The Angry Chase || Aziz Al Wehaib

Rob bent down rigidly-like a senior citizen crouching to pick up the morning newspaper-and grabbed his baseball bat, broadly enclosing his hand around the spot where his initials were scrawled “R.T” in kid’s handwriting. His rage was evident in his gritted teeth and his tightly held gaze as he locked his target on the tiny rodent that could probably fit comfortably in the palm of his hand. To his dismay, however, the mouse scurried away and sheltered itself under the fridge before he even had the chance to take a swing.

The wretched thing had defeated him once again.

You have won the battle but not the war, he thought as he lay sprawled on the dusty carpet.

Ron just recently moved back with his parents; he lived in the basement where it was stuffy and gross. Apparently, they thought it was a great idea because it was like “having his own apartment.” He knew that it was just a bullshit excuse. The real reason was that his old room now belonged to their stupid treadmill. The mere thought of their betrayal never failed to incense Ron, ever since he moved into the dingy basement a week ago. On the plus side, his seething rage also vitalized him, making him well-prepared in his efforts to kill the damn mouse that tormented him.


It became somewhat of a pathetic ritual to lie on the dirty floor after defeat, but it allowed Ron to recuperate and plan his next attack. I could throw knives at it next time or burn it with a flamethrower… maybe boil it in water or shoot it with a machine gun, he thought deviously, all while his bathrobe struggled to censor his genitalia. Several days had passed since he last bathed himself, and his vile odor never failed to remind him whenever the stench wafted across his face. That didn’t really bother him; there was no point worrying about his physical appearance anyway—he had no job and no interest whatsoever in meeting a romantic partner. His days were largely spent cooped up in the basement: watching TV, masturbating, and brooding. Lately it was mostly the latter that took up his time. He could sit for hours obsessing over the incident that led to his expulsion from the university. That fucker blew things out of proportion! I barely touched him! As they say, however, there are always two sides to every story, and according to Professor Graves’s and the students’ testimony, Ron was fortunate enough to escape without criminal charges being pressed.


It happened on a Monday morning when Ron was in a particularly irascible mood. The weather was awful, and he couldn’t bother to make it to his Philosophy class on time. He would end up regretting it soon after though; Professor Graves was a real fucker and would passive-aggressively put you on the spot for the rest of class if you were late.

It wasn’t simply tardiness that had managed to piss off Professor Graves that day. Ron barged into class so explosively when he arrived that he ended up disrupting the lecture and catching the gaze of all the other fuckers too.

Professor Graves, being his usual passive aggressive self, imprudently began prodding Ron until Ron lost it, and when Ron loses it, well… to his defense, they were discussing existentialism when he put his hands around Professor Graves’s neck to strangle him.


Ron settled on the propane torch as his next weapon of choice. It was conveniently stashed in a cupboard in the basement where his father kept his gardening tools. As of now, it was no longer a matter of just catching it; he was humiliated and wanted to torture the little fuck!

Damn it! Not again!

The laundry machine that rested on an area upstairs right above his bed had just been turned on. It had the peculiar effect of causing the lights in the basement to switch off intermittently, and leave the room dark. It also made an unbearably loud noise which sounded like a myriad of coins banging against the metal interior. That stupid bitch! He was without a doubt convinced that his mother rejoiced in his displeasure, even with the most trivial things like turning on the laundry machine.

A couple of days ago, she even made a comment about him being single which enraged him even more. It’s none of her fucking business! Ron’s relationship with his parents was bitter to say the least, he never felt like

he could meet their high standards, and they never believed he could meet them either. Being expelled did the relationship no favors; he was certain it confirmed every disappointment they had about him.

Turning his attention back from the cauldron that was his mind, Ron lay on his bed and ignited a small flame with the torch. He waved it at a distance close enough to where he could feel the heat against his face. This was especially unsafe considering the lights were off, but it did provide him an amusing, menacing orange glow in his reflection in the mirror across the bed.

Then, silence hit him. He paused for a moment in deep thought. This betrayed a flash of guilt that quickly vanished. Regardless of the rationality of it, Ron’s fixation with murdering this creature was how he coped with the berating that so often played in his head. Most of the time, his parents’ voices chided him for being so incapable and worthless, and sometimes, even Professor Graves’s raspy old voice bullied him for being so stupid.


When the lights finally stopped switching off, Ron immediately got up off his bed to set up the trap, which seemed excessively rudimentary. He was convinced that a block of cheese placed on top of a paper towel was enough to get the job done. Besides, the generic traps had failed to fool the mouse earlier, and it was time to get creative. When the setup was ready, Ron waited patiently like a wily predator, making sure to occasionally divert his gaze from under the fridge to avoid discouraging it from coming out. His ostensible casualness attracted it.

The mouse stuck its little, ugly head out and peered around as if to check whether the coast was clear. Then, it dashed towards the trap and on its hind legs began inspecting the block of cheese. Victory. Ron could taste it, and it was only a matter of time before he would incinerate the poor thing. Walking as nimbly as he could, he crouched down behind it and turned on the torch. The flame expanded as the mouse stood mesmerized and oblivious.

Then, in an instance of pure caprice, Ron grabbed the deodorant spray from the table to his left. He had remembered seeing the maneuver performed somewhere on the internet and couldn’t imagine a better way to obliterate the bastard. With both his knees firmly planted on the floor, he neared towards it and ended up spraying an excessive amount. A bellowing cry was emitted as the flames engulfed what remained of the trap. Ron had burned his hand gruesomely in what looked like a failed attempt at making fondue.

Fuck, Fuck, Fuck!

Red flesh gleamed as bits of skin hung loose. Ron screamed and grabbed the nearest cloth to wrap around his hand. He writhed in pain for several minutes while his screams failed to summon his parents. It was to his relief because the last thing he wanted was for them to see him crying on the floor with the grisly creature that replaced his hand. Reality couldn’t have been clearer at that moment; in the intensity of the pain, he was awakened to a blunt and obvious truth.

“I’m pathetic! I’m pathetic!” He laughed pathetically and got back up on his feet, propelled by the rage that was being exacerbated by his agony.

In that realization, the modicum of self-respect Ron had left vanished, and he was no longer restrained by the illusions that acted as a barrier to catastrophe. The illusion that his rage could be managed with some therapy and “effort”. The illusion that he was just going through a “rough period” and was going to recover. And most significantly, the illusion that he mattered and that as a fellow member of society he would be rewarded by conforming. He tried to persist with these illusions all his life, and finally, he reached the point where he let go.


Inside a different cupboard, at a far corner of the basement, was an automatic rifle. Ron grabbed it and loaded the gun in perfunctory fashion, putting his experience practicing with his father to use. Without a care to the collateral damage he was going to impose, he approached the area where the mouse usually took shelter and began shooting wildly.

Through the cacophony of sounds and the debris that resulted, the tiny fuck revealed itself and dashed up the stairs, and under the door that led to the rest of the house. Chasing behind, Ron kicked the door open and scrupulously searched around for it. The mouse was waiting at the door leading to the dining room, on the border where tile met wood.

Instead of fleeing, the rodent audaciously caught Ron’s eyes and stared through him. He was mortified. He was certain it was making fun of how fucking stupid he was! Enraged beyond what he thought was possible, Ron went after it and ended up in the dining room where the fuck climbed on top of the dinner table.

Ron let loose and began shooting erratically.

Dishes broke, as food, liquid, and blood flew high into the air.


After all those harrowing encounters, Ron was certain it was finally over. In the comfort of his home, he pulled a chair from under the table and sat, then poured himself a glass of wine as relief pervaded him.

He was finally at peace.

Until he heard a click, then another, and another. It was the mouse. It was the little fuck!

Dropping his glass, Ron stood up from his chair, rifle in hand. Then, instead of shooting, he paused and simply watched as the mouse scampered on top of broken dishes, pieces of chicken, and around jagged glass, before climbing on top of his mother’s head and escaping out of sight.

Rather than chase after him, Ron sat back down and grabbed a half-filled glass of wine from the table, then smiled.

He was in no hurry because he knew exactly where he was heading next.


Hospice || William Marshall

I could see the battle raging
inside you, your face yellow
and drained. They brought
the good stuff—morphine.

It was a one-way flight,
a few months of confused guests,
no turning back, inside out
day after day, slurping red tea
with Kübler-Ross
on the ceiling and you, dreaming
of a third stage bargain
with a horrible disease.

Being counseled by your wife,
this was not a dream.
You slump, fading in front
of a familiar hedgerow
that you used to cut
and paint your gin olives
green at dusk.

Your head lowers
to the ghost behind the wall
of books you collected
over forty-four years,
each one saying goodbye.

This was originally published in Fall 2017 edition of The Helix.

Rush Hour Contrition || Catherine West

We sit, saying nothing, for the steel tube holds our words,
arguments, shattered beliefs, and deferred dreams. It cradles my
resentment, deftly conceals your ambition to leave, an entity apart;
this concrete, chemical city disappeared from memory.

Our faces side-by-side with eyes no longer connecting,
millimeters separating our space, blurred undefined horizons mark stops,
a slick measurement of time, lightyears away from honest desires,
planets removed from sacrifice, a universe beyond simple compromise.

We stroll along on glossy tracks with bright, rust-red spots of decay
in our twitching journey, reflecting unions of neglect, of pride and
onyx-tinged grudges, clawing the backs of minds, empty coffee cups,
waiting in small cubicles and glass surround offices.

Enlivening regrets etched on rumpled bedsheets with
maroon-smeared lipstick on your collar that is not mine.
Wine-red drops on my lapel, buttons on my blouse undone
I stumble past our threshold, the one where you carried me years ago,
where we laughed and loved, when the moon held captive our first
night, high and mighty.

I have my fault in this too.

Other bodies in this space cramped and crumpled together
sew shut our lips, lock our jaws and on the tube moves firmly
smoking its way westward, the skyline and us fading beyond vision and
fantasy, inching further down metal lace and wooden beam.

Silently I beseech you for some sign of forgiveness, some bend,
a small touch of your hand, just above my inside palm like you used to do.
But my skin remains cold, and I should not seek something from you.
I am not willing to give first.

This was originally published in Fall 2017 edition of The Helix.

Gambling Man’s Hat || Ryan Curcio

Gift shop visor slumps in solitude
on a dresser drawer. A booze fueled purchase
picked from the rack with irony attached to the tag.
Remnant, neon-blue light stored
from all energy draining Vegas casinos

still lingers on this dust-laden cap.
A slew of recalls flood the head that the
hat once sat upon. I saw much
from beneath my topless, neon-blue awning.
Have you ever felt alone in a room crammed with talkers?

Dinging bells and blinking lights yielded
orchards of silver into the hands of greedy gropers.
A Palace Bridge featured homeless
beggars who marched much terra to meet the dealer
of scars in Sin City. Hypocrisy unveiled in the form

of inside spenders and disdain
for outstretched fingers.
The hat, with its cheap cardboard
insert, still refuses to unhinge the stench
of a smoke-stick onslaught.

Hat in hand, mine still secure
around my hairline, a worn drifter vamped
a tale of despair into my facial flesh and bones.
The hat scooped the sound up
like a sonar dish.

He was possessed by a thirst for more bills
to feed a heartless machine, the same one
that vacuumed out his pockets and left him
in the crosshairs of antipathy. The void
widens across this strip of crushed souls.

This was originally published in Fall 2017 edition of The Helix.

Falstaff’s Account || Craig Kurtz

The Devil is no friend of mine
to leave me broke at closing time;
where is my pal, that merry spark
who said drinks were free after dark?
I do recall, when the sun set,
he had a plot to null the debt;
it was his keen and rare device—
just go along, that would suffice.

The Devil’s a dissembling wag
to leave me, quote, holding the bag;
a bag of nothing but due bills
while my ‘best friend’ heads for the hills;
it was his urging, by my troth,
we’d spree, but he would pay duns off;
it seemed a good idea then—
he has persuasions, you might ken.

The Devil is an apostate
to abdicate his whilom mate;
‘twas his design to drink all night,
refusing I thought impolite;
in retrospect, when fiddles played,
the reckoning I might have weighed;
but, when the Devil calls a toast,
discretion’s niggardly engrossed.

Now, here I am at closing time,
admittedly devoid of dime;
it would seem I’m indentured for
the Devil’s jag, son of a whore;
now, there I was, all innocence,
prostrate against his influence;
but I’ll swear on my mother’s grave—
the debit’s his, that scurvy knave.

This was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of The Helix.