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Spilt Drinks

Morris was not at the hospital to witness his wife’s last breath, but no-one there was surprised. Not his daughter, Samantha, not his brother, Reg, nor his mother-in-law, Madge. They assumed Morris was drunk because he was a great drunk: great for missing great moments like his own church wedding—held a week later at the courthouse—like Samantha’s birth, and now Dolores’ passing.

Reg found Morris at home, asleep on the kitchen floor. Reg slapped his brother’s face. “Dolores died,” he said.

“What?” said Morris.

“Dolores died.”

Morris took hold of the kitchen counter and pulled himself to his feet. “So, I’m a widower,” he said. “I need a drink.”

“Don’t you dare,” said Reg.

“If I accept your dare and succeed, what prize do I win, Reg? Your respect?”

“Too late for that, brother.”

“How are the others doing?”

“Samantha’s a mess. Gloria’s mad at me for coming to tell you. Madge sends her spite.”

“And you, Reg, are you offering spite as well?”

“No spite. Hopeless pity, perhaps.”

“Yeah, well, pity’s an e…

No Brain Pickers for Her!

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Outside, all is quiet with hardly a breeze amongst the trees. The late afternoon sky, accountable to no one, seeps through the mullioned bay windows in a lady-like shade of grey. Inside, Beryl listens to the pop of unseasoned firewood as it makes the final shift and crumbles into embers. She sits primly in an old winged armchair, legs crossed and fingers intertwined over one knee.

Without warning, a foul odor drifts through from the kitchen area that makes Beryl recall descriptions of the crawl space underneath John Wayne ‘Killer Clown’ Gacy’s murder house. Next moment, her exotically named date, Avocado, pushes his way through the shuttered swinging doors holding waiter-style at shoulder height a silver tray brimming with food.

He sits down opposite her in a mahogany chair with cherubs chiseled into the sides.

“Can I pick your brain?” he enquires, delivering his best Bela Lugosi stare.

In response, Beryl belches operatically. Breaking Avocado’s gaze, with her face set like an adversary, …

Bella's Serial Killer

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Bella’s haphazard lifestyle was the reason she was still alive. She didn’t know it, but her serial killer was a very punctual, precise man with a strict routine. He spotted her some nine months ago, running across heathland. It was 8.56am on a Monday morning. Next Monday she appeared at 8.30am, the Monday after at 9.03am. 

Her serial killer noted these times in a little book and came up with an average. Not that ten minutes here or there really made much difference, but he liked things to be neat and tidy, as little room for error as possible. It was one of the reasons his career had been so successful and his work remained ‘unsolved’. On the fourth Monday she didn’t appear. On his way to the shops one Wednesday morning two months later, there she was. It was 10am. That screwed his average entirely.

At first it annoyed him, but then it tantalised him. Cat and mouse. So, undeterred, he returned to his watching place every Monday between 8.29am and 9.05am. One Monday she arrived at 9.10am…

That Word

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Where did that word come from? I’ve asked this
of myself many times -- the word that just slipped out,
unbidden as an expletive you haven’t used in years –

but now, this word you’ve never used in a poem before
has hopped aboard the rolling poem and, strangely, adds
a pleasing ride and comfort and sound that was not there.

And when the final word falls into place in the poem’s
last line with the sound of a latch on a closing gate,
only then can you ask yourself where it came from

and marvel, as you’ve often done, over the fuzziness
of origins, and especially, that the word arrived at all.



by Glen Sorestad

Catalogue of Husbands

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The catalogue of husbands has arrived and is as thick as a brick. Mum clears all the bits of homework and unopened letters off the dining room table and plonks it down.

‘We get a reduction if we order today,’ says mum in the voice she usually uses in front of other people. She only has a few twenty pound notes left in the bundle she found tucked into the arm of nana’s old chair.

I chew the end of a red pen and stare at the catalogue.

‘I’ve got to go for something different Lily. Men aren’t always what they seem. Just nice. Normal, you know?’

Mum flicks through the catalogue. There is one man on each page. As the pages turn, faces run into each other like a cartoon character who has swallowed a potion.

‘Let’s go to the no frills section,’ says mum, going to the back end of the catalogue.

‘But we haven’t made any rules yet mum, you said always have rules.’

Mum looks up at the ceiling, then talks while I use my best handwriting in a notebook.

‘No beards. Kind face. Likes animals. And children. …

Liz Taylor

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Going out to top up the bird seed, Liz spots Dezzy hunkered by his frozen pond. Takes her a couple of seconds to spot what’s wrong with this picture – a jump back in time. What’s the man doing there? Forgotten he sold his house?

Interfering old buzzard. He could never leave anything alone, once he’d spotted a fault.

Liz, you got a blocked gutter there.

Liz, that back door jamming again?


However much you told him not to bother, he’d wear you down in the end. March round with the appropriate tools. Every job slow and determined, the end result checked and re-checked.

Funny, but Liz can remember him as a bad lad. Smashing street lights with well-aimed bits of brick. His dad was a drinker; Liz’s mum said Dezzy would go the same way. She was wrong, though. He got a job at the car plant; stuck to it. Had some pretty girlfriends, but didn’t stick with any of them. Hard to see why. Like he didn’t want to be nobody’s property.

Liz would have had him. Not for keeping, necessarily: just the having. …

The Last Summer

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There is a light at the end

Of the Garden; garish red and

Beaming back at me, solemnly

I leave the last slivers of

Summer: assuming it will come

Around again.



The glare catches me, promises

A second chance, so I follow it

Past the covered limbs and cracked

Plastics until, I think, a voice

Rumbled deep through the serene air

Dull and plain:


‘No time this is to kill

You live here, you are complicit;

Undo your thousand deaths and leave

This desecrated space before the

Wind blows in a last cash injection.

No time this is, no time’


What does it mean? The light is

Too close to go back now, bright,

Splendid it casts its gaze on a

Child covered in black paint under

The tree. A dull sigh, a quick glance;

The golden clock is telling me – 


I have time to kill




by Stephen Durkan