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The millions of multitudinous blonde headed clones nodded and waved gently as if attending a popular acoustic concert; however the early morning breeze could not touch all of this golden carpet. It had been the daily arrival of sunshine and rain over months that had pulled this crop out of the ground, but it had been a different visitor during the night that had pushed half of it back down into it.
This simple cereal crop had become very complicated; multi-faceted shapes, repeating patterns and irregular looking lines formed a beautiful sight and a maths professors delight.
There could be information here; instructions to create advanced technology. An entreaty for peace. Or was it even a declaration of war? Perhaps it was just a piece of art.
It would be a combine harvester that read the message; there would be no technology, no peace, and no enlightenment, only shredded wheat.
She came in again, expecting me to pull marvellous stories from bloody entrails.
‘Read them to me,’ she demanded, her crop of dirty hair circling her face, mouth twisted.
‘First there was blood….’ I faltered, and fell silent.
She stared at the block, strewn with mawkish off-cuts, the awful butchery of ideas. I could only offer her narrative arcs, wrenched from their skins with a boning knife. But, as ever, she wanted more: newly-diced novels, wrapped in greaseproof paper, seeping. She liked them trussed, stuffed and processed into fodder, their carcasses crammed with clichés. She needed them to slide down easy.
‘I can’t give you what you want,’ I groaned, and my stained fingers shook. Then, the door slammed against me, her contempt laid bare.
This time, I took the blade to my heart.
The (new and improved) Old Photograph
In the kitchen, under the fridge, amongst the dust and dirt, a little arm with its little hand and little wiggling fingers, retrieved a photograph- long forgotten. Thrilled with her discovery the little girl darted off to find her mother, the sticky old photograph tight in her grasp. “Mummy, look!” ”What’s that you’ve got?” Apprehensively, she took the grubby photograph from her daughters grubby paws, unfolded it, and smiled. ”Is that me when I was a baby?” The little girl asked “And you and daddy too?” ”Yup” Her mother replied “Be a nicer photo without your father in it, what’d You think?” She chuckled “should we crop him out?” The little girl laughed. Then she snatched the photograph off of her mother and rapidly ripped into to two. She crumpled one up in her little fist and she gave the other sweetly back. “There!” she grinned “It’s perfect now”.
You could make at least one person from what you've forgotten
He walked quietly, collecting the things that others forget. Memories, deeds, gestures, even anniversaries and sneezes. Someone made him from things like this but now he is forgotten too. Once, in a pub by the sea, a man looked at him. Perhaps he recognised something in him that he used to know. Their eyes met and the past blurred into empty space. He walked on.
At home, he tidied them up. Crop. Snip. Trim. Just a little. She will be made of the best bits, someone to share his life of fragments and scraps with. The eyes of a gardener and the laugh of a runaway and she tells him she loves him but the only “Love Yous” people forget are the ones they never wanted.
‘Your Mum’s a witch,’ he whispered in my ear. It was like a caress. I moved closer to him, our legs entwining, savouring his balmy breath brushing my cheek, and giggled,
‘No! She’s an Aromatherapist! You idiot…’
‘Well’, he was laughing too, now, ‘What about Bernard's crop of spring greens all rotted in the field for no reason - and only the day before she was giving him grief for letting the Hunt cross his land.’
‘She’s an animal lover!’
‘And she can freeze my blood at forty paces…’ He kissed my neck,
‘She’s worried you’ll break her girl’s heart…’
‘Plenty more fish…’ my mother soothed as I sobbed.
I lifted my tear-stained face from her warm breast and saw him walking past our window, his nose swollen by a huge, glowing, carbuncle.
My mother raised a crimson-tipped finger to her dark lips and smiled, ‘Shhh’.
She tends the garden with care now that he is gone. It fills the long, silent hours, pushes the pictures away for a time. The lawn is neat, smooth, the flower beds mark the seasons in bright, broad strokes of colour. Only one space lies neglected where each crop of the fruit he loved blooms, grows and falls, food for the birds and whatever tiny creatures fill the night.
She wonders if he thinks of them, the cherries, gooseberries and raspberries he tended and harvested with such devotion or if the green eyed girl is all he needs now, is still worth more than everything he left behind.
The fruit looks luscious, plump and juicy but she won’t taste it. She knows it would be bitter.
I stare at our picture on my computer screen, exhausted. For months, I’ve felt nearly all the emotions anyone could ever possibly feel and now, sitting here on our bed, all I feel is apathy.
When I think about the happiness of us, this is the picture I remember. Snapped when we were skiing in Austria, his brilliant blue eyes dance for the camera, a lighter shade than the sky behind us. They light up his face as he squints in the sun, grinning from ear to ear. His crow’s feet are in their infancy and the four-day shadow that darkens his chin makes him look more rugged than he was. I’m kissing his cheek, and even though all you see is my profile, my cheeks are flushed with happiness.
We’re in love…
…were in love. This picture is all that’s left.
And with a click, I crop him out.
A tomato too far
It was a fine crop of Tumbler tomatoes. Bountiful fruit, suitable for a window box, was promised and handsomely delivered. The first shoots, unpromising but growing, lickety-split, ready for planting out to soak up the summer. Diligent watering, on each and every scorching day, ensuring sweetness and juiciness and duly producing small green fruit, ripening into scarlet nuggets of deliciousness. Tom lost count of the number picked, those closest to the window first and then leaning and grasping for distant treasures. A final stretch, causing a tumble with the Tumblers, red juices, mingling on the pavement, two storeys down.
Every year, we were told, a fresh crop of people would be chosen.
It’s more or less accepted now, but we were all fearful when the One-Day Homecomings began- we would see them, two or three at a time, waiting outside their manicured acres in strange clothes, and fall silent. What times we were living in!
When some Homecomers realised just how little they had been missed, they raged in the streets. Others were bewildered by the world in which they found themselves, and flew back to the peace of the earth.
The ones who stayed cleansed their bodies and shed those strange clothes. Restored, they fed their hunger and quenched their thirst. Candles were to be lit in all rooms of the house, and the flames sputtered as our travellers crossed the threshold.
Families spoke until they forgot how to measure time.
Iowa Crop Mysteries: Series 1
The alarm was ringing, but where were his arms? The sheets wound round him like a straightjacket. He struggled to free himself but succeeded only in rolling from side to side like a corn cob. Angie. Where was Angie? She never left early for work. “Angie?” he cried out.
Maybe he shouldn’t make noise.
He wiggled his fingers until his hands could move. He wiggled his hands until his arms could move, and so on until he was free. He dropped to the floor. There was nothing under the bed. “Angie,” he whispered. Like a snake, he crawled into the hall. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Dark circles encompassed each eye. But it was his head, the crop circle on his head, the hairless ring on the top of his head, that left no doubt they’d been invaded by aliens.
I didn’t want to go to Heaven or Hell for that matter. I just wanted to sleep forever. I was down with a bit of happiness cropping up sometimes. The last psychologist who assessed me asked me the same sentence I had been asked for years.
“Do you ever feel like hurting someone or yourself?
I was tired of lying. I said, “Doesn't everyone?" That nearly got me locked up.
I was prescribed so many pills, that for the most part I slept. It kept me an unconscious slave and my dreams became nightmares. I had no peace. I was tortured.
It was my wife’s departure that drove my life out of control. She hated me. She told me I ruined her life and drove her family and friends away. It got so bad that when I sneezed she would say, “Go to Hell” instead of "God bless you.”
I don't want to stop but you're driving so we pull into the car park at the bottom of the hill. It's full of new age camper vans, daubed with yellow swirls and earth-saving slogans. 'Come on. It's not very far,' you tell me. Rather than stay in the car, I follow you, three paces behind. At the stile we pass a man dressed in orange shorts and dripping with photography equipment. He grunts a greeting. Half way up the hill, the crop circle blazes a message from outer space. We reach the top, breathe the air, turn, come down. The photographer is still by the stile, his camera now perched on a tripod. I draw level. The camera clicks. His eyes meet mine. A flash. We get back in the car and inside my head I smile because you don't know that my image, my soul, has been claimed.
Peter stood perfectly still in the center of the crop circle for a long moment before turning around to face her. "What are you trying to prove, Olivia?" he whispered. "I think it's pretty obvious what I'm trying to prove." "But why? Even if they are real, what makes you so sure they're coming?" They'd had this conversation before. Olivia was convinced that aliens were coming to Earth, to their town specifically. Her homemade crop circles were her way of trying to warn everyone, to scare them into evacuating before the real danger arrived. Olivia gave him a sad smile. "I know they're coming," she said softly, "because I'm one of them." Something wider than lightning flashed in the sky behind her, bright enough to blot out the stars. "Looks like my family's finally here." she said. "I'm sorry, Peter. I tried to warn you. I tried."
Hell on Earth
The old farmer and his two young grandsons, Luke and Henry, stood alongside the dust-covered tractor horrified by what they saw. Their mouths were protected by rags to help them breathe, their frayed overalls caked with soil. A season's worth of backbreaking work and a healthy crop of wheat were gone in a matter of minutes, replaced by windswept drifts of dirt and dust reaching halfway to their knees. Hundreds of acres as far as the eye can see resembled the surface of the moon, as huge billowing clouds of dust and matter passed over their heads. “Grand paw, what is it, what's going on?” Luke asked. “That there my boys is Hell on Earth, the wrath of God descending upon us,” the old man said. “Come quickly,” as he took hold of the boys' hands and led them into the safety of the barn. “We must pray.”
Judge And Jury
“I told them I didn’t know him.”
“That was the plan wasn’t it?”
“If they find out you knew him, he could go free.”
“You can’t be sure.”
“Well, that’s the beauty of never having him around, we have one picture of him.” I shrug “I’ll crop him out.” She paces her office, pausing only to run her finger along the oak wood desk, her first purchase when she opened her own law firm. I try to distract her.
“Can we agree that the photo is the least of my worries? the real work is with the other jurors and convincing them he’s guilty.” I wait as she scans the room as if storing the memories for one last time. “Okay,” She says finally, “Let’s do it, let’s get him.”
I raise an imaginary glass towards her biting the tears back, “Finally.”
Diluted and dirty amber light dances through the dust. It tumbles from the splintered windowsill over the angled chasm of absence drawn by dawn along the arid horizon and lands in a pointed arabesque arranged according to anxious pangs that have the others cluttering to the closed casements.
Nothing has changed. Just another day awaiting the hunger that never really left.
I can't claim to be any better. I grab two bowls from the cabinet and place them on the table framed by the light. One up, one down. While the others watch dust spin across the phantoms of our livelihood, I obsess with the capacity of the upright bowl; the merciless angles of its own lips and the sun never let it fill, but it's always overflowing.
At night, dust chokes the moon's attempt at brilliance. Awake in my hunger, I savor the light cropped in the overturned bowl.
"That shade of yellow really brings out your complexion," had said the girl. "The brown of your eyes, too. I swear, it's as if it was waiting for you."
She had smiled and her cheeks had dimples and Maria had believed her because that smile'd made her go weak in the knees. She'd even tossed the receipt in the nearest bin, together with the hastily ripped off tag, just so that she couldn't change her mind about it later.
Now that she'd put it on, though, she wasn't so sure anymore. It left too much uncovered, it clung too snugly to her skin; her stomach felt exposed, soft and fuzzy and ready to be gutted by any passerby's stare.
But the girl had smiled so sweetly, and the sun was warm, so Maria took a breath and went outside. In a bright yellow crop top.
The crop was rotten. Julio sank the shovel into the dirt with a sharp stab and after a quick investigation came to the conclusion that the roots of the Breynia oblongifolia were corrupted. He had feared this for years but now it was certain: the fields of coffee were gone forever. The rain fell, again, and as he gazed into the horizon, he thought, what had been the use. The trees that had held their ground for thousands of years had been bulldozed down so the village would have a new income. The American’s teeth had been so white and his Rolex so shiny. This time Julio felt no envy. They had nothing. The end of the world was rolling towards them, in the form of the coal-black wall of clouds.
How to crop an image
1. Copy and paste, reshape, resize.
Time to crop. What do I hate the most? Hair? No, too easy. Nose? They’re painful to fix. Ears. She’d look funny without them.
2. Create a circle, size it to fit, place it carefully over the eye.
Covering the right socket perfectly, swallowing it, along with the doe eyelashes cushioning that baby blue.
3. Fill the circle. First with red. Then progress through the shades to black.
A black hole where her eye should be.
4. Hit print.
5. Cut out the face.
6. Pin it on the doll.
The doll has a tiny wig made of her hair and wears clothes fashioned from her cardigan. She’s pricked all over like she’s enjoying a session of acupuncture.
The doll looks at me dolefully with her one left eye.
That’ll teach her to look at me like that.
Three Good Friends and a Dog
“We can just crop him out.”
“Please don’t throw them away!”
“He’s standing on the end anyway, it’ll be easy to just chop him off.”
Marie’s three closest friends have arrived with consoling words and emergency supplies - chocolate, carbohydrates, and a bottle and a half of wine. The millennial equivalent of the three wise men.
Marie had been coping surprisingly well since the break-up but her graduation pictures arrived today and there he is, staring back at her with a fake smile, pretending to be a part of her family forever.
The morning after the drunken night, she sends her friends on their merry way. As she goes to pack away her photos, never to be seen again, she notices that in every single one, her ex has been replaced with her dog. She smiles gratefully for the friends she has and proudly arranges the pictures along her windowsill.
The World of Memories
I watch her through the hedges, and when I think she saw me I hide my tiny body. I don’t want others to think that I love her. I hold my breath and dare myself to look again. I draw her a picture. I can’t sleep that night and when in the morning, I rush out and go to the usual spot, she is no longer there and the only thing she has left behind is a childish painting without any meaning. The painting of a bald girl staring out of a hospital’s window with a bitter smile. She left me behind with a pleasure that shattered my heart into pieces I can’t find. And now that she is gone forevermore, I wish I could tell her that I loved her as much as green leaves, the budding crop and candies in my pocket.
She had always been held differently in the eyes of her parents. Her sister had a free reign despite being the youngest. Wasn’t the youngest the baby? Wasn’t she supposed to be subject to their parents' worries? Their touches of melancholy?
All that freedom and still she rebelled. With crop tops and hair dye and piercings. A memory of the beach and her sister running freely in the soft baby pink bikini she had secretly coveted. Instead, her mother's grip on her arm, her father’s t-shirt over her own one-piece bathing suit, the stick stick stickiness of too much sunscreen.
Her sister would run back and taunt her with sandy toes and salty hair and tan lines. The perfect image of health. The child her parents had dreamed of.
My uncle was telling me that he was a friend of the sea. When the new hotel blocked the sea view my paralyzed uncle could not tell me anything. Loneliness is another sea but only gives drowning.
My mother's friend was a painter and she knew him. I wanted to create a new horizon for my uncle.
My mother's friend turned his memoirs and stories into small paintings.
The paintings covered the walls of the room. One painting remained. When I found his emotional memoir I knew that it would be the most important painting. It is the portrait of the woman he loved.
The painter shocked me, she apologized for drawing the portrait.
I then discovered that there is a cropped page from the emotional memoir.
My uncle was still looking at the empty place of the portrait until he died.
This morning she wakes up earlier and attempts to embrace all mornings through this very morning.
She, therefore, hopes to undo the unforgettable moments from within one spirit. As if there was one single morning in which she has been growing:
Some tribes are on their way in a distant morning. Empires collapse. The choir of young girls sings a hymn. Adam and Eva are strolling in the Garden of Heaven. The streets of the Europa are in conflict.
In Syria, evil attacks and captures young women.
Emigrants seek justice. A politician signs the documents of corruption. Children are afraid of something.
Arnica, the endurance of silence: The worldly wisdom recoils. A blind visits a temple in the countryside.
A poem is alone. The clouds hovering over the city slightly go away.
All these are nothing but the moments of the crop of the poem-to-come. Because she is a poet.
A Calculated Risk
'It's an Eton Crop, Pa', said Coral, rubbing her bare neck again.
'Short hair is for hussies', said her father. He went to his study and came back with the riding crop.
Coral fled, crying, through the lavender and the orchard, to the shade of the chestnut tree.
There she was soothed by the sound of horses cropping the grass.
When her tears had dried, she saw Jack, the farmers son, leaning against the rough bark of the tree trunk.
'We've a grand crop of strawberries, if you want to come picking,' he said, and gave Coral a wink.
Quite tempting to try out being a hussy, thought Coral. But no, she wouldn't risk coming a cropper.
Not with Jack, anyway.
"Little princess," dad whispers. His eyes are closed. "I love you."
My fingers intertwine with his between us. I kiss his nose. A year rolls over the bridge of his nose to his other eye.
"I will forever be by your side. No matter what."
More tears make their way to my pillow.
"Mom cropped me out of all pictures and now they all look stupid. So we have to make lots of happy pictures together."
Dad smiles, still crying. He squeezes my fingers silently.
"Did mom love me?" I ask, closing my eyes so I can't see daddy's tears. "She didn't even kiss me goodbye."
"I don't know, little princess. But I love you."
"Dad, maybe we can find a new mommy for me. Someday."
"So have you found about, who took Janet?" My mother asked, before taking a bite of her cream-filled scone. I was hoping that question wouldn't crop up. What could I tell her? That as far as I know, Janet could be dead, dropped in a nearby river, with injuries to her head and body.
The police had no more information to provide me. Right now, it was a waiting game. The hours had turned to days and then months. Six months to be exact. Six months of sleepless nights and too many tears to count.
"Listen, I don't want to talk about any more Okay. Haven't we been over this before?" I said, taking a sip of strong coffee. The room fell silent. It was so quite, that one could have heard a pin drop.
I rose from the couch to pour myself some more coffee.
Enter: The Hunger
The sun frowned upon us, those with calloused hands, scorched skin and aching feet. That damned ball of fire, blazing even further into our eyes, blinding whoever tried to look up for solace from the failure beneath our feet.
There was no chance, no hope for a break in this hell. No shoes, not enough water, not enough food, no stopping the work. We didn't have a rainy season this time year.
We drag ourselves forwards with the sacks of seeds on our backs, ready to throw them into place out of anger. The earth is hard, but it has to accept it, accept the seeds, or we will coerce the ground. There will be crops this time, no one knows how much longer we can last if there isn't.
That damned sun, searing our creations. There is no harvest again.
It took the food out of my mouth.
The morning after
No, it is not what you think. Matt didn't sleep with anyone the day before. They had a family celebration so he got drunk. He doesn't even remember what he did. He only sees a red crop top on the floor of his bedroom. Who left it there? Was it a friend or someone unknown? What even happened?!
He gets flashbacks at last night. How he was kissing an unknown woman wearing the same red crop top. How he was giving high fives to all of his friends. It sounded fun. He calls one of them.
"So, can you like remember what I did last night? I only remember a woman.""Man, you didn't make out with any woman, the crop top you found is a part of a murder scene. You killed someone."
And suddenly he realizes his hands are bloody and there is blood everywhere. He killed someone?!
Myra was very well accomplished considering she had her own editorial company , standing sky high in Vegas . She had a ll the riches. She had everything but nothing at all.
Myra was an orphan, she never had enough love since she had no parents , she always felt neglected.
So growing up all Myra ever craved was love . she wanted someone to value her .
Then she met Timothy .
Timothy was very sweet at first but then the ugliness came out in him . It started with obsessive behavior which turned into abuse.
Myra was too blinded by her craving of love to leave him until one day she saw him sharing his love with another woman , that's when it all hit her .
Now there she sat staring at picture of her and Timothy , then she pressed the crop option from the gallery and cropped Timothy out of the picture and her life.
A Comfortable Rain
The rains came too soon. Still in the fields, he ran to the shelter of the cottage, the warmth of its fire, the smell of his pipe’s tobacco. He hung his clothes to dry near the fire, toked on his pipe, and felt peace with it all as he stared out the window which sung as it shattered the raindrops in a rhythmic beat.
His chair supported him with comfort, much like his wife had before she died during yesteryear’s harvest. He was reminded of her death with each task he performed in raising this year’s crop. It was a reminder of her death, but also of her residual presence in their home. She had helped him grow the field’s yield out of her love for him and to build their future. He now grew this year’s yield out of his love for her and to preserve their past.
The Art of Forgetting
The scissors sliced into the glossy card. Slow, considered slices which contoured around his outline.
On the carpet next to her folded leg, the pile was was growing: Faye in Durham in graduation gown and mortarboard; Faye in Berlin at the Christmas market, swaddled in scarf and hat; Faye in Crete last summer with wet hair and Cheshire cat smile. In each picture a blank space, the size and shape of a person, set beside Faye. An emptiness.
With a final, decisive slice, Faye placed another photograph on the pile. In this image she was dressed in white. Flowers in her right hand; left hand gone with the cropped figure.
Faye picked up another photo and was ready to cut when the doorbell rang. She glanced in the hallway mirror then opened the door.
"Mrs Townsend, I'm D.I. Luton. We've got some more questions about your husband's disappearance."
The roof has collapsed. Water leaks inside. The door, barricaded by wooden planks, rough and splintered, has been thrown aside. The people lie somewhere within, blank expressionless faces, mere skulls with skin as their bodies lay crushed. Maybe they died peacefully. Probably not. Probably in total agony, bodies shattered in a thousand different places, fractured and dying. Somewhere in the garden flowers spring up, a new crop of bright yellows and pinks, blues, whites, new life against decay within. Soil, made of broken bones and ash anyway, gives them breath. They die, return, anew, bearing gifts, fruits, beauty, power. Power those poor bodies could never hold. It's a waste to pity them now. Their lives are over; ours have but begun, a soul shining forth from the sky's light, hopeful for a better existence. So mourn the loss but praise the beauty that comes from it.
The apple crop is heavy this year. The branches lean down like priests offering the blessed host.
My clouded eyes replay past autumns. In the cidrous shade, me on a ladder fills a wicker basket. My wife and young son reach for low hanging fruit and collect windfall in buckets.
Behind a sign that says ‘1p an Apple’, the boy arranges the harvest by the garden gate and waits patiently for custom. After he’s gone to bed we lose a few apples and put coins in his tin.
Now I’m the only one left to see the pink blossom, then the transformation to green, then gold, then the bare sticks of winter. From my window I watch the laden boughs drop their wrinkled fruit on fallen leaves.
There’s only one ladder left for me to climb. At its top will be my family where, reunited, we’ll pick apples.
"What are you saying?"
"Crop it. Cut it down."
"I know, but why?"
Rodrigo knew why. She had always hated him.
"Christ it's nothing personal. It looks better re-sized. It speaks more to the brand."
"This is my work. This is what I do." Rodrigo crossed his arms and stood back from the image. It was sacred. A double decker hefted past outside. He glared at the night time office cleaners staring in from the top deck. Idiots.
Becky was sick of him. All these designers were so full of it. Everyone on this floor, with their bluetooth headphones and identical beards. They were a cult, making snake oil. And she was the one who had to sell it, spinning silk around their fonts and colour tones.
"Just try it, will you?"
Rodrigo sighed. Management. He stroked the touchpad, dragged and clicked. It was the image that mattered, after all.
When Sirens Sing
Known for his arrogant promiscuity, he never understood how any man could lose his shit over her. He'd left many women and was perfectly fine. That was before Lori. Her slender figure strutted into his life, fake loved him for 7 months then left him with nothing but sorrows and thoughts of how the hell did this happen to me.
Scammed him out of everything she did, he would overhear his neighbors whisper to themselves a bit too loudly. He quit his job for her, stopped working out after her ghost act. Friends saw less of him. She took more than his money, she took his spirit. Her entire identity fictitious. He longed to forget her presence on his world. All he had left of her now were arms and legs from cropped pictures.
Pug or Unplugged?
Cy kneaded the sex-hormone plug of chewing gum and wedged it in her cheek. Her long green hair hung like velvet curtains concealing her eyes as they began to shine.
Her seventh sense had begun to develop. She knew he was near. A warm sensation caressed her feet. By the time Kenny breezed through the door she was ready. Taking him by the hand she pulled him into the backyard to harvest the crop of gum, unplugged in the golden sun of her eyes.
From the kitchen window, his eyes peer above the rim of coffee cup. The red tractor, the August-glint from scattered silage bags, white and stuffed. A good crop so far.
Beyond that, the glacier. Looking as it had always done. He slurps. But it would, wouldn't it? It’s what’s hidden behind the ice-wall that threatens. The melt, the pressure, the weight; the shoulder-breaking weight.
A glacial burst is due. Within ten or twenty years, depending on your expert. But when it does come, it will sweep away the farm and with it the very essence on which it stands, the soil. Unimaginable, unless you’d already seen it. And he had. A short drive up the coast. Where you can look on desert landscape for as far the eye can see. Three hundred thousand acres of flat and black and bleak.
He drains his coffee. Straightens.
Back to work.
A slender blade protrudes, a solitary emerald sword emerging nakedly, sharp and sparkling in the rays of the early morning sun. Nestled in the soft loam, toes and belly firmly planted, eyes squinting, the profile remains visible when I blink. White slashes across the light shining through my closed eyelids, turning them the color of blood. Mist rises up around me, my hair curling with the dew.
I dream of him, the blue of his eyes like a crystal spring. The corners crinkle, and the grass whispers together when he smiles at me. I beg him to take me with him, when he says it's time to go, but he takes his smile and goes without me, anyways.
Opening my eyes, I see it's almost time for me to join him. A new crop has sprouted along my arm, each freckle with its own green leaf growing from the center.
He took the lasagne out without oven gloves. I had noticed nothing like that in fifteen years.
"You've guessed," he said. "I'm not from these parts."
His eyes smiled. His human form dissolved. A handsome a silver-furred elf replaced it.
"Come, let me take you to Elgin, my home," he said.
We travelled through the stars.
"You'll never be the same again," he said. "Not now you've seen this."
Elgin was full of soft woods and singing waters. My in-laws welcomed me, but found me a curiosity. I grew homesick. He said we should return.
I awoke in a sweat. He slept on, breathing gently. I put my head on his chest. I heard no beat. I remembered Elginians had no heart. I traced my finger round the “E" tattooed on his groin. The crop of silver hair sprouting all over his body came as no surprise.
She had become accustomed to the taunts of lesbo, girl banger and freak that her square jawline and lack of adornment attracted but the look of defeat on her father's face as he forcibly shaved her head was unsettling. It was as though he thought the problem would silently flutter to the floor with the hair and disappear into the bin. She was no longer able to blunt the feelings of isolation and low self-esteem by laboriously teasing out one hair at a time and twirling it round and round her finger, delaying the pleasure of the final tug.
Her cropped hair and less than feminine features rendered her gender ambiguous, providing her tormentors with additional ammunition. She dragged the needle across her forearm, the skin puckering before springing back and opening up, and watched the crimson droplets chase each other to the floor.
She hit me swiftly on the back of the legs with the riding crop.
-Are you listening to me?!! Are you?!!
I wasn't. She's an old witch that had stolen my Dad & wouldn't let me play outside with Kelsie.
-Little harlet!!! She called her. I don't know what a harlet is but if Kelsie's one I should be one too.
-You're not listening to me are you?!!
I didn't cry, I didn't move either. My Dad said she sometimes gets manic. I've to tell him if I'm worried. I won't, it won't help.
Throp throp throp!!! I flew to the other side of the kitchen. I reached for the biscuit barrel, it was a dog, ceramic.
- You think you're having a biscuit?!!
Little did she know that the barrel would crash around her head & I would watch her splayed out on the floor stuffing my face with bourbon creams.
The crop had failed again. His father said it. There was no money to pay the rent and he worried in his fitful sleep.
‘Hurry, gather as much as ye can carry’ his mother called, rousing the house and scurrying about collecting their meagre possessions as his father rushed outside. ‘C’mon boys’ he shouted to Owen’s elder brothers ‘help load the cart before the troops get here’. A neighbour had forewarned them.
So it was that Owen found himself shivering in the middle of the night, mostly of fear, watching their torched cottage burn. Hearing soldiers cries, his mother wailing, his father’s protestations falling on deaf ears and his elder brothers railing against the injustice being served upon them as they were forced from their home. One of many thousands of families cruelly evicted to the mercy of the elements or the Work House. No work. No food. No hope.
The widows and orphans were allowed to glean the leavings. He watched from the back of his horse. It had been a good crop this year and he thanked the Lord for it. He was about to return to his accounting house when he noticed a young woman, a stranger, among the gleaners.
She still had a lithe body, not bent and crabbed or stick thin. He wondered who she was and why she was in his field. He snapped his fingers and a boy ran up.
“Find out the names of all those who glean my field this day. And who they are related to.” The boy nodded and ran off to discover all he could.
He watched the woman a long while, appreciating the sway of her limbs in the heat.
That night he was not surprised to find her lying across his feet.
“Ruth,” he breathed.
You know you’ve been dumped when they crop you out of the photo – the one from your twelve-month anniversary. You know for sure when it hits the social media feeds. A swag of thumbs up from his friends and congrats on ditchin’ the bitch. A spate of expletives from yours.
You want to crawl under the covers and never come out. Don’t read that stuff. That’s what everyone says. That’s what you always say. You get it now. Every post is like a needle prick but you can’t look away.
You don’t know which is worse. That everyone saw it, or that it’s old news in nano minutes. You’ll cry yourself to sleep tonight and they’ll have moved on, taking selfies at the mall and laughing over their almond milk lattes. Probably talking about you.
You stare at the photo. The original. He’ll never smile at you like that again.
We burst out, a whole crop of us festering on the giant landscape that extended before us. It was our first real outing so we didn't think so much as evolve or emote our way into the positions we took. Small belisha beacons, commandeering our places, defiantly saying this spot is mine. Some of us made tiny momentary stands, others were content to rise and then fall flat, others crept closer, serpengeniously coalescing to create grand canyon like endeavours; others again burned harsh and bright rising to volcanic pre-eminence. We stood resplendent in our moments of triumph whilst the young lad on whose face we rose looked at us through a mirror in awe. He splashed us, squeezed us in agonising swirls and all the while muttering a strange incantation "Becky Fuller"; " Prom Night"; "Why Me”.
On the road to Waddington we pass a woman climbing out of a ditch. We pull up after 100 yards and turn to watch her through the TV of our rear window. She brushes something from her pink sweat crops, glances all around. Traipses off in the other direction.
"We should’ve gone back," I say, after a while.
"Well, we didn’t," says Pete.
He leans across to the glove box. It gapes open onto my lap with a clatter of CDs. "Choose something upbeat, for Chrissake."
I grab the nearest CD.
"She could’ve been mugged and left for dead," I hazard. "Been dumped by an ego-ridden boyfriend. Hit and run. Date rape. Alien abduction." I turn to stare back at the empty stretch of horizon. "It could have been anything."
Pete winds his window and sticks a palm out, resisting the breeze. "Yeah," he says, "but it was probably nothing."
We never saw my father, distant, across the fields and further, by the stream.
And I was happy.
But my father had seen us.
Home again, he handed me a paper bag with a wet tomato in the corner, the skin split as you sometimes get in underwatered fruit.
"You left this," he said. "Litter. That, is litter."
On my way into the city, all these years later, I pick up litter, the crop of urban living, with the very tips of my fingers.
Sometimes cans are sticky edged and I wipe clean my hands on rough walls until they bleed.
My father wouldn't be proud of me, although I am of course, cast in his same shadow.
The current crop of the party's politicians kept quiet about Mr. Crow's transgressions, they even let him overtake the entire institution. Someone had to do something about that.Therefore, I held a press conference, where I told the media about my feelings towards Mr. Crow. They applauded me for my bravery at the end of the meeting, but I knew this wasn't enough.Consequently, I published a book where I criticized Mr. Crow, which became a best-seller. However, I had no hunch he would call me during one of the signings.Thus, I ended up in his office.'Mr. Chip, how much does your loyalty cost?'I had no clue what to say.'That much?'He handed me a check.'I guessed?'He did.
Rushing through the brambly thick forest I try to outrun the pounding feet behind, huffing and puffing to no avail. I turn left and right searching for that mysterious figure only to find the eerie fog wrapping itself around the trees. Slowing down to step over a crop of foreign flowers I tread through the now silent forest watching as the fog thickens around me. As I move further into the forest I know I am lost and that the figure could be anywhere. Hearing a snapping twig, I whip my head round only to see a fleeting shadow in the now translucent fog. It is as if the figure is controlling the fog to confuse and scare me. Suddenly there’s a rush of flurry from the forest as if everything is trying to hide from something menacing. Then silence. Within seconds, a terrified scream pierces the air.......
A group photo or standalone? Maybe the background needs more visibility, that's it.
I should have asked Maddie how to crop before 6th period ended today. She's at cheer practice for the next hour or so and it's no use waiting since she said by late afternoon everyone goes through their feed for final time until tomorrow.
Perhaps a filter that isn't used much. Amaro looks good and could catch someone's eye in the midst of their scrolling. Why do they give us so many filters to choose from anyway? There isn't the faintest idea of a caption floating in my mind at the moment and it's almost 4PM.
How can people possibly churn this stuff out on an almost daily basis?
Never Officially Broken Hearted
Posh Girl only has a group shot containing the two of them together.
At 17, she would slow walk home, knowing He Himself would drive past on his way to his evening job, in his Pea Green Mean Machine.
The day after the Christmas party, He Himself turned up at Posh Girl’s door, said he couldn’t stop thinking about her, had to see her.
He Himself and Posh Girl were not in a relationship for seven years. They wrote letters to each other after He Himself left town, and Posh Girl went away. They hooked up when visiting family, and twice Posh Girl travelled to He Himself’s new town.
In the photo, it’s He Himself’s 21st birthday, his arm’s around Posh Girl’s shoulder, it’s university holidays, all of them are outside the Greek restaurant. He Himself brought Blonde Friend, none of them knew Blonde Friend. Posh Girl cropped Blonde Friend out.
She Was Never A Beauty Queen
Look at her now, the whispers said, as they sipped lukewarm tea. She’d forgotten where she’d put the cosy, covered the teapot with her hat instead.
They’d never been inside the flat before. Their curiosity strayed to the ghosts on the mantelpiece. Was that...? Is that…? She stopped the conversation with stale Custard Creams.
The Battenberg cake was dry, like ashes in their mouths. Politeness held their tongues in a vice. So they told her how well she looked; she must let them know her secret, what potions and lotions she used.
When she got up to refill the teapot, the murmurs arose once more: she had been a rock star’s muse, a Soviet spy. Maybe drugs had cut her career short, stolen her beauty. She looks like a man now, they agreed, hair cropped short, locks turned white. Not a beauty queen they decided, not at all.
How Could You?
Since I was born. That’s how long my hair had been growing.
“Why can’t I cut my hair? Just a bit shorter. Please…”
“You are, my daughter, as the Lord intended. Your beauty comes not from outward embellishment but from your inner self, from the undying beauty of your soft and silent spirit, which is of countless value in God’s sight. In this way holy women of before put their faith in God and submitted themselves to their own husbands.”
Later, when I am not beset by her belief and prejudice. Later, when I find my voice, when I become me…then I will cut my hair and never submit myself to my own or anyone else’s husband!
And so it came to pass.
“How would you like it miss?” the young man said.
“I want it short, clipped, trimmed, cut off. Just crop it…”
“How could you?” she screamed.
I’m alone in the shop, dividing up a large crop of mistletoe, when she walks in. Tall and too thin with a long face, I instantly dislike her.
‘Can you do flowers for a wedding? On 10th January?’
‘Let me check the diary,’ I say, knowing that we have nothing on. ‘That’s fine. What would you like?’
‘What do people usually have?’
I look up from the diary. ‘Bouquet, flowers for the church or registry office, table arrangements, button holes. Do you have something in mind?’
‘No.’ She looks at the floor.
Dislike could’ve turned to hate with that word; there’s nothing worse than a customer who doesn’t know what they want. But instead I swing the other way, noticing something in her voice, in her too-thinness.
‘Okay, that’s fine. Let’s sit down and go through some options.’
The lines around her mouth change direction a little. ‘Thank you.’
This is no easy cut and paste; not a job for photoshop or editor. It requires a sharp instrument. Scissors are too blunt and a serrated knife too messy, so I find my old craft knife, replace the blade carefully, and make the first incision.
It hurts. I knew it would, but the sight of trickling blood running down my chest makes me queasy. After that though, it is all too easy to crop the illusion of you that festers in my being. I begin to remove every memory and moment with each organ I extract, sewing up the skin with ragged stitches, until I am an empty rag doll.
I shall store myself in the attic, along with the promises you gave me, which gathered dust a long time ago.
A beginning, a middle and an end.
George couldn't find a way to crop his story any more. It was how he wanted it. He was proud of his opening line:
"He played the piano in the room next to the morgue while she turned the pages".
The middle section was the part most difficult to write, purely because he was travelling between Bristol Parkway and Swindon. An uninspiring stretch of railway, linking his place of birth and, he didn't know it yet, his place of death. All George knew, was that he deserved a medal for writing whilst surrounded by squarking children.
To close his fictional tale of two lovers who haunted the wards of a hospital wing, George finished with his favourite line:
"When a cool breeze turned the page to 'Angel's Farewell' before she could lift her hand in time to stop it, they realised - their time together had come to an end."
Ring, Ring, 'Hello'.
'Hi ,its Sue, I just wondered how you are and how the divorce is progressing'.
'Hi, Sue, thanks for calling, I have been pretty stressed out, its all just a nightmare really. I really don't know how I am coping at the moment'.
'You are a strong woman Heather, you will get through this'.
'I know I will eventually, but when I married James, I really thought I had married the cream of the crop, he was a good man'.
'But you are a good woman, Heather, you really didn't deserve this'.
'I could may be compete with another woman, but when your husband tells you he is transsexual, how the hell do you handle that'.
'I cannot imagine Heather, especially since you have the children, what do they think of all this'.
'Its all such a mess, but I will make him or her pay'.
A Minor Heartbreak
The word "crop," and three things come to mind.
One, cropping all those snapshots. Digital much preferable over the manic indignity of scissor-snipping. The glossy pile incinerated, the smoke, the ash, but then a tiny smirking face within charred edges, glinting up. Taking a lit match to it, breathing past the knife-point specificity.
Two, the flaunting machismo of a close-cropped haircut, denuded sides of the head exposing every flex and ripple like a snarl, an intimidation.
And three, the blight upon my first ever tulip crop. I didn't see it initially. All I saw - excitedly, naively - was a gorgeous batch of Purple Prince in orderly rows, upright and strong in the crisp glow of spring sun. Like a loyal royal regiment.
"See these stunted fireheads and their twisted leaves?" my horticulturalist friend later pointed out. "They'll infect all the others."
Ditching my crop, a minor heartbreak.
Trees stand solemnly, branches indicating the direction of the winds and show nothing of their summer splendor. Like centurions, they stand guard over the harrowed soil, barren of crops, whilst pools of water gather on twisted furrows beneath islands of ice.
Washed-out sunlight struggles to rise above their tops, yellow-tinged clouds quickly consumed by a stratus cover with snow flurries resting a while on the branches, before dripping to the ground. Emily traced a rivulet of rain on the window pane with her finger and sighed at the thought of the onset of winter.
The crackling entices her to turn from the window, the glowing embers dance, the flush of the fire mirrored in her face, she smiled. Mozart played to himself and with a gentle hum she lifted a glass of wine to her lips and placed the last of the baubles on the tree.
At fifteen, Ted was the popular boy, tall for his age, fluff on his chin and a chest sporting two fine hairs. Captain of the football team, he was the cream of the crop. The popular girls drooled over him while the rest of us looked on in awe; we didn’t stand a chance. I envied him from afar.
I saw Ted yesterday; the years have not been kind. Smoking ruined his football career, drugs have stolen his looks. He has three children he never sees. He’s twenty-four.
He’d found a spacious doorway, two, one pound coins lay in his pot. “Can you spare any cash mate?” he said unaware that we’d met before. He’d barely noticed me in school, I wasn’t in his league.
I handed him a fiver, “Thanks mate," Ted said, "You’re the best."
He lit another fag and swigged another beer.
I don’t envy him now.
Waiting for Emily
She had been missing now for 27 hours.
Everyone was being so supportive. Just like when his wife had died, the local mothers kept “just dropping by” to see how he was and bringing him so many food parcels the kitchen was beginning to look like a cafateria.
The husbands usually hung back, not really knowing what to say that was appropriate in these circumstances. Well what did you say to a young widower whose only daughter, who had a penchant for wearing skimpy crop tops, had gone missing?
He had never agreed with her choice of clothing; what father would. But he had agreed to ‘back off’ if she would check in regularly.
The Police Officers had at least started to tuck into some of the food, whilst making suitably reassuring noises about the percentage of young people eventually found safe after a ‘few days missing’…
…And he just waited.
'I don't want to go through the crop field,' said Louise.
'Why? The long way around will make us late!' said Fiona.
'It's the scarecrow. Gaz said...'
'Gaz was up there drinking beer, wasn't he?'
Louise sighed. 'His friends saw it too. The scarecrow jumped down and ran towards them. They legged it, and Gaz says Ollie even wet himself. Honestly, Fi, they were scared to death.'
'He wet himself?' Fiona mused, hitching her backpack. 'Doesn't that make you want to go out there and take a look? Or are you scared too?'
Louise ground her teeth. She was terrified.
They walked in silence, each seeing how far the other would go. At the field they looked everywhere but the scarecrow was gone.
Then suddenly, they were grabbed from behind and crushed together, the smell of straw and dust making them choke.
“Gerald Barker’s the cream of the crop.”
“He’s a three-time divorcee with a bad toupee.” Faye laid a plate of scones on the chequered tablecloth.
Carolynn shrugged. “It’s a low yield year. Been a bit of a drought.”
Faye rolled her eyes. “Calm down Anita Rani.”
Pouting, Carolynn poured a fresh cup of tea. “So, are you going to reel him in?”
“Not a chance!”
“But he’s a catch.”
“What, slimy and stinking of sewage? Well, when you put it like that…”
Carolynn stirred her tea. “Mabel will be glad when she hears it’s a no go.”
“Mabel with the stable? Mighty Mabel, the Goddess of the Guild?”
“She’s been sniffing round like a dog on heat.”
Faye lowered herself onto a chair, staring into the distance. “One drink wouldn’t hurt.”
“I hear May’s an excellent month for a wedding.” Carolynn chuckled, helping herself to a scone.
I sat impatiently on one of the couches at home. I stared fervently at the calendar, my index finger on the date of my expected day of delivery which was already two weeks past. The doctor told us to be prayerful as the baby was still alive. I glanced despairingly at my protuded stomach.
'Oh God help me !' I cried out in pain. My husband walked in just then and said comfortingly:
'Oh honey, everything would be just fine, I am sure Tricia finds your tummy cozy and wants to stay there a while.' He drew near and sat beside me his right hand rubbing my back.
'Thanks love'. I said. He stopped rubbing and bent his head forward, his ear on my stomach.
'Hush!' He said - ' I can hear her moving... 'come out quickly because your mom and I need to join the crop of other parents out there.'
From a war not too long away
They called it the cleanse- churning the cursed bodies down with the slugs. Every spring they would send the crop dusters down drowning the fields with poppies, blood rivers seeping like spilt milk. No use crying. Tears don't raise the dead. After a while even the petals withered and decayed, leaving an angry pox on the hills. It made them happy though, I think, to think they cared. Battles are fought in boardrooms not in backwoods. Hereditary commands- three generations born and raised and living and dying on the same conflict carousel - hatred breeding hatred breeding hatred held by fear, forgetting why their grandparents first hated in the first place. When the war ended so did the crop-dusters and eventually, over time, no one remembered- not the command nor the troops nor the cadets nor the reasons why. I kept the last seeds. Only I leave the poppies now.
Harvest of War
That year the apple crop exceeded all expectations: gathering the bountiful harvest continued well into the Autumn. The War had ended. The nation celebrated: Armistice and victory. Corporal James Browning came home from the war; battered, bruised, stunned and silent; never to speak of his lost limbs or of the brutal fighting. Having survived his fallen comrades, guilt gnawed away at his very soul.
His wife, Alice and their children had waited so long for the War to end. The children prayed each night for their father’s safe return and dreamt of when he was home. Now, their prayers had been answered, but their father had changed: he’d become morose, short-tempered and often violent.
Next year the apple tree will produce its fruitful harvest in the Autumn, but Alice knows the loving husband and father who went to fight for his country and their liberty can never return to her.
By Autumn most of the men had left to join the rebels. With nobody to bring in the harvest, the crop rotted in the fields. Us kids tried to help our mothers, but the little ones would get bored and run off to play.
Then one night in October the soldiers came. I woke to find my mother poking me in the ribs.
'Get up. Go', she hissed. 'It's not safe for you here. They'll want girls.'
She pushed me through the back door and thrust a parcel at me. I realised later that she must have had that parcel ready and waiting for just that moment.
They were setting fire to the roof of the first cottage, the flames already licking at the dark. I heard laughter and the crackle of straw as it caught light. I headed towards the beach.
I never saw my village again.
The crop top looked good on her. Good like her parents wouldn’t approve of her leaving the house wearing it, good like Micky Earl (who she really hoped was going to be at the party tonight) definitely would approve. Not that she was wearing it for Mickey Earl, she told herself, that was just a nice bonus. She admired herself in the mirror. Her abdomen ached from the gym this morning, but her stomach was flat and toned and god damn, Mickey Earl had really better be at that party or she was going to pissed. She’d be pissed anyway, she’d already put the bottle of vodka in her bag. Clara and Daisy would be here soon. She looked at herself in the mirror again. Yes, Mickey Earl would like this.
It took quite a long time to cut you from each photograph. Sometimes I used scissors and other times the guillotine which, somehow, seemed more apt. Each removed image of you I added to the pin board above my desk until they started to overlap and merge into some abstract mosaic. It became addictive. I followed you, became your stalker, photographed you when you weren’t aware and, later in the dark room, your three dimensions became two and then, with a sharpened blade I removed you just like that. And so I continued until the pin board, so heavy with your images, fell in autumn and gave me such a windfall of a crop.
Just why the farmer chose to travel to the event by motorcycle he never really knew. But wished he hadn’t
Up until then he was delighted.
2003 had turned out to be a record harvest year. No more so than in the case of his Wheat that yielded sixty-one bushels per acre. The offer from the large brewery in London came by email, they’d pay top price for his Barley to be malted and used in beer production. The notice of three flour mills for sale locally presented a golden opportunity to expand, for his Oats.
Good luck continued when his daughter was named pick of the crop amongst young equestrians at the annual County Fair but unfortunately he wasn’t there to witness it.
Whizzing along without a care in the world the farmer collided with an East Sussex grain lorry only to come a right cropper - in Rye.
Bang Goes Nothing
Hailstones hit the apricots in September just when the fruit was taking shape. The orchardists prayed that the damage wasn’t too bad. Come October and the crop looked okay, some had hail spots, but the majority should pass muster.
November arrived, and picking commenced. The seasonal workers separated out the good from the bad as they plucked the light golden fruit into their deep pocket aprons.
The yield graded, boxed and loaded onto the truck, off it went to the cannery.
At the entry gate, the driver crossed his fingers and bowed his head. The scrutineer on his ladder randomly selected one apricot from here and there. With a shake of his head, the truckload had failed and was sent home.
The ‘6pm News’ announced that an enraged farmer held the cannery manager at gunpoint, demanding his fruit be accepted, for his family to have some income.
When they shot the prime minister, I was too busy growing my bad crop of grades. There were tears on TV, then poetry. I envied them their easy tears, and him his cushioned life. How sturdy does one have to be for death to send an assassin. In my family, they managed with heart attacks and illnesses, and he got an assassin.
The next morning, our school growled, like the innards of an animal. Teachers passed around swaths of crude meaning. I envied those who found it meaningful. My life, at that time, in that country, was just so much static. I barely knew right from left.
Yet, I was there: uncomfortable body, goggle-eyes, heavy accent: it was all me. And I can tell you how it was: there were trips to supermarkets, endless homework, and soggy winters. That was history: dull rumblings inside a tired, blind beast.
She's the best in the world, the absolute cream of the crop. All are silent as she enters, aware they will witness an execution. Like always, she pops the lid of her case, assembles her chosen weapon, crouches, aims, shoots.
She changes position, one foot on the floor, the other cocked for balance. It grants her the reach. One shot and another target falls. She reloads, then goes again. Red, black, red, black. A perfect thirty shot sequence. Then she downs yellow, avoids a scratch as green follows. Brown waits nervous, aware it's next. She shoots it down without trouble.
Middle blue thinks it's safe. Her tight angle shot beats it's defence. The defiant pink is knocked in the slot without pause. Four minutes after her rampage starts, she sinks the final black.
Rapturous applause explodes from the gathered, for their three time world snooker champion.
This year's crop was a total failure. The soil was just too poor for substantial growth anymore... it was a downward spiral, and the bottom was staring them in the face. This might just be their last year before a total collapse of the commune.
There were a few chickens left, but the hens were pretty much worn out. She had warned everyone about eating the eggs rather than letting some of them hatch, but hunger today outweighs hunger tomorrow.
All the other animals were gone now. They would have been dead now in any event, given that there was nothing left for them to eat... even the weeds had given up.
A cold wind was already cutting through the valley, and the coal mine had collapsed just last week.
So, there would be another lottery this year. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year she would finally be harvested.
Strawberry Fields Forever
The sun beat down on our backs as we sat on our upturned buckets in our tidy earthy rows. The strawberry plants stretched out in a long line before us. All day long, through the heatwave summer of 1976, my mum, sister and I picked the bumper crop. We worked hard, through necessity, but it was lucrative, and we gorged on the rich sweet berries. One in the mouth, One in the bucket.... Repeat!
At night I would feed my note and coins proudly into my money box.
Until the day that I opened it and felt sick to my stomach. I knew he'd taken it.... A few too many gambling losses meant he couldn't resist stealing from his daughters.
He left the year after. Went to his mistress and abandoned us. I couldn't eat a strawberry for years afterwards. They stuck in my throat and made my stomach heave.
The lance is a practical weapon, balanced and light, its protean tip able to pierce the thickest of armor or project flesh-incinerating rays. It is strong enough that it one of the few things to have survived the crash.
Here, though, on this strange moon, Cervantes uses it as a walking stick, staring at the crop of strange, cosmic grass that blankets the valley. It grows so neat and orderly he suspects that it might be domesticated, but he has seen no inhabitants, no one to ask if it, or anything that grows in the light of the red sun, might be edible. He had come equipped for war, ready to deal with any hostile being or environment. Now, though, with the smoldering wreck of his starship behind him, its array of sensors inoperable, he has no one to tell him what he might eat to survive.
The three musketeers
The three musketeers, as they were known, were childhood friends. They were one soul living in three bodies. They did everything together and knew each other’s deepest secrets. Nothing came between them. They did school, college and even their higher education, together.
When they got married, they moved to different cities. Yet, they ensured they meet at least twice a year, either for a holiday or spend one of the long weekends at one city where one of them had a base. This continued unfailingly for several decades. None had failed to keep their share of the commitment.
For the Thanksgiving weekend of 2016, Kylie could not make it. She’d requested her son to crop her, from the first picture the three girls had ever clicked. She breathed her last, holding that picture, now with only two friends - smiling.
I live on a farm, in a shack with a decaying veranda. There are gaps between the shack's boards and heavy air breathes through them at night. On the farm I feed and nurture sheep like children. Their wool is dense and oily from their skin; these springy crops are harvested with a blade and washed before I dye the wool colours more beautiful than nature. The wind whispers to me that it wants me to dye flags in these colours so that its breeze can flirt and dance with them. As I dye the flags my hands change colour with them; my body absorbs the dyes and my insides are a rainbow. I travel with them and tie them to trees, kissing each one beforehand and writing invisible stories on it with my voice. When the last flag's company has been offered up, the wind drops, satisfied.
Don't Swim in any Rivers
‘These things crop up from time to time, Mr Stein.’
‘What, a foot? Sticking out of my stomach?’
‘It’s rare, but it happens… ever since men have been able to bear children. Have you been drinking untreated water Mr Stein? or swimming outdoors?’
‘Call me Frank. I did fall in the river last week, fooling around outside The Boatman.’
‘High concentrations of hormones in rivers.’
‘Isn’t that why the birth rate dropped, before the Amendment?’
‘Partly. People were starting families later, and fertility used to decline after thirty. Now we’re fertile into our 70’s and everyone’s equipped to give birth, primed with the proper hormones.
‘But this foot… isn’t alive. Is it?’
‘It’s like a cyst – just a short-circuit in your cloning lymph. Take these, three times a day until it resorbs completely. Don’t initiate pregnancy for two months after you finish the tablets. And don’t swim in any rivers.’
It's all in the Rrrs
My name is Christian and I am now in the government of a small Catholic country with values inherent in my own name. The citizens of my country can all roll their arse – damn spellcheck! No matter. Even our Education Minister says he is no expert. Where was I? Rrrs.
In order to ground our standards – every nameword must contain an r. That way we will be able to tell true burgers from frauds. The frauds will think we are forever having erections. Forgive my little waggery. We may run into problems, however.
Our BAIM would need to be spelled out: Best of All Interior Ministers, and we would have to do something about the crip-crop of the horses he is so keen on having patrol the Ring.
First we will come for the rrs, and history will deal with the rest. Even in Latin it works: Tu felix Austria.
"And this is our crop of advanced androids," said the clerk, leading me to a dark room full of glowing chambers. "This generation have been growing here for at least a decade, but they should be good to harvest about now. Feel free to look around."
The chambers were cylindrical and tall, filled with glowing liquid. Artificial humans stood inside them, varying in size and sex. Wires were connected to all parts of their body. Most of them had their eyes closed - apart from one, whose gaze followed me around the room.
"That's Number 3, the defect," the clerk whispered. "She tends to stare at customers because of an eye problem. Please, ignore her."
I brushed past the clerk and stopped in front of Number 3. One eye was a brilliant blue, and the other changed colour. Waves of ambient lights danced around the pupil like an LED board.
"I'll take her."
You could see Rosa any morning walking to the shops, her crop top and jeans showing off her slim figure.
Her next door neighbours found her easy to get on with, but no one ever visited her house. White net curtains obscured the windows. The glass in the front door was opaque.
Rosa’s shopping bag didn’t only contain food. At the bottom of her bag there was often one item which she had not paid for. Her sitting room was full of Barbie dolls, and every one of them had been stolen. She loved the thrill of wickedness she felt when she looked at them. She spent hours dressing them.
As a crime, it seemed harmless enough.
Upstairs the bedrooms were full of baby dolls, with cots, layettes and soothers. And then you understood that it was only a matter of time before the stealing went one step further.
In the Shadow of the Plant
You are reminded every morning when you open the bathroom cabinet and see the blister packs of potassium iodide pills the government sent, sitting next to your electric toothbrush, in case of another accident. You are reminded in winter when the empty branches of the silver beech trees reach their branches into a cyan blue sky, deep and clear except for the flock of billowing marshmallows hovering on the horizon. You’re reminded every summer when they send you the gamma readings for your water source, and they tell you the irradiated salad crops will still need thoroughly washing. You are reminded every evening when you hug your children and tuck the covers around their brittle bones, pass your hands over their hollowed eyes and kiss the powdery skin on their hairless brows. But they’ll tell you everything is okay.
The photograph startled her by its sudden appearance on her Facebook feed.
Why now, after all these years?
The pain cut through her body causing her to gasp, as searing now as it was then.
She wanted to scream, how could he still be haunting her, mocking her, even though he was no longer here?
He looked out of the screen straight into her eyes, that slight cock of the head that smile that used to make her stomach flip.
She clicked on ‘edit’ and chose ‘crop’.
With a trembling hand she positioned the edges of the photo so that his face could be eliminated.
She clicked ‘done’.
She stood up and paced around the room. She should feel better, but she didn’t.
Flustered she rushed back to the computer she couldn’t lose him again.
She clicked on ‘undo’ to restore his face.
The message flashed up.
‘Cannot undo crop’
The Almost Corpse
Cold. Aching. Stiff. Desperate to move. Can’t. An almost corpse with limbs splayed at impossible angles.
The ground is cold and small, gritty stones stick in your crop of hair. You long to move, shuffle, edge into a more comfortable position but you daren’ t.
You remember the CT scan. Body still, tensed. The irrational urge to sneeze. The intense concentration of just being. Still.
Breathe. Not too deeply. Breathe. Not too deeply. Breathe. Not too loudly.
Here on this busy road you hear voices, traffic and feel the blood from the gash on your temple.
But there’s no smell of iron in fake blood. Don’t let your nostrils flare, your lips twitch in an inadvertent smile because this is it. Take 23. Your biggest acting break. Corpse. Pile-up. Scene3. Don’t blow it.
Children are merciless. If you can call them children. Class 2F in the boys' annexe were definitely not the creme de la creme. The current crop seemed to have more psychos than last year. The man child 'Brutus' McMenemy, physically larger than any male teacher, had assaulted a colleague in year one for removing his mobile.
I stared out at the sea of pitiless faces and tried to identify who was most likely to kill their new form teacher. Five years teacher training for this job, following both my parents’ teaching careers. They hadn’t faced mobile phones, kids on the spectrum and aggressive parents. And they had the belt.
‘Please Miss, he’s stoled my jotter.’ It was the man child, testing me already.
‘Stole my jotter,’ I corrected him.
‘What, he stole your jotter as well?
The class erupted with laughter. I took a deep inhale.
Let the games begin.
Kurt and Lucy jumped in their Land Rover and raced off. Their monitoring equipment already stashed in the back. Kurt drove while Lucy punched the destination into the satnav. Only a short distance from Stonehenge this could be the one. Traffic crawled round the M25; time was of the essence. He’d seen many phenomena but this would be her first. Her pulse quickened as they sped past the ancient monument. She tried to visualise Neolithic man manoeuvring the massive monoliths into place. Over the brow of the hill, a breath taking pattern woven across the landscape.
‘Gee, that’s enormous,’ Kurt raved; Lucy stared in disbelief.
Sightseers lined the grass verge; an Army helicopter kept a watching brief. In the centre of the crop circle a metallic spheroidal object emitted intermittent flashes of coloured light. As they approached it hovered just above the flattened field.
How to draw a chicken
‘Then how many did you eat?’
‘Oh, maybe eleven. Though to be honest I’d have gone through the whole bag if I’d not been too tired to get up and heat more,’ the word “bag” honked out at an unexpected volume.
‘They aren’t for me. Fifty percent chicken content in a thing which calls itself a chicken nugget,’ she shook her head while concentratedly drawing a large chicken on Brian next-door’s notepad.
Den leaned over, one heavy breast resting on Cheryl’s left ear. ‘It’s missing the lump for its crop. And you’ve drawn the beak like a bill.’
‘Its what? And no I haven’t, that’s definitely a beak. Look…pointy,” she jabbed her biro at the end of the chicken’s face, making a dent.
Brian winced, his shoulders turned in like a scoliotic hamster, and pulsed his palms between his knees. He’d get his notepad back soon.
The agronomist was ecstatic as she showed us the new crop of wheat. Genes from wheat as a basis with additions from holly, maize, potatoes and fish to create a powerful cultivar.
The field of GM Wheat was already twice as high as it should be at this time.
'And looking to produce a bumper yield per hectare,’ she enthused. If this wasn't the holy grail it must have been pretty close.
Hacking through the overgrowth, I remembered the brave new world of that naive scientist. They had done their work so well that the Frankenstein Wheat didn't stop growing, didn't stop seeding itself, didn't stop choking life in Britain.
Refugees in their hundreds of thousands were cutting and burning their way through the engulfing weed. They were desperate to get to any port to escape.
When last heard from, the Royal Family were toughing it out at Windsor.
I log myself out of Facebook for the last time. I have deleted my profile. I have ceased to exist. I feel liberated, finally. I have done this many times over the last few weeks: deleting profiles, apps, bios, changing my name, my identity, my self.
My final preparation before stepping out of my old life and into my new, like a snake shedding it’s skin, is to collect together all my old photographs. I don’t want to throw them away, I want to remember my childhood, I just can’t bear to see my old self in them - too fat, too fearful, too female.
I crop myself out of each and every photo I can find. I’ve created a digital image of how I should have looked, and have recreated the photos, painstakingly, one by one: cutting, cropping, inserting, reshaping, enhancing, just like I did with my own body.
The Leicester City Kiwi Fruit Farm
After the death of her much-loved husband, Mrs Patel devoted herself to her lifelong ambition - to farm kiwi fruit in her home city of Leicester.
She bought a CRISPR genetic manipulation kit on the internet and added cold-resistant genes from Coxes apples to the genome of kiwi fruit bought from Tesco. None of her friends made genetically modified fruit in their kitchens, but Mrs Patel was an excellent cook, and how hard could it be?
She planted the vines on the patio of her ground floor flat, and they grew wonderfully, yielding a small crop of what many called the best kiwi fruit in the northern hemisphere.
The next year she added predator genes from her cat, and the kiwi fruit kept the patio free of mice. Finally she added genes isolated from her dead husband’s socks and the kiwi fruit kept her company during the long winter evenings.
They were dying. She could tell from where she stood, but she couldn't do anything about it. The crops were dying once again.
Had the humans not learnt? she asked herself. She knew they hadn't. They never did; they never would.
The old oak tree sighed, her leaves rustling. If only they'd stopped the change when it started. But they hadn't. It was happening.
Her planet, the one she'd loved so much, was going to die.
"Whatever it takes," he thought to himself, rather as an encouragement than proclaiming a decision, "I WILL do it!"
He had done it before!
Digitally, where it is called "crop", but now, scissors in hand, which seemed so much heavier than usual, it was different.
It was final.
There was no "undo" button.
His hand trembled slightly, enough to cause a flicker of light on the chrome finish. It seemed to mock him.
Saying "you won't".
He picked up their old wedding photo, which he had freed from its frame, only minutes ago, bringing his hands together, mumbling...
It's all about dead bodies today
Betty sits on the river bank contemplating her parents’ discussion around the table last night. She kicks at the skeleton. She knows it was a porcupine from the shower of quills along the gravel edge. She toes the curved spine, perfect in its formation and wonders what kind of brain was once in that small skull.
Alongside the spread of bones is an unmoving chickadee. ‘Must’ve been hit by a car,’ the ten year old murmurs, reaching down to stroke its minute head of still silky but dead feathers. She touches its beak, smaller than a grain of corn.
Betty remembers last night’s heated talk then. About the poor crop. How there’ll be no money for anything. How Ma said she’ll go back East and take Betty with her.
How Pa said, ‘Over my dead body.”
Better Shape Up
Frank opened the bedroom curtains and gaped at the view outside his farmhouse window. 'They've been in the night!' he declared. 'What on earth are you talking about?' asked Frank's wife, Harriet. 'This is nowt to do with Earth,' gasped Frank. 'Just look at those complex crop circles in our wheat field. It's got to have been done by aliens.' Harriet joined her husband at the window. 'Aliens my foot!' she exclaimed. 'That's the work of human hoaxers.' A deflated Frank said resignedly: 'I suppose you're right, dear. It's my wild imagination.' High above the stratosphere, a creature peered down from a hovering spacecraft. 'Nice try, Knosos,' he said to the figure by his side. 'However, you went a bit wrong on the line tangential to the curve in the north-west quadrant of the field. I'm afraid I can give it only a six out of 10.'
You always had to be one step ahead of me.
You knew the meanings of words I hadn’t heard of yet: puberty, orgasm, ejaculation.
You had an older sister, and a cousin in London. I had a younger brother, and an uncle in Telford. You got a crop top and a manicure kit. I got a three-pack of vests and some toenail clippers. You got a clothing allowance and an epilator. I got a paper round and a Bic razor.
You were first to get breasts, a boyfriend, a love-bite. You beat your older sister down the aisle and then to the divorce court. You had a baby and moved out of town with your new man.
When I met Jim, I realised I didn’t need to compete with you anymore. Now my children cut up your overpriced Christmas cards and I sell your gifts on Ebay.
So Short I Cried
I tried to walk slowly down the parade. I was still five minutes early, pushing open the door to the salon. My stylist waved me straight to a chair. No more chance to delay. ‘My previous cancelled, so let’s get going. You are sure about this?’
I showed the picture, torn from a magazine. My shaped face, but not me, of course. I mumbled, nodded; fullness in my chest rising to my throat; weakness in my legs; half wanting to jump up and run. And I closed my eyes. Not just when shampoo foamed across my forehead, but while steel blades snip, snipped; the trimmer buzzed; the dryer blew across the comb.
I’d already peeped at long, dark strands, falling steadily to the floor. Now I look, nervously, straight at the mirror. At me; at new me. A crop so short I cried. With relief. It was perfect.
In the spring of 1621, a Wampanoag tribesman stood proudly erect in a clearing of the new settlement known as Plimouth (though he didn’t know it by this name.) He watched the ineffectual efforts of the white newcomers to work the ground. They looked weak and thin, some barely able to lift the tools they were trying to use.
He strode fearlessly into the midst of the white men. By gestures, he showed them how to till the land, which seeds to sow and the best soil to plant them in for an abundant crop. At first, the whites looked at him doubtfully, some clutching muskets. But, slowly, they followed the Native’s lead.
That November, the Native, his chief and fellow tribesmen sat down to share the fruits of their new neighbours’ first harvest. 240 years later this was called Thanksgiving, but to the settlers, that first winter, it was salvation.
Count Dracula Beware!
Her reflection was waif-like - cropped hair, green eyes, pert nose, and elfin chin.
She looked at the bags. Deep breath time. Was the shopping spree going to pay off?
The silky black hugged. Her petite body had curves.
Flowing tresses, inky as night, turned her eyes emerald.
A siren gazed back.
The answer on a plate
„Will whip up harvest? Four letters.” Noone below stairs could dress a pheasant like Jenks. Noone else could manage the Times crossword either, not that we would have dared deface his lordships’ oracle. But Jenks did both at once: the paper propped on the breadbin, his hands ripping out feathers, lights, gizzard, he would finish the puzzle in his head before refolding the paper unsullied. “Rein?” I hazarded, earning a despairing headshake. A glance at the clock, a frustrated snort: he was nearly late. For the first time ever, the crossword remained unfinished. His hands shook as he swept the giblets aside, laid the Times on the tray between toast and teapot and hurried upstairs. “What’s that?” Lord Wattle pointed in disgust at what looked like a miniature gory bagpipe nestling under the newspaper. Beneath Jenks’ perfect butler mask throbbed a basso profundo of relief: “A crop, my lord.”
The Crop Circle of Life
“Daddy! Daddy!” Bertie tugged at the floral cover.
A murmur emanated from under the duvet.
Tom groaned, pushing back the duvet. “What, Bertie?”
“There’s crop circles in Old Mrs Smith’s front garden.”
“Yes, Bertie. Okay.”
Tom plodded to the window and laughed. Sure enough, there was a ring of circles, increasing in size from the middle outwards. Two tracks, not quite as neat as a field’s crop circle, but impressive nonetheless. Mrs Smith was known for her eccentricities but even this surprised Tom.
By the time he had dressed and joined Bertie downstairs, life outside was stirring.
On the way to school, they caught up with Mrs Smith who was clearly off shopping. The two adults said nothing but nodded.
Tom smiled as he glanced down to Mrs Smith’s slippered feet and the clump of grass wrapped around one of the Tesco trolley’s wheels.
Invasion of the Pageboys
Daisy's mum was a hairdresser. She was complaining that every other woman coming into the salon wanted the dreaded Purdey crop. 'It's a nightmare to get right, Dais!' She sipped her instant coffee. 'Wonder how many pageboy cuts I'll be churning out today. I'm not trained by bloody Vidal Sassoon, and this is Leominster, not London.
'You don't say that do you, Mum?' Daisy asked looking in the hallway mirror, finger-raking her fringe in a vain attempt to dampen its enthusiasm. Her curly hair sprang back into position.
In class, the picture of Joanna Lumley showing off her Purdey hairstyle on the front cover of Jackie went from hand to hand.
'She looks like a boy. Everyone knows that Farrah Fawcett Major is far better looking.' Daisy threw the magazine blindly over her shoulder. A girl sitting behind her caught it like a bride's bouquet.
The doorbell rang, seconds after she’d dropped the kids off at school.
“Melanie Kurtz?” asked the police officer on her doorstep.
“That’s me,” she replied smilingly, looking at and then swiftly away from his tall, grim-faced female partner.
“Moment of your time?” Shorty proposed, sticking a foot in the door.
“Concerning?” Mel replied, gazing pointedly at the intruding boot.
“We’ve had a complaint, Miss …”
“Mrs. Kurtz. About loud noises at unsociable hours.”
“No kidding. I have two kids under 6, constable.”
“Neighbours say there’s a stream of men at all hours. On motorbikes. Disturbing the peace.”
“I’ll tell them to park further away next time,” Melanie chinned at him.
One warning and a few threatening glares from Sergeant Beanpole later, Mel shut the door behind them.
Now to attend to the hydroponic crop in the attic and get more baggies ready for the next customers.
My cousin insists the lemon is the tree of life. I believe it is the orange. What came first is my question to you - the colour or the fruit? The origin of the Sanskrit word is unclear but it could be from an ancient Dravidian word meaning 'fragrant.' The trees bear blossom and fruit all year round and do not shed their leaves. They grow from rust-red earth up towards Mediterranean blue sky.
I stand in the shade waiting for my latest crop to be collected and feel at peace. I peel the skin off an orange, separate off a segment and put it in my mouth. Juice explodes, delighting my taste-buds and I am truly in heaven.
Finally, the last batch of tomatoes has been picked, cooked and canned. A good crop this year: crimson jars clutter the kitchen. Five will be presents for the girls at work. Next door will take four. Her sister will accept at least ten and turn them into spaghetti sauce for the twins to smear over their pale, angelic faces.
If she had her own… but no. Silly to dwell on that. She stacks the jars into the cupboard, pushing last year’s stash into the dusty back corners. Soon they will run out of storage space.
Her husband has shut himself in his study. He hates tomatoes, cannot stand even the smell of them bubbling on the stove. She sighs, takes a last look at the shiny red jars, and closes the door of the cupboard.
The Cream of the Crop
You, the brightest boy in our class. Everything came easily to you, natural brilliance backed by parents who doted on you. They gave you so many opportunities over and above school provisions: saxophone lessons, drama club and private tuition. It amazed us that you came to our local state school. Perhaps it was the Outstanding rating from OFSTED that swung it? When you eventually applied to university, your UCAS form was boosted by your summer intern-ship at the Ministry of Arts and Culture. Your father knew people.
Your first few days at college, in Durham, went well. Your tutors recognised your potential. It was the initiation pub crawl, that did for you. For the first time in your life, you couldn't keep up. At midnight, there you were: the cream of the crop, face down in a pool of vomit. You didn't hear the sirens as the ambulance drew near.
Her bluish yellow skin is smooth where the drip goes in while the rest of her is a shrivelled grey. I should tear the plasters off; not a gentle lift but a rough rip. The eyes flicker and for an instant they focus. Does she know it's me? There is a sudden gulp and her lips purse just like I remember.
The nurse, starched and haughty, hasn't got a clue. She bends over me to smooth back a crop of wiry grey hair and sponge a furrowed brow. She whispers reassuring nonsense and the old lady snorts.
I don't know why I've come. It's not remorse, it's not guilt. I don't even know what to feel. I am the precious daughter who has kept her secret for a lifetime.
Her breathing is laboured and her fists tighten. Ironic really; I won't cry this time.
More from the Hiscock files: The case of the mucked out stable.
Reaper fiddles the padlock on the lock-up, slides in. Muck the Stable, leader of the Pop-up-Bungle gang, left seconds ago with a huge suitcase. My guess? Contains yesterday’s Community Bank heist. Big dollars for info. Giant Crop now rounds the corner. Pulls his piece, goes in too. There's a shoot-out. Only Reaper stumbles out, tarmac for lunch.
The name's Hiscock, Johnny Hiscock, private dick, flat bellied on the facing roof, trailing my binos. My secretary Jane, designer trainers, feline outfit, nail extensions, hair coiffed to a gem, lays besides me, films the lot. I've been shadowing this gang. Rumours, nous, hood knowledge. Bingo. Time to phone the law. Give them plate numbers of Muck’s treads. Call-back ten minutes later. Caught more red handed than a Dulux paint bucket. In the correct colour.
Big bonus for Jane. Cleaner streets to cruise for everyone. Just another day for Johnny Hiscock.
Black Widow's Garden
Victoria’s garden flourished in the hot Texas sun. Never considering herself to be a farmer, her healthy crops of vegetables and fruit made her very proud.
“How do you do it, Darlin? Your garden is mighty big!” came a heavy Texan drawl; eyes staring at her chest. “Just look at them cantaloupe over there. Mighty fine. Mighty fine.”
“It's the fertilizer, Frank. That's all.” Victoria smiled flirtatiously at her rich neighbor. “Would you like to try a cantaloupe?” The cantaloupe were her prized crop. Her husband never did believe she had any talent. Reaching over to pick the fruit, Victoria’s breasts strained against her tight shirt; Frank watching like a rabid dog.
“Now, how could I resist such hospitality?”
Her husband would cringe if he was able. Looking at the ground where her dead husband laid rotting, Victoria thought what perfect fertilizer Frank would make. “Are you married, Frank?”
With thanks to all the writers who have made this issue possible.Aditi Goswami, Alastair Stirring, Amadea Caruso, Ann-e-Fasahat Shah, Ashley Stassen, Ben Miller, Carol Leggatt, Carolyn Ward, Cathy Cade, Cathy Rushworth, Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, Cheryl Powell, Christina Taylor, Christine Hayes, Christine Nedahl, Colin Alcock, David Silver, Deanna Salser, Deborah Ballantyne, Declan Tatam, Donna Frances Thomson, Doris Winn, Drew Dunlop, Elaine Mead, Elijah Saleby, Ellen Kirkman, Erica Rocca, Fikret Kurt, Franklin E. E. Kelly, Gaia Sicolo, Gill james, Goldilox, Hannah Whiteoak, Heather Nicholls, Hilary Taylor, If Onyia, Isabel Flynn, Jacques Groen, Jane Goff, Jay Bee, Jill Barber, Jody Kish, John Cooper, John harkin, Jon N Grover, JP Seabright, Julia Rose, K Olukoya, Kathryn Dixon, Kay Kingsley, Kereen Getten, Klaus Kluge, L.F. Lazenby, Lara F., Laura Besley, Laura Oliver, Leonie Harrison, Les Pedrick, linda Dewhurst, Linda Grierson-Irish, Lisa Lange, Liz Berg, Lola Barron, Louise Cato, Louise Mangos, Maggie Rogers, Mahdi Ahmadian, Malcolm Richardson, Margaret Dickson, Marissa Hoffmann, Matthew C. McLean, Michael Rumsey, Min, Miriam Mitchell-Bennett, Mitja Lovše, Mohamed Ismail, Moray McGowan, Morgan Parks, Morgen Bailey, Morgyn Marshall, Nancy Zielinski, Neha Jahanzeb, Nick Jaster, Nicola Jennings, Pat Mudge, Patrick Christian Rudnicki, Paula Puolakka, Penny Ives, Peter J Marcroft, Peter J. Corbally, Rebecca Field, Rebecca Povall, Rhiannon Willson, Richard Kemp, Roppotucha Greenberg, Roz Mascall, S.B. Borgersen, Sarah Trevail, Saryne Diyas, Simon Gadd, Steven John, Steven O. Young Jr., Stuart Atkinson, Sue Johnson, Susan Carey, Susi J Smith, Sylvia Petter, Temitope Johnson-Toyin, Thomas Malloch, Yusriy Charles
14th November 2018