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An Afternoon in LA

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It was a bright and placid day. Eric sat alone on his deck, watching the sun creep across the San Fernando Valley at its normal, slow-moving-vehicle pace. Eric was bored. This was not unusual. Eric had been bored for the past 5 years, 4 months and 3 days, ever since he sold his interest in the Fatburger franchising organization.
Franchising had been fun for a while. Hooking new prospects and reeling them in had been more exciting than fly fishing, which he had tried for a while when he lived in Gunnison, Colorado right after college. Before long, however, convincing aspiring franchisees that they needed to commit to at least five outlets to make their investments pay off lost all its luster.
He made enough money by selling out that he would never need to work again if he did not want to. He did not want to. He tried a variety of hobbies. He set up a woodworking shop in the basement and made German beer steins out of recycled bowling pins on a wood-turning lathe. He took piano lessons b…

language

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since i've been learning to contort my tongue into a foreign dialect 
language has deepened its meaning. 
i have to relearn how to say 'i love you'. and i am driving a stick shift convertible in the rain
i’ve driven wordless into a world rich with description.
‘i love you’, sounds so much less beautiful when you're unsure of the pronunciation.
without words to express my unknowing i trip on the gilded road leading to expression and i must teach myself the nuances of a smile placed on ‘love’, the emphasis on ‘you’, the stutter on ‘i’.
this freshness forces me into illiteracy and i am prepared only with an inexperienced, naive vocabulary.
stuck in the guidebook of mutilations so extremely different from the comfort of phonetic syllables.
who ever heard of someone reading a manual on how to say, ‘i love you’
i love you is a feeling not an instruction and this new version of affection

It's here again... the Cafe Aphra November Challenge!

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Greetings all! 

So this year we thought we'd do something a little different for our Cafe Aphra November Challenge... a touch of tongue-in-cheek, a pinch of parody, something to make us smile in these dark and shortening Autumn days.

Ever wondered whether your favourite classic novel would get published nowadays? 

Well now's your chance to write that imaginary rejection letter from the publisher sent to the author of a famous classic, explaining exactly why their manuscript is unsellable, unpublishable or unreadable. 

Or, if you'd rather, you can try and 'pitch' your classic manuscript to a sceptical modern-day publisher and see what he or she has to say in response.

It doesn't have to be long, and you can either make it obvious what the classic in question is, or you can keep us guessing.

Perhaps this all sounds a little confusing... A parody of a rejection of a pitch?! 
What on earth does that look like??




Well if you want an example of what I mean, here is one from l…

Chasing Butterflies

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She remembers chasing butterflies across the freshly mown lawn, the air ripe with lavender, her dad drinking cider on the patio. She danced from bush to bush, carving circles in the sky with a fishing net made of bamboo and plastic mesh.

Thirty years later, she sits in the darkened corner of a hotel conference suite, her hair scraped back, her eyes hidden behind tortoiseshell frames. She’s surrounded by colleagues sipping Cabernet this and Pinot that. The man on the stage speaks with the wayward tones of someone who’s been drinking since lunch but she isn’t listening. Leaning into the microphone he says, “Which brings us to that most coveted award, Employee of the Year.”
She never caught a butterfly. Eventually she collapsed on the grass, exhausted. With a handkerchief from his pocket, her dad stroked the tears from her cheeks, saying “You tried your best. That’s all that matters.” Sitting her on his knee, he said “Don’t be upset. There’s nothing in this world more important than little…

The Bridge

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I'm standing on a bridge. Not a metaphor, not the idea of a bridge, a real fucking bridge. It's cold and the end of my nose is numb. The drizzle is coming down as if it will never end. I look down at the cars, they have their lights on, even though it's daytime. That's how much of a grim day this is. They make that swishing sound as they go past on the black road. The air is heavy with exhaust fumes.
Tears course down my cheeks. I'm crying for myself, my daughter, even my mother who I hardly knew. The pain's all I've got left, my veins are full of it. My thoughts float up like bubbles that burst one by one. I'm worthless. I may as well not be here. Get it over with. I hate them all. Nobody cared. Just do it, get it over with.
I heave myself over the white painted barrier and stand there looking down at the cars swishing past, each containing a small world of people. It's making me feel dizzy and my hands are cold. The railing's slippery with the r…

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


National Flash Fiction Day!

Happy National Flash Fiction Day 2017!

Hope you've had a great day of reading your favourite super-short stories... Here are a couple of websites to check out: 

http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk

and the marvellous:

http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk

Well done to everyone who got their work featured!

Hope you enjoy a sunny weekend of reading and writing little flashes of brilliance that dance in the light. :)


Fragile Cloud

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June was an unpredictable month of little storms. At three o’clock, a pale Caribbean sun came into view and the girls begged Beatrice to drive them to the sea for an afternoon dip. They missed the salty heat of coral beaches and the iridescent waves.

When they arrived at the deserted beach, the ocean was a cloudy colour. Seagulls sailed in the wind that carried the pitiless odor of seaweed. The girls sighed at the brown sea, and vented to their mother. After ten minutes of lying beneath an overcast sky, everyone retreated to the car and brushed the sand off their feet.
Secretly, Beatrice was glad for the rain. A change in climate was auspicious for a dry island lashed by the long rays of a mercurial sun. But the rain also consoled her. It helped her sleep. Most nights, she would toss and turn on the bed and it was only the clamor of the rain on the galvanized tin roof that could soothe her. 
Tonight, she lay awake waiting. There was no need for a fan. The trade winds blew through the pal…

Reaching Through Tin

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Your image before me
has traveled through time intact, yet your eyes see me here, in my now, your future yet to be.
You are speaking to me with a stare telescoping beyond eons, and I hear you, your thoughts, hopes, ideals, genius and sorrow fully blown.
Reach out your hand, reach through the film that separates us, touch your barrier to  dissipate my radius, and our frontier will be inhabited and haunted all at once.

by Charlotte Ozment



















A note on the image: This is the oldest known intentional photographic self-portrait of a person (Robert Cornelius, 1839) and the photograph that inspired this poem.