Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Straight From The Fridge Is One!

...Yes folks, after 2 years as a print publication, and 12 months on the web, SFTF is finally celebrating its online birthday by having a celebration to end all celebrations! Alongside the brilliant Social Disease, on Thursday 5th July 2007 there will be an event featuring many of our regular writers, giving readings, playing records, and attempting to stay sober. The party is at Hedges&Butler, 3 Burlington Mews, Off Piccadilly, London, W1. It's free to get in but you need to email with a guest list to get in, it's one of those fancy private members clubs don't you know...!

And the line up? Well, of course The Brutalists and The Offbeats will be there in some shape and forms, including anti-readings by Adelle Stripe, Ben Myers, Tony O'Neill, Lee Rourke, Heidi James and Matthew Coleman, alongside a literary lucky dip, writing on the wall, personal readings with the writer of your choice, and very special live guests...Hope to see you all there?

Breakfast in Jamaica, Queens

breakfast in mcdonalds
african hair braiding
loans! loans!
cash for gold!
how many wedding bands
exchanged for crack
in these melancholy places?

mcdonalds is the best pace
to observe america
that is, to observe
MY america

here no-one cares
about bush or guantanamo
or hybrids or god
or abortions or isaiah washington
or paris hilton

someone is buying
a whore breakfast
she says, gulping
her coffee
and smirking:
"thats only the second hot thing
i swallowed this morning"

the old john
with an ugly wound on his face
laughs his big,
throaty laugh

Tony O'Neill

Tony O'Neill's debut novel, Digging The Vein, is given its UK release on Wrecking Ball Press in July. A collection of his poetry, 'Songs From The Shooting Gallery' is being published this summer on Burning Shore Press. Another collection of his short stories and poems, 'Seizure Wet Dreams', is available on Social Disease.

Cruel Work

It was exactly one year to the day that Lewis Dowling’s then partner, Kara, finally succumbed to the incurable cancer that had eaten her inside out, little by little, for the previous two years. But Kara was far from his mind on this bright, sunny evening. Lewis Dowling was thinking about the black tights the young woman was wearing in front of him as he made his way down to Aldwych to catch his bus back to Stoke Newington. Lewis Dowling had been drinking in Soho for most of the day; he had worked up a hunger.

He was thinking about how she would look underneath her clothes; wearing nothing but those black tights. She wasn’t particularly attractive, her hips were too wide for his taste and she limped a little, which he found rather odd but appealing all the same. But those black tights she was wearing, those wonderful delicate fibres caressing her soft skin underneath, especially around her arse, hugging her calves and thighs - he wanted her, he knew that much.

Kara, who often would dress up for him in expensive lingerie herself, once told him that the sole reason men liked to penetrate women wearing tights was because somewhere, deep down, they wanted to, or imagined they were breaking-in a virgin for the very first time. Kara told him that although it was an obvious power-trip, underneath the masculine posturing, grunting and licentious braggadocio the man committing this particular pleasure was returning to something primordial and base, something, in fact, beyond pleasure. Something that he didn’t understand, a common theme that had been repeated over and over throughout our evolution. Kara had enjoyed the subtle complexities of sex more than anything else.

He didn’t realise this but it could be said that by watching this woman in the black tights he was, somewhere deep within, linking back to those intimate moments with Kara, and subconsciously he did, in fact, miss her: each of those numerous times she allowed him to tear slight holes in the sylphlike, tormenting material clinging around her arse and crotch just waiting for him to poke his searching fingers into; the first little droplets of desire before the rampant, physical ripping asunder, as he guided his prick inside her. Or maybe he had finally moved on, and he wanted to transfer all he’d learnt with Kara on those long nights together before she became ill. Either way he was still looking at the black tights glistening in the late sun on the woman just up ahead from him.

He had to follow her, there was no other option. He wanted to know where she was going; he wanted to speak to her, and he wanted to get his hands on her, to hear the faint cleave of fabric. She stopped suddenly to look in the window of a restaurant and then continued on her way. He altered his pace accordingly. She stopped for traffic, even bending down to look in her bag, the round curvature of her arse-cheeks near bursting through the expensive tailoring of her black pencil skirt, and all the while he hung back, casually like it was the most natural thing in the world, watching those black tights grip her incredible form. He imagined slowly peeling the black tights down, halfway across her largish arse, kissing each cheek, caressing the silky texture between her legs, the pale skin underneath getting hotter and hotter.

He imagined the conversation they would have:

I’ve noticed for some considerable time now that you’ve been following me, why have you been following me?

I like what you’re wearing…

Do you now?

Yes, very much so…Especially your tights…

My tights?

Yes, your tights…

They’re just normal black silk tights…

That’s exactly what I like about them…

Is it now?

Yes, it is…

Well maybe you’d like to join me?

Maybe I would…

Where are we walking to?

My flat of course…

He watched her tail-end wobble with each step, the repetitive sway from left to right, gravity forcing each hunk of flesh downwards, generating each ripple of pleasure within him like a stone being dropped into a clear lake. He was quite amazed really, the walk down to Aldwych was a busy one and not one other person had noticed her. He was alone consumed by his lust.

He once followed Kara along the street without her knowing; it was in the first few weeks of their burgeoning relationship, he had seen her walking along Wardour Street in Soho. She was wearing beige figure-hugging trousers and a black jacket that complemented her average-sized frame. Rather than run up to her he decided to follow her. She walked with a purpose, stopping only for a coffee and some cake from Bar Italia. She never once looked up from what she was doing, the task ahead - whatever that was - to observe those around her, atomised in a world of her own volition and thinking only of coffee and cake. In that moment she seemed untouchable. He liked this. He left her as she stepped onto a No 38. He saw her that very evening, as arranged, they spent the night together in his old flat on the Essex Road, this was before he’d confessed his feelings of love for her - Kara never found out about him following her that afternoon in Soho, he never thought the need to tell her. He wanted to keep that image of her to himself.

The woman wearing the black tights began to slow down, anticipating the lights near the Sicilian Arcade in Holborn. Lewis Dowling hung back, keeping one eye on the road and the other on the black tights gently embracing the back of her legs.

He imagined what he would do to her once he was inside her flat (he would do exactly what he used to do with Kara): first he would look around her bedroom, observing the things she had filled it with, he would instinctively want to know where her underwear draw was situated; once this was noted he would look through it as soon as she left the room. He would rub the silky fabric through his fingers. When she returned he would make polite chit-chat, inching closer to her all the time, then he would calmly ask her to lie on the bed. He would gently straddle her and slowly unclip her skirt, he would pull it gently down her legs and drop it onto the floor by the side of the bed. Then he would stare at her legs, her thighs, the backs of her knees, her calves, her feet, her arse cloaked in the thin, silky, teasingly transparent material of the black tights. He would slowly caress her thighs, squeezing; he would slap her arse cheeks playfully, delighting in the faint wobble of flesh, he would do this a number of times until the skin began to redden a little. He would tease the fabric near her crotch, testing its strength and durability. Then he would tear a hole, a tiny little hole, the sound of it would send shivers through him, a little sign of the paroxysms to come. He would poke a couple of his fingers into the hole, he would begin to prise it open, further, wider; she would not make a sound. She would stick out her arse, wiggle it, and then . . . he would tear the tights open in a frenzy, whilst undoing his jeans, frantically, desperately ripping the black tights asunder. He would begin to pull her knickers aside, yanking them violently. His prick would be hard and he would bask in the electrifying friction caused each time it touched the shredded fabric. He would force it up her. He would pump furiously. And then it would be over.

The traffic was busy. The pavement was busy too. Everywhere was busy. He walked down to the corner of Tavistock Street and Wellington Street. There didn’t seem to be a break in the traffic, it trundled along in both directions (which was odd, he thought); cyclists weaved and wended in and out of lines of black cabs and cars and white vans, whilst the multitudes on foot waited patiently, and impatiently, for gaps in the traffic to finally cross the road towards Exeter Street, Aldwych, Strand, Savoy Street, south towards the river. This they did from every conceivable angle.

He had caught her up now and was standing beside her waiting for a rare break in the choking traffic. He could smell her faint perfume, he inched closer to her, slowly, and the little finger of his right hand touched, gently brushed, hers. Skin touching skin. She didn’t notice it was that brisk. Electricity shot through him.

He couldn’t speak to her though, not yet, not by the side of the road, near the gutter and the cars, the fumes. So he waited beside her for a gap to appear in the traffic. It seemed to take an age. Her scent began to engulf him, surround him, linger around his neck, his lips, under his nostrils - he began to shiver quite uncontrollably. He thought she could see him, sense his fear - but she couldn’t, of course.

Kara had once told him that she liked the way his cheeks reddened when he was nervous; she liked the rather boyish aspect of this. She once asked him about any peculiarities and idiosyncrasies he liked about her, it took him a while but he eventually told her that it was her patience he loved; nothing more and nothing less. He couldn’t remember exactly what she said, something about being certain there was nothing idiosyncratic about patience. But he did remember one thing if ever pushed: we all have to wait at some point in our lives, she would say, just some have to wait longer than others.

Suddenly a gap appeared in the traffic and she darted out into the centre of the road. Lewis Dowling had missed his chance and as soon as another gap appeared he would dash out to the centre of the road too, just like she had done. It was then that he would speak to her. Cars, fumes, it was too late to worry about that. Of course, he didn’t quite know what he would say (probably something obvious about the traffic), but at least it was a start. He didn’t have to wait that long for another gap it turned out . . . and then Blackness. Nothing. Not even the distant flicker of a memory like people used to say happened. Not even a faint image of Kara. Nothing.

For those around him, of course, including the woman wearing the black tights, it was the sight of the Ford Transit van hitting him full on that occupied their collective thoughts. They watched as his limp body was flung mercilessly into the air. The white Ford Transit van screeching to a halt. They watched as his head hit the bitumen with a damp thud, splitting like an egg shell, brain and blood and tooth splattering the van like Cherry Blossom falling from a tree, chunks of cranium scattered across the double yellow lines, his left foot, bereft of its shoe somehow, sock hanging half off, twitching. Of course there were the ubiquitous screams that accompany such dreadful moments, the momentary pandemonium, the disbelief, but there was also an eerie calm in the air, a feeling that everything had stopped, like a clock on a wall or a wrist noticed by its owner for the very first time - that extraordinary age before it is fixed again.

Forty-seven people attended Lewis Dowling’s funeral. Old friends mostly. Most were thinking about Kara, wondering if she was present, watching over his coffin, safe. Even the atheists amongst the assembled mourners fleetingly entertained this peculiar thought before joining the rest to think about their own mortality, their own funerals: who would be there? What would people say? Who would cry first? How would they react? The usual vainglorious, and all too human, thoughts that enter the mind at such events. Most, if asked, would agree that Kara would be quite distraught if she was alive and sitting amongst them, dressed in a Whistles black jacket and trousers, a white handkerchief in her hand, dabbing her eyes as she is consoled by her mother. Most thought it quite sad that she wasn’t alive to be at his funeral.

None, as it were, gave Lewis Dowling a second thought really, as his coffin rolled into the flames. Not even on the most important day of his life. They were far too busy living their own lives; some had to get back to work, others had to sign on, pick up children from school, some were even beginning to wonder who would be staying on for drinks at the buffet provided at his favourite pub in Hackney after the flames had turned his bulk into ashes. All had other things on their minds.

Lee Rourke

'Cruel Work' is an extract from Lee Rourke's short story collection, Everyday, which is published on Social Disease this autumn.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Instamatic Camera Lady of Kings Cross

Back in the day there was an old lady who wandered the congested weekend streets of Kings Cross carrying a strange camera in her hand. For many years this old lady was a well-known character in the Darlinghurst area, the sort of character that has now sadly disappeared forever.

For like most everywhere the Cross has become a sterile place, filled with new developments, luxury apartments, and brand name coffee shops.

And the people who live there now are not interesting people; they are professional people, rich kids and wannabe artists, people who lead incredibly vacuous lives filled with nothing but bland comfort providing uniformity.

But not so long ago these clinical automatons dwelt elsewhere and the streets of the Cross were still roamed by misfits, drunkards, junkies, street kids, poets, seers and gangsters, colourful people in other words, people with character.

And one such character was the diminutive Instamatic Camera Lady. This little old junkie was a sight to behold. Dressed like she’d just walked out of a 1940’s Film Noir and weighed down by what looked like the world’s first instamatic camera, a strange unwieldy contraption, maybe even a prototype.

And the ancient lady was always immaculately dressed, a vision of style, looking like a wrinkled version of Coco Chanel, or some long forgotten movie star of the Hollywood studio era.

How she’d survived the years of her addiction was a miracle in itself, somehow avoiding the od’s, the lifestyles diseases, and the usual fate of most junkies to die young or simply fade away. A born survivor in other words.
And she appeared on the main drag of Darlinghurst every weekend, without fail, full make-up on, and absurd camera dangling free. Weaving in and out of every bar, restaurant and café, propositioning transient revellers with her standard line.

‘Would you like your photo taken? Only five dollars!’

Most people either shook their heads, laughed, or simply blanked her, but she never complained, just moved on to the next potential punter, until eventually someone who was drunk enough, said, hey yeah, what the fuck, take my photo grandma .

It was a tough gig and the money she made must have been very little. A bad day here, a good day there, but always enough to ensure her continued survival and one more fix.

To those of a sensitive disposition it was a pitiful sight, a woman of her advanced age scraping a living in such a desperate way, but to those in the know there was something noble about the way she conducted her business and carried on regardless. Hitting those midnight streets each weekend, camera in hand, and always ready to pose the question.

‘Would you like your photo taken, only five dollars?’

And then it happened. One weekend the Instamatic Camera Lady failed to show on the main drag for the first time in decades. None of the weekend revellers noticed, but those in the know did, and when she didn’t show the following weekend, or the one after that they knew something terrible had occurred. Of course life went on, but for the locals it was a sad event, for characters like the old lady are what make a place, they are its lifeblood.

And with the passing of the Instamatic Camera Lady Kings Cross lost something vital, something enduring, like a piece of its soul had been taken away forever and the place would never be the same again.

But did she really die? Know one knows for sure, but what we do know is that up and down the country, hidden away in attics, dusty drawers, boxes and cupboards, are little reminders of the old lady. Faded photographs of younger people, long vanished nights, and faded dreams .

And there are some old-timers in the Cross, relics of a bygone age, who insist that if you look very carefully, you may be lucky enough to see an old lady, with an oversized camera, gliding along the main drag on a buzzing Saturday night. And if you blink your eyes and look again that old lady might just flash you a grievous smile before whispering hard and low.

‘Would you like your photo taken, only five dollars?’

Joseph Ridgwell

Note Slipped Under Your Door

and everything
else that is
over me
too many

where the hell are you?

Brian McGettrick

The Yes-No Banana

Out of the blue arrives that street-smart rock hooligan Frankie Michaels with two bottles of rose wine and two girls. They are students and a decade younger than either of us. One is his girlfriend, and with her, a friend, Jayne, both fresh off the train from the raw moors of Lancashire.

They came round to use the pool and might be a little alarmed to find themselves walking into a novel, so I’ll not name them.

Though I’m rattling with a bout of self-loathing brought on by a rare yet stereotypical Scarface-esque derangement of the senses three days earlier – a holiday from all this thinking that culminated in some sordid pre-dawn grappling in an alien flat somewhere in north-west London – and though I woke this morning with lumps of blood falling out of my nose this morning, it’s nevertheless good timing. It takes me away from all thoughts of the icy crystalline chill of that long night staring in the mirror and burrowing through flesh and brings me back, quite unexpectedly, to thoughts of the kidney.

Frankie Michaels has been sunning himself by the pool for much of the summer, a welcome surge of energy through confusing times and part of the pool-side furniture on the hottest days. I feed him an endless stream of joints and we talk about music and literature and life, trading conspiratorial tales and shady anecdotes until we’re sweating so much that swimming in a chilled communal residential outdoor pool is the only option.
Yes, the same swimming pool features once again.

The girls are on their summer break and in the capital on their way to Berlin. Liz is a willowy art student with the posture of a model and a sharp mind; art is her thing. Her friend is quiet, a most attractive quality. She studies the classics and literature – especially Russian - and I’m buzzing when she mentions Mikhail Bulgakov as her favourite of the dusty old tormented souls who were slaying the Western world with their pens long before someone thought up the Cold War as a nice device to keep the fatties of America fearful. It is her first time in London. Conversation turns to Dostoevsky, which I take to be a good sign. I’ve not read him myself, but I know an appearance might end some extra weight to the text should I ever capture this green grass summer scene in print, like others take a photograph. For these chapters are, after all, ultrasound scanned snapshots of a summer that has a demonstrated a healthy beating heart of its own.

Frankie Michaels isn’t his real name. He knows I’m writing a book about a missing kidney and a twisted summer and has already poked his half-Jewish, half-Moroccan nose into rough chapters and held no quarter on the shortcomings, whilst simultaneously encouraging me on, reasoning “You’ll be a cunt to get this far and not reach some sort of resolution by the close of summer” – which, incidentally, is fast approaching. Once summer ends, who knows what the autumnal darkness will bring, so he has a point, though naturally I wouldn’t admit that for a minute to him for ours is a friendship based on insults and put-downs. It’s a male trait and we’re both definitely idiots.

Frankie Michaels also knows that just by turning up with girls and
rosé and swimming shorts he may well be immortalized alongside the kidney of which he has heard so much about, so decides he’ll use a different name today – in case I make him look like a cunt.

Cunt, incidentally, is one of his favourite words, and he uses it well and without prejudice. Noun, adjective, verb etc.

“Just call me Frankie Michaels,” he says, then leaps into the pool and splashes around like a child.

He hasn’t seen his girlfriend for a few weeks and the sun is shining.

“Take a picture of me,” says the newly-christened Frankie Michaels, hoisting himself onto a floating air-bed. “I feel genuinely happy today.”

He’s pleased about this, and so are we, four people coming together with a few shared common interests – sunshine, water, wine. The Russians. The summer. This moment. This little sun-trap deep in the jungle of a season I shall always associate with ‘The Missing Kidney’, whatever may come beyond it. Frankie lies back on the lounger and actually looks a little like Tony Montana. He’s always had something of the plucky Pacino swagger to him.

“Genuinely happy…”

Soon Frankie is telling me about the latest story he’s working on, for he is a writer too. And for the right reason: because he wants to. Like me he has no audience, no ‘market’, no literary obligations – just balls and compulsion. All you need.

I roll up my trousers and dangle my feet in the pool. It’s early September and the sun is still beating down, but we all know that a cold spat is just round the corner of the seasonal bell-curve and pour days of languishing on green grass with
rosé wine are numbered.

While the girls talk I give Frankie some kidney updates. I tell him all I’m really waiting for is an ending to present itself and that I still have faith that all will become clear by the summer’s end, that maybe this kidney quest is one of confusion and sunburn, literary indulgence, chemical frustration (natural or otherwise), sexual dehydration and borderline psychosis, but I still think something good will come of it. Or at the very least in the absence of international travel, I’ve had a strange and memorable holiday of the imagination.

“Here,” says Frankie, interrupting the girls, who are discussing which galleries they hope to visit when they reach Berlin, “did you know Ben has only got one kidney? He had the other taken out and replaced by a book.”

“Oh?” says Frankie’s girlfriend, smiling, because she knows what Frankie is like. And that is: prone to telling tales that can be long and rambling or incredulous, yet always contains something unique. It’s because he’s interested in everything that makes him the way he is, and half the reason I like him. So few people possess the intelligence or energy to bother these days. They’d sooner take the short-cut than formulate an opinion about anything of worth.

“Yeah. A book about a missing kidney.”

Then he turns to me, flashing that big sloppy Anglo-European-African grin of his:
“That should be your ending. The missing kidney was replaced by a book about a missing kidney – don’t look at me like I’m a cunt, it’ll be cool!”

He rolls off the airbed and flops under water where he stays for sometime and somewhere deep inside I hear a gurgle and a page being turned.

Then Frankie’s does something with a banana that I’ve never seen before, not even in Amsterdam.

“Have you ever asked a banana a question?” she asks.

“No,” I say. “I don’t think I have.”

She takes a banana out of the bag that I have brought into the garden.

“What do you want to ask it? You need to make sure it can be answered with a yes or a no.”

She passes the banana to me. Frankie reappears from the bottom of the pool to watch.

“I want to ask ‘Is the pursuit of a missing, now near-mythical kidney a worthwhile one, even if only as a mindless literary pursuit in lieu of anything else of substance or significance in my life at the moment?”


With a knife Liz begins to deftly carefully cut away the very tip of the banana. She handles the knife well.

“Wait,” I interrupt, too curious to wait for an explanation. “How does it work?”

“If the black centre produces a Y shape, the answer is yes,” she explains, gesturing towards the cross section of the banana tip. “But if it’s a black dot, the answer is no.”

She looks down the barrel of the banana like it was an old musket from the American Civil War unearthed from the Gettysburg field, or maybe a telescope, or an arrow or anything that needs to be straight and true for story-telling purposes.

Anything but a banana, basically.

“It says no…I think.”

Then she passes it to me.

“The banana says no?”

I look and see a black smudge within the banana. It looks less like a yes or a no, than it does a piece of blackened banana. But still, at least I’m looking at something from a new and original perspective – the best you can hope for on a hot summer’s day in the grimy concrete heart of the city.

She takes it back and has another look.

“Actually, I think that’s a yes. If you look closely you can see the Y shape running through it. Yes, it’s definitely saying yes.”

“Great,” I say. “At least now I know there has been a purpose to all of this. This summer hasn’t been in vain.”

Then I slip into pool with all my clothes on and everyone laughs, everyone except the banana who is forever consigned to a yes-no dialogue with itself.

Ben Myers

Ben's second novel, The Missing Kidney will be published by Social Disease in Autumn 2007. The above story is a short chapter from the book. For updates please check

As I Left

As I left the ATM
with a friend.
As I left the ATM
I looked back—I don’t know why.
As I left the ATM
it happened—I regret it.
As I left the ATM
it was the worst thing.
As I left the ATM
everything fell and crashed for us.
As I left the ATM
I’ll tell you—I will I will.
As I left the ATM
our life was over then.
As I left the ATM
damn me it happened
damn me for looking back.
As I left the ATM
where was God then?
where were my senses?
As I left the ATM
I didn’t think—didn’t think I’m telling you!
As I left the ATM
it just happened—just came out.
As I left the ATM
why this—why this of all things?
As I left the ATM
what are we to do now?
As I left the ATM
we were just walking away.
As I left the ATM
why didn’t I just keep walking?
As I left the ATM
I turned—somehow I turned.
As I left the ATM
the worst thing in the world.
As I left the ATM
I’m going to tell you I will
I’m building it.
As I left the ATM
I need to shock you
—will you be?
As I left the ATM
please be please be upset.
As I left the ATM
I turned­ and get ready now.
As I left the ATM
I turned to that fucking machine.
As I left the ATM
I turned and said—thank you.

As I left the ATM
it’s true—it is it really is.
As I left the ATM
what’s happening?
what’s happening to us?
As I left the ATM
fuck me for this fuck me.
As I left the ATM
I turned and I spoke to it I did.
As I left the ATM
I said it and then heard it
—but so what?
As I left the ATM
I heard it and stopped
and all the world broke.
As I left the ATM
I wanted to cry
but I laughed—so what?
As I left the ATM
you know what happened now.
As I left the ATM
June 14th 2006
with a friend.

Chris Gutkind

When to Run

Sophie Woolley’s one person play, When to Run, tells the compelling story of four women runners and a man who looks a bit like Tony Soprano. Woolley flits between four different voices in the show: a neurotic professional, an urban teenage athlete, a secretly miserable lifestyle guru and a dog walker who hates exercise. Their lives collide as they pound the pavements of London - with fatal consequences.
The following is an excerpt from the play.

It’s 7.30am. Friday is run to work day. 5k at race pace. And you’re stretching and checking your laptop but you can’t make sense of the tracking device information. He can’t be in that many different places in a week. It must be a con. He’s in the shower now. He’s a good man. It’s a wonderful shower. Nothing to worry about. He’s an account manager.

You put your suit in your bag and you bang bye bye on the wonderful shower.
You’re running past new tower blocks sprouting in the sunshine – growing in front of your very eyes like real estate time lapse footage. The cranes are multiplying to lift people like you up, up and away from the eternal morass of sickness and poverty and crime and obesity. All the good people are starting afresh, carving somewhere nice out of the ruins. Widening the gap. You feel nuclear and renewable all at once. Twenty three minutes and 53 seconds. 5K is nothing to women like you.
Sophie Woolley
You can catch When to Run at Purcell Room, South Bank
Centre on 10 & 11 July
and at Regents Park Open Air Studio Theatre on 15 August. Watch clips at


On leaving the house every morning, I would be greeted by all manner of curious objects; stuff for the charity shop next door that the cats, foxes or humans had got at in the night.
You weren't supposed to leave things there out of opening hours.
Today, the front steps were strewn with Scrabble tiles.
I spelled out HELP (9 points) and went on my way to work.

Nash Trevelyan

It Came from the Sea

That much booze undressed everything. Almost everything. It was three months before I saw you completely naked. Three fucking months. What were you thinking? What was I thinking… I was a literate malcontent with a water-damaged book collection. You were drug-skinny with a taste for anything I could get my hands on. People said that you were too short for me. I tried telling them that you started smoking when you were nine but they wouldn’t listen. Nobody seemed to care. Not even your mother.

From where we were laying the sea looked grey and empty. When I kissed you I could taste broken heart on your cold lips. It tasted sour like winter apples. I needed a drink to take the taste away. On the way to the Cavendish the sky above the petrol station looked orange. You spent the evening putting on lipstick to smoke cigarettes. I spent the evening shrugging off the attentions of my fellow scum-bags and upstarts, soaking up sin in a manner not dissimilar to us. You were fascinated by the wet-look perms and raw violence on offer. I was fascinated by you and your surreal promises. A watery looking guy with a greasy pork-pie hat tried to sell you a shoe-box full of unconvincing photocopied banknotes for a tenner whilst I was in the toilets. There was anguish in his yellow rheumy eyes when I threatened to fuck him up slowly if he didn’t leave you alone. Illiterate Paignton scam-scum like him were just an outline to me. Nothing but a box of bones blowing smoke in my direction. Later that night when we leaked back towards the beach we saw him in a shop doorway with his cock hanging out, pleasuring some misshapen man or other. Sex and territory. Cash and cock. Sad, horny dreamers always find a way.

The next morning the daylight seemed so serious. One by one my dreams were reclaimed by grey skies. I retrieved my old camera from your wardrobe and took a picture of you before I left. Just the one. You never took any photos of me, I remember that as clearly as I remember the shape of your teeth. I walked out of your head and only turned around once, when I was far enough away. Get far enough away from Paignton and it almost looks pretty. Pretty like a blood-bubble. I wanted to be the photograph sellotaped above your bed. You just never gave me the chance. If I wasn’t that photograph then I knew that this motherfucker would swallow me whole. You and I both know that I couldn’t allow that to happen.

Looking back, the light was too dim when the photo was taken. The shutter speed was pretty slow, too - probably only 1/15th of a second. I think the camera moved, too, but I’d put that down to an early morning piss shiver. The picture ended up blurred irretrievably. When I finally found the negative it had been stored rolled up. There were fine cracks all over it – a bit like on an old oil painting. But it’s you. I can still tell it’s you. There’s no doubt about it. You were asleep, but you looked sad. When I show people they never really understand. Not really. I know that that summer, me and my baby were hotter than the Paignton asphalt. Hotter than a gutter-dog in the sun. Hotter than lipsticked cigarette on skin.

Tom Leins

I Will Murder the Tiny Break Dancing Child

I will murder the tiny break-dancing child that dances on Market Street in the afternoons near the Arndale Centre and sometimes outside HMV. I will not murder the tiny break-dancing child in front of a gathered crowd, and then take off my cap and go round the crowd and ask for money. I will not murder the tiny break-dancing child to show off. I will murder the tiny break-dancing child quietly and in private. I will murder him somehow using myspace. I will check his myspace profile three or four hundred times a day. I will send him private messages and post comments on his wall and continue checking his profile until one day it says ‘murdered’ on it.
I will make you a mix CD. I will theme the mix CD. The theme of the mix CD will be ‘bitterness and child murder’. I will start the mix CD off with the song ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ by The Angels. I will follow that song with something by your boyfriend’s band. Then I will copy over the whole of the album ‘My Red Scare’ by Frankie Sparo. Then I will spend the rest of my life entering the keyword search ‘child murder’ into mp3 blog aggregating sites such as
I will urinate into my own heart.
I want to murder the tiny break-dancing child.
I want to take something small and hot like the end of a struck match or the tip of a cigarette and touch it to myself somewhere, but not long enough for it to burn or leave a scar. I want to live inside the song ‘We’ll Make a Lover of You’ by Les Savy Fav. I want to somehow crawl inside this song and stay there until I die inside it. I want to be a dramatic American living in England. I want to go down the stairs of my flat late at night and turn on the light in the bathroom and look at the shower and remember me and you in there and then take my heart out of my body and urinate into it.
I will murder the tiny break-dancing child.

Chris Killen