Cotton Xenomorph is a new literary journal produced with the mission to showcase new, and ecstatic art while reducing language of oppression in our community. We are dedicated to uplifting new and established voices while engaging in thoughtful conversation around social justice.


by Dave Housley

The Pig adjusts the collar on his uniform and regards himself in the mirror. “Th-th-th-th…that’s fine,” he says. He straightens the badge on his chest. A police officer this time? They have also given him a pocket watch. A train conductor? Bus driver? They have given him a license. He is a building inspector.

     A building inspector. He can imagine the scene already, could legitimately write it himself if they trusted him with such matters. The rabbit, an apartment, a series of escalating incidents. Perhaps the building will collapse. Perhaps he will burn it down with the nefarious assistance of television’s number one lagomorph. Perhaps this one will end, like so many, with one of them holding a revolver to his temple.

     But no. He knows how this one will end. Like all the others, this one will end with a simple joke at his own expense. The stutterer. The one who c-c-c-can’t get his w-w-w-words ow-ow-ow…dispatched.

     It is all well and good. It is all working according to plan.

     Tonight he will watch the movie again. The star has recently gotten himself into some kind of trouble. He has a google alert that sometimes sends him notices about the movie’s appearance on some kind of list. Top Ten Noir Movies from the Nineties. Twenty Great Movies on Netflix This Month. In Case You Forgot, Kevin Spacey Used to be a Pretty Big Movie Star.

     A Building Inspector. A straight man always. An everyman. It is fine. Everything is fine.

     They have six hundred thousand five hundred and forty-two dollars in the 401K. They are looking at houses in Ensenada, a nice little two bedroom with tile floors, walking distance to the beach. The Warner Brothers Corporation has excellent benefits. Health and dental and even vision. When they were trying, it just made sense to stay despite the offer from Universal, the opportunity to the star of the gritty reboot. He had allowed himself to imagine a boy, a son, a doctor or a lawyer or an artist, anything but a sidekick, a straight man, an actor in a uniform improvising a disaster with Hollywood’s It Rabbit.

     A production assistant pops her head into the dressing room. “Five minutes Mr. Pig,” she says.

     “Th-th-th…okay,” he says.

     She grimaces and closes the door. He imagines her having drinks with friends. Industry people, beautiful and young. “He really talks like that,” she would say. “Can you imagine?” And of course the next part, some young man with prominent cheekbones and family connections: “I c-c-c-can’t.” The easy joke is the one they want. But he also knows the easy joke is the one you can deliver to their faces while you slip the dagger into their kidneys.

     Verbal Kint was the name of the character. Verbal. Scrunched up and limping. He remembers the moment in the film when the character walks out of the police station, finally carries himself to his full height, straightens his leg and walks. He watched the movie in a crowd full of people who did not know, who did not suspect, who would never fully understand that Verbal Kint is what allows you to be Keyser Soze.

     He has been tweeting bits and pieces about the rabbit from a burner account that has…he checks the phone. Twenty thousand four hundred and sixty three followers. He has hardly even started. There have been a few small articles, a notice in Buzzfeed, some talk on a subReddit devoted to the series. What he knows about the rabbit could bring down all of Warner Brothers, will bring all of them down at the appropriate time, when he is ready, when the 401K has fully vested, the house in Mexico secured, his affairs in order.

     “One minute, Mr. Pig.”

     “Th-th-th…” The door closes. The production assistants are so young. The interns are actual children. What the rabbit has been doing will be revealed at the appropriate time.

A building inspector. He will bumble. He will stutter. He will sign off with his familiar line standing in rubble while the rabbit sips champagne and nibbles finger sandwiches in a penthouse suite. He will be the sidekick, the straight man, the everyman, his purpose merely the hilarious delivery of the rabbit’s destiny. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. He will bide his time, he will sign the papers, he will get his affairs in order. He will s-s-s-s…hit the submit button and th-th-th…that will be all.

Dave Housley has written four books of short fiction, the most recent "Massive Cleansing Fire" on Outpost 19. His first novel, "This Darkness Got to Give," was published in 2018. His work has appeared in Booth, Hobart, Little Fiction, Split Lip, Wigleaf, and some other places. He is one of the founders and all around do-stuff people at Barrelhouse. He tweets at housleydave. For his full time money-paying job he is a web strategist and manager for Penn State.

The Ambitions of Mice

SPECIAL CALL: Longer Fiction!