Tuesday, April 29


by Angela Wright

"What attracts you to this job, Ms Adams, and what qualities would you bring?"

"The salary attracts me, firstly. It would enable me to sustain the standard of living I'm looking for. Qualities? Clearly, my level of physical attractiveness is high, and I know how to use this to my best advantage."

"A good answer, Ms Adams. How do you see the company expanding under your direction?"

"I have a hands-on approach, you might say, in all my business dealings. Increased revenue tends to come as a natural consequence of my personal attention to the client's requirements."

"A clear, concise response, Ms Adams. Do you have any questions for us?"

"Yes. Will there be an apartment in the city?"

"Evidently you are a woman with well-defined priorities, Ms Adams. Impressive."

Angela Wright is a middle-aged woman holed up in the Highlands seeking adventure and inspiration in the wilderness.

Saturday, April 26

Between the Cracks

by Bill West

And then she was gone.

It wasn’t far for George to walk home; turn left out of the hospital, down to the War Memorial, left past the cemetery, right at the traffic lights, third on the right, Moonrise Terrace. Mum had reminded him on every visit, as if he hadn’t known by now. He noticed his shoes were a bit scuffed and dirty, and he needed a shave. He avoided all the cracks between the pavements.

Every day at the same time, he returned to the hospital. The first time the bed was empty. He sat beside it anyway. Another time there was a lady in the bed who he didn’t recognise. While he sat beside the bed, his hands clasped over his paunch, she talked on and on, her mouth all floppy, but he couldn’t understand what she was saying, so he went to the cafeteria and had sausage and chips, but no beans. He put a handful of coins on the counter and the fat lady took some. After a while there were only enough for biscuits, then nothing.

The fat lady told him he smelt bad, that he should wash, put on clean clothes. So he went home.

There was a worse smell at home. But now she was gone he could watch television on the small black-and-white portable that he’d found in the cupboard under the stairs. Eastenders made him nervous, but he liked the idea of a launderette. Perhaps he could find an old lady, full of quotes from the Bible like Dot Cotton, who would clean his clothes and tell him the right things to do. He left the TV and the radio on, for company.

Then the lights went off, and the television wouldn’t work. The smell got worse and his tummy hurt, even more than when he ate beans, and he ran out of toilet paper. Then there were the rats.

Then Royston arrived. He knocked at the door, smiled and said, “You managed to slip between the cracks.” and filled in some forms. George thought he was in trouble because he let Willy, the goldfish die. Men came and cleaned up the house.

Royston took him everywhere. “We’ll soon fix you up!” He showed him how to get money, how to buy food, even got him a job, meeting and greeting outside the offices where Royston worked. That’s where he met Dorothy who was clever but couldn’t walk. She let him push her wheelchair sometimes, so long as she steered.

It's hard to push a wheelchair when you're trying not to step on the cracks.

Bill West lives in Shropshire.
His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, FlashQuake, Mytholog, Heavy Glow, Boston Literary Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, Shine and other places.

Wednesday, April 23


by Geoff Stevens

In the tropical glasshouse
at the Botanical Gardens
hair corkscrewed against the domed roof
you are outshone by the sun's intensity
as it gilds the skylit segments
that glisten around your face
mud-cracks your complexion
into many isolated facets
like the geometrical islands of paint
nduced by the drying out of ancient masters.
You are an oil painting
desecrated by time.
But I do not mention it to you
merely take you by the hand and lead you
into the bar for restoration -
mine not yours.

Geoff Stevens is the editor of Purple Patch poetry magazine and a widely published poet and artist.

Saturday, April 19

Don't You Go Closing Them Baby Blues

by Avis Hickman-Gibb

Josie stood inside her sanctuary, her breath coming in great, raw gasps. She listened - Uncle Danny was stumbling along after her - and cursing something terrible.

“Wait’ll I get my hands on you, you little bitch! You’ll find out what you’re made for!” he growled, slashing through the undergrowth, drunk and nasty. The blood from his bitten hand would be dripping onto the leaves around.

Josie stuffed her bare arm over her mouth, trying to block out the sounds of her whimpering. She’d been all alone in the house with Uncle Danny, and him drinking and watching those nasty films on TV. Momma was at work, as usual. But it wouldn’t have mattered - Momma never believed her anyway:

“Uncle Danny loves us both, you just remember that. He’d not hurt a hair on your head, child!” Momma had replied last time to Josie’s complaints about Uncle Danny - about his awful temper and his over familiar hands. “He just likes a cuddle from his best girl - that’s all.”

Josie leaned back against the inside of the hollow oak tree, tears squeezing out from beneath her lids, and wished her Daddy was here. He’d never say she told lies; he’d defend her. He was a hero - everyone said that. But he was out in Iraq, and very far from home. Josie knew when he did return, she’d live with him, and they’d move far away from Momma; and Uncle Danny.

Now, looking down at her hands, Josie remembered her Daddy teaching her how to use this gun.

“... hold the butt steady with both hands… that’s right... then aim… point it low… lower than you want... it kicks up right at the end... then squeeze the trigger and keep looking! Don’t you go closing them baby blues!”

Taking a steadying breath, she aimed at the entrance and waited for Uncle Danny to appear and snarl, “Peek-a-boo!”

Avis Hickman-Gibb is a new writer, living in rural Suffolk with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit. She’s had stories published in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, and Shine! and has up coming stories in Bewildering Stories and The Boston Literary Magazines.

Monday, April 14

The Metal Man

by Adham Smart

The metal man cut his teeth on a blade of grass.

He bled like a chimney, dribbled purple death

into the mud of moss. Slowly, his teeth melted

down to the gums, and the fizzing noise they made

will keep your children awake for weeks.

Adham Smart is a writer from South-East London who likes to pretend he is a foreigner in his spare time. He also thinks Pomegranate is pretty cool.

Saturday, April 12

Brain Drain

by Alison Bacon

On the train most people, like Simon, carry an extra brain. Tucked under an arm or slung casually over a shoulder, it’s a more useful accessory than the old-fashioned integral kind. Battery powered or attached to the mains, it needs no shot of caffeine to kick it into life, nor six hours of sleep to refuel. Best of all, when it’s not needed, you can simply shut it down.

Of course, these brains, being visible, are also fashion statements. The girl in the white wool coat keeps hers in a Gucci pouch, and clasps it to her like a soft-skinned daemon. Further along the carriage, an aging Apple Mac is carried by the wearer of denim who’s reading Silent Spring. Impressive styling, if you go for that kind of thing. Simon is proud of his own brain. Smooth and shiny, he knows it cost more than the others. It’s powerful and compact. It fits in the palm of his hand, or hides in the pocket of his suit without spoiling the cut.

He gets off at the station and slides into the silver saloon that’s been controlling its climate all day long, just for him. At home, Olivia greets him. She’s wearing Agnes B. and a frown. His brain has somehow failed to remind him of a dinner date. ‘You’re late,’ she says, and smoothes her discontentment with a deft stroke of Rouge Noir. At the party he’s greeted and seated and given a drink, but feels out of sorts, disconnected. At the black glass table adorned in white sushi, someone asks him a question. His mind is a blank. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says, ‘I was miles away.’

He can’t imagine what’s wrong, until his wife waves a dismissive arm in his direction.

‘You’ll have to make allowances for Simon,’ she says to the others, ‘I think he left his brain on the train.’

Alison Bacon has been writing for five years and is currently working on a second novel, a clutch of blogs and a decent golf handicap. Some success in all departments but no (print) publisher as yet. You can visit her here.

Wednesday, April 9

Devil Island Disks

by Oonah V Joslin

“Welcome again to Island Discs. Today we have Lucifer.”
“Don’t call me that; makes me sound like a box of matches!”
“Anything you say…Satan then?”
“Beelzebub, Satan, Nick..whatever….”
“Okay, Nick. Do you enjoy your work?”
“It ain’t the same as it used to be…not as much fun. In the old days people was pious. It took effort to make ‘em stray. Nowadays they’re at it before I even get there. I even had to lay staff off.”
“That must have been galling. What is your first choice of record?”
(Adjusting his scrotum) “‘Great Balls of Fire.’ - reminds me of the good old days.”
“Who is the person you’ve most enjoyed welcoming to Hell?”
“I’d have to say Jesus. He didn’t stay long you know but it was nice to see him; knew his father well back in the old days. We had a nice chat. Other than him, ordinary people - not your Napoleons and Hitlers - they always act like they run the place.”
“And your second choice of record …?”
“Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve of Destruction.’ I always look forward to that!”
“What would your ideal island be like, Nick?”
“Somewhere cool with lots of cats. The Isle of Man, say. I like cats. Cats are selfish and you know the old saying about a cat’s chance in Hell.”
“And your third choice…?”
“Has to be, ‘Cool for Cats.’”
“Do you have a favourite TV program Nick?”
“Never miss, ‘Songs of Praise’!”
“Really? You like hymns?”
“Hell, no. But I love vanity! All them good Christians neglecting their own churches just to get on the telly - best clothes, best facial singing expression? It’s one of my most refined temptations. They don’t even see it – too busy watching themselves.” (Shakes his head and chuckles.)
“So your next piece won’t be a hymn then?”
“Well kind of an anthem really; ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. I got news for you folks! I just love all that misleading, mushy, feel good stuff don’t you?”
“Wrote most of ‘em personally you know. Do I get the credit?...royalties?...zilch!”
“That does seem a shame.”
“Which is your favourite deadly sin, Nick?”
“Well, that’s a difficult choice. I’d have to say - plain old fashioned pride - seems like a virtue see and it always comes before a fall.”
“You chose, ‘Jezebel,’ as your next disc. Why?”
“She threatened violence! You ever met that gal? She’s a demon!”
“All jobs have a downside, Nick. What’s the worst aspect of your job?”
“Downside,” (laughs) “I like that. I never get to meet the nice guys. He gets first pick, always. Plus, most people get to retire, take holidays…me? ....it’s never ending!”
“And your next record…?”
“Chris Rea – Road to Hell.” (Sings) “‘This ain’t no technological breakdown….This is the Road to hell.’ Paved with good intentions!”
“What do you love most about your work?”
“The shock on their faces - ’specially the religious ones - popes, archbishops and the like. Kills me!”
“Do you have a favourite type of music – Jazz maybe, Rock?”
“Anything by Stockhausen.”
“Stockhausen it is, then.”
“What about sex, Nick…..?”
“Here and now?”
“No I mean…..did you invent sex?”
“Wish I had! It’s not an issue with Upstairs and me. You’re just like all the other animals - it’s a functional thing. Why you get all worked up about it…who knows?”
“So there’s no Mrs. Satan?”
“After what Eve did to you lot?”
“Your final two recordings won the Eurovision Song Contest, Nick…is that coincidental?”
“Nah, we use ‘em to torture the damned so I kinda like ‘em… and they say the Devil has all the best tunes!”
“A favourite book Nick…”
“The complete works of Poe… love, ‘The Red Death,’ and can I have the Screwtape books instead of the Bible anthology? Never did get to meet Jack Lewis - pity that.”
“One luxury?”
“Tobacco and pipe - it’s my one vice! I ‘m not even the worst there is any more! ‘Sic transit gloria mundi,’ eh?”

Oonah V Joslin was born in Ulster and lives in the North East. She writes mostly flash and poetry but is working on a series of stories she'd like to see as a real, honest-to-god, book. She won the MicroHorror trophy 2007 and most rerad in Every Day Fiction in January. She has a cover mention in Twisted Tongue issue 9 and is shortly judging a poetry competition for The Shine Journal. BUT she's a reclusive wee soul. You can get links to all her work at http://www.writewords.org.uk

Monday, April 7

The Stair

by Sammy Jay

I climb the stair,
Work backwards from the edge,
Despair’s edge, this overhanging ledge,
Biting the teeth of words.

Dead ledge of dead rose petals,
And a sunken sun -

Work backwards,
The stair,
Drug politics,
All a whirl.

Aggressive with the edge of words
Vicious in biting thoughts,

Back to leaning back against the bulge
Of bulging wood.

Back back,
Among the deeply felt and fleeting garden,
Fleeting, veering in parrot cries,
Quicksilver eyes, and a world
Of laughter.

Voices and laughter in the glade,
A fungus genesis.

Back back back but before
Before - the swirling journey and the walk
Through sirens, sea girls, iron and summer wine,
Drug politics within the whine
Of sirens and the wind.

A world of no discernible rhythm in the line of trams
And formless shapes.

Back back back back to childhood,
Infant eyes - colours,
An array of newness,
That wide amaze of sky.

In that beginning, in that garden,
Ringed within a raven world
There is a life

At odds with nothingness and dissipation,

At odds with the approaching black,
Fighting with white light,
A vibrant, living arsenal of colour.

All in that first glance,
Before the deep divide and dance
Along the line, before the trance
Of wires, blood and steel,
There is a loving, fighting feel,

All in the eye
Of the child
At the beginning.

Sammy Jay is a 1st year English student and is (wrongly) convinced that he is Shelley.

Thursday, April 3

A Series of Awkward Moments

by Richard Rippon

I should have known it wouldn't work out.

My Dad had always warned me about hiring tradesmen from adverts in the paper, but the boiler had given up and it wasn't getting any warmer. When the doorbell rang, I was in the process of putting on a fleece to stave off the perpetual chill. I opened the door and at first I thought I was the object of a trick, then the voice, deep and gruff with a slight Welsh accent.

"Alright mate, you rang about the boiler?"

I had to drop my eyes several feet to see him. A short haired dog, black, tan and white looking up at me with large brown eyes. My mind flashed back to the advert. Free estimates, 24 hour callout and, what was it, Corgi something?

After an uncomfortable pause I let him in and lead him to the kitchen.

"Would you like...erm," I began.

He cocked his head to one side quizzically.

"...a cup of tea?" I finished.

"Yeah mate, that would be good."

He already had the cover off and was prodding various components with his screwdriver in an exploratory fashion. I got on with making the tea. When it came to handing it to him, I had another awkward moment. I didn't know where to put it: on the bench, or - more traditionally for a dog I thought - on the floor. He seemed to sense my quandary.

"Just there mate, s'fine," he said around the screwdriver in his mouth and nodded to the bench.

I decided to leave him to it and removed myself to the TV. Not long after, the living room door nudged open and his little snout appeared.

"Think I've got that sorted mate. It was an 'O' ring, but I had one in the van."

"Great," I walked after him into the kitchen. The long-silent boiler was now humming merrily and the radiator was warming when I touched it.

"I've popped the invoice on top of your microwave there," he said as he collected together his tools. I picked up the stub of paper and looked at the bottom line.

"£55!" I said, "for a washer? Are you sure that's right?"

"Including callout, yeah," he barked. "You find another guy cheaper round here. I've done you a favour there."

It didn't feel like it. I grudgingly found the cash from a combination of my wallet and the wife's handbag. I handed it to him, the little runt, and he was out the door, without another word. I slammed it behind him.

My Dad had been right. However, as the house slowly warmed, I felt comforted that despite the cost, it was one less job on the list.

I walked into the chaos of the dining room. Horizontal wooden lats could still be seen through the aborted plaster job. Amongst the abandoned plaster bags were banana skins and discarded teapots. Another thing my father says, which has proven to be true: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Richard Rippon writes stuff. He has appeared in a number of online literary magazines (including Monkeybicycle and Word Riot) and in print (Skive Magazine Issue 7). Contact him here.

Tuesday, April 1

The marmot you've all been waiting for

Well, it was a difficult challenge, some might say a little too ridiculously difficult, but several brave souls rose to the challenge of combining obscure furry rodents with understated snorkelling, with rather impressive results.

The mystery panel of judges managed to almost completely differ in their opinions, which just shows that a panel was a bad idea and that it was a tight contest. Below are the stories we thought to be the best of the bunch, with some truly ingenious shoe-horning in of the required vocabulary in a 250 word limit! Enjoy. Very nearly taking the coveted prize were Mark Perry's The Perils of Poor Dental Hygiene ("like snorkelling through lard" might be my all-time favourite simile) and Avis Hickman's impressively succinct Absent Friend. But just pipping them to the post and taking home Five English Pounds of book tokens and the prize of intellectual satisfaction was the following tale by James Edwards-Smallbone. If you didn't know, I don't believe you would be able to tell that he was trying to include any difficult words in the slightest, and to manage that and raise a smile at the same time is good going.

Well done to you and to Chazubel.

Chazubel Brown, Marmot Entrepreneur

by James Edwards-Smallbone

As the great rodent philosopher Voletaire once said, "it's not easy being a marmot". You see we larger rodents occupy a peculiar niche here in Terrafauna. Our smaller cousins are thinkers, the Canids warriors, the Avians priests. But us? Well, we dance on the cracks. Selling to some, stealing from others and all with an understated grace.

Of course this gets us into trouble sometimes - take my current indisposition for example. You see that enraged fox attempting to throttle me? I took the opportunity to liberate a few of his shiny gold crowns, all in jest of course but judging from the pressure on my windpipe he isn't seeing the funny side.

My eyes bulge in response to his merciless azure glare. My lungs burn, drowning in their denied exhalation like someone snorkeling with a blocked pipe. And then in a sudden puff of pistol smoke it's over. The fox's paws fall away and he slumps sideways with an uncomprehending gurgle.

Before me a friendly weasel face forms from out of the powder smoke and he lowers his pistol, a slight smirk lingering below his whiskers.

"You took your sweet time!" I gasp between breaths, gulping in the smoggy air like a bewildered newborn.

"Spot o' grief wiv the law Chaz, 'ope you ain't too worse for wear."

Too breathless to reply I simply glare at my scruffy accomplice. No, it's certainly not easy being a marmot, but as I weigh up the day's golden takings I know it's worth it.

The Day Job

by Daniel Hill

The lagoon was bright blue and the sun was shining, the little boat worked its way out into the lagoon, making a heavy job of light work. It had needed a new throttle for quite some time but since the discovery Gary hadn’t had time to fix it, he also hadn’t been snorkeling for a long time, and his only hope, apart from the site being intact, was that he didn’t look too marmot-like on his return. He envisaged a graceful entry to the water but knew this wasn’t likely. The boat slowed down, and it’s sole member anchored near the reef which was flourishing with colour and life, the reef had been an understated and underprotected part of the archipelago, but Gary was one of many who had fought for; and gained protective status for it. He prepared himself, then engineered his drop into the water, he wasn’t entirely happy with the entry, but he still remembered enough to look respectable. He swam a little and gained his bearings, the reef was to his right and the discovery had been made a couple of metres in front of him, that was when his snorkel filled with water, naturally, he panicked, thinking he was in trouble he swiped at the soft sand below him and pushed up, he reached the surface and coughed up the water he had inhaled, he didn’t know what had happened, all he cared about now was the shiny dubloon in his hand.

The Perils of Poor Dental Hygiene

by Mark Perry

There's a party going on in my teeth. I haven't slept for three days. Performing even simple tasks requires great effort like snorkelling through lard.

I'm sat in the dentist's chair. He reaches for a couple of shiny dental implements before his upside-down face leans closer. As soon as I open my mouth a deluge of funk hits him full in the face. He can't resist a quick dance with the dental nurse, before apologising and regaining his professional composure.

"Ah, Marmots." He says in a surprisingly understated way. "When was your last check-up?"

"Over two years ago." I mumble

"And do you floss regularly?"

I shake my head.

"Hmmm, that's how they build up. They've burrowed quite deep but we shouldn't have much trouble shifting them."

He gives me a painkilling injection and asks me to wait outside.

My face numbs and music leaks from my mouth as I struggle to keep it shut. This irritates the other patients. They stare at me but say nothing.

After twenty minutes I'm called back in. The dentist reaches for his drill. It produces a high pitched whine, the kind of noise you'd hear if you tried to throttle a tiny mouse android.

The drill falls silent. There's a brief pause, before hundreds of worse for wear Marmots stampede out my mouth. They rush into reception and continue off down the road.

"Right," says the dentist "We'll see you again in six months."

A Story

by Simon Thomas

Don’t call me Marmot. I’m nothing like one. Not remotely stocky, wish I were sometimes. I’d rather you got me confused with David Mamet, but I’m nothing like him neither. M’name’s Mamot. James, if you must know, but everyone calls me Mamot – everyone who calls me anything. Yes, I was at the beach 22nd January – beautiful day. I’d call it understated or luminescent, only I’m no ponce. Sand was shiny, sea was shiny. Whole bloody lot looked like someone had been at it with polish. Hurts the eyes, to stare at it for too long. Addictive, though, staring until it hurt just too much, then blinking, and seeing the light still, burned into the back of my eyelids.

I did think I was alone, at first. No reason why anyone else should be there – sunny day, but January, and middle of the afternoon. Most people at work, earning their crust. Paying my way, suppose you’d say. First I knew of him was some splashing – quite a way out, but waves were gentle, so I knew it was a person. Or animal, could’ve been, but it weren’t. He were having trouble, could see that, splashing around at full throttle but in trouble nonetheless. Been snorkelling, turns out, hadn’t he? And didn’t know how. Shouldn’t never go out alone, especially if you don’t know how. Brought it on himself. And yes, I watched him drown. Perhaps I could’ve done something. But not doing nothing ain’t a crime, is it?

No further questions.

Absent Friend

by Avis Hickman

I had a pet Marmot once, but he was a lot of trouble. Always wanting more – y’know?
So I took him snorkelling at the seaside. And anybody who tells you they are gentle creatures is lying!

It was a definitely understated victory getting the mask on him.
All he wanted to do was to stare into the shiny eyepiece and admire his lustrous coat. I just wanted to throttle him!

He left me in the end – just burrowed away.

I miss him.