Jack Nicholson’s Face By Alex Z. Salinas

Alex z Salinas, Flash Fiction, Jack Nicholson, Punk Noir Magazine

alex salinas

Jack Nicholson’s Face

By Alex Z. Salinas

 

The Shining. Jack Nicholson chatting with Lloyd the bartender. A ghost. Two ghosts, really. Spectral negotiations. Plastered on the screen: Jack Nicholson’s wolfish grin. Arched eyebrows—fiendish, psychotic. Face of a future killer. Face of an imminent ax wielder. Face of a favorite son. Rugged, riveting, renowned—America’s face. Bargaining with no chips. Inventing rules. Commiserating ghouls. There’s a story here, its pagan energy so authoritative it sends, for a few seconds, shivers up Larry Rios’ spinal column. He will never write it. It’s not for anybody else to write, either. This unprinted story of Jack Nicholson’s face dies with Larry.

Bio:
Alex Z. Salinas lives in San Antonio, Texas. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, WARBLES (2019) and DREAMT, or The Lingering Phantoms of Equinox (2020), both published by Hekate Publishing. His poems, short fiction and op-eds have appeared in various print and electronic publications. He holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary’s University.

Mask of the Nice Guy by K. A. Laity

International Noir, K A Laity, Patricia Highsmith, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

deep water

If you know much of anything about Patricia Highsmith, you probably know her love for snails. Okay, maybe it’s not the first thing you learn, but it should be. It tells you so much about her. Smuggling them through customs in her bra – the thought of it makes me want to boak even now. She has several stories that feature them, even one where they are giant-sized and man-eating. Sure, she liked cats, too, but she never had the same affection for them that she did with her snails.

In her novel Deep Water, they are the beloved pets/keenly-observed obsession of the main character, Victor Van Allen. Highsmith’s only tender love scene that I can think of in all her writing is about the snail coupling that takes place in this book between his two favourites. He gives them conventional male and female names, though one of the things that most intrigues Highsmith is the fact that snails can morph their sex almost at will.

Hortense and Edgar were making love, Edgar reaching down from a little rock to kiss Hortense on the mouth. Hortense was reared on the end of her foot, swaying a little under his caress like a slow dancer enchanted by music. Vic watched for perhaps five minutes, thinking of absolutely nothing, not even of the snails, until he saw the cup-shaped excrescences start to appear on the right side of both snails’ heads. How they did adore each other, and how perfect they were together! 

[Spoilers here on in]

Vic first poses as a murderer, then becomes one. He gets a thrill from starting a rumour that he had something to do with his wife’s (probable) lover who suddenly disappeared then is found brutally murdered. He tells her new fave, ‘I don’t waste my time punching people on the nose. If I really don’t like somebody, I kill him.’ Vic has been telling himself he handles everything fine. His wife can’t face his oddness directly so she takes up with new men, hoping they’ll sort things for her somehow.

But Vic finds power in pretending to be a murderer. He realises his calm has discomfited the new lover, and further that ‘Vic had frightened him’ and further understands how his own uncanny nature makes that work: ‘People who do not behave in an orthodox manner…are by definition frightening.’ But it’s only at this intimate level that Vic’s strangeness can be seen.

To his neighbours and colleagues, he does all the right things: runs a fine art small press, keeps a nice home (though most don’t know that he lives in the workshop in the garage and not the house itself), has patience in the face of his wife’s flirting, and is a kindly dad to his daughter. People like him and disapprove of Melinda, who’s seen as a bad wife.

When Vic does actually kill her latest lover on a whim, in a fairly obvious way, not one person suspects him (well, maybe his wife). The police who rightly think it’s a bit odd are quickly dissuaded by all the neighbours who vouch for the upstanding-quiet-keeps to himself Vic. They double down on their disapproval of Melinda, too. She brought trouble to their quiet town after all. For a time she is contrite.

But then a mystery novelist comes to town and makes friends with Melinda. ‘People in Little Wesley had not been particularly friendly to the Wilsons since their arrival, and Vic thought it was Don’s fault. He was humourless and standoffish at social gatherings, perhaps because he considered smile and conviviality unintelligent or unbecoming in a writer.’ Highsmith having some fun with her own image here, perhaps. Also Vic publishes poets and important things. ‘[Don Wilson] was such a hack – western stories, detective stories, love stories, some of which his wife collaborated on, though Vic had heard from somebody that her specialty was children’s books. The Wilsons had no children.’

Comic book writer Pat never much reconciled herself with that past. She was quite a snob about things and hated being seen as a niche genre writer. Some of that ambivalence comes through. Yet who unravels the next murder Vic commits? Part of it is simply his arrogance. It’s not enough to plan the murder; he needs to gloat over it with his wife nearby.

At one point as they argue and he baits her with a dare to kill him, she says, ‘You’re so – nuts! I don’t suppose you’d mind that very much. I’d like to smash your lousy ego.’  He explains to her with great patience, ‘”No, not ego. Just the pieces of myself that I can put together and hold together – by force of will. Will power, if you like, that’s what I live on, but not ego. How could I possibly have any?” he finished desperately, enjoying the discussion immensely and also enjoying the sound of his own voice, which seemed to be objective, like his own voice on a tape-recording machine being played back to him.’

So uncanny and he doesn’t even see it, but neither do his neighbours and friends. They all see the mask as real. Such a nice guy. Right down to the end, Vic retains a belief in his superiority, dismissing Wilson and all the rest as ‘ugly birds without wings’ and mediocrities

Two Crow Carriage Sonnets by Kristin Garth

Amy Suzanne, Art, Kristin Garth, Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

Bibliotheque

Illustration by Amy Suzanne

 

Siren of Smoke

 

At library table, button back chair,

scoot close to examine the volumes laid

bare.  One illuminated by her flare

in midair, Siren of Smoke, who glissades

somewhere.  Abandons candlestick.  Forfeits

the flame.  First tome opens wide.  Pictures

explain, specters diagrammed, recorded

peculiarities.  Ghosts have strictures,

a host of species.  Notation by one

with dripping red lips, mother it says,

below lunar eclipse, spells some have done

for selective mortality, for eyes

that water, mouths that feed – at which you choke.

Consequence of enlightenment is smoke.

 

Phantosmia

 

Haunted by mere molecules, stifling air,

smoldering scent, September fare, a pile

of leaves someone made to burn amidst rare

volumes, lessons unlearned.  Candlestick child

once kept upstairs, in bell sleeves, liquefied

pink nightmares, lit by a taper she

one day will be to waft here alongside

a tragedy.  Incandescent only

so very few nights with so many truths

to bring to light.  Bright black beeswax she could

conserve; her flames finite as answers, proof

undeserved.  How could any subject trust

an accomplice to this experiment?

Light for a life, you could choke on its scent.

 

 

Author’s Note:

Siren of Smoke and Phantosmia both introduce a new character in Crow Carriage known as the Siren of Smoke.  The Siren of Smoke is a ghost of a subject who killed herself by drinking a bottle of laudanum left too close at hand in the room of the subjects.  The subjects are adolescent captives of the evil Doctor who is attempting to cure Addison’s Disease by producing and extracting cortisol in young women he keeps in a perpetual nightmare state.

 

The leaving of laudanum close to the young subjects was a mistake not repeated by The Doctor and his staff. After the girl ingests the bottle and dies, though her body escapes Willowbee Manor, her soul does not.  She hides herself in a boiler pot of beeswax for candles.  Her soul is distributed among fifteen tapers.  Each time one burns, she appears in the smoke, dancing as was her great passion.  When the candles are all used, her haunting will also be extinguished.

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of seventeen books of poetry including Pink Plastic House  (Maverick Duck Press), Crow Carriage (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press), The Meadow (APEP Publications) and Golden Ticket forthcoming from Roaring Junior Press.  She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter:  (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com

 

Joni Blue by Liz Davinci

Liz Davinci, Music, Punk Noir Magazine, Torch Songs

JoniBlue_AlbumArt

For the past 6 months an album has been coming together and it has developed from a handful of demos into a full-fledged concept album, promising innovative trailers and experimental songs.

The album is divided into five “stages” as the protagonist, Victoria, moves through different experiences.

The stages are, in order, “Contentment”, “Love”, “Love disappears”, “Revolution” and “Imprisonment”.

Talented crime fiction, noir and freelance writers such as Paul D. Brazill, Jim Shaffer, Mark McConville, Kate Laity and Underhatchet have prepared texts in line with these stages.

The album is planned to be a “happening” for the next 6 months as album trailers unfold and a few singles are released.

“Joni Blue“, releasing July 24, 2020, is the first glimpse of the album and belongs to the stage “Contentment”.

I hope you enjoy the first taste of what is to come.

Joni Blue

Liz Davinci
 
 
 
 

Love Is The Mind by Eoghan Lyng

Eoghan Lyng, Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

PhotoFunia-1591000525Magnifying paper glass, worming around the silver grain,

Oscilating out of touch, wilful in its soulless pane,

Grasping grass upon the gases placid in a jelly letterbox,

Filtered words in a tattered stained Goldilocks,

Slivering wildly the outer man kicks the ball,

Antony’s empire splattered against the wall,

Flourescent flames of green, orange and white,

As Union Jackets throw their water guns in spite,

The gingerbreads have a say in the right wing blues,

That robs the kangarooed working men their dues,

And they paint their lives in palettes greyer still,

Tasting the asphalt from their bittered pills,

Hill climbing dues in situated cerealed joke,

Brother, brother me in cigarette smoke,

A fishy story in cobwebbed holes,

Trump cards in a pack of thieves and moles,

And the liquid guitars shaped as pies,

Hitler’s moustache sold for lies,

A mirrored glazed potato wasted fate,

Love is the mind we wish we could hate

Bandages By Alex Z. Salinas

Alex z Salinas, Flash Fiction, Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

alex salinas

Bandages

By Alex Z. Salinas

 

Food for thought: if you disappear Harry Houdini, you earn Loki’s adoration for eternity. If you reinvent the wheel of passion, you twist romance poems into horror memoirs. If you cast the laws of brotherhood into fires of deconstruction, you marinate your conscience in ponds of resurrection. If you read every book in the world but don’t publish one, you are the Eyes of Big Brother, a creaking shelf in the Library of Babel. If you’re a poet without a pen or phone, scratch your verse into your palms. Larry Rios has four boxes of bandages stored in his medicine cabinet.

Bio:
Alex Z. Salinas lives in San Antonio, Texas. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, WARBLES (2019) and DREAMT, or The Lingering Phantoms of Equinox (2020), both published by Hekate Publishing. His poems, short fiction and op-eds have appeared in various print and electronic publications. He holds an M.A. in English Literature and Language from St. Mary’s University

Talking to Strangers by K. A. Laity

Fiction, K A Laity, Music, Punk Noir Magazine

PhotoFunia-1593254997Talking to Strangers

K. A. Laity

 

I do talk to strangers. You don’t mind, do you? I know some people do. They move away from me on the bench, even if it’s raining and they get all wet. Sometimes I can understand. You want a bit of quiet, you want to think your thoughts. I feel that way sometimes, too. The thoughts they have a way of getting out or getting in, up in your brain like, I guess. They want to have a wander, they want to let you see the shape of them and hear their voices and sometimes that’s not bad at all.

Do you want a bite of my sandwich? It’s fresh. I just got it out back of the shop there. No one else but me has eaten it. No? Well, if you change your mind, don’t be shy.

Thoughts was it? I was thinking. We are all thinking. All the time. My husband used to say that’s why he drank. Joking like, you know, only joking—or was he? Sometimes I wasn’t sure. He had that deadpan wit, that quiet sort of way, only joking he would say and sometimes I figured, as you do, sometimes I figured he was only saying so, you know what I’m going to say, only saying so when he had been caught out and it wasn’t a joke at all just a thing he wanted to say and then walk back from as if he had never said it or meant it or not.

He was always like that. God rest his soul.

No, no: not dead. He’s alive last I knew. I think I saw him in town about a year ago, hurrying along to the betting shop. Getting his little flutter in. Like the drinking it was never so much, just a bit to distract him. Mostly from me. I think he regretted things, as you do, as we all do sometimes. The baby, I regretted the baby. We regretted the baby, I mean. A mistake, after all. A mistake when the house is not full of love. Babies need love. Babies need care. Constant care. You have to be there all the time. You have to be attentive. He wasn’t going to be the one. It had to be me.

I can share my chocolate bar. Shall I break off a piece? No? On a diet. Young thing like you shouldn’t worry about slimming. You never regret the chocolate. That’s one thing I can say for sure. Never regret the cakes or the biscuits. No. Children though, you regret them.

I haven’t thought of them in years. Children I mean. We can live our whole lives without them, you know. It’s not just modern women. In my time, too. Lots of women, lots, decided they could do without. That was the age of the pill. You take it for granted now. But in my day—

Oh listen to me! Talking like my gran, like I said I would never do. ‘In my day’ well, we all know things were different in the past though not always as much as we guess. Same as in my gran’s day because the priests you know, the priests said it was sinful so we had the babies we didn’t want and had to live with it make the best of it. That’s the way it was.

And it wasn’t what I meant to do, none of it. Didn’t really want a baby, not once I found out that I got tired of him. You can’t imagine how dull men are when they have you, when they don’t care to please you anymore. Just want a mum to clean up after them, feed them, bring them tea.

And all the time you have to be fussing with another baby, too, one that cries and screams and has the most foul smelling poo you ever could imagine in your life. No, wait until you find out for yourself. So foul.

And just a moment’s distraction. Well, a few minutes. I was only away a moment. The bath is—well, we should have had little baby one but himself didn’t want to buy it. Only a minute or so. The water was cold, I told them, because I was always afraid of scalding that tender skin. Really. Sad, it was, but he looked pretty as a doll once he was quiet.

Don’t you want a bite?

Annihilation by Mark McConville

Flash Fiction, Mark McConville, Punk Noir Magazine

PhotoFunia-1590832754Annihilation

I run, I run away from the shackles of an empire built by you, a dictator of my dreams and my future. By escaping the clutches, I feel free in an instance, like a bird speeding through volatile winds, coming out the other end, unscathed. The feeling of trepidation dies, those echoes of your voice still embedded, but they will be stifled by my newly strong mind. Yes, these streets are frightening, on the cusp of bleeding, hemorrhaging out as the classless and free throw Molotov cocktails at the malevolent army who pride themselves on committing cardinal sins.

I amble amidst the bloodshed, checking my vital signs, my heart beats rapidly as it did back when I was running the marathon of my life, through forests, ravaged by fire. Those years have given me a thick skin. They empowered me to live in desolation and impoverishment. We skinned deer to stay alive, cooked it and ate without a uttering a word. You created a storm in me, a tornado of hate for myself, and on those nights when you ridiculed me, damaged me, cut me off from a world of possibilities, I despised you and your nicotine breath.

I’m kneel behind a beaten car, my hands blue, cold and dry. The threadbare jacket I’m wearing blows in the wind, it’s weightless, but covers my aching skin and scrawny body. I wait for a chance to move onward through a town weighed down by heavy storms, lackluster monuments which have been vandalized by hopeless children, years and years of mass corruption.

Moving forward takes intricacy and strategic planning. I shuffle over, jeopardizing my life, taking a stab into the tired light. This has to happen though, I have to make it, moments of clarity must prevail, or my optimism may shatter into fragments which may reform into a shard of negativity. They’ve now unleashed tanks onto the roads, they’ve roared into the next stage, readying their wrath of kill the remaining rebels who are only armed with weak weapons and undying desire.

What can I do now? Mop up the parts that have fallen, the blood that has spilled, the bones of courageous human beings. Or can I map out directions, a common plan? These mechanical enforcers will pull me apart, they’ll grind me down into dust which will spray into the relentless wind.

There’s not many of them left, they’re all dying horrendous deaths. I move again, this time into a house with no doors or windows. Everything is broken here, dolls with torn out eyes lay on the bedroom floor, pink wallpaper frayed, it seems to be a room where a little girl dreamt that her life would have been more straightforward than this. But, time has been ungodly, love has been wrapped up in blood soaked sheets and thrown into the fire.

As the chaos unravels, I sit hiding in the attic. I’m drawn to books and art. They’re all in bundles, these academic and fictional books. Books of power, books which contain truth, children books which alter worlds and stir imagination. And this attic consumes me as the guns and grenades pound through the streets, and into flesh and into hearts. Rather than listen, I put my hands over my ears, reading the same page repeatedly.

I hear thuds, bottle rockets and bombs. I hear whimpers, cries and lost souls teetering on the line of death, then eventually meeting their demise. It’s a crushing blow to the world, this war, this bloodshed. I’m in hiding, but I don’t feel safe, I feel feeble, defenseless, on the brink, losing my internal strength. All over the floor cracks show, cracks like my resolve.

Over on the wall there’s a mural of a girl chasing a red balloon. Her dress beautiful, her smile even infectious to me, as I smile. I smile at the times when the world wasn’t stuck in a game of chess. Beyond all of this, there are countries which don’t apprehend the greater good, they give and give, layering their landscapes with vitality and give their people hope.

Bright lights shine up through the cracks. My heart belts out for subtle touches. My innocence is in jeopardy. The whole world around me feels heavy on my head. I hear spoken words; I hear laughter.

‘’Nothing here, but these dolls’’

‘’They’re freaky aren’t they’’

‘’Demonic really’’

Through the speaker, a man tells the enemy to search the rest of the house. I drift into the closet and shut the door. Inside here, there are old knitted garments for young lives. I stand, not assured or even ready to defend myself. Behind me, there are wire coat hangers. I take one and twist it to make a weak weapon. It won’t stand up against their guns, but I must try.

Time elapses, and the voice becomes clearer. Through the little peep hole, I see a man wearing a patch on his jacket. It reads ‘’Annihilation’’. They just want to kill their way to victory.

I ready myself. I will be found, my restlessness will get me caught.

Slowly he moves forward, slowly he talks to himself in rituals.

And as he opens, I attack with all my strength, pushing the wire into his right eye. Blood splatters the florescent paper. As he falls, I grab his gun and shoot. He cascades into the depths of hell where he belongs.

The other man runs through and stands still. He goes to his knees and grovels.

I shoot him, he falls, and hell now has two.

Covered in blood, I hear a raucous sound from outside, voices of concern, dogs barking. Blood seeps through the cracks and onto the carpet below. Voices near close, voices grainy but alert, lights flash, red lasers pinpointed at the walls. This is anarchy, mayhem, war. It’s only a matter of time before I’m shot to pieces.

Cries deafen me. Flash grenades ring in my ears as they explode. People scream out for god to carry them through, they scream for this all to be a dream, a figment of their imaginations. Real life has been altered by lasting effects, minds have been inundated with snapshots portraying war at its most terrifying.

Sitting in a corner, I’m awaiting what will come my way. In this attic, books bind its cultural significance, books offer an escape route, and I wish to be transported into these worlds written by novelists who saw the world as a beacon of hope. Thinking like that may offer me a lifeline, a small sinew of solace.

The lights go out, the damage halts, the sound of inconsistent thunder stops. Quietness offers a subtle embrace until a crash, a reverberation, pounds all walls and broken palaces. I hear myriads of gunshots, piercing through skin, and then.

The quiet….

The solace….

An ally speaks,

‘’Take my arm, and I’ll carry you through’’

 

A Community by Ian Lewis Copestick

Brit Grit, Ian Copestick, Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine
PhotoFunia-1590565538A Community

I really enjoy feeling like
I’m part of a community,
I know all the workers in the local shops,
and of course, they all know me.

It’s such a big, yet such a little thing,
it doesn’t cost you a penny.
When you’re depressed and lonely
it’s advantages are many.

Just someone to say  ” Hello”
and  “How are you doing, Ian ?”
Let’s you know you’re not alone
and you ARE a human being.

Of course, it’s really obvious,
people need to be connected
But modern life makes you nervous,
and you lose all your perspective.

Back when I was younger,
with an underdeveloped brain
I automatically thought others wouldn’t understand my existential pain.

I thank God that I’ve grown up,
and somehow matured.
I deserved to be hung up,
and covered in manure.

Thinking I was somehow better
than my fellow man.
Thank God I learned that lesson,
that I finally understand.

That we each have our own different gifts,

all individual, yet all alike.
Unique snowflakes, blown into a snowdrift.
Trying to cope with this thing called “life .”

Playing Ripley by K. A. Laity

K A Laity, Patricia Highsmith, Punk Noir Magazine

ripley

I was watching a TIFF interview with Phyllis Nagy who adapted Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt as the 2015 movie Carol directed by Todd Haynes, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and Sarah Paulson. Among the bon mots – along with her story of her first fascinating meeting with the author herself – was the fact that she had adapted The Talented Mr Ripley as a play right around the time Anthony Minghella’s movie came out. I vaguely recalled a production of the play some years back, but didn’t realise who had written it. 

Fortunately the play is easy to get hold of especially in comparison to the more recent Ripley and Highsmith play Switzerland by Joanna Murray-Smith, which I also missed seeing. That one is much more meta, but Nagy’s adaptation is full of surreal touches that call it and Highsmith’s obsession with the character to mind. Some first thoughts:

I enjoyed it. Like most play scripts, it’s a quick read, though this is a really fascinatingly complex narrative. The play boils down the events of the novel into signal moments, often overlapping. Nagy’s imaginative positioning of the characters and their interactions make the most of the space of theatre and the flexibility it has to allow simultaneous things to be happening and affecting the audience’s interpretation of that overlap.

It has a lot of mirroring, sometimes literally, as [SPOILERS, SWEETIE] Tom kills and absorbs ‘Rickie’ (not Dickie here, though his character name is always Richard), rather than simply eliminating him. Even after he kills Rickie at the end of the first act, the victim hangs around to encourage, argue and sometimes taunt his killer. There’s a lot more of the influence of the past, both Greenleaf parents, and Tom’s Aunt Dottie, but also Tom’s friend from NY – not the artist he hangs out with in the novel, but an adaptation of the housemate who is much more deliberately coded gay. Tom’s sexuality, or at least some version of it, in tune with Minghella’s film version much clearly positions him as gay rather than Highsmith’s own odder, more fetishistic Ripley, whose only real ecstasy comes when he contemplates all the things that once belonged to Dickie now belong to him.

Like the modern description of Ripley as ‘charming’ which is completely wrong; contemporary reviews were much more aware of his abjectness. Nagy repeats that misapprehension in her character description of Riply: ‘an utterly compelling, fastidious, charming and measured psychopath’. He becomes that psychopath, but there is little charming about him. In the original novel that couldn’t be clearer. Highsmith humiliates him upon arrival in Mongibello with a terrible bout of diarrhea. Nagy calls him ‘charming’ but doesn’t really present him that way. Ripley finds a way to be who he wants to be when he meets Rickie/Dickie. For a time he wants to be that spoiled, untalented but oh so self-assured rich kid. Circumstances only allow that for a short while before he has to once more become Ripley, but the value of the experience remains and gives him the power not only to survive murder whenever necessary, but to make Tom Ripley into the psychopath he never knew he could be.

‘It gave his existence a peculiar, delicious atmosphere of purity, like that, Tom thought, which a fine actor probably feels when he plays an important role on a stage with the conviction that the role he is playing could not be played better by anyone else.’

Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr Ripley