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Vol.4, No.2 August 2016

LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts

Runner up (2013), Longlisted (2016) - Saboteur Awards, London “A Brilliant Journal. Truly International.” - Hanif Kureishi

Writers’ Forum Sacred Heart College, Thevara


LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts

Writers’ Forum Sacred Heart College, Thevara


Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Vol.4, No.2 August 2016 Published by Writers’ Forum Sacred Heart College Thevara, Kochi, India Only the copyright for this collection is reserved with the editors of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. Individual copyright for artwork, prose, poetry, fiction and extracts of novels and other volumes published in this issue of the magazine rests solely with the authors. The magazine does not claim any of those for its own. No part of this publication may be copied without express written permission from the copyright holders in each case. The magazine is freely circulated on the World Wide Web. It may not be sold or hired out in its digital form to anybody by any agency whatsoever. All disputes are subject to jurisdiction of the courts of the Republic of India. Š Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, 2016 Graphic Design - Mariam Henna Page Settings - Mariam Henna Cover Artwork - Shehanas C.K

Editorial Board Chief Editor - Jose Varghese Associate Editor - Aravind R Nair Design/Layout Editor - Mariam Henna Review Editor - Jude Gerald Lopez Translation Editors - Minu Varghese, Mohammed Zahid Visual Art Editor -Shijo Varghese Photography Editor - Collins Justine Peter Student Editors - Gowri Nair, Sanjay Sreenivas Advisory Board - Alan Summers, Bill Ashcroft, George Szirtes, Kala Ramesh, Loree Westron, Mel Ulm, Patrick Connors, Rana Nayar, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Sudeep Sen


Editorial

I

t’s that time of the year again, and Lakeview welcomes you to more words and images.    We had taken a vow earlier that we won’t ever have another bumper issue since we had one in August 2013 with 336 pagespacked with poems, stories, reviews, interviews and visual arts. The reason for it was that we thought it would break the backs of our already frail and famished editorial team. Well, on a serious note, we thought it could be a bit unwieldy too, if we think of print issues. But a tough situation arose this time, with a record number of submissions. It meant that we had to go slightly beyond the limit of 200 pages we set. But the good news is that you get a significantly larger amount of works that could win you over, including a Flash Fiction Special Feature.    We hope all the works here speak for themselves. The very reason we chose them out of so many quality works we got to read says how we feel about them. In fact, we had many hours of meaningful conversation with these works before taking them home. A large number of contributors this time are established artists and writers and we are proud to feature them alongside those who are relatively new to the field, but are destined to be recognized for their work in the coming years.    We had received enough short fiction submissions to fill ninety percent space and poetry submissions to fill nearly forty percent space allotted for them in our February 2017 issue. Therefore, our next issue will be open to submissions only for poetry, reviews, interviews and visual arts. For the small space we have open for short fiction, we plan to feature the winners of a new independent competition. We hope to post the details of it early next month on our website.    We wish you a great time ahead exploring the works of literature and arts featured here.    The time you spend for us matters the most to us. Your feedback is always appreciated. Your valuable submissions allow us to survive. All these keep us smiling amidst the creative chaos we are always in. Jose Varghese August 2016


In This Issue David Frankel (Short Fiction) Goodbye, Tahiti

51-59

Vrishketu Rathore (Visual Art)

60-67

18-19

Usha Kishore (Book Review) Untamed Heart: a praise song to the contemporary Indian woman

68-71

Aamer Hussein (Short Fiction) Nuria

20-30

Phil Kirby (Poetry) Exeunt

72

Balbir Krishan (Visual Art)

31-36

David McLoghlin (Poetry) Influence The Well

Ben Banyard (Poetry) Body Stories Welcome

73 73

37 38

Kate Ennals (Poetry) I See You

Sarah Schofield (Short Fiction) Like to Disappear

74-78

39

40-47

Inderjeet Mani (Poetry|Translation) Bulleya! Who Knows Who I Am! (Bulleh Shah) Ali G does Kabir Coda (Kabir)

79 80 80

48

Neil Campbell (Short Fiction) Stepping Stones

81-83

49-50

John Grey (Poetry) Directionals

84

Alan McCormick (Short Fiction) Voice Off Chrissie Gittins (Poetry) The Apology Lab The Girl Who Drew Snow Leopards Frank Golden (Poetry) Photographer

Anil Menon (Short Fiction) The Given Larry D. Thacker (Poetry) Tree Mona Dash (Poetry) The visit

11-15

16 17


Kevin Casey (Poetry) Typo in a Church Bulletin

85

Alison Lock (Short Fiction) A taste for blood

86-90

Denise Ryan (Poetry) The Language of Trees On a High

91 92

Jackie Gorman (Poetry) The Wolf Pack The Hedgehog

93 93

Madhushree Ghosh (Book Review) Half of What I Say by Anil Menon: Book Review

94-95

Shehanas.C.K (Visual Art)

96-101

Olga Wojtas (Short Fiction) The Weasel Testament David Groulx (Poetry) Things that God would not An incantation for reincarnation Ken Spillman (Poetry) Graffiti

102-106

107 107

108

Steve Wade (Short Fiction) A Christless World Chris Hardy (Poetry) Fathom Do You Have The Time?

109-114

115 116

Heath Brougher (Poetry) A Night Awake

117

Murali Kamma (Short Fiction) Brahms in the Land of Brahma

118-125

Alyson Faye (Poetry) Very Like Vermeer (A Sonnet)

126

Nabanita Kanungo (Poetry) Absence

127

Sreekanth. P.R. (Visual Art)

128-131

Muddasir Ramzan (Short Fiction) Nowhere Valley

132-137

Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe (Poetry) The Sound My Psychiatrist Makes Unwrapping

138 138

Alisa Velaj (Poetry) The Art Of Taming

139


Nocturne Surrounded By Little Michael’s Merry-Go-Round Marc de Faoite (Short Fiction) The Year Our Voices Broke Jo Burns (Poetry) The Western Ghats Rubber Plantation

139 139

140-150

151

T.A. Morton (Short Fiction) The little girl died and everyone was sad

152-157

Javed Latoo (Poetry) I know a place

158

Gaia Martinelli-Bunzl (Short Fiction) Beneath the surface Emily Bilman (Poetry) The Chameleon-Cycle Michael Washburn (Short Fiction) Then and Now Kiran Chaturvedi (Poetry) Broken

159-162

163

164-170

171

Wendy Shreve (Visual Art)

172-173

Shruti Sareen (Poetry) Radhika

174

Janet Olearski (Short Fiction) Fulfilling Objectives

175-179

Johanna Boal (Poetry) Dry Stone Walls

180

Flash Fiction (Special Feature):

182-213

David Butler The Tattoo

182-183

Cyril Dabydeen KISKADEE & BLUE-SACKIE

184-186

Roger Bonner Désirée Disastra

187-188

Catherine McNamara In God’s House

189-190

Sabine Meier Just for Men

191-192

Shanta Acharya EURYDICE’S STORY

193-194

Tim Sykes General Snowfall

195-196


Rachel J Fenton Octopus Jacqueline Haskell The Opening

197-198

Joy MannĂŠ The Other Trouser Leg

207-208

199-200

Abha Iyengar Home Truth

209-210

Mark Mayes Ajax

211-213

Kev Milsom The Hallway

201-202

Billie Travalini Never Again

203-204

List of Contributors

214-228

Michael Forester Counting Eyes

205-206

Editorial Board

229-236


Short Fiction|Alan McCormick Voice Off

H

e is his own shadow man, embarrassed to stand on solid ground and make an imprint. When he walks for the last time into the television studio his body is a reluctant guest, shirking from its duty to move him, it hunches and sidles along. The features on his face aren’t quite defined on the screen, the thin crease of an apologetic smile just visible: ‘I’m boring but it’s okay: I know it’s not me you want, it’s them, the voices you’ve come for . . .’    The voices, faces and gestures belonged to others, to the stars and their characteristics he’d absorbed and mimicked all through his life. Mum spotted them first and had loved them. She wanted him to spread the joy: ‘Oh, do Danny La Rue for Mrs Rosen, please!’    He didn’t want to.    ‘I’ll buy you a packet of Opal Fruits. Or Elvis, he does a wonderful Elvis, Doreen, almost better than the real thing!’    And so he let out a little of his Elvis: a sudden hip wiggle, shoulder turn and lip quiver: ‘ah, ah, ah! Ah, ah, ah! Oh yeah!’    Mum and Mrs Rosen were off their chairs, clapping.    ‘He was even better yesterday, Doreen,’ shouted Mum.    ‘It’s amazing, Brenda, he’s normally so shy,’ said Mrs Rosen.    ‘Not when he’s doing the voices,’ shouted Mum.    At his peak he was Liberace, Frank Spencer, Frankie Howard, Jeremy Thorpe (difficult that one), Brian Clough and Hudson, the butler in Upstairs Downstairs. Las Vegas had Sinatra, ‘The Voice’, and each summer he was ‘The Voices’ in Blackpool. But when Thatcher won the election in 1979, it spelled the beginning of the end: ‘I’m not doing drag, I’m not a pantomime dame.’    ‘You do La Rue,’ said his agent.    ‘That’s me doing a pantomime dame, not me pretending to be a woman and looking and sounding like a pantomime dame.’    ‘It’s a thin line, surely’    ‘And not one I wish to cross.’    ‘The lady’s not for turning?’    ‘Bugger off, Sid.’    His showbiz glory days, along with several marriages, were well behind him when salacious stories about nineteen-seventies celebrities began to surface, bringing with them memories of his impersonations of the disgraced stars (Saville, Glitter, Harris, Hall). His fan club received an unexpected call: ‘Get your Dad to ring me if he’s sober again, there’s 11

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an exciting offer on the table he might be interested in!’    When they met again, Sid had aged almost as much as he had, but he’d kept up with things and still had an eye for a deal: ‘they want you to share some voices with a new voice man, Ben Gould. You’ve heard of him, right? Ben Gould has edge, he’s down with the youth market!’    ‘I don’t do edge, Sid, and I don’t go down for anyone, you know that.’    ‘Saucy, I like it: your new style? Just remember one thing, my friend, you didn’t do Thatcher and look where that got you. So, are you interested or not?’    ‘I’m interested but I’ve lost faith. The problem isn’t the voices, it’s the scripts mimics have to use: we can’t help but be a pale imitation of the real thing. And if I don’t do voices, say ‘this is me’ and start to sing, people don’t like it.’    ‘You should never have sang, it took the energy out of things.’    ‘Now you tell me.’    ‘This is your chance, don’t be stupid.’    ‘You sound like Captain Mainwaring: “Stupid boy”. “I’m not a stupid boy, tell him uncle Arthur.” “Oh dear, you see, Captain Mainwaring, I’m not at all sure young Pike can handle being spoken to like that.” “Captain Mainwaring, there’s a black cloud hovering yonder, and we’re all doomed. Doomed!” “I’ll sort it, Captain Mainwaring, when those fuzzy wuzzies came at us with their whirling dervishes, I fixed my bayonet and –“ “Sorry to interrupt, Jones but I need the, mmm, mmm, rather quickly.” Six voices in one, there you go!’    ‘Very impressive, but you’ll have to find some new ones, it’s not 1975. I’ve booked you a month of Saga cruises to Ostend to warm you up.’    ‘Death by ferry! Do I have a choice?’    ‘Does the Pope wear Speedos?’    His last attempt at a comeback came fifteen years before with a disastrous single appearance at the Comedy Club. He had recently married Rachel, his second, much younger wife, and wanted to mix it with the young comedians. He’d been drinking heavily before going on, and at the last moment decided to ditch Frankie Howard for Jonathan Ross; not as big a stretch as he thought. He started the evening with Ross in the chair interviewing a parade of celebrity guests. His Sylvester Stallone got a laugh but made his jaw hurt. Al Pacino was wildly unrecognisable so he reverted to an old favourite: ‘Slack Alice said the exit was over there. Oh, shut that door!’    ‘Poofter,’ shouted someone in the audience.    Confusingly, he came back with Frankie Howard: ‘You, sir, can go through my exit any day.’    ‘Not your entrance?’ shouted the heckler. 12

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‘Should have stayed with Grayson.’ He’d stopped speaking out loud and was critiquing in his head. He decided to try Eddie Izzard, a comedian he’d seen once but an impersonation he hadn’t practiced before: ‘I’ve been talking to a monkey, yes, a monkey. It talked a lot, this monkey, which was odd because it was a monkey (stop saying monkey, you’re losing them), big teeth, chimp eyes (chimp works better than monkey). It, he, went to the dentist, vet, and bared his teeth, big sharp teeth, (can’t do Izzard, too random, unfunny), his monkey chimp teeth –’    ‘Get back to the celebrity home and do your Frank Spencer for Betty!’ advised the heckler.    ‘Mmm, Betty, the cat’s done a woopsy in the plant pot,’ added another voice from the side of the stage. It was the young Judas compere, who’d been friendly backstage. It was finished then, embarrassing, he should have left but he had another idea: ‘Mmmm, there are two of us now, Frank, I’ve never seen my reflection before.’    The first missile onto the stage was a banana, and, miraculously, he caught it. If he had the presence of mind (improvisation was never his thing) he might have seamlessly brought back Eddie Izzard and the rambling monkey discourse, and ate the banana but instead he threw it back. Chaos. Bloody chaos.    ‘Dad! Pack three jumpers, it’ll be cold on deck. And don’t be nervous, there’s been more interest in the fan club: three messages yesterday, two of them positive. Get through the ferry gigs and the show with Ben Gould will break you again.’    ‘I hope you mean ‘break’ in a good way, Suzie. Thing is I’ve watched Ben Gould and I just don’t get it. He announces who he’s doing before each voice, then purposely does someone else and then comments on the mistake.’    ‘It’s deconstruction, Dad, it’s popular now.’    ‘But it’s not funny.’    ‘It’s clever, people like clever.’    ‘I can’t tell whether it’s clever or stupid. I’ve never liked people talking about what they’re doing, magicians giving away their tricks. Just do the act, get on, get off.’    ‘It’s okay, Dad, your old school, they’ll love you on the “Ostend Pride”.’    ‘I think you’ll find it’s “Pride of Ostend”, Mrs Thatcher’: Robin Day, one of my best. Will I have to add that now?’    ‘No, not for the Saga crowd, they’ll know who Robin Day is. Just be positive.’    He started to sing: ‘”Always look on the bright side of life.” I think I’ll end the act with it.‘    ‘Dad, not that kind of positive: don’t sing, don’t drink, and you’ll be fine.’ 13

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In the good days he drove to Southampton docks in a Silver Rolls he’d brought from Engelbert Humperdinck. He, Suzie and her Mum, his first wife, went First Class on the QE2.    He met Liz Taylor and Richard Burton at the Dorchester. Liz called him over to their table: ‘Richard and I loved you on TV last night; you were so goddamn funny! Your Liberace, what a hoot! He talks just like that, you know, and you got him, you got him!’    ‘I’m a fan of both of yours, Cleopatra and VIP’s are two of my favourite –‘    ‘Yeah, yeah. Now a little bird tells me you sometimes do Richard reading Dylan Thomas. Will you do it for us, please?’    ‘Are you sure?’    ‘Yes, but it better be good or we’ll have you thrown out.’    ‘To begin at the beginning: it is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black –‘    ‘Jesus, Richard, he’s got you, he’s got you!’    ‘Elizabeth, keep the noise down, you sound like a braying donkey.’    ‘Stop! Stop! It’s uncanny; he’s doing your George talking to my Martha. Oh, Richard, this is just brilliant!’    The real Richard held up a glass filled with Jonny Walker Black. ‘Yours, I think,’ he said, handing it over to him.    He kept up the voices for hours. They were spellbound and by the end of the night two bottles had been emptied.    He left as Dean Martin with a stagey, drunken flourish and bow. He knew not to sing, just whisper ‘That’s amore.’    In the taxi home he reached into his jacket pocket and found a white napkin with ‘thank you’ written in red lipstick on it. Wrapped inside were a pair of diamond cufflinks. It had been his finest hour.    The cabaret on the ferry went better than he’d thought. He’d always stayed clear of Nelson Mandela and hadn’t tried a black impersonation before, apart from a blacked-up Al Jolson, but his Trevor McDonald interviewing prisoners on Indiana Death Row had been an unexpected success: ‘Because of the terrible nature of your crimes, you are hated by society. You will never see your wife or children again. You will either be killed by lethal injection or spend the rest of your life in solitary confinement. Do you ever feel sad?’    ‘No McDonald, leave Gould to be the daring one,’ advised Sid on his return from Ostend.    ‘You wanted edge, new voices!’    ‘The brief has changed, he wants the old voices: Forsyth, Cooper, Emu.’    ‘I thought Gould was “down with the youth”.’    ‘Have you seen “The Trip”’?’    ‘Yes, I didn’t like it.’ 14

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‘It won’t be Capri, it’ll be in a studio with a live audience but he wants you chatting naturally with him, slipping in voices like Rob and Steve do. He’ll handle the new voices, the risky or ironic ones, you’ll do the old ones.’    ‘I could do De Niro, Pacino –’    Sid raised his eyebrows. ‘   Okay, not Pacino.’    ‘You do Forsyth, Cooper, but ditch Emu if you like.’    ‘Replace him with Basil Brush, boom, boom?’    ‘He just wants you doing your voices and he’ll come back at you with his. He’s a fan, he’s not out to destroy you.’    ‘When do I get to see the script?’    ‘There isn’t one, there’s a through line, a story arc. The door is open, you just have to go through it.’    ‘What’s this disaster going to be called?’    ‘Voice off.’    ‘Chatting naturally’ was the problem.’ It would mean he’d have to be himself when not doing the voices, something he’d never been in public before.    Over the next weeks he talked to Ben Gould a few times on the phone but never met him. Gould wanted to keep it real, sparky, spontaneous.     ‘Christ, are we two heavyweights from different eras kept apart before the big fight, and then forced together in the ring: the old pro coming out of retirement to take on the new pretender?’    In his dressing room just before going on he thinks of “Raging Bull”, and Robert De Niro as a washed up Jake La Motta rehearsing his tired nightclub routine: Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront”: “I could have been somebody–“    He wonders about rebelling and slipping the line in, him doing De Niro doing La Motta doing Brando.    Walking out onto the studio stage to meet Gould, he remembers what Suzie had said. Too late to heed her advice not to drink: he moves uncertainly, as if his legs don’t quite belong. But when he senses the audience close, his indistinct features take shape and he adopts a wellknown pose: knee up, bent elbow and right fist towards the forehead. A quick head up and slight mince, and he’s off: ‘Nice to see you, to see you nice!’    As Gould swivels his chair round to greet him, a long white wig in a yellow tracksuit, things look unlikely to go well.

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Poetry|Chrissie Gittins The Apology Lab The cream walls peel and sweat with regret, there’s a graph on the wall to measure degree – the date, the time, the century. We pour coloured water into a grid of stoppered bottles, watch each meniscus settle –black, brown or Prussian blue; though a woman did try cerise one Wednesday. We mumble as we pour, incantations of reproach – the medication we could not afford, the expectation we could not reach. If the chasm is not too wide some write a note, ‘I hope I would do it differently again’, then post it in the box beside the bin. Each two hour slot sees a queue of supplicants, heads bowed, hands pushed deep in pockets. There’s tea to purge – with birch leaves, goldenrod and marigold; shortbread biscuits well past their sell-by date. As the second hour progresses eyes begin to lift to windows, shoulders lower, movements quicken. In the outer chamber ArvoPärt is played, then Bach. By then we smile, sigh, try to fold away the past. There’s even laughter when a mobile rings out Adele. We say goodbye, resolve not to see each other’s eyes again.

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The Girl Who Drew Snow Leopards Her words don’t come easily, there are gaps in her answers in class, spaces filled by bared teeth and snarls. At home her pencil glides across cream paper, mark after mark make a dappled coat, black stippled strokes hold a forehead, the poise in a substantial tail. She colours in pale brown eyes as she leaps across the Kunlun Mountains, she colours in olive green eyes as she eschews all notion of prides, she colours in ice blue eyes as her fangs penetrate the neck of a stunned blue sheep as they slither down lavender shale.

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Poetry|Frank Golden Photographer “I’m considerably in favour of the ‘punctum’ in the sense of the singularity of the object at a given moment.” Jean Baudrillard/‘Art and Artifact’

Mid-June or mid-July. The year uncertain, 1965 perhaps or 66. The light a sugar cast of white floss. The sweet light of early morning or late afternoon. The kind of light photographers might term ‘transition light’ – an intersticial grade of textured lumens falling through the canopy above. The object photograph exists, not the avant image of an outre group, but three young boys, Myles, William Carlos, and myself, in tight v-necks and knee-length trousers, laughing uproariously, on the verge of the Botanical pond, me standing central, the other two on either side like some juvenile Pythonesque Golgotha. The photographer’s staging and command, define an esprit de corps, belie a truth objectify another. This photograph will become the quintessential image of our boyish joy, a gloss on what was and what we would become. The truth – as discreet as the photographer’s orchestration - is that the florid essence of us all, is there in the kindled 18

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and exaggerated laughter a momentary apotheosis of our potential in joy, a joy that would or would not last, quietly captured in the outward mirroring of the photographer’s faith in the obliquity and currency of moments.

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Short Fiction|Aamer Hussein Nuria He brought me white roses, White muscat roses, And asked me gently: May I Sit with you on the rock? Anna Akhmatova

1

H

e fell in love with Nuria when he saw her walking on fire. Live coals had been laid out on parched summer grass and she walked over them faster than the other virgins. He wasn’t supposed to be there but he was watching from his place behind an almond tree. She crossed the burning ember field and fainted.   Sakina was thirsty. Abbas went out to look for water and they riddled him with arrows. Kasim the bridegroom was shot down on his wedding night. Hussein’s horse returned sand-matted and blood-soaked without his master.    All day long the desert wind blows. Birds fall to the ground. On the tenth night of Muharram blood streaks the sky. He weeps for them all and his eyes are red but he never wept as bitterly as he did for Nuria. 2 Aunty Mehri tried to grow all kinds of flowers in her garden. Hydrangea, hibiscus, black rose. But everything withered there. Only wild flowers kept blooming and cactus thrived. It’s the desert, she said. The salt and the sandy wind kill plants in this town. But in Chand’s garden, you could see blossoms of every colour, finely trimmed hedges, fruit trees heavy with green mangoes and papayas.    Aunty Mehri — Begum Meher Taj Shah — was Nuria’s aunt, not really ours. She was the widow of our great-uncle, who’d been killed by the Japs in Malaya in 1944 when she was thirtytwo. We knew him as the Picture on the Wall. On holidays, her family visited his tomb with flowers and incense as if he were a saint. She had three children: her daughter was with her husband in our embassy in China, her son Tahir had a house across the the lane from us, and her youngest son Mahir, the light of her eyes, was studying in England: he only came home in summer. 20

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Mehri lived in a turreted mansion her husband had built in the thirties, in the old part of town by the sea. We called it Cactus Town. A lover came to visit her now and then, from Rawalpindi where he kept his wife.    Mehri was tall and pale with lacquered short dark hair. She dressed in black chiffon at night and in white lace with matching gloves and scarves in daylight. Every few weeks she swooped across town to visit us; we knew she wanted Tahir’s wife to see her arrive. Ten years ago she’d looked for a bride for her son among the daughters of her own patrician family in Hyderabad Deccan, but she settled instead on her husband’s niece, seventeen-year-old Nazar Zahra, and changed her name to Chand because her face was bright as the moon. Mehri had hoped that Chand’s big dowry would be the making of Tahir. But Chand’s great misfortune was that she’d married a man who loved good whisky more than he loved his marriage bed. The docile girl turned into a lazy woman. Much to her mother-in-law’s chagrin, she’d rise at midday and play mahjong all afternoon. In the evenings you could see her walking alone in her garden, up and down and up again, prayer beads in her hand, waiting for her husband to come home, but he never came home until after midnight, when we’d wake up from our dreams and hear the powerful engine of his car roar up our lane and the black iron gates shut behind him. 3 On Sundays we play by the lakes. There are two lakes, one blue, one green. They call the green one the Maneater: it claims a few people each year. They say ill-starred lovers and ill-treated wives go there to give it their lives. We play by the blue one, or get in ear-deep though we’re not allowed to; we’re not afraid of typhoid or diphtheria.    My name is Kamran. I’m nine. I have grey eyes and very dark skin. Nuria comes here with her cousin’s children, Mahnur, who’s my age, and Mehriyar who’s eight; they’re my cousins too. Sometimes Abbas, Chand’s brother, who’s thirteen, brings them to play. Nuria is eleven. She sits on the grassy bank, braids flowers into garlands, and sings: I’m off to chase shadows of echoes in the country where butterflies sing — Snaggletooth, raggyhair, snotpicker, stink bomb, elephantfoot, who’s going to marry you, Nuria?    — I’ll marry Nuria.    — Hey, dress up the bridegroom, here comes his elephant, dress him in gold.    They rub dust in my face. And in Nuria’s hair. They push Nuria into water. I follow. Pebbles, like marble, washed skysmooth beneath our feet.

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4 Meher Taj had once had a brother. Everyone thought Alezamin was dead. But truth to tell he’d simply disappeared. He’d left behind a wife and a son and a daughter. His grass widow was a hapless thin creature with straw-coloured hair and staring great eyes. We heard she’d been a Hindu whose family had deserted her when they went over the border. Aunty Mehri, who was working then with destitute women as she now worked with unwanted children, had found her in a camp and, when she said she had nowhere to go, had taken her home as a kind of superior servant because she seemed educated. She renamed her Sadia. Alezamin, who’d recently arrived from Hyderabad, had seen her at Mehri’s and immediately fallen in love. He’d married her against Mehri’s wishes.    Many years later, soon after he disappeared one night, Sadia came to Mehri’s door for help: she said she’d found work in an airline office, and she’d sent her son to a boys school as a weekly boarder, but she wanted someone to take in her daughter. She couldn’t make enough to feed herself and two.    No one could understand why Aunty Mehri refused to take in the child. She lived alone and could have done with a little girl’s company. No one could understand, either, why after refusing to help Sadia, she told her — almost as an afterthought — to visit Chand. Because Mehri and Chand had cordially detested each other since mother-in-law had forced daughter-in-law to abort her third child which was, she claimed, the result of Chand’s wanton interlude with a passing lover. And Chand had pleaded with Tahir to take her away from his mother’s kingdom; they’d live in the house she had built on the other side of town.    Chand took in Sadia’s daughter, and brought her up with her own children Mahnur and Mehriyar. The girl stayed in the shadows, helped with minor chores, and went to a charity school down the road where she was taught to sew, cook and keep accounts in beautiful handwriting.    And when she came home, the luminous name her father had given her, Nurafshan, Light-sprinkler, had somehow become Nuria. 5 — Can you really hear the butterflies singing, Nuria?   — Sometimes.    — How far can you follow an echo, Nuria?    — As far as your breath takes you.    — Will you marry me when we’re big?    — Silly boy. Wait and see.   — Please?    — If you want me to I will.

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6 At the seashore. Nuria sits on moist whitish sand with her toes in water and watches the spray rise. She listens to the sea singing. She thinks it brings her messages, written in foam on the waves. The sea tells her a bridegroom will come for her, his face covered in flowers. Gold so heavy on her body she’ll faint. Her feet bathed in milk. The Five Blessed Ones will bless her wedding. She’ll wake every morning in a bed of silver.    I bring her translucent shells, dead starfish, and a conch which, when she puts it to her ear in her bed at night, will sing her the sea’s songs.    Far away, etched against the grey horizon, there’s a single red, blue and yellow sail.

Aunt Chand has a fat Iraqi friend named Farkhanda who can tell fortunes from tea leaves and coffee grounds. There’s no sun today, but May is so hot that even the sea’s on the boil and we’re close to wishing we weren’t here. The ladies lie on deck chairs, smoking menthol cigarettes, mugs of coffee sweetened with condensed milk beside them. Farkhanda calls to Nuria, who’s lost in her dreams of what the sea will bring her:    — Come, child, let me tell you who you’ll marry. And Chand, in imitation of her children, says:    — Who’ll marry Nuria, she’s so plain...    — Plain? She’s stunning, Farkhanda says, looking at tall Nuria’s fifteen years. Come and sit down here and give me your hand. Yes, I see a tall dark man, with a gun in his hand, who fights to save his land, a brave soldier...    — Don’t put silly ideas in the child’s head, Chand says.    But then... I can tell you what happens, I am watching, just surfacing from the waves:    A great big car with windows curtained in black drove up to our hut. The tall man who was driving leapt out to open a door. Aunty Mehri emerged from a cocoon of lemon-scented airconditioning, immaculate and cool as always in lilac georgette. She took the youth’s arm and came up to us.    — I didn’t know you’d be using our hut today, she said to her daughter- in-law. Her tone was faintly venomous, her smile lopsided. But Chand wasn’t listening. She’d stood up to fling her lovely white arms around the dark neck of her young brother-in-law, Mahir. He lifts her off the sands, swings her round, and then, as they laughingly disengage, I see Nuria’s face, her lips parted and trembling, her teeth shine, her lashes throw shadows on her cheek. She’s in a trance; she seems to be praying. 23

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7 — Where can you hear a butterfly’s song, Nuria? — Silly boy. How can I tell?    — How long is the shadow of an echo, Nuria?    — As long as the nose on your idiot face.    — So you won’t marry me, Nuria?    — Didn’t you hear what Khala Farkhanda said? I’m going to marry a fighting man with a gun.    — I’ll become a hero for your sake. I’ll get a gun.   — Silly.    — Give me back my starfish and my shells. 8 At seventeen Nuria, oiled braids hanging down her back and crushed dull cotton clothes, becomes voluptuous. She spends her spare hours reading bright-covered romances about girls called Naela and Romana; orphaned, or separated from their families at Partition, they cry a lot in corners for cousins who fight for their land and their nation.    Mahir’s married now, to a girl from Ilford. He met her when he was on holiday, in her father’s pub where she worked. He brings her home to meet the family. Her name’s Brenda; it’s obvious their child will be what we call a seven-month baby. Mehri meets her with icy courtesy, but we’ve been briefed: kindness to Brenda amounts to letting down the side. If we do talk to her, we should make her feel like a Martian, a freak from a travelling carnival.    Wrapped in a colourful cheap nylon sari she’s been given by Mehri, Cockney vowels and glottals contending valiantly with multisyllabic names, freckles riotous and skin reddening in the June desert sun, Brenda looks, poor girl, outlandish. We’re sure it won’t last; Mahir’s exploits in town, before he left, were legendary; he’d been sent away, in haste, after two beatings by friends whose girls he’d stolen, and a murder threat from a betrayed husband. We hear that Mehri has offered her the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if only she’ll run off to get it, back to Ilford, maybe, where Mehri implies Brenda can open her own nice pub with her takings. But Brenda is a barmaid with a pot of gold for a heart. She’d wanted to please her redoubtable mother-in-law when she first came here, but now she’s rolling up absent sleeves to fight for her hero.    Soon Mahir and Brenda are far, far away from us, back in England; living, we hear, in Essex, from where, with his Cambridge education, Mahir commutes to his job as a chartered accountant in Leadenhall Street.

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9 This season we’re all in love with love. We’ve put away our James Taylor and our Melanie records; we’re listening, instead, to Tahira Syed singing ‘Abhi to main jawan hun’, we’re reciting verses by Faiz. It’s our last year here before we leave for foreign universities; Mahnur will read philosophy at Cambridge, Mehriyar is going to the London School of Economics, and my father wants me to study law. As for Nuria, she’ll stay behind with Chand: she wants to be a dressmaker.    The white moonflower, with its many petals, blooms from its cactuslike vine on our white wall and Mehri descends on the house to look at it. Hanging overhead, there’s a huge red moon like a lantern; it’s supposed to be so bright you can read by it. Nuria, in white like a Chughtai painting, comes to the garden with rose sherbet, rock candy and milky sweets on a silver tray decorated with frangipani; she’s in competition with the white flowers and the fiery moon. Mehri, who’s never yet had a smile or a blessing for her, is looking her over tonight like a buyer in a cattle market selecting a calf.    Then, when the long fasting season has whittled down the moon to a sliver of silver, Chand’s brother Abbas comes over from his military academy, in time for the big Eid. He whistles film tunes and wears tight bright shirts with enormous collars and flared trousers that flap as he jumps off his motorbike. His hair is short, because he’s a soldier, but he’s hung up his uniform for now.    One look at Nuria dressed up in Chand’s opulent castoffs, her brown hair and golden skin and wide hips, and longing soaks him in sweat. He’s pined for her since he saw her fainting after she walked on fire last Muharram. — She seems like a homeloving girl, Abbas says. I bet she can cook.    — She’s a comfort to me, Chand responds. Another daughter. A bit moody sometimes. Yes, of course she can. Cook, I mean.    — Is she spoken for? I wondered if... We’d thought Chand might act as Mehri does about her men, but no: she tells her brother to wait a year or two to be married — they’re both so young, he’s waiting for his commission, and in any case long engagements are appropriate But come back, she says, in a month or two, with a ring. Nuria, when asked for her consent, nods wordlessly, brown eyes fixed on hennaed toes. Abbas brings her a ruby ring. The more unkind among the neighbours say: When he looks at his young cousin Nuria, the sleeping tiger awakens in Tahir’s eye. And Chand is afraid of a rival. Nuria begins to prepare her trousseau. Quiet, dull as usual in company, she stitches sequins on scarves, brocade on hems, embroiders endless flower patterns on napkins and pillowcases. She says her prayers three 25

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times a day. Abbas is heir to a fortune; we tell her she’ll become a fat bejewelled landowner’s darling in two years.    When Farkhanda comes to visit and asks if Abbas — so gentle and mild — is what Nuria really wants, the girl replies:    — It’s Chand Bhabi’s wish. Since she’s always done so much for me, it’s probably God’s will. And you told me I’d marry a soldier. 10 — Where’s your soldier gone, O Nuria, where’s your soldier gone, far, far away...    — Guess what I’m doing, Kami.    — What, Nuria?    — I’m listening to the butterflies singing. I think I heard the echo of a shadow. Want to come with me to look?    — Where can you ever hear butterflies singing, Nuria? That’s kid’s stuff. 11 Nuria was to marry Abbas in November. But suddenly Aunty Meher Taj heard the call of blood and binding family ties.    — My beloved brother’s daughter, after all, she said, waving her Sobranie. Only I can give her away as a bride. This is her home, I’m her closest surviving relative.    Sadia, of course, she’d forgotten. But it did appear strange that the bride-to-be should be sleeping under the same roof as her fiance. So Chand, saying she didn’t want to burden poor Sadia who lived in the distant suburb of North Nazimabad which none of us had had the misfortune of visiting, reluctantly agreed. Nuria packed all her bags and was driven across town from Hill Park to Clifton to live in her aunt’s seaside palace. We couldn’t imagine her, so far away from Chand, in distant Cactus Town. We didn’t see her again till the smaller Eid. Mahir had come home on holiday from Ilford without his unloved wife, biting the bit after three or four years of suburban bliss. Handsome as ever, hair in waves to his shoulders. purple velvet jacket thrown over his arm, he delighted us with stories of swinging London. He’d driven Nuria over, with Mehri, for our biannual lunch, an occasion for family rituals and reconciliations. Nuria was transformed. Gold-streaked hair, artfully loosened from its braid, framed a painted face. Her eyes and even her lashes were tinted with turquoise kohl to match the transparent turquoise chiffon that swathed her, leaving inches of glowing shoulder and midriff on view.    — What have you done to yourself, Chand hissed. You look like a tart. 26

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And Mahir looked like a man entranced.

Desire and youth have done what Mehri’s money and wiles couldn’t. There are, as usual, as many tales as there are heads to tell them. Everyone knows and the news travels down to our lane from the sea: handsome Mahir has given his heart to his beautiful cousin Nurafshan. They’re all over town, at hotels, at the swimming pool, in the countryside, at the beach. Shameless, some say. An orphan who only just got engaged to a soldier. So what if Mahir’s ten years older? say others. He’s still only twenty-eight. A whole life ahead of him. It’s only right, it’s the way it should always have been, he’s going to leave his cheap slut of a foreign wife and come home to settle down with his maternal uncle’s daughter.    We don’t know how Abbas finds out: perhaps Nuria phones him, or writes, in her elegant script and stilted English, that she can’t marry him, life changed her plans; she’s sorry for breaking her word, but what can she do? She can’t live a lie. But Abbas won’t tell, won’t hear a word against her, and we’re on Chand’s side, not talking to Mahir or Nuria.    Chand, when she hears, drives down to Mehri’s villa. She’s surprisingly calm. She claims she knows what the old dragon’s up to; using her orphaned niece as bait, to tempt her beloved son away from his foreign wife. She’s not going to stand back and watch. Nuria thinks life is a romance by Razia Butt, does she? She’ll think again when, all too soon, she sees Mahir’s departing back. Nuria, and Mehri, can keep the gifts that Chand had given; all she wants for her brother is the engagement ring, which was reset from melted gold and a ruby left him by their mother. But what had Abbas done to deserve this? And how, she demands, will Nuria ever repay her for so many years of love? After all, blood was thicker than water, and there was no tie of blood to bind her to Nuria. 12 When Chand took back the ring to her brother, Abbas said:    — You should have left it to me. I’d have made her see the light. She’ll never be happy with that swine.    He put the ring in his pocket and took off on his motorbike. He didn’t come back that day.    — When he came home, Chand told us, he said he’d seen Nuria, though he didn’t say where. Then he wept like I’ve never seen him weep before. Every year at the processions he flays his chest till he draws drops of blood for the love of Hussein and Abbas and Kasim and 27

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sometimes he even uses little knives but this time the blood seemed to flow from his eyes. 13 Abel and Cain — the war has fallen on our necks like those fighting brothers and one of them will have to die. Shiploads of boys transported across land and sea to fight, to keep a country they’ve never seen, for the glory of a nation split at birth. Abbas is out east already, by the Burma border. He’s in a guerilla-breaking squadron. Chand says: Why are we sending our sons and brothers across enemy territory to stop foreigners from speaking their own language and a strange faraway land from changing its name?    Karb o bala. Agony and affliction.    News from the frontlines is bad, then worse. 14 The telegram came at night:

WE HAVE THE HONOUR MADAME TO ANNOUNCE THE GLORIOUS MARTYRDOM IN ARMED COMBAT OF YOUR BROTHER LIEUTENANT SAYYAD ABBAS HAIDAR

And Chand didn’t act, as we’d expected, like a hero’s sister, with dignity, in silence. She tore her hair and her clothes and beat her breast, she threw herself on the floor, and she didn’t have to say a word, but we knew that in her heart she was cursing the leaders and the war, and cursing Nuria, again and again, for bringing bad luck to her beloved dead brother.    And my eyes are no longer grey. 15 And Nuria: when she heard the news they say she bent and smashed her green and red glass bangles on the stones. She spent three nights in her room, praying. She didn’t even leave a message for Mahir when on the third day she walked away from her aunt’s house, leaving Cactus Town where flowers wouldn’t grow. She never turned back. She stepped out in the clothes she’d had on since her morning shower and walked alone in Clifton until she found a rickshaw by the old shrine. Chand’s house was full of mourners that day, but it wasn’t from Chand she sought asylum: she knew she no longer had a home there, and after all there were no blood ties to take her to the house of mourning. She went back to her mother and brother, to the life she’d left nine years before, the shabby flat, the city’s outskirts. Some say she was pregnant and the first child she gave her husband was Mahir’s son. Others said 28

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she was made, like Chand all those years ago, to have an abortion. She accepted the first proposal she got. A few weeks later she was married off, we heard, to an aging widower her mother had found in the matrimonial columns, with several children of his own: the number reported varies according to the teller. None of us attended the wedding but some sent gifts. Mahir went back to his wife in Ilford, where he lived for many years, until Brenda, keeping their money and their growing daughters, threw him out, and he flew back across the sea to live with Meher Taj. He gave up accountancy and turned Cactus Town into a tutorial college. Chand, Mahnur and Mehriyar never spoke to Nuria again, not even when Chand, at barely forty, died of a terrible flowering in her brain. Mehri, too, chose silence. We heard, years later, that Nuria’s husband kept her jewellery and sent her back to her mother. She had some hard years after that, bringing up two children alone. 16 But when I told my sister I was writing this story she remembered:    Ten years ago. An April afternoon. A hand touched her shoulder on the lawn of the Sind club where she was running after her threeyear-old daughter. She turned around to see a woman in her late thirties, elegant, blonde and discreetly bejewelled. Don’t you recognise me? she asked. I’m your cousin. Nurafshan... Nuria. They kissed. Before her chauffeur-driven car came up the gravelled drive she introduced my sister to her husband, a handsome man slightly older than her. As many tales as there are heads to tell them. He wasn’t a widower, only divorced; he spent a lot of time in Dubai, but he’d never sent her away.    And later, when she thought about it, my sister wondered who it was that Nuria had begun to remind her of. 17 Sometimes I dream I’m in Abbas’s place: I’m the one Nuria turns down. She comes up to me, face ashy with tears, kneels in the garden, takes my hands in hers, asks her childhood friend to forgive her, to remain her friend. She places my hands against her damp cheeks. She reminds me of butterfly songs and echoes and shadows. But I’m a sea rock; I turn my face away. Forgive me Nuria, I say in silence, I don’t understand these things, I’m too young, I can’t be your friend any more. Then I ride off into the night on my motorbike, ride it right to the edge of the sea, leave it there and walk into the waves.    That’s how the policemen, when they find it, know where to look for Abbas, and when fishermen haul his body up from the sea days later his face has been disfigured by crabs. Nuria’s ruby ring is still buttoned into his pocket. But that’s another version, in which Abbas never went to war: he wouldn’t have understood what he was fighting for, why he 29

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should give his life to stop a strange country from breaking away or changing its name and keeping its language.    Too grey an ending for me. I’m a teller of stories. I want to dip my finger in a war wound and spell the name of a hero. I have no time for an insignificant boy who mourns lost loves and gives his life to the sea. So why is salt water seeping through this page?

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Visual Art|Balbir Krishan

Insulted Angels

Watercolour and ball point pant on handmade paper 30 x 44 inches 2005 31

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Visual Art|Balbir Krishan

The Bonding of Spirituality-IV Acrylic and pen on canvas 12 x 33 inches (triptych) 2010

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Visual Art|Balbir Krishan

When Bal-Krishna sold lotuses

Digital inkjet print collage and acrylic on canvas 12 x 60 inches 2015 33

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Visual Art|Balbir Krishan

Mumbai Attack

Eraser and ball point pen on offset print paper 10 x 10 inches 2009 34

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Visual Art|Balbir Krishan

The Bonding of Spirituality

Acrylic on canvas 36 x 48 inches 2010

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Visual Art|Balbir Krishan

Transfer Station-II

Eraser, watercolour and ball point pen on offset print paper 10 x 25 inches 2013 36

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Poetry|David McLoghlin Influence I think about the pull exerted by the big planets. Approaching, you would see Jupiter for days and its retinue—dwarfed, of course, although Ganymede, Europa, Io, are massive in their own right and Callisto may have had an ocean underground: evidence of life. The Jovian atmosphere is mutable gold-ochre, stacked with layers like a canyon. The colours that move in bands of latitudinal drift are high velocity winds that feed hurricanes the size of the Earth. The Great Red Spot has lasted several centuries in the turbulence of the gas giant. Trying to leave, you would feel the drag for the first time. After, you can see its glow, for days. Years, in fact. If you looked back.

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The Well The heart’s going to seed: crusty and aqueous, like algae you could walk on—scabs of bad bloom. I need to clear the surface, to the way a fisherman watches weeds fly in the mill race by the eel trap. I find it off the main flow, half a mile into the woods from the red footbridge. It has been unattended. I take branches out, then leaves—sometimes veined sunlight, thin branching flame. Waiting for water to rise, I polish the edge of a thought, like clearing away sleep. I don’t think of what Finn did. There’s no guarantee that a salmon will rise. In clearings, there’s a sky in earth. On the surface it’s patient —like a heron’s eye, and gives back watery trees, registers the whooping of the swans—here again from Iceland nervous on the river. Any step closer, and they clear into wingbeats.

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Poetry|Kate Ennals I See You On my back step I blow the smoke of my cigarette Into the world outside Go inside and close my door Against you marauding economic migrants Camps of makeshift belief You crowds that live on my periphery Black hoards creeping close Watching for every opportunity To slink beneath an axel Slip under a wheel Slope into an exhaust An army of brown camping on the shore Coming to rob my job (if I wasn’t unemployed) Steal my castle, my kingdom I close my door But you get in through the TV I watch on the sofa Terrified.

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Short Fiction|Anil Menon The Given

W

hen our daughter Kanaka sat us down because she had “something important to say” the missus and I were united in a mutual flash of fear but then, shortly after she’d had her say, our emotions went their separate ways.    My reaction was relief, even a little admiration. In a land where girls had to bathe in buckets of Fair n’ Lovely, dress like bedouins to avoid the sun, and starve themselves to look like coat hangers, my daughter, dark as Tamil and almost equally quarrelsome, may God bless every precious plump inch of her, had found her own suitable match.    The bio-data: a Karnataka boy, mixed-caste, raised in Italy, degree plus job, no beard, non-smoker. All in all, a mixed bag of goodies. S’allright, God bless. I was ready to give her a No Objection Certificate. Nevertheless, I had to demonstrate some minimal outrage and was about to do so, when I was short-circuited by the missus: “Over my dead body! The day you marry this mongrel is the day I leave this house on a stretcher. To think I had to live to see this day!”    “First of all, don’t bring caste into this. He’s a human being! His father’s Reddy, mother’s Naidu. Second, I will not be emotionally blackmailed. Third, I love him. I LOVE him.”    “Did you hear?” My wife turned to me. “Now she will teach us about morals. Where did we go wrong in raising her? I warned you. I warned you she was seeing somebody. Didn’t I warn you? But you were too busy reading your stupid novels. Now see the result. Are you pregnant, kondai? I felt your stomach was bulging a little. I warned you boys have only one thing on their minds.” My wife beat her temples with her palms. “Kadavale, why didn’t You watch over her? How gullible she is, any leper with a smile can win her heart. Why are You leaving me alive? Take me now. Finish me off.”    “Amma! AMMA! Listen to me. LISTEN to me.”    Et cetera, et cetera. I wished I’d had the foresight to ask for chai. Now it could be a while. When an elephant starts to slide down a slope it may want to get off the slope, but what it wants is no longer of any consequence. It is going down the slope until there is no more slope. That is how it is with our emotions as well. That this was so didn’t matter in the least. I’d once made the mistake of bringing up the metaphor with my wife— most assuredly, it wasn’t mine but from a book by two famous Stanford professors— and predictably she had (a) misunderstood that I was calling her an elephant, and (b) illustrated my point by beginning a slide.    Perhaps there are families where life-disrupting news is received 40

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with calm and grace. The parents will ask interested questions, the daughter will express her faith in their advice, a few graceful hugs, and then off for a round of badminton. Mine was not such a family.    “If Kanaka truly loves the boy—” I began.    “LOVE!” shrieked the missus. “What love? What is this love-lovelove? Is it carried by mosquitoes? Everybody is in love. How have you and I managed twenty-seven years? Do we love each other? Love, love. Kondai, if you care about your poor mother one tiny bit, please please give up this madness. Is this how we raised you? Aiyyo, Kadavale—”    “That is quite enough,” I interrupted, irritated beyond tolerance. “Kanaka’s old enough to choose. We will meet this fellow and see if her choice is right. If not, we can pick up this drama again. Now make me some chai.”    “Appa, can’t you wait even—” began my daughter.    But the missus knew what was what, and she was already on her way to the kitchen. Kanaka followed her, still arguing. I heard them resume their nonsense in the kitchen, but it was quieter now and I was able to return to my Trollope.    When the missus returned some fifteen minutes later, I could see she’d had her bit of fun. She sat across from me, Kanaka coiled next to her, and mother and daughter reconnected. A tender kiss of her daughter’s head, a glare for me. The chai was excellent.    “Next Sunday,” announced the missus. “We’re meeting the boy next Sunday. Put it down in your calendar.”    I was retired, I had no crowd of events jostling each other in the train-compartments of my calendar. Yet long habit made my wife insist I put things down in my calendar. She wanted to go for a movie. In the calendar. She wanted to attend the Indira Nagar Sangeet Sabha’s Carnatic performance. In the calendar. She wanted to volunteer at the local school. In the calendar. When I had been a busy insurance salesman, it had been a sensible request. Now I had no need of a calendar. What would she do when I ran out of time altogether?    Dark thoughts for what was potentially an auspicious occasion. I asked about the boy’s parents, and was informed by my wife that they were flying in at the end of the month, the father, Krishnaraj, was a professor of philosophy, University of Trieste, his missus Supriya had been a science teacher, retired, she was older to her husband by three years, and that they were selling their home, and were returning permanently to Bangalore. They already called Kanaka ‘Magu,’ meaning ‘baby’, meaning they were very nice people. Boy had just shifted to Dreamworks, American Company, which had an Indian branch in Bangalore; he would be based in Bangalore at least a year. Project leader, managerial class. No brothers or sisters.    It didn’t bother the missus that the boy’s parents had known of the situation earlier. Nor did it bother me. It was how it should be.    NRIs. Filthy rich, only son. I sipped my chai, gazed at my clever 41

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offspring. Not my street smarts, that was for sure. Smiles all around.    “Ok-ay then, that wasn’t too bad,” said Kanaka, in that teasing tone she increasingly adopted with us.    Kanaka would have to find a job in Bangalore. Not difficult, she had two years plus experience. Bangalore wasn’t too far, my wife was right. Just two hours from Mumbai. Still. Six thousand rupees round ticket. Two people, senior citizens, ten thousand. Four trips, minimum. For the missus, even a corridor’s distance was too far away from Kanaka. So, forty-fifty thousand per annum. Also gifts, sweets, what not. Add another fifty per annum. This “falling in love” had just increased our annual expenses by a lakh.    “Appa’s multiplying numbers,” said Kanaka, in that same teasing tone. “Aren’t you, Appa? Are you worrying about my dowry?”    “All we can give is yours,” I said, meaning every word. “But you were all that we wanted to keep.”   “Appa.”    “Don’t mind him,” said the missus rudely, but she wiped her eyes. “He must have read it somewhere.”    That was true. Trollope wrote so beautifully!    Kanaka couldn’t stop talking about the boy. At first, she was careful, glancing at our faces frequently to sample our opinions, still reluctant to reveal what she’d hidden so long. But soon, like a Mafia gangster who’d just broken the dreaded Law of Omerta, she couldn’t stop singing. The boy was good. The boy was great. The boy farted flowers, as the proverb goes in Tamil. My wife listened with enthusiasm, interjecting supportive statements like, “Vishnavites are very particular,” or “yes, yes, Kannadigas are shrewd with money.”    I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy. I was happy. But I was also sad. The house would be so quiet without Kanaka. Just me and the missus. Only yesterday, our baby had been waddling in her diapers around the house. We’d hardly spend time with each other and she was already leaving. What was twenty-five years? Nothing. Nothing at all! Two thousand years, give me twenty thousand years. “I love him,” concluded Kanaka with a sigh.    This time the missus and I smiled at each other. Children.    “That is all very well,” said the missus. “But don’t think marriage will be like a fairy tale. When you get to know the boy, you’ll understand the true meaning of marriage.”    “I suppose so,” said Kanaka, seriously. Then her expression changed, became amused once more. “Okay Amma, did you really mean it when you said you and Appa don’t love each other?”    “I never said that,” said the missus. Kanaka laughed. “Yes, you did. I know you didn’t meant it. What is love for you? Do you love me?”    “Love? Of course I love you. You have to love blood relations. What sort of question is that?” 42

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“Do you love Appa?”    “Aiyyo, what is wrong with this girl? Love is give and take. He takes, I give. Simple. Love is painful.” The missus laughed, giving me a meaningful glance full of history. “I don’t want another fellow. Is that love? Okay, I love him. Happy?”    “Amma, I’m not judging, I just want to understand. I know you’ll do anything for Appa. But I’m talking of the love between a man and a woman. You know, just like in the films and the books, only more real. You had an arranged marriage, but at some point you must have fallen in love with Appa. You must have felt what I’m feeling.”    “Feeling what?” asked the missus, baffled.    “Kanaka, real-life is very different,” I began.    “Yes, very different.” The missus finished my thought for me. “Nobody loves anybody like in the movies. That’s just rubbish. You’ll realize it one day. You adjust, your husband adjusts. That is enough.”    “Yes, more than enough.” I thought the missus had put it very well.    Kanaka sat up, her mouth open. I had seen that blonde stick-insect in Friends make the exact same irritating gesture.    “Oh. My. God.” said Kanaka. “You guys are serious. You are serious! You’ve never been in love! Crazy, head-over-heels psycho love!”    We burst out laughing, even Kanaka. Then she jumped up from the sofa, to call Superboy, I suppose, and tell him about our coming over next Sunday.    But later, as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, my wife’s snoring bulk next to mine, I couldn’t help thinking about our daughter’s question. I had noticed her expression just before she’d gotten up. She’d pitied us. I couldn’t help feeling a little angry. No consideration for her mother’s feelings. What was there to pity?    At the beginning of our marriage, a few months into it, I had read somewhere that women needed to hear “I love you” in order to get pregnant. It sounded doubtful, but in those days there hadn’t been the interweb to consult. I desperately wanted a child. So I would corner my wife, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the relative privacy of our unlocked bedroom. I love you, darling, I love you. At first, the missus hadn’t known how to react. She would giggle, hand me a vegetable to cut, push me out the bathroom, or roll over in resignation. Once she burst into tears. She’d tried her best to satisfy me, she wailed, but this love business was getting out of hand. That cured me.    I had been lucky. I was married to a good woman. I was lucky many times over. But was it possible my wife didn’t love me? After all these years? Twenty-four years. Impossible. She would do anything for me. Hindu wives loved their husband. Some things were just a given.    Yes, there were many kinds of permanent attachments. What I felt for Kanaka, that was like the air I had to breathe, the water I had to drink. If that was love, then I loved oxygen, I loved gravity. I had many other such deep thoughts, and now I wish I had written them down 43

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because I fell asleep at some point and could recollect little in the morning.    The week left little time as well. All the signs were good. The boy called up, introduced himself, apologized for keeping secrets from us, inquired if we were pure vegetarians. Then his parents called, another nice chat. The boy called again to suggest we have dinner at his place; restaurants were noisy, so business-like. Did we have any objections? He quickly added Kanaka had suggested the idea, she wanted to cook. But he was just as willing to meet us at any place we chose. He would gladly come to our house, but perhaps our neighbours might find it unusual.    The missus and I debated the last point quite thoroughly. Why the hell was Kanaka cooking us a dinner at his house? It felt like going to a restaurant and being asked to wash the dishes. But the children seemed to think it was a perfectly sensible idea. Kanaka confirmed that the idea had been hers, not his. She was already planning the menu. Please don’t create a scene, Appa, Amma.    S’allright. Modern people, no problem. We could adjust, we weren’t that old-fashioned. But the missus said it best: is kondai asking for our blessing or is she giving us hers? Ha ha. Well said, missus, well said. Next Sunday, we took a rented car to his apartment complex in Santa Cruz. He had offered to send his car, just as he’d sent it for Kanaka, but of course, some formalities had to be maintained. It took fifteen minutes to clear security and navigate the maze of tall buildings, but it left us feeling fiercely proud, not at all intimidated. The missus squeezed my hand, quite painfully. The pain had a tongue and it said: our daughter will be a queen!    The boy opened the door. Vanakkam, vanakkam. He touched our feet. That is, he tried to touch our feet. Aiyyo, nothing doing, nothing doing. God bless. He was five-eight, five-nine. Lean, fit, an open kind face. I could tell the missus had taken to the boy. She headed straight for the kitchen, and the boy and I stood uncertainly in the living room, pretending not to hear the excited whispers and squeals. Sit, sit. What can I get you to drink?    The boy had a strong Italian accent. Coming from his thoroughly Indian face, it sounded strange, as if he were being dubbed. He admitted he could get by in Kannada, but his Tamil was very weak. He was okay with English. Kanaka and he mostly spoke in English, but she was learning Italian, which he really really loved. He said other such things, but I was so busy looking for subtitles I didn’t pay attention. I hadn’t expected someone so thoroughly foreign. No problem, ultimately an Indian, that’s what mattered.    Kanaka came out, wiping her hands on a dish rag. She seemed as much at home as if this were her own apartment. She and I exchanged a single glance, but it was enough. She smiled with relief.    Over the course of the evening, observing the mature way the 44

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children interacted with each other, I couldn’t help contrasting it with the time I’d first met my wife. Our interaction had been so superficial. My decision had been so arbitrary. I’d fallen for her mischievous smile, and God forgive me, her large breasts. I had taken a huge gamble. She, poor brave foolish woman, had taken an even bigger one. In contrast, look at these two. They would begin their married life with their eyes wide open. They would be that badminton couple. We had nothing to teach them.    The boy’s new job at Dreamworks was quite prestigious. His team would be handling the animation of a hippo-crocodile type animal for their forthcoming movie Peepowakak. Say what? Peepowakak. We all had a good laugh. This was a job for adults? S’allright. It occurred to me that once he started, it would be difficult to get leave for honeymoon. That led to a discussion about a suitable date for engagement. Of course, they had already thought about the issue. They had some dates in mind; the missus told me to put them in my calendar.    “I want to get married before my 25th birthday,” said Kanaka. The boy shrugged. As you like. I’d watched him like the proverbial hawk. Every time he looked upon my daughter, his expression softened, turned indulgent, ready to give in to her every whim. He adored her. It was the same with her. Ridiculous. They were children, they couldn’t be so happy. It wasn’t auspicious. Life was ration cards, onion prices, no water early in the morning. Life was panic at a meningitis outbreak, a child doing badly in math, a wife with an unidentifiable illness.    “Oh we’re not thinking about children now,” said Kanaka, to something my wife had asked. “Until he settles into his new job and I get my snacks business off the ground, we can’t focus on kids.”    I didn’t understand. What did snacks have to do with having children? It turned out my daughter was thinking of starting a business. Lentil snacks, Appa. Foreigners were just beginning to discover the wonders of lentils. High protein, low fat, full of nutrient goodies, it was the next coconut water.    “Yes, yes,” I said, baffled. “But you are already 25, why wait for who knows–”    “Relax, Appa.” Kanaka put a hand on the boy’s knee. “We’ll figure it all out.”    I realized with a sudden terrible clarity that my daughter was having sexual relations with this man. I just knew. My heart raced. I wanted to brain them both with a grinding stone. Then the moment passed and I felt tiredness replace my anger. Yes, I could create a scene. But to what end? Now I could only pray he wouldn’t tire of Kanaka or post bad photos of her on the interweb. Again, I was overcome with anger. Kondai was so innocent, God only knew what all he had done. Liar! No wonder he wasn’t concerned about marriage. When you’ve already had the fruit, what need to plant the tree? All that feet-touching and groveling. All the while he was— I closed my eyes. 45

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“Appa, are you all right?” asked Kanaka, her eyes wide with concern.    “Yes, yes. Just thinking, that’s all.” I gestured with my head to the missus. Time to go. I would make sure Kanaka came with us. They were still not a married couple yet. Some proprieties had to be maintained.    Just before leaving, when the missus had gone to relieve herself and Kanaka was in the kitchen, putting away leftovers, the boy said to me softly in that funny English of his: “Appa, please don’t worry about Kanaka. I’ll take good care of her.”    In the long ride home, I consoled myself with the thought that perhaps it was better this way. Kanaka would not make the kind of mistake her mother had made in trusting me, poor woman. Kanaka had been born quite late into our marriage, almost one-and-a-half years. First there had been smiles, then gentle hints, finally people began talking openly about taking us to doctors.    How could I explain to them that my wife wanted sex but hated it? That every time I approached her at night, she would just lie there on her front, legs tightly clamped together, cringing at my slightest touch. Imagine my torture. I wasn’t a cruel man, but one week, two weeks, watching her step out of the shower, the outline of her buttocks, watching her hang clothes, watching her stretched out next to me, those soft melons just begging to be squeezed, what could I do? I was only a human being.    She wanted me too, I was sure of it. But what to do if sexual relations were so painful for her? I was well-read, I had tried everything the books recommended. I murmured “I love you” gently in her ear, licked her lobes, tickled her navel, liberally applied oil, and once even forced myself to go non-veg on her. She had seemed to really like that, moaning and thrashing, but when we tried to close the deal, same result. Weeping, muffled screams, pure red trauma. I might as well have been a leper.    Then one day she’d returned from a visit to a close friend. The missus was furious. Gone was the meek, docile, gentle creature I had become accustomed to. This was Kali. She stripped. She lay down on the bed, spread her legs.    “COME HERE!” she shouted.    I had gone over, terribly frightened. She pointed. See! This is where you put it. This is NOT where you put it. Get it? GET IT?    Then we had the first great sexual relations of our married life. Kanaka was born exactly nine months later.    “You’re very quiet Appa,” said Kanaka. She looked worried, an expression I’d been defenseless against since her childhood.    “Just ruminating, that’s all.” Then I pressed her nose, the way I used to when she’d been six years-old and I had been twenty-feet tall. “Don’t be in too much of a hurry to taste all of life, kondai.”    Later, after we’d retired for bed, the missus leaned back slightly as I spooned her. My arm was pinned under her right side, per usual. 46

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I love you, I whispered and her body shook with silent laughter. Dirty fellow, she whispered back, one-track mind only. After we’d given each other pleasure, we held each other close, utterly content with each other, with life, this life and the seven others to follow. She asked me what I thought of the boy.    “He’s all right,” I said, drowsily. “Bit overconfident, both of them. They kept saying they loved each other.”    “Yes, I thought that was so strange too. Do they think love is some kind of glue?”    She ruminated about the mysterious word for a while, I added my two cents, giving various definitions from the classics, and just before the night claimed us both, we thanked all our Gods that we’d never had any need for that benighted word and could simply take each other as given. ***

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Poetry|Larry D. Thacker Tree When I grow suddenly stunned by the idea of all the old growth in these parts being gone, I have to settle down and remind myself just how many hundreds, or even thousands, of times the old beings have come and gone already, before we were here to grieve them. Of how many ice ages formed continent size glaciers and bullied their way over giant trees, and what our Neanderthal cousins must have wondered gazing up at the mile high ice plowing the slow waves of giant splintering mud wood. Or how icy rocks streaked the heavens in tails of light, clock worked in pretty green auras orbiting, this one every seven years, or this one every eighty, this one finally a degree too close and plummeting from the sky and boiling the waters, burning the air, transforming trees to instantly blackened and flattened things, ashed, pressed, smoke and caldron raged, lava flowed by the constancy of volcanos belching their rivers of red crusting to black, eating through might forests, too blistering for even flames to exist, only a pulsing heat alive and hungry birthed from earth core.

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Poetry|Mona Dash The visit I know your touch by now When you enter so quietly So completely, the footsteps soft I know how your fan your fingers on a loved one’s face and take away their thoughts their breath their love their fingers their toes their all that is to us I know the days after, sudden grief the calls from relatives, friends the commiseration the questions I know how suddenly a pit carves itself slicing into our lives how we throw rituals funerals flowers thoughts prayers; the bottomless pit we paint what we can’t fill We think of the rainbow we saw as you left the tears of a doctor who failed the love of a stranger who held our hand We smile when raindrops shower as we immerse our loved one’s fragments in a pot in the seas We remember Hindu philosophy Death, souls reborn We wait for another life, thinking this is it beautiful death, lovely, romantic, philosophical death making love to our thoughts . But I know you death How after weeks months years the calm disappears the finger prints you branded on our hearts sears at night; in its corners, in the darkness, wet earth suffocates winds storm, skeletal faces gape in your wake The pincers you leave crushes the heart There is only starkness 49

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gaunt hollowed faces The shadows are bloodied The skies remain angry How the mind craves the heart desires How we miss miss them forever How you never let us forget your visit death.

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Short Fiction|David Frankel Goodbye, Tahiti

H

iding from her own guests, Gwendolyn lingers near the door where the smell of honeysuckle hangs on the still Californian air. Across the gardens, fireworks are falling like dying angels, tumbling slowly downwards, their fire fading long before they touch the wet lawns where sprinklers whir in the darkness.    The hush of the gallery offers some respite from the relentless gaiety of the party. It is a long, cool room that runs along one edge of the garden terrace. Pictures hang on one wall and comfortable designer seating lines the other. A few guests drift through, curious or looking for the bathroom, before returning to the hubbub of the house.    It’s been a long night and she needs a little respite. There was a time when these people seemed to orbit around her but since her cosmetic surgeon had begun to lose the battle with decrepitude those same people felt more like circling sharks.    For a while she thinks she’s alone, but realises there is somebody standing further along the gallery. The girl is hopelessly underdressed but slim and neat. Big, dark rimmed glasses make her already large eyes appear larger still. Gwendolyn doesn’t recognize her, but she hardly recognises anyone anymore;the studios are all run by kids these days. Unobserved, she scrutinises the girl for a moment. East coast, she thinks to herself, out of her depth, sticking to the shallow end.    ‘So, what are you doing in here young lady?’    ‘Sorry,Ms Stone, I was… I’m Mrs Dubois’ intern. It was her that invited me…’    ‘I didn’t mean that, honey. I meant, what are you doing in this mausoleum when all the action’s out there?’    ‘Oh, I see.’ The girl immediately begins to make for the door.    ‘Hold your horses gal. I wasn’t chasing you off the property.’    The young woman pauses and Gwendolyn picks two glasses off the tray of a passing waiter. ‘You look like you need one of these almost as much as I do.’    The girl smiles and takes the drink. ‘Congratulations on your award Ms. Stone. I’m such a big fan of all your movies.’    ‘Thank you,dear. But you know, when they give you a lifetime achievement award, it’s their way of telling you to call it a day. Still, you keep on playing the game just to see what will happen. They aren’t gonna bury me yet.’    The girl, worried that she has caused offence seems close to panic.    Gwendolyn softens her tone, ‘Don’t mind me. I’m just an old bird rattling her cage.’ 51

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‘Ms. Stone, you’re very far from…’    ‘Call me Gwen.’    ‘Gwen, you’re very far from being… I mean you look just amazing.’    ‘Keep talking kid.’    The girl immediately falls silent, looking around her, searching for conversation, finally turning to the pictures on the wall beside them. Most are photographs; studio shots of actors and directors. Hollywood’s great and glorious. Some still living, most not. The girl looks at a portrait of a forgotten star from the forties, big, dark eyes and lips like a Saracen’s bow.    ‘Gosh, I’d sell my soul for lips like that.’    ‘Be careful dear. When it comes to selling souls it’s a buyer’s market.’   ‘I guess.’    The girl is silent again and both women stand in front of the picture for a moment.    ‘The old silver nitrate films really glowed, it must have looked like magic back then, shining gods. All gone now. I suppose even the gods turn out to be mortal in the end. So how’s working for Enid Dubois working out for you?’    ‘Oh, it’s great. She’s such a wonderful producer.’   ‘Oh yeah?’   ‘Yes.’   ‘Really?’    The girl laughs and looks away.    Gwen smiles. ‘I thought so. She giving you a hard time?’    ‘No. I guess the movie business isn’t like I thought it would be. You know?’    ‘Nothing ever is, sweetie.’    Gwendolyn links arms with the girl and guides her down the gallery. Images of beautiful people, good guys and bad guys, all preserved in ageless bubbles of black and white. At the end of the gallery, in a bespoke alcove hangs a single canvas held in a battered, gilded frame.    The girl stops, surprised. The painting shows a girl on a beach. Her warm brown skin and dark hair are silhouetted against a landscape of trees and ocean. Acid yellows and bright oranges and pinks are disarmed by deep, soft purples and blues.    ‘Is that original?’   ‘Sure is.’    ‘My gosh. I love Gauguin.’    ‘Isn’t it beautiful? It was a gift from a friend.’    ‘It must have been a very good friend.’    Gwendolyn tries to make out the girl’s accent, but it is restrained, difficult to place. Not elocution lessons, she decides, and she certainly isn’t from money. A college girl who has learned to hide her accent.    Gwen grabs them two more glasses as her friend, Amelia, glides 52

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into view around the door of the gallery. She gestures with her eyes for Gwen to look towards the terrace where new arrivals are spilling out of expensive cars. ‘There’s Marcus.’ All three of them peer through the window.‘I see he’s had more work done.’ She adds, with a touch of childish glee.    ‘Honey, this is Amelia. My oldest friend.’    ‘Less of the old…’    ‘Amelia, this is… why honey, I don’t know your name.’    ‘Janet.’ She holds out her hand, ‘Pleased to meet you, Amelia.’    ‘Janet is Enid’s new intern.’    ‘Oh you poor dear. Here.’ Amelia takes three glasses from a waiter, ‘Drink this. It’ll make you feel better about the whole thing.’    ‘But Mrs Dubois…’    ‘Is a troll, sweetie.’    ‘Oh, Amelia. Take no notice, Janet. Enid’s perfectly lovely.’    ‘Don’t spoil my fun, Gwen.’ She turns back to Janet. ‘Don’t worry about doing a shitty job, honey. It teaches you how to fake humility later on.’    Amelia gestures with her glass towards the reception rooms where the other guests are gathered. Marcus stands at the centre of the room. Head and shoulders above most of the guests his iron grey hair is easy to spot. ‘Did you see the girl he’s with?    ‘Is that his daughter?’ Janet asks.    Amelia laughs at the girl. ‘That’s not his daughter,sweetie.’    ‘Oh, I see. I guess it’s true what they say about him then?’   ‘What’s that?’    ‘You know. About him being… a ladies’ man.’    Both of the older women laugh. Amelia grabs Gwen’s arm, chuckling, ‘That must be the polite way of saying lecherous old snake.’    Gwen’s eyes narrow as she watches Marcus. She speaks to Janet without breaking off her gaze, ‘He was always a womanizer, sweetie.’    She recalls with sudden clarity how he’d been kissing a woman the first time she saw him. It was in the back lot of the studio, a long time ago. She’d walked past pretending not to notice. It was a while longer before the woman, a young socialite of the day, was gone and it had been her turn.    ‘He was a good kisser, I’ll give him that.’    The girl’s large eyes widen further. Marcus, once infamous for a never ending stream of roles in almost forgotten b-movies, had been resurrected by Guy Patterson, the hippest director in town. A series of slick movies had given him cult status.    ‘You two were together?’    ‘Oh, we were inseparable, for about three months. Till he…    ‘No. He didn’t? To you? I had no idea.’    Amelia butts in, ‘Never let people know everything about you, or what the hell are they going to gossip about at your funeral?’ 53

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Gwen watches him and chuckles. ‘Can you believe he’s four years younger than me?’    ‘Yeah, I guess.’    ‘I’ll let that one slide.’    The girl blushes and tries to change the subject. ‘I love his voice though.’    ‘Evidently you’re not the only one.’ He was near the grand piano now, whispering something into the ear of a woman not quite half his age, who arches her neck, smiling.‘The mellifluous old bastard.’    To Gwen’s relief, she sees that Janet has given up sipping her drink and begun to take gulps, keeping pace with her and Amelia.Under the influence of the booze, the girl’s diction was slipping. A touch of New Jersey creeping in. ‘It’s true though, you gotta admit it.’    ‘Well, it is true, I suppose. I’ve known a lot of actors that had great voices once. They just got weaker...what’s the word I’m looking for… reedier, that’s it. But that only seems to suit the thin ones. Most of them went the other way.’ She holds her arms out in front of her as though she had a fat belly, and puffs out her cheeks. ‘Jesus,’ she thinks, ‘maybe I’ve had too much to drink.’ They were all getting a little stoned.    ‘Oh look at him – the silly old fool.Making an ass of himself with those young girls.Crichton was right.’   ‘Who’s Crichton?’    ‘He was my late agent.’    ‘And her first husband.’ Amelia winks at Janet.    ‘Is Crichton his first name or his second?’    ‘She was married to him for two years and she doesn’t even know.’    Janet stares past her. ‘He’s coming over.’ Gwen is disappointed by the flicker of excitement in the girl’s voice.    Despite his age, Marcus is still broad shouldered and solid. He takes both of her hands and kisses her on each cheek. His grip is gentle but she can tell there’s strength left in the old dog.    ‘Isn’t it about time you retired?’ She nods towards the young women he had been flirting with since his arrival.    ‘I’ll retire when they stop asking me to play the part.Good to see you, Gwen, and you too, Amelia. And who is this?’    ‘This is Janet.’    The girl blushes and for a moment Gwendolyn is afraid she will curtsy. ‘I’m a great fan of your work, Mr Robertson.’    Gwen takes Janet’s arm in hers.    ‘How are you,Marcus?’    ‘I’m swell’. He was always so corny – everything was always ‘swell’ with him. Who the hell says ‘swell’ – even back when they’d met it was corny.    He was from Vegas, but you wouldn’t have known it. He was always so goddamn wholesome. The press loved to paint him as some sort of smooth talking scoundrel. The studio system threw them together, 54

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making movies on neighbouring lots, and later starring together in some corny romantic comedies, and the tabloid hacks couldn’t get enough of it. The honest, small-town girl from Ohio, seduced by the Vegas rogue. In truth she hadn’t taken a whole lot of seducing.    When they weren’t filming they would take off together. They left the city, disappearing to obscure little towns where the people were too polite to ask for autographs. There had been a lot of parties and fancy restaurants too. That all went with the territory. The life she’d always wanted. But when she looks back, the one time that really stood out now was the weekend they drove out to the hills in his Cadillac and got caught in a storm. They hadn’t been able to get the hood up and had to drive the mountain roads in the pouring rain. It was out of season, and nothing was open. Soaked and desperate they’d finally come across a run-down motel surrounded by redwoods. Years later she’d looked for it but never found it.    She must have looked like a drowned rat but he kept looking at her like she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. It all felt like a script from one of the dumb, corny films they’d starred in.    Roll camera - Go rain - Go wind machine – Action… Ext. Motel, Rural Northern California. Early 1960’s. Day. Raining heavily. An expensive convertible is parked outside a single story motel on a deserted country road. It is pouring with rain. Despite this the roof of the car is down. In it, a beautiful woman in her early twenties is sheltering under an umbrella. A sign outside the motel office says ‘closed for refurbishments’. Through the window of the motel office we can see a tall handsome man talking to the manageress. She is shaking her head. He leans in closer across the counter a well-practiced smile lighting his face. When he comes out, he is holding a room key. Int.Motel room. The room is in semi darkness. A radio tuned to a jazz station is playing softly and is almost drowned out by the storm outside. A young couple are standing in the centre of the room framed in the pale grey light from the window. They embrace. The camera cuts to wet clothes falling to floor Cut. Check the gate. Their glasses are empty again.Amelia looks sadly at the empties. ‘Well, I need a refill. Anybody else?’ They all nod. ‘Don’t go away.’    As she leaves a man in a loud shirt catches Marcus’ eye and waves 55

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him over. ‘Would you ladies excuse me a moment?’    He strolls across to where his director friend is mingling, open armed ready for the exaggerated hug and noisy greeting he was about to receive.    Janet asks quietly, ‘Gwen, do you mind me asking when you two were an item?’    ‘Oh God, honey. An age ago. I can hardly remember it, now.’    Gwen likes the girl and wonders if she could tell her about the storm and motel. Share something that she has never told to anyone, not even Amelia. But she doesn’t.   ‘What happened?’    ‘Oh nothing, those things never last. Let’s go out to the garden. We could both use some fresh air.’    Outside in the cool of the evening, they sit in silence for a while. Perhaps it is just the booze but Gwen senses that Janet is still waiting. There is something about the girl, unguarded, placid, that invites confession. Maybe it’s just that silence needs to be filled with explanation.    ‘I think I knew it was over when he came down to Darcie’s one afternoon. I’d just got a big part in a new movie. It seemed like such a big deal at the time, and I can’t even recall what it was now. I was with Crichton and some of the studio people drinking cocktails and Marcus turned up late with this big parcel tucked under his arm.Crichton was on his case straight away, trying to make him look stupid. Nothing heavy, just enough to show that he wasn’t welcome. I just stayed quiet, and that was when I knew. Then he gave the parcel to me in front of the others and made a big speech, all this stuff about how he felt like he could take the whole world on when we were together. I didn’t know what to say. I thought he was going to propose or something really dumb, and I could see Crichton seething.    ‘I guess I didn’t hide it too well and Marcus figured out something wasn’t right. When I started to open the present, he leaned over and whispered “No, keep it for later.” He kissedme goodbye. When he said so long to Crichtonhe didn’t even look at him. So I guess he knew the score.    ‘When Marcus had gone, Crichton said it would be better for everyone if I gave him a bit of space. He was always running him down though: What would the folks back home think if you’re going about with some Vegas hustler who screws one girl after another? What would your audience think?’    Gwen’s thoughts begin to drift again. The alcohol is making her maudlin. Tonight of all nights she should be happy, but she remembers seeing Marcus later on that week. They’d gone for something to eat, but neither had touched their food and she’d started to hate him for the way he was making her feel, asking what she wanted to do, like it was all down to her or something.    ‘I don’t know, Marcus. What did you think was going to happen? 56

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We’d buy a house in the country. Push out a couple of kids and spend our evenings in front of the fire? Oh my god, you did.’    She wishes she hadn’t laughed, but it was better to end it, properly. Let him hate her. Make it easy. When she left the restaurant, she’d thought it was over with, but it hadn’t quite played out. Int. Office on the second floor of a modern block. Film studios. Day. A young actress, GWENDOLYN sits on a modernist sofa. Her clothes are disordered and hair messed. She is holding a tumbler of whiskey tightly in two hands. Nearby, looking out of the window is her agent, CRICHTON. His shirt tails are out and below his trousers his feet are bare. He is looking quizzically through the blind. CRICHTON What the hell is he doing?Jesus, have some dignity for Crissakes. CHRIGHTON shuts the window and half closes the blind. The blind keeps out neither the bright Californian sun or the shouts of a young man on the lawn below. Yes, poor old Marcus.

GWENDOLYN

GWENDOLYN laughs and takes a sip of the drink. CRICHTON gives a short triumphant snort as he sees the studio SECURITY GUARD approach the young man. Ext. the lawn below the window. Day. Continuous A perfectly manicured lawn, bright green despite the drought. A Cadillac is pulled up diagonally onto the sidewalk and the sprinkler is splashing the interior of the car through its open door. In the middle of the lawn, looking up at the window stands MARCUS. MARCUS (Shouting and pacing) Gwen. Gwen. SECURITY GUARD Sir, if you don’t leave right now, I’m going to call the police and have you arrested. Int. Office. Film studios. Day.Continuous In the room raised voices can be heard from outside. GWENDOLYN jumps at the sound of breaking glass. The voices fade until there is silence. 57

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Ext. the lawn below the window. Day. Continuous The music fades up as the young man gets back into his Cadillac and drives away. It was a scene best left on the cutting room floor.    ‘It was no big deal. We just grew apart and things fizzled out. After that, he got trashed by the studio. They were protecting their assets, namely me. His last movie had bombed so they didn’t see it as much of a loss. He went back east and ended up doing pretty well on Broadway. Who saw that coming? Marcus always knew how to pick himself up. I was dating this guy once, a director, famous, but I won’t say who, and we, the director and I that is, were leaving this restaurant and Marcus was there, eating alone. It was just after the studio had dumped him. This director, who will remain nameless, said to the waiter, “Put Mr Robertson’s meal on my tab, he’s down on his luck.” The waiter was all, “that’s very generous of you sir.” And my director friend, full of shit as he always was, “One does what one can.” Anyway, Marcus saw him coming a mile off, I found out later he’d ordered a four hundred dollar bottle of wine and gave it to some bum on the sidewalk outside. And that was back when four hundred bucks was worth something.When he came back to LA a couple of years later, the studios loved him again.’   ‘Then what?’    ‘Then this. I’m here. He’s there. Everyone’s happy. It all worked out in the end.’    ‘And the gift he gave you? That was the painting, right?’    ‘Yes. Would you believe, I left it in the restaurant? They kept it for me, but I didn’t go back there for weeks. I bet if those waiters had known what it was I’d never have seen it again. Poor old Marcus had spent all the money he made on his first picture on it just because I’d mentioned that I’d always loved the idea of going to Tahiti. By the time I realised it was my beautiful Gauguin it was all over. I got Crichton to return it to Marcus, but he wouldn’t take it.’    ‘It’s kind of sad. Why do you keep it? You could sell it. It must be worth a fortune’    ‘Come on, it’s getting chilly out here, and I want to tell you something.’    Gwen takes the girl back to the gallery. They stand in front of the painting.    ‘You know, I hardly ever look at it anymore. Not really look. He, Gauguin that is, went to Tahiti because he thought it would be paradise, only things didn’t work out the way he thought. By the time he got there, his unspoilt haven had gone to shit and the locals had all caught the clap from Spanish sailors. Instead of going home, do you know what he did? He sat down and rather than painting what he found there, he painted what he’d wanted to find. Those colours never really existed. That girl was a long way from being an innocent native. It reminds me 58

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that whatever life throws at you, you’ve just got to march on, and however rough the road gets, you have to tell yourself that the gravel in your shoes is really the sand of a beach in paradise.’    They go back into the party, making their way over to where Marcus is saying goodbye to a group of young industry hopefuls: ‘Say I’ve gotta get going. Why don’t you young ladies come back to my place? It’s nothing fancy. Just a little old shack up in the hills.’ He winks and they laugh.    Gwen joins them. ‘Marcus, are you leaving us already?’    ‘Goodbye,Gwen. And congratulations on your award, you deserve it.’    ‘Thank you, Marcus. It was lovely to see you again. Thank you so much for coming.’   ‘Well, goodnight.’   ‘Goodnight.’    Standing alone in the doorway, she watches Marcus leave, and for a moment she finds herself looking for some little sign that he remembers. Then she sees the intern watching her, adding two and two. ‘Sweetie, that was all a long time ago.’ They stand on the terrace for a moment. ‘The sad thing is not that you can’t get over someone, but that you do.’    She takes the girl’s arm and leads her back towards the noise. ‘Come on, there’s somebody I’d like you to meet.’

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Colouring Life

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Power Game

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Nature Frame

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Perspectives

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Serenity 1

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Serenity 2

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Shades of Contemplation 1

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Visual Art|Vrishketu Rathore

Shades of Contemplation 2

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Book Review|Usha Kishore Untamed Heart: a praise song to the contemporary Indian woman

Mona Dash’s novel Untamed Heart is published by TaraIndia Research Press and its imprint 4, 2016 and is available in selected book shops in major Indian cities and online on Amazon and Flipkart.

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ona Dash’s debut novel, Untamed Heart, is a praise song to the contemporary Indian woman coming of age in a patriarchal society that refuses to relinquish its orthodox views. In an India, struggling to hold ground between tradition and contemporaneity, enmeshed in a plethora of complexities, the female protagonist Mohini comes to terms with herself and the world around her. The meeting of East and West and the spaces they occupy geographically and culturally are marvellously portrayed in the novel. The response of the protagonist to her multicultural spaces is based on her own choices and at the same time, beyond her control. The strikingly beautiful protagonist is an ambivalent and complex character: martyr, deceiver and explorer in wilful pursuit of the world and a means of transcending her limitations. In Mohini’s dilemmas, we see the India existing in many tiers: the sanctimonious middle class India, the India of the emerging and educated upper class, the corporate India, the NRI India and the evolving female India.    Opening at a critical moment in the protagonist’s life in New Delhi, the bustling capital of India, the novel takes the reader through a labyrinth of Mohini’s past, her present, her roller coaster emotions, her complex family life and her uncertain future. Mohini’s sister, Rajani is the catalyst who inspires her to take up a career, thus setting the wheel in motion. A fateful official trip to the island city of Singapore empowers the heroine, who summons up her courage and wits to pursue her career and break the shackles of a housewife trapped in the kitchen and meal times of a dysfunctional joint family and mechanised middle class Delhi. In a sense, Rajani is Dash herself, who appeals for the empowerment and emancipation of women in contemporary India.    The novel is a journey into the dreams, disappointments and 68

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aspirations of contemporary middle class Indian women, who are bound by tradition to their families. The novelist highlights the patriarchal innuendoes lurking behind the façade of tradition and exposes the subjugation of middle class womanhood in a tangled web of desires and conflicts. As the novel progresses, Mohini liberates herself from her middle class predicament and launches herself into the diasporic corporate world of sizzling parties and sexual politics, creating impasse and imbroglio in the otherwise mundane lives of her husband and in-laws. Just as she withholds sexual intimacy from her husband, Mohini wilfully submits herself to the desires, hypnosis and sob stories of Alan and Tomas, the Western corporate seducers. Her relationships with these metrosexual males are contrapuntal to Kipling’s never the twain shall meet. The transgression of boundaries, the defiance of moral codes, the subversion of patriarchy and the dynamics of sexual desire are all bold themes that the novelist has handled with great sensitivity and intensity. Sexuality is celebrated individually and decried socially, prompting the reader to negotiate paradigmatic spaces between womanhood and society.    Dash’s experiments with narrative style in her debut novel demonstrates great panache. The third person omniscient narrator occasionally lapses into subjective perspective, which makes the narrative unreliable in places, leaving the reader curious about the attitudes and mentalities of the other characters, who linger in the peripheries of the protagonist’s solitary reverie. In a stream of consciousness mode, Dash wades in and out of the dark recesses of the protagonist’s psyche that indulges in sexual fantasy, reminiscences on teenage romance and confesses to extra-marital affairs. The novel strikes a strong chord with Kamala Das’s confessional poems.   Untamed Heart is a bipartite novel chronicling the protagonist’s predicament in India and her adventurous world travel on corporate wings. The events within the novel revolve around Delhi and London, locating the narrative world and defining the socio-cultural milieu. There is no postcolonial angst here, but a portrayal of the multicultural metropolis that is London. London based Dash leads the reader through the city’s tubes (A-Z of London), “the quaint mazes” of streets, the Bank of England Museum and the Sri Murugan Temple in East Ham. The immigrants’ assimilation into the host culture is highlighted in the Wimbledon flat that Mohini shares with the Chinese girl Kim, the drinks in Covent Garden, the wanderings along the Thames Embankment and the shopping trips to River Island and Zara. The narrative historicises the 7/7 terrorist attacks, drawing the reader into contemporary geo-politics that affects the lives of millions in the world city of London: the soul of London was hit, and today she was at one with the city and its crying inhabitants. Contrarily, Delhi smothers the reader with middle class claustrophobia. The reader is entrapped with the heroine in a joint family, where the men go out to work and the in-laws expect to be served by the 69

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bahu, forcing her to enact the dictates of age-old patriarchy: Karyeshu dasi, Karaneshu mantri, Bhojeshu mata, Shayaneshu rambha1. It is from these conforming, cloistered roles that Mohini flees into the competitive corporate world, in a journey of self-discovery.    Nevertheless, the unity of place is playfully shattered in this fast paced novel that cruises into various other metropolitan settings like Bombay, Singapore, Malaysia and Cannes. The non-linear narrative, juxtaposed with flashbacks, explores crucial points and places in the protagonist’s life. The sense of place is accomplished with brilliant sensory images. The olfactory and gustatory images of the Indian cuisine lures the reader into Mohini’s kitchen in Flat 6, overflowing with innumerable spices, jalebis, samosas, pakoras and gajar halwa. In the same manner, Singapore is evoked in Singapore Sling and nasi goreng and Kuala Lumpur, in the mouth-watering culinary delights of spring rolls, chicken wontons and prawns on sesame toast. The reader is also taken on an audio-visual trip of Bombay’s shopping malls and markets that form the backdrop of Mohini’s initial wedded bliss and a sightseeing tour of Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes and the Juan Les Pins in Côte D’Azur.    Dash cleverly incorporates nuances of her personal life into the novel; her Odisha roots are signified in the Praharaj family, their customs and traditions. Likewise, the London ambience, its contradictions and its evening atmosphere, highlighted by friendly chit chat and drinks, locates the novelist’s corporate background. The reader is given an insight into the corporate empires, their competitions, sexuality and successes. Ironically, corporate conferences are caricatured in: the make-shift banners stitched by the reluctant Chinese tailor, out of red and gold fabric bought from Singapore’s China Town; Heera’s passing expletive, “you sly bitch,” flung at an upwardly mobile Mohini at the Delhi office of Interactive and Jiten’s “crazy bhangra” to the beats of Kylie Minogue at a night club in Malaysia. Dash’s penchant for travel is also conveyed here: Mohini would sometimes open her passport and count the new stamps. She would imagine more visas in the empty pages; she dreamed of travelling to every continent.    The novelist’s passion for literature and the ensuing intertextuality can be gleaned in the allusion to A Tale of Two Cities and the current link between them: to float between the twin cities on the Eurostar; …twin cities separated by a small stretch of water, yet so different in worlds and in Mohini’s Baudelaire quotes that seduce Alan at the fountains in Petronas: In the courtyard the chattering fountain, which does not stop night or day, sweetly sustains the ecstasy into which love this evening has plunged me. (The Fountain)

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The symbolism behind the protagonist’s nomenclature rests on the Indian myth of Mohini, her name translated as enchantress. There are a number of myths associated with Mohini, the female avatar of the Hindu God, Vishnu. The mythical Mohini is divinely beautiful and enchants gods and demons alike for the welfare of the world. The avatar is considered hermaphroditic due to the fact that a male god incarnates in female form and possesses characteristics of both genders: female wiles and male deceit. However, the avatar is considered bereft of independent existence and is absorbed into Vishnu after serving her purpose. Similarly, the exotic protagonist can be read as a magically delusive entity, who exists temporarily in order to liberate herself from the entrapment of marriage: Like Mohini, who came to the Earth with a purpose, of getting rid of evil, she too would go beyond her own world, her own personal freedom. ….She was alive and more importantly she knew why she had to live. Her Freedom was complete.

Karyeshu dasi, Karaneshu mantri, Bhojeshu mata, Shayaneshu rambha, Kshameshu dharithri, Roopeshu lakshmi, Shatkarma yukta, Kuladharma patni. 1

This well-known Sanskrit shloka attributed to the text Neeti Sara, can be translated as: “A slave in toil, a minister in counsel, a mother in sustenance, a seductress in bed, earth in endurance, a goddess in form; perfect is the wife, who abounds in all six virtues.” The verse enumerates the pre-requisites (in the guise of virtues) of a wife and assigns gender roles, reinforcing the expectations of patriarchal society. The verse is not mentioned in the novel, but the protagonist’s role within the Praharaj family operates within these parameters and hence is thus interpreted by the reviewer.

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Poetry|Phil Kirby Exeunt In brief moments when a class had gone, the last child drawing all sound through the door, something else moved in: a sense of having reached some place he ought to be. He’d fingerprint the chalk dust, move a book or two, to make the room’s arrangement his, the way he wanted it: ‘Here is my space,’ he’d say (remembered from his own school days.) But that other-peopled country has grown distant, those students’ unlined faces staring out of classrooms, buses, trying to imagine being older, their daydreams tumbling, shifting, leaving spaces to be filled with futures. It grates him now to have so little hope of better deeds tomorrow. However hard he tries to fill each moment with some pleasure, he cannot help but feel the dusk approach and, his day surrendering to cold, to failing light, that Shakespeare’s Antony had got it wrong: it’s beast and man alike who feed the dungy earth.

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Poetry|Ben Banyard Body Stories On the radio they say the victim sustained life-changing injuries. My grandfather lost half a finger in a machine at work. I broke my collar bone under a collapsed scrum. Dad came off a Triumph, his nose crushed on asphalt. Scars narrate pain; we’re never the same. And then I think of the Caesarean, how you have a smile just there.

Welcome I see you looking at my life flapping by threads in the cold wind of your grey streets. You think I might pick your pocket punch-in to your job spawn a warren of offspring? Or am I that other kind scream some red oath shred us both as though I had faith? If you knew my journey could count the bribes taste the salt fear you’d only look away. 73

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Short Fiction|Sarah Schofield Like to Disappear

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his is the last appointment of the day before you’ll go home and tell Rachel that you’re leaving her.    “Just a quick recce, Greg,” your boss says. “Drop off this woman’s forms… Mrs Clough. Get dimensions...”    You say, “Fine,” and smile at Jen on reception as you leave.    You put the postcode into your TomTom and pull away. Everything will feel different by this time on Monday. A cleaner will deal with your mess in your hotel room while you’re out. You’ll be able to order anything you fancy off the room service menu for supper.    The traffic has an antsy Friday feel; people impatient to get home. You feel impatient, too, but not in the glass of red, sofa-nodding sort of way. Today you just need to get back. Get it over with. Quick, like ripping a plaster.    It feels strange now it’s here; the date you randomly starred in red biro in your desk diary months ago. When you starred it, during staff meeting on a drizzly January Monday, you didn’t think about why you were doing it. It was merely the same day of the month several months into the future. But as your boss talked about targets and local housing policies, your foot stopped bouncing as the star glared back – a beacon, on the bleak white page. By the end of the day, you’d decided it was a personal deadline. A vague ultimatum that you’ve shaped as it approaches. You listed your frustrations on scraps of paper; overlooked at work, weight creeping on, Rachel’s cooking, Rachel’s nagging, Rachel… and then shredded them illicitly in the back office. In the work kitchenette there’s a tea-speckled poster taped to a cupboard door. It reads Do it now. Sometimes, later becomes never. You stared at it every time you waited for the kettle to boil. Fraction by fraction you came to a heady conclusion as you looked forward in the desk diary, pressed your biro into the star, embossing the page. At night, as Rachel slept with an arm resting over your stomach, you fantasised about having an entire double to yourself, watching porn on your laptop in bed. You’ll stock up on Durex because you’ll need them, your virility assumed. And you’ll thrill about preventing rather than attempting to make life. Maybe you’ll try some new things. You’ve always wondered about some of the things you’ve seen. But with Rachel it has got to a point where it is far too late to mention it. You nearly did once, when you’d both been up drinking, but she fell asleep on the sofa. So you’d slipped her shoes off and pulled a blanket over her instead.    You indicate and turn onto a country lane. You’re not like other men. You could have started an affair with Jen. But so far, all that’s happened 74

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is you once touched her hand in the kitchenette passing her the Digestives and you texted her a joke at Christmas about a snowman asking another snowman if he could smell carrots to which she’d replied hehe x. She offered you a lift home from the Christmas party. Her skirt rode up her thigh and you had to rest some property particulars over your lap. Neither of you spoke for the ten minute journey. Later, you played back all the things you could have done. A lot of them involved the back seat and lay-bys. And you realised, with spiking reminiscence, you were mostly recalling sequences from the VHS collection you’d dumped when you moved in with Rachel. You wondered if you’d be able to find copies of them somewhere on the internet.    You pull up outside a Laylandii shadowed cottage. You rap the knocker.    Mrs Clough, short and chaotically grey, opens the door. You smile and lift the forms.    “You’ll have some tea,” she says and leads you inside, pointing into a room off the hall. You go in, sit on the sofa edge and wait. You listen to her rattling crockery. The room smells of talc on damp skin and deep fried things.    You go to the doorway. “I need some measurements. I’ll get on, if…”    “One minute,” she calls back, and so you sit again, with your hands pressed between your knees. You get out your diary and stare at the biro star. Your forehead prickles, so you snap the book shut and stand and pull the laser measure from your pocket and take dimensions of the lounge. You write generous proportions, décor needs refreshing in your notepad.    You straighten the orange-tone family photograph hanging over the fireplace. A buxom Mrs Clough in crochet top and copper perm, a man with a lick-spit brush-over and a boy in dental braces. The carriage clock on the mantelpiece, flanked by porcelain ballerinas, says 2.10. You glance at your watch.    You shout through, “I’ll just take some measurements upstairs…”    Mrs. Clough enters carrying a tray. “Here we go.” She pours the tea. Her teapot is printed with chimps from the PG Tips advert. The spout rim is tannin stained. You start explaining but she is focussed on pouring the tea. She pulls a stained cosy over the teapot and smoothes it tenderly.    “Now,” she says, handing you a cup.    “Yes. So, you just need to complete these forms. It’s very straight forward.”    “My husband’s the one to do this sort of thing.”    “Right. Is he…?”    “No, lovey. He’s passed. That’s why I’m selling. No money for the mortgage. A man came round to say.”   “Oh.”    She gazes at the form you hold out. “I wouldn’t know where to 75

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start.”    “It’s really not complicated.” The papers droop in your hand.    She looks away.    “Perhaps… perhaps if you popped into our office one of the girls could help you.” Jen, you think. Jen would know how to handle this woman. You’d spend time briefing her. She’d see how caring you were, she’d note what you said, leaning forward to listen, her blouse taut across her chest… “I’ll make an appointment for you now, shall I?” You get out your mobile.    When you look up the woman is staring. “How old are you?” she says.    You clear your throat and slip the phone away. “Thirty five.”    She nods. “Yes…” A clock down the hall chimes. “Kiddies?”    You wipe your palms on your trousers. “Not… No.”    As she talks, you glance at your watch again. You’d hoped to get home before Rachel started cooking dinner. Leaving her would be harder in the face of half-peeled carrots, or a prepared meal. And it wasn’t something that would wait for after supper. To eat first then do it when you’d normally be settling down to Eastenders just seemed callous.    “…He’ll be that age, too. I’ve an eye. But it’s no use having an eye if you’ve no money. It all went on him. My husband never told me; I only found out after he’d passed. Trying to protect me. He was good like that.”    You smile. You glaze. This weekend is for you; your first weekend of freedom. With Jen, perhaps, if you find a nice hotel; with mini bar and room service. Or you’ll pop out and get cava or something, and smuggle the bottle past reception. They can be funny about that, can’t they?    You realise Mrs Clough has asked something. She’s looking at you. You fiddle with your laser measure. “I need to get on.”    “Have a top up.” She lifts the pot.    You stand abruptly. “No.”    She starts, the teapot slips, crashing onto the table, spilling tea on the carpet.    “Oh dear, dear. Is it broken?” She whips off the cosy, dabs it around. “My son got me it. He recorded the monkeys on the telly. Watched it over and over.”    “I’ll get on…” you say, standing and backing away as she fusses around.    You go to the kitchen and switch on your laser measure. You jot down dated units. A window overlooks a generous garden. Chickweed pushes between the patio slabs. In a flowerbed, straggly roses dip their heads around a shrivelled football.    Upstairs, you measure the landing and wonder what you’ll do tomorrow. Most Saturdays you go shopping in town with Rachel, every week you end up frustrated and bored. You could go and browse in HMV but if you were entirely honest, you might acknowledge to yourself the 76

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tiny buzz you feel in watching her drift with casual defiance into the maternity section. When she touches the garments on the racks you like to disappear out of the shop door or between clothes stands and watch her unseen. After a few minutes she’ll look around, then shortly later she’ll stand still, anxiously peering about the shop. She gets her phone out. Your phone vibrates irritably in your pocket. You approach, smiling coyly, as if you didn’t realise. And she snaps away from you saying something like, “I hate it when you do that.” Or, “do you enjoy making me feel stupid? Making me look like a stupid person waiting?”    Why do you do it? You don’t particularly enjoy cajoling her back into conversation. Could it be for that brief thrilling nostalgia for the person you were? The guy at the bar, the guy who can just decide one morning to go to Alton Towers or the match or whatever without needing to check with other people, if they’ve scheduled other plans for you; weddings, christenings, BBQ’s, cluttering your life with events that they claim to have run past you but you don’t recall.    She cooked you dinner the other evening. (She cooks your dinner every bloody evening. Healthy stuff that leaves your stomach gurgling through the night.) You were home late, after she’d gone out for a late shift or Yoga or something, so she plated up your half and left it under foil on the kitchen table. Some sort of white cod or haddock, leaking fishy water into the tomato sauce ladled over the top. You drove to Spar, bought a chicken tikka wrap and ate it while you clicked through Jen’s Facebook profile. When you finished, you pushed the wrapper deep into the outside bin and went to bed. Later, you heard the front door open, then a listening pause. Footsteps. You heard rustling foil, a knife scraping against a plate, the bin lid shutting. You pretended to be asleep when she came up.    Upstairs, at Mrs Clough’s, you push into a bedroom. The curtains are faded and there’s a gin bottle beside the bed. You take dimensions quickly. The next room, bathroom, has a bar of Imperial Leather cracking on the sink and a streaky glass full of snaggled toothbrushes on the windowsill. Rachel wouldn’t stand this mess.    When you were first married, Rachel’s cooking, ironing and cleaning had been a humorous ironic language of love. But it wore thin. Probably around the time you stopped ironically thanking her and began picking through her meals. Sneaking burgers on the way home. Sometimes she sighs, and uses expressions like, “are we on the same page?” It makes you feel like a child, so you’ll say something glib about only looking at the pictures and kiss her forehead.    You push the door into the last room, rubbing an arc over the carpet. The bed has a tightly tucked Transformers duvet. Posters cover the walls. Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Roses and Metallica. Something doesn’t feel true. Laid out precisely on the dresser; a rusty-rimmed Lynx Africa aerosol, a stack of pogs, an open Tab Clear and a dull blue Koosh ball. There is a line up of trophies on the windowsill. 77

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“He likes his football.” Mrs Clough leans in the doorway. She smoothes a corner of a poster, tacking it back onto the woodchip. After a moment it springs away again. “Good boy.”   “Your son?”    She presses the corner of the poster down again into the blu-tac. You watch it slowly peel away. “My David spent our savings trying to find him. I didn’t know.”    “Where did he go?” You fiddle with the buttons on the laser measure in your slick palm, then place it down.    “Just went...” She considers you. “I keep it nice. All his things.”    “What, for if he comes home?” You swallow.    Her cheeks quiver. She sniffs. Ugliness undulates across her features.    You back out of the room, saying you’ll come back first thing Monday.    As you drive away you see her in the rear view mirror waving your laser measure. “Rachel?” You call as you open the front door. You listen.    On the kitchen table is a foil-covered plate. You lift the foil. It is Thai green curry and rice. Half a naan wrinkles into the sauce. You look for a note, or message.    You go upstairs and check her drawers. You ring her mobile and listen to her voicemail message over and over.    You lean by the sink for a while.    You slide the plate of curry into the microwave. You stand watching it revolve for three and a half minutes.    You eat it off your lap while Eastenders is on.    You keep your phone beside you in case she rings.

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Poetry (Translation)|Inderjeet Mani Bulleya! Who Knows Who I Am! (Bulleh Shah1) Na main momin vich maseetaan Na main vich kufar diyan reetaan Na main paakaan vich paleetaan Na main moosa na firown Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun Na main andar ved kitaabaan Na vich bhangaan na sharaabaan Na vich rindaan masat kharaabaan Na vich jaagan na vich saun Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun Na vich shaadi na ghamnaaki Na main vich paleeti paaki Na main aabi na main khaki Na main aatish na main paun Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun Na main arabi na lahori Na main hindi shehar nagauri Na hindu na turak peshawri Na main rehnda vich nadaun Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun Na main bheth mazhab da paaya Ne main aadam havva jaaya Na main apna naam dharaaya Na vich baitthan na vich bhaun Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun Avval aakhir aap nu jaana Na koi dooja hor pehchaana Maethon hor na koi siyaana Bulla! ooh khadda hai kaun Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun

I don’t dance with dervishes Nor kowtow to fetishes Never a cut above the masses Neither a prophet nor a fascist Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun! Bored stiff by sacred verse Drunks ranting are a curse As for sleeping, I do it alone Half-awake, never reaching the zone. Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun! I don’t play happy, nor do I moan Neither flawless nor unsightly Neither mushy nor hard as stone Neither fickle nor flighty Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun! Not an Arab or a junkie Not an Indian or a flunkey Not a Turk or a refugee Nor a survivor from Babylon Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun! Scripture gave me nothing juicy I’m not even a child of Lucy, No longer tethered to my name Neither a spectator, nor in the game Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun! Start to finish, all I am is me Who else can I strive to be? Such wisecracks have won me renown, Oy Bulla! Who’s standing there alone? Bulleya Ki jaana main Kaun!

Punjabi poet and Sufi, 1680-1757.

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Ali G does Kabir2 बीत गये दिन भजन बिना रे । भजन बिना रे भजन बिना रे ॥ बाल अवस्था खेल गवांयो । जब यौवन तब मान घना रे ॥ लाहे कारण मूल गवाँयो । अजहुं न गयी मन की तृष्णा रे ॥ कहत कबीर सुनो भई साधो । पार उतर गये संत जना रे ॥

Bruvvers, me life’s been pissed away In silence, widout thinkin to pray. Me shawty days wasted in play Me macho struttin so totally passé. Hear me, bonin blew all me mula away But me brain still hankerin fer payday. So listen up to what me man Kabir say Dem wicked seers be in nirvana today.

Coda (Kabir) धीरे-धीरे रे मना धीरे सब कुछ होय, माली सींचे सौ घड़ा ॠतु आए फल होय ।

2

Mind: steady your flows! Nature must its course run Water we may this garden, Only summer brings mangoes!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_G. 80

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Short Fiction|Neil Campbell Stepping Stones

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t Shankfoot, Ashleigh stands by the window. Near the river’s edge, where it turns in a sweep towards where the ford used to be at Melkridge, a grey heron stands motionless. Alfie barks in the kitchen. There’s the sound of the gate being opened on the footpath. The grey heron unfolds itself and lifts off over the river with a languid sweep of its wings. Ashleigh wipes through the condensation on the windows and there’s a blurred shape moving through the mist towards High Barns. She hears a rattle on the corrugated roof of the cow shed, and the afternoon sky fills with wood pigeons.    The river washes by and a buzzard gets hassled by cawing crows. The trees by the river’s edge leading on to Haughstrother Wood seem shoved over by the westerly wind. A car moves over the cattle grid at East Unthank. Hounds echo from cages behind the house there. When the barking peters out, the opened window is once more filled with the sound of the river moving by like leaves across the cattle shed roof.    From the moorland above her house the banging starts: caps peeping from sunken stone squares on Howden Rigg; from Willimoteswick, banging with more of an echo. Each bang brings another leaf down from the trees towering over the house. The intermittent banging continues until the sun falls behind Haltwhistle.    Blackness creeps through the thinning trees to grip the stone walls of the house in coming cold. Ashleigh crumples newspapers into balls, throws them into the wood stove, and soon enough orange light flickers on the walls of the darkening room. She sits there before the flames. They glint in her eyes. She opens a bottle of red wine and drinks three glasses from it. Her head lolls back on the sofa, her eyes blink open and closed. Alfie barks from the kitchen and Ashleigh blinks again. The barking continues, goes on and on. The gate doesn’t clink shut. Alfie doesn’t stop. Ashleigh listens from the couch. In a brief gap in Alfie’s barking there’s a sound on the gravel drive. Alfie is leaping up against the kitchen door as Ashleigh turns the light on. Without light there might have been shadow. Alfie has run past, along the hallway, and is now leaping up against the front door. When he stops there is a sound like steps on the stones. There’s a rattle of one of the sash windows. The living room is stifling. The bucket by the fire is empty. The coal shed is outside. Alfie doesn’t stop barking. He leaps up and down.    Ashleigh gets a poker from the fireside, puts it on the carpet next to the sofa. She pours wine into her glass, emptying the bottle. She holds the empty bottle then leaves it on the carpet by the poker. She drinks the wine down in one gulp and goes back to the rack. She uncorks 81

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second bottle. Alfie has stopped barking. He follows her to the sofa. He waits until she is still and then jumps on her. He is weightless. The glowing coals of the fire flicker in their eyes. The wine threatens to spill from the glass that tilts in Ashleigh’s lap. She blinks again, rights the glass, drinks from it and refills it from the bottle. The neck of the bottle is warm now. The whole bottle is warm now. When it is empty she closes her eyes before the fading coals of the fire. Alfie sleeps by her side.    Cold wears in through her clothes. She picks up a grumbling Alfie, carries him up the dark stairs to the bedroom warmed by the evening’s fire below. The moonlight through the thin curtains gives some light; in blurry blackness traced with silver there’s her opened dresser drawer. She closes it and puts on her pyjamas as Alfie jumps up onto the bed. Outside the window the river moves over the stepping stones, covering them in a moonlit flow.    Ashleigh puts on her dressing gown and shuffles down the stairs. She turns on the kettle and then feeds Alfie. After coffee she dresses and walks outside. There’s a disturbance to the stones on the drive and scratches on the window ledge. She jumps at the sound of a gunshot, doesn’t jump when she hears a second one.    She puts Alfie on his lead and walks down Unthank Road. She stops by the cattle shed. Brown cows pop their heads between barriers to eat straw and stare vacantly at Ashleigh and Alfie. In the field behind them that leads across to the river and the railway line, there’s a group of curlews. When a train passes eastwards the curlews rise into the air and swirl in a half circle before landing again. Ashleigh leans on the fence and raises her binoculars. Alfie curls up on the grass next to the fence and only a few of the brown cows aren’t eating.    In the yard by the cowshed there’s a decayed trailer. A metal clasp brushes against the supports of the trailer, banging in the breeze. Behind the cowshed there’s a flooded burn trickling around the base of a forest plantation. In a gap in the trees there are tyre tracks leading into the darkness of the wood. A buzzard sits in the top branches of the trees. A grey heron stands by the side of the flooded burn scrutinizing the shallows.    She walks up the hill past the empty house opposite her own. The FOR SALE sign is as faded as the yellow footpath marker on the stile. Walking up the hill with Alfie, they rise beyond Howden Cleugh and higher towards the winter sunlight, passing a tiny waterfall at Howden Burn. Pheasants burst from the Cleugh, four hens followed by a cock.    Finally she reaches Wagtail Hall on the crest of the rise. She ties Alfie’s lead around a gate and then climbs in through the space where a window had been. The carpet is a three feet deep accumulation of dried mud, and when she steps on it her feet fall through. She laughs suddenly and just stands there. Hadrian’s Wall is picture framed by empty windows. Above the living room fireplace there’s another little fireplace 82

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high on the wall. Gun shots blast out on Howden Rigg. Ashleigh steps out of the dried mud and sits on the window ledge. There are spools of barbed wire stored in the corner. Alfie barks at a buzzard.    Back home she considers the wine in the rack. The sun is yet to set behind Haltwhistle. Pink light falls on the bend of the river where the stepping stones are. When it fades to deep blue then black she turns on a lamp in the living room. The hills turn to silhouettes. Ashleigh goes to the wine rack and counts the remaining bottles.    In the hush of Haughstrother Wood there’s a deliberate tread across a thick bed of pine needles and slow lapping from a puddle. Moonlight falls between the trees and stripes a roe deer listening for movement.

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Poetry|John Grey Directionals Life is getting on with it. It’s either cling to its coattails or stay behind. Children take center stage. What are our adult aggravations compared to their games? Young faces are in the ascendency. It’s all about who can ride their skateboard to the death. A crowd gathers for the latest half-pipe maneuver. The grocery list falls by the wayside. Some friends are buying vacation homes. Others adopt extensive fitness regimes. But without their offspring, they can’t power up their laptops. And one son killed a thousand aliens. A daughter has a phone that speaks a hundred languages. The vacation home is seldom used. Despite, the hours on the elliptical machine, middle-age spread edges farther from the belt. Soon enough, their kids will be married off, with babies of their own, and their own redundancy to follow. There’s an entire race of unborn who will wipe everything and everyone extant from the map, from conversation, from memory. Life only knows one direction. It’s the cruel one every time.

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Poetry|Kevin Casey Typo in a Church Bulletin The inerrant word of God inclined in the rack on the pew-back in front of me, but throughout the minister’s scripture lesson I chose instead to read the church bulletin. And having found a spelling error on the second page, the next ten minutes were spent wavering between pity for the poor church secretary, pride, and the guilt that followed this gloating. By the time the organ announced the next hymn, I had closed the bulletin to admire the sweep of the painted dove’s wing featured on the cover, resolving that the day’s catechism should instead take its cue from the light that dyed the pamphlet in my hand, filtering through the colored panes in hues that both contrasted and yet were fused, the morning and myself disregarding the soldered stories of whatever figures were stained upon that wall of windows.

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Short Fiction|Alison Lock A taste for blood

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n the time before the recording of history, the world was a place of many trees, where forests swirled with mists and amphibious creatures swam unheeded through the streams and rivers, leaping from pool to pool and wallowing in the deepest lakes. There was an abundance of vegetation, and many kinds of animals that grazed and multiplied. There were the Stick People, too. It was said that they had come from the trees because of their long slender sapling-like limbs, but their skin was as rough as old bark. They had everything they needed and never had to go far for food or drink; their shelters were the weatherhewn caves of the soft rocky cliffs and their natural resting places were carved into the trees. They spent their days lolling in the moss, paddling their canoes in the shallows, teasing the fish by tickling their gills, and climbing along the overhanging boughs until the slim branches swayed and bowed and could not longer hold their weight, at which point they hollered and lurched into the deep pools sending wave upon wave rippling towards the far green banks.    Simon was reading from the storybook, as Eve surveyed the kitchen. Play-dough still lay in lumps on the kitchen table and the floor was imprinted with small human footmarks. Simon was on the sofa in the corner of the room, leaning back, his legs crossed one over the other. Jethro was next to him in his pyjamas, nudging him to continue. Simon took a sip of wine from the glass at his side, looked up, and smiled at Eve. She felt comforted as she turned back to the sink where the washing up bowl was filled to the brim with bubbles that were glistening and reflecting the light from the window in colourful rhomboids. She pushed her hands into the froth to retrieve the toys.    She felt relieved that Carly had come to collect Alex. It had not been an easy day. She had left the two three-year-olds only for a few moments while she answered the phone – they were building a tower of bricks in the living room. She could hear the rise and fall of their voices from the hallway as she listened to the tight electronic words coming through the receiver. Another call from the rent collection department. Then – crash – scream! Eve dropped the phone and ran back to the living room. The floor was covered with the scattered remains of the demolished tower and Alex was throwing the bricks at Jethro. As each brick bounced off his head, Jethro stood there, not moving, looking stunned and not even crying. Eve grabbed Alex’s arm just as he was about to throw a small wooden hammer at the television screen.    She had managed the situation well, she mused, but things had come to a bitter end later on while the two boys were making animals 86

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out of matchsticks and plasticine. There were not enough matchsticks so she had added a few cocktail sticks – that was the mistake. Cocktail sticks are weapons – they have sharp pointy ends that hurt when stabbed into flesh. Eve could not collect them in quickly enough once she realised her error and there was almost a major incident. Alex shoved a cocktail stick at Jethro’s face, just missing Jethro’s eye.    When Carly had phoned the previous day to ask if Eve would have Alex, Eve had hesitated. It will be good for Alex and Jethro, Carly explained, it will give them the opportunity to make up for their recent falling out. Not very diplomatic, Eve thought, but she agreed to look after Alex. Carly had been having a difficult time lately: her partner, not the father of Alex, had left – a good thing in Eve’s mind. She had never liked Chas because of how he was with Alex – too strict and unaware of how unhappy it made Alex. And now Carly had an appointment at the hospital to check a lump in her breast that was probably a cyst – but there was always that worry. Naturally, Eve wanted to help out.    Eve lifts out the bright plastic toys from the bubbles: shape moulds, cutters, rollers, and a large dice appear. It reminds her of a lucky dip, but one where you’d get another chance if you weren’t pleased with the gift. Eve rinses each item under the tap and leaves them to dry on the draining board. Behind her, Simon clears his throat and carries on with the story.   The Stick People had never known hunger, but one day, when they were bored, they set out to chase the creatures of the forest – for sport at first—but then they began to kill them. They were beautiful creatures, untamed but gentle: deer, hogs, wildcats, and crows. The Stick People wondered what to do with their freshly killed creatures, and it was not long before they developed a taste for blood.    ‘Eurgh!’ Jethro exclaims in delight.    ‘What is this story?’ Eve asks, with a concerned look. ‘Are you sure it’s suitable for a three-year-old?’    ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop!’ Jethro urges.    The Stick People became greedy and rather than take what they needed, they slaughtered more and more of the fauna of the forest not even bothering to save or salt the leftovers. They had no idea that one day there would be a dearth of flesh. The problems began because many of the creatures they slaughtered were young and had not yet had the chance to reproduce. Inevitably, when their favourite source of food was scarce the Stick People became restless and discontented. It was getting harder and harder to put meat on the stone tables and they began to steal hunks and slithers from each other’s abodes often in the dark of the night, which resulted in many firelight fights where the loser would end up singed, or worse—burnt to a cinder. 87

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Carly said that Alex had been up since 5 o’clock that morning and he certainly looked tired when they arrived. Rather than walk with them to the playgroup, Eve strapped the two infants into the double buggy she’d borrowed from her neighbour. On the way home they went to the park and spent ten minutes playing on the slide. Eve hoped that they would be tired out and that after lunch the boys would both have a nice long nap – but it was not to be. Before they reached home the trouble started. The two boys began elbowing each other in the buggy followed by Alex digging his fingers into the flesh of Jethro’s arm. They had not far to go so Eve walked as fast as she could pushing the loaded buggy up the hill. They had just rounded the last corner when Jethro screamed. Alex had grabbed at the flesh of Jethro’s cheek and would not let go. Eve stopped, pushed on the break, and with considerable effort prised open Alex’s hand. She undid the harness and pulled her sobbing son out of the buggy giving him, the injured one, all the attention. Eve was seething with anger at Alex but she tried not to show it – she told herself that he was only three years old, to keep calm and remember the advice she’d read in her book on good child rearing.    ‘Let’s get you both home,’ Eve said in a high false-calm voice. ‘He hurt me,’ Jethro sobbed. ‘It was him!’ Alex shouted even though the evidence was not on his side. ‘Don’t tell tales, Alex,’ Eve snapped. She felt her own anger rising. And then she repeated her words, louder. She was shouting at a small child, in the street, and she even stamped her foot on the ground.    Eve picked out the cocktail sticks from the bottom of the bowl catching one with her fingernail. The pain was greater than she would have expected but the only sign of injury was a tiny spot of blood under the nail. She pondered on the aggressive nature of infants and wondered when children began to feel empathy for others in the way that adults generally do. She wiped down the table and picked up the broom in readiness to sweep the floor.    The old gods of the forest watched and wept from the canopies; they knew there was nothing they could do to stop the Stick People from destroying the creatures of the forest. Eventually, when all the animals were extinct and the people no longer had the strength to fight each other, they went back to eating the leaves of the trees and the many plants that carpeted the forest floors; cracking the nuts and eating the kernels, collecting berries in the autumn and making a red tar that could be stored and used in winter soups. Sometimes they even collected the bitter-weeds which floated in the pools, and cooked them up to make a stinking green broth. The population of the Stick People decreased, not through lack of nutrition but because of all the slaughtering they had done; there were still random fights over scraps of mouse meat.   Carly was always going on about parents who fed their children 88

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‘crap’ and how easy it was to provide a good healthy diet. Eve could hear Carly’s voice: You just had to get into a routine of baking your own bread and making purees from organic fruit and vegetables, then freezing them so that you always had something nutritious to hand. Eve had kept quiet and felt guilty about feeding Jethro processed foods: fish fingers, baked beans, corn from a tin, and cottage cheese with pineapple bits – his favourite. It wasn’t that Eve didn’t care about giving her child healthy food, she liked to do other things too – playing games and going to the park or taking little trips on the bus or train – rather than staying at home to prepare a perfect three course mini-lunch.    The drone of Simon’s reading voice broke through the murmur of her thoughts. Dear Simon, he was such a good friend. They hadn’t known each other very long but he seemed to know exactly what was needed – he had been holding a bottle of wine when she answered the door to him. ‘It’s local,’ he declared, ‘from a vineyard over Southbury way.’ He looked a little nervous standing there in his green trousers, his smock top and the little round hat that he always wore. ‘And I found a storybook for Jethro, too. It has lots of wacky pictures I thought he might like.’    When they had walked through to the kitchen from the front door, Alex, who was strapped into Jethro’s old highchair had tears streaming down his face. His bowl of food was tipped upside down on the floor and on the tray in front of him was the stick hedgehog that Jethro had made earlier, the one with sharp cocktail sticks protruding from its body. Jethro was smiling. He was sitting at the table and it sounded as if he was counting, not in numbers, but in made-up words. With each count he pulled up a length of spaghetti, and turning his head sideways, he slurped it into his mouth. Alex had stopped crying and was staring at Jethro as he sucked up each wiggly string. New folk arrived from beyond the windy valleys and the stormy highlands. They brought with them corms and beans and pulses which they offered in exchange for the wooden items of the Stick People. Partly through fear, partly through curiosity, the Stick People took against them and hid at first, but then caught the new folk in an ambush and threw stones at them. But the new folk were stronger and overwhelmed the Stick People and took away their mallets and their cart wheels and their carved signs. The words of the Travelling Folk were spoken in a tongue that made no sense to the Stick People but they soon learned to chant the sounds over and over.    The Stick People and the Travelling Folk settled down together and learned how to grow edible roots and climbing beans; they discovered how some plants grew more virulently if they were planted next to the trees, clinging on to them for support, and how others thrived in the open clearings. After many seasons the New Stick People had 89

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perfected their agricultural arts and were able to produce enough food for everyone. Their children, who were the grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of the lolling meat-eaters, grew up having never seen a live animal and if they were to, it would not have occurred to them to eat the flesh of a beast or the bony meat of a fish. Their only knowledge of these creatures came from cave drawings and the tales told by their grandparents.    Jethro pointed to the stick-like characters, some climbing the trees, some buildings houses or towers – others were fighting. Once Eve had finished clearing up the kitchen she slipped onto the sofa next to Simon and Jethro. She sipped her glass of wine and let her mind drift away as she listened to Simon reading the last chapter of the strange old story of the Stick People. Jethro snuggled up between them, curled into the curves of her body while she kissed his bruised forehead.      As they grew up the youngsters wanted more from life; they wanted to travel and explore, to find new places that would take them to worlds beyond their own imaginations; they wanted a future filled with rainbows. They asked the elders about life in the forests, but the elders knew only the tales that were the memories the old folk that had been passed from the generations before – the stories of dearth and death. But the youngsters were curious, and once the desire for knowledge had eaten into them they could not leave it alone.    The elders whispered their stories into the ears of the youngsters, filling their thoughts with rainbows that shimmered with images of the land of their ancestors. The youngsters drifted into a dreamy sleep and when they awoke they yearned for the cool of the trees and the deep forests and began to chant the rhymes and the half-remembered verses they had heard in their dreams.

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Poetry|Denise Ryan The Language of Trees I The trees are androgynous: their feminine arms reach out like angular arrows frantic in pinning down the nearest star. They exhibit a man’s strength wearing a delicate sunset their girly curves harmonise against firm trunks. Bristle blossoms lie fallow. II I am rooted in the mirror, naked and cold like a slab of jade. The trees throw shade in the light no doubt a woman’s reflection with lumps and bumps in a fleshy stream. I rest my hands on the ark of my hips twisting turning like a rubber bough. My breasts sway like ample clouds and I jump up on my tippy toes and shoot out like a tree. My veiny stretch marks smile with a silent reassurance, I have enriched the earth. I feel powerful and free fallinglike a prized star.

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On a High Build me a house in the cleft of a cliff where we can live life on the edge; raise it up on wooden stilts so we can see the neck of the ocean and feel the sun in the folds of our skin Drink gin for breakfast moshing in the shadows cracking the morning bones both naked in blushing light pebble eyed and dewey Watch the night crawl in like a giant crab as we lie on the blue tongue of the moon breathing each other in like a vapour but promise: never look down the fall is too steep

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Poetry|Jackie Gorman The Wolf Pack “All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel.” Margaret Atwood.

I heard the rough magic of a wolf howl. In our soft den in the Ore Mountains, I listened as they circled outside. Shades of white, ochre and umber, long silver muzzles and burning yellow eyes. Baying echoes from biblical times ; the rapacious spoilers of sheep-like innocence. I felt them snuffling at our door and I heard their low lonely whines. You said the wolves wouldn’t show themselves, unless they were trying to tell us something. I quivered and heard myself speak suddenly, unfamiliar sounds that rendered us apart. I thought of a winter long ago, your hands warm as fur. My bloody heart, thrown to the wolves that draw closer, wailing loudly through the fresh blue snow.

The Hedgehog My father lifted him up on a spade and put him down in the back field. Years later, I watched my mother looking out the window watching him scurrying away. I remember his tired eyes and shedding spines. He looked back at her, as though he knew she was following him with her wide innocent eyes.

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Book Review|Madhushree Ghosh Half of What I Say by Anil Menon: Book Review

Anil Menon’s Half of What I Say is published by Bloomsbury, New Delhi.

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nil Menon’s over 400-page novel arrives explosively with direct address from one of the main characters, Durga Dhasal. From the start of this fast-paced novel, one is transported into a contemporary India in a traditional natya-theater set up. Dhasal says, I too was wondering what my future was going to be like. I didn’t know it was going to be hair implants. (Laughter)    The characterization of each of the characters is through their firstperson narration. The reader is immediately transported into a darkened theater, laughing with each sentence that Dhasal utters. But there are multiple points of view that the author introduces to the reader with an easy familiarity—there are at least eight characters in first, omniscient and third person. The novelist juggles the narrative, introducing darkly humorous female characters as well as the main narrators, Dhasal and Vyas, the Lokshakti culture department director (Lokshakti being the anti-corruption movement in Menon’s India).    Dhasal, once an orphan brought up in Delhi slums, rises to be a popular academic and politician. Then he is killed by a Lokshakti-controlled mob. Enter Vyas, who is tracking down a movie, Ajaya, which wasn’t meant to be released, made by Dhasal. Ajaya, explores the theme of the Ramayana, very similar to an unpublished manuscript that Vyas had sent Dhasal earlier. To complicate matters, Vyas’s love for his wife Tanaz overrides all the action in this fast-paced journey. In addition, Vyas had sent Dhasal a compromising letter meant for Tanaz. With Dhasal now dead, Vyas has to go on a complicated journey of retrieval.    The novel explores multiple colorful characters, also revealing Menon’s adept use of modern India slang combined with mythology—characters include the student, the scientist, Anand Dixit, bringing technology to India’s villages, the poet/eunuch, and a Bollywood actress 94

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who starred in Ajaya.    The story then changes to Ajaya being released by Dixit’s dissatisfied employee on the web. Ajaya however, was never meant for release. Now Vyas is implicated in the conspiracy.    Menon does a commendable job of taking the reader through a mythological trek, via contemporary India and modern India slang. One gets the feeling of being led, and yet not knowing what journey this is.    The narrative in multiple points of view is interesting, as has been attempted by many authors. But it is difficult to sustain in a large novel, especially if the outcome, need and objective of each narrator isn’t obvious to the reader early on. Menon’s pithy writing mostly is successful, but may confuse the reader in the subsequent chapters after an explosive first chapter of Dhasal’s narration—with no clear explanation of each character’s motivation, it is very easy to not be invested in the novel’s journey.    Menon himself is a combination of many worlds. A speculative fiction writer, he works in computer science and fiction writing. His easy familiarity with modern India and language insights and a deep knowledge of mythology is obvious in this novel, which makes this a worthwhile read. But noting his speculative fiction work confuses the novel and how it may be approached by an intended reader looking for sci-fi elements (which it has few glimpses of).   Half of What I Say plays with truth and story that the author examines obscurely and obviously throughout. Part of this intellectual pontification works, as it is coated with a very fast-paced story with interesting characters. The message appears to be elementary—that movies and mythology are not of this world, and life unfurls with surprises which is more fascinating that fiction.    As a reader, if one approaches Menon’s novel with an interest in understanding conflict and a journey of a not-quite reliable narrator(s), a story that includes politics, political analysis, theory and philosophical opining of current-day technology in a thriller, give Half of What I Say a read—it’s more than a ‘polyphonic’ story as the publishers say, more than Le Guin’s endorsement of it appealing to ‘with-it readers everywhere’.

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Visual Art|Shehanas.C.K

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Short Fiction|Olga Wojtas The Weasel Testament

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’ve just been weasel-hunting on the Net. I heard someone whistling “Pop Goes The Weasel” this morning, and it got stuck in my head. When it was my turn for the computer, the first thing I did was to check out the words. I had a vague memory that it was about pawning things to pay the bills. Correct! “To pop” was a 19th century expression for “to pawn”. The meaning of “weasel” was less certain, but one site speculated that it might be rhyming slang – “weasel and stoat,” meaning “coat”. Cockney’s not my area, but it sounded plausible.    During my search, I came across another website that said: “Weasels are known as whittret in Scotland (perhaps because of the whittering noise they make?)”    Close, but no cigar. It’s not exactly complicated, although it might have helped if he’d spelled it properly. It’s not whittret, it’s whitrat. White rat.    You’ve probably deduced that I’m an English student – Scots language and literature, to be precise, in one of Scotland’s most ancient universities. Words have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. In primary school, Rosemary Mason and I sat beside one another and fought for the top marks in spelling. When we were ten, I got 100 per cent and she only got 99. She thought there were two s’s in “ensconced”. I knew there were two c’s.    University was incredible. So much to study, each topic more fascinating and stimulating than the last. By the end of the first semester, I knew I wanted to be an academic. I also knew how difficult it would be to achieve my dream. If you study opto-electronics or quantum physics, people are queuing up to fund you. Not so in the humanities. It shows how skewed priorities are in our society.    As we moved into our final year, people were considering their career options: local government, public relations, marketing. Some were bragging about the prospect of starting salaries topping £20,000. They didn’t seem to mind that they’d be trapped in unsatisfying, pointless jobs. The money has never interested me. It’s the intellectual challenge. Developing your interpretation until you’re confident you can defend yourself against any alternative view.    So it seemed more than blind chance when I heard the department had been given a bequest for a PhD in Scottish studies. It was tailor-made for me. My final year dissertation could easily expand into a thesis. It was on duality: characters seeming other than they are. A well-worn theme, but I felt I had some interesting new insights.    Unfortunately, Donald Shaw thought the studentship was 102

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tailor-made for him. His work was very pedestrian compared to mine, but solid and well-researched. I could imagine the selection panel reckoning there was little to choose between us in terms of scholarship. I needed a Unique Selling Point. And that was when I decided to seduce the professor.    It wasn’t as though I would be doing anything wrong. We were both single. He was on the verge of retirement, and I was 21, so arguably, I was doing the old guy a favour. I’m not pretending I’d be mistaken for a catwalk model, but I’m slim with quite delicate features. I’ve been told I’m attractive.    At the next tutorial, when I was handing in my paper, I let my hand brush against his. He didn’t draw back. An encouraging sign. But although I didn’t have much time, I knew it was important not to rush things. You need finesse when dealing with someone of his calibre.    But I was subtly flirtatious, with the occasional quick smile, the nervously direct glance. I found the Princess Di technique particularly effective: look demurely downwards, then swivel the gaze sideways and up, and open your eyes wide. Convey an impression of shy vulnerability, and you make your target feel powerful and protective.    One day I was browsing in my favourite second-hand bookshop when I spotted the Scottish Text Society edition of the poems of Robert Fergusson, which I knew the professor didn’t have. I always carry a capacious bag, and was able to slip the volume in quite easily.    After my tutorial the next day, I hesitated in the doorway and then timidly produced the book.    “I hope you don’t mind, Professor ... I bought you this as a small thank-you present for all your kindness ... I don’t know whether you have it already … ”    He peered at it through his half-moon spectacles.    “Good heavens. No, I don’t. But you can’t do this. You students can barely feed yourselves these days - you certainly don’t have spare cash to waste. It’s a beautiful book, but keep it for yourself.”    I took a deep breath.    “Professor Erskine,” I said, “what you have taught me is beyond price. It would mean a great deal to me if you would accept this book, and I hope whenever you look at it, you’ll remember the students you’ve inspired.”    He put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. Distinct progress.    A few days later, after I saw him leave his office, I went to his secretary and asked if I could speak to him.    “You’ve just missed him. In fact, you won’t get him for a while.” Her finger slithered down the desk diary. “No, sorry, he’s got no free time at all. Tomorrow, he’s teaching all morning, meetings all afternoon, and the day after that, he’s leaving first thing for the Minnesota conference.”    I said it was nothing important and would easily wait until his 103

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return.    The next day, I knocked on the secretary’s door while she was still at lunch. There was no reply. I knocked again, harder, and Professor Erskine eventually answered.    I looked startled.    “Oh, Professor – I’m sorry to disturb you. I wanted to ask your secretary if she could arrange an extra tutorial for me, this week if possible.”   He frowned.    “But we’ve postponed your tutorial for a fortnight. I’m off to Minnesota tomorrow for ten days, remember?”    I made a small sound of distress.    “I completely forgot. Yes, of course. Sorry, I’m not thinking very straight at the moment. It doesn’t matter.”    He looked at me keenly.    “Are you all right?”    I had put some small pieces of gravel in my shoes, just under the ball of the foot, and walked up and down the corridors for a while before knocking on the door. If you do it for long enough, you faint. I don’t know the science behind it, but I presume it stimulates acupressure points. I wasn’t quite at the fainting stage, but I must have looked pretty strained.    “I’ve just got a bit bogged down with the dissertation,” I said, with an attempt at nonchalance that couldn’t quite conceal my anxiety. “I really wanted your advice. The deadline seems so close now. But it’s fine, really it is. I’m sure I’ll manage to sort things out on my own while you’re away.” My voice was shaking.    He glanced at his watch.    “I’m starting a meeting in a couple of minutes,” he said. “Why don’t you come round to my house this evening, after eight o’clock, and we’ll talk about it then.”    I got there at five past eight. It was a large, terraced house in one of the better areas. I presume he’d bought it long before the property boom. The brass nameplate obviously hadn’t been cleaned for decades, which reassured me. I didn’t want the cleaning lady bursting in on us in the morning.    And when he opened the door, I realized there was no such danger. There were books and journals everywhere, spilling over from the bookshelves into untidy heaps on the floor. Clearly nobody had vacuumed since they last polished the doorplate.    I looked round the sitting room, with its faded fussy wallpaper and missing chunk of cornice.    “What a beautiful room,” I said. “And how lovely to see a real fire. It makes a home look wonderfully welcoming.”    Professor Erskine ushered me to a large armchair, insisted that I had a drink. 104

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I was so close to my goal now, but I knew better than to look relaxed. I sat on the edge of the chair, holding the glass of sherry without tasting it.    “This is so kind of you, Professor, especially when you’ve got to prepare for your American trip. I mustn’t take up too much of your time.”    “Don’t worry. Everything’s packed and ready. So let’s sort out this problem of yours.”    “I was reading Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid again. Some commentators seem to think the message it gives is that depravity should be punished. Cresseid has betrayed Troilus and blasphemed against Cupid and Venus, so now she’s a leper, which is what she deserves.    “I can’t agree with that. Isn’t it astonishing that when Troilus passes this poor, degraded, disfigured creature, he immediately thinks of his Cresseid? I think the real point is that the lover will always be drawn to his beloved, whatever she’s done, and however much society condemns her.”    I produced a sheaf of papers from my bag.    “I’ve roughed out some notes ... perhaps you could take a look - ”    I went over to his chair and knelt on the floor beside him. He leaned over, adjusting his spectacles as he began to read.    “Yes, indeed - interesting,” he said.    It was the moment. I rose up slightly on my knees, put my arms round him and kissed him.    He shoved me away with surprising force, and sent me sprawling on the carpet. He yelled: “What in God’s name do you think you’re doing, Michael?”    “I’m sorry!” I gasped. “I don’t know what came over me – I’ve been feeling under so much pressure - ”    He had his back to me, wasn’t even listening. He had hauled his handkerchief out of his pocket and was wiping his mouth with it. I had miscalculated badly. But I could still retrieve the situation. I picked up the poker and brought it down on his head.    Then, although the house was far from tidy, I messed it up a bit more, to make it look as if he had disturbed a burglar. I wiped the handle of the poker with my jacket, drained my sherry glass and left it on a side table. My fingerprints would be all over the place, so there was no point in trying to pretend I hadn’t been there. But I would be able to give the police a reasonable description of the guy I had spotted in the street outside.    Some of the other Minnesota delegates raised the alarm when Erskine didn’t meet up with them as planned in London. I hadn’t been as effectual as I had hoped; I had fractured his skull, but after he was taken to hospital, he was able to make a statement and I was arrested and read my rights. The important thing seemed to me that I needn’t say anything. As every good researcher knows, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. That gave me time to gather my 105

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thoughts, and I could explain my initial silence by saying I was in shock – which, frankly, I was.    When I finally judged it was time to talk, I didn’t mention the scholarship. They weren’t academics; they wouldn’t have understood its importance. In any case, I reckoned it didn’t present me in the best light. So I explained that in the course of the year, I’d found my great regard for Professor Erskine deepening into love. But I’d been greatly troubled by the growing realization that I was gay. And in my confusion over my sexuality, I’d been distraught when he rebuffed my advances, and lashed out. A credible explanation.    They initially charged me with attempted murder, but after some negotiation, it was accepted that I would plead guilty to a reduced charge. I found the Scots legal language fascinating in its old-fashioned elegance: “On 27 March, you, Michael Thomas Elliot, did assault David Erskine and did strike him on the head with a poker or similar instrument to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement.”    Because I was a first offender, there were social enquiry reports before I was sentenced. I managed to obtain some dried pasta from the prison kitchen, and put it in my shoes beforehand. I think the social worker was quite taken with me. I got five years, but everyone appreciated my behaviour was completely out of character. It’s not uncommon for students to have a serious breakdown before the finals.    I was moved pretty rapidly to an open prison, although I wasn’t allowed to sit my finals as planned. But the governor here is very enthusiastic about the redemptive qualities of education, and I’m now doing a degree by distance learning. Once I complete that, I expect to do a Masters. I get reasonable access to a computer, but they’ve also let me send for some of the books I was using at home. I’ve been doing a lot more work on The Testament of Cresseid, using the landmark threevolume Gregory Smith edition of Henryson. I picked it up at Erskine’s. I think it’s of more use to me than it is to him.

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Poetry|David Groulx Things that God would not I’ve scooped spiders from the roof and set them to the wind I’ve set the turtle back to the swamp and water bugs back to water things that God would not do because this is the shape of life and all I can remember of it.

An incantation for reincarnation Dance with me anew show me where the worm the vulture and the maggot feast scatter my blooms that were gathered by this wretched beast milkweed grow over my garden and I pass into a kaleidoscope of butterflies

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Poetry|Ken Spillman Graffiti

(for Candy Royalle)

You perform graffiti, daub love bottled like jam in the boon of abundance, stored for the stark famine of walls — set in stone or ramparts of mind, laid cold by all that would divide us from ourselves. You net words, slippery like words: fish from rivers of hopefearragepaincourage — to lay them out like ear kisses, soft or smacked hard. (Some will be disquieted, some will wipe the residue.) Yours is the glimmer the glow, the gift of an eye, a voice given voice that it might scale the largeness the loudness, change the font & print it bold.

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Short Fiction|Steve Wade A Christless World

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dark-skinned beauty with despair in her eyes, the dead boy’s mother cursed me in Catalan on the day of his birth. In charge of the pointless surgical efforts to keep him alive, it fell upon me to tell her of her child’s destiny.    What a Christless world we live in. That’s what was going through my mind on the short walk from the hospital to the railway station on Saturday morning. Christmas time. Little children, saucer-eyed, pressing their palms to windowpanes, their piping voices blending with the Christmas music. Why him and not them? Why him and not me?    The sight of a street person wrapped-up in a sleeping-bag, lying on a sheet of cardboard and wearing a beanie pulled down over his face, guarded by two sleeping dogs, reminded me that I hadn’t slept for a long time. The image of my waiting bed caused a sense of voluptuous longing to course sluggishly through me like oil.    I didn’t belong here anyway I told myself when I boarded the train and took my seat. What was I, a Boston-boy and Harvard-graduate, doing in Jerez, Spain? A pretty Spanish girl in college, with a strange and endearingly crooked smile, dark brown eyes, and a perfect complexion was my reason for being here. But long hours and American drive pitted against a Latin temperament were combining to undermine our relationship way before we were married at the end of the summer.    “For me is like a big joke,” Julia says. “I’m married with a paediatrician who is never home for me, and my baby too when he arrives.”    My focus of unhappiness had swung from the lifeless little corpse lying in the mortuary to my own marriage problems, when I noticed something black sticking out from under a newspaper on the seat beside me - a wallet and quite heavy. Inside was a wad of fifty-euro notes, adding up to a few thousand at a glance. I stashed it self-consciously into my holdall.    Before collapsing into bed at home, I counted the money. Was this some kind of lousy joke on God’s part? If I wasn’t already asleep and dreaming, there was five thousand euro. What manner of god allows me to lose in a marathon battle to keep a child alive, then grants me a reward for losing? Again I recounted the money. This time I experienced a bubbling sensation in my stomach, and my fingertips tingled. I’d miscounted; well, miscounted because I overlooked a few five hundred euro notes in another compartment. Nine thousand was the new figure.    I caught sight of my reflection in the silver kettle, and saw a smile that didn’t seem to belong to my face. It was only then that I looked properly at the identification card. Javier Alberto Fernandez was 109

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the name below a striking photo of a deeply tanned guy with ink-black hair in his thirties, whose high and prominent cheekbones made him look more American Indian than Spanish.    While fixing a large mug of black coffee, I went on a spending spree in my head. Back home everyone would be amazed at my financial success in Spain. And envious, too, which was more important.    With these thoughts and images flashing in my head, I picked up the brown envelope from that morning’s post and slit it open with the handle of my teaspoon. I slipped the letter free and felt an instant hotcoldness dampen my brow. It was from Mom. Something caught me by the throat. I could tell straight off that she’d written it while drinking or, at least, when not quite sober. I could picture her writing it while lying in bed, with the curtains still drawn late in the afternoon, a vague hum of stale urine and cheap wine in the airless room, her soft crying turning to that terrible wailing that terrified Mandy and I during the months after Dad first went into hospital.    In the letter Mom began by saying that I wasn’t to worry, and how much she loved me, more than she’d ever loved anybody. But in the same sentence said that life, for her, was no longer worth living. Since the day I’d left, she might as well have been put to sleep. What was her life for now that I, like our father, had deserted her? The days were without meaning. Everything she did was done for its own sake: eating, sleeping, getting out of bed, going to the grocers, and staring at the TV. She went on to say a few things that infused the empty longing that had gripped me with confused embarrassment. If it were possible, she would like if she and I could be the same person, able to feel, touch, smell and see the same things. Reading the words laid out like this on the page highlighted Mom’s hearing disability; something that only ever became an issue for us growing up when other kids, in their inherent cruelty, made fun of the fact from time to time.    Reading on to the part where she suggested that she wished she could devour me, or be devoured by me, so that nothing could ever keep us apart, triggered such an unfocused rage in me, I cursed aloud at myself, and Mom too, and hammered my fist hard on the tabletop, spilling some coffee. I swabbed up the spilled coffee using part of the sports section ripped from yesterday’s paper. I resisted the urge to crumple the letter or rip it to shreds. I read on. There was worse to come.    Mandy. Mandy was going all wrong. That’s the way Mom put it. My heart quailed. There were boys and parties. Late nights. And sometimes she never came home at all. She was drinking, and worse, with her friends. She missed schooldays, and never studied anymore. Besides partying and cavorting with boys, the only other thing she seemed interested in anymore was playing tennis.    When Mom questioned her, Mandy went into hysterics, screaming and roaring that she had no right to judge her. She’d called Mom some terrible names. A drunken old hag was the one that cut Mom up 110

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most. When she was at home, Mandy locked herself into her bedroom. She ignored Mom’s pleas from outside the door, except to finally open it, if Mom persisted, so Mom could read the foul language vomited into her face.    A roar exploded from my larynx. Shaking uncontrollably, I locked my palm to my mouth and listened for signs that the neighbours in the apartment above might have heard my outburst. The sound of daytime TV played on. Unable to control my shaking and the nerve beating at the side of my head, I felt myself succumbing to a solution I hadn’t applied to myself for a long time.    I left the kitchen table and went into the spare room where I’ve been sleeping since Julia exiled me from our bedroom. I opened my kit and took out a scalpel. Careful to avoid an artery, I drew the blade quickly across my forearm. The instant stinging pain gave me the refocus I required. In the bathroom I dabbed the incision with a weakened solution of iodine before covering it with a bandage. I then returned to the kitchen and to Mom’s letter.    To counter the throbbing nerve starting up again in my head as I finished reading the last part of the letter, I worked my fingernails under the bandage and pressed them into my self-inflicted wound. Mom couldn’t be sure who had started it, Mandy or her tennis coach. She couldn’t be certain either of the extent of their involvement together. What she did know was that he, the coach, was twenty-eight, and that he’d been lately arriving outside the house in a black sports car it looked like. A convertible.    I dug my fingernails deep into the wound and worried my torn flesh. Why the hell did so much crap come all at once?    By the time I’d settled down a bit and swallowed the last mouthful of bitter coffee, I was stabbing the digits of the phone number on the Spaniard’s business card into my mobile phone.    “Hello. Is that Javier Alberto Fernandez?” I said.    “Who is this?” the voice on the end of the line answered.    “I have your wallet,” I said. “I mean you are signor Fernandez?”    We arranged to hook-up that afternoon, just the day before yesterday, Saturday, in a cafe near the railway station.    I arrived a half hour early to relax myself, but the long wait filled me with such agitation, I became a fidgeting, scratching, time-checking source of amusement for a few pretty Spanish teenage girls at a nearby table.    The girls lost interest in me as the hombre I was awaiting entered the cafe. Unlike his identification photo, he wore carefully sculpted facial hair. He sucked in his lower lip, on which clung a button-sized growth of hair. Thin though toned in appearance, his clothes served to intensify his masculinity. He wore a stylish grey bomber jacket with a black shirt and expensive-looking dark slacks. He impressed, as might a bullfighter, conveying the cocky self-assuredness of someone accustomed to the 111

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constant adulation of women and the unswerving respect of men.    From the moment he shook my hand and sat down, he spoke to me in English, which was far better than my Spanish. He seemed fascinated with America and American politics.    “What do you think about the Vietnam War?” he asked in a manner that suggested it had only recently taken place.    “I’m a doctor,” I said, “and totally opposed to the wanton destruction of human life.”    “No, please, signor,” he said, “talk to me as a man, with feelings and emotions. I’m not a TV camera.”    Suddenly this guy irritated me.    “Look,” I said. “I don’t wish to be impolite. You have your money. Now I’ve got to go.” But he was a persuasive guy and, although my gut told me to be wary of him, he was an uncommon man, and I’ve never failed to be attracted by the singular.    He went on. George Bush was a terrorist, he ranted. Bush, like Sadam, should also go on trial for heinous crimes against humanity. Both of them, he stated as a fact, should be ‘dispatched’. With fierce passion, he recalled an image he’d witnessed on a TV documentary about America’s invasion of Vietnam. An American soldier held a knife to the throat of a Vietnamese child, while the terrified and helpless family of the distraught child looked on.    His description disturbed me. The innocent face of the angel-boy who had died under my blade the day before exploded into my thoughts. There were too many conflicting thoughts in my head; I didn’t know what I was supposed to think. That’s when the bullfighter graduated to the Spanish government.    He went into a confused and confusing diatribe against the Spanish government. To convince me to agree with his convictions seemed everything for him. I pigeonholed him into the category of a manicobsessive.    By now realizing that I must employ more tact with this individual, I told him I was on call, due back at the hospital, gave him a fictitious number and promised we’d hook up again in a couple of days. Placated, he rose as did I, took my extended hand and shook it vigorously. Without even having to look at the note he was pressing into my palm, I knew what he was doing. I’d refused his monetary offer as a reward three times during our one-sided conversation. He was already exiting the cafe and ignoring my protestations with a smile and a wave by the time I squeezed out from behind the corner table we’d been sharing.    I paid the bill, left a tip and stepped into the street.    Nearby, the bum with the beanie sat cross-legged at his patch outside the railway station. With his back pressed against a street-lamp, a pensive expression on his dignified face, and flanked by his two dogs, a hairy mongrel and a well-groomed Lassie-collie, he possessed a raggednobility. 112

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The fallen king looked at the money I placed in his dog-bowl before acknowledging me. He bowed his head slightly in my direction, thanked me and wished me a happy holiday through a controlled expression, then picked up the notes and coins without counting them – five-hundred-euro less the price of a cappuccino, an American coffee and the waitress’s tip – and tucked them into his shirt pocket.    I’d almost managed to delete the meeting with the bullfighter from my mind later that evening. Crowding my imagination were thoughts of a snow-covered Harvard campus, seeing my little sister again and, hopefully, sorting her out, and helping Mom with the Christmas tree, driving her places in a rented car, and telling her everything, the way I always did. Mom is the only one who really understands me. She’s the one who persuaded me to come to Spain to be with Julia. Dad was still alive but dying when I left three years ago. Leaving felt like such an act of betrayal, but when I didn’t return for Dad’s funeral, I knew I was damned.    I’ve been home once since then, and Mom convinced me to drop all charges against myself. Without wishing to sound like a pre-mediated Oedipus, I wish I’d met my mom before my dad met her.    I was half dozing in a hot bath and listening to heavy rock music blasting from the stereo in the front room, when my mobile rang.    I pulled myself from the bath, cursing aloud, and padded on the balls of my feet into the front room and answered the phone.    “Hey amigo,” the voice replied.    “How did you get my number?” I said, remembering halfway through the sentence that I’d given it to him - but I’d given him a fictitious number.    “Hey, it’s cool, man, as you say in America. You called me from your mobile originally, remember?”    I felt stupid now.    “Anyway,” he went on. “You’re a nice guy. I want to help you.”    “I don’t want any more of your money,” I said. “You already – ”    “Forget money, amigo. This is bigger than money. Are you going home for Christmas?”    “Listen, man,” I said. “I’m on call. I – ”    “You finished your shift this morning, Dave,” he said. “You’re back on duty tomorrow at seven a.m.”    Taken aback at his precision about my affairs, I allowed a short silence to ensue.    “What do you want?” I said.    “Listen to me,” he said. I happen to know that you are going home for Christmas. What I don’t know is the exact date.”    “Now you get this, my friend,” I said. “ I don’t –”    “Be quiet, Doctor,” he said. “Please.”    His tone had the weight of authority – a man who must be listened to. I listened. 113

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“I want to warn you,” he continued. “Let’s call it advice. Call your family, David, and tell them that your Christmas leave has been cancelled. You don’t want to be on a plane over the holiday period.”    “Are you telling me that – ”    “Stay away from the airport, Doc. At least until the New Year.”    That’s when he put the phone down. I’ve tried to call his number dozens of times since then, but a recorded message bleats out that it doesn’t exist.    I haven’t experienced the sense of frustrated anger that’s gripped me over the last forty-eight hours since I was a boy and my dad became wheelchair bound through a rare paralysing illness. Dad is the reason I devoted my life to medicine. I hated him at first for leaving Mom, Mandy and me. There he was spending all his days in a hospital bed with tubes and wires sticking into his dead body. Only his eyes moved. My sister and I whimpered and cried with the stinging cold, while we held Mom’s hands and trudged through the winter nights to catch the bus to visit Dad in hospital. And every time we got back home, I was so aware of our big, black car -another invalid - sitting mockingly in the driveway. Mom was always going to learn to drive. She never did. She was too nervous.    My adult years have been wholly taken up with bringing life into the world. But there have been moments, quite lucid and rational, throughout the past two days when it seemed pure reason that whoever is responsible for my almost being stranded in Spain for Christmas should die.    I need to go to the toilet, but that’ll wait. There are a couple of Arabic-looking guys up-front of this aircraft. They probably know who I am. These guys are all connected. If one of them decides to approach me in my seat, he’ll be surprised to feel the tip of the gold pen with which I’m writing this being rammed into his chest. I’ll stab him a few times to make sure I get the coronary arteries. And, if I can, I’ll also thrust it lower down, aiming to puncture his kidneys and lungs.    But if, however, my bullfighting friend turns out to be a crank of sorts, I’ll regard it as a duty to return to Spain, track him down, administer a lethal injection into his system and watch him wilt.    The world has no place for misguided fools. No more than it has for predators who prey on fourteen-year old girls - destroyers of the innocent. Baby killers. An injection is too humane for the latter pariah. A tentative laceration drawn across his windpipe is the only solution, so that he may bleed away his existence, his astonished eyes burning into mine, fully aware and coming to terms with his unacceptable and heinous crime against the innocent.

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Poetry|Chris Hardy Fathom I don’t believe in God but know there is a God, who has no face but has a face, who cannot speak but speaks. My mother believed in God and then he vanished with his book, so there was nothing left for her to trust or read. My Dad knew God was one of those who sent his brothers down the pit and killed his Mum. He knew the hymns and sang in Church when ceremony required. Outside in the graveyard music hung in the air like scent and looking up the spire sped through the sky, a ship’s prow spilling white dolphins. there was nothing more to say.

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Do You Have The Time? As if I’d just locked up and left the key inside when you turn round and it’s too late – I look at the door and windows of our old place, the house pretending to be asleep. This feeling, standing by the gate, what is it? The past is here and feels like loss, but isn’t lost. Living in the present, when tomorrow is what you do today and time has no lid, took up all our time. It’s happening now, looking at the door which cannot let me in even though I have a key – my daughter’s face, looking up at me in the window looking back.

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Poetry|Heath Brougher A Night Awake I write in black ink. Midnight-colored words scrawl across a white horizon indenting their presence like gravestones into the yard. Brass knuckle riots made of wind swish through the trees, ravaging. Bloody organs withdrawing from the bark but only staying put for a moment, then simply hopping onto the next gale and riding it till they find the nearest virgin hollow. Inky sky-colored words rant across the pallid page. The panther stretches out his muscles, not yet asleep; still murmuring murderous whispers into the broken air of a night twirled and wrecked.

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Short Fiction|Murali Kamma Brahms in the Land of Brahma    “Steve…Steve…how are you? Do you know who I am?”   “Narayan.”    “Very good. And the music?”    “Brahms. Fourth symphony, third movement.”    “Excellent, Steve! I knew you’d be okay. The doctor will be here soon. Don’t worry. Everything is under control. Hope to take you home soon.”    Narayan’s glasses, as he leaned forward, slipped down his nose— and from his brow, before he fished out a handkerchief and mopped it, glistening beads of perspiration threatened to fall on the hospital bed. He must have been drinking hot chai. Every morning at Narayan’s home, Steve would see him reach for the fan switch as soon as chai was served. Then, after handing Steve the Express of India, he’d sit back and read the local vernacular paper, while they waited for eggs and toast or crispy dosas with chutney.    Why was he listening to Brahms—his CD, surely?—and how long had he been lying there? The lively third movement having followed the lovely second movement, now came the Bach-inspired, ingeniously weaving melody of the final movement—his favorite—and as Steve lay still, listening, the familiar music swelled majestically.    “Your CD, my player,” Narayan said, smiling, as if he’d read Steve’s mind. Clad in a white, loose-fitting khadi shirt, and sporting bushy eyebrows and longish grey hair, he looked like a benign swami who was about to bestow his blessings. “The hospital was okay with it, Steve. Music is a healer, no? Isn’t Brahms a great composer?”    Tired and a little annoyed, Steve turned away. Why these questions? And why this pretence that he’d be going back to Narayan’s house, since Steve had already given his notice and was going to check into a hotel? While there was little pain, he was still groggy—it was the drugs, no doubt—and he didn’t feel like talking. Feeling constricted, he wished he could drift off again. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but then remembering something, he opened them and saw Narayan peering at him, still smiling.    “Ashok…what happened to the driver?”    “Ashok will be fine,” Narayan said, patting his shoulder. “Don’t worry, Steve. He was also wearing his seatbelt, thanks to you.” ***    If it hadn’t been for his friend Rupa, who lived near him in Atlanta, Steve would have checked into a hotel in India—where the company 118

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he currently worked for was located—just as he’d done on his first visit. But when Rupa told him about Narayan, whom she knew and offered to call on his behalf, Steve decided to be a paying guest at an Indian home this time, not only because the idea appealed to him but because he knew it’d be more economical and maybe more enjoyable than staying in a hotel. Narayan lived not far from Info Tech City, where Steve would be working. Now that he was an independent IT consultant, he’d have to be careful with his money until he could establish himself.    After a couple of phone chats with Narayan, Steve arrived in India and moved into his house the same day. At the last minute, Narayan had unexpectedly sweetened the deal by offering his car for Steve’s use—and so, it was Narayan’s driver, Ashok, who came to the airport to pick him up, holding a sign that read “Mr. STEVE of USA.”    “Good morning,” Narayan said when Steve, bleary-eyed, emerged from his room the following day. “Our chai is ready, Steve. Would you like to see today’s paper?”    Steve wasn’t keen on it right then, but as he sat on the black sofa facing Narayan, he politely took the newspaper from him and glanced at the first page. “Gridlock in Parliament,” a headline announced. He felt a sense of déjà vu and wondered, fleetingly, why it didn’t say “Congress,” only to realize that he was looking at the Express of India.    “Steve, I wanted to say something.” Narayan folded his vernacular paper and took a steaming cup from his housekeeper. “I know you’re not married, but if your girlfriend wants to visit, she’s welcome to stay here. I’m not as conservative as I may seem to you.”    Steve smiled, and sipped his chai. He’d already sensed that, as a host, Narayan, who was retired and had never married, would be sociable and voluble, giving him less privacy than he was accustomed to. But that didn’t worry Steve, because Narayan’s manner, far from being intrusive, made him feel welcome and less lonely than he’d been for over five months, following the abrupt—and painful—end of his last relationship.    Steve said he was single—and, no, he wasn’t expecting any visitors from the States.    “You’re single, Steve? Well, who knows, you may end up with a wife here—or, as we say, bibi. I run an unofficial matchmaking service; it’s called Hurry-and-Marry.” Narayan laughed, his belly shaking.    An explosion interrupted their conversation, just as Steve drained his cup. Startled, he stood up and, through the open balcony door, spotted a plume of white smoke in the distance curling into a question mark.    “Not to worry,” Narayan said, unperturbed. “It’s only the military doing their testing. Come, Steve, I’ll show you.”    Standing on the balcony, Steve was surprised to see a vast expanse of uninhabited, wooded land that he hadn’t noticed earlier. The government-owned property hadn’t been gobbled up by developers, thank god, Narayan said, and the occasional noise of bomb testing, 119

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which rattled the windows, was a price worth paying, because no other place outside the few remaining parks in this booming yet congested city had such a luxurious stretch of greenery, making you feel—at least when you looked on this side—that you were in the tranquil countryside, far from the chaos and clamor of urban India.   “Now this boom is a boon for us,” Narayan added, with his belly laugh.    The metro area had grown rapidly in the last several years as a result of the IT revolution, attracting droves of domestic migrants and transients, along with a growing number of foreign residents. Steve, though, still felt like a visitor, a stranger. Turning left, he got a partial view of Info Tech City’s gleaming towers, where the ambiance was ultramodern and the working conditions so efficient—with power, clean water and hot food available 24/7—that Steve felt he was back at his old job, albeit in a tropical setting.    It was a tale of two cities. These islands of calm, familiar to Steve because of his work, were surrounded by the metro’s surging waves of humanity, which had come as a shock to his system on his first visit. He’d never seen so many people massed in one place. But now, standing on the balcony, Steve felt as if he’d swigged a bracing tonic, a tonic he knew he could handle in moderate doses. The vast country was fascinating yet bewildering, stimulating but also overwhelming.    Turning right and looking past the alley humming with activity, Steve caught a glimpse of the haze-shrouded main road, which he knew would be crowded with pedestrians and a mix of vehicles, not to mention the odd cow ambling near the busy vegetable market. Shops would be opening, and some roadside vendors would be doing brisk business.    When Steve thought of India, he pictured himself sitting in a jasmine-scented garden, where the chirping of birds mingled agreeably with the strains of a sitar—only to clash with the constant blaring of horns outside. India was contradictory; it was both modern and ancient, with the 21st century co-existing easily, and uneasily, with earlier centuries.    And everything seemed more intense. The sun was sharper, the colors brighter, the sounds harsher, the smells stronger, the pollution greater, the air warmer, the rains heavier, the food spicier, the chai sweeter, and the fruits tastier. Even the television dramas, or melodramas, Narayan watched were louder, unfolding at a higher emotional pitch than Steve was used to, going by what he’d observed the previous evening.    “Come, Steve, let’s have breakfast,” Narayan said, placing his hand on his back. ***    For earlier generations of American travelers, Steve liked to say 120

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when anybody back home asked him about India, the attraction lay in spiritual traditions. For him, it was software solutions. Steve would laugh, but he was only half-joking, because it was true that most of his time—and energy—was spent in Info Tech City, where he sat before a computer screen in a posh office, or interacted with clients and attended to their needs.    Wanting it to be a little different this time, Steve was glad he’d accepted Rupa’s recommendation. Narayan, who frequently wore immaculate white clothes that included a dhoti wrapped around his waist and reaching his ankles, was steeped in his country’s dominant cultural traditions, judging by his well-appointed home, which was adorned with framed pictures of various gods and goddesses, brass sculptures of elephants and a dancing Nataraja, and paintings depicting classical dancers, temples and sacred rivers, and picturesque village scenes.    And then there was the puja room where Narayan prayed every morning after his shower. Steve, not particularly religious, was intrigued by Narayan’s deep yet unshowy piousness. It was obvious in the devotional music he enjoyed listening to, the clothes he wore at home, the vegetarian food he always ate, the incense sticks he lit before his puja every day, filling the room with a pleasing fragrance.    Steve saw at first hand what he had, until then, only vaguely known—culture in India was often inextricably tied to its religious traditions. This was apparent even in prime-time TV serials, some of which were based on mythological characters from the epics.    Then, of course, there was the newer and younger and more secular India that Steve already knew about and which he began to experience again in Info Tech City, where he worked alongside ambitious, often Westernized Indians in up-to-date office buildings. Narayan’s house was also a welcoming island in the pullulating metro, though of a different sort, and at the end of a long day, after riding in Narayan’s car on the choked highway leading out of Info Tech City, Steve was glad to be back. Ashok, a competent driver, was accommodating no matter when Steve wanted to leave. But he seemed to think his seatbelt was a luxury—or a hindrance—that he could push aside before starting the car, making Steve nervous. He decided to speak to Ashok about it, gently. ***    “What were you listening to, Steve? Yesterday.”    “Excuse me?”    They were having dinner, which Narayan’s housekeeper, Shanti, had prepared and was now serving. Although Steve hadn’t made any requests, she made sure there was one non-vegetarian dish for him at every meal; this time it was a delectably tangy fish curry.    Shanti, a widow belonging to a different community than Narayan’s, lived with her daughter and son-in-law close by. She came to the house 121

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in the morning and left only after they’d eaten in the evening. Her attachment to Narayan was striking—and yet, Steve couldn’t help being aware of the distance between them, dictated by social circumstances that perhaps remained unbridgeable. Always deferential, she never ate in their presence, preferring to eat alone in the kitchen after they were done and she’d cleared the table.    “I heard this beautiful music coming from your room last night,” Narayan said. “I wanted to ask you about it, but your door was closed. I didn’t want to disturb you.”    “Oh, you’re welcome to knock anytime, Narayan. Yesterday? I was listening to Brahms…”    “How wonderful! Reminds me of Brahma.”   “I’m sorry…who?”    “Brahma, Steve. He’s the creator of the universe for Hindus. But Brahma is less well known than the other two in the trinity: Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer.”    After they finished eating, Narayan took Steve to the puja room and showed him a bronze idol of the multi-headed Brahma, resting on a makeshift altar and surrounded by other deities in the pantheon. Narayan said he was a devotee of Brahma, though India had just a few wellknown temples dedicated to Brahma. “And you’re a devotee of Brahms, so maybe it was fate that brought us together,” he added, chuckling.    “I don’t know about devotee,” Steve said, “but it’s true that, lately, I’ve been listening to Brahms a lot.”    “I can see why. The music you were playing was divine. I’d like to listen more, Steve, if you don’t mind. I’m ignorant about Western music—of any kind.”    “Certainly, Narayan. You’re welcome to take my CDs anytime. Perhaps we can listen together sometimes. And I’m hoping you can tell me more about Indian music.”    Less than a week later, this pleasant cross-cultural engagement, as Steve saw it, ended abruptly. When Steve got back from work, Narayan would usually greet him brightly and, turning to his housekeeper, say: “Shanti, make chai. Steve is here.”    But that evening, returning home, Steve didn’t see Narayan and mistakenly thought he’d stepped out. As he was finishing his chai, a glum-looking Narayan emerged from his room and said, “Mr. Steve, I want to speak to you about something.”    “Is everything okay, Narayan?”    “I don’t know. This morning, after you left, I noticed that you’d accepted my friend request on Facebook.”    “Yes?” Steve had been surprised to receive the request, not having seen Narayan use his computer.    “Steve, I hope you don’t think I’m nosy. I was browsing through your album and saw some nice photos of your life in America. I was just curious. Then I saw one that showed you...and Tom.” His voice dropped. 122

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“I had no idea...Rupa never told me.”    Steve bristled. “Told you what, Narayan? You’re welcome to look at my pictures, but I don’t see why my personal life should be any of your business. Tom and I are no longer together, but that’s irrelevant.”    “Sorry, Steve…I’m old-fashioned. Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s my mistake.”    “Well, seems like we both made a mistake.” Steve said, rising. “I’m so disappointed, Narayan.” Walking quickly to his room, he closed the door.    He felt a little agitated. Sitting on the bed, he distractedly reached for his stack of CDs.    The opening section of the Brahms Piano Quintet, with its seductive blend of strings and piano, unfolded at a low volume as Steve pondered his next move. A hotel in Info Tech City, where he’d stayed last time, would cost a lot more, but that seemed like his best bet for the short term. Looking for his notebook, in which he’d jotted down local hotel phone numbers and other information, Steve noticed that his camera, which he remembered leaving on the window sill after taking pictures around the house a few days earlier, was missing. It was an expensive new model, and Steve had it only because his brother had given it to him as a gift. He searched the room thoroughly, without luck, and wondered if he was losing his mind. Could he have taken it to the office and left it there?    Not long after the quintet ended with a thrilling flourish, Shanti knocked on the door and said softly, “Sir, dinner.”    Steve and Narayan ate quietly as Shanti served them and, like she often did, shuttled between the dining area and kitchen, bringing fresh rotis or filtered water to drink. At the end came a milky, sweet-smelling vermicelli pudding that Steve had never had before.    Thanking Shanti for the delicious meal, Steve asked her, after she took his plate, if she’d come across his camera when she was cleaning the room. As usual, Shanti, understanding only a few words of what Steve said—their rudimentary communication involved a lot of smiles and gestures—turned to Narayan for translation.    “What do you mean?” Narayan said, putting his spoon down. “Why would she touch your camera? She’s trustworthy.”    “That’s not what I said, Narayan.” Steve felt his anger rise. “You’re being impossible. All I wanted to know was if she’d seen the camera. I’m merely trying to find it, in case I misplaced it. But, you know what, it doesn’t matter.”    “Steve, don’t get upset. Please. Did you look everywhere…?”    Steve had, however, already got up from his chair and was walking away. Entering his room, he shut the door firmly. ***

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After Steve was discharged from the hospital, he didn’t object when Narayan took him back to his house to recuperate. A hotel seemed out of the question, at least for now.    Besides, Narayan insisted, saying, “You’re my responsibility, Steve, until you make a full recovery.”    Earlier, a day after that unpleasant exchange of words, Steve had given his notice and also mentioned that he’d switch to a cab service for his daily commute.    “Let’s talk about it,” Narayan said, sounding distressed. “I’m sorry, Steve. I know you felt insulted. That wasn’t my intention.”   “Not insulted, Narayan; hurt would be more appropriate. But I know you didn’t mean it, and I’m sorry as well. Still, I think it’d be better if I move on.”    Narayan accepted Steve’s decision, but he persuaded him to stick with his car and driver for the time being. Steve had to visit a couple of clients that day, so he went with Ashok to the city. As they drove back in the evening traffic, it started to rain heavily, when a bus making a turn skidded and hit the car from behind. It happened so fast that all Steve could remember was the sound of crunching metal and shattering glass. Neither Ashok nor Steve had life-threatening injuries, but the medical expenses still added up alarmingly. The bus company, accepting responsibility, agreed to cover them fully.    “Ah, Steve, I see that you have a book about Kerala,” Narayan said, as he walked into his room, holding a cup of chai and the Express of India. “No Brahms today?”    “Well, I’m giving him a break, I guess.” Steve was partially reclining on the bed, with a few pillows to prop up his back. Putting his book down, he took the cup. “Thanks, Narayan. I’m still hoping to visit Kerala later this year.”    “I’m sure you will, Steve. You’re already making good progress.” He paused. “I’m so glad we found the camera. Hope it wasn’t damaged.”    The camera had been lying on the ledge just outside the window. Presumably, a bird had dropped it there—or more likely, pushed it from the sill.    Steve held up his hand. “No worries, Narayan. I’d been foolish to leave it here, and then make a fuss. The camera is not important, but I won’t use the open window as a shelf from now on.”    Narayan smiled, and Steve was glad that there was no lingering awkwardness.    “By the way,” Narayan said, “Kerala has one of the few notable Brahma temples in India. We plan to visit Kerala, too, after we get married.”    Steve put his cup down. “You’re getting married, Narayan? This is news to me.”    Narayan looked away, and then down, before smiling at Steve. “I know,” he said. “It was a sudden decision. I’m still in shock. Shanti and I have decided to get married.” 124

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Steve gazed at him, quietly. Like India, he realized, Narayan could be full of surprises.

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Poetry|Alyson Faye Very Like Vermeer   (A Sonnet) ‘You remind me of a Vermeer lady,’ he whispered in my ear, one lazy day. ‘Where she stands by the window, solemn faced.’ He took my image, posting on his blog. Model. Mistress. Muse; love sealed with a click. Courts me in his cavalier fashion, texting, tweeting, here, there, always dashinghis life a game of chess; mine solitaire. I, a brown mouse, without him, sit, read, write. Researching his beloved Vermeer girls. A shadowy man, whose legacy was Kids, debts, dreams; of home, hearth and harpsichords, Drawn out on checker boards, in black and white. I grow, full-bellied. Expectant. Waiting.

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Poetry|Nabanita Kanungo Absence Absence is never too far away from the body’s naivetÊ. The seed breaks out of husk, grass spreads its story, nude of flesh, brambles rise from ashes freed of bone. Love or memory writes nothing upon stones where it seems as though the last word can come of thistle, black-berries and wild flowers alone. Walking up a death-facing hill, all murmurs and prayers fall into line, wearing a face that knows but does not want to see what lies exposed here in the unearthed skull of air. Busy shovels feign to bury what gawks from the eyes of wind. Somewhere, smoke writes this faithless unease across the sky.

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Visual Art|Sreekanth. P.R.

Birds and Beauty Acrylic on Canvas

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Visual Art|Sreekanth. P.R.

Expectations

Acrylic on Canvas

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Visual Art|Sreekanth. P.R.

Panic Face

Oil on Canvas

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Visual Art|Sreekanth. P.R.

Red Elephant

Acrylic on Canvas

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Short Fiction|Muddasir Ramzan Nowhere Valley

A

chilly winter morning. Big flakes of snow are whirling lazily and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, tree backs, and wherever the eye goes it’s as if the painter has painted the whole earth white. A middle aged couple, living in a small house, are discussing their day to day problems and the outrages of the long boring winter while sipping the hot salt-tea, from the Samovar, in the kitchen-room. The snow and chill has made them sit there for a longer time, drinking more tea.    ‘Is he still sleeping?’ asks Ubaid’s father to his wife.    ‘Yes, let him sleep, he was reading all night,’ answers Ubaid’s mother.    ‘Don’t you think he’s becoming more idle day by day?’    ‘He’s helpless, he is looking for work. Please don’t be harsh to him, he is very upset.’    ‘I am not harsh, you are well aware about our condition, it is not easy to run a home with empty hands.’    ‘Everything will be alright!’    They are not at all wealthy but they are very positive about their son, who’s their only hope. They’re desperate to see him settled in life and to play with his children. Their world, of which their son is the centre, seems endless. With their little income and their growing age they are becoming more dependent, but they give the impression that they are not too reliant, whenever someone else enters their home, or even when their own son sits with them. Though they care a lot for him, they don’t want their son to feel that he has many responsibilities. They want him to live a life of his own and develop himself according to his own standards. They know he’s a caring and a very sensible boy, but they often think that he must be feeling pressured and lonely. They have had two more sons but unfortunately they died in their infancy. Despite their poor income they’re gratified about providing him good education. They are worried about his future, but all their concerns seem to vanish when they look at the face of their son or hear well about him from people.    Ubaid, their only surviving son, is still lying in bed; with open eyes he dreams about his life and about the day. He immediately gets up when he has an unintended look at the wall clock. ‘It is snowing again in this early March, unseasonable snow like my unseasonable dreams. How is it that whenever I have to do something, something always makes it difficult?’ He thinks, while drawing open the curtains of his room. After morning prayers, he goes straight to the kitchen to have his breakfast and he tells his parents about his job appointment today; 132

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though he doesn’t like to work in the private sector, he does need to earn some way. Yesterday he has received a call for an interview for a small private job. He doesn’t seem glad because of his many disappointments from authorities, but his parents are happy. He didn’t want to share this with his parents because it hurts him when he sees them disappointed, but he doesn’t want to hide anything from them either. He receives extra care this morning, incessant snow falling made him think otherwise but he doesn’t want to take any risk.    After a moment, the snowfall stops, he gets ready – puts on his favourite jacket and jeans. His mother stands there to give him an umbrella but he refuses to take it. While stepping outside his house, on his way to the main road, he sees the snow has covered their entire local road and there’s no trace of one vehicle or of any human footprints. But the main road should be clear, he thinks. He doesn’t like going out in snow. Looking at the different shades of snow his morning dream revisits him: about a world in which he and his parents live a rich life. He badly wants to do something good for his family but he often feels helpless. Reaching the bus stop, where there are some more people waiting – some holding umbrellas in their hands and some in local Pherans and some, like Ubaid, in jackets – waiting for some vehicle to travel to their destinations, he as usual hides his disquietudes beneath his smiling, shining face.    ‘Come this side, where are you going?’ another young man said; his acquaintance, who’s also waiting there.    ‘Srinagar.’ He answered with a smile while getting himself a bit closer to him to shake hands and give him a formal hug.   ‘Everything ok?’    ‘O yes, interview.’   ‘Again!’    ‘Hope this time I will get it.’    ‘Hope so, my prayers with you!’    Meanwhile a coach stops there and they get in; some more people, travelling with them, join them in their discussion about the current volatile atmosphere of Kashmir. The young man with a clean shaved face, in a black jacket, seated opposite, blames Kashmiris for voting. This is reiterated by an old man in a plain suit, saying youngsters don’t know much about Kashmir’s past – how they were forcefully taken to polling booths for casting votes and were being beaten by soldiers if they didn’t have a blue mark on their finger, and now when people see no hope for resolution they vote for the basic requirements of life.    The driver of the coach gives bored looks to Ubaid and he doesn’t dare to turn on the music. Another man shares horrible tales of suppression. Everything is political here, says Ubaid’s acquaintance, even the high turnout of voting recently didn’t help Kashmiris from what 133

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they wanted to escape. When the atmosphere begins to turn more serious, Ubaid stays silent; listening to all these voices, he says he is apolitical, but is it really possible to be apolitical in Kashmir? As he thinks about the disastrous intrigues present in his homeland, his shinysmiling face turns thoughtful. The other faces present are looking more serious than the statues of Greek philosophers.    They could have continued their discussion if the coach had not skidded away from the road. Fortunately it was a little slip and the driver assured them not to worry as it is usual on frosty roads in winters.    On reaching Srinagar, Ubaid is followed by the other young man, who accompanied him in the coach, and as he too has to go to the same way, they go together and they decide to go on foot. While walking on the right side of the road, his companion asks him to cross the road as they should walk on the left side.    ‘No, I always walk on the right side,’ says Ubaid.    ‘But this is the wrong side, we are supposed to walk on the left.’    ‘Walking on the right side is better because you watch moving vehicles in front and keep yourself aside. While the vehicles come from behind when you walk on the left side of the road and it can be risky on this frosty road.’    ‘Oh ok, yes you are right!’ his companion agrees.    After walking some more minutes he sees the signboard of the building where he’s expected for an interview. After receiving good wishes from his companion, he enters the building and while searching for the exact room he sees a notice pinned on a wall, showing the names of two men in the selection list. Trembling with anger, he goes to the office room, where he is informed that they were ordered by their chief to select the men.    “What! What are you saying, sir?” Ubaid questioned them angrily.    ‘We are so sorry dear, these two boys are the relatives of the owner of this industry, he hired them,’ replied the manager.    “Then what was the fun of calling me here?”    ‘Sorry! To be honest we wanted to select you but we are helpless.’    The misery which had eased for a brief space comes back to him and tears his heart more cruelly than ever and he leaves the building.    ‘What should I do now? What to tell my parents now? I’m good for nothing!’    He comes out of this shock when an Army jeep smashes road water directly on his shoes. His hands, unwillingly, check his pockets to look for his wallet – to see if he’s carrying his identity card. The army jeep stops and all of a sudden he is being frisked. While he’s being questioned, an old man comes to rescue him; he has seen Ubaid with army men from a little distance and felt these army men could take him with them, and he lies to them that Ubaid is his nephew. 134

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Before Ubaid tries to walk to the other side of the road he thanks this man for saving him. The old man feels like talking to him and he calls him to stop. Ubaid stops and waits for him while he crosses the road. And while they walk, he asks Ubaid to introduce himself, which Ubaid does.    ‘I was the Director of Education department, retired few months before, my name is M. Amin.’ This old man mentions to Ubaid.    Ubaid now fumbles a bit, modulates his tone to show his respect and regards for him. ‘There are youngsters, like you, in our valley, who are highly qualified and possess great capabilities, but the problem of unemployment is killing our future. But don’t worry! God has something great in store for you too, hope for the best.’    This old director seems so concerned about the youngsters of Kashmir. He is the one who, Ubaid thought, has read and understood his anxiety. They discuss the procedure of recruitment in bygone and present ages. Although Ubaid is a bit shy, he normally doesn’t talk too much, but with this older man he talks freely.    The man kept talking as they walk down the Zero Bridge.    ‘You remind me of my little boy.’ He tells Ubaid.    “Me! How sir?” Ubaid thought maybe his son too is a jobless.    ‘I too had a son like you, similar in looks and height and character, his name was Aqeel. His passion for reading had brought him much fame, he was a hard worker and he wanted to be a doctor, so he was preparing for MBBS entrance test. But his fate has decided something else for him. One morning he asked me for some money for some application fee, saying he has to submit some application form in Srinagar, and I, as usual, went to office. When I came back home late evening, Aqeel was still not home. When I saw my family worrying about him, I assured them that there is a traffic problem and he’ll come home soon. He didn’t have a mobile phone, but he could have made a call if there had been any problem, I thought. It was getting later now, the night was about to fall, and there was no electricity too, my late father put on the Sheharbeen on radio and we heard a news about some grenade blast in the Batamaloo Chowk. Soon the news about the blast broke out in our home, our women members started crying and the presence of neighbours caused more panic. I along with my brother and a neighbour boarded a private car and we went to Srinagar. My elder brother and a neighbour-friend kept assuring me about his welfare, but my heart was weeping. When we reached near Tengpora Bypass, we were stopped by some army men and they didn’t allow us to go further, the area was cordoned off. We begged them but they didn’t hear our requests. And the driver took us to the police station. There we were shown some dead bodies, it needed a vast courage to recognise my son among the dead bodies. Fortunately, he wasn’t there and the policemen didn’t allow us to leave for the hospital so we had to wait until morning, right there in the police station. When morning came we went to check the injured in 135

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the hospital but Aqeel wasn’t there either. We thought that he must have been hiding or he had lost his way or maybe someone would have given him shelter for night. We went to the bus station and checked here and there and someone among us told that he will come home by his own or maybe he is on his way and we went home. From that day I hadn’t heard about my son, and we searched almost every possible place but we couldn’t find a trace of him. No one knows what happened to him!’    Meanwhile they reach the bus station and before departing M. Amin asks Ubaid’s for his contact number and if they can meet in future.    Ubaid tries to ignore him, wondering how he could give his contact number to a stranger.    M. Amin tells him that his looks made him feel as if he has finally had a chance to meet his son again. He also mentions that he is now living with his only daughter.    Ubaid gives him his phone number when he asks for it again.    ‘It will be my pleasure, sir, if I can be of any help to you’, says Ubaid while leaving him. The old man prays for his success.   What if his son is alive and gives him a surprise visit, this man is poorer than my parents! What if I had joined those Mujahideens, I would have then escaped from the responsibilities of life. Maybe I would have been dead by now. What would have happened to my parents? Maybe they would be dead too. They don’t have any other relative who could take care of them. M. Amin sahib has the pleasure of money in his life but the disappearance of his only son has made his life hollow. Let me be there for my parents and give the greatest pleasure of my life to them. I will keep applying for jobs or I can do some business of my own! He thinks of Aqeel and his family while travelling back to his home.    On reaching home, while he is changing clothes, his mother, who was waiting for him, calls out to him to have lunch. Though it is not lunchtime anymore - it is the time to have tea - she always prefers Ubaid to eat a full meal even when it is late. Ubaid once tried to join thefreedom fightersand his parents, with the help of their relatives, made every effort to bring him back and finally spotted him in a hamlet quite close to the Line of Control; the fact is that after that incident his parents show much more concern for him and get worried if he disappears for longer hours. He wears his Pheran and comes to the kitchen, where his mother has already put a plate of rice, his favourite Dal in a bowl and vegetable pickle along with a glass of milk and a glass of boiled water on a cloth-sheet (Dastarkhan).   ‘Lagyabalai, you must be hungry. Eat all this rice.’ His mother, Fareeda, requests him.    “Where is Abu?” Ubaid asks.    ‘He’s outside in the backyard. How was your interview?’    Ubaid drops his head down, looking at his food and eating, and 136

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answers: “There was no interview; they selected two boys who are the relatives of their chief.”    Ubaid’s father, M. Yusuf, hears his son speaking as he comes into their house.    They were expecting that their son will bring them good news today. He enters and Ubaid greets him. Yusuf sits down at the corner of the kitchen-room, holding a radio in his hands and asks Fareeda for a Kangri. She brings one for Ubaid too. After finishing his meal, Ubaid is asked about his day again by his father. And when Ubaid mentions that they had already hired two boys, his father says: ‘There is no guarantee in these small private jobs, they pay very little and the workload is huge. Don’t worry! You deserve better, you’ll get a government job soon In Sha Allah.’       After dinner, Ubaid as usual locks the outer gate of his home before going to bed. In the snow-light he sees some men; he thinks maybe Mujahideens, coming to their lane. He runs quickly to his home and locks the door and asks his parents to sleep. While looking through window he see the men going the other way.    His father guesses what he has seen and says: ‘you too would have been wandering like them if you had joined them with your friend, wouldn’t you? Remember what their commander told you – the greatest Jehad is to look after your old parents. And I know these men won’t come here anymore. Go sleep now.’

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Poetry|Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe The Sound My Psychiatrist Makes Incessant ticking – like clockwork that has slipped a gear making the minute hand reverberate constantly counting then un-counting the same beat of time, never progressing.

Unwrapping Wrapping paper littered the floor, I lay on my belly, under the kitchen table, letting the taste of onions frying slip down my throat as I breathed in. Watching the hem of my mother’s skirt swinging, stirring up the scraps of paper. A man walked in. His Cuban heels clicking against the linoleum. Afterwards I swept, and my mother scrubbed. The paper scraps were soaked in oil, still warm, and the transparencies of onion.

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Poetry|Alisa Velaj The Art Of Taming Pet the roar to tame the beast!

Nocturne it is like dying amidst a forest where tweets suffocate and squirrels go on tip-toe to not disturb the sounds of winds like dying is this insane escapade towards the songs of nowhere ravens sing of love as well pigeons whisper and cower inside the blueness singing singing singing with a squirrelish fear light at the heels amidst a forest that suffocates tweets...

Surrounded By Little Michael’s Merry-Go-Round A moon-like solitude illuminates my curiosity. So much love in the Garden of Eden? Such extreme longing for a cherubic voice? Around me comes and goes little Michael. I incessantly long for the true light, For the sky impersonated in a Human... Translated from Albanian by Arben P. Latifi

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Short Fiction|Marc de Faoite The Year Our Voices Broke “Liam!”    My mother’s shout bounds up the distressed oak staircase, bounces off walls freshly-painted eggshell-blue, and bursts through my bedroom door. Am I in trouble? A quick check shows no stray clothes on the floor. Most of them are still unpacked in cardboard boxes anyway.    If there was any intonation in that single syllable that hinted at her mood I missed it. Mentally reviewing the previous hours and days I found nothing worthy of reproach, though that didn’t mean she couldn’t find something, whether real or imagined, to gripe about.    At least she gave me an excuse to abandon the mound of homework Mister O’Malley had piled on for the weekend.    “Ah, Sir,” said Paul Rafferty, an unruly red-head and self-appointed classroom wit, thick-necked and freckled, a boy with man’s hands.    “Whisht outta that. It’ll make up for all the dossing ye did during the summer. Ye’ll have to be on the ball this year. On the ball I tell ye. What’ll ye have to be?”    “On the ball, sir,” we answered in chorus.    “That’s right. Those entrance exams for secondary school will be upon ye soon enough, so we’ll have no more of the Ah Sirs if you please Mister Rafferty.”    Still unfamiliar with the local accent I mistakenly heard ‘entranced’ exam, which conjured up images of bewitched school examinations, cursed by mischievous sprites, or lured onto rocks by mermaids.    “Now there’s a smile to warm the heart. It’s a long time since I’ve seen a young man look so pleased at the prospect of extra homework. You’ll be the saviour of me yet, Mister Neary. A most welcome change indeed in the prevailing winds of academic apathy in this classroom, which by times do be reaching gale force levels, though I doubt ye’d have much inkling what that trifle might mean to me. Spend thirty years in a cloud of chalk dust and you’ll have the gist of it.”    His talk of boots and trifles painted pictures of custard-spattered footwear. I lowered my head to hide my grin.    “Lick,” muttered Carrothead Rafferty, prompting an echo,and slurping sounds,from around the classroom. “We’ll get you at break time. Better watch your fucken back. I’ll burst ye, so I will.”    I avoided explosive deflation by pleading a stomach ache and stayed in the classroom with a book.    My smile had long since faded, and stooped over the fourth page of long division in my bedroom, with the distinct possibility of an earful from the Mammy, its reappearance was all the more unlikely. I went 140

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downstairs and stood in the kitchen doorway waiting to see why I had been summarily summoned from my sums so to speak.    My mother had tied up her hair, revealing the rounded shape of the back of her head and the seldom seen nape of her neck. Her lipstick was slightly smudged and she was stirring saucepans filled with the bubbling stews and casseroles that would reappear during the week, unfrozen and microwaved after a long commute home from the city. The saucepans werenew, a housewarming gift from my father, though my mother picked them out herself.    “They’re very old-fashioned,” he said.    “Feel the weight of them. That’s cast iron so it is. Indestructible.”    “They certainly cost enough.”    “It’s not like we can’t afford them.They’ll be an investment. Besides, it’s the sustainable option, good for the planet.”    My father’s housewarming present to himself was the tractor lawnmower he was riding up and down in a garden at least twenty times the size of the one at our last house. The sound of the mower faded in and out as he came closer or further from the house and the smell of freshly cut grass and petrol mingled with the cooking smells of garlic and bay leaves and red wine.    “So there you are,” she said without turning her head. “What are you up to? Did you empty any of those boxes?”    “I will when I finish my homework.”    “Good. Good. Listen. I was talking to the new neighbour next door. A Mrs McNally apparently. She seems nice enough, though if you ask me there’s something not quite right there. Edgy. Distraught. Anyway, they have a son your age and he’s going to be in your class, so I told her that you’d cycle with him to school on Monday, that you could show him the way.”    I’d watched them move in from my bedroom window, cataloguing the furniture the workmen lugged from the back of a truck while the boy and his father carried cardboard boxes. But the mother, Mrs McNally, was nowhere to be seen.    The first time I saw her was when the doorbell rang on Monday morning. She was wearing a white towelling bathrobe with the logo of a fancy hotel and the name of a Caribbean island embroidered in gold thread. Her hair was wild and tangled and she had black rings under her eyes. Sheheld the bathrobe closed with a fist in front of her heart andkepther other hand on the boy’s shoulder, as if she needed him for support, or as if he might slip away. He was a bit smaller than me, with his mother’s dark hair and her haunted bloodshot eyes. They both looked as though they’d been crying, and the boy nervously chewed his lower lip. I knew how he felt, or at least I thought I did. A week earlier Iwas the one shedding tears at the prospect of my first day at the new school.    “So you’re this Liam we’ve been hearing all about,” said Mrs McNally.    I wondered what she had been hearing and from where. 141

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“Go on now Brendan,” she urged. “Shake hands with Liam,” and though it was an overly formal gesture, we awkwardly obliged. His hand was thin and delicate and slightly cold to touch.    I was showing Brendan where we locked the bikes when Mister O’Malley appeared.    “Well would ye look at this,” he said. “The two new boys and already the best of pals. Sure ye may as well sit together, but no messing or I’ll separate the pair of ye.”    During Irish class Brendan started to cry. His tears were met with much snickering from most of the boys, and looks of concern from the girls. I passed him some of the tissues my mother insisted I keep in my schoolbag.    “Lee-Yum,” said Mister O’Malley. He was a native Irish speaker from somewhere in the west, which occasionally caused vowels to get stuck somewhere in his throat.    “Sounds like a Chinese name,” said Carrothead.    A peal of laughter rippled through the class.    “Enough out of you Mister Rafferty. Lee-Yum, you’ll accompany Bren-dawn to the staffroom. I’ll deal with this shower first and then I’ll be in to see ye. Go on now, there’s a good man.”    Between sobs in the staffroom Brendan explained the reason for moving house.    “I kicked the ball and he just ran out after it.”    His brother had been hit by a car. The driver slammed on the brakes, but he was too close.    “If only I hadn’t kicked it so hard he could have caught it. I wish it was me was dead instead.”    Mister O’Malley came in.    “Now Bren-dawn, take as long as you like. Will ye have a cup of sweet tea?Ye will. You can go back to class now Lee-Yum.”    By the subdued atmosphere in the classroom I guessed Mister O’Malley had told them about Brendan’s dead brother.    “Good man Lee-Yum,” said Carrothead, breaking the silence. He pulled the sides of his eyes to make them slanted. “Chinky. Chinky,” he teased in a singsong voice. Soon the whole classroom took up the chorus.    The door swung open, like a curtain rapidly drawn.    “What’s all this racket?” said Mister O’Malley. “Didn’t I tell ye to behave? What did I tell ye?”    “To behave, sir.”    “And this is how you behave, is it? The back barely turned on me and ye are already up to divilment.”    Soon enough Brendan had his own nickname. The fada in Irish was why Mister O’Malley called him Bren-dawn, and for a few days Carrothead called him Dawn, but then we were reading An bradán feasa - the legend of Finn Mac Cumhaill and the Salmon of Knowledge, and 142

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Bren-dawn became bradán, which was quickly dropped in favour of Fassa, so for the rest of the year we were known as Chinky and Fassa.    We were well behaved. We always had our homework done.    “Why can’t ye be like them?” said Mister O’Malley pointing at us in frustration. And our classmates, with their head-lice shaven heads, hated us for it, and punctured us with sharpened pencils. But we didn’t burst as predicted, instead the nibs broke off just beneath the surface of our skin.    We sat apart in the playground while they swapped stories about the cattle mart, or driving tractors, or the shocking price of a bale of hay these days.    “Daylight robbery, so it is.”    “Sure ye wouldn’t be up to the cute hoors.”    They called us blow-ins, as if we were as airy and insubstantial as thistledown or dandelion seeds, apt to be blown away on the next passing breeze. Our suburban Dublin accents probably sounded as strange to them as their rural intonations did to us. As weeks became months it was clear that we would never blend in. We were Chinky and Fassa, the licks, them lads with the bukes and the bikes.    Despite their animosity, or maybe because of it, we envied their unruly wildness and the way they used four-letter words. We knew the words but never said them, not within earshot of parents, or teachers, and definitely nowhere near Father Kavanagh, but sometimes we tried them on for size, either silently mouthing them, or cursing at the sheep and cows in the fields we cycled past from school. But it was always an act, we didn’t own the words the way Carrothead and his gang did, and that led to conflicting feelings of superiority and jealousy.    There were days Brendan didn’t come to school. Allowances were made. It was my job to call around to his house and update him on what we had done in class and any homework we might have. We’d sit at the kitchen table with our homework and watch television and eat white bread with butter and drink tea with sugar in it, all things that weren’t permitted at my house.    I wished I had a dead brother too. Instead I mourned the brother I never had. It wasn’t as good as having a dead brother, but it was all I had, and better than nothing. I kept it to myself and made my grief a private and important thing and said prayers for my unborn brother whenever we went to mass. *    The highlight of my weekends was at the end of a long drive down to Dublin and the freedom to choose anything from the bookshelves of the library. I had read most of anything worth reading in the children’s section so my father used my mother’s library tickets to let me get books from the adult section, subject to his approval, though in fairness 143

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there wasn’t much he wouldn’t let me read. Sometimes he picked a book out for me.    “This doesn’t look much good,” I said, turning the book in my hands.    “Never judge a book by its cover,” he said.    On the drive there and back we passed wild children bareback riding piebald horses on the grassy green spaces between pebble-dashed housing estates, mythical creatures, horse-children with crew-cuts and freckles and cigarettes in their mouths, galloping in the wind. There were no characters like them in my library books, and it never occurred to me that there ever could be.    “Gurriers,” muttered my father, but I saw in them everything I wasn’t.    My parents usually came home late, so during the week I often ate alone. I had my own keys and could come and go as I pleased. When it rained I stayed in and did my homework, but when it didn’t I explored the fields behind the house. Brendan often joined me and off we went, carrying sticks, pockets weighted with penknives, and our feet flopping around inside our rubber boots.    A small stream ran through a hedge-hidden gully a few fields away from the house. We pushed through the branches, trying to avoid thorns, and half-climbed, half-slid downwards. I slipped on the last part and found myself knee deep in the water. Brendan jumped and landed on the gravelly bank beside me.    Climbing up the opposite bank we discovered a whole new world. Shiny black pellets of fragrant shit on the bare patches in the scabby grass told of sheep, but they were nowhere to be seen. There were thistles and patches of nettles and dock, and a little further uphill a huge oak silhouetted against a sky filled with yellowing cumulous clouds, like a huge painting of half-rotten cauliflowers.    We walked towards the tree, drawn by a magnetic force, a prehistoric arboreal urge to climb. I gave Brendan a leg-up. Once up, he stretched an arm to help me, but I nearly pulled him out of the tree. I tried jumping. The branch was just out of reach. I changed tactics and ran at the tree and pushed my foot against the bark and gained enough traction and height to grasp the branch.    We sat in the generous crook of the giant branches.    “Do you ever feel you’re invisible?” asked Brendan after a while.    “Who said that? Brendan where are you?”    “I’m right here beside you, you big eejit.”    “I can’t see you. Can you see me at all?”    “Of course I can.”    “Am I not at least a little bit blurry around the edges?”    “It’s not funny.”   “Why not?”    “Because I may as well be invisible. My parents can’t see me. They only see him when they look at me.” 144

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“Did he look like you?”    “Yeah, I suppose. Except bigger. Older.”    “Do you miss him?”   “Of course.”    I felt embarrassed about praying for my own undead unborn brother and vowed to put a stop to that particular fantasy.    Perched like two birds in a nest we watched the lengthening shadows of the oak stretch fingers towards a cluster of ivy-covered ruins downstream. We agreed they were deserving of exploration, but another day. We clambered down and regretfully went home.    The oak became our base. We returned to it whenever we could, exploring its dizzying upper reaches, where the branches swayed under our weight, and learned that it was harder to climb down than climbing up.    The gap in the hedge widened over time, but the gully was slippery, especially after the rain, so we plaited a rope out of baling twine and rappelled down through the hedge, emerging reborn, at the end of our tether so to speak, into our newly discovered world.    The ruins weren’t very large - just a few walls of rough-hewn stone, but this was the real deal, not like the expensive Donegal granite cladding on our new house that hid walls made of ordinary concrete blocks. I knew about the hidden blocks from visits to the building site where we were forced to wear pointless safety helmets.    “Grey, for visitors, blue for carpenters and electricians, yellow for labourers,” explained the architect. His finger drew lines between the house and blueprints spread over the bonnet of his Land Rover.    The air around the ruin was quiet and filled with the tangy smell of ivy and nettles. We stepped through the empty doorway. A bright-eyed blackbird watched us from an ash tree that grew up through where the roof had once been, then chirple-chortled as it flew away.    “Who do you think lived here?” asked Brendan quietly.    “How would I know? Who cares?”    “It looks very old. Maybe it was the Normans.”   “The Normans?”   “Yeah.”    “Sounds like the name of some old pop group my dad might listen to.”    Half-hidden by the trees that grew either side of the stream we discovered the remnants of an old stone bridge, built of the same grey limestone as the ruined house. Grass grew across the top of it, tentacles of ivy crawled over its sides. Near the water’s edge the stone was coated in thick moist moss. The river banks were lower than the gully upstream where we always crossed, and the water was shallow but lively, flowing around our rubber boots and tugging at our ankles. No obvious trail or path led to the bridge, but there must have been one once. We walked under the bridge. Stretching our arms upwards we could almost 145

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touch the underside. It was narrow, a little more than a foot wide, and in the water were squared river-worn stones that must once have been part of what was a larger structure.    “Go on, cross it,” said Brendan. “I dare you.”    “No way. You do it.”    He shook his head, kicking at the water, splashing me. I splashed him back, things escalated, and we both went back home drenched.    From time to time we returned to the bridge, catching minnows in jam jars, and sometimes even drinking the water, sipping from the edge of the stream, lying on our bellies on the river bank like wild animals. We thought we might get sick, but we never did and the water tasted clean and cool and good.    From the crook of the oak tree we could see a hedge of buckthorn and hawthorn, brambles and furze, and an embankment riddled with rabbit holes. The rabbits seemed to know that we couldn’t harm them if we were in the tree and they came out to nibble at the grass, but as soon as we climbed down they bolted. One day we counted more than twenty. We decided we would catch one if we could.    It wasn’t hard to make a snare according to Things To Kill & Things That Kill: A Boy’s Adventure Guide - a book I found in the library. All we needed was a length of wire. We made half a dozen and fastened them to sharpened sticks that we hammered with a stone into the ground near the burrow mouths.    The straggles of wool caught on the furze should have made us stop and think, but we ignored and hardly noticed what seemed like an insignificant detail at the time.    Empty shotgun cartridges were proof that we weren’t the only ones who were after the rabbits, but we never saw the hunters, or anyone else for that matter, but we soon found out that we weren’t as invisible as we thought.    My mother was working late again, but my father was home. We were eating one of my mother’s stews that had shared the freezer with the vodka bottles when the telephone chirped. My father picked it up.    “Hello? Yes. Yes that’s right ... Chinky? No, I think you have the wrong number ... Oh? … I see … I understand. Well I’m very sorry about that, very sorry indeed ... Yes ... Yes. Hang on a moment, could you repeat that please?”    My father glared at me and pressed a button on the phone. A voice came from the speaker.    “I said the shape does be getting caught up in the feckin’ things. Causes them no end of distress. I have one of them now due to lamb and the foot on her cut to the bone.”    My father turned off the speaker and went into the kitchen to continue the conversation. I heard the word ‘compensation’ and amount of money being mentioned. Some agreement was met and my father hung up. 146

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“I’ll deal with you later,” he said, snatching up the car keys.    A half hour later the car snarled up the gravel drive.    “If I hear of any more of this kind of malarkey I’ll drive you over to Farmer Byrne and let him deal with you.”    I braced myself, expecting the usual clatter around the head. We had rehearsed this routine many times. I would start crying and he would shout and hit me again as I shielded my head with my arms, snivelling that I was sorry. This would be our first performance in the new house and it occurred to me that the architect’s open-plan design would make it difficult for my father to find a door to slam. But instead it was only his voice and not his hand he raised. Stupidly that made me feel worse and I started to cry anyway.    “What would he do to me?” I blubbered.    “Ah jaysus Liam,” he said, backpedalling now, a consolatory softness in his voice. “He might put you to work shovelling cow shite.” He smiled, as if it was meant to be funny, and I flinched as he playfully tossed my hair. I was too upset to take the joke. I knew full well from cycling past Byrne’s that there was no end of cow shite to be shovelled, the cows replenishing supplies on what you might call a ‘regular’ basis. You’d barely have one side of the yard cleared and the other side would already be ankle deep in the stuff.    “Thankfully there aren’t many problems in this world that can’t be solved with money,” said my father. “But can you tell me something now? Why did Byrne call you Chinky?” *    Mister O’Malley asked us both to stay behind after school.    “Yer in for it now,” gloated Carrothead. His voice hadn’t broken yet and though it annoyed him that mine and Brendan’s had both changed within a week of one another he had stopped letting the air out of our bicycle tyres and stabbing us with pencils.    We stayed at our desks while the others left. The scraping of chairs and giggles and whispers faded, replaced by an echoing silence. Mister O’Malley sat at his desk with a pile of exercise books, correcting homework. We waited. Eventually he put down his red pen, shoved his glasses up on his forehead, and got to his feet.    “Well now. What’s this I’m after hearing about ye lads? A shocking thing altogether. A pair of poachers. For crying out loud. It’d be understandable from the likes of these other fellas, with their families ready to emigrate for want of work, or getting evicted by the banks, but ye two are in the lap of luxury, with yer big houses and yer four-wheeldrives and yer Bee Ems. What ever possessed ye to do such a thing? You’re lucky Mister Byrne didn’t call the gards on ye, so ye are. Yer halos are losing their shine lads. Losing. Their. Shine. What are they losing?”    “Their shine, sir,” we mumbled in chorus. 147

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“Indeed. I’m disappointed in ye lads, fierce disappointed altogether. It just goes to show, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Now go on over to the church and confess your sins. Father Kavanagh’s waiting for ye, so he is.”    Brendan went first while I sat on the hard pew in the cold of the church. The air smelled of limestone caves and candle wax and old women, and was silent except for the echoed whispers from the confessional.    I thought about what Mister O’Malley had said about books and covers, understanding for the first time that the phrase had more than the literal meaning, that it was really about the outward appearance of things, like granite cladding, or eggshell-blue plaster, or distressed oak, or designer Italian shoes and suits, or the antiques bought on weekend shopping trips to Prague or Paris, or the lawn whose only purpose was to be mown. It was all for show. What use had my mother for a four-wheel drive? It was a cover, a suit of armour, a protective shell she hid inside. And as for blue or green eyelids, I struggled to make sense of that. *    We sat our ‘entranced’ exams in the spring. Brendan was enrolled for the local secondary school with Carrothead and company, but my parents decided I should be sent to a fancy boarding school. I had barely gotten used to living somewhere new and I would have to leave again.    “But we’ll see you on weekends,” said my mother.    “Most weekends anyway,” said my father. “Your mother can hardly expect you to come home every single weekend.”    I imagined my parents alone in their big house. If he got home early my father would spend his evenings in what he called his ‘man-cave’, sipping brandy, and smoking cigars out the window, well on the way to his first meeting with a cardiologist. My mother would sigh and complain about the traffic and the long commute and how ‘the woman’ hadn’t properly cleaned the bathroom again.    The house sat empty most of the week anyway, only occupied at weekends. Even then it was barely used, my parents lounging in bed until midday nursing hangovers from too much Pinot Noir, or whatever was fashionable to drink that particular weekend, and every Sunday evening vowing to unpack the treadmill and get in shape.    School finally ended. The first thing I did when we got back from sailing in Croatia was head down the fields to the oak tree. I slipped through the gap in the hedge and saw that the plaited baling twine had been replaced by a strong piece of rope, with thick knots for grips. A broad plank joined both banks of the stream. I followed the trail of trampled grass to the oak. Another piece of the same rope hung down from the lowest branch. Three slats of wood had been nailed into 148

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the trunk. I used them and the rope to climb up.    Four wooden pallets, covered with a sheet of plywood, were nailed into the crook of the tree. A few planks around the sides of the platform acted as guard rails, as if anyone would be stupid enough to fall off. In one corner were a few old cushions. I took them and flung them as far from the tree as I could, then tugged at the planks. When I couldn’t get them to move I kicked them. But they were too solidly nailed and my attempts to prise up the pallet floor of this new tree house met with failure. Apart from the cushions the only other thing I could remove was the rope. I cut through it with my penknife and let it fall to the ground, then climbed higher, until I couldn’t get further, and wedged myself in among the high branches, gripping the rough bark between my knees, thinking about the nails. I could understand nailing dead pieces of wood together, but to hammer nails into something living was unthinkable.    I was still there when Brendan arrived. The leaves hid me from view. I watched as he picked up the fallen rope, and let it fall again. He climbed up to the platform and noticed the missing cushions. He looked around and spotted them on the ground, then went back down to retrieve them. By the time he came back up I was sitting on the platform.    “Jaysus. You gave me an awful fright,” he said. “When did you get here? Some bastard is after cutting the rope and throwing our cushions away.”    “Calling me a bastard, are ye Fassa?”    I never called him that name and saw the look of hurt on his face.    “What d’ye mean?”   “What do you mean, more like it. What’s all this?”    “It’s a tree house. I thought you’d be happy.”    “It was fine the way things were. Why did you have to go and ruin it? Who did all this anyway? I know it wasn’t you.”    “Me da,” he said.    “You shouldn’t have brought him here. No adults, remember?”    “What? We never said no adults. You just made that up.”    “But you should have known.”    “How could I know? I’m not a mind reader. And besides, since when did you get to make the rules.”    “It’s not rules. It’s just common sense. And who puts fucking nails into a tree?”    It just slipped out. It was the first time I had ever used the word naturally, and it lay there between us for a moment.    “My fucking da, that’s who,” shouted Brendan. “My fucking da.”    After a moment we both began to laugh, then tried the word out in new combinations, until our cheeks ached.    From then on we had a new adjective for everything: the fucking trees, the fucking fields, the fucking rabbits, the fucking sheep, the fucking school, the list was endless and changed the way we saw the world. The fucking world. 149

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“Are you growing a fucking moustache?” I asked.    Brendan smiled shyly, rubbing his upper lip with his thumb and index.    “Yeah, me ma says I’ll have to start shaving soon, but me da says to leave it until I start school in September.”    We spent almost all our summer days down the fields, exploring from our tree house base, and pretended we had never been called Chinky and Fassa. We made catapults, using the inner tubing from an old bicycle tyre, and acorns for ammunition, and tried to hit the rabbits from the tree house, but they were too far away and we weren’t very good shots. Sometimes Byrne’s sheep came into the field. They made easier targets.    We slipped into the dappled shade of ash and hazel down by the coolness of stream. Thrushes rustled in the hedges. The first fallen leaves of late summer lazily spun as they floated past. We waded in, dragging our boots through the water until we reached the bridge, the defiant span of piled stone.    By some unspoken agreement we stripped the strangling ivy from the stonework. We tugged at it until our hands were blistered, dislodging lumps of ancient mortar that crumbled and fell into the stream, clouding the water as they dissolved. We soothed our burning hands on the coolness of the rock and the soft greenness of moss, then used sticks to poke at the mortar remaining between the stones until one was loose enough to be prised free. With each new stone we levered out we grew more frightened and excited. Finally we found the stone that supported the rest. We loosened it and stood back as we pushed and poked it with our sticks. It hardly made a splash. We were disappointed that it hadn’t been more dramatic. We watched as gravity took over and more stones collapsed into the stream with clunking splashes, then we encouraged another few while we were at it.    When we emerged from the green shade the sun was setting. Though we didn’t know it at the time, we crossed the stream for the last time together and climbed up through the hedge into the rusted landscape of stubble, walking in silence towards the big houses, on the heels of adult-sized shadows.

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Poetry|Jo Burns The Western Ghats Rubber Plantation Where once the starlings eddied, prattled, throats thick with bloom in jade fertile luster, the trickling tick tock of latex taps percussion to sterile sap tunes, untill an Uppan calls. Our eyes meet between the parch grey bark. In this fallout, he (also called Great Coucal) is magnificent in his bronze attire. A Chola remnant, his ruby eye has seen the cobra quivers slither on, mongoose starving, tight behind. Cormorants no longer submarine, yet he, in this yawn of polymer, looks to the lush neem bowl below and cries (or how I imagine it goes) „Tamil Nadu, farm for us too, here Brahmin, Christian, Harijan have served our food and fertile land to the hands of hungry plantation men“ Bit by bit, his call dims flat to monotone „coup coup coup coup coup coup“ Trees answer in foreign colloid tongue „tap tap tap tap tap tap“ In thrall to slow sung songs, on souring slopes, of Caoutchouc trees and great Coucal, the Western Ghats cock an ear for my considered call, but my kind will always sing the wrong notes.

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Short Fiction|T.A. Morton The little girl died and everyone was sad The little girl died and everyone was sad.    Walking a different way home she escaped the road, the flowers, the people that just stood and stared, shocked, lifeless. The wind suddenly picked up and she huddled herself together as it pinched her ears, fallen leaves scratched away at the pavement attempting to avoid the irritating breeze. A piece of paper followed her, a soiled shopping list, its contents faded but she deciphered small words, milk, butter, chocolate. She couldn’t wait to get warm, sit down, turn on the TV. Something light she envisaged, like one of those unfunny shows with canned laughter, the actors recorded years ago when they were fresh, buoyant and funny. She passed a young girl sitting on the pavement, her face shielded by the large fake fur trim of her hood, her hands were bare as she was writing something on a tiny piece of paper. The young girl didn’t look up at her and she shuddered realizing that this girl was about the same age.    The little girl died and everyone was sad.    She turned left at the school, she didn’t know why; this wasn’t her usual way home. Allowing herself to be guided by an invisible internal force that silenced her conditional routine. The force tugged her away from the road towards a couple laughing out loud, the man pushing an oversized pram. She was now on a small alley filled with grand buildings leading to the small ascent towards the lake. Interior lights switched on as she passed them, phones rang, car doors slammed. She heard a baby cry somewhere and she imagined that the mother would answer the cry quicker than normal, aware of the event, still so close in time, the awful accident. The mother would hold onto the baby tighter, love it deeper, caress and kiss it more than before and although she was tired she would become more alert, softly praying that the baby’s fate would never be the same as the little girl.    Reaching the lake sweaty joggers sprinted in front of her, their minds switched off to the world, their ears filled with sound, beats and voices. She envied them in their distraction. An old woman with three small dogs passed her looking angry.    She walked on further heading away from her home towards the city, the willow trees branches reached out to her trying to stroke her face but she ignored them.    The little girl died and everyone is sad.    She turned her head towards the main hospital; she could just make out the small Christmas tree that sat on top like a beacon. Stopping she considered how many other people were dying in there today, right 152

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now, this moment. She remembered being there once, waiting in the lobby afraid to go up, she always hated hospitals they seemed so impersonal like a church. She had a scan nothing serious just a common requisite for someone her age. There had been an elevator, painted a dull orange inside, a handsome black doctor that smiled at her, and told her everything was normal.    A playful gust of wind circled her and a thin man ran past pushing an odd looking pram, she saw the baby asleep. She turned and continued looking into the faces of those that passed seeing if there was any recognition, did anyone else feel the same but everyone looked blank or consumed within small thoughts of dinner, tomorrow and Christmas. Christmas was making its way into the city gradually, the lights were up but they weren’t switched on, perhaps they remained unlit because of her, the little girl, she thought.     The little girl died and everyone is sad.    A little girl she didn’t know personally but she had quickly convinced herself that she had once seen her in a shop, perhaps, standing behind her in the queue whilst she hassled her mother for sweets or had passed her as she played nosily in the small cramped park opposite her apartment. A little girl born in that hospital where she died after they switched off the machine, there was no point, there was no hope. A little girl well liked she supposed, for weren’t most little girls well liked by someone.    She was ten, a decade, an achievement in itself. A block of years and now she was dead after she had crossed the zebra crossing yesterday afternoon and a young man in a white van high on drugs slammed into her.    She was there that day. She walked up the stairs from the station and heard the screech, then the thud and then stillness, time stopped. Everything stopped until an old man cried out and a woman ran towards the little girl. The young man in the van jumped out and vomited. She watched this from afar. A dark-haired little girl lay on the road, her oversized pink schoolbag next to her, her purple coat still buttoned, her hair became quickly matted in blood.    She had stood unable to react as those around her mumbled took out their phones, some calling the emergency services, others called loved ones. She couldn’t think of anyone to call so she stood absorbing the scene, the confusion, sounded by the wails of the young man and the fate of the little girl.    A young woman started to cry next to her and she looked at her wanting to hush her, this wasn’t the time but she didn’t, unable to form spoken words. She returned home after she saw the paramedics place her gently in the ambulance and rush her off with serious screams.    Home, she sat in the darkness alone, no television, no noise only those that lived above her, their rampant footsteps, yelling, crying, laughing. She fell asleep and woke up in the early morning still in 153

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her coat. Removing it she returned to bed and lay. No dreams and when she finally rose for the day she felt a great surge of urgency. She switched on the television, two men serious discussing the fall in the markets and then a headline rolled underneath them, the little girl is in critical condition. She watched it for as long as she could to monitor for any change but it didn’t and then she quickly dressed and walked to work, avoiding the road.    The others at work mentioned it, always quick to discuss any tragedy of life in detail, they gathered around her desk, don’t you live close to that road, did you see anything? She didn’t answer them honestly, forcing them to reduce their excited tone. Privately she monitored the news on her computer, but nothing altered, the little girl was still in critical condition. And then she started to believe that she would be all right the little girl and if she was, then perhaps she would go and see her or at least send her a gift, a card wishing her the best or a teddy or something, something a ten year old girl would love. Something small to let her know that others were thinking of her, marvelling at her bravery. Perhaps they could be friends, perhaps she could babysit for her sometime, help take care of her, help watch over her. These fantasies lasted throughout the day and with every chance she took to re-read the headlines and saw that nothing changed she grew more convinced that she would be fine.    By the afternoon her boss returned from fetching her own ten year old son from school. They both entered the office quietly and her boss stood for a moment between their desks before coughing and announcing, ‘the little girl has died.’ She rose out of her chair and said, ‘What? No you must be mistaken. She is still in critical condition. I just read the news.’    ‘No I’m afraid not. We just heard it on the radio, they announced her dead five minutes ago.’    The others clustered around her again shaking their heads, crossing themselves, muttering empty prayers. She found herself wanting to push every one of them away but all she did was start to shiver. Her boss’ son took out his Nintendo and walked over and sat at his mothers desk, he started to punch away viciously at the small keyboard.    ‘The little girl died.’ One of her colleagues said almost tearfully. Then the room went quiet as the boy still punched away and then he said loudly, lyrically, mocking them all, ‘the little girl died and everyone is sad.’    She looked at him horrified as her boss hushed him and he rolled his eyes. Immediately she felt herself tighten inside, her heartbeat sounded in her ears, she could no longer hear the others, their sympathies, she could only hear the boy’s consistent tapping. Unconsciously she walked over to him he stared up at her bemused. She slapped him right across the face and the Nintendo fell out of his hands and onto the floor.    Silence, then her boss rushed over, ‘Are you insane?’ she thought 154

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she heard her say, but she couldn’t be sure. She didn’t answer, grabbed her coat and bag and left, the boys face now covered in tears.    Entering the city she followed her own distorted refection as she passed the restaurants, shops and cafes. Strangers laughed, shouted, cars honked, the city started to smell of garlic and salt and she grew hungry but she didn’t want to sit alone amongst strangers and tourists. She saw a bus stop and checked its time and destination; seeing where it was headed she stood and waited with two other people. She started to feel cold and when the bus arrived she let the other two walk ahead, the light surprised her and she kept her face down, afraid that it would give her away. She found an empty seat and sat down immediately feeling that it was wet and she heard a bunch of teenagers giggle behind her, she ignored them and let the wetness infiltrate her. The bus stopped, lowered and sighed and moved on slow. Down her eyes looked into cars, empty child seats, businessmen talking or singing as they waited for the lights to change. She saw an old couple laugh, the woman drinking out of a flask the man smiling. Then they crossed the bridge and she rang the bell. The bus stopped and she stood up. She wasn’t the only one to get off, there was an old man and a young woman dressed in a tracksuit, she followed both of them. She didn’t know why she was here and what she was going to do as she followed them both through the small garden to the sliding doors of the hospital. The lobby was brown and green just like she remembered, posters lined the wall detailing the importance about washing your hands. Signs to serious locations hung above her head. She didn’t know what to do so she sat on the bench opposite the information desk that was closed for a further ten minutes. She waited unable to think.   The little girl died and everyone is sad.    An older woman in a pale blue uniform arrived back to the information desk. Her hair cut short and dyed badly, her glasses too loud and modern for her face. She sat down still chewing on something from her break.    She walked over to her shaking. The woman looked up at her annoyed.    ‘Excuse me, I was wondering about the little girl.’    ‘What little girl?’    ‘The little girl that got hit by the car.’    ‘Yes, what about her?’    ‘Where was she?’   ‘What?’    ‘In the hospital, I was wondering where was she?’    ‘In intensive care, are you a relative?’    ‘No.’ She said embarrassed. ‘No I’m not, I just wondered.’    ‘She is dead you know.’    ‘Yes, I know, I only wanted to know where she was. ‘    ‘Are you a journalist?’ 155

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Then the phone rang and the woman picked it up turning her back on her.    She gravitated towards the elevators, one opened and it was empty. The doors closed and she went up pressing the correct number, the elevator still a dull orange. It stopped fast and she slowly walked out into the floor. Two steel doors with a code pad barred her to continue. No entry unless authorised it read in huge letters and she bowed her head. She called the elevator back but then the steel doors swung open and a small Middle-Eastern man walked out carrying an old gym bag. He appeared shattered almost hunched over but he gave her a little smile. She returned it as the elevator opened, they both got in and she pushed for the lobby, the man let the gym bag fall to the elevators floor.    She looked down at his bag, the zip was broken but she could just make out the top of the little girls pink school bag and the head of a brightly coloured teddy. Her heart raced. Controlling herself she coughed and said, ‘Visiting family?’    He nodded, unable to answer her. She saw his eyes swell up with tears and she felt ashamed.    ‘I’m so sorry,’ she whispered.    He nodded trying to sniff them back.    ‘The little girl died and everyone was sad.’ She said it quietly and believed for a moment that he didn’t hear her but he looked over at her surprised. Trembling she wanted to tell him that she was there, she had seen how the paramedics had tried and if she had just arrived a little sooner perhaps she could have stopped it. She could have called out, warned her or jumped in front of the van herself pushing her out of the way but the lobby arrived too quickly and the doors opened. He no longer looked at her, grabbing his bag fast she watched him rush out into the night. Not knowing what to do she decided to follow him. He started to jog and she saw him get into the front seat of an unlit taxi that was waiting for him. She went over to the taxi knocking on the window, the man’s face turned away from her, he said something to the driver and the driver got out of the car.    ‘What is it lady?’ He spoke in a thick Middle-Eastern accent.    ‘Only I’m sorry, I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to upset him.’ She emitted a heavy sob. She looked at him in the car, his hands covering his face distraught.    ‘We are all sorry,’ the driver said. ‘Some more than others. ‘ He sighed. She carried on crying. ‘Did you know her?’ He asked staring at her suspiciously.    She shook her head. ‘No, no I didn’t.’ She sobbed again, tears fell fast and she could feel herself starting to gulp for air.    ‘Uh huh. Listen lady why don’t you go and bother someone else huh? Have some respect. Our family has enough to deal with.’ The driver said shaking his head annoyed, he said something else, something she couldn’t understand. He got back into the car and it quickly 156

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speed off fast away from her. Remaining, she continued crying. The little girl died and everyone was sad. She said it again in her head. An elderly man in a dressing gown suddenly stood close to her, he lit a cigarette and she met his eyes. Shocked he attempted to smile at her kindly, tell her it would be ok, nothing was ever that bad. But before he could speak she rushed away from the brightly lit entrance towards the dark howling night.    An empty bus took her home, the driver singing happily along to the radio, she didn’t look out the window; she only looked forward, numb. She got off and hurried home trying to beat the cold, avoiding that road, that zebra crossing.

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Poetry|Javed Latoo I know a place I know a place where the sting of poverty is hurting its soul. Gnawing its marrow, leaving it anaemic, ragged and tired. Where poor people die along with their unfulfilled dreams of enough food, clean water and shelter; And affluent people with their refrigerated souls live in a bubble of privilege. Where corruption is practiced at an Olympic scale, And corrupt people are honoured like Olympic medal winners.

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Short Fiction|Gaia Martinelli-Bunzl Beneath the surface “Paris has another Paris under herself; a Paris of sewers; which has its streets, its crossings, its squares, its blind alleys, its arteries, and its circulation, which is slime, minus the human form.”– Victor Hugo Cataphile: an urban explorer who illegally tours the Carrières de Paris, a term popularly used to describe a series of underground tunnels that were built as a network of stone mines, which are no longer used.

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ot so long ago, Paris was taming with monsters under its surfaces. You heard me. Monsters.    No, I’m not crazy, I saw them first hand in its subterranean world.    You see, most people don’t know this, but under the Paris tourists, lovers, artists adore, under the paper cut city, lies an unknown to many underbelly: The Carrières de Paris.    A dark, wet, haunted place.    Where teenagers escape to drink, smoke, graffitiand hold clandestine parties.    Where unsavory characters creep at night.    Where lovers embrace in the alcoves.    Where alligators swim unperturbed.    Where the serious urbanexplorers, like myself, venture armed with their hats, overcoats and boots, small canvas bags filled with the essential compass, flash light, notebook and pen, camera, tobacco and their bravery.    You see, a passion for the shadow world of Paris comes at a high risk. To roam the 170 miles oftunnel network is illegal. If I get caught by the E.R.I.C., the Special Police, they will fine me or worse. I am not one to boast, but I am somewhat of a legend down here, and I have never been caught. I’m too rusé for their likes.    Yes, such a love is a dangerous one. Some tunnels are flooded, others might collapse, and there is always the chance you could get lost and never come back.    On one of my daily patrols, I came back with a new friend: Mr Pacha.    Mr Pacha was an abandoned cat with long grey whiskers, a slender white body with some black patches here and there. You want to know 159

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why I named him Mr Pacha? The poor soul had a bold patch on the top of his head, so I put a small fez to dissimulate it.    Mr Pacha, he’s the king of the night. Mr Pacha, he’s the king of the night. Mr Pacha, oh what a delight! Toudoudoudou, Toudoudoudou…    I did not mean to ‘adopt’ Mr Pacha. I like to travel alone, but he seems to have adopted me. He follows me around, even when I first urged him to scamper off with an ‘oust!’.    From then on, Mr Pacha was my sole companion on all my expeditions in the underworld.    We always started from the same entry point, in the manhole next to the Catacombs. The exit point was never the same, neither were the times of day or weather conditions one would find upon reentering the world above. It might be through a manhole, métro tunnel or sewer.    You might wonder at this stage, why would a sensible man spend his days in a filthy, scary, dangerous place?    Who said I was sensible of mind?    So, Mr Pacha and I systematically explored, day and night, night and day, every inch of the network. We often made unexpected discoveries, like the time we found a golden box with a poem inside by an unknown author. We never took our treasures. What we find, we must leave behind. Take a picture, make a note and move on, leaving only your footprints. At other times the encounters were with strangers of the night, some courteous and endearing, some unwelcome and sometimes even dangerous.    One night – I think it was night, because I was hungry, but I cannot be certain as I never keep count of time when I am down, and days merge into nights and nights stretch into days – Mr Pacha and I almost died.    I say almost, but I want to stress that we came very close to it. We were perusing an area, which I estimate must have been in the northwest corner of the system, but it’s hard to tell with precision these things. A silhouette jumped on us out of a corner. I was knocked unconscious.    I woke up, spaced out, Mr Pacha by my side, licking my face, in a clean white room I had never seen before. I soon realized I was in a hospital.    A young man with dreadlocks and a metal chain around his neck with a small lock with the letter X engraved on it was sitting by the window.    “Ah you are awake! I thought you would never make it,” he said. 160

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I tried to speak, but found that I couldn’t.    “The doctors said you were very lucky. You could have died down there. Lucky I found you. Doctors said it might take a while for you to recover your voice.”    I looked at him, slowly reached my hand toward him. He took it in his and I squeezed it lightly.    “You’ve got a great companion there. This little fella never left your side,” he said indicating Mr Pacha.    A week later, I was back down.    I have had many misadventures in my times on the circuit, but they have never scared me off from going back. Something keeps on pulling me back, the rush of the unknown, what treasures I might find, secrets I might unearth.    So back to the monster – my mind is like a maze, and I get lost in my own thoughts and don’t know where I am or how to get back.    Now don’t go picturing disgusting green, slimy, blobby, hairy creatures here.    The monster I am talking about was of a very different kind. One that you could not conjure even in your imagination. And my abilities are too limited to even try to describe what it looked like, only that it was big, indeed, and frightening, of course.    I only caught a glimpse of it though, for a fraction of a second. It moved swiftly and did not seem to like Mr Pacha, in fact, I think it was quite scared of him.    After that first encounter, I resolved that we should find the beast and photograph it, for our catalogue. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I kept an archive of the underground where I documented every discovery. My purposes were purely scientific. To document the unseen. To show the world one day, when it was ready, the wonders that lied beneath.    There were many encounters. Some more memorable than others. Some people used the tunnels for their social gatherings and made numerous friends along the way, but I preferred to keep to myself. Three encounters stick to my mind.    The day I met the “Savage Kids”, a gang of teenage boys and girls who went around the tunnels and liked to take their anger out on the skeletons, to vandalize the murals, to leave a trail of beer cans and desperation behind. Their reputation preceded them, and I had tried to avoid them like the plague. Not my kind of people, I thought. One time, I came across their camp. Their leader addressed me:    “Where are you going man?” 161

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I didn’t reply, kept my head down and quickly disappeared in the dark tunnels. They did not bother me that time, nor afterwards, but I became more cautious in my outings.    The time I bumped into the scared homeless couple who had created a little home in a cave. I reassured them about my good intentions and they offered me a cup of coffee and a piece of bread and told me about their lives and how they had once been aristocrats, but had lost all there fortune and were now living under the streets of Paris. You never new what was true and what wasn’t here, who was mad and who wasn’t.    And there was of course my tumultuous relationship with Monsieur Z, whose name I cannot repeat, but whom I will call for the purpose of this story “The Mad Man”.    “The Mad Man” was an enigmatic man who kept on following me around. He would always keep a good distance. He trailed me for days until I confronted him. He screamed or rather howled and crawled into a fetal position. He never bothered me after that time. I can still picture him and that animal sound still makes my blood turn.    Anyways, to come back to the story, years passed, my loyal Mr Pacha by my side, and still no sign of the monster.    I was getting older, and it was becoming increasingly more difficult to go under. My knees and back were killing me, and only a strong cocktail of pills helped me to keep on going. But my determination was unshaken.    I will find this monster.    I will find it before I die.

   I never found the monster.    I thought I was getting closer at times, but it kept on eluding me. This is the one regret of my life as an urbex.    You will probably be disappointed. So was I. But some things perhaps are better left to the imagination anyways.    I forgot to tell you my name.    My name is Edmond de Rosée.    Will you join me in the underworld?

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Poetry|Emily Bilman The Chameleon-Cycle Light travels on the ever-changing River of time while water glides on water Like words that flow on chameleon-words Ever changing their meanings, ever reborn. Light traps the sun in translucence Dancing within the waves as A chameleon belches out its bundle Of light on the sun-filled leaves. A new chameleon unfolds itself Into life from this bright bundle Of light on which it fed. We watch The sun-filled leaves receiving The new-born like a mother’s Naked arms holding a new birth. With the leaf’s last light, the old Chameleon perishes as it was born.

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Short Fiction|Michael Washburn Then and Now

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veryone in the family wants to know why the university fired me. The question is particularly urgent now that my father has died and preparations for the funeral are underway. No one can agree on who should speak at the funeral or for how long. My cousins, aunts, and uncles are trying to fit my firing the other day into a narrative about my life in general, and my relationship with my father in particular. They see it as yet more evidence that I’m a member of that loathsome species, the intellectual ne’er-do-well. How do I make them see this event differently? I can hardly tell them that its roots lie in my earliest interactions with authority. It wouldn’t make any sense to them. It barely makes sense to me.    I’m not even sure how to broach the topic with most of the relatives. Take my uncle, for example. I tried to write a draft of a letter in which I addressed him as “Brad,” but it felt exceedingly awkward, even though we are both old enough that I should be able to drop the word “uncle” from my salutations. Of course I am not really old, just fortythree. There are so many uncrossable lines in this family that I just never know how to proceed. I haven’t even addressed the issue here, which is that Brad had expectations when I finally got a teaching position at a university here in Boston. He and my father both thought, At last Mike’s got a job he couldn’t mess up if he tried. And look at me, not sixth months later. I’m trying to scrounge beer money by advising kids on their resumes, and through a bit of freelance proofreading. I was pretty dependent on my father for many years, and I knew how much he disliked other people’s constant questions. Why doesn’t Mike have a job? Why is he still unmarried? All of this grew more noxious as the Mike in question aged, as his eyes grew bleary and his paunch swelled. My father was so deeply conscious of our status as members of an old and venerable New England family.    Brad, and others in the clan’s Midwest and West Coach branches, heard much griping from the old man in the aftermath of my firing. They tried to fit the event into a narrative they could understand. I’d been through trauma when I was young, I’d gotten DWIs and gotten fired from jobs all over the city, and I’d never straightened out. I’m a loser. There are truths here, I’ll grant.    Look, I don’t blame my father for how I’ve turned out. Oh, no. I’m grateful to him for many things and particularly his early encouragement of my interest in journalism. Maybe he even pushed a little too hard. You can’t really expect a sixth grader to write articles about the curriculum, and about what they call the “culture wars,” from an 164

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informed perspective. But my father had opinions on the subject, and he urged me to meditate on it and produce articles for the student paper at my private school in Cambridge. I guess my father’s intentions were good enough. But there were topics that interested me far more. Law enforcement, for one.    In the fifth grade, they took us on a day trip to a police station in downtown Boston. We met a number of the officers, including some muscular young men with a cool reserved manner. One of them was a stocky blond guy with gigantic biceps. I talked with him briefly about where we were from and the purpose of our visit. I kept thinking that the gun and billy club hanging from his belt were so big, they appealed for an attention our eyes didn’t want to grant. His manner and that of his fellows suggested, to my mind, the sober anticipation of scenes I’d never see, in rooms or on streets I’d never visit. A big middle-aged officer gave us a tour of the place. He even took us into the cell area. One of the kids was curious.    “Do you have anyone locked up now?”    “Yeah, we got a guy in one of the cells,” the smiling officer answered. It’s amusing to think some of us actually expected him to take us to the cell in question. I remember it was really cold that day, even by Boston standards, and the precinct had such a drab, lonely air that visitors might wonder about the interior lives of the people who worked there, never mind the prisoners. But I felt pure awe.    I thought about the experience every day. My assumption was that all cops had the same guarded professionalism as the officer who took us around the precinct and let us enter the cell area. I came to see cops not merely as people who had entered law enforcement, but as a race with attributes of courage, seriousness, and professionalism denied to most of us. Cop shows played their inevitable role, as did an incident a few months after that visit. Officers responded quickly when a young perp pushed a stick through a window of our house on Garfield Street, got it under the strap of my mom’s purse, and moved the purse out of the window and down to the sidewalk. The teen was walking a few blocks away, almost nonchalantly, purse in hand, when the patrol car caught up. I know, there’s nothing unusual about any of these experiences. There was something banal and boring about my respect for and fascination with cops.    But then I became interested in law enforcement on a global level, and conflicts at various hotspots around the world. One such place was South Africa, which was in the midst of one of its bloody border wars with communist-backed insurgents. Mind you, I have never been an apologist for apartheid. I could go on for thousands of words about the evils of racist social policy and abusive policing. At the time, I just knew that events in South Africa were really big and important.    My social studies teacher, Mr. Duncan, encouraged me to be adventurous. My father pushed me. I wrote to the South African embassy 165

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in Washington. Two weeks later, I got a package in the mail with newspapers from Johannesburg and Cape Town and some official literature about the country. This was long before the information age. There I was, a boy in a classroom in Cambridge, Massachusetts, listening to rain fall on the mud outside the window, staring at pictures of tanks and armored personnel carriers, of people in a geopolitical situation of unfathomable complexity for someone my age. The faces of the men in the pictures conveyed the cool professionalism of the cops I’d met.    “You really ought to pursue the subject, Mike,” Mr. Duncan said.    “Okay. What else I can do?”    “I’ll you exactly what you can do.”    My teacher encouraged me to write to my contact at the embassy, one Donald Barclay, and ask whether he could help coordinate an interview with someone who had a perspective on the dramatic events over there. This would make for a pretty impressive paper. I wrote a letter, with the input of my father and teacher. To my further amazement, Barclay wrote back, making an offer. He was liaising with a TV news crew that planned to interview members of a security force about to deploy to a town on the Angolan border. I could send Barclay a question, and a member of the news crew could put it to one of the interviewees. I realize now how much sense this made from a PR standpoint. “Mike, a sixth grader in Cambridge, Massachusetts, would like to know…” But imagine my wonder at the time.    I remember when the segment aired. There we were in the living room of the house on Garfield Street. We stared at the TV in awe as the camera alighted on a column of young men standing by a wall in a concrete square, preparing to move into armored personnel carriers. I thought they were somewhere between commandos and police officers. They were members of a security force whose task was to keep order in a contested town on the border. Their outfits, deep blue with all manner of black straps and holsters, looked both alien and familiar. And their weapons! Those Israeli-made semiautomatic rifles would have made Robocop look dated, and it was still years before that film’s release. After a few dozen words from the reporter about the border war and the mission of these young men, the reporter approached one of them. A thin fellow with a blond crew cut, chewing on something. The reporter asked about what lay ahead and about the preparedness of the force. The young man said there was danger from insurgents as well as upstarts who didn’t like the government in Pretoria. But he wanted everyone to know most of the locals would welcome the security they brought. He said they’d been training for months for this eventuality. The interviewer moved down the line a few places, to another young man, with thick black hair, stockier than the first. He looked at the reporter earnestly enough. If he was feeling any fear, I sure couldn’t see it. She asked him his name. He said, Marcus Smits. Where was he from? Johannesburg. Marcus Smits wore a look conveying both earthiness 166

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and intelligence. There was a faint bleariness in his round face, a mild imprecision to his speech, that I could imagine growing in different scenes as he drank. Here was not a celebrity or a comic book hero. Marcus Smits was a real person. I was aware of the horrors of apartheid, but at the moment this young man didn’t strike me as an agent of apartheid. Marcus Smits was someone I could relate to.    “We have a question maybe you can answer. It’s from a sixth-grade boy in America, in Boston. He wants to know, to your mind, what’s the single most important thing you and your force can accomplish?” the reporter asked.    Marcus considered this for a moment.    “This boy, what is his name?”   “Michael.”    After another momentary pause, Marcus looked at the camera.    “Michael. Listen, my friend. You’re really far away, but this planet is very much the same in its general qualities if not in its particulars. Your city needs protection from the forces of disorder and the same is true over here. My mates and I have undergone many months of training in order to protect people from bad guys. If I do my job, there won’t be a single civilian casualty at the border.”    My family gave me the most abominable kind of attention. They were looking at me, trying to construe my reaction at an emotional moment, a time of direct personal rapport with a stranger who was at risk. I ignored them. I studied the features of the stranger who had addressed me earnestly, respectfully, almost as a fellow adult.    I haven’t witnessed many acts of heroism in my life. My imagination has had to extrapolate from what seemed like solid information. Having pictured the young Cambridge cop getting out of his car, running, and tackling the purse thief, it wasn’t hard to imagine another scene. I saw Marcus Smits dashing across open space between buildings, his semiautomatic raised, gesturing and yelling to his comrades. Crouching at the side of a building. Returning fire. Helping another officer drag one of their wounded to safety.    I followed the border war for a few weeks, but my attention faltered as my paper’s due date neared. I got busy trying to fix spelling errors and awkward sentence structures.    After turning in the paper to Mr. Duncan, I couldn’t help wondering. The BBC and the New York Times could report on the course of the war, but what was the fate of Marcus Smits? I wrote to Donald Barclay again. He gave me the address of the municipal authority in the area the force had gone to defend. Barclay didn’t have the name of anyone in particular, but he was sure somebody could answer inquiries.    My father congratulated me. He coached me on how to frame my inquiry.    “You’re not writing as a student, Mike, but as a journalist. This is an official inquiry about a source of yours!” 167

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On my father’s insistence, I included a reference in my letter to the Freedom of Information Act, which was then relatively new. At that age, I couldn’t have explained to my father that FOIA requests were meaningless in a foreign jurisdiction. I did what my father told me to do.    Once again, I achieved a surprising result. The 9” x 12” manila envelope that came through the mail four weeks later had a return address with words I didn’t yet know. I tore it open and pulled its contents into the light coming through the windows on Garfield Street. Here was a photograph and a pile of papers. The face in the photo wasn’t a face as you and I understand the term. The temples, chin, and upper reaches of the forehead were there. At the top of the photo I made out a fringe of wispy black hair. Otherwise, a mess of scarlet tissue, twisted and ripped by high-velocity rounds, filled out the space where those earnest features had been.    My father didn’t know how to react. I was the victim of my own curiosity, of course, but he’d so actively encouraged me. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if he’d spotted the words “Department of Forensics” on the envelope. Of course, none of this would have occurred if my father hadn’t gotten such withering criticism from my mom. Yes, here’s a whole other problematic part of my life I haven’t mentioned before. She never forgave my father for being morally weak. When they were in their twenties and recently married, they lived in New York. My mom pursued her Ph.D. in Classics at Columbia while my father taught mathematics at City University. This was during all the tumult over open enrollment. Protestors used to burst into my father’s classroom and demand to address the class about their cause.    Protestor: “We demand to speak to the class now about the enrollment issue.”    My father: “I do sympathize with you, but I’m teaching a class here.”    Protestor: “I said, we demand to address the class, right now.”    My father: “Well, ah, we’ll put it to a vote, okay?”    Always implicit in the protestors’ conduct was a threat of physical violence, and some of them even carried bats. My father never ordered them to get out. I don’t think a class of his ever voted against giving the floor to the protestors.    In the years following my early efforts at journalism, my relationship with my father declined to the point where we barely spoke anymore. But I don’t resent the man now. I haven’t been able to commit myself to many things for long, but I’ve pursued the craft of writing doggedly enough to have published work in glossies that pay upwards of $1,000 per article. And I landed a job as a writing instructor at one of the more reputable universities in our city.    But the world today is a little different from when I was in the sixth grade. Identity politics are too much with us. Look at the eruptions on my campus this month when one of the student groups invited a noted scholar and cultural critic, Walter Henderson, to come and give a talk 168

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on campus. Henderson’s work is cited pretty often, but he has drawn ire for his unapologetic defense of the traditional curriculum against multiculturalists’ demands for the expunging of Dead White European Males. When the announcement came that Henderson was going to give a talk, the reaction was immediate. The Black Students Association, the Multiethnic Coalition, and the Progressive Alliance all called for the invite’s revocation. Implicit in their demands was a threat of mob violence, the disruption of lectures around campus, and calls for the ouster of the university’s president such as happened recently at the University of Missouri. The furor had been going on for over a week when my letter appeared in the campus newspaper.    The content of my letter wasn’t provocative. I didn’t even really address the speaker’s views on the traditional curriculum. I quoted Voltaire’s famous utterance about defending to the death a person’s right to speak.    Not inflammatory, right? Or so I thought until the afternoon when something pretty astonishing happened during one of my classes in Boalt Hall. I was in the middle of an excursus on D.H. Lawrence’s short story “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Where might a boy’s emotional intelligence turn when the adults around him have cut him off? Suddenly a twenty-year-old student, Jerome Price, rose from his seat in the middle row.    “How dare you invite that racist motherfucker to speak here?”    Startled, I made eye contact with the impudent youngster.    “Get your facts straight before you speak so boldly. I did not invite Walter Henderson to speak here.”    “You defended his right to speak on this campus.”    “That is entirely correct, Jerome. I defended his right to exercise his constitutionally protected right to free speech, at an institution theoretically devoted to the exchange of ideas.”    “No racist has a right to speak at a school we’re paying for.”   The we in Jerome’s statement referred to the students collectively, very much including himself. This was a little too much for me.    “Walter Henderson is not a racist. He has already explained why he places one set of cultural priorities above another, as you’d know if you could be bothered to read any of his publications on the subject. I might add that you, sir, are not in any way paying for the visit. You are the beneficiary of a generous athletic scholarship. If it depended on your academic abilities, Jerome, you’d never have set foot on this campus. Sports is the only thing keeping illiterates like yourself enrolled!”    Yes, those were the words heard by sixty-seven pairs of eager young ears.    If the situation happened again, I would not change a word. Does that sound like bravado? It is.    Or, to use another term, courage.    It’s fine for others to speak before me at the funeral. Maybe the 169

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family will deny me a chance to talk at all. Well, that’s okay. I’d rather be dead than be a coward. It’s fine for the family to hate me, as long as they do it for the right reason.

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Poetry|Kiran Chaturvedi Broken Unbound I flee the home I built Into my prison, my refuge and my being. Falling flowing floating freely No ground beneath I can see. Gravity works not downward only; newer pathways pull Multi-directionally. Possibilities in chimeric cloaks of unreality Lead into a vortex of dreams That do not let me sleep. Hazy forgotten lives burst into light; Memories suppressed now shape up, alive. How could a promise hold When it was not meant to be? Assumptions seeded with innocent hope Shriveled cold and hard in the frost. Warm wetness sends up weeds To hold the debris of broken heart soil.

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Visual Art|Wendy Shreve

Across the lake - Boca

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Visual Art|Wendy Shreve

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Poetry|Shruti Sareen Radhika Barbie dolls were just dolls but she was my live six month old baby gifted by my aunt in America. I begged my mother and aunty for old baby clothes to dress her in. In vain, I tried to neaten her short auburn hair that wouldn’t be made. She was always there at every game I played. From age – to twenty two, yes I took her to college too where they called her Chucky, my poor baby. At home I tried to rescue her from a maid’s daughter who drew inky designs on her face and a cousin brother who threw her and broke her now re-stitched arm. In later years, I tried to name the blue-eyed baby Robin but it never stuck. At twenty two, I gave her away. Now she stares back at me with only one eye. Every girl has her most precious baby and her most precious doll. Everyone has a childhood and mine is now surely lost, as surely as the other blue eye.

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Short Fiction|Janet Olearski Fulfilling Objectives ‘It’s Terence’s idea … a new committee,’ Diane told Lewis as they sat together in the OGI cafeteria. ‘I’m going to be handling it.’    ‘How clever you are,’ said Lewis. ‘I didn’t know you knew about professional development.’    ‘Oh, I don’t. At least, not a great deal,’ said Diane, ‘but I’m sure I can cobble something together.’    Here at The Oil and Gas Institute - TOGI or OGI as it was usually known – the faculty prided themselves on their forward thinking and innovative projects.    ‘What are we going to call it … this professional development committee?’ said Lewis.    ‘Um ...,’ said Diane staring up at the ceiling. ‘How about TOGI ProD?’    ‘Excellent,’ said Lewis.    ‘Good,’ said Diane. She scrutinised the various pieces of paper she had in front of her. ‘Now, how about if you do a session for us on quality management?’    ‘What’s that?’ said Lewis, chewing heavily on his OGI chicken.    ‘I don’t really know,’ said Diane, ‘but I’m sure it’s something we should include.’    ‘Mmm … okay,’ said Lewis. ‘What else are you going to include?’    ‘How about time management? That’s always popular.’    ‘Jason could do that,’ said Lewis.    ‘Yes, but I don’t think he’d have the time. Maybe you could do that one too.’    ‘No,’ said Lewis, ‘if it’s time management, you should get one of the counselors to do it.’    ‘Why do you say that?’    ‘Well, people who go to time management sessions usually have problems that are better dealt with by a psychologist. Couldn’t I do something on movies?’    ‘Like what, for example?’ said Diane.    ‘I don’t know … maybe, “Achieving your goals: insights from Hollywood.”’    Diane tapped her pen on the page. ‘Let me think about it,’ she said.    ‘You should get Moussa to do something on HSE. He could talk about fire safety and show them Towering Inferno.’    ‘Oh yes, good idea,’ said Diane.    ‘Do you think anyone will come?’ said Lewis.    ‘To TOGI ProD sessions? Oh yes, I’m sure they will. They can put it on their list of objectives. Shows that they’re taking an interest in 175

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their work.’ *    Back at her desk, Diane got out her own list of objectives. She made a note of her meeting with Lewis and put a little tick on her ‘To Do’ list. One small step a day. Yes, she was well on the way to far exceeding everyone’s expectations. She checked her watch. Next up was the SOGII conference committee. *    Pencil at the ready, Diane took her place between Jason and Lewis.    ‘Now that we’re all here,’ said Jason, ‘let’s take a quick look at the list of volunteers for the SOGII Sub-Committees.’ There was a brief rustle of papers as Jason passed out the list. The Committee members crinkled their brows and assumed a serious demeanour.    ‘We have a couple of new people who seem quite keen and then, of course, we have the returners.’ Jason paused. ‘Amongst them we have … erm … Harold.’    Deep sighs were heard from around the table.    ‘I don’t believe it!’ said Fergus. ‘Hasn’t he got the message yet?’    ‘It’s too much. It really is,’ said Christopher.    ‘We can’t go through this all over again!’ said Lewis.    ‘No, we can’t. He’s a nutter,’ said Diane.    ‘All right. All right. Let’s all calm down,’ said Jason. ‘Let’s just consider what the problem was the last time around.’    ‘Well, we know what the problem was,’ said Fergus. ‘The fellow was filching the conference bag goodies.’    ‘Apart from everything else that was wrong with him,’ said Diane.    ‘Now we can’t really be sure that it was Harold, or even that things were going missing,’ said Jason. ‘We have to be very careful here.’    ‘I think we can be pretty certain,’ said Fergus. ‘Osama said he didn’t get a pen. Ali said there was no key ring in his bag. Franz didn’t get his mousemat with the OGI photo on it. And where were the digital desk clocks? Harold was doing procurement, wasn’t he?’    ‘I have the list here,’ said Diane flipping open her file. ‘That makes a total of … 11 key rings, 8 luxury Al Jadeed pens, 14 OGI mousemats, and four digital desk clocks.’    ‘He’s siphoning off our profits,’ said Lewis.    ‘We don’t have any profits, Lewis,’ said Diane.    ‘Well, whatever,’ said Lewis.    ‘Integrity and honesty,’ said Diane, clapping shut her file. ‘Remember what it says in our mission statement.’    ‘You know this is just an occupational hazard,’ said Jason. ‘All those knick knacks … it’s tempting. This just means that from now on we 176

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have to get people to sign for the freebies … maybe issue them with numbers or something.’    The SOGII members sank in their chairs with an air of profound dejection. The Committee had better things to do with its time. *    In the quiet of her office, Diane took a sip of the Masala tea brought to her on an aluminium tray by Ravi the cleaner-cum-teaboy. She hunched over her objectives. She could not decide if the SOGII Conference was to be termed as an outreach activity or something that served to raise OGI’s profile in the region … or was that one and the same thing? She pencilled in a question mark next to the SOGII entry and turned her attention to her next objective: the recruitment of quality faculty. In effect, she admitted to herself, this was Lewis’s camp, but she could easily score a few points by skilfully vetting prospective applicants and making recommendations. Lewis would certainly thank her for that. *    The Staff and Faculty handbook had a very severe paragraph on nepotism. Staff did not read this handbook, but, if they had, the word ‘nepotism’ would have gone over their heads. They knew ‘wasta’ but not ‘nepotism.’ Faculty, on the other hand – at least the native speakers – did read the Staff and Faculty Handbook, scrutinising every word of every paragraph, every sentence perceived as an unfulfilled promise or at least a promise waiting to be broken. As Diane pondered the truths and untruths of the handbook, her visitors arrived: Faridah, and her friend Zainab, who was teaching at the Fast Track College of Technology. They came armed with Zainab’s CV. Faridah didn’t beat about the bush.    ‘Zainab has a very good CV. Can you give her a job?’ said Faridah.    Diane was in one of her proverbial tricky situations, but the kind that she often relished.    ‘Mmm ..,’ she said, her eyelids unbatted as she thumbed diligently through the document. ‘So, Zainab, are you full-time or part-time right now?’    ‘Right now? Well, I am part-time.’ Zainab was sitting forward in her chair, keen not to miss a beat.    ‘And what’s the work like at Fast Track?’    ‘Yes, yes, it is good,’ said Zainab, as one aware she must not say anything to malign her present employer.    ‘So, you want a full-time job,’ said Diane.    ‘Yes,’ asserted Faridah, speaking for her friend, ‘because part-time jobs are not safe.’    ‘Yes, that is right,’ said Zainab. 177

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Diane nodded understandingly and carried on looking through the CV. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘I can see from this résumé that you have good qualifications and a lot of excellent experience. The problem is that I haven’t got a post at your level and I need to wait until the budget is confirmed before I will know if I can recruit higher level posts.’    ‘That will be when?’ asked Zainab, her mouth crinkling in dismay. ‘In August?’    ‘No,’ said Faridah interrupting, ‘in April … that’s what Osama told me.’    Faridah was far too well-informed for Diane’s liking. She seemed to know that there might be a couple of higher-grade jobs up for grabs and she was going to have a good try at getting her friend into one of these. Diane needed to head them off at the pass. She said, ‘The lady who works here with me is Filipina and the gentleman sitting at the reception desk is Indian. They both have jobs as admin assistants.’    Zainab had a confident air. ‘Yes, I’ve met them. I worked here on the DUNE course in the summer and I liked very much the idea of working here in the Multimedia Center.    ‘Well,’ said Diane, ‘the jobs I have vacant now are low-level posts … at the level of admin assistant.’    Zainab’s face darkened slightly. Then she said, ‘I don’t mind. I’ll take anything.’    ‘But you’d be overqualified,’ said Diane.    ‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said.    ‘No, it doesn’t matter,’ said Faridah, ‘as long as she gets in … because she can move to another job later.’    ‘The problem is,’ said Diane, ‘you have to look at it from my point of view. I need staff in this department, and if someone were to come and work here for six months and then leave to move to another job, that puts me in difficulty because then I have to look for new staff and the Personnel Department will ask me what’s going on. They’ll say, “How is it that you’ve trained up a staff member and then he or she has left? What are you doing up there in the Multimedia Center? You obviously recruited the wrong person.”’    Faridah and Zainab exchanged looks.    ‘Look,’ said Diane, ‘leave your CV with me, and if something comes up later in the year that would suit you, I’ll call you in for an interview.’    Faridah wasn’t giving up. ‘Just see if you can give her a job,’ she said.    ‘Yes,’ chipped in Zainab, ‘Any job.’ She too had got wind of the fact that other jobs were in the offing … the ones that Diane had requested on her manpower plan. The manpower plan that Faridah’s husband Osama must have had sight of. It really didn’t do to have husband and wife working in the same organisation.    ‘As I said,’ continued Diane, ‘these admin assistant jobs are very basic … and so is the pay. They take people in as agency staff and 178

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not as direct hires so, for someone with your qualifications, it’s not the ideal solution.’    ‘That’s ok,’ said Zainab, ‘I don’t mind,’ though Diane could see from her face that she minded very much.    It was time for Diane to pull out her ace card.    ‘One problem I do have also,’ she said, ‘is the evening shift. Poor Pratap has to work all the evenings until 8pm, and it seems like women just aren’t prepared to do that late shift … that’s why I will need to consider hiring men. Otherwise I just won’t have the staff to work evenings in the Multimedia Center.’    At this point Zainab smiled a sourish smile, like she was thinking, ‘There’s no way I’d work evenings!’    ‘Send me the soft copy of your C.V.,’ said Diane, handing Zainab her business card, ‘and I’ll keep it on file.’ The two women got up and made their farewells. Diane waved them off from her doorway. ‘Bye bye,’ she said, ‘see you soon.’ *    Diane sat down again in her chair and did a few swivels from left to right and back again. Then she took out her pen and ticked off ‘Meet with prospective job candidate’ on her ‘To Do’ list. On the draft of her Appraisal Form she had many objectives and some were more fulfilling than others. But, enough for today, she thought. She slammed shut her Objectives file and slid it into the bottom drawer of her grey metal filing cabinet on top of a set of OGI mousemats, where it rattled against her collection of key rings and luxury Al Jadeed pens.    Just one more thing to do, she thought. *    That evening when Ravi came to empty Diane’s bin, amidst the miscellaneous wastepaper and the remnants of a carefully typed CV, Zainab’s torn up face stared out at him. ***

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Poetry|Johanna Boal Dry Stone Walls How wonky the wall looks when walking along knowing at the bottom, stone crumbling alive with veins pumping blood. Sometimes when I look at Lichen I think of Stilton, it’s that almost grey colour grey blue alive pumping blood. Walls come to my shoulders in the ground hands that threw in the pebble dry as well alive with veins pumping blood. Limestone warped, soil’s components powdered nettles have fallen grey blue alive pumping blood. Almost prayer like, the gaps crouching rabbits and badgers bones alive with veins pumping blood. Dry stone walls separating the structured fields creating a timeline of history buried alive active on stone, beside stone, in stone.

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SPECIAL FEATURE Flash Fiction

Edited by Jose Varghese

LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts


Flash Fiction|David Butler The Tattoo

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t would have fitted comfortably onto a playing card, the colours vibrant as a circus poster: zinc white, kohl black, and red of winter berries. It was her pledge to him, heraldic and living. When he left her in dead of winter, she had the tattoed heart wrapped in three twists of briar.    Years passed, the colours remained vivid as the day they’d been inscribed. She took a degree. She took lovers. A surgeon wooed and won her. Three weeks before the wedding he spoke to her about her choice of dress. ‘You do know the décolletage won’t cover that up?’    ‘Is that a problem?’    ‘Once the veil is up it’ll be on show.’ He watched her indifference in the corner of the mirror. ‘I’ll be on show.’    Her fingers touched the heart in its bramble nest. ‘You told me once it was this that first made you notice me,’ she said.    ‘It’s not the heart that I object to.’   ‘What, then?’    ‘It’s the name written underneath, for everyone to see.’ He walked to her and pulled her hand away, as if she’d been trying to hide the legend. ‘Marc!’ he read. ‘For God’s sake, he couldn’t even spell his own name!’    ‘That was his name,’ she said.    ‘And where is Marc these days?’    ‘He died a hundred years ago.’    ‘Then,’ replied the surgeon, ‘there’s no reason you can’t get the name removed in time for our marriage.’    The evening before the wedding, she returned with a bandage over the tattoo. But she wouldn’t show him what she’d had done. Nor was he allowed to see the bride on the morning of the ceremony. He waited at the altar, listened for the whisper of her dress along the aisle, felt the eyes of the congregation upon him. It was only after he raised the veil that he saw how the tattoo had been altered. The name had been overlaid by a single strand of barbed wire, but it was just as legible as before. He felt a stab to the throat, as if ice had entered it.    For a year, they lived as strangers together. Late one night he found her sitting on the side of the bath, scoring out the name with an actual strand of barbed wire. He pulled her arm away and stared at the bloody scratches. ‘For God’s sake,’ he cried, furious, ’you’ll give yourself blood poisoning!’ And she had done. For two weeks the poison raged in her blood. When the fever broke, the devastation was terrible. They would not be able to have children. 182

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Another year went by. She went to an artist, to have the tattoo removed. When she returned, the bleached skin was still haunted by the ghost of a heart. By dead of winter, it was as vivid as it had ever been. The following summer he arranged for her to see one of his colleagues, a specialist who would treat it with a solution of acid. Once again, the skin was haunted by a ghost heart. Once again, by dead of winter, it had returned to full bloom, with the name overlaid by a strand of barbed wire.    On the eve of their fifth anniversary, she came to a decision. ‘I want you to cut it away,’ she said. She watched as he considered how ugly the wound would appear; how ugly he would appear in the eyes of his colleagues. Sternly he shook his head, replied no, he wouldn’t do that. She examined, in the depths of the mirror, this man of ice she had wed. ‘I want a divorce,’ she told his reflection.    Years passed. After she died, the coroner remarked how the colours of the old woman’s tattoo were vivid as a circus poster: zinc white, kohl black, and red of winter berries. It was her living heart that had long since withered inside its cage of thorns.

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Flash Fiction|Cyril Dabydeen KISKADEE & BLUE-SACKIE

H

ere amidst ruins with the birds flying over in veritable space, as she asked, “Who are you?” “Who am I?” he replied. Connective lines, tissue, in another long-distance call. “So much to remember,” Noonie said. “And to believe?”    “It’s what we left behind.”    “No-no.” He meant, Yes-yes.    Emblems of mango, starapple, and familiar birds with bramble bush and vine all around. Can you imagine?    She shot back, “It’s only you!”   “Me?”   “Yes, you!”    A vinyl record playing of plantation-days, like a merry-go-round with more connective tissue, see. But now Seattle’s on the horizon, and somewhere else, too. Burning cane-fields, pegasse and molasses smells in the air: as they watched the conflagration: he and Noonie, together. Ash floating down; and as children how they had kept jumping up and down catching the strands, like filaments of fire.   But we’re here now.    “We shouldn’t be talking like this,” she said.   “Why not?”    “It’s an omen.”    “Not that again, Noonie.”    Real birds fluttering: the kiskadee with its bright yellow crest and solid bill; and the blue-sackie. Twa corbies, d’you say? Yes, they’d been in love, in another place or time. Boundaries crossed, and being in a less romantic time because of what separated them.    “It’s no use,” Noonie said, emotion welling up.   “No use?”    Fifteen, twenty years passing by...in an instant.    Noonie, again: “I’ve always wanted to be with you.”    “But we’re now far apart, is that it?”    The ground somersaulting, as he kept imagining more.    “We were just leaving for another place, you know.”    “Paradise?” he asked.    “What we always longed for.”   “Maybe.”    “Just to be some place else, yeah.”   What he really feared. Branches, vines and limbs of trees like the guava and jamoon as they skirted the ground, being everywhere at once. 184

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But closer, ah.    “You should never have left, Anand.”   “Never?”    “It’s who we really are.”    “You mean...being far away?”    America coming closer. Canada, too, with cold and ice; not islands in a coastal place by the Orinoco and Demerara rivers. But being here now, on the veritable American Coast: Noonie, in her Seattle base; and he, in Canada’s east coast. Her eyes glowed, and her pointy nose like the kiskadee’s bill. Laughter. Her waist, and legs invitingly lanky...as more he imagined. He wasn’t sure about the guava tree any longer. The Atlantic trade winds blowing, and he kept going back there.    Telephone lines connected everywhere.    She knew as much as he knew.   Didn’t they always? *    Noonie hummed to herself; as he also hummed. Why did they leave there to go on their separate worlds? Words they repeated to themselves, if in dreams only. Then, “Christ, we should never have left.”   “Oh?”    “We’re really far apart, Anand.”    Drop by silent drop, like dew falling. Another bird landing silently on the familiar guava tree. Now who aimed at it...with a slingshot? Now how really far away were they, in this North?     Not...far south?    Trade winds kept blowing. And night after night they listened to birds’ wings fluttering; and the village houses on stilts, with the tenement and backyard. In bottom-houses really, cowdung-plastered: authentic village life masked by time, see.    Another landmark, like their favourite spot with Africa, Asia, in the mix. Where else? Raspy voices asking, with a Creole inflection, ah.    Click-click: tell me more.   Tweet-tweet.    The Atlantic’s waves rising higher; and the seagull, the kingfisher, and the harpy eagle appearing and making them believe, as never before.    The sun coruscating. As Noonie sighed. He also sighed, like his last sigh. The lines jangled. A dead-end. Click-click.    What’s foretold...with fleeting spaces between them, because of what seemed evanescent. Just as Noonie might have warned herself about, and warned Anand about too. More of a vinyl cord winding and unwinding... bringing them back to reality.    She really stirred, Noonie did. * 185

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What else was there to tell, in the silence between them? Nothing, but longer days and nights, with the telephone lines appearing wireless, come to think of it. Anand’s heart raced, with blood and bone being together. As Noonie scoffed and breathed harder.    Now their embracing with eyes closed and lips sealed.    Consequence of a new day...or night. Their pretence at lovemaking. Imagine it; and Anand wanting more, not only a slow dance...in snow and ice. What the birds really knew?    What Noonie said she heard, though she didn’t.    He too listened. Oh, how he listened.   Imagine, eh. *    Face-to-face with each other, after many years; and their not recognizing each other anymore, as their eyes dimmed. But they forced themselves to remember...like looking in a tall mirror. The sun coruscating. And how far away were they really from each other: what only the birds knew. Noonie laughed again. Oh, the birds kept being at it.    Over a longer distance, more spaces reached, he intimated.    Noonie closed her eyes. Somewhere a dead-end. A memory-lapse.    What else he didn’t know? Voices, echo-chambers.    Silence, once again, in their listening, and not listening.    Two birds being all, images only: let this be believed. About their coming together, and really embracing. Wings fluttering everywhere, in a strange new excitement. Their body language only, imaginary yet real.

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Flash Fiction|Roger Bonner Désirée Disastra

I

have been waiting for you all Friday afternoon, Désirée, waiting... waiting. The shutters of my living room window are wide open. Buses roll up and down the street, belching out passengers returning from work; then evening crawls over the roofs, and the streetlamp on the corner flicks on like a cigarette lighter. And still, Désirée, you have not come.    The phone rings.    “It’s me, Désirée. Sorry I couldn’t make it. I stopped at the market on the way to buy some groceries...and who should I see but Paul, my first boyfriend. We once got kicked out of class for indecent behaviour. I ran after him, shouting Paul, Paul, don’t you recognize me? I was so excited that I forgot my handbag. God, he’s grown fat! Married, of course, and not happy. Said he couldn’t forget me. Well, we cried and hugged each other and talked and talked. When I went back to the stand, my handbag was gone. Somebody stole it with all my keys and credit cards! I rushed to the police…that’s where I am now. They said I have to get the locks changed because the thief could be a burglar, or worse! Gotta hurry. See you tomorrow.”    Saturday evening. I’ve spent the afternoon preparing a lavish dinner. For starters, a fluffy cheese soufflé, followed by poached salmon on a bed of baby spinach, served with pommes dauphinoise. For dessert, sherbet made from wild strawberries culled in the woods. The table, covered with my finest linen cloth, is set with porcelain plates, gleaming silver, and, of course, candles. The lights are dimmed; the champagne is on ice.    8 p.m. The phone rings.    “Hello...it’s me, Désirée. Look, I can’t possibly make it. I’m in the hospital. No...no...I’m ok. It’s Norman…he swallowed a dinosaur! No, a little plastic toy. I was taking a bath while he was playing in the next room. Suddenly I hear this gurgling noise, jump out of the tub. Norman’s all blue in the face! I slap his back, I give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I call the ambulance. When the paramedics arrive, my neighbours are standing in the landing, asking stupid questions. Norman’s ok, but we’re both really shaken...you understand. Call you on Wednesday.”    She calls and we arrange to go to the movies. I’ve picked a date film about a Don Juan who wends his way from the bed of one nubile female after the other in his quest for the ideal love. After numerous adventures, he finds it in Imelda, the daughter of a winegrower. There is a torrid scene, accompanied by lush music, where the lovers 187

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crush grapes between their bodies, making the juice flow into a silver vessel. When it is brimming with purple froth, they drink it...    I bought a bag of grapes and I’m waiting for Désirée. The long line in front of the cinema slowly dwindles. The wind is blowing through my hair and rattling the bag. My mobile is set on the vibrate mode. Now it’s tingling against my left thigh.    “Désirée here.You won’t believe this...they fired me today! But that’s not all. When I got home, the kitchen was flooded! The hose on the dishwasher had burst. No...no...The plumber drained the water away, but the place is a big mess. So I can’t come to the movie! Make it on Sunday, I promise...big kiss.”    I turn to the woman behind me. “Do you like grapes?” I ask.    It’s Sunday afternoon. After days of rain, the air is crisp and the park opposite my window is drenched in sunlight. I lean on the ledge watching parents go by with children in tow, old men and women sitting on benches, a dog snuffling along the gutter, sprinkling a hydrant. A bus breaks the silence with a wheezing stop.    I am waiting for Désirée, staring at the phone squatting on my table like a toad, ready to leap at me, then out again at the park, at the long lane cutting a swath through the bushes and trees. Soon Désirée will walk down that lane, barring more thefts, accidents, floods...    And then I see her! Unmistakable that saunter, the tilt of her head, the hair exploding in curls. She sees me leaning out of the window and waves. I wave back. I am so excited I feel a tremor rising from my feet, moving up my legs, through my loins, my heart, to my propped head. Désirée sways as she approaches and the trees seem to sway with her. She is now under my window. I reel as I look down into the cleft of her voluptuous bosom. The doorbell rings and I buzz her in. I hear her steps on the stairs, and then the tinkling of my chandelier, swinging back and forth. The furniture seems to join in this joyous waltz to welcome Désirée.    Suddenly the cupboard doors burst open, flinging plates and cups at me. I look up and see cracks zigzagging across the ceiling. I cling to the table as it starts bucking across the living room, throwing off the candleholder, the phone. Chunks of plaster are falling in a swirl of white dust as I tear open the door to see Désirée standing on the landing.    I rush towards her. Her lips break into a smile, her dark eyes are glinting with promise. She opens her arms to embrace me.    With a great rumble, half the living room wall drops off, exposing us to the sun, the street, the frightened birds.

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Flash Fiction|Catherine McNamara In God’s House

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feisty woman named Regina almost lost her job with a Christian family stationed in Ghana. What happened was that Regina, five months pregnant (though she claimed it was three), stole a ruffle of notes from Helen’s purse and had the baby destroyed in a downtown Accra clinic. The bright girl who prepared Chinese-whisper versions of the Cornish pasty was not only a thief, but she had extinguished a pulsing tangent of Creation.    Eliot, head of the family, brought Regina into the room where his wife Helen made beaded necklaces on her spare mornings. In this house he had no office or elbow space he could call his own.    Regina looked both mournful and expectant, and Eliot knew that she knew this was no time to be deploying her face. Regina’s mouth was made prominent by an excess of shimmering teeth and her eyes were crucial and alert. The nub on her belly was gone.    At first, Eliot had wanted to drive downtown to the clinic in a fury. Helen, searching for the missing cash for a foray to the supermarket, had violated Regina’s space and discovered the receipt from a Doctor Lartey in Jamestown. The receipt read: One Abortion. Long suspecting a hidden pregnancy, what Regina had done had made the couple turn a corner. The fact that money from Helen’s purse had paid to kill a child! How could they ever make peace with that?    Seven years ago, a strong impulse had made Eliot retrain and move his family to West Africa, and it was here that he felt he had access to the unperturbed ruckus of life. Helen had returned home to Salisbury to give birth to each of their sons, and Eliot largely let go of the stress and digestion ills that had plagued him as a young man, though recently the latter had returned in nocturnal bursts. To date, he had no reason to wonder whether his life choice had been rashly crafted.    Eliot sat at Helen’s desk with its study lamp and spray of small glass beads, each a smoky blue bearing two yellow stripes. A reel of leather sat to one side, as well as the bone-handled scissors Helen often misplaced.    To his right, Regina stood immobile in her work shift, hair swept up in an asymmetrical bouffant. Eliot wondered if they had shown her the corpse, or how the wretched Doctor Lartey had even disposed of this costume of the child’s soul.    As expected, Regina stepped forward.   I will pay you back, Master! All of it, I beg! she said. Please don’t sack me, Master!    She dropped to her knees on the floor and crumpled her hands 189

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together like a woman in a triptych.    But now, Eliot noticed that Helen’s beads were untended and merely strewn there. He realised his wife had been extraordinarily busy of late, that she drifted into the dining room with blazing eyes; that in bed she had become guarded and fitful.    Eliot understood with a monstrous clang that his wife had become another man’s creature.    On her knees, Regina shuffled over to him. Eliot now saw that it was most often Regina – this murderess – who defused the ever-increasing tantrums of their boys. The young woman laid her perfumed head in Eliot’s lap. He felt the weight of her warm skull and knew that this vessel contained the knowledge that Helen would leave him, and the boys, at any moment. What women knew, and did – it was they who were the great creators and destroyers. Eliot looked at the comb tracks through Regina’s straightened hair.

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Flash Fiction|Sabine Meier Just for Men

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he unlocked the door, switched on the light - and coughed. The mélange was revolting, as always. Toilet water intended to boost male egos. Clammy male sweat. The stink of a pair of unwashed socks. Fighting nausea, Giulia rushed over to the window. Her trainers squeaked in protest as she stepped into a sticky puddle next to the counter. Someone must have spilled his energy drink, his sun-tanned body too much laden with testosterone to care. She yanked the window open, inhaled the crisp night air until she felt she could breathe freely again. Good.    Giulia had no intention of quitting. The work was easy, the pay good, and she needed the money to finance her studies in German literature. At this hour, the gym was deserted. Midnight. She did not mind working the late shift. In Sicily, where she had grown up, people treasured the hours of the evening, people whose smiles and gestures resembled the glowing, beaming sun she missed so much. Now more than ever.    She turned on the tap, instinctively let the cooling water run over her palms as it began to fill her bucket. Memories of her mother resurfaced, soothing words after a day’s playing among olive-trees and grape-vines, a vigorous scrub in the bathtub, an evening that smelled, tasted, felt like home. A prayer before she fell asleep. She had been clean, protected. Invincible. Whole. Then.    Just in time Giulia remembered her bucket, closed the tap and heaved it to the floor. In spite of her slender body, her muscles were well developed– she did not need those infernal contraptions. Clank! The din of metal on stone echoed through the bathroom.    Gritting her teeth, Giulia grabbed the bucket again, carried it into the brightly lit gym. She could not avoid looking at the treadmill closest to the bathroom door. A blackish-grey rubber mat, now motionless.    Giulia took a deep breath, closed her eyes. She needed the money. The pay was good. She would not quit.    Automatically she added cleaning fluid to the water, dipped in the leather to begin her daily routine with the full-length mirrors that lined the walls. Up and down the leather went, up and down. Up and down. The movement, which had once calmed her, rekindled her memory, making her stomach clench, her heart stumble, and her throat tighten. Why could she not simply switch off her mind, and get her work done? Physical work. Don’t think. Work.    With an automatic gesture, Giulia got down on her knees, pausing for an instant before she started scrubbing the floor until her fingers ached. She polished surfaces until they shone like new. Male fingerprints on chrome handles, male palm prints on metal dumbbells, 191

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drops and drops of male sweat, she wiped them all off.    Giulia looked at her watch. Another twenty minutes before… Mind and body told her that she would have to make a decision. Now. When her glance fell on the life-sized poster of a body-builder, she felt bile rise in her throat   -yes, the pay had been excellent.    She left the gym smiling, did not turn around, for fear of seeing him arrive, of hearing his key turn in the lock, of being reminded of her recent past.

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Flash Fiction|Shanta Acharya EURYDICE’S STORY

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nconsolable at her loss – parts of Orpheus’ body buried in Mount Olympus, his head in the island of Lesbos – Eurydice pleaded for her release from Hades so she could give Orpheus a decent burial. Not knowing how to prepare for such a venture, Eurydice sought the counsel of Savitri. ‘It was simple for me,’ said the pure one. ‘I could not take my eyes off Satyavan. I followed him everywhere until Yama gave in to my requests. Talk to Isis, you have so much in common.’ Savitri led Eurydice to Krishna who emanated divine melody perched on a tree with branches draped in colourful saris billowing skywards, tugging like trapped kites.    Are all the lovers of the world musicians of sorts? Eurydice mused as she smiled at the half-naked maidens of Mathura frolicking in the pond camouflaged beneath the old gnarled canopy of the ancient tree, unashamedly rejoicing. Krishna’s breath was music, he exhaled Om, oblivious of the women clamouring after him, his face serene, smiling. Pity Orpheus did not learn a few of these tricks, thought Eurydice, drawn to this dark-blue boy who charmed the gopis, kept Radha and all his wives happy. When Krishna finally let the silence of the universe in, Eurydice’s question – ‘Krishna, how can I bring Orpheus back to life?’ – danced in the wind. He spoke of human limitation, illusion, the soul’s eternal quality, etc. Just when Eurydice thought she was getting the drift of Krishna’s meaning he disappeared from her sight like a vision. ***    Eurydice carried on with her journey, visited the Palace of Isis where the Queen sat absorbed, listening to songs of the Nile: Come water of life that flows from heaven. The sky burns, earth trembles at the coming of God. The mountains to the east, the mountains to the west make way preparing for the arrival of the One who takes possession of Egypt. On seeing Eurydice, Isis rose from her meditation, welcomed her guest, a tragic figure of grief, travel-fatigued. In the Queen’s private chamber they poured their hearts out. ‘I am so sorry to hear of your misfortune,’ consoled Isis. ‘My life has also been hard. While Osiris, my dearest husband and God-king, was away in the East, Mesopotamia to be precise, doing his kingly duties, his brother was planning royal treachery. Seth lured my husband into a trap and slew Osiris, usurped his throne, scattered his limbs across Egypt.’ At this point both women started weeping uncontrollably, holding hands, kissing, embracing. ‘It was devastating searching for his remains. With faithful Anubis’ help we recomposed 193

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Osiris’ body. Then a miracle occurred the day my tears fell on him – like the tears of heaven that keeps this land alive.’ The rest as they say is history. Osiris ascended to heaven, not before giving Isis the gift of their son, Horus, who took up the task started by his father after years of struggle with his uncle, the usurper. ***    Sitting at the feet of the Oracle in Lesbos Eurydice asked herself: Why was I born so unlucky? Her time to return to Hades was imminent, but her dream of finding Orpheus remained unfulfilled. The villagers had dug wide and deep at the feet of the hallowed mountain of Olympus, searching for fragments of any human body. They were disappointed of exploding yet another myth. Eurydice despaired of finding Orpheus, of ever going back to the way things were or might have been. She was beginning to get the drift of Krishna’s meaning…    Mere hints and guesses – no oracles, no certainty. Life itself capricious and unforgiving, offering its gifts indiscriminately. Having reached her limit, her body unused to such harsh conditions, Eurydice accepted bread and wine from a stranger who reminded her of Orpheus, sometimes of Krishna and Osiris. At times she thought of him as Everyman, then there were times he reminded her of no one in particular. Unafraid, she followed him into a field of light, the precipice of her being, ready to leap into the unknown. She had never trusted any man like that before. No longer sure of anything – it did not matter if she was in heaven, on earth, half-awake, half-dreaming – moving deeper into uncertainty, she was a bird in flight buoyed by uplifting currents of music. Note: When Orpheus returned to Thrace without Eurydice, he was so inconsolable he would have nothing to do with other women. The outraged Thracian women tore him to pieces in a bacchanalian revel. The fragments of his body were collected by the Muses and buried at the feet of Mount Olympus. Orpheus’ head, which had been tossed into the river Hebrus, was carried into the sea and floated ashore on to the island of Lesbos becoming the famous Oracle.    Savitri chose her husband Satyavan. So firm was her devotion to him that when he died she asked Yama, the Lord of Death, for the gift of his life. Yama offered Savitri any boon except the life of her husband. She asked for the restoration of her father-in-law’s eyesight and his throne, sons for herself and a life in all its fullness. When Yama granted all her wishes, she reminded him she needed her husband to fulfil her wishes. He was so impressed with her intelligence and love for her husband he released Satyavan to return with Savitri. Indian wives observe a day in memory of Sati Savitri, the pure one, who won back the life of her husband. 194

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Flash Fiction|Tim Sykes General Snowfall

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n the watchman’s hut at the perimeter three dogs sat around the table playing poker. The hanging lightbulb meandered in the draft, sending their shadows prowling about the walls. Outside a blizzard was seething.    ‘Rotten luck!’ said Fyodor. He pushed an imaginary stack of chips toward Marcel, who beamed. ‘…As I say, there’s no national renewal without a national idea, a common purpose!’    Zver’s jowls twitched in rhythm with the non-existent cards he was dealing. A mesh of snowflakes tangled in the corner of the window frame, caught the wind and was borne off into the darkness.    ‘A “national idea”? You’ve been at the newspapers again, Fyodor,’ said Zver. ‘Well here’s a national idea for you. For starters shan’t we all agree – forgive my naturalism – not to shit on the pavement?’    Marcel placed his new hand face down and looked at the window.    ‘The streets are unsafe, they say,’ he said. ‘They say we will invest in roads. In time shall we travel more reliably there, where we do not wish to go?’    All at once the three froze, noses alert, as if there had been a disturbance in the yard.   Fyodor growled.   ‘Them?’    The wind howled, subsided to a whimper.   ‘Nothing.’    Fyodor glanced at the clock.    ‘My beat’s up. Deal me in one more.’    Zver cut the notional deck.    ‘One no longer knows the city,’ said Fyodor. ‘A muddle. Packs of foreigners, blacks. And uncontained vagrancy!’    ‘Quite – they had to destroy my last litter.’ Zver nodded toward the shotgun. ‘I told you, no? I fold.’    ‘It’s the only way…’    Marcel folded too.    Fyodor rose. He pulled a fur hat over his ears and eyes. He took the shotgun.    ‘…Who’s to tell a dog what to make of it all?’    ‘The boss hurls the stick and bids us fetch it,’ said Marcel. ‘The boss, receiving the stick, beats us. In the land of a milliard trees will we never run short of joys and sorrow?’    They accompanied Fyodor to the door. The air smelled of fresh snow and soot. 195

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‘Share my winnings between you,’ said Fyodor, disappearing into the storm, his tail wagging.    ‘Now who’s for dominoes?’ said Zver.    Marcel simulated the opening and emptying of a box with a sliding lid. For there were no objects in the poor hut but a simple table and chairs and outdoor clothes on the peg. They began their game, fixing feverish eyes on each other’s mummery. But after a time their faces grew doubtful.    ‘I thought I put down a three but now I think it was a five,’ said Zver. ‘And was the other tile even from the right set?’    Marcel peered warily at the table. Dense snow was blowing past the window pane.    ‘It looks like a five,’ he said at last. ‘But it might be a two.’    ‘I have a four that I can put down,’ said Zver, ‘- if it’s a four.’    There were sounds. Like distant cries.    They flung open the door and growled at the blizzard.    There was the crack, muffled by the thick air, of a motor backfiring or a gunshot.    Zver stepped out into the night, turning this way and that. His overcoat, too large for him, flapped like a hysteric.    ‘Fyodor! Are they back?’ His voice and form were receding. ‘Fyodor, you’re not hurt? Will you call to me? We were playing dominoes, Fyodor, but we got confused…’    Marcel stood at the threshold. The gusts calmed for a moment and there was nothing to hear but the shuffle of general snowfall. At the corner of the hut a floodlight had burned through the settled snow. Its beam projected a blank and whirling movie screen onto a patch in the void. The light did not find the wall of the warehouse.    ‘The poor master is sleeping and not seeing dreams,’ Marcel said. ‘Yet I am waking and as a blind man. What are we to dream up for ourselves when there is no master to sleep on our behalf?’    There was a second grim crack.    Marcel wound the watchman’s scarf around his body.    The gale surged with renewed vigour.    Magnificent clumps of snow were riding the wind. Flurries, flurries.    And, tripping on the trailing end of the scarf, he trotted out into the snowstorm of recent Russian history.

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Flash Fiction|Rachel J Fenton Octopus

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t was there for all to see in the aquarium as they walked in. Little Elizabeth noticed immediately, pressed her smooth warm hands to the smoother, cold glass, watched, mesmerised, as her mother fidgeted and glanced at her watch.    Anne saw it now, too, as she looked to where her daughter had moved to. She put her hand on Elizabeth’s head again and said,    ‘You really must stay where I can see you. Are you listening?’    Elizabeth grunted acknowledgement, but she couldn’t look at her mother, even though she’d been taught to always look at the person she was speaking to, and particularly if she was being spoken to, and it wasn’t out of rudeness or defiance that she wasn’t turning to face her mother now, she simply could not take her eyes from the gun. Why did an octopus need a gun, or a boxing ring, for that matter, when it had no other octopus to box? She asked her mother, still without looking at her. Anne knelt down to get a view of the set-up from Elizabeth’s perspective. The octopus was ochre, mottled with darker veins. It reminded Anne of an old brick, then a bruise. She said,    ‘Maybe it gets into a lot of fights with itself. It does have eight legs.’ Elizabeth started to laugh.    Her laughter reminded Anne of the melody her musical jewellery box used to make, if wound properly, and Anne felt for the fine gold chain at her neck as she thought about the ballerina that popped up when the lid was lifted regardless of the lack of tune. She pulled at the chain the way Elizabeth used to as a baby, which annoyed Anne then, but now felt comforting. And as it gave way, she imagined each link a note slithering free of one of the jewellery box’s compartments and felt lighter than she had all morning.    But her muscles tensed as Elizabeth said,    ‘Look, mummy, look, it’s putting its leg on the gun, it’s like a pointy tongue, a long pointy tongue, it’s holding the gun; look, it’s putting its leg on the trigger.’    A passer-by might have mistaken this scene for excitement. Not Anne, she recognised the fear in her daughter’s voice. She would have liked to have moved her along to look at a different sea-life display, but this was where she’d told Elizabeth’s father, they’d meet him. She wanted to make a point of sticking to the arrangements. To. The. Letter. That way, she’d have the moral high ground if Henry didn’t keep his end of the bargain. She hated that phrase, wished she’d thought of something else, something that didn’t reduce their only child to a Sale sign slashed in red across a plastic bag. That too, the red, she wished she hadn’t 197

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thought of that. It was a portent.    Since the separation, she’d wanted to stick to familiar places, locations near home to reduce the ever growing fear she had that Henry would do something terrible to Elizabeth, to get back at her. Not that this was the reason she gave to Henry, when she made the arrangements to meet at Kelly Tarlton’s. She’d lied, said it was a good place, regardless of the weather, out of the rain, and safe from the sun’s harmful rays. She didn’t mention that she intended to follow him once he took Anne for their unsupervised hour, her voyeurism aided by the aquarium’s predominantly transparent interior. She didn’t think this was wrong; it was justified, one only had to read the news. She was always reading stories about spurned fathers who’d taken the kids out for the day and not returned, and the thought crushed her with dread, filled her stomach with bile. Not that Henry was like other men. But he was a man all the same and they were like lions, she’d read that in a newspaper article too, admittedly one of the red tops – there it was again, the red. It would sound ridiculous if she were to say any of this out-loud, of course it would, but no, Anne was right to trust her instincts; she couldn’t be sure that her securing the house wouldn’t tip him over the edge. Henry was a lion, as sure as she was a…what was she? She’d always been Henry’s wife. Well, not always, of course. Before they were married she was just his girl – Henry’s girl, that’s how his parents used to describe her to their friends, as if their son owned her, though they always did think they were a cut above everyone else. Not even the queen of England could impress them – Henry’s. Not anymore. What is she now?    The octopus seemed to be looking directly at her, telling her something with its keyhole eyes. They are intelligent creatures. Anne’s watched a documentary about them. They only give birth once, dying soon afterwards, their bodily sacrifice becoming their offspring’s first meal, ensuring the youngsters get the best start in life – the best.    Anne checks the time. The watch had been a present from Henry, for their third anniversary. She should stop wearing it. He might see it and think it means more than it does to her. He might think she’s flouting it to remind him how much she’s cost him. She unfastens it, puts it in her pocket and rubs the strap between her index finger and thumb until the heat’s gone. Then she puts it back on and pulls her sleeve down over it.    ‘Look who’s here now,’ she says, taking Elizabeth’s wrist. Elizabeth’s palm makes a sucking sound as it unseals from the glass, reflected in which Anne can see Henry’s enlarging approach.    ‘Daddy,’ Elizabeth says, tugging free of Anne’s grip, throwing herself at her father.    Henry scoops her into his arms before acknowledging his soon-tobe-ex-wife. ‘I got held up.’    Anne feels a word form in her mouth: settlement; held behind the guard of her teeth, her tongue poised to push it. 198

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Flash Fiction|Jacqueline Haskell The Opening

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he afternoon is hotter, more humid than he would have liked. The pagoda doors are open, folded back on themselves so that his students can hear the parakeets outside, catch flashes of bird of paradise flowers in their natural habitat.    He takes his customary moment.    Breathes and breathes and breathes again; breathes life into himself.    They file in now, his one-day-only students, his novices, whom he will teach to unlearn their lives, to go online to a higher consciousness. He begins with their posture: their forward-thrusting torsos, uncoiling their twisted necks, making the continuous and necessary corrections to allow the body to flow and co-operate with the mind.    The cause and effect: the synapses of reason.    He beckons to them with tiny flickers of his outstretched fingers; gestures for them to sit on the deck of the pagoda, facing the banyan trees, all of them in one line just a few feet from the cold, pointed shards of the glass-topped spikes of the railings that run the length of the pagoda’s verandah. Each of them facing outward, turned towards the light.    He stands before them.    The bright orange of his tunic absorbs his skin, leaves his very features pale and indistinct, sucking him into its folds, so they cannot even be sure if they would recognise him again, if they were to meet on the street, say, or in a crowded mall.    ‘I will not speak,’ he says, finally, ‘unless you ask me.’    There is silence.    ‘But I will show you,’ he continues, ‘I will show you what you need to know.’    And they understand this, and they see that already, he does not speak, but that they understand.    ‘We are the combined total of our being since our birth,’ he thinks, and they nod in unison, understanding.    He unbuttons and shrugs off his tunic, rolls it like bedding, and places it across the shards of glass that top the slender iron spikes. Then he places his hands onto the orange bundle and lifts himself, unfurling his body, as a foetus travels through the birth canal, until he reaches his full height – his weight on his hands, his feet pointing skyward.    ‘Perfect balance,’ he thinks, ‘- this is the first step in your enlightenment.’    And they nod again, their eyes fixed on his upturned skull, dark 199

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now, as if a shadow has slid over it.    He becomes aware of the orange bundle, the shards of glass, the long spikes, and the brown earth beneath them.    His hands slip a little on the silk of the tunic.    He knows he should come down now, right himself; begin the next stage of his workshop in preparation for the barefoot glass walk.    Then he finds he cannot move: he is transfixed.    He feels… he understands … nothing.   Help me, he thinks. But they do not hear him.

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Flash Fiction|Kev Milsom The Hallway

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he dream has continued for the last three weeks. The details always remain the same.    It’s June, 1986. The long hallway of our former university appears before my eyes. To my left are the numerous window arches that flood us with afternoon sunlight as we move from class to class.    Ahead of me I can see you, walking along with Tom Henson on one side and Puri Kumar upon the other. I also know that we have walked from the Science Department on the second floor and that we are making our way towards the Main Hall and the delights of a much-welcome lunch.    From where I stand in my dream, I can hear your excited laughter bouncing from the limestone walls. I know that the precise source of your merriment lies within a scene from ‘The Karate Kid’ that we all watched on the television in my room during the previous evening.    I know this because, upon that day in June some thirty years earlier, I was in the middle of our group; situated between Tom and yourself. I fondly remember that each of us had attempted to reproduce the ‘crane kick’, taught by Mr Miyagi and utilised by ‘Daniel San’ to win his final fight against the bullying, bad guys.    When it was my turn, I recall my hardy efforts to find the correct facial expression…my hands held above my head and a handkerchief tied around my forehead as I timed my kick to perfection against an imaginary foe; releasing a suitable, blood-curdling scream that temporarily brought the university to a halt. Considering that Puri’s effort had lacked style and Tom’s kick had nearly caused him to fall through an open window, I was announced as the clear conqueror.    There was a slight pause before you spoke.    ‘Simon Wilkinson, you are the true victor today. How supremely brave you are to face such a vicious opponent…made even more difficult by his invisibility, along with his fiendish ability to be non-existent within our physical realm’.    You leant in and softly kissed my cheek for the very first time.    Despite the slight tremble in my chest at your unexpected closeness, I bowed to you - as a noble warrior always should - and expressed my chivalrous devotion with true humility.    ‘My lady,’ I vowed, ‘I shall always protect thy honour. Should invisible, non-existent foes ever threaten you again then I will be there for you’.    I fiercely recall how my hand swung with yours, like a happy pendulum, as we walked the hall, wrapped in a cloud of huge relief at 201

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the end of a tortuous double chemistry lesson; four, lifelong friends locked together within one supremely, joyous moment, chanting ‘Wax on…Wax off!’ as the aroma of freshly-cooked, canteen chicken pulled us forward.    In my repeated dreams, I call out to you, yet the only noises which register to my ears are the sound of your distant voices and the clunk of fading footsteps upon antiquated stone floor.    Every time, I have promised that I will try to run faster. For a split-second I move forward, only to watch in frustration as you all move farther away from me.    Last week I am sure that there were no more than five window arches between us. Today, I know that I counted seven. Moreover, the light that comes through each window seems greyer and faded. It’s reaching the point where...where a nagging ‘voice’ within me is urging me to stop....to save my energy...to accept that I will never close the gap to once more place my hand within the loving warmth of yours.    I will keep trying. I promise that I will use everything that I possess to keep you in sight; my blessed Angela. Tomorrow, I’ll give my all to reduce the gap between us to six windows…then five and four. I won’t stop until I reach you. I will never give up. ***    The doctor placed the clipboard upon his desk and wore an expression that poured chilled fear into her heart.    ‘We’re doing everything that we can, Mrs Wilkinson. I have to tell you that Simon’s condition has deteriorated. It’s down to your husband now. If he can keep fighting then he has a chance...but...’    Dr Miller’s face bore rippled waves of frowns.    ‘...well, I wouldn’t be doing my job professionally if I didn’t ask you to be prepared for the worst. I’m so sorry.’

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Flash Fiction|Billie Travalini Never Again 2 A.M.    You open your eyes.    Your husband is holding a gun.    “Go back to sleep.” You watch the corners of his mouth lift up, as if he is in a different time zone, and he is mocking you for this and Godknows-what-else. “Wouldn’t listen… had to snoop, didn’t you?”    You count 144 guns in total, all carefully diapered and bedded just so. You had thought that maybe the Thompson submachine gun that required a special license or the AK 47 bought from a veteran of Desert Storm, or even the Israeli Uzi would get an extra pat or tuck, but no, he has given each and every one the same complete and undivided attention.    “Can’t leave well enough alone.” His eyes are on the guns, but you know he is referring to something else--something you aren’t supposed to know about but do—and, this more than anything rankles him, makes him feel spied on: invaded.    He closes the crate and locks it. His eyes are blazing.    “What did you expect? When we met you were like a little bird. Now, you want to be I am woman hear me roar. Well, you go right ahead, but not on my dime. You hear me… it’s time I did things my way.”    You look at him as if he were somebody you once knew, but you can’t remember the where or when.    “Could have lasted another year or so.”    You question if it relates to your marriage or his adultery, but you are tired and he is still talking.    “Sarah would be out of high school. The house would be paid for.”    You point at the crate and hear yourself laugh, a strange guttural sound that starts and stops like a series of coughs.    He raises his voice. “Here we go again…same old thing! Any woman in her right mind would love to have a man like me, but not you. Nag, nag, nag. Okay, go ahead, say something. I haven’t got all night. Spit it out.”    He points to the floor, and continues, “All yours. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”    Your forehead aches from his voice, and your stomach is a fiery mess. You turn just enough to erase him from view.    “Ten, nine eight, seven, six, five, four…look at me. I want to remember your face.”    He hangs over you and you feel his breath on your neck and your bones rattle and your eyes water. For a millisecond you grind your 203

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tongue between your teeth and swallow the pain, a reminder that words are useless when you most need them and silence is the only real truth.    A car pulls up outside and chokes to a stop.    You open your eyes, but before he notices, before he can say, “Never again,” you squeeze them shut, and he has dragged the quarrelsome crate behind him and is gone.

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Flash Fiction|Michael Forester Counting Eyes

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he walk from the turnstile to the far end of the pier is precisely 442 steps. You can check that if you want to, but I assure you it’s correct. I count it every day - twice. There are many things I check. I always check whether I’ve turned the gas tap off before I go out. I turn it on and off forty times just to be sure. Not 39 times, you understand and not 41. I get to the bus stop to coincide with the arrival of the number 47 bus. I see no point in arriving more than 10 seconds early. Arriving 10 seconds late would severely disrupt my schedule. I can see from the way you’re looking at me that you think a 10 second margin of error is still too much. I have to admit I lie awake at night thinking about that. I will modify my routines to reduce it to 8.5 seconds tomorrow and 7.75 the day after. Then we can review it - you and I, together. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? I have no one to review with now Andrea’s gone and I’m sure you’d be just the person. You have the same eyes as Andrea – counting eyes.    I can’t stop now. I’m on a tight schedule, you understand. Feel free to walk with me though. Take care not to step on the cracks between the boards or we’ll have to go back to the beginning. I’m going to the end of the pier. It’s 442 steps. You haven’t forgotten that, have you? These things are hugely important, you know. Marcie was prone to forgetting the important things. Why, once I even had to enter her bathroom. I wasn’t snooping, you understand, I had genuine suspicions. And anyway, she had left the window wide open. I found the plastic cap left off the fluoride toothpaste and the cold bath tap dripping. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I counted 102 drips. I screwed the toothpaste cap on and off 11 times so as to be certain it was properly sealed. I know you’ll agree that I was right in issuing a stern reprimand.    When the shower is turned to the maximum temperature of 47 degrees it isn’t dangerous. It just delivers a short, sharp shock and leaves a certain redness to the skin. Last calendar year we had an average of 0.41 ambulances per day pass up our street, and the sirens were sounding for an average of 72.49 seconds.    So here we are at the end of the pier. 442 steps. I was right, wasn’t I? By the way, did I tell you I manage my food intake to maintain a precise balance with my expenditure of energy? So you’ll understand that I can’t share this cake with you. It contains 427 calories. It would be very dangerous for me to share it with anyone else as I might not have the energy required to walk home. Denise didn’t understand that. She tried to make a grab for the cake in this precise spot on a Sunday morning two years and seven months ago. She was only being playful, of course. 205

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I knew that. And she knew I was only reacting playfully in return. She really should have learned to swim when I told her to.    I’m going from here to the café. You’re welcome to join me for a regular cup of Ethopian Arabica skinny latte if you wish, so long as you promise not to interrupt while I read Guardian. If I’m interrupted I have to start again from the top left corner of the front page. You remember Janie, the barista in the café, don’t you? She only interrupted me once – on Tuesday two weeks ago, at 11.46 am. I’ve counted 279 lampposts with her picture on so far. But it’s a big job and I’ve not finished. We could complete the task together after I finish reading the newspaper. That will be at 12.22 pm assuming you don’t interrupt me. You’d be really good at counting pictures on lampposts. You have counting eyes.

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Flash Fiction|Joy Manné The Other Trouser Leg

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his time the rabbit went down the other trouser leg of Time. Where he – yes it was a he rabbit, cock up in full fertility who went down that hole.    It was not Alice’s rabbit. Make a note of that.    Down, he met a tortoise who asked why he was not his hare.    The rabbit scratched behind his ear, rubbing his fur the other way.    Our rabbit—I don’t know what he did, but the discussion turned to trouser legs of Time.    ‘Like how many are there?’ the rabbit asked.    ‘I’d say there are more for you than for me,’ the tortoise said, ‘even though you are not my hare.    The rabbit scratched the fur on his chest, rubbing it the other way.    ‘Is that my Fate?’ the rabbit asked.    The tortoise tilted his head. So did the rabbit. They frowned simultaneously.    ‘I’m getting used to you,’ the rabbit said. ‘Although I don’t know what you’re doing down a hole.’    ‘Time,’ the tortoise said. ‘I have so much of it. We live to more than one hundred, you know.’    ‘We breed in hundreds. Is that the same thing?’    ‘Does each one have his own trouser leg? That’s what I want to know.’    The rabbit did something. I couldn’t see what, but it had to do with the other way.    ‘I am concerned with my Fate,’ the tortoise said, slowly.    ‘I have so many,’ the rabbit said. ‘Fate comes through ancestors.’    ‘Mine are eggs,’ the tortoise said.    ‘Sounds safe to me,’ the rabbit said. ‘You see, when ancestors do things they affect our destiny.’    ‘I’ve heard of Peter Rabbit,’ the tortoise said. ‘The author, you know, she once owned me.’    The rabbit wasn’t interested. It was until then his longest conversation. He never wanted to talk so long again.    ‘Eggs can’t do much,’ he said.    ‘They can roll down trouser legs,’ the tortoise insisted. ‘And they hatch. And before that they were laid, in batches, very many at a time. And before that my father laid my mother.’    ‘We are alike, then,’ the rabbit said. Our fathers laid our mothers. Yours laid many eggs, mine laid many rabbits.’    ‘Then I too have choice over trouser legs,’ the tortoise said, and 207

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slowly moved towards the other tunnel.    ‘Bye, chum,’ the rabbit said. He too chose another other tunnel, and disappeared in a dash.

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Flash Fiction|Abha Iyengar Home Truth ‘Turkish Full Body Massage with 2 young Girls@1499. (haircut free). Single Girl Body Massage @999/-. Marty Thai Spa, Call: 98100XXXXX.’ Another of these inane messages had flooded his mobile. He usually deleted them without looking, but this one he had somehow read, and kept. He ran his hand through his hair. It could use a cut. And a body massage? It had been so long since he had felt a woman’s touch. How long had it been since Anita left him, taking their 3 year old child, Soumya with her, telling him that he was a lousy breadwinner and a lousier husband.    It was close to 15 years. Her leaving had shocked him into action, for he realized he had to pay his bills, take care of himself; there was no one else to do it for him.    He was now a top consultant with several financial firms, and lived in a big flat, but all alone. And somehow, he had stayed away from women, some stupid thought at the back of his head, that Anita would return one day to him, the child with her, and they would once more be a happy family. Friends had tried to match-make, then given up, jeering and scoffing at him and telling him he was stupid to hold on to his outdated Christian values in this day and age.    Vinit, his friend, who had downed many a drink with him while sharing his sorrow post Anita’s walk-out, had said to him just last evening, “It is enough, bro. You have waited long enough. Don’t think she is going to return now. You’ll become an old man, waiting. Let down your hair a bit.”    John combed his fingers through his hair again. Haircut he could go for, but body massage? He felt his body suddenly ache for a woman’s touch. But a young girl, giving him a body massage? That just didn’t sound right. He decided to not brood too much over it, after all, other men went for this kind of thing easily, that is why it was so popular, so why was he having such 18th century thoughts? Vinit would laugh if he told him his doubts. He called Marty Thai Spa and booked an appointment for Saturday evening, for a Single Girl Body Massage. He did not want to waste his hard-earned money. *    He walked into the Spa’s beautifully done interior with its decorative columns, concealed lighting, artefacts placed tastefully around, and even a tinkling fountain in a corner. In his eyes, it outdid a five star hotel foyer. He felt a trifle nervous, wondering what he had let himself in 209

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for. The receptionist had the right accent to go with her well-manicured nails, and gave him a choice of oils. He chose one arbitrarily, something she recommended. It didn’t really matter, for now he just wanted to get this over and done with.    He disrobed in the bathroom attached to the room where he was to get the massage. It was dimly lit, and scented, colored candles adorned the corners. It made the atmosphere slightly oppressive, but he lay face down on the massage table and waited, conscious that he was only in his underwear. A girl walked in. “Please be comfortable and relax yourself,” she said. “I will begin the massage now. Let me know if the pressure becomes too much, or if my touch is too light.” She sounded professional, yet her voice was sweet, soft. He felt his weariness fall away as her hands and fingers moved over his shoulders and back, then onto his thighs and calf muscles. He was relaxed, but embarrassed. Then he was gently turned onto his back. She began to massage his neck and shoulders. He had almost fallen asleep. Slowly now he opened his eyes. He saw that she was very young and slim.    “What’s your name?” he asked her.    “We are not supposed to give our names, Sir,” she said. “You just have to let them know whether you enjoyed the massage. I am No. 1 here. So if you want me to attend to you next time, just ask for No. 1, okay?” Her hands oiled his stomach as she spoke. Looking at her, he suddenly thought of Soumya, his daughter. He pushed the girl’s hands away from his stomach.    “You are too young to do this. How old are you? Fifteen?”    The girl shook her head, alarmed. She stepped back, confused.    He lowered his legs and jumped off the high massage table. Slick with oil, he had miscalculated, and slid onto the floor. She tried to lift him up off the floor, but he pushed her away and stood up on unsteady feet.    “Sorry, Sir, have I done something wrong, Sir?” she asked.    “No, nothing wrong. Just leave, please.” John picked up the bathrobe and made his way into the bathroom. The water poured over his skin, too hot for comfort, but he let it. He rubbed all the oil off his body with the Turkish towels hanging there. Yet he could not wipe off the feel of the girl’s hands from his body, and the thought that she was his daughter’s age from his mind. He dressed slowly, and walked out.    The girl with the well-manicured nails pointed towards the salon, for the free haircut.    “Some other time,” he told her.    John looked at his mobile phone. He had never called Anita after the day she left. He had waited for so long; waited for her to make the first move. With determined fingers he tapped in her number now, hoping there was still time. *** 210

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Flash Fiction|Mark Mayes Ajax

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hen I was younger, I had a farm. I had cows and pigs, two horses, sheep, chickens. I also had a farmhouse with a pink roof. There was a black dog. There were houses for the animals. A tractor. Maybe two tractors. Piece by piece I lost them. In the garden, up the hoover, under the sofa. Piece by piece they left me.    Holding my black dog, I am ill, lying on the new sofa. I can hear the school playground far away. There is a blanket over me. I reach out to the cup of Lucozade on the good table. I get some down me and put the cup back. I love the orange see-through paper around the Lucozade bottle. I peel it off and look at the light through it. My world is orangey.    The next day, because it is the weekend, I feel much better. Good enough to go out. I call for Ian and Gordon and we go up the Nunnery Lane. We go up on the mound and start playing war. I can see the school from here and when I look at it my stomach feels wobbly.    I’m a German, with stick grenades and a Schmeiser. They are Japs. I’m losing. But there are two of them. I roll down the side of the mound, over and over. My old flares get dirty and a shoe comes off. It tumbles to the bottom where the trench is.    ‘Kill him,’ they shout, in Japanese.    ‘It’s not fair, I’m not ready.’ They don’t care. They bundle me. Then they stop.    ‘Look,’ says Gordon, ‘It’s Ajax.’    ‘It is,’ says Ian. ‘It’s weirdo, let’s hide.’    ‘Throw stones at him when he gets near the railings,’ says Gordon.    We scramble to the top and hide behind a ridge. Now it’s like a real war. I can see Ajax. His twisted beard, the toy sheriff’s star on his long dark coat.    Mum and me talked to him once near the nunnery. He smiled and tried to make words. There was too much tongue in his mouth. Mum asked him the time. He showed his dirty forearm where there wasn’t a watch. Mum said he was ill and to be careful. Not to talk to him.    Then there was the case of the willy and the letterbox. Myra and Jock had left their three children on their own to go play in her rock band. That evening a man came to the door of their bungalow and stuck his willy through the letterbox. Then he ran away. The children screamed and screamed and some of the dads from the close went looking for him. My dad did as well, but only for a bit. Everyone said it was Ajax.

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We collect stones into little piles ready to throw. I have the smallest ones. I don’t want any to hit him.    I remember Chris’s gang at my old school throwing conkers at me. One hit me in the eye. It went black. Mum got me moved from that school. The doctor counted my bruises from another time when they’d got me down on the grass. Kicks and punches and feeding me weeds. Forty-three.    ‘We’re gonna kill him,’ whispers Gordon.    ‘Mash him up,’ says Ian. He giggles.    I want to go home and I want to stay. I know it’s wrong. I want someone to stop us. It’s just a game.    Ajax reaches the black railings, just a little bit in front of the mound. We all stand up and throw what we have in our hands. Some hit him. One gets him on the cheek. His hand goes there and he makes a noise. Not a shout, more like a dog when you smack it.    ‘Got him,’ says Ian.   ‘It was my stone,’ says Gordon.    Ajax is looking up and we have ducked behind the ridge. He must have seen us when we stood. He is staring up at us and not moving. I can feel his eyes in my chest. The other two are sniggering. My legs feel watery like just before P.E.    ‘He’s coming up. Shit. Nutter’s coming up,’ says Gordon.    Ajax has jumped the trench and is climbing towards us. He reaches out to the earth ledges and soon he will be with us. His breathing is loud. I can smell him. Like toilet water.    ‘Run, you idiots!’ shouts Ian, as he skids down the opposite side. ‘Bomb it!’ he calls from further off.    Gordon and me are stuck. Then my hand picks up a half brick with a jagged edge. I kneel and look over the rim. His straggly hair is right there, and my hand goes back, then forward fast, and the brick smashes onto his head.   Bullseye!    No blood spurts.    He sighs, then slowly slides down the slope, trailing one arm. The arm is loose and raggedy. He stops sliding near the bottom and lies there, face down. Nothing moves. Not us or him. I turn and see the small body of Ian running near the top of the bull field. I see his red tshirt. There is no bull in the field today.    Gordon and me look at each other. He sort of smiles, then doesn’t. We look again at Ajax. He is sleeping, I think. Just tired. He always walks a lot. We saw him once near Sandy, walking. And that’s nearly nine miles. We get up and go down the other side and bomb up the field towards the new houses.    By the bollards I say ‘See ya’ to Gordon. He says ‘See ya’. I go home. There is mud on my trousers and hands. I’m hungry but I just want to go to bed. Mum let’s me have ginger biscuits and limeade. 212

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I tell her I think my illness has come back and that I can’t go to school on Monday.    ‘You’re going,’ she says.    I don’t know if I killed Ajax. I never heard anything about it. No one mentioned him again, except Gordon once, and Ian punched him quiet. I was never punished for the brick, and that must have meant God didn’t care about Ajax. Since then, other things have happened, and God hasn’t cared about them either.

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List of Contributors Aamer Hussein Born and brought up in Karachi, Aamer Hussein studied for two years in the Nilgiris, India, before moving to London, aged 15, in 1970. He worked in the now defunct BCCI, took a degree in South Asian studies from SOAS, and later studied French, Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. He began to publish short fiction, reviews and articles in journals and anthologies in 1987. His first collection of stories, Mirror to the Sun, appeared in 1993, to be followed by three further collections – including Insomnia – and two novels, Another Gulmohar Tree (2009) and The Cloud Messenger (2011). His latest work is 37 Bridges and Other Stories (2015). He writes in both English and Urdu, still lives in London, and travels frequently to Pakistan. *An earlier version of ‘Nuria’ was published in Cactus Town (OUP Karachi, 2002). Abha Iyengar Abha Iyengar is an award winning, internationally published poet, author, editor, translator, and a British Council certified creative writing mentor. Her story, The High Stool, was nominated for the Story South Million Writers Award. She received the Lavanya Sankaran Writing Fellowship for 2009-2010. Her poemfilm, Parwaaz, won a Special Jury prize in Patras, Greece. She was a finalist in the Flash Mob 2013 Flash Fiction contest. Her short fiction, The Marshlands, was shortlisted in the DNA-Out of Print short story contest 2015. Her poems have appeared in the Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poets and her fiction in The Indo-Australian Anthology of Short Fiction. Her published works include Yearnings, Flash Bites, Shrayan, Many Fish to Fry and The Gourd Seller and Other Stories. Alan McCormick Alan McCormick lives in Dorset. His short stories have won various prizes and his fiction has been widely published in print and online, including at Lakeview Vol1.2. His story, Go Wild in the Country, was in Salt’s Best British Short Stories 2015. His short story collection, Dogsbodies and Scumsters, was long-listed for the 2012 Edge Hill Prize. He also writes flash shorts in response to Jonny Voss’s pictures. They work together as Scumsters, have been published regularly at 3:AM and keep a blog at www.scumsters.blogspot.co.uk. He is currently working on the second draft of Holes, his first book of non-fiction. Alisa Velaj Alisa Velaj was born in the southern port town of Vlora, Albania in 1982. She has been shortlisted for the annual international Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in UK in June 2014. Velaj’s full length book of poetry A Gospel of Light is published by Aquillrellle in June 2015. Her works have appeared in more than 60 print and online international magazines, including: FourW twenty-five Anthology (Australia), 214

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The Journal (UK), The Dallas Review (USA), The Linnet’s Wings (UK) etc. Her works will soon appear in The Seventh Quarry (UK), Lunar Poetry Magazine (UK) Envoi Magazine (UK) etc.

Alison Lock Alison Lock’s poetry and short stories have appeared in anthologies and journals in the UK and internationally. Her work has won prizes in The London Magazine, Sentinel Literary Quarterly Review, amongst others. She has published a short story collection (another forthcoming), two poetry collections, and a fantasy novella. She has an MA in Literature Studies. She is a tutor for courses on Transformative Life Writing. www.alisonlock.com

Alyson Faye Alyson Rhodes trained originally in the UK as a teacher, then switched to running a tuition agency, but she has also done odd jobs as a waitress/receptionist/salesperson. She wrote a couple of children’s books which got published and quite a lot of poetry, some of which she read out in pubs! Fast forward to 2016 – she now lives near Bronte terrain in Yorkshire, where she writes noir Flash Fiction, spooky tales and less poetry. She lives with her son, partner and 3 rescue cats. She is a confirmed chocoholic and is still hopeless at maths. Anil Menon Anil Menon’s short fiction has been translated into Chinese, French, German, Hebrew and Romanian. His debut YA novel The Beast With Nine Billion Feet (Zubaan Books, 2010) was short-listed for the 2010 Vodafone-Crossword award. Along with Vandana Singh, he edited Breaking the Bow (Zubaan Books 2012), an anthology of speculative fiction inspired by the Ramayana. His most recent work is Half Of What I Say (Bloomsbury, 2015). He can be reached at: iam@anilmenon.com. Balbir Krishan Balbir Krishan is a New Delhi based multimedia artist and activist. His work deal issues like gender and sexuality, male nude, body politics, human rights and social justice. Balbir’s incredible journey as an artist and individual as testimony of the triumph of the human spirit despite crushing odds. Born into a conservative family in a small Indian village Bijrol, on 1st December 1973. Balbir earned an M.A. and M. Phil in art history from Agra University. He lost both his legs in a train accident in 1996. Balbir is one of the few voices from within contemporary art that dwells on the male body; universalising it, personalizing it... painting a form that contains both the grim realities and exalted fantasies of masculinity...a meeting place for utopia and 215

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dystopia. Battling an unequal society that caters to set nations of ‘normal’ and ‘capable’, Balbir’s works are daring and cross various boundaries while never losing their sense of humanity and aesthetics. Ben Banyard Ben Banyard lives and writes in Portishead, UK. His poems have appeared in Popshot, The Interpreter’s House, Prole and Lunar Poetry, amongst others. His debut pamphlet, Communing, was published by Indigo Dreams in February 2016. Ben edits Clear Poetry, an online journal publishing accessible writing by newcomers and old hands alike: https://clearpoetry.wordpress.com. You can follow his blog at https://benbanyard.wordpress.com Billie Travalini Billie Travalini received a 2014 Governor’s Award for the Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts fellowships in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her most recent publications include, On Hearing My Son is Socrates and my Husband Frank Sinatra (The Moth) and “In My Dreams” (Gargoyle). She edited, On the Mason Dixon Line: an Anthology of Contemporary Delaware Writers, Teaching Troubled Youth: a Practical Pedagogical Approach, Delaware Poetry Review, and No Place Like Here: An Anthology of Southern Delaware Poetry and Prose. She co-founded and coordinates the Lewes Creative Writers Conference, teaches at Wilmington University, and is busy at work on Rush Limbaugh and the French Apple Pie and Other Stories and Rules to Survive Childhood, a sequel to Blood Sisters. Catherine McNamara Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney, ran away to Paris at twenty-one to write, and ended up in West Africa running a bar. Her collection Pelt and Other Stories was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award and semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize. Her work has been Pushcart-nominated and published widely in the U.K. and Europe. She lives in Italy. Chris Hardy Chris has lived in Asia and Africa and now lives in London, UK. His poems have appeared in Poetry Review, the Rialto, and numerous magazines, anthologies, and websites in the UK and elsewhere. They have won prizes in the National Poetry Society’s and other competitions. He has published three collections and the fourth is in preparation. Chris plays guitar in the trio LiTTLe MACHiNe (little-machine. com) performing settings of well known poems at literary events around the UK and abroad. The most brilliant music and poetry band in the world. Carol Ann Duffy. Chrissie Gittins Chrissie Gittins lives in London. Her poetry collections are Armature (Arc) and I’ll Dress One Night As You (Salt). Her most recent pamphlet collection is 216

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Professor Heger’s Daughter (Paekakariki Press). Her first three children’s poetry collections were Poetry Book Society Choices, and two were shortlisted for the CLPE Poetry Award. Her ‘New and Collected’ children’s poems – ‘Stars in Jars’ (Bloomsbury) – was a Scottish Poetry Library recommendation. Her new children’s collection is ‘Adder, Bluebell, Lobster’ (Otter-Barry Books). Her short story collections are Family Connections (Salt) and Between Here and Knitwear (Unthank Books). She writes plays for BBCR4, features on the Poetry Archive, and is a Hawthornden Fellow. www.chrissiegittins.co.uk Cyril Dabydeen Cyril Dabydeen’s recent books include God’s Spider/poetry (Peepal Tree Press, UK), My Multi-Ethnic Friends and Other Stories (Guernica Editions, Toronto), and the anthology Beyond Sangre Grande: Caribbean Writing Today (Tsar/Mawenzi House, Toronto). Previous books include: Jogging in Havana (1992), Black Jesus and Other Stories (1996), Berbice Crossing (1997), My Brahmin Days (2000), North of the Equator (2001), Play a Song Somebody: New and Selected Short Stories (2003), Imaginary Origins: New and Selected Poems (2005),and the novel, Drums of My Flesh, 2007 (nominated for the IMPAC/Dublin Prize, and winner of the International Guyana Prize for best novel). Cyril’s work has appeared in over 60 literary mags and anthologies, including the Oxford, Penguin and Heienemann Books of Caribbean Verse and Fiction. He has done over 300 readings internationally. He twice adjudicated for the Governor General’s Award (Poetry) and the USA Neustadt Prize for Literature (UOklahoma), et al. He is a former Poet Laureate of Ottawa (1984-87). He teaches Creative Writing at the UofOttawa. He was born in Guyana, S. America. David Butler David Butler is a novelist, poet and playwright. His most recent novel City of Dis was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2015, while his short story ‘Taylor Keith’ won the Fish International Short Story Prize in 2014. Other publications include the novel The Judas Kiss (2012), the poetry collection Via Crucis (2011) and the short story collection No Greater Love (2013).

David Frankel David’s stories have been published in anthologies and magazines including The London Magazine, Unthology 8, and Lightship Anthology. He has been short and longlisted for a number of prizes, including The Willesden Herald Short Story Prize, the Fish Memoir Prize and the Hilary Mantel Short Story Prize. He is assistant editor on Thresholds International Short Story Forum. When he isn’t writing, he works as an artist. David Groulx David Groulx was raised in Elliot Lake Ontario. He is proud of his aboriginal roots, Anishnabe and French Canadian. He won the 3rd annual Poetry NOW Battle of the Bards. Read at the IFOA in Toronto & Barrie, (2011), International 217

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Ottawa Writers Festival (2012), and the Festival International de la Posie in Trois Riviers, QC. (2014). He has published ten books of poetry. Was the Writer-in-Residence for openbook.com Toronto for November 2012. His poetry has been translated into both French and Ojibwa. Red River Review nominated his poetry for the Pushcart Prize in 2012. One Throne Magazine nominated his poetry for the National Magazine Awards in 2014. His poetry has appeared in over a 170 magazines in 15 countries. David McLoghlin David McLoghlin is a poet and literary translator from Ireland who has lived in Brooklyn, NY, since 2010. His books are Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2012) and Sign Tongue, which won the 2014 Goodmorning Menagerie Chapbook-in-Translation prize. His second collection, “Santiago Sketches,” is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. His work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Barrow Street, Poetry Ireland Review, The Moth, The Stinging Fly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New Madrid, Poetry International and Spoon River Poetry Review. Most recently, he is a prize-winning finalist for the 2015 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize. Denise Ryan Denise Ryan is a poet from Dublin, Ireland. She has been published in THE SHOp and crannog literature journal and also several online journals. She is the poet of the National Famine Commemoration, where her poems have been received internationally. She has also been highly recommended, shortlisted and runner-up in several poetry competitions. As a member of the Rathmines Writers Workshop. She is currently working on her first collection, Liberties Moon. Emily Bilman Dr. Emily Bilman is London’s Poetry Society Stanza representative and hosts poetry meetings and seminars in her home in Geneva. Her poetry book in French is entitled La rivière de soi, came out. Poems are published in The London Magazine, Hunger Mountain, Offshoots VII & XII, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Iodine, and The San Diego Annual 2014, Aois 21 Annual in America and The Inspired Heart Vols. 1 & 2, & 3, and Ygdrasil in Canada. Two academic books, The Psychodynamics of Poetry and Modern Ekphrasis were published in 2010 and 2013. Her most recent poetry books are A Woman By A Well and Resilience. The reviews can be read on the Troubador/Matador UK website and on http://www.mciwritershouse.com/emily-bilman.html Frank Golden

His most recent book of poems was In Daily Accord (Salmon Publications). His most recent novel was The Night Game (Salmon Publications), a transgressive thriller set in New York. He has received numerous awards and bursaries. He lives in Clare, Ireland. www.frankgolden7.com

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Gaia Martinelli-Bunzl Gaia Martinelli-Bunzl is a new writer. Her short stories Screens and Road Trip have been featured in Spadina Literary Review and Clever Mag.

Heath Brougher Heath Brougher is the editor of Five 2 One Magazine. He has published two pamphlets with Green Panda Press. When not writing he helps with the charity Paws Soup Kitchen which gives out free dog/cat food to low income families with pets. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yellow Chair Review, Chiron Review, Mobius, eFiction India, Diverse Voices, Quarterly, Of/with, Gold Dust, The Angry Manifesto, Foliate Oak, Gloom Cupboard, Unbroken Journal, and elsewhere.

Inderjeet Mani Inderjeet Mani is a scientist and literary scholar, retired early from the US to Thailand, where he volunteers with tribal communities. His books include The Imagined Moment, a work on time and narrative theory. He studied creative writing with Carlos Fuentes at Penn and with Paul Harding at Harvard, and his stories have been published in Short Fiction, Storgy, Eclectica, New World Writing, 3:AM Magazine, Apple Valley Review, Drunken Boat (Finalist for the Pan Literary Award, also one of Story South’s Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2007), Slow Trains, Nimrod (Finalist for Katherine Anne Porter Prize), WIND (2003 Short Fiction Award), Word Riot, Asia Writes, Kimera, Plum Ruby Review, and other venues. Website: tinyurl.com/inderjeetmani . Jackie Gorman Jackie Gorman is from the midlands of Ireland. Her poetry has been published in Poetry Ireland Review, Wordlegs, The Honest Ulsterman, The Galway Review, Headspace, Bare Hands, The Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Obsessed With Pipework. She has been long-listed for a number of awards such as the Erbaccae Poetry Prize and the Africa Day Poetry Award. She was commended in the 2015 Patrick Kavanagh Awards and won the Phizzfest Poetry Prize in 2016 and was a Golden Pen prize winner in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in a number of Irish creative writing anthologies including “Ring Around the Moon”, edited by Noel Monahan.

Jacqueline Haskell Jacqueline Haskell has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and was mentored by novelist Jill Dawson in the Gold Dust scheme for emerging writers. She has just completed her first novel, The Auspice. Jacqueline’s work has been published in various anthologies and journals including This Line is Not for Turning: An Anthology of Contemporary British Prose Poetry, by Jane Monson (ed), Cinnamon Press (2011), and the Anomaly Literary Journal 219

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Issue 2. She has won The Saturday Telegraph Short Story Contest, The Short Story Flash Fiction Prize, and has been placed in numerous competitions, including the FISH Publishing Short Story and Poetry Prizes, the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year, and the Asham Short Story Award. Janet Olearski Janet Olearski’s short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications including Wasafiri, The Commonline Journal, Jotters United, Bare Fiction, The National, and Pen Pusher. Janet is a graduate of the Manchester Writing School and the founder of the Abu Dhabi Writers’ Workshop. Read more at: www.janetolearski.com

Javed Latoo Dr. Javed Latoo is a UK based senior clinician, honorary lecturer, and an Editor of a UK medical journal. In his spare time, Dr. Latoo writes poetry. His poems have been published in literary and medical journals. His first collection of poems is Gushing Fountain: A Collection of Poems (2015).

Jo Burns Born in Maghera, County Derry, Northern Ireland, Jo Burns is a 39 year old biomedical scientist and mother of three. She has resided in Chile, Scotland, England, and now lives with her family in Germany. To date, her poems have been published by A New Ulster, Greensilk Journal, The Galway Review, featured in The Irish Literary Times and Dove Tales Anthology Identity. She is currently working on her first collection. Johanna Boal Johanna Boal lives in Beverley, East riding of Yorkshire and loves to read and write. She has poetry published in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Norfolk, Open Mouse, Scottish publication, Literary Journal, Limerick, Poetry Space, Bristol, Worktown, Bolton, Blowing Raspberries, Belfast, Northern Ireland and more. She had her first poetry collection published by Poetry Space, Bristol and is currently having her second collection considered. John Grey John Grey is Australian born short storywriter, poet, playwright, musician, Providence RI resident since late seventies. Has been published in numerous magazines including Weird Tales, Christian Science Monitor, Greensboro Poetry Review, Poem, Agni, Poet Lore and Journal Of The American Medical Association as well as the anthologies, “The Scandalous Lives Of Butterflies” and “No, 220

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Achilles.” Has had plays produced in Los Angeles and off-off Broadway in New York. Winner of Rhysling Award for short genre poetry in 1999. Joy Manné Joy Manné is group leader and a well-published and much translated author in the personal development field and has a PhD in Buddhist Psychology. She has had many Flash Fictions published on the web in Pygmy Giant, Café Aphra, Flash Fiction Online, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine and FlashFlood. Joy published her first children’s book, No, I Won’t Go To Bed Tonight in 2016. A second, Stinky Goldfish, comes out shortly and will be followed by a chapter book, Don’t Blame the Dog. Joy lives happily with a nice husband, overlooking Lake Geneva in Switzerland in the summer, and overwintering on Tenerife and in Thailand. Kate Ennals Kate Ennals is a poet and short story writer. Her first poetry collection, AT The Edge, came out in September 2015, published by Lapwing. She has been published in various literary publications such as Crannog, Skylight 47, Burning Bush 2, The Galway Review, Ropes, Boyne Berries, North West Words, and featured in The Spark. Her work was shortlisted (and performed) in the Claremorris Fringe festival, the Swift Festival, in the Doolin Short Story competition in 2014 and the Stephen King short story competition, 2015. She has published a novella, Slainté, on Amazon. A Londoner by origin, Kate has lived in Ireland for 22 years. In 2012, after working in community development at national and local level for 30 years (London and Ireland), Kate did the MA in Writing at NUI Galway (1:1). She now runs poetry and writing workshops in and around Cavan. Kate also facilitates a regular literary reading evening and open mic (AT The Edge), funded by Cavan Arts Office. Her blog can be found at kateennals.com. She is currently writing a novel. Ken Spillman Ken Spillman began his writing career as a poet and is now the author of around 60 books spanning several genres. More than two-thirds of his books are for children or young adults, and these have appeared in more than a dozen countries and many translations. Ken’s recent output includes The Circle, an evocative picture book for all ages on the subject of social inclusion. He was also the driving force behind the creation of a poetry park in the City of South Perth, Western Australia. Kev Milsom Kev Milsom is in the early stages of his fifth decade and originates from Bristol, in the west of England. He currently writes for several magazines and websites, along with working for a small publishing company; focusing specifically on encouraging new writers. Here, he conducts interviews and reviews literature, particularly when it involves someone’s first novel, or poetry. While he has had poetry and short stories published in several anthologies, Kev is still battling fiercely against the dreaded obstacle of ‘completing a first novel’. Now, 221

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suitably armed with stronger anti-procrastination tools, he hopes to have something finished in 2017…possibly 2018 at the very latest. Kevin Casey Kevin Casey’s work is forthcoming or has appeared recently in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Gulf Stream, Chiron Review, and other publications. His chapbook “The wind considers everything” was published last year by Flutter Press, and the full-length collection And Waking… is due later in 2016 from Bottom Dog Press. For more, visit andwaking.com. Kiran Chaturvedi Kiran Chaturvedi organizes wiring workshops and mentors those looking to enhance their creative expression. She is also working on her first novel. Always an avid reader, she has recently taken to fiction and poetry writing. Kiran is a trained Sociologist and worked as a market research professional for many years. Her interests include sustainable, wholesome living and connecting with nature. She spends part of her time at her mountain retreat in the Garhwal Himalaya and lives in Gurgaon, when she is not wandering elsewhere. Larry D. Thacker Larry D. Thacker is an Appalachian writer and artist. His poetry can be found in past issues of The Still Journal, Kudzu Literary Magazine, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee, Unbroken Journal, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Vandalia and Appalachian Heritage, among others. His fiction can be found in past issues of The Still Journal and Fried Chicken and Coffee. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia and the poetry chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train. Madhushree Ghosh Madhushree Ghosh works in cancer diagnostics in San Diego, California. Her work has been a finalist or published in Zoetrope, Glimmer Train, Origins Literary Journal, Le Sirenuse Journal, Garnet News, The Surfers Journal, Del Sol Review, D&O magazine and others. An Oakley Hall scholar, Madhushree’s award-winning plays have been performed at San Diego Actors Alliance festivals. She is currently working on an essay collection, “Chittaranjan Park Tales” and her memoir, “214 Days of Silence.” Marc de Faoite Marc de Faoite was born in Dublin and lives in Malaysia. His short stories and essays have been published both in print and online in Malaysia, Singapore, France, India, and Ireland. Tropical Madness, a collection of his short stories, was longlisted for the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.

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Mark Mayes Mark’s début novel, The Gift Maker, is to be published by Urbane Publications in spring 2017 (http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/mark-mayes/). He has published stories and poems in magazines and anthologies, including the celebrated Unthology series (#5, #9, and accepted for #10) from Unthank Books, True To Life (Ruskin Anthology), The Waterlog (Two Rivers Press), The Interpreter’s House, After Nyne; Ink, Sweat, and Tears; The Shop, Staple, The Reader, Other Poetry, Spilling Cocoa over Martin Amis, Sheila-Na-Gig, The High Window, and Fire. His work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, and he has been shortlisted for various literary prizes, including The Bridport Prize. Mark also writes songs, some of which may be found here: https:// soundcloud.com/pumpstreetsongs Michael Forester Michael Forester was born with a pen in his hand. His first published creative work, If It Wasn’t For That Dog, was about his first year with his beloved hearing dog, Matt. He is a Winchester Writer’s Festival prize winner and has been short or longlisted three times in the International Fish Writing Contest. His first novel, Vicious (a story of Punk Rock and the second coming of the Messiah) was showcased by The Literary Consultancy. His new epic fantasy poem Dragonsong is available on Amazon and through his website at http://tiny.cc/db3aby Michael Washburn Michael Washburn is a Brooklyn-based writer. His fiction has appeared recently in The Tishman Review, Crack the Spine, The Long Story, Valley Voices, and 34th Parallel Magazine.

Mona Dash Mona Dash was born and educated in India, and came to London to work, in 2001. With a background in Engineering and Management, she works in Telecoms Solution Sales. She writes fiction and poetry and her work has been published in various magazines internationally and anthologised widely. She has gained a Masters in Creative Writing, with distinction, from the London Metropolitan University. Dawn-drops is her first collection of poetry published by Writer’s Workshop, India. Her first novel ‘Untamed Heart’ has been published by Tara India Research Press in June 2016 and her next poetry collection is to be published by Skylark Publications, UK as a crowd-funded initiative. Muddasir Ramzan Muddasir Ramzan was born in Kashmir, India, from where he writes. He studied English Literature at the Central University of Kashmir. His interview “We Rarely Understand A Thing” with the acclaimed writer Aamer Hussein was published in Kindle Mag, Calcutta. Recently, his review essay “Kashmir Speaks” was 223

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published in the quarterly Critical Muslim, London and his short story “The Half Caveman” was published by Zabaan, Pakistan and his poem “What Then” was seen in Different Truths, an Indian online journal. He also writes regular research blogs for the Muslim Institute, London. He can be contacted at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com. Murali Kamma Murali Kamma is the managing editor of an Atlanta-based magazine called Khabar (www.Khabar.com). His fiction has appeared in Rosebud, South Asian Review, Asian Pacific American Journal, AIM (America’s Intercultural Magazine), India Abroad, The Missing Slate, India Currents and Trikone Magazine. He has interviewed, among others, Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, William Dalrymple, Pankaj Mishra, Shashi Tharoor, M. G. Vassanji, Patrick French and Pico Iyer. His opinion columns have been published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and he’s an occasional contributor to New York-based India Abroad. For an editorial, he received a Gamma Gold Award from the Magazine Association of the Southeast (MAGS). Nabanita Kanungo Nabanita Kanungo was born in Shillong, Meghalaya, in 1981. Her poems have appeared in Caravan, Planet (The Welsh Internationalist), Prairie Schooner, Indian Literature, Journal of the Poetry Society of India and Muse India; and the anthologies, Ten: The New Indian Poets, (Nirala Publications, 2013) and Gossamer (Kindle, 2016). A Map of Ruins, her first book of poems, was published by the Sahitya Akademi in 2014. Neil Campbell

From Manchester, England. Twice included in Best British Short Stories (2012 & 2015). Three collections of short fiction, Broken Doll, Pictures from Hopper and Ekphrasis. Two poetry chapbooks, Birds and Bugsworth Diary. First novel Sky Hooks out in September 2016. @neilcambers

Olga Wojtas Olga Wojtas is a journalist and writer, half-Scottish and half-Polish. She has spent most of her life in Edinburgh, but has also lived and worked in Aberdeen, Grenoble, Newcastle and Washington DC. She has had more than 20 short stories published in literary magazines and anthologies in the UK and USA, including Gutter, New Writing Scotland and The Mayo Review. She has won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and was an Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop reader at the 2015 Edinburgh International Book Festival. Author photo by Antonia Reeve Phil Kirby Born in North East London, Phil Kirby worked as a carpenter before studying to become an English teacher. He began writing poetry in the early 90s. He has won an East Midlands Arts bursary and also ran Waldean Press. Over the years, Phil has taught many adult writing classes and conducted residencies in a secondary 224

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school and a hospice. His first full collection, ‘Watermarks’ (2009), is available from Arrowhead Press, and may also be obtained through his own website: www.waldeanpress.co.uk. His first teen novella, entitled ‘Hidden Depths’ (Applefire Press), is available on Amazon’s Kindle programme. Rachel J Fenton Rachel J Fenton was finalist in the Dundee International Book Prize with her unpublished novel Some Things the English, judged by Neil Gaiman, Felicity Blunt, Stuart Kelly, Scott Pack and Kirsty Lang. She was shortlisted for The Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for “The Scientist”; longlisted for the New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day Competition with “What We talk About When We talk About The Treaty”; and won the seventh annual Short Fiction Prize in association with the University of Plymouth for “While Women Rage in Winter”. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her work most recently appeared in Remembering Oluwale; Wales Arts Review; Cooked-Up, Food Fiction from Around the World; and Refugees Welcome. She lives in Auckland. Roger Bonner Roger Bonner grew up in Los Angeles, California. He returned to his native Switzerland as a young man where he worked as an English teacher and medical writer/editor. He has published poems and short stories in Envoi, Cross Connect, The Drunken Boat, Delmarva Review, Ascent Aspiration, The Galway Review and Offshoots 13, the anthology of the Geneva Writers Group. His best-selling collection of satires “Swiss Me” (www.bergli.ch), and other books are available from Amazon.com. He lives in Basel with his Canadian wife, and is enjoying retirement, which gives him time to write more! You can visit him at his homepage: http://www.roger-bonner. ch/home.html Sabine Meier Sabine Meier studied English and French at Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany. After finishing her teacher’s training, she spent 20 years as a language teacher at grammar schools before she was infected with the ‘Creative Writing Bug’. She is an active member of Writers Ink. e.V., an association that encourages and teaches second-language speakers to write in English (http:// www.writers-ink.de). In 2015, Sabine did an MA at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her first novel Young, is ready for publication, her second (working title: Borderline Souls) in progress. She currently works as an ESL Creative Writing tutor at Große Schule Wolfenbüttel. Sarah Schofield Sarah’s stories have been published in Lemistry, Bio-Punk, Thought X, Beta Life and Spindles (all Comma Press) Spilling Ink Flash Fiction Anthology, Back and Beyond Arts Publication, Litfest’s The Language of Footprints, Synaesthesia Magazine, Woman’s Weekly and others. She has been shortlisted on The Bridport and 225

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The Guardian Travel Writing Competition and won the Orange New Voices Prize, Writer’s Inc and The Calderdale Fiction Prize. An excerpt from her story ‘The Bactogarden’ recently featured on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book. Sarah is an Associate Tutor of Creative Writing at Edge Hill University and also runs courses and workshops in a variety of community settings. Shanta Acharya Shanta Acharya DPhil (Oxon) was born and educated in Cuttack, Odisha. She won a scholarship to Oxford, and was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy for her work on Ralph Waldo Emerson. She was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University before moving to London, where she has lived since 1985. She is the author of ten books. Her publications range from poetry, literary criticism and fiction to finance. An internationally published poet, critic, reviewer and scholar, her work features in major anthologies worldwide. Her New & Selected Poems is to be published by HarperCollins (India) in December 2016. Founder director of Poetry in the House, Lauderdale House in London, in 1996, she has hosted monthly poetry readings since. www.shantaacharya.com Shehanas.C.K Shehanas.C.K is an Indian artist formally educated in art and crafts in Mahe. She holds a B.A Degree in English from Periyar University and a Four-Year Diploma in Art (painting) and Crafts from Barathiyar Palkali Koodam, Pondicherry University. Her paintings have been selected for the International Eminent Modern Art exhibition in Vietnam. Her collections of paintings are already sold in Delhi, Japan, Denmark, America, Australia, Bahrain and so on. Shruti Sareen Shruti Sareen studied in Rajghat Besant School KFI, Varanasi and went on to do English literature from Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. With a keen interest in Indian Poetry in English, her MPhil looks at the depiction of urban spaces whereas she is currently pursuing a PhD on twenty first century feminist poetry from the University of Delhi. She also teaches at a college in the university. She has earlier had poetry accepted by The Little Magazine, Muse India, Reading Hour, Six Seasons Review, The Seven Sisters Post, The Chay Magazine (gender and sexuality), Ultra Violet (gender and sexuality), Brown Critique, E-Fiction India, Scripts (LGBT journal), Thumb Print Magazine, North East Review, Allegro, , Coldnoon Diaries, Kritya, and Vayavya. She has had short fiction accepted for Marked By Scorn, an international anthology on non-normative love. She has had papers accepted for Fulcrum: an anthology of poetry and aesthetics, The Apollonian, journal of IIAS (Shimla) and Muse India. She is passionate about poetry, music, teaching, Assamese culture, queer love and sexuality, and super clichéd though it sounds, nature! She blogs at www.shrutanne-heartstrings.blogspot.com.

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Sreekanth. P.R. Sreekanth. P.R. is an artist/cartoonist born on 18 th june 1984 in Kottayam, Kerala, India. He did his M.A. English literature in C.M.S. College Kottayam. He is the recipient of Shanker’s Award for cartooning in 1998, Kerala Cartoon Academy prize for caricature (2000), and First prize in water-colour painting conducted by Forest Department (2002). The former President of India, Shri. APJ Abdul Kalam, congratulated him on his paintings and caricature in 2004. Many of his cartoons are published in Rashtra deepika daily, and his caricature work in Janmabhumi daily. Now he works an artist, focusing mainly on abstract work in the acrylic medium. Steve Wade A prize nominee for the PEN/O’Henry Award, and a prize nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Steve Wade’s fiction has been published in over thirty-five print publications. His work has won awards and been placed in prestigious writing competitions, including First Prize in the Delvin Garradrimna Book Fair Short Story Competition, being shortlisted in the Francis McManus Short Story Competition, and the Hennessy New Irish Writer Prize. He was awarded Second Place in the International Biscuit Publishing contest. And his novel ‘On Hikers’ Hill’ was awarded First Prize by the British Lyricist Sir Tim Rice in the UK abook2read Literary Competition. He was one of 24 Highly Commended winners in The Irish Writers’ Centre’s Novel Fair Competition 2015. www.stephenwade.ie T.A. Morton T.A. Morton resides in Copenhagen and is the author of the recently published collection of short stories Halfway up a Hill (Kitaab 2016). She has written three radio plays, two broadcasted on the BBC world service. In June 2016 she presented a paper at the Literary London Society Annual Conference on W. Somerset Maugham - The English abroad in the East and Pacific. Currently she is working on her third novel and attempting to finish her masters in Literature. Tim Sykes Tim Sykes is an English writer with a background in Russian. He lived in St Petersburg in the 1990s, a time of ideological flux and social dislocation for Russia. His current project draws on his memories and misadventures from that time and place, viewed through the prism of subsequent readings of Russian modernist literature. Tim lives in Norwich, England. He has had stories published in various anthologies and journals, including Unthology, Lighthouse Literature, and the recent collection ‘Being Dad’. Usha Kishore Indian born Usha Kishore is a poet, editor and translator from the Sanskrit, resident on the Isle of Man, where she teaches English at Queen Elizabeth II High School. Kishore has been anthologised by Macmillan, Hodder Wayland, Oxford University Press and Harper Collins among others. Her work has appeared in international journals like Asia Literary Review, Index on Censorship, Indian Literature, Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry Salzburg Review, South Asian Ensemble, South 227

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Asian Review, The Stinging Fly and The Warwick Review. Kishore’s recent prizes include the winner of the Exiled Writers Ink Poetry Competition, UK (2014), the Pre-Raphaelite Poetry Prize, UK (2013) and highly commended in the Gregory O’Donoghue Poetry Competition, Ireland (2015, 2014 & 2013). Her poetry has been part of international projects and features in the British Primary and Indian Middle School syllabi. Winner of an Arts Council Award and a Culture Vannin Award, Kishore is the author of two poetry collections, On Manannan’s Isle and Night Sky between the Stars and a book of translation from the Sanskrit, Translations of the Divine Woman. Currently Kishore is co-editing Home Thoughts, a British Indian diasporic poetry anthology with the Calcutta academic, Jaydeep Sarangi. www.ushakishore.co.uk Vrishketu Rathore Vrishketu Rathore, born on 21st June 1974 in Ratlam, India, completed his schooling from The Daly College, Indore. Always fond of art and painting since childhood, Vrishketu developed a fascination for photography in his growing up years. Photography, which started as a hobby has now turned into a passion. Studied fashion design from IIFT, New Delhi and currently working with a clothing and home textiles export company in Jaipur, Vrishketu is a self-confessed photography freak.” Happiest with a camera in hand”. An ardent bird and nature lover, he also likes to explore cultures, people and places. An introvert who likes to express through the lens, he wants to take his passion to higher levels. Recently had his first published work in the book “Colours Of Refuge”, an anthology of poems, art and photographs published for a charitable cause of refugees. There are aspirations to hold exhibitions of his works and to someday publish birding and travel photography books. But that will happen with time and experience. As of now he is enjoying exploring his passion, devoting not just free time but taking time out from the hectic work schedules to follow the path of his soul. Wendy Shreve Wendy Shreve received her undergraduate degree at Smith College and graduate degree in English at the University of Montana. Along with other responsibilities, Wendy wrote copy for the Cape Playhouse and Payomet Performing Arts Center. Published works include: e-zine/journal articles, blogs, poetry, short stories, and her books, Shadowwater and Dark Sea. She hopes to launch her third book in the Shadowwater series this summer. Wendy’s photographs have been published on-line and in print. Website:www.shadowwater.net Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe Zoë Sîobhan Howarth-Lowe is a Poet and Mum from Dukinfield. Her work has appeared in Magma, Curly Mind, Clear Poetry, Interpreter’s House and The Lake. She also enjoys wargaming, painting models and scrapbooking.

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Editorial Board Chief Editor Jose Varghese Jose Varghese is a bilingual writer/editor/translator from India who teaches English at Jazan University, KSA. He worked previously at Sacred Heart College, Kochi, and has founded Lakeview Journal of Literature and Arts. He is the author of the books “Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems” and “Silent Woman and Other Stories”. His poems and short stories have appeared in journals/anthologies like The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013 (UK), Unthology (UK), 10RED (UK), The River Muse (USA), Chandrabhaga (India), Kavya Bharati (India), Postcolonial Text (Canada), Muse India (India), Re-Markings (India), Dusun (Malaysia) and The Four Quarters Magazine (India). He was the winner of The River Muse 2013 Spring Poetry Contest, USA, a runner up in the Salt Flash Fiction Prize 2013, UK, a second prize winner in the Wordweavers Flash Fiction Prize 2012 and his poem was commended in Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize 2014. He has done research in Post-Colonial Fiction and is currently working on his first novel. He writes for Thresholds: The International Short Story Forum, Chichester University, UK and was a participating writer at Hyderabad Literary Festival 2012 and the 2014 Vienna International Conference on the Short Story in English.

Associate Editor Aravind R Nair Aravind R Nair teaches graduate and postgraduate classes in English Literature at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He did his masters at the University of Hyderabad and has an M.Phil from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. An odd assortment; he counts himself an avid fan of sf, anime, alt rock and Egyptology. He steers clear of ‘serious’ literature. However, he feels that the occasional classic is an occupational hazard!

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Design/Layout Editor Mariam Henna Mariam Henna, a freelance travel writer, learned the art of editing and designing during her work as the Student Editor of Lakeview Journal. Dreamer, TroubleMaker, Teacher’s Pet and Aspiring Writer – she is currently working on her first novel Another Sunny Day. She has published her poetry and fiction in journals/ anthologies, Children’s Magazine and Trip Designers (a travel website). She has co-founded SIA – Smile, Inspire, Aspire, an NGO that works towards the empowerment of children and aged, and also wishes to become a teacher someday. Her love towards the world of arts led her to complete her Bachelors in English Language and Literature from SH College, Thevara.

Review Editor Jude Gerald Lopez Jude Gerald Lopez is an aspiring writer who has finished working on his novel When Lines Blur (unpublished). He also writes short stories and poems and has been published in Efiction India magazine, Decades Review and previous editions of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. He maintains a blog and also contributes to publications on Medium.

Translation Editors Minu Varghese Minu Varghese is a bilingual writer and translator from India. Her MPhil dissertation was on the history plays of John Osborne and Bertolt Brecht. She has taught English Language and Literature in India from 1995 under various institutions of IHRD and is currently working as English Language Instructor in Jazan University, Saudi Arabia. She is the Malaylam translator of the Finnish children’s book (based on its English translation) ‘Simo and Sonia’ by Tiina and Sinikka Nopola, illustrated by Linda Bondestam (Sampark: Kolkata, 2014). She writes poems and short stories in English and Malayalam. Mohammad Zahid Mohammed Zahid’s first collection of poems is The Pheromone Trail, (Cyberwit, 2013). He has read his poems at Guntur International Poetry Festival 2012, and Hyderabad Literary Festivals (2010, 2013). He is featured in TIMESCAPES, a poetry collection of 22 Indian poets, by Unisun Publications and Reliance Timeout. His poetry has appeared in peer reviewed journals like The Four Quarters Magazine, Maulana Azad Journal of English Language & Literature of MANUU Hyderabad, and Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. He won the Unisun Publications Reliance Timeout Poetry award in 2010 for his poem Amante Egare. His own poems in English language and poetry translations from Kashmiri and Urdu feature in Sheeraza, a journal from Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Srinagar, Kashmir. A major 230

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translation work by him on the criticism of Kashmiri poetry is being published shortly by the academy.

Visual Art Editor Shijo Varghese Shijo Varghese is a faculty member in the Department of English, Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He holds an M Phil Degree from Sree Sankara University, Kalady. He has his Master’s degree from University of Hyderabad and his Bachelor’s from Christ College, Bangalore. He is an aspiring writer and is interested in fine art and music too.

Photography Editor Collins Justine Peter Collins Justine Peter, a former BA Copy Editing student of SH College, is an aspiring writer with stories published in eFiction India and CLRI. He has won prizes in various photography and short-film competitions and has also contributed the cover image for the first issue of Lakeview. He is currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma course in Advertising and Marketing Communications in Conestoga College, Kitchener, Ontario.

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Advisory Board Alan Summers Alan Summers, a Japan Times award-winning writer based in Bradford on Avon, England, runs With Words, which provides literature, education and literacy projects, as well as online courses often based around the Japanese genres. He is a co-editor for Bones Journal (new and gendai haiku), and his latest collection Does Fish-God Know contains gendai haiku and short verse published by Yet To Be Named Free Press: There is also a forthcoming book titled Writing Poetry: the haiku way. Alan is also currently working on a children’s novel, an adult crime thriller, and the Kigo Lab Project. He blogs at Area 17, and is a featured haiku poet at Cornell University, Mann Library, as well as the World Monuments Fund haiku contest judge. Website: www.withwords.org.uk Blog: http://area17.blogspot.com Bill Ashcroft Bill Ashcroft is a renowned critic and theorist, founding exponent of post-colonial theory, co-author of The Empire Writes Back, the first text to examine systematically the field of post-colonial studies. He is author and co-author of sixteen books and over 160 articles and chapters, variously translated into six languages, including Post-Colonial Transformation and On Post-Colonial Futures and Caliban’s Voice. He holds an Australian Professorial Fellowship at the University of New South Wales, Australia, working on the project “Future Thinking: Utopianism in Postcolonial Literatures.” George Szirtes George Szirtes, was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a refugee with his parents and younger brother following the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. He grew up in London and trained as a painter in Leeds and London. He is the author of some fifteen books of poetry, roughly the same of translation from Hungarian, and a few miscellaneous other books. His first, The Slant Door (1979) was joint winner of the Faber Memorial Prize. In 2004 he won the T S Eliot Prize for Reel, and was shortlisted for the prize again in 2009 for The Burning of the Books and for Bad Machine (2013). There were a number of other awards between. Bloodaxe published his New and Collected Poems in 2008. His translations from Hungarian have won international prizes, including the Best Translated Book Award in the USA for László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango (2013) and his latest book for children, In the Land of the Giants won the CLPE Prize for best collection of poetry for children, also in 2013. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in the UK and of the Szécheny Academy of Arts and Letters in Hungary. He is married to painter, Clarissa Upchurch and recently retired from teaching at the University of East Anglia. For a fuller CV see his website at georgeszirtes.blogspot.co.uk Kala Ramesh Kala Ramesh has long had a fascination for Indian classical music and has worked extensively on Pandit Kumar Gandharava’s gayaki and nirguni bhajans along with the paramparic bandishes of the Gwalior gharana, under the guidance of 232

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Vidushi Smt Shubhada Chirmulay, Pune. Kala has performed in major cities in India. Kala discovered haiku in 2005 and feels she’s addicted to this art form from day one! She also writes in related genres like, tanka (five line poem), haibun (tight prose embedded with haiku), senryu, and renku (collaborative linked verse). Her poems have appeared in anthologies, print and online journals. Her book titled “Haiku” brought out by Katha in December 2010 was awarded the Honourable Mention for Best Book for Children: The Haiku Society of America’s Mildred Kanterman Memorial Merit Book Awards. “The Blue Jacaranda” won the Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2012 (Japan). Her collection of tanka poems, “the unseen arc” won The Snapshot Press eChapbook Award 2012 (UK). Loree Westron Loree Westron is an American writer living in the UK. Her short stories and literary criticism have been published in journals and anthologies including London Magazine, Short Fiction in Theory and Practice and Western American Literature. In 2010, she helped set up the Thresholds International Short Story Forum, for which she served as Editor until 2013. She is currently finishing a PhD at the University of Chichester where she also teaches Creative Writing. Mel Ulm Mel Ulm is the editor and founder of The Reading Life, a premier Asian based literary book blog with over 100,000 visits a month. He is an internationally published philosopher. His posts on Indian literature have been recommended by The Economic Times of India and he will be a regular contributor to the Journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society. Patrick Connors Patrick Connors was Lead Artist in Making a Living; Making Art, a pilot project of Cultural Pluralism in the Arts at the University of Toronto. He recently published in Barrie and Belgium. His first chapbook, Scarborough Songs, was released by LYRICALMYRICAL Press this Spring. He headlined an event of Sunday Poetry at Ellington’s called, Artists as Activists. He is a manager for the Toronto chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change. Rana Nayar Rana Nayar is Professor and Former Chairperson, Department of English & Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. His main areas of interest are: World Drama/Theatre, Translation Studies, Literary Theory and Cultural Studies. A practicing translator of repute (Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow & Sahitya Akademi Prize winner), he has rendered around ten modern classics of Punjabi into English, ranging over novels, short stories and poetry. He was awarded First Prize, in an All India contest, organized by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi for his translation of Baba Farid’s Shlokas into English. Among other works, his translations include those of Gurdial Singh, Mohan Bhandari, Raghbir Dhand and 233

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Beeba Balwant, published by Macmillan, National Book Trust, Sahitya Akademi, Sterling, Fiction House, Katha and Unistar et al. Apart from this, he has one collection of poems Breathing Spaces (Unistar, Chandigarh) and three critical books, i.e., Edward Albee: Towards a Typology of Relationships (Prestige, New Delhi, 2003) and Inter-sections: Essays on Indian Literatures, Translations and Popular Consciousness (Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2012), and Gurdial Singh: A Reader (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2012) to his credit. Moreover, he has directed over twenty major, full-length productions, and acted in almost as many. Sanjukta Dasgupta Dr.Sanjukta Dasgupta, Professor and Former Head, Dept of English and Former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Calcutta University, teaches English, American literature and New Literatures in English. Recipient of the Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship and several other awards and grants, she was also the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Writers Prize jury panel (2003-2005). Her published books are The Novels of Huxley and Hemingway: A Study in Two Planes of Reality, Responses : Selected Essays, Snapshots (poetry), Dilemma (poetry), First Language (poetry), More Light (poetry) Her Stories (translations), Manimahesh (translation), The Indian Family in Transition (co-edited SAGE), Media, Gender and Popular Culture in India: Tracking Change and Continuity (lead author, SAGE, 2011) Tagore: At Home in the World (co-edited 2012, SAGE). She is the Managing Editor of FAMILIES : A Journal of Representations Awaiting Publication in 2013: Radical Rabindranath: Nation, Family and Gender in Tagore’s Fiction and Fils.( lead author, Orient Blackswan) Editor:Golpo Sankalan (Contemporary translated Bengali Short Stories) (Sahitya Akademi) Sudeep Sen Sudeep Sen [www.sudeepsen.net] is widely recognised as a major new generation voice in world literature and ‘one of the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene’ (BBC Radio). He is ‘fascinated not just by language but the possibilities of language’ (Scotland on Sunday). He read English Literature at the University of Delhi and as an Inlaks Scholar received an MS from the Journalism School at Columbia University (New York). His awards, fellowships & residencies include: Hawthornden Fellowship (UK), Pushcart Prize nomination (USA), BreadLoaf (USA), Pleiades (Macedonia), NLPVF Dutch Foundation for Literature (Amsterdam), Ledig House (New York), Sanskriti (New Delhi), Wolfsberg UBS Pro Helvetia (Switzerland), Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), and Shanghai Writers Programme (China). He was international writer-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library (Edinburgh) and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Sen’s critically-acclaimed books include The Lunar Visitations, New York Times, Dali’s Twisted Hands, Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Distracted Geographies, Prayer Flag, Rain, Aria (A K Ramanujan Translation Award), Ladakh and Letters of Glass. Blue Nude: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1979-2014 (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. He has also edited several important anthologies, including The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, Poetry Foundation Indian Poetry Portfolio, Poetry Review Centrefold of Indian Poems, The Literary Review Indian Poetry, World Literature Today Writing from Modern India, The Yellow Nib Contemporary English Poetry by Indians, Midnight’s Grandchildren: 234

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Post-Independence English Poetry by Indians, Midnight’s Grandchildren: PostIndependence English Poetry from India, Wasafiri New Writing from India, South Asia & the Diaspora, and, Lines Review Twelve Modern Young Indian Poets. His poems, translated into twenty-five languages, have featured in international anthologies by Penguin, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Routledge, Norton, Knopf, Everyman, Random House, Macmillan, and Granta. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, London Magazine, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNN IBN, NDTV, AIR & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. [www.atlasaarkarts.net]. In January 2013, Sudeep Sen was the first Asian to be honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read from his own work as part of the Nobel Laureate Week in Saint Lucia.

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Student Editors Gowri Nair Gowri Nair is a B.A English Copy Editor student at Sacred Heart College. She is familiar with the techniques of copy editing and proofreading and has good command over the English language. She is an also an active member of the Literary, Arts and Film club. She has sound knowledge of grammatical techniques and different forms of literature; fiction as well as non-fiction. She is also a member of the student-editor panel of the college newsletter- Heartbeats. She has participated in several essay and story writing competitions and has secured prizes. As the student-editor of the Lakeview magazine, she hopes to gain an educating work experience. Sanjay Sreenivas Sanjay Sreenivas is a college student, who is currently pursuing his degree in BA English Copy Editing, from Sacred Heart College, Kochi. He completed his high school education from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Ernakulam. At school, he was elected as the publication captain, responsible for the compilation of works for the library newsletter. He was also an active member of the readers club during his schooldays. At college, Sanjay manages the class blog and he is also a student editor of the college publication- ‘Heart Beats’. Being an ardent admirer of movies in general, he has attended several film festivals and has also directed three short films so far. Sanjay is also an intern for an online website (nettv4u.com) that builds a database on films and film professionals.

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Lijlavol4 no2aug2016  

Chief Editor: Jose Varghese Design/Layout Editor: Mariam Henna Noushad This issue features works by Aamer Hussein, Chrissie Gittins, Anil Me...

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