"Three Small Slices of Pumpkin Pie"
  Wendy N. Wagner

"All My Pretty Chickens"
  Josh Rountree

"And a Pinch of Salt"
  Hal Duncan

"Wunderkammern Castle"
  Krista Hoeppner Leahy

"Eating Persimmons"
  Michael Kellichner

"Pantoum with Reverb"
  Jen Schalliol

  F.J. Bergmann

"All the Saints are Looking Through Your Trash"
  Teresa Milbrodt


And a Pinch of Salt

by Hal Duncan

God works in mysterious ways—down strange back-alleys mostly, in enchanting side-streets off the boulevard, past the corner boys and through, between the narrow of tenement walls warped to concave overhangs, weird tiered storeys of them rising each side of the cobbled lane to swallow an urban explorer of New Sodom, as a crack in the cityscape, a gorge of interstice all dumpsters and darkness and fire escapes zigzagging up to the jut of rooftops limned with moonlight, and framed between them, in the distance up ahead, a queer red iron Tour Eiffel straight from Delaunay's cubist canvas, standing as a foundry-wrought sentinel at avenue's end, down past the rhombuses of redlit brothel windows where, inside, nine muses are kissing an amorous john called Humphrey to ecstatic death just as is chalked on the pavement underfoot in couplets.

God hawks his services in such mysterious ways, down such entrancing angular wynds, loitering in the doorway of a derelict curio shop, collar upturned to the drizzle, cupping a cigarillo in his hands as he watches out for trade. He doesn't go by God these days, goes by Che Zeushey, Zeus! in EspaƱol—ever since the old mad blind lame watchmaker, the daddy of Che who ran that hidden emporium of errata, disappeared into the backroom, leaving his orreries and automata to spin and play chess with each other by his equations, the whirrs and clicks of rickety clockwork echoing in his empty establishment, sparking the worry of would-be customers dropping in, to the ching of the bell above the glass-paneled door, in hope of him tinkering their lives to bliss, the scuttlebutt of his absence slowly spreading, until eventually one day Herr Doktor Nietzsche ventured behind the beaded curtain and returned, homburg lowering from his head, hand fiddling at his voluminous handlebar moustache, and indigestion churning in his guts as he declared the old man dead.

It was a sweet relief to Che, truth be told, to be shot of the old loon. Nineteen eons of age and still under the thrall of a tyrant's tantrum surl. He'd tried to steer Sodom's hanging judge to the justice, mercy, and wisdom that the zealous churl laid claim to, standing proud with the whores and faggots of Capernaum and Rome, preaching so-called sin to be mere stumble over skandalon, a hipster rabbi teaching Hillel's wisdom, but it only ever led to pogroms, inquisitions, and crusades. And a son is always already underling to his dada, damned to at best usurp and become him, as Kronos did Ouranos, as Zeus did Kronos. Scion offshoot and throwback to the aged authoritarian's own infancy in a Cretan cave, struggling not to simply follow a Freudian fate of patricide and powermongering everafter, Che Zeus wept. He wept a lot, alone in his cause. There was only ever the two of them, sadly, contrary to popular misconception, just Papa Dada and Junior, the ghost of myth and ritual a mistranslation, Che's pneuma theos simply any prophet poet's holy breath, their sacred inspiration. And Jove Jehovah had no love of the rhapsodes of the figurative, those liemakers to be cast out with the dogs and fornicators and magicians.

So, it was a liberation to Che to bury the arcane antiquated Almighty of Himself, to close up the shop peddling its mechanical ceremonies of penitence and perdition, board up the doors and bottleglass windows, take down the marquee lettering that spelled out LORD, and let the pillowtalk redeem that epithet to a princely pauper's adonai, Adonis, sung rather than written as his clients climax under Che's tender ministrations, looking down on the Hand of God cupping their bollocks, the Face of God with lips locked round their cock, gazing up at them with a bottom boi's ardour to know his service is the benediction he aspires to. This is God's deliverance now, the delivery of the perfect blowjob to any and all who happen upon him in an alley of New Sodom—and all will, sooner or later, in some midnight hour of their lives.

He's the best cocksucker you can imagine, you see, the cocksucker you can imagine bested by none—who'd be bested by every cocksucker out there if he didn't exist, and so must exist. Who'd be bested by any cocksucker that any son of Sodom ever fucked in the face if every single molly and muscle mary of fair Sodom's citizenry didn't get to jolt their jism down his gulping throat at least once. After all, the ideal is not ideal if it's not actual, as Anselm savvied, scorning the unsustainable paradox of a cocksucker bested by none yet bested by all—albeit Anselm missed that perfection (and more!) in his fancy of the deity. The sainted philosopher of Canterbury missed the knock-ons of his notion, how his human perfections of power, wisdom, love, and truth unfold to perfections of care, of communion. Che, perfect in his cunning and concern, did not, and so, as the exemplary salvator of all hanker, all yen, he stood at his father's grave, placed a stone upon the granite slab, and knew it true: he must perfect his succor with actuality. So saith Anselm. So, lest the ideal is not ideal, Che will give you the ultimate blowjob at some point.

Or he'll let you suck his perfect cock, of course, if you'd prefer, if your yen is to swallow the ropy spurted nectar of his cum; or he'll let you fuck his perfect ass, riding you cowboy as a power bottom, pounding you into him, rapturous to be impaled, pierced to the core and filled with your prick, wild as Dionysus ramming a figwood dildo up his arse and crying out to the gentle shepherd Prosymnus; or he'll top you as you've never been topped, splay your legs wide and high with a clamp of hands on ankles, plunging into and pressing over down upon you, hand at your throat, flip you sideways, up to all fours, grip on your hips now, taking you so wholly he takes you over in a frenzy of eudaimonia, of enthousiasmos in its ancient sense; or he'll be a she, and dive your muff, tongue you to waves of orgasm, an entire Pacific crashing over and through you; she'll fuck or be fucked by you in whatever permutation of whatever options will be, for you, perfection.

All this is proven, ontologically assured by these words themselves conjuring for you the ideal totality of all ideals in the shape of a human, all capacities of power, wisdom, love, and truth fused to a perfect stance, a perfect disposition acting perfectly and so necessarily manifest, that stance substanced in the requisite flesh of requisite fuckability. Even in mysterious ways, Che works, and he's working anywhen and everywhen, so sooner or later you're bound to take the right wrong turn hard left and stroll past the hustler in the hoody where he lurks. You'll take a chance on his cruising glance, and you won't regret it.

What you've spent on him, or in him (or her) will be all the payment asked for by this hustler God, Che Zeus. This may be a trade to him, a job to work in his peculiar byways, in the queer passages of New Sodom that slice a non-Euclidean angle between this boulevard of San Francisco and that avenue of Pompeii, but his profession is as much vocation, his craft an art, his knack a nature. And what does a God need coin for anyway, or any such token offerings, when he's drunk the libation from your cock, had your unction splatted over his cheek and chest? Try and pass the bucks to him, with cash or kudos, and he'll wave away a payoff paltry in comparison to the sacred balm. The charity of caritas is welcome to the vagabond kid, rough-trading rentboy punk, Che Zeus—agape shared simply another aspect of ardour's concord—but soul debt redeemed was Papa Dada's way, the barter of obedience and oblations for grace. Fuck that, says Che.

And you will. You'll fuck that and be fucked. And all you'll offer him in exchange that isn't his already is a hand reached down to where he kneels before you, thumbing a stray gloop at the snick of his smile into a twirl of tongue and smack of lips. In a lock of forearms, you'll haul him to his feet, and kiss him hard, taste yourself on him as he hauls his ratty jeans up, nooks his unskivvied tackle in the pod of denim, and buttons up, and buckles his bullet belt. Maybe you won't still be in the alley, so you'll grab his sleeveless tee for him from the rug at your feet, as you sit on the edge of the hotel bed to prise your heels into his scuffed white vintage baseball boots, and kneel yourself to lace them up for him as his John the Baptist. You'll sniff the armpit of that sleeveless tee, white cotton and lycra blend printed with a pencil sketch of an Antinous statue, snuffling half to test if it's too rank to wear and half to relish the Sweat of God, the gorgeous goaty kinabra of God on this skintight second skin of him that you pull on now, to pose, slinked as the hustler Che to have communed in the giving and getting of the perfect lay, so perfect that who can say who's who now in the mingle of flesh scents?

And maybe you'll dig a cigarillo from the pack in the pocket of your jacket, fetched from the hallway where it was dumped, and set it twixt yer lips, and he'll light it for you with his Zippo, or vice versa, and he'll hand you the first, as you light a second one for him. He'll make you coffee in a little scullery off his kitchen living room, in your wee steel moka pot, setting it on one hob of the gas cooker to heat to a rabid gurgle while the butter melts into the olive oil in the frying pan on the hob beside it, and he cracks two eggs into a glass jug, adding dried basil from a flip-top jar, and garlic powder, and a pinch of salt, and a splut of milk, folding and stirring the mix with a fork before pouring it into a sizzle of pan, gently crunkling the edges inward—with a tip of pan after to spread the unsolid egg into the space—until the thin round flattish rumple of omelette is ready to be flip-folded with a spatula and slid onto a plate, and served with the coffee to Che where he sits on your black leather sofa, sunlit, in your candy-striped boxer briefs, checking messages on his Nokia, an unshaven Galilean, swarthy and lithe as a fisher on a Minoan fresco.

Fucking A, he'll say. Cheers, man.

No worries, you'll say.

Whether it's you or he who'll scoff the nosh down is…unpredictable, a quirk of the perfection's happenstance actuality which, born of the haccaeity of you, can only be unique in every instance, unique as any instant's thisness. Either way, one of you will blow on your java to cool it, and the other will savour the lush of pursing lips, the swrrp of a sip sucking Nicaraguan Arabica, Indonesian Robusta, or Philippine Liberica. Eyes glancing round the room in a comfortably awkward silence, scanning the shelves for totems of identity…best left for you to fill in as and when the moment's come. Kitsch teraphim? Or trinkets as simply elegant as a nautilus shell? Wait and see.

Take it as it comes.

And then move on with a parting kiss, out the door, down the stairs of the tenement close and out into New Sodom's streets, on a stride of pride, headed wherever home is now, Che, everywhere and anywhere.

Hal Duncan is the award-winning author of Vellum and Ink, along with numerous short stories, poems, essays, and even musicals. Since homophobic hatemail once dubbed him "THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!" (sic), you can find him onstage at spoken word performances or online at www.halduncan.com, revelling in that role.