With a wrist, and a twist, Jones set his pint down upon the table. Clearly, twas time to chime.
“We pick up Stone…” he began.
“…henge…” Montrellis intoned.
“…pick up Styx,” Crumpet followed, “but no one…”
“…picks up…” said the Live Butcher.
“…Six…” said Bagwhat.
“…Flix!” said I.
Bagwhat smiled. “And in the dust, where, by and by…”
“Zounds!” cried Montrellis.
“…the regulators rot…”
“Forsooth!” cried Jones.
“…and shadow merchants trade tales of conspicuous wanderings.”
“How tall?” I asked.
“Ohhhh!!!” gasped all..
Instinctively, all surged forward upon the table and carefully slammed fists down so as not to dislodge any digits.
“And freshly squeezed pus,” (C/t)rumpet(ed). Corresponding notation thusly ay flat, gee, gee flat, eff.
“Six cigarettes tweenst us and mortality,” I observed.
“Mournful,” said Bagwhat.
“And who wilt be Arthur?” wondered Montrellis.
Indeed, who would be.
Bagwhat smiled back, then fondly glanced from horror to horror. “Mates, mates, mates,” said he.
“Return The Term,” Jones suggested.
“I heard a word today,” interjected Crumpet. “It was…”
“Liar,” interrupted the Live Butcher, “there are no words left.”
“This is a right word.”
“The word is twee.”
“Twee?” Montrellis begged.
“I see. And what is twee?” Montrellis re-begged.
“We, are twee.”
Twee gaped around the table, and slowly there was dawn.
“Six Flix,” realized Bagwhat.
Jones shuddered violently and lurched for the table center with stubby and stump. “Time, mates,” croaked he, “for my cigarette.”
“My nose is a hypocrite,” began Crumpet.
“Hound,” scoffed Montrellis.
“It adheres to greatness…”
“I think,” argued Bagwhat, “you should admire me for my virtuosity.”
“…but it seeps excrement…”
“Leprosy is next to godliness,” conceded the Live Butcher.
“…and sneezes to save face.”
“Down in the alley,” I sang, “the alley so low…”
And those left we did join all in: “…I met radiation, and started to glow…”
“Consider the humble beer,” said I, raising the pint. “This noble landowner, this parsley sage…”
“Cockroach king, microbe outlaster,” said Bagwhat.
“Every bit the hop,” Montrellis agreed.
“…wherefore by, to wit of grace and glory, the red pleasure is yon and more.”
“Cheers and greatness!” Bagwhat crowed. “Words right never more were!”
“Wonderful beer!” they all exulted. “Succulent beer! Tasty, tasty, right and quite!”
“Beer is where the home was,” I saluted.
“SIX FLIX!” we chorused.
Whereupon Montrellis shivered horribly, and in perturbation, ☹ed. “Arthur, I be not,” he apologized, as he grappled for his cigarette. “Amongst you with thy light wilt honour me whom?”
“Remaining,” sighed Bagwhat, ear to the Almighty Echo.
“Four and none,” said I.
“Rejoice we in the land of opportunity!” Crumpet erupted.
And there was great laughter.
“Oh mighty par-boiled skin!” cried I.
“Oh pretty rotting fingers!” chimed Bagwhat.
“And teeth,” exclaimed the Live Butcher. “What say you of teeth?”
“They used to grind, when once of jowl…” sang Bagwhat.
“Now left behind…” said I.
“… they formate…” said Crumpet.
“Formate! Ah!” rejoined the Live Butcher.
“…a growl,” concluded Bagwhat.
“And peevishly they squandered the bread hard-earned,” Crumpet lamented.
“No dereliction to the Echoes now,” minded Bagwhat. “We rejoice, and honour Time for granting us this salutatory pint.”
“There is truth,” said I.
“Was ever there not?” shuddered Crumpet. “My cigarette, mates, and a cheery morn.”
“A period? A semi-colon? An exclamation point?” asked Bagwhat.
“A comma,” Crumpet replied nobly, inflaming and inhaling.
I smiled. “And Six Flix.”
“Start off,” I said. “Gross Things We Have Done.”
Much chortling and exuberance.
“I have yellowed my bath water,” offered Bagwhat.
“I have blown my nose on my bed sheets,” said the Live Butcher, “and have left it to dry.”
“And I was to have said that I have picked mine nose and tasted it too.”
“Then thine humble topper, You Who May Be Arthur: I have made brave galleons from log-like excrement in my toilet, and sailed them hither.”
I was turned to by Bagwhat. “What say your worse?” he challenged.. “Starter…”
“Yes,” grinned the Live Butcher.
“… and finisher,” dared Bagwhat.
“To qualify,” clarified the Live Butcher.
Graciously, I smiled and answered, “Mine toejam after a hard week’s unwashed sweat have I rubbed free with mine fingers and licked clean with great delight.”
Laughter as only could predominate the mighty oath.
Cried Bagwhat: “Rancid socks for nose warmers!”
Cried the Live Butcher: “Soiled knickers for rain gear!”
“Heavy water for skin cream…”
“…and blessed be mine sucked-loose, pen-tip earwax removal.”
“But naught to top our penultimate decency, our rigor mortis, nor our pre-fatal holy pus!” cried I, hoisting a glass.
“Sung to the Six!” crowed Bagwhat and the Live Butcher, ringing their pints.
Proud I was.
Soberly now, from a colony of four standing walls, roofless.
“Shall we go outside?” suggested the Live Butcher.
“What is outside, as opposed to inside?” countered Bagwhat. “As opposed to all sides?”
“Dimension is dereliction,” I said.
“Standards,” remembered the Live Butcher.
“Ethics,” recalled Bagwhat.
“Systems,” echoed the Live Butcher.
“Civilization,” I said.
“Now there is a word,” Bagwhat averred.
“But not a right word,” I said.
“Cast aside all credence for the resurrection,” said the Live Butcher, with acrimony. “We hear…”
“Too… and we see. We, by our grace and godliness…”
“And by rot and phlegm,” added Bagwhat.
“So?” I asked.
“So rejoice!” the Live Butcher declared. “We the Keepers, we the Kept! We the Remainder, we the Remains!”
“A right word is mortal,” Bagwhat comprehended, enthusiasm renewed.
“Thus by our conscription our race bears identity,” the Live Butcher continued.
“And shines on, into the dying of that night,” Bagwhat concurred.
“Outshining the already shine,” the Live Butcher resolved.
“Now then, mates now, then: smile gamely and point” ➔ “further down the slope.”
“Conjecture: will it be green?” asked Bagwhat.
“And in the dust,” shivered the Live Butcher, “it must be,” quivered the Live Butcher. “A cigarette, mates, and thereby to the eternal smoking soul.”
“To wit?” I asked.
“Six Flix,” agreed Bagwhat and I.
“And who was Lancelot?” mused Bagwhat. “And who was Galahad?”
“Warriors of loincloth,” said I. “Knights of the Foul Visage.”
“Now and ever unwashed.”
“Though now and ever holy.”
There was silence.
“The beer is good,” Bagwhat said, smacking the memory of his lips.
“What matter?” I said. “Tis beer. Seconds tick, and remonstrance sits better than Mordred.”
“I know, I know. Still…”
The echoes of an afterlife pre.
“What was Joy?” Bagwhat said.
“Was was was. Is and was. Iswas.”
“A white morning, a true day…”
“Winning the big game.”
Crazily, I laughed. “Was it ever that?”
“That and everything. It comes.”
“As the hands close together, everything is that ever was.”
“And now, that ever will be.”
“Now, is the final beer. You are nervous?”
Bagwhat nodded. “I shouldn’t be, but I’m only less-than-human after all.” He let himself shiver. “‘twill be me. Thou art Arthur.”
Mouldy fingers and sliding skin formed one palm.
“Will we meet again?”
“We all will. Wait for me there. I won’t be long.”
I raised two stubby digits and a vestige of a thumb, and made a flame. “Light?”
I leaned on the doorway and gazed out over the mid-day sunset. It struck him funny that should a visitor come now, the visitor would assume this was all natural: red sky, black grass, noon sunset. But for I’s cigarette, I would be there to amend the visitor’s judgement. I could be his guide, as no guide ever was. Yet forsake it not. I knew there was no longer any norm. There was only is.
I returned to the table, upon which stood his pint and lay his cigarette.
“So, Cassius, what say you?”
“Father of mine and theirn, whose passing provoked great final moments of wisdom and enlightenment.”
“Were it not for our circumstance, I would marvel at your disposition.” And, looking up through the hole in the ceiling, I murmured, “And were it not for circumstance, I would be not so reserved in my melancholy.”
I glanced out the door, where the sky was utter crimson. “A great world that never was itself returning to the shadows of its childhood.
I had felt a shiver.
His empty pint. His faithful chair. His last cigarette. And his mates gathered around him.
“We pick up Stonehenge,” said I, “pick up Styx, but no one picks up Six Flix.”
“Six Flix” was originally published in Imaginarium.
Mario Lowther short genre and literary fiction has also appeared in Necrotic Tissue, The Lorelei Signal, Mystic Signals, Remarkable Doorways, Scarlet Leaf Review, Corner Bar Magazine, Abstract Jam, Polar Borealis, Books ‘n Pieces, and Defuncted, and has been long-listed for a Glimmer Train New Writers Award. A four-story chapbook is forthcoming from Stupefying Stories.