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I was neither Hansel, nor lost in this forest, and embittered crumbs and lost senses have never guided me. I forgot how the story went, again, yet could recollect the image of laying breadcrumbs for some sort of directional guidance.
I was technically lost yet enjoyed the process of discovery. I always believed in the magic of the unknown and the unchartered territories; trespassing, transcending and experiencing the novel, the untold. I felt like I was in a Turner and Dali mash-up painting as I followed a line of crumbs, and was drawn to the familiar sights that led me to an inedible shed—pure disappointment.
I imagined biting off a piece of the rooftop and tasting honeysuckle, M&Ms and popsicles, in that specific order.
I was led me back to my home sweet home.
Am I the old woman in the story? Maybe I am too old to remember.
A wake-up call; that’s what it is. Explain you’d been under stress; took a little flask in with you just to blur the edges. Play it down. If they think it was a one-off you might get away with a warning.
Habit; that’s all it is. A boundary between long days and lonely evenings; reward during unpaid weekends. No problem. Just stay off it today and they won’t smell it in the morning.
Twenty years; that’s how long it’s been. Should count for something; even when they’re looking to shed jobs. Eighty you said. If you’d been ruthless you know you could have made more.
They know too. And redundancy’s expensive. Cheaper to sack if they can.
Just this bottle; that’s all there is. Get through today; early start tomorrow. If you pack some mints and set the alarm you should be OK.
A wake-up call; that’s what you need.
Less a monument than a husk. A snakeskin, shed in this wasteland between the town and what used to be the river. Once a fortress resounding with industry; now an oversized box of bricks and barely-even-echoes. An Emptiness; a death.
In life she stitched the garments that clothed this region and kept its children fed. Now the clothes fly in with the iPhones, and the children fly out as soon as they’re able.
But yesterday’s planes brought unexpected visitors to her graveyard. Trailers and a production office sprouted between the weeds that tumble against her toes. Actors scurry between them like desert mice, memorising. And when night falls, between halogen boom and neon sizzle, she’ll be lit from every angle - the star of the show, our leading lady. A resurrection.
Behind the Shed
That’s where we had our first taste of sin, surrounded by buttercups and spring green grass. When we knew the world would never treat the likes of us fairly, because we wouldn’t conform. It’s where I was whipped for the insolence of opinions I still retain. It’s where you learnt to smoke and play with fire… a scorched wall never discovered… where we were initiated into the confusion of love.
In the crepuscular, sharing mysteries and heated silence; dying for the thrill of that rebelliously conceived, but ultimately fruitless coup d’état.
Scraps of youthful waste lie in the must with distant revelries, tequila shots and strange signs scratched hastily under shallow eaves.
Nothing new will ever grow behind the shed again; no grass or buttercups. We danced the earth under our heels and in the bargain won a future we swore we’d never buy, then went and did just that.
The Weight of Yesterday
Did I experience it vicariously, was it the remnants of a dream, or even the memory of a past life?
I walked alone down busy streets, unaffected by the noise of cars and conversations. My thoughts were far from the present moment.
Hours passed and I found myself on tree lined roads. Turning down a footpath to the edge of a woodland I stood before the tall canopy of branches and the deep shadows beneath. The air cooled and leaves shook, but still I walked into the darkness.
Then a clearing opened up, bright and shimmering in the gloom. I walked on and stood in the centre, looking up at the sunlight – a kaleidoscope of gold, silver and emerald shards played on my face; and in that moment I shed the weight of yesterday and felt renewed.
“Where’s Petey, Ma?”
“The dirty thing is exactly where he should be, in the shed. Darned thing should be fried, baked or barbequed.”
Sam shuffled out of the kitchen, banging the screen door on the way out.
The shed door was open.
Not a peep or a squawk broke the silence.
“What’s up young man?” Said an elderly man dressed in white.
“Have you seen a plump chicken anywheres about?”
“Touching his goatee in thought, “Well, I saw something streak by heading thataway,” raising a black cane to point south.
Sam’s eyes closed near to slits as he stared at the elegantly dressed man.
“Petey wouldn’t leave the farm.”
A grin came from the senior, “I know chickens. Unreliable things.”
The old man put his Panama hat on his head, nodded and began walking south.
“Hey mister, where ya’ goin’?”
“Headin’ home boy and just call me Colonel.”
A lipstick stain on his collar.
She might have believed his stories if it hadn’t been for the matching magenta smear on his shirt. Instead, they argue, words thrown like knives, but one word ends it all.
She spends two days eliminating him from her life. Three years together wrapped up neatly in seven black bags. They line up like soldiers on the drive, waiting for collection. Either by him or the bin men, whoever comes first – frankly, she doesn’t care.
The new locks turn with a satisfying silver click and when she takes refuge behind the door that was once theirs she allows herself, for the first and only time, to shed a tear. The water on her face washes away the pain of his betrayal. He fades into memory.
She sheds him like a skin. Stands tall, reborn.
Life is healthier when you cut out the disease.
Tea and Toast Alarm
Henry takes their cups from the cupboard and puts them down onto the tray next to the hot buttered toast. His Batman mug, the one with the stains inside like tree rings, gets spoonfuls of coffee and sugar based on the yellow prompts stuck to the front of the jars. He grumbles to himself when his hand tremors cause the granules to shed and cover the tray with miniature crunches. A dollop of honey holds a herbal tea bag to the bottom of Esther’s china cup and stops it from bobbing up and down against the pouring water. The steam fogs up his glasses, just like it does every morning.
He watches Esther’s eyelids flicker as he slides the tray onto the bed beside her and the teaspoon chimes between the cup and saucer to fetch her in from her dream.
Harry had become a nuisance to his family. They never said it, but he knew. One day, his posh son in law, decided to have a shed built for him. You can carve again, his beautiful but spoilt daughter told him, remembering the array of animals she'd grown up with. So he left the house every morning at eight, with an all day lunch box, making sure never to return until their bedtime at ten. Six months later, they got curious and Harry got forgetful. Pushing the door open, they found a trap door, with steps leading down to a warm cavernous room. There, twelve local octogenarians listening to Glen Miller, whilst swigging home made wine, sat on bespoke wooden furniture, upholstered in Saville Row suit material, while propped up by jewelled cushions, made from only worn once, designer dresses.
The Wardrobe in the Garden
It was the size of a large wardrobe. The walls consisted of twenty five wooden ex railway sleepers which had been placed vertically into ten-inch deep holes and held upright by a rickety leaking roof. The floor was damp, hard packed earth.
I was twelve when we moved to a spartan house with a large garden.
Large gardens need tools. This ramshackle construction housed the tools, nails, screws, planks and anything else which my Mum wouldn't have in the house. It was a dank, over-full container of rust and rot; a rat's delight.
Within a year we had replaced it with a brick garage and adjacent workshop.
For four more years, I was not allowed to forget that misbegotten excuse for a shed. It was me who had to hand saw through those old, thick, tar-soaked sleepers; we always needed fuel for the fireside oven.
Life of the Dead
The tamarind tree is the abode of ghosts and spirits. Widening of Indian highways led to uprooting of tamarind trees. The remaining few have become overcrowded. Don’t you know that no bird ever builds her nest on the tamarind?
There was somebody jostling at my shoulder. It was a female spirit.
I asked her. “What caused you to kill yourself?”
“Love. My fiancé ditched me after an affair. Then I braved a moving train, and I am here.”
I was sorry and shed tears.
“Why did you come here?” she asked.
“I am a victim of medical negligence; admitted for common cold. Either the doctors gave me wrong pills or the drug itself was relabelled with extended expiry date. I died at twenty five without ever having loved any. Shall I propose to you?”
“Alright. But if I am ditched again how can I hang myself? “
After I lost my job last year I plunked my ass in the recliner and watched TV all day while eating Cheetos and baloney sandwiches I had the wife make. Yesterday, after her twelve-hour waitress shift, she said no more recliner or we’re finished. Today I moved the recliner to the shed and took up residence on the couch.
Tonight, I will shed my inhibitions, and join the great poets and novelists revered by the literary world’s intelligentsia. I have procured a case of whisky, a crate of beer, a marijuana stash, and a visit by a prostitute. The tools used by Shelley, Byron, Wilde, and many others in their philosophical claptrap.
It hurt me to learn that the writings of the people I admired, were in fact the gibberish of drunkards, drug addicts, and depraved minds. To think that these miscreants are polluting students throughout the world disturbs me.
The smoke swirls around me in great clouds. The whiskey brakes my legs. I cannot recall a visit, but my masterpiece stands before me in seventy-two point- Times new roman. It reveals my joy- my sadness- my anger- my compassion, in one word. Bastards!
Awestruck by glaciered vistas and the setting Sun glimmering on icy lakes, makes me almost forget not having eaten for days.
The last have weeks passed by scavenging for scraps and shuffling through knee-deep snow. I'm starting to lose faith if I'll ever see anyone again, but I don't plan to die as a cliché, frozen in the icy Alaskan wildlands and becoming a mythic adventurer whose story will be perpetuated by teens driven mad by their wanderlust to explore the unknown and get away from the mundane.
So, to not become just another commercialized story, I just need to survive this one night, just one on the top of countless others.
I step out into a clearing and see a shed long off in the distance. I close my eyes for several seconds and take a deep breath hoping reality doesn't change upon seeing it again...
In our small town many a tear was shed over Lucas, handsome charming and faithless. A man of set tastes too for those weeping were all willowy blondes, the tears fell from eyes as blue as the Aegean and all were possessed of the certainty that they could change him. Then, to his and our surprise, along came Jenny, short, buxom and dark, sensible and domesticated. And it turns out a women with set tastes of her own, for now that her cooking has turned Lucas fat and time has turned him grey, Jenny has found herself another version of the Lucas so many cried over.
The paint brush is old, like him, and sheds hair in its wake, like him. A single black bristle sticks to the wet paint on the skirting board. He should pick it out. Do the job right.
But then he’d have to get up and clean his hands. It’s an effort, getting off the floor at his age.
He shifts his position the better to see the grain of the wood and trails the paint-laden brush over the bristle, trying to blend it in.
He feels a breath on his neck and imagines his late father at his shoulder, judging his shoddy workmanship.
But here’s his granddaughter instead, solemn eyes above the dummy clamped between her teeth. She presses a thumb against the wet paint and pulls out the bristle, leaving a fat dab behind.
Good enough, he says, and takes the fat toddler fist proffered to help him up.
The Man in the Shed
The locals were all aware of the man in the shed, though none in the town had ever conversed with him, nor were any old enough to remember his arrival.
Some broached contact as the years elapsed, but their efforts were met only with a warm and silent smile, the closing of the door.
Theories, speculation, accusations abounded. The mystery resurfaced every so often with inquisitive journalistic excitement, then swiftly faded with the futility of their investigations. The man remained peacefully unmoved throughout, and the locals resigned to let the enigma abide.
He took one last look from the window, then down at the crumpled photograph in his clutch.
One last smile, and one last breath.
His secrets had endured.
Party of One
Vehement thumping catapulted me back to consciousness where I lay foetal, on an bug-encrusted floor.
'We know you're in there!' someone boomed.
Damn, I thought I'd been so careful.
Earlier that evening, I'd kissed the children goodbye, parked around the corner and slunk back home. I lumbered on all fours through the sodden grass to reach my dilapidated garden shed, populated only by parasites. The filth and stench mattered not: I had wine, and speakers that would play something other than an endless loop of 'mummymummymummy'.
However, judging by the empty bottles and policemen now standing over me, I'd been a little too enthusiastic in my celebration of solitude. The babysitter, too frightened to confront the rowdy yobs she believed to have broken into the shed, had called the police. I was reprimanded sternly but humiliation was a small price to pay for freedom - two glorious hours of it.
Brittle, I’m lace. A wisp like skin shed on the floor. I shudder in the breeze, moving without motion. A jerk, a judder, a puppet without strings. No name, no reason. A shell discarded, left behind. Fragile I crunch. Dried out in the basking sun. Crisp and loud. Fading now. My delicate frame worn down into the baking pavement. Stained like blood on the street where you live. The street we called home. You walk over me, day after day. I’m etched there. In the cracks. Do you see? Do you look? I’m yours.
Who will remember the Burger King, the Emperor of Spin, the man-child who swapped a C for a K to make in his likeness Amerika?
Sniff the air and you'll smell the complicit fakery and treason in his elder daughter's perfume. Sense the man-child's man love for both his daughters to different degrees and emanations.
Behold his elder sons in their untouched hunting boots proudly exhibiting the tails of elephants, not realising that nature cannot forget. See the youngest still suckling in his gilded cage
Who will remember the golden towers of the orange Nebuchadnezzar? His migratory birds squint against the sun counting the seeds of their future wealth as they dream of escape.
In years to come, Amerika slowly will shed the K, and perhaps even clean up its slate. But lest it forget, it will always remember the apprentice who failed.
‘My great aunt had one of those. She used to sing to it,’ he said and roared with laughter. ‘I shouldn’t laugh because if it wasn’t for that we would never have known.’
He was watching Crufts on TV. My mind jumped to high tea on a Sunday afternoon. Triangular cucumber sandwiches without crusts and home made victoria sponge.
‘Fred’ he said twice, because I wasn’t listening. A hole had appeared in my knitting.
‘You remember, aunt Daphne and uncle Graham. They had a poodle called Fred?’
‘Ah, yes Fred,’ I muttered dropping more stitches, ‘because poodles don’t shed hair all over the carpet. Didn’t he play the harmonica to make the poor thing sing?’
‘You got it, and when he died she sang to it every afternoon. The neighbours only got in touch when it stopped. If it wasn’t for that we would never have known.
The sun is rising, casting pale rays of sunlight onto the damp morning sand. She stares up at the sun for as long as she can. When she turns away, tiny circles blink behind her eyelids. She slips off her shoes, the sand cool beneath her feet. By the time the families make it down to the beach, the sun will have warmed the sand, making it perfect for sandcastles, but this morning, she’s even earlier than the fishermen. She prefers the solitude of the morning, the breeze whipping her hair and the ebbing sea her only companions.
She sheds her coat, leaving it on the sand. Taking a calm, resolute breath, she steps into the waves, staring straight ahead at the horizon, her arms out-stretched in a warm embrace. She thinks she hears someone call her name. Or it could just be the cry of seagulls. She keeps walking.
Richard did his usual lonesome walk around the city. The night was ordinary, until he felt a pain in his chest. He could not believe it.
Going home appeared to be the most sensible option, but he was on a holiday. Sure, he could retreat to his hotel room, although his state would be revealed by then.
Luckily, there were many public restrooms in London, so he dashed towards one of them. Richard wanted to find one empty, which is why he smiled, once he did. Nonetheless, he vomited there.
The floor in the loo became red, the ache in his rib cage travelled all over his body, his eye colour resembled that of the ground. He gazed at the mirror in the room.
He began to shed his skin.
I hate group. Bunch of losers. Always sittin’ around with their chins on their chests and the weight of a Winnebago on their shoulders. My first day here I said I was just gonna get on with it. Like … do my time. Already did what I had to do.
This guy Phil says this was the hardest thing he’s ever done, coming to group. Damn ... he must be weaker than a Tim Horton’s coffee if he thinks this is hard. I’ve done harder things before breakfast than this guy’s done in his whole life. I was in Afghanistan. And Libya. And I got clean without a single hand from anyone. It’s like that dumb-ass song from the 80’s: “I’ve kicked the habit. Shed my skin.” Group’s just a stupid game. It’s not like building a rocket ship.
But Barb said she’d call the police if I didn’t come. So …
Johann fastened his seatbelt. It was a delayed act that exercised his conscience; taking a while for his brain cells to collaborate and jolt the idea of buckling up. Once the idea spurred into his mind his motor neurons instantly obliged. He became acutely aware that the action was driven by the legality of having one’s seatbelt fastened rather than the safety it established.
It was only two weeks ago that he and his seven cousins scrambled into a Micra; five of whom were kneaded into the back seat. In Afula seatbelts were a shed concept. Rain partially blinded the path as the roaring engine of the old car was diminished by the overwhelming cracks of thunder.
Throughout the north of Israel, a menacing charcoal had enveloped the sky. The storm concealed the gunshots, a storm that still raged on within his mind today. But today, he was in Australia.
A Future to Be Found
When he arrived, he was scared of the sky. He believed the bombs were following him, and regarded the blameless blue with silent suspicion.
The bricks and mortar of their suburban home provided meagre solace. Even at eight, he had seen too much blood shed. He knew walls could become dust in a terrifying instant, all security dispelled, bodies crushed and dismembered. He started at any unexpected noise. A slamming door, a backfiring car.
The world had taken so much from him that he offered it nothing in return. For the first few months, he existed in foster care, but lived solely in the shadow of others' violence.
They endured his aggressive outbursts, changed his soiled bedclothes each morning and did all they could to convince him the world still held hope. With careful, measured compassion, maybe he would one day rediscover his voice, and live a life worth living.
Destiny wisks me away
The sirens are still pounding my head. What? The diner is still open? No matter. The pain. I had to do it. Time to halt. Sit down on the bench n' shed my fears away.
Raining, again? No way. I should go home and attend to this wound. That old lady been harassed. Sure, three of them was folly. But, hey, I decaffeinated them.
Damn, it hurts. Fractured wrist? Yeah. No matter. Why did the she insist to give me that carved old box to thank me? "Thank you, young man. This is yours to redeem yourself" she said.
It is cold. I must call Claire. Tell her. The girls are sleeping. She said I was just chosen to be more. I believed but nearly gave up. I am reaching the end of the path. The tears, the doubts, the hurt: Yes, the box is a sign. At last...
Grandad’s shaking’s getting worse.
“Tea’ll be ready soon, Dad,” says Mum. “Off you go. I’ll bring your plate when I’ve got ours on the table.”
Grandad reaches out a trembling hand to drag his walker to him. His other hand flutters through the air, as if mimicking a bird, until it lands on the handlebar. He pushes up from his chair, steadies, leans forward and lifts a foot. For a moment it’s as if a sock-slipper hangs on a washing line, quivering as a breeze brushes by. He lowers the foot a step away, sock slides up into trouser and on the floor the slipper stills.
He continues this stop-start journey across the kitchen, out to the shed. The door shudders behind him.
Mum spoons food onto five plates. “Take this one out to your Grandad. Tell him I don’t want to have to clear up his mess again.”
the Gardeners daughter
Today is Wednesday, I hate Wednesdays, it's the day the gardener comes to mow the lawn. It is only a small garden I could do it myself with ease if I sacked the gardener, but this is a small place and a poor one, if I sack him people will talk and he may not get another job.
Then perhaps his daughter will not go to school, she has dreams of being a writer, that one.Who am I to tread on her dreams?
I cannot write with the noise of the lawnmower, so until he puts it back in the shed I will retreat, close the blinds, make a pot of tea, read a book.
Today is Wednesday, I hate Wednesdays its the day the gardener comes to mow the lawn. I did not grow up in the kind of house that has a gardener.
I was the gardeners daughter.
The garden shed was a haven for Dad, a place he could retreat to away from the rigours of family life. He’d spend weekends and evenings within those wooden walls, content in the universe they encompassed. He liked to tinker with electronics and the shelves of the shed would be full of everyday items like radios and phones in various states of disassembly.
When Dad passed I was given the unenviable task of clearing the house. It was like walking through an emotional minefield, never sure when an object or photo would set off the grief that was still so raw, so close.
The shed was hardest of all, because it had been Dad’s sanctuary. I emptied it out, but couldn’t bring myself to destroy it. It now stands in my garden. I’m teaching my son how to build a drone there. I think Dad would’ve been happy with that.
It's been a long day. One of those days. You deserve a rest. Some relaxation. Some time to yourself to unwind. Time to shed some of the weight of the day.
Perhaps start a bath running. A bath is always a good idea. Maybe a big enough sink if you don't have the tub. Whatever works.
And while it's running you can just slip out of your skin. Nothing could be more freeing, especially after the day you've had.
It's easy. Just reach around back and feel around for the seam. Should be right between the shoulder blades. That's the easiest place, at least. Once you have, it's simplicity itself to open it up and wiggle out.
Once you've done that the bath will probably be done, too.
Sink your skinless carcass beneath the water and let all your cares just waft away with the steam.
Clean from her teeth to her toes she enters the shed. Taking in the tiny quarters, she stares at the floor, trying to avoid the window that the Leader’s edict dictated Shall Not Be Covered. She knows that the Others are looking in through it, waiting to see when she will begin cleaning the blood stain that the last inhabitant, her father, had gifted the opposing wall with.
Taking the sponge out of the bucket she’s brought with her, she wonders what her fiance said to her father that had caused their elder to bludgeon him to death. Had her beloved confessed some sin? Had her father merely found him wanting, or been gifted with some prophecy to see her fiance fail her as a husband some time in the future?
Scrubbing the wall, she realized she would never know. While blood may never forget, it does not speak.
The Thursday Club
My old shed had become the meeting place for us all. I had it cleaned out properly after I retired, replaced the windows and made it nice, a proper home form home for us all.
There were five of us at the beginning, Fred the biologist, Jim the butcher, Harry the accountant, Arthur the window cleaner/bookie/councillor and me (I was a plumber).
We got to know each other over the years, and we sort of clicked. So when we all retired, I decided to form the Thursday club, and without fail (apart from holidays and illness) that's where we would all meet, 7PM prompt until late, bring whatever you feel like to drink and the conversation flowed.
Then Arthur died, then Fred and Jim within a week of each other. Today was Harrys funeral, and its a Thursday, just turning 7PM. I'm planning a bonfire tomorrow.
I didn’t want to grow up, ever, never. I wanted to run free, play forever in the great outdoors, where every day was an adventure. And my hands were always mucky.
Without warning, it happened one day I shed the lining of my womb. Interspersed with blood my tiny undeveloped body betrayed me. A period they called it.
The end of a period more like! The end of childhood. There followed the end of teens, twenties, thirties it went on, more periods ending. The ever- changing tick boxes on questionnaires moving closer to the sixty – five or over. They don’t want to know after that box. No more periods.
Out of nowhere childhood emerged again. How I welcomed her. Freedom, albeit the running was slower but the path it showed me led towards my beloved shed. A place where adventures happened. And my hands were always mucky.
Looking To The Future
Heavy rain lashes the shed roof, seeping under a tear in the felt and adding to the moisture within.
Inside, drops glance off the saddle of Rebecca's old bike which leans against one wall, tinged with rust.
A statue of Janus stands on the bench, bought for Cathy one anniversary; removed from its place beside the pond for a repair long ago.
Martin's tool box rests in a cobwebbed corner; shut, redundant. So many hours spent repairing and crafting, with the door propped open to the summer sun.
After the rain, sunlight filters through the window. Janus' first bearded face lights up, but his second looks back in shade.
But when on moving day the men begin to load the skip, Cathy dashes back, heart racing.
She rescues Janus from his fate before all of the rest is lost.
The grey dust settles on our world but leaves us alive
Octogenarians. Us. Me.
I take my tea to the window, when I can manage it.
To observe unseen.
There is no one.
Have they all been consumed by the dust - are we the only ones left?
Our garden is green. The world is grey. A dull hopeless grey, like that corner of our shed where we now store ten years worth of soup.
For two years, there has been just our neighbourhood. It's eating us with exponential decay - our nephew explained. Some of us will be here forever.
The young need their reasons.
We court isolation.
The last unconquered bits of humanity!
I turn to him, with the tea still steady.
It's just us now.
If only I had known about eternity,perhaps, perhaps I would have chosen more wisely.
It Appeared on a Monday
The shed had appeared on a Monday. Howard had gotten up, fixed his normal mug of tea and wandered outside to greet the world as he did everyday, rain or shine.
It took a moment for him to work out that something was different. But then it clicked. The shed, it was back. Slowly Howard approached and stopped by the old warped door.
"I quite like it here." He said, tilting his head as if listening to an answer only he could hear.
"I wish to stay." Again he stopped and listened.
"I know..." He said looking down at his mug, he really was going to miss tea. With a sigh he opened the shed door and stepped through. There was a flash of light and the glass rattled in the windows then all was still and a mug of tea sat cooling on the worn table in the shed.
"No, I can't shed any more light on it, though goodness knows I've tried. In any case isn't that your job?"
"When did you find it, Madam?"
"I didn't find it, officer. It found me."
"And at what time would that be, Madam?"
"How is that relevant? It could have been sitting there on my doorstep all morning."
"Were you at home all morning Madam?"
"I was out this morning. I always go for my constitutional walk at precisely 9.05 a.m."
"And what time do you return from your walk, Madam."
"After my walk I always go to the greengrocer. I insist on selecting my fruit and vegetables daily. I return by 11.55 a.m. precisely. I luncheon at home."
"Then would it be at 11.55 a.m. precisely Madam, that you discovered, on your doorstep, the miniature play doh figure of a lady with a miniature cork stuck up her rectum?"
The Summer House
We slept out in our Summer House on hot nights, breathing in the smell of varnished wood and dust from the fly husks in the corner. We ate treats for a feast, and, with the taste of ginger nuts on our teeth defying sleep, we opened the door and gazed at the stars, pretending to know all their names.
In the daytime, we had a secret club with badges and codes and ‘keep out’ notices. We would race our snails on the ancient grey floorboards and tell stories of ghosts and bravado.
One summer a hedgehog crept in by mistake. Returning from holiday we pulled open the door. The air stank of rotten things while bluebottles buzzed around our heads, their eggs glued in all the cracks.
Everything was spoiled, the magic gone, and our Summer House returned to the silence of being a shed.
Point of View
Through one eye, I watch a fly buzzing by the window. It keeps dashing its body against the pane. I wonder if it realizes how stupid it is to keep making the same violent mistake. Or does it think with each smash that this will be the time it finally breaks through.
I want to get up off the floor and free the demented creature, but I can’t. I wonder if I should call out for help.
But it might be you who hears my cry.
I quietly swallow the familiar metallic taste instead. I think about creatures who shed their skin and start anew. I imagine myself casting off this purple mottled husk and walking away, smooth and confident. As I was when we first met.
I can’t see the fly anymore. I hope it escaped and is flying across the city with the sun on its wings.
Martin had an unprepossessing shed at the bottom of his garden. "For my hobbies," he told his long-suffering wife when she complained about it blocking the view from the conservatory.
"He does his 'hobbies' down there," she told her friends when they came for tea.
Martin spent many happy hours pottering in his shed. Occasionally there were noises, but on the whole Martin's hobbies, whatever they were, were very quiet. His wife became accustomed to the shed and Martin's preoccupation with his hobbies.
"I think he is writing a book," she said to the Ladies Auxiliary.
"I can't imagine what he does," she complained to her best friend, "but he is very quiet."
"It must be something with butterflies," she mused to her mother.
It wasn't until the police came and dug up the shed that she realised Martin's hobbies had nothing to do with writing or butterflies.
When I wake up, I can feel a hair in my mouth. It is woven around my tongue, between my teeth. Saliva builds as I try to suck it free, to pinch it between my fingers, but I can’t grasp it. Is it one of mine or one of hers? I wouldn’t be surprised it was my wife’s. Her hair gets everywhere. She always trimmed her split ends while sitting on the edge of the bed. When the treatment shed her hair, she couldn’t face brushing it up and throwing it away. There is such pain in being a woman with no hair. I shaved my head to show my support; it’s not the same, she said.
I have it, finally. Wet and stuck to my fingertip. It isn’t hers. I throw the covers off me, searching the sheets for her, but even the hairs are gone.
A Feminist Poet Contemplates Breakfast
Coffee and a muffin. The coffee is dark and wet with the mystery of beans and filters. Some sloshes onto the plate, encroaching on the spongy fluff of dough. I gasp because this – the caffeinated beverage ritualistically courting a sugary carbohydrate -- is part of the cycle of life. One could say that a woman’s soul is a sticky muffin, heavy and fecund with butter, in a puddle of coffee. My heart keens.
Coffee and a muffin. I pour milk, watching it intertwine with the dark liquid until they swirl together in a union that is sensual, frankly sexual and, dare I say, swirly? Did I already say that? Maybe so, but none of my own extraordinary feats of lovemaking compare with the shudder I feel in the depths of my fertility chakra as I touch the muffin.
Dare I? Dare I shed my inhibitions? I bite, chew, and…gulp.
The locked door
“Where’s John?” “He’s in the shed.” “Could I go through and see him?” “Sure, just give a quick knock at the door before you go in, I never know what he might be doing in there.” I laugh when I say this, but it’s true.
I watch as John’s mother totters down the garden path. I see her knock at the shed door, and wait. After a few moments, the door opens and I see her peer inside, but she doesn’t move. She daren’t. She’s peeked into her son’s inner sanctum and now she’s as scared as me.
Airport waiting areas were always minefields. Where the usual condescending glances morphed into outright disdain.
Averting eyes surrounded her: A slim sleeveless cougar with Popeye biceps. Giggling college waifs. Buff businessmen. All no doubt judging her and praying she wouldn't be their seat mate.
Well, screw all of them! How dare they treat her this way, as if her mere existence were somehow an imposition. Even if she could ever shed these pounds, would life really change? Would people look at her neutrally, or even positively? She'd heard the pretty face cliche way too much over the years and didn't believe that either.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the loud speaker. "Elianna Romanesta, please report to the front desk," Ugh. Even her name was oversized. Four syllables where most had two.
"You've been upgraded to Business Class", the pretty skinny agent smiled.
Impending humiliation averted, for now.
What can I say?
I watch my hair drain down the plughole every day.
And I carry on, coz that's for the best. Put a brave face on life, hon. Off to work. Hive to the doc's once a week. Tests. Come home: cook supper. Pick up toys & snuggle on the couch for a respite of love. The briefest hint that there's something above and beyond us; something sweet and everlasting. But there's no glimpse of reprieve.
Life says: Chemo's for wimps. Get a wig. Move on. Life says: Somehow, you deserved this.
But who will take care of our son?
The shed exploded just like she thought it would. She'd planned and researched what to do in order to create the desired effect. Kaboom! the noise filled her ears with pleasure and the reverberation made her stomach blubber jiggle. She liked that. The jiggling reminded her of what her body had carried. Before she was 'trim and taut', now she was flabby and jiggly. Lighting the fuse and running away from the shed exacted its own pleasure, but it was the final 'bang!', and the shards of shed wood shooting up and out all over the yard, that made her feel at peace - made her calm. He was gone - he'd gone too quickly and too soon and his father had up and left soon after. It was his father's refuge, his bloody 'man shed! Well, now there was a destroyed shed and a destroyed womb; they were even.
No one should go in there
Some people have that creepy attic or basement in their house that gives you nightmares when your little and the idea of going anywhere near it terrifies you. We don’t have that in my home. We have the eerie shed at the bottom of the garden that is in such a state that my parents say it is beyond repair. Ever since I turned six and we moved to this shabby old house, I swear there are voices floating from the bottom of the garden to my bedroom window. The strange whining noises I can hear from there every night, like its calling me. My mum thinks I’m being ridiculous while my dad just blames TV for filling my head with strange fantasies. Am I just being overly paranoid? No, I think I’m being completely rational. After all, my parents always told me that no one should go in there.
I always thought we could get through anything, Bill and I. For years everyone thought of us as the perfect couple. When Bill was made redundant and we had three young kids to support, he found ways to support us and we got through. We were far from perfect. I was terrible with money and he had an awful temper, but we achieved so many things together; we travelled the world, started a business and raised a family. It was when Bill retired that things got out of hand. Despite our only income being our pensions, there was still the same amount of money coming in as when we were working. I became inquisitive and Bill became distant. The fights were savage. One day he beat me so badly that I fractured my skull. Now I'm lying here decomposing in Bill's shed, attracting flies.
Shedding his body, together with his prejudices and his inhibitions, he rolled across the top of the mandala, streaking fire and ice through its revolving patterns.
Time rolled away. Sound became tangible. Light danced with his mind.
He strode with mountains, leapt over seas and forests and swallowed the storms.
Throughout it all, a central, cool, green peace ruled. He knew he could make or break the worlds around him, juggle with their moons; rearrange their stars.
On he spun, and further on.
Thoughts, names, memories swam with him. No dark. No pain. Just pure, bright light.
Is this what he had feared?
This was freedom.
Shedding it all, he danced on.
She Never Really Knows What to Do At Parties
She never really knows what to do at parties, where to put her drink and whether to dance or make small talk with the guy who’s just walked in.
It’s often unclear what the best thing is when offered a line, though for now she welcomes the interest and the chance to leave people she’s never met before behind in the kitchen.
A line feels harsh but fixes her up. Washed down with a drink and another line and now the party belongs to her because she is the party. Someone suggests a smoke and there’s no smoking inside so they traipse to the shed to talk about music and she talks about her and the smoke takes the edge off so its back inside for another line and she forgets after a while where it all ends and she never really knows what to do
What wonderful childhood memories of the old place. I bought it and converted it into a bar and restaurant. Parkin was the first item on our menu because originally it had been somewhere to leave your bicycle. Secondly its low ceiling suggested we serve Duck. Sometimes it would be shrouded in thick fog so we offer Pea Soup. How we hopped, skipped in and around the building and, in season, frolicked, and somersaulted in the new mown grass on the adjacent field, hence our choice of Capers and Spring Rolls. Courting couples, for starters, shed clothing in the darkness of the enormous shed, we recommend our Undressed Salads followed by a variety of Nibbles and our Game Birds honour all those willing girls One evening having my first ever drag on a cigarette I set my trousers on fire, we sell several Smoked Dishes and, in the bar, Roasted Nuts.
A Chauvinist Slice of Science
The light that came through the windows was too dim; the operating theater had to be lit by a myriad of oil lamps.
Once again doctors had held to expose the secrets of Nature. The price of admission was high, however, every seat even of the top gallery was occupied for Dr. Dawson Tait and Dr. Diego de Argumosa were about to shed light on an elusive enigma of anatomy.
Upon entering, the surgeons received a warm applause. The patient, perhaps stunned by some bad liquor, also clapped.
“That prominence is an apple,” shouted the American. “An apple?” smiled the Spaniard. “Apples are much bigger. It’s a nut, una nuez,” he said in his native tongue.
With meticulous dexterity they sliced the patient’s throat. Blood began to gush. It was a gruesome picture.
“Whatever it was,” said the doctors in bewilderment, “the patient’s already swallowed it. We’ll need another volunteer.”
On the Evolution of Species
I said “mouse” but Megan said “definitely a shrew.” Something about the length of its tail. Or nose.
I said it could live with our hamster, in his cage, in the shed. Megan said that if they had babies we would have discovered a new species.
“Or a ham-stew.”
“What’s if it’s a boy shrew?”
“Then they’ll have to be gay instead.”
We put the shrew in a nest of hay next to the sleeping hamster.
“Let’s go and see if they’ve mated”, said Megan the next day.
“How will we know?”
“They’ll be in bed together.”
The shrew’s empty pelt and tail were the only remains. The hamster lay on its side barely breathing. Megan dribbled medicine from an ear-dropper down its throat. His upside pink eyeball bulged out till it nearly popped, then it died.
I said “hamsters are herbivores.”
“He must have forgot”, said Megan.
The Nightly Shedding
It was nine thirty. Theresa was consigning her last signature to important political papers. Her skin was feeling itchy, scratchy. As usual, by the end of the day the artifice that she wore that concealed her true nature was fraying and greying. She was beat.
She stood up and shed her skin.
Learning to Count
In the next ten minutes, Mum will usher me out of the house into the biting cold and give me that stern look that says ‘you are going, like it or not.’
In twenty minutes’ time I will be sat on the bottom deck of the bus, the only black head of hair amidst the grey, counting down the number of turns until we arrive.
In forty minutes’ time there will be sniggers and whispers when my name is called out at morning registration.
In an hour we will be in history class, learning about the rise of fascism, and I will be called a ‘poof’ and a ‘queer’ and a ‘bender’.
It’s just over five hours and ten minutes until P.E.
One hundred and eleven school days remain until summer. Alone in the sunshine I will shed my skin and grow, knowing that life will, one day, be better.
Songs for All Time
She had been so ill for so long, the smell of her rotting insides had been a sickly pulse and wave on every one of her laboured breaths for months.
By the time her eyesight had failed it was nearly Christmas and there was not much light to be had anyway, so it made very little difference to her.
Spring brought the smell of the garden reawakening and the sound of birds. A herald of new life and with it no hope. Her hearing was dampening as it began to falter, a blessed relief as the sound of Goldfinches in the garden was as torture to the blind and bedridden, as she now was.
The soft warmth of early summer was agony as she had started to shed her skin.
Come autumn she would eat only the smallest of bites from the pumpkin pie Nancy had made.
Naked as a Newt
It had started as a joke one night in the bar. Petra couldn’t quite remember how. They were winding her up about her weight. Now she’s standing naked in a room full of strangers. Nobody speaks. All eyes are focussed on her.
'If only I could lose a few pounds as easily as I shed my clothes' thinks Petra. 'I’m all saggy. When's coffee time?'
At the halfway break one of the class says
“You’re a great model. I get really good drawings from you. Chap we had last week was awful all bones and angles like a geometric theorem.”
Petra wanders round the room, nibbling a biscuit. There she is on all the easels, flowing and free. “Full arm drawings” like the chap said. Everything an artist could want.
'That lot in the pub were taking the mick. They’re wrong. Bugger them. I’ve nothing to be ashamed about.'
Timmy lets loose
Timmy sits on the stool, head bowed. "Hey," Mr. McKenzie says, snapping his fingers "You can do it.""But, it's too fast," whines Timmy."Come on young man, let's go again."Timmy raises his head, to look at his teacher. "I'll never get that middle eight, it's well hard."Mr. McKenzie reaches over and sets the metronome to 108. "There, I've slowed it down a bit. Sit up straight, breathe, and remember - loose wrists."Timmy takes a deep breath and scopes the drum kit, locking in positions. The metronome ticks and tocks.". . . 2, 3, 4,"Raising his sticks, Timmy starts, tapping out rhythms, following the music in his head."Loosen up now," says Mr. McKenzie.The solo is coming up. Timmy increases the volume - Bang, Boom, Splash - the sound of the metronome completely drowned."Good lad . . . now go for it. Build a shed!"Timmy hammers down on the drums, eyes closed in concentration.
Woodbine Cottage is where I remember my Grampy residing. Smoke would come, not from the chimney but creeping through the cracks in the joints between the wall panels, through the keyholes and under the door. These smoke signals were a sure sign of where to find him.
Today there is no smoke, no wheezing cough, no Connie Francis CD playing and no Grampy singing along. He had a good voice though...once upon a time.
"I need to lay down my sword" he'd said."I’ll never see my cottage again. Clean it out for your Gran though love, you know she'd hate to see those dog ends lying around".
I'd nodded dumbly and shed a tear into his hand as he reached out to hold mine.
So I cleared out the woodbine butts and now I smiled as I hammered the new sign on the shed door...' Granny's Sherry Shack'.
I shed you, layer by layer, as if I could rid myself of your touch by losing something of you that had become inherent to me.
But I became aware that the stain you had left behind was more than that touch on a layer of skin: I had now become a discordant shed, sometimes cast away, and simply kept for your own protection.
He was about to harvest the fruit of two years of work. Two years of excited anticipation condensed in one single second. He knew that only a few moments kept him away from freedom. A few shovels of dirt from getting out. And then a new life, a new life full of opportunities can begin. When he moved the last shovelful of dirt out of his way, and stuck his head out of the hole, the sound of the phone ringing assailed his ears. First he didn’t understand the whole thing, and when he finally did, and there was shed light on the fact he dug a few inches too short, it was too late.
“Los Angeles Police Department, how may I help you?”
This was our Place
Even now, I still walk our trail, my dear- the path that winds through the shimmering aspens and beyond the lake. The scene where, on a cold autumn day, I proposed our marriage as the trees shed leaves above us to bestow a blessing. The place too where I tearfully laid you to rest, your ashes caught on a light breeze.
Forgive me, but yesterday I shared our place with another. The splendour of the scenery was unchanged, so familiar to me, but glowing anew with magic as fresh eyes were cast upon it.
Foolishly, I tried to capture the glories before me in humble words and phrases. My companion, she simply laughed at me- understandably so. I guess such beauty existed long before the human voice, and anyway, you never used to talk much here either. Like you always said, silence is often the sweetest sound there is.
Indigo had shed her skin. It lay scaly and dull in a long trail, hidden from view. The process had taken several days.
Petrified and irritable, she was now hungry and on the move for food. Rodent smells assailed her eager sensors. She twisted her scaly body around, slithering out from between the boxes. At the tiny window she paused for a fraction, glistening in the sunlight in her new iridescent blue skin.
But Indigo was blind. Her eye caps had not shed. It clouded her unblinking gaze - the blue-gray vision rendering her on edge. Jittery.
'Ma! Look what I've found!' yelled little Robby from the attic, holding the shed snakeskin.
'What is it? Come down at once! You are not to go up there!'
Indigo sensed odor and sudden danger, in the same instant sinking her dripping fangs.
Please Remember Me
'Where are you going?' Mum asks.
“Nowhere” I snap.
Back of the garden, up steps, under drooping, frosted alder trees. Lacy webs on handles, I open the shed door, flicking tangled, spidery silk from cold fingers. Dark and musty, cluttered and overflowing, unused and unloved – junk abandoned, dusted, neglected.
Fishing rods, paint tins, grandad's table, plastic swimming pool and much more. Damp and forgotten. Nobody knows I come here. My sanctuary. Somewhere to put things to ignore and deny. Like Grandad's diaries. I found them last month, wrinkled and tanned in a rusted, red tin on the shelf, which he began writing when I was four years old.
'Joanna loves to laugh and dance, squealing with delight chasing Banjo the Labrador into the paddling pool. Her favourite food is pasta and cheese and has a temper like…'
Scribbled out words I can just interpret.
“Joanna’s adopted. She must never know”
Inside / Outside
It was warm inside. The light filtering through heated it up gently all day, so that all she had ever known was this pleasant warmth.
It was safe inside. There had never been anything to trouble her, never even a hint of disorder.
It was comfortable inside. She had not known undue thirst, hunger, or any other form of discomfort.
Inside was all of these things.
So why did she want to leave?
Why, today, had she suddenly begun to wonder about the source of the light filtering through all day?
It came from outside.
Outside, she knew instinctively, was not always warm, it was not always safe, and she would never be quite as comfortable as she was at that moment. But that was where she needed to be. That, too, she knew instinctively.
She pushed, burst through, and shed her chrysalis to become a butterfly at last.
'The caterpillar was soon to shed its skin,' I tell my son, and he tracks the words suspiciously on the page like braille, like they tell him something more than they will yield to me. The weight of his bony baby arse pressed sideways into my lap is what does for me, its seriousness, all twenty months of it.
'Yes, was soon to turn into - '
I can't look directly at him so force my mouth into a rictus smile carefully designed not to scare him. He observes my lips and my nose, and then decides - his timing perfect - that this is the moment to breathe, significantly. He means it. We pretend, for the sake of the other, that this is just a bedtime story.
'Into a beautiful - '
He links his thumbs and fans his hands, and one day I will have no choice but to let him go.
Love is never having to say...
His favourite saying: Love is never having to say you’re sorry.
He says it as he leaves jam streaks in the bar of butter.
He repeats it as he deliberately leaves the toothpaste tube uncapped.
And again, when he blatantly leaves the lavatory seat lifted, dotted with splashes.
She stands by the kitchen window, watching him potter around his shed, lovingly making his lunch, sliced corned beef and mustard on thickly cut white doorstop.
He enters the kitchen, his boots treading mud across her cleanly mopped linoleum.
She notices his receding hairline, watches him take the sandwich and mug of tea, head back down the garden without a word.
She takes the sheaf of clean paper from the bureau, writes ‘Sorry’ in sloping letters, then stops, as she sees him grasping his throat beside some hydrangeas, remembering his mustard allergy.
I have died 1,389 times. I have saved 1,294 lives. My success rate is 93.16%.
The human heart beats approximately 115,200 times per day. It is an efficient electrical system using controlled impulses to move oxygen through the body.
I do not need oxygen. Therefore I do not need a heart.
Patient 1,390 is in the operating theatre. The mother sheds tears outside the window. The ICU monitor records low pulse pressure and ventricular tachycardia.
I scan Patient 1,390's medical history. His survival rate is 43.6%.
My upgraded operating system allows me to feel the swell of his new heart.
There is a painting on the wall. The sea rises with uniform frequency. I imagine a heart beating beneath the waves.
I can imagine now.
I predict Patient 1,390 has a life expectancy of 14.3 years.
I do not want to die again.
I look at the painting.
I smile. The Barbie headboard is still in situ. Gramps had the bed after my room changed to a teenage haven.
Why on earth would you want that old thing, Mum had asked.
'My hideaway. I can kip there.'
Eyes heavenward, Dad and a pal had carted it off, manoeuvring it in through the narrow door.
Now Gramps is gone and I'm delegated to sort through his paraphernalia. Taking a breather outside, I see through his eyes. A flourishing allotment, a backdrop of craggy hills, and today, a blue sky. Peace and contentment.
I take down the 'Shed For Sale' sign.
You were in a small shed.
The lawn mower stiff against the door, from outside. You pushed for some time, then your tiny arms dropped. For a whole hour, you cried and screamed. Wails projecting in spurts upward to the tin roof, and then falling flat, like a failed voyage.
A terrifying darkness inside, though the sun was just shy of setting.
You shouted apologies, then surmised revenge was better. Refuse dinner, refuse to speak. Run away from home, tomorrow when you’re out of the shed. Eventually you slept, pretending not to wake when your father lifted you into his arms, carrying you out.
Years later, you’ll tell your boyfriend how you deplore small spaces. That your palms sweat incessantly in elevators.
He’ll nod as you fold into his arms.
You don’t mention that in a small shed, through suffocating darkness, among incongruous shapes, you had in fact seen a way out.
Yet decided to remain.
This is How it Happened
The woollen overcoat lay where it had fallen on the hallway tiles, as if shed from a large insect who had cast it off and flown away. Her black stilettos were kicked beneath the narrow table, and her handbag lay on its side, spilling its innards of keys, make-up and coins across the pathway to the kitchen. There was another set of shoes at the bottom of the stairs. Smart. Brown leather. Not mine.
All this I took in, in the space of a few seconds, then turned to softly close the front door behind me.
The sound of her laughter tinkled down to me from somewhere above. I remembered how that laugh used to light up her face and those of anyone around her. I hadn’t heard it much lately. A pity I wouldn’t hear it again I thought, as I headed up the stairs.
They shot him in the forehead and slit his jugular. They strung his corpse up in the shed and let him bleed out. Several hours later they returned to scrape off his hair and gut him, they were careful not to rupture his intestines. His entrails were dumped into a bucket and disposed of. The insides were washed with clean water. They used a saw, with a coarse blade, to cut off his feet and split him in half. They laid each slab up on a metal table and cut out the desired parts: the ham, tenderloin, porkchops and ribs. Whatever was left; went into the grinder.
Time for a walk
He brushed down his winter coat, shaking lose the hairs Daisy shed last year, it was the first time he’d had it out since Daisy had died. Dogs get cancer too.
Pausing a moment to remember the excited Jack Russel that used to wait impatiently for him to be ready. Running back and forth from the front door.
His wife called from the porch, she was ready as was Pongo, her Dalmatian she adored. They’d each had the dogs when they’d met, it was whilst out with the dogs they’d met.
Slipping on his coat he came through, his wife smiling holding Pongo’s lead. This was good, she’d not had the energy to join them for a long time and there’d be less ahead. People got cancer too.
As she moved to open the front door he bent to ruffle Pongo’s head. Soon they’d need each other more than ever.
'Every woman must have money and a shed of her own if she is to write fiction.'
'What's that, love?'
'Virginia Woolf, well kind of...you know, her with the..problems.'
'These courgettes are coming on a real treat! Be lovely in a lamb casserole.'
'She drowned herself, you know. Couldn't take it any more.'
'I reckon we'll get a bumper crop of radishes too!'
'Had everything, she did. Talent, money, decent bloke...'
'And the potatoes! Just you wait till you get some of these beauties on the stove. Melt in the mouth they will.'
'Everything became too much for her. I reckon she suffocated. I don't mean literally, of course..'
'A feast we shall have. Anyway, back to this big birthday of yours. What about your present?'
'I told you. A shed. With a table and a chair.'
He laughed. 'I heard that. Very funny! But what do you really want?'
Rudyard Kipling would be so disappointed
The old shed looks like a rotting tooth, half buried in the grass at the allotment. Paint peels from it in waves. It used to be blue, the same blue as your eyes. Now it is grey, and distant. Frantic spiders scuttle from the light as I push aside the broken door, pieces of lawnmower fall across the floor like a jigsaw puzzle. Half-spilled pots of paint cast a spotlight on something small and dead. I poke it with my foot and it disintegrates, stubby black hair giving way to tiny pieces of white bone.
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs –”
I make for the shadows at the back, pull out the cardboard box. It is sodden and heavy. “If – ” I whisper lovingly. But you couldn’t keep it, could you? I hold your head in my hands and think in poetry.
I promised myself that I won't shed a tear; that I will be strong but staring at the big hole in the ground whisked my heart into a tight knot.
Everything seemed so unreal. I could see lips moved but somehow my hearing has gone numb.
"Dust to dust", the preacher whispered. Those words managed to grip my heart and dropped it in the simple plain coffin.
I wanted desperately to waddle forward but my legs turned into jelly. A gentle nudge on my shoulder reminded me that my husband stood next to me but I needed my mom.
People sang dreary farewell hymns. I wanted to shout that my mom preferred songs by The Manhattans or Mango Groove but my lips were glued together.
A light drizzle ended the ceremony. The sea of faces rode a silent wave of guilt and despair.
She will be forever alive in me...
Until The Snow Drops
We push our way through glittering crystals. Icy lace parts for our bobbing heads like excited school children on our first day. We reach our arms up to the knowledge of spring and the song of the lark, white faces gleaming, pure and fresh.
In summer’s heat, we bow our tarnished heads and lie down to rest. We curl our limbs in slumber under the shade of unfurling ferns and bursting blooms. Through languid days we wither and dwindle.
Autumn sheds her magnificent cloak, casting a million discs of gold to the sky. Leaves spread like coins onto the peaty palm of the forest floor, purchasing protection for the winter blizzard ahead. We gather ourselves under the heavy silence of snow, to wake again as the earth tips her hat on a trajectory towards the mighty sun.
A rusty sword, an old dress, fine wrinkles of times past, intangible memories told in the language never forgotten, never abandoned.
Never shed tears of regret for a belief in fate was comfort enough.
Never did the ship meet shore or dignifying flames.
From time to time the slain paid a visit to the sword, the dress, the wrinkles on the ship and spoke the never-forgotten-language to say: “not ready for Valhalla yet”.
I didn’t care about the dirt. I sat on the cold, wooden floor vacantly staring at the rusty padlock hanging from the stiff shed door. Nothing mattered. Screams echoed inside my banging head; but none of them reached my mouth. My lips had uttered not a single word for days. I closed my red and swollen eyes but I couldn’t escape reality. Opening them again I finally looked around me. A broken pot lay in the corner, abandoned, even the woodlice casually avoiding it as they scuttled about the floor. I looked at the pieces. Even if I’d wanted to, I couldn’t fix it. Sure, I could glue the terracotta parts together and it might look whole again. But the breaks would be clear. Just like me, now Mike was gone. I never really knew why he liked this shed. Funny how now it was all I had of him.
We Inherited This Shed With The House
The boards were rotten, as soft as sponge. The ceiling had a hole the size of my fist. The plan was to replace the roof. I lifted it piece by mouldy piece, then the new one went on. Tar-sealed, watertight. I thought the job was done. When the dehumidifier started to whirr, though, the walls began to flake, peeling like a tree shedding its bark.
Clearly, they had to go too.
It was as I installed the last of the heat-treated walls that I discovered the soft patch on the floor. The new floor took a week to install. The old carpet smouldered for hours on a bonfire of damp wood.
Finally, I added a lock. Bright, sparkling against the varnished wood. I stepped back and admired my work.
It's still the same shed. But now it's all new. Now, it's all mine.
You’ve never been on a blind date. You’ve no expectations.
You choose the scarlet silk dress. You pop it on over your shoulders, it slinks its way over your body like a whisper.
Your date waits at the bar; a beer before him. One, maybe two sips gone. He’s hunched, as if wary of who you might be, worried, maybe, about the evening to come.
It’s good that he’s nervous, you tell yourself, but you take a stool on far side of the bar. You watch. Sip your Muscadet. Slowly. Feeling its freshness. You dab your lips with your handkerchief. He picks at a scab on his cheek.
You make your move.
You shed your scarlet silk with a deftness it deserves, and step slowly into your warm bubble bath. Leaving the bar immediately and coming home was a wise decision, you tell yourself.
But you still wonder.
With thanks to all the writers who have made this issue possible.Alexander MJ Smith, Anita Bowden, Ann Hutchings, B.G. Drummer, Becky Spence, Beril Celik, Beverley Williams, Bill Cox, Caitlin Thomas-Aubin, Carien Smith, Carol Leggatt, Caroline Barden, Christine Collinson, Christine Nedahl, Christopher M Drew, Claire Pemberton James, D. Milne, Dan Coxon, Danni Matthews, Danny Beusch, David Goodman, Debra Fertig, Donna McKee, Eleanor, Emma Patrick, Erik D'Souza, Faiza Bokhari, Fee Johnstone, Georgie Faye, Glenda Young, James Leigh, Jamie L. Dyson, Jay Bee, John Dapolito, Jon Magidsohn, Joosep Kivastik, Julie, Kate Jones, Kate Smith, Kate Wilkins, kerry rawlinson, L Beevor, L. Meadow, Lemmy Cash, Louise Mangos, Lu Thomson, M.D. Jayabalan, Mandy Zeelie, Marcelo Coccino, María Noel Legaspi, Mary Davies, Matthew McLean, Mel Elston, Michael Emerson, Michael Rumsey, Mike O'Reilly, Minney Richani, Mishmi Takin, Mitja Lovše, Neil James, Pascal H Gillon, Paul Beckman, Pete Marrison, Phil Hudson, Philip Charter, Prince Cavallo, Rachael Dunlop, Rebecca Field, Rekha Valliappan, RJD, Roz Levens, S.B. Borgersen, Sam, Santino Prinzi, Sarah Flick, Sian Butler, Steve Campbell, Steven John, Sylvia Petter, Szilvia Mohai, Veronica Hempsey, Victoria Richards
29th March 2017