Aim For the Snyder Brothers

by Bud Sturguess

photo Chris Pietsch c/o AP

My brother and I roared down the highway in a 1991 Camaro. It was one of those cars that you knew the last guy who drove it was the king of his high school. You could still smell it in the upholstery.

We soared in that Camaro. We broke the sound barrier. But we didn’t feel it. We didn’t feel anything. I guess that’s what got us in the rusty Camaro in the first place: being numb. Not feeling. Wondering if we were still alive. That’s why we robbed all those banks. As a test. To see if we were really alive. The biggest things in the news were Ukraine and the doomsday comet everybody was scared to death of. But even those things didn’t stir us.

You hear about bank robbers, sweating bullets. Full of adrenaline. The rush and the power. The power over the tellers and the big fat bank president as their eyes blaze in terror at the sight of a pair of Maverick 88s.

Not loaded, soulless. Two shotguns as empty as the both of us, my brother and me.

I guess the experiment failed. We were still numb. We were still nobodies. We felt it. Feeling like nobodies was about the only thing we did feel.

And being nobodies, we couldn’t understand why the state troopers were so determined in their pursuit of the Snyder brothers: a rotten old Camaro, two empty shotguns, thousands of dollars in cash, useless, ruined by a sudden blast of pink.

We didn’t think of it at the time but, how much harder would their boots would have hit the gas, how many more state troopers would have joined in the convoy, if we’d been somebodies? Me a poet, poet laureate no less, my brother a surgeon, saving lives for free in Haiti.

Why were they so concerned about us now? I was too full of Zoloft and Zyprexa to win a Pulitzer or craft the next Leaves of Grass. My brother had too much vodka in his brain to dig around in somebody’s spleen, even at a charity hospital.

We weren’t even that impressive as bank robbers – no shells, no shouting, no masks. (I had the idea we wear Donald Trump masks, just for a gag, but we forgot to buy them. Too foggy-minded to remember, I guess.)

We didn’t even tell anybody to get down on the floor. We didn’t want people face down on cold marble. We didn’t want to make some trembling young lady just out of high school open the vault and dump jewels and gold into our Trick or Treat bags, so to speak.

Trick or Treat – my brother and I never brought up Halloween. The  

Halloween I was 11 and he was 9. We got lost and our cousins ditched us. Some older kids, bigger kids, started chasing us. I grabbed my brother’s hand and we ran as fast as we could, outran those punks.

We never made a pact, never said a word, but it was an unspoken agreement that we’d never speak of that Halloween – his hand gripping mine, mine gripping his, clinging to each other. Talking about those things can make you drop dead from shame.

I could’ve thrown up on the kitchen floor the day I was 16 or 17 when our mother said to me, “that Halloween night was so special to me, the way you and your brother took care of each other like that.”

I wasn’t above pretending to vomit.

She put a curse on us one day when we were fighting: “someday, you two will be all you have.”

Enough to make you shudder.

So, it was obviously agreed that we didn’t hold hands as we roared down the highway. His knuckles were bony as ever gripping the wheel. Mine were fiddling with the radio. At least one of us had the presence of mind, wasn’t too numb to know we needed a good car chase song. A short song, a good rock and roll song. Four minutes or less. That’s all I figured we had.

I found some good stuff: “Proud Mary,” “You Shook Me All Night Long”… I even stumbled across “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.” But none of it fit just right. My brother preferred silence in the car anyway, as a general rule. Anywhere we went, the only time he played the radio in that Camaro was to listen to Now This on NPR.


NPR was even more meaningless to us now, all those updates on Ukraine and the doomsday comet they said would miss the planet anyway. We had no need, no use for the news as state troopers jammed up their CB’s with the Snyder name.

Those rotten, vicious Snyder brothers who held up the Merchant State Bank and gave an old lady a heart attack when she saw our twin Maverick 88s (the only thing about us that looked alike if you ask me).

Not that we didn’t deserve a good killing. That old woman never did anything to us. She probably never did anything to anybody. Probably never even went to a barn dance. She was probably at the bank to withdraw a crisp new 20 dollar bill for her grandson’s birthday. Next thing she knew she was a pale white lump on the lobby rug.

It was a waste of an old lady’s death. She should have died at home, surrounded by her loved ones. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

All those sweet things that could give you diabetes.

There wasn’t a shell between us Snyder brothers, but it was all the same. We killed that poor old woman. Same as if we were the Dillinger gang, or those two guys in all the body armor in L.A. I saw a documentary about it – the Battle of North Hollywood. One of the guys was Romanian, I think. The cops had to bring in a freaking tank to stop those guys. Lunatics. 

Not us.

We were just as rotten as they were, but we were just the Snyder brothers.

It was a mercy killing, some might say, when the comet hit the Camaro. What are the odds a comet all the way from outer space, another galaxy maybe, would zoom to Earth and land smack-dab on a ’91 Camaro carrying nobodies? Two unknowns with empty shotguns and useless money?

I could B.S. you and say it made us exceptional. Two in a million – two in a trillion – just the fact that a freaking comet destroyed us in a high speed chase. But that would be a lie. I think so, anyway. Though, you can’t help but wonder at the accuracy of that comet. Divine accuracy, some might say.

In any case, if God did it, if He sent that fireball from space just to blow us up, I have to disagree with His choice of weapon (but not His motive, mind you). It seemed like a waste of a comet. A perfectly good, beautiful brilliant comet.

Plummeting from the grandeur of the heavens just to obliterate two nobodies.

Bud Sturguess was born in the small cotton-and-oil town of Seminole, Texas. He now lives in his “adopted hometown,” Amarillo. Sturguess has self-published several books, his latest being the novel “Sick Things.” He is a collector of neckties.

Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba

by Stephen Baily

“Ten, please.”

“You got it.”

After leaning out into the lobby to check if anybody else was coming, he pulled the folding gate shut, hit the starter button, and eyed me in the convex mirror above his head.

“Here for an interview?”

I blinked. “How did you guess?”

“You have that look.”

“What look is that?”

“Like a cringing dog. Listen, I know it’s none of my business, but you want some advice? Before you go in there, take a deep breath and say to yourself, Napoleon at thirty was master of France. Trust me—it works like a charm.”

The charm didn’t seem to have worked too well for him—or at any rate his uniform was so seedy I had the strong suspicion, if he turned around, I was as sure to smell booze on his breath as he was to smell it on mine.

“I’ll give it a try.”

“Good man. Here we go. Tenth floor. Skinn and Flynt Publishing.”

I was unprepared for the vastness of the space I stepped out into. It could have done duty for an airplane hangar, if it hadn’t been broken up into a maze of workstations. At the counter opposite the elevator, the big-haired receptionist pointed me to a distant tall window.

“That’s Mr. Eichelberger under it.”

In his shirtsleeves, with his tie loosened and askew, he waved me into a chair drawn up close to his own, without bothering to look up from the Danish he was scarfing down over his desk.

“So. Why do you want to work here?”

“I don’t.”

He lifted a brow. “Come again?”

“As I told you on the phone, Marylee Bradley is a friend of my wife’s, and she happened to mention to her you have assignments for freelancers.”

After wiping his mouth on his wrist, he clasped his hands behind his head, so that his elbows stuck out like bat wings above his sweat-soaked armpits. As he tilted back in his chair, the button over his gut popped out of its hole, affording me a glimpse of the hairs matted on his navel.

“I assume you brought your résumé?”

I shook my head. “There wouldn’t be anything on it, other than that my degree’s in comparative anatomy.”

“Let me guess what you’ve been doing since you graduated—writing a novel, am I right?”

Without waiting for me to reply, he continued: “Is there anybody in this town who isn’t writing a novel? What’s yours about? The travails of a sensitive adolescent, no doubt. What would the world do, I wonder, without sensitive adolescents?”

His chair complained loudly as he returned it to the perpendicular and, leaning forward, laid a heavy hand on my thigh.

“Kidding aside, I’m not unsympathetic to your plight. I’ve been there myself. I know how it is.”

I was still trying to ease my leg away without being too conspicuous about it when he withdrew his hand and reached into a drawer.

“You lack the background, true, but—for Marylee’s sake—I’m willing to give you a shot.”

My hopes, which I’d allowed to rise, sank when he produced from the drawer, not a thick manuscript, but a single sheet of paper.

“We ask every applicant to take this. That desk over there is free. You’ve got half an hour.”

I pretended to be oblivious of the smug glances I attracted from the vicinity as I sat down at the desk he’d directed me to.

“Correct the following passage for grammar, punctuation, and spelling,” the instructions said. “Do not rewrite. Use standard proofreader’s marks.”

Never having heard of standard proofreader’s marks, I figured I was cooked, till my eyes descended to the text in question.

“Isabel,” it began, “was a small small boned girl, whom her parents worried made too big of a fuss over dietery compliments.”

After reading this sentence again to make sure I hadn’t hallucinated it, I resolved to seize the possibility it offered me of bluffing my way out.

“Back already?”

“Excuse me,” I apologized to Eichelberger, “but I find it hard to believe someone who writes like this could get a book accepted.”

He laughed. “You’d be surprised.”

“Not to speak of the tone-deaf diction—the solecisms—the sloppy spelling and punctuation—the author—even supposing she has X-ray vision—is flat-out wrong.”

“About what?”

“As you may have forgotten, the two hundred and six bones in the human body fall under six categories: long, short, flat, subdural, sesamoid, and irregular. Small, you’ll notice, isn’t among them.”

“So, if I understand you right, you’re saying Isabel should be rejiggered into a short, short-boned girl?”

“I’m saying Isabel should be left to stew in her own shortcomings, because she doesn’t deserve rejiggering, let alone publication.”

He paused, unembarrassed, to button his shirt.

“Tell you what. No need to finish that. Leave your number at the reception desk and we’ll be in touch if and when we require your services.”

Another elevator than the one that had brought me up took me back to the lobby. Alas, its operator had no sage counsel for me to reflect on as I walked down Park Avenue South past Union Square and across Fourteenth Street. The row of secondhand bookshops on Fourth Avenue called to me to no purpose. They might have been so many dingy cemeteries for moldering authors. At Astor Place, a guy shuffling toward me stopped and stuck a hand in my face. The hand was clad in a ragged mitten that was missing its thumb. In an access of fellow feeling, I searched my pockets and finally dug up a nickel he examined with disdain.

“Napoleon at thirty was—don’t you know—master of France.”

Or so I’d have had him say if it had been up to me. Had it been up to me, I’d also have had him say he was on his way to bum some money off an elevator operator of his acquaintance. Only of course it wasn’t up to me and what he said to me in fact was: “Thanks for nothing.”

A small object that could only have been a nickel ricocheted off the back of my head and skittered along the sidewalk into the gutter as I turned east on Eighth Street. The light was changing on Third Avenue, but I gambled with my life and won, and—except for a badly confused rooster that crowed at me from a second-story fire escape—proceeded unmolested along St. Marks Place till I came to the fifth walk-up from the corner.

My wife, who was spoon-feeding some kind of orange mush into the baby in her high chair, raised her head like a cobra when I let myself into our two rooms.

“Marylee called.”

“She didn’t waste any time, did she?”

“She said her boss thought you were demented.”

“It’s entirely possible.”

“As if it wasn’t bad enough I had to crawl to my parents for the rent, you had to go and make a fool of me in front of my friend. No, don’t bother looking in the cabinet. You won’t find it. I poured it down the sink.”


STEPHEN BAILY has published short fiction in some fifty-five journals, including, most recently, Bullshit Lit (forthcoming), Ink Sac, Mercurius, Mad Alice, and Horror, Sleaze, Trash. He’s also the author of eleven plays and three novels, including “Markus Klyner, MD, FBI” (Fellow Traveler Press, 2021). He lives in France.


a story by Andrew Graber

As I began looking at old photos of Betty and myself, the tears came dripping from deep within my eyes. Last month, Betty was involved in a fatal car crash. She was the love of my life, and she felt the same exact way towards me as well. I remember so vividly, the very first time that we had met. I met Betty on one of those online dating sites about two years ago. After exchanging a couple of messages on that dating site, Betty and I had agreed to meet at a local diner for a cup of coffee.

As soon as I began looking into Betty’s eyes and chatting with her, I knew she was exactly what I was looking for in a woman.

Betty was so intelligent, and we both shared a lot of the same interests. After having our coffee and conversation that night, I hugged Betty and asked her if she would want to see me again.

She said yes, I would love to see you again Edward. I really enjoyed my evening with you tonight, Edward. 

I remember that we had both waved goodbye to one another as we both had gotten into our cars. 

After that, we started seeing one another at least three or four times per week. Every time that Betty and I met, our love for each other had only gotten stronger and stronger. Betty brought out the very best of me, unlike any other woman that I had ever met.

Everything was going great between the two of us, until last month when I heard my phone in my apartment ringing.

It was Betty’s mom. I knew from the tone of her voice that something was terribly wrong.

I was completely devastated by what Betty’s mother had just shared with me. I just stood there in total disbelief, as I was unable to get any words out of my mouth. Betty was cremated and her mother gave me a bit of Betty’s ashes for me to keep.

After that, I noticed that my anxiety was getting really bad. In fact, sometimes I would experience delusions and hallucinations when my anxiety had reached its boiling point.

The days went by, and somehow I managed my anxiety without seeing a psychiatrist.

Although no woman in this universe could have replaced Betty, my loneliness was getting the very best of me. That being said, I joined the exact same dating site that Betty and I had met on. I searched around for women that had similar traits as Betty had. I also looked for women who had similar physical features as well.

I sent about seven messages out to these women who reminded me of Betty, but I never heard back from any one of those women. I took a break, and made something to eat. After cleaning up, I decided to log back on to the dating site again. I had noticed that one woman had sent me a message, but she did not have a photo of herself on her profile page.

In this woman’s message, she asked me if I would be interested in having a cup of coffee with her at her place. She had said to me that she thought that we would be a good match for one another.

She told me that she lived by herself in a very small city.

If you like country living, you will surely like where I live, she wrote in her message. At the end of her message, she said that her name was Betty. Oh my goodness, I said to myself, after knowing that her name happened to be Betty. I sent her back a reply, and I told her that I would be delighted to have a cup of coffee with you. After sending my response, within two minutes, I had gotten a message from Betty. In her message, she gave me directions to her house.

Betty also asked me to come over tomorrow at about two o’clock in the afternoon. If I do not get a message back from you, I will assume that you will be coming over to my house tomorrow at two o’clock, she wrote.

I logged off from the site, and then sat down on my favorite chair in my living room. What should I do, I said to myself? Betty lived about fifty miles from my apartment.

Is it worth traveling all that distance, just to meet a woman who I do not know at all?

The odd part about this was that her name happened to be Betty. I found that to be very peculiar. I got up from my chair, and got back on my computer. I searched on the internet for the best way to get to Betty’s house. I printed out a copy of the driving directions, and then I shut off my computer.

What have I got lose, I said to myself? If we didn’t get along, at least it would be a nice ride going into the country.

My mind was made up, as I then started listening to some music. After that, I decided to call it a night. After about a few minutes of tossing and turning, I eventually fell asleep.

Tomorrow came, and I took my morning shower. After that, I made some breakfast. After cleaning up, I listened to some music.

While getting lost in the music, I happened to glance at my clock in the kitchen.

I noticed that it was nearing noon, so I started to get ready for my date with Betty.

I locked my door, and got into my car. I followed the driving directions, and I was on my way to Betty’s house. After about an hour or so of driving, I turned off of the expressway.

According to the directions, I should be at Betty’s house in only another ten or fifteen minutes, I said to myself. As I was getting closer and closer, I was driving slower and slower. There is Betty’s address, I said while I parked my car right in front of her house. I got out of my car, and began to walk up to her front door. I rang her bell but no one answered. I rang her bell two more times, and finally, I began to see her front door opening up very slowly. Oh my god, I said to myself. I hope that I am not having another one of my delusions and hallucinations, as I was standing on Betty’s front doorstep. No my dear Edward, this is not one of your delusions or hallucinations. Please give me a big hug and a kiss, Edward. Since I died in that automobile accident, I have missed you so very much. 

Do you mean to tell me that you are really Betty, I said? The Betty that I loved more than any woman in this universe?

How in the world can it possibly be you, Betty?

Don’t question it, Edward.

Just be in the moment, and give me a hug. As I began looking into Betty’s beautiful eyes, I started to hear a loud noise that startled me. Do you hear that loud noise, Betty?

No, my love, I do not know what in the world that you are talking about? Stop acting silly and give me a hug, Edward.

Now, do you hear that loud noise, Betty? How can you not hear that noise, Betty? Finally, I had realized what that loud noise was, as I reached over in my bed, and turned off my alarm clock that was ringing on my little night table.

After I got out of my bed, I headed into my bathroom to take my morning shower. I pulled my shower curtain open, and I was unable to move or talk.

Standing inside my tub was Betty.


Andrew Graber was born and raised in the northeast part of the United States and currently resides out West. Besides writing stories, he also likes to create various types of art. On occasion, he likes to sing as well.

The Little Squirrel and the Baby Eagle

by Wred Fright

squirrel c/o eskipaper eagle c/o womtig blog

The little squirrel lived in the maple tree next to the black walnut tree because he loved loved loved loved loved eating black walnuts.  One of the females he mated with once asked him why he didn’t just live in the black walnut tree then.  He told her that he liked separating work and home and didn’t mind the commute.  Every day, he would get up, crawl out of his hole in the maple tree, climb its branches, and launch himself into the branches of the black walnut tree.  Then he would grab a black walnut in his mouth, climb down the trunk, jump onto a fence, run along the fence, climb into a fir tree, launch himself up into another maple tree, and toss the black walnut into his hidey-hole, before repeating the process again and again until he got dizzy and needed a rest.

The baby eagle got kicked out of the nest.  He didn’t want to go, but his father booted him gently with sharp talons and told him he had to find his own food from here on out.  So he went fishing in Lake Erie.  It was hard work.  Many times the fish got away and all he got was wet.  The weather got colder, and the water got rougher, and the eagle, no longer a baby, just a young eagle decided to see if there was an easier way to make a living, so he moved south to the woods, but some other eagles told him to beat it because the woods were their territory, so he moved south again.  At least the air was a little warmer in this direction.

The winter was cold for the little squirrel.  Some days he’d leave his nest in the maple tree, but some days he didn’t bother.  He just snuggled with one of his mates and her kids.  Were they his kids?  Who knew?  They didn’t smell like him anyway, so probably not.  He didn’t much care though; he only cared they were warm, which is why he let them share his nest.  Come spring, he’d kick them all out.  When it was warmer, though being winter still cold, the little squirrel would venture out to dig up some of his other hoards of black walnuts and other goodies he had hidden in the fall.  This way he didn’t have to share these ones with the other little squirrels, who, frankly, were eating way too much of the hoard he had socked away in his nest.  What had they been doing all fall?  This younger generation was lazy, he decided.

The eagle didn’t want to get too far away from the big lake, but it was slightly warmer to the south, though the fish from the rivers and ponds he encountered weren’t as tasty.  When the ponds froze over, he stuck to the river and followed it for a time.  When it started freezing as well, he kept going until he reached the parts that hadn’t frozen yet.  When fish went off the menu at the height of winter, the eagle made do.  A dead deer on the side of the road?  Not very tasty, but he was hungry.  A cardinal?  Didn’t have much meat but was easy to spot in the snow.  He even found a roost with many other eagles.  They told many funny stories, but when a snack did show up, it was chaos, so he soon tired of that.  He went back to the river and started following it back home.  Fish were the best, but he had discovered a taste for squirrels.

The little squirrel was glad to see spring, so he could kick the freeloaders out of his nest.  They just moved into other nests in the same tree, so he was grumpy that he wasn’t completely rid of them.  In the fall, they would mean trouble for the black walnuts.  He didn’t need extra competition.  He had enough trouble chasing the big squirrel away.  Spring wasn’t all perfect.  The cats were harder to spot than they were in the winter.  The little squirrel could duck them easily enough when he spotted them, but sometimes he would get dreamy chomping through the shell of a black walnut and one would get close enough to startle him enough into dropping the walnut, and he hated hated hated hated hated to lose walnuts.  

The eagle found a narrow section of the lake that could be his territory, but it was narrow, and the eagles whose territories bordered it were very aggressive about policing the borders, so he hunted a lot in the woods nearby.  The little squirrels didn’t have as much meat on them as the bigger squirrels, but they still made for a nice snack.  They even tasted better than the bigger lake gulls he would swoop down upon at the beach.  He didn’t have a mate yet, but he hoped to in a couple of years.  In the meantime, he was practicing his swooping. One day, he spotted a little squirrel in a tree, and he was feeling a little hungry.  He watched the squirrel jump from one tree to another high up.  The trees weren’t thick.  It wasn’t the woods.  There were some human houses nearby.  The squirrel was twitchy and jumped to and fro.  Eventually, it went to the ground and started digging.

The little squirrel had the tree to himself again.  As he made his way down to the ground, he wondered where the other little squirrels had gone.  They had been annoying, but he did have his eye on one of the younger females and was hoping she’d go into heat soon.  He hadn’t seen her for a few days though.  He also had noticed that he had been having to fend off the bigger squirrel all by himself more and more.  The bigger squirrel was getting bolder.  He had known to steer clear of the black walnut tree before, but now he came back again and again.  It was probably the younger generation being lazy and leaving it to him to always chase the big squirrel off, he decided.

The eagle started his descent.

The little squirrel shrugged and dug up another of his nut hoards he had buried in the fall.

The eagle slowed so he didn’t crash into the ground just as he was about to snatch up the little squirrel.

A shadow passed overhead, and the little squirrel dropped the black walnut and bolted for the nearest tree, a maple.  

The eagle readjusted on the fly and grabbed the little squirrel just as he was jumping for a tree.

As they headed into the sky, the little squirrel squeezed free and dropped onto a tree branch.

The eagle turned and darted back, but the little squirrel had dived into a hidey-hole in the tree.

The little squirrel dug into the black walnuts in the hidey-hole and covered himself up with them, now knowing what had happened to the other little squirrels.

The eagle decided the little squirrel wasn’t worth the bother of a wait and went back to the lake.  He would swoop down upon the little squirrel another day; with luck, the little squirrel would fatten himself up by then so he’d be better eating and not so skinny he could squeeze his way free again.  On his way back to the lake, he spotted another squirrel, this one a big one, in the woods.  He swooped again.  This one didn’t get away.

Meanwhile, a human watching out the window said to his mate, “I think I just saw an eagle in the backyard.”

His mate replied, “I saw one the other day.  Maybe it’s the same one.  Nature is beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Say you know what I haven’t seen lately?  Those little cute squirrels that look like a squirrel and a chipmunk had a baby.”

“I haven’t seen them either this spring.  Maybe they didn’t survive the winter or maybe the stray cat finally got them.  He must eat something around here.  What a nasty creature! “

“Maybe.  Say, speaking of eating, how about some lunch?”


Wred Fright has appeared numerous times at New Pop Lit, including this blog. Info on his novels and other things can be found at He also co-edited, along with Steve Kostecke, the ULA Anthology.

Sending The Dog to a Farm

by Gregg Maxwell Parker

Child:  “Where’s Peanut Butter?  Did he die?”

Parent:  “No, he’s not dead.  We sent him to a farm.”

Child:  “Why would you send my dog away?  I love him!”

Parent:  “We sent Peanut Butter to a big farm upstate.  He’ll be able to run around and play all day – he’ll be very happy there.”

Child:  “He wasn’t happy with me?”

Parent:  “No, he was miserable.  He wanted nothing more than to get away from you.  That’s why we sent him away, so he could finally be happy.”

Child:  “Can we go visit him?”

Parent:  “Nope.  He doesn’t want to see you.”

Child: (*cries*)

Gregg Maxwell Parker is the author of the 2019 book Troublemakers. Find more of his work at



BY Karl Wenclas

The exclusive mall waited in an obscure landscape of woods and trees, at the end of a single road after three or four turns. The two young women arrived in Annabel’s Rimac Nevera– most expensive electric automobile on the planet.

“This is the mall,” Annabel said. “It never advertises. It doesn’t need to.”

She massaged the door handle. The Nevera produced 1900 horsepower, went 0 to 60 in under two seconds, had a top speed of 258 miles per hour and sold for $2.5 million. Annabel’s divorce present to herself. 

The two women stepped from the emerald green car like electric goddesses, appearing tall and sleek, Annabel color-coordinated in magenta and gold, her dark-haired sidekick Tasha Stasi– an inch shorter and a few ounces heavier– in silver and black. Carrying small Louis Vuitton handbags matching their outfits, in their persons the women proclaimed conspicuous consumption. Walking billboards for extreme wealth. Jumpsuits, shoes, hair, earrings, eyebrows, makeup, perfume– each woman presented an entire aesthetic package. No need to enter a museum to gaze upon art. You could admire them

Confident? Yes! Bordering on arrogance. Two women who’d made their way by perfect exploitation of contemporary social media and the Third Industrial Revolution. So well did they use the tools of electronic hype and hucksterism (not as well as the mogul himself of course) that not a sliver of doubt could enter their well-groomed heads. 

CONFIDENCE: The belief you can achieve anything– the first necessary component in so doing.

The sidekick, Tasha, was a popular podcaster whose ideas bounced from post-left to post-right and back again, depending on mood and the perceived winds of popularity and opportunity. Tasha embodied Total Flexibility. Adaptable– able to adjust constantly like Orwell’s depiction of switching sides: “Are we at war with Eurasia or Eastasia today?” Against right or left?– and within a week, often a day, her legions of podcast viewers would fully know she’d always held her current beliefs. 

Tasha’s tactical pliability extended to her friendship with Annabel, whom Tasha admired for many sterling attributes, but mainly for her bank account. (If actual revolution ever hit– they’d heard rumors it might– Tasha would be at the front of the throng, carrying a red flag.)

A doorman greeted them obsequiously as they entered the elegant mall. Sun glistened down from skylights, adding a sheen of dazzling clarity and glamor. Arrays of boutique goods awaited: clothes, jewels, shoes, scarves, sandals, furnishings, desserts. Caterings to the good life. A remaining sliver of lavish comfort atop a civilization showing cracks. 

Yesterday, holds had been removed from Annabel’s bank accounts and credit cards. Freddy had decided to be generous. (Half-a-billion was a sliver of his total wealth. He made that in interest in a week.) Annabel immediately texted Tasha: “Let’s go shopping!”

Shop they did. Store after store. Though they envisioned walking back to the car afterward with arms loaded with fashionable thick-plastic green bags carrying the names of elite brands, in reality they arranged for their purchases to be delivered– save for one small gold-colored purse which matched Annabel’s outfit. She ditched the Louis Vuitton bag. 

“Here,” she told the clerk. “Give it to a needy person.”

(Editor’s Note: The underpaid clerk kept the handbag for herself.)

One of Annabel’s credit cards was uniquely new, of a kind Tasha had never seen before.

“I love the glow of plastic in a mall!” Annabel exclaimed, her eyes filled with enthusiasm.

“Can you imagine a more glamorous time?” Annabel asked when they stood outside again in California sunshine, and a valet brought the gleaming emerald Rimac Nevera around.

Tasha smirked, looked, turned her head, puckered her mouth, but didn’t respond.

Indie Publishing Trials and Tribulations of the Ancient Greeks

(“Oracle at Delphi” by Camillo Miola.)

by Stuart Ross

Hecuba: Grief is mine, I will repay.

Oracle: Why don’t we post the cover on social and drum up some buzz for the presales?


Achilles: I’ve got this weakness, but there’s a clear arc, and I’m willing to go deeper into it through the oral tradition, if you know what I mean. 

Oracle: How many checkmarks follow you on Instagram? 


Antigone: Hello. I am the original manic pixie dream girl. I won’t find peace until my brother’s long-read #personal essay documenting his struggle to renew his license (DMV-as-commodification-of late-capitalist-het-“romantic”-love) receives proper burial.

Oracle: Have you considered self-publishing? The stigma is gone, like with internet dating (except Craigslist). And with Amazon’s new proprietary technology you can send essays directly into your mother’s soul, with hundreds of five-star reviews.


Colson of Whitehead: Hey friends. Thank you for sending me those ARCs written by super-talented indie scriveners. It was so cold at our Breck ski-in ski-out this past season, and they sure did help keep a voracious reader warm. If it weren’t for you guys hustling down at the bottom, I wouldn’t be able to cruise on top. Now I have a favor to ask of YOU. I’m having slight troubles placing my next novel because PenguinRandomHouseSaraLee is in conversations about merging with ExxonMobilChevronBP. The suits are involved, if you know what I mean. There’s even some talk of burning my backlist for fuel. 

Oracle: Can you demonstrate to us in any quantifiable way that this has worked for you before?


Pheme: This is my best work. This is going to make me famous. 

Oracle: I heard you said this thing at a party that was different than the thing we said at the same party. Can’t you just be a decent human being? 

Pheme: No, I can’t, I’m more a goddess. 

Oracle: Kbye sorry thnxs.


Herald: Hey! Just wanted to follow up quickly with you guys. The writing conference was a blast. Did you get my thing? It’s a masterful description of a triple murder that needed to occur offstage.

Per usual, we had no budget. 

Oracle: We haven’t checked this inbox in twelve years. Do you have any coke?


The Shteyngarts of Narcissus: It’s a tale. On a topical yarn. That we overheard. At a 63rd and Park dinner party. And then we riff a bit. Mesh it. With something we overheard. Waiting for the G train. With our daughters. At a stop. Deep in Brooklyn. Where our grandfathers sold whole life insurance policies. You call it bathos. We call it tradition. That reminds us of a funny story…

Oracle: Can you demonstrate to us in any quantifiable way that this has worked for you before?


Apollo: You say bronzed cis white male with a nine pack who’s an expert with the bow like it’s a bad thing. 

Oracle: Yeah sorry we’ve got enough sonnet sequences inspired by a Twitter thread in the queue right now. 


Agamemnon: Sirs! Might you have interest in my chapbook of poems anent the westerly wind? 

Oracle: Sacrifice your daughter. Maybe we can make it happen 2026-ish. 

Agamemnon: Where do I sign?


Stuart Ross is the author of the novel Jenny in Corona (Tortoise Books, 2019) — follow his work @myskypager.

A Review of Extreme Zeen 2

by George Pimpelton, Founding Editor of The Perilous Review

World-Renowned “Voice of the Literary Establishment”

I’ve been asked to offer an opinion on this publication apparently referred to as a premium “zeen”– I’m holding it in my hand as I write this– I can only express my most pondered puzzlement at the presentation. Designs on interior pages? A clash of colors? Quite unorthodox. Will that not in fact interfere with one’s reading? I can only conclude my opinion about this offering: Not! (Yet at the same time there is admittedly something rather appealing and, dare I say, compelling about this “new form of publishing”?)

But do we really need a “new” form of reading and publishing?

I dare say the accepted form has served us rather well for indeed rather a few centuries now. At least since Defoe, if not Swift, if I’m not mistaken. I’ll have an intern of mine look it up.

“New”! The idea is preposterous, even ghastly when one thinks about it. (I must bring this up later at the Club.) Never disturb the accepted hierarchies, I always say.

Good day.


Extreme Zeen 2 is available here.

The Search for RoboPoet

c/o Karel Capek

ONE OF the Special Projects this blog will devote itself to in coming weeks and months will be our search for RoboPoet.

Our mission at Special Projects is to cover stories in the literary world and elsewhere which no one else could conceivably want to touch. One of those stories is this one.

While many new developments are taking place in the world of Artificial Intelligence– including a creepy poetry reading done by an A.I. robot in front of the pyramids (we kid you not), the most advanced of new A.I. robots is RoboPoet– the creation of an insane entrepreneur/engineer/physicist/tech genius known to us so far only by the moniker of Doctor Snow. (More about that in a future post.)

While the Ai-Da robot discussed in the CNN article is a Level Two creation, the aforementioned Doctor Snow claims that RoboPoet is Level Five– which would make it the highest level robot writer created to date. One capable, presumably, of writing to the level of a T.S. Eliot. Or at least Bukowski. Or at least comparable to the standard work of an Ivy League MFA graduate.

New Pop Lit’s Special Projects Unit is putting together a team to investigate this matter further.

More updates to follow.