Twice-yearly magazine of Literature & the Arts
Issue 23 - June 2013
Welcome to our summer issue! As we enter our 9th year of publication, we have plenty to celebrate. In this issue, I really like your opinion but what about the rabbit? by Verity Healey (p28), was selected for our Best Prose award, while Who But We should be ONE by Shelby Stevenson (p11) was chosen as Best Poem. We have an interview with writer Aliya Whiteley along with a review of her new publication, a collection of short stories, intriguingly entitled Witchcraft in the Harem. We also interview photographer Eleanor Bennett, who has been our own photographer for the past few issues. Do you remember the terrible news story about Christopher Foster, the former millionaire who murdered his whole family in 2008? Singer/Songwriter Rick Hayter has written a beautiful poetic song about it, which you can read on page 33. We have included the link to the Gold Dust YouTube channel, where you can also watch him performing the song live at the last Gold Dust live event. Thanks to all those who have already completed the Gold Dust survey. If you havenâ€™t done so yet and have 5 free minutes, please help us make Gold Dust even better by completing our short survey: Join us http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Y5QR7BG Mailing list:
(GD magazine founder)
www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/MailingList.htm YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/golddustmagazine
Gold Dust team
Prose Editor & Cover Designer David Gardiner
Cover illustrations Slavko Mali
Poetry Editor Dave Turner Photographer Eleanor Leonne Bennett Illustrator Slavko Mali
Cover design David Gardiner Photographs Eleanor Leonne Bennett (except where indicated) Illustrations Slavko Mali & Francisco Zuzuarregui
Webmaster, DTP & Founder Omma Velada Proofreader Jo Copsey
Circulation Online (www.issuu.com/golddust): ca. 3,000 PDF (www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine): ca. 500
Gold Dust magazine Founded in 2004 Bringing you the best poetry & prose
Editorial by GD founder Omma Velada
Contributors Our writers’ bios in all their glory
The Back Page Gold Dust news
Rascally Piss Stream: A Memoir by AA Garrison
Tin Girl by Holly A Cave
The Walker by Annette Kupke
I really like your opinions but what about the rabbit? by Verity Healey BEST PROSE
Interview: Aliya Whiteley Interviewed by Omma Velada
Tuesday’s Demons by Bruce Harris
Interview: Eleanor Bennett Interviewed by David Gardiner
Snow Blindness by Ruth Brandt
BEST PROSE I really like your opinions but what about the rabbit? by Verity Healey (p28)
BEST POEM Who But We should be ONE by Shelby Stevenson (p11)
Flash fiction (<1,000 words)
They wanna hold me back by Courtni Webb
Jennifer by Beth J Whiting
Who But We should be ONE by Shelby Stephenson BEST POEM
Fucking Junkie by Sara Bell
Butterfly by Sam Meekings
Ladies’ Room by Slavko Mali
The Badger Game by Sarah Fry
The Black Chair by Daffni Percival
Murder Ballad [song] by Rick Hayter
Found on the Penistone Line by Steve Komarnyckyj
Only Pretend by Peter Lowe
A Flight Over the Black Sea. Istanbul.Тhe Return by Ihor Pavlyuk
Grey Ocean by Charlie Baylis
I Won’t Say a Word by Diarmuid ó Maolalaí
By Garpal Stream by Charlie Wilkins
Witchcraft at the Harem by Aliya Whiteley Reviewed by David Gardiner
Dr Amo’s Lonely Planet by Jojo Cobbinah Reviewed by Omma Velada
The Satanic Diaries by Krister Jones Reviewed by David Gardiner
Aliya Whiteley The writer of Witchcraft in the Harem talks about her work...
hy did you name your new short story collection, Witchcraft in the Harem, after that particular story? I like the mystery of it, and the exotic element. I tried to come up with a new title – one that wasn’t one of the stories in the collection – but really there wasn’t anything I could think of that spoke about the experience of reading it. It’s a strange collection that defies attempts to pin it down, and I like that. So I chose Witchcraft as the title, as that story is also difficult to define. How would you sum up Witchcraft in the Harem in a 30-word or less tagline? 4
Given what I just said, I don’t think I can… here goes nothing… I would call it: “Playful and horrifying stories of escape and recapture.” There. Phew. Who is your intended audience, and why should they read your book? I don’t have an audience in mind when I write, and this has traditionally led to problems when it comes to marketing for big publishers. You couldn’t say – we need to push this to the 20-somethings for beach holidays,
INTERVIEW: Aliya Whiteley for instance. I think adventurous readers, who like to be pushed and who want stories to go to deep, troublesome, unsafe places, would enjoy it. Who is your favourite character or story from Witchcraft in the Harem and why? What about your least favourite? I love the main character in 1926 in Brazilian Football. She’s a triumph of hope over experience, and there’s something joyful to her voice even though she’s been through a terrible time. She’s still searching for love, and kissing frogs in the hope of finding a prince. I don’t have a least favourite character or story. Every character and plot I write has something about it that I like, even the really nasty ones. They’re never without motivation, and I can always respect that. What did you enjoy most about writing Witchcraft in the Harem? It’s a collection of stories that dates back over a decade. The earliest story in there is Legs, and that was first published by a great online magazine called Unlikely Stories in 2003. So there wasn’t a set period of writing it in which I sat down and consciously created. But when it came to putting stories together into a collection, I found the most enjoyable aspect to be remembering these stories and tidying them up, and finding that they really did work and were cohesive as a group. That was very exciting. Did you have a lot of say in the cover design? The publisher asked me what I’d like on the cover, and I said – beetles. So there you have it. The beetles are all my fault. There are good reasons for the beetles, but you’ll have to read the book and make up your own mind about their presence. Which question do you wish that someone would ask you about Witchcraft in the Harem, but nobody has? My daughter says the most important unasked question is – why is the book dedicated to someone called Elsa? And the answer is – because she’s my daughter and this is a book that is influenced by my experience of motherhood. So thanks for giving me a chance to clear that one up. Where did your love of storytelling come from? From those picture books that you get given when you’re really young. I was obsessed with one that had a picture of a dog peeing on some flowers. And the writing said, ‘The dog peed on the flowers’. That’s a great sentence. Everything all summed up, right there. I’ve been trying to write something that good ever Issue 23
since. Do you write full-time and, if not, is that the dream? I do write full-time. Well, around school hours. I write columns for a brilliant online film website called Den of Geek, and I’m always working on new short stories or novels. Where do you write? I’m a café writer. I have a really friendly place just down the round from my house that knows me well enough now to bring me coffee in regular intervals and let me be for hours at a time. That’s for longhand writing – I do everything with pen and paper first, and then type up at home next to my collection of vinyl records, so I can listen to some Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra while beavering away. Or Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade – I listen to that a lot. Are the names of the characters in your books important? Sometimes they contain a deeper meaning, but that’s usually just for my benefit, so that it triggers a cue when I work on the story, and I remember what I’m trying to achieve for that character. It’s rarely a puzzle that the reader is meant to solve. Which books have most influenced your own writing? Octavia Butler and Ursula Le Guin are big influences on the fantasy side, and Graham Greene and Iris Murdoch on the literary side. George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Anything by Rupert Thomson and Iain M Banks. DH Lawrence, hugely. This eclectic list might explain why my own stuff is not exactly genre-friendly. Have you ever hated something you wrote? No, I always like it just a little. Even the terrible romance novel I wrote when I was twenty-two. It shall never see the light of day, but I’m still proud of it, and the beginning that it represents. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? I don’t think there’s much logic in the first draft. I really let my imagination go. And then, during the second draft and the editing process, common sense sneaks in and attempts to make me reasonable. Sometimes logic wins, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Witchcraft in the Harem
by Aliya Whiteley Dog Horn Publishing, 2013 £8.99 Reviewed by David Gardiner
We might need to invent a new literary category just for this collection. ‘Surreal’ is the term that comes first to mind, but I don’t know how strictly it applies. It’s immediately clear that the stories are not set in the everyday universe that we all believe ourselves to inhabit, and although they have horror elements they are by no means straightforward horror stories, neither are they quite fairytales, although many of them draw on myths and fables and function as parables. What really unifies the collection is the region in which the stories take place, a landscape in which all distinction between hallucinations, dreams and reality is lost – the realm of Eraserhead, The Singing Detective, The Naked Lunch, Metamorphosis, Alice in Wonderland and the casebook of Oliver Sacks. In the 1960s we would probably have put their inspiration down to experiments with psychedelic drugs, but I doubt if there is any basis for this speculation. I think we simply have to accept them as the creations of a very unusual imagination. The collection begins with a near re-telling of the story of Pygmalion. In this version a socially inept adolescent sculptor models his Galatea from clay, but in an idealised form, without orifices, and when life is breathed into her he mutilates her and literally rips her to pieces in his frenzied attempts at carnal possession. Sexual desire negates and displaces love and ultimately destroys the object of its passion. It’s a disturbing and memorable introduction to a collection that 6
has much more to offer in a generally similar vein. But the only real similarity between the stories is in their embodiment of a distorted and unpredictable reality in which the author is free to take us absolutely anywhere and do with us as she will. It’s an exciting and light-headed ride, constantly surprising and totally compelling. Among the places that we visit are the harem of the title, where beautiful and deadly women wait to service their tongue-less spouse, a smallholding where we encounter an unexpected version of the cabbage-patch doll, and a mini-world created by an incompetent God in his dusty basement. Once or twice we stop off in worlds less strange, and meet people very like ourselves, and this recognition and familiarity also surprises us. Whiteley has been around as a writer for about the same length of time as Gold Dust, and we have followed her career since the 2004 novella Mean, Mode, Median, in which Edward, the charismatic, Christ-like brother, seemingly destined to become the prophet of some great new system of thought that will save a self-harming humanity from itself, is brought down by the jealous scheming of his calculating and ruthless sister Anna. This very unusual and original debut was followed two years later by Three Things About Me, a comic excursion into the shoddy world of ‘customer service representatives’, following the day-to-day lives of a new bunch of recruits and their cliché-spouting terminally insincere trainer. After a further two-year gap came Whiteley’s third offering, Light Reading, which introduced Lena and Pru, two very engaging bored RAF wives whose odd hobby of collecting suicide notes leads them into an often hilarious and sometimes very dark adventure investigating suspicious deaths in the Devonshire seaside care home where retired actress Crystal Tynee took her final curtain-call.
REVIEW: Witchcraft in the Harem by Aliya Whiteley
All these works are original, highly accomplished and very different to one another, but throughout the time that she has been active as a novelist Whiteley has continued to produce short stories, entering them in competitions, placing them on writing sites and having them published in magazines, anthologies and newspapers; and it is perhaps in the variety and richness of her work as a short story writer that her greatest tal-
ent lies. This collection is a major treat for lovers of the form; they are elegantly constructed, full of striking images, and brimming with novelty, ingenuity and playful use of language. This is someone who has really mastered her art performing at the peak of her powers. Definitely not to be missed. Gold Dust
Find out more... Aliya blogs at: aliyawhiteley.wordpress.com and tweets from @AliyaWhiteley
Aliya Whiteley at the launch of her new short story collection, Witches in the Harem
June 2013 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
by Beth J Whiting “You may have guessed about me but I’m imaginary”...
heodore was alone. He was twelve years old. Theodore knew he was too old for it but he was playing in the sandbox when he saw a beautiful redheaded girl sitting besides him. “Hi Theodore,” she said. “I’ve never seen you before in this class.” “That’s because I’m not in your class.” “Huh?” The bell rang. Theodore ran to the end of the line to meet his class. He saw Jennifer at the end of the line too. He said again, “You don’t belong to my class.” “Who are you talking to?” said the kid in front. That was when he knew something fishy was going on. When Theodore saw her again she suddenly appeared in his room. “You may have guessed about me but I’m imaginary.” “I didn’t guess that part.” “Well I am. I’ve been assigned to other children, mostly of ages five and six. But this is the first time I’ve been assigned to someone my age.” “What do you mean assigned?” “I work for an imaginary friend company in another world from yours. It’s more or less a boarding school and for shelter you work as an imaginary friend for children. You get paid later on.” “So I’m basically just a job.” “I’ve grown attached to my subjects.” “What is your name?” 8
“Jennifer. I have your case file with me. So I can do anything that you want me to do. It says here that you like board games. Well, we can play board games.” “I don’t know if I want you as an imaginary friend.” “Why? It says you need me.” “Well I don’t want to be anyone’s obligation.” “You won’t be.” Theodore was pretty desperate. He was twelve years old and hadn’t had a friend for over seven years. Even an imaginary one who was working for it sounded like a good idea. “I’ll take you then.” Jennifer showed up at school the next day and Theodore played with her. Theodore went home and told his mom the news. “I have a friend. Her name is Jennifer.” His mom who was an overweight woman was excited. “You have a friend?” It was big. She had a huge smile on her face, “Well when do I meet her?” “She’s here right now.” “What?” “She’s imaginary, Mom. She can only be seen by me.” “Oh.” The look of disappointment was enormous. He went to his bedroom to play with Jennifer. “Do you like old movies?” “I don’t know any,” she said. He had a television in my bedroom with an old VHS player and DVD player.
He pulled out the VHSs. “I buy them in bulk in thrift stores. Now we can watch all of the old stars. Veronica Lake, Gene Tierney, Betty Grable, Betty Hutton. You will be introduced to all of them. Do you have movies on your planet?” “Yes. But I don’t get the time to watch them. I have to work this job and then I have school.” “You sound like you have a
Illustration: Slavko Mali
busy life.” “Well I was turned over when I was five to the imaginary friend business. My parents are rich. I don’t think they wanted to take care of me in the end.” “You mustn’t say that.” “Oh but it’s true.”
Jennifer by Beth J Whiting At dinner time Theodore announced to his mother and father that he was bringing a friend over for supper. Then he pointed to the empty chair by him and said, “This is Jennifer.” His father looked angry. “Jennifer will sit at this chair from now on.” What infuriated the father more was that the mother agreed to this game. Extra food was put on Jennifer’s plate. The mother cleaned this up while the dishes were done. At night time Theodore heard the parents arguing. “What’s the harm of doing it?” “He’s too old to be having an
imaginary friend. We could be jeopardizing his future.” “You’re overreacting.” When they went to the bedroom, Jennifer turned around and said, “Your parents don’t like me.” “Who cares what they think,” he said.
He turned on The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. “Now this is a cute movie.” When Theodore reached 17, he was still setting the plate for Jennifer. His parents thought this was too much. They had arguments about it constantly. “Is it better for him to have an imaginary friend or have none at all?” Theodore watched his movies with Jennifer. He never talked about how rough he had it at school, the bullying and what-not. He was glad just to have Jennifer by his side. Meanwhile his parents had sad attempts along the way.
“We should have a birthday party.” He responded, “There’s no one to invite.” “You should go to an afterschool club.” “And what? Just sit there?” He would rather watch his
old movies with Jennifer who was becoming a whiz herself at the old movie genre. “I love Mary Lee and June Storey in Gene Autry’s movies. They’re just too cute. Dale Evans is awesome also.” Jennifer was blossoming into a beautiful young woman. He was surprised to have such a beauty for an imaginary friend. When Theodore reached 18, he told his parents he didn’t want to go to school so he moved out. He got a job as a typist. But Jennifer told him that things were iffy now. “What do you mean?” “Imaginary friends cost money past the age of 18.” “What are you talking about?” She started to cry, “It’s becoming scary out there. The customers are becoming weirder. I don’t feel safe anymore. Imaginary friends aren’t like they were when you were a kid.” “What do they make you do?” She cried, “I’d rather not say.” Theodore paid the money. He didn’t care about that. He wished he could have Jennifer to himself. Jennifer mentioned that they had genies in imaginary world land. So Jennifer brought one to him. A blue genie came out. Theodore only asked for one thing. Jennifer’s freedom. A month later they were engaged. While sitting down for dinner, the father said, “You know my son had an imaginary friend for the longest time. I’m glad that he’s settled down and got rid of that.” Jennifer giggled.
Gold Dust 9
They wanna hold me back
In December 2012 a 17-year-old high school student in San Francisco was suspended indefinitely after she wrote a poem in her personal notebook that included the line: “I understand the killings in Connecticut.” A teacher at the Life Learning Academy found Courtni Webb’s private notebook, read it, and reported the poem to the principal, who suspended the student. The school has since been shamed into reinstating her. They wanna hold me back I run but still they attack My innocence, I won't get back I used to smile They took my kindness for weakness The silence the world will never get I understand the killing in Conecticut I know why he pulled the trigger The government is a shame Society never wants to take the blame Society puts these thoughts in our head Misery loves company If I can't be loved no one can
Courtni Webb “Why are we oppressed by a dysfunctional community of haters and blamers? The meaning of the poem is talking about society and how I understand why things like that incident happened. So it’s not like I’m agreeing with it, but that’s how the school made it seem… Never in my life have I heard that you couldn’t mention a tragedy that happened. I didn’t say that I agree with it, I said I simply understand it” — Courtni Webb
Source: NBC News
“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” — Henry Louis Gates
Who But We should be ONE Walking into your garden, beyond the barn whose hay-tongues laze Where the female fox froze with her little ones snuggling hard, Who but we should open our throats to the world and who but we should be One? The wild-flowers widen our desires, the stakes rusty, waiting. Not far from the throngs steaming into stores to buy groceries for Thanksgiving. Tables wait for families; still you are the one nearest me and farthest. At the farm-pond the kittens shake among the cattails. The dock lilts patterns exactly for decades. Look, I said, a red-tailed hawk, and you turned aside, your profile blurring the ridge, A moving picture ebbing and flowing among the winter woods, The snow trailing the crab-apple trees.
BEST POEM AWARD
Your eyes come back to me, I wish to see you more often. On cloudy nights I miss you, turning on my stomach to sleep, troubles arriving too soon. Your arms hang by your side as we walk and talk around the tract. The ferns, poplars, maples, bay, sourwood, dogwood, oaks Shake their heads free of any chatter. I shall not leave this place and you anytime soon. Your hair, sideways and up, and your hips swaying, Your talk beyond the grave, terrible, not knowing more than forsythia Or the cat licking its paw, juggling the mouse. You and I see things that shall also pass even as today is gone. The setting sunâ€™s a canopy for the foxâ€™s stomach, graceful as your tongue Close to me, my side warm in reserve.
Rascally Piss Stream: A Memoir by A A Garrison It was a lightbulb moment...
t began one ordinary morning, when heavy kidneys saw me to the toilet. Out of nowhere, my piss stream went all rascally, going in directions of its own choosing. Whoa. While mopping up, I thought: Rascally piss stream. That'd make a good name for a band. It was a lightbulb moment. With nothing else to do, I chased this rabbit. Rascally Piss Stream – it had a strange, outlaw ring to it, like Stone Temple Pilots. Fans would call us RPS, and then, later, Rips, with the hardcore electing for "the Streams." The attraction was like cleavage. However, when I checked online, someone had beaten me to the punch: Rascally Piss Stream was playing a bar several states over, in one week. I must see this band, I decided. This warranted a call to my friend Dick. "We're forming a band," I told him. "But first, a road trip to see Rascally Piss Stream." "Cool!" was all Dick said. He was like a sitcom friend, having one or two distinguishing features, and "Cool!" was one of them. Maybe he's different when I'm not around, but I've only seen him when I'm around. We took my car, because Dick only pretended to have one (shhh, he thinks I don't know). Our journey to the show was filled with escapade and danger. There was a hitchhiker at one point, and a villain, and a wildcard with a heart of gold. We found love 12
and lost it, and then did the right thing in the face of temptation, which earned applause from the judgmental audience in my head. Then we saw Rascally Piss Stream, and nothing was ever the same. The show was something of a disappointment, like most live music, with the amps so loud and the crowd so drunk that nothing made much sense. The most notable part was the lead singer, who looked much like me but older, and wore a feather boa and one of those unattractive half-masks favored by Mexican wrestlers. Similarly, the bass player could've passed as Dick. He even said "Cool!" at one point. Really, the show sucked except for the time machine. On our way to the car, we were hallooed by a gypsy in characteristic dress. I thought he was selling tee-shirts, and I wanted an RPS tee-shirt, so I followed him to his mysterious-looking van, where he instead offered us a complex device which looked to be worth a lot. I wouldn't have caved – I don't patronize gypsies who dress like gypsies, as a rule – except that Dick pulled out a certain look. You can't say no to that look; it was his other distinguishing characteristic. Given the speed with which the gypsy took our money, and the scathing note in his laughter, I was surprised the time machine worked. It beeped and booped, and had lots of blinking lights so you'd know it was high-tech. Something inside glowed green, maybe plutonium. After figuring it out – the 2 in the keypad was stuck – Dick and I
went back to dinosaur times, and he said "Cool!" Naturally, we ignored using the time machine to help mankind, instead pursuing ways to disturb the time-space continuum – sterilizing our fathers, assassinating the assassins of presidents, buying Hitler's paintings so he wouldn't leave Vienna. But none worked, and Hitler's paintings were crap. As a last resort, we turned to thwarting the Rascally Piss Stream concert. Our logic: keep the other us from the show, hence frustrating the entire timeline of our adventure (and wouldn't that be rad). Wise from our past attempts at meddling with the fabric of reality, we went low-key, to slip under the radar of whatever was foiling us. Our plan was to go back to before I pissed wrong and thought up the name, and then book the same bar for the night of the concert, thus upsetting the whole shebang. We watched Back to the Future several times, and everything seemed kosher. However, when I time-traveled to a month ago and called the bar to book a bogus band for that night, it put another light-bulb over my head. The next thing I knew, I was booking the bar for Rascally Piss Stream. The name was mine, dammit! And Dick and I still had a band to form. So that's why the RPS guys had looked like me and Dick: they were. Whoa. When the bar owner had asked what kind of music Rascally Piss Stream performed, I told him,
Rascally Piss Stream: A Memoir by AA Garrison "Indie pop metal," and so Dick and I set ourselves to inventing this, which made him say "Cool!" several times. I was initially intimidated at forming a band and being barready in a month, but then I remembered the time machine. Neither I nor Dick played instruments, but after years of time-machining, we were virtuosos. When we were choosing what to play, I remembered that, in the concert, Dick had been on bass and I'd been on guitar and vocals, so there we were. There was a snag when we needed a drummer. We'd almost just gotten some guy, but – duh, time machine. So of course we went back in time and got Keith Moon from The Who. This required us to fake his death from overdosing on barbiturates, and, apparently, we got away with it. (Mr. Moon did, actually, overdose on barbiturates, later, and we had to bury him in the woods and then go back and get him all over again.) As it turned out, it was two
decades before Rascally Piss Stream would perform. First, it took us a long time to hatch the overall scheme – I'm not good with details, and all Dick does is play bass and say "Cool!" – and this required more time-traveling to keep from missing the gig. Then there were the Keith Moons, which took a lot longer than you'd think (you wouldn't believe how much chloroform it took to knock him out). Then came a party period, also thanks to Keith Moon and his substances, and we lost some time there, though I can't remember how much (I have scars I don't remember getting). Worst of all was learning to play "indie pop metal," since the three contradicted one another. One year, Dick left the band, because he insisted on renaming it "Voltaic Poop Swirl." Then, finally, add in a few years for a "let's take over the world" phase – oh, like you wouldn't. By the time Rascally Piss Stream completed its first rehearsal, we were pushing middle
age. No wonder I hadn't recognized myself. At long last, we played that show at that bar. Sure, it once more deprived us of interrupting the time-space continuum and pissing off God, but it was worth it. And besides, the show would mark our rise as the world's greatest rock-and-roll band. RPS is now hailed as the father of indie pop metal, known for its eclectic tempos, enthusiastic phrasing and distinctive shrieking. We've edged out The Rolling Stones, and we deserve it, since, counting timejumps, we've been together longer. We didn't really need the money, after going into the future for all those winning lottery numbers, but you can't time-travel to fame or groupies. Also, I swear we're number one because we're so good, not because we went back in time and stole other band's songs, no matter what David Bowie says.
Illustration: Slavko Mali
Sara Bell She had gone too far this time...
et a bloody job like the rest of us….” Joanne watched the feet stop from beneath her hood, and flinched back into the wall for a moment, eyes closing as if she were waking to the glare of a harsh summer sun in an unfamiliar room. Her legs had begun to vibrate uncontrollably, and a part of her was wild with panic, screaming at them to be still, but her mind was now mute, her body a frail puppet’s, moving only when the thin strings of her nerves were tugged too hard. She tried to speak, feeling a slow line of drool crawl over her lip, onto the itching flesh of her chin. She had gone too far this time – a bad hit perhaps, or some kind of sickness. Her throat was parched and the sounds of the cars tore through her chest like claws. Breathing felt like smoking to her now – her mouth lingering on the edge of inhalation for a few moments more each minute. She longed to clasp her palms over her ears, but moving would only make her shiver harder. She stared at the feet that crossed the floor, longing to hear the dull chink of coins hitting the edge of her cup. Instead, the voices came, drifting above her like grey clouds in a world far above her own. “….got money for drugs though hasn’t she?” Somewhere, behind the shivering façade of bruised flesh she now was, a strange feeling shone through her, like a spotlight darting about in the darkness of a long forgotten crypt. She felt as though she might have smiled –just for a moment, somehow slowing down time for long enough to 14
phase out the numbness of her feet, the toes as stiff and sensationless as a row of lego-bricks on a board. What had happened to her in that glorious burst of awareness? How had it found her, through the endless waves of nausea that had her bolstered up against this cold stone wall, a hideous human gargoyle with its arms forever extended outwards, clasping the polystyrene cup like a chalice, drifting in and out of a dense, peaceless sleep. Her chest heaved in another breath of air. “…lowlife scum...” She had believed in angels once – a naïve teen spending her first night on a street bright with police lights, McDonald’s signs and the mobilephones of passing clubbers, lit up like candles at a concert as their owners swayed from one end of the street to the next, singing deliriously with arms around each other. She’d imagined an angel was with her, talked to it in her mind, with no trace of regret at the loss of the soft bed that had come with leaving home. The bed where the bastard had done it. “…I say execute the lot of ‘em…” She had meant to walk and keep on walking, a backpacker on an adventure, steering clear of anyone who might find out who she was and take her back to that place. Social workers were no better than cops, making promises they couldn’t keep, even if they wanted to – even if they really meant it. She could only trust herself. Another breath – the sound of a blocked sink draining.
“…living off my taxes…” The childish bag she had packed had been found at the side of the road three days after she’d been dragged into the car. Then came the drugs, the rapes, and finally, the streets again – now devoid of all hope and charm. She hardly noticed the passers-by any more, slumped in an emaciated heap by the train station . “Waste of fucking space…” She never looked up, constantly keeping the hood over her eyes in case anyone recognised her. The only people she ever saw were the small ones at the other side of the road, leaning against bus-stops or frog-marching kids and shopping bags across the bridge. They were never rude - they never kicked or shouted at her. A kid across the road was whisked up onto his dad’s shoulders to get a better look over the bridge. How could those parents let their kids out there with all these fumes? It was so hard to breathe here. Her eyelids began to close, the lashes blurring her vision with soft, silver edges, a faint rainbow edging through the dark slits before her mind fell deep through the floor, whisking away her blanket in a flurry of exhaust fumes, until the tarmac crumbled and rained down upon her, harder and harder until only atoms of her being remained. The same faint atoms that had felt like happiness once. “Fucking junkie...” snarled the approaching angel.
The Black Chair The hills of Wales are green and gold, but the men who once walked there now wade through trenches in the mud of foreign fields where death stalks indiscriminate and cold. These are fields but there will be no grain, no harvest here but bones and flesh as the blood mingles with the rain.
Ellis Evans (Hedd Wyn)
In Wales the yellow native poppy spangles hedgerows, unaware of how on Pilken Ridge the evil thud of shells breaks the loveliness of Flanders poppies, red as blood, crimson petals falling in the mud with broken, dying men in awful pain, poppy petals mingling with their blood and the blood mingling with the rain Orders come from somewhere else; men who hold no hate for fellow men are herded like uncomprehending flocks to keep a grisly rendezvous with death far from their native fields and fells. Poets plead their pity and their pain, the pen crawls on, and a slow silver vein of poetry seeps through Flanders mud and flows with the blood and with the rain Quiet and cold Arianrhod shines, silvering the slates of distant Wales. but her poet is a soldier now, gone with the men who marched away to a world of weary plodding boots, bayonets and all that war entails. Half the youth of Europe slain in an incomprehensible war, where blood mingles, wasted, with the rain. Far from the fear, the lice, the groans, men too old for war have read the words of those who face their Armageddon in those distant, hellish zones. And, ‘Is there peace?’ the bard intones, ceremonial sword raised above the black chair under the black cloth. The poet now is past his pain; black crows fly over Flanders fields and the blood mingles with the rain.
In memoriam Ellis Evans [Hedd Wyn] killed 1917 and won Eisteddfod chair Ellis Evans (bardic name Hedd Wyn = white/lovely peace) died in Flanders in 1917 and was buried on the battlefield. Meanwhile his poem, The Hero, won the chair at the National Eisteddfod, Wales’ annual national literature & music festival. The ceremony was conducted with the chair draped in black and it was subsequently conveyed to Trawsfynydd where the local population followed it to the farm where his family mourned him. The farm is next but one to mine. ‘Is there peace?’ is the rhetorical question posed to the audience during the chairing of the bard – in this case, so ironic. A collection of all the poet's known works (in Welsh) was published under the title Hedd Wyn, Ei Farddoniaeth (Merilang Press, 2012. ISBN 9780956937919 www.merilang.co.uk/shop.htm
by Sam Meekings
He was, she said, one of those intriguing examples of human Lepidoptera...
came to hear about him because of a single word. In the middle of a conversation with a friend about the things that we had not been able to bring ourselves to believe as children – that we would ever turn into adults, say, or that babies might be made outside laboratories – I mentioned my childhood conviction that there was no way caterpillars turned into butterflies, and that the grown-ups who swore otherwise were simply telling fibs. It seemed impossible to me that one thing could change so completely into another. Metamor-
Illustration: Slavko Mali
phosis, pupation, transformation; as a young boy I was adamant that these kind of things only happened in fairy tales. At any rate, as soon as I had mentioned transformation, my friend brought up Uncle Gordon. He was, she said, one of those intriguing examples of human Lepidoptera. He was by no means rare, she added (he was not of a kin with the Queen Alexandras Birdwing butterfly, say, or the Palos Verdes Blue), for I think there are probably many like him who have lived two lives.
He was not one of those elderly relatives that children avoid – like those who easily fly into terrible rages, or those who smother you with pinched cheeks and wet kisses and other infuriating signs of affection. In fact, my friend went on, he often gave every sign of not noticing us at all. It seemed as though he was thirty seconds out of sync with everyone else, and could not get his inner clock quite right. He would sometimes mumble his response to one of my aunt’s questions long after she had left the room, and would often only notice
Butterfly by Sam Meekings the food placed in front of him once it had grown cold. He spent whole days frowning. What we found most mysterious when we were children, she told me, was his ability to sit, for hours on end, doing nothing at all. It looked like he was engaged in a furiously competitive staring contest with some invisible adversary. He never turned on the dusty TV in the corner of the living room (though I remember him once calling it a silly box of ghosts) and I don’t think I ever saw a newspaper in his house. There was nothing wrong with him – as far as I know, his air of permanent distraction and melancholy never affected his job at the gasworks – and my mother often chastised my aunt for doting on him, saying that if she stopped fussing then he might just snap out of his malaise. Yet he had not always been this way. In fact, the whole family
agreed that it was as though he was a different man from the one they remembered. In what we might call his butterfly life, Uncle Gordon committed to memory close to a hundred terrible jokes, and loved nothing so much as playing tricks (wasting money on twirling bowties, squirting flowers, and fake custard creams to set among the real biscuits). He whistled. He developed a restless, infectious energy, and somewhere along the way he picked up the ability to cajole those around him into joining in the outlandish schemes he started to dream up (such as helping him build a treehouse at the bottom of the garden where they might house lodgers, or constructing a grand piano for the front room from plywood and string). He cycled to the pub and they twice ended up finding his bicycle in the middle of a field the
next morning. Furthermore, my friend told me, he picked up the delusion that with a bit of practice he would make a fine experimental chef, and his family were thereby forced, roughly once a month, to pretend that his creations were edible. In short, at times it was almost as though he had the bright, garish wings of a butterfly. Depending upon the species, Lepidoptera might spend anything from twelve days to more than a year inside their pupae before the process is complete and eclosion can occur. For us, transformation usually happens far more quickly. Though in some cases it may last a number of weeks, most commonly all it takes is an hour at most (consider the time it takes to break into a house, to fire a gun, to grab hold of a stranger, to pick up a knife, to leap from a bridge, to break someone’s heart). My friend told me that Uncle Gordon’s wife once said she thought his took place sometime between half-past six and half-past eight on the French coast on the 6th June, 1944, but, as she herself admitted, it was impossible to say for sure. Almost without exception, Lepidoptera die soon after eclosion. This is not the case with humans. We push on, often for many decades. And of course, as in the case of Uncle Gordon and the many like him whose lives have been reset by a single day, when metamorphosis occurs among us the process is almost always in reverse, and we are forced to watch as butterflies are transformed into caterpillars. In time a few will manage to change back, though many end up stuck living backwards, like Uncle Gordon, unmade in two and a half hours and left hoping that one day his life might be played back to him the right way round.
Gold Dust’s prize-winning photographer is interviewed by David Gardiner...
Eleanor Leonne Bennett introduced herself to Gold Dust when she was 14, with the offer of cover art and bespoke photographic images tailored to fit specific stories and poems. We gratefully accepted her offer, and have been the beneficiaries of her talent and generosity ever since for artwork in the magazine itself and our occasional Gold Dust Special publications, like our poetry anthology Past, Present and Future and our book of short plays, Six of the Best. Still only 17, Eleanor has achieved as much competition success and publication as many professional adult artists manage in a lifetime. The list is too long even to summarise here, but you can find all the details of her career on her personal website at:
You were unusually young when you started entering photographic competitions. Did you know from a very young age that a photographic or artistic career was what you wanted? I have always been a creative and competitive person.
I always wanted to become an artist, in which genre has changed often in my mind since the age of 7. Do you find yourself composing pictures as you live your ordinary life and look around you, like those film directors who claim to perceive their day-to-day life as a series of ‘takes’ and live in an on-going movie? When I take a picture I’m normally thinking about what someone else will see in my image. I don’t think my life is interesting enough to make up a movie frame by frame. I like to deceive and make images that the viewer has to interpret, especially with my abstracts. Often I don’t even want people to think it is the same artist taking them all. I am always taking images of normal things surrounding me, but they don’t add to my biography. I want them to appeal to everyone who sees them. What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in art and photography so far? Becoming the Young Environmental Photographer of the Year. I’ve dreamed of that for so long it doesn’t
Interview: Eleanor Bennett seem quite real. It is amazing. I’m still very overjoyed with it. It is so nice to have that title awarded to me. It is something I feel blessed to have received, but at the same time I feel that I have earned it, and with all my work I will make the most of the accolade. It is already helping my career and CV. It is wonderful to see the places where I always wanted to publish my work opening up to me readily. In a way it sometimes saddens me to think that my work was good enough all along; in fact I had already sent them the images that have become the award winners. Being good at something when you are very young always has a novelty value and attracts interest, as with child musicians, child chess champions, child actors and actresses and so forth. Are you finding that as you get a little older it’s becoming harder to attract the same degree of interest and attention from the arts community? I actually had a far harder time being young, as people don’t want to employ you, and their organisations are too strict to let anyone in who hasn’t been an artist for at least 10 years. Being a child artist is strange in that I have nailed interviews, magazine features and the like for my young age, but unlike the child “prodigies” you see in the American media I have never had people willing to request commissions and pay the big bucks. I’m keeping so much good work hidden from people at the moment. They will have to pay to see my best and most recent work, or it will remain forever hidden. It is a relief to be almost 18. I have a list of people to contact on my 18th birthday as their lawyers can’t sign the contracts beforehand. You have been unusually generous and helpful to a large number of small press magazine and book publishers, including Gold Dust, offering photographs and artwork free of charge, and even coming up with very specific images to fill particular slots. Do you find it rewarding in itself to see your work published, or do you regard the present phase as a stepping-stone to a full time career that will provide a living and professional advancement? When choosing to do unpaid work I only do it because the publication appeals to me. I have contributed much to poetry, literary and feminist journals. It gives me a warm feeling to be published by journals I admire. Sometimes a university journal might accept 5 of my images when they have the best art from their own students to choose from, even though I am 5,000 miles away, still making the cut with much less of an impression of what they are looking for.
What is the one big success that you haven’t had yet that would give you the greatest satisfaction? I one day want to read next to my name, Eleanor Leonne Bennett The Young Environmental Photographer Of The Year 2013 and the youngest ever winner of the Turner Prize. I’m half-way there so far, and I’m going to keep going until I’ve achieved something equal to this, or greater. The life of a creative artist of any kind can be quite solitary and even lonely. Are you able to find enough time for a social life as well your art? I would say honestly, no. Well, before being an artist I was home-schooled, and virtually never went out, and family rarely visited. Up to the age of about 10 it was rare for me to see anyone, outside of Grandparents’ visits, which happened about once a month at the beginning but dwindled to almost none as time went by. I spent a great deal of time alone during those years. Then I went to ballet class and kickboxing and karate, but socially all it amounted to was that I probably had one young visitor back twice. I have been very lonely, but then I found my boyfriend, and before he went to college we could spend as much as 12 hours talking, at least 5 times a week. We still make time for each other now, although he has a much busier schedule with work and school, but we are very interconnected people. It feels like we are two halves. The addition of one more person in my life was enough to cure any loneliness. He also was quite lonely from the ages of 5 to 10. We’ve never been so happy as when talking together. I have always worked best when alone, but It’s nice to have someone who, whilst you spend 5 hours editing images and making submissions, is quietly drawing and understands your OCD and your need to concentrate. You mentioned that you attended school only briefly and were then home-schooled for most of your school career. What was the thinking behind this, and did the idea come from you or from your parents? Parents. I didn’t react well to school. When I started school at 4 I was poorly all the time, solidly. I still get like this when I’m under stress. My last two bouts of illness were cursed with violent shakes and almost no sleep. When happy I feel like one of the most healthy people in the whole wide world. I’d like to believe I’m indestructible. I love to spar and punch and kick at karate and kickboxing. I can have my legs covered in bruises and scars and act as if I don’t feel a thing. But bring me down intellectually and don’t give my talents space and time to be exhibited, and everything from the inside out goes wrong. 19
Interview: Eleanor Bennett Have you travelled very much outside of the area where you live, for example to attend exhibitions showing your work? Would you like to travel further afield? I have only once been to London and three times to Manchester. I have never been outside of England. I yearn to go further afield and to go on a holiday and take new pictures and see how well I work in a foreign domain. I would love to get to California. What are your tastes in reading and in music? I hate a little bit of myself that doesn’t find the time to read like I used to. When I used to go to the library as a child I used to get every Jacqueline Wilson and Roald Dahl book I could find. My Mum got a bad back from carrying them all home. I used to adore the DK (www.dk.co.uk) and Usborne (www.usborne.com) books and still do. I also learnt everything I know of history from the Terry Deary ‘Horrible Histories’ books. I love all music really. I love classic rock, britpop and then mainly alternative experimental stuff. I’m a massive Blur and Gorillaz fan too. My boyfriend has introduced me to a lot of good hip hop. Before that I loved trip hop like Tricky and Massive Attack. Eyedea is wonderful too, and Martina Topley Bird, who originally sang with Tricky. I understand that your boyfriend lives in America and you have yet to meet face to face. Have you any plans for such a meeting in the near future? It will probably be in about 4 years, due to our living situations. We have been together almost three years, less a short time when we broke up. He is there for me more than people who literally live ten minutes’
walking distance down the road. Although he lives 5,000 miles away I could text him with a problem at 4 am his time any day of the year and he would be there to reassure. Would you say that you are a basically happy person or are there a lot of things that you would like to change about your life? Ideally I would like to double the number of awards I have won before I reach the age of 20. I want to get more artists like me portrayed on the covers of magazines too. Young people who inspire others are not given enough attention. Young people are practically always portrayed as problems, which is useless forself esteem. I’d love to be part of creating some good news about young people. Looking further into the future, what would constitute an ideal sort of life for you? I see myself living in America or Australia or possibly Canada. I need to live somewhere warm for health reasons and I’d like to be in close proximity to loads of auctions and junk shops. I might like to work for a major auction house, taking photos of the fine art and antiques, until I market my own work to collectors. I probably won’t have pets I own myself until my career gives me time to look after them properly. When I am a bit older and people see me as established I will probably produce a few photography books, but I don’t see myself writing a biography ever, no matter how well my work is received. I see myself as married to someone who understands my goals and ambitions, and I hope to surround myself with a ‘made family’ of supporters and intelligent creatives.
Find out more... Eleanor Bennett has just won the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)'s Young Environmental Photographer of the Year competition for 2013, with a £1,000 prize: www.designweek.co.uk/whats-on/environmental-photographer-of-the-year-2013/3036304.article
Eleanor shares some of her photographs and the inspiration behind them
This image was taken as part of a shoot and was in response to an earlier picture taken 3 years before called the demon. I wanted to recreate the emotions behind the photo but make them more powerful.
This image was the Young Photographer winner with the ERSC in 2012. I took the image in Chapel on a trip paid for by winning another photography competition about 4 months before. The trip paid for itself twice over - myself being a bargain hunter, I love that.
This image of a rotting car in my back garden became such a good front cover of an American literary magazine that another magazine who had rejected all my previous submissions came to ask to me to resubmit. Another image of this car from a different angle won me ÂŁ1000 as The Young Environmental Photographer Of The Year.
Tin Girl by Holly A Cave “Have you ever been switched off, Andrea?”...
fter Angie came back from the workshop, she wasn’t quite the same. I heard them lay her down in her room, next door to mine, and at first it was so quiet, I figured that she must have been turned off. But after I had sat still for a while, focussing all my energy on my ears, I could hear her humming. No one had been in to check on me, so I carried on with my sewing, half my brain wondering why Angie wasn’t doing anything. I finished the batch of garments two days later. My fingers were stiff from sewing straight for so long and I barely had enough power left to fold up each dress and package them into the bags. I tried to listen to Angie again and went and stood close to the wall to try and hear. No one else had gone into her room but she was talking to herself in a soft, husky voice that I barely recognised as hers. Oh yes, yes, yes, she called. That’s right, baby, yes, right there. It was time for our weekly socialisation. A knock came at the door and I joined the others walking down to the sitting room. It was a big space, at least ten times the size of my room, and we all fitted ourselves in and settled down. I didn’t feel like talking or playing games today and so I went to the bookshelf and took down my current favourite, Wuthering Heights. “I don’t think you should read any more of that, Andrea,” said Bob, taking the book out of my hands. “Won’t you play me at chess?” I nodded and followed him to the table, but I would rather have read about Heathcliff and Cather22
ine: I had predicted it was going to end badly and wanted to know for sure. We had been playing for sixteen minutes when I asked him where Angie had been. “I wanted to talk to you about that,” he said, looking directly into my eyes. “Angie has started her proper job now. She’s not going to sew from now on.” “But what’s wrong with her? She has been back in her room for two days and hasn’t done anything.” “Ah, right. Well, she has to focus on her job now. In a way, she’s perhaps not what you’d consider pristine condition any longer.” “Oh,” I said, but I thought of how perfect she had looked when I’d last seen her. Full, red lips and wide blue eyes; that long, wavy caramel hair; the way she walked. “And you’re also going to start your proper job soon,” Bob carried on, as if I hadn’t asked my last question. “You’re going to start doing what you’ve been put on this Earth to do.” “What am I going to do? Am I going to go where she went?” “Oh no, Andrea! No, you and Angie were designed for very different purposes. But you are both going to…” he paused and I could see he was thinking. “Well, you’re both going to help people,” he finally said and he almost smiled. The brightness that often came with a smile was there but I couldn’t see his lips curl up at the ends, or the whites of his teeth. “What will happen to me?” I asked. “We’ve kept you very safe
here, Andrea - very safe indeed. But now it’s time for you to go. You’ll leave here and you’ll go to a new place where you’ll spend a lot of time with doctors and nurses. They’re very interesting people, you know.” # When it came to leaving, everyone was very nice. Bob gave me a pile of books from the library, including Wuthering Heights. Even Angie came out of her room to blow me a kiss from the doorway as the taxi pulled away. The journey took ninety-two and a half minutes. We passed through countryside and along narrow lanes lined with trees. We finished up on the edge of a city and parked in front of the reception of a large, pale blue building. A tall, dark man strode out of the building and opened the car door, beckoning me out. The moment both my feet touched the ground, he took my hand and kissed it. No one had ever really touched me before, deliberately. It tingled; his breath fell warm upon my fingers. I’m John, he said. Welcome. I rested alone in my new room that night, thinking to myself and reading my book. It was strange not to know what was going to happen tomorrow; hard to accept that I wouldn’t be sewing, or talking to Angie or Bob. But I tried to relax and clear my mind of as many processes as possible. Morning came soon enough and a woman collected me at 8 o’clock. I had expected, perhaps hoped, that John would come, but
Tin Girl by Holly A Cave she did take me straight to him. He was wearing a white coat and stood beside a small bed covered in a sheet as clean as his outfit. He looked very handsome. “Come in, Andrea,” he said, waving the woman away. “Please, lie down on the bed.” I did, and folded my hands on my stomach, but he moved them away, placing them at my sides. He placed a graphene square on my chest and turned to his computer, watching for a few minutes the peaks and troughs of activity, the precisely calibrated frequencies that made me Andrea and not Angie or Andrew or Anthony. “Have you ever been switched off, Andrea?” he asked, politely. I shook my head. “Well, it’s very simple. You won’t even know it’s happened. I just push gently here…” He stopped talking and I watched as he inserted his index finger into my belly button. I felt the warmth, the tingle again, and I still felt it when I opened my eyes. I hadn’t remembered shutting them. “There!” John said. “That wasn’t so bad, was it? You’ve been off for five hours.” I showed surprise and smiled, too. He was making me feel dizzy, looking down on me like this. “I felt a tingle,” I told him, running my fingertips across my abdomen. “A strange sensation where you touched me.” He nodded enthusiastically. “Good, good!”
“Did you feel that, Andrea?” “Yes, yes. I felt the prickle of your hair and the smoothness of your lips. You also squashed my nose a little bit.” He nodded; a serious expression upon his face. He looked again out of the window before leaning back over me. I felt something then, as though something was going wrong inside my chest and between my legs; the suggestion of something that wasn’t quite connected. He kissed me again and this time he put one hand against my face, tilting it upwards with his thumb against my cheekbone. He pushed his tongue inside my mouth and it was strange. “How did that feel to you?” “I felt like I was going to break, that something was going to short circuit. But I didn’t mind,” I said. “In fact, I would like more.” “Wow, they really have done a good job on you,” he said, grinning. And then as he turned his face away, just before he switched me off, I thought I heard him say something else: Hopefully not too good
a job. # I woke up to what I think they call pain. Everything churned sharply; I felt a sense of panic that something inside me was irreparably broken. The air smelt acrid, burnt, and I realised I was shaking uncontrollably. Call Bob, call Bob, I murmured repeatedly. I knew he wasn’t here, was miles away, but it was all I was programmed to do, I guess. And then I noticed my arm was gone. I scanned the room, but it wasn’t here. I sensed it was gone and was not returning. I tried to form a list of all the things I couldn’t do without it and it ran and ran inside my head; reams of lost abilities. The size of my loss overwhelmed me but perhaps, I figured, perhaps they would re-program me, sort me out so that I would be fine with just the one arm. I didn’t actually wonder why this had been done to me until John returned and rested his hand on my remaining elbow. “I’m sure you’re wondering
Illustration: Francisco Zuzuarregui
# The next day, I knew I was going to be turned off again. This time, before John pushed his finger into my belly button again, he glanced quickly out of the small window in the door and then leant over my face and briefly pressed his lips onto mine. I think it was what they call a kiss. I didn’t move; I just stared back at him.
Tin Girl by Holly A Cave why this has happened,” he said, his eyes full of that fake human sympathy that we were so much more convincing at. I nearly shook my head but didn’t bother. It was a strain to speak or move over the pain, which continued to flow from me and back inside again like a tide full of needles. What I really wanted to do was to explain to John about this extra dimension of sensation I had noticed since I’d met him. One that couldn’t be directly explained, that floated around me, inside me, like a kind of smoke that I knew was there but I couldn’t feel. “The simple fact of the matter is, Andrea, that you’re a medical testing android,” John continued. He told me that this was my job now, which I already knew. He talked about phantom limbs and quadriplegics and trying to help them. “I know you are programmed to think you’re a human, but you’re not. You don’t have a proper brain, or a heart, or a lifetime of memories. All you have is some tissue, some nerves, some neurons and some sophisticated software. Look my love, I’m sure you’re just suffering stress and going into overdrive today. You’ll be back to normal tomorrow.” I sensed that he was patronising me, and automatically frowned. “But I do have a heart.” “No, Andrea. No, you don’t,” he said, shaking his head with caution, with what I perceived to be weariness. He took the pen from behind his ear and scratched it along the hairs of his eyebrow. “I must have, because I love you.” I said the words without thinking them, as if they had already been written by someone else, had been itching to get out since I’d been made. John laughed. I think it was a laugh, or what they might call a chuckle. I don’t remember ever 24
having heard one before. “Oh, Andrea. Androids like you are…” he paused, his eyes skirting the ceiling. “Are so straightforward, so very practical.” He dragged his hand over his mouth and off his chin. “And hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable.” He folded his lips and his arms then, shaking his head slightly and looking past me, over my shoulder where there was nothing but the wall. He looked like I had imagined Heathcliff might. “You don’t need a heart.” But I did. I lay in the hospital bed all night reflecting on how desperately I needed one. Something snapped inside me at 3.07am, although I couldn’t locate where exactly. It almost felt as though it was purely something I was imagining and not a breaking of anything at all. Like a silent sort of noise that only dogs can hear. I immediately knew what I had to do. I rose out of bed and let myself out of the room. They obviously hadn’t done any reprogramming because I wanted to use my right arm to open the door, even though it was no longer there. Instead, I used my left and it felt no more awkward. I paced down the corridor, treading lightly in my bare feet. The strip lighting above cast my shadow underneath the pools of my feet like grey blood was leaking from my shoulder joint. I felt something that fizzed at my temples, pulsed in my chest like a shot of sunshine. At the end of the corridor, I found the room I was looking for. Peering in through the window, I saw the nurse asleep on the bed, her hands folded in prayer beneath her cheek. It was the woman who had met me when I first arrived, with sickly pale skin and dark hair like Cathy. I strode in and she opened her eyes calmly; there was
almost a flicker of a smile on her lips and for a moment, I thought what I was about to do was incorrect. I watched her sit up and then, before she could talk, I pinned her back to the bed, my one hand around her neck. She tried to scream and I looked at my useless, empty shoulder socket before lifting up my foot and crushing it down over her head. Her neck snapped sideways onto the bed and the scream died in her throat. I dug my fingers deep into her chest, hooking them under her ribcage and pushing them apart. I knew where it was supposed to be; I’d listened in the anatomy classes that I now knew had provided schooling for my future job. I felt the pulsing and it was smaller than I thought; I hoped I had got a good one. I tore and held it to my chest; the blood slipping down my blue gown and sliding between my bare toes. John would be able to put it inside me. If he could take away my arm, he could give me back a heart.
Illustration: Francisco Zuzuarregui
Dr Amo’s Lonely Planet
by Jojo Cobbinah Peter Meyer Verlag 631 pages (Kindle edition), 2013 Reviewed by Omma Velada clearly been carefully researched and all is here, from names, dates and such careful attention to detail as the words used at the time, drinks that would have been drunk and clothes that would have been worn, not to mention references to wonderful Ghanaian cuisine of groundnut stew, fufu, and so on. Things that Amo does not understand are not explained but presented as he experiences them, such as the inspection of the slaves. Five chapters in and Amo arrives in Europe, their first impressions of the cold and people with ojo Cobbinah lived in Germany for 37 years pale skin are evoked. The arbitrariness of fate is emphasized when before returning to his homeland of Ghana. He works as a travel guide, freelance trans- Amo is gifted to a Duke on the flip of a coin, but the ability to influence our own fate against inlator and author. This is the incredible true story of Anton credible odds is part of the message. The story ends with Amo accepting his new Wilhelm Amo, a Ghanaian who at the turn of the life under the guise of a new name, ‘Anton Amo’. 18th century was taken from Ghana as a present for a Duke, but whose remarkable intelligence The epilogue then explains how the story of the novel relates to the known facts of Amo’s life and sent him on a different path. The story is an important introduction to the a window into how Amo’s future elapsed. story of slavery for young people and educational for adults too. Yet it is told in such an easy style Gold Dust that it can be enjoyed as a straightforward story with the educational details interwoven. It has
Find out more... To learn more about this remarkable book, you can visit the publisher’s website at: http://www.petermeyerverlag.de/dr_amos_lonely_planet_novel0.0.html The author’s Wikipedia page is at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jojo_Cobbinah
They’re discharging him tomorrow...
he walks. Every day around seven o’clock she walks along the footpath behind the hospital, briskly, looking straight ahead, with her shoulders squared against invisible adversity. She is in black, always in black, her dark mane blending with the colour of her top. Clingy black leggings, black trainers too, and to round off the general blackness, sunglasses on all but the gloomiest days. Her general attire and the smooth rapidity of her pace suggest that she walks for exercise. She carries nothing, her tight clothing doesn’t even seem to have room for a house key. Why the lipstick, though, and the earrings, large bronze discs in some kind of Mayan design? On those rare days when dark, low hanging clouds entice her to venture out without sunglasses, her eyes can be seen, edged in black, with long, swooping lashes. Why such glamour just for taking the air? It isn’t a well-kept path. The asphalt is scarred, pock-marked. Tree roots have raised ridges that resemble miniature Appalachians. Where frost has cracked the surface, the green shuttlecocks of dandelions cluster. Grit collects in the hollows, which turn into lakes when it rains. To one side an ancient wooden fence still holds up, bleached to an indifferent greengrey. Stinging nettles and brambles clothe its decrepit limbs and squashed drinks cans and scraps of plastic bags are its jewellery. To the other side languishes the limp lawn of the hospital grounds. Only a hundred yards away, beyond the 26
river, which can be crossed by a pretty blue footbridge, lies the entrance to a public park abounding with majestic old trees and jolly flower beds, and yet she never crosses that bridge. It is hard to imagine why she would choose this dreary path over the park unless she is going somewhere. He sits. Usually by the window, though sometimes, when the weather allows it, they take him out onto the little balcony. Naturally, those are the days when her eyes are obscured by the sunglasses. The railing of the balcony is made from square beams of galvanised steel, which shimmer in the sunshine not unlike the frost patterns that used to be drawn in bygone winters on the windows of less centrally heated times. She enters his field of vision from the right, always from the right. He has never seen her walk the other way, and it leaves him to speculate about how she makes her loop. Does she use the pedestrian underpass by the petrol station and wind her way through the twisted streets of the old town? Does she take a shortcut across the supermarket car park? Does she visit someone in the hospital and take a bus home afterwards? Does somebody wait for her to pick her up? On the right, a clump of shrubs obscures the path and it is always with a pleasing suddenness that she appears, already close. To the left, the view is clear for much longer before she turns the corner by the Accident and Emergency wing. She needs between fifty-
seven and sixty-one seconds to traverse his whole panorama, though it is only about twenty seconds that he can see more than her retreating back. Still, call it a minute, roughly, that he can see her. Only one minute out of his day, his one thousand four hundred and forty minutes, though mercifully he sleeps through a good chunk of these. It’s been going on like this all summer, with her walking and him watching, and it might go on like this forever as far as he is concerned, but things are changing. Rehab is expensive and money is getting scarce these days, and physiotherapists can do home visits. So they’re discharging him tomorrow, sending him home to Illustration: Francisco Zuzuarregui
The Walker by Annette Kupke Mum, which is in another town altogether. It is time to act. It drizzles in the morning but by mid-afternoon, the sun comes out. He wheels up to the window, but it takes skill he doesn’t yet have to tilt the chair back and then forward again to negotiate the two inch step at the balcony door. The other two are no use to him. One sleeps all the time (though is up all night rustling with the sheets) and the other is still in a body cast. When the nurse comes with his dinner tray, he says he’s not hungry but could she please take him on the balcony? She looks sceptical, but then shrugs and complies. The smell of the air has changed to an earthy tone that wasn’t there before. He fancies he can see ripe blackberries clustered on the bramble bushes. A tinge of yellow has crept into the leaves of this tree, a reddish hue over the foliage of that. Fat, bulging water drops sit on the steel banister and mirror an indolent sky. He uses his fingertips to connect them, makes them flow together and then down the side. With his sleeve, he wipes
the banister dry, leans his arms on it and rests his chin on his hands. And waits. He has it all sussed out. He will wait until she is close enough but not too close, and he will say, A good day for walking, and then, after she has made some appropriate reply, he will add, They tell me I will walk again, by next spring or so. She’ll have no choice then. She’ll have to stop and talk, and if there’s one thing he is good at it’s talking. Unless the accident has crushed more than his knee caps (and left a good many other bruises, but there's no need to list them all), he will have her name and phone number after twenty minutes at the most. Over the weeks, he has had plenty of time to imagine how her voice sounds, what colour her eyes are, what it would feel like to twist that black hair around his hand. One of these, at least, he will find out today. He watches the path and wishes them to be gone, those joggers and dog walkers and mothers with toddlers in buggies, all those people who clutter his view. He does not, this much is sure, want an audience. The day has entered its golden stage, with a low-hanging sun that makes the damp world look crisp and thoroughly understandable. Blades of grass shimmer. A thrush ventures out on the path, pecks at a hapless creature and flutters up into the bushes as she emerges. He counts under his breath. …eight, nine, ten. Now. Cheerful voice, big smile, go for it! “Hello! Good day for walking, isn’t it?” She stops. Rooting for the source of the voice, he imagines that behind her sunglasses, she glances in his direction. He gives a little wave. Casual. Non-threatening. She takes three steps onto the hospital lawn and turns her face towards him.
Suddenly he realises that she is not as young as he thought she was. It is a shock, though not so great a shock as the other one. He feels his smile glued to his face like a burst bubble of chewing gum. Without warning, he’s been shown the far side of the moon. On her right cheek, stretching from the corner of her mouth across to her ear and all the way down her neck, sits a birthmark of stunning ugliness. Deep bramble-coloured and of a lumpy texture that also reminds of berries, it has been there all the time and fooled him, fooled him. All summer, she has walked under his nose and fuelled his daydreams, all the while hiding this abomination. “Yes,” she says, and he thinks, What’s she saying yes for? “Sun’s come out after all.” He falls into a crater on the moon, struggles at the bottom. The sides are too steep to climb out, even with two good legs. Dust clings to his mouth. He scrabbles madly, desperately for words, any words will do. “Um, yes. It was on the forecast. Well, have a nice, um, walk.” She nods, steps off the grass, walks on. The following morning, Mum leans over him for a kiss, Dad picks up his bag. The nurses strip the linen almost as soon as he is out the door. Come seven o’clock, a new patient occupies the bed and tucks into the dinner of creamed chicken on rice and bramble pie. The window is open and the early autumn air makes the get-well cards on the side table tremble. Somewhere in the town, a clock strikes seven. She walks. With her shoulders squared against invisible adversity, looking straight ahead, she walks on and on.
I really like your opinions but what about the rabbit?
by Verity Healey
Alex was unquestionably very clever...
hey shared the top flat together. A room each, a shared kitchen and shower shoved into the corner. Actually they didn't really have a proper room each but stuck a chip board partition down the middle to make one big space into two. And made do. Their pretence at privacy was just enough. To help herself though, Mira read Zola, empathizing with the artists stuck in terrible living conditions in L'Oeuvre or the young girl in La Bette Humaine. There were times when she even pretended to herself that she was in Paris, that Camden really was Montemarte and that any moment now she'd turn the corner and see the Sacré Coeur and find herself in a film by Truffaut or Rohmer or on the set of Amélie. This was how people coped now. Looking through the long lens culture provided – of books, theatre and art. It kept them distant from the true reality of their lives, which if fully felt would surely destroy them Mira thought, it helped keep at arm’s length the coldness of the poorly heated rooms, the squabbling of benefit couples below them and the long winter evenings Mira tried to avoid spending in the flat. She held two jobs. In one she worked at a vegan restaurant made famous by its celebrity patrons on Neal Street, and in the other she was an Usher at an off West End Theatre. But really she aspired to be a… something. She didn't know what yet. She had a degree in English but didn't really want to teach. She didn't have the savvy to be a journalist, she wasn't impartial enough and anyway she couldn't 28
write. She sometimes drew but this was of no consequence. She saw plays and either walked out or heckled from the side lines. But other than this she didn't actually do anything. Not because she was lazy, far from it. But because there was a kind of block. A psychic block she couldn't get over and work through. It blocked her whole life. And no one knew. Mira shared the flat with Alex. Alex was unquestionably very clever and she wore beautifully knit woollen jumpers. She did the knitting herself. She also wore flowing pre-Raphaelite skirts, tights and buckle shoes. Or sometimes slim jeans and chunky cardigans. Alex had been at one of the top universities and Mira was slightly in awe of her. She had inside her a kind of energy like a coiled spring waiting to be released. Each day it tightened and tightened until Mira thought it could go no tighter. Alex, unlike Mira, threw herself into everything. She taught history as a private tutor to children educated at home, scooting in between their houses in North London on her pedal bike. She co-edited an arts magazine she still helped run at her old university, proof read for an online medical journal, corrected the essays of other BA students and attended yoga classes every Saturday. And she had a rabbit. The rabbit was a Netherland Dwarf with Satanic pink red eyes. It was huge and slept in a little crate in the kitchen. Mira thought she secretly hated this rabbit although she was the primary carer as Alex rarely had time. In fact, even though she hated it; Mira had actu-
ally formed an obsession with it. Every morning if the restaurant did not require her, she would get down on hands and knees and peer through the bars at it hunched in the corner. It never looked at Mira but continually shivered, staring straight ahead. If she let it out it lopped across the room. Stopped. Looked around it and then made for the gap between the cupboard and the wall where it somehow, despite its size, wedged itself. Mira would spend hours dangling lettuce leaves, carrots, all manner of rabbit fare to entice it out. And yet the only thing that worked was a piece of dried raw spaghetti – the kind you liked crunching as kid. Hold it out and it grabbed and neatly waffled the thing down before making a dash back to its cage. Although it had been living in that flat for years it still couldn't cope with any form of freedom. Gradually Mira took to fancying what it would be like if Fluff – for that was its name – were able to run free. What would it do, she often fantasized, if she left open its cage and the front door and by chance it found itself in the suburbs and surrounding fields of Chislehurst and came to a beautiful green field bathed in sunlight? Would it take a sniff and then, with a wave of its paw dismiss the wildness and run back to Camden? Or would it hold its quivering nose into the air and without a backward glance and with a sudden flash of its tail, disappear down a hole? Often Alex would walk into the flat at midnight and disturb Mira's musings, the air of Primrose Hill and a
I really like your opinions but what about the rabbit? by Verity Healey
Marxist lecture hanging around her shoulders and would ask disconcertingly: ‘Oh how is the rabbit? Did you have to muck her out again? I'm so sorry. Oh I went to a great lecture tonight. You should have heard it. All about who's a fox and who's a hedgehog, really interesting. Based on that book by Isaiah Berlin you know?’ Mira didn't know, she didn't care about these things but she listened carefully to everything Alex said. Even when Alex moved on to spiritual writers and how she had met Ben by coincidence at a concert that evening and then again later at the internet cafe and how obviously this meant something. And her opinions on the education costs, benefit cuts, last year's riots and the Mayor – don't get her started. She went on and on, labouring over every last detail, proclaiming Tony Benn to be the last real socialist and Ken Livingstone to be a sham – and when she was drunk she even let slip that if it weren't for David Cameron being a Tory she might actually fancy him. There was something in that 'public schoolboy act' – for it was an act – which attracted her. When at last Alex finally did stop talking she would look at Mira and say 'Oh well, whatever', or 'Hey ho.' Then there'd be a pause. And half afraid, she'd look at Mira. ‘And how was your day, did you do anything?’ ‘Oh not half as exciting,’ was Mira's usual reply. ‘I got up around 11. Went to Foyles and read a bit you know; and then had a coffee and then went to the theatre. Then I came home.’ ‘Oh and what were you reading?’ ‘A biography about Simon Gray.’ For Mira was into reading about the lives of literary giants or at least those chain smoking alco-
holics who flooded the 60s, 70s and 80s with their plays and survived their liquor run. ‘Oh really, I don't think I've seen any of his work.’ ‘You tube. Butley is his most famous.’ ‘Right, right.’ And Alex would look at Mira with a little smile as if wanting to say something else, her head cocked to one side as if sizing Mira up and privately thinking: Yes, but when are you going to do something Mira? For this was the question on everyone's lips. ‘Well, I'm off to bed,’ said Alex. But Mira suddenly found herself speaking. ‘Alex, I need to talk to you about the rabbit.’
‘The rabbit?’ ‘You know. I'm thinking, she doesn't seem so happy. She's getting very irritable. She nearly bit me earlier, I'm sure of it.’ Alex looks at Mira. ‘But Mira, why are you worrying about the rabbit?’ ‘What do you mean? I'm the one who looks after it.’ ‘No one asked you to, you just took it upon yourself. Anyhow it coped alright before you came.’ ‘What, just sitting there in its cage?’ ‘That's what rabbits do Mira.’ ‘They don't, not in the wild.’ ‘But Fluff was born into captivity. It's all she knows.’ ‘But it's not good for her.’ ‘I can't understand why you're so anxious. She seems perfectly 29
I really like your opinions but what about the rabbit? by Verity Healey happy to me. Anyway look, I have an interview tomorrow about my MA, can we talk about this later? I need to go to bed.’ Alex gets up and goes to her side of the chip board. And then: ‘You know if I get the MA funding I'm moving to Oxford. I thought I'd better tell you. It'll mean changes here. But I'm so excited, you know?’ ‘May be she needs to run around a bit more, Alex? Get out a bit?’ ‘Well how about the local park? We could get her a lead. Oxford’s going to be so political too you know, I love that. Did I tell you, I might be applying for an internship at the Whitehouse. I mean seriously.’
As Alex talks, taking off her clothes – Mira can tell by the swish swish in the air – the rabbit seems to become a little frenzied. Its red eyes seem to bulge and roll to whites, its elongated ears flatten against its head, it fluffs out all its hair. It seems the cage will no longer contain it. ‘And then there'll be shit loads of parties. Shit loads. I'm so looking forward. And who knows I might at last find a boyfriend. I mean it's my way out of all these crappy jobs I'm doing. By the way how's the restaurant?’ Mira can't stand it. She gets up and lets out a wail. Silence. Then Alex pops her head around the partition to look at Mira. Mira stands there clenching her fists, making a hissing sound.
‘Have you been drinking again?’ Mira lets out a small sob. ‘Oh sweetie, what's wrong?’ Alex comes towards Mira as a torrent of tears rushes down her face. ‘What's wrong?’ ‘I just can't, I just can't.’ Mira can't speak. She turns to the wall, buries herself in it. No one must see. Alex sits there and watches Mira. ‘I can't do it, I can't do it.’ says Mira finally. ‘What?’ ‘My life. As it is. I can no longer do it.’ ‘Of course you can, don't be so silly.’ ‘I can't. I hate it.’
I really like your opinions but what about the rabbit? by Verity Healey ‘Then change it.’ ‘But how? I'm not like you. I simply have no idea what to do. Where to go. I can't feel a future.’ ‘Then wait for it to appear.’ ‘But I can't continue in this life. These never-ending jobs with the endless shit I have to put up with and the waiting. God the waiting! The waiting for people to finish their meals, to get up and go and leave and walk out into the next chapter of their lives and washing their plates and the saliva on the spoon and my touching that thinking just now he kissed her and she kissed back and both of them are now on this spoon I have to wash and that's it. That's what my relation to life is, has become! Touching the intimacy of other people's lives through their saliva on a spoon!
And then onto the theatre. And the waiting again. And the stupid bloody pathetic awe everyone holds anyone who is anyone in just because they are deemed to be someone, the fucking reverence people pay just because everyone else does and no one questions it. It's just a bloody play. It's just art. It doesn't matter. Like the fucking food in the restaurant doesn't matter because it's all a sham. A fucking sham. What matters, what really matters; is how people treat each other day in and day out. How they speak. How they talk to that taxi driver, whether they push past people in the bus queue, whether they give the assistants in Sainsburys the time of day or not. That's what matters. That shit matters. Nothing else.’ Pause. Mira sits down exhausted. ‘Wow,’ says Alex. ‘Wow, you've really thought about it a lot.’ Pause. Mira cries. Alex: ‘I really like your opinions, but what about the rabbit? ‘What?’ ‘Mira, I think you should see someone. You know, someone to talk to? I think you need help Mira.’ ‘What, for expressing my emotions?’ ‘That wasn't expressing! That was hysteria.’ ‘But you always say I never talk, and now I have.’ ‘For women in the 1800s this was fine. The outburst. But not now. You have no need to take things out on yourself. We are freer now.’ ‘I wasn't aware I was taking anything out on myself.’ ‘You're just frustrated. This is how things are in a restaurant, in the theatre. In Sainsburys or wherever. Just get over it and get on with your life. Look tomorrow, after my interview; we'll see if we can find a private counsellor OK? I think you need one.’
Alex goes to bed. It's all childishness to her. She was going to Oxford to do her MA. Mira remains trembling on the bed. She isn't stupid, wasn't stupid to be upset by these things and it wasn't right for Alex to insinuate it was because she was personally frustrated and disappointed. Even if she were more successful she would still be upset. She looks across at Fluff who has quietened. She lets it out and for the first time it comes and clambers onto her lap. Its gentle breathing soothes Mira. She strokes it as it curls into her. Mira suddenly decides what to do. It is very clear to her now. In the morning Alex wakes up to find Mira gone and the rabbit cage empty. There is a note on the kitchen units: 'me and fluff left to go somewhere where we'll both be happier.' Miles away, for she was up at the crack of dawn, Mira walks down a sunken lane in Wiltshire. The sun is out and hot, though still with a winter chill. She carries Fluff in her arms, the rabbit alert and sniffing, surprised at this turn of events. Mira comes to a gate. Rabbits, real brown rabbits bolt in all directions. ‘See, see where I've brought you to?’ says Mira. She climbs over the gate and places Fluff on the ground. Fluff waits a moment, twitching. Then she scampers into the middle of the field and waits. Mira turns away, walking back up the road. She plans to go and stay at a friend’s. A huge sense of relief flows through her. A burden, a block has been removed. Behind her, the wilder rabbits peering from their burrows look like they might be deciding whether to attack Fluff or not. Mira does not see. She steps out, stronger and happier, able to sense some sort of a future.
Gold Dust 31
The Satanic Diaries
by Krister Jones Belvedere Publishing, 2013 £8.99, Kindle edition £3.42 188 pages Reviewed by David Gardiner
ne thing you can’t say about this one is that the idea is highly original. Popular culture supplies many examples of comedy generated by presenting the Devil in a flawed and banal ‘everyday life’ context, behaving very much as you or I might if we were granted supernatural powers but retained all our petty foibles and human insecurities. Some of the more recent examples were the 2003 stage show Jerry Springer: The Opera, the 1999 film South Park, the 2000 film Little Nicky, and the moreor-less current BBC Radio 4 comedy series Old Harry’s Game, to which this work I think owes quite a lot. But this is a comedy book, it’s there to be funny, originality of theme isn’t really the issue. The fundamental question is whether or not it’s entertaining, and for me this one most certainly is. The danger in a book like this is milking the basic joke of a petty and petulant Prince of Darkness so that it becomes predictable and repetitive, but that doesn’t happen here. The situations in which the inadequate and inept Satan finds himself in fact sparkle with wit and originality. Don’t expect an internally consistent and plausible account of hell and its inhabitants of course, that isn’t an aim of the book either. The premise of the story is that Satan is trying, with professional help, to learn how to handle his ‘anger issues’, and his therapist Dr. Malloy has insisted that he keep a diary – hence the novel’s title.
The entries could be described as ‘reluctantly confessional’, as he tries to recount failures and frustrations both big and small while protecting his vulnerable ego and presenting his actions in the best possible light. There could hardly be a less reliable narrator than the King of Corruption and Deceitfulness himself. Among the many incidents that find their way into the diary are: a disastrous date with a woman who turns out to be a man (okay, I have seen The Crying Game, but it’s genuinely well handled here), golf matches with his good friend Adolf, who goes all to pieces on sighting his first bunker, rough times in his relationship with his wife Sandra, the hiring of new clerical staff, insipient insanity in his Security Chief, monthly meetings and dinner dates with God, and the search for suitable employment in hell for the impoverished divinity. Humour is a very personal thing, I can’t really predict whether or not The Satanic Diaries are going to appeal to you, only assure you that they did to me. Seldom laugh-out-loud funny but continuously amusing and even compelling. You want to see what the next inversion of accepted taste and morality is going to be, which deceased celebrity we are going to meet next in the underworld and how they are going to be portrayed, and in what new way the Devil is going to let his anger take control and mess things up for himself and everybody else. As well as being funny (well, I think so) this is quite a gentle and tasteful tour of the nether regions, a book that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to give to your mother, the local vicar or your ten-year-old son or daughter. And more to the point, I think, all of them would enjoy it.
Find out more... Krister Jones blogs at: afteriwaspublished.wordpress.com He also maintains a sales page for the novel at: www.thesatanicdiaries.net
This is the story of bankrupt former millionaire Christopher Foster, who in September 2008 murdered his wife and daughter and shot horses and domestic pets before setting fire to his country mansion in Shropshire and turning the gun on himself. You can listen to the song while you read the words: Studio version: http://davidgardiner.net/Murder_Ballad.mp3 YouTube: http://youtu.be/89c-xRYq9ZA You know me now, I've been in all the news I was the best of men I built things up, and when the game was through I burned them down again I burned them down again Well I used to own a proper country house It had a swimming pool People knew who they were dealing with I was nobody's fool I was nobody's fool Well I worked hard and so did all my men My life was on a roll People laughed at every joke I made I was the life and soul I was the life and soul Then one day a legal letter came From a so-called friend Then I knew the game had fallen through I knew it had to end I knew it had to end I shot my wife in all her finery Jewels and golden hair She was so beautiful and she belonged to me Her golden arms were bare Her golden arms were bare My little girl lay in her lovely room In her ballet shoes She made rich friends at her expensive school She wouldn't mix with you She wouldn't mix with you I had to go, they had to go with me Soon everything blazed red I saw the smoke go rising to the sky My gun was at my head My gun was at my head You know me now, I've been in all the news The day that I was found I built things up and when the game was through I burned them to the ground I burned them to the ground
Rick Hayter Issue 23
June 2013 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
by Slavko Mali
I don’t know why I went in there. Probably to get away from the fear...
here was no sign at the entrance. Why then, I wonder, did I imagine that there was one, on a large piece of wood written in uneven and crooked burnt letters, that said “Little Tavern”? A shabby-looking hairy dog with burs and huge ticks all over his snout was scratching himself next to a red geranium planted in an old mixedmarmalade can. I don't know why I went in there, probably to get away from the fear that consistently followed me like a halting clown. When my hand touched the handle I felt relief. Its squeaking sounded like a cat's cry, which in me triggered an outburst of sadistic pleasure. The inside was dark and at first I could see nobody. Coming out of the sunlight the void danced around me, colours twisting like bits of glass in a kaleidoscope. As my eyes got used to the dim light I saw at the bar the tired old owner and barman, who stared vacantly at the wall in the direction of an old wooden door. On the door, written in red chalk, were the words: “Ladies’ Room”. “She's been gone for a long time,” he said. “I wouldn't have let her go, but she had to fix her lipstick. And she's still gone. That was forty years ago.” “Who's gone?” “She is.” “Who's she?” “You know…” said the sad old man, without moving. “She was so beautiful. She had turquoise eyes and reddish-colored hair. Actually she had one eye. That's why she was always fixing her lipstick. But that one eye was so beautiful that it was worth a pair... Do you know why 34
she's been in there for so long? She didn't have her right hand and she wasn't left-handed. And, you know, it takes her a while... to fix her lipstick...” His voice was filled with emotion. “That left hand of hers was so beautiful – white and tender, with long fingers and violet fingernails... Actually she didn't have all of her fingers. But that didn't stop her from being so dignified. Oh, and her legs. So long and voluptuous, in fishnet stockings and red high heels... Maybe her legs weren't even that long. Maybe she didn't have any. I can't remember any more, it's been so long.” He seemed depressed. “Are you looking for someone?” “No,” I replied, indifferently. “There, you see? She wasn't looking for anyone either. Just the toilet. And I haven't seen her since. She was so gentle. Unique. I didn't even notice when she went in. I just realized that she was gone. There...” He pointed at the wooden door that had the “Ladies’ Room” sign on it. “She had such a strange laugh, like a cat's cry.” He paused. “Did you want anything?” he asked. “No, I didn't.” “There, you see? She didn’t want anything either. Just to use the toilet. Why did I let her, I wonder? If I had known that she wasn't going to come back, I wouldn't have let her. It might be too late now.” “Why don't you try looking for her?” “Where?” “Well, in the toilet.” “Oh, no!” He was clearly shocked. “Don't you see what it says there? ‘Ladies Room’.” He was right. The chalk writing did say: “Ladies’ Room”. “You know, when she was going
in to the toilet, she was wearing a red corset, and so when she turned her bare back to me – that little waist of hers really aroused me! Her shoulders went directly from her bottom. Unique... When she stepped inside... Actually, how could she have done that if she had no legs?” He looked at me, a mixture of wonder and disappointment on his flushed face. “Are you sure?” I asked, hoping not to offend. “Am I sure of what?” As the old man stared at me a thick, sticky saliva started to dribble from the corners of his wide-open stiff lips. “About… her,” I answered. “Are you sure about yourself?” he shouted back at me. I had indeed offended. There was despair on his face. His forehead started to sweat, and his blue eyes became watery. “No, I suppose I'm not,” I admitted. “And that's why I will never let you into the toilet.” He was apologetic but firm. “Anyway, you're not a lady. But it’s good to have someone here with me while I'm waiting for her.” “What makes you think that she'll come back?” My patience was running low and I no longer cared whether he took offense. The old man went slowly behind the bar, took something from beneath the counter, and made his way wearily to the wooden door. In his left hand he held a sponge and with a slow movement he erased the sign from the door. I saw then that he held a piece of blue chalk in his shaking right hand. With it he wrote in crooked letters “Gentlemen’s Room”.
Illustration: Slavko Mali
by Bruce Harris
From the short-story collection First Flame, due to be published by SPM Publications (www.sentinelpoetry.org.uk).
dull, windless, smelly November morning; a man in a suit and a big Audi gazing blankly out of the window in an M4 layby. Ashamed, confused, disorientated, like a child after a tantrum. Road rage, that's the name for it; there's a name for everything, he thought, a convenient label for pinning on. Identify, classify, neutralise. Not so long ago, a youth called Ben Richardson, who didn't look exactly like anyone else and didn't like, think or do the same things, or so he thought, was romping a highly individualistic progress through his life, though in reality he was doing much the same things as all the other youths were doing, in much the same way. Now Ben Richardson is a man with uniforms, husband, father, manager, employee, who gets up, puts one on and whirrs into action like a programmed android performing all allocated functions. For God's sake, he thought, it's Tuesday morning. This stuff is for Saturday night, after about the seventh glass, with similarly afflicted thirty somethings facing the bleeding obvious, as if it was any kind of discovery, that they are not going to be rock gods, tycoons, media divas or whatever teen delusions have even now still to be finally flushed away. Tuesday morning is about quietly cursing this sodding road and the innumerable deranged morons allowed to drive large, dangerous vehicles on it, opening the store, finding out who's on sickies today, then the 36
usual inadequate plastering over the cracks without adequate resources. Walking the Company's profit margin tightrope in the knowledge that one really bad slip will mean redundancy and problems, being just one more screw-up heading inexorably in the direction of middle-aged maladies. He scowled out of the window on his right at the sound of another would-be Lewis Hamilton vroomvrooming past at about a ton. It's half-dark, there might just conceivably still be a bit of road ice about, and still they do it, boys with big toys, dumb, empty-headed cowboys willing to risk every neck as well as their own to wave their supposed virility in the world's face. It made him angry, but not like it used to; once it was a kind of tutting resignation, head-shaking detachment. Now it made him insanely angry, scarlet in the face angry, a screaming orgy of utterly futile noise and gesture, so much so that he found himself weeping tears of frustration and had to pull into a layby, there to waste time on some kind of gob-smacked self-indulgent life review like a bewildered kid looking to Find Himself. Something appeared ahead which seemed to be demanding his attention and he dismissed it impatiently; how dare it cut across his self-castigation processes, it was a car, for God's sake, this is a motorway, how difficult can this be. Then two points registered, or rather reverberated in his head as if someone had smacked his earhole hard to wake him up. It was a car with
no lights on; it was driving down the wrong side of the motorway. For years afterwards, he could never properly understand why the most vivid recollection he had was that brief period of denial, ten seconds at most, including the incredible number of twists and turns he managed to go through; the refusal to believe such a thing was really happening, the dismissal of it being not really real, like a television report, the possibility of some mad illusion, the notion that he'd dozed into a bizarre day-dream. Then what happened happened with a gruesome predictability, anything and everything he'd always been afraid of happening on a motorway, all of it happened. Someone going too fast in the slow lane recognised what was coming at them much, much too late and swerved wildly into the middle lane, where someone overtaking at speed couldn't get out of the way in time and the momentum of the great thudding crunch the two of them made carried both across into the fast lane where a long, lean car hit them so hard its tail went up in the air as its front concertinaed in with a kind of long grumbling metallic groan. At this point, he closed his eyes - don't acknowledge it and it'll go away - but the noises were too menacing and too many. When he opened his eyes, his detached consciousness, the remaining rationality in the back of his mind cringing away like a child in darkness, understood what he saw as a visual definition of hell even though he'd
Tuesdayâ€™s Demons by Bruce Harris never before tried to define it, and visual was only part of it. Smoke, grey and brown, pungent, choking, everywhere, and where and when it lifted, a few dim figures were moving around in the near-darkness in insane, aimless fashion, some so badly bloodied and walking in such grotesquely distorted ways as to suggest savage, terminal hurt. A mess of metal and organic unidentifiable bits and pieces, a medley of extremities of noise, screams meaning real happening pain, the discontented mumble of fire, the creaks and twists of material and flesh trashed or being trashed. And smells, everywhere, intimidating, dangerous, sickening smells, some recognisable, some, worse still, not. And still, a faint residue of absurd indignation about Tuesday, all this, life braking to a halt and then blowing up in his face, on a bloody common cooking Tuesday, routine half-lit November drudge. But from somewhere, with an
illogical, painful suddenness like the thump after a fall, he was able to click into a short sequence of simple conclusions. One car had finished on the edge of the hard shoulder just below the grass bank, on its right side, the left side about six feet in the air and the door swung madly open on a single hinge, the car with its tail in the air right next to it, and the bottom part of the upended car was burning, already too strongly for anything but a fire hose to stop it. Click, click, in his mind like dropping skittles; that fire was seven feet, at most, from the petrol tank of the car on its side, and in probably no more than five minutes, anyone still in that car would be incinerated, burnt alive, quickly or slowly, depending on how big the initial explosion was. Now a focus and a linear sequence, combining like a rescue kit; he climbed out of his car; a young man, probably not more than mid-twenties, was sitting with
his back up against a car about ten feet away, with his head in his hands weeping; Ben could see blood under one hand. No time, something said from somewhere, a remote control which had arrived with the rescue kit. He ran over to the car on its side, grasped it with both hands and heaved, hoping his weight would crash it back down and dreading what might happen if it did; the flames, he could see, were seven feet and closing. He had to move quickly to stop the swinging door clashing shut on his fingers; with a mixture of infuriation and strength, he clashed his elbow hard into the door and sighed when it clattered off altogether, crashing down onto the road. Now he could see into the back seat; there were two small bodies, a bit of blood but not much, one unconscious, a boy of nine or ten, pressing a wide-eyed girl of about five against the side, now the base, of the car. She seemed
Tuesdayâ€™s Demons by Bruce Harris
heaved at the passenger front door, weeping now himself and trying not to see the dark, amorphous mass inside. Something touched him on the back and he turned, the sensation electric at that moment; the young guy stood behind him and immediately seized the car door himself. Between them, they wrenched it open and he forced himself inside with a deliberate selfblinding exercise; the stench and stain of blood was everywhere, and every place he tried to put his hand, another spot of cold wetness and sometimes what he knew well enough was flesh made him flinch away. The flames had reached the car's boot. Two figures needed to be separated, a man and a woman, and the woman suddenly began to moan in a deep, animal-like noise from inside her throat. Ben and the young guy heaved frantically at the two people, knowing that, even if they weren't in a state to be moved, they would be doomed in seconds in any case. Somehow, without Ben being able to remember exactly how, they got the people out and were still dragging them up the bank when the car exploded, almost blinding them with the spectacular glare of fuel fire and forcing
them, exhausted as they were, to drag their charges further up the bank. Ben looked across to see the young man comforting two weeping children, the boy wide awake now. The woman was still moaning and was clearly badly hurt; the man remained ominously silent and most of the loose blood, in the car and on the bank, seemed to be his. Sitting on the bank with his head between his knees, Ben heard a different quality of sounds, more of them familiar and recognisably human. Heavy boots and running footsteps were coming towards him. Somewhere, he remembered, an age ago, he'd been desperately worried, even despairing, about something. To feel more content, sitting in this carnage and misery, was as ridiculous as this being Tuesday, but oddly enough, he seemed to. As he blinked open his eyes to look up the road and two ambulance men closed in on him, he fancied he saw a little gaggle of Tuesday's demons, tiny, green and malicious, running cackling away up the hard shoulder.
Source: Eleanor Bennett
awake. He hauled his whole torso up, still hoping the car would crash back down, but it just creaked in a whingeing kind of way and settled back where it was. He pulled the boy, still unmoving, from her with one hand and held out his other hand. He nodded and smiled a couple of times and she responded; she moved and he pulled her to him, letting go of the boy for a minute so he could give her a hug; he could feel her heart beating wildly against him and her whole body trembling. He jumped backwards with her in his arms, and grimaced as his feet hit the concrete and a calf muscle pulled. He pointed away to the grass bank. She started crying and he knelt down. 'Please, sweetheart, go and sit away from the car. I'll get your brother out, but please do this for me.â€™ In the corner of his eye, he saw the flames beginning to lick at the car from the other side. To his intense relief, she moved away, still sniffling, and he went back to the car; the heat was intensifying and something seemed to have stabbed into his back. He reacted with such a startled, violent convulsion that the car did come crashing down at last, spinning him away down the hard shoulder until he fell backwards and cracked his back painfully against the concrete. As he staggered up again, he saw blue lights approaching from both directions; the young man he'd spoken to was standing now, watching him from the grass bank. He got back to the car and now it was easy to pull the boy away; he seemed unmarked until his head moved and a huge bump on the side of his head was revealed. The boy was waking slowly; Ben half carried, half dragged him up the bank. The car's right rear tyre was now ablaze. Ben heaved and
The Badger Game
by Sarah Fry
Finding a good mark isn’t so hard in a place like this...
find. This one is an older man, a little chunky, with short hair. He could be my father, but he’s hitting on me. I play along, acting more tipsy than I am. I whisper into his ear. I giggle at his lame jokes. Tell him he’s funny. Tell him what he wants to hear. I ask him does he stay at this hotel. He says no. This is one of the most important things. If he’s staying at the hotel the club’s in, he’s just gonna wanna take you upstairs to his own room. There were several times in the past where I had to play that his breath smelled and he needed to brush his teeth, so then all I got out of it was his wallet. God, I used to be so terrible at this. Back in New York, when Kev and I just started, the whole seduction thing was just beyond me. They would be uninterested in what I was saying and uninterested in my body. But, can you really blame me? I just decided to start doing it on a whim. I said to Kevin, “Let’s blow this stupid drugrunning shit and get out of here.” And he was like, “Why would you wanna quit? We’re making good
money.” And the truth is that I was bored with it. It was the same reason I got into the drug thing in the first place — I was bored with school. They say Pride is the sin from which all others flow, but it’s not — it’s Apathy. I’ve never really cared about the money, I just think it’s exciting. I think about Kevin, back at our hotel — a hotel that’s much cheaper than this one. He’s probably waiting, anxiously checking and rechecking the cameras, rubbing his arms, trying to work that everpresent crick out of his neck. He’s stuck with me since high school, even though I treat him like shit … or probably because I treat him like shit. He’s kind of a masochist that way. He’s probably my best friend in the world, but I think most of the time he hates my guts. “You wanna go back to my place?” I ask the guy. He nods greedily, not knowing that this is all just a game.
don’t normally dress this way, but you’ve got to look the part. I finish my lipstick in the bathroom mirror — dark enough to be enticing, but not so dark that I look like a whore. This dress is tight around me, pushing me and molding me into something different, something lovely and enticing. I step out into the club. Seems like every hotel in Las Vegas has one. This is at one of the richer places — I had to pay $50 just to get in. But I stand to make quite a bit more. Finding a good mark isn’t so hard in a place like this. Vegas is where you go to cheat on your wife. But you have to be careful. Make sure he has got a ring or a mark on his finger where he has taken it off. You can’t just rely on that, of course. Like, she might have just died, and he’s still wearing the ring ‘cause he’s not over her yet. If you can, say something like, “Oh, your wife is such a lucky woman.” Not only does this let you know whether he has got a wife, it lets you know how he feels about her. Like he might say, “Oh, I’m the lucky one,” and then you know to move on, ‘cause he’s just not gonna bite. But he might say, “She sure doesn’t seem to think so,” and then you know there’s an opening. And you gotta make sure his friends, if he’s got any with him, are gonna let him go with you. They might look down on him, tell him it’s wrong and peer pressure him into not going. Then you’ve wasted a whole night. Well, not entirely wasted, ‘cause you’ve gotten some drinks out of it. But, like I said, in these Vegas clubs, the right guy isn’t hard to
by Ruth Brandt
He has no idea how fast he is moving...
reg stands at the top of the red run, the wind blowing the snow up the slope ahead of him, a curtain of shocking cold steam beating against his face. All he can hear is the muted clatter of the chairlift behind him. Two boarders carve past, but other than them no one is riding up on the lift; most people are down in the valley eschewing this morning’s bitterly cold mountains. He points his skis downhill and sets off into the white-out; the murky piste posts that mark the relative safety of the slope thickening and fading as the clouds pass. In the absence of any view or sound to distract him he focuses fully on his body, skiing by the feel through his feet exactly as Marie-Laure had instructed him during his lessons. “Hips forward,” she had said. “In the love position. You must feel, Greg, or your skiing is bad.” He had loved her English with its jaunty edge, literally translated from the French, he presumed. And her lipstick smile, he had loved that too. Now, on his own on the invisible slope, he thrusts his hips forward as he had done for Marie-Laure, smiling at the memory of her laugh; a moment of shared amusement defying their language boundaries. He has no idea how fast he is moving in this sensorially deprived world. Here he is insulated from everything and everybody, alone, and on this unfamiliar run, not knowing where the edge of the piste is and what lies beyond. A plummet into a snow filled ditch? A buffeting fall through pines into the 40
valley? “Don’t go out today,” April had said. It was the way she had spoken that had stopped his dithering and spurred him on to getting dressed. He knew he couldn’t spend today with her. “I’m here to ski,” he replied, pulling on his thermal top. “For God’s sake.” April lay in their hotel bed, the duvet up round her neck, the warmth of their night captured next to her nightdressed, scarred body. “You don’t have to go out every day, you know. The weather’s atrocious.” “It can’t be that bad if the lifts are open.” He searched for socks, not wanting to look at her. “It might be better up the mountain.” “It won’t be.” Somehow April knew this, just as surely as any local would have known the intricate details of the weather system in the valley. Based on what? The tiny bit of the street she could observe through the small gap in the curtain? “Anyway, you can’t ski alone,” she added. “You coming then?” he asked. “No.” She hadn’t wanted to be on this holiday in the first place; just hadn’t wanted him to come alone. “See you later.” He gathered his goggles and gloves together. “Why are you doing this?” April’s voice was lower now, infused with the gravity she had recently adopted to show how monumental her insight into life had become. Was she implying the normal, that he was wasting his life
while she was struggling for hers? Or was she saying something different this morning? She sat up and rustled the bed clothes demurely around her shoulders, as though he might be a stranger in her room come to tidy it, not her lover of three years. He turned his back fully on her and shrugged. “You’re stupid,” she decreed. Greg paused, not thinking about what she had said but about her certainty. “Bye,” he had said and he had clicked the door shut behind him. The fog melts and he sees a piste post, two, now three, the last one down a steep slope. He picks up speed, short tight turns, weight forward; the unbashed snow piling up on top of his boots as he adopts the love position. Shit! What was that? A sudden drop, yet he is still upright, still ploughing on. Squandering his life is what April persistently accuses him of nowadays; nights out with work colleagues, or the occasional cigarette, or watching something she doesn’t enjoy on the TV, indeed anything that she would prefer not to do herself is squandering precious moments. Yet down in the hotel room April has herself warmly wrapped in a duvet to protect what remains of her, obsessing over whether the next check-up will be clear, retreating from the world to live in total safety all those extra minutes, months or years gifted her by expert doctors. Yesterday afternoon, after his third and final skiing lesson,
Snow Blindness by Ruth Brandt Marie-Laure had given him her card. She had said to give her a call if he wanted any more lessons. “Lessons on the love position?” he had asked, joking in the way they had joked for the past two afternoons. Marie-Laure’s response had been what? A dismissive shrug? A come on signal? How was he to know; he was a man and body language a mysterious form of communication only interpretable by women. Yet this didn’t stop April chastising him when he got one of her sighs or a gesture wrong. He couldn’t comment on her inconsistency though; that wouldn’t be fair. His thighs burn and despite the blasts of alpine air he is warming beneath his four layers. He digs in his downhill ski, his legs juddering to a halt, and as he does so he falls into the powder snow. The laugh comes from the middle of his belly, a proper kid’s
chuckle. How ridiculous is this? He has been skiing down goodness knows what and yet has only fallen now he has stopped. Despite the cold he continues to lie, allowing the pillow of snow to frost his face, imagining Marie-Laure laughing while poking at him with her ski pole. Last night he had told April he was going out to mooch round the town. “Get a beer, you mean,” she had said in her ‘squandering life’ way. “Probably,” he said, deciding was it easier to admit to that than anything else. “You want to come?” He added just to show quite how innocent his outing was going to be. “I think I’ll rest,” April replied. The phone conversation with Marie-Laure had been awkward, the language differences seeming to multiply when he could-
n’t see her face; the couple of hours they had spent apart making them strangers again. “You take another lesson?” Marie-Laure asked. Was she smiling as she spoke? Greg had no idea. Momentarily he thought about answering yes, that would be good, another lesson was exactly what he needed, perhaps concentrating on his off-piste technique; a gentle double-entendre should she choose to pick up on it. But he didn’t know whether her grasp of English would be up to understanding his meaning. He also didn’t know whether another moment like this would ever come along for him, not now that he understood the future was not infinite, that mortality might strike at the most unexpected time; that he could die tomorrow. “No,” he had replied. “Not another lesson. I wondered if you would like a drink with me, to say thank you, for the lessons?” Those
Snow Blindness by Ruth Brandt
son, he wasn’t sure; he had been out drinking, exactly as he had told her. Apres ski and all that. He slipped silently into bed, keeping his cold body away from her so as not to disturb her. “You all right, mate?” A skier swooshes up on him from out of nowhere. Greg sits up from his snow bed. “Yeah,” he says, realising that the word had formed in his head far quicker than his mouth had been able to announce it. His reactions have become dulled. “Fucking freezing,” the skier says. “Calling it a day. Fucking waste of a lift pass.” And he is off. Greg gets to his feet, kicks the snow off his skis and starts on down. Since stopping every turn aches and his legs feel clumsy, jarring on each powder drift. He rides the snow mounds, takes a deep breath to get the oxygen into his blood and round his body. Right, he is ready. He points his skis downhill to build up speed, but again when it comes to the turn his legs are awkward. Perhaps he will forget the turns. How fast can he get? The falling snow, uncompacted by either piste basher or skier, slows his progress, yet despite that there is now a consistent wind straight in his face. He is certainly moving, powering on. Slowly his body is clicking into sync. Wow, this is stupendous. Freedom, elation, flight. When he had mentioned
needing to get back to the hotel last night, Marie-Laure had asked him back to her place. He had gone with her, simple as that. How wondrous it had been to spend an hour with her, to have carefree sex with someone who wasn’t scared of being touched or hurt. Someone who wanted him rather than tolerated him. Simple, straightforward sex with no duties or obligations, and at the end a mutually understood, ‘Goodbye’. The very same word he had been preparing to deliver to April just before she had been diagnosed; before her illness and treatment and personality had become so intertwined that he couldn’t be sure any longer which of the three he abhorred the most. The cloud dissipates and below him and he can clearly see the lift station. Two days ago he would have caught the cable car to head back down into the valley to April. He would have apologised for going out and upsetting her by taking a risk with his life. He would have numbly held her, told her everything would be all right, as he has done for what seems like most of his life. Today, though, he allows himself to feel for the first time in two years. He fully embraces the love position and heads for the chairlift to take him back up the mountain. Today he is going to squander his life, spend every last moment of it. Christ, today he feels alive.
last words had been tagged on to make him sound reasonable, not a man out to snare his pretty, funny ski instructor who probably received twenty such offers a week. Christ, he didn’t even know whether she was married or had a boyfriend, but in three days time he would be back home locked in the endless cycle of people asking how April was getting on and tonight he didn’t have to be. “Teaching skiing is my job. I don’t need a drink to say thank you,” Marie-Laure replied. “No problem,” Greg responded. And that was it, he supposed. Valiant, foolhardy approach made and rebuffed. But she hadn’t rushed in with a goodbye to end the call. She had left the line open, blank for a whole hopeful, beckoning few seconds. “Just an idea.” Greg filled the silence. “That was all.” Still Marie-Laure didn’t hang up. Or maybe she wasn’t listening any longer. Perhaps she had been distracted by something on the TV he could hear in the background. At this point he should have said thanks, or goodbye, instead he said: “I enjoyed our time together.” And she replied: “Me too. OK, so we have a drink.” “Now?” Greg asked wondering whether he could get away with not returning to the hotel for a few hours. April would be reading, no doubt, resting against the danger of any fatigue that might come her way. “Yes, now if you like,” MarieLaure replied. And so they had met, and they had drunk Jagerbombs until Greg had noticed the time. April had stirred when he had entered the hotel room early this morning. He had paused his step, held his breath, until he heard no further movement. For what rea-
Found on the Penistone Line I
The dog end of September rain Surfaces glossy as patent leather, Flow through the windows Of the train.
The fern fronds and stalks Spill And splay The fall of sparks
Dawn, a bruise fading Through violet And yellow, then the field near Denby Dale Where Llamas too far from Peru
Or flow of electricity, Behind them the black glow Of Spring
Stare at the railway cutting the arse crack, Of Yorkshire, a gift you can't give back.
Ancient and shy. IV
Now there are Blackberries Blood sweet, A snail gliding the river It secretes.
Time and time over, The bracken renews Its green sinews Then rolls over,
The last King of the Brigantes floats Invisibly over the map A boat casting a column Of shadow
In surrender Itself, the book You rarely read but look At on the shelf.
Through a lake.
Steve Komarnyckyj Source: stock.xchng)
Let’s not pretend we’ll meet again To do things we forgot to do Somewhere above the sky Where everyone else is dead. Let’s not pretend we’ll not regret The things we put aside For better days; another year. When time was long and wide Let’s not pretend we’ll not forget But ‘til we do we’ll meet again Not one day, dead: but day on day And live as memories are. But dreams are all we ever were: So smile next time you see my shade Just don’t pretend there’s more.
This is the first lie The second follows
A little girl lifts the moon out of her silk purse, Light jumps down on fields of wild strawberries Dancing once more to the ringing wind and rain. On the lips of light lies her lemon-yellow seed. I see it scull by from my seaside seat. Bathe Beside her, the cloud colouring the ocean grey. Whose flowers are these? She surfaces above, Her voice shimmers over the wavesâ€™ violins, Her eyes bloom gangrenous aches on the fjord. In the city ash and apple-cores erupt into cars, Svelte nylon spikes move as liquid, exhausted, Lost. Her sleeping limbs spread a navy smile. I see her young in a summer garden. Weeping Where a sad child ate an orange, her lashes blue, And blue too the eveningâ€™s low glow. I loved her Fully under the full moon and in the apricot tree But as my mouth slams shut on the nineteenth lie She falls from my mind like confetti to the floor.
A Flight Over the Black Sea. Istanbul. The Return
A quiet morning, A pale orchard over the sea, Water, transparent as none existence, The sky, Honey dusted with salt. The sun plagues us, And, in the distance, a shape that might be A mermaid, solitary.
A Turkish lady with eyes the colour of tea And Aia Sofia ... a different god. The muezzin proclaims itself. The floor rugged with hardness... So much Antique Slavonic blood was spilled here. Roksolana. The Stars. Cossacks.
I enter the sea And hold my breath Among depths Of coral Cathedrals, We see demons laugh noiselessly, And how angels, from among the filaments of sea grass, weep. Soundlessly Their wings, raised towards the sun, Glitter like ploughshares at twilight. A sense of loss, Like someone who squanders the spirit In tears of deceit. A cockerel crows at the night, And the blue shadow of the sky, A tissue of woven mist Trembles in the dusk.
Beneath pinions wadded with cloud, the uplift Of ages past, thermals on which we glide... Istanbul. A city without shadow, The bazaar unchanged for five centuries, Summer, summer... and autumn in my spirit, Alone I yearn to enter some inn. Then, as if from some recess in the air, The impulse to be silent Ambushes me... although the voice Is like wine... Over the sea, black scars in the salt water, Bleached Fathoms of light.
Ihor Pavlyuk Translated by Steve Komarnyckyj
I Won’t Say a Word POEM I won't tell you about your love. I don't see her so much any more and anyway, I doubt there is much that you want to know. I cannot tell you, for instance, that she has come back to Dublin again, or that she has left that guy, that fucker with the barrel shoulders who looked as if he ate three or four raw eggs in the morning, that she's moving into an apartment now on the Southside with an Italian, this guy who makes fish pasta almost every night and smokes those tiny cigarettes, those vogue ones.
I suppose, for instance, there's no harm in you knowing that she still wears that red cardigan sometimes, do you remember? - the one with the big buttons like dolls eyes, and that she has gotten a good job working as a receptionist at the Metropole Hotel and she decided not to go back to college after she took that year. She still sees the friend that she lived with, that one that you met once, sort of, one of those cases where she was leaving as you came in I guess and she has started running again, to keep herself healthy to get rid of the weight she gained since Christmas
I cannot tell you that she thinks sometimes of you (smiling into her coffee without opening her lips, she still takes a half spoon of sugar and her hair is dangled in the same way - remember how she would dangle it a good square foot-and-a-half of black hair) and of all those foolish things you did and of the marvellous things you did and of that one time when you really ruined things, when you finally knew her well enough to hurt her.
and occasionally, I can tell you, even though this bit you might already know,
I can't tell you about any of that. You know how she gets.
your eyes look when your mind wanders.
But I can tell you some other things.
you will see her or someone whose hair falls like hers and she'll be walking on O'Connell Street or sitting on the bottom floor of a bus or she'll be sitting in a bar or a restaurant or anywhere
Diarmuid ó Maolalaí
The Sound of Loneliness
by Craig Wallwork Perfect Edge Books, 2013 £7.59 223 pages Reviewed by David Gardiner
his is an unusual book in that it begins ostensibly as a comedy, full of over-the-top characters and equally extreme situations, but proceeds into deepening realism and genuine tragedy. The view of life that we are left with is profoundly pessimistic. Written by the author of the surreal short story Gutterball’s Labyrinth that appeared in our Solid Gold anthology, The Sound of Loneliness begins with the young narrator Daniel Crabtree leaving home for the first time to live the life of the proverbial ‘tortured-soulin-the-garret’ and write his masterpiece. Seemingly talentless but unshakable in his self-belief, he rapidly descends into a life of total penury, barely surviving the days between the arrival of each Benefit Giro Cheque, bulking out his pathetic meals of ‘soup, rolled oats, beef stock, even water’ by the addition of flour, dreading the ear-shattering early-morning attempts at song of his Irish neighbour behind the paper-thin wall. He seeks escape in absurd fantasies, and alcohol bought with money that is equally imaginary. Pausing often to philosophise, he attempts to convince himself that his situation is redeemable, success is just around the corner. One of the ways he does this is by writing optimistic letters to himself, containing the good news that he longs to hear. This is familiar comic territory, and for quite some time what we get is not so much a developing narra-
tive as a series of unconnected incidents in pubs, public parks and dole offices involving gross descriptions of bodily functions, the symptoms of poor diet and personal hygiene, poverty, disease and squalor. A character emerges with whom we are generally familiar, the self-important, self-pitying grand loser of modern comic fiction – Tom Sharpe’s Henry Wilt, Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole, Douglas Adams’ Ford Prefect. This protagonist however has a facility for lyrical prose, which he exercises at unexpected moments, such as when he describes Salford as ‘a city endlessly caught on the final stroke of midnight, where a misplaced glass slipper lost in haste suggested an unseen beauty existed, but all that remained in its place were the much uglier sisters.’ The first two-thirds of the novel is genuinely witty and funny, if not particularly original, but as the story continues a number of much more serious threads emerge, including the death of an old uncle who lives alone, and the beginning of a close relationship between the twenty-something Daniel and Emma, a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl, which stops short of becoming sexual and is handled with great sensitivity and insight. There follows for Daniel a move to a different city, an upturn in his fortunes, and a potentially happy marriage which fairly quickly turns sour. Realising that he has chosen the wrong life partner he sets out to find his now grown-up Emma once again. The story’s theme is the gap between what we ask from life and what we actually get, which is presented as a mighty gaping chasm that can never be bridged. I found it uncomfortably realistic. A sobering read.
Find out more... Craig Wallwork blogs at: http://craigwallwork.blogspot.co.uk
By Garpal Stream
By Garpal stream the young men came Decades before the flood On Garpal field they started the game Quenching the grass with blood. Down by the hill, near the copse, they lie The first to score was the first to die. Every year the young men came Where the roses and the dandelions bud Eager to play the game Decades after the flood Beyond the hedge these young men lie The last to score was the last to die. It rained before advent, it rained after lent, The rain fell on pasture and town The interminable water did not relent But poured remorselessly down. By the end of the year, under the thundering light The world was a place of night. A sodden land bereft of men Garpal field was covered with weeds As the women waited for the sun again Spreading a blanket of seeds. They waited as glorious golden rays Fell during everlasting unending days. The sprouting seeds grew tall and slim Turning gradually into beautiful men In a country filled to the brim With cattle, wheat, and fruit again. Beyond Garpal stream where the rushes grew The youths strolled over the grey diaphanous dew. By Garpal stream the young men came Decades before the flood On Garpal field they started the game Quenching the grass with blood. Down by the hill, near the copse, they lie The first to score was the first to die.
Illustration: Francisco Zuzuarregui
June 2013 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk
Contributors This issue, we received more than 100 short story submissions & 100 poetry submissions from all around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, India, Italy, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Republic of Ireland, Serbia, Spain, the Ukraine, the UK and the US.
Short stories AA Garrison AA Garrison is a twenty-nine-year-old man living in the mountains of North Carolina. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of small-press zines and anthologies, and the Pseudopod horror webcast. His first novel, The End of Jack Cruz, is available from Montag Press. He blogs at synchroshock.blogspot.com Holly A Cave Holly A Cave is a freelance science writer, producing commercial work as well as fiction. She has recently signed with Zeno literary agency for her near-SF novel Fallen Apples. Holly studied Biology at Imperial College London, followed by a Masters Degree in Science Communication. After this, she spent four years working as a science writer and exhibition producer at the Science Museum in London before going freelance. Holly has recently had a non-SF short story published in Female First magazine. Her home page is at: www.hollycave.co.uk Annette Kupke Annette Kupke is a middle-aged special needs teacher, originally from Germany, who has lived in Scotland for thirteen years. Writing has been her hobby on and off since adolescence, and one of her stories was among the twenty selected winners of a national short story competition when she was eighteen. However, for many years she didn't take writing very seriously, until some five years ago when she started to write regularly and engage in online writing communities. She has had poems published in Snakeskin, The Delinquent and Poetry Scotland and a short story in Issue 22 of Gold Dust. Verity Healey Normally a film maker and only just started writing short stories and discovering the form. Also a cinema and theatre worker and film tutor working in schools in London. Mentored by Hanif Kureishi. Loves work by Clarice Lispector, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Henry Miller, George Orwell, Doris Lessing, Andrea Dunbar, Sarah Kane, Charles Bukowski, Daphne de Maurier, Margaret Atwood and Annie Proulx. Is enjoying being able to do anything she like with her writing. Wants to use the form to explore her most internal thoughts, and try to describe her experience, the conditions her friends find themselves living in, and to transcend. Bruce Harris Bruce Harris worked in teaching and educational research, obtaining a Masters degree and publishing articles in the U.K. national and educational press. After moving to Devon in 2003, he resumed the first creative writing since juvenilia, including poetry and short fiction. He has won prizes, commendations or listings in competitions including Writers’ Bureau (twice); Grace Dieu Writers’ Circle (three times); Biscuit Publishing, Milton Keynes Speakeasy, Exeter Writers, Fylde Writers, Brighton Writers, Wells Literary Festival, Build Africa Poetry, New Writer, Segora, Sentinel Quarterly, Swale Life, Southport Writers’ Circle, Lichfield Writers’ Circle, Cheer Reader (three times), TLC Creative, 3 into1 Short Story Competition, Meridian, Five Stop Story, JB Writers’ Bureau,
Flash 500 and been longlisted for the Bridport Prize and the Bristol Prize, as well as being extensively published in magazines and e-zines in the UK, Canada and Ireland. Listings and samples of his poetry, fiction and journalism can be seen at www.bruceharris.org. Ruth Brandt Ruth Brandt started writing twelve years ago when she half-heartedly enrolled on a creative writing evening class, since when she hasn’t looked back. Her short stories have been published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 4, by Leaf Books, Candis, Yours, Litro and Ireland's Own magazines, as well as in competition anthologies and online. She runs creative writing courses for Surrey ACL and other organisations. Born and raised in Bristol, she went on to study Maths and Physics at London University. She is now looking forward to starting a Creative Writing masters at Kingston University in September. She lives in Surrey with her two delightful teenage sons who do their very best to ensure that she never quite finds enough time to write! Her website is at: www.RuthBrandt.co.uk. Beth J Whiting Beth J Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and CS Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona. Sara Bell Sara Bell is a Yorkshire-born silversmith living and working in the beautiful Scottish Borders. Her first love is writing and she is currently working on the second draft of her first novel Bad Parents in-between bouts of sawing, smelting and sanding bits of metal. A feminist and a socialist, her writing concentrates on class consciousness and women’s issues. Her favourite author is William McIlvanney. Sam Meekings Sam Meekings is a young British poet and novelist currently living in Doha. His first novel, Under Fishbone Clouds, about the collision between myth and history in modern China, was published in the UK, the US and Brazil, and was called "a poetic evocation of the country and its people" by the New York Times. Meanwhile, the Scottish Review of Books said of his second book that "The Book of Crows is a profound novel, and Meekings demonstrates a greater degree of ambition than some of his contemporaries." He currently teaches Writing and Rhetoric at Qatar University, and his website is www.sammeekings.com. Slavko Mali Slavko Mali moved from the life of a physical worker to designer and journalist. He is devoted to drawing and painting, comics, cartoons, graphic design, illustration, mail art, and writing short stories and poems. He lives in Nish (Serbia) as a freelance artist and a tenant. Since a car ran over his dog he began to wander looking for the killer, but he understood that the murderers are all around
Contributors us. He does not like art, but it's his destiny. He likes to listen to the radio. Sarah Fry Sarah Fry is a good-hearted but mean-spirited young woman from central Arkansas. She cares deeply about her friends and never ceases to speak her mind (even when those friends are begging her to just shut up already). She has spent the last four years at a liberal arts college in Missouri and she will be graduating on May 5 with an undergraduate degree in sociology and a minor in French. She enjoys a story that can provide good characterization without letting the reader directly hear the characters’ thoughts. If all goes well, in a year Sarah will be off to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in social work.
Poems Courtni Webb Courtni Webb is a 17-year-old High School student at the Life Learning Academy in San Francisco. She came to public notice in December 2012 after being suspended from the school indefinitely for writing a poem in which she claimed that she understood what drove 20-year-old Adam Lanza to open fire on a class of 6 and 7-year-olds in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and 6 teachers, before turning the gun on himself. An outstanding student with an unblemished record both in and out of school, Courtni lives with her mother, Valerie Statham who has defended her daughter unreservedly against what she saw as victimisation and misunderstanding on the part of the school. The family won their campaign to have Courtni reinstated, and at time of writing she is about to graduate from the school with the incident removed from her record and credits awarded for all of the days lost. Daffni Percival Born in Kent [the bit that got swallowed up in Greater London] in 1932, Daffni Percival has been writing on and off all her life in between earning a precarious living mostly as a language teacher, and for 20 years running an International Centre in Exeter - a spare time job that involved a 365 day working year, no money, impossible invitations to everywhere in the world and meeting an amazing variety of interesting people. She moved to Wales in 1985 thus fulfilling a long cherished dream. She now lives in an ancient farmhouse in Cwm Prysor with three sheepdogs, three sheep and assorted ducks. There she still teaches (occasionally), paints and writes. Her adopted land seems to have reawakened her muse. Rick Hayter Rick is well-known on the folk club circuit in London, where he lives with his, wife, son and daughter, and works freelance as a software engineer. A CD of his best-loved songs will soon be available. Rick has been writing and performing his own songs for many years. Becoming any good at it has been a long process, but he thinks he's finally got somewhere. The public should be the judge of that, but the public rarely get a chance to hear him. If you like what he does, please give him a gig, he'd be very grateful.
lived and worked for most of his life in his native Yorkshire while maintaining strong links with Ukraine. His literary translations and poems have appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review, Vsesvit magazine (Ukraine's most influential literary journal), The North, the Echo Room and Modern Poetry in Translation. His book of selected translations from the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2012 and a selection of his own poems is being published with the work of two other authors in the first edition of Fjords journal's 3x3 series. A first collection of his own poetry will be published in 2013 and a translation of Vasyl Shkliar's Ukrainian novel Raven is being published by Aventura in April 2013. He is the featured poet in the current issue of Envoi. Peter Lowe Peter was born September 1940 in Newcastle upon Tyne; he is married to Margaret 1968, with three grown-up children. Returned to Newcastle 1969 and lived in the same house there for the past 41 years. His education was rudimentary and opportunist. He trained as a pharmacist and worked as a community pharmacy manager and a pharmacy post-graduate tutor. He still works in pharmacy as secretary to a pharmacy committee and telephone agony aunt for a pharmacy charity. His interests and activities include croquet, crosswords, gardening, photography, reading (slowly), squash, walking, whistling and writing. Ihor Pavlyuk Ihor Pavlyuk was born in the Volyn region of Ukraine in January 1967 and studied at the St Petersburg Military University, which he left in order to pursue his career as a writer. He was as a result sentenced to a period of hard labour in the Taiga working on what was literally a road to nowhere but regained his liberty in the chaos accompanying the fall of the Soviet Union. His work has won numerous awards and is marked by a simplicity of diction and emotional honesty. Translations of his poetry have appeared in Acumen, the Apple Valley Review, Envoi, Barnwood and Zaporogue. Diarmuid ó Maolalaí Diarmuid is currently studying English Literature in Trinity College, and although he has been writing poetry and short fiction for the past five years, has only recently started to submit his work for publication. His work has appeared on Strange Bounce, a literary e-zine, and 4'33", a web-based audio magazine, and he has poetry forthcoming with both Myths Magazine and the Chicago-based Down in the Dirt magazine, as well as a few other places. Charlie Baylis Charlie Baylis is 26 and lives in Taranto, Italy where he teaches English. His poetry and short stories have most recently appeared in SAW magazine and The Delinquent. He spends most of his spare time slightly adrift of reality. Charlie Wilkins Charlie Wilkins is a college lecturer working in London, trained actor and psychotherapist.
Shelby Stephenson Shelby Stephenson's Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize and the 2009 Oscar Arnold Young Poetry Award from the Poetry Council of North Carolina. He was editor of the international literary journal Pembroke Magazine from 1979 until his retirement as professor emeritas from UNC-Pembroke in 2010. His most recent publication is a chapbook Play My Music Anyhow (Finishing Line Press, 2013). Steve Komarnyckyj Steve Komarnyckyj is a British Ukrainian writer and linguist who has
The Back Page
Watch this space...
Issue 24 of Gold Dust magazine It may seem like a long way off now, but put a note in your diary that Issue 24 will be out in December, in good time for your winter curl-up reading!
Ed Bruce As we were coming up to publication day we heard of the sad death of Ed Bruce, author of A Drifter's Legacy (short story collection), founder of the Storyshed group for short story writers, and past contributor to both Gold Dust magazine and the Gold Dust short story anthology Solid Gold. Ed is survived by his wife Muriel and five children. His short stories were universally admired and held up as models of the short story writer's craft. He will be greatly missed.
Gold Dust competition for Singer/Songwriters Do you sing songs that you have written yourself? Gold Dust hopes to organise a competition for singer/songwriters culminating in a live event in London in November, at which a winner will be selected. We are in the process of negotiating with some small record companies and recording studios whom we hope will donate a prize of studio time (or better) for the winner. Any age, any genre or style, with or without your own guitar or keyboard (or other?) accompaniment. If you write and sing songs we want to hear from you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To submit to Gold Dust magazine Our (short) submission guidelines can be found at: www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/Writers