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Issue number 11 Spring 2018


Scrittura Magazine Š Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved. Scrittura Magazine is a UK-based online literary magazine, launched in 2015 by three Creative Writing graduates who wanted to provide a platform to showcase new and exciting writing from across the world. Scrittura Magazine is published quarterly, and is free for all. This means that we are unable to offer payment for publication. Submissions information can be found online at www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EDITOR: Valentina Terrinoni EDITOR: Yasmin Rahman DESIGNER / ILLUSTRATOR: Catherine Roe WEB: www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EMAIL: scrittura.magazine@gmail.com TWITTER: @Scrittura_Mag FACEBOOK: scritturamag INSTAGRAM: @scrittura.magazine


In This Issue 06 07 09 10 11 12

Mummy, I’m Missing James Linton

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Social Media Invented Self-Love Isabelle Kenyon

A Dormouse Dreams Lynn White Cat Call Ed Blundell Radio Waves Linda Imbler Landfill Anthony McIntyre A Withdrawal of Necessary Consent Mark Colbourne

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Marigold Spring Skye Malhi

27 28

Love of a Clown Diana Devlin

The Remains of the Day Louise Wilford Passing Ed Blundell Lullaby Lynn White Princess Camellia: A Fairy Tale of Love & Romance Lisa Reily

The Ghost Queen Geraldine Douglas

30 32 33 34

A Silly Smuggler Tells Her Tale Annie Maclean

39 40 42 44 45 48 56 57 58 59

Lilac Skye Malhi

Idol Linda Imbler Following the Path of a Spark Charlotte Ozment The Two Faces of Eve and Adam James Bell

Cometh Spring Geraldine Douglas The Mimicry of Starlings Louise Wilford The Shadows of Secrets Lynn White Falling Petals James Linton The Pub Quiz Robert Steward The Wren James Bell Masterclass Skye Malhi ‘Our Town’: A Play Isabelle Kenyon Suffocation Shirley Jones-Luke


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A Note From The Editors Welcome to the Spring issue of Scrittura Magazine! As we head into our third year we can’t quite believe how the time has flown! Seeing Scrittura grow from a small idea between three friends to a magazine full of new exciting work from around the world really is incredible. We are committed to continuing our work with the magazine, to grow and expand, and provide a platform for more and more fresh new voices. We have a jam-packed issue for you this month, full of wonderful prose and poetry. We love our animals at Scrittura and are delighted to have some fantastic animalthemed poetry this issue, check out ‘The Wren’ (pg 56), ‘Cat Call’ (pg 9) and ‘A Dormouse Dreams’ (pg 7). As usual we have some hard-hitting topical poems too, turn to ‘Mummy I’m Missing’ (pg 6) for a harrowing read reflecting the horrors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, ‘Landfill’ (pg 11) for an eye-opening depiction of homelessness, and ‘Social Media Invented Self-Love’ (pg 16) which highlights the destructive side of social media. As for prose, we have a modern take on a fairy tale ‘Princess Camellia: A Fairy Tale of Love & Romance’(pg 21) and an amusing story about rivalry and revenge - ‘A Withdrawal of Necessary Consent’ (pg 12). This issue’s cover art is inspired by ‘The Ghost Queen’ (pg 28). Thanks so much to everyone who sent in writing for this issue, if you haven’t submitted to us yet it’s not too late, we continue to have a rolling submissions system, with the current deadline of April 30th 2018 for consideration for Issue 12. As always, a huge thanks to Catherine, our amazingly talented designer for another beautiful issue. We are excited to announce that you can now follow Scrittura Magazine on Instagram (@scrittura.magazine) for exclusive insights and previews!

Valentina & Yasmin

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Mummy, I’m Missing James Linton Mummy, I’m missing, you’re kissing my head, as I roll out of bed, seeing red, Mummy, I want my mum, but she doesn’t come, why doesn’t she come? I run. Into the smoke, choke on the black. On the fires that are hissing, Mummy, I’m missing. Maria, I never meant to die, make you ask why, just why I was leaving, why the walls were heaving, why the ceiling was rumbling, why I was fumbling, to save you from the crumbling floor, before it was too late, I couldn’t wait, hesitate, because then you’d be gone. Like I am now. But that’s okay, and I’m sorry I made you cry, made you ask why, because, Maria, I never meant to die. Describe hell. Easy. Grenfell. Shattered glass, removed from class, sirens roaring, embers falling, they’re calling, through the pain, those who remain, through the fire, growing higher, blaring in my ears, screaming their fears, to be saved, save everyone, save the missing, save my dad, save my mum, save my brother, save my sister, save my son, save my daughter, save my grandad, save my grandmum, save my aunt, save my uncle, save my love, heavens above, I don’t care how. Save them now. Please. Describe hell. Easy. Grenfell.


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A Dormouse Dreams Lynn White

“Let me out, let me out!” cried the dormouse. “I don’t want to live in a teapot, not even in a dream! Let me out, let me out before the water boils for tea!” “Boiled dormouse! Now that could be a tasty morsel,” Hatter said thoughtfully. “But would it be worth the risks of mousicide? We must consider.” All nodded in agreement. “Let me out, let me out!” cried the dormouse. “Escape is difficult,” said the March Hare, “To escape you must go back, through the glass like she did,” nodding towards Alice, “but backwards and as we know, time only moves forwards.” All nodded in agreement. “It’s getting late,” said the White Rabbit. “But where is the glass, there is no glass!” cried the Dormouse.  All nodded in agreement. “It’s time for tea!” cried the White Rabbit. And time waits for no one, not even a mouse.

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Cat Call Ed Blundell The cat next door and I agree To ignore each other daily. I turn my head as I walk past. He sits and stares at distant space. We have not quarrelled, do not know Each other well enough for that. We both are independent souls, Need our own space, avoid loud crowds. Insouciant I try to be. He does that better far than me.

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Radio Waves Linda Imbler

The radio blurts the story of war. It seems to rage in every corner. I hear the facts of the conflict over and over again. I’m thinking I might need to turn off the news and live in silence because my only other choice is to go below ground where the bombs and the bangs cannot touch me, and the end will not much matter to me. Not a concrete shelter with walls that tremble from concussions, only sweet earth, my mother once more taking me into her arms to demonstrate her profound love for my fragile shell. Bones do not offend her, so my place in this silent land will be secured. Thank the heavens that radio waves can’t penetrate underground.


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Landfill Anthony McIntyre On the edge of society, he sits amongst the litter that gathers there. Hunched under the weight of mental health and addiction. Out in all weathers. Days filled with drizzle and depression. Nights with beer cans and kickings. Lungs pitted with city fumes. Ears shattered by police sirens. Head salted with childhood memories and peppered with beatings. As dawn breaks, broken bottles and chewed chicken bones wait for landfill. And so does he.

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A Withdrawal of Necessary Consent Mark Colbourne

There are times – and, to be perfectly frank, those times are currently arriving with a morbid and incessant consistency – when I’m convinced that my role in the grand theatre of life has been denigrated to the rear of a pantomime horse. Bent double with my head up another’s crack, stumbling around before that gun barrel of flatulence to play – if you will – the ass of the ass. And we all know what asses are there for. That’s right: kicking. Jesus Christ, I feel like I’m getting kicked left, right and centre. It’s my own fault. Of course it is. I should be more forceful. I should have more spine. More bite, more bile and more balls. I should have more ambition. Look at Jonathan, for the love of God. Now, Jonathan has ambition. Jonathan has ambition in great, huge, leaping spades. He oozes aspiration. He projects vigour as an aura; he wraps enterprise around him like a cloak. Jonathan drips these qualities and they stain the ground he walks across until it resembles the soiled concrete of a petrol station forecourt. God, I wish I could get myself some of that action, some of that hunger – but my tank’s running empty with the gauge stuck on red. Not like Jonathan. Oh no. He’s firing on all cylinders. He’s going at it hammer and tongs. He’s banging like a barn door in a force ten gale. Jonathan whips into the office each morning in a blur, in a whirlwind, in a fury. Raincoat flicked on the stand and he’s taken to the landline, the mobile, email, Skype, the international video conferencing. He’s got a prospect on the boil here. He’s closing a deal there. His diary’s booked up for the foreseeable months with a string of potential clients that could make a grown man salivate – every name on that list just aching to drop their knickers, bend over, touch their toes and plead to get it good, hard and often. I watch Jonathan whenever we pass. I study him in meetings and corresponding company engagements. Jonathan always has an opinion; he always has an option to present. He forever has the facts at his fingertips or ideas removed from the confines of the box. Old Cardrey beams at him like the sun shines out of his crack. Christ, for all I know, it probably does.


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Here’s the cold, hard truth: Jonathan’s my colleague, my co-worker, my position equal within the company…and that makes Jonathan my competitor. And, considering that this is a competition, I have to admit that I’m the sucker who’s being spanked into second place. I’d like – no, scratch that, I’d positively love – to see Jonathan fuck up. Would adore to bear witness while he fails. Be overjoyed to discover that he pranced in women’s panties, masturbated into old shoes or was unable to resist the lurid temptation of public lavatory glory holes. My last review with Old Cardrey didn’t swish along with a great deal of panache. Old Cardrey was, to be blunt, pretty pissed with me. My figures for the last quarter were abysmal. Look at Jonathan, he told me – a comparison whereby I was without question the party who suffered. Jonathan’s sales sheet read like an itemised phone bill. Serious money. Sexy money. Old Cardrey, as he promised me himself, wouldn’t be around forever. Sooner or later, the Board were going to have to consider handing things over. They’d be looking for the right man to take the reins. This, Old Cardrey frowned, was a wake-up call. This, he coldly intimated, was a word to the wise.           My thoughts were guided towards the immediate future, to the day when Old Cardrey finally retired…I imagined myself trapped with Jonathan promoted as my manager – my frail shell forced to bear his sneering comments during the assessment of our working week, suffering an analysis of my deficiencies, breaking beneath the weight of an omnipotent scrutiny and occupational ensnarement.             I swore there and then that Jonathan was dust.             Unfortunately, getting rid of Jonathan proved itself a most disagreeable conundrum. Jonathan – I think it’s comprehensively fair to state – possessed the luck of the very Devil himself. Initially, the approach I embraced belonged entirely to the camp of softly-softly. A couple of messages I conveniently forgot to pass detailing big sales and contacts. Regrettably, those customers Jonathan should have been calling back appeared only too eager to contact him for a second (and in certain cases, even a third) time. I then attempted to displace his paperwork, but quickly discovered that Jonathan unsurprisingly saved an electronic copy on his laptop. I assumed that this would be the key and, following a week of abortive lunchtime attempts – hunched in his office while he entertained the canteen – finally cracked his password (b1gc0ck, you may not be surprised to discover) to begin gleefully deleting files. Of course, when Jonathan’s cry went up, Dave from IT uncharacteristically awoke from his standard World of Warcraft stupor to practically hurdle across a roomful of desks in an attempt to “help out”. Within an hour he had retrieved all the missing files from the hard drive’s murky depths and created a network protected auto-back up process. 

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From there on in, I resolved to get somewhat more serious in my efforts regarding Jonathan. Stalking is an ugly word, but I suppose it’s the one appropriate for the action I undertook. Following Jonathan home at a distance to note his address, catching a glimpse of his wife (unfalteringly gorgeous), studying his weekend routine, and with the information accumulated from these forays, Operation Fuck Jonathan to Ribbons was launched with a substantial aplomb. Regrettably, the termite infestation I planted at his back door failed due to what can only be described as the perverse exception that proves the rule of natural selection. The pizza deliveries I arranged for the small hours of each morning petered out following the courier’s profuse apology and solemn oath to inform every takeaway in the area that Jonathan was uninterested in their wares. The blatant collection of vile pornography I ordered was stolen by an unscrupulous and apparently sexually wayward postal worker. When I cut the brakes on his car, even I considered that perhaps I was taking matters that inch too far. My concern, however, was unwarranted: I looked in horror from my concealed position of surveillance amongst a leafy clump of bushes to see not Jonathan enter the vehicle on his drive but an authorised mechanic from the nearby garage, who casually motored to the bottom of the street before crashing unharmed into the commanding presence of a sturdy suburban oak. You may notice here an escalation in my endeavours, and I must admit a small, inner-sanctum of my mind was also fearfully aware of this velocity. It was therefore with some internal relief I received the news I’d been praying for – the news which meant I could refrain from proceeding with my plan to poison Jonathan’s coffee. The information dissuading me from murder was that Jonathan was having an affair. Yes – a fling, a dalliance, a bit of the old other, and therefore I had him. As soon as I intercepted that text when he left his phone unsupervised in the office training room, I knew that my moment had arrived. Murder, after all, was something of an excess. Murder, I was beginning to discover, was something not entirely for me. (Although, whilst the aforementioned inner sanctum of reason breathed a weighty sigh of relief at this development, there remained equally a darker slice of my soul – presumably perched upon a swivel chair in an underground lair, stroking a white cat – which felt so bitterly disappointed.) Jonathan, according to the SMS notification, was due to rendezvous with his lover that evening on a trading estate Travel Inn just outside of town. Although it was only lunchtime, I could not bear to leave anything to chance and immediately departed work for this location, taking to my surreptitious watch.


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Seated in the car for the following five hours, surveying the reception door of that cheap hotel like a stake out cop, I felt myself twitching with a giddy anxiety. Palms clammy, face red with anticipation, a stupid, ungraceful grin upon my lips. I was like a child on the eve of every Christmas and birthday come at once. I was like— My thoughts were distracted by the passenger side door, which opened so unexpectedly that before my reactions could be engaged a teenage boy was seated beside me with an erect penis protruding proudly from his jeans. This, of course, is not what you expect in the car park of a public hotel. When I began screaming, it was initially in an unbelieving anger, but as he reached across and tried to grope me it quickly escalated to raging fear. Fighting for my life, I battled with the exposed and jousting juvenile before eventually forcing him to the other side of my car where, seemingly defeated, he withdrew and took flight. Exhausted and shocked by the fearful irrationality of this encounter, I failed to notice Jonathan now standing at the side of the car. He tapped the window ominously and I turned, face full of foreboding, to see him grinning down whilst stroking an expensive digital camera which practically smoked with the intensity of the images it had obviously just captured. I was too shocked to even open the window. Through the glass, he told me I should have stayed in the office that afternoon. Apparently, there was a distinct degree of hullabaloo. No, it was definitely the wrong time to fly off without telling anyone. In fact, he continued, it had been a strange couple of weeks. Missed messages, lost paperwork, bizarre intrusions, the oddest feeling of being watched… Old Cardrey had resigned. Jonathan was promoted. The announcement was made with some fanfare at three o’clock. No one could tell me as no one knew where the hell I was.    Jonathan held aloft his camera for emphasis. He began to say that when I was under his charge he hoped he’d have a much clearer idea of my whereabouts.   Oh yes, Jonathan breathed. There was a great time of change ahead. It was going to be a very different department. The car seat turned to quick sand. The air had the sudden and resigned flavour of a quarry captured.        Jonathan smiled as he told me about my extra hours and voluntary pay cut. About how hard it would be to get a good reference. About how incestuous and small an industry this was. He beamed as he detailed how hard I’d have to work. He laughed as he promised just how closely I’d be watched.

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Social Media Invented Self-Love Isabelle Kenyon I’m not very good at this self-love thing. I always look for strangers, thinking they could do it better, and I don’t post about it online, I forget, I’m no use, that girl with the juice blender and the personal trainer is far ahead of me— that’s why people pay her to promote beauty products so other people can buy them and love themselves too.


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Marigold Spring Skye Malhi

We sit on the spiky grass, grappling daisy chains in clumsy hands. The sun, like spilt orange juice over our backs. Cars crawl down the street. Funeral-style. An army of marching ants. I watch. Your mother’s house is etched in your memory; like a wound. Before the shadows kiss us, we can hum along to this silence. The air fizzy with static. You and I, slick with sweat and marigold spring.

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The Remains of the Day Louise Wilford The air ticks - the wandering, wild strum of it breaking through me, rattling the pebbles like long-dried bones. I’m here, in the elephant-grey, in the empty room, breathing books and marker pens.

The wind whines – the banshee bawl of it, screaming through ginnels of granite, on the high moor. A lazy sunbeam, burkha’d in cloud, blooms for a moment, fades. I am dreams and dust.

The land shivers, pulling its coat of gorse and heather up round its ears, shrugging me off. I’m here, in the elephant-grey of an empty room, sipping coffee from a safety mug.

Outside, the earth drinks the sky


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Passing Ed Blundell

No statue stands to show the site, No monument to mark the spot, The path forgotten that you trod, No sign that you once walked this way. Rivers flow down to the ocean, There to become part of its swell, You passed into a deeper sea, So shall we all as years go by. We melt into the merge of years Then merge into the melt of time.

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Lullaby Lynn White Play me a lullaby, you said. So I picked up my fiddle and checked the tuning. You held the music for me as I stood on the grass. And then I felt sleepy‌ Well it was a lullaby, what should I have expected? So I lay on the grass and slept. And slept. When I woke, you were gone and only the music remained.


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Princess Camellia: A Fairy Tale of Love & Romance Lisa Reily

Prince Happy-Go-Lucky. Her first memory. She was six and cast as the beautiful princess in the school play. This seemed, at first, all well and good. When she saw the overflowing shoeboxes of coloured plastic beads and sparkling crystals, she was delighted with the role and the treasures to be bestowed upon her. In her mind, they were riches from another land and, although she wasn’t truly conscious of the thought, an omen. They represented the wonderful life she would lead: a Cinderella romance and the promise of a blissful marriage. As the story went, she was to marry the prince. But when the foot of Prince Happy-Go-Lucky finally presented itself, wearing a brown sandal donned with an oversized plastic daisy, things were not as she had hoped. The coloured beads and shiny crystals did not belong to him. They belonged to Prince Charming. Her six-year-old brain was driven into apoplexy; the jewels would not be hers and, worse still, the pale big toe protruding from the ugly, brown sandal was that of Marty Bruce, the silliest boy in the class. Yes, he could write a story, but his writing was illegible. He could barely spell a word from their spelling list! She hadn’t made a mistake all year; they were certainly not a match. She was too smart for him. But she was also smart enough to know that speaking up about the issue was not wise. So little Princess Camellia bit her lip, revealing only a slight grimace at the final kiss of her hand. Prince Happy-Go-Lucky at her feet, offering his undying love – and little else –she grudgingly accepted his proposal and disappeared from the stage with him to live their happy lives together. ***

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Princess Camellia’s mother had always told her that a woman was responsible for the happiness of a marriage. So when the princess hit her teens and sought the queen’s advice on love, it was no surprise to hear her usual admonitions. ‘Oh, sweetheart, you must learn to be more manipulative! Speaking up won’t get you anywhere – especially not with men.’ This irked the beautiful princess. ‘You’re divorced,’ she retorted wryly. But the queen insisted with her lipstick smile. ‘Manipulative in a nice way. I kept the king happy for as long as I wanted to.’ Princess Camellia observed her mother closely. The queen had left the king long ago and had never really found love since – well, not the kind of love the princess was looking for. And although the queen seemed happy enough, the princess knew her ruby smile hid a loneliness that others could not see. She tried telling her mother that pure love was possible, that there were kings from other lands who sought queens with real feelings, full hearts and vigorous minds. But this fell on deaf ears, especially as she had no proof whatsoever of its existence. As years (and failed relationships) passed, Princess Camellia conceded the queen was probably right and was merely trying to help her avoid years of unnecessary suffering. She learned to hold her tongue, but deep in her heart she refused to accept her mother’s theories. At night, when she drifted into dreams, she heard the voices of women, singing to her from the wild. And she knew that her mother was wrong. The princess courted for many years, and for many in vain. When she finally found herself a real Prince Charming, she knew what to do. Lipstick and hair just so, she smiled at all his anecdotes, praised his successes, made his huge house (in the right suburb) a home. She said all the proper things, politely, and prepared herself for motherhood, for she knew he wanted more of himself on the planet, and she had the power to assist him. Nonetheless, by the time Prince Charming knelt before her with his sparkling box of jewels, the princess was sure a life with him would be misery. He had many assets and, indeed, he was charming. But his business dealings had hardened him. When he came home from work, she had to be dainty, and quiet. One night she spoke up – a terrible mistake – and found herself locked in a cupboard under the stairs. A life with him was one under his rule. Trapped in the dark under the Prince’s feet, Princess Camellia sobbed herself to sleep. At first, the women of the wild did not hear her as she struggled in the murky sea of her slumber. But before long, they came to her with their shimmering magic and swept her away on the warmth of their enchanted songs. The princess felt herself lifted, carried away on a velvet cloud, and comforted by the old women whose melodies radiated hope and love.


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When Princess Camellia awoke, she found herself in a new land and before long, she wondered if there had ever really been a Prince Charming. In her new home, it became her ritual to journey to the mystical, green hills of the kingdom, to sing to the yellow moon. There, the wild women joined her and their spirited voices echoed out across the firmament. Over time, the princess became brave enough to unleash her voice in other arenas. When schools and universities invited her to speak, she found herself appreciated there. Her heart burst open and words spilled from her mouth in streams of blues, pinks and purples. She travelled far and wide, her words like music to the respectful ears of her audiences, and her throat opened with the freedom. The princess roamed the world for pleasure – experienced the frangipani bliss of Bali, the deliciousness of Italy, the sensual waters of Greece. She did not need suitors, or rules, or queens with their trifling theories. Her heart was full of the joy of living and the possibility of each magnificent day. She enjoyed the company of many, but needed no-one. Of course, the day came when a handsome stranger crossed her path and, as is always the case, it happened when she least expected it. He was a prince like no other. A Poet Prince, of modest means. But somehow, prompted by the residue of memory, Princess Camellia found herself staring at his feet. She was sure she would find a pale toe in a brown sandal, or an oversized plastic daisy, but the dreaded toe and flower were nowhere to be found. This made the princess uneasy. No matter how well the Poet Prince courted her, she could not trust him. She doubted he would ever have enough to fill a shoebox. She wondered if he could spell – or if somewhere he had hidden from her a pair of ugly, brown sandals. But most of all she was afraid that, if she spoke up, she would find herself under the stairs. The prince’s words of love, penned perfectly, spilled across the pages of days and months. But the princess remained mute; she could not let him hear her. Desperate, she resorted to the queen for counsel (an ill-advised decision, but girls will go to their mothers). ‘Manipulation in a nice way,’ the queen reminded her. ‘But the Poet Prince will never truly know me,’ sobbed the princess. ‘Speaking up will not get you anywhere,’ replied the queen despairingly, for she knew that this was true. That night, the distressed princess ran to the mystical, green hills and called forth the wild women. But they did not come. Only a faint echo of their voices played on the wind and disappeared into the blue-black sky. Princess Camellia fell to her knees and howled to the moon, its yellow disc the daisy centre of a sandal from long ago. She remembered the dark under the stairs and her cruel

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Prince Charming. She heard the voices of her unborn children, the queen and her impossible advice, and her father, who was king, yet so easily undone by her mother’s manoeuvres. The Poet Prince persevered. He brought Princess Camellia flowers of exotic scents. He played drums, which mirrored the beat of her heart. He gifted her with his words, woven into the delicate lace of love. But the princess remained trapped in a swamp of unspoken thoughts. She feared their escape would drown them both in the surge of all she had never told him, the things he did not know about her; in the flood, she would lose him. One day, the princess, who had now grown plump with unspoken words and worry, looked into the kind eyes of her beloved Poet Prince. His loyalty was unwavering and his love for her was resolute. He accepted her wholly – and her silence. As she contemplated his devotion, a flood of feelings swelled, until finally a tiny teardrop escaped her. The prince observed the warm trickle tear as it rolled down her cheek. ‘Please tell me, my love…’ he pleaded. Princess Camellia’s viridescent eyes met his. But still, she could not speak. So touched was the prince at the sight of her lonely tear that he spoke aloud a poem for her: In the silence of your silence, your words, lost, somewhere in time, a droplet flowers; I hear you. Princess Camellia shivered. She placed her hand on his and breathed in his trust. Doubt spilled down her cheeks until, finally, she let go… ‘I love you,’ she whispered. ‘And I love you,’ he replied. A kaleidoscope of flowers burst from their hearts and swept across the sky. And as day turned into night, their love filled the dark with camellias of luminous white, blushed pink, and deep ruby red; and the yellow moon centres of sparkling white daisies. When the queen saw the radiant camellias from her bedroom window, she was brought to tears; her daughter had found true love. Sadly, although the queen had many years of life behind her, she herself had never once found this kind of happiness. But she was delighted for her daughter, and called out Camellia’s name. Princess Camellia came to her at once. She sat upon her mother’s bedside and held her delicate hand. And as the queen listened fondly to the familiar blues, pinks and purples of her daughter’s voice, she swelled with regret for the advice she had given her. She had not believed in love and was struck by the suffering she

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must have caused. Remorseful, she closed her eyes and rested in shallow, lifeless breaths. ‘I love you,’ whispered Princess Camellia, holding her mother’s hand tightly. ‘And I want you to meet my prince.’ The Poet Prince came quietly into the room and sat with the princess by the queen’s bedside. ‘Thank you for bringing me your lovely daughter, dear queen,’ he said. ‘My heart beats stronger in her hands.’ And with that the Poet Prince unfolded the words of love that he and Princess Camellia had written for her: In the silence of your sorrow, in your heartbeat softly breathing, a droplet flowers, a flower is born; we hear you. When the queen heard their soothing words, her quiet eyes opened. ‘I love you both…’ she breathed. ‘And I know now that I am loved…’ As she spoke, a soft tear escaped her, and her mouth curved into a gentle smile. She closed her eyes once more, and with a final, soundless breath, she let go, leaving the earth in the most quiet of quiet. A peaceful stillness filled the room, and the princess was sure she felt her mother kiss her cheek… *** As the years passed, Princess Camellia reflected on her life and the wasted years she had spent in silence. She remembered the love that she and the Poet Prince had brought her mother and she felt at peace. She could barely remember her life before him; he was her own Prince Happy-Go-Lucky. And as they stood in the garden of their small home – in the wrong suburb – she was happy. They were happy, and it was enough for them. The princess tended her yellow moon daisies. She thought of Marty Bruce, the useless speller and her first Happy-Go-Lucky Prince. She remembered his pale toe in its ugly sandal, and the oversized plastic daisy. And she realized she had forgotten something – Marty Bruce was the gentlest boy she had ever known. He had saved a small, green lizard from the hot tar road and a tangerine butterfly from the rain. He also wrote stories, beautiful stories. And although only he could decipher his spelling, when he read them aloud, they were everything. * Poetry based on an excerpt of the poem ‘In the Silence’ by Ion Corcos


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Love of a Clown Diana Devlin

If I could lie with you just one more night, the sun could die and I would not complain; the stars could turn away and hide their light and we would share the darkness once again. If I could stroke once more your silken mane, tease, tongue to tongue the tightrope of your lips, this clown could welcome the Apocalypse and juggle breakers on a stormy sea. I could tame lions with my fingertips, if only you still lived, to lie with me.

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The Ghost Queen Geraldine Douglas

A spellbinding apparition, she hovers, where tapestries of violets purr in puny sunstrokes, dazzled droplets skid satin petals. Limed leaves hiccup as mossy coloured frogs applaud Her Highness’s rhythmic flow of radiance. The Queen, born from Gladiola Golden, glides, wings, woven peacock strands, steeped in pear dew, she waltzes with liquid stars, ginger mist cloaks her being... a coppery tone outlines her cashmere shadow. Tawny, tangled locks drip down her back, lemon dress fringed with lavender lace, complexion...a citron tint, eyes, sea green, walnut shaped. She has a nectarine voice and her hair glints in a syrup sun. Sings Latin hymns, whilst dancing within mumbling mirrors, listens for wind whispers...awaits dream colours to mature, to slash-dab the first rose growing, in a merry-go-round of fantasia. Time wilts, withers, the flower crumbles to paper... Vanishing as a homebound ghost. Californian poppies queue as Buddhist monks, Hummm! Breathing wisdom, as a silverness structure, carried on sighs of Siskins, their blinks thread patterns through our papery minds to revitalise our perception of truth. Matchstick men pick and pluck, play havoc as infant irises weep... Royal hand summons the Whistling Wind... Whirled and wrapped by a rainbow tail Whooshed!...Back to their camel-backed hills. Ghost Queen slumbers beneath petals of peridot, under a night sky stippled with stars, pinpricks of glittering glints. Smiling, as morrow brings another day... Nature’s grand design... ...and sunrays bleach sunflowers flaxen.


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A Silly Smuggler Tells Her Tale Annie Maclean My Lord, he was so dazzling! Like Schoolboy Q, the gangsta rapper. Updated. Thin. And elegant. Was he Greek? Was he Italian? I remember he was always there. The first day - swimming with a friend. Crawling like a jaguar. At night - The Club. In shadows. Standing motionless. And concentrating. I got barbed on his bait and he pulled me right in. So. We got talking with the drinking. He knew where I was staying and the date I was leaving - even where I was going! So. He’d paid a fortune for this liquid which his mother said she needed. His home trip was cancelled due to pressure of his business. So. He offered to pay me to do something for him. Liquid can’t go in hand baggage. They’d call you a terrorist. It couldn’t hide in a suitcase. Thieves nick all the treasures. When I’d get back home, his friend would phone to arrange to collect and deliver this gift. He begged me again - would I really help him? I saw his teeth flash when he smiled.


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It was like scissors snapping deep in the darkness. A crocodile waiting. So. He gave me this liquid he’d put into capsules. He counted my swallows so I’d remember the number. Then he poured more champagne. So. I remembered the number of bubbles I’d swallowed and I waited for ‘their transit’ as they rolled through ‘my system’. I took the money he gave me. It disappeared very quickly. I want to return. I want to feel weightless like bubbles of air floating up to escape.

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Idol Linda Imbler The new jet-set celebrity with pin-up boy looks walks through a crowd of false faces, of insincere greetings and trendy beliefs in this microcosm of beautiful people. Glitterati, with make-believe lives, telling make-believe lies, all to win the consideration of this currently popular luminary. But, shallow becomes boring fast. Narcissism becomes tedious. Now a new tomorrow has left him with no new admirers. The old ones have forgotten him. It happened because no one knew who he really was. But he would always be at his best, when he let his true self show. And when he finally discovered that, he became a genuine star, an authentically loved notable, cared for by her, his honest heart’s desire met, for his own sake and not for the cameras.


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Following the Path of a Spark Charlotte Ozment You can’t see them if you are looking head-on. You must un-focus the eyes to catch those transient points of light. They move in random weaves through space, a flash here, a response over there, to be met somewhere else in time, in another when. But what if those flashes and bits of vitality were just that? What if what we imagine as the mating dance of a fire is instead the exuberant shout of a heart that met the light, and accepted entry, rejoicing?

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The Two Faces of Eve and Adam James Bell Eve decided New Town was no better or worse than other places. In her short life she had lived in many, had changed as many schools too. At least she was happy now all that was firmly in the past. She lived with her parents in one of the new terraced houses with a patch of grass at the front and garage to the side. New Town was mostly designed for the car. Her parents went off to work in the car and she went off to work in a bus. The walk to the bus stop was short, which she liked. There was even a short concrete path to the bus shelter where she stood with the same people for five mornings, except weekends. The shelter was enclosed, apart from the entrance and exit to the bus that ran on its own lane on the busy bypass that neatly carved New Town in half. There were overpasses, caged in so bricks and stones could not be dropped on vehicles below. It was also possible to cross the bypass by underpasses where it was said criminals and addicts lurked, and Eve was advised never to enter. There was no reason for her to cross over to that side anyway. It could be another planet as far as she was concerned. Eve wore a jacket or coat with a hood in all weathers. She kept whatever hood it was raised so little could be seen of her face. People at the bus stop ignored her after a brief ‘Good morning’. This was how it had been since the beginning of her daily work routine on the fringes of New Town. After an awkward period at the beginning, the others in the morning queue sensed she preferred to keep to herself and accepted her on that basis. She often heard a voice say, ‘Here comes our hoodie,’ as she approached the bus shelter. On the bus, people had seats where they habitually sat. Eve sat alone somewhere to the rear and looked out the window. As in all situations, people became used to her attitude as she had become used to it herself. Most people left the bus at one of the three industrial estates around New Town, bracing themselves for the day ahead after the camaraderie of the morning journey. Eve left the bus at the hyper-market where she worked. Eve was very good at what she did in the store, which was in the office. She


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dealt with cash and stock and order systems. Also she observed shoppers via the security cameras; she liked people best at a distance. She had felt like this for a long time. At the end of the day she would say a pleasant goodnight to Doris, the kind motherly lady she worked and chatted with happily during the day. Doris had a chirpy personality that was unfazed by someone like Eve. *** Adam had hopes for New Town that were soon dashed all over again, and he decided that places and objects could be made but people never changed. He and his parents had left the city because they thought life would be better somewhere new. Instead the family all travelled back into the city to work and came back to New Town more or less to sleep. His parents went off in the car to the city early and came back later than he did because they were managers and this was expected. Adam, being a bank assistant of little consequence, took the bus later. He spent most of his day making appointments on the phone for customers to see advisers who tried to get people to take on more credit. He was also a first stop for IT problems and his quick mind did well on foreign currency transactions. He worked alone in his back-room role, which was a preference for him and his coworkers. At the bus stop in the morning, he usually looked down at the chewing gum stuck on the tarmac. People began by being friendly; trying to engage him in conversation, through to the inevitable avoidance and brief good morning mutter as a level of tolerance. New Town was anonymous though did not invoke broken windows and little graffiti appeared on walls, another reason why he and his family were no longer in the city – not that graffiti had ever bothered him like people did. Sunny days brightened him as it did everyone. Lately, as he lifted his head and looked across the road at other people waiting for their bus, he noticed the girl with a hood up, which was how Adam also preferred to appear in public. Like Adam she tended to look down and hunch her shoulders so he could not really see her face; one part deeper shadow than the other. What he could see looked like a sad yet pretty face. Each morning thereafter he looked across the bypass road, over the long concrete barrier that ran down the centre and split the carriageways running in opposite directions, his eyes lingering on the girl who stood as he did in the opposite bus shelter and willed her to look up at him. One morning she did look up in slight profile and looked at him. He thought her the prettiest girl he had ever seen and smiled her way with a similar discrete half profile. Next morning he waved to her.

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*** Eve was in turmoil when the boy in the bus shelter opposite waved to her. It had to be her he was waving at, as others, at both bus shelters, were texting on mobiles, plugged into earphones or chatting to each other. The chance of them meeting together face to face and duly being disappointed was slim. Her first return wave was a tentative one. Nevertheless her mornings changed, with weekends full of thoughts visualising the brief motion of a hand on Monday. Nevertheless she worried; nobody ever became used to rejection. Life went on this way, took in Christmas and the beginning of a new year. Eve disliked this time of year and found the forced jollity annoyed her intensely. She was glad of the brief wave again when the normal routine resumed – at least what she considered to be normal life. Doris brought her a sandwich and a drink from the store for lunch each day and provided a buffer against indignity and, amongst other things, sowed a seed in early February that grew exponentially. ‘They have some lovely Valentine cards down there this year. I could get one for you, if there’s anyone special.’ Eve gave her a rare smile back. Then she hesitated before speaking. Was there a note of mockery in this kind woman’s expression? Eve looked deep into Doris’s eyes and saw nothing untoward; she had been fooled in these ways before. She said, ‘Yes, there is someone. Get me something nice Doris, not rude.’ Eve became worried again, though tinged with an expectation she had never experienced before. *** The envelope was taped to the glass in the bus shelter facing the road at the place where he usually stood and looked towards the girl. She was there already; they normally arrived within a minute of each other. He waved and she waved back. He saw writing on the envelope and became aware of a hush in the shelter. The writing on the envelope said: to the boy in the shelter. He took it down and opened the envelope for it had something inside. A Valentine’s Day card! He opened the pink and red card decorated with flowers and saw a short handwritten message that said: maybe we could meet. The silence around him was broken by a short round of applause and laughter from others in the queue. Somebody said, ‘You’ll have to ask her out now!’ Seconds before her bus arrived he gave her the thumbs up. She did the same and then the bus came and she was gone.


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*** People preferred to use the overpasses when they needed to go to the other side of town. This meant the underpasses were rarely used except for those who, it was said, wanted to conduct darker activities. It was the quickest route for Eve to reach the other bus shelter before the boy appeared and return before her bus left. The reputation of the underpasses was known to all residents, the majority now shunned their use as an ongoing protest to the local authorities, who did nothing. Activists put up signs along the lines of ‘enter at your own risk’, and ‘welcome to the stinking sink hole’. Eve knew how to go about traversing this ‘stinking sink hole’. She simply walked through with her hood up and when approached by someone simply flung her hood off and looked straight in the eyes of those she encountered. She did this there and back. She smiled to herself at this fit of boldness as she sat on the bus amazed that she achieved her objective. *** Adam felt he needed to answer the girl soon and worried about what he should say about meeting. He worried too about what she would think of him when they did meet. He knew she must have used the underpass and thought how dangerous these places were and how brave she had been to do what she did without mishap. He decided all he could do was be spontaneous, just go over there and speak to her. As a back up, he prepared a note to put in her hand with his details, name, phone number, address, so she could write or phone and set something up that way. He thought she might like him better if he was decisive like this. Next morning, he left home a little earlier than usual. The day felt different, because he was not in his usual time slot, because his senses were more heightened. The first people had begun to gather in the shelter – those who liked their morning chat, even in chilly weather. Adam walked by this small gathering and was unnoticed as he descended to the underpass that had the aura of an underworld. He walked quickly though, winced a little at the stench, dodged scattered debris and the slow approaches of the inhabitants, for they looked as if they lived nowhere else. In a short time he reached the other end of the tunnel. The air felt different – fresher, again perhaps illusory and only part of his changed perspective. She was not in the bus shelter. Adam, in confusion, looked back over at his own bus shelter and saw the girl standing outside it. They waved to each other with more urgency than normal. He made signs to say he was going back into the underpass and went

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with the realisation that they must have passed, hoods up in the dimness, for most of the lighting had been smashed. Adam was determined not to miss her this time. Very soon he saw a familiar figure walking towards him. They stopped in front of each other with so much to say but not immediately finding words. Both smiled from their hoods. She said, ‘Hi, I’m Eve.’ He said, ‘Hi, I’m Adam.’ They both laughed out loud and disturbed the ambiance of the surrounding gloom. In the weak light cast from each end of the underpass and one or two surviving roof lights they continued to look at each other and smile. In a piece of slow choreography, they simultaneously slipped off their hoods. They were well acquainted with the face and head both beheld like a mirror image. It was a face that was a normal human one on one half. Split in a straight vertical line the other half was a scalded red, no hair grew on this half of the head; the eye on that side was a black density as if it could be something evil, but was not; the smile was continuous on both sides. ‘It looks like you were burned too,’ said Adam, so glad that he could not shock her. Eve was as relieved as Adam and held out her hands which he took in his. Then they heard shuffling around them and drew together as dark figures shuffled towards where they stood united, enfolded in each other’s arms. They turned to look where the shuffling came from and saw figures retreat from what looked like a monster devouring two people. Eve knew they had begun to vanquish lifelong demons as she and Adam looked Janus-like at both ends of the underpass and wondered what would happen next. Both knew they could scare the world above just as they had this subterranean one. The realisation caused them to hold hands more tightly stood on the verge of a future life together with its infinite possibilities. The internal clocks of both, used to a strict daily routine, told them their respective buses had been missed.


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Lilac Skye Malhi Ice-skate on my nerves and tickle my bruises. Here we are in the kitchen now. Occupy this house like a scream. My voice; the glint of razor-blades. Your rebuttal; a cold day in December. We’ve drifted apart, iceberg-love. But the lilac flowers still have bowed heads in mason jars.

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Cometh Spring Geraldine Douglas A Spring-entranced day, shades of slate-grey dapple over exhausted Tulips, whose petals flop to terracotta tongues. Violet Violas dribble as Snowdrops stitch tiny lanterns over waxen snow, crumbling to crystal-silver to disappear into nothingness. Greying layers of brushwork overlap again, and again, until completely charcoal. A darkness looms new tapestries as sweet scents of Jasmine soak Cedar’s gold. A shift in time, subtle as a Siskin’s sigh, wakes voice-full Wrens, who babble like water poured from a vase. Wide-eyed Blackbird breaks the silver silence, orange dawn expels the ink of night, spearing fiery rays of honeyed Sun, sizzling infant Freesias. Satsuma solar light lashes lime grasses, nourishing whispering spikes. Seedlings wriggle from swarthy soil, Hiss, then kiss the mint air.


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The Mimicry of Starlings Louise Wilford From heft to wisp he has sunk he has sunk a fist of branches   there’s a whisper of leaves and the ancient smell of herbs as I take his hand   as I take his hand in the silky twilight yellow grass patching the lawn   the mimicry of starlings echoing the grumbling distant mower the fading screech of a tired car alarm   from that to this he has fallen he has faltered   he has faltered across the yellow grass my hand on his elbow   we have felt the evening creep into our thoughts we have edged and shuffled when we could no longer walk so fast   we have stood as still as the white-faced herbs as the yellow twisted blades of grass at the centre   listening to the mimicry of starlings


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The Shadows of Secrets Lynn White

Secrets always lie in the shadows, the dark spaces where they can hide undiscovered. Until a light shines through, a dark drawer is unlocked, a letter freed once more from its cover, the missing piece of the puzzle is found when the dust is disturbed. And what then? Then, when the secrets lie exposed  to the light. What then?  Then, when the secrets create a new shadow even darker than before.


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Falling Petals James Linton Falling through empty space. I should have known. Am I just a pitiable, stupid Fool?

An idiot in love?

I sound. Pathetic. Pitiful. I see you. Brilliant. Beautiful.

There might be more fish in the sea, but I don’t want something so common, it can be found in any ocean.

I want something more. Something special, something unique. My treasure, my Pearl.

I Wish.

You escaped from me. Someone else will have to catch you.

Holding back a river. Building dams to

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restrain, rushing rapids. Slowly the water trickles through cracks in my armour.

Do I care anymore?

I rip down the barriers and a waterfall of emotion cascades from my eyes.

It takes a fool to realise too late.

I look up at you.

Towering. Above. Me.

A gorgeous rose.

You’ve grown from a pile of

dirt.

I’m still rooted. In the Earth.

I tried climbing over your

blade

       sharp

                thorns.


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I was torn to Bits. And. Pieces.

After I crashed. Back down to Earth. I noticed a

                slow                                         falling                                           petal.

I grab onto it. Hold it close.

It’s all I have left.

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The Pub Quiz Robert Steward Lisbon, Portugal 2002 I open my eyes and for a moment don’t know where the hell I am. Then, fragments of my bedroom come into focus: the bare light bulb dangling from the ceiling, the dull white walls, the chair with clothes strewn over it from the night before. Its disorder unsettles me. Next to the chair stands an old wardrobe; with handles for eyes and an open door for a mouth, it looks like a grinning face, mocking me, saying, ‘Robby – you shouldn’t drink so much!’ Well, that’s what my landlord would have said, anyway. There’s no sign of him in the apartment. He’s probably playing cards with the other retired men on the green in Praça do Príncipe Real. My mouth tastes dry and metallic, and my head beats like a pulse. Why do I never learn? I feel for my phone on the bedside cabinet.


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Oh Lord, is it really midday? Then, I realise it has to be Monday – the day after the pub quiz. I get up and have a wash, throw on some clothes and carefully negotiate the endless stairs to the front door. Outside, it’s sunny and cool. The sun shines on the azulejo tiles of the neighbouring buildings in Rua da Rosa. Every day they have a slightly different colour, a slightly different shade of blue. I go through the arch at the end of the road and turn left into Largo Calhariz. After about a hundred yards, I cross the road, and in front of me is one of my favourite cafés, Pastelaria Comões. Inside, it’s busy and full of familiar faces. Stark white tiles cover the walls, and on one of them a mural of Plaça do Comões in memory of the great Portuguese poet. The barista stands behind a large glass counter filled with pastries and cakes. He’s a rotund man in his fifties. Over his white shirt and grey trousers, he wears a white apron tied at the waist. ‘Olá.’ He smiles and immediately serves me up a milky coffee and a patisserie cream croissant. ‘Obrigado,’ I say and sit at one of the black and white linoleum tables. On the table is a copy of the sports newspaper La Bola. I open it up and am about to turn to the English football results when I receive a text message. It’s from Russell. I met him the week before in a pub while watching England muster a draw against Macedonia in a Euro qualifier. The text says: How did I get home last night? *** ‘Hello, everyone!’ Nickie announced in her sweet Welsh accent. ‘Welcome back to O’Gillin’s pub quiz!’ Nickie had short black hair, black eye shadow and mauve lipstick, and with her black top and jeans, looked like a rock singer. Behind her stood two speakers with Marshal written at the top.

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She gave the microphone a few taps. ‘Can you all hear me okay?’ ‘Yeah!’ the crowd cheered. ‘Good,’ she said with a grin. ‘Well, I can see many new faces this week, so there should be a lot of competition tonight. The prize this week is a bottle of Smirnoff Red Label vodka!’ ‘Yeah!’ ‘Okay,’ she continued. ‘Let’s begin with the Picture Round. For those of you new to the quiz, in this round you need to name the famous people in the photographs – have you all got that?’ ‘Yeah!’ About five tables back I sat with Russell. He was tall and pale with ginger hair, which matched his Wolverhampton Wanderers football shirt. He took a sip from his pint of bitter and put it on the table. ‘They’re a friendly bunch, aren’t they?’ he said, nodding at the table opposite. ‘Sorry about that,’ I said, nervously peeling the foil off my bottle of Super Bock. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ he said. ‘It’s not your fault.’ ‘I can’t believe she kicked us out.’ I drank from my bottle of beer. ‘This team’s getting far too big,’ Russell mimicked her high-pitched voice. ‘I think you two should form your own team.’ I started laughing and then coughing as the beer went down the wrong way. I could see her over Russell’s shoulder. She had a round face like a Cox’s Orange Pippin and short blonde mousy hair. She wore amber pendent earrings and an orange floral t-shirt over a white top. She was annoyingly attractive. ‘So, how long were you with the other team?’ Russell asked. ‘I only joined them last Sunday – they seemed alright, then.’ As if on cue, there was a burst of laughter from the table opposite. Their jovial banter and evident smugness starting to grate. ‘I suppose we should come up with a team name,’ Russell said. ‘What shall we call ourselves?’ ‘I’m not sure. How about...The Exiled?’ Russell laughed. ‘Or...The Banished?’ ‘Or...The Outcasts?’ ‘Yeah, let’s go with The Outcasts,’ Russell said. ‘I like that.’ He wrote the name at the top of the answer page and then picked up the sheet of photographs.


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‘So, who do you think that is in picture one, then?’ I looked at the photograph. It was of an old woman in a turquoise wool cardigan, a black blouse and a coloured bead necklace. She had grey hair, a pale face and big black rimmed glasses. She was probably a fashion guru or something. ‘I’m not sure,’ I said, biting my lip. ‘Let’s move on to the next one, then.’ I didn’t recognise that one either. I looked at the other photographs. I only knew three of them. One was of the football player Ian Wright in his Crystal Palace days. He wore a red and blue striped football shirt with Fly Virgin written on the front. It was the unforgettable year Palace reached the FA Cup final. The other picture was of the comedians Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. It made me laugh. It reminded me of the first time I heard their tape Derek and Clive at school. The last one was a young photograph of the singer Morrissey. He was leaning against a wall sporting his iconic nineteen-fifties quiff, looking cool and moody. But what was the use? Three out of ten – three out of ten! This was going to be a disaster, embarrassing, a humiliation, and the other team were going to— ‘Isn’t it Tim Berners-Lee?’ Russell said, breaking me from my spiralling despair. ‘Who?’ ‘Berners-Lee, the guy who created the World Wide Web.’ I didn’t know anyone had even invented it! Russell wrote the name under the photograph. ‘And that’s the guy who wrote Fahrenheit 451,’ he continued. ‘Oh, what’s his name? Bradbury – Ray Bradbury.’ Again, he wrote down the name. ‘And I think that’s Bevan,’ he added. ‘The guy who introduced the NHS.’ ‘And he’s Ian Wright,’ I chipped in, not to be completely outdone. ‘Okay,’ Russell said, ‘and they’re Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and this is obviously Morrissey.’ One by one Russell went through the photographs, naming the next three as if they were members of his family: Marconi, Alexander Fleming, Marie Curie. Then, with the last one he started to rub his chin. ‘I think we’ve got at least eight of them right,’ Russell said. ‘I’m just not sure about number one and ten.’ ‘Yeah, I haven’t got a clue about those two,’ I said. ‘But it’s not a bad start, is it?’ Russell nodded. He seemed pretty good at this. ‘So, are you a teacher?’ I asked.

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‘No, I’m doing a PhD in medical research.’ ‘Really? That makes a change. I thought everyone here taught English.’ ‘So, do you teach English, then?’ ‘Kind of,’ I replied. ‘I’m only working six hours a week.’ ‘Is it difficult to find hours, then?’ ‘At the moment it is, but I’m sure things’ll pick up.’ ‘Okay, so that’s the end of the Picture Round,’ Nickie called out. ‘We’ll come around to collect your answer sheets and then announce the scores. In the meantime, if you’re feeling rather parched from naming all those famous people, you’re more than welcome to get a drink from the bar.’ Just then, the snappy drum beat of The Stone Roses’ I Am the Resurrection reverberated around the pub, and the bar area started to fill up. Team members jostled for position, leaning on the bar, holding out banknotes between fingers, trying to catch the eye of the bartenders – a different kind of competition, indeed. Behind the bar was a mirrored mahogany cabinet, filled with bottles and glasses, at the top an old-fashioned clock, and in the centre a sign that read, Jameson – Smooth Irish Whiskey. I finished off my beer and put it on the table. ‘I think I’ll go to the bar before it gets too crowded,’ I said, getting up from my chair. ‘Would you like another drink?’ ‘Okay, now it’s time for General Knowledge,’ Nickie announced. ‘Oh, by the way, does anyone want to play their joker?’ ‘Joker?’ I suggested. ‘What’s a joker?’ Russell asked. ‘It doubles your points for that round. But you can only play it once.’ ‘Hmm, shall we wait a bit?’ ‘Okay, then.’ Russell cocked his head; with his brow furrowed and lips pursed, his face was a picture of concentration. I glanced over his shoulder at the other team as my competitive spirit began to burn. Their faces struck similar poses – tongues licked lips, foreheads frowned, chins jutted out. She held her head in her hand like a Rodin statue. ‘Okay then,’ Nickie said. ‘Question one.’ The pub quickened into silence. ‘Who was the first European discoverer to reach India by sea?’ ‘Oh,’ I whispered. ‘Wasn’t it that Portuguese guy?’ Russell had already scribbled down the answer.


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‘Vasco da Gama,’ he whispered. ‘Okay,’ Nickie continued. ‘Question two: how many tentacles does a squid have?’ ‘How many tentacles does what have?’ someone called out. ‘A squid,’ Nickie said, lifting her hand and wiggling her fingers. ‘Is it eight?’ I whispered. Russell mouthed the word ‘ten’ and wrote it down. ‘Okay, question three – what do British people call vegetables that Americans call zucchini?’ ‘Oh, I know this one,’ I whispered. ‘Courgettes.’ Typical, I thought. The only question I knew the answer to was about food! ‘Right then, question four: regarding land mass, which island is bigger – Iceland, Ireland or Cuba?’ ‘Iceland...?’ someone called out. ‘Iceland, Ireland or Cuba.’ We both looked at each other. ‘I’m not sure about this one,’ Russell said. ‘Let’s write the question down for later.’ He turned the answer sheet over and wrote the question on the back. ‘Question five: what bird lays its eggs in another bird’s nest?’ ‘What?’ I said with my face screwed up. ‘A cuckoo,’ Russell whispered. ‘A cuckoo?’ I replied. ‘How the hell do you know that?’ ‘I don’t know.’ He shrugged. ‘I just do.’ Just like in the Picture Round, Russell answered the lion share of questions, and it was the same for Music, Sport, and Science and Nature, where we played our joker. He was like a walking encyclopaedia. Now the other team were shooting glances at us. ‘How’s it going, boys?’ Nickie asked, looming over our table. ‘Not bad,’ Russell replied. ‘You couldn’t help us with the last two questions, could you?’ ‘Geography not your strong point, eh?’ She laughed. ‘I’ll come back for your answers in a bit.’ She smiled and went to another table. ‘So, what shall we put for these two?’ Russell asked. ‘Just put anything – it’s better than leaving it blank.’ He studied the questions a while longer and then wrote something down. We handed in our answer sheet for the last time, knowing we were still in the running and only one point behind the other team.


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‘Okay everyone,’ Nickie announced. ‘Here are the final results in reverse order.’ As Nickie called out the scores, we all clapped the teams sportingly, and it wasn’t long before we arrived at the business end of the competition. ‘So, in fifth place, with a respectable thirty points is...The A Team!’ ‘Yeah!’ the crowd cheered. ‘And in fourth place, with thirty-five points is one of this week’s newcomers...Three Guys and a Girl!’ ‘Yeah!’ My heartbeat quickened; the bottle of vodka seemed tantalisingly within our reach. ‘And in third place, as usual, with thirty-eight points is...Third Again!’ ‘Yeah!’ The cheers were getting louder and louder, and the tension more and more unbearable. This was it – it was either us or them! ‘And narrowly in second place, with thirty-nine points is...’ Don’t be us, don’t be us, don’t be us! I thought as I hung on to every word Nickie said. *** The sunlight comes through the windows of the café and shines into my eyes. A yellow and white tram passes by, filled with passengers. The café is less crowded now, less noisy, and I’m starting to feel human again. I finish off the remnants of my breakfast in a ponderous mood. What is it about pub quizzes that make them so entertaining? Is it the competition, or the sense of community, or the fact that you can win copious amounts of alcohol? My hangover promptly tells me the answer to that question.

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The Wren James Bell each time we visit there is the need like everywhere else on earth - for water for shelter, and warmth around our feet each time there is a note of survival in air that is not urban fresh - is fresher than clear days in a town or city and this is a best beyond all others though it too has become an element of desire each time I have to unlock the shed to turn the water on - listen for the miracle and idly flash the light over seasoned wood we will need for warming us this late or early in the year just come or gone usually then there is a sound - a flutter of tiny wings I home my torch in on each time it has become a ritual to greet one another with a short time of silence as one’s small claws cling to wood then disappear into the woodpile - the other to go quietly retire and switch some electricity on


Scrittura Magazine

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Masterclass Skye Malhi

If I speak; you need ears.

If I laugh; you need ears.

If I’m silent; you need ears.

If I need love; you need a heart.

If I need to touch, you need skin.

You are my soul. An amateur, In the Art of Being Human.

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‘Our Town’: A Play Isabelle Kenyon First showcasing the mundane – a trick to lure us in we fall hook, line, sinker til the fragile end of loose threads The human craving for what is Gone Lost: Life Little time to live with eyes shut – a girl cries I hold her hand I understand what it means to be human.


Scrittura Magazine

Suffocation Shirley Jones-Luke

Ideologies do not enlighten just like a noose doesn’t loosen swing high, strange fruit, carrying bondage on wooden ships bound for a world that was only new to Europeans They sought a better life by ending the way of life for natives who welcomed them with open arms & taught the pilgrims how to survive the wilderness, generosity can be a trap It’s a wonder I can even stand, let alone breathe, history is a weight that makes my back ache, my knees buckle from the strain of injustice, because there is no life preserver for our pain, no penance for the sinners

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Scrittura Magazine Issue 11 Spring 2018  

Welcome to the Spring issue of Scrittura Magazine! As we head into our third year we can’t quite believe how the time has flown! Seeing Sc...

Scrittura Magazine Issue 11 Spring 2018  

Welcome to the Spring issue of Scrittura Magazine! As we head into our third year we can’t quite believe how the time has flown! Seeing Sc...

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