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Issue number 14 Winter 2018


Scrittura Magazine © 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 SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANT: Jessica Briscoe WEB: www.scritturamagazine.tumblr.com EMAIL: scrittura.magazine@gmail.com TWITTER: @Scrittura_Mag FACEBOOK: scritturamag


In This Issue 06 08 09 10 14 15 16 17 20 22 24 26 27 28

Interchangeable Megha Sood Senescent Language Yasemin Balandi Harvest of Gold Geraldine Douglas Dream Factory Ewa Hanna Mazierska Second Story Tom Jardine The After Shock Alun Robert Room With a View Ed Blundell Olivia’s Baby Lisa Reily Spanish Matt Appleby Their First Bounce So High Ian C. Smith Emily As She Overwaters Me Darren C. Demaree My New School Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon Brownies Lynn White Ladies Who Launch Ed Blundell

29 30 34 37 38 40 41 42 43 49 50 52

Please Santa John Baverstock Cold Call Samuel Best Mostly Elégant Alun Robert One Egg or Two? Lucy Cuthew Life on Earth Zac Thraves Egmont Key Tom Jardine Up North Robert Wood The Gold Mine Lynn White Apollo Nikodeimos Papanicolau Lisa Reily For Years my Tongue Lay Still Gareth Culshaw Where I go to my Lovely Alun Robert Houseproud Paul Waring


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A Note From The Editors Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! 2018 has been a great year for Scrittura; we’ve been privileged enough to publish lots of new exciting writing from writers across the world, and we’re so proud to be ending it with this fantastic issue, full of wonderful prose and poetry, and of course, more of our gorgeous illustrations. To get you in the Christmas spirit, we have a very poignant poem, ‘Dear Santa’ (pg 29) which is guaranteed to tug at your heart-strings. Appropriately for the festive season, childhood seems to be a popular theme in this issue – check out ‘Brownies’ (pg 27) for a humorous account of a young girl’s experience with the girl guides, and ‘My New School’ (pg 26) for a nostalgic exploration of the hardships of starting at a new school. And if you’re looking to be creeped out, try the haunting short story ‘Cold Call’ (pg 30). Our cover art is based on the poem ‘Egmont Key’ (pg 40) a thought-provoking depiction of nature and wildlife. Thank you to everyone who submitted their work for this issue – we always enjoy reading the wide variety of submissions we get. If you’d like to submit something for consideration for Issue 15, the deadline is January 31st 2019. Don’t forget we publish prose, poetry and even short scripts! As always, a huge thank you to our super talented illustrator, Catherine, who always works tirelessly to make sure each issue is as stunning as the last. Also a big thank you to Jessica, our Social Media assistant – be sure to check out her inspiring weekly writing prompts and partake in the discussions she leads on our Twitter and Facebook. And do let us know your thoughts on this issue via our social channels – we love to receive your feedback!

Valentina & Yasmin

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Interchangeable Megha Sood


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Silence lives on the other side of the lake where Death has yet to reach it can count the footsteps of the sunlight falling in the dried petals and can trace you near the creek Death is a slithering snake it has no legs or a million tiny ones you can feel its ominous presence its vibrations in the earth beneath you like that phantom pain my granny has in her knees every monsoon Silence is hidden between the shards of the broken glass screeching from every flake heartbroken by the loss of its identity and mourning the loss of the one it has Death is the unspoken prayer at the cemetery, where it rules the territory boisterously, chest thumping and watermarking everybody for its destination Silence and Death are interchangeable the moment you part your lips.

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Senescent Language Yasemin Balandi

Senescent language Of my forefathers Lingers in my adolescent memory I had vowed to forget my distant past Only then could I become a true citizen Of my Newfoundland. A rationale lost on my children Still there are forty words In my ancient tongue To describe a non-symmetrical nose This I remember. Then the romance of my senescent language is still there. No books were written in my ancient tongue. Just the fading stories Of war times And beguiling peace. Ochre soil. Lost souls. Find home at last  In Newfoundland. When did your Diaspora begin? my son presses. Was it during 1893 or 1914 or was it in medieval times? No books are written in my senescent tongue. My son is dissatisfied. Mine is a story of mixing of bloodlines My son’s is even more so.


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Harvest of Gold Geraldine Douglas Birthed from an acorn, eyes open, love-lit gold, chimes its silent bell. Sulphur flames levitate… Expand to a peach horizon where mysterious beings crochet chestnut dew. A Silversmith’s sculpture, mistress of fine arts… Her magic dressed mustardy, mocha-copper wands October shades. Her thousand voices gabble like spirits of virgin Sprites. Swifts swoop embroidering rings of russet, through pollen clouded mists from one hundred flaxen Lilies. Autumn saturates spiced pumpkin hues, Late wizard-white Roses suffocate under Knitbone, their ashes swallowed in absolute nothingness. Sun’s amber rays crawl like running wax over a cake… A vibrant nest of mounted ants rummage for treasured fruits, scoffing sad, old apples. Final whispers of Summer, ghost breaths of time past skim through a dazzled season… Caramel sketches broke her heart. Now, a paper-cut shadow, beauty expanded into a violet void. Pastels will reap dawn’s brushwork once again.

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Dream Factory Ewa Hanna Mazierska

It was Paul’s last full day in Edinburgh; the next day he was meant to fly back to New York. He felt that he could not take any more of these business trips, with meetings in high-rise buildings, the coded language used by the people there, which made him feel on edge, and the excessive amount of coffee and alcohol, which only gave him headaches and made him sleepless. He thought he screwed it up too; the meetings didn’t follow the scenarios he had prepared for and all four days he was in Edinburgh went excruciatingly slow. At times he couldn’t even understand these Scots, whose soft, childish accents were like a cover-up for the most insincere plans. Everybody says that Scots are friendlier than the perfidious Albion, but Paul thought the opposite – for him they were outdoing the English in hypocrisy. He was also down because it would be more difficult than ever before to leave his job, as Sandra, his wife, who had so many ambitions for him, and so few for herself, recently became pregnant. As the day was surprisingly hot for such as northern city, he decided to take a stroll through the centre. Apparently it was a day of a solar eclipse, but Paul doubted this could be observed in the middle of the city. Anyway, he never saw anything more unusual than the rainbow, as far as events in the sky were concerned. He left his mobile at the hotel, so nobody could get hold of him – neither his boss, nor his colleagues from work, nor his wife. At first he walked around the castle, admiring the magnificent building, perhaps the best-situated castle he knew of, and then took a steep narrow back street. The beauty of Edinburgh’s centre was that it consisted of such steep narrow streets, in which one could easily get lost but also miraculously emerge in front of the familiar building. The important thing was not to think too much about one’s destination, just let the streets lead you, as somebody told Paul the previous day. He followed this advice, especially as he had no specific plan, except to strengthen his legs, sit down in a café, drink a soda, take another aspirin and read a real paper. Unfortunately, his headache got worse, and he felt like his lips were getting dry, but there was no cafe or even a shop to buy a drink. Suddenly he found himself in front of a building with a neon sign saying ‘Dream Factory’. The building looked like an old cinema, although as far as he knew, there were no more cinemas of this sort left in Britain. He went in, as he expected it to be cool inside and he thought that perhaps they sold soft drinks there. Inside there was a dark corridor lit with a very weak, red light. He had to walk for some time until he reached a small desk, where a Japanese-looking receptionist greeted him in English with a strong Scottish accent. ‘Do you have an appointment, Sir?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘What is your name?’ ‘Paul Taylor.’ ‘I do not have you on my register, but this might have to do with the power cut we suffered yesterday, which wiped some information from our system. Is this your first visit?’


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‘Yes.’ ‘So you need to see our personal dream advisor first.’ They carried on walking this long corridor, which was even more badly lit than the reception area. The uneven walls were painted in dark red and there were many doors, as if it was a hotel full of small blind rooms, which are not uncommon in cheap hotels in China and Thailand. Paul was taken to one such room, indeed lacking windows. The only furniture there was a small desk with an old-style PC and two chairs. On one of them sat an old man, also looking distinctly Asian and he had the same Scottish accent as the receptionist. He introduced himself as John and said, ‘Welcome to Dream Factory. Our motto is “We dream for you”. Our philosophy is based on the premise that dreaming is a hard and dangerous work. Dreams can make you exhausted and unhappy, even more so than insomnia. Therefore we want to ensure that your sleep will be restful and satisfactory and help you survive your daily life.’ ‘How does it work?’ ‘First we try to establish what type of dream you want and what characters you want to insert into it. Then we take a scan of your brain to extract the appropriate mental images to place in what we call the master narrative. Usually these will be people you want to see when sleeping: your beloved or, conversely, your enemies. Once the right combination is achieved, you have a dream trial. If you are satisfied with it (and most customers are), we work with you on your long-time “dream plan,” where you decide how much of your sleeping time you want to devote to quality time and how much to leave to unstructured sleep.’ ‘How do you insert these dreams?’ ‘We inject them with a special syringe; as this ensures that they work almost immediately. However, it is also possible to take them in the form of a pill.’ ‘How is it better than taking LSD or something like that?’ asked Paul. ‘Many people ask us this question. To begin with, drugs are poison; everybody agrees on that, even their users and manufacturers. Sooner or later they will kill you. By contrast, our dreams are completely safe. We represent biocybernetics, not some junkie business and we have almost a hundred years of experience. Our headquarters are in Vienna, not in Columbia or Mexico. This is our founding father.’ He pointed to a portrait of an oldish, baldish man with a beard and a cigar, which was vaguely familiar, but Paul could not recollect where he’d seen it before. ‘Secondly, people take drugs to cope with their daily reality, even if the drugs affect their sleeping pattern. Our injections and pills work only when our customers are asleep. Hence they are entirely private. There is no danger that you will embarrass yourself by acting erratically or aggressively as is the case with users of heroin, LSD or meth.’ ‘Are they addictive?’ ‘Not in the usual sense of the word. It is you who decides what to do with the dreams. You can request new narratives or develop them with our designers or on your own. It is like moving from a primary school through secondary, up to university. First you need a teacher who does everything for you, then one who assists you and finally you can do it all by yourself.’ ‘How much does it cost?’ ‘This depends on the type of meta-dream you choose. We have three basic types: the loving type, the killing type and the avant-garde type. The loving type is the cheapest – it is around 150 GBP per dream. Next is the avant-garde type – about 200 GBP per dream. The

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killing type is the most expensive – 250 GBP per dream. You can reduce this cost by up to 30% by agreeing for us to insert an advert into your dream, like popular songs on YouTube. The only difference is that you cannot skip the advert. You have to dream them to the very end. But they are, of course, short. We also try to make them fit the actual dream. Our team designs the adverts in the same way we design dreams. The dream trial costs 100 GBP, irrespective of the type of dream and lasts about two hours.’ ‘What are these types?’ ‘The loving type is, in a nutshell, the dream of having sex with a person you wish or more than one, for that matter. In the killing type you torture or kill people you hate. In the avant-garde dream you do not see people, only soothing images and hear pleasant sounds. We try to customise them too’. ‘Can you kill real people in these dreams – people I know?’ ‘Yes, that is the beauty of it. You can place in your dream real people and do with them what you want. There can be historical people too and imaginary, as long as they are clearly defined. You can kill Hitler, if you wish, and sleep with Angelina Jolie.’ ‘What do people usually choose?’ ‘Few people opt for Hitler. Most people want to kill those they know and sleep with those whom they do not know.’ ‘Like who?’ ‘This year among heterosexual men the most popular are the Taylors: Taylor Swift and Taylor Schilling. Among those who are dead the leading ones are Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. But there are also national variations.’ ‘Can I have a threesome with Monroe and Diana?’ ‘Yes, but it will cost you an extra 50 GBP. 200 GBP in total.’ ‘This will be more expensive than a night with a hooker.’ The man smiled, and then answered, ‘A customised dream is a very complex commodity and still a very new one. Imagine yourself being the first customer who bought a laptop or a mobile phone. Things like that weren’t cheap when they first entered the market.’ ‘Are there any cheaper companies doing this? ‘Yes, they are, but they are not reliable. If you go there, it will be like buying crack cocaine from an unknown dealer.’ ‘Can I also commit suicide in my dream?’ ‘Yes, though such dreams are a bit dangerous. It might be difficult to wake up from them.’ ‘OK. I know what I want. First I want to kill the annoying man whom I met in Edinburgh and…’ ‘You do not need to tell us all that.’ John raised his hand to stop Paul. ‘Just put this headgear on, (you see it is very light and comfy, not like these cosmic helmets from old science fiction films) and imagine the people you want to place in your dreams. First in the killing dream, then the loving dream. Press this button after you finish with one type of dream.’ Paul put the headgear, which indeed felt very light and soft, like a bandage. He wasn’t certain if he closed his eyes or not, but for sure he found himself in a new place: a kind of huge curiosity shop, dark and musty, and filled with various things from his past, mostly those which he disposed of. There was a Santa Claus costume which he was asked to wear


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when he was a child, many old toys, a pile of CDs Sandra threw away when they moved to a new apartment and even a piece of a fancy cake he failed to eat because Sandra was unwell and they had to leave a party. These things were arranged in no particular order, as in a junk shop. When he was approaching them, he noticed that behind them there was a person, who gave him this thing or took it away from him. The things were much larger than the people, as if it was a warehouse serviced by gnomes and they had shy smiles on their faces, as if they were asking for mercy. After all, it was meant to be a killing dream. But Paul had no time to stop and talk to these people or inspect the old treasures – something forced him to hurry up. The further he went, the less crowded became the warehouse and more light was filling its space. Eventually he reached its end, where there was a large, old-fashioned wooden gate. Unfortunately, it was locked, and there was no way to open it. He was kicking the door, but this only made his body ache. Suddenly he noticed that there was a small eye-shaped object on the frame, like a small knob or a large button. He pulled it and the door started to move with a crackle. When it happened, Paul started to regret that he didn’t stay a bit longer and eat the cake, which looked delicious. But there was no way back – he was now pushed forward, leaving the junk behind. Eventually he heard somebody saying, ‘He is waking up’. He opened his eyes and saw a man in a white uniform. ‘Is this a dream factory?’ he asked. ‘You could say so,’ the man said with a smile. ‘But we are slightly more versatile. We also try to wake up those who are sleeping. You are in a hospital.’ ‘What happened to me?’ ‘You lost consciousness. Most likely it was a reaction to a solar eclipse. You were lucky a Japanese tourist called an ambulance.’ ‘How long have I been here?’ ‘About two hours. It doesn’t feel very long, but we were worried about you. It looked like every part of your body was switching itself off, as if preparing to take you to a different reality. Very unusual,’ continued the doctor. The doctor asked him to stay in the hospital for another day, but Paul insisting on leaving, as he had a plane to catch. Back at the hotel, he checked his mobile. Sandra was texting him to phone her back. When he phoned her, she told him that she had to rush to a hospital, as there was a danger of a miscarriage and how angry she was, not being able to contact him at this time of anguish. In the end everything was fine and the baby was saved. She talked about all these things in her typical minute detail, managing to squeeze in every sentence a drop of self-pity and accusation. Finally she said, ‘And what about you?’ ‘Me, as usual. The meetings were stressful and I had a bit of a sleeping problem. But it is all over now.’ ‘Of course, with you always everything is fine, therefore you don’t understand how it is for me to be here on my own, with all these worries, when you are enjoying yourself.’ Paul started to feel very tired and uncomfortable. It was in part because his clothes were hurting him, especially his tight trousers. He put his hand in his pocket and took out from it a small eye-shaped object, like a little knob. He started to squeeze it.

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Second Story Tom Jardine The artist calls with her raspy hello as morning rush hour starts below her second story bedroom window. The radios play while the drivers grip to go and follow in bumper to bumper waves to jobs where they slave with other knaves.   Then more cars come and drivers comply and mouth the words when broken hearts cry or a lover returns, begging sex or goodbye.   She laughs and says the lonely are liars and selfish and she will scorn and scoff subservient crooners and criers.   She loves her one bedroom house and aims to loll in bed until the ardor dies off. Small oil paintings lean without frames. She tells me everything except their names.


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The After Shock

Alun Robert

Cowered in a cafĂŠ snuck under the counter dropping in time by a stroke of good fortune just as heinous bullets spat to take out the innocent; wounded and dead. Heard screams shrill above staccato munitions. What had just occurred? Most horrid, vile. Then a bellowing silence eerie foreboding. Tears, wailing with blood omnipresent on walls, on parquet floors, over human beings. Friends and family and those I do not know, casualties of confrontation fought out in suburbia en pursuit of some cause, bellicose in extreme. My racing heart flutters to over one twenty temperature rising to well above euthermia. Axillae both soaked despite deodorant blasting early dark morning during my catharsis when everything seemed normal if slightly strained but without premonitions of tragedy, of trauma. Shaking, shivering, muscles Ăźber-tensing. Am starting to sob with saline tears streaming. Why was it not me? Why was I spared? Let me break free through abject sorrow. Do not expose me to cameras or a media jungle to wander alone unscarred in search of everyone I have lost or ever treasured for I am hopelessly confused traumatised by this wretched carnage and bloody mutilation. How can I recover from the anguish and pain? Let me grieve unencumbered by facts, by truth devoid of reality yet smothered with guilt.

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Room With a View Ed Blundell You fill your room with things you love, A vase of flowers, your CDs, Paintings, a picture of your cat, Some ornaments, a shelf of books, A rag rug that your grandma made, A soft settee you drape across. Your perfume lingers in the air, You play your favourite Mozart track. The room is you. Sadly, I see, There is no room in it for me.


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Olivia’s Baby Lisa Reily

Her baby was just easier to manage; there was no doubt about it. Olivia sat by the lake with her husband, George. It was a beautiful day and everyone was out for the sun. Strollers and baby buggies of all kinds were out in force, along with the assortment of couples who trudged behind them. Most of them look exhausted, thought Olivia, as she held little Jeremy in her arms. Unhappy, too. Only now and again, a young mum passed by with a smile on her face. Probably new to it all. Or in love. An older woman strolled nearby with her feisty Chihuahua. Olivia smiled and held Jeremy close as the nosy intruders approached. ‘What a cute little – boy,’ said the woman, with that odd look on her face Olivia had become so bored with. ‘His name’s Jeremy,’ replied Olivia, not taking her eyes off the stupid, old cow. ‘Oh,’ said the stupid, old cow, who quickly departed – as Olivia knew she would. Honestly. Why did people have to judge her like that? She had a right to a baby as much as anyone. Olivia remembered when she first saw Jeremy in the store window. He was dressed in a gorgeous miniature sailor’s outfit. She just had to have him. And when she finally got to hold him (after waiting behind an endless queue of clucking women), she felt – well – right somehow. His skin was a kind of plastic, but it was baby smooth and soft. She especially loved his soft wisps of hair, which could even grow like a real baby’s. Unfortunately, Jeremy’s crying, feeding and nappies were the same as a real baby, too. In one end and out the other. But his cries were easier to understand. He only made three sounds: one for food, one for a wet nappy,

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and one for a cuddle. He went to sleep without so much as a whimper. Easy. But it was not the routine of feeding and changing Jeremy that Olivia craved; it was loving him. For weeks, Olivia had begged George to purchase Jeremy. Until one day George finally gave in. ‘All right, all right, you want a baby? Have one.’ But when George dragged himself to the store and laid eyes on Jeremy’s pale exterior, he was not keen. George was a man’s man. He had his pride. Jeremy looked like someone else’s kid and he was not having it. Luckily, Olivia was way ahead of him. Changes could be made, she assured him. And Jeremy was the latest, without all the biodegradable problems of some of the earlier reproductions. There would be no need for returns with this one. George shrugged and took Jeremy into his arms. When the adorable scent of baby filled his nostrils, he could not wait to take him home. In less than a week, a perfectly matched Jeremy was strapped into a brand new babyseat in the back of George and Olivia’s car, his wisps of hair black, his eyelashes long and thick, just like George’s. People had always complained about plastic, but for Olivia and George it was their miracle. They had tried IVF, but had only been disappointed. It was too expensive to try again. Why persevere with something so unpredictable, so imperfect, so… positively heartbreaking, when you can have a baby Jeremy in your arms within weeks of an order? Life with little Jeremy was a big change for both of them. For Olivia, it was like falling in love again – only with someone else. Like having an affair, right under George’s nose! But Olivia had so much love to give, she had no trouble loving George and Jeremy all at once. As for George, he had less energy for Olivia, but it was enough for her to see him so proud of his new son. Olivia especially enjoyed it when she and George took Jeremy to the beach. She loved sitting under her new family umbrella, just listening to the waves. It was great to be around the other mums and dads with their children, too. They all had real babies, so they usually looked at her a little strangely. But Olivia knew it would take time for this to change. She reflected on all the things that had changed in her lifetime. She remembered it took years to convince her parents to buy a colour TV. School kids used to carry their lunches in brown paper bags. There was no cling wrap. Or lunchboxes. As for the beach, you were lucky if you had a bucket and spade! When Olivia was at university, most people wrote their assignments by hand. Very few people had computers, or even typewriters, back then. Olivia looked around for George. Although he liked to spend most of his time dozing on the sand, he would always dig Jeremy a pool somewhere near the water’s edge. It was difficult to find him in the weekend crowd with their endless supply of beach balls, floaties and water toys…Oh, there he is! And a little girl with him, sitting in a pool with Jeremy. When George built Jeremy his first pool, he went all out. He constructed an intricate, circular castle-like wall, shaped with a variety of upside down buckets of sand and decorated with shells, sticks and bits of seaweed. He dug an enormous hole in the middle of it all and placed Jeremy inside. When the water rushed towards Jeremy, he made a delightful sound – a kind of squeal. Olivia and George nearly fell over! He had never made that sound before. It was hard to face that, one day, Olivia would have to give Jeremy up. She couldn’t have a baby forever, and there were improved models all the time. You could even get small children now. But the thought of recycling Jeremy just didn’t feel right. Olivia knew he wasn’t real, but


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she wanted him to be, well, permanent. You just can’t always have what you want when you want it, she reasoned. Screams of panic broke Olivia’s reverie. She looked up to see a huge wave wash over the beach, dragging away everything in its path. Olivia raced towards the knee-deep churn. George and Jeremy were nowhere to be seen. A second wave rose and crashed down hard. Mums and dads rushed frantically about, scooping up their waterlogged children. People snatched desperately at bags and toys floating by. Random items dumped by the sea. Olivia strode further into the water. Into the crushing waves. ‘George! Jeremy!’ she shrieked. Everywhere around her debris drifted. People yelled and panicked. Children cried in their mothers’ arms. Swirled under the water as the ocean devoured them. Suddenly George grabbed Olivia by the arm. ‘I can’t find him. I can’t find Jeremy!’ George was holding the little girl. Olivia looked into George’s eyes. He was crying. She looked at the little girl; her face was awash with sand. Olivia took her into her arms. She could feel her tiny body shivering against her, and her soft, wet skin. She carried her away from the water, collapsed onto the sand, let her warmth wash over her. George enveloped them both in his comforting arms and they sat silent, the chaos all around them. ‘Emilia! Emilia!’ Two distressed, sobbing people ran towards them. And the little girl was taken away. By nightfall, the beach was littered with nothing but the sound of waves, remnants of beach umbrellas and plastic. Almost everyone had gone. But Olivia and George sat shivering. George bought Olivia some hot chips wrapped in newspaper and she began to cry. They would normally have eaten them with Jeremy at the end of a beach day together. George held Olivia close. Let her fall apart. Olivia knew Jeremy wasn’t real. She knew no one would care to help them find him. She looked out across the beach and to the mysterious sea, so black with the night. ‘I love you, my Jeremy,’ she whispered, hoping he might hear her. *** Under the sea, Jeremy drifted, tumbled about with the sea’s sway and rhythm. A powerful wave crashed around him, almost pushing him right back to shore. He was dunked under, thrust into the air and, for a moment, he thought he could see Olivia and George. It was fun in the water. There were so many shiny bottles and cans, colourful floaties and toys – even a tiny, red water pistol! Jeremy squealed when he saw a big, green turtle with a tyre around its neck, and a huge fish with a gleaming hook in its mouth, a trail of fishing line behind it. Jeremy could feel himself slowly filling with sea water. It was nice to feel…heavy… solid…real… As he sank to the bottom, he thought of Olivia and George. He would miss them very much. They were like a real mum and dad… But he had always loved the sea.

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Spanish Matt Appleby

Big secret – I’m not. I laughed when they asked if I could speak it. Took lessons at school, remember how to swear but nothing else. Anyway it says Diego on the nametag they gave me. They call me that at the restaurant in front of customers. Pretty funny. I was hired in October, before the attack. That’s how we count time in our city: before and after the bombing, like B.C. and A.D. I didn’t know anyone they showed on the news, but I have this friend who was stoned, he slept through the whole thing. He slept through nineteen missed calls so for sure I thought he was a goner. That was as close as I got, but this guy down the road lost his son. The kitchen knows where I’m from, but the kitchen knows everything. They know stuff about customers they ain’t even seen, man. Shit’s scary. They speak Spanish to each other mostly, and I don’t know any of the words, but whatever. Like, I understand. You get it from the tone. You can speak any language from the tone. Tone is important to me, man. I like me some respect. People think just cause you’re young that they can dick on you. One time I was serving wine, and like, I drop a bit of it, whatever, and this guy goes nuts. No respect, but what can you do? I was like, mate, chill, that stain will wash out. But I didn’t react or anything. I knew I’d only keep my job as long as I stayed zen and acted Spanish. Little did a guy know. Not long after, I have to wait this table, and I get there, and it’s just one guy, and he’s tetchy. This is the tetchiest motherfucker you’ve ever seen. But he’s nicely dressed, like, he’s got that scarf thing going on. You can tell that he’s got like an accountant or something. But he doesn’t look happy, probably cause he’s found himself here, in this – trust me – shit restaurant, at one in the afternoon, on a Thursday. He asks for a recommendation. Now of course I know fuck all about wine, but still, I thought, I’ll be polite, so maybe sir will enjoy this vintage. He says I can’t even pronounce the name on the menu. He says, your Spanish is worse than mine. And I’m laughing a little nervous like, haha, yeah, well, you know, it’s a hard language even for people who speak it. He looks at me and he’s like, you’re not Spanish at all, are you? He points to where the menu says native and knowledgeable waiters. At first I don’t know if he’s joking or complaining. He has the sort of face that could be both. Then, and I’m not being funny, he


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says this. Word for word, the following shit. He says, nice to see a local boy. Then he looks around and adds, can’t be too careful with foreigners in this city. He acts like he’s telling a secret but this, I swear, is the most public fucking secret you’ve ever heard: we should bomb their lot right back. Everyone is watching now. Like, there are even heads looking out from the kitchen. There were bodies in the street only a month ago, and this guy wants round two. And the whole room has put this, like, responsibility on me. How I act will be some definitive shit. Dunno why I lost my zen when I’m not even Spanish. Anyway it wasn’t even the Spanish who bombed us. I don’t think we know who it was – there’s a lot of talk but, like, the only suspect they had, I think he’s been released. And I looked at this guy with his sparkly plate in front of him. I knew right then what I was going to do, not cause I’d planned it, maybe cause I’d seen it on TV, or in a film, and it’d gotten in my head. I spat on his plate. I let it drop, all slow. I never knew how much spit my mouth could hold and I won’t lie about how proud I was. It made a pool. We both watched it. Everyone watched it. I wiped my mouth on my sleeve.

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Their First Bounce So High Ian C. Smith


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The idea of growing up? OK, but graveyards? No way. You were going to play football for your country, embrace glory you read about so avidly, not struggle with pain, seated, getting dressed after gothic dreams working up a sweat. Time was on your side until you took your eyes off it when it turned against you, a wicked betrayal. Reading in your work break, an English crime writer’s actual account of driving across all 48 U.S. states, you yearned to be there, thrilled imagining this. Then you read Kerouac, a different, spaced-out glory. That lucky crime writer’s name now forgotten, you enshrine a memory in solitude of hitch-hiking America’s vastness, thankful, having realised youthful adventures. You travel again, back in the comfort of books, a de facto way to feel the sun on your face, sometimes as ennobling as a diva’s piercing sadness. Circling wetlands to a local swing bridge, feet sore, you recall riding your bike with mates, hauling tyres up a high railway bridge, dropping them to plummet through morning light, a swishing howl, their bounces in dandelion fluff progressively weaker until falling flat, dead in their tracks, that rail line, surrounded by new houses now, leading to the promise of a distant glimmering city. You want your heart to keep beating, days repeating.

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Emily As She Overwaters Me Darren C. Demaree


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I am innocent enough to be drowned by a woman that knows exactly how uninnocent I’ve been. It’s never torture if you open your throat to the deluge. It’s not happiness all the time, but I am intrigued by her little experiment. How lovely it will be when my bloom rests, detached from the rest of me.

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My New School Ceinwen E. Cariad Haydon

Mum said, Go. Just this once.   It was bad, that first day. School lunch was hard to swallow. Parsley butter – yellow grease with green bits – made me gag.   The next day, Mum said, Go. Just this once.   I wrote a story, Miss Sinclair glared. She snatched my bitten pencil, flared, ‘No, no,’ then slapped my wrist.   Kept in at break, I curled up, copied my punishment lines: I must write right-handed. I tried and blundered at least one hundred times. Teacher mocked  my spider scrawl. Said, ‘For sure, you’re sinister, my girl’. Months later, Mum said, Go. Just this once.   Football-mad Robbie liked me, said I could join in his game. It got rough, I got hot, pulled my shirt off, like the boys. Headmistress saw my pale nipples. Appalled she shouted, ‘Dirty girl,’ smirked and yanked my blouse back on. Buttoned up, it hurt.   Next term, Mum said, Go. Just this once. Like before, she lied. 


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Brownies Lynn White My mother took me there, the first time I went to Brownies. The church hall was too far for me to go alone and I couldn’t be trusted to cross the main road. It was like Fireflies, she said. I liked Fireflies, and I could go there on my own. They put on records for us to dance to and the games we played were fun. There was no music at Brownies. Many of the children wore a brown uniform. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t have to wear it said the old woman in charge. She was called Brown Owl. She had a brown uniform as well. With her fat upholstered body and tiny eyes, she didn’t look like an owl to me. I liked owls. Arthur and I often planned to sneak into the woods at night to see if we could find them. We would be like the children in the Enid Blyton books then. Brown Owl was bossy and made the children play silly games, not like Fireflies at all. I sat at the side and watched at first, but she said I had to join in later. So when she wasn’t looking I sneaked out and left. I ran all the way home where big trouble waited even though I explained that she had tried to boss me about and make me play silly games. So my first time at Brownies was also my last. I never went back. I never went to the woods with Arthur, either.

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Ladies Who Launch Ed Blundell Fingers beringed, fine china cups, Red lips sip, no sugar, Earl Grey. Ham sandwiches, no butter please, No cake for me, I’m losing weight. Let me tell you the latest tale, Spin scandal, let the gossip loose. I can’t believe it, fancy that, Who would have thought? How do you know? I heard it from someone who said, They heard it from somebody else, Who swore they knew that it was true, So I suppose it is, don’t you?


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Please Santa John Baverstock

Probably stopped believing in Santa Aged about seven, Possibly a touch older, When I questioned If there was a heaven. It now won’t make any sense In what I am about to write. A note to Santa On this very night, If there is such a place Called heaven in the sky, Maybe it could be On your visit list As you drive on by. If it is Santa, As we are finding it hard, Could you please Santa? Deliver this Christmas card To our dear mum and dad, Thanking them For all the Christmases we had? The day will never ever Be the same again, Their place cemented in our hearts, Forever will remain.

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Cold Call Samuel Best Nicole was reading when the knock at the door came. The room had been silent and dim, the only light from a small number of candles dotted around and the reading lamp in the corner. She closed her book with a sigh. It had been a long day and dreaming of this hour to herself was what had gotten her through it. She rose from the sofa and stretched her back, arching and twisting slowly, before walking across the room. Her steps fell quietly on the wooden floorboards, dampened by a pair of thick knitted socks her mother had given her last winter. She slid through the apartment like a ghost. The hallway was in darkness and Nicole navigated it smoothly, knowing instinctively how many steps to take before moving to avoid the edge of the small table on the left, and when to twist to avoid catching her hip on the radiator further along. When she neared the door her hand rose, ready to turn the latch, but she paused first, still always thinking of her ex’s warnings to check the peephole before opening the door. The peephole glowed brightly against the black of the hall; the communal stairwell lights blazing through the tiny aperture. It almost hurt to press her face to it, but Nicole’s eye adjusted quickly. Standing on the other side of the door was a woman. Twisted grotesquely by the fisheye peephole, the woman’s head appeared massive atop a spindly body, and Nicole couldn’t make out any defining features except for a green jacket, long black hair, and what appeared to be a lanyard around the woman’s neck. Feeling a sense of safety – ‘a legitimate caller doesn’t need to be asked for their ID’, her police officer father had once told her, ‘they wear it in plain sight’ – she turned the lock and pulled open the door. Outside, the landing was empty. Nicole frowned and leaned out, peering both ways to look beyond her doorframe. There was nobody there. She hesitated, half-closing the door, but then pulled it back open again and spoke. ‘Hello?’ she said quietly. Her voice cracked and she waited. Faintly, she heard the din of a TV in another apartment, and an ambulance siren beginning distantly outside. Nothing else. Nicole frowned again and shut the door over. She looked through the peephole once more but saw nothing but the empty landing. A little perturbed, she turned and scuffed her feet along the floor on the way back to the living room. Nicole sat back in her chair and opened her book again. She flicked through the pages until she found where she had left off. It was a new thriller, recommended by some Top Five list in a magazine, and it was moving at a good pace so far. Nicole found her place and had begun to read when she heard a second knock. She froze. The sound had cut through the apartment and her heart was suddenly racing. Nicole listened carefully and a moment later she heard it again. The hard rap of knuckles against wood. Nicole slowly set her book down and stood. She moved silently across the room, scared to make a sound but anxious enough to investigate. She slowed in the hallway, moving at half-


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speed, her head tilted towards the door in case her ears missed a third knock. When she reached the door she took a deep breath, the silence of the apartment building to a palpable presence. She leaned in delicately, balancing on her toes and leaning her weight against the heft of the door. Moving her eye close in to the peephole, a breath caught in her throat. Stood outside, bulging against the curve of the glass, was the woman again. Long hair dragging down either side of her face, lanyard swinging from her throat. ‘Can I help you?’ Nicole said, her hand resting on the lock, face still pressed to the door. The woman didn’t speak. Didn’t move. Nicole realised she was holding her breath. ‘Hello?’ she called. Against her better judgement, she turned the latch to unlock the door. Nicole couldn’t place what she expected to happen, but she had been bracing herself for something. Her muscles were primed and although she was slim she reckoned that she could throw a good punch if she needed to. She pulled the door open in a quick, sharp motion, and lurched forwards onto the landing, intent on meeting the woman head on. Instead, Nicole tumbled forwards into the empty landing once more. She regained her balance and turned in a circle, her eyes darting across every inch of the stairwell. ‘What the –?’ she muttered to herself. ‘Hello?’ she called, bold and loud, though her voice shook a little as the sound died away. ‘Is anyone there?’ The hallway was still, and even the TV noise from earlier had stopped, leaving a heavy quiet in the building. Nicole stood still, trying to find some sort of rational explanation. She moved to look at her front door and tried peering the other way through the peephole. She knew she wouldn’t be able to see through but thought it was worth a shot anyway. She pressed her eye up to the lens and strained to see. She couldn’t make anything out, so she simply polished the glass with her sleeve and went back inside. The relief of her own home smothered her as she closed the door, and she made a point of checking that the lock was set in place. Once more, Nicole moved her way through the apartment and back to the distraction of her novel, but she had only reached as far as the hall table when she heard a loud bang from behind her. Instantly she turned and raced back to the door. Skipping the peephole this time, Nicole wrenched the door open and stepped out into the hallway. Finding it empty for a third time, she screamed. Her voice rang through the building, the hoarse scratch of her throat like the tear of a hangnail. The noise died away to silence again and Nicole was left with her own heaving breathing and the scream echoing in her ears. She ran to the railings at the top of the stairwell and looked down to the floor below, but there was nothing. No one. She whirled around, conscious of every other apartment door, wary that behind each might be pressed a neighbour looking out as she had been earlier. The landing glared back at her blankly. She felt both alone and not alone, as if she were prey being watched by some far off predator. Nicole settled herself, taking deep breaths, trying to steady her shaking hands. She grew aware of her skin sweating and rubbed at her eyes. She felt maddened, as though her brain were suddenly on fire. Was she sleep deprived? She went back to her front door and pushed. It didn’t move. She pushed harder, tried the handle, but the door wouldn’t budge. Nicole kicked the door hard and winced, feeling her toes crumple against the wood. She had forgotten she was only in

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socks. She tried the door once more and this time it swung open smoothly. She was faced with her own darkened hallway, the light from the stairwell only bleeding in by a matter of feet. Nicole took a step indoors. Something was different in her apartment. The door hadn’t even closed before Nicole could feel that. She let it clack shut behind her and stepped further into the hall. The contrast with the blazing lights in the stairwell left her nightblind and this time, as she walked, she bumped into the radiator, clipping her hip on the metal edge. She carried on, a slight limp developing, and reached her hands out in front of her in case she should bump into the hall table as well. Nicole drew nearer to the living room and as she did, the candleglow illuminated her way slightly. She pushed the door open and stood still in the doorframe. She looked around the room, a knot in her stomach. Her hands reached for the light switch and she turned on the overhead light, casting the room into sharp brightness. There was a safety with the lights on, Nicole felt, and she edged further into the room, peering behind the sofa and behind the door. The room was empty, and Nicole exhaled a long, deeply-held breath. On the table, where she had left it, was her book. Nicole was sure she had closed the novel properly, with her bookmark in place, but now it lay open, face down. She frowned at it, doubting herself now, unsure of her own memory. She moved towards it and reached out a hand. Turning the novel over, she saw that the book was open at a different page she had left off at. She closed the book over and set it back on the table. On a coaster next to it, her mug of tea had grown cold. Nicole glanced behind her before moving through to the kitchen to put the kettle on. A fresh cup of tea in her hand, Nicole went back to the living room and blew the candles out. She turned her reading lamp off and went across the hall to her bedroom. Setting her cup of tea by her bed, Nicole looked out her pyjamas and set the alarm on her phone. Another early start tomorrow, she thought to herself, and her relaxation time tonight had been a bust. She felt a little better now, at least, but still not exactly calm. She worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep properly. The thought took root in her mind and she remembered she had something to help with that – buried deep at the back of her medicine cabinet was a blister pack of sleeping aids, she remembered. She dismissed the idea and drank her tea. Brushing her teeth, Nicole looked at herself in the mirror. She looked tired. She felt tired. She spat and washed the foam away before putting her toothbrush back. Her fingers lingered on the door to the medicine cabinet and before she really processed it, she had popped two sleeping pills into her palm and swallowed them dry. She smiled falsely at herself, trying to lift the exhausted look from her face, and then let her features fall again as she turned to go to her bedroom. On the way she paused to check the door was locked – an old habit her father used to have, and which her ex had gotten her into herself – turning the key in the lock before doublechecking the latch as well. Then three soft pulls on the handle to make sure. She tugged; one, two, three. Safe. As she turned away she caught herself, and a curious force pushed her to hold her eye to the peephole one last time. She did, and she stared out at the empty landing for quite some time, repeating to herself in a whisper that there was nobody there; there never had been. It was all in her head. When she turned away from the door she stopped cold. At the other end of her hallway,


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half in shadow, stood a figure. A woman. Long dark hair dripped down either side of her face like oil, and what Nicole had first thought was a lanyard was swinging from her neck. Except now Nicole could see that it wasn’t a lanyard at all. It was a thin nylon cord, a rope. The woman locked eyes with her and began to move forwards, coming towards Nicole at a horrible speed. Nicole’s fingers clawed at the latch, twisting the lock open, but the door wouldn’t move. She pulled at the door handle; one, two, three, and then remembered she had turned the key in the main lock as well. Just as her father had always done, as her ex had done. That had been part of the problem, the police had said, all those years ago. They’d tried to kick the door in to cut the woman down in time, but there was more than one lock and it had taken too long. She’d never had a chance.

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Mostly Elégant Alun Robert

Rang Mother, lover, my grey suited social worker. They worry about me in most everything I do. Backcomb my blond wig aided by L’Oréal Pro stiffening bought from a street vendor without receipt or provenance. Don double stitched cotton Oxford now frayed at both cuffs. Two pearlesque buttons missing (thanks to the cat). Slip on my Consiglia’s edged with Gozo finest bizzilla like a Hollywood prima donna back in the fifties or sixties. Adjust my faded blue Levi’s snugging ankles and calves with designer knee rips exposing abstract henna tattoos. Got to look real cool, have to be trendy, seem tough so keep my crotch slung low emulating rappers and punks. Put on sparkling Kanye sneakers taking at least ten minutes: bending down, threading, tugging, tying laces in granny knots. Double check my hooped socks to ensure they’re near a pair. Choose a rose gold Radley – shame the logo’s not a Rottweiler. Rouge up cheekbones, apply fluorescent orange lippy. Screw on my nasal jewellery – first blow my nose thrice. Tighten faux La Perla corset to hold in what I can’t. Slip on my red fitted jacket of real plastic leather.


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Accoutrements deep in pockets – can’t be too careful for on those nights when I wasn’t, often paid the price. Stock up on business cards with cell number, with menu. Pick up my smart phone to record each precarious minute. Tarry just a moment for to pray to Madonna. Ask her for forgiveness, seek salvation and courage. Shed a tear for those taken in their line of duty. Nobody deserves it but authorities don’t care. Last spray of eau d’Byredo to sting like a deb. Methadone tastes like shit, buggering my liver. Turn off the terrestrial, feed the boa, the cat. Double lock sash windows, switch on the alarm. Off to work now; try to avoid another bloody beating. Double fractured femur means I tot with a distinct limp. Broken nose needs resetting after a bad day at the office. Threats, warnings, physicality – I’ve had them all. Tough life with little self respect; dignity departed. Wasn’t in my dreams. Now its survival that matters. Here comes my caring minder who always takes first cut. Everybody worries about me...but wish I did too.

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One Egg or Two? Lucy Cuthew ‘One egg or two?’ you ask. ‘Two please,’ she replies. You listen to the crack and fizzle as each egg is released from its shell and into the hot butter. You eat breakfast, savouring the moment of not knowing. You are both silent. Not because you don’t want to talk to. Not because there is nothing to say. Not even because you’re nervous. You don’t speak because there is too much hope in the air and each of you know precisely how easily hope is agitated. The slightest whiff of expectation and bang it’s out there. You can’t help it sometimes. You didn’t get through three years of this without triggering a couple of hope bombs. So this morning, you both remain within yourselves, where you have been since you kissed goodnight. There is a plan for today, for whether you are, or whether you aren’t, so there is no need to talk. You clear away breakfast, collect your coats and meet by the car. You sit side by side in the front and make your slow way through the morning traffic. You listen to the news, hearing how life could be worse. You park the car at the clinic. Later, you will go your separate ways. You by car. Her by foot. Each to work, no matter what. Life goes on. You’re buzzed in and instructed to go upstairs. You walk along the top floor corridor. You’ve never made it this far before. You pass an empty waiting room. ‘Perhaps it’s just us here,’ she says. ‘Just us,’ you said last night, ‘is enough.’ ‘Just us,’ she says. She leans in for a brief moment before the door, and you press yourself to her as if to pass through her skin. Inside the room, you sit very still in the pale pink not-quite-an-arm-chair chair. She lies very still on the pale pink not-quite-a-bed bed. Still you don’t talk. You are too solitary in your hope for the shambles of language. The thing you hope for too singular to say. Just one thing. You hear the door open and watch the nurse come in. ‘Okay, let’s take a look,’ she says, pulling on latex gloves. You dimly acknowledge that in another universe, this is funny. But nothing is funny in here. You stare at the not-quite-white ceiling tiles and don’t look at the nurse or the screen at her feet. You close your eyes for a moment, and an involuntary image erupts in your mind. The two of you, pushing a...It threatens to obliterate you and suddenly the space between yourself and her is too wide. You are two singular bodies, disconnected from the future, adrift. Your hand shoots across the space between you, an anchor to hold you together. Out of the corner of your eye you notice her chest rising and falling. Her breathing is loud in the silence of the small space.


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In. Out. In. Out. There is life in here already, it reminds you, never mind what next. You join up your breathing with hers. ‘You got any others?’ the nurse asks her. ‘No, it’s just us,’ she says. ‘Mmm hmm,’ the nurse nods. ‘And did you have one egg or two?’ For a moment, you think she means breakfast and cannot fathom the relevance of such a question. ‘Two,’ she answers, clearing her throat. ‘We had two.’ You look to her, then follow her gaze to the crackle and fizzle of the black and white screen, scanning a tiny universe for life. You watch in silence. Not because you don’t want to talk. Not because there is nothing to say. Not even because you’re nervous. But because even you can clearly see there are two beings on the screen. Two. Twice as much, yet infinitely more than you could ever have hoped for. And you can’t speak because the hope in the room has already exploded, silent and joyous and utterly intoxicating. And all you want to do is savour it.

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Life on Earth Zac Thraves


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You’re caught sometimes wearing an old leathery ham belt cut from a gammon boiled in a recipe from 1953; You blame your mother for that… and you feel as if you were a pair of worn out Dunlop trainers rinsed to bleach-white in the washing machine; you’re forced to reach for the Tip-Ex… how would you feel, being the one who had been deleted from your ex’s social preferences? After all, she dumped you…no? Perhaps that is the reason for the sickness in your throat; perhaps that is why you ignore the alarm at 06:48 every morning for the rest of your life… Life can throw up many surprises. Have you ever wished you could burn your Windsor work ties the way you used to burn your old school ones? Daily, you concur, around the ten past nine mark… Yet, you used to keep a note of all the good things that worked on a piece of sickly-smelling tracing paper; it’s just never a very long list… have you strode confidently out of your door with all eyes on you you look down and see your slippers winking back? That’s your father walking… combing hair has always been a chore, cutting toe-nails too but, like breathing, we have to occasionally; and we still smile… Life can throw up many surprises.

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Egmont Key Tom Jardine Hot breeze for lizards and dragonflies and chilly ocean spray to cool the kids, who, gangly, run and yell for spiral shells, clams and claws from half a life ago. Away from roiling surf, on rolling dunes, a skinny-legged, black and shiny beetle skitters up and over sea debris, frantic to get where it knows to go. Cautious on purpose, a tortoise stands staunch. Its neck a charred wreck, head poised to shun and not run, it speaks in a low hiss, and a kiss? No. Concentric striation, hard calcification, hard, strange, how hard it is to change.


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Up North Robert Wood

Up north, he spoke of the sixty verses of a continental text, walk off, walk up, plank and yandy, flan and banjoey a tart taste of market forces integrated on the frontier where they still practiced law, circumscribed by the waterways holes deep and mazed. You ate corn, listened to the remnant of an epic tradition not primitivism, but reality grounded in ochre, in painting up, in bark carrying a pearl with flour from red mills to the south on our common shore.

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The Gold Mine Lynn White The Gould’s had the corner shop opposite the church. You could buy anything there, at a price. You could buy anything there any time, even on Sundays, especially on Sundays, when the queue snaked outside. It was a gold mine, everyone said so. They sold everything there always without a smile.


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Apollo Nikodeimos Papanicolau Lisa Reily

My father wanted to leave Greece behind. He seldom mentioned ever living there. But when he finally decided to bring Greece into my life, it called out to me. And I knew I had to listen. When I was little, I only heard my father speak in fluent Greek when he was with his old friend, Panayiotis. Mum would immediately transform into a good Greek housewife and rush dutifully back-and-forth with steaming Greek coffee. She was not invited to join in on their conversation; neither was I. Otherwise, Greek only poured from my father’s mouth when he was yelling at my mother. This usually occurred over dinner. He would shout things like Pos boro na to fao afto! (How can I eat this!), when Mum burned his steak and eggs. Or Pou einai to psomi mou! (Where is my bread!), because my father had to eat a basket full of bread at every meal. Mum didn’t always understand what he was saying, but Dad’s ear-splitting tones definitely gave her the idea. My father met my mother when she was thirty. He was forty-two. Neither of them had ever married. When Dad came to Australia, he wanted to start a new life and his grand plan included marrying a beautiful Australian woman. Dad wanted to be Australian – not Greek – so when he saw my gorgeous, blonde mother, he immediately went into action. It was not long before his baby blues had her under his spell. Dad wanted me to be a real ‘Aussie’, so he kept Greece, and most things Greek, away from me. He didn’t like olives or feta anyway, so it was never on our table. When he spoke in English, people often thought he was French. When I think back, the only real sign of his heritage was the Greek music he played non-stop on old records – all day, every Sunday. Much to my father’s displeasure, by the time I was five I could sing a Greek medley like a mini Nana Mouskouri! And Dad tried hard to keep me quiet. My father wanted us to fit in. But we never really did. Unfortunately for me, I got my dad’s blue eyes and his Mediterranean looks. Not great for a girl. Let’s just say I had to pluck my eyebrows pretty early in life. My hair was also thick and dark, and I looked permanently tanned. When I was out with my Doris Day mother, I looked like I was adopted. Now and then the kids at school would eye me over and ask me where I came from. When I’d tell them my father was Greek, they’d call me a wog. All the Greek kids got called that in the seventies. Sometimes, when Mum hung out the washing, our neighbours would tell her to go back to where she came from. It was like they couldn’t see her. By my early twenties, being Greek was not such a problem. Greek food was everywhere

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in Melbourne, so I guess it made the people who produced it more acceptable. Or at least the ‘Australians’ decided to keep quiet about what they really thought and stuffed their mouths instead. People were eating feta, olives and souvlaki like there was no tomorrow! One Sunday, my father took Mum and I out for Mum’s birthday, to lunch at a Greek restaurant in the city. It was in the Greek street and it was called Stalactites. The place was amazing! The walls were heavily concreted, with one wall curved over to look like the roof and walls of a cave. Thick spikes of concrete ‘dripped’ down like real stalactites and wax-encrusted candelabras added a romantic, if not eerie, tinge of light. The restaurant was filled with swift Greek waiters, who spoke Greek to the Greeks and taught Greek to those who were not. A man sat in the corner quietly playing the bouzouki, only to unleash his heartfelt tones when the owner made an appearance. And when that moment came, the owner would dance a mesmerising, soulful zeibekiko between the tables and, of course, smash a few white plates for good measure. I remember that we had lamb with lemon potatoes. The lamb was pungent with rosemary and oregano, so crispy-skinned on the outside – so weighty and rich. The potatoes were browned to crunchy perfection, fluffy inside and oozing olive oil, garlic and lemon. Sprinkled with large sea salt crystals – something I had never seen before – this meal was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. After lunch, the three of us walked arm-in-arm along the Greek street, in search of sweets. There were numerous Greek cake shops in the street back then. In Greece, these shops are called zacharoplasteions. Zachari means sugar in Greek and that is exactly what filled these stores. We found all the traditional honey-drenched sweets, like baklava and kataifi, as well as ice cream, chocolates, cakes and cookies. After much deliberation, we chose galaktoboureko, a traditional filo dessert filled with vanilla custard, often infused with fresh lemon or orange. This one was orange-scented – Mum and Dad’s favourite. We took three enormous, syrup-drenched pieces home in a beautiful cake box tied with a red ribbon. On the way home, Dad drove with Mum’s hand in his. He sang his favourite Theodorakis song out loud, probably the result of an extra glass of retsina at lunch. I sat in the back seat with the cake box on my lap, its creamy orange scent all around me. That’s what first made me want to go to Greece. Seeing Mum and Dad so happy, Dad singing, and the sweet, milky fragrance of the galaktoboureko; it was right then that I knew I would go there. When we got home, I made Greek coffee in our briki, a small pot especially for making it. I brought it to high heat twice, to make it just right. Dad served the galaktoboureko and Mum just watched – it was her day to relax. Then we ate, in complete silence; the food was too good to talk over. By the time we finished, galaktoboureko was my favourite, too. From that day on, things changed. Dad became, well, Greek. All Greek. He puffed up like an exotic bird and became immensely proud of his heritage. He started to talk about growing up in Athens. He reminisced about the food his mother used to make. He ranted about Greeks being the founders of democracy and he boasted about Greeks being the inventors of all: the alarm clock, philosophy, the Olympics – you name it! It was around that time that my father gave Mum his mother’s old recipe book. It was a handwritten book, full of traditional recipes. Of course, Mum was expected to cook from it –


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which she didn’t mind as it made Dad so happy. And I helped her. Our first effort was moussaka. We spent all morning frying eggplant. We peeled potatoes all afternoon. The end result filled our kitchen with the heavy scent of cinnamon. When Dad finally tasted its crusty bechamel topping, he grabbed Mum so tight, it quickly became a regular on our menu. Next, we made deliciously potent tzatziki. Mum strained the yoghurt until it was super thick. I grated the garlic and cucumber. Dad insisted the mixture should sit for at least a day, so the garlic could permeate. It would burn your nostrils with just one mouthful! It was perfect. Olives and feta were still banned from our table, but Mum used them in the recipes without Dad even knowing. And the more my father ate from his past, the more he relaxed and talked about his life in Greece. He even talked about going back there one day! I had never heard him say that before. The strangest thing was that Dad suddenly decided that he wanted to be called by his real Greek name, Apollo. Up until then, Dad had always introduced himself as Poll which, with Dad’s Greek-Australian-possibly-French accent, was understood to be Paul, a common Australian name. To top it off, he was happy for anyone and everyone to know his full name: Apollo Nikodeimos Papanicolau. And he never tired of telling the story of how it came to be. Apollo is not a typical name for a Greek, as Greeks are normally named after saints – not the Greek god of music and light! But after visiting Apollo’s temple in Naxos, my father’s parents opted for a god. To keep peace with the Greeks, they also named him after a saint, the patron saint of Naxos island – Saint Nikodeimos. So that’s how my Dad became Apollo Nikodeimos. (Little did the Greeks of the family know at the time that Naxos was where my father was conceived!) Of course, my father delighted in finally sharing the news that he was named after a god, a saint – and a place of lovemaking! When I was born, and my birthday fell on the same day as my father’s, Dad unsurprisingly considered me his twin. To emphasise his position, I was baptised Artemis, after the twin sister of Apollo and, to satisfy the Greeks, Maria, after – you guessed it – Mother Mary. I called myself Maria most of the time, to save explaining myself to the Greeks and, more importantly, to draw less attention from the Aussies at school. This didn’t help much, though, as half the Greeks were called Maria anyway. One New Year’s Eve, Dad told me about Apollo’s temple and how he’d always had a dream to go to Naxos to see it. He pulled out his old brown suitcase and retrieved a torn-out picture he’d kept from a Greek magazine. It was a photograph of the portera, the doorway to Apollo’s temple. When Dad lived in Greece, he visited many Greek islands, but he had never made it there. On one occasion he even bought a ticket for Naxos, and actually boarded the ferry. But high seas turned the boat back. Soon after, Dad was working full-time in Athens. And not long after, he moved to Australia. ‘One day, Artemis,’ Dad said to me. ‘We will go to Naxos. You and me. We will go!’ ‘Ah, you only want to go because the god of music and light is worshipped there!’ my mother laughed. ‘And what is wrong with that?’ my father grinned as he kissed her. At midnight, I surprised Mum and Dad by presenting them with a vasilopita, a round, bready cake traditionally made for the New Year. As usual, Dad bought our vasilopita from the

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Greek street. But this one I had made in secret, when Mum and Dad were out with friends. (It took me all day to rid the house of its sweet aroma!) Within the mixture, I hid a single coin, which is said to bring good luck to the person who finds it in their slice. My father cut the freshly-baked vasilopita with tears in his eyes. He sliced a piece for God, for Jesus, his parents, and for our small family. We all ate carefully, hoping to find the coin in our piece (and simultaneously hoping not to choke, or lose a tooth over it!) When I found it in my slice, Dad was ecstatic. ‘Koukla mou, my doll! How happy I am that my hand has brought you the luck!’ But my luck was short-lived. Two months later, my father died. And Mum stopped cooking. I swallowed my grief by doing everything Greek: music, food, language classes – anything to bring my father back. I wanted to hear his voice. When Mum went out at night, I played his records non-stop. I even drove to the Greek church and sat there alone in the car park. I had never been there before, except for my own baptism. One night, I drove to the church and just sat there in my car, bawling. I stayed till morning, playing Dad’s favourite Theodorakis song over and over on an old cassette. I had tried to be there for my mother, but she’d disappeared. She was a ghost in our house now, a bare presence. I knew she was in pain. I knew she was missing him. But I could not waste away at home with her any longer. The next thing I knew I was on a flight. Then on the dark sea. Hard wind and rain pounded down and the snow-white rocks by the port glowed. I was in Naxos. I stepped from the ferry into stinging cold. Yianni, a man who looked like my father, was waiting with a sign: Artemis Papanicolau, the Greek me. He took my bag in his huge hands and escorted me to his car. The sound of the windscreen wipers was all I needed to sleep. I woke at midday in a small, white room. This was the first deep sleep I’d had in a long time. When I stepped into Yianni’s kitchen, with its whitewashed walls and cosy stone fireplace, a traditional breakfast awaited me: a plate with a single boiled egg, slices of ripe tomato, chunks of salty feta, black olives and warm, crusty bread. Yianni poured me a thick Greek coffee from an old copper briki. He watched me eat my entire breakfast before he spoke. ‘What are your plans for Naxos?’ he probed in perfect English. ‘I came here to see Apollo’s temple,’ I replied, infused with sadness. Yianni noticed. ‘Ah, yes, a beautiful place. Some believe Apollo’s portera is the door to a new life,’ he said sympathetically. ‘Where else will you go? We have many beautiful villages here.’ ‘I want to go everywhere,’ I said. ‘But first, I think I’ll go to Apeiranthos.’ ‘Bravo!’ Yianni smiled. ‘There is an early bus at seven-thirty, near the Church of Saint Nikodeimos. It’s the best time of the day!’ Saint Nikodeimos, I thought sadly as I walked along the port. Apollo Nikodeimos Papanicolau. It felt like my father was everywhere. The turquoise sea drifted into emerald and deep, deep blue. Pink octopuses dried over ropes along the water’s edge, beside fishermen mending their yellow nets. Brightly painted fishing boats bobbed in the sea. It was just like a postcard. Greeks were out in force in the tavernas along the port. They dined on fresh fish, squid,


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and bowls of Greek salad topped with huge slabs of feta. Hearing their chatter made me think of Dad. I continued on to the quiet causeway, which led to an islet where Apollo’s temple stood in the distance. I will never forget walking the hillside path, surrounded by red and yellow wildflowers. And up above, Apollo’s enormous marble doorway gradually appearing, step-bystep. When I reached the top, I stood in awe at the huge portera, which overlooked the sea on one side and the traditional white houses of Naxos on the other. As I looked out over the water, it felt like a doorway to another world. I stood in the breeze and thought of my father. I breathed in the air for him. I had made it to his temple. He could be free now. And suddenly I felt at home. Maybe for the first time in my life. The next day, I went to Apeiranthos. Only a few old Greeks from the villages were on the bus so early, all saying kalimera (good morning) to one another. An old woman in black smiled at me. ‘Kalimera,’ she nodded. ‘Kalimera,’ I said back. I felt Greek. We travelled through picturesque olive groves and around precarious mountains with vistas of green and isolated blue and white chapels. We passed leafy vegetable patches, plump chickens and stray cats. The bus slowed and we all waved kalimera to a bent woman in black, who collected camomile by the roadside. When we got to Apeiranthos, the bus stopped at the square just outside the village. All the passengers quickly disappeared into houses and quiet corridors; I was left alone. I walked the narrow, white Venetian alleyways, weaving in and out, half excited and half lost. I wandered for over an hour. Now and again, I found a small store. But nothing was open. Finally, I came to a broad, sunny pathway, overlooking mist-covered mountains. The gentle sound of goats’ bells emanated from somewhere in the haze and ahead, small cafés and shops were beginning to open. Then it caught me. The delicious, sweet scent of vanilla. And orange… ‘Kalimera,’ smiled a woman from behind a café window. ‘You’re in luck! It’s straight from the oven.’ My eyes were glued to her freshly baked tray of galaktoboureko. I eagerly took my place on a cushioned chair, amid old-fashioned wooden tables topped with pretty pots of basil, and painted blue chairs with woven seats. All around me were blackand-white photos of the old Greek way of life: scarf-wearing women weaving thick yarn and baking bread; hard men with bouzoukis and guns and moustaches; and more men, who looked like my father. I stared out the window, watched with trepidation as a goat negotiated the edge of a mountain. ‘Would you like some music?’ said the woman as she placed a steaming Greek coffee before me – beside an oozing-with-syrup slab of galaktoboureko. Oh, yes. And a moment later, a Theodorakis song played. The very one my father had sung in the car on the way home from the Greek street. I could not escape my feelings and fell into them, sadly and joyfully all at once. I

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remembered my father holding my mother’s hand, the Greek lamb with potatoes, and our three slices of galaktoboureko in a red-ribboned box. I thought of his old Greek records, his rich, mixed-up accent, and his puffed up Greek self. My wonderful father, Apollo Nikodeimos Papanicolau, who finally gave to me his love for Greece. I looked out to the mountains. At the photos. At everything around me. And I knew he was with me. And I knew, right then and there, I would stay here. In Greece.


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For Years my Tongue Lay Still Gareth Culshaw She gave birth to me under a false light. I struggled to see the world my eyes hid from the glow. But my voice, lay still as if it had stayed inside her. It was to be years later when I went to double digits that my tongue shook off the dust. Brought itself out of its nest and sang a song. But by then they didn’t know I was still around.

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Where I go to my Lovely Alun Robert

Through Gare d’Antibes in the centre of town I arrived from Paris via Nice on the TGV sleek en route to Juan-les-Pins two kilometres south for a lost weekend in July at hotel Le Provençal in the kingdom of shadows; handprints in Boulevard Édouard Baudoin running alongside mer Méditerranée alive with Jazz à Juan festival in New Orleans style of hot music in hot weather, hot food with hot madame as the boulevard breathes life when sun sets on Cannes with the masses out mingling; waiting in anticipation so ply me with Dom Pérignon; magnum after magnum feed me oysters from the Atlantic to heighten my libido then string up my bow; bring me a Django Reinhardt let me posture in public just like Stéphane Grappelli engage me, indulge me and tell me I’m the maestro again and again to bolster my ego for one last time then cheer ad nauseum my arrival on the auditorium applaud my every movement played with molto gusto hear my Stradi cry and weep (just as my insides empty) as I say au revoir to Jazz à Juan and my platform exotic after a last weekend in July at hotel Le Provençal en route from Juan-les-Pins two kilometres to go as I depart to Paris via Nice on the TGV sleek through the gare de la vie at the far end of town.


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Houseproud Paul Waring

Ours was a palace ruled by perfectionist eyes; a new-pin shrine. Children dared not  make mess – or else – and Dad decorated rooms to within an inch of their lives.   Mum’s tiles and surfaces sparkled, paintwork  gleamed; the loo wore a pearl-white smile.  Her note-perfect lounge suite played a symphony with a soft furnishing choir. Take-me-as-you-find-me Elsie next door was held in contempt: accused of being too busy boxgoggling and clanging fags to clean; a midden  where you wiped your feet on the way out.  But I was eight and couldn’t keep away. My  best friend lived there and we were free to  have fun. All I knew was Elsie’s warm welcome to a lived-in house that felt like home.


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Profile for Scrittura Magazine

Scrittura Magazine Issue 14 Winter 2018  

Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! 2018 has been a great year for Scrittura; we’ve been privileged enough to publish lots o...

Scrittura Magazine Issue 14 Winter 2018  

Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! 2018 has been a great year for Scrittura; we’ve been privileged enough to publish lots o...

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