Queen of the Rat Pimps

Best of the Boards
Caprice Hokstad


I never meant to become Queen of the Rat Pimps. It just sorta happened. I didn’t even know very much about breeding rats, except that the little boogers are prolific if left to their own devices. Most everyone who has pet rats seems to be aware of this and has just one gender to prevent the population explosion that haunts our nightmares after viewing movies like Ben and the sewer scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The VISA checkcard commercial also hits this area of our collective psyche, even if they use rabbits instead of rats.

So my kids and I had three rats in one triple-level cage. All male.

The neighbors had only one rat, but they wanted more. Their one rat was female. Thus it was that I arranged for my little gray male, Thunder, to get some rat whoopee with Buttercup, a cream-colored hot mamma from across the street. Thunder didn’t mind being away from the guys for a few one-night stands, nor did he seem to care that I’d hired him out as a gigolo to net me some cute babies from the anticipated litter.

When I told my favorite checker at Petco that my little gray had fathered a litter of fifteen, she asked if I’d be willing to lend my STUD to her female. Daisy Bell had a very fine set of 12 of the most luscious fuzzballs you ever laid eyes on. No snake feed here. Prime fancies which got good PR because the proud mamma was owned by a Petco employee.

After that, the word really got out. Pretty soon, Thunder was getting so many amorous cheese-grams from sex-starved females begging him to come rock their cages that I had to limit his rendezvous to twice a week. Poor little Thunder was beginning to forget what his own cage looked like, and I was afraid that he’d start shooting blanks and then what would the females whisper to each other when they stood by their water bottles for gossip? I shuddered to think of Thunder’s crushed ego, so I began to guard his ratly seed bank.

When Thunder’s first litter was weaned by Buttercup, I took his stud fee in daughters, and bought another cage so I could service both sides of the rat population. My Rodent Pleasure Emporium has become quite the little enterprise and I don’t even pretend to offer massage anymore.

This is when I discovered another rat social problem. Unwanted pregnancies. So as a side venture, I began a shelter for females that got knocked up because their inept owners couldn’t tell that Mary and Martha were really Mary and Martin.

You may be wondering what becomes of all these babies. Well, with all their philandering, rats don’t tend to live long. (You might notice that virgins don’t live much longer, but I try to sound moralistic because pimps in general have a bad rep when it comes to such things.) Many rat enthusiasts are constantly replacing their geriatrics with new blood or adding to their stock. If that and Petco both fail to find suitable homes for any given ratling, well, pet reptiles in the neighborhood need to eat too.

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Caprice was born in San Diego, California. She attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She is married, has two daughters, a son, and several pet rats. She currently lives in southern California. She has finished the first novel of a fantasy trilogy, The Duke’s Handmaid. (Read an excerpt.) When she isn’t writing or homeschooling her three children, she’s sewing wedding gowns or surfing the internet. Caprice can be reached at cfvici[at]aol.com.

Dance With Me

Poetry
Jerrifaye Gregoire


While blue satin slips
over my swells and curls,
you glide over me,
breathing life into my body.

I dance to tempo of swing in sunlight.
Nights seem spent in formal wear
as you slide me
back and forth across the horizon
to slow, smooth, steady tango beats.

Nobody can sense my moods like you.
Either our tranquility is celebrated
or our wrath is feared.

Then satin rips and rolls away.
Dance is forgotten.
Our rage leaves scars
when all I really want to do
is lie serene beneath satin.

Lavish me the sun and moon
in diamonds and pearls.
Breathe on me.
Hold me sway.
Dance with me.

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Jerri is a southern belle, 46, married to a Cajun living southeast of New Orleans. She has a married daughter with children and works part-time as a master floral designer. Family, friends, reading and writing take up the rest of her time. Fall is spent in LSU’s Tiger Stadium. Jerri can be reached at jfgjerri[at]bellsouth.net.

Memories & Dreams Unearthed

Creative Nonfiction
Einar Moos


Le rêve est une seconde vie. … C’est un souterrain vague que s’éclaire peu à peu, et où se dégagent de l’ombre et de la nuit les pâles figures gravement immobiles qui habitent le séjour des limbes.* —Gerard de Nerval, Aurélia

Los Angeles, midnight, June 7, 1980: Bill calls announcing Henry Miller’s death. Henry went swallowing a spoonful of yoghurt that got stuck in his thorax… This doesn’t at all come unexpected, since I’d seen Henry weakening and giving up the fight for life.

In retrospect I realize that while we propel ourselves into the future doing everything in our power to enhance and prolong life, we easily forget, and consequently suffer a kind of short or long term amnesia. As we progress, we burn up our existence leaving behind an ash-trail of memory.

Diaries are a funny thing. As I unearth them I remember the bizarre last days of 88-year-old Henry Miller, one of the XX century’s greatest American writers.

*

Of chief importance were dinners. Dinners, during which a peculiar fight took place—a physical as well as mental battle—a fight to stay alive.

The rewards of that battle must’ve been fewer and fewer. The joy in life, Henry’s greatest support, diminishing. Painting was painful—invigorating like his writing of letters—but still difficult, as one eye was completely gone and the other fading fast. It must’ve been a dim view, a cloudy perception of light and life.

Dinners were always connected to large quantities of mysterious pills, some of them so small they slipped through Henry’s slender fingers. Generally there was a fogging out towards the end of the meal. But despite the physical condition he managed to wash down the meal with a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He toasted, always with a mischievous grin, “Fuck the doctors!”

Conversations were easy and topics were never lacking, ranging from his childhood experiences in Brooklyn, his Paris years, or recent events. Even the daily news inspired angry reactions. If there was a war somewhere, or an earthquake, and so many died, “Well, fuck them!”

The poverty-stricken early years in Paris were recalled vividly. Then his dreams crept into our conversations, dreams that became increasingly monstrous, bizarre, surreal. The last few days were like dreams themselves. As the days grew longer over southern California, life withdrew and another reality emerged.

*

A few years earlier Henry had written a short story published as a chapbook called Mother, China, and the World Beyond.

Like Epistemon in Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, he mysteriously visits the Beyond. As Epistemon recounts of the devils and the damned, Henry tells of his mother whose encounter he makes. And his mother says: “This is the dream world, the true reality. Down below, all is illusion. Only the imagination is real.”

Henry was now eager and ready to explore the Beyond. Curiosity mixed with fright lead him along the way. What he was frightened of the most was the way over there. He wasn’t afraid of death itself, he was just afraid of dying—the process, the moment…

*

In February, one evening, I was cooking Chinese food and listening to Ravel’s piano concerto Nr. 2. Henry sat over his watercolors at the ping-pong table in the living room, trying to paint. He could barely see, his eyes weren’t with him.

“My, oh my, how terrible… not to be able to see,” he cried.

At dinner he asked me to play Brahms’s “Treue Liebe” for him. I found the record and we ate in reverence listening to the music until the jitters came and his head sank onto his plate. I held him and he suddenly straightened out, leaning back, grinning mockingly: “I could let it drop, roll off that is, roll off the rocking chair.”

A few minutes later another attack of trembling conquered him. His comment after it passed: “I’m fighting the monster, don’t yah know. I’ll be going on vacation.”

During this time I met Duncan Renaldo, late star of the Cisco Kid TV series. He was a very calm small man living in Santa Barbara, dying of cancer. He was not afraid of dying, and he told me a repeated dream that had also been a childhood dream: he was standing in a room by a large window trying to look out but he couldn’t because he was too short to reach the window sill.

I told Henry of this dream and he said: “Yes, yes, that damn curiosity to see something mysterious…”

*

February 21

Like an ominous blessing G. comes into town to make a documentary for French TV on Henry. Henry agrees. The reasons are clearly economical. In a letter to a woman he loves he expresses his despair: “I’ve only a dollar fifty left in my pocket.”

“Can’t you let an old man die peacefully?” he cries over dinner.

One should leave an old man alone…

When a man has reached old age, and has fulfilled his mission, he has a right to confront the idea of death in peace. He has no need of other men, he knows them already, and has seen enough of them. What he needs is peace. It is not seemly to seek out such a man, plague him with chatter, and make him suffer banalities. One should pass by the door of his home as if no one lived there. —Meng Tze” stood tacked on the door of his Ocampo Drive home.

We don’t wish to chatter banalities, since a film needs to be made, and we record events of historic importance occurring on Ocampo Drive in the Pacific Palisades.

February 24

Henry tells me a story of how he attended a friend’s funeral as a boy in Brooklyn. Standing next to the coffin he got so nervous he let out a loud fart. Everyone laughed.

Today, he says, he wishes to go without pain, quietly, no farts, no fanfares, no laughs, no nothing…

March 3

He tells me of a dream that haunted him all night long: a revelation. In his dream he understood everything there was to be understood about life and death with such clarity that it seemed rather boring. It became uninteresting, the whole business of life.

“Why do we have to go through this misery of life, if we understand everything so clearly?”

The only thing he didn’t find explained in the dream was love. Love remained a mystery, thank God. The always enigmatic mystery.

Early May

Henry had a dream in which two or three women carry him head down through millions of people. It was agonizing. The people walked like cattle through mud, water and shit. His head hung loosely above the ground, from where he could observe their feet as they went their way. Not a single person reacted to his peculiar position. Nobody, in fact, spoke a word.

May 7

After the filming of the French TV interview Henry expresses the desire to walk out into an ice field and die like an Eskimo, peacefully. He talks about death more frequently. The filmmakers still wait like vultures on a tree for the animal to either die or put up a good fight and leave some blood on the celluloid.

“Mahakala,” I ask Henry, “the Gautama Buddha, asks you, Henry: do you wish to be reincarnated?”

“No, God, no!”

May 10

No more questions asked. We are alone now. In the garden, on the warm tiles next to the swimming pool, lies a beautiful naked woman in the sun. A child plays with her breasts, happily enjoying life. Inside, beyond those windows with the drawn curtains leading to Henry’s room, death hovers in a corner.

May 26

Henry falls out of bed at three or four in the morning. It’s my night duty and he calls me by name. I discover him lying on his back next to his bed on the floor, flapping arms and legs like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa. I lift his frail body back into his bed. He is unhurt, but worried about something else:

“Has there been a disturbance in the post office? Have they asked you not to communicate their thoughts to us?”

“No,” I say, trying to enter his dreamworld.

“Is this room in the same building, or is it a different building? I get the impression it’s a different building.”

“No”, I say, quite sure of myself, but still looking around, “it’s the same building.”

“Has my mother come to dinner already? She’s supposed to arrive… Have you set the table for my mother?”

“Yes, I have,” I say, knowing it is a lie.

*

The next nights there are more dreams of his mother. And the doubt creeps up whether he was wrong in treating her so harshly during his lifetime.

I see the women in his life set as thin transparencies one above the other, giving a homogenous, even harmonious image of THE WOMAN. … His mother would make the strongest impression perhaps. They were all hell in one way or another, his mother probably the most misunderstood…

Now he says: “I will forgive her for what she did to me.”

“Son,” she said (in Mother, China, and the World Beyond), “there’s only one thing worse than ignorance and that is stupidity. I don’t wonder you couldn’t tolerate me down below. I was stupid, terribly stupid.”

The dreams of the following days become more and more difficult to understand: Henry talks about films he has seen in his dreams that affected him, about Iranians, different perspectives in life, religious organizations…

Or, he follows the hallway into a salon sort of… a lot of people… a dying museum… he stands himself half-dead… standing asleep as though… listening to gossip… giving the impression of an old man.

June 6

The last night with Henry.

“What’s my sentence? When is the Man coming? … What foods are we going to give him?”

His calls continue through the night to let me in on another, important dream:

“I wouldn’t be hungry, Einar, if I had some money… I need two or three dollars… but, what have I been accused of?”

He suddenly leans up again in bed, searching me in the dim light.

“I wonder if we’re running a merry-go-round? … If it is a merry-go-round we ought to stop it.”

Henry Miller (1891, Brooklyn — 1980, Pacific Palisades, California)

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Einar Moos was born in Valparaiso, Chile, and grew up in South America and California. He wrote and produced award winning documentaries, fiction films and tv programs, and is presently the editor in chief of Parisiana – The Lovers Guide to Paris.

Roughly translated: The dream is a second life. … It’s a vague underground passage that becomes clearer gradually, and where the seriously unchanging pale forms which dwell in limbo emanate from shadow and night.

A Perfect Evening

Fiction
Janet Mullany


“I really don’t want to go,” Liz grumbled. “Zip me up, honey.”

“Breathe in.”

“Oh shit. I could get into this before the baby. Wait. Ouch. Oof. Okay.”

Will watched her with affection as she swivelled in front of the mirror, peering over her shoulder. Probably best not to tell her her butt looked big in that dress, and she never believed him when he told her how sexy it was. Damn. “We could stay here and fool around,” he suggested, easing his tie loose.

“Hell, we’re going. With a babysitter and all. I’m not missing out on this. I bet the food will be great, though I won’t be able to eat in this dress. And we’ll meet those famous people.”

*

“You take this. You offer it to the guests. You get their dirty glasses and stuff. On a different tray, right? I don’t want to see no dirty glasses come back in on the hor d’oeuvres trays, gottit? You got questions, you ask Betsy, she knows the drill. What’s your name?”

“Billy.”

“Okay. You call me Lou. C’mon, get moving, I don’t want no slackers here, college boy.”

Billy hoisted the tray onto his shoulder. The short blonde girl smiled at him, and lifted her tray of champagne glasses. “Don’t worry, you’ll do fine.”

“Thanks. Is he always like this?”

“He’s okay. He’s my dad.”

“Oh.”

*

“I look fat.” Her face crumpled like a disappointed child’s.

“Darling, you look just fine. It’s the different mirror.”

“Oh God. I look huge, I look like a size six. I should never have had that Hershey’s bar.” She dabbed at her eyes and looked with longing at the bathroom door. “You go on down. I’ll come down in a minute.”

“Beth, don’t do it.”

“I want to clean my teeth.”

He could smell chocolate and vomit on her breath. He looked at her miniscule purse; there was barely room in it for a lipstick, let alone a toothbrush. “Like hell you do. Here.” He offered her a breath mint. “Less than one calorie, it says.”

“You just don’t get it, Liam. All the calories add up. I keep telling you.”

He took her arm and began to pull her out of the bedroom, towards the stairs where their hostess waited below.

*

“You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through,” Elizabeth said. “This town… I’m exhausted.”

“Poor darling,” said Kimberly.

“I spent hours on the phone this week with the caterer and the florist. And it’s impossible to get good help here. I had a local girl in to do the cleaning, and you wouldn’t believe her attitude.”

“That’s just too awful.”

Elizabeth took a gulp of champagne and smiled bravely. “Well, I was determined that this evening should be absolutely perfect, even if I had to work my fingers to the bone. I’m so glad you could come up from the city. People here have no idea.”

“I think it’s darling that you invited your neighbors. I just hope they appreciate Beth and Liam.”

“Well. They don’t get out much.” Elizabeth curled her lip. “But Beth and Liam were in People magazine. Not that I ever read it, of course.”

“I heard somewhere that they were on Entertainment Tonight.” They both smirked.

“God. Well, I know their publicist is too tacky for words. Excuse me.” Elizabeth frowned at the young man handing hor d’oeuvres and looked pointedly at a cluster of dirty plates on a side table. He hesitated, and turned away. Really, she thought. This town. And where was William? He should be here with her to greet their guests.

*

I am twenty-three, typed William. I have long blonde hair and pert, luscious tits. I love to get guys horny.

OK!!!! The message flashed back. I’m hung real good.

 

“William.”

“Yes, dear.” He clicked the mouse. “Just checking the portfolio, dear.”

“Our guests are arriving.” She waited as he logged off and shut down the computer. “Beth and Liam are freshening up. They should be down soon.”

As they left the study, Elizabeth rushed forward to greet the director and his famous wife as they descended the staircase. There was a smattering of applause. An attractive woman, wearing a bright blue dress that was rather too tight, dropped a crab puff onto the off-white carpet. “Oops,” she said and giggled. William watched her dress ride up over her thighs as she bent over. Lovely.

*

“You’re doing great,” Betsy said. She slid a panful of canapes onto a tray. “Is this your first catering job?”

“Yeah. It’s crazy, it’s like you’re invisible. Hey, did you see Liam and Beth Fairhaven?”

“I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, they’re famous and all that, but he’s real short and she’s skinny.”

“I saw her in A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“You what?”

“A play. She was good. But I think—”

“Hey, get those trays moving, college boy. Betsy, you get over here. I got stuff for you to do.”

“—but I think you’re prettier,” Billy whispered to her, and hefted the tray onto his shoulder.

*

“You’ve never hunted? You didn’t go out with your daddy or nothing?”

“Afraid not.” Liam looked around the room, and began to edge away.

“You should come out with me and my buddies when the season starts. It’s a big thing in this town, getting your buck.”

“Fabulous, ah, Will. I’ll let you know, okay?”

“And a snowmobile, man. You gotta have one of those.”

*

“I don’t go to the theater much,” the woman in the awful blue dress said to her. “But I love your dress.”

“Thanks. Yours is nice too.”

“We’re real excited about having celebrities in our town. If you don’t mind me saying—” she hesitated, and leaned closer. “I know you just want to die when your beauty shop messes up. I mean, I once had a permanent go bad, and I cried for two days, but I did it myself, and that was a big mistake. I think you’re real brave to come out with, you know… I’ll take you to the beauty shop, introduce you around a bit. Arlynn’s a real good friend, and I’m sure she could fix you up. We could get our nails done and everything.”

“This haircut cost one hundred and twenty dollars in New York,” Beth said with the chilling edge to her voice that made audiences shiver in their seats. “My hairdresser is one of the best in the world.”

“One hundred and twenty dollars?” The woman looked horrified. “Heck, they ripped you off good, honey.”

Beth reached out and shovelled a handful of canapes into her mouth. She grabbed the tray from the waiter. “You smalltown bitch!” she screamed in a spray of phyllo pastry crumbs. She began to choke, and choke.

“Darling—” Liam stepped forward.

“Stand aside, sir.” The waiter pushed past, grasped Beth around her tiny waist and performed the Heimlich manoever. “Pre-med,” he explained to the suddenly silent room.

*

“There will be no tip,” Elizabeth said. “The evening was a disaster. Do you know how much it will cost me to clean the carpet?”

“Look, lady. If your guests puke up on your carpet, it ain’t my fault. My crew worked real well, the food was great, you got a good deal on this. Not to mention Billy saving that lady’s life.”

Lou turned to look at his crew. Good kids. They made a nice couple, and he was certainly better than that last boyfriend she’d had, that loser. Billy helped Betsy into her coat, and she turned to smile at the young man over her shoulder. “Okay kids,” he said. “We’re going home. You, college boy, keep your hands to yourself. You can come over for dinner on Sunday if Betsy wants you to.”

“Guess I do,” she said. “Thanks, Billy. Thanks, dad.”

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Janet Mullany lives outside Washington DC with a cat, a rabbit and other family members. She works sporadically on two novels. Janet can be reached at janetmly[at]erols.com.

Three Poems

Poetry
Stephanie Scarborough


The Nurse On Igor’s Confession
Parody of “Sonnet” by Charles Harpur

He loves me! From his doughnut-eating lips
The strange confession came like methane gas
From some kid’s rear-end in my nursing class.
And still my heart at the remembrance skips
Because sometimes my cheap pacemaker slips
When I’m afraid. While still atrocious Spam
Is eaten baked or fried or from the can
A clear assurance that no doubts eclipse
That if the moldy doughnuts on his plate
Are like old toilets flushed with Bowl-B-Brite
I must still even further contemplate
His statement of such blissful, pure delight
For his straight jacket that’s grown way too tight
Makes me further question his mental state.

 

Doughnut Sonnet No. 40

The floorboards quiver and the bedposts quake,
And neighbors hear my desperate, breathy sighs
As I stare and behold the massive size
Of the glazed, crème-filled treasure I partake
Of without guilt, regret, or shamefulness.
With every sticky bite I lick my lips
And let it ooze between my fingertips,
Leaving me a crusty, sticky mess.
The sun comes up and slams into my eyes
As I unglue my pillow from my head
And rip away the crusty sheet that’s dried
And adhered rather firmly to my thighs.
And after that I solemnly decide
To give up eating doughnut in my bed.

 

Sibella to Poindexter

Please kiss me with those clammy lips of Spam,
And may I run my fingers through the dan-
Druff in your thinning Flock of Seagulls hair?
I’l put The Golden Age of Wireless
On the record player if you want, or
Play that darn accordion or build a
Model of the A & P with Pop-Tarts
And canned Cheez Fizz. Eat a tofu sandwich,
Do the laundry with a bargain brand of
Bleach or watch The Jeffersons or Dragnet or
Play “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” on your
Accordion for hours upon end.
So long as I can have a taste of Spam
And dandruff lodged beneath my fingernails.

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Stephanie can be reached at Sas0301[at]aol.com.