmas or Halloween, a kid's birthday is the epitome of everything a kid deems magical: candy, cake, attention, ice cream, gifts, more attention, friends, fun, even more attention. It's the end-all, be-all of a kid's existence. And it was my duty to make sure it all went down in the most magical of ways. Shit, the pressure was getting to me. I only had a couple of hours before go-time. And I had to get all of the mouse-themed party supplies to the other mouse-themed place: Chester E. Cheddar's Pizzeria and Party House. I could only hope they served beer there. At ten o'clock in the morning, I already needed a pint, or three.

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Customer Service

A Short Story by Scott Semegran

waiterSimple question. "If you hate this job so much, why are you still here?"

"I have no fucking idea!  I really don't!  Like it would be better somewhere else, huh?"

Exactly.  Like it would be better somewhere else.  I worked for three different restaurants in the past year and I hated each one with a passion.  Slinging food to the swines that came into those places bred a misanthropic hatred that was dangerous.  Extremely dangerous!  But I discovered quickly that I was one of many who flocked to this type of work.  A haven for what seemed like lost souls or, to put it more plainly, misguided creative types.  I was only one of millions caught in the trap, caught in the cycle of daily cash and short work days, caught in high stress and low self-esteem, engulfed in an environment of service and self-destruction.  I thought that I needed it.  I thought it fueled my creative fire, to say the least.  It did more than that.  My entire world caught fire.

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