Unlikely 2.0

   [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

Join our Facebook group!

Join our mailing list!

Print this article

The Animal Torture Years
by Edmond Caldwell

The Animal Torture Years were thirteen and fourteen and it was mostly frogs. Colin Packer liked to hang out in a field not far from school before going home. The field was behind a 7-11 where Colin sometimes bought comic books and sodas and tried not to stare at the shrink-wrapped porn mags in the special rack behind the counter. At the other end of the field was an irrigation ditch and in the ditch were the frogs.

Colin had a half hard-on as he walked across the field. A series of small hills ran through the middle — piles of dumped landfill worn smooth by rain and grooved by the tires of many dirt bikes. Some afternoons Colin's activities were disturbed by other boys on small motocross-style bicycles popping wheelies over the mounds and making war cries. Even though the boys were younger than Colin he would leave the field and go home. Today, however, as he stood at the top of one of the landfill humps with the half hard-on inside his pants, he saw that the field was empty. The only new addition was off to one side, after the last of the humps, where a series of stakes had been planted in the ground at equal distances from each other. The stakes looked about the size of yardsticks and had pink plastic ribbons tied to their tops. There was no wind that afternoon and the ribbons hung slack on the stakes.

Colin jogged down the slope, the half hard-on sustained by the friction from his jockey shorts. He had almost stopped thinking about nude women by the time he left the 7-11 and started across the field, but now the burn in his shorts brought to mind the image of Katie Peasinger's butt, and the thought of Katie's butt made the half hard-on grow to full chub.

That was the other thing about the field: sometimes Katie Peasinger walked home this way. Katie's butt was like two big hard-boiled eggs in the tight jeans and shorts she wore to school. These eggs had a hypnotic effect on Colin, if hypnosis included light-headedness, stomach butterflies, shortness of breath, and uncontrollable chubs at inconvenient times. The two hard-boiled eggs of Katie Peasinger's butt stuck out very far but her waist was tiny and her back was long, and in front her breasts were compact. She had the same PE period as Colin and sometimes when he saw her on the other athletic field he held up his hand to cover first her top half and then her bottom half. It was like she was two different creatures fused together. This contrast between her top half and her bottom half was a problem he kept turning over in his mind, except unlike a problem in math it gave him a chub and he had to pretend he had a cramp while the other boys continued playing soccer. With her turned-up nose and an upper lip that never quite closed over her front teeth, her face was cute but permanently snotty-looking, especially because she had never spoken to him, not that he had ever tried speaking to her. Now he looked for Katie in the field but didn't see her any more than he saw the motocross boys.

Colin walked along the irrigation ditch, sipping his soda, looking down. The water was not very deep, maybe four or five inches, and the only way you could tell it was moving was by the drag of the algae and the slight ripple around protruding rocks and reeds. The bottom was silt and pebbles and pieces of broken glass in pockets of sunlight and shade, and closer to the banks things were more fuzzed with algae. A month ago, the algae had been slick with clumped, slimy eggs. Then one afternoon his shadow over the water provoked a scatter of black wriggles over the silt. The tadpoles weren't really black — they were a velvety dark green, darker than the green of the algae — but they looked black until you examined them up close. They were harder to catch than the frogs and not as much fun to torture, but all you had to do was wait another couple of weeks and the ditch was jumping was frogs, no bigger than the first digit of your thumb. He'd waited, and now the frogs were here.

He dug his heels into the earth of the sloping bank until he was almost at water level, crunching the reeds that grew there. Two or three frogs shot out and plopped into the water to swim away or dart into the shadows. Colin's eyes darted after them but otherwise his movements were slow and relaxed. He was in a meditative mood and was just going to watch for a while — often he told himself that that was all he was going to do, just watch, or maybe catch a frog or two and let them go. He kneeled by the water's edge and let the fingers of his right hand drift in the chilly water. He went wrist-deep and let his fingers play in the silt.

It wasn't every afternoon that Colin went to the ditch. Sometimes he went to Andrew's house and played Risk until Andrew's mom came home; sometimes he went home with Steve to read and discuss comic books and watch in fascination as Steve chewed whole aspirins. He liked superhero comics where the superheroes would use their powers to stop baddies from conquering the world, whereas in Risk, his favorite board game, the object was to conquer the world. Colin wasn't losing a lot of sleep over this contradiction. At other times Colin went straight home — not a long walk, but in the other direction, uphill, to a huge house in a nicer neighborhood than where his friends lived — and jacked off before enjoying a snack. The times he went to the ditch were usually those when he felt an afternoon dump coming on during last period, which was biology class.

Colin enjoyed holding back his dumps. He liked the pressure the turd made in the bowel and against the sphincter, the way the sphincter had to be clenched against the contractions of the bowel that wanted, in the natural course of things, to plop the turd out into the toilet bowl. It reminded Colin of an animal that needed to be let out. As the pressure got more intense so did the excitement, a kind of thrilling fear that the turd might escape like a bad animal and dirty his underwear and make him stink and walk funny on the way home. But even better than the thrill of fear was the sheer physical pleasure — it was taking the keen but too-brief bliss of a poop and stretching it out for as long as possible. Eventually the contractions would subside, as if the small turd-animal got tired of pushing at the blocked exit of its burrow and retreated back up the passage for a short nap before trying again. Colin liked the feeling of relief as well as the excitement of anticipating the renewed pressure — in fact many sub-pleasures made up the overall pleasure of holding back his dumps. It was a kind of game with himself, or better yet a game with another part of his body which was very familiar and very alien at the same time, and then something in his body that wasn't him at all. It was what he imagined having a pet was like. (Pets weren't allowed at home — they would dirty the carpets or scratch the nice furniture.) It was also a scary pleasure, because it was somehow a little wrong, like jacking off. Although no one had told Colin not to jack off, just as no one had told Colin not to hold back his turds — it was just a feeling that it was probably wrong. Torturing frogs was also wrong, in a more obvious way. The excitement of jacking off, of holding back his turds, and of torturing young frogs was all bound up for Colin into a single but manifold pleasure. He tried not to think about it too much, because then he came up against the wrongness, which spoiled the fun. It was better to just enjoy it and then put it away and move on to something else, like comic books or Risk or, failing those, homework. He was going to be a lawyer one day and help his father with the family's successful real-estate development company, so doing his homework was important. When his parents paid attention to him it was to pay attention to his grades. Otherwise they didn't worry too much about him getting into teenager trouble — he'd overheard them talking about it — because they thought he was a little backwards for his age. He didn't mind, it shielded him somehow.

He leaned over the water in a crouch, one heel wedged firmly between his buttocks. While he watched for frogs he played around with relaxing his sphincter as far as he could without letting the turd go, clenching shut at the last minute. Maybe the turd-tip had gotten out to paint a brown stripe on his jockey shorts, maybe not. Consuela, their housekeeper, never told his mother about the brown stripes in his jockey shorts, as far as he knew. The clenching and unclenching also helped his chub to stay hard. It was like everything was connected on the same string. Finally, without any conscious decision — just enjoying all the sensations — he reached out and snapped up the afternoon's first frog.