about mark flanigan

Cincinnati native Mark Flanigan has been writing and performing for over 14 years....Works from his collections Wrong-Way Poems For One-Way Streets, Not Necessarily God Stories and Next to Nothing have appeared in a variety of independent publications and, along with his performances, have garnered critical acclaim. He has also co-written a screenplay (“Midway,” with Brian Keizer), edited a literary publication (omnibscure) and worked to develop, produce and curate various gallery shows and performance readings -- notably, VOLK/c.s.p.i. and Intermedia Series readings at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Weston art gallery. Flanigan’s monthly column, “Exiled on Main Street,” appeared for over three years, first in x-ray, and upon his resignation there, at semantikon.com. Performances of his can be found on “the Volk/c.s.p.i. spoken word series CD (2001),” which he co-produced, and on the CD “One Night Only" (2002).   To learn more about his work, read his blog, review some of the works mentioned above, and listen to additional audio tracks:

Visit markflanigan.com

flanigan audio
mark flanigan exiled from archives

October 2007: The Dance

June 2007: Cake
May 2007: Special Edition "Light Travel" Mark Flanigan and Steve Proctor
April 2007: Zero Hour
March 2007: Prelude to a Kiss-Off
Jan 2007: State Of The Disunion Address 
Nov 2006: Youngblood
Oct 2006: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
exiled on main street archives

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Exiled from Main Street 4: Aiming To Please

  “Here we are,” the cabbie announced.
     This while I looked up at the building that contained, somewhere within it, the offices of Chilton, Allen & Associates—the one firm in forty that showed interest in representing me—and thought that it, the building, was somewhat unassuming. At least when compared to the mini-skyscrapers on each side of it, anyway.
     That’ll be thirty-four dollars,” he said. I fumbled for my money, tipping heavily, in hope that karma could be built on a dime. The man didn’t bother thanking me, though, merely wishing me “Good luck” instead.
     The door closed and no sooner had he sped away. And there I was, left alone and on the sidewalk, with my one bag in hand. On the sidewalk with the fitful traffic of Broadway behind me. Looking up, at first. Then, down at my watch. I was twelve minutes early.
     Look man, I remained outside, just be yourself. If you have any chance at all, any niche, that’s it. Not much different from when you’re writing, mate. Stick to your guns.
     A doorman, spying me, opened the door and kind of gestured in such a way as if to say, you gonna come in or what? “I’m here for an interview,” I told him, for no reason.
     Made my way, then, towards the elevators. Waited for one to open, saying “Twenty-three” once it did. Felt the elevator catapult upwards faster than I wanted it to. Breathed deep as the doors opened and I walked down the hallway past suite after suite. Found the one I was looking for, went in, and introduced myself to the pretty curly-headed receptionist as calmly as I could....“I’m a little early,” I explained.
     “That’s quite alright,” she said as I stood there holding my bag. A bag that contained in it a laptop, exactly one change of clothes, and some chapters of the novel that I had, of late, picked up again. It was the latter I was thinking about as the girl alerted my interviewer that I had arrived. I was thinking, suddenly, that maybe I hadn’t sat on it long enough, that perhaps it was in my best interest not to mention it at all?
     “Mr. Hunt will see you now,” the receptionist stood and led the way....Through two glass doors and down a long corridor that had a pair of doors every ten yards or so. We kept walking as I tried not to hyperventilate, the receptionist stopping abruptly to open one of the doors. “Mr. Hunt,” she announced while holding it open for me to enter, “this is Mark Flanigan.” I only heard the door close behind me as I waltzed across the room with one arm extended. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Hunt,” I said while smiling in what must have been an awkward manner.
     Hunt remained seated behind his desk. “Likewise,” he said, looking me up and down while we shook hands, “call me Michael.” He pointed to a chair for me to sit in.
     The whole thing was happening much to fast for my taste. There was nothing but window behind his desk, and despite knowing that I should be concentrating completely on the man before me, I found myself nonetheless distracted by the view.
     “Pretty amazing, isn’t it?” Hunt remarked. “Yeah,” I answered. And then:
     “It reminds me of something. A few years back, some friends and I were opening an art gallery, and the venue we had our hearts set on was managed by some place downtown that was in a building not unlike this. An amazing view, right there on the Ohio. I mean, we had just come from cashing in our coins to pay for the first month’s rent and there we were, sitting inside a building I had been driving past all my life without ever noticing. And, for some reason, being confronted by that awesome view just made me question why we were there at all....”
     Alright, I thought, at least I’m being myself. The guy hadn’t said ten words yet, but that was normal with me. “So,” I continued, “I guess being there just made me realize that you never know how high you are until you look down.”
     At this Hunt furrowed his brow. “Best not do that, then,” he said dryly.
     He held the end of a pencil in each hand. I sat up straight as I watched him twirl it in silence. Not sure where to start, really....
     “Well,” I said finally, “I assume you’ve read some of the things I sent?”
     “Yes, of course. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with your work. Enjoyed quite a bit of it, I’ll have you know.”
     “I’m glad,” was all I could think of by way of reply. “Any thoughts then?”
     Here he dropped the pencil and leaned back into his chair. Sighed. “Well, you know I’ve seen a great number of people in a similar situation as yourself. And by that, I mean this: no one’s going to argue that you’re not talented, Mark. But, by the same token, you yourself can’t argue that you’ve so much as scratched your potential. Really, if you think about it, most of what I’ve read of yours could be viewed as a simple documentation, or lamentation maybe, of that very fact.”
     “That’s fair,” I couldn’t help but concede.
     “Which leads me to my point: none of that even matters. What does is that you realize and come to terms with what’s expected from you as a writer. Sure,” Hunt smiled I think for the first time since my arrival, “stories revolving around race and dead dogs make for some decent literature, no doubt. But now, more than ever maybe, the simple fact remains that, basically—well, you’ve probably heard it before but here it is again: you need to lighten’ up. Lighten’ up and realize that most people want merely to be entertained. Nothing more, nothing less.”
     My instinct, of course, was to puke. I couldn’t believe I had traveled all this way to be rejected. All the same, though, I wasn’t certain I could argue any differently, not with any amount of success, anyway.
     “Look,” Hunt stood up and walked around his desk, leaning up against the front of it. “I’m not arguing that this is the best thing for society,” he explained while I looked him over for the first time. Hunt was a large man from the chest down, I noticed. That, the pin stripes in his pant legs, and his impeccably shined shoes. “What I am arguing, however, is that such thoughts are immaterial. You’ve come to me for help in making you a commodity and I know what sells and what doesn’t. I can help, if you let me. And that’s the good news here.”
     My countenance must have betrayed my thoughts. There was an awkward moment in which we took turns looking at each other and then looking away. Not long after that I said, “Well, I’m of the belief that there is nothing more entertaining on earth than provocation. And this I know from the only thing I have going for me: my experience.”
     Well so much for that, I thought. It was nice knowing you, Chilton, Allen & Associates! I sat there expecting the receptionist to barge in at any moment and usher me out....
     But Hunt just remained where he was, leaning up against his desk with his arms crossed, close enough to me that I could reach out and touch him if I wanted to. “Listen,” he spoke with a softer tone than that which preceded it, “I’m not saying we can’t do something here. Maybe Exiled, maybe the stories and poems, who knows? Either way that’s just the beginning.”
     “As is?
     “We’ll have to see,” he said. “But what I’m really excited about, with regards to the work I’ve read anyway, is the screenplay.”
     “It’s pretty good, isn’t it? Entertaining at times, too.”
     Here Hunt sat further back on his desk, his feet I noticed no longer touching the ground. He unfolded his arms and let them fall to his lap, his right hand gesturing towards it. “You have no idea how excited I am about your screenplay,” he said.
     “That’s good,” I said.
     “Really,” the fingers of his right hand pointed with each syllable. “You have no idea how excited.”
     My eyes followed his hand to the large bulge in his pants. I laughed, “Is this a joke?”
     “No, no joke. You scared?”
     “Appalled is more like it.”
     “You do realize,” he unzipped his pants and pulled it out, “it is customary sometimes.” He started, then, to stroke his rather massive penis, stopping only to ask, “Mind if I draw the curtains? I know it’s a beautiful view but I want to show you something else.”
     With a remote control, he closed the blinds and dimmed the lights. Shortly after that, a projection screen filtered down the ceiling, to my left. With one eye I watched Hunt hit play, while the other viewed the images on the screen. It was of a young boy; his arms in a stockade, his ankles in shackles, with a wooden support beneath him. And through the hole that had been drilled in the support a cock thrusting violently into his ass, the boy howling in what seemed like earnest pain....
     “Does it turn you on?”
     “Not really.”
     Hunt dropped off the desk and moved towards me, his cock and the hand stroking it the only thing in view, no more than a foot or two away. “Don’t you realize,” he whispered, “that we both want the same thing?”
     “What is it I want then?”
     “Mark, listen....You really see yourself toiling in that warehouse the rest of your life? Doing something you really don’t want to do, almost every day of your life; making just enough to give yourself the illusion that you’re getting somewhere? Is that what you want? What you see for yourself?”
     I closed my eyes and thought about everything I had gone through the night before, in order to be sitting there in that office in New York. I had almost missed my plane, believe it or not. That evening, unbeknownst to me, it had started snowing. Heavily. The phone started ringing about ten o’clock at night, some drivers wanting to know whether or not the trucks were running, others saying they couldn’t get out of their driveways or up the hills. Rumors circulated that interstates were being shut down, that a Level 3 snow emergency had been issued.
     Before long, it was pandemonium. Half of the drivers refused to come in, while the other half weren’t allowed to leave once there. My flight was departing at 7:00 in the morning, but my new job suddenly was to make sense of this mess. As such, night having slipped into early morning, I quietly resigned myself to perhaps missing my appointment.
     That is, until one very brave driver offered to the test the water. Finding out in time that yes, the highways were treacherous indeed but open all the same. The rest followed suit, then, albeit more begrudgingly. Which allowed me to leave, too. Theoretically, at least.
     If I could get my car out of the lot, I mean. The snow was so high my car wouldn’t move. I was shoveling in vain when one of the drivers, Jerry, suggested that he just take me to the airport himself, seeing as he was going right past there.
     I grabbed my one bag and threw it into the tractor and before long we were on the road, despite the fact that it looked more like a supermarket parking lot. Dodging traffic at a snail’s pace, we were. Most of the trip spent staring at the clock, wondering if we were going to make it in time. It was after four, I actually had a couple of hours to get there, but our progress was slow enough to make me doubt that I would. So much so that I started rehearsing my call to Hunt in my head: Goddamn acts of God, I’d say, conveniently forgetting that I didn’t believe in him....
     Two hours later, we had traveled less than thirty miles. Most of it in silence. But, at one point, we both simultaneously spied a sign that appeared to read ‘Airport,’ and as such, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and gave Jerry my sincere thanks.
     “No problem,” he said. “I’m just happy to have helped out. I really respect what you’re trying to do, even if I don’t understand it.”
     I thanked him again.
     “Yeah, you know, quitting a pretty good job to do what you truly want to do....I say, good for you. Sometimes,” he paused for a moment, “I ask myself why I don’t do something similar....”
     “Yeah?”
     “Yeah, but then I think of my wife and kids. And realize that they’re enough. That they’re, you know, my art.
     “Well, Jerry,” I said, “We have at least that much in common then....Both of us practice a dying art.”
     I arrived at the airport with all of forty minutes to spare, on no sleep, to find that my flight had been delayed indefinitely....Of course.
     “Answer me something,” Hunt said while I stared at his engorged cock. “How many agencies did you reach out to?”
     “I don’t know, about forty.”
     “And how many showed an interest?”
     I said nothing as I glanced at the bag at my feet and thought again about my novel. Then, I bent forward and took his penis in my hand. I had seen enough porn in my day to know what to do: Spit, stroke, spit, suck, suck, suck, stroke, spit....His cock more full than large, I struggled to take it all in my mouth, despite his wishes.
     “That’s it,” he cooed, saying more than asking “You done this before?” as he pushed it deep enough to cause me to gag. And, while I composed myself, he took the opportunity to move the chair behind me, pointing it towards the video screen and patting the back of it afterwards.
     I put my knees on the seat and my elbows on the back. Then, I watched the video of the young boy as Hunt inserted his cock into my ass. Tried to pretend that the boy was a woman, that I was woman even, as he worked it in and out, out and in and then back in. He did as much quietly, no moaning no uttering, and I thought to grind my hips but couldn’t because of the pain.
     I remained still as possible, then, as Hunt went about his business. On and on like this, interminably, so much so both the pain and the reality of it dissipated to some degree, and after what seemed like the first hour, I even found myself thinking about other things....What I might do later that night, for instance. And, at one point, I realized that if I was in fact enjoying this, he’d probably would have already shot his load. Which caused me to laugh aloud.
     Hunt responded by thrusting hard enough to cause my thighs to collapse into the chair, and then even harder. In quick succession.
     Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. An urgent, unfriendly knock. One, I sensed, that came from somebody merely wanting in as opposed to helping out. Hunt simply ignored it, even when whoever it was tested the door by shaking frantically on its doorknob.
     “Who is that?” I asked.
     “Ignore it, they’ll go away.” Which they did, Hunt pulling out and clearing off his desk. He gestured for me to lay down on my back, raised and spread my legs, then mounted me....Like that, his face not far from mine. And, feeling his every breath, I stared into his eyes and watched them as he plowed into me.
     Closer and closer it came, that face. His lips just grazing my own. “Kiss me,” he breathed.
     “No,” I said. “First off, you’d have to shave. Second, you’ve been fucking me for two hours now, won’tyou just get it over with and come? Please?
     Hunt answered by pulling out and standing up straight at one side of his desk, then grabbing and pulling my legs towards him and onto the floor. There he continued to stroke himself over my waistline, his face a strained red. Stroke after labored stroke until I felt something warm and liquidy fall onto my body. Something too liquidy.
     I looked closer and realized it wasn’t come at all, but urine. And I think it was that moment, watching my epiphany and shock in real time, which finally drew him over the edge and allowed him to orgasm. It sat there, his jism, congealed on top of his piss, there on top of my belly....
     “You should have told me you were going to pee on me,” I said, “I would have had you do it on my face.”
     “Really? You would have liked that?”
     “No,” I stood up off the table, “but I had an inkling you might.” I walked to the spot on the floor where the chair was initially, to my clothes.
     Hunt stood there wiping the sweat from his brow. “Well, I must say,” he smirked, “I think you’ve got the role. I’m glad we were able to help each other out, you know? And it’s refreshing, really, to meet a writer that understands sometimes it’s more important to listen than it is to talk.”
     I sat on the floor in order to put my socks back on.
     “What are you doing?” Hunt asked.
     “What’s it look like?” I answered.
     He came over, grabbed my elbow and hoisted me back up off the floor. “Don’t bother, “ he said. “Let me show you something.”
     He held my arm and led me towards the other side of the room. To a door that I had yet to even notice. I stood there, my clothes bunched in my arms, and watched as he opened it. A sudden burst of light overcame my eyes, a soft but overwhelming light like bright clouds. I blinked and waited for them to adjust, and as they did, I saw bodies, naked bodies, a platoon of them, one by one they broke through the light and came into view: women, men, breasts, penises, asses and eyes, necks and elbows and hands that beckoned to me slowly, gingerly even, but beckoned nonetheless.
     I looked to Hunt, who patted my shoulder and nodded his head as if to say, go on, you know what to do....
     I dropped to all fours, then, and thought about how long a day this would be, too.