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The Important Thing is Not What They Think of Me, But What I Think of Them
I'm glad to ask you to seal the letter, a small offering of power. You warm the wax and drip it in deepest red onto the envelope. It starts to harden straight away, a coagulating sheen forming. Your long fingers curl round the wooden handle of the brass seal and after a tiny tremor of hesitation you push down. The wax seeps out. You are mine.
I nod to indicate you may approach me. You rise, stately, smoothing your suit. You lift my hand and touch your lips down upon it, moustache brushing as a feather might. Scarcely have you looked so beautiful.
'Thank you,' you manage. You leave your hand in mine. I rub a spilled nub of wax on your finger, a little blood clot. I long to stamp my emblem into it.
'Good day Albert.'
You nod, bow to me and slowly remove your hand. 'Your Majesty.'
All That Remains
The little candles sputter, rivulets of wax trickling down. These are the only source of light in the vast, grey space now the sun has long since set. All is still, just faint clouds of breath emanating from between thin, dry lips. They hunch over their work, squinting at the pages with failing vision, hands cramped from hours spent creating the intricate patterns.
This image conjured as I admire the vibrant manuscripts in the cathedral library. The margins offer creative outbursts and common human complaints that are more curious and exquisite than the pages' illuminations. All that remains of lives lived long ago, echoing through the centuries.
After all these years the advertisement still came into her email box. It was sooooo tempting.
She'd used the product over a period of almost two years. But that was years ago. It certainly wasn't cheap and on becoming a pensioner she'd had to rethink her economies.
She always had the good fortune to have very good skin quality. Now in her seventies, it was till remarked upon that "Surely, No, she wasn't ....! But she was; she was closing in on her eighties now.
Beeswax had been the answer then and it would be the answer now. She carefully directed the advertisement into her "To Do" folder.
Just before the discount offer ran out she sent the order of. She relaxed back in her chair and dreamed of the difference it would surely make.
And that was how they found her. A smile on her face, the computer still running.
She's never late, twenty three minutes now.
The bar is pretty empty tonight, just a few regulars who I am now on nodding terms with.
Not my usual sort of place, no juke box, but this is where we decided, exactly half way, less than half an hour in good traffic. Still never seen anyone I recognise, maybe she has?
I'm on my second half now, need to slow down. A couple I vaguely recognise walk in and smile at me, my heart races. I play with the candle in the wine bottle in front of me, (very 1980's, I like it). Molten wax fizzes on my hand.
She hates Lemonade.
The word we agreed on four years, three months and two days ago.
It's over and I feel a mixture of nausea and relief as I stand up and blow out the flame...
Fleeing the Fire Terror
She brushed her hand along the flat aluminum panel which stood outside of her cave. It was the flattest piece of metal that she had ever seen, and she loved it. It was her only true memory of Before.
The warm glow of the nearby embers waned. Red light crept up along the horizon, evidence that the Fire Terror would soon rise and exact his punishment upon the creatures of the world. The last purpose of the embers was complete, as she lit her waxen candle before entering the cave.
She fled from the Fire Terror, fearing his blight would infect her flesh. Down she went, to the dirt floor at the bottom of her cave. Her candlelight refracted and reflected from long forgotten synthetic materials.
She cast her candle to the ground, creating perfect darkness. But she didn't mind. Her Magic Goggles were here, containing a fake Before.
He wanted a teddy bear, but they gave him crayons: “You’re going to be a great artist one day.” He scribbled, deliberately, on the walls, but they never took the crayons away.
He wanted a football. He got crayons again: “You’ll be famous, just like Grandfather Charles.” He half-melted the brown crayons on the hot water pipe, bending them into poopy shapes which he placed strategically around the house.
He wanted rollerskates. Crayons again: “It’s your destiny.” He stared at the tiny candles on his cake and wondered what you could do with a 64-pack of top-quality wax crayons. He experimented in the garden shed with a stove lighter. The crayons melted, wicking up into their paper packaging, exhilarating him, frightening him. He barely got out before the whole shed blazed.
“You naughty boy,” they said. “You want to end up in prison for arson like your bad grandad Ollie?”
Buttons and Pins
We watch as buds of yellow, green and blue sprout across the map. A whiff of ancient wax rises from the classroom floor. I hold my red pin out. Hot eyes pivot my way. The weak midday sun shivers through glass.
It’s a celebration of diversity, our teacher says. All our various backgrounds mingling into one beautiful kaleidoscope. Like the contents of my mother’s odd-button box, with which she blesses the uniforms of the kids from posh-school, dresses which later ignore her in the mall, shirts whose occupants never feel the swift dance of her fingers. Sometimes I burrow my hand in. Let the buttons whisper their truth against my skin.
My red pin pierces a barren land; shrieks its difference shriller than the recess bell. Until Rhea peels off her hair ribbon. Wraps one end around her pin, the other around mine. "There," she says, "now there’s a bridge."
Do You Dream in Colour?
It was a colourful world that surrounded me. Rainbow hues wherever I looked. I know that many found the intensity far too much for them and they shielded their eyes until they were allowed to depart. Not me though. I loved it.
When I first volunteered for this mission I was slightly worried about being shrunk and living in such a small and strange environment but, as soon as I arrived, I felt totally at home. Much of what I saw reminded me of my childhood and the imaginary worlds I'd played in then.
This was my second time in the wax crayoned universe of the giant colouring books where the dreams of sleepers were put on paper and became something more permanent.
She buried him under a patch of snowdrops, replanting the flowers carefully in the shape of a cross. Her guilty secret, her child, conceived in the heat of summer and stillborn in the heart of winter.
Her lover was married to another. There was no future there.
She wondered if anyone had guessed, if anyone would discover the truth that lay hidden in that neglected corner of the garden. The snowdrops with their texture of wax reminded her of her son's perfect face.
That Sunday the church was alive with candle flames. Candlemas would be the time she would remember all her life. A time of great loss when the earth was re-awakening, a time of death in the midst of teeming life.
We only went downtown for movies and new-to-us records at Dr. Disc. Downtown was dying. Deep-fried, spicy squid at Ly Hoa Tran was better. I cleaned the popcorn machine, you pressed your nose to the glass of the door, waiting. You loved pineapple chicken at 1:30 in the morning because they served it in a half-shell and the waiter spun it from the opposite side of the table, on the Lazy Susan.
I complained my writing assignment was boring. Seeing, I whined. Pass that sauce. What kind of a prompt is that?
Do the opposite, you said. Such rebellion. It hadn’t occurred to me to be as bold, as young as I was. Blind, we smiled.
It’s your chin I recognize first. In the photo in the newspaper. Same chin. New coffee-stained eyes, wine-stained cheeks, scabs picked clean away from raw puncture-red, wax skin. Beautiful rot, bloodshot body. George.
The process comforted me and offered a deep sense of satisfaction in my constructive creativity. The flakes of eco-soy wax were measured carefully in their containers; upmarket glass candleholders and pretty vintage teacups, and poured into a bowl set over boiling water. I poked and prodded the solid mess, watching it melt slowly into a sticky clump, until even that succumbed to the heat. Then I stuck the wicks onto the bases with a glue-gun, and chose the essential oils by smelling and combining them with fellow florals or citrus fragrances. Lavender and lilac. Grapefruit and lime. Dripping them slowly into the boiling liquid. Sometimes I added colours; pretty pastels and watched them swirl, then hand poured them carefully.
Lighting the candles at night made me happy and I inhaled their fragrance and watched the flickering flame and wicks burn down. Sighing, I had made it through another day.
Her Anniversary Gift
Iridescent wax puddled on the wood table.
The clock chimed midnight. Sarah wet the tips of two fingers in the Chardonnay and snuffed out the exposed wick. Smoke dissipated amidst the aroma of her famous short ribs and garlic vegetables.
Her hand fumbled for the light switch. Enveloped in anger she headed upstairs to take a shower.
The hot water swirled around her. She watched the droplets of water zigzag their way to the bottom. Ruminating over her husband, she shut the water off, reaching over for the plush towel. Wrapped in its comfort, she took her naked body and quickly dressed.
‘Yes. An intruder…’ Tears streamed down her face. ‘Hurry! I was in the shower. I found my husband. He's not moving!’ Hanging up the phone, she cringed at the sight of him.
‘Happy Anniversary, you cheating bastard. Do you really think I didn't know?’
The magician had a seizure before he could finish the first half the trick. The casino gave you and your wife an apology and the rest of your stay comped in exchange for your silence. Your wife had to sign the waiver of liability for you since your arms were stuck to their side, the position that the magician instructed you to stay in as you stood on stage.
As the magician brought the ring down your body, you felt your face, head, chest, and arms transmogrify to wax, not the trap door you expected to fall through as a part time, professional volunteer. In that moment, you missed choking on the smoke rising to cover your disappearance, then watching from beneath the stage the exchange that completed the trick.
How do we reverse this, your wife asks. You try to move your mouth but can't.
Waiting in Nantucket
The nighttime hours were good for whispering. My sister Mary and me under the quilt. Whispering of marrying our whaler boys, harpooning ourselves a house with silver candelabras.
Now Mary’s ripe to burst with her baby and I’m not far behind and we have whale wax candles bright enough to keep us stitching our quilts into the night. We spread our work over our knees and we sing to the north wind; blow the rain in rivulets between the cobbles, blow our bonnets, blow the windmills, blow sand but still the salty waters.
And in the summer we walk down to the wharf for news of ships or seamen washed up. We lay out our quilts in the dunes, seagulls eyeing their chances to snatch up our baby boys. But we hold them tight, breathing the sea air and pipe smoke our husband’s breathed sometime before us, somewhere far away.
Today I am dismantling my life. Breaking it wide open. I'm gonna say all those things that have been pushed down, choked back, hidden. I will blow out the candles without protecting the surface below and let my breath spray hot wax all over the lace tablecloth. This foundation made of egg shells will smash with honesty. There is no resilience. There is no more forgiveness. There is no other way out. "Make a wish!" he says with a forced grin. Closing my eyes I blow like gale force winds.
Afterwards the women told me it was because of the wax and wane of the moon. But of that night I remember nothing. I only know that each new moon there comes over me such pain in my belly and terrible fury in my mind that I have to run from the village to the fields and howl alone in my anguish.
But this time when I recovered my right mind my hands were torn and bloodstained, my face and mouth too. My mother found me alone and bewildered and covering me with her shawl hurried me away home. Later that day Old Michael complained of a missing ewe.
I was lucky. The women stood between me and the baying of the mob who would have had my blood for that night’s unknowing work. Heaven help me when the time of the moon comes round again.
Wax Works - that’s what it said on the sign. The bleak exterior and blacked out windows gave no clues as to what was inside. Would I see misshapen caricatures of the famous and the infamous or an array of scented candles for sale? A present to take home to an unloved one to say sorry. An artless souvenir of a deeply dull winter’s day spent alone by the ocean. Driven away from the water’s edge by wind and rain.
A bell rang as I ventured through the door. But no one came to see that it was me. I heard an assortment of voices attended by softly shifting shadows. Abruptly I was aware how hot it was – how very hot I was.
Looking down I realised my feet were missing and I was somewhat unexpectedly at least a foot shorter than when I came in.
The day so far has been sedated. Martine thought she’d rather do it in her room rather than in the bathroom, for the bathroom seemed to evoke more drama.
Surfing the net, Martine does not remember what exactly made type “Women headshave stories”. Well, she always had a sort of fascination for those.
It’s not that she likes to expect some sort of trauma, but she somewhat felt that she might have one herself, at some point in her life, a simple self-shave, not imaginably, (hopefully not) as a tragedy sequel but probably as a response to some existential turmoil; she knows she prone to that.
The thing is, she agrees (virtually with those who’ve done it) that it would feel good. Why though? Just the feeling of being lighter, she thought, burden free…
But What would the alternative be for guys? Wax…?
Too much product in his hair. You know the type, think they're God's gift. He thought I was the ugliest thing he'd ever seen.
He turns me inside out. Insidious darkness creeps, rage disfigures, and I deserve this hatred, this face.
Hiding in top-floor toilets, blunt scissors scraped over arms. Running home, sharp kitchen knives sliced over arms.
Took a gun to school. Took a blade in my backpack. Used my bloodied bare fists. Slow poison administered with a smile. Let me count the ways...
But there's just a year to go, I can do this right?
I pass you in the street. You don't recognise me. I stab you in the heart. You don't wear wax in your hair anymore.
I pass you in the street. You recognise me and smile. I walk on by. You don't wear wax in your hair anymore and I am not your victim.
Grandpa never cursed. His only pseudo-swearword was, “Beeswax!” and it sufficed in all situations. Lost his wallet: “Beeswax!” Lost his finger in a shooting: “Beeswax!” Lost his wife: “Beeswax!” He was a policeman. Saw people get killed. Saw people kill. Killed. “Beeswax!”
I read an article on beeswax in one of the magazines they allow us here. Apparently, it never goes bad – they even found some in Egyptian tombs, thousands of years old.
I often think of Grandpa when I’m in this cell. When everything I’ve seen and done suffocates me. He was a God-fearing man. He never went bad as many cops do. Like I did.
The article said beeswax has the ability to heal, protect, polish…
I wish Grandpa was still here. Even if he had to see me like this. “Beeswax!” It may be all I need.
Renee inserted another photograph in the frame. The photos all looked the same, except the one at the back, which came from a booth in a travelling fairground when she was twenty-one. Its cheap paper was now warped and discoloured.
Thirty-five years, two husbands and three children later, she still looked young, having cheated on both husbands, neglected her children, drunk to excess, smoked anything that would light and seduced other people’s husbands.
The wife of the latest found Renee’s number in his phone, tracked down Ms. Gray’s address, and broke in while the lovers were meeting elsewhere. After shredding Renee’s wardrobe, she broke every picture frame and burned the photographs in the kitchen sink.
Doreen Gray was undressing when the face in the hotel mirror began to age. It blurred and drooped like melting candle wax. Renee screamed and screamed until her life caught up with her and terminated.
The Dust of You
I take up a soft cloth and some antibacterial spray, and clean away the dirt of you, the dust of you, the dregs of what you’ve left behind.
I wipe along surfaces, down the sides of furniture. I scrub around the edges of rooms, where long-gathered fluff puffs away from me on invisible currents of air.
The chemical citrus smell burns the inside of my nostrils and irritates my eyes, but I spray and spray.
When you were here, you laughed at my lack of domesticity.
‘It’s not your strong point,’ you’d say.
I wish you could see me now, vacuuming carpets, wiping skirting boards, washing down the paintwork on doors which still carry your fingerprints. I wax wooden surfaces, smooth smears from window panes, fall to my knees to scrub away the muddy outlines left by the soles of your boots.
I wipe away; swiping away thoughts of you.
"Why are you burning father's will?"
"I'm just trying to soften the sealing wax so I can open it."
"Okay, so why are you opening father's will?"
"Because I think it proves his property now belongs to me."
"But you know it was mother's wish it should pass to the first born regardless of gender."
"But masculine primogeniture has been the rule here for centuries. Meaning I own this house and all the surrounding land."
Holding the lit match under the envelope, he glared defiantly at his elder sister.
Shocked by the rapid combustion of the parchment, he dropped it and watched horrified as the dusty Persian rug instantly blazed and relayed the fire to the bookcase.
The insurers eventually agreed to repair the building damage. The modern legal system, however, was unsympathetic and left the Earl with nothing but his title.
Mornings on St Jude's
Sand flings, like scattering ants, to bite the back of a boy crouched over. The sun, just above that point of casting a path to shore, has begun scatterings of its own: piercings tinkle the water. Light as sound: the boy imagines he hears it. Pauses. He returns to waxing his board in stripes, line after line: an invisible zebra. When he is done he looks at the day’s offerings.
The Ocean giveth and the Ocean taketh away.
The night tide’s drift line. Back to the wrack line. For good measure, he scans the breakers. Seagrass and driftwood, condoms and bottle tops, yet three quarters of leg is yet to wash up.
Useless as a Wax Penny on a Summer's Day
The one thing life’s taught me in this short, at times shambolic existence is that all too often desire is negligible and or even ephemeral, with nothing left over or worth saving to bank on. Ogling just about anywhere, I’m sure gets me nowhere.
Make no mistake: not all dreams are as useless as a wax penny on a summer’s day, sliding like butter on a blistering sidewalk, and not everything in this life wished for is bad for you- take good health, an easy sense of rhythm and cool.
Hang on to whatever fantasies you’ve cooked up this week: a little racing car zipping through mountain curves on the isle of Capri; the Aurora Borealis on a cusp of the moon; a turbulence-free glider flight over what’s left of the glaciers; your own restaurant… love, peace, happiness and a good seat on the bus.
Why ask for anything less?
I paid a crone from the village to show me how to do it.
That night, alone in the chapel, I lit candles, knelt before the altar. I held a cup; in fell the wax, drip by drip, the chill of the stone floor in my knees.
Slow, slow, the candles burned down. The moon rose into the stained glass face of Saint Ambrose. He watched me tip the collected wax into my palm. Cool, but still soft.
I began to mould with fingers and thumbs, forming limbs and a head. With my fingernail, I scratched his initials into the torso.
Rose, extinguished the candles, proceeded unseen to the warming house. By the fire, with the poker, I impaled it, thrust it into the flames, watched it consumed by the heat.
Two days would see the election of the new abbot.
I would not be beaten by a dead man.
The death mask intrigues me most. My fingers gently touch the wax face, serene and peaceful, as if death just crept in and snatched life away as the owner slept.
It was discovered in a box in the attic of a derelict house which it is being cleared for demolition. One of the workmen has brought it to my office, knowing my unusual love of all things death.
The box also contained sepia images which look like Victorian postmortem photographs. Babes-in-arms held by shocked and grieving parents. Siblings moving as far away as possible from death. Adults in unnatural poses on chairs, flowers laid upon lifeless laps.
People who were once loved, kept to be reminded of but long since hidden away in dusty boxes.
Packing them slowly back into their boxes, I cry a few tears. How many years since someone cried for them I wonder.
The Life of the Party Was Buried Alive
The carnival carried on without sense of time or season. Magdalena weaved her way through the crowds with her eyes fixed on the ground, a steady vibration pulsing beneath the soles of her worn shoes. Nobody else seemed to feel it. She found an empty picnic area situated behind two vendor stands, one selling waxy candied apples and caramel corn, the other selling shaved ice. She sat down at one of the plastic tables, artificial sunlight beating down on her from a high ceiling programmed to look like the sky. She wondered if the giant machine underground (the one whose heartbeat reverberated through her soles) ever felt trapped beneath the weight of the carnival. She wondered if the machine was hoping someone would dig them up. Somebody laughed, not far from Magdalena. And somewhere far beneath her, a giant machine toiled on, wondering if anyone knew they had a heart.
Leave a Tender Moment Alone
It’s easy to forget the details on a night like this.
I concentrate on the gentleness of the air on my skin, the smooth metal of his car against the backs of my legs, the sky so clear it invades all five senses. And the moon--
Matt lets go of my hand, interrupting my thoughts.
He glances up when he notices I’m looking, bewilderment in his eyes.
“Sorry, let me just…” He quickly wipes his hand on his pant leg, then reclaims mine.
It’s still sweaty.
I turn away from him, trying to refocus.
“This is called a ‘wax moon’.”
I look at the moon-- a waning gibbous, then at him, “A ‘wax moon’?”
He stares ahead, “Yeah, it means that the moon is getting bigger; it grows from right to left, or maybe it’s left--”
“Can you stop talking?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah-- sorry.”
He wipes his hand again.
He fancied himself a poet, all noir with hats and sandals and such. Only spoke when spoken to so that he could make his pat answers sound spontaneous. As if on command he could wax rhapsodic or pluck the ideal simile from thin air. Used to slip crumpled pieces of paper with his extemporized verses into strangers’ pockets. The school paper ran his poems often. Titles like ‘Paean For Leon’ or ‘Rhythmicity’ or some other pretentions. Then he disappeared. Until this week. The poster said he was signing books and something with the word laureate.
The night before
Snow, falls gently on this small town in Vermont.
Outside, a picture perfect of a scenery in autumn, with stunning shades of colour trees,
Ahead, in the distance, a white crust of frost showing on the lawns, a dog and a man walking through a narrow path, leding him to a still lake not quite frozen, where a family of ducks were noicily quaking.
A big red sun was just desappearing on the horizon, and fragments of a mixture of pink and dark clouds were slowly darkening the sky, the moon in it's waxing state clearly visible.
Down broke, with a low sunsrise the early sun turned the snow on the mountains, a gentle pink ,
the bitter cold wind blowing the freshley fallen snow that had settled on the ground.
29 March 2039
At least once in their lifetime, on National Liberation Day, all Native Brits were expected to make the pilgrimage to Westminster Hall.
Mary followed the line of Citizens shuffling towards the catafalque where the dead Premier lay. Muted chatter faded into silence as they reached the coffin. In his trademark round glasses, three-piece suit and vaguely Edwardian shirt collar, He was instantly recognisable. The embalmers had done a good job. But for the waxy pallor of His face He might have been alive.
Mary tried to maintain an appropriately reverent expression as she passed, and inclined her head as required. But a giggle escaped her. She disguised it as a sob. She had remembered a long ago school trip to the Soviet Union when they had been taken to the mausoleum in Red Square.
Only the absence of a beard and receding hair made the difference between Rees-Mogg and Lenin.
The candle felt smooth and cold in the sculptor's hands. He took his knife and began carving. He held the pillar in his left hand, striking off chips of wax with his right. A face began to emerge.
A familiar face.
His movements quickened, carving ferociously. The light from the late afternoon sunshine streamed into the workshop at an angle, shining in his eyes as he scrutinised the face.
There was no mistaking the resemblance of the finished piece, although it was a crude effigy with defects; the nose was too large, the eyes too small, the mouth too wide.
But it was Mother.
He ran the knife blade along the wick on top of her head, straightening it. He lit a match, fizzing sulphur in the darkening room. He took the flame to his mother's hair and prepared to watch as her face slowly melted away.
Whatsoever is desirous to thine heart
Mary took the first of the needles and pressed it slowly through the glossy wax.
“Ensure it passes through the wick.” Elizabeth whispered, handing her sister the second pin. “He will sure come back to thee, but only if they both pass through.”
With a shaking hand, Mary pressed the second pin through the candle, fearful of the hot liquid touching her fingers. “It’s sure to work?”
“Aye.” Elizabeth nodded. “By the time the candle burns down to the pins, John will come home.”
Mary looked at the runnels of wax and felt a twisting in her stomach. If Elizabeth was certain, there was little harm in trying. Her sweetheart had not yet returned from his voyage. From the window she could see the cusp of the sea, and smell its salty tang. She would hear his boots in the yard. His lips on hers. His knock at the door.
Some routines are meant to die
His name was Dave or ‘Dave with the old wax jacket’. Dave was a rotund barrel of a man, with a smell wafting around him of wet dog hair that permeated the air around him, lingering long after he departed.
Dave was well known in the village, his routine never faltering, whatever the season. He always collected his paper at 8.35 trundling along with an old gnarled stick, greeting the school children he passed. Dave would also be round at 3.35, collecting his packet of tobacco and giving sweets to those returning children with yellow tinged hands.
Dave lived across from the football field, his ground floor flat had net curtains, darkened by their absorption of the black condensation. It was those that he was peeking out of as the flashing blue lights came towards him and Dave would forever more be known as ‘Dave the Pervert’.
“I made a four-year-old friend in the supermarket today. I played with him, bought him chocolate. He was so happy.”
I want to say that about sixteen people kill themselves each day in this country. Okay…? You’d say. Exactly, I’d reply.
We are eating spaghetti with vinegar - something that was supposed to be wine. We are sitting in your balcony, laden with potted plants and fairy lights. The flame flickers at the center of the table. The wax melts, you say with passion and warmth, I say with boredom.
“You look handsome in this light.”
You look like someone I would fuck tonight. What! You’d say. What? I’d reply.
“Well, you look divine.”
“No, I don’t,” you say. No, you don’t.
“Come on, you look beautiful.”
You blush. I smile. The wax melts because it has nothing better to do.
Six Dead Fish
Six dead fish was where it started. Johnson read reports in a monotone, as I sat in the back row, imagining. Were they silver? Scales sewn in neat rows, marbled eyes staring? Were they stacked up, smaller than pencils? Or lolling on some slab, bloated and grey?
Johnson was on stats now. I tuned out, watching the neck of the woman in front of me. It was long, and the skin was white. Like virgin snow. She twitched, and looked slightly over her shoulder, as if she could feel me on her.
The guy next to me waggled a thick finger in his ear and examined a yellow lump of wax.
Johnson paused, scratching his belly as he searched for the next slide. I thought about making myself die, in this stuffy lecture theatre, right now. Leave all the fishy, disgusting bullshit and just die. But I couldn't.
The loose shack could hardly remain upright by the mounting force of the blizzards howling wind, through a creaking window the misdirected bystander could see a faint light illuminating the interior. The bystander struggled through the crunching snow and howling wind towards the shacks entrance, hoping for a release from the terrible storm. As she struggled to close the meager door, a flurry of frost and howl marked her entrance.
The shack’s interior was just dilapidated as its exterior, broken shelves with outdated references, a ruffled cot sat adjacent to collapsed fireplace and in the center of the space sat a lit candle dripping second hand wax onto a warped wood table. The bystander pounced on the source of heat, tearing off her gloves and scarf, embracing the faint flame, letting it freely roam and explore her fragile frame, melting away the solid form demanded by the oppressive cold.
“Are you listening to me boy? English teacher’s voice thunders.
Boy- in -question looks up, the thunder barely penetrating but pensive thoughts broken.
Teacher thunders on, “Daydreaming! Nothing between your ears, eh boy?”
Boy -in -question furrows his brow, considers a suitable, risk-free response. Hard to do though when Boy- in- question is still unhooking Jennifer Bailey’s bra strap with one hand whilst cupping her soft breast in the other.
Daydreaming? You bet. So much more fun than adjectives, nouns or verbs although surely “beautiful,” “breast” and “cupping” are more than adequate examples, are they not?
“Did you hear me, boy?” Teacher’s voice muffled. Fuzzy.
Boy-in-question stares back, his dream hand still breastcupping. Breastcupping? A new verb?
“Is there anything between your ears, boy? Hm?”
Boy- in -question looks back, blankly, straining to hear.
“Just wax,” says Boy- in- question. “ Just wax. Sir.”
Little pieces of solidified wax, all that was left of the candles whose flames had danced with them as they swayed together casting shadows as elusive as the whispering unease she sensed developing around them.
A quiet evening in for a change he had suggested. Excited, she prepared a delicious meal by candlelight, their favourite music adding to the ambiance, but he’d hardly eaten and seemed distracted. Maybe he was going to propose she had thought.
But no, he had said he was leaving.
She wept. She loved him.
He cried in anguish. He couldn’t saddle her with a cripple, which is where his recent diagnosis would lead him.
Talking long into the night she drew on her inner strength and slowly convinced him that together they could build a life based on love and support.
As dawn broke he had said ‘yes’ when she asked him to marry her.
When he went downstairs for another can of beer, she groped under her pillow for the small wax figure. She had taken the pink candle from the kitchen drawer, where it was kept in case of a power cut, and placed it by the radiator. When it was pliable enough, she'd mixed in some of his whiskers, salvaged from the basin, a few hairs from his comb and some nail parings from his bedroom floor and shaped the pink blob into roughly human shape, etching a face, hands and feet with a matchstick.
She pressed her thumbnail into the figure's foot and was rewarded with a cry of pain and a string of swearwords from downstairs.
“Are you OK, Grandpa?” she called.
“Fine – just stubbed my toe on the table leg.”
She smiled. Tomorrow, if he came to her room again, she would try the darning needle.
The organ hums a repetitive tune, metallic, incrusted with the age-oldness of the keys.
The church is stuffy, reeking of incense and hypocrisy and Hector feels sweat gliding down his spine under his choir boy outfit.
Up there on the altar, Father William preaches, surrounded with candles. Hard pale sticks dripping slimy wax.
His voice is warm, his eyes kind. Not cold and threatening like that night, when he’d gripped his arm and made him swear to this merciful god, not to ever tell.
Eyes Meet Eyes
Her hands run down my back, leaving my skin tingling with excitement and fear. She knows exactly how to play me, how to get me where she needs me.
"So," -her voice makes every hair on my body stand up- "you wanted to talk?"
My head feels dizzy at those words. I can't confront her. But it's time. We both know it. We both feel it.
Eyes meet eyes. That's how it all started. In that stupid train down in Kandy, Sri Lanka. I instantly fell in love. She instantly trusted me. But now my eyes meet my own in the mirror. It's the dreadful day, the one where she'll go back to her own continent, and I'll stay behind. I put some wax in my handpalms and ruffle through my hair.
"Maybe you could stay. Here. With me."
My eyes meet hers. That's how it all starts. Again.
‘Is that an Australian hat?’
I looked up from browsing the bookshelf. Stooped, grey-beard, shabby coat. And on his head, a Kufi.
‘No, Canadian. It’s a Tilley.’
‘Oh, I thought it looked Australian.’
I was about to wax lyrical on the virtues of the Tilley but he changed tack.
‘They’ve sent me all over the world, you know. Mostly killing people. Sometimes it takes a while.’ A pause. ‘You have to wait for the right moment… I’ve killed a lot of people.’
I tried changing the subject. ‘What does MN mean?’ pointing to the badge on his lapel.
He looked down.
‘That’s for Merchant Navy… I killed a lot of people back then. My father taught me. From the age of four. But never women, you understand. I know it’s not a good thing to have done.’
And then he looked up, grey eyes twinkling, ‘But I did enjoy it.’
“Oh, I don’t believe it. That looks hideous, all blue and plastic. Mr Wax would turn in his grave. It used to be his pride and joy.” Alexia said to Millie in the cottage gardens.
“What do you mean?”
“I came here on holidays when I was ten. This place was full of greenery and that in front of us was a circle of aromatic scents and glorious colour.”
Millie sighed. “Lucky you. Wish I’d spent my childhood holidays here.”
“Mr Wax took care of gardening back then. He made two big hands that moved across the flowers and herbs that created the face and numbers.”
Alexia grimaced. "Not always. He'd cuff us round the ears if he caught us stepping too close to his floral clock."
She dips her finger into the warm wax of the tea light, her skin tautening where it dries. Keeping her eyes on the flame, she can feel him wondering at her silence. She thinks of all the candles that must be burning down at this very moment, not just at their table but in restaurants, homes, churches, all over the world. Countless candles, talked over, prayed over, slowly giving themselves as fuel to light a million scenes. He loves them.
She thinks it all begins with a pretty flame but too soon what you’re left with is cooling sludge, getting harder by the second. She pinches the wick, delighting in the brief sting of snuffing out the flickering. Eyeing the wild curlicues of smoke, she knows exactly what to say.
Every time the sun comes up, I'm in trouble.
The Old Gold coal bar. Again. Chewing on beermats and sucking glass. Fella offered me outside but there's no rough-housing these days, not since the doctor spoke. Gave him my wallet.
Barman tried to take my keys. Like every Tom and Dick who drinks don't keep a spare in the sun visor. Ain't no police on the fifty-seven this time of night anyways. Not with downtown like it is.
Mary says I'm burning both ends. Like I'm one of them fellas shaves before work and ties a tie. I tell her i ain't had no wax since Brad left. God rest his soul.
Too tired to run a tap to quench my thirst. Couple of Aspirin'll work with the curtains and kill the sun off. I ain't in no more trouble than usual anyway.
Mary ain't in the bed.
Drip, drip, drip.
The coloured wax sunk into the cake's fresh cream. The nine lights glowed and flickered in the dark, providing only a sliver of light. On the floor was a corpse. A mother's corpse. Her eyes were wide open with confusion and terror.
The boy sat at the table, swinging his legs. He dug into the cake with his hands and stuffed it into his mouth eagerly. Cream smeared onto his chin.
"Yum," he said happily, licking his lips. "Mummy's cakes are always the best."
A kitchen knife lay on the chair next to him. The blood flowed down its blade and onto the pristine white carpet.
Drip, drip, drip.
He put the "leave me alone" mask on his eyes, stuffed his ears with earplugs and tried to sleep. It is hard to sleep on time in the night when you have been sleeping the whole day. But he cared about no such argument, especially not from a roommate who liked to read in candlelight.
Sounds started to fade and he felt calm enough to fall asleep. Then he heard the yellow wax bubbling in his ears. Almost boiling. The earplugs melted in the wax. He tried to calm his head to stop the wax from heating. But it was useless. When he finally realised that the temperature was low, and almost soothing, he put his finger into his ears and got burned by the flicker of the candlelight.
Cheryl sits silently listening to herself moaning in the next room. She gulps zinfandel and considers the nature of time.
Earlier, she had heard a familiar humming in the kitchen and, needing a re-fill anyway, paused Thor IV, and went to investigate. She found herself with a mop and a bucket and a smile. Their eyes met. She put a finger to her lips and shushed. Then went back to work. Cheryl returned to the parlor in a blank terror. Mr. Hemsworth would have to wait.
Joel came home. She heard him mount the back steps, enter, slip, and land hard. She heard him get up, curse bitterly and hit her more violently then usual. She heard the unmistakable snap of ribs breaking, and later, the sound of teeth skittering across a newly polished floor.
She gulps again nervously and scratches “floor wax” off her shopping list.
The moaning stops.
Four sledges set out across the frozen lake that night. On one, men hunched in thin coats glanced repeatedly over their shoulders into the darkness, their ankles raw, their whips stinging the dogs into ever greater effort. On a second, a sleepy driver muttered while, behind, a couple lay under a great fur rug, still, stiff, their faces like wax, staring at the sharp cold heavens, the woman’s bare arm dangling, her chain bracelet bobbing across the rough crystals of the lake surface. On a third, a family party, swathed in scarves, bells jingling from their jokey hats, sang carols to the starry night. On the last sat only a tiny child, face set in fear, its freezing fingers clutching the reins in wild, brave determination.
One sledge reached the farther shore.
The flickering glow did little but make a hundred shimmering shadows of slivers of matchsticks. It had been so hard to light, a bigger struggle to find; the light was too pitiful to illuminate the contents of the cupboard now strewn across the kitchen lino.
It had been Geoffrey's department making things right. He would know where the fuse box was; get out his battered toolbox make the light reappear, afterwards he would have made the telly channels return now they had been consumed by static since last months storm, and then maybe fix the lavatory flush.
And all the while he'd have whistled badly, but all she could hear now was the constant beat in the sink from the tap he wasn't here to repair.
Her falling tears were silent though, instead rolling like the melted wax down the candle. Her light had gone, the candle would soon follow.
He wanted to wax poetically about his job at the party, but he never reached the celebration.
Sure, he went home to prepare himself for the reception, yet he had no clue something was off in his apartment.
After he washed himself, he made some tea on his old stove. While he drank the brew, he remembered he forgot to check his mail.
As he approached the letterbox, he heard a sound. He didn't care about that, he wished to see the post sent to him.
The tone didn't stop, he noticed. He tried to locate the source of this, though he gave up soon.
Consequently, he sat on the couch. There, he saw the cigarettes, so he took one. While he lit that up, he began to smell something.
The flames engulfed him.
His abode was burning with the heat of his wife’s anger. She stopped him at the entrance.
"Your days go in penance, at the mountain top. You are unavailable to us."
Right. His boys Ganesha and Muruga were a handful.
"I detest your unkempt hair, coat of ash and third eye," she repeated her father’s words.
"..you knew this before marrying me."
"I was blinded by your valor and will.” Was it regret?
He didn’t defend. Separation was as real as their heavenly union. After all this time it pained him to be away from his Shakthi.
He waited with a broken heart and came to when he overheard his wife waxing eloquent of his powers.
"Yes; he is not perfect, not the ideal husband....a wanderer, has a quick temper. But he swallowed the poison for the world. He is the Eesha, Neelakanta, Rudra, my Shiva."
She's been there for me quite a few times.Like when the power went out, we played an old card game together.The many times I've been sore and needed a warm bath, she was by my side.Her smell makes me smile, as corny as that sounds.Even now, as she begins to fade away, she glows, and warms the air.Soon I'll have to snuff her out, however, and throw her to the bin.I'll just have to buy another vanilla bee's wax candle when I next go shopping.
Much ado about nothing
My bubbly, effervescent pre-teen disappeared into her cave. She wasn’t talking. Not listening. No replies to anything I asked. All the warnings signs suggested something was wrong. Seriously wrong.
Was it puberty? Issues with friendship? Is she missing her dead mother?
I chatted with parents at school gates. No rumours there. Stalked the executive Dads and the Yummy-Mummies online.
Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Tons of posts. But nothing that would tell me what their kids were doing to my little angel.
I grilled the teacher. She nodded sympathetically. Something definitely off with my princess, she agreed.
Finally, I dragged her to the doctor for a psych referral.
Doctor turned her face left and right. Checked her eyes and mouth and ears while I drummed my fingers on the table.
Give me the recommendation already! I wanted to yell.
Smiling, he sat back in his chair. “It’s a simple case of ear-wax.”
A full moon face cradled by a hand, propped by an elbow that rested on the table next to her coffee, listened to him. Intently. He loved it, loved her. Lips pressed into a listening pout between two full cheeks, between the two halves of her moon face, pulled like magnets at his own. Kiss them said his brain, said an ache, said his eyes. He sipped from his coffee and looked around. He wasn't a public kisser. It was a busy time in the cafe. "You're not drinking your coffee," he whispered. She only looked. Gave him the same face. He touched her knee beneath the table and wondered if her feelings for him waxed and waned.
“Do you like her the best?” asked a woman walking by with her coffee. “So clever of the place to sit mannequins at tables so we loners didn’t feel so alone.”
Like wax, it fell apathetically from the arm. Failing to build any sort of momentum, it seemed to perch on the crest of the skin like a teen toeing the edge of a curb. There are many things that could have been thought of at the time but what came to mind was how vulnerable the scene appeared; the heart of everything known as safe since birth suddenly seemed no more than a husk, frail and watery. I was rooted. A bystander.Invisible. I held her nonetheless, trying to muster words, any words that might encompass the situation while simultaneously relieving her of the weights. She said to tell me she was sorry and I realised, as fluidly as she had forgotten me, that that was something shared; we were both outside of this, looking in and wondering. I then made us tea with milk and no sugar.
Anna is a feminist
She doesn't wax, shave or pluck. Says it's not feminist. Says she hasn't internalized misogyny and wants to destroy the patriarchy with her pubes. We laughed at that, pubes being like a secret super power.
I want to be a feminist, thing is though I'm well hairy. It's an ethnic thing I said. She said that was shit, said I couldn't be a feminist like her if I waxed.
She's a mate yeah, but I dunno, seems I can only be a feminist if I'm like her and I'm not. So does that mean it was ok to cop off with him or not ? You know sisterhood, girl power an' all. I liked that he liked my legs, is that bad ? Hasn't seen my pubes, might destroy him if he's patriarchy. Would I be feminist then ?
Hollow eyed it yawns at me, dripping like a pig belly roasting on a spit. Thirty years in the public eye, swinging from charity auction to orphanage gigs for this.
"The Queen of Rock may have died with Freddy Mercury, but the Saint of Rock lives on." How could I have gone from that to this. Camera's flash like the horoscopic stars of my future: winking out one by one as I tumble into the void.
I'm screaming, but they can't hear it behind my biologically smile. Thousands of pounds spent to get the gleam just right, and they couldn't even copy that properly.
Generals used to be commemorated with statues of stone: perhaps its a sign of the mutability of modern stardom that all I've got is a wax-work at Madame Tussauds.
Finally, I snap, "not in my image" I cry as I throw it to the ground!
Ripping off wax is the same as filing a tax return, he said and flung a lump of mud on the canvas. His assistant flew to wipe the sides and the edges of the latest art piece he named, guided by his flaming spirit guide Apollon, "Apocalypse: Now." The people at the gallery were glued to the piece as it was hung immediately on the wall. The artist flung his hair and thought to himself, how easy art was and how mediocre some were as they hadn’t come up with the same idea as he.
The Last Lau. . .
‘Who else was involved?’ they demanded.
He could not tell them. That was the problem!
His rebellious brother, had disappeared so, when the soldiers had arrived earlier that morning, he had been arrested and taken to the Tower.
‘You are all making a serious mistake’ he protested.
‘Who were the others?’ they repeated. ‘If you tell us, it will be less painful for you.’
Despite everything he remained silent, he had nothing to tell them.
Day after day they repeated their questions. Questions he would not answer.
Tired of his silence they took him before the governor, and showed him the King’s signet impressed in the wax. His fate was sealed.
The next morning, crowds waited as he was knelt with his head on the block. The executioner raised his axe, he smiled and as it began to fall, he laughed, ‘There were no. . .!’
Alan Alan had been cryogenically frozen for 106 years and it was now 1974 he was undergoing his final tests and recuperation in a private London hospital. His father was a rich industrialist and also quite insane. He had forced his then fit healthy 25 year old son to be frozen with the latest Victorian technology so the boy could witness the future.
Alan Alan had fiercely protested but to no avail, his fathers word was law. After being discovered in the basement of a wax works he was resuscitated and shortly he was going to join the modern world, the doctors had done all they could for him. Unfortunately while he was suspended his family fortune had disappeared as had any living relatives past or present so he was without money family nor knowledge of what was out there to greet him. God help you Alan Alan.
It was cold this winter. His woollen coat was tatty, thin and needed a wash. Just like me. The wry thought flashed. Pale eyes no longer searched the distance; time had seen to that. Time was his enemy now. He was going home.
He tapped his pocket, comforted. The photograph was there. Paper-thin, crinkled, his only valuable, cherished tenderly all these years. He did not regret his decision to leave. She never understood his need to delight in the warmth of the sun on his body, to watch the glorious moon wax and wane with the passing seasons, so shiver by the campfire while his billy heated.
At the open gate he began to tremble. Up the paved driveway he hurried. A blinding light! Silence.
Silver hair gleaming in the moonlight, she staggered
drunkenly from the Mercedes. Looked down.
Just an old tramp. Silly old fool.
A Truants Tale
SHE scribbled a note for Miss Harms and put it in her son's school bag so he wouldn't forget it. If asked any questions, he should say an emergency dental appointment was the reason for his absence on Friday. Her son carefully did as he was told, and Miss Harms seemed happy with the written and verbal explanations given. The school was clamping down on unauthorised family holidays, nearly all of which seem to include a Monday or a Friday. When Miss Harms asked the boy about the dentist she really didn't mean to pry. No, no, no, that only changed when he handed her the drawing he did while waiting ages in reception. There was a glass door in the picture with the strange word XAW TOH written half way down, or HOT WAX.
A True, True Friend
They used their nails because her hands were slippery, childish faces screwed up in such absorption that they looked like plaited goblins.
"She's my friend!"
"No, she's mine!"
She felt the muscles ripple over her shoulder blades from the force of their pulling. There was a wet squelching but it didn't hurt. Dimly the school bell summoned them to class, but she was as immobile as a wax figure.
With a thick juicy noise she felt her right arm tear away.
When she stared down, expecting a bloody wound, she saw her arm intact and holding a familiar hand. She trailed her gaze along the lightly freckled limb and looked into her own eyes.
The two girls squealed and ran out of the playground, but they no longer mattered to her. She stood with herself and held her own hand.
"You're mine," she said.
Mal de Ojo
She spoke good English, but when she talked to me in Spanish it was like the arcing of a bow across a cello as the notes wax and wane.
Her abuela suffers epilepsy and says it gives her the ability to see evil spirits. Maybe that’s my problem. She’s not evil, just absent, which makes the heart grow fonder and the stomach weak.
Can’t sleep. Don’t want to leave the bed. Soy aletargado.
Can’t eat. Remedy with eggs. Slide them under the bed.
The way she looked at me the day she vanished still haunts. Poseída.
She got beneath my skin.
Girl on a Bus
Arriving home from work Jimmy was tired after a long day. Melanie, his wife had his bath ready. Wax, vanilla-scented candles placed around the bath gave off an eerie light.
Jimmy undressed, stepped into the bath and lowered himself slowly into the hot foamy water. The sea mineral fragrance of the water with the vanilla smell of the candles sent Jimmy into a daydream state.
His mind wandered thinking of the bright blue-eyed, dark-haired woman on the bus home who had got his attention with the knee-high boots on her long legs. She flirted with Jimmy on a daily basis and he really didn't mind. In fact he quite fancied her but was unsure she was actually available. She waved at him, smiled at him, shyly said 'hi' until one day she wasn't there.
She had just disappeared and all Jimmy could do was dream about her.
Waxing and Waning
Watching my lamp is restful. Wax globules alter their shape in water. Moving up and down in bright lights of many colours.
The glass vessel lamp design from the 1960 s is, ‘psychedelic,’ synthetic. When, electricity stops heating the wax, and giving light, it stops working and it’s beauty disappears.
I reflect about things that don’t rely on man made power sources and continue as natural events.
The effect of the wax, makes me think of: clouds drifting into each other – forming faces. Silver mercury spots scrambling, liken to cells dividing. The sea filling small rock pools, serving the multitude of creatures living in them
In a letter to Don, I write, I cannot continue as a couple without there being continued honesty between us. After licking the envelope, I pour on wax from a jug, onto the ‘V’ shape of the paper, sealing it with my heart engraved stamp.
Dinner for Two
The table was set for two; a red rose in a tall thin vase, and a pair of candles in their ornate holders, a dribble of hot wax slowly working its way down the one on the right.
Megan sat opposite in a low-cut satin dress, all cleavage and make-up. Her hair tumbled onto her shoulders in glossy black curls.
'It's over', she told me, a hard line to her crimson lips. 'I can't believe you brought me here - for this!' She stared in disgust at the sharing meat platter. 'You know l'm a vegan!' She got up and stormed out.
Dating two women at the same time can make you forgetful. Is it too late, I wonder, to invite Hannah?
Janet goes to a wax museum along with her best friend Roberta. They have the time of their lives taking selfies with the figures. Then Roberta excuses herself to the bathroom.
Half an hour passes and still no sight of her friend. Maybe she took a while, she thinks but after an hour she starts to freak out. She goes searching for her.
"Roberta, are you there?" says Janet when she comes to the toilet. No answer. She checks all stalls but they are all empty. She doesn't understand what is happening.
She goes back to where she got her tickets from, tells them her friend is missing but when she describes her, no one even remembers them buying tickets. She just bought herself one, they say.
Then suddenly she hears a knock inside of the museum. She goes back and there she is. Roberta, made into a wax figure.
When business began to fade, her father worked from home on a long dark table in the study.
She brought school friends in to confirm his exotic working life. All the samples laid out on parchment with crimson wax seals and heavy foreign tangled words. She could name them without looking, finger rutting against each tuft: camel, hog, badger, boar, goat, sable, pony.
She left pony till last. Pony always made them cry. Her friends quivered to the touch. They flicked their hands. She gave them toothbrushes:boar. They held them to shuddering nostrils. Their fathers were lawyers, doctors, insurance men. Does he kill them? they asked wide-eyed.
They left subdued.
There were phone calls.
Her mother set her shoulders, she tossed her hair. The study door was closed and locked.
You learn by your mistakes
The blackberries were abundant on the thorn hedges along the moor lane, especially at the point where the road started to rise towards the bridge, so I picked loads. What I had not factored in was the motorway lurking beneath, lorries and cars rolling by, noisy as always but you learn to cut it out. The fruit looked slightly grey with a wax sheen and as I nibbled the odd berry there was a definite metallic tang, but they cooked well into a nice little pie. The diarrhoea was shocking.
Trip to mysathenia
First The body becomes poessed,it then releases a demon , a cold hearted killer it follows the angels half immortal creatures to salvation.secondly it burns the creatures soul with the wax candle that is attached to the demons sharp , crystal claws.
Thirdly it melts within, creating a fire and burns a hole through the creature, making sure the naked soul is dead.
Lastly it's breech to immortality, sends a chill up the angels spine , for the demon has power over the angel and waits patiently for the final straw which is to make all heavenly creatures pay for what they did to do the demons sucking all the energy of the angels soul until finally they gave there sabtoage , there prey is caught and within a second the angel lies dead this is the process to hell and it's beginning with the poessed demon of myasthenia.
She pulls the string on her grease pencil, repeating the words that mean too much for me to grasp. A slip of paper bears itself, the base of a cone covering wax. My eyes don't lift from her handiwork as she tears layers away in one sheet, undistracted by her diagnosis. The paper peels away from itself with the slightest friction, but at last it's sloughed off with a disdain unexplained by gravity.
She lifts the pencil to the film and pockets the rent shell of paper. She circles some echo of a ghost, but all I trace is the pencil's tip. I imagine notching into myself and pulling. How easily will I unravel? Will I fall in one clean leaf?
I interrupt her, asking for the pencil's shed skin. She surrenders it and waits to continue as I curl it around my fingertip and clench it to my chest.
The air hung heavy with incense, wax dribbled dramatically down fat candles at the points of the pentacle. Sigils were chalked on the floor, and Isabella allowed herself a small, tight smile. Finally, she would show them all.
The door burst open, and in bustled her nonna, arms full of folded laundry. She stopped, a look of shock on her face.
"Nonna, I'm sorry..."
Her grandmother came over, shushing her, smoothing her hair just as she had when she was little.
"Oh my little Pupetta, no! This isn't how you do the magic!" She rolled up her sleeve, revealing a cross work of scars that Isabella had never seen before.
"You need the blood for it to work." A wicked looking knife appeared in her other hand. "Is it a boy? What am I saying, it's always a boy. Be a good girl and tell your nonna his name."
All she wanted to do was to be free. Free to do as she pleased.
She longed to live like a bird in the summer time, constantly seeking thrills in countries new and vibrant.
She had planned out her spontaneity with great thought. She had made list after list of all the things she would do One Day: things to see, things to hear, things to taste on the tip of her tongue. It seemed so close, almost palpable.
But still she found herself trapped in a cage with her time ticking away, wax dripping from a candlestick onto a cold wooden windowsill.
Perhaps she would never break out. This was her life now; this was her reality forever. This was who she had to be, always.
Except there will always be a tomorrow. And so, in her mind, half crazed with possibility, she had some flicker of hope.
Scrub, rub, polish, until the blood is gone.
I wave bye to a lump turning stale,
Recently splattered across fine wood; becoming pale,
I move on to wax that floor.
Is This Your First Time?
"Is this your first time?" she asked. Her face gave nothing away.
"No," I said, "It's not."
"So you'll be fine." She turned her back to me, asked me to strip to the waist and lay a towel across the exposed areas. "Brace yourself, it'll sting.”
"I'm really fine," I said.
"What do you do?" she asked, not that it mattered; not here, not now.
"I'm a dancer.” I wanted to say I was a rocket scientist, wanted to surprise, to be exotic.
“Well, then you'll be used to pain." I'd had my appendix taken out just as it had burst, convinced the doctors I couldn't feel anything, until I broke out into a hot sweat. I could feel beads of sweat across my face now. “Right." She pasted warm wax across the exposed flesh. I wanted to run. She lay fabric strips over the top, then ripped. It stung.
Blind to the Good One
I’d never thought of him in a romantic way. Not once. He was a coworker, that’s all - like the older brother I never had. A good man.
I was young and naive. I was sleeping with a man everyone feared and hated, but I was blinded by love. He watched out for me as best he could. He gave me advice. He helped me. He was a friend.
Over the years I’d thought of him with gratitude. When I returned twenty years later, I asked him to meet me for a beer to wax nostalgic. It was wonderful seeing him again, but I was perplexed by the way he looked at me – burning gaze, eyes aglow, beaming smile. What was that about?
The evening ended with an unexpected kiss, flooding me with thoughts and feelings I’d never before considered. Is it possible to love an old friend? A good man?
John Claypole broke the wax seal and began to read. The directive was from Cromwell himself and he felt the fingers of fear prodding his innards as if the man was in the room. He was sure the temperature had plummeted and he shivered.
A second later, his mind was attacked with images of persecution as his eyes focused on the scrawling hand.
His son had a fondness for Cromwell's daughter, Elizabeth and her previous suitors had been, as the great man declared, 'unsuitable'. Was it his turn to be the recipient of Cromwell's displeasure?
And then the clatter of hooves heralded visitors; perhaps soldiers to escort him to the tower. He glanced at the letter. Dowry? Marriage? Silverware? Were his eyes deceiving him?
"The chest of silverware, Lord Claypole. With good wishes from the Lord Protector Cromwell," said a soldier.
Relief flooded John.
The heart attack killed him instantly.
A Tiny Murder
The wax on the candles had begun to run before Max had even begun to question his plan. He was meant to be out of town, but had gotten back early, early enough that he could get into the apartment before Lisa would get off work. Struck by inspiration from the frayed edges of their relationship, he unfurled the tablecloth, laid out the candles.
He dodged into the closet when he heard her buzz in, the walls so thin you could hear everything. She was speaking to someone and he imagined that he had caught her with an illicit lover. “And you’re sure?” she whispered as she entered. The door closed, she added, “I just slip this into his food and he drifts off?”
Max stayed in the closet, piecing together what Lisa was saying, her last words out before she saw his surprise, “I don’t want him to suffer.”
How Was Your Day
When I get home, I strip off my forensics overalls, exhausted. Another mutilated body. This time in a dumpster behind the lumber yard, bloody ligature tied in a pretty, little bow. Karolina is waiting for me on the couch, dressed in sweatpants, laughing at some TV sitcom. I lean in, and she kisses me tenderly, her hair falling forward to frame her face. At the Blue Flamingo she is Miss K; all latex and chains. She does this thing with hot wax. The Thursday night crowd love it, taking turns to approach, like hungry dogs, tucking dollar bills into her boots. But here with me, she sheds her stage skin willingly, and if I smell of death she never seems to mind. We wriggle together, until we fit snugly, holding each other tight in silence, until we are sure the day has left us, gracelessly, without saying goodbye.
A recipe in the debris
On the envelope my grandmother had written 'not to be opened.' But the blobs of sealing wax have been cut across as if with a knife. Inside, the letter is dated 1/7/40. My mother,who could never resist a secret, was to be evacuated to Canada. Her parents did not expect to survive the war.
The letter explains that, despite her atheism, Granny believes in Christian values; care for others, hard work and education. She hopes her daughter will find her way to similar principles. My eyes fill with tears as I read her anguished goodbyes.
I could never write in that way to my own boys . Living in a consumerist society,we do not discuss the ways in which we try to lead a good life. In a world of emojis and twitter feeds, where unseen algorithms manipulate us and climate change threatens to destroy the planet, words have most their power.
I just could not budge the wheel on the Combined Harvester. It had to be changed in time for the season. I called out to my boss Percy Baker.
“Give it some wax.” He advised.
“Wouldn’t oil be better?” I ventured.
“Whacks boy, with a hammer.” He growled.
Percy is the blacksmith cum carpenter on the farm. He’s a giant of a man who lacks nothing in endeavour so nobody called ever calls him lax.
Later we took a break
“Relax,” he said, “sit on these sacks.” He fished a paper put of his pocket. “Got my tax bill today,”.
“Oh really” I said trying to politely show interest. “From where, income, road, property, or what? ”
He looked at me as if I was stupid and with hindsight I was.
“It’s from Robinsons of course our nail suppliers. Like I said, a bill for my Tacks.”
Think yourself lucky, I say. You could still be living rough. He mutters, stares at his manicured hands. Never thanks me, even after everything I've done. Ungrateful sod.
I like getting showing him off. On stage at the drag shows. I love the attention, the envy. "I’m not a trophy," he says, sulking. I’ve got him looking fantastic now. Shame they don't do make-overs for moods.
He’s had nips and tucks, wax for his leg hair. But is he happy? Face as long as a truncheon. Goes on about his identity, says his mum wouldn’t recognise him. I pat his bandages. "Once these come off, you’ll look more like me than my reflection." He'd always wished he was me. Now, we'll be the perfect double act. Double me. That'll shock them at the shows. But he's got to stop sobbing in front of that mirror.
Addiction Ad Hoc.
Wax larger from the Tuesday night the Wednesday morning moon, which dimly lights the flows of ink snake sinuously for fortune as rivulets of thought. To pour down screens in global confluence as a letter avalanche to Bath. Now shaping sentences. Well waxed. Sheen polished. Those commas and full stops holding mere briefly on to breath in distant gaze. And floating sniff snuff in the air the redolence of prose augments, abates, question-marks, exclaims, for finer definition. To touch the screens again, again; infuse, delusion, expect, and the week to run a creeper, slower, slowly mulling. Whilst meanwhile others do to you what you are doing onto them and vote, and wait, and patience. Till from those tentacles entangled turns just one fine index finger achingly inclined to point most definitely: to ‘me'........ Or not, mere fiction, and addiction, Ad Hoc.
I am a tallow woman, not the steel I thought I’d be in this smithery. I do not glow white hot. I am not tempered; I am moulded. Metal ambitions grind away their loose teeth on my malleable will. This melting grates.
My edges harden on the cooling shapes of me, sealed into the texture of how we burnt. I can be smooth, untouched where unchecked our flame drowned in deepening pools. Sometimes my sides are rough from guttering sighs. I can be simple or elaborate. This melting redefines.
I envied iron thoughts and mourned steel, cracking in the cold as smoke curled up into my eyes. But under your burning-wick hands I have found the subtle strength of wax, seen its often overlooked beauty. I hold your burn, keep your dark at bay, which no metal thoughts or galvanised skin could. I melt and we bask in candlelight.
She is motionless and he is admiring her. He is pacing his fingers close to her white skin but will not dare touch it. There is no need to spoil something so pure by no other reason than lust itself. His right index finger is floating over the basin between her left hip bone and her relaxed belly. The candle has been burning for a while and it is time. He does not need a cheat sheet – he has done this many times before. He slowly lets the first drop of wax fall onto her belly and a smile creeps into his lips. ‘This is what I live for.’ It is all complete in about one hour but he will savour the benefits of what he did for much longer.
The ranger shows us images of the winged and flightless inhabitants we might expect to encounter on a laminated card in the conservation shelter at the trailhead. He tells us the island has been made into a unique reserve, a protected biosphere where enemies of the indigenous birds have been eradicated. Possums, rats, rabbits. Destroyed by vast quantities of agent 1080. But there has been collateral damage. The diminutive waxeye is the only native bird we don’t see as we climb the slopes of the extinct volcano through forests of pohutakawa and black beech.
Humans destroy the woodland, bring the pests, restore the woodland, destroy the pests, and still there is mass destruction of this precious environment’s inhabitants. The lessons will only be learned when our forests are silenced. And by then it will be too late.
A Rainy Day
My father is a fisherman, but in truth, he is a poet. We stand by the sea's edges along the shoreline. He whispers, "Look at the wax and wane of the waves in the sand. It's beautiful.
That day, the soldiers come and commandeer his boat. Father being an honorable man says, "Only, if I can take Her out myself." The sky is rainy and gray. Dunkirk is 18 nautical miles from England.
On the beach that day, war became real to me. A small boy cares more for seashells than battles. I watch and wait for each boat as it returns with soldiers and the wounded. My Father's boat is the last one. My heart is in my throat.
He runs his fingers through my hair. "Tomorrow, I will send you to your Aunts in the country."
It's All An Illusion
Laughter, storytelling, and camaraderie filled his days, while loneliness and despair haunted his nights. Frank and Marilyn kept him company while he mended costumes. Jack watched over his shoulder as he applied special effects. Some nights, he slipped in to share some screams with classic horror movies. His life was perfect - until she arrived. She introduced jealousy, greed, and contempt into the group. He tried to send her away, but couldn't. There was nothing that could be done. It was him or her - one of them had to go.
He was never the same after the fire destroyed his wax museum.
Good one Holly
In general, women make more effort making their bodies attractive, Holly shared, at a pillow talk session. When equality of the sexes was so topical, it was time men too endured beauty treatments. Not wanting to appear wimpish, and to prove his undying love, Sam agreed to visit the local Beauty Parlour,for some pampering, if she made the arrangements.
Sam was early for his appointment, and a tad nervous.
'Oh! your partner has booked you in for ' the wax works', I see', announced the beautician surprisingly, avoiding eye contact with either Sam or the young woman, feigning her interest in a magazine.
' It takes about 30 minutes for a ' Crack, back and sack, so relax for a bit in the waiting room.'she added.
' He said he had to check the parking metre,' the young client said with a smirk and a wink when the Beautician returned.
When I started dating girls we frequented wine bars, a new thing in those days, where they served liver paté and smelly cheese. On each dimly lit table there was a candle in an empty wine bottle. The hot wax ran down til you couldn’t see the bottle, only thick, congealed layers, like volcanic lava.
I regularly took a girl called Alison to a place with a dark underground cellar. There were single tables in the even darker cellar alcoves. We’d sit on the same side of the table and I’d wriggle a hand into her pants, or she’d slide her hand into my pants. Maybe we slipped a hand into each other’s pants, I can’t remember. Anyway, we would sit in an alcove till closing time with one hand in each other’s pants whilst the other hands worked the waxy bottle, picking away every last bit.
dot dot dot
She lit the candle with fingers that had trembled.
Her gasps almost blew it back out. Peter’s composure pleased her, calmed her first time nerves a bit,
“Honestly. Just relax!”
He tilted the candle sideways to show how the wax would drip as the wick burnt lower; his flesh caught her skin and she shivered.
“OK? Are you ready?”
She nodded, inhaled, her eyes dark now with concentration.
“Move the candle in a pattern or randomly, but make sure you let the wax keep dripping.”
It flowed easily, dried hard,
ready for the batik to be dipped in the dye.
I turn normal people, cats, dogs and birds into multicoloured dream scapes. I come to a happy families picture in my picture book. I colour them in with bright pretty colours. Candy pinks, egg blues, banana yellow and apple red.
i listen to the new sound of silence. To my surprise I already miss the constant shrill shouting.
i lick my bright blue loley and wiggal my little fingered. Loving the glitter of them covered with Jen dust. My nose fills with the smells of fresh paper and wax. Nicer colours or smells is enough to hide the bright wet coppery crimson stainning my hands.
The Good Stuff
His favourite dealer was there. He spotted him in the corner of the room and he seemed to have a decent sized stash. He usually brought the good stuff; from Japan.
The premium ‘early bird’ ticket offered relatively unfettered access to the dealers’ tables. After two hours, the price halves, the hordes invade and the jostling starts.
His addiction to vinyl records started around age twelve. The ‘black crack’ or hot wax cravings had only grown through adulthood. He laughed at stories of vinyl’s great renaissance; it had never gone out of fashion for this analogue man.
And there it was; a near mint, Japanese pressing of the classic Beatles 1969 ‘White Album.’ He smiled as he caressed the familiar minimalist album cover and held the records up to the light, drawn to the lustre of the vinyl, and imagining the pure aural experience the sonic grooves would produce.
Born into the minor nobility, chance circumstances combined with astute political decisions had landed her on the throne. Her husband was the reigning monarch, not that he deserved it. Easily manipulated, that simpleton did not see that the real power was hers, although his advisors saw it plainly enough. Still, she was clever and had not abused the power, so the situation was acceptable to all concerned.
The candle wax dripped down onto the fold and she pressed her ring into it, sealing the letter. The secrets within would leave the kingdom vulnerable, and her brother would know how to use them. Soon her family would have complete control.
Minutes later pieces of wax fell to the floor as the letter was opened by the captain of the king's guard. She would be hanged, her family disgraced. Bested by the simpleton.
The Latin Quarter, August ‘44
Although he was running out of time, his mind was distracted by the ever swelling gloom which made it difficult to see anything much in the cellar. They had asked for it 20 minutes ago and these patrons were unlikely to take kindly to being kept waiting.
He edged forward warily, his hand held out in front of his face in case he hit anything nasty. Down here you never knew what you might come across.
As he was beginning to think he would never find them and to consider his excuses, his hand felt the old stone back wall and with it the small hole where four wax sealed bottles of late ‘38 Armagnac lay serenely.
This was his inheritance, laid down by his grandfather just as the Germans entered Paris, along with clear instructions that they were only drunk “in better times”.
Well what was better than celebrating liberation?
I'm Back Again Tomorrow, Madame
She rubs shoulders with them every day - on first name terms. Angelina shares confidences - she knew before Brad. Didn't even ask, Angie obviously wanted to spill.
What a hoot those Marx brothers - always cracking jokes and pulling her leg. Their jokes are a bit dated, but they have lots of olde worlde charm.
Now, Winston - what a leader, not like today's wet bus tickets. "We will fight them on the beaches, we will....." That guy knew how to inspire. She'd have even voted Tory.
Then there's Rocky. Glistening wax torso, hardened six pack, bulging biceps and defined quads. What a hunk you are Sly!
Round the corner, on the way out, are the Beckham's . The height of fashion - so good together. Tats up both arms - not a hint of a smile.
At 5pm - bus from Marylebone Road - back tomorrow.
Grapes are too expensive these days
A girl at primary school once told us about how her mother lost a lot of weight by eating only grapes for ten days straight. For eight-year-olds, this sounded like the ideal diet. The memory of grapes brings with it trips to the greengrocers. Of chubby fingers reaching, unable to resist the plump green globules. A rough telling off from my mother while the grocer simply laughed and insisted s’alright. My grandfather used to wash apples under the hot tap to remove the wax. After, he placed them in the fridge, ready to devour once they cooled. Crunchy and sweet. He had a small knife with an unseemly wooden handle used only for slicing fruit. Nimbly placing the juicy slices straight from the blade onto his tongue. He said he made it himself.
I don’t eat many grapes these days. They’re too expensive.
Behind me lies a monochrome landscape, stark black charcoal trees, shades of grey and the white powdery ash. I shiver.
Our unique ancient forests from the Ice Age past are dying. Dry lightning storms keep the fires kindled till they wax into roaring fronts devouring all they meet. Shooting sparks grab the dry undergrowth and fuelled by gusty winds spread the merciless flame.
Ahead in the red-orange glow the firemen do not surrender but fight with grim energy pushed to their limits. Admiration and anxiety fill me as I pass them by. A journalist does not get personally involved, my mentor stressed. But I am here witnessing the effects of climate change. Carbon and carnage replace peat and pine.
My heart cries as the fog lights pierce their way through thick acrid smoke. I know my homeland has been ignored and summer will never again be a carefree playground.
Travelling through Ceredigeon
"Can't we stop in the next village? I'm hungry."
"It's really not much further to Tregaron. If we keep going, we can find a decent pub, and have a meal and a pint."
But the car had other ideas, and with a resounding thunk, it came to a halt.
Cursing, James inspected the engine, while I confirmed the lack of mobile coverage.
"I'll go get help."
"I'm not staying here alone!"
It was growing dark, when we saw the shop lights. We explained our predicament to the ancient woman who answered.
"It's not safe wondering around in the dark. You could wind up in the bogs."
I browsed in her dusty shop, while James phoned for a tow truck, bought soaps and candles by way of thanks.
"This soap smells odd," I said. James inspected it, reading the name.
"I'm not surprised. Adipocere is also known as grave wax."
The cough near lifts him off the ground. Dislodges a deep chunk of something. Like an ice shelf dropping into the sea, much faster than expected.
Tries to spit but it's all strings. Between his fingers. A child's game that tells a story if he could only remember the correct shapes. Wiped on his leg.
There's a town below the window and he can't remember when he last stepped out. If he's allowed to. If he could make it down the stairs.
It's all he can do to catch the pigeon feathers that sink from the rafters and to dream of the ocean beyond the buildings. All this gunk inside him, but never enough wax. He still works away.
There's sun out there. Open sky. He could take it in both hands. See his boy again.
You told me to let loose my mind into the sobbing dahlias, so I did, and you condemned me.
You told me to break open the caskets of carnations, tip them under black oceans, under the pretence of love - and then you turned away.
You promised to adore me, and your wax heart melted under my passion, like Icarus falling from the sky - that is what you claimed; my heart overwhelmed you.
"Art thou blessed?" cried the discordant wench.
"No; I am a monster."
You raised my heart, and razed it six feet deep into the mountain of poppies.
You swore to praise me, as the burning lead pumped through my coarse veins.
You willed the infatuation of the mistress of burning bodies and decaying sunsets.
But you loathe me.
What choice had I, but to char the flower gardens, scorch the earth, erode your tear stained pillows?
Ernesto the Great twirled his moustache before spinning the petite Loretta into the box. His audience watched spellbound as the heavy padlock clanked and he flounced a sequined, midnight-blue curtain around the cubicle.
A flourish of his cape heralded his departure
‘I shall return.’
To a fanfare, and billowing smoke, Loretta appeared, seemingly from nowhere. The spectators clapped and shouted their approval.
Ceremoniously she drew back the drapes and held high an oversize key. Unlocking the box, she spread her arms wide and theatrically declared ‘the Maestro’.
Suspense was replaced by collective horror. Ernesto stood lifeless, his waxed moustache sadly drooping.
Flames flickered in the oppressive darkness, solitary among thousands. A tall woman strode around them, her high-necked red dress flowing dangerously close to the light. Watching her, bathed in the shadows, were hundreds of people, their breathing heavy in the air of anticipation.
She spun to face them, her eyes flashing as they reflected the flames. Her voice thundered through the deadened space. Disdain blanketed the group, suffocating even the bravest of her followers.
Weakness was unacceptable, this they knew, but they had still managed to disappoint her. All fell to their knees, bowing their heads to the shame brought on by her piercing glare.
She reached down to grab one of the candles, holding it in such a way that her face was cast in a ghostly light. Swiftly, her fingers were enveloped in the burning wax. Everyone else hissed, shocked, yet impressed by her stoicism.
Flames smoldered still.
Exasperated, Sal observed dozens of ants on the rim of the planter and along the branches of his rosebush. "How do they find us?"
He'd used sterile soil and a clean pot, and still... He absently smoothed one side of his moustache. "Men who use moustache wax look like serial killers," Natalie had said. Well, he would prove her right.
He googled "Getting rid of ants in pots". He could disrupt ant communication paths with lemon juice or vinegar, or leave small piles of baking soda and powdered sugar which they couldn't digest.
Sal scratched his itchy head and looked up. What were those strange planes doing, flying so low? Small white flakes drifted around him. He'd heard of "seeding clouds" with dry ice for rain, but surely it had rained enough?
His wifi wasn't working now either. Sal sighed and went back indoors.
A Creature of the Night
I choose my victims spontaneously, irrationally. Today, a plump roundness of innocent flesh laying beneath a duvet, ignorant of my presence.
I watch. I wait. Until fluttering eyelids give away the perfect depth of sleep. For I am a creature of the night and I come to you without warning.
I flow languidly into your mind, like melting wax. I carry your daydreams away and fill you with doubts and horrors that stretch imagination beyond believability. I shut out the light and plunge you deep into dark chasms of suffocating breath, piercing ice needles and searing hot irons, in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of torture and pain, until you struggle to arouse, to pull back your soul, head spinning, sweat drenched and gasping; clutching at morning daylight, in fear that death had already taken you.
I am your nightmare. You can banish me, now. But I will come again.
I could wax lyrical about my joyous, fruitful life, but it would be a lie.
I'm a twenty year old student, just passed my driving test. The only child of cloying, overbearing parents, who are constantly in my face. Yet here I am alone, a mobile with no signal and a dead battery. Nobody knows where I am. I had a full tank but now I've hit red; have been stuck in this ditch for hours, unable to move, legs trapped beneath the steering wheel. They don't hurt, I can't feel them, but my head has started to throb and my vision is blurry. They don't tell you very much in your driver theory about how to survive in a blizzard.
Oh how I wish my parents were here. I have come to the realisation that I am, in all probability, going to die here.
We grow them here. They take centuries to mature, but once we send them out, they only last a few years. It’s sad really. All part of the process, as they say.
My job is done now, I suppose; that is why you’re here?
I shall miss this place. No, I haven’t been lonely all these millennia. They are company in their own way. Oh, I know they don’t have features or personalities yet, but I do love them. Come now. You can meet them yourself.
The cave was full of figurines, pale and lifeless, growing like stalagmites out of the clammy rock. In the distant, a cry of a newborn aroused movement. One of the forms began to melt like wax and ooze through the porous stone, starting its journey to take seed in the womb of a woman on Earth.
Although my tears dried up, I felt there was something possible to save my heart from his loneliness and pain.
When his smile forgave me, my happiness returned to me again.
Many days passed after we became together, talking, laughing and singing.
Today when the awards committee praised my talent I realized that I was living with a wax statue.
Anne gazed at the heavy, bejewelled ring on her slender finger; its huge, dense ruby dulled against her azure gown. She felt strangely ill at ease as she studied the remnants of sealing wax clinging stubbornly to the ring. She imagined its owner, resplendent in his gilded chair, applying the ring as royal seal on cream vellum parchment. Her gaze fell upon the crib beside her, wherein lay her son, the King's heir.
The child's slumber was suddenly disturbed by a commotion at the front of the great house. Anne rose with beating heart as the oak door was flung wide.
'Madam, I am sent from the King to escort you to Lancaster. Your babe is to go to Court, where he must now reside. I am to take back the King's ring.
Anne knew her fate was sealed; her erstwhile feelings of unease had indeed been well-founded.
The Pull of Gravity
After the waxing and waning of raised voices, their harsh words are fading like stars at first light.
From different planets – galaxies, even – their understanding of each other was never easy. Early discoveries were welcomed with excitement, later ones with trepidation, sometimes even disgust.
But in the end, as the steam from their cups of tea coils up, and entwines, so do they once more.
“It’s stunning.” Marissa said as she eyed the lifeless automaton that towered over her.
The Creator, David, looked on with smug glee.
“Remarkable, right? I can’t tell you how long it took me.”
The figure stood taller than a man, and more pristine than any on earth. Its skin shone with an otherworldly glow, a fascinating amalgam of life and art. But David wanted something else for his creation.
It was too important to be gawked at by people in museums.
“And you’re sure it’s not just made of wax?” Marissa joked. “I can’t bring it back to the Society for it to melt when we turn the heating on.”
“Oh, no. I can assure you, it is more than that.” David replied, a dark glint in his eyes.
Marissa watched in horror as the mixture of machine and man began to move.
It was the last thing she saw.
Waxing and Waning
Under a waxing moon, she gathers mushrooms. He's working late again. Another commission has stolen his attention; his affection for her wanes.
She fries the mushrooms in butter, folds them into an omelette. Timidly, she knocks on the study door. He takes the plate, frowning, and wolfs it down.
By morning, he's sweating and retching. For once, he doesn’t resist when she guides him back into bed. While he shivers, she mops his brow with a cold towel.
He looks up, helpless and trusting. 'I love you.'
She smiles. He is never so handsome as when he’s flat on his back, round face pale as the moon as she nurses him back to health.
'I don't know how the fire started. I was just passing the house...' Dave's expression gave nothing away.
He thought about his life so far: his dysfunctional family, the unsuccessful placements, the wankers in Social Services, and the Filth: the dumb bastards still didn't know about the car. They would find out soon enough...
'If you have anything else to say before I pass sentence it may help you.'
Dave looked the judge in the eye.
' No comment,' he said and sat down.
The psychologist's report commented on Dave's intelligence and the threat he posed to society.
Leaving the dock, Dave pictured his stepfather applying wax to his beloved car, a souped-up Ford Escort.... with it's brake-lines cut.
There may be snow on the roof ...
Today was Jeremiah’s final day in the employ of Catchett, Ratchet and Scratchitt solicitors after fifty-six years, three months and eighteen days loyal service as a conveyance clerk. In keeping with their custom one of the firm’s partners would present him with a gold sovereign and his very own stick of sealing wax before he finished. They also invited the retiree’s wife to attend, to present her with a bouquet of flowers for supporting her husband. Jeremiah lost his wife last year to the plague. She’d led a hard life, giving birth to and looking after sixteen children as well as Jeremiah. Young Mr Scratchitt heard rumours that Jeremiah intended to wed again once he’d retired, so decided to invite his bride to be to the ceremony. His mouth fell open when Belinda the buxom barmaid from the Wig & Quill arrived.
My Mother Was A Candle
I was afraid of the open casket, so Dad led me by the hand, first time in years. I was relieved to see her: cheeks relaxed, skin smooth as wax. Though no flame would meet this candle-corpse, cremation forbidden by Eastern church.
Her moods were unpredictable as wax: on good days, she burnt warm and soft as the incense-scented bosoms she'd press you into; on bad ones - or, worse, when sudden fingertips pinched the flame - she grew hard and ruinous, left a stain, like shiny resin on a favourite book.
Later, I lit a thin candle for her soul, touched three fingers to my body's compass - had to remind myself to tap East shoulder before West, it had been so long - kissed the icon, before pressing the cool end into sand. As it dipped, the tip ran, like my tears won't.
The children whooped and screamed in excitement, Madame Tussauds was living up to expectations.
Many times Karen doubted the wisdom of bringing six children to London. Just getting them on the train and seated was a nightmare, which she hoped wouldn’t be the consequence later that night after seeing the gory exhibits in the chamber of horrors.
Sophie in particular, although joining in the delighted shrieks, crept close and held Karen’s hand tight, until they moved to on to the exhibits of the royal family and favourite pop stars.
Home at last, children either returned to their families or tucked up in bed, Karen poured herself a large glass of wine and prepared to relax. First she picked up Sophie’s coat gave it shake before hanging it up.
Something fell from the pocket onto the floor. Karen gasped took a step back, and then picked up a bloody wax finger.
The Lost Letter
The quill was poised in her hand, the ink and sealing wax at her elbow. Yet, as the sun peeped over the horizon, the words would not come.
She wanted to ask pardon of her liege lord, though to leave the thought that no man, however high, should have the power of life and death over a woman. But, as the footsteps approached her cell door, the parchment before her contained just some scratchings-out and disparate scribblings of no note. She hurriedly consigned the offending work to the flame of her candle and all the gaoler found afterwards was ashes.
Anna Bullen (for so she wanted to be called at her death, her pretensions gone) delivered her last words at the axeman’s block, praising her sweet Prince. However, the words in her heart, the ones she tried to convey in her unfinished letter, went to the grave with her.
Kate lived life on roller skates barely stopping to draw breath, let alone connect with others. An only child, her father had left when she was young, and she became used to having her mother Penny's undivided attention. Penny didn't mind, she adored her daughter. However, as Penny grew older she had concerns of her own, especially her arthritic aches and pains. She also loved to go back in time and tell stories about her own youth. These tales irritated Kate beyond belief. It was all she could do to stay in the same room with Penny. Kate felt hurt and neglected. It was as if she'd been cast aside, dethroned. In the end, she visited less and less.
The day the phone call came, Kate was unbalanced by her reaction. How would she survive? She realised, too late, she'd give almost anything to hear Penny wax lyrical once more.
Proving Her Metal
Everything was perfect before the fire. And yet, she remembers perfectly. The curtains billowing as if trying to shirk away from the blaze. The smoke shrouding the ceiling as if she was hidden in the clouds. The heat, dry and caked, on the walls around her like an embrace that lasts too long. Her skin melting like wax, sliding away from her. Disowning her. But the metal bed frame stood, twisted, burdened by the heat but not overcome by it.
Nothing is perfect now. She lost everything. Looking in the mirror, she smiles knowing that she has been tested. Burdened by the heat but not overcome by it.
A Bit of an Upgrade
“Superhero Super Costumes. How may I help you?”
”You can start by explaining this $20,000 charge on my credit card statement.”
“That’s our standard deposit. Our indestructible costumes can withstand just about anything. You must understand that the latest materials and the special processing required do come at some expense. Let me see... Our only recent order came in online a week ago. Form fitting, of course, to be built over a wax model torso, with a graphic of three Z’s on the chest.”
”I sleep through alarm clocks, and even through my husband’s snoring. He says that’s my superpower, and calls me Slumber Woman. When I went to bed the other night, he was shopping online for flannel pajamas for me. He was going to have “ZZZ” embroidered on the chest. When I woke up in the morning, there was an empty wine bottle next to his laptop.”
Regina was a spinster, or so people thought. Her garden gate swung on squeaky hinges twice a week when she went shopping. That’s all.
She was a keen gardener and grew exotic plants with exotic seeds that she procured from who knows where. And they grew and grew until her garden was like a rain forest.
After her death machetes were used to hack a way through. The neighbour hackers were shocked to find another dwelling deep in the undergrowth. A young gentleman sat at the doorway whittling cricket bats and stacking them sideways beside what could only be a wax effigy of a nude Regina Wilson.
When asked, he introduced himself as Will Wilson, then, seeing their perplexity, explained the effigy was made by the two of them, years before, for this occasion.
The neighbours could see she was undoubtedly ugly. And that, as they say, explained everything.
With thanks to all the writers who have made this issue possible.Adam Boustead, Alan Falkingham, Alex Daniels, Alexandra Pedro, Alley Ball, Alysia Ascovani, Andrea Harman, Andrew Reynolds, Anja Lovše, Anne Gardner, Anu Roy, Apellus Magnus, B F Jones, Ben Pearson, Benita Kape, Benjamin Olsen, Bob Simner, C. Tapper, Camilla Dietrich, Carl Palmer, Caroline Wood, Carolyn Ward, Cathy Cade, Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, Charlie Hill, Christine Nedahl, Colin Alcock, Connor Jennings, D. M. John Rennick, David James Ashton, Deborah Appleton, Denice Penrose, Doris Winn, E Brinkler, Eddy Glass, Elaine Mead, Elizabeth Graham, Ellen Kirkman, Em Richardson, Emily Keverne, Emma Fang, FC Malby, Fiona M Jones, Frank Trautman, Goldilox, Graham Yeoman, Hannah Whiteoak, Heather Nicholls, Helen Eassom, Hilary Ayshford, Isabel Flynn, J N Grover, Jacques Groen, James B. Revell, Jen Mollon, Jennifer Riddalls, Jenny Woodhouse, Jesse Bradley, Jessica Andreatta, Jill Wilkinson, Jody Kish, John Cooper, John Dapolito, John Harkin, Jon Magidsohn, Katherine Olukoya, Kathryn Dixon, Ken Frape, Kholood Azz, Kim Allen, Laura Besley, Leah Prior, Leanne Drain, Les Pedrick, Lilo Jones, Linda Grierson-Irish, Lisa Lange, Lisa Williams, Lisette Wilkins, Louise Mangos, Low Hazen, Mackenzie Judd, Maggie Rogers, Malcolm Richardson, Margaret Dickson, Marissa Hoffmann, Marlene Pitcher, Mary Senter, Matthew C. McLean, Matthew Knight, Michael Rumsey, Michelle Christophorou, Mike O'Reilly, Min, Mitja Lovše, Mohamed Mahmoud Ismail, Moray McGowan, Paula Puolakka, Petronella Wagner, Rachael Sadka, Ramendra Singh, Rebecca Dopson, RJD, Ruth Skrine, S.B. Borgersen, Sally Piper, Saloni Prasad, Sarah Edghill, Sian Brighal, Sophie Watson, Starlyn Haze, Steve Recchia, Steven John, Steven O. Young Jr., Stuart Atkinson, Sue Johnson, Teresa Grabs, Thomas Malloch, Tony Thatcher, Trasie Sands, Ty Hall, Vicky Price, Vijayalakshmi Sridhar, Wendy KELLY, Yasmin Al-Jarrah
20th February 2019