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‘‘When we find our minds, we use them. We use them and we lose them, because we used them. If we never used our minds, we wouldn’t have anything to lose, but then we wouldn’t be living. And where would be the fun in not losing your mind.’’

ISSUE 02


CONTENTS


SYNTHETIC ROSE Jason Brown

I let them order their drinks before me, Them, With their skirts, shorter than their vocabulary, Them, With their minds as their hollow purses Howling empty against the city wind, like seashells. ‘You smell nice.’ they say to each other, When they Should be thanking the bottle it came from, Or the cow that sacrificed its tongue when it could have Talked these people down even without the use of words, Whether an old wife’s tale or not. I walk to the toilet just to escape, and I piss in the cubicle And get abuse for having a ‘Pindick!’ when they don’t know I just Want to be alone. The cubicle beside me houses two beautifully formed arseholes, Snorting away at the silently odorous toilet basin, walking out with pupils To match the size of the round black door nob. I wash my hands, Two painfully obvious rugby enthusiasts walk in And stand a meter away from the urinal as they empty their bladders. Like they would have small penises. If they did they would go in the cubical. ‘You can smile you know, it’s a Friday night.’ One of them says. And in that moment the ale hits me, or the toxic fumes from the Aftershave and perfume, Or maybe it was anger. Either way it was me that should have been in the cell that night, Not the hospital, But at least there-they had cubicles in the toilets, And no one bothered me.


A CUSTOMER ALUN EVANS

He gives me a bright green collar for the cat we have living above the pub. In fact, we have two kittens, girls – Zappa and Beafheart, but there is only one collar so no need to mention the other. ‘It’s illegal’ he says as he hands the collar complete with fake diamonds pointed into the violet green, over the bar I make a gesture of incomprehension a shrug or a look, or perhaps I even ask him why, why it should be illegal. ‘Because I got it off a dead cat,’ he tells me, smiling as if he has told a joke. In the resulting silence I pour him the drink he’s ordered: An extra cold Carling. When the head is suitable, I pass it over. ‘Two pounds eighty, please,’ I say, the collar remaining on the bar between us. He pays with no further words I throw the collar in the bin and go to the next customer.


RORY McKENZIE


Snapped exclamation marks line their skin, And spluttered colons, Explain why their heart dwells in their urban shack, Exposure and surroundings add to their armour, Entitlement isn’t enough, deserved; their understatement, The less successful pigeons, Have got their wings clipped and feet, Stuck to the ground with shit, They would be royalty, had there been no comparison.

CRACKHEADS LUNCH GUY JONES


AWAITING IMAGE


ANDY PATERSON

“I am sorry for your loss.” Said the doctor. I snorted at his thin-skinned pity. Most people think that loss would be losing a rosy-faced child to a fall a little too high, a loved one being crushed by a car driven by a man who couldn’t keep his booze in his bottle. No one would think that the loss of my hands would be nearly as heartbreaking; slender fingers that danced on ashen keys, discarded. My only treasure melted by the heat of a flame. “Renowned pianist loses hands in tragic fire.” That was the media’s headline, the dreadful truth being smeared in my face as if the inflamed stumps of hopes and hands burned were not enough reminders. I have not been totally truthful with you, my thumb remained plastered on my left hand, melted and deformed like heated wax, but to me it was just a wilted seedling mourning its parent tree’s cindered remains, and nothing more. Some people called me lucky, some wondered if I would extinguish the cooling embers of my life, and others dwelt in the smoky remains of my past, they recalled how I was called Musical Shakespeare, Beethoven revived, and then how I was now the Musical Bard who lost his quill, and the Beethoven who had gone to yet another early grave.


Jade DRY THE PIANIST

They could not even wait until I was dead before they started sending those cheesy and irritating, “ We will miss you� notes with store-bought roses; before the little soul I had left would vanish like the fumes of a dying fire. Some people donated money so I could afford a wooden pair of hands to play my instrument, I sent their pennies back and told them I would not play a piano I could not feel with my naked flesh. When my skin became a thin, translucent veil on my bones, they thought I was wasting away from sorrow. Sorrow was only one note in my sad string of music. My rhythms replayed monotonously in my head; first they were ghostly echoes of the past that haunted me more with each passing day as they got louder and louder, my thumb, mummified in plaster, pressed invisible keys as I slept. One day, when my rhythms vibrated my skull with each precise, resounding and mocking note, I unwrapped my embalmed thumb, and pressed one key monotonously, my deformed and waxy thumb throbbed with pain, but eased the tormenting music in my head until it faded back into a ghostly memory. I settled my hoary head against the smooth cherry wood piano, I could see the reflection of my thumb in the polished surface as I pressed the key, the vibrations lovingly tingling my spine, and the dust floating ethereally in the rays of sunlight as I slid my finger across the yellowed ivory. As the days passed, my thumb strengthened, simple, familiar melodies echoed through passageways and rays of light, one note dancing with another. My new rhythms reminded me of raindrops, each note crucial to the renewal of the soil of my soul, nurturing the tender seeds of my imagination that had lain hidden amongst the coals of my despair; My music grew slowly but steadily, it was a tender garden that crawled through old cinders before shooting up to the heavens and blossoming under beliefs motherly warmth. The stage that once echoed with my music echoed no more. Seats that once vibrated with applause were now haunted by floating dust. A ghostly limelight shone on a vacant piano surrounded by wilted roses. I suckled my own need in the quiet, sun lit corridors of my home. My thumb, the wilted seedling that I had no hopes for a few months ago had become a delicate and fragile laurel that I cherished. My music was different, instead of its rhythm being a complex twirl of waves of autumnal leaves, it was just was one leaf, gently floating away on a spring breeze to a greener, and brighter place.


‘‘God would be real if I was on my deathbed. But my deathbed would be fake if I believed in the afterlife.’’

WUN WABBIT WUN

IAN PONS JEWELL


The following images are a series of paintings influenced by ideas of phrenology

FRAN CALVET

(Studies the relationships between a person’s character by the shape of their skull).


Christopher James Kennerly THE SCHLEEPEN PLAN

I suppose the idea was first fully realised over dinner one night a couple of months ago, at Soy’s Noodle Bar in the downtown. I was dining with a close friend I’ve known for a number of years – I won’t reveal his name here for fear of giving too much away just yet, but soon I shall reveal all. You’ve asked me to outline the general premise of my thinking and findings: to make it sound attractive in a bid to draw in investors, and as the first person outside of our gang to know and believe in our project, to provide encouragement despite or perhaps in spite of its drawbacks, I owe you that much at least. However, circumstances change Mr Wells, as you well know: I will outline The Schleepen Plan here today, but it is no longer necessary for me to ‘send up’ the thing for the purpose of drawing financial support. We received a phone call only last night that has put our minds at ease – although there still remains a good deal of work to be done on the project. Even as I sit here and type this to you now, the noise of meticulousness can be heard from the others, who are only separated from me by a thin wooden door with a gap of about an inch at the bottom. We have only these two rooms: in here where we sleep on our springless mattresses, and in there where we spend all our waking hours now working this thing through. Without wanting to give too much away as to our location, I can hear the night time New York traffic crooning softly three floors below me, and I can see the ghostly waving boughs of the trees in the park outside the window here before me. So here is the report Mr Wells, and I hope you will find it satisfactory. As I said, the idea was fully formed, completed, just a few months ago, but I have recognised that The Schleepen Plan had been bubbling away in my subconscious for a number of years now. Perhaps the notion was first sparked in my grey matter upon my entrance to higher education, when I was just eighteen. I was young, and therefore full of energy, eager not only to learn all I could of my chosen subject, but also to learn all I could about my fellow students by drinking, smoking and indulging in all manner of entertainments throughout the day with as many of them as possible. I knew I had both the mental capacity and the willpower to stick to my studies as hard as I stuck to attending the many societies I had enrolled in – the punctuality to fit in catching up with five different groups of friends, playing four different types of instruments,


attending three hours of lectures and completing two hours of physical activity – I had the drive to apply myself sincerely to all of these tasks. Well, as you know well now Mr Wells (excuse the pun), we all need to sleep sometimes, and, much as our minds may protest, our bodies will eventually demand some rest, some respite from the strains that are constantly being placed upon them. In that first term I think I averaged three hours’ sleep a night, and when I returned to the familial home at the end of the semester for Christmas, I slept right through till Christmas Eve – right through from the 21st of December. My family tried a number of times to wake me, and apparently I would mumble a few words of nonsense before returning to my slumber, Sleeping Beauty like. I remember waking up to the darkening 4pm skies gloomily lighting my room and cursing black and blue to the heavens above (having temporarily lost my Christmas spirit) for all the parties I had missed. Well, I rushed right out to the nearest one and didn’t go to bed again till Boxing Day. I averaged about five hours of sleep a night that first holiday at home. That first term and Christmas enriched, enlarged and expanded my mind fourfold at least, but the effects it had on my body began to hinder my thought pattern, and I often found myself fighting overwhelming drowsiness in the middle of the day. I grew thinner and my muscle mass began to drop, despite my retention of my hearty appetite and regular exercise. But most of all Mr Wells, I was young, and I could stand it; I mostly thrived off it. For the rest of my time as a student I followed a similar pattern: going to sleep very seldom while away from home then sleeping for as much as a week straight upon my return. It wasn’t until a little later that I began to suffer more thoroughly. I had just achieved gainful employment at Stehr & Stefansson; they offered me a healthy salary in accordance with my status as a graduate as well as plenty of company perks – free access to the company Health and Wellness Spa to name just one – and I moved out here to New York right away. You can only imagine the tremendous excitement I felt in those first few weeks before I started – I got myself an apartment in the Lower East Side, went out and made plenty of friends and tried to involve myself as much as possible in the place. After all of my new acquaintances had gone home to bed each night from whichever party or bar where we had spent the evening I found myself wandering the streets alone with a high powered camera I had borrowed on loan from Stehr & Stefansson (another company perk) taking as many photographs as possible. I’d often return at dawn from these jaunts, buzzing with excitement and energy just as the waking city began to itself, as the traffic noise rose. I’d steal an hour or two on my bed, fully clothed and on top of the duvet most nights, and wake


to my alarm to begin painting or composing or writing – whatever I felt like doing most. Around lunchtime I’d go out to meet friends, and the cycle might begin again; as early as lunchtime the drinking would be getting underway. Living in New York and experiencing the incredible range of cuisines the place had to offer set me off down the path of chef, and by my second week in the city I was throwing dinner parties in my small apartment, whipping up delicacies and delights in my modest kitchenette. I turned my attention to cooking and baking, marinating and bisque-ing, and for the rest of that week I was scarcely outside of the kitchen; even in the long and lonely hours of the night I found solace there. Then I began my job at Stehr & Stefansson, that’s when my problems began. I was due to arrive at 8am outside the office in Manhattan to meet you Mr Wells, as you no doubt remember. It was a morning in early September unlike any other, and as I hurried down the crowded and steaming streets from my apartment to the Stehr Building I found myself full of disgust and contempt for the commuters around me; a raging swelled inside my stomach like a balloon, and I had to abort down a side alley in order to collect my thoughts. I just remember feeling pure and white hot hatred for everyone, and my knuckles turned white as I watched the suits flick back and forth across the entrance to my alley. Why, I wondered through gritted teeth, were they perfectly content to waste the precious gift they had been given, to ignore the beauty and innocence and wonder that was staring them straight in the face. How, I cried out from my heart to my mind, could they ignore life for eight hours a day?! A third of their lives, cut out and unused like the remnants of a collage, how could they stand it? Did they hate life so much? It was only then that I realised how unusual my predilection for life was, and I was shocked into silence. I promptly sat down on a stretch of cardboard previously used by some bum, where I began to struggle with the mind blowing idea that I was incredibly fortunate in my zest for life, yet frustratingly unfortunate at the same time, for I couldn’t metaphorically find enough room in my mouth in which to fit all that zest. It wasn’t until I heard the bells of St. Ignatius begin to strike eight that I was broken from my trance, and I upped without another thought and ran like a man possessed, no, as a man possessed, to meet you Mr Wells. No doubt you noticed my heaving shoulders and beads of perspiration at our first meeting, although you declined to show any emotion at all on the matter, simply commenting that I “was a couple of minutes late” And that I “should be punctual to the very second in future” I remember so clearly then that you said these words: “come along, we haven’t a moment to waste”.


THE OVERNIGHT ARTIST

MIKE WINNARD


How those words resonated with me Mr Wells! I truly didn’t have a moment to waste in my life at that point! You took me inside the building, gave me my access key and introduced me to security and the foyer receptionist, and then we ran straight up in the lift to the 45th floor to discuss my role at Stehr & Stefansson, but I honestly don’t remember a thing that you said to me, for although your voice was ringing both inside and outside my ears, I couldn’t hear anything over the din of one phrase: “we haven’t a moment to waste, to waste, to waste, to waste...” Truly like in the movies Mr Wells. The rest of that day, that week, that September is a blur, but I know that I got just a hundred and fifty-five hours sleep in total for all of the Autumn that followed. Again, I was still young, and I wasn’t to be deterred from my mind’s task of procuring knowledge and experience as eagerly as the squirrels store nuts and berries before the winter. In my case, the winter was a metaphor for death – I desired to do and see and know all I could before I hit the big pie in the sky, and I didn’t even expect or intend to die until I was at least eighty, Mr Wells. Well, I know this attribute made quite an impression on both you and the rest of the management at Stehr & Stefansson, and I was quickly promoted. I wonder now, if you hadn’t deigned to improve my station and increase my responsibility just how much longer I could have lasted, physically, mentally, holistically. The promotion was certainly too much, and I remember suddenly feeling like there were only twenty-four hours in a day. I really felt that. One hundred hours a day could not have satisfied me then Mr Wells. I typically arrived at the office at 9am, and worked without breaking for nine or ten hours, such was my absorption with managing the company accounts. I strived with all my being to be the best accountant there was, and for a time, I think we all could have agreed that I was. But after work, instead of going for a drink with the rest of my colleagues, or returning home to a hot meal from a doting wife, or even hitting the gym or doing overtime or watching TV with a beer, or doing any of the normal after work activities that businessmen typically do, I returned to my small apartment to finish my Broadway script, to develop my latest rolls of film and to eke out new and exciting variations on old recipes. These tasks, as well as many others, kept me awake well past three or four in the morning, in fact, most nights I wouldn’t sleep at all. Thank god for the car pool Mr Wells, those five minutes or so that I snatched with my head against the window pane while the others drank their morning coffee really saved me, for a while at least. You remember the events of the 26th of March very well, no doubt, Mr Wells. There is little reason for me to go into the details of that day here and in writing, but for those for whom those events will remain a


mystery I will write a brief explanation: I suffered a total and full mental and physical breakdown, right there at my desk in my office on the 45th floor. The doctors later told me (though I already knew) that this was the result of three and a half years of extreme sleep deprivation and complete overwork and brain with information. I spent two weeks in Greystone Park Psychiatric Ward, New Jersey, and then I was allowed to return to New York. I think I slept for ninety percent of my time there anyway, while they ran some tests on me, and I slept long and hard for the next few months in my apartment, recovering. I lost all of my hair during this time, and currently there seems to be no way to regain it, although at the present time of writing this my physical health is back to normal and some muscle mass is beginning to return. I learned that it was impossible for me to do everything that last Spring Mr Wells. At least, I thought it was. As I said, I suffered a complete breakdown, and as a result my manner of thinking was altered slightly. I recovered for those first few months afterwards, and felt less compelled than I had done in years to do and see and experience as much as possible; I was content to simply sit and read a few books a day, stare out of my window sketching or simply to bake fairy cakes, simple fairy cakes. As you will see overload of the Mr Wells, I had a lot of time to think during that time, more time than I’ve ever had before to think, to really stop and actually T-H-I-N-K. I believe we’re all too busy nowadays to do so. And slowly, I’ve found my appetite for life, learning and living it to the full returning. This is what I thought: I desire never to sleep. I am already deeply saddened by the solid and impenetrable truth of life that one cannot do everything. I cannot foster a deep and knowing love for the music of all eras, for the music of all genres. I will not have the time in my existence to realise the exquisite beauty in both the matador and his bull and Monet and his paintings. I will never fully understand both the engine of an Oldsmobile Achieva and the mechanisms of the human body. Knowledge is infinite, as is experience, and now some of my naivety has left me, I realise this. But I also realise this: I can gain an extra eight hours a day by not sleeping. An extra eight hours of learning! Well, the discussion at Soy’s Noodle Bar two months ago went something like that Mr Wells. It just so happened that this friend of mine is at the cutting edge of neuroscience, and once we had made some calls to some mutual engineer friends of ours, a gang of us collected at O’Leary’s later that evening. There were ten of us there then, and there are ten of us here now. I believe we are at the cusp of an achievement for humanity on a par with the man on the moon, fire and the wheel. Tomorrow, we are


going to attempt to enact our idea for the first time. We have a captive, who I can see bound and gagged in the very corner of this room that I write to you from Mr Wells. He is alive and well, and we have done him no physical harm. Hopefully we shall do him no mental harm, for if our experiment is successful, human beings will surely double their intelligence and productivity over the next century. Tomorrow morning, while our captive is asleep, we will strap him into the machine, place his head carefully upon the conductors, and wire him up. I will also be wired up to the machine Mr Wells. We are hoping to transfer the restorative chemicals that the brain creates during sleep, via electrolysis, into my alert and wakeful brain. I honestly cannot tell you how this is done. Since spawning the idea for this whole thing I have been largely useless to the rest of the group – although I do believe I have kept our accounts in excellent order. I do however understand what the effect of this transfer will be – we will have condensed sleep into a two minute process – for me at least. I will be able to work and think and feel and do, and love the earth and be constantly enraptured by its beauty for twenty four hours a day, Mr Wells. As for our captive, he will need to produce the sleep chemicals I have stolen from him again if he wants to feel rested. In essence, his day, his waking hours and ultimately his life span will be at least halved, maybe even quartered to as little as four waking hours by some of our estimates. This is the downside to our project, but I believe that there are certain candidates for whom having the length of their day shortened drastically would not be disastrous – criminals in prisons, the depressed, those recovering from serious accidents. I am no moralist Mr Wells. I understand well the objections the state would have with our little experiment if it were to discover it. You can understand my need to be private about our whereabouts and our membership. But one thing I will not allow is for morals to stand in the way of progress. Just think how our top men in business, science, sports, hell in every walk of life could perform if only they had an extra eight hours in which to practice! It would be a monstrous achievement for the human race! Think of the increase in works of art, literature and music alone! Excuse me for getting just a little excited here. I feel I owe this explanation to you Mr Wells. You formed an integral part in giving me inspiration. I can still hear your voice, all these months after you said those fateful words. “We haven’t a moment to waste!” You have always been a trusting and good person to me, not only as an employer but also as a friend. But I do wish you would cease from making desperate eyes at me over the clacking of my typing Mr Wells! Please try and hurry up and get some sleep before morning! Don’t you know what a tremendous thing you’re doing for the human race Mr Wells! ...Mr Wells!


JOHN GODBERT


‘’Love is the worst of dreams and the most beautiful of nightmares’’


NELE ANDERS WORK


Nele Anders is an illustrator and animator currently based in Brighton for her MA in Illustration. She also works with print and film. ‘’I make drawings of people and places and am interested in hidden narratives that constantly surround us. These pictures are from a series I did on human interactions and moments that can be very small and insignificant, but are yet very powerful at the same time. The images are etchings which I aquatinted by hand. It’s a beautiful process that creates very atmospheric images with an intriguing texture.’’ http://www.neleanders.daportfolio.com

NELE ANDERS


NELE ANDERS WORK


CLAIRE ALLEAUME I COULD SEE HIM

I could see him sitting on the wooden chair. The wooden chair that had now shattered to the ground. The pile of wood I would have nestled into the fireplace on a frosty morning, the pile of wood he would have tenderly mourned. As I approached the wooden door, I stopped to feel the warm breeze caress my bare arms. The long grass was biting at the groundwork, the ivy had climbed along the dark crumbling stone. It was hot out, and even though the broken windows let in the cooling air, the atmosphere was stifling inside the stone walls. The dust, lifting itself carefully off the ground, dancing through the debris, rising to the ceiling, disappearing through the gap in the thatched roof. It was all so quiet, yet I could hear music, the music with a crisp rhythm he would play when I was not yet awake. I realised how small it was. Even though the two rooms had never felt cramped, always comfortable, and surely sufficient, the walls now seemed a little too close. The sideline cupboards were still standing strong and it somehow felt as if nothing had changed. The jug was still in the sink, the plumber’s phone number was still visible on the bare wall, and there were still a couple of tins on the bottom shelf, in case he came back late after his gig and I was too tired to make him pesto chicken. In the bedroom, the furniture I had carefully refurbished was in a worst state than when Ms Allen had first given it to me. Her aunt’s carved chest of drawers and the glass bedside cabinet were wearing out, gnawed at by the spry lice. His scruffy jacket was still lying on the faded sheets. The aubergine curtains my cousin Jane had sewn were hanging hazardously on the wobbly rod, dodging the glass on the window pane, waving in the gentle wind. I took a few steps back, staring at the tawny tablecloth that had dived down to the floor. He would have folded it, at least. I saw him with his woollen hat, ready to set off to the downs. As I looked closely at the kitchen wall, I noticed the nails were slightly bent and the photos they had been sticking up had disappeared. The one taken at Tilsa lake, on a winter holiday. The one of his mother at Prose Hill. That one of us on our honeymoon in Cornwall. It’s just a place where we used to live.


ANDY PATERSON


BENJAMIN MURPHEY

‘‘Either this is a metaphor for wasted time, or I am simply wasting time imagining metaphors of wasted time.’’ And so I sit at my desk shivering in the night and writing this uninspired, insipid bullshit as the ice in my gin languidly melts and my last ever candle dissolves unevenly into itself. The room is blanketed with an oppressive darkness and the only light an effervescent and wavering halo around my old oak writing table. I sit back-hunched and legs-crossed, folding as tightly into myself so as to preserve as much body heat as possible. I sip my drink and spend an unimaginable amount of time staring into space, as if I am waiting for something that will never arrive. My breath swirls out before me and I watch it dissipate into the candlelight and lose itself forever, blending evenly in with the surrounding atmosphere it is changed irretrievably. Regardless of how much I could will it, I can never have that movement back. Once let go, like most things, it cannot return, and with its departure I am left wondering why such is the indifferent nature of things. So many things have escaped my grasp at the first opportunity, eager to depart once they have taken their fill of my affections or energies. Either this is a metaphor for wasted time, or I am simply wasting time imagining metaphors of wasted time. With each breath I lose I am one step closer to death.


JASON BROWN ASTRAY DINNER

I was staring at a decrepit pigeon when I got the phone call. It was chewing on a lipstick-stained cigarette filter and managed to swallow it after a five-minute long battle. I could have stopped it in that time; I could have thrown down the crust of my half eaten sandwich. But I left it to suffer, which is probably why I got the phone call. ‘Peter it’s mum.’ ‘You alight?’ I said. ‘It’s your dad,’ she paused, ‘There’s been an accident.’ ‘An accident? Jesus, is he alright?’ ‘It’s bad news peter.’ I paused for a moment and my eyes welled up to the point of blurred vision, and through the blur the pigeon flew up onto what I presumed was a lamppost. ‘He’s dead peter. He’s passed away peter, he’s gone.’ Her cries became muffled down the phone, strangely putting the image of a snide looking cartoon bear in my head. It had a carrot shaped nose and his top lip was stretched up against his nostrils, glued on, covering his nasal passages and exposing an inch tall tower of gums. I took a brief moment to wipe my eyes and forget about the bear, before asking the question I didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear. ‘So,’ I swallowed a lump, ‘How did it happen?’ ‘He ran him over.’ She burst further into tears. ‘He ran him over!’ possibly acid soaked saliva from the cigarette butt. It blinked again, and I realized that while being a blink, it was most definitely a wink. I watched the pigeon as it vomited out the butt onto the pavement, which was more like three guttural squawks. I lit another cigarette and thought hard. And ever since that day, I’ve always fed the pigeons. ‘Ok mum, just try and calm down ok.’ ‘Yeah, ok.’ Her breathing became calmer. ‘So, listen mum, now who ran him over?’ ‘Your dad,’ Sniff-sniff ‘he was backing the car,’ sniff, ‘down the drive,’ sniff-breathe-in, ‘and he ran over him,’ sniff, breathe-in. ‘He ran over him!’ ‘Who ran over him? Who ran over who?’ ‘Alun! He ran over Alun!’ ‘Alun? Fucking Alun? Fucking Alun!’ Alun was the family pet. I hung up the phone.


All of a sudden I found myself crying in public, exposed to the passing pedestrians, to the women, to the lookers and none-lookers, the big tits and the small. I wiped my eyes clear; they were sore, and most likely red. I sat on the bench beside the waste paper bin and lit a cigarette. As I smoked I wondered why my mum had to be the way she was. These dramatisations, her morbid way of exaggerating, then it hit me how much Alun actually meant to me. We had good times together. Playing fetch, snuggling on the settee when I was a kid, camping trips and walks, and the way he’d always smile when I got home from school. He was a great dog. But I was glad of his death, in a way. Rather Alun than my dad, I thought, and the snide cartoon bare crept in once again. The decrepit pigeon flew down from the lamppost and landed beside me. I could tell it was the same pigeon, as it was missing a middle toe on each foot. It picked up my discarded cigarette butt with its tiny little beak, flew onto my knee, and hopped two hops towards my crotch. Then it turned its head ninety degrees and looked up at me with its left eye. And didn’t blink for a long minute. It didn’t even move, or twitch. Then it hit me, what he wanted me to do. I took the butt from its beak, put it in my mouth, and attempted to chew it. As I did so a foil-on-filling like beam of negative goosebumps sprinkled from my ears to my jaw. Bouncing back into my neck, dripping down my back before it faded away half way down. I looked at the pigeon one more time and forced the cigarette butt down like a dry pill. The pigeon smiled somehow, and blinked, then flew over to a dog by the pavement. It was a black-grey cocker spaniel, sitting beside a woman of a same build as my mum. She had the same hair colour and style; she even stood in the same way, tilting her head sideways into her shoulder. I marched over. ‘I thought dad was dead! Why did you do that!’ ‘Peter?’ It was my aunt Carol. My mums twin sister. She explained that she’d just picked up a dog from the local shelter, and named it Peter, after me. I was moved by her gesture, and I knew she wasn’t being snide, buying the dog. She clearly hadn’t spoke to my mum about Alun, she didn’t even own a phone, landline or mobile. She didn’t believe in telephones. I looked at the pigeon. It turned its head once again. And it blinked, again. But this time it was more of a wink. I stared at him hard, thinking it was probably just a trick of the eyes, or maybe even a light hallucination from the


ASTRAY DINNER

Benjamin Murphey


CARLA Claire Alleaume

Carla sat on the bench and lit a cigarette. A smiling mother held her son high as he whipped the white fluff off the trees, the thin branches springing back to life, suddenly freed from the weight of the snow. Clouds crept past the young sun as they left through the small gate, holding each other tight and shivering under their raincoats. Carla’s thighs were soaking now, the ice covering the wooden laths had melted, the cold quickly spreading to the tip of her toes. She checked her phone and played with her charm bracelet as she stared at the monochrome sky above. Nothing happened these days. No one to meet, no texts or sex. Nothing to post and no one to host. The world had gone silent and all she could hear was the sound of the frozen leaves shuffling along the pavement. She inhaled deeply and held it there, held it for so long she could feel her vision going but it warmed up her throat and she wanted to know how far she could go. The choking cough when she opened her mouth sent the hiding birds off with a fluttering of wings. The ringtone startled her, and as she reached into her pocket she knew, she knew it was him and a smile finally broke the frozen lines across her face.


Benjamin Murphey


DAN CROOKS


Mark Pritchard


‘‘We might not be able to save the world, but art can’t stop us from trying. It won’t stop us from failing either.’’

Founder & editor: Jason Brown thevelvetlabel@live.co.uk Design & Layout: Andrew Makin a.mkndesign@gmail.com To submit material, visit our website for submission guidelines: www.velvetlabel.com


A life wasted in love is a love wasted without life. It’s a cow without the hair. The house without the happiness. Your hums, without the waves The book of life, without the page.



Velvet Label, Issue 02, Rough Copy 02.