1. Untitled – Lindsey M. Heatherly
I’m exhausted and I’m angry and I hate myself and I want to be known but I hate being judged I need to throw the clothes in the wash I want to quit that project I started I’m tired of expectations I hate my body I hate that I’m fat I want to be skinny and dainty and quiet I don’t want to take up space I want to be what men want But I also want to be myself I want to be loved by someone who sticks around I don’t want to have to explain myself I don’t want to give feedback on that piece tonight but if I wait until tomorrow I might not feel well enough to do it It’s another thing to add to the list I want to quit Twitter I want to quit everything literary I want to skip work tomorrow I want to go on a trip I want to want someone who wants me back I don’t want to listen to her talk about her ex and I know I do the same thing sometimes I am such a hypocrite I need to get the oil changed on Saturday I need to eat better food I need to eat less I need to spend less time on Twitter I need to figure out how to find comfort when everything is scratchy wool on my skin I want silence and waterfalls and a black hole and the Aurora Borealis My head hurts I want to cry but I’m too tired The vaccine comes tomorrow which is good but I dread People don’t like me when I share who I am I’m not easy to handle or swallow I make things difficult I want peace I feel like my old life was a hundred years ago He isn’t talking to me Why am I surprised He only wants to talk when he’s horny Maybe that’s all men I want to die I don’t say that much anymore but it’s true sometimes It would be easier you know? To have all this behind me I hope the laundry dries by morning
Lindsey M. Heatherly is a Pushcart nominated writer (Red Fez & Pithead Chapel) born and raised in Upstate South Carolina. She has words in X-R-A-Y, Emrys Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and more. She spends her time at home raising a strong, confident daughter. Find her online at https://r3dwillow.wixsite.com/rydanmardsey or on Twitter: @rydanmardsey.
2. Untitled – E E Rhodes
You know about the Beaufort Scale, which runs from 1 to 12. You’ve used it countless times, and not only for the weather. Maybe for the moods your oldest always seems to be in? Maybe for the state of your youngest kid’s room? Maybe for how you feel compared to all the other girls you graduated college with? Maybe to let your husband know if he should come home quick-smart? Yeah, you know what the different levels are exactly.
Where 0 is calm. The calm you feel when the laundry is done and the house is quiet and the shopping is put away and there is nothing and no one to see you hold on to the edge of the countertop so tightly your knuckles turn white.
Where 1 is light air, just ripples without crests, the sound of something awful, but only in the distance. So far away you don’t really hear it, you just know the effects it’ll have when the impact finally arrives.
Where 2 is a light breeze with wavelets with crests of a glassy appearance, not breaking, not breaking, not breaking, yet.
Where 3 is a gentle breeze, where the crests begin to break and there are scattered whitecaps. Because you read that note you found in his shirt pocket in the laundry. And you stuff your fist into your mouth and bite down hard.
Where 4 is a moderate breeze with small waves with breaking crests. Like you texted a photo of the note to your husband and know that something bad is now coming.
Where 5 is a fresh breeze with small amounts of spray. The kind that will soak you if you don’t pay attention. The kind that started, you’ll tell yourself later, when you weren’t paying attention, and that will make you desperate to start that part over again.
Where 6 is a strong breeze and long waves begin to form. The sort that knocks your feet from under you when you thought you were solid. You tell yourself that again. You thought you were solid.
Where 7 is a high wind, and everything heaps up. Actually breaking. And maybe is already irredeemably broken.
Where 8 is a gale with moderately high waves with breaking crests forming spindrift. With a spray that blinds you, scrubbing hard at your salt-smarting eyes. And you just trying to keep your head above water. Not waving. Drowning.
Where 9 is a strong gale which rolls right over you, and which crowds your visibility, extinguishing everything but the blinking-blue pilot-light on the stove.
Where 10 is a storm, that thing you never once saw coming, and all your thoughts are upended, foundering on the rocks of how is this happening? With much reduced visibility, narrowed down to that hateful blinking-blue light of whatever her name is.
Where 11 is a violent storm. With thunder and lightning. And everything in the kitchen is aggressively shaken, and your husband is belatedly home in answer to your level 4 text. Where you think things can’t get any worse.
And 12 is a hurricane force where she comes into the kitchen behind him. And all the gathered fronts come into alignment to create a perfect storm.
3. It’s not – Ellen Symons
When I wake crying it’s not because of you.
It’s because of the sun. It’s because of the way the snow glistens in sharp light. It’s because the moon played across the field all night long, chasing rabbit and red fox, coyote and mouse.
It’s because the cat is 12, when yesterday she was a kitten. And tomorrow she’ll be 20. It’s because of the grey in my hair and the wrinkles at my eyes, the cracking in my knee, the arthritic finger.
It’s because someday I won’t remember the years we had together, and all of this sorrow will have been wasted.
When I wake crying, it’s not because of you.
If it were because of you, I would have to call. I would have to rise from my bed, lift my head from your pillow, run into the world and appear at your door. I would have to hear you say no, it’s not a good time. The dishes aren’t done. The bed isn’t made. After all this time, of me washing your dishes, of me making your bed, I would have to ask why. Why, I would have to say. Is she there with you. I would have to listen. While you lied. No. It’s not a good time.
If it were because of you, there would be no remedy. There would be no stitch in time, no glue for my heart, no waterproof miracle paste that would hold the torn flesh as blood slicks its edges, as it slips through my shivering fingers. If it were because of you, I would never mend.
It is not because of you. I will stay in this bed for the sun and the moon that tumble across it. For the downy loft of its covers. For the small purring warmth of the cat at my knees. Not for your scent. Not for the smell of you ground into the fibres. Lemon and sweat, the shampoo you use, the heat of your body. Not for the way my figure shapes around the space. The space you once held. Where I held you.
I will leave this bed when. When it’s a good time. When my knees are cold because the cat has long padded to the warmth of the window seat. When I have followed the sun and the moon to the ends of their tracks. When the mouse and the rabbit have squealed in the night. When my water-chapped hands have smashed each of your dishes. When I have lost the smell of you to the fust of my own lingering malaise. When I have dreamed every dream I can muster, and no dream can undo what I have mended. When I have forgotten your lies.
Ellen Symons writes poetry and fiction from a corner of the sofa, or while walking through the trees and fields of Lanark County, Ontario, Canada. Her published work includes a poetry collection, Economies of Gratitude. She is completing her first novel.
4. On the eve of forty – Nicola Ashbrook
Is this forty then? It’s hard to concentrate with the echoes of Fortnite through the wall and my husband clattering in the kitchen. But that’s life now; rain pattering the window.
I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow on The Big Day. Not that much is happening but if it was dry while we walked, that would be something. It might take a slight edge off a BIG lockdown birthday.
I certainly didn’t think is how it would be when I imagined it a year ago. We even talked about a joint party at one point. Dancing – imagine that.
People say we’ll have to celebrate later, when all this is over, whenever that is, but the moment will have passed by then. No one cares about a fortieth six months after it. Maybe they do. Maybe I don’t. I don’t know.
I don’t know what I think. I know it’s hard she isn’t here. When I had all these frivolous thoughts a year ago about the best way to spend a thirty-ninth year, I didn’t envisage I’d be doing this – the major birthday thing – without her. I still can’t believe she’s gone and everything that has happened this year has happened. But nothing feels real. How can it in a pandemic? More than fifteen-hundred dead today.
Maybe it’s all inconsequential anyway.
What could I possibly even need when we can’t go anywhere? I feel materialistic wanting anything. It’s pointless. You don’t take the stuff with you. But I want things just the same. Not excessive things, just some things to make me feel like it has been a special day and people care. Maybe slightly excessive. I don’t know. A bit of excitement.
We’re having Thai. And cake, I assume.
I’m torn about how much fuss you should make about your own birthday. I feel you should love your own birthday but I want and don’t want the fuss. It can be a bit presumptive. I don’t think that’s the right word. A bit exposing, maybe. I don’t like the pressure to like things. I’m a nightmare.
I don’t want to be a nightmare. I want to be relaxed and pleasantly surprised. I want to survive it intact.
I probably should have a word with myself about positives and upsides and making the most of things and not being dead yet. Even though she is.
She’d be telling me my birth story now – if she were here – about how it snowed and my dad nearly didn’t make it. Imagine if it snows tomorrow. I sort of think it’s bound to rain for my luck. I should have been at the hairdresser yesterday. We should have been staying in
Chester tomorrow. Some presents haven’t arrived because of Brexit. I half think everything is shit.
But I know it isn’t. We’re okay. We’re well. I have my boys. I have everything I need. It’s just another day. No big deal. I’m overthinking it. I’m going to bed.
5. Walking Away – Mike Hickman
Geoff knew that, when it happened, balloon-limbed or not, he would try to walk away. He’d known, in fact, even before November’s trip to A and E. Because, of course, he’d gone and turned his ankle over on the way to the job, hadn’t he? It was a two mile walk, mostly uphill, and he’d no money for the pauper’s chariot. So he’d stood at the bottom of the just-washed steps in the shopping centre and he’d stamped on his foot until the feeling had come back. With the exception of a bit of a chunder into the gutter, and the loss of a shoe that he’d later had to cut off his swollen foot, it had all worked out well enough. The others had led the fuzz a merry dance while Geoff had walked the other way with the goods to conceal at his leisure. All as planned. With added limp.
And then there was the last time he’d spoken to Debbie. He’d started walking even before ending the call. By the time he’d got home, it was half two in the morning and she’d already had a go at leaning on the others to get the charge withdrawn. She meant well – she always did, poor Debs – but she ought to have trusted him. This once, at least. For his part, he’d gone down for six months. The rest of the crew hadn’t been so fortunate.
And then there was last November. Two weeks into the new job his probation officer had landed him, and Geoff had treated himself to a Friday night bus home. He’d been standing on the curb when he’d been hit by the dizziness and the balloon arms.
He could have got on the bus, could have headed home, could have cut out the middle-man and gone straight to the hospital. He’d done none of those things. He’d batted away the concerned old dears, turned on the weakest of his heels, and started walking. Even in the middle of a coronary, he’d tried to walk away.
And then, when he’d later on ended up at A and E, he hadn’t been able to sit down. He’d paced around the vending machines and he’d circled the Costa Coffee in reception in the hope that – what? That he could walk away from himself? That he could escape his own skin?
Yeah. Exactly that. And it had worked, too. Just a mild one this time, the doctors said when he was eventually discharged. If he rested up, he’d be fine.
And he would be. Now the others had been sent down, it was just a matter of retracing the route he’d taken that night when he’d called in with the anonymous tip. He’d buried his stash in the rec. If there was any strength left in those balloon arms of his, he’d liberate his share. For Debbie. For everything he’d not been able to provide her all these years.
Only then would Geoff be ready to walk away.
Mike Hickman (@MikeHicWriter) is a writer from York, England. He has written for Off the Rock Productions (stage and audio), including 2018’s “Not So Funny Now” about Groucho Marx and Erin Fleming. He has recently been published in EllipsisZine, Dwelling Literary, Bandit Fiction, Nymphs, Flash Fiction Magazine, Brown Bag, and Safe and Sound Press. His co-written, completed six-part BBC radio sit com remains unproduced but available to interested producers!
6. Kindness Cache – Shweta Ravi
Into the void of her open wound, kindness seeps like time, doing more good than love has ever done. Entangled in spaces with people who are supposed to love her and the ones she was born to love, the heart feels at home until it doesn’t. While chasing milestones in love, she runs into kindness like a possibility or a parchment addressed to her, unremembered under a heap of musty leaves. Kindness is her secret jab of serotonin that she takes without telling anybody. She rides its curve in the reciprocated smile of a stranger, leans on lines penned with words of encouragement and perches on those elevations felt within when kindness whispers – your being matters. Being nice can be the nicest thing.
Love behind closed doors isn’t always a sobremesa, especially when love is ardently performing ‘the Hour of Judgement’- it was nice to have you born, but you weren’t needed enough, when you were growing up you weren’t achieving enough, if your past spills into tears you aren’t letting go enough, if your womb hasn’t delivered yet you aren’t holding enough, if you went down the cliff you didn’t have wings enough and now that you have been found alive, you just weren’t miserable enough!
When her love is a bleached jacket, compassion sews her a new sense of self-worth. In turn she wants to be kind to others, to treat them the way she wishes to be treated. Kindness makes her believe that the man with the toothless grin doesn’t have to be a crook, that the madness of the woman in the asylum is a manifestation of intense pain and in this price tagged world where even vials of happiness shall soon be available over the counter, often all one needs is shared time.
Love’s labour’s lost too insanely in expecting the entire universe to conspire when one wants something desperately. The universe must have more urgent matters to resolve, considering we are hundred seconds away from apocalypse on the Doomsday Clock. She finds more contentment in cosmic kindness, in the space and sun it spawns. She crawls up one ray of light each day to pluck herself half a ray of hope. Gratitude is goodness, perhaps all that the planet needs in this hour, to be handled with care what was manhandled in love.
In the continuum of love, kindness keeps her anchored. She strongly believes it has less cardiovascular consequences than love, agreeable or disagreeable. If she were to choose between love and kindness, she would keep love for stories and kindness for a lifetime.
Shweta Ravi is a writer and educationist, lured by both- the simple and the spell-binding. Her work mainly focuses on the intersection of ecology, culture and literature. Her pieces have appeared in Active Muse, cwwriters.org, Women’s Web and Ayaskala.
7. Eggcorn – Amy Barnes
I’ve forgotten my name. Again. Have you seen it? I look in the wanted ads to see if someone has found my name, perhaps lost in the park on a run or under a church pew or buried under a produce aisle cantaloupe. There are other missing things listed as found, a braided gold wedding ring with initials, dogs, cats, one shoe, a silver spoon, a bag of walnuts. They’re the odd things peoples’ lives are made of. As I search for my name, I see a neighbor with a missing finger band, another one holding a real leash to walk an imaginary dog, a mother winging baby food to a baby mouth on a spoonless airplane. I look down at my shirt and see only a name tag that says My name is
I write the alphabet inside the cloud-filled globe that is my head now after the accident. There are puppet animals peeking around cumulus and cirrus matter. They sponsor my day’s search with different letters but there’s no rhyme or reason in how they write chalk letters in my head, sing song the week day to me like a lullaby.
I want to see those letters out in real life, in architecture so I keep walking everyday. I find windows and doors that look like h’s and o’s and a’s. I look for my name in trees and high rises and roads and power lines with bird commas dividing each letter from the next.
I return home and turn on the box where sounds live. The game shows are the enemy, gaming against me, always winning people with first and last names and first money and last turns. I watch the named people for the letters they gift to me. Do you want to buy a vowel? Yes, please I scream at the screen just in case my name starts with a vowel.
When I can’t take the box people anymore, I turn to book people with sacred names. The most boring parts become the most interesting. The begats they are called. It’s a word that makes me laugh. I read the long lists of names and imagine those people forgetting their names too. Who could remember a name with that many syllables and a secret meaning that only g-d knows?
The stack of tiny people name books on my sleeping place table grows. I flip through pages for inspiration. The man who joins me wearing a not-lost silver band, the one with a name that rhymes with something and a last name that is mine too, reads mystery papers about mystery and names and rooms. I read books of mystery words. Blurred names. Not my name.
I dream of my name. In liquid lights against my liquid eyeballs. Of a newspaper column with lost names lined up waiting to be claimed. In the morning I call the paper and ask to place an ad. They ask for my name.
8. Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area – Steven Patchett
A brand of pasta in various sauces has a promotion for a video game. But only one of the flavours has it. I assume it’s because the mac and cheese is the sort of pasta that people who play video games would prefer. Quick, filling, familiar, safe. You’d never find it on the Tuscany sausage flavour. I have no idea if it actually tastes like Tuscany sausage. I’ve never eaten a sausage from Tuscany. I doubt I could find Tuscany on a map.
I add a couple of packets to the basket.
I check my phone again. It weighs heavy in my hand, cold, inert.
I’ve never liked tinned meat, I stare in horror at the stuff once it’s squeezed out of the tin. But I don’t have to defrost anything, so I don’t have to think about it. Time saved is time earned. A few more items added to the haul.
I check my phone again, just to be sure.
Cereal next. Her favourite has gone back up in price.
I had teased her about it, telling her it’s for kids, full of sugar, not good for her. As always I’d misjudged her mood, gone too far. I could see the weary look, the sparkle fade from her eyes. I told her I’d get some anyway, only teasing, didn’t mean it.
She nodded, but couldn’t look at me.
Bread, milk, apple juice.
A5 jotter, lined. These days she loves to write, scrawling words on the page as fast as she thinks them. Trying to squeeze all her thoughts out onto the page so they’ll be there forever. She doesn’t want me to read them.
Paracetamol, re-reading the notice telling me I can only buy two packs at a time. In my head, the words sound spiteful, full of denial. As if they know what I think when I listen to her tortured breathing at three in the morning.
The phone is starting to drag, like a millstone. I note the time. I’ve been gone longer than I’d intended. A sickening need is heavy in my stomach. I push it down where it tangles up in guilt.
I looked at her jotter a week ago. I won’t look again.
I prefer the self-service tills. No excuse to talk to anyone, until the assistant casually confirms that I’m old enough for the tablets.
My phone rings and I drop my shopping from nerveless hands.
The scanning machine is talking to me, but I can’t hear what it’s saying.
All I can do is stare at the flashing words on the phone.
Steven Patchett is an Engineer, Father and Writer, living and working in the North East of England. His Flash Fictions have been published in Ellipsis Zine, 100 Words of Solitude and The Cabinet of Heed. He can be found on Twitter, being encouraging @StevenPatchett7
9. It’s all about the boxes – Kinneson Lalor
It’s all about the boxes and the things inside and peanuts and seeds and the damp place in the middle of the page where my hand was wet from washing dishes and then I picked up the pen to write and it all came out and even though my wrist ached and my head felt like that sort of numb you feel when your toes are cold but your nose is warm but somehow it still runs in streams down your face and creeps into the crack of your collar. What even is starch? Starch. It seems so clean and beholden. Throbbing. There’s a cut on my palm only it’s not a cut, it’s some pinprick wound I don’t remember getting but think is probably from the thorns on the barberry when I was dismantling the Christmas centrepiece into the silver bin I thought I would use for chicken feed except coronavirus came then bird flu came and the chicken coop my boyfriend husband bought me for my birthday, the really expensive bright green plastic one that I justified environmentally somehow, all set up with tricks and treats since Halloween but completely empty, the avian flu-carrying wild bird shit collecting on the grass. But I’ll keep feeding them. They’re hungry and they’re pretty and I sort of love them and get heartbroken every time one of them breaks itself on my window. I wonder how Bret Easton Ellis is spending his pandemic. Weirdly, I assume. Strangely. I’ve never read any of his stuff but the spines are pretty, fading on my south-facing shelves. I’m not sure why I thought we’d have more plants than books. I guess I misjudged what sort of person I am. Why did I even want to be a plant person? I think it’s because they breathe. Yet I keep buying books and can’t give them away. Fucking pandemic.
Kinneson Lalor followed a PhD in Physics from the University of Cambridge with an MSt in Creative Writing from the same institution. She is Australian but has lived in the UK for over a decade. Her work has appeared in various places including The Mays and Tiny Molecules, and she writes a regular blog about sustainable gardening for edibles and wildlife.
10. Punctuations – Mandira Pattnaik
All I can think of now is punctuations. And interruptions, pauses, periods, truncations and interruptions.
We are outward bound again. We’re perennially moving out, in any case, infinitely agitated atoms. Only this time the boxes are stacked at the doorway.
When you take a call, and stroll out of the room, I invite the sunshine in. Don’t know why you always keep the curtains drawn.
A mynah sits on the window sill. At rest. Except its eyes. Flaps its wings twice and flies off, one last time, out of my sight.
Below, the cars hoot and belch. What a contrast from the countryside home you promised for sixteen years.
I close my eyes, imagine silence. I like the smell of soundlessness.
Towards the end of our fifth year, when I was at the University, I remember collecting lampshades. You hated the play of colored light, called it chaos. I thought it as comma, interruption, so when it all burst open, I’d be prepared.
I hear you shouting downstairs. Clash of syllables, pitches. Bass and pitch hitting the walls. Another something gone awry. There were so many over the past year. I’m waiting for the white light that holds all.
When you return, a huge exclamation mark calibrates your brows, you don’t elaborate.
We strap up on torn seats. The Fiat was the first thing we bought, the last thing we still own. The engine thrums steadily, loyal like a dog.
Ahead of us, the scenes flip and change. Strokes, semicolons, parentheses. Couples, stretchers, mothers with prams.
The unrest rages, the pandemic powers us out of our jobs, all I hear now are the ellipses.
Mandira Pattnaik (She/Her) writes in India. Work has appeared in print and online including in Lunate, Ilanot Review, EllipsisZine, Door=Jar, Cabinet of Heed and Trampset. Tweets @MandiraPattnaik
11. Figures on a beach – Colin Alcock
They didn’t see me, sat far back up the beach, on the sand bank, tucked into the marram grass. I’d first spied them from the cliff path, before descending the steep steps to sea level. Just two figures and a dog. It could have been anybody, out for an early morning summer stroll, but even before I knew it was them, I recognised Brutus, my dog.
Everyone had told me I was so lucky to attract such a young bride, when I was far more than simply mature. Twelve years between us; an unbelievable love that seemed unbreakable. And for many years it was. We blended as one. I, the artist, putting beautiful dreams onto canvas, when I could. Painting poetic scenes of Cornwall that filled the gift shop walls, for an income. Wandering coastline, fields and moors looking for inspiration. She, the writer, plucking emotive words from the sky, the trees, the waves that rolled into rugged shores, sandy bays and quiet harbours.
But, as I grew to a more crusty age, there were tourists who sought something more than my visual poetry. And sought Anna for more than just her words. I saw signs, yet tried to hide them from my mind. But always, they were there. I spoke my suspicions only to Brutus, my loyal companion. Soft furred, silly, always ready to play; ready to take my thoughts away from despondency. But Anna had changed; she took to walking Brutus, whereas before, she insisted he was my dog, my responsibility. Then, for two-week spells, in season, I would see the slight smile, the glint of her eyes, as she recalled a moment of the day, a thought of tomorrow. It was in her stories, too. Words that reflected cherished relationships. But I doubted ours. Those two weeks always ending with her taking Brutus for an early morning walk along the beach, on a Friday, sometimes Saturday. Changeover day. Saying her goodbye. Then, come winter, the fire between us seemed always rekindled.
Now, I have reached pensionable age and fit though I may seem, I lack the vitality, the virility she retained. This summer, I knew it to be different; two weeks long passed by. Brutus even more her constant companion. I was losing her. Completely. I was just wrong about how.
I watched them that day, unobserved. It could have been someone she only casually met, they stood so far apart, Anna tossing a stick into the oncoming tide, for Brutus to fetch. Then racing back, sea foam at her feet. He calling, laughing, then coming closer, walking with her, taking her hand, enfolding her. And then the kiss. Lingering. Loving. Brutus ignored, circling at their feet.
Today, distraught, I walk slowly from the Covid ward, having heard her last goodbye; having given her my forgiveness. Avoiding my own infection by taking that sudden, selfish break alone, after what I’d seen that day. Though never telling her why. Perhaps, though, it is him she is with, now.
12. Melancholy Roses (with apologies to Marc Almond) – Sheila Scott
Melancholy is part of the Scottish DNA. Why else would we choose a spirit that reduces you to tears as our national drink? Why else would we live in a country that, had Noah lived here, would have resulted in an armada of arks (‘That’s gotta be it this time, Naamah. I’ll be in the shed making a big fuck-off freighter if you need me.’).
For crying out loud even our flag is blue.
I think that’s why we do dusk so well. Skeletal trees watch, inert, as the pallid rainbow (yes, even our skies are peely wally) seeps into the horizon.
MS Word thinks ‘peely wally’ is incorrectly spelt but has no alternative to offer. MS Word is often prone to fits of what frankly feels like anti-Scottish vocabulary-based discrimination. Indeed, often I am to be found at my keyboard, hair knotted with irritation, screaming ‘outwith IS a word you piece of hegemonous shit!’
‘Hegemonous’ has also just been granted the red squiggle of judgement. And ‘often’ the blue double underline indicating that, once again, Word wishes to impose a comma where none should be. This is my consciousness, pal, and I’ll decide what’s a word and what isn’t, and exactly where you can stick your fecking commas.
My stream of consciousness has just been distracted by something of a meta-quandary. Has the burning question of whether to eat the last Roses chocolate now (Hazel in Caramel as you ask) taken me out of said stream or is it, in fact, just another random artefact bobbing along on the waters of my inner monologue?
There follows a brief hiatus to resolve the sweetie conundrum by quashing its existential reality and putting the wrapper in the wastepaper basket. A tidy desk is a tidy mind, allegedly. It seems my desk perfectly reflects my mind: a pile of partly read books, nick-nacks (okay so we’re going to fight about this spelling too are we, Word?) including a NYC snow-globe, knitted plane, tiny painting on an easel, astronaut (not life-size), a windmill in a flower pot, bike-clock, felt squirrel with a walnut, two toy cars, a small wooden clown missing one foot and, doggedly fighting its turf in the middle, my laptop.
The horizon has finally absorbed the rainbow and we now have a blank indigo backdrop beyond the window.
It’s been a week of mixed news and the scales are tipping in favour of the negative. I think that’s why I’m dwelling on the Scottish predisposition to despondency. Probably our saving grace is that it’s nearly always leavened with the strong belief a) it could be worse and b) for many it is. Whilst this may not appear immediately obvious as a measure of optimism, it helps us look outward, dragging our forensic gaze towards the bigger picture.
It now feels foolish to dress a bout of navel-gazing as a national trait. Think I’ll have a rummage in the sweet bowl; there may just be a Roses Truffle left…
13. Ten past Ten – Bronwen Griffiths
It could be ten past ten or ten minutes to two. I am not sure which time I might prefer, or even if it is morning or night. At ten past ten I might be watching the evening news or, if it were morning, working on the computer whereas at ten minutes before two I would be digesting my lunch time sandwich or, if it were two at night, dreaming of strange houses. In any case, now that I look at my watch again, it reads ten fifteen or ten to three, though probably that will make little difference either to my sleep or my digestion and when I check again and realise that it is indeed night-time I wonder if I might try to sleep but though my eyes are heavy I do not think my mind will let me sleep just yet because it is restless like a stone at the ocean’s edge, continually rolling back and forth and knocking against other stones. But sleep does arrive, perhaps at four or five, and I dream of fast cycling and a kiss on the lips and indeed as I often do I dream of strange houses and all the while the rain beats on the window and the world turns towards the morning and then it is ten past ten and ten minutes to two and so on it goes.
Bronwen Griffiths is the author of two novels and two collections of flash fiction and her flash fiction has been widely published. She lives in East Sussex and when not writing likes to draw cacti, fish and stones.
14. Not You, But Me – Kimiko Wadriski Lumsden
What if I have nothing more to say? Nothing to add to the noise more than what I’ve already done? Or what if I’m totally silent again, afraid to make a mistake more than I am of never speaking up? Can that happen – the life be sucked right out of you without ever realizing it’s being done until you’re dead.
But when I say you, I mean me. I always do. Put that distance between my writing and myself. Keep it closed away, just out of reach so it’s not really me. (But it is, you see.) It’s the way that I can just keep saying the same lines in different styles, trying to find new ways for an old phrase. Another time, another time. I have tomorrow or tomorrow’s tomorrow. Push it back to the next day. Something is urgent, but never my own desires.
It’s the baby crying, the kid whining, the house is on fire. The smoke from a burnt dinner, the never-ending laundry piles, dumped and stacked on the bed, making mountains of fabric turning mountains out of molehills. Every tiny problem, I help it grow. Ignore it until I can’t anymore. Then when it’s time, finally, to do something about it. Well, then I’m paralyzed – fight or flight wasn’t my fortune, I freeze.
Immobilized, I wait for the moment to pass so I can carry on with procrastinating and endless self-doubting, the debate between me and my brain about who wins this round and who relegates. I can destroy myself through inaction. Wouldn’t that be productive? So, it turns out I am accomplished. Take that!
Regardless, I feel that I run in circles in my head, in my words. Are you getting bored of me yet? I am. It’s like I have to watch the same stilted pilot over and over, knowing that the first episode is just a trial run, a practice. Let’s skip ahead already, see where this show takes us. What else can I do but press fast-forward. I’m so tired of hearing the same old, same old. I KNOW.
I sit in my own feelings and thoughts rather than write them down, paper to pen. Fingers to keyboard, click-clacking away at what’s trapped inside this gray matter.
Maybe that’s why they keep coming back – those phrases – like a recurring dream, meant to tell you something, teach you a thing or two about whatever is bothering you. And again, with the you. Come on kid, when’ll you ever learn. I have to do better at this.
I wonder if I’m manic again or if I’ve always been teetering on that spectrum because I have these conversations with myself, I haven’t had quiet in my brain since (well when was it?) But even then, I’m sure the gears were turning. There is forever that urge for me to write down what I’m thinking. Will I always be trapped if I don’t get them out – write them down!
I’m feeling much better now.