Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Story That Changed The World Forever And Marked A New Beginning For Mankind; Saved By The Bell The People Linked Arms And Embraced Their Future With Rosy Cheeks, White Teeth And An Overwhelming Sense That - Perhaps For The First Time - They Were Alive, Truly Alive And Everything Up Until This Point Had Just Been A Strange And Arduous Test To See If They Were Ready For Such Freedoms, And They Were.



I tried to write a story that would appeal to all of mankind, a story to unite the nations.

This would be a story that would end all wars, that would resurrect all the good people who died young, that would make money, debt and credit moot concepts.

It was a story that would burn the gallows and disarm the firing squads, a story that would catch George Bush with his dong in an animal, only the animal wouldn’t mind because this was a story of love, a story where the only victims are those who didn’t heed the warnings, those who just kept pushing and pushing when all the world was screaming for them to stop, those who just got greedy and drunk on power and lost all sense of time and place, right and wrong.

It was a story written in the sky with vapour trails, carved in the golden sands of all the continents, sculpted in cathedrals of ice at both the poles, painted onto a grain of sand by a smiling China man who survived communism, survived book burnings and beatings on the soles of his bare with bamboo sticks, survived being buried neck deep in the dirty in the midday soon.

What a story it was. A real victory lap of words, a klaxon of approval; a story that read like all the world’s champagne corks popping at once. It was the story that marked the beginning of a new calendar for humanity, a clean slate. It was moment when humans awoke from their deep slumber.

This story – it made people switch off their televisions, cut up their credit cards and burn their paperwork. They flushed their pills down the toilet and made monuments from discarded mobile phones, all of them ringing and vibrating at once. Suddenly they realised they were free – truly free. The illusion was over and this was real.

As a result of this story everything of beauty was worshipped and because beauty is in the eye of the beholder everything became sacred: the trees, the ice shelves, the animals, the woodlands, the people. True equality – the likes of which was previously unimaginable by a species whose understanding of it was limited - pervaded and the people began to laugh. They laughed long and they laughed hard, each in their own unique way. At that moment cynicism died along with all the other diseases.

They re-read the story and then they ran out into the streets, laughing. “What the hell were we even worrying about?” they said to one another. “We were taking life seriously for a moment there.” Then they rolled in the grass and they swam in the Lakes. Some of them stayed indoors with the curtains shut, but that was OK too, because this new-found sense of freedom was limitless, and people could do whatever it was that made them happy so long as they weren’t hurting anyone else. Things were neither exclusive nor inclusive; they just were.

Idealism, naiveté and charity became things to aspire to. God died, but no-one mourned him because he never existed anyway, and even if he did he had died for the people’s sins, so even those of a religious bent felt good about it.

They kept the cathedrals, temples and churches and synagogues open anyway because they were building of beauty and beauty was all that mattered.

I tried to write a story that said all of this and implied so much more. I sat there thinking about it, then I wrote it down.

When the story was read and the world had changed, they said “Who wrote such a story?” and others replied “It was no-one, just some guy. I think the point he was making was, it was all here under our noses all along.”

“We should make him a God,” said someone. “Such vision deserves deification!”

“No,” said another. “You’re missing the point. It’s not about false idolatry. It’s about an appreciation of the real, a great levelling of everything. Besides, I met him once and he’s really nothing special. He just sits there all day drinking coffee and scratching his balls. He’s pretty anti-social.”

“OK,” they said and they ran outside laughing, to smell the flowers and kiss the dirt.

And the rest – as you know – is history.



Ben Myers



A Poem for No-One



you come to me with the voice of a debt collector
an unperceivable hum like shaved glass
a fatherly caress of the head

my days are full of daunting moments like these
stretching out as far as the eyes can see
i want them gone in the flash of teenage afternoons

your pale bare skin untroubled by the sun
the breath-stealing electricity of your hip
your hairs the subtle caress of spun silk

it comes to me now, too late to matter: i have spent
ten futile years chasing your liquefying ghost
across these crumpled sheets of bacofoil




Tony O' Neill


Sat on a Yorkshire Hillside Dreaming of Li Po and a Glass of Warm Beer



Inside the weeping willows
that sleep across acres of wild garlic
the afternoon battles with transparent swords

pungent and alive the scent rips up into the crisp Spring air.

Clear waters, once red with blood
fall from the valley of Marston Moor.

It is early March,
in the light’s reflections
upon Cock Beck’s glittering film
silver Chub race along the bed
to Stutton’s wrought iron crumbling footbridge

and we trace the stream
to the black towers
of the brewery cousins
silent in orange industrial glow.

Here, where long grasses reach the waist,
caressing covered legs and soil caked boots
old men with grey Lurchers course hares in the quarry
the limestone drop echoes soft rabbit feet

the only sound the deep tyke voice
no faces unfamiliar on Fawcett’s estate.



Adelle Stripe

8 Hour Job



8 hour job
8 hour job
tired legs
burning feet
a trolley rattles the corridor.
I am too lumbered for lunch today.

we live, LIVE, for 4 o’clock.

8 dog hours
then, Home,
then
mundane maintenance
FIGHTS
dreamy creativity.
I am sitting too near the fridge and the ice

but
beware the Lurid Exhaustion
that will throw you off the graffiti desk
when the music is SUDDENLY TOO LOUD.

8 dog hours
kill the story they make you live.

and I saw
a nurse taking the earrings from a dead child’s ears.
the screen hid nothing.
8 dog hours.

8 hours.
I walk them
then a lesbian drives me home.




Ford Dagenham




Science Fiction Story



I will meet you again in the future. It will be 100 years from now. We will be evolved. We will be larger. We will be gentle with each other. When I try to touch your hand, my hand will feel like water. Your hand will feel like a fish. We will be evolved in different directions. We will be so gentle and evolved we won’t even be able to lift our glasses to our mouths. We will just sit in a bar, looking at the glasses, and being incredibly gentle with each other. You will gently slap my face. I will gently say something cruel. We will gently torture each other, not saying any of the things we’ve been thinking for the last 100 years.


We will not say, ‘I’ve missed you,’ or, ‘You look good,’ or, ‘I think I’ve made a terrible mistake.’

We will be too futuristic to say those things.

There will be mobile phones made of water and seeds, 1 millimetre in diameter.

There will be children that look like shrivelled dogs.

Every thing ever will have a slot to put money in, and when you put money in the slot the thing will vibrate.

There will be tinfoil, inflatable shoes, and holographic statues of the cast of Friends.

Everything will be okay.

The sun will be burnt out – it will be like a black floating acorn – and it will be dark in the bar, and I won’t be able to see if you are crying.




Chris Killen

Perfect Recall



It was a long hot summer; an endless summer. Heat waves shimmered above the city streets and the nights were long and warm. And it was during this endless summer that I fell in love for the first time, and I have to confess it was love at first sight.

The experience of love at first sight is almost impossible to put into words, for although language may adequately express the normal conditions of life, it struggles with the mystical and inexplicable. All I can say for certain is that it was an epiphany of emotion, a sudden intuitive insight into the true meaning of love and life’s mysteries.

She was walking home from school with some friends when I first saw her, laughing and smiling, animated. Her long blonde hair flowing in a summer breeze and rays of sunshine streaming through each strand. Maybe it was the sunshine, shining like that, like light through a stained-glass window of a forgotten inner-city church, but instantly I felt my heart beating faster and the rest of the world faded to grey.

I was working as an apprentice upholsterer in a little Dickensien cottage in Pig alley. I wore a leather apron and worked with unusual tools. Each week the boss paid me cash, in five pound notes, but despite the fivers I earned very little. One afternoon the others sprayed glue all over me and threw a box of feathers over my head as part of some weird initiation ceremony. Strangely, this did very little for my self-esteem.

At work I thought about the girl. I’d never seen anyone like her before, she was perfect in everyway, at least in my eyes, and just the thought of being with her began to dominate my every waking thought.

The days and weeks since the first sighting passed slowly and I wasn’t the same. People began to notice and gave me odd looks and stares. Little did they know and if they had known I would have been embarrassed. For I had the love bug and for a girl I hadn’t even spoken to. At night, as I lay awake in my single bed, visions of her loveliness danced before my eyes.

Then, like a miracle, I spoke to Tara. For that was the mystery girl’s name. This is how it happened. On another sultry evening I took a short cut through the park and there was Tara, sitting on a park bench, alone. I ducked behind a tree to contemplate matters. There she was, not more than fifty feet away, the girl of my dreams, sitting in the park, alone.

Somehow this chance meeting seemed like fate, destiny, and I had to make a decisive move. I poked my head around the tree a couple of times. She was still there, waiting aimlessly, a vision of youth and beauty. I psyched myself up and tried to think of something witty to say, something dazzling.

And then suddenly, like a puppet-master was pulling my strings, or cupid was firing his love darts, I found myself walking towards her, helpless.

Halfway there, she looked up and smiled. Jesus, I couldn’t believe it, the smile, those blue eyes, so bright and alluring.

‘Alright,’ I heard a voice utter from some faraway place.

‘Hi,’ said another voice, but more ephemeral, more in tune with the universe, cosmic and eternal.

‘Fancy going out this weekend?’

‘Okay.’

And that was that. That was how we became boyfriend and girlfriend. We swapped numbers and called each other every night. We went on dates, nothing extravagant - local boozer, walks in the park, and the cinema.

That summer of my youth seemed to last forever, warm pale mornings and blue crimson evenings. We’d sit in the park under a couple of sycamore trees and talk about the future. We made endless plans, plans to elope, to travel the world, to be together forever, just us against the world.

Each night I walked her home and kiss on her doorstep, and afterwards I swung from lamp posts like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain, except it wasn’t raining and the skies were clear and midnight blue. And although the image is often better than the reality, Tara was as sweet as she was beautiful. She didn’t mind that I was an apprentice upholsterer and was paid in five-pound notes, and had once been tarred and feathered.

But someone once said that nothing good lasts forever, that life is just a series of random events we have no control over, and man’s unhappiness stems from his desire to make permanent that which is impermanent, the flesh.

We’d been seeing each other just a few weeks when I suggested a drive into the countryside. It was another hot summer’s day. We drove out to Epping Forest, away from the dirty streets of East London, away from the hectic grinding city life.

I was jumpy, anxious, filled with trepidation and wonder. Before setting off we’d both dropped an E. And as we drove along the pills kicked in - powerful body rushes, images blurring, streets melting, and cars flashing past like ghost machines. Tara whispered words of love and kissed my cheek, and for one incredible moment life was just one big sack of glittering jewels tossed across a deep blue ocean.

And then it happened. The narcotic swirling through my bloodstream altered my perceptions, and the brightness of the sun became lethal. I remember shielding my eyes with one hand, the sound of screeching tyres and then the flip, spinning through the air.

I awoke to find myself upside down. A multitude of vivid details imprinted themselves on my mind, Tara’s laughter, her screams, the faces of strangers, a leaf blowing in the wind, a fly on the windscreen. Perfect recall.

Blood dripped into my mouth, tasting rich, luxurious, and sickly. Tara appeared perfect, not a scratch, not a mark, flawless.

‘Tara?’

No answer.

Suddenly I didn’t feel good, a dull aching pain.

‘Tara.’

No answer, but she was perfect, like a china doll, not even a cut or a graze.

Sunlight streamed into the car and flowed through her glossy blonde hair, like the first time I saw her. I held her in my arms, my upside down arms, and watched as my blood dripped onto her pale blue top, drops of red appearing here and there, spreading outwards.




Joe Ridgwell

Shooting Rabbits



It was a hot, sickly day that we drove out to the country to do the deed. I sat in the passenger with my head half out the window, not looking at Dad and wishing that we had my little brother along with us to break up the monotony of the ride. Dad was insistent though, said it was a coming of age thing. Like shaving and fucking. I’d done neither of these things but Dad was making a point and there was no getting around it. The deed would be done and it would be done with just the two of us bearing witness.

After I don’t know how many hours of wind in my face, Dad pulled in to a gravel track and killed the engine. I got out first, eager to get it over with and, to tell the truth, eager to see some action. I’d never held a gun before and when dad opened the boot and handed me the old rifle I was startled by its weight, nearly dropping it. Dad gave me one of his looks and I saw him bite his tongue to stop him snatching back the piece and shoving me back into the car. Instead he took a breath and said “Careful”.

We walked into the field, as silent as we had been in the car. It was a different type of silence now though, tainted with expectation and fear and longing.

Crouching in the dirty stubble, Dad explained how I should line up the sights and then squeeze gently when I was ready. “Give her an OBE”, he said and laughed, “One Between the Ears” and he laughed again before lapsing into a watchful silence, cupping his eyes against the sun.

Before long I saw him extend a forefinger and, following its path, I saw the movement it was pointing to, about two hundred yards from where we were squatted. I pulled up my rifle in a panic, desperate not to disappoint the old man, and peered down the long barrel. As I lined up the little x with the back of her head I felt a sudden twinge of regret. I hadn’t expected her to be so pretty. Crouched naked with her back to me she seemed utterly oblivious as to what was about to happen. I paused a second longer, a second longer than my Dad could contain himself and I turned as he hissed, “do it” between furious teeth. I looked back to see her staring straight at me, stiff at the sound of Dad’s outburst. I closed my eyes and squeezed gently.

Sprinting across the field to where her body lay jumping and twitching in circles, Dad used every swear I knew and some that I didn’t. As we approached her I saw how badly I had missed. The bullet had gone through the side of her neck and blood was pumping up through her mouth and nose with each groan. I’m embarrassed to admit it but even through all the mess I remember looking at her tits in awe. They were the first pair I had ever seen in real life. She looked about my age.

Dad shattered my reverie, snatching the gun from my limp grasp and raised it up to take aim. I saw her look from the barrel to me, her eyes resting on mine a split second before Dad squeezed gently and her head exploded.

He left me standing there as he walked slowly back to the car with the gun, coming back with a shovel grasped in his fist. “I hope you can be trusted with this at least” he said before turning and walking back to wait in the car.

We sat in silence all the way home, Dad peering out at the fading light, while I stared back at my reflection in the window, dusty and sun burnt. The deed was done, at least that was something. It was all part of growing up, of becoming a man. And next time, it would be easier.




Lee Mess

Hammering the Nails In


i told her to shut up
to stop shouting at me
and she threw a plate of food
it landed in front of me
and smashed
into pieces

the two poached eggs
wide and running
like the children’s eyes
as they looked on.






Geraint Hughes

Pleasure & Pain



He was in her flat, in her front room. He was sitting beside her on the sofa. He was looking downwards at the laminated floorboards as he talked. He was sad, distant, as the words came out of his mouth in no particular order. He spoke emotions and nothing else, he explained his feelings, which were broken. Outside, his body was whole, but inside he was in pieces.

She was silent, sitting beside him, watching. She was still, listening to his words, comforting him. She had invited him over soon after he had told her that his girlfriend had left him. She had told him she was good at dealing with this kind of thing.

As he talked she had listened. She had kept their glasses topped up with wine. The glasses were never empty; at the very least they were half full. They were drinking a very dry white wine, a Muscadet. They were on their third bottle now. She could feel that she was drunk. She could feel it but she kept it to herself, not wanting to let this piece of information leave her. She looked down at her legs. She wondered if the skirt she wore was appropriate. She squeezed her thighs a little closer together.

He was saying how much he still loved her. That he would never forget her or even stop loving her. She would always be there, inside of him. He explained how she had made him a better man, how she had shown him a different side of love, a beautiful and tranquil side whose tranquillity reminded him of a giant lake. He said he could picture a lake in a valley of mountains. He said he had seen its calm surface, he had drunk from it, had been greatly refreshed from it. He said it held a beauty like nothing else, a beauty like Monet’s ‘Water lilies’, whose colours and tones were staggering.

She had not let her eyes leave him for one instant. She had looked at him the entire time. She had wanted him for a while now, she had fantasised about it. Sometimes when alone in her bed her hands ran over the surface of her body. She was like the sea in a storm as her hands taunted her own skin. Her thoughts, as this happened, were filled by the two of them – her, on her back, with her legs spread and him, on top, with his cock thrust deep inside her.

Her thighs came together a little tighter. She remembered, once, after coming back to the office after a pub lunch. She remembered that she was a little tipsy and had sat on top of a desk close to his. They had talked. They had laughed as she had stood there, smiling, enjoying the words that went between them. Her posture had been a little seductive, though it was not an intentional thing. She had not been conscious of it. He had caught onto this, momentarily, and had glimpsed her legs as he told a story. Her legs were amazing legs, eye catching, and so was her behind.

He took a mouthful of wine. He looked at her, waiting for an answer.

She gave him an answer, the right one. She then touched his arm. It was a touch of comfort, reassuring. She found that her eye line was looking down at the crotch of his trousers. Suddenly she could not help thinking about unzipping them and slipping her hand in, and grasping what was inside.

He smiled at her, and then said he had to go. He then stood up and thanked her profusely.

The alcohol had slowed the speed of their movements.

She walked him to the front door. She was nervous, nervous that she wanted to make a move but not sure how he would react. She bit her lip. She breathed in and out of her nose, feeling her heart racing. She turned to face him and then put her arms out to hug him.

He slipped into her embrace.

She could feel his right hand on the bare skin of her hip. She could feel it, against her flesh. It was warm.

She then pushed her hips forward a little, bringing their bodies closer together.

He was still talking, saying things that she did not hear.

Outside, a siren could be heard.

Inside, her lips found his neck. They hovered above them, a few millimetres away. She smelt him and then crushed her lips against his skin.

There was a vast silence. Everything was still, like a lake in the valley of mountains.

Rain could be heard outside.

They moved their heads back and looked into each other’s eyes.

It was suddenly hot and stuffy where they stood.

Their lips suddenly crashed together, their hands ignited at the ends of their wrists and burst alive with movement and motion. Their bodies pressed tighter together. They caressed one another and ran their hands over one another, feeling. Their tongues darting between parted lips.

Another siren could be heard.

The rain got heavier.

She could feel him tightly against her. She could feel his body against hers.

Gradually he began to fall apart in her hands, like wet paper. He was a mushy pulp, weeping from his eyes.

Softly she told him that it was all right, that he should not hold back and instead let go to pleasure and pain, to simply let go and to feel everything that went through him. She whispered that he was alive, that he was in one piece and that this was the main thing.

His eyes, still damp with tears, looked down at her.

She slid her skirt and her knickers down to the floor and stepped out of them.

He was confusion and lust, he was lost, overwhelmed in emotion. He breathed in deeply, silently watching.








Matthew Coleman

The Couple



In a bar, I met a couple.
He smiled and boasted about her talents
Calling my attention to her talents
Which meant, that he wanted to lull her
Into a false sense of security.

They told me about their deep connection,
And asked if I had a boyfriend.
She had large breasts and was plump.
He was balding slightly, from the back forwards,
He wore his shirt with his top 2 buttons undone.

In their hotel room, with cheap champagne,
He paraded his routine, a strut and plastic
Pose.
She changed into a shiny dress, light reflected from
The black.
He asked me to strip. Which I did, sweetly.

They unpacked a weekend bag
Plastic joy machines crowded the bed.
I said, I never obey. And chose to masquerade
As a boy, looking at myself in the mirror.
My shape shifting. I was Ovidean.

I chose a crop, and made them both
Taste the dark tang
Usually felt on a horse’s flank.
She was my glove, my seat, my bidet.

Laughter hit the back of my teeth
Which I swallowed back like vomit
If you could see me now
If only you could see me now
You would know you were right
To leave.




Heidi James



Half Standing



I am aware that I have made some wrong decisions. It’s hardly news to me. Gazing from my office window, a dozen stories high above the City, I’m most conscious of my multiple mistakes. Matters could have been handled to the contrary. The benefit of hindsight. The wisdom accrued from time’s passing. But, of course, in the heat of the moment, within the thick of the fight, I assumed I’d pull it off. Superfluous with spirit and banjaxed by bluster, I thought I’d get away with it all.

Where does the money go? All that lovely, teasing money? Every penny, every pound. Every franc, every dollar. It flashes stocking tops, full of pout and promise, but then virginally avoids your clutches. I was so close to getting this right. Provender most fruitfully in the offing. Events, however, conspired against me. The reins of projects lost. A mixture of misfortune and mishap. And now spreadsheets open across my computer screen. Column As figures disappearing as the mouse hovers to B. In the blink of an eye. At the click of a button. Hundreds of thousands gone. Sums so vast they don’t even seem real. Bad investments. Poor choices. A market unstable and ill-researched.

They’ll be here in a moment. Antagonised and aroused. Knocking at the office door. Demanding to know what’s happened. Coming to take it all away from me.

I loosen my tie and remember Mr Featherplume-Dyke. A great man. A mentor. “You have big ideas, young Simon,” he told me upon my career’s commencement. “And a jib I like the cut of. You’ll go a long way with this firm.” An outstanding character. He died with his boots on. Thigh length, they were. Six inch heels and pure black leather. “We should be judged by our business not our leisure,” he once proclaimed whilst stroking my knee and licking his lips. It’s a maxim by which I’ve attempted to live. But what would Mr Featherplume-Dyke make of this? What on earth would he think of me now?

Nearly midday. The accounts will be an end. You can’t hide the figures from Accounts. Petulant swines to a man. Poking noses in where noses most certainly do not belong. The discrepancy will scream from their software. All cards laid damningly on the table. The hunt to then swiftly commence. All those weeks spent shuffling paperwork to the bottom of the pile. Deleting emails and shredding reports. Covering tracks. Wiping off fingerprints. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. What futility. They were going to trace it to me eventually. And with me the buck must stop.

Options. I recall all the options. I’ve given favours. I’ve taken some gambles. But surely gambling is what we do? If only the clock could be rewound. Five million to those Americans seems foolish in the cold light of day, but the deal appeared so convincing after that spectacular luncheon pitch. The start-up in the Soviet states seemed risky even then, but what if it had paid off? The tax breaks alone would have made me for life. I wouldn’t be here, like this, right now. That’s for sure. I’d be sunning it up on the MD’s island. A hooker on either arm and a swimming pool full of champagne. But that’s not why I did this. Of course I wanted success. I desired a certain status. But I yearned for a life of security. Does this mean I’m greedy? Does this mean I’m flawed? I’m honestly not sure. Aren’t we all pursuing – although the paths fumbled along may differ – precisely the same thing?

The phone rings. “Accounts” presented on the display. I think it would be unwise to answer. A few further minutes required. Get my story straight. Figure out what I’m going to do. So much money owed on the second house. Charlotte spending like it’s going out of vogue. Frankie’s school fees and mother’s rest home. All banking on me. All depending on the phone calls I’ve made. It was surely never meant to end quite like this.
Mobile commencing its merry, vibrating tweet. It’s Hammonds. Probably best to ignore him. His quarter will bring no cheer. Christ, how much longer have I got? How soon before the barbarians are rattling the gates? Emails coming in on the laptop. Millions wiped out scream the subject line. Desk phone ringing again, now on all five lines. Red lights flashing like a brothel on fast forward. There are voices in the corridor. Heading right my way. Coming for the showdown. Ready for high noon.

I walk to the window, twelve stories high, and look at the City. So much depending on our currency’s confidence. So much riding on the choices made and deals brokered. So many, many lives…

The knocks commence at my office door. Furious and fuming. I stand at the window and - as the shouting starts, as the threats are unveiled, as my career disappears into dismissal, debt, and an inquest of fraud - discover myself wondering just how far the pane will open.



Mark Colbourne

Score



Mourning now.
I'm morning sick.
Better run down to the corner Johnny.
Better run down there quick.
I'm slipping into cold.
Slipping into
Cold gray death.
Skin pale gray marble.
stomach stretched tight
as a tourniquet.

It's just all dark like fear.
Crowding this one lost color out and away from behind my eyes.
I can hear my blood betraying me.
Johnny's making noise in the kitchen.
Then she's looking through her purse.
She says, "I know, just what you need.
"A nurse with a good eye, rolls up your sleeve."

And I'm afraid that even smiling is gonna hurt.

Run down to the corner babe..
She stares vacant like an abandoned car watching the street.
The street has no sun to announce the breaking of day.
But there's illumination on the corner.
Boys in bright, white tee-shirts.
Inventing language and new sports heroes.
Running from the police. Everyone keeping score.

My pain doesn't make a sound. It's old. Pain is.
Before memory.
After memory, it's too late.
Keeping score.
Pain is pity this mourning.
Morning sick.
Run down to the corner, Johnny.
Please run down there quick.

I'm slipping into gray.
Cold as death.
Pity is the score. Pain is.

Johnny says, "You were sleeping when I came in this mourning."

"It's not sleep, honey."

Johnny says, "I'm gonna be an actress. Or a poet."

Johnny works at Division and Halstead, lately. Cars stop there and when
she gets in, they take her where she tells them.
She still believes.
Sometimes she stays in. We eat Chinese and watch
old black n white movies.
She remembers still, when she was a little girl.
Nothing nice.
She says, "Baby, I'll do anything for you.

I told Johnny once, "Don't fall, if you don't believe, I'll pick you up."
That was the evening we made love. We struck our bargain.

"Yeah, please. Run down to the corner."

"You sick?"

"It's morning, babe."
It's mourning, all over the world. Well, mostly.

She's at the door smiling.

"But babe? Sometimes I hate to think I'm going to be happy."
She's keeping score.

"Why is that, Johnny?"

"Because I still have all this time to think the other things."

"What other things?"

"All the things that can, you know, go wrong."

I start to shudder once the door slams and all that's left
in the room is the patient reminder of time, coming even and steady - tick, tick, tick.
The clock, keeping score. Pain first, than mourning pity.Then, I break down and cry.




Brian Murphy

Throne Room



“And no wiping down there with me dressing gown,” Joyce shouts through the bathroom door. She pulls a face like screwed up divorce papers. “Not that you would o’course, darlin’ but we had this one bloke use the facilities yesterday. Pissed he was; couldn’t tell his arse from his elbow, never mind a dressing gown sleeve from a length o’bog roll. S’right innit Denny, love?” She peers down the ravine of her cleavage and retrieves a book of matches from her D cup.

“S’right,” says her son in a deep voice that’s been hauled up like a bucket from his beer gut. He’s wearing a pair of yellow Marigolds with black leather fingerless driving gloves over the top. Denny jerks the lead in his fist. The pit bull at his feet looks up at him then resumes licking its balls. “S’right,” he repeats, nodding then scratching his forehead.

“Y’all right in there, darlin’? Found the bog roll ‘ave ya?” says Joyce, pulling the hem of her red pencil skirt down towards her dimpled knees. “S’under the flamenco dancer’s dress. Don’t be shy, darlin’; she’s ‘ad more ‘ands up ‘er skirt than…”

“…you ‘ave ma,” says Denny, flicking his fingers. His face contorts in a silent fit of laughter.

“Oi!” says Joyce, pointing a three-inch acrylic finger nail at him, “can it!” She pulls a fag from her dishevelled blonde beehive and clasps it between glossy cerise lips. “Or I’ll can it for ya,” she adds, fag wobbling in her mouth.

Denny reaches a hand to the shepherd’s delight bruise on his left cheek, eye flinching. He smiles awkwardly at Joyce, a smile like someone’s added extra teeth to his mouth while he was sleeping and he’s only just noticed.

“If we’ve run out there’s a stash in the cupboard to ya left, darlin’; one with the fancy door knobs on.” Joyce pulls her vest top out the curled lip of her waistband and runs it round the brass letters on the bathroom door – ‘Throne Room.’ “They was made special them knobs, darlin.’ Can ya tell what they are? Hand-made by Denny ‘ere at the Day Care Centre he goes to of a Tuesday… though ‘e made a bit of a fist of ‘em, truth be told. Go on Denny, love, tell ‘er what they’re meant to be.”

Denny looks at the litter of toes huddled round the post of his flip-flops, face like an abandoned car with a ‘Police Aware’ notice stuck across the windscreen.
“The Queen’s conk,” he mumbles, jabbing at the dog with his foot. The pit bull removes his nose from his arsehole and nudges Denny’s ankle.

“S’right, one ‘as door ‘andles shaped like ‘er royal majesty’s conk,” says Joyce, clipped vowels tripping over themselves to get out her mouth. “That’s ‘ow la-de-da we is!” She attempts a curtsey on her six-inch heels, unlit fag still dangling from the corner of her mouth. “’A triumph over tastefulness’ me third ‘usband called ‘em… so ‘e didn’t last long; two week in fact cos I got ‘im annulled. Couldn’t get it up, see. S’right innit Denny, love?”

Denny jiggles the change in the pockets of his shorts then points towards the front door. The dog clambers to its feet and waddles after him down the hall.

“Ya nearly done in there, darlin’ only I needs to go meself...” Joyce pulls off a glass-encrusted clip earring and presses an ear to the door. “… what with it being me own friggin’ loo an’ that,” she adds under her breath. “‘ere, you ain’t shootin’ up in there are ya, darlin’?” She picks at the oak veneer door with her fingernail. “Cos if y’are that biscuit tin by the bog brush’s what we use for syringes.”

The toilet flushes. A young black woman in a canary yellow bikini appears in the doorway, legs encased in a large wire skirt. Joyce plumps up her breasts and steps to one side, wearing the group hug smile she uses on all her paying guests.

“Not photographing yaself on the bog was ya?” says Joyce, eyeing the camera hanging off the black woman’s slender wrist. “We ‘ad this bloke in ‘ere earlier what did that. Said it was for an art instalment or some such bollocks. Wouldn’t put it past ‘im neither, folk you get round Notting Hill these days!”

The young woman grins and bending her knees to accommodate the orange plumage of her headdress, limbos out the bathroom door. “We sees all sorts this time o’year,” says Joyce, following the hip-sway of the girl’s pert behind down the hallway and out the front door. “Yes, we sees life all right, don’t we Denny, love?”

At the garden gate, Denny holds out a meaty palm to the black woman. “S’a quid,” he says to her tits. The woman waves her boyfriend over who pulls a fiver out and passes it to Denny. Denny holds the crisp note up to the sun, eyes never leaving the woman’s tits. “S’it real?” The black guy explains he just got it out the cash-point. Denny nods and starts laboriously counting out change in twenty, ten and five pence pieces.

Joyce points at the handwritten sign hanging off her front gate and says to the man, “you wanna use the facilities too now, darlin’? S’nice an’ clean, ask ya lady friend. Do it up special for the carnival, don’t we Denny, love.” She looks at the black guy’s Bermuda shorts and tugs at her neckline. “Streets’d be runnin’ wi’ piss if it weren’t for us offering us loo to the public. So, ya comin’ in then or what?”

The man looks at the hard, brassy-haired woman stood next to her meat-head son with the pit bull growling at his feet and shakes his head. Pulling his girlfriend towards the sound of reggae music, he mutters, “Why would I want to pay them a pound when I’m shitting myself right here?!”




Melissa Mann



My Microwave Called Me a Douchebag Today



every time someone asks me
what my name is
like they’re going to
begin a conversation with me
i want to say
“i know exactly
what kind of shampoo
you use
because i have constructed a hole
in the ceiling of your bathroom
and i watch you
but not in a perverted way
more like a caring, endearing way,”
that way
the conversation
probably won’t happen.



Sam Pink

Friday, January 25, 2008

I Slept On Her Pillow and Had Her Dreams



It was a Saharan breeze off my lips, me whispering that I still loved her, and then she shot me again. And again, and again, and again, and again, click click click.

A tear rolled off my cheek. I felt neither sadness nor remorse nor pain nor passion, though her inflictions burned in me like guilt. And there was no blood; there was only the tear, my consciousness rolled up within.
Darkness washed over me then, baptising me in its cool emptiness, and I hugged this new lover to me as I drowned in it. Then I bent to him, lifted the teardrop from off the kitchen floor and wet it to my blistering lips.


Robert Prinsloo


Mae Clarke



Just to
make it stop
he pushed her
face into
her lunch.
Right down
to the
bottom
of the bowl
of tepid
chicken
soup.
She
surfaced,
face
dripping stock,
a matzoh ball
flush in her mouth.
When she bit it
in half
and spat
the remnants
across the
table
he knew
no good
was coming.



Tim Wells

So Young



It began, as these things do, with a splash of blood.

More than a splash, to be honest: about a third of the stool was livid scarlet, barely discernible through the pinkish swirl. When he used the toilet paper, it came away red. Yep: this was real.

He generally took a dump early evening, just after getting back from the uni. It was Friday today, Kiera was calling from downstairs, they had ordered in and were going out, they were due to meet the others in the Salutation in half an hour and he was shitting blood. He thought: this is not going to fuck up my weekend. It will not. He flushed, showered and cleaned the bowl and went downstairs.

Kiera was his girlfriend of two years. She had spent the last hour and a half getting ready, and she was jumping from foot to foot, eager to begin the weekend. Kiera worked for the council, as a housing officer; they had woken up together at Glasto and since then it had been more or less golden. He told Kiera she looked beautiful, as he always did at this time of the week. His knowledge about women was this: if a girl has spent hours getting ready to go out, it’s best to tell her she looks beautiful. And what made it easier was the fact that this was always true.

He did not mention the blood, and over the course of the evening it slipped from his mind. They met his uni colleagues in the Salutation and did a roster of Oxford Road bars, ending up at a house party near their home in Whalley Range. At times he perceived what could be a long term problem (he had this image of a nameless water break in the good roaring oceans of this night and his life) but there were friends he hadn’t seen for years, he was paying for one drink in three, there were St Helens stories and half-formed arguments and shouted conversations with strangers in bars. It was a great night; it always was.

Monday he spoke to a doctor he knew at the uni (he was a project assistant at the medical school). The guy said: people don’t get bowel cancer at twenty-four. Over fifty, you should be worried. If this happens again it’s probably haemorrhoids. Eat a bowl of Alpen before you go to bed.

It did not happen again until, suddenly, it did. That summer they had taken two weeks’ leave and travelled around Italy. Returning home, they had moved out of the house share in Whalley Range and into their own flat in Chorlton. He was a full project manager now, and Kiera had got an honorarium from MCC. Wednesday evening they had been eating Poppolino’s pizza and watching the regional news, they were going to Kiera’s high school reunion at the weekend and his girlfriend was worried about her weight. He told her that she looked around seventeen and weighed about a kilogram. As happy and full of life as she was Kiera’s soul echoed with insecurities from her schooldays.

That got him thinking about his own childhood in St Helens. A town still reeling from Thatcher’s decimation of the mining and glasswork industries, St Helens was full of gangs, pregnant fifteen-year-olds and a multitude of social problems. As a kid none of this had meant anything to him (when he thought of himself as a child nothing came except a sense of something unformed, a head bowed, at once alive in the town and without recognition of Victoria Square and the Needle and the municipal buildings) and then – kapow! The physical changes were fairly straightforward, and he never made a big deal of masturbation and sex. What he couldn’t handle were these new emotions invading his body. Suddenly he needed an identity, suddenly he needed to keep up with his friends, suddenly he needed to go to Liverpool to watch bands and not have to get the last train back; suddenly you are alone, and no one loves you, and yet there is a dark pleasure in this loneliness, and in locking yourself away to cry. But then he had lost his virginity and figured out, slowly, how you could make sense of these new aspirations and desires.

Thinking these thoughts, he stood from the throne, turned to flush and saw, again, that red swirl.
The doctor he spoke to the next day wasn’t as relaxed as the uni guy had been. He recommended a scan. The appointment was in two weeks. Over those weeks he got wrecked, made love, worked, saw a couple of films and then he went to the clinic and found out that this long-term problem was actually just a short-term problem. Six months. At best.

By November he was in the MRI.
Separated from the other beds by a plastic slash of curtain, within reach of a table cluttered with well wishes from the uni (from his friends in Leeds where he had studied and found himself), from his friends in St Helens (where he was born and raised), and from the great intercontinental sprawl of his own family - he slept and read and puked and thrashed out the chemo. His hair had gone, in snarls and clumps. He had lost three stone, seemingly through his arse. He wore a colostomy bag.

Grandiloquently he had announced in bars that he was going to kick the shit out of cancer. He had joked about getting the world’s most embarrassing terminal disease. Often he felt guilty when talking about it, and had registered the blank, disturbed look people get when unpleasant subjects are jolted into their minds. He had thought of shutting the fuck up about cancer; but Kiera had told him that true friends would understand, and listen.

And she had been right. Yet over the last month or so the flood of visitors had reduced to a stream, then a drip. He took no offence at this. People had their own lives.

His parents, of course, still visited, and though he loved them, he was always happy when they left, and felt an absurd guilt about what he was doing to them.

He needed only Kiera, and she was in daily. He told her he loved her, many times. He stressed that, after he was gone – and by now it was laughably clear that he wasn’t going to make Christmas – that she should find someone else. There’s no one like you though, she said. It won’t be like it was with you.
But Kiera couldn’t be there all the time. And the nights – the nights were bad.

It was on one of these long ward nights that he thought about converting to Christianity. His attitude to religion had always been derisive, when his bowels were clean. But faith offered what nothing else could: the possibility of continuation. In the end you have no choice but to delude yourself. I am sorry; sorry Richard Dawkins, sorry Primo Levi. I am not strong enough to resist this temptation when the pistol is at my head. I want to sit on a cloud and wait for others to join me. Convince me.

Yet he never quite convinced himself, and in early December his thoughts swung from death to life.
Back at the uni he had all sorts of big ideas about himself, as young men do: he wanted to be a rock star or a writer or at least something in the media. These were not so much goals as semi-articulated expressions of an intense drive to get out there, to be. He spent the summer before his final year on Big Brother. He came fourth and stayed in London for a while and partied and shagged around and did coke and eventually ran out of money and crawled back to Leeds to repeat the last two semesters.

The only documentary evidence of his life on this planet was a few hundred hours of videotape in a warehouse somewhere. How little impression we make on the world; like stones skimmed across water. And yet there were few regrets. He had been a decent man, he had known love, he had known women, and if he had not completely lived his life to the full, at least he had always tried. The only regret about his life was that there had not been enough of it. But can you ever get enough, really? If you leave nothing behind but a few Excel spreadsheets on the shared drive and a few stories told in Oxford Road bars and some fading memories and emotions in the heads and hearts of those that loved and knew you – was the whole thing just a waste of time?

What he could have told them was: it feels like sleep. And sleep is good.
But by then he was beyond talking: by the night of December 19 he could make sounds but no real words.
He had no idea of what was happening except that Kiera was there and that was good. The warm weight of her hand in his palm was good and she was saying things and that was good. But she looked upset. What could possibly upset you? Don’t you love to sleep?

It was like when you crash out in the middle of the afternoon after a heavy night in Hyde Park: pushed down into the mattress by strong, kind arms. Unconsciousness hits you like a train. In Hyde Park, in the afternoons, we used to walk through the shadows of the trees and have a pint at the Drydock. Were you there? We’ll be together in the springtime. And the sun will shine.

Tipping over from something into nothing, he could still hear Kiera’s voice. Kiera’s voice was good but he could always hear the noises on the ward and that was bad. He thought when Kiera had to go he would put his IPod on and listen to Bob Dylan. He loved Bob Dylan. He could put the IPod on or he could listen to the songs in his head now. Either way, the quality was awesome. All Along the Watchtower. Blowin in the Wind. Lay Lady Lay.


Max Dunbar

Burn



as my two daughters
chinese burn
both my arms
trying to use me
as a fire pole
my wife smiles over.
not a nice smile
of a mother watching her children
at play
but a vengeful smile,
one that lets me know
that this and much more
is expected
to make up for last night’s
drunken fight
and this morning’s hangover.
I might as well
stand naked
an inch from the sun.




Brian McGettrick



Velcro



It took time but I kept my promise. Now I can visit him, I ignore the nurse’s concern for his independence. His eyes are inverted; still that little boy waving from the back of the car. I know he’s not lost; just elongated and worn - like laces dragged too many times through muddy gutters. I used to crouch right down and tighten his shoes whenever his boisterousness had loosened them, or whenever he tapped my arm and pointed. The weather didn’t matter one bit. The straps always resounded best when saturated from the rain.

**rip**

The sound of Velcro still shifts me to those times; a flare of noise that delivers me back to his innocently smiling face. He didn’t find the straps impossible; we just enjoyed the closeness. She couldn’t give it to us; we were the only family we had. She’d only ever learned how to love bottles filled with whisky or gin – they used to say that was what was wrong with him. Something to do with during pregnancy…But I knew he wasn’t wrong at all. When they separated us; that’s when the lint set in…

**rip**

My brother remains static as I enter. I touch his forehead to mine, but only I see my face glued to his pupils. I fetch his trainers, the colour of oil spills in rain soaked roads. They match his distant eyes. He lets me kneel, and I hold his foot tight. I carefully wedge his toes into the shoes, like I always did. This time he does not smile. As I move away, he taps my arm as lightly as mist and gasps. I gently undo the hooks again, pull and tighten. The Velcro still sounds best when soaked.

**rip**


Elizabeth Rose Murray

What Uncle Louie Left Behind



We couldn’t go five minutes without giggling at Uncle Louie’s wake. He laid up there in a cut rate casket, dressed in a cheap suit he never wore during life. I couldn’t approach the coffin and the pathetic showing of flowers. I couldn’t pretend to pay my last respects for fear I’d end up rolling on the floor, laughing uncontrollably.

I sat in the back row of viewing room C, my face red and sore from laughing. I kept my face in my hands so that the few family members in attendance might mistake hilarity for grief.

"I’m starting to wish you hadn’t told me, " I hissed.

My cousin, Marky, shrugged and grinned.

"Told you what?" My brother, Walter, joined us, late as usual. He wore his navy blue monkey-suit from the factory. I could smell the grease and hydraulic oil on him. He gripped a half dozen prayer cards denoting the numerical margins of Uncle Louie’s life in his hand as though someday they might be valuable collectibles.

"You ain’t heard?" Marky asked.

"I just walked in the door." My brother looked at me, put a hand on my shoulder. "You okay, Billy? Taking it kinda hard, ain’t you?"

My shoulders convulsed. "Tell him."

"You know how Uncle Louie died, right?"

"Massive heart attack," Walter said.

"You know what he was doing when he died?"

"He was in bed, ain’t it?"

"You know what he was doing in bed?"

"Christ, Marky, just tell him already," I said.

"You ain’t gonna believe this, you remember how cheap that bastard was. How many Christmases he give us five dollar McDonald’s gift cards?"

"Nothing more embarrassing than buying a cheeseburger with a gift card," Walter agreed.

"Well, come to find out, he ain’t so cheap when it comes to buying sex dolls."

"What?"

"Shhhhh. Listen. Uncle Louie bought one of those expensive life like fuck dolls."

"Bullshit."

"I swear to God, Walt. Brunette. Blue eyes. Double D breasts with light pink areolas. It’s like a six thousand dollar model. I looked it up on the internet. Uncle Louie had the damned thing sprawled on the mattress with its head canted off the edge, and he was going to town on its mouth when his heart gave out. He collapsed right on top of it, face down in its latex labia."

"I don’t believe it," Walt whispered.

"It’s true," Marky said. "You remember my buddy, Turtle. He was one of the first EMTs to arrive on the scene after neighbor’s called complaining about the smell. He was dead just about three days. Copes thought they had two dead bodies. Couldn’t find a pulse anywhere. Wasn’t until the EMTs winched Uncle Louie’s fat ass off that they found the fuck doll underneath him, still lubed up and ready to go."

"Goddam," Walter said. After a moment’s considered, he continued. "As bad as it is, he still went out doing something he loved, which is more than the rotten bastard deserved."

Something he loved. The words reminded me of the morbid conversations we had as kids, when our thoughts often turned toward the possibility of our deaths. We all agreed that to die fucking would be the best way to go. Back then there were four of us. Little did cousin Martha know her life would be cut short four years later in a car accident before she even got the chance to give normal sex a try. She had no clue she’d die, bleeding out on the asphalt, holding up rush hour traffic. I’d since come to the conclusion there is no best way to go. But there’s a hell of a lot of bad ways to die.

Walter was correct about one thing. Uncle Louie deserved a more painful demise.

"Well," Walter said, "I don’t see me going up to the coffin any time soon."

"They gonna bury him with a lock of its hair?" I asked.
"Ha. Ha. Go look and see."

"What’d they do with the doll?" Walter asked.

"What you think?" Marky said. "They gonna wipe the lips off and give it mouth to mouth resuscitation?"

"Not the paramedics, dumb ass." He motioned to the assembled mourners, wondering as he did so how many of them knew Uncle Louie’s secrets. Or, at least, his last secret. "The family. They had to do something with it. With his stuff."

"They didn’t do nothing with it," Marky said. "I got it."

"What?"

"I got it back at my place. Goddam thing weight a good hundred, hundred and twenty pounds. Dead weight. Had to carry it piggyback to my car."
"What the hell’s it doing at your place? You don’t..."

"Oh hell no. What kind of sicko you think I am? I’m keeping it though. As a token of that cocksuckers dead. Every time I look at it, I wanna think of Uncle Louie dead. Uncle Louie lock in a ridiculous 69 of death. It eases the pain. A little bit. Not much, but sometimes enough."

My brother and I nodded, mirrored gestures of understanding.

"I wanna see it," Walter said. "I wanna see it,too."

Marky shrugged. "We can go right now, you want. But first I’m gonna walk up there. I came to see Uncle Louie dead. And I aim to do just that."
Marky lived in a studio apartment on Whiting’s north side. It was a sort of strip mall of apartments for the down-and-out wedged between a liquor store and Captain Steve’s Happy Time Inn. If no one puked below his window during the night, he could wake up to the petroleum scent of Lake Michigan a half mile away.

I hooked a ride with my brother for the companionship, but he turned up the Metallica the moment he started the Buick, letting me know talking wasn’t an option. Approaching Marky’s place, Walter turned the radio down long enough to ask if I wanted to go in half on a case of Old Style.
After the side trip to the beer store, we pulled in next to Marky’s Chevette. He waited outside for us. His eyes lit up when he saw the case of OS in my arms.

"Just like the old days," he said. "Even your taste in beers ain’t improved none."

"You could’ve put in," Walter said, "and we could’ve upgraded to Pabst Blue Ribbon."

"I got some Silver Bullets in the icebox. And a bottle of jager I was planning on celebrating with. I might come off some if you sweet talk me."
Ugh. Sweet talk me. I couldn’t tell if Marky was parroting Uncle Louie’s words on purpose or not. Walter never missed a step so I couldn’t tell whether or not he made the connection.

Marky unlocked the door and we stepped inside.

Walking through the doorway, I could tell Marky didn’t entertain many guests. Not the way this place stank. Like moldy bologna and stale beer. Breathing shallow through my mouth helped somewhat.

The front door led into the front room/bedroom. A brown and tan checkered couch pimpled with cigarette burns pressed against one wall. There were several gutted Coors troop transports strewn across the floor, the dead soldiers piled high and overflowing the garbage can standing sentry in the sliver of kitchenette. The remains of a fast food meal sat on a folding tv tray near the couch, the ketchup congealed to a splotch of red crayon. Atop two milk crates, the tv was a nineteen inch paperweight tuned in to the white noise channel.

Mostly obscured in shadow and a pea green afghan, the fuck doll sat on a bar stool in the far corner opposite the garbage can.

"Pardon the mess. Maid’s on vacation," Marky offered weakly.

"Goddam," Walter said. "I’m afraid to sit down."

"Sorry, guys." Marky bundled the fast food refuse together and, seeing the garbage can packed, opened the front door and threw the trash into the parking lot. "I’ve been having a rough go of it, lately."

"Yeah," Walter said, "but, still..."

Walter looked at me, but I couldn’t return his glance. My brother’s arms were still streaked with oil and grime from the machine he operated. His hair jutted wildly. He hadn’t shaved in a while. I didn’t look any better.
Marky retrieved the bottle of jager. He didn’t offer any glasses nor would we have accepted them if he did. Walter spun the cap and took a swallow. I took a quick black licorice taste of the liquor. We cracked open beers. Marky’s Coors never materialized.

"Here’s to Uncle Louie," Marky said. "May he burn in hell forever."

"Burn in hell," Walter and I echoed.

We drank the beer, gulped the liquor. The empties we threw on the floor near the door. After a few beers, the rank stench disappeared and with it my fear of the roaches skittering just out of eyeshot.

Finally, peering at the fuck doll, I said, "that’s it, huh?"

"Yeah," Marky said. "That’s it."

Robotic motion of our arms bringing the beer to our lips. Mechanically swallowing the liquid.

"Wanna see it?" Marky asked.

He didn’t wait for the answer. He walked across the room and flicked on the bare bulb of the shadeless lamp next to it.

Instantly I found myself staring into its lifeless blue eyes. How long had it been staring at me? No. Cancel that thought. It possessed no consciousness. No life. The smartest thing that ever came into its head was Uncle Louie’s cock, as Uncle Louie was fond of saying time and time again in reference to anything he succeeded in putting his dick into.
The blue eyes were bright and lifeless. Bright only because the orbs reflected the lamp light. Brown hair curtained down its head, hippie-style with the part down the middle. The pink lips formed a bow on top, but the bottom lip hung down a bit giving it a dumbfounded expression. A light smattering of freckles dotted the nose and cheeks. Peach-colored negligee scarcely covered the enormous, gravity-defying breasts. Nipples like a child’s thumbs poked out the fabric. The afghan concealed its lower half.

We stood there, staring, a full minute before I ended the silence and spoke what must have been on all of our minds. "It looks like Martha would have looked. If she hadn’t died. If Uncle Louie hadn’t been drunk. If he hadn’t turned right in front of that panel truck."


Karl Koweski




Lovebytes#5



I thought I would always remember this, but over time it has become blurred. Even then I rewrote the ending, the true one being so – what? Painfully bland? Poignant? Typical? Confused. It's true that I was lashing out like an injured animal at the end, but I was acting instinctively, out of reaction to my pain. If a bear walking through a forest finds her leg shattered, veins ripped open, flesh severed from bone by a hunters vice, do you blame the bear, the hunter or the vice?

For the Director's Cut I took a memory of you leaving another time, an innocuous time. I think you were traveling somewhere for work. I remember that the plane had to be held up as you ran through the terminal. It makes me smile to think of all the people delayed just so that I could have an orgasm. Anyway, that time was just goodbye, not Goodbye. You looked so good in your Fedora and RAF coat. I was so proud to be your lover, but I always knew you'd break my heart. When I first met one of your friends she took me aside and said “If you hurt him, I'll kill you.” Corny, but true. I smiled wryly and said “That boy will break my heart.” She cocked an eyebrow, disbelieving, but I turned out to be the prophet.

I can still see you now, profiled in the square glass window at the top of my front door, silhouetted in mid-turn. I was wearing my Japanese dressing-gown that you had given me. When I heard the oak door thunk behind you I went into the front room and waited for a long minute before you reappeared, framed in the large window. You didn't know that I was watching you, but my eyes never left you for a second until you turned the corner.

So that is my ending, I imagine those last kisses and caresses, you holding me in your arms and kissing the top of my head. Then I replay the scene of your leaving, your profile in the hall, your back retreating down the road. Off to war, I tell myself, that's why there was no proper end, we were ripped apart in the spring of our love. But there was no war. Our costumes were pure film noir, but this is the new millennium. The RAF coat and Japanese dressing-gown were charity shop finds.

I thought that I would always remember the true end: you non-responsive, me crying, picking up my weekend bag, stumbling down the hill towards the station, barely breathing, just a pulsating mass of nerves, raw with emotion. There was more, there were words, friends, drinks, cigarettes, but the memory is grainy. I prefer my ending anyway, no blame on either side, no divvying up the score of hurts caused and hurts gained. Just love in the afternoon, goodbye, and off to war. Love was the battle, and I lost.



Lisa Payne

The Poetry Scene



they are acting.
they are moving about.
they are talking.
they are joking.
they are flirting.
they are reaching
into their bag of tricks.
the women are full-bodied
in low-cut tops with big breasts
and big beautiful voices
speaking of poetry, art
and their "latest work".
the men are dressed in black
with long hair, goatees and glasses,
speaking of the "relevance of art
in todays society."
they are exchanging phone numbers.
making dates.
planning get-togethers.
to them
poetry is a scene,
a community,
a way of life,
as religion is to some
and bars are to others.
some will date each other.
some will marry each other.
some will plain old fuck each other.
and they will repeat the action
and repeat the action
again and again
until they die.
but none of them
will ever create
a lick of anything
worth remembering.





Mike Meraz

No Myth



adam & his rib
is pure bullshit

but hubert selby jr.
w/his t.b. & his
collapsed lung
& the doctors
sawing out 10
of his ribs

& then selby
getting addicted
to morphine
& then heroin
for 27 years

& then vomiting out
'requiem for a dream'
in 6 weeks

his battered lung-bags
rattling
over the typewriter

giving away
his demons

now that's a man
for you






Rob Plath

So Much to Answer For



It is Friday night and I am driving into the city. Lisa has gone to visit her father for the weekend. I love my wife. She is the mother of my child and she is also my best friend. We are good together and good at being apart – we have trust. I would be with her now, but she understands that I have got to get this project finished. What we have is understanding. She is a good wife, and I, a good husband.

I open the window and taste the damp metallic air. The icy blast feels good on my face – I feel very much alive at this moment in time.

I met Lisa watching The Fall at The Ritz. We fucked in the toilets.

I park the car and walk the city streets to Nitrate. The band are good and sound a bit like Bauhaus, but I watch the cage dancers intensely and smoke. I get the nod from Trix and go upstairs and hand over the goods to Brother. He has a new girl with him and he pushes her in my direction – she seems eager to please – but I find this a turn off. I go back to watch the dancers some more before leaving.

Lisa fell pregnant three years ago. I stopped tooling around with bands and put my degree to use. We moved out into the country and started having dinner parties. Lisa got a job illustrating children's books from home. The novelty of money kept us entertained. Lisa was going to call her Amethyst but I worried that if she grew into an ugly child that her life would be made miserable. Lisa's mother died and we agreed to call her Helen.
I leave the club and light another cigarette. This is my opportunity to restrict my pleasure to the voyeuristic only.

I walk to Chorlton Street and to the desperate whores.

Helen was born two weeks after Helen was buried. Lisa fell apart for more than a year. Her sister moved in to help look after Lisa and Helen. One night she made a move on me when Lisa had gone to bed. She said that I must feel very lonely when Lisa could only think about the Helens. She took of her dress and put my hand on her breast. The next day I told Lisa and her sister was gone. This was the catalyst for Lisa moving on from her grief and her guilt. We became stronger.

I skulk in the shadows until I find a girl who looks right. She gives me directions and I look at her thighs. She does not ask me my name or what I do for a living and I do not have to bother inventing these. I look into her eyes and tell her that I want to be inside her. I hold this thought until we arrive at the block of high-rise flats in Hulme. In the hallway the door is open to a room, her pimp boyfriend is talking to another man. I am shaking with nerves, but still ignore the possibility of leaving the situation. She leads me to the bedroom and goes down on me as she pulls off my jeans.

We left Helen with my mother and spent three weeks in Italy. We climbed Vesuvius, and we ate pistachio ice cream. We drank under the stars and we made love in the shadows of Pompeii. We felt like we were young once again.

The girl says that she needs the money before we can fuck. She says that she needs to buy some gear for her boyfriend and that we will fuck later. I drive her through the maze of streets in Moss Side until she tells me to pull over, lock the doors and wait. She goes inside. Twenty minutes go by. A knock on the window makes me jump out of my skin. "What you doin' here boy?" I say that I'm waiting for a girl. "Ain't we all" he says, and pulls a gun to the window.

I close my eyes.

Lisa had started illustrating again and I was given a promotion. Lisa was back talking to her sister and we gave up drinking and joined the gym set. We were moving on to a new kind of life. A better life.

Nothing.

I open my eyes and he is laughing. He's made his point, calls me bumber clart and walks off. I turn the ignition but the girl appears and gets in. We drive in silence back to the flats.

I was given a project to lead on – subliminal advertising in teen magazines – success would mean that I could retire at fifty or even before. Our dinner parties were now for Lisa's publishers and my executives – we felt that our old friends could be a potential embarrassment. They certainly did not fit in with our lives any more.

She runs up the stairs and I lose her. I cannot remember which door, but knock on several until she answers. She leads me to the bedroom again and leaves me there. I sit thinking that it might be her pimp that next opens the door. Twenty more minutes and she is back. She tells me that she has just come on and that she has shoved half a toilet roll up there and that we can't fuck. I tell her that I have paid, that I have been fucked around, and that she can suck me dry. She looks in the direction of the door, and I can see she is thinking about the pimp, but the drugs make her too apathetic to do anything other than take me in her mouth.

Lisa had left Helen with my mother. She felt that Helen made her father depressed and that it was not a good environment for Helen.

I cum in her mouth, she spits it back in my face, I zip my jeans, and leave. She stands there expecting to get hit. I carefully walk over the pimp, who is lying on the floor. I get the fear that he will reach out and grab my leg. I get in the car and drive. I cannot stop shaking. A police car follows me for a while and I feel sick with paranoia. I go to Luke's house. I need to think. I know that an ounce of weed will buy his cooperation.
Luke starts skinning up and I tell him to keep quite, and phone Lisa's father. He tells me that Lisa has left. Something has happened to Helen and she has gone to my mothers. He says that she was going to call me on my mobile. I feel in my jacket and my phone and wallet are missing.

I need to phone Lisa, but I need to get my thoughts straight, if the pimp, or the girl, has already answered the phone, then I am fucked.

I try and talk it through with Luke but he is already stoned. I phone Lisa and tell her that someone has stolen my phone. I realise that I should be asking about Helen. Lisa says that she has been taken to hospital, that she is having trouble breathing. I tell Lisa that I love her. I tell her that everything will be ok and that I will get there as soon as I can. Lisa just says ok.

I use Luke's phone to send a message to my mobile offering money for its return. I have no idea if Lisa has already called it.

Luke starts trying to tell me that self-preservation is completely justified, but he makes little sense. I try and think of Helen and Lisa but I just think of my entire life being pissed away. I try and reassure myself that the events will distract Lisa from suspicion, and cover for my agitated state. I tell myself that I do not want Lisa to find out because it will hurt her so much. I tell myself that I am a good husband but that I am just weak. I take Luke's joint. I will need some inspiration to convince myself that I am a good father.

I get in the car and put on Closer. I feel a good deal of self pity will be the new order.


Pablo Vision

Spring



a man was stabbed while I was
reading Robert Louis Stevenson
in a chair I’d painted yellow

then he sat down near my door

a crowd had gathered
around the bleeding man
whose face was very white
between his beard and hair

he sat on the curb, one arm
around a fire hydrant, the other
touching the blood running from a
meaty wound in his hairy belly

he looked at the blood,
his face stricken with
fierce and terrible wonder

the ambulance arrived and
two black men helped him
lie down on a plastic bed and
breath through a plastic mask

a woman I knew took my arm
and asked me for a cigarette
but I didn’t smoke so we went
to the corner for tobacco

she told me she’d rung the man’s
doorbell and he’d lurched out
into the street with clutching
fingers and crazy far-seeing eyes

and then he sat there on the curb
rocking and saying nothing
until the ambulance arrived and
the two black men hoisted him up

the man at the counter
asked for exact change

she didn’t have it so I
fished a few gray pennies
out of my derelict jeans
and the bitter metallic
smell of the pennies
was like the smell of
the blood in the street

I have a keen nose for blood

outside the shop the woman
lit her cigarette and said
“hey, let’s go for a drink”

“what about the cops?” I said,
“don’t they need to question you?”

“I don’t wanna get involved”

she pronounced the word involved
as if it represented some kind of
mysterious physical condition she
could see in her imagination, like
being prodded into a dark room, or
maybe something tactile and strange
like a shoehorn or an ear trumpet

it was not the word as I knew it,
it was the word as she knew it
with all her shortcomings built in

my neighbors were still
standing in the street like
people clustered together in a
room at a party, excited,
storytelling about the stabbing,
reveling in the sudden balmy
cessation of winter’s darkness

it was too late now for
Robert Louis Stevenson –-
I knew it and despaired

you are allotted only a very small
number of early spring afternoons
to sit in a yellow chair and read a
good book with the window open

inside the dank bar the usual daytime
drinkers were leaning on the
scarred wood, snorting, discussing
the stabbing which had already become
a murder because the victim had died
in the ambulance, plastic strapped
over his mouth, the clear soft
supple plastic tubes filled with his
last unused breaths from the machine

I ordered two strong drinks and we
drank them with incredible aplomb



Kevin Spaide

A Conversation About Angels


It’s the flashes that get me more than anything. I’ll just be doing something trivial and routine when I get a sudden flash of remembering. It’s usually nothing, no big revelation, no pivotal scene from our relationship, but it still haunts me a little.

Sometimes certain things remind me. My clothes do it. Everything I wear these days was either bought by her or bought with her. My favourite books do it as well. I’d leant most of them to her. I think about certain sections and lines she’d read back to me because she liked them so much. Sometimes in the morning I remember how it felt to wake up next to her, her warm feet gently rubbing up against mine, her hands slowly finding my chest as she embraced me from behind. I remember the little noises that she made when she was being affectionate, the little squeak that I found so sweet as she nuzzled into my shoulder.

These are the ones that I usually get. These are the most common. I don’t even need to think about them anymore, they’re almost sub-conscious.

But sometimes I get random flashes. Brief conversations we once had about something we watched on TV in bed at half two in the morning. Or her reaction to a song she’d heard on the radio. Or when we played a game when we couldn’t sleep where we’d take it in turns to ask each other anything we could think of. That kind of thing. Anything.

I had a random flash today as I was walking home. It was a conversation we’d once had about angels. I don’t know where it came from and I hadn’t thought about it since that day but I was thinking about it now.
We’d only been together properly for about a month but we’d been seeing each other for a lot longer. We already loved each other but she was just so scared of being hurt that she couldn’t let herself be with me. She constantly told me how afraid she was and how she knew for a fact that I’d cause her more pain than I ever could happiness.

She was talking about her ex-boyfriend from when she was fifteen. She said how she believed in angels as people who come into our lives and just make things better, even if they don’t realise it themselves. She said that she thought he was an angel.

I shouldn’t have said it but I was jealous. I loved her so much. I wanted to be her angel. It was pathetic but I asked if she thought I could be an angel. I was only half-joking. She looked disappointed in me and we started talking about something else.

The flashes make me feel like shit but that’s probably right.

Sometimes I even have flashes about the other girl. The one who I’d been so impressed with when she’d told me her story. The one that I didn’t believe when she told me I was still a good person as I lay in bed next to her.

These flashes are the most painful and the ones that I try my hardest to ignore.




Joe Roche