RETURNS AND REFUNDS: FAQs – Dan Brotzel

We want you to be completely super-satisfied with anything that you buy from our site, so we work very hard to make sure that the whole process is as simple and straightforward as can be, from choosing and ordering your items through to delivery and returns. And don’t forget, if your query’s not answered in these FAQs, you can contact us 24/7

How do I return an item?

We’ve got the return process down to 3 simple steps. We’ll even print out the return label for you and notify you when your refund has credited. Check out our easy 3-step return process.

Do you do exchanges?

We refund the cash, so that’s even better right?

But what if the product was a gift and I don’t have the receipt?

No problemo! So long as everything checks out, we’ll issue you a gift voucher for the item’s current sale value. You just explain all that as part of that one handy 3-step return process we’re all so proud of round here.

But the sale value might be less than what the purchaser originally paid?

Sure, but without the receipt we can’t know for sure, right? And you got it for free, so maybe don’t be too greedy? In any case, we can only go with the current price of the item, which is what consumer law says too. And don’t forget, if the price has gone up in the interim, you could end up with more than what was originally paid. It’s like a lottery you can’t lose!

Is there a time limit on returns?

Yes — it’s almost always six months, unless otherwise clearly stated in the product description and pre-purchase information. This is in line with statutory consumer requirements in most territories. We’d love to extend this period — especially when people write to us about things like wedding dresses and other big-ticket items, don’t ask — but for reasons of fairness and consistency, we just can’t make any exceptions. Really sorry. And hey, there are plenty more fish in the sea, right?

Are there some items that can be returned?

Yes, there are a few. Perishable items can’t be returned, for obvious reasons, ditto clothes and jewellery that have been tried on. Basically if someone’s rubbed a bit of themselves on an item, well that’s just icky for the next person, right? Also, items where the packaging seal has been broken can only be refunded if the item is actually defective. In other words, if you decide you’ve gone off Fleetwood Mac before that Rumours CD arrives, you need to send it back unwrapped so we can sell it on again. Thunder only happens when it rains, amiright?

I was excited really about my purchase, but now it’s here I feel sort of flat. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, it’s more me.

Hmm, that’s a tricky one. We’re more ecommerce people than philosophers — and shifting stuff is obviously a big part of our raison d’ — but it sounds to me like you’ve got that sort of ‘hollowed out by desire’ feeling? You know, where the wanting of something doesn’t quite match up to the having of it? Maybe because the thing wasn’t worth wanting in the first place (not that all our products aren’t absolutely top-notch), or because you’re wanting the wrong things? Or maybe ‘wanting’ in itself is the wrong thing to be focusing on, especially if by ‘wanting’ we mean merely acquiring? Not really our domain, this (and don’t tell anyone we passed this on), but you might be interested in this Marxist critique of consumerism. Bit heavy on the jargon, but talks a lot of sense.

I have a suspicion that I care more about things (purchases) than about people. And I’m not even sure I care that much about things.

Well, quite. Did you check out that link yet? You could try watching It’s a Wonderful Life, but tbh the hell bit always seems more realistic than the heavenly bit, so maybe best not. Might tip you over the edge. Maybe try something reading something on the Buddhist side? There’s some interesting titles over in our Mind Body Spirit section. How are you sleeping with all this worry? Check out these lovely new Egyptian cotton duvet sets, with cover designs inspired by the Impressionists. Not really answering your question, we know, but they really are pretty and very reasonably priced too.

I sort of feel that I like the act of shopping — you know, the choosing and the anticipating and the waiting for my package to arrive — but not the outcome. Once the stuff arrives, I just feel a sense of self-loathing at my own shallowness, and guilt that I’m wasting my money on stuff I don’t need? (Especially like books or comics or stuff I accidentally forget to tell my partner about, because I know she’ll say we can’t afford them. And she’s right, we can’t really. Especially as we want to have a kid once I graduate. I mean, am I even serious about us??)

Wow. OK. Quite a lot to unpack there. We’re not trained shrinks or anything, but it sounds to us like maybe shopping has become a kind of moral distraction for you? A way of evading something you don’t want to face, maybe? Life can be hard, and the really satisfying stuff (like having a baby or making a relationship work) can take years of effort and compromise. No wonder a quick toot on the old retail crack-pipe seems such a welcome diversion! I guess the question you really have to try and answer is: What do I really care about? Where am I heading? Is it a direction I can really get behind? The good news is that if you do decide to get your shit together in an existential sort of way and you want to get your money back — providing the goods are within the statutory 6-month limit — we have a handy 3-step returns process! Then again, if that all feels a bit heavy to deal with right now, you could always check out our 3-for-2 deals on tablet and iphone accessories! Massive savings till Friday!

Don’t you ever question what you’re doing? What it’s all about?

Sure, but we’ll all got a job to do, right? Mouths to feed, and all that. In my spare time I actually compose music, you know.

Wow, that must be really rewarding! I had no idea.

Nor do I really. I’m only a chatbot.

 

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DAN BROTZEL’s short stories have been recognised in several competitions and anthologies. He was runner-up in the Flash500 short story competition 2017, and was also shortlisted for the Sunderland University/Waterstones Short Story Award 2016, the Wimbledon BookFest prize 2016, and the 2017 Fish short story and Retreat West flash competitions. He wrote sketches for Dead Ringers (BBC Radio 4), won Carillon Press’ Absurd Writing competition (2014), and has also made two appearances in Christopher Fielden’s To Hull and Back comic-writing anthology (2015, 2016).
A journalist and former slush-pile reader, he is also a book reviewer for the Press Association.

 

Image: Creative Magic via Pixabay

 

even on my worst days – linda m. crate

the sky is
crying,
and burping up
silver moons;
and somber white lilies

no one will tell me
why the sky
is grieving
perhaps they don’t know
which death is being mourned—

i wonder where the butterflies
and honeybees have gone
now that the flowers
are coming back
to life

every day i walk to and from work
i am smelling the fragrance
of spring,
and i miss the mighty golden
guardian the sun;

for he could cut through my blinds
make me smile
remembering my life isn’t so bad
in the grand scheme of things
even on my worst days.

 

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Image: Bruno Müller via Pixabay

Origami – A J Nicol

First he made a plane, but it flew out the window. The ship sailed to Paris and the dinosaur ate a neighbour. So he folded a bird from red tissue paper and placed it in a cage.

The next day he found an egg. He sold it for fifty dollars.

Each day another egg, another sale, and on it went.

But the bird faded to pink.

Crying, he propped open the cage door and the bird flew out the window.

Many years have passed and still, each day, he finds an egg in the cage. And sometimes a red feather.

 

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AJ NICOL lives in Australia. She likes to write short stuff. Twitter @manicol1

 

Image: milansari7 via Pixabay

 

Come In With Me – Sal Page

I’ve got this fantastic idea for a new eatery. All the other restaurateurs will wish they’d come up with an idea so great. They’ll be green with envy. Overcooked peas green. Yuck.

What are the messiest foods you can think of? Never mind. I’m thinking baked camembert served with caramelised onion chutney and French bread. Sounds good, yeah? Messy though. Also spaghetti ‘n’ meatballs à la Lady and the Tramp, barbecued chicken wings smothered in hot sauce, sticky toffee pudding with ice cream & gooey chocolate fudge cake. Given time I’ll think of some more. All for sharing. Sharing for two.

And, wait for it – oh my god, I’m brilliant – we’ll serve it all in those trays that go across baths. They usually just have soap and a loofah in. I’ll get them specially made. The guests go through to their private room, get undressed and climb into the bath, which would be all ready with bubble bath in the perfectly just-hot-enough water. A choice of temperatures and bubble bath brands would be on the menu.

It’ll be a totally unique restaurant. Food in the Bath. Should I move to Bath to open it up? Nah, it’ll be fine here in Dudley. It’ll put Dudley on the map. Yes, I know it is strictly speaking on the map already but you know what I mean.

Couples, yes. And we could provide rooms for afterwards. A bedroom en-suite to the bathroom. Now there’s a selling point. Basically, we’ll be a hotel too. Why not? But not necessarily couples though. We could do singles nights. Guests would get paired up by the fact they’d chosen the same dish or the same kind of bath stuff.

I can’t do this on my own, you know. I’m hoping you’ll come in with me. What? No, not in a bath. I mean invest; help set it all up, be front of house while I’m in the kitchen preparing and cooking the food.

Er … unless you want to. Actually, what better way to test the idea. Come round to my place later. I’ll do the baked camembert one. Got to be the messiest, eh? We’d tear pieces from the baguette, break through the rind and dip into the cheese. All warm, oozy and gooey in the centre, with a taste like delicious old socks. We’d twist the bread fast to keep the unctuous liquid cheese from dripping off down chins and onto chests or breasts. There would be flakes of baguette crust on the mounds of bubbles around us, splats of cheese on the tiles. We’d eat fast, giving each cheesy bread-morsel a quick dab of the sweet chutney before popping it in. Talking. Laughing. Eating. Drinking. Getting messy.

And then sealing the deal on our new venture. What shall we call the restaurant? Bath Night? The Tub? Bath Time? We can discuss that later. In the bath.

So, what do you think? Are you with me? Hey, come back. What did I say?

 

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SAL PAGE’s stories appear online & in over a dozen print anthologies. She won the Calderdale Prize in 2011 & Greenacre Writers Competition in 2013. When not distracted by writing, reading and performing flash and short stories, she’s tackling her third novel, Priscilla Parkin: Reluctant Celebrity Chef. A nursery cook, she lives by the sea in Morecambe, UK. When not writing, and also while writing, she can be found watching sitcoms, listening to Squeeze & on Twitter as @SalnPage

 

Image: Petra D via Pixabay

 

At The School Dance – John Grey

I felt like a one-man show in a gallery,
fearful for how much lack of interest I’d created.
I’d been sometime working on my looks
with the aid of a bathroom mirror,
half-analytical, half-hopeful
in the process of primping

I was very young,
hardly a master in these matters.
and no artisan
when it came to the particulars of romance.

I was like the promulgation
of various unproven theories
crossed with a living lecture on self-doubt.
I tried various methods of
decomposition of my own self
and reconstruction into something
I figured the other sex would appreciate.
I didn’t so much emerge
as step into the witness box.

Employing a somewhat dim courage
and the habitual words and gestures of my friends,
I finally asked one modestly appealing girl for a dance.
Her answer was of undeviating typicality,
non-judgmental applicability,
and resembled something like “yes.”

 

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JOHN GREY is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

 

Image: Bernard-Verougstraete via Pixabay

 

Circles – Cavin Bryce

Every time I go to the dentist they tell me that I need to brush twice a day. I tell them that I do, and they say I must be doing it wrong. Circles, they say, brush in circles. Then they poke at my gums with a metal prick and when blood is drawn they shake their head and try to sell me some ridiculous toothbrush that’s supposed to be super effective, thus making life for us stupid folk who can’t comprehend how to brush their teeth much easier.

“I’m not buying a three hundred dollar toothbrush,” I would say, “I have a perfectly good one that I got for eighty-five cents back at home.”

That was before they got a new dental assistant. Rachelle. See, since I’m so bad at brushing my teeth I go to the dentist once a month for a cleaning. I hated everybody at that office until I met Rachelle but I don’t feel bad about it because I’m sure they hated me too. It was a symbiotic relationship. They took my money, I caused them frustration. Give and take. It’s all about giving and taking.

I was propped back in a chair that I’m sure cost several thousand dollars with this plastic torture device stretching my mouth open so far that it felt like my cheeks would tear. I had these goofy orange shades on so that the UV lights they use wouldn’t blind me and my thinning hair was dangling loosely wherever it pleased. In she walked, a blonde lady carrying the energy of a metropolis condensed in her five foot frame.

“I’m Rachelle,” she said, “i’ll be performing your cleaning today.” And I said, “hnggguhshhhhullop,” because the plastic device had slammed my tongue into the recesses of my throat. This made her laugh, and that laugh did more for my well-being than any visit to the dentist ever had. Even through the orange tint, even though she was upside down on account of my position on the chair, I could tell that her teeth were perfect. She was perfect. I could also tell that she was pregnant, but I didn’t mind. I just wanted to make her laugh again– wasn’t looking for a date or anything like that.

She started pricking around with that hooked monstrosity and I could taste the copper hints of blood immediately. She frowned and leaned over me, her hair tickling my cheeks, “you’ve got bad gums,” she said. I shrugged my shoulders and mustered a “whalchugondo?” She shook her head, still smiling but trying to be serious. “Look down,” she said. And I did. When my mouth was full of water and needed draining, she knew, and I didn’t have to drown in my own saliva like so many times before. It was a wonderful connection.

After all the poking and brushing and flossing and special dental protectant hardened by UV lights were over with she sorted underneath a cabinet behind us, pulled out a familiar box.

“This is the-” but she couldn’t finish because I raised my finger to my lips in a shhhhh, no more, signal.

“It really would help you know.”

“Would it?” I asked. “Would it prevent all of my worldly problems, for just $300?” I smirked in a way that told her I was being an ass, but a reasonable ass. It was a smirk that said, “I can’t afford this, why do you think I won’t buy it? Why do you think I rely on the company dental insurance so much, why can’t they pay for it?”

“What do you do?”

“This and that. Mostly nothing.”

“Mostly nothing?”

“I sell things. Over the phone. It’s very lucrative, very. . . prestigious. Almost like being a king, or a lawyer.”

She put one hand on her barely bulging womb and put the other on my shoulder. Of course I bought the toothbrush. Only a fool wouldn’t have. As I walked out of the door I turned to the back of the office where she was introducing herself to some other schmuck and I yelled past the receptionist, “I’ll see you next month Rachelle!”

That night I unwrapped the toothbrush from it’s box. The body was huge, at least nine inches long. It felt like a sturdy weapon in my hand. The goofy part was the head, which was roughly the size of my thumb nail. It was a laughable piece of technology. An expensive, laughable piece of technology.

I wet my mouth. Wet the brush. Applied the toothpaste. Wet the brush again. But when I turned the thing on it vibrated so intensely that the toothpaste immediately flew from the tiny bristles and splattered around my sink and mirror. After a couple tries I figured that I should turn it on inside of my mouth so that it would just splatter toothpaste all over my teeth, and not the bathroom. As soon as I pressed the large button to activate the vibrating brush it tore a hole in the roof of my mouth. It sure hurt a lot, this hole, but there wasn’t any blood. When I cocked my head in the mirror to look at it all I saw was a perfect circle, perfect blackness. I went to bed without brushing my teeth. I had a new fancy toothbrush after all, how much damage could one night do?

I woke up to a light tap tap on the inside of my teeth and rushed to the bathroom to see if maybe one of them was loosened by my visit. I pulled down on a brass cord and turned on the single, auburn light. When I opened my mouth a tiny man fell over across my bottom teeth. I could see him in the reflection of the mirror and he was wearing a tiny navy cap with a white shirt.

“Whew,” his tiny voice echoed in the empty room, “your breath smells man, what’s up with that?” Alarmed, but not scared, I lowered my mouth to the sink so that he could climb out.

“You’ve got to brush in circles,” the little man said, “in circles.”

Over the next couple of hours I questioned the little man. All he knew was that he had emerged in this world through the hole in my mouth. “I was nowhere,” he told me, strutting across the top of a Sport Illustrated, “and then, BAM, I was dangling from your mouth.” He was pretty cool, this little man. I gave him a thimble of beer and we talked about nothing. When we got tired I made him a little bed out of some cotton balls and cloth, put it on the nightstand next to my bed. But he didn’t want it, he wanted to sleep in my mouth cave. “It’s where I feel most at home,” he told me, “after all, I was born there.”

The next day at work I was on the phone with a customer, trying to sell him this new scooter even though he had never owned a scooter in his life. I was only able to do this because some shady charity he donated to, or possibly an organization whose petition he signed, sold us his phone number and email address. Today it was a scooter. Next week it will be flat top grill. Or kitchen sponges. Sometimes making cold calls made me feel guilty but then I would think who knows, maybe someday somebody will want a scooter or a flat top grill. I mean, I would buy them if I could afford it. The guy on the phone, Chuck, he didn’t want a scooter.

“You fucking fuck,” he seethed, “I am at work, do you know what work is?” And before I could tell him that I was at work and selling him a scooter was my job I felt a little tap tap on my teeth. I opened my mouth and the little man started, “Chuck, your name’s chuck right? How are you today Chuck?” And Chuck told the little man that he was having a really hard day, that his boss was cutting people left and right, and he didn’t appreciate the cold call one bit. Not one bit. “Look, Chuck, I’m sorry. Everybody has to make a living right? This is what I gotta do in order to eat, to feed myself.” I could hear Chuck sigh into the phone. “Hey, hey, hey, it’s alright. I know you’re frustrated okay? I get it. I’m going to let you go now. And hey, Chuck, if you ever need a scooter you just go ahead and give us a call.” Thumbs up.

The little man was smooth, he was understanding. I thanked him and he crawled back up into his cozy little mouth hole. Later that afternoon, I got a call from Chuck. Turns out his step daughter was starting college soon and she wanted a moped. When I told him we were selling manual scooters, “. . .like for kids,”as I put it, he said, “Well you know a birthday will come up sooner or later right? Nieces and nephews and all that.” So he bought two and I thanked him. I thanked the little man. At night I let the him out of my mouth so that I could brush my teeth.

Circles,” the little man emulated the proper motion, standing on my shoulder, “yes! Circles, just like that.” I slept better that night than ever before, knowing my little man was tucked away, safe and cozy, in my very clean mouth.

Three more weeks passed. Work was a breeze with the little man there to help me. I bought him a barbie house, complete with plastic kitchen set and a plastic car, but he still refused to move out of my mouth. The night before my next dentist appointment I told him all about Rachelle, about her laugh and her perfect teeth. We chatted like two kids at a sleep over.

“She sounds lovely,” he said. And I told him that he didn’t know the half of it, but that he would see. “Just be cool,” I warned him playfully, “stay out of site.”

The following morning I walked into the dentist office, waved at the angry clerk who thrusted papers at me to sign. I sat in the waiting room with the mini fridge full of little water bottles. I drank some shitty coffee, ate some stale cookies. I smiled wide sat up straight, ready to see Rachelle. When they finally called my name I shot right up, walked myself back to the office. I sat myself down in my regular chair, popped on my orange tinted shades.

When she rounded the corner into the room Rachelle says, “Hey! Oh my gosh finally. I can’t believe it’s been a month already.”

“Right? I really hate that my gums haven’t bled for four whole weeks.” Smile but no laugh. “You’re so goofy,” she said, “now open up.” I did and she took a look at my teeth, pricked them with the metal hook. That time there was no copper. No blood.

“Wow! Your teeth look much better. I guess it was worth it for that stupid $300 brush, huh?”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s been a huge help. Circles, you have got to brush in circles.” I felt a light tap tap against my teeth and cleared my throat, signaling the little man to get back in his hole. He must have been proud of me, of us. I imagined the taps as a thumbs up and told myself that I would apologize to him later.

Upon further inspection she found that despite all of our efforts, the little man and mine, I needed a root canal. I had never had a root canal before but I wasn’t worried. The little man and I were undefeatable together. I signed paperwork, arranged a ride, and took some pills that were supposed to make me stupid high so that I wouldn’t feel anything. When I came to, Rachelle was standing above me.

“All done!” she said.

I looked around the room, still very groggy. “It wasn’t so bad, right?” I nodded. My tongue flicked up and felt rough stitching where the tiny man’s hole had been. I stood up, and, alarmed, Rachelle put her hands on my shoulders to lower me back down. “Woah, woah, woah, relax. Relax, okay?” But I couldn’t relax. I flicked my tongue back over the stitching.

“Thishez?” I was able to mutter.

“Yeah, there was this peculiar hole in the roof of your mouth so I sewed it shut before your root canal. Don’t worry, I won’t charge you for it.” She winked.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. Calm tears started running down my face. She wiped them from my eyes and said, real delicately (because she could sense I was in pain), “would you want to see a movie sometime?” And I would have said yes if I could think about anything besides my little man hiding from the needle as it slowly stitched him back further and further until he was trapped. My ride showed up and Rachelle led me outside. She asked me if I was okay and I just got in the car, didn’t even look at her. When my cousin drove off I could see her in the rearview mirror, one hand on her bulging womb, a confused expression on her face.

When I got home I dug a razor blade out of my junk drawer and tried to sever the stitching. Laceration after laceration. There was no cavern. There was no little man. No tap tap. Just blood.

I never did call Rachelle, because when I thought of her smile I also thought about how she sewed me shut and locked my man away. I don’t even go to the dentist anymore, there’s no need. Whenever I brush my teeth I can still hear the little man, “Circles,” he says, “you have to brush in circles.”

 

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Image: emyzario via Pixabay

 

The Moment Before Drowning – Donna L Greenwood

Though her daggered words are aimed with perfect precision, they do not penetrate the black waves that are slowly engulfing me.

“I’m sorry, Jake, but you’ve only got yourself to blame.”

I nod my head slowly, for the water is heavy. Yes, I do only have myself to blame.

“I mean, for God’s sake, you’d try the patience of a saint, you really would.”

It’s the truth. I would try the patience of a saint.

“Jake, you exhaust me. I’ve had it with constantly trying to appease you. I am so tired of your moods and never knowing what dark shit you’re going to come out with next. You wallow in it, Jake. You just give in and luxuriate in your own misery.”

She’s right. I do wallow in it. Some days the mud of my mood is a viscous embrace.

“Jake.” Her voice has softened and she is by my side. I’m sat by the window. Outside the rain is drenching the streets whilst inside I am quietly submerging. She puts her hand on mine.

“I never wanted it to come to this, but I can’t stay here and watch you self-destruct.”

I look into her grey, seawater eyes. Doesn’t she know that I would peel off every inch of my skin for her? I want to tell her that I will die without her, but I am afraid the water will rush into my mouth.

“For God’s sake, Jake, haven’t you got anything to say to me?”

I want to tell her about the moment before drowning. I want explain how the drowning person doesn’t inhale water until they’re about to lose consciousness and then, when they finally breathe in the water, it floods the lungs and stops any oxygen getting to the blood. The drowning person becomes exhausted, depleted. I want to tell her that the very act of drowning makes it impossible not to drown. I try to speak but she has already turned away. She picks up her packed case and walks out of the door. I listen to the murky clatter of her stilettos gradually fading away.

Silence wraps itself around me and gently pulls me down to a place where I am comforted by the weight of the dark water which has filled this room where I used to hold her. I set my mouth in a hard, thin line and hold my breath, but I know it won’t be long before the involuntary drowning impulse kicks in and I will open my mouth and inhale the room, and the furniture and the shoes that she has forgotten. I will breathe in all that is too much and too big and eventually my airways will close and my lungs will die and I will drop like a stone into the fathomless black.

 

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DONNA L GREENWOOD lives in Lancashire, England. She writes flash fiction and poetry and her work can be found in Formercactus, Anti-Heroin Chic, Occulum, Hypnopomp, The Fiction Pool and on her blog https://www.thehorrorsblog.wordpress.com.
She can be contacted on Twitter @DonnaLouise67

 

Image: geralt via Pixabay

The Pickle Jar – Rebecca Field

The day I left, I took the pickle jar with me.

It seemed ridiculous at the time, but I wanted to hurt him. I wanted him to find out and be angry when I was too far away to care. I imagined him searching in the backs of the kitchen cupboards, slamming the doors and cursing me under his breath, finding nothing but expired cans of corned beef and black-eyed peas. I knew how much he loved those pickles; how the particular brand he coveted could only be obtained from that one store on the other side of the city. No other brands would ever do. Lord knows I had tried over the years.

I’d tried substituting other brands into his empty jar while he was out at work, hiding the evidence under a stack of dirty diapers in the trash, but he would always work it out. He would crack open a beer, flop back in his chair and ask for his pickles with his special fork, the one he brought from his mother’s house when we got our first place together. Other men might bring furniture or books or a dodgy record collection into a relationship. He brought a pickle fork and a stack of porn magazines. I should have seen the warning signs back then I guess. But I made my bed and was blind to what lay under it.

So I would make myself busy in the kitchen, washing the dishes and rearranging the contents of the refrigerator, hoping that this time he wouldn’t notice, telling myself there was no way he’d be able to tell any different, that they looked exactly the same. He would eat them one by one, chewing thoughtfully with a look as sour as pickling liquor on his face and I knew it was just a matter of time before he would blow. I was fed up with sweeping up broken glass, mopping up the stinking vinegar puddles and picking up the slug-like pickles in my fingers from the corners of rooms where they had skittered away from his wrath. And I was fed up with him: his moods, his demands, his eyes that drilled into my back while I pretended to get on with whatever I was doing, pretended that I was happy. How had we ended up in this place? I didn’t know if anything would ever change unless he died or I died or we won the state lottery or something.

Don’t get me wrong. Nobody can say I didn’t try. Sometimes I did get the right pickles. Then he would smile and say, ‘Thanks honey, you’re too good to me!’ For a moment I would catch a glimpse of the man I fell in love with. But then he would add, ‘Listen. Make sure you always get this kind. I don’t like the others.’ Like I didn’t know that already. If I told him how hard it was to get them, he just frowned at me like I was speaking a foreign language and spoke in tones of increasing volume about him working hard to keep a roof over our heads and did I think he was asking for the earth? Did I think it was easy working the hours he did? Was I not able to manage a simple task like getting in the groceries while I only had one child to look after? I knew better than to get into an argument about it. The issue was non-negotiable, like so many others.

Getting to the store in his old neighbourhood involved a three-and-a-half-hour round trip; two buses each way with Haley Junior in his stroller or on my lap, whining and grizzling because he couldn’t sleep and his pacifier had rolled down the aisle and been trapped underfoot by a woman with legs like an elephant and a face like fury, or because he had a fever and I’d run out of his medicine, or his diaper was aggravating his skin or for the million other reasons that babies cry.

I would pray all the way there that they would have them in stock, and if they did I would load six large jars into my cart, as many as I could carry on my back, knowing they would buy me only a couple of weeks’ grace before I’d have to make the same lousy trip all over again.

That day in Brianna’s car on the way back from the mall I got the idea in my head. It was one of those unbearable days when it felt as if the air itself was oppressing me. Running into her in the drugstore had been a real piece of good fortune. I think she offered me a lift home out of pity, and on account of us being friends once before, but I had no pride left at that stage so was happy to take her up on it. Haley Junior fell straight to sleep in the back and I settled down to stare at nothing through the window. Brianna knew better than to probe about my home life. She smiled and put on the radio.

When the car rolled to a stop on the highway intersection, I saw the pickles. The half-empty jar sat on the concrete barrier in the centre of the junction, like maybe a construction worker had left them there after his lunch break, or they’d just been spirited there by a pickle-loving fairy. They weren’t his brand, but the incongruous setting of those miniature cucumbers got me thinking. I got to thinking that the pickles were a symbol of our whole crummy relationship, and how I was just trapped in it, surrounded on all sides by traffic passing me by but with nowhere to go.

When Brianna dropped me off I asked if she could give me and Haley a lift the following Monday over the state line to my sister’s. I said I could give her some money for gas. He always gave me money for shopping on Mondays. She looked a little awkward but then said yes. So that was it; decision made. I told her I was going for a visit. That wasn’t a lie, I just wasn’t planning on coming back. He could find someone else to buy his damn pickles.

 

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REBECCA FIELD lives in Derbyshire and rarely eats pickles. She has been published online at Literally Stories, 101 Words, Flash Fiction Magazine and Spelk. She can be found on Twitter at @RebeccaFwrites

 

Image: Jenő Szabó via Pixabay

 

The Writer – Christine A Brooks

I have poured the wine, skipped
The water,
Smoked the weed, and turned up the tunes in my headphones
Jackson Brown, Willie Nelson and – Miles Davis.

I have opened the window to my soul, my empty space and let the cold in.
With the draft, the monsters come. At first, just a breeze, a whisper and a damp breath on
My warm neck.

I stare at their invited but unwelcome faceless faces,
See their hole
And grab hold of their hand.

Tight.

Sometimes, it is me dragging them to the place of no return
Other times they grab hold of my warmth with their death grip, pulling me down the
Gravel-y path
Upright and unafraid
Towards the end where I trust they will push me,
Holding on to the last thread of my essence
Giving me a glimpse of the place that I cannot return from
So, I can face the abyss long enough to hear Its cry, Its
Reasons, and Its story.

I trust the monsters to show me the face of Hell and Heaven
To let me take notes and return to tell Their tale.
Their story is interesting, so I return more often than I should, the sirens call and I answer
Over and Over, and over again
Until the day I do not return
Again.

 

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Image: Chris Martin via Pixabay

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