New Math

Negotiating the cafeteria was what Square Root dreaded most about her first day at Weirdly Q. Showoff Performing Arts School. A clattering symphony of equations and functions buffeted her ears. With fours and nines piled on her lunch tray, she searched for an empty seat. Square Root set down her tray at the logarithms’ table. “Oh please,” a log sighed. “This table is for high end computations. You need to sit with the babies at the fractions table.” At the fractions table, everyone had Spongebob lunchboxes. And the chairs were too small. Not for her. All the forces at the Newtonian mechanics table wore velocity letter jackets. They grunted and glared when Square Root passed. A dotted i waved her over. “What are you guys? Apple products?” Square Root asked. “Nah. We’re imaginary numbers. The jocks and the cool kids won’t hang out with us, either.”
by
Caleb Echterling
@CalebEchterling
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to newmath@adhocfiction.com

8 by 3

He remembers so many wars he can count them on both hands and feet. His face is a map of worries, drawn deeper by nicotine. His skin’s as pale as tracing paper, blending into the walls. Grandad says he feels old as time. The afternoon after his 90th birthday he gets a shovel from the shed. He walks bent double to the rosebushes, a clockwork toy slowing down. With an aerosol can he sprays white lines on the lawn. The wind whips his silver hair across his face like a shroud but he doesn’t stop. He works like a 20 year old, the spade gliding through the frosty earth like water. Inch by inch he removes the soil, the darkness leaving a perfect void. Soon there is no more time. Now when I hang out the washing the smell of tobacco lingers among the roses.
by
Christina Taylor
@Chrissie72
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to 8by3@adhocfiction.com

Not All Points of Sail Are Equal

If you were a schooner, you would outrun the swiftest, you with your mad eyes locked on elusive prizes, trying to shoot the bar before it shoots you. Steering and trimming and trimming and steering, leaving the safety of broad reaches, risking side-swipes from the heavy boom. You would careen as you drew closer to the wind, pushing for the horizon, a-tilt, blinded by spray, moderation foreign to your one-man armada. If you were a schooner, you would forget the simple lessons of Newtonian mechanics: all with or all against the gale’s force is never as safe as a steady beam reach. Closer and closer you would haul your craft until you were, at last, in irons.   If you were a schooner, you would end locked in a standstill, pointing toward an edge where dreams and fate coalesce, with no hope of further motion.
by
Christina Dalcher
@CVDalcher
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to notallpointsofsail@adhocfiction.com

The Definition of Us

Cast. verb direct one’s eyes at someone (see Object of Desire, specifically, You) Caste. noun class of people with exclusive privileges (see Social Status; Father’s Business Partner) Cast. verb shape a substance by pouring it into a mold (see Arranged Marriage, Heterosexuality) Castigate. verb punish (see Name-Calling; Compliance by Force) Cast. verb shed skin in the process of maturation (see Personal Growth; Me) Castaway. noun person rejected from society (see Disownment; Choices) Cast. verb let down an anchor (see Stand My Ground) Castle. noun large building fortified against assault (see Walls I Can Build; Strength) Cast. noun actors in a play (see You and Me; Two-Woman Show)
by
Christina Dalcher
@CVDalcher
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to thedefinitionofus@adhocfiction.com

Husband's Decline

After he retired, husband spent his days cleaning the house. It became an obsession. He bought all sorts of dusters; short fluffy ones, long-handled ones for the high up places, thin flat ones for the inbetweeny spaces. He started to sweep away belongings. Shoes, crockery, DVDs. Then the cat, the car, our friends, the world outside. All brushed away and never mentioned again. I thought he would miss the cat. Then he swept away our children. First Sarah, our eldest. She had always been his little monkey, hanging round his neck. But he whisked her away without a second thought. Then James, then Michael. I thought that was it, there was nothing left to lose. Then he took up the fluffy duster and I was gone. All that was left were a few old photographs of himself as a boy and a scruffy old teddy that smelled of his mother.
by
Katherine Latham
@kath_la
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to husbandsdecline@adhocfiction.com

down-the-drain

Close Shave

Pain, if it could be called that? No no, that's not it. Raw and humming. Undercurrents of seared heat. That was it. A thick drop of blood explodes above the blank curve of the white marble sink. A parabola, a topological space, a set of points clustered in equal dimensions, a god damn deformed line. The drop gathers again after impact, diluted now by shards of old sinewed water. Gravity and momentum push it toward the plug hole, next stop? The sewer and onwards to Dublin bay. Face never ever clean. Shadows, always shadows. Morning - noon - night. Pluck a clean razor, try again, 140 times until it's right.

Credits

fiction by
Luke Timmins
@luketimmins77

image by
kerry rawlinson
kerryrawlinson.tumblr

©
creators

no-yellow-brick-road

No Yellow Brick Road

Rain lashed the pavement like some crazed madam punishing her disobedient slave. Puddles formed, puddles merged, puddles began to take over the world. Plastic bags, soggy leaves, and small children were whipped up by the wind. Clouds loomed within touching distance, squeezing the space between heaven and earth. Soaked pedestrians with useless umbrellas leant into the the storm. I’d looked forward to this. I’d wished away each hour of hiraeth dreaming of Welsh rain. Funny how the mind plays tricks; conjuring scenes of romantic walks on misty cliffs, wet Welsh drizzle from Dylan’s mind. Not scary, apocalyptic storms when it feels like the house will fly and you’ll wake in Oz, desperate to click your heels and get back to Cardiff. But there’s no yellow brick road or tinman, just a squall of rain smashing into my window pane, then silence. The calm in the eye of the storm.

Credits

fiction by
Gareth Davies
garethdaviesauthor.blogspot

image by
Małgorzata Warmińska
instagram/gosiawww

©
creators

My Husband

I took husband and put him in a jar. I placed him between the sugar and tea. He looked good there, with his permanent three day beard and birdnest hair. And grimace. I open the jar on Sundays only, when he's well-rested and he won't shout at me like a savage. I take him to the pub. We stroll in the park. Stroke a puppy. I kiss him, he's happy. We stare at the lake. Feed the ducks. I tell him the plan and he nods. I guide him into bed. He's a good boy. We hold hands and watch the sunset. The truth is I can't open the jar. I've tried everything, knives, spoons, gripping with both hands. 'I can't open it from the inside,' he tells me. I shrug. Don't worry, one day we'll have everything worked out.
by
Bogdan Tiganov
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to myhusband@adhocfiction.com

A Kiss of Sorts

He peeled a first class stamp off the folded rectangle of card, warm and concave from the wallet he carried in his back pocket. Licking had been better. When you licked a stamp a piece of you went with it; some bodily fluid, a kiss of sorts, a teardrop, or a spit. This letter should have all three. He wrote his own address on the envelope, but not his name. He wrote her name, without the ‘Mrs’. A ‘Mrs’ would imply a future. She would recognise his handwriting of course, and she’d have been expecting something, a text or an email. She’d know it was terminal when she saw a letter. A licked stamp would have carried his dried up kiss and a tear. She deserved that at least. And the spit? Well perhaps the spit was in the letter; a clearing of the throat, some acid reflux, a goodbye.
by
Steven John
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to akissofsorts@adhocfiction.com

Project Calm
Ad Hoc Fiction Autumn Special Winners

Winner

Kate Carne

Runners Up

Jacqueline Carter & Kandi Thornton

project-calm-smallCongratulations to Kate, Jacqueline and Kandi. And huge thanks to everyone who entered and supported our Ad Hoc Fiction Autumn Special with Project Calm. These winning fictions will be available to read in the next issue of Project Calm, sold across major outlets from the 24th November in the UK, and the 24th December in the US.

project-calm-logobig

spray

Cleaning Spray

Some mornings I sweep dead flies from the windowsill overlooking the gardens. Thick dust returns each time, laying claim to shelved photographs framed shiny and wooden. Other memories lie face down, stacked and ready for dealing at Christmas or birthdays. A mop bucket full of cooling water. 'I sailed beneath the waterfall,' she tells me, 'I remember the roar, the stinging spray, the sheer weight of the water crashing around the boat and never since have I, ever been so close to feeling alive.' The kettle begins to boil. 'I flew high above the canyon,' she adds in astonishment. 'I walked on air.' She repeats I did, I did as if I don't believe her. As if somehow this is all make believe. I pour the tea. Two cups, sugar, stir. I know this is real. I can feel the stinging spray, the sheer weight of water all around me.

Credits

fiction by
Steve M

image by
Victoria Fielding
@fielding_v

©
creators

rest-break

Grip

The last time he saw her, she was sitting on the corner of the grubby white wire chair on the porch, the black vintage clutch gripped tightly in her hands. By then, her hands and pale skin were covered with creases and blue veins had sprouted up her arms. She would regularly pluck at her blouse and try to cover the blemishes. Her body was propped up in the chair, a pillow in the hollow of her back. Each Sunday morning, for the past seventeen years, he would work on the flowers by the driveway, occasionally glancing in her direction. Her husband had passed away three years ago, so he was waiting. Perhaps another year, perhaps more. The church bells were faint, irregular, mimicking her breathing. As the bells grew tired, her body sunk into the chair.

Credits

fiction by
Carien Smith
facebook.com/carien.smith.9

image by
kerry rawlinson
kerryrawlinson.tumblr

©
creators

Mondays

On Monday, John ate supermarket Sushi and remembered touring Japan with the band. From 12 to 1, before the mid afternoon rush, John picked at Chumaki rolls, rode bullet trains from one place to the next. Tuesday, John loosened and tightened the nut holding his bike seat firm, to lift it. An incorrectly positioned saddle often leads to under extension during peddling, resulting in knee ache. On Wednesday, he tried to catch an eye, any. Thursday, so little happened. On Friday, John swam in clear Icelandic water, warm from the tips of his ears down to the mud through his toes. Saturday John got drunk and messaged old friends, then blocked their numbers before they could reply. On Sunday, John wrote letters to himself then went to bed refreshed long before the news began. To end, John marked off each day until the letters arrived, dropping through the letterbox like amber leaves.
by
Steve M
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to mondays@adhocfiction.com

Trinkets

The jewellery rested on a bed of soft, burgundy velvet, cushioned against any mishap, coddled in the hand-made wooden box. He loved to stroke specific pieces: the heart shaped earrings; a mood ring that always proclaimed him 'calm'; an eternity ring, so well-worn the metal had become sharp enough to slice through skin. He held the silver bracelet, his first and favourite trinket. He ran his fingers along the raised edge of the inscription: For Mum – Love, Jim. He remembered the false, twisted smile on her thin lips the night he gave it to her. He remembered the night he cut it off, watched the smile disappear, listened to her screams. He remembered how good it felt, how, at last, she had set him on his true path. Memories are ephemeral but mementos are solid, giving him the connection he needs. They make everything worthwhile. Everything For Mum - Love, Jim.
by
Karen Jones
@karjon
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to trinkets@adhocfiction.com

A Problem of Scale

The class after PE was Maths, the numbers big enough for him to hide at the back and rub at his scalp in the mistaken belief that he could get rid of the dandruff flakes in that forty minute period. But 800,000 dead cells for every square centimetre of scalp would not be so easily managed. Until now his adolescent changes had been predictable and therefore tolerable. But why had no one told him about this? And then the cringing realisation; the new girl was looking straight at him, round-eyed and open-mouthed. Some time later, she would tell him that it was a ‘wondrous sight’, ‘like shaking up and watching one of those glass snow-storm ornaments’. The next day, she wordlessly handed him a bottle of coal-tar shampoo and he caught her faintly medicated scent. Years later, he still found it more alluring than any number of Chanels.
by
Thomas Malloch
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to aproblemofscale@adhocfiction.com

Life in the No Flex Zone

Esmeralda stores her jewelry in a box on the high closet shelf, trades her paisley sundress for a brown shroud, ties the kerchief tight around illegal curls. Tuesday is shopping day.     She could take the steps two at a time, slide down the banister into the bed where floral rainbows used to grow, but a soldier stands across the way, watching, waiting.     Cans line the market shelves, black writing on white paper. Plain. Uniform. Esmeralda fills her basket with the week's rations, shows her card to a drab-dressed checkout girl.     "Better tuck that back in", the girl says, points to Esmeralda's temple. She does not smile. Smiling makes you look pretty, stand out. Smiling is a flex. Smiling gets you a warning.     Esmeralda walks back to her house, locks the door, trades the brown shroud for a bright floral, lets her curls free, pretends the soldiers aren't waiting outside. Watching.
by
Christina Dalcher
@CVDalcher
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to lifeinthenoflex@adhocfiction.com

shell ghosts by kerry rawlinson

Just A Crisp

There was a time before Lucy stopped eating. Creeping up behind me she plunged her hand into my Walkers Cheese & Onion and ran away, cheeks bulging. 'It's just a crisp,' said Mum when, with tear streaked cheeks, I reported my sister's crime. Now, years later, we sit at opposite ends of the kitchen table. My finger traces the knots in the pine as Lucy carefully peels an apple, cores it, slices it into wafer thin slivers. That's how I see Lucy. Wafer thin. If I held her up to the light I believe I would see right through her. She hugs herself to keep warm as we watch the uneaten apple slivers turn brown. I push my open packet towards her. 'It's just a crisp,' I say.

Credits

fiction by
Alison Wassell
@lilysslave

image by
kerry rawlinson
kerryrawlinson.tumblr

©
creators

diner

Diner

They stream in continuous convoy through Alma's daydreams. Campervan, caravan, overheard conversations. Sand, sweat and fermentation. Another 4x4 swings away through the dust, its void instantly replaced. New sparring voices to sweet'n sour the air. A milk jelly dollop of a child stares, pokes out her purple candy tongue, squeezes a tangy yellow trail towards the condiments. Alma doodles phallically on her notepad. Looks the father straight in the eye. "Make it snappy, love." The mother shrugs with her eyes. They leave behind an echo; the squinting rasp of chair legs, salt-sting resentment. Alma closes into herself. She blows through the girl's leftover cola straw. A fluorescent strip fizzes overhead. Bubble galaxies wink up at her through a thousand reflected pinpoints. She puts her ear to the glass. Listens. Believes in their frothy promises of something better. Above the sky; on the planets; on the eternal glimmer-eyes of beyond.

Credits

fiction by
Linda Grierson-Irish

image by
Jon Stubbington
www.recycledwords.co.uk

©
creators

Broken Splinter

I hear them every night, the walls can never hold his temper. Each night I lay in bed comprehending the wife’s role to a powerful man and every morning she is at the kitchen sink, her spine slightly more bent, her left arm, a little limper from his fresh beatings. Today I stare anxiously between her and my report card. I am suddenly realizing how dark our kitchen is, how hot and slow the spinning overhead fan is, how strong the contrast of the dirty beige wallpaper and her black pots hanging on the window rail, blocking that morning sunshine is... I wanted to tell her. When she turns around and sees my report card the smile disappears from her kind face and the single sentence that escapes from lips makes me see the darkness he has given to her. “I'm calling your father,” she says and my heart splinters.
by
Drew-Kiercey Whittaker
@drewkiercey
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to brokensplinter@adhocfiction.com

Role Reversal

Fresher’s week. No peanut butter spattered work top, or wet tights cluttering the radiators. The toothpaste lid remains on the toothpaste tube, lined up in a neat row with our two toothbrushes. There’s a noticeable gap where the third one was. I spread the two brushes further apart. Her room, a discarded hermit’s shell. The photograph on the side shows a little girl in braces holding a pink fishing net. I pull sheets from the bed, her adolescent scent hits me. I close my eyes. I will only allow myself this one moment. The back door slams. He’s mounting the stairs two at a time, running into the room like an excited puppy, waving keys to the campervan he’s just parked on the driveway. His face an explosion of the youth I’d forgotten. I smile back at him and close the bedroom door. The sheets can wait.
by
Kate Jones
@katejonespp
Can You Illustrate This Piece?

1. Read the details here
2. Send your art to rolereversal@adhocfiction.com