A L L I T E R A T I CREATIVE WRITING AND ARTS MAGAZINE
ALLITERATI NORTH EAST COVER ART COMPETITION
As you may or may not know, Alliterati was originally founded as a print publication at Newcastle University and has since grown into a joint effort between Newcastle and Northumbria University students with strong ties to the literature and arts community in the North East of England. As weâ€™ve reached out to the wider international community, and grown quite a bit as a result, we have always felt it important to remember our roots. This is why, approaching our 9th issue, we decided to celebrate that connection through our front cover. From September through the end of November, we ran a contest open to all university students in the North East for a chance to have their work featured on the front cover. We received several wonderful submissions (some of which we liked so much we included them elsewhere in the magazine), but, as these things go, only one could be chosen. Many thanks to art editors James Ricketts and Maria Abbott for reviewing all the entries, as well as to those who submitted their work for consideration. The winner of our cover art competition is Nadia Scola, a third year fine art student at Newcastle University. In describing her work, she says:
[It is] hiding yourself from the world. Not revealing your true self. Pretending that youâ€™re a different character, personality to who you really are. The safest place you can be is at home, where you are the person you want to be, the person you want to become. Waiting to be able to reveal your identity, to have the guts to show your true emotions and feelings to love another without feeling unaccepted from the world.
Another issue is upon us and it seems as if we only just put out the last. As much as the process is the same each time, every issue develops its own personality as it’s being put together, and each one is always a little different from the last. You get little inklings as the submissions start coming in, but you never really know what sort of issue it will be until it all comes together. Looking back through previous issues, we’re always very quick to tell you how exciting each one is - and each one is. Partly for the process, partly for the work inside, partly just that sense of relief and accomplishment of getting the damn thing into the world with its hair neat, clothes clean and smudges wiped off its face and hoping to God it doesn’t say something horribly offensive to the first person it meets (or if it does, it’s at least very clever about it).
So, World, allow me to introduce you to #9. We’re quite proud of this little fellow, World. #9, don’t be shy. Come say hello to the World. Nine has some striking experimental poetry from Jessica Malitoris and Gina Jackson to show you. Both Lauren Hoyt and Lucy Elizabeth Foster explore different aspects of parenthood in their respective stories, “Happy Land Daycare” and “Baby Brown”. But don’t think Nine only has one trick up its sleeve - oh, no. There’s also the captivating and detailed “Lost in the Read” by Daisy Milburn, an interesting collaboration on the theme of “seen/unseen” out of Newcastle University, and Charlotte Kell’s very intriguing “Bodies”. Plenty for the two of you to dive into during these ever colder December nights. Meanwhile, we’ve stayed quite busy at HQ, because simply putting out a magazine four times a year is never enough for us. We’ve been invited along to a number of events hosted by local groups such as Radikal Words, Fiction Burn, Apples and Snakes. You can see exactly how much fun we’ve been having with all of that in the reviews and interviews that have been popping up on our webpage. As much as we love Newcastle events, though, we’d love to share what’s happening in other parts of the world, as well, so if you have an event in your area you want to review, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for publication on our website. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and keep tabs with our website. We’re looking for submissions for Issue 10 now; literature goes to email@example.com and art can be sent along to art@alliteratimagazine. com (please do have a look at the submission guidelines and follow them, thanks). The deadline to be included in #10 is 10th of February. In the meantime, keep yourselves warm, kids, and enjoy whatever celebrations the winter months bring you.
CO N TE NTS LITERATURE 8 DIVINATION AS A METHOD OF FINDING A WAY JESSICA MALITORIS 14 A MARRIAGE OF TRUE MINDS SAMANTHA MEMI 16 HAPPY LAND DAYCARE LAUREN HOYT 20 HEARSAY MEMORY RICHARD FEIN 21 HOW MRS KUCH, MY FIRST GRADE TEACHER, MADE ME OVERWEIGHT RICHARD FEIN 24 UP IN THE GAMES ROOM RYAN FOSTER 28 A CASE OF THE PUNCS ANDREW MCLINDEN
30 BELIEVE KIM FARLEIGH 34 DEATH OF INANIMATE OBJECTS VALENTINA CANO 36 AUTOMATIC WRITING GINA JACKSON 37 SUNDAY GINA JACKSON 40 BABY BROWN LUCY ELIZABETH FOSTER 44 YELLOW BRICK JENNIFER HARDING 47 BELLADONNER JAKE CROSBY
CO N TE NTS ART 6 04 NICHOLINE BOLSUIS
35 BODIES CHARLOTTE KELL
13 MY FACE ZOE MOLLOY
38 LITHOGRAPHY PRINT SARAH ILLING
18 SURGE MELANIE CHITTY
43 UNTITLED ALICE JONES
22 MEMORY FELICITY SOUTER
46 LOST IN THE READ DAISY MILBURN
27 PROTEST BANNER ISOBEL HINDHAUGH
48 SEEN/UNSEEN NEWCASTLE COLLAB
33 MONOGRAPHS CLAIRE NEWTON
50 UNTITLED HUBERT LAM
DIVINATION A WAY BACK
1. I say nothing I am thinking. For twelve years I have wanted to do exactly this, but suddenly pronouncing my own name calls up the question of who it belongs to in the same breath Like Solomon I was born a singer but in the wrong key and my chords will not carry me, will not summon the wolves to me only packs of hungry dogs stupid with domestication but nearly feral And like a hungry ghost I have learned not to speak against those who will give me food 2. A sketch of myself. He says I must have been born in the wrong culture, he says. I got a taste of the crackling heat here, heat to drive you crazy, and suddenly I open my wide arms for New Orleans, find myself needing the wind from the Great Plains. Like a buffalo I have the spirit of the Sun and I carry it with me. I am a plant of burnt umber, brown, ready and waiting like sage bushes, like the hill you go to that is best for collecting juniper sprigs and telling stories. I fill myself like a teakettle, dress myself in the handmade poncho from Guatemala that my mother hates but that I can read with my fingers, a kind of multicolored Braille, gathered into sunset, stories that say I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. I told my friend so, one night when we’d had too much to drink of a beer named for a line of mountains like Satan’s spine and I said I can’t remember what it’s all for, can’t find my way back and said there’s a side of me living for future generations and one side living for the ancestors that fill my soul.
3. I speak as a shaman because the spirits let me. An yenow. An yenow th wrst part sI can’ en remember when I stopd. When I stopd wanin wateveritwas in th firsplace. Anislike—Im old, Aluvasudden. An Im middleaged. An I really wanna new car, an Im waitin on the divorce papers, yenow? An all I really wanna do is tell stories but slike, there someone tellin me I can’ do it thadway, thadIm stuck. 4. I say nothing I am thinking. It’s just that sometimes I think it’s psychosomatic, something I do to myself like yawning or a headache or the feeling of spider legs against my skin after I’ve walked through its web And I am Loki or Iktomi or Anansi, always bringing it upon myself Like Saynday I want to be able to dictate that my stories must only be told in winter after dark But I am always fleeing before the forest fires, watching wolves take my nice fat goose feast away at dusk And I can feel my age starting to show like Thomas Eliot did once Can feel the pressure of childrearing over my head like a cold front in the summer mountains Can feel it like little peaches in my hands, fuzzy little peaches 5. I speak as a medicine man because the sun gives me my words. They will all come to me at some point, I think. I’ve always had an aura for gathering little chicks about me, and though I talk some days like coyote I’m really Momma Bear.
I picture my future in many colors. One in bright blue, pastel like the sky, and in it I keep my days crisply pressed like Oxford shirts, a drawerful of colorcoordinated cotton. I shudder at the thought of a woodbounded existence, and though I love the smell of pine I long to see its glittering blossoms in the winter. Another future is gold and red, the color of earth and heaven as I sit among the saguaros, learning to sing again. Jagged and alone, I am, silver and flickering arrow, carrying spirit messages between sky and ground. But the last future has the colors of the earth, browns and reds and greens, in which I choose neither path and both paths and stride beaded and gasping across the Plains. 6. Things I always seem to say. I have taught myself most rules. Poe has guidelines for short stories. Aristotle has requirements for plays. They all seem to end up like sauces: Introduce characters, plot, simmer Until reduced to the proper length. Add ground sea salt to taste. Fairytales, too, must always beginâ€” Once upon a time, in a land far, far awayâ€”; conclude: happily ever after. There are better rules for horror films. The Virgin survives, always. The slut is the first to die. The jock is never intelligent, But seems nevertheless to have A talent for leadership. He will kill everyone, eventually. I analyze myself like Faulkner. I am a rage and a thunderclap and like his novels the most terrifying parts of myself are the chapters I least understand. But still there is something horrifying about the chapters that are written in crisp English.
At twenty-five I will marry. At thirty I will give birth to my first child, and at thirtythree I will give birth to my second. I will have tenure like a magic charm by the age of forty. I will live forever in North Carolina, Travel in a foreign country for two weeks every summer, Keep my camera in a fanny pack, Fill my house with the photographs of my trips, because I lack the will to describe them otherwise. 7. At last, myself, as a performance. How my morning dreams always look like giants up on the mountains and how I’ve felt the trial starting as they said I would and the call like a white wolf’s howl rising cold and reverberating against the snow to cast the pine dust into my lungs and how I’ve never told you of all the faces behind my eyes in the evenings and the ones that rise to greet me in the mornings just like so many lovers. 8. I say at last what I am thinking, with trepidation. Since I moved here, I’ve come to feel this Southern-ness, not like crossed stripes that can be boasted by a flag but like a psalm. Like that feeling as you drive the final thirty miles up the mountain sides and your ears pop as you crest the last rise to see the thunderstorm that’s been there all afternoon, waiting for you, waiting to fill your lungs with heat, and scour them of their dust and collected pollen clouds. God is here. He is here and he draws me and my sense of the South westward, and I can see it fan out like a map in my head. I think of all the money it would take to get me to Phoenix, get me to the Grand Canyon again, and its beautiful red dust that runs in my blood and calls to me across the distance, get me there alone.
And out of the horizon in my mind comes the memory of how I began this poem thinking of my fear of childbirth, of the nightmare I had when I was sixteen about telling some future-husband I wanted a divorce. And how I wish I had been re-born instead as the Thunderbird, spending my life carrying updrafts of hot air against the ocean breezes, a spirit of all colors, calling out with booming thunder-voice. Still, I watch from the earth, with electricity trembling in my fingertips, and a heartbeat that rocks my whole body, rising to meet the lightning on my wings of rain.
I put on my hat and my coat and my shoes. I knew something was missing but I couldn’t think what. When I looked in the mirror I knew what it was; my underwear. How silly of me. When I took off my coat I would be naked. That wouldn’t do at all. I looked in my sock drawer; no underwear. I looked in my underwear drawer; only socks. I looked in all my drawers and could find no underwear. I knew I had some because I’d worn it before. Underwear was essential, especially for a girl like me going to a party where all kinds of special people were bound to be. By special people I mean men, particularly unmarried men. In fact only unmarried men. I wanted to get married, have a family and sit around the house all day watching daytime TV and eating chocolates. The only way I could do that was if my husband worked hard to keep me in hats, coats, shoes and underwear. But where could my underwear be. There it was. When I looked out the window it was hanging on the line drying in the sun. I hated drying my underwear in the drier. It always got sparky with static electricity. Once, when I put on a lacy bra, my nipples pinged out and surprised me. I mean that’s the sort of thing you want to happen when you’re in the company of a handsome young man and he pushes against you and your thin summer dress and your thin summer bra make it quite clear what your nipples are doing, but it’s not the sort of thing you want to happen when you’re at home alone. I went out to the garden. I said, Hello garden, what a lovely day. The garden didn’t say anything because it’s just a garden, or if it did speak it did it in such a low whisper I couldn’t hear. I collected all my underwear from my washing line and brought it indoors. I would wear the white and beige matching bra and panties and suspender belt. But I didn’t have any stockings. Was it silly to wear a suspender belt if I wasn’t going to wear stockings. I thought it probably was, but I wasn’t sure. I phoned Maisie and she said, Why aren’t you going to wear any stockings? so I said, I don’t have any, and she said, I’ll bring some over. Apparently Maisie has lots of stockings. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why I have a suspender belt if I don’t have any stockings. She brought two pairs; one brown and one black. I chose the brown, although she said the black would be sexier. I didn’t want to seem like a whore. Then she left and I said, Thank you, bye, and she said, Have fun, and I waved as she drove away. Then I went indoors and put on Maisie’s stockings. They felt really nice and I looked in the mirror. I definitely looked good but I still felt something was missing. I didn’t know what. I picked up my tiny tiny handbag and went out to the car. As the engine started I looked down at my legs and realised I wasn’t wearing a dress. I switched off the engine and went back in the house. I had so many dresses; which would I choose. I worried for a time why I’d forgotten to put on a dress. Was it a subconscious desire to appear naked in public? I didn’t want a subconscious like that. What if I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t wearing a dress and I’d gone to the party. Then, when I took off my coat, everyone would have gasped and giggled and I’d’ve said, What? what’s wrong, and a kind person would whisper, You’re not wearing a dress, and I’d’ve had to leave the party, and even if I found my dress I’d still be too embarrassed to go back. I was glad I’d noticed the lack of a dress. After some deliberation I chose something red. I think it was modelled on a Hussein Chalayan creation, but I’d bought it from Zara, so it was cheap, or I might have bought it from a discount warehouse, I couldn���t remember.
I went back to the car. Before I started the engine I made sure I had everything, hat, shoes, coat, underwear, dress. I didn’t have gloves. I started the engine. Should I wear gloves? Was it awfully faux pas to wear a hat but no gloves. Did it look sluttish? I’m sure Jacqueline Kennedy would never have worn a hat without gloves, nor would Princess Diana. I had to aspire to the best, not just accept that I wasn’t much to look at and my prospects of finding a handsome rich young man were negligible. I switched off the engine and went back in the house. I began to feel sorry for the engine. It must have been thinking, What’s happening, on off on off, when am I going to drive? I found the perfect gloves that matched my hat, not so exactly I looked like something from a magazine, but close enough to look stylish. I drove to the party. Obviously I switched on the engine but I didn’t want to tell you that because I thought you must be sick and tired of hearing about my engine but then I thought you’d wonder how I drove my car without switching it on, I mean as I’d mentioned it before, why not this time, so I thought I’d just say it was switched on.
When I arrived the party was in full swing and most of the eligible bachelors had been picked up by eligible young ladies, and some not so young but pretending to be. As usual I would be left with the dregs. A very nice young man came over and asked, Have you just arrived? Yes, I said, yes I have. So have I, he said, I was a bit delayed. It’s really rather silly. I got into the car and started the engine and I realised I wasn’t wearing any trousers. Oh no, I said, how awful. Thank goodness you realised in time and didn’t arrive at the party trouserless. Absolutely, he said, that would have been very embarrassing. Would you like to dance? I’d love to. We held each other close. I think it was a two-step, but where he was correct and took two steps, I was greedy and took three. If we hadn’t been holding each other tight we would have come apart. As it was our bottom halves parted then sprang back together. I suppose that’s just the way it’s supposed to be sometimes. After the dance he said, you have a unique style of dancing. I told him I’d had a charismatic dance teacher, who I’d found both appealing and repelling at the same time. Ah, he said, that explains it. We had champagne and the bubbles went up my nose and I sneezed and sprayed snot on his jacket. Instead of saying, You filthy trollop, look what you’ve done, he laughed and said, Oh dear, I hope you’re not the same with cocaine. He showed me a trick where you fill an enema with champagne and squirt it up your back passage. It saves bubbles going up your nose, he said. It certainly feels funny, I replied We were the last to leave the party. I was pissed at both ends and could hardly walk. I left my car and he drove me home. I can’t remember much about what happened that night, but in the morning, trouserless, he asked me to marry him. and leaving my dress round my ankles, I said yes.
She woke up to the sound of her alarm beeping in her ear. She turned over to stare at the offending thing. It cackled its morning noises. She slammed her hand onto the snooze button. Five more minutes wouldn’t hurt anything she thought. Late. She was fucking late. Why, oh why did she hit the snooze button again? She swore to God, she planned on getting one of those alarm clocks that ran all over the floor, the useless bastards. She shoved on her slacks and slowly zipped up the zipper. God, her pants were snug. She looked in the mirror and cradled her stomach in her hands. She thought she looked like a whale. Oh well, she had to hurry up or she’d be late for work. Happy Land Daycare was not the ideal job for a PhD graduate from Boston College in English with an emphasis in Irish literature. She had applied to work as a professor everywhere in Boston and everywhere was full. The economy keeps punching everyone in the face, including these fresh-out-of-college kids. Boston College or no, the jobs just weren’t there. She applied in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, hell even Wisconsin. Nothing. Before Happy Land, she worked at a place called Café Mitti’s while she waited to hear back from the universities that held her applications. Her boyfriend was very supportive of her during her dissertation, and even listened to her as she read that shit out loud. Jesus, it was a long piece on the formation of racial identity of the Irish in Ireland and America. He listened patiently and pointed out where she could improve things. Sex became nearly nonexistent. The honey, I have a headache excuse popped up often. She couldn’t pay her half of their rent. She whined about how working in a café was so beneath her, she had a PhD for crying out loud. He listened, but eventually got impatient. So do something about it, Alicia. He would tell her. She would grumble and groan until eventually, they didn’t talk to each other very much. Hon, can we just do it? I’m so tired of thinking, I just don’t want to think, she told him one night, and he gave in. It wasn’t what either of them wanted. A few days later, he told her that it wasn’t working, that he planned to move in with his buddy, Carl once the lease was up. She didn’t fight. She called her Mom, and this is how she ended up at Happy Land Daycare, back living with her parents in shithole East Texas. She headed down 59 South to get to Happy Land. It was raining that morning. Just what she fucking needed. She lurched in her standard car, unused to driving. Boston had the T, Nacogdoches’ public transport was the highway, you drive yourself. She pulled into the parking lot of the daycare at 6:27, forty-two minutes late. She threw her glasses into her cup holder, grabbed her purse, and walked in. ‘You’re late again, Alicia?’ Deanna put a hand on her hip. The bitch was so anal-retentive. Whatever, she wasn’t that late anyways. ‘I’m here, sorry. It won’t happen again,’ she told Deanna as she put her purse in the office. Deanna gave a mmhmm and Alicia rolled her eyes. Bitch, Alicia muttered under her breath. She walked into her assigned room. She had the four and five year olds. They were cute, they were cuddly, but they were also little ass holes. Every single one of them. ‘Miss ‘Licia, are you married?’ one of the little ass holes asked her. It was wearing a pink and frilly dress with a grape juice stain down its chin and dress. It wiped its nose on its hand. ‘It’s Alicia, Kayla. And, no, Kayla, I’m not married.’ She ran a hand through
her bed hair and began pulling out worksheets for today’s lesson. ‘Miss ‘Licia, is it ‘cause you don’t like boys? I don’t like boys.’ ‘Say because, Kayla, not ‘cause. I like boys just fine, Kayla. Go play.’ Kids. A few more kids oozed into the room. They all began to play with each other, until one of the boys started biting another. The little boy getting bitten started crying. ‘Teacher, teacher! He bited me!’ The little thing ran up to her and presented her with his arm, teeth marks and all. ‘He bit me. Say it right, Marcus. He bit me, not bited,’ she grabbed his arm and looked at it. It was fine. Didn’t even break skin. ‘Go wash it off, I’ll go talk to him.’ The little boy sniffled. ‘Jacob, come here.’ He ignored her entirely, his little ginger head bobbing to himself, making Optimus Prime crash into Frankenstein’s monster. ‘Jacob, I’m going to ask you one more time. Come here, please.’ She was going to lose it. She hated it when the little monsters refused to listen to her. In fact, she hated when anyone ignored her. The little boy turned around and gave her the finger, then proceeded to play with his toys. The little shit was five. Alicia’s eyes narrowed. She walked over to where he was, pulled him up to look at her and smacked him across his little smug cheek. Everyone stopped playing. It went quiet. His eyes widened, tears welled, then he began to cry enormous wailing tears. His screams were heard throughout the building. Deanna came in a few seconds later. ‘What is going on in here?’ Deanna asked. ‘Teacher hitted him,’ Marcus said. ‘Miss ‘Licia punched him hard,’ Kayla answered. ‘Miss Alicia slapped him, Kayla, she slapped him,’ Alicia said, still standing in front of the weeping Jacob. Deanna went over and quickly picked up Jacob. ‘What is the matter with you, Alicia? Get out of here, get out of here right now,’ she said, cradling the little boy. ‘I’m pregnant,’ she whispered, and hugged her stomach with both hands. She knelt down and began to cry.
A few days before grandpa died he told me that years before in the old country sometime after his mother and last brother died, he found himself wandering by the harbor as a freighter to anywhere passed. And on deck was a sailor and grandpa waived but the sailor looked beyond him back to the pier where his ship had departed as if he were still saying his last goodbye. And grandpa saw him keep that pose until both sailor and ship shrunk from sight. A year later grandpa also set sail, but he didn’t stand frozen on the deck looking back, for there was no one to see him off. I asked him what great grandma, great uncle, and that sailor, that sailor, strangely, most of all that sailor, looked like But he said we’ll talk later, for he had become suddenly very tired. We never talked again. That was decades ago. But since then I’ve filled in the hearsay with fabricated history. It’s what we all do, for the mind abhors gaps, it scrounges for images to fill its empty spaces, memory illusions being as real as optical ones. Today in my mind the sailor had brown hair and a moustache and if tomorrow those details fade I’ll just pencil in others. But I’m no longer sure if grandpa had a gray or brown beard or was it a moustache? Having lost my only photo of him, now I can never be sure.
HOW MRS KUCH, TEACHER, MADE FIRST GRADE OVERWEIGHT RICHARD
She decreed, ‘You will each be allowed only one sheet of composition paper. All letters have to, must absolutely, fall between the lines.’ ‘But why fall? Doesn’t fall mean always going down? And if you keep going down won’t you go beyond the line?’ I once dared ask MrS Kuch that question. ‘Impudent,’ was her reply. ‘You imp’ is what she’d often call me. But why did she think I had a dent? ‘If you cross the line you will earn no cookies with your required milk.’ Cookies and three o’clock were my first grade salvations. And earn them? Weren’t cookies part of my school day allowance? ‘Remember children, chocolate rots your teeth and gives you pimples.’ But we had chocolate milk at home and only my big sister had pimples. ‘Mr Fein are you paying attention?’ I think that’s what she said. I was making faces at Cynthia at the time. Mr Fein──luckily my dad wasn’t in the room, but Mrs Fein often was after I’d bring letters home. I tried, tried, till I was tired of I tried. But those blue tracks were so rigid that after three trips left to right my railroad special Howdy Doody ballpoint would always go off the tracks. And then that milk in waxy cartons; you could taste the wax. All the others got Oreos and sometimes even Fig Newtons to sweeten the taste. So after the cavalcade of teachers named Miss or Mrs Kuch, Mofty, Stern, Zieberg, Carey, and the horrors of Mrs Kuch again, typewriting paper became more and more my handwriting medium. And now there is always a joyful scatter of cookie crumbs falling on wide open paper. My pen goes up down and around them freely, with no lines to cross, no white slime in my mouth, no Kuch scolding in my ears. as I draw my letters exactly not the way Mrs Koch demanded. Cookie spots, dozens, hundreds, thousands, a lifetime of them, and myself bedazzled and plump amid those dappled sweet stains.
‘Your slaves are under threat, sir.’ ‘Hm? How? Have I been going too hard on them, Nicholas?’ ‘Oh no, it has nothing to do with the sport, sir. You see, they are being killed and eaten by lions.’ ‘Lions? Why would a lion eat a slave?’ ‘Well, as you know sir, there is nothing quite so wholesome for a hungry predator than a grown man.’ ‘Hm. But why eat a slave? Why don’t they try and maul me? Far superior flesh!’ ‘Of course, sir-’ ‘So what is the issue, am I running short on slaves?’ ‘Not at all, sir. You have a more than sustainable level to last until the upcoming market.’ ‘So why the fuss, Nicholas, m’boy?’ ‘Well, these creatures are feasting on your personal stock, sir.’ ‘Yes...’ ‘Perhaps as a man of dignity, you owe it to yourself, sir, to protect that which is lawfully yours.’ ‘...Quite right, my dear employee! These ghastly things are destroying my personal property!’ ‘Indeed, sir-’ ‘They’re chewing up my slaves, and feeding them to their ugly baby lions, whatever they’re called!’ ‘Cubs, I think, sir-’ ‘Cubs indeed! This is a direct attack on my honour Nicholas! How many people know about this?’ ‘Only you and I, sir.’ ‘Good, good, Christ, if the old boys found out about this, my reputation would be severely wounded.’ ‘Quite, sir-’ ‘They’d think I can’t control the fates of my slaves! They’d think I’m an incompetent gamekeeper!’ ‘Perhaps, sir-’ ‘Good God, Nicholas! Something must be done!’ ‘Carry on, sir.’ ‘OK, the plan is thus. Nicholas, go and find some shotgun-wielding morons to wipe out the lions.’ ‘Sir, would you not prefer some seasoned big-game hunters?’ ‘Heavens no, far too much expense. Just gather a gang of gun-owners. No need for professionals.’ ‘Very well, sir, what about their payment?’ ‘Oh, hell, just say I’ll pay them a month’s rent for their sordid little caves. They’ll jump at it.’ ‘An outstanding plan, sir.’ ‘I want the countryside alight with shotgun fire by the morning, Nicholas!’ ‘I’ll deal with it, sir-’ ‘Oh, and remind whoever you hire to kill the little ones as well, the, errm... ’ ‘Cubs, sir-’
‘Cubs! I want the heads of those bastards on my desk tomorrow, Nicholas!’ ‘I shall arrange it all straight away, sir. What shall we tell Mr. Couldron at the Gazette, sir?’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Don’t you think, sir, that the villagers are unlikely to be pleased that lions are being slaughtered?’ ‘What has that to do with anything?’ ‘There could be public outrage. Won’t we need the paper’s support, sir?’ ‘Oh, the villagers are simple things. Just tell Couldron to make up a few facts and statistics.’ ‘Hmm-’ ‘We shan’t have trouble at that end, Nicholas.’
At the library I hand back two books that I didn’t read. All I did was score out all the punctuation marks in both of them. It took four bottles of Wite-Out and nearly twice as many days. When I finished I felt better than I had done in weeks. As I walk out, an old man holds the door open for me. I can’t decide what kind of Punc he is. We pause and stare at each other, him with his watery eyes, mine dry, both of us sword fencing bad breath. ‘Is anything the matter?’ he asks me. ‘A Comma,’ I say, finally. * Dave starts up the car and indicates as he takes me home. ‘It wasn’t hit and run,’ he tells me. ‘I waited a hundred yards down the road and the kid got to his feet, you know? I watched him shake himself down.’ Dave slips the car into second, then third. Fences start to flicker by. ‘The kid looked unsteady. Sure, I’ll give you that. But there was no indication things were going to turn out the way they have. That’s why I drove off. ‘ He turns off the radio and turns on the window wipers. The car slows to a halt and we sit in silence at a set of traffic lights. A Question Mark walks across the pedestrian crossing dragging a collie behind him. The lights turn green and we start off again. I look at Dave as he drives: those Quotation Marks around his head. They look like earphones. ‘The doctor’s no help,’ Dave says. ‘I get these pills and a pat on the back and I think, what am I supposed to do with these pills? Will these pills bring the kid back? Where is the pill that brings people back? That would be something worth inventing. Nearly every patient in the world would be cured with a pill that brought someone else back.’ Quotation Marks are the easiest of the Puncs to spot. It will say ‘War Vet,’ or ‘Lesbian and proud’ or ‘Anti-social Goth.’ It will say ‘Religious,’ or ‘Earth Mother,’ or ‘Cam Girl.’ It will say ‘Quiz Show Watcher,’ It will say ‘Academic,’ It will say ‘Hit and Run Driver.’ Whatever is in between those quotes dominates them: it dictates the clothes they wear, it dictates the places they go and it dictates the friends they keep. ‘I lay these useless pills out in a line and then I put them back in the bottle. I lay them out in a line and then I put them back in the bottle. This goes on for hours. I think, is this doctor telling me to take them all at once? Is that what he’s saying here? Then I pop one in my mouth. It tastes of night. I turn out the light. But those pills don’t stop the dreams. All they do is chain me to my bed so I can’t wake up and scream. All the screaming’s inside.’ He points to his temple then shakes his head. As I watch his Adam’s apple bob I think that Dave might be turning into a Question Mark but say nothing. Puncs can change throughout their lives. That’s something you need to understand. A couple can be happily married for thirty years – he’s a Semi-Colon and she’s a Comma. Then one day over breakfast the man announces that he’s a repressed Hyphen. He’s known it all along – known it since he was young. He needs to be with another Hyphen and only married to cover his tracks. ‘Last week I went up the grave,’ Dave says. ‘Just to tell the kid I was sorry, you know?’ I tell him that graveyards need to move with the times. I say we should be using electronic headstones, linked to social media sites, lighting up those dark
cemeteries at night: ‘Miss you forever,’ flashing above a date of death in red. Twelve people like this. * My wife is doing exercises to her Zumba DVD as I push through the front door. She waves, like I’m on the opposite side of a river, and stops the music. Sweat blurs in a V down her chest. My wife is an Ellipsis. …no way did we forget to pay that…and then this kid, well he says: let me get the manager …after my father died I swore…two for the price of two it should say…but there was a foam party on the island…it’s repeated after eight… As I lay back on the sofa, trying to get comfortable, I can hear my wife crying in the bedroom. I think of what a let-down life is, and how you never find a woman as perfect as your mother, who gives you love unconditionally, and how it’s all back to front that you find that first and then afterwards all you meet all these women who will only ever be mothers to other people. * Next morning Dave picks me up again. He seems down and we travel to the doctor’s in silence. This time it’s my turn to see the quack. I turned forty four weeks ago. The only card I got was from the Health Centre inviting me in for check-up. Already seated in the waiting room is a pair of Brackets and a Colon. The Colon is rocking a baby in a pram. ‘Coo chee coo chee coo,’ the Colon says. A doctor walks by. He stands erect as he talks to the receptionist. I wonder if he’s Dave’s doctor. He’s an Exclamation Mark and this to me is right. Exclamation Marks are important Puncs. They’re loud alpha males who live in the best parts of town. They’re go-getters and jet-setters. They become Presidents, Popes, and Prime Ministers. They fly planes; they manage banks; they go to schools that look like castles. Sometimes, if you’re out and about, you can see them pogoing down the street on their Exclamation Marks, knocking other puncs out of the way. The nurse calls and I follow her white slip on shoes down a carpetless corridor. I roll up my sleeve as my body finds shape in the green leather seat. The nurse straps something around my bicep and it tightens. Something beeps. My nostrils flare. ‘I don’t like that first reading at all,’ she says. ‘It’s way higher than I would expect for a man of your age. Does anyone in your family have heart trouble?’ I tell her my family’s trouble is that none of them have a heart. ‘Ah,’ she says. ‘We have to rule out any underlying health issues. Something might be causing this. You might be a Full Stop.’ I ask her to repeat herself. ‘I said the fight is to get this blood pressure to drop.’ ‘Ah,’ I say.
He looked around. He saw his newspaper. Newspapers provide bearings. He picked it up. He started reading. His arms descended. The newspaper hit the floor. He woke. He picked up the newspaper. He started reading. His arms descended. His thumbs relaxed. The newspaper struck the floor. He woke, head turning quickly, the newspaper handed back to him. He started reading. Eyes closed. The newspaper clobbered the floor. His eyes opened. He picked up his newspaper. Eyes closed. The newspaper smacked the floor. He woke, looking left, right, then down, the newspaper splattered across the floor. As he read the sentence he’d already tried reading fifteen times, his arms wobbled, head hanging onto consciousness. His thumbs relaxed. The newspaper slapped the floor, the noise surprising the other readers. He sat, head bowed. Oblivion lasted twenty seconds. He looked around. He had forgotten where he had been. He remembered where he was. His eyes became erudite mica as he started reading his newspaper. He even looked alert. Then his forearms, after slow, unsteady falls, reached his legs, his hands opening as if they had died. The newspaper belted the floor, its reader’s head titled down; his palms faced the ceiling. His eyes opened. He picked up his newspaper. He started reading. The newspaper crashed onto the floor. He woke. He looked around. He found his newspaper. He started reading, his pouting lips creating a look of absorption. His arms wobbled. His hands relaxed. His eyes closed. The newspaper crashed onto the floor. He sat head bowed, chin on his chest. His eyes opened. He looked around. He saw his newspaper. He started reading. Events were unrelated. He read the sentence he had already read nineteen times. The newspaper walloped the floor. Another “random” event had occurred. The newspaper shook as his shaking arms fell. Its collision with the carpet made a clattering wallop. The other readers continued reading.
The newspaper reader woke. He picked it up his newspaper. He sat upright, eyes alert. His chin and arms fell. So did the newspaper. Thirty seconds elapsed with the newspaper on the floor; he picked it up and started reading, elbows on his legs. His arms descended. The newspaper smashed onto the floor. He woke. He started reading. His trembling arms fell. His head fell as his arms fell. The newspaper fell, his chin reaching his tie. His eyes opened. He saw the newspaper. He picked it up. He started reading. Statistics were irrelevant. His head fell. His arms shook. He sat still. His newspaper smacked the floor. His bowed head didn’t move. Another “independent” event had transpired. His eyes opened. He looked around. He put the newspaper back together and started reading. His trembling arms fell. The newspaper clobbered the carpet. His chin finished on his chest. He woke. He looked around. He picked up the newspaper and started reading. The newspaper crashed onto the floor. . Events were mutually exclusive. He clutched his newspaper. He focussed on the same article he had started reading twenty-six times. His eyes closed. The newspaper thumped the floor. The other readers acted as if nothing had happened. No reaction means nothing has happened. So nothing must have happened. The newspaper’s presence on the floor was irrelevant. Independent incidences were occurring. Statistics only record coincidences. He sat upright, eyes alight with hope. His eyes closed. A pleasant heaviness enveloped his body in a warm glow. His arms reached his legs. His thumbs relaxed. The newspaper flew towards the floor as if the carpet was a paper-attracting magnet. Newspapers make us believe. If it’s not in the newspaper, it doesn’t exist. And if it is, it must be true.
The newspaper crashed again, the reader’s head slumped. A mangled, newspaper corpse covered the floor. The other readers knew what was happening; but their silence implied that nothing had happened. So nothing had happened.
The newspaper reader glanced to see if anyone had noticed that he had fallen asleep – or even if anyone cared. If no one cares, nothing has happened. No one cared so nothing had happened. He picked up his newspaper. Fresh starts could lead to the realisation of a possibility that, from a rational perspective, seemed unattainable, changing methods irrelevant if events are independent coincidences. The newspaper reader’s falling arms shook as if some part of his brain was trying to inform him that his consciousness was disappearing. That part failed again to be successful. The newspaper hit the floor. The other readers didn’t look up. The newspaper reader woke. No reaction was being shown. Changing behaviour is unnecessary if no one reacts. The newspaper reader believed he was awake enough to read. Therefore, he could read. The newspaper crashed and crashed, statistics’ quiet voice eclipsed by irrational optimism.
A flash of truth lights his face and I donâ€™t know what to say. It is a river of stones that trails down from his firefly eyes to a mouth that has lost all speech. I know I should stop and take his hand, perhaps force a word like a glass shard from my skin, but I am hate and he is still. And we crash, glass and stone, into powder.
Dusk had fallen, Dirty pink and cream violet clouds blended perfectly above the setting sun – she climbed out of the crystal blue pool and edged cooly towards the marquee – she was warm and parched – only the ripples shimmered in the moonlight – contently she looked about and beamed upon the serene faces of friendly folk merging smooth with the music – all was well – the mouth-watering smell of hot sherry beckoned her seductively – she licked once when handed a cup – the crisp hazy winter smell of cinnamon and cloves lulled her into a daze – she took a sip – a sip – the maroon liquid tasted far from its smell – a cold – a cold metallic and musty taste ran down her throat – she regurgitated once eyes bulging she gasped – gasped at the figure lurching toward her direction – a boy – sliced clean in half – egad he moved! – yes moved so gracefully down the aisle keeping his gaze fixed on her – the girl looked away back at the sycophantic visitants then back at the boy – doubt took over her – why is it no one could see – he moved casually and cautiously as though in the midst of a daily ritual - was she being punished for this – was this some cruel kind of prank being drawn upon her – she let out a breath – he smiled softly taking a cup of sherry, one for him and one for her – she couldn’t swallow – the moisture in her pupils began to ooze she couldn’t close them – closer she could make out his blurred outline almost in front of her – he was charming - sauve - beautiful his lips parted – gushing secrets beyond the unthinkable She awoke, drenched.
This Seagull at my window will not - stop - bloody - staring. Being the big man I stare back at it long and hard. It catches me. It thinks I’m weird and flies away. That taught him. It’s mid eve I’m on the toilet. Thud. A Seagull is on my Skylight. I could tell by its mischievous glint it’s the same one. The sneaky sod. This could be the beginning of a...special friendship. Top of Form Bottom of Form
FOSTER ELIZABETH LUCY
I got pregnant on a Tuesday. It was the morning, so we smelt of coffee from the percolator and burnt toast, sun seeping through the skylights, warm. I hadn’t eaten properly for days; work took over each gasp of time and I could feel my own bones, my body slim against his. Our limbs were meshed and sewn together, my elbow slick on the crook of his shoulder and his chest pressing deep against mine. I’d imagined it differently. I’d been thinking my days could be filled like the pages of a book, aching for that something more, and even then I knew it was silly and idealistic but I wanted it. I wanted to feel his heartbeat but we moved too quickly, our bodies not held together for long enough. Daylight poured in, wrapped about us, so we didn’t need candles to light the space. We didn’t have time either: we had work. My train was in half an hour. But Tom has this way, you see, of brushing my hair from my face, tucking it behind my ear. These deft movements, delicate as china, yet strong and firm. This way of looking and touching and speaking. We hadn’t meant to have a baby. Whatever we had was being slowly pieced and I liked that. We dated and then one day he moved in and we didn’t discuss any further, and we didn’t need to. He was around to open jars, to cook on weekends. He had the top shelf of my cupboard because I could never reach up there anyway. Tom described us as a building, something solid and secure, but all I could dwell on was the vastness and permanence of such a thing. Tom only ever saw in those images though: sturdy and real. I thought us more a squishy substance, comforting and sweet but uncertain, soft as a baby’s skin. Like our flesh on one another’s, melting and moulded. Three weeks later I took the pregnancy test and nearly fell back onto the toilet seat, trembling such that the sweat shook from my brow, because we were a building, we were something huge and stable. We’d moved without rhythm, a stumbling sort of sex, something quick and rash between breakfast and work and somehow we’d made a baby in it, somehow we’d managed to make something from ourselves. My nightdress slid up my leg as I sat in the living room. It was tiny; I’d never noticed how small a space it was we inhabited before. The sofa I sat on took up the whole wall. He was opposite me, sat still, looking like a key cut wrong. He held onto the silence and his stoic expression just beats too long and I thought his decision had been made, but then he nodded, forced a smile. ‘Okay,’ he said. He pulled me into a hug and rubbed my back, paternal, kissed my forehead, pulled away and nodded again. ‘Okay then.’ And that was it, and we were having a baby. I’m not a maternal creature. I don’t coo when mothers pass with buggies on the street, I don’t even turn. I don’t love that baby smell, I never liked talcum powder and milk makes me ill, but that’s all they’re made of. I don’t think things are cute because they’re small, just as things aren’t ugly because they’re large – it’s just a size, it means nothing. I’d never thought to want a child. I’d only ever held a baby once before, and she’d been soft, and she’d nestled silently against my chest, and her lips had opened and closed and she’d looked just so, but I still didn’t want her. I’m not a maternal creature, but there’s something in knowing this is ours, his and mine, that we made something, and that this baby would grow and be like us, or not like us, gentle or fierce, brave or shy, or any number of things. And I wanted to know him. I thought I could piece together what we’d made. I thought I did know him – his little body parts, slowly pieced as we had been. I thought I knew each mould and dent, like it would all be exactly how I’d pictured.
Tom and I went to the first appointment together. I didn’t like hospitals, not that anyone does, and I didn’t want to feel the cool gel, I didn’t want another’s hands on me and it still felt alien and immense. I was nearly two months pregnant, and I wasn’t quite showing yet but I was sure I could see the edges of a bump, if I turned just to the side. I stood in front of the mirror, and sketched over my bellybutton with my index finger, round and round. I’d Googled what to expect at eight weeks. They told me my baby’s embryonic tail would be gone, his feet would be starting to become less webbed, and he would have eyelids – though not large enough to cover all of his eyes. I shut down my computer. The halls were long and white and sterile but still not quite clean. The corners of the chairs were peeling back, their strings near threadbare, the linoleum floor tiles lifting up, a barren grey. The bin was close to overfilling and there was a splash of tea on the floor about it, the paint cracking and flaked. The hospital can’t tell you much more than the Internet really. All they can do is say if the baby is matching what you’ve already looked up, if the webbed feet really is normal, ask about your birthing plan (do you have one yet? a birthing partner? your husband? oh sorry, I only assumed...), and book you in for test after test. We asked about the sex. It didn’t seem like some great surprise to wait, just a nuisance, just having to buy gender-neutral clothes, paint the room a gender-neutral colour when we didn’t have a gender-neutral baby. We had a boy. I’d wondered at the start of this relationship what might become of us. I’d wondered how he felt, if he got the same butterflies I did, if his heart jittered as mine. I wondered how long that would last, or if I was just stuck with it now, if this is how I was. I wondered if Tom saw me as I saw him, because I saw him all the time, even when I hid from it, even when I claimed to feel nothing but lust and vague emotion. All I knew was that there was something in him I missed when he was gone, something in him that tucked itself into me too. He was like unravelling thread, on and on. I didn’t know what he was made of but it was the same substance I was, we were built from the same bricks and clay, the same Promethean moulds. I had a life planned for myself. It would probably involve all of this eventually, but just not now. We shopped sporadically for baby bits and eventually found ourselves with a nursery: a crib lined with toys and a wardrobe filled with tiny clothes. My bump grew. I was stopped on the streets; they placed their hands flat upon my stomach, they paused and waited, and sometimes felt it. They would laugh and smile. Tom would lie down across the sofa beside me, sprawled like a monkey, and press his ear to my stomach as if it was a shell, and he would listen for the ocean. When I got too large and slow to stay at work I sat at home, and tried to take up knitting but my fingers weren’t deft enough, I couldn’t get the wool to move and latch as I wanted it to. I’m not a maternal creature, but I told myself there was something in trying, and let myself be proud of the attempt, however poor. I started baking instead. I’d always liked cooking. I let the dough sag beneath my fingers, let it splay between index and thumb, and smoothed it into the lining of the tin. I wondered if we were moulding ourselves, being cut like shaped gingerbread. They dragged a man out from the bins on the day he was born. We stepped out from the fire exit and round the back because it was the quickest way to the
street, my clammy hand glued to Tom’s as he discussed breathing patterns, retching on the air, a maniac, and we descended into a huddle of policemen. They dragged him up – just a glimpse of a swollen face – as we slipped past and got into the taxi. I’d hoped he’d be born on a Tuesday because it seemed cyclical and right. But it was early Sunday morning, over newspapers and pancakes. We always made pancakes on Sundays now. We decided we should have some kind of tradition and that could be it, something for the baby to be born into. We’d told each other that the whole birth would be spent dreaming of him, thinking of how he’d feel, that this expectation would rise like bile from our stomachs. We would tease out baby names, and when born he would simply fall into one. But instead it was sticky and hot. Women screamed in the rooms around us and I bit down, I held on and thought I could be silent, thought I could keep still, but it yelled from within me. Tom nodded and said all the right things and I hated him and this and I made him leave and then called him back, made him rub my shoulder-blades, though he’d never been good at it. He asked what I thought of ‘Connor’ and I just groaned, rumbling it out, curling in on myself, foetal. We’d never much been good at anything – just a vast building of a relationship; cut like gingerbread; sex at the breakfast table and then this – and then him. We didn’t have a name ready. He didn’t seem to suit anything yet, this tiny, tiny child. He was signed off as Baby Brown, and I played mother, and this is what it was now. His hands fit into the crook of my palm. He was a building, not the substance I’d imagined us but immense, he was vast like sky. He whimpered, but after we settled him into his cot he seemed to like it, and slowly quietened. The building was still. I heard a police alarm in the street, and thought of the man dragged from the bins so turned the telly to the news, but there was nothing. I’d check again in the morning, or ask Tom to. Tom was captured in the throngs of his own fatherhood. He sat expectantly by the bookshelf, thumbing the volumes of fairytales and legends, trying to decide which to tell first. I thought it better to surround the baby with music. He wouldn’t understand the stories anyway. I’d expected him to be crying when I woke, but it was silent and still, the night settling in on itself, no longer curled up in the plastic sheets of the hospital ward but our own thick blankets. I leaned over his cot and watched his lips quiver, the covers rise and fall upon his tiny chest. His eyelids flickered like an old black and white motion picture.
The bakery at the end of the block had a yellow brick façade, so you could always pick it out as soon as you turned off the main drag onto the cross street, and it’s what made the street famous. Between the rows and rows of lookalike houses with slanted roofs and same-old red brick fronts, there stood the bakery like a golden gift wrapped box waiting to be opened. It had everything you possibly could have imagined; the gooiest chocolate chip cookies, the sweetest pizzelles, and the fluffiest, richest bread. Half a block away you could smell you were coming up on it, and every Sunday the baker who owned it would bring his trays out to the sidewalk – as long as the weather provided – and share a few free sugar cookies and lemonade with anyone who passed by. Everyone in the neighborhood went there. They couldn’t think of going anywhere else. The baker himself was almost always behind the counter covered in flour with his big, calloused hands deep inside a pile of dough. He was a chronic whistler – his favorite song was When the Saints Come Marching In – and he was skinny save for the belly he was growing, mother said, because he ate so many of his own sweets. I never saw that as a bad thing. Whenever I came in he would grin ear to ear at me and say ‘Well hey Billy, come here, I have something for you.’ The something changed every time, but were it a bear claw or and elephant ear or a plain old chocolate doughnut, he always handed it to me as if he had made it special that morning and had it there just waiting for me to come and get it. I suppose I knew better, even back then, but I let him pretend and I mostly believed it. It was a consequence of this that I came in a lot. It was a consequence of coming in so often that kept me out of trouble, and also got me hopelessly hooked on angelfood cake. As I got older the baker got thinner; I thought maybe his wife had finally convinced him to quit sampling his own delicacies so often. But his hair was turning slowly from the color of autumn bark to winter snow. Still, he was a hale old creature. And when I was old enough, sometimes after school he would let me hang around the counter and watch him make the sourdough. More often than not he’d grunt and say very loudly to no one in particular that he’d surely pay a nickel to anyone who could go and bring up the new boxes of flour, or take the old crates out back to the alley. Being a well-meaning child with far too much energy left unused during my school day, I’d scamper back and earn myself a nickel. That old man was so kind to me that I thought for a while I wanted to be a baker myself, and I thought one day I might buy that shop when he retired. I learned a lot about it from sitting there watching. My mother and father were both at work long into the evening, and as I got older I realized that what I appreciated most about the baker was the company. Like a good bartender he didn’t do much talking, he just listened, and made sweets. Every Sunday I’d go down to help him set up the tables, early in the morning. Before the customers came I’d show him baseball cards or teach him coin tricks that I myself was not particularly good at. He pretended to be impressed. Once the people started coming I’d help pour out lemonade or run up to the market on South Street whenever we ran out of supplies. I’d still dutifully spend time at the counter on weekdays and earn my nickel whenever the baker mused about his chores. The last summer I worked there I had gotten pretty big and the crates were easy for me to lift. I suppose, looking back on it, they were probably getting heavier
for him. Summers turned to autumns and I started getting interested in the things young men fancy; going back to school, or taking pretty girls over to the park, painting model trains, and playing baseball with my friends. Every Sunday became every other and soon they were almost not at all. School ended and I spent more time painting sides of houses than I did at the counter anymore, and so I never saw any of the signs. I went back once or twice whenever my mother sent me out for bread, and still the baker would smile ear to ear and say, ‘Well hey, Bill. Come here. I’ve got something for you.’ He wasn’t as rosy as he’d used to be, of course, but he seemed healthy enough. Or, maybe I’m remembering what I want to remember, and not what was really there. Then came a message from the president; the Germans had pushed us into a war. I put on a uniform and went away to fight in a place I’d never heard of. I spent a long time over there, down in the pits of the earth, where the rations came few and infrequently, and we never slept or washed. We hardly ate, and we lived in tiny holes curled against each other waiting out the bombing raids that hailed down over us. We fought and we saw things, and we almost forgot anything about what home looked like. We never saw good bread in a trench. It was always hard or green on the edges because it couldn’t dry out. But sometimes when I picked up a piece of it I’d catch an old smell of home cooked sourdough that always hung around the bakery, and I’d smile. I think I always caught that little whiff of home when I most needed it to ground me. So I let myself think of all those sweet little cakes, just for a moment, and about coin tricks and empty crates. ‘When I get home’, I’d tell myself, ‘it will surely be a Sunday, and he’ll need someone to help him take the tables out.’ It helped me through, in fact, it was probably what kept me whole. When I came back the bakery was empty, they told me. I went there to see for myself and there was nothing, not even a crate of flour left. But it wasn’t just that the room was empty; there was a different kind of emptiness, a coldness there, which I’d learned about overseas. Twice I blinked but it didn’t stop the tears from coming and I pressed my palms to my eyes, then I crumpled onto his old stool and I sobbed. I don’t know how long I stayed like that but when I stood up and looked around the empty room, my eyes were dry, my palms were red, and I understood. I put a nickel on the counter, and I walked out. It was a Sunday, the day I finally got back, and I had no idea what I was going to do. I didn’t know where to find another bakery and it came to me then that I wasn’t so hungry anyway. There was a for rent sign on the yellow brick front and I looked at it for a minute on the edge of some decision, but whatever you try to do nothing can be the same as you remember on the second go around. So I hoisted up my rucksack and started my walk home.
Ohhhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrr. What! Did I actually bring that home last night or is this just the trickery of the minds morning haze? But the smell too, your sense of smell can never be denied that is why so many primitive creatures rely on it; it cannot deceive them. And this odour of yours; a potent one that lingers a little longer than such a smell should. And to the touch your greasy skin acts as an adhesive as I struggle to pull my finger away and quickly cover you with your out of date, out of fashion leafy dress. I canâ€™t bare the sight of you. How did you end up here? What happened? What do I remember? I remember- I remember longing for you. Like all men succumbing to the innate need for you. That inconceivable persuasiveness of that Y chromosome that just canâ€™t be supressed. I remember falling through darkness like a pinball being flipped from pillar to post dazzled by the flashing street lights untiluntil I found you. Found my jackpot. There spinning on your pole. You looked almost edible but not quite. But still, you were to be the saucy mistress of this loathsome night.
GrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrThat all too familiar thunder before the storm. The juices of you crashing through my insides seeking an EMERGENCY EXIT . . . it seems your time has come to pass.
CO LL A B ORATI O N NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY
Louie James Matt Luke
Ricketts Antoniak Hartely