Sevy – Sara Mullen

For Eden

Hazefallen evening,
the window wound down.

Beyond reeling hedgerows
the fields race

flyawayhome
skies

while darkening trees
wave lornful bye byes

and, little one,
you trail your song,

a cotton thread
on the breeze.

Bye bye –
dusk gorges gold,

the road rolls on
and you,

you trail your little ghost song
who knows where.

 

Image via Pixabay

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

Orationis (Or a rosary of stars) – Tudor Licurici

Infinite, Eternal Cosmos, let not the fevered ardors of our passions by nihility’s oblivion be eaten and annulled, but keep them in your sacred reliquaries of twilight memory to be stored for all aeons that our souls may rejoice in them once more when the fragile recollection of past worlds befalls them. Let the aethers collect all dreams of prime youth gilded by maternal embraces that soothe the souls of infants. Let the nebulae consume all kisses and whispers of the ages’ lovers that they may resonate once more through the worlds’ sundowns. May they live on in the glimmers of nightskies and enrapture the lovers to be. Let not the tears of our departures dry utterly, but keep them humid in the sprays of spring rainfalls, that they may not have been a vain weeping but a communion with the sorrow of the stars. Let not the overflowing joy of our births and the immense grief of our deaths become extinct with the years, but hold them in the memory of stellar fires that they may glare atop the worlds forever. Let not the innocent joys of our childhood ever wither, but hold them in doting grip like you hold the dreams of angels.

Image via Pixabay 

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

Blueberry Muffins – Steven John

Dymphna lived with her mother in three damp, square rooms above Greasy Joe’s truck stop on the drainpipe road out of a nondescript town, the name of which mattered only to those that lived there. Greasy Joe himself, Dymphna’s father, had keeled over from his lardaceous arteries when she was twelve, and her mother had been bitter about it ever since.

From a mouth like a squeezed lemon her mother would say, “Your father fucked off and left us nothing but his arse to wipe.”

“Father didn’t fuck off Mum, he died.”

“Well that was convenient for him wasn’t it? Got him out of frying eggs for the rest of his puff,” Dymphna’s mother would say.

The red neon Greasy Joe’s sign pulsed like a bleeding heart into Dymphna’s bedroom. Her mother gave her Saturday night and Sundays off. A night and a day away from the water boiler where she made mugs of tea and coffee for fifteen hours straight. The day Dymphna had left school at sixteen her mother had said,

“You’re on drinks. I’ll do the frying,” and that was that.

There were Saturday nights, in front of her bedroom mirror, when Dymphna thought she was pretty enough. She blow-dried her long silky black hair and fluttered her eyelids at herself. There were other Saturday nights when she thought she was a flat-chested bag of bones that stank of streaky bacon. Either way her boyfriend Eddie would pick her up Saturdays, in his articulated truck, for the overnight haul to London.

After three hours on the road Eddie pulled into their usual layby and Dymphna ran over the carriageway for McDonalds and Cokes. Whilst she was gone Eddie pulled the curtains across the windscreen and laid out the blankets on the single bunk behind the wheel. When Dymphna climbed back up the steps to the cab Eddie poured two large plastic tumblers of rum and Dymphna emptied in the coke. Whilst they ate their cheeseburgers and drank their rum and cokes Eddie watched video of extreme fishing.

Dymphna rested her head on Eddie’s shoulder.

“Well this is nice Eddie, just you and me,” she said.

“You made me miss a good bit. He was on a monster fish” Eddie said and rewound.

At bedtime Eddie and Dymphna stripped off to their underwear and got under the blankets. Dymphna had in the past tried some experimentation with their love-making but there wasn’t sufficient headroom for anything that different. Eddie said that it seemed like a lot of huffing and puffing for nothing much anyway.

At five in the morning Dymphna woke to the cough of the truck’s engine and Eddie taking a piss on the front wheels. She pulled on her clothes, used the McDonald’s toilets and brought back coffee and blueberry muffins.

Whilst Eddie supervised the unload she redid her make-up in the sun visor mirror and never left the womb of the cab. On the return journey Dymphna talked about her dream to own a café by the seaside. Eddie said that was fine by him as long as he could go fishing.

“Maybe I could sell fresh fish from a corner of the café,” he said.

“And I would sell my homemade muffins,” said Dymphna.

Late on Sunday night Eddie dropped her back outside Greasy Joe’s.

“Same again next week?” he said, without stopping the engine, or taking his hand from the wheel. Dymphna leaned over and kissed him on the mouth.

Back upstairs in their damp rooms her mother lay hugging a cigarette on the sofa. She didn’t say hello or take her eyes from the TV screen.

“Had a good day Mum?” Dymphna asked.

“I changed the oil in the fryers,” she said, “whilst you’ve been out enjoying yourself.”

 

STEVEN JOHN lives in The Cotswolds, UK, where he writes short stories and poetry. He’s had work published in pamphlets and online magazines including Riggwelter, Bangor Literary Review, Fictive Dream, Cabinet of Heed and Former Cactus. He has won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a record six times and was highly commended in 2018 ‘To Hull and Back’ competition.Steve has read at Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Stroud Short Stories, Flasher’s Club and The Writer’s Room on Corinium Radio.  Twitter: @StevenJohnWrite

Image via Pixabay

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

Kings Cross Examination – Dan Brotzel

Let us turn now to the evening of the 21st. An unusually hot Friday, even for July, as we have heard. At about 5.45pm you boarded a tube train to take you home, is that correct, Mr B?

Yes.

What route did you take? 

It was the Piccadilly line, heading north. I got on at Oxford Circus, then got off at Finsbury Park to get the Victoria line. 

Indeed. And it was at Oxford Circus that an incident took place. Do you remember coming into contact with a gentleman – Mr Jarvis, here – as he attempted to alight from the train?

There may have been a brief coming together. The train was very crowded.

Quite so, quite so! But you weren’t actually on the train at the point, were you? Or you were not supposed to be, at least. 

I’d stood to the side to let people off. I guess the momentum of the crowd carried me forward on to the train. It was hard to see if there were people still getting off. 

I see. Are you in the habit of being swept along by the momentum of the crowd?

Well, there are times when-

Have you, for instance, ever been swept under the wheels of an oncoming train by the hordes on a crowded tube platform?

Well. I mean, I hardly think-

Answer the question, please, Mr B.

I haven’t, no.

Are you aware of the protocols concerning the egress and ingress of passengers on tube trains, protocols which have of course especial sway and application at times of high peak use?

‘Please let passengers off the train first.’

Quite so, quite so. And yet you did the exact opposite…

As I’ve tried to explain-

-Leaving poor Mr Jarvis to have to fight his way out of the carriage, in order not to be stuck on the train and carried forth to another stop not his own!!

I regret this. But he did actually shove me quite roughly. 

He had to get off, Mr B! He had a gym appointment in Regent Street for 8.30! That muscle tissue won’t tear itself you know! 

I know. I’m very sorry. But I was in the way by accident. Whereas he pushed me on purpose.

And then what happened?

He stalked off.

Understandable, perhaps? And how did you feel?

I was upset. I was partly riled about having been shoved so roughly, and partly guilty at not being able to apologise. But of course, he never gave me a chance to explain, which was the worst feeling of all. 

Oh dear! Poor Mr B! Let us turn now to the morning of June 27thand to the testimony of Ms Pierce here. (And thank you so much for coming in to testify today, Ms Pierce, I now it’s not easy, the courts are not as accessible as one might wish.) So… at approximately 7.55am, you had boarded a train on the Piccadilly line, heading south.

That’s right. I was going to work.  

You were very comfortably ensconced in your seat, were you not?

No, I couldn’t get a seat at first.

That was a shame, wasn’t it, Mr B? I bet you were looking forward to getting stuck into your book. 

Well, it’s always nice to be able to sit down. That line gets very crowded in the mornings. 

Yes, of course. And you’ll stop at nothing to get a seat, will you, Mr B? And you’ll cling on to it at any price, won’t you? 

Well, I don’t think that’s entirely fair.

Let us see. Tell us what happened just after Kings Cross.

Someone stood up and gave their seat away. Only seconds after the train had left the station. 

Was that unusual? 

It was unheard of! I thought it must be a tourist, or someone very unfamiliar with the line who was nervous about missing their stop. They had a sort of fluorescent rucksack on, and a general air of panicky purposefulness. 

Any other thoughts?

Well. I did wonder if they’d spilt coffee on the seat or something. Or if they were incontinent.

Charming! But none of that worried you, did it, Mr B? What did you do next? 

I sat down. 

You pounced on the seat. Like a vulture.

Well I think I was technically nearest at the time.  

So no one else was interested in the seat at the time?

Well, there was a woman…

What sort of age?

About my age.

Did she make a move towards the seat?

I’m not sure. 

You didn’t think to give up your chance of a seat up for the lady?

I did think about it.

But you didn’t do it.

No.

What reasons did you come up with, in your own mind, to excuse yourself for your failure to extend this basic kindness to a lady in need a seat? 

I remember telling myself that women find that sort of thing patronising now. Equality between men and women makes a farce of all that old-fashioned chivalry stuff. Same as how they don’t like to be called ‘girls’ any more (or ‘ladies’ probably.) Also, I thought she was the sort of age where the offer of a seat would have been more upsetting than complimentary. Also, my back’s quite bad at the moment. And anyway, it’s dog-eat-dog on the Tube. 

I see. You went through all these reasons while you were in the process of sitting down?

Yes.

And did any of these excuses, these self-justifications, make you feel any less guilty?  

Not really. But I was also thinking of that time I stood up for a woman with a loose-fitting top on. She snarled: ‘Why does everyone keep offering me a seat? Do I look fucking pregnant or something?’ She did, of course. 

I see. But still – to return to the present case – you sat on.

My back does twinge a bit. 

More self-justifications, I see.

I’ve started doing pilates! Just once a week, but it does seem to be helping. It’s all about working on your core. 

Let’s stick to the case at hand. How many others were standing by the time the train neared Kings Cross?

About 7 or 8. 

But not you, of course. You were set up for the journey with your hard-won seat.

As I say, I think I was nearest. 

And then someone got on at Kings Cross that changed things. Or should have, perhaps.

You mean the blind woman. And her guide dog.

Quite so, Mr B. What did she look like? 

If I recall correctly, she wore a bright orange top and jangly earrings. They reminded me of the comedy Christmas tree ones my mum always wears. At Christmas. The woman’s eyes sort of fluttered. And the expression on her face was open, smiley.

So what happened next?

Nothing. She just stood there with all the other people standing.

A blind woman? Left to stand in the vestibule?

I know. But it was quite clear who should have stood up for her. 

Who?

The person in the nearest seat. The protocol is well-established. 

And who was that?

A teenage girl.

I see. And what did she do?

Nothing! She was oblivious, self-involved, headphones on, possibly asleep. Possibly foreign.  

So what did everyone else in the carriage do?

Well, we all sent out our strongest guilt-glares, of course we did. But the girl seemed to be immune to them. 

I see. So naturally, someone else stood up to offer the blind woman a seat?

Actually, no one made a move. It was all a bit tense. 

And where were you seated in relation to all this?

I was sitting opposite the teenage girl. 

So who was on the hook now, morally speaking, if the teenage girl was oblivious? Was it you?

No! I’d say it was the man sitting next to the teenage girl. A sort of bearded, geeky type, all wired up and immersed in his game of Minesweeper. Or the second season of I, Robot, I don’t know. 

You couldn’t actually see what was on his screen, could you?

No.

Have you ever actually payed Minesweeper? Do you even know what it is? 

Not really, no. 

More casual prejudice, I see. Anyway, did you all start sending guilt-glares this man’s way too?

Of course! It was getting embarrassing by now. The whole system was breaking down.  

And what did this ‘geeky type’ do? Did the guilt-glares get to him?

No! He just sort of… retreated into his beard.  

You didn’t like his beard, did you?

No, if I’m honest. 

Do you wear a beard yourself sometimes?

Yes.

And how do you feel about your beard?

I don’t like it much either. 

I see. Are you, by the way, in the habit of describing teenagers as ‘self-involved’?

Er… yes.

And people with beards as geeks?

Yes.

I see. Meanwhile, back in the carriage, the blind woman still didn’t have a seat. 

No. I did send out a few more random guilt-glares of my own, but they come to nothing.

So perhaps it was down to you now, Mr B, as the only seated person apparently aware of the situation, to make a stand – quite literally – for common decency? 

In retrospect, yes. I fully accept that I should have got up at this point. 

So you stood?

Er, no. 

You carried on sitting.

Yes. I’m not proud of this. 

And how did you justify this to yourself at the time?

Well, I was still waking up really. But I did wonder if the blind woman had already told someone that she was happier standing. I started to imagine in fact that I’d heard her tell someone this. Also, I thought that it might have been awkward for her and her dog to make their way across to my seat.

What was the distance between the blind woman and your seat?

Ooh, six or eight feet at least.

I see. And of course, you still had your book to read. 

Well, yes. I suppose so. But the atmosphere was almost a bit too awkward for reading by now. 

Still, it would have been a shame to have to lose that hard-earned seat.

I’m not proud of myself. 

Remind us, for the benefit of the court, what sort of book you were reading?

It was an account of the genocide in Rwanda.

I see. Let us fast-forward now to Warren Street, and a new development occurred. What happened? 

The seat next to me came free. 

I see. And then?

This woman with cropped blond hair and a stern expression made a big point of leading the blind woman over to this seat so she could sit down. It was a foldie, I recall. 

And what did you do? 

At that point I leapt up so the blind woman could have my seat instead, which was actually slightly easier to access than the one that had just come free. 

So you were shamed into action at last.

I suppose you could say that. We helped the blind woman to sit down, and then I offered the woman with the stern expression the free seat next to the blind woman. 

Your seat.

Yes.

And what did the woman with the cropped expression do?

She said: ‘No thanks.’ And then she said, louder and more pointed, for the benefit of me but taking in the whole carriage: ‘And frankly I’m astonished.’ I noticed a hint of Liverpudlian in her stern accent. 

I see… Stern face, stern accent: did you want to use the word ‘Scouse’ just then?

It did occur to me but I wasn’t sure if it was OK to use it. Especially if you’re not, er, Scouse.

Such delicacy! Such sensitivity! Mind you, even the guards in the camps read Goethe. So let’s recap: you have shown yourself to be callously spineless and morally bankrupt. Your offer of assistance is rightly dismissed as ‘too little, too late’ by your righteously stern fellow passenger. So now what do you do?   

Well, there was nothing for it but to sit down again. 

Back to your fascinating book about genocide?

I couldn’t read! The words swam before my eyes. I felt that people were looking at me. I didn’t want my stupid seat. It was a relief to get off in the end.  

This was at Victoria.

Yes.

Where you were about to mount the escalator… 

Correct.

…Only to look up and see the woman with the stern expression staring down in your direction.

Yes. I hadn’t realised she’d got off at the same stop. I could see she was still talking about the incident with someone. And from the set of her chin and her tautened lips, she was obviously still seething about it. 

Oh dear Mr B! Not what you wanted at all, I imagine! 

No! Plus I had on these light blue trousers paired with tan shoes. I was a bit stuck for clothes that morning, and my outfit suddenly seemed ludicrously conspicuous. Everything a shade too bright to be plausible.

Yes, I remember. It’s one of our worst, isn’t it? You must have been terrified she’d spot you.

Terrified.

And did she?

You know she did. You’re me, remember.

So what did you do?

I hung back, slinking around by the bottom of the escalator.

How did you feel?

I was burning with shame, obviously.

I see. And what did she do?

Oh, she just carried on glaring down at me. 

From her ever-ascending moral high ground.

Yes. 

Serve you right, perhaps, Mr B?

But I didn’t see the blind woman! It wasn’t down to me to stand up in the first place! Of course I would have got up if I’d realised! I was half-asleep! My back! Pilates! Don’t single me out – look at my track record! Look at all the other fucks who did nothing! And these people never give you a right of reply! Most of my mental life is spent fighting these imaginary court cases! 

The self-prosecution never rests, m’lud.

 

Image via Pixabay 

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

Creep – Gale Acuff

When Sunday School is over, Miss Hooker
slips her Bible and her teacher’s copy
of our workbook into her purple purse
and walks out to the parking lot with me

following–I always hang around so
I can open her car door for her
and she always says Such a gentleman
thank you. I try not to watch her legs
when she gets in. I don’t know why I don’t
–I look somewhere else for those few seconds,
at her front tire, maybe, or at the sky
unless the sun’s too bright and even then
I squint. That’s the way my eye makes a cloud.
I look at her again when I hear her
pull the door shut. Next she’s putting on her
seat belt and shoulder harness in case
she has a wreck, of course, driving home, God

forbid. If I were grown I’d carry her
there in my arms every step of the way
and I’d like to tell her so and one day
maybe I just will. I’ll pray about that
again tonight, right after I whisper
the Lord’s Prayer in the darkness, and beg
that God protect everyone I love
–it’s natural then to slide right into

praying for Miss Hooker and wondering
what it’s like in her bedroom at night, not
that I’d ever go there. She’s not married
so I guess she sleeps alone, except for
a cat or dog, or maybe both, maybe
one on either side of her. Her lamp is on
and she’s reading a magazine, something
about clothes or hair or shoes or makeup.
Sometimes I think I can even hear her
yawn. Then she says Good night to the cat or
dog, or maybe both, and turns out the light,
and sleeps and dreams, maybe of marriage
and babies. Or both. I’d like to creep in

without waking the cat and dog and her,
and sleep there at her feet and when she wakes
and yawns again and opens her eyes and
makes me out, I wonder what she’ll say and

what I’ll say back to her. Oh, I’m sorry,
I’ll try, but the front door wasn’t closed and
you should probably be more careful–begging
your pardon–and I was just passing by
and noticed and thought I’d come in to tell
you and not ring your doorbell instead in
case there was a burglar with a knife at
your throat. Or gun. And then I came back here
to check on you and suddenly I felt
very sleepy and here I am, and there
you are, ha ha. She’s so grateful that she
gets up (I’ve got my eyes closed and face buried

in the quilt) and makes us breakfast and then
it’s time for me to walk to school, so we
stand at her door and she gives me her hand
and I shake it and I’d like to kiss it
but I have manners and don’t pump too hard.

On my way home from school I stop back by
to check her again. She serves me a snack
and before I split I drop to one knee
which means she has to bend over to me
so maybe that isn’t gentlemanly
and propose. That’s when I wake on Monday

morning, cold and hungry and stupid but
loving Miss Hooker as much as ever,
praise the Lord. Next Sunday I’ll walk her to
her car again and open her door and
she’ll get in and this time I’ll look at her
legs as she gets in but look first to see
if she’s looking at me looking and if
she is I’ll die and if she’s not I’ll burn.

 

GALE ACUFF has had poetry published in many journals and has authored three books of poetry. He has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.

Image via Pixabay

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

 

Orangelip – Adam Kelly Morton

Jeff is the only guy I know who truly appreciates dinky cars. My favorite is a navy-blue Hot-Wheeler Ford Mustang that goes super fast on the plastic racetracks that we have laid out all over his basement floor. It smells like oil down here, but it adds to the experience. Jeff has a Matchboxer fire truck that goes pretty fast too, but it doesn’t go around the loop-the-loop as fast as my Mustang. He loves fire trucks though, and his has a moveable yellow ladder on it that’s pretty fucking cool.

Jeff asks me, “Why don’t you let me use your Mustang this time around?”

“No,” I say. “You’ve got your fire truck. Stick with that, Orangelip.” I call him Orangelip because Jeff always has Tang residue on his upper lip. My mom was the one who first called him that. She has funny mean names for all the neighborhood kids.

Jeff looks down at his fire truck and rolls it around in his hand. “I never get to use anything that wins,” he says. “I never get to win.”

“Well, that’s just too bad for you, Orangelip,” I say. “A loser is a loser.”

After a while, we go upstairs to the kitchen for lunch. Jeff’s mom’s blonde hair is usually done up in pretty curls, and she always wears makeup and light-colored clothes. Now, she’s just wearing an old, beige bathrobe that has brown stains on it. She’s barefoot, has hairy ankles, and her face and hair aren’t done up at all. She stands behind the counter and scrapes a thin layer of Skippy onto a piece of white bread, then covers it with another piece and puts it on a plate. Then she gives us couple of plastic cups of water and a container of Tang, and walks out without putting anything away.

“Why is your mom so quiet?” I say, as Jeff starts spooning Tang into his cup.

“I dunno,” Jeff says.

“Your parents getting divorced or something?” My parents are divorced, so I feel bold about asking.

“No,” Jeff says, with his mouth full of sandwich. He takes a gulp of Tang to wash it down. I take a heaping tablespoonful of Tang for my water. We never get tasty shit like this at home. “But he lost a bunch of money,” Jeff continues. “The bank called my mom the other day and-”

Jeff’s mom appears in the kitchen doorway. “Eat your sandwich!” she says. Jeffrey looks up at her, then down at his plate. She keeps standing there, staring sometimes at us, sometimes at the kitchen stove as we eat in silence. Afterwards, we go back downstairs, put our dinky cars and racetracks away and go out. It’s too quiet at Jeff’s house. He should get a dog or something. We have a dog named Daisy. She’s fun, even though she licks herself all the time.

Jeff’s backyard has wooden, vertical fence on two sides and high, chain-link fence at the back. Beyond is a field full of trees and wild brush that’s called the Dead End. It’s at the edge of Foster Park, and I’m not allowed to go in there. But there’s a hole in the side fence that we can pass through into the neighbors’ yard, and from there it’s easy to slip through a gap in the fence and into the field. Jeff takes a look back at the house to make sure his mom isn’t watching as we go.

The week before, we’d explored a bit, and found a dead cat. It had grey, tabby fur and its eyes were green, and glazed open. Bugs were crawling and flies were buzzing all over it. Neither of us knew what it had died of. We decide to go find it again.

“Jeff,” I say. “What does your dad do?”

“I dunno,” he says. “Sales or something. But he’s not home as much as he was before. Now he doesn’t get home until after I’m in bed.”

It’s weird to me that Jeff doesn’t know what his dad does for a living. My dad is a textile dyer, and Jacques is a mailman with Canada Post. Mom’s a homemaker, like Jeff’s mom–only my mom is a much better cook.

We find the cat. Its carcass is flattened, and it seems to be just fur—a cat-shaped mat. There are a few tiny, white worms wiggling around on its surface.

“Touch it, Orangelip,” I say to him.

“You’re crazy,” he says. “I’ll get worms all over me.”

Jeff picks up a stick and starts prodding the dead cat. He digs the stick underneath the cat and starts lifting it up.

“I’m gonna throw it at you,” he says.

I back away from him. Jeff is walking towards me with the stiff cat out in front of him on the stick when he stumbles on a tree root. The cat falls off the stick and lands on Jeff’s left foot. He screams and jumps up in the air. The whole underside of the cat is covered with maggots, and a bunch of them get onto and in his shoe, which he yanks off. Jeff is screaming and has tears in his eyes.

We run from the Dead End back toward Jeff’s.  When we get to his backyard I look up. Jeff’s mother is there and staring out the window. She probably heard Jeff’s hollering. Now, if it had been my mom, I knew I would be in trouble right away. She would know that I had done something bad. But I realize that we are going to be okay, because Jeff’s mom isn’t looking at us. She’s just staring out into the field.

Back inside, we play dinky cars some more. We stay downstairs, and Jeff’s mom stays upstairs. When it’s time for me to go home for supper, Jeff opens the garage door and I leave.

“See you later, Orangelip,” I say.

As I’m walking back, I see Jeff’s dad coming down Harmony Street in his rusty, brown Plymouth Reliant. I wave hello, but he drives right past me.

I get home and me, my mom, and Jacques eat spaghetti with meat sauce and Caesar salad for dinner. We’re in the kitchen and The City at Six is on our black and white kitchen TV. Daisy is eating kibbles out of her bowl.

“What do you suppose Jeff eats for dinner?” I ask my mom.

“Orangelip?” she says. “Tang, probably.”

After dinner, I do some homework, then watch a bit of hockey in French with Jacques, brush my teeth and go to bed. While Mom’s tucking me in, I come really close to telling her about the dead cat, but there’s no way I can do it without mentioning the Dead End. She would just know.

It’s later on that night that I wake up to police sirens. Through my bedroom window overlooking the driveway, I can hear Mrs. Andrews from next door talking to my mom on the front lawn. My clock says 1:20am.  I kneel on my bed, pull back the blind and look out through the window screen. It’s a warm night.

Jacques and my mom are out there with Mrs. Andrews. Our French neighbors from across the street are out there too, standing in their lit doorway. Suddenly, a couple of police cars rush by with their flashers on.

“I’ll go see,” Jacques says to my mom.  He starts walking down the hill. I see dozens of red and blue lights dancing on the houses where the street turns west toward Foster.

Mom sees me, and comes back into the house. I hear her walk up the stairs and through the hall to my room. She opens my door. Daisy runs in and jumps up on the bed. I pet her while still kneeling. She starts licking herself.

“What’s going on?” I say.

“Something,” Mom says. She puts her arm around me, and we stare out the window together.

Every few minutes there’s another police car, or special police van that goes by—then a couple of news trucks from CTV and CBC. People from the neighborhood are walking down the street to see what’s going on.

My mom and I are still awake when Jacques comes back. The three of us are in my room. “It’s at the Moodys,” he says.

“Is their house on fire?” I say.

“No,” says Jacques. “Go to sleep, Alan. We’ll talk in the morning.

“But, I want to know if—”

“Alan,” my mom says. “You’re safe. You go to sleep now. Do you want Daisy to stay with you?”

“Okay,” I say. Mom and Jacques leave, keeping my door ajar for Daisy to go out if she wants to.

I lie there for a while, thinking about Jeff’s house on fire. It probably started from the oil smell in the basement.

In the morning, Mom is sitting on my bed beside me. She is stroking my hair. “You up?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I say.

“Come into the kitchen.”

Jacques is already there. “Sit down, Alan,” he says. I do.

Then he tells me what’s happened.

It doesn’t make sense. Jeff’s dad did something horrible, first to Mrs. Moody, then to Jeff, then to himself in the garage, and that I’d never see any of them again because they were all dead.

“Are you okay, Alan?” Mom says.

I don’t say anything. I just start to sort of shiver and cry. Mom and Jacques hug me and tell me it’s going to be okay, and that I’m safe.

But all I can think about is not being able to play dinky cars with Jeff anymore, and that it’s really too bad.

Orangelip would have loved to see real fire trucks in front of his house.

 

ADAM KELLY MORTON is a Montreal-based husband, father (four kids, all under-six), acting teacher, board gamer, filmmaker, and writer. He has been published in (mac)ro(mic), Soft Cartel, Spadina Literary Review, Black Dog Review, Fictive Dream, The Fiction Pool, Open Pen London, Talking Soup, and Menda City Review, among others. He has an upcoming piece in A Wild and Precious Life, an addiction anthology to be published in London, UK. He is the editor-in-chief of the Bloody Key Society Periodical literary magazine.

Image via Pixabay

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

Movie Night – Brian Wilson

On the night my dead son showed up at the front door I was about to watch a movie. His face was grey and there were dozens of holes in his skin the size of bottle caps. The least I could do was let him inside, given everything that had transpired between us while he was alive.

My dead son took a seat in the living room. He stank to high heaven. I made some comment about it being stuffy and opened a window. “You’ll be thirsty,” I mumbled, and went into the kitchen to fetch him something, nervous about leaving him alone but glad to be removed from the smell. I tried to remember what sorts of things he liked to drink. At a loss, I boiled the kettle.

He was standing next to the mahogany liquor cabinet when I returned, peering in through the smudged glass. I wondered if he could see his reflection, and if so, what he thought about it. Steam rose from the mug in my hand.

“Got rid of it all as soon as…” I started, trailing off. His neck was covered in purple bruises, blooming around his throat. “I’ve been doing better.”

I placed the mug on the table in the centre of the room and sat down in the armchair opposite the television. My dead son lay on the sofa.

“I wish you hadn’t worn that,” I said, gesturing towards his hoodie. It was the same black hoodie he was wearing when I found him hanging in the garden, his body twisting in the breeze like a bloated piñata. “Maybe you don’t have a choice.” Then, realising: “It’s what I deserve, I suppose.”

An uncomfortable silence descended. “How have you been?” I asked.

“I’m here to kill you,” he said, matter-of-factly. His voice was rougher than before, as though his larynx was lined with sandpaper.

“You are?”

His arm cracked as it rose, and when his finger unfurled it was pointed at the empty liquor cabinet.

“I was in a bad place. I never should have taken it out on you.”

The holes in his flesh gaped like parched mouths.

“There is no other way,” he said.

“If I had known what you would do…”

“There is no other way,” he repeated.

Silence resumed. I noticed he was staring at the television screen, frozen mid-picture, and I was struck by a ridiculous thought: that my dead son had come back to watch a movie. When he was alive, movies were the one thing we bonded over. After his mother left us they became a necessary distraction. Every Friday night he would select a DVD from the rack, pop it into the player and then join me on the sofa. We didn’t say much on these nights – the movies did most of the talking. Usually I could tell what kind of a week he’d had at school based on whatever he picked. As much as I loved this ritual, it wasn’t enough to buoy me during the six remaining nights of the week. But no matter how bad my drinking got, I never laid a finger on him during movie night.

Without saying anything, I lifted the DVD remote and pressed play. Within seconds we were back in that familiar bubble, sharing the only thing we ever really learned how to share. It was a movie we had watched together a few times before. Time passed in a haze.

I paused the movie about halfway through.

“Will it hurt?” I asked. My dead son said nothing. A couple minutes later we went back to watching the movie. Near the end, I paused the movie again. He glanced at me as if to say: what gives?

“I know it’s too late,” I said. “I know that whatever I say now is meaningless. But I’m sorry. I wish you could know how sorry I am.”

I looked into his eyes for the first time since he arrived. They were cloudy. They had the same look tea gets when you add a drop of milk. I saw him through the rot then, my son; that fearless young man who sat on my knee when he was a boy and asked why some movies have colour and some do not.

The remainder of the movie withered away, and when it was over we went out into the garden and he took from me what I could never give back.

 

BRIAN WILSON is a writer from Northern Ireland. He recently won the STORGY Shallow Creek short story competition. He likes to tweet from @bwilson4815

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Cabinet Of Heed Contents

Hands At Ten And Two – Ashley Naftule

There was a drop of my father’s blood on the dashboard. He held up the pinewood car with bandaged fingers; the one wrapped around his right index finger was sopping red. “Best one yet, kiddo.” It really was.

Dad and I had a deal: he’d carve the cars and I’d take care of the rest. Dad kept it simple: he whittled the wood down and shaped it with my granddad’s hand knife. Dad was pretty good with it but occasionally his hands would get shaky and the knife would slip.

Dad said all the other vets from Peru had the same hand tremors. Some kind of gas they breathed in during the war. I never asked for more details; I was little then, but I knew when an adult was pulling the drawbridge up on me.

“What color should we paint it?”

Dad always let me pick the colors. I never picked the right ones: I always wanted to do polka dots, zebra stripes, or neon splatters. Dad loved accuracy; he’d spend hours pouring over repair manuals and photobooks, making sure every inch of the wood car was a mirror image of the original.

“Let’s do blue and silver. That’s how it was in the movie, right?” We were both surprised by my choice. I don’t know why, but I felt like this time getting it 100% right mattered in a way it hadn’t before. Maybe some part of me already sensed the thing growing on my Dad’s brain and was just trying to make him happy in the brief time we had left together.

“Blue and silver it is, kiddo,” he said. He set the car down on his workbench. It was a perfect replica of a 1955 Chevy 150. Dad reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny black strap. “I finished the seatbelt this morning. Black nail polish and a rubber band. Not bad, huh?”

It did look pretty good, but I noticed that something was missing. “How are they going to-”

My Dad smiled and pointed to a pile of safety pins on the bench. “I was going to make the clip last. Hammer it out of a couple of these.” Dad had taken care of everything: it was on me to get the last missing piece.

I left the garage with bait, a small net, and a holding box. I saw a couple of drivers behind Matt’s house the last time I slept over. Matt said he heard his mom complaining that the littles were getting into the pantry and stealing food. We went over the fence after dark and saw a few of them scurry off into a nearby bush.

I knocked on Matt’s front door but nobody answered. I knew where the key was to their garden door; I had seen Matt fish it out of the bottom of a hollow rock by their mailbox. I grabbed the key and snuck into the backyard.

Climbing over the fence, I landed as lightly as I could on the ground. I didn’t want to squash any of the littles. I remembered my scout training and scanned the area, searching for tiny footprints, campfires, shacks.

Near a cluster of mushrooms I saw a pair of thimble-sized tents. I set down the bait and peeled the plastic lid off: instant beef stew with roast vegetables. It wasn’t long before the littles came out of hiding: a male, female, and a pair of younglings.

I struck fast, swinging the net at the male. He and the female dove out of the way. I stepped forward to swing again and felt something crunch beneath my feet. I heard tiny voices wailing incomprehensibly at me and realized that I had stepped on the younglings.

The male and female stood in place, making weird noises that sounded like sobs. My scoutmaster told us we shouldn’t be fooled by these sort of noises. The littles may look and act like us, but they’re not us. They’re soulless.

I scooped up the male and dropped him in the holding box. I hopped back over the fence, leaving the female behind. We only needed one to be our driver. On the way out I stopped back in front of Matt’s door and wiped my feet on the welcome mat. I saw something tiny, stiff, and blue stuck in between the mat bristles. It looked like a pair of bloody blue jeans.

By the time I had come back, Dad had finished the seatbelt. “Look at what your mom made!” Dad held a tiny pair of racing gloves, a crimson red jumpsuit, and a white scarf in the palm of his hands. “He’ll be the most handsome driver in the derby”, Mom said later while we were having dinner.

Dad put the driver under his microscope. “You picked a good one,” Dad said. “He’s healthy, young— good reflexes, too. Look at how he’s wriggling. This one’s going to put up a fight.”

Dad wasn’t kidding. It took us two weeks to train the driver. We had to go so far as to lay down pillows all over the garage floor to keep the driver from jumping off Dad’s work bench.

After two weeks, the driver began to “rag-doll.” That was the ideal state for a little, according to the pinewood handbook. You could just pick them up, buckle them in, and push them around without complaint. We did a couple of trial runs on the race track my Dad set up in our backyard. No crashes, no casualties. The perfect car.

Perfect car or not, we came in second at the derby. Dad and I didn’t care. We knew we had put together the best car and driver, even if gravity didn’t agree with us.

I still have that car. I keep it on a shelf in my living room. The driver is still in there, too— hands at ten and two. The taxidermist said it was his best one yet.

 

ASHLEY NAFTULE is a writer and theater artist from Phoenix, AZ. He’s been published in Pitchfork, Ghost City Press, Vice, Popula, Occulum, Rinky Dink Press, Bandcamp, Four Chambers Press, The Outline, Cleveland Review of Books, Longreads, Amethyst Review, Bone & Ink Press, and The Molotov Cocktail. He’s a resident playwright and the Artistic Director at Space55 theatre.

Image via Pixabay 

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

The Gap – Gareth Writer-Davies 

the space in which the rat
moves
is the gap between floor and ceiling

the bounds
of the home
he is making

sensing
marking
alert to my scratchings

I know his purpose
what
I am to him

is something
moving
and breathing

waking
and sleeping
in the gap between floor and ceiling

 

GARETH WRITER-DAVIES: Shortlisted Bridport Prize (2014 and 2017), Erbacce Prize (2014), Commended Prole Laureate Competition (2015), Prole Laureate for 2017, Commended Welsh Poetry Competition (2015), Highly Commended in 2017. His pamphlet “Bodies” 2015 (Indigo Dreams) and “Cry Baby” 2017. His first collection “The Lover’s Pinch” (Arenig Press) was published June, 2018.

Image via Pixabay 

Cabinet Of Heed Contents

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