Biannual Magazine of Literature & the Arts Issue 20 - December 2011
Welcome to our December issue! Welcome to Issue 20 - a landmark achievement for any small press magazine! We’ve seen many changes over the years (all seven of them!), from layout to team members, while our submissions and circulation have grown, but we’ve always remained consistent in our drive to publish exciting new short stories and poems, alongside important features and reviews you can rely on. Our live events are now an integral part of the magazine, and if you would like to see what all the fuss is about, you can view clips on our YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/user/golddustmagazine. This issue, we have an interview with Frank Burton (p28). The author discusses his new concept in publishing, Philistine Press, which makes all its publications available for free download! Janis Ian, a previous cover star and interviewee, recently made a heartfelt plea to librarians, which is so powerful we have reproduced it in full here (p18). Our reviews are Escape Velocity, an anthology of Science Fiction stories by the former magazine of the same name (p10), Sawing Fallen Logs For Ladybird Houses by Dave Lewis (p44) and Engineering Paradise (p31), the new novel from our own Prose Editor, David Gardiner. And, of course, we’ve plenty of short stories and poetry for you to curl up with, including our best short story pick, Madonna and Child by Anne Goodwin (p12), and best poem, Digging in the Snow by John Shaw (p7), each of which wins a £20 prize. See you next issue! Join us Omma Velada (GD magazine founder)
Gold Dust magazine www.golddustmagazine.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org Prose Editor & Cover Designer David Gardiner Poetry Editor Jolen Whitworth Webmaster, DTP & Founder Omma Velada Proofing Jo Fraser
Mailing list: www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/MailingList.htm YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/golddustmagazine Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/golddust MySpace: www.myspace.com/golddustmagazine
Artwork Cover photograph & design David Gardiner Images stock.xchng
Circulation Online (www.issuu.com/golddust): ca. 3,000 PDF (www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine): ca. 500
Editorial by GD founder Omma Velada
Writing News What’s new in the world of writing
Contributors Our writers’ bios in all their glory
The Back Page Gold Dust news
Fiesta by Karen Tobias-Green Drama
Love Story by Karl Egerton Fantasy
Madonna and Child by Anne Goodwin BEST PROSE £20 WINNER Drama
The Intiphew by Michael Clough Drama
Trivia by Wayne Dean-Richards Drama
Many Happy Returns by Justin Cooke Drama
Digging in the Snow by John Shaw (p7)
Digging in the Snow BEST POETRY ÂŁ20 WINNER John Shaw
The Simplest Toils Ross McCague
Rain After Drought Daffni Percival
Juna La Loca Abi Wyatt
Crash Saul Hughes
Stonehenge Odyssey John Moran
Plagued By Ghosts James Thomas Whitworth
Janis Ian Addresses Metro Schools Librarians
Interview: Frank Burton by David Gardiner
Escape Velocity: The Anthology Edited by G Nelder & R Blevins Reviewed by David Gardiner
Engineering Paradise by David Gardiner Reviewed by Andrew McIntyre
Sawing Fallen Logs For Ladybird Houses by Dave Lewis Reviewed by Jolen Whitworth
Many Happy Returns a short story by Justin Cooke (p38)
by Karen Tobias-Green My movements took on a life of their own, each swaying sea of bodies giving way to my faltering steps...
ne summer’s night, on a working holiday in Spain, I entered a bar in a small coastal resort, in need of the bathroom. I approached the pretty but petulant waitress, Rosa, who I knew did not favour English girls appropriating the few jobs there were to be had locally, and asked her where it was to be found. She pointed her sharp little chin at me and replied tartly “No!” I repeated my question, thinking she had misunderstood. “No use,” she responded, “Only for customers. And I,” she turned her back on me, “I busy.” I turned away and was about to leave but bodies blocked my way. A woman carrying a cloth and a small pail of water jostled my elbow as she bent to wipe a spill up from the floor. I repeated my request to her and was smilingly pointed in the right direction. Rosa scowled and pursed her lips. The room was low and square. All the tables were arranged so as to form one cosy circle, each with four 4
heavy, carved, upholstered stools placed at them. Usually there were spaces between each table so that, even in the candlelit darkness of a busy seasonal evening, one’s path would be just about clear. Tonight, however, the place was bursting at the seams and a sort of chaos had invaded it. Tables had crept nearer to tables, stools nearer to stools, legs closer to legs and hands closer to hands. The flickering light from the candles in bottles on every table danced and stuttered up the walls and across the ceiling. I began to make my way to my goal, bending into the candlelight to ask in hesitant Spanish for the occupants of the first table to please excuse me. Someone moved back on their stool, hardly pausing in their animated conversation. I took a step and came up against another stool. I tried to move it myself but I couldn’t get a grip. A helpful hand pushed it back for me. “Gracias.” “De nada.”
The bar was full of conversation and indistinct guitar music of a vaguely rural and traditional sounding type. My requests met with smiles, with helpful pushes and shoves, with scrapes of stools and lifting of glasses and wobbling of unsteady bottles and feet and shifting of seats and behinds and bodies and expressions and lulls and pauses in conversations that were lost to my untutored English ears. At first as I passed between stool legs and human legs, my head was down, watching my feet, taking care I didn’t tread on other people’s, but then I began to be aware of the sights and smells and voices of the people I was disturbing, their eyes shining in the dark, their hair like black silk against the white walls, their rising intonations and fluttering hands like so many dark winged birds gathering on a cliff face. The heat was stifling and my back began to pour with tiny rivers of sweat. My hair was damp against my face.
Fiesta by Karen Tobias-Green The people I disturbed at the first few tables moved back to their original places as soon as I had passed, like water returning to its tranquillity in the wake of a boat, but gradually my movements set off counter movements amongst the drinkers. They began to anticipate me, as though I were generating my own radar, signalling ahead my arrival. Bodies one and two tables ahead began to turn my way and, setting their glasses aside for a moment, to shift and shuffle and nod encouragingly to accommodate my progress. My movements took on a life of their own, each swaying sea of bodies giving way to my faltering steps, each surge of music filling up my ears, each
leap of candlelight marking a further triumph of access for me. Then I looked up and my eyes met Rosaâ€™s. She was holding a tray of wine glasses and a full bottle of red wine, about to serve the table I was about to reach. Her imperious little face was triumphant. She gestured behind me, over my left shoulder, with her tiny thumb, and laughed. I realised I had missed my stop â€“ the bathroom was two or three tables behind me. Two of the drinkers she was about to serve caught her gesture and looked up. Their faces were full of sympathy for me. One of them said something in Spanish. I nodded and shrugged. I tried to turn back but the gap behind me had closed. The
next group of drinkers, unaware of my plight, had begun to move for me. My feet took me forward as my tongue, despite a rudimentary grasp of the language, seemed unable to make it clear where I really wanted to go. Rosa nodded a triumphant little nod and chattered into the ear of her customer. There was no other direction but forward to go in. The room was even fuller now, the music louder and more dramatic, the voices brighter, more animated, and the candlelight more mischievous. I would complete my circuit, there was no going back, and I would escape the way I had come in and run home as fast as I could. I wobbled precariously as the next stool scraped the floor, clearing a space for my faltering legs. An elderly man, distinguished looking, his hair oiled back from his face, got to his feet for me, stepping out of my way with a bow and a flourish of his arm. His guests looked up and smiled admiringly, half teasing, half serious. They clapped him lightly. He nodded his appreciation. This slight disturbance reached the next two tables. Drinkers there also looked up and became aware of my journey. Another man, smiling, clutching a glass, leaped up and, with a larger flourish of his
Fiesta by Karen Tobias-Green free arm, beckoned me to pass. A younger man, charming, animated, smiled at me, then winked, as he pulled in his outstretched legs. I smiled back. There was a little murmur of approving laughter, which reached further around the room. It seemed that more and more eyes were upon me and my quest had taken on a meaning of its own. No longer was I on a mundane mission to reach the long-gone bathroom, instead I was part of the evening’s entertainment, a damsel in distress wishing to pass from table to table on some unspecified journey, perhaps out of the entrance from whence she came like a spirit or a cipher, a sign of the hospitality and good manners of this
tiny, throbbing, living organism fuelled by wine and candlelight and good heartedness. Plump old ladies in black patted my arms and shoulders as I went by, young women’s eyes shyly met mine, dark pools of something recognised across the barriers of language and culture. Men rose to their feet with varying degrees of speed and fancy footwork. Those who were quickest and most flamboyant, perhaps flourishing a jacket like a matador’s cape, received cheers and applause. A gradual clapping began to build up, a rhythmic sound of encouragement and joy. I was infused myself with the spirit of the thing. My feet began to move in balletic steps, graceful, sure and sound. My body took on a
dancer’s grace, or so it felt to me, and my path was strewn, metaphorically at least, with flowers. Rosa glowered with her coal-black eyes. On I went, buoyed up by the crowd’s passion, my dress sticking to my back and chest, my hair plastered to my forehead, my face running with sweat. As I reached the last – and first – table, the clapping built up to a crescendo. I flung myself on to the only empty stool and felt my heart hammering in my ribs. The crowd’s voice was like a roar in my ears, laughter and clapping and clinking of glasses mingled together with my sheer, ridiculous delight. On the table before me there was a small glass vase, unassuming and cheap. It held a single, shortstemmed red rose. On some mad impulse I got to my feet, picked up the rose between my damp fingers and, with a flourish of my own to rival any I had witnessed that night, flung it into the crowd. The room erupted into cheers. I watched the rose fall, into the darkness, amongst the crowd. Before it all stopped I turned and ran for the door, pushing it open with both hands and entering into the cool night air. As it swung shut behind me I could still hear the crowd’s roar in my ears.
BEST POETRY £20 WINNER
Digging in the Snow It’s winter and the days are short. You are glad you’ve learned to live without the lies and small hotels, the emails that you cannot keep, chance meetings with suspicious friends. In crowded avenues you don’t quiz every woman’s face that’s turned away in foolish hope it could be hers or stand outside her empty house where you made love and war so locked into each other’s eyes you never saw the sunlight on the curtains folding into linen dusk. Every street is not a rendezvous where she might someday call your name. She’d ask about your wife and child but gently bend her eyes away. In dreams at night you ride in separate trains and pass each other to and fro. I see two foxes digging in the snow and wonder how they read the silence of the creature hiding in the earth below. John Shaw
Karl Egerton “Love. You’re looking for love...”
n the muggy heat of a British summer day, things stagnate. Air forms into pools, water becomes heavy, and things that should have been hazy and indistinct resolve themselves into shapes that they were never supposed to have. This was truly to be a concert – that usual gig frenzy of kids too young to be there and intoxicated groups of people who don’t really care about the band were conspicuously absent; this was for people who were serious about what they were doing. “Buy or sell, buy or sell tickets. I’m looking for tickets for tonight, I’ll buy or sell,” came the call from an expectedly raspy throat. He’d adopted a gentle Cockney accent of the kind we all seem to think makes us ‘mate’ to the world. Our eyes met for a split-second, just long enough to make me feel uncomfortable, as though I should be responding to him in some way. “Anyone looking for tickets to the gig tonight?” he called again. A fleeting thought passed through my mind, and I gave 8
voice to it – I flourished my ticket in the air, and with a chuckle said: “I’m alright for tickets, but I am looking for love.” I was already facing away from him, strolling on from my poor attempt at casual comedy, when he replied. “You’re on the quick end of the grapevine aren’tcha, my friend. We’ll make wine of you soon enough. So then, name yer price.” I stopped. “Do what?” I said, making ready to move swiftly on.
“Name, your, price. Too new on the market for a standard price, so I’m willing to establish how interested you are, mate.” He spoke with a note of disinterest, as though he was just fine how he was and it was an immense favour for him to bother selling anything to me. I knew it to be salesman’s spiel, the standard nonsense, but it intrigued me enough to keep me there on the spot. I stood as though ready to walk, not wishing to overtly reward his salesmanship.
Love Story by Karl Egerton “Sorry friend, but what did you think I just said?” I asked. “Love. You’re looking for love. But it seems like you’re a one for blundering on treasures rather than a regular little genius like I thought you were.” He took a tightly-wrapped roll-up from behind his ear, one that I could’ve sworn hadn’t been there just a second ago, and let it hang down from between his thick, sweat-moistened lips. “But maybe you still are, seeing as how I see by the general look of you that you’re still here, interested, as they say.” “...Who’s they?” I asked, still trying to navigate my way through his sentence. I tried to ask it as though it was a searching question, which it wasn’t. I was beginning to lose my way in the conversation.
“You, me, this guy, that guy, they can be whoever you want.” He paused to take a languorous draw on his neat little cigarette. “Someone, somewhere, is saying it, and if they ain’t saying it about you I don’t know which direction they’re looking in.” By this point I felt ready to give up, not interested in whatever chalk-dust he was hawking, and so I asked him with all the solemnity of a tired night porter what this ‘love’ was and why he was selling it. My brusque manner seemed to take away some of his equivocation, and swiftly and spitefully he told me: “It’s not ‘love’, I heard them inverted commas. It’s love. Plain and simple. No additives, no dried fruit for extra flavour, that’s it. Truth to tell, I don’t know why I’m selling it, and in particular, why I’m selling it to you is far beyond a man of my humble means and station. I just know I’ve got it and not many others do, and that means either it’s worthless old shit, or it’s something people are desperate for, or it’s worthless old shit that people are nevertheless desperate for. I’ll tell you what, though, I’ve heard that customers get a proper roller-coaster and I know of no fatalities, or I guess it’d be illegal already. And the natural form, if you want to call it that, isn’t illegal even though it’s caused plenty fatalities. So,” he
announced with a dictatorial certainty, “that, far as I can tell you, is why I am selling it to you.” “Really? You’re selling me love? On the market? Cashonly transaction, no returns for hygiene reasons sort of thing?” “Yes.” “Right. Second, who said you were selling it to me? I don’t think you’re as on to a sale as you think.” I felt thoroughly ready to give up the charade. The guy was crazy – clearly – selling something bizarre, or selling nothing at all, and I was pretty angry that he thought I was buying into his game. Why should I be interested in his drug at a time like this, even if he wasn't lying about it? Lying, not lying, crazy, not crazy, why should I care? “You did,” he replied flatly. “In fact you said it yourself. You wanted to check that the thing ‘you’re selling me’” – and this time I was the one who heard the inverted commas – “is actually love. Besides, you've been fingering about in your wallet for the last two minutes to check if you’ve got any notes.” I caught myself out just a moment after he had. Embarrassed at his insight in beating me to my own desires, I placed my errant hand within the grasp of the other and swallowed. “How much can I get for 20 then?”
Gold Dust 9
Escape Velocity: The Anthology Edited by Geoff Nelder & Robert Blevins £2.14 (Kindle), £11.99 (Paperback) Adventure Books of Seattle (2011) 360 pages Reviewed by David Gardiner
aving devoted almost an entire issue of Gold Dust (No. 11) to an attempt to define science fiction and decide the basis on which it should be judged, it seems a bit lame to have to admit that I, for one, still find myself on very uncertain ground when it comes to answering such questions. No generalisation, such as ‘it’s about ideas rather than relationships’, or ‘it involves speculations about science or technology that we don’t yet have’, ever seems big enough to contain what’s actually going on in the field. In looking at this collection, therefore, I have tried to keep a totally open mind, not concern myself with categories, but simply judge the stories on their merits as I would any others. Escape Velocity to some extent categorises them itself, as ‘hard science fiction’ in the general tradition of the magazines like Astounding, If, Analog and Galaxy that I consumed avidly during my teenage years in the 1960s. As ‘hard’ science, including physics itself, the ‘hardest’ of them all, has become in many people’s estimation increasingly mystical and impenetrable, highly experimental and ‘far out’ formats for science fiction have been tried, with little suc10
cess, and it’s refreshing to find a collection in which the genre hasn’t forgotten its roots. There is, however, a problem with continuing down the same path, in that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with new plots, or even markedly new angles on old ones, and generally speaking the plot is to the fore in the science fiction short story. There are no fewer than forty-eight stories plus a poem and a cartoon in this collection, which runs to 360 pages – leftover unpublished submissions from Escape Velocity magazine, which ceased publication for financial reasons after four issues. Needless to say, I won’t be able to mention all of the pieces, but let’s begin at the beginning. The first story, Finding Farber by T.M. Crone, is a dystopian noir piece about a crimeridden community of low-lifes, reminiscent of one of Raymond Chandler’s nameless Pacific coast American cities. It begins with an ugly and violent death and before long we are told a somewhat incoherent story about a man whose body was ‘emitted from (a black hole) along with Hawking radiation’. With this revelation, I find my interest dwindling. In the next paragraph we are introduced to ‘galeapers’, who ‘leap through time and galaxies, eliminating bloodlines that interfere with their plans’. The plot develops into a battle of survival between ‘galeapers’ and their potential prey. I’m afraid I find it very much ‘the mixture as before’. Heavy (though unoriginal) on plot and light on involvement or human interest. Second up comes Zuggyzu and the Humans by Sheila Crosby, in which a disobedient
Review: Escape Velocity: The Anthology Edited by Geoff Nelder & Robert Blevins low-ranking alien comes to the earth in violation of orders and visits the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes on La Palma in the Canary Islands, where he ends up... well, I shouldn’t really give away the ending. It’s an amusing variation on the ‘failure to communicate’ theme, but to be honest, not especially memorable. Number 3, A Smaller Step by Michael Anderson (no relation to Poul, I fear), is quite oldfashioned space fiction, with American and Russian astronauts displaying attitudes seemingly stuck in the Cold War era, and trying to present new evidence as to who got to the moon first.
Escape Velocity magazine Issue 2 (February 2008)
Number 4, The Zozoian by Duane Byers, is a short tale about an alien dying and transferring its soul and life force to an unsuspecting earthling. Again, I think I’ve been here before. And so it goes. As with most collections, there is a lot of competent but not outstanding work, but lit up by a light scattering of true gems. A few are interesting because of their quirkiness – for example Catherine Edmunds’ Goodbye Maggie, which concerns a time-hopping artist and his coquettish lover and model, who manage to variously work with, seduce and/or sit for most of the major artists represented (by Issue 20
an outlandish coincidence) in an exhibition in the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle in Co. Durham in 2010. I was lucky enough to hear this one read by the author in Newcastle a few months ago. The story is witty and self-consciously outrageous, one gigantic excuse for Edmunds to display her impressive knowledge of the art world and (what’s really a much shallower flirtation with) Greek classical thought and modern physics. It’s enormous fun, and the characters come to life in a way that’s sadly rare in this genre. Scream Quietly by Sheila Crosby is another time travel story, also written by a woman, this time in the format of a series of letters from one sister to another. Fairly slow in pace, the characterisations are again strong, and a satisfying ending emerges very naturally from a welldeveloped plot. Another first rank piece is One Long Holiday by Ben Cheetham, which is simply an account of one couple’s attempt to survive and retain their humanity in a post-global-warming devastated world, racked by wars over the planet’s rapidly vanishing resources. Chillingly realistic, reminiscent of Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! and the film Soylent Green that was based on it, this one will stay with you for a long time after you close the book. The last story in the book, Red Monkeys by Rebecca Latyntseva, deals with what might or might not be a woman’s descent into madness, and also takes its place among the collection’s front runners. Out of the forty-eight stories, I would say that about ten are truly memorable for me, but I’m perfectly aware that others may pick out a different ten, or more or fewer according to what they look for in a science fiction short story. The Kindle edition of this collection in particular is outstandingly good value, and aficionados of the genre certainly won’t want to miss it.
December 2011 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
BEST PROSE £20 WINNER
Madonna and Child Anne Goodwin Something was different this morning...
hat morning, Gemma felt herself flipped so roughly out of her dream of an Owl-andthe-Pussycat sailboat that, for a while, she didn’t know who or where she was. All she could manage was to lie on her back till the pieces of her world had the grace to make themselves known to her: the lumpy mattress on the narrow bed by the wall beneath the bookshelf; the fraying hem of the oversized Tshirt she wore as a nightgown; the railway-track braces on her front teeth. Not until the mosaic that was Gemma Hamilton – seventeen-year-old tenant of a studio flat ten minutes from Woolworths – was more or less assembled was she ready to ask herself what it was that had knocked her so abruptly out of sleep. Something was different that morning, but she couldn’t yet identify quite what. For a start, the acoustics were wrong. Unless she’d gone deaf overnight? But she could hear the ticking of the clock clearly enough, the metallic-effect alarm she’d got with loyalty points from her DVD club. She could hear the 12
drone of the buses and cars on the street outside. And something else, an extra note above the commuter traffic. As soon as she identified the rattle of the refuse lorry she sprang into action and launched herself out of bed. “Fuck!” Bin Day, and she hadn’t put her rubbish out. Gemma pulled on a fleece over her Betty-Boop T-shirt and tore out of the room. She slipped her feet into a pair of sparkly flip-flops and had the presence of mind to pick up her keys before slamming the flat door behind her and hurtling downstairs. The wheelie bins were stored immediately outside the back door: one for each of the six flats in the block. On Bin Day, everyone took responsibility for wheeling their own bin round to the street ready for when the van came. This morning, only Gemma’s bin was still waiting by the door. She grabbed the handle and, recoiling slightly from the stench emanating from the not-quite-closable lid, dragged the bin round to the front street. Just in time to see the refuse lorry turning the corner into the high street.
“Fuck!” An au pair from the posh houses, en route to the shops, gave her a dirty look. Tears of rage stinging her eyes, Gemma turned and trundled the wheelie bin back to its parking-place by the door. It was so unfair! Why couldn’t people help out more? And what was she going to do with a bin-full of soiled nappies for another week? She felt like giving up. And yet she didn’t. She didn’t even need those tears. As she stepped back into the building she realised that what had been different when she awoke that day hadn’t been something in the flat, or outside in the street, but inside her. The awful feeling that had colonised her mind and body in recent months wasn’t there any more. That monstrous rage that insisted that being snubbed by the Bin Men was as catastrophic as it would be to be evicted from her home. That vicious little gremlin that made the most ordinary tasks feel like being forced to run a marathon while simultaneously taking an A-level exam. With-
Madonna and Child by Anne Goodwin out any time for training or revision. And a hangover. It had cleared out. Upped sticks. Skedaddled. Gemma loitered in the lobby, gazing idly at the graffiti on the walls, while she tried to work out what had driven the monster away. How long had she slept? The bin lorry usually came around half-nine. The baby had finally got off to sleep not long after three, which meant that she must have had around six solid hours of zzz’s. No wonder she was feeling so calm. She hadn’t had such a long sleep since before she told her parents she was pregnant. Missed period. Missed period. Missed period. Peeing on a stick. Worrying, wondering, worrying. Hoping. Confessing. Swearing. The social worker. The flat. The hospital. The baby. Megan. Megan lying alone in the flat. Megan waking up to a different kind of morning and screaming the place
down. Gemma raced upstairs and slid her key into the lock. Not a sound. She closed the door gently behind her and tiptoed into the bed-sitting-room. The baby was lying on her back in the cot, just as she had left her in the night, immersed in sleep. She was like a doll fresh from the factory, only more perfect. Gemma felt an urge to reach out and touch her, to scoop her into her arms and smother her with kisses. My angel! The love she now felt for this tiny person was so ferocious it threatened to rip her apart if she couldn’t squeeze the child in her arms, but she resisted. She’ll have exhausted herself with all that howling, Gemma thought. Let her sleep a little longer. It’ll do her good. As she eased open the wardrobe door, Gemma felt as light as she used to feel, years ago at primary school, getting top marks in the spelling test.
And why shouldn’t she feel proud? She’d been too zonked out at three in the morning to remember how she’d finally got the baby off, but she must have done something right for her to sleep this late. Deep down, through the weeks of colic and teething and refusing to feed, Gemma had always known she’d get there in the end. That if she could just keep going, keep trying different things, the baby would quieten down. And it had worked. To celebrate, she picked out a special outfit for Megan to wear later, a proper old-fashioned baby-dress with frills and bows and layers of petticoats that she’d been saving for a christening that had never happened, and laid it on the bed. For herself, she chose a black miniskirt and a low-cut glittery top she’d last worn at the school Christmas party. These she carried on their hangers through to the bathroom. Humming to herself,
Madonna and Child by Anne Goodwin Gemma lifted the clotheshorse off the bath and left it out in the hallway while she took her shower. The shower was just a rubber hose shoved onto the bath taps that let out no more than a trickle of water, but that morning it felt as good as a jacuzzi. I did it, she shouted, as she massaged shampoo into her hair. I’m a proper mother! Wrapped in a towel, she stole into the bed-sitting-room to check that Megan was still sleeping peacefully. Reassured, she padded back and searched the bathroom cabinet for the apricot body-lotion. It was good to pamper herself for once. If she were lucky, and the baby slept on, she might get the chance to do a Sudoku over breakfast. Without that awful noise spoiling her concentration. Or a whimpering infant trying to make her feel guilty. As she was drying her hair, the door bell rang. “Hi, Gemma!” It was Billy Iversen from school, now the local postman. He always rang the bell when he was bringing DVDs from her club, rather than pushing them through the letterbox. He said it was so they wouldn’t get damaged, but if she hadn’t considered herself such a hopeless prospect, Gemma might have imagined it were something else. Gemma took the package 14
from him. “Thanks.” She could watch one of the films that night when the baby got grizzly. “I thought you must be out. Quiet as a morgue in here.” “Megan’s having her morning nap.” “Makes a change. I usually hear her screaming from the bottom of the stairwell.” Gemma bristled. She’s my daughter. I’m her mother. I know what I’m doing, and all those sneering old biddies down at the bus stop can mind their own business. “She’s got a strong pair of lungs, that’s all.” “Too right.” As Billy turned to go, Gemma noticed the tattoo of a butterfly on the back of his neck. Did he have that when they were at school? She’d never noticed. But that morning it looked so upbeat and cheerful that she called after him, “I was just about to put the kettle on.” Billy didn’t hesitate. “Great. I could murder a coffee.” Gemma rushed to put the clothes-horse away in the bathroom, hoping Billy was too preoccupied with setting down his bulky mailbag to notice her greying underwear amid the rows of damp babygros. “Come into the kitchen. Then we won’t disturb her.” “Must be great to have
your own place.” Gemma shrugged and busied herself making the coffee. She was thinking how small and shabby it must seem to someone who still lived in a proper house with his parents. When she bent down to get the good mugs out of the bottom cupboard she hoped her skimpy outfit would be sufficient distraction from the spilled baby-milk on the work-
Madonna and Child by Anne Goodwin tops. When she squeezed past him to get the semiskimmed out of the fridge, she hoped her apricot body-lotion would be strong enough to counteract the sickly smell of baby-bottle disinfectant. “You look different. New haircut?” Gemma put a couple of slices of bread in the toaster. “Just washed it, that’s all.” “Going out?”
“Nowhere special. I might take Megan down the shops later.” “Mind if I tag along?” Gemma hesitated as she handed him the coffee mug. “You’re at work.” “I get off at two.” “You’d be bored. Everything takes twice as long with a baby.” “I wouldn’t mind.” He was probably just tak-
ing the piss. A lad with a butterfly tattoo on his neck wouldn’t want to get saddled with a girl with a baby. Even if she did have her own place. Gemma focused her attention on spreading marmalade onto the toast. “You want some?” “Thanks.” Billy took the plate from her. “So what about this date?” Gemma laughed. “It’s a date, is it?” She tried not to get too carried away with the thought of two pairs of hands on the handle of the pram. “I thought you were just tagging along.” “If you got a babysitter we could go down the pub. Have a game of pool.” “I’ve no money for babysitters.” “Can’t you ask your mum?” Gemma grabbed the dishcloth and started scrubbing at the worktops. “Megan’s too young to leave with a babysitter. I’m the mother. She’s my responsibility.” “We’ll go for a walk then. This afternoon. The three of us.” Gemma turned away and wiped the top of the fridge. She didn’t want Billy to see her blush of anticipation. “If you want.” Billy put his plate in the sink and ran the hot tap. Gemma sneaked a glance at the butterfly tattoo on his neck. 15
Madonna and Child by Anne Goodwin Hope was a dangerous thing. She couldn’t afford to get involved with someone. She had to put her daughter first. “I bet you don’t know the first thing about babies.” Billy put his plate on the draining board. “That’s where you’re wrong. I’ve looked after my sister’s kids since I was twelve. I probably know more about babies than you do.” “Oh yeah!” “I can make up a bottle. Change a nappy. No hassle.” He edged towards the door. “Why don’t I show you?” Gemma blocked his way. “She’s sleeping.” Billy leant across and flicked a crumb from the corner of her mouth with his little finger. Ever so gently. “Maybe it’s time for her to wake up.” “I suppose she could do with a feed. It must be getting on for eight hours since she had her bottle.” Gemma had never known Megan go so long. But still she felt reluctant to disturb her. “We’ll just have a peep.” At the bed-sitting-room door, Gemma hung back and let Billy lead the way, the better to observe whether he really did know about babies. Megan lay on her back, saturated with sleep, just like before. Gemma waited for Billy to turn to her and whisper, She’s so quiet. Good as gold. How do you do it? She could already feel the 16
blush of pride creeping onto her cheeks. Billy edged towards the cot, frowning. Too late, Gemma realised he wouldn’t be seeing her daughter at her best that morning. With the curtains keeping out the daylight, her skin appeared almost grey. And she was still wearing her babygro. Gemma gestured towards the pretty dress on the bed. “I’ll put that on her when we go for our walk.” Billy flapped his hand, as if dismissing her. Grimacing, he touched Megan’s cheek. Awkwardly. Then he leant right over and put his own cheek against her face, as if expecting a sleeping child to kiss him. Gemma giggled to cover her disappointment. It was
clear now that Billy’s story about his sister’s children was pure bullshit. But with the calm induced by a good night’s sleep, she wasn’t going to let it bother her. It wasn’t as if she’d been seriously on the lookout for a boyfriend, or a father for her child. It had just been a bit of fun. “Gemma, I think she’s …” Billy turned and stared at her with this weird look on his face, as if he didn’t recognise her. As if he hadn’t just been flirting with her over breakfast in the tiny kitchenette. “What’s the matter with you?” Gemma made a clown face, the kind she had used to entertain her friends at school, but it was wasted on Billy. He had turned back to the baby,
Madonna and Child by Anne Goodwin
leaning into the cot again, pressing his mouth onto hers, seemingly determined to have his kiss. “What’s the matter with you, more like?” Gemma could hear the anxiety rising in her voice. Her friend’s behaviour couldn’t be explained away as a clumsy attempt to be friendly. “Have you been on the alcopops already?” Billy didn’t answer, just turned his head to the side and took a great gulp of air, and then clamped his mouth back onto Megan’s again. Gemma grabbed his arm. “That’s enough.” At least the baby didn’t seem unduly concerned by the rough treatment. There wasn’t a murmur from her. “I think you’d better go.” Issue 20
But Billy hadn’t finished. He freed himself easily from Gemma’s grip and threw the Jemima Puddleduck quilt on the floor. He grabbed Megan by the ankles and yanked her violently out of the cot. He held her upside down and slapped her hard on the back. Gemma could bear no more. She rushed at him, fighting to squeeze her body between him and her child. How could she have been such a moron as to let this madman into her flat? “Let her go!” she screamed. Billy screamed back but she couldn’t make out the words. She’s not crying, it sounded like. “She should be crying!” Despite his bully-boy behaviour, he looked close to tears himself. Gemma didn’t know what had got into Billy to make him want to make the baby cry. She had to protect her daughter. But everything was all mixed up. Her brain had gone muddled, just like that morning when the bin lorry woke her up and she had no idea who or where she was. Billy pushed her backwards, forcing her onto her bed. This is the end, she thought. He’s tortured my baby, and now he’s going to rape me. She kicked out, hoping for the groin area. He sprang back and she braced herself for a retaliatory
attack. But instead she saw him reach into his pocket for his phone. An interval of calm. Gemma sat on the bed, slumped against the wall. From there, she could see that Megan was safe in her cot again: lying on her back, just like before. She wondered whether she could risk darting over to get her, or whether the movement would provoke Billy into another frenzy. Perhaps once he was making his call, she could grab her daughter and make her escape. Billy looked up from jabbing numbers into his phone and spoke to her, surprisingly gently. “Would you like to hold her?” Unsure if it were a trick, Gemma nodded. Billy scooped Megan out of her cot and placed her in her mother’s arms. “Okay?” Gemma stroked the baby’s cold grey cheek. So still. So quiet. So perfect, just as she’d been the last time she’d put her down, not long after three that morning. This was her daughter. She was her mother. It had been so hard, just the two of them, but now it was all right. All those weeks of tears and frustration had been worth it, for this. Peace and harmony: Madonna and Child.
Janis Ian’s Address to Metro Schools Librarians
This speech was given at an inservice for all Metro Schools Librarians at JT Moore Middle School, an IB school in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 9, 2011....
Photo courtesty of JanisIan.com
I like to tell audiences that I wrote my first song at twelve. I was published at thirteen, made a record at fourteen, had a hit at fifteen, and was a has-been at sixteen… It’s all uphill from there. I am from the North, and though I’ve lived in Nashville these past 23 years, that’s barely long enough to remove the phrase “Damnyankee” from my name. I am therefore doubly honored to be asked to address you; first, as a transplant, and second, as an artist. Of all the descriptions I might apply to myself – Northern, white, Jewish, gay, female, vertically challenged – artist is the only one I earned myself. So today, I speak to you from the viewpoint of an artist, first and foremost. When prehistoric man made his first symbols, and connected those symbols with true language, he began a chain of events that would enlighten and ennoble the world. The written word informs us. It challenges us. It drags us to the depths and lifts us to the heavens, in one graceful arc that can only be appreciated by those who can read. Libraries are a hallmark of a civilized culture, and librarians represent that culture to all facets of society. We artists have a great affinity with you librarians, for many reasons, not the least of which is that we exist in large part to educate, and to protect. To make order out of chaos, and to teach others to do the same. To keep the dreams of a nation, of a people, safe for future generations. To make those dreams
available to everyone – not just the wealthy or beautiful, not just the people of one race or one color or one religion – but available to everyone who dares to dream of something bigger than themselves. As you well know, the history of libraries is deep and dense, informed with beauty and tragedy. Who among us has not wondered at the barbarism of those who burned the library at Alexandria? Which of us does not mourn the ignorance displayed every time a book is burned? Who among us here can fail to rejoice that we live in a nation where freedom of speech rules, and literacy is considered a right, not a privilege? It is difficult to subdue a fully literate people. They are exposed to too many different
Janis Ian’s Address to Metro Schools Librarians trains of thought. They are taught to question, to challenge, to argue. In our respect for literacy, as in so many other things, we artists have a great deal in common with you. Librarians and artists have an affinity for one another, perhaps because we’re both outlaws. We seek understanding rather than agreement. We are open to greater worlds than the day to day world we occupy. We are often left to stand alone from the first, to make our way toward conscience and morality at ages far younger than the average person. We seek solitude, in order to hear the thoughts in our heads – and to make room for the hope in our hearts. I grew up on a farm, a mile or two from the nearest neighbor. There were books everywhere; some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading to me. From Babar to Winniethe-Pooh, books were my companions and my solace. My immigrant grandparents, whose English carried the lilt of their birth languages, would read the newspaper after dinner, and the fierce arguments over politics that ensued each night convinced me that the printed word carried a weight all out of proportion to its size. I lived, not only on the farm, but in France with Madeleine at her convent. In Africa with Mowgli, in China with Ping the duck, on Mars with the Tik Tok Man, and in my favorite place, Oz, with Dorothy and Toto. My family gave me books, and books, in turn, gave me the world. My grandparents wrote to us every week, always including a paragraph for me, and the instant I realized how it worked, I demanded my mother teach me so I could read them for myself. I was sure they’d sent secret messages meant only for me with each letter, and I wanted to find them for myself! Even then, I understood that words can reveal, and words can hide. I didn’t realize I was a freak until I started kindergarten. The teacher began showing us how to print letters. I raised my hand and asked Issue 20
to be excused, saying I already knew how to read and write and would much rather be reading. The teacher called me a liar, and made me stand in the corner for the rest of the afternoon. I was outraged, and complained bitterly to my mother when I got home. Fortunately, my mother was also outraged, though at the thought of anyone calling her child a liar. She came with me the next morning, talked to the principal, and thereafter – provided I made good grades – I spent most of the writing hour with my nose buried in a book. My father had what I now know was a rare and enlightened attitude toward my reading. A teacher himself, he believed that if I read something beyond my scope, I wouldn’t understand it, and it wouldn’t hurt me. If it was within my scope, I would understand it – and it wouldn’t hurt me. As first generation Americans, my parents understood all too well the power of literacy. In Russia, my grandparents were not permitted to attend school. Fortunately for them, they were Jewish, a religion that insists on education – in
“Libraries are a hallmark of a civilized culture, and librarians represent that culture to all facets of society” fact, the first thing we’re taught to build when we begin a new community is not a place of worship, but a school. Because of this, they were literate in Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Ukrainian, French, and finally, English. Looking at my own mono-lingual skills, I feel like a pauper compared to them! My people understood the power of literacy because they saw, over and over again, that education was the key to a future. The Portuguese say “Knowledge does not occupy space”. As a hunted people, expelled from one country after another through the ages, the Jews had learned that lesson well. My grandmother often told me that gold could be confiscated, money could be
Janis Ian’s Address to Metro Schools Librarians lost – but knowledge was forever. So my grandparents, and my parents, encouraged me to read – everything and anything, from Batman comics to My Side of the Mountain. My nickname as a child was “Why?”. People would ask my mother how she could stand it, the constant questioning – my father even got a part time job selling encyclopedias so he could buy one for me and give my poor mom some time off! But even when my omnivorous curiosity presented difficulties for them, they continued to support my quest for knowledge. Who knew where it would lead? We were in America! Maybe I would become a great scientist, like Einstein. Maybe I would become a professor, or a doctor – all the professions denied to my forebears in Russia. Whatever I became, they were sure books were key. You can understand what a disappointment it was to everyone when I became a musician… And being a musician, being a writer, set me apart from the first. I became an outlaw the day I set my fingers on the piano keys. I became an outlaw the day I decided Madeleine L’Engle was more interesting than American Bandstand. When I looked around at my schoolmates, I didn’t see anyone remotely like me. No one else dreamed of the day when she’d be able to afford a hard-backed book instead of a paperback. No one else saved every scrap of lunch money so they could buy pens, and pads, and books. I longed for friends, people I could talk to about things that were important to me, but I met none. I was alone, and lonely. I only met myself in novels. And novels were few and far between. There was a lending library on wheels, limited to books adults thought children would enjoy. Hah. Anyone who’s ever watched an untutored adult choose books for a child knows how little I found of interest there! 20
Then, one brisk October morning, everything changed. My entire class was taken to the library. We wrote our names down, gave our addresses to a stern-faced woman behind a tall desk, and were given library cards in return. They were limited to the children’s and young adult sections, we could only take out three books at a time, but they were library cards. The library saved my life. If anyone in my family wondered where I was, they had only to drop by the reading room to find me. The librarian, Mrs. Anna Baker, was my first true friend – someone who listened carefully, responded truthfully, and gave me every scrap of knowledge she could muster through the books she controlled.
I met her because she’d noticed the way I decided which books to check out. To have access to an entire room full of books was more than I’d hoped for, and I was determined to read each and every one. I’d begun with the top left shelf of the room, and was gradually working my way to the bottom-most right. Of course, the problem with my indiscriminate reading was quality, and interest – quite often, I’d take home my three cherished books, only to find that two of them failed me completely, and the third was-
Janis Ian’s Address to Metro Schools Librarians n’t so great either. Anna began recommending books – A Wrinkle In Time, Half-Magic, Boy Gravely, Young Man With a Horn - all the Newberry and Caldecott winners and more besides. My life began to fill with more worlds than I’d ever dreamed. Books led me to more books, as authors led me to more authors. A newspaper article led me to Scottsboro Boys, but when I tried to sneak out of the adult section and check it out, the head librarian caught me and confiscated it. I complained to Mrs. Baker, who called my parents and obtained their permission to check adult books out for me on her own card. Books saved me. I lived at the library. I lived there because it was quiet. I lived there because it was safe. I lived there because no one judged me. I lived there because there, and only there, did I feel free to explore myself. The library was my safe haven, my sanctuary, the only place that understood my inner world. The library taught me that somewhere out there were others like me. The library promised that one day, when I was old enough, I would meet them at last. The library saved me. It was a source of strength, and that source fed me, as surely as a river feeds the sea. It was the library that taught me how to be an artist, and led my way to my own life’s work. An artist is a citizen of the world, bound by no convention, tied by no borders. We are homeless from the start; we do not have the refuge of conformity, of predictability. Artists need a place of refuge, just as children need a place of refuge… and the world needs its artists, just as it needs its children. It is the artists who pull sense from the chaos of daily life. It is the artists who carry our true history in their work. Artists are the last alchemists, turning base metal to gold, base desire to beauty, daily life to magnificent stories Issue 20
that stay with us long after we set the work aside. We take your heart’s desire and make it visible – and if that isn’t alchemy, I don’t know what is. Artists deal in dreams. That is what we sell. We sell dreams, and as you well know, without a dream, a book is just an empty cover waiting to be filled. Without a dream, a CD is merely a piece of plastic. Without a dream, a child is just a shell, left to wander in ignorance, no better than a brute animal. Books fill the empty pages of our hearts. They leave their language on our souls. Whether a story leaps at us from the printed page, or whispers to us from a CD, or blinds us with its beauty when we see it on film, words capture and hold our dreams. They remind us of ourselves at our best, and teach us what we can be. They carry our longing for the stars, and point us toward them when we are too earthbound to do it ourselves. I hope that every library is a place of refuge for people like me, and for all the children in the world. I hope that every librarian is as kind as Mrs. Baker, who corresponded with me regularly until her death, and whose last letter to me recommended several books she’d recently enjoyed. I hope that when you are tired, when you are exhausted, when you are frustrated and angry and railing against an impossible system with ridiculous rules – I hope that in those moments you will remember me, who found her heart in books, and learned from you that there are worlds for the taking, if only we can find them. * © 2011 by Janis Ian; all rights reserved.
Find out more For more from Janis Ian and her work with America's libraries, visit her website, www.JanisIan.com.
Gold Dust 21
The Simplest Toils The simplest toils that bind the day Sequester seething disquiet away. Hopeâ€™s shore flagged along the pier, Traffic docks as suits the trade. Such stock as deemed unaccountable, Unheralded where legions parade; Mulled over in lamplit rooms above, Eyes unblinded to the inestimable. Storms unfit for humankind Uproot all phantom love, Prejudice which camps beneath its underbrush, Rattles the trophies hung through the mind. The tales which fail to end Enfold the woven strands of unshadowed time. Ross McCague
Rain After Drought Yesterday at dusk a few fat raindrops redolent with responsibility for the thirsty earth fell through the gasping air. Last night as we slept and before even the birds woke to sing matins, the clouds wept and the rain fell. Now the smell of damp dust rises towards the birdsong, welcome as the scent of lilac, so dry has it been for so long Daffni Percival
Michael Clough I will kill her one of these days...
pour yourself a sherry. Please.” She did just that. She poured a sherry and then she sat in front of the television watching a game show in which the contestants turned over playing cards and won prizes. Graham withdrew to his room, notebook at the ready. Dear Diary, That woman infuriates me. On and on she goes, do this, do that. You’re drinking too much, Graham, just like your blessed father. I will kill her one of these days. I will smash that bottle of cheap supermarket booze into her thick skull, hard and repeatedly. But first I’ll go for a jar. Tara. He put down his pen, checked his wallet. Considering that he had an interview in the morning, bed would be the better option. Still, without a drink he’d be tossing and turning all night, wouldn’t get a wink. So he put on his suit, just to try it out, and his winkle-picker shoes. In the
mirror he saw a debonair young man about town, the smooth intellectual, a bit red about the gills, yes, a bit wide, but attractive nevertheless. He began with his hipflask, a potent shot of rum as he strolled along the promenade. The flat grey sands stretched a mile before reaching the flat grey sea, which, in turn, met the flat grey sky before falling over the edge of the world. He thought about his future. If the interview went well he would be living in the city. He would be away from her. He would be free. A swig be-
ou’re just like your father, you are.” “The difference isn’t one of quantity but compulsion. Say, for example, I was on a desert island where there are no pubs or anything. I’d experience few yearnings for the stuff. You know, I can pass by any pub, even the Greyhound, and not even consider going inside. I’m not like one of those sad drunks you see, mother, reaching for their hipflasks on the commuter train. I don’t need Scotch, vodka, bourbon or anything else for that matter. I only drink because I enjoy the taste of it. I enjoy the sensation of it: the giddiness, joy, loquacity, repartee, smooth relaxation. I can just as easily get along without. Only I prefer not to.” “Just like your father. Exactly the same.” “No, no I’m not. Don’t be ridiculous. The man was a fool.” “Like he’s stood right here in front of me. Excuse after excuse after excuse. Exactly the same.” “Mother. Go on, go off and
The Intiphew by Michael Clough came two, three, five, and when he reached the Mile he was shaking his head and laughing to think of her spending the night imbibing sherry, detritus from the box flooding into her empty mind. The place was intoxicating. You could not be sober here. The very nature of it demanded you had a drink: the rusting old trams honking towards you, the kaleidoscope of shimmering multicoloured lights, the arcades, the bingo halls, the pier and the funfair. It would be easy enough to lean against a wall and drink yourself silly as the rollercoasters shrieked overhead and the automatons laughed at you from their cages. You could not help but breathe in the pungent aroma of candyfloss, toffee apples and doughnuts, and for a reason he could not determine
it insisted that he swig, swig, swig. He sucked the last drop from his flask and made his way to the Greyhound where three quick pints on an empty stomach had him back out on the streets issuing forth a bright pink stream of vomit. Nothing unusual in that. He staggered along regardless, past the whistling arcades and stalls selling sticks of bright red rock. The tungsten bulbs strung across the pier cast a dizzy gaze across the coal-black sea. He fell into the doorway of a hotel and was helped on his way by the unfriendly push of a doorman. Next he was teetering over the sea wall, the spray catching his face and the blackness of his existence compelling him to jump in. “Mother,” he groaned. “Oh mother. Why can you not die in your sleep and go back to hell?” Next he was sprawled across the pavement admiring the towering gaze of a policeman, whose black boots glimmered under the street lights. “I want you on your way, Graham. Your mother would be shocked and appalled to see you like this.” “I’ve an interview in the morning. A job in the city.” “Good god.” Graham woke in a bad state. On the train into the city he dipped into his trusty bag of
painkillers and sipped from a flask of hot, sweet tea. “I need to clear my head,” he said, looking sullenly at his shoes. “Otherwise I haven’t a cat-inhell’s chance.” Meandering down to Leicester Square, he grabbed a sandwich and, when this did nothing for him, decided to wait outside a pub. One wouldn’t hurt, after all, if anything it would bring him back to life. By one he was necking his third and talking to whoever would listen, keeping an eye on the clock and figuring that if he left within the hour he’d be on time, mints sweetening his breath and a curriculum vitae to die for. He found himself with two young men wearing kaftans, hair so long and shaggy that you could barely see their faces. They were well tanned, having just arrived back from a three-month trek around India. He told them about the job interview and they said that perhaps he’d be better off without it. “You’ll only end up working in a stuffy office and what’s the point in that?” From his wallet one of them took out a wrapper containing lumps of sugar and dropped one into Graham’s drink. It fizzled as it dissolved but made his pint taste no different than usual. The transformation came about slowly. He looked at his new friends and thought them 25
The Intiphew by Michael Clough the most wonderful drinking companions a person could have. They smiled back at him. The sound of clinking glasses seemed unnaturally soft, like feathers brushing against each other. In the background Sonny Rollins was playing on the radio; his saxophone pitched about the snug and out into the street. After a time the walls began palpitating at the periphery of his vision, the colours slaking into each other and forming rich vibrant patterns. An empty crisp packet sat innocently on the bar had the quality of a still-life painting;
Graham reached out to touch it, mesmerised. His skin prickled with sweat. “Let’s do another,” the kaftan said, dropping a second cube in Graham’s pint. Graham held up a hand but his words came out hazy and unreal, something about an interview and a job in the city. “I’m out of my skull,” one of the hippies said, his voice echoing like sonar. “I’m really out of it… it’s not gonna be a good trip for me.” Graham looked at the clock floating across the wall but couldn’t make sense of it.
A strange, disconnected anxiety fingered him, the sensation a person gets on waking from a particularly vivid dream. He saw devils with fiery eyes and forked prongs scurrying across the bar, over the crisp packet into the snug. One of the hippies lolled out his tongue and placed a cube on it. The other laughed; his veins could be seen pulsing blue and violet like electricity. Saxophone blitzed from the radio, the walls and floors pulsated, and the devils ran up Graham’s arm jabbing him. Swallowing hard, he pulled on his overcoat and headed for
The Intiphew by Michael Clough the door. “Intiphew,” he said. “Intiphew.” The ground felt soft beneath his feet. The blue-black river jutted between buildings and he had an urge to follow it out to the sea. He staggered from one corner to the next, oblivious to his surroundings. Traffic lights pulsed and vibrated and he had a terrible feeling that those little red devils were in pursuit. “Thud the answer,” he mumbled. “Thud.” Not long afterwards he found himself slumped in a Chinese restaurant, staring at
an incomprehensible menu. “Why cantee translatee?” he asked of the waiter come to escort him out. “Translatee, yes, translatee. Lot easier get thud then.” And then there was blackness and he wondered whether he had died. But no, he had only passed out and when he came to he could see green, gold and red lights flashing all around. A festival, he thought. I’m at a festival. Brazil. No, it was a Soho club and lined across the bar he had seven tequilas, which he pounced on. Day had become night. There was no time in between, and that seemed fundamentally strange. Alluring semi-naked nymphs were strutting across a low, dimly-lit stage, and he had to wonder about where they had come from and why. The dim fuzzy glow became brighter as a girl emerged naked from the wings, her skin flushed and radiant. Oh my, he moaned. Oh my. He held out his hands to her and she came towards him allowing him to stroke her breasts. “I could swallow you,” he murmured. “I could swallow you whole,” and with this, he dropped his head into her bosom, closed his eyes and immediately began to snore. “Who are you, fair maid?” “I’m your goddess, that’s
who. I rose up from the depths of your unconscious mind.” “I had an interview today, missed it.” “And then you found me.” He looked again and saw that it wasn’t a goddess at all, but his dreary old mother, battered and wrinkled. “Mother,” he said. “What are you doing here?” “Shush.” And then she was gone. In the depths of his cerebrum receptors were switching off and on. A miasma of colourful light tingled over everything. He saw himself falling into the fiery depths of hell. Above a bubbling pit he saw the Devil slashing throats with a razor, bodies strewn hither and thither. He went down on his knees, bowing low and said, “Please, you must take me now, I’m ready.” “The job, Graham?” the Devil said. “How did your interview go?” “Badly, I’m afraid it went badly.” “You are a waste of space, you know. Just like your father. It’s like he’s stood right here in front of me now. Useless.” “But mother, mother.” And with that he felt the razor slicing through his gullet and he laughed as the furnace grew large before him.
Interview Frank Burton Frank Burton of Philistine Press discusses his start-up publishing company, Philistine Press. Philistine Press (www.philistinepress.com) is a non-profit digital publisher specialising in alternative and ground-breaking fiction and poetry. Books are available to read online or download in a variety of ebook formats, all for free. It’s a new publishing model, which aims to gain maximum exposure for some extremely talented authors by making their work freely available. The advantage Philistine Press has over small print publishers is that our books receive a much wider readership, which stretches around the globe. Since its launch in March 2010, Philistine Press has published 13 poetry collections and 5 full-length works of fiction, which currently attract 16,000 page views per month. Philistine Press was created by the Frank Burton, author of the short story collection, A History of Sarcasm (Dog Horn 2009), who has also published his own novel, The Prodigals, through Philistine Press. The advantages of giving literature away for free online means that firstly, there’s a massive potential readership, and secondly, there is no restriction as to what you can and can’t say. All of Philistine’s releases goes through the process of being selected from a large pool of submissions before being scrutinised by an editor. The difference between Philistine and a mainstream publisher is that the focus of its editorial process is purely on quality rather than marketability. 28
GD (Gold Dust): You say in your publicity handout that: “The advantage Philistine Press has over small print publishers is that our books receive a much wider readership, which stretches around the globe”, but wouldn’t that apply to online publication of any kind? FB (Frank Burton): Not necessarily. Many authors who self-publish online end up attracting very few readers. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the author may not have the resources to market and promote their work - and therefore, readers simply don’t get to hear about it. Promoting yourself online is difficult. Facebook and Twitter, for example, don’t necessarily win you many readers, as there’s tough competition out there – not least of all from mainstream authors. Secondly, readers are more likely to be attracted by work that’s available through a publisher rather than an individual. If a reader likes one of our titles, they’ll be likely to read more. Simply put, there is power in numbers. GD: As Amazon has no selection process and doesn’t charge for making manuscripts available on their website for download, as well as offering the author payment for each download, why would authors go to Philistine instead? FB: As I say, most people who self-publish on
Interview: Frank Burton Amazon attract a very small number of readers. The majority of readers are unlikely to pay to read a self-published ebook by an author they’ve never heard of. But if you publish through Philistine Press, you’re guaranteed thousands of readers. Don’t get me wrong - I’m a big supporter of self-publishers, and there are some genuinely great self-published authors and poets out there. There are plenty of successful self-publishers too - and good luck to them. But the average amount of money a self-published author makes is virtually nonexistent. If that’s the position you’re in, you might as well increase your readership by publishing your work online for free. Whether you do that through your own website or through a non-profit publisher like Philistine Press is up to you.
ceive is unsuitable on the grounds that it doesn’t match the standard set by our existing titles. If your work is of similar quality to the work already on the site, you’re in with a good chance - regardless of what genre you’re writing in. GD: This seems like a very selfless and highminded operation. What is in it for you as the site owner and for your editors and helpers? FB: Well, there’s no money involved. We do it because we’re passionate about literature and want to give some talented writers the break they deserve. For me, there’s the knock-on effect of getting my own work out to a wider readership. I published my own novel, The Prodigals, through Philistine Press earlier this year. But self-promotion definitely isn’t a strong motivating factor behind Philistine Press. There are plenty of other small-time publishers out there doing it for the love rather than for the cash. GD: If a writer asks to have a piece removed from the site, for example because he or she has been offered a commercial deal for it elsewhere, can this be quickly and painlessly arranged? FB: Yes, absolutely. I think our authors deserve wider recognition, and if they get a chance to make money from their work, they should go for it. Also, if one of our authors becomes commercially successful, it would be a great promotional opportunity for Philistine.
The Third Person (Philistine Press, 2011) a novel by Stephanie Newell
GD: You say that: “Of course every one of our releases goes through the process of being selected from a large pool of submissions before being scrutinised by an editor”. Approximately what percentage of submissions is eventually accepted by Philistine? FB: Around five percent. A lot of the work we reIssue 20
GD: Would it be fair to say that you are in effect offering a free editing service to authors who may then take their work elsewhere, to either a paying electronic publisher or a conventional print publisher? FB: Absolutely not. It wouldn’t be in anyone’s interests to submit to Philistine under false pretences. For one thing, if we receive a submission that needs vast amounts of editing,
Interview: Frank Burton we’ll reject it. Generally speaking, the work doesn’t change drastically after the editorial process. As I say, our authors are free to take their work elsewhere if they wish. We’ve been around for eighteen months, and so far, no one has taken their work to another publisher. GD: Does Philistine Press promote the work
Valve Works (Philistine Press, 2011) a poetry collection by Rob Sherman & Sarah Ogilvie
of its authors in any way, or assist them with their own promotion efforts? FB: Yes, there are various ways we go about marketing our books, from blogging to printed advertising. As I say, I’m not a big fan of social networking sites (although we do have a Twitter account). The best tool we have for increasing our readership is the wide range of online platforms for ebooks - Smashwords, Feedbooks and Google Books to name just three. We also encourage as many people as possible to link through to the website. It definitely helps if the author assists in this process. It’s up to the author how much they decide to contribute. GD: Does Philistine Press accept paid ad30
vertising from conventional publishers or others? FB: I’ve resisted using advertisers so far. Never say never, though. GD: Does Philistine Press have particular areas of interest or genres to which they are especially drawn, or territory (such as pornography, perhaps) into which they would rather not venture? FB: Most of our work could probably be labelled “literary” in some way, although there are exceptions to that rule, such as our humour title, Not a Lot of People Know That by David Hailwood and FJ Riley. I’m keen to publish more genre fiction in the future - sci fi, fantasy, crime, etc - and some more humour. Everything is welcome provided that it’s of high quality. Some of our ebooks - such as the two collections by confessional poet Mr If - feature some very explicit content. Others, such as Stephanie Newell’s novel, The Third Person, deal with controversial subject matter. In each case, the books were published on the strength of the writing. GD: Does Philistine have any plans for expanding into the publication of, say, photography, music or amateur films? FB: We’ve already released a couple of great music titles and it would be good to expand on that. I’ve toyed with the idea of opening up the site to other art forms, but I think forms such as film and photography would be better represented elsewhere. For now at least, we’re sticking to what we do best, which is publishing some great fiction and poetry.
Find out more Visit Philistine at: www.philistinepress.com.
Engineering Paradise by David Gardiner ÂŁ7.99 (Paperback) Merilang Press (2011) 280 pages Reviewed by Andrew McIntyre
When our own Prose Editor releases a book, you must allow the Gold Dust team to get quite excited! David Gardiner has been selecting the prose for our magazine for the past 7 years and has somehow also found the time to write his own novel. Here is an independent review of it by Andrew McIntyre (author of The Short, the Long and the Tall). Set against events recorded in grainy black and white documentary footage, or in the memoirs of retired journalists and aging IRA hard men, the novel conjures to life first-hand an increasingly distant era, a disturbing time. Like the Indian Mutiny or the Boer War, the Irish Troubles are a blight the British establishment would love to forget, or somehow manipulate and neatly credit to their cause. Hence the immense value of this work, its detail, and characters, its astonishing technical accuracy. And David Gardinerâ€™s novel is a real page-turner. The background Ireland, so near to the UK, yet always so far, so constantly misunderstood, lampooned, neglected, abused, censored as a subject of media coverage and conversation on the mainland. Mention anything to do with Ireland, the IRA, Irish people, logical analysis shuts Issue 20
down, hysteria, absurdity, and prejudice erupt. Over the last 700 years, ongoing to the present day, Ireland has been the English journey up the river into the heart of darkness. The universal value of Engineering Paradise thus stems from its lack of political dogma and propaganda, its essential strength the neutral portrayal of civil war. The historical context is 1960s Britain, but with a little imagination it could be the 1690s, it could be any epoch, any locale. The protagonist of the novel meanders his way Candide-like through this labyrinth of circumstances, ostensibly within his bounds, but increasingly Faustian. With the use of excellent dialogue, David Gardiner develops the characters as independent persona against this tableau, also as emblems reflecting a murky epoch in British history, and the never-ending human quest for a utopia. Ultimately, with a neat twist in the tale, the novel makes us calculate and consider very carefully. What is it about humans that makes holocaust so easy to engineer? Surely we can answer, look into the mirror and reflect, travel up river into our heart of darkness with the same degree of intelligence and analysis? If so, a remote possibility exists for engineering paradise.
Find out more Davidâ€™s website is at: http://davidgardiner.net
Gold Dust 31
Juana La Loca (1506, the English Coast) She is dumb in the dark on a salt-white deck of the slow ship of her days. No bell tolls the passing hour, no flare breaks the night. Rocked in the arms of a hollow sky, she numbers the winking stars; in the night's rich belly memory wakes and the bulkheads creak and groan. She is dumb in the dark on the moonless shore of the island of her faith; biting her toes, the shell-sharp sand where the ocean spits and stings. At the pitch of her madness the east wind growls, rears up and shows its teeth till she bows her head to its solemn lair and a slaughter of hair and fine bones. Abi Wyatt
Crash All the bins are still full at this hour, Just a few lights on in the pink towerblock, One car picks through the threaded half-light; The man behind the wheel is sleep bedazzled, His jowls frosted in overnight stubble, Eyes roped in with deep sullen rings, Hair somnambulistically twisted Into an untidy ptarmigan’s wing. His poached brain is throbbing aimlessly, Wits stripped back to amoebic reactions, Doesn’t see the paperboy leave the pavement, And step in front of the weary vehicle. The whinnying tyres and mess of meat: The oxygen-fired device unplugged, And being boiled now in oblivion’s belly. Which erases all and before us looms. Saul Hughes
Wayne Dean-Richards The studied way they avoided looking at or touching each other made it obvious...
he question led him back to the time Maggot bit him... * It’d been a hot day in June and he was mowing the lawn, kept pausing every now and then to drag the back of his hand across his forehead, doing the job only because he thought it was what Sue wanted: Ken not someone who enjoyed physical labour. Laurence was with him, Laurence six years old at the time, freckles all over his face and his front teeth missing. Sue was in the house, sitting close to the phone. It was her second year of teaching and she said it was still uphill all the way, always schemes of work to prepare and endless marking. “You’ll get there,” Ken said. He’d been teaching seven years. “It gets easier. Never easy: but easier.” “For you, maybe,” Sue said. Though not till he was out of earshot. Ken was a big man in those days, looked like someone who’d played rugby and 34
was just now going to seed. The muscles in his thighs winked as he pushed the mower and sweat darkened his tee-shirt. Maggot was their fouryear-old Staffordshire bull terrier. When Ken first carried Maggot into the house Sue thought he’d bought her a handbag. They fed him up and Maggot grew into a powerful dog, though he was a softie: a dog that was never bad tempered. Ken paused, wiped his brow, and looked over at Laurence. Laurence had buried his Action Man to the waist in mud and was hoping ants would mistake the plastic for real human flesh and get to work peeling it away, when Maggot yelped. It sounded like a human scream. Ken turned sharply. He saw Maggot running round in a tight circle, his eyes wild. He’d been rooting through the petunias, had snapped at a wasp, had caught it in his mouth, and the wasp had stung his tongue. Ken went after the dog, what was left of
his hair flying this way and that. Dog followed by man went twice around the silted pond. Laurence thought it was a game, abandoned Action Man and laughed at his Dad and Maggot. Ken caught up with Maggot by the shed, reached out to grab Maggot’s collar, and was bitten. “What happened?” Sue said. Hearing all the noise, she’d moved away from the phone. She saw Ken’s wound and saw Laurence, who’d followed the trail of blood in from the garden. Laurence wasn’t laughing any more. Ken was right-handed, so much so it was actually a form of imbalance. He ran his right hand under the tap, antiseptic and a bandage ready on the drainer. “Maggot bit me,” he said. Sue nodded, then paused, distracted. She was sure she’d heard the phone, had heard the phone, but only in her imagination. “He didn’t mean to do it. He’s been stung and it panicked him.”
Trivia by Wayne Dean-Richards Sue nodded again, though she wasn’t really listening. She watched Ken struggle to pick up the bottle of antiseptic, struggle to unscrew the cap. His hand was hurting, but Ken saw the funny side of it: “Maggot’s alright,” he said, “biting me calmed him down.” Smiling at his awkwardness, he clamped the bottle of antiseptic under his right arm and tried to unscrew the cap with his near useless left hand, blood dripping over greasy plates left since breakfast. “What nationality was Elvis’ manager?” Sue said. Ken frowned. “He was Dutch. Colonel Parker was Dutch,” he said. Sue nodded. “You’re right,” she said. “Who directed Catch 22?” she said. “Mike Nichols,” Ken said, “It was the film he made after The Graduate,” he said. “You’re too good,” Sue said, “Nobody can beat you.” Smiling and frowning at the same time, Ken said: “Would you help me get the top off this?” Ignoring him, Sue said: “What were Picasso’s last words?” And waited for him to answer... Ken ought to have known, then, but it was another year before things became clear to him. * Issue 20
Laurence was with Sue’s mother and father that night. Ken and Sue were competing against each other for their separate schools. His job to make sure Ken had all the pineapple and cheese on cocktail sticks he needed, Ken’s friend, Alan, a Physics teacher, said: “You’re on fire tonight.” And it was true, that night Ken answered questions even he didn’t know he knew the answer to, though his mind wasn’t on the quiz: he kept glancing over at Sue, and David, her Deputy Head. The studied way they avoided looking at or touching each other made it obvious. The room was noisy, it was hot, and it was airless. People clapped when Ken answered, the questions coming thick and fast, the
sound of applause like cold water poured onto a hot pan. But what struck Ken most was how pretty Sue was. It had never struck him quite so forcibly before. On the way to collect Laurence after the quiz, Ken stopped the car. “You were really on form,” Sue said, her face averted, “Even I didn’t know you knew so fucking much.” “I didn’t know about you and David until tonight,” Ken said. He wanted to tell her how pretty he thought she was, but the words wouldn’t come. Keeping his hands on the wheel he looked out of the window, at light from a streetlamp shining on the pavement like fire. * A year later, when the two
Trivia by Wayne Dean-Richards schools competed again, Sue and David sat holding hands, though the Deputy Head was clearly uncomfortable about sitting so close to Ken, looked ready to bolt if he had to. “It doesn’t matter,” Alan said during a break. Ken didn’t know if the Physics teacher was referring to his divorce, or the fact that he hadn’t got a single question right all night. “Do you want another drink?” Alan said. Ken didn’t. He’d drunk a glass of wine and his head was spinning. He couldn’t take drink now he was so much lighter, lighter partly because he’d done so much gardening, cleaning out the pond and planting new flowers and keeping the lawn well trimmed, and partly because most of the time he had a bitter taste in his mouth that killed his appetite. Sue had drunk lots of wine and it gave her the courage to speak to Ken out on the car park after the quiz, David, the Deputy Head, quietly furious with her about it, stranded three vehicles away, watching and listening carefully, not quite sure what to do. “You’re just taking the piss,” Sue said. Confused, Ken blinked, tightened his grip on his car keys, and waited for her to continue. “What you did in there," 36
Sue said, “doesn’t fool me: you could have beaten everybody, the same as always.” “I never tried to beat you,” Ken said, “not ever.” Sue laughed. “Are you sure?” When her laughter subsided, she was suddenly sober. Blinking, she studied Ken’s expression as he watched her get into David’s car and drive away, her question buzzing inside his head like a trapped wasp. * Four years later her question was buzzing there still. “Dad?” Ken turned to look at eleven-year Laurence, hunched before the television, his freckles gone and his body
now thin and angular, nearly as tall as he was. “What’s his name?” Laurence looked intently at his father, having asked a question about the actor he was pointing at. Everything in the house was filmed with dust, as if no one had lived in it for a long time. Ken sat forwards in his chair and squinted at the screen, at the actor playing the cop who was out to get Ryan O’Neal in The Driver, but could only shake his head wearily, a blank expression on his face. “I’m not sure,” Ken said in answer to the question spoken and the question remembered, his voice hushed, as if it was very late and he was talking to himself again.
Stonehenge Odyssey (For J â€“ Rekindler of Phoenix Flames) On the precipice again looking over the edge a deep inlet in Dublin Bay, craggy rocks shining in purples, greys and greens. I stare fathom deep, tears ebb and flow in tidal thoughts of you. Out on the far horizon a ship takes voyage bobbing the crests to Britannia and you like the gannet on the rock face of a foreign shore preen and feather your new love nest abode. â€˜Tis home for two hearts at the crossroads of life a waylay to laugh and cry to weave the silk of passion and spin yarns of saucy tales where lovemakers' lip wetness seal kisses of perfection Dusty roads of America now far distant in another world where tumbleweed memories embrace the ghost of lifetimes past. But you found Stonehenge and walked barefoot around the megalith circle as spirits hailed fanfares to your rebirth. John Moran
Many Happy Returns Justin Cooke Carter felt the blood pulsate in his hands...
arter had noticed that with every fresh pint, Giggsy moved closer to Lisa. The moment he took the first swig of his lager, he’d move his chair fractionally in her direction. Carter had been watching him all night, making her laugh and blush and shifting ever nearer. Giggsy was so full of himself. He’d speak in a low tone, the pitch in a poor condition, so she couldn’t quite hear him over the music; she’d sweep her hair back, then he’d swoop, putting his mouth next to her ear so his lips would vibrate on her earlobe. Carter had seen her physically quiver as though she was being tickled. And not just the once. To anyone else this systematic approach to seduction may seem excessive, but Carter knew that attention to detail and a meticulous strategy was how Giggsy ensured the snare. The lights dimmed, and a man in a smart royal blue chef’s uniform entered from the staff door with a birthday cake in his arms. A gasp of surprise was released from her pop-red lips as she realised that the 38
clapping and the goodwill cheers from the unknown faces in the pub were all for her. Carter glanced momentarily at the cake, then looked away, not caring whether his earlier instruction to the pastry chef had been followed. He didn’t take any pleasure in her delight when she saw her name spelled-out across the cake in the sugar almonds of her favourite colour. Her cheeks glowed in the light of the candles like two small slabs of blood red meat, blushing from the alcohol and the compliments. In the tradition of her family, the candles were blown out one-by-one by the birthday girl and her best friend, Simone; and they were joined by the rest of the pub as they shouted ...one-two-three... until they reached sixteen and all the candles were out. People’s faces came and went, passing the table, smiles for her sparkled in the candlelight of the important night. A white-shirted arm brought olives to the table. A well-manicured hand put her handbag back onto the crutch of the
back of the chair after it had fallen onto the floor. More people came into the bar. Some left. She had a feeling that she was in motion. With the attention she was enjoying, and the wine, it was turning into one of the best nights of her short life. 'Many happy returns,' Giggsy said to Lisa as they touched glasses, and she took a sip of red wine. Being underage she'd drunk slyly at first so the bar staff wouldn't see. But now she had the feeling that they didn't mind, that they were on her side. As Carter was cutting the cake, Simone, from the other side of the table, asked: 'What does that mean then? Many happy returns?' as she tried to prise herself into Giggsy and Lisa's conversation. ‘Dunno,’ Lisa answered bluntly. ‘I know!' Giggsy smiled. ‘Course you do.' Carter said it quietly but at a sufficient volume for Giggsy to hear. They'd known each other long enough for him to recognise the hostility in the voice, even if the girls were oblivious to it. But Giggsy was too
Many Happy Returns by Justin Cooke aroused to heed the warning, and too drunk to care. 'I wouldn't use a line that I didn't know the meaning to,' he announced, so full of himself. And the two girls laughed. 'It means that the earth returns to the same position and alignment with the sun as the day you were born... Pagan in‘ it!' 'Does’ it? Is it? God, I’d have never worked that one out’... Mind you, I like that stuff … astrology and Stonehenge and all that,' Simone said. ‘Do you now?' and Giggsy smiled at her. 'I had me fortune done once at a fair. Right weird she was, the fortune teller... She told me that I'd meet a man "who'd have a..."' she stopped,
looking upwards as though she was searching her brain with her eyes, '"...profound influence on me life, and that I'm good with figures and that."' ‘Did she now? Good with figures are you?' 'Yeah, I’m a Gemini see ... we’re meant to talk a lot too. That's me, that is, can't stop once I gets going.' 'Really… Tell me more.' Giggsy moved his eyebrows upward as though everything she said had a double-meaning. Carter breathed a sigh of relief; Giggsy’s attention was now on Simone. But Lisa wasn't giving him up without a fight. It was her birthday, and for once she in-
tended to be the centre of attention. She was fed up with her friends getting all the lads: 'Yeah, talk too much, you can say that again.' She glared at her friend as she lightly guided Giggsy around by the shoulder and put a spoonful of chocolate and cream into his mouth, a pink sugar almond strategically placed on top. The two girls had known each other since primary school, and the challenge hadn't gone unnoticed by Simone. But she sat back in the chair; it was Lisa's birthday after all. And besides, she quite fancied Lisa's brother sitting next to her, even though tonight he seemed annoyed and distant. But she liked the moody, older
Many Happy Returns by Justin Cooke types. Carter felt the blood pulsate in his hands as Giggsy's interest went back to his sister. Thoughts entered his head about what would be said behind his back. Giggsy liked to boast about his conquests in
the pub, sometimes even in front of the brother whose sister he had fucked. Just like he did with Chronic Dave. After a few beers Giggsy was always going on about the time he hadn't washed his lad for a week, and Dave's sister, Can-
dice, had given him a blow-job behind some bins outside a party. Then he'd got her to give Monk a kiss after it â€“ a proper frenchie! He kept on, so much so that Dave had stopped going to the pub with them. Carter knew that Giggsy
Many Happy Returns by Justin Cooke wouldn't say anything in front of him, he was positive of that. But as he sat there he imagined the anger and humiliation of walking into the pub and witnessing all the smiles on the side and sly looks pass between his friends. He thought
that even worse, and would hate his beloved sister for making him a laughing stock. No one had ever laughed at him, he was far too powerful in that group. But he could only take this one way. This was an affront by Giggsy, a challenge to his leadership. ‘...I'm like going red as a bee'root trying not to larff; me mate’s gone dead-white like, and the teacher’s asking us what the matter is. He sent us both out in the end... Never smokin’ it again at school,’ she laughed. Giggsy laughed too, but it sounded false and lustful, fashioned from a Carry On film: 'Well, we'll have to keep you away from that stuff tonight won't we,' and he locked her sparkling eyes into his. Carter's ears, like two delicate sculptures at that moment, were insensed by the sleazy lines of his friend. He found it hard to believe that his sister couldn't see that Giggsy was just after one thing. The family had brought her up better than this. He thought about the day she was born and he'd held her, the delicate little alien-like hands gripping his massive finger; and he remembered when she was a toddler and he'd take her to the City Farm on a Sunday after lunch where they'd laugh at the cockerel that couldn't cock-adoodle-doo properly. He swore
that he'd protect her – to himself, to her, to their mother – above everything, he'd die for her. He felt tears well up in his eyes, but as always he fought them away. Giggsy had been around a lot when she was young. Accepted as part of the family. He had watched as she’d grown from baby, to child, to gawky teenager, to age of consent. Carter looked at his friend. The drunken, borderline-paedophile expression on his friend’s face said it all: yeah, she's legal now... can't get'um as fresh as this... I like it tight... when there's grass on the wicket, she's ready for cricket. He’d watched and waited, Carter thought. ‘What you doing after this?' ‘Dunno, what you doing?’ ‘Get some wine, go back to mine?’ ‘Yeah, why not... It is me birfday after’awll.’ She was fingering the necklace that Carter had given her for her birthday. He could see his friend’s eyes wandering toward the necklace. She was doing it deliberately, he was sure, enticing Giggsy’s eyes to amble lower. Carter clenched his fists so tight that blood vessels felt like they were popping in his fingers. He wanted to rip it off her, shout at her to have some respect for herself. 41
Many Happy Returns by Justin Cooke ‘Could you order me 'nother glass of wine at the bar, please... Don't think they'm gonna serve me,’ Simone asked Carter. As they stood at the bar in silence, he saw his sister get up and put her coat on. Giggsy walked passed him toward the gents. Carter followed him in. Giggsy was whistling at the urinals. Carter stood behind him. Giggsy became aware that someone was there. He half glanced around. ‘Alrite Car…’ Carter kneed him in the back before he could get the words out, grabbing the back of his neck as though his hand was the metal teeth clench of an out of control Arcade machine claw, and dragged him, like a cheap prize, still pissing toward one of the toilets, the one he'd clocked on the way in that someone hadn't flushed. ‘Carter, what you doing?’ ‘Are you taking the piss? You think you're gonna fuck my sister do you? Do you really think I'd let a slimy cunt like you get your hands on my little sister?... You fucking nonce.' He held his head over the bowl of the toilet. Giggsy could see someone's eroding shit, the disintegrating toilet paper, and the unearthly yellow and chunky brown of the water. A skid mark on the porcelain bowl was right by his head. ‘Carter don’t,’ Giggsy 42
screamed. ‘You listen to me: if you touch my sister I'll flush your head down the shitter every time I see you... Are we clear?’ ‘Carter, sorry... Sorry.’ He let go of his neck. Giggsy’s face was red. His eyes were watering. ‘I'm going to have a piss, wash my hands, and in the meantime you're going to tell her that you're going. We clear? If I see you out there by the time I'm out of here…’ He didn’t need to say anything else. ‘Okay Carter, whatever you say.’ Giggsy’s voice was shaking with fear. He felt completely sober. Carter undid his flies and went to the urinals. ‘Are we still on for Saturday, Carter?' Giggsy asked at the door, wiping his own piss off of his trousers. ‘Yeah mate, course we are.’ ‘Okay, see you Saturday then.’ ‘Yeah, see you mate.’ Carter closed his eyes as he pissed. He saw himself inside the citadel, sitting high up above the peasants, in a chair laden with gold, and drinking sweet wine from a silver chalice, dressed in a white toga with a crown of laurel leaves on his head. All eyes were upon him and the amphitheatre became silent. He made a ques-
tion with his eyebrows to Lisa sitting elegantly by his side, and she gave a decadent nod. He put his thumb down. The unpleasant mouths of the peasants screamed with bloodlust as the hungry lions were let out of the cages; and Giggsy, dressed in rags, his face hysterical with terror, looked for somewhere to run in the bloody arena. Carter smiled as the lions tore into him. He zipped up his flies and washed his hands. ‘I thought he really liked me, an’ all. God, what is the matter with me ... why don't lads like me?' she asked Simone through drunken tears as they walked home to her mum's place. Carter walked behind them so she could have her little cry and the girls’ talk with her friend – he knew what women were like. He was on the phone; he was making sure his flatmate wouldn't be coming home tonight. As they reached the family home, Simone reached for the phone in her bag to call a cab. Her parents didn't want her walking home alone at this time of night. ‘I’ll drop you off, if you like? I’m going your way.’ ‘Yeah, if you’re sure?’ ‘Yeah... Always room for a cutie,’ and he smiled at her, holding her gaze.
Plagued By Ghosts In recognition of our new Poetry Editor, Jolen Whitworth, we include this poem written by her husband, James Thomas Whitworth, also a poet.
I walk until the headstones fall from sight, Though still those markers bind me to a seat Cold with retreat; to words upon the face Of one especial tomb, which plot is known To none but those whose labour laid the stone. And where our dirt-downed hands chipped marble tears, So care-worn hearts composed the final word. An elegy of unaccompanied grief, A crown of thorns to mark the martyred brow, A grave-drawn loved one lying long abed. His Devil’s cup was poisoned by a Saint. A slave to some old pleonexic urge, Who dreams aloud and from this sound proceeds To rip the standard from its pole and drag His kingdom with its own confetti’d flag. This charlatanic master of such men As those who live and die by others’ quotes; Who cannot speak first-hand a phrase of truth But coin for their own profit stolen words, Has cornered for his hobby-horse a wolf. I bend my steps toward the end of time, To find along the way a tailor to Supply his naked frame a suit of love. This love’s the ruling monarch of a man Though greed’s the traitor to his kingly scheme, And any man who finds the wretched throne Above which pendulums the sword, whose point’s The finest measure of its mortal truth, Can no more free himself from its cajole Than Joseph in his colours from the well. Plagued by these ghosts whose curses are sirens Calling him home to be shrouded in sin, The shadow of their ministry will fall Upon a body turning in the light Of Luna in her mephistolic mask. But when the final kingdom’s come and gone, This sacrifice still gospel in its fact, I offer up an oath to wake the dead. And following these promises I sleep, Deaf to the charge of its shattering dawn. James Thomas Whitworth
Sawing Fallen Logs for Ladybird Houses by Dave Lewis £6.99 (Paperback) Ponty Press, 2011 106 Pages Reviewed by Jolen Whitworth
rom the moment you pick up a copy of Sawing Fallen Logs For Ladybird Houses [SFLLH], you realize you’re holding a piece of art. Published by Ponty Press earlier this year, SFLLH is gutsy, perceptive and experimental. Most of all it allows Dave Lewis to take us on a journey into those nooks and crannies of life and love that most of us overlook. His keen eye and excellent usage of wit make this book one that I will come back to time and time again. For instance, in Outside the museum with Warren, Mr. Lewis uses language and formatting so skillfully that we are instantly engaged in this encounter. Lines such as “we held the moments as strong as a whale’s heartbeat” grab the reader and refuse to let go. Throughout the book, Dave Lewis shares intelligent and comedic metaphoric snippets that not only fill in the backdrop, but also carry us along with him frame-by-frame. Like any good director, Mr. Lewis allows his audience to look through the camera just enough to make them want more. In Opium, his repetitive use of ‘dab, dab’ actually summons the scent up, which is exactly what authors hope for and readers demand. The poem is creative, as is the entire book, but, more than that, it stimulates us on several levels. 44
Through exaggeration and sarcasm, we see situations most of us can relate to all too well as in the case of A Fly in the ointment, one of several pieces that made me laugh and nod my head in total agreement. Travel Text is a clever reminder of how we’ve shortened our conversations to such an extent that we may lose the ability to truly communicate. Poems like Car Accident are so potent that you might miss how cleverly the author has used understatement to grab you by the gut. Train Lines provided me with a first-class ticket to a perceptive ride through the countryside I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I have read each of the poems in this book countless times and each time was given a richer taste of Mr. Lewis’ fantastic feast. His lines are smooth and flow like ale on the palate on a hot summer day. I found this book refreshing and tantalizing. Even in his Row of trees, we’re taken immediately to the scene. ‘film grain, harsh light the black and white of winter rain rips skies.’ My heart was broken by Hospital bed. The stark reality Mr. Lewis painted left me breathless. Throughout the book readers will ride a rollercoaster of rich language, clever insights and creativity. And when they finally come to the end, they’ll join the queue to ride again. Just remember, the queue starts behind me.
Writing news Fish short story contest 2011/12 David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, number9dream, Ghostwritten, Black Swan Green and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, will be judging the 2011/12 prize. The ten best stories chosen by David Mitchell will be published in the 2012 Fish Anthology. Closing: 30 November 2011. Results: 17 March 2012. Word limit: 5,000. First Prize - €3,000 - (of which €1,000 is for travel expenses to the launch of the Anthology). Second Prize - a week at Anam Cara Writers' & Artists' Retreat in West Cork's Beara Peninsula, with €300 travelling expenses. Third Prize - €300 Entry: €20 online www.fishpublishing.com €22 by post to Fish Publishing, Durrus, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland. A critique service is available for €45 per story.
New website iwriteandrate New website for writers to upload, sell, and receive valuable ratings; to help them prove and improve their writing. www.iwriteandrate.com
December 2011 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
Contributors This issue, we received around 200 submissions, from which we selected our favourite 5% that you can read here. Our contributors sent in their work from the US, Canada, France, Israel, Egypt and the UK.
Short stories Karen Tobias-Green Karen writes short stories and poetry. She lives in Leeds with her husband and 2 teenage children. She teaches dyslexic students in an art college and enjoys exploring the links between art and the written word. She has recently had a poem published, hot on the heels of her story in Gold Dust, and is a firm believer in creative momentum. Karl Egerton Karl Egerton is a 23 year old graduate student at the University of Cambridge, where he is studying philosophy. He was born in, raised in and only recently dragged away from, London. He has been toying with the idea of writing for several years, but has only recently had the guts to really try it. Love Story is his first story to make it into print. Anne Goodwin Anne Goodwin has had some of her short fiction published online and in print. Recent favourites include Doctoring (Rose & Thorn, Spring 2010), Elementary Mechanics (The Yellow Room, Autumn 2011) and How's Your Sister? (Greatest Uncommon Denominator, 2009). She is also working on two novels and has a writing website at: www.annegoodwin.weebly.com. Wayne Dean-Richards Wayne Dean-Richards is a teacher, father of three and the author of many pieces of short fiction, published in both the UK and the US. His stories Me and Groucho and I'm Bruce Lee were published in previous editions of Gold Dust. He is an accomplished reader of his work, both live and on radio. Some of his short fiction was collected in the critically acclaimed At The Edge, and a novel - Breakpoints - is available from Amazon. See www.waynedeanrichards.com for more details. Justin Cooke Justin Cooke lives in Bristol, but has spent most of his adult life in London. He has been writing seriously now for nearly five years, and has recently finished a collection of short stories that he hopes to get published. He has had one Flash Fiction story accepted by The International Short
Story Magazine, which is due out in October. He considers this a good achievement, as he went to a very poor school and had a bad education. He is a painter and decorator by trade, but is currently unemployed. He has just started work on his first novel. Mike Clough Mike Clough is originally from Manchester, UK, a city known throughout the world for Manchester United. To earn a living he lectures in English Literature and Creative Writing. When not doing that, he can be found writing articles and short stories. He has published in literary journals and a radical newspaper. In 2008 he published a limited edition book about sport and politics. He is currently working on a novel.
Poems John Shaw A former album sleeve photographer working for Status Quo, 10cc, Sir Paul McCartney and others. First winner of the Mervyn Peake Award for poetry. Resident poet for the Sing For Joy Choir for people with Parkinson's Disease. Author of Space Flights Without Reservation, a CD of poetry with music by Ward Abel. Abi Wyatt Formerly Head of English at Redruth School, Abigail Wyatt now lives and writes in the shadow of Carne Brae near Redruth in Cornwall where there is never enough sunshine and never enough time. Writing is her passion but Abigail also enjoys dramatic performance and she appeared recently as King Rat in a local production of Dick Whittington. Abigail's poetry and short fiction has been published in a number of magazines and e-zines, including Words with JAM, Word Salad, One Million Stories, A Long Story Short; and Poetry Cornwall. Her poetry collection, Moths in a Jar, will be available from Palores Press in November, 2010 John Moran John Moran, aspiring Irish poet, born and bred in Dublin.
Contributors James Thomas Whitworth James Whitworth lives in Leeds, where, when he isn’t writing or traveling, he works for the Royal Mail. Saul Hughes Saul is a 42-year-old Welsh poet living in Toulouse, France. He has a poetry blog at saulspoems.wordpress.com. Ross McCague Ross McCague teaches college English in Toronto, Canada. He has written poetry for many decades, and in recent years published work with UKAuthors from time to time. He is influenced by the Moderns in all European languages. Daffni Percival Born in Kent [the bit that got swallowed up in Greater London] in 1932, Daffni Percival has been writing on and off all her life in between earning a precarious living mostly as a language teacher, and for 20 years running an International Centre in Exeter - a spare time job that involved a 365 day working year, no money, impossible invitations to everywhere in the world and meeting an amazing variety of interesting people. She moved to Wales in 1985 thus fulfilling a long cherished dream. She now lives in an ancient farmhouse in Cwm Prysor with three sheepdogs, three sheep and assorted ducks. There she still teaches (occasionally), paints and writes. Her adopted land seems to have reawakened her muse.
Manager for UKA Authors. Jolen enjoys travel, music and just about anything that would scare most people to death. She has a great interest in charity work, with a particular fondness for animal rescue, and working to fund cancer research. Jolen and her husband, James Thomas Whitworth, reside in Leeds, England, with their mad ‘rain dog’ Simba. You can see a sample of her work here: www.off-limits.org.uk. Andrew McIntyre Andrew McIntyre, whose dark and chilling short stories have appeared in both Gold Dust and Solid Gold, grew up in Johannesburg and attended universities in Britain, Japan, and the US, holding Master’s degrees in Economics and Comparative Literature. He has travelled a great deal, working variously as lecturer, sailor, construction worker, bookseller and pig farmer. He currently resides with his wife Deborah in San Francisco. His stories have appeared in many magazines, including 3AM Magazine, The Taj Mahal Review, The Copperfield Review and Children, Churches and Daddies Literary Magazine. A collection of his short stories, The Short, the Long and the Tall, was recently published by Merilang Press.
Reviews & Features David Gardiner Ageing hippy, former teacher, now part-time psychiatric care worker, living in London with partner Jean and Charlotte the chameleon. Adopted daughter Cherelle lives nearby. Three published works, SIRAT (a science fiction novel), The Rainbow Man and Other Stories (short story collection) and The Other End of the Rainbow (short story collection). Interested in science, philosophy, psychology, scuba diving, alternative lifestyles and communal living, travel, wildlife, cooking and IT. Large, rambling homepage at: www.davidgardiner.net. Jolen Whitworth Jolen Whitworth is an America-born writer whose work has won competitions as well as being featured in several magazines and anthologies. Her book Every Girl Has Her Limits was published by UKA Press in 2009 and is still selling copies all over the world. Former positions include: Literary Editor for Scribe Spirit, Assistant Administrator for Creative Poems, Secretary for Unity Illuminata and Moderator and Public Relations
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Issue 21 of Gold Dust magazine It may seem like a long way off now, but put a note in your diary that Issue 21 will be out in June, in good time for your summer holiday reading!
Anthologies Our 2 anthologies are available for sale from www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine
Liquid Gold (Lulu Press, December 2010) Anthology of poems ÂŁ6.50
Solid Gold (Merilang Press, January 2010) Anthology of short stories ÂŁ4.50
To submit to Gold Dust magazine Our (short) submission guidelines can be found at: www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/Writers