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**PRINT: A LITTLE MONEY DOWN, by Doug Milam, is No. 27 in our broadsheet series and marks our 8th anniversary. Milam's a frequent contributor and wizard of experimentally styled prose that still burns bright around the campire -- this issue comes with a new design, an excerpt from Susannah Felts' first novel, and more.

DJINN DUMMY David Gianatasio
MEDUSA Kate Duva
TRAIN Senesequore
WITHOUT GRACE, AMEN Rebekah Lyn Cowell

Zach Plague

Zach Plague is the author of the novel Boring boring boring..., from which this piece, the first is a nine-part serial to be published over the next few months at THE2NDHAND.com, was excerpted. Stay tuned for more. Plague's novel is due from Featherproof Books in the fall.

Ollister opened the door just as the sun dipped below the horizon. It was drizzling slightly, but the sunlight shot through the space between the low cloud ceiling and the horizon. Ollister's eye hovered there, in the crack, before he unchained the door.

The man was wearing a white suit and dark sunglasses. He seemed to be completely dry despite the fact that the only way onto the porch was through the rain. He handed Ollister the envelope, also white and dry, turned silently and left.

Dearest Boy,
You have been granted the honor of dining with myself. Tonight at 7.

Firm regards,
D. Platypus, Chair

Ollister contemplated it for an hour. Made some phone calls, inspected his jawline in the mirror, and decided to go. It was an invitation from The Platypus himself. He hadn't seen the man in many years, but they knew all about each other.

The Platypus was now the accepted ruler of the local art scene. He controlled the galleries, he controlled the artists, he controlled the patrons. He controlled everyone, except Ollister, who had ideas of his own. Ideas that made them natural enemies.

He was in a cavalier mood, having just booked two shows, and having ordered his henchman, Punk, to burn someone's studio to the ground. So why not meet The Platypus face-to-face? The invitation was unexpected, certainly, but why couldn't they sit across from one another, at a table, like civilized men of leisure, and converse?

If he felt nervous, for his life or well being, it didn't show on the outside, and he wasn't admitting it inside either. He took off his shirt and tie, and put a T-shirt on with his dress slacks.

Adelaide felt nervous, waiting at the table. It was a huge wooden slab, held at four corners by hunched suits of armor, each in the pose of Atlas shouldering the burdens of the world.

She had decided to respond to the sudden invitation delivered to her door that evening. She knew Isadora was The Platypus's wife, and she had heard plenty about The Platypus. Though she couldn't think of anything specific about him at the moment. She pressed her finger into the surprisingly sharp prongs of one of the forks laid before her. Ollister always used to say his name, as though he were some sort of king or genius, but she couldn't recall any details about what he was really like, or what he actually did.

The gilded candelabras slowly rotated, their flames snapping impatiently.

After a number of white-clad servants had set the table with a lavish and medieval feast, Isadora appeared in the doorway to the grand dining hall, wearing a dress of no color at all.

"You aren't The Platypus." Ollister. Sitting up straight now, in his chair.

"Neither, my boy, are you." She calmly sat down, and gracefully swept her manicured hand over the table. "Eat."

There were boars' heads, strips of dried anchovy, white pudding, jellied meat, roasted cranes, black trumpet mushrooms, sweet potatoes, black curry, smoked-lobster roll, pizza, fried peacocks, sablefish festooned with pineapple, quail egg, spiced pudding of pork, a small sautéed octopus, and some rotten-looking fruit.

"Yeah," Ollister. "I would just love to get trapped in this fairy kingdom."

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit." Her eyes pointed at him.

"Then I suppose I'm at my wit's end." He stood. "Look, is he going to show or not? Because as much as I'm enjoying our little date, cougars, such as yourself, really aren't my..."

"Look in the mirror." Isadora. Standing.

He looked to his left, at the giant mirror with a gilded gold frame. He'd glanced at it numerous times while the table was being set, to inspect his cheekbones. It was now a window, though it took a few blinks to figure that out. The room on the other side was an exact replica of the one he was in. The chair backs made of broadswords, the draperies hung just so, the table set in the same way.

The only difference was that where Isadora stood now, sat The Platypus. And seated across the long table from him, where Ollister had just been sitting, was Adelaide.


"She can't hear you. It's a one-way mirror. Of very thick glass." At her words it began to darken back to its original reflective state.

He stared.

"Take me in there." Ollister.

"Relax. Sit."

The invitation had been from his wife, Isadora, so she was surprised when The Platypus arrived, bowing and formally introducing himself. The white staff poured a noxious port, which she struggled to sip after breathing its fumes through The Platypus's long and inscrutable toast.

"I've seen your art." The Platypus. Pausing after some boring small talk about the rain.

Adelaide tried to force the corners of her mouth upward into a smile. She didn't like the way he was looking at her. She touched the fork prongs to her fingertips again, beneath the table.

"And I'd like to ask you to participate in this year's White Ball."

She was shocked. Her shows had been getting more attention lately, but that was the biggest event of the year. Those artists were famous.

"I'd... I'd love to..."

"Wonderful." The Platypus, raising his glass. "To a new friendship then."

She lifted her glass, a bad taste in the back of her throat.

Ollister sat with his arms crossed. He refused to touch the food. He found food disgusting. Seeing others eat sickened him. Allowing others to see him eat made him feel like a jackal, edging out the rest of a hungry pack. Eating alone made him feel like a craven miser. So he didn't eat.

Isadora drummed her fingers on the thick slab of wood and waited for him to respond to her proposal.

"So, my friends often do me favors." The Platypus. Tapping his fork on a cleaned plate. "That's how this little world goes round, I'm sure you're old enough to be aware of that?"

Adelaide raised an eyebrow. So he wanted something.

"Your friend Ollister. I'm curious about him."

She waited for something more. His mouth was fixed in a false grin.

"You know him?"

"We've grown apart."

"Yeah, I don't really see him much anymore myself." She shrugged her shoulders in apology.

"But you could."

"Yeah, I guess... I mean, he's not hard to find. Why don't you go spy on him or something?"

"That I can do." The Platypus flipped his wrist to the right, and the mirror mounted on the opposite wall changed into another dining scene. Adelaide stared, confused.

She could see that it was some sort of duplicate room, with Ollister and Isadora staring at each other. It looked as though they'd just been in a fight. Suddenly Ollister turned and looked her right in the eye. She jumped.

"Don't worry. They can't see us. It's a one-way mirror." Adelaide felt sad, seeing him there like that. Handsome and stubborn. It looked like he wasn't eating. "So, my dear, I can look all I want. But what I need is to be inside his brain. And that's a place I have a feeling you can get. Am I right?"

She shrugged.

"Where are the gray papers, Adelaide?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"No? Is this something you recognize?" A small, weather-worn stack of gray paper was suddenly in The Platypus's right hand.

"How did you..." Adelaide.

"Seems like you do have some idea of what I'm talking about. These are blank." He thumbed the white pages. "You don't have a stack filled with Ollister's hand, do you my dear?"

She did. Her face flushed. Adelaide could barely hear what The Platypus was saying. Ollister kept looking at her, through the mirror. She felt watched, and guilty. In spite of the fact that he couldn't see her. She knew he was only checking his face in the mirror. His arrogance had never abated. She stared back, hardly breathing.

"Ollister has them. Ollister has the gray papers." She finally turned back to The Platypus. She saw no other choice than to lie. He frowned.

As the mirrored glass turned to smoke, Ollister had just caught a glimpse of the gray papers in the Platypus's hand. At first he thought Adelaide had given him the gray papers. Which made him angry. But then he realized that she never would have done that - The Platypus must've taken them. And that made him livid.

He stood up. "This is fucked." It was one thing to fuck with him. But whatever The Platypus was doing or saying to Adelaide in the next room, he could not tolerate. The glimpse of the papers had ignited him.

"Tell The Platypus he is fucked." Ollister. Fighting a loss of composure.

He thought of picking up a candlestick and hurling it through the mirror, but that seemed dramatic. He only ever seemed able to think of these things, never act them out. Instead, he just walked out, lips pressed tight against Isadora's gaze.

"Well, since you know where to find him, you'll take these blanks, and bring me back the real thing. I'll see you soon, my dear." The Platypus. Pushing his chair back from the table. Suddenly two men in white suits grabbed her upper arms forcefully. She hadn't even heard them behind her. One shoved the blank gray papers in her hand.

"Ouch." Adelaide. Quietly, as they pressed her out of the room.