Pablo D’Stair’s VHS

Pablo D’Stair is one of the hardest working men in the literary world today. Besides being a prolific author, he is also the man behind the now defunct Brown Paper Publishing. I’ll always have a soft spot for Pablo if for nothing else, because he originally published one of the best micro-fiction collections I’ve ever read, Cienfuegos, by Chris Deal. But Pablo always has SOMETHING going on. Right now, it’s VHS.

SYNOPSIS:

VHS is a literary novel, primarily concerned with a clerk named Desmond Argyle, who works in a medium-sized, chain video rental store.  The novel takes places during the last three weeks his store will still be receiving VHS shipments of movies as its primary rental and retail product before, all at once, restocking with DVDs.

While linear in nature, it will quickly be revealed that the writing is as impressionistic as it is concrete–therefore, I want to point out that VHS is set in the tangible world, that the action is localized to the banal life of this clerk at work and at home etc. However, while set in the specific period of general transition from VHS to DVD, the novel is not meant to evoke with a specific accuracy any exact year or the general events of the world during the period of time when the aforementioned transition would have literally been taking place.”

The following is an excerpt from VHS, a literary novel by Pablo D’Stair being released in various e-formats, absolutely free-of-charge (and in limited edition print-editions-by-part through giveaways). Information on the project, including links to what is currently available, can be found at www.vhsbook.wordpress.com.

“nothing about the police”

Two customers were browsing the spined movies, just there, two bays down, not looking for anything, nothing, standing there, idly turning down this box or that, chatting.  One of them was explaining they’d made a big mistake in doing a policeman a favor, other one wondering what did they mean?  First one explained that a policeman had approached him and asked him to let himself be arrested with regard to a death that was being treated as suspicious—according to this customer, the policeman had emphasized many times it was just a “suspicious death” and not an out-and-out “homicide”—the policeman promising to let him go when it became clear that he wasn’t the one responsible.

“So I asked the policeman why he’d tell people he’d thought I was responsible to begin with and the policeman told me he’d claim it had been an anonymous tip.  But I’d said how that didn’t really make sense, what had the tip been?”

The second customer nodded his head and took a breath like he had been just about to say the same thing.

“So the policeman said the tip had been about someone fitting my description, that all I really had to do was at first say that I’d been on some street—Clive Street or something, Chive Street—on Thursday, then act like I remembered ‘No no it had been Wednesday’.”

“Why not just remember you hadn’t been on Chive Street, at all?”

“Because then it wouldn’t have made sense him bringing me in—the way we played it was I pretended I’d said ‘Yes’ when he’d first approached and asked me had I been on Chive Street on Thursday, hence he’d brought me down for questioning.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, so then I’d just say that I suddenly remembered where I’d been on Thursday—which I could bring in alibi witnesses about, you know?—and then I’d be cut loose.”

They both went quiet, like that was the end of the story, but it couldn’t have been, it didn’t finish the initial thought—the guy’s whole point had been saying he’d made a mistake in going along with this, but so far no mistake at all had come to light in the dialogue.

They wandered over to the Comedy section, then into the Family section, reminiscing about various cartoons they’d grown up on—Watership Down, probably, Wind in the Willows, which I’d never seen—and generally continuing their conversation where I was helpless to hear it.

Sprayed some more cleaner on the shelves, looked at a box for Tromeo and Juliet and remembered about the Toxic Avenger cartoon, tried to remember the jingle for the toys.

“Toxic Avenger, Toxic Avenger, he’s gross but he still gets girls.”

It just came to me and I felt great about it.

But had that jingle been in the movies, or just the cartoons, or just the advertisements for the toys?

Didn’t really care, and soon an odd flood of memories about the show washed over me and then I remembered the cartoon Exo-Squad and then the more grown up show Space: Above and Beyond, but couldn’t remember had I thought it was any good.

When the customers left, I went up to a kid named Dover Reeves who was now on shift, asked him had he overheard what they’d been talking about.

“One of them had never seen Labyrinth.”

He was emptying the trash bags, replacing them, not really looking to notice from my face that I kind of expected more of an answer than that.

“What else?”

Dover shrugged, started putting some returns in the rewinder.

“Hey, did you check those in, yet?”

He shook his head, immediately scanned the barcodes, so I spared him the lecture about how it could lead to trouble not scanning everything in before rewinding.

“But they didn’t say anything about the police?” I asked, then right away asked him if he wanted a candy bar, because I was getting a candy bar and it was almost just as cheap to buy two.  He didn’t want a candy bar, but if I was dead set on getting him something, he pointed to the Big League Chew and said he’d always wanted to try some of that.

“You’ve never had it?”

“Nope.”

I nodded, threw it on the counter.

“Where’s your candy bar?”

Shook my head, getting some money out, but he gave the Big League Chew a few taps back in my direction, said if I  wasn’t getting anything not to worry, or if it was too expensive to get both.

“It’s not too expensive, Reeves, now let me buy it and what did those guy’s say about the police?”

“They didn’t say anything about the police.  Just one of them didn’t like Labyrinth.”

I clamped down on this discrepancy, told him hadn’t he not even two seconds earlier said that one of them said that they’d only never “seen” Labyrinth, but he was quick enough to turn this around on me, explaining that, yes, one of them had never “seen” Labyrinth, but the other one—who he noted was “the one who had seen it”—just hadn’t “liked” it.

“And they didn’t say anything else?”

“The one who hadn’t seen it said he didn’t want to see it, then.”

I nodded, waiting for more.

“And then the one who hadn’t liked it said it had traumatized him because one can so clearly see David Bowies joint boinging around in the tights he wears.”

True, you can see that, but nothing so disturbing about it.

“But nothing about the police?”

He opened his gum, took a pinch, chewed.

“No.”

I gave it up, waited for Dover to move away so I could pull up the account, but he didn’t.  He stood there chewing, noncommittally, putting more and more into his mouth at a time—no way it could be pleasant, that much in his mouth, and soon I just couldn’t look anymore.

Decided to buy myself a candy bar after all and Dover said something while he chewed, slobber sounds, suction sounds, but when I asked him later what it’d been he said “When?” then right away waved me off, shook his head, said it really hadn’t been anything.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS EXCERPT HERE ARE OTHER BITS, SCATTERED OVER THE INTERNET: (in no particular order, none needed)

“Charlies Rose one night” over at Outsider Writers Collective

“insects, rejection” over at Nik Korpon’s blog

“before, therapist, after” over at Gregory Frye’s blog

“all I did on my break” over at Mel Bosworth’s blog

“counting” over at Chris Deal’s blog

“ratios” over at Quiet Fury Books

“sculpture” over at Mlaz Corbier’s blog

“drain” over at Caleb J. Ross’s blog

Complete List of Online Stories

This is a Table of Contents for all of my current, LIVE fiction that is available online for FREE. Below are each of the stories, a brief synopsis, and a link to the site that hosts them. They are in reverse chronological order.

What do all of these stories have in common? I tend to write about the darker aspects of life, and am fascinated by what happens when things fall apart, how we handle life when it throws us a curve ball, the dysfunction in everyday life, how we rebel against the rules of society, and what goes on in the middle of the night.

Last Updated: June 19, 2017

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

“How Not to Come Undone”
THE WRITING DISORDER
SYNOPSIS: A pair of twins balance each other out, but that’s not always a good thing. In this dark magical realism we see how far family will go to save each other.
HOW NOT TO COME UNDONE

“The Offering on the Hill”
GAMUT
SYNOPSIS: When a man scours a dead land for his daughter, he’ll do anything to get her back. Inspired by The Dark Tower series, originally published in Chiral Mad 3, a Bram Stoker nominee. Long-listed for Best Horror of the Year. (Subscription required to read.)
PART ONE / PART TWO

“Vision Quest”
NORWEGIAN AMERICAN
SYNOPSIS: When a violent car accident takes his family, one man starts having visions.
VISION QUEST

“Repent”
GAMUT
SYNOPSIS: What would you do to save your son? Can a truly evil soul become anything else? Originally published in Gutted: Beautiful Horror stories, a Bram Stoker nominee. Long-listed for Best Horror of the Year. (Subscription required to read.)
PART ONE / PART TWO

“Rapture”
SOLARCIDE
SYNOPSIS: It’s not easy being a goddess these days. But there’s hope for Dia still.
RAPTURE

“From Within”
CEASE, COWS
SYNOPSIS: In a slave state, how do you protect your son? What if he doesn’t need protecting? Long-listed for Best Horror of the Year.
FROM WITHIN

“Little Red Wagon”
THE WRITING DISORDER
SYNOPSIS: What would you do to keep the human race alive? And what does being human really mean?
LITTLE RED WAGON

“Moving Heavy Objects”
STORYSOUTH
SYNOPSIS: A son tries to forgive his father for being so distant.
MOVING HEAVY OBJECTS

“Asking for Forgiveness”
MENACING HEDGE
SYNOPSIS: When the land yields nothing but abomination, how does family change, how do we survive? Long-listed for Best Horror of the Year.
ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS

“Gandaberunda”
SHOTGUN HONEY
SYNOPSIS: What happens when evil finds a young boy, an ancient creature, the signs all ignored?
GANDABERUNDA

“Sugar and Spice”
WEEKENDER
SYNOPSIS: A father comes to terms with the fact that his innocent daughter is growing up, and isn’t quite so innocent any more.
SUGAR AND SPICE

“Tinkering With the Moon”
GOREYESQUE
SYNOPSIS: When a little boy misses his father, he’d do anything to reunite with him.
TINKERING WITH THE MOON

“Bury Me Deep”
THE BIG ADIOS
SYNOPSIS: Out in the wild west, there lurk shadows and dark deeds, all done under the blazing sun for God and all to witness.
BURY ME DEEP

“Love Letters”
CEASE, COWS
SYNOPSIS: The things we do for love are often very destructive.
LOVE LETTERS

“Flowers for Jessica”
MAYDAY MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: How far would you go to bring your loved one back from the dead?
FLOWERS FOR JESSICA

“The Fix-It Man”
BLACK HEART MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: When a man falls apart, disconnects from his wife and son, what gesture can he make as he disintegrates?
THE FIX-IT MAN

“Something’s Broken”
FLYWHEEL MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: You fix it if you can, whatever’s broken. Because once somebody else picks the pieces up, once somebody else fixes it—it’s no longer yours.
SOMETHING’S BROKEN

“Vision Quest”
SURREAL GROTESQUE
SYNOPSIS: When a violent car accident takes his family, one man starts having visions.
VISION QUEST (ISSUU direct)

“Charlotte Sometimes”
ZOUCH
SYNOPSIS: Charlotte needs to escape sometimes.
CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES
[Sixth place winner of the Zouch Lit Bits Fiction contest]

“Jimmy Five Ways”
PUNCHNEL’S
SYNOPSIS: A wife, a son, a mistress, a partner and a man named Jimmy—five ways.
JIMMY FIVE WAYS
[One of the five winners of the Punchnel’s Hard-Boiled Down Noir Fiction contest]

“The Handyman”
CONJECTURAL FIGMENTS
SYNOPSIS: What makes us human and what makes us inhuman?
THE HANDYMAN (ISSUU direct)

“Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave”
METAZEN (Defunct)
SYNOPSIS: When something tragic happens, do you stay or do you leave? Sometimes you stay for a long time, only to realize that leaving would be less cruel. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
TWENTY REASONS TO LEAVE AND ONE TO STAY

“Love Letters”
CANNOLI PIE
EXCERPT: “It started with the paper, tearing it apart into little pieces, pressing it into tiny balls and popping the crumpled words into her mouth.”
LOVE LETTERS (ISUU direct)

“Daybreak”
STEPAWAY MAGAZINE
SYNOPSIS: Sometimes you walk away from it all. Or maybe you’re walking towards something. Either way, be complete in your transformation.
DAYBREAK

“After She Has Gone”
SHOTGUN HONEY
SYNOPSIS: When she takes it all, and you’re left with nothing but despair, what do you do? Suicide is an option—and as you wander the woods in search of a tomb, the darkness speaks to you the truth.
AFTER SHE HAS GONE

“Splintered”
PANK
SYNOPSIS: In real life, there are paths to take, sometimes you have a choice, some times you do not. In this adult “choose-your-own” ending adventure it’s up to you whether or not to be parnoid or to trust, to be innocent, or just a fool.
SPLINTERED

“Three Mistakes”
WORD RIOT
SYNOPSIS: Sometimes that’s all it takes, three mistakes to fall from grace, to lose it all, and maybe realize too late, that you had a pretty good life.
THREE MISTAKES

“Maker of Flight”
CHIZINE
WINNER of the 2009 “Enter the World of Filaria” contest
SYNOPSIS: In this contest, we were given the challenge of adding to the vivid and futuristic world that Brent Hayward created. In 1000 words, you were to find a way to insert a short piece of fiction that could stand alone, and also add to the world of Filaria. In Brent’s words:“That was a really nice piece you wrote, and in my head now it’s somehow forever tangled up in Filaria.”
MAKER OF FLIGHT (no longer online)

(A number of other stores are no longer available as the websites and publications have since gone under. I have removed them from this list as they have disappeared. Gone are: Opium Magazine, Colored Chalk, Cause & Effect, Nefarious Muse, ChiZine’s Chiaroscuro, Cherry Bleeds, Troubadour 21, Carbon-Based Lifeform Blues, Leodegraunce, Metazen, Emprise Review, Conjectural Figments, Beat the Dust, Thickjam, Circa, The Dying Goose, Parable Press, Revolt Daily, Penumbra, etc. RIP. )