Bandit Fiction Presents... issue Three

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Bandit Fiction Presents... Issue Three Autumn 2018

All rights to the works included in this pamphlet belong to the artist or author they have been credited to. First published in Great Britain in 2018 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the credited author. The Team Managing Director: Greg Forrester Editor-in-Chief: Jane Currie Engagement Manager: Cara De Sausmarez Social Media Coordinator: Emily Crosby /banditfiction @BanditFiction @BanditFiction

Have you heard about the Bandit Flash Fiction Award? Free entry Cash prize for the winner Publication for the shortlisted stories Interested? Have a read over our entry policy and then send your story 1000 words or less to banditflashaward@gmail. com Entries open 20th November

Click on Bandit the Fox for more information

To Whom Do We Belong? by Alycia Barboza

There were two screaming children gleefully climbing up and down my husband’s legs when his sister asked me the question I’d come to expect any time she and I were in the same room together: “When are you going to give these kids some cousins?” She was smiling at me, but I felt like I was standing in front of a judge. We’d been celebrating my husband’s 29th birthday with his family and I’d already had a few beers. I was doing my best to appear friendly to the kids without sending any of those subconscious vibes that some adults emit that say “Yeah, I’m down to play ninjas or princesses or whatever you’re into.” For the most part it was working. I’ve never been particularly good with kids, but it didn’t seem to stop people from making assumptions about my lack of a family as I approached 28. I’ve been told I look ‘maternal’ from time to time, whatever that means. I was standing at the counter in the kitchen, watching the 5-year-old pretend to steal my husband’s eyeballs while he stumbled around like a blind mummy to the delight of everyone involved, and the question came before I was ready for it. In the past, I’d always settled on a non-committal “One day, maybe” and left it at that, not entirely comfortable enough to assert my desire to remain kid-free to people who put a lot of importance on family and child-rearing. But as my sister-in-law looked at me expectantly, hanging over the edge of the diner-style bench at the kitchen table, I sighed. “Not any time soon.” I said. Then, “I don’t really want kids, actually.” Internally, I cringed. This all-too-common debate in families the world over had finally wormed itself into my husband’s birthday party, and it was my fault. I felt the guilt creep in as soon as the words left my mouth. I wanted to retreat into the living room, but I stood there and waited for the gavel to drop. We were quiet for a moment, and then my mother-in-law


came into the kitchen. “You’ve got time,” she said matter-of-factly. She walked across the tile floor and began to put away the leftovers from our dinner. “You’re still young.” Her back was to me, but I felt like they were both pinning me to the spot, waiting to hear what I had to say for myself. I’d heard the same set of phrases repeated back to me from my own mother, and my father, and occasionally from people I really didn’t know at all. “Definitely not before I’m 30,” I settled on, pulling another beer from the fridge. I squinted my eyes with worry as the 3-yearold climbed a shaky wooden stool and leapt into my husband’s arms, screaming with delight when he caught her and spun like a dervish until they both collapsed onto the couch. “But even then, I guess it depends on where we are financially and stuff,” I ended rather lamely. How quickly I had fallen right back into the soft evasion tactics I’d used for years, couching any explanation with a weak “It depends.” “How does he feel about it?” my sister-in-law asked, her chin jerking toward the living room. I wanted to ask her why it mattered but decided that was an even more dangerous door to open into the shiny yellow light of my husband’s childhood home. “Um. I don’t know, really.” His mom turned around to look at me finally. I could almost feel her incredulity, but maybe it was my imagination. “He wants kids one day, I think” I quickly amended. “Maybe we’ll adopt or something.” My husband and I didn’t really talk about kids. It had never been a priority and there were always more pressing concerns on our minds. There was silence in the room for long moment and I grasped for anything to turn the conversation away from what was quickly becoming a deep hole from which I could not crawl my way out. “What about you?” I tried to look benignly curious as I turned back to my sister-in-law. “Are you planning on having any more?” She stood from the bench and came to join me against the counter. “No. Even if I wanted to, I can’t. I had blood clots with that one.” She pointed to the 3-year-old, who was spinning in circles,


flapping her arms wildly. “Oh, right,” I said. She’d been in the hospital for longer than normal during the birth, but I had forgotten it was because of the clots she’d developed that eventually migrated to her lungs. It was a scary few days for the whole family. I remember adding her complications to the ever-growing list of all the reasons pregnancy was terrifying and definitely not for me. “Yeah. They told me I’d probably die if I have any more.” I finished my third beer and awkwardly peeled the label back, tearing at the wet paper with my fingers. “Did you get your tubes tied or anything?” I was genuinely curious but wasn’t sure if the question was crossing a line. Her laugh surprised me, and I turned to look at her. She flipped a strand of her long brown hair behind her shoulder and crossed her arms on the peeling vinyl countertop. “They wouldn’t let me. They told me I’d die if I had more kids, and then said I was too young to get my tubes tied or a hysterectomy or whatever.” “Wow. That’s fucked up.” It was shocking to hear confirmation of the bias against young women and their autonomy, but I wasn’t entirely surprised, either. She nodded her head. “I was only 21, so I guess they thought I might want more babies that could kill me one day.” We both laughed, and then we were quiet again, but this time it felt all right. We watched my husband read the kids a book, snuggled together on the couch, as my mother-in-law did the dishes. “It’s like, who owns our bodies?” she said after a while. “Not us,” I replied. “At least, not always.”


Madman in Blueberry Running Flats by Donald Zagardo

Monday: Writing for the first time Dear Diary an account, perhaps a psychological appraisal/assessment/condemnation of self, a certifiable madman who has committed serious crimes that have bought him to this tiny window overlooking a city park known as Solarmere Gardens. What a lovely name, Solarmere Gardens: for pretty-young adults, for very senior citizens, for little children and their moms, but not for psychopaths like self. The bars on the windows that I have been staring from for twenty months are painted a sad yellow, chipped in a thousand places, sun bleached and tired: they keep me in and lesser madmen out. John Carpenter is caretaker of G Ward, Adamsdale Psychiatric Hospital, Manhattan, NYC where my life is being cared for or controlled at this very moment. He is called Mechanic Jack by all dozen inmates of G Ward, who live together in what I believe to be a 1940s era brick building of considerable size that I have seen only once from the outside when entering, one dark and very unfortunate afternoon. I have been probed and documented for nearly two years without a civilized meal, without a bottle of beer, wine or whiskey, but quenched only with child’s-fare: milk, chocolate milk, orange juice and fruit punch. Twenty months, one week and two days, to be exact, without any love, lust or salutations. Sad, sad, very sad. Books are not hard to find on G Ward: Good books, well‌. The light blue and green corridors have shiny floors and wooden shelves that hold hundreds of worn 1960s style literary losers. Reading them exclusively could drive anyone mad, self-included: Pastely, Morrow, Marooned, Waxman, Wellesley, and Wankered. Oh God!


Tuesday: Sofia is a friend who occasionally at night roams the corridors beside me. She likes to hold hands and she laughs out-loud for no apparent reason. Sofia has killed three of her five brothers: I do not know why. She said goodbye/farewell/adieu to the realworld many years ago, so I am told. She now inhabits a world to which she alone has entrée. I call it Sofia’s World. She has named it Inferno. Sophia smells like vanilla pudding. Poor sweet, sweet, mad vanilla smelling Sofia. My friend Omar imagines the human-world around him dying, he alone maintaining life. He says that he is all of existence; earth, sun and shit. Omar is a true madman, who has kidnapped and raped countless teenage boys, but does not even like boys. He never washes on his own. He is sometimes dragged into the shower room by male attendants, when he stinks too much of earth and shit and has become repulsive to all other patients, even to me. Omar yells and screams in protest during his laundering, but in the end, when all is said and done, he smiles for hours in joyous cleanliness. Sharon does not eat anything at all. Her weight is less than eighty pounds. Her bones poke through her pale skin. She repeatedly mutters, “Skinny is Holy, Skinny is Holy” but I am not convinced. Sharon will soon be fed intravenously. I do not know her transgressions, but perhaps her doctor does. She speaks only to herself. Down the long dark hall, I hear Dilbert and Francis arguing about which one of them is the real Jesus Christ – the other being a false Christ I assume. They do this every day. It is their ritual, but today I intercede. “Could you both be Jesus? Could I be the real Lord and Savior?” My efforts seem wasted at first, but eventually the inmates nod in agreement. Insignificant criminals and madmen both: How silly, but they like me now. Yeah! Cliff is a true monster. He once told a laundry-room full of lunatics that he had thrown his mother-in-law from her Manhattan ninth story bedroom window. I wonder what his charming spouse


Maggie thought about that. That glorious/deviant/sick infraction of behavioral standards delivered him to The Ward – too crazy for real prison, too dangerous for freedom. What he was doing in his mother-in-law’s bedroom remains a mystery. I regard Cliff as an honest man for his numerous confessions. He is my chum, but unruly in every way. I should select my friends more carefully, don’t you think? Wednesday: My story is not so very different from Cliff’s. Sad, sad, mad me. It was a bright Monday afternoon nearly two year ago, while walking/ strolling/drifting through this city’s heart my troubles began. I will avoid an overly graphic description of the events in question. I was standing/resting/loitering in front of The New York City Public Library, conversing/socializing/mingling with four charming, collegiate females on Spring Break. Young and beautiful, tall and short, fat and thin, all of them. One meets fascinating people at the Public Library. The ladies were named Deborah, Eve, Barbara, Wendy and Aubrey, names, names, names, never mind. Their boyfriends, who were waiting in the wings to support, protect or waylay had names too: Animal, Beast, Toad, Dog and Snake. But again, never mind. After a very short conversation with Aubrey and Eve, interrupted by one of their boy-chums, I smashed the discourteous lad with a borrowed gray-color, industrial quality lunch bucket, another with the handy-pair of binoculars that I normally carry. Blood flowed down the forty clean cement steps of The New York City Public Library. And off I ran, smooth and laughing, tall and sturdy, dancing down the street and neighboring park, but unfortunately not fast or far enough. While resting in Bryant Park, waiting, hiding and reading one book or another, I was grabbed/attacked/abused by two of the city’s finest overweight gorillas, transported to and held for a week at The Manhattan Detention Center way downtown, given a court date then released on moderate, nearly affordable bail. I should have run and kept running.


My attorney thought that an insanity plea would lead to a speedy and acceptable outcome, and that some psychiatric caretime would be advantageous for me, as he put it, and would be the only penalty/punishment required of this poor mad man, if the court agreed. It did but sentenced me to a high-security psychiatric care facility for an undetermined measure of time. It’s where the real crazies go and stay for years: The Adamsdale Psychiatric Facility. Attorneys have no sense of justice or fair play, but dress very well…. Around here I am employed (one of the very few patients allowed to work) in the Hospital Laundry as an ironer. I find tranquility in this menial task. Most of the other inhabitance of G Ward are too dangerous or drugged-up to be trusted with any real responsibility. I, for some unknown reason, have been granted permission to iron, wielding a heavy, hot and conceivably dangerous object – admittedly the iron is chained to the floor of the laundry room and has a very limited range of motion, but still. Un-wrinkling the world one shirt at a time, well that’s something. Lucky me! Thursday: Portraits of important men and women who have captained the great-ship Adamsdale line its main corridor in dark-brown wooden frames. These likenesses are often defaced by madmen and women, all artists at heart. Cigarette Jim, bank-robber/killer/rapist/longterm tenant is assigned the task of keeping the portraits free of ad hoc mustaches, beards and tattoos. Cigarette Jim, not his real name of course, which I honestly do not know, smokes excessively, but rarely owns a pack of cigarettes. He is religious about his smoking nevertheless and is rarely without a distasteful fag. Jim must have what Jim must have. “No Jim, I don’t want to wrestle with you on the cafeteria floor. No Jim, I didn’t say that you were a fag.” Ironing the day away is pleasant enough, but I would love to get back to my real life: author of great books yet to be written,


follower of pretty girls and boys, client/passenger/occupier of trains, busses and cabs, consumer of whiskey and wine, destroyer of virtue, peace and hope, payer of taxes, dreamer of dreams, watcher of television, teacher of History at a special High School that will remain anonymous, and waster of time. History is the sport of excuse-makers, propagandists, rationalists, liars, pretenders and counterfeiters, so it is therefore, in every-way-shape and form, my true calling. Fools and bleedinghearts, mothers and sisters who care passionately about the past, find it impossible to understand its meaninglessness, its irrelevance. Who was it who said, “If it’s in the rearview mirror, it doesn’t matter”? I agree whole-heartedly with that observation, but nevertheless enjoyed the money and office space granted at my special High School. Our school is filled with beautiful, exciting, very annoying young women, and stinky smartass boys, and lots of crazy teachers like me. Most employees of my special High School are far crazier than I. They’re all just one step ahead of the men in the white – I unfortunately, am one step behind. At night, at Adamsdale, in the yellow and pink activities room, we watch British Football on TV. I have no idea why. There is one Brit on staff, Billy Brit, William Brit to those who pretend to know and respect him. Maybe William holds the answer. Silly little boys in shorts and mud: “Look at me mommy, look at me mommy, I’m playing football.” Nonsense! Friday: Naked Margo wanders at night wearing flip-flops and an old Yankee cap. She tries to give away bars of soap to her fellow inmates/patients/fans as she flip-flops down the hall. She aims to make fellow convicts look at her nakedness, but most avert their eyes. Margo glows in the evening light, her hair the color of mercurochrome. She is plump, but not un-pretty. I do not know Margo’s sin. She enjoys being naked ¬- this she has confessed to me. Naked Margo, abortionist or bank robber perhaps. “Look at me mommy, look at me!”


Joey Diamond thinks/pretends/dreams that he’s a Catholic Priest. He sprinkles Holy Water on G-mates each morning. He seems harmless enough, but I have heard that he once engineered the sacrifice of someone’s kid to rid the world of sin. He cut the little boy in half with a machete or some such thing. Little Joey Diamond – you never know. We sleep in two large rooms: men in one, ladies in the other. Beds are separated by only a few feet. One can hear one’s fellows breathing, laughing or crying all through the night. Friday afternoon is a good time for the crazies at Adamsdale. Weekends bring a new group of attendants who are much less experienced and more sensitive to our needs as people. They are caring, and fun to fool. I sometimes tiptoe myself into the hallway closet and rummage through old clothes left for the unclothed and borrow an occasional shirt or pant. Today I discovered a discarded pair of Nikes: running flats from the late 1970s, blueberry shoes with red Nike swooshes. I will run away from Adamsdale Psychiatric Hospital someday in my new/used/old/trusty Nikes. Saturday: “Who are you? What do you want? Do I know you? Why are you looking at me like that?” I screeched to a polished steel mirror hanging in the G corridor next to a picture of Gandhi, to win the attention of pretty Nurse Nichole. I gained her attention alright, but three large male attendants dragged me from my mirror into one of G’s two treatment rooms for the night. Nurse Nicky is fresh to the job. I wonder if she misses me. She is lovely, means well, has no clue and is therefore fair game. Her face is like that of a pretty doll. Her eyes clear blue, her auburn hair short and straight, her body long, curvy and alive. When she half-smiles at me, I want to lovingly kiss her mouth. “Take the soap boys,” Naked Margo demands. Saturday is an international holiday set aside from the rest of the week for watching television and eating potato chips.


Bad News: It seems that one of the beast/lads attacked by me so very long ago has finally succumbed to his injuries. And what I believed to have been a grey-color lunch bucket was indeed a blue granite building block. He, from what I am told, hung-in-there comatose for almost two years. How brave! I am consequently being charged with manslaughter and will, according to letters from my useless attorney, be once again tried for assault with an added count of second degree murder. At least I’ll be out of Adamsdale for a while. Sunday: I recall from long ago, running to Bryant Park from the Public Library steps after drumming that big lug with what I thought was a lunch bucket. He did go down easily and bled profusely. What a heavy lunch bucket I thought to myself at the time. I wisely ran away, then unwisely sat to rest. I may have fallen asleep for a moment or two. The police had me surrounded when I awoke. “Stand up straight,” I repeated to self. “Sir, we need to talk with you.” That’s what they said before tackling me and introducing handcuffs to my soon-to-be bruised wrists. “Surely this must be some kind of mistake,” I pleaded in my best TV Police Drama voice, but they would have none of it. “Sir, sir, sir, blah, blah, blah; blah, blah, blah…” Monday: Monday is usually the quietest day at Adamsdale. Lunatics are tired from tormenting the weekend staff and each other. The food is fresh but the menu stale. Save us all from Monday Dear Lord. Fleeing Forever: Back to court, but this time... My incompetent lawyer made our case and the prosecuting


attorney made the state’s. Our jury was out to lunch or deliberating when I begged my caretaker for a visit to the toilet. After a uniquely graphic description of my unusual urination ritual, the burly Officer Burly agreed to let me enter the lavatory on my own. The fool in blue. A breeze from an open window rustled my hair and got me thinking. It awakened a state of mind that dreamt and moved simultaneously. It was not an easy task pushing my tall, thick yet agile body through the tiny bathroom window. I probably should have been in handcuffs, don’t you think? Perhaps the lack of restraints had something to do with the significant amount of medication administered to poor self before trial, with the hope of keeping me docile, but alas self has become immune, after somany months of tranquility. I am out and dropping two flights to the soft dirty city-earth. Painful but not unpleasant. Away, away, away! Nikes on, along with borrowed court clothes, less conspicuous than hospital pajamas. It’s so nice to be free of Adamsdale, of Mechanic Jack and the other staff fools who keep me so very well cared for. This member of The Adamsdale Family is now running south on Lexington Avenue, at full speed like a real Olympian/Marathoner/fugitive avoiding traffic snarls and baby carriages. Missing one then another, running as fast I can away from the Psychiatric Hospital and Mechanic Jack, Cliff, Omar, Margo, Sofia and Dilbert. I am a ballerina in Nikes, so fast and smooth, but I can hear sirens screaming from the direction of the court-house. I now run even faster. I am a bird, a fox, a gazelle. Taxi drivers think they own the road. “Road Hog - Where did you learn to drive?” I yell. First to one then another. Some kind of rusty old Japanese thing right in front of me. “Get out of my way a-hole!” I avoid one collision but find another. Oh no! I’m laying on the payment probably with a broken leg and shoulder. “Mother….” I realize immediately that playing in traffic is dangerous. How do kids do it? I’m frigid: the air is cold as is the pavement I lay upon. It smells of grease and Jack Daniel’s. I’m


not really in pain, more anesthetized, but cannot move either. Nice crowd of helpful inquisitors. “Oh, I’m fine people, just fine!” After a good twenty minutes, I really don’t know how long, the bright lights of an ambulance turn Lexington Avenue into a light-show/disco/amusement park. The EMTs surrounding me are helpful and friendly as they load me into an ambulance. It is from Adamsdale Psychiatric Emergency and is filled with EMTs and two cops. Is that Mechanic Jack? No, he’s not a doctor, is he? And is that pretty Nurse Nicky with her hand on my bleeding shoulder? It is, and the police are watching over me as if a bleeding, paralyzed man might cause trouble. Sirens cut the city air as my veins are gushed with morphine that stills the thundering numbness in my shoulder and leg. Pretty Nurse Nicky appears fragile in the turbulent light, angelic. Her mid-length skirt lifts slightly as she bends over me. Mechanic Jack! What the hell are you doing here? Harmless - Isolated: I was allowed to keep my Nikes once they got me back, my once bloodied shirt and pants, my diary, but not much else. Books and magazines, G Ward friends and freedom are gone forever. The price of being me has greatly increased. I sit in my solitary room at Adamsdale Psychiatric, mad and guilty. I know that now but it’s not so bad. The food is better than on G Ward and pretty Nurse Nicky comes to visit occasionally, in my dreams. She brings me cookies and herself. My cell has a view of a city street that congests every morning and evening, and through the bars I can see three tall trees and a shallow lake in the distance. I once wrote poems and paragraphs filled with virtuous escapade, violence, greed, religion, love, monsters and saviors. My focus in recent time has changed, away from adventurist notions toward the long shapely legs and tight blouses of Nurse Nicky, my lovely angel, forever with me, young and beautiful. My visitor and vision.


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