An anthology of the weird, the bizarre and the twisted. And we mean this literally. Fireside Popsicles features short stories, poetry and prose by great talents working in the literary worlds of bizarro, dark erotica, splatterpunk and alt-lit such as Bradley Sands, Jeremy C. Shipp and James Ward Kirk.
e x c e r p t
The Street Artist
The first time I saw Datura’s street art, it happened like a snake bite: fast, precise, stealthy. I was loading groceries into the trunk. As I was heaving a watermelon out of the cart, my eyes caught an abstraction on the ground, something that wasn’t supposed to be there. It was a chalk, cartoon rendering of a peacock with a smiling face on its endlessly colorful feathers. The peacock was pushing a cart of its own, much smaller. I didn’t actually realize the intricacy of it until I shelved the buggy with the others. In this context, the peacock’s hunched-over posture and annoyed face made total sense. It was as if I was parking my cart on top of the one it was loading. I wondered, who could have taken the time to do this? Who had such an eye for detail? I photographed it for posterity and sent it to friends back home through the social network of their choice. I thought it was the last time I would see the child-like chalk art; one of those rare moments that give you pause to reflect on the surprises our days can still offer.
When I got home, I checked my answering machine. Three hang ups and a call from my brother informing me that Mom fell again. It made me angry when she fell. I interpreted it as her giving up, or just not watching where she was going. I boiled spaghetti noodles with portabella mushrooms and black olives, then covered it with shavings of parmesan cheese until there was a sheet of it over the noodles and sauce. I had fixed more than I could eat, as usual. Not one for eating leftovers, I decided to dump it into the alley my apartment overlooked.
As I chucked the pot of cold spaghetti out over the cracked cement below, I froze to take in the sight of a three-dimensional spider’s web, illustrated with such delicate precision that I temporarily believed there was a monstrous arachnid nesting down there. There were cans with wavy white lines painted over so that they appeared to be contents of the web. I went downstairs to get a better look. Part of the web had been designed across the dumpster. Had someone moved the dumpster even two inches off, the web would have lost its three dimensional effect. Then, I noticed chalk writing in the top-left corner of the web. It said, ‘Datura, 2013,’ illustrated and signed in chalk resembling the webbing. So my mysterious artist had a name. Datura. I loved the way it rolled around my mind and off my tongue.
Certain I’d heard the word somewhere before, I researched it. Datura was a flower relied on in India as a poison. It contained three different toxins: atropine, scopolamine and hyoscamine – all potent, all deadly. Also, for the few adventurous enough to cultivate it, it was used as a hallucinogen, although the physical side effects of ingestion always canceled out any benefits under the influence of datura.
It was three weeks before my third sighting. Being a single woman in the city increases the likelihood of boredom by thirty percent. I read those statistics somewhere. I did what any repressed city girl would do: I went to the bar, hoping to pick up someone or get picked up. I ordered a Blue Moon with an orange rind and sipped at it with dainty disinterest. I was waiting for the buzz so I could zone out, staring at the top shelf liquor I couldn’t afford. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw something at the other side of the countertop. I moved to another bar stool to examine it. It was one of those charming, chalk art scribblings, courtesy of Datura. It was the peacock once again, who was lifting a long-necked beer bottle up to the lips of the smiley face on its mélange of colored feathers. The face was taking a gulp from the bottle. I waved down the bartender.
“Excuse me, sir? Do you know who drew this?”