Here’s a piece I wrote for Devon Fick’s ongoing series, “Short Stories Based on Small Objects.”  My object/inspiration is the blue ticket seen below.

13072934_1197827553571698_2011956599_o (1)

The love of his life had died back in ’81. Poor Ol’ Dorothy Jo’s lungs had failed her, leaving Mr. Robert William Barker alone with a bunch of infertile dogs. I remember how, at one time, people had used to say that Hollywood was no place for a sweet thing like myself; they were right. But Mama didn’t raise no quitter, though she did raise a fool…

Is it destiny when you already know before it’s gonna happen or do you realize how perfect it is after it’s all over? It was like this kind of delayed reaction where some senses came in front of others, an excited blur of multi-colored, flashing lights and audience approval. A hand beckoned me forth onto the stage —–

“COME ON DOWN!”

I couldn’t breathe but I managed a few words, practically a choked whisper, “Bob, I’ve loved you forever…”

He lent his ear to my mouth, a true shame I didn’t slide my tongue in but I was stronger than I knew. I repeated it more confidently as if it were a fact and not a thousand rocks heavy upon my heart. He jostled my hair in appreciation. I fainted.

Later he would grunt like an animal hovering over me, drenched in sweat, and saying in finality, “spay…and…neuter…your…PETS!” This would prove to be the beginning of the end of me.

By Sarah Samways, Contributing Female 

While the majority of Lankvillians spent this past Halloween walking around aimlessly, looking for a “good time,” visual artist and occasional occultist, Carl Dunn, spent his morning a little bit differently. Going to the local slaughterhouse, nearby his beloved Fotomat and down around the corner from the Pizza-A-Round, Dunn brought with him a pocket knife, a rare, leather-bound book of demonic chants, and attempted to contact the very face of evil Itself.

Because it’s the New Year, a time teeming with glee, ghosts and alcoholism, I probed Dunn for any tips he had on summoning spirits. He reluctantly obliged.

SS: Why are you doing this?

CD: I’m very creative.

Dunn, standing in front of a wall.

Dunn, standing in front of a wall.

SS: Fair enough. So what happened out there, were you able to bring forth the face of Evil?

CD: Oh yeah, for sure. It wasn’t really talkative though – I should’ve had a plan B. Maybe some notecards so we could engage in small talk or something. I was all prepared for the beginning, ya know, getting ‘im there – I chanted until my tongue was twisted…

SS (nods): The creepy book in Latin, the pocket knife to draw your own blood as an offering…

CD: Yeah, it was great. But then, It like, showed up in this big cloud of fog…just this floating head, really surreal. It had these bright, glowing red eyes and it let out this deafening shriek. If I were a weaker man, I’d have run for the hills, ya know if they weren’t polluted with toxic sludge…

SS: Right, right.

CD: But anyway, It lets out this shriek for about ten minutes and then it just stops, blinks Its eyes and then looks at me. You could practically see the question mark hovering on Its face.

The Face of Evil (file photo)

The Face of Evil (file photo)

SS: It wanted to know what you wanted, why you had summoned It…?

CD: Yeah, I think so. But I really had no good answer so I just said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ Then it disappeared.

SS: Amazing. Do you have any tips for Lankvillians regarding contacting spirits, the other side, ghosts, and any other odd undead land mammals?

CD: Notecards or a prepared speech, anything topical. I have a feeling that Evil is really interested in politics. Yeah, I’m gonna stick with that. You don’t wanna bore Evil when it finally graces you with Its presence.

SS: Thank you, Carl. As always, you’re a special delight.

Carl then nodded, gave me a pat on the shoulder and went out for a smoke. I preceded to put up special New Year’s tinsel and fuzzy garland, just to make the place look a little more festive. Happy New Year, Lankville!

I am beyond honored to have had one of my novels nominated for UMBC’s required reading for its first year program. As a GED recipient and a university dropout, this acknowledgement from Academia is especially heartwarming. Although not selected, it is always nice to be nominated! You will also notice some of my Lankvillian colleagues on this list!

sad girl poetry

 

via The Lankville Daily News

By Sarah Samways, Contributing Female
By Sarah Samways, Contributing Female

Popular motivational speaker and local “financeteer,” Brian 4 Ever, made a rare appearance at the Pizza A-Round last night. Also spotted were Computer Computer Paper CEO Amanda Burgess, Tammy La Hoyt of Tammy’s Nails, LDN’s own cuisine writer Brian Schropp, and President Albert Pondicherry. Yes, the stars were certainly out in honor of the pizza establishment’s recent “C-” grade from the Board of Health, (the highest grade its seen in months). Coinciding with this was the Computer Computer Paper company’s annual Midnight Snack/Employee Appreciation Seminar, aiming to “celebrate good employees and belittle bad ones all while enjoying a light nosh.” 4 Ever was the head lecturer for the event.

“Tomorrow I will be another year older and thankfully, a little bit wiser,” said 4 Ever in an indistinct Southern Lankville accent.

“I’ve come out here tonight, standing on a precipice, to share my priceless advice on how to live your life to its fullest! How to become all that you can be! There are several steps to success and it starts with money and it ends with money and in between that are empty pizza boxes, a cleansing, burning sensation, a couple of songs, and a limited time offer. Tell me people, are you ready to change your life?”

At the height of his speech, 4 Ever then proceeded to remove his suit to reveal a simple black cocktail dress as Burgess urged pizza patrons to try some of 4 Ever’s “miracle hand lotion.”

“This is a risk-free, low-commitment, time-sensitive deal here. For just five installments of $19.99, you

Brian 4 Ever, Computer Computer Paper CEO Amanda Burgess and their #1 Fan
Brian 4 Ever, Computer Computer Paper CEO Amanda Burgess and their #1 Fan

can change your life! The burning is only an indication of toxins being removed from the body, you’re getting cleaner as we speak,” Burgess coaxed a clearly agitated onlooker, while globbing some of the lotion into his hands.

After the speech was over, refreshments and slices of garlic bread were served, autographs were signed and photographs were offered with 4 Ever and Burgess at a discounted fare of $49.99, special for the occasion. Number-one-fan, Katrina Hall, excitedly emptied her purse to the duo.

“I’ve been following Brian 4 Ever on tour for about seven years now. His talks are so inspirational! I’ve bought all his products! I even got myself a job as a secretary at the Computer Computer Paper company just so I could witness his talks on the business circuit. Of course, I ended up losing that position because I would sneak into the conference room for his lectures and let all of (Burgess’s) calls go to voicemail…But, ya know, there are no hard feelings.”

The Pizza A-Round, pleased with the night’s events, is stated to be in the process of making a commemorative “Pizza Pizza 4 Ever,” a pie that can only be described by the chef as “never-ending.” Details will be released at a later date.

LANKVILLE TALKS BACK 

brock belvedere
By Brock Belvedere

The Lankville Presidential Election is heating up. Incumbent Pondicherry is currently in the lead with Royer and Hadbawnik tied for second. Polls close on Thursday and the winner will be announced on Friday via this publication as well as through our sister pundit, The Boston Hassle. You’ve seen the attack ads, now let’s see what Lankvillians have to say about the candidates.

 

DAVID HADBAWNIK, GOURD 

Sarah Samways
Sarah Samways

“I voted for David. Think he’s been running a strong campaign from the very beginning. He obviously has concerns about the environment. Nobody else has even mentioned the Lankvillian smog. He just seems like a regular guy you’d go and have Kombucha with at the local artisanal cheese shop. He’d make a fine President. Now, personally, I took issue with the fact that he helped to out my affair with Ashley Pfeiffers’ boyfriend but in hindsight, I’m glad he did. (He) was an absolute bore anyway. It just goes to show you, how uncompromised Hadbawnik’s ethics are – he can’t be bought, believe me I tried!” – Sarah Samways, Samways & Fick Consultants 

 

ALBERT PONDICHERRY, MODERATION

Neil Cuppy
Neil Cuppy

“Great men should remain in positions of power for as long as possible. Change is overrated. Besides, Pondicherry is the only person to ever come down to my basement to browse my extensive vintage electronics collection. He even bought an old model Reckoner! He’s a man with great taste in polyester and has never once made me feel awkward about my sweat gland issue!” – Neil Cuppy, The Electronics Cranny 

“The Pizza-A-Round fully endorses Albert Pondicherry for President of Lankville. He supports local businesses, mostly the back of the house where there are good hiding places and a couple of random holes in the wall but nevertheless, he bought 72 pizzas for our little league team! Now, this is the off-season but he hand delivered every single one of those pies to each player’s home. Yes, it was 10:30 at night but his heart was in the right place – it always is.” – Pizza-A-Round

RANDY PENDLETON, LANKVILLE HERITAGE

“Goddamn motherlusting idiots! Pendleton is the only man for the job! He ain’t afraid to speak his mind. You got a problem with that, pal? Go back to whatever hut you were born in. Lankville needs to get back to its roots and become number one again. Pendleton is a guy who can roll with the punches and I like that, I like it a lot.” – Dick La Hoyt

AMANDA JENNIFERS, MORALITY

“I hereby declare myself as the most qualified candidate for President of Lankville. While the other candidates have their hands in jars of old money, mine are clean and ready for your examination. I don’t need to pay for endorsements; Lankville is ready for a new voice – a clear, well-educated, hard-working, voice that will stand up for them. Plus, I’m female and we all know what an asset that is in politics.” – Amanda Jennifers

RIC ROYER, HELL 

Dr. Kevin Thurston
Dr. Kevin Thurston

“Ric’s been a patient of mine for some time and I’ve gotta say, he’s made some tremendous strides. Just yesterday, while doing some breathing exercises, he purchased a Feelings Trigger-Sphere (basketball), and a carafe of stale ginger ale, which at a combined total of $39.99 is an absolute steal. I spoke with him softly, merely above a whisper, as he explained his horrible dreams for Lankville. Now, I’m not registered to vote, because I feel competition, in general, can harbor some of our more yucky feelings but I’m not opposed to you doing so, Brock. In fact, I have these nice, antique quill pens that you can fill out your ballot with for a limited time offer price of $27.85…” – Dr. Kevin Thurston, Men’s Feelings Expert

 

 

Samways and Fick, Inc.


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Working with Samways and Fick: Consultants proved to be a weird yet insightful experience.  The team was simple to work with, arrived on a bus and forged a process that was unique to our needs. They had embroidered shirts with mountains on them. They matched our tasks to other people’s tasks, thus bringing everybody together as one. I recommend them enthusiastically for anyone who is interested in a complimentary sack lunch and a free tote bag.” – Suzy, East Lankville 

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     Core Values 

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A PAID ADVERTISING TESTIMONIAL 

 

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An Investigative Report by Zach Keebaugh

Paladin Pizza in Central Lankville has been in business since 1972. They operate out of a mean, one-story building nestled in front of a defunct factory. The parking lot is cracked and worn and the sidewalk in front of the door has nearly returned to dirt. The windows are covered by weather-beaten cardboard and the lighted sign has been burned out every since I started living above the knives and puzzles shop across the street.

Finally, I had had enough. What the hell is up with this place? I aimed to find out.

I am Zach Keebaugh: Investigative Reporter.

I went in at lunchtime. The small, poorly-lit seating area was completely empty. Pieces of newspaper littered the floor. It felt like no heat had been on in the place for ages. There was no counter– merely a ragged chasm in the brown paneling that offered a view into the kitchen. A pulpy middle-aged face suddenly appeared in the breach.

“Let’s have a pie, make it a large and a steak sandwich too,” I called out. The pulpy face nodded very slightly and then disappeared. I took a seat and looked over the ancient laminated placemat. There was a little maze on there– you had to lead the pepperoni through the maze to the pizza on the other side. That was cool, that occupied me for a little while.

It was then that I became aware of complete and total silence. Nothing moved through the chasm. It was the absence of sound that stunned me, it was an absence of life as well. They have killed all their customers it suddenly occurred to me. The ovens are inoperable. There will be no pizza. There will be only the end. This is your denouement Keebaugh, I thought.

“Yo,” I called out. It was desperation, more than anything else. The pulpy, expressionless face returned. “Yo, are you making that pizza, that steak sandwich?” I started backing away towards the door– I could feel the thin strands of sunlight as I drew closer. The pulpy face said nothing. Relax, Keebaugh I thought. I breathed.

And then a bag was pushed through the chasm. The bottom was covered in grease. But there was something inside. It was the sub (and, as I unexpectedly found out later, the pizza too). They had shoved the pizza into a paper bag. It was eldritch, this pizza, made by phantoms.

I threw a twenty at the chasm. Some change somehow appeared.

“Enjoy your meal,” the chasm said. The pulpy figure was gone. I looked at the chasm. It grew suddenly grey outside. Nothing further was coming, I knew it. I thought about approaching, thought about trying to get a glimpse into the kitchen. But there was just no way, man. It was over. I had to accept it. The chasm had accepted it.

The pizza was good though. And so was the sub.

That’s what you should take away from this, man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BROCK BELVEDERE SPECIAL REPORT

 

Last year, Berenice Cradles and her boyfriend Josh Wilson-Shires paid $26,000 for a three bedroom, 1,600 square-foot Lankville Northern Regional Style house in the Snowy Lake Area. After growing up in the nearby Eastern Hills, attending Lankville State Easier University, then living and making music in the Islands for two years, Cradles and Wilson-Shires came back to Lankville, where they have become active in a movement of young preservationists bent on restoring the nation’s old homes and buildings.

“The new Lankville Dream is not about owning a giant mansion or a fancy Neptune but owning something that matters more because it’s accessible,” said Cradles, as we sat over Apple Cider Toast and salmon at Flour to the People Bakery while Wilson-Shires sat very quietly and obediently nearby. “I think the whole Lankville Dream is really shifting because young people are out there changing Lankville.”

At age 26, Cradles’ life is a sort of marketing campaign for Lankville. This summer, after wrapping up a series of episodes for the Lankville Broadcasting Company in which their refinished home was shown repeatedly at different angles, Cradles and Wilson-Shires were married, becoming Lankville’s First Couple of Historic Preservation. The event had its own hashtag– #lankvilleloveweddingwithcake, mirroring the name of their own recently founded company “Lankalove Developments”, which restores old homes, commercial buildings and pebbly lots.

As she wolfed down some more Apple Cider Toast (and added some brie to our repast), I asked Cradles what Lankville’s new slogan should be.

“Lankville: Comeback Nation,” she said, instantly. “Oh my God, I’ve thought about slogans for months and months and months.”

“She has,” added Wilson-Shires in a quiet, feeble manner.

According to census data analyzed by The Lankville Daily News, from 2000 to 2015 the number of college graduates between the ages of 22 and 30 in Lankville jumped 45%, more than in the Islands or the Distant Peninsulas. Part of attracting that younger demographic involves programs like the Lankville Salvage and Love Project, which provides loans for individuals and businesses to improve downtown properties, many of which have been ravaged by neglect or challenges.

“A lot of people look at these old structures and think that they’re just rotted old places full of rats and vermin and bum’s piss,” noted Lankville Re-Use Project CEO Dawn Elliott-Cryoden, aged 27. “But millennials see possibilities and so they tear out everything and put up new walls and solar panels and little gardens and they clean up the bum’s piss and what you’re left with is development. It’s really a new movement.”

Upon my arrival in Lankville, I landed on the basement couch of Nora Jeans-McGriff, a 26-year old who, in 2012, ended up in Lankville after biking up from the Islands. She had just been planning to stay for a few months while doing a work exchange at a wood shop in the Middle Outlands, but her plans changed after she bought a house at a foreclosure auction for $1,000. The house isn’t livable yet (it was partially destroyed by numerous challenges, a Super Tornado, and bum’s piss), but she’s been slowly fixing it up, adding a green roof, gutters made of recycled stiffened cardboard and insulation made of pressed trash and with help from handy friends in town.

In the meantime, she pays $150 a month to rent a room in a communal house in the Middle Outlands and waitstaffperson’s at Emoti-Flan, an artisanal custard cafe.

“I make a lot more money here than I did in the Islands,” noted Jeans-McGriff.  “And I can save a lot here– I didn’t work at all for four months! I just traveled, played music, made graffiti art, raised nine chickens, collected rainwater, fed some bum’s at a community kitchen, counseled children, built reusable water bottles out of found trash, grew tree fruit, started a bicycle laboratory, purchased some vacant lots, and hung out with my boyfriend!”

Starting a business is also less daunting in Lankville. One day, I visited PAO QUOTIDIAN (owner’s capitals), a worker-owned bakery in the Great Northern Mountain Area opened last year by first-time business owners Tori Loops, Allison Hunter-Awnings, Emily Freedmont-Westerbrook and Kim Fields, all in their late 20’s. They raised $40,000 to start the bakery from an online funding platform and now pay $400 monthly on a graduated rental lease for their 1900 square foot space. The artisanal bread market is not saturated in Lankville; business is brisk.

Loops, 28, originally from Hoover Island, got her master’s degree in performance studies and Gender Musings from Eastern Hills Easier University. After graduation, she worked sporadically as a graphic designer, co-operative farmer and a waitstaffperson at a cupcake cafe but decided she wanted to live in Lankville where she could do work that “mattered”.

“I’m glad we’re past the point where the Islands are the only places to go and be successful and make your mark on the world,” said Loops (rated about a 7 out of 10- 8 out of 10 if she ever wore a bra). “There are a lot of places in Lankville to have opportunity that are a little more accessible.”

Smith Bryce Phillips agrees. He lived in Lankville until he was 22, when he moved to the Islands. Last year, at age 27, he moved into a house in Lankville with his homosexual lover.

“I couldn’t really make a name for myself in the Islands. I didn’t get any attention. So, I came back to Lankville. The energy feels right in Lankville now,” he told me at just desserts cafe (owner’s lack of capitals), where we met for brie, cupcakes, and pumpkins.

Right next door, Smith rents a storefront for $500 a month. He hasn’t disclosed the name or purpose of his store yet (currently, a sheet of brown raw treeless “paper” covering the front door reads #MYSTERIOUSSTORE, but he imagines it will serve as a community bike space, used gay bookshop and pottery learning center. While he fixes up the place, it stores his massive sculptures, several interconnected repurposed tractor wheels that take up nearly 3/4 of the space. He calls the sculpture HUGGINGLANKVILLE.

“People are really excited about the mysterious storefront,” noted Phillips, as he smeared an artisanal free-range pumpkin with brie. “The idea of a completely unknown storefront is something new, something they haven’t seen before. Every day, at least ten to fifteen people come up and ask what the store is going to be- try to guess, give me suggestions. It’s inspirational. I wouldn’t have got that kind of attention in the Islands.”

“Millennials have that can-do, entrepreneurial spirit, said area psychologist Winifred P. Temple. “It’s relatively easy to be in the Now,” noted Temple, “but how many of us can live in the Next? Millennials can, and do.”

As just one example, she pointed to the historic Lanqueduct that runs along Old Pondicherry Avenue in the Western Lankville Plains. The aging structure, built by the ancient Lankans who first settled in the area, still services many longtime residents with fresh, slightly colored water.

Janice Tippitt-Toes, friend and sometime “physical sharer” of Berenice Cradles, has big plans for the Lanqueduct. “It will be a mixed-use development. I envision an artisan youth hostel, a Men’s Feelings Center, and an urban park that you navigate with a network of webs and pulleys,” she said, beaming with an almost off-putting confidence as she sipped a soy Lankichino near Pondicherry Square.

Despite the growth of the millennial demographic in Lankville, the nation’s population is still in decline. “The reality is that people do tend to move to the Islands when they start drawing a good salary,” noted Eastern Hills Easier University Lankville Professor E. Talbot Bonds. “We’re still dealing with the reality of the challenge problems, the tenting murder epidemic, super insects, eldritch horrors– the list goes on and on.”

But Cradles still believes that Lankville will prevail.

“We’re right at the dawning of a new age,” she said, after giving her husband the okay to consume an unadorned bagel. “So many groups are starting– I’ve started so many groups. Just while we were talking, Brock, we closed a deal to buy 22 vacant lots in Lankville. We’ll turn them into co-operative farms and composting stations. It’s a labor of love, Brock. A labor of love.”

 

Photo credit: Catrin Lloyd-Bollard