James Magazine

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Contents The Mirrored Room by John Sawney …................................................................ 4 Meeting Antonio Inoki by Ben Sixsmith …............................................................ 7 Now Unobscured (Noetic November And Walking the Sight Lines With Emily Dickinson) by Brian Michael Barbeito …................................................................................. 10 Saying No by Sharon Boothroyd …....................................................................... 12 Stale Smoke by Becky Kerrigan …........................................................................ 14

Created by Michael Holloway Melissa James

October 2016


THE MIRRORED ROOM by John Sawney Already Frank was finding it difficult to remember his old life clearly, though he couldn’t have been in the mirrored room for more than a couple of weeks. Even without windows, without seeing the cycle of night and day, he had still hung on to some rough notion of time. They’d taken him from his home between ten and twenty sleeps ago. It was possible to surmise the time of day by reference to his meals and his bowel movements. Both were strictly regular. He was determined to stay positive, to keep his mind in some kind of order, even if everything was set against him doing so. On the first day they took his clothes, and he’d gone naked ever since. That had taken some getting used to. The room in which they had imprisoned him looked a little like a ballet studio, with every wall covered in mirrored panels from floor to ceiling. The door was one such panel, indistinguishable from the others until it was opened from the outside. There was no furniture at all. The floor was bare white concrete, and at first Frank did his best to avoid sitting on it, just as he had tried to avoid the sight of his ubiquitous reflection. Both had made him uncomfortably conscious of his soft white torso and drooping testicles, but by now he’d grown used to living in his own skin. It no longer bothered him to sit on the cold floor. He’d become immune to it, just as he’d become almost blind to his reflection, which was little more than a shadow to him now. The guards brought him a meal once a day and cleaned up his faeces from the corner of the room. They were two nondescript men of identical height and build, wearing identical dark boiler suits and carrying identical truncheons. Frank had never once heard them speak, not even to each other. He’d tried to communicate with them many times, but they never made any sign that they heard or understood. On his third or fourth day in the mirrored room, maddened at having been ignored for so long, Frank had attacked them with his fists. They beat him to the ground with their truncheons, just enough to subdue him, then left. So the guards were not needlessly cruel, it seemed. There were even evidences of a sort of kindness. Lately they had taken to bringing Frank what might be termed gifts. There was no discernible logic in their offerings, no discernible pattern. So far there had been a squeaking rubber ball, a stainless steel fork, a broken fishing reel, a stack of women’s magazines, a Rubik’s cube, an empty watering can and a filthy plastic doll that was missing both arms and most of its hair. Frank was grateful for the fork and the magazines. He quickly became bored with the Rubik’s cube after he failed to make any progress with it. He showed no interest in the other items, and these discreetly disappeared while he was asleep. Then one day they brought Frank their most extravagant offering yet. It was a woman. She was about thirty, with brownish hair that somehow managed to look dry and greasy at the same time. From the way she strained to look at him, Frank guessed that the guards had confiscated her glasses along with her clothes. ‘I’m Frank.’ His voice was weak after going unused for so long. He cleared his throat. ‘Hello.’ She peered at him blankly. The guards nudged her towards him with their truncheons and then backed out of the room. The door closed and became indistinguishable from the other mirrored panels. ‘Hello,’ he repeated. ‘My name’s Frank. What’s your name?’ She peered back at him. ‘Vaffour?’ she said, or at least that is what it sounded like to him. He saw that she had very bad teeth. ‘Come again?’ She repeated herself three or four times before Frank realised she was speaking in a language he didn’t recognise. 3

‘Are you hungry?’ he said, and pointed to the meal the guards had left on the floor. Today it was a bowl of miniature sausage rolls. Yesterday it had been several bars of sickly white chocolate. She shook her head. ‘Yai fustor eaga.’ Frank laid the palm of his hand against his chest. ‘Frank,’ he said. ‘Vaffour?’ she repeated, shaking her head. Fine, he thought, I’ll call her Vaffour. He did his best to make her comfortable in that sparse room, and tried to show through body language and tone of voice that he meant her no harm. She mostly sat in the corner and cried, sometimes jabbering away in her own language, sometimes only repeating that one word over and over again. ‘Vaffour... vaffour...’ Frank reminded himself that this was her first day. He bore it patiently when she woke him with her sobbing in what he guessed must be the night time. The next morning the guards came in, but this time they brought no food. Between them they picked up Vaffour by her arms and dragged her over to where Frank lay, dazed from lack of sleep. They threw her down on the concrete next to him, and she began to wail. ‘Vaffour! Vaffour!’ ‘What are you doing?’ Frank said to them. ‘Look here, there’s no need for that kind of—’ One of the guards raised his truncheon and jabbed it in the air towards Frank. Then he pointed it at Vaffour. ‘What do you want?’ said Frank. ‘Why don’t you just bloody speak to me?’ The guard pointed his truncheon again at Vaffour, more insistently. He was pointing at her crotch. ‘Nye!’ she wailed, and Frank understood. ‘You can forget it.’ He felt his face grow hot. ‘Out of the question.’ The guards scowled at him in silence, and when he showed no sign of moving they eventually left the cell. Vaffour crawled back to her corner and lay there sobbing. The guards didn’t return that day, and no meal came. The next day was the same, only more so. The guards came in and dragged Vaffour over to where Frank lay. This time they actually threw her onto him. She smelt strongly of urine and sweat, something he had already noticed from a distance, and now he almost retched at having her up this close. She let out a piercing wail, spraying spittle and bad breath into his face. ‘I told you no!’ said Frank, throwing Vaffour off more violently than he meant to. ‘What are you playing at? Do you mean to starve us until we...’ He couldn’t bring himself to say it. He felt his face grow hot again, and before he knew what he was doing he took a swing at the guard nearest to him. He missed, and the other guard struck him across the backs of his legs with his truncheon. Frank crumpled to the floor, scraping his hands and knees bloody on the concrete floor, and the guards left. He and Vaffour went without food once again. The next morning, however, one of the guards brought in a tray laden with three steaming bowls of porridge. The other brought in a new companion to share their mirrored cell. This was a burly, pug-faced man about ten years younger than Frank. ‘Y’alright,’ said the newcomer, unabashed in his nakedness as they took off his handcuffs. ‘Name’s Danny.’ ‘Frank,’ said Frank. He gestured towards Vaffour, who was asleep. ‘This is... actually, I don’t know her name. I think she’s foreign.’ The guards left the room, and the door disappeared. Danny looked around the room, and then at Frank again. ‘Been here long, have you?’ ‘A few weeks, maybe.’ ‘What about her?’ ‘A couple of days.’ Frank bent to pick up a bowl of porridge from the tray and handed it to 4

Danny, then took one for himself. He had no spoon, so he put the bowl to his lips and tipped the hot sticky mess into his mouth. It tasted wonderful. He wiped his mouth on his forearm and looked at Danny. ‘So when did they get you?’ ‘Dunno,’ said Danny. ‘Last night, I suppose.’ He tipped the porridge into his mouth, keeping his eye on Frank. When the bowl was empty he nodded to where Vaffour lay sleeping. ‘Your friend over there… are you and her…?’ Frank flushed again. ‘No.’ ‘No. Foreign, eh?’ ‘Look,’ said Frank. ‘I think we need to talk about what we’re doing here. I mean… I’ve been locked up in here for all this time and I still don’t know why. I can’t get those guards to say a bloody word about it. Did they take you from your home?’ Danny shrugged. ‘Suppose. Woke up this morning in the back of a van with no clothes on, in handcuffs. Thought I was going to get tortured or something. Then they opened up the van and put a bag over my head, and… well, here I am.’ He nodded distantly, and his eyes drifted over to where Vaffour lay. ‘And you’ve got no idea why they took you?’ said Frank, taking a seat on the floor. The porridge was very filling after two days without food, and it was making him feel sleepy. ‘Not a clue, mate.’ ‘You don’t seem very curious.’ Danny smiled unpleasantly. ‘What’s the point? Has being curious done you any good in here?’ Frank shook his head, eyelids drooping, and leaned back on one elbow. ‘I suppose not. Maybe they’re punishing us for something. Maybe it’s all just one big practical joke...’ He yawned. ‘Only I don’t see anyone laughing...’ Danny laughed, as if to spite him, and Frank dozed uncomfortably where he lay. Some time later he was awoken by the screaming. ‘Nye! Nye!’ At first he thought it was his wife, long dead though she was, but then he saw that it was Vaffour. She lay face down on the floor, screaming and sobbing, pinned down by Danny’s hairy forearms. ‘Nye!’ she cried, struggling against Danny’s strength. His face was red with exertion, and he was grinning. ‘There, there,’ he said through gritted teeth. ‘That’s a good girl. Won’t be long now.’ ‘Nye!’ ‘Get off her!’ Frank sprang to his feet. The smile disappeared from Danny’s face as he stood and faced Frank, squaring his shoulders. Vaffour scurried away from them on all fours, weeping. Then Danny seized Frank by the throat with both hands. Within seconds the guards were in the room, beating Danny across the head and shoulders with their truncheons. The grip on Frank’s throat loosened. Frank took a few stray blows, but he didn’t care, such was his relief to feel the cool air flowing back into his lungs. Tears of gratitude spilled down his cheeks. As soon as Danny was subdued, the guards dragged Frank towards the door by his arms. His toes trailed and chafed on the concrete. A bag went over his head, and for the first time in weeks he knew darkness. He felt his strength returning. When he found his feet and walked, they stopped dragging him and allowed him to go at his own pace. They stopped at the rear of some unseen vehicle whose engine was running, and he heard them open the doors. The handcuffs curled cold around his wrists and clicked shut. The guards took him by the arms again, and he didn’t resist when they shoved him into the back of the van. With Vaffour’s screams beginning again in the distance as the doors slammed shut, Frank settled onto the dirty floor of the van and soon drifted into a gentle sleep.


Meeting Antonio Inoki by Ben Sixsmith I was a hundred miles from Okayama and did not have the money for a beer or pork bun never mind a bus. The show was in six hours and when I called the promoter I heard a dull beep. I missed Tokyo, where benevolence and mistrust ensured that everything was laid on for a valued gaikokujin. So, I held my thumb aloft. At six foot and two hundred and fifty pounds, with three day's stubble and a mess of brown hair, I was an intimidating prospect for drivers. Still, I hoped that if the Gods were smiling one of them would recognise me - or, at least, that I'd remind them of a cartoon character. At the corner where the byroad met the Chugoku Expressway I stood so as to let would-be saviours glimpse the cheek without the scar. A gyaru-oh kid in sunglasses was first to pass. He gave a thumbs-up through the window and shouted a cheerful greeting as he raced into the distance. “Git.” Some drivers slowed, as if observers in a zoo, but then accelerated past me as I looked towards them. An hour dragged by before a green Toyota eased to a stop. A door was pushed aside and a man's face looked out. I cleared my throat. “English?” “Japanese.” “あなたは、岡山に行っている?” “I see the confusion. You meant do I speak English. Yes.” “Are you going to Okayama?” “はい.” I squeezed into the car. He offered me a cigarette and I shook my head. “You can, though.” “Yes,” he said, “I can.” He occupied the space between youth and middle age. Furrows marked the edges of broad lips and keen eyes, and tinges of grey were shot throughout his hair. He smoked by dragging on a cigarette and turning to exhale through the window. I appreciated the thought but would have been happier if he had kept his eyes on the road. There is something poignant about futile generosity. I once told my Gran how much I loved her ginger cakes, and she proceeded to reveal them whenever we met. My pleasure at being able to greet them with enthusiasm from the first time to the last makes up for what an ordeal it was to eat the things. The man fixed his eyes on the road and did not turn or speak to me. I looked out of the window. The borders of the Chugoku Expressway are lined with tall, shaggy trees, and beyond them are farmlands. I thought I could see patterns in the colour of fields – one olive per three light greens or two dark greens to one auburn – but the pastime was soporific. I had had four or five hours sleep in my little capsule and did not want to feel drowsy while I was working. “Are you hungry?” He asked. “No.” “I am.” I had not wanted him to feel obliged to feed me but he looked as if he had wanted someone to empathise with him. “Perhaps a bit hungry.” He nodded and smiled. “I've left my wife.” He said it in a tone with which you might tell somebody your name or comment on the 6

weather. “Oh.” “She knew that I was leaving. I haven't disappeared.” He looked as if he wanted to talk. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Akita.” “Akita?” He shrank into his side of the car. “What's wrong with Akita?” “Nothing. But you've driven all the way?” I noticed that the car was strewn with soda cans. Butts were spilling from the ashtray and onto the cup holder. A musky smell of burgers and BO hung in the air. It reminded me of changing rooms and Bed & Breakfasts. “Have you stopped since Akita?” “Yes. For petrol.” “When did you last stop?” “About five hours ago.” “Stop. Stop here. You need a break.” He opened his mouth to speak and failed to suppress a yawn. Pursing his lips and shooting a glance towards me, he took the next exit and eased to a halt next to a roadside cafe. It was a humbler set-up: a wooden extension to the house that lurked behind it. One of the pot plants was out of order with the others. I had enough for a coffee and dumped half the sugar bowl into the cup. The man ordered a green tea and bought little rice cakes filled with a paste that looked like jam but tasted more like peanut butter. “I think she was glad.” “You didn't get on?” “We 'got on',” he said, “But I 'get on' with the man who sells me fish.” “Perhaps you should have married him. You would have eaten well.” “You can't have a marriage around fish,” he sighed, “Not even salmon.” I shrugged and ate another cake. “We had pak choi...” His fist was tightening around his cup. “My wife refused a second helping...” “Oh?” “I said I thought she liked it, and she told me she pretended to because she thought I liked it, and I said I pretended to like it because I thought...” “I see...” “She said she made dinner because she thought I'd be upset. I said that was the reason that I talked to her.” The cup slipped in his grasp and spilled tea over his wrist. He looked down in surprise before finishing his thought. “She said that was the reason she slept with me.” “But you had to leave?” I asked. “Did you not have a job?” “Yes,” he said, “A lawyer. But if I could not pretend to love my wife I could not pretend to care about thieves and rapists.” We sat for a while and looked across the countryside. “What are you doing in Japan?” “I am a wrestler.” He gazed the scar. 7

“I thought you had a story.” I touched the old souvenir from a brawl in Texas, where a barbed wire bat had slashed my cheek as it was swung before me. If the other man had been less cautious and just smacked me with the thing, the barbs would have hit so fast that they would have entered and left the flesh without tearing it. “You don't speak like a wrestler.” “A good wrestler should speak everyone's language, and better than they can.” “Pardon?” “I went to university.” We travelled down the hills and through the suburbs of Okayama. Enclosed by the cool grey tower blocks, we discussed the performers he had watched as a young man. “Have you met Inoki?” “Once.” “Did you speak to him?” “He asked if I knew the Queen or Dynamite Kid.” “What is he like?” “God knows,” I said, “Who would want to know what Inoki is really like? It would be disappointing.” He insisted on driving me up to the Hall. “Where are you going now?” I asked. “I don't know,” he shrugged, “Somewhere good for me.” “Thanks, friend,” I said, as he set his eyes on the distance, “And don't worry. You will be alright.” I had said that to my Gran as well. Someone has to say it. The promoter met me inside the arena and was smiles and apologies for the minute he could spare. “I hope you had a pleasant journey.” “Sure,” I said, “Fine.” In the changing room my opponent – a veteran with scars for wrinkles – was pulling spandex over his legs. “Who's doing what tonight?” He asked. “I'm losing,” I replied, “And I'll lose like a champ.” Ben Sixsmith is an English writer living in Poland. He is still trying to improve on a story he wrote at 6 about a glove puppet.


Now Unobscured (Noetic November And Walking the Sight Lines With Emily Dickinson) by Brian Michael Barbeito I told her that there is not much I could say. I told her that the ones she might want to talk to, if there were such ones, were far away and in cities and knew more about books or history. But then, by some foliage that still remained, having cheated death for the time being, and some strange faucet affixed to a wall of a building, I figured I might as well make the most of it and show her around. For her and I. Emily wore white and her hair was two moving birds yet still threaded upon themselves like some open secret. Quiet but not withdrawn, she followed in step and we went forward. I must have made a sight in working pants and keys dangling, almost like a custodian. Now look, I told her, as we rounded a pathway and then saw the entrance to a road that needed passing. I am going to tell you and odd thing, but it might be the most important thing. And I am going to put it first. The poetic and noetic, the salvation and living gnosis or the tumultuous spirit in a sort of trauma due to life itself, are for later, are in fact for you to codify (the laws of the moderns and such if you shall.). I know you to have an acute consciousness to say the least. What I want you to see is the sight-line. It is blocking the traffic and it is dangerous. This is a type of thing that bothers me. Those feral shrubs should be severed. Use them for compost, for fire, for anything, - but they are blocking. A soul could wander out from here, to there, and meet with an ending. So we went and in the going found a light footing. I can’t speak for her actually, but I would say so. She had put a sweater over her white dress and though fuller and with proper shoulders, she still looked small. Some spirit that was about her was not though, and I sensed an eclectic and electrical knowingness. Maybe that was natural for her way and a nonverbal manner of soul. But the world there helped. How so? Well, the November world at dusk in those parts has a sort of wind that comes through the tall grasses. It’s, against reason, cold and somehow warm at once. Nobody knows where it comes from. I suppose there could be lake far off. There are a few actually, but they are a series and not too large. No, the wind comes as if guided from the invisible yet pronounced astral. It brings a bit of dirt and dusk up, but compared to the feelings it evokes well that’s nothing at all to worry about. Emily didn’t worry. Not that she said. Not that I saw. She marched right on and we looked all about. Old oaks, frozen against the dimming sky. Some lights blinking on from an old farmer’s abode. The earth quaking back behind us for traffic and especially trucks (I think just then she glanced backwards some…) I pointed out the long pathways where the coyotes go across, and the coy crescent moon itself that had announced itself. We might be able to see Venus, or the North Star, I proclaimed, but I don’t remember seeing either. Carrying on and around a bend, I explained the physical and psychic landscape the best I could. I spoke at a medium pace and tried to be clear. The field goes in and meets up with another that is lower. Like a Netherlands field. The paths are at the same time like causeways with nothing on the immediate sides. Now, things are dying or have died but have their own beauty if you can see. You would understand this, no? Slight frost, the old pieces of trees strewn across here and there, solitary, flaxen from the sun, bleached of personality like an old soul, clean and steady and ready for the moon to wash it aglow, to wash it and know. The wind brings itself across from somewhere and has prescience and persistence, but none of the glamour of cities and the secular. It carries something sacrosanct and in-tune, something like a secret that can’t really be told but can only be known in another sense. You got it or you don’t. Less and less have it. And if I sometimes look upon a tree making its splash against the sky, it is as if the tree is moving impossibly fast in its stillness. And it moves for real in the wind for a moment, - and is made to shake yet another secret from its limbs. And what is the secret? Well, it is that we are all moribund Emily. Maybe you know 9

that. Surely you do. And at first this makes one to feel aghast or at the least panicky. I mean, my God, - our childhood was for this? - This November of calendar and also of the calendar of our lives? But in the next moment it’s okay. It’s okay even that it’s not okay. We are going, - we are going from here- the trees and the fields shall outlast us and wait for someone else. Maybe I see a rock or a series of rocks,- and they are dreaded and distinct and nothing,- or maybe I feel the opposite,that the fields are lit up from below,- with benevolent lights, the light of existence,- and know this can and shall sustain us and all. But whatever is sensed, there is something beyond. And the field can present this. And if you don’t go in for that,- there is always simply the path and the shrub, the constellations and the night owl or day hawk or red-winged black bird alighting for instances on branches in the spring’s birth. You can take those things on their own terms and be with them and them alone… And soon we were coming up around the largest corner of the fields and it was time to think about heading back. I had to say one more thing. Since all Novembers here are not the same, some are warmer and without snow. If it is late October or early November and it rains, there is a time before the rain. I look with a soft sort of gaze upon a flurry of red and brown leaves on a large tree. These trees have stayed on and the wind tosses and turns them together and it’s before a large storm. There is a second or seconds when it is forgotten or else simply not registered that they are leaves on a tree shaken by pre-storm winds. There is instead a mystery and it is felt, and intense deepness, incredibly melancholic. So much so, in fact, - that death wins. Death is gone into. But it was no death at all. It was life that was really death, and now, in death, paradoxically, one finds life and that one was and is everything. Now unobscured. Do you understand? I understand. She did say one thing more. When we were headed back from the fields there was a lot we traversed. Real dark had taken away the dark blue hue from the sky and I tried to glance up at the firmament. She touched my arm in human concern and said Wait. I looked down and her gaze was up the way, parallel with the one lane highway but blocked by a tree planted or simply grown independently too close to the traffic’s miles: Watch out for the sight line, said Emily.


Saying No by Sharon Boothroyd The rain lashed against the window as I flicked though the photo album. Most of the photographs are of Joe, my grandson, my only grandchild. The image showed an endearing little boy, hair rumpled, a smattering of freckles - The sharp shrill of the phone jolted me. My heart hammered. Should I answer it? I was mellow and warm, here in the past. I didn't want to be yanked back into the present. The noise went on. Finally, I snatched up the phone. Yet I didn't speak. ‘Hi gran, it's me.’ What could I say to make things right? I couldn't find any words of comfort. ‘Are you okay?’ Right now, silence was my only defence. ‘Gran, say something. Please.’ I put the phone down gently and disconnected the line. I switched my mobile off too. Joe was a longed for baby for my thirty five year- old son Andrew, an estate agent, and his advertising executive wife, Steph. Their careers had been priority – it had enabled them to buy a spacious two- bed detached in suburbia. Then they broke the pregnancy news. I was absolutely thrilled! ‘It's the right time now,’ Andrew had declared. Steph’s parents had emigrated to Australia a decade earlier and my husband had left me for someone else when Andrew was a teenager. The usual strong family threads had broken away, so it was up to me to provide the sole grandparenting. Joe was such a precious gift for our little family! I offered to have him of course, yet they'd insisted on putting him in the nursery. He’d be stuck there all day from 8am to 6pm. Poor thing. ‘Couldn't Steph work part- time?’ I asked one Sunday over lunch. 'Don't be silly!' she said. Andrew looked displeased too, so I didn't mention it again. I still babysat a lot - oh, here's a photo of us in the park – a contented baby asleep in his buggy. I turn to the next page. Another photo - Joe's first day at school. I'd taken him, of coursethere was no need for a nanny. I turned the page. Here's a photo of Joe in the local football team - he'd be about ten. Happy days! They'd been no other children for Andrew and Steph. When Joe was fifteen, they'd spilt up. One weekday afternoon, Andrew arrived home early after a visit to the dentist's. He discovered Steph with their window cleaner. It was a horrible clichéd sort of scenario, like a sketch from an 1970's comedy show. Apparently, their affair had been going on for years. There was no rescuing the marriage – Andrew, always a proud man, immediately threw her out. In a state of shock and confusion, Joe came to stay with me in my terrace. Then Andrew had a sort of breakdown. He left his job, put the house up for sale and took a holiday abroad. He never came back. *** Joe's stay became permanent. He didn’t see his parents at all. He received a letter once from Steph – she’d joined her parents in Melbourne. Would he like to visit? She'd pay for his flight... 11

‘Nah’, he screwed the letter up in disgust. As for our Andrew - he'd abandoned me, as well as his son. It hurt, but I put a brave face on for Joe's sake. 'We don't need them', I smiled as I baked a cake. Chocolate was Joe’s favourite. Did I spoil him? Perhaps. Cakes were the start of the never- ending treats. There were computer games for Christmas, designer jewellery for birthdays. I'd wanted to keep him with me, yet at eighteen, he’d wanted to fly the nest. I felt lost and alone again. I thought Joe would stay with me forever. He needed six months rent upfront, plus money for furniture and carpets. I had savings. Well,what else was I going to spend it on? Swanky holidays and cars, posh nosh and fancy handbags held little appeal. When I popped round to his flat, there was a big TV, a high-tech mobile phone and a top of the range computer. No sofa, carpets or curtains though, yet plenty of beer cans stacked up in the fridge. I couldn’t see any food, so next time, I bought two carrier bags full of groceries. Alarmed by the sight of constant bare cupboards, I carried on buying regular staples. When I called in, Joe was in bed asleep and the bread and milk ect simply went untouched. Despite good A level grades, Joe claimed benefit. I’d wanted him to learn a trade - ‘Stop hassling me Gran’, he said. ‘Can I borrow some money?’ Soon, his visits meant only one thing. I could never say no to family. *** The last photo in the album was taken a few weeks ago on my birthday. It was my seventy – fifth. Joe smiled as I blew out the candles on the cake. Joe didn't make the cake - he'd bought it from Asda. Oh -and a greetings card had arrived from Andrew. What a marvellous surprise! It had an American stamp on. He’d scrawled “Happy birthday Mum. So sorry I’ve not been in contact. I love you and miss you. I’ll be home at Christmas.” There was a phone number and an address. My heart soared! I was so happy to hear from him! Only Joe tore it up into tiny shreds and threw it in the bin. *** It’s still raining. It was raining the first time it happened, on my birthday. I’d tried to claw the torn pieces out of the bin, but Joe pushed me out of the way. My head hit the hard floor with an almighty thud. After helping himself to notes out of my purse, Joe had stormed out. I managed to rescue the bit with Andrew's number on. I hid it in a safe place. The second time it happened was now, fifteen minutes ago... suddenly, there’s a hammering on the door. ‘Gran, it's me. Open the door!’ With trembling hands, I re-connect the phone line. I check that the line’s working, then I call the emergency three digit number. I take a deep breath and answer the operator’s question. ‘Police please.’


Stale Smoke by Becky Kerrigan The problem is that somebody loves more, But now I am trying to find out which one of us that was. My body is aching from your absence as you make my insides rot. So why should I be confused on who was more passionate? There is a connection between love and words, The faster the need to write them down the faster it disappears. Vanishing like the flame when a candle is blown out, Being swallowed by the surrounding H2O. You see, you don’t smell like you anymore, Now it’s just stale smoke and unfamiliarity Because you are not a person, you are a place to get stuck in, A maze to never leave. A forrest fire that should have sent me running but instead I stood burning. You’re told to stay away from people that make you feel hard to love, To stop chasing shadows and stop chasing you. As you know I have always been a fan of beauty. The beauty in drunk people. In that moment of pure honesty and smeared makeup. Dripping icicles in the winter. The look of forgotten surroundings upon first waking up. There is beauty in everything, Even in the word itself. I miss the way you mindlessly played with my hand and how your hair always smelled sweet. However, I guess the most important thing to remember is that you don’t really miss me at all. I am barely the dirt beneath your nails and you have kept your hands clean. Oh but dear, shouldn’t you know? You will be adored by someone who sees the meteor showers that pour down your body, The glimmer in your eyes when you're talking about something you love And how you think that the night is more richly coloured than the day. Someone that knows everything about you, How you love unmade beds but have to have everything perfectly straight on your desk. They will know that you're fascinated with people that don't smile and your compulsion to be on the right. This someone will think you’re crazy, But more amazing than you could ever imagine. But I still feel like I’m home when I see you and I have been told many times that you cannot make homes out of human beings. Maybe this new someone will make me feel like the brick instead instead of the window pane.