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Twice-yearly magazine of Literature & the Arts

Issue 28 – December 2015

Welcome to our winter issue! I’m delighted to introduce issue 28 of Gold Dust magazine. In this issue, Watering Bones by Mike B Tager (p4), was selected for our Best Prose award, while On retiring to bed with a cold by John Alwyine-Mosely (p36) was chosen as Best Poem. We have an amazing personal account of a holocaust survivor in our feature Last Train to Tomorrow by Malcolm Saxton. We also offer you three book review recommendations for your winter reading. We are fast approaching the date of our next live event, a book launch for our second prose anthology, More Nuggets From Gold Dust. It is now available to buy on our storefront at www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine.

Omma

(GD magazine founder)

Join us Mailing list: www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/MailingList.htm YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/golddustmagazine Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/golddust

Gold Dust team

MySpace: www.myspace.com/golddustmagazine

www.golddustmagazine.co.uk

Artwork

mailtallulah@googlemail.com

Cover illustration Slavko Mali

Prose Editor & Cover Designer David Gardiner Poetry Editor Adele C Geraghty Photographer Eleanor L Bennett

Cover design David Gardiner Photographs Eleanor L Bennett (except where indicated) Illustrations Various

Illustrator Slavko Mali Webmaster, DTP & Founder Omma Velada

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


Contents Dear Mum by Laura McKee (p8)

Regulars

1

Editorial by GD founder Omma Velada

44

Contributors Our writers’ bios in all their glory

46

The Back Page Gold Dust news

Features & Reviews

20

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan Reviewed by Dave Turner

38

Winegarden by Anthony Ferner Reviewed by David Gardiner

39

All The Stars by Alexandra Psaropoulou Reviewed by Adele Geraghty

40

Last Train to Tomorrow A survivor’s story by Malcolm Saxton

Correction Issue 27, p8: The poem As Fast As I Can was incorrectly listed as having been authored by Lorraine Brooks. The correct author is Angela Arzu.

BEST POEM On retiring to bed with a cold by John Alwyine-Mosely (p36)


Short stories

Poems

4

Watering Bones by Mike B Tager BEST PROSE

7

Miley by Danny P Barbare

10

A Trip to the Seaside by Jean Duggleby

8

Dear Mum by Laura McKee

16

Fat by Matthew Richardson

9

TOWARD DECEMBER (After MEI YAO CHEN) by George Freek

24

Memories of the Shed by Caroline Taylor

13

SEPARATION by Lana Bella

28

Two Fathers by Edward Burrell

14

Blossom by Robert Dunsdon

32

Zhuang Zhu’s Dream by Neil MacDonald

15

...but I never smoked? by John Alwyine-Mosely

31

Less is More A selection of short poems by various poets

36

Wit and Whimsy A selection of short poems by various poets

43

afterwards the gorilla went to the cafe by Laura McKee

44

A Husk of Evening by Heath Brougher

45

I’ll Live as I breathe by Osita Kabba

Flash fiction (<1,000 words)

22

A History of Scotland by Andrew McIntyre

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The Eyes by Samantha Martin

BEST PROSE Watering Bones by Mike B Tager (p4)


Watering Bones

BEST PROSE

SHORT STORY

by Mike B Tager She remembered burying the bones...

D

anni rested in the shade, her bicycle resting against the tree. Her strength was by no means back. It was good that the neighborhood was so green with big shady oak trees and weeping willows on every corner. The houses on the way to the park looked similar, but some had additions, different windows, bigger porches. Neighborhoods should all look like this, she thought, with houses that are like third cousins.

tle lake. Two college-aged guys had their feet in the water at the shallow end, throwing rocks at the island a dozen yards away, shouting at the dogs whenever they flopped past. ‘Their bench’ was happily empty and Danni made herself comfortable and took out a water bottle, ready to wait for Sam.

ward the open sky. The night she was diagnosed she sneaked out while her mom slept. She found a lunch-pail left behind, filled with chicken bones and empty bottles of Yoo-Hoo. She remembered burying the bones, imagining them growing into a new chicken. She hoped that when she was buried, a new person would emerge. She stood and biked on, slowly. Sam would be waiting.

They'd met at the end of spring. She’d missed weeks of school from the chemo and was just feeling well

There were a lot of people milling about when she arrived – the sun was strong, but it wasn't unbearably hot. Before long, she came to the lit-

enough to venture out. Her mother had dropped her off at the park and sworn she’d be back soon. Danni didn’t mind waiting. The wind tickled her skin.

Photo: Open source

The one across the street had burnt down – after the tumor, before she lost her hair – a split-level now in its place. She liked how it looked while it was being built, with ribs lifting to4


Watering Bones by Mike B Tager "You're in my support group," a voice had said from over her shoulder. When she turned, she recognized him immediately. While most in the group were in their sixties and seventies, he looked ancient; tall and craggy, his dark skin creased, curly hair all white. He smiled a lot. Her wig at that point was long and black. She’d touched it with the tip of her fingers. He didn't seem to notice. "May I sit? After she hurried over, he sat down and said, "You're young." His eyebrows were thick, pure white and met in the middle. "I'm really fifty-five. I hate my husband." She forced a laugh. It'd worked in school whenever anyone asked her why she’d lost so much weight. Why she didn't come out anymore. Why she didn't smoke with them behind the gym. It was hard to explain, but she turned everything into a joke; it wasn’t hard to distract seventeen-year-olds. Sam, though, didn't smile, just covered her little hand with his gnarled one. "You don't have to pretend." His hand was hard, covered in calluses, the knuckles twisted. "You can be honest." She heard the words coming out of his big, wide lips. But she couldn't help but look at his huge black hands. He said he used to be a stone mason, that he built his own house. "My wife – Rosie – she likes ‘em. Says they look like I can milk a rock." His hands he later told her were full of arthritis, hurt so much he cut himself shaving all the time. He went to the hospital the first time the cuts didn’t clot, but coated his skin in a red sheen. Danni had bitten her lip and turned back to her new friend. "I went when I started getting headaches. They got so bad I couldn't see." He nodded. “My mom says she understands but she really hates when I make the jokes.” “Rosie too.” He held out his hand. She shook it. “I have to go, but I’ll be here next week at the

Issue 28

December 2015

same time.” Children ran past the bench and startled her from her reverie. The two college dudes cursed at them and they ran off. When would Sam get here? During the winter, the lake froze. People skated, the snow-covered island a backdrop. Danni sat with Sam on “their bench” and watched the ice skaters. She wanted to try, but she knew she hadn’t the strength. Sam said, “I haven’t been able to skate in years.” Still a big man, he’d lost weight since their first meeting. “What about your wife? Does she still do normal stuff?” "She tries.” He shook his head. “Rosie goes out, and gardens, and smiles. Doesn't even bat an eye when I don't touch her in bed ‘cause I just don’t have the energy." He coughed. "It’s okay if you don’t know what I mean." She didn’t want to know details, but she liked his indelicacy. She could handle it. “I know what you mean though. Mom keeps on talking about college. I'm, like, maybe. But I have a tight schedule." “Again with the jokes.” She watched ice skaters circle the barren island in the lake. It looked lonely. “Yeah, well. Chemo is starting up again. ‘Gotta laugh while I can.” Behind them, a car horn honked and she knew her mother was there, tapping her foot. “Same time next week?” Sam nodded his head. He looked tired and she wished she hadn’t made yet another joke. That had been the winter; now the island was lush with growth. Ducks seemed to have made a home there and a rotating series of the green-and-black mallards quacked. A breeze started and blew her wig around. She reached her

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fingers under the edge to scratch the stubble. She pulled out her phone, looked to see if maybe Sam had called. She frowned, stood and stretched. It seemed to catch the attention of the college boys. One put away a metal flask and they walked toward her. One was small, with green eyes. The other had a big smile and bigger belly. A new rash of dog-walkers came to let their mutts splash around. She chewed her lip. Fear wasn't something she thought about recently – she got over it when radiation blasted her brain and her skull was sawed open – and she didn't want to worry her mother with a call just because cocky boys approached her. The green-eyed boy said, “I’ve seen you here before.” “I guess you have,” she said. He stuck out his chest. “You want company?” He made as if to sit. She stretched out her legs. “Seat’s taken,” she said. The second one touched his friend’s shoulder. The green-eyed one leaned in; she smelled hickory and medicine. “What’s your problem, Blondie?” Shaking off his friend, he continued, “Just being friendly.” Danni grunted and crossed her arms. She was both glad and annoyed that Sam wasn’t here. She could take care of herself, but it’d be nice to have backup. “You’re not very good at it,” she said, yanking on blonde curls until the wig fell to her lap. “And I’m not blonde.” The little guy blanched. “Sorry to bug you,” the bigger one said. She kept her face neutral until they rounded the lake, disappearing. She grinned. She couldn’t have done that before. Her phone rang and she thumbed it quiet. She knew it was her mother. Even with the good news last week, she was still frantic. Danni couldn’t blame her. Danni felt

5


Watering Bones by Mike B Tager strong enough to fight the world, though she knew it was impossible that she was totally better, that the remission fueled euphoria. But she wanted to be a little reckless. Two weeks ago, they had celebrated six months of friendship; milestones came easier when ill. Sam had brought pictures, pointed out children and grandchildren. “This one looks like me, I think.” He seemed so proud she didn’t have the heart to admit that she couldn’t see the resemblance. The boy he pointed to lacked Sam’s high cheekbones and colouring. But they were all beautiful. She said so. “Maybe I’ll introduce you to Theo.” He pointed to one with a moustache. “He looks thirty.” “Maybe I’ll wait a few years.” He pouted, then whistled. His large hand had grown thin, brown skin stretched taut over newly-brittle bones, cheeks sunken. Danni had just started a new round of chemo. Sam had just finished his last. The hospital down the road was familiar to him, he’d said. He wasn’t afraid of dying in it. After he said that, there was nothing left to be said, so they focused on the pictures. She pointed, “Tell me Photo: Open source

about this one?” Before he answered, her phone beeped. Mom was on her way. Sam looked at his watch, whistled at the time. “If you need a ride, you know I can do it.” Her mother didn’t like when he drove her home, said it implied she couldn’t look after her own daughter. It wasn’t like that, of course, but her mother had enough to worry about. “No,” she said, “that’s fine. Maybe one more picture.” After an hour, Danni stood. Her bike, just where she had left it, daunted. She wondered about Sam. He had never missed a date. “No,” she said as she hopped on her bike, took a deep breath and pedaled. She groaned as her weak muscles stretched and complained. But once up to speed, she whizzed through the park, laughing at renewed strength. Soon, she reached the street, jumped a curb and when her wheel hit the street, she knew she was in trouble. The handlebar twisted and the asphalt rose. “Shit.” She was oddly calm. She lay on the ground, groaning but smiling. She pulled herself together and wiped shallow cuts. Traces of Blood and dirt came away.

Soon, the blood clotted. She hopped back on her bike and started down the road. She knew where he’d be. She’d skipped last week’s meeting. “I’m all clear,” she’d said after the doctor told her. “You’re what now?” Her mom was fixing her makeup in the rearview. She wore too much makeup too, just like Danni. They looked quite a bit alike, now that Danni was putting weight back on. “They say I’m in remission.” When she started to cry, Danni took her hand, like Sam did with her. “That’s a good thing.” Her mother sobbed, then turned the ignition and peeled out. They were on top of a parking garage at Mercy. It was raining, like it had all spring, the concrete filled with puddles. “We have to celebrate.” “I’m supposed to meet Sam.” Her mother glanced over, eyes narrowed. Before she could speak – about how she didn’t understand her daughter’s relationship with the old man, how she needed support too, whatever – Danni said, “Never mind. He’ll understand.” She just needed to explain. She knew where the Oncology Department was. Even though it was almost summer, the hospital room was cold. Danni wished she'd brought a sweater. She sat on the uncomfortable wooden chair next to the bed. "Your place is shitty, Sam," she said. He laughed. "Sorry to miss our date," he wheezed. The oxygen mask fit over his face, muffled his words. "Things came up." "They can do that." She took off her wig, put her head on the mattress. When his big fingers rested on her scalp and stroked the stubby patches of her hair, she closed her eyes.

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Miley Miley curled in her new igloo dog house. Laying on cedar chip bed. Snuggie and beach towel tucked at the entrance. Fresh pan of water. Full bowl of Kibble. Arctic cold air. Starry night and moonlight. She wears her flowery coat. Metal fence post and latch like ice in the palm. My hope and worry. Night and day. She’s chipper in the morning sun. The bright but relentless cold afternoon. Strolling. Bowl of water frozen. She’s a tough part Labrador hound. Found in the country. Warm tongue and brown eyes. Always thankful for a belly rub. It’s a blue sky day for her in Upstate of the South.

Danny P Barbare

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

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December 2015

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7


POEM

Dear Mum I’m writing this in telepathic shorthand if you stick it in google translate maybe it’ll be something you can get something back from Remember your notepads of enigma curls and strokes you pored over of an evening whenever a swirly code remained swirly and coded I might think of the right word fill in the blankety blank and you’d say that’s it Now I can’t tell if all my words to you are blanks if the odd one unswirls itself inside your stroked blank head you nod that’s it

Laura McKee

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

8


POEM

TOWARD DECEMBER (After MEI YAO CHEN) Swallows swoop over the trees. They take no interest in me. How quickly they pass. In this world, nothing lasts. I am over seventy. Suddenly, I feel the weight of my fate. Was there once a god in this room? If so, he’s now gone. My wife is old and tired. It’s hard for her to leave her room. It seems only yesterday, she was a beautiful bride, and I was a smiling groom. We look forward to spring. It can’t come too soon.

George Freek Photo: Eleanor Bennett

Issue 28

December 2015 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk

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SHORT STORY

A Trip to the Seaside by Jean Duggleby This is where we would have come when we had grandchildren...

S

arah and Ben were sitting in the park café having a coffee and watching the children in the playground. “Look at those little girls,” said Sarah. “One’s got a frilly lace skirt like you wore at the fancy dress party and the other’s got a huge bow over her dress. I can understand transvestites. Boys can never go around looking like that.” “Yes,” replied Ben. “How old do you think they are? Six?” “More like four, I should think.” “Look over there,” said Ben, “that group playing on the swings. They’re so co-operative. Oh, that little girl’s going to get knocked over by the swing.” “No, she isn’t, they’re sensible,” replied Sarah. “Look, is that a boy? He’s got a doll down the front of his shirt.” “I hope it’s an Action Man.” Sarah knew Ben was joking. “It’s the trendy families who bring their kids to playgrounds like this. The others are all stuck in front of their computers. None of these are obese either.” “Look at that little tot.” Ben pointed. “He tried to throw his banana skin into the rubbish bin but he missed and it landed on top, and he can’t reach it. He doesn’t know what to do.” “Oh yes, and look now. That little girl is taller and she’s putting it in for him. How sweet.” “The children here are lovely,” Ben agreed. “Here’s an Asian family with two grandmas. Oh, no, when they turn round one is younger. It must be Mum and Grandma. Lucky Gran! This is where we would have 10

come when we had grandchildren, if Gabrielle hadn’t gone to live in New Zealand.” Ben and Sarah were in their 60s and had looked forward to being hands-on grandparents, but it wasn’t to be. Often as she walked about Sarah would look at the glowing faces of grandmothers with their grandchildren and envy them. She’d always heard that when you are a grandparent you get the best of both worlds, all of the pleasure and none of the responsibility. She longed to have that pleasure. “Ah well,” said Ben, “What can you do?” They had come to the park to see the exhibition of the local photography club and been impressed with the high quality of the exhibits: big framed photographs of scenery, wildlife, plants, and people. They’d been asked to vote for their favourite and had made their choice. Sarah had chosen one of children in a tug-of-war game as she’d liked all the different expressions on their faces. Ben had chosen one taken in a tunnel with graffiti on the walls and children walking through. As they walked home Sarah remarked, “Do you realise that we both chose photos with children in them? in fact they were the only two with children in the whole exhibition?” The following day Sarah was due to meet her friend Gladys, who she always found difficult, as her whole life seemed to revolve round her large family: her own children, her

grandchildren and even her great grandchildren; an ever expanding tribe. This time, instead of boasting or, as it seemed to Sarah, gloating, she was complaining about how much childcare she had to do to look after four of her grandchildren for three days, as their parents were both going to the same conference. “And my husband never does a thing. He’s useless.” “What are their ages?” asked Sarah. “Oh, from nearly three to eight.” “That’s quite a handful, and what will you do with them?” “If it’s a nice day tomorrow I’ll take them to the park.” “Would you like me to help?” “No, it’s alright. It’s a bit of a journey for you.” Sarah worked shifts in a smart ladies’ dress shop in Kensington and was not due to work the following day. She had nothing planned and thought, maybe I’ll go along to that park to see if Gladys needs any help. After a bus journey she found the park that Gladys favourewd, one she had never been to before, and wandered around. She saw Gladys sitting on a bench reading a magazine, but something stopped her from going up to her. She watched for a while and thought: She’s not taking any notice of the children. Anything could happen to them. She sat behind some shrubs so that Gladys would be unlikely to see her but she could have a good view. She recognised one little boy with his cherubic face and longish curly hair from the many photographs that


A Trip to the Seaside by Jean Duggleby she’d been shown. That must be Simon, the youngest, she thought. Now Gladys was talking to some woman. Another grandmother, Sarah assumed, as Simon wandered nearer to her hiding place. Still neither of the women had noticed how far away he had strayed. “Hello, Simon.” He didn’t seem at all shy or frightened, and came nearer. She had some sweets in her bag and gave him one. “I’m a friend of Gladys, your Gran. What’s his name?” She pointed to the furry monkey Simon was holding. They chatted and Sarah suggested that they go to look at the fish in the pond. He trustingly held her hand and off they went. After the fish they wandered around a bit more until they came to the park gates. “Do you like bus rides.” “Yes.” They jumped on the bus and Sarah wasn’t sure if she had to pay for a child but apparently she didn’t. What was she doing? This is madness!! She pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind. She’d phone Gladys when she got home, give him his tea and take him back – no problem. After she’d given him his tea, Ben came home from work. “This

is Simon. Remember I told you about Gladys having to look after four of her grandchildren. I’m just giving her a hand. Simon can stay the night, and if he likes it he can stay a bit longer.” “Lovely. It’s Saturday tomorrow so I’ll be at home. Do you like animals, Simon? We could go to the zoo. Do you have a shift tomorrow?” “No,” lied Sarah, who had phoned in sick. Ben chatted with Simon while Sarah rushed round to the corner shop to buy pyjamas and a toothbrush – just in time before it closed. They found some toys that they’d been saving for their own grandchildren, played for a little while, and then put Simon to bed in the spare room. He went to sleep immediately. The next day they made a child seat with cushions in the car and had a good day at the zoo. The following day when Sarah got Simon up he cried for his mum, but luckily Ben was out of the room and Sarah had time to reassure him. They had another nice day, taking out a rowing boat on the canal. Fortunately every time Simon showed any distress Ben happened to be off doing some-

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

Issue 28

December 2015

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thing – buying ice creams, putting away the boat, or something else. The next morning Ben was in the kitchen getting ready for work and listening to the radio. He pricked up his ears when he heard something about a missing child. He rushed into the bedroom. “Sarah, what have you done? You lied.” “I know, but Gladys was just ignoring him. He had a better time with us.” “That’s not the point. Phone Gladys at once!” “I haven’t got her number,” Sarah lied. “I’ll take him back right away.” “I should phone the police.” “No, don’t. I’ll take him back this minute.” “I’ll come with you.” “No don’t. You have to go to work.” “I’ll see you off then. Phone me when you get home.” Ben waved to them and walked off to catch his train. Sarah drove around the block, parked out of sight of the house, and waited until Ben would have gone to work. She then returned to the house and collected together camping equipment, bedding and some of her own clothes and toiletries. She had no clear idea of what she was going to do but knew that she couldn’t part with Simon just yet. He was so sweet and had obviously taken to her. They had a great relationship. She bet that he was having more fun than he’d ever had with Gladys. When she was fully packed she drove the two of them to Southend and found a camp-site. Putting up the tent, she congratulated herself on her forethought. A hotel or B & B would have been too public. While Simon was having a little nap in the tent she went to the camp shop to get something to eat. In the shop, she saw a section of

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A Trip to the Seaside by Jean Duggleby children’s clothes and had an idea! If I dressed him up as a girl no-one would suspect! So she bought a few girl’s clothes. Even his hair was longish and curly so that would look all right. “Look Simon, look at these clothes I bought for you.” “No,” pouted Simon. “They’re girl’s clothes.” “Well, at the seaside children have this game. The boys dress up as girls and the girls dress up as boys.” “Won’t,” said Simon stamping his foot. “I’ve bought this bucket and spade and we can go to the beach and make sandcastles. You’d like that.” She couldn’t help a slightly threatening tone creeping into her voice. Simon grudgingly allowed her to put him in the clothes, and noone would have suspected him of being a boy. She’d even bought a life-like baby doll. “Look at the little baby.” She showed it to Simon. “She opens and closes her eyes, she cries, you can feed her with this little bottle and she even pees so you can change her nappy.” In spite of himself Simon was a little intrigued with the doll and tried poking it’s eyes to stop them closing. He held it by one of its arms, dragging it along the ground. “No, don’t hold her like that. Hold her like this,” Sarah demonstrated, “and gently rock her. She likes that. See, she’s gone to sleep. Shhhh! Don’t wake her up.” Later as they walked to the beach he pointed to a girl and loudly asked, “Is that a boy?” “Yes, but it’s a secret game so no-one says anything. There’s the beach and the tide is out. We can try to find crabs in the rock pools. I’m going to call you Simone now. It’s all part of the seaside game.” Simon shook his head, “No, don’t like.” As Sarah watched Simon play 12

she had another idea. “Simone, we’re just going to buy something at the shops and then go back to the tent for lunch.” She also had to get some money from the ATM. After lunch she put him down for a nap and said, “When you wake up I might look a bit different but it’s all part of the being-at-the-seaside game.” Simon looked anxious and whimpered softly but finally fell asleep. When he woke up Sarah’s hair was shorted and had changed from light brown to black. “Do you like it?” Simon pushed his upper lip forward, frowned and shook his head. In the meantime Ben had notified the police that Sarah had left and a full search was on. She was soon traced to Southend by her bank withdrawal. Sleepily sunbathing in her deckchair, the baby doll resting on her chest, she watched Simon in his frilly bathing suit decorating his sandcastle with shells. They’d been blessed with beautiful weather ever since they arrived and all was going well. She was aroused by a dark shadow blocking the warmth of the sun and opened her eyes fully to see a policeman and two policewomen. “Sarah, you and Simon need to come with us,” the man said softly. “No, I’m not Sarah. You’ve got the wrong person.” “I don’t think so.” Simon threw down his shells and clung to Sarah. People on the beach began to look. “Come along, dear. Everything will be sorted out.” People around them stood up, whispered to each other and called their children to come back to them. One policewoman gathered their belongings and the other tried to take Simon’s hand. “No,” he shouted and clung more fiercely to Sarah, who picked him up. She also car-

ried the doll, who cried to the gentle hum of her battery-powered pump. More people gathered around, some carrying their children tightly. “You wicked woman!” one mother shouted. As the little procession walked along the sand the crowd parted silently. Sarah saw Gladys and Ben standing on the promenade. Gladys ran towards them wildly, grey hair streaming, and grabbed Simon – but he screamed and would not be parted from Sarah. “She’s nobody,” shouted Gladys, “I’m your Gran! Look, there’s Mummy and Daddy.” As she said it a couple came running towards them. “What on earth is he wearing? You’re mad.” Gladys wrenched the howling Simon from Sarah’s arms. Sarah fell against Ben’s chest clutching the crying doll and sobbed uncontrollably too, gasping for breath. They were all bundled into three police cars. Some people had got out phones with cameras and were photographing and filming the whole scene, hoping for a bit of money from the press or TV. Others had more sympathy. One woman tapped Sarah’s arm and said, “God will forgive you.” In the car Sarah asked, “What’s going to happen? Have I been naughty? Will they take my baby away?” she clung to the weeping doll whose eyes were fixed open in a terrifying stare. “Don’t worry, you can keep THAT baby,” said the WPC. “I won’t be kept in, will I? You’ll just ask me a few questions and then I’ll be able to go home, won’t I?” The WPC did not answer. As the police cars moved off Sarah’s new grandchild was still crying, despite her most fervent efforts to comfort her.

Gold Dust


POEM

SEPARATION A mistake, a false step takes us elsewhere. Now, we dress separately, keeping distance a close companion-your absinthe eyes startle each time my dress, which is nothing more than flesh, brushes you by passing on the staircase. Have a nice day, I say, your head nods in a new absent way-I pour the whole of our lives over the landing: bones, flesh, darkness and light, grazing your neck and tousled hair as you step down then out into the sunlight, gone. On this morning, I throw out my voice and scream, piercing pitch scurrying the empty foyer breaths break apart in their string of puffs. This remains constant as a moment of absolution-I am a prayer devoid of its name or power, for I never dreamt we would be a river cleft in two, voiceless as we move sideways in splinters and traces.

Lana Bella

Issue 28

December 2015

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13


POEM

Blossom We were led to believe; When a voice behind voices was compelling, When the ghost was conceived, We were flattered: By answers in the night, spilled to the pillow Like memorabilia from a biscuit tin; By whispers through a snow-hushed morning, Drawing us in; Joining up stars in a new and propitious constellation. We were led to believe; We were led to believe that a flurry of blossom Taken by the wind and dropped as wanted posters To this thorny scrub, these hollow trees, Was something other than the future played out In a scene never wholly remembered, Never entirely forgotten.

Robert Dunsdon

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

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POEM

...but I never smoked? The screen PDF is of cheap paper with the grey tired print of a duplicate made relevant by a name written in a space. Once, this would have been dictated by a consultant smoking a pipe, tamping tobacco down and relighting between words. The secretary scribbling, worried about frozen dinners and having to explain shop meals to a man who worked. Linen paper with embossed type landing on the mat in a sealed franked envelope for a weighing of consequences. Now a button is pressed on the way to making tea and it arrives with a ping in the list of discount opportunities.

John Alwyine-Mosely

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

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15


Fat

SHORT STORY

by Matthew Richardson

The start of her annual leave was the perfect time to initiate her plan...

H

elen smiled as the evening pedestrian traffic negotiated its way past around her on Great Western Road, Glasgow. The kids on the bus had not been the first, and nor would they be the last, that laughed at her weight. Admittedly she did not do herself any favours; the supersize soda clenched in her pudgy fist and the entire double seat that she was spread over meant that it was a rare night that she did not elicit at least a few sniggers. It had not been the titters that irritated her; more the inference that she didn’t know who they were aimed at. Being morbidly obese did not make her an idiot, and neither Photo: Open Source

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did it make her deaf. Tonight it had been two tattooed teenage lads hiding their laughter behind hoods and scarves; the cuffs of their tracksuit tops dirty and the miasma of their cheap aftershave overwhelming. As usual her friend Douglas, a fellow nurse at Gartnavel General Hospital had been unable to resist the provocation. “Leave her alone, can’t you lads?” he had said in a mock whisper. “Can’t you see she’s got enough on her plate?” Smiles from the regular passengers and a smirk from the driver in the rear-view mirror were in sharp contrast to gormless expressions of dawning guilt etched on the faces of the youths. Hurried

protestations of innocence and of a simple misunderstanding burst forth from beneath the scarves. The youths, of course, had not been laughing at the thirty-five stone woman taking up two seats by herself. One pointed a sovereign-ring clad finger at himself, as if astonished that someone would think he had been that insensitive. Scoffing at the boys’ embarrassment and at her friend’s pofaced request, Helen leaned forward conspiratorially. “Don’t worry guys,” she had said. “I’m not actually obese. I’m allergic to and swell up near pretentious little pricks.” A ripple of laughter spread through the bottom tier of the bus.


Fat by Michael Richardson Slack jawed and furrow-browed, the boys made their exit at the next stop, muttering obscenities through their scarves and clutching their carryout in blue plastic bags. Helen and Douglas had given the two teenagers a mocking wave as the bus had pulled off. Red-faced, one of the Neds had found the courage to raise a middle finger as the bus carried on down the street, eliciting a mocking cheer from the passengers. Still smiling as she turned the key in her front door, Helen sighed. She would have to get around to yet another diet sooner or later. She had been waxing lyrical about her ambitions to Douglas only that lunchtime. Not foolish enough to think that she would slim down to a svelte size twelve, Helen did have a size eighteen dress in her wardrobe that served as a spur to her previously thwarted ambition. Atkins, Weight-watchers, veganism, South Beach, detox; she had tried them all to little effect. Binning the empty soda cup, she made her way into her bedroom and took off her coat. Her nurseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s uniform stretched over her bulk, and she had a struggle to get it off. Helen rolled down her leggings, unclipped her bra and slipped off her knickers. She stood in front of the mirror. The most remarkable thing she saw was not the two stomachs, one nestled on top of the other like a frowning pair of lips. It was not the mottled thighs, rugby-forwardesque in size and overhanging her knees like advancing glaciers. It was not even bingo wings that reminded her of bed sheets on a washing line; billowing and bulging in a strong breeze. Scrawled across her lower stomach in a seemingly scattergun fashion were crosses and lines drawn in black permanent marker. Her gut looked like a generalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s battle plan. Nodding at herself in the

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mirror, Helen walked determinedly through to the bathroom. This was it. The start of her annual leave was the perfect time to initiate her plan. With any luck, she would be fully recovered and fit enough for her return to work in three weeksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; time. Sure there were risks, Helen thought, but she did not see herself as an idiot. As far as she was concerned, she had been left with little choice. Denied gastric band surgery on the NHS because of her inability to lose weight via conventional means, she had been forced into this. The difference between her and all the other schmucks who had tried selfsurgery in the past was in the preparation. She had done her research, from watching similar procedures at the hospital to reading every textbook she could get her hands on. As a working nurse, she was aware of infection control, post-op recovery and risk management. Painstakingly slow in preparation; this had been long in the planning. There was all the difference in the world, she thought, between Dr. Jerri Neilsen, who, stuck at a South Pole research station, had performed two mastectomies and started a course of chemotherapy before transport arrived, and the South Korean woman who, on being denied cosmetic surgery had injected her face with cooking oil. She reminded herself that she had prepared for this. She was not doing it entirely because of the jibes, but because she wanted to live past forty. If she could just prove that she could lose weight of her own accord, then they would let her have further surgery on the NHS. Helen opened the bathroom door and looked upon the vista in front of her. Crowded around the bath were floor lamps, each fitted with a super bright two-hundred watt bulb. They illuminated a plas-

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tic container filled with brownish fluid sitting at the end of the bath. On the side of the tub lay a scalpel, a stitching needle and two syringes filled with fluid. Lying on the floor next to the bath was a Henry Hoover with a cannula soldered to the hose, alongside a dressing table mirror. A house phone lay close to the bath for emergencies. Everything was ready. Taking a steadying breath, Helen eased herself down into the bath, the sides of her stomach mottling as they piled up around the sides of the tub like puff pastry on a steak pie. Settling herself down, she scooped a handful of the brown liquid from the plastic box and smeared it across her stomach. Betadine would sterilise the area she was about to operate on. Next, she picked up one of the syringes filled with clear liquid. She picked a spot close to one of the crosses marked on her stomach and efficiently injected a small amount of liquid in. Repeating this process, she did not stop until her entire stomach was numb. The Lidocaine had been one of the few medical items that she had not needed to filch from the hospital, having acquired it over the internet. The local anaesthetic was used to adulterate heroin and cocaine; her current use of it was at least slightly more ethical. Helen paused. Everything up until now could be easily turned back from. Nothing she had so far done committed her. With a steady hand, she picked up the scalpel. Bringing the blade next to one of the crosses marked upon her skin, she pressed as hard as she could without breaking the skin. Was this her only option? She knew it was. She had tried; God knew she had tried, to lose weight. A plethora of different diets, plans, gym memberships, and classes had failed. She was

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Fat by Michael Richardson just too hungry. It was called morbidly obese for a reason, and Helen knew that she would die if she did not lose weight. She was taking the last option open to her. Game time. Pressing the scalpel against one of the crosses, she watched, seemingly detached, as the blade cut into her skin. She felt surreal as a half inch incision was made. There was surprisingly little blood; a consequence of the Lidocaine. Working quickly, the obese woman made eight other incisions across her front. When she was finished, nine trickles of blood had pooled between her naked bulk and the sides of the bathtub. Helen tentatively reached over the side of the bath and pulled the hoover towards her. Sweating slightly, she took the hollow cannula and pushed it into the first incision like a tent pole into canvas. Looking down at the end of the appliance underneath her skin, Helen felt a momentary wave of nausea. The room shimmered and wobbled. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, the bathroom was still again. Focus. Keeping the cannula close to the skin surface, she moved it back and forth vigorously, just like she had seen on YouTube. She could feel something scraping free of the skin, and once she had reached everything she could through that hole, Helen reached over again and switched on the hoover. Helen watched as brownishred mulch was sucked slowly up the transparent cannula, before disappearing into the ribbed tubing of the hoover. Helen felt a rush of elation. It was working! Wiping the smile from her face and the sweat from her brow, she focused again. Part of her preparation for this operation was in risk management, and she knew that 18

there were plenty of risks still to face. She could unbalance the fluids in her body to such a degree that she could dehydrate. She could puncture an internal organ with the cannula. She could hit an artery. She could have miscalculated the amount of anaesthetic used, and have poisoned herself. Helen was under no illusions; she was carrying out major surgery in her bathtub. Concentrate. She looked at her bathroom sink. On the rim lay a medical stitching needle and some thread. Helen sighed. She was still some way from that. Keep going. As she worked, the early October sun dipped beneath the frosted glass of her bathroom window. As the temperature began to drop, Helenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s central heating kicked in on the timer, as she had planned. Super bright spotlights installed in her bathroom ceiling a week ago illuminated her grisly work perfectly. For hours she endeavoured, working the cannula in and out, and hoovering the results of a lifetime of indulgence out. Finally, she came to the last hole. Eyes itching with tiredness and fingers stiff after being in one position for so long, she concentrated one last time. Nearly there. This incision was the most difficult. Situated beneath the second overhang of her belly, she could not really see what she was doing. Helen grabbed a handheld mirror that she had placed on the floor next to the bath for this very moment. Placing the mirror between her knees, she grabbed hold of the wave of flesh that was overhanging the last hole. Try as she might, the skin, slick with sweat and Betadine, kept slipping from her grasp. Drying her hands on a towel did no good- the Betadine was still too

greasy. She couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wipe her stomach with a towel-this was a sterile area after all. Helen paused, undecided as to whether to abandon this final incision. She had, after all, already taken a massive amount of fat from her own body. This was evident from the hoover, which despite having a waterproof bag put into it as of that morning, was now making gurgling noises. It was pitch black outside now, and Helen made her decision. She had not come all of this way to do half a job. She felt for the incision in her lower belly, and found it by touch. Lowering the cannula, she pushed it into the opening with some difficulty. The most difficult part over with, she started to agitate he hoover end. This cut was no different from the others, apart from the awkward angle and lack of a clear view. All of the videos she had watched on YouTube of the procedure had demonstrated to her that Photo: Open Source


Fat by Michael Richardson a surgeon must be fairly robust when rasping the cannula. She was, after all, stripping fat from skin, and that fat had been there for some time. With aching muscles she started to move the cannula again. Back and forth, back and forth, like a violinist playing in staccato. Suddenly there was a muffled popping sound in response to a particularly vigorous stroke. Shit. No need to panic, thought Helen; she was prepared for this. She had likely nicked an intestine, nothing major. She would finish sucking the fat out, and then sew everything up nicely. Any problems and she could always visit A and E tomorrow… Douglas was late and sweating. There was no-one outside the church. Making his way inside, he stopped short. The place was jampacked with people. The minister was obviously in the middle of a

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eulogy that had very little to do with the bubbly, full-of-laughter woman that Douglas had known. There were numerous members of the congregation crying. Rather than force his way into a packed church to find a seat, Douglas decided that he would view the remainder of the service from the back of the building. If he was honest with himself it was also because he didn’t want to see his friend in her open casket. There it lay, at the front of the church. He felt a lump in his throat. They had told him that she had died of perforation of the small intestine. There had been no phone call, no cry for help, just a grisly scene which spoke of hours of suffering and pain; an awful end for someone with whom he had shared so many coffees, so many lunch breaks, and so many stolen laughs. Indeed, there had not been the slightest indication that Helen was going to try something so monumentally stupid. She had been so lively, so full of pith and giggles on the bus that night… He caught movement from the corner of his eye. A short fat man wearing glasses was edging along the aisle towards him. “Anthony Proctor,” whispered the man. “Undertaker. You with catering?” Douglas shook his head, but the man didn’t seem to notice. “I bet you’re glad she’s the one in the coffin,” said the balding undertaker under his breath. “If not, you would have needed a hell of a lot more food! Who d’you think all these people are – fast food restaurant managers?” The undertaker sniggered at his own joke. Douglas struggled to process what he had just heard. “Certainly you’ve got an easier job than I had,” continued the squat man conversationally. “When they found her she had been lying there with a hoover in her belly for two days. The vacuum cleaner had

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been still going, gurgling like a pot of soup on a hob. Can you imagine what I had to do to get her presentable for today?” The undertaker sighed. “Not an easy task, my friend. Not an easy task.” Douglas was about to snap at the undertaker when he realised that a line had formed for viewing of the body. Gritting his teeth at the little man, he vowed to speak to him after the service had finished. Edging closer to the coffin, he began reliving some of the memories he had of Helen. When it was finally his turn to pay his respects he shuffled apprehensively up to his dead friend, bowing his head as he had seen others do. When he was finally able to look upon her, he was stopped short. Familiar to him was Helen’s chubby face, her motherly demeanour and her generous mouth, which even now seemed to be curved in mild amusement at some idiot of a patient at the hospital. Less familiar was everything below the neck, where a svelte and lithe body gave way to chubby legs at the bottom. What came unbidden to Douglas’ mind was a fairground mirror, and the corners of his mouth twitched involuntarily. What was he thinking? Shock finally gave way to amusement, as he thought how Helen would have giggled at her predicament. For her part, Helen seemed to smile back at him. He saw his fellow nurse’s big round face. Turning away, he walked back down the aisle feeling oddly light. As he took up his position at the rear of the church again, the undertaker approached him once more. “Who’d have thought,” said the bespectacled man, shaking his head again. “Into a size twelve coffin.”

Gold Dust 19


The Narrow Road to the Deep North

REVIEW

by Richard Flanagan Chatto & Windus, 2014 Hardcover ÂŁ13.59 Reviewed by Dave Turner

form of the Haiku is the tool that Flanagan uses to give us an insight into the mind set of the Japanese. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku.hn This haiku by Kobayashi Issa sums up the novel:

L

ast year Richard Flanagan won the Man Brooker prize with his latest novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. This was surely no surprise to anyone who had read the novel before the winner was announced. It is truly a great novel, a masterpiece, as A C Grayling, the Chair of the Man Booker Prize judges asserted. As a novel it compares in stature and intention with Tolstoy's War and Peace, with which it has many themes and intentions in common. War and Peace is often acclaimed as the greatest novel of all time. For our time at least Richard Flanagan's novel will surely take the same accolade. There are many similarities between the two master works, not just simply that both books are about the build up to a great war, the war itself and then the aftermath of the conflict. In essence they both deal with profound questions such as, what it is like to be human, how to live a virtuous life, the meaning and value if human life, heroism, cowardice, loyalty, suffering, endurance, love, marriage and family. Ultimately they are about life, death and all that comes in between. Great though the novel is, I have other reasons for recommending it to readers of Gold Dust magazine. One of the brilliant writing techniques that Flanagan uses in the novel is to compare and contrast some of the writings of the great Japanese poets such as Basho, Issa, Hyakka with the horrific events in the novel. The apparently simple, but in reality complex, 20

In this world we walk on the roof of hell gazing at flowers Using this technique he attempts, not to justify, but at least to explain, how so many war crimes were committed by the Japanese Army. The Japanese Colonel persists in quoting this Haiku by Basho as he and his men are brutally beating an Australian sergeant for not turning up at the morning work detail:A world of pain If the Cherry blossoms It blossoms. Powerfully Flanagan introduces us to the Japanese tradition of a poet writing a death Haiku on his death bed. This death poem by Hyakka is quoted by Flanagan Haiku as the death poem of Lieutenant Nakamura, the officer in charge of building the railway:Winter ice melts into clear water; clear is my heart. As well as using Japanese poetry as a theme running through the book Flanagan leans heavily on a great English poem, Ullysses, by Tennyson. Since this poem is about the aftermath of war it is entirely suitable for Flanagan's purposes in The Narrow Road to the Far North. The whole poem can be found on the Poetry Foundation website at: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174659 Like Dorrigo Evans, Ullysses returns from war scarred by the experience and cannot settle to peace-


Review: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan time life. He is compelled by his inner turmoil to return to sea with his old crew: For my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die. Flanagan uses the poem as a parallel to the experiences of Dorrigo Evans and his fellow prisoners. with their intention to live life to the full and 'bear ot out, e'en to the edge of doom'. At Dorrigo's death lines from Tennyson are still haunting him, even though he has forgotten the title of the poem and the name of its author. The end of the novel is very powerful. We have journeyed with Dorrigo from birth to death. Here Flanagan quotes Tennyson again:Little remains: but every hour is saved From that eternal silence, something more; A bringer of new things; and vile it were For some three suns to store and hoard myself, And this gray spirit yearning in desire To follow knowledge like a sinking star, Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

Flanagan uses a flashback/flashforward technique brilliantly to describe the deaths of Dorrigo, Dusky Gardiner and Jimmy Bigelow. There is so much overwhelming poignancy in in the ending, but it never tips over into sentimentalism and always keeps to the hard edge of reality. Above all it is the sheer quality of the writing that makes this such a great novel. It is notoriously difficult to describe physical sexual activity without descending into comic absurdity but Flanagan does it effortlessly and beautifully. The first time that Dorrigo and Amy make love is sensitively and quite un-embarrassingly written. There is no accidental descent into schoolboy smut, but instead it transcends into a beautiful and exciting passage of magic realism carrying us away on a tide of passion. During these encounters between Dorrigo and Amy the conversation ranges far and wide, complicated, intriguing and fascinating. In summary, this novel has everything. It is one of the great novels of our time. At the risk of being ridiculed I would assert that it is the greatest novel of all time. Certainly a book that everyone should read.

Gold Dust

Find out more Details of all of Flanaganâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s writing is availabe on his website at:

richardflanagan.com More novels by Flanagan:

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December 2015 www.golddustmagazine.co.uk

21


FLASH FICTION

A History of Scotland by Andrew McIntyre “What’re ye staring at, ye cunt?” he growls...

S

aturday evening. I’d thought of going fishing, but the river was still colored after the recent spate. Early October, the first rains of autumn bringing the first run of salmon. It had been a very dry summer. They had been waiting in the Forth, and now they were heading to the source beds of the Allan, where they had been born. I’d been watching them three miles upriver at the Ashfield dam, tears in my eyes. I wander along the mossy path, the ample, lush dark graveyard in the purple twilight, turning left down the alley past the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace. Dwarfed by the immensity of the cathedral’s shadow, the only light in the tiny square slides from the windows of the Chimes. I can already hear the drone of voices, and the occasional shout. I open the chipped red door, walking into a blue haze of smoke, Wally with a pint in his hand to my right, the usual crowd beyond, everyone talking at once. I nod, “All right man?” “Aye, all right.” I wave to the other room, Ally McLeod Watson, Hamish McKenzie, Jimmy McFarlane, already surrounded by empties. Ally yelling, “Where’ve ye been?” “Ah was fishing,” I yell back. “It’s too colored,” Wally mutters. “Aye, ah was trying with the worm,” I reply. I push my way through the crowd towards the bar, “All right, men.” Anne McEnroy working, her 22

maiden name McIntyre, we’ve always had a connection, she is like my grandmother. Born in Bonawe, in the western Highlands, near the ancient clan lands of Glen Noe. She sees me, I smile. “Be with you in a moment, Andrew,” she calls. “Cheers Anne,” I reply. Angus Mackinnon slumped at the bar in his blue mechanic’s overalls, grease on his face and his hands, drinking a half and a half. His physique, looks, and temperament exactly like a young Nick Nolte in Rich Man, Poor Man. This is not good, and I try to ignore him, but he notices me looking at him. “What’re ye staring at, ye cunt?” he growls. “Ah’m nae bothering ye, Angus, just fetching m’ beer.” Angus thinks I had something with his girl, Fiona, which is completely untrue. She had something for me, it is true but, with Angus, and how he is, an amateur middleweight contender of the Central Region, I did not pursue. She was not worth the bloodshed, as it would have been my blood. In the background, I see Ally McLeod Watson has spied our interaction, and he is looking concerned, but I wave that all is well. Ally was another contender, smaller than Angus, former junior cross-country champion of Scotland, then senior cross-country champion of Scotland, former full back for Stirling County, offered, cajoled, and finally intimidated into a brief professional career at middleweight for some gentlemen in Glasgow. He has gone toe to toe

with Angus, there was no clear winner and, as he has always said, if Angus fights me, then he fights us all. That’s the way it is in the village, which happens to be a city, though one of the smallest in the kingdom. A rumbling outside the building, two very large vehicles draw up. And at that precise moment, about eighty men enter the pub, leather jackets, sheepskin coats, denim, led by a little hardman fellow yelling for, “Eight pints of heavy, when you’re ready, ye cunts, and halves and halves, at the fucking double.” Red and white scarves, all of them, Aberdeen, and they just lost to Celtic 3-0. As in a red white tide, I am washed to one side, as the maniac throng surges towards the bar and, like the parting of the seas, the Chimes have gathered in the opposite room, thirty men glaring at the insurgents. Ally is waving at me, shouting something I can’t hear due to the noise, and men are stubbing cigarettes, gathering ash trays, bottles and beer glasses, chairs, big Hamish is holding a table. Someone yells, “Ye fucking sheepshaggers, Aberfuckingdeenbastards, ye fucking sheepshagging cunts!” Angus McKinnon hasn’t moved. He sips his Grouse, stands, walks towards me, puts his arm around my shoulders, and walks me back through the Sheepshaggers, back to the bar. “Get this man a beer before these cunts,” he shouts to Anne. “Aye, will do.” She proceeds to pour my beer. “Grouse, on the house,” she adds rhyming, pushing


A History of Scotland by Andrew McIntyre a very large whisky across the wood. The little hardman leader squares up to the bar, yelling, “What’s the fucking matter with you, you old cow, did you nae hear our order?” It’s about to go down, and Angus and I are going to be the recipients of bottles, ash trays, and Hamish’s table, razors maybe, besides the retaliation, the 80 or so drunk Sheepshaggers inside and outside the Chimes, spilling around in confusion.

Pointing to the door, Anne faces the little hardman, and the cohorts beyond, “Oot, oot, oot, now, get ooot.” The little hardman stares briefly, and at the line of fire in the other room, and he turns, “C’mon let’s oot ay here.” They leave, the Sheepshaggers, trudging out in a strange silence. People sit down, putting away the ashtrays, and chairs, and bottles. Normal conversation resumes, cigarettes are lit. Ally beckons to me, “C’mon

man...” Without realizing, I have already finished my beer and the superlative dram in the chaos. Angus is seated where he started, morosely continuing to sip his Grouse and heavy. I pat him on the back, “Angus, cheers man, I really...” Glowering, he mutters, “Get your fucking hands off ay me ye cunt, and don’t ye ever fucking speak tae me, ye ken... ever.”

Gold Dust

Photo: Open Source

Issue 28

December 2015

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23


FLASH FICTION

Memories of the Shed

by Caroline Taylor

Evil lurks just inside the open door...

I

t doesn’t hurt much – if you pick the right landing spot, not the hard-packed dirt in front of you, but the brown grass to the left, which is probably mostly puncture weeds. I scan the ground below, take a couple of steps to the side and a deep breath, and launch myself into the air. “Oh, all right,” says Tommy when I stand up. His face is flushed from the heat, and his cowlick is standing straight up like it always does. “I guess you’re not a sissy. But you’re still a girl.” “So?” I’m bent over, picking thorns out of my jeans. I can’t see his face. “No girls allowed.” I roll my eyes. “Like I ever wanted to be in your stupid club? This is all about you calling me a sissy. And you’ve just admitted you were wrong.” He kicks a rock across the dirt. “I bet you couldn’t jump from there.” He’s pointing at the garage roof, which is right next to the shed, only much higher. “Bet I can.” Except I’m too short to climb onto the garage roof from the shed. I narrow my eyes in thought. Maybe Tommy could give me a leg up... “Sammy!” It’s my mother, calling me into lunch. We’ll have to settle this some other day. I will make sure we do. Tommy and his pals in that boys-only club still don’t seem to get it that we are not girly girls. We’ve won our share of china berry and water balloon wars, after all. And my older sister Terry is the best batter on the block. Plus, we have our own club, no boys al24

lowed. “That should do it,” says my father, using the hem of his denim shirt to wipe the sweat from his brow. He’s just spent half the morning hauling cardboard boxes into she shed, stacking them in a row along one wall. He waves his flashlight around the darkened interior, which is divided in half, making two windowless rooms, full of possibilities. A jail. A saloon. A general store, just like the ones on “Six Gun Playhouse.” “Look,” says Terry, opening one of the steamer trunks that the landlord has left behind. “It’s full of clothes!” She holds up a long gray dress that shimmers dully in the glaring sunlight. It has a lighter leaf pattern that, in places holds onto the light and in others hands it back. “That stuff isn’t ours,” says Dad. “Put it back, Terry.” “Mr. Ash probably doesn’t even know it’s here,” she says. “I bet he doesn’t want it, and it would make such a lovely dress for the ball.” She’s holding the garment up against her shoulders. We’re both redheads and all freckled up from the sun, so gray doesn’t look real good on her. I reach out to touch the silky folds, and Terry snatches the dress out of reach. “You heard what Dad said!” She folds it carefully and puts it back into the trunk. With a gesture designed purely to annoy, she smooths the cloth one last time before slamming the lid shut. It hides unknown terrors – the kind

that creep out under cover of darkness and lurk beneath my bed or in the closet, just waiting for me to fall asleep. When it’s my turn to carry trash to the dumpster in the alley behind the shed, I run as fast as I can. Evil lurks just inside the open door, waiting to spring out at my undefended back. Terry knows this, so she sometimes sneaks out the back door and hides herself in the shadows nearby, jumping out at me as I make the dash to safety. “What do you do if you’re scared?” I ask my Dad one evening while he’s waiting for the barbecue coals to heat up. “Depends. What’s scaring you, Squirt?” He blows on the coals. I can’t tell him something silly like a building, so I just shrug. He rubs the back of my neck. “If it’s something you can’t put a name to, I’d say just admit you’re scared and then go ahead and do whatever you were planning to.” Sometimes on dark and windy nights, the terror spills over the doorsill and slithers across the yard to our bedroom windows, unseen, waiting for the right moment to scratch the windowpanes or bang the screen door. On nights like those, I can’t help freezing as I lie there, holding my breath as long as I can, my heart pounding loud enough for the terror to know I’m here, alive, waiting to be devoured. I’m too old to cry like a baby. Anyway, my mouth is too dry. And I forget all about admitting I’m scared, not that I believe it will help. In the morning, the terror retreats to the shed or slips beneath the house where scorpions and


Memories of the Shed by Caroline Taylor

Photo: Open Source

tarantulas live and where once a cat died and the smell comes back on rainy days. The terror seems to fade, just a bit, as I grow older. But I still hate to carry trash to the dumpster, and I can’t help feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stick out as I scurry back to the house where Terry is arguing with Mom about staying out too late, boys, parties, getting her driver’s license, makeup, and other boring things. It’s too dark to read in the shed, but at least I can get away from Terry and Mom and spend the afternoon, daydreaming. “Where is that girl?” I hear Mom say. “In the shed.” Terry’s always so aggravating. “What’s she doing in there?” “I don’t know,” says my older Issue 28

December 2015

sister. “Want me to get her?” “No. It’s not important. By then Princess Samantha’s flaming hair has tumbled down around her shoulders. The pirate steps back in awe. “It’s like gold,” he whispers, fingering one of the thick tresses. Samantha draws back, struggling against the two sailors holding her captive between them. “Ah, a bit of fire in you, eh, girl?” There’s a gleam in the pirate’s eye when he laughs. “You’ll fetch a lot on the slave market, I’ll wager.” Then he roars at the sailors. “Throw her in the hold, lads!” With brutal strength, the sailors haul me below and– A shadow suddenly darkens the doorway. A familiar voice shatters the silence. “Well, look at this,” Terry sniggers. “Aren’t you too old for dress-up?”

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I can feel the heat in my face as I look down at the gray gown. “Leave me alone.” “Mom wants you.” “She does not.” “How do you know?” “Because I heard her, stupid.” Terry’s wandering around the room, peering at the cartons stacked against the wall. “Wonder what’s in those boxes.” “None of our beeswax,” I snap, pulling the dress down around my knees and stepping out of the circle it makes on the floor. “What if it’s full of money or Dad’s will or something like that?” Terry pulls one of the boxes down to the floor and opens it. It’s too hot to sleep. I keep tossing and turning, wondering what Terry has discovered. I know she found something because she’s had a 25


Memories of the Shed by Caroline Taylor funny look on her face ever since we sat down to eat supper. “What was in that box?” I whisper. “I can’t tell you,” she says. “It’s too awful.” I sit up. “What’s too awful?” A coppery taste of fear floods the back of my mouth. Am I adopted? Did Dad take me out of his Will after he caught me sneaking a smoke in the alley? Are there guns in those boxes? Stolen jewels? Terry is sitting up too. “Promise you’ll never say a word to Mom.” “Cross my heart.” “I found some letters he wrote her before we moved here.” “Big deal.” “He was writing from prison.” The words fall like a stone into the silent bedroom. “Did– did he kill somebody?” I finally manage to say. Even in the darkness, I can tell Terry is rolling her eyes. “Of course not.” “Then what..?” “I don’t know. He never said. Whatever it was, he claimed he was innocent. Framed is how he put it. In practically every letter.” “But still...” “Yeah. I suspect that’s why we moved here. Fresh start and all that.” The only thing I can hear is my

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heart beating. This is followed by a fierce, hot rush of rage that has no outlet. “You’re lying,” I hiss. “You’re making this up because... because you’re mean.” Terry shakes her head. “I could show you, Sam, but not tonight. It’s too dark.” “How could you do this?” I cry. “Oh, grow up,” she says. “I didn’t do anything. Honestly, you can be such a... such a darn sissy.” I jump out of bed, but Terry’s quicker, moving to block my way. “We’re not supposed to know, Sammy. I’m sure Mom wants to protect us from the truth. Besides, you promised me. Don’t break her heart over something that’s all in the past.” I push her away, hissing, “I hate you!” Then I slip through the silent house and out the back door. I can feel the cool cement on the bottoms of my bare feet, the smell of sage and mesquite, a crushed vinegaroon, the taste of gritty sand in my mouth. The star-spangled midnight blue sky arches indifferently overhead. Across the yard with its patches of puncture weeds and grass, the shed stares evilly back at me with its secrets that can never be told, harboring a known terror, the kind that will never again jump out at me when I cross the

yard to the kitchen. Sissy. I remember Tommy’s dare, the one I never got to take up. Things – school, sports, Tommy’s bout with mono, growing up – just got in the way. He’s not here to witness, and he probably wouldn’t care, either. But I do. The moon is bright as I climb onto the roof of the shed. I’m tall enough now to pull myself up onto the garage roof. It’s flat, like most structures of its kind in this desert city, and the tarred surface is warm beneath my feet. If I pick my landing spot carefully, I’ll only have to pull a bunch of thorns out of my feet. Although I might twist my ankle. “What are you doing?” says Terry. I look down to see her standing there, in bare feet and pajamas like me. “What do you care?” I say, trying to hide the fact that I’m crying again. “And, anyway, you did it once.” “I was wearing shoes,” she says. “C’mon, Sam. Get down. You could break a leg.” Taking a deep breath, I launch myself into the air. As I fall, my elbow crashes into something hard, and I hear Terry say, “Ow!” Then we’re lying on the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. “What did I hit?” I ask her when we pull apart and I finally catch my breath. “My nose. I’ll be disfigured for life.” She sounds like she has a cold. “I’m sorry. Is it bleeding?” “Yep.” We lie there, staring up at the stars. “You shouldn’t have tried to catch me,” I say. “You shouldn’t have jumped,” she replies, still all stopped up. The breeze picks up, carrying with it the faint scent of rain. “Do you believe him?” I ask my older sister. “Yeah.”

Gold Dust


FLASH FICTION

The Eyes

by Samantha Martin

The cold eyes with pain behind...

H

ave you ever looked at someone and I mean really looked at them, trying to see what the soul would say about that person. But you canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see past the rough angry exterior. The cold eyes with pain

behind. You look at them trying to understand why in the world they have to be that way. When your eyes meet for the last time and you realize that the pain has turned to bitterness and resentment. And knowing that there is nothing you

can do to help this person. So, you look away, a single tear rolling down your cheek as you put the mirror back in your bag and step off the bus.

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Photo: Eleanor Bennett

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December 2015

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Two Fathers

SHORT STORY

by Edward Burrell

Patrick hadn’t always been like this...

“C

ome on you son of a bitch, come on…” Father Patrick Conway sat back to front on the toilet seat in his upstairs bathroom. He peeked out of the window and scanned up and down the street. The bastard was late, again. Patrick swore again under his breath and pulled his head back. He looked down at the bucket of water and the bags of flour that surrounded the toilet and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, almost recoiling at what he saw. He saw a kind of semi human looking back at him with red rimmed eyes that were surrounded by lines so deep they looked like miniature canyons criss-crossing his face. There was a tic in the corner of his mouth and it flickered every few seconds causing one side of his mouth to twitch violently. Patrick hadn’t always been like this. He had been happy once, before that son of a bitch Jeremy Wendell had shown up. Ever since Wendell had started showing his weasel face in the village things had gone downhill. Patrick looked at himself in the mirror once again and was surprised to see tears rolling down his lined face. His vision blurred through his tears and the mirror and the rest of the tiny bathroom disappeared as he rubbed his eyes with the balls of his hands. That son of a bitch Wendell. He’d have to pay for what he had done. Coming into his village and messing things up. As quickly as they had come, Conway’s tears had disappeared. He stuck his head out of the window one more time. Still no sign of the little 28

weasel. Keeping a weather eye on the road outside the vicarage he thought back to the time he had overheard in conversation in which Wendell had promised Mrs Featherly, a prominent local citizen, that she could deliver the Easter homily. Conway had continued on his way and as soon as he reached the church and shut the heavy door behind him he collapsed inside, his chest heaving and his vision swimming with black spots. The bastard had asked Mrs Featherly to deliver the homily on Easter Sunday. Was there no sense of shame in the disgusting man’s soul? Conway had planned to ask the Bishop to deliver the homily. Was it not the done thing for a holy man to give the homily on that most sacred of Sundays? And, as generous and respectable as Mrs Featherly certainly was, she was also most certainly a woman and it was certainly not the done thing to have a woman read the homily, and certainly not on Easter Sunday. This was the latest in a long line of slights and insults against Father Conway that Wendell, the new chaplain of the boys’ school in the village, had instigated. Although the church was technically village property, the school chapel had been condemned by the Council five years previously. Some guff about water leakage and weakened foundations apparently. This meant that school services were held in the village church and Wendell even had his own set of keys, thank you very much. The school wasn’t even in term time during Easter Sunday.

Directly on his arrival at the school, Wendell had convinced the weak and coax-able headmaster that he should initiate compulsory chapel attendance for all boarders on Sunday morning and for the whole school on Tuesdays and Fridays. Three times a week now, Conway had to sit in the front pew and watch Wendell slowly taking over his patch of authority. Since almost all of his regular parishioners had become accustomed to a Sunday morning service they attended the school service, the one officiated by Wendell, and Conway had swiftly become nauseated by the sight of Wendell outside the church doors, the same doors against which he now lay, his chest still heaving and the black spots thankfully diminishing. The list grew and grew. Changes to the charities receiving the various offertories, increased involvement in the village fete (Conway had been happy just to donate a sponge cake and announce the winners of the tombola), a modern nativity scene including a female shepherd and a black Jesus. The logic of the chaplain’s argument that Jesus had quite definitely been a man of colour had fallen on Conway’s deaf ears. Conway had insisted on using the doll that he had bought from a car boot sale in 1985, a white doll with blue eyes that rolled around when you pulled a lever on the back of its neck, and although Wendell had eventually backed down on the Jesus issue he had bargained it against the inclusion of the female shepherd. As a result Conway had had to endure the whispered half-conversations and


Two Fathers by Edward Burrell covert glances from his congregation at Midnight Mass. Wendell hadn’t even been there. He had been in Austria with the school ski strip. Of all the ungodly pursuits to engage in over Christmastime this one rankled deepest with Conway. Until now. Another poke of the head out of the window and here he came. Strutting up the high street in his tweed three-piece suit and scuffed brown brogues, Wendell looked like some kind of country squire. Only the small square of white at his throat identified him as a clergyman. Conway watched him, disgusted and nauseated by his easy stride and effortless good looks. Not only did he have a full head of hair but he also clearly used some kind of modern product on it, keeping it thick and shiny. Conway had been bald as a cue-ball since the age of 27 and distrusted anyone over 30 who wasn’t at least thinning on top. Another minute and the smarmy bastard would be in range. Water first, Conway thought and picked up the bucket by the toilet. It was the plastic kind picked up at beachfront shops, usually accompanied by a plastic spade and

sometimes in the form of a castle. This one was round and flat-bottomed and three quarters full of water. As Wendell opened the gate to the vicarage, Conway balanced the bucket on the sill and waited for the right moment. As his view of Wendell disappeared Conway gently tilted the bucket so the water came out in a steady stream. He heard it splash and he half crouched, picking up a bag of flour ready to complete his infantile prank. He was chuckling to himself now, careful to keep the noise low but as soon as he reappeared at the window he heard a voice from downstairs. “Patrick? Are you in?” Wendell’s voice. The son of a bitch had let himself straight in without knocking. The water had missed and Conway’s prank was ruined. Controlling himself and the rising flush in his cheeks Conway called back that he would be right down. He rested the bag of flour, squared his shoulders and went downstairs to face his tormentor, desperately searching for some topic of conversation. After the usual pleasantries and a pot of tea was on the coffee

table Conway was still at a loss. Wendell had sat (without being invited) on one end of the sofa and adopted the classic clubman’s pose, right leg crossed at the ankle, holding the right ankle with left hand, teacup in right hand. His smile was grand and he complimented Conway several times on his home. Lies all of them – the vicarage was in a dismal state and Conway knew it. Without knowing where he was going, Conway began to talk. “So, Jeremy. How are you?” “Oh fine, fine. Splendid day you know.” “Isn’t it though? Just splendid.” Conway paused and sipped his tea. “How are things?” “Can’t complain. Busy as a bee, what with Easter season upon us and everything.” Wendell’s smile remained at a hundred watts. “Excellent, excellent. And how about in yourself? Are you happy with the way things are going so far in your chaplaincy?” “What do you mean Patrick?” Conway thought he saw a slight falter in the perma-smile. He frowned. “Well, I mean are you happy with your contribution to the school

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Two Fathers by Edward Burrell and to the village?” Conway was spouting rubbish now, almost literally the first things that came into his head. How was he supposed to get rid of this smarming bastard? “Of course I am,” Wendell replied. The smile had definitely faltered now. It had gone down to half-mast at least. “Good, good. Not a job I would be able to do, that’s for certain. Far too much administration and PCnonsense for me. How on earth do you manage?” “I get by.” The smile was gone now. It had dropped as soon as Conway had asked his last question. Good God, was the man shaking? “Jeremy? Are you ok?” Conway asked. And to Conway’s immense surprise Wendell burst into tears, right there on the sofa. Conway stared, nonplussed at this emotional non sequitur. He didn’t say anything for a long time, unsure of the protocol between two churchmen, one of whom was in floods of tears. Eventually Wendell sorted himself out and wiped his face with a silk handkerchief. “I’m so sorry Patrick. I couldn’t hold it in any more. I just couldn’t.” “My dear Jeremy, don’t con-

cern yourself.” My dear Jeremy? Where had that come from? “As long as you’re alright, that’s the main thing. Whatever is the matter?” Wendell’s tears had not only made Conway feel good, they had made him feel better. Better than Wendell at least. “The matter?” Wendell asked, verging on sarcasm. “The matter? Everything’s the matter. How was I ever supposed to succeed in a place like this with a man like you already running the show? It’s a miracle I lasted as long as this.” “I’m afraid I really don’t understand, Jeremy. Succeed?” “Yes, succeed.” Wendell rolled his eyes. “They were asking the impossible. Look at me!” He held out his arms. “Barely six years out of the seminary and they send me to this place. A place where everyone knows everyone and I’m the outsider. I’m supposed to be a good influence on the pupils, a guiding hand but how in the hell am I supposed to manage that when there’s someone like you in the frame. “Someone like me?” Conway felt that he was now just repeating phrases plucked from Wendell’s tearful diatribe. “You know, someone who Photo: Open Source

knows everyone, knows how to play every scenario. I bet you’ve dealt with stuff I’ll never see if I live to be a hundred. How could I ever compare to you?” Wendell put his head in his hands and although his chest jerked with the remains of his weeping, no fresh tears fell. Conway was at a loss. For several long seconds he sat still, his eyes darting around his living room until he finally settled on a plan. The old fashioned ‘brazen it out’ plan. “Now come on Jeremy.” He said. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. After all, you’ve only been here six months. It takes a lot longer than six months to figure this place out.” Wendell lifted his head. “Really? How long did it take you? “Years!” In truth Conway had never really thought about it. He’d just arrived, 16 years ago now, and done the job. “Years and years. In fact I often wonder whether I’ve ever been truly accepted. Just keep doing what you’re doing and keep your nose clean. Best advice I’ve ever had and now I’m passing it on to you.” Wendell looked up at Conway like a grateful puppy as Conway continued to console him. Eventually Conway stopped talking and smiled genially at Wendell. He felt a lot better. “Thank you Patrick. Thank you so much.” Wendell said. “Not at all. Now, let’s get you on your way and let’s not mention this to anyone.” “Good idea Patrick. Great idea.” The two of them were walking towards the front door. Conway opened it and again to his great surprise, Wendell hugged him. “Thank you again Patrick. I won’t forget this.” Conway smiled. “Neither will I Jeremy.” He said. As Wendell left he looked down at the doorstep. “Has it been raining?” He asked.

Gold Dust 30


POEMS

Less is More Pieces

The Poet’s Cold Snap

Time ticking, wasting seconds and hours. The freckles on her face created her own constellation. And the sparkling spots in the sky created a story. The suitcases in the trunk clunked, A clunk similar to when her father paced their old kitchen in his heavy hunting boots. She liked to distract herself by listening to the sparkling spots’ stories. The radio fuzz muffled her sister’s whimpering and her own heavy breathing. Full silences and ticking constellations.

As if I were in Buffalo I’m digging out of the snow. I hate being stuck in one place. And I need the food. Oh, how I long for the melting sun. I feel half froze. As if I can pickup pen and paper feed my mouth and warm my fingers and toes. Danny P Barbare

Catie Claire Smith

To the North of Sunday with you Mud stone tracks, a lamb rots with bones scattered, crows squat on lichen stained trees, heel skin shrivels, with blood ousy itch, from wool steel stabs and scrapes, as squelchy leather boots pull Earth along. And the rain, grey. And the rain, wet. And the rain, rain. John Alwyine-Mosely

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

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Zhuang Zhu’s Dream

by Neil MacDonald

It was no dream...

F

arley Brent was already forty four when he began to experience memories that were not his. Up to this point, his life had been unremarkable and, in its own quiet way, perfectly satisfying. True, his hair was receding quite markedly, but on the other hand he still had all his own teeth, not to mention a three-bed bungalow in a desirable lane. Though promotion haughtily passed him by on the other side, he was a mainstay of the Froyle Operatic Society where he stage managed, which included the treasured use of the smoke machine. It is an unfortunate fact that there are passing few operas that require the use of a smoke machine, but every Christmas, Farley and his smoke machine made the festive lunch a thing of beauty and of mystery. There was little that could have prepared Farley for waking to the lingering sense of a job he had forgotten he had ever had. Snuggled still in the warmth of the duvet, but disquieted, he strained to hold the disintegrating pictures. Already much of it was gone, but he was able to recall the long oak panelled corridors that he once strode, along the neo-Gothic edifice. He could remember nodding to colleagues, the depth of the nod precisely calibrated to their status, though he was unable to see any of their faces. A heavy carved door led to his office, with its beige carpet and its antique desk. The green leather of the expansive desktop, with its gold inlay, came to his sight, but not the papers that lay crisp on its surface. He knew only, with certainty, 32

that they were important papers, papers of state. It was no dream. It didn’t have a dream’s fanciful qualities or dramatic events. It didn’t feel in any way like the output of a brain riffling through the events of the previous day, and sorting them for storage, It was simply the faded remnants of a forgotten reminiscence, like those of his old school hall, or adolescent Saturday nights in the back row of the Regal cinema, with girlfriends whose faces and names were now lost to him. ‘Well, how peculiar,’ Farley said to himself, in just the tone his father used to use. He rose and bathed, then popped two slices of bread into the toaster, putting the recollection aside. He wasn’t much given to speculation. The insurance business didn’t call for it. So, as he headed for the station, he filed it under ‘peculiar’, and the memory of the memory faded into the normality of the day. He didn’t recall it until two months later, when he again woke to a sense of a buried remembrance that had surfaced. This time it was of a house, a house he was certain had been his home. As the details slipped like smoke away from his waking mind, he was able to hold onto a dressed stone wall pierced by gigantic double wooden doors, wide enough to admit a carriage into the cobbled yard. He had a sense of the high irregular curves of a tiled roof bowed by age, and of the vast expanse of the attic beneath it, a private kingdom in which he had escaped and played. None of the staterooms of what had undoubtedly been a mansion or a

castle would come to him, nor any of the inhabitants. He knew for sure only that this had been a childhood home, yet not the 1930s semi on the suburban avenue in which he had really grown up. This time, he didn’t immediately throw back the duvet to start his day. He recalled the earlier sense of walking the imposing corridor and of sitting at his desk. He tried to retain the image of the house, and to widen it. He strove to see the apartments the courtyard led to, and searched for stairs descending from the attic. Nothing would come. It was like the time he had tried to locate the Pleiades, northwest in the winter night sky from Orion. When you looked straight at it, there was nothing there. Only when you sneaked up on it with your peripheral vision, was the slight wash of brightness perceptible. ‘Well how peculiar,’ Farley said aloud, as before. He didn’t simply file it away under ‘peculiar’. He explored what it, and the previous fragment of remembrance, might mean. Uncharacteristically, he speculated. Had he been born into wealth and privilege? Had he once held a position of power, with papers of state stacked on his green leather desktop? Had he walked out and simply forgotten about it? Did his erstwhile colleagues still look for him? It seemed hardly plausible. He could remember, in an unbroken chain from his current position as a claims manager all the way back to his entry to the industry on leaving school. True, he couldn’t recall each and every day, but then he


Zhuang Zhu’s Dream by Neil MacDonald wouldn’t, would he? Most days were alike. He certainly remembered the year he bought his bungalow, his pride that it was more spacious than his parent’s semi, and his sense of having made it. So, were they perhaps dreams after all? Farley savoured his dreams, and knew them well. These did not feel like dreams, but rather like recalled events. What possibilities remained? He tabulated them like evidence in a claim assessment. He decided there were only two. Some people said you could experience past lives. Of course some people also said that the CIA killed Kennedy, and that the government was keeping us in the dark about alien visitors. Farley didn’t have much truck with that sort of person. That only left the possibility that he’d been involved in some terrible accident or trauma which had blotted out his real memory, and that he had made up a phony life to fill in the gaps. This thought led him to a third, and even more alarming, possibility. Perhaps he was going mad. At this point he leapt of bed.

‘Pull yourself together, Farley Brent,’ he told himself sternly. Even when he reached work and was seated at his desk with his monitor switched on, the thought nagged at him that, one way or another, Farley Brent was not the man he had thought he was. He found himself turning over the recollections in his mind, worrying at them like tonguing a sore tooth. He thought there might have been a turret or two at the corners of that crazily bowed roof. Or were there? Had he just invented them? He had always thought memory a sure and certain thing, at least those of his own mind. He dealt every day with people’s sense of what had happened to their homes, or their cars, and he knew they made mistakes. But not Farley Brent. He remembered perfectly. However, those images of the office corridor and the castle were no longer fresh. He had taken them out and examined them. His memory was now of remembering them. Were the turrets part of the original, or had they appeared, manufactured during the act of recall? The past wasn’t ac-

cessible to him, only his memory of its memories. It seemed we made the past continuously, refashioning it to fit the present. Perhaps that was something only mad people did. Farley felt the floor seem to tip under him. He felt giddy, and the gorge rose in his throat. He stumbled at a half run, through the maze of dividing screens in the large open-plan office, to the bathroom, oblivious to the curious stares of his colleagues. Kneeling, bent over the toilet bowl, no vomit came, though his chest heaved in dry spasms. Over succeeding days, he tried to read up on the Internet about memory and dreams. He found a lot of things about lucid dreaming, where people dreamed that they had woken up and begun their day, only to find themselves waking up again. But he found nothing that described his own situation. He even ventured a few guarded queries to workmates about how their recall worked, but give up quickly when they asked him what he was on about. His researches led him to

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Zhuang Zhu’s Dream by Neil MacDonald stumble on the Chinese philosopher, Zhuang Zhu, who, waking from a dream of being a butterfly, wondered whether he had been a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or whether he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man. ‘That’s all I bloody well need,’ Farley told his toaster, ‘to start becoming a bloody Zen mystic.’ On the morning of his forty fifth birthday came the most terrible of all the incidents. Farley woke, with sweat clammy on his brow, to the sure knowledge that at some time in the past he had killed a man and then blanked awareness of the fact from his consciousness. Just like the other times, he couldn’t see the face or bring to mind anything about the nature of the murder, but the muscles of his right arm recalled clearly the force of the thrust and then the penetration through resisting meat. He had a vague sense of a window and through it a glimpse of a needleshaped structure, maybe the Eiffel Tower. Nothing more. Farley stood under the shower, turned up to its stinging maximum. He considered running, but where? He considered handing himself in at the police station and confessing, but to what? In the end, he walked to the station, and stood at his usual place on the platform, just by the advertising hoarding. He sat in his usual seat on the left hand side of carriage two. Terror draped its arm around him at his desk, but he addressed himself with his usual thoroughness to Mrs Thompson’s claim for wind-damage to her chimney stack. The terror did not abate, and the next day Farley made an appointment with his doctor, who prescribed tranquillisers and referred him to a neurology specialist, a professor no less. Farley had never been referred to a specialist before and looked forward for weeks to the experience. When at last the 34

appointment came, he thoroughly approved of the specialist’s bushy white hair, half-moon glasses, and trim goatee. The man looked like he would know what was what. ‘Your experiences were almost certainly memories of dreams. It’s not that uncommon,’ the specialist told him. ‘We think that dreams are involved in encoding memories of the day, organising and transferring information from one part of the brain, the hippocampus, to another, the cerebral cortex. It’s not surprising if from time to time there is a confusion between what is dream and what is memory.’ Farley insisted that it didn’t feel like a dream. The specialist told him that most people made small confusions between what they imagined and what had happened. He offered the example of thinking we had said something when, in fact, we had only thought it, or remembering a particular person as being at a party when they really hadn’t been there at all. ‘Most of the time, these little errors are so trivial, we forget them instantly,’ the specialist affirmed. Imagine Farley’s surprise and pleasure when the specialist offered him a brain scan. It seemed that the professor was doing research on exactly this topic. Nobody had ever wanted to look at Farley’s brain before, nor did he know anyone who had ever had the privilege of a scan, so he accepted gladly. And his brain turned out to be even more special than Farley could ever have dreamed. The specialist was really excited by the result, and showed Farley the image. It turned out that he lacked something called a paracingulate sulcus, a little fold at the front of the brain in the region involved with planning, thought and judgement. ‘Is that bad?’ asked Farley. ‘No, not at all,’ the specialist

told him. ‘About a quarter of all people don’t have it. And most live perfectly normal lives. The thing that interests me is that people who don’t have this structure are more likely to merge their imagination and their memory. Perhaps, this makes them more creative.’ Well, that could explain Farley’s love of opera and his supreme skill with the smoke machine. The specialist asked him if he would be willing to join the panel of research subjects. Farley’s heart swelled with pride. He was so special that someone was interested in researching him. That made the terrifying memories almost worthwhile. A month later, on a chill February evening, Farley was sitting in the specialist’s waiting room. It was a beautiful waiting room, with settees and armchairs, instead of the serried ranks of metal chairs in the GP’s waiting room. It was a room for special people. There was only one other person waiting, an aristocratic gentleman with thinning silver hair, and one of those coats with velvet on the collar that rich people wore. Farley asked him if he was a research subject too. ‘I am,’ the man nodded. ‘Though the professor and I have very different ideas about dreams.’ ‘How do you mean?’ Farley asked. ‘He thinks that dreams are part of the brain’s filing system. I think, with Jung, that “Nights through dreams tell the myths forgotten by the day”’. Farley wasn’t at all sure he understood what this meant, though it sounded alarmingly close to that Zhuang Zhu nonsense. There was something about the man, though, that held his attention. He seemed like a man who was used to commanding respect. Farley asked him what he did, and he replied that he worked in government. Yes, that fitted with


Zhuang Zhu’s Dream by Neil MacDonald the coat, and the air of authority. Government? The more they chatted, the more Farley began to believe that the man worked behind a carved door, at an antique desk, with a green leather cover inlaid with gold and piled with papers of state. With difficulty, he suppressed the urge to ask, for fear of seeming stupid. Then the man politely reciprocated, asking Farley what he did. ‘Well there’s a coincidence,’ the man exclaimed, when Farley

told him he worked in insurance claims. ‘The very reason the professor is interested in me is because I have this recurring sense of having had another job, like a memory I’ve suppressed. I work in Whitehall, but I keep remembering working in a modern office block, something to do with deciding about handing out money to people.’ At this, Farley could not contain himself any further, and his story spilled out. As he talked, the

colour drained from the official’s face and his eyes narrowed. ‘Just how much do you know of what happened in Paris?’ he asked. Farley realised he should run – from the waiting room, and probably from the city, even the country. But Farley‘s skills did not include escaping hunters, and he sat, rooted to his chair babbling denials, as the official paced to the corner and spoke urgently into his phone.

Gold Dust

Photo: Open Source

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December 2015

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POEMS

Wit and Whimsy GÜtterdämmerung

On retiring to bed with a cold

Vampire paramours, tarnished Rabbis. Allah as excuse for war, Zombies with nations. Fashionable witches, discarded saints. Buddha as bracelet charm, gourmet cannibals

When her, she says, tomato soup, Heinz, red, warm, white bowl, round not long spoon, bread triangles, toasted, slightly, butter spread to be seen, not melted, tray, pink not white, wood not plastic, bottled water, not tap and in the nice glass, fluff the pillow, straighten the duvet, do you love me?

Peculiar To abandon Gods And fixate on monsters. Edward Ahern

When him, he says, let me sleep.

BEST POEM

John Alwyine-Mosely

The Woman and The Polar Bear

36

Melissa Stroup


POEMS

CAT-LICK

ARACHNOPHOBIA Just why am I so frightened of a creature weak and small, who signalled his arrival by dashing down my hall.

Lost in a crowd, looking lonely as sin, A candyfloss cloud nestling under her chin, With jealous possession she teases it in As she teeters along from the Michaelmas Fair In ankle-socks, pumps and a low-cut affair With a little red bow in her woebegone hair: That delicate scrap of lace A nod to her coquettishness A cat-lick on the face Of her defiance. Robert Dunsdon

Today he sat just watching from his fragile web on high, ready for a chance to strike as I passed idly by. He waits till I get in the bath then descends upon a string to tantalise. Nay, terrorise! And I can't do a thing. My heart it is a-pounding, my body goes all limp. This usually brave woman has become a fainting wimp! This arachnid beastie is enough to make me weep. He lurks in opportunity till I fall fast asleep. Then runs across the carpet, and scrambles up the bed, then crawls across my body, and dances on my head. In really very tiny, but my mind says 'big and stout'. But I am loathe to kill him, so I'll just put him out. I give no second chances he'd better not come back, or this unwelcome house guest will get sucked up the vac! Linda Brothwell

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

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Winegarden

REVIEW

by Anthony Ferner Holland Park Press, 2015 Paperback (96 pages) £8.99 Reviewed by David Gardiner

T

his is a book that bridges the gap between my former interest in the philosophy of science and my later devotion to the even more engrossing pursuit of having a good time. Its hero, Professor Jacob Winegarden, works in the (fictional) discipline of Non-empirical Experimentation. If only I had invented it myself all those decades ago I might have persisted with academic philosophy. However slight your acquaintance with quantum physics, you will have heard of Schrödinger’s cat. The Austrian theoretical physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 came up with a thought experiment to illustrate, as he saw it, the absurdity of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory, whose application to everyday life would lead to the possibility of a cat in a particular experimental set-up being both dead and alive at the same time. This led to a widespread misunderstanding that Schrödinger believed it possible for an actual cat to occupy that shadowy state. It’s an exact parallel to the widespread belief that King Canute was a foolish king who thought that the tide would obey him, when in fact what he did was demonstrate to his sycophantic courtiers that a king was not a deity but a mortal man whom the forces of nature did not obey. Thought experiments crop up from time to time in the sciences, particularly physics, and of course in philosophy and theology, where people imagine such possibilities as God having created the entire universe five minutes ago, complete with all the evidence it contains of a 13.8-billion-year past history. But the idea of the University of Birmingham setting up a department to engage in such speculations, housed in rooms over the Harborne branch of the Cat’s Protection League, is priceless. The cat motif is retained throughout this hilarious satire of academic life. Winegarden, as you might expect, lives his life to a large extent inside his own head. One of his more 38

amusing and at the same time intriguing conjectures is the possibility that God, like Schrödinger’s celebrated pet, might both exist and not exist at the same time, “…forced into existence – or blocked from coming into being – by thoughts and intentions in the hearts and minds of men.” The only place where I thought the intellectual rigour of Winegarden’s musings fell short was in his misrepresentation of Richard Dawkins’ position on religion – poor Richard is undersold for comic effect. Underneath the comedy of this unusually rich work there is a vein of sadness and even tragedy, as the narrator’s spotlight flits back and forth along the timeline of Jacob’s life, illuminating such episodes as his coming across a scientific journal while looking for pornography, so sparking off a lifelong fascination with quantum physics; his infatuation with and prompt seduction by Miriam; and the course of their eventual marriage and long life together. If there is a case that Winegarden wants to argue in this book it is I think that our new understanding of reality at the scale of the very small, the notion of things existing in ambiguous states until forced to collapse into just one by the act of someone observing them, is also relevant in the understanding of human relationships. We can not completely know another person, and the desire or attempt to do so influences what is the case about that person. The human world is under-determined, and the act of observing it changes it. There are things about those closest to us that it’s better not to know or even try to know. We humans, Winegarden believes, also become ‘entangled’ with one another in ways unaffected by separation in time and space, analogous to the phenomenon of entanglement in the physics of the very small. The more background you have in modern physics the more you will enjoy Winegarden, but nobody I think could fail to be drawn into this wacky vision of the world through the eyes of one immersed in that field. The mysticism of the Romantics and of modern physics are drawn together in this impressive philosophical essay disguised as a very funny book.

Gold Dust


All The Stars

REVIEW

by Alexandra Psaropoulou Austin Macauley Publishers, 2014 Paperback ÂŁ10.99 Reviewed by Adele Geraghty

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ord play and ocular stimulation are understatements when defining All The Stars by Alexandra Psaropoulou. One is drawn into a vibrant, visual vortex of myriad spirals and spheres, bursting nova and sensual seas, all paired perfectly with poetry of a revolving, train-of-thought style. It pierces and wounds, just as easily as it calms and soothes, while sending the reader on an infinitely, emotionally engaging life journey. All the stars are in the sky and the waves are lapping and the nightbird is singing And all the stars are in the sky above And all our wishes are true And may all our wishes be true

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The simplicity of her words, in a repetitive waltz of colour, evokes a feeling of day to day living, the forward surge of racing through life toward an ultimate end, whilst striving to touch, even for a fraction of time, the majesty of love and the tactile need to commune. And always, there is the emotive colour and shapes, enticing; a dancing partner throughout the stream of wordy life-breaths and dreams, the corresponding heartbeat of all that these simple words denote. In fact, by combining the most basic of words and images, Psaropoulou has created a work of tender, basic beauty, which clearly may be appreciated by both adults and children. It is a feast of shape and design, colour and reason. It is a palpable vignette; there is no beginning and no end, yet it is clearly implied that you are riding the rainbow through a lifetime. This is a work of art, all of which could easily grace the walls of a gallery and no doubt owes to Psaropoulou being born into a family of artistic and talented people. All The Stars is a testament to a lifetime of artistic devotion and highly recommended for anyone who finds joy in the perfect union of the written word and graphic art.

Find out more Further information on the author and this work can be found on the publisherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website at: www.austinmacauley.com/content/alexandrapsaropoulou

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FEATURE

Last Train to Tomorrow A survivor’s story

By Malcolm Saxton

Mutti embarked on a frenzy of packing...

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942, the fourth year of WW 2, was marked by some ominously threatening, saddening and terrifying events for me and for my family. Heidi Ohlendorf with her blonde hair, green eyes and quintessentially German good looks, my little girlfriend, on one of our walks along the giant towpath of the River Elbe, sat me down to explain that she was not allowed to play with me any more as her father Hans Ohlendorf was now head of the Volksturm here in Dresden, so that for Heidi to be seen with me was Streng Verboten (strictly forbidden), as I was Jewish, and soon the Jews would be exterminated in Heinrich Himmler’s ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.’ ‘Kamps were under construction,’ said her father, including one quite near to us at a place named Bergen Belsen. When I returned to school after the Sommer Kamp holiday, there was scrawled in the accumulated dust on the lid of my desk: HIER SITZ EIN SCHMUTZIG JUDE (HERE SITS A FILTHY JEW), in the writing of an adult, not a child. Next, my Dad returned home after a rehearsal in the Dresden Opera House where the principal Conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler had informed him that from the month’s end he was not allowed to engage Jewish orchestral players any more, but as Dad had a contract this would of course be honoured. ‘Yes,’ said Dad, ‘and I am Sanct Niklaus, Ja?’ He also was informed that no more were the orchestra to play the works of Felix Mendelssohn, so for my Dad learning the Violin Concerto by that genius had been one huge waste of time! My Mutti was convinced that our telephone was being recorded, because, she said, when you lifted the receiver to begin a call you heard a clicking followed by a whirring sound. Also our post always looked as though it had been opened before we received it. This ominous progression of events felt like a steel net closing around us. My father and grandfather were both Muttgliedern (members) of the Flammen Schwert Masonic Lodge in Dresden, and there was much talk of the Nazis crushing Maurerei (Masonry). We had a family Council of War where my grandfather opined

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that now was the time to run, und schneller ( and quickly). He had a contact in the English Lodge Loge Pilger (The Pilgrims’ Lodge) whose members were all expatriate Germans and among whose number was a Brother Deveraux. This brother was a man of considerable influence who arranged sponsorship for Dad, Mutti and me to travel on a Berlin Kindertransport train from Dresden to Antwerpen, there to board a ship named ‘Europa’ to Dover, where he would meet us and see us safely ensconced in England, the lovely man. Mutti embarked on a frenzy of packing and I gathered up my little treasures to take with me, my Shimshon doll, a bear named Menachem, and my Swiss Army knife; things like that. For a Jewish child a Shimshon doll is most important, he knows all of your deepest secrets, fears and hopes, you tell him everything, he goes everywhere with you and shares your bed each night and is a great comfort. Heidi and I were walking home from school on the day before we were due to move, both of us broken hearted as our love, albeit Kindergarten love, was precious to us both. I looked at her blonde hair that framed her beautiful face with her emerald green eyes that held me spellbound. I wanted never to let go of her hand, but to run away to live in the forest together for always, when marching swaggeringly along the Hauptstrasse came a gang of Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) singing the Horst Wessel Lied and encouraging us to join them, which to my everlasting shame I did, having been taught the words at a Jugendcamp (Youth Camp). The song then changed to Wir Fahren Gegen England (We march against England), and yes I joined in that too, giving a Nazi salute which kept the thugs at bay. After they had marched a long way past us Heidi and I walked around the back of the Sophienkirche and kissed for the last time, little knowing that within a matter of months this really beautiful church would be fire bombed out of existence by Arthur (bomber) Harris, may his bones rot in everlasting Hell! Next morn-


Last Train to Tomorrow by Malcolm Saxton ing we went through our house saying farewell to this lovely old home, with the tears never far away, locking the doors for the last time before we set off for the Haupt Bahnhof (Berlin Main Station) and the train. As we walked along Elbe Strasse folk called across to us, thinking that we were off on a holiday of some sort (if only). Climbing the stairs onto the large platform, Dad and I walked along to look at the engine, a hugely typical German locomotive which sat steaming quietly, connected up to a strange assortment of carriages and trucks having on its side the name GREEN ANTON. Showing our Ausweis (identity documents) to some soldiers we were ushered into a carriage with lace curtains at the windows (all very posh as said meine Mutti). Dad and I stood in the corridor watching our city pass us by as the train pulled us inexorably away from all that we had loved and lived for. As we passed the Opera House I looked up at Dad and saw tears begin to course down his cheeks. Seeing your parent cry is a dreadful thing, so I tried to forget it quickly, feeling in my coat for the familiar feel of Menachem and giving him a squeeze to cheer him up. As I sit typing these words into my computer he is sitting looking up at me asking me to cheer up too, bless him. As this great train passed through the industrial Ruhr with its heavy industry and giant ‘cat crackers’, as they were called, we saw evidence of massive bomb damage. After what seemed like hours the train clanked into Antwerpen where we were ushered along a quayside to the rusting vessel named ‘Europa’, climbed up the gangplank and onto the ship. I was allowed to explore but was told by mein Vati (my daddy) that if I saw what looked like a broomstick sticking up out of the sea that I was to find him and Mutti quickly because it might be one of ‘our’ submarines which could fire a torpedo. This got me to give Menachem an extra big hug and say a prayer. My next predominant memory is of Europa entering the harbour of Dover where my father put his hand into his pocket and threw his great bunch of keys to the house, to the auto and to the Opera House in an arc over the side of Europa to make a splash in the sea where they sank without trace. With a sickness in my heart and soul that possessed me totally, I knew then, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that we would never be going home again! This was The End. At the bottom of the great gang plank waited Brother Deveraux to welcome us to England, which of course for us was THE ENEMY, causing my Mutti to say to me urgently ‘Kein mehr Deutsch sprechen Max kein mehr Deutsch sprechen Max’ (no more German speaking Issue 28

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Max don’t speak German any more). We were marched through Dover and conducted to another train, named this time ‘Sir Lamuel’. We steamed off, away from the sea and up through Kent to Dartford. Arriving in Dartford we were marched like prisoners through streets lined with gawping people who laughed at us in our funny clothes, my cross braces and big German boots looking like something from ‘The Sound of Music’ and the von Trapp family. The march terminated in a fine looking library into which we were led, and shepherded towards people sitting at huge desks, leading me to wonder if the English had a Gestapo and were these its officers? I learned then that English ‘ladies’ smile always with their teeth – never with their eyes. One of these English ladies, all buttoned up to the neck in a pink ‘cardy’ approached me, smiling through her immaculately gleaming molars, and asked me ‘Wie Heissen Sie?’ (What is your name?) I replied ‘Ich Heisse Menachem’ (my name is Menachem). This she wrote down, then looking up at me said ‘We are going to call you Malcolm.’ So that was that, goodbye to my name. I have never quite forgiven the English for this. I was then, along with my mum and dad, given a card which said that we were ‘FRIENDLY ENEMY ALIENS’! Herr Deveraux had arranged that we be given a little house to live in, 19 Whitehill Road in Crayford, and I was to attend Our Ladies’ High School in Dartford (a Roman Catholic School). My first lessons in English I remember still. I was given this huge picture book, the first page of which showed a picture of a lady hedgehog with her feet in a large steaming bucket of water. I was asked to remember the caption and I still can – ‘MRS HEDGEHOG’S VERY ILL, SHE HAS CAUGHT A NASTY CHILL’. The trouble I had pronouncing the word ‘caught’ you cannot imagine! A ‘u’ in German is pronounced as ‘ow’. Anyway, I persevered and eventually, by listening to my classmates, all very ‘nice’ Photo: Open Source This statue was erected at Liverpool Station, which was where the journey ended for the families of the Kindertransport. It is by Frank Meisler and was unveiled in 2006

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Last Train to Tomorrow by Malcolm Saxton privately educated young English ladies and gentlemen, I stopped saying ‘vis’ und ‘vat’. Nowadays you would have to listen very carefully to my speech to find any trace of a German accent. Funnily enough I find this a little sad because, as my friends would tell you, I am a very proud German. At the school I had two teachers that have affected my life to this very day, Sister Cecilia who taught me to play the piano and encouraged me to apply for a Choral scholarship to King’s School, Rochester, in whose cathedral choir I sang until my voice broke, whereupon I became the official Organ Scholar until I left to take up my scholarship in Jesus College Cambridge, where I obtained a first in English (now there is an irony for you). The other teacher, a Miss Brooks, got me into the reading habit, which is with me still as a writer! Only once during my early schooldays in England was I ever subjected to verbal abuse, and then, not because I was Jewish, but because I was German. Our school had suffered a hit from a V1 rocket, which had damaged our main hall considerably and killed a supply teacher who had elected to sleep in the hall rather than risk travelling home through an air raid. After Mass next morning we were taken into one of the larger classrooms where the teacher who taught us Arithmetic, a Mr. Stephenson, explained that our school had been hit by a V1 rocket, going on to explain that these rockets were technically pilotless aircraft that were controlled by gyroscopes which kept them in level flight. The rocket was propelled by liquid oxygen, he said, and these devilish devices were so diabolically designed that when the fuel ran out the wings fell off, leaving the fuselage nose heavy and bomb-like to descend and destroy the first thing that it hit. We then had to pray for poor Miss Atkinson who had been killed. As the lesson terminated he asked the class generally: ‘Can anyone tell me what the V stands for in V1 and V2?’ Old cleverclog’s hand shot up and I piped ‘Vergeltungswaffen, Sir.’ Looking down at his textbook, presumably to check my answer, he glared at me, then said in a voice dripping with poison, ‘Well, of course you would know that wouldn’t you, YOU GERMAN BASTARD!’ My years in England have left in my mind innumerable memories, some pleasant, and some not so pleasant. Always there seems to have been with me a fear of failure which has driven me onward. A few weeks ago I saw on the television coverage of the fire bombing of Dresden, where some 25,000 folk perished, mostly from asphyxiation because the air which they needed to breathe had been burnt out of existence. This led me to recall the night that my parents 42

had gone to the cinema in Dartford so that Mum could see a love story. My Mum was always a sucker for a good love story. I was left to sit with my friend Brian next door and can remember my Dad coming to pick me up when they returned from seeing the film. He was somewhat grim faced and whispered to me that ‘Mutti is very upset Max.’ As we entered by our front door I could hear my Mum howling like a dog in pain. ‘IT’S GONE – it’s all gone! The bastards have taken it all away, no Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) no Sophienkirche (Saint Sophia's Church ) – all bloody gone – the bastards!’ For years I have wondered what it was that she and Dad had seen, but what I saw on my television explained everything. The Pathe newsreels would have shown them the full ghastly truth. Many, many times I have found myself embroiled in the argument that England firebombed Dresden as a reprisal for the German bombing of Coventry and its mediaeval cathedral. Explaining as carefully as I could and keeping what is left of my German accent firmly in check, that Coventry with its many armaments factories including the Alvis works was where they made tanks, armoured cars, guns and heavy artillery, and was classed as a legitimate military target, while Dresden, my Dresden, my birth city, had no military significance and was always called Der Venice an Der Elbe for its unsurpassable beauty. I have been back to my birth city – my late wife Friederike took me on the train, and did her best to comfort me as we perambulated along the Elbe for a little way, seeing the rebuilt Opera House where my dear Golden Dad worked for years. I wondered if Heidi Ohlendorf had somehow managed to survive this holocaust, and if so where she was now and what she was doing. So many unanswered questions. The subjects of death and transfiguration occupy much of my thinking these days, as I sit in hermetic seclusion in my sheltered accommodation in Leytonstone in London E11. In my teenage years there was a character on the television, a Greek detective named Kojak, totally bald, who sucked lollipops and was for ever asking people ‘So who loves ya baby?’ At 77 years of age and very much on the last frenetic lap of life it is a question I frequently ask myself. With my beloved wife having now joined her ancestors and forbears, I find myself stumped for an answer. I live for my books, and re-read them frequently to remind myself that – yes my mastery of English is still intact. Pray for me, friend reader, as I need your prayers. Perhaps we may meet some day. If we do, please be gentle with me as I CARRY BRUISES!

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POEM

afterwards the gorilla went to the cafe she kept touching the glass between her and him and smiling they told her not to told her he wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really smiling back she knew they were wrong said he always laughs and at last to put everything right he came over the glass to make so many bite marks with his friendly face break all of her friendly bones

Laura McKee Illustration: Cora L Mitchell

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POEM

A Husk of Evening The milk drum beats walking razor edges. Sun pales the red shingles above leading to the massive fire of the heart. Repentance, old wilted trees loom big in the yard, grass so green, this return, the chords, face the music. These apples, foster children of the sky, fall downward to a flat brown end. Tonsils turn as the evening persists, so buried in this tale of high. No one is named here in the fading warm limbo. Whispers of leaves and branches take their turns being among; decree nothing but what they know. Innocence battered again. Waning music. Shafts of yellow glimmering little to none. Young mouth surrounds the beating breast, night curdles over.

Heath Brougher Photo: Jerry P Maldonadao

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I’ll Live as I breathe

POEM

Tick Tock, its chicanery ballad howls each year a pretentious séance, for one…for all. Tick Tock, oh the ambiguity, a banal seemingly zestful episode with an inevitable end chapter. Tick Tock, a knavish oracle dictating my latter fate. A facsimile self awaits parallel, a neutral observer. Tick Tock, a countdown, a countdown for the one who wears the cloak indeed, a distant present. Tick Tock, a symphonious sleight of hand, the ambivalent warm cold mechanic anatomy screeches its hollow melody. Tick Tock, a coaxing sedative filled with harmonious delirium, but I know the truth. Tick Tock, another parting of the self. Transient in spirit yet curiously replete. Tick Tock, an obscure new beginning. Indifferent, but what to do different…a force for good? Tick Tock, linear fate, “pray you avoid it” Will said. Palms nervous, undecided, but certain, I’ll live as I breathe. Tick Tock, life but a perpetual reincarnation, time to be reversed, beings made of nothing but light giving us secrets. Tick Tock, decided, I’ll speak in peculiar indigenous languages “itasa sbei smmasd sqwee”. Tick Tock, I’ll live as I breathe… Happy New Year.

Osita Kabba

Photo: Eleanor Bennett

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Contributors Every issue, we receive around 200 short story and poetry submissions from all around the world.

Prose Michael B Tager’s work has appeared in Ambit, Timber, Theaker's Quarterly, the Atticus Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic and more. He is the Managing Editor of Writers and Words. He likes Buffy and the Baltimore Orioles. More of his work can be found at michaelbtager.com and he can be reached at michaelbtager@yahoo.com Jean Duggleby has lived in Walthamstow since 1989 and always lived in East/North London except for 3 years in Hong Kong as a young woman. She has retired from primary school teaching, a field in which she eventually specialised in teaching deaf children. Her interest in writing short stories began very recently as a result of going along to a Creative Writing class, initially to make the tea at break time (!) where she has discovered a passion for writing and become instantly prolific, producing eight stories, of which this is one, within a period of about six weeks. Jean 'mines' her own life experiences for ideas, as do we all, but would like to point out that that her actual plots are highly fictionalised. She likes walking, gardening, travel, cinema and is a teacher of circle dancing. Matthew Richardson is a thirty-year-old living in Glasgow, Scotland. He has a degree in Politics from the University of Dundee and will finish my post-graduate degree in January 2016. I have a wife and a one-year-old baby girl. I have written short stories for years but have only recently started submitting work. I am looking to move into writing as a career and would love to break my publishing duck with Gold Dust magazine. I am a member of the Glasgow Writers group, and my hobbies include scuba diving and cycling. Andrew McIntyre’s most recent publications have appeared in Catamaran Literary Reader, Kleft Jaw, Long Story Short, The Noe Valley Voice and Yareah Magazine. His short story Snuff will appear in More Nuggets From Gold Dust, the second anthology published by Gold Dust Magazine. He is the author of The Short, the Long, and the Tall, a collection of 34 stories published by Merilang Press in 2010. Educated in England, Scotland, Japan, and the United States, with master’s degrees in Economics and Comparative Literature, McIntyre lives in San Francisco. Caroline Taylor’s short stories have appeared in the Avalon Literary Review, the Dan River Anthology, the First Line, the Greensilk Journal, Notes Magazine, the Storyteller, and numerous other online and print magazines. She is the author of two mysteries and one nonfiction book. Samantha Martin is 27 years old and the mother of two wonderful children. She has wanted to be a writer since she was very young. This is the first time she has submitted her work. Neil MacDonald was born in Scotland and raised in Jamaica. He has lived and worked in the US and South Africa, and now lives in a cottage in England with his wife and the obligatory dog and cat. He has a PhD in genetics and has worked as a scientist, journalist and in publishing and for aid organisations. He has always written and is the author of five current affairs books, and most recently, Cautionary Tales for Development Workers, a collection

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of stories about international aid. His novel A Prize of Sovereigns is currently being serialised. He is drawn to stories that explore the confrontation between character and challenging situations.

Poems George Freek's poetry has appeared in the following publications: The Able Muse, The Missing Slate, Dewpoint Journal, Off Course, The Lake, The New Plains Review, The Stillwater Review, The Foliate Oak and The Samizdat Literary Journal. Laura McKee started writing poetry a few years ago, by mistake. Her poems have appeared in various journals and zines, including: Other Poetry, Aireings, Obsessed with Pipework, Nutshells and Nuggets, Snakeskin, Mouse Tales Press, Teesside Artists Journal, Gloom Cupboard, Peeking Cat, Fake Poems, York mix. Danny P. Barbare resides in the foothills of the Carolinas in the Southern United States. He has been writing poetry off and on for 33 years. He works as a janitor at a local YMCA in Simpsonville, SC. His work has appeared in Doxa, Blood and Thunder, The Santa Clara Review, Watershed, The Round, Dewpoint, and Clare Literary Magazine. He has also won the Jim Gitting’s Award twice at Greenville Technical College. He has attended The Greenville Writer’s Guild, South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, and the Asheville Writer’s Workshop. Robert Dunsdon has had a varied career, during which he has been published in newspapers, magazines, reviews and anthologies, some of which are Purple Patch, Candelabrum, Ambit, Decanto, Inclement and The Sunday Times. John Alwyine-Mosely is a poet from Bristol, who writes on an eclectic range of themes. His recent work has also appeared in Stare's Nest, York Mix, Clear Poetry, Nutshells and Nuggets, three drops from a cauldron, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Street Cake, Screech Owl, Abbreviate Journal, The Ground, Aphelion, Uneven Floor, The Lake, Morphrog, Yellow Chair Review, Your One Phone Call, Eunoia Review and Message in a Bottle. His work can be found at: https://publishedpoems.wordpress.com Lana Bella is the author of a diverse body of poetry and fiction, which has been anthologized and published in over one hundred journals. Among others, her publication credits include Aurorean Poetry, Chiron Review, Contrary Magazine, QLSR (Singapore), as well as having been Featured Artist of Quail Bell Magazine. Her forthcoming chapbook from Crisis Chronicles Press is expected to be published in early 2016. Lana divides her time between the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is wife of a novelist, and ‘Mom of two frolicsome imps’. Catie Claire Smith is a sophomore at Charlottesville High School. She loves to write and play sports. Her favourite writing form is poetry and she hopes to be a journalist or writer when in her future. Osita Kabba has been writing poetry for approximately two years. His initial catalyst was when, on a whim, he entered a writing competition at school themed on the life of Nelson Mandela. He won to his surprise and appreciated the experience as it gave him the


Contributors avidity to continue writing. In his own words, he views poetry as a cathartic and valuable pastime, which allows him to express his soul candidly and to share incubated thoughts. He plans to continue writing. Melissa Stroup attends River Valley Community College in Keene, New Hampshire where she is studying Creative Writing. She is a single working mother and enjoys painting and writing as a hobby. She can be contacted at mstroup2409@gmail.com and is always interested in collaborating on new projects. Edward Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He's had ninety poems and stories published thus far, and two books. Linda Brothwell's work has appeared in Travellers Tales From Heaven and Hell (Travellers Eye Ltd., Oct. 1997) . She is an avid story teller and has amassed a large collection of humorous travel stories. Besides travelling and photography, Linda is engaged in non-stop fundraising for unfortunate animals and rescue dogs, of which she has three. Linda's poetry reflects her skill at finding wit and whimsy in life's worst and mundane situations. Heath Brougher attended Temple University. He has just completed his first chapbook and is putting the finishing touches on two other chapbooks and a full-length book of poetry. His work may be found in a variety of publications, including Diverse Voices Quarterly, BlazeVOX ,Otoliths, Mobius, *Star 82 Review, Van Gogh's Ear, MiPOesias, Indigo Rising and Inscape Literary Journal (Washburn University).

Features, Reviews & Artwork

Dave Turner is a lifelong poet and has been writing for over 40 years. In his spare time from writing poetry he was at first a Primary School Teacher and then a Software Engineer and brought up two children with his wife Mavis. Now retired, he is a student of English literature at Sunderland University's Centre for Life Long Learning and interested (unlike Hamlet) in all the uses of this world. His work has been published by UK Authors Press and United Press and he is now a published and performed Playwright, thanks to Gold Dust Magazine. Malcolm Saxton was born in Dresden in 1937 and came to England as a child, fleeing Nazi Germany. After graduating with a First in English from Cambridge he taught English and Music at Dartford Grammar School and later worked as a copywriter for the McCann-Erikson advertising agency. He lived with his wife Friederike in Cambridge on a canal cruiser named Addicted, until the couple moved to Hildesheim, where a debilitating stroke and the death of his wife from cancer in 2007 led to his return to England and Supported Living in East London. He says that as a heartbroken widower writing has been a great help to him, and that through prayer he ‘touches souls’ every day with his beloved Friederike. He confesses to being obsessed with writing and has a number of books in print as well as novels on Kindle. He has a website at stolenhourskindle.co.uk Jerry P. Maldonado is a native New Yorker, now residing in Youngstown, Ohio. His photoghraph, 'Walking on Sunshine' appearing in Gold Dust Issue 28, is from his Americana Graphic collection; encompassing both realism and surrealsm through vignettes of American life and landscape. Cora L Mitchell is a resident of New York State. Her Illustration appearing in Gold Dust Issue 28 'Pearl Girl', is one of a series of abstract, women’s related graphics.

David Gardiner, ageing hippy, former teacher, later many things, including mental health care worker, living in London with partner Jean; adopted daughter Cherelle is now living in New Zealand with her Kiwi husband. Four published works, SIRAT (science fiction novel), The Rainbow Man and Other Stories (short story collection), The Other End of the Rainbow (short story collection) and Engineering Paradise (novel), which he is hoping to turn into a stage musical with several collaborators, as well as many anthology entries and competition successes. Interested in science, philosophy, psychology, scuba diving, travel, wildlife, cooking, IT, alternative lifestyles and communal living. Large, rambling home page at www.davidgardiner.net. Adele Geraghty is a native New Yorker who claims dual citizenship, having been naturalised in the UK in 2012. Beside a lifetime dedication to the written word, she is also an illustrator and graphic designer. She is the recipient of the US National Women's History Award for Poetry and Essay and author of 'Skywriting in the Minor Key: Women, Words, Wings', a poetry collection. Adele is a member of the New York ensemble 'The Arts Soire', a collective of presentational artists of varying genre, 'The Patched Fools Ballads', presentational poets based in Newcastle and the writing site UKAuthors.com. She is Co-Founder, Publisher and Editor of BTS Books (Between These Shores), which specialises, but is not limited to promoting emerging women writers. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies, including 'Not A Muse: The Inner Lives of Women' (Haven Press) and 'Cradle Songs' (Quill & Parchment Press). Her work may also be found in journals and magazines such as Sein und Werden, Long Poem Magazine and The Dawntreader. Her current work in progress is 'Searching for Jennie Harbour', a biography of the enigmatic Deco era Illustrator. https://www.facebook.com/BTSBOOKS.

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The Back Page Watch this space...

New Gold Dust Prose Anthology We have just published a new 'best of' anthology, entitled More Nuggets From Gold Dust. It contains 29 short stories and is gorgeously illustrated by Slavko Maliâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s artwork and Eleanor Bennettâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s photographs. You can purchase it from www.lulu.com/golddustmagazine in time for this Christmas. We will be launching this anthology on Saturday, 28th November at The Harrison Bar in London from 7.30pm to 11pm. Come along and help us celebrate!

Gold Dust anthologies Gold Dust has previously published 2 poetry anthologies and 1 prose anthology:

To submit to Gold Dust magazine Our (short) submission guidelines can be found at: www.golddustmagazine.co.uk/Writers

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Profile for Gold Dust magazine

Gold Dust magazine – Issue 28  

Twice yearly magazine of literature and the arts. In this issue: short stories, flash fiction, poems and reviews. We also have a feature fro...

Gold Dust magazine – Issue 28  

Twice yearly magazine of literature and the arts. In this issue: short stories, flash fiction, poems and reviews. We also have a feature fro...

Profile for golddust
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