I enter the lobby of the hall and an older man wearing a grey sweater, glasses and holding a clipboard approaches me, palms facing me to indicate I need to stop. Pausing near a row of pictures documenting the writers appearing through the years, I wait for him to reach me. He stops, in whisper distance, close enough that I smell his spice aftershave.
“You can’t be here, the reading already started,” he whispers, hand gripping my upper arm. My eyes find his fingers and I roll my eyes, waiting for him to release me.
“I saw an ad. It’s an open reading. I want to read.”
“It’s an open reading in so much that people submit names that the judges use to find performers. Criteria leans towards those making donations to the center.”
He wants money. It’s NYC, I should have known. “How much?”
“Donations start at one hundred dollars, but like I have said, the line-up is set…”
“I will offer ten thousand dollars,” I say, not letting him finish.
Brown eyes framed by thick reading glasses scan me while he considers my offer. Taking a pen from his pocket, he makes a scratch on the sheet
“Make a check…
“I’m bringing cash. Take it or leave it,” I say, not waiting for him to answer to remove my backpack. Stacking the money on his clipboard, I give him a smiles. “Now, tell me where I go to read.”
I follow him into the hall and down a steep ramp towards the stage, where some fifty people fills the first few rows watching a woman read poetry. Eyes follow us, distracting the red-haired woman reading, causing her to stop. All ears listen to the sweater cop speak to a woman near the stage.
“We’ve been through this before, Claire, big donors get to read, even at a late hour or at the cost of a free-reader.”
Free- reader? Does that mean someone that hasn’t made a donation? No matter, the woman yields and ushers the red-head off the stage. I wait for her to move well beyond my position before I put my heel on the stage steps. Taking care not to trip, I make a slow path towards the podium, stepping over wires taped to the stage.
The room contains no sound and I want to freak out. I don’t even know what I will read. Tapping the microphone in a sham of checking if it’s on and sad there will be no delay when the tapping fills the auditorium. Eyes stare and moments expire, but I am no closer to speaking. I shrug the backpack onto the floor and remove my journal, leaving it on the podium.
I woke that morning filled with an emotion I didn’t recognize at first. Hope. I didn’t know if any of my plans came to pass or if it all blew up in spectacular failure, but I still had hope. I didn’t want to get out of bed. What if father lived? I wanted to extend those glorious moments of the possibility he was dead. I pleaded with Ray in my mind as if he were god, begging for it to be done.
A dish crashed in the sink and I put a hand over my mouth to keep from screaming. Fear kept me pinned to the bed wearing only a tee-shirt, my limbs useless to move. Pots rattled and the fridge door slammed, killing the last shred of hope anyone except father made the noises. Thoughts of the cake Ray baked cut through the fear and I realized it was the only thing to eat in the house. Rage propelled me from the bed and I knew before I entered the kitchen what I would find. My feet slipped on spilled beer and I slid on the linoleum, my eyes taking in a panoramic snapshot of father drunkenly feeding on my birthday cake. Digging my fingers into the door frame to stop my momentum, I launched myself towards the table and took the chef knife he used to cut the cake in my hands. His eyes, weary red and angry, locked with mine. “What are you going to do with that knife?” he slurred at me. “I’m going to kill you,” I said and jammed the blade into his neck. His rose from the chair, blood spurting from the wound and charged me, which caught me by surprise and sent me to the floor. I truly thought the first wound killed him. It did not. He collapsed on me, fingers squeezing my windpipe. I’m not going to die at the hands of my father. This thought repeated like a drum beat in my mind. I fought and managed to get his fingers from my neck. He swayed, weak from blood loss with a further attempt to grab me ending with me snapping his index finger. He screamed, which caused the blood flow to increase and allowed me to pull the blade out. I rammed the blade into his neck again and again until the strength left his arms and he rolled off my body, dead before he hit the floor.
I walk from the stage, ignoring the silence, the absence of applause and the glare of the man in the gray sweater. Walking north after leaving the theater, I pass the hotel without giving it a second glance. I’m making a straight line for my car and leaving this city at the earliest convenience. I don’t know why I read that piece, but I need to push it from my mind before the dreams begin again.
GET A SIGNED COPY OF ELLA AND PRE-ORDER ORIGIN OF A SERIAL KILLER
COVER REVEAL SECOND EDITION BOOK OF BIRDS BY L. M. BRYSKI
Moran Press will release a NEW book from L. M. Bryski this fall titled Blood Chill. In honor of that release, Moran Press will also issue a second edition of Book of Birds with improved formatting, fix of a few printing errors, and a brand new cover.
This is the new cover - a work in progress. Tell me what you think.
IF YOU'D LIKE TO PURCHASE ONE OF THE REMAINING BOOK OF BIRDS WITH ORIGINAL COVER, CLICK HERE
RADIOACTIVE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS BY GABRIEL RICARD FROM LOVE AND QUARTERS
His brother’s gun hasn’t been in the glovebox for fifty years, and the car hasn’t been the hot rod that ate certain parts of Chicago in almost as long.
That poor pistol never got to rob a bank, or close in on the son of a bitch who shut the whole town down.
But he lives on, and he plans to stay young and deliriously stupid, until the supernatural finally remembers him, or until the tall, far-off buildings melt in that way that they used to.
Everything feels like the kind of Christmas decorations they don’t make anymore, and he considers one of the ex-wives who told him how dangerous it could be to live in an idea like that.
Not a drop of water for thousands of miles, she’d say, laughing like a celebration of lung cancer, and everybody stumbling around with the eyes of somebody else’s father. She was a sick woman, and she got worse when help went down for the count, and straight on into an extremely religious witness protection program.
He turns up the broken radio, and he marvels at the way his body is getting used to cigarettes again after ten long years.
Brother was even worse with them. Especially when he couldn’t even stagger to the store in the morning, to steal beer from the blind Chinese woman who ran the counter as though her shadow was enough. Too kind, too tired, well, it was one of those.
Eventually, there will be a way to tell him that a few things did eventually work out.
The imposter car climbs gently to 90 mph, and the blood coming out of his hands takes this in stride. He could do without it, but that would trying to figure out which of the old wounds is to blame.
And this is not that kind of day. Tomorrow looks awful, too.
He opens another beer, finally remembers the rest of the story he was trying to recall earlier, and assumes everyone is smart enough to get out of the way.
A MORAN PRESS EVENT THE BEAN BARN IN COVENTRY, RI AUGUST 18TH 7-9 PM
You are invited to a public reading event in Coventry, RI on August 19th from 7-9PM. Gabriel Ricard and Stephen Moran will read for the first hour, followed by an open poetry mic reading at the Bean Barn. Come one and all to hear live readings and get some signed books by Moran Press authors and others.
This event will be the official release party for a mystery title from Stephen Moran and also for Love and Quarters by Gabriel Ricard. More news to follow on the exact release details. Copies of Love and Quarters will be available.
All Moran Press readers that attend will receive a FREE paperback for coming out to support my small business.
Comment or message Stephen Moran with questions or for directions.
I want to welcome all the new visitors and returning loyal readers to the website. Running a small publishing business is a very difficult endeavor and I sincerely appreciate all that take time from their busy lives to visit the website and support the work being published. There are an incredible amount of entertainment options for consumers today and I'm humbled at those choosing Moran Press.
I'd like to tell you a little about Moran Press, my goals, and the future of micro press publishing.
Moran Press seeks to publish cutting edge fiction, poetry, and essays and pair the works with custom art to create what I've called 'Arthouse Paperbacks', truly one-of-a-kind books in the publishing industry. I spend many hours crafting the paperbacks to be as readable as I can possibly make each one. My ultimate goal is to create literary treasures readers will be proud to display in their home collections.
Many ask about how I select the manuscripts for publication.
I seek unique voices and what I feel are must reads. I want to publish books that leave an imprint and make an impact on readers, force introspection and challenge a reader's core beliefs. Ultimately, I want to create work that readers come back to time and again, continuing to find nuggets and choice bits missed on prior reads. I've always loved books that take time to digest and ponder and want to continue that literary tradition.
For the future, I have some ambitious goals. I'd like to streamline the publication process to the extent that I can print 'books on demand' - allowing readers to select a grouping of their favorite stories and poetry that I will print in a custom book. I'm also looking to add more features to e-books beyond simply a digital representation of the printed work. There's a lot of possibility in that new area and I want to explore adding new content to Moran Press e-books.
I also will begin publishing hardcover editions of the Arthouse Paperbacks. Many readers have requested this and I will make that happen. Look for letterpress printed hardcover books in 2019.
Again, I'd like to thank all those that take time to visit MoranPress.com.
To the readers - always feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions, both on the books being published and also on what you'd like to see published in the future.
To the authors considering Moran Press - join a micro press that will help create a work of art from your manuscript. I go the extra mile, both in cover design and interior formatting to publish a book of uncompromising quality and something you don't get almost anywhere else in the indie publishing community. Email me at MoranPressGroup@gmail.com and we can discuss what it means to join Moran Press.
I'll be posting news of upcoming releases later today. Stay tuned for an exciting slate of new fiction and poetry.
Thanks once again for supporting my small business. I couldn't do it without you.
Stephen Moran Owner of Moran Press
For those that would like to support my small business, become a Patron of Moran Press. You get a stack of books and my undying gratitude. Click the button to purchase. Thank you.
A MOMENT AND FOREVER EXCERPT FROM SERVER BY STEPHEN MORAN
Scott arrived home late, but not so late it was unusual. Michael, the floor supervisor at the factory, delayed him a few minutes to offer him an extra shift on Saturday. Scott answered that he had plans with Diana. Offering an empty apology, Scott rushed home, hoping to catch her before bed.
Scott entered a dark, quiet apartment and paused for a moment in the doorway, unsure how to proceed. Usually when Diana went to bed before he got home, she left a light on in the kitchen and a plate of food on the counter. He flicked on the light and found an empty counter. He continued to the bedroom, opening the door slowly. The bed was empty, left as he made it that morning. He returned to the kitchen, looking for a note or some sign explaining the empty, dark apartment. The light blinked on the answering machine, so he pressed the button.
It was Diana. She needed to attend a retirement party for one of her bosses. She promised not to be late, but gave no definitive time frame. The machine stamped the time of the call at a few minutes before nine o’clock. The microwave clock showed midnight; he expected her return quite soon.
“I’ll wait on dinner,” he muttered, getting a beer out of the refrigerator and heading into the living room. He took a seat in the armchair, turned on the television, and put his feet up on the stool.
An hour passed without a call or arrival. Scott drank through the better part of a six-pack of beer, pulling the tabs off as he pushed each empty can aside. Constant glances at the clock failed to calm his nerves and he began chewing at his fingernails. Anxiety formed a physical presence in the bottom of his stomach, a knot hardening by the minute. He wiped sweat from his brow and checked the clock again.
The phone rang at 1:45, breaking the silent tension in the room. As his arm snatched the phone with an energy fueled by jealousy, he muttered a curse about acting like a schoolgirl.
“Hello?” He heard a roar of voices and music on the other end. The volume hurt his ears.
“Scott,” Diana said, her voice slurred thick with alcohol.
Close to the phone, he heard a male voice urging Diana to hurry.
“Yes, Scott. I’m going to party for a little while, okay? Don’t wait up. I’ll get a ride,” she said in a blinded rush of words.
“Okay. I love you,” he said, but she had already ended the call.
He opened the last beer, ripping the tab away and throwing it onto the floor. Shaking his head, he tried to understand her call and ward off the creeping thoughts of morbid jealousy. A question echoed in his mind: Where was she? Images of debauchery and treachery fluttered inside his brain.
Turning up the volume on the television, he attempted to drown the thoughts, the concerns, and the growing jealousy. He dug through memory, searching for a similar incident to quell his fears and enable him to sleep. However, no such memory came to his aid; Diana had always been punctual, habitual, there—always and forever there for him when he arrived home from work each night.
He sipped whiskey until his body drifted towards sleep. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was the neon green numbers on the alarm clock: 3:15.
Darkness enveloped him, a darkness so complete it shrouded his path. Running and running to no place, sweat ran down his arms and cheeks. A babble of voices speaking foreign languages filled the air. “It’s an invasion!”
A woman screamed in the darkness, followed by peals of laughter, the echoes filling the space around him as if with light. The rumble of a train approached, coming fast and bearing down upon him, but he could not run. His feet felt trapped in shackles. A gong rang, and a voice screamed, a long terrible shriek that contained all his jealous anxiety. It came to a sudden halt.
“You are the dead!”
The train bore down. He felt the heat of the invisible lights burning into his back as he ran. The passengers engaged in an auction, selling his possessions.
“A book of stories, original. Do I hear one dollar?”
A mad demon’s laughter ripped at his ears as he felt the train pushing against his legs.
“Not even a dollar!” the voice bellowed. A tremendous thunder of voices in all the languages of Earth answered in the negative.
“Burn it!” the crowd screamed in one voice.
A ripping sound shook his body and the train moved beyond him.
The alarm clock razzed an insistent chorus next to the bed.
He woke drenched in sweat and looked at the clock: 8:15. Diana’s side of the bed remained empty. Jumping up, he checked the machine, but there were no messages. He checked the living room, half expecting to see her on the couch, but there was nothing. Walking onto the porch, into the hot sun of early morning, he stared up at the sky. A neighbor lay prone on a lounge chair, absorbing the sun and smoking a cigarette.
“It’s going to be a hot one, Scott. You should work on a tan. You’re pale from sitting in that house all the time.”
“I guess,” he muttered.
The neighbor lifted the visor of his cap, exposing his blue eyes. He lay on the chair, awash in tanned health with his skin heavily oiled, the whites of his eyes stark against the deep color of his face. “Pull yourself together, Scott,” the neighbor said.
Scott nodded as he heard the phone ring. Running back into the house, he felt a flood of hope and a glimmer of happiness touching at his veins. He grabbed the receiver off the cradle.
“Scott?” It was Michael. “Can you work today?”
“No, I can’t. I’m waiting for Diana. She didn’t come home last night.”
Silence answered him. Finally, Michael spoke, “Did you have the dream again, Scott?”
Scott mumbled and held the phone away for a moment. The clock ticked, the refrigerator wheezed, and he struggled to breathe. “Yes,” he said.
“Scott?” Michael asked after a pause. “Still there?”
“She left three years ago, Scott.”
He hung up the phone and leaned against the wall. A tear worked down his cheek.
I love my girlfriend. I really do. I think all the preparations show my love. I made an exquisite dinner of lamb chops, extra rare, sliced potatoes marinated in oil and garlic, fresh biscuits for strawberry shortcake and an expensive bottle of wine the man at the liquor store said would accentuate the taste of the lamb. There are flowers everywhere, all her favorite kinds. There are Carnations, white and yellow roses, and daisies. Five vases of daisies. Daisies are her favorite. She'll love the daisies.
Besides the flowers and the food, I bought a few presents for her. There's a gold necklace waiting on her dresser upstairs. It cost me two bills, but she is worth the money. I also bought a journal for her. She always tells me she wants a journal like mine. I bought her one with a pink satin cover and a lock on the front, to keep me out. Although, I can't think what she would keep from me. And finally, I bought a box of chocolates for her. I bought a small one; in hopes she wouldn't complain about me trying to turn her into a blimp. I hope she doesn't ruin the night over the chocolates. That might cause a problem. I hate problems. Bad things happen as a result. There are moments I can't control myself, which I almost feel as if somebody else is inside my body. I see red and reason flows away from me in waves, spreading outward and resting, waiting in dark corners for me to calm my nerves. The moments between are scary, moments in which anything can and usually does happen. I'll tell you about an incident.
I came home from work late. It was after 11:30, or 11:40, or later. In any case, it was after 11, I remember, because the liquor store next to our apartment was closed and that closes at 11. I came in; saw her on the couch and talking on the phone while she flipped through a magazine. She had slippers on her feet and her feet up on the coffee table. You know the little pink bunny slippers? She just loves the color pink. I can't stand it personally. I said hello and she waved.
She looked sexy, her brown hair neat over her white silk pajamas, a gift from me to her last valentine's day, and a little bit of smooth leg showing with her feet up. I walked into the kitchen for a beer; sure I would get some love from her. She doesn't wear silk unless she is in the mood. The smile on my face vanished when I opened the refrigerator. It was empty. I slammed it closed and stood there for a moment. I opened it again, just to check. It was still empty.
"JEN-NI-FER," I said. Why is it we call people by their full names only when we are mad? When I'm not mad at her, she is Jen. When we are making love, she is my little Jennie girl. I have no idea why this is the case.
"What?" she yelled. "Where is my beer?" I asked calmly. "What, I can't hear you. I'm on the phone."
There is silence for some moments and I wait for her to speak again.
"Can't this wait?" "No. Where is my beer?" "Wait a minute. I'll tell Deb I'll call her back." "Wait?" I said to myself. "Bullshit I'm going to wait. I worked 12 hours today. I want a fucking beer." I marched straight to the phone jack and pulled the wire out of the wall. "Hey!" she screamed.
She ran into the kitchen and grabbed the wire out of my hand. Her hair was in her face and her eyes were blazing.
"Don't ever do that to me again." She screamed every word. "Ever!"
I waited for a few moments for her to calm, then I put my hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry." "Fuck off." She threw my hand off.
I hate being brushed off.
"What happened to my beer?" "Screw your beer." "Did you pour it down the drain again?" "Ugh." She turned and walked away. I followed close behind. "What?" "If you must know, I didn't pour the fucking beer down the drain. Your friends stopped by and drank it all. "Who?" "You know, your band friends. They ate all our cold cuts while they were at it. Lazy fucking leeches if you ask me." "My friends are not lazy." "Whatever."
She walked into the bedroom, avoiding me.
"Why didn't you buy beer?" I asked. "I was BUSY!" "What? Talking to that Bitch Deb? "Don't you call her that."
She turned to me and slapped me, hard, across the cheek. There was a brief pause between the sound of her hand against my face and the sound of my fist against hers. She left a red mark on my face. I broke her nose. She fell in a heap at my feet, clutching at her nose, trying to keep the blood in her hands.
"See what you made me do?" I yelled down into her ear. "You stupid bitch." "Don't call me that."
She was crying then. And mad. She jumped up and started swinging at me with all she had in her. I blocked most of them, but she caught me with a solid right hook on the chin. It dazed me for a second, but not for long. I caught her kick, which was aimed straight at my balls, and threw her foot back down. My hand formed a fist and smashed her, twice, quick before I could stop myself. I am amazed she didn't fall.
She stopped punching though and just covered her face with her hands. I hit her a few more times and then threw her onto the bed. She turned onto her stomach to hide from me. I got on top of her and waited for her to stop. I put my face against hers and kissed her cheeks, blood and tears. She finally stopped crying after an hour.
"I'm sorry." "You can't do that to me." "I'm sorry." "You say that every time." "I'll get help." "No you won’t." "I will. I promise." "Stop lying please. Just stop."
I stopped. The rest of the night was silence.
I am hoping this dinner will help. I spent a lot on the lamb. Lamb costs money. It is just too bad I hit her. I mean, I don't ask much of her. Really, I don't. I give her everything I have and expect only a few things in return. Having beer in the fridge is one of them. Doesn't a working man deserve at least that much? If I only hadn't hit her all those times.
I'll tell you something though. If Jen doesn't show up soon, the lamb will be cold.
PURCHASE BOOKS BY STEPHEN MORAN CLICK THE COVER IMAGES
There are hundreds of TV screens in this control room. More than there would be under normal, potentially threatening circumstances.
No one else is around, but you still feel like someone could show up at any time. At the very least, someone is definitely aware of where you are, and how impressed you’ve become with the way none of the TVs are showing you something from your past, or something from one of the many futures you screwed over.
Because hindsight. Because I can’t see the middle of the latest transitional period, even though I have the benefit of the beginning and the likely end.
So I panic in the middle. I ask for understanding and deep discounts on the cheap stuff on a Wednesday. More or less another version of the middle.
I might be predictable, but at least I’ll make you laugh about that.
I’ll make you understand how great it is to walk through the entirety of that ambitious, historically/technically inaccurate control room, and not have to come across anything I really don’t need to see anymore.
You appreciate the presence of ashtrays, lit cigarettes that will burn casually for another century, coffee cups, the prevailing likelihood of conversations that were half-started, or half-finished, or absolute in not really being important in the first place.
You don’t recognize all of the sitcoms from the 70s and 80s, but if you’re like me, you just like the fact that they are there.
Then there are the movies, the broadcasts that never happened, the ones that were lost in the fire, and the ones that were lost because some clod didn’t want to make copies.
Stuff you can’t even understand. If you’re like me, then you didn’t really take the time to learn a foreign language.
Like me, you’re pretty sure you know the differences between Spanish, Russian, and German, and that’s about it.
I usually spend a couple of years in the space, trying, but not really being driven by it, to see if there really is another end to the room.
Two years for the fifteen, twenty minutes I’m asleep. I do my best work under those conditions, as of late. It’s neither here nor there.
The other obvious truth is that I’m never there for as long as I would prefer.
For example, you have to really haul ass to get to the TVs that have the black and white horror movies that make you want to live in a dark room with your comforts for a whole summer.
Sometimes, those TVs aren’t even where they’re supposed to be, which I suppose bothers me a little.
What about you, handsome? How do you feel about it, sweetie?