Mano-Land : Whence First Class

Whereby the Origins of First Class lit-mag are Disclosed

The night's mission.

Indeed, the night had a mission.

Three stacks of various colored paper sat on the end table among ashes and cans.
Deep blood red, garish green, and a shocking yellow had passed through the toner dust and fuser, while smashed bristly faced squashed against the copier glass. Once the variety of abstracted facial splotches were done printing, J noticed that the greasy impression left behind on the once-clear surface by the two faces resembled ass cheeks, or, he added, a prickly zitty bosom.

This was art!

Art for the masses. Obscure abstract organic blotches on unforgettable color. The staple guns were being loaded, and their targets were the empty, dead notice boards located throughout the small village center. A radical art installment without a pip of crime. How daring.

The active mind trapped in a body in stasis births these sorts of ideas. J & C were fairly physically lazy, prone to long bouts of couch cruising conversation, bolstered by copious clouds of nicotine and towering cans of cheap beer. J’s second-floor flat that C intruded upon regularly had no television, but cushy old couches, a back porch and a kitchen sink. J also had that rarest of commodities among those outside the suburban family den in late 1995 - a computer and a printer.

“I still want to publish a lit-mag, man,” said C, as they pulled on their dark sweatshirts in preparation for their late-fall blitz of the town center, a mid-long mile jaunt that pierced a residential area before dipping down a hill toward a rail line, taverns and other commerce near the center.

“Yeah, well we’ve got no writers,” countered J, as he finished loading up the staple guns, as if preparing for an imminent surprise assault on enemy territory. “What’re you gonna do, just make them all up?”

“Well, WE write, don’t we?”

“So let’s make a lit-mag with just our stuff in there, eh? Sounds like self-serving bullshit to me,” tossed J as he made his way to the door. “Grab those flyers, let’s pop those fucking ugly mugs up all over the place so our neighbors have something to look at in the morning!”

It was the black-iron cold of 2am Milwaukee in October as their boots pounded the uneven sidewalks in a brisk staccato; shivers coursing from top-of-the-head to pounding heels.

“Let’s make ‘em up,” prodded C, flicking a dead butt onto the hood of a late-model BMW that had one tire up on the curb. The passenger door was ajar, and a weak, dying dome-light cast a yellow hued cloud of vaporous light that competed with the glare of the streetlight above.

“Hey! Chuck one of those flyers on the front seat!”

C complied, with a grunted out “Surprise fucker!”

Adding a little touch of mystery to life was why they were out there in the first place. In their fantastic mental world, the entire town would awaken to a burst of color, countered with the grim, gross, abstracted impressions of mashed human faces. The four circular notice boards scattered in a two-block commercial pedestrian zone had been empty for weeks, months, more. There were the odd missing dog notices, or tear-tags for babysitting services or lawn-mowing-lads, but otherwise they stood bare, weatherworn, and pocked with rusting staple remnants. Ugly.

“What if we not only wrote the poems and short stories, but created the authors that wrote them as well?” offered C, as they neared their first target.

“Ah, yeah! I’ve got a name! How about Dick Buttkan? That’s some funny shit,” tossed J.

“No, dude, I’m serious. Wait, fuck… that’s perfect. Where’s he from? We gotta do bios too.”

J sauntered up to the first message board, grabbed a flyer, and hammered out four whacks from the staple gun. “He’s fucking dead. Our first issue will be a memorial issue.”

“Jesus, that’s pretty dark, but I like it,” said C, as he got to work creating a kaleidoscopic layout of the flyers, holding them in place while J pounded the staples on each corner of the pages.

They had grossly underestimated how many sheets they would need to coat all four kiosks in color, only managing to beautify two of them fully, with a few stray flyers tagged on to the last two. As they labored, the flow of fake author names, as well as the writing styles that they would embody simply flowed, so many so that most merely slithered from their lips and slid along the pavement to the welcoming curbed sewer, like so much useless shit.

It was the pitchest of black out beyond the dim floodlights surrounding the area as they slouched on a bench, sucking smoke and admiring their work. Dark sky, dark streets, darkness abounds outside of the beams tossed out by commercial interests, aimed at their storefronts and signage.
“What do you want to call it? The Dipshit Times?” asked J, twirling the staplegun around his finger like a sci-fi blaster ray gun.

“Yeah. That works. But it sounds like a newspaper,” said C. “Or are you making a comment on the current state of world affairs, and our society at large? We’re certainly surrounded by dipshits.”
“Nah, that was just shit thinking,” said J, then ordering “you come up with some clever crap, I don’t care.”

“Yeah, well, after this masterpiece here,” said C, thrusting his arm with extended upturned palm toward the towers of colorful mayhem, “I’m all creative energied out.”

“Let’s go down by the tracks for a minute, the grocery opens in twenty minutes and I need dinner or breakfast or whatever the hell meal it is,” said J as he lunged up out of his slouch.

So they began the trek down the road toward the tracks. They turned left. As they neared the obscene fluorescence of the lit-up gas station mid-block, they both noticed the cut-out star next to the gas prices on the towering signage out front.

“First Class? Gas?” scoffed J. “Only thing First Class is Ass! Hah!”

“Well, you could pass First Class gas, right?” offered C.

And the stupidity ensued with every ass-rhyming word on earth, twisted and perverted by two fatigued and addled minds. And then it stopped.

“I want that sign,” said C, pointing up to the blue foamboard cut-out sign.

“What the fuck for?”

“That’s the logo for the front cover of the first issue of First Class lit-mag,” pronounced C. “Climb that pole and get it for us, I can’t climb for shit.”

And so it was.