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(an excerpt from) The Passport By Anthony Kerchowa Dedicated to Shane for “Spanish Coastal Wildlife”
I walk through the door into the pub, or maybe it is the pub which walks through the door into me, or perhaps the door walks through both me and the pub to get where it is going... The pair of green suede tights filled with tennis balls is still serving at the bar. She doesn’t look up as I come in. I think to myself that maybe it’s over. The missions, could they be over? I approach the bar slowly, a warm frisson of tension mounting my spine. Fuck the butterflies, I’ve got earwigs in my stomach. A madman is watching me from a corner table as he counts dirty shoe laces with his long, hairless fingers. I sit myself at the bar without a word being said to me. I’ve never got this far before. The rules have changed perhaps. Or perhaps the game has changed altogether. Maybe the games are over, all of them. I ask for a beer. Tights-and-tennis-balls looks up from the ice bucket. ‘Coming right up,’ she says as she slides an envelope across the bar. ‘We’ve got another passport for you to work on, Chuck.’ Damn bitch! ‘Shut down,’ I say. ‘What?’ she asks. ‘Shut down.’ ‘Wha?’ I scream: ‘Shut down, shut down, shut down, shut down!’
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The Modern A devil-drawer dressed in eel skins with her number sixes with her Newgate knockers decided to air the dairy at the mercy of Satan's bones and a ginger pop.
She wore his ugly bracelets. Then she wore devil's claws. Her aggravators got loose Her aggravators fell out.
She did so much eye-biting that milk would curdle in her mouth and her chit devoured itself.Pe
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-Count the teeth! -How many teeth should it have? I had never thought about this. This is a very interesting thing. I stuck my hand in my mouth. -I have 18. Banbi stuck her hand in its mouth. -I know now! I think it’s a person. Well it’s not a sheep. Sheep have loads of teeth. She fell back onto the rocks laughing when the little blue starfish on its arms kicked its leg. It’s not funny put her back in the water. -No she’s having fun! We’re all having fun! She kicked her feet in the water, and the shells swirled around them. -It must be a bogoddy too. Banbi now examined the fingers, and found them all with shells stuck and eaten. -It’s so beautiful. Look at the starfishies! -Banbi put them shells in my hair. Yes Yes she said. She reached into the sea and took a handful of the purple loud shells, and she kindly began. -If it’s a person and not a sheep do you think it’ll need a pair of shoes? -Of course it’ll need shoes. -There’s a bogoddy under one of the houses that them boys always go into, has a nice leather pair I saw yesterday. A real nice leather pair. I almost took them for myself I swear Maddie I was looking at them for ages but that bogoddy would´ve eaten me. Slippery sheep slipping off the mountain, she said. She threaded the last shell so my hair jingled against my shoulders, and this is very important because they say, I don’t know if it’s true but they say it’s true that bogoddys can kill you if you wrong them. They drag you underground and eat your skin, so it’s always helpful to make noise in this kind of situation.
-Toss your head Maddie!! Ah! I love that noise! She stamped her feet and moved in and out of the rocks doing her dance. I moved to sit further away from that body and that dancing. Why shouldn’t it be a bogoddy. I’ve never seen a dead body that wasn’t a bogoddy. The sea brings some things in sometimes. It brought a piano once. Then a double bass. A whole orchestra came later and some strange metal and some letters but all jumbled up, and they say the anonymous boy with a bicycle washed
up here. But maybe this person wasn’t a bogoddy. The skin was so round. And the round skin was blue and green, like sea stones. Because when the sea brings us these things the things don’t know differently and they stay green and blue and Julia told me that there are other colours there beyond the green and the blue and other colours even beyond these. So I sat down on the rocks under the high wall to think about it because it was very early. -Banbi, I’m thinking that maybe we can’t be sure what it is. -Well it’s gas that the sea left it here for us two. What are we supposed to do with it? We stared straight at the body for a while before Banbi suggested, very wisely, that we look for a message in the clothes like a note from the sea, or a note from itself; “If found please direct to North Clapham Station,” or “Your mother says: Get milk.” Something very useful and helpful. And like that we carefully examined all the pockets of the clothes, and when we found nothing, Banbi walked into the water to search for something, but found nothing. She scratched the neck of her t-shirt. It was yellow and had a picture of some band on it that we had never heard; we found it in the sea too. She tugged it down over her knees and stretched out the people like it they might rip but didn’t, because all those sea things always last forever. -I think maybe we tell Julia or some adult now, Maddie. I want to go up to the slope. I don’t think I like it anymore. Yes! Another opinion! This was, I believed, a very scientific suggestion. Banbi put on her boots and stamped out some music for us to walk to and we walked up and up the dunes. But when we looked back the body did not become the colour of the shells, like the bogoddy’s become the brown colour of the bog and the mud. It stayed big, large, huge. Just like a dead sheep, but there are only little pushes of rain; all the sheep are accounted for. Bogoddys, by their nature, are part of the earth. They maybe were once people, but their skin was made leathery because of all the sin and evil in their lives and they were preserved so that every year that passes they are not given the satisfaction of decomposition. Banbi’s music got louder, louder until she was screaming stamping the ground and clapping
and bringing up all the earth and gravel around her to make the ends of hair black. The girl from no.56 looked out the window to us. She gaped and gasped and moaned against the window, and dribbled from her mouth. One day last year she woke up to find that her face had been replaced with an enormous fish head, that stank and dribbled and she stayed like that. She is really nice, Banbi told me, she didn’t do anything really bad. We walked like this up the pier and beyond the estate (where was rumoured two other bogoddys were under a kitchen,) beyond beyond and to the hill. It is unnecessary perhaps to point out that bogoddys are eternally awkward creatures and hills are such things that cause their legs to break at the knee and fall screeching down the slope again to another grave. It seems often to me that it is this which allows them to continue on in the region. -Maybe they will eat the dead man, Maddie. ------------------------------------------------------The usual thing would be hot breath on your neck or some breathing that isn’t your own lips. -Julia will see us before any of that, she sees everything. Don’t look so tall and silly! And she tickled my knees and ran to the top of the hill quickly and round the other side before me. But really in these things I felt more and more as I walked that it is all in the heaviness of a boot and not in Julia’s eyes, or Banbi’s fast and little legs. I think that maybe she was yes, found by them. This is what the girl in no.56 said when she saw me coming back through the houses with no memory, and came and lifted me up, and ran inside with me and cried for hours with the door locked and bolted, with her stinking breath and some blood on the ends of my hair. She patted down my head and washed my whole body. We heard screams from outside as she washed down my hands and feet and all the water like little cat tongues. Julia came to collect me later, crying and coughing and said no she hadn’t seen anything, her feet and hair covered in blood. We left and walked home slowly.
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Delayed Birth: A Warning The moon that night was larger than she had ever seen it before; it shone through her bedroom window like a nightlight in the darkness, this smooth and luminous pearl of a moon. She lay in bed, lulled into a half-sleep by the delicate tinkling of a distant window chime, and the sibilant hush of the trees tossing their leaves in the wind outside. All the while this young woman with dark hair strewn loosely across her face and her arms wrapped gently round her belly, was thinking and conceiving of the child she carried inside her. My baby, my sweet- child of my womb; you who carry my hopes and dreams: you will never know suffering like mine, I promise you that. You will not make the same mistakes that I did, no- you are far too strong; I can tell by the force of your kicks. I dampened my own fire, held it back when it would have burned me free- I held my fire back for others, and so in time, it went out. But yours will never go out. It will burn with the light of a million stars. How wonderful it must be to have a heart as pure as yours, one that can trust and love so boldly, without knowledge of pain. My own is so bruised it hurts to the touch, any touch. And my mind is heavy, foggy with darkness and fear. I am weary, and no longer young. But you- you will come into the world with fresh eyes full of wonder, seeing only magic and beauty around you. All the beautiful things that I ever felt, thought or believed- that is you, and so much more. You will live the life I would have lived if only the world had let me. My child, you are the person I was meant to be. As soon as she had thought this she knew that it was time. A few minutes later, her water broke. * It all rushed together: the blazing red streetlights whizzing by in the drive over, the wailing of the ambulance, the stark white of the hospital walls and doctors’ coats- everything coloured by sharp, shocking pain. Then she was being wheeled through double doors and before she knew it, she was screaming in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and nurses, and pushing with all her might. It felt as if someone were ripping her apart from the inside with a knife.
“Don’t push! Don’t push!” The doctor cried.
“Relax, please! Let the baby come out by itself.
She wants to come out, she’s ready. Don’t push her.”
and the weeks turned into years, and eventually she forgot what she was waiting for. Her
But she couldn’t relax. How long had this baby been growing inside her? God only knew. It
once swollen bump became a much more inconspicuous little potbelly. The kicking, which
was high time for it to get out already. So she pushed as if there was a ticking time bomb between her legs. And then she stopped. Fear, irrational, began to wash over her.
had been so fervent in the earlier stages of her pregnancy, gradually grew weaker and weaker until she no longer noticed it. She carried on living her ordinary life, all the while knowing that she was waiting for something, but she could not for the life of her remember
What if she’s not ready? What if I’m not ready?
what it was. Soon she fell in love with a man named Jim and felt that this, this must be what
The expectant eyes of the doctor and the nurses were on her, waiting. She felt herself
she had been waiting for. But even after they were married, she could not help but think that
shrinking. And, ever so slowly, she felt the baby begin to retreat back up inside her, back up to the womb where it was safe. “Miss Falter, what are you doing? Whatever it is you must stop it immediately,” the doctor warned. But it was too late; she couldn’t stop the thoughts from rolling in now. What if my baby is only half-grown? What if she’s ugly? What if she’s so monstrously hideous that it makes people sick just to look at her? She felt the baby retreat even further. What will become of me when the baby is born? What if I don’t survive this and only my baby does? What if she’s not strong enough to make it on her own in the world? ...No. We’re not ready. We need more time. The doctor sighed heavily and began to stand up. The energy went out of the room as in a deflated balloon. One of the nurses smiled sympathetically at her, while another gazed blankly into the distance. “Well I’m not sure what just happened, Miss Falter, but it looks like yet again there will be no delivery today. I can’t help but feel that you interfered with the process to your own detriment- but not to worry; your baby is ready to come out, and she will do so when the time is right. In the meantime, go home, get plenty of rest, and we will no doubt see you back here again shortly.” She gave him a weary, apologetic smile, and he patted her kindly on the shoulder as he left the room. * Miss Falter went home that night and waited... and waited. But the days turned
there was something else that needed to happen, something she needed to find in order to make her life, herself, complete. Her career took off and in the course of it she received many promotions and accolades, but there was something missing. Most of the time it didn’t bother her, though; she had become Comfortable Enough. Comfortable Enough with her life, and Comfortable Enough with the waiting. And then one day she was lying down in her bedroom at night once more, her eyes brimful of moon. A beautiful, tender melody was playing from somewhere downstairs; Jim must have been listening to classical music again with his nightcap glass of Single Malt Whisky. The music rushed up in her, vibrant and colourful, kind and forgiving. For a brief moment she remembered that she was a soul, here, alive for reasons mysterious and unknown. She had a duty to fulfil- but what was it? Her spirit rose for an instant and she felt it, something both ancient and young stirring within her, something that ached and called for Life. She sat up in bed and focused intently on it, but though she tried she just couldn’t make sense of the stirring, the rumbling in her gut. I must be starving, she decided, finally. Better go make myself a sandwich.
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Contributors.... Declan Healy Kerry Guinan Caoimhe Lavelle Martha Daly Fala Buggy Rosi Leonard Maryam Madani Archie Heaslip Niamh Oh
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