George T. Mormann

God’s Entertainment

All nine screens in the pub aired the fight, and with a speaker wired into the restrooms, no patron, regardless of their level of interest, could escape the blood and sweat dripping from the cyclone confines of The Octagon. Like live music, however, few patrons cared enough to intently watch the entertainment, instead preferring to relegate the brawl to lively background noise as they gorged themselves on buckets upon buckets of domestic lagers on ice, and chicken wings adorned with celery stalks that wound up in the trash after every reorder was obliged.

Mikhail Nezinsky, of Russia, had just tricked Gamaliel Guerra, of Puerto Rico, in a Muay Thai Clinch, and began pummeling Guerra’s tatted chest with his tatted knee. For the Russian, his ink signified his journey from village obscurity to urban legend among the hardest fighters in the Motherland. Every failure and subsequent success from Atamanov to Moscow was represented from his chest to his calves in the form of apex predators and silhouettes of buxom Slavic women. For the Boricuan, ink boasted wealth, a symbol of victory from his boyhood hardships, beginning in a humid boxing gym set up in his Uncle’s garage in Adjuntas, to the Mixed Martial Arts circuit sending him from Atlantic City to Las Vegas. Although he was the American in this fight, Guerra waved a flag that both perplexed and compelled patrons to identify with Nezinsky’s red, white, and blue, as he was in their image.

“You’d think I was lucky to find a woman who didn’t want diamonds,” Kyle said to his friends as they suckled from bottles of light beer and individually pondered what to nickname the next waitress who swilled them another bucket of beer, “but trying to find a meaningful substitute to a diamond is hard, bro.”

“Dude!” Ian said, unwittingly dribbling a shmear of buffalo sauce from the corner of his thin lips like a tear drop from the heat of the night’s flavor, “that’s what fuckin’ cubic zirconia’s fuckin’ for, dumbass.”

The boys briefly held a contemptuous silence. Ian was the shortest among them, the guy who overdid ball-busting to the point of annoyance, swore excessively and for some inexplicable reason, even punctuated his sentences with profanities when trying to woo the lone women he’d approach at these festive establishments. He chucked deuces in all of his social media photos, and there was no avoiding his self-imposed invitations to nights like this as everyone was trapped with him as that guy who reads literally every single post one makes in their personal feeds. He scours every friend’s posts with a degree of socialized piety comparable only to celebrity stalkers, all due to his FOMO-phobia, the fear of missing out.

“Haley doesn’t want cubic zirconia or diamonds. She wants something that is ethically produced, but like, all jewelry that is made without slaves is sorta, like, dumb as fuck.” Kyle said, breaking the silence concurrently with three of Guerra’s left ribs.

“Isn’t cubic zirconia made by, like, scientists or some shit?” Robby asked, shifting his pectoral muscles to untangle his gold crucifix from his chest hair. “I mean, they’re scientists so they make bank, right?”

Kyle explained, “but it looks like diamonds, so she doesn’t want anything to do with them. She recently joined this group on Facebook that, like, is trying to end slavery and there was a documentary about kids in Africa getting their feet chopped—”

“Slavery’s fuckin’ done, dude—” Ian said, forever interrupting.

“Nah, bro. I guess there’s more slaves today than were ever used in the South.” Kyle, the enlightened one, said.

“My great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War,” Vince said. The rotund, quiet fellow of the group, where Vince floundered in charisma he compensated with disinteresting personal anecdotes that accomplished little more than derailing conversation.

“Dude, you’re Aye-talian. Your grandpa was squishing grapes when the Civil War fuckin’ happened,” said Ian.

“I’m fifty percent Irish, dickhead!” Vince proclaimed.

Guerra tries to overcome Nezinsky’s clinch by hooking his aggressing leg. His head is firmly wedged in the shallow void of the Russian’s armpit, causing Guerra to breathe through his mouth and feel for the right time to seize the Russian’s calf. As his chest begins to tighten from the succession of knee jabs violating his sternum, Guerra attempts to free himself by repeatedly punching Nezinsky’s right cheek with his left fist. Every swing aggravated the shards of bone piercing his chest, but the words of his late Uncle Pepe echoed in the crevasse of the Russian’s armpit, humid like his hometown:

Lucha como un soldado que ya está muerto

“What about, like, buying a ruby in a gold ring?” Robby asked.

Kyle continued: “Bro! The average lifespan of a kid in Ghah-nay-ah—” 

“Ghana, bro—”

“Yeah,” Kyle swished his bangs, “Gay-nah, whatever. They only live to be, like, ten-years-old. Their little fingers are prized for, like, picking gold out of rocks and separating them with lead, then they die from lead poisoning. They don’t even go to school.”

“You can’t help it that these kids are slaves, bro,” Robby said. “Tell Haley to chill about this child slavery shit. It’s not like you’re holding the whip.” The boys unified in laughter.

“Haley is full of shit, bro—” Ian said.

“Dude!” The three bros said in unison. They upheld a code: no ball-busting girlfriends or fiancés. Also, if she breaks up with him, give it six months before attempting to sleep with her. If he breaks up with her: six days will suffice.

“Hear me out,” Ian continued, “there isn’t a fuckin’ thing we have that isn’t made possible without slavery. I’ll give your woman this much: she’s right about there being more slaves nowadays. When have we ever been able to enjoy anything without cracking a bunch of backs?”

“A fishing boat in South Korea got caught with slaves yesterday,” Vince said.

“The South?” Robby asked, finding the capitalist behemoth harboring human trafficking incredulous.

“Yeah,” Vince said, “like, you’d think the South Koreans are about that free life, but they were forcing men to catch fish twenty hours a day. If they got too tired, they made em into fish bait.”

“Kyle, bro, Haley bought you that bottle of Jameson Eighteen-Year for your graduation,” Ian had a point to make: “John Jameson’s great-grandson once traveled to Africa and bought a slave girl, ten-years-old, just to watch a bunch of her own tribe butcher her and eat her so he could draw a picture of it.”

“Bullshit!” Robby said.

“He paid six hankies for her,” Vince added.

“Six what?”

“Six handkerchiefs,” Vince continued, “that’s how much he offered the men of her tribe. So they tied her to a tree and cut her up alive. Jameson sketched the steps of slicing and cleaning her cutlets in his notebook. Her whole existence was for the purpose of his knack for drawing shit. He wrote in his journal that she didn’t even cry. It was like she accepted her fate without question.”

“When God is the reward, bro…” Robby said.

“Dude,” Kyle sighed, “that’s a hundred and fifty dollar bottle of whiskey. I can’t tell Haley that.”

“Already keeping secrets from your future wifey,” Ian teased.

Guerra’s left hooks into Nezinsky’s face faded from their initial brute impetus. He was merely pressing shivering knuckles against the Russian’s cheek bone, which reminded Nezinsky of boyhood winters so much that he tightened his hold on Guerra’s neck for mere nostalgia at this point in the fight. With every breath, the Boricuan spat life into the sweating underarm of his opponent, seemingly strengthening him as a vampire would with the blood of his conquest. Uncle Pepe’s words rose from murmuring echoes of ringside encouragement in hot San Juan gyms to the fateful night he sat his nephew down at the kitchen table and said:

Te voy a hacer un luchador bajo esa bandera.

Esa bandera, Gama.

Gamaliel peered through the beaded flesh of Mikhail, and saw the flailing arms of Joe Rogan, who was trying to alert the referee to break them up. A fade to white, and his tatted body fell limp into the Russian’s veiny arms, who had yet to realize he had killed his opponent.

Some of the congregants of the pub looked up as the camera crew had focused on the paramedics scurrying into The Octagon, attempting to resuscitate Gamaliel, but to no avail. His final fight was like any other Saturday night excuse to indulge millions of bargoers who craved premium entertainment as their wallpaper, and his death offered many, Vince among them, a neat anecdote about where he was on the night the Pride of Puerto Rico suffocated in the Armpit of Atamanov’s prodigal son.

The boys, undeterred by the viral video unveiling itself before their eyes, only paused from talking to deglove another bucket of glistening chicken wings. Kyle wiped his mouth clean:

“I get it, slavery is and always has been bad shit, but at least we’re not turning them on each other in coliseums anymore.”

Oh Kabul

Home of the only McDonald’s in Afghanistan
Your Golden Arches© alight
Our flag to be brought down for good

Folded twice over to make a taut Imperial Triangle
With the United Kingdom
With the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic

We are not in a state of decline!
We are not in a state of collapse!
We are merely enduring

a strategic liquidation of relevance.


Being a trucker, you take a small piece of someplace whenever you leave. In Detroit, a stray brick from the wall of a derelict factory where you used to deliver. In Sioux Falls, the plucked feather of a grouse that adorned your mesh cap and gave rise to your CB radio handle, Chief. In Reno, you caught the elusive barfly, whose life cycle had spanned the sweated rings of innumerable beer mugs, whose glazed eyes projected a million glints from the shade of stained glass windows, and who wandered into traffic, buzzed, to play chicken with you, the weary traveler.

Unmasking the Marmorkreb


Among all the fish and invertebrates available to us in the hobby, few possess an origin story that is the stuff of urban legend. It was not under a rock in a stream, or a specimen scavenging the shallows of a murky lake where the marmorkreb was first found. It was “discovered” by a customer in a German pet shop, where it was labeled as a “Texas crayfish.” The date, much like the facts surrounding how it arrived in that pet shop, is disputed, but it’s said to have been the early nineties, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The customer, believing it to be a simple crayfish from the Lonestar state, was astounded when he spotted several baby crayfish scurrying throughout the fishtank. He returned to the pet shop and asked how a lone crayfish could produce offspring without a mate. This is the first known observation of the marmorkreb, colloquially called the marbled crayfish or the self-cloning lobster.

Marbled crayfish were an instant sensation among hobbyists and scientists alike, becoming an ubiquitous addition to German aquariums throughout the nineties, and an enigma to scientists who spent years simply trying to determine their origin. In February of this year, The New York Times even published an article about marmorkrebs.

Initially, marmorkrebs were considered a close relative, even a mutation of the slough crayfish Procambarus fallax, native to Georgia and Florida. However, no crayfish matching the marmorkreb were ever found inhabiting North American waters. This led to it being the only decapod in the aquarium hobby besides daphnia to have it’s entire genome sequenced! In December 2017, the marmorkreb was finally designated as a species of its own: Procambarus virginalis.

The popularity of marmorkrebs, coupled with their unstoppable parthenogenesis, led to one of the most important rules in fishkeeping to be broken: don’t release your fish and invertebrates into the wild. Here is where another characteristic of this crayfish was realized the hard way — they adapt to virtually every freshwater environment they inhabit. Numerous countries throughout Europe list marmorkrebs as an invasive species, causing the European Union to enact an unconditional ban on owning or selling P. virginalis. The species has even invaded waters in Japan and Madagascar, where it’s feared to out-compete native crayfish populations. Though their true origin may never be known, it is agreed that whatever mutation had occurred, a truly invulnerable creature arose.

My own story with this aquatic anomaly began much like the informal discovery of them in Germany. At one of my local fish stores, I spotted several tiny, white crayfish labeled as “self-cloning lobsters” on sale, three for five dollars.

I quarantined them in a twenty gallon tank, and fed them sinking crab pellets and beef heart. The trio grew up together in relative harmony until they reached two inches in length, when they started to exhibit signs of sparring with each other. Each crayfish was moved to community aquariums, where I observed stunning differences in their personalities.

This is not a shy crayfish. Like some bottom-dwellers, I noticed that increased activity towards the middle and upper levels of my aquariums encouraged the marmorkrebs to come out of hiding, and remain out in the open even as I tended to the aquarium. Two of my marmorkrebs did not show predatory behavior towards fish, however, one would attack any fish that approached the bottom of the tank, going as far as chasing the fish in an attempt to grab it. Take care not to keep these crayfish with slow and tranquil fish, or bottom-dwellers like corydoras.

Marmorkrebs have voracious appetites, which is no surprise considering their nature as scavengers. I feed mine sinking pellets such as those one might find recommended for shrimp, crabs, or omnivores. They readily eat beef heart, blood worm, and in my humble opinion, are one of the most effective snail eaters next to assassin snails. I do not recommend any crayfish for planted tanks, but if you have pest snail problem, they will provide a solution. I often collect pest snails from aquariums and feed them to my crayfish as a part of their daily diet.

Conditions for keeping marmorkrebs are practically effortless. I maintain their temperature at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, but have kept them in a variety of temperatures from 68 up to 82 degrees. So long as room temperature falls within those parameters, a heater isn’t required. As with any aquarium, water quality ought to be clean and healthy as scavengers eat a lot and produce a lot of detritus. However, a simple bubble filter will suffice so long as water changes are consistent. They appreciate ample hiding spaces, especially when they’re molting or when multiple marmorkrebs are housed together. A single marmorkreb will thrive in a minimum tank size of 30″ x 12″ (20 gallon long).

As far as breeding marmorkrebs is concerned, it takes only one to tango. They produce clones of themselves through self-fertilization. I would advise removing the mother crayfish when hatchlings are found. Although the offspring are regarded as genetic reproductions of the mother, they will often develop unique colors that can change for a variety of instances. Mine generally develop marbled blue bodies, whereas other “kreb keepers” have noted instances of purple, red, green, and translucent or opaque carapaces.

Before acquiring this fascinating crayfish, it is imperative to make sure it is legal to keep P. virginalis in your state. Like the European Union, some states are proactively passing laws regarding the possession and release of invertebrates.

Overview: Procambarus virginalis

Maximum adult size: 4″-6″

Minimum tank size: 20 gallons

Temperature: 68-82 degrees

pH: 6.0-8.5

Diet: omnivorous







One of Several Million People Driving to O’Hare

Sometimes I cannot handle the abruptness of contrast. There needs to be a larger gray area between my rooster cock-a-doodle-dooing at 5:30am and being honked at by a WASP in a Mercedes 4matic on I-294 at 6:35

…although I know this was good timing considering the construction delays.

I need at least a day’s notice before I have to immerse myself in everyone else’s fray. You can’t drag me out of the boondocks so easily anymore.

My chronic lower back pain disappeared in the therapeutic air of dried husks and manure; it stung me as soon as I craned my neck to read the tall signs and billboards.

Oh hell, Butch, even Joliet is too big anymore.

Too many lights on at night.