A L L I T E R AT I CREATIVE WRITING AND ARTS MAGAZINE
I S S U E
A LLI T E R AT I IS SU E
Hello Aliteratians! Welcome to Issue 6 of Alliterati Magazine. We bring you some of the best artwork and creative writing from across the globe: including the UK, US, New Zealand and Canada! It’s been a busy few months at Alliterati HQ as we’ve had the difficult task of choosing only a select few of the many wonderful submissions we recieved. We have also been busy trying to improve our website; keep your eyes peeled for a new forum and don’t forget to ‘Join the Alliterati’ on our new facebook page http://www.facebook.com/alliterati. These pages are adorned with the fantastic results of our unique GoBetween scheme which matches writers and artists in order to create surprising and dynamic new work. For more interesting stuff and information on the writers and artists featured in this issue, check out our website: www.alliteratimagazine.com We will be uploading bios for all our fabulous contributors on our website soon so watch this space! Enjoy!
The ‘A’ Team
CO NT ENTS 6 BALLOONS EMMA COATES 14 SHE IS RAINDROPS ANNIE JOHNSON 18 BURNOUT JESSICA WRIGHT 20 A PLANK’S LIFE MAX ADAMS 23 INSIDE THE LINES ROWAN McCABE 26 SUMMER LILY LEADER 27 CARMINE AND CLAY KATE HEDLEY 32 CURIOSITY LIVVY COSH 34 IT WILL BE DARK SOON ANYWAY DON FREDD
42 A GRAND UNDERTAKING DANIEL HINDS 52 GRUNGE TRACK 1, 2, 1, 2 JENNI REAY 54 NERVOUS DISORDER HOWIE GOOD 56 MIND OVER MATTER LUCY MENZIES 58 GRIP KATE HEDLEY 60 THE TRUMPET PLAYER AMY DOWLER 64 ORION LIVVY COSH 68 RED FOREST ALLIE WEATHERBEE
A S C R E E N P L AY EMMA COATES JUSTIN LAWSON
INT. KITCHEN. MORNING RICHARD, a fifty something male, sits at the breakfast table with his WIFE and YOUNG TEENAGE DAUGHTER. He is dressed smartly for work in a suit and tie. His wife and daughter are engaged in conversation, but Richard is detached from the intimate family scene. His gaze wonders beyond them, to a huge bunch of eighteen yellow balloons floating over by the window. V.O On my first birthday my dad bought me one balloon, on my second he bought me two...today is my eighteenth birthday. His wife notices Richard is distracted and smiles encouragingly at him. Richard tries to return the gesture, but his smile is unconvincing. He finishes his mug of coffee and stands to leave, kissing his wife and daughter on the head as he does. The women turn to watch him leaving with the bunch of balloons. EXT. FRONT GARDEN. MORNING It is a gloriously sunny morning. Waiting by the front door for her father is BECCA. Becca is eighteen. She is dressed in a yellow summer dress and sandals. She leans with her back to the brick wall of the house, when Richard opens the front door she springs
forward to greet him with a huge smile. RICHARD Hey Kiddo! Happy Birthday! He hands her the huge bunch of balloons. They hug. RICHARD (CONT’D) Yellow. Still your favorite? BECCA Of course! I love them! The pair link arms and walk through the well kept front garden onto the street. 2. EXT. STREET. MORNING They live in an attractive neighborhood. The road is lined with trees and all the houses are large detached properties. RICHARD Eighteen hey...where did the time go? BECCA
(Laughing) God Dad you sound like such an old man! But yes... officially an adult now. RICHARD Well I don’t know about that. BECCA No, it’s true. You’re now looking at a fully fledged adult! RICHARD Oh am I, indeed? Taking her wrist...
RICHARD (CONT’D) A fully fledged adult who still wears a bunch of silly rope tied around her wrists. Becca’s arms are covered in an abundance of brightly colored braided friendship bracelets. BECCA (Playfully) These, are of great sentimental value actually. Me and the girls got these in Greece, and Phil sent these ones back from Thailand for me. RICHARD Oh, well if Phil sent them... Interrupting... Shut up!
Becca goes to hit him with her hand full of balloons, for a while the pair are tangled in the strings. 3. RICHARD OK, OK. Sorry. When does he get back again? End of August.
Detangled, they continue walking in silence for a while. BECCA So puss face didn’t look too chirpy this morning?
RICHARD Probably because you keep calling her that! You mustn’t tease your sister about her skin. BECCA It is gross though. Richard gives her a warning look. BECCA OK... sorry. I’ll apologise to her. RICHARD That would be nice. They reach a t-junction at the end of the street. Richard stops walking. He stands in silence, staring at a point in the middle of the junction. Becca has continued to walk, she calls back to him... Dad! Come on...
Snapping out of his trance... RICHARD (Forcing a smile) Sorry Bex, I’m coming. They cross the street. BECCA So, Warwick university have an open day, me and Rach are going to go to this weekend. 4. RICHARD Warwick, that’s fantastic!
BECCA Yeah, they’ve got a chemistry course that looks quite good. RICHARD That’s really fantastic Bex, I’m proud of you. He puts his arm around her shoulders. BECCA I know Dad. You’ve said... Smiling down at her... Well I am.
BECCA Anyway, it’s a bit far away. But I’ve checked out the trains and if I went there I should be able to get home quite easily, and to Newcastle... but it takes ages. RICHARD What’s in Newcastle? Phil will be...
RICHARD Oh. Well that probably isn’t the most important thing. You might not be in such a hurry to get to Newcastle once you’re there. BECCA Dad! Of course I will be. Anyway I know it’s not the most important thing I was just saying. The conversation dies out for a while.
They walk past a church that is bordered by an evergreen hedge. A gap has been worn in the plant by people cutting through. 5. Short Cut?
Richard nods following Becca through the hedge. EXT. CEMETERY. MORNING. Becca remains ahead of her father as they walk through the cemetery. She weaves her way through the rows of graves touching the head stones as she passes them. She pauses beside a new looking grave, which is laden with flowers. She hops on top of the head stone and sits swinging her legs waiting for Richard to catch her up. Richard reaches the grave. The writing on the head stone reads, â€œBecca James. Beloved, Daughter, Sister and Friend. Greatly missed by all who knew her.â€? He begins to cry. BECCA Thanks for the balloons Dad. RICHARD My pleasure kiddo. BECCA Say Hi to Mum and Puss Fac... Angela for me. Richard smiles and nods. Love You.
Richard takes a tissue from his jacket pocket and brushes away his tears. When he looks back at the head stone Becca has vanished, only the balloons remain floating by the grave. BECCA V.O Don’t stand there all day now. You’ll be late for work! Through his tears Richard laughs and nods in agreement. 6. EXT. STREET. MORNING Richard walks back past the t-junction. A lamp post he passes has a rose and an a4 piece of paper in a plastic wallet tied to it. Becca’s photograph is distinguishable on the paper, she is wearing her yellow summer dress, smiling with a group of friends.
SHE IS RAINDROPS
ANNIE JOHNSON DEVIN LOUTTIT
You collapse the umbrella, When it falls, They sleep between the lining, Of your worn coat, Lapels like liquorice, Sweeter than the wool, Of pillows, and socks. They follow you in, The typicality of season, Smoothes your hair, Twinkling as you tease them.
JESSICA WRIGHT REBECCA WILD
Pinecone stillborn Lizard green, each scale Tightly polished like A fish built out of Gemstones, the end Of a new rope, Sleeping, soaked in Sunlight, swollen like A smoked-out cigar Spilling its ashy Guts between the Cracks in the path.
A PLANK’S LIFE
MAX ADAMS DAVID MILLS
It seems I must account for the life of this plank (the one on the right) I must count time Starting now and working back. Now. I am looking at it. Minus: One sixteenth of a second to take the picture A minute to place the plank Just right An hour to contemplate the space The angle, the light As its biographer I will allow this plank a couple of weeks in a skip, give or take, before it is talent-spotted for an artistic career, its brief spotlit days of fame. The artist, I suppose, cycles past it one day on the way home and sees it there. Is it lying demurely, showing just a hint of mortised ankle beneath the plasterboard scraps which lie on top of it? Or is it poking brazenly out, shouting for attention, so to speak; having an X-factor moment. I cannot say; there is no diary entry or tear-stained letter, the stuff I usually work with. I don’t like to ask the artist in case he woke up on top of it after a heavy night and doesn’t like to admit it. The plank is trying to escape the incinerator. It succeeds. For a while, anyway. It has been in a building, this plank. I can’t quite see from here but I have
a suspicion it might have been a weatherboard, the threshold of a door. It looks kind of trodden on. Let’s see: say a hundred years in a house: thirtysix thousand pairs of feet going out in the morning and coming back at night and times that by the number of people in the house and factor in the children running in and out all the time (make your mind up and shut that bloody door). If planks could talk... But they can’t. Trees can. Some can. They send messages to each other when we are not looking: little puffs of acid gas to raise the alarm when something nasty is on its way. Mostly bugs. They are rather clever beasts, trees. They ought to be: they have been at it a long time. Three hundred million years. Something like that. let’s not split hairs. So long, anyway, that in the beginning they learned to have sex with each other with only the gentlest breezes of spring to help them. There were no insects to help them along; to give them a hand. As it were. No need to learn to walk or run if the sex comes to you. Just face the south-west and hang your bits out in that wafting air laden with pollen. So trees do not learn to walk. Or run. It saves energy. Phew. This plank (the one on the right) might come from a conifer. Conifers are tall with pointy silhouettes because they live up north where the sun shines sideways most of the time. My guess is that this plank is from a deciduous tree: hard wood wears better, lasts longer. It’s okay, they can take it; they are strong. Deciduous trees don’t grow so tall and they have haircuts like seventies black soul singers; coming from the south they find that the sun shines overhead so that’s where they wave their leaves to gorge on light. They wear shades. It’s cool, man. The tree that gave this emasculated plank its cropped grain, its truncated rings, its torn heart, its lockjaw muscularity, it might have been two hundred years old when it died. A good innings, no regrets. It passed its genes on, saw its share of wars and tears, watched the fellers take its siblings and neighbours one by one by one. Trees are not sentimental. We may count their years off , summer after spring, spring after winter, winter after autumn, each confined within the next in filo sheaths of light and dark. But trees don’t count. They don’t look back, trees don’t, they look out. They watch us. That plank (the one on the right). I think it may be watching me.
INSIDE THE LINES
ROWAN McCABE DANIELA HUHUREZ
Primary school teachers maintained pupils did not colour outside of the lines. That they must have all faded, somehow. So every child produced a waxy collage that day, an expression of their true identity, and every classroom bubbled with laughter. Strangers began conversing on public transport, unprompted, they shared hopes and fears for the future. Old rivalries and bad blood were put aside. Decade long silences were shattered. In a bungalow of an unhappy retirement, a word became the first droplet of a monsoon. Soon after, walls became transparent, on endless terraces people lying merely metres apart introduced themselves. From a second floor, hundreds of people in every direction, going about their lives; eating, resting, sharing time, no longer concerned if others witness their existence. Then, the check points of every countries boarder melted, dissolved, leaving a grey puddle behind, so there was nothing to show where we stopped being â€˜usâ€™. People decided they were all different. Only, it is these differences which are our one common feature. Soon, doctors and physicians had forgotten the precise moment fresh air becomes our breath or when a meal becomes a part of you. No longer sure exactly where they began or ended, most admitted their surroundings were as much a part of them as their hearts and minds.
Businessmen began to treat the gas they swapped with plants as a conversation more crucial than closing a deal. The kind of informal chitter-chatter which would choke you to death if it ended. Some were later overwhelmed by guilt as they reluctantly ate and apple, or mashed a potato. All agreed they would still draw lines through human nature, for convenience. But no longer set in stone, they would now be drawn in sand and wash away with the changing tides. After all, they existed only in their minds, as a fairytale or a section of sky.
Sparrows will never be sparrows again. They are red rhododendron bushes sweet smelling and drooping with blooms above us; his zipper hissing as it opened; baked dirt matted in my hair stuck to our sweat-slicked skin brushed away by my small shaking fingers after. They are his smirk.
C A R M I N E A N D C L AY
KATE HEDLEY EMMA DEVANE
‘Good morning, sir. Can I interest you in a new front door?’ Number Nineteen peered out curiously from the beige vacuum of his hallway, cigarette balanced expertly in his left hand. ‘New salesman, is it?’ ‘Mischa Chernekov, sir, and happy to be serving the area.’ Nineteen took a short drag on his cigarette, scanning his face. ‘Polish, are you?’ ‘Russian, sir.’ The man wafted his hand, peppering ash onto the brightly-coloured welcome mat beneath Mischa’s feet. ‘Oh, please; ‘sir’ makes me feel ever so old. Mr. Clay will do nicely.’ Mischa smiled warmly, bowing his head. ‘Mr. Clay it is, then. So, may I-’ ‘Come in?’ He was already transferring the cigarette to his lips to usher the young man in with both hands, casting a wary glance sideways at the house next door. ‘Yes, yes; do. Do come in.’ Mischa smiled gratefully and wiped his feet. Better not to bring any dirt in. ‘Thank you.’ The house itself was immaculately clean, if cluttered. Dust had nowhere to gather, even if countless knickknacks and gadgets did. Small, tidy stacks of catalogues formed a miniature library on every coffee table in the living room – ‘I’m addicted, I’m afraid,’ Mr. Clay said, gesturing loosely at a shelf of unused culinary equipment, presumably the spoils of this addiction - and a few art prints broke up the tan blandness of the walls. It occurred to Mischa that Clay probably couldn’t name any of the artists; perhaps not even Van Gogh, whose lovely yellow sunflowers perched just above the brickedup fireplace. ‘Have a seat,’ said Mr. Clay, smiling warmly as his guest obeyed. ‘Now. Was it windows you wanted to talk about? I’ve already had them done.’ ‘A new front door,’ he reminded him politely. ‘Of course,’ said the host, stubbing out his cigarette. ‘That’s right. A repaint just can’t lift a housefront the same as an entirely new door, can it?’ ‘Exactly,’ Mischa agreed, ‘and – well, I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but you seem the sort of man who’ll understand.’ ‘Go on,’ Mr. Clay urged. ‘The rest of your house is so immaculate. You can tell you’ve had the windows done, of course… I do think your old door is letting the side down.’ Mr. Clay considered this for a moment, crossing his legs. ‘Is it the colour? It’s the colour, isn’t it?’ ‘White,’ said Mischa, glancing down the hallway to check that he was right. ‘I’m sure at the time it was very fitting, but…’ ‘Yes, yes,’ Mr. Clay agreed, tapping his bottom lip thoughtfully. ‘Yes; perhaps I do need a change. What sort of doors do you sell?’ His gaze latched onto the brochure even before Mischa removed it from beneath his arm, flipping it open at the right page. ‘That all depends on what sort of door you would like, Mr. Clay. I might
recommend option fifteen.’ ‘The carmine?’ Mr. Clay’s lips pursed a little as he glared at it, leaning back from it as though it were contagious. ‘The carmine is ever so vulgar.’ ‘You’re the first person I’ve ever heard say so,’ Mischa said, tapping it with his fingertip. ‘I’ve sold that carmine door to what feels like half of London.’ ‘Really?’ ‘A red door attracts the eye of the passer-by, Mr. Clay,’ he said gravely. ‘They’re all clocking onto it now.’ The host lifted the brochure from his knee to look at it carefully, slipping on his glasses. ‘Actually, I think it would be quite fetching in person.’ ‘There’s only one been actually installed so far that I’ve seen, but it’s quite something.’ There was a beat, and Mischa almost expected Mr. Clay to make the order right then and there, but there was still one final element missing - one final promise. He put the brochure down to look at the salesman carefully. ‘You haven’t been to see Clara, have you?’ ‘Clara, Mr. Clay?’ ‘Mrs. Carmine,’ he said irritably, wafting a hand as if she and her obnoxious perfume were right in the room. ‘The surname, not the colour. She lives next door, on the right - frightful bitch. The other salesmen all hate her. You haven’t sold her this door?’ ‘No, Mr. Clay.’ ‘You’re sure? It’d be an easy sell; match your name to your door…’ ‘Quite sure,’ he replied. ‘I think I’d remember a frightful bitch.’ Mr. Clay laughed and patted his knee gently. ‘I think you would. Oh, she’ll be so jealous. Her house is next, isn’t it? Promise me you won’t try and sell to her.’ ‘I have to make a living, sir.’ ‘Listen,’ Mr. Clay said, suddenly very serious. ‘Listen, and I’ll tell you something. If you promise me you won’t go straight to Clara Carmine - and I mean it, now - and sell her this door, I’ll pay you twice the price, right into your top pocket. Cash.’ A heartbeat later, he softened, leaning back a little. ‘It’s for your own good, you know. She’s awful to the new ones - takes them into her house, makes them tea; flirts a little. So vulgar. She’ll never buy anything from you anyway. You know that, don’t you? She’s just a tease - a lonely, haggard old tease.’ ‘Double the price,’ Mischa repeated quietly. ‘That’s a lot to spend on one new door, Mr. Clay.’ ‘You have to make a living, after all, don’t you? It’s just a little favour. For me.’ Mischa smiled weakly. ‘Well, if you’re sure…’ ‘Quite sure,’ said Mr. Clay, suddenly animated, and passed him back the brochure. ‘Alright. Chop chop! Let’s get these forms all filled out.’ ‘Of course.’ With the clipboard on his lap, he pulled out a cheap ballpoint to start writing. ‘I’ll spare you the details, Mr. Clay. I already know your house address and suchlike. I’ll only need your first name, if I may.’ ‘George,’ he said silkily, reaching into his pocket for his cigarettes and his wallet. ‘George,’ Mischa repeated. ‘And I think you said it would be cash.’ ‘That’s right.’ He paused for a moment as he flipped through the notes in his wallet, then spoke up again. ‘What was your name, again, young man?’ ‘It’s Mischa. Mischa Chernekov.’ Mr. Clay wagged the cigarette at him playfully. ‘Aha. That’s right. Foreign names slip my mind so quickly, I’m afraid… no offence, of course?’
‘No, none.’ ‘Can’t say anything these days without offending some sod or other, can you?’ He lit up the cigarette, holding the silver lighter as prominently as possible. Mischa made the decision not to comment. ‘Dear, dear. I suppose you would like the red, wouldn’t you, being Russian?’ Mischa smiled faintly. ‘I’m not a communist, Mr. Clay.’ ‘No, of course not! No. Silly profession for a communist, I suppose. Do you like it here?’ ‘Very much,’ he replied politely, though he’d liked it here all his life since being born into the same London hospital as his brother. ‘I think that’s all, actually. Would you check the payment amount, please, and sign your name?’ ‘When shall I expect the bulls to come running?’ he teased as he took the pen, adding his name to the paperwork in a predictably loud, grandiose swoop of ink. ‘I think I’ll have a garden party the day after; celebrate a little. Show Mrs. Carmine what she’s missing.’ He nodded as he passed the pen back, and in the closeness of the gesture Mischa noticed how very tired and stretched his features were. ‘You’re very welcome to come along; you and Mrs…?’ ‘Oh, no,’ Mischa said. ‘I’m not married.’ ‘I thought not,’ said Mr. Clay triumphantly. ‘No ring on your finger, you see? It’s just a little thing, but I always take care to look for it.’ ‘Well,’ he clarified, smiling apologetically. ‘I might as well be. She might as well be my wife. Haven’t got the money, that’s all. A daughter, too - her name is Annabelle.’ ‘What a lovely name,’ said Mr. Clay, and lifted the cigarette for a long drag punctuated with a sigh. ‘You’re all very welcome anyhow.’ ‘I think,’ Mischa said, checking the calendar, ‘that your door will be delivered on the twenty-third. If you’re having your party on the twenty-fourth, I’m afraid I’m already engaged.’ ‘Working?’ ‘Annabelle’s birthday. We’ve been saving to buy her a rocking-horse.’ ‘I expect that’s where your nice double wage will go?’ ‘Yes, that’s right.’ Mr. Clay smiled warmly. ‘Well, that’s very gentlemanly of you. I hope she has a wonderful birthday.’ ‘Thank you,’ said Mischa politely, standing from his seat with all the paperwork tucked under his arm just as before. ‘And thank you very much for the business. I suppose I’ll see you on the twenty-third.’ ‘Absolutely,’ his host said, giving a warm smile. ‘I’ll show you out, shall I?’ ‘Goodbye, Mr. Clay.’ ‘Goodbye,’ he said from the doorway, waggling the fingertips of his free hand with the cigarette suspended from the other as lazily as before. The twenty-third came by fast, and amidst the preparations for Annabelle’s rocking horse and jellyand-ice-cream extravaganza, Mischa took delivery for the Tarset Street doors. There were a few plain ones, of course - cheap, subtle replacements the likes of which most ordinary people preferred to buy. Best of all, of course, was the main event. The company always sent workmen to help fix the doors up, but Mischa fitted Mr. Clay’s door himself. The colour was hideously gauche, but Mr. Clay regarded it with a proud smile as he caught sight of it. ‘I, the matador,’ he said, touching it with all five fingertips of his hand. He repeated it every time he referred to himself, which he did frequently; Mischa could hear him saying it in the kitchen. It ended, of course, when he left the kitchen to bring out Mischa’s second cup of tea. The others had started work on fixing up Mrs. Carmine’s door; an equally offensive thing in bright white with panels
of aquamarine glass and a similarly-hued doorknob. He had hoped the man would drop his cigarette, but he didn’t; instead he took a few stumbling steps out to gape at it, only shutting his jaw when he caught sight of the lady herself reclining against the fence. ‘Morning, George,’ she said lazily, holding a large pink mug of coffee aloft with both hands. ‘What do you think? Very in vogue, isn’t it?’ ‘What on earth is that?’ ‘White and aquamarine, darling. Half the houses in London will have it soon, I’m told. Are you getting a new door too?’ She leaned with a catlike smirk to take a look at his, victorious. ‘Oh; is that the carmine? How flattering, Mr. Clay. I told Mr. Chesnakov you might like it.’ ‘That’s you fitted,’ said Mischa warmly, patting the door and taking a step back to check it was right. ‘Will you be giving a tip, sir?’
LIVVY COSH ROBYN NEVISON
As you whispered head tucked close to mine, ensuring I could not look away or pretend not to hear “curiosity killed the cat,” I trembled. You held me as I swallowed, stomach rebelling, thought after question after accusation: but as those four words echoed in my ears, I fought. Wrapping fingers around your wrists, I leaned in to remind you: “satisfaction brought it back.”
IT WILL BE DARK SOON A N Y WAY
I check into the Holiday Inn Express in Presque Isle, Maine. Since I am in the Preferred Member’s Club, I receive a complimentary gift bag. There is a bottle of Poland Springs water, a bag of potato chips and discount coupons for a drink at the bar plus tomorrow’s all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. At the front desk Yvonne sincerely hopes I enjoy my stay. Her badge says she is in training. I ask what direction my room faces. She doesn’t know exactly, but will find out and let me know. I tell her it’s not a big issue. She has a slight Canadian accent. Being super friendly always makes up for lack of knowledge, inexperience or incompetence. It is after four in the afternoon. I’ve been on the road for eight hours. I can’t decide whether my primary need is a hot shower or a drink. The bar, however, is just off to my left. I place my free drink coupon in front of Ted’s name tag and ask for a Long Island Ice Tea. Ted informs me that the free drink is limited to beer or a mixed drink with bar liquor--gin and tonic, rum and Coke—that sort of thing. I settle for LaBatts in a bottle. There are only two other people in the bar, an older couple. They look to be waiting for a bus as each has a suitcase next to their chair. Ted mops the empty space in front of me and asks me where I’m from. I explain that I just got in from Portland. Six hours on the turnpike and then a long drive dodging logging trucks once you got on Route 1. Two hours to go sixty miles. Ted relates a traffic horror story on the same road that tops mine, and then inquires if I’m a salesman. I display my amazing sense of humor by asking him if the jacket and tie I’m wearing is that much of a tip-off in this part of the world. He laughs and pops the cap off another Labatt on the house. I deepen our relationship by telling him I’m a sales rep for Haffner and Glenn. They design and manufacture expansion joints. Ted knits his brow. I explain that I rarely tell anyone what I do because it’s complicated. Does he want the short or long version and then give the punch line that there is no short version. He grabs a club soda water, settles in ready to listen. Basically all seams in a construction project need room to expand according to the weather. Bridges have metal saw teeth that move to and fro. Sidewalks made of concrete should have a polymer caulk between joints. My company takes the construction specs and manufactures what type of expansion joint will be needed. Pouring concrete in Maine is way different than Alabama. I handle the New England territory which also includes Eastern New York State. It’s a good living, but Mr. Haffner (old man Glenn died ten years ago) is a stickler for meeting the customer face to face so there is no such thing as Skype or conference calls. I spend three weeks in the main office just outside of Boston and then hit the road at the end of every month. I have a 10:00 AM meeting tomorrow with a Presque Isle strip mall developer then have scoot down to Bar Harbor by 8:00 PM for a town planning board meeting as they are thinking of constructing a pier that will service smaller cruise ships. Ted wipes his hands on a towel as he prepares to cut up lemons and oranges for the happy hour crowd. The interesting things you learn on this job, he says. When he drifts down to the other end of the bar, I put five dollars next to the nearly full bottle of Canada’s finest; so much for the free drinks.
*** I let the shower pound my neck and shoulders. I have been doing this job for twenty years. The money is excellent, but I hate the travel and, as delightful as the conversation is with bartenders and waitresses, my sales pitch has gotten very old and boring. Add the fact that my personal life has changed very little over the years. I’ve have been married for twenty-one years. Marylyn became pregnant on the honeymoon. Our Kenny is a Downs Syndrome child. Pregnancies soon after that resulted in miscarriages so we quit trying long ago. Kenny, now an adult, has become a handful. Marylyn has never worked because she stays home to care for Kenny. She won’t put him in a facility as I like to call it. She drinks. I suspect that during my travel week she may not make it out of her pajamas and bathrobe. The weeks I am home, I often long to be on the road, and on heavy driving days like this, I would give anything to be home in my basement den watching TV. I do not lack for sex. Travel provides plenty of occasions for insignificant assignations; indeed, I rationalize that I deserve these indiscretions because of what I have to deal with when I’m home as well as the tedium of being on the road. Last night was spent with Massie Crosby at the Portland Sheraton on Forest Ave. She is an assistant PR director for Portland’s minor league baseball team. I first hooked up with her when the ball park was being built years ago. Her husband is a state rep and probably gay. Every three months or so, when I visit Portland, we meet for drinks, complain about our respective lives then spend the night together before having breakfast at Bintliff ’s. The past few visits she has strongly hinted that we should go away for a week. She wants to take the high-speed ferry out of Portland to Yarmouth then do bed and breakfasts along the Nova Scotia coast. She often gets away with her women friends and her oldest daughter who is at TuftsDental School, but it’s not the same as being with a man. That’s just what I need—more driving and listening to another life story filled with as much angst as mine. After a ten-minute hot shower, I lie on the floor. This helps my lower back relax after a long drive. I am exhausted even though I am a pro at long drives. Age is creeping up on me. I pass the highway drive time with audio books borrowed from the local library. I do not read very much, never did. English courses were boring in high school and college, but I really enjoy listening to literary classics in the car. Dickens, Hardy and Victor Hugo are some favorites. They know how to spin a tale. Lately I’ve even gotten into the poetry of Browning and Shakespeare’s plays. Outside of Bangor this afternoon I began listening to the The Iliad and can’t wait to finish it up tomorrow. When I can’t concentrate on books I listen to music, mostly early blues stuff of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Little Walter, to name a few. I fall asleep on the floor. It’s only a ten minute nap, but I wake refreshed. I’ve been this way all my life. It’s a special talent which, when in I was in the navy and especially when traveling, is a true blessing. Many times I’ve pulled off the road, taken a brief doze then driven for another six hours. The problem now is that it’s a little after five and I’m a bit hungry. The hotel restaurant doesn’t open until six. It’s too early to see what porn movies are on the cable channels, and I don’t want to go down to the bar and chat up Ted again. I decide to get dressed and check out any local pubs which advertise cheap, happy hour food and drinks. I ask the nubile Yvonne at the front desk for dining and bar recommendations. She doesn’t know any. This is her second week and she’s not from the area. She also informs me a little too haughtily that she doesn’t drink, but, if I wait a few minutes, she’ll go to the manager’s office and ask. By the way, my room, 345, faces west. She pulls out a map of the building to prove it. She bustles off, but I decide it’s not worth the wait and leave. I drive east on Rt. 163. Signs keep telling me how many miles it is to Caribou as if it were the urban
jewel of northern Maine. I’ve priced jobs in that city and bought a moose-themed sweatshirt for Kenny years ago. Trust me, it’s not worth the drive. On my right I spot The Dew Drop Inn which advertises mid-week specials. Wednesday is all-you-can-eat spaghetti and meatball night. Appetizers are half price from four to seven. A blatant yellow Keno sign blinks on and off in the picture window. I pull into the parking lot that is fifty percent potholes and find a decent spot between two of the bigger pits. It is pleasant inside, a true hometown watering hole. Patrons are spaced along the bar like birds on a telephone wire, but there is a spot at the end. They offer a peel and eat shrimp special which I order along with a Moosehead on tap. I have ditched the tie, but the dress shirt and sports jacket marks me as an outsider. The TV is tuned to the local news out of Caribou. A lone reporter does the weather, news and sports with little video except a photograph or two. The shrimp hit the spot but are messy and require several napkins. I develop a system which is to peel a dozen, dry off with a napkin then eat them with a toothpick. I request Tabasco to spice up the cocktail sauce. Once I’ve settle into a rhythm it’s an enjoyable experience. The TV flips to a Canadian station. As it happens, it’s baseball a pre-game show. The Toronto Blue Jays are about to battle the Red Sox. The bar crowd’s allegiance seems mixed, and there is some good-natured joshing when I reveal I hail from Boston. I relate my expansion joint saga to the bartender and those stools in my vicinity. There is the usual off-color allusions about “joints” that I’ve heard hundreds of times, but I am the center of attention until seven o’clock approaches and heads turn back to focus on the baseball game. There is a pool table in an alcove to the right of the bar. The clicking balls add a subtle rhythm to room’s chatter, like a bass line in a blues ballad. Two women are playing. I can’t see them fully, just enough to establish that they are not young. I have polished off two orders of shrimp and am full to bursting so it’s time to leave. I signal the bartender for my tab when he gets a minute. I smell her before she comes into view. It is not an unpleasant odor just way over the top, like walking into a flower shop. “A cold one, Buster.” She squeezes in beside me. It takes a few seconds to discover she’s addressed the bartender and not me, but she gives me a friendly smile. “If you move over one stool, I’ll treat you to whatever you’re drinking.” Buster brings her a Corona topped with a sliver of lime. I point to my Moosehead and Buster nods. She offers her hand. “Darlene Dalton, part time pool hustler and full time country western singer extraordinaire.” I shake and introduce myself as a salesman for Haffner and Grace, deciding it best to withhold the expansion joint material at the risk of boring the last audience now enduring a Fenway Park rain delay, which must be a bartender’s dream. Darlene takes a long pull on her Corona and admits she’s not really good at pool, just likes to shoot a few games every now and then. She is part of a band—Troy Rodgers and Darlene Plus One, although the number often changes up or down depending on the gig they get. I find her interesting. She is a refreshing change from most women I meet in bars. She admits to being over fifty and on the down slope of a career. Troy is really Roger Rutkowski, thirty-two and about to bring a twenty-something, Wanda Gates, into the act. The handwriting on the her sorry ass wall is that the billing will probably change to Troy Rodgers and Wanda Plus One. Even then her role as the “Plus One” is in jeopardy. Darlene opines that if she was twenty years younger and could screw as well as she sings, she’d take top billing, and Troy would be the one nervous about a career
change. I buy her another beer but switch to Coke as I have to drive. She confesses to a license suspension due to a third OUI in four years which limits her transportation situation. I tell her about Kenny and this line of conversation spills over into my relationship, if one can call it that, with Marylyn. She is a good listener, not taking my side, even offering up the idea that my wife and I need to sit down and have a long talk. The rain in Boston has let up and the game is back on. The bar is quite crowded now with several patrons standing behind the stools and several tables being shifted to accommodate more viewing space. Darlene suggests leaving to continue our tête-à-tête elsewhere. Her place is out as it’s a motel. Troy and Wanda have one room, and she has an adjoining one and must endure hearing them squeak, hump and sex holler all night long. They will be headlining at the Presque Isle Conestoga Club Friday thru Sunday this week and next. She expects a break-up in the act. Lots of things are festering, not the least of is the money which Troy might be holding back on her. When she does confront him on this, it won’t be pretty as they both have tempers. Wanda doesn’t know the half of it; she is so gaga in love with Troy that she can’t see straight. I suggest my hotel bar, just for a nightcap as I’ve got to get up early to do my presentation. I’ll spring for a cab back to her motel. I compliment her as to how easy she is to talk to. I feel as if I’ve known her for years. She takes my arm as we head for the parking lot. I’m sincere in the desire just to have a drink. Darlene does not really turn me on sexually. Yes, she is in decent shape for fifty, but there is no spark as such. At the Holiday Inn bar, Ted is evidently not on duty. I order a beer. Darlene has glass of white wine. I talk about music. On the way from The Dew Drop Inn she went through my CDs. It impressed her that I had two Etta James discs. Darlene started out as a club singer doing the old standards and some blues. But country pays the bills; every town has a C-W bar. She began by imitating the classic female singers—Kitty Wells and her beloved Patsy Cline. That’s another raw nerve and area of dispute with Troy; he wants to go modern, what he calls pop country, and it’s just not in her to do that. There is a piano in the bar. A few kids are banging out chopsticks. The crowd claps. A shy young boy gets up and plays Fur Elise in record time with only a few errors. Darlene drains her wine, gets up and takes the boy’s place at the piano. She runs through a few pieces to get a feel for the piano then starts to sing. The room settles down, perhaps thinking that she is the evening’s entertainment. She launches into a Kitty Wells standard, “Makin’ Believe.” There is sparse applause, yet enough to encourage her to keep going. Darlene announces that Patsy Cline has been her inspiration. “Some folks read the Bible when they want comforting. I listen to Patsy. All mothers should give their daughters a Patsy Cline CD when they turn twelve.” With this she begins “I Fall to Pieces.” I am stunned. Not so much at the quality of her excellent voice but the phrasing. These are not mere words in a song, but a true confession personally delivered to the listener. I feel like a priest in a confessional hearing a penitent give a heart-wrenching account of her recent sins. When the number ends, the crowd is momentarily too awestruck to clap, then comes a deluge. She smiles, nods her head in acknowledgment and then begins “Crazy,” a song devoted to loneliness, feeling blue and her man walking out on her. Everyone in the house feels a kinship to the events in the song. She finishes, takes a little Shirley Temple bow and comes back to the table. I kiss her on the cheek and order another white wine. Patrons come over to congratulate her. They suggest she think about a career in music. She tells them she’d played the lead in a touring company rendition of the stage play Patsy. And she is singing professionally with Troy Rodgers out at the Conestoga in two shows
this weekend, and she’d be happy to see them there. She basks in the limelight a little longer then grows quiet. “I need to get out of here.” “Fine, I’ll stop at the front desk and get you a cab back to your motel.” “If you don’t mind, I like to keep away from Troy, Wanda and the soap opera that I’m a part in.” Perhaps the look on my face gives away too much of my thought process. “Don’t worry, if I snore too loudly you can kick me out. I just need some time and neutral space to sort things out.” We have sex. Lackluster would be an understatement. We do it because it’s expected of two lonely adults trapped in god forsaken northern Maine. Not to indulge would be comparable to going to a restaurant and not ordering anything. When it is finally over we are both relieved to return to normal conversation. She had a child when she was fifteen, a baby girl. It was immediately given up for adoption. She does not regret it for one minute, has no desire to find out where it is and do one of those Oprah-like reunions. “I could be a grandmother for all I know; that’s a morbid thought. No, the only thing I’m curious about is whether the kid can sing, which goes to show the depths of my ego if nothing else.” I open up about Kenny. “I never really adjusted to his condition. What genetic rottenness did Marylyn or I have in us, what did we do to merit such punishment? I played all sports in high school and baseball in college. The best I could do for Kenny was to enter him in the Special Olympics and watch him lumber around the track for 200 meters before quitting. They gave him a stupid medal anyway which he wore around his neck for a month. The big issue now is whether to give him a vasectomy. My wife is against it, but I would have done it years ago.” Darlene asks me where I’ll be in life five years from now. I don’t even need to ponder the issue. “I’ll probably be right here in a chain hotel with some kind soul who’ll listen to my tale of woe before succumbing to a gratuitous oral sex request.” “I think I’m going to leave the band. Like you I hate the travel and putting up with so much shit just to get on stage and do my thing. You get a thrill from closing a sales call; I still get high after doing my set and listening to the applause. But how much longer can an old broad do this? If you wouldn’t mind me hitching a ride tomorrow, I’d like to go toBar Harbor with you. Then maybe down to Portland. No strings, just transportation. I might pick up a few bucks singing, but I’ve worked as a chambermaid and know housekeeping, an occupation I’m not too proud to do. That’ll put a few steady bucks in my pocket. Are we on?” I told her yes. I couldn’t really say no, and I didn’t have any time to mull it over as we both drifted off to sleep. I had a wake-up call for eight, but Darlene was up before me, showered and reading the complimentary USA Today left outside the door. “If you’d drop me off at the motel before your meeting, I’d have time to pack, tell Troy what I think of him and then wait for you. The gas and lunch today will be my treat that goes without saying.” When I checked out at nine with Darlene, who hung in the background next to my suitcase, I drew a dirty look from Yvonne. I wished her a pleasant day, but the judgmental tone of her comment about hoping I enjoyed my stay was not lost on me. We drove past The Dew Drop Inn on Route 163 for three or so miles until I hit Mel’s Motor Court, which offered free coffee and HBO. My meeting was scheduled for ten. It might go until noon, whereupon they could offer me lunch, which I’d be forced to take as that’s often when salesmen cement deals. She’d given up her cell phone a few months ago to cut corners so there was no way of making contact.
“I’ll just wait until you show, maybe use the room phone to explore what few contacts I have in Bar Harbor and Portland.” I told her I wouldn’t be any later than two because I had an eight o’clock evening meeting at the Bar Harbor Town Hall. My company had booked me into the Anchorage Inn on the Bay so, if she needed a place to crash for the night, she was welcome. “No strings.” “You mean you don’t want a second orgasmic helping of what you got last night?” She got out of car, gave a brief wave and went off to do battle with Troy and Wanda. I made my presentation. It was something of a formality. There was a Canadian company in the running but Haffner and Glenn’s reputation plus all the hassle, import duties and tariffs of dealing with a non-American company was too much for them. I signed on the dotted line, shook hands and was out of there by 11:30 AM. >From the car I called the home office and told them what the order was. When I got toBar Harbor I’d fax the specs to them. I thought about giving Marylyn a ring, but knew I’d hear the same old story about what problems Kenny was causing and, when I put forth the usual solution, I’d meet with stony silence. My business over with, I pulled out of the lot anxious to get back to Homer’s Iliad and make Bar Harbor without driving like a maniac. I was a few miles down Route 1 when I remembered Darlene. I hesitated. Did I want to get mixed up in this? Yes, I enjoyed her company. We were kindred spirits and I didn’t mind helping her out in the least. No, there wasn’t any physical chemistry, at least so far. She wasn’t over the hill by any means and, to be honest, if I had to choose between her and a vapid Massie Crosby in Portland, I’d go with Darlene. So, I said what the hell, turned around and headed back up Route 1 and hooked into113. About a mile from Mel’s Motor Court, a cop car, lights flashing and siren blaring, whizzed by me. I didn’t give it much thought until the motel was in sight, and it became apparent that something was going on at Mel’s that required three Presque Isle cop cars, each parked at odd angles near the office. I slowed down to get a better look and saw a shirtless male in cowboy boots spread-eagled on the hood of one cop car, his hands being cuffed. Another officer was holding his head down to restrict any further movement. Two other cops were trying to restrain a young, barefoot woman clad in a Maple Leafs hockey jersey and quite possibly nothing else from coming to the aid of the country boy who was still kissing the blue and white car hood I had a feeling I was meeting Troy and Wanda for the first time. I pulled off the road as other voyeurs were doing. I did a quick scan of the area but didn’t see Darlene. To the crowd’s delight Miss Wanda broke free of the officers by shucking off her top. I was wrong; she did have panties on, but no bra which pleased the onlookers no end. She broke towards a room near the office and began banging on its door shouting invectives that I was too far away to hear. She was caught and cuffed. A kind soul tied the hockey shirt over her breasts like a lobster bib as they dragged her to the back seat of a yet another cruiser. I thought I detected some curtain movement from the room that was being attacked and perhaps a face. It might have been Darlene, but I was just too far away. I looked at my watch. It was pushing noon. Bar Harbor was at least six hours away. I’d need time to shower and make myself presentable for the meeting. I contemplated making a “U” turn on the highway and taking off. Instead I backed up onto the lip of the motel’s entrance. In my rear view mirror I caught sight of the room Wanda had attacked. Slowly the door opened. Darlene emerged wearing a dark red sweat suit and a baseball cap which advertised a local radio station. She was holding a towel to the side of her face. A few cops surrounded her with clipboards to record her side of the squabble. I couldn’t get a handle on how long she’d be. I had a schedule to keep. I put the car in gear and headed back towards Presque Isle. At least I stopped. I had good intentions
of helping someone which satisfied my conscience, what little I had left, that I was still a member of the human race, albeit on probation. I drove in silence down Route 1 for a good thirty miles until I was close to Houlton and the Turnpike entrance. There were moments when my conscience went into spasms and, if a suitable road to turn around in had been available, I might have gone back. I didn’t. To take my mind off things I put on a Muddy Waters CD. By the time I reached Bangor and was ready to exit back onto Route 1 for Bar Harbor, I’d put the morning’s escapades behind me. I ditched the music and switched to The Iliad, anxious to discover how Achilles and Agamemnon were going to resolve their differences--talk about egotists; they take the cake.
A GRAND UNDERTAKING OR, THE MODERN INFERN O, DANIEL’S INFERN O AN ABSURD AND UNUSUAL TALE A NOVEL, IN A CHORUS AND THREE ACTS SERIALISED FOR ALLITERATI READ PART ONE IN ISSUE FIVE
DANIEL HINDS BETH RAMSEY
Circle Two War ‘So many warriors’ shields, men’s helmets, and valiant bodies!’ A single shining light illuminated my passage and I stood there framed in its glow, for a moment, wary of what lay beyond. The single spotlight cast my form into glowing whiteness, so that the scars and mud of my perilous journey were removed whilst I remained in its glorifying glow. I was surprised to see what little I could perceive of the floor was carpeted in red. Having basked a while I stepped past the spotlight, and as I did so other lights now snapped into being, flashing on and off. A thin trail of them lined the concrete ceiling so that I was ever under them as I progressed through the tunnel. The walls were white and perhaps a little chipped and cracked. The flickering grew to irritate me, so I set quite a pace. About half way down the tunnel, a great cacophony of noise began, loud rumbles and whistling, and a tremendous ruckus that sounded very like the shouts and screams of men. This opera of noise was my symphony as I strode towards the tunnels edge, more constant light bathing the tunnel’s exit. A loud bass note reverberated closer to home, and the tunnel shook, sending dust and chips of white concrete falling around me. One of the lights was killed, the others flickered on. At the tunnel’s mouth I looked down onto a valley of death; half a league onward lay a war the likes of which the world had never seen. Between the space of the mountains I currently occupied, to the others far in the distance, was a scene of explosions, cannons and a labyrinth of trenches. Shots, and shells, and cries of men filled the air. Two titanic legions clashed on this battleground, men on horseback, rolling tanks, armies from every time, from every nation, all of the same soul, fought over this blasted land.
‘Suppose that, gathered in one single whole, were all those people of the fated South whose blood was shed in pain on the Apulian fieldsbe it as victims of the sons of Troy, or else, as Livy writes unerringly, in that long war where rings were heaped as spoils. Then add all those who suffered grievous wounds in wars against the Norman king, Guiscardo, and also add that band whose bones are gleaned at Ceperano still (whose southerners, each one, proved traitorous). To Tagliacozzo, then move on.’ Add to this The Few, the Fallen, and see all of this once over, that even so, would far from equal that grand display of Circle Two. The deafening cannons of artillery forced me to clutch at my ears, and a swathe of men were wiped out, their blood but a drop of that which lathered the battlefield. The shock of the shelling caused the mountain soil beneath my feet to crumble and collapse, and I was sent tumbling down the short distance that remained. Bruised but unbowed, I clambered over the rocks, eager to seek cover, to find I was at the cusp of the trenches. At its edge sat a Roman centurian and an American attired in the dress of what I thought to be a World War Two uniform, or at least from close to that time period. Annoyingly, they ignored me as I past them, as they huddled next to a small fire, the Roman sharpening his blade. The trench I headed into was completely enclosed by camouflaged tarpaulin, and therefore, I hoped, the safest. In a darkened alcove I was dismayed to see a centaur shrouded in the dark. He too ignored me, waiting for his cue. Hurrying past this fearsome spectacle, I entered into a room which seemed to be some manner of strange nuclear bunker. Lead lined the thick walls, and a glass panel showed a view of the battlefield. Or perhaps it was just a projection, for it flickered from the light of fire or projector I could not tell. Currently the view screen showed a wounded soldier pulling out his pistol, firing into the flanks of a group of mounted knights. His heroic sacrifice went unnoticed, for the rows of plush chairs were, as of yet, empty. The panel was bordered by two red velvet curtains, currently open. Finding no sanity here, I progressed to the adjoining room, in this catacomb, which opened to the blazing fire streaked sky. Perhaps it was a little too civilised to call this another room. I was back in the trenches once more. Here, I gained a more proper view of the battlefield, from at its heart, from which I could see the fighting had reached a momentary lull, just a few scattered battalions still hacking at each other. The mounted flak gun behind me sent a few pot shots into the air, more for show than to hit any target of real note. A swirl of dust informed me of the arrival of a troop of cavalry. Now here I thought I might have some luck in determining what the devil was going on here. Attired in the regalia of the Crimean War, all red coats, white trousers, and haughty stances, these soldiers looked distinctly English. As they rode the leader called out “We certainly let those damn French rapscallions have it!” to a loud “Huzzah!” from the men. The captain of the troop dismounted, his drawn sabre flashing brilliant silver as he sheathed it, his well trained – and groomed – horse standing
patiently, and dare I say it, proudly, where he left it. “Marvellous! You put on quite a show! Bravo!” clapped a voice behind me, and I turned to see a portly man stuffed into a tight green uniform, insignia adorned epaulettes on his shoulders, cigar clenched between his teeth, his upper lip covered by a ridiculous moustache. A red beret rested on his cropped hair. “General!” the captain exclaimed in delight, his large white teeth taking the form of a dazzling, and quite unnecessary, smile. The two men hugged. This was not quite the snap to attention I had expected. Releasing each other, the General began another roar of indulgent platitudes “Wonderful! You shall be the toast of the-” The soldier spun him about mid flow, discarded his winning smile, and put his arm around the General and murmured to him in attempted subterfuge, however his ego would not let him remain in the shadows, and his voice by the curtailment of his utterance was actually quite loud: “Listen, I don’t think my performance was quite up to scratch, and some of those extras... extra men you sent got in the way a bit. I don’t think we quite captured it. Maybe go at it from a different angle, have another shot at it later.” “Nonsense!” the General boomed, “you really showed ‘em and-” he cut himself short this time, as he stopped mid praise, noticing me. “I haven’t seen you before! Hmm, and such a handsome fellow, he’s almost got you beat Cardigan,” The soldier flashed his teeth and swept his long hair back, as if to say I was nowhere close, “I think I might have a role for you. You’d do well on the frontlines. A star in the making.” And with that he pinned a medal on my chest, “A star in the making – Lieutenant!” then, he waddled off shouting orders. Eyeing me suspiciously the winsome captain approached. “Well, what experience do you have?” “None so to speak of. I’m a politician.” “Well, I suppose that is quite similar, although you need a tad more range if you want to survive here, so I guess we’d better hope you’re a natural then. We simply can’t have you letting this company down.” He said with some disdain, my perceived threat of rivalry appeased. He remounted and the horsemen thundered off, galloping off to some unknown theatre of war. An absurd Egyptian man, golden headdress and all, approached me and started to shake me about and, somewhat nonsensically, scream heavily American accented English at me: “You heard him, get to the Front!” Quite taken aback by being manhandled in such a manner, I did as he requested, the packed Earth above me on my journey shaking and crumbling to the bombardment of shells. Perhaps the Front was as safe a place as any here, and it would certainly be the most fortified. Eventually I made my way to the forefront of the battle, the enemy but one trench away, firing blindly over the top of their own entrenchment. A hurled spear missed me by some not too many inches. Crouching low I paused in turning back – not for me this pointless war – to see the General bawling at some poor French dandy, frilly cuffs hiding his face, shielding him from the bombardment of spit coming his way. What was with these men and shouting? Surely, they could conduct themselves in a more civilised manner.
“That was by far the worst assault I have ever seen! When I direct the troops I expect results!” “But, sir, I killed a whole score of them, the best in my company.” “When I say action I want action, not your half hearted attempt, private! Where was the emotion? The drama! Call yourself a patriot!” Despairing, the General ran his hands through his lustrous moustache and did a sharp about turn. He grinned at me. “Now you shall see how it is done! Here is one of our stars! A real professional too!” Well, I do enjoy flattery, however untrue. I would stoop for a compliment if need be, I mean politics is, in essence, a popularity contest. He handed me a rusty bayonet out of a stack of modern looking assault rifles. “Can’t I have one of those?” I inquired, somewhat flabbergasted. “Of course not! A fellow like yourself shouldn’t worry about the actual business, besides, period detail is important, if you are to vanquish the enemy.” “And who might they be exactly?” He placed a flabby hand melodramatically to his face. “Didn’t you get your orders? That script must be somewhere,” and he rustled through his pockets theatrically, but found nothing. “Well, let’s see... motivation... you’re fighting the Commies.” I did hate Communists. “Back story... you seem quite a chivalrous chap, perhaps a knight on a quest for... pity we don’t have any leading ladies down here... for a star!” My politician’s guile must have deceived him. I assure you, I am nothing of the sort. “A star? Aiming a little high there perhaps?” ‘If,’ so he answered, ‘you pursue your star, then doubtless you will reach a glorious goal,’ “That is the... erm... order of things, you know?” “I follow a star...” There seemed to be only one way through this. I would have to make ready to fight, or at least pretend to, then run away. “Positions!” The General cried, taking his own on a sort of wooden framed deckchair with a black fabric to support him. On the back I could just make out writing... “Positions!” Men gathered about me on either side filling the trenches, the dandy on one side – I quite liked his style, I would have to see my tailor about procuring some cuffs like that, that is, if I were not in Hell – a bearded Hun on the other, a redcoat behind. I couldn’t think of a way out of this one. Perhaps, I could lay low... Guns clicked ready around me, swords were drawn, I checked my own bayonet. Looking behind me, I saw not all were soldiers, some were musicians. An orchestra was scattered about the ranks, holding their instruments as weapons, a tuba fixed in readiness. And then, they started to play. An uplifting classical score, instilling me with the will to fight in my own tragedy. An array of flags at my back, stars, stripes, lions, red, green, dragons... “Over the tooooop!”The General screamed, and it seemed all the guns, all the cannons, all the arms of all the world were on my side, trained at my evil enemy. “Forward, charge for the guns!” I clambered over the barbed wire, streaks of fire whizzing past me. Out into No Man’s Land.
“Join the fight against Communism!” “Down with the French!” “Rout the Huns!” “Hail the Third Reich!” Strange, I could have sworn I’d seen a Soviet on our side earlier, and that French dandy, and I certainly could not remember signing up to fight for the Nazis... The blast of a trombone sent this all away, the strings of a violin raised my bayonet high. “For the Empire!” I screamed. With a platoon around me and a soaring orchestra behind, I felt I could not lose. But of course I would. That was the beauty of it. The cannons volly’d and thuner’d. An explosion hit near us, and we became silhouettes against the flaming backdrop. A still ripe for exploitation. We charged over the crater riddled ground to the nearest trench. No one had ever run faster. No one had ever fought better. “Lights!” A great spotlight, of the kind that searched Blitz bombed skies, fell upon me, and the music soared. I was a statue cast in white stone, frozen mid flow. Was that heroism on my brow? I dived into the trench, my men alongside, hacking and slashing, lifting a man clean off the ground with the blade of my bayonet. I was captured in the spotlight, this pose the centre of our roaring tempest. I, a terrible white ghost, he immortalised, an angel floating above the earth. The spotlight moved on. The moment lost. All over men roared to life, missiles were fired, tanks rolled into action. I knew not who I killed. Fire filled the skies, pummelled the ground and took the place of men. Oh, the glory of the cavalry charge! A storm of shining silver! The Great War! I laughed. No war could be greater than this. The war to end all wars! This could not end, war eternal. A herd of onrushing centaurs crashing into an armoured Roman Phalanx. Who lost? Who won? Glory! “Cut! Cut! Go again!” The General’s voice dim behind me. I cut a man in twain and fired clean through another. An explosion sent me sprawling to the ground, but back up again. Found a new pistol. Well decorated, elegant. Functional. The orchestra gathered in formation. Their tuxedos whipped by wind and smoke, raising their violins and firing their salvos, slashing hurriedly across taught strings. I raced over No Man’s Land leaping past a panzer, avoiding its crushing treads, scorning its explosive payload, dancing through the snapping jaws of death in the mouth of Hell. Forward, forward, into the Valley of Death. Into where the fighting was thickest. Greater violence on the horizon. Past me rode the mounted company, glory in their faces, Cossack and Russian reel’d from their sabre strokes, shatter’d and sunder’d. They smashed through shrouded shapes, now barely discernable. All that mattered was that these shadows died. Ours was but to do and die. I cried out and joined the fray anew as they rode through and above the conflict. Horse and hero fell. They rode on into the distance. Land mines erupted, men died in the dirt, the thunder of artillery killing who knew what. I did not fall. As I leapt over trenches I could not make out where ours and enemies began or ended. It was but one sprawl, all connected.
Aircraft flew overhead, bombing runs, dog fights, War! A cannon to the right of me, a cannon to the left of me, cannon in front, I threw myself disgustedly to the floor, rise up, fight! Butchered crew and instrument alike. My wild charge. Invincibility! Immortality! Immorality! A zeppelin crashed down engulfed in flames, sending burning men fleeing to their deaths. Frenzy of war take me! The orchestra, playing on the open ground, bombarded by bombs. The lone violinist played against the apocalypse, afore he too was struck down in a spray of blood, as the shells of war obliterated him, his last striking note tragedy, glory, woe! Overhead an enormous bomber flew, the demons of One a jest to man’s own aerial nightmares. ‘This said, he pointed his spearhead down, then pierced through the hollow Flank of the mountain. The winds, like legions marshalled for battle, Stream through the portal supplied, blast out across earth in tornadoes;’ With a scream the bomb whistled down, hitting into the mountain side. Killing the ascent that way. A great plume of nuclear flame gushing outwards, destroying the warring men, for a moment all skeletons, then nothing. It rushed onwards to me too, the wave about to overtake me. My last sight the handsome captain, rows of medals gleaming brighter than the fire, his sabre raised high, his teeth set in fury, his eyes blazing havoc, the fallen corpses of those enemies he had in death around him, the sole survivor of his company, long hair blown back by the onrushing tide, the whole world wonder’d as his white horse reared up against the mushroom cloud. The whole painting declared one incontrovertible fact. Honour was dead. Then, I too was consumed. ‘He too will be called on in prayer. Then all wars will cease.’ I awoke with a start in the nuclear bunker, the red curtains closing upon the framed figure of the noble captain and the mushroom cloud. For a moment he was all we could think, music blared, then, curtain close. Around me the General guffawed and slapped me on the back, the seats now full of equally moustached top brass. “Excellent, excellent...” “Like what you did with the...” The General’s excited whisper in my ear. “And that was just the premier!” “Same time tomorrow?” “New cast...” “Not enough gore...” “Bigger explosions...” “I wonder what became of that handsome fellow?”
GRUNGE TRACK 1, 2, 1, 2
We are the babes in Toyland The gits that ruled over all of Never Land Never land. Never and Never mind. I am an audio slave Falling up the hole like an Alice in chains. Pennyroyal tea, pearl jam, toast and mud honey, I’ll eat your cake and I’ll steal your money, Honey. Bunny. Kinderwhore we are ‘oh so pretty’ You said you’d found pieces of my body. I am smashing pumpkins, You are screaming trees. Listening to you kills the pain in me, Instils the pain in me You’re draining me. Fame, that’s me. Dragon smoke and glitter and it’s on with the show. Leave me lying here ‘cause I don’t wanna go. Way to go, way to flip off everyone. Spoil my fun. Mother bone, I love you to the bone. The very bones of you. You kissed my sonic youth. You killed my sonic youth. My sonic youth My sonic youth My sonic youth [repeat to fade]
HOWIE GOOD CECILY SNAGGE
1 The sign outside the office said, You are requested to close your eyes. She did. In those far-off days, illnesses had other names – bloody flux, Bright’s disease, consumption. Her doctor was so deaf he needed an ear trumpet to be able to hear the patients screaming in pain. 2 Traveling through streets of winos, we held hands, the driver taking us wherever he had been paid to go. You spoke of home, the fog, a funeral attended by only four mourners. I wanted to say something, too, but it was now night and rainy, and I had just enough body to keep a soul in. 3 The newspaper advertises the apocalypse. I think about changing my name and leaving, but can’t while the sparrows in the street are talking about me. And where’s there to go, anyway, on a morning being built from cannibalized parts? 4 Everyone I know who has a job hates it. When the alarm on the heart monitor starts to shrill, the nurse covers her ears. 5 It could happen. A virus appears in my email claiming to be you. And though there’s no wind, the puddles shiver.
MIND OVER MATTER
LUCY MENZIES EMILY SINCLAIR
Once I ran a (half) marathon with a blackened toenail and two weeks training. I’m Irn Bru, me. Made from girders. Or maybe I haven’t got my head screwed on right. Easy peasy I reckoned. Essentially it’s one foot in front of the other. And I did make it back alive. But I’m told someone dies every year. Maybe they keel over at that point over the bridge past the garage and round the roundabouts when they clock that the next portaloo isn’t for two miles.
The boy is a barn owl, his wings scooped over bony shoulders. Hands like talons grip, possessive to rip and tear at feathers. Hunched and ugly, hatred burns in hot black eyes; a head that turns about to stare upon itself.
T H E T R U M P E T P L AY E R
AMY DOWLER DAVID MILLS
‘He was so handsome, so sweet, and funny. Everyone in the band loved him.’ ‘What did he look like?’ ‘Well he was the bee’s knees, his dark slicked black hair, and he had a croaked nose from a bar fight. He was always picking fights but the crowds loved him and the band always got bookings.’ ‘So what instrument did he play?’ ‘The trumpet, the bass but he was also lead singer. He knew a little piano from his grandmother in Maine. He was so magical when he took centre stage. The perfect showman; he’d tell jokes, tap dance.’ ‘What did you play?’ ‘I was in the chorus, I could dance and I knew piano. I was one of many, but he chose me.’ ‘It sounds so romantic.’ ‘It was. The band was playing at the Blue Lagoon and there was a tap dance interval and Marlene – the dress-maker, got my measurements wrong. So my skirt was higher than all the other girls. After getting off stage he came up to me and said: ‘Doll, you’ve got the best pins outta the lot of em.’ ‘So what happened next?’ ‘He asked me for a drink after. I was so infatuated and drunk from the champagne we went up to his cabin on the train. I remember the taste of tobacco on his lips, and the smell of cologne on the stale red curtains. ‘Then you got married?’ ‘No, I got pregnant. I told him but he denied it and I left the band. ‘ ‘But what about grandpa?’ ‘Who?’ ‘Grandma it’s me Sophia. I’m Jessica’s daughter.’ ‘I’m sorry dear. I don’t know who Jessica is. Have I told you that I used to be in a touring blues bands?’
LIVVY COSH BEN APPLEGARTH
tonight i am tying stratus clouds to my clothes threading ghosts to my bed and waiting to sleep. as the moon swallows the sea and the sea swallows the day, souls come, searching for what they have lost, slipping between the sheets to nuzzle beside skin: crying, crying, mewling as kittens, i call them by name: hush, hush. cradled between my hands and my breasts, they are inconsolable: they are lost, i am a beacon guiding them as ships to shore, i soothe them. they tremble in shadows, fearful of sound, as i croon lullabies to stars begging orion - be brave, hunter; hunter, lay down your bow, hunter, hear me, bring your flock home: let them linger no more on this shore. he hears: as the shepherd, he hears, and one by one, he calls his souls to heaven. tonight as the solar system slows i turn the lights off, one by one i hear him whisper: sleep, sleep.
ALLIE WEATHERBEE JONI BELARUSKI
But everything grows here, maybe twinned, or red (forest), or thick-skinned and wanton. People start leaving. Everyone always leaves, everyone. No one comes home, no one wants to die, swallows reclaim cracked sarcophagi and erstwhile, they celebrated decay. -Legs propped up in the bathtub, and the veins; how much they are like cracked asphalt with tiny lilacs peeking through.
ART WORK 13 UNTITLED JUSTIN LAWSON 15 DROPLET ACETATE DEVIN LOUTTIT 16 UNTITLED EMMA PASCOE 19 CHAOS THEORY REBECCA WILD 21 UNTITLED(PLANK) DAVID MILLS 25 INSIDE THE LINES DANIELA HUHUREZ 31 UNTITLED EMMA DEVANE 33 UNTITLED ROBYN NEVISON 41 FRANKIE IN PARIS ELEANOR JAY 48 UNTITLED BETH RAMSAY 50 UNTITLED ALICE BULCH
53 WE DON’T LICK THEM WE SNORT THEM DARLING NADIA SCOLA 55 UNTITLED CECILY SNAGGE 57 UNTITLED EMILY SINCLAIR 61 UNTITLED(FLOWER:TIN) DAVID MILLS 62 BOOK BURNING LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER CHLOE TRUE 65 UNTITLED BEN APPLEGARTH 66 UNTITLED NARANJANPAL HARE 69 FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION JONI BELARUSKI
EDITORS BETHANY ROGERS email@example.com
CHARLOTTE MOUNTFORD firstname.lastname@example.org
SARAH SKINNER email@example.com
SASHKA DRAKOS firstname.lastname@example.org
ART DIRECTOR PAUL JOHNSON email@example.com
SUB - EDITORS ROSE AKEHURST
LOGO DESIGN NERINGA STONYTE
FRONT COVER EMMA DEVANE
J OI N T H E A LLI T E R AT I SU BMI T WOR K F OR A LLI T E R AT I I SSU E 7 Got a creative talent you want to show the world? This is the place to do it! Here’s how you send your work for consideration for an issue… We have an open-call policy for submissions (so feel free to send us stuff whenever you feel inspired to do so). However, please send us your submission by 5pm on FRIDAY 11th MAY to be a part of Issue Seven. Submissions thereafter will be filed for consideration for later issues. Click over to
alliteratimagazine.com/submissions for details. The ‘A’ Team