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ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)

Featuring the works of Michael Whelan, Scott Thomas Outlar, Richard Halperin, Peter O’Neill, Strider Marcus Jones, Joe Urso, Helen Harrison and Silva Merjanian Hard copies can be purchased from our website.

Issue No 34 July 2015


A New Ulster On the Wall Website

Editor: Amos Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents

Editorial

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Michael Whelan; 1.

CENTURIES KEEP WATCH

2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Irish Martyr’s in Lebanon Kosovo The Snake Road Tank Graveyard Shift

Scott Thomas Outlar; 1. 2. 3. 4.

Entropy and Evolution; Homecoming Fluttering Detoxification

Richard Halperin; 1. De Consolatione 2. Ruffled 3. Farewell to a Beloved Brother Peter O’Neill; 1.

Donkeyshots

Strider Marcus Jones; 1. The Keeper 2. Hot Rod 3. Low Vaulted Ceilings 4. Broken Omnibus 5. In the Talk of my Tobacco Smoke 6. The Mess of Thrown Clothes Joe Urso; 1. Christopher Columbus Helen Harrison; 1. Passing Sunset SilvaMerjanian; 1. Paris

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On The Wall Message from the Alleycats

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Round the Back Arizahn; 1. Good Bye Frank

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Manuscripts, art work and letters to be sent to: Submissions Editor A New Ulster 23 High Street, Ballyhalbert BT22 1BL Alternatively e-mail: g.greig3@gmail.com See page 50 for further details and guidelines regarding submissions. Hard copy distribution is available c/o Lapwing Publications, 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast BT14 8HQ Digital distribution is via links on our website: https://sites.google.com/site/anewulster/ Published in Baskerville Oldface & Times New Roman Produced in Belfast & Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland. All rights reserved The artists have reserved their right under Section 77 Of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 To be identified as the authors of their work. ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online) Cover Image “Gateway� by Amos Greig

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Exellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle. Editorial Welcome to the July issue of A New Ulster for some the 4th of July is about American Independence day here though it is a celebration of poetry and prose. We have a strong selection of poetry and not one but two short stories we hope that you will enjoy them. I’ve been embracing my creative side a lot more recently and spent several months working on a canvas the resultant painting was sold at an auction and helped raise money for Marie Curie, I’ve also been working on my poetry and planning out the next few issues covers. I’m waiting on word from several journals and also several publishers so I can fully understand how frustrating it can be waiting to hear whether your work will be in print or not. My advice is just keep on working write, draw or paint for yourself the audience is often secondary and is a pleasant surprise for when you get recognized for your efforts. Don’t be afraid to experiment either or to step beyond your comfort zone. I hope you get as much enjoyment reading these pieces they speak highly of the artists who submitted to this issue and as I’ve often quipped they show the Artist as God and allow us to step into a world of dreams and hopes, yes for a brief moment we can walk different lands. Enough pre-amble! Onto the creativity! Amos Greig

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Biographical Note: Michael Whelan

Michael J. Whelan is a soldier-poet, writer & historian (Curator – Irish Air Corps Aviation Museum) living in Tallaght County Dublin. He served as a peacekeeper in South Lebanon and Kosovo during the conflicts in those countries, which inspires much of his work. He was 2nd Place Winner in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2011, Shortlisted in 2012 with a Special Commendation in 2013. He was 3rd Place Winner in the Jonathon Swift Creative Writing Awards 2012, shortlisted in the Doire Press and Cork Literary Manuscript Competitions and selected for the Eigse Eireann/Poetry Ireland Introductions 2012. His work has appeared in the Hennessy New Irish Writing 2013, Poetry Ireland Review, the Red Line Book Festival and other literary magazines and newspapers. New poems appeared in a new anthology titled ‘The Hundred Years War’ published by Bloodaxe UK in May 2014.

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CENTURIES KEEP WATCH (Michael Whelan) Inside our wire a great anthill keeps the curved ground rising, an army breaking the horizon behind the sandbagged wall. We are nothing to it except when we too seek shelter beneath the tremoring ground and the big guns point our way. Outside the bunker centuries keep watch, while columns of soldier-ants reach far into the future and the past, their long black lines marching up and down the mountain over this defence post, conquering palisades, barbed wire and borders, pouring through cracks in reinforced blast walls, in and out like a two way shipping route with the carved up parts of their enemies and the spoil of a million wars. If I was to smash this colony with my rifle where then would the fair winds take its remains, would it leave dust on the roof of my mouth, its scouts swarming through my nights in a rage of retribution?

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IRISH MARTYR’S IN LEBANON (Michael Whelan) After conversations with Lebanese exiles -

Some words we don’t read them, we taste them deep into our souls, some bring back our missing memories, our loved ones to our hearts. Many times I saw their wives and mothers lay flowers in my country near the places of their martyrdoms. My heart is like a room big enough to receive many visitors. My heart is a wing to fly your martyrs on, to reach heaven to make them meet at the river, to hug and kiss their children, to sacrifice and water their thirsts of a land with pure blood spilled far from home flowing from peacekeepers into the valleys of my country where the cedar grows forever and remembers everything.

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KOSOVO (Michael Whelan) Green shoots why do you grow in the rubble of this house, while hearts are breaking, does God not see our tears falling on the ground near the stony road that ceases at one side of the river and commences on the other, where great armies once crossed to be forgotten, in this land that forged a village and civilised it; then forged the swords that killed it, where the blackbird died slowly in the eagle’s grip, screaming as the beak pierced the flesh of its breast.

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THE SNAKE ROAD (Michael Whelan) Irish area of operations- south Lebanon 1990s

It wound out like the long wriggling body of a reptile, treacherous. Most mornings it had to be swept for roadside bombs by the Early Bird team, the snake could bite. At dawn they would set out, walking the length of the living thing with electronic mine detecting gear, slowly, the lead sweeper swinging the Valon from left to right continuously, like a doctor with a stethoscope listening carefully on ear pieces for a change in tone. Medics, bomb disposal and armed security elements following at a safe distance in case of booby-traps, it happened many times, all under the scornful guns of warring factions. The only protection a blue flag that didn’t always work.

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TANK (Michael Whelan) Civilians move to shelter in U.N. bomb shelters Thick black smoke splutters out above the compound, the beast is moving, ready to fire, we hear it cough before seeing it and the clanking of a metal monster on tracks, exhaust clouds follow along the hill’s horizon poisoning the sky behind the perimeter wire. We know where it is - what it’s thinking long before its deafening report screams back across the valley, sending the shaken to the underground.

GRAVEYARD SHIFT On the rooftops in the night under trembling flares heavy raindrops curtain bomb the ponchos of peacekeepers on the graveyard shift, standing fast like cold statues in the dark scanning dead ground through mist tinted glasses.

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Biographical Note: Scott Thomas Outlar Scott Thomas Outlar survived the chaos of both the fire and the flood...barely. Now he spends the hours flowing and fluxing with the tide of the Tao River while laughing at and/or weeping over life's existential nature. His words have appeared in venues such as Dissident Voice, Calliope Magazine, Yellow Chair Review, Harbinger Asylum, and Of/With. Links to his published writing can be found on his blog17numa.wordpress.com.

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Entropy and Evolution (Scott Thomas Outlar)

Silence… Creation – but what happens in between? Breakdown… Restructure – Atrophy… Expand – but how does chaos become order? Silence… Creation – Ashes… Rise – but when will the Phoenix take flight?

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Homecoming (Scott Thomas Outlar)

I close my eyes for the briefest moment and catch a glimpse of a tiny black dot in the back of my mind hovering behind my eyes that suddenly explodes in red ignition like a fiery halo burning over a vast horizon singing to me sweetly luring me in like a siren with a gentle whisper to return to come home to be as One again finally in absolution

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Fluttering (Scott Thomas Outlar)

The angel of mercy lost her wings – falling headfirst to the polluted station called Earth, named Terra, dubbed Purgatory. Cascading across the Revelation Fields with virtues quickly fading into lustful vices. Trying to fit in with the beasts of the land – head down, halo removed – to be one of the flock. Fluttering neon translucence evaporates like a powder keg without a fuse. No ignition to rise, no sky in which to loft. It’s all poison now, no paradise. It’s all slum wasteland for the slaves out in the valley as heaven mocks its latest victim.

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Detoxification (Scott Thomas Outlar)

Chaos enters the spaces of stagnation, not to obliterate, but to break down what is not working so the inherent pattern of order can emerge in a new light, and the holy path of inward peace can once again be seen clearly. The choice to destroy is not necessarily negative but sometimes absolutely necessary as a way to tear away at a dilapidated structure so a more solid foundation can be established upon which to build a temple of health, happiness, and love. Life is not always easy, but the trials and tribulations are inherent in the process of progression as a way to push evolution forward, and the challenges that naturally arise are a Godsend of grace presented to teach the lesson that we are creatures of adaptation and survival.

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Biographical Note: Richard Halperin

'Richard W. Halperin's latest collection for Lapwing is Blue Flower. His latest for Salmon is Shy White Tiger.

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De consolatione (Richard Halperin)

Two poets’ books arrived in the post today. Two fine poets. Their poems mean nothing to me. Their poems mean nothing to me. How can that be? Fine fine poems. But one has not

A desperate need of them. There is living instead. These poets are I, on a good day. Who needs to read, On a good day, someone else’s youth, grief, hope, Humour? On a good day one can leave the house.

When the howls begin, one has one’s special poets. One is at the Mad Tea Party. Among friends.

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Ruffled (Richard Halperin) ‘The blue flowers in the Burren,’ said the dying man.

The letting go of good things. Clouds are clouds, up there. Here, there are interstices. No words for how these are, For how they give a glow to Experience. I think without Joe Woods’ fine poetry I would Have stopped writing years ago. A right chuckle at a right time, Respecting all the while The gum of pain. A brilliant day Which outlasts a brilliant day That one wasn’t having anyway, Far from it. I read some more of the Ballyowen sonnets and fall into Whatever is the opposite To sleep and to consciousness, A card which is nowhere In Freud’s deck, an interstice Between what I can’t finish this stanza with Because between is never between Two of anything, anything has only A cameo role. The movement forward Of dusty butterfly wings On weakened floors These are what remain. These get ruffled, blown about a bit: Julius Caesar, Some old comic books; One’s parents, This day or that which had been, Blown about a bit, Still here of course. Ruffled by the mind, Ruffled in the mind And in the heart. 19


Farewell to a Beloved Brother (Richard Halperin) The heavens opened and he went into them. He always had had trouble with women but not this time. Did he leave anything unfinished? anything unsaid? ‘Don’t drag me back.’ Which must be respected. So, no gatherings at the grave, No toasts, no wreaths. He might have lived two hundred years ago. That’s how long ago the last sight of him seems. Why – then – did I say Farewell? Why am I saying it now? Because it is a more beautiful word than good-bye. It implies a lake, a boat, people who do not dress as people do now, waving and wishing him well, clouds hovering in the sky. But I already have said that.

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Biographical Note: Peter O’Neill Peter O'Neill has four books of poetry published: Antiope (Hammer & Anvil Books, 2013 ), The Elm Tree ( Lapwing, 2014), The Dark Pool ( mgv2>publishing, 2015 ) and Dublin Gothic (Kilmog Press, 2015). He has edited And Agamemnon Dead, An Anthology of Early Twenty First Century Irish Poetry with Walter Ruhlmann ( mgv2>publishing, 2015) and hosted Donkey Shots, Skerries First International Avant Garde Poetry Fest this year. He is currently editing issue 81 of Mgv2>datura - Transverser.

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Donkey Shots To all who came, and to those who couldn’t (Peter O’neill) the day Arthur Rimbaud came to Skerries I was seventeen drinking lemonade in Floraville from his lips traversed the slow moving cloud the light burst like sherbet I held his vowels gently between the fold of the pages where they had travelled out of Africa throughout the ages there was Zanzibar in the air while the children moved seamlessly together in the park unaware of the popping of the snipers at Kosovo Beethoven’s hands or Jack Charlton’s embargo nor where they aware of the haunting death of suicides for on that day all of the windmills collided

Donkey Shots, Skerries First International Avant Garde Poetry Festival took place on 23rd May, 2015. The poets Eithne Lannon, Bob Shakeshaft, Rosita Sweetman, Arthur Broomfield, Michael J. Whelan, Colm Kearns, Christine Murray, Anamaría Crowe Serrano, Máighréadh Medbh, Peadar O’ Donoghue, Paul Casey and Jack Grady all took part.

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Biographical Note: Strider Marcus Jones

Strider Marcus Jones – is a poet, law graduate and ex civil servant from Salford/Hinckley, England with proud Celtic roots in Ireland and Wales. A member of The Poetry Society, his five published books of poetry are modern, traditional, mythical, sometimes erotic, surreal and metaphysical http//www.lulu.com/spotlight/stridermarcusjones1. He is a maverick, moving between forests, mountains and cities, playing his saxophone and clarinet in warm solitude.

His poetry has been accepted for publication in 2015 by mgv2 Publishing Anthology; Earl Of Plaid Literary Journal 3rd Edition; Subterranean Blue Poetry Magazine; Deep Water Literary Journal, 2015-Issue 1; Kool Kids Press Poetry Journal; Page-A-Day Poetry Anthology 2015; Eccolinguistics Issue 3.2 January 2015; The Collapsed Lexicon Poetry Anthology 2015 and Catweazle Magazine Issue 8; Life and Legends Magazine; The Stray Branch Literary Magazine; Amomancies Poetry Magazine; The Art Of Being Human Poetry Magazine; Cahaba River Literary Journal; East Coast Literary Review; Nightchaser Ink Publishing Anthology - Autumn Reign; Crack The Spine Literary Magazine; A New Ulster/Anu Issue 27/29/31/32/33; Poems For A Liminal Age Anthology; In The Trenches Poetry Anthology; Blue Lines Literary Journal, Spring 2015; Murmur Journal, April 2015; PunksWritePoemsPress-Rogue Poetry; Outburst Poetry Magazine; The Galway Review; The Honest Ulsterman Magazine; Writing Raw Poetry Magazine;The Lonely Crowd Magazine; Section8Magazine; Danse Macabre Literary Magazine; The Lampeter Review; Coda Crab Books-Anthology-Peace:Give It A Chance; Clockwork Gnome:Quantum Fairy Tales; Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts, May 2015 Issue and Don't Be Afraid: Anthology To Seamus Heaney.

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THE KEEPER (Strider Marcus Jones) you warm the bone in me, pump blood through stone in me, pluck strings unknown in mewhose notes dissolve the screams of ghosts that blacken dreams. proud pictures of the past, fall out of photographssome fade, but others lastand we become the present in their placevibrating beads on strings of symmetry in space. unravel in my headfuse fact and fiction with your timbre thread, more than moves in blankets on tomorrows bed, wet with cum and joyful tearsthe keeper, not the tenant of my years.

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HOT ROD (Strider Marcus Jones) fast and furious archangel in paint and chrome brings me homepurring megaphonious, combusting with sav and sap that i glimpse peeking into warm grill chintzthen she lifts her corset bonnet and lets me touch her glinting bones secreting home spun pheromones attracting, like moon and sunmysterious and mnemonic old senses, fallow and fenced soon become drenched quiller and squirter in that linguistic converterglow mapping, overlapping, slowly blown in the metronome.

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LOW VAULTED CEILINGS (Strider Marcus Jones) within those man stone walls promoting their god bringing us to him i told the priestyou tell us to be content with poverty while you live in this big house throwing us scraps begged from money lenders. this is not what Jesus asked his disciples to do. this is not what he died for. he said live amongst us and share what they have. the priest, red with rage, oppressive and oppressedpulled my mam aside made her shrink in his stare weep in his words walk me in our sins from his dark-damp house of angels. outside in feral sunshine i pointed to grinning gargoyles chasing chastened shadows back down primitive pathsto a cellar flat, bare bulb dangling prison beam probing baptised flesh and mam tipped tears soaking into straw mattresses sucking up cold from the flagstone floor woodworms eating a Van Gogh table where six mouths sat sharing stale bread and cold beans with whiskered skirting board mice. years later, i left Dedalus in Dublin in the pages of a book 26


to his epiphany and Jesuit suit of guiltwhile i quenched my glistening fruit in street light ladiesdrenched in smokey curling dancing clouds and stories from voices bouncing off low vaulted ceilings caressing human in darkness.

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BROKEN OMNIBUS (Strider Marcus Jones)

in out about another day of centrifugal do and doubt at home in town going down. so out the sun like some great worshipped one looks on this primitive petri dish thinking back to the beginning one time thinning bliss in opus of ordinal opulence-

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such unfurled pus unevenly spread like jam on coronation crust seduced by alchemy's golden thread to Mephistopholes sun splashed bed but seeking exodus with the Creator back to nature in broken omnibus.

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IN THE TALK OF MY TOBACCO SMOKE (Strider Marcus Jones) i have disconnected self from the wire of the world retreated to this unmade croft of wild grass and savage stone moored mountains set in sea blue black green grey dyed all the colours of my mood and liquid languageto climb rocks instead of rungs living with them moving around their settlements of revolutionary random place for simple solitary glory. i am reduced again to elements and matter that barter her body for food teasing and turning her flesh to take words and plough. rapid rain slaps the skin on honest hands strongly gentle while sowing seeds the way i touch my lover in the talk of my tobacco smoke: now she knows she tastes like all the drops of my dreams falling on the forest of our Lothlorien.

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THE MESS OF THROWN OFF CLOTHES (Strider Marcus Jones) i listen to your love beads glisten in the flotsam of my roomwe make them from samurai sword folds at forge and loom in the mess of thrown off clothes. so many smoke me kisses at portal doors, and mithril wishes on primitive floorstake us back again through heath and fen to imitate lost landscapecycle and circle sky and stone outside and homein love in less with your heavenliness, and loneliness durable under duress.

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Biographical Note: Joe Urso

Perhaps writing my own epitaph would be the most accurate, and concise, introduction: He was 54. He spent his days earning a living cleaning restaurants and bars which gave him the freedom to make a life by writing at night. He was in love with the same woman for 42 years. Though never married and often apart, they were devoted to each other. A few of my stories have been published in The Penniless Press, Prole, Synchronized Chaos, Subtletea, and Damazine. As a writer for so long, sometimes I feel invisible. At first glance this may look like a poor pitch, but invisibility is part of the wardrobe of a constant observer. I believe a story should be written well enough to describe itself. I spend my evenings attempting to meet this standard

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Christopher Columbus by Joe Urso

Urso-1 Babies were born in maternity hospitals in my day. Nuns were nurses and the wards for the newly living. The other kind were for those who could afford the bill and the dying. Joe’s mom and mine checked into Brady Maternity Hospital on the same day in 1960. The four of us checked out together the following morning - quick as you can - side by side returning home to the same neighborhood. On a Sunday afternoon in the autumn of 1968, Joe’s father became the first of our parents to die at home over the next thirty years. While he lay shrouded on his bed, our mothers drank coffee with the funeral director around the dining room table. My father acted as host for family, friends, and all our neighbors arriving to pay their respects. Joe and I sought shelter on our backs underneath the ancient willow tree in his backyard. While the sky darkened the wind gathering strength rushed upon us, enlivening the long, thin, golden branches winnowing the grass. Leaves falling whirled around us, floating to their rest like the years that have passed between us. As we lay aimless on a sea of yellow leaves, I closed my eyes and watched Joe drift away from me, our homes scuttled in a yellow ocean, our neighborhood swallowed by waves with crests shimmering in the sunlight piercing the umbrella of the willow tree. Urso-2 Still on his back Joe told a story. Sunday last, his father took him to the Madison Theatre in the neighborhood to see “Camelot.” Right before the movie’s intermission, Richard Harris began a soliloquy which Joe recited to me as if it were the declaration of independence – despite the day, amid the wind, his uplifted eyes watching the falling leaves. “I’m gonna be like King Arthur Jack. I only wanna fight for what is right.” Years later, we must have been about twelve, “Camelot” returned to The Madison. On the anniversary of his father’s passing, Joe dragged me and his memories into The Madison. Joe cried as the soliloquy ended and the intermission began, sitting upright and staring at the screen when the lights grew from dim to bright but not bothering to hide his face as the audience marched past us. Seeing the moonlight highlight the breeze blowing through Vanessa Redgrave’s nightgown was the only part of the movie that moved me. Joe spent the rest of his life in a constant state of discovery. Whenever he reached a distant shore he experienced the misfortune of never recognizing the place so he always sailed on. Now Joe has returned home like the tide, like the willow’s autumn leaves, like tomorrow’s sunlight, like so many memories returning home with the heart that held them to rest in an everlasting sleep.

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Urso-3 The last time I saw Joe was three years ago in Washington. On the train down to D.C., I replayed the moment Joe pulled my blue-faced four year old nephew out of our swimming pool. Excited by an opportunity to save a life, Joe gave the kid mouth to mouth while I held the kid’s hand. Thinking practically about the future, I remembered I lacked a proper suit to wear to a wake right before Joe had the kid breathing again. As the train arrived in D.C., I remembered my mother’s story of the photos our Dads took of Joe and I in front of Brady Maternity as our ships prepared to sail to the new world. I remember those first photos, my Dad holding me high, a rare smile artlessly shining up into my face. Joe’s pram was big enough for two, so they laid us down back to back like two baby outlaws waiting to shoot it out with the sheriff. My mother swore Joe swung his arm up and down until he hit my hand and held on. Our eyes closed sleeping, frightened of this foreign world forced upon us, our hands gripping tighter, dreaming we lost our mothers, dreaming we will lose each other, dreams come true. The instant Joe’s baby hand held mine for the first and last time, his DNA imprinted my flesh. When babies embark on their maiden voyage, what they touch before landing on shore become theirs until the day they return home. I quickly made my way to the Fed building where the FBI held Joe. Urso-4 He thought he landed in Hyde Park in London, but it was only Washington D.C. Joe was arrested for soap boxing against the government, the insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors. He urged his land loving listeners to join him in sailing to Cuba then petitioning Castro for citizenship and free health care. After staging quite the constitutional show, the FBI arrived on the scene and put a lid on him. Understandable. Perhaps even necessary. We cannot have U.S. citizens sailing to Cuba in search of a new world and universal health care. The Pope might give his blessing to the journey, but the President would poo poo it. Then one must consider the threatening possibility Columbus Day might have to be cancelled. Thanksgiving Day could follow. And a future without profit from Christmas and Presidents’ Day sales is unthinkable. Round up the unusual suspect. – It’s you and me Jack just like it use to be. I should have called before I– – There are easier ways of ending up six feet under Brother. I could put a bullet in that brain of yours for a start. – That’s the Jack I remember. Always willing to give, or take, a bullet for me. – Time to give it up Joe. We’re too old for this. Sailing to Cuba?

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Urso-5 – This time I figured I’d return my DNA to the ocean before the earth eats my bones. I have nothing to lose Jack, not anymore. My cat Faces, my birds Tweety and Ginger, passed away this year. – Sorry to hear that Joe. Truly I am. -- A man who is a parent has something to lose. Remember what happened to my Dad. He was just a sheep white and afraid baaing in the same field every single day of his life. Frustrated, occasionally happy, never went anywhere, then wham bam life’s over sooner than later because he refused to cough up his life savings to a hospital. He was waiting to die at home. I wanted to tell Joe he just outlined the blueprint of most men’s lives, but under the circumstances I didn’t want a debate. The evidence proving it doesn’t matter if he yells the loudest, travels to the end of the world, and occasionally happy is your average ending is something only he could discover. I would have told him by the time a man is sixty-four dying at home becomes the finale of choice, but I assumed he had the time to discover the truth. I could have said his father’s life savings were for his mother and him. I should have told him at the end of his life he will understand his father was the best man in the world. I regret not telling him the sea is a he not a she the oldest father on Earth.

The horizon is a destination desired by every man. Columbus only discovered his father’s footsteps, and the sea not his ship first discovered the shore. – A long time ago Joe. – Maybe that’s it. I’m a long time ago. A long time ago is what I cherish most, where I want to be. A man has to stand up for a long time ago or else. . .or else. Admit it Jack the fight is against the government that’s just the way it is the way it always has been from Spartacus to John Adams to Lenin and, hell, why not, Castro too since he. . . I couldn’t bring myself to tell him he has lost his grip. Perhaps because I had my doubts. I let Joe run with his spiel. By the time we were twelve, my ears were already numb from Joe’s spiels. Joe was a bit left of everybody else, but so are all Explorers who have the cojones to travel to distant lands to discover the source of our dreams. – So I entered the halls of power. I figured I’d present my ideas to my Congressional Rep., someone I figured had a duty to at least hear me out. What the hell was I thinking. They wouldn’t hear a. . . There it is the word “They” the mating call of the conspiracy theorist. The universal calling card a sociopath pulls out of his wallet when a bee is in his bonnet. Like Enemies and Ideals, you’ll never be introduced to a They. You’ll never look one in the eye or shake a hand because there are far too many to meet just one. – So I proposed my plan to Congresswoman– – Plan! Jesus Joe no wonder. . .no. You had every right to. – My sentiments exactly. Am I not a taxpaying citizen. Am I not capable of reason. Am I not capable of political action like a Mahatma Gandhi in underwear defying an empire and discovering a country without ever putting on a power suit. 35


– The plan Joe. – The Cuban boat people in reverse – The American boat people. I had it typed, indexed, leather bound. A plea to the descendants of convicts, outcast aristocrats, and runaway citizens who conquered a continent on the cheap to call it a day. Let’s withdraw from this imaginary name of a country we created by robbing someone else’s home, hop on a boat, and head to Cuba where slow and easy are the words and the people have free health care. – That’ll bring the FBI down on ya buddy boy. – Screw the FBI Jack! Small potatoes when a man is trying to save the world. I could have reminded Joe about the murders and massacres Gandhi witnessed after the British pulled out, but I didn’t. Like all revolutionaries, Joe is just the guy to believe a family killing one another is preferable to an unwelcome stranger doing the deed. I would have told him it’s a safe bet Castro and the Cuban army would be sitting on the dock of Havana Bay to kick his ass right back to the United States of Amerigo Vespucci, but I declined to offer warnings to an Explorer in motion. I had no desire to break his heart. Perhaps the tragedy of all sea journeys is the ultimate discovery the ocean doesn’t differentiate between today’s and tomorrow’s Sun. – I tell ya Jack that Congresswoman sat behind her desk like the Queen of Sheba. She heard me out then quickly began spouting off in that muttly language of propaganda and diplomateez. Jesus, I didn’t come all this way to listen to a vote for me speech! So I took my plan to the people in the street. Last time I heard free speech was #1 on the hit parade. – What did you expect the Congressional Medal of Freedom. – I know I know. Hell, I can spit into Havana Bay from the Port of Miami, but I haven’t the right to travel to a country with one of the best health care systems in the known universe. But I’m the one’s that crazy. Freedom. . .ha. . .freedom my ass. Not for all the treasure buried in the sea would I have attempted to convince Joe not to crucify himself. One thing I knew, knew from a lot of living and a little bit of loving, he had to unearth that discovery himself. Chances were he never would have. You can walk with the people you love to their crossroads, but then stand back and let them go. For all lovers, there will come a day when those we love sink into the sea. While we swim over distances to save them, they will choose to float with the fishes rather than reach out for our hand. We have a better chance convincing Fidel to grab a razor and shave off his beard. – I should have pitched a trip to Mars instead. Hell, there may be gold in them thar hills. They vote themselves primo health insurance on the taxpayers’ dime while old people are dying at home because they have to make a decision between buying health insurance, turning up the heat, feeding the cat, or feeding themselves. Mark my word Brother, one day they will make it mandatory for us to buy health insurance then throw us in jail if we don’t cough up the dough. What is it gonna take to make them understand once a poor man has to borrow money to feed his family he’s gonna stay behind the eight ball for the rest of his life. Ohhhh no, but I’m the one that’s crazy. Joe had another one of his “They” moments. It passed. Urso-10 36


You have to admit he made a case. I knew he didn’t stand a chance, and the travelers in the boat will have him for dinner when the food runs out, but he still made a case. The same case we’ve been listening to for two thousand years. The case The Wandering Nazarene pitched and look what happened to him. Even Columbus was sent to Coventry after 1492, thank you very much. The color in Joe’s face descended from a bright red to a much lighter shade of black. The FBI judged him a bit too enthusiastic in his endeavor for health care reform but harmless. They washed their hands but let him go. I spent my last minute with Joe hugging him, telling him he did the right thing, reminding him at the moment when living feels like something else all will be well tomorrow. There was no wake. There will be no funeral. Joe’s ashes will be scattered with mine. Tonight I will write his epitaph for all who are about to wander away from home to read: “The Creator rest the souls of the holy trinity – Christopher Columbus, Joe, and J.C. They inherited the same gratitude for showing a dark world where to find the light. Uneasy lies the head that holds the eyes that sees the world as round and one.”

Urso-11 Now I understand why after traveling the world we hardly move an inch. Our lives are circles drawn by memories in motion. We are bound by them, like a ship obliged to the ocean that sustains her.

THE END

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Biographical Note: Helen Harrison Helen Harrison was raised on the Wirral, seven miles from Liverpool, by Irish parents, and has lived most of her adult life in the border countryside of Co Monaghan, Ireland where she is married with a grown-up daughter. Helen has performed poetry at The ‘Bray Art Show’ and ‘The Monaghan Art Show’. She also enjoys the ‘open mic’ scene around the country. Her poems have been published in A New Ulster, North West Words and The Bray Journal. Her first collection of poetry ‘The Last Fire’ was published during 2015 by Lapwing. Some of her poetry can be found at: poetry4on.blogspot.com.

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PASSING SUNSETS (Helen Harrison) Evening, and there is nothing To temp me indoors. Warmed from a day spent in the sun; I spin it on my fingertips, Pass it, to my teamMates. Scoring goals Win rolls of respect. Talents Swaying to the chants; that Tribal-like victory dance. Ball of mesmerising fire Football skills that inspire. Cool Moves; dipping, diving, Thriving, in the company, Until friends slip away, As they are called in One by one. Alone, with a crimson sky; The breath I take is sharp Like loneliness, As the night turns - flat. .................................................... ....................................................... This poem is of memories playing football in the field in front of the house I grew up in. My friends always had to go in earlier than me. I would always stay out until the sun set. Remember those days when we got sun?

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Biographical Note: Silva Zanoyan Merjanian

Silva Zanoyan Merjanian is a widely published poet who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. She moved to Geneva during the Lebanese civil war after personally experiencing the devastation of her beloved country. She later settled in California to raise her two sons with her husband. Her poetry reflects a little of what she took with her from each city she lived in. The nostalgia for her roots, her Armenian heritage, her deep sense of humanity, reduced and elevated at the same time in life’s events permeate through her poems. Her work is featured in anthologies and international publications. Narrator /writer Eabha Rose recently read five of her poems; Choices, Rooftop, Doves of Beirut, Suicide and Home which gained international acclaim. Her first volume of poetry, Uncoil a Night, was released in 2013. And Cold River Press published her second volume RUMOR in March 2015. Proceeds from both books are donated to refugees.

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Paris (Silva Merjanian) A light turns on now and then from across the street; insomniacs’ greeting squeezes between rod iron rails teasing my white curtains in a game with a breeze brushing a scent on my floor that of fall rain in a city that understands why Cohen dances in shadows the wine dribbles from my mouth into yours there’s no moon to speak of there’s no time but this moment Paris whistles a Brel song I am writing you unraveling with each word a layer of you while you sleep your wife's arm, paperweight on your waist your breath heavy in a dream one more verse to reach your hand and a city somewhere twitches to wake you up from the loneliness in your bed

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If you fancy submitting something but haven’t done so yet, or if you would like to send us some further examples of your work, here are our submission guidelines:

SUBMISSIONS NB – All artwork must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Indecent and/or offensive images will not be published, and anyone found to be in breach of this will be reported to the police. Images must be in either BMP or JPEG format. Please include your name, contact details, and a short biography. You are welcome to include a photograph of yourself – this may be in colour or black and white. We cannot be responsible for the loss of or damage to any material that is sent to us, so please send copies as opposed to originals. Images may be resized in order to fit “On the Wall”. This is purely for practicality. E-mail all submissions to: g.greig3@gmail.com and title your message as follows: (Type of work here) submitted to “A New Ulster” (name of writer/artist here); or for younger contributors: “Letters to the Alley Cats” (name of contributor/parent or guardian here). Letters, reviews and other communications such as Tweets will be published in “Round the Back”. Please note that submissions may be edited. All copyright remains with the original author/artist, and no infringement is intended. These guidelines make sorting through all of our submissions a much simpler task, allowing us to spend more of our time working on getting each new edition out!

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June 2015 MESSAGE FROM THE ALLEYCATS:

We have a Go Fund Me campaign so as to afford better tuna. Well, that’s just about it from us for this edition everyone. Thanks again to all of the artists who submitted their work to be presented “On the Wall”. As ever, if you didn’t make it into this edition, don’t despair! Chances are that your submission arrived just too late to be included this time. Check out future editions of “A New Ulster” to see your work showcased “On the Wall”.

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Biographical Note: Arizahn

Our own Alleycat Wrangler presents us with a short story we hope you enjoy the piece.

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Goodbye, Frank

The parking area outside of the medical centre was expensive and boasted a 24/7 surveillance system. He parked around the corner instead and walked back to wait. *** Dak Reynolds still didn't believe that his best friend and mentor was gone forever. The coffin, with its dark oak panels and smooth brass fittings seemed to belong to someone else - someone vulnerable. Frank Batt had been many things, but never vulnerable. Dak laid one rough hand atop the lid of the coffin and stared through tired brown eyes at the small plaque: "Frank Batt - 17th December 2014" It was not enough, but then what would be? This was Frank - you didn't bury a man like Frank. You could try, of course. You could put him in a box and throw six feet of dirt on top of it. You could top it off with flowers and speeches, maybe even a nice headstone. But Frank would still be there - standing just out of sight at your shoulder; maybe even smiling a little at your discomfiture regarding his abrupt demise. *** He had tailed the woman all the way from her father’s building. It was cold and he wondered why anyone would choose to walk anywhere in mid December. Stupid people did stupid things, he supposed. At least he was dressed more sensibly than she was - his thick woollen pea coat keeping out the worst of the weather’s efforts. *** Neill Lyons was curled up on the old leather couch that had been Frank's favourite piece of furniture for as long as Neil had known him. It still smelt of the old detective - cheap aftershave and even cheaper vodka. It was lumpy and the springs dug into Neil's ribs and spine. He was glad of the pain, and of the smell. He didn't want to be comfortable today. He didn't think that he would ever want to be comfortable again. *** The volunteers were making a mess of setting up the Christmas decorations outside of the church hall opposite. They were typical well-meaning idiots with more generosity than skill or sense. It was just as his old man had always said: nothing ever gets done right unless you do it personally. ***

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Alan Hunter lay silent and still on his bed; staring blindly at the ceiling of his room. He was uncertain what to do now that the old man was dead. There seemed little point in remaining. The agency would not last long without Frank at the head of it. It wouldn't be long before the bailiffs came a knocking. The house, and the office, would have to be sold. Frank's ex-wife Adelaide Walker would insist on that. She would want the money to pay for their daughter's medical bills. Not to mention the cost of Frank's funeral. "I miss you, old friend," Alan whispered to the dark. There was no answer. *** Finally, his target reappeared from behind the tinted glass of the automatic doors. She walked straight into him and stumbled backwards apologising. “Sorry!” Then she simply walked off – retracing her route along the tinsel ridden boulevard. *** Elaine Walker stood at her kitchen window and stared out across the city. The lights made her think of a half remembered country and western track. It had been playing on the radio the day that her mother had walked out on her father, taking Elaine with her. Elaine had been fifteen at the time. She had never seen her father again. Sometimes she wondered about him. Why had her mother hated him so much? Why had he never come to see them in the twenty years that had followed? Her head throbbed then and she pitched forwards; catching hold of the countertop. Another migraine: this would be the fourth in as many days. She ought to tell her mother, or Doctor Reidy. But they would want her to go back to the medical centre for tests. Elaine was tired of tests. And besides, she was supposed to be going out with Kyle tonight. He didn't like it when she cancelled. In truth, Elaine was a little afraid of Kyle. Sometimes she wondered why he had chosen to associate with her at all: they had nothing in common aside from membership of the same athletics club. Her cell phone buzzed then; the caller's number appearing on screen as unknown. Expecting it to be her mother with yet another new cell phone, Elaine answered. "Hello?" "Is this Elaine Batt?" The man on the other end sounded tired, and close to tears. "I – well, no; not any more. My surname is Walker." The man persisted. "Your father's name was Frank Batt?" Elaine felt cold. "What do you mean - was? Who is this?" "I'm sorry, Elaine. I thought Adelaide would have informed you already." "Informed me of what? Who are you, and how did you get this number?" There was a pause, which felt far longer than the hands of the kitchen clock claimed it to be. "My name is Dak Reynolds. I was a friend of your father's." "What do you mean?" Elaine sat down at the table. "We worked together for the past fifteen years. I - I'm sorry, Elaine. He's dead. Frank is dead." ***

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Maybe he needed to work on his looming. Since when did someone bump into him and think that they could just walk off like that? “Hey – don’t you know who I am, lady?” “Well...no. Have we met before?” *** "What do you mean, you tracked down his daughter?" Alan was aghast. "Dak, you had no right to do that! The girl is ill, for pity's sake! If Adelaide didn't want her knowing about what happened to Frank, then that was an end to it." Dak shrugged. "She has every right to know what happened to her father. And I didn't track her down - Frank did. He was keeping tabs on her. He had been for years. I got the feeling that he was worried about her; that he wanted to contact her himself. But then he never got the chance." "Oh, so you just thought that you would step in and do it for him?" Alan slammed his fist into the desk. It rattled, and a pen fell off. "Adelaide will have her lawyers onto us for this. Do you want us to lose the agency?" "We never stood a chance of keeping it anyway, and you know it!" Dak glared at him. "At least this way Elaine knows what happened to her father. She knows that he didn't just forget about her." "Does she know that he was murdered?" Alan asked coldly. "She didn't ask the specifics, and I didn't tell her. She's coming to the funeral we can talk to her afterwards. Frank would want us to." "And you actually believe that Adelaide will allow us anywhere near her daughter?" Alan shook his head in disbelief. "Dak, that woman hates us only marginally less than she hated Frank. I wouldn't be surprised if she stops Elaine from attending." "So what - you think that we should be okay with that? Sorry, Alan, but Elaine deserves to know about her father. She wants to know. If Adelaide tries to keep her away..." "What? You'll do what, exactly? Call the authorities? She's her mother!" "Elaine is thirty five years old - she isn't a child!" "She's mentally incompetent, according to the law." "More like according to Adelaide," Dak growled. "Frank didn't believe any of that crap for one minute and neither do I." Alan groaned and rubbed at his pale face with one slim hand. "We are not investigating this!" "I agree with Dak," Neill said quietly. "We owe it to Frank - if only to make certain that Elaine is alright." "You’re both utterly insane!" Alan stood up. “I'll get the car keys." *** He hadn’t even considered this as a possibility. Everyone knew who he was! “No, we haven’t met. I’m just...very well known.” “Oh – like an actor?” “I guess you could say I play a major role.” *** The cemetery was crowded when Elaine arrived. She was a little surprised at how many people had turned out to say goodbye to her father. She wished that she had 48


been in time for the service, but Kyle had refused to take the day off work to drive her there and the local taxi company had been unable to provide her with transport any earlier. Her mother still hadn't been in touch - Elaine saw no sign of her amongst the other mourners. In fact, she didn't see anyone that she recognised. She worried briefly that she was at the wrong funeral. What if the phone call had been some dreadful hoax? But that was illogical; how else could Dak have gotten her number if not from her father? But if her father had had her number, then why hadn't he ever called her? "Elaine?" A familiar voice spoke from behind her. Turning, she saw a tall, dark haired man with sad brown eyes and a haze of stubble across his jaw. He wore a shabby dark grey suit, with a black shirt and tie. Hardly traditional funeral garb, but the grief in his eyes was genuine. "We spoke on the phone yesterday. My name is Dak Reynolds. I'm so sorry for your loss." He grasped her arm in both his hands as he spoke, and Elaine flinched slightly despite herself. "I - it was good of you to call." She wished that she had worn a thicker jacket. She could sense his feelings through the cloth of her sleeve. Dak forced a smile and gestured for Elaine to accompany him. He led her past the other mourners to where the coffin sat next to the gaping trench that would house it. "Alan Hunter, Neill Lyons - this is Elaine Walker." Two other men stepped forward to greet her. Alan was of average height and build. He was very pale, with long black hair tied back in a ponytail, and light blue eyes. He wore a neatly tailored black suit, with a dark red shirt and black tie. "I am sorry to meet under such sad circumstances, Miss Walker." Neill was tall and lithe; with a feathery cloud of fine blond hair that looked as though it belonged in the eighties. His sharp features were all but hidden beneath it: two catlike green eyes blazing from the shadow cast by his long fringe. Of all the mourners present, Neill was the only one wearing white. His crisp linen suit and silk shirt were matched by white patent leather brogues, and a cream coloured cravat. There was a white top hat balanced on his head, and he carried a cream cane with a silver handle. "I feel over dressed." Elaine blinked at that. "Then why did you wear this?" "I thought I was supposed to wear my best." "Oh." Alan grimaced and shook his head. "I am afraid that Neill is a little overtired at the moment. Please excuse him, Miss Walker." "It's alright." The burial did not take long: surprisingly there was no eulogy. A short prayer later, the coffin was in its intended place. Handfuls of dirt were thrown, the board drawn over and the flowers lain. As the mourners dispersed, the team of grave diggers set to work backfilling the hole. Elaine was numb to their efficiency. She barely nodded when Dak asked her if she wanted to go for coffee. "We couldn't really afford a wake," he explained, "but there's a nice place not far from here. Frank used to like it there. All the staff knew him. He was a regular." Alan elbowed Dak when Elaine wasn't looking. "You can’t seriously want to take her to Lana's?�

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"It's as good a place as anywhere else. At least we won't run into Adelaide there." "Fair enough, I suppose. I'll drive." Elaine wondered after she got into the car whether this had been a good idea. After all, she didn't know any of these men. Anything could happen...but that was silly. And it was too late now anyhow. If they intended to murder her, there wasn't much that she could do about it. "You aren't going to hurt me, are you?" She had blurted out the words before she could stop herself. Alan and Dak, who were seated in the front of the vehicle, exchanged glances with one another. "No, of course not," Dak replied gently. Neill turned his head and stared at her; as if seeing her for the first time. "Why did you get in the car with us if you thought we were going to hurt you?" "I suppose I thought that refusing would be rude." "That's terminally stupid, you know." Elaine blushed. "I'm sorry." Neill frowned. "Sorry for being terminally stupid?" "I - yes, I suppose so." "Neill, can you please attempt to be human, just for today?" "No; why would I want to do a silly thing like that, Alan?" "Ignore him, Elaine," Dak advised her. "Neill is...complicated." "He means I'm not human," Neill informed her sagely. "Then what are you?" Elaine pushed back a loose strand of red hair that was hanging in her pale grey eyes. "Neill, I mean it - I will pull this car over!" Alan sounded almost frantic. "I'm an elf." Alan swore and looked for somewhere to stop. Naturally, there was nowhere to be seen. In fact, they were now being flanked by several large dark coloured sedans. "Oh dear..." Dak had seen them too. "We have company, Alan." "Yes, indeed. I recognise that driver. He works for Ugly Steve." Elaine was oblivious to the situation. "You’re an elf?" "Well obviously not a Christmas elf, but yes." "That's amazing." "Thank you." “We have a problem here, Neill!" "Yes, and your point is, Alan?" Neill blinked quizzically at his fellow investigators. "It's Ugly Steve's lot! They're trying to run us off the road - I need you to get Elaine out of here, and take her somewhere safe. Can you do that?" "Yes, of course I can." There was a moment of silence. Alan cleared his throat as the nearest sedan nudged their rear bumper. "Can you do it right now?" "Yes, why do you ask?" Neill steepled his fingers atop his cane. "Just please get her to safety now, elf!"

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"Oh - well, you know you only had to ask." Neill took his right hand off his cane and laced fingers with Elaine. A tingle ran through her at his touch. "Next stop, home!" *** “I don’t watch much television. Sorry again for bumping into you like that – I hope it isn’t serious.” “What, the bump?” “No; whatever you’re here at the medical centre for.” She smiled brightly at him. “The doctors are very good.” “I wouldn’t know about that. I was just checking my cell phone. Are you sick or something?” “That’s very personal. I have some trouble with migraines.” *** A vague smell of violets and cinnamon hung in the air. Neill looked around him with interest. "Hmmm... it’s a bit poky. Oh, I see you have a cat." Elaine gasped and leapt away from him, almost tripping over Bubba in the process. The elderly black tomcat yowled and ran out of the room. "This is my apartment! How did you do that?" "Magic," Neill replied airily. "Got any tea and biscuits?" "I - well yes, but..." "Good stuff. I take mine with milk and two sugars, please. What sort of biscuits do you have?" "Um – do you like peanut butter cookies?" The elf sighed. "I'll pass." "I - I could make you a sandwich instead. I have some roast chicken in the refrigerator." Neill brightened considerably at that. "Can I have salad as well, please?" "Sure. I - I'll go and make it for you now." Elaine wandered into the kitchen. He followed her and perched himself on the countertop; his long legs dangling almost to the floor. "Can I help? Oh - is that mayonnaise or salad cream?" "Mayonnaise..?" "That's nice." They worked in silence for a time, before sitting down at the kitchen table together to eat. Elaine was halfway expecting to wake up and find herself in the medical centre again. "I still can't quite believe this." "You mean about Frank?" "Well, yes, to start with, but everything else too." "What, even the sandwiches?" Elaine shook her head. "No, I believe in the sandwiches." "Well what about the tea?" "Yes, I believe in the tea too." She smiled despite herself. "So what is it that has you confused?" "I - well, you do! I mean to say car chases, elves, magic. It's a lot to take in." Neill swallowed a large bite of his sandwich and nodded. "Well, I can assure you that I am the only elf that I know of in this apartment, and that magic is perfectly safe; probably even safer than science. It’s less likely to explode, for a start." 51


"Oh, well that's good to know." "The car chase had nothing to do with me. That was all down to Ugly Steve and his minions." "Who is Ugly Steve?" "He's a particularly handsome psychopath, with access to vast amounts of personal wealth and almost no moral compass whatsoever." "I see." Elaine felt a little faint. "He murdered Frank," Neill added. "I tried to save him...to save Frank, I mean; not Ugly Steve. I stabbed him. It was too little, too late, I'm afraid. And now Ugly Steve wants payback." "Is that because you stabbed him? And why did he murder my father?" "It was a case we were working on," Neill said. He took a sip of his tea before continuing. "Ugly Steve took offence at your father for helping a prostitute skip town and start over. She was one of his girls. One of Ugly Steve's girls - your father wasn't a pimp. He just helped the wrong person, that's all. Then he paid for it with his life. Ugly Steve shot him; I stabbed Ugly Steve. I tried to get Frank to a hospital but he bled out whilst they were working on him. It was horrible. I'm sorry." Elaine tried to tell him that it was all right; that she didn't blame him for her father's death. Instead, she found herself running for the bathroom to throw up. Neill followed her in. He stood behind her and held her hair back whilst she vomited into the toilet bowl. "I do hope that this isn't down to the sandwiches, or to the tea." "No; no I don't think that it is," Elaine murmured. "Well, that's a relief. I have a very delicate stomach, you see - can't be too careful." "Neill?" "Yes?" "Will you tell me some more about my father now, please?" He helped her up, beaming as he did so. "It will be my pleasure." *** Personal...he was here to make things personal. For some reason this was proving to be difficult to focus on. “Sorry to hear that. Hey – do you want to get a cup of coffee or something?” She giggled. “I can’t believe this! No one’s ever asked me that before! Sure, that would be nice. Not coffee though – it makes me dizzy. I’ll have tea.” *** "I really hate days like this," Dak remarked, as they were dragged from the car and pinned face first against a nearby dumpster. "Me too," Alan replied. "I just had this suit cleaned!" "Both of you shut up!" One of Ugly Steve's thugs punched Alan hard in the small of the back. Alan sighed. "Now that was just plain rude!" "You really should apologise," Dak warned. The thug grunted. "And why’s that?" Unseen by Ugly Steve's minions, Alan's fangs extended and his fingernails lengthened into sharp claws. Another of the heavies

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grabbed Dak by the hair and slammed his face into the side of the dumpster. The metal crumpled under the impact. "My companion gave you fair warning," said Alan. He spun to face his attacker; tearing free from his jacket as he did so. "Now pay the price for your impertinence!"His hand blurred and blood misted the alleyway. Dak grunted and elbowed his opponent in the gut. "Little help here!" "I’m afraid that I’m a tad busy right now, Dak. You’ll have to handle him yourself, sorry!" "Terrific!" Dak muttered. His skin rippled and bulged: the musculature beneath it shifting. "Listen buddy, you aren't being paid enough to take me on. Walk away, while you still have your legs." "I ain't afraid of you!" His assailant let go of Dak in order to draw his gun. "I got enough bullets to drop Rasputin!" "What a shame for you that I'm not him!" Dak ducked and whirled around diving forwards to knock the man's legs out from underneath him. He could feel the roar building within him: tried to smother its howl; tried to stay human. Then the man brought up his gun and fired it, point blank range. Dak was slammed backwards by the impact. His shirt was torn and singed at the front, and there was a neat hole in his tie. It had been an expensive tie. Something snapped and the howling drowned out all other sounds. The man squeezed off two more shots before what had been Dak collided with him in a blur of sharp teeth and dark fur. Ugly Steve's four surviving minions were trying to run for their cars. Alan was already amongst them; spinning and slashing. His eyes had an eerie red glow within their depths as he seized hold of the final man and lifted him by the shoulders; lifting him clean off the ground. The hapless man squealed and dropped his gun. "What do you want? What are you people?" Alan laughed and tossed the terrified thug aside. "Tell Ugly Steve to hire better help next time." The man fled, half weeping with relief and terror. Alan crouched down and stroked his friend's fur. "Hey - time to calm down now, Dak. Come on my friend. Snap out of it. It's over." Dak growled then shook himself violently. He sank back onto his haunches and shuddered. Slowly, he slipped back into human form. Alan handed him the remains of his clothing. "We should go. Did you pack a change?" "Yeah; it’s in the trunk." "Better get dressed before the authorities turn up. Where do you suppose Neill took Elaine?" Dak shrugged and pulled on his jeans, reaching back into the trunk for a sweater. "No idea. I'll call him once we're on the road." *** He really wasn’t sure how they had gotten here; elbow in elbow, nodding and smiling their way to the nearest restaurant. This hadn’t been the kind of personal that he’d intended. It sure was nice though. ***

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"So then Frank says: 'Well, you may not believe in ghosts, senator - but your house is still trying to kill you!' Needless to say, we didn't get paid for that one either." Elaine smiled and pulled her knees up to her chin. "I can't believe it...my father was a paranormal investigator!" They were sitting on the couch together. Elaine had changed out of her formal black dress, and was wearing a pair of grey corduroy slacks with a cream woollen polo neck top. Bubba was curled up between them, eyeing Neill balefully through his one good eye. Neill yawned. "Frank was a lot of things. Paranormal investigator was really just a hobby for him. His real passion was needlepoint." "You aren't serious!" "No; just testing to see how credulous you are," the elf admitted sheepishly. "Some humans will believe that water is dry and fire is cold!" "Technically, ice is frozen water and it's sort of dry," Elaine mused. "Point taken," Neill conceded. "You are a deep thinker, aren't you? So was Frank." "I think too much; Kyle always says that." Neill raised his eyebrows at that. "And what is Kyle?" "You mean to say who. Kyle is my boyfriend." "No, I meant what. After all, he must be some sort of a misanthropic troglodyte if he doesn't like you to think, must he not?" Elaine blushed and looked at her feet, which were currently safely ensconced within a pair of cream leather pumps. "He's nice to me really..." "You mean when he isn't busy belittling you? Anyway, what do want with a boyfriend at your age? You're thirty five now, aren't you? Shouldn't you have a man instead; or a woman, if you prefer?" "That's horrible!" "Don't tell me that you're homophobic?" The elf looked genuinely shocked at that. "Of course not; I meant that Kyle is nice. He doesn't belittle me...not really." "Not really or not at all?" Neill leant forward and tilted Elaine's chin up with his fingertips. He stared into her eyes intently. "There's a universe of difference between the two. So - which is it?" Elaine shivered and leant forward into his hands. She thought for a moment that she might faint. Then Bubba farted and Neill fell backwards off the couch; gasping in horror at the smell. "That cat is unholy!" "Sorry - he's really old! He gets a bit gassy sometimes." "I'm actually fairly certain that smells such as that count as being weapons of mass destruction, you know." "He's not that bad!" "Well, you don't have my sense of smell, do you? Humans are so lucky...walking around oblivious to three quarters of what's happening all around them at any given time. I bet you've never even seen a troll, have you?" "I never even knew that they existed before now!" "You mean to say that you don't use the Internet?" 54


Elaine blinked. "I thought you meant trolls as in trolls; I mean monsters." "No such things," Neill replied airily. He rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. "Well, not outside Europe." "Europe?" "Scandinavia, if one was to be precise. But not here in the Americas." "I - I see. That's good, I suppose?" "Oh indeed it is, yes. Very nasty things are trolls. They eat almost anything; including cats." "What - even very smelly cats?" Elaine asked drily. "Actually, in his case I think they might be scared off. I did say 'almost anything', after all." "Of course you did." The front door clicked open then and Kyle Sanson strode into the apartment, dressed in his usual work clothes of dark grey chinos, tan sneakers and a black T-shirt. He was tall and broad shouldered, with slicked back fair hair and cold blue eyes. His aquiline features were harsh and calculating. "Who the heck is this, Elaine?" Neill bounced lightly onto his feet. "I'm a burglar!" Kyle hesitated and then dropped his satchel. "You have thirty seconds to get your ass out of this apartment, before I start breaking limbs, wise guy!" "Whose limbs?" Neill asked blithely. Kyle snarled and lunged at him. Neill sighed and stepped neatly aside, allowing Kyle to slam into the wall of the den. Elaine shrank back into the corner of the couch. "Kyle, please! He's a friend...he worked with my father! He brought me home from the funeral!" "It's true - there were criminals chasing us and everything." Neill paused at that. "Hmmm...I should probably check up on the others...be right back!" He vanished, leaving another swirl of violets and cinnamon in his wake. Kyle grabbed Elaine by the wrists. "Start talking, Elaine!" Bubba bolted from the room. *** Nobody had ever treated him like a regular person before now – his ma had passed when he was still just a baby, God rest her soul, and his old man had raised him to be his successor. For as long as he could remember, everyone had been afraid of him. *** "So what happened after we left?" Neill had reappeared in the back seat of the car. Dak winced. "Ugly Steve's goons ran us off the road and tried to kill us." "They really need some new material." Alan glanced back at Neill. "Where did you take Miss Walker?" "You mean Elaine? I didn't - we only just met, Alan! Have you no decorum?" "Dak, could you do me a small favour please? Could you just climb in back and strangle Neill for me?" The werewolf groaned. "Neill, where is Elaine? Where did you take her to? Where did you leave her?"

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"Oh! Her apartment: 325 Helmer Avenue. Apartment 12. It's on the fourth floor - did you know, the Japanese don't have that number in their buildings? We had tea and sandwiches. She has a cat - it stinks, by the way. Oh, and her boyfriend is an uncouth lout. I think he may be about to harm her." Alan swore and turned the car sharply; narrowly avoiding a collision with a pickup truck in the process. "Neill...do you recall that chat we had about priorities?" "Not really." Dak leant back in his seat and closed his eyes. "Let me know when we get there." "It's ten blocks away and we just hit the lunchtime traffic!" Alan thumped the steering column in frustration. Neill coughed. "Allow me, gentlemen." The still moving car appeared in the middle of Elaine's den; crushing the coffee table and rolling into the wall between that room and the kitchen. Alan slammed on the brakes and cut the engine. "Damn it, Neill! We told you never to do that again! Don't you remember the restaurant?" "I remember that we got free lobster," Neill mused. "Hey - that's him! That's Kyle." He pointed out the front windscreen. Dak and Alan followed his gaze to where Kyle gawped at them. "What the Hell’s going on?" The three detectives were already scrambling out of the car and sprinting towards him. Alan reached him first, followed closely by Dak. They dragged him away from Elaine and shoved him out of the apartment. Neill tossed his satchel after him and slammed the door. "As I recall, he has a key." "Doesn't matter; Elaine isn't going to be staying here." Dak was helping his mentor's daughter to her feet. "You're coming home with us, Elaine. We can protect you." "I don't need to be protected - it was a row, that's all!" Alan shook his head. "Miss Walker, that man was beating you. Has he ever done so before?" Elaine wasn’t really paying attention to his questions. "You - you put a car inside my apartment!" Neill grinned. "And we didn't even need to take it apart to do so!" "Where are your things? Alan, find her suitcase. Neill, get the cat." "Dak, we can't force her to come with us!" Alan protested. "Why do I have to be the one to get the cat? It stinks!" Dak shoved a dresser up against the front door. "He's like me, Alan! If he gets back in here and we aren't around to stop him..." "Point taken; Miss Walker, please - it's best that that you accompany us.” "I don't understand any of this!" Alan sighed. "Your boyfriend isn't human - he's a werewolf. Please - come back to the agency with us until we can get this sorted out. He may harm you otherwise." "He's a werewolf? He - he never told me that!"

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"Some of my kind can be pretty wary of telling non-shifters what they really are," Dak explained. "Don't take it personally, Elaine. Chances are, he just wasn't ready to explain it to you yet." "You mean you're a werewolf too?" Elaine was stunned. She looked at Alan. "Are you human?" "I was once...but then I died and became a vampire. So now I'm more of a host organism, technically speaking. It has its bonuses, mind you. Heightened senses, increased physical prowess, near immortality - no, I'm not human any more. Still, I wouldn't change what I've become." "If it helps you any, the cat really is just a cat," Neill interjected kindly. "He doesn't like your boyfriend, by the way." "What makes you say that?" "I asked him." "Are you saying that you can talk to cats? And understand them?" Elaine found herself following Neill around as he attempted to persuade Bubba to come down from the top of the wardrobe. "Can't you?" Neill gave up on ever persuading Bubba to come down and instead levitated himself up so that he was level with the cat. "Kindly step into your box, Bubba!" Elaine wasn't certain what surprised her more: the fact that Neill was levitating or that Bubba actually agreed to get into his carry case. She was still mulling this over as Dak helped her into the car. Neill got in beside her with Bubba. Alan and Dak got into the front of the car. Alan started the engine. "Neill - take us back to the parking lot outside of our office." Neill yawned and gestured vaguely. With another whiff of violets and cinnamon, the car and its occupants appeared in a poorly maintained concrete lot, bordered on two sides by a splintered wooden fence. The third side stood open to the street, whilst the fourth was the brick wall of a tall building. Elaine counted six floors. She recalled that there had also been a large basement - her mother had used part of it as a laundry room, whilst the rest had been her father's hobby room. He had kept a lot of stuff down there: junk, according to her mother. "My room was up in the attic," she recalled aloud. "It still is," Neill informed her. "Frank insisted on keeping it for you - for when you came home." "He didn't forget about me...I'm glad. I wish I'd known that sooner. I would have come home a hundred times by now." Neill frowned. "That's still only five visits a year, you know." "Stop being awful, Neill!" Alan and Dak snarled at the elf in unison. Elaine shook her head. "No: I mean that I would have come home and stayed here all the time." Neill looked perturbed at that. "But then you would have been a reclusive shutin, and with a cat! That would have been dreadful too." "Well, maybe I would have gone to other places too.� Elaine smiled shyly. "But I would have wanted to live here with my father."

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"Frank would have liked that," Dak interjected. "He wrote to you every night. He kept a sort of journal for you. Adelaide...she refused to let him send letters, so he kept the journal." "That's rather creepy, really," Neill observed as they approached the front door of the building. Alan elbowed him. "Quiet!" "I was referring to the amount of cobwebs that our front porch has accrued!" *** He told her his name was Eugene, which was technically true. His full name was on his birth certificate, and on his driver’s licence – Eugene Stephen Dianchi III – but she didn’t need to know that. *** The attic room held a queen-sized bed with a wrought iron frame and an overstuffed mattress. The quilt was pale lemon, but the pillowcases were faded red and white gingham. A bookcase filled the space between the bed and the closet. The shelves offered up a museum to Elaine’s childhood: half a hundred or so books, a dozen jigsaws, and a porcelain doll dressed in dungarees and a striped sweater. Her mother had hated that doll. Elaine remembered how Adelaide had flatly refused to allow her to pack it. “You’re too old for dolls anyhow, Ellie! Hurry up and pack your clothes!” Twenty years later, the closet was still too big for her needs. Elaine was utterly disinterested in fashion. She opened the cat carrier and scratched Bubba’s head. “This is home for now, cat.” The cat merely blinked and stalked off to pluck at the curtains, leaving Elaine to finish unpacking. The detectives had managed to grab most of what she needed. They had omitted her medication, but it would be simple enough for her to ask Doctor Reidy for a refill of her prescription, given the circumstances. She supposed that she ought to call him, and took out her cell phone. There had been two missed calls from Kyle and one from her mother. Elaine drafted a brief text to inform them both that she was staying with friends. Then she called Gwyneth – the nurse who organised her appointments at the medical centre. The older woman was sympathetic, and assured Elaine that she would inform Doctor Reidy as soon as his afternoon clinic ended. “The prescription will be sorted by tomorrow morning. Drop by any time after ten thirty.” “Thank you, Gwyneth.” Elaine opted to switch off the cell phone after that. Wandering back downstairs, she found the detectives debating what to order for dinner. The choice was between Thai or Italian; their visit to Lana’s having been cancelled due to Ugly Steve’s actions. “Are we safe here? Shouldn’t you call the police about that man?” “I’m afraid that the local law enforcement is overwhelmed as it is.” Alan cleared a space on the couch for her. “Excuse the mess; paperwork has a habit of multiplying around here.” “We ought to speak to the leader of whichever pack Kyle belongs to. Knocking your mate around isn’t tolerated within shifter society, even if they are fixed shape.” Dak flipped open his laptop and logged onto Facial Diary. “He smelt like a non-lunar to me; that narrows things down.” 58


Elaine would have preferred not to do anything about Kyle. She rather hoped that they could simply not see one another again. “It doesn’t matter, Dak. I’m breaking up with him – I mean, he hit me!” The detectives were all relieved to hear that decision. A mixture of Thai and Italian menu choices later, Neill volunteered to go and fetch the food. “I’ll buy Bubba a few essentials whilst I’m at it.” *** Their pleasant cup of tea could never be anything beyond that. It was still refreshing. It occurred to him that there were other options than revenge, and maybe he didn’t have to be so ugly after all. *** Adelaide was even more furious than Alan had predicted when she heard that Elaine was now staying with them. Mercifully, she was also on the other side of the country in the middle of a weeklong spa break. Being more self-interested than vengeful, she informed Alan that no legal action would occur provided Elaine had returned home by the time that her mother left the spa. “And you’d better make sure that Sanson keeps away from my daughter from now on, Mr Hunter! I know people!” Alan was never certain quite what the former Mrs Batt meant by this phrase. He had heard Adelaide use it many times to Frank. Either the woman believed that she was an expert on predicting social behaviour, or she had an army hidden away somewhere. He wished that he didn’t secretly fear it to be the latter. “My associate Mr Reynolds has already taken steps to ensure that, Adelaide.” “Then we won’t have a problem.” The vampire found himself nodding anxiously. “No ma’am!” “Oh grow up!” Adelaide hung up abruptly. Neill frowned from where he was sitting cross-legged on the ceiling of the den. “I take it that Dak went ahead with his Facial Diary research then?” “He’s still working on it. The local pack leaders are going to help him to arrange a non-molestation order on Miss Walker’s behalf. Where is Elaine anyhow?” “She popped out to collect a prescription.” FINIS.

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Anu issue 34 / A New Ulster  

The July issue of the Northern Irish literary magazine A New Ulster featuring the works of Michael Whelan, Scott Thomas Outlar, Richard Halp...

Anu issue 34 / A New Ulster  

The July issue of the Northern Irish literary magazine A New Ulster featuring the works of Michael Whelan, Scott Thomas Outlar, Richard Halp...

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