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Issue number 6 Winter 2016


Scrittura Magazine Š Copyright 2016 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


In This Issue 06 07 12 13 16 17

Spotlights Annie Maclean Re(member) Dad? Patrick J. Derilus Young Love Natalie Crick Brexit Means Brexit Wibke Brueggemann Shades Ed Blundell Aphorisms From a Summer Soon to Become Winter

18 20 24 29 30 34 35 36 38 40 45 46 47 48 50 51 54

Crow Dreams Annie Maclean Starfish Susan Bailey-Sillick Colorism is When Patrick J. Derilus The Secret Natalie Crick Perspective Christopher Walker Lovers Holding Hands Mendes Biondo Autumn Julia Barnard The Man on Wickenden Street Helen Burke Since Seeing You Last James Bell Poetry Patrick Ball Sup’r Highway Patrick J. Derilus Sunday School Natalie Crick Passing Time Ed Blundell The Only Car Left James Bell Lovers Under The Storm Mendes Biondo The Queen of Clean Tom Tolnay The Goose Skin Mendes Biondo

James Bell


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A Note From The Editors Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! We’re very excited to say that this is our biggest issue yet, and as we’re continuing to grow we’re featuring more and more new writing from authors based all over the world which we’re extremely passionate about. This issue summarises 2016 with some wonderful topical writing, including an excellent short story which imagines the possible consequences of Brexit (Brexit Means Brexit, pg 13) and a poem centred around the controversy of the Rio Olympics (Spotlights, pg 6). We also have some powerful poetry about the psychological effects of abuse (Re(member) Dad?, pg 7) and racism (Colorism is When, pg 24). Our cover art is inspired by Since Seeing You Last, turn to page 38 to read it. We hope that 2017 will bring us even more new, exciting writing to share, so if your New Year’s resolution is to finally polish off that piece you’ve been working on, do it and send it our way! We really love reading everything that comes through our inbox; we have a rolling submissions deadline but if you’d like to be featured in the Spring issue then submit before 31st January 2017. As usual, a huge thank you to everyone who submitted their work for this issue; don’t forget to share the magazine with friends, family and online to get your work out there into the world! Finally, a big thank you to Catherine, our talented designer, for another wonderful issue! We hope that you enjoy reading all of the wonderful work featured, and don’t forget to let us know your thoughts online and via social media.

Valentina & Yasmin

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Spotlights Annie Maclean ‘R-i-i-i-o-o-o-o-o!’ The Olympics are opening. We are watching Our Andy. He steps out with strength – holding in his left hand the flag of Great Britain. The crowd roar with approval. Andy strides. He is smiling. He’s as fit as a thoroughbred. He breathes like a stallion. There is steel in his training: his no-sex-beforehand, his ice-bathing sadism, and his scalpel-like honing of mental concentration. Djokovic will weep to lose his first match. Andy’s tears will wash down – though he’ll wait till he’s winning. Two thousand and sixteen fireworks are booming and banging. The colours of our countries are launched up into heaven. Seven miles from Ipanema Beach swelters Jardim Gramacho where the rubbish of Rio is abandoned to fester. Maria is seven. She coughs. It’s pneumonia. The gases are toxic. Her breathing is rasping. Garbage trucks stop to unload. They dump on the children – rotting fruit which they gather to give to their mothers. They pick near wild pigs. (The vultures search for bones.) They crawl across mangoes. Potatoes. Watermelons. Mario is nine. A moving scrunching of rags. Barefoot in brown sludge. Tiptoeing blunt needles. His wounds get infected. He begs tourists for prayers. Mario and Maria are proud catadores. Their mother weeps tears when they tread on her shadow.


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Re(member) Dad? Patrick J. Derilus remember that time, when we lived in West Haverstraw, that time i was about a teenage boy in middle school, and my mom was outside doing something, you came out of the shower, humming some kind of a moribund song. i walked out of my room, and you snatched me by the neck and demanded I give you your key. i didn’t know what you were talking about, but you insisted i did. my bones shriveled up the first time you attacked me like that. i didn’t understand or know what was going on. it just happened all so very fast. i thought you were just having a bad day. then in the next two or three days, you’d approach me, accusing me, of doing some other random, sinister thing to hurt you. i scratched your car, apparently. i remember that day, too. i looked outside my window, a little perturbed to see you using a knife to flatten the tires of my bike. your unorthodox tirades continued.

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hey, dad, remember, my 17th birthday? i was at my mother’s cousin’s house, at around 7:00 PM, and you were drunk, and a bit frazzled. you thought I cut your phone charger. there. i was sitting across the living room from you and all of my mother’s sister’s guests, and you had a look of distrust, and fictitious retaliation in your eyes. like, you’d very much like for me to die. my mother saw that, too. she nimbly pulled me out of her cousin’s apartment, and tried to get me to a “safe” place. we took the elevator. when the door opened, you lurched your hands out at me without hesitation, while my mother held you back, you got a jab on me: On my 17th birthday. On my 17th...birthday. On my 17th….birthday. and when mother’s friends and her cousin saw how you reacted against me, they didn’t understand. they chose not to understand. they justified your attack, Dad. they demanded i respect you, and they invalidated my being attacked.


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hey, Dad, remember? a few months ago, when you accused me of mistreating the car my mother lent me to use to go to school and work? i was supposed to stay as far away from you as possible. i was supposed to “stay calm”. i was supposed to “get over it”. i was supposed to “let it go”, but i couldn’t take it anymore. i refused to allow myself to compromise my well being to your unmethodical, psychotic whims, but Dad, i was still afraid to face you, because you always perceived me as an adversary, as you did to my mother, to my sister, to my aunts, and to my cousin, everyone, even people who you’ve never met. “they all hate me,” you’d angrily, and blindly claim. in that instant, I lost it. i rhetorically asked you to repeat yourself. i hurriedly approached you, and you rushed back at me like an angry bull, grabbed the nearest object you could find, while my mother pushed you and i away from each other, and you shouted,

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‘if your mother wasn’t here, this would be a different story’ i was trying to do good for myself but the fact you never would, made it impossible for me to live with you and mom in that decomposing house— that house, with its unending, impending accusations and threats, and you. you. I can’t forget you. and two plus times, those times I called the police, were foolish mistakes because no policeman values my Black life. all they would say is for me to keep my distance from you in the house. It was okay, but I was living in a purgatory with this so called “Dad” of mine. you were no Dad. you are no Dad. you cannot be a Dad. ever. i am delusional to think that you would not kill me if i stepped another foot in that house with you and mom. i am lucky to be alive, but i am sad to be soul-deprived of a beautiful being who can’t be a Dad, all because he didn’t have one. just a broken wise man, whose eyes look at me and see me not as his son but a faceless stranger in the street, he’d love to thrash with his boulder-like fists;


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his first‌son Dad, remember, when I told you those nightmares of when you were chasing me down a highway, with a sawed off shotgun, making it seem like it was your obligation to get rid of me? remember, Dad? I remember.

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Young Love Natalie Crick

When you were five And I was six, We would hold hands Just like this. When you were nine And I was ten, We made a pact To never tell, and then: You began to tell me every word That escaped from your lips, with cold secret stares. A look or a glance through long Fingertips. Your beautiful face. I see you sitting by the stair, your body Tight in hot sun, a sad lamb On stage. And when I have passed you Flushed red raw, I want to remember How young we were. Splayed out across the pitch Like baby starfish, pink and pinched As tongue’s blood. Our father and mother are in silent reverie, With knotted wrists and electric hair, Nodding and clapping, as dumb waiters do To our games. When we are together we are together. Today we are family as the ill Walk in lines, with shaken smiles that marry us. Mother, to me you are a figure of fun. Father, you are a child when you wake up each morning.


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Brexit Means Brexit Wibke Brueggemann September 28th 2018 Miroslav stuffed his ID in his back pocket and wondered why the government had decided to start Brexit on a Friday. Did they want to allow everyone a weekend to settle into it? Celebrate or commiserate in style, depending on which side you were on? He was meeting Dayton and Katie at Starbucks before school. They always met at Starbucks when someone was having a major crisis. When Lisa O’Reilly broke up with Dayton, they had to meet every single morning for three weeks straight. They got through it, though. Together. Together they would get through anything. Even Brexit. Right? ‘It’s so unfair. Half of the people who voted for it are probably dead now,’ Katie said yesterday and they had laughed. Katie was the cool one in their little group; feminist, activist, politician. Smart as anything, with a wicked sense of humour, and if he hadn’t known her since they were five, Miroslav probably would have fancied her. Dayton was the quiet one, the artist. He wrote and illustrated his own comic books and always had a pencil hidden in his afro. He was also the best looking boy in all of Sixth Form. Mixed race, beautiful eyes, funky dress sense. Miroslav himself was the athlete. He played football which was just as well, because everyone always expected Polish guys to be good at football. They also always expected Polish women to be called Magdalena, which coincidentally was his mother’s name. His family were acing the stereotype thing. Having said that, his dad wasn’t a builder or a lorry driver, but a carer. He worked nights. Brexit, Miroslav thought, and sat down on the stairs, unable to face it just yet. It hadn’t meant anything for ages. ‘Brexit means Brexit,’ everyone kept saying. The whole thing had become a massive joke for a while. Then the French wanted nothing more to do with all those refugees in Calais, and so a thousand of them were moved from there to Ashford in Kent where house prices fell by an absurd amount, and apparently nothing screams crisis like house prices falling. Miroslav was only thirteen when the UK voted for Brexit, but even back then he knew it wasn’t the best news, because that night at dinner his mum cried, and he

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had never seen her cry before. Not ever. It was a Friday, and like any good Catholic family, they were having fish, even though the only Catholic thing about their family, really, was a crochet cushion of Pope John Paul II (who was also Catholic and Polish but also dead). Miroslav’s nan had made it a gazillion years ago. ‘For goodness’ sake, Magdalena,’ his dad had roared and actually brought his fist down on the table so hard that all the plates rattled. ‘Don’t be so stupid. You think they are going to march us down to the square and put us on unmarked trains? Ridiculous. Nothing is going to change. End of.’ But things did change. The most immediate change was that a bunch of racists started shouting abuse at foreigners…and people who weren’t actually foreign, like Dayton. One afternoon Miroslav, Dayton and Katie were at Sainsbury’s getting snacks when a little old man turned to Dayton and said ‘It’s time you lot went back to where you came from.’ Dayton must have been too shocked, and Miroslav honestly thought he had misheard, but Katie was on form and right in his face. ‘Excuse me?’ she challenged. ‘I’ve voted to get rid of that lot,’ he clarified, nodding at Dayton. ‘He’s from Croydon, you racist old cunt,’ Katie said to him, then turned to the cashier to pay for her Fanta like nothing had happened On the bus Miroslav said, ‘You really shouldn’t have called that man a cunt. Old people get really offended.’ ‘Whatever, Miro. I’m offended all the time, too, you know. I’m offended by starving children in Africa. I’m offended by Brexit, by global warming, by racism, by terrorism. We’re all offended. Besides, he was a cunt.’ All three of them fell about laughing. Katie could always make them laugh. Maybe she could even find something funny about Brexit-Friday…which was going to be the worst day of Miroslav’s life so far, he was sure of it. He wasn’t stupid, he knew full well what the reality of Brexit meant to his family. Neither his mum nor his dad fell into the category of ‘highly skilled workers’ so under Brexit rules should either of them lose their job they’d have to wait twentyeight days until they could apply for anything; what if only the shit jobs were left then? Or the ones that didn’t pay enough? Miroslav, Katie and Dayton wanted to go to uni next summer, but having a Polish passport meant Miroslav was now an international student, and the fees were obscene. No way could his parents ever afford it. And then what? What was he supposed to do with his life?


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‘You okay, son?’ Miroslav almost jumped out of his skin. He hadn’t even heard his dad come in. ‘You’re early today,’ his dad said and took off his jacket. ‘I’m meeting Day and Katie at Starbucks,’ he mumbled and zipped shut his school bag. ‘Good idea.’ ‘Good night at work?’ he asked. ‘Yep. All good,’ his dad replied and kicked off his shoes, then put them neatly on the mat under the coat rack. Miroslav watched him in silence, and when their eyes met he quickly looked away. ‘Got your ID?’ Miroslav nodded, but checked his pocket anyway. He heard his dad take a deep breath. ‘It’ll be okay, Miro. I promise. Nothing is going to change. And remember, we don’t have to stay here. We’ve got options. It’s really good in Poland now, you know. We can always go home.’ Miroslav felt the tears and swallowed hard. Home. This was home. At least it had been until Brexit suggested that maybe it shouldn’t be. Where do you go when you have nowhere to go? He quickly swung his schoolbag over his shoulder and picked up his football boots. Without another word he opened the front door and stepped into the world of Brexit. His dad was wrong. Everything had changed. Everything. Everything.

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Shades Ed Blundell Now all the friends I knew who’ve gone Burn in my head like candle flames, A name, a face, a memory, They flicker in and out of thoughts, Present in amber of my dreams, Ghosting like perfume in the air, Not real but always almost there. Echoes of their presence linger, Reflections of the times before, Caught in the mirror of my mind.


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Aphorisms From a Summer Soon to Become Winter James Bell

war is no longer a theatre it is a multiplex ~ there is a remake of Exodus playing on many screens – this time in modern dress to show it’s nothing new ~ this time it is not the chosen people just your average Tariq and Rihanna ~ some will be around in forty years to see if all this has been forgotten or not ~ if the waves open to let them cross there will still be razor wire ~ water comes in a plastic bottle unless it falls from the sky ~ the days begin to shorten but it is good to see a dawn ~ the world has to darken before it becomes light again

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Crow Dreams Annie Maclean

Four days of raining cleaned the air. Dusts were lain. The world seemed brighter. She stared across to see his nest perched high upon the tallest tree. A witch’s hat! Dark twigs suspended, swaying on the morning breeze. As black as sin. Too bared for beauty. She thought of masts and telescopes. Pirate ships. The pitch and roll. The crow appeared. A bark at dawn. He croaked a rasp. A scratch on bone. She feared his beak; his steeliness. The impossible hardness of his mouth. A reptilian memory of feet. The strength and cruelty of his claws. She watched him fly. She watched him fall. She imagined that he had fled from Grace to swoop on feathered, velvet wings which she could only dream of wearing. With strokes and beats and scars of depth, she saw him tame the emptiness. She longed to dive into that space, to escape into his wildness, soughing.


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Starfish Susan Bailey-Sillick It’s a new lady today. Not Mimi, who always smells of flowers. I expect she got tired. This lady has purple shoes with green laces. I can’t remember her name. She starts chewing her pen, like Mrs James says you’re not supposed to do. Then she puts a big shell upside down on the table, and moves it close to my hand. The outside is rough and spiky, but inside, it’s pink and glittery, like the walls of the Disney castle I had for my birthday when I was five. A long time ago. I push it away. The lady writes something on her pad. Her writing is scratchy and loud. ‘Maybe you’d like to draw something today, Anna?’ She lifts the lid off the box of crayons, like there’s treasure in there, and gets some paper out of her bag. ‘Anything you like.’ I stare at the rainbow of colours, looking for the black. It’s not there. It never is. I choose red. The lady gets up and stands over by the window. I know why she’s doing that, but it doesn’t help. I think she starts chasing rain drops down the glass, like I do, because I can hear the squeak. After a while, she isn’t smiling anymore. So I do draw something, even though the paper is too big and too white. It’s hard because my fingers don’t do what I want them to do, and the point of the crayon snaps off before I’ve finished. But it makes the lady happy. She sits down again. ‘Well done, Anna,’ she says. ‘Can you tell me anything about your drawing?’ I can’t. It’s a starfish. My little brother, Joel’s starfish. The one he left behind. When I was only five. It’s bright red. And it makes me remember. *** Joel wouldn’t stop jumping. He jumped on my best sandcastle – the one with the pink shells all around the top, and a garden made from seaweed. He jumped on the picnic blanket and


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squashed Uncle Anton’s egg sandwich. He jumped on Mummy while she was lying down for a snooze on the sand, and set her bad back off again. He was always spoiling things. ‘He’s just full of beans,’ Uncle Anton said. ‘Jumping beans,’ Joel said. ‘Naughty boy beans,’ I said. Joel jumped even harder then, making lots of tiny starfish shapes in the sand with his new plastic beach shoes. ‘Jumping shoes,’ he said. ‘Blue jumping shoes.’ ‘Ice-cream time, I think,’ said Uncle Anton, and he got hold of our hands. ‘Do as Uncle Anton says, then, you two,’ Mummy said. And she lay down again and closed her eyes. Joel jumped all the way to the ice-cream shop. He wanted his ice-cream right now, with two flakes in it. But there were lots of other people who wanted icecreams. Too many. We had to stand there for ages and ages, but the queue was still like a big snake in front of us. Joel kept on jumping and his face was getting redder and redder all the time. Some of the grownups in the queue got red faces too, especially the lady with the big yellow sunhat, when Joel asked why her nose was so big. Uncle Anton’s face got red after that, too. Then Uncle Anton said if we were really good, we could sit in the shade, by the sand dunes, and watch the Punch and Judy show while he got our ice creams. He said Joel had to hold my hand, and that we had to stay put. Right there. Until he came back. Mr Punch was scary. His nose was hooky, like the witch in Snow White, and even bigger than the yellow-sunhat-lady’s nose. He kept hitting people for no reason with a big stick, and he had a mean voice. I didn’t like him. But Joel did. He kept laughing and jumping. But he did sit down, too. For a minute. Then he started hitting me with a piece of slimy seaweed. It was stingy on my arm and smelled like cold fishfingers. ‘That’s the way to do it,’ Joel said, and he hit me again, on my leg this time. Just where I already had a cut from when Jordan Thomas pushed me over in the playground. ‘I’ll tell,’ I said, ‘and you won’t get any ice-cream. I’ll have yours.’ He stopped hitting me then, but he wouldn’t hold my hand any more. He started digging a hole with his hands and said he was going to find treasure. Then he stood up to watch a dog chasing some seagulls. Its ears were whirling round like a cartoon dog and it kept leaping into the air.

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‘A jumping dog,’ said Joel. And he started to jump and bark, too. I just turned round for a minute. A really little minute. To see if Uncle Anton was coming. When I turned back, Joel wasn’t there anymore. Only the piece of slimy seaweed, and a starfish shape in the sand. That was gone too, by the time Uncle Anton came back. He had a cornet with two flakes, and a rocket lolly. That was for me. But he dropped them both on the sand and started running everywhere, pulling me along behind him, and shouting Joel’s name. His face wasn’t red anymore. It was white. ‘Why didn’t you hold his hand?’ He kept saying, even though he knew that nobody could make Joel do anything on his jumping days. ‘Why didn’t you come and get me, Anna?’ Joel wasn’t anywhere. I told Uncle Anton about the dog with the whirly ears, because Joel might have chased after him. But he wasn’t listening. Then we found Mummy, but she didn’t listen either. ‘He’s only three!’ Mummy kept saying. And she put her hand over her mouth and started running around, just like Uncle Anton. ‘You should have been watching him, Anna,’ she shouted. Her voice was all thin and croaky. A bit like Mr Punch. ‘Why weren’t you watching him? He’s only


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three!’ Then she ran off to find a policeman, and I was glad, because a policeman would find Joel and tell him off. Then we could go on the merry-go-round. The one with the big horses with flowers on their necks, and striped poles to hold onto. Poles like the candy canes we hang on the tree at Christmas. Mummy promised me we could go on it. If I was good at the beach. And I was. But the policeman didn’t find Joel. Not even by bedtime. I had to go to bed when it wasn’t dark yet, and there was still loud music from the fairground. The one with the merry-go-round. Nobody said ‘good girl,’ for doing what Uncle Anton said. For staying put. Right there. Until he came back with our ice creams. Everybody kept saying that Joel was only three. Everybody forgot that I was only five. Everybody forgot that I was there.

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Colorism is When Patrick J. Derilus

any of you know about colorism? well, for one, it is racism built deep inside my subconscious. Colorism, is when my self-hatred is directed, not toward myself necessarily, but an involuntary self-hatred, wrenching at my skin, because it’s apparently the bubonic plague. ignorant people: separate my skin from my demeanor. ignorant people: conjoin my skin with my intellectualism and free thoughts. ignorant people: claim I’m talking “white” when that shit’s rooted in eugenics with that scientifically racist logic, a beautiful dark-skinned man like me


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in this American society, can’t possibly be authentic. my existence is overlooked, if I’m not submissive to a white racial frame: to see me as a white poet in a black body, or a stereotypically hood nigga, motherfucker, that shit’s obviously disquieting, that shit’s insane. they see dark-skinned men like me, dismiss me and think that shit’s a...game? like if I’m not showing my sensitive self, some people would suddenly forget my...name. as if I’m impossible to be loved to love back like I’m...not human and I’m understating this, but that’s a...fucking shame. I can’t be human if I’m not a fucking basketball player, rapper, football player, or submissive merchant, or in “better terms”, a 9-5 retail worker,

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or however else a white person bigotedly wants to see me. like, dark-skinned men like me are condemned if they’re philosophers non-academic or academic Black physicians, Black scientists, Black neuropsychologists, Black creative writers, Black painters, Black gods because we’re all enslaved by white authority: white skin, blue eyes, white hegemony white assimilation, and a farfetched, *ahem* white-washed foundation;— here, right in front of us! Colorism is when a dark skinned Black man makes small talk with a light skinned Black man and that light skinned


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Black man reciprocates with contempt, and, immediate hostility. that light skinned Black man gapes at him with scornful eyes that light skinned Black man wishes of his death that light skinned Black man has high hopes that he dies that light skinned Black man loathes his existence as if his existence was an exaggerated myth, a lie.

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Colorism is...when all these dating sites like OkCupid and PlentyOfFish have racist predilections, subliminal racist and colorist agendas, we unconsciously favor white people cause we don’t like us, we...like them? and lighter skinned people of color cause they resemble white people like them! no, you don’t even see me; shit, you don’t see us. see us and treat us how you want to dehumanize our existences to see us just because I don’t have tattoos, or five gold chains laying on my chest you’re frightened by me, like...who would’ve guessed?


THE SECRET Natalie Crick

The words fell from her mouth Like black snakes. Hissss. She has lost them all. The secret! A promise she could not keep. Someone knows. He lies in bed, the room growing dark. It is the last night of their lives. Take me there To the beautiful people Who run in the garden in long coats.

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Perspective Christopher Walker ‘That, Barker, is a travesty.’ Mr Sharpe looked down over my shoulder and pointed, mockingly I thought, at my charcoal rendition of the school chapel. I expected him to expand upon his criticism, but instead Mr Sharpe straightened up, let out a long sigh, and proceeded on to the other students, ranged along the path with their sketchpads resting on their laps. Now his comments were soothing, encouraging, even laudatory. It appeared that my failure had cast me out of the group, and not for the first time. And yet, looking at the drawing, I could not quite understand why mine had attracted such opprobrium. I returned my attention to the chapel, my eyes scanning the brickwork, taking in the sweeping vertical lines of the stained glass windows, and the medieval crenelations along the roof that made the old church stand out so remarkably against the other school buildings. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine how my hand might bring the charcoal stub against the paper, how I might trace each line as if it was a musical note and I the conductor of a grand orchestra. But when I opened them again and saw before me the sorrowful state of my picture, I knew that Mr Sharpe had been right to condemn it. He’d probably been correct to give me up as a lost cause, to walk away and leave me to it. I was too young to know, but it is the lot of every teacher to acknowledge there are times when a weak student must be abandoned in favour of the strong, the capable, the promising. Or so I reckoned at the time. I had smudged the foreground carelessly, the climbing ivy I had worked so hard to render now reduced to something more akin to slithering worms. The chapel had lost its graceful air, and now resembled a squashed loaf of bread, the side walls sticking out oddly; this I supposed was the travesty of which Mr Sharpe had spoken, though how I might remedy the situation was beyond me. Art, I concluded, was not my domain. My home lay down the road, in the science block, where I could reliably and consistently predict the outcome of my experiments, and the teacher, Dr Fitzpatrick, would praise my diligence. If I made a mistake it could be pointed out to me; not so in this hazy world of perception and interpretation. I was wrong about one thing, though: Mr Sharpe had not completely thrown in the towel. He had worked his way to the end of the path, checking the work of each of the students who either sat or knelt on the edge of the grass in the shade of the tall ash trees. Now he was coming back, his expression that of a man sunk in


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thought, as if he was struggling to find the right words, or if he was trawling through his memory in search of a particular technical expression. Previously he had stood over me, peering down at my work and making me feel small, insignificant – the favoured position of most of the school masters I knew. This time he crouched beside me, and adopted a far friendlier approach. ‘You’re having problems getting the building right,’ he said. ‘Yeah,’ I replied, not looking at him. I was fearful; I wasn’t used to teachers treading such a delicate path as this. My French master, Mr Cusack, had never offered me a single word of praise in three years, and as a result my knowledge of the language was enormous; I was too scared to do badly in his class. Mr May, the biology teacher, smiled as he lectured us, but none of us placed any trust in that smile, likened by one boy to that of a crocodile; he had the right idea, but the wrong beast, because you instinctively knew not to trust a crocodile. With Mr May, you had to learn first-hand what form his anger would take, and what might be its provocation. Mr Sharpe’s gentleness quite threw me, and I didn’t know how to respond. I lifted my charcoal, as if to trace another detail; thinking better of it I let my hand drop carelessly to my side, leaving a dark line on the side of my trousers. ‘Can I tell you where you’re going wrong?’ he asked quietly. He spoke as if he was trying to avoid drawing the attention of the other students, none of whom shared my difficulties. ‘OK,’ I said meekly. ‘It all comes down to something we call oblique perspective,’ he began. ‘You’ve drawn the chapel in much the same way that the earliest artists did, all up to Brunelleschi.’ The name sounded dreamily familiar, though whether I associated it with art and not with Italian ice-cream I couldn’t say. Mr Sharpe continued, ignoring my silence. ‘Even then, it took another century until the idea of correct linear perspective took hold. It’s all fascinating, really, especially to think that the way we draw now is an invention that dates back only half a millennium. I’ll have to show you the work of John Gipkyn sometime. He’s not a famous artist, and rightly so, because his pictures were, frankly, dreadful. But he painted in much the same flawed way that you’re sketching the chapel here, with the sides sticking out. There’s no sense of depth in your work. It’s like you’ve tried to compress every aspect of the building into the same plane…’ He trailed off. I wasn’t really listening. My eyes were burning, though I couldn’t say precisely why. Mr Sharpe was being kind to me, but still my failure hurt, and my first instinct was to give up, to resign myself to ineptitude; I’d stick to good old reassuring science. ‘Do you know how to draw perspective?’ he asked. I shook my head. ‘Well, why don’t you come by the art shack after school today? I’ll give you a brief run-through of how it’s done, and then next time you’ll know what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to make a more successful picture.’

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I wiped my nose on the sleeve of my school blazer and said all right. I didn’t want to go to the art shack, a small, modern building on the other side of the car park, and I didn’t want any extra lessons with Mr Sharpe. Not because I was reluctant to learn anything, but because, now that I’d seen how sympathetic the man could be, I feared either disappointing him or humiliating myself. At the secretary’s office, I was allowed to call my parents, to explain to them why I’d be late home. My father answered the phone; he was content to let me stay the extra hour, but I fancied there was something in his voice, an undertone that drifted on the waters of embarrassment or discomfort. He was a scientist at heart, and undervalued the artistic life. He’d told me before that my art grades were inconsequential – ‘It’s all so subjective,’ he said once – and as long as my maths and science marks were healthy, he was happy. When I hung up I wondered if he would have preferred me to have just come straight home after school. The final bell resounded down the corridors of the main school building at half past three. My classmates eagerly bundled their books into their desk drawers or their school bags, as impatient as passengers on a plane just landed. With barely a word of farewell they streamed out of the door and onwards to their own afterschool adventures. I rather moped my way over to the art shack. The downstairs lights had been turned off already, and my spirits were lifted for a moment by the thought that maybe the doors would be locked. But they yielded without a struggle, and soon I was climbing the narrow wooden steps that led up from the design and technology rooms to Mr Sharpe’s natural domain, the art studio. I heard music coming from somewhere, and spied a CD player flecked with paint sitting on the floor on a heap of rags. But this was not the music I was used to at school, which was all proper and correct classical stuff like Mozart and Debussy; this was prog-rock, Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ if I wasn’t mistaken. As I looked into the room where the music was being played I saw a group of four boys, all changed out of their school uniforms and casually dressed, with dirty great smocks over them like butcher’s aprons. They held their palettes in one hand, the thumb sticking through the opening, and in the other hand each had a brush dripping with thick oil paint. On their faces there was a look of concentration, simultaneously intense and relaxed, a contradiction I was at a loss to explain. That was not the expression one adopted when one did science. Suddenly Mr Sharpe appeared from a back room. He was a different man now. He had removed his blazer and tie, and his shirt sleeves were rolled up to showcase his sinewy forearms. He moved across the room, resting his hand momentarily on the first boy’s shoulder; he pointed at something on the canvas and made a remark that brought a laugh out of the student. Mr Sharpe’s eyes held so much more light than I was used to seeing in a teacher, and his smile seemed unforced, casual, above all else sincere. These were his boys, I realised, the chosen few who had enough talent to keep Mr Sharpe at school after hours; he had a wife and two children he could have been spending his time with right now, but instead


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he was here, in this company. And I was here too. I felt like an intruder with my neat navy blue blazer and black trousers with the crease ironed down the centre of the legs. My tie was knotted tight and pulled up past my Adam’s apple. I belonged to a different part of the school, science not the humanities. I wondered if I could ever adjust my character enough to fit in here. Mr Sharpe saw me and nodded. The light in his eyes diminished. No, I wasn’t one of the chosen few, I saw that now. I was no initiate. I was here for remedial work, after all, not to join the clique. ‘This way, Barker,’ he said, leading me away from the main studio. He sat me down at a desk. I noticed there was only one chair; he would not be lingering by my side, to help me along this treacherous road. He handed me a sheaf of photocopied pages, the first one titled ‘How to Draw Perspective’. It listed the various rules I was meant to follow, starting with the principal guidelines, that closer objects appear bigger, and leading on to how parallel lines intersect at the horizon. ‘Take a look through this,’ he said distractedly. ‘If you need anything I’ll just be in here.’ He patted me on the back and then, worried perhaps that his boys were missing him, he disappeared into the room with the bright ceiling lights, the music, the camaraderie; he closed the door softly behind him, hoping I wouldn’t notice how he was shutting me out. I clenched my teeth. Looking at the illustrated examples I realised that I knew all of this already. I knew about parallel lines, about making distant objects look smaller, and how to trick the eye into making of a flat piece of paper a threedimensional world. My problem was not theoretical, it was practical. I needed somebody to guide me as I drew, to correct me as I strayed from the rules, to reassure me that not everything I was doing was a mistake. After a few minutes, during which I let loose a solitary tear, I decided that Mr Sharpe would not notice if I left, and if he did, he would presumably just shrug and return to his young artists. I stood up. With the cuff of my blazer sleeve I mopped up the drop that had landed on the wooden desk, and then I left.

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Lovers Holding Hands Mendes Biondo

lovers holding hands know stories about time the slow beat of the heart of trees the placid intertwining of the roots and their walking is a flowing river and their light steps are murmurs of fishes lovers holding hands they have the taste of bread baked recently they leave in the air the scent of morning coffee and they spin the old men in the road and they make children smile in the parks lovers holding hands blow like the wind in the spring when there is a full moon they blossom like night flowers and they feed moths with their flesh


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Autumn Julia Barnard Pumpkin spiced latte Arboreal colour change Plan to hibernate Harvest festival Curing, pickling, preserving, staples for winter Central heating on Go dig those warm jumpers out Time to layer up On and off weather Piles of leaves, wellington boots Rain, then sun, then wind... Flocks of birds prepare to escape the looming cold warmer climes beckon I could go to sleep. Miss the winter, through to spring. Curled up, safe and warm.

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The Man on Wickenden Street Helen Burke


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We go into the shop. His record shop. And he tries to look busy even though no-one has Been in, in days. Except for a unicorn and A Chihuahua having a bad trip, thought it was a pizza palace. We ask him about Frank Zappa – says he never heard of him. We say what about Nick Drake?? Joni Mitchell?? Now he thinks we’re collecting for something. Then his friend comes in – (he’s met him twice on Twitter So it counts…) and they high five for all of ten minutes Until the little guy gets groin strain. We ask about his tattoos. All 15. He says what tattoos?? So, what have you got? we ask – and he has Snoop Diddy And the Dangerous Dogs, and Munching Leroy Kiljoy And the No Direction monkeys. We think we’ll pass. We would have liked some early Doors Or a little Tim Buckley, maybe. Now, a girl comes in with curly eyes and a permed smile. She is an actress and has had motivational problems getting the door open. We leave them all wrestling, in the sunny window, to see who is More cool. (My money’s on the Chihuahua.)

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Since Seeing You Last James Bell I have been to Africa watched as a young lion strolled by our                     open sided Land Cruiser intent along with others of the pride on taking down an impala for food hungry - their plans were a five point                       pincer movement know their prey can outrun them know it would never come near man   the sly glimpse to where we sat was part conspirital - part disgust at using us as cover as it moved to its position close enough to touch   light was beginning to fail so we did not see if there was a kill I’ll tell you some of the other things                       I’ve done sometime since seeing you last


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Poetry Patrick Ball I force my eyes to stay open against the flash and for thirty seconds or more I just stay there, arms stretched above my head, looking at the back of my phone with its peeling sticker and at the purple and green floating against the darkness. In the picture I am ghosted, my skin bleached and all the details of my face obliterated by the flash, just nostrils and a black line of mouth and artificially golded irises and, beneath, nipples appearing against a flattened chest. His sheets are a dark grey approaching black and in the picture spread out naked above them I look lost, like a photograph taken in a dark alleyway in Camden or Vauxhall at the crest of a lengthening night out. I fuck with filters for a while, try sharpening my edges till it looks like I’m greenscreened four centimetres above the bed, blurring them to try and make me look soft and morninged, like the kids on Tumblr look, but in the end I send it pure and raw to a boy eight thousand kilometres away. I close my phone and my vision returns, or at least I am once again able to perceive the edges of the things around me, the piled books and strewn clothes and the furniture disappearing under useless forgotten objects. Sev has hundreds of photographs on his wall of people I don’t know; in the dark I can see them only as rectangles gleaming dully in the sodium-orange bleeding through the blinds, but earlier when he fucked me quietly in the light I turned my head to watch their faces and tried to imagine the forms those half-captured days had taken. They appeared to me only as they did in the pictures: one-dimensional, from one angle, the smiling faces staring clasped together into some white void. When he came inside me he exhaled a lot into my mouth and I stared into the unmoving eyes of a boy looking sixteen or fifteen that he later told me was dead. ‘I mean, not in the picture,’ he said, and laughed. My phone pulses. i like this a lot but it isnt very sexy. He’s on his laptop, his messages not autocorrected. I imagine him in just his boxers sitting cross-legged on a bed in some sweltering dark hotel room, curtains pulled across midday midsummer sunlight, maybe some other human curled around him with their eyes closed. Don’t show anyone, I stroke out to him, feeling vague. Beyond the glow of my phone screen the room has turned to black but within it and in my periphery


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I can see my limbs and skin turned grey-blue. It’s warm; warm enough that even lying bare on the covers I have to shift around a bit to avoid my back gumming on to them. Sev is somewhere out in another darkened corner of his house, showering, or drinking half-naked by a window or something. I’m embarrassed, I add. i mean i like it a lot, says the distant boy. In my head his fingers are grey-lit in darkness, but warmer and closer and more uncomplicatedly a part of himself than mine are of me, at least when they move against his keyboard. I’m turning one slowly high against the inside of my thigh. you look a bit ghoulish. it’s nice. Ghouls are the living dead right. Possessed corpses. I look like a corpse. it’s just appealing in a weird way ; ; i did say not in a sexy way. Good I’m glad to know I shouldn’t feel sexy, I write, and I hover my thumb for a few seconds over the send button. The cursor blinks at the end of the message. I remember too vividly and in a way too intimately of my body the evenings and nights that I drank beside Scarlett while she, always four cocktails ahead of me, amused herself by telling me in catastrophic detail the content of every sext she received or sent, drafting and editing them out in the air between us. Sometimes a bartender or waiter would catch some high lurch of our conversation and look up, or hold themselves studiously still, and Scar would laugh. I sat with my legs crossed beneath me on the chair and worried about the roles that words could play beyond their meanings. ‘It’s a collaborative thing,’ she said. ‘It’s easy. It’s me telling someone some true things about my desires and about how I feel.’ ‘Not just performing your sexuality for them,’ I said, looking at the pale reddish foam clinging cold to the rim of my glass. Behind it a bartender leaned against the back bar, looking at me with flat uninterested eyes. ‘Sexuality is a performance kid.’ Scar was playing with a twenty-pound note, rolling it up and then unrolling it against the bar, using her whiskey glass to smooth it. ‘That’s a terrible fucking response,’ I said. She didn’t reply. She deliberately kept her phone on the bare wood of the bar so that when she got a message the vibration was loud and aggressive, and it went now, shaking up the stem of my glass and fucking with the liquid within. A couple of people further down the bar turned to look at us and I looked back but Scar was already turned toward the screen, lip bitten, eyes shining in multiple lights. I looked back at the bartender with my head turned to one side, trying to make it some obvious and deliberate action, trying maybe by the angle of my head and the slight

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parting of my lips to recall in his mind some of the content of the conversation he’d been overhearing, but he looked away down the bar. ‘I can’t,’ I said to Scar. ‘None of the words fit my body.’ She looked up. ‘What do you mean? You tell them what you’re feeling. You tell the truth. It’s like poetry.’ She paused. ‘It’s like good poetry, anyway, but less antisocial.’ ‘I mean there are parts of my body about which I can have thoughts and desires but for which I don’t have any words because none of the words that exist fit. What, am I going to sit here talking about my pussy or my cunt. Or am I going to sit in a doctor’s surgery and text a boy about my vulva.’ ‘About which, for which.’ Scarlett was laughing at me. ‘Don’t be so fucking precious kid. Just tell the truth.’ I shrugged. ‘You say that like it means something to me.’ i won’t show anyone, says the boy in the phone. but you shouldnt be embarassed. I laugh, to myself. I turn the light that his message forms back upon my body, its too-shallow contours made too starkly pale against the blackness of the room and of Sev’s sheets. I backspace over the message I wrote before and take a picture of my pale blue fingernails pressing divots into the inside of my thigh with, in the top right corner, some made-vague shadow speaking more of further joins and further landscapes of skin and muscle beyond the frame; I hope. I look at it for several minutes before sending it. youre not at home. i dont recognise the sheets. I stare and wait. After a couple of minutes the light opens in the bedroom and I am made cold and my skin shrinks tighter against my body. Sev is there, naked, slightly drunk still, running the nail of one thumb against the doorframe. I shift and spin and sit up and gather the duvet around myself, up to my arms, and immediately it starts to superheat my legs and core but I stay there, unmoving. I tilt my head to the side as I look at him. ‘What are you doing?’ he says. My phone buzzes again, now snarled up someplace in the sheets. ‘Sexting a friend of mine,’ I say. ‘Sort of. Some boy. Man, I mean. Half a world away.’ Sev laughs at me. He sits beside me, outside the sheets, one leg bent and the other sticking off the bed and into now-bright space, his cock flopping against his thigh and his head turned back toward the wall, his back sticking to all the blu-tacked photographs. He stares blankly ahead for a while, saying nothing, then still unlooking


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he moves one hand into the heat of the duvet and drives one hard thumb down into the joint of my hip and for a second or less I close my eyes and inhale through my mouth. When I reopen, I dig in the bed for my phone and I open it and his thumb is still there, opposed to the fingers pushing nails into my skin, his other hand lying inert off of his knee. ‘Look,’ I say, ignoring the unread message in my status bar. I show Sev the picture of my top half blanked to nothing and the picture of my own fingernails digging holes in my legs. ‘I like them,’ he says. ‘You look good.’ And he turns back to stare through our box of golden light to the brown and black shadows beyond, and his thumb continues driving into the hollows between my bones and muscles, never moving further. ‘Thanks,’ I say. I let my phone drop, and settle back beside him, my shoulder falling into the crook of his arm, and I stare alongside him through the open door into nothing. That night at the bar, or some other night exactly like it, Scarlett left long clawmarks in my forearms, raking centimetre-long nails into me while she screamed down the phone at someone I’d never met but who seemed, to me, to occupy some hard and vital position in her life that I did not. She’d told me once that whenever we weren’t together she was constantly talking about me to whoever she was with, but I didn’t believe her; not because she was a liar - she seemed constitutionally incapable of ever saying anything that seemed to her to be false - but because the things that were true to her were true only for minutes at a time. I sat beside her allowing her to carve parts out of my arm and allowing the wetness to move down from her face and onto my shoulder, and even as I sat there I cocked my head back toward the bartender. I ordered more drinks, two glasses of the whiskey thing that Scar always drank, and deliberately clashed against his palm when I handed him the money. Scar sobbed into her phone beside me but took the drink when it arrived. It was six months before finally I climbed above him, pressing first my hands and then my face and then my open mouth into his wall as I fucked him in a mixedup light moving through his plateglass windows from the building-sized ads outside. I bit him once hard on the neck and laughed and ground myself against him when he shuddered and I felt the depth of him within me and I laughed again, face still turned toward the wall and my hair in my eyes. He held onto my hips with both hands and held me still, stopping, and for a second I tried to move still against him but he pressed one hand into my chest, between my breasts, pushing me back and turning to look into my face. ‘Huh,’ I said. ‘What?’

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‘What do you want?’ he said. His hair was longer than it’d been when first I’d seen him behind the bar, and it was no longer shaved on one side. I blinked multiple times. ‘What?’ ‘What do you want?’ he said again. I laughed at him. ‘I want this,’ I said, and I tried to move again, tried to push the ball of one hand deep into his shoulder, but he stayed inert. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Tell me what you want.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Why not?’ I shrugged. I sat back and touched my hair then touched his nipple. ‘You were so candid always in the bar. Sordid even. I’d like to hear you speak like that again.’ I blinked more. ‘I wasn’t.’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘You’re thinking of Scarlett. My friend Scarlett.’ I tried again to move against his cock. He shook his head, laughing, but apart from the twitch in his chest his body was a dead thing beneath me. ‘No. You’re misremembering.’ ‘I mean. I don’t think so.’ I frowned, then pulled one leg over and rolled off of him to lie beside him, resisting the desire to straightaway push my own fingers into myself. His ceiling shifted colours as the ads outside changed. A few weeks later he moved to another continent and another hemisphere, eight or nine time zones away.


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Sup’r Highway Patrick J. Derilus A text message rends our hearts, our fervid Souls! Our peeling verves are lazily stretched out, our corporeal flesh droops down, about. Today, none esteem essence from scrolls tis vexing for us, to form ourselves pure whole. Feelings clutter the heart, deluged in doubt, skirmishing shrill thoughts in minds, ire shouts. We souls, our eyes jolt; and fear, looming knolls. we’re famished, misgiving our Voices sun fazed radiating flames ill our nerves, our mouths are droughts…and silence is preserved! Gripping our phones, inaction becomes Fun. Zest of us dwindle; we are withdrawn we bitterly estrange; we are pawns.

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Sunday School Natalie Crick Madeline loves it And sits as Mother would. The priest is like her Father Dressed all in grey, Palms fluttering with Paper clowns, Legs and arms spinning anti-clockwise Like the priest’s eyes slide From side to side. We are his for an hour But he cannot touch us, For we are jewels to be watched, And, one day taken. Nobody has ever held his hand But Grandmother, with rings like Little girl’s warnings. This is my house of God, Rain thundering as Unanswered questions. Their faces are taught and chilled with frost. He is the bee of androgyny Thrusting candelabras as tusks. This drone of activity, It is all too much for me. Faces dumb as naked dolls. He strips them, licking them with stars Like potential girlfriends Or meats to be weighed.


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Passing Time Ed Blundell In all the usual ways things are normal. The sun still shines, winds blow, it rains. The milk is on the doorstep, letters come, Addressed to me And you. I tidy with clutter all the empty days, Clearing the debris of the broken night. I wash stains from tablecloths and towels, Iron shirts the way that you Did. Nimble fingers twitching wrinkles straight, Ironing out my creases, Before you folded.

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The Only Car Left James Bell Have you ever passed, say, a supermarket, at night? Its lights are on inside though the doors are locked and nothing moves. The car park is empty except for one car, parked neatly inside the white lines of the slot. It is offset only by the canopies where shopping trolleys are tucked into one another, locked together until customers come to free them in the morning. It is one of those stores that do not open for 24 hours a day. It is for people who are normally around in daytime hours. The car is a small hatchback, say an older model of a Ford Fiesta. It would not usually stand out in a crowd, but is unique here where any car is not expected for another seven or eight hours. Your eyes zoom in like a camera lens and see the car is a faded red or green with patches of rust around the visible wheel arches and at the edge of a front wing. Its true colour is difficult to identify in the dark. The bonnet paintwork is blistered because somebody has splashed it with brake fluid. Your mental camera pans to look through the side windscreens and see the interior is a mess of random personal possessions. Somebody must have driven here and walked away. Or, somebody must have driven here, done some shopping and driven away with somebody else because there is nobody here. The car already has that abandoned look. It’s a long time since it has seen a showroom after all. But this could be a misjudgement for the person who owns the car might be poor and rely on this car. Somebody could have parked here and taken a lift to go off and do a nightshift somewhere, which reinforces the making of hasty judgements that somebody who owns and drives an old and apparently uncared for car is worthless. Let’s say you decide to stop at the top of the road that leads down to this supermarket on the edge of an industrial estate. You have time to kill or feel meditative and want to chew life over, or you have had an argument at home and have driven off in your car to cool off somewhere. After sitting for a while you see movement inside the only car in the car park. A young man who wears a dark woollen hat, warm clothes and boots emerges from the car and stretches. Perhaps he throws a few empty beer cans at some bushes that delineate the extent of the car park, part of the corporate landscaping with woodchip under shrubs to stop weeds and for easy maintenance. He maybe has no thought of corporate design desecration as he looks at


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the lighted supermarket facade. Even from a distance you can see him sigh in an unmanly way because he thinks nobody observes him. You are seeing his emotional nakedness. At first stiffly, then looser, in a half-run he makes towards the plate glass facade of the store. It looks at first that he will attempt to crash through, but he shows more sense, pauses, and then impales himself on the glass frontage, arms raised, hands flat; a human X that looks as if it was frozen in midair. From the distance of your own car, driver’s window wound down for some night air, you hear the howling of his voice against the glass. It sounds like a name but you cannot be sure for it is indistinct. Suddenly, after the sound has continued for several minutes, a girl appears from somewhere in the store, dressed in the corporate uniform of the supermarket chain. It stops his howling though marks the start of a strange dance as they both flee from side to side on either side of the glass that divides them. He stops first and again presses himself against the glass. She stops too, pauses, then presses herself against the position he occupies. They kiss, although the glass divides them, and move their bodies in a much closer dance. She is the first to break off, hearkening to a voice or other sound from the interior of the store. Her head turns towards the sound, a hand still on the glass. His body language says he implores her to stay, even come outside. She points to the watch on her wrist and mimes a time and goes as his gaze follows her exit. Arms at sides, head and shoulders slumped forward, he walks slowly back to the car, gets into the back seat and lies down. Nothing moves. You wait for a while. Nothing moves. You drive off. The next night you return, but there is no car; the car park is completely empty. The whole scenario you imagined the previous night cannot be reinvented because the only car in the car park is missing. Everything you thought you saw is missing.

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Lovers Under The Storm Mendes Biondo lovers know that the storm is coming but they stand linked to each other kissing and touching their arms and cheeks because rain will feed them as a cold shower could do as those hot and wet kisses because the storm is not scary as the time that will separate them


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The Queen of Clean Tom Tolnay

From the far end of her spacious living room, Marietta Parsons could spot an ant–the tiniest species of ant–flattened on the rug, or the faintest spider’s web in a corner of the dimly lighted kitchen, or a wisp of dust on a bedroom dresser in the house she shared with her husband Ralph, her eleven-year-old son Jimmy, and June, her nine-year-old daughter. It had always been her special gift that no smudge of dirt or crumb of bread or snip of cheese could escape her all-seeing eyes and all-smelling nose, and once she had zeroed in on such a blemish, she would immediately set forth to eradicate the aberration. Even walking from the family van carrying a bag of groceries to the front door of her suburban house, she would eye dead leaves scattered over the concrete walk with disdain, with despair. Moments after entering the house, she would emerge with a broad-whiskered broom, which she would wield vigorously to sweep those revolting dried up leaves out of her sight. ‘Out of sight,’ she would often say to herself, ‘out of mind.’ The latest filth she’d come across in the increasingly dirty world which surrounded her was a streak of lipstick on her husband’s white business shirt, which he’d draped over the padded chair in their bedroom the previous night. Though it was nearly 10:30 a.m. when she discovered this affront, her husband was still wound up in sheets and blankets, having tip-toed into their bedroom past 3 a.m. Marietta pinched the shirt by its shoulders and lifted the soiled garment off the chair, drawing it close to her eyes. No doubt about it–a swath of lipstick was smeared across the collar. ‘Ralph,’ she called. When her husband did not stir in his slumber, she raised the volume: ‘Wake up, Ralph!’ This outburst brought him to consciousness. He rolled onto his side and, through narrowed eyes, saw his wife holding his shirt away from her body, as if it were contaminated. ‘What is this on your collar?’ Marietta demanded, even though ‘the queen of clean’ as her husband sometimes called her, knew precisely what it was. Ralph was so sluggish from being startled awake before his time, he was unable to focus on what she was pointing at. ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘When I sent you off to the office yesterday morning, I made sure you were

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spotless.’ The truth was that whenever Marietta sent her husband to work, and her children to school, they always left the house tidily dressed, hair combed, with not a loose thread or flake of breakfast cereal to be found anywhere on them. Marietta herself always covered her long, angular body with clean, pressed garments, and kept her shiny brunette hair well brushed. ‘Cleanliness,’ as she liked to remind her family, ‘is next to Godliness.’ ‘I’m talking about this lipstick on your collar!’ Ralph squinted in an effort to see better. ‘If that’s what it is, I have no idea how it got there.’ ‘Certainly not from me–my lipstick is the colour of roses. Only a female vampire would apply such a dark purple pigment.’ ‘I don’t hang around with vampires,’ he said sharply. ‘Then who were you with last night?’ ‘I told you already, we had clients in from Chicago, and I had to take them out for dinner and drinks.’ ‘Kindly be a lot more specific.’ ‘Media people from Felicity & Company,’ he rasped, his head beginning to ache. ‘We’re trying to land their TV advertising account.’ ‘How many of them did you entertain?’ ‘Three.’ ‘Girls or boys?’ ‘Two men and one woman.’ ‘Then that lipstick must’ve come from her!’ ‘I really don’t see how that could’ve happened.’ ‘What is this girl’s name?’ ‘Do we have to discuss this now? I’m wretchedly tired.’ ‘I waited for you until 1 a.m., but just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. What time did you finally drag in?’ ‘You know how it goes with these business dinners, Marietta. One discussion led to another, one drink led to another, and before I knew it, I found myself on the last train home.’ Breaking down suddenly, his wife sobbed: ‘It’s all so very discouraging, so very disgraceful, so very disgusting.’ ‘I’m sorry, honey,’ he said, extending his hand toward her, but she did not reach for it. ‘I work so hard to keep everything clean and orderly, and this is the thanks I get.’ ‘Please forgive me.’


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‘After school yesterday, Jimmy came tramping into the kitchen with muddy sneakers, and today I find lipstick on your collar.’ ‘Don’t be upset, Marietta, everything will come out in the wash.’ ‘No it won’t. The last two times there was lipstick on your collar I scrubbed until my fingernails broke, and I ended up with pink collars on your shirts!’ Yawning thickly, he said: ‘Maybe we ought to do what we did the last time this happened–just dump the shirt and buy a new one.’ ‘That’s much too wasteful,’ she said, plucking a speck of fuzz off her corduroy skirt and tucking it into her blouse pocket. ‘Better than having you break your nails,’ he said compassionately. The apologetic tone in his voice began to calm her down, and she responded softly: ‘Recently I purchased a product I haven’t tried before–Miraclense. Their ads claim it’s tough on all kinds of stains.’ ‘Why not try that stuff, and if it doesn’t work,’ Ralph offered groggily, ‘maybe we could go on the internet and see if anything new is being done to remove lipstick.’ Taking a deep breath, and letting the air out slowly, she said, ‘That sounds like a reasonable approach to this mess.’ ‘Now may I please go back to sleep?’ ‘Yes, of course, dear,’ Marietta said brightly, her prospects for removing the lipstick having improved. ‘Sorry to wake you so early.’

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The Goose Skin Mendes Biondo I feel the goose skin I feel the water that falls from the gutters I feel your breath in the ears and I want again those kisses and those words I want to fight against the sun to be the only thing shining on your naked body and make it sweating and make it bloom as fleshy red petals flowers and I want that my skin rests goosy all night long for our love for your sex for you


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Scrittura Magazine, Issue 6, Winter 2016  

Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! We’re very excited to say that this is our biggest issue yet, and as we’re continuing to...

Scrittura Magazine, Issue 6, Winter 2016  

Welcome to the Winter issue of Scrittura Magazine! We’re very excited to say that this is our biggest issue yet, and as we’re continuing to...

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