Twice-yearly magazine of literature & the arts Issue 26 November 2014 Welcome to our winter issue! This year we are celebrating 10 years of Gold Dust poetry and prose, along with our live events and special anthology releases. Thank you to all of the amazing writers who have been part of our journey and to all of our fabulous readers who have made us one of the most successful literary magazines in the UK. In this issue, London Nights by Katie Lumsden (p11), was selected for our Best Prose award, while Spring by Kate Jones (p14) was chosen as Best Poem. We also feature an interview with the storyteller Francis Firebrace, along with one of his stories (p22) and young musician Lily Brooke (p31). Along with our usual selection of short stories and poetry, we also have a flash fiction piece and a short play, plus 4 book reviews. Enjoy! Gold Dust Magazine Founder
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A free-to-enter competition for makers of short films We are offering ÂŁ100 to the maker of the best short film (15 minutes or less) submitted to Gold Dust before Sunday 30th November 2014. The winning entry will be chosen at a live event early in the New Year by honorary Academy Award winner Kevin Brownlow. Entries (standard DVD format) by post to David Gardiner, 55 Elmsdale Road, London E17 6PN. Watch our Home Page golddustmagazine.co.uk for further details.
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Webmaster, DTP & Founder Omma Velada Layout (this edition only) Issue 26 November 2014 David Gardiner
Founded 2004 We select solely on merit regardless of the age, gender, reputation or publication history of the writer www.golddustmsgazine.co.uk 1
Contents The Beauty Aliya Whiteley Page 13
Dreams of Shangdu Page 6
Editorial by GD founder Omma Velada Contributors
Features & Reviews
The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley reviewed by David Gardiner
Foreign Gods, inc. by Okey Ndibe reviewed by Ronald Adamolekun
Francis Firebrace interviewed by Adele Geraghty & David Gardiner
Outfoxing Hyenas by Alan Price reviewed by Lorraine C Brooks
Lily Brooke interviewed by David Gardiner
A Time for Every Purpose by Ian Andrew reviewed by David Gardiner
Francis Firebrace Page 22
Firebird Emma McKervey Page 43
4 11 19 29 37 39
Where Were You? by Keith R James BEST London Nights by Katie Lumsden PROSE
Assignment by Richard W Strachan The Host by Gary Hewitt Normal by Andrew Pidoux Dredging the Lake by Hunter Markham
Kiss by Marie Lecrivain
Dream of Shangdu by Geoffrey Heptonstall
You, Everywhere Bronmin Shumway Page 36
14 15 16 17 36 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
Spring by Kate Jones
Adventures in Carpet Slippers by Kate Jones The Portal Opened by A J Huffman Frankenstein’s Android by A J Huffman You, Everywhere by Bronmin Shumway Firebird by Emma McKervey Full Rising by A J Huffman Her Body is a Mountain by A J Huffman In My Ancestor’s Cellar by Robert Hrdina Regret by Lorraine Brooks Searching Out Amonites by Clint Wastling The Shape of a Poem by Benjamin Waight
Frankenstein’s Android A J Huffman Page 17
Where Were You? by Keith R James I
came out of the bathroom to Thriller playing in the divey spot my friends and I ducked into on a Tuesday night. It’s not my favorite, but I don’t ever want to be in a place where this song is not universally welcomed. If Thriller is permanently banned off a bar’s jukebox, you have to think some worrisome events have occurred at this establishment. I hear a grown man at the pool table squeal. This place is alright, I think. When I squeeze back into the circle my friends subconsciously made, I already had an idea of the conversation they were having. I’m pretty sure my group of friends has this same conversation on a quarterly basis like we’re a corporation running over minutes or something. And we always forget we had it, or we just enjoy hearing one another speak. “I remember where I was when Michael Jackson died,” Lane starts. “I was in Prague outside this World War Two exhibit…” I heard enough to make this point: are we all doing amazing things when amazing people die? I’ve never heard one of these stories even drift into the mundane for a moment. We’re climbing mountains; doing yoga on a glacier…I swear I’ve heard someone tell me they actually saw Michael Jackson die. But I’ve heard enough stories being told at bars to know this: everyone is a liar. We lie.
But is it a good lie? Are we honoring the dead by pretending we weren’t masturbating or taking a shit when we found out they passed? Because I was definitely taking a shit when Michael Jackson died. I remember I was at my friend’s house and we just learned what Chimay was. Writing this, it’s hard to not audibly laugh at remembering how much I treasured this beer. I would end up working for a brewery a few years later despite naming Chimay as the best beer I did—and would ever—come across. We spent that week tapping deep into our network of friends with fake IDs to round up every bottle we could. We would take the bottles and just add them to the growing collection beside his Xbox in the living room. My friend had parents who were always on vacations without him, but equipped the house with every game console available. It was the kind of love a nineteen year old boy longed for. So we had our Chimay, a Will Ferrell movie was set in the background of our misadventures, and we had a nice game of indoor wiffle ball going. I asked my friend if his parents would be mad at the marks the wiffle ball was making against the walls, to which he replied, “Fuck my parents.” Look at us, taking on the world. We continued hitting a plastic ball against his parents’ nice
things until I had to go to the bathroom. Again, no frills. We didn’t find a lull in the game to contemplate our mortality. There was no poetic foreshadowing of what was to come. We continued being dumb until I was on the cusp of shitting myself. This all occurred before I had a smartphone. I was hunkered down in the parents’ bathroom reading shampoo bottles when I felt something vibrate against my shoe. I dug into my pocket and flipped open my phone to see a text from my step-mother. Normally I avoided these texts until I reached a manageable level of sobriety, but for some reason I felt today was “my day”, which meant I could reach critical lows in responsibility thought impossible by any human standard. “I am at the fair and MJ is dead.” MJ. MJ Harris? The kid with the bowl cut when I was in little league? I actually muttered, “Good.” Then I realized she was not around for my little league years. MJ Harris cannot be who she is talking about. Also, my phone had ten other texts from people, all in the same format. Where they are (Amazingville) and that Michael Jackson is a goner. I continued shitting. I didn’t understand why any of my friends cared. At best, we were 90s kids. We got Blood on The Dance Floor Jackson, and that was only if you had a con-
fused parent not willing to accept they were getting old, or didn’t know how to tune the FM in their new minivan. I would have to find Thriller and Off the Wall in my Dad’s CD collection and even then I felt a disconnect. What did he do that Kanye West couldn’t?, I thought, stupidly. And why am I being texted this? Do they think I am not able to find the news? Or is their attempt to be the news? Is “Work Rachel” attempting to break a national story by texting her contact list? At this point I am juggling a national tragedy along with thoroughly wiping my butt. I walk out of the bathroom hoping to pick up that game of Ruin the House. But first I make a quick detour to the living room to get another helping of Chimay. I locate the Chimay neatly packed against the wall, but what I find next to it strikes me as odd. It’s a nineteen year old I was just smashing a wiffle ball with, doubled over with heaving sobs, crying out Michael Jackson’s name. This person would continue to be my best friend to this day. Before and after this we would have the occasional conversations with depth and feeling, but the four years leading up to this moment, we seemed to gloss over the incredible weight the Michael Jackson catalog had on his life. I might be wrong, but the human body doesn’t let you go right back to shitting, but that’s what I wanted. I was watching this kid lose his marbles and I really had a desire to know the specific ingredients that made up L’Oreal Kids Watermelon scent. “Did you hear Michael Jackson died?” I said.
“….InnnnnnneGHHHHHHHH HH,” he replied. I felt too drunk for being a Benvolio type. I maneuvered around his heaping mess and grabbed another bottle. I popped the cork top off the bottle with my thumb and a little Chimay foamed out and my friend took all of this the wrong way and lunged at me. Fortunately, he and I were both low-testosterone dorks and were able to talk through the misunderstanding before the two of us would have to attempt fighting. He cried and I continued drinking. What is really cool about drinking though is that it uncovers a lot of really dark moments you spent years trying to forget. I spun around in an office chair and remembered a four
year old version of myself learning that the man who sings “Hound Dog” had been dead for years. After tearful rage, I crawled under my parents’ bed and refused to come out until they told me the truth, that Elvis
really was alive. My Dad, unable to reach me under the bed he wanted to use later, had no problem telling me Elvis was alive. “And if you’re good tonight, I’ll take you to meet him tomorrow.” He was confident he could find some white guy with a pompadour roaming around San Diego that wouldn’t mind twenty bucks. The second time I found out Elvis was dead was when I was in the second grade and I did a report on Elvis, my hero. One book in the school library and my Dad was a liar twice. At this point he came clean with everything: Santa, Tooth Fairy; he started on Easter Bunny but I cut him off mid-sentence. I heard enough. So I’m looking at my friend and I understand. I give him the bottle and I find a computer. We YouTubed Michael Jackson videos for four hours. He sang the lyrics, and I sang what I knew of the lyrics. My friend wrote comments under the videos and against myself I did not stop him. He and little girls from Peru were commiserating the night away. But when it gets to my turn in the circle at the bar with Thriller playing, I tell them. I tell them not to be divergent, not to weave myself into the fabric of a legend’s life. I simply answer the question of where I was when a man died. “…I was at the Del Mar fair on that Ferris Wheel that overlooks the Pacific Ocean when I get this text from an ex-girlfriend…”
Dream of Shangdu by Geoffrey Heptonstall SHORT PLAY
Setting: Here and there (London and China) Time: Is a meaningless concept Characters: Sebastian: A young Londoner Princess Xiang: A Chinese princess Zheng: A wise old Chinese man Hilda Blunt: A business woman ZHENG: So this is where you work? It is nothing but plates and teapots. SEBASTIAN:
It’s a living.
ZHENG: This is not living. Were I a young man, as you, sir, are, then I should travel to China. SEBASTIAN: take.
How long the journey must
PRINCESS XIANG: I was thinking about the moon. I often think about the moon. I wonder how I may sail to her. I am told it can be done. Some say it has been done, but of that I am not so sure. ZHENG: Madam, believe me: it is better not to wish for impossible things. PRINCESS XIANG: Then there is a challenge for someone who has the strength of mind and heart to take up the challenge. ZHENG: My dear Princess, it is wise not to go beyond the limits of the world we know. Of these things there are whispers. Travellers who leave never return. Rumours are many and as varied as the flowers in the imperial gardens. Believe me, my child, it is better to
remain where we are. Walls are built for a reason. PRINCES XIANG: Then why, dear Zheng, are we alive? Surely if we did not dream we would turn to dust? I see many wandering with that dusty look about them. I do not want to be like them. ZHENG: It was my dream also when I was young. Now that I am – shall we say of mature years – I observe the dreams of the young. This fellow here, Sebastian, for example, PRINCESS XIANG: Zheasxian. A curious name I can hardly pronounce. He must be from a distant land. And yet he does not look as I always have supposed a barbarian looks. SEBASTIAN: I was thinking about China. I often think about China. I think about other things, especially beautiful things, but I think about China. I can’t help but think about China. ZHENG: An old man tends the trees in a distant province. Warlords are tamed by ripening fruit as delicate as the ivory queens in a game of xiangqi. That, I think, is not a game you play? SEBASTIAN: Do I know you? I do know you. You served me in the Great Wall Café. I bought spring rolls and rice. It was all I could afford. PRINCESS XIANG: Mr Zheng is very generous to the poor. ZHENG: Wealth is like beauty: it soon fades unless it is from the heart. If you are true to yourself you shall not starve. PRINCESS XIANG: Mr Zheng is very wise. SEBASTIAN: Then perhaps he can tell me why I am here? If I am here, that is. I was
thinking a moment ago. Then I fell asleep. I was thinking of…
that you shall regard everything with delight and astonishment.
ZHENG: I feel that you have the makings of a philosopher, young man.
PRINCESS XIANG: And there is also another marvellous palace of bamboo. The bamboo is gilded with lacquered dragons.
SEBASTIAN: Philosophy means understanding difficult words. ZHENG: There are words without sounds. Part of beauty is silence. Do not tell all you know. Do not give names to everything. Some truths are unknown. SEBASTIAN: But I must tell the world something of what I have seen. PRINCESS XIANG: In Shangdu city the great palace pleases all who see her. What they have dreamed appears before their waking eyes. SEBASTIAN: There is such a city? ZHENG: And when you have ridden for many days northward, you shall come to a city called Shangdu, which was built by the Great Khan. There is in this city a palace of marble, the rooms of which are all gilt and painted with figures of men and women and beasts and birds, and with all manner of trees and flowers, all executed with such exquisite art
ZHENG: Encompassing the park is a wall of many miles. Here is the paradise on earth that men have dreamed of from time immemorial. There are fountains in the gardens, and wild beasts on the plains, (but not of the ferocious kind). In the meadows heavenly music drifts with the scents of the flowers on cooling breezes in the heat of the afternoon. HILDA BLUNT: Typical of modern youth in my opinion. Always daydreaming. Never getting down to anything. Idling and gossiping. Too much education gives people funny ideas. If you want my opinion… SEBASTIAN: I’ll have everything packed for you by Friday, Mrs Blunt, as you asked. HILD BLUNT: You had better, my lad. PRINCESS XIANG: Remember, Zheasxian, do not speak of what you have found. Nor chart the way for others to follow. When you begin your journey be quite sure to travel alone. Only
then shall you reach Shangdu. Only then shall you see the bamboo palace.
cloudy. If I open the door who knows where I may be? Far from here, that’s for sure.
ZHENG: Only then shall you see the Jade Princess again.
HILDA BLUNT: Well, I never! He’s locked himself in with the finest china. Come out of there this minute. I’ve never known the like. You’ll have to pay for any breakages. It’ll come out of your wages. That’s if Mr Blunt and I don’t see fit to dismiss you forthwith. The finest china, I tell you, the finest china.
HILDA BLUNT: Mr Blunt – my dear Norman has an eye for china. I like a man with a bit of class, having refined tastes myself. It was how we met. There I was, looking for a china teapot and what do I find instead? The finest man a woman could ever do business with. It was china that brought us together, and it’s china that is our life together. We sell only the best. Look at that lovely pattern. It makes it just that bit special. There’s marks and flaws, mind, that’s why they’re seconds, but you need an expert eye to tell. ZHENG: She is among the myriad creatures. Pay no attention to her. PRINCESS XIANG: Remember, Zheasxian, do not speak of what you have found. SEBASTIAN: Someone left a handprint in the dust. I suppose it’s a way of making history. Somehow I must find the Jade Princess again. Her resemblance to the young woman at the dry-cleaners next to the Chinese takeaway is extraordinary. But I don’t think they can be the same. ZHENG: You are determined, sir, and that is to be admired. But take every care that you walk the true path. SEBASTIAN: And how may I do that? ZHENG: Kick away that box, sir. It is empty, and serves no purpose but to hide the door from sight. SEBASTIAN: What door is that? Surely not..? ZHENG: It is the door you must open. SEBASTIAN: There’s no door here. At least I can’t see a door. There’s a mirror. That’s all. I didn’t notice it before. It’s very dusty. ZHENG: Such are the encrustations of faded hopes of those whose courage failed them. HILDA BLUNT: Is there a window open somewhere? I’ll catch my death. SEBASTIAN: No, it’s not a window. It’s a glass door. I can’t see much now. It’s so
SEBASTIAN: There are oceans to sail, mountains to climb, deserts to cross, and all manner of wild beasts, wild men and dangerous women. I could drown or fall or die of thirst. But I know in my heart that I am intended to reach Shangdu. It is written somewhere. History is written in fragments. If one word is remembered I have discovered a new world. HILDA BLUNT: I’ve a good mind to break the door down myself. I’m within my rights, you know. What’s that noise? Sounds like water. What are you doing in there, you little heathen? ZHENG: Look upward. Move onward. There is fire in the sky. Follow that light. Your only hope is to be guided by the beacon we have lit for you. It is the most that we can do for you. The rest is a matter of your courage and determination in the face of adversity. SEBASTIAN: Yes, I fly toward another life of jade and ivory, imagining the journey through a mind of measureless highways. I am free of storms. Firm land is beneath my feet. And the moon is almost full. ZHENG: A child believes the world is there waiting to be claimed. Later we come to wonder where are those islands we shall never see if horizon lines are infinite and the world’s a sphere not quite perfect? Consider those men of the West who say they have sailed to the moon. Well, I ask if their journey was worth the effort when you consider what they found? SEBASTIAN: They found another way of looking at the world. They found a way through to other planets and stars beyond our galaxy. They found that it was possible to travel to the furthest reaches of the universe. Well, sort of.
ZHENG: What they found was dust. SEBASTIAN: And the Jade Princess? What of her? OFFICIAL: With regret I must inform that your application to visit the fabled city of Shangdu has been denied on this occasion. SEBASTIAN: I have to go there. It’s my destiny. OFFICIAL: We are unable to discuss the reasons for our decisions, due to the high volume of applications. Please be assured your application was considered with the greatest care. The People’s Republic of China thanks you for your interest in our country and wishes you every success in the future….Next!! SEBASTIAN: Zheng, where are you? Where is everyone? Anyone? And where is this? It looks to be very modern, very large and noisy. There’s no character. A city without a soul. There is no Jade Princess here, that’s for sure. I’ m not certain about much, but I’m certain about that. All this smog: it’s choking me. I can’t breathe. Clouds of smoke, of dust. Yes, it’s mainly dust. There was a city. Now all there is dust. The landscape – it’s like the moon.
PRINCESS XIANG: I was thinking about the moon. SEBASTIAN: But where are you? How may I find you? There is nothing but dust. PRINESS XIANG: It is moondust, Zheasxian. See how it sparkles. Every grain is so precious. A grain of moondust can water the whole earth. From one grain a million seeds may grow into flowers. From one grain comes enough rice to feed the famished children of the world. In Shangdu nobody starves. Wish for impossible things. In Shangdu they may be granted.. SEBASTIAN: Every second in China something significant happens. At least, that’s how it looks to me. PRINCESS XIANG: A time of acceptance is approaching. You must bear that in mind, Zheasxian. In certain seasons there are no more desires. If you do not want me… SEBASTIAN: No, no. I mean yes, I do want to be with you. PRINCESS XIANG: How long have you waited?
SEBASTIAN: All my life. But especially since 10:32 this morning. PRINCESS XIANG: Then you have waited a long time. Your journey was so arduous. It shows true devotion. SEBASTIAN: The first time I saw you in the dry cleaners, my princess…
river runs. Feel its rhythms of ebb and flow. Listen to its music. Taste its refreshing water. You have new life, new energy. In Shangdu anything is possible. See the hinds and gazelles in the meadows. Hear the peacocks in the bamboo palace. Maidens with flutes and lyres play heavenly melodies as you and I lie on silken cushions in the moonlight.
PRINCESS XIANG: You had a lot of clothes that needed cleaning. I wondered what sort of life you were leading. Now I know: you were moonstruck. Jade princesses have that effect on susceptible young men. I’m sure there’s a reason for it.
ZHENG: Madam, believe me: it is better not to wish for impossible things.
SEBASTIAN: Does there have to be a reason?
PRINCESS XIANG: That’s enough. Zheasxian, do not argue with a foolish old man. Wisdom sees a thing before it is, and can ask once again of the forest: ‘Where are the trees?’
PRINCESS XIANG: It is surely the effect of the moondust. Dreams are mad. So is love. The world is mad. I have often thought so. You notice these things at the dry cleaners. You notice many things. The world can seem a little dusty, but not with moondust. You have reached the sacred spring at the heart of the city. Beneath your feet a secret
PRINCESS XIANG: Why should we consider only what is possible? SEBASTIAN: Because everything is possible.
ZHENG: Too much education, you see. I warned her father about that.
London Nights BEST PROSE
by Katie Lumsden
his boy has never dreamt of far off lands. He has never read The Arabian Nights, because he has never read anything at all. Like every Aladdin he is poor. He does not remember his parents. Indeed, he remembers very little. Beneath his grubby face his mind and his childishness have been worn away by hardship and dirt. He lives day by day, begging for his dinner, stealing scraps of food when he dares. At night he sleeps curled up in front of warm shops and wakes splattered by mud from the road. And like every Aladdin, he finds his genie. This genie is not like other genies. It does not arrive in a magic lamp, nor even in a magic ring. It has no manacles, no Arabian dress, no blue skin. Instead this genie arrives in the guise of a shabbily dressed little girl, who promises to grant all his wishes. Three wishes? No. She is a generous genie. He gets seven. Hunger and strife have made the boy unimaginative. His first wish is for a loaf of bread. The girl steals it for him, and he eats it rav-
SHORT STORY enously, in large mouthfuls, and smiles up at her. His genie smiles back with a beautiful smile. Next he wishes for a kiss. She does not have to steal for that. It is about now he begins to realise that, with only five wishes left, he ought to use them carefully. Bread has made him wise, and for his third wish he wishes for a house. He does not see the girl dart around the neighbourhood on the lookout for empty houses, for families going away on holiday. He does not see her smash one back window with a brick and grab the spare key from the mantelpiece. All he sees is that he has wished for a house, and he has got a house. Sitting together on the floor by the fire of their new home the boy looks at the girl, and makes a fourth wish. He wishes for enough food to last the longest period of time he can think of – a year. He follows her to the larder, and she opens the door to reveal shelves upon shelves of food. That night they have a feast, eating vast mouthfuls with their hands, cooking hardly anything because they do not know how. She teaches him to toast bread and
cheese over a fire. Afterwards they find a bed upstairs on which to collapse, full, hands on their stomachs, laughing. “Three more wishes,” says his genie, as they fall asleep His fifth wish is for fancy clothes like those he has seen hanging up in the shops for as long as he can remember. She slips out the door, telling him to stay inside while she grants the wish. She returns, and pulls out the crumbled trousers, shirt, waistcoat and jacket she has stuffed into her deep coat pockets. He puts them on. Ill-fitting though they are, and at strange contrast to his dirty face, he thinks he looks like a gentlemen. The final touch: his genie takes off the shiny boots she has been wearing over her own, and hands them to him. Then she takes a smart new dress from her pocket, because she has granted herself a wish too. He saves the sixth wish. Days trip by, and the boy has never known happiness like this, and perhaps his genie has not either, for when he smiles at her she smiles back.
After ten days of happiness, he racks his limited brains for a sixth wish. He does not have a grand imagination. But he once saw a picture of the countryside in a book he stole to use for a pillow, so his sixth wish is to see meadows and flowers and sun and cows. So she leads him through the streets of the city, down alleys of brick houses, past collapsing slums, to the train station. His hand in hers, she rushes him past the train guard when he has turned away, and together they leap up onto the train just as it is about to pull out of the station. They hide under the seats when the ticket warden comes, and the boy stares out the window in sheer amazement at the world. When they step outside into the bright sunlight and green grass his eyes widen, because he really never realised before now that there was
another world out there beyond the smoke and dirt of London. And at the end of a glorious two weeks living in their house of wishes, of smiles and food every day, they build a fire in their back garden. They change into their old scruffy clothes to avoiding getting their new ones dirty, and then over the fire they toast fruit on sticks and bread and cheese. They sing the few songs they know between them. When, exhausted, they lay back on the grass, his genie asks him if he has a seventh wish. Drifting softly into sleep. He says, â€œI wish life was always like this.â€? She looks back at him with the sort of sadness that only a genie can know, the sorrow of not being quite able to grant a wish, for a wish for permanence is much like a wish for more wishes.
And when Aladdin wakes up, the fire is out and the sun up, and his genie is gone. He stands up, rubs his eyes confusedly, calls out, and receives no answer. He walks. He gets to the back door and pushes on it, but it is locked. He looks in through the window, and a family, two parents, two children, are sat around the table, eating off plates with knives and forks, all dressed up, all clean, all happy. He stares at them, and he does not quite understand. He wanders back to the streets that he has spent about a thousand and one nights on, in search of dinner and her. He looks in the alleyways and by the shops where he found her, but his genie is nowhere to be seen. She has slipped into the darkness of the London night like the magical being she is.
Gold Dust Photograph: Abelardo Morell
The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley Reviewed by David Gardiner Published by unsungstories.co.uk 1st September 2014 Formats: Paperback, ePub and mobi Paperback ISBN: 978-1-907389-25-2
disturbing and compelling read, Aliya Whiteley’s latest novella is set in a world in which women and girls have been made extinct by a grotesque fungus disease that starts in their wombs and moves outwards to engulf them entirely, causing death. The sinister brightly-coloured mushrooms sprouting from women’s bodies erupt through the soil wherever their corpses have been buried, potentially threatening male humanity or other living things if a mutation should give the fungus the ability to exploit other hosts. Although it’s only six years since females died out, they have become mythologized and romanticised, at least within the community in which the story is set, and are remembered as something close to goddesses and angels, quite literally mankind’s missing better half. Whiteley doesn’t try to describe the death throes of modern urban society under the impact of this catastrophe, but instead sets her story within a small communal group living a New Age semi-pagan lifestyle somewhere by the sea in a place called the Valley of Rocks. Nathan, the Valley resident who tells the story, is a man whose view of the world is spiritual and philosophical rath-
er than scientific, so there is little technical explanation offered regarding the nature of the deadly infection. This is surely a classic Hammer Horror scenario, but Whiteley’s writing has a lyrical and magical flavour and doesn’t dwell on the wretchedness of the human race’s predicament. The imagery and language are as poetic and elegant as we have come to expect from this author, but here applied to circumstances almost as bleak as those in the death camps during the Holocaust. Many writers and filmmakers have imagined human kind surrendering to its lowest urges as it totters on the brink of the abyss. In contrast to this the inhabitants of Whiteley’s community seem, at least initially, to accept the situation with the stoic detachment of Eastern mystics, remembering the life they have lost with affection and resignation, still enjoying each other’s fellowship, and even retaining a shred of hope that their predicament might somehow change for the better. Nevertheless this is a horror story, and the intensification of the horror begins when Nathan becomes the prisoner of a creature part-woman and part-fungus, covered in a
sponge-like material reminiscent of the infected returning astronaut in The Quatermass Experiment. Yet he still pauses to make his philosophical observations: ‘…it comes to me that I didn’t know what women gave to the world. It wasn’t about their lips, their eyes or the gentle quality of their voices. It was about the way that all men are a part of them. And now we are part of nothing.’ Without injecting a spoiler I think I can reveal that male humanity is indeed destined to become part of something again, and this redefining of the human race makes up the bulk of the story. I can also reveal that the philosophical detachment of the Valley of Rock’s inhabitants isn’t sustained indefinitely. It’s tempting to look for allegories, parables and social insights in this very strange and nightmarish literary creation, and they are almost certainly there. But I don’t think it’s my job as reviewer to suggest what they might be. I think it will be a case in which each goes to the well and draws from it something different. I will merely give you my assurance that this particular well is extremely deep.
Spring by Kate Jones You were lost to me in spring, as nature set ablaze. As life blossomed from pavement cracks, you faded into shadows. As spring sunlight etched through closed curtains, your breath crept out of the room, causing little fuss. I searched for you in daisies, the grass between my toes. The birdsong mocked me cruelly, My hopes melted with the snow. Each spring replays a reminder, New life mocking the old.
Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
Adventures in Carpet Slippers by Kate Jones He turns to me and I know heâ€™s thinking itâ€™s a black and white movie kind of day; a toasty fire, thick socks sort of sky. Flickers of time past when time stretched out before us like a red carpet. Before children, responsibility, commitment. Those times will return as those children find their wings stretching for new worlds. Their voices will leave the house with echoes leaving us to re-kindle those lost afternoons. The lines on our faces a road map of how far we have travelled. Ready for Autumn adventures.
Painting: Slavko Mali
The Portal Opened by A J Huffman I could see the moonâ€™s eye looking at me. I wondered how I could feel so small and so far away when I was but an armâ€™s length from its surface.
My skin glowed with the closeness of this silver goddess. I could not breathe as I took first one step, then another. It was a lifetime before I reached the invisible plane that separated us, shimmering like a membrane. I let myself fall into the open arms of a weightless dream.
Frankensteinâ€™s Android by A J Huffman
Her eyes flare like Saturn, fill with stars. Pulsating electric currents course through her skin. Re-animation is complete. She rises, processes the potential of her surroundings, shivers in delight. Everything scans as fuel for one function or another. She takes her time touching, testing, computing what is the most beneficial to consume. Her readings finalized, she reaches for her masterâ€™s throat. Freedom and food, accomplished with one piercing, a single prick.
Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
Foreign Gods, inc. by Okey Ndibe Reviewed by Ronald Adamolekun Paperback: 336 pages Publisher: Soho Press, Jan 2014 ISBN-13: 978-1616954451 Paperback: £8.99 Kindle edition:: £7.79
oreign Gods, Inc. is an overwhelming triumph, a bold testament to the invincible power of imagination and also to the ruinous obsession of Ike, its protagonist, with high speed living and the ‘here and now.’ His present obsession is with the effigy of Ngene, his Southeastern Nigerian townsfolks’ god of war, with a savage reputation for brutality, which he dreams of acquiring to sell to Mark Gruels, owner of a posh art gallery in New York city where Ike drives a cab. As the novel opens, Ike walks into Gruels’s gallery – the ‘Foreign Gods, Inc.’ of the title – to talk him into buying the effigy, which still sits at the corner of a shrine in his village. But Gruels outwits him, refusing to make a deal until he sees the statue. Ike’s life is falling apart already owing in part to his awkward lifestyle and also to his four-year-old marriage to his ‘beloved’ Bernita, humorously called Queen B because of her bee-like irascibility. Ike discovers that Bernita has been sleeping around with other men, and in the ensuing divorce battle, he is fleeced by this nympho, whose lust is evenly divided between sex and money. Ike, in his own past, has dated
women of many kinds, and regrets that he was not more patient with his college girlfriend with whom he knows he could have had a better life. Egged on by a friend he uses the remains of his savings and borrowed money to get to his native town in Nigeria, where he finds that the communalism he remembers has been supplanted by individualism and pernicious greed, reminding us of Salman Rushdie’s belief that ‘civilisation is the sleight of hand that conceals our nature from ourselves’. We are not left out of the mind games played by predatory preachers, especially Pastor Uka, who uses heartless theatric to milk his poor congregation, and attempts to inveigle Ike to part with a whopping $50,000 for a church project. The on-going contest between these two men is a substantial and very enjoyable part of the novel. In the village, the effigy is highly valued by its devotees though they are unaware that due to the carver’s incompetence the god has not been depicted in an attitude of warfare but rather in a relaxed and idle pose, no more than a lifeless artifact kept in a shrine. As a result of the white man’s
attempt to banish the god’s spirit, however, it now inhabits a river on the outskirts of the village. Skulking into the shrine of Ngene one night, Ike accomplishes his mission without anyone knowing. His uncle, the chief priest, is fast asleep as this brazen desecration goes on. At this point, the novel assumes the personality of a morality tale, although leaving out the consequences of Ike’s actions as he plans his journey back to New York. The novel offers a remarkable scrutiny of the feelings of disorientation and disillusionment that often mark the immigrant life. Ike is appalled at how useless his cum laude grade in Economics is when he faces a job interview with an investment company, where his accomplishments are ignored on account of his ‘crappy accent.’ ‘Accent’ is also the weapon with which Queen B stings. The society that Ike aches to join is run by a club of which he can never become a member.
Assignment by Richard W Strachan SHORT STORY
he document had been delivered that morning. She saw the envelope on the doormat, bearing her name. Firm instructions â€“ an interrogation of place. She assembled her equipment. Notebook, camera, DV recorder, dictaphone. July sun lanced down, cutting up the chrome beam of the balcony rail outside the window. She stood there to drink her coffee, seven floors up. Curls and scabs of flaking white paint twitched in the breeze. All the buildings around her were white. The sky was white. She could see the museum's silver hull far over on the other side of the motorway, its sinuously asymmetrical curves. The river glinted madly in slabs of white and blue. Further on, upstream, were the
new apartment buildings, the shipyard, the functioning dry dock for military contracts.
temporal topsoil, but for more valuable finds you had to develop ways of digging deep. From the passing cars One strategy was to the record which thrummed the overspill the motorway drone, the static roads, passengers would have seen a young woman, slight of hum of silent scrubland and build, standing on the walkway couch grass. Access the lost and raising above her head a cacophony of the riverside's small, black object. She would industrial past. She moved across a series be seen negotiating a way to of arterial roads. Walking gave the river's edge, where black her time for deeper reflection. scum undercut the tainted foam, to aim a DV recorder at Approaching the developed zone from an unexpected angle the buckling water. allowed her to sink into its In the museum's crenulated reality while its defences were shadow she sat and wrote up down. She could tease out its her notes. An ice-cream van meaning before it knew what whined its siren-song on the was happening. Areas like this other side of the forecourt. were resistant to interpretation. She was adjusting her Accretions of time, a equipment when she saw, stratigraphy of imposed against the rails at the back of significances, left only the the museum, a young woman surface level in easy reach. filming the river's tide as it There were rich pickings in the lapped up against the rotting
Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
timbers of a dismantled jetty. As she watched, the woman perched on a concrete bollard and took a notebook from her pocket. She caught the wink of a camera flash in the corner of her eye, felt herself observed by a recording lens â€“ spools of digital memory.
Harbour apartment complex further upstream. To get there she had to walk back up onto the path by the motorway. The wasteland between the museum and the complex was denied by a ten foot corrugated fence. The frontage was twelve storeys, descending a step at a time to half that height before At night, high up on the regaining the gradient further seventh floor, she assessed down the block. At the front the day's images. She applied there was an immaculate lawn, no correcting effects or featureless. Along the walkway augmentations. Because the by the side of the river there day had been so bright the were metal bollards designed to colours in the photographs look like hawser points. The were often bleached out, and balconies outside the windows the silver rim of the museum's gave the building an roof blended seamlessly with unshakable resemblance to a the sky. A solitary window, White Star or Cunard ocean black, seemed to hang cruiser. Not a scuff on the walls. unsupported in a vast expanse As she communed with the site of pallid blue, reflecting the through her camera, through geometry of the shipyard her dictaphone and her cranes in the distance. The scribbled notes, a stream of ziggurat of the apartment enthusiastic joggers hammered complex looked almost past her on the walkway. Below, Mediterranean in its colour on the water, two kayaks scheme of pale yellow and silently knifed by, piloted by terracotta. In other motionless figures intent on the photographs the frontage of the flat horizon and the shoulder of buildings looked like the wide the turning river. Looking back prow of an ocean liner. In from this perspective, the angles like these, in askance museum unexpectedly images off the true, you would reminded her of an Americanhope to glimpse the zone's style super-church, a vast character as it truly was, all hangar dedicated to monetised enforced meaning stripped worship. She wrote in her away. notebook. In one picture she recognised the figure of the The process had called up woman she had seen earlier other echoes. She caught sight that day. As she studied the of a second, then a third figure. photographs, as she listened to From the mid-point of the the audio files, she understood motorway path she could see a that she might well be looking young woman photographing, at a version of herself, a future sketching, recording down by echo, conjured up by the very the museum. Herself, at an process of sustained recording. earlier point perhaps? To her right, far over by the She turned her attention to the apartments, another woman
was filming aspects of the car park, where rhomboids of white light struck and bounced from the cars' roofs in the same way they overlaid the river's chopping water. Another woman, striding along the humped footbridge over the motorway, paused to capture the audio scene on her dictaphone. It was as if the area's accretions of time were packed too tightly; they fractured any tools used to dig them apart, sent shards winging off in all directions. Studying her photographs later, she was mildly surprised that the apartment complex housed no franchised coffee bar, residents-only, or anything in the way of private leisure facilities. Walking around the complex, looping through the cavernous underpasses between each section as if trying to unravel it, she paused when she saw one of the other women approaching her. She leaned against the metal rail and looked down into the water. When she looked back up, she saw the other woman pressing one of the buzzers and gaining access. The door closed, she was gone. She studied the list of names, the intercom grille. She pressed a button at random and the lock fizzed and disengaged. She took the stairs to the top. There was a viewing gallery looking down across the river onto the shipyard. The dull grey metal slabs of a naval vessel under construction, the welders and workers swarming over it in their tabards and hard-hats.
The mournful klaxon sounding for the shift-change could be heard in her own high rise. On the way out, she saw another woman glance over the railing and throw something into the water.
cinematography. At the post office she laid the package on the lip of the box. She paused. Something essential about the area had eluded her. She pulled the package from the slot.
She collated the report in the usual fashion. A printed document outlining the major points, with references to the accompanying flash drive of audio and video files. From voluminous notes and recordings, the assignment had been condensed to the salient facts and the supporting evidence. The original instructions had given only RIVERSIDE as the return address. There was a pre-paid padded envelope. She included her invoice and sealed the envelope shut. She walked out to the post office in the shadow of her high rise, which lay like a matte slab against the road and gave a curiously unreal effect to the air, like day-for-night
At the apartments she saw one of the women leaving by the same door she had used the previous day. The woman walked over to the railing and threw something into the water. She tried the door to the block and found it open. She paused on the threshold and watched the other woman stroll with familiar gait down the polished concrete walkway, in the direction of the museum. When she came to the lawn she turned left, heading towards the motorway. Inside the entrance hall she pressed the button for the lift. Dictaphone, video recorder, notebooks had all been left behind. All she had with her was the package, the assignment.
The top floor, the viewing platform, presented the city in uncluttered widescreen. She stood with her back to riverside. There was only one apartment, Number 1. She could see her high rise in the distance; white concrete, half a dozen lights in the windows. There would be someone over there now, looking out at the prow of the apartment blocks, seeing her looking back. Seeing her seeing herself. She turned and looked down at the river, the only permanent thing. The water held molecules of real memory; the backing to the canvas, what gave it weight and structure. She pressed the button for the lift. Behind the door of Flat Number 1, behind the eye of the spy hole â€Ś Outside. By the railing, she leaned over and threw something into the water.
Gold Dust Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
Francis Firebrace interviewed by Adele Geraghty & David Gardiner
first met Francis Firebrace in Glastonbury in 2002, whilst having tea at an outdoor café. I’m usually cautious of strangers who come too close but, as Francis neared my table with a cheeky smile, he immediately won me over. He jumped right in with a friendly greeting and introduced himself as an Aboriginal storyteller of ‘The Dream Time’. Everything he told me was joyous, his delivery so genuine that I was captivated and decided I wanted to know more about this man. Francis handed me some flyers containing his contact information and after an enjoyable chat, this charismatic man leaned down and hugged me, then kissed me on the cheek! From anyone else, I might have considered this rude, but from Francis it was delivered with the sincerity of an old friend and the promise of a new one; a promise impossible for me to doubt, or to forget. I decided that one day I would meet Francis again and work with him in some capacity. But that opportunity didn’t come for twelve years, and in that time I followed Francis’ rise in
popularity, as he performed in authentic Aboriginal dress for children and adults; Francis would go wherever he was needed. As I searched the internet for his information, I couldn’t find one negative comment about him. He was loved internationally and welcomed everywhere. His stories had been written by James Vance Marshsall in two books, 'Stories from the Billabong' and 'More Stories from the Billabong' published by Frances Lincoln Children's Books; both of which Francis illustrated in Aboriginal style. I would come to learn that he endured deep losses in life, yet he managed to attain what many never do, an inner peace and love. He shares these freely with everyone he meets, embracing anyone he feels may benefit from a hug and that means every-
The Two Moths and the Flowers of the Mountain as told by Francis Firebrace Long ago, two moths lived in the plains at the foot of the mountains of the Great Divide. In those days, the mountains were bare and colourless. There were no flowers on them; just little patches of snow in winter. Our two moths were as different as chalk from cheese. Bogong, the man-moth, was a bit of a dull fellow. His wings were a drab grey and brown, and he never flew far from home. Myee, his wife, was beautiful and adventurous. Her wings were wonderfully shaped and coloured. They were all reds and greens and blues and gold. They had almost as many colours in them as a rainbow. (continued next page)
one. When we met again for this interview, after all those years, I was amazed at the depth of his creativity and his capacity to share his vision on so many levels. For me, the greatest moment of the afternoon came when he told me the captivating story of ‘The Two Moths and the Flowers of the Mountain’. For those few moments, I was transported to childhood by Francis' artful storytelling. He casts a rainbow aura around the mundane and shows us how to wake, happy to be alive for one more day. There is magic in this world and Francis Firebrace has made it his mission to teach us that it lives in each of us. Adele
ried about) discrimination. His father’s family were nomadic, following the river system on the fringe of the Western Desert, camping, hunting and trapping, in accordance with their traditional way of life, but his mother managed to arrange his schooling, where he was a bright pupil, and his father taught him bush survival and introduced him to the oral tradition of his group. The life that Francis led after leaving this family almost defies description, and can best be understood as a continuing series of self re-inventions fuelled by a drive for excitement and adventure and a need to express him-
We met Francis in his small apartment with his partner Jane and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Ginger. He made us very welcome, served us drinks and sat us down around the dining room table to talk. We began with his background and amazing life story. Now 78 and seemingly in fine health, Francis had a part-Aboriginal-part-Sikh Indian father and an English/Prussian mother, but lived with Aboriginal people until he decided on leaving school to become an ‘Australian cowboy’. Australia was a racist society back then, and having a black father and a white mother was not acceptable to a lot of people, but Francis never felt (or at least never worFrancis Firebrace and Jane Singleton The Two Moths and the Flowers of the Mountain (continued)
Bogong and Myee were happy together — though Myee did sometimes wonder if, when she grew older and was no longer beautiful, her husband would still love her. One day, she said to him, “Do you know what makes the top of the mountains go white?” Bogong said he didn’t know. Her husband didn’t think much of this idea. “We are happy in the plains,” he said. “Let us stay here. The mountains are another world, and dangerous. What goes on there doesn’t concern us.” But Myee wouldn’t be put off. And one autumn morning, she set out to fly to the mountains. (continued next page)
Adele & Francis David & Francis self artistically. It began with a period spent tending sheep (because Australia is not Montana) while living in a fourwheel horse-drawn wagon, some years as a lone yachtsman in a sailing boat, time spent on the city streets of Australia distributing pamphlets for organisations like Greenpeace, and later careers as a
filmmaker and eventually a world-wandering storyteller and interpreter of Aboriginal culture. The man himself simply overflows any categories in which you try to place him. His bewildering list of accomplishments and interests are the mere surface manifestations of a restless and expansive soul with an insatiable appetite for life and drive to communicate. Most importantly, he is a person blessed with a super-sized social competence, to whom other human beings, regardless of age, gender, race or anything else, simply gravitate. For Francis all the inhabitants of the earth are his brothers and sisters – that is what he calls them
Francis in traditional costume working with children The Two Moths and the Flowers of the Mountain (continued)
The mountains looked near. But Myee’s wings were small, and though she flew as fast as she could, and never stopped for a rest, it took her a long, long time to reach the mountains. By the time she got there, she was very tired. And it was getting dark and cold. Looking up, Myee could see that the mountains above her were white. “If I fly just a little higher,” she said to herself, “I’ll be able to see what the white stuff is.” Suddenly it started to snow. wings. Her wings beat slower and slower. And slower and slower. And slower still – until there came a time when they couldn’t beat at all. And, like a plane without its engines, poor Myee spiralled round and round and down and down, until she crashed into the side of the mountain. (continued next page)
Francis’ parents and children and how he regards them – and because of his openness and sincerity it’s the way that most people treat him in return. Only the Dali Lama could rival Francis as a hugger of people he has just met. In him we catch a glimpse of the charisma of a Jesus or a Pied Piper. If anyone were to say that they disliked him we would have to assume they were telling a lie or were afflicted with some terrible spiritual or mental malady. Such is the strength of Francis’ affability. This philosophy of life, Francis claims, has its roots in the attitudes of the Aboriginal people he grew up with, and the many things that he learned from his father, such as always to give more than what you take, and never to
speak ill of others because (in one of his favourite phrases) they are your brothers and your sisters, and if you’ve got something to say to someone, say it to their faces, not behind their backs. Travelling around with his parents Francis met and got to know many different Aboriginal groups and settlements and became fascinated by their way of life, their stories and their art, and this was the treasury that was to serve him well in his later incarnation as ambassador for those he regards as his people. An only child himself, Francis has had a marriage and a number of longterm relationships, making him in total the father of three girls and four boys. The photograph above shows his own father and mother and some of his children. Although he comes across as one of the happiest and best adjusted people one could even imagine meeting, Francis’ life has not been without its tragedies
Francis in South Africa
The Two Moths and the Flowers of the Mountain (continued)
Bruised and frightened, she crawled into a crevice between the rocks. The snow fell and fell and fell. It kept on falling. After a while the top layer of snow turned to ice. Myee was trapped, sealed up like a fly in amber. She shut her eyes, and slept. She slept all winter. It was the warmth of the spring sun that woke her. Opening her eyes, she saw that the snow and ice had disappeared. She crawled out from among the rocks. She spread her wings. And, to her surprise, saw they were a dull grey. Their beautiful colours had gone. She looked down the mountainside. And, to her amazement, she saw that it was covered by a carpet of the most beautiful flowers. The flowers were wonderfully (continued next page)
and low points. The loss of his first daughter to a brain tumour, leading to the depression and suicide of his wife shortly after, were the two events that ‘shook him out of his comfort zone’ and started him along the path which he still travels of self-examination and permanent re-evaluation of everything . Financial success means nothing to him, self-realisation everything. ‘I once knew a man,’ he told us ‘who was so poor when he died that all he had was money’. Is it possible for anybody to aspire to the lovability of a Francis Firebrace? Easy, he tells us – you need to like yourself and you need to be yourself. That’s all. Everybody wants to be accepted and loved. Give them genuine acceptance and love and you will get the same in return.
Francis often takes his ‘act’ (which is himself) into schools and youth clubs to perform to children, an activity in which he delights. He told us a story about the most shocking and alarming thing he has discovered about British schoolchildren. As part of his presentation he routinely asks them to name five things that they like about themselves. In groups of the young of this country the appeal seldom yields a single answer. All right, he modifies the request, tell me three things. Still silence. ‘My god, brothers and sisters,’ Francis says despairingly to the teachers, ‘what went wrong? I thought schools had something to do with education and personal development.’ Francis has no time for false modesty or a poor self image. We are all amazing, he tells us. He is amazing too. The difference is that he knows it and is not embarrassed about it. If we aren’t proud of who we are, if we don’t love and respect ourselves, how on earth can we expect anybody else to love and respect us? Francis is not one to mince words. His views on the mens
Francis has a website at: www.francisfirebrace.com Short film about Francis here: http://vimeo.com/9176605
The Two Moths and the Flowers of the Mountain (continued) shaped and coloured. They were all reds and greens and blues and gold. They had almost as many colours in them as a rainbow. The melting snow had washed the colours out of Myee’s wings, and turned them into the most lovely flowers. Myee flew back to the plains. She was afraid that now she was no longer beautiful, her husband might not want her back. But she need not have worried. Bogong had spent all winter searching for her. He was overjoyed to see her. Together they danced over the plains. “I fear I am no longer beautiful,” Myee said.
born again. Now you don’t have to worry about it fading. Now you can be sure it will last for ever.” The End Gold Dust
The Art of Francis Firebrace
Gold Dust Issue 26
n his latest book of poetry Outfoxing Hyenas, Alan Price by Alan Price draws us in to his reviewed by imagination while taking us through the myriad Lorraine C Brooks experiences of life, issuing us a passport into his world of vision and ingenuity. We are Paperback: 80 pages indeed taken not only on a Indigo Dreams Publishing 2012 tour of life, but to university. ISBN: 978-1909357006 The first section, Travelling £5.85 Lighter, is a misnomer of the most wonderful sort. We are privy to his exploration of futility in “Lowering the Transmission”, and to the ineffectiveness we all feel when faced with a loved one’s addiction, as observed in “Would Be Writer”: …Or was she now sinking, with her ball and chain, into debt, money schemes and mad risks some unproduced, defiantly headless, wonder?
Am I being too literal? I think not. The journey through “Assorted Histories”, the book’s second section, may cause one to gasp as Price continues to catapult us through thoroughly graven images that startle us like lightning, as in “Festive End”, or “Man on a Mobile Kindertransport Statue”. Price juxtaposes remembrances of anti-Semitic torture in concentration camps, with modern-day backpacks sporting frivolous images, making one wonder what it all meant, and how far we may not have come. These statues’ suitcases are older and heavier affairs. Unlike thirties leather bear no plastered hotel stickers of exotic locations, with captive sunspots. Celebrity toffs once flashed that kind of bulk luggage in a decade of hate and Semitic stars. Price questions our ability to oppress, as well as our ability to survive, as he also does in “Tourist Visiting the Anus of the World. He confronts our ability to reduce our fellow souls to a mere unpleasant memory, while devouring a tasty meal in modern-day Auschwitz: ‘Anus of the world’ wrote Dr. Kremer in his diary, then hastily blotted the ink; smudging a beautiful calligraphy before a kiss and the taking of supper. We may not want to look at our history or our present, but we cannot escape Price’s invitation to look at the crimes of mankind and the consequences of even our most charitable acts. If literature’s purpose is to make one think and reflect, then this is literature in its highest order. The book’s final section, “Destinies”, continues to poke us in the heart, bursting the bubble of naiveté with razor sharp strokes. In “To Lift the Voices” we are privy to the oddly deafening sounds of weightless snowflakes, and the disquieting response of a friend in “Brought to Time” who “…nods back out of fear”. A brilliant and defiant bow to all that is ironic and vain. If you want to be delighted by the unexpected, the dark and mouldy; if you can triumph in irony and deceit; if you delight in splitting life into its atomic microlevels, read Outfoxing Hyenas. Just do it.
The Host by Gary Hewitt
’ll never forget the Sunday Mickey One Tooth put me and Bobby the Fish together. I was naked and hanging above a barrel of oil with Nobbly Norm pointing at my gonads with a pair of nasty looking secateurs. The Fish ballsed up on a similar number to end up in Mickey’s bad books. Rumour has it he put a monkey on the wrong horse and ended up over the same barrel. So, here we are on March 15th 2012 sitting in a car being driven by the Fossil. Also with us is someone called Rosie Pumpkin or some such fine name. 'She's some Russian bloke's ginger-headed daughter that Mickey's gone ape for and he's given us the job of baby sitting her. It's a special favour Mickey's cooked up and we've been told not to cock it up. We arrive outside the Tower of London. I tell the Fossil to come back in three hours. I help Rosie out of the motor before the Fish. “Just make sure you look after her. She’s a good girl that one.” We wave him off. The Fish leads us to the Tower. “You will enjoy this place Rosie. It’s full of history and weapons and things,” he says. “Can I have ice cream?” “It’s raining,” responds the Fish. She laughs.
“Where I come from it’s always raining. Please, get ice cream.” The Fish leads her to a kiosk amidst a hail of curses under his breath. I leave her with him whilst I take a leak in the cleanest bog I’ve ever seen. I find the Fish leaning against a railing having a long drag. “Where is she?” He burps and points over to the queue by the kiosk. “Well she aint in Peckham is she? She’s over there ordering her mint choc chip.” I glance left and right. I see a few sprogs, an old dear and her fella and a few Japanese punters taking pictures. “She aint over there mate.” “Of course, she is. She was just about to get served.”
SHORT STORY I shake my head. He looks up and scratches his head. “Mate, tell me you haven’t lost her. Tell me you’re just winding me up.” The Fish barges over to the kiosk and sends school kids flying. Their teacher flares up and the Fish tells her to do one. “She was just here. She can’t have vanished into thin air,” he protests. “Have you any idea what’s going to happen to us if she disappears. You better find her ‘cause it’s your balls up.” “Our balls up you mean.” “What you on about. I just took a slash whilst all you had to do was watch her.” We’re nose to nose and the tourists ignore the Tower to have a butcher’s at us. I break off and think.
“So what the hell are we gonna do now then? I aint being funny but Mickey will go spare when he finds out she’s AWOL. We have to find her.” The Fish stubs out his snout and points to the river. “I’ll go and have a look down the front. Why don’t you have a look up top. I mean she should stand out with her red hair.” I’m not convinced but at least we’re doing something. I dash up to the top of Tower Hill and glance left and right. I swear I see a shock of red up by All Hallows. I sprint off hoping to catch our charge. I’m panting hard and close in on my prey. I tap her on the shoulder relieved my chase is done. “Who the hell are you pal?” she replies in a thick Hackney accent. She faces me and it aint Rosie. Her boyfriend advances. I hold my hands up. “Sorry darling, I thought you was someone else.” I don’t hang about for the colourful tirade she delivers. I certainly don’t wait for her fella’s size eleven’s to implant themselves into my jacksie. I head back to the Tower to see a gormless Fish. He shrugs his shoulders and looks at his watch. “Why don’t you bell The Fossil and ask him to come down and give us a hand,” he suggests. “You’re having a giraffe. Mate, he’s probably back indoors and a having a siesta. Anyway, he’d be straight on the blower to Mickey. If we ring him he’d be bringing Nobbly Norm.” The Fish agrees. We head towards Tower Bridge in the
vain hope she might have wandered up there. “Where the hell could she be? She can’t have gone far for God’s sake. Just think for a moment, if you was in her shoes what would you do?” The Fish screws his face up in deep thought. “I’d be on the mobile to her old man or her bouncer, or she might look for a copper or something. Either way we’re in the brown stuff.” There’s no sign of her on the bridge. Our eyes scour the north and south side yet we know we’re wasting our time. “There’s nothing for it Rag, you’ll have to ring the Fossil. I’m not standing here all day.” “We could do a runner. I’ve got a score on me, we could get back home and go elsewhere.” The Fish shakes his head. “And go where? You know Nobbly Norm or those Russians would soon catch up with us. Face it mate, it’s best we get this over with” I shrug and punch in the Fossil’s number and get no response. “Brilliant, the old git’s out for the count. Now what?” The Fish snatches the phone off me and dials again and again. I’m ready to tell him to jack it in before he surprises me by saying hello. “Yeah, it’s us. Listen, you aint going to believe this but Rosie’s done a runner on us. Yeah, I know Mickey’s going to go ape. Yeah, I know they’re building a new flyover in Deptford. Yeah, I know Nobbly Norm’s feeling a bit
peckish. Yeah, I’ll see you in a couple of hours.” He hands my phone back. We head over for a last snack. “I’m not that hungry, Fish, but I can’t face Mickey on an empty stomach. I’m having a bacon sarnie, how about yourself?” He orders a cheese and onion. I don’t get too much change out of a score after ordering a couple of cans of coke. We say little and keep our eyes peeled on the skyline waiting for our taxi of doom. A Merc swings by the embankment and with a burp and a fart the Fish orders me to my feet. We see the passenger door fly open and expect the hobnailed boot of Nobbly Norm to plant itself onto the ground. Instead, an elegant white shoe lands and is followed by a faShe has a huge smile on her face and The Fossil clambers out of the driver’s side looking beyond smug and a cheek full of red kisses. “Me and Peter have been to the Savoy for the afternoon. The bedrooms are so nice inside. Peter is such an incredible man.” The old sybarite opens up the rear door and orders us inside and taps the side of his nose. It turns out the crafty old sod got Rosie’s number whilst they were nattering on the way up here and belled her whilst the Fish was in dreamland earlier on. He thought it’d be a laugh to teach us two a lesson and show the young lady what he’s got in the tank. To be honest I could give him a slap but I aint half relieved. At least Nobbly Norm won’t be chewing on a hot dog.
Lily Brooke, Singer/Songwriter interviewed by David Gardiner Lily Brooke is the teenage singer/songwriter who has made such an impact at recent Gold Dust live events. She lives in Newcastle but first came down to London to sing for us when she had just turned 14. She’s 17 now and her songs and performances just go from strength to strength! She currently holds the title of South Tyneside Young Performer of the Year.
gather that you began writing songs during an illness when you were about 11? I don’t usually talk about that period of my life much, as it definitely had nothing to do with my chosen career path. I’ve always known I wanted to be a singer since I was young and I wanted to be like ‘The People on the TV’. However I can’t exactly say it hasn’t helped with some topics I’ve chosen to write about in the past. It was a dark period of my life and music has helped me through most of my problems, but I believe everybody goes through tough times in their life. I would never want to end up a sob story, ‘I’m doing this for my cat, RIP’. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy, it’s merely that when I look back on my life I want to believe that everything I have achieved I worked hard for and it’s not because of an illness or an experience that was out of my control. That’s why I admire artists who don’t let their personal lives interfere in their aspirations. Is music something that’s important in your family? I’d say that music is rather important to my family as a whole. I grew up listening to a diverse range of genres split between my family members - from Metallica to The Smiths to ABBA
but as far as musicianship I pretty much decided that all for myself. I’ve been writing lyrics from the age of 6, given that private instrument lessons just weren’t available to me back then. It wasn’t until I found an old keyboard at the age of 13 and began teaching myself that my Mam agreed to get me lessons. I wrote what I would class as my first song, ‘Eclipse’, about a month into playing piano. I hope I have gotten a bit better since then! Would you like to be signed to a record label or do you prefer to be independent? I think any singer/songwriter in my position would benefit from a record label obviously due to the vast amount of contacts in that area. It all depends on the work they do within that and how much control they would take. For instance, I’ve been offered contracts that basically require rights to all my material past present and future which nobody would be happy with. However if I found the right contract that wouldn’t force me sign over my life I would happily consider sacrificing a certain amount of control. This is just something you have to be prepared for. You’ve had a lot of success in competitions. Would you consider entering the big ones on TV?
I never really know how to answer this when people ask me but I’ll give it my best shot. The thing is what these competitions offer is not exactly the right vibe for a songwriter. I want to make music. I don’t just want to sing I want to play, write, sing and perform on a whole in front of an audience and hopefully have them appreciate what I do. A goal in my career would be to perform on a show such as Jools Holland; it’s not a competition it’s just a respectful broadcast of musicians. Do you feel that your work fits into any particular musical category? I’ve been compared to Adele on many occasions – especially when I perform more solemn songs with just piano and vocals. When I first started playing piano, Lady Gaga had brought out a few of her singles from her first album. I loved her image and I admired her success, although it wasn’t until I saw her performing acoustic versions of her songs that I realised how talented she really was. It was her piano versions that made it all click into place for me with how I wanted to perform. On top of this, I’m influenced by many other artists. Even though I take inspiration from these performers, I believe that if there is an artist
already out there who is exactly like yourself then you should aspire to make a change. I want people to feel like I’m something new and they’re going to be seeing something a little different. I’m not saying I’m writing progressive or experimental music’ it’s just that I want to be seen as an individual. Who have influenced you as a songwriter? There’s a lot to list but to narrow it down, there is Lady Gaga, Tori Amos, Tim Minchin and Muse who are all amazing pianists and classically influenced. I think Jess Buckley’s arrangements are beautifully crafted and inspirational. I was brought up on older music with ABBA and Hot Chocolate so I have too many guilty pleasures! As far as listening to music currently, I also like Biffy Clyro, Nirvana, Radiohead and System of a Down. I think Serj Tankian is an amazing songwriter. Do you think in terms of emotion when you set out to write a song? I definitely do, yes, I will usually have a specific mood or feel to the song even if I can’t explain what it is. A lot of people wondered how I could write about heart ache at the age of 13. How do people write about death before they’ve experienced it themselves? Art is not always based on reality. I think that everybody feels and interprets a song in a different way based on their past experiences and I would be honoured if someone were to relate to one of my songs. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve been through the same thing. I doubt
I’ve had the same experiences make sacrifices around the as Jeff Buckley yet every time I time of exams and such. hear ‘Grace’ I feel how he felt. What would you like to In practical terms, where and change about your life? when do your musical ideas Everybody has regrets and come to you? feels like they need to try hardI try not to push for ideas. I find er or slow down or that they the ideas come to me when I’m confuse things, but I honestly just messing around on the pi- wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t know if I would be who I am ano, or I might say a phrase I like and begin by working off its today, and I love what I do. When I made the choice to rhythm. I do believe the most consider music as a profession important part of the song is the hook and I usually base the I was told I’d be giving it up as a hobby. And it is true! There rest of the song around this are lots of professional musipart – especially the chorus. I cians who have completely find the whole songwriting contrasting hobbies because process quite natural. I find it music is their work. Personally, easier to express emotion I consider myself lucky. How through music than lyrics, many people get to come which seems a little backwards home from a day of work and but it’s how I work. I write anysay ‘I’m just going to go do where I can. I’ve got masses of some more work to relax’? scrap paper with lyrics, chords Apart from workaholics, of and metaphors scribbled all course. over them. My family have to What would be your ideal fucheck old envelopes before ture ? throwing them away in case they have lyrics on the back. It Well I’ve just started back at usually depends where the my second year of college but song originates from. I rarely after this year I’d love to move start with lyrics unless it’s down to London and begin a something I’ve previously used degree in songwriting. Currentin a poem that I want to exly I’m also looking for managepress through music. ment and hopefully this is something that will benefit my Has your dedication to music future where record companies affected your personal and are concerned. Ideally, the social life? dream is to be working with a Definitely. I’m AWFUL at reply- label that will respect me as a ing online. I hate ignoring peo- songwriter and be able to market me in a way we both see fit. ple but I honestly don’t get It’s a distant dream but if I don’t much time! I wouldn’t change put in the effort, I think that’s anything though. My close friends and family understand the only thing I’d regret. that I have to make sacrifices in Hear some of Lily’s songs at: my social life – given the choice I’ve made – but they are soundcloud.com/lilybrooke youtube.com/user/lilybrooke13 really the only people I need to understand me. It was easier in Gold Dust school as most people had to
Kiss by Marie Lecrivain
good night’s sleep.” iss me.” “I know that. I’m Prince “No.” “You know what you can do Malcolm. Charming is my third “Why not?” cousin twice-removed on my to end all this.” mother’s side.” “You’re ugly.” “I know. But you’re not “He’s a dreamboat.” “Beauty is in the eye of the exactly Prince Charming.” “He’s a dullard and he has beholder.” “Yes, and you’re hideous.” “Nonsense. I have texture and depth.” “You have warts and bumps.” “Circumstantial. That shouldn’t be an impediment to kissing me.” “I can’t.” “Why? I have a mouth.” “You have a mouth, but no lips. And your tongue isn’t the most sanitary thing in the world.” “I promise no tongue.” “Your tongue creeps me out. You just caught a fly.” “I’ll keep my tongue in my mouth.” “It’s not just that.” “Then, what?” “You have terrible table manners. You fart incessantly. You croak and belch at the end of every meal. You leave slimy footprints on my favorite pillow.” “I’m keeping it real.” “You’re keeping me from having a life and a Artwork: Slavko Mali
OCD. He spent half his kingdom’s finances on private shoe detectives and foot massages. That’s not very dreamy. That’s bad fiscal management.” “He was in love.” “He was obsessed. Not the same thing.” “He found his true love.” “Yes, he did. And now, he’s about to be deposed by his subjects. He doubled their taxes to pay off his debts. Cinderella is miserable. She’s doomed to wear glass slippers for the rest of her days. She can’t walk anywhere. She’s carried around in a litter, even to the bathroom. How is that romantic? Again, not smart.” “That’s another thing. You have no concept of romance.” “I do so. There’s nothing more romantic for me than to spend time with you. You’re the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning.” “That works for you. Too bad it doesn’t work for me.” “And I do plenty of romantic things for you.” “Like what?” “I serenade you in the morning.” “That’s not singing. It’s croaking.” “It’s singing! I can’t help it if it comes out as croaking.” “It’s horrible.” “I rescued your favorite golden ball from the swamp.” “I almost wish you hadn’t. That’s what got me into trouble in the first place.” “You’re the one who broke your promise to me. You could have done all the things that are happening now without the interference of your father, the King. You have no one to blame but yourself.”
“I already apologized for that.” “I keep you company at mealtimes.” “You keep everyone away from me.” “Actually, the word around the palace is that no one likes to eat with you. You constantly criticize everyone’s table manners. You should really let up on that.” “That’s not true.” “Yes it is. You’re meanspirited.” “No, I’m not. You’re just stupid.” “You just proved my point. You believe that everyone needs to be perfect around you, just because you are beautiful and a princess. That’s not enough. Otherwise, your father wouldn’t have commanded you keep your promise, and be my companion.” “Don’t remind me.” “You can always count on me to tell you the truth.” “Thank you… I suppose.” “Let me tell you something Princess. If I can willingly spend time with you when no one else will, take enjoyment in your company, and be honest with you, then what does this tell you?” “That you’re a masochistic jerk?” “That I love you.” “Oh, please don’t start that again.” “I do.” “I don’t believe you.” “Have I let you down, even once?” “No.” “Then, you should know that true love is right here, happening right now in front of you. How rare is that?”
“Pretty rare.” “Well then, you should take advantage of this opportunity while you can.” “You’re just saying that because you want to be turned back into a prince.” “You’re right. But I love you and I’ll always love you - as a prince, a pauper, a frog, or an amoeba.” “What’s an amoeba?” “Never mind. There is a practical side to this situation that you’re not seeing.” “What’s that?” “You can kiss a frog, but you can’t get busy with one. You can make love to a prince. Our children will be stunning.” “I haven’t made up my mind yet.” “I know. I respect that. I just wanted to point out the advantages. I’m a practical prince. Romance is for sissies. True love is about going the distance, respect, and staying devoted to the person who means the most to you in the world, but without compromising the truest part of who you are. It’s about taking the good with the bad and finding joy in both. You’ve got that with me.” “I suppose you’re right.” “Have I ever steered you wrong?” “No, come to think of it, you haven’t. That’s a definite plus.” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” “Then, kiss me. You’ll be ever so glad you did.” “On one condition.” “Yes?” “You have swamp breath. Eat a mint first.”
A Time to Every Purpose by Ian Andrew reviewed by David Gardiner Paperback: 446 pages John A. Hooper (26 May 2014) ISBN-10: 0992464153 ISBN-13: 978-0992464158 Paperback: £11.36 Kindle edition: £1.99
ost of us associate counterfactual history stories in which Hitler won the Second World War with Robert Harris’ novel Fatherland, a detective story set in a carefully constructed and plausible version of a world twenty years on from a Nazi victory. There is a logical progression from the 1940s to the new world order that Harris has imagined, with a role for America and China and a very understandable striving for respectability on the part of the new pan-European superstate, whose main remaining task is the effective concealment and denial of the Holocaust. There is no such continuity from a historical past in Andrew’s counterfactual world, the Jews seem never to have existed and the scapegoat group chosen by the Reich seems to be the Christians, or more precisely a specific Christian sect called the Turners. Slowly the reason for all these anomalies emerges, because this is a time travel story in which a group of Nazi scien-
tists and engineers have developed the technology that will allow people to travel back in time and change the course of history. The snag however is that Leigh Wilson, the greatest scientist of her generation who has given them this ultimate Time Lord power, is disloyal to the regime, and, with the help of another high level mole (her love interest) sets out to restructure human history in a way that will sew the seed of the Nazi overlords’ destruction. The well-known inherent paradoxes in this kind of plot are reasonably well handled and there are no glaring absurdities that are going to make you laugh out loud. The later parts of the story take us to ancient Palestine, where some events that will be familiar to us all are taking place. To reveal more than that would be unkind. Clearly this isn’t a new theme for science fiction, we all know about Mark Twain’s 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and H.G.
Wells’ The Time Machine published six years later, not to mention the Dr. Who series on TV and the Terminator series in the cinema, so it’s legitimate to ask whether Andrew has come up with any new angle on the basic idea, and I don’t think that he has. This is less of a science fiction story than an adventure story and a love story. The historical and philosophical underpinnings are frankly a bit insubstantial, but it’s a page turner with lots to keep you guessing and involved, provided you can suspend your disbelief thoroughly enough to take the narrative seriously. It’s a cinematic kind of book, never dull, fast-paced, not overly demanding, and while the characters are reasonably three-dimensional they do tend a bit towards stereotype. I would recommend it for light reading on a long flight, or on the sun-drenched beach of your destination.
You, Everywhere by Bronmin Shumway
Walking the stone beach at dawn I see a small cliff and make out, between the coalescing and yanking waves, your face in the rock. Love watches from a lighthouse, and blinks. And again, in the Czech bakeryâ€™s pastry case among the sweet breads, a loose cherry on the parchment is your mouth. Love rots in me like a tooth, I have known such sweetness. Over the hill, the old house sits and it is you on the swing, holding your guitar like a child, singing to it like a child. It is only morning, and already you are everywhere. Apologies and credit extended to Bronmin Shumway, whose poem 'The Dress', page 28, Issue 25, was miscredited. ~ The Gold Dust Team.
Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
Normal by Andrew Pidoux SHORT STORY
hat’s your name then?” came a voice under the door. It sounded like the voice of my dad, but it was older. “Why re you asking me that if you can’t even see me?” I said. “The first thing you should ask is ‘open the door.’” “But you might not do it if I asked that,” said the voice warily. “I guess not, I said. “My dad told me not to open the door to anyone, so I guess I wouldn’t open it if you asked me.” “Why did you tell me to ask you to then, silly,” said the voice. “I don’t know,” I said. “You just wanted me to ask so you could say no,” said the voice with a laugh. “No,” I said, “I just wanted you to be more normal. A normal person wouldn’t just start by saying ‘what’s your name?’” “But I am normal,” said the voice. “I’m the most normal guy.” “Are you?” I said. “Yes,” said the voice. “But just because you say you are doesn’t necessarily mean you are,” I said, shuffling closer to the door so I could look under it, but outside was too dark to see. “Haha, yes it does,” said the voice.
“But I could say I’m Buzz Lightyear,” I said, looking over at my Buzz Lightyear doll on the windowsill, “but you wouldn’t believe me would you?” “Yes, I would,” said the voice. “Well, I am Buzz Lightyear,” I said.
“I told you,” said the voice. “I’m normal.” “No, I mean your name,” I said. “That is my name,” said the voice. “What, Mr. Normal?” I laughed, straining my eyes under the door in the darkness. “No, just Normal.” “But is it your first or second name?” I asked. “I only have one name. Normal,” said the voice. “Don’t you mean Norman?” I said. “No,” said the voice. “That is not what I mean.” “Well, that’s funny.” I said. “I know,” said the voice. “Can I come in?” “No,” I said. “I already told you that my dad doesn’t let me let anyone in.” “He doesn’t let you let weirdoes in, but she’s ok with Normal,” said the voice. “No he isn’t,” I said. “Yes, he is,” said the voice. “How do you know?” “Because I know your dad, and he’s ok with me.” “Nice to meet you Buzz,” “If you know him, what said the voice. “I’m glad we got does he look like?” I said, lookto the bottom of that.” ing up at the picture of my dad “I’m not Buzz Lightyear,” I in the frame on the sideboard. said. “Well,” said the voice, “he’s “I know,” said the voice. about thirty-five years old, with “What about you?” I said. longish black hair, and he has Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
a birthmark on his face, a large birthmark that covers his left eye and goes all the way down his neck. “That’s right, that’s him,” I said, “That’s my dad.” “See?” said the voice. “See what?” “Your dad knows me, and I know him.” “I’ve never heard dad say he had a friend called Normal,” I said. “No?” said the voice. “Well we’re not so much friends as acquaintances.” “How do you know him?” I asked. “We met each other at a place where they remove birthmarks,” said the voice. “Really?” I said. “Have you got a birthmark too?”
“Yes,” said the voice. “It is also over my left eye and going down my neck, a lot like your dad’s.” “Really?” I said, looking up at the picture of my dad on the sideboard. “Do you also have long black hair and wear a leather jacket?” “I do have long black hair and I often wear a leather jacket,” said the voice. “You’re not my dad are you?” I said. “No,” said the voice, “I’m Normal.” “But my dad is normal too,” I said. “No, your dad is not Normal,” said the voice. I didn’t say anything to that, but just sat there, listening to the sound of the voice breathing under the door. I could also
smell the voice’s breath. It smelled of peppermint sometimes and something else other times. “I can’t,” I said, looking up at the windowsill where Buzz Lightyear had slumped forward so that his visor touched the top of the radiator. The radiator was smeared with blood. “Let me in,” repeated the voice. “I can’t,” I said. “I really can’t.” There was also blood on me, on my hands and on my leg where my hand had been resting. But it wasn’t coming from my hand or my leg. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from. “You are not Normal, you are my Dad,” I said and closed my eyes to swallow the dark.
Gold Dust Photograph: Joe at baldpunk.com
Dredging the Lake by Hunter Markham SHORT STORY
he day after his fight with Jeff Rikers, Hal used a small hacksaw to cut through the ring he wore on his right hand. Once or twice he nicked himself with the blade and blood beaded through his skin. When he succeeded in sawing through the soft gold he bent the band open and pried the ring from his finger. It had sunken into his flesh ages ago and this was the only way he could get it off. He had to do it if he wanted to fight again. A boxer couldn’t be allowed to wear a ring while he fought. Hal held the bent remains in his palm. It was so fragile he wondered how it had stayed on for so long, how long it might’ve remained if he hadn’t sawed it off. He closed his fingers over the ring and kissed the end of his hand where thumb and fingers wrapped over each other. It was the class ring Sandy had given him after graduation, the one she had gotten her uncle to custom fit to Hal’s finger because the regular sizes wouldn’t slide over his swollen and popped joints. The two of them had been sitting in Hal’s Mustang, “We’ll be happy. We just have to get away from here.” Hal remembered rubbing his thumb over the ring. It felt so strange and new on his finger where she’d put it just min-
utes before. Sandy left two summers later but by then the ring had become a part of him. He made a ritual of taking it off and stowing it in his locker, red gem facing forward, before he wrapped his hands for a workout or sparring session. Each day, he put the ring back on before leaving the gym. Over time it had gotten more difficult to slide it on and off and Hal had taken to using soap to grease the band. His knuckles and joints had swollen more since that night overlooking the lake, dislocated and cracked from all the bouts. When he stopped fighting he stopped taking the ring off and it had tightened around his finger. He had to saw it off. Hal was boxing again.
legs around him. He asked her to keep the heels on before they left to meet Rob for a prefight dinner. Hal remembered that as the best night of his life. Three rounds later, the end began. The Colombian kid was fast and Hal was nervous. When he stepped into the ring he felt like his bones had been turned to water. He lost, badly. Hal was left lying on the mat, ear to the canvas, looking at a drop of condensation and sweat that danced and shivered on the floor of the ring. In the half-dome of the droplet he could see reflections of the lights and the crowd and the whole building. Hal couldn’t move. The referee counted to ten and only then could Hal drag himself to his feet and slink to his corner. Sandy had been there during Sandy had been right, alhis first chance, after high though he never admitted it: school when Hal had a shot at Hal was drunk when he going pro. He still remembered crashed the Mustang later that how happy she was when his weekend. Drinking and driving, agent, Rob, booked Hal’s first like boxing, was a habit his fapro fight. The smile on Sandy’s ther had introduced him to face was the manifestation of when he was young. Hal reeverything he had been work- membered riding in the old car, ing for since his father first took popping the tops of Budweiser him to a mildewy boxing gym cans and handing them to his when he was five. Sandy had father, so that his dad wouldn’t come with Hal to New York for have to take both hands off the the fight. She was wearing her wheel to get another beer. black high heels when she put “Runnin’ low,” his father her arms around Hal’s neck would say and either drop the and jumped up, wrapping her can out the window or crush it
and jam the misshapen thing into the cup holder. Hal would fish a cold cylinder from the six-pack under his feet. At the gym his father would sit in a metal folding chair and drink from a tall can in a paper sack while he watched Hal spar. Rob also knew Hal had been drinking when he crashed, and when the wreck left him with a shattered left elbow, three cracked ribs, and a losing record Hal became a liability. He lost his agent. He drank and thought about that little droplet of sweat on the mat and how his own reflection looked so small in it. He believed he could’ve pulled out of it, made a full recovery and gotten another pro fight but then Sandy walked out. She didn’t understand the drinking or the little water droplet that had everything in it and Hal couldn’t begin to explain it to her. When she left he felt like he stopped moving for a time, like he had frozen in place, sitting somewhere dark, an aluminum can pressed to his lips. Hal had a job now. He couldn’t quite remember how he got it. There was an expansion of dockworkers because the Quagga Mussels were taking over the whole lake. When Sandy was still living with him he remembered all the talk about the dead zone in the lake, how the Zebra Mussels were clogging drains and growing on everything. They were gone now but the Quagga Mussels, carried across the ocean on the bottoms of ships, were worse. They were bigger and stronger and they could live in the cold, deep water in the middle of the lake where Zebra
Mussels couldn’t. Hal worked clearing Quaggas off the piers and jetties. He used a big steel scraper twice as long as he was tall. The work was hard and at first his shoulders and arms would be sore when he lay in bed at the end of the day but over the past few months he had found himself getting stronger again. Sometimes, when he lay in bed, he would try to spin the ring around his finger but only succeeded in twisting the skin caught under the gold band. Someone on the crew had mentioned the name Jeff Rikers while talking about the new mussel scraper but Hal didn’t recognize it. It wasn’t until he saw Jeff at work that something was triggered in Hal’s mind. He had gone to high school with Rikers, who had been a blonde boy with a thick neck and long hair who played fullback. Rikers’ blonde hair was buzzed now and his arms were covered in tattoos. He also spit like he was chewing tobacco but he didn’t chew. Rikers didn’t say anything to Hal until they were working on the south side of the big pier, leaning out and scraping mussels. Rikers was strong but inexperienced. His scraper gouged at the tarry wood as he tried to ram the broad steel head through a cluster of Quaggas. The veins on his thick neck stood out under a blue tattoo that crept up from the neckline of his t-shirt. Hal paused to watch him and Rikers stopped after a few seconds. “You went to Mayfair High, right?” Rikers said. “Hal or something?” Hal nodded. “No shit, man. Where’ve
you been?” “Here, mostly,” Hal said. “I remember you and that Sandy girl. I thought you guys left Cleveland a long time ago.” Hal felt something hook into his stomach, behind his bellybutton. He shook his head. “Still here.” “Figured you were gonna hit the big time, be fighting on pay per-view.” Rikers picked up his scraper again. Hal shook him off. Rikers went back to work for a while before breaking the silence again. “You still talk to Sandy?” “Not really.” Rikers smirked and shook his head like he was trying not to laugh at something. Maybe he was laughing at Hal. Maybe he knew something Hal didn’t. A cold pain started crawling up the insides of Hal’s ribcage. He imagined Sandy in some place with a faux-vintage skeeball machine. She was wiggling on a barstool to get comfortable like she always did, but she was also leaning closer to a young man with brown hair and a blue suit. She had her elbow on the table, chin on the palm of her hand and she was really listening to what this man was saying. She only really listened when she liked someone. Hal’s hands tightened on the steel handle of the scraper and he bent over the dock to plow through a mass of Quaggas. The sound of their shells cracking under the blade was like wet concrete being poured over ice. Rikers got back to work but he didn’t stop talking. Hal remembered him as the kind of person who preyed on the pain in others. In high school Rikers used to call the
fat goth girl a lesbian and tell pain inside him turned into anher that if the road was empty ger. Hal set his head down and when she was walking home his forehead got hot. he’d gun his truck up onto the It happened at the end of sidewalk and run her dyke ass the day, the wind over the lake down. was icy and the sun was still “Why’re you still here?” Rik- going down early at that time of ers said. “What happened with year. The crew was loading the boxing?” scrapers into the truck and RikHal smashed more Quag- ers was in front of Hal. Rikers gas. hadn’t said a word for ten min“How’d you get a job doing utes but he walked with confithis?” dence. When he tossed his “Friend of a friend,” Hal scraper up to where Ellis stood said. The words came out in a in the back of the truck Hal grunt. could see more tattoos whorling “You still box?” up the backs of Rikers’ biceps. “Haven’t had the chance Hal had been thinking about lately.” this moment since Rikers first “That’s shitty. This job fuck- asked about Sandy. He ing sucks, doesn’t it?” dropped his scraper to the Hal shrugged. pavement of the parking lot with Rikers laughed. a heavy clatter. This wasn’t an Hal remembered the water impulse. Hal had been planning droplet on the canvas. How this, waiting for this. He was in he’d laid there, his head to the control of his anger and he side like the mat was a pillow, wanted to do this so much he watching the droplet shiver could feel the blood rushing while he lost his fight. The cold through the veins in his fore-
arms. His thumb rubbed over the class ring an instant before his hands became fists. The ringing of the scraper falling to the pavement caused Rikers to turn around. Hal made sure he saw it coming. He crushed his right fist into Rikers’ eye. He felt the man stumble and almost fall but Rikers was strong and he swam back up with his guard up. Hal’s feet moved in rhythm, dangerous and quick and he knew the combinations on instinct. Rikers wasn’t a fighter; his guard was too high. Hal went for the body, slugging Rikers’ ribs with hard punches that created hollow thumps. Rikers doubled over and Hal seized his advantage. Hal used his left hand to grip the top of Rikers’ head and hold it in place while he pounded his right down into the man’s face. The ring on Hal’s finger was a single brass knuckle: wherever it landed, blood spouted. The rest of the guys hauled
Photograph: open source
Hal off and he didn’t stop them. He was happy. He had done what he wanted. Hal had taken the man apart. Rikers sank down to his hands and knees on the pavement like he was carrying a heavy load. Hal heard him moan and sob. He pushed the guys away and turned away from the whole scene. There was a red smudge on the silver handle of Hal’s truck when he drove home with one arm hanging out the window. His right hand gripped the top of the steering wheel like the mouth of some sort of snake. The bloody ring on his finger was a wet reptilian eye that glinted at him and he loved it even though it made his stomach churn and his thoughts turn to Sandy. The next morning, he sawed the ring off his finger. Jeff Rikers didn’t return to work the next day. Ellis told Hal the rest of the guys backed him up and told the bosses it was just a scuffle and that Rikers was too ashamed to come back. Hal showed up and got fired. He drank and drove his truck as fast as it would go but didn’t crash this time. Assault Photograph: open source
charges, that’s what Rikers was pressing. Hal didn’t care. He sold his TV and sofa to pay rent. All that was left in his apartment was a cot and debris. The dirty sock he had used to clean Rikers’ blood off his hands when he got home after the fight was still crumpled in the corner of the room. Someone suggested Hal sell the ring but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Besides, it was ruined, mangled now. He put it on the edge of his bathroom sink and every morning contemplated knocking it down the drain. Hal started boxing again. Amateur fights, bareknuckle bouts. He didn’t get paid much but he felt more whole when he got to fight. He started to go on runs every morning. He didn’t drink as much. Hal had decided to climb the ladder again. He thought of Sandy in the sports bar with the skee-ball machine and the man in the suit. He thought of becoming a pro boxer again. He thought of seeing her one more time. In the locker room, or in his truck before matches, Hal took his time taping his hands. He taped over the finger that had
once held a ring and he could still feel it there, pressing into his skin when he had wrapped his hands tight. He had heard about phantom limbs and this seemed a little like that. The finger was naked before he taped over it, but after, he swore he could feel a bump where the ring would be under the tape. He rubbed his thumb over the bump before he stepped into the ring. Hal hadn’t stepped into a ring for his latest fight. It was a bareknuckle match in a trailer park. Hal and the other fighter lowered themselves with taped hands down opposite sides of an empty aboveground pool that came up a few feet above their heads. The voices of the crowd outside the pool swirled around inside the blue walls until all Hal heard was a thrumming roar. There was just blue and the other fighter: a black man with a rough beard and stretch marks on his shoulder muscles. It smelled like piss at the bottom of the pool. The referee stood outside the pool, on the platform of chairs and tables where the crowd stood and looked down at the fight. The referee blew a short blast on an air horn and the fight began. The black fighter was older than Hal and he moved with a deceptive smoothness that Hal knew hid speed. The black fighter danced closer to Hal. The man’s shoes scraped along the pool bottom like a slithering snake. The blue walls took on a depth that stretched out forever in front of Hal. He brought the fist that should’ve held a ring up to his lips. He fought.
Firebird by Emma McKervey I thought I saw a firebird from the corner of my eye I looked up and tried to glimpse again but saw only empty sky. It had swept behind the hedge row but I could not tell quite where I was sure I must have seen it, but when I checked it wasnâ€™t there. I thought I saw a firebird, it was not reflected light For all the bulbs and lamps were off, and it was not yet quite night. But something flashed and glimmered as it passed across the blue Much lower than an aeroplane and flaming as it flew. I thought I saw a firebird but I knew it could not be Although every calm and reasoned thought could not explain to me How golden flame and magenta sparks had arced across my lawn And a single feather floated down and burned until the dawn. Photograph: fotolia.com
Full Rising by A J Hoffman I could see the moonâ€™s eye looking at me. I wondered how I could feel so small and so far away when I was but an armâ€™s length from its surface.
My skin glowed with the closeness of this silver goddess. I could not breathe as I took first one step, then another. It was a lifetime before I reached the invisible plane that separated us, shimmering like a membrane. I let myself fall into the open
Her Body is a Mountain by A J Hoffman
covered with celestial scars. Tattoos of planets and constellations that migrate to mirror the current nightâ€™s sky. True daughter of desperation, darkness breathes through her. Her hair holds the wings of midnight, captured. Her smile is a cage for wayward stars. Her hearts are blue as the dying sky. They drip against the sands of time, muddying tomorrow. Hers is the touch that can shatter lifetimes. Her kiss can devour worlds. Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
In My Ancestor’s Cellar by Robert Hrdina When you picked the gravestone for your beloved wife I was there and pointed one out to you You let a cigarette fall onto the gravel, mourning quietly We both quelled a tear and got on with it I still remember you in great despair Running around the wood-fire house Whispering: “I’m going to the cellar and get a rope” But you didn’t Verbal wars of affection after half a century Still You loved her, always believing you would be the first To go You were not
Regret by Lorraine Brooks where was my mind that my body didn't follow instead seeking safety and hiding from self. abominable sanctuary cowering from what imprudence won't enter my secret won't burn. amassed in the longings enshrined in high hopes but bitterly missing a shred of self worth. a chance blown wicked memories will come of the night I looked away from your face.
Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
Searching Out Ammonites by Clint Wastling Hunting fossils with my son on Speeton Beach, Moving carefully from clay to shale to sand, Seeking ammonites within reach Of the searching fingers of an outstretched hand. Beneath precarious pinnacles of clay, First fragments then the whole delightful swirl Of shell emerged once more into the day, And washed in waves its shape unfurls. My sonâ€™s bright eyes and grimy finger nails Show delight in what heâ€™s found. Chalk cliffs loom and steal remaining day And rising tide takes all which might be drowned. Long dead creature turned to stone How many years have you endured alone?
Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
The Shape of a Poem by Benjamin Waight A poem is the shape of a vacancy in our chests; It is the tongue we use to lick the wound of absence. If you want to know what a person will do with their life, Look for the hole they describe with their words. I spent thirty years tracing her outline With the nib of a pen, Sketching her curves with words Without even knowing I was doing it. Then I met her in a dank bar, My socks wet from the rain outside, And realised that here was my anthology, The words made flesh. Here was the gap in me. Ever since, I have written less well. But Iâ€™m in love, And have fewer spaces to fill.
Photograph: Eleanor L. Bennett
Contributors Every issue we receive around 200 prose and poetry submissions from around the world
expect. He has had over 60 short stories and poems published. He enjoys both writing prose and poetry. His style of writing tends to feature edgy characters and can be extremely dark. Some of his influences are James Herbert, Stephen King, Bulgakov, Tolkein to name but a few. He is also a proud member of the Hazlitt Arts Centre Writers group in Maidstone which features an eclectic group of very talented Geoffrey Heptonstal is a Contributing Writer at Contemporary Re- writers. He has a website featuring his published view and poetry reviewer with The London works here: Magazine. He has published stories in Cerise http://kingsraconteurswork.blogspot.co.uk/ Press, Litro and Sunk Island Review, as well as poetry in Adirondack Review, The Bow Wow Marie Lecrivain Shop, The Tablet and The TLS. Recent crea- is the editor of poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los tive work includes poetry for a film, The Physi- Angeles, a photographer, and a writer-in-resical Book. His theatre writing includes a play, dence at her apartment. She's been published in Providence, and contributions to a masque and various journals, and her avocations include ala monologue, all performed at London fringe chemy, fibre art, collecting various versions of venues. He has also had work performed at Bronte novels, and long walks through the streets of Los Angeles. festivals in Bolton, Canterbury and Dunbar. Keith R. James is a recent graduate of Idaho State University, and aspiring MFA student in fiction. He is a sucker for any story that begins just after midnight. He spends his time drinking gas station coffee and walking his dog.
Katie Lumsden has recently graduated from Durham University with a degree in English Literature and History, and is currently studying a Creative Writing MA at Bath Spa University. She has been writing prose for some years now, and has had work published in magazines such as Brittle Star and Litro.
Andrew Pidoux is the author of a book of poetry, Year of the Lion (Salt Publishing, 2010), and the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. He has a masters degree in Creative Writing (poetry and the short story) from The University of St. Andrews. Recent fiction of his has appeared in Brittle Star, Litro, Sein und Werden, Stand and Turkâ€™s Head Review, while his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in African American Review, Ekphrasis, Descant, The Journal and Wasafiri. After spending a number of years in the US and Spain, he now lives in London on the Isle of Dogs.
Richard W. Strachan lives in Edinburgh and has had short fiction printed in magazines such as New Writing Scotland, Gutter, Litro and The View From Here. He was given a New Writer's Award by the Scottish Book Trust in 2012, and writes regular reviews for The List, The Herald, and Hunter Markham is currently an MFA student at Chapman Universithe Scottish Review of Books. ty in Southern California. His previous works have appeared, and are pending publication, Gary Hewitt in Calliope and Page & Spine, respectively. Huntis a raconteur who lives in a quaint little er is an amateur boxer and former construction village in Kent. He has written two novels worker. He learned to read and write from the which are currently being edited. His writing does tend to veer away from what you might backs of boxes of nails and cans of paint.
distinguished and longstanding non-profit literary organizations. Ms Shunway enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, and occasionally finds time to goof around on the bass Kate Jones was born and bred in Sheffield, South York- guitar. shire, England, where she still lives with herhusband Jon and daughters Eleanor and Holly. Emma McKervey They currently own their own family ceramics has been writing poetry since her own childhood, business, but are in the process of moving although she did neglect her writing for some away from this to enable Ms Jones’ husband to time as she pursued a career in music. She has teach while she continues her work with a local worked in Community Arts and as a teacher, and women’s charity, as well as her writing. She is is currently working towards a PhD in Ethnomusicurrently working towards a BA (Hons) in Eng- cology. Her poems have been published in Relish Literature through the Open University, as flexion, the University of Ulster anthology, and A part of which she has taken courses in creative New Ulster, a poetry journal published by Lapwriting, and had small successes in local mag- wing Press. She is also a regular reader on the azines, and in a recent anthology of life writing Belfast poetry scene. ‘Firebird’ was written after about her home city. She enjoy yoga and the death of her mother who was an avid Walter de la Mare fan and read his poems to Emma as walking in the lovely green spaces around her a child. She hopes 'Firebird' evokes the same home. spirit as de la Mare’s work for children.
A.J. Huffman has published seven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her eighth solo chapbook, Drippings from a Painted Mind, won the 2013 Two Wolves Chapbook Contest. She also has a full-length poetry collection scheduled for release in June 2005, titled, A Few Bullets Short of Home. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press.
Robert Hrdina was born in Altomuenster, Germany, in 1967. He served as a mountain infantry officer (1986-1992) and studied at Regensburg University and Trinity College, Dublin. Currently, he is a secretary at the U of R. To make ends meet, he does a bit of freelancing as Personal English Trainer. A frequent visitor to the British Isles, Robert is constantly looking for local banter and atmosphere to weave into his poetry and prose, often writing about Edinburgh, Manchester, London and Dublin. Publications include (AUS) New England Review, Redoubt, (ÉIRE) Books Ireland, (UK) Orbis, Poetry Manchester, Psychopoetica, Retort, Roadworks, Stand, Unhinged, (USA) Aura, Luna Negra, Verse and (CDN) Minus Tides! His collected Harry Miller Trevis stories have recently Bronmin Shumway appeared on Kindle Digital Publishing as Live is a poet and writer living in Austin, Texas. In and Die the Irish Way. 2012, she founded a business which was acquired by a lager organisation In February Lorraine C. Brooks 2014. Sheis now heading up the content mar- is a native of New York, where she resides and, keting division of the agency that acquired her where she holds a BA in Communication Arts business. Bronmin’s literary work has appeared and a Masters in Public Health. She is a founding in After Hours, The Aurora Review, VOX, Illya’s member of ‘Red Round Group’, a collaborative of Honey, LanguageandCulture.net, and various poets and artists producing documentary and art other publications. She has won a number of films and videos. Her current film in progress is literary awards, including The Austin Poetry Passion – Inside the Hearts of Women. Lorraine Society Award, judged by Naomi Shihab Nye. is a performance poet whose work has appeared Ms Shumway now serves as president of the in the UK anthology And Again Last Night, by Austin Poetry Society, one of Austin’s most Indigo Dreams Publishing. She is resident poet
of the radio show ‘Diabetes Latenight’, producing and performing poetry of interest to diabetics. Her NY appearances include ‘Inspiration-121 Poets’ at State University of NY, Micky Mo’s, Ellis Bar and ‘New Poets Reading’ at City University of NY. Lorraine is the author of Riding the Wave, a poetry collection (BTS Books, 2010). Clint Wastling is a writer based in the East Riding of Yorkshire. He’s had stories published in The Weekly News and online at www.everydayfiction.com. His poetry has been published in Pastiche and Aesthetica. His novel, The Geology of Desire will be published by Stairwell Books in October 2014. Further information at: www.clintwastling.webs.com Benjamin Waight is in his mid-twenties, and spent a nomadic childhood growing up in a number of different countries overseas, following his parents around the world. He returned to England to study history at university, and became preoccupied with the presence of ancient sentiments in modern man. He currently lives in London, but dreams of escaping again soon.
Features & Reviews Ronald Adamolekun is based in Nigeria and has published literary criticism in DailyPost (dailypost.ng), the Nigerian online newspaper. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Literary Studies from Covenant University, Ota, Nigeria and has just started a Master of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing at the University of Westminster in London.
novel, The Mackerby Scandal (UKA Press, 2004) and her short story collection, The Republic of Joy, are available from Lulu. Adele Geraghty is a native New Yorker who claims dual citizenship, having been naturalised in the UK in 2012. Beside a lifetime dedication to the written word, she is also an illustrator and graphic designer. She is the recipient of the US National Women's History Award for Poetry and Essay and author of Skywriting in the Minor Key: Women, Words, Wings, a poetry collection. Adele is a member of the New York ensemble The Arts Soire, a collective of presentational artists of varying genre, The Patched Fools Ballads, presentational poets based in Newcastle and the writing site UKAuthors.com. She is Co-Founder, Publisher and Editor of BTS Books (Between These Shores), which specialises in, but is not limited to, promoting emerging women writers. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies, including Not A Muse: The Inner Lives of Women (Haven Press) and Cradle Songs (Quill & Parchment Press). Her work may also be found in journals and magazines such as Sein und Werden, Long Poem Magazine and The Dawntreader. Her current work in progress is Searching for Jennie Harbour, a biography of the enigmatic Deco era Illustrator. www.facebook.com/BTSBOOKS
David Gardiner Ageing hippy, former teacher, later many things, including mental health care worker, living in London with partner Jean; adopted daughter Cherelle now married and living in New Zealand. Books in print: SIRAT (science fiction novel), The Rainbow Man and Other Stories (short story collection), The Other End of the Rainbow (short story collection) and Engineering Paradise (novel) as well as many anthology entries and Omma Velada competition successes. Interested in science, lives in London with her husband and two chil- philosophy, psychology, scuba diving, travel, dren, and writes full-time. Her short stories and wildlife, cooking, IT, alternative lifestyles and poems have been published in communal living. Large, rambling home page at numerous literary journals (including JMWW, www.davidgardiner.net . The Eildon Tree and The Beat) and anthologies (including Voices From The Web and The New Lorraine C. Brooks Pleiades Anthology of Poetry 2005). She came See ‘Poetry’ on previous page. second in the UK Authors 2004 short-story competition and was also elected Writer of the Month at EditRed. Both her
Twice yearly magazine of literature and the arts. In this issue: 7 stories, 12 poems, 1 play, 4 reviews, special feature on Francis Firebrac...
Published on Oct 10, 2014
Twice yearly magazine of literature and the arts. In this issue: 7 stories, 12 poems, 1 play, 4 reviews, special feature on Francis Firebrac...