The Fortune-Teller – Geraldine McCarthy

 

I hunkered on a three-legged stool outside the caravan, waiting. People liked to see what Rosie the Palm-Reader looked like. So I put myself on show, donned in my green velvet dress, with bangles jangling from wrist to elbow. It was important to look the part.

The fair was in full swing. The stall next to me sold cheap plastic toys, and young children pointed to guns and dolls and swords, and pouted if their parents said they’d spent enough already. Men led horses down towards the end of the street, where the beasts would be eyed by keen buyers. The smell of dung mingled with the smell of chips, fused with the smell of leather from the shoe stall across the way.

Business was quiet. Would I make the price of the supper?

Jim ambled up. His tweed jacket was open, revealing a beige pull-over, slightly ravelled at the neck. Hazel eyes, rosy cheeks and grey curls in need of a haircut – not many people would pay him heed. He was late. Normally he came in the morning. He toured all the fairs and was on first-name terms with the horsey crowd.

This six months past he’d begun paying me visits.

“Rosie, how’re you keepin’?”

“Good enough, Jim. Good enough.”

I waited for him to speak again. I didn’t like to presume.

“I was wonderin’ would we have one of our little chats?” He stood staring into the middle distance.

I rose from the stool, my knee joints protesting, and gestured towards the van. “Come in, Jim. Come in.”

I hauled myself up the steps, and sat at one side of the pull-out table. All of a sudden, the van seemed dingy. The curtains were faded, as were the cushion covers, and the carpet had seen better days. People expected dream-catchers and crystal balls, but I had neither. I ran a no-frills operation.

Jim came and positioned himself opposite, shuffling his bulk to get comfortable. He held out his palm without being asked. His hands were calloused and rough; he’d told me of the long years he’d spent labouring for big farmers. I ran my finger along his life line, his head line and his heart line, doing my best to ignore the tingle, the quickening of my own heart.

“Is there anything bothering you today, Jim?”

“No more than usual.”

The last time I’d seen him he’d been arguing with his wife. Said he couldn’t leave. The house was hers, and he’d have nowhere to go.

“Well, as I told you before, Jim, your heart line is strong.”

So it was. Just like my own.

He exhaled loudly. “You’ll have to give me more than that to go on, Rosie, love.”

I wanted to advise him to ditch the wife. That’s what my gut instinct told me. I’d normally be honest with a client, but I couldn’t say anything in this case.

He waited for me to continue.

“Your strong heart line allows you to over-ride practicalities. Sometimes we can be too practical, calculating everything in the credit and debit columns.”

I’d said far more than I intended.

Jim shifted in the seat, and the leather squeaked. “Aye,” he said, looking me straight in the eye.

My cheeks burned and I hoped the dim light would camouflage my unease. “This one’s on the house, Jim.”

If he was surprised he didn’t show it. “Aye, thanks. Well, I’ll be off so.”

He descended the steps, reluctantly it seemed, and I stayed in the caravan a while, delicately fingering the heart line on my own palm.

 

 

IMG_0407Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork. She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. Her work has been published in The Fable Online, The Incubator Journal, Seven Deadly Sins: a YA Anthology (Gluttony, Wrath, Avarice), Scarlet Leaf Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction,  Every Day Fiction, Fifty Word Stories, Foxglove, Poetry Pulse and Comhar.

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The Rose Trees are in Bloom – Arlene Antoinette

 

Monday

Mother sits in her favorite armchair, peering through the picture windows onto her backyard garden. The rose trees are beginning to bloom, she calls to me. I’m in the kitchen, washing up last night’s dishes, scrubbing spills from the stove, sweeping and mopping the floor. I respond with a quick, that’s nice. She leaves her spot only for meals and bathroom breaks. Night falls; a veil of darkness obscures her precious flowers. I plant a light kiss on her cheek as I put her to bed.

 

Tuesday

The rose trees are beginning to bloom. Her words seem to dance across her lips. I’m busy loading the washing machine and unloading the dryer. I look up, but I don’t respond. Mother stands at the window like an expectant child on the night before her birthday.

 

Wednesday

Mother, are you finished dressing? Again, she’s standing by the back window, hands clasped together as if in prayer. Have you seen them? The roses are beginning to bloom! Her blouse hangs open; her hair’s undone. I walk over to her and place my hand on her forearm. Come with me mom, we’re running late for your appointment. I don’t bother to look out onto the garden; I’m busy calculating how long it will take me to finish getting her dressed.

 

Thursday

Okay mom. I’m off. Lunch is in the fridge. There’s a glass of coconut water on the table and if you need a snack there’s a granola bar in the cabinet. I should be back by dinner time.
Have you seen them?
Seen what?
The roses buds. The rose trees are beginning to bloom.
I know, I know. I’ll look at them when I get back. I have to go. Love you. I grab my purse and head out the door.

 

Thursday Evening

Mom, I’m home. Mom, I’m back. I open the fridge and retrieve a bottle of cold water. It’s 5:30, and her lunch is still there. Mom, where are you? Why haven’t you eaten? I walk through the house, glancing into her bedroom, the bathroom and the living room. Finally, I look out the back window. She’s there, sitting on the bench in her beloved garden. I retrieve her lunch from the fridge and head outside. Mom. She doesn’t respond. Mom, you must be starving. I lay my hand on her shoulder, there’s no response. Mom, mom! Are you alright? Mom say something! Mom! Mom!

 

Friday

The hospital’s ER is ice-cold. Pictures of children playing in fields adorn the walls.

 

Saturday

I call close friends and family. My hands shake as I dial each number. 

 

Sunday

I stand at the window gazing out into the back yard. Yellow, pink and red roses adorn my mother’s garden. The roses are in full bloom

 

 

stillmyeye

Arlene Antoinette is a poet of West Indian birth who grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Brooklyn College and worked as an instructor with disabled individuals for many years. You may find additional work by Arlene at Foxglove Journal, Little Rose Magazine, I am not a silent Poet, Tuck Magazine, The Feminine Collective, The Open Mouse, Amaryllis Poetry, Boston Accent Lit, Sick Lit Magazine, Postcard Shorts, 50 Word Stories, The Ginger Collect, Neologism Poetry Journal and Your Daily Poem.

Spectacular Toaster – Steven Translateur

 

“That’s the fifth slice of toast burnt,” lamented Brad to his mother.

He tried to toast whole wheat bread and got nothing but chards of carbon.

“Let’s go to the Appliance Emporium for a real toaster this time!” exclaimed Lodia. “Let’s splurge.”

So she and Brad rode down to the store to browse.

They found aisles and aisles of distinct devices from the budget cost to the extravagant.

“May I help you?” inquired Ginrey, a salesman.

“Yes,” said Lodia. “We want a toaster with a guarantee – the best.”

“Then you may be interested in our Jet 5000 – it is the greatest toaster machine ever built. It is so good that we guarantee a perfect slice of toast each utilization. If this does not happen, we refund your money and give you another free toaster. All you have to do is bring the crumbs of a failed toast in for the refund.”

“How much is it?”

“200 pounds.”

“It is worth it. We’ll take it.”

And so they did.

And they used it for a month before it began malfunctioning. It started burning toast just like their previous model.

So they returned to the Appliance Emporium with two slices of charcoal toast crumbs in a bag to show the salesman.

He was not impressed. He said that they were manufacturing the failure and that their toaster would work fine if used properly. He gave them the runaround and argued for all the virtues of the Jet 5000 and said that rarely does anybody actually return it – only if they cannot get it to function properly despite trying every approach.

Then they spoke to a supervisor and he agreed to give the refund plus a free toaster. The free toaster was a budget model called the Economy Toaster.

The Economy Toaster never worked right, but because it was free, they used it anyway, for a few months, until it began malfunctioning and they got sick of it. Instead of toast it began over cooking bread to the point of near disintegration. They tried repairing it but the contraption just got worse and worse. It destroyed several loaves of bread and burnt otherwise good pastries.

Then they returned to the Appliance shop for more help.

This time they purchased a brand new model called the Jet 8000. It had the same guarantee as the Jet 5000 but was more advanced. It had every feature one could imagine for such an invention – three timers, a heat sensor, a toast evaluator that rated the toast from mediocre to excellent, a mechanical voice that could give instructions in 15 languages, a jam dispenser doohickey, a battery power backup, two solar panels power grid, a television for watching the best shows, a video camera for recording cooking fun, a melted cheese releaser, a two way transmitter for contacting the store’s 24 hour help-line, a spare bread holder, and rows and rows of multi-colored blinking light indicators.

They loved it!

They now know it costs 800 pounds for a perfect toaster.

 

 

Steven Translateur’s work has appeared in a variety of publications including
MEMES, MIND IN MOTION, and NEXT PHASE.

A Storm in My Heart – Geraldine McCarthy

 

We sit cross-legged on the carpeted floor, slugging cheap red wine. Our combined CD collections lie in a heap between us.

“How’re you set for tomorrow’s classes?” Kate asks, ever smiling, ever upbeat.

I frown. “I think my lesson plans are okay, but I hope my supervisor doesn’t come ‘til next week.”

“Maybe that’s because you’re a bit of a perfectionist, Rachel?” she says, gently. “Me, I hope my notes are good enough. After that, Mr Davis will have to take me as he finds me.”

We have a tendency to talk shop. Thursday night, our housemates are out on the batter, but we need to be reasonably fresh for school.

“So, what are we going to play next?” I ask, stretching my legs to avoid the feeling of pins and needles.

“‘Here Comes the Sun.’” Kate puts the CD in, closes her eyes, throws back her head, and smiles.

The tune fills the room. I can see how it would be her favourite. I sip more wine and marvel at the simplicity of the lyrics.

The song ends and we allow a silence to settle.

“Your turn,” she says.

I hesitate. “It’s called ‘A Storm in My Heart.’” I flip through the CDs, find Dolores Keane, and kneel to pop the disc in the player. Music fills the room and I feel like an empty Coke can being tossed down the street in the wind.

The smile slips from Kate’s face. Song over, she is first to speak.  “It’s a bit dark, isn’t it?”

“I suppose.” An image of Dan in his best suit comes to me unbidden. He wore it  – navy with a delicate pinstripe – at my cousin’s wedding. Our last outing.

“Maybe we should finish up for the night,” she says, “in case of a supervision tomorrow?”

“You’re right.” I tidy the CDs into two neat piles.

We troop upstairs.

I toss and turn in my bed. Five years I’d gone out with Dan. It started with the Debs. I invited him. Always that insecurity that I was the one to ask him. Then, last summer when I got back from a holiday in Australia, he said he’d been seeing someone else.

They say grieving for a living person is worse than grieving for the dead. They also say we can create hell in our own heads. Is that what I’ve been doing?

Before drifting off to sleep, I imagine tree branches becoming still again, clouds parting, debris being swept away, and a ray of sneaky sunshine poking through.

 

 

IMG_0407Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork. In a former life she was involved in tutoring, lecturing, translation and research. She has been writing short stories and flash fiction for nearly three years now. Her work has been published in The Fable Online, The Incubator Journal, Seven Deadly Sins: a YA Anthology (Gluttony, Wrath, Avarice), Scarlet Leaf Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction and Every Day Fiction. Find her at https://www.facebook.com/cruthaitheacht.

A Problem Shared – Laura Muetzelfeldt

 

Everything important Mum ever told me she told me while cracking eggs. The news was always followed by a business-like tap, freeing wobbly flying saucers from their shells. Mum could crack eggs and open them with one-handed, something I tried to get the hang of, but couldn’t; I always ended up having to rescue tiny triangles of shell from the goo. Making cupcakes to sell at school she told me once they found a lump inside her which turned out to be her twin, dead and swallowed before she was born. Her stories always lasted as long as the recipe took to make, then we would sit down with Dad, and the secrets would fizz inside me as he tucked into whatever we’d just baked, not knowing what I now knew.

Most of the secrets she told me were to do with love. Once, whilst making an almond cake for someone’s birthday, she said:

‘It was only when I met your father that I realised my whole life up to then I’d mistaken lust for love.’

I wasn’t sure what lust was, but it sounded dangerous, creeping – liable to spread when you turned your back.

Mum looked less like a mum when she was baking, like she was just playing at being a grown up. That day, she had flour smudged above her eyebrow and her sleeves rolled up so that they kept drooping, nearly getting in the mixing bowl. I pushed up my sleeves but they kept falling down and getting messy.

All the times we baked, I never told Mum my secrets. I never got that thing where telling other people made your problems seem smaller. For me, it always made them double not halve: like kisses or a punch, they were something you could never take back.

 

 

 

unnamed (4)Laura is a teacher, writer and silversmith who lives in Glasgow with her family. She writes short stories and has been published in journals such as The International Literary QuarterlyBandit Fiction, and Ink, Sweat and Tears; her story, ‘Anna on the Wing’, was highly commended in The Federation of Writers Scotland Competition 2018. She also writes young adult fiction and her novel, Perfect Memory, was longlisted for Fish Publishing’s Young Adult Novel Contest.

After Me – Julia Molloy

 

Darling, come closer. There’s nothing to be scared of, nothing to fear. You are always safe with me. Whenever you smile, I’ll smile too, though mostly you make jokes that aren’t funny these days. Whenever you cry, I’ll be waiting with my shoulder and a glass of your favourite wine. It’s the Rioja you prefer now, isn’t it? When we first met, it was all about the alcopops and fluorescent cocktails that quickly got us high so we could dance and be free. We’d dance to songs we no longer heard while others vomited and fought and cried. We’d dance and hold each other close. I guess we lost friends that way. But I can still remember how it felt, the first time we held each other. Our shoes stuck to the floor and the DJ shouted through the air, but all I could focus on was you. I thought my skin would ignite. As the years have mellowed, as our days have grown more fleeting, we savour the Rioja while we can. We don’t dance or play music. We sit, and we hold hands through fading daylight and long dark nights.

Darling, come closer. That was what you used to whisper in the darkest of nights after our son died. We held each other under bed sheets you always insist on ironing. We waited for time to do its work, but I think we both still feel the emptiness. So we hold each other wrapped in the clean, sharp edges of the bedsheets. We stop asking why.

Darling, come closer. I worry about who will keep you safe after me. Who will know about your favourite Rioja? Who will know how to leave you in peace when you come home from work, how to give you that space in which to breathe? Who will know the hole inside? I suppose someone could learn this soon enough, but still I worry. I don’t recall learning these things about you as much as absorbing them. We cried once at a study where children were punished and rewarded to see if they learned better. Our own son toddled at our feet. But now I come to think of it, that was how I absorbed these things about you. Your joys and your hates, your laughs and your rages, punishments and rewards. Who else can absorb these things and keep you safe?

Darling, come closer. I need to feel you near me. You don’t understand why I worry so much about you, why I don’t worry more about myself and what I must face. You don’t understand that worrying about you keeps the fear away. When we met, I remember how I felt a weight had been lifted from my mind. I didn’t have to be alone. I could hold you in my arms and you wouldn’t even comment on my clammy skin. Now, I worry about you to keep darkness at bay.

Darling, come closer. I can feel the darkness coming. I whisper to you again and again, or at least I think I do. You’re smiling, but not as you used to. It’s a smile that will turn into a cry the moment I close my eyes. I whisper again, or perhaps I don’t. Perhaps this is just the dream of life. Perhaps this is how you are after me.

 

 

Author photoJulia Molloy is a short story writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming at The Fiction Pool, Fictive Dream, Crack the Spine, STORGY, Platform for Prose and Riggwelter Press. Her work was shortlisted for the Fresher Writing Prize 2016. She graduated from Lancaster University in 2015 with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and now works at a government organisation. You can find her at www.juliamolloy.org and on Twitter @JRMolloy2.

Two poems – Sarah Hulme

 

Freedom

 

The bird in the blue

It flew and it grew

To a place where it

knew how to be.

 

*

Longing in short

He’s miles away, he smiles away. Distance is grey.

 

 

EPSON MFP imageSarah Hulme is a Durham University graduate who enjoys writing poetry as a way to understand thoughts, feelings and the world we live in.

Coldharbour Lane – Rebecca Metcalfe

 

You drive to the end of the lane. Past the rice factory, the seafood processing plant, the paper factory, the chemical works, the pharmaceutical plant. Grey upon grey upon grey sails past your car window and then disappears into your rear-view mirror as you drive further down the lane. You reach the turning at the end of the lane, the road narrows and there are dense bushes either side. You reach the carpark at the end, and you see the river. The wide, grey river where the tide beats endlessly on, eastwards. Mud lines the banks on both sides, thick, stinking mud that will never clean off. The footprints snaking across this ooze show the steps took by recently-flown wading birds that are now no longer to be seen. A bit closer to the water, the hulking mass of the concrete barges, leftover from some war long past, sit and refuse to rot, only crumble slowly. Then there’s the metal statue of a diver, who looks like a cage and crawls out of the water whenever the tide is going out. He will never reach the bank. The water of the river is violent and boats jolt along it. Police boats or cargo boats carrying industrial containers in and out of the city. Going eastward, they are on the very edges of the city now. The factory smoke mixes with the clouds and they roll across the paleness along with the tide, heading out to sea and waiting to hit the vast East Anglian sky.

 

 

22752130_10210178275199633_1006394601_nRebecca Metcalfe is a 22-year-old student and writer from Essex. She did her undergraduate degree at the University of Chester and is now studying for an MA in Victorian Literature from the University of Liverpool. She has been published in Pandora’s Box, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine and in the Electric Reads Young Writers’ Anthology 2017.

Could Be Stardust, Could Be Rain – Alison McCrossan

 

I am stardust. Yet it could be said I’m mostly rain.

‘What riddle is this?’ you ask.

‘Oh, only the original. Who am I?’

‘Doesn’t that lead to Why am I?’ you say.

This is getting painful.

You poke at the ground where you sit and hold up your hand. Your finger is crusted with wet sand. ‘How many grains?’ you ask.

‘Impossible to know unless we Google an equation.’

You’re a professor of archaeology and reckon that makes you academic. ‘An academic with working man hands,’ you often say with a laugh. Your dark curls fall down one side of your face, facial features too young to know it all.

‘How many people have asked this question?’ you say.

‘That’s not getting us any closer to an answer.’ I swipe away an assault of meaningless equations that have sprung up on the browser window of my smart-phone. I forgot to add ‘grains of sand on a fingertip.’ Wet sand would alter the equation too-surely adding another factor or something. Oh, the credence I give Google.

I’m the creative sort, not that it matters. Even the academic uses Google. You have often told me I love too much, too deeply, and too soon. I might have said, but doesn’t this life deserve such enthusiasm. I add playfulness to my art in the hope that another might smile. Not that I’m adverse to contemplation. I’m thinking more about the why of everything today, but on other days I’m known to just wonder at the stars and not how they relate to me.

You say, ‘A grain of sand. A spit in the ocean. A collection of atoms in the shape of you, in the shape of me. Everything. Nothing. Dimensions of perception that go on and on and bend and circle ad infinitum. You could be stardust. You could be rain. It’s entirely up to you.’

‘What are you suggesting? I’m not depressed and depression isn’t a choice.’

‘But you are in pain,’ you say.

‘I ache all day for night and cry all night for morning.’

‘Why?’ you ask.

‘I lost my job, the days are long. My love is gone and I can’t afford the rent.’

‘Distractions,’ you say, drawing a crooked line in the wet sand with the same finger.

My eyes trace its path. Without distractions I am hollow, pain with a hollow centre that is, a capsule without the drug inside.

I kick off my shoe and dip a toe into the sand. The sand has soaked up the rain and resists my toe. It hurts.

I am a void always searching. Searching is distraction and any of the following: pleasure (say music); escape (say wine); status (say job); to go on (say have babies); to learn (say ask who am I) or explore (say ask who are you).

Look at you. I compare. You are contained. I might say you are of the moon, steady and influential. One of a kind. More than a search tool or answer to me maybe. ‘How does it feel to be one of a kind?’

‘You should know. I am part of you.’ You disappear into the hole you poked in the sand.

 

 

Alison McCrossan is 44 years old and living in Ireland. She enjoys writing fiction, including flash and short stories, and is currently working on a novel.

Desire – Nigel F. Ford

 

From the top of the window down the climb of the sky is cobalt. As the eye moves down it, scrutinising and searching, it comes up against a straight-bottomed, moustache-shaped cloud that stretches across the entire width of the view.

The lightening drop of the cobalt travels down behind the cloud and emerges on the other side as very light cerulean.

This description covers the view from the perspective of top to bottom / bottom to top.

The diagonal perspectives reaching from the width of the view and forming the flat floor of the triangulating lines that meet at the end of the thus formed long thin triangle at an elegant spindly television mast perched on a small white square block atop an angular building.

The spectator assumes this to be the top of a lift shaft or flight of stairs that opens onto a roof terrace behind the square block perched on top of the triangular building.

If that is a roof terrace, reasons the spectator, then I would like to buy that house and live in it.

The spectator then frowns.

On the other hand, reasons the spectator, I could simply be pleased that such a place exists and leave it be.

 

 

Photo on 18-12-15 at 13.02Born in 1944, Nigel F. Ford wrote his first radio play aged 14 (refused). Jobs include reporter for The Daily Times, Lagos, Nigeria, travel writer for Sun Publishing, London, English teacher for Berlitz, Hamburg, copy writer for Ted Bates, Stockholm. Had a hand in starting the Brighton Fringe in 1967. He started painting etc. in 1983 and has regularly exhibited in Sweden and on the Internet in various publication. In addition, several magazines in UK and US have been kind enough to publish his writing. Such as Nexus, Outposts, Encounter, New Spokes, Inkshed, The Crazy Oik, Weyfarers, Acumen, Critical Quarterly, Staple, T.O.P.S, The North, Foolscap, Iota, Poetry Nottingham, Tears in the Fence etc. He is now trying to produce & direct one of his stage plays.

Servitude – Nigel F. Ford

 

They have walked in warm weather all the way from the beach, along the harbour wall, into the city, through the old quarter, up to the skirts of the castle, seeking the shade where possible, trying not to hurry, but not wanting to be late.

An attempt has been made before.

Two attempts in fact.

This time we are determined.

‘Do I look alright?’

‘You look fine. What about me. What do you think?’

‘O you always look alright.’

‘That’s alright then.’

‘What do you think? Can you see? Is there a long queue?’

‘It’s difficult to say. There is a queue of about half a dozen persons at the door. But then, there are several people leaning against the wall opposite the entrance. Some of them have come out for a smoke, I should think. But some of them might be part of the queue.’

‘We should probably start by waiting at the door.’

‘That’s the best plan.’

‘I think those people there are leaving. She’s fishing in her handbag.’

‘Could be. Still, we’re not the first in the queue.’

‘What’s the time?’

Eight thirty.’

‘We’ll wait until eight forty-five, but no longer.’

‘Alright.’

They stand patiently. A waiter talks to them briefly, smiles, laughs, jots down a note on a pad, nods and leaves.

Around them the evening crowd heaves and swirls, revealing empty hollows and then refilling them, like the sea they have watched for much of the afternoon.

‘What’s the time?’

‘Ten to nine.’

‘We’ll wait until nine o’clock. But not a moment longer.’

‘Alright.’

 

 

Photo on 18-12-15 at 13.02Born in 1944, Nigel F. Ford wrote his first radio play aged 14 (refused). Jobs include reporter for The Daily Times, Lagos, Nigeria, travel writer for Sun Publishing, London, English teacher for Berlitz, Hamburg, copy writer for Ted Bates, Stockholm. Had a hand in starting the Brighton Fringe in 1967. He started painting etc. in 1983 and has regularly exhibited in Sweden and on the Internet in various publication. In addition, several magazines in UK and US have been kind enough to publish his writing. Such as Nexus, Outposts, Encounter, New Spokes, Inkshed, The Crazy Oik, Weyfarers, Acumen, Critical Quarterly, Staple, T.O.P.S, The North, Foolscap, Iota, Poetry Nottingham, Tears in the Fence etc. He is now trying to produce & direct one of his stage plays.

Outside the window – Tony Press

 

You can’t see nothing from here but if you could, what would you want it to be? That’s what she asked the first time I ever went to her apartment. We’d met in Sioux City when I was living there on a highway crew. She lived in Correctionville. Yes, Correctionville is the real name and you’ve probably already got an idea why it’s called that. Don’t bet on it.

I thought about it. Really: what would I want to see, if there were anything to see out her kitchen window. I’d seen the rest of the place and my answer was more important than you might think, because the kitchen was the only room with a window. The living room slash bedroom was nothing but three walls and the bathroom was the same, just smaller. It had more plumbing, too, which was a good thing.

Sweetie, I said, I’d like to see one of those Venice canals.

Venice? Venice, Italy?

That’s the one.

Oh, Darrell, did you ever go to Italy? Did you ride in one of those boats there?

No. Nope. I’ve never been across the Atlantic. Or even seen the Pacific. The farthest east I’ve ever been was South Carolina and the farthest west – you’ll laugh, maybe – was Kansas. I was at Fort Riley for four years and two more in Manhattan after I got out.

Manhattan? New York Manhattan? I thought you were talking about Kansas.

I am. It’s smaller than the one with Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building and all that, but it’s got the same name. I was working at the university there: Kansas State.

Oh. Oh. Okay. Anyway, let’s just stand here and you can tell me about the canal out the window.

I poured her another glass of wine and one more for me, and then I lowered the light. I’ll give the place some credit, it had a cool dimmer switch, at least for the kitchen. I put my left arm around her shoulders and with my other I pointed outside.

Look, that’s the Grand Canal and over there … can you see it? That’s the Bridge of Sighs. If two people stand on that bridge and kiss they will be together forever. Flat-out-fucking-forever.

Really?

Really, I said. Step up onto it with me, but careful, ‘cuz it was raining so it might be slippery. I held her hand. That’s it, I said. Easy does it.

It feels real, she said. I’ve never been any place like this.

Kiss me, I said, and we’ll never be any place else, no matter where we are.

She did, and we held that kiss until I needed to breathe. She could have lasted longer, she said, and then we kissed again. I moved in that week.

I’ve still never seen the Atlantic, or the Pacific. I did – we did – get out to Nevada once. We drove to Omaha and took the train to Elko, where a buddy’s got a place. We saw mountains on that trip, so that was cool: no mountains in Iowa. I’ve got a cousin who lives in Hills, Iowa, but the name’s a joke. Maybe I ought to tell my cousin to look out her kitchen window and think about what she’d want to see, in her heart of hearts.

We have a bigger place in Correctionville now, a real house, with windows in every room, but each night before we go to bed we stand at a window, and look out at the Bridge of Sighs.

 

 

beast crawl.14.tp fotoTony Press tries to pay attention and sometimes he does. He’d be thrilled if you purchased his 2016 story collection, Crossing the Lines (Big Table). It’s available at indy bookstores, directly from him, or even from that Amazon place. He lives near the San Francisco Bay.

Another life – Nigel F. Ford

 

Time: twenty two hours, five minutes and forty-eight seconds.

Red is seated on a stool working on a mobile phone, occasionally looking up at Grey, who is seated on an opposite stool and talking incessantly.

Observer is caught looking at Red, who looks up from the phone and catches Observer’s eye.

Observer looks away quickly, and Red drops their gaze back down to the phone simultaneously.

Observer watches Red eating small dishes of food, in quick succession: fried aubergine, grilled sardines, chicken croquettes, octopus rings, a stick of grilled prawns, etcetera.

While Grey sips at a small beer and talks incessantly.

Red drinks blood red wine and is now almost at the bottom of glass number three.

Red looks up and the eyes of Observer and Red meet and hold for three seconds.

Red now seems to have finished eating and drinking. Grey has finished their beer. Grey dismounts from their stool and pays at the bar.

As they leave, Red looks back at Observer and their eyes meet and hold for an eternal flash of time.

Grey and Red disappear into the whirling crowd of evening strollers in the street of the warm, black night.

In another life, Observer tells self, smiles a small self-conscious smile.

Time: Twenty two hours, twenty five minutes and twenty four seconds.

 

 

Photo on 18-12-15 at 13.02Born in 1944, Nigel F. Ford wrote his first radio play aged 14 (refused). Jobs include reporter for The Daily Times, Lagos, Nigeria, travel writer for Sun Publishing, London, English teacher for Berlitz, Hamburg, copy writer for Ted Bates, Stockholm. Had a hand in starting the Brighton Fringe in 1967. He started painting etc. in 1983 and has regularly exhibited in Sweden and on the Internet in various publication. In addition, several magazines in UK and US have been kind enough to publish his writing. Such as Nexus, Outposts, Encounter, New Spokes, Inkshed, The Crazy Oik, Weyfarers, Acumen, Critical Quarterly, Staple, T.O.P.S, The North, Foolscap, Iota, Poetry Nottingham, Tears in the Fence etc. He is now trying to produce & direct one of his stage plays.

Bees make honey – Cath Barton

 

Three jars of honey glistened on the window sill – golden and translucent. Outside a bee hovered. Lucy raised a finger tip to the glass and the bee came close as if to kiss it. Then, propelled by some unseen force, one of the jars tipped and smashed on the flagstones. Lucy watched, frozen and impotent, as the bee repeatedly flung itself at the glass in distress.

At breakfast Lucy’s hands trembled in her lap. Mark, sitting opposite her and reading the paper, noticed nothing.

“I’m going down to the hives this morning,” she said.

“Okay,” said Mark, through a mouthful of toast. “New honey’s great, by the way,” he added, looking up and grinning at her. “Tell your bees.”

“Cheer up,” he said, when she didn’t respond. “It might never happen. Got to run.”

He kissed the top of her head and ruffled her hair as he got up from the table, scattering crumbs.

Hearing the car leaving minutes later, Lucy put her hands onto the table-top to steady herself. She felt as if the bees had stung her, though they hadn’t, never had, never would, she knew.

She went upstairs, switched on her laptop and looked at her e-mails. Six new messages, all from him. Expressing undying love in six different ways. Their sweetness was cloying. She deleted them all. Immediately another pinged into the in-box.

“You all right??”

“I’m fine,” she wrote back. “Just tired.”

“Tell me you love me,” said the next message. She stared at the words on the screen. Then pressed delete. Her finger trembled as she did so. She didn’t feel fine.

She pulled on her bee suit and wellington boots and walked through the long grass to the hives. Out in the fresh air she felt better. She checked the hives.

“Sorry about the broken jar,” she said, in a whisper. “I’ll be more careful in future.”

The bees circled her head as if telling her not to worry. Lucy knew that bees understood things no humans ever did. She’d like to come back as a bee. She’d said that once to Mark, who’d laughed. That was the trouble with Mark, always laughing, never taking things seriously.

She hadn’t meant to look for someone else. Why would she, with a happy home, everything she could want. Except.

“I think the bees are like your children,” Mark had said.

He’d laughed as he said it of course. It was like a physical blow but she hadn’t let him see that. He hadn’t meant anything bad. She knew she should talk to him about it. But she’d left it too long.

They’d met in the library. Changing their books. They talked and got shushed by the librarian. Out on the street they talked more, gone for coffee. People do that. No harm, she’d thought. But she should have told Mark. Not let it become secret. Not let it become anything.

It had become too much.

Back in the house she made coffee, sat at the computer again. Just one new e-mail from him, reasonable, reasoned. She replied, agreed to meet.

She took him a jar of honey. Gave it to him with trembling hands. Told him that she and Mark were moving. They wouldn’t have bees in the new place.

“No room,” she said, looking down at her hands in her lap, still now.

He cried and it was unbearable. She left without looking back.

The e-mails continued for a bit. She deleted them all, unread.

She did think of getting rid of the bees. But they needed her. And they were a comfort.

 

 

Cath BartonCath Barton is an English writer and photographer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella for The Plankton Collector, which will be published in 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. Read more about her writing at https://cathbarton.com.

Pinky Swear – Jayne Martin

 

The caustic odor of rubbing alcohol burns my nostrils, settles on my tongue. A nurse paints Vaseline on my parched lips. I can’t remember the last time I was kissed.

I am tethered to tubes, encased in a coffin of flesh and bone that ignores all commands.

The growing cries of gulls, boardwalk barkers, laughter and shrieks of excitement begin to flood the room.

I sit in the car of a rollercoaster as it chugs and bumps up the steep incline toward the point of no return. Braver kids raise their arms high over their heads. I squeeze my eyes shut until it’s over; say “I want to go again,” relieved when you do not.

The ocean breeze sends salt and sand up onto the walkway where we smoke cigarettes stolen from my mother’s purse and stroll looking for boys. We make up names, Bridgette and Marilyn. Names that sound older and sophisticated unlike our own. We fool no one.

A pipe organ bellows. With fingers still sticky from cotton candy, we board gaily-painted steeds, ride round and round, each time stretching as far as we dare for the brass ring, each time finding it just out of reach.

Our bodies distort in fun house mirrors and we wonder who we will become.

Pinky-swear friends forever.

We do not anticipate the power of decades to divide.

The nurse rolls my body onto its side to slip a fresh sheet beneath, and I see you next to my bedside. You wear our favorite sweater, the rose one we passed back and forth until it unraveled, your smile still a mouthful of braces, your hand outstretched to me. In it, a brass ring.

 

001Jayne Martin is the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Literary Orphans, Midwestern Gothic, f(r)iction, Blink-Ink, Spelk, Cleaver, Connotation Press and Hippocampus among others. She is the author of “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry.” She lives in Santa Barbara, California. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.