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ISSN 2631-4762 (Print)

NITROGEN HOUSE ZINE Visual art, poetry & prose

N2 JOURNEY


Thanks to all contributors

This issue features work by: Tessa Foley, Alun Robert, Finola Scott, Gillian Ainsworth, Kaleb Tutt, Lynn Valentine, Kelly Heard, Brenda Gvozdanavoic, Al Myer, Holly Magill, Sarah J Bryson, Matt Mason, Tess Hunter, Greta G., Maxine Rose Munro, Jordan Merenick, Thomas King, Gillean Somerville-Arjat, Juliet Antill, Morag McDowell-Smith, Caitlin MacEwan, A. C. Clarke, Ellen Kirkman, Seth Crook & Samuel J Fox.


Contents And Though It Goes On by Tessa Foley������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 4 Tranquility O Juniper Green by Alun Robert���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 6 Faults by Finola Scott����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 7 Goodbye Percy by Gillian Ainsworth������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 8 We Were Wolves by Kaleb Tutt�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������10 Moniack Washing Line by Lynn Valentine���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������11 Harbour, Harbour by Kelly Heard���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������12 Herald By Thomas King�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������13 Family Gathering by Brenda Gvozdanovic����������������������������������������������������������������������������� 14 Standard Class by Holly Magill��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������15 M6 by Sarah J Bryson����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������16 Outer Space and Kansas by Matt Mason ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������18



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Missouri Mayonnaise by Tess Hunter��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������19 Satellites Navigate by Maxine Rose Munro������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 24 Five Stages by Ellen Kirkman����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������25 Memories in Store By Al Myer���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������27 Paradise Shared Unequally on a Train by Juliet Antill����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������28 North by Morag McDowell-Smith����������������������������������������������������������������������� 29 Road Trip Through Grief by Caitlin MacEwan������������������������������������������������������������������������������������39 Sailing to Indo-China: to Paul Éluard by A. C. Clarke���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������40 Summer Hysteria by Greta G���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������41 Two Black Dugs By Lynn Valentine���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������45 Slowly into Spring by Seth Crook����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������46 Swimmin Baths Expedition by Alun Robert��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������47 Glass Flicks by Maxine Rose Munro������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 50

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That One Time You Were Saved by Samuel J Fox�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������51 The Tartan Shawl by Gillean Somerville-Arjat����������������������������������������������������������������������� 53 Death by Jordan Merenick�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������55 A Rogue at Rogie by Caitlin MacEwan������������������������������������������������������������������������������������57

Credits & Discussion �����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������58

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And Though It Goes On by Tessa Foley

On one short year, as opposed to the rest, my best Friend of young life sunk to eyes in pink water, All the teeth of her comb lay beside her in stretches of Pools and the finder who breathlessly stole to her side Was a bride three months later, a mother by six. How’s tricks Said the father who’d fathered another, his brother guessed Numbers up until wealth and his health got much worse As he drank pink Champagne. We all ate at his place in November, I remembered the death, tapped my fingers On linen, the room softly spinning as the kids played In rings. Topknots flew in and out and then stouter from Grief, the man who called everyone ‘Chief ’ was touching me Hot on the shoulder, he’d had three or four wives, all the lives they Had had. One was dead, one was living and one was in Deal. I never knew if the fourth one existed and listed his children On named porcelain plates, A woman he knew had Stitched names on to bears, the next year, her brother Bought himself a fiesta, brand new on the forecourt, it ran until May, several days from the breakdown, the car salesman Flew, He was destined to go to the East in the middle And sample sky highs and look downs, in the towns Spread below, all the pavements continued and in colder Countries, the road signs still stood, in the woods birds kept On cackling, trees nodded and shook, all who looked At the world agreed times, dates and places, faces were rated And tins were best dated, lorries long distanced, stop start of Trains, baby teeth down the drains, young woman first kiss,

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And Though It Goes On


Young man with new glasses, correct answers and passes, Birthdays tick and crosses in cards, perseids showers and Lying for hours in green acred fields, jars of cream, guitar strings And all of the matter that days and nights bring. Five years to the day and it all had moved by, widely crying I thought of her orders and taunts, “I will haunt you,” she said “If you ever forget me. I will haunt you,” she said “If you don’t.”

And Though It Goes On

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Tranquility O Juniper Green by Alun Robert

Early evenin sun sets ahind Corstorphine Hill wi offices emptyin efter another lang hard day. Princes Street crowded; pushin an shovin through yon absence o sirens at least until nicht fall. Yon squashed together jostle Edinburgh’s finest: bankers, accountants an comptometer operators wi finger tips scarred frae incessant keyin an hair tinged white frae incessant worryin. As filthy smoke bilges across crowded platforms frae engines, Woodbines an Capstans full strength while idle chatter ensues aboot the trauma o War drowned oot by hisses an guards’ sharp whistles. Fur the last slow train exits frae Caledonian Station en route tae Balerno wi my stop at Juniper Green where air is the purest though discussion is puerile fur the line is bein axed; ma village abandoned six miles frae Auld Reekie o intrinsic opportunity though a venture far tae far by bus or by car through sprawlin suburbia tae eke oot an existence wi pencil leads sharp an wit even sharper tae rise above the tedium; tae honour the brave fur oor sons are in France, North Africa an Asia amid the rippin o bullets an the shriek o shells well beyond the tranquility o ma Juniper Green.

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Tranquility O Juniper Green


Faults

by Finola Scott

Windswept, Dad points out Paddy’s Milestone, as I sway and peer on tiptoe over the rail. Hollow Ailsa Craig keeps its head up. The rock’s blue-hone granite’s gone for polished stones that swoop to curl ice. Puffin and gannet squawk for footholds. Mum tells how Finn McCool hauled lumps to hurl at Scotland. Below deck, red-faced Orangemen bellow practice for their march. Water remembers upheaval. Volcanoes ripped this crust, birthing continents. Beneath this ship lie rifts, the sea bed torn asunder.

Faults

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Goodbye Percy by Gillian Ainsworth

Summer sunshine pulsed down into Jane’s back garden, forcing sweat from every pore in her body. She brushed hair from her face and then began fastening jewels into the worn treads of a tyre. Glass jewels, mother of pearl and other seashell jewels she’d gathered from the beaches she and Percy had visited. Then she filled the centre of the tyre with garden soil, planted daffodil and bluebell bulbs round the edge. Spring had been their favourite season. Warm, but not too warm. Neither of them liked to get overly hot. They’d been a perfect pair, always in full agreement. Never a cross word. Every spring, the bulbs would grow into magnificent yellows and majestic blues. The colours would remind her of their times together, driving down to Cornwall, up to Wales, and to Scotland with its abundant purple heather. Maybe she should add heather? She shook her head. It wouldn’t work with the bulbs. Sensible to stick to spring and not venture into the heat of summer. On top of the tyre, with its planted bulbs, she placed a steering wheel to support the tall, graceful flowers. And – she couldn’t resist it – a wing mirror with spidery cracks crawling across its face. An eye, for reflecting and for reflection, Percy would have appreciated that. Also, this token of her respect and her admiration for his steadfast loyalty and his love. Together, they had driven thousands upon thousands of miles. Percy had been, she didn’t like to admit it, but, okay, a good twenty years older than her, but never had she felt the need to mention his age.

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Goodbye Percy


A tear trickled down her face. She loved Percy, and he’d loved travelling. But now he was gone. She’d given him dignity with a monument in pride of place at the centre of her lawn, and that gave her comfort. She’d light a candle for him at night for as long as she could, but glaucoma was eating up her vision. She hadn’t many sighted years left. No longer could she drive, not that she wanted to go anywhere without Percy. No-one else wanted him; nobody would take on a beaten up, no-salvageable-parts camper van, especially one with daffodils, bluebells and Hippy-Peace signs painted on the sides. Except for the crusher, that was. Recycling was driving up the price of scrap metal, she’d been told. The callousness had hurt but, for Percy’s sake, she’d smiled and taken the proffered money. Now she pressed it down, inside his tyre. Poor, poor Percy. But the fifty-pound note was fine company for him. He couldn’t have asked for better soul mates than James Watt and Matthew Boulton.

Goodbye Percy

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We Were Wolves by Kaleb Tutt

The long night We lied in wait Rehearsed, trained Iditarod, our sharpened claws Gained traction in Splintered ice The skyscraper glaciers were so much Bigger than us Crumbling, shattering Chunks of ice broke at our Feet, we ran Faster, we paid no mind to The Antarctic ice Splitting in two Momentum, all fours Every iota of Our tired bodies The alpine leap great chasm Tumbling across the other Side, in muted pain We did it, we won

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Moniack Washing Line by Lynn Valentine

The wind gathers the clothes like children sends them on a trip out to the Loch. Permits them to swim until they have no memory of arms, legs, heads, only the pegs that used to keep them in line.

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Harbour, Harbour by Kelly Heard

Sometimes I let down the windburned sails that are my hands and crawl below decks, let the waters rock me in that ghost-filled belly. Down there are mermaids, imaginaries innumerable: a man without a mean bone in his body, a barrel of rum, maybe. Down there is a girl child with the tiniest pearls of fingernails. This way, a sailor is never alone. I need the winds that move me. A sailor woman does not run to any infant’s cry. Winds snap like rope breaking, and raindrops fall like days on nights on days at sea. Take warning; the sun rises red: blood from my own depths, like nervous laughter, red like so much wine. See, now and again I like to forget the storm, pretend I wasn’t born with sea legs. Pretend it’s just some game: float and toss until I cry Harbour, harbour! I am only a sailor with a belly of ghosts I am only a sailor without an anchor.

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Herald Herald 13 By Thomas King


Family Gathering by Brenda Gvozdanovic

They said it was time, so we set off; a reluctant convoy. I drove with care, from muscle memory, my attention elsewhere. The car was silent, save for the steady sweep of the wipers across the windscreen. What was there to say? We had no words for what lay ahead. I knew the road well, having driven it many times before, yet in the darkness and the rain it took on an unfamiliar, almost ethereal, quality in the sodium yellow of the street lights. Time seemed to have stopped and, yet, we were moving inexorably forward. In my head, I played a variation on a childhood game: if the next traffic light is green, it won’t happen; if we reach the corner before the magpie flies away, it won’t happen. If, if, if … Too late. The worst was already happening. We met up at the entrance and embraced, wordless; afraid that in opening our mouths we’d say the unsayable. Someone had brought food and drink. I had come unprepared. In the semi-dark, we sat on mismatched chairs, barely-audible classical music playing in the background. All the family come together, yet apart, each of us wrapped up in our own thoughts and fears; here to bear witness. And then it happened, as they told us it would, as we knew it must, changing our world for ever. Dawn was breaking when, at last, we went outside; the smell of rain-washed earth rising from the garden and, in the distance, the faint buzzing of bees.

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Standard Class by Holly Magill

No room in the main carriage for me and my case so I’m wedged by the doors with a bloke in an Arriva waistcoat, his trolley blooming with Quavers, Mars bars, paper cups, and urns of boiling water. Gelled head leaned against the wall, he closes his eyes, as our bodies sway to the rhythm of this train we both know so well. Nose to the window by necessity as much as drawing last brine to the eyes – for now – I don’t see the ticket guy at first. They said I could get off at Colwyn Bay, Trolley Lad says, and they laugh. Or Rhyl. More guffaws. Nothing left on that trolley if you turned your back five seconds – it’s the drugs. Train rolls on – Prestatyn, Flint, Chester… Trolley Lad disembarks there, along with half the train. Holiday park season, innit, he shrugs, waves ta-ra to his mate. I can get a seat now, a spot to stow my case. Was Colwyn Bay I’d boarded – does that make me suspect, my bags to be stuffed with filched cokes, UHT milk, sweaty sandwiches, and coffee sachets the moment I’m left unsupervised? Incomer or leaver – and I’m pretty much both these days – guilty for crisps not even nicked, too nervous now to ask the new Trolley Lad if I can buy a cup of tea. Just want to go back to where home might be.

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M6

by Sarah J Bryson

Childlike I want to ask, How long now? Are we nearly there yet? but not enough, not quite enough to make me actually say something not enough to spoil the surface tension. You are the driver in control of it all; the clearing swipe of the wipers the speed of the car, the lack of conversation – you’re pressing onwards, focussed to arrive in one piece before something else happens in that hospital room full of monitors. I see the muscle tight at the turn of your jaw. The noise of the engine and the road is all there is. No music. No radio, just us travelling so I watch the motorway spray as it dries, white on the windscreen, obscuring the road in front before it is swept away, and I watch the verges flicker by the approaching traffic, headlights on in daytime the blurred red lights of the cars in front

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and then I see, through the wing mirror, a long, low, slit of light as it breaks through a bank of solid cloud. It lends a queer iridescence to the trees ahead emerald against graphite skies.

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Outer Space and Kansas by Matt Mason

But have you ever been walking on the moon in Wichita, Kansas, freeway rushing through your head like a Springsteen song— except for the Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Office Max, Best Buy. You duck under the pine tree set up in the median, walking on the moon in Wichita, Kansas with a hotel key-card floating in your pocket; shake the trip out your legs, watch stars pop the horizon in red and blue letters, headlights and taillights and Open signs. And you step from the sidewalk to grass getting ready for the first lawnmower of spring, you dig in your feet and crane your head, looking for where you came from, up through the blur of empty space, walking on the moon in Wichita, Kansas, your shoes weighted down to keep them off the sky.

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Missouri Mayonnaise by Tess Hunter

The Scoville Family Reunion took place at a park in Charleston, MO on a muggy Saturday afternoon. The festivities were scheduled for 3 o’clock—that nebulous hour which meant the hosts didn’t have to provide lunch or dinner. Pete sat beneath the baking heat, magnified tenfold through the scratched windshield of his ’98 Audi and wondered if this was worth it. The AC had cut out somewhere between Flagstaff and Albuquerque, and he’d kept the windows sealed tight since crossing the Missouri state line. Given his luck, he wouldn’t survive a bout with West Nile. The parking lot filled fast around him as families poured out of their minivans and trucks and SUVs in a flurry of carseats and sticky-fingered kids to gather beneath the shelter on the hill. They buzzed around the the five shaded picnic tables like bees over a honey pot and left the other dozen ignored. Near what looked to be a very meager buffet, a middle-aged blonde woman with faded roots was yelling at her young son while she scrubbed his face with a damp cloth. There wasn’t a keg in sight. Pete heaved a sigh and leaned over the console to dig in the smattering of trash at the foot of the passenger’s side floor. He burrowed past empty Big Gulps and drive-thru paper bags til he found a mostly-used can of Buzz-Off. He sprayed until the nozzle sputtered and the fumes had settled his nerves, then grabbed the polaroid camera from the dash, looked over his options on the back seat and selected the apple pie over the bottle of wine— these people clearly didn’t appreciate the finer things—and flung open the door into sticky air. He was sweating by time he made it to the shelter, polo-shirt sticking to the small of his back. Pete had learned to wear black in

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the midwest if he didn’t want to scare people off with his sweatstains. He lingered around the buffet, listening to ebb and flow of conversation as he decided whether to put the pie between the half-eaten bag of Doritos or the store-bought potato salad that had been dressed up in a glass bowl to pass off as homemade. ‘Jim-boy, how the hell are ya? What’s it been—two years?’ A lean man with white hair, bowed-legs, and a disproportionate gut was approaching a younger man who lingered away from the crowd. ‘Bout that,’ said Jim, smiling tightly. He was a good-looking guy, well-built. But there were premature lines around his eyes and his skin was over-tanned from too much time in the sun. ‘How’s life at John Deere?’ ‘Got laid off.’ An awkward pause. ‘Sorry to hear that. They shut down?’ ‘Found cheaper work.’ The old man hissed between his teeth, shook his head. ‘Damn shame, that. It’s worse out by us though. Can’t go to the grocery store anymore without a linguistic’s degree. Count yourself lucky.’ ‘Right.’ Pete seized his opportunity. ‘We’re hiring in Salt Lake,’ he said. ‘If you’re looking for a change of scene.’ Jim-boy blinked. ‘We?’ ‘Sorry, should have said—Torro.’ Jim’s eyes got wider. It wasn’t a lie. Pete had seen the hiring sign off I-40. Jim shifted on his feet. His right hand was buried deep in the pocket of his jean jacket. ‘Got the kids to think of…’ ‘Course,’ Pete said. ‘How they doing?’ ‘Well enough. Brett’s starting little league in the fall.’ Pete checked Jim’s ring-finger. ‘And the Mrs?’ That tight, bitter smile. ‘Running circles round me.’ The old man had gotten bored, wandered off to chat with those

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more sympathetic to his grocery store woes. Jim nodded to the camera hanging around Pete’s neck. ‘Haven’t seen one of those in a while.’ Pete shrugged. ‘It’s a hobby. Keeps me out of trouble.’ ‘I should try that sometime.’ Jim rummaged in his pocket again. Pete raised his eyebrows. ‘Mind if I join you?’ Jim’s bitter grin turned wry. He jerked his head over to the deserted tables directly in the sun. Pete swallowed back his aversion and followed. When they were settled with their backs to the crowd, Jim pulled out the flask and passed it over. ‘Don’t tell my mom,’ he said, swatting absentmindedly at a mosquito. Pete looked over his shoulder at the group and tried to guess which one was Jim’s mom. ‘Wouldn’t dare.’ He took a swig. It was whiskey. Cheap, of course. ‘I remember what she’s like.’ ‘Hard to forget.’ Jim took the flask back and took a much longer swig. ‘Jim! What are you doing? You promised you would help—’ Jim jumped as the blonde woman with roots approached at a furious clip. She had her hands on her hips and a furious gleam in her eye that said she knew exactly what Jim was doing. ‘Your mother’s having a coronary cause your uncle and his new wife showed up without an RSVP and this isn’t my family, Jim. It’s not. So why am I doing all the work?’ Jim stuffed the flask back in his pocket. ‘Sorry, babe. I was just catching up with—’ Jim hesitated. Pete stuck out his hand and said, ‘Pete Miller. Nancy’s boy.’ Every family had a Nancy. The woman bit back her frustration—just barely—and shook his hand. ‘Abbie. I don’t recall Nancy having a boy—’ ‘You look like you got your hands full,’ Pete said quickly. ‘Need

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help with anything?’ She jumped on the offer. ‘The cold food needs to get in the coolers. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to mix mayonnaise and Missouri summer.’ Pete chuckled and followed Abbie to the buffet. ‘Oh, I recall.’ Abbie looked over her shoulder. ‘You live here?’ ‘Not anymore. Just as a kid.’ ‘Where you at now?’ ‘Oakland.’ Abbie whistled. ‘Long journey.’ ‘I’m used to it.’ ‘Where’s your mom at now?’ ‘A home,’ Pete said. Abbie stopped shuffling pies and narrowed her eyes. Pete patted his camera. ‘Promised I’d bring her a picture. Damn!’ He slapped a hand over his arm. A fly buzzed away merrily. ‘The flies bite,’ Abbie said. ‘But you’d know all about that wouldn’t you, Pete?’ His sweat went cold. ‘Right. Musta forgot.’ ‘Hm, yeah. Mosquito repellant’s no good for the flies. Everyone uses organic.’ ‘Right, right.’ Pete cut his eyes away from Abbie. He was on borrowed time. ‘Think we could get that picture now? I know my mom’s eager to see everyone—’ ‘Funny, since my mother-in-law saw her a few months past—’ ‘Family picture!’ Pete jogged to the center of the shelter. ‘Everybody gather in tight!’ They were slow to respond—it was no small feat gathering up a dozen different kids and hard-of-hearing uncles—but they did as they were bid. Abbie watched from the sidelines, arms crossed above her wide hips. He was pushing his luck, but Pete’d be damned if he endured

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this heat and those biting flies for nothing. ‘You mind, Abbie?’ He handed her the camera, took off before she could argue. Pete positioned himself just off-center in the front row. Grinned wide as Abbie said, ‘Say cheese,’ and took the camera from her soon as the film hit air. Pete flapped the photo into drying as Abbie stared. ‘Think I could get a copy?’ she said. Pete wound the camera strap around his neck. ‘You know, I think it’s out of film. Let me just run back to the car—’ He did run. Didn’t look back at the shelter until he was peeling out of the parking lot. Abbie had a group of hulking men gathered around her. They stared after Pete and it was easy to picture the outrage in Jim’s drunken eyes. He pulled over ten minutes down the road, heart still pounding. Put the camera back on the dash, looked at the photo pinched between his fingers. He was lucky he’d gotten as far as he had. The Scovilles had a strong German look about them that Pete lacked. Another two dozen Petes and his families stared up at him from the glove compartment. Calgary, Des Moines, Boulder, Tallahassee. Pete grabbed the sharpie from the cupholder, scribbled, ‘Scovilles, Charleston, MO,’ on the back, dropped it in with the rest. A few minutes browsing on his phone found his next destination—The O’Sullivans Second Annual Reunion. It was perfect. Nobody would question a newcomer at a second reunion, and Pete looked much more Irish than German. Not to mention the Montana dry would be a welcome relief. Pete grinned and clicked on his blinker. Maybe the O’Sullivans would appreciate wine. Feeling much calmer, he checked his blindspot and headed down the road—windows rolled up, sweat at his back, and a trapped fly buzzing in his ear.

Missouri Mayonnaise 23


Satellites Navigate by Maxine Rose Munro

Quick whip left off a road we had thought would take us to end point, but we do as we are instructed and follow two blue ribbons that cut valley deeper, sharper than I have ever seen. Our road departs river and we climb gentle at first, twist, turn, rise, over, up. Helix takes us further than I would have thought possible. How my ears don’t pop I don’t know. Now we are driving in the sky. Shortened vision allows all to loom then vanish before glanced. Three minutes and we are out, another five and back on our original road and for all the rest of our journey I think: look at those clouds, miles high, we drove our car in there.

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Five Stages by Ellen Kirkman

My journey was longer than yours. I went through the five stages of grief and then revisited each one again; sometimes getting stuck or lost in one or the other. Denial was quick, for I knew time would heal it. But anger lingered like the devil until I bargained my soul for some peace that would be too slow to come; depression kicked in then and was cathartic. Acceptance still bobs around in waves mocking me... the last buoy out to sea. Whilst you covered your own grief with an opaque band-aid, licked your wound once, before moving on.

Five Stages 25


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Memories in Store Memories in Store By Al Myer

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Paradise Shared Unequally on a Train by Juliet Antill

Is it fair this child should spend the journey in luxury? Milk-drunk, sprawled in his mother’s lap, his mouth an ecstatic ‘o’ Not that I wish him to wake. All too soon it will be plastic stirrers, cups, tea of unreliable strength. Creamer. Sleep, little one. Keep your ecstatic ‘o’, your mother’s hot lap, all the way to Glasgow, Linlithgow, Lesmahagow

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North

by Morag McDowell-Smith

Louise has bought a one-bedroom apartment in a desirable part of the commuter belt north of Glasgow because she’s reached the age where that’s what you do. It’s on the top floor and has a balcony where she stood one clear August morning, saw the Campsie Hills spread out on the horizon and calculated there were at least two motorways and a stretch of water between her and Stewart, so he couldn’t feel unduly crowded. She arranged to move in the third week in September, glad she would have a place of her own to come back to after a bad day at the office, a wideopen, precipitous sanctuary. Now it’s November and Louise has realised the balcony faces north and is in shadow twenty three hours a day. She knows that plants shrivel and die in the gales that scour the paint off her patio chairs and whistle through the cheap double-glazing. She knows the walls are paper thin. She can hear the people next door and recognise their voices - a man, a woman and a child, a boy. Their bedroom is through the wall from hers. Some nights they fuck noisily to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York. Some nights they argue. The woman weeps, the man roars like a bull, there are crashes, screams, silences - then Frank Sinatra at full volume. She purchases earplugs, which keep some of it out. When the boy starts whining ‘Stop it, stop it’ in a voice high and reedy with distress, she gets out of bed, wraps herself in her duvet and sits on the balcony, waiting for her hour of sunlight. She meets him in the lift a lot. He seems to wait for her and jumps in just as the doors are closing, already in his school uniform at eight o’clock. He has dusty brown hair that might be blonde in need of a wash and a face that looks like it’s just been

North 29


slapped. She sometimes attempts conversation, but ‘Hello’, ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘Do you like computer games?’ are met with suspicious silence. She starts to take the stairs and calls her solicitor, who says listlessly: ‘The vendor and surveyors gave no guarantees, Ms McDonald.’ When she gets the party invitation from Rhona, she accepts immediately, even though the last time they met was at Rhona’s wedding to Joseph in London eighteen years ago. She’s had letters, which she sometimes answers. She gets chatty phone calls at Christmas and other significant events like the birth of Rhona’s daughter and, just after they were married, a postcard telling her they’d moved to Thurso, a small town on the North Coast of Caithness, whose sole points of interest are a nuclear power station and the ferry to Orkney. Louise had been planning to visit anyway, for she likes bleak places. She’s always reading masochistic travel books. There’s ‘Greenland - an Odyssey’, ‘Bed and Breakfast in the Outer Hebrides’ and ‘Trekking in Eastern Siberia’ where she once read Ostrov is a fine place to visit but almost unimaginably remote and immediately wanted to go there. The party’s on a Saturday night. She plans to leave early, take the scenic route, stay over then come back late on the Sunday. She gets up at seven on Saturday morning and tiptoes to the lift. The doors open promptly. She puts her bag down and leans back against the wall, with her eyes closed. ‘Where are you going?’ He’s standing in the opposite corner, dressed in a tracksuit and shiny new trainers with red lights in the soles that blink arrhythmically at her as she tries to work out how he’s got there. The lift was empty when the doors closed. She’s sure. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Caithness.’

30 North


‘Is that far?’ She nods, tries to place his accent. ‘Why?’ ‘To see a friend. It’s her birthday party.’ ‘How old is she?’ ‘Forty.’ ‘How old are you?’ ‘Thirty-six.’ ‘I’m ten.’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Andrew. I’m from Manchester. I hate it up here. But Mum says we’ve got to stay with him for a while.’ ‘With who?’ ‘Ron.’ ‘Don’t you like him?’ He shakes his head and looks away. She starts counting down the floors, wanting to be in the car. ‘Will you take me with you?’ She doesn’t reply. The lift bell pings. She picks up her bag and walks out to her car. ‘Please’ She put her bag into the boot, gets into the driver’s seat and starts the engine. She winds down the window, ‘I’m sorry, Andrew. You’d better go back up.’ ‘I can’t.’ ‘Why not?’ He shrugs. ‘Take me with you.’ She feels something inside her drain away, her plan for the day, a slow relaxed drive through forests and glens, past bracken-furred slopes that turn to black rock then disappear into cloud, then a stop for lunch somewhere where they serve fresh mussels, a glass of wine, just one. ‘Go back up and talk to your Mum. Tell her you want to go

North 31


home.’ He looks at her as though she’s stupid. She lets off the handbrake and edges the car forward. He doesn’t try to follow her. As she pulls onto the main road, she sees him in the rear view mirror, one hand rubbing an eye, the fist scrunched up like a baby’s. By the time she’s on Great Western Road, her heartbeat has slowed to normal. It’s a clear sunny day as she speeds up Loch Lomondside, but she doesn’t notice. She’s still thinking about him, wondering if she should have taken him back upstairs and waited while he knocked on the door. She switches on the radio. ‘And now a report from the Middle East.’ She switches it off, imagines him sitting there in the passenger seat beside her, asking, ‘What’s this Rhona like, then?’ ‘Well, she used to be great fun. We went to university together. She was clever, good-looking. Long black hair, tall and skinny, ate like a horse, always knew the gossip, always last to go home at parties, always sitting there at four in the morning cracking jokes and giving you advice about your life, whether you wanted it or not. We called her the Otago Street Oracle. And a lot of other things besides.’ She stops at Fort William for lunch, but can’t find fresh mussels so settles for haddock and chips in a pub with tartan wallpaper. She sits at a table in the corner of the lounge watching a television which lurches out from a bracket on the opposite wall beside a menu board advertising mars bar suppers and haggis a la cordon bleu. A news report shows footage of a vast cuboid building with mirrored windows reflecting a blue cloudless sky. One of its walls seems to ripple, a whole side explodes into flames and metal, glass and smoke billow out and down into the street below. The camera lurches and people start to scream. The waitress

32 North


makes a tut-tutting noise and switches the channel. She eats quickly and leaves, taking the A82 through the great glen then the A9 past Inverness. The landscape flattens out, submitting to the weight of water and sky. She crosses the Dornoch Firth watching them melt together as the sun goes down. The inside of the car is dim and shadowy. She stops on the other side and calls Rhona on her mobile. ‘Louise! Natasha’s staying with her pal tonight so you can sleep in her room. You’re only an hour away, I’ll tell Joseph to put the tea on.’ The coast road becomes a faint glimmer in the dusk. She follows it over undulating cliffs until the lights of Thurso appear below her at the bottom of a long gentle slope. She’s been told to stay on the main road, so she follows it down into town past a bar called The William Wallace, where a man dressed in a football strip is kneeling on the pavement throwing up, then out of town again and round the headland as instructed until she sees a turn-off. Louise has a mental picture of Rhona’s house. She’s been told it’s ‘cottage-style’ and she imagines one of those white-painted ones you see in tourist posters, with children playing outside, dogs yapping, an Aga in the kitchen and cannabis growing in the vegetable patch. Instead, there’s a warren of streets lined with small terraced council houses that wouldn’t look out of place in the poorer parts of Glasgow. She parks near to Rhona’s house number, checking the address over and over again because there’s a rusting mini in the front garden and, more disturbing, lace curtains in the windows. Just as she gets out of the car, the door opens and a teenage girl with Rhona’s dark hair and long pale face runs to the front gate. ‘Louise? I’m Natasha. Mum’s in the living-room. See you later.’ The theme tune to Eastenders starts to play tinnily. Natasha takes a mobile phone out of her jeans pocket and walks away talking

North 33


into it. Louise steps through the front door into the hallway, squinting in the sudden brightness from the bare light-bulb hanging from the ceiling. From behind one door there is the sound of a television set. She opens it. ‘Louise!’ Rhona jumps up from an old leather sofa. They embrace then stand back laughing. Rhona’s still dark-haired, skinny and good-looking and still talking for Scotland – about Natasha, about Joseph, about the party. Louise can’t quite shake off the feeling that she’s visiting some place from her distant childhood - there’s the coal fire, the television on a wall-bracket left of the mantelpiece, the table set for dinner facing the wall, and the air warm and heavy with cigarette smoke. Rhona is asking her something and Louise realises she’s tuned her out, just as she does when she talks to her on the phone. To her relief, Joseph appears in the doorway. ‘Louise.’ He looks different, older. His face is deeply lined, his hair is grey, long and thick giving him the air of an Old Testament prophet, except that he’s wearing an apron and carrying a dish of spaghetti. ‘Joseph. That looks good.’ The fire crackles and spits. Rhona says, ‘Let’s eat then’ The table is set with cutlery, plates, a dish of grated cheese and three glasses of water. She takes a sip. ‘I should have bought some wine. Sorry.’ Rhona waves the words away with one hand and they eat in silence. The food is good. She remembers vaguely that Joseph might have trained as a chef, before having to give up work. She considers asking him what he’s doing now, but tells them instead about the boy in the lift. Rhona is completely unsurprised. ‘Kids do strange things. When Natasha was ten, she ran away.

34 North


Left a note in her room saying not to look for her, that she knew she was adopted and her real parents were the descendants of Viking kings and queens. We found her up at Scrabster, waiting for the ferry to Orkney.’ Joseph shook his head. ‘I wanted to run away when I was a boy. Never felt I belonged in London – knew I’d end up somewhere exotic.’ He looks ruefully round the living-room. Rhona laughs merrily on cue then stands up. ‘Time to get my glad rags on.’ She skips out of the room. When Louise has finished her pasta, Joseph goes to the sofa, rolls a cigarette and switches on the television. The sound is turned down, but Louise sees the burntout shell of the building she saw earlier, photographed from the distance through a telephoto lens, shimmering in a heat haze. She doesn’t recognise the city, and is about to ask Joseph to turn the sound up when Rhona re-appears. She’s wearing a black T-shirt with a heavy metal logo, black satin trousers with appliqué silver butterflies, leather thong sandals and a green velvet cape. Joseph takes a deep appreciative drag on his cigarette. ‘Looking good, girl. Looking good.’ They walk against the wind round the headland and down into town. At The William Wallace, the man in the football strip is sitting on the pavement, crying. Joseph walks towards him, nods hello, then heads round the back of the building to a side door. It leads into a small function room, which is hot and smoky and bursting with people. At the far end, an older woman in a black lurex dress is fussing over tables laid with plates of sandwiches and sausages rolls. She turns, sees Rhona and hurries over smiling. Rhona waves. ‘That’s Mary. Used to be my boss before I gave up work.’

North 35


Everyone is dressed up, the men in suits and ties or kilts, the women in satin dresses and sparkly shoes with feather boas and bridesmaid hair with diamante clips, all slightly drunk and chattering and moving towards Rhona over the stained and worn carpet. Apart from Louise, the only other person in jeans is Natasha, who drifts over from the bar towards her mother. Rhona is surrounded by people. They hand her presents, she smiles benignly, opens them then passes them back regally to Natasha. Louise buys some drinks and finds a table. A group of young girls wearing silver-blue eye shadow, halter-tops and cowboy boots start to do a pre-rehearsed dance routine in the middle of the floor. The crowd cheers and claps. Rhona comes over and sits down, flushed and grinning. Louise looks at her in mock appraisal. ‘Popular as always.’ ‘I was worried that no-one would come. How’s the new flat?’ ‘Okay. Apart from my neighbours.’ ‘Ah. The boy in the lift.’ Rhona leans over and says in her ear. ‘Joseph’s given it up.’ ‘Given what up?’ ‘What do you think?’ Louise looks up to where Joseph is standing on his own hugging a can of diet coke. ‘Good. Has he – given it up before?’ ‘Lots of times.’ ‘What if he starts again?’ ‘I’ll get stoned, take a boat to Stromness and find myself an Orcadian chambered cairn to lie in.’ Louise says drily, ‘As long as you’re happy’ ‘I am tonight.’ ‘So what do you think I should do about him?’ ‘Who?’

36 North


‘The boy in the lift.’ ‘Oh, him.’ She blows out a plume of smoke and watches it curl slowly up towards the ceiling, ‘Forget the boy. Find yourself a man’ ‘I’ve got one.’ ‘Where is he then?’ ‘At a conference in Prague.’ ‘Am I supposed to be impressed?’ She winks. ‘Only joking. Let’s dance. We’ll sort out your life in the morning.’ She jumps up and weaves into the crowd using the same rockchick belly dance movement that Louise remembers from twenty years ago. Somehow it still works. When the pub manager throws them out at two, the party continues in Rhona’s living room. Louise stays up dutifully drinking less whisky and more Irn Bru as the night progresses. At four she says goodnight, climbs the stairs to Natasha’s room. There is something hard under the pillow of the single bed. She reaches in and pulls out a diary. As she puts it on the floor, it falls open at that day’s entry. Mum’s Birthday hope she doesn’t start dancing, hope Jo drinks Diet Coke hope London calls they said they would if they don’t I’ll go anyway I’m out of here if it’s the Wick coach, a rapist’s car or a sheep truck I don’t fucking care and God please don’t make her wear the green cloak tonight She closes the diary and falls into a deep sleep. It’s still dark outside, when she starts awake a few hours later. She makes herself toast then goes to the car, thinking she’ll call Rhona later and explain. She takes the quick way back via Stirling and is home by noon. She almost throws up in the lift, but it’s passed by the time she reaches the twentieth floor. All she wants to do is sleep, but she needs to find out about the boy. She walks to her neighbour’s door and presses the bell. There is a long silence, then footsteps, the door opens and the man she assumes must be

North 37


Ron is standing there, barefoot. He’s small, with dark hair, a fineboned face that’s blurred with sleep and a soft feminine mouth. She tries to imagine the bellowing voice she hears through her bedroom wall coming out of it, then wonders what she expected - a string vest and tattoos? ‘Hi. We’re neighbours.’ He looks at her blankly. ‘I was wondering if Andrew was okay.’ ‘Andrew?’ ‘Yes. Andrew. The boy.’ For a moment she wonders if she’s imagined it all, but then he says, ‘They don’t live here anymore.’ He starts to close the door, but she leans into it, ‘Where have they gone?’ ‘South. Back down South.’ He says it too quickly. His eyes waken up as he speaks, meeting her gaze, holding it, not letting go until she smiles, ‘Right. Sorry to have disturbed you.’ The door’s shut before she’s finished speaking. She goes into her flat, drops her bag, walks straight through the hallway and living-room and steps out onto the balcony. The wind tickles and moans around her ears. She sits down with her coat still on and watches the storm clouds boiling in.

38 North


Road Trip Through Grief by Caitlin MacEwan

I thought it’d be an earthquake. That I’d fall to pieces, and rebuild when the time came. But instead it left a void. I’m turning into shadow and I don’t know how to gather, the smoke of myself into something firm. I just have to keep travelling forward with an I.O.U where a heart should be, and wait, with hope.

Road Trip Through Grief

39


Sailing to Indo-China: to Paul Éluard by A. C. Clarke

‘Surrealism arrived, suitcase in hand’ -Robert McNab

What poet worth his salt wouldn’t hanker after Cambodian temples, the ‘fever hues’ of a Saigon quayside, to liberate him from maman and papa? Their tentacles squeezed your heart amid the gaslit ennui of post-war Paris - a cramped cabin sweltering through Oceania more seductive than the daily desk where you chased contracts. Goodbye the comfortable narrows. Goodbye wife, daughter, friend. You weren’t the first to forsake boulevards for the siren call of a departing steamer, its funnel waving farewell pennants across a northern sky. Flâneur of sea-roads you had your voyage idiot. Your trip. Back home papa grumbling softly totted takings, paperknifed your letters.

40 Sailing to Indo-China: to Paul Éluard


Summer Hysteria by Greta G

My whole body was covered in sweat. Something woke me from sleep and after a moment of staring into the darkness, straining my ears to listen to any unusual sounds, I assumed that it must have been the heat. The small bedroom that once belonged to my mother was full of oppressive summer air, hot as an oven. The old house was designed to keep the heat in and despite the open window, there was no night breeze to freshen the room. I sat up and stretched my legs, pausing when I saw the bed. It was completely soaked in some kind of lukewarm liquid. There was so much, it couldn’t all be sweat... For a panicked moment I thought it might be urine. I quickly brought my shirt to my face to check, but it smelt more like seaweed and fish. Did someone come in whilst I was asleep and soak me with water from the lake? My grandmother was sleeping downstairs; she wouldn’t have had the energy to climb all the way to my bedroom. I didn’t know anyone in the village yet, it being only my third day there, but even from the brief encounters on the street, the locals made me uneasy. Was this some kind of a sick joke? I walked over to the mirror and only half-recognised my reflection. Hair, thick with water, was stuck to my skin and my eyes were shining in the darkness of the room. I looked down; on the wooden floor, there was a small, wet trail leading toward the door. As if in a trance, I followed it out to the hallway, down the stairs, past the ceremonial hearth and to the kitchen. The clock on the wall showed it was one in the morning. The Summer Hysteria 41


whole house was as still as a coffin and stank of that evening’s greasy dinner. I followed the trail to the front door and hesitated when I stuck my wet feet into trainers. I wasn’t really sure what I would find at the end of the trail; was I just retracing my own footsteps? Could it have been that I was sleepwalking? I quietly opened the door and stepped out. The night air felt good on my wet skin. The asphalt road was still hot from the summer day, the water trail barely visible. The faint marks of bare feet were like tiny bread-crumbs in a fairy-tale forest; I followed them, convinced I was dreaming. The waxing moon shone brightly with no cloud in sight. Unlike my home-town, the stars were visible here. They pressed down with their unnatural shine; like a ceiling built too low. I thought that if I stretched to my full height they would connect with my head. The nearby houses were all dark, their residents asleep, not a single light in sight. The buzz of insects was occasionally pierced by a distant bark. The small village felt like a ghost-town even during the day, but that night its sense of isolation was overwhelming - like it wasn’t only cut off from the rest of the world but also from reality. It was a different plane of existence. I looked down on the trail. The footprints veered off the main road, toward a smaller path that I knew would lead me to the lake. Had I been swimming before bed and somehow forgotten? Why would I have been there so late? When I looked ahead, something about the water trail unnerved me. So far I had been following clear prints of bare feet – presumably mine – but now there were handprints, accompanied by trailing wet smears. Had I been moving on all fours? Crawling? I followed the path down the hill, the overripe cherry trees

42 Summer Hysteria


blocking the brightness of the moon. It was difficult to see in the dark but the handprints slowly turned into one continuous wet trail, as if created by an enormous slug. For the first time that night I started to wonder whether the marks really belonged to me, but whoever (or whatever) made them had crawled out of the lake and made it to my house, all the way to my bed. I kept walking. The gentle splash of water and croak of frogs led me to the darkness of the lake. Now it was impossible to see the marks through the muddy grass. The lake was deathly still, with only the occasional insect flying on its surface to disturb the reflection of the moon. I stopped at the edge. On the other side, by a willow tree leaning over the water, a large black object floated on the surface. I stepped closer to the lake as much as I dared, until the cool water seeped through my shoes and grasped my toes. The object drifted closer, suddenly illuminated by the starry sky. It was shaped like a person. There was a person in the lake. With four hurried steps, I crossed the shallow part of the lake and dragged the body toward the shore, but once I reached ground it turned into a heavy mass that was impossible to drag any further. Were they dead? I kept tugging, my muscles burning, face sweating as I tried to move them onto their back, away from the water. The body jerked, twisting in the darkness; coughing and heaving with frightful violence, as if they were trying to vomit out their own soul. I crouched down and grasped at their shoulder. When they looked up, I froze. My own face stared back at me. Dark hair plastered to wet skin, eyes wide with fear. My face. The trembling shoulder under

Summer Hysteria 43


my hand was my shoulder. When faced with such a sight, my head began to pulsate with horrid intensity. All I could do was stare into that thing’s – the fake’s – eyes. And it stared back at me with horror. This was a dream, this was a dream; I repeated it to myself like a prayer as the fake started to struggle against my grip, crawling away. It seemed scared of me? Its reaction was so bizarre that I didn’t know what to do. I could only watch as it struggled to get further away, half falling back into the lake. ‘G-get away. Get away from me…’ it begged. The fake’s fear only heightened mine. My head was loud with the racing rhythm of my pulse and it felt like my skull would burst at any moment. The fake began to scream for help and panic surged through me. If someone came over they wouldn’t be able to tell who was real and who was fake. That thing – it looked exactly like me. The fake’s cry transformed into gurgles as I forced its head underwater. It struggled against my grip, hands grabbing at my arms, shoulders, and stomach, but eventually the rough grasps turned into weak flailing, and then into light taps. When its movements stopped I kicked the body back into the water, where it floated away, traveling back into the darkness of the lake; back beyond the grasp of reality. I remained standing on the shore until the pain in my head lessened to a distant ache, but the image of the fake’s face wouldn’t leave my mind. Its terrified gaze bloomed deep within me and I was slowly overcome with dawning fear. Fear that what I killed wasn’t a fake. Fear that the fake was me. Shaking, I wrapped my hands around myself and turned from the lake. The stars illuminated the path as I walked back home to bed.

44 Summer Hysteria


Two Black Dugs Two Black Dugs

By Lynn Valentine

45


Slowly into Spring by Seth Crook

Following the gritter through the one-road glen. What isn’t pure white is a very light grey. Only the brightly painted truck is defiant in the cause: of yellow, orange, red and vibrant colour. SPREADING IT NOW, the sign on the back declares, stopping ice behind, shovelling snow ahead, not declaring Spring, but at least The Coming­– like The Green Man’s box-shaped, council kept, only modestly miraculous John the Baptist.

46 Slowly into Spring


Swimmin Baths Expedition by Alun Robert

On miserable foggy morns when horns were screechin, we’d march frae Glebelands School alang side streets o Dundee in a column twa pupils wide jostlin an pushin wi broon satchels on oor backs stuffed o cossie an towel wi trepidation on oor faces frae a prospect o dookin at yon public baths complex located on Earl Grey Dock filled wi salty water little warmer than freezin then armed wi wire baskets fur tae store clathes an oor chattels, we’re packed intae poolside cubicles wi wooden doors like Swiss cheese: yon domicile o cockroaches penguinesque in thair tolerance made us shudder an squirm, made us change much quicker an into depths o yon Arctic or was it Antarctica Swimmin Baths Expedition 47


supervised by Annie Sweeney oor maître d’piscine tae fake swim at the shallow end wi both feet ticklin ceramic tiles stayin well away frae a chairie (divin board fur the intrepid) wi teeth chatterin an knees knockin, lookin high fur divine inspiration though tall windows an vacant galleries bringin little comfort if any so keepin far frae the deep end yon playground o porpoise wi its drain set tae suck bairn’s feet tae its core then efter an hoor o much posturin, released frae abject purgatory in a bluer shade o pale an reekin o chlorine aff intae powerless showers fur minutes o warm heaven, then back tae reality fur tae dry aff wi cockroaches an a few tarnished pennies spent in the public baths complex at Abbie Davis’ café profferin squishy plastic cups o Knorr chicken soup tepid, Cadbury’s chocolate drink scaldin

48 Swimmin Baths Expedition


tae remove part o the palate tae bring the torso back tae life

then

marched alang crooked pavements through side streets o Dundee back tae Glebelands School in a column twa pupils wide jostlin an pushin while fog horns screech screech loud.

Swimmin Baths Expedition 49


Glass Flicks

by Maxine Rose Munro

A bus moves north, taking someone home, again. A smoke-scented, plush-matted seat in moving gallery, exhibition entitled Life Lived Small (or, Perhaps it’s Grim Up North). Glass flicks 50mph - rough stone cottage here, rusted tractor there, main colours grey, green, blue. One image (Boilersuit-Clad Man on Distant Slate Roof) seems more valid than the rest. Prompts us to question what it is we see, feel, in the face of his existence. Who is he? Does he have thoughts like us, emotions, like us? When we have passed him by, will he go on? Or stop? Will he be in our heads, can he see we are here? Glass flicks, time flits, we must assume the roof got fixed. Has he left, or is he dead? Does he live and think of us? Someone thinks of him, though, thinks of how they’ll never, really, know.

50 Glass Flicks


That One Time You Were Saved by Samuel J Fox

The sides of the highway were loitered with patches of wildflower. Nearby, the overtly religious billboard – the one that had hosted an image of flames and the question Do You Know Who Jesus Is - has been whited out & I watched my brother’s head sway in sleep. My mom is driving, her ring casting flashing refractions across the leathered backseat. We are going to drop him off at something she calls The Old Vineyard. She’s then dropping me off at bible camp. On a day like that day, something seems garishly out of place. Might the storm clouds littering the Western skies be filled with acid rain? It felt like there was a possibility of crime or accident, but, somehow, I knew that was unlikely. Mom lights a cigarette and rolls down the window completely. The air is sharp with the fragrance of blossoms and burning. My brother snores softly. I roll my window down behind him, watch ash fleck away in the opposite window. Now that I look back on it, I knew beforehand a vineyard was supposed to be beautiful. I knew it was filled with muscadines and wooden vats full of grapes you could step on to then store and ferment. I knew that, when we pulled up, we were not at a vineyard. We pulled up to a building where a serious looking font read “Acute Patient Entry” on a door with glass you couldn’t see past. It looked like a door that always stayed locked. My brother woke. He left the car with mom. He turned and smiled: where half of his face remained calm and snide, but the right corner of his mouth sheepishly curved up. I was told to wait (in the heat, the windows rolled down, under the shade That One Time You Were Saved 51


of an elm tree). Mom returned thirty minutes later, but without mascara and with puffy eyes. As she walked by, dandelion seeds the size of push pins floated by her. I wanted to believe, maybe, there were angels here, watching. Or maybe there are only devils hiding: the like my brother stores in his head and inside closed fists. Mom drove me to camp making minimal conversation. She would pick me up after the final camp service. I was no longer in the mood to sing though. I was no longer in the mood to read though. I was no longer in the mood to put my trust in some white bearded prick in the sky whose son turned water into wine. What good is God if he doesn’t even know my brother’s name? What good is wine if it only makes you thirst for more? When we were to be baptized, I walked forward. Mom was late. The minister sprinkled water across my forehead. My mind stayed foggy, my brother’s grim demeanour and walk filling it. I was told to repeat after the minister along with several other children with droplets clinging to their hair. I mouthed them. No one noticed that my voice stayed behind my tongue as though padlocked. Somewhere, my brother was sedated and confined. Somewhere, he was being drugged up with pharmaceutical cocktails like a shot in the dark for balance. Here, the only Lord was a metal symbol on the altar who hadn’t been seen in 2000 years. Here, cameras started flashing while us kids were being saved for heaven. Here, I suddenly realized heaven was only a word: like love, like sanity, like safe. There was no way to get to it unless you created it.

52 That One Time You Were Saved


The Tartan Shawl by Gillean Somerville-Arjat

(For Betsy Macdonald, 1880-1974)

Her mother’s shawl is folded on the vacant chair, Once firmly pinned around her thin stooped shoulders, It shut out draughts that crept like mice Through window cracks and open doors. Where they are going now she scarcely knows. Halfway round the world? The news alarms her. A pinprick on the atlas Murdo showed her, Two islands sprawling in a distant sea. ‘Be warmer there,’ he said. ‘Believe me. Besides, there’s better prospects if we leave.’ Her mother gone, their home to sell at auction, She’d no excuse to stay. ‘But still it’s far,’ she said. The thought sends shivers through her, Her world all tapsalteerie. Her hands immersed in soapy water at the sink, She cleans the few mementoes he’s allowed her, The cow-shaped jug she played with as a child, Some blue Bristol glass, a Denby dish, Her rose-painted wedding tea-set, London bought, When he stopped off on leave.

The Tartan Shawl 53


When they’re dry she’ll wrap them in the shawl To keep them safe and whole, from Creaking cart and potholed track, Towering wave and tilting deck, And when at last they land, she’ll wrap herself in it To keep her heart from breaking.

54 The Tartan Shawl


Death

by Jordan Merenick

Will be a quicker & different gestation Than my first I assume... A shorter sleep A brief exhale Till I’m completely present With none of my being Flickering dimly Like an old Victorian lantern Split between Past Present Future Who’ve all been Jockeying for position Inside the small Collagen pavilion Which has housed myself & my spirit Since my conception

Death 55


56 


A RogueA at Ratogie Rogue Rogie by Caitlin MacEwan

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Credits & Discussion And Though it Goes On by Tessa Foley Tessa Foley is a writer originally hailing from Flitwick, a tiny town in Bedfordshire. She works at the University of Portsmouth where she previously gained her Masters in Creative Writing. Published by magazines including Agenda, Antiphon, Dying Dahlia, Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review and Star & Crescent and recognised in the Verve Poetry Competition, Bristol Poetry Prize, Poetry Rivals Competition and long-listed in the 2015 National Poetry Competition. She also won the Live Canon International Poetry Competition in 2013, judged by Glyn Maxwell. Her first collection is due to be published this year and will include poems which can be found on her website www.tessafoley.com About her piece, Tessa says: “[It] is not so much the narrative of a journey but a journey itself through the lives of people that you will find in any gathered group. It came from the idea that everyone has their own story, their own baggage and if one was to take a whistle stop tour through the matched luggage of just one hundred people, even from similar backgrounds, it would still take a good deal of time and stamina. It is also about the passage of time, the journey from which we cannot remove ourselves.” Swimming Baths Expedition & Tranquility O Juniper Green by Alun Robert During the summer of 2018, poetry by Alun Robert has won third place in the RNIB’s Writing Competition, received Commendation in the Federation of Writers Scotland Vernal Equinox Poetry Competition, been published in The Curlew by Wild Wood Press and displayed in Nine Muses Poetry and The Ekphrastic Review websites. About his pieces, Alun says: “Journeys are in the DNA of ex-pat Scottish writers, be they meanderings through life or voyages through pareidolia or physical trips to far-flung shores. Random childhood memories of dooking

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in public baths and hearing blether about survival during brutal conflicts bear testament to an existence long gone but never forgotten.” Harbour, Harbour by Kelly Heard Kelly Heard is a gardener and writer from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and one-year-old daughter. Currently at work on her first novel, she has previously published work in The Tusk and can be found on Twitter at @heardkj1. About her piece, Kelly says:“‘It’s about the journey, not the destination:’ well-intended words that can sound a little trite if you’re stuck on a journey you’d desperately like to finally take you somewhere. My poem is about the feeling of being stuck on a vessel you can’t steer, hoping there’s a landing in sight.” Faults by Finola Scott Finola Scott’s poems are widely published including in Gutter, The Ofi Press, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Prole. She won this year’s Dundee Law poetry competition. A performance poet she enjoys reading in special places such as the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Rosslyn Chapel by candlelight and in the Scottish Parliament. About her piece, Finola says: “[The] poem captures my earliest journeys, back & forth to Ireland with my parents to visit my family. I also try to show how my knowledge of the history, politics & geology of the country changed as I grew up.” Goodbye Percy by Gillian Ainsworth Gillian (aka Gill) Ainsworth is a British writer who’s had stories published in the UK, Germany and the USA. For many years, she was a Senior Editor for Apex Magazine and the UK editor for Apex Book Company. Together with Jason Sizemore, she won a Bram Stoker Award nomination for their anthology, Aegri Somnia. Recently, three of her stories have appeared in AdHoc flash fiction, one story being voted the winner for that issue. Another of her

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stories, Chips, was a winner in the July Didcot Writers competition. She has also seen her story, The Pimple, online in 101 Words. About her piece, Gillian says: “The core of the story revolves round moving back in time through Jane’s memories, which take in the miles that she and Percy covered as well as the places they’d travelled to along the way, plus the seasons that had come and gone. Flowing through that are Jane’s thoughts of how their relationship was cemented with time and their journeys together. Then, as she comes to terms with her loss, she contemplates moving forwards alone. Finally, her thoughts of Watt’s steam engine and how it and Percy will travel into the future together.” We Were Wolves by Kaleb Tutt Kaleb Tutt is an author from south Louisiana. He was raised with wolves, ran a wolf sanctuary with his family, and occasionally writes about them. His dream is to be a narrative designer. Find him and more of his work on Twitter @KalebT96. About his piece, Kaleb says: “[It] is an intimately personal piece I wrote which describes a moment in my life where everything changed - we made a decision which required indescribable bravery and dedication. In that moment, we were wolves. I hope that this piece gives you the bravery to become a wolf, too.” Moniack Washing Line & Two Black Dugs by Lynn Valentine Lynn Valentine writes between dog walks on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. Her work has appeared in anthologies and online in places such as the Scottish Poetry Library blog, the Scottish Book Trust’s website and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She has been placed in competitions and is a previous winner of the Glasgow Women’s Library ‘Dragon’s Pen’ award. In 2018 she read at StAnza as part of the ‘My Time’ project and the Makar, Jackie Kay, described her poem as ‘a thing of beauty’. About her pieces, Lynn says: “I wrote [the] poem while on a writing retreat at Moniack Mhor in the Scottish Highlands. Moniack really is a special place where words flow and time stretches. The poem isn’t about laundry

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at all, although it was inspired by the washing line there in the garden. The clothes in the poem refer to words and ideas and the pegs refer to things that keep these in check like lack of time to write or worrying about writing the ‘right’ things. [About the photo] - the journey to the loch is one in which words and ideas emerge, hopefully into something fully formed.” Family Gathering by Brenda Gvozdanovic Brenda Gvozdanovic is an ex-pat Scot who writes prose, poetry, and the occasional travelogue. Her work has been published online at Paragraph Planet; 101 Words; Bloodsugarpoetry; and Serbiaincoming. She’s a compulsive collector of words and might even have enough for a novel someday. You can follow her on Twitter @BGvozdanovic About her piece, Brenda says: “[It] deals with the theme of ‘journey’ in several ways. Firstly, the occupants of the car are on a physical journey, albeit they are reluctant travellers. Secondly, and in parallel with their physical journey, they are on an emotional journey which will be marked by loss and grief. Lastly, the story is underpinned by our universal journey through life, culminating in death.” Standard Class by Holly Magill Holly Magill’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Interpreter’s House and Bare Fiction, and anthologies –Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and #MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology (Fair Acre Press). She co-edits Atrium – www. atriumpoetry.com. Her debut pamphlet, The Becoming of Lady Flambé, is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/ holly-magill/4594330527 About her piece, Holly says: “This poem explores the sense of being between two places, and how the significance of a particular place – be that where we are going or where we have been – can shift, in the same way the views we may hold of others can also change.”

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M6 by Sarah J Bryson Sarah J Bryson is a part-time poet, part-time nurse and amateur photographer. Her poetry has been placed in competitions (e.g. York Mix) published in anthologies, (e.g. The Book of Love and Loss, eds RV Bailey and June hall) journals (e.g. Prole) and online (e.g. The Stares Nest, Good Dadhood, and Ink, Sweat and Tears.) About her piece, Sarah J says: “The ‘Journey’ theme in this poem is derived from the physical journey description with the undercurrent of ‘not knowing’, and the tension that underpins this, lit at the end by the hope that springs from the unexpected light from a dark bank of cloud.” Outer Space and Kansas by Matt Mason Matt Mason runs poetry programming for the U.S. State Department, working in Nepal, Romania, Botswana and Belarus. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize for his poem “Notes For My Daughter Against Chasing Storms” and his work can be found in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. The author of Things We Don’t Know We Don’t Know (The Backwaters Press, 2006) and The Baby That Ate Cincinnati (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2013), Matt is based out of Omaha with his wife, the poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown, and daughters Sophia and Lucia. See more at matt.midverse.com. About his piece, Matt says: “[It] is about a journey inside a journey. When you get away from home, no matter where, you have to be open to finding yourself connected to something bigger. So it’s not Paris or the Grand Canyon, it’s Wichita, too, as every place has a little magic when you get a chance to explore.” Missouri Mayonnaise by Tess Hunter Tess Hunter began her career in screenwriting, specializing in genre television. Her SF screenplay placed in the semi-finals of the PAGE Awards. She eventually turned to prose, completing two novels, and procuring an MA in Professional Writing. Tess currently lives in Colorado and is seeking rep-

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resentation. Her website is www.tesshunter.com and she tweets @tesshunter. About her piece, Tess says: “[It] is about one man’s journey through his country, and psyche, by way of unrelated family reunions.” Satellites Navigate & Glass Flicks by Maxine Rose Munro Maxine Rose Munro is a widely published poet, including in Northwords Now; Glasgow Review of Books; Pushing Out the Boat; and The Eildon Tree. She has also published poetry in her native Shetlandic Scots, most recently in Poetry Scotland and Three Drops from a Cauldron. Find her here www.maxinerosemunro.com About her pieces, Maxine says: “Both these poems describe actual journeys undertaken by the author, but as with all poetry there’s a bit more going on - the unexpected, the uplifting, the slightly terrifying, all those lives we pass in our journeys and how they have journeys of their own, ones we never know about.” Summer Hysteria By Greta G. Greta G can be found on Twitter @greta_griegerg. Five Stages By Ellen Kirkman Ellen writes poetry, flash fiction and short stories, recently achieving some success in the literary world of competitions and publication. Links to some of her work can be found on twitter @poeticnihilist. In her spare time, she is a Lecturer of English. About her piece, Ellen says: “This poem reflects the journey of healing after the break-up of a relationship.” North by Morag McDowell-Smith Morag McDowell-Smith is a writer, mother, European Scot and works in access and education. From Glasgow originally, Morag has lived in Germa-

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ny, Brighton and abroad but now lives in Paisley with her family. She is an award-winning short story writer and has been published by New Writing Scotland, Bloomsbury (The Asham Awards collection) and various online zines and journals. Recently she has also been working on poetry and spoken word performance and was shortlisted for the Chochoderick poetry prize 2018 and the annual Federation of Writers (Scotland) poetry competition 2018. About her piece, Morag says: “I didn’t write this story specifically to the journey theme - of course, the main character travels north to Thurso in the story, but more importantly I think all the characters are displaced in some way and searching for somewhere to belong - her friend’s daughter who dreams of escaping her small town, the boy she meets in the lift, who wants to go with her but can’t and Louise herself. There’s the desire for home, physical or spiritual, and then the journeys you embark on while trying to find it.” Paradise Shared Unequally on a Train by Juliet Antill Juliet Antill lives on the Isle of Mull. Her poems can be seen in New Writing Scotland (2018); Magma (Europe); The North and Antiphon. About her piece, Juliet says: “I wrote the poem at the time of the ISIS beheadings, so the idea of paradise and how to get there was on my mind.” Sailing to Indo-China: To Paul Éluard by A. C. Clarke A. C. Clarke lives in Glasgow and has won a number of prizes over the years and been widely published in anthologies and magazines. Her fifth collection, A Troubling Woman (Oversteps Books), centred on the Medieval visionary Margery Kempe, came out in 2017. It is a companion book to Fr Meslier’s Confession, which is centred on the atheist priest Jean Meslier. She was one of four joint winners in the Cinnamon Press 2017 poetry pamphlet competition with War Baby, which was published in January 2018. You can read more about her and samples of her work at http://www.poetrypf. co.uk/acclarkepage.shtml About her piece, A.C. says: “As the epigraph to the poem shows, Surreal-

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ism, the artistic movement initiated in Europe following the First World War, embraced the idea of travel, preferably to exotic countries, literally as well as figuratively. When Paul Éluard, the leading Surrealist poet in France, suddenly upped sticks and sailed off to Indo-China (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) it was seen by his Surrealist friends as an act of deliberate rejection of the bourgeois life and a spiritual as well as physical adventure. I have used images in the poem, e.g. ‘fever hues’, ‘flâneur of sea-roads’, referencing earlier French poet-travellers, to underline this idea.” Slowly into Spring by Seth Crook Seth Crook’s poem have mainly appeared in print, but many have appeared in online e-zines. For example, poems can be found at Ink, Sweat and Tears and Algebra of Owls. He can also be found in many editions of Antiphon and Snakeskin and elsewhere. About his piece, Seth says: “The journey on our Isle of Mull from Craignure to Fionnphort is taken by many in something of a pilgrim spirit. At the end of the road is the ferry to Iona. But there are times when nobody is ‘going through the glen’ without the work of our lovely gritter/snow-clearer machine. This was inspired by one such day.” That One Time You Were Saved by Samuel J Fox Samuel J Fox is a queer essayist/poet living in the Southern US. He is poetry editor for Bending Genres and frequent columnist/reviewer for Five 2 One Magazine. He appears (or will appear) in Vagabond City Lit, Figure 1, and Soft Cartel. He enjoys coffee shops, graveyards, and dilapidated places depending. He tweets (@samueljfox). About his piece, Samuel J says: “A journey is as much inward as it outward; our external realizations allow us to grow toward our own subjective truths and the character in this loosely biographical piece comes to an epiphany about how the world works as well as how truth is what we make of it: not always isolated and not always stagnant. It takes courage to accept and grow into ourselves, which in itself, is a journey lasting a lifetime.”

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The Tartan Shawl by Gillean Somerville-Arjat Retired. Lives in Edinburgh. Writes short stories, articles, reviews and occasional poems. Currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel. Her stories have appeared in magazines such as New Writing Scotland and Chapman and more recently in two Crime and Publishment anthologies. Her articles and reviews have appeared in the online Scottish Review. Several poems were written for the Scottish Poetry Library’s Belonging Project run by Marjorie Lotfi Gill. About her piece, Gillean says: “This journey never took place, but it might have done. My maternal grandparents were highlanders. My grandfather fought with the Lovat Scouts in both Boer Wars and WW1. But he longed to emigrate. My grandmother was reluctant to leave her widowed mother and with their luggage packed on the platform at Inverness Station ready for their journey to New Zealand she finally refused to go. The poem fictionalises the reality and focuses on her fear of the unknown and the comfort of familiar objects she could take with her. My interest in migration also has a contemporary resonance. My husband is from Morocco and has lived in Edinburgh for nearly 30 years. I have seen the difficulties he and other members of his family and friends have had adjusting to a life between two cultures and the courage it has taken to adapt. This fed into poems I wrote for the Belonging Project and an unpublished short story based on the experience of one of my Moroccan sisters-in-law emigrating to Spain just before the financial crisis of 2008.” Death by Jordan Merenick Jordan Merenick fell in love with the written word at an early age. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Waynesburg University. He was a guest student editor for Connotation Press. His work appeared at the mixed media event Words Incarnate in Pittsburgh PA. He would like to thank God for his blessings and for his wife’s, Tiffany, support. This is his first major publication. About his piece, Jordan says: “Death fits the chosen theme of a journey because it is one we all have to make. An ancient text says there is a time for

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everything under the sun. This includes death. I hope my poem will strike a chord with the readers and make them re-evaluate their views on death and the final journey, the last act of being human.” A Rouge At Rogie & Road Trip Through Grief by Caitlin MacEwan Caitlin MacEwan is 26, lives in the Highlands of Scotland and has been writing for over 15 years. She writes short-fiction, poetry and is currently working on a few longer projects. Just over a year ago, she bought a Canon 1200D DSLR camera and has been working on improving her nature photography. You can find her on twitter @snufflur or on Flickr @grufflump. About her pieces, Caitlin says: “Journey as a theme feels far too big to capture, but I was fortunate enough to travel around Scotland to get some decent photos of the amazing landscape. I also am dealing with loss, which has it’s own road that meanders, perhaps more than rural Scotland’s.” Memories in Store by Al Myer Having recently concluded his studies in Graphic Design, Al Myer is now heading to Newcastle to specialise in Branding while he keeps working on his true personal passion, photography. He’s always had an attraction towards it, but it wasn’t until he acquired his first camera that he was driven by a need to explore and capture his own vision of the world. He tries to give a studied composition and visual appeal to anything that he places in front of his lens. And alongside his camera, music is his true companion when exploiting his creativity, from David Bowie, Billy Joel and Gregory Porter to Queen and others. About his piece, Al says: “Going on a journey, travelling, discovering... These are all moments in life which we all love to remember, and in order to be able to look back and live those moments again, we require tools, tools which can help our brains bring back those memories, making them more vivid and recent. Personally, I find the perfect tool in my camera. It enables you to capture that special moment, and store it forever. That’s why I wanted to reflect ‘Journey’, in this photo, with a camera. I believe the photo collects the characteristics which would represent that person, travelling, capturing

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her memories and living a journey.” Herald by Thomas King Thomas is a self-taught landscape photographer who has been active for >10 years. He’s currently studying for a PhD / hiding in the mountains in Italy. About his piece, Thomas says: “A fleeting glance of a Herald is sometimes the only warning that disaster approaches.”

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We have moved online! We can now be found at nitrogenhouse.com Nitrogen House Zine, Issue 2: Journey Edited & designed by: Rachael Tierney Cover Image by: Caitlin MacEwan Nitrogen House is based out of Ross-Shire county in the Scottish Highlands. If you are interested in submitting to the next issue, please keep in touch through social media where we post our themes and deadlines: Facebook - www.facebook.com/nitrogenhouse Twitter & Instagram - @nitrogenhouse


Nitrogen House nitrogenhouse@gmail.com ROSS-SHIRE, SCOTLAND

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N2 - Journey  

Bigger & better - the second issue of Nitrogen House is here! The theme of 'Journey' collects 29 pieces (4 images, 6 stories, 19 poems) from...

N2 - Journey  

Bigger & better - the second issue of Nitrogen House is here! The theme of 'Journey' collects 29 pieces (4 images, 6 stories, 19 poems) from...

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