Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Proust Questionnaire: Gwen Hilton

Last week it was Jon Berger and now Gwen Hilton. So happy to see these new young writers develop in real time. Writers I can proudly call my friends. There is no cynicism, no careerism, no sign of unscrupulous ambition but only a love for books, good friendships and literature.

I first met Gwen Hilton when she reached out to me via twitter over a year ago after reading my contribution to Expat 4. At that time, or at that specific moment in time, I was a little bummed out about my own writing. Every writer goes through it. You feel like you're writing into the void and the world could care less. 

There are many reasons why that type of thinking is wrong, but the biggest reason is that the physical act of writing itself, even without publishing or having anyone read it, is still a otherworldly act like shedding past versions of yourself; a reconstruction of memory if you will, and if done right, a confession to the universe; a universe that is inside you. It's also actively talking yourself into existence. Yes it is. And you are the audience, and that's all you need. (ask PESSOA) Everything else is just the cherry on top. 

The note Gwen sent me was just what the doctor ordered and it snapped me out of it: All she said was that she really enjoyed my story and thanked me for writing it. So we became friends, and I sent her my novel for free. I offered her Ciao! Miami for free too, but she said she'd rather buy it. This is exactly how so many beautiful Twitter friendships begin. 

And now, I'm happy to say that my friend Gwen has spoken herself into existence. She's the type of writer that I admire because she has fun with it. That's it. As you read her words, you realize she's on Cloud 9 tapping away on that magical "typewriter" because it's a direct transfer of joy from the author on the page to the reader at home, or in the park, or sitting in their car. That's the only real goal all writers should have: to transfer the joy. (I may be sounding like a hippie right now, but hippies are saints! Let's go back to being hippies.)

_1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I’d never have to work for money again. If I ever made enough to only do what I wanted I could live judiciously. I’d commit my time to a variety of art practices, bowling, walking, giving back to my community, and spending time with my partner.

__2.__What is your greatest fear?

I don’t want to lose the love I have. I live as if this is my only attempt at life. I would like to keep the relationships I have. Love is all you want at the end.

__3.__What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

General hubris. I am vain and proud and frequently spiteful. Nothing gets me working harder than a fuck you I won’t say. I spent my youth wanting to take over the world, worked for a man who lived by the motto “global domination is just around the corner”, and despite all the sea changes in my being I don’t only want to be the best. I want to be everything.

__4.__What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Cowardice. Cowards make everyone else in their life do heavy lifting for them. I was a coward and I get why people didn’t like me at that point. I had no reason to be a coward other than my own self-loathing and manufactured distance from others.

__5.__Which living person do you most admire?

It’s a corny answer, but my mother. She has thrived through things I’d never survive.

__6.__What is your greatest extravagance?

I have an extensive physical media collection. I like to collect art. I consider my relationship to plastic often. I like to spend and I like to be spent on. I’m a material girl in a material world.

__7.__What is your current state of mind?

Peaceful. I’m on a sort-of sabbatical that has been more than productive. I have had once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and after a decade of deep existential dread I have completed goals I can die happy with. My life for the past few years, and realistically in its entirety is richer than that of most royalty. I’m fortunate to say that under 30.

__8.__What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Modesty. You can honestly assess yourself while still being confident and even proud. There’s no need for modesty if you understand the value of humility. This is mincing, but there’s a difference.

__9.__On what occasion do you lie?

I love to lie about what movies I’ve seen. Have my whole life. Some lies I’ve maintained because it’s better than seeing the movies. When I miss the boat on something everyone loved I get to have my own private relationship with the film this way. I only recently watched the Lord of the Rings series after lying about having seen it most of my life. It was fine.

__10.__What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I’d like new tits. Tits so nice no one ever looks at my face again. Patron if you’re reading this. I know I’ll have good hair in a few years. I do believe I’m incredibly beautiful. Now that I’m a “smart writer” I can be ugly hot. Still, I want new tits.

__11.__Which living person do you most despise?

I’m trying to give up on hate because it really is corrosive and slows you down. It’s like feeling the after effects of adrenaline while feeling the adrenaline. With that said I can’t name them. Thinking long term.

__12.__What is the quality you most like in a man?

I like a man who is direct. I think a man that is direct (hopefully) comes with a bouquet of admirable qualities. The direct men in my life know what they want or know how to start on that path. They communicate effectively. They are considerate of the people around them. I shoot straight and I’ve met a lot of men who can’t. Women have to shoot straight unless they’ve had supremely cozy lives.

__13.__What is the quality you most like in a woman?

I like confident women. Walking tall is hard.

__14.__Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Dude, hell yeah, swag, nice, swagula, rad, radical, like, best, oh jeez, ope, fuck, shit, well

__15.__What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My partner Emma is the greatest love of my life. I have been in and out of love before I met her. This is the most open attempt I’ve made and I don’t want to lose it. We met before the pandemic and have had more time than most couples have in the first years to grow strong and close. She is exactly the person I’ve wanted to marry since I was maybe 12. And 15, and 18, and 21, and 22 when we met. It’s been incredible to grow and learn with her. I don’t think I’m the lifelong ideal for her and that’s okay. That’s a unique joy I get to experience. She is a pillar of the art community and when we met she was working mostly in a rental store. It’s a disgusting trope of slovenly losers to want to date the rental store/used art/media store employee, but I was that person before shit like Scott Pilgrim existed.

__16.__When and where were you happiest?

Right now. I had a very short list of goals before I die that must be completed and it took me only 18 months. Even dream goals were achieved early. At this point, there are only a few people I’d like to do readings with that are alive. I’d like to see my book as a signifier of something in a meme and in the first or second image of an in-the-know date on Tinder. Otherwise, I’ve had a better life than I ever thought I would. I need much bigger goals.

__17.__Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d like to be the world’s best bowler or have the ability to play multiple instruments very well. Like improv jazz good. Both take practice I could put in now. That’s attainable. It’s just about time.

__18.__If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d get rid of my asthma.

__19.__What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I think my book is my greatest achievement at this time. Everything else is too soon to tell. I don’t want this to be my final answer in life to this question.

__20.__If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d like to be me again. There’s always work to do.

__21.__Where would you most like to live?

I’d like a house in Moab. If I could keep my place in Chicago and have a house in Moab I’d be the happiest person on Earth.

__22.__What is your most treasured possession?

I have a Blockbuster gift card that says movie star with a blurry mirror on it. I’ve had that gift card all my life. I used to look at myself in it and imagine a future bigger than anyone had ever seen. I have a lot of nice things and it would be sad to list something based on asset value. This object is worth nothing, but I’d probably cry if I lost it or threw it out.

__23.__What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

True loneliness. There’s nothing wrong with being alone, but if you’ve shut everyone else out absolute loneliness can kill.

__24.__What is your favorite occupation?

If I could make a living wage with good benefits as a niche store clerk I would. Having a real job while still interacting with people would be nice. If I taught meditation courses that’d be a sweet gig. Paid to be chill and present. Life couldn’t get any better. I guess that’s actually attainable for me, but not everyone is into the hair-on-fire type of presence to the moment like I am.

__25.__What is your most marked characteristic?

My loudness. It is well known that you know when Gwen Hilton is coming. I have a laugh that resonates for blocks. I have heard all my life that I do not have an indoor voice.

__26.__What do you most value in your friends?

Openness. You can tell when it clicks and sometimes it happens immediately. I think at the base that begins with openness. Trust and loyalty are commitments and those are only founded in openness.

__27.__Who are your favorite writers?

Charles Willeford
, Sam Pink, Dennis Cooper, Herman Melville, and Cormac McCarthy are the big five. Calvin Westra, Big Bruiser Dope Boy, Manuel Marrero, Fawzy Zablah, Kyle R. Siebel, Jillian Luft, Jackie Ess, DuVay Knox, and Jesse Hilson are the writers working today that I try to read everything they write. I am still a young reader. I’ve read less than 500 books. I hope I do not look back and feel like I left names off.

__28.__Who is your hero of fiction?

I started wearing almost exclusively jumpsuits because of Hoke Moseley. I cooled off because of him too. He’s about as real to me as any person. Hero isn’t the right phrase, but I started living differently after reading the Hoke Moseley series.

__29.__Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Jesus Christ. I’d put myself on the shortlist as a potential second coming of Christ. Caligula, maybe.

__30.__Who are your heroes in real life?

Michael Maniacci, my mentor is my hero. He is the smartest man I’ve ever met and also has the most open heart. A rare combination. When I spend time with him I feel like I’m getting closer to everything.

__31.__What are your favorite names?

Gwen, Emma, Hoss, Fritz, Bladee, Paris, Manny, Carlos, Kaitlyn, Paul, Slade, and Kim.

__32.__What is it that you most dislike?

People who think wealth is equivalent to culture or knowledge.

__33.__What is your greatest regret?

How I have handled my interpersonal life at times.

__34.__How would you like to die?

I’d like to die having sex.

__35.__What is your motto?

Shoot your shot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Proust Questionnaire: Jon Berger the Goon Dog

Jon Berger's debut short story collection, Goon Dog, was just released by Gob Pile Press. I'm about finished with it, and a review will be forthcoming shortly on this here blog. Jon has that Kerouac talent of peppering just the right amount of love for his characters, which reveals itself in every story. You know that love, the one you have for your imperfect friends and all the wonderfully wrecked follies of your youth. His stories are squeezable, and are universal in the sense that they remind you of your own childhood friends that turned into good stories to tell, those beautiful, damaged souls that help build every bit of character you have once you reach adulthood. It's the best kind of American nostalgia.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Someplace far away with an ocean and a waterfall and big trees and cliffs and nobody can tell me what to do.

2. What is your greatest fear?

Being taken advantage of

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?


5. Which living person do you most admire?

Keanu Reeves

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Mountain bike

7. What is your current state of mind?

head cold but comfortable and content. The Lions are losing.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

+ 10 charisma

9. On what occasion do you lie?

job interviews

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I don’t have wings

11. Which living person do you most despise?

Anyone who is a politician

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?


13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?


14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?


my ears are ringing.

I can’t beat the god damn fucking fire giant in Elden Ring.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

my dead dog

16. When and where were you happiest?

Late teens – early twenties. Hometown, prowling the streets and backroads.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?


18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Learning disability in math

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Goon Dog

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Golden Eagle

21. Where would you most like to live?

Somewhere secluded on the coast of the Keweenaw peninsula

22. What is your most treasured possession?

Vegeta statue that I’ll never disclose the price of

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


24. What is your favorite occupation?

jumping over cars or running through wood paneled walls in basements or mosh pits

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

physical strength

26. What do you most value in your friends?

super powers and big hugs and sharp claws. Ride or die mentality

27. Who are your favorite writers?

Jim Harrison, Murakami, Bud Smith, Scott McClanahan, Larry Brown, Steve Anwyll, Sam Pink, Jon Lindsay, Donald Ray Pollock, Oscar Wilde, Kafka, Ottessa

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

The Pinconning Orange Juice Guy

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Lucian of Samosata

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

Giles Corey. Anything that faces adversity.

31. What are your favorite names?



32. What is it that you most dislike?

Lawyers on a day with high humidity

33. What is your greatest regret?

not pursuing writing or art earlier due to the fear of what other people in my hometown or family might think or say.

34. How would you like to die?

feeling lucky

35. What is your motto?

I think you should kick my ass

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

A Kaddish for Saddam Hussein by Fawzy Zablah

For Khalil Awawdeh

And Venus' son replied: 'Your bow, Apollo,
May vanquish all, but mine shall vanquish you.
As every creature yields to power divine,
So likewise shall your glory yield to mine.”
― Ovid, Metamorphoses

My name is Hassan al-Hazeem and once upon a time they called me the Philistine of Baghdad. I was a ---- for hire under then dictator Saddam Hussein. I had the longest and thickest qadib in all of Iraq. I could overtake a woman with my looks alone and she would come back for more and they all loved me – because they always came back. Is that not the test of a true lover? Okay, don’t look at me that way. Okay, okay, I am lying. I am a liar. They never came back. But they were infidels and inside their hearts they wanted to come back! And yes, yes, I was a ----- for hire, woman-seducer.

They would wake us at four in the morning – the ----- squad – and give us goat cheese and bread for breakfast. Since we were part of the Department of ----- and Retributions, we walked the fine line between being spoiled and mistreated in order to keep us guessing. Why? I do not know.

And as I so fondly recall, it was a favorite moment of mine – to be sharing a silent meal with pals before a raid. It reminded me of Tom Cruise and his pals in the epic Hollywood film Top Gun, where the Great Satan fights an Eastern Bloc break-away republic. Okay, okay, they weren’t really my pals.

There was always much competition in the squad. Members had the, how do you say? There was the bickering, the cattiness. Who had the inherent, natural willfulness to make their qadib hard for long periods of time with will power alone like porn star? Who could go the extra distance? Who was so handsome that the victim just give themselves to him? We were an elite squad. Even if we didn’t really get along we were at the very least, efficient. We were like the legend James Brown would say, the sex machines. I believe that some of the hostilities had to do with some particular members being too bossy trying to tell others what to do.

Husky Habibi was a thorn on my side. He was an oversized bully who mistakenly thought I was weak, that I would take a bow to his imperialistic corpulence spread out all over his vanished waist, resembling the shape of an egg. He tried to trip me once by sticking out his foot as I walked pass him, and fortunately I managed to regain myself and shove him until he lost his balance. Very lucky for him that our shift manager was in the vicinity and I did not continue. That was some very good luck for him let me tell you, for I would have defeated him like Iraq did America in the war for the Gulf.

Did I mention I crossed three borders just to get to Iraq around August 1990 just before the war? Well I did and it is the truth because I don’t always lie. I am from Palestine so that would make me a born-again Iraqi? Or a Palestinian in Iraq? That was a joke and it doesn’t matter that you don’t laugh.

I will enter into my origin story briefly, for every hero has an origin story. I will state my reason for crossing the border. Armageddon was set to begin when America went to war with Iraq over Kuwait, and since my abusive stepfather kept scolding me about entering into some type of employment I decided to leave. I ran off after leaving a very wordy, emotional letter to my mother and little brother Muhammad – a good kid who longs to be a football star. There was also a deep dark secret I held. A secret only known by very few members of my family – my great grandmother was a Jew. She was born a dark skinned, Sephardi Jew and had fallen into an illicit affair with my great grandfather Fawzi bin Ali Al Hazeem. This all happened in the 1920s.

There was a riot and my great grandfather saved my Great Grandmother (Jaleh) thinking he was saving a pretty Arab girl, or so the tale goes. She was almost trampled by an angry mob and my Great Grandfather scooped her up with his long hairy arms popping out from under a stage at an Arab rally. And under that very same stage they made whoopee while (apparently) oblivious to the violence outside. As my mother tells the story, it was love at first sight for my Great Granddad. And since true love was his only religion, her Jewishness was never a concern for the head between his legs had already made up its mind. Awww, the head between our legs! How it corrupts us! This was something my mother hid from us very badly.

My Great Grandmother was forced to go into hiding, after being deemed a traitor to her people and a whore. There were many attempts on her life, which my Great Grandfather, with his bear-like strength and bravery was able to thwart. The Jews now considered her a "lost" woman.

My Great Grandmother’s German passport was kept by my mother as insurance – against whom? Against the Zionists? The Israeli missiles?

Long story short; confused, repulsed, and disgusted by the Jew inside me, I ended up in Baghdad to defend her against her enemies in the great war of the gulf. The way I saw it back then I needed to reconcile with my impure blood, make a type of amends with my tragic origins. But either way with the aid of my ambition I tried to join the Royal Guard but I was not good enough, but they liked my personality and was shuffled to the Super Secret ----- Squad after being caught with the mistress of a traitorous army captain. Apparently, according to rumors, I much impressed the generals with my girth.

So where was I? Our grand leader Saddam had called a meeting of the SSRS before Tuesday night prayer. The rumors were that he would introduce us to the newest squad member – a secretly trained ----- abuser that had been under intense lock and key until now. We all wondered what new style of ----- abuse this member would bring to our elite unit: whips and brooms? Handcuffs? Western S&M tactics? Saddam was known to have a soft spot in his heart for S&M. He found it interesting from both sides – from whip handler to receiver of the whip. The redness of the victim’s buttocks, he once stated to the group during pre-shift, was “like the beauty of the Iraqi sun setting on the faces of one hundred thousand virgins – in unison, with the light of the sun reflecting off each virginal cheek like a visual symphony of light.”

As we sat for the introduction Husky Habibi stared at me with his lazy right eye and swollen head. I gave him the look of “I will kick your ass like a goat you very, very, very husky pig.” Later, after the meeting I will get in his face and dare him to take a swing and I will more than likely shove him down the stairs again. That husky camel of a man, how I hate him so. But please, my dear friend, don’t get me wrong for I have nothing against the overweight for most are very lovable and tender hearted. My grandfather was a husky person and the strongest in his village. He would showcase his strength at weddings by bending solid metal bars. Most women were impressed, and that is why they killed him. My point being that I would hate Habibi equally even if he was skinny.

When the Royal bodyguards walked into the room, Saddam was introduced and we all stood.

“Your Royal majesty. All stand.”

After our brief salute, we all sat facing a map of Baghdad. Saddam wore a black Versace suit with a burgundy tie. How did I know that it was Versace? Because he said it was Versace. He smoked a Cuban cigar and he nodded to everyone.


“Allah-AK-bar,” we repeated.

The minister of defense stepped up. He was a bald man with a big nose and a dark mustache. He looked like Arab Magnum P.I. As of matter of fact, the mustache is so popular in Iraq, that most males resemble that ingenious Hawaiian detective.

“As you may be aware, we’ve had some trouble with dissidents who don’t have sisters or wives and their mothers have passed away. Therefore, in situations like those, the ----- Squad is useless because we can’t have men ----- men, even though a couple of you were inclined to volunteer.”

We looked at the gay ones. They put their heads down.

“So we crunched various ideas and most were executed until one proved itself far superior to the others. And today, we are happy to present the proven idea.”

He motioned to a royal guard who walked over to the door and opened it. Behind the door stood a small man under a black cloak very similar to a monk. The man walked over and stood next to Saddam. We could not see his face. We all wondered what evil, ugly face lay under the cloak for we were all ugly.

“This is Ludmilla.”

We looked at each other in confusion and our jaws dropped when the man let his cloak fall to the ground and there was a pretty girl underneath. She had long black hair, in a pony tail. She looked like Eastern European version of Audrey Hepburn. We were scared, and anxious, and aroused, and in a big, very big, maze of confusion. But of course, we were the SSRS and we were trained to be aroused at a moment’s notice.

She was like a diamond of a day. I pictured sights I had never seen like deserts covered in snow and possible things that were once impossible like a sparrow flying to President Hussein’s hand and perhaps taking a bite or two. She had a pretty face and her eyes were golden brown. My rapidly beating heart sank down to my stomach, and it was digested and released through my rectum. I knelt down and picked up my beshitted heart, and ate and swallowed my heart, and I promise you, my dear friends, I could have gone through the same motion all day.

She held a long, black baton behind her.

“That is her weapon,” the minister said. “With which she will inflict pain.”

She rolled the baton with her right hand. Her tiny body gave her the physical presence of a French ingénue from one those black and white movies my uncle Shafik used to watch on VHS. She was an angel! Then our president whispered into the ear of the Minister of Defense. And the minister looked at our entire group.

“Any questions?”

Slappy Kareem raised his trembling hand and quickly brought it down.

After the meeting, all the males stood in one corner and she in another. We gossiped, but in a whisper. Our egos could not handle this – a woman that ----- with a stick. What kind of shit was this? What was our great leader Saddam trying to tell us? We scratched our heads in unison. Stumped monkeys we were.

When everyone else moved on, I found an excuse to remain. I decided to make an effort for there was something in her eyes that attracted me. They were very deep and emotional eyes.

They predicted her mood like an Al-Roker predicting the weather.
Her mood was silent, and I felt a calm energy emanate from her. Her presence was a very soothing thing to me. It gave me life like shot of Cuban espresso – which I have never had, but heard Saddam takes every day for he has it flown to him personally from the island of Cuba by most famous communist in the world, Fidel Castro.

Five minutes later, our daily mission sheet was posted on the bulletin board. My heart’s drumbeat sped upon reading that Ludmilla and I had been assigned to the same neighborhood. So with brave face, I approached her.

“Hello,” I said.

“Yes,” she responded.

“I have noticed on Mission Sheet that we are assigned to same neighborhood duty.”

“Really,” she said.

“Would you like ride in my vehicle with me?”

She did not say anything for 15 seconds. She just looked at me, examining me with those pretty eyes.

“Okay,” she said. “But are you safe driver?”

I smiled. “Of course, come, I will show you to my vehicle.”

I led her confidently to my vehicle, a 1985 Volga GAZ-3102 in good condition. Its color was the color blue sky. I’m sure she was impressed because in Iraq you either had Volga or your feet. Let me tell you that in Iraq you could never hope to be like Saddam or his sons with Mercedes Benz, driving to the markets taking young girls from their families never to be seen again. And who wouldn’t want to have that kind of power?

As I drove, she looked out the window most of the ride. She seemed very serious staring at the faces outside the vehicle. I tried to start conversation with talking about myself and then I would barrage her with questions like a George Clooney in ER.

“I am from Palestine – occupied territory. I came to Iraq to defend her against the evil Bush administration.”

She did not say anything back to me. Not to worry, I thought, I continued to barrage her with endless questions until conversation was created and ultimately good rapport that lead to friendship, and perhaps a request to her father for marriage. I had reached that age where prostitutes had run their course, and -----, well, it was -----.

“And you are from,” I began.

“I am from Russia.”

“Russia? The Volga is Russian like you. What is your birth city?”


“You are communist?”

“I hate communists.”

“How old are you?”


“Do you like food?”


“Do you eat Russian caviar?”


“Are you married?”


“You have pretty smile, do you have pretenders?”


“How did you get into ----- business?”

“I am fond of watching men get pleasure.”

“How can a man get pleasure from your stick? It is brutal. It is natural for man to ----- woman, not so for woman to ----- man.”

“You are an idiot.”

“I am honest. But I apologize if I surmised too much. Are you virginal?”

“You are a fool.”

“But you are like young, little girl, you have innocent face, I doubt a man has entered you. A woman with experience, she has experience in her face.”

“You are a clown and a fool.”

“You are angelic.”

“You are hairy like monkey.”

“You are soft like rose.”

“You are not original.”

“I want to witness your -----s.”

“We are here.”

“Yes, we are,” I said, hitting the brakes.

“Thank you for the ride.”

“No problem. I love you.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing, I am sorry. We meet back here.”

“Hmm. Yes, okay.”

We were in a poor neighborhood South of Baghdad. We got out of my loyal Volga, and went forth to our -----s. She rushed off across the street like Sub Zero in Mortal Kombat 2 video game. I was happy that her mission was two houses from mine. In case of any complications I could rush to her aid.

My victim lived in a small two bedroom house with an ugly gray door. My orders were to ----- the oldest daughter of an un-loyal Ba’ath Captain. He would be taught a valuable lesson by punishing next of kin. According to my fact sheet, the victim was 43 years old and weighed 275 lbs. I much preferred the ----- of a much smaller and younger woman but in the end a ----- was a -----, and besides I had a job to do.

I paused before the door to wrap my keffiyeh over my face like ninja. I picked the lock and entered the house. A kitchen was before me and to my right a living room. The bedroom was past the kitchen at the end of a small hallway.

I continued down the hall to the bedroom and stopped for a moment before the door. When I opened the door, there before me lay my victim asleep and unsuspecting of my imminent threat. Unaware in her sweet dreams that she would soon be forced into beautiful intercourse, indeed the most beautiful intercourse ever to be had in her soulless life, from the Bill Clinton of Baghdad.

I stood before the bed and looked at her, admiring her chubby, cheeky visage. She was a very husky woman, even huskier than I had pictured. She lay face up snoring loudly. Her snores were like the roar of a thousand lions as they bounced from the walls in an erratic symphony. And at one point, her snoring was so loud and intense that it seemed like she was choking on a bone. There were great pauses between deep breaths. I thought I would have to perform CPR, help her get conscious, and then ----- her and that would just be too much work.

I unzipped my pants and played with myself while staring at her. I had to work my qadib to ultimate hardness for she was very big and repulsive. Standing there, I began to ponder on the power of me and my qadib. ----- for me was like the power of Saddam.

I then proceeded to jump on her like bobcat or mountain lion. She woke up startled while I held onto both her arms. Before she could react, I quickly stuffed a sock in her mouth which I carry with me always for this type of situation. And that is when I threatened her.

I said something like, “You be quiet now or you have your last breath. Is this what you want?

Is this what you want? You will let me do what I was sent here to do. Yes you will, yes you will.”

She looked into my eyes with great fear. She mumbled: “What?”

She tried to talk again. I took away the sock from her mouth.

“Yes I will, my lover,” she said.

And I said, “What?” and then she flipped me over and pinned me down. I had underestimated her strength. She was like bear as she began to bounce and bounce on me almost breaking my qadib. I was stuck in a dilemma, for I had to keep moving my hips in order to catch her vagina. Sometimes I’d miss and it hurt very bad.

“Slip, slip, slip…back inside,” she’d say when I missed and then the bouncing would continue.

And then, as the backwards ----- continued, she stopped to smell me. “You have fine musk. Curious musk. It is American musk! It is the Calvin Klein, the infidel musk!”

At that precise moment, I willed all my strength and somehow managed to roll her over on her back. I pulled out my knife, putting the blade against her neck, and began to sodomize her and she loved this too. She moaned loud when I entered her unsanitary hole. Her anus was very loose, which made me curious. This was all very dangerous work, for I had to concentrate so as not to slice her neck accidentally.

I had explosion inside her and rolled off.

“Saddam knows your father is a traitor to Iraq. He must do as he is told or he will be punished. Tell him he will pay with his family’s suffering.”

She had big, bold, green eyes with a ----- face of sorrowful pleasure. And then, in a moment of stupidity, as my guard dropped, she snatched my own knife and plunged it into my stomach.

“Ahhh! You evil woman!”

I sprung from the bed holding my stomach, bleeding all over my uniform. This was my third stabbing this year. Most squad members get stabbed at least once their rookie year. Facing an emergency such as this, I decided to flee with both hands clutching at my stomach, running past the kitchen, and through the front door only to collapse in the middle of the street. I lay in the street until Ludmilla’s face came into sight. She looked at me with her brown piercing eyes which now had a look of pity in them. She did not say anything but only grabbed my feet and dragged me to my Volga, our Volga. My seats were stained with my own blood. She drove to a hospital close to the presidential palace, double parked, placed me on a Gurney, and shoved me towards the emergency room, and as I rolled, rolled away from her, my heart slowed like a jazz drum.

I recovered in a week and received 17 stitches. The day I was released, Ludmilla was in my room and watched me change back to my uniform. She looked at me like if I was her dog and just peed inside the house. And deep in my heart, I prayed to Allah that I could be her dog.

Oh how I wished I was her dog!

“I should have left you there to die.”

“But you didn’t,” I said, smiling.

“You are a disappointment to the party.”

“…,” still smiling.

“And Iraq, your adopted land.”

“I love you.”

“Don’t look at me like that.”


”You are a clown to me.”

“And you are a princess to me.”

“You are a fool for loving me.”

“Then I am happy to be a fool.”

“You realize we could be beheaded, at least.”

“I don’t care. I would risk everything. My heart, this heart, is yours. My arms, these arms, are yours.”

“You have lost your mind.”

“I want to buy you a ring like in the Hollywood movies.”

“I am already bored of you.”

I then took a step towards her and she remained.

We left the hospital and returned to base where I was greeted with laughter from my colleagues. Amidst all this, I fantasized that I spit in all their mouths. I made sure to let them get it out of their system. This all lasted quite a while. Husky Habibi led the chorus of laughter. Oh, Allah, how I hate his chubby, cheeky face.

Ludmilla entered after me, so as not to arouse any suspicion. It hurt very deep inside of me that I couldn’t make big announcement to the world that I cared about this woman more than any cleric, oil field, or very fast and efficient race camel.

When the next missions came, my desire to ----- had left me. I think it was because I was in love. My first mission post-stabbing resulted in a broom beating by a very endearing elderly lady who offered me coffee afterwards. A week after that, on another ----- mission, I just tied a woman naked to her bed and fell asleep on her stomach talking to her about the glint of light in Ludmilla’s eyes. Oh those beautiful eyes so full of paradise inside of them. My eyes were caught in hers during every pre-mission shift meeting. She tried to ignore me, but it was evident she felt the same way.

Incidentally, one day I just couldn’t wait for things to just occur between us so I decided to spy on her during one of her missions. I finished a quick dry hump ----- on an 83 year old woman, who I will also reveal stuck her tongue inside my mouth and I was off.

I crossed the street like a stealth tiger and found the house where Ludmilla was assigned for her -----. It was a medium sized blue house which I entered through the unlocked front door. I went up the stairs following the moaning and screaming I heard. It startled me, but I continued.

I took a deep breath and stood before the bedroom door. The sounds coming from the room were like those of a torture room. I opened the door to see Ludmilla holding a very large, fake, black qadib against the victim, who was on his stomach with a bloody anus. She turned to me, and my heart sped up like Arabian horse trotting through Saharan Desert, and before I knew it, I had fainted and could not remember more.

The next day, upon the recovery of my shock at the things I had seen I confronted Ludmilla in secret to challenge her to a ------off challenge. I would not be embarrassed by a woman, even if I could love her. The winner got the loser to do anything they wanted.

She stood by the water cooler in the empty mess hall. I approached her with confidence and slyness, despite the fact I fainted at the sight of blood.

“I was very much impressed by your ----- abilities, and despite my love for you, I come to ask you to a ------off challenge.”

“A what?”

“A ------off competition to see who is the best? It is when two ----- squad members face off, seeing who can do most -----s per month.”

She just stood there looking at me.

“You are funniest man I have ever met.”

I kept my stare. I know I’ve talked many times about her eyes, but I wouldn’t bring up those features if there wasn’t substance behind them. How to describe eyes that are so soft and endearing that they can put an end to entire armies? There are no words I tell you!

She quickly kissed me in my lips and pulled out. It felt like bolt of electricity running through my body. She then moved her face closer to mine.

“Meet me in my private room fifteen minutes past midnight, when all are asleep. If you are as good as you claim you can show me then.”

Exactly ten past midnight, I tiptoed from the men’s dorm rooms to the mess hall, which I had to cross to get to Ludmilla’s. If you are wondering how I was able to not wake anybody, well I received some help from Husky Habibi’s snoring, which most of the squad was used to now, and that’s how most of them slept through the bombing of missile installations by Iran in the 80s. And another reason for my mastery of clandestine skills was the American Ninja movies starring Michael Dudikoff.

Upon reaching her door in my bare feet and pajamas, I tapped it lightly and leaned my head against it trying to listen. The door opened and Ludmilla stood before me in her ninja/burka hybrid not wearing any pants. The hair covering her vagina was thick. I immediately became excited.

“Take off your pants,” she said.

“My pants?”

“I said take off your pants and kneel on the floor.”

She closed the door behind me as I did what I was told and knelt on the floor.

“I want your pants off all the way, including underwear. Leave your shirt on.”

I was on my knees in the cold floor without my pajama bottoms.

“Get on all fours like dog. Like Palestinian mutt that you are.”

She then poured a very warm lotion on my buttocks, spreading it all over my cheeks, especially inside of my anus. My heart started beating fast, for I was scared and excited. And I kept telling myself that this could only occur because it was her, Ludmilla, and what she meant to me. No other person in this world could do that very thing that I was about to experience. I was so nervous and my heart beat so fast I felt almost a shortness of breath that was followed by elation.

The lotion made my anus moist and warm and the smell was quite enjoyable like that of soft babies. She then slipped one finger in my anus, and I whimpered like pig.

“Does it hurt?”

“No, no, no my Russian angel. It does not hurt!”

She ordered me to stand up and promptly shoved me on her bed. She then handcuffed my arms and legs to the posts of the bed and left me there on my stomach. I was spread out dripping with oil. After turning off the lights, I heard a vibrating noise and saw a red glow behind me. She then inserted this noisy, vibrating object inside of my once forbidden hole, and everything after that I will not relate because it was beautiful and private, and a whirl of sexual madness that awoke in me a sensitivity for women and the world as a whole.

The following day I was a new man. I was a man in love with a woman. Oh to be a man that knows love is to be a man that does not need God. For a man with no boundaries will not let anything stop him. Or a child taking baby steps on his own? How I am a philosopher now. Or is true love – love for your fellow man? So why do we need God, if we have love?
From that special night on, Ludmilla and I could not be separated. Our illicit affair continued in dark corners and hidden alleys. We would meet three times a week in different safe houses, sometimes even skipping missions all together. Suspicions arose among commanders and we had to stop seeing each other some weeks.

And on one special occasion that we lay in bed, I with red, bloody anus, she with a bruised and scratched back, we both spoke with our eyes to each other. Our mouths did not open, and we saw in each other’s expressions that we were doomed. The television played the film The Bodyguard with Whitney Houston and Ludmilla was so inspired that as she rolled on me, she whispered, “I will always love you.”

I knew then that the Palestinian boy inside me would never love another again.

The next day, on account of my low ----- grading, I was asked into the private office of the Grand Ba’ath ----- Secretary under Saddam. Entering quickly, I saluted and took a chair as I was told.

“You have failing grade. Your mission productivity has dropped dramatically. Explain yourself.”

“I do not know how to explain myself. I have been-“

”I don’t want excuses Philistine. You were drafted on Syrian countryside of the border after being detained for the -----s of the four idiot daughters of local sheep herder Ibrahim Nelson. We could have sent you to the firing squad my friend. And who intervened? Answer me that!”

“You did, sir.”

“Yes! I intervened. You were given second chance to use your ----- obsessions for the power of good & country. Can’t you understand you fool? You have been given a place in this society! Therefore, I strongly advise not test the patience of your benefactors that can so withdraw their good charity from you. Do you wish to die?”

“No sir.”

“Your ----- productivity will go up. You will go in and out and finish the job. And if I hear anything to the contrary, your file will be sent to the president’s desk for swift punishment. Do you comprehend, Hassan?”

“Yes sir.”

“Get out now.”

I left the office and went to search for Ludmilla to assure her that our superiors had no clue about our illicit affair. I searched the mess hall; I looked in her room and finally ran into her in the locker rooms which were empty due to ----- Drill Week. And as I looked into her eyes, I had a feeling that I had been cured of my obsession with ----- because of Ludmilla. The only thing that mattered to me was Ludmilla and her desires, for I would grant each and everyone. Oh Ludmilla, Ludmilla, Ludmilla! Her name on my tongue, was like Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia (which Saddam imported every year for his month long birthday celebration) melting in my mouth.

“Oh Hassan,” she said, with her sweet breath. “What did they say? What did you tell them? Hassan, I am worried, there are rumors.”

“What rumors my Russian tulip?”

“There are rumors about us, my love. I think they know of our affair.”

She leaned in closer to me. “I think Husky Habibi knows.”

I grabbed her close to me. “They don’t know anything. What makes you say that?”

“He came to me during brunch and asked me for a date. When I refused him, he asked me if you and I were lovers.”

“What did you say?”

“I spat in his face.”

“Oh Ludmilla! How I love you.”

“We must runaway, Hassan.”

“Yes, my love.”

Suddenly there was a loud bang against a locker, and we heard footsteps shuffling out. She held onto me quickly and kissed me.

“Just in case, this will be our last kiss.”

“Don’t say that. Just go get your mission schedule. I leave one way, and you another. We meet up later.”

And before leaving she paused and looked at me with sad, enchanting Russian eyes. “Oh my love, will we fall apart like star crossed lovers do?”

I did not say anything because I did not want to lie, for I knew the very answer. I’ve known it since birth. I rushed off to the mission room for pre-shift. I did not take the normal way there, so as to lose my scent from the dogs that had been sent after us. Prolonging my way there, and thereby our very end. I dreamt that perhaps we were still safe, and we could escape. I would not arrive late, but not early either. The missions would be posted, I would pretend to ignore Ludmilla, and we’d be off without attracting suspicion. Then we -----, to make things look normal of course, we meet, and we elope to the West, to Hawaii, where a man can live right by the beach and drive a red Ferrari.

Once I made it to the door, I opened it with all thoughts absent from my mind. And upon entering, I was handcuffed by Husky Habibi. Ludmilla was also being detained. Everyone stood before us, surrounding us.

“Here is the other infidel, my commander,” Husky Habibi said.
Our commander walked up to me. “You have disgraced us, and the Department of ----- and Retributions with your unlawful and unnatural affair.”

“It is my fault,” I pleaded. “Please let her go. I was the one that forced her. She had nothing to do, she is innocent. Let her go.”

Ludmilla’s hair was in a very pretty mess. She had put up a fight. She looked at me and mouthed out the words “I love you.”

“Enough of this. You will both pay with your very lives. To the firing squad!”

They led us out to the firing range that was located in the back of the building. They tied us to two separate posts as the hot Iraqi sun beat down on our heads. We looked at each other and I saw the tears in her eyes and I decided to be strong for her despite the precariousness of the situation.

“No blindfolds,” yelled the commander.

The assassins aligned themselves before us with their automatic rifles – oh what sharp, efficient medicine against this disease called love! The ----- Squad stood behind them. My close friends in the squad were upset, but they could not protest, or express their sorrow for us for they would be killed also.

Meanwhile, Ludmilla and I continued to search for that glimmer in each other’s eyes that would validate this very sacrifice.

A guard came up to us.

“Any last requests?”

Ludmilla looked at me. I looked at the guard and whispered in his ear. He went to the commanders and told them my request. They called for a messenger boy. The boy was given orders and he rushed off. It took thirty minutes for the messenger boy to come back with a boom box and a CD. One of the guards grabbed the boom box and placed it next to Ludmilla. He took out the CD from its case and inserted it in the boom box and pressed play. He turned up the volume as the song started playing. The song was, “I Will Always Love You” as performed by the beautiful and talented Mrs. Whitney Houston for the soundtrack to the film, The Bodyguard.

As the song played, it almost seemed to slow down time. All my memories of Ludmilla flashed before my mind, and I was so engulfed by them that my eyes became wet with tears.

But I soon realized that they were tears of joy for I had finally known what true love was. Love was sacrifice for your fellow man or woman. Is that not beautiful?

And when the song was coming closer to the end, for so were our very lives, the assassins assumed their positions once again, and aimed for our hearts. I did not close my eyes. Yes, my friends, I did not close my eyes. And the only other thoughts that crossed my mind other than my love for Ludmilla and my poor mother was this: for all those that hijacked my adopted land, may Allah have mercy on you and each of your souls, you hypocrites, may you survive the end of Saddam as he is swallowed by the West, for when you play with the devil, you will surely have to pay him his dues, for your destiny is written in the blood stained soil and your fate will be far worse than being shot outside a Starbucks franchise in Tikrit, you sons of the forgotten may you perish for all eternity. And the assassins fired.

*Originally published in MuslimWakeUp.com in 2007, reprinted at Expat Press, 2018.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Proust Questionnaire: Taylor Napolsky

I first ran into Taylor Napolsky's writing at Expat Press. He is a talented, dedicated writer; a most generous, happy-go-lucky soul. You can also find his work in MORIA, Lunate, and other journals. His new novel is called Economic Despair and everybody should check it out. You can also follow him on twitter.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Making all my money from writing stuff I want—not b.s. articles I don't care about—and having enough money to live comfortably, and buy clothes.

2. What is your greatest fear?

I hate that it's spiders, but it's spiders.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Umm, I can't think like that.... I am getting over these traits! I'm determined.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Talking and talking and never listening. For sure it's that.

5. Which living person do you most admire?

Kanye, naturally. I guess it's just "Ye" now....

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Buying trail mix. It's too pricey for me, but it's the perfect snack.

7. What is your current state of mind?

"Nothing bothers me." That's what I'm always trying to get to.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Philanthropy. I'll just leave it at that.

9. On what occasion do you lie?

It's more like when do I not lie. Call me young Simba because I am the lying king.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

Hair loss duh

11. Which living person do you most despise?

Probably this movie exec guy named Toby Emmerich.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?


13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Again, smarts!

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Not in writing but in speaking: I say "You know what I mean?" constantly. Like, agree with me, please.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I'll go with "what." My Brilliant Friend on HBO Max.

16. When and where were you happiest?

High school when I was the star athlete. Kidding.

I spent some time in my twenties just going to clubs and drinking too many Red Bull vodkas every weekend; it was really fun, so I'd say that. I'm pretty happy now too though.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

Like a "snap my fingers and I have it" talent? Extreme Spanish skills. Also just being good at learning languages in general would be cool.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I'd take more charm and charisma, all the way. You can never get enough of that.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

It's a combo of all the writing work I've completed, and also, low key high key, getting asked to do this questionnaire.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

That baby thing at the end of 2001. Let's fuckin go.

21. Where would you most like to live?

Seattle, but I could fuck with Miami too I think.

22. What is your most treasured possession?

My laptop, because it's so damn expensive and nice, and the battery lasts an age.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


24. What is your favorite occupation?

Well I wrote a whole list of activities, but then noticed it's only asking for one occupation, so reading comes first. That's it.

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

I'm a maniac, (in a good way), and always trying to be more of one.

26. What do you most value in your friends?

Being able to be real with them. The more real I can be, the more satisfying.

27. Who are your favorite writers?

I have to start with Morrison (I'm not talking about that Doors singer, either). Also Sayaka Murata (Convenience Store Woman is my book). And Shakespeare. Alejandro Zambra rocks my world. I'm not listing my very favorite though.

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

Hamlet is the most beautiful in all dimensions.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Sojourner Truth. She went so hard for what she believed in.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

Michael B. Jordan, Otessa Moshfegh and Rosalía!

31. What are your favorite names?

I mostly don't think about names like that. I'll try though: Lakeith; Alana; Sergio; Naomi. That's about all I have. Judging by these ones I landed on, I suppose I like longer-syllabled names.

32. What is it that you most dislike?

People's obnoxious opinions on Twitter that I just have to tolerate, mostly, because why waste my time arguing.

33. What is your greatest regret?

One time I kind of cut ties with someone just because it seemed like the cool, trendy thing to do at the moment. It was dumb. It's all good though, because they seemed chill about it, and also I learned the lesson: Never the fuck will I do that again.

34. How would you like to die?

Old. Extremely old.

35. What is your motto?

Nothing bothers me and be a maniac.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Proust Questionaire: D'urban Moffer

D'urban Moffer is the producer of alt-write, a costumed performer, writer of American Kashayas…the book is a collection of poetic shrapnel fragments about the American psyche

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A mean temperature of 80 degrees F, a Swiss Family Robinson tree house and a legion of Latinx warriors.

2. What is your greatest fear?


3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My big fat yap's propensity to flap.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

See answer to previous question.

5. Which living person do you most admire?

I try not to, but it's probably someone none of you would know from my secret lives.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

Costumery, media and Home Shopping Network.

7. What is your current state of mind?

I'll answer this with movie references: Blair Witch, Willy Wonka and Brazil.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


9. On what occasion do you lie?

When I'm on the internet.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I cannot mold it, no matter how I try, to mold it like Silly Putty.

11. Which living person do you most despise?

Currently, that would be The Chairman and all that he stands for.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?


13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

See answer to previous question.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Y'know? Whatever, maaannnn...

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

They number six. Four are human, two are not.

16. When and where were you happiest?

Here- now.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

An eidetic memory. Also, a business acumen.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My desire to be ever-changing.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?


20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Scatophaga stercoraria

21. Where would you most like to live?


22. What is your most treasured possession?

My betrothed.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Abject desperation.

24. What is your favorite occupation?


25. What is your most marked characteristic?

My hypnoidal eye.

26. What do you most value in your friends?

Rationality and loyalty. Failing that, a willingness to sexualize any situation.

27. Who are your favorite writers?

Kale Darnegie
Burma Bombspeck
Daniel Cravey

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

Either Jiminy Carter or Out-In-The-Shed.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs

30. Who are your heroes in real life?

Anyone who has no fucks to give but a heart of gold.

31. What are your favorite names?

Dirty ones in foreign languages. Or pharmaceutical ones.

32. What is it that you most dislike?

Social manipulation and/or interpersonal treachery.

33. What is your greatest regret?

Hurting anyone I've ever loved.

34. How would you like to die?

Lightning strike or anvil falling from the sky.

35. What is your motto?

Currently: 'Live like Human Resources is watching.'

Friday, April 1, 2022

Our Little House in Lisbon: An Excerpt from GITANES just posted at Expat Press


                                                                       CLICK HERE