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Showing posts from 2018

The Sprite at the Stage Door by Anna Barbarella

The bulbs of the Empire, a proscenium preserved in aspic, flashed out the name of my first show. Some would say it was not ‘my’ show, that I was just the scriptwriter, but authors are tyrants and I knew it was all me, me. I walked round to stage door with a feeling that, although everyone down here on the city streets didn’t know I’d written the Empire’s newest musical, if they hadknown they’d have revered me very much, and this lent me the power of a dormant volcano.
I entered stage door and – OH! – what a sight. At the desk sat a short hairy man who harrumphed and curtly asked me my name. He was a sprite. Standing near, three or four bored ushers who were clearly waiting for Cassandra Fleming-King or Walter Godolphin, to harass my beautiful actors with flattery.
‘Molly Mead,’ I said. The sprite scribbled it down.
‘You’re the writer, yes? You know you don’t need to come backstage, you can just take your seat for the…’
‘I’d prefer to have a …

Kiss me sweet by Gideon Cecil

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She kissed me like a tender
touch of
the rainy wind and vanished like
the moon behind a dark
curtain of clouds
her love was just a dream
like the dying sunset
kissing the evening skies
then she vanished like the wind
romancing the sea waves in the
immaculate beauty of the
romantic night.
Her love is just like the moonbeam
kissing the elegant
sea waves smiling from a distance
as the seagulls sing a new anthem of
love from eternity to eternity.



by Gideon Cecil

Dyspnea by Salvatore Difalco

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I had thin arms as a boy. When I was about 11, I started doing biceps
curls with a wooden beam in my father’s workshop. It weighed maybe ten
or so pounds. I did hundreds of curls with that beam, hundreds. I did
so many curls with the beam it became too light to give me a pump. So
I added some weight to the beam, in the form of two stout salamis that
my mother was curing in the cantina. They weighed a couple of pounds
each and I tied them to opposite ends of the beam for balance. This
worked. The added weight guaranteed that I got a pump when I did my
curls. This was before barbells became a commonplace. Eventually, two
salamis added to the beam were not enough. I had to add two more. My
skinny, weakling arms were filling out and hardening into serious
pipes. I started wearing tank tops and my little friends made comments
about my arms. Look at his arms, would ya! They’re like Steve Reeves’!
They’re like Popeye’s! Of course Popeye had huge forearms, but his
biceps never featured promi…

A fragment of Memoir: Jemima by Barnard Browne

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Jemima occupied a box in my father’s study. It had once contained an Xpelair fan. The cardboard was quite thick with copper staples to keep it together. The texture set my teeth on edge. Perhaps that’s how they made cardboard in 1962. Jemima terrified me. She was about twenty years old compared to my five but I was taller. She walked at night. I could see her through the bed clothes that I drew up around my head for protection.  Her method of locomotion was necessarily unconventional. She had been decapitated and buried with a few pots of Roman provenance by the side of the ancient trackway that passed the front of our house.  Her skull was found between her knees, as if she was looking for her missing feet. In my imagination she walked with her skull perched directly on her pelvis.  Close by is the church of St Michael and all Angels, its name and unusual north-south alignment hinting at a pre-Christian foundation. The church was in the care of my father, the Rector. Stone hand axes were…

Fishing for Compliments by Ellie Sparks

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Your rod hung
In lonely air, Extending further and Further. A seagull flew into it; Snapped it straight in Half. I thought you'd pursue Another hobby.  You sat upon freezing Pebbles, Weeping salt water.



by Ellie Sparks

Bookmark by Bryan van Scoyk

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The bookmark is the part that I keep coming back to, perhaps because I think that it is the thing about the whole incident that says the most about me, the only thing that means anything. The exact placement of the bookmark, the way that I precisely, if quickly, wedged it into the book so that the bottom edge cleanly revealed a line of text and its top edge protruded out of the book at its customary surplus of about 1.5 inches.

I was reading in the park, engrossed in a world very far from my own, but one in which I was reading a highly coincidental passage about a car accident. I’m sure that it means nothing that I was reading about an accident, but when I heard the bang of the collision, it was a shock to my mind as much as my ears. It was as though the life of the pages were playing out before me, and as I looked quickly up at the car accident coming to a stop only yards from the bench, I became very confused.

I was already in action of course, as the papers went to great lengths…

Afternoon Tea by Kiira Rhosair

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Summer, and Priya was visiting Uncle and Aunt in rural Jainampore. It was her favourite time of day, late afternoon, when they migrated to the rooftops to catch the southeasterly breezes. They perched on the ledges, clutching glass tumblers filled withcardamom chai. Their view, the nine mile stretch of Trunk Road with its cluster of smart middle class residences on each side thinning to slums at the far end.      A scooter trundled by. Two men with lustrous moustaches were crouching on it, a flat screen TV between them.      ‘See the struggle of common man,’ Uncle said.       About five minutes later, a khaki-clad policeman approached on a rusty bicycle. If the scooter was leisurely, this vehicle was a shade speedier than stationary.       He gave them a salute. ‘I am hot on the heels of burglars. They’ve stolen Mr Sharma’s TV. Did you see which way they went?’      ‘Down Trunk Road... but you’ll never catch them on that,’ Priya said, an eye on Uncle’s Jeep at the gates.      ‘Yes, quicker …

Phoenix by Gemma Johnston

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Flames whisper;
           “You deserve this.”
A quiet burn. Tasting soul's flesh, searing the mind Into silence.
Like fire pulsing In dark veins underground, It burns for years. Feeding  On fossilised memories Of bygone eras.
But time wins,  As it always does. Flames become embers, Glowing with promise  Of release.
In the cool ash  Of the past, There is nothing left to burn. The future forms- Amongst the grey motes, The future forms- And it bursts forth,  Soaring            Into the sky                               With purpose.

by Gemma Johnston

Crushed Garlic by Joy Manne

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Cherry laid out vegetables in order of cooking on the black marble surface.

Golden summer garlic, pale sweet onions, leeks, carrots, green pea pods. Fragrance and freshness. It was a safe kind of chore—making soup.

Two cloves of garlic on the old wooden chopping board.

The wide body of their Japanese cooking knife, bought in Kyoto where they’d celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

She still had strength to crush garlic…

He would be crushed.

She’d kept their last summer together joyful, organising excursions to visit places they’d been happy before; walking once again their easier walks – all the cliché things their older friends had done. Why do people despise cliché, she wondered.

It was a slow-growing cancer, inoperable. If she wished, her doctors would give her radio and chemo, but the statistics weren’t promising. She reassured them, feeling sorry for the young men who had to give her the news––once her husband’s students, then colleagues––ethically bound not to t…

Time Journeys Clockwise by Colin Heaney

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The rusted swing was a steady pendulum, counting the seconds away drip by drip. Billy continued to swing under skies blanketed in an iron hue, hiding the sun like a deep secret.

Billy was a strange looking fellow. He was a tall and gaunt man, his spindly legs as susceptible to break as that of a delicate daddy long legs.

The park was abandoned long ago. He found it sad to see his childhood memories torn asunder, to be hurt by the trauma of time. Time was the enemy.

Things were different twenty years ago. Billy was an eight year old child residing in a peaceful home with his loving parents. The park was once vibrant; a modest amusement park of gleaming slides, silky fields, and clean benches. Children played in abundance, the sound of laughter echoing throughout the tight neighbourhood.

Today the attractions were crumpled remnants of their past selves. Billy's parents had been carried across the proverbial barrier; his best friend moved on to a life of money and love among his new f…

Orion II by Sarah Mills

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Orion, born of Euryale and Poseidon, Could walk on waves to islands far But a single sting stole his breath.  Now his muscles are made of brightest star.
Fair Merope still loves the man Who dared to attack Oenopion’s scion, Still loves Orion Even though now he does the heavens span. 
If only Zeus had refused to lift The hunter to cerulean skies. If only he had refused the gift And Helios had not healed his eyes. 
If only loyal Cedalion had not guided the beast To the oracle that bade him to uttermost east, He would not stand for all to see, Shining bright for eternity.


by Sarah Mills

Sleep by Hannah Myers

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She watches her sleep. The small hairs around her nose quivering at every inhale and exhale. If she wasn't careful, she would wake her; she couldn't deal with a crying child right now. Not when they were in the next room.

She kneels down next to the bed, watching the infant's eyes flicker as she dreams. One wrong move could ruin it all. A brush of the dainty curls out of the girl’s face could wake her.

All she could to do was watch, nothing more.

She’d remembered the small child during her chats with the Dr. He’d brought her up, when she was sick. A child’s face had materialised in her mind; a mess of golden curls and freckled cheeks. The child she was watching sleep had the same features. She was more tanned than she had recalled; a golden sun kissed look made her look like someone else’s, but she knew that she was hers. Her new family treats her well, but she would treat her better. She promised the doctors, and now she promises her darling little daughter. Her daughte…

The Dream Getaway by Nea Heathfield

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She had spent the week before packing. Each item carefully selected and folded as she dreamed of what they would do as she wore it, of him helping her out of it. The romantic country walk, the candlelit dinner, the drinks by the fireside, the night in the luxury four poster bed. She dared to dream of the proposal:

‘Does it matter that we’ve only just met? I know you’re the one!’ He dropped to one knee beneath the large copper beech she had seen on the cover of the hotel brochure.

‘Sophie, I want this for always, marry me.’ Taking her hand across the table.

Placing his hands gently on her shoulders as she smiled up at him, her face softly lit by the dancing firelight: ‘Marry me, Sophie.’

‘Darling! Marry me!’, as he pressed his face into her tousled hair and they rolled amongst the luxury bedding.

The dream faded a little when he scoffed at the size of her suitcase and a little more as he drove too fast and derided the ‘total bunch of tossers’ they worked with. Shocked, she couldn’t find the…

A Growed Up Man by Harry Husbands

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I return to school a growed up man, And stand in halls where words were thick.

I’m seeking Paul, who gobs in the hair Of girls he craves affection from. But he’s not here. Instead, he scaffolds, drinks, and tries Women with whistles, not phlegm.

I look for Claire, who keeps to herself; Who cries at lunch on toilet seats. But she’s not here. She’s trying to stay happy for the man Who gave her kids and took the rest.

I search for myself, who tries to learn; Who ruins books by using them As paper shields instead of swords; Who spends time running from others Instead of finding himself. But he’s not here either. He’s back at school again, hoping To find what he lost.


by Harry Husbands

A Lady Calls by S. P. Stevens

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3 a.m.

She was at her loudest now, a black wall of wind and rain testing the house to destruction. Another chunk of masonry fell and the walls sighed. I holstered the Glock. There had been no sign of looters for two hours.

A branch crashed through the kitchen window, showering me with glass, and the wind smashed plates and ornaments like a rowdy teenager. I staggered backwards into the hallway, unable to believe the storm’s fury, and turned for the creaking front door. As I lifted the latch, the door bulleted inwards, slamming against my face. I tasted blood, but pulled myself up in the opening, bracing myself between door jamb and frame.

I hesitated. Then, a tearing sound ripped the air as the tempest decapitated the building, lifting roof from walls like some demonic executioner swiping head from torso. Inside now outside, a torrent of wind, rain, wood and plaster fired down. I had no choice, I ran, out into the mighty lady’s buffeting power, as she fought to push me back with ang…

I Meet Your Mother for the First Time by John Grey

She is in exile here.
your mother, the gray-haired female Napoleon, bestriding this St Helena of a kitchen. We find her on a rock between the wall cupboards, stove and table.
Your father moved out years ago, she does not recreate him,
merely nods towards the
remnants of his empire,
the walls, the ceilings,
honored by her choice
of curtain, paper, linoleum,
and this liberating cooking range.
Her eyes peck at me for
signs of constancy. I grip your hand tight. I’m aligning with her hopes

Thanks for Calling by Robert Madden

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Brian's father made some final touches with his pocket knife. He would have much preferred a piece of basswood, or even some pine. But due to the way things were, he had to make do with a lump of MDF scavenged from a skip.
It was painful for Brian to watch. The old man scratching away at a piece of scrap, in a futile attempt to win back his life's worth.
'Dad, will you put it down,' said Brian. 'You know there's no point?'
'Now son, none of that.' He continued to work his knife. 'When this is complete, you'll see. Things will be back on track.'
'But dad, it's . . . over. Forever. It's never coming back.'
When the crash came, it was so ruinous - so finite - that they didn't bother to reopen the markets. All stockholders were abandoned. Total and permanent wipe-out.
'Dad, are you listening? Your holdings were -.'
'Here we go,' said Brian's father. He held up his creation.
In fairness, he had done a decent jo…

A Music Never So Sweet by Anne Britting Oleson

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At the base of a wind-fallen cedar,
roots lifted into the damp air,
a small pond ripples softly, dappled
by this afternoon's sifting sunlight.
Listen, you whisper, leaning close.
Listen to the world turning.

In the time before we stood beneath
this breathing canopy, in the time
before I knew your voice,
I didn't know how to hear this.
The trill of the waxwing which
tumbles down, so many gold coins,
I could not then count among my riches. Nor the hollow fall into water
of the tiny wood frog, now only two eyes
like bubbles in the muddy pool.

And those songs, the ones you sing
under your breath, without thought,
as we step carefully among the ferns.
It's a blessing, you murmur
on the faint movement of air. Listen.





by Anne Britting Oleson

The Rules of Commuting by Janelle Hardacre

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Layla prepped herself to fit into one of the small spaces under the armpits of suited businessmen and hipsters. Her fourth day in her new job and she already understood the unwritten rules of tram travel. No eye contact. No huge rucksacks. No smelly food.

She’d timed the journey exactly. 12 minutes in the crush. So packed you could hear the squeak of uncleared sinuses. It was all worth it to be a Store Team Member in her favourite ever shop. Her new status was advertised on her lanyard, despite her not being allowed to wear it outside work. For Layla there’d be no more clearing trays for people who thought they were better than her because they didn’t wear a hairnet and rubber shoes.

Toes tapped inside her platform trainers as she turned on her playlist. She gripped the yellow pole and tried not to think of all the unwashed hands that had done so before her. The doors slid open and yet more commuters negotiated their way into the horde.

Layla felt moist breath on her neck and saw a stub…

Mrs Stone’s ENT Appointment by Chris Fielden

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The room stinks of disinfectant. You’d think with the amount of tax my Harold paid over the years they’d be able to afford something more fragrant.

The walls look like a paint factory has vomited on them. Modern art, they call it... Makes me feel queasy.

I look up and see my name in large red letters. Now everyone in the waiting room knows who I am. There’s no privacy nowadays.

I lick my lips and taste denture adhesive. It’s too minty. How am I supposed to enjoy a cuppa when it feels like I’ve been force-fed a Polo production plant?

I touch the door handle. It’s filthy. With £350,000,000 a week back in the NHS, you’d think they could afford to employ a few cleaners.

The doctor’s sitting behind his desk. His mouth’s moving.

“What?” I say.

He says something else. Why do young people mumble?

“You’ll have to speak up, dear.”

He stands and puts something in my ear.

“How’s that?” he bellows.

“There’s no need to shout, dear. I’m not deaf.”




by Chris Fielden
First published in Sensorially Challenged, Vol. …

Summer's Garden by Bobbi Sinha-Morey

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In the cool wind of early October I walk down to last summer's garden, morning glories twined among rows of cornstalks and up the ladders of leaves. I hear them calling to me, and I lean in to listen; delicate little trumpeters flaring their clarion tones, pink as the inner lip of a seashell, and I hear my own heartbeat rise and fall, a tide tugging me closer so I can see each one opening to the light, their faith but a star etched across their faces, rejoicing in their manna from the sun, in their day-to-day life.

by Bobbi Sinha-Morey