Editor’s letter In 2011, Rebecca Brookfield, Criss Fletcher and Brett Janes sat down for lunch and ate some paella. It turns out that it was genetically mutated paella that merged the three into a hive mind, so from that moment our intention was clear: world domination. That wasn’t possible, so the next best thing was to edit In the Red 11. From our first open mic night, we had one of the largest and most engaged audiences that we have seen at such an event. At this point, we recognised that In the Red 11 was more than a magazine, it was a platform for a community of writers to develop their skills and show off their work in front of a supportive audience. We wanted people to write about things important to them, so we didn’t set a theme, but the submissions that we received showed that personal items can tell us about who we are, and hold stories from our lives. The cover of the magazine embodies this idea. To make sure we included as many people in the magazine as possible, we asked those connected with the development of In the Red 11, even if they weren’t published in it, to send us pictures of their significant items. The editing process was long but rewarding. We loved reading the diversity of voices and working with emerging talent. Our hive mind unified in our understanding of quality writing and, for the first time in a while, it wasn’t just Brett that wanted to accept submissions about dinosaurs without a second thought. The diversity of the submissions could only be accompanied by a diversity of established and experienced writers. We are proud to include interviews from Sam Willetts, on crafting his poetry, Frank Cottrell Boyce, on screenwriting and his involvement in the London Olympics, and A. L. Kennedy, on her prose, clones and what’s in her fridge. We thank them for being part of the In the Red 11 community. We would also like to thank the attendees of our events, without whom this issue could not exist, the contributors, even those who sadly did not make it in, our art and design team, Jennifer Delaney, Sinéad Lemonade, Dan Yeomans, and Sophie Irving, for making it look dead good, Chris Howard for the camera-work that captured the mood, the past In the Red editors, for coming to our events and sharing their experiences, and finally to the Creative Writing staff at LJMU, for three unforgettable years - we’d still be writing a myriad of shards and seagulls without you - especially Jim Friel, for keeping In the Red alive. Please enjoy In the Red 11. We’re currently sat round a table eating genetically mutated paella, waiting to see what happens next.
In The Red 11 - Contents 03 04 05 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13-14 15-16 17 18 19 20 20 21-22 23 24 24 25-26 27-28 29 30 31 32 33 33 34 35 36-38 39-40 41-42 43 44 44 45-46 47 47 48 49 50 51 52
Jack Finch Jenny Cochrane Michael Lay Andrew Williams Cal Monaghan Hannah Griffiths Charlotte Heather Jamie Stokes Sophie Cleaver Alicia Stubbersfield Barry Woods Sam Willetts Sarah Tarbit Jack Tasker Charlotte Heather Hannah Todd Day Mattar Day Mattar Day Mattar Zara Chang Jamie Jones Carys Clayton Frank Cottrell Boyce Paris Ventour Ryan Devin Phoebe Dunnett Hannah Todd Sarah Coffey Kayleigh Roach Barry Woods Warren Tutt Andrew Williams Michael Fowler A.L. Kennedy Greg Gibson Lucy Ellam Andrew Williams Jack Tasker Mike Holloway Andrew McMillan Henry O’Neill Georgina Jones Criss Fletcher Brett A. P. Janes Rebecca Brookfield Rebecca Brookfield
Identification Snowdrops London is Submerged The Underworld Dear John Porphyria’s Liver Lepidopterist Look Up She Felt Fine Lazarus Flesh Metal Interview Vultures Currents Jeanne on the Ganges Our Sins Light Happily The Importance of Tea Cake Expansion Experiments The Tunnel Interview Beginner’s Luck Recap Piranpa Not So Tin Cans Gum Crib Goch Papa’s Hands Marina Yakupova On the Beaches Interview Swimming Lessons Isaac Wanderlust Hotel The Boy Who Was Not Sad Finally A Prayer for Preservation The Coppice Night Shelter My Tie Sunay Mornin’ Comin’ Down Chicken Town
IN THE RED 11//JACK_FINCH//IDENTIFICATION
Jack Finch - Identification I keep a photograph of my father tucked down inside my wallet, cut out of a passport I found lying by his bedside. He’s well-kept and better dressed than he is nowhis moustache cut further back, his skin blemish free. From what I can see, he looks happy. The edges are frayed and the glue’s come unstuck. The plastic sheen is torn, translucent. Through it, I see my own skin, the back of my hand, my fingers, but it’s too delicate to grip. I have to let it sit, let it be. I turn it over. It reads, I certify that this is a likeness of the holder. The handwriting is foreign, not my father’s simple script. I search for memory in the markings, the way we both plaster our a’s to the page spelling my mother’s name on birthday cards and shopping lists. The t’s are too slanted, the s’s too small. This is not the scrawl I spent years trying to forge. If I hold it to the light just right, I can make out the shape of a name, a signature, but I’d have to peel back the framing and risk ripping what remains. I keep a photograph of my father, tucked down inside my wallet.
Jack Finch is a Third-Year LJMU student hailing from his beloved Warwickshire hometown, Nuneaton. He writes about his father a lot. Jack enjoys growing his beard, video games and classic musicals such as Meet Me In St. Louis and The Wizard of Oz.
IN THE RED 11//JENNY_COCHRANE//SNOWDROPS
Jenny Cochrane - Snowdrops The bulbs I planted last year didnâ€™t grow. I waited through winterâ€™s choke to see those tiny steel shoots splinter through cracked earth. I wished for a blinding of white bells in spring, for them to say farewell to the snotty thaw of February. Smoking Marlboro out of boredom, flicking ash, I looked for shoots of green, finding fag butts, boot prints and beer cans strewn like blossom in long grass.
Jenny Cochrane is a writer from the North West, a trainee teacher and friend. In addition to writing poetry, she owns two dogs who she suspects are more poetic than her.
IN THE RED 11//MICHAEL_LAY//LONDON_IS_SUBMERGED //ANDREW_WILLIAMS//THE_UNDERWORLD
Michael Lay - London is Submerged The people who survived after the great and sudden rise are re-building. They are fishing above the stock exchangenow a haunt for over-fed bass- but instead of using a hook and a line, they use dynamite, catch a hundred at a time. They get fed then sell the rest. The profit looks better than the loss, but they’re catching less and less and are running out of charge. Soon they will forget how to cast.
Andrew Williams - The Underworld There’s a world under ours that gets ignoredrain on a car window, a policeman’s walk, moss growing on the wall. Life’s worth living because leaves crunch underfoot, because puddles can mirror stars, and because I’m in love with it all.
Michael Lay is a writer and surfer from Penzance in Cornwall. He enjoys good coffee, Radio 4 and loyal dogs. He writes because sometimes there are no waves. Andrew Williams is a silly-haired goblin knight who rides dragons, rescues princesses and slays bad guys.
IN THE RED 11//CAL_MONAGHAN//DEAR_JOHN
Cal Monaghan - Dear John When you’re out in the field you’re always expecting it. In between patrols, travelling and waiting, it’s the one possibility that every married soldier dreads. You read it through in your head before you go to sleep. You see it in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth. In the reflection of ship windows, it’s there too. After a while it becomes like any other wound, a dull throb at the back of your mind, something that you’re always aware of but can do nothing about. It was bad the day that O’Henry got his. We all clapped him on the back and grimaced at him, showing him the support of friends, not brothers, and leaving him in the Mess to soak it all in. We’d absorb the rest of his grief in the field beside the enemy, whoever they were that day. You see it happen to your Brothers, the men you fight beside. It happens less to the women, but sometimes they get one too. They seem to take it better, stony faced and stoic, a picture of Marine discipline. They warn us about it at Peace College. It’s a big cause of death, they say. As lethal as a bullet if you don’t help stem the flow. O’Henry didn’t last long after his. He washed out, straight down Loser Lane and into a pit of substance abuse. It’ll never happen to me, you think. It can’t happen to me. She loves me and she’ll wait for me no matter what, you console yourself. It’s never enough to get you through. The day I got my ‘Dear John...’ letter was the beginning. The words were thick, black ink and resolute and crisp, not blurred by teardrops. They were straight, as if type-written, but I knew she’d hand-written this. Maria wouldn’t run from a confrontation by typing it. No matter what it was, it had to be personal; a personal end to an impersonal relationship. I walked only a few weeks later and got dropped off on the capital, discharged and demobbed. And now here I sit, with a bottle of cheap scotch and the thinnest cigar in existence, a lifetime of regrets and a story to tell. -Final Personal Log: Alexian Di’Marco – Sergeant, 34th Marine Expeditionary Compliment, MSS Vesuvius, Pax Custodia.
Cal Monaghan loves to apologise, drink but not get drunk, and make a mess of stack burgers. In his spare time, he’s writing a novel and studies at LJMU.
IN THE RED 11//HANNAH_GRIFFITHS//PORPHYRIA’S_LIVER
Hannah Griffiths - Porphyria’s Liver The prick came home early tonight. My sullen eyes barely awake, he saw me sprawled in front of the Ten o’Clock News and rolled his eyes- like he’s any better. He put the kettle on, and, without offering, put a spoonful of Nescafé into a lone mug I bought thirteen days ago. So while he goes for a piss I heave up, pour water and milk sit back, smirk to myself, my coffee. Prick. Day to day, he’s the one that wins, out with friends that don’t disapprove and lose touch on purpose. Where’s his passion now when he leaves the door open to shit and I live hung-over from cheap wine that I drank alone last night, rolling my own cigarettes. He knows I worship him like the dog worships it’s Pedigree Chum. So I let him in my bowl because I’ve got fuck all else on the menu. I don’t care enough to kill the prick, but, while I debate what to do, my blue eyes laugh without a stain as the nicotine gets my fingers and the ceiling.
Hannah spends her poetry-free time either peacefully battering people on the roller derby track, or furiously crocheting socks. Her age and origin remain confidential for your own safety.
IN THE RED 11//CHARLOTTE_HEATHER//LEPIDOPTERIST
Charlotte Heather - Lepidopterist I half-heard metallic shuffling. In the murk of dreams was wind and tinkling glass, the shutters erratic, but not from the breeze. I turned on the light and it flew straight for the filament. The fat body thudded against my crêpe-paper shade. He loved the electric buzz, butting it in thick ecstasy. My chest echoed the pounding. He was velvet-faced with beaded eyes, fragile wings like flapping wood shavings mottled by spilled coffee in the workshop. I flinched off the switch. The boy in my bed grappled with a shoe. The wings turned toward the window. He flung my boot so it crashed against the glass. The moth tumbled between slats to my window sill. The boy and I lay still after that.
Charlotte Heather is a writer of poetry and magic realism. Recent achievements include a place on Goldsmith’s Writing MA and ‘Lepidopterist’ coming third in The Poetry Book Society’s Student Poetry Competition.
IN THE RED 11//JAMIE_STOKES//LOOK_UP
Jamie Stokes - Look Up Quetzalcoatlus beats the sky like an African drum, swoops on membrane-wings, snaps up from a fissured steam-breathing mountain and hurls into the sky an infant segisaurus. A catch and crack of bone in the beak. She soars from Texas to Cape Town, rides air-pockets over the sweating jungles of Antarctica, snatches fish from the Gulf of Mexico. An Everest-sized meteorite bursts the Earth’s crust like a galactic bomb. The plaque on the wall of the Museum’s main hall: Quetzalcoatlus northropi … largest and last of the pterosaurs … The skeleton hangs above, wire-strung; ovular eye-holes not leering, fourth finger (wing-bone) not skin-spread, neck-knuckles not gyrating, head not hunting. Children move beneath, pointing.
Jamie Stokes is a previous editor of In the Red. He is currently studying an MA in Writing at LJMU, and maintains a beautiful (some would say sexy) writer’s website at writequiteright.wordpress.com.
IN THE RED 11//SOPHIE_CLEAVER//SHE_FELT_FINE
Sophie Cleaver - She Felt Fine Jeanie sighed as a cockroach scuttled its way from the shadows under the refrigerator and up the peeling cupboard doors, making a swerving path towards the remains of a cake on the disorganised counter top. She began to rise from the squishy maroon armchair to shoo it away but paused half way and dejectedly slumped back down again. She supposed it didn’t matter anymore. Let them eat cake. She was sure someone had said that before, but she couldn’t place when or where. The government-issued pink pill she had swallowed that afternoon was making her head cloudy. She supposed this didn’t matter either. Perhaps music was in order. But what? A rousing classic? A timeless aria? An ironic blast of R.E.M? She wondered if any of the music channels would still be broadcasting. “Let’s go out with a bang!” “Top 100 hits to ring in the end!” She groped down the side of the cushion for the TV remote and squinted as the box fizzed into life. Static… Static…. She flinched as a cascade of choral music suddenly flooded the small apartment. Of course the Televangelists would be the last people to jump ship. This is what they have been waiting for. She was fascinated by their look of pure self-satisfaction. They were happy - joyous even - eyes shining and mouths twisted into snarls of ‘We told you so’. The idea that they had achieved some sort of validation of their bigoted ideas turned Jeanie’s stomach, so she fired the remote in the vague direction of the TV until the picture abruptly zapped back to a black mirror image of the room. It occurred to her that she should perhaps be making more of the time she had left. It couldn’t be long now. She thought of her parents. Three days ago, when the army had come and blown up the roads and bridges out of town and sealed the area, she had been told she would be unable to reach them. She cried then, but it seemed less important now. They said that once the bombs were dropped, many would die instantly. Evaporate, maybe. But who knows what the chemicals would do to those who survived. There were rumours that they had been tested somewhere in Asia, and the resulting monstrosities still plagued the towns, feeding on the terrified populous. They didn’t want to risk this, and neither did Jeanie. That’s why she had taken the suicide pill they issued, with a feeling that resembled solace. She had waited as long as possible for some gentle hand to shake her from the nightmare, but none had come, so she sat in her faded armchair, a breeze from the open window playing across her face. When they hit, she had expected to be gone already, but through the marshmallow of her softening consciousness, a sharp drone began to sing. Sluggishly, she raised a hand as if to swat away the sound. A soft moan escaped her cracked lips. The noise grew, became sharper. Her ear drums felt as though they were being pulled tight against the tip of her jaw bone. She felt a warm, viscous liquid run down her neck, then from her nose and tear ducts, then from between her legs. She tried to move her limbs, but it was as though they were weighed down by layers of feather duvets; warm and cushioned and completely restricted. She felt panic. She felt regret. Then a blanket of euphoria seemed to have been pulled over her. It was time, and it wasn’t so bad. She felt fine. After the dust had settled, the cockroach ventured out from the shadows of a crater, which had once been a refrigerator. It meandered its way across the rubble, searching for something which might once have been cake.
Sophie Cleaver is the winner of In the Red 11’s flash fiction competition. Her victory is written above.
IN THE RED 11//ALICIA_STUBBERSFIELD//LAZARUS
Alicia Stubbersfield - Lazarus from Jacob Epstein’s sculpture.
You look coyly over your shoulder, standing up, wanting admiration for this trick, your bandages coming loose, body not quite ready. Last time you were hidden in a black box, tied with red ribbon, an artist’s installation returning you to the solitude, relief perhaps, of being dead. Undone again, box cracking open like a huge, black egg, the fragile chick of your body staggering from death’s shell into the chapel’s light and air. An overdose resuscitated, the boy cut down too soon, mouth-to-mouth filling lungs with someone else’s breath, dawn’s yellow slipping through. I know that place, waking from anaesthetic, still in dream, hearing a stranger’s voice soothing, bright like winter-flowering cherry.
from ‘The Yellow Table’ pub by Pindrop Press 2013
IN THE RED 11//BARRY_WOODS//FLESH_METAL
Barry Woods - Flesh Metal - After works of H. R. Giger
Birth machine babies and metal wombs. Gadgetry meets blood vessel, the Biomechanoid arm injects itself in the leg. Other masterpieces are lonely shafts: iron and steel rivet intergalactic technologies, spaced-out gargoyles experiment on each human orifice; and his famed aliens have cocks in their mouths.
Barry Woods is a Wirral-based poet who studied with the Writers’ Bureau, Manchester. He performs, occasionally, at spoken word events in Liverpool and on the Wirral.
IN THE RED 11//INTERVIEW//SAM_WILLETTS
An Interview with Sam Willetts Shortlisted for the Costa, Forward and T.S Eliot prizes in 2010, Sam Willetts’ New Light for the Old Dark caused quite a stir. From gritty poems about addiction, to poems about his Jewish heritage, his debut collection is a master class in how to write personal poetry. Having had poems published in the Granta, Poetry Review and TLS, we were particularly excited to have a good rummage inside his head and look at his approach to writing poetry. Tell us about how you discovered poetry. What attracted you to the form? Actually, there are times when I lose faith in poetry a little bit. There are so many people producing it, I think sometimes there is too much of it. As soon as something moves me, or speaks to me, which a lot of poems do if I bother to read them . . . well, they can be so direct, so economical, so portable, and I like short things. I’m lazy. I’m a very typical addict. People like me are very impatient. I want instant gratification and poetry gives me that. I can read long things, and I do, but poetry is a hit. It can be a really potent thing in an economical way. There are lines I’ll never forget that I’ve read only once.
You aren’t shy to admit that you don’t read a lot of poetry. Where do you find your influences? The thing is, I’m very easily influenced. I’m a chameleon, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. I can write parodies, imitations and pastiches of poems, and I do. In fact, ‘Anchor Riddle’ is a pastiche of that very old Anglo-Saxon form of poetry. Maybe that shows I was a bit insecure. I wasn’t really writing my own poem, I was writing a kind of a copy, a reference to a particular form; the riddle poem, which is one of the oldest forms of poem in English. So I’m too easily influenced. I try to avoid influences. It’s one of the reasons I don’t spend a lot of time reading poetry. I’m slightly scared I’ll read something and think, oh my God, this is so good. I want to write like this. Fuck it, I’m going to write like this. I’m going to write this poem. Actually, having a notebook is so important. Ideas, for me, just evaporate. I have a notebook so I can get ideas and write them down. Pictures, images, films, snatches of conversation, anything, but preferably not other people’s poetry.
You write about heritage: your history and your mother’s. How important is heritage to the shape of your poems, and is this something you think other writers should explore? I don’t know about ‘should.’ It’s something I needed to explore and I ended up going a bit crazy
exploring my mother’s side in the Holocaust. Heritage is just a very rich vein of material, I guess. It’s something we all have. It’s almost inevitable, perhaps. We write from where we come from, I suppose. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’ve said it now, so let’s hope it is. My heritage is hugely important to me because it affected the way my mother was. She was very traumatised. She was quite crazy, and not surprisingly, and then she died when I was 19 and I wanted to find out what had happened. I needed to do that. It’s a real thing to write about.
You write a lot about seasons and nature. Towards the end of your first collection you use birds as a symbol for rebirth and regrowth. How do you respond to the assertion that you are a spiritual poet? Oh, I’m quite happy to be a spiritual poet. I’m not religious but I think I’ve come to accept that there is a spiritual side to my life. But going back to the first bit of that question, about the weather and the seasons, I was worrying that I was getting a bit formulaic. I got this idea that there was ‘The Sam Willetts Poem’ which is basically when, I don’t know, I’m doing something, I’m really miserable, and then it rains, or the wind blows, or something, and I was very badly hooked on nature and the weather. So, I write a lot of poetry that’s a bit like the shipping forecast because it’s either raining or it’s about to rain. I think it just happens to be something I really respond to and notice. I spent a lot of time outdoors and being a bum, so the weather was quite important to me and I noticed it a lot. Birds . . . I had an ex back in Dublin. There’s a poem about it. Yeah. I notice robins.
Much of your work is deeply personal. Do you hold anything back? How much of your writing (and yourself) are you willing to share? I was told, when I was shortlisted for, though didn’t bloody win, the T.S. Elliott Prize - missed out on £15,000 - I remember someone trying to cheer me up and saying that confessional poetry, very honest poetry, is not really fashionable. I don’t
IN THE RED 11//INTERVIEW//SAM_WILLETTS
know if that’s true or not. I pretty much just spill my guts. I do feel as though I’ve got nothing left to hide, that I’ve burned my bridges. It’s there in black and white; what I’ve done, how I’ve lived. I’ve pretty much told everybody everything and I can live with that, really. I mean, not everything, but I like things that are really honest.
You were a virtually unknown poet before New Light. Was it intimidating releasing your first collection? Yes, very, because I just went, completely, from a standing start to Cape, one of the top publishers. It was unexpected. I was a mess when it happened. I was still using and it was really chaotic and then suddenly there was this thing. I had been published in magazines and I’d won the Bridport prize but it was pretty thin really. My CV was kind of nonexistent. I went from really pretty much nowhere to Royal Festival Hall with Seamus Heaney. I was a very naive, crap interviewee and I regret that. It was intimidating. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t thank the right people. I screwed up a lot, but it was very scary.
You have received unanimous critical acclaim. Tell us how your relationship as a poet with the reader has changed since New Light’s success. How much do you keep the reader in mind whilst you write? I think that’s a hard one for any writer. It certainly is for me. Who am I writing this for? It’s very complicated. I haven’t really worked it out. I wonder, am I trying to impress rather than communicate something? There’s a difference, I think. It’s the difference between showiness, flashiness and . . . not showiness. This is a really hard question. Who am I trying to impress? What is this for? Who is this for? I don’t know. I think, I know when I’m not being really honest and I’m being self-conscious, in a way.
What would you say the most important part of the craft of writing poetry is? I think craft is important. Some of it is natural. Some have a natural aptitude for it. There’s a sort of acomplishedness that is sort of intuitive. Then you can develop it, work on it, learn about form in a conscious way. Possibly the most important part is letting go. I find it hard because I’m a perfectionist. I want to change everything, it’s never good enough, and then I go too far and I’ve killed quite
a few poems. Friends have said of poems even in my collection, ‘that was a lovely poem and you’ve completely sterilised it.’ When I started writing, the poem that won the Bridport Prize, I wrote it on a fucking typewriter. The point about that, it limits the amount of times I could bear to rip out the page, put another one in - I just couldn’t stand it - it limited how much I could mess with it. But the computer . . . Oscar Wilde said: ‘I spent the day writing poetry. In the morning I put a comma in, in the evening I took it out.’ I’ve had days like that. So, knowing when to stop is important. I like the craft. It makes me feel better about writing poetry. I’m an artisan. That’s my fantasy. I can’t make a table. I wish I could. I really wish I could do stuff like that. I can’t make things, but I can make a poem. That’s important to me.
Which poem are you most proud of writing? That changes. That varies as I fall in and out of love with poems of mine in certain moods. I have upswings and downswings. I think a lot of creative people do. I can go from thinking I’m Mozart to thinking I’m truly a bum in the space of a couple of hours, pretty much. I think a lot of creative people have that. I quite like that poem of mine about the robin (‘A Redbreast Flew into the Kitchen’). I like that because it’s very direct. That’s a ‘you’ poem. That’s addressed to someone and it’s very honest. I like that. It’s probably one of my favourites.
If you could pass on a single pearl of wisdom to an aspiring poet, what would it be? Oh. Jesus. Oh my God. All the things I can think of are really banal. Be yourself. Ha. I don’t know. Practice. Notebook. Keep a notebook.
What can we expect to see from you in the future? I’m in a little bit of trouble. My publisher is expecting, or I’m happy to say, wants to publish another collection. But in order to do that I’ve got to have a lot of poems from which to take maybe 45-50, which means I need a pool of a lot more than that really. Then I’ve got this agent who thinks I’m writing a prose work - a comedy-misery memoir. The snag is, I’m not actually writing it . . . yet. I’ve got these two things pulling at each other and I need to do one or the other sooner or later. So I’ll have a prose book, which sells better than poetry, and a new collection with Cape. That’s what I’m doing.
IN THE RED 11//SARAH_TARBIT//VULTURES
Sarah Tarbit - Vultures I was happy alone. Then I met Abby. She would wait outside the meeting hall to pick up men. I hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks before the night we first spoke. I figured one of the lads must have roughed her up. Baby blue bruises would have looked nice around her eyes. I sat on the kerb, putting off going home to the cat. Abby sat beside me, knees up tight to her chest. ‘I’ve lost everyone.’ She sparked up a tab, turned to me. ‘I lost myself years ago,’ she said. She looked fragile, like the china doll from the car booty - the one my mam was never allowed. I wanted to stamp on her, throw her against the wall, hear her smash. But she smelt like home, like the musky, spicy, sweetness of cinnamon, like my mam, so I edged closer; Abby took this as affection for her, nestled up to me and cried. I quite liked the sound; the quick, quivering gasps. We were like those vultures from Chinua Achebe’s poem that nestled up to each other in the corner of the charnel-house. I must have read that poem a million times that summer – especially that last stanza. It asked me if even ‘an ogre’ like my dad could be hiding a tiny glow worm of tenderness in his cruel heart or if he was just evil. One day he came home with a ring, went down on one knee, and they danced in the living room. He was a bin man, used to bring us things he had found in other peoples rubbish; my mam thought it was romantic. Strange, indeed, how love works. Abby followed me home and I didn’t ask her to leave. When I opened the front door the Cat hissed at me. Abby picked it up. ‘Aw, what’s its name?’ ‘Doesn’t have one.’ ‘Why?’ I shrugged. ‘Let’s call you Abby.’ It snuggled into her as she lay on the floor. I watched these two intruders making out like it was normal, this interaction. ‘Come lie down,’ she said. I looked at the door. Then at my feet. Then at her. ‘Come on, lie down next to me.’ I edged towards her and sat. ‘Lie down!’ I did. On my back. Stared at the swirls on the ceiling. ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Bowen.’ ‘Bowen. I like that. Bowen.’ I could feel her staring at the side of my face. I tried not to breath too loud. ‘Aren’t you going to fuck me?’ I tensed up. Shook my head ever so slightly but rapidly. ‘Don’t you think I’m pretty?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes, you don’t think I’m pretty?’ She was biting her bottom lip. ‘Yeah, no, I think you’re pretty.’ ‘The prettiest girl you’ve seen today? Prettier than the Slag of The North that goes to the Anger Management meetings? I’ve seen her with her tits hanging out, all the lads ogling her. You don’t like her do you?’ ‘Er…’ ‘…Have you fucked her?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you like her?’ ‘No.’ She lay back, not looking at me this time. ‘Then why do you go to those meetings?’ I’ve never told anyone about the look on my mam’s face when my dad
IN THE RED 11//SARAH_TARBIT//VULTURES
put it to the gas ring. How she didn’t scream. How her head hit the counter as she fell to the floor. How her skin bubbled and popped. Her eyes on me as he kicked, stomped and pounded away, mouthing, ‘Don’t watch’, ‘Get out’, I’m not sure which. She could have been asking for my help. Some stories you keep for yourself. ‘I kill cats’. ‘Oh,’ she said absently, ‘but not Abby. You wouldn’t hurt Abby, would you? No, you’ll love her.’ And it wasn’t a lie. When my mam closed her eyes, I ran out of the caravan and ran and ran to the Woods Park. I only stopped when I heard something snap beneath my foot. It was lying on its side, its ribs caved in and purring; purring as though it didn’t know the difference between pain and pleasure. That fucking cat just lay there purring, not fighting back, not trying to protect itself. I jumped on it. I jumped and jumped until it sounded like all the bones had broken, all the organs burst and turned to mush, and I could feel all the blood and bodily fluids seeping up my jean legs. I sat down next to the cat, panting. It was a mangle of bone, fur and organs. I felt good. There was a real manifestation of my feelings. They weren’t abstract anymore. I get cats from irresponsible pet owners. It’s a cheap addiction. There are always unwanted kittens. ‘My dad didn’t love me, didn’t think I was pretty,’ she went on. ‘He wouldn’t touch me. Made love to my three sisters, but never laid a finger on me. I used to lie on my bed naked, pose and pretend to be asleep. Once he bent over to kiss me on the forehead. I moved and kissed him on the lips and tried to grab the back of his head. He pulled away and walked out, left me there naked and loveless. I was the only one he didn’t love.’ Her little mouth trembled. ‘Maybe you were the only one he did love.’ I wanted to tell her that she was good enough, that she was pretty, that if she really wanted me to, I could touch her. I moved my hand a little but it didn’t find hers. I turned onto my side. She turned onto hers. We were facing each other. ‘You know it’s wrong to want to fuck your dad, right?’ ‘You know it’s wrong to kill cats, right?’ I smiled. She smiled. We laughed. I touched the pebble-dashed freckles on her shoulder and ran my finger down the blonde fur of her arm. She fell asleep, softly purring; purring like she didn’t know the difference between pain and pleasure.
Sarah Tarbit is an MA writing student and YEP Writer at The Everyman and Playhouse Theatre. She collects rubber ducks and loves Miranda July, chocolate and films with sad endings.
IN THE RED 11//JACK_TASKER//CURRENTS
Jack Tasker - Currents Grandfather was a fisherman, pulled crabs from the floor of the sea. When he wasn’t working he’d take his boat out into the water and wait, wrapped in the blue, grey tide. Time came for him, to cast off into the mirk on Christmas Eve. Hands hooked round the oars, he shivered in his cork vest. All the unseen paths of the ocean lit by winter stars and an oil lamp. Cracked clay pipe held between his lips. Ahead, all wood and screams, the harsh beat of the sink against the boat, no warmth, but for his boiling blood. Wind and rain and cries. The clay pipe slipped from his lips and sunk into the unwanted wash of history. Somewhere, someone’s going to find it and think little of it. Father never touched a pipe, but always smelt of tobacco – Marlboro Reds, packet crushed in pocket. He’d take one out and say, These bloody things will kill you, just like everything else. Father got sea sick. No moonlit currents pulled him to sea, but he found a way, through coral and countless nights awake in a darkroom dipping pictures. Some got sold, others propped up postcards in the shop. He always grinned, framed me in his fingers, Smile. I kept smiling, across the tides and crashes, wrecked on the rocks at nineteen, with a hole impossible to fill, even with all the water of the North Sea. Grandfather called me Driftwood and I guess he was right. In memory of Henry Freeman (1835 – 1904) Jack is the lead singer of The Taskers. He writes constantly and also works for Associated Architects. He splits his time between the Midlands and Yorkshire. He is a very happy man. For more info: www.thetaskersband.com
IN THE RED 11//CHARLOTTE_HEATHER//JEANNE_ON_THE_GANGES
Charlotte Heather - Jeanne on the Ganges The ghats of Varanasi swarmed with locals and lamplight for Aarti- an evening prayer. I crouched on the bench. We lit a tea light in a basket of dried leaves and pink flowers, something they did for their beloved dead. We placed them on the holy river. Roseâ€™s candle withered, went out. She relit it but the wind extinguished it again, snuffing out most of the others too. A language I couldnâ€™t understand hummed through cheap speakers spreading itself, religiously, across the water. My candle for Jeanne dipped brightly past the boats, defiant against the breeze, moving with the current.
IN THE RED 11//HANNAH_TODD//OUR_SINS
Hannah Todd - Our Sins We wash away our sins, holy water, hot showers. I rinsed your sweat from skin, sticky not glistening, washed the knots of you from my hair, each grunt and thrust tangled up in one another. They ran in clumps like clots between my thighs, clung umbillically to toes, frightened to let go become waste no longer person. Water drips as blood on clean sheets, hot towels. Too late to call exterminators. The nest is already empty.
Hannah Todd is a previous editor of In The Red. She likes running and searching for lost footprints. Before she turns thirty, she hopes to complete a marathon poetry collection.
IN THE RED 11//DAY_MATTAR//LIGHT //DAY_MATTAR//HAPPILY
Day Mattar - Light
Day Mattar - Happily
It is mid-day, and I am trying to write, cross legged, at a small, circular table, in a café in New York.
The earth sits still and observes us. Stars regard me
The light here is different. It simply sits with me, in the chair, opposite,
with smiles, their light soft as old friends. Silence bobs
and watches as I study it. I am reminded of how I once shut out all possible light,
sleepily and folds in cool waves. The flowers undress
behind a dark blue curtain. Almost dead, I would lie and listen to it scratch
themselves of colour, and nod with the bowing trees.
at the bones of the roof to get in. If allowed, it would claw at my possessions,
Your body rolls into the curves of mine.
thrust itself upon me leaving the room damp with thought.
Calm and large as blindness or death, I am aware of the great atlas
A soft finger of pale, yellow light strokes my face, reflecting off the mirror hanging
opposite. I appreciate it, the way it slips over the skin, illuminates the table’s white marble.
Day is a gender-bender, radical-faerie, who writes in Liverpool and likes to pretend it’s New York. He wants to write about the importance of perception, and honour the Earth’s loveliness through poetry. His patronus is a lioness.
IN THE RED 11//DAY_MATTAR//THE_IMPORTANCE_OF_TEA
Day Mattar - The Importance of Tea ‘A rose is beautiful in itself, not because it stands for something’ – the Acmeist approach to poetry; one that focuses on the solid object, not the symbolic. Living bloats me. I have, until recently, been unable to distract myself from the feeling in order to pay homage to the details that accumulate to create it: ‘The actual substance of it, the material facts of it, [that] embed themselves in us quite a long way from the world of words,’ (Ted Hughes). Words and details make experience relatable and it is not until we set off in exploration for these words that we discover we do not know what to say. The poet whose goal is publication, should not be a selfish poet, should not write so cryptically that the reader cannot understand and relate to the poem. Our job is to tell the truth, to put into words those feelings which are so hard to name, to be exhaustive in the naming of things, to encourage living for those that might read the poem, inspire courage when faced with life’s difficulties, confess that the poet has experienced it too. In my poem ‘Light’, I compare the perception of experiencing light under different emotions. In an early draft of the poem I comment on how the light ‘does not upset, or offend.’ The mistake of a novice, a poet unsure of their ability to get the job done properly. My final draft, if such a thing exists, gives in to confidence and respects the strength of imagery, the use of simile and attention to detail. By taking out this line I was left with a better poem. By naming the feeling so abruptly in the first draft, I failed in recreating it. Feelings are so titanic and vague; we cannot hope to inspire feeling in a reader without shedding light on the details that shape them. A well written poem does not call out an emotion, it assembles the elements of one on the page, the blueprint of a feeling, and appeals to the tools of a capable poet to construct them. Awareness is key to change, and becoming aware of my habit of telling rather than showing helped me tackle that difficult hurdle quite early on in my poetic journey, but not without bruises. The importance of detail was clear. However, my ability to manage metaphor and simile was not. I became overindulgent and dependent on metaphor and simile in a way that was stifling. My attraction to Sylvia Plath, therefore, came as no surprise to anyone. In subject matter and technique, she attended to all the things that I liked to see in poetry. Her use of metaphor is staggering. Plath, though influential in my earlier poetry, did nothing to enhance my own voice. Rather, she triggered a dangerous desire to emulate. I wrote: ‘the other is cold, he does say, he does do / much more than you. / Mother you have killed me. / Mother, I blame you.’ Noticing the desperately Plath-esque rhythm and subject matter, I shifted my attention to Sharon Olds. Where Plath is, perhaps unfairly, renowned for shocking and morbid imagery, Olds does not find this necessary. Her use of imagery and language is ‘light like heat,’ rather than ‘the boot in the face.’ Olds poetry respects subtlety. Her language always correlates beautifully with the subject matter. She does not focus entirely on metaphor, rather prefers to write things as they are, and has been accounted for saying that she does not have an imagination, rather an ‘image-ination’. She says: ‘I find it very important to know that bread is not flesh, and wine is not blood.’ She acknowledges that the use of metaphor takes her reality out of the real and into the fantasy, whereas the simile is more of an exaggeration, a way in which the reader can relate to how she was feeling or what she is seeing, without experiencing it first-hand. Though her poetry is an exact reflection on very real things that are, or were, she realises that her work is an illusion, that she is not just writing simple narrations, and that the similes come in to rescue her from no art at all. She becomes aware that the ‘I’ that she has been writing as, is some kind of fiction.
IN THE RED 11//DAY_MATTAR//THE_IMPORTANCE_OF_TEA
‘I gave over to flesh like church music / until he drew out and held himself and / something flew past me like a fresh ghost.’ In this description of something very real, Olds has created something very unreal. She recalls the first time she performed oral sex, and magnifies the memory of doing so using simile. Semen, of course, is not a ’fresh ghost’ but she gives us the information we need in a way that is relatable, easily imagined and enjoyable. In his essay, ‘The Decay Of Lying’, Oscar Wilde, at his most radical, argues that life imitates art - ‘Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the arts that have influenced us -’ and that it provides us with the tools to make experience meaningful. This sentiment, I believe, holds very true to Old’s work, in that she is using autobiographical material and remembers it in a way that is poetic. She remembers, and sometimes sees it in front of her as such, because of the art she has been influenced by. In this way, I try to art direct every moment of my life, but tend not to deal with ‘life’s difficulties’ in poetry as much as I have done in previous attempts. I’m not yet able to control the enormity of such feelings in a translatable way. I now prefer to honour the ingredients of a feeling, the importance of tea, or the movement of a shadow - ‘I recognise the peculiar shape, / the elongated roundness / of my head, as it slips / across concrete, like moving water’ - These details are no less important, but are easier to tackle for the poet who is trying to avoid the melodrama that often comes with the bigger things.
IN THE RED 11//ZARA_CHANG//CAKE
Zara Chang - Cake A cake cannot rise in a house filled with sadness. That is what my mother and I discovered that day. She all but tap danced for my amusement, anything to make me smile. I just wanted the taps to turn off, but now I understand it’s a way of grieving. It had to pour out of me. My mum lit a scented candle, praying for peace. My sister rubbed my back while I tried to sleep. My dad eyed me with worry, never mind, love. The cake baked as best it could, the kind my mum always made for our birthdays, but the cake was sad too. I had infected every brick of the house. My sister shares her bed with me now, like when I was a child and I would sneak in with her because I was too afraid of the dark.
Zara wrote ‘Cake’ after she moved back into her mum’s house, after breaking up with her boyfriend. She finds poems based on relationships inspiring.
IN THE RED 11//JAMIE_JONES//EXPANSION_EXPERIMENTS //CARYS_CLAYTON//THE_TUNNEL
Jamie Jones - Expansion Experiments The first subjects were conscious. Anaesthetised, of course, but conscious. We screwed off the top half of the skull. Talk about opening a jar of dragonflies. It took us weeks to recapture them. Jack tried to climb a beanstalk with Emily Bronte, who tried to take the android to the moors. The android wanted Little Bo Peep to donate her sheep to Oliver Twist. Mr Twist tried to hide in a magical tree. A six-headed beast was trying to play kiss-chase with him, but a girl, who refused to give her name, was trying to play kiss-chase with the six-headed beast, and so the beast also climbed the tree, at which point the girl stole an axe from Jack and began chopping. The tree retaliated, encasing the girl in sap, which caused an argument between Blake and Van Gogh. They both wanted to view the beauty of the sap-preserved angel. This was just the first ten minutes. We realised that to avoid such a palaver, the procedure must be done covertly. So, the incision must be made down the back of the skull. Prise open carefully; a crack can cause major disturbance, violent laughter, perpetual tears. The slit should be no more than half a millimetre wide or the baryonic matter will be released too slowly. Out in the open, the viscosity can be decreased with dry ice. Then, sit back. Wonder. The air fills with nebula.
Carys Clayton - The Tunnel Standing among twisted branches like bodies intertwined, hidden in the tunnel beneath the bridge you always pass, alone and waiting for you to arrive. The branches, like arms, climb across the entrance of the tunnel, reaching out to lure you in, and the leaves hang down, trapping me inside, like a fly in a spiderâ€™s web. Thunder breaks through the sky, rain falls out of the clouds, hard and loud, silencing all other sounds. Leaves catch the raindrops, which fall like the ticking of a clock as I wait for you. Leaning tightly into the wall, the cold concrete pressed against my back, stretching my arms across the stone, becoming part of the nature that surrounds me, I wait for your arrival.
Jamie Jones lives in Liverpool and is currently completing an MA in Literature. She enjoys poetry and cows, and poetry about cows. She wishes all readers well in their book ventures. Carys Clayton, originally from Folkestone and now studying English and Creative writing at LJMU, enjoys writing horror, suspense and psychological fiction but also has a keen interest in scriptwriting.
IN THE RED 11//INTERVIEW//FRANK_COTTRELL_BOYCE
An Interview with Frank Cottrell Boyce Frank Cottrell Boyce is a screenwriter and novelist based in the North West. He has written films such as 24 Hour Party People and Millions, which won multiple awards, including ‘Best Screenplay’ in the 2005 British Independent Film Awards. Last year he wrote the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony Isles of Wonder and managed to write the actual Queen in as a cameo with James Bond. If that’s not enough, he is renowned for his children’s fiction, recently winning the 2012 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for his novel The Unforgotten Coat. He is the father of seven children and, going on the above information, has some sort of productivity super-powers. We were excited to find out how he does it all. Let’s start with the Olympics. It’s an unusual thing for a writer to get involved in. How did that happen?
A lot of our readers are aspiring screenwriters working on speculative scripts. What’s their next step?
Danny Boyle just asked me. He knew he needed a team. The only team he knew how to run was a movie team so he just acted like it was a movie. So he got one writer, one producer, one set person, one costume person and one musician - then he asked us all to forget our job descriptions.
That world changes all the time. It’s so hard to predict. I would say that as students your great strength is each other. If you know someone who would like to produce - or direct - then team up with them. Making a film is no different from being in a band.
The opening ceremony was a huge and complex piece of work. Can you explain the process of writing it?
People often see poetry, prose and screen as very separate forms of writing – one writer is ‘a poet’, another ‘a TV writer’ - but as well as the screenwriting, you write children’s novels. How important is diversity as a writer?
Not really! We had various marks that we knew we had to hit, various things we needed to deliver - a striking image for TV in the first five minutes, an entertaining entrance for the monarch, a big finale. We started with those and then filled in the gaps. We were aware that Beijing had been a huge hit so we knew we had to change the game. Danny made a list of things we could do that they hadn’t done humour, for instance, emotion, eccentricity.
You were working on other projects at the same time. How do you juggle so many different projects? By not sleeping.
I don’t know that it’s important. Some of the greatest writers are the ones who stick to one sometimes quite narrow - form. I idolise Frank O’Connor, for instance, and George Saunders, who only write short stories. I think I try different things because I haven’t really found my voice yet.
IN THE RED 11//INTERVIEW//FRANK_COTTRELL_BOYCE
You’ve said before that the three act structure is ‘a useless model.’ [Guardian, 2008] Is there anything writers can do to challenge these sorts of conventions? Yes. Try something else! For me, suspense is what keeps a film together, not architecture. Whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy or a thriller or an historical drama - there’s always a question that we (the audience) want answered. Your job is to keep people aware of and interested in that question (will they? won’t they? Who dunnit?) - And to deliver an unexpected but satisfying answer.
What piece of writing are you most proud of and why? My book, Cosmic - because it’s so utterly brilliant. Also quite proud of the Opening Ceremony - and the first five minutes of 24 hour party people.
As well as the writing, you have a big family to spend time with. How do you make time to read, or watch, other writers’ work, and is there anything you’re particularly looking forwards to this year? Apart from In the Red 11. In the Red 11 takes priority, of course. George Saunders’ new book. The Koreeda film, I Wish.
If you’re stuck for things to write, is there a place you turn for a lifeline? I’d be thrilled if there was nothing to write.
Can you give us one amazing place to go that will inspire or improve us as writers. Climb up the steep side of the Grey Mare’s Tail in Dumfries and Galloway and keep going until you get to Loch Skreen. The moment you first see the Loch is like stepping into Narnia - I won’t tell you why. Bed is also good.
And can you set out the scene, preferably in screenplay format. EXT: The Skreen Burn, Eskdale. Day The cloud is low. The rain is threatening. Brown, peaty water is running loudly over rocks. FRANK is ahead, you are behind. Feral goats are staring at us both. YOU This is pointless. It’s going to rain. There’s no sign of the Loch... FRANK Come here. YOU No you come... where have you gone? Anxious, you hurry after FRANK. The goats move in. You step through a gap between boulders. YOU Oh my days...
IN THE RED 11//PARIS_VENTOUR//BEGINNER’S_LUCK
Paris Ventour - Beginner’s Luck My fingers drum on the steering wheel, a nervous and random beat, but it turns into a pattern: one two three, one two three, one two… you get the picture. I stop, avert my eyes to the rear-view mirror. Casey had told me to constantly check the mirrors, not to just sit here and wait like a dumb fuck. It’s quiet, no cars driving past, no people walking around, the streets empty. It’s 8am. There should be someone around, right? There was this documentary I saw on the TV one time: the police cleared the streets so they could snipe two robbers through the skull as they made their getaway. I make sure to look into the windows around me, notice a woman pushing a stroller across the road. I breathe a sigh of relief and smile. I’m in the clear, there’s no way the cops would pull a trick like that with a kid so close. I reach around to the back of my head and tug at my hair. Clump by clump I litter the pedals with the stray hair and feel for the bald spot that’s emerging because of this habit. 22 years old and already going bald from pulling my damn hair out. You probably think it’s my own fault, I should just stop if I don’t want to be bald. It’s a real condition though, Trik-o-till… hell, I can’t pronounce it, let alone spell it. Casey calls bullshit on it, says I clearly model myself as a young Bruce Willis. Asshole. ‘Start the engine.’ The voice belongs to Casey, who sprints, satchel in hand, towards me. I turn the key. No luck. ‘Drive!’ He clambers into the vehicle. ‘Fucking drive!’ ‘I’m trying. It won’t start.’ Sirens ring in the distance. I know how the scene could play out: the cops pull in as I’m twisting the keys in vain, Casey screaming as they drag us out, slam us to the ground and cuff us. I can’t let that happen. We still have time to get away. A small crowd has gathered from the convenience store. They stand in a group, looking at us, before making way for the owner: a round, greasy-looking man who pushes past them and aims a shotgun at us. I turn the key a final time and the engine splutters to life. My foot slams down on the pedal as the bullet tears into the tail light. The greasy man runs into the road, waving his gun, and shouts obscenities and threats at us until he becomes a small blip in the rear-view mirror. I turn a corner and Casey lets out a shaky laugh. ‘Christ that was close. He didn’t seem too happy.’ ‘What the fuck happened in there, Casey?’ ‘Quick, turn here. I’ve got an idea’ he interrupts. I pull into an underground car park. The wheels screech wildly on the tarmac as I brake into an empty space. I follow Casey out and look on, confused, as he moves from car to car, trying to open each locked door. ‘What’re you-’ ‘We need a new ride. Our one will attract too much attention with that tail light, not to mention everyone from the store seeing it.’ He pulls on a handle and the door opens. ‘Aha, we have a winner.’ As he moves to get in, a third voice echoes round. ‘What are you doing with my car?’ ‘We’re jacking it. Fuck off.’ The man stares in shock. Casey does have a way with words. I eye him up, check to see how he’ll respond, see what type of man he is. He’s dressed in a grey suit, looks like the type you’d find in a bank. He won’t retaliate, doesn’t have it in him. ‘No, I refuse to be intimidated by you. Get out of my car before I ring
IN THE RED 11//PARIS_VENTOUR//BEGINNER’S_LUCK
the police.’ Huh, looks like I was wrong. Casey pulls out the pistol that’s tucked in his back waistband, and aims it at the man’s head. ‘Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time?’ The man’s arms shoot into the air but I stop paying attention. I run back to our car and swipe and blow at the hairs on the driver’s seat. ‘What in the hell are you doing?’ ‘It’s my hair. The police can get DNA from it, right?’ ‘Jesus Christ. You’re still pulling out your goddamn hair? Get in the car. It’ll be fine.’ I grab as many hairs as I can, pat the seat down and join Casey, who’s already delivering his final words to the man: ‘Don’t think of this as a robbery, see it as a swap. We get your car, and you get our beat-up pile of shit. Sound good?’ I don’t wait for the response. I put my foot down and the car sails away. It’s a lot smoother to drive, this one. ‘So… how much we get then?’ Now the fear of capture has faded, I finally feel relaxed again, and excited to see our haul. ‘Well, you see, once I got inside the store it didn’t go quite to plan. That cocksucker you saw pulled a gun before-’ ‘How much?’ I demand. ‘Nothing. I got nothing.’ Seeing my eyes go wide and my face drop, Casey intervenes. ‘Now before we go pointing fingers, lemme remind you who it was who forget to leave the engine running. This whole thing was a fuck-up from the beginning.’ ‘After all that, we got nothing,’ is all I can say. The relaxed feeling I was just in shifts to a deep disappointment, right down to my gut. ‘Well, I wouldn’t say we got nothing at all. What do you reckon this car is worth?’
Paris Ventour studies Creative Writing at LJMU. Born 1993 in Northampton, Paris enjoys reading, writing, drinking and is working on a screenplay for an animated film. Oh, and he’s also a guy.
IN THE RED 11//RYAN_DEVIN//RECAP
Ryan Devin - Recap Start the day again – rise, wash, eat – or if nothing out of the ordinary occurs, jump to leaving the house, getting the bus to work, walking the dog. Try to notice the details. Resist the temptation to conjure up strangers to fall in love with. If no meteor sparks the skies, it’s futile to lose yourself in thoughts like that. Be content with the facts: standing in line at Tesco, the cash machine, scanning the pages of the TV guide. And should you find yourself skipping whole sections of the day – off on some mystical vendetta, or stuck in loops of what could or should’ve happened, don’t worry. With practice you’ll replay a birth or death – something you’d think would seem more real than brushing your teeth – like it’s just another snippet of the past to run through on the way to catching yourself up. And that’s the rush; the split-second buzz when the images fuse, and the many prisms of your various selves converge in a kind of reverse déjà-vu.
IN THE RED 11//PHOEBE_DUNNETT//PIRANPA
Phoebe Dunnett - Piranpa ‘The park receives about 365 packages of returned rocks and sand each year… a small number of people return their souvenired materials because they believe they have been cursed or have experienced bad luck.’ (Director of National Parks, Australian Government 2009) Three kilograms of bad earth I’m sending back to its maker: Tjukuritja: sacred dirt, dug from red dust and mud, proved too much of a handful since I scooped it up into my sorry hands, and tarnished my life with primordial rust. Return to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, on my Piranpa knees under wintered sun, take back my taboo stones, take them back to Nguraritja, these sorry rocks, and forgive us for what we’ve done.
Phoebe Dunnett is a creative writing student from Brighton. When she’s not writing poems, she enjoys travelling, art exhibitions, learning new things, and finding out what foods go with peanut butter.
IN THE RED 11//HANNAH_TODD//NOT_SO
Hannah Todd - Not So His touch was not so soft, his voice not so loud. eyes not focused, not seeing, not weeping. His grip not so strong as he pushed down creeping hands, not cold to the touch as they pulled on underwear not meant to be seen. I was not so brave.
IN THE RED 11//SARAH_COFFEY//TIN_CANS
Sarah Coffey - Tin cans Me mum nearly crashed the car. Slammed on the breaks and everything. We’d been driving down the motorway. She must have been going some lick because I couldn’t make out the road signs. We’d been at me dads. He’d not long moved to some new house in Warrington. That’s why we were on the motorway. I think I shouted at her. In front of us was this huge pile up. There was fire and smoke and people running round like crazies, dodging bits of car. It could have been bits of people, I didn’t think about that. Mum kept saying ‘cover your eyes, Jay. Don’t look,’ but it didn’t stop me from hearing stuff. Sometimes, in the park, me and the other lads would muck around. Not really doing anything like, just wrecking stuff. We would smash bottles or rip open empty cans, stabbing them on top of railings. That’s the type of noises I could hear, stuff ripping and breaking apart, things being twisted the wrong way, being crushed. I wanted to put the radio on but it seemed wrong somehow. What if some happy tune came on? Just playing in the background of all that. Wouldn’t be right. Me mum hadn’t even got her mobile out. She kept saying, ‘it’ll be ok, they’re going to be ok’. She kept twisting her hands round the steering wheel, like she was revving a motorbike or something, but the car stayed still, like us, frozen, watching the mess. It felt like ages before anything happened. I just stayed looking at me mum’s hands. She breathed in and looked at me, then looked away again and opened the door. ‘Whatever you do, Jay, do not get out of this car.’ Dad hadn’t been in when we got there. He’d promised, like he always does, but work had called or some shit told him he couldn’t leave yet. He had never given a toss, really. Not for school or footy or whatever, but I thought he would have said happy birthday. I didn’t care, like. I’m not a little kid.
Sarah Coffey, age 22, permanent flight risk. Forever getting into ridiculous situations but forgetting to write about them.
IN THE RED 11//KAYLEIGH_ROACH//GUM //BARRY_WOODS//CRIB_GOCH
Kayleigh Roach - Gum Imagine if all the gum on the floor stayed fresh and sticky forever and your feet were repeatedly glued to the ground. We would all be screwed, jumping for release so our feet could carry us to work, away from the piece of stubborn, clingy gum that won’t set us free, pulls us back, irritating as a flea. Let go of my foot, you pesky thing, before I scrape all of you up and fling you into the bin so you can stick to each other, ‘cause you’re making me sick. Stop grabbing my sole, I only wanted to go for a stroll. Get off my flats, you annoying little twats.
Barry Woods - Crib Goch Stegosaurus plates outline our track. Mountain is tricky here. Hands grab rocky points. We haul upward, cannot look back. We climb higher, caring less for footholds or crisis. Views are clearer. We know that if we slip prehistoric hands will catch us.
Kayleigh Roach loves cats and tea and biscuits. Born in Liverpool, she hopes to one day travel the world and become a magazine editor or an English teacher.
IN THE RED 11//WARREN_TUTT//PAPA’S_HANDS
Warren Tutt - Papa’s Hands My Papa had the biggest hands I have ever seen. Fingers like logs, and wrinkles as deep as river beds. They could hold up a cart or even block out the sun. ‘Get yourself inside, boy,’ he shouted. The gun he was holding looked like a toy in his hands. He pushed me and Mama through the door, and when we were all inside he bolted it up. I’d always pictured Mama as a very weak woman. She loved me and Papa very much, and that made her very brave; Stupid, but the bravest women I have ever met. My Mama was in tears, squealing like an animal as she pushed for words from the pit of her lungs, only to produce pitiful groans. I used to try and catch fireflies at twilight. Papa would sit on the porch and laugh from the deep of his belly as I jumped through the air, arms straight like train lines ‘til I hit the ground, my hands always empty. On one long eve he walked over to me, knelt by my side and put his hand to the air. We froze, for hours it seemed, and there on his rough palm a firefly gently rested, a tiny light against the darkest hand I knew. I can’t even remember if it flew away. It seemed that I stared at the light for so long it slowly burnt out, absorbed by the hand that cradled it. Papa hurried us up the stairs into my parent’s bedroom, all of us pushed down beside the bed. I was hungry and the smart shirt Mama had made me put on caused my neck to itch. I scratched underneath the collar, and Mama’s hand took mine, gripping it in her lap as she watched Papa. Mama’s hands were so long. Within each finger it was easy to make out each of the bones pushing against her pale skin. The palms were thin, like extensions of her wrist. I wondered how they weren’t lost or crushed when she held Papa’s hand at dinner or church. I would always pull away when she tried to hold my hand. Her nails always seemed over-grown and peeled lines of skin off my fingers. The gun was pointing out, facing the door, perfectly still inside his hands. Mama was still crying. The door opened. Hooded white ghosts stood there. I heard stories of the men in white. None of us moved for several moments until they approached us. Mama twisted like a snake tightening around our hands, but my Papa was still and calm as they pulled him and the gun from us. Papa’s lips moved out of sync with the noises in the room. One of the men in white shouted and struck Papa’s face. Mama begged them to leave us be, but they dragged him down the stairs and across the yard. The yard was full of men in white and large wooden crosses burning with a blinding light against the black night. I stood at the door as my Papa rose to his knees. His face always reassured me as child. He didn’t look scared, not even for a second. He was a strong man, and even when I saw a tear below his eye I knew he was still not scared. My Papa died that night. We moved to a house closer to my Grandpa’s, and he would take me fishing on Saturday afternoons. I do miss my Papa but I don’t get upset. That’s not how my Papa would have wanted me to be. I caught my first fish the other day and I held it in my hands. My fingers wouldn’t stick to the fish’s wet skin. It wriggled free and died when it hit a rock on the ground. I looked down at my hands and they were no longer my own. I see them and think, ‘These are Papa’s hands’.
Warren Tutt is a writer and actor from the South East. He writes prose and for screen and stage. He has size 12 feet, a passion for condiments and enjoys a good bourbon.
IN THE RED 11//ANDREW_WILLIAMS//MARINA_YAKUPOVA
Andrew Williams - Marina Yakupova I went to Russia as a guest, but left your country as though I was leaving my home. At night, our friends were paralysed by vodka, but under a blanket we talked with slow words. From the window we watched your city sleep beneath us. Street lamps reflected in the river Tura’s surface. We spoke of love, the black dog of depression, Shakespeare, my writing, your teaching aspirations and our fears of failure and loneliness. It’s been three years and I’m still too afraid to dance. My body is an awkward marionette, and a child is its puppeteer. Oh, and it’s so hard for me to speak now without stuttering or mumbling. But anyway, how are you? Did the teaching agency accept your application? I’ve seen pictures of the freezing Siberian winter. There are stories of people dying in the cold. I miss you, and I hope you’re okay.
IN THE RED 11//MICHAEL_FOWLER//ON_THE_BEACHES
Michael Fowler - On the Beaches Their breathing started to slow, though it was still heavy and breathy and Bill could only sigh. Bill pressed his face against Edie’s chest and inhaled her soft skin. She smelled of sweet sweat and citrus. He bit into her arm and she tasted of powdery deodorant, and he bit down into her again on her breast to take the sickly taste away. Bill sighed every last molecule of air out of his lungs and replenished them again with Edie’s sweet smell. Edie couldn’t place Bill’s scent, he wasn’t wearing aftershave or deodorant, but he smelled nice. She ran her hands through his hair as he delicately kissed her breasts then her neck, to her ears and then her lips, each kiss slower and more weighted than the last. Edie smiled a pure smile of unfaltering happiness. This was one of those perfect moments where neither of them could remember a damn thing but each other. Bill burrowed himself into Edie’s neck and let out another long, tired breath. He looked so very happy with himself, like a child that had learnt a magic trick and amazed a small audience. By now his dick had long been soft and small and sticky, so he withdrew it and wrapped his knees and arms around Edie. Edie made a quiet ooh sound. She rested in Bill’s right arm and kissed its inner side. Bill made a short and sharp mmnh in appreciation. Edie’s low watt lamp glowed a warm, dark orange and the radiator made her duvet unnecessary. Both opened their eyes properly for the first time in a while and they took each other in. Bill’s were dark and green, his right eye opened slightly less than his left, and he met Edie’s stare with a fondness. Edie’s eyes were big and round and blue, and they were so round and blue, they were eyes that caught and held you. They kissed and kissed and Bill squeezed her bum and Edie stroked his face. Edie breathed a sigh of satisfaction and then smiled with a hint of cheek. She laid back and he stayed on his side stroking and pawing at her stomach and legs. He ran his fingers lightly from Edie’s knees to her inside leg, to her vagina, her stomach, her chest, her shoulder and then right down her arm to her finger tips, where they danced with each of Edie’s digits. He slowly ran his fingers back to her shoulder, brushing down past her breast, and on her smoothed, flat stomach he drew circles with his palm. ‘Your body is like a beach,’ Bill mumbled. Whilst not quite in the real world, Edie whispered ‘Wha?’ ‘Your body,’ he repeated, ‘is like a beach.’ He spoke more clearly this time but did not relinquish his mumble. Edie laughed through her nose. Not a snort, just a tired laugh filtered through her sweet, little snout. ‘Why?’ ‘Because you’re warm, and you’re soft and I could lay on you all day long.’ Edie let out a giggle. ‘And I could swim in you all day long.’ ‘That’s the sea, not the beach.’ ‘It’s the same thing.’ Edie grinned and laughed, quietly, gently. ‘Hmmh. Well your body is like a beach, because I’d like to sit and eat a sand sandwich and drop an ice cream on you.’ Bill narrowed his eyes and tried to show from his expression that he knew a challenge when he saw one. ‘Your body is like a beach because I’d like to take my dog for a walk on you and watch it do a poo.’ ‘Eughhhhh!’ Edie put her face into a pillow and squirmed. She fidgeted some more and then lay still, and slowly peeked out from her hideaway. ‘Well, I’d like to fish in your rock pools.’ ‘Hah!’ Bill moved his hand over Edie’s vagina and danced his fingers like a pianist. ‘I’d like to catch crabs from yours.’
IN THE RED 11//MICHAEL_FOWLER//ON_THE_BEACHES
Edie giggled and writhed and swiftly fought to remove Bill’s hand. ‘Stop it!’ She shrieked with laughter. Bill pulled his hand away and Edie swept long waves of hair from her eyes. She was red-faced and really fought to catch her breath. ‘Hmmm, well I’d like to get stung by a jellyfish and wee on myself and let it trickle all the way down over you.’ Bill screwed up his face. ‘Bleugh! Well, your body’s like a beach because I’d like to surf inside your tubes.’ Edie frowned and then yawned sweetly with her hand over her mouth. Arching her back like a cat she stretched and Bill counted each rib that protruded from her chest. He ran his fingers over them and Edie relaxed, breathing out deeply. Bill put his mouth to Edie’s ear and whispered, ‘You’re beautiful.’ ‘Really?’ She asked modestly, but smiled like she already knew it. Bill nodded sincerely and kissed her neck. Edie cocked her head and inspected Bill’s face for any sign of deceit. Gently, she placed a kiss on his nose and giggled. ‘I want to hire a deck chair on you and tan my buns.’
IN THE RED 11//MICHEAL_FOWLER//ON_THE_BEACHES
‘Pfff. That was crap,’ Bill snorted. He grinned and kissed her and Edie kissed him back and she moved and sat upon his waist. Her hands stroked up from his stomach towards his chest and she playfully bit his lower lip. ‘It wasn’t crap.’ She pushed Bill to arms length and pinned him to the bed. ‘It was. It was crap.’ He laughed and poked her in the ribs. She squirmed at Bill’s pointy jabs, and trying not to laugh, she let out little squeaks until she wriggled off him and fell back onto the bed. Bill’s face creased up and he hawhawed to himself and Edie frowned and scowled. As his laughter slowly filtered out, he pulled her closer to him and he kissed her collar bone and he kissed her neck and they wrapped around each other once again. Bill opened his mouth to speak, but Edie could see he thought better of it. ‘What?’ She smiled. ‘Ah, nothing.’ He scrunched up his face. ‘What was it?’ she said eagerly, and she shook him a little. ‘Well, your body is like a beach-’ he laughed and paused and Edie rolled her eyes, ‘because I’d like to bury my dad in you.’ ‘Ohhh, Bill!’ Edie screwed up her pretty face and stuck out her tongue. ‘Yuck!’ She shook it off and a look of mischief took over her face. Her right hand lay on Bill’s left hip. ‘I’d like to explore your caverns and bring my whole family.’ Edie’s hand moved swiftly around his derriere and placed a finger on his hole. Bill’s buttocks clenched, his hips thrust forward and his voice cracked high. ‘Ooh!’ Slowly, she took her finger away and squeezed his bum. He relaxed, smiling, and bit Edie affectionately on her nose. Then the two looked at each other with eyes all serious. Bill stared at Edie and Edie stared right back at Bill. His green eyes began to search for more innuendo-soaked similes. Confidently, he started, ‘I’d swim in your slimy weeds.’ ‘I’d swallow your salty sea water.’ Edie didn’t even blink. He kissed her and said breathily, ‘I’d like to ride a donkey over every inch of your shore.’ Edie smiled but covered it with a sigh, a long deep sigh, and she leant her body against Bill, grabbed his penis, and whispered delicately into his ear, ‘I want to get all your sand stuck in my cunt.’ ‘Ohhhhhhhh!’ Bill wriggled out of Edie’s embrace and both bawled out with laughter. ‘Okay, okay, you win! You and your sandy fanny! Fuck, you win!’ Edie held her stomach tightly. Her laughing fit was beginning to hurt. Bill laid back and brought his knees to his chest. Some tears streamed down his face, and he cried, actually cried with laughter.
Michael Fowler writes about girls, boys, muddy knees, and all the arguments and pure joy when the three come together. He’s a founding memeber of writing collective The Wild Writers.
IN THE RED 11//INTERVIEW//A.L._KENNEDY
An Interview with A.L. Kennedy With six novels, six collections of short stories and a regular blog in The Guardian The Writing Life, A.L. Kennedy is a prolific writer and stand-up comedienne. She has toured the world with her hugely popular one-person show about writing and language, and recently collected all of her experience and expertise in her latest publication, On Writing¸ a book of advice for writers. We wanted to find out more about the person behind the writer. With a new collection of short stories on the way, and an active Twitter profile to update, it’s a wonder she had any spare time to speak to us, but we managed to catch her on a day off. First off, what have you got in your fridge?
What do you most regret?
Margarine, some cheese, four slices of bacon, and onions. The freezer is full of delightful homecooked delicacies, though.
Not having enough time to love the people I love. I try. But I don’t manage.
Robots don’t need fridges, but clones do. Would you rather be a robot or a clone?
What is your fondest childhood memory? Being with my grandfather.
I would like to be a clone of someone else. Do you have someone in mind? I do, but you would think badly of me if I said who. And just a surprise someone else might be fun. If you were cloned, but something went wrong and ALK-MK2 could only write one of the five senses, which sense would she use? Smell – every time. That’s the one that works best for me, always has been. While we’re on the topic of clones, we just watched Jurassic Park again. What is your favourite dinosaur? Technically I’d say the shark was a living dinosaur, and that I love sharks all over. I had a soft spot for pterodactyls when I was wee. I know they’re in a rubbish sequel though… Nobody re-watches the sequels... If you’re stuck in a hotel room and that’s the only available movie, you watch the sequels. And endless reruns of Romancing The Stone, Predator and Young Sherlock Holmes…
Is there a particular memory with your grandfather you like to recall? Everything – there was nothing bad about that man. Probably sitting between his knees and watching horror movies or going for walks holding his hand. Or being taught self-defence, or being taught cribbage… It was all good. Which song on your MP3 player would you least like to admit to having? Probably Billy Mac (Bill Nighy) singing ‘Christmas Is All Around’ but then again it is kind of glorious. We’re listening to it now. And then you will be hearing an essentially shy man removing himself from his own skin for professional reasons, and also having fun. That’s all good, too. I couldn’t have been happier about that BAFTA if I’d won it myself. The original song was apparently about someone in the Troggs liking a bit of a Sunday roast dinner… which doesn’t quite translate to the lyrics.
IN THE RED 11//INTERVIEW//A.L._KENNEDY
Tell us three things about yourself, two of which are untrue.
You recently released a book of advice for writers, On Writing. What inspired you to do this?
I taught myself to juggle for the purposes of writing workshops. I’m not a vegetarian. I was claustrophobic and persuaded out of it in a crypt in Paris.
I write a good deal about writing to try and be helpful, or to work things out for myself, and eventually I had a book. There are also a lot of unhelpful preconceptions that stop people getting into books and words, and the power of that, so I try and set them straight. I feel that’s the thing to do.
Which one is true? They all are. The submissions we’ve received for In the Red magazine this year appear to show a theme; the significance of personal items. Do you keep an item that has shaped you or is part of the narrative of your life? Not really. I keep texts, I find. Texts from my gentleman cheer me, and then I erase them by mistake or have to change phones. It’s not worth it. I don’t really like things… I think I was around two influential women who were into things while I was growing up and it seemed a bit not right to me.
That’s a noble cause. You have a lot of sound advice to give. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? That’s in the book actually. My grandfather told me not to be scared. Of course, you’d be crazy not to be… the thing is not to let it rule you or defeat you. For those who haven’t read your work, which book/story would you lead them to read first? I never encourage anyone to read me, or expect them to have done so.
Two influential women?
Martha Gelhorn – great writer, truly brave and active, knocked Hemmingway into a cocked hat. My gran was an influence, too – very spiky and hard to be with, but I look very like her and I probably am very like her. I try not to be spiky, but she was a big lefty and a romantic and passionate, and her anxiety overwhelmed it, and so you’d get the spiky thing. I try and control the anxiety. She had real willpower, did a ‘man’s job’, took no nonsense, and was very stylish.
From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.
You’ve spoken about a few significant people in your life. Have they, or any other people from your personal life, ever made their way into your writing? I try and keep people safe when they get close to me, and it is actually easier to make things up. Having said that, bits of my gentleman do creep in because it’s company for me, and I’m away a lot, and he’s away a lot, and it kind of balances me up. He’s okay with that and you wouldn’t know him from them, and it doesn’t intrude on his privacy.
IN THE RED 11//GREG_GIBSON//SWIMMING_LESSONS
Greg Gibson - Swimming Lessons He had dreaded the day of his swimming lesson. He’d heard horrible stories. He’d begged his mum to delay it, to write him a note, or wait until his next birthday but she said there was nothing she could do. She couldn’t change the law. He didn’t speak to her all the way to the swimming centre, as the car slushed along the road, and sent ripples across the water to the front doors of houses. He didn’t laugh at the squelch of her wellies against pedals. He sat, legs crossed in his seat, and refused to get out until she undid his seatbelt and dragged him away, bootless. He held back tears at the door to the changing room. He’d seen an old TV show of traditional swimming baths, with chlorine and lifeguards and whistles blowing in the background, where mothers took their babies into the water with them and the babies floated and swam by themselves and the mothers chatted to each other and clapped and smiled and the babies giggled. Andy stood by the edge of the pool for the first time. He had armbands on that pinched against his skin. They had a blinking LED and squeaked as he walked. He couldn’t put his arms by his sides properly. Goosepimples made the baby blonde hairs on his skin stand on end. He trembled on unsteady legs. The pool was murky. Piles of soil and clay had been tipped in and had settled in clumps at the bottom of the water. Tiny silver fish darted between tresses of seaweed hanging on the surface alongside the odd crisp packet or can bobbing on ripples. The hall was silent apart from the shuffle of the other children, the water still. He looked up at the windows near the roof, searched along the balcony for his mother. She was sat near the middle, other mothers were dotted along the windows peering in, not together. The slight light that bounced off the water reflected onto the plastic panes and made her face look wet, as though she had little ripples on her cheeks. She pressed a hand against the window. ‘Everybody in the water.’ A colossal man entered the hall from a door at the far end. He had a skinhead, a thick brow and was swollen with muscle. He wore running shoes, black shorts and a white vest. The class shrunk back toward the changing room. ‘You have until I get down there or you’re thrown in.’ His voice echoed around the walls. A girl flung herself into the pool, a boy went after. The man was almost there. Andy stood near the edge, closed his eyes and jumped. The water stung like needles. His head went under. He burst out of the water as air forced itself from his lungs and he couldn’t suck back in. His jaw quaked. He pushed the armbands against the water to stay afloat. He inhaled in sharp draws. A strand of seaweed caught in his fingers, he couldn’t shake it off. ‘You all need to kick with your feet. If you can ride a bike it’s like that. It’s called treading water.’ Andy had never ridden a bike, but he’d seen people on the road ride past. He’d also seen them ride in the grass and get their wheels stuck. He cycled his feet like they did, at the same time he flicked the seaweed from his finger to the edge of the pool, near the instructor’s feet. The instructor watched them all. A clock with huge, thick hands ticked minutes without a sound at the far end of the pool, the deep end. The instructor held up a device in his hand. ‘When I press this button, those armbands will deflate. Kick with your legs and flap with your arms.’ Dread crossed the faces of the other kids. Andy knew his face must look the same. The instructor pushed the button.
IN THE RED 11//GREG_GIBSON//SWIMMING_LESSONS
He kicked and kicked, as he felt the armbands deplete on his arms, and felt grains of earth against his bare flesh, and felt himself become heavier. The miniscule fish darted like sparks from heavy machinery. One girl sank under the water. Andy moved to help, to grab her hand and pull her up, or at least try, but the instructor barked, ‘Every man for himself.’ She wasn’t a man. She was a seven year old, like Andy. She must have thrust her feet against the bottom of the pool because she erupted out of the water with a shrieking gasp and floundered where she was. ‘Kick, kick, kick!’ the instructor yelled. She panicked, flailed, sank under the surface again. The instructor watched. Andy watched. Everyone watched, feet kicking. After a minute, a slow minute, the instructor plunged a hand into the water and grabbed the girl, and dragged her from the pool by her arm. She was limp. He shook her and she coughed. He dropped her to the tiled floor. She managed to land on her feet before she slumped against the wall. There was a commotion at a window above. ‘Failure will not do. If you’re weak, you won’t survive.’ He threw a blue rubber brick into the pool, barely missing a boys arm. ‘There’ll be currents when you’re out there for real. There’ll be trees floating past you.’ He picked up another brick from the pile. ‘There will be horrible people.’ It submerged not far from Andy’s head. He passed the girl a brick. ‘Throw it.’ He spun around to shout again, stepped on the seaweed, slipped. His foot passed the edge of the pool. He fell forward, hit his shoulder with a crack and slid into the water. He floated up, lashed out, yelled. One arm limp. The little girl stood at the edge of the pool and threw the brick. Andy watched the body drift to the deep end, kicked his legs and swam.
Greg Gibson is a concept, and completely invisible if viewed from an angle of 124.6 degrees. His writing hand is constructed from wasps sellotaped together around straws and blutac.
IN THE RED 11//LUCY_ELLAM//ISAAC
Lucy Ellam - Isaac Your room was painted yellow, and your cot already built. I had to wait until Easter for you to come. Ten years between us, I would no longer be the youngest. I dreamt of another brother one to chuck the ball to, funny, like the eldest, kind-hearted like our mother, a personality as big as both your siblingsâ€™, a terror, a handful - lovable. We were ready for your coming, but by Easter you had gone. Christmas went. Then nine years passed. Iâ€™m still the youngest one. At times I think of you and wonder, how can you miss someone you never came to know? Your cot sits in a soft glow and I dream your room, still painted yellow.
Lucy Ellam studies creative writing at LJMU. In summer, she returns to West Yorkshire to wait on punters at a local pub (then secretly writes short stories about them).
IN THE RED 11//ANDREW_WILLIAMS//WANDERLUST //JACK_TASKER//HOTEL
Andrew Williams - Wanderlust Decisions made under the influence of sedatives shouldn’t carry this much weight. University’s calling but so is the wild - dreams of escape manifest everywhere, in my mouth as the tea burns it, on the freezing bus on my way home from work. When I’m sleepless in bed for hours all I can think of is the wild and alien cuisine of Asia, the secret cliffs of the Middle East, the temples of India where travellers dine for free. Two more years, but it feels like an eternity. I can’t stand this city, these people. Enough of a mess has been made at my table; it’s time now to pay and leave.
Jack Tasker - Hotel She needed a shower to wash it all off and start from scratch. She was going to watch everything drain away, leaving a faint film on the porcelain and a single gurgle. I gave her a white towel, just to see how dirty she was.
IN THE RED 11//MIKE_HOLLOWAY//THE_BOY_WHO_WAS_NOT_SAD
Mike Holloway - The Boy Who Was Not Sad In the first moments of Edgar’s life, Clarissa Thompson stopped screaming all of a sudden. Robert Thompson, the father, looked on. There was a strong antiseptic smell around them. There was a mist on the window. A nurse wiped Clarissa’s forehead. She tried to thank the nurse but then Edgar came out. Edgar cried instinctively as he was brought into the world, cold and shivering, and this was the first time it happened, this moment when he was being born, when no one noticed him crying. No one could, at first, discover why the baby didn’t cry in the first moments of its own birth. The reason being, everyone had been asleep at the time. They woke up but didn’t realise they had slept, having got all excited over the new baby who sat in the doctor’s arms, who had sat slumped on the floor, snoring through vast nostrils as Edgar looked on, no longer crying, thinking What’s all this about? When they brought little Edgar home, they put him in a wicker basket with white lambswool blankets and watched his tired face that looked back at them, the colour of oatmeal and milk. Speaking of which, Edgar was soon hungry and had only the first instinct to cry for his feeding. His parents vanished from his sight. He cried some more. He cried and cried for his mum and dad whom he could not see past the wicker basket, and soon he stopped crying because he was all alone. Soon, after his sobs vanished from the room, two faces appeared, tired and disoriented. With bags under her eyes, Clarissa fed him. Robert scratched his head. Edgar grew up. He was soon walking around or even running around, like a normal little boy. One day his mother took him out shopping. She bought him new clothes, which he wasn’t interested in, and when she was paying for them he wandered away. He realised he was on his own. Even when he went back to the clothes shop, she wasn’t there. Everyone seemed so big to him. Giants stepping over canyons. He was scared. He began to cry. Suddenly everyone fell to the ground, asleep. Their giant snores echoed. He looked around at the sleeping massacre. He stepped over a man still holding an umbrella. Over a woman clutching her bags, from which two oranges rolled out. Everything was quiet except for a few whimpers from him now and again. He saw his mother sat slumped against a wall. He stopped crying. She woke up. He guessed, at this age, that his crying had something to do with people falling asleep. It was a little difficult for Edgar, during his teenage years. Now, although he had learned not to cry, just being sad caused people to automatically slump, head-first, over a table or steering wheel or whatever they were in front of at the time. A girl named Alina broke up with him. He was devastated. Broken-hearted. No one spoke to him. His father’s head was nose-deep in a bowl of porridge. Edgar had to pull him out to save his father from drowning. Sometimes Edgar thought about Alina just so everyone would sleep and he could get some privacy. Sometimes he’d think about Alina and he’d go and watch her sleep through her window. Only once did he stand over her dead-like body, sleeping silently, the only sounds in the world were her breathing and a ticking clock. When Edgar was older, in his twenties, things weren’t so bad. The only problem, he thought, was that no one actually knew about the whole peoplefalling-asleep-when-he-cried thing. He tried telling people but they thought he was making it up. He’d ask them why they sometimes fell to certain symptoms of narcolepcy and they’d reply that they were tired. His mother was one of them. She was getting tired. Edgar liked to make himself sad so his mother could sleep. One day his mother said to him, ‘Edgar, you’re a wonderful boy. Always happy. You never bear the weight of anything. I love you for that.’
IN THE RED 11//MIKE_HOLLOWAY//THE_BOY_WHO_WAS_NOT_SAD
‘Thanks mum,’ he said. ‘No, I mean it. I’ve not seen you upset in twenty-five years. I hope you’re not bottling it up. But you seem so happy whenever I see you.’ ‘That’s because I am happy, mum,’ he said. ‘Good,’ she said. ‘I’m glad.’ A year later, when Edgar was twenty-six, his father died. Robert Thompson had a heart attack at the age of forty-nine. He was a good man. Edgar never actually loved his father. He adored how his mother loved his father and his father loved his mother. That was his favourite thing about the two. But when he died, no one slept. His mother fell into a depression and couldn’t sleep at all. ‘Oh why can’t I sleep?’ she’d say. ‘I’ve not slept since your father died. I wish he was here.’ ‘Take some sleeping pills,’ Edgar said to his mother. He got her some sleeping pills and watched his mother sleep. She couldn’t come out of it. The depression. She was truly hurt by his death as if her husband had done something wrong. After a couple of weeks, Edgar decided to think of his father. It hurt to think of him. He didn’t know if he loved him or not. He never found out if he loved him. But he did miss him. He missed him so painfully that he cried. His mother collapsed to the ground and slept. After that, Edgar thought of his dead father every night and made himself sad just so his mother could sleep. Listening to his mother’s throaty snores in the other room, he watched people sleeping in the street. No one knew how sad he was. They thought he handled his father’s death pretty well.
Michael Holloway was born in Liverpool and graduated from UCLan in 2008 and LJMU in 2012. He is the editor of Poetry24 and has written a novel. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE RED 11//ANDREW_MCMILLAN//FINALLY //HENRY_O’NEILL//A_PRAYER_FOR_PRESERVATION_(AT_THE_FASHION_SHOW)
Andrew McMillan - Finally a day will come when woken by the xylophone of sunthroughblinds you’ll realise that the beach was not the place where horses tore the sand to ribbon that the scent of him has lifted from the last of the sheets that he isn’t coming back that it hasn’t rained but the birds are pretending that it has so they can sing
Henry O’Neill - A Prayer for Preservation (at the fashion show) Lord, preserve me from flat-bellied women with slithery hips and endless thighs, from high-stepping catwalk prancers with contemptuous lips and arrogant eyes. From all of these, oh Lord, and the likes of them, preserve me. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Andrew McMillan’s most recent pamphlets are ‘the moon is a supporting player’ (2011, Red Squirrel Press) and ‘Protest of the Physical’ (2013, Red Squirrel Press.) His commission for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad was featured on Radio 4’s Today Programme and in 2012 he was selected as a ‘New Voice’ by Latitude Festival and the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. He lectures in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University. Henry O’Neill, veteran of all the old venues of the post Beatles poetry scene. Glad to see performance back and hoping to contribute a bit of the old atmosphere and entertainment.
IN THE RED 11//GEORGINA_JONES//THE_COPPICE
Georgina Jones - The Coppice The coppice had fallen into a new life, a home for the quiet ones and her. Red admirals and peacocks bejewelled the nettles while humble slugs left their own art glistening. The fragrant earth moist and sweet on her tongue, she explored all the hours away. But the coppice, they said, was stagnant. The stream was choking in clouds of brambles, the trees were constricted by the ivy that wove around their branches, parasitic plants were poisoning the purpose of the place. We shall restore, preserve its heritage – secure its future. Out went the tumbles of brambles and the stained lips of autumn. No more hollow trunks, concealing their inhabitants from sharp-eyed birds. Just the earthen crunch as roots were ripped from the ground and shaken or slapped onto knees and the disturbed bones of a long-forgotten pet, casually thrown near the skip. They weren’t in keeping with the smooth-sanded benches and hordes of lifeless perennials and carefully clipped box hedges. The girl went home with the bones of the dead dog bundled up in her scarf.
Georgina Jones is a poet from the Isle of Man who is extremely proud being a Manxie, yessir! She is also obsessed with her pugs and will use any opportunity to show you pictures of their little squishy faces.
IN THE RED 11//CRISS_FLETCHER//NIGHT_SHELTER
Criss Fletcher - Night Shelter Through CCTV cameras I watch a man sink to the floor like melting ice. His legs lose the will to hold what is no longer a man but a barrel of stories. A bare-chested older man finds him, uses a cane to lower his body beside the drunk, leans his back against the wall and pats him on the shoulder three times while the drunk cries into his own chest.
The camera below shows downstairs, a nineteen year old insomniac dyeing his hair green in the kitchen sink. While it sets, he rests his head on the bowl and puts his hands together. Is he praying? A young lad arrives and sits beside him, dabs leftover dye through his eyebrows and goatee, stands over him at the sink rinsing green paste down the drain, towels him dry.
On the right of the screen the man whose bedroom light is always on carries pillows and duvet on his head across the corridor. I leave my station, ask why they’re sharing a room. Because he’s afraid of the dark, and even with a decent night’s sleep there’s enough to be afraid of.
Criss Fletcher lives in Liverpool, works in a night shelter, and dies every time a novel ends. He hopes to set up therapeutic writing workshops and save the world.
IN THE RED 11//BRETT_A._P._JANES//MY_TIE
Brett A. P. Janes - My Tie I am in a church at the funeral of my late wife. Sixty seconds ago, a giant rat smashed through the stained-glass window of Isaiah and I don’t know why. I know why she’s dead, but not why the giant rat is here. Maybe it’s the open casket. I am on the front row and I am not sad. No one knows, but under my suit jacket there ought to be a jolly dinosaur tie, as close to my heart as it can be. The tie had eight yellow Parasaurolophuses down the middle, and they were all smiling, which made my happiness clear. My mother in-law, Petunia, is sat next to me and we are witnessing an eight foot long vermin dismember our priest. The other attendees have left their pews, but that is okay, because they are not family. I’d like to stay till the end of the service as a token of my respect. I exchange glances with Petunia and she seems the same as she did before the rat arrived. Patient. ‘Aren’t you scared? You can leave if you’d like.’ ‘No, I’ll stay. We’re family and you owe it to her.’ She looks at me like I’ve killed her daughter, which would be appropriate, then focuses on the rat again, which, by this point, has separated the priest in two. His intestine taut across the rat’s chest as it pulls the two bits further apart. I try to ignore the details. It is gruesome and meaty and there is not as much blood as I would have thought, but the real striking thing is the length of the rat’s arm span. ‘Did you know rats could move their arms that far apart, Petunia?’ ‘I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps it isn’t a big rat. Is there anything else it could be? You know about animals, don’t you?’ ‘I don’t know about animals, Petunia, I know about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs aren’t animals anymore because they’re extinct. Did you think that they had arms like a Tyrannosaurus?’ ‘I think so. But I guess not, that’s certainly not a Tyrannosaurus.’ I laugh. That was quite a good joke, for Petunia. The rat has nearly finished the priest. There is one arm left and also his gold cross, but I don’t think the rat will eat that. There is a pause in our conversation that’s longer than it should be as I realise where this is going, probably at the same time she does. ‘You’ve always liked dinosaurs. You had a dinosaur tie - eight Parasaurolophuses down the middle, all smiling - lovely tie.’ The rat drops the priest’s bone-dry humerus, I imagine that clergymen aren’t filling. ‘Yes, it was my favourite tie.’ I killed my wife. I didn’t want to, but she lost my tie two weeks ago. Without the smiling Parasaurolophuses I couldn’t be happy, which meant that she wasn’t happy either. We weren’t happy, so I had to get to the root of the problem, and she lost it. There is now some water spewing out of Petunia’s eyes that slightly distorts her look of patience. ‘Do you think she deserved to die?’ ‘You have to understand that it was my favourite tie.’ There is water on my face now, too. And the rat is shadowing us and I am fat and she is old, so I know that I’ll be first. I undo my jacket and slip my fingers in between the buttons of my shirt and feel where my tie is not. I will be eaten without my tie, but it is still as close to my heart as it can be.
Brett A. P. Janes loves the things in front of him. After editing ITR11 and leaving LJMU, he will seek a career in publishing while finishing his novel, The House and a Home. If either brings success he will build a castle and or sky fortress, and he doesn’t need to plan further than that.
IN THE RED 11//REBECCA_BROOKFIELD//SUNDAY_MORNIN’_COMIN’_DOWN
Rebecca Brookfield - Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down Dad drove from farm to farm leaping over gates and fences, bagging onions and potatoes. I sniggered like Muttley at him falling over a plant pot in the pursuit of thyme, pegging it to the driver’s door, choking the car, lurching up country lanes. Back home, in a field behind The Fox Inn, we ate camp-fire jackets, sluiced in butter pilfered from unguarded larders, roasted onions, black paper skins discarded, caramelised flesh garnished with a pinch of English garden herbs. Bon appétit! I fell to sleep, full-moon-belly-bulging. Dad carried me back to our tent, tucking me in, swaddling me in my sleeping bag with Panda. He crawled backwards, zipping the flysheet from the outside. I’m just going for one.
Rebecca Brookfield is a Liverpool based writer with unhealthy obsessions for cake and poetry. Her work is a menagerie of the unusual and personal. Purple is still her favourite colour.
IN THE RED 11//REBECCA_BROOKFIELD//CHICKEN_TOWN
Rebecca Brookfield - Chicken Town Beyond the ridge of our tent, a chicken house shared the scrub: our land their run. Dad shooed the hens from their perches, chunnering, C’mon Girls. They clucked in chorus, harried on for my formal introduction to tawny Joplin, bantam Nicks and black Jett. Cash, their Cockerel, skulked behind the hut a white-feathered dinosaur, my height, and menacing, with yellow scaled feet splaying on the ground, its head cocked sideways, eyeing me. Dad, in his lounger, stoked the fire with a spatula, watching me creep too close to the rooster, townie-eyes wide over its curling tail. Careful, Bec, he’s pretty mean. No hands batted mine away as I ignored him, reaching to touch an iridescent feather. The bird flinched and turned, wattle and comb flashing red as it flew off the ground, spurs up. I jerked back, hands over my face as I scrabbled away. Cash’s beak lunged for the back of my legs, and I ran the length of the field not looking back, not looking forwards, my throat hot and dry. He’s gunna eat me! Dad rose slowly from his spot and put his poker down before I hit the ditch and pitched into a bed of nettles. Cash stalked off as the sun set, and I cried over stings and red knees as Dad searched for the biggest dock leaf to turn my legs and arms green. Don’t be so mard, love. It’s just a chicken, rubbing it in.
In The Red 11 - Credits Editors Rebecca Brookfield Criss Fletcher Brett Janes Design Daniel Yeomans Illustration Jennifer Delaney SinĂŠad Cooper Sophie Irving Photography Chris Howard of Room 6 Studios Printing Mixam UK
In the Red 12 submissions: 40 lines of poetry 1000 words of prose 101 word fiction email@example.com www.inthered12.tumblr.com