Fiction: Selections from A.J. Maitland

The Land of the Coen Brothers

The cynical sense of humor has always been here, scuttling under the surface of this Midwestern skin. It is a segregation from the soul and then the further separation of parts. The cloistered ideal–as tight as a knot, as loose as a clot–was all that was needed to make all of these parts believe, too, that they were free; to make it all seem okay until finally it was just so. And then all laurels could rest in peace. 
In peaces. 
And all the while the joke serenaded them with all of the violence it could grant in such a comforting, swallowed distance. The rolling hills rumbled with apnea from the abuses endured regardless. They always show up here, as sure as stitches. 
To believe that you are better than your own is thinking you’ll get away with it. You’re writing the book on apathy. And someone you snort at in retaliation for all of your joylessness will let you know how much your currency is worth. That you wish for all you miss is engaging the capital fantasy. Your spit is more, a hell of a globule more. 
To understand is to feel the wrongs of the scuttles, the demeanor of demeanors, expressions pressuring faces into contorting prisoners in burning hallways. 
Our veins carry all the cancers out to sea, and we wake up in bathtubs draining out of our wounds.
To understand, one must have been there in some way, one must have been.. 

The Age of Excess as Just

Do the right thing has been masked over 
with a thick slimy layer of protocoled weakness, 
which hardens into a shell over time, 
into which that person believes 
they’ve become:
As others have made,
and so thusly, by cynical irony made law, 
they have…

The Hippie Spirit That Haunted the Highway Finds a Bandana

Being driven by a false need for over-control and yet not communicating what she needed and the respect she deserved, she ended up wandering like a ghost. That life had lost all meaning. Couldn’t even make a sound if she tried, none that registered anyways. 
Any distance beyond one flight of stairs took medicine. Got it in her head she’d have a heart attack, which meant she’d die from panic. She was here breathing, and yet, not living. 
She couldn’t say where her mind went, it just kind of floated around her cranium, the transparent cloud-crown expanding outward, attempting to grab the kingdom. Little wisps clotting up the joint. 
There was a roommate’s cat that kept her company. The only comfort she had on the couch, which was, as the salesman had told her and her roommate, to have been the most luxurious comfort. 
The Big Comfy Couch. 
The light shone through two panes, first through the window meeting the screen and then the screen meeting her eyes. Her eyes gaped like little translucent mouths swallowing into an inverted world. Sinking outward. A TV-black hole. 
She’d close her eyes and lay there for hours, watch her stark reflection and the lines along the shape glaring back at her ripple like smoke. The reflection’s fingers slithered under the cushion and pulled out what had gone missing.

The Periodic Whiskey Binge

There comes a wave of songs that use the word whiskey in the title of the song or in the name of their band. They are to be avoided at all cost during a certain season, the length of which is not known.
But lest you let them into your humble home, lest you let them in along with the cultural binge– Beware! For they do not know when to leave…

The Hologram

I am actually not standing in front of you. I live up north, and you are talking to a beamed representative, a figure of well-detailed air…I have forgotten my clothes today, haven’t I?
…Well, shit…

Your Cardboard Cutout

You lean forward, sipping from your mug of eggnog. You stare at the cardboard cutout, proud of this purchase, this idea now manifested before you. That familiar face on the front. Like looking in a mirror. 
You ponder what you’d like your family crest to be: a bald eagle swallowing a baby; a constipated king sitting on a toilet eating cheese; a manic person devouring a hotdog while reciting a poem to the moon’s corpse on a hill.
But for now, you cackle at the conquest of your cardboard cutout. You cackle so intensely, so furiously, that you spill some nog from your goblet, coughing and hacking from the ancient dairy drink going down the wrong tube. You stop and clear your throat and scratch your crotch. 
You start laughing again and then the cardboard cutout joins in and you drop the goblet and dribble some piss.

A.J. Maitland studied writing and movies in school, and continues to do so while detailing recollected battles with Existence in that years-long fist-pumping match. He has had pieces published at Dark Entries Journal, State of Matter, Roi Faineant Press, Night Terror Novels, Hungry Shadows Press, in numerous anthologies, and elsewhere. He enjoys old taverns, libraries, and horror flicks. You may chortle, scream, or sob on the ol' socials @thebiggiggle3