Posts Tagged ‘quickie’

Staying

by Steph Ellis

 

The familiar cloying smell drifted in through the window. She didn’t need to look out the window to know that it was Kieran. Give him half-an-hour and he’d probably be slumped over his books puking his guts out. He didn’t disappoint. As Sue passed his classroom, she cast a sympathetic glance at her unlucky colleague now guiding him away from the desk.

She walked slowly, mentally running through the never-ending ‘to-do’ list, trying to prioritise tasks which were all urgent. Literacy interventions, differentiation of GCSE texts for the students she withdrew from class where the pace was relentless. Admin. Worries. The expectation of all that you would know as much as the teacher regardless of subject. Just a lowly teaching assistant.

Not for the first time she wondered why she remained. It certainly wasn’t for the money, her wages so dire she often felt it impossible to continue – especially the too frequent regularity with which unpaid time ate into home life. It definitely wasn’t for the difficult times – restraining a boy from hurling a fire extinguisher across the classroom, standing in front of another to protect him from a howling mob, walking around with the imprint of a fist in your side, working in isolation with a student whose violent outbursts put you at risk. No it wasn’t for that.

She glanced in at another classroom. A student looked up and waved and she smiled back. This was why she stayed. It was for the students whose eyes shone with pride and excitement when they’d read a book for the first time and wanted to try another; the students who suddenly wrote pages of a story when they’d never produced work before; the student who started to open up about home-life; the students who had no one.

And then just at the point when these were about to leave and she felt she could possibly walk away without guilt, she met the newcomers: hollow eyes, sad eyes, confused eyes … trusting eyes. And already she could feel that bond emerge, a fragile thing, wispy tendrils tying them together – so she held out her hand and stayed.

Time Ghost

by Richard Edenfield
____________

The disease of time slowly started to take over his body. It started at his wrist where a pulse kicked like a Swiss watch handcrafted by battling Gods. It began to spread to every part of his being. And every place time went it took something with it: memories, health—a suitcase of hope. As he stood on a forgotten street, time whistled in the main thoroughfare like a killer waiting for a willing victim. Each part of his body started to break off. A piece at a time. Soon all that remained was a ghost of smoke circling snake-like rising from a blown out wish. He moved through life. Passed into solid structures. Was not seen. Eyes paused at his hollow presence and then returned to a pleasant neutrality. And everyone had become an apparition spinning through dreams and work and alcohol and the mechanical rhythm of star-studded sequined defeat. He had cast his spell on the world. A measuring stick to wrap around the sun and strangle the light from its bulging vein. But then he returned to his cage. The body he had left—on the ground—rising in its burial suit. The headstone neatly affixed with sturdy numbers and neat lines chiseled on humanity that created the original wall between people that ticked ticked ticked ticked tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick… who was paying for that?

_______________________

Chhotu: little one

by Firdaus Parves

I balanced a cloth bag full of ‘kulhars’ (handleless terracotta cups) on one shoulder, and the large kettle of tea in my other hand. It was hot, not just the kettle, but the weather. Not even dawn yet, and the breeze was warm against my sweating face. I could hear the morning call for prayer from the nearby mosque. The train was running late, it should have been here by now.
The platform was deserted except for a few porters standing and smoking and the stationmaster reading charts beside the retiring room. It was a small station, few trains stopped here.
I was worried the tea might get cold. My mother had brewed it to perfection. She had put a generous amount of ginger while boiling it. It was sweet and strong, the ginger flavour had woken my sleepy mind and I was in high spirits.
The train finally arrived, rushing past me in a blur then slowing down to a clanging halt. I ignored the air-conditioned bogeys, those passengers were used to the weak tea in styrofoam cups from the pantry car. I was headed for the general class. That’s where the real people were, they would enjoy a cup of strong ginger tea.
The train stopped for exactly seven minutes, the time I had to sell the tea. I walked alongside the train tapping on windows, crying out, “Chai…chai!”
“Hey Chhotu, two cups.”
“Chhotu here.”
“Chhotu!”
Almost ten, I was short for my age, so I was used to this name, it meant ‘little one’.
I catered to everyone’s call. Hurriedly pouring tea, and pocketing the money. A few men had climbed out of the train. One gestured to me, I poured out a cup for him. He searched for money in his pocket. I was losing precious time. I told him I would be back in a minute. When I got back, the train was already moving and the man had disappeared. Oh well, I thought, it was just one cup. Then I saw on the bench, where he had been standing, an empty kulhar with a ten rupee note under it.
The sun was rising.

Reading an Avalanche

by Richard Edenfield
______________________

On the soft white page there are tracks that speak a language of discovery and bloodshed. Your eyes follow me like a hunter across descriptions of streams, the poetry of a mountain—the trail of a wounded heart. I am an injured animal. Ice cracks like bone as I cross a waterway that carries a faint pulse underneath. I am breathing heavily. The mist from my breathing carves a rifles discharge around my head. I don’t dare look back. I know you are on my heals. I can only write so quickly. But I cannot lose you. If I place a metaphor in your way it will only alert you to my location. I start to run. I fall and get back up with ice forming around my knees. Coldness numbs the back of my throat. Extremities start to become unknown to themselves. My legs are heavy. The heart plays catch with itself as I hear a gunshot break apart the silence of a descending evening.

Through the heavy snow I continue. A flat white ahead is all I see. Desert of ice. A cool desolation. If I write badly maybe that will stop you. Or you will just continue till the end. Till all the blood drains from my body across the pale stark blanket. I can hear your breathing. Like a steady prayer knocking against my chest. The first moonlight gets lost on the ground like a lover in a collage of memory.

I see a town up ahead buried from the bright storm. Rooftops peek like nests through a pile of sunlight. The glare from the image blinds me… and hopefully you as well. I make it to the small area. I walk boldly down Main Street knowing that you won’t follow me here. My home is close. Inside will be a fire and safety and comfort. I make my way to my door that slowly opens as I approach. And you are standing there with a book. I can feel the pressure from your hand. My fever warms your touch. You invite me in as a gunshot starts an avalanche on the page.

Intolerance

by Ewan Smith

For as long as time itself, Mother Owl had been considered the wisest among the Birds. Always, it was to her that they turned for sense and guidance.
“For shame, Birds!” she cried this day, her voice shaking with rage. “Look at those trees. What do you see?”
Sparrow, hopping about the grass, stopped and looked up. High above her were crows, dark and foreboding. Wren, gripping close to a trunk, saw their vicious beaks and shuddered. Starling flying in quick curves and arcs through the sky, screeched in protest. Never would he land in a tree infested by crows.
“We have allowed one group amongst us to become despised and rejected,” snarled Mother Owl. “Shame on us! Shame!”
Seagull bustled forward, pushing smaller birds carelessly out of his way. “Crows aren’t like us,” he said harshly. “Their habits are disgusting.” Murmurs of agreement rose up on many sides.
Mother Owl fixed Seagull with a glare. “We are ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER,” she pronounced in a tone that brooked no arguing. “We are the Glory of Creation with our feathers, beaks and claws. We alone have conquered the sky.”
For a moment, Ostrich seemed about to make a retort. But instead she sullenly scratched the ground with a vast foot.
“Crows have no morals,” muttered Thrush. “They take food from all of us.”
Mother Owl uttered a mocking shriek. “Are there not insects enough in the world for each of us?” Heron opened his beak. “…and fish too,” Mother Owl added hurriedly.
She turned to the gathered throng. “We Birds are the children of the Dinosaurs. We have inhabited this Earth for 100 million years. Where is your pride? Your respect? ”
She glided over to a prominent log. “ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER!” she cried. “ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER! ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER!” Gradually, the chant began to be picked up.

Two of the crows looked down from high in a tree. “They’re lively tonight,” said one. “What do you reckon is going on?”
“Sounds like anthropomorphic bollocks to me,” retorted the other. “Come on, let’s go to the dump and find some thing to eat.”
And off they flew.

Sanderson Filibuster’s Amazing Shopping Emporium (somewhere off the beaten track)
by A.J. Walker

‘Build it and they will come.’
‘I’ve heard that.’
‘Received wisdom.’
‘Maybe an old wive’s tale.’
‘A wise old wife.’
‘Or not, I mean come on!’
The silence rang through the store like a truth told in Parliament.
‘So, has there been anyone in today?’
‘Lots. Looks beautiful doesn’t it?’
‘Very Christmassy. I assume that’s what you mean.’
‘Good work from Ethel. I’m minded to give her a Christmas bonus.’
‘Erm… nice idea.’
‘What’s with the “erm”? I mean it is Christmas and she’s done a fab job.’
‘Erm.’
‘Stop it with the “erms”!’
‘Okay, um…’
‘Now come on, an “um” is the same as an “erm’.’
‘Is it?’
‘Yes, everyone knows that.’
‘Well look, yes, she’s done a fab job, the store looks amazing.’
‘Capital!’
‘Capital, who says that?’
‘I just did. Stop digressing; the ums?’
‘Okay, my point is the store is busy with people; packed in fact.’
‘Yes?’
‘Well all these people work here, don’t they?’
‘Yes. Yes indeed.’
‘Exactly.’
‘Spit it out man, what you getting at?’
‘It was the same yesterday. The day before. The week before and the month before.’
‘And?’
‘Let’s cut to the chase. We haven’t had a customer here since June. And she was only her ‘cos she was lost.’
‘I remember, Brenda. Said she loved it. Filled in a form.’
‘Yep, I know. It’s on the top of the pile of customer questionnaires. And the bottom.’
‘Not everyone fills them in.’
‘There hasn’t been anyone else.’
‘It’s been slower than I’d want.’
‘Slower! It’s dead!’
‘Quiet.’
‘Dead. Look, I have two pieces of advice my friend.’
‘Go on.’
‘Make sure your fire insurance is up to date – I know a man with a can.’
‘Oh come on!’
‘You can’t go on like this, it’s not healthy. As “mad as Sanderson Filibuster” is a saying now.’
‘A fire. That’s like giving up.’
‘It IS giving up. But with a money back guarantee. It’s the only option.’
‘I’m not saying yes, but what was the second bit of advice?’
‘You must take out a Contract on the wise old wife who told you “they would come”. Bloody liar.’
‘Ho ho fucking ho!’

Praying Mantis

by Steph Ellis

Hungry. I am so hungry. I stand and wait, poised—not in the shadows—but in broad daylight. Most walk swiftly past my door although once safely beyond reach they turn a wistful gaze upon my home. If they are lucky I reward them with a smile. You should see them run! Fear of their wives outweighs their desire for me. They do not know that that fear keeps them safe.

Today I see a stranger. Fresh meat. Our eyes lock as he gazes up at the balcony and I smile boldly. My neighbours have noted my midnight visitors, declared me a whore. Today this show is for them. I will be the brazen hussy of their gossip. I will behave scandalously. I will …

Oh, they do not know what I will … If they did, they would be running to that fat little priest of theirs as fast as their legs could carry them and he would have them on their knees. Something I suppose you could say we have in common.

But I am digressing from the script. Watch. He is climbing the stairs now and my silks and ropes are ready. His eyes gleam with expectation and he lies before me without question. White. Naked. Glistening. He is a worm. And as I bind him, he is a subservient little worm. And I am ready to feed. He squirms with anticipation and I pull the ropes tighter. He moans. A mistake. I like to dine in silence. I tighten the bindings and he falls quiet. An obedient worm. I sit astride him and his eyes widen in horror as I open the mouth that no living creature usually sees. But this man, the one I have taken as my husband for only a moment, is given this final vision as his reward. Wider now, the gaping void of my being slices through his skull, picks out the delicate brain, nourishes my body in a way that I have missed for too long. And this time I will become a mother.

In memoriam

by Geoff Le Pard

George mouthed his lover’s name as he fixed the last lightbulb in place. He noted the display didn’t draw much attention, only the odd glance and one or two smiles. He was sure they knew why he had put lights on this bare tree, why the city authority had left it alone. Dan would have said they’d ‘twigged’ and broken down in giggles. How he missed that giggle.

Sighing he turned to the barred and padlocked door and its graffitied sign, still just about recognisable as ‘Pink Flamingo’.

‘Best dance scene ever, eh Dan?’ George’s breath left a steamy film on the dirty cracked window as he peered inside. No one wanted this place, not after what Gillan Housego had done. George strained as he always did to remember any of it; the shots, the screams, the inevitable smell of blood but nothing survived the bullet’s kindness in removing the horror as it took his consciousness. He knew, from the reports, that Dan died early on. He read with disbelief, in the months after he emerged from the coma, of 140 other deaths.

The young and not so young, men and woman, all seeking a safe place just to be themselves despite so many disapproving of their lifestyles.

He should have been number 142 but he had lived. It took him months to go back and wonder why. He sat in the tree’s shade and let the voices emerge. He learnt each name, each one part of his village. They would not be forgotten.

That’s when the idea of the lights came to him, one light for the light that had gone out.

‘Hi. George, is it?’

The woman’s hair was a vibrant candy-floss stripe.

‘Mel? I recognise you from your photo. You’re the first.’

She touched her hair. ‘I’ve not dyed it since, you know. Which one…?’

He tapped a bulb. ‘Phyllis.’

‘You know them all?’

‘Sure.’ Two men joined them, studying the branches. ‘I’m expecting over 100 today.’

One of the men said, ‘Such a lovely gesture.’

‘Memorial. I’m keeping it going.’ George dabbed away a tear. ‘These particular fairy lights ain’t never going out.’

Those Things Are Going To Kill You

by AV Laidlaw

I wind down the window as the policeman saunters towards the car. He wears mirrored sunglasses, big ones that cover half his face, as if he’s from some seventies cop show.

“Is there a problem?” I lick my dry lips. Police make me nervous because of the speeding tickets and breath tests. My chest tightens and sweat prickles my face.

He doesn’t take off the sunglasses. “You can’t park here.”

“I’ll only be a couple of minutes.” I shrug. My left arm aches after all the miles driving for work.

“There are signs.”

My mobile, nestled among the polystyrene cups and fast food wrappers on the passenger seat, rings. Janice flashes up on the screen. She must have got my message about not seeing the kids at the weekend. I reject the call.

“I’m just going to pop into the shop and get some cigarettes.”

“They’re very bad for you.”

My mouth’s too dry to laugh so I swallow air. “Is this some government thing, handing out health advice?”

“Just saying, sir.”

“I know.”

“Do you? Last month there was a man, a business man much like yourself, smoking as he drove. He dropped the cigarette on his lap. Now a thing like that is going to cause a distraction. He crashed and the car caught fire. Flames and smoke like the very pits of hell.”

“Okay, I won’t stop here. I’ll try a garage or something.” I stretch out my arm to relive the ache but it only gets worse, burning from my shoulder to my fingertips. The air is too thick to breathe.

“My point is the end comes quicker than you expect. Sometimes it comes before you’re ready.” The policeman crouches down so his face is level with mine. Reflected in his sunglasses I see my blanched face and red rimmed eyes and the fat of my neck rolling over my shirt collar. “Perhaps just a warning this time.”

I see the houses and the trees lining the street and a child’s bicycle propped up against a wall.
“Drive safely, sir.” He stands. “It’s a long road ahead. Make sure you get where you’re supposed to be.”

Byron & John Keats on the Road

by Richard Edenfield
________________________________

I run a mobile library. I bought an old Winnebago and stocked it with books. All the classics and new books, to. I was a teacher. Then a writer. And a part-time librarian. My name is John Keats. My mother was an aspiring poetess and named me after the romantic master of verse. My dog is named Byron.

I travel across the country and mostly give books away. Or I stay for a while and people come into my library and read. Sometimes I will give short lectures outside my vehicle on poetry or the ambitions of literature through history. I set up a chalk board that I attached to the side of my library for when I have classes. I try to find people and places that could benefit from Wilde’s ‘Intentions,’ or Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass,’ or Richard Bach’s ‘Johnathan Livingston Seagull.’ and the children love when Byron howls every time I say the phrase, “I sing the body electric!” Byron… the dog, is a great poet, though frequently his works are poorly translated.

Occasionally, I get large crowds of people who are having hard times. Children experiencing terrible poverty. So I read to them poetry about Italian countryside’s with sunsets raising the ocean like a lantern. Or magical places where the heart can soar on golden wings of starlight wishes. Their wide eyes would blink as if they were sowing moments together into a warm blanket of wonder and imagination that would protect them from their cold hard reality.

And Byron will frequently stick his head out the window as we are traveling down some rural road someplace unknown and yelp at the top of his lungs some great sonnet of love and redemption with the wind pinning his ears back. It is moments like this when I feel free. With the books rattling on the shelves. And a map on my lap that sits like some great novel worn at the edges but still pointing me in the direction of some great new hope. The sound of pages fluttering like angel wings learning to fly in some new heaven.