Featured Writer: Joey Dean Hale


Out There — Eternal

Just wanted to let you know I overshot my former destination by at least one decade, so for now I’m out there, so many miles beyond the rational my odometer shows only tiny white zeroes like thoughtless pills, eyes staring Orphan Annie-like, ping-pong balls torn from the faces of the sick and dying, the sick and twisted around, a fist pumping my tired heart like the black bulb of a boat gas tank line dried by weather, stored for winter, forgotten until primed again.
       Once confessing some maniacal excursion of your own you warned in beer breath vernacular how unhealthy this region, this area, remains, dangerous after a point and late last night we passed a Dead End sign several times.  Did I say we?
       I feel fine usually, though unsure if I’m Protagonist, Antagonist, or just some friendless dead man plummeting down the peaks of a snowcapped mountain range never dedicated to map or sane man’s memory.  Or perhaps somehow I’ve crystallized into Snowman.  Not Frosty or Jerry Reed.  Just some coal-eyed bastard stranded among the remnants of a false ecstasy.  So narrow the path now, to attempt backing home or a 180 is unthinkable. Empty ideas labeled asinine left rolling around the floorboard.
       In this anorexic air, cracked skin under layers upon layers, we’ve no shelter save those psychological bunkers we burrowed long ago but do not mistake yourself as half of we.  Travel companions sculpt themselves from cold blinding drifts the very day one roommate refuses to kick in for the rent. That’s what started all this moving?  Okay—I give—all this running away.  Creditors keep phones forever jangling like heavy metal music outside the siege until someone in the kitchen suggests loading up on provisions and hitting the highway and every tavern between Heaven and Home.
       As the blizzard spews past my rock-chipped windshield relentless tundra extending on until who knows where I’m sure I deserve this cold-blooded abyss.  Again and again I’ve sinned, laughing over an ogre’s shoulder as he continually mocked the superficial flocks, the Holier-than-thou.  Praying for even less rain they subconsciously chant, “Damn the starving homeless children. We the righteous deserve red carpet, pew cushions and new curtains for our church.”
       Trivial sermons only waste my time.  Why save communion wine and bread for special occasions?  Why not form search parties to seek those souls lost rather than posses craving only to see me hang from the neck until dead?  Why not the wrist?  The ankle?  I crave more time to writhe, smirk, and moan on that main stage they call scaffold.  Not bound fifteen minutes to shake, shimmy, and twist, but agonizing fame for all eternity.

Where’s My Cat?

(Psycho 2011)
The pale fish belly skinned dead girl’s elbow hung out the broken window of the black abandoned car stashed in the State Park west behind our house. Ours being mine and hers, the woman I live with.  I didn’t know the dead girl.  I’d never seen her before.
       The police showed up, though not real police, worse, Conservation Police, who can do anything, they said.
       They said, “You should’ve called someone.”
       But we called as soon as the woman who lives with me found her.  The dead girl.  I didn’t know her. I’d never seen her before.
       Mother said 1957 slammed her head into the center brace of a ’48 windshield like a sucker punch from behind.  Concussion.  Confusion.  After that she could never turn a handspring.
       My cat posed in the yard among the gathering crowd of morbid nosies.  I said, “Who in the hell let out my cat?”
       About this time Mother called about my condition, I said, “I can’t find my cat—No, she’s fine but my cat’s gone.”  I didn’t mention the dead girl.  I didn’t even know her.  Never saw her before.
       When the real cops showed up, the woman I live with haphazardly disappeared into the back room, the room where I needed to be hiding my various hobby materials.  Sometimes I don’t know her either.
       1965 called Mother in for jury duty, one of the numerous murder trials for local hero Charles “Blackie” Harris.  She said, “No, I don’t believe in the death penalty,” and he winked strolling out.  She said, “I didn’t mean it like that.”
       I couldn’t find my cat anywhere, and the police wouldn’t help me look for him.  “Who let my cat out, God dammit?  Where’s my fucking cat?”
       Oh, you think it’s a joke, but we have a special bond.  He knows what I’m saying.  He agrees with my politics.
       When the cops questioned me about the dead girl, I told the woman who lives with me, “You better call my Mom back.”
       She said, “Tell that fucking cat to call her.  I’m outta here.”
       But I still couldn’t find my cat.  And I swear, I didn’t know that dead girl.  I’d never even seen her before.

And When I Awoke the First Time That Day…

I when I awoke the first time that day, I awoke high atop this mountainous featherbed, like a loaf of homemade bread, like the beds you might see in one of those historical landmark homes, the boyhood home of someone long-dead and famous.  And the air within seemed yellow and without temperature, and I thought maybe it was the sheer drapes straining the morning like cheesecloth.  But no—the morning sun appeared the same when I flipped back the curtains to view shade trees and mown lawn damp with dew and electric green and unfamiliar.  And I wondered who had lain beside me and where was she now?  Dusty boots still on my feet.  Fly zipped.  Cottonmouth.  The furniture antique as if this was some secondhand store or I’d fallen back in time like a fairy-tale or one of those annoying person’s dreams they later relate to you some overcast morning when you want only to be alone with your coffee and umbrella.  And the rooms all reeked of cedar and Aqua-net.  Even the TV screen seemed dreamlike, black and white and tuned to static and buzzing lightly like my head. And so I toured the house like a cat burglar, like someone who was where he knew he was not supposed to be.  And my groin cinched tightly as I explored the soft contents of chest-of-drawers and dressers, the empty purse resting on the divan, church dresses in the closet, scarred kitchen porcelain, the icebox archaic and practically void, the dining room reminding me of a past life that died violently within the filtered light like this.  And so I slipped out through the utility room where the clothes dryer hummed nervously as if trying to change the subject and outside the sun was summer bright and harsh unlike I thought before and hurt my eyes and head and all the way out of that maze of angling side streets named after the selfish and hateful, five miles back to my side of town, and later when I again awoke and ventured out that afternoon, my neighbor said, “Damn, dude. When I drove past you this morning there, trudging down the sidewalk, you were looking pretty rough.” And although I was thankful to have a witness, since I wasn’t sure any of this had really happened, I said, “Well, thanks a lot, ass-monkey.  You know, I could’ve used a ride.”


I park in the crumbling asphalt lot, and just as I head toward the grocery store’s clairvoyant doors a cream-colored Lincoln with Ohio tags wedges in beside my car, vacationers touring the withering countryside. Just this scrawny fifth grade kid and—I’m guessing—his grandparents, probably stopping periodically at discount stores such as this for bread, ice, and cheese. Orange pop and bologna. Root beer and pickle-loaf. A paper sack of golden apples softly browning in the backseat.
       The hazy reflection in the store window transforms the old man now behind me into my great-uncle, and I wonder if his lonely death will turn out to be my own—face down on the gaudy kitchen linoleum while my wife lies empty-eyed down at The Home, withering in the final stages of that sadistic atrocity erasing her mind, ranting of a mattress foundered with $50’s and $100’s and strange visitors claiming to be related. Lamenting the son we never had so often, until eventually conjuring his image so that even I will see him, breast-stroking in limbo against the heavy current and darkness. His milky blue eyes like a cavernous fish, struggling for impossible evolution. He’ll cry, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” And my only answer will be, “My son, I guess I thought I knew everything.”

Joey Dean Hale

Joey Dean Hale is a musician and writer in the St. Louis area. He received his MFA from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and has published stories and poems in several magazines, including Eureka Literary Magazine, Temporary Infinity Press, Red Booth Review, Marco Polo Arts Mag, theNewerYork, and Octave Magazine, which also has his song “High Noon” posted online.

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