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American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
01-01-2015
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
01-11-2014
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
01-04-2014
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2014
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
10-01-2013
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
07-01-2013
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
04-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
10-01-2012
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-07-2012
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-04-2012
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
01-01-2012
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
01-10-2011
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
01-07-2011
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
01-04-2011
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
01-01-2011
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
10-01-2010
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
07-01-2010
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
04-01-2010
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
01-01-2010
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
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Vassa

By Zdravka Evtimova

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Vassa did not need to mull it over this time. Whenever her husband was drunk he collapsed on the pillow, face down, heavy, immobile, as though dead. Then she dreamt about it, her worst fears making her freeze in her tracks. Her dreams brought her bruises, thick and black, all over her body. Whenever the pain grew purple, Vassa smeared blood from her cracked lips on the edge of the drab sink and stared blankly at it.

At the risk of being beaten black and blue by Meto, she had stolen money from his trouser pockets and bought pencils. She had broken them in two and then sharpened the pieces at both ends. Now she had four pencils. It cost her ages of wariness, as she was afraid both of Meto and of her son, so she usually sharpened the pencils while hiding her hands in the oven of the electric cooker. They had to be neither too long nor too short, so she sharpened them at night as well, but that meant wasting electricity and that, in its turn, meant more bruises. She was ready now.

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Meto woke up on edge, shaky; he had not been drunk last night and wondered why his mouth tasted bitter like death. The woman by his side slept like a log, his own wife. She was uglier than hell; her face, though not yet old, looked puffy: minced meat stuffed in the plastic bag of his hatred. The woman dragged him to the gutter, to squalor and poverty. Suddenly, he wanted to smash his fist into her head thinking of the sound of her skull cracking under the knuckles of his fingers. He could only guess why she had squeezed like a worm on the bed beside him: he had told her he didn’t want to see her face any more, didn’t want that nasty ugly woman, but she had crept under his blanket just to spite him. The thought of how she’d scream made him stir in bed. He grabbed her hair, clenched his fist and pulled. The woman groaned. She had not woken completely and her body shook. Meto saw her hands: gnarled, with fingers distorted and swollen, cracked skin. Her legs, though he could see only her feet, also shook. That galled him.

Vassa had foreseen this. She did not shriek. She had her four pencils, sharpened at both ends. The pain pierced and she let out a sharp sound, a quiet scream. He reached out and grabbed her hair again.

"No," she whimpered. "No."

A wisp of her hair remained in his fingers: black, thick hairs that infuriated him. He gripped her head with both hands and pressed her to his crotch. It was not necessary for him to speak. She knew what she had to do and she started doing it, her emaciated body convulsing, clinging to him with hands mottled with brown patches, contorted with disfigured fingernails, her dirty heels shaking. Meto squeezed his fists into a ball and hit her head. Not right away, maybe several seconds later, her flesh sagged, her head drooped, her arms hung like old moldy firewood.

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But she had prepared the four pencils diligently; she had worked on them for months, dreaming. If she had not been so scared Meto or her son would catch her, she would have polished them with tears but the two of them could not stand the sight of her sobbing.

He hadn’t killed her, he was sure. He had hit her many times and occasionally her nose bled, but now there was no blood in sight. This woman was his grave. Meto pushed her out of his bed, the bitter taste in his mouth erupting into scorching heat. He could see her clothes, her tattered skirts and blouses she had bought from the sleazy holes selling second-hand junk in the basements of the blocks of flats. At first, he felt like hurling all the rags out of the front door of the flat, but that would cost him a lot of effort.

Vassa was clever; she had thought of everything. No, she’d dreamt it all and her brain, dry and racked with pain, had foreseen all the details. She could stick it out. She had prepared his pillow – very cautiously, she had had ripped open one of the seams and then, even more cautiously, praying to Virgin Mary for help, she arranged the four pencils, sharp at both ends, in two vertical lines, an inch of soft dirty duck down between them. After that she replaced the dusty feathers, carefully wrapping each pencil. She had stroked Meto’s pillow saying a prayer for each little sharp pencil. She was ready.

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Meto had warned her not to lie on his bed. He told her the skin on her face made him sick. He could not stand her smell. He made it clear he only wanted her to cook his lunches and keep his clothes clean. The boy said the same thing. It was a living hell ever since the iron cistern smashed her leg in the shoe factory. She could not earn a cent; she only ate his food, spent his money.

He threw her clothes out the front door, his anger raging, drumming on his temples. He stumbled over an empty saucepan blocking his way in the corridor and flung it through the open door, hoping it would hit her. The rattling sound echoed in all the rooms of the flat, but it did not erase the bitter taste from his tongue.

He looked around the place, sure he was in control of the situation. The neighbors had long ago given up poking their noses in his business; they already knew him well enough. Perhaps some of them looked through the peepholes but he didn’t give a damn about it. They could do whatever they pleased.

Coming back to the bedroom Meto saw his son – a towering shadow in front of the door to the loo. The boy was tall and massive, with long tousled hair. The teenager did not budge, just stood staring into space like a lump of earth, a bottle of beer in hand, his back pressing the wall. Meto had woken him up, too. He watched as the boy took a swig, drinking beer bought with his, Meto’s, money.

Meto peeped into the bedroom and saw the vixen still lying on the floor, her blotchy face buried in the old worn-out carpet. He felt like clobbering her, but she’d smear her blood on him and her blood smelled of her, of her miserable life he could not stand.

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After he beat her, he fell onto his bed his face down to his pillow. She knew that for sure, it had happened so many times before. Nothing else could happen now, nothing else. She had prayed for it. He trudged past her and she hoped he’d walk away, but he stopped and kicked her. His foot sank into her chest. Boats and stars swam before her eyes, perhaps the Virgin Mary had come to take her away from here, or perhaps the black scarf of death was over her shoulders. No, she had to wait a minute. She had placed the feathers so carefully wrapping up the pencils. The boats came closer and closer to her eyes, her breast hurt, maybe he had broken her ribs again. Everything around her was still and quiet. What a pity she had wasted ages sharpening the pencils in the electric oven. Her efforts were in vain. Suddenly, a wild roar split the walls of the bedroom.

Suddenly, a wild roar split the walls of the bedroom.

artichoke

Translation by the author

© Zdravka Evtimova 2006