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The arrow had pierced her neck and she had fallen to the ground, blood seeping into the dirt.
Her children gathered around her, weeping and hugging her lifeless body. Her husband knelt nearby, his face wet with tears.
Why had she been killed when twisted Abbot Carver had been spared.
The assassin broke his bow over his knee. His arrow had been knocked off course by a wind blown branch.
Surely, God was not protecting the Abbot.
The Abbot had not seen the boar lurking in the forest. When it burst from the undergrowth his horse reared up and threw him to the ground. He felt his leg break at the same time as he saw the wolf's cold eyes and slavering jaws.
Sometimes God wants to exact his own revenge.
Snake Eagle: the Legend Begins
After five days’ hunting alone, Enu steps cat-light, despite the hog burdening his small shoulders, nestled against bow and arrows. His heart glows with pride at his first kill.
“The forest is your teacher. Listen. Learn. She provides,” Uncle had said.
They’ll have roast pork tonight. He can smell the familiar cooking fires. Almost home.
Uncle’s last instruction comes back to him, suddenly, just as the village appears through the trees.
“See any Snake Eagles, you come back. Understand?”
The hog falls, forgotten. The village fences are blackened and smoking. Silence pools.
Enu sees the pole set in front of the village gate, a bloodied, black-tufted feather waving gently at the top. It means no survivors. Without thinking, he has notched an arrow and loosed. The feather is pinned to the pole. It flutters fitfully, then lies still.
Enu melts back into the forest. She will teach him revenge.
How the Moon Moves
At the Oriental Institute, among the guardian bulls from Iran and the cases of Egyptian scarabs, there is an ancient artifact from Ur, now called Iraq. It is a small seal made of rock crystal, on which is depicted the sun and a crescent moon. Perhaps it was used to seal a peace treaty, or a marriage agreement.
Tonight, the moon is a bright blade, a curved bow.
On the Island of Lesbos, Sappho wrote--"I bow to your beauty. The crescent moon meets the Plieades, but tonight I sleep alone." Based on her description, the fragment has been dated to approximately 570 B.C.
It is a lovely summer evening. A young couple on bicycles pauses at the bridge over the expressway to admire the view. "Look at the moon." he says. "It's an eclipse!"
"No it's not," she says. "That's a waxing crescent."
"Are you sure?"
The moon moves on.
Dear Mr Git
Dear Mr Git,
Take a bow, give yourself a round of applause. You've got everything you want now, haven't you?
It wasn't enough for me to have to walk in on you doing the dirty with Eileen. You had to smear my nose in it, like a puppy in a pool of piddle, taking her to Joe's birthday and trotting her around in her foil mini dress. She got tanked up and you didn't smile once.
You can stop phoning as well. It might be withheld number but I know it's you, heavy breathing over the airwaves. And I couldn't understand half of that text you sent me: cn i com hom? What's that supposed to mean?
By the way, I'm seeing Alan now, so don't you trouble yourself about deserting me. You remember Alan? Big guy, put our bathroom in.
Have a nice life.
From your soon-to-be-ex wife x
The Beheading of St. John
"Caravaggio," Dr. Passant said, gesturing to the print on the wall by his office desk. "Genius. Possibly psychotic. Though I think perhaps justified in his bloody-minded reactions to foes. Ah, to live in a time of daggers and street brawls. At any rate, look at the signature, written with the blood of the dying saint."
He turned back to me. My gaze quickly left his graduate assistant and wife. I shifted in my chair with a pleasurable discomfort at the thought of our last meeting. Her knowing smile, rich with recollected lust, vanished however, as he put his hand on her shoulder, a gesture both affectionate and menacing. Balding, bow-tied, and bibulous, how much could he have changed since they met three years ago?
"Of course," he continued, "it is only paint. Still, I think it gets the point across."
I fidgeted once more, but for a very different reason.
Leap off the Slide
“Bow down before me, you lowly humans!”
The boy roared at the top of his lungs before leaping off the slide, and gloriously landing in the sandbox. He kicked, he spun, he threw punches. He grinned as the invisible tiny creatures under his feet trembled. The boy licked his lips – victory is oh so sweet.
Suddenly, he stooped down, and quickly crawled under the slide.
A beam of flashlight swept right next to him. A pair of thick boots paced the ground.
The boy held his breath. Soon he was alone - or so he thought.
“Ouch, let me go”
“What are you doing here? It’s nine already”.
“Goodnight to you, sir”
The thick boots walked away.
The boy stood still. “Bow down before me…” he murmured to himself.
He flinched as a hand grabbed his shoulder. Another hand closed the door.
Freedom and Pleasure
A thousand miles. An inch. He was both, and he was neither.
Once a wisp from the heavens, now he descended from above. The sky was freedom, but the ground was pleasure. Up there, he rode the great waves and watched the world - as light as nothing, but wanting the burden of more.
As he reached the ground, the trees sang, their leaves longing to fly with him. The birds within their branches were less confined - they soared, and from beneath their wings he knew their joy. He saw the flowers bow before him, felt the water on a nearby lake ripple as a part of him skimmed over its surface.
His excitement tempered his speed - everything he touched grasped and tore at the edge of him. The ground was heavy and brief, and the wind turned to the blue expanse above as he searched for respite once again.
Her sister wrapped all the Christmas presents, every year, forever. Even if Nina tried to help, her mother would swat away her hands with a rolled up newspaper.
“Don’t touch your sister’s perfect bows,” their mother would say.
It wasn’t fair. Just because Carla could bend ribbons with a delicate precision didn’t make her Santa’s Freaking Helper. How could Nina learn, if no one would let her practice?
With a pile of wrapping paper covering her lap, Carla asked her little sister to pass the tape. Nina threw it. It hit Carla’s knee and ruined her meticulously constructed bow.
“I thought you wanted to help!” Carla snapped.
Nina surveyed the wrapped boxes in the corner – not a single crease. She wanted to kick and stomp on them, do things that would definitely put her on Santa’s naughty list. Instead, she picked up the tape and handed it to her sister.
"And then I curtsied."
He shut his eyes in remembered shame.
"You did WHAT? Da-ad."
"I know. I was nervous. That damn rhyme kept going round and round in my head.'Bow to the King and curtsy to the Queen...' "
" 'And show your knickers to the football team' ? Oh Dad! At least you didn't do that. What did she do?"
She smiled. It happens all the time, she said."
"Good job it wasn't Fee-Leep. He'd have had you swinging from a yard-arm!"
"I know. But to CURTSY, Sharon! I was there for BRAVERY! I could see the Chief Constable put his hand over his eyes! Guess I'll have a new nickname back at the station already."
"Was is a good curtsy?"
"Fabulous. Straight out of 'The Princess Bride'.
Detective Constable Reg Price got quite good at his regal wave as the years passed. He always responded to the cry "Wotcher, Queenie!"
The bottle is still on the table waiting as I waited all that night. Until he sent the message. An echo of the message I had already received in their sly glances and cut off conversations.
I'm no expert but it is a good bottle. A very good bottle so my research told me. Finally I pick it up. It is reassuringly heavy, the label faded with age. The bow around the neck looks garish now, the vivid stripes of red and blue incongruous against the luscious darkness of the wine inside, like a joke tie paired with a sober, dark suit.
I rip the heavy foil off and dig out the cork with sudden savages movements as if afraid to trust my own resolve. The scent is bitter, almost acrid. As if it going untasted somehow punishes him I pour the wine, red as blood, down the sink.
With Calluses Like Canyons
In a tentative grip, what was once a weapon; a tool for bringing fire. Dead cells stretched taught for the anthem of their liberation. In an up and down sawing of the elbow: the keratin husk cracks, an outpouring of sonorous relief, air given to dancing. “How the moving of things compels us!” she manages.
This is a recording, of sorts. Will the moment be repeated ever the same? Fluid air is frozen in the imitation of itself and an ear might be similar enough in shape to hear what she hears. That would be coincidence, perhaps as improbable as her birth, and the birth of the tree bent into a bow, and the birth of the horse she rides across that tiny hill, barely the height of her arched hand; of a mouse, protected. Each listening a rehearsal less genuine. She should stop before this becomes a lie.
'Til Death us Do Part
I lacked the wherewithal to make you happy, that’s the truth. You settled for me, I realise now. How awful that concession must have been.
No sound but the plash of oars, the creak of rowlocks. Quite the romantic setting, though your cold gaze is indifferent to it all, the ashen moon flexing on inky water, glinting in your eye. Your fingers dap the surface with the delicate pitch of the boat, barely breaking the meniscus. It could be the epitaph for our marriage, darling; it was your discretion I purchased, not your pleasure.
In Politics discretion is everything.
Did you do it on purpose, I wonder? You know I would’ve given you anything, except him. My secretary! You knew he was mine, yet you fought. And you know I don’t like to lose.
Come, Ophelia, time to take your bow. No breath in you to argue this time.
Six hundred seconds
You'll bow down, he says, and it's not a question. Over his shoulder, traffic crawls through the arteries of the city, framed in the dirty glass of the hotel room window.
Now, he says, his voice flat, a dull note in the silence of the room. His palm sits against the crown of her scalp; now, the fingers contract so that her hair is bunched tightly into his fist. She bows over, flexing forward with the grace of a dancer.
His shoes are speckled with dried vomit. The toes are scuffed, exposing the grey surface beneath. She thinks of him walking the streets, an ordinary man among thousands, millions. Imagines him holding a shop door open for a woman, smiling distractedly.
When he strikes her, the pain blazes through her, a comet in the dark night sky. It will take 10 minutes. Six hundred seconds. She begins counting.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing and Jack pulled out his gun...
Dunn woke from a cowboy wagon dream, rocking back and forth, head swimming in flies. He coughed a dry fury at the check-out, spooked the cashier and with forty proof in hand scuffed the pavement home, his free hand raking sweat through his hair. There was no key on his chain when he reached the door, just the sunflower fob, an empty weight in his pocket. She had done it at last! Backing into the street and the prairie sunset, Dunn closed his electric eyes.
“Take a bow, Jackie Boy! The wheels have come off!”, as a neighbour passed by, walking his dog.
The Enemy Within
Eadric hurried to his chambers, excusing the guards when he saw the familiar figure waiting there.
The man huddled by the fire struggled to his feet; then collapsed into his king's arms.
'Ragen, what have they done to you?'
'He plans to take the castle, sire,' the messenger spluttered through broken teeth. 'Tonight.'
The king shook his head and turned aside. 'He lies. Our walls are impenetrable and the cliff protects our rear - Branack knows that.'
Ragen brushed back his hair, exposing a mass of smouldering, black flesh. 'They've joined forces with the Ithca...the fire demons. They will get in.'
'Huh! My dungeons are full of enemies foolish enough to try.' Eadric's eyes narrowed. 'He allies himself with Ithca monsters? Mercenary shapeshifters who will never bow before his throne? He...' The king paused, scorching breath searing his neck.
The demon behind him smiled. 'Correct. They should never be trusted...'
It was Givenchy; a silk halter top, backless, finished with a bow. Her husband rolled his eyes. He wouldn’t like the hint of breast, of course. All the more reason. She felt good. She felt free. When they arrived, the crowd was building, there were cameras, reporters. Somebody produced champagne for the winners. She whispered in his ear: ‘only for winners.’
They sat midway. He was sulking now so she left him and went to mingle with the ‘runner up’ crowd. When she came back there was hatred in his eyes. ‘Hand me my book,’ she said. She held her novel in her hands and calmed her breathing. When her name was called, she rose from her seat and stepped into the aisle, not feeling his fingertips on her bow, the weightless tug of material behind her neck, the slip of silk against her skin, the fall.
Johnny One-Note mooched across the stage and lay his sixth mouse of the night by his beloved Steinway. The old theatre, empty now, was his domain and the magnificent grand piano his passion, his reason for living, his love.
And each night they became lost in each other; entwined in their beautiful music as it echoed around the empty theatre. Tonight was no different.
Johnny One-Note placed a tentative paw on to the ivories, the Steinway shivered, with a sudden flourish the cat began to dance from note to note, key to key. Acoustic energy washed around the theatre, their music spun through the air. An hour later, spent, he leapt down onto the stage and after a swish of his tail, took a bow to the imaginary audience.
Later that night as Johnny One-Note lay across his beloved’s Mahogany surface he lit a cigarette and dreamed of the future.
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
'This is an outrage!' he yelled, clutching his spear. The sentry in front of him did not budge, he was still holding out his hand for the passing of the weapon. The complainer gave it to him, the soldier took it. Then he pointed him towards the wall.
The howler slowly walked to reach it, hoping for an order to stop. It did not happen, he had to continue. He kept gazing around, noticing other combatants who nodded disapprovingly. He arrived at the barrier. Once there he struggled to turn around.
A group of militants appeared to face him, each of them carrying a bow. He was hiding his tears, looking up. They aimed. He caught a glimpse of clouds, gathering above him. It seemed as if it were about to rain.
Love at first sight
A sunny, spring evening in the rose garden of Regent's Park. Red, pink, white, and yellow roses are in full bloom.
A ruddy young man with a handsome face, broad chest, and muscular physique is ambling through the walkway between the rose bushes as if he is looking for fun.
A young woman is walking from the opposite direction, savoring the beauty of the roses and searching for meaning in life.
Cupid is hiding behind the rose bushes with his bow and arrow in that pregnant evening.
As he sees the young souls, he readies his bow, pulls the string to his shoulder, and releases the arrows with full force. Snap. The young lad and lass, hit by the projectiles right at the heart, flash a radiant smile at each other
Suddenly, everything changes for them: roses look more colorful, evening feels more balmy, and life seems more cheerful.
Tea-cups, castles and beanstalks
Waves of nausea washed over me with every spin, my over-priced unappetising lunch threatening to make a re-appearance with the rise and fall of the rotating floor. My firmly plastered on smile told a different story, as I braved the experience for the thoroughly enchanted toddler beside me in the teacup. I fixed my line of sight on a Minnie Mouse bow and cursed the Mad Hatter under my breath. Around and around and around we went, fairy tale castles and giant beanstalks blurring in one fluid colourful motion. Memories were being cemented, joy grabbed where we could find it. I did my best to ignore the “Make A Wish” foundation logo on the paperwork, our reality was being forgotten, ever so briefly, in the Happiest Place on Earth.
My friends are lazing around and I don't think they have noticed me, smiling to myself I bow my head and start advancing practically hugging the ground.
A foreign smell fills my nose but I ignore it and carry on, the grass tickles but I stop myself from laughing. As I get closer the smell gets stronger, it's familiar now but I can't place it. I don't care the excitement of fooling my friends is too much, I pounce, roar and charge at Tidali my closest friend.
They aren't surprised at all, they aren't anything I'm confused for a second until I remember what that smell is. Blood, I cry out and turn to run away but it's too late it hits me, I collapse to the ground and hope my father will save me.
I know he won't I should have stayed with the pride.
Daddy wouldn't buy me a bow-bow
My grandfather used to sing that song. Settled for the day on his fireside chair, he'd jiggle the dog, which lay over the toes of his polished brogues and belt out the lyrics. I have a little cat, I suppose I'm fond of that but I'd rather have a bow-wow, wow. The crescendo of the two last words, made the dog join in and bark to the same rhythm.
These days, they'd be a sensation on The Voice. Him at full throttle, dapper in his spats and three-piece suit, the dog, coiffed and blow-dried, barking at his side. They'd have made the papers, created a twitter storm. Back then, he was just my celebrity. I still have the pictures. Me and him in the garden feeding the pigeons. Me and him down the river sitting on a bench. The dog curled up between us.
I stood in the wings, adjusting my bow tie. Stressed but excited, I was confident my act would have me declared the winner.
Busy dreaming of accolades, I missed my introduction... twice. Jerked to attention by a prod in the ribs, I staggered on stage, blinking in the lights. Stunned by the size of the audience, I stood there silent, like a fool. I blushed with shame, then burst into tears. A quick bow and I ran offstage.
Not an auspicious start to my career as a celebrity. There was nothing else for it, I'd have to be an astronaut now.
"Bow down to me, my friends. Bow as the trees kiss their roots and the grass crashes from the force of a distant breeze. Look not upon my face, but at my feet, for that is where you belong: in the rubble and the ashes of your own failings. You will never experience the world as I; you will never learn of the height of a thousand bent heads. You will never walk as I will, reaching high into the heavens, as you remain in the dust. I am the victorious, and I am the ultimate. I win, my friends."
He smiled at us then, and with one flick of his gigantic hand, we felt our spines crack as we fell at his feet. He was right; he had won. We were his slaves, and he was the victorious.
The Birthday Present
That’s her now - taking the kids to school.
I'll nip out and put it through her letterbox once she's gone. Don't want to ruin the surprise.
It’s a perfect gift if I say so myself after everything that's happened this year - the dinner parties with their incessant Mahler…and her boys always kicking their football over and those dogs!
It was so quiet before they came. Still, no point on dwelling on that now. I must tie this bow properly. Cellophane handles knotted and bowed together, like making Christmas decorations.
I might not have any evidence that it's her pugs that leave all the mess round the village but I know what I know.
She'll get such a surprise and it'll be a valuable lesson.
There… finished. It's pretty full but it should fit through.
I'll listen through the wall to hear her reaction when the proverbial hits the fan.
"Papa, are we going to die?"
"No, honey. It's just a little rain."
"My feet keep getting wet."
"Oh, sweetie, sit on the couch. The water won't get you there."
He scoops Lily up in one fluid motion, her bare feet tiny prunes, and sets her on the stiff sofa. Not on the faded, red stain. Never by the stain.
The wind howls and the rain screams, begging to be let inside. The door is kinder than the windowpane. Water continually seeps through from the cracks, struggling to find shelter.
He sometimes sees her at night, drenched, white nightgown clinging to her full figure. His eyes always fixate on her stomach, bulging with life. She's elated.
"I hope to God this rain stops soon," She chuckles from the couch, through clenched teeth. The cushion beneath her heaves with a moan.
He bows his head and closes his eyes to pray.
She’s nearly by his backdoor when she spots her red hair bow lying on the settee where he’d invited her to sit and take a glass of orange after he’d let her ride his pony.
‘Tomorrow then, young lady.’
She glimpses hard lips, sandpapery face, his wrinkly hands now gripping the door… then she’s past.
All the way home, squeezing her riding-hat to her chest, she wonders if tomorrow she could have a bad tummy or maybe an errand to run for her mum? But then she’d be a liar and selfish.
Through her front door, through the kitchen, she tiptoes barefoot between stains on the lino.
‘Lucy-Lee?’ Her mum’s stir-frying over the wok.
Bathroom tap. She twists her hands under hot water, almost bearable. Burning tears blinked, dripping down.
‘Lucy-Lee?’ Mum’s hand’s on her shoulder… stroking her hair.
Her hands go limp in the sink.
‘Where’s your ribbon, darling?’
I ran my hand proprietorially over the bow. A small crowd of travellers had gathered around my table, eager for tales of how I had used it at Agincourt. Another flask of ale was placed in front of me as I held court, the third I had been bought so far. I was demonstrating, admittedly less fluently than I would have back then, how a professional archer would nock and draw, albeit without an arrow.
The landlord winked as he took my empties. Although I was employed as pot man, he tolerated the nights when I neglected my duties if it brought plenty of custom. Tonight’s group had broken their journey to Scotland to rest here, as many had done before them, hoping to hear my battle stories.
As I took a gulp I smiled, remembering how only that dying archer at Yeavering really knew how this bow became mine.
The Echo of a Winning Man
Walking through the hall with my head held high and my steps reverberating across the wooden panes, for the music had been winded down. The people's stare, filled with resentment and a bit of sorrow, held steady at my being. They all knew what was about to happen, because there could be no other course.
As I found myself, where I was destined to be - looking at the man eye to eye. The assuredness in his look irritated me, so I returned the gaze in disgust and made my leave, for I knew...
Taking my fifth step I felt the bullet enter before I heard it leave, but I did not waiver. When the second bullet hit, my vision vanished and my heart stopped, but my body stood straight and my legs never gave out, for even in death I would not give him the joy of my bow.
“Na. Ma. Stay.” she engulfs me in incense. Eyes manically gleaming, she wraps her arms around me.
“Namaste,” I say, muffled by her hair and robes.
The embrace goes on too long, she doesn’t get the hint when I step back; holds on tighter.
“I bow to the divine in you,” she intones, finally releasing me, eyes focused behind me. I sneak a look over my shoulder when she turns her back, just in case. No-one is there.
“Here’s your catalogue,” I push it at her, “I’ll be back Thursday to pick it up, I don’t mind if you don’t order, but I need it back.”
She regards the catalogue, “Cl-eeeean-ing products. Indeed.”
Her smile seems mocking as she closes the door.
Incense lingers around me.
I hear what I imagine is my catalogue hitting the waste-paper basket. My “na-flaming-maste,” is perhaps louder than is decent in a residential area.
My Beautiful Bow
The spray washes her face, gleaming in the sun.
She danced, gently pressing herself into the arms of the waves. She glided through the blueness, keen to venture into her next caress of wetness. The droplets trickled over her silky body, rippling into the flow beneath her.
Yearning peaks of white frothy cushions beckoned her forward.
Moments of stillness called through the shrilling of the birds. Breezes skimmed through her mane, anchored high upon the mast. The sun burned through her decked skin, warming her sense of
The close of day presented. The wind drew a bellow and rocked her inner keel. Through to her veins she shook. But her bow steadied her body and she battled safely on.
It was the safety of her harbour that she yearned for now. It wasn't long before ...
she was anchored fast.
Her tired bow resting upon the ever giving waters.
The waiter has an assured manner. He excels at portraying just the right level of deferential service without demeaning anybody but me. He gives a slight bow when he takes the orders and removes the menu but is careful to let me know with the incline of an eyebrow, the almost imperceptible downturn of his mouth that he thinks I am an idiot and will never has his grasp of cuisine or acquire his extensive knowledge and understanding of the wine list.
My companion is stunning, comfortable here. Dazzles me. I am ill at ease, fidgety, not quite sure of the etiquette for anything. She fits just in with the other affluent diners, I am from a different tribe though.
The food arrives, it is beautifully presented. Every piece of food faultlessly seasoned, accompanied by sauce that is the ideal match for the other ingredients. Everything, the perfect reduction.
Through the slats of my blind I’d witnessed the transformations. Chestnut bob, ebony beehive. Glossy lips, fuchsia, crimson. Fluffy hats, psychedelic scarfs.
Years she’d lived across the road. And she’d never even said, Morning. Never noticed at me.
She had a bow-shaped birthmark on her thigh. Too small to be generally visible even in her short skirts, sheeny legs parading. Even when she folded her knees to ease into his swanky car.
I sensed her primitive impulses, her hunger. Felt the edginess, the impetuous hormones stirring her core. Saw the recklessness, mid-week walking the shadowy streets home from the night-bus alone.
She would never have looked at me. I would make her look.
Her route passed the golf course, screened by hedges. That’s where they found her body, hands bound, just hours after she’d stared into my eyes, terrified, in the moonlight. After I’d discovered the bow on her thigh.
The Krasnikov Tube in his Basement
Eight o'clock, ten o’clock twelve o’clock, one. The scientist worked on that infernal machine. Hammer and wrench crashed on the polished brass shell. Would it also smash relativity of simultaneity? Einstein-Rosen formed from cold, hard metal? His hands on her hips, her lips on his. That was all gone now. In the future at least. He stood back and gave the machine an elaborate bow of introduction. Carry me back to her my old new friend. This was a risk. To prevent the accident. Could he? Push Madeleine clear of the car? Would it mean the end for him? Or for everyone? Grandfather Paradox. No one had tried this before. He pulled the lever. Climbed inside the brass dome. Les Maîtres du temps. And he was gone. Twelve o’clock, ten o’clock, eight o'clock none.
She didn’t see him. Didn’t know he was there. Reaching to close the curtains she didn’t feel his eyes.
He stood in the shadows. Back against the wall. Watched her pull the curtains. Close the darkness out.
He imagined her with the others. The ones she loved, the ones she kept. Now she had it all. Now it suited her.
He’d been an inconvenience, a mistake she’d once forgotten. Her failure.
He wrapped his hand around the handle, the blade close against his thigh. Teeth clenched. Fighting back the tears.
He watched her curtain call, her final bow. He took a breath, stepped into the light.
“A thousand on black thirteen,” John said, and the gamblers gathered around the roulette table fell silent. A thousand, they thought? Surely he must have been crazy. Even John himself nervously bit his lip and fiddled with his bow tie.
But black thirteen it was.
The table erupted in cheers and celebrations. Pats on John’s shoulders came from every direction, and it seemed as though everyone wanted to buy the lucky man a drink. But John himself was stunned, and sat silent. Thirty thousand dollars. Finally, he could afford to pay off his massive gambling debts. Finally he was freed from the curse. Finally.
The next night, John was again seen at the roulette table.
“Thirty grand on black thirteen.”
The hunter’s sleek body glistens in the bright sunlight. Sweat trickles down his brow, but he does not bother to wipe it, he does not even give it a thought really. His concentration is extreme, like his bow it is stretched tight, to the limits. Sizzling and simmering, the arrow is poised for flight. Unwavering, the hunter strikes the warrior pose, the taut bow string hums as the tip of the arrow touches it, music to his ears. It is time.
In the distance, hidden partially in the tall grass, the gentle doe eyed deer, grazes blissfully. Unaware.
Around him, though, the forest slows knowingly, ready for the show, it takes a seat, all movement stills, the silence settles down, deafening in its totality. And that’s when his ears prick, the eerie quiet whispers to him, he knows, there is trouble.
Together, they take flight, the pursuer and the pursued.
Kate waited patiently on the bow of the cruise ship, fingering the note in her pocket. She was tempted to read it again but she knew it off by heart, the folded piece of paper was a normal message: it had a time, a location, the amount of money needed and the express demand that the crew should not be alerted.
After another twenty minutes a small, thin weasel of a man sidled up towards her, it had gone past midnight and the moon was the only light source to see that they were truly alone.
The man and Kate glared at each other, without a word she tossed the small holdall next to his legs. The man looked at in surprise and quickly picked the bag up, before he left Kate grabbed his hand.
“Take this paper and I don’t want to see you until it is done, understand?”
Making up for lost time
“Thanks for getting her back on time Ben, but the babysitter cancelled so I have to bow out of my dinner with the girls,” said Nora, her heels and good coat mocking her.
Eva, still on the doorstep, was tugging at her sleeve.
“Can daddy take me out again next week?”
Ben ruffled her hair. “I’d love to. Actually, why don’t I babysit tonight? And you can go to your dinner?”
Nora looked unsure.
“Seriously, I’d really like to,” said Ben. “I’ve loved spending time with Eva these last few weeks, and I want to make up for lost time.”
Nora smiled. “Go on then. And thank you.” Grabbing her bag, she kissed Eva goodbye. “I’m driving, I won’t be late – her bedtime is 8. Have fun!”
Behind the closed door, Ben hunkered down to Eva’s height. “So pet, do you know where your passport is?”
3500 pairs of eyes, and they were all looking at me. I couldn’t distinguish any face in particular which was good - it meant I’d be less nervous. With all the lights glaring at my face I could only hope they couldn’t see the sweat on my furrowed brow.
The theatre was at capacity and all I could focus on was not throwing up. This being my stage debut was a major gig. As two hours seemed to drag on for an eternity I recited my lines perfectly and never missed a beat and could hand on heart say - I gave it my all.
I took my bow with the rest of the cast and left the stage. The real horror was to come - waiting for the review the next day.
The headline read, “There’s a rumble in the theatre world, a new leading lady is in town”.
I tried to hold him tight every time it happened, hoping the familiar touch would bring him back. But usually he was completely lost by then. I found no glimpse of recognition in his eyes, not a single fragment of love. Bowing his head avoiding eye contact, he was obviously uncomfortable, trying to escape.
“It’s me!” I cried, but even if I could turn his head towards me, I never saw that smile I fell for anymore. His unearthly expression made me scared, especially when he started mumbling about invasions and being chased by dark forces.
I couldn’t deny anymore something was wrong. I tried to make him get help, but he just laughed, saying it was me and everybody else that was sick. I gave up eventually, letting him vanish in the world of delusion. Now I only wish I could stop wondering if I did the right thing.
The glare from one of the lights blinded her every time she swayed subtly to the left, so she shut her eyes.
The music tried to take the lead, so she stopped listening.
The notes told a story that wasn't hers, so she ignored them.
She craved for release, the bow was her blade, and the strings were her veins.
At first, she sliced delicately, barely enough to leave a light trail of crimson on her fair skin. Then she carved hard and fast, like an angry butcher, she was the meat.
Certainly, with each stroke, her soul sprayed forth, staining the hall with her grief and frustration. By the end of the slaughter, they were in a frenzy of applause and ovation, calling out for more carnage. She just hung there on stage, cold and spent, staring lifelessly at that empty seat, while the bow clattered to the ground.
Silken Yellow Noose
Her hair is dark. Held back from her face with a simple bow in yellow silk as bright and pure as a single teardrop from a lemon sun. Her back is always turned. I try to speak, but the fickle mistress of dreams stays my tongue and I am left unsure if the woman with the sunlit ribbon in her hair knows I exist.
Such is the power of her vision that she bleeds into my waking thoughts. As dreams are spiteful, destiny is cruel. Our futures may never collide and yet she remains on the very fringes of possibility. Ever close. Ever far. Consuming me in delicate, scented mouthfuls. Hollowing me out without malice or intent.
On days such as this where steel clouds cocoon the sky and madness prowls I wonder if a silken yellow noose will support the weight of my pain.
I say with a blank book that they all
Are the ones who tried to
Viscimillate you from my view
But you are here
And that makes it all the same
Again. I hear through true blue
Syphons the words of the eagle
And the thrush
But I do not hear the anvil and its stirrup
Only the words themselves in my mind
Which causes angst but no worry as it is because
I have been beaten in the head
So many times that I feel no more
Pain just a feeling of vernatitude
At the sight of you gone
For a walk through the piers of the steerage compartment
On board the vessel called
Vexmere, for all the world shall shine with
A bow of grace.
I broke Cupid's bow. It was an accident. I saw this little kid sneaking into the disco. I had my hands full of confiscated cider, so I shouted over to Bernie, but he didn't hear me – he plugs his ears, says he'll go deaf from 'the Nirvana'. By the time I dumped the cider and ran into the gym hall, all I could see was headbangers. Then the DJ commenced the obligatory 'slow set'. Jesus, I thought. Teenagers, slurping each other's faces. The floor emptied, then refilled fitfully. Through the gloom I saw the little monster raise a bow – a fecking bow! - and take aim. Of course I dived on him, kid or no. We heard the weapon snap. The music seemed to stop. When it continued, it didn't sound the same. The fizz had gone out of it.
Now I'm waiting for a very angry Venus to arrive.
The classroom was one of the unusual places for someone to use a crossbow.
I was kneeling before an elderly woman with a crossbow in her hands. I was still feeling the agonizing pain rushing through my upper right arm.
She was sitting on her leather chair behind her desk, still wearing her signature green bow. I looked into her neutral eyes behind her thick reading glasses, trying to see any explanation for her actions.
I can hardly feel my wrists, the rope was cutting off my circulation.
Who would've thought my teacher, one of the nicest women I've ever met, would be willing to kill me. I glanced at the arrow embedded on my arm, thinking if there was any plan to escape.
I looked at her again and then looked at her green bow.
As I blinked, I heard a loud twang.
He wanted that something special. She was his world thinking about her 24/7. That chance meeting with their heated exchange of lust fuelled kisses was never going to be enough.
He made his choice, adding the decorative red bow upon the lid. She hadn’t seen him since, vanishing into her corporate world, whilst he had quietly devoured her very existence, committing their passion to memory.
In the heavy heat of the city she walked home through the stifled London streets. Again he refused to be removed from her thoughts. At the doorstep the colour caught her eye, reaching the parcel lifting the lid with clumsy fingers full of curiosity.
Inside a note, “I need you, ring me’
Watching from his position her lips curve into a smile and she pressed the keys, lifting his phone as it began to ring.
“Hello my dear wife, did you like your gift?”
I lay in bed, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars mummy had bought for me. I wanted to get up and go and see daddy but he slept and looked sad a lot nowadays so I didn’t.
The blue cast itched on my leg. Daddy brought breakfast to my room so I didn’t have to walk.
Daddy helped me to get dressed and then took me downstairs to wait for Auntie Chris to come and get me. The doorbell rang, but Auntie Chris let herself in anyway, just as daddy came down the stairs. He came over and crouched down in front of me and put a bow in my hair. “There. Don’t you look lovely?” There was a large, black car waiting outside. I stood at the doorway. “The sun’s shining for mummy, sweetheart,” daddy said, crying already. I buried my face in his shoulder and held him tightly.
I take bow after bow on stage after stage. A never-ending whirlwind of performance. My feet ache as I fix a smile onto my face; I am desperate for a lie down. I raise my arm to indicate the orchestra hidden in the wings to my left. My arm falls after a few seconds; I haven’t the energy to hold it aloft. I want to get off the stage, but I don’t want to go backstage. Eric will tell me to push harder, make it better for tomorrow night’s show. Claudia will complain about the state of my outfit. I bow again. The audience whoop and cheer, begging for more. I have no more to give.
I am empty.
The slender length of light blue satin was getting the life trampled out of it, leaving it a stray, greying ribbon. No way of correctly guessing it’s original vocation. A bow for prettying hair, perhaps, or an overdressed present. I watched it evolve.
The shiny shoes of a man in an old faithful suit scuffed it along in three consecutive paces so it fell into a dirty corner on the top step to the underground. Something in me clenched. It wasn’t destined for that.
Safe but trapped. Until a girl, five-ish, spotted it. She waited a second, pausing in everyone’s way as they climbed out from the dark, and grabbed. One quick, sniping pick with precise fingers used to threading beads on elastic or plucking coins from the back of the sofa. Holding it aloft, it traced squiggles in the wind, following her gratefully as a kite.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see things. What things? I’m uncertain. A quick flash in my periphery causes me to pause General Hospital. My chest thumps as I do, as if expecting some danger, although there’s nothing of note. So what is it, then? Perhaps it is the senseless torment of ghosts angry with my life. I should have put another five in the offering plate. No, ghosts are too far-fetched. I’m not quite sure I believe in them. There must be a problem with my vision. Dr. Carter seemed sure the exam was normal. He worked too quickly; he must’ve missed something. Come to think of it, I remember Mary’s husband saw strange things before his eye cancer diagnosis. I’ll end my life before I poison myself with chemo!
A knock. “Ms. McCormick?” asks a girl with a hair bow. “It’s time to take your medicine.”
I'd known Marion about a month when she told me she was a Toxophilite. She had my full attention as she explained it involved limbs, curves and strings. So would I like to spend a weekend with her in Cambridge?
Wow, I had a vision of a weekend with the best legs I'd ever seen, a perfect figure and G String thrown in. Yes please, I would like some of that.
Yeah right, dream on.
How was I to know strings would be attached, curves depended upon her draw force and her limbs, made of wood, extended from her riser to her tips?
Marion won the Cambridge Archery Contest with a record score. In offering congratulations I gave her a deep and long bow. But, it would seem my own 'scoring' over the weekend was way off target.
Yesterday Marion gave me the elbow.
The rainbow child
The rain stops. Little Ron runs outside. Dona follows. Ron points to the sky. The colourful bow has appeared as if by magic. This is the first time Ron is seeing a rainbow. He stands still his finger pointed above, captivated by the sight.
Dona realises something. Ron is a rainbow child!
Sometimes painting vibrant colours that fused to form no particular shape, sometimes repeating words exactly as he heard them, sometimes sitting absolutely still, he has always managed to baffle her.
When he had survived his premature birth and come home to them, she had once thought everything would be alright. But now he seems to be deteriorating steadily, hurtling towards the inevitable end.
As she gazes at the fading rainbow, she blinks away her tears, knowing that Ron is a rainbow child in more ways than one. A transient thing of joy, there one moment, gone the next...
Distance is pain. The first time meeting, she was smiling and laughing with her friends, whilst the music played in the background. Her smile entranced me. 40 miles away from home. Even though she knew we couldn't see each other for weeks or months at a time. She still fell for me. Now I can only see her through a screen, as she tells me she misses me. She sits there elegantly. Her smile still the same, mesmerizing me. Black hair subtly sitting on her shoulders, the black hair broken up by her favorite yellow bow. Her deep blue eyes, ones you can fall in. The little dimples she gets on her cheeks as she smiles. All of the things I fell in love with. I say 'I miss you too, I promise to see you soon. Although I don't know when that will be.
"Your pointy bits will be chopped off if you let the young witch escape, treacherous elvish scum!" growled the Inquisitor.
"I acknowledge and obey, Master," I told him with a smirk, hurrying to leave.
My sword, bow and arrows ended up in a dump on the way to the witch's house.
"What is your plan, elf?" she asked.
"We disappear," I told her. "Today."
Convincing her to mutilate me was surprisingly easy. She boiled her knives in healing potion, and wounds sealed and vanished right after each carefully curved cut. "Farewell, jaded elf," I said, hacking off my hair to finish the transformation. "Greetings, new man!"
Packing our belongings, she suddenly paused and looked at me.
"Quite an average man," she laughed.
"Quite an average hairdresser, " I sighed, glancing in the mirror.
The Chocolate Box
The chocolate box was black velvet and tied with a scarlet bow and I knew instantly that Jack had deceived me, for he had given me an identical gift when he had been unfaithful with Greta, even the bow was the same colour.
I composed my face and smiled at him as he watched me choose a dark truffle. I wondered if he was testing me but he looked too smug.
I felt a mounting rage. Was I really such a trusting idiot? Such a forgiving fool?
I offered to run a candlelit bath for him, all the better that he did not see my curling-tongs heating on the bath's ledge or notice, how, when I bent to soap his back and put a chocolate in his mouth, how they slipped into the bubbling water. And how his smug look had quite disappeared with all the flailing of his limbs.
Lost in a sea of people she tried to calm her pounding heart. ‘It’s going to be ok’ she comforted herself, when someone pushed her aside, with a rude “excuse me, stop holding traffic”.
Her reaction- freeze, recompose, move and the loop began again. ‘It’s a mistake. All you ever make is mistake, it wouldn’t work, just like- always’. From the men she loved to the people she trusted nothing ever worked.
“Have any spare change” the voice of the old homeless was the second direct words the city spoke to her. Her hand reached out for her meager wallet. With the 1 dollar bill came along a pony tail picture with a bow, and a pair of twinkling eyes followed. “It was going to be Ok” she knew. The loop had stopped and she raced passed the crowd to make it to the job interview on time.
About a Bow
Resting atop the head of an endearing girl
or around the neck of a patient dog.
No one tells stories About a Bow.
It is trinket, treasure, fond memory
The seal of a friendship or old fashioned scroll
No one tells stories About a Bow
Made or gifted
Twined round slim wrist or delicate flowers
No one tells stories About a Bow
Crumpled and worn
Frayed in a box or beneath a chair
No one tells stories About a Bow
Not hero or villain
Nor Criminal or judge
No one tells stories About a Bow
I have checked the math. It works out. The model is internally consistent, and consistent with both relativity and quantum mechanics.
I have unified all of physics.
But that is incidental to proving that faster-than-light travel is possible. Which it is. That vessels travelling faster than light do so in a hyper-reality. Which they do. That they may have a bow wake that can alter normal reality. Which they might.
I have the maths to prove all this. I could devise experiments to prove it. But I do not need to.
Not for me.
For such a vessel passed near Earth, and the ripples of its passing altered this reality. I was in phase, so I was not altered.
You were not in phase, so you were. In your reality, we never met. We never married.
My memories, my love. They fade. As do I.
You never saved me.
.... And tied in a bow.
You tease my heartstrings out and tie them in a bow. But not before you've YANKED with all your might, unreeled me to my spinning, naked core. Not until you’ve run with my quick around the neighbourhood, twice, (I grab the door frame with both hands, not to be dragged after), wrapped my sweet and tenders ‘round house and lamp post and dazed-looking dog. (The door frame’s splintering.) THEN we get to the neat, tidy bow.
Not as light as you’d think birds alight on my wires. After-school kids use my innards for skipping. Total strangers stumble over me. The Special Brew crew use my elastics as hammocks in the lager-y light of evening.
I’m all out there.
Spooling through this pinhole in my chest.
That's what you do to me. Every single day. And every day I come back for more.
“It hurts in here. I can’t point to where exactly, it’s around my ribs and my whole chest. Also my throat feels like it has a lump stuck in it.”
The dry tongue depressor tasted of sawdust and Molly’s back felt polka-dotted with cold spots from the metal of the stethoscope.
“Your chest sounds fine,” the doctor said. “No congestion. Any other symptoms?”
Molly nodded, afraid to speak lest the tears shored up against her cheekbones flooded her eyes. But they came anyway, and she pointed to her face. “Crying a lot.”
The doctor tilted her chin up and the skin between her brows puckered. “Anything stressful or upsetting going on?”
In her lap, Molly’s hands played with the bow on her handbag strap. The words resisted taking form, pulling against her throat, but she braced herself and with a deep breath shoved them out. “My husband died.”
Why, Somewhere in My Heart of Course
“Part of me still loves her, Doc.”
“And do you happen to know which part, mister Bohr?” Doctor Obran said and rubbed his hands.
“Why, somewhere in my heart of course. Is there a way-“
“Sure, sure. Why don’t you lie down?”
Bohr complied. The doctor turned off the ceiling tubes and flicked on a yellow dental light.
“Let me see.”
“So it’s true what they say, Doc? You can cure heartache? Does it involve pills? Because I have a history of- ouch!”
He withdrew the syringe, put it on tray and cut Bohr’s shirt open with surgical scissors.
“What are you doing!?” Bohr tried to get up, but was paralyzed.
“Relax, this will be over in a heartbeat.” Doctor Obran mused over his own wordplay. “I’ll just take out some tissue, put it in a box and wrap it with a nice red bow. You’ll never feel anything again.”
Down the Rabbit Hole
My sister’s son is with me. He’s learnt to tie his laces and keeps muttering the rhyme our mother taught us. His little fingers pull apart the bow again, destroying in order to perfect.
Bunny, bunny playing by a tree
Go around and follow me
Bunny, bunny jump through the hole
Pop back out so beautiful and bold.
The cysts stood out dark and brazen on the CT. Their knit across my ovaries prolific; a tangled thicket. All benign. But such a tapestry at my age, means the boy before me will be the closest thing to a child of my own. I guess I let the white rabbit get ahead of me. I’ll teach our boy to be prepared, to have a plan and stick to the path. There are weak knots and strong knots. Not all of them can be undone.
Tea with the Queen
"Everyone must bow to the Queen, Mummy, even you."
Natalie had set her square pink table with teacups, saucers, side plates and pink plastic cutlery carefully placed at each setting. A purple tea pot with sparkles trailing on the spout sat resplendent in the centre. "Please sit down, Madam. Her Royal Highness will be here shortly." I squeezed my not so petite self onto one of the bright yellow sun cushions set on the floor. Natalie smiled. "Welcome to afternoon tea at the palace, Mummy. We can have cake when the Queen arrives."
As she spoke, she turned her head towards the bedroom door."Please bow, Mummy." I turned and bowed to my darling daughter. "Not me, silly, to the Queen," Natalie giggled.
"You're my Queen, sweetheart. You always will be, forever."
Natalie grinned, pushing her IV tube out of her way. "I'll be Queen today then, but just for today."
The blood Patrick spat into the little silver bucket tasted salty as it left his mouth.
''Pick ya feet up, Pat! He's cornerin' ya,'' came his trainer's instruction on a wave of spearmint-breath and concern.
The bell had sounded and he had still been standing. The first round - the most petrifying round - was over.
. . . ROUND 2
Patrick threw a right, startling himself. He was fighting again. The order of 'ding-ding', rise from chair, assume the posture, adopt a strategy, had all come and gone. He was suddenly trading blows again.
. . . JUST SECONDS AFTER THE FINAL ROUND
Patrick had lost the fight, but he'd won. The three-ringed nemesis had been tamed. His blood decorated the canvas like a badge of honour.
Through a closing left eye, Patrick spied his opponent bow to the crowd, salute the crowd, victorious.
A Captain's Punishment
They rowed furiously as they attempted to get as much distance between themselves and the ship as they could. Yes, they had gotten drunk and fallen asleep on the job. And yes, that had started a fire in the ship's kitchen. But surely this was all too much? They weren't going to make it. Panic struck and the younger of the two stopped rowing and dived from the little boat as he looked up the bow of the ship and saw the captain load his gun and take aim.
On deck the men watched in silence as the one remaining man, a friend to many of them, lost an oar in his panic and also dived in. Two shots rang out and the men turned away, deciding who would be the new cook.
The captain never missed.
The Big Win
“I’m not doing it.”
“Yes you are.”
I glared at Derek.
“What do you think will happen if I do?”
“I’ll have won.”
“You sure about that?”
“Just shut up and get on with it!”
“Seriously? He poked me in the ribs with his gun. My wrists hurt like hell. I used the plastic tie to scratch my stomach.
“Bow down or choose death. Right now!”
I spat at him. He kneed me in the groin and I tripped on my lace, falling facedown. I brushed my bound hands over my left boot, tucking the lace away as I scrambled to my feet.
Derek put his lips to my ear emphasising each word with a tap of his gun on my temple.
“Pledge allegiance or you are a dead man.”
I whipped my hands upward, plunging my knife into Derek’s neck, dropping him at my feet.
I chose death.
'Bow down to me, you little bitch!'
She felt the burn of humiliation, turning slowly to face him on the sofa. Everything had been perfect...the steak had been rare, the wine cold, the pepper sauce creamy enough. Just this once she had hoped that he wouldn't rile, wouldn't make her pay for the miserable day he'd had cleaning the office where everyone thought he was an idiot.
Because he was an idiot.
She blinked and then slowly fell to her knees. He smirked, and sipped his wine. Sometimes he left her there for an hour, just to make his point.
Beside her was his empty plate, greasy steak knife and fork angled just so.
Something inside her twanged, and she slid her hand across the carpet to the knife. She lifted it high, bringing it down fast into his foot.
That was rare. His scream bubbled like the blood.
A slave among his captors, a yellow oddity among black heads. Army fatigues amidst samurai armor, a playful expression among stern ones.
Walking with a spring in his step and an articulate grace, walking in front of the royal cabal. Twelve chosen ones deciding his fate, towering over the uncultured gaijen.
The setting sun setting the mood, growing darker by the minute.
Eyes peering into each other. No words exchanged. An unspoken message echoes through the room, and the decision is made.
The foreigner is grabbed by guards, a battle between nonchalance and melancholy. A bow of respect, drinking in the world for the last time. Melancholy takes over.
The royal gaijen took a deep breath.
"Cancer" said he as a quick death came upon him.
The mood is solemn, as his silence silences.
The Monsters of Kelis
“A bow… I am worthy of at least that, wouldn’t you say?” he said.
Her head whipped sideways. She stared him down with her squinted eyes. “You’re not worth the saliva I could spit at your god forsaken face.” Oh no, Kelis would not bow before anyone.
His stomach was as wide as she was tall; it bounced in slow motion as his billowing laugh drowned out the noise of the cars passing by. “Have you not one once of respect, princess?”
She pressed her ears with the upside down palms of her hands, her elbows bent outwards. The ground around her began shaking with his heightened laugh. Her eyes narrowed. She wouldn’t look away. He can’t win, she thought.
“Little girl, don’t you see? The cracks—if I don’t get you, they will.”
Her party dress: pink with butterflies and sequins, set off with a large bow, the ribbon ends floated behind her when she moved.
Her tiny pumps: pale violet with fine satin ribbons criss-crossing over and up the ankles, finishing with an elegant bow and allowing the satin ribbons to swirl around when she pirouetted. Her pirouettes so swift the ribbons become a blur of violet, like rapid dragonfly wings over summer ponds.
Her hair: fair and fine as gossamer, scooped in a French twist and held in place by a sparkling diamanté clip. The sparkle in her eyes exceeding those of the clip.
That is how I will always remember her. Eighty years ago. So beautiful, so gentle, so kind.
When life got in the way we lost touch. I finger the letter from her granddaughter, bearing the sad news, and allow a tear of regret to fall.
What could it be? He found himself wondering again. He fixed his gaze to the strip of cloth that was tied around the middle of his right index finger in a neat bow. Barry had always been annoyed with himself whenever he forgot something, which made it all the more ironic when he woke up this morning, hungover with the bow tied around his finger. Now he found himself annoyed that he had apparently had the care to set himself a reminder but couldn't remember what for. Not wanting to start off the day feeling angry at himself, he decided to remove the cloth. Pinching one of the bow’s hanging laces, he pulled hard. As the bow unravelled the top half of his finger fell off, hitting the floor. As Barry looked at the bloody stump he could only say one word. “Oh”.
A Touch to Remember
Cool fingers slipped through her own, and she curled hers gratefully over his knuckles, focusing on the roughened skin. Everything else was distant, fogged...unreal. His callouses were familiar and comforting; her nails bit into something tangible.
They spoke through that connection of skin and bone, their throats too clogged for even the smallest keen to pass. A tightening, a crush, the sharpness of nails, leaving crescent welts and bruises instead of echoes.
Stars glimmered dispassionately above, the callous Atlantic gnawed below, and between the two, the fickle wooden bow tilted.
They didn't hear the screams, the creaking ship's death throes or the orchestra's sweet rage against the utter and inescapable silence beyond the greedy waves. The calls for lifeboats were snatched by the wind, hurtling towards more needy ears. They only heard their entwined fingers, recounting their years, mourning their losses, rejoicing their life...saying goodbye.
When Sally was Happy
I ran up the stairs, two at a time. Three weeks. This had been a longer trip. Sally would be pleased to see me.
Outside the door, I calmed my breathing, pulled the creases out of my shirt with one hand, and combed my fingers through my hair.
The flowers in my other hand quivered, their little pouting lips waiting to accompany a symphony.
As I entered the flat, something wasn’t right. Discordant, like a beginner dragging her bow across the string of a violin. A muffled sob gently thumped the bedroom door. Whether in pleasure or sadness, I could not tell.
My heart dropped. The soldier’s cliché. A lover.
I quietly pushed open the door.
This time I could save her.
Next time she might not be so lucky.
The Outside Boy
The suction cup arrow head attached itself to the wall, leaving the shaft to vibrate itself to a standstill.
In quick succession.
Jonathan’s bow and arrow could keep him occupied for hours. He’d spend all day in the backyard if he could; pulling the string back from the curved plastic limbs and then releasing the tension to see the arrow whizz through the air and hit the bullseye – a paint stripped spot on the boundary wall of his confines. It was better than the confines of the indoor cage, with HIM. He always thought he had it good. Most kids like him were holed up in basements or sheds. He was one of the lucky ones, he thought.
HE appeared on the porch; the rickety timber door left swinging behind. In three mighty strides he stood besides Jonothan – and snapped his bow.
“Get inside, boy.”
To Be or Not to Be
I was once an actress on the community theater stage. I well remember what it feels like to be under the lights, to have the audience focused on my every word and gesture, and to receive the standing ovation while I took my bow.
Now my health forces me to sit and watch as others play the parts.
I tried still being involved with it, but all anyone would ever talk about is what part they'd played, what review they'd received, and all the details of what went wrong or what went right of with their shows. It was a mutual admiration society; I love your talent, you love mine.
I realized that there is no one more boring than an actor off the stage.
So I did what any self-respecting has-been would do: I throw cast parties for them.
Only I understand why I always serve ham.
The Whirling Dervish
'Listen. Can you hear the sax?' said Mayumi.
Hiro put down his brand-new Nikon and listened. 'Yes,' he said with little enthusiasm.
'Come on!' And she raced off in the direction of the music with Hiro ambling after her.
When they found the Cuban jazz band, Mayumi kicked off her shoes and began to dance like a whirling dervish; swirling and twirling and swaying, while Hiro gawped at her open mouthed before lowering his head and scuttling back the way they'd come.
But Mayumi kept on dancing, a blissful smile etched on her face, and didn't stop until the final riff when the small crowd, which had gathered around her, broke into thunderous applause.
'Lady, that was awesome,' bellowed a jovial American.
Mayumi blushed and gave a small bow. 'Thank you,' she mumbled, before searching in vain for her errant husband.
Adrian was nervous about what to expect. The PR girl had prepped him about the do’s and do not’s of meeting the Queen. No first word, no idle chat and absolutely no physical contact.
All that was required of him was a bow.
‘Not to the waist,’ the PR girl said, a pretty brunette who instructed further, ‘as if you were pivoting your head and shoulders forward slightly.’
The double-doors to the large chamber opened and the Queen entered with her bodyguards, two remained sentinel at the doorway as she made her approach towards Adrian.
He tried to remain calm but his heart pounded against his chest.
All prior instruction evading him, he jerked forward and let out a watery wretch.
The two guards at the double-doors remained still, observing the Queen’s squeal, hysterical placation by the PR girl and the security-guard pile-on as their strongest test of resolve yet.
The Last Chorus
The old man next door was horrid, I cannot recall a single person that he hadn't at some point unleashed his venom fuelled tongue on. Yet when he put bow to violin every distasteful indiscretion he had ever executed could be forgiven.
For the past fifteen years every morning without fail you could hear the most beautiful symphony of sounds, flowing gently from his conservatory window. I think that's why everyone allowed him his explosive tantrums, accepting his music as his apology.
For me it was a signal to put the on kettle, to relax and reflect for a solitary moment. But today seemed different, silence hung briefly in the air. I waited patiently to hear the melodic flow erupt but nothing came. Only the violent sound of ambulance sirens and mournful wailing filled the air this morning.
A solitary tear cascaded forlornly down my cheek. Farewell old man.
When I discovered I’d actually been selected for the lead, the rush of passion and self-esteem seemed to instantly justify the long hours spent waiting tables and running through monologues in my head; getting a subtle fix from community theater and an extra dollar here and there from paltry commercial work.
Better than the money was the knowledge that I would be part of a sophisticated meditation on the fleeting and tragic nature of human existence. I played the lead, living out the entire arc of person’s life and ending it with a face-to-face confrontation with death.
On the night of my last performance, the actor who played Death was out sick. His understudy was tall and imposing, and helped me to give the performance of my life. I imagined my bright future, but when Death’s hand settled on my shoulder I knew that night would be my final bow.
Jesus Finds Aldo Nova
The blood on the brick frightened him. But when Jesús looked up and saw the broken visage of his brother, hand to bleeding mouth, he was more scared. Jesús had learned long ago that fighting back at his brother's beatings only resulted in greater brutality, a multitude of blows for every retaliatory strike. Glancing back down at the stone, he marveled at it and how it had made its way into his hand to slam into his brother's head.
Past where he held the brick at mid-waist, on the ground next to his sneaker, Jesús saw the broken tooth, wet in a puddle of saliva and red. His brother rising drew his attention next, tears of anger promising the most brutal beating Jesús had ever received. That fear had caused him to bow to every schoolyard bully since Jesús had left the house.
So Jesús just kept hitting him.
With thanks to all the writers who have made this issue possible.Alex Brown, Alexandra Davies, Alison Marr, Alva Holland, Andrea Mara, Andy Brown, AS Gardana, Austin Hsu, Becky Spence, Bob Carlton, Bruce E Saunders, Carol Leggatt, Caroline Price, Carolyn Ward, Charlie Hill, Claire Ogden, Claire T Allen, Clifford A Rogers, Clover Hill, Cong Nguyen, Dave James Ashton, Deirdre Reidy, E.C. Andrew, Edward Carney, Eleanor Lewis, Eliza Chapman, Emily Weatherburn, F. E. Clark, Fiona Rees, Hannah Brown, Jacob Michael Moore, Jan Kaneen, Jeanette Lowe, Jeff Rowlands, Jonathan Nash, Joosep Kivastik, Kalyce Rogers, Kelly Rayner, Kishore Ganesh, L Greig, L J Apples, Laura Widener, Leslie Muzingo, Liz Falkingham, Louise Mangos, Maria Josephine, Mary Thompson, Matthew Dove, Matthew McLean, Michael Rumsey, Michèle Warbreck, Mitja Lovše, Mj Bain, Murari Adhikari, Natalia Kay, Nick Black, Nicola Gordon-Thaxter, Nik Eveleigh, O. Westin, Oskar Karlsson, Paul Micheal Patrick Boswell, Rae Else, Robert Barrett, Robert Dudley, Ruth Tamiatto, S P, S.B. Borgersen, Sam Palmer, Sesame, Shane Batt, Shauna Dinsart, Sheena Power, Sian Brighal, Smita Jain, Stephen Wright, Szilvia Mohai, Thomas Welsh, V.C. Sharma, Van Demal, Verity Dorsett, Voima Oy
18th May 2016