Issue #61

Winter 2017

The Voyage of the Texarkana

by Matthew F. Amati

Directions to the Room of Pendulums: Listen closely. Through a keyhole in the granite doorway you may smell the sea. A staircase of colored smoke will bear you to the room where we keep the pendulums. Make sure you know the plurals of various words for 'dust.' Hone those conversation skills! Your new avatar speaks Greek, Catalan, Sanskrit, Wolof, Algonquin and Silence.

The Pendulum Polisher squats on a divan. With a voice like bassoons, she holds you spoolbound.

Hush! she gurgles. I will tell you a tale about a princess! Wan was she, and given to sighing at her casement. Her days were spent in rose-maddening, her nights in vaginomancy.

An evil duke desires the princess. He sets sail for her country in a painted ship.

The ship's name is the Texarkana. She is a seventeen-masted spooner with a flying giblet. She handles well, except for her tendency to break in half, explode, disappear down the gullets of whales or burst into tears. On starlit nights, we hear her singing sad chanteys about eyeless daughters, unwound watches, contact lenses lost at sea. We really wish she would stop.

The crow's-nest sits high, high, high above the deck. The Watcher in the crow's nest untangles starlight from his copious eyebrow-hair. The Watcher ascended so so so many years ago and we have not heard from him since. We are certain he is there, mouthing inaudible warnings about storms to come in our grandchildrens' time.

The sea full of blood, the hold full of blood, and all the casks in the foredeck leaking crimson... it is thus we begin to wonder about the identity of our two pirate captains.

Listen! In the hold of the ship, a sailor has brought along a harlot he met in Singapore. It is dark under the burtons, and darker yet under the black stars of this unholy hemisphere through which we must sail.

We venture off-course, much too far North to the land of the Earless. An army of angry Statues of Liberty pursue us through a bay of orange foam, burly green Athenas waving their axes like Valkyries.

The Princess sees the motes in sunbeams quake. She awaits the Duke. Outside her window, the street has been deserted since Voltaire was a boy. She finds it peaceful, like a city of the vanished dead.

The Texarkana, cargo ten barrels Nehi Grape Soda, three haybales, one evil Duke, crosses the Demarcation of Disenchanted Whales. We draw near.

On the horizon, we see the spires of our port of call.There are drinks to be had there, and colorful beads to buy, and sultry concubines who smell like polecats. These concubines move in sinister geometries. They enfold, they dilate. I remember when I was young and dying of the grippe, a certain dream would come wrapped in velour. The breath of one such concubine transports me forward in time to the day after my death. It is a good day, as I get to be a cowboy, something I've always wanted. Hooray, let's go!

Author Bio


Matthew F. Amati's fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, Schlock magazine, and Space Squid. He lives next to a lake in Wisconsin where he plays the banjo and mutters. His story, "Let Me Squeeze Your Islets of Langerhans," appeared in Issue #57 of The Cafe Irreal.