Welcome to our latest issue of Ad Hoc Fiction
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The only sound she could hear was the roaring of ocean waves crashing against the rocks. In her hand a small seashell, perhaps the abandoned home of some hermit crab which had grown too big for it. In her eyes a faint sparkle of curiosity, seemingly ignited by something out of reach. All around her the wrecked remains of merchant ships that never set sail. Her father used to build those. Or was it the old man in that story he told her at night? In her confused memories, there was no difference. "Look... these ships are headed home!""... she's rambling again, number 327." "You're authorized to proceed."Two men in stainless white suits suddenly invaded her field of view. When one of them forced a needle into her arm, her grip on the seashell loosened. Sharp pain followed, like head split open. But she could still hear that sound.
Souvenirs We Never Lose
I’ve carried it around forever. I used to have a shoebox full of them; a tiny, colour photo booth snapshot of the two of us.
Every picture captures a moment, but this little epic portrait captures the moment. It’s the week before Vanessa’s eighteenth birthday and we’ve just left the movies. We jump in the booth at the railway station and the machine does its magic. I tear the last one off the strip; she’s gazing into my eyes, caressing my face, about to kiss me. I still get chills.
I bumped into her in the city recently. She’s nineteen years married, three kids, looked fabulous and seemed blissfully happy.
I split up with Vanessa after ten months, thinking I was too young to settle down. I mistakenly believed every relationship could be like that. I’m twice divorced.
She told me that I broke her heart back in the day.
She watched carefully as he savoured the last mouthfuls of his dessert, wondering when, if, he would ask the question. He looked up and smiled, such a beautiful smile. Was he, The One? What would life with him be like? He certainly had a taste for the finer things. Maybe she would get used to them too, to dining out, to drinking champagne.
"One for the road. " he signalled the waiter, ordering a brandy. "Shame you're driving." She nodded weakly, eying the empty champagne bottle wondering what it had tasted like. Would he ask now? "It's been a lovely evening," she ventured.
"Delightful" Oh that smile again that wonderful smile and those eyes! What would it be like to wake to them every morning. Then it came, the question. "So, shall we just split the bill in two, easier than working it all out, eh?" He was not the one.
Walks into a bar
Ghost walks into a bar, bartender sighs, says what’ll you have today, but the ghost turns into a plank, a lobster, a baby, and so on, and by the time he’s shaped up into something you might seek a conversation with the bartender’s smooching another customer, and it goes like this every Friday, so the plank-lobster-baby-ghost sinks his pint in silence, but that’s not why he’s here, no, he’s here on the off-chance, he’s here in case she’s here, her laughter rising, because that’s where they met-hooked-split, and even stubborn old lovers are creatures of habit, alive or not so much, so he steers his solid size tens into the bar, whether he believes she’ll be waiting or not, because the action and repetition create something indelible, something his shrinking heart can beat a tune to: this happened; this happened; and besides, where else is there for him to go?
It's probably nothing
I called from the car asking if you needed anything from the shops before I got home. The almost endless silence before you told me you had been, was all I needed to know. I knew you were going but through fear or weakness I had conveniently pushed this to the back of my mind.
Your voice strong, matter of fact, they had found something, a lump. You were being referred to a specialist and would need more tests. Then that second agonized silence where both of us held back because we knew whoever spoke the next words, it would be an admission that made this whole thing real.
In your sob and intake of breath it arrived, chaotic lives of work, family, holidays and all the other minutia frozen, reduced to irrelevant as life began to unravel and split into an involuntary focus on new dark and terrible possibilities.
They were going on a unicorn hunt.It had been a split decision, with Josie protesting and saying that she had better things to do. The other three hadn't listened, already discussing who'd attend to which task.Nat would be describing the unicorn so that the others knew what to look for in the forest.
Thomas was given the task of actually catching the unicorn. How, they hadn't agreed on, but Thomas had reassured his friends that he would manage.
Anne would carry their prey home once they had killed it. She was content with that, happy to be able to boast with her strength.
And Josie? Josie had unwillingly predesignated her fate with her initial refusal. She'd be the one who'd be blamed if they didn't catch the unicorn and had to go home unsuccessfully.
She was fine with that. After all, she had better things to do.
Me and Him
I'm not exactly sure when the split happened but I'm told it was while I was away on my last beach holiday. If you'd asked me then what I expected to come home with I would have said quite a few extra kilos of bodyweight, a tan and some interesting tales to tell.
Well, now I've heard the tales and they're all rather frightening and all ones I'd rather forget. The doctors can't definitely say whether it will all happen again but, if I continue to take the medication they've put me on, perhaps my life will be as smooth as it was.
The main thing is I have to accept their diagnosis of bipolarism and learn to live with it.
A Different Race
When I was old enough to work some stuff out for myself, I realised the world was committing suicide.
My heart ached; like, actually physically hurt.
Countries jostled for resources, at first in passive-aggressive chess moves, then with desperate land grabs and military action.
And then in a development which split the United States' scientific community, we created the first energy weapons.
Once invented, how to handle them became a question. Some argued we didn't have to use them, just flaunt their existence. Others said to reveal them would invite imitation - we had to fire first. It was the old argument: if we don't do this, somebody else will.
The sowing of fear produced a quick crop.
Countries which had the remaining capacity tried to nuke us. But our rapid advancments had left us with unimaginable power.
I look at our dying planet from orbit and try not to weep.
I glance at the clock. Not long now. Only three patients left in the other chairs. I presume they’ll go in first. Ruddy faced man, stubble, tussled hair, scowling, dribble of blood from the corner of his mouth, strong smell of alcohol. I glance back down at my magazine, too nervous to read it; look up again. Shy looking old lady. In her eighties? Saw her show the receptionist her upper dentures. Split in two. Now wrapped back in soiled grey, lacy handkerchief. I fidget. Pick a different magazine. ‘Rubbish dentist. This is the second time,’ from tall, trim, man; sharp shirt, designer jeans, obviously pressed; gold medallion gleaming on hairy chest; shiny white teeth, except for one missing veneer. My nerves jangle more. They all go in. The drill whines. Just me. The dentist looks out from his door. ‘Ah! Miss Webster. About the dental nurse job? Yes?’
Little bit of heartbreak for your Saturday
We drive, grim-faced in our metal box, through the incredible July rain; looking for fun, or failing that, a reasonable pint.
Fox-corpse, curled up in the road, like he’s cold. Tail swept around his four paws, all present and correct down to his perfect ears, ever alert; chin resting sweetly. But, his belly’s split, and his insides are his outsides, and there’s no way he’s survived that.
We pass by, steering around his little, curled self. Can you imagine a world where we could rescue him? Release him in a field some place and watch his perfect ears swivel in the dark, listening for rabbits. The first fox I’ve seen in years.
Red and Blue
Hadjuk - 'that which is best in our people: bravery, humanity, friendship....'
No players wear the number 12 - it belongs to their supporters, the Torcida, who literally 'cheer them on'.
The very first football fan's group in Europe. Passionate (and unruly) - that's what our website says.
They tried to invade the pitch at Goodison - perhaps they didn't like our Everton mints.
"Come on, you toffees."
And me and my mates, we're in Split for the return, surrounded now.
We've got a proud heritage too, you know. (We remember the battle of Everton valley - those United fans we ambushed - missile after missile we rained down on them, that day).
That's all I was saying. And we're going to beat you.
So you chased me. And beat me. And left me half dead. Checkerboarded my head in red.
But you didn't win. The lads did me proud.
"Three one, three one, three one".
I've always had the power of seeing alternate timelines. There's a throng of them, different in a myriad of details. Only one is terrifying. The path where we split up, always because of that me who's incapable of growth, blinded by hubris, an unsympathetic shell of a human. So far I've managed to stave it off, jumping between realities either at the last nanosecond or long before the first sign of mayhem. But it's waiting ahead, patient and inevitable. I am my nemesis, and I know how he thinks. Sometimes there's hope. A path where we stay together. Hero wins, bad guy down, love and laughter, the end. I know better. Life's not a comic book.
We had a choice, it was a free vote. They said it was a clear majority, I say it was split right down the middle. After all, what’s a few percent between friends? Well we’re not friends any more are we? It’s torn us all apart, we’re hardly speaking at the coffee machine any more, it’s so stupid. Half of us wanted to do what we usually do, go out for drinks in the Italian wine bar, followed by a meal in a French restaurant, then onto the club we usually go to, the Andalucia. But no, because of a few big mouths with their bluff and bluster, we’re going to the dogs.
The wallet split open across the road, the cards fluttering out and falling from an ill-timed cocoon. Not notes nor coins. Photographs too, missing, from digital being. Pixilated things seem, these days. A swarm of people, as birds might turn in the sky (perhaps): boids. Virtually. Seemed like something on TV. The road. The other splitting. Spilling. The head.
I knew Shelia figured we had an understanding when she looked away from me, dropped her eyes, and began to study her open toe shoes as if they held all the secrets of Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers. Well, maybe not that exotic or deep—but close. When I leaned my head in her direction to capture what she muddled next, Shelia flung her arm backwards, arched like a butterfly, and hit me in the face supposedly by accident. I would have split then and there, but became fascinated by her feet as they began to make slow, sweeping, almost prophetic circles in the dirt. Shelia didn’t love me; she didn’t want my company; and she didn’t even have enough courtesy to tell me to go to hell. Still, she’ll be disappointed when the check I wrote her bounces, and the repro-man actually does take her car.
The Development team had done their retrospective, and the next sprint would be much smoother. They split the product backlog item "personality upgrade" into a 5 task sprint: identify type, erase problematic aspects, upload preferred aspects, test functionality.
After 2 weeks, everything worked smoothly on the tests. Cherise, the Product Owner, stayed behind after the sprint review. "I'll clear the burndown chart and lock up," she said, to no argument. After the heavy doors shut behind the last of the Developers, she quickly sat in front of the interface and ported into the shunt on her left forearm.
'Type: INFJ. Problematic aspects: introversion: easily overstimulated, needs much downtime.'
'Erase problematic aspects'. Cherise felt nauseous.
'Upload extraversion'. The nausea cleared, and Cherise stood up, unported, grabbed her purse and ran for the door. She felt the need for a drink. Two, even.
'Test functionality. Aborted. Aborted...'
Our feet, drumming
Hold my hand. Don't be afraid.
We climb the steep path, over rocks, around boulders. Can you hear that beat? That's the sound of our feet drumming on the slopes. The mountain has its own music, its own inexorable beat. It pulls us upward, even when we falter and think we can't go on.
Are they behind us, our families, your parents, my cousins? Are they following, pulled on by fury at our defiance? Perhaps they are. Don't look back.
We're nearly at the rim now and the air is so hot it might melt us. We've reached the great cleft, the split from which the earth's crimson core boils.
In another world two dancers will replay the scorch of our passion, leaping, spinning, sliding breathless on the frozen stage.
Twine your fingers in mine and know that I love you, as we fall together into eternity's fissure.
You wear the shoes even though the sole on one has split and it looks like rain, the sky heavy with grey clouds. You remember the excitement as you saw the designer’s name on the box but what made them special was they were from him. You will mend and mend them. Like the books he gave you, read so often the pages are loose and torn at the edges, held together with tape. A door opens across the street and all other thoughts vanish as he appears. With a pang you realise how happy he looks. Happier still when he sees her waiting for him. You twist the ring you couldn’t bear to take off as they walk away. It slips off and you let it fall to the ground. Best to go before the rain comes. Besides you have some clearing out to do.
The Mushroom Ghosts
Ghosts are nibbling purple mushroom caps—the purple skins are gone and the white insides are visible. Look! See teeth marks? The strangest thing is that it happens in the bright of day, sometime around noon. Then they split. I don’t see it on my mid-morning stroll past the 400 BC burial ground. But, on my way home, I’ve seen mushroom after mushroom missing pieces. How they get that low I’ll never know, but they are ghosts. They must be extremely flexible without bones or spines. I’ve heard these purple ones are poisonous but, if you’re already dead, does it really matter? Nibbling spreads. It extends down to the neighboring campground, where children play soccer and ride bicycles over a wide green lawn. I’ll bet the ghosts watch them while biting mushrooms. Maybe it helps them keep calm and recall the past, their brief time spent in the human world.
The bitter sweet memory of the day my parents finally split. I remember the sound of the crunch of cornflakes, the milk cold against my teeth. Suddenly drowned out by angry voices, I spat out the cornflakes, choking back tears. The cheerful, yellow formica kitchen table now scattered with soggy cornflakes.
It was difficult to make sense of that day, and of the life my parents shared. The words of family like dandelion puffs in the wind. “Your father had a temper”, “Your mother wasn’t easy.”
Always thought there would be time to hear the full story, but there’s no one left to ask. My mother’s words have stayed with me, “He was a violent man, if he hadn’t jumped out of the way I’d be in Holloway now.” Perhaps that’s all I need to know now.
Cornflakes don’t hold any memories, they are still a favourite of mine.
Maybe when she split, she’d be distracted by a piece of newspaper, slapped onto a signpost by the wind.
Maybe the way she pulled up her collar would impair her vision.
And maybe the attention she paid to the poor newspaper, stuck onto the signpost, would keep her brain from sending a signal as fast as it usually did.
And maybe this signal, caused by the blaring horn of a truck coming towards her, would hitch in her mind, and never quite reach the right place in the torturous coils inside of her head, and she wouldn’t react, or maybe she would, but hesitate for a moment stretched too thin, and be struck by the speeding driver, and never emerge from the blackness she faced as she turned toward the noise, the blackness inside of her collar, which covered her eyes, keeping her delicate neck protected from the driving wind.
I adjust the strap to tighten the Garmin on my left wrist and check it against the analogue watch on my right. The blue light illuminates the darkness of the hold. 03:42:17.
The company-issued digital Garmin is a split second faster than the traditional TAG, a tenth anniversary gift, but now’s not the time to let the OCD kick in.
The silence on board as all four of us undertake last minute checks isn’t unusual. I’m convinced the ticking of the watch is in sync with the my heartbeat.
This time feels different.
The widow-making terrain below is accompanied by worsening conditions with each passing minute.
I take out my phone and type those words to send to my wife and daughter. The same message they have received for the 83 rescue missions that have come before.
Daddy is coming home. I promise. x
Is it me?
We just stood there with the darkness of the woods wrapping itself around us, the only light coming from the stars in the sky that are illuminating the droplets of rain that lay still on the leaves, it was like they knew something was about to happen the air reeked of impending doom. We couldn’t stay still we had to move, a sound in the distance made us move quicker than our legs wanted to carry us, but my mind was curious as to what we were running from. I slowed my pace and split away from them as my curiosity got the better of me, I turned back to where the noise had come from, but I couldn’t hear it anymore and I was starting to wonder if it was just me? But then I heard it again and a hand reached out of the darkness, it was me.
The Last Supper
He knew exactly what the dinner was about, even though she hadn’t said anything. The abrupt and short conversations, the frequently darting eyes towards the door. She might as well have a note stuck to her forehead saying ‘I want to break-up’. And he wasn’t surprised—the signs had been there for a long time. She had been forgetting her wedding ring at home whenever she went out. His offshore meetings almost always ran a day extra. They both had been postponing the kitchen remodelling for a couple of months now; even choosing a colour was a commitment.
“I’ll just go to the ladies’. Why don’t you order dessert? There’s something we need to talk about.”
But the dessert is already over, darling, he thought sadly as he looked at her flawless, but strangely unstimulating retreating figure. He signalled to the passing waiter.
It was time to split the check.
Remembering the commune, dedicated to love and peace, the stench of the composting toilet hits me. I used to hold my breath when practising handstands against the shed. My mother clapped.
The corridor of the overcrowded house was great for cartwheels. When I knocked into a founder member his fiery eyes melted my guts. Would he strangle me with his dreadlocks? My mother took my hand and made me apologize.
The yard was a wonderful place for doing the splits: until Charlie said my mother had ‘split.’
‘What do you mean?’
Charlie had been my best friend. I ran onto the moor and called in all her favourite places. The heather and rocks were silent.
I stopped dreaming of Olympic gymnastics and took up hockey, using the handle of an old walking stick and the dog’s ball. Nobody clapped, not even the lamb.
Eyes follow me where-ever I go. I don't mind it. I understand. I wouldn't trust me either. My fingers trace the figures in the wooden table. The lines created by years of growing before being cut to make a table. The nailpolish I'm wearing matches the colour of the table. They could blend in perfectly. I wish I could blend in perfectly. The crazies sit there, staring at nothing. I'm one of them, I'm crazy too. That's why I'm locked up. Some girl points at me. Her hair is like a lion's mane around her head and her cheeks are red. She doesn't speak, just points at me. It's sad, really. All these young people stuck in some magical place in their head, unable to escape. I'm not like them. Or maybe I am. I'm here because I can't split the lies from the truth anymore.
Aunty takes me out to gather kai moana, climbing over the rocks with our skirts tucked into our knickers. Aunty’s legs are big and fat, sturdy as she finds the safe places to stand.
Tap, tap. The oysters look like they’re set in concrete, but Aunty uses a rock and knocks them loose. We pack them in bags that drip down our sides as we walk back up the beach.
You don’t want that one, kōtiro. She picks it out of my bowl with her fingertips. Doesn’t matter they’re hot, fresh from the pot. It’s not split open, she says. Means it’s no good. She throws it away. The seabirds will get it, or maybe the rats. Shame you can’t tell that easy with people, eh? She puts her arm round my shoulder.
Next day we crush the shells up for the garden. They smell like yesterday’s tears.
Dad is snoring amongst the daisies, hat over his face, belly peeking out over his shorts. Mum looks at him with a mix of disappointment and relief that she often uses on me.
Seeing me fumbling with my daisy chain, she clasps her cigarette between her lips, clicks her fingers and holds out her hands. Then I marvel at how quickly she splits the stalks with her blood-red nails, and how she can hold the cigarette between two fingers and thread flowers together at the same time.
After a while, she exhales a long stream of smoke, which floats down and settles lightly around my throat. Looking down, I find it’s not smoke but daisies which are so feathery against my skin, and let out a long breath too, both relieved and disappointed it’s finished.
Mum nods and flicks the ash off her cigarette onto Dad’s belly. He doesn’t notice.
I immediately noticed his tall blondness and intense blue stare. We gravitated towards each other.
“Aaron” his American drawl was like honey.
“Christina” I smiled as we shook hands.
We talked until the party ended. He was excited about studying in Edinburgh for six months. At the end of the party we kissed and agreed to meet again.
The months flew by in a blur of long walks, parties, films and romantic meals.
“He's adorable!” my friend Ellen said.“You two make a perfect couple!”
When his course ended, Aaron asked me to marry him. I suspected he just wanted residency rights and said it was too soon. We split up. A week later, he and Ellen got married. I've not seen either of them since.
What's that wretched buzzing? It doesn't even stop when I turn the volume down. If I hold my breath I can still hear some sort of fan whirring. No, not whirring, it's definitely buzzing.
Now I see it, a spiky little black thing hovering in front of the screen, then diving with the high-pitched tone of a failing engine. Aha, that's what it is, a microscopic drone. They make things so small these days.
I reckon Graham's invested in one to spy on me. He thinks I laze about all day watching television. So what if I do, that's my business not his.
Oh, he's home early, must be on a split shift, thinks he'll catch me out. I'll just switch the box off and look busy.
'Graham, stop it. Why are you spraying the drone with fly-spray?'
Time works differently in a dream. Every clock you see, the antiques molded in gold and brass or the digital cubes blinking in bloody scarlet, is a product of your own mind. For some, the faces melt and let their minutes fall like raindrops - for others, each second is split in two over and over, drawing closer yet never reaching the end.
I’ve never seen one like this. Never one so bleak, an intricate structure so meaningless. Divided into twenty-four and sixty and then sixty again, every pendulum falling in the same rhythm. No life should exist here, not when the very vitality has been leeched from the fourth dimension and given over to the endless echoes.
What kind of mind must you have?
Another eye, blue as my own, peeped back through a split in the wood.
‘Open the gate, silly socks,’ she lisped, ‘See what’s out here.’
The coombe. ‘Slippery slopes and biting things,’ I lisped.
‘And worse. Undo the bolts.’ Her fingers wriggled through the gap.
Filthy and scratched, but my glittery nails. My t-shirt unicorns all rainbow colours, hers grotty. 'I shouldn't touch the gate. It's not allowed.’
‘Am not. I snuck here.’ To knock and run, probably.
She snorted. ‘We can only be brave in the coombe. Don't you wanna be brave, like me?’
Not exactly, not any longer.
‘It’s your turn here!'
Hers in my place, in the garden with sandwiches and swingball. I slid a step away. The gate juddered.
'You have to be brave! That's the rules.'
Not mine. I scarpered, left brave-me screaming from the coombe.
'Let me back in!'
How Do You Feel?
My anxiety rockets at the surrounding mess, his mess across my sitting room floor. Today I will do something about it. Not tomorrow, today. I split the white paper wrapper on a fresh roll of black bin bags, rip the first one from the rest and get to work. My therapist's favourite question repeats every time I pick something up, “how do you feel?” Feelings come thick and fast but she says I need to pause, experience them to know them truly. The hurt and happiness. The good times and the bad. God, I sound like a cliché. Doesn't matter everything is going in the bag. Slowly it fills. First bag full, almost too full, I tie off the top and lift it out the way. Rip! The bag splits. Everything crashes out. A new mountain of stuff, of feelings, now topped with tears.
Regan sprinkled the sugar over the cherries; black, Uncle Marions favourite & finished with a dusting of poison on the open top cherry pie.
'You are a good girl', she handed her uncle the silver desert fork, he shakily brought it to his withered lips.
The poison began working almost immediately.
Regan looked around the grand room, at her uncle dressed in his emerald green smoking jacket with exquisite gold buttons.
She sipped on her tea contentedly & watched her decaying uncle dying.
Eleanor was bestowed half of the estate as was Regan, her cousin did very little do curry any favour.
Regan made her way downstairs anticipating her cousins iminent arrival & after some thought she split the remaining pie between 2 plates.
Regans slice would remain untouched. A handsome piece of black cherry pie patiently awaited her cousin on arrival.
Sold as seen
Leather sofa from smoke-free home. Small split in underside of seat cushion - see photo - otherwise perfect condition.
You have purged yourself from this house. Your books extracted like teeth leave mine slumped in the gaps. The clock that looked both ways like the ones that hang overhead in railway stations, remembered by its dust outline on the wall. Those rose-fur cushions removed along with everything else heart-themed, the embossed tea bag jar's final fistful dumped in a cereal bowl.
I am left to deal with the heavy things, furniture of stripped pine, distressed leather. I take photos from every angle, a close-up of the damaged part; such flaws should always be disclosed from the outset, because zoom in and that inch of frayed stitches looms a monstrous fissure, a yawning black gulf, that could grow so wide and so deep it might one day swallow someone without leaving a trace.
Into his little cabin of light steps a smudge of make up and split ends, clumsy feet. Hen party, he thinks.
Start. Traffic lights and street lamps jangle.
Stop. Wait. Her voice threads its way out into the darkness. It’s a song that doesn’t belong here. He can't look at her although he feels her eyes on him.
Stop. She says "I can’t pay", in his language this time. His lips curl like a horse rearing it’s legs ready to kick, but then he looks in the rear view mirror. “Well, what do we do?” he whispers.
She leaves a small box on the seat. “Grow a boyfriend! Just add water.” At home he puts it in the bath. He wonders how long it will take. As he waits he thinks what he needs to fit into the holdall he has under the stairs.
Our Damaged Souls
It lay on the road, a small black mound on the white crosswalk. Its vulnerability and stillness caused me to look away as I maneuvered my car to avoid it. In the rearview, I noticed wing feathers jutting skyward, caught in a breeze. The inanimate fluttering was disquieting.
At daybreak, crows gathered round the carcass in mourning, while others along the curbside. As I approached, they flew off in a cacophony, returning to their vigil once I'd passed. This time, in the rearview, I noticed one crow remained in its tree, head bobbing in anguish.
By sundown, the others had gone to roost, save for the one - silent, watching. I could only imagine its thoughts - callous drivers had further crushed its lost partner. I stopped my car and got out to gently move the feathered husk to the shelter of its tree.
And a pitiful keening suddenly split the air.
He heaved the axe high above his shoulder and brought it down with a mighty swing. A sharp crunch and the log split in two, each half rocking at the force of the blow.
At least they could now start a fire. He always provided what the people needed; most of his effort these days seemed to go into making sure they had heat, food and shelter. Since the accident, these could no longer be taken for granted and it took hard, physical toil now, not the flick of a switch.
His patience was tested at times and He bemoaned people’s lack of the most basic skills. They had lost the ability to fend for themselves and put all their faith in him, as they had in technology before. They thought that had made them clever, but their complacency caused the accident and now left them entirely in his hands.
Sitting astride the cherry tree, Julian held the saw in his left hand. Serrated sharp teeth pulled across the bough. A collection of saw dust lay below on the red tiled drive, looking like confetti.
His elderly Grandfather called out to him from the front door,
"You aim to please, good work there".
"I am happily engaged in the task" replied Julian.
It connected him again with his childhood exploits. Climbing these trees and playing camp. He had grown and, so had the trees. Time to lob and prune and get the garden into Summertime shape.
Showing he was still connected. Like the boughs to the trees. But, pruning was part of growth.
Split from the parent tree, there was some reason to hope. Not everyone was like their Parent.
Julian began to whistle, while his Grandfather went inside to put the kettle on for tea.
A writer's Catastrophe
Weekend: Dammit, I can't bear this stress. Let me spend some time in solitude.
Monday: I can do this; this is where I belong. I just need time to settle, let me not rush. Deep breathe...
Tuesday: where are my pen and papers. Just get into the situation; just listen to your character. Don't think too much.
Wednesday: In a split second he....?
It's hard to write, let me read something related
Thursday: Am I on the right path? I mean no one I know is a writer. What are the chances?
Friday: Dude you are screwed but this is all you can breath, stick to it.
And once in a blue moon (a Wednesday), in-middle of such catastrophe, a writer manages three or more words which goes on to influence a child, some people, sometimes a generation or the whole humanity.
I watched the pod split under your thumb. The bright, light green caught beneath your nail. The mole on your middle knuckle. The way your hand shook a bit.
My hair stuck to my neck in the greenhouse steam and you were saying something about how mum would be safe where she was going, wouldn’t have a bleeding scalp anymore, or wander to the ocean at midnight.
I waited for you to say it was okay to eat from the pod, right there under the burning glass at the edge of our tangled garden.
I looked inside the gap, at the peas in their velvety home. Two were big enough.
The others, too small. I watched your dirt-wrinkled fingers rip them from their bed, drop them in the air. I remember it in slow motion, a blur of small green spots, falling to the hard, cool stone below our feet.
May I suggest Dulcie's Diner signature dessert? We're talking full-on flamboyant banana split.
So, top down. Think juicy jewel-like glacé cherries for each mini mountain of ice cream. Which flavour? Well, of course that is your own personal choice but we consider an extra large scoop each of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate the traditional and most indulgent option. Sandwiched, naturally, between two plump halves of deliciously just-right-and-ripe banana.
And obviously you'll be wanting all the extras, huh?
We have a boatload of sweet treats including drizzled chocolate or caramel sauce, strawberry or pineapple syrup. Marshmallow cream, whipped cream, candied nuts, brownie chunks and sprinkles.
This baby oughta make you smile as wide as a mile, bring a little ray of sunshine into your life. Am I right?
Finally, should you choose Dulcie's delight you will not be requiring any further calorific intake today.
He lifts the carton of milk and sniffs. Ye gods! He pours anyway and the white swirls away into his Lipton Yellow Label, leaving pustules of floating fat. From outside a clang shuffles in on fetid air. The start of another Sunday and already his armpits are sodden, his forehead dripping.
“Mr Walker?” An English voice reflects up from the street into his room.
Mr Walker, eh? He takes a scalding gulp.
“Please?” A further request.
He reaches for his Tilley hat, its khaki patterned with sweat stains, its rim split, before stepping into the triangle of sunlight stabbing the room.
“Da?” He searches the shade of the stone street. “Yes?”
And there she is, all cotton and the scent of roses, young enough to be his niece.
“I’ve come to take you home.”
Her words chill him. Some things are so very hard to leave behind.
Out for Coffee
"Since when have you and Mike split?"
I looked up from my coffee. Sharlene was standing over the table, one hand on her hip and the other holding a refillable to-go cup.
"We haven't. Who told you that?"
Sharlene slid into the chair opposite me and gave me a wide-eyed look, as if she knew more about my life than I did. Typical Sharlene. "You always come here with him. I've never seen you go for coffee alone."
Alone until now, I thought bitterly.
I closed the lid of my laptop. "He's at a doctor's appointment."
"It's a bit weird though, isn't it?" said Sharlene. She played with the rim of her to-go cup. Sharlene never could stay still for more than a second.
"Going out for coffee on your own."
"Isn't that what you're doing?"
Sharlene smiled. "No, not me, I'm off to Pilates."
Our Final Summer Holiday Monster Game
We saw the pod split open and a long, scaly finger poke out. Nobody moved. Terrified but excited, we waited. Would fragments of leathery pod shatter everywhere as the creature erupted? Would the sky crack with thunder? Would we evaporate if we met the gaze of this unholy hatchling?
Seconds passed. Nothing happened. Daring to move our eyes, we glanced at each other. Stan shrugged, seemed unimpressed. A sign for everyone to relax, assume bored faces. Questions about what the hell was in the gigantic, cracking egg would be uncool. Slouching away in manufactured indifference, we mimicked waggling fingers, made cartoon croaks.
When we saw urine streaming down Stan's leg, we realised that boredom was the wrong response. Grabbed and snapped in half before he could scream, Stan crumpled to the ground. Not dead bored, just dead. We screamed for him, running faster than we knew we could.
You were hanging, head down, with your arms dangling. My watch forgot to tick.
We could have had the sun on our skin, the moon as our companion to pull us into a different orbit, but you hid your difference instead of harnessing it to speak. You could have given it its freedom; worn it as your coat against the gossip, yet you split off as an orphan, wore sheepskin clothes, and chained your freewill to the mill.
I still want to turn you upside down and pull your heart-strings back where they belong. Why didn’t you follow the light, not the dark and turn off your alarm clock?
I long for our renaissance; to feel you with the earth beneath my feet, the wind playing in my hair and hear the guffaw of the trees without care.
It was only a matter of time. Why didn’t you wait?
The Perfect Dive
He stood straight and tall at the edge of the board, toes curled over the front. His face was forward, his eyes closed as he imagined every detail of what he intended to be a perfect dive. His calves flexed in anticipation, causing the board to bounce slightly. Once his mind completed the visualization, he took a deep breath and exhaled. Moving his feet back, he began to bounce. Lightly at first, then more powerfully. The board's rise and fall increased with each successive jump. When the proper lift was attained, he pushed up and away from the board until achieving the desired arc, then began to dive. The intense heat from the pool and friction from the air caused his fingertips to blister almost immediately. He split the light crust of the lava pond in perfect form, with no splash or surfacing figure to disrupt the molten calm.
Things said about a party
‘I’ve spilt,’ he said, ‘so let’s split.’
Or rather he mouthed in my direction, through a physical wave of smoke-enhanced music interpreted by thrashing bodies. As we rummaged for coats, I pondered what he’d spilt and where, and why he was waving his phone. Clearly it was bad enough that we needed to split right away. Yet the furnishings and carpets in our neighbour’s house seemed pretty shot already. I didn’t think one more stain would notice, frankly.
It was only in the relative quiet of the street that I discovered he had spilt as in beans, and we need to split from the Party rather than the party.
The Pink Split
He wanted it to be perfect, like long-ago summers, where eggs cooked on too-hot car bonnets and people laughed.
The blancmange-topped, fruit filled jelly and soggy sponge, laced with cheap sherry; chilled and ready for cherry crowned whipped cream, made him cry.
A split in the pink, whisked him back to family Sundays, with cousins chasing each other, squealing 'exterminate!' like they'd never hidden behind the settee from the black and white metal monsters.
Birthday song sung, balloons bounced and white, crustless cucumber and salmon sandwiches gone, the trifle was dished out.
He even got the half cherry on the spoon. The one that the kids would fight over.
"Your favourite, Mum." Showing the spoon to empty eyes, he stroked her chin and touched the cream to her mouth.
Lips closing around the spoon she swallowed the memories and for a split-second, the light in her eyes danced again.
Three Degrees of Tears
The first time you made me cry was at the Zibelemärit Festival in Bern. You held out one half of a yellow ebenezer the farmer had split for you. I was mesmerised by the laughter filling your dark eyes, the innocence of your mahogany dimpled cheeks. I watched your perfect white teeth as we bit into the raw onion halves. Crisp, mild, sweet. We separated in the crowd, then reconnected reaching for the same slice of Zibelechueche offered at another stall. We laughed until we cried. I let you have it. Your hunger for onion tart was greater than mine. When you had to go back to the place you used to call home, all I could think of was onions, my synthase enzymes causing the sulfenic acid to react with the air we breathe. A burning rush of unstoppable sorrow.
A Bit of a Cheek, if You Ask Me.
Earth split on a Saturday, about lunchtime GMT. Maureen Rigby (Gloucester) fell out of bed when the shaking started and stayed on the floor till it was done. Rahul Agarwal (Jaipur) somehow slept through the whole thing.
When the quaking finally stopped everyone (except Rahul) turned on the news and learned the Earth had cleaved asunder.
This was quite enough for one day, as Maureen said to her sister, who was just agreeing...when out of the split came God. No one knew how they knew it was God, but know everyone did. And everyone was a bit disappointed, though of course, no one said so.
God didn't seem interested in the fuss they'd caused. They simply muttered something about bigger fish to fry, and wandered off towards Jupiter. Didn't even put Earth back together before they left.
When Rahul woke up he said it was a cheek. Everyone agreed.
Up over the head, just a breath's pause for balance, then down in front. Stuck. Up over the head, just a breath's pause for balance, then down harder in front. Stuck. Up over the head, just a breath's pause for balance, then down even harder in front. Stuck again. Frustration. This looks so much easier when other people do it. Up over the head, just a breath's pause for balance, then down as hard as possible in front. Stuck, but this time much farther in.
Up over the head, a deep breath, then down harder than she believed possible in front. A yell escaped her lips. The log split in two.
She stared at it for a moment before setting aside the ax and placing the split halves to the side to start a firewood pile. It would be cold soon. Balancing another log, she picked up the ax.
We watch the winter morning moon from separate windows. The limpid white fades away, outshone by the risen sun. We surrender to a final garden walk, one last look at everything. The ice breaks under foot, emotions crack in the frost, the thaw brings a cold forgiveness.
It was high summer when we moved in all those years ago. We said then there was every colour of rose.
The fire warms our hands. We drink the remains of a bottle of brandy to save packing it. You gather the framed photographs from the mantelpiece and window sills, deal them like cards. Our eyes flicker orange in the darkening room.
We collect fresh wood to tinder. The axe splits a log.
Built On Sand
The ice cream parlour is neutral territory. This Formica table where our negotiations take place. I’m eating dessert, you’re sipping a coffee, tight lipped. You lay in first.
“Nothing in common. I like classical, you like rap. I stay in, you go out. Our families are… different.”
“Yin and yang? Opposites attract?”
Dammit. Why fight for something I don’t care about? Like I have to carry the farce to its final demise. Its gone far enough already.
“And you don’t want children.”
At least, not with you.
“Keep that,” you say, nodding to the ring on my finger that I bullied you into getting.
Eating my banana split I watch your retreating back and my heart swells in my chest. I smack the coffee cup onto the floor and dregs splatter the chequered tiling.
I smile. Finally. That was easy.
When dusky Sitha walked the ramp in Milan for the first time, only one member of the audience had moist eyes amidst all the applause.
Bela wiped her tears and remembered that rainy November day twenty years ago. At the break of dawn when a rag picker, rummaging through the garbage vat, had heard an infant wail, he had brought it straight to Doctor Bela's door. The infant was wrapped in a bin liner, not even a rag.
Two years later, Bela was her adopted mother and also the surgeon who had corrected a minor deformity in the child.
Sitha, her parents must have thought, was a curse because she had a split lip. From the womb---fit for the bin. They believed she was an error of the Maker.
It was Bela who proved otherwise.
Our Success Story
Our 2019 Mercantile company conference ended successfully recently and we were escorting our foreign counterparts back to their base. As we drove nearer the airport,It occurred to me that we may not be able to conclude the sharing of our profits in all the transactions. First, we reached all our customers as expected, we met new clients and the agreements were consolidated between us and the governments.The remaining part of the business can be consummated between now and the next meeting through our local agents.That will involve effective correspondence. The unexpected windfall in sales will then be split between two parties: we the locals on one hand, and the overseas based counterparts on the other. This will save us the the necessity of having to be physically assembled together, we thereby conserve the energy and save time that could be otherwise utilized. Thus we envisage a more prosperous year ahead.
He tried to take a deep breath to steady his trembling hand but the air entered ragged, catching in the back of his throat, making a choking sound. His heart thundering, he strained to hear whether the sound had awoken the guards.
Inside the bedchamber, he stood watching his Cousin-King sleeping, his face as familiar as his own, his father’s blood in his veins.
Rushing air and his wife’s searing words filled his ears.
He steeled himself, held the blade up high then pushed down hard. Time oozed - he felt the fabric split, skin split, the blade feel its way between ribs into his heart. He knew how to kill, had watched life disappear from men oftentimes on the battlefield. Duncan’s eyes flickered, his mouth opened, releasing his last whisper.
He turned towards the darkness behind, all light gone out in him. He had torn himself in two.
The morning sun was already peeping over the horizon. Ripples of gold appeared as the first rays caught the tips of the barleycorn ripening in the field.
The air was warm; the birdsong and humming of bees combined in joyful harmony.
Grace lifted her face towards the sun and breathed in the fragrance coming from the kitchen garden.
The cockerel announced the new day. Again!
The cow called from the little sweet hay-barn; soft eyes watching as Grace brought the pail and stool into place.
Grace closed her eyes, settled her cheek against the velvety skin and listened to the warm milk cascading into the pail.
She thought of her children still sleeping in their farmhouse bedroom; four golden-haired heads in one featherbed!
Grace split the fresh milk and walked back towards the house; pails gently swinging from each arm. She would make cheese later.
“Breakfast!”, she called. No one moved.
Mallory veered off the path from her annual wildlife safari trip with her family.
Her daughter Deirdre liked to follow her father around looking at the elephants and giraffes.
She inhaled the glandular scent blowing off towering Brachystegia trees, while jungle ropes hung like a trapeze for treetop dwellers gorging gonja fruit. A far cry from her home of constricting cages and bars of the banal.
Then the scent changed. The air smelled of danger and demise. Shotgun blasts echoed through the forest. Deirdre and Claude, their screams of murderous death juxtaposed with the cacophony of the Hadeda call.
Just a merrymaking masquerade of a split mind chained to the saturnalian rounds made by doctors wearing their Santayana masks.
The ropes tightened around her wrists. The disinfectant smells returned.
It was no bacchanal to relive your most traumatic event over and over on a carousel of perpetual nightmares.
And there they both were, having ruined the one thing that they had both loved, that had brought them together. Amanda wept at the coffee stain dribbling down the painting. She shouldn’t have thrown it at him. She definitely shouldn’t have missed and hit the painting instead.
‘Well, that’s coming out of your settlement,’ Clive said.
Amanda fumed. ‘And what about the affairs, Clive?’ She screamed, ‘The handbags? The hotel rooms? The fucking flat you bought for her? I know about it all!’ She lifted the painting off its hook and stamped on the frame until it split, splintered and her foot went through the paper.
And there, on the floor, curled up inside the frame, was the love letter Clive had first sent to Amanda, that he’d kept, safe, hidden all this time.
Tears, pain and discipline
The gym teachers were prison wardens doing their roll calls when they surveyed the gymnasts doing their front splits. Their eagle eyes on full alert as to whose knees were bent and whose were out of position.
When they spotted a target, they spared no effort in pressing her down. A blood-curdling scream would escape from her mouth, reverberating through the hall, mirroring those in horror films. Other gymnasts would grimace, making frantic efforts to make adjustments so as not to suffer the same fate.
Tears, pain and discipline, all in the name of school glory. Yet, the hall was full of aspiring gymnasts, eager to prove themselves worthy.
'They split up?' he asked. I nodded, while I sipped my tea at the bar we frequented.
'You're better than I thought.'
I thanked him for the compliment.
'How did you do that?'
He rarely took interest in details, so I told him directly.
'You sneaky bastard, well done!'
He laughed, knowing his response could get him in a lot of trouble.
'Please, don't say...'
I gave him my word.
'Actually, can they found out I arranged all this?'
Of course they could, yet I didn't disclose that information.
'Good, because I need to be on the safe side.'
He looked around and then he leaned closer to me.
'Here's what you should do next.'
My work wasn't done.
The dust of crumbs lined the cake tin, accumulated raisin cookies, disappointing cupcakes and a Victoria sponge which had had to be broken to be released. The cheese scone was hitched against the side in a hope she would pass it over. They were her favourite, baked at the weekend when he was in front of the golf and thoughtlessly shared amongst the swarming well-wishers who had brought uneaten dinners and meaningless words since Monday night.
Paul always had Charlie’s remaining achievement. It was hideously wrong of her to deny him, the habit not yet having been given the courtesy of time to be broken.
It had gained a pleasant crust and the knife resisted before breaking to split the scone. Charlie ate with the memory of his fingers at her neck, bent over the kitchen side; his half returned to the crumbs where it would rest, joining its seniors.
When My Little Girl Made a Boo-Boo
The nucleus of the Uranium atom splits apart under the cascade of neutrons fired at it. A massive torrent of energy flashes out of the fractured nucleus, firing out neutrons of its own that, like dynamic viruses, rush to spread the energetic infection through neighbouring atoms. Energy builds up to massive proportions in mere micro-seconds, dissolving matter around it in a blast of heat exceeding the temperature of the solar core. The explosion pushes outwards, a divine wind of destruction annihilating everything in its path.
In the bunker a toilet flushes and the General re-enters the room. He looks at his daughter, proud to show her where he works on ‘Bring your Daughter to Work’ day.
She looks sheepishly at him.
“Daddy” she says, “I think I touched a button I wasn’t supposed to…”
Six thousand miles away, a mushroom cloud towers over the remains of Moscow.
Eddie does a runner
"Where's Eddie?" the boss asked abruptly, jolting me out of my torpor. I'd been a million miles away, on a beach in Byron Bay, on a horse, on holiday. Me, not the horse. The call centre was cold and impersonal..The flickering flourescent lights added to the feeling of a prison. I snapped my head around and blurted out, "Smoko" to which the boss pointed at the clocks on the wall. "It's been 10 minutes ... Go find him otherwise he's out." I ripped off my headset and made for the fire exit. Ironic but that was where Eddie smoked. Illegal too but hey, time was money. I propped the door open with a wad of rolled-up travel brochures and careered into the alley way. A huddle of lost souls was barely visible through a nicotine haze. "Where's Eddie?" I hissed, Out of the smoke came a resigned but familiar refrain "Eddie's split."
Jethro could smell the money. He was next in line, behind a short guy.
When shorty's turn arrived, Jethro heard, "Hands up! This is a stickup!"
Jethro sighed. He leaned and said, "Dude, that's not how it's done. #1, hands in the air attract attention. #2, announcing a stickup, same problem. A note works better. You can use mine if you'd like. We'll split the take."
"Get lost," growled shorty.
"Okay," said Jethro. "Let's see how your way plays out."
Shorty turned back to the teller. She said, "You sure about this Mr. Henderson?"
Shorty gasped. "You know me?! How?"
"Name tag, sir. Right there on your shirt."
She wakes in the morning with sea shells for teeth. Odd, she distinctly remembers flashing her pearly whites at the beach lifeguard the day before, but sea snail molars and mollusk incisors somehow during the night replaced her perfect bite.
Her mouth tastes like the Coney Island tideline--briny, oily, gritty. She brushes hard with fancy charcoal toothpaste--guaranteed to lighten the greyest of greys--and gargles with salt water on the off chance her mother is right about salt being the bona fide cure for most anything.
Scrunching close to the mirror, she opens her mouth wide, flossing between the split ridges of the drab scallops lining her jaw. A sea monkey pops free, acrobats along the waxy filament and dives into the gargle glass. "Hello," she says, flashing her shiny sea shell smile as the shrimp flips and skips along a new found sea.
The 'Perfect' Christmas
Christmas mornings are generally one of those extravagant days for most families, but not ours. The theme at our home was generally minimalism which was a more sophisticated way of saying my parents were lazy.
If I'm being completely honest though, I didn't mind very much. There was always a box of pizza and chocolate cake and no restriction on television time. What more did a young boy really need?
You can thus imagine my astonishment when this year, I woke up to fairy lighting, our first ever Christmas tree which happened to be six feet tall and the smell of home cooked chicken and mac and cheese.
I thought I was delusional until I saw the beautifully knitted stockings. That gave it away. This year's theme was overcompensation. My parents had split up.
The wood splits with satisfactory ease. Each time I swing the axe I don’t have to think about him, or him and her together, or whether it means anything.
Weeks pass, a month or two, and fragments of their liaisons nestle into us, like splinters.
The not-knowing is what gets to me in the end; is it just sex (something I’m trying to decide if I can live with), or something else.
One Tuesday she asks me if she can borrow my car because she’s let the MOT on hers lapse. A bit silly, but not the end of the world. However I can’t help but wonder if it’s because she’s been too busy with him. I push it and push it until she snaps, her secrets spilling out.
It wasn’t love, but no matter how hard we try to glue us back together, it doesn’t work.
It comes with a walloping thump, Frank’s disagreement. Frank’s not wanting to put his shoes on today. Frank’s weariness.
Elizabeth sees her husband of fifty five years through a haze of light spots, with a shooshing noise in her ears that comes from her hearing aids – shocked by the unexpected jolt.
His hands, back now by his sides, once held a microphone to his rock star handsome mouth, placed a gold band on her finger, wiped their children’s backsides, steered HGVs, stroked her face with tenderness and love. Covered his own face when the diagnosis came.
And now, busted her lip. Bloodied it.
His milky blue eyes blink at her; empty. Their life-long love – his memory of it – lost in the fissure of that split.
The cavalry charge of tiny feet approaches! Mum and Dad’s dreams carried to the finishing line on wings! Or trampled into the morning grass by 10 a.m. “Just remember Jennifer, it’s the taking part that counts,” shouts one forced smile with thumbs aloft, and the child who must be Jennifer offers a scowl, knowing she has only delivered disappointment in a distant last place. Poor Jennifer’s Mum- her final attempt at producing an Olympian has failed.
But to others their moment of glory! Abigail has won! She’s receiving her gold sticker now from Mrs Mullins and her dad’s face is split with pride. He’s telling everyone that Abigail, who ran slightly faster than five other children, is his daughter. “I told you we should take her to an athletics club,” he says to his wife.
His disappointment will come later, I feel.
Under a blue sky, hot feet stumbled through dry sand, slapped cool, damp ridges, and then paddled in the sea.
Hawkishly a mother watched her laughing young. A horizontal line split the sky from the sea, and the tide slowly turned. Walking towards the cliffs, mother hid her thoughts.
Discovering a cove, and wary at first, they passed an elderly man standing on one leg in a yoga asana. As they walked past he opened his eyes and spoke.
‘Can you balance?’
‘Like the rocks?’
The children, more amused than concerned stood at their mother’s side.
An oblong-shaped stone pivoted on a small rock was weighted each end with small round pebbles.
The mother was resolute; hold on, keep the delicate balance, but with a solid poise.
They said goodbye to the yogi, who returned to his pose and closed his eyes.
Breaking News: Detectorists (almost) Find Tudor Hoard
They walked faster now, two unkempt forms in the gathering dusk, trudging through the bilious spume, salt-splattered. They split up as lights began to glint across the bay. Old Sid took the shovel; young Mel (nearing fifty, but all things are relative) took the metal detector. Woe betide them if they went home to Annie with neither something to pawn tonight nor dinner.
That was Sid’s issue with the metal detector. “Might turn up a ring or somesuch but it ain’t gonna find food.” He said this every time. Mel ignored him.
The detector beeped. Sid hurried over, swung the spade. Struck something. Stopped, coughing, hands on knees.
“Could be treasure.”
“Could be old cans again.”
“If it’s treasure, it needs reporting. This won’t feed us tonight.”
“But we could be rich.”
Sid spat richly, eloquently.
Annie would be furious. They marked the spot unenthusiastically. Made their weary way home.
An Unexpected Ending
First night nerves, my first major part on the West End stage, waiting for my cue, and go.
ENTER STAGE LEFT
PAUSE CENTRE STAGE
LOOK FURTIVELY AROUND
STOOP TO PICK UP REVOLVER
As I bend down I feel the split in my trousers widen, why did I not alert wardrobe.
I am on stage, naked. A tremor passes through me, a wave of sweat runs down my back. I am looking straight at the audience. Suddenly I remember I am wearing black boxer shorts.
PLACE REVOLVER IN INSIDE JACKET POCKET
EXIT STAGE RIGHT.
Later my agent bursts through the dressing room door.
‘Darling, how wonderful you were tonight, your body language so expressive, when you picked up the revolver I could have died. It was an Olivier winning performance. That Broadway producer was in the audience tonight, he wants to meet you.
Third date-Ophelia is derived from an ancient Greek word Ophelos meaning help and as I sit there gazing into her beautiful green eyes that’s what she does. She helps me, heals me infact. A remedy for my broken heart. A simple smile from her is rejuvenating, and don’t get me started on her laugh, a melody that could invigorate even the weakest of minds.
three years later-Ophelia is a character in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. A woman who is driven insane and drowns herself. Well why is it then that everytime I look at her I feel like drowning myself instead, even a glimpse drives me insane. Her smile is cunning, she seems like a fox hatching a ploy to catch it’s prey, and don’t get me started on her laugh, a horrendous screech that makes me want to take an axe and split her head right open.
Unbelievable but True
Unbelievable, Neville and Hillary had split after all these years?
I noticed their shop was up for sale six months ago but like everyone else thought they were probably taking early retirement. I could not have been more wrong.
I have known them both since infant school. Childhood sweethearts if ever there were. Inseparable as teenagers, county ice dance champions four years in a row, their first love. They married in their mid-twenties then opened a Sportswear business on Castle Street that became a huge success. They bought a beautiful home on Grange Avenue and soon had two delightful children. The ideal couple became the ideal family.
It wasn’t until I saw Hilary’s brother in the pub the other night that I learned the truth.
Ray laughed, “Yes,” he said, “it’s true they have split but it’s a joke. They’ve gone to Canada to open an ice skating rink.”
Separating the sheep from the goats
Hello. Hardly a glorious exit was it? You split with your boyfriend after he was rude about your new pixie cut, your parents were unsympathetic, you tried and failed to cut your wrists in the park and then, having popped a couple of pills, you didn't notice the truck that couldn't stop in time.
Don't get me wrong, I am sympathetic. Your haircut is divine! But your behaviour in school was merely average. You once pulled the wings off a fly. And you only attended Bible classes for the Knickerbocker Glory afterwards.
Eternal damnation does seem harsh. But, on the other hand, we have people here who gave their lives to save others, their homes to feed the poor. There is bound to be some resentment if we are too lenient. Just wait a minute ...
Peter - what does the data say? How are we doing against our quota?
It could be any scruffy seafront café in any gloomy coastal town, but this is our place. From my vantage point of a torn button back chair, I stare across the bay. My heart pounds to the rhythm of every masthead that rises to glisten in the pastel sun then falls behind the icy shield of an autumn’s swell.
My eyes only depart this scene when the shrill from the little brass bell above the café door signals a new arrival, a bitter wind and ever colder memories.
I accept it’s foolish, I’ve endured the humiliation and looks from others, but still I wait for your return as promised. On the table sits a neglected banana split; your favourite. It has two spoons, but like yesterday, one won’t be needed.
They Go Together Like Bacon And Egg
“It’s that bacon and egg song. Turn it up”.
Robbie rolled his eyes, “No Mum, she’s singing ‘Thank you, next’. It’s about her exes”.
His Mum listened intently, “Who’s Malcolm?” she asked.
Robbie toyed with the idea of saying he didn’t know and hopefully ending the conversation there but he said, “You won’t know him. He was a rapper. He died from an overdose, that’s why she says he’s an angel.”
“He’s probably not going to heaven if he was doing drugs! Isn’t she engaged to that tall streak from SNL? The not very funny one with the bad dye job?”
Robbie was a bit surprised she knew that but then again she’d got herself a Twitter account even though she referred to it as ‘twittering’.
“His name’s Pete Davidson and she was but they’ve split up”
“He’s probably the bacon and she’s the egg!”
Robbie decided to say nothing.
If Yashoda Spoke of That Day
Little cowherds gather to tell me you have eaten mud. I am tickled but I feign anger.
You run in, shaking inky curls. The twinkle in your liquorice eyes says, I didn’t do it, Maiyya!
I draw you near. “Open up.”
Your lips are welded tight, humming giggles on my fingers. Close to giving in, I hear the faint kindling of conches. Iridescent lotus-scents mist into the air and your mouth splits open onto a chasm of infinite firmament, suns birthing incandescent, stars dying extinguished, earths expanding boundless to distant horizons made minuscule in vast, swirling universes as all that was, is and will be, implodes serene into one moment.
At night, you nestle, cherub breaths at my neck, your plump skin as fragrant as monsoon clouds, and I weep for calling you my child for you are not of my making but I, of yours.
Rules of the Bullet Catch
Keep still. Breathe slowly. Focus on the barrel and not the one who pulls the trigger, even though you still remember the softness of his lips.
Pretend not to notice the crowd holding their breath or how the air in the dome has shifted, drawing in on itself like the way it does in a tunnel when a train passes through.
Look straight ahead. Don't look up to see his beautiful wife on the trapeze, swinging like an axe above your heads.
Don't think about the bullet, how it will split the air without effort. Don't think about how errors can be made in the tiny space between millimetres or the pause between one breath and the next.
All around you there are shadows, still and large, but you've done this a thousand times before and it's always the one who pulls the trigger who could make you fall.
All the ways I didn't lose my virginity
I didn't give it away, a gift wrapped with tissue paper, ribbon-curled by the sharp edge of a scissor blade.
I didn't throw it in the trash like last night's takeout, cold and shrivelled and hard as bone.
I didn't hide it, a seed planted deep in the black earth until its shell split and grew and bloomed red and raw in the sun.
I didn't donate it, a few loose coins dropped in the outstretched palm of a guy on the street, a faceless guy, his hands gripping those shining coins tight.
I didn't lose it like keys down the back of a sofa, the cushions soft and suffocating as quicksand.
Still, I will keep it close. A part of me.
A secret never told.
A split in time
They were the marks of their time together. Their smiles and laughter and worries. Engraved in their sagging skin.
He offered to make tea. Coffee maker was hers. Her eyes stopped at the teacups. Placed together in the middle of the tray. His gift to her. A set of two. Each, half a heart. Their handles, the shape of swan, cast in gold. He liked the shape they made together.
Their cups were fixed. His, the one with a little chink at the base. Her’s, which wasn’t his.
"Keep these," his voice was soft.
He wiped them clean, and wrapped in his muslin scarf. The corners of her eyes crinkled. A little.
Splits were messy, she had heard.
They walked. One last time, together.
Those glass slippers...
She won’t find them.
I am a box.
A bit like a suggestion box. If someone is …
angry after an argument, or
upset over a split, or
irritated in an incident, or
disgruntled due to disagreement, or
concerned about a colleague's comments
… they write about it on a piece of paper and fold the paper in half. Then they deposit those feelings inside me.
They imagine that someone will come along, find out what they're feeling and do something to make them feel different.
I don't know if that will happen though.
I've become full. I can hear people complaining, saying indignantly to each other "Where are we supposed to deposit our troubles now?"
I wonder who empties me? I wonder when they're coming?
The Friday Freeloader
My colleagues and I would go to the pub most Friday lunchtimes. At exactly 2.28pm, my boss would say "Can I get anyone a drink?" As usual, he’d been standing at the back with his hands in his pockets for the last two hours, and knew he’d be able to avoid buying a round, because most of us were half-cut already and we now had two minutes left to get back to the office. It was the same story if we went to an Indian restaurant for lunch. At the end of the meal he'd be looking around to see the if the waiter was approaching with the bill, and as soon as the rest of us began to discuss how to split the cost, he’d develop a sudden urge to visit the Gents. I’ve never known a chicken dhansak go through a man so fast in my life.
The separation has actually taken place , at last!
We've split into two. No longer half of a whole. No longer a partner. No longer feeling suppressed. That was everything I hated.
I'm luxuriating on my own floor in my own new place with no one to answer to but myself. It's just what I wanted and somehow I managed it! Yes, great achievement.
All the ponificating for months. All the therapy sessions in that dark dingy room. It seemed to enhance my self-reflection and then actually added to my confusion.
He hadn't been a bad guy really, had he? So why had I found it so intolerable? It all seems a bit fuzzy now. Has my confusion unravelled. I have done the right thing.
Now I can do anything I want to. Actually I'm really wondering about this split, it doesn't feel so great after all. What shall I do?
Teenage Boys Have a Bit of Fun
A severed head propped on the counter with a chisel sticking from a split in the forehead ignited her anger. A tangle of limbs heaped in the middle of the floor; cardboard boxes and slashed clothing vied with eyes and joints for space. Empty hangars dangled from the ceiling, support ropes swung in the draft and electronic laughter echoed from the backroom.
With crossed fingers, she stepped inside but both feet landed on a mass of superglue, the overturned tub adhering to it. After slipping out of her flip-flops she leapt onto an empty tile.
A few steps later and she tripped over a lever. A click alerted her and as she gazed at the ceiling more body parts rained on her. Arms and legs and noses fell on to her shoulders and back as she raced to the rear workshop.
She sagged: her perfect marionettes were undamaged.
There's never finger prints in the dust
I take a photo. I am trying not to freak out. In a whatsapp message to Dom, I write: it wasn't me who turned it on!! (I include the happy ghost emoji).
Dom think it's dodgy electrics - split wiring or something. He suggests I unplug the lamp. I'm not convinced, there's a pattern...
The first time it came on by itself was the day after my Grandpa passed away. I thought it was a sign, maybe he was saying bye? The second time was when I heard David Bowie had died from liver cancer. And the third time was the morning when my best friend text to say she had bad news. Another miscarriage. I went into the office to dig out another sympathy card, and there it was - the lamp was dimly lighting up the corner of the room.
I ask Dom if he's free later.
I wait ...
A Matter of Taste
‘Not the service one expects.’ Oh dear. And we’re only on our starters. ‘Waiter, this steak is cremated. I requested rare.’ A gracious apology. ‘I’ll speak with Chef, sir’. ‘Hmph! We won’t be dining here again.’ I managed a weak smile. A new steak arrived, as blue as I was beginning to feel. The waiter lingered expectantly. He didn’t get as much as a nod. I smiled broadly at him. Relieved, he left. I believe the pivotal moment in our relationship arrived with the dessert board. I pleasantly dismissed the varied options and asked for a common banana split.
In Trying to Fit You, I lose Myself
I split myself in two for you. Now three. Four. I try out different personalities like a frantic consumer desperate to find the one that fits the mould of someone you will love.
Look here, I am your mistress: seductive and dangerous. Or here, innocent and bashful, gazing adoringly, full of admiration. I am independent, no, submissive. Needy. You want all of them. You want too much.
I am exhausted by this dance of indecision that transforms me daily. I long to be me again, but I’m not sure who I am anymore. And now, you claim, that I have a personality disorder and am too unstable. I guess I’ll take it. You must be able to fix some fissures with a label.
Split in time
You stand at the door, your arms crossed, your lips pouted. I don’t know how to help you or what to do? You don’t remember me, or my children, or that your son is a grown man. You think he’s still in school and your husband is alive. But none of that is true. Your split from reality must be terrible for you, living in the past as you are. I’m not selfish, but this is too hard. I’m left with you every day, as your son leaves for work and you spend the day threatening me with your walking stick and your ire; refusing to eat, refusing to take your coat off.
You stand every day at the front door, which I have to keep locked and tell me you want to go home. I wish you could, for both our sakes. Because I feel my sanity slithering away.
Just a Minute
I only looked away long enough to answer an email, but in that time he'd managed to throw himself head first down the slide and split his lip. His own stupid fault, but I'd be the one to get the blame when his mother got home. So we spent the afternoon pressing an ice pack to the bruised lip, practicing our story. Daddy was watching carefully, but he'd been a bad boy and tried to run, and that's when he fell. Yes, I thought, that was better than the slide story. It made me look more attentive. I pulled away the ice pack and made him practice it over and over again, until this final draft of events was firmly lodged in his mind, until I wondered whether he knew himself what was real and what wasn't.
How to survive as a fairytale princess
When your wicked stepmother gives you split peas, make pea soup. With garlic, herbs and spices, of course. Carrots, celery, leeks. Best olive oil; Cook won't tell. And perhaps the dregs of last night's above-stairs wine.
Princess Angelica isn't giving in. She can outwit her stepmother the Queen (Queen! money-grubber, common as muck, no better than she should be, mutters Cook). And soon Papa will return from the wars.
She has a plan, too, for the split peas and gravel the Queen has given her to separate. Gravel sinks like the proverbial stone. She skims the peas as they float.
She will share her soup with the kitchen boy. Beneath his rags and ashes he is beautiful. Maybe he's the exiled Prince Florizel.
When Papa comes back from the wars he'll realise what a cow he's married and give half his kingdom to Angelica and Florizel.
I'm In Control
Everyone says I can stop this, that we should end this. But all I need is for you to flash your gorgeous smile, feel the love and I'm here to stay.
And who are they to judge me? Judge us? They don't get us, you know, they don't see the real you, just the you that stole me from them. I'll bet they're jealous.
You can be clumsy sometimes, but it's endearing, honestly. And I just love those furtive moments together, hiding Germolene before a family visit. We couldn't hide your split eyebrow though, could we sweetheart. Mother actually asked if we needed help, as if I had done it. Retaliation? A ludicrous thought.
I'll admit you are intimidating, red-faced, deep-voiced, but love, they just don't understand. I love you and we will be together for a long time.
That does make you happy, yes?
There you go.
The window had been smashed, the wooden frame split; the stone floor glittered and crunched underfoot with debris. The old man was calm enough, considering the empty state of his stockroom. 'They musta come dahn the apples and pears well after everyone was gorn.'
Charlie hesitated, pen poised above his clipboard. 'The... what?'
'The stairs, guv.'
'Of course. And you trust your staff?'
'Not at all, mate. Dirty tea leaves, the lot of 'em.'
'You employ people you have no confidence in?'
'World's a dodgy place, innit.'
His right hand, half-stuffed in his pocket, was wrapped in a bandage. Charlie sighed.
'It is, isn't it?' Come with me, sir.'
You met at the Bier Keller; perched on a bar stool when you walked in. Blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders, eyes focused on yours. You ordered a bier, she ordered schnapps; you paid.
A little older, she raised the glass to her mouth, sipped clear spirit; lipstick traces on the glass. Legs crossed, her split skirt revealed an expanse of toned thigh. Her English better than your German, small talk first. You ordered another round; her hand stroked your knee. Actions came louder than words.
Her smile widened, eyes sparkled brighter in the darkness. Anticipation flowed through your veins, worries of the day evaporated. Your hand caressed hers; she linked her slender fingers through yours.
‘I have a room upstairs.’
Your eyes widened, a discreet nod, she slid off the stool and led you up the staircase.
Take the Road on the Left at the Split-the-Wind
Split-the-wind - left, Mum writes. Gran’s giving her directions to the crematorium. Mum puts down the phone, hugs me and my sister, we hug her back tight—glad she’s home again.
I imagine splitting the wind—standing in it, letting it all go round me, like Mum did when he raged and she waved me and sister to stay in our room, while he split her face open with his fists. Or, with the sharp knife Mum keeps down between her bed and the headboard. Or with the devil sharp horns of the quick-unpick like when Mum ripped up all his jeans to make us denim skirts.
Everyone said we shouldn’t go today. Mum says we’ll go, show face, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. She wants to see the end of him, see his ashes scattered to the wind—gone.
If anyone can split the wind it’s our Mum.
Returns Not Accepted
A bead of sweat ran hungrily down Felicity's spine. The walls of the changing room, the colour of neglected surgical bandages, were closing in, breathing in and out. Cornered by the suffocating lighting, she felt ungainly and out of place. Buttons strained in dissent on the front of the demure floral dress. The very centre of her protested, pushing against the seams.Outside, she was a limp shadow. Her ears, nose, eyebrows, lip, bore abandoned, lonely, crochet holes. Her hair: a Pantone 'Dreary Sepia'. A changeling in reverse.Inside, she was a fierce punk rocker with blue spiked hair and aggressive piercings. She worse tattoo sleeves and complicated boots.Yet further inside, lurked something else altogether.Her arms tingled with goose-bumps. She was a three-person Russian doll; a mirror split into a distorted tryptic. Felicity quickly stuffed the unwanted maternity dress into her drab handbag and exited the cubicle.
Mother told me how she once had a fight with her father's umbrella and the umbrella won. It ended up with her being gored by one of the spokes through her thumb. The black dye from the silk infected the wound and forever after she bore the result – a bent thumb and a split nail.
It was an ugly half-sized thumbnail and stood out against her other neat fingernails. Buffed, moons pushed back, and clear varnish applied.
However, this rough ridged nail taught me some of life's lessons:
Even though damage has been done, it was no deterrent to doing hard work.
Everything is not beautiful but can still be functional.
Beauty lies within.
And importantly, beware of old-fashioned black brollies.
Spongebob Says "No" To Splits
Tears-of-inability-to-cope-with-sorrow split my eye lids into twenty, as Pat elopes with her mother, into the consolatory realm. Pat is my favourite student; hence, I'm twice as concerned as she is. In the entirety of my so-far existence, I've been a court witness to splits, but not like this. Not this brutal. Not this family. Death has crowned herself Santa Claus' foil by flaunting her ability to split a couple in such an excruciatingly painful manner. In splitting manna, I unravel that death has no manners!
"Baby, I love you, baby" Luke says
"I love you too, baby" Rita says. Pat pukes
"Take care of the insurance" Luke says
"Calm down, baby, it's not influenza" Rita says
If only this rhyming of "baby" were to be applied to more "Celebrity Juiced" circumstances, perhaps, "baby" wouldn't have constituted such a lousy family split.
You don’t have feathers or fur. Why is your skin so plush? Your skin is like velour and I want to wear it. It isn’t a fad. It will never go out of style - my favourite outfit. It could drown me; it may smother me, but I will proudly wear it. Wear it out. Wear it in. Wear it inside out. I will wrap it around my coarse, chapped skin. It is weightless, downy, warm. Over time, I become brighter and softer, my sharp edges and skin scales dulled, forever sheltered by your silken chrysalis even as I split the cocoon and emerge.
Divide and Conquered
The way a banana skin peels open under pressure.
How wood, left uncared for, is prised apart by nature and time in the sun. Revealing gaps, widening imperfections.
Seemingly impenetrable metal tears open, leaving the shape of a delicate flower when a bullet passes through. What is believed to be strong has a proclivity to change when blindsided by something quick and irreversible.
New cells divide. Preprogrammed to follow their own course. Leaving behind what was once combined, taking enough of the shared experience for its own survival. They will divide and change again. Always taking something, leaving behind more. Losing what it was in order to be what it can.
How arteries in the body’s major pump rupture when it’s broken. Broken by breaking up. The worst separation, the most absolute division. Somehow it still functions during the most painful split.
The conscious uncoupling without consent of disparate lovers.
“I can’t let you do it, Kali.” my twin sister says.
What? I’m Rachel.
I open my mouth to say so, and she sticks a needle in my arm, pushing the plunger all the way down. Whatever I was going to say dies in my throat, and I fall to the floor. She gazes down at me impassively.
“I couldn’t wait for you to fall asleep this time.” she says. “Last time you woke up early and took my place, and I can’t let that happen again.”
Her face transforms, hardening and becoming more angular, and her eyes snap dangerously. I realize I’m not the only one with the split, because I just saw her change into someone else. I know I’m right, because in the next second, impossibly, a man’s rich baritone comes from her throat.
“Stupid Kaliope.” He says. “You should know you can’t get rid of us.”
He looks into her eyes, calls her by name, Dana, and asks if the banana split is all she needs.
She tingles with the implied promise.
He doesn't work regular shifts. Sometimes she sees him in the morning, sometimes in the early evening. He doesn't always work the drive-through, so sometimes she goes inside, asks for ketchup even if she didn't order fries.
"This isn't like the car salesman," Dana tells her sister on the phone. "You were right about that guy."
She hasn't told her sister the whole story about that guy, how she blew him in the showroom after hours, with the assurance the security cameras were turned off, as he leaned on the hood of a brand new Corvette, the most expensive car on the lot, with her crouching down in front of him.
"He isn't like that."
Hunched up and scratching his leg with his left hand, Jerry wrote his story rapidly in pencil with his right. Ideas flowed. He hoped that one hundred and fifty words would be enough to cram them in. It would be a first if he managed it.
Ellie sat on the settee singing 'Jingle Bells'. It was mid July. Ellie always sang when she was cold or it was raining. It was raining.
Jerry put Ellie and her singing in his story. He was pleased, it was all there and Ellie too, a bonus. He typed it up on the laptop and submitted it.
Two weeks later, Jerry got a call.
'Hello Jerry. It's Esperanza from Up Yours Fiction.'
'Oh my god.' said Jerry. 'Hello'
'We really loved your story but there was another with even more ideas. It was a split decision. We gave the prize to Ellie.'
The young clerk pushed back his glasses. He was respectful, but firm.
“I’m sorry sir, but there’s nobody of that name in our tax records. I need to find you before I can process a claim for welfare.”
The older man on the other side of the counter groaned. He rubbed his sweaty palms up and down his trousers that were shiny with wear and not nearly as clean as they used to be. If life hadn’t been bum enough making a living wearing a furry suit, now this indignity. How much worse could things get?
“I repeat. I am a retired actor. My professional name was Drooper, D-R-O-O-P-E-R. Is that plain enough for you?
The clerk looked at him strangely and stayed silent
“I was a Banana Split for chrissake. You know, the kids’ tv programme. Jeez, don’t you young folk get taught anything by your parents?”
At the Fortezza of Rethymno, midday sun hammers Venetian stone to gold, and my newly-minted migraine pulses with the cicadas' shriek.
George runs through astringent pines to the bastions. The gaps between battlements frame stunning views of hill, town and sea, perfect for selfies.
I know I should feel something.
This fortress is not so old, really. Not for Greece, certainly not for Crete. 16th Century. Not old enough to hear the ancients speak?
My scalp sizzles; I neglected to wear a hat.
Here, there's a pigeon, ripe-pomegranate breast split open. I want to go back. Home, not just to the hotel.
"Mummy!" George, hunched over capsized stone. "Millipedes." A dark, metallic glint erupts and writhes with life.
I don't want to look closer.
We exit via the Paleokastro. A busker plays jazz. His music vibrates through me, and I know it is beautiful. Everything will be all right.
“Let’s split everything. No need to be nasty.”
“I brought everything I owned. You carried one small bag of clothes.”
“That wasn’t kind. We have a lot more now.”
“Yeah, the money we owe for your, indulgences.”
“I’m not happy. I need more than you.”
“Your girlfriend isn’t enough? Or your pictures and films. that you call art?”
“We can talk about this without arguing.”
“I almost forgot that you call anything that I have to say an argument.”
“Don’t raise your voice!”
“You can leave with what you brought, a small bag of clothes. That’s a fair split.”
“I want to be sensible about this.”
“Don’t let the door hit you in the backside. Which is your best view, down the street and out of my life.”
But Please Do Try Again Later
”You’ve read hundreds of your short stories to me over the years, and I love them. You’ve always written things worth writing, and always done it in an articulate, provocative, entertaining style. For years! And now you’re reading me this incoherent blather?”
”But, I didn’t...”
”The only good thing I can say about the stories you just read to me is that you can recycle the paper.”
”You know that I’m hoping to be published, but I keep getting rejected, and, so...”
“That’s no reason to completely change your style and start writing pointless, incomprehensible garbage! You don’t even know what those editors want. Stop being such a cheapskate! I’ll even split the cost with you. Buy those magazines that keep rejecting your stories, so you can read them and figure out what they’re looking for.”
”What do you think I’ve just been reading to you?”
Can I get a discount off the price of liberty?
Born in captivity, the chain is the law. The chain is the command. Read not the bible, lest it fill you with rebellious thoughts of freedom. The chain is the law. The chain is the command. The Ten Commandments for you are two. Thou shalt obey your master lest the whip scar your back or the noose break your neck and secondly, the chain is the law, the chain is the command. You will eat just enough to work but not enough to dream. Dreams are the inspiration behind rebellion. The provocation to break the law.
My skin is a little darker, is that why I can’t hope? A little more than an animal, is that who I was meant to be? For a split second I allowed myself to dream, that’s why I ran but that’s why I’m dying, a bullet lodged in my back.
The serpent under't
If you repeat this, I’ll deny it.
You are probably a woman or in some way ‘diverse’. You aren't going to like this. Thing is, you think you're 'taking' power, forgetting it's because I let you have some. Enjoy.
My navy suits, always navy, are slick. They drip money. You notice my height; you look up to me. Your cowering invites a stoop: beneficent and humble. Laying my arm on your shoulder, you look surprised as I withdraw. But you like my apology even more. You tell Shona in Accounts you were wrong about me.
You won't see me slip. I dazzle with shimmering surface. But split me open, peel it back and you'd see. Look like th'innocent flower and all that.
One day, looking at you, I give you the promotion: gratitude. But sometimes you still want me to be in charge. Well, you know what? Me too.
I’d like, for once, to explain to the two dogs that both can play with the ball. That the eager cow dog, the woebegone freakishly large black Lab can share.
I throw that ball, Brigitte breaks after it as if chasing a wayward cow, Jake gives up with a look at me. I want to split the two dogs up, as the third dog agitates to go outside the fence, hunt out mice or gophers, her one ruling passion.
Molly, the quintessential hunting dog, who will chase a ball or stick but would rather trail after the local pheasants or dig out the local rodents. Her coat has that reddish-brown cast known as chocolate.
Jake sits near me with a doggy sigh, as Brigitte flashes by, a deliberate arch toss of her head sent Jake-ward. Molly looks toward the wheat field, trots toward the lilac bush to wait.
His face is mesmeric in the moonlight cutting through the split in the curtains, a work of art painted just for me. His golden eyelashes flicker, his mouth curves into a gentle smile and electricity pulses in my bones. My heart beats in time with the rise and fall of his chest as I kiss him on the cheek. Salt tingles my lips like ocean spray.
I stare at his wife, asleep where I should be, and the monster inside me strains at its leash harder than ever before. My gaze rests upon a stray pillow. How easy it would be to hold it over her face for a minute or two, then slip away. How simple to play the concerned neighbour, comforting a grieving widower. And from there, who knows?
I pick up the pillow and toy with it. My grip on the leash is slipping.
Dragons part 1
He advertised in the paper, so I hired him to split wood. I expected a brawny lumberjack in a red plaid shirt. And a beard. Maybe. With an axe.Three cord of wood takes a fair bit of splitting in my book, so when he told me it’d take just a couple of hours I suspected then he wasn’t the real deal.I’m not sure what powered the beast. It was green with cogs. The noises it breathed with its billows of steam reminded me of the old days at the station when the Edinburgh train snorted in. And out. Like a dragon.When the wood was stacked I said, “Coffee?”“I prefer tea,” he said. He held his cup (no mug thank you) delicately, thanked me for my cheque, left his card and drove away in his Alpha. The real deal.There’s a shiny axe by the woodpile.
How I Begin My Day
Each morning, I negotiate split surroundings.
Today, I was underwater. My wheelchair was stuck in sand alongside a reef. The fish and aquatic plants should have been soothing to watch, but I had to get to work.
I took a deep breath and connected my oxygen tank to the valves on each of the chair's two main wheels. The tyres expanded, releasing me from the sand's grip. I propelled myself toward a ramp.
At the top, I discarded my diving suit and entered a greenhouse. I reached up, plucked fruit from trees and spun my chair up the next slope.
I now struggled through a dense forest. The dim light and sense of peace were of no help as I bumped over tree roots and scraped my arms against bark.
I found the final ramp in a clearing. A sign announced 'You're Nearly There'. I paused and ate an apple.
The Right Path
Creaking upright and blinking his eye against the white sun, the wizened peasant lifted his gnarled stick and pointed down the stony track.
'Utopia? Round that bend there's a split in the path. Take the right fork past the olive tree. Go the other way and you'll regret it.' He turned back to his whittling.
Smiling in anticipation, the man took a sip from his canteen and limped on, his rotting bandage trailing from the stump where his foot had been. It left a zigzag pattern in the dust.
The sign hung from a branch, its faded "Utopia" pointing left. His eyes were drawn to lush pastures, rippling streams, and maidens. Glancing right he saw queues of cowed, patient souls.
'I thought he meant right, not right!'
Two steps. Crash! Lightning. His forever view now his flaming leg.
Old Nick grinned. 'Another one to me. I love gambling. Winning today!'
On Sunday afternoons, he takes to the undercliff armed with his toffee hammer to split open rocks and reveal petrified lives. He has an eye for finding stones with secrets, stones rounded like Millicent’s belly, domed and tight. Inside the rocks are ammonites, belemnites, even small ichthyosaurs. He returns damp and red-cheeked, drops a fustian sack of heavy limestone on the patterned carpet runner in the hall. Millicent hurries to greet him, panting out little gusts of stale air. She is so enormous he longs to take his hammer to her, to release the curled child from within, calcified and immobile. Too pale and still to survive.
Saved By The Bell
Summer mornings I’d roll out of my make shift bed from crashing downstairs on my auntie’s living room floor. My cousin would lava jump from sofa to sofa until he landed in his throne in front of the television.
Reaching into the treasure chest of Cheerio’s I’d search for the plastic trophy, only to realise my cousin had beaten me to it. We would shovel the cereal down our gobs plugged into the entertainment window.
9AM meant we were at Bayside High School. I’d always wonder how I’d meet Jessie Spano only to be saved by the bell.
Summer was always the season to look forward to, but as more seasons passed things changed. We left Bayside, Cheerio’s turned into coffee and we wouldn’t jump on sofas any more. Only sit.
I wish someone told me when the last day of summer was, now it’s a split memory.
For weeks she'd looked forward to Christmas, their first together. What would he give her? His choice would show how well he understood her and whether they were on the same wavelength.
Finally, the festival day dawned. She woke first, tiptoed downstairs and put up a breakfast tray: bucks fizz, croissants, fresh figs (from Harrods) and slivers of aged manchego. She made a cafetière of Italian coffee and retrieved her present for him: an expensive watch he'd admired six months ago.
Back upstairs, leaden daylight split through a crack in their curtains. He stirred and farted, 'What time is it?' he snapped.
'Seven,' she said.
'Shit, you bugger, why are you up so soon. Are you mad?'
'Sorry, you rest up, I'll see you later.'
Downstairs, she ate the little feast alone. Then, she wiped her fingers, opened her computer, logged on and downloaded a returns label for the watch.
A Thousand Words for Snow
Those first flakes of snow were a powderpuff kissing the buildings, paths dusted with sugar, small, grey birds landing in the shallow imprints of business shoes. Bright and sharp, this frozen moment splitting us, our time, clean in two. Before, and what came after.
That first snowfall erased the horizon. And still we stuck out our tongues, turning our innocent faces to the sky. Before, and what came after. Never mind. We saw only this frozen, perfect moment. Clouds in our mouths, no more than children in the playground, the clean taste of snowfall, our footprints forgotten.
No-one knew what we had already lost. It seemed we stood no more than a single misty breath, but when I looked down the powder gripped my knees. As it’s icy fingers encircled my throat, the city a fluttering zoetrope, it’s people were quiet, and still, and perfect.
I said something wrong…
I looked out of the kitchen window and thought of all those things I had promised to do in the garden this summer but somehow hadn’t managed to get around to.
I made myself a coffee. Granules, milk and hot water. The mug had a few chips around the lip but was serviceable.
On the table the newspaper headlines screamed at me. An assault on my eyes and senses. Why do they make the headlines so big and aggressive? The story remains the same even in Franchise font.
And so what if we had split up after all these years; surely it was up to us, our decision, no one else’s.
I looked out of the kitchen window again and wondered how things would change now – casting another look at the papers, a feeling of emptiness overwhelmed me. We were now never going to forget Yesterday.
With thanks to all the writers who have made this issue possible.A. V. Arsic, Abdul-Ahad Patel, Adele Evershed, Alistair Duff, Amanda Jones, Amy Moreno, Andrea Power, ann wuehler, Anne Summerfield, Arial Bold, Aruna Reddy, B.A. Ciccolella, Ben Metson, Bill Cox, Bradley Dobbing, Bronwen O'Donnell, C.W. Kinsey, Camilla Dietrich, Carol Leggatt, Caroline Tilley, caroline wood, Catherine Keyes, Cathy De'Freitas, Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, Ceri E, Charlie Bonkowsky, Christine Nedahl, Christopher M Drew, Clara Mok, Colin Alcock, D.W. Thomas, David Cook, Deanna Salser, Debbi Voisey, Debra Tracey, Donna Best, Donna Frances Thomson, Doris Winn, E.C. Andrew, Edel Williams, Ellen Kirkman, Emma Wilson, Epiphany Ferrell, F. E. Clark, Gail Everett, Grace Ward, Hannah Whiteoak, Helena Moore, Ian Rushton, Isabel Flynn, Izadora Santori, J.K Hannon, Javier Gómez, Jemma Morriss, Jenny Woodhouse, Jessica Andreatta, Joel Caldicott, John Cooper, John Harkin, John King, Joyce Bingham, Juliet Wilson, K E Olukoya, K. J. Watson, Kiira Rhosair, Kirby Michael Wright, Kirsty Holmes, Kristina Jackets, Krusha Sahjwani Malkani, Laura Besley, Les Pedrick, Linda Grierson-Irish, Lindz McLeod, Louise Mangos, Lucy Smith, Lynda Kiriby, Maggie Davies, Máıre, Malcolm Richardson, Mandira Pattnaik, Margaret Kiernan, Marlene Pitcher, Mary Francis, Melissa Kay, Michael Holmes, Michael Rumsey, Michelle Christophorou, Mitja Lovše, Nani, Neil James, Nic Hale, Nic Vine, Nicholas Popkey, Nick Bevan, Nick Edmunds, Philippa Hawley, Rashmi Singh, Roger Haydon, Roz Mascall, Ruth Brandt, Ruth Skrine, S.B. Borgersen, Sam Payne, Sean Hannan, Shammah Hove, Sheree Shatsky, Shirley Elizabeth, Solomon Oyedokun, Sophia Felsinger, Stephen Shirres, Sterling Warner, Steve Recchia, Steven John, Sue Partridge, Susan Conrad, Tarun, Tim Watts, Tom Stewart, Trasie Sands, Valentina D., Victoria Ifeolu
31st July 2019