The Wretched Soul

By: Ernst Luchs

(The following is a selection from the logbook of the Wretched Soul, an accursed ship driven to its doom by the likes of Captain Jack, a mad Cornish sailor and adventurer extraordinaire, quite possibly the greatest unsung hero of the high seas.)

Liverpoole, Saturday 7 Aprill 1693 — The sun arose at six o’clock. A good sign. The ship be loaded and the sea is calm. Ah, my nostrils heave to the scent of the spray. I sent out the quartermaster early this morn to drum up some “fresh meat.” By Jove! He comes back within the hour rolling a barrelful of bold Irish apes suitable for framing. Hear me now, good strong lads! Climb aboard and leave your hags on shore. God help your heathen souls, boys, we’re a-blowin’ to the edge of the deep blue brine. We cast off. Methinks to consult the ship’s astrologer as to where the dangers lie on this voyage. In a low voice he says only this: “Beware the wrath of Neptune.” Well boo to the Fates says I! Let’s be underway.

Sunday 8 Aprill 1693 — Only eight miles out to sea yestermorn our ship’s carpenter, D’Amico, lost an eye to a mad seagull. The bird responsible was placed in hot irons amidships, subjected to the jabs and jeers of my ill-tempered crew. He should be thankful to have been spared a grim communion with tonight’s hamster stew.

Thursday 12 Aprill 1693 — I caught the cabin boy pinching my tobacco. This so distressed me that I retreated to my quarters for several hours. After a great deal of deliberation I reluctantly had his nose cut off. There were some of the crew who found this amusing. They too paid through the nose.

Sunday 15 Aprill 1693 — Horrors! This afternoon we quite accidentally tangled a huge serpent in our anchor chain. Fearful were its eyes. The quartermaster tried to flog it to death but presently the monster tired of that irritation and snapped at the man, impaling him clean through on one of its perilous fangs. The poor bloke beseeched us with piteous cries for several minutes before succumbing to the slavering maw of that treacherous beast. We watched helplessly all the while and saw the man’s head broken off, whereupon it flew up and landed in the crow’s nest. The young tar on watch up there cried out like a banshee and jumped straight down to the water. May God have mercy on his soul.

Monday 16 Aprill 1693 — We awoke this morning to find the deck swamped with a multitude of jellyfish. Swarming over the jellyfish were millions upon millions of tiny green flies. The cabin boy was first up and he might have smelled the trouble if his nose had not been missing. As it was he received stings on both heels. Severe was his discomfort and he let out a sound you cannot imagine. This alarmed the flies, which straight away attacked the boy and covered his entire body a foot thick. We did not suffer so greatly as he, but even so none of us escaped without being bitten several thousand times.

Tuesday 71 Aprill 1693 — I write these lines with a hand now swollen to the size of a cabbage. The cabin boy’s single cry continues with an intensity equal to yesterday’s. We’ve tied him face-down onto a bale of cotton. All of are now stricken with the laughing/crying disease (Jester’s Death), surely visited upon us by the fiendish green flies and their devil’s spawn, the jellyfish. Spineless scum! As if this plague were not enough to break the mortal spirit, another tropical storm comes presently upon us full force. Many men are delirious and have taken to swallowing frightfully long lengths of rope (“fishing for fool’s gold,” says one). It is still morning, aye, but dark as night on deck. I keep forgetting where my feet are.

Tuesday 18 Aprill 1963 — A large flock of East Indian palm trees flew over us this afternoon. We managed to snag one with a gaff and land it after a fierce struggle. But alas, its flesh was poisonous and our mulatto cook, Nubi, lies near death, trembling so and coughing up small yellow lumps of bile. The foul acid burns his skin and chafes his lips. Thank the Lord it will all end soon.

Tuesday 9 Aprill no make that Monday 163 — Sky still dark as a coalminer’s lung. Opium running low. Threw the cabin boy overboard in search of China or Marco Polo or something or other. But if I know a devilish boy with six guineas in his pocket I’d say that’s the last we’ll see of him.

Apilr today, many moons — No more fresh water I’m afraid. I had medicinal doses of brandy doled out to ward off the cold. What a storm! Double the brandy ration I say! That’s right. Regale and be merry.

221 B Baker Street, 8 paces, 7 bells — More brandy! More! More! Drink yer fill lads. There’s half a barrel left in the hold. Bones, tattoos for everyone. Be quick about it, you old leech juggler! Ah, what a jolly storm!

May? — Lo! What fierce fever has laid me out? The tropical sun bears down on the brow. Yea, to my astonishment and complete demoralization I find the entire larder ransacked, every brandy barrel drained, my crew gorged like pigs, many of them stark naked, all unconscious or dead, with the telltale stench of liquor lingering over their skins. So help me, as God is my witness those responsible shall pay dearly for this outrage.

May or Aprill, 1693 (?) — Several of the surly foreigners were put to death to atone for those mutinous crimes committed during my absence. We are all anxious to forget the whole dreadful incident.

2 May 1693 — Land ho! We were greeted on the beach by a crowd of noble savages who offered us doormats and slippers made from shark’s teeth. One of my crew, eager I suppose for some fresh beef, blew the chieftain’s head askew with a blunderbuss. The rest of the savages turned tail and took refuge down the beach, hiding under bits of seaweed and dead fish. We routed them out, secured them in chains and dragged them out to sea. Anyway, we are fully provisioned once again. The weather has taken a nasty turn, but fog or no fog we sail tomorrow.

4 May 1693 — Hell’s bells, disaster has struck! The fog blinded us like the Devil’s cloak and we drifted into a school of whales. One couple in the heat of nuptial foreplay rammed the ship to bits and swallowed half the cargo and crew. A few of us made it to the shore of this barren, godforsaken island. Only giant reptiles live here. They must have subsisted on volcanic ash until we came along to whet their appetites. They are surprisingly fast.

5 May 1693 — The lizards keep coming back for more. The scent of their stools is everywhere. We tried to make a signal fire but it only attracted more lizards from the neighboring islands. The new lizards are bigger, hungrier, and noticeably faster. I pray we were judicious in sacrificing those two cowardly Frenchmen this morning. They disappeared like hors d’oeuvres. Surely it won’t be long before the heathen lizards break bread with my carcass.

Mayday! Mayday! — This is it. No one left but me. They’ve been dancing all around me in a terrible frenzy, lashing wickedly with their long purple tongues. They have a healthy fear of my campfire. But by now all the fuel is spent, and as the last glowing embers fade the lizards grow calmer and exchange knowing smiles with each other. I see an occasional wink. Yes, the jig is up, lads. I have a lovely bunch of coconuts with which I intend to bash in a few heads before I’m finished. I will now place this journal inside one of the nuts, hoping that he who finds it will be forever dissuaded from joining the Navy. Ah, God must have loved giant lizards. He made so many of them. Their eyes — (end of manuscript)


Travis Longworth, Pioneer Insurance Salesman

By: Ethan Anderson

…and then the Northern Spirit turned to the penguin and said, “What? No pemmican?”

Hahahaha okay I see you’re not much of a talker, but I still think it’s great you agreed to have a sitdown with me, Sitting Bull.

This is strictly a get-to-know, so no pressure, but Sitting Bull, I think you’ll find that we at Pioneer Insurance have products uniquely tailored to your leadership needs.

You can do an a la carte — we’ve done a lot of that with, wow, just a whole bunch of tribes in Sioux Nation, but I wonder if you’ve heard about our Hunkpapa Comprehensive Plan? No? No, okay, well, that’s a one-stop shop approach. One monthly premium and that covers life, health, property and horses. And that’s unlimited horses. What? No — that just covers you. But we do offer a fee-based add-on per son, so they can ride too.

And FYI think if you check around, you’ll see other companies jack up the premium during hunting season. We don’t. Which is just one of the advantages of —

What? Okay, a la carte, a la carte it is…there’s term life. One lump sum payment, and that covers you for thirteen moons. Advantage: heap big savings. Which goes over big with the squaws, if you know what I’m saying, am I right?

Okay, no. So, anyhoo, you’re still young and active, so let’s talk disability. There’s our Earth n’ Sky package, so your spouse gets a perpetuity every season in case of debilitating injury or death. And that’s forever. I know, I know, God forbid and fingers crossed, but we’re talking another arrow in your quiver, am I right? Am I right?

Alright, my bad. Apologies. What about college savings? I saw a bunch of youngsters outside the tent. Yours? Cute little devils. They grow up fast, don’t they? And who can say what the winters will bring? Once the buffalo were many. Now? Hey, I’m feeling it too — lots of tents folded last year, but look who I’m talking to. So whaaat about your kids? The future, talking leaves, education…kids need options now. That takes wampum. We have tax-deductible annuities through Fort La —

What? Shaking head? Okay, I’m feeling you. Look, honesty time — if I may, it’s the Cheyenne thing, right? Okay yes, yes, we did business with Crazy Horse. But that was on the investment side, it was a total one-off, and I can assure you —

Oh, you’re good with the Cheyenne now? Hey, that’s terrific. That Crazy Horse is great. Nuts, but a super guy. So it’s the Other Thing…you’ve been burned by contracts before, right? Right? I hear you, padre. What I’m saying to you is One, who hasn’t? And B, that’s not how we do at Pioneer, straight up, and Finally, here’s the deal — you can cancel at any time. No obligations. None. How’s that for peace of mind?

I swore I wasn’t going to do this today, but just between you, me and the peace pipe, we just sold Red Cloud the Hunkpapa Comp Plan. But he paid retail. Now from what I understand, Red is pretty much Sioux Nation second banana to you, so…for you — and this is good only for today — 25% off the first two months. For the exact same plan. I’m just sayin —

What’s that?

You will? Right now? Don’t be jerkin’ me, Sitting Bull.

Well, well, that’s, that’s just supertastic. You bet I’m jazzed. Hunkpapa Comp it is!

Whew. You had me going there. Hahahaha. Tell you what — right after this I’m done for the week — yeah, yeah, a little R&R with some buddies. Hey, we all need a break sometimes, right? Okey dokey, the way this works is, you sign here and here — an X will doo ya — and then we do the sweat lodge, but ONLY if you want to. No? Okay, no. Hey, it’s all good.

Okay…X aaaannd X. We’re in business, my friend!

What am I doing? Oh, you mean with my friends? Yes? Yes? Oh, well, it’s nothing much — I’m going tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow. Just a buncha guys, shootin’ the breeze, couple drinks, couple jokes —

Where? Little Big Horn. You know it?


Modern Art Installations I’ve Inadvertently Created During the Last Few Weeks: A Retrospective

By: David Litt

Title: Empty Forty in Bush

Materials: An Empty Forty

Workspace: A Bush

Installed: Last Saturday Night

A clear homage to Andy Warhol’s famous “Campbell’s Soup Can,” “Empty Forty in Bush” is the crowning achievement of the artist’s famed “glass receptacle period.” Originally accompanied by a performance art piece, “Man Falling Down on Way to Bathroom,” this pieces blurs the line between serious art and serious problems. In the words of the artist himself, “Have I ever told you that you look like a big, fat daddy longlegs? Wait, spider woman, come back! I love you.”

Title: Misplacings

Materials: The Absence of a Cell Phone

Workspace: Everywhere I’ve Looked So Far

Installed: Not Sure

After the success of “It Didn’t Just Get Up and Walk Away,” “Missing — A Turtle,” and “Goodbye Moto,” it is clear that the artist wanted a dramatic end to this four-part series. By using the lack of something (a Samsung phone he only just got last week, for heaven’s sake) instead of the physical object, the artist invites viewers to guess its whereabouts for themselves. If they guess correctly, the artist also invites viewers to e-mail him and let him know ASAP.

Title: Chaos/Disorder

Materials: God Knows What

Workspace: Dorm Room Floor

Installed: Two Weekends Ago Through the Present

When “Chaos/Disorder” was first unveiled, it was panned as “a piece of trash.” But in the two weeks since then, supporters have rallied around it, insisting that it is actually “several pieces of trash.” Effortlessly weaving together refuse, odor, and allergens, the artist has created a work of art that is as repulsive as it is gross and as unappealing as it is unappealing. Even its detractors agree that it brings two words instantly to mind: viral meningitis.

Title: All Alone

Materials: A Snickers Wrapper

Workspace: The Entire Universe

Installed: Two weeks from Next Tuesday

“Choosing to turn all known and unknown matter into a canvas was brilliant,” says this description. But “Alone” garners high praise from outside this description as well, for it confronts something most artists don’t dare touch — the fact that the universe is really, really big. In fact, the piece is best seen as a response to the French existentialist Albert Camus, who said that the two most important questions in life are “If everything has no meaning, why not kill yourself?” and “Hungry? Why Wait?”

Title: Longings

Materials: Condom Tightly Sealed in Wrapper, Accumulated Dust

Workspace: Bedside Drawer, Underneath an Envelope Dated January 12th

Installed: Don’t Want to Think About It. Before January 12th, Apparently

According to the artist, “Longings” is the result of a dream he had in which the beautiful muse Calliope appeared before him clad only in a toga and inspired him with song before telling him she just wanted to be friends. He has told the art world that he hopes the completion of his next installation, “Detachable Sexy Beard-Mustache Combo With Rubber Cement on Face,” will render “Longings” obsolete.


Picked Up On Waivers

By: John Erskine-Kellie

When I was a kid I used to tell people that I was adopted. I know it was juvenile of me but I was a kid after all, and besides, it seemed safer than telling the truth — that I was picked up on waivers.

For a long time I was ashamed of that, but now I’ve developed a real sense of pride about it. I mean, the odds were against me right from the start.

It was 1976 and I was an unsigned infant. I was convinced that I would be picked up in the 76/77 family expansion draft, but after the 21st round I still hadn’t been chosen. I heard all the usual excuses — I was too old, my knife and fork control hadn’t developed to a professional level, and as far as bed-wetting went I was still something of a question mark. I was about ready to give it up when a small family from Scarborough decided to take a chance on me.

I was picked 729th overall. Well, they tried me out in the family but it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to fit into their plans — I was just a quick fix to fill their hole in the preschool position…So, after only a year and a half I was traded to the Wilson family for future considerations. The Wilsons were very girl-heavy at the time, and I guess Mr. W. hoped that I would add some muscle and balance to the family. I toiled there for three years, gooning it up and watching out for the girls, but recurring tonsil problems kept me out of the line for most of the winter of ’81, and when I tried to hit the Wilsons up for a higher allowance Mr. W. pulled me from the lineup and put me on waivers.

My agent said that I had priced myself out of the North American child market, that I should consider joining an Italian family in the less competitive European market…But I hung tough, and just three days before the Wilsons could put me out to pasture…Bang! I was picked up on waivers. And it wasn’t just any family; it was the Jones family, a good organization with lots of money and a great history. Mr. Jones wanted and expected the best from his kids, and competition was tough. I was fighting for a top spot against three veteran eight year olds and spent my first 18 months on the farm team sharpening my skills. Every day I worked out, doing math, reading books, playing tag and making slingshots, but I still hadn’t gotten a chance at the big leagues.

My break came in my tenth summer. The Jones family had been doing great all year and everyone was trying to keep up with them. The kids were going strong when their star son, Billy, went down with the measles — he was going to be out of the lineup for a week to ten days and there was a vitally important family picnic coming up. I got the call. I was in the city the next day, had my own room, name tags sewn into my underwear, comic books — the whole nine yards. But man, was there pressure to perform. Dad — that’s what we called him — made it clear to me that I was just a sub-in, but I knew in my heart I had what it took to make the family permanently. I hustled my buns off, walking the dog, mowing the lawn. I took the trash out three times in one week, and by the time Billy was back on his feet I had all but stolen his gig and it was him, not me, that was sent down to the minors…

My career as a kid had its ups and downs, a couple of trophies, the odd mention in the papers and the usual bout with acne, but I played in the big family and that’s all that matters now. I made myself one promise — that when the time came for me to grow up I was going to do it gracefully. Not like some guys, who are still playing marbles and wearing short pants when they’re 21. I knew when it was time for me to leave, and my career’s not over. I’m still in the game, and parenting is just as tough. Sure the rules have changed, but I’m learning to adapt, although, if truth be told, it just doesn’t have the same glamour as it used to.