The End of the Night – Scott Laudati

I remember some good years.
The old pilings of
the Baltimore pier
that swayed under the crowd while
we watched our favorite band.
And when I told her
I didn’t love her
for the third time
she threw their record at me
and it hurt
but we laughed
I decided to break her heart again.

There was the year
I ate sixty oysters
at the Aqua Grill.
She’d paid attention
when I said
I only wanted to eat oysters
from states I hadn’t been to
so she had the maître d’
bring out a special menu
and I tried them all
and the Damariscottas
and Hog Islands were the best.

I woke up in the parking lot
of a Long Island casino
one time
and when I put
two chips
on red
I won $800.
I paid for everything
that weekend
and the four of us walked home
arm in arm
puking in the snow and laughing
like it was our last night
on earth.
We don’t call every year but
I still smile when I think about
that birthday
and the best friends
I never see.

Some years
I feel like I’m losing.
And there are others where the score
seems to be even.
I’ve lost cousins
and girlfriends
and a brown dog
with a white cross on her chest.
But there were the other years.
There were friends who
didn’t leave me in their wake.
Girls who left me believing I wouldn’t
always be let down.
And my mother,
using expensive ingredients
to cook me a birthday dinner
that fit with my new diet,
always making sure something was safe
in a world that started licking its teeth
as soon as you
walked out the door.

Tomorrow doesn’t always come with a nightmare.
Seeds grow.
Leaves fall.
I tell my friends to hold up their bottles
and look around.
“Remember our tribe,” I say.
“Nothing will ever be better than this.”
And I know I’m right
because I still haven’t found a place safer
than a backyard
in New Jersey.
And no matter how long I’ve been gone
there’s always a family waiting for me
when I come home.


SCOTT LAUDATI lives in Bushwick with his shnoodle, Dolly. His work has recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander and The Columbia Journal, among others. Visit him on instagram @scottlaudati

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Round And Round The Garden – Helen Laycock

No one ever passed Ettie Budu’s house without crossing the street first. It was an unwritten rule, a fact of our childhood. And you didn’t just pass it, you ran.

Ettie Budu’s house was a place to be feared, where malevolence resided, as heavy as a sack of ditchwater. It hung in the air and clung to the building like a ball of flies.

Get too close and who knew what would become of you? It was well known that she was a witch and that, behind that rotten brown door and those filthy windows, she concocted spells.

The house had become the personification of evil long before our lives had begun.

Everyone knew of it; there was no need to point it out. Find the worst house on the street and you had found Ettie Budu’s dwelling-place. Her hovel.

Unlike the other semis, Ettie’s had no front wall at the end of the garden. The grass grew high – an enchanted forest – and would, no doubt, shackle any child that dared to wade through. The windows, thick with grime, were as still as the eyes of the dead, but we knew we were being watched. It was impossible to see in from across the road – and no one was ever brave enough to peer in at close range. It seemed that dirty nets had been draped at the edges, but they may well have been cobwebs.

Day after day, at the end of school, groups of children would take a deliberate diversion in order to pass the house. None of us ever had permission to walk home that back way; it was a ‘lonely’ place where bad men hung out, but no one was willing to lose face and refuse the route. We’d climb a gate which took us to a narrow, grassy pathway along a little river, a ‘reen’. Gardens backed on to the side where we walked, and there was wasteland on the other. The gate we had to climb at the other end was just opposite Ettie’s.

Our status moved up a notch if we stopped and stared at it for a moment or two. It was a way of asserting bravery.

Sometimes a chant would begin: ‘Ett-ie, Ett-ie, Ett-ie.’

We’d adopt a stance: feet splayed, knees bent, hands on thighs. Quick glances would be exchanged, but we had to watch the door. Always.

It never lasted long. No one had the guts to see what would happen if she came out.

In the winter months, when grey afternoons sheathed the village in darkness, we would linger – not for long – on the opposite side of the street and watch the upstairs window as it flickered with candlelight. It was a scene far removed from our experiences of modern living; it had the intrigue and bygone age-ness of a grotesque fairytale. We knew she’d be stirring a cauldron in that upstairs room. An imagined face at the glass, hollowed by the light, would send us squealing and running.

Then, one day, I felt big and brave. Omnipotent. Adrenaline coursed through my veins, like fire bowling through a tunnel.

In an instant, I took off from the safety of the opposite pavement, leaping onto the road from the kerb and hurtling towards the unkempt lawn, seeing the house closer than I had ever seen it before – the parched windowsills, the gouged brickwork and the cracked glass of a dying building.

The ground was unexpectedly uneven beneath my feet as I ran in difficult circles through the long grass, lifting my feet high and holding my arms up for safety. I felt glorious and daring, and looked for approval as I curved around for the second time to face my awestruck onlookers.

I was a hero. I, the unnoticed one, was suddenly visible – the eye of the storm.

Then, chop. Everything changed.

Like the jerk of a reversing second hand, their gaze shifted from me one notch to their left.

As one, their smiles fell.

Their jaws dropped.

Their bodies flinched.

I heard a sound behind me.

I saw my friends run.

Should I look? Or run?

I recall the instant as if it all happened in slow-motion. As my chin passed my right shoulder, I saw a wiry, old man who had stepped out of the front door and was now feet away from me. His face was scrunched up in anger. His left arm was raised, and when I looked up at it, I saw that he was holding a cleaver. In a beat, he ran at me and I stumbled out of his garden, my legs taking great unwieldy strides.

I didn’t look back. I sprinted right to the end of the long, long road where the other children were hiding around the bend, fizzing with excitement and terror.

‘That was Ettie’s brother. The madman,’ I heard someone say. My heart was beating like a caught bird, and my chest prickled and burned as I panted.

‘A brother?’

This was news to everyone. There were two of them living there?

Double evil.

Our whispers filled the evening air like frenzied bats before we dispersed to the light and safety of our own homes, each a little more afraid than we had been up until that day.

The challenge had taken on a whole new dimension. The danger was real. We had been right to fear the sinister embodiments of depravity which dwelled inside that house.

I avoided any route that would take me past Ettie Budu’s after that. Maybe she didn’t exist at all, and it was just a vicious old man who lived there.

I wasn’t convinced.

At the age of fourteen, I took a Saturday job at the local supermarket, weighing out the fruit and veg for customers and pricing the brown paper bags. I was positioned right at the entrance.

Even though the incident had been years before, my breath caught like a wedged pebble when a hunched figure shuffled in just as we were closing, late afternoon, one dark November.

It was Ettie.

I experienced a cold thrill. I wanted my friends to see how close she was.

The stench was putrid. She was wearing a headscarf and a huge overcoat, and was dragging a battered trolley. She bypassed me and went straight to the tins just next to my fresh produce.

I could see her filthy face, whiskered and warty, the very image we’d concocted when we were ten. Her mouth hung open as she rasped and wheezed; I imagined beetles and spiders being exhaled with each whispering breath. She had only a few black teeth.

I shuddered. Even now I was a teenager, she still had the power to unnerve me. I dreaded a direct look from her; her eyes would turn red and she would throw a curse upon me as though netting a fish.

She really did have witches’ hands, too. Her nails were long, thick and brown and when her sleeve rose, I could see that the skin on her arm was impregnated with dirt.

I watched her steal a few tins of peaches.

As soon as the manager had locked the main door and was switching off the lights, I grabbed my coat and left by the back entrance. It would take her a while to get home. I could catch her up.

I had no idea why I wanted to be in proximity to someone who could strike me down with black magic. Perhaps I had been charmed.

I could see her shape, rounded, no head, shuffling along ahead of me. She looked like a dark toad under the streetlights. Because of the peaches, or the brother, or the state of her house, I felt immense anger towards her. She moved steadily through the night.

I stopped trailing her within a safe distance of her house.

She still scared me.

All through the winter she came for peaches.

She never paid. I never said.

She was always dirty. She always wore a man’s coat. I began to wonder if she might have been thin underneath. What else did they eat, she and her brother? Though I must have stared, she never looked at me. Her gaze seemed fixed on her dirty boots. She was bent like a bridge.

On the last Saturday of February, Ettie didn’t come. I had moved the last few tins of peaches to the front of the shelf for her. I left through the back door as the manager flicked off all the strip lights. There was a frost on the bins and the air was sharp. I wrapped my scarf around my mouth and headed for The Hovel.

Apart from a stutter of candlelight in one upstairs window, the house was in darkness. I imagined how cold they must be without electricity. Ettie – was that even her real name? – probably kept on her coat indoors. Her brother’s cast off maybe. Or did she ever have a husband?

Over the next few evenings, I walked by again. The house seemed to have fallen into a deep sleep, every window full of night. I no longer felt watched.

Sunday morning was crisp and cold. The sky was a dirty white, and as I made my way to Ettie Budu’s, it began to snow. Frozen flakes melted on my cheeks and caught in my eyelashes, and by the time I had got there, the blades of grass were tipped with white. It was almost pretty.

I crunched across the garden, older and braver than I had been the first time. Years of neglect had made the windows opaque, so I crouched down and pushed in the letterbox.

The humming seemed to come from everywhere: an incessant drone from an orchestra where violinists bowed the same monotonous note. Every inch of space was inhabited by moving black specks.

Funeral confetti.

I was reminded of shaking a snow globe, but in negative.

Layer by layer, my senses became drunk with excess, and I covered my nose and mouth with my free hand as the putrefaction seeped out of the letterbox and into my air space. The blood smell at the supermarket meat counter always made me gag, but the intensity of rotting flesh that was now spewing out of the rectangular aperture made me reel. Desperately, I scanned the hallway, but only had a sense of dark brown through the cloud of flies, nothing more.

Catching sight of movement in my periphery, I let the letterbox go with a snap. Three maggots were pulsating across my left glove. I shook them off on to the ground and ran.

The day they took the bodies away, there was a small crowd outside.

‘The mad brother chopped off Ettie Budu’s head with his axe,’ I heard a boy report as he swung an imaginary weapon towards his friend, ‘and he survived by eating bits of her until she was all gone.’


But I think that their ending was far from dramatic. We had made it that way. In truth, they lived together in the only way they knew how, an older sister caring for her brother, and surviving by whatever means were at their disposal. They were poor, cold and hungry, and society had shunned them.

We were to blame.

When Ettie had gone, the peaches had stopped coming. And, without peaches, her brother had dwindled, along with the melting candles.

The house had been dying all along.


HELEN LAYCOCK, previously a lead writer at Visual Verse, features in several editions of The Best of CafeLit. Recently longlisted by Mslexia, pieces are showcased in Popshot, Poems for Grenfell, Full Moon and Foxglove, The Caterpillar, Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction and Lucent Dreaming, whose inaugural flash competition she won.

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Sunflowers – Amanda Saint

The woman behind the counter in a snake skin patterned sari doesn’t look at Daisy as she says, ‘Thirty rupee, madam, please.’

Daisy smiles anyway as she hands the money over in exchange for a fresh coconut with a straw stuck in the top. Nothing can stop her feeling good today.

On the shop’s rickety veranda she sits and watches bony cows and mangy dogs mill about. Down the street a harassed-looking woman bundles children into a tuk-tuk. Horns beep and the air is thick with dust and exhaust fumes from the constant stream of traffic going past.

Goodness still trickles through Daisy’s veins from the cold, sweet coconut water though. She can feel it. When she’d arrived at the retreat, only days after getting out of the hospital, her skin had been a dull and dirty yellow, showing the world what she was. A coward. Running and hiding in bottles of vodka until her liver nearly died.

When she’d woken up in the hospital the first thing she’d seen was a bunch of wilting sunflowers in a chipped jug on her bedside table. She’d blinked unsure of where, and when, she was. Then he appeared, sitting on a hard, plastic chair wearing his retro 80s t-shirt with the smiley acid house face, and faded jeans. What he’d been wearing that day.

‘Hey,’ he said.

‘Hey yourself.’

He leaned forward, dropping the softest, gentlest kiss on her parched lips. ‘You’ve got to stop this now. It wasn’t your fault. Just an accident.’

Daisy sank back into sleep again. When she awoke he was gone, of course, as were the flowers. They were the ones he’d given her on their first date. The chipped blue jug the only thing she’d had to put them in. Wild young things didn’t own vases.

When she’d been released from the hospital, she booked the retreat and a flight leaving the very next day. Then she went to a florist and bought every sunflower they had and took them to his grave. She knelt in front of it, sprinkled the flowers all around. A splash of happy sunshine on a grey and gloomy day.

She ran her fingers over the inscription:

Robert James
12th August 1972 – 2nd October 2016
Beloved husband of Daisy.
Taken too soon. We were all we had.

Daisy sobbed while she smiled then kissed her fingertips, pressing them against his name. ‘Hey you. I’m going to be okay now. Thank you.’

The last slurp of the coconut water through the straw pulls Daisy back from that dank English graveyard. She takes the empty coconut back into the shop and places it on the counter.

The woman ignores her again and doesn’t look up from her phone. Daisy shrugs and carries on her way. Maybe she’ll stay here. Nothing to go back for, after all, and the insurance money would go a lot further. A nice little place by the beach where she can live a quiet, healthy life. Yoga, walking, reading, painting. No booze and lots of delicious vegetarian food. It’s what Robbie would want for her.

Daisy kicks her flip-flops off and stuffs them in her bag when she reaches the track to the beach. The warm sand caresses her feet as she climbs up and over the small dune. Later it will be too hot to walk on. At the top the beach opens out before her. Just a handful of fishermen fixing their nets. The milky sea glinting softly in the sun.

Daisy walks right to the end of the row of sunbeds. Takes the one in the front row so that no matter how busy it might get later, she can feel like it’s just her, white-hot sky, ocean, and burning yellow sun.

She lies back and stares up into the dried palm fronds of the parasol, a smile on her face. She’s turned a corner. She closes her eyes, lets the shushing sound of the tiny waves fill her mind.

She doesn’t see the snake until it’s curling around her leg.

With a breathless little scream, Daisy kicks out. The snake rears back, then strikes at her leg one, two, three times. Before slinking away into the shade it had been seeking.

Daisy’s leg swells and reddens instantly.

‘Help,’ she calls.

But the snake has stolen her newfound strength.

Nobody hears.

She grabs for her bag, her phone. But her fingers won’t work.

Then she’s still. Her breath coming in shallow gasps as the sun beats down, slowly turning her body golden again.


AMANDA SAINT is the author of two novels, As If I Were A River and Remember Tomorrow. Her short fiction collection, Flashes Of Colour, is coming in 2020. Amanda founded Retreat West, providing writing competitions, courses and retreats, and Retreat West Books indie press publishes short fiction, novels and memoirs.

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Growls of Fate – Katie Nickas

Sometimes when I’m alone in my apartment, the maker speaks to me. It talks about my husband.

We had a blowup last summer. I got mad and moved out. Our cat listened to it happen from the ledge, because cats hate shouting. Now, she stays with him. She’s sweet and adorable, with a face like an owl that peers from the ends of hallways and claws that dig into flesh to show affection. He has her and a good job and a nice place to live. He should be happy, but he’s not. I know this, but the maker tells me, anyway. It whispers like a surrogate conscience all the things he does to try not to be alone.







In the daytime, I go for long walks through the blue-green hills that resemble bunches of broccoli. I look at the bluebirds and marshmallow clouds and walk to the store to buy groceries. When I get home, the rooster on the weathervane is stuck pointing south, its figure suturing the fog. I carry in the groceries that I’m addicted to buying and pour water and grounds into the maker, switching it on and listening to it brew. The whispers begin almost immediately. They’re palpable in the silence.

“He wants to be alone,” I say, unloading heads of garlic, carrots, celery, cheese, crackers, thinking I’ve been transported to some other dimension.


“He pushes people away and then asks them to come back.”


“He’s bad.”


“He can’t stop.”


Though soft at first, the sounds become more plangent as the cycle runs its course. I pour a cup, lean back in the chair, and close my eyes. Images of family and friends appear. Their features are nondescript, like tiny grains of sand swept in and out of form. I imagine my neighbors sitting down to dinner all throughout the neighborhood. It’s twilight. I know what happens at twilight. Shadows rise and mists settle, holding everything in their vaporous breaths until morning.

Sometimes, the maker splutters at these times. That’s when the heaviest truths are divulged—when it’s running on steam and wants to be fed more water so it can continue talking.

I sip and think I must have really good hearing.

They’re all gone now, those closest to me. Not gone—distant. It’s only the maker and I in this thick, cloistered silence.

Suddenly, I hear the flawed person inside and panic. Its voice fills my head—the voice of someone who’s been abandoned and who’s doomed to ask questions with no answers. I’m angry—angry that my husband treats people like puppets, bending them to his whims.

“Why did he do this?”

The thought sends shudders through my collarbone and pushes up beneath my skin, wanting to be let out. A plaintive growl spreads out across the room. Except instead of making a sound, it forms a word. There’d often seemed to be an echo in here, and while the maker’s percolations have been well timed to coincide with my questions, they’ve never implied they belong to an actual being or presence—a mind. I’d fed it water, electricity, and grounds. From those ingredients, it pressed out something like a piquant juice—sometimes smoky, others intense—but always juice and no more.

Yet the word was unmistakable. I straightened in the chair, my back turned rigid.




More than a growl—an affirmation, with the maker reaching into its grizzled depths to lay a finger on its pulse and measure the beats of its efficient, little heart.

“He is, or intends to?”

No answer.


My imagination spirals back to all the possible causes: Childhood abuse, neglect, the old tunnel with no light at the end, his loss, our loss, the growing apart, the splitting after so many years together.

“Will it be fast or slow?”

No sound.





Yes, I might have guessed that. He’d already been killing himself slowly. One moment later, another question arises.

“What can I do?”


“Buy him a book?”




“Cakes? Treats? Records? Phone calls?”

My brain kicks itself. You’ve already tried all that. For god’s sake, think of something more original.

Finally, it comes.

“Maybe, somehow, I could help him live?”

I hear the longest growl of all. Not only a growl, it’s something chthonic that seems to rise from the earth and shift through night’s inchoate shroud—something that speaks for others.

Clutching the sides of my chair, neck laced in sweat, I realize it’s not the maker at all. It’s he. He’s somehow found his way inside and is channeling himself through it.

The notion seems to lift some of the fog. To hear from another source that his life is truly out of control offers closure. But I’m just as unnerved as before, wondering what can be done to help someone live a life whose intent is on ending it, however gradually.

Rising from the chair, I walk to the kitchen and look at the maker sitting on the counter, its contents settled in the bottom. I could give it more water to listen to it talk some more. I could do that.

Instead, I pick up the phone and call him.


KATIE NICKAS writes off-kilter fiction. Her work is published or forthcoming in journals including Anti-Heroin Chic, Asymmetry, The Furious Gazelle, formercactus, FRiGG Magazine, The Oddville Press, Sidereal Magazine, Soft Cartel, and STORGY. Find her on Twitter @katienickas.

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Tornado Preparedness Drill – Ace Boggess

If the power’s still on, make coffee.
If you prefer whiskey, sleep
on a futon by the nearest phone.

I have better ways to spend my time:
complaining about loud noises &
worrying over this coming storm

which brings with it fish &
frogs that fall from the sky.
In the past hundred years:

one tornado in this county,
that so small the horror-movie
flying cows ho-hummed.

Nobody asked for my opinion,
but I give it while the city sirens
hit their spine-chilling notes &

radio stations sing,
“Get down, get down,”
as if a disco boogie jam.


ACE BOGGESS is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road, 2017). His writing appears in Notre Dame Review, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, Rattle, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

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Last Will and Testament of Gaia – Sheila Scott

I, Gaia, third planet of the Local Interstellar Cloud, Orion-Cygnus arm, Milky Way, declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking any and all Wills and codicils previously made.

At four point five six eight billion years of age I am of legal age to declare this Will and, despite the best efforts of some of my lodgers these last fifty thousand years, I am still of sound mind. My wishes contained herein do not result from undue influence.

Having experienced no major collisions, I have remained single and without children excepting one satellite. However, this sole relation has remained distant throughout and I leave them nothing.

Whilst I realise, but do not care, that this may cause some consternation, I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint God and Richard Dawkins as my Joint Executors to act in my interest regarding my estate and other items. In the event that these Executors be unable or unwilling to serve jointly, I appoint Rihanna as sole Executor. This Will authorises these Executors to act in my interest regarding my estate, debts, funeral expenses (see accompanying document ‘Par-tay’) and other items.

The assets I am legally entitled, by which I mean, I have decided to bequeath are as follows:

1) The Atmosphere I give to the Penguins. This one is too important to everyone and honestly who doesn’t trust these little dudes. Plus the flightless element has always tickled me.

2) Whales and Cetaceans, you get the Oceans. You know your ass is too big for firths and rivers so just stay the hell out of them – you’ve got plenty of ocean to swim around in now.

3) The Freshwater Lakes I give to the Crocodiles. You always acted like you owned them: now you do.

4) Fish, you can have the Rivers. I know how much you love those currents whether you’re surfing to the sea or battling upstream (physics kinda passed you by, didn’t it?) so enjoy, they’re yours whichever direction you’re travelling.

5) The Hills I bequeath to the Horses. Hell, you just look so damn good galloping over their rolling horizons. Off you go and make me proud.

6) Mountains I am giving to the Goats. You’ve not done a damn thing to earn them, but it takes a bit of nous to understand gravity and frankly you guys are the only ones just too dumb to fall off.

7) The complete collection of Soils is to be the domain of the Invertebrates. We all know you have your job to do but, let’s be honest, you’re no fun to look at. So, do everyone a favour and stay indoors.

8) Plants, you are entrusted with the Valleys. Some of you like sunshine, some don’t. I have faith you can sort who gets which face between you. But no secession: there’s room for everyone.

9) The Volcanoes are made for Dragons, if only to prove you exist beyond Welsh kids’ cartoons. Be careful making s’mores, though – those things are sticky little fuckers and can totally ruin a good rug.

10) Cats, you get the Tectonic Plates. Plan is that way most of the time they’ll just sit at peace. But when you’re not sleeping, no batting them back and forth just for fun.

11) The Tundra I was going to leave to the Reindeer, but the melt’s made it a challenge for you big boys getting about now. Therefore, given the more favourable feet-width to body-weight ratio, Geese, it’s your ball now. Reindeer, you know who to take it up with.

12) Bit of a no-brainer now – Camels, you get the Deserts. It may not be the most exciting asset, but it’s far and away the fastest growing – you’re on course to be Kings of the World. But play nice and enough with the spitting.

13) Wide open Plains are for the Skunks. The others have been pestering me for years over this, so use your space thoughtfully.

14) Regarding the Polar Ice Caps, Penguins you got the atmosphere so the Southern one is going to the Polar Bears. Big guys, you would’ve got the Northern one too, but you do like you ice-Lilos and it’s just sea up there now.

15) Finally, all my Glittery Rocks I leave to the Humans. You’ve always been obsessed with these at the expense of everything of value, so good luck eating, drinking, and breathing your bling.

Despite claims that will undoubtedly be made to the contrary (by I think we all know who), there are no prior legal contracts into which I have entered in relation to these assets. Anything that suggests otherwise is a crock of shit.


Signature: Gaia

Name: ____Gaia_______

Date: 21st October 2018


Hybrid writer-scientist, SHEILA SCOTT most enjoys sitting with pen and paper turning idle thoughts into short narratives and illustrative doodles. Published in Causeway, Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Flashback Fiction, Bangor Literary Journal and Poetic Republic, she also helps lead New Writing Showcase Glasgow. Her intermittently hyperactive Twitter account is @MAHenry20

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Bed 3, Bay 2 – B F Jones

Day 1

They wheel me into the room after the surgery though I tell them it is unnecessary, I can walk. But there’s been a considerable blood loss and they’re concerned I might faint again. A stupid accident really. Avocado hand. Yes that’s right, I’m hospitalised for a pretty trendy affliction. I wish I could say 13-year-old me that I’m finally trendy. I wonder what that loser would think.

Anyway. After the knife blade lodged itself deep inside the fleshiest part of my palm, tearing through the skin before cutting through a small artery and quite a bit of ligament, I managed to call 999 between two bouts of wrenching and a mild fainting episode. I opened the front door wide, mucking it with blood before crouching against it, trying not to look at the little bids of fat oozing out of my skin and this is where the paramedics had plucked me from.

Day 2

The pain wakes me early. The monitor attached to the lady next to me and going off everytime she gasps for oxygen doesn’t conduce me to fall back to sleep. Neither does the Christmas tree blinking just outside the ward. I re-live the previous day. The blade going in and the cracking sound of the skin as it tears. You should have kept the knife in, they told me in the ambulance. It would have helped reducing the blood loss and damage to my ligaments. No need to mourn those, the damage is done now. At least I can breathe unmonitored.

Day 3

Janet from the office has popped over to say hi. She’s brought me a card signed by the team and an adult colouring book. I look at my heavily bandaged hand and thank her. She doesn’t stay too long. The day stretches. I wish I’d brought a book and my toothbrush. The doctor comes and says I should be able to get out tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing.

I take an approximate shower and have an average dinner. The old lady bips and there’s a new arrival, a teenager with a broken leg.

Day 4

The teenager has loads of friends, they bring him coke and Haribos and some magazines. His girlfriend gives him noisy snogs and access to her chest that he fumbles clumsily before they leave, the stench of sweat and Lynx and chocolate bars remaining until the leek-potato soup is served. The doctor comes and says I can go out tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing. The old lady bips and the teenager types furiously on his phone. I miss my home and my bed and my tub and Socks purring on my lap.

Day 5

The Xmas tree blinks to the rhythm of Staying Alive. That same rhythm you use when you do CPR. Blink, blink, blink, blink, blink blink blink, blink blink blink. And again. And again.

The teenager has left and has been replaced by a 3rd degree burn.

The doctor comes and says I can go out tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing. The old lady bips and the burn victim weeps. I read a battered copy of Gone with the wind wondering if touching it might give me an acute case of e.coli. This is unbearable.

Day 9

I don’t think I can take this anymore. I just spent the last 3 days plotting my escape as I’m desperate to go home.

Janet has come back saying that she feels for me, and also implying they might want to replace me if I don’t come back though, and reminding me I owe her £3.99 for the cat food.

I tell her I’ve just seen the doctor and that he’s said I should be able to leave tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing. The old lady isn’t there anymore and the burn victim has just left, being replace by a pretty nasty case of anaphylaxis.

Day 10

I didn’t sleep well. A young couple came with a baby around 2 am. I was hoping to see their baby this morning, I love babies, but when I woke up, they were gone.

Janet pops over with some paperwork for me to sign, I’ve been dismissed. She asks if she can return the colouring book since I haven’t used it yet and she could repurpose the £4.99. She doesn’t stay long but that’s fine by me.

Day 13

I was meant to leave today but I told the doctor I didn’t feel too good and tomorrow might be better. It’s quiet as the old lady’s bed is still vacant and the anaphylaxis guy is pretty out of it.

Day 14

I told the nurse it might better if I stayed overnight as it it’s icy and I’m worried driving with my injured hand in such conditions. Also it’s potato leek soup night.

Day 15

I had a panic attack after watching the news and not being able to remember the prime minister’s name. There was that lady looking like a praying mantis addressing the nation, she was familiar but her name had disappeared from my memory.

They gave me Xanax and I had a good night’s sleep. I’m still a bit woozy so it’s safer for me to spend the night and leave tomorrow.

Day 17

Terry, my favourite nurse, has written the name of the prime minister on a post-it note for me. I use as a bookmark for the copy of Catcher In The Rye she’s brought me. Apparently I’ve read 14 books since my arrival. I don’t remember much of them.

Day 18

Terry has come for a quiet chat about my mental health and to say goodbye as I’m being moved to a different unit. I give her a hug and tell her I’ll miss her, before I erase her from my memory.

Bed 6, Bay 1

Day 74

I like it here. Apart from that young woman that occasionally rambles on a about rats and cats and talks to an invisible person called Libby, it really is very cosy. Doctor C says I can stay as long as I want.


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Trainwreck – Alexa Locksley

First time in Denver, a highrise hotel
Smooth sweep of the sliding door whispers class traitor
recessed lights nod in agreement
My companion’s asleep—
exhausted by the mesas of Utah
the hazy opulence of Vale
or maybe my sullen silence
Tiptoe through the lobby of the Grand Hyatt
dress too short
hair too disheveled
flannel too flannel
too many toos for this place
and a copy of Burroughs tucked under my arm
catches the camera eyes of the elevator woman
fluorescent glare from her black plastic shells
insect eyes bulge from her face
She adjusts her orange hibiscus print dress
smiles a false robot smile
and telepathically opens the doors.

Cross the stone corridor
step out into the steaming gray morning, stand under wet humid sky
my antennae drooping, two wilted celery stalks
Take refuge among leather and lamplight
Crack open gold coins, melting yellow streaks
Cell walls expand, jelly replenished
synapses of cellulose stronger with intake:
poison word hoard and rich burn of espresso
wine & sour oil
faint hints of charcoal at the back of the tongue
an imagined memory of withered grass, oolong reduced to ash
false dairy, shelf stable and sanitized
in another world, twin apricot suns below ground
in the lindworm’s tunnel under Munich streets

Shake off the memory
shake out my powdery wings
dodge the streetcars and blend in with gray concrete
Disguise myself as a steamed salmon
lemon slice to keep up with the fashion
and join in the stream

A fresh bucket of deep-sea dread from a long-past meet&greet
(too serious and literary for the ampersand)
Warst du schon mal in Wien?
that deceptively innocent questionmark a tiny tadpole sprouting tentacles
octopus whirlpool spirals down to the depths
until your friends fish you out
reel you in
admonish in hushed strained voices because Jesus Al you can’t say that
and the sting of the fishhook still slices into your cheek

But now in the diegetic present
face to face
you’re one of us, I’m almost sure
our panicked transaction of phrases a mutual trainwreck
jumbled words casualties that limp from the wreckage
and for a moment I belong.


ALEXA LOCKSEY is an escaped Midwesterner living in Las Vegas, where they teach English. Their poetry and short fiction has appeared in Ghost City Review, Peach Mag, Shot Glass Journal, Rose Quartz Magazine, and Bone & Ink Literary Magazine. They are on Twitter and Instagram @AlexaLocksley.

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 23

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Thirty-Two Keys Stud the Body of Each Sax, So It Logically Follows That.. – Jim Meirose

I got a tape for you to hear Sonboy. I got a tape you’ll hear to make you decide.

Mom. That’s great but I don’t need help—I—

Yes here sit down it’s short hear it out here.

Her finger jabbed in starting it coming. It came. It said, The last but not least dimension of anyone’s ascension to virtuoso-level sax playing, is the patterned pushing so fast it seems random but each push has a purpose a name and a meaning and more and more to it, depending on how deeply into the documentation you dare to delve—

Mom. I don’t see. I—

No, listen.

—thirty-two keys stud the body of each sax; nine fingers are used to press the sax keys, and that in itself is easy to conceptualize. Here’s a finger, the first of ten. There’s the keys baby, so press one any one; there’s the cards baby, so pick one anyone; look at it remember what key it was—

Mom I can’t follow this. And—I never said I wanted saxophone.

Hush! Listen.

But I never—


—tear the card from the sax put it on the table and remember which key it was; look at it remember what card it was put it face down on the table and remember which card it was; do this for each and every key until none are left and there are thirty-two torn off keys from the now-unusable sax lying on the table—

Sorry but I don’t get it.

Maybe if you stopped resisting you would. Hush.

—do this for each and every card until none are left and there are fifty two picked-out cards from the now-nonexistent deck not anywhere anyplace anymore; now take the sax to a sax repair man and he will charge five hundred dollars on average to restore the sax to playing condition; now take the deck to anyone at all who knows what a deck of cards is—

Cards. Mom, I never have been interested in—cards.

Sonboy shut up and let it come.

—and he will charge nothing on average to pull all fifty two cards back together into a usable deck; now here’s the bottom-line cost-benefit analysis—it’s not really that but that sounds pretty impressive; this has cost the sax player five hundred dollars; this has cost the card player nothing. And the added benefit tipping the argument to cards is that the card deck can be restored by the potential card player themselves.

Thank God is that the end—This shows—my God there’s more? Mom.

—that in the final analysis, any logically impassive mechano-person to whom such numerical decision-making holds appeal, should forget sax—

Mom I never said I wanted to play the saxophone Mom. Mom—

Shut up!

—and take up one or more of the hundreds of table games which are based on a deck of cards, or take up some other non-game related pastime that nonetheless uses a deck of cards, such as magic, making bicycles sound like motorcycles—which also requires a big box of wooden spring-style clothespins, building houses of cards, constructing card bridges, making balls of cards, doing origami, making card boxes, or attempt to match the cardistry skills of Dan and Dave. Their most holy. Good-bye—and may you enjoy a profitable day!

Her finger jabbed out stopping it going. She turned to.

Sonboy, there—you.

Sonboy, hey! Sonboy get back in here right now!

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 23

Image via Pixabay


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