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Gold Dust

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Gold Dust

issue 37 summer 2020


Twice-yearly magazine of literature & the arts golddustmagazine.co.uk

Issue 37 summer 2020

I have looked after the prose side of Gold Dust since its founding by Omma Velada in 2004. For almost all of those years I have thoroughly enjoyed doing it. But I now have to admit to myself and to everybody else that it's becoming a chore and I think for me the time has come to move on. It's my fervent hope that a new Prose Editor will come along, take over, and give the post the freshness and enthusiasm that it deserves. I will be happy to remain in the background to help and advise in any way I can until the new Prose Editor finds her or his feet. This will be the last edition of Gold Dust for which I will perform the role. The next phase that I have planned for my own activities is the launch of a paperback book format short story journal. It seems to me (and of course I could be wrong) that no matter how good you are as a writer of short stories there are very few outlets where you can hope to see your work in print, and, perhaps equally important, receive some kind of payment for it. When people ask me how to do this I usually refer them to competitions like the Fish in Ireland or the Bridport or the BBC's National Short Story Award, but let's face it, the chances of getting placed in things like those are pretty slim. What I am hoping to set up is a regular (or irregular) short story journal, published through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) or a similar self-publishing company, with the sales income shared equally between all the contributors. I don't delude myself that the sales will be very great initially, but there's something a bit special about even a small amount of money earned as royalties, especially if it's the first time it’s happened for you, and also about having your story in a “proper” book alongside other high quality work. Obviously there are a lot of details to be settled, but as of now, for the first issue, I am asking for you to send me what you consider your very best short story, regardless of whether or not it has been published before, and (within reason) regardless of length. You must own the copyright and print publication rights of course and must not have signed these away to anybody else. I'm going to call the anthology "Personal Bests" and that is exactly what it shall contain. I would buy it, even if I didn't have a story in it, and I hope other people will want to as well. If they don't, well, what have we lost? There is no reason why Gold Dust should not continue as before, and no reason why you shouldn't submit work to it as usual. If you think you might be the right person to take over the role of Prose Editor, which like all roles on Gold Dust is voluntary and unpaid, please write and tell us about yourself. This isn't good bye but au revoir. Prose Editor.

Gold Dust Team

Gold Dust Online

Founder: Omma Velada

http://golddustmagazine.co.uk/

Prose Editor & prose layout: David Gardiner

YouTube: youtube.com/user/golddustmagazine

Poetry Editor & poetry layout: Adele C Geraghty

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/golddust

Photographs and illustrations: Slavko Mali, Eleanor L Bennett, Jasna Marka and open sources

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoldDustMaga

Cover picture: Julien Harlaut

Issuu: https://issuu.com/golddust


Contents

Flash Fiction

9

A Run In With Caveman Ingrid Bruck

1 47 The Contributors

18

Editorial

Thoughts And All Jason Vandaele

Short Stories Features & Reviews

4 36 41 43

Interview with Michael Lee Johnson, Poet

It’s Never Too Late by Jean Duggleby reviewed by Adele C Geraghty

Penitent 7 The Paul Murgatroid

12

In the Gutter

16

Humming by Moonlight

Jane Seaford

S.W. Pisciotta

20

Intimidation

film review by David Gardiner

26

Mrs Brown

Love Lines

28 The Standoff

Vivarium

by Wendy Pettifer reviewed by Adele C Geraghty

44 The Writings of

Cordwainer Smith by Jim Buck

BEST PROSE

Lindsay Boyd Jean Duggleby

James Bates

30

Looking Back, Looking Forward John Riebow

Familiar 37 The Brad Cobb


Wit Whimsy & Satire

34 34

The Salon Vivian Wagner

The Best Part About Today Not Being 1971 John Tustin

Poems

10

Two Poems

11

The Father Who Changed Jobs

Robert Dunsdon

Gareth Culshaw

35

Pro

35

No Helmet

35

Had Enough

35

Out There!

Robert Beveridge

James Osborne James Osborne Robert Black

Poems 15 Two Heath Brougher

19 Aria David Sapp

BEST POEM

Poems 24 Two Christina Tabaka

25 Rendezvous Joan McNerney

Less is More 42

How it Works

42

Curl

42

Insiders

Robert Beveridge Robert Beveridge Sanjeev Sethi


R TU A FE

E

Gold Dust talks to Michael Lee Johnson, Poet Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois. Mr. Johnson has work published in small press magazines online and in print. He is also the editor/publisher of the poetry anthology Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze and The Lost American, a Vietnam memoir, and has poetry videos on YouTube. His website is at poetryman.mysite.com

How young were you when you first realized you could be a poet?

weak syllable is added at the end. Deception, do children give a damn? I’m more impressed with children without thought who write the I started to write in 1967, 52 years ago. I’m loveliest poems naturally with images from now 72.5 years old. I went into exile due to the their heart as children tend to do. Vietnam War era; then, typewriters, no internet, type poems one by one (no photo copies), in- Is poetry better than it was 25 years ago? ternational coupons, snail mail only, stamps, 6 Explain! month wait and 95 out of 100 never responded, much less made a comment about your poWho really cares, time is justice to itself not us. ems – just a photocopied rejection letter. So What is what as then evaluated is in the for many years I continued to write but didn’t present a waste of poetic time. Oh yes, review send the poems out. In 2007 with the advent and love but never get stuck there lest you live of the Internet I revised old poems and created there in time. new poems and have now been published in 38 different countries. What is your single weakness as a writer? Why should anyone read your poetry over the next ten poets?

As a child 8-9 yrs. old I had a rare cancer disease – bone cancer in my legs. I was carried around on the backs of my mother and father I don’t worry about other poets or competition. in pain, I rolled on the floor, both legs in casts. I’m too old to give a damn at 72.5 yrs. I proI missed most of grades 1-3. So I missed claim believing in me. I don’t worry if there are grammar, syntax, and pronunciation. To this too many grocery stores or drug stores on the day I listen to enunciation of words, look for same corner, bring it on and come visit my new words that are primarily action verbs, see small shop. I will stamp on you. how words are put together and pulled apart by syllables to hear how they sound and why Is Dr. Seuss a legitimate poet? I’m mispronouncing them.

Dr. What? Dr. Who? He is not even in my memory bank. Legacy is not necessarily determined by how many housewives buy Dr. Seuss children’s book. Anapestic tetrameter consists of four rhythmic units called anapests, each composed of two weak syllables followed by one strong syllable (the beat); often, the first weak syllable is omitted, or an additional Gold Dust

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If you could write a poem to your President, would he like it? At my age, 72 plus, I don’t much care about what the President thinks much less write a poem to him. Yes policies do affect my living patterns, my financial security to a degree, and I certainly still have strong opinions about pub4


lic and international affairs. However, as long as he doesn’t step on my toes personally, kick me out of the country, or screw too much with my mutual funds, who cares? I fought one war with resistance, and acted upon it, one stance leaving this country against an unjust war, Vietnam, is more social action in one act than most people will perform in a lifetime. Nowadays I’m more concerned about quiet, fewer phone calls, allowing me time to work on my words. Does poetry really change thought or is that just hype? This is the best question to ponder of all the other questions above. I guess it depends on your personal definition of purpose in this limited time on earth. We all carry a personal torch that burns, when, how, what motive you act upon it is the motivation, rightly or wrongly. My cause and disgust ultimately was Vietnam and exile, it took 10 years in exile to resolve the fundamental issue revolving into a lifetime of left over feelings, rejection and acceptance for those actions. Change is in your mind, compulsion of desire for change are the actions and beliefs of others that have influence on your patterns and your dreams. Does poetry really change thought or is it your actions resulting in the power of those words that change thought and alter history, legacy?

Do you have a single favorite poem written by yourself? Now this is a bit of a smart-ass question. I have around 500 completed poems, and hundreds of starter poems…and you want me to pick one favorite poem out of all of life and its passages? If I was forced into a corner with my nose in that corner, or someone squeezing my testicles sharp in pain I would have to say a poem back in exile days may be my favorite. “If I Were Young Again” is a symbolic poem and real experience of Michael Lee Johnson while self-exiled in Alberta, Canada for 10 years resulting from the Vietnam War.

If I Were Young Again Piecemeal summer dies: long winter spreads its blanket again. For ten years I have lived in exile, locked in this rickety cabin, shoulders jostled up against open Alberta sky. If I were young again, I’d sing of coolness of high mountain snow flowers, sprinkle of night glowblue meadows; I would dream and stretch slim fingers into distant nowhere, yawn slowly over endless prairie miles.

The grassland is where in summer silence How long does it take you to write a poem? grows; in evening eagles spread their wings How long does it take you to live your life or dripping feathers like warm honey. just one day of it or even one hour? I have some poems on first write that have stood the If I were young again, I’d eat pine cones, food test of time, I have other poems with editorial of birds, suggestions and my changes that have lead share meals with wild wolves; up to eight revision on one poem that comes I’d have as much dessert as I wanted, to mind. A poem can be stagnant or ever reach out into blue sky, lick the clouds off my evolving. I have a box full of old partial poems fingertips. always there open for review or to die on old yellow paper or napkins from 10-35 years ago. But I’m not young anymore and my thoughts Where do I place time on these things? Life tormented chances, events unfold, social structure are raw, overworked, sharpened with misery evolves so should poems but some things re- from torture of war and childhood. main where they were born to stay there with a For ten years now I've lived locked in this unsmile of justice done indeed. I have computer stable cabin, files and old boxes full of what I call “starter poems.” inside rush of summer winds, outside air beaten dim with snow. 5

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In 50 words or less how do you give birth to a poem? How is it conceived and delivered?

45 minutes each day and wondered why. My response was “Mom, if not riding that bike you may have been gone years ago.” She also walked blinded 16 times each day from one A poem is a spirit that comes out of frustration end of the hallway in her condo to the other or naturally if drunk or looking at a loved willow and back again, just feeling the walls on each side as she moved down that path. Yes, I tree in the summer wind thunder and rain. wrote one poem about my mother Edith and How do you deliver a baby poem in clinical conditions like this without the nurses thinking it’s full of grammatical mistakes (dangling particles – whatever that is). Thankfully, poetry you insane? allows “screw ups” in purpose of meaning. My mother’s favorite song was ‘I Come To The Would you work hard if you were pubGarden Alone’ lished? What motivates you?

Mother, Edith, at 98

I am published internationally in 38 countries and I do work hard at it, so we have covered that part of this question. I’m motivated by closings: social injustices gone wrong in turmoil, marriages soured, dreams gone bad, flowers, birds eating seed, praying for what I don’t know, having a belief that I will never understand it all or why I’m her or you, when I can’t make sense of death of those younger than me or anyone at all. Oh, motivation is when an editor says I need your interview in 48 hours or less.

Edith, in this nursing home you're blind with macular degeneration─ I come to you with your blurry eyes, crystal sharp mind, your countenance of grace─ as yesterday's winds, I have chosen to consume you and take you away. "Oh, Jesus, where did you disappear to," she murmured over and over again in a low voice dripping words like a leaking faucet: "Oh, there He is, my Angel of the coming."

Would you write a more profound poem on the beach or in the desert and why? I have written poems about both beaches and desert territory. I seldom have lived near either for any length of time, being a Midwest person most of my life. A profound poem is more about who/or what it’s about then where except for the imagery so powerful behind the words.

If you had $200,000 to put in the writing community, where would the first thousand dollars go?

In your poetry career have you ever written This is the most difficult question of all the above since who or whom I love are not organa verse for your mother? Give a line and ized – and likely I would be dead, unable to explain. research unless Jesus has a computer in heaven or hell, where ever I end. But in poetI had a father of his generation, welder, boxer, ry style it would go to the members of my Facoon fox hunter and it was seldom good. He cebook poetry groups, selecting each member taught me to love nature though he often killed privately, to the sites loving lonely pets at nearit, a true oxymoron. My mother was not by shelters (cats and dogs), and to Carol Marperfect but she loved life and was a totally cus and my daughter Dawn to keep my legacy giving human being. Often in exile she bailed alive after I pass. me out financially, spoke about Jesus as my Father. My father died at 69, my mother lived in Christ until 98.5 years. She had macular degeneration for 8-10 years before she GOLD DUST passed. She rode a stationary bike blind for Gold Dust

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The Penitent by Paul Murgatroyd A frown of severity loomed through the frigid gloom, as the fleshy young priest advanced from the vestry to the confessional box. He stopped at a mahogany table, tutted and tidied up the booklets about the church’s treasury on sale there, next to fans with Jesus painted on them and ‘unisex rosaries’. The only other person in the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows that winter’s morning was a heavily veiled old woman who was kneeling with her head bowed in the pew nearest to the confessional. When she glimpsed Father Aloysius lumbering by out of the corner of her eye, she nodded and smiled thinly. The priest closed the door of the booth behind him. At that precise moment the penitent brushed past three emaciated refugees begging at the church’s entrance and strode through its oppressive portal. He had the dull eyes and slack lips of a fallen angel

SH ST ORT OR Y

sated with sin. He hurried along to confession, ignoring the sour chapels with their manipulative clutter of leering fiends, transfixed babies, a glowering God, flying heads, a grilled martyr and tormented souls writhing in the flames of Hell. His desire to confess was so urgent that he was even impervious to the grotesquery of Christ squeezing the wound in his side to spurt blood from it into a cardinal’s chalice; the Holy Infant with the face of a sex-fiend reaching for Mary’s improbably spherical breast; and a grumpy baby Jesus cradling a crucifix which depicted himself as a little man nailed to the cross. When the penitent reached the booth, the leather pad beside it was unoccupied. Immediately he sank down on it, put his face to the grille and began to speak. His voice was strangely penetrating, so the woman nearby could hear most of what he said.

Picture: Jasna Marka

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After the standard preamble he confessed to swearing. Father Aloysius snorted and grunted: “Profanity is wrong. Wrong. Words should be used positively, to build bridges. Have a little self-control, my child.” Then he added with a sneer: “What else have you done?” The man gulped, and said he coveted his neighbour’s manservant. He was sorry but he had always fancied having a butler, a man to do just what he wanted him to do. “Disgraceful,” snapped the priest. “To covet anything is a sin. A terrible sin. Against the tenth commandment…but God’s mercy is infinite, if you truly repent and curb your desires henceforth… What else?” The penitent squirmed and mumbled something about sins of the flesh. Bringing his head up abruptly, Father Aloysius growled: “Go on. Tell me now. And speak up.” “But they’re, ... er, filthy, disgusting sins, Father. Scarlet sins. I’m, ... erm, I’m ashamed to speak of them.” “Go on, I said. Tell me everything, and tell me the truth. You cannot discomfit a man of God.” The old lady leaned a little closer as the penitent slowly went on, describing the things he had done with his mistress the previous night. “She’s into role-playing. First she was a baroness. Baroness Samedi. In a pink and black satin corset drenched in an exotic perfume. I was Carruthers, her footman. So I had to massage her feet, and suck her toes, on and on, until she couldn’t take any more pleasure and I had to give her relief, with a two-timing dildo, and then with my own mighty engine.” “Aah, the flesh is weak, they say,” muttered the priest, shaking his head. “Is there anything else you want to tell me, child?” The man cleared his throat and said: “Christine dressed up as a nun next. Sister Thomas Aquinas. And I was Bishop Innocent. In that role she was even more dominant. Commanded me to lie on the floor, lashed me to a leg of the bed with a crimson cord and stamped on my john thomas in high-heeled black leather boots. After kissing it better, she flogged it with a tiny jewel-encrusted whip, shouting: “Bad bishop!” and “Take that for sniffing my moist silky knickers!” The pain was, Gold Dust

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erm, well actually it was exquisite. I had this incredible juddering orgasm. Thought the life blood was being sucked out of me…I bitterly regret it now, of course. And all the rest…” When he paused, the man of God moistened his pale lips and sternly ordered the penitent to go on, to tell him every abominable detail. The eavesdropper lifted her veil, to get a clearer view of the sinner. She grimaced in disgust. But when he resumed, she kept on listening. “The climax, the pièce de résistance, was Christine as a choirboy called Christopher. Naked, except for a short little surplice and a big strap-on mickey. I just couldn’t resist such a gorgeous creature, such an adorable Adonis. The heavenly fragrance of that silky blond hair, the sensuous softness of those boy-fresh limbs, the scorching honey of those voluptuous lips…I stroked and inhaled and kissed and embraced to my heart’s desire. On and on…But then she (he) pretended to drop something, and bent over, presenting his delightful derrière for some backdoor action…Penetration was difficult at first, and Christopher whimpered excitingly as I tried to get in. So I lovingly lubricated the boy’s backside with yoghurt. Peach-flavoured yoghurt, of course, for his peach of a bum. After that my man Roger (also anointed) slid in easily. Very easily, every centimetre, every millimetre, as the lovely little bot-bot opened up, like a flower in the sunshine. It was moist, moist, oh so moist…When I began thrusting, the lad began singing in his sweet high voice: ‘Oh, for the wings, for the wings of a dove.’ But when I got really aroused, and was pounding and pounding away, Christopher yelled: “Come on, big man, let me have it, all of it, come on, Father, please, faster, faster, harder, harder!” And as if that wasn’t sexy enough, then he actually... “ The penitent suddenly looked round, saw the woman listening in and broke off. Then he lowered his voice and continued in an insidious whisper. She leaned even closer, but infuriatingly she could only catch odd words and phrases – spurt, gush, six times, luscious, loins, steamy, nippleclamps, quivering thighs, rear admiral, cucumber cruelty. Although she craned over further and cupped her ear, she still couldn’t make out exactly what was being said. But then she did hear something clearly, 8


from inside the confessional box. It was the sound of a zip being tugged down, and a muffled thump, thump, thump, that grew faster and faster, until it ended with a gasp. The penitent stopped whispering, snorted and growled in a loud voice: “What I did was bad, Father Aloysius. But nothing like as bad as desecrating the confessional by pulling your priestly plonker and spilling your seed on the ground, sacred ground. What penance are you going to prescribe for that sin, you smug, holier than thou hypocrite?” He stood up and turned, to see the appalled old lady rigid with mortification. She

was the priest’s Aunt Wilhelmina, and she had come for a gloat – to sneak a look at a relative of hers conducting his very first confessional, and to see all the sinners duly chastised. He contemplated her gloomy frown, shrugged at her and smiled thinly. As he sauntered out of the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, he raised his eyes to the old painting above the portal, which depicted the Devil tempting Jesus on the mount. He nodded at the Devil. The Devil nodded back. GOLD DUST

A Run In with Caveman by Ingrid Bruck

FL FIC ASH TIO N

My hairdresser’s scraggly unshaved face bends over mine. His hair draggles over the collar. This normally fastidious man cut my hair for years. Girls in his shop complain to Alan, “You’re bad for business.” His daughters caution, “Shiva’s over, Mommy’s gone.” His rabbi instructs,”It’s time to join the living.” Alan's reply is always the same, “My heart isn’t ready.” It’s been two months since Joyce died. Alan stopped cutting his hair and shaving. His

was her wish. He points to the photos on his station. Joyce and their daughters are striking women. My hairdresser explains, “The disease seared her lungs. The sicker she got, the younger she looked.” Even as his wife declined, Alan refused to see Joyce as less than beautiful. Alan bathed, clothed and fed his wife at home in her hospital bed. At lunch, he went home and fed her. One morning, he found Joyce cold and unresponsive. Alan says, “Joyce wouldn’t wake up. I dialed 911. I begged the men to revive her. The medics declared her dead and asked me questions. They asked, ’What’s an old man like you doing with a beautiful young lady?’ How could those men say that to me? We’re the same age. They treated me like a dirty old man. What could I do? I cried.” Alan continues, “I called the City later and complained about EMS. I talked to the men’s supervisor but he refused to apologize. He said, hair turned paper white overnight, snowdrop ‘It’s their job to check for foul play at any scene strands snake across his shiny red pate. I of death. They were just doing their job.’ keep asking Alan, “How are you feeling?” hop- Those medics came into our home and acted ing for a different answer but he replays the like cavemen. I was in shock. They accused same loop: only the best doctors at Sloan Ket- me of killing my wife. How would that make tering – everyone loved my Joyce – our you feel?” GOLD DUST daughters are mirror images – dying at home

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Robert Dunsdon

Shiver By Robert Dunsdon It's not the work so much as the little defeats, the more than your cup in the sink that sees you at the window with the wind getting up; with an idea conceived over breakfast wasting in the ordinariness of crisp bags and carrier bags in an overheated room, with a joker in your ear and a hole in your guts watching buddleia sweeping down to the car park; the wind throwing up dust and leaves and Readers Wives and butterflies in a shiver of what it is to be. Before knuckling down and disappearing completely off the face of the earth.

The Promise By Robert Dunsdon Let us sit in the crown of a towering tree and look out on the world through butterfly leaves as we sway in the wake of a boisterous breeze. And as mourners emerge from their graves at St. Saviour's shaking down crystals of emerald green; as a cock in the clouds swivels slowly to face us and crows clack by on mechanical wings; as the park bench sages settle in for the morning watery-eyed and knee deep in mist, as the city rings out a re-awakening hold tight, and promise this: those things we saw, the lies we heard, must never be spoken of; and when they wave, as they will, you will give me your word we won't climb down again.

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THE FATHER WHO CHANGED JOBS By Gareth Culshaw

He brought up two loaves of bread while she took pills to keep her eyes awake on Saturdays. He turned to crops and helped mature their harvest years. He ignored her dancing in the kitchen at three am. The kids became light bulbs, and she dimmed them whenever she wanted. He took them away on the skin of a banana. Leaving her to fall through a rolled note. He brought them up with a Cowley level. Held out his palm with an egg on top. Told his kids anything unlevel in life, rolls off and smashes, covering anyone nearby in its clinging mess.

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T OR Y H S OR ST

In the Gutter by Jane Seaford

BES TP ROS E

table. Jill could see Shelley’s wide lipstick There was a dead cat lying in the gutter on the other side of the road and the plastic bag smile: she could see Amy’s pout and the way had gone. She blinked, then narrowed her she bent her head, her dark hair falling to hide eyes. Definitely a cat and not a bag. her face: the quieter, younger wife. “You ready to order?” the waitress asked, The waitress came with the fish and chips head on one side, pencil poised. and smiled as she placed the plates in front of them. “Enjoy,” she said, and Jill felt that she’d “Oh.” Jill bent to look at her menu. The misjudged her. Probably she hadn’t snapped waitress tapped her pencil on the pad she about the wine. Just Jill feeling jaundiced. was holding in her other hand. She realised she was hungry. She’d not “I’ll have the cod and chips,” Matt said. eaten all day and hadn’t been able to finish “And we ordered a bottle of wine. Is it on its yesterday’s evening meal. way?” The waitress turned to look back at the bar. “It’s coming,” she snapped. “Feeling better?” Matt asked as Jill sat back, Rude, Jill thought. She would have liked her plate empty. She didn’t reply. He’d spoto say to Matt that she wanted to leave. Inken as if she were suffering from something stead she said, “I’ll have the fish and chips trivial: a summer cold, a little niggle of a headtoo,” and turned to look out of the window ache. She turned again to look out of the winagain, checking to see if the dead cat was still dow. Darkness, street lights and a slow gentle there. It was. drizzle. She squinted and pressed her forehead against the pane of glass. It felt cool. In The wine arrived and was poured. Jill the gutter, the dead cat was getting wet. raised her glass, looking across the table at Matt, who stared back, his expression enig“Shall we have dessert?” Matt asked, and matic. Jill turned to look at him. He was smiling now, Jill sipped at her drink and closed her probably a little drunk, hoping for a nice noreyes. Her limbs were aching from the stress mal ending to the evening. They would run of the last week. She tried not to let despair through the rain to their motel, struggle with claim her. the key, push into the room laughing. He “Jill,” Matt said, and she opened her eyes. would pour them each a brandy and they would fall onto the bed and make love. That “Can we survive this?” she asked. He was how it was supposed to happen. How frowned. Jill knew that he didn’t like the way Matt, no doubt, wanted it to happen. He would she spoke to him these days, that he didn’t like the unpleasantness of the last week to be like to talk about what was happening. She over, forgotten. For him it would have been pressed her hand against her flat stomach. And, above all, he didn’t want what she want- unpleasantness, an irritation. “Not for me,” Jill said. “Going to the loo,” ed. “Well,” she said, and once more looked out she added. Not that she needed to, but she wanted to be on her own, if only for a few minof the window. It was darker now. The utes. She needed to think about what to do evening turning grey. next. She thought of the next day, the drive to She sat on the toilet and let a few tears the family holiday home. She thought of her fall. Then she wiped her eyes. Her throat felt two stepsons, their wives and children. She tight from the tension of deciding. To leave or imagined them all sitting on the deck of the not to leave. Either way she would not be hapfamily holiday house, meat cooking on the py. In spite of the misery she was feeling, she barbecue, Shelley, the elder wife, wearing a tight dress that showed the bulges of her big had agreed to a week with Matt’s family. It’s what they’d done for the last eight summers. breasts, her big tummy, bringing out salads, leaning over to put them in the centre of the The first year, it had been with his boys, Jake Gold Dust

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and Tom, then with their girlfriends as well, now wives and lately with the two toddlers and the baby. Perhaps that’s was what had made her decide she, too, would like children. Or maybe it was growing older and the knowledge that she didn’t have much more time. Jill peered into the mirror, refreshed her lipstick and mascara, rang her fingers through her hair. “I’ve ordered the cheesecake,” Matt said when she was back at their table. “And two spoons – just in case you change your mind.” “OK,” Jill said, though it wasn’t. It had started about a month ago. A vague feeling of dissatisfaction. The occasional bout of anxiety when she couldn’t settle to anything and was unable to start – let alone complete – the tasks on her to do list. One late afternoon she’d wandered around their house – four bedrooms so that Matt’s kids and grandchildren could come and stay – and it came to her that she wanted a baby. The idea swelled and she felt happy. When she was very young, she’d assumed she’d be a mother. Then her first marriage ended before they got to that point. Soon after they’d met, she and Matt had discussed having a family. “One day, perhaps,” she’d said to him and he’d nodded. At that time she loved him and she loved her job and she loved the life they were living and didn’t want anything else. Jill thought about telling Matt what she wanted but decided to leave it for a while. She would explore what it would mean, make sure it was what she wanted. A Friday evening, a bottle of expensive bubbles in the fridge, Matt’s favourite meal of lamb shanks cooking slowly in the oven, Jill dressed carefully, put on the earrings that he had bought her on their last anniversary. When

she heard the door opening, she ran downstairs and went to him, pulled him to her, kissed him. “What’s all this about,” he asked, smiling. “Something I want to talk about,” she said. She busied herself in the kitchen, put potatoes in to roast, made a salad, took the bubbles out of the fridge. He raised his eyebrows when he saw the bottle. “Are we celebrating something?” he asked. She led the way out onto the patio and they sat. “So?” he asked. “So, I’ve been thinking… And I would like to make a baby with you,” Jill said. She’d thought a lot about how to tell Matt what she wanted. She liked the phrase she’d come up with – the promise of sex as well as a child. “What?” Matt dropped his glass – one of their best flutes that had been a wedding present – and it shattered on the tiles, sprinkling shards about the place. Jill swallowed and stood up. “I’ll get the dustpan and brush.” She went inside. When she came back, Matt was staring into the distance. He didn’t look at her as she put a new flute on the table, and then swept up. “Matt…. I would like to have a child,” Jill said softly, once she’d sat down again. He didn’t say anything. Reached for his glass and took several mouthfuls.

Photo: Alami.co.uk

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“So… what do you think?’ Jill asked. “I think you’re out of your mind. We agreed. When we got together. No kids.” “Did we? I don’t remember that. I remember talking about it and us both saying not now, not yet.” Matt made an irritated sound. “Either way. I don’t want more children.” “But I do.” Jill felt her face heating with anger. “You’re too old – thirty-seven – and I’m far too old – fifty-four.” “Thirty-seven isn’t old these days.” “No more discussion,” Matt said. He drained his glass and stood up. “And I’m going to open a decent bottle of wine. This bubby stuff gives me indigestion.” In the week since then Matt had refused to talk about making a baby. When Jill said anything that might be interpreted as referring to it, he left the room, changed the subject or said that he’d made up his mind and no more discussion. The only thing Matt mentioned was to ask if she was still on the pill. And she’d replied she’d not stop taking it until they’d made a decision. They had sex that week; more often than normal. But it didn’t feel quite right to Jill, more like Matt claiming her than making love. Now Jill sipped at her wine, watching Matt eating cheesecake. Once she had loved him immoderately and now… she couldn’t say how she felt. The thought of life without him made her panic. The thought of continuing to be with him made her angry. The week ahead loomed. Tomorrow she and Matt would leave the motel early and be at the holiday house by lunchtime. Jake and Tom would already be there. They’d each greet her with a hug, making the usual wicked stepmother joke, laughing. The wives would pretend to be pleased to see her. She’d be expected to act as an adoring grandmother to the children. Shelley would bustle about as if the place were hers, when in fact it belonged equally to Matt, Jake and Tom. Amy would sit reading most of the time; on the deck, on the beach, lying full length on the sofa in the main room. The three men would reminisce about other family holidays when Jake and Tom Gold Dust

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were young, when their mother had been alive. “Shall we go?” Matt said. The cheesecake was eaten, the wine drunk. Jill nodded and he went to pay the bill. He took her hand when he came back. They stood for a moment in the doorway, looking at the rain, which was heavier now. “Run for it,” he said and they rushed across the street and in the gutter was a plastic bag swollen with water. Jill stopped, frowning. She’d been so sure. “Come on,” Matt called out. He’d reached their first floor motel room and had unlocked the door. Once inside, Jill went to the window and looked down. “What are you doing?’”Matt asked. He’d opened the brandy bottle. Jill turned to look at him, saying nothing. He passed her a glass. “I want to talk about us. About a child. About our future,” she said. “Nothing to say. You know my position.” “What about me? What I want. My position.” Matt emptied his glass and refilled it. “I can’t carry on as we are,” Jill said. Soft and slow. The truth of her words overwhelming her. “Why have you changed? You’ve become someone I don’t know,” Matt said. “I haven’t changed,” Jill said. “It’s just you weren’t looking at me right. You didn’t see me. Just what you thought was me.” “What?’ Matt shouted. “I can’t cope. You’ve gone mad.” He was right, Jill thought. She was mad. Mad with misery. “I’m going home tomorrow. I can’t face your family.” “Are you leaving me?” Matt asked, frowning. “I don’t know,” Jill said. “I don’t know what’s real any more.” She looked out of the window. The gutter was empty.

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Empt_ What will everyone say when they find out I am

Heath Brougher

hollow?

Torn Nets Rowing through the thralls of the manic clouds; the sky—a tern heavy as a bowl of feathers; through labyrinthine maps of flaming hulas we echo the unknowing essence of our ego; lithia water and air upend thoughts of mending structural storm-shapes made of molten monolithic endorphins; as Suburban fences are impaled with thought itself and once-clear white holes of sky fill with stones and empty shoeboxes; strong enough to surrender, Alchemy sterilizes, speeds up suspensions of phantasmagoric speaking secrets into cocaine conch shells. The cotton in the Iron Pill slowly dissolves and does nothing to combat the constant tearing of Pavlovian fabric.

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T OR Y H S OR ST

Humming by Moonlight by S.W. Pisciotta

I had lived alone in the house only a few months before I started hearing the music in my bedroom closet. The song was like the whisper of notes children hear from an ice cream truck still several blocks away--almost a dream, but real enough to make them run inside to beg for quarters. I couldn’t name a particular tune, but it was always cheerful, and I somehow knew that the tune itself never changed, only my perception of what I was hearing. At times I thought I was listening to “Bicycle Built for Two,” and I could almost sing along. Then the tune was obviously “Sunny Side of the Street” or that song about swinging on a star. Yet, it was never really those either. It was a large walk-in style closet, mostly empty after my wife had removed her clothing and shoes when she left. But there was definitely music coming from within. Two facts made these concerts more eerie. First, the music began playing every night at 11:48 and ended precisely at midnight. Twelve minutes. The number 12 can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and, of course, itself. Christ had twelve disciples. There are twelve signs of the zodiac. Twelve months in the year. The Buddha describes the twelve stages of rebirth. Twelve – the number of space and time, of cosmic order. If an angel reveals the number twelve, it is to convey that good things are coming. The closet had only interior walls, and the source of the music wasn’t in any of the other rooms. I even climbed into the attic one night, stepping carefully around a dead mouse lying sprawled on dusty insulation. There was only silence there. The next night, flashlight in hand, I slipped into the crawlspace. Believe me when I say that cold, damp air and cobwebs were not enough to discourage me from my investigation. Still, not a single note could be heard. It’s true, I had been under a certain amount of stress. The death of my mother had hit me hard. I had always thought I would have more time to say the things that remained unsaid. It didn’t help that her death came on the heels of a divorce that left these rooms far too Gold Dust

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quiet. It’s understandable that I should feel a small amount of disconnect, but these things I could manage, was managing, and I could feel myself healing every day. The music came from the closet, that much was obvious. What worried me was that I could never find its source. Solving the mystery became an obsession. During those twelve minutes each evening I nearly tore the house apart scrambling for clues. During the day, I even questioned the neighbours – had they heard anything like music coming from my house? Had they heard any music in their own houses? What’s the name of that song from The Sound of Music about “warm apple strudel?” They looked at me with concern. I thanked them. Apologized. Told them not to worry. I began to lose sleep. It all came to a head one night. Exhausted, I dozed off around eight o’clock and woke hours later to the music humming in my ears. A soft moonlight shone through the window. I moved toward the closet and opened the door. The music filled the space. Always the same. Night after night. A loneliness twisted inside of me, pushing upward, threatening escape. I stepped into the closet – everything in its place –but then I did something I had never thought to do. How had I never thought to do it? I don’t have an answer. I can only tell you that until that night, it had never occurred to me to shut the door while I was still in the closet. After a week and five days of this madness that had brought me to the brink of tears, I reached back for the doorknob and pulled the door closed behind me. It was dark. Too dark to see. I reached out, grasping at stacks of sweaters and folds of clothing, but in my blindness, I could hear the song in a way that I had never heard it before. The music filled the void – bouncing between stars, pulling at moons, careening around entire planets. Like a weathered canyon, my chest split open, and tribes of men gathered to paint the walls with ancient symbols. I froze. My neurons flashed and popped. A luminescent giggle bubbled up, and my whole

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body buzzed with an excitement that stretched up my spine. I strained to listen, afraid that it might slip back into the darkness. I suddenly recognized what I was hearing. I was listening to the sound of Tibetan monks chanting the sacred Om, their deep, sustained harmony reverberating through my chest. I was listening to a choir of angels, their notes resplendent and clear in my mind. I was listening to the strings of Orpheus breaking the hold of death. I knew exactly what I was hearing, and it was the sound of the universe humming. I can tell you that this recognition hit me like a blast from Gabriel’s horn.

The morning sunlight crept beneath the door, inviting me into the world. I stepped out of the closet to see a beautiful orange sunrise streaming through my bedroom window – and something else. The music was still playing, but its source had shifted. It wasn’t coming from my closet. I placed one hand on my temple and the other on my chest. It was there. The deep sustained vibration of it. I smiled and wondered if anyone else would be able to hear it.

I woke hours later still lying in the closet. It had been a long while since I had slept so soundly.

H AS ON L F TI FIC

Thoughts And All by Jason Vandaele

It's the same as the ones you'll see advertised front of store in those supa dupa mega marts, only for half the price. The grow bag comes as is, minus any fancy packaging. So the red velvet is now 100% white cotton. But it works all the same. The label promises that if you put something inside the bag and leave it for an unspecified amount of time, usually a week, then upon your return that thing will have grown bigger. Like planting a seed, only you don't need to water this to make it grow. It says it will work on anything, thoughts and all, and when my little niece Evie asked last week why God makes bees if they hurt people, I told her to write it down and place the thought inside the grow bag. And now, a week later she's a full blown atheist, on top of being a Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus denier. To smooth it over with her deeply religious parents I grew a giant size Dairy Milk chocolate bar over two weeks. Then, after consultation with the store manager, I got Evie to write all her thoughts on the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus and God onto a piece of paper and place it once again into the grow bag. Only this time I washed the bag in a super hot spin cycle and then shrunk it and the thoughts back down to normal in the tumble dryer. Now Evie has no thoughts at all, exactly zilch on anything. She has no idea if you're Gold Dust

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supposed to run when bees fly around you. She doesn't think of them as bad or good. I'm still in her parents' bad books but they're at least happy they can have Santa Claus visit once a year again and blame all those tooth thefts on the Tooth Fairy, just like when they were younger. Only problem is I've now voided my guarantee, and the grow bag is too small to really grow anything substantial. I still have most of the chocolate left, but it won't last forever and it's not enough to take my mind off the fact that I've lost my AA meeting partner for Wednesday nights. Holding a piece of the purple paper chocolate wrapper I think about now nice it would be if Evie actually enjoyed hanging out with me again. Just a thought.

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Without warning the snow ledge we'd been traversing collapsed, sending Jerry and me hurtling twenty feet down the side of the shear granite canyon into the boiling rapids of the boulder infested Tettegouche River. In a matter of moments our heavy winter clothes were completely soaked, but we were able to fight our way out of the icy water onto the snowy riverbank where we lay exhausted in the minus ten degree February air. I'd sprained my wrist and from the swelling in his ankle it looked like Jerry had either a bad sprain or a fracture. We were minutes from freezing to death and had to get a fire going. Thankfully, Jerry was able to. "There's hope," I said scooting closer as the first flames licked the pine needles we'd used for tinder. "We may make it yet." Jerry gave me a sick grin, "Always the optimist, aren't you Steve? We've lost our gear, I used all our matches to get the fire started and we don't have any food except these granola bars." A point he emphasized by reaching into his pocket and handing me one

BE ST PO EM Aria By David Sapp

Not once have I wept over art in the Louvre, Uffizi or Met. Well, almost over van der Weyden’s Descent in the Prado, Mary’s grief, but that may have been indigestion after Madrid’s tapas, the Museum of Ham. A lithograph in Chelsea, Kathe Kollwitz’s dead mother and child splayed, stiff, discarded on the curb, brought a single, quiet tear. At the reception, the gallery on Water Street, I am at first preoccupied with drawings, paintings, prints, porcelain; delicate, curious assemblages, diminutive Constructivism; with wine, cheese and those gooey sweets with marshmallows, coconut and caramel; with the hot breath of claustrophobic conversation. In a corner, a soprano, hired for the evening, presses “play” for her boom box accompaniment. Unexpectedly, the press of gawkers hushed, from this spare, pretty young woman an aria. At my age, too cynical or circumspect, on most days, I assume nothing may move me so again, but with her voice, sobs come suddenly, exquisitely pure, crystalline tears. All pretense and pettiness fall away. Instantly, this moment is beauty. I am Saint Teresa in Ecstasy, her voice piercing me with divinity. However skeptical my arrogant past, this, at last this, must be God’s love.

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T OR Y H S OR ST

Intimidation by Lindsay Boyd

Young Tom O’Riordan had the distinct impression the symbols of Catholicism contained in the room lay in wait, coercing him every bit as powerfully as his mother or Father Cahill, both of whom stood a matter of feet away. His mute tormentors included a portrait of Jesus as the beautiful, impeccably groomed young lion cradling a heart in his cupped hands, a larger portrait of Christ and his disciples at the Last Supper, a set of rosary beads hanging from a tack, and a miniature statue of the Messiah on the cross. Tom had always found the last repulsive. “Well?” asked his mother. Tom glanced at her. “Yes.” “Yes what?” “I’d like to serve on the altar.” Margaret ignored her son’s irresolute manner and turned smiling to Father Cahill, the assistant priest in Castlemaine parish. “There you go, Father. I knew he’d come round.” “Thank you, Mrs O’Riordan.” He eyed Tom. “We’re only too glad to have Tom aboard, following in his older brother’s footsteps, so to speak. Practice begins Monday at four o’clock.” “He’ll be there, Father.” The priest had no cause to doubt the assurance. The boy watched his mother lead Father Cahill out of the room. He studied the symbols again. Without a doubt they intimidated as much as any living, breathing being. Tom averted his eyes in acknowledgement of their influence and only raised them again when his mother reappeared. “Noel didn’t serve on the altar.” “Never you mind that.” “But I don’t have the clothes.” “Brendan’s old outfit will do just fine. You’re the same size he was at your age.” Tom said nothing else. He could not imagine how he might abscond from practice.

interest. They occupied a stand in the centre of the premises. After glancing toward the counter, Tom went over to the stand. He appraised the glossy cover of a men's magazine, the upper part of which featured the golden contours of a semi-naked seductress, moist, pouted lips open. Riveted, Tom extended a hand, picked up the magazine, and began flicking through the pages. However, his impromptu perusal came to an abrupt end when the po-faced proprietor made his displeasure plain. Tom left at once and reached home at half past three. His entire day had been taken up with thoughts of what lay in store at four o’clock. But when he found the house empty and no sign of his mother round back he entertained hopes of evading the mandatory practice session. He sat in the living room until the minute hand of a large clock on the wall reached forty-five, at which point he sprang from the chair, sensing it would be best if he made himself scarce for an hour. Upon his return around five o’clock his mother would think he had gone to the church as expected. When he next encountered the priest he would explain his absence by saying he had fallen ill or something of this nature. The business smacked of seediness, admittedly, but surely it was shy of outright venal sin. Nonetheless, before Tom could act on his resolution he heard his mother bustle indoors. Margaret put down two bags of groceries and removed the scarf wrapped around her chin. “Don’t give me that look. It’s time you were off.” Tom started for the door. “Wait. Do you have Brendan’s outfit?” “I won’t need it …” “Take it. It’s on your bed.” Tom went to his bedroom and retrieved the hand-me-down. He then made his way to the front door via the living room, where the religious symbols observed him in unspoken complicity.

On his way home from school the following Monday, he entered a general store located near the family farm. Among the wide range of merchandise on display were newspapers and The boy stole a glance at his watch. Five magazines pertaining to every conceivable o’clock had struck. He knew the ten other boys Gold Dust

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with him in the presbytery. All but two were classmates of his at school. For the past hour, the priest had blabbered on about what would be expected of them once they began assisting either himself or Father Hanrahan, the parish priest, at mass. But he made it clear this exciting prospect would not befall them for weeks. They would meet three or four times for practice beforehand. The names of those deemed competent would then be added to a rota. Tom listened to Father Cahill with an alarmed expression, as if anticipating a fate worse than death. The fact of its lying a month or more hence did nothing to alleviate his fear. His sole compensation that afternoon stemmed from his not having had to put on Brendan’s old outfit. The assistant priest noticed the time. “That’ll be all for today, lads. Let’s meet again same time next week.” The boys went to disperse but checked the movement when the ageing parish priest entered the room. They held themselves at attention and chorused as one: “Good afternoon, Father Hanrahan.” The priest, a snowy-haired man with a ruddy complexion, looked around in surprise at

the youngsters. He smiled, a mischievous glint in his eye. “To what do I owe the honour?” “We’re training to serve on the altar, Father,” one of the boys answered. “Get away with you! You mean you haven’t come to see ol’ Hanrahan?!” “Off you go now, lads.” The boys departed, sensing the hint of disapproval in the assistant priest’s tone. While they filed out of the presbytery, Father Hanrahan stared absent-minded, as though he had quite forgotten his whereabouts. Walking towards the main street of town, Tom felt a comradely rap on the shoulder courtesy of his friend Walter, a dark-haired, spindly boy whose expression guaranteed shenanigans of one brand or another. Walter waited until he and Tom were quite alone before bringing a carafe of wine from his bag. He had stolen it from the presbytery. Tom evinced a mixture of horror and admiration at his companion’s daring. “Did you see him?” “Who?” “Old Hanners. Mad as a hatter, he is.”

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“What are you going to do with that?” Satisfied with Tom’s effort, the nun gestured for him to go back to his place. “Drink it, of course.” “You shouldn’t have taken it.” “You surprised me. I thought you’d run off like a “They won’t miss it.” “You’ll be in trouble if they find out.” Walter scaredy-cat.” Tom was silent. Both had beshrugged. He could not have cared less. “They come light-headed after the first sips. “How old always find out stuff like that, grown-ups. They were you when your old man died?” “Six, I think.” know everything.” “Do you remember him?” Walter laughed. He and Tom walked as far as the narrow, unpaved road leading to the “Not much. Just little things. Such as his O’Riordan farm. drinking. He’d come in the door drunk but sing“Are you coming or are you afraid you might ing. I liked his singing even if he did smell of the grog. One day he sat me down and told me get a guilty conscience?” Tom glanced down the road before walking some of the horrible things he saw in the war before he got his discharge.” off with his friend. They strolled a short dis“Does your old lady like it here?” tance, drawing to a stop by the edge of a field. Climbing a wire fence, the classmates leapt “She thinks it’s better than Ireland.” over damp clumps of turf. They advanced to a Neither of the boys could believe their eyes shed nearby and sat with their backs against when a short while later a figure loomed in the structure, out of the wind and intermittent front of them. In their dissolute state and in the rain. Walter drank first. Wiping his mouth with waning light they needed a moment to recogthe back of his hand, he passed the carafe to nise Father Cahill. The booming voice put the Tom. issue of the uninvited one’s identity beyond “My old man doesn’t know a bleedin’ thing,” doubt. he said. “He’d forget it was 1948 if he didn’t “Caught you red-handed, haven’t I, see it in the paper every day.” scamps?” He laughed again. Struck by the unaccusWalter dropped the empty carafe and tried tomed taste in his mouth, Tom thought back to to dart away. But the priest immobilised him the school day they taught him the word conwith a firm grip on the collar of his shirt. Father science. Together with the other boys in the Cahill grabbed hold of Tom in like fashion class, he had been seated on the left-hand though he showed no inclination to run away. side of the room, the girls cosseted two to a The assistant priest marched Walter and Tom desk on the right. One by one they wandered all the way back to the church. Passers-by up to the bespectacled nun presiding over the gawked, astounded and amused. All of them class. The rest worked on an assigned exerknew the priest and the two boys who had incise in silence until his or her turn came. curred his ire. In the presbytery, Father Cahill At the appropriate moment, Tom went to wasted no time with words. He administered a the nun’s side and held his exercise book open brief but harsh punishment with a thick rubber for her inspection. He had covered the twostrap. page spread with words copied from the black“That’s nothing compared to the licking board at the front of the room. He knew how to you’ll receive from your father, Walter Burns.” pronounce all but a couple of them and dread- He looked at Tom. “And I guarantee you’ll get ed the thought of being asked to verbalise one a mighty tongue-lashing when you get home.” of the words mystifying to him. The teacher Resuming the walk of shame through town pointed at the word conscience. Tom bit his minutes later, Father Cahill had no need to rebottom lip and felt the blood rush to his cheeks. sort to force. Both Walter and Tom moved con“Try, even if you’re not sure.” trite by his side though Burns' habitual grin had “Con. Science.” begun reappearing at the corners of his mouth. “No. Conscience. Repeat it after me. Con- The closer they drew to the farm, the more science.” crestfallen Tom became. Since half past five “Conscience.” Margaret had wondered what could have beGold Dust

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fallen her youngest. Opening the door and seeing her son, the assistant priest, and that nincompoop Walter Burns grinning inanely in the background she realised no good had come of the afternoon. Horrified, she cottoned on to the under the weather state of the boys. There could be no mistaking the fact though the events following their discovery had sobered both up considerably. Father Cahill ushered Tom in the direction of the living room. The boy chose not to look at Margaret in passing and sat as far as possible from the front door. To ensure he did not hear the exchange between the priest and his mother, he blocked his ears. But the religious symbols, those remote and yet potent accusers, remained in situ. Grown-ups liked to insist they offered hope and consolation to children no less than to adults. But he had never felt anything of the kind. Quite the contrary. Tom jammed shut his eyes but opened them when his mother forcibly removed his fingers from his ears. “How could you?”

Tom kept silent, certain no meekly uttered words would appease the enraged woman. “So I’ve a son determined to follow the same road as his father? That’s where you’ll head if you become a slave to the drink. You’ll go to the devil like he did. I can feel it in my bones as sure as I’m standing here talking to you. To think you’ve begun messing with it already.” She dropped into a chair. Tom chewed his bottom lip. “I won’t do it again. I promise.” Right then and there the boy sincerely believed he would never touch alcohol again. Not a drop would pass his lips again. He had not forgotten the miserable legacy of his father. But, as it happened, by the time the still chagrined Margaret shuttled him off to bed he’d taken to wondering about the taste of beer, the old man’s preferred liquid refreshment. And perhaps there would be a few drops remaining in one or more of those empty metal kegs he and Walter had seen piled up out back of Pop Sullivan’s pub … GOLD DUST

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Christina Tabaka What Color is the Wind? What color is the wind? Blue, with salt scent carried from the sea. Purple, as lavender blooms in the garden. Green, when pine trees grace my woodland walk. Black, as night spreads itself across the sky. Orange, when evening sun sinks below the horizon. Gold, as it rustles through tall reeds. Red, when you stand close to me, taking me in your embrace. The wind is the color of my thoughts,

Unquenchable Desires A green eyed siren rendered him helpless. Face of retribution braced for the kill. She steals his sight while trumpets sound. Music that rips flesh from his bones. Two hundred years of counting backwards. Tree rings tell her age. Fire in the groin of him who follows to her song, wanting what he cannot have. Yearning for the thrill. Do not believe a word that’s spoken. Lure of golden fish hooks in a sea of fantasy. Less than a man he is, and will be. Emerald eyes pierce his soul. Sacrificing all for satisfaction, his lifeless form sinks below. Desires ‌ quenched, unquenched,

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That was the name of a paint can from J&M Hardware With sweat lingering on her face, she colored her room.

Rendezvous

Tinted now like insides of ripe plums, like perfect grapes.

By Joan McNerney

When the sizzling lemon sun dropped from heaven...night became moist and black. Her fan whirled thick air stained with cigarettes coffee, turpentine, white wine. She sank into her wicker couch as foghorns trail the horizon. Locusts screech relentlessly for water always wanting more more more water. Closing her eyes, remembering him Now tasting the feast of his smile.

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T OR Y H S OR ST

Mrs Brown by Jean Duggleby

I was above average at school but not outstanding. However, at Sunday School I sparkled. I knew all the answers. Once in the church itself the vicar told us a story and kept on inserting the letter I.C.B.B into it. I correctly guessed they stood for “I can’t be bothered” and was duly praised. Over the years I was inundated with prizes, certificates and medals. I chose a wild flower book for being the top of the class, a certificate for donating some of my pocket money for the poor black babies in Africa, and received a medal for 100% attendance. Shirley got a medal for being the best singer in the choir but I didn’t mind. I liked her and knew that I couldn’t sing. My parents were atheists so it was my idea to go to Sunday school. They said that God is like Father Christmas but I didn’t care. At eleven I liked being top of the class. That year my teacher was Mrs Brown and I remember her as very, very, very old, with a few long hairs on her chin, wearing a hair-net and heavy tweed clothes whatever the weather. Every Christmas she had a party at her house so this year I was invited. Most of my Sunday school class were there, about six or seven of us plus her son, Christopher who was 14. We had our tea, then played games, but the only one I remember is Postman’s Knock. One of us had to go outside in the passage and if it was a boy all the girls were allotted a number. He would come in and choose a number and if he picked yours you would go out into the passage for a kiss. I hated it. I can’t remember being picked or the kiss but do remember the dread of waiting to see if my number would be chosen. At the end of the party she gave us what she called a special pudding. We each had a plate with two mounds of pink blancmange with a currant in the centre of each. Lots of the kids giggled but I didn’t. I knew that it was rude but didn’t think it was funny. Months went by and I put the party out of my mind. But one day Mum said, “Mrs Brown has a treat for you all; a holiday at the seaside in her caravan.” Gold Dust

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“No, I don’t want to go.” “Why not? I’ve told Mrs Brown that you're going. Why not?” What could I say? “I don’t like her blancmange.” “But you like mine.” “Hers is pink.” “Ok,” said mum, smiling, “I’ll tell her not to make pink.” "I don’t like her currants either.” “Don’t be silly. You like my currants.” “You’ll have a lovely time with all your friends. It’s in two weeks time so I‘ll buy you a nice new dress. Mrs Brown says one with long sleeves and skirt, so that you don’t get sun burnt. She’s a sensible woman.” I loved my new dress with its little rosebuds but I dreaded the holiday. We went to her house but other than Christopher I was the only one. “All the others are getting on at the next stop as they live that way,” she explained. Mum saw us off at the train station and I waved until she was a little speck on the platform. At the next stop none of the other children got on. “Oh, dear,” said Mrs Brown, “they must have changed their minds.” So it was just Mrs Brown, Christopher and me. I was not surprised but very anxious. We arrived at the caravan site and settled in. That evening we had pink blancmange. I pulled a face. “Your mum, said that you wanted it.” “No, I didn’t.” “Never mind, eat it all up. Milk is good for you.” On the second day we went for a shower in the toilet block. She looked around to see that no-one else was there. “I’ll help.” said Mrs Brown. She touched me in places that I didn’t like and when I pulled away she pinched me. On the next day she said “You and Christopher are going to have a shower together not to waste water.” “I don’t want to.” She just ignored me. I could never tell what Christopher was thinking. He always had a blank expression. Again she 26


made sure that no-one else was in the toilet block and we showered together. I faced away from him as I didn’t want to see his body. I was so frightened but didn’t know what to do. She kept on asking me horrible questions. “Do you like Christopher?” “Do you think he’s handsome?” “Would you like to marry him?” “Would you like to have his babies?” If I said no she would pinch me again so I had to say yes. I was getting bruises but they were high on my arms and legs so wearing my new dress they didn’t show. I slept very badly in that caravan but eventually fell asleep. That night I woke up and Mrs Brown was carrying me. “You say that you want to marry Christopher so I’m taking you to his bed so that you can have a little practice.” Suddenly something clicked in me. I was overcome with anger. It gave me strength and I screamed, bit her arm, scratched her face and kicked out. She dropped me and I ran out of the caravan screaming. Lights came on in the other caravans and I ran across the grass bumping into a lady. “Calm down, dear. What’s the matter?” I clung onto her, sobbing. Mrs Brown, who’d followed me, said “She’s just had a nightmare. It’ll take her,” and tried to pull me away. I clung onto the lady’s nightdress, crying and gasping for breath. The lady said, “She’s very upset. I’m a social worker. I’ll just take her to my caravan and bring her back when she’s calmed down. Which is your caravan?” By this

time quite a few people had gathered around so Mrs Brown had to agree. The lady sat me down in a comfortable armchair and put a soft blanket around me. “Do you like hot chocolate? If you want you can tell me why you’re upset, but you don’t have to.” She sat very still in another armchair looking down at her folded hands as I sipped my hot chocolate. After a long time, I started to speak and told her everything. It all came out. I showed her my bruises. “Don’t make me go back.” “Of course not. Do you have a phone at home?” I told her the number and we went to the phone box on the caravan site. “I’m driving you home this minute,” she said, even though it was 3 o’clock in the morning. “Are you hungry?” “No, I just want to go home.” She wrapped me in blankets in the back of the car. A bit later the Vicar visited. He was very nice and said that we would never see Mrs Brown again. The authorities were taking care of things and Christopher had gone into a foster home. Poor Chris! I kept my wildflower book and still have it after all these years, but I threw away all my certificates and medals and never went to Sunday School again.

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T OR Y H S OR ST

The Standoff by James Bates

Without warning the snow ledge we'd been traversing collapsed, sending Jerry and me hurtling twenty feet down the side of the sheer granite canyon into the boiling rapids of the boulder infested Tettegouche River. In a matter of moments our heavy winter clothes were completely soaked, but we were able to fight our way out of the icy water onto the snowy riverbank where we lay exhausted in the minus-ten-degree February air. I'd sprained my wrist and from the swelling in his ankle it looked like Jerry had either a bad sprain or a fracture. We were minutes from freezing to death and had to get a fire going. Thankfully, Jerry was able to. "There's hope," I said scooting closer as the first flames licked the pine needles we'd used for tinder. "We may make it yet." Jerry gave me a sick grin, "Always the optimist, aren't you Steve? We've lost our gear, I used all our matches to get the fire started and we don't have any food except these granola bars." A point he emphasized by reaching into his pocket and handing me one of the two he had remaining. I had none. "And no one knows where we are. Yeah, things are looking great." I gratefully took the bar, opened it and contemplatively munched. My friend did the same. If I was an optimistic, Jerry was a realist. We'd been camping on Lone Loon Lake for two nights, only three miles from the trail head where'd we'd parked our car. We could have snow-shoed the distance back in half a day easy, but we'd taken an alternate route for fun. Not a good idea. We'd gotten lost, ended up in the river and now here we were, the flames from our fire the only thing keeping us from dying a slow agonizing death from exposure in the unforgiving Minnesota wilderness. With the sun hanging low on the horizon and with the kindling in the fire starting to die out, I hurried to collect as much firewood as I could, hindered greatly by my sprained wrist. Jerry could hardly move due to his swollen ankle, now nearly popping the laces of his boot. By the time I had gathered a healthy pile of pine, birch and aspen, his pain had become so intense he was fading into and out of Gold Dust

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consciousness. With that in mind, I almost didn't believe him when he recovered momentarily and pointed to the top of the canyon on the other side of the river. "Steve, you're not going to believe this. We've got visitors." Thinking we were going to be rescued, I was about to cheer when my throat constricted and my heart rate jumped from the adrenaline pouring into my blood. There, peering over the edge of the canyon in the fading twilight was a wolf – a large one, an alpha male. In a moment he was joined by a smaller wolf, probably his mate, then three more, most certainly last year's offspring. I turned to him, "My god, it's a wolf pack," I whispered. "What are we going to do?" For once in his life, Jerry had nothing to say. Then he spoke softly, "I've no idea, but off hand I'd say we're toast." We'd been friends for over thirty years, ever since we met in fourth grade. In our friendship, I was the stable one, he was impulsive. I was down to earth, he was free spirited. I was the follower, he was the leader. But now I took over. "I'm going to stock up on firewood. Maybe the flames will keep them away." He nodded, agreeing, "Good idea." Then he lapsed into unconsciousness. It was completely dark by the time I'd replenished our firewood supply. I had waited only a few minutes when out of the shadows and beyond the ring of our fire I sensed a movement. Moments later I saw him. The big male had arrived. His eyes were the colour of bright amber and they seemed to look directly into my soul, taking my breath away. Bile rose in my throat. I'd never been so afraid. I shook Jerry. He regained consciousness and I pointed to the wolf. He grabbed my arm in a gesture of solidarity. "It's up to you, buddy," he said grimly. "Do what you need to do. I'll feed the fire." I could only come up with one plan."I'll see if I can scare him away," I said, sounding way more confident than I felt. We both knew what we were up against. One big, strong, hungry wolf against two injured men? We'd be no match for him. Plus, he had his pack of four 28


other wolves to attack us if necessary. The odds were not in our favor and I began to lose my resolve. Suddenly, though, in my mind I had a vision of my wife and two kids, my reasons for living, and something snapped inside. I wasn't going down without a fight. "Give him hell," Jerry said. "I'll try," I responded, giving him what in retrospect was probably a pretty pathetic thumbs up sign. I grabbed a stick the size of a baseball bat, stuck it into the fire and got it burning flaming hot. Holding it with my good hand, I approached the wolf until I was maybe ten feet from him. He didn't move. I stopped, my body shaking as I forced myself to hold on to my weapon. We stared at each other. He didn't blink. I don't think I did either. Impatiently, I thrust the flaming stick at him. He didn't bat an eye. Nor move. We stared each other down. His fangs were bared and I was close enough to see dried blood on his black jowls. He growled deep in his massive chest and took a step toward me. I held my ground and waved the burning firebrand which now suddenly seemed the size of a pencil. The wolf stopped and growled low again but didn't come any closer. I stayed put. I may have even bared my own teeth. Neither of us moved. It was a standoff. I don't know how long we stood there, poised, both of us staring – me into the wolf's glowing amber eyes, he into my terrified blue ones. I'll bet he could smell fear all over me. It was only a matter of time before he attacked. Still, I held my ground and stood firm, the flame on my stick barely flickering. Suddenly he blinked. Distracted. One ear perked up, then the other. He'd heard something. In a instant he turned and ran, the rest of the pack following, silent and ghost-like. In a blink of an eye they were gone. "Steve. Steve," Jerry screamed, pulling me back to reality, "Do you hear it? A snowmobile. I think they've found us." In the background I could hear the high pitched revving of a four cycle engine. I looked up. Headlights shone over the edge of the cliff above us. Jerry was right. Rescue was at hand. We'd been saved. I'll never forget our near tragedy on the Tettegouche River, especially that big wolf and

both of us staring each other down. Even now, years later I can still see his bright amber eyes, his bared fangs, the blood on his fur. I can see something else, too. I can see myself reflected in those eyes of his. It's an image of me coming to terms with my own mortality. I could have died that night but didn't. I know I would have gone down fighting, but there is no doubt that big wolf would have won. He'd have killed me and then Jerry and that would have been the end of us forever. However, I do know this: Something happened between him and me during that standoff that I still feel to this day, a primitive connection of sorts was forged between us. Me at one with that wild animal. In fact, sometimes at night I am compelled to rise from my warm, safe bed, leave my wife comfortably sleeping, and sneak outside and go to the park near our home. Especially when the moon is full. I feel this strong urge, a primordial wild desire that I can barely control. It's overwhelming. I feel like running and sometimes I do. I run through the darkness, my way lit by the starry sky and the brightness of the moon and I feel alive. I feel free. I feel like something greater than myself. It's uncanny but, sometimes, with the wind blowing through my hair and my feet flying over the earth I feel like I'm more than alive. I feel at one with the wildness of nature. Like that wolf. And, sometimes, I even feel like howling. And sometimes I do.

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T OR Y H S OR ST

Looking Back, Looking Forward by John Riebow

Maybe he should have thought to make a reservation. They might not be able to get a table, and who knew where that would lead. He should have thought. It was pure nervousness that made him forget this. Thankfully, a table was available, a cozy candle-lit spot in the corner of the French restaurant, not far from the large tank, where brightly-colored fish darted in and around fields of green fronds that danced in the bubbling saltwater underworld. “Now that’s art,” he told the young man who brought his drink, motioning to the shimmering coral reef. The waiter smiled and left him to enjoy his Seven & Seven on the rocks. Nathan Strom sighed in relief. He had secured a spot, now all he had to do was wait. He had a clear view of the foyer and would be able to see her when she arrived. The drink warmed him and the corner niche suddenly became very comfortable. The call had come out of the blue, totally unexpected. He had not heard from her in what had to be fifteen years. She was one of the last people he would have expected to talk to again, after what had happened at the wedding reception. But she was in town and wanted to see him, and hearing her voice he had found himself unable to refuse her. There was something about it that was chilling. Emily Abbot. He had always liked the sound of her name, the smooth way it rolled off the tongue. The way she walked, the way she spoke, the way she dressed, the way she kissed, everything about her was smooth as silk. He noticed she was different from all the other girls the very first day he saw her, when the fifth grade teacher took the pale wispy girl with the long curly hair to the front of the class and introduced her as the new student from Appleton, Wisconsin. He had had no idea where Appleton, Wisconsin was until he looked the town up in the library and memorized every fact about it he could discover. What was a pale curly-haired waif from Harry Houdini's birthplace doing in the suburbs of Philadelphia in 1967? It was something to do with her

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father’s job, he vaguely recalled. Didn’t he work at Dupont or something? It didn’t matter, because soon she blended in with the rest of the class and acted like a typical eleven year-old girl from the northeast, except she remained the slowest and most deliberate of speakers, lending a sort of sophistication to the class. The first time he spoke to her was in the lunchroom, over steaming bowls of chicken noodle soup. Nathan tried to impress her with facts he had learned about her home state, but Emily regarded his effort with a mild indifference. “Does it ever snow around here?” she complained, taking the steaming soup into her mouth. “What do you call that?” he indicated to the blanket of white that covered the world outside. The meal was much too hot for him and he waited for the soup to cool. “That’s not snow,” Emily retorted, mockingly, “that’s just dust. Back home, if there wasn’t at least six inches on the ground, it was considered dust.” “Well, if we get even a little more dust, they will send us home.” They were the tallest boy and girl in their class, often paired with one another, or set to oppose one another, so the two often found themselves together. He taught her how to make a layup shot, and she became the best basketball player in the entire school. From middle school they went on to attend the same high school, where their friendship continued. Emily had been one of the first girls in the class to blossom into womanhood and was fully aware of the power of her sexuality. Nathan, as her closest male friend, was welcomed into the realm of her newfound desires. They had both been so young and eager; how different it had been than what it was like now with Natalie. He remembered the summer of their senior year with a great warmth of heart: driving the streets of Philadelphia in his honeybee yellow Impala, working for the little Polish house painter, spending Sundays at the beach, surfing, drinking tall cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer he scored

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from his friend’s older brother, and making fervent love with Emily in his car, or in the wooded crevasses of Fairmount Park. Their love for one another had been a convenience of youth, with college the eventual arbiter of detachment. Emily returned to the Midwest to attend Michigan State, while he headed to West Virginia, where he discovered an entirely different America below the Mason-Dixon line. The two exchanged letters and phone calls for the first few weeks, but as each became accustomed to their new worlds, the calls and letters grew less frequent, and eventually stopped altogether. The next time he heard from Emily was an invitation to the first wedding, to the stockbroker, or banker, or whatever he was. He had not yet met Natalie, his wife-to-be, and went with a friend from his first job, Nancy, the quiet mousy receptionist. It was an elaborate, yet tasteful affair. Emily made a beautiful bride and regarded him with a vague thankfulness. The longing in the over the shoulder look she gave him as she walked away with her new husband stayed with him for many months. After the first wedding, he did not hear from Emily again, until the invitation for the second wedding arrived in the mail, some five years later. He had not even received a thank you note from the first wedding, nor Christmas or birthday cards in all that time, but he took his new wife to the lavish ceremony at the country club, primarily to see if the renowned plastic surgeon Emily was marrying had altered her in any way. The whole affair was gaudy, ostentatious, and one of the most insincere moments he had ever witnessed. Emily greeted him only fleetingly and gave Natalie an icy glare. The reception was a shambles, with many getting very drunk and rowdy, and after the disruption, he and Natalie had to make a quick escape. And so the years had passed, until yesterday’s call had brought him to this moment. When the heavyset woman with the pronounced limp hobbled into the foyer, panting slightly, gripping the doorjamb for support, Nathan Strom cursed. “Get out of the way, you cow!” he whispered under his breath. “You’re blocking my view.” His incredulity grew almost into outright panic as the waiter pointed toward the fish tank and began to lead the woman to the table. He looked to the right and to the left but there were no other empty chairs. The woman was definitely coming to his table. He could not believe his eyes. Her hair was dyed red, so red it was almost orange, and her features were nothing like he recalled. “Nathan?” the woman asked tentatively.

“Emily?” he greeted, rising with a deliberate slowness. The woman smiled at the sound of her name and his hopes were dashed. “Hi.” He mouthed and kissed her briefly on the cheek, breathing in the heavy aroma of alcohol “It’s good to see you,” she panted, collapsing into the chair with a girlish giggle. “And you too,” he managed between clenched teeth. With her bright hair, big frame and deeply lined face, this troubled figure hardly resembled the person he had known. “How are you?” “Trying to survive another attempt on my life.” “What?” he asked with a bemused shake of head, soaking in the reality before him. “I’ve got three ex-husbands wanting to kill me, not to mention their numerous fiancés du jour, looking to cut me out of the picture. Those bitches are always so hell-bent to stick up for their man. I’ve been there; I know what bastards they are, but those girls are going to have to learn the hard way. How about you, how many contracts do you have out on your hide?” The woman sounded like Emily, there was no mistaking her Midwest accent, but the audaciousness in her voice was decidedly east coast. “None,” he admitted. “At least that I know of.” “I don’t know about that,” she said with a cautionary wave of her thick finger. “I thought I saw a poster at the train station with your picture on it that said: Wanted Dead or Alive. Nathan Strom.” “What am I supposed to have done?” “You’re a man, aren’t you?” she laughed. “There’s probably little that you’re not guilty of. Everybody’s guilty of something. Trust me, I know. I speak from experience.” “What are you guilty of?” “My ex-husbands will tell you avarice, but I don’t want anything I don’t deserve, and I expect what I’m owed. I’ve learned that from my lawyers. No matter what happens before the judge and jury, the lawyer always leaves the courtroom smiling. I don’t know about you, but I need a drink.” “What are you having?” “I was sipping a little rum at the hotel, but what do you say we order a nice bottle of wine?” “Sure.” The waiter came and took their selections. Along with a bottle of the house red, he ordered a complete meal: Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, the choice filet with a baked potato and the vegetable medley. Emily requested the house salad and seafood bisque. “That’s all you’re having?” “If it’s not enough,” she said with a wink, “I’ll nibble at yours.”

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She wore a broad smile as she watched him eat, showing as much satisfaction as if she had prepared the meal herself. “You know, I’ve spent many nights in little places like this, sitting in the soft light, or under the stars, drinking a little wine and talking to a man who’s rushing through his meal so he can have me for dessert, and it’s always been just a game to me, a chess match. I know I’m being played, so I manipulate the rules to my advantage.” He did not know how to respond and continued with his meal. Her piercing gaze soon drove him to nervous chatter. “I’m sorry about what happened at the wedding,” he apologized weakly. “That was Ralph’s friend who felt up your wife, not mine,” she replied with a dismissive wave of hand. “You had every right to sock him.” “I didn’t mean to cause a scene. We were newlyweds and I was a little drunk.” “So was everyone else, drunk I mean. Besides, it wasn’t the first time someone got punched out at one of my weddings.” “There were others?” he asked, disbelief apparent. “Oh sure. My receptions were like heavyweight bouts. You only broke that guy’s nose; someone was thrown off a balcony at the last one.” “You’re kidding!” “Cross my heart. This wine is delicious, by the way.” Strom nodded his agreement. He had only sipped at his first glass, while she had finished the first bottle and ordered a second. “It’s sounds like you’ve had some life.” “Yes, but I hope I have a few good years in me yet,” she laughed, hoisting her breasts playfully. “But enough about me. What about you? How many kids do you have?” Nathan was relieved by the sudden shift. “Just Kristin. She’s a wonderful young lady. She’s finishing up her Masters in education at Temple.” “I’ve often wondered what it would have been like if you and I had a baby.” Strom had no response and looked to his drink. A child had been out of the question then, and was implausible now. “It’s funny,” Strom said, looking to break the awkward silence. “Nat was wondering who you were.” “Is she your keeper then?” “I don’t get many calls at the house.” he explained sheepishly. Emily leaned across the table and put her hand on his forearm. “Who did you say I was?”

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“One of those pesky telemarketers.” “Well, that’s pretty lame.” she complained, pulling away. “Just kidding. I said you were the wife of an old friend, calling to tell me about a surprise party for my buddy.” “Wife of a friend, eh? Why did you lie?” “I don’t know,” he confessed with a reflexive shrug. “It just seemed easier than having to explain who you were. ” “So, your wife doesn’t know where you are?” “Uh, no.” he admitted, staring into the remnants of his wine. “She thinks you’re at the office, or out with an old school pal, so I could murder you and get rid of your body and no one would be the wiser.” “I suppose so.” He added a weak laugh to his reply. The truth of the matter was that he did not exactly know why he was there, or why he had deceived Natalie. He was happy in his marriage, not searching for anything, but he had anticipated something with Emily. Perhaps he only sought to recapture a moment of his fleeting youth, but whatever he expected, it certainly was not the present situation. “You were hoping I still looked like my old self, and probably thought there was a chance we could relive some of our former glories.” Emily pronounced, slamming her glass down, splashing wine on the white tablecloth. Strom scanned the room to see if anyone had noticed her eruption. “Not at all.” “Go on, admit it!” she demanded, slurring. “I won’t.” “You pictured the old me. I could hear it in your voice when we spoke. You came here expecting to see the starry-eyed little thing that I was.” “You look fine.” He pronounced, totally unconvincingly. “If you won’t admit it, I will. Never mind what you think, nobody wishes I still looked the way I used to look more than me.” “Life changes us.” he said, and felt suddenly lame. “That it does,” she agreed with a pronounced nod. “Life has been like a heavyweight champ, and I’ve been the punching bag.” “It can’t be that bad.” Emily drained her glass and did not wait for him to pour another. “It’s worse than you know,” she said, refilling her glass to the brim. “But I’m not here to bring the party down. Let’s talk about you, Nathan. Are you happy, my dear?” “Yes. I am. Very.”

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“Why are you so happy?” her voice now oozed derision. “Let me in on the secret.” “Well, Natalie has been good to me, and Kristin is a great kid. I am blessed.” “So why are you here,” she indicated to the surroundings with a broad sweep of her glass “in a romantic restaurant, with me?” “To catch up with an old friend.” He replied firmly. “You came here to see Emily Abbot,” she snarled with an accusing finger, “the skinny Emily Abbot that everyone said was so easy, the girl you tumbled with in the back of your daddy’s car. That’s who you came to meet, the first girl that went down on you, not this sad old frump who’s pushing fifty. You were disappointed. I could see it in your face, as soon as you set eyes on me. Well, you know what, I came here looking for the tall and gallant Nathan Strom I used to know, the boy who treated me like something special, not like the cheap tart everyone else saw. What happened to him? I thought he was going to show up tonight.” Nathan regarded the woman with a mounting sadness. Perhaps he had deceived her in some way, as he had deceived himself. “Maybe you are right. Maybe I did come here thinking we’d see one another, sparks would fly and then we’d be off down to the Motel 6. It was a lovely thought, but just a fantasy. You are not the Emily Abbot I knew, and it’s got nothing to do with

looks. The Emily Abbot I remember was a fun girl, happy, self-confident and world-wise, not this sad, bitter, drunken shell of a person I see now.” “How dare you!” Emily burst, pounding the table with her large hand. Faces glanced in their direction and there were whispers, but he did not care. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror?” “Do you think I like what I see? You have no idea what I’ve been through the past twenty years. Life has not been kind to me.” “So you said,” he retorted, “but maybe you have not been kind to life. What goes comes around comes around. Instant karma and all that.” “You have no idea.” She insisted with a disgusted shake of head. “I guess I don’t. Maybe you should get some help, professional help.” He looked to his watch. “Look, I really have to be going.” “Nathan, don’t go.” she pleaded, reaching for him and he pulled back from the table. “Can I get you a cab?” “Nathan? Please! You’re just going to get up and leave like that?” “I think it’s for the best.” he said, staying beyond her reach. “For me or for you?” “For everyone.” “Who’s everyone? Me? You? Your wife? Your kid?” “I’m leaving. I’ll pay on the way out.” “Fuck you!” she roared as he left the room. “Do you hear me, you son of a bitch? Fuck you!” A fine mist was falling as Nathan Strom stepped out into the cool evening, the persistent spectre of his past hovering overhead. His stomach tossed the meal, his head fogged with alcohol. He passed the restaurant window, caught sight of shimmering silhouettes tussling beyond, and quickened his pace. The car was only two blocks away. If his luck held, he could be on the highway in five minutes.

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The Salon By Lorraine Brooks The clanging, the pulling, the brushing, the bells... the dyes and the bleaches with various smells... the heat from the dryer, the gel from the jar, the impatient husband who waits in the car. Who looks in the mirror? who waits till the end? Who doesn’t complain, wanting not to offend? Oh yes, it looks lovely, Oh yes it’s just “you”! When really l’m thinking... Who’d want such a “do”? I’m getting my hair bleached, You’re getting yours dyed. The one in the corner Is getting hers fried. The smell is just awful, The chemicals stink. Conditioners dripping All over the sink. But here we all gravitate, Mother and daughter. To get that great hairdo, Come hell or high water. And when it’s all over, All combed to the side... We’ll take a good gander, And walk out with pride. The husband who’s waiting Will take a look too... And even if he prefers Hair that’s not blue... He will support What you’re trying to do... And hopefully smile and say... “Love the new you!”

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THE BEST PART ABOUT TODAY NOT BEING 1971 By John Tustin

The best part about today not being 1971Is that today I don’t have to change a typewriter ribbon. The best part about today not being 1991 Is that today I don’t have to change a typewriter cartridge. I’ll have to let you know what the best part of today not being 2021 will be If I happen to get somewhere near 2039 Or thereabouts…

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PRO Had Enough

By Robert Beveridge By James Osborne

He thought just because I bought his wife a drink in the Nineteenth Hole that I was after her and he threatened me with physical violence so I told him no I'm after your caddy and he took a swing he left his wife the next week and married his caddy in St. Tropez so the next day I bought his ex another drink in the Nineteenth Hole and ended up in Cannes with two dolls and the family dog for company

No Helmet By James Osborne Vroooooom Vrooooooooom VroooBang! Thud Thud Clatter clatter clatter Thud crack splat splatter clatter flump drip drip drip drip

Guy walks into a patisserie. 'Do you do profiteroles?' 'Um, no. But I have a profiterole on top of a chocolate mousse.' Damn, thinks the guy, I thought I saw profiteroles on the menu online but he says 'Can I see it?' So he is shown the profiterole on the chocolate mousse. 'I'll have it,' he says. Half an hour later, the chocolate mousse is finished. The guy pays and leaves the profiterole uneaten.

Out There! By Robert Black The unbroken umbrella was the only sign he’d come this way. The seven burned matches on the track pointed to someone being lost in the dark, but that could be anyone, as could the compass laying smashed in a paw print. A big paw print. They continued on with their hopes fading, following the prints of something unmissable and hoping they saw it before it saw them. They did, but it was faster. And so ends the story of... nobody knows... but there was a survivor, who shortly after became a world famous sprinter, in spite of requiring to be corralled to the start of the lane before every race.

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OK BO IEW V RE

It’s Never Too Late by Jean Duggleby reviewed by Adele Geraghty

Jean Duggleby, is the newly ed mother-love, with a building tenemerged author of “It’s Never sion worthy of the big screen, and Too Late”, a self published collecthe ambience of the final scene tion of short story gems, which reminiscent of “Whatever Hapoffers enough diverse material to pened to Baby Jane”. On a lighter keep most readers duly and satnote, in “Cary and the Chocolate isfactorily engrossed . Factory”, the narrator is a rather clever young girl, who tells the stoJean, however, never harry of how she and her brother manboured any delusions of literary age to enter a chocolate factory in grandeur. Throughout a lifetime order to enjoy a nightly feast. That of teaching, travel and an abunis, until an older group of bullies dance of enthusiasm and apprediscovers them, but, as mentioned, ciation of multiple cultures, not this is a very clever girl who…well, once did Jean ever consider beyou simply must read it for yourcoming a writer. That is, until a selves! few short years ago, when she accompanied her partner to a Speaking of Jean’s stories writing course he was teaching. containing children, she has a 148 pages Jean came along to make tea, number of them told through the Available from but wound up doing much more. eyes of several childish narrators www.lulu.com She happened to hear someand, curiously and captivatingly, £5 plus postage thing that David said which she has developed a charming, sparked her interest and, using it for a basis, she yet puzzling style of story-telling, wherein the wrote her first story. Her partner was impressed story is written through a child’s perspective and and told her so. And in a child’s way of writing, with misspelled words, crossovers, scratched out sentences and in diaJean decided to join the group properly, which she did. And she wrote more stories. And lect. There are several of these magnetic gems and all well worth the unravelling. yet more stories. Before one could say manuscript, Jean had a small collection and people Jean Duggleby’s strength of style lies in her were beginning to notice that this unassuming totally natural, untrained approach to every one bard had a new title thrust upon her: author. of her stories. Each narration is totally unique; Her first two published stories appeared in one never imagines the author telling the tale. Each narrator is totally new and believable, even “Buzzwords”, the magazine of Harrow Green Library Creative Writing Group. From there, it was in the most far-fetched of persona, they are ena short step to the publication of six more stories trenched in their era, nationality and station in in Gold Dust Magazine, including “Mother Dear”, life. The children’s stories are particularly gripa haunting journey bordering between bereave- ping in their exceptional format. ment and the supernatural, “Land of Elephants”, Naïvety regarding literary form or presentawherein nothing is as it seems in the East / tion is not a liability in Duggleby's case, but a West divide, whilst the greatest, most painful true gift. I find myself enwrapped as if I were sitcruelties substantiate the adage, “Out of Crisis ting at my mother’s knee and listening to stories comes Opportunity”; and, “Toil and Trouble”, a being read to me; totally captivated. Forget any prejudice you may hold pertaining to self pubdelightfully detailed portrayal of a 16th century lished authors. This is talent in the raw. “It’s Nevsubtlety maker; not only gifted in making these er Too Late” is a brief but wonderful collection of sweet, decorative delicacies, but also in “prophesy” (or so it appears), in a time when sim- 24 unique stories, well worth the read. ple dreams of the future could result in being condemned as a witch. “Between These Shores Literary Magazine” next published seven of her stories, including “A GOLD DUST trip to the Seaside”; a Hitchcockian tale of thwartGold Dust

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The Familiar by Brad Cobb

K Was the librarian in the small town of only knew that his existence teemed with unMarked Tree which is on the Arkansas side of mapped possibilities. the Lower Mississippi Basin, a man of learning He often read in public, at the Waffle and knowledge, he supposed. His job there House or at the cafe or on one of the benches was to help ease the tedium of everyday life in around the Confederate Memorial at the courtthe hinterlands. house, and chose titles solely for their ability to Other pursuits aided him in passing the shock. Most of the books he found ridiculous time as well. or blasphemous (in a bad-mannered way) and He took pride in being the town atheist and tossed them aside without finishing them, reasoning that life and time were far too precious delighted in debating with his fellow citizens concerning spiritual matters; he always did so to waste on such drivel, but he occasionally came across one that intrigued him. with the uppity condescension of a scientist addressing a peasant, but even so, he never "Witchcraft and Demonology in the Dark Ages" failed to ask God's forgiveness after these dis- was just such a book. He intended only to peruse it before taking it to the Waffle House, but putes, just to cover all his bases. And regardless of the political beliefs of the instead skipped supper altogether and ended townsfolk, his were the opposite, even though up reading at home until well past midnight. it secretly repulsed him to embrace such stand- There was one chapter in which he took a parpoints, and he prayed that the aims he pretend- ticular interest – “The Familiar Spirit.” Something about this subject moved him in an ed to advocate would never come to pass. As you might imagine, K's chronic inimical inexplicable way and brought him back to it again and again. Familiar Spirits, the book statpositions made for a lonely existence in the ed, are entities that assist witches or cunning conservative town. Men despised him, and females were not drawn to his brand of aposta- folk in their practice of magic and appear in numerous guises, but most often as an animal sy as they might have been to the strutting bad-assery of some young wavy-haired rebel; like a toad, bird, dog or cat. Then and there, K vowed to obtain a Familrather they sensed it as the worst kind of coniar of his very own. He knew it was a ridiculous formity. He asked Mandy Carmichael, a waitpursuit, but that was all the better since the ress at the cafe, for a date, and she replied with an immediate “no” and secretly spat in his utter absurdity of it meant he was powerless to iced tea. Shelly Ponders, a carhop at the Dairy do anything about it. In no way did he consider Bar, completely ignored his repeated inquiries himself a witch, but more of a cunning person concerning what she was doing Saturday night possibly, which he reasoned, made such a thing not a sin, or at least not much of one. and just kept asking: "Do you want fries with But how to locate such a thing? that burger?" Even Loose Nancy, cashier at the Dollar General, turned him down, making a Well, K noted, according to the book the face like she had tasted something bitter folencounter narrative between the person and lowed by a quick and resolute shake of her their Familiar most often occurs when they are head. "Naah," she had replied. going about their daily activities. The irony of his stated beliefs coupled with Just think of all those he had already enhis provincial existence was one of the few countered, yet in his ignorance failed to identithings not lost on K. He knew full well that fy, he thought. should he move to an urban centre peopled by The next day at the library he passed the sophisticates, say Memphis or Little Rock, he hours alert to every possibility. He looked out would no longer be the dissenter but simply the window, eyeing sparrows with hope and another sheep bleating along with the others. persistence. He kept an eye trained for one of Sometimes K took his head in his hands the building's infesters, a mouse perhaps, or a and wondered how he came to be in such a silverfish with a special something. His heart predicament, though no answer ever came. He raced when he imagined he heard the faintest 37

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scampering. He searched nooks that were rarely frequented – the aisle of philosophy books, the old microfiche room, the janitor's closet – but no Familiar Spirit made itself known. That afternoon he was mowing the high grass in his backyard when the engine skipped and spat out a glob of damp grass. The centre of the glob began to undulate slightly. Something is revealing itself, he thought. How dramatic! From the centre of the ball of clippings emerged a toad, which croaked and hopped once toward him, as if in expectation. A bloody scrape was visible across the top of its head where the blade had narrowly missed killing it. There was no doubt it was a sign, he surmised. Fate had intervened to preserve the life of his Familiar, which had been making its way toward him for 35 years for this foreordained introduction. K placed the toad in an empty goldfish bowl and left it to itself while he contemplated how he should initiate their relationship. He reread the chapter on Familiar Spirits. Aha! he thought. Eye contact. He would stare into its eyes, then at some point a deeper understanding would come. What confidants the two of them would become! Just think of it. The goldfish bowl rested on a shelf, and at dusk he brought a chair and sat before his soon-to-be intimate. He took a deep breath and brought his face to within inches of the glass, and with pursed lips and furrowed brow and every bit of concentration he could muster, stared at the toad, eye-to-eye. The thin blood from it's scrape had created a repugnant pink hue over its face. It's wattle moved mindlessly

up and down as though a heart were encased there. The staring match went on and on, and the toad just sat there, unfazed and impenetrable and foreign. A sudden feeling of unease came over K. beads of sweat formed on his forehead, and there arose a hollow nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach. He began blinking uncontrollably as he had the feeling that he was becoming the toad's Familiar and not the other way around. Before long he was positive the diminutive creature before him was a maniac that was hatching nefarious plans. He began to imagine himself carrying out abominable deeds and took the toad in its bowl to an isolated bridge that crossed a muddy canal and heaved it over the side. On the drive back he considered his mistake. The toad was a stumbling block, a trick to disrupt his journey to his True Familiar. Stupid deceitful fate, he hissed. By the time he returned home he had developed a smouldering hatred for all things amphibian. If one class of animals deserved extinction it was the amphibians, he decided, the slimy air-gulping savages. And may they be forcefed the devil's shit for all eternity. Amen. In the night came wretched dreams that the faux Familiar returned with his kinsmen in tow. They croaked and hopped over every inch of his yard. They frolicked on the roof and churned in the rain gutters and slid down the downspouts, screaming like children on a playground. They tapped their blunt horrible noses against his windows and stacked themselves up so that one could incessantly ring his doorbell. They called out, demanding he get down on all fours and give them pony rides. They conspired to gang-rape him. For several days he walked about, reflective and wordless, sneering at toads. He heard the usual anti-atheist barbs of colleagues and townsfolk but refused to be drawn into debates. Some suspected he might finally be seeing the light. Loose Nancy reconsidered and thought she might give him a shot. One day K sat on a bench at the Confederate Memorial in front of the courthouse, feeling quite abandoned but by what he could not say. He opened his book and read the chapter on

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rived and what K thought of as the Great ReFamiliars for the first time since The Night of vealment drew near. the Toad. He sighed and yearned and wondered why He placed the cat on a stool, and it didn't jump in the hell he couldn't have been one of those off, which he considered a good sign, then he knelt and gazed at it as intensely as a clairvoylucky bastards born in the Dark Ages when everyone was so goddamn sure of everything. ant at a crystal ball. The cat returned his stare unwaveringly, another good sign. Stupid, Stupid Fate! As the stare-down progressed, the cat beWhen he first heard it he disbelieved his gan to make a low growling sound, a purr with ears, but it came again, a beckoning and a menace. It grew louder. question all at once. K relaxed his eyes and held up both hands Meow. in a gesture of supplication. At the base of the memorial a black tomcat "No no. I didn't mean it that way," he said. circled Johnny Reb's boots, then sat and But the Familiar was unimpressed, and he intently watched K. This is it, he thought, trembling with excite- remembered the book said that they were supposed to be given affectionate down-to-earth ment. And black on top of it all! Things couldn't nicknames. That must be the problem. Perbe more clear, like 1+1=2, or better yet, 1+1=1. haps his Familiar had conservative and doctriIt was lunchtime too, and like the book plainly naire leanings. said, the appearance of the Familiar is most "I'm sorry," he explained, "but it's difficult to likely at midday. name what seems unnamable." "Behold‌. my Familiar," he whispered. The cat hissed. He rose and cautiously extended his hand "Blackie!" He yelled out. "Your name is for the cat to smell. It rubbed it's head against Blackie!" his fingers, which he interpreted as a display The cat lowered itself and made a terrible of implicit understanding. K took the Familiar in spitting noise, and K feared he had said somehis arms and let it smell the book too. Before thing racist and changed the name. he carried it home he stopped at Dollar Gener"Simba," he corrected himself. "I mean Feal and bought cat litter and a litter box and lix!" Kozy Kitten cat food, and though this act was The cat pounced with claws extended, a necessary one, it felt unbecoming to both of barely missing K's head. It landed on his them, he reflected. couch and readied itself to attack again. K ran He didn't give the now attentive Loose Nandown the hallway with the Familiar at his heels, cy the time of day. screaming names he hoped would appease it. The cat explored his house while K fol"Patches! Mittens! Max! Boots! Sylvester!" lowed along behind. He imagined himself walkHe made it to the bedroom and slammed ing about town with it perched on his shoulder the door. The cat lurked beyond the threshold, like a Buccaneer's parrot, the two of them making malevolent sounds. Before long he whispering wonders and cabals as the redheard it ripping his furniture to shreds with it's necks gawked. claws. In the cool umbrage of a pecan tree, he He had a fleeting suspicion the cat was in spent the afternoon in a lawn chair in his back- cahoots with the toad. yard, watching the cat leaping at butterflies The book never said the encounter could and rolling around in the grass. It sent him telebecome a confrontation. pathic messages he was as yet incapable of Not until the wee hours did K collapse on translating, and made figure eights around his his bed and fall into a deep sleep, marred by legs, jumping on his lap from time to time to nameless terrors. Somewhere In the emptihave it's ears scratched. It's tail rose like a ness of night he gasped, and at the exact mosnake charmer's serpent from its basket and ment of waking thought he sensed a light flicked back and forth contentedly. Night arweight pressing down on the mattress, where it remained, perfectly still as if laying in wait. Johnny Reb is the national personification of the common He thought he could make out the door slightly soldier of the Confederacy during the American Civil War

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felines: tomcats and Bengal tigers and snow ajar. His heart pounded in his ears, and his leopards and cheetahs and lynxes, all their hand shook uncontrollably as he slowly miserable filthy kin. He added a prayer that reached for the lamp. His fingers wavered at those godless sons-of-whores be condemned the draw chain. to hell and corn holed by Beelzebub himself The beast was revealed in the light to be right beside him, it's back arched in an upside- from now until the end of time. Amen. He wrapped a blanket around himself and down U, and every black hair standing on end. drank a half bottle of sour mash before he was A deafening hiss filled the room. Before K able to quit shaking. could react, the Familiar pounced onto his head and raked it's claws over his face with a speed beyond comprehension. K's highAs dawn broke K sat on his mangled couch pitched scream sounded like it belonged to a and looked at the stuffing covering the floor woman. He seized the cat by the scruff of the like a light snow. He resembled a sullen child. neck and threw it. His face in the mirror looked At least I had passion, he told himself, as like it had been engraved with hundreds of tic- though in reference to some indictment levtac-toe patterns. elled against him. At least I had that. "Forgive me Jesus!" he screamed as he The Familiar was out there running free, he rolled off the bed and fled. thought, sowing the spirit of unfamiliarity, the The Familiar gave chase, but K, drunk with same one he realized that has always been at work in the world, and he determined he would adrenaline, turned and kicked it across the room and into a wall, where it came down and fight it at every meeting. In himself first, then in hunkered down, making unnatural sounds and other places. calculating it's next move. K made another rash decision. Just as he had about seeking a Familiar, and perhaps it K opened the front door and got in bewas just as seemingly unsound and beyond tween it and the wall for protection. He whimpered and peed a little in his boxer shorts. In a knowing, so that as before there was nothing that could be done about it. The very next day few moments the Familiar made a hellish sound, then he heard it's feet padding by as it he would put his house on the market and move to the city, to Little Rock or Memphis. trotted out the door and disappeared Into the night. He sighed and gingerly touched his fingertips to his wounded face, which now resemWhen he could finally move again he bled a work of contemporary art. peeped out. then closed and locked the door. As a further precaution he wedged a chair under the knob. He reconsidered which animal was most GOLD DUST worthy of extinction and decided that it was Gold Dust

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Vivarium reviewed by David Gardiner

Released in March 2020 in the middle of the biggest lock-down the world has ever known to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium never made it to the box office. Still awaiting its cinema debut at time of writing, this quirky independent production is available as a DVD or download rental from most of the major online stores and view-at-home franchises. A vivarium, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “an enclosure, container or structure adapted or prepared for keeping animals under semi-natural conditions for observation or study or as pets.” Few of us will have tried to imagine what it might be like to live in one, which is the territory explored here. The obvious comparison is with Peter Weir’s 1998 The Truman Show in which Jim Carrey plays a young insurance salesman who discovers his whole life is merely a cleverly contrived fraud to entertain the viewers of a “reality” TV show. But where The Truman Show veers towards good-natured comedy and quaint eccentricity, Vivarium is very much darker in mood and unnerving in content. In the opening scene a little girl finds two dead baby birds that have been thrown out of their nest by a cuckoo-chick imposter. “It’s horrible,” the girl sobs when her teacher Jemma (Imogen Poots) tries to console her, and in so doing sets the theme for the rest of the film. Jemma and her boyfriend Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) are looking for their first home, and after a sales talk from Martin, an almost nonhumanly weird estate agent (Jonathan Aris),

drive off to view the properties in Yonder, a post-surreal development project consisting of rows of identical green new-build houses stretching as far into the distance as the eye can see. Almost at once their guide abandons them to look around for themselves. They are unimpressed by the creepy residential project and try to leave, but as they attempt to drive back they discover that Yonder exists in a universe that is folded back on itself like a four-dimensional Möbius strip and there is no way out. The geometry of Euclid does not apply here. Certain now that they are captives, like fish in a small aquarium set up to look like the open sea, they return to the house that Martin showed them and find that a box has been left outside it. Inside the box is what seems to be a male human baby. The lid of the box is inscribed with the message: “Raise the child and be released.” With little choice they try to make the best of the situation and obey the instruction to raise the ‘cuckoo son’ they have been allocated. Their bodily needs are supplied, and in the space of little more than three months the boy has grown into a freakish not-quite-human nine-or-ten-year-old (brilliantly played by childactor Senan Jennings) and the young couple are beginning to meet some of their equally unprepossessing fellow residents. This is a story set inside somebody else’s nightmare, with superb shock effects, stomach-churning suspense and a consistent internal logic. Don’t miss it. GOLD DUST

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HOW IT WORKS By Robert Beveridge

There is a third leg or maybe a fourth and without it I cannot help but fall to my knees in anything but worship

Insiders By Sanjeev Sethi Camouflaging intent through the rites of righteousness is a shopworn technique in the treadmill of the marketplace. The line-up of probationer-patsy never ends.

CURL By Robert Beveridge One curl slips down over your eye

The convenience of religious receipts quietens the argument against it: manipulation of the conscience as it were. Why create a chasm? Legists at both end of the brief are believers.

I brush it back and my fingers play against your scalp in the jungle of your hair.

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Love Lines Wendy Pettifer

reviewed by Adele C Geraghty “Love Lines” is the brilliant first collection from Wendy Pettifer, consisting of merely twentyseven poems. However, don’t consider for a second that these long awaited, self-published gems are lacking in any way, because each one is so startlingly evocative as to leave a lasting effect, with the firm and equal tenacity of a thousand page novel. Whatever motivated this reticent poet to finally decide it was time to gather the wordy heartbeats of a lifetime may rightfully be hers alone to know. Pettifer tells us in her introduction that she began writing poetry at the age of 13, “but only now have the time to publish after a lifetime of adventure: as a mother, daughter, lawyer, traveller, lover, grandmother.” Whatever the circumstances allowing her the needed time, her decision to share the vignette moments of her life, times and locations in our changing world, is one of this reader’s best finds of the year. Pettifer has spent more than 40 years in Hackney, London and much of her milestone and character-building events farther afield were experienced or derived from there. Her daughter was born in Hackney, she worked and studied there. It was also there that she began her career as a lawyer. Pettifer seems to have marked these passages with poetry along the way; not fruitfully but consistently, so despite her collection being small, it’s content is rich and varied. She writes of Hackney, it’s social growth and gentrifying decline, not as a familiar location, but as a living soul who shaped her life and supported her choices. Closure of Shoreditch County Court The iron door locks behind the closed court. Empty rooms uneasy at the guilty memory of rough justice. No more clerks hustling over the important day’s list. Only sweat stained leather benches Bearing witness to anxious bodies Waiting for Judgement about their lives from beneath a horsehair wig.

Onto the streets or into the cell: Loss of liberty and dignity either way. Nobody cares now, questionnaires filled in online, No written record to prove the truth. Too hard for the illiterate, The mad, the bad, the terrified Who should’ve taken the tablets, stayed at home, learnt to read Litigants in person fail to understand procedures, places, cases Battles between the dispossessed and their deniers rage elsewhere As ghosts float on motes of dust in Shoreditch County Court. Her poems cover her time as a volunteer lawyer in Calais as well, with French organisation; la Cabane Juridique. She and her group managed to transfer more than 100 refugee children, living in camps, to the UK, finally to be united with family members. But, despite the often darker aspects of her work, Pettifer’s poems are always both subliminally funny and bitter sweet; she always maintains beauty in the face of ugliness, happiness in the wells of despair. Her poetry tells us that there is no life of goodness, without which the bad is also part.

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Sleeping Baby I lie in the afternoon room Darkened by blinds with a star scape Next to the snortling snuffling son I never had The grandson I do have Red gold curls tousled behind tiny ears Peter Rabbit clutched in his right fist Knees bent, bum up in the air And I know I want to go on living Until his shadow is longer than mine

Thanks to the Men Thanks to the men in whose beds I’ve stayed Thanks for the pleasure of getting me laid You were mostly honest and gentle and true So don’t let my death make you feel blue Some left before me and some stayed behind Arthur went first which was really unkind I laid mother’s roses on Henry’s grave For there was a soul no god could have saved

There are still some pleasures in life to be had Time moves on, children grow, parents die, we Eating and drinking are not always bad So for those of you left, especially dear Nick become ill. In 2019, Pettifer was diagnosed with cancer, but she kept going, writing herself Die peacefully darling and get here real quick through to remission. At least one poem created for every turn of circumstance; amassing “Love Lines” is a heady, lusty, heart-rending slowly, the essence of a life lived fully and not tribute to time well spent, by a woman of brave denied. There is an exquisite irony in her poexchange and focused dedication. “Love ems. One feels almost guilty for laughing, Lines” is available for £6.00, through Paypal at when all is in such dire circumstance and pettiferwendy@hotmail.com yet…Pettifer allows us that freedom. Death comes to us all so, why despair? GOLD DUST

The Writings of Cordwainer Smith by Jim Buck Cordwainer Smith – a name, packed with sinew and brawn – was a pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger . LInebarger’s published works on pre-revolutionary China helped shape US Foreign policy. He was well placed to produce such specialist studies, his father having mediated US financial support during the pivotal moment of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911. The family earned the lasting friendship of the Chinese Nationalist leader Sun Yat Sen (from whom both Chang Kai Shek and Mao Zedung claimed succession). The ties were so close that Yat Sen conferred on Paul the godson name Lin Bah Loh, which is an ingenious composite of the Chinese “Forest of Incandescent Bliss” and a phonetic approximation of how Chinese speakers pronounce the name “Linebarger”. According to the Jerry Lee Lewis song “what's made Milwaukee famous” is its beer, yet Orson Welles was born there, as was Paul Linebarger. The Milwaukee Public Library website makes proud mention of the Welles connection, and rolls out a list of other notable and local artists and writers. Linebarger does not make the list—neither under his birth name nor as Cordwainer Smith. Gold Dust

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My search of the library’s catalogue brought up nothing for Cordwainer Smith. But he wrote sci-fi, died in 1965, and was obscure even then. LInebarger though? Well, under that name he wrote a book still regarded in its field as classic and definitive: Psychological Warfare. Amazon (boo! Hiss!) blurbs it thus: “Originally published in 1948 and used as a textbook by the United States Army for years, this authoritative guide provides a complete theoretical exploration of the purpose and nature of propaganda in times of war. Detailing and defining the history, strategies, limitations, and effectiveness of psychological warfare, this reference allows readers to draw comparisons to the modern usage of such techniques that exist in the news media and within advertising and political campaigns.” Despite the book’s pre-eminence, the Milwaukee Public Library holds no copy of it. 44


However, Durham Clayport Library (UK) does register a copy in its catalogue, but it is marked as “Missing”. Which leads one to wonder if it ended up on Dominic Cummings’ bookshelf? What is available at Milwaukee, as a special loan from the basement, is a book by the psychoanalyst Robert Lidner, author of Rebel Without A Cause, and of the screenplay of the James Dean movie. Lidner’s follow up book also became a best seller; its title, The Fifty Minute Hour, reflects the subject matter i.e. fictionalised case histories from Lidner’s clinical practice. There is quite compelling evidence that the subject of the most intriguing of those case-histories is none other than our man Paul Lindebarger a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith – redesignated, by Lidner, for purposes of patient confidentiality, Kirk Allen. “Kirk Allen” features in the study entitled The Jet-propelled Couch. In Lidner’s telling, the subject is a physicist working on the Manhattan Project. He is an extremely valued easset of the government. However, at the time of referral to Dr. Lidner, Allen’s peers and supervisors have become concerned over his increasing mental distraction. On arrival at Lidner’s office in Baltimore, Kirk Allen proved to be amiable, communicative and rational in his speech – if a little diffident and embarrassed about contact with a shrink. In the series of sessions which followed, Lidner obtained details of early biography that parallel those of Paul Linebarger: Born in the US, father a diplomat, childhood years spent in various far eastern countries, acquisition of a half dozen languages including Chinese and dialects, and Japanese. The construction of Lidner’s case-history reflects the psychoanalytic paradigm of the time, i.e. concentration on early sexual experiences and influences, parental psychodynamics – particularly centred on an overbearing father. In those more censorious times, the reading public eagerly devoured such open accounts of sexual intimations and awakenings. Psychoanalytic theory has since developed a vastly more sophisticated understanding of the human predicament. Yet, even at the time, what fired the imagination of American readers was the

revelation of Kirk Allen’s inner life, the details of which had no extravagant sexual content; and it was that, as much as anything else, which propelled The Fifty Minute Hour into the bestseller list. It became clear to the psychiatrist that his patient Kirk Allen was living a “double life”. Double life is a banal enough phrase; one may apply it to marital cheaters or, at the other end of the scale, to double-agent physicists who sell atomic secrets to foreign powers. In fact, Lidner was completing his book in 1953, a year which saw the US execute Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for sharing with the USSR the means to construct nuclear weapons. However, the double life that had Kirk Allen in its grip had no interface with nuclear politics. His fantasy life depended on sci-fi fantasy technology that transported him, via galaxy-spanning vehicles, to a parallel universe – one which Kirk had been constructing since his early teens. A friendless white boy in an Asian milieu, Kirk found distraction from his misery in a series of pulp scifi novels – the hero of which, by coincidence, shared his name: Kirk Allen. Constant rereading of the books structured the young Kirk’s mind along the lines of an alternative biography. Eventually, the fantasy structure took on locomotive power and, chugging along the lines set down by the books, headed out into an everexpanding network, mapped, timetabled and coordinated by his own imagination. Within that infrastructure, the real Kirk Allen took refuge from the emotional privations of his actual life. As Kirk’s real-life elite education progressed there developed an inductive relationship between that and the chronicles of his fantasy universe. Years later, Kirk inventoried it for Lidner, and this is the relevant excerpt from the book: “There were, to begin with, about 12,000 pages of typescript comprising the amended “biography” of Kirk Allen. This was divided into some 200 chapters and read like fiction. Appended to these pages were approximately 2,000 more of notes in Kirk’s handwriting, containing corrections necessitated by his more recent “researches,” and a huge bundle of scraps 45

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and jottings on envelopes, receipted bills, laundry slips. “There also were: a glossary of names and terms that ran to more than 100 pages; 82 fullcolor maps carefully drawn to scale, 23 of planetary bodies in four projections, 31 of land masses on these planets, 14 labeled ‘Kirk Allen’s Expedition to –’, the remainder of cities on the various planets; 161 architectural sketches and elevations, all carefully scaled and annotated; 12 genealogical tables; an 18-page description of the galactic system in which Kirk Allen’s home planet was contained, with four astronomical charts, one for each of the seasons, and nine star-maps of the skies from observatories on other planets in the system; a 200-page history of the empire Kirk Allen ruled, with a three-page table of dates and names of battles or outstanding historical events; a series of 44 folders containing from 2 to 20 pages apiece, each dealing with some aspect – social, economic, or scientific – of the planet over which Kirk Allen ruled. Finally, there were 306 drawings of people, animals, plants, insects, weapons, utensils, machines, articles of clothing, vehicles, instruments, and furniture.” (Robert Lidner, The Fifty Minute Hour, 1955.) In classic pop psychology style, Kirk’s psychosis is erased by the grace of the psychoanalytic transference: Lidner is required to delve extensively into his client’s writings, and is himself captured by the universe imagined by Kirk. The old joke has it that “Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics move into them, and psychiatrists collect the rent”. What is purported to have happened here is that Lidner evicted his psychotic patient, and moved into the imaginary castle himself. Happily, Lidner’s own psychosis proved transient. Soon he was riding the waves of the media sensation triggered by the book, and netting the rewards (short-lived, for him, as it proved, tragically). Down the years, attempts to ascertain the identity of “Kirk Allen” have focused on matching the names of physicists to those of sci-fi pulp fiction heroes. Red herrings have been the only catch. The naiveté of the approach is evident when one considers that Lidner would have had his book cleared by the US State Department. No pointers to the actual identity of “Kirk Allen” would have been left unturned. We do know that the man who wrote as Cordwainer Smith (i.e. Paul Lindebarger) was an intelligence asset of extremely high value. He was 23 years old when he earned his PhD in

Political Science. Five years later, US entry into WW2 saw him posted to China, to Operations Planning and Intelligence. Postwar service, attached to the British Army inMalaya, lead Lindebarger seamlessly to the US 8th Army in Korea. All this anticommunist activity, bloody as it was, had the paradoxical effect of convincing Lindebarger, for a short while at least, that the trend of history was to the inevitable triumph of communism. Perhaps it was at this period that he was referred to Lidner for psychiatric treatment? What we can verify is that Lindebarger began writing as Cordwainer Smith in 1947. During the ensuing 18 years, he produced in literary form sci-fi stories informed by the tropes and styles of Chinese folktales. They are imbued with rich anthropological and imagined historical provenance. Each of the stories references every other in some way. They jump backwards and forwards in their imagined time and place, escaping into each other as the notes in a Bach fugue do. Overarching is the theme of Hegelian antagonism, resolution, and re-antagonism – all executed with the intimacy of a Beatles song. Sample title: The Dead Lady of Clown Town. Instrumentality of Man is the pantheon of gods and goddesses directing the course of human history. They have the capacity to create a perfect world, and indeed, they have done so occasionally – and it endured for long eons. Nevertheless, they decided that perfect prosperity and peace is boring, and so brought back hierarchy, slavery, and strife. A bit like the agenda of recent governments on the fringes of the Atlantic, if you ask me. One thing that the Instrumentality declines to bring back though is death. As the Catholic Church avers, the prospect of eternal life facilities terrors and tortures too useful to dispense with. Citizens can have the indeterminate status “Dead”, but it can never be forever. The Rediscovery of Man, by Cordwainer Smith, is cheap to buy on Kindle. His masterwork Psychological Warfare may be bought cheap there too. But why not downloaded it free at Project Gutenberg?

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The Contributors Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu will be published this fall by Encircle Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in Publications. He studied writing and Modern and Meforeign intelligence and international sales. He’s had dieval literature at UC Santa Cruz under George over two hundred fifty stories and poems published Hitchcock, Raymond Carver and Robert Durling. He so far, and five books. Ed works the other side of writ- is very fond of baseball, Miles Davis, Kafka and Daning at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the rete. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist view board and manages a posse of four review and documentarian, Joan Juster, where he makes his editors. meager living pointing out pretty things.

Poetry

Dianne (Di) Bates is a full-time freelance writer. She is the author of 130+ books, mostly for young people and is a recipient of ‘The Lady Cutler Award’ for distinguished services to Children’s Literature. She has had several poems published, for adults and for children.

Joan McNerney has had poetry included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, Blueline, and Halcyon Days. Three Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Review Journals, and numerous Kind of A Hurricane Press Publications have accepted her work. Her latest title is Robert Beveridge; November 2018 marked Robert Having Lunch with the Sky and she has four Best of Beveridge's thirtieth anniversary as a publishing poet. the Net nominations. When not writing, he makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) in Akron, Ohio. Gerry Sarnat’s MDs won the Poetry in Arts First Recent/upcoming appearances in Pink Litter, Triadæ, Place Award/Dorfman Prizes and has been nominatand Welter, among others. ed for Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. He has Vern Fein is a retired teacher who has published nearly one hundred poems and short pieces on a variety of sites, including: *82 Review, The Literary Nest, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Courtship of Winds, Ibis Head Review, Spindrift, Former People, 500 Miles, and The Write Launch, and has non-fiction pieces in Quail Bell, The Write Place at the Write Time, and Adelaide, plus a short story in the the online magazine Duende from Goddard College in Vermont. Robert Fern while well published in his academic field, has made his first attempt to publish one of his short stories, in his atmospheric horror tale entitled 'The lighthouse at the Cat’s Spine' in Between These Shores Annual Issue 3, Dec. 2019. Robert has written for many years, completing a novel and recently focusing on the short fiction that he loves.

authored Homeless Chronicles (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014) and Melting The Ice King (2016) and is widely published in academic-related journals including Stanford, Oberlin, Wesleyan, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, American Jewish University, and many others. Also in San Francisco Magazine and New York Times. Mount Analogue selected Kaddish for distribution on nationwide Inauguration Day. His poetry was chosen for a 50th Harvard reunion Dylan symposium. Samuel Swauger is an author and poet from Baltimore, Maryland. His website is samuelswauger.com, and his Twitter username is @samuelswauge

Vivian Wagner lives in New Concord, Ohio, where she’s an associate professor of English at Muskingum University. Her work has appeared in Slice Magazine, Muse/A Journal, Forage Poetry Journal, Clare Harris is a recent college graduate living in VirPittsburgh Poetry Review, McSweeney's Internet Tenginia. She loves her dog, travelling, and the general dency, Gone Lawn, The Atlantic, Narratively, The Ilbeauty of the world around her, though she seldom anot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, Bending writes about any of those happy topics. Genres, and other publications. She's the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and Phil Huffy practiced law long enough. Trained to 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington); a fullthink on his feet, he continues that custom, then length poetry collection, Raising (Clare Songbirds writes things down at his kitchen table. Placements of Publishing House); and three poetry chapbooks: The his work have appeared in The Lyric, Chantwood, Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsay Eunoia, Sarasvati, Gravel and several haiku journals. Books), Making (Origami Poems Project), and Curiosities (Unsolicited Press). Stephen Kingsnorth, 67, is retired from ministry in the Methodist Church, living in north Wales. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease five years ago and has been writing poetry for some 9 months. 47

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kis and Cavafy, he likes to rub shoulders with marginalised people and look after gardens, pets and houses he does not own. While no reflection on his Paul Murgatroyd, After a long career as a professor attention span in maths classes at school, he long of Classics, retired three and a half years ago and ago lost count of his publications and the number of started writing novels and short stories. Eleven of the countries he has been in. latter have been published, along with three poems in English and over fifty of his Latin poems. Jean Duggleby is a retired primary teacher who

Prose

Ingrid Bruck writes short form poetry and creative non-fiction. She enjoys growing wildflowers and making jam. She contributes a monthly column called Pearl Diving (online writer resources) at Between These Shores and is a member of the BTSA Editorial Team. She has one chapbook: Finding Stella Maris (Flutter Press). Current work appears in Failed Haiku, Halcyon Days, Red Fez, Quatrain.Fish, Communicator’s League and Leaves of Ink. Poetry site: www.ingridbruck.com Jane Seaford’s novel The Insides of Banana Skins and a short story collection, Dead is Dead and Other Stories were published both as paperbacks and ebooks in November 2016. Another novel, Archie’s Daughter was e-published by Really Blue Books in 2012. All three books have received excellent reviews. Several of her short stories have been placed, highly commended or short-listed in international competitions. Many have appeared in anthologies or magazines. Others have been broadcast on Radio New Zealand. As a freelance journalist she had a column in the magazine Bonjour and sold pieces to the Guardian, the Independent and other British publications. She is the competition secretary for takahē, a New Zealand literary magazine. Her website is janeseaford.com S.W.Pisciotta lives in Colorado, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of the United States. He is a writer and a visual artist. He loves sitting alone in the early morning hours while sipping coffee and watching the dog sleep, sitting at the bar while looking into a pint of craft beer, and sitting in his studio creating works of fiction and visual art. Obviously, he enjoys sitting. Of course, there's also hiking with his wife, and walking said dog, and playing tennis or skiing--but, yes, it all usually ends with him finding a good place to sit--and dream. View more of his work at www.silo34.com Jason Vandaele was born in Belgium, in the years since he has studied, worked and played in Europe, Japan and America, penning short stories along the way. Lindsay Boyd is a regular contributor to Gold Dust. He is a writer, personal carer and traveler still waiting for his boat to come in. Originally from outside Melbourne in Australia, he has published and self-published, poetry, articles, stories, memoirs and novels. He also writes screenplays and has made a number of low-budget films. When not emulating his poetic heroes, among them Dostoyevsky, Hesse, Kazantza-

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eventually specialised in teaching deaf children, and started writing short stories only about three years ago after becoming inspired at a Creative Writing course which she attended originally in order to make the tea (!). She lives with her partner in East London and has a married daughter and baby granddaughter in New Zealand. She has lived in east or north London all of her life except for three years in Hong Kong as a young woman. She likes reading, walking, gardening, travel and cinema, and teaches Circle Dancing. James Bates lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet, Mused - The BellaOnline Literary Review, Ariel Chart and Potato Soup Journal. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com John Riebow was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he attended the W. B. School High School of Agriculture Sciences, majoring in Horticulture. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from Temple University, is a LEED-Accredited Professional, and serves as Director of Design for a design-build-development general contractor. Brad Cobb lives in England Arkansas. He has been published in several literary journals such as Bayou Magazine and Arkansas Review. His short story collection, A Brief Autumn Hunt and Other Stories, was a top ten finalist in the 2018 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. Jim Buck's father is from Kerry, mother from Cork. Stolen at birth and dragged up in an industrial hellhole in England. Irish again now with lots of nice rural relatives. I can’t get the English out of me though. Spent half of my working life installing signals and other track equipment for British Rail. I worked in the very same gang that was fictionalised on the screen by Ken Loach. I came up with the title: ‘Navigators’ and the expectation was that I would make an appearance in it. That did not happen because Loach did not like the look of me. As it turns out, many people think I look rather like him! Aspiring actors have tried to bed me on that basis; Mary Beard waved with great enthusiasm at me, as I entered the BFI bar at a screening of ‘Sorry We Missed You’. One night in a Berlin... (continued Page 94)

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