new zine (2024/01/05)

FUCK #52

FUCK #52


MAUDE MOLD #52 (2023/10/23)


Present day. Present time.

Maude’s death at the hands of Piro had been another distraction in a long line of setbacks preventing her from achieving enlightenment. She realized her attachment to her son, such as it was, had resulted in her getting shot. But it was puzzling. TAB3 had still been taken away from her, and she had still been shot. He’d probably have been shot, too. The transaction seemed lopsided, invalid by Milton Friedman’s standards.

She wasn’t sure where she was. They’d taken her out of the shipping container, sure. But what was this? Antiseptic smell. Everything was cold. Airless. She seemed to be still sealed on the card. Mint in package. Was Plinth trying to sell her?

The gods were about. Greater Mercury. Fucking Odin. Neither of them showing much interest. Frozen inside her plastic bubble there wasn’t much she could do about it. Did they know what they were doing?

Some of the other gods were haggling with Plinth, who was seated at his desk, posture neutral, pushing plastic but not overselling it. He seemed perfectly relaxed, ignoring her as he worked. The deal was afoot.

Maude surmised that she must be in Plinth’s office in the New Chrysler Building.

TAB2 was screaming, what else was new. Also ignored by the gods, but not letting it deter him from whatever he imagined to be his mission. You had to admire his line of bullshit. Whatever else was true about him, he tried to make you believe it in total. Next, Piro strolled in, his black gloves coated with something else black, distinguishable only by the comparative absence of reflective sheen. Ashen. His face and uniform were likewise painted with the same toxic seeming soot. Caked.

"Black mold," he said, by way of explaining his appearance.

"This! Him!" TAB2 shouted, volume increasing proportionate to how much he felt like he was being ignored. It didn’t make any difference at all.

For some reason, at just that moment, it began pouring down rain inside Plinth’s office.



MAUDE MOLD #51 (2023/10/18)


Long ago.

Spiro found himself deposited at Granny’s. Not much different than most days, except that today his father was actually at home, next door, sleeping off an unplanned production surge. Dad was at home, but Spiro was here. The injustice burned him, it was palpable, and it would not fall by the wayside, ignored in favor of slashing budgets, shipping units, or domestic tranquility. Dad was going to wake up.

Everyone was supposed to call her Granny, but Spiro never did. The woman was actually his aunt, his mother’s sister, Antigone, and she was hardly old enough to be anybody’s mother, let alone their grandmother, a revered figure in their family hierarchy. Her stature in the scheme of things was distinctly unearned. The other kids at the daycare she operated weren’t blood relatives, and probably wouldn’t have noticed the discrepancy even if they had been. Spiro accepted that this level of inattention was, historically, the norm. Without automatic identification friend or foe it was no wonder there was so much incest in the world.

"Come to Granny," Antigone said, after spying Spiro frozen in the doorway, hesitant to give in. She reached out to him, awkwardly, her shawl an extension of her frail, spindly arms. In Spiro’s mind, a dead tree shrouded in a yarn tarp.

He could see down her shirt.

Belatedly, he entered.


Spiro lay on the living room floor behind Eugene’s chair, face pressed tightly against the register. Central heat whistled manically as it ablated his youthful cheeks.

It was hot, down there.

Eugene was home from work, no explanation asked or given. But that meant he controlled the telescreen, the lunch menu, and all other variables of the domestic battlespace. He’d already thrown out Spiro’s comic books, even the ones he’d stolen from under Eugene’s son’s bed. Scotty was going to be pissed when he got home from school. How might he act out? The joke’s on you, Gene.

Something about black mold on the telescreen. Everyone on Mars had to deal with it, sooner or later. Some people got sick. Eugene had lost his hair at the age of thirty, forever impacting his performance of self. Maybe the fallout was moving again, and that’s why everyone was home from work.

At lunch Spiro made an ill-advised crack about [something] and Antigone had hauled off and slapped him across the face with the fly swatter she carried around holstered in her belt. He’d seen it used in anger before, but never expected to take a shot from it himself. He knew his mother would land on Antigone’s side of any perceived conflict, so he didn’t say anything when he got home.

Even so, he let himself out the front door while everyone was washing up. Careful not to slam the screen or rattle the weathered floor boards on the front porch.

Wandered next door to his own house, his nighttime home, where his dad was still asleep.

Threw rocks at the window until Dad woke up.


MAUDE MOLD #50 (2023/10/06)


All through the raid TAB2 was confused, static. He just stood there while the other men ran through their program, knocking over furniture and breaking mirrors, laughing all the while. One woman found at the scene, bearing a familiar codename: Maude Mold, attempted passive resistance, stretching her body across a stairway that apparently led up to the childrens’ bedrooms. Piro dispatched her with his sidearm, punctuating the exchange with an obscure remark about the two-edged nature of freedom. TAB2 could only watch as the woman tumbled down the stairs, and then he continued watching her as she lay there, crumpled on the floor, not really bothering anybody. He observed himself ruefully as his own calculated inaction calcified into the sort of dead-limbed cliché that had totally turned him off during his chance encounters with trash fiction. Already, he had problems with the script.

By the time they brought down TAB3, his father, TAB2, was fully beside himself, monitoring the scene at an increasingly helpless remove. He might as well have been on the other side of a telescreen, which, thanks to his visor, he was. Pointedly, he made eye contact with TAB3, but the boy chose not to acknowledge him. Piro cracked TAB3 over the head with his rifle, and TAB2 just kept on standing there, not breaking character, not doing jack shit about the in-progress rendition of his visibly pregnant son. Had they really just shot Maude?

On the way out of the apartment the men set fire to the building, trading jokes about TAB2’s flickering antique headgear, agitating for liquor and snacks.

Piro signed off on their timesheets.


Spiro Mold, deceased. Ever since he died he’d been mad at his mom. She hadn’t been his killer, per se, but he figured if he’d never gotten born in the first place then he couldn’t have died, so whatever transpired during the interim was at least partly her fault. The logic was unassailable, to say nothing of the premise.

He realized TAB2 could see him.

His mother’s body was rapidly decomposing to black mold inside the shipping container. The six pallbearers pretended not to notice their load getting progressively lighter as their procession boarded the RAGNAROK via her aft cargo ramp. Make it look easy, but don’t make it look too easy. The aperture closed behind them, sealing the deal with a wink.

Black footprints throughout the apartment.

TAB2 was still standing there in the front room with Spiro, slowly inhaling the (for now) rare biohazard, with the realization slowly dawning on him that he no longer cared if it killed him. Spiro stared straight back at him, likewise surprised at the sudden collapse of TAB2’s usual jovial disposition.

TAB2’s visor crackled to life, a sound like your so-called best friend purposely ripping the cover off of your favorite comic book during a fist fight in your bedroom.

"Tom, get the fuck out here. The ship’s idling. It’s bad for the lawn."

Yes, Piro.

Spiro waved goodbye to his friend.


MAUDE MOLD #49 (2023/09/30)


They had all moved in together. What with the rapacious inflation, the ever-present threat of violent crime, the increasing political divide in the country, the thought of their children having to contextualize all this by themselves... All three women decided there would be greater strength in numbers, and so they pooled their resources, cohabitating a Greenwhich Village brownstone, sharing their dinners, their chores, and, of course, group-shouldering the ongoing disappointments wrought upon their kids by their good-for-nothing ex-husbands.

It ran for six seasons.

Maude, Kate, Allie, Emma, Jennie, Chip, and TAB3—the latter fresh from space, cranky and still very pregnant. "By my daddy’s beard!" Odin said, when he saw the ragged wagon train merrily snaking into the apartment. "Do your husbands know about this?" Odin had killed his own father, of course, whose origin was in any case obscure.

"You don’t live here, you know," Maude frowned, driving a boshi fist straight into his rib cage, separating sagging bone from so-called muscle with her thumb.

Odin threw up his hands, refusing to defend himself. Ironcially, for a Norse god, he was at long last weary of the constant fighting.

"At least the Romans respected me. Hel," he interrupted himself, "According to this recent alert in my visor, new CIA research can make me wealthy in seven minutes! I’m heading back to Germany, you ladies can piss up a rope."

Kate opened her mouth as if to say something, but after a sharp look from Allie she raised her eyebrows and decided to shut her mouth.

Maude frowned again.


At the onset of the seventh year, after the big blowup, the final dissolution of the commune, Kate, Allie, and their remaining brood all safely moved out, Piro finally led a raid on the brownstone. It was about time.

"No fee ’til victory!" he shouted, crashing through the front room window on the end of his favorite throwing rope. Shouting for the benefit of his men, rather than their target. Affirming their acquaintanceship with the rules of engagement. He wanted them all to get paid, even if they didn’t really deserve it.

Wait, where did everybody go?



MAUDE MOLD #48 (2023/09/20)


It was nothing for Maude to sit still for ten years. Even longer, if she were left unprovoked. She’d been doing this for most of her life without even trying. Vulnerable narcissists could be relied upon to plague her every move, even as she found herself so inclined, so she simply sat still and let them dance, running through their kinetic surplus until their batteries finally ran down. Decades passed. The only downside to all this stasis was the early onset of tech neck. Yes, she wore her visor all the while as she sat.

Anomie, she decided, was the price of eternal vigilance. As plain as the balls on her face.

Odin had stopped by.


"Rub this blue plant wherever it feels good."

Odin shifted in his belabored crouch, seeming rather unstable, but deftly manipulating the kukan and creating an opening for Maude to decide to comply. Somewhat groggily, she shrugged off her visor and accepted his withering blue stalk, laying it gently across her forehead.

It was smooth on her skin.

Odin had fallen in with a strange new sect who painted their entire bodies blue with the rubbings of a vibrant, scrawny plant, wandering the spaceways in their fruitless yearning for true equality with God. To his great amusement, they didn’t seem to realize who he was.

Odin was also amused by Maude’s desktop tan, and he swabbed his stalk back and forth across her face in wonder, admiring the contrast.

"You look like you’re still wearing the visor," he said, and laughed again.

If he was trying to embarrass her it wasn’t going to work.


MAUDE MOLD #47 (2023/08/26)


The BKA man ignored Maude’s obvious provocation. Not that he wasn’t interested, but he was at work, which meant that he was also under surveillance. And he needed to keep this job. Most Americans didn’t realize, or care, that the Bureau of Kami Affairs was staffed almost entirely by gig workers, whom the government still forced, somewhat sarcastically, to pay for their own health insurance, Internet, and rent. Grab your mat and let’s get started.

"Ma’am, the secret record."

"Call me bitch," Maude snapped. Hell of a pronoun. Her bra had found its way onto the floor alongside her shirt. She squeaked out a career limiting yell, kicked over a chair, and laid all the way back, spread-eagle on the kitchen table. By all appearances ready to rock.

The BKA man made a sudden, sad face inside his bear mask. He could see now in his visor that he’d just been retasked with an unrelated job clear across town, even though he wasn’t finished here, even though several of his coworkers were already positioned nearby the pending service address, actually much closer than he was, and were in fact at this moment standing idly by, waiting for an assignment.

And just like that, he was out of the apartment.


Maude’s basic programming statements were very simple and easy to understand. The friend of her friend was her enemy, and consent was implied.

It took her a few minutes to realize the BKA man had gone.

This didn’t happen every day.


MAUDE MOLD #46 (2023/08/09)


Spiro and TAB3 had not been her only children, of course. Far from it. Her misunderstood, misbegotten brood littered the Earth as well as known space, populating both halves of many irreconcilable differences. Keeping war in the family, but diversifying the investment. The more, she figured, the merrier. Change your name and spread the blame. At least one of her offspring was bound to benefit from this security—through obscurity—in numbers.

TAB3 had been unique in that Maude had done the impregnating. When they’d finally well and truly fucked, TAB2 (the father) had put forward some unusual requests. Sure, why not, Maude had thought. It wouldn’t be any stranger than some of that shit Odin had asked her to do. And he really had been asking for it. Nine months later TAB2’s baby had been born in a Manhattan apartment. Just don’t tell his wife how it all really went down.

Imagine Maude’s surprise when she discovered a detailed account of these misadventures written down on a scroll, well up the mountain, stuffed into a crack in the men’s room wall of Plinth’s shrine on Mars, several decades before any of it was due to actually happen. Of course she had pocketed the scroll.

TAB2 had still been a kid.

But in that economy? She didn’t let it distract her.


"Bureau of Kami Affairs, ma’am. We have reason to believe you may be in possession of certain documents pertaining to unauthorized religious activities at a government facility."

The man was already leaning halfway in the apartment door. He produced a replica pamphlet, quickly flipping through its brightly colored, computer generated pages by way of some kind of explanation, re: his inquiry. His badge looked real enough in the frankly inadequate resolution of her visor. Maude buzzed him in, illuminated his path to the kitchen.

"That elevator makes some strange sounds."

"Squash it," Maude said, tiring of the preamble. "Let’s get naked and make a deal."

She kicked closed the kitchen closet and unzipped her shirt.


MAUDE MOLD #45 (2023/08/05)


Leaving Plinth hadn’t been easy. When he finally found out, he simply had her name taken off all their accounts. She’d wave her hand at an official and nothing would happen, data gloves or not. Cute. And then there had been the small matter of getting off Mars.

Traffic at the test site was at an all-time high. Lots of gods and men in and out of the mancamp, all enjoying the benefits of different levels of access, eager to mint their own burgeoning legends, but wary of tarnishing their public-facing cover stories by publicly cavorting with the boss’ wife. On the other hand, most of them were quite lonely.

In her usual way she figured something out.


Back on Earth there had still been a lot of Plinth-y business to attend to. She was able to wring some residual clout out of their very public—well, in some circles—relationship, but word traveled fast in those same circles. Before long she’d found herself all but unemployable.

Nothing left but to join the church.

She hefted one of the outsized telephone directories from her kitchen closet and plopped it down on the Formica® table with a thud. Let her fingers do the walking. It had been a lifetime since she’d turned to the Scriptures for guidance. Now, she couldn’t even remember her own telephone number.

She read out:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that information wants to be free, and that a computer can never be held accountable, therefore a computer must never make a management decision.

It all made sense to her. There was something comforting in this affirmation of humanity’s priority atop the hierarchy of life forms kicking around the cosmos. Plinth, after all, was hardly human, so she couldn’t have been wasting her time.

But enough with the staid contemplation. A soul could only stare for so long into its own bio before some form of consciousness was likely to emerge. She returned the book to its home in the kitchen closet. Realistically, probably for good.

It was going to be a long epilogue.


MAUDE MOLD #44 (2023/08/02)


Exclusion had been the last straw for Maude. Contrary to legend, climbing up the mountain had not polluted the site, nor had it turned her into stone. Maybe her calves had gotten a little stiff, but still, she’d been able to keep walking, drawing herself up from base to peak, a familiar maneuver given the bent of her particular expertise. Discovered other women up there, too. Officiating.

Someone had been lying to her, and for a very long time.

So, this is where the men went when they were supposed to be working. All of the many design setbacks, launch delays, testing failures, budget overruns, all of it, all along, had been a made up ruse on account of their preoccupation with... whatever this was supposed to be. Admittedly, she could see the appeal. It was no wonder most projects never arrived at a state of completion. No wonder the contractors’ club in the mancamp remained deserted. How could anyone down there hope to compete with this? And on top of it all they drew a regular paycheck from Mold Industries, Inc. She was paying their salaries.

Nobody was happy to see her arrive atop the mountain. Plinth, of course, was swaddled in sycophants, showing out in a repurposed shrine that now bulged at the seams with all of his usual comforts. Postmodern furniture, a loyal opposition, and he’d tasked his personal narrator with documenting the event sans serif. She’d been taking all of this in when Piro snuck up behind her and slowly lowered a visor over her head, into her line of sight, like a blindfold, compromising her interpretation of the scene. Instinctively she blinked, her mind and body rejecting the instrument as one.

When her eyes popped open again she was back in her apartment, jacketed in black mold.


Her period had started up again for the first time in nearly fifty years.

Maude rummaged in the cabinets for a clean mug, toppling several wine glasses in the process. She crunched over the broken glass in her slippers and wandered into the living room, worrying absentmindedly at her tea. Collapsed onto the couch. Defeated, but still clinging to her numerous complaints.

Her visor chirped.

Mímir’s disembodied head appeared, floating before her, demanding a status update on the Plinth project.

Of course.