Fishing

Sitting with Suzy, tears rolling down her face yet all the while certain he would come back to her, I thought of the summer we made that place in the woods our own. Children one moment adults the next, screaming as we dived and splashed in the water, flirting as we lay by the river bank, the fast flowing water like silk against our fingers. And Suzy standing every day on the bank, fishing rod in hand, swearing the flashes of silver that lit up the water were fish. Of course he never came back and the fish were only sunlight glinting on the water.
by
Carol Leggatt
@cal1
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Sunday Roast

He slips sage leaves and lemon slices under the skin of the chicken, wipes his hands on a towel, and squints at the recipe book. Gas Mark 5, it says, but the numbers around the knob stretch into hundreds. He pulls his phone from his pocket and Googles, swiping salmonella over the screen. He should have taken his daughter up on the offer to eat with them, but that's not the way they do things. Sunday means a roast here in the family home, where the walls throb with memories of the girls as children, bickering over Barbies and scattering Lego bricks that later he would step on and have to bite his lip to avoid swearing. He chops an onion for the gravy, the way she did, just last week standing here in her yellow dress, only sixty-nine, heart thudding reliably. His eyes water.
by
Hannah Whiteoak
@hannahwhiteoak
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The Language of Seasoning

Don't get me wrong, Grandad told a lot of stories. Nobody believed he really crossed the Atlantic on a raft made of plates, or taught Winston Churchill how to make a good salsa, or invented the doily. But, the way he cracked pepper. The way his hands held the mill tight and gave it a sharp twist, one way then the other, his face plain and tight, made me think that the stories he didn't tell dripped out of him like drying paint. Slow. Mournful. Permanent.
by
Richard Kemp
@boredwizard
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Collapse

I lay the belt out on top of the jeans, dark blue shirt, grey jersey and socks, ready. I pick up the belt again, the metal buckle under my fingers. This won't be allowed for the cremation. I put it aside.
by
Carien Smith
@SmithCarien
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The Butcher

His hands reflect his trade. The weight and size of hams, as pink as the pork he rolls in peppercorns. He is pristine, always, in his starched whites and striped apron. Not a blot or bloody cuff in sight. His father taught him the importance of that. No-one trusts a grubby butcher; they want immaculate. The flies don't get to cruise in here, or knit their legs on his meat. He's installed double doors, hung a bead curtain between. His customers enter in a sprinkle of rattles. The way he cleaves a lamb. Bones a joint. Like he was born to it; they all say it. But if he'd had his way, or another father, things would be different. Each night, he turns the sign to Closed, fills the sink. Lets himself imagine the cakes he would bake. Wedding cakes up to the ceiling. As light as breath. As delicate.

Credits

fiction by
Cheryl Pearson
@cherylpea

image by
Chris Espenshade

©
creators

In Too Deep

She takes a deep breath and explains it’s been going on for months, that the ticket you found in her pocket was only the latest in a run — she's seen them all, Blood Brothers, Billy Elliot, Les Mis — he appreciates theatre, unlike you. She throws out confessions like accusations: that business trip to Paris, you didn't even suspect, you don't see her as anything other than a mother. You want to hit her, or at least throw her clothes in the street, but you're in too deep, with the house and the kids and the years you aren't ready to admit you wasted, so you swallow a sob, grit your teeth, and ask what you can do to fix it.
by
Hannah Whiteoak
@hannahwhiteoak
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Project Calm
Ad Hoc Fiction Spring Special Winners

Winner

Emily Devane

Runners Up

Henry Peplow & Trasie Sands

project-calm-smallCongratulations to Emily, Henry and Trasie. And huge thanks to everyone who entered and supported our Ad Hoc Fiction Spring Special with Project Calm. These winning fictions will be available to read in Project Calm Issue 8, out 12th April in the UK and Europe, 12th May in the USA, and 12th June in Australia.

A Cold Autumn

The last time we spoke was deep in the cold autumn of 1973, in front of a shuttered store on Front Street. I found him brushing crumbs from the lapel of his corduroy jacket with one hand and brandishing a crust of bread in the other. Tall and thin, with curly dark hair and horned-rim glasses, his appearance was intense and scholarly from across the road. Nose-to-nose, however, there was desperation in his eyes and spittle at the corner of his mouth. He tried to hold onto a coherent thought while asking me for money. I, his only son, turned him down and walked away. When he was found near the railroad crossing east of town, I was the one they called. The side entrance to the morgue was frost-covered and locked, but I remember turning to face gorgeous, metallic starlings wheeling and calling in bright shafts of morning light.
by
Tim Hawkins
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Winter Garden

In the garden she sprinkles nuts on the bird table, breaks the ice on the pond and throws in fish food. If the wind is blowing she'll light a bonfire and stare into the flames until there's nothing left but charred ends. He was always the feeder, she – the burner. She takes a spade from the rack of tools and looks over the overgrown vegetable patch. Since he went nothing had grown but weeds. She slices into the heavy winter soil and turns a sod, then another, then another. Soon the plot is weed-free, loamy and ripe for seed. She digs deep, straight furrows, marked with twine tied around sticks. She plants his expensive secateurs, his fleece-lined gardening gloves and calibrated dibber. She tears open his packets of seed and sows them onto the bonfire's embers. Some of them pop and crackle, others just hiss.

Credits

fiction
&
image
by

Steven John
@stevenjohnwrite

©
creator

Mutability

Pair the socks, he says. She couples black with blue, red with green. Tidy the tins. She mixes tomatoes with beans. Sort the rubbish. She plants cress seeds in a yoghurt pot. Highlight the nouns and verbs, he says. She underlines adverbs and adjectives too. Memorise the eight times table. She learns six, seven and nine. Write three hundred words on your favourite character. She writes three thousand and could go on. Be back by ten, he says. She doesn't come home. Don't go out alone at night. She hitches to London. Phone once a week. She calls him every day. At college, she studies the physiology of a horse, adds a horn. Takes a fin from a fish, gives it an engine, splinters the sky, explodes a shed. Hangs it in a gallery. What a mess, he would say, if only he could.
by
Alison Woodhouse
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Gaps

Clearing out their mother's house they found bunches of hair tied with satin ribbons at the back of the drawers in the dark wood dressing table. Not their hair. They were both curly. This hair was straight, long and silky, the colour of warm honey. Had it been hers? But they'd seen pictures of her as a child, always short hair and darker than this. They sat on the edge of the bed and looked at it lying there between them, a puzzle forever unsolved. They thought of all the gaps that could never be filled.
by
Andrea Harman
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Directions

Lost are you? Yeah I know where that is. Turn left here, trip over the uncollected rubbish, walk quickly through Cardiff’s most vandalised park, past the sleeping drunks. Make your way past the shooting galleries. Cross by a Tesco’s. Walk past a wheezing accordion played by a Romanian woman who dreams of home. Step back from being hit by a cyclist. Cross by a Tesco’s. Stroll past the pub of your youth. Cross before the probation office and those who congregate in its damp shadow. Up the steps to the shiny glass foyer. Flash your card to security. Wait for a lift. Press 10 for the 10th floor. Turn left. Swipe your time card. Walk through the double doors. Make your way to your desk. Log on to your workstation. Answer the phone. There, there it is. The rest of your life. You can't miss it.
by
Paul Jenkins
@fourfoot
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Nature Plays No Favourites

On a Tuesday afternoon in mid-June at twenty-two minutes past three, for reasons best known to herself, Gravity took a brief time out. As her name would suggest, there was nothing intentionally ironic about it, but among the abundance of subsequently well-documented fantastical events, chiefly involving floating objects of animal/vegetable/mineral nature no longer invisibly tethered to this planet, and getting caught up in varying degrees of chaos, there was one incident which stood out to me, a student of cold fact versus hot possibility: that of an adrenaline junkie selfie-taker, who, at just after twenty-one minutes past three, lost his grip on the railings of a high rise intended as a spectacular backdrop, and plummeted seven seconds too early for the freak of nature to be of any benefit to him.
by
Anya Cates
@anycats
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The Waller

I pass the waller sometimes, at the highest points on the moors. I hear him before I see him, the ‘plink plink’ of his tools on the lichened stones, like the call of a bird. He’s mute to most folk but over the years I’ve got the odd weather word from him, ‘damp’ or ‘fair’, nothing more. No-one knows who’s paid him for the miles of walling he’s built or repaired, criss-crossing the cruel landscape. I’ve never seen him eat or rest or wear anything to keep warm other than a dust encrusted tweed jacket, even when the wind has cut your face like a blade. Today the moors are white with frost and a crinkle of snow and he said it was ‘crisp’. The ‘plink plink’ recedes into the silence as I walk. When I turn he’s disappeared, absorbed into the stone and bones of the country.

Credits

fiction
&
image
by

Steven John
@stevenjohnwrite

©
creator

How would you rate your overall experience on a scale of 1 to 5?

She found scoring questionnaires difficult and everything nowadays requested a score. The butchers, the library, even her last smear test, 5 for the young doctor and biscuits. Now the dating website wanted her to rate last night. He'd arrived before she did 5, bearded 1, and the meal was nice, although there could have been more of it 4. She’d have appreciated less talk of the ex-wife 2. He'd paid 5, and she couldn’t remember the last time a man had put a hand up her skirt in a pub carpark 4. Sex on her kitchen worktops had been a refreshing change 4, although the earth hadn’t moved 2, but then it never did for her, so perhaps 3. She’d never liked sharing her bed 1, but he had left the toilet spotless 4 and went early 5. Average 3. Average was normal.
by
Steven John
@stevenjohnwrite
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I know the constellations

My father taught me their names. Orion the hunter. His jewelled belt, three bright stars together. The easiest to find, my father said. Behind Orion, Sirius. The twins, Castor and Pollux. He bent down. Pointed. Told me stories. We take the narrow road through the desert, turn towards Elephant Rock. Watch the colours fade from gold, pass round small crescent-shaped biscuits. Tonight there is no moon, the desert quiet, each breath a whisper. The brightness of planets. Jupiter, Saturn, Venus. Milky Way. Orion, Cassiopeia. Falling stars so close I could reach out, cup one in my hand, and run to my father with unfurling fingers crying, "See what I have brought you."
by
Marjory Woodfield
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Poses to Assist Domestic Bliss

I seem to have inadvertently taken up aerial yoga. I was at the top of a ladder, changing a light bulb, when I slipped, grabbed onto the nearest curtain, and landed in the middle of an inverted asana. I've been dangling for hours now. No urge to come back down. Possibly ever. Our downward dog looks up at me as I settle into lotus and block out my teenage children’s demands for food. Goodness, they have terrible posture. I could show them how to fix that, but they wouldn’t listen. My husband tells me he appreciates that I’m taking a stand and he will consider my position – or he would, if I’d choose one and stay in it for more than a minute – when I stop being silly. So I shift into cobbler’s pose, knowing he won’t get the joke. Namaste.
by
Karen Jones
@karjon
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Rubric

It sleeps in the crook of my arm, head nestled into my chest. It's been three days now but we're surviving. I peel small strips of bark from the trees and it sucks the green tinged sap from the wood. Drops of water shed from the tips of leaves, I open its mouth to catch them. It cries sometimes. I think its the wind, brawling in the trees above us. I cup its ears and after a while it stops. Looks up at me. Smiles. Under shelter, I tell it stories. They fall from my mouth, inviolate and beautiful. These days seem to pass like years of dreaming and forgetting. It's funny. Back home. My name scrawled across newspapers. Official files, rubrics, questions, answers, stories - my name. Pages and pages of my name. Those same pages. Born here. Made from this very wood.
by
Tom Manson
@man_son15
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Moving

When we moved Kieran's bed, we found a carpet of dust as thick as a fat man's finger, exactly the same shape and size as the bedframe. Dead skin, shed hairs, three red paperclips. "Have we got time to hoover?" I asked. I got a stare: "All the years we've lived here, NOW you want to do some housework?!" We had to step around Kieran on the stairs. I lightly bumped the top of his head with one of my boxes, “Ooh this is heavy!” No offer of help. He wouldn't talk to either of us as we drove off, just stared out the back passenger window. We followed the moving van, listening to Ken Bruce doing 'Pop Master'. Occasionally, we'd hear the odd right answer mumbled from behind us. We hoped the new place would bring happier times. My dad hadn't been the same since his accident at work.
by
Nick Black
@fuzzynick
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Crazy Angles

I came home and the house didn’t look the same anymore. It was set at crazy angles. When I opened the refrigerator, it slammed shut before I could choose my food. The water in the tub leaked out when I stepped in. The cat tried to climb up the kitchen floor to get her food, which eventually came to her. When the doorbell rang, it rang in strange tones and the man at the door wore his glasses crooked. He asked if I noticed that my house was going to fall. You came home and acted as if nothing had changed though your beer poured with ridiculous curves. “Tonight,” you said, “let’s try something different. Let’s have sex at crazy angles and see how it makes us feel.” “Crazy,” I said, and slipped off the couch and slid down the floor into the bedroom.
by
Trasie Sands
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