What a nightmare this has been. A luxurious nightmare, to be sure, but one of impossible satisfaction. To be sweet of tooth and set free in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with strict orders to select only one treat, why, it would induce madness or crime, or both. As for this place, literarily dripping with delicious, exquisitely burgeoning uncompensated talent, it could easily leave the restricted taster strangling in a duel between tortured aesthetic appetites and solemn duty.

I am sworn to highlight a mere handful of new diamonds after two weeks of staring at the glistening gem case. Had I Goliath’s hand this task should be none the easier. As such, my own scant hand is forced to rely on the eeny meeny miny moe selection method, which, as it may satisfy the law of the land, leaves a giant hole in my heart—not to mention in a mind already riddled with the wounds of too much living with too little armor (altho I think I did wear a helmet in high school playing that game, you know, the one with the turd-shaped ball?).

Anyway, I am also hamstrung by a noticeably deficient articulation in the critical arts. As previously confessed of himself by Chris Okum, when he was in the barrel, I am all thumbs in the language of why something works for me. Not so much why something may not, although I am rarely up to taking the time or, more likely, risking the hurt to publicly point out shortcomings as I see them or even privately to the responsible party. Cowardly, I suppose, but…as I said, anyway.

Okum, by the way. I welcome him back with glad thunder despite my resentment of having prepared to laud one James Parker Jr. as the new Voice With Buster Keaton’s Face. As Parker’s departure coincided neatly with Okum’s return from somewhere, I, and I’m sure many other Fictionauts, let out huge volumes of bated breath in relief at the vanished prospect of a titanic deadpan battle for the Buster Keaton title. And now, my ado duly exhausted, let’s give it up for the winners!

Gary Moshimer lured me off the street with his first paragraph in the story, Summer-1966, and sold me a ticket to his show with the second. With these five short sentences, using words none of which I had to Google, he foreshadowed a story I knew would pluck at my heartstrings and titillate the adolescent residing within me—and it did. I even touched my fingers to my lips afterward. I daresay you will, too.

Loren A. Moreno, a relative newcomer here, I believe (it’s sometimes hard to tell, of course, with the constant dynamics of name shifting and comings and goings and all of that) boldly posted a looong story. Now we all know the best way to win comments and garner faves here is to post short stuff—good stuff, of course, but short). So Loren wins his first * from me for daring to swim upstream with his 1,539-word “rough draft” story, Consequences of Waiting. Even I, who’ve alienated Fictionauts for years violating this custom, almost walked on by. But being in the barrel this term I knew I had to stop and check this thing out. Then I saw that our two most recent returning exemplars of excellence (besides Okum, who rarely appears in comment boxes—with which I sympathize whilst officially withholding applause) already had visited Loren’s piece and left laudatory remarks. I’m speaking of Kathy and Jane, obviously. So, with a huge sigh, I plunged in and…and found a true gem—and not as rough, either, as Loren modestly says he fears it is in his author’s note. As I noted vernacularly in my comment, the kid has chops. Check him out. You will be tested.

Come we now to Katrina Trepsa, whose very name I find so intriguing I would look at anything she posted whether I was in the barrel or not. And she does good titles. This one, Washed Up, prompts so many connotations my fingers could go crazy on the keyboard trying to list even half of them. And how’s this for an opening sentence: “At noon on a weekday in the off season, when the trickle of tourists who wandered into the Mermaid Curio Shoppe had died out completely, she walked in with wet hair, leaving tiny puddles on the floorboards.” Don’t you want to know who she is? Huh? Don’t you think you’d like to sit on a bench overlooking the beach and sip piña coladas with her? If she’s paying? Read the piece. It’s short, has great dialogue, an easy swinging pace…hell, you can dance to it. If I didn’t give it five faves I should have.

Peter Cherches. I didn’t pick him. He just popped up, again. And why not? He’s terrific!

Strikhedonia! (That’s the title, not the poet, whose name is Samuel Derrick Rosen) But what a title, huh. Maybe it’s not so cool to regular poetry readers, of which I’m not, but to me it…it sent me straight to Google. Which is where you will have to go if you want to know what it means. My comment in response to Strikhedonia!, the poem, was “A most eloquent “bah humbug”. And I meant it.

Trying to get a fix on something Tara Isabel Zambrano posts is like fighting with a kitten over a ball of mercury. Now you see it, now you don’t. Her writing never fails to awe and stun with its insights and exotic perspectives. I get the impression she takes forever to pick just the right word, and then, after another forever, switches it for something even better. But being in the barrel and trying to find an example of one of these perfect jewels is…well, the kitten analogy again. She takes them down and stashes them somewhere out of reach (I hope at least she can still reach them) and then puts up something new. Despite her sleight of hand with her work, she’s prolific. To give you an example of her excellence, I was forced to go to her page and select one of my all time favorites. You’ve likely read it, too, but it gets better with every reading. I suspect it will continue to do so, forever.

Oops, I believe I’ve about fulfilled my quota and filled my space, but..but I have two more! Honorable mentions? Can I award honorable mentions? (No answer, but I will. Here they are):

Strannikov. What a name. It’s Russian, my major in college. I have no frigging idea what it means. But the sound of it! It just might be the name of a general: “Comrade Lenin, we’ve sent Strannikov and the Cossacks to the Western front!” “Хорошо!”

Anyway, here’s the general’s piece that won from me the comment: “Delightfully bizarre”.

And now…AND NOW…Brace yourselves for Joseph E. Lerner‘s report from amongst the organgutans.

Mr. Lerner’s superb reportage won from me, this: “Bwahahahahaha… Fooled me right up to the reveal. My advice, eat more of whatever you had that night before going to bed. Artists are supposed to suffer for their fans, you know.” I no longer can explain what I meant by that, but here is what inspired it.


Mathew Paust is a man of a virtually autistic personality spread. A forcibly retired newspaper reporter, he now writes novels, short stories and the occasional embarrassingly derivative poem. He appears under various guises on Facebook and Twitter, but is too exasperated by the proliferation of unnecessary technology to venture into other social media or even to want to buy the kind of hand-held device that is sucking modern youth into its black hole of merchandising. He resides in Gloucester, Virginia, and is considering raising a tankful of triops to study perhaps as characters for a future novel.


  1. Matt Paust

    Explanation: An “organgutan”, police tell us, is a member of an orangutan gang, altho orangutan apologists insist vociferously no such groupings exist in their culture.

  2. Gary Hardaway

    Glad to see your presentation up and running, Matt. I enjoyed it and admire the choices.

  3. strannikov

    Bolshoi spasibah! –but now, do tell: what IS or WOULD BE “a tankful of triops”?

Leave a Comment