Shortened Fiction by Brian Polk

“Nipple Blaster” by S. Putnik

Shortened Fiction
By Brian Polk
Art by S. Putnik
Published Issue 089, May 2021 

The Moment I Realize I Drink More Now Than My Recovering Alcoholic Friend Ever Did

“Wait,” I say as I run the numbers on just how bad of an alcoholic my friend Richie used to be. “So you were drinking every night?”

“No,” he says, shaking his head. “Before I went sober, I drank three or four nights a week, but when I did, it was monumental.”

“So, like 15 drinks a night?”

“No, more like six-to-eight.”

“Six-to-eight?” I say. “Hmm.” 

That’s actually a pretty regular night for me — and I’m boozing it up most days of the week. This is why conversations such as these pique my interest in sobriety. It’s not that they send me on some puritanical guilt trip. It’s more like they inspire a type of old person peer-pressure. 

When I was young, “peer pressure” was all about trying new drugs like booze and weed — though the term itself was always a misnomer. “Pressure” makes it sound as though someone had a vested interest in my personal experimentation with drugs and therefore tried to convince me to partake. But for the most part, no one gave a shit. It was more like I was envious of my peers that were bragging about doing cool things, like experimenting with booze and weed. So peer envy is much closer to the truth. And that’s exactly what I experience now that a lot of my friends are concluding their nearly two decades-long experimental journey with drugs. 

So these days, it’s way more cool to get sober and brag about how much better everything is as a result. In bouts of peer envy, I’m even inspired to google, “What is sobriety like?” And,”Could I, little old me, actually go sober?” And, “Level with me; how long can I expect to live if I spend half my life drunk?” 

Of course, I don’t ever make plans to actually quit drinking. Instead, I vow to keep my booze consumption just under the amount that my recovering alcoholic friend Richie used to drink when he was a lush. I also figure there are certain nights of the week that are inherently boring and therefore should not be partied on anyway. 

And on those nights, I plan to start experimenting with weed, tater tots and streaming ‘90s-era sitcoms. 

“Green Land” by S. Putnik
I Stack Library Books I Want To Read On My Nightstand In Hopes Of Acquiring The Knowledge They Contain Through Osmosis 

So far it hasn’t worked, but I’ll be damned if I don’t stop trying. 

“Not George” by S. Putnik

I Did This Weird Thing Involving Dog Poop 

Hank and I were on a walk the other day and he did what dogs are wont to do and pooped a good one. Normally, I would have picked up his pile with a poop bag, but in my haste to get him out of the door, I forgot to grab one. Of course, once his payload hit the ground, I realized I was bagless. Panic-stricken, I looked around to see if anyone was watching, but thankfully, Hank and I were alone. So I left this pile to steam unperturbed next to the sidewalk. 

We finished the walk without incident, and once we arrived back at the house, I was struck by a pang of guilt. I should really go pick up Hank’s business, I thought. I suppose it is the right thing to do. So I grabbed a bag and off I went to the scene of the crime. 

Well, when Hank evacuated his waste, we were alone. But upon my return, a crowd of about half a dozen people had gathered — mostly other dog-walkers. Very soon, I learned two immutable truths about our society:

1) Picking up random piles of shit is a weird thing to do in front of an audience.

2) Walking around with a bag full of shit is a weird thing to do without a dog anywhere near you.

I allowed my brain to run wild with the worst-case interpretations of both these points. In relation to the first, passersby could have very well thought that finding and picking up arbitrary excrement is a hobby of mine. That all week long I look forward to finally having a day off so I can get to my real passion: grabbin’ turds. And second, the very same passersby might have assumed that I like to take my turds for a walk when the weather’s nice. You know, just me and my shitbag on a beautiful stroll around the neighborhood. Or worse, maybe they thought I must have a huge poop collection in my crawl space and every now and again, I scope the streets for new specimens. 

Either way, I feel like I will now forever be known as that strange dude down the street who walks around picking up piles of other dog’s shit, taking them for a walk, and bringing them to my thriving in-house collection. And while I have a feeling that I won’t be as popular at the dog park anymore, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this one. 

“The Merry Dance” by S. Putnik
Turning 40 Is Not The End Of Anything

When I first turned 40, I couldn’t deny the creeping sensation that my life was entering the beginning of the end. Sure, I’ve known for about a decade that my youth was over — especially since my mid-30s when my body started sending me daily reminders that it was just going to hurt for no reason. But there was something about exiting my 30s that just made it feel like doors were shutting all around me at a rapid pace. 

Then I realized something. Other than my youth, I’m not at the end of anything. In fact, since I started working at the age of 15 — and since I plan on retiring at 65 (hopefully) — I am right in the middle of my “career,” for lack of a better term. So yeah, 40 is only the beginning of the middle, which come to think of it, might be even more depressing than the aforementioned pain I’m always in (such as my plantar fasciitis — a scientific term meaning, “ouchy old person heels”).

Oh well, at least I get to distract myself with booze, long walks and movies — the latter of which I will soon qualify for a senior’s discount — which, fuck, I’ll take it. 

“Spaghetti” by S. Putnik
Did You Know It’s “Champing At The Bit,” And Not “Chomping At The Bit?”

“No, I’m serious,” I say. “Everyone says ‘chomping,’ but the correct phrase is ‘champing.’”

“No, it’s not,” you say. “Champing? What the fuck is that?”

“I don’t know, an old-timey way to say ‘chomping,’ I guess,” I say, my confidence not as strong as it was when I first posed this question. “Hold on. Let me google it.” I take my phone out and tap a bunch of shit. “Okay, here it is. ‘Champ’ is something horses do when they bite their bit — a bit must be that thing in their mouths that’s attached to the head harness. You know, with the straps and everything?”

“But that doesn’t sound right,” you say.

“I’m with you,” I say to let you know that I’m totally with you. “But I think enough people are saying it wrong that it has now become accepted to use either phrase — ‘champing’ or ‘chomping.’ Kind of like how so many people misused ‘myriad’ so now it’s okay to say it wrong.”

Going against your better judgment, you prolong the conversation by asking me about the misuse of the word “myriad.”

“People say ‘a myriad of’ when they just mean ‘myriad,’” I explain. “You should use it like you would use the word ‘several.’ So say, ‘I have several puppies.’ Or, ‘I have myriad puppies.’ You would never say, ‘I have a several of puppies,’ you know?”

“Hmm,” you say. “Well I’ll be honest, I no longer care if you’re champing at the bit to get some ice cream with me. In fact, I think I’d rather go alone.”

“Well, I’d be lying if I claimed this is the first time this has happened to me,” I say. “Enjoy your ice cream.” 

Brian Polk is a Denver-based writer, publisher of The Yellow Rake, and drummer for Joy Subtraction and Simulators. He’s the author of Placement of Character and Turning Failure into Ideology. He likes writing, muck raking, yellow journalism, zines not blogs, cheap booze and punk rock.

Siena Goldman aka S. Putnik lives in her birthplace, Los Angeles, where she has spent her lifetime so far experimenting with the visual and musical arts. She loves working with pencil, pastel, watercolor, crayon and collage to convey interesting textures, color palettes, and moods in her multi-media artwork. As a 25 year old, she has spent a lot of life in school, uncomfortably switching districts and trying to fit in. Now, she is just stepping out yet again, this time stuck in the squeeze of birth as a young artist.