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London Literary Review Winter 2013 WRITING THE NOW


A Shoddy Introduction Welcome Friends, What is this all about? You ask. Some of you at least. You ask such a question, not in so many words, but you feel it pass your thoughts. Others already think they know. Maybe you haven’t already started asking. Maybe you should. A little literary trifle, a mere bagatelle? Who would nurture such a weakly thing? It barely looks as if it has any life in it. So thin and colourless. No match for the fine colours and flashing feathers of other richer pleasures. Will such a thing survive? Make a place for itself in this bitter cold? You cannot help but feel it is unlikely. Especially now, in the winter months. There is nothing to it, barely more than the ragged bones of a thing. And yet is there not some part of you that is curious? Curious to see what it could be? What could be contained within such paper-like skin.

Look at it, it’s barely more than a stillbirth after all but still something moves. Can a collection of words really mean anything? Why bother to support such a meager existence. Is it not better to read the financial sections of some worldly publication? They have news, information that a man can act on. Use to make something of himself, build an empire from. There are no empires built on this grey ash. But breath, relax, the first issue is only ever a prototype. How long have they been making mankind after all and with only limited success? Replication after replication and still no closer. We must make do with what we have. Suffer the fools, the wheat and the chaff.

From The Editor

The Thread

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by Terence Kuch

Fourteen Minus One

Pg 4

by Craig M. Workman

You Must Remember This by Dr. Irving A. Greenfield

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The Thread by Terence Kuch

Terence Kuch’s writing has been published in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, India, and Thailand, including Commonweal, Diagram, Dissent, Penguin Review, New York magazine, Thema, North American Review, Slow Trains, Timber Creek Review, Washington Post Book World, Washington Post Magazine, and others. His work has been praised in the New York Times and by Kirkus Reviews

Eduardo is quite pleased with himself; he, a poor immigrant, now VP of a notinconsiderable import firm. Every day he wakes and tells himself, once again, that it is very good to be Eduardo and not some lesser person. But one day he awakes to find – gradually and with many false steps – that he is someone else: a rougher skin, a large moustache. People on the street whisper “It’s Pancho!” and step out of his way, looks of fear and disgust on their faces. A few turn their heads and spit. He attempts to go to his office, but the guards will not let him in the door. Eventually he goes home, waiting to wake up, waiting for the awful dream to end. And the next day he does wake up as Eduardo, not Pancho, as a glance in the mirror testifies. That was quite a dream, he thinks, shaken. But on the commuter train he overhears people saying “Did you know that Pancho is back? I saw him yesterday, as mean and dirty as ever!” And the other nods and says “I heard he tried to get into the World

Import building. I can’t imagine what he wanted there, but the guards turned him away.” Bit by bit, Eduardo finds physical evidence that yesterday was real. A cigar butt in his suit jacket, for example: Eduardo doesn’t smoke. And returning home he finds an empty bottle of cheap tequila that he hadn’t noticed before. Eduardo drinks a highly praised Scotch. The phone rings; a sultry voice asks if he wants the same services tonight that he bought yesterday,

“How frail, how slender, is the thread that keeps us ourselves.” – Joyce Carol Oates and how may girls this time, sir? He tries to stay awake that night, but eventually falls asleep. He gets up in the morning and rushes to the mirror. He’s Eduardo once again, thank God! Pancho is nowhere to be seen.


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Eduardo goes about his business, and everything seems normal. Night after night, morning after morning, the desperate scene is repeated. As the years pass, Eduardo goes through his morning identity ritual, his spasm of fear. But


he never changes back to Pancho. It was only that one day, but he can’t forget it. It preys on his mind, a vision of the mean and desperate outlaw he could have been. On his deathbed, surrounded by his family, in a delirium he tells them to

call him “Pancho,” that he had wanted to be Pancho all his life, not Eduardo. Anything but Eduardo. END


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Fourteen Minus One by Craig M. Workman

Craig M. Workman attended The University of Kansas and graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor of General Studies in Literature, Language and Writing. He later was admitted to graduate studies at The University of Missouri-Kansas City, and graduated in 2010 with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Media Arts. In 2009, he was one of three hundred fiction writers nominated in that year for The AWP Intro Journals Award, a literary competition for the discovery and publication of best works by new and emerging writers. He is the 2012 recipient of the McKinney Prize for Short Fiction. He is an adjunct professor/lecturer of composition, American fiction and creative writing, an I-Ph.D. student and a Doctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic, The Legendary, Zombies Gone Wild Anthology, Stanley the Whale, Linguistic Erosion, The Eunoia Review, Midwest Literary Magazine, Kerouac’s Dog, Shotgun Honey, Literary Juice and Connotation Press. He currently lives in Prairie Village, Kansas.

Outside the crumbling tenement, snow covered everything. The wind heaped it in giant drifts that blew down and piled up again. The few remaining residents of Elysium Heights said that day was a storm to remember, and that it was a wonder anything at all stayed where it once was. Charles struck a fighting stance in the second floor corridor. He relaxed a fist long enough to unzip his orange parka, and then brought a closed hand back to his side. He paused for a moment then kicked the door as hard as he could. He slid sideways and fell to the hallway floor. “Hey. Hey what is it? What is it why is it not opening at all?” He said. The thirteen-year-old stood up in the hall outside Apartment 4-B and turned his pockets out. His breathing became sharp and he felt confused. Assorted coins, an empty chap-stick tube, a nine-volt battery and bits of wire thudded and rolled over the floor until the pockets of his jeans were empty. “Key?” He

muttered. “Key, key?” Charles dug into his parka, and dropped the contents one by one. A rusty pair of fingernail clippers, a paper clip, and a ripped-out page of a book he couldn’t read. A laundry list of things—things his mother called throwaways—lay on the floor. The cassette tape his mother didn’t know he kept, a small pinwheel, a flattened Tootsie Roll. He realized there was no key— or anything else—in his pockets. Everything empty. Charles stiffened up and clenched his fists. His eyes stung. Charles looked up and down the hallway. The light cast by two working bulbs didn’t show much, and he could hear the moaning of the wind outside. His face felt hot, and he wanted a drink of water. He tried to remember what Mrs. Daley had told him to do when they practiced at the school; at the place they called the ‘special school’. He closed his eyes and took a slow breath. “One, two, three,” he muttered. He could feel the


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wetness on his cheeks, now freezing cold in the drafty hallway. “Four, five, sev…six.” His knees felt wobbly, and he decided to lean his head against the door. “I don’t know.” A breath of warm air drifted through the crack under the door. His snow-soaked feet tingled and he felt the heat for a moment. The air from inside the apartment rose, and Charles smelled his mother’s cigarettes and spaghetti sauce. It smelled like the room with the couch in it and the big pink rug in the kitchen and it smelled like home. Someone’s footsteps clopped inside. He took a step back and knocked as quietly as he could, whispered into the mealy wood and rapped on it. “Ma? Ma are you in there? Ma? Hello?” The door was peeling and old, and when he knocked it sounded sick and dead. He thumped on the door harder, and decided she couldn’t hear his voice, either. “MA? ANYONE IN THERE? PLEASE?” The door rattled and clicked and swung open. A plain-faced woman in a puffy robe held the inside knob. She grabbed at him and hugged him close in the


draft of the entrance. “Christ, Charles. Where were you? Where’s your key? I was in the shower and I didn’t...Christ.” He didn’t answer. Her hair smelled great and he finally felt warm, being hugged by his mother. The tip of his nose was itchy, and he couldn’t think of anything to say. “My name is The Kid,” he said. He felt her shaking her head. Marjorie hugged him back-and-forth. She chuckled under her breath, and Charles wondered if she was getting ready to go to work again. “Come on then, Kid.” She grabbed him in a fake headlock and prepared to go inside when she saw what Charles had done. “What the hell is this?” Marjorie pointed to all the throwaways on the floor. “Were you looking for your key?” Charles looked down as if he’d never seen these things before. He remembered after a moment that he’d emptied his pockets, and dropped down to refill them. He grinned his oversized smile and looked up. The Kid had all his stuff again, and The

Kid felt better. “Let’s go inside, OK? I’ll try and get you another key as soon as I can.” Charles frowned. He was worried his mother was mad at him. At times, he was the easiest person in the world to read. Other times, he screamed and shoved himself around, because he didn’t know how to tell her how he felt about things. He saw her smile, and he felt everything might be alright, though he didn’t really know why he felt that way. “It’s almost time for birthday presents. Remember?” And then he did remember. His frown disappeared, and he jumped inside the apartment as if the hallway were flooding. Charles sat down on the couch and grinned. He watched Marjorie come in and close the door. She reached into her robe pocket and produced her leather cigarette-pouch. She lit one, drew in deep, and blew out into the ceiling. “Happy birthday a day early.” She coughed and bolted the door. Apartment 4-B was as well-stocked as a single mother below poverty line could possibly make it. Two full-time jobs yielded food,


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an old VCR and television set, a rock hard couch, three plastic chairs, and modest bedroom stuffs. Marjorie’s mother—Charles’ grandmother—had died some six weeks before, and the few things she had possessed stood in a cardboard stack in the corner by the front door. The kitchen bloomed with the aroma of spaghetti and meatballs. Charles’ favorite meal simmered in the pot as Marjorie dressed in the bedroom. “I know your birthday’s tomorrow, but you remember I have to work all day and night tomorrow. Mr. Lang is a fucking asshole…” She stopped speaking and stuck her head out through the afghan covering the bedroom door. “I didn’t say that, Kid. Forget I said that.” She waved her hand and crossed her eyes in her usual Amazing Marjorie the Mind-Melder way that he loved. “Forget what?” Charles said. He shrugged his shoulders with his palms facing the ceiling. He laughed and wiped his nose on the Bruce Lee sweatshirt, and went back to work tying a knot in a stray thread


hanging from the cuff. She went back into the room. “We’re gonna have really good spaghetti and open your presents, and then I have to get to work. Sorry, but I don’t have a choice. I almost didn’t get to come home between shifts.” She finished dressing and then stuck her head out of the door covering again. “Close your eyes, Charles. Your birthday is about to start.” He closed them as tightly as they would go and scrunched his face up like a prune for good measure, and he heard her laugh a little. She sat down next to him on the couch. He heard her move something, and was sure his mother had gotten him gifts. “Happy birthday, Kid.” Marjorie always bought gifts from the thrift store up the street. She had tried to clean them up as best she could—she always tried to clean gifts up for occasions such as these—but they always still looked old, dingy and a bit sad. And, as was always the case when buying items from The Lost Sock Laundromat and NumberOne Value Thrift Store, she couldn’t remove the round green stickers from the face of them, no matter how hard

she tried. She had always worried Charles would ask more questions. Charles kept his eyes scrunched for a few moments. Gradually, as if unbuckling an overloaded knapsack, his face relaxed. When he saw the cassettes, the books and used tape player on her lap, he jumped up and nearly destroyed everything. Charles saw what was happening and sat down too late. Marjorie reached down to grab the gifts off the floor, replaced the items on his lap, and tapped his shoulder. “What do you think, Kid?” Year after year, occasion after occasion, he never asked about the stickers. More importantly, she wondered where all this stuff went, and why Charles thought these things were from his dead father. She had bought her son a Bruce Lee coloring book, of which several pages had already been colored by someone with an unsteady hand and a fondness for pink crayon. She had also included—to go with the used cassette player—the Fighter-Fighter! Soundtrack and Nature Sounds, Volume


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Four. The Nature Sounds cassette’s green sticker was half peeled off, but the dots on the other things held fast. Charles seized the gifts and beamed. He looked at his mother and just sat there, grinning, feeling as if his face was going to stick just that way forever if he didn’t stop smiling. He couldn’t help himself. It was a happy day. “Thanks, ma. Thank you ma.” She smiled. Charles felt happy, and it looked like his mother was close to smiling again. He was so unused to seeing her smile that he would take whatever she had. “You’re welcome, son. You know,” she began. Charles knew what was coming next, and he hoped he was right. He was sure he knew where these things came from, and he didn’t want to be wrong. Sometimes he couldn’t remember things very well, and sometimes he could. The things from his dad he always remembered very well, and he was hoping these were from the same place. “He wanted me to have them Ma, didn’t he?” Charles said. She had the strange


look on his face whenever he asked this question. He couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. If his dad had wanted him to have this stuff, then why would she be sad about that? He just couldn’t figure it out. “Yes, Charles. He wanted you to have them.” “That’s right,” He said. He knew this was what his mother was going to say. Charles remembered things like this all the time, he felt. “And he put his little stickums all over these things so he would know they were his, right Ma?” She nodded and stood up to check the spaghetti sauce. “Tell me where he is now Ma. I like it when you tell me.” Charles gazed at his mother as if preparing to receive the secrets of creation. She pulled the pot off the stove and turned back to stand in the kitchen doorway. She pointed an index-finger at the ceiling. “Up there. With the angels.” Charles loved to hear this part. He looked up at the ceiling, and then pointed at the ceiling, trying to do it the same way his mother had. He heard this on every

birthday, Christmas, and every other special day he could remember, and he always thought it was neat to hear those words. He waved to her. She looked his way and walked over to the couch. She leaned forward until their foreheads touched. This was another normal game for them. Charles smiled, but was a little sad their talk was almost over. He touched the top of her head with one hand. It was how Charles could say love to her when he couldn’t think of anything else to say. His other hand was still pointing to the ceiling, pointing to the only place he’d ever heard a father might live. “Ma, can we eat the meat-bulbs now?” That spaghetti dinner was one of the finest meals of Charles’ life. He could feel the good red sauce all over his mouth, his nose, and even on one part of his forehead, but it was just so good. He couldn’t figure out why, but she had even gotten some of that good powdery cheese stuff, and he had it all over the place. It made his nose tickle if he got too close, but he didn’t mind. It didn’t matter if you were having spaghetti and


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meat-bulbs. None of it mattered if you had those. His mother seemed to be enjoying hers as well, though she had only put a little bit on her plate and ate a few small bites quickly. Charles thought she had a headache. When he scrunched his face up the way hers was, it only meant a few things. When she did, it meant one. “Thank you, Ma. This is great Ma.” Marjorie nodded and took her plate to the sink. She cleaned up the dishes quickly. He could tell she was in a hurry, but he also knew she was trying to pretend she wasn’t. He knew her shift was going to start pretty soon. She had to take the bus. Charles thought that bus was greatlooking. He used to look out the window and watch her take the bright green 6:15 to Constance Boulevard. When he was younger, he sat at the window and watched her leave, and he would say that over and over from the locked window of the locked apartment. Bright green sixfifteen. Bright green sixfifteen. The dishes were done. Marjorie walked by her son and kissed him on


the head. “I have to get going, birthday kid.” She emphasized the last two words, and Charles clapped. Marjorie safetypinned her house key to the inside of his Bruce Lee sweatshirt and gave him a big kiss. “I’ll walk you to the school bus on Monday. Promise.” She made him swear, hand upraised and everything, to stay in and around the building. He saluted and ran to his room, waving to her on the way. Charles heard the door shut, and then heard the automatic bolt click. Marjorie’s footsteps echoed down the hallway, and when he couldn’t hear them anymore, he opened the back flap of the cassette player. His fingers fumbled with the buttons. He couldn’t wait to try it out. Twenty minutes later, Charles closed the door behind him and left apartment 4-B, toting a floppy trash bag over his shoulder. He saw his neighbor Sam down the hall, dressed in overcoat and snow boots. The old man stood in his own doorway, fussing with his beard and sipping coffee. Charles saluted on his way

past. Sam returned salute and raised his cup. He scratched at his beard. Charles stopped to watch the scratching. He liked that beard. He hoped he could have one just like it someday. “Careful out there, Kid. It’s colder than bejeezus.” He reached into the coat of his pocket and handed The Kid a box of crayons. “Heard you might need these. Happy Birthday, Charles.” The Kid turned them over and over in his hands. The box read FUN COLORZ! FOR A WORLD FULL OF COLORZ! “Thanks, sir. Thank you Mr. Kesterson thank you.” He hugged the old man. He felt a few drops of Sam’s coffee splash on the sleeve of his orange parka. “Sorry. Sorry Sam. Sorry Mr. Kesterson.” “It’s ok, Kid. I hope it’s the best day a black belt could hope for.” The Kid waved and walked to the fire-door at the end of the hall. He stood before the heaviness of the steel for a moment before karate kicking it open. He looked up at the sky and pointed a finger up-there, just as his mother taught


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him. He clapped his hands and disappeared into the blizzard outside. Charles had made it up the iciness of the rusty fire escape. For the second time today, he had almost slipped over the railing on his way to the roof. His numbness was so thorough he felt warm. He reached into the trash bag, found the ‘only for emergencies’ flashlight, and snapped it on. His tracks from earlier in the day were barely visible in the blowing storm. The snow drifted into large angular piles where the waist-high walls met the surface of the roof, and The Kid could barely see the pigeon coop from the top of the ladder. He threw the bag down and stepped into the deepening snow. The flashlight was running low on juice. He whipped it around a few times and spotted the bathroom-sized coop in the howling snow. Crunching through the sea of white, he made his way to the longabandoned cage. He let himself in and pushed the door shut. The wind tore through the rusty chickenwire. A dusting of sharpfeeling snowflakes peppered his eyes, and he nearly fell over. Charles sat down on a


frozen pigeon-shit covered cage in the corner of the coop. The cassette player was now full of batteries from the special battery, twist-tie and can opener drawer in the kitchen. Charles removed it from the bag and inserted the Fighter-Fighter! Soundtrack. The corresponding movie was one of his favorites. His mother had gotten it for him, and it was pretty cool. The VHS tape of the movie sat at his feet. He had left it up here with all the other dad things in the snow, just in case. Charles looked around to see if any other dad things had fallen off the pigeon shelves in the wind. The karate tournament trophy with the broken plastic kicking-leg was somehow still upright. The green stickerdot glowed with the gold finish on the miniature trophy fighter as Charles waggled the light back and forth over it. Next to the trophy stood a framed picture of Bruce Lee. It danced and skittered in the wind, held fast by a corroded nail. He liked this dad thing most of all. The green sticker-thing proved it was his dad’s, and that made it

even cooler. He had taught himself to read most of the inscription almost two years ago. It read TO THE KID— GOOD LUCK IN SEATTLE. R.B. Actually, he’d never figured out the long S-word, but he got the rest without too many problems. Somehow, amidst the storm, the pencillead of the inscription had held on, just to the left of the picture’s green sticker-dot. “Pretty cool, dad,” he said. Charles looked up to the sky and yelled. “PRETTY COOL, DAD.” The Kid sat in the abyss of the roof, of the up-there waiting for his father to show up. He was pretty cold. He always got cold up there. The wind dropped and then gusted hard again. He felt his teeth chattering against one another, and Charles decided to push the play button and check out his father’s cool music.


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You Must Remember This by Dr. Irving A Greenfield

Dr. Irving A Greenfield’s work has been published in Amarillo Bay, Runaway Parade, Writing Tomorrow, eFictionMag and the Stone Hobo; and in Prime Mincer, The Note and Cooweescoowee. He lives with his wife in Manhattan and has variously been a sailor, soldier and college professor, playwright and novelist.

He thinks the words; he can't hum them, but they circle round and round in his brain. They're from the theme song, AS TIME GOES BY, in the film Casablanca, a real oldie that he has seen many, many times with his wife. Though now she is not connected with them, but Catharine, Kate, is. Like the elder Hamlet's ghost who calls out to his son, "Remember me," the words "remember this" call out to him. They loom large, the word "this" refracts the past and present giving both various levels of meaning. This is the present moment as he watches her walk up the steps to the Staten Island Ferry, a moment that lingers and morphs into another "this," the fullness of her body up over his and the taste and scent of her vagina. That "this" is something he will never forget, nor will he forget her cries of ecstasy when she climaxed; they gave him the intense pleasure of knowing he pleased her. The "this" refracts again and

like "THE REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST" brings into the present the unProustian sensuality of her lips and tongue bringing him to his own ejaculation and non-verbal exclamations of exquisite pleasure a few hours before, and then; further back in time. He has known her for almost thirty years. She was a student of his in a creative writing class. For most of that time, except for the last five years, they were lovers, keeping their relationship separate from their marriage. Neither of them thought to disrupt the other's life, and perhaps they intuitively knew that the intensity of what had and what they shared would wither in the reality of day to day living. He is old and she is matronly and as they lie side by side sated the "this" becomes the bare curve of her hip and the shape of her breasts when they were so much younger. In the now he runs his hand over her breasts. They are still firm. They look at each other. Words aren't necessary to express his


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feelings for her. She knows what they are without him having to tell her. There is more than language can express. Each possesses a small part of the other. From the beginning of their relationship it has always been that way. Once she told him she gave him more of herself than she gave to any other man. And he gave more of himself to her than he gave to any other woman. Yet again, the "this" refracts to them holding hands across a table at lunch, where in a short time each tells the other about their lives; then it's over. They are on a bus, side by side holding hands. As he watches her move up the steps; he knows he will never see her again. He is too old to delude himself, and the weight of ineffable sadness settles on him.



London Literary Review Quarterly

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Writing The Now

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