Featured Writers...

E   F  Hay

'Quantative Easing' - image provided by E F Hay

E F Hay exists in Britain- yet rather than follow spurious, ceremonial leaders, over the years has intermittently found it therapeutic to write out various thoughts, feelings & ideas as stories, so that these (stemming from a stark authorial perspective, developed within depressing, ugly margins of a lower working-class subsistence) can be examined, considered, & interpreted, by clinical practitioners, who might offer professional psychological assistance. His fictional works have also been published in print & online.

 

Changes in circumstances (primarily since this Covid-19 pandemic altered EF Hay’s daily employment routine) inspired an uptick in his literary activities, & 2020 saw him start to churn out fictions with an unheralded productivity. Over & above flash fiction, & short-stories, EF Hay has drafted a novella, quickly following on the heels of a novelette, both of which (as with all the profoundly disaffected tales he conjures) reflect the ills he views abroad (but mostly within Blighty’s sceptred shores), spawned from a recklessly negligent human condition.

 

You can follow E F Hay at Twitter@EvanFindlayHay

Shreib  [an extract from the short story 'Schreibtischtäter']

Cyril, took a measured sip of tea, from his personalised mug, & waved a hand to calm Max ‘I don’t suppose it’s much consolation, but many great artists tolerated difficult lives, spent in substandard homes. Marcel Proust grew up in an abandoned housing estate in East Kilbride; apparently, as a young man, he was in & out of prison on multiple domestic abuse charges. Emile Zola thole in a trailer park in Mississippi, with nine unwanted children, & an oil-burning Oxycontin habit; & of course, Beethoven, who a lot of people forget, was an Uzbekistani taxi driver, & divorced more than 33 times, before he broke into music.’

 

Max was visibly shocked, in contrast to Cyril, who remained chilled to the point of disinterest. ‘You appear to be a painfully slow learner Max, but even you must have noticed shrinkflation; it’s related to an almighty degree of currency debasement. We’re living through the greatest monetary experiment in history. It’s post-capitalism; central banks, acting on behalf of an entrenched plutocracy, are manically buying bonds, stock, anything & everything it takes to keep their party’s Ponzi punch-bowel full until after midnight. Inflation, stagflation, & starvation are associated death throes.’ He expressed no surprise concerning Grateful Endeavours’ vagaries, either as an organisation or Archie specifically- making no effort to communicate clearly with his ‘clients’. ‘Their sort don’t need to Max. They’re a law unto themselves; beyond reproach, & free from obligation.’ Max mumbled vaguely about bosses, to which his coach laughed aloud. ‘GE is a function of the élite Max. They are the bosses! As Norm Franz pointed out erenow (had you been listening), gold is the money of kings, silver the money of gentlemen, barter the money of peasants, debt the money of slaves; & monetised debt is enslaving millions. Think about it. Archie wouldn’t waste a brain cell on morality, or doing the ‘right-thing’ by you, or anyone else. He simply concentrates on taking actions required to maintain his privileged position amongst the upper echelons of Britain’s social hierarchy. If Adolf Hitler flew in today, he’d arrange for a limousine anyway.’

 

Max, riddled with emotional pain, & light-headedness, following a sharp abscission of hope, had been mugged off, left, right, & centre. A blithe work coach, without pressure, comfortably ensconced at a natty utility desk, in a cosy heated office, with tasty sandwiches squirreled away in a tiffin drawer, tea & coffee freely available, spared no concern for the likes of Max, whom this comb-over coach neither respected, nor attempted to understand (yet biasedly judged Max manifestly dispensable, so as to lazily waste his time). Evanescing, Max, an unremarkable, ragged-trousered loser, departed, to struggle to survive, enivrez-vous per chance: whatevs. Over eight-weeks later a second-class letter arrived, in response from GE...

 

Max Brodie Sinclair Esq.

4 Always and Forever Road

Walford, London East

4 March 2024

 

Dear Sir,

 

Thank you for your recent submission. This has now been forwarded by the Submissions Committee to the Submissions Sub-committee, & their report will be processed in the usual manner by a Standing Pertinent Appropriations Committee, which, as you should have been made aware (sic), meets every Walpurgisnacht in the German village of Badendorf. We hope to have their comments in the New Year, probably in November, & this will be considered by a working party drawn by lot from the World Wildlife Fund, who have been appointed as Body Responsible by National Heritage who are sub-contracting our working party appointments, in their very own, time hallowed manner. Naturally, we will be unable to give you an official response until the working party has completed their deliberations, & their comments have been assessed by a plenary session of the European Court of Poetic Justice in accordance with Article 132, (ii) of the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648, as established by Wayward Squirrel vs. Mott the Hoople (citations omitted).

 

Nevertheless, I would like to take this opportunity, to add a personal note to what can often seem, to the jejune young struggler, to be a process governed by anonymous & impersonal institutions. These bodies are, you might well think, not best placed to appreciate the blood, sweat, tears, & other fluids expended by the artist, in pursuit of his or her goal; whether that is the encapsulation of some essential truth above the ambit of our everyday somnambulance, or again, the representation of the vilest, most degraded depths of our unacknowledged desires. If this is, indeed, what you believe, then I’d just like to say: ‘fuck off- nobody asked you to write it, so don’t come it with me, you warty old toad.’

 

Very best wishes with your future endeavours

 

pp Archie Bickerstaff

 

 

 

 

extract from the short story 'Bob's Full House’

 

We were smoothly ushered into a reception room where Bob appeared unto us. I’d read somewhere, he’d a serious drink problem; half-expecting a slightly raddled appearance, but instead it was like Archangel Gabriel popping down for a quick chat with local rustics. He projected an assured smile, like a Mercedes radiator grille. His tan was as deep as it was even. He wore a crisp white Harvey Nichols’ shirt, blue double-breasted blazer, grey slacks, & an MCC egg-&-bacon tie. He asked us our names, & assayed a few possible gags. United, we chuckled; automatically obedient. He’d a cute habit of tugging at his shirt cuffs between teeing up jokes before delivering their punch lines. He noted that I’d worked as a sylviculturist, & scribbled something on his clipboard. Bob left. Gabriella led us through a bewildering labyrinth of corridors, to another reception room, to seriously talk clothes. We’d been instructed to bring attractive attire, a minimum of nineteen wardrobe ensembles; whilst these were vetted for harmony & photogenicity, I poured myself another stiff Scotch. By the time we’d alighted in make-up to be creamed, powdered, & sprayed, I’d long lost contact with reality. It didn’t strike me as strange when a tactile Welsh dresser forensically checked my nostrils for unsightly nasal hair, before artistically touching up each eyebrow with lukewarm greasepaint.

 

Next stop was the production studio itself. There Bob’s previous four recorded oblatory rivals, surrendered to the conclusions of their distinctive 30 minutes of fame. Large print, viewer friendly name cards were seamlessly changed. The Bombalini Brothers, doubling-up as warm-up-men-cum-floor-managers, cracked jokes: what did one randy rabbit say to another? This won’t take long, did it? Well-oiled tag team performers, they sustained an irrepressibly fluid atmosphere of continuously induced, suppressed hysteria. No fewer than 50 TV sets beamed down from lighting gantries, between blinding arc lights. To sound out a cacophony of angel trumpets, & devil trombones, digitally taped, family friendly, herd-mentality music started playing; someone touched my arm. ‘You’re on.’

 

It was an inflection point, like jumping out of an aeroplane; my stomach in free-fall. The next thing I remember, Bob’s shining physiognomy orbited above me. Wholly zoned, he studied a prompt card on the desk in front of me- ‘conkers’, it read- while creating an illusion of easy conversation. To whom was he talking? Me? This entire hand-picked studio audience? Or those millions of random, brain-dead armchair viewers, who didn’t yet exist? All three? None? ‘Evan Hay! Good Evans! You’re a qualified tree surgeon! I recall a sick friend who visited a tree surgeon!’ I stared at those golden cufflinks; diamonds winked back at me. I was hypnotised. ‘He was cured, but when the autumn came, his hair fell out & his conkers dropped off!’ Twin Bombalini’s turned somersaults in the aisles, holding up LAUGH & APPLAUD cards. A mesmerized live audience guffawed inanely; portraying wild happiness on demand, as Bob glibly insulted each contestant in turn. Our uncomfortable red faces stared back down at us from monitors above. Cameras swivelled & zoomed. I craned my neck. I wondered where my supporter had disappeared to. Just the night before, my sister drunkenly pledged to cheer me on- but then again, that had been in a realer world. I braced myself, as indelible blusher inexorably penetrated my psyche, compounding a rouged, bruised, butt naked embarrassment. Predictably, paraphrasing a compères expression, the rest my friend was show-business.

 

 

 

 

Yob

One Enchanted evening in Whites: so, let us start honestly, without indulging in faux ideological one-upmanship, or casually pretending that back-in-the-day I sat in snug splendour upon a warm seat of influence as a committee member in the Comintern; or even gigged as junior editor of Lotta Continua. I did, but that’s a whole new scandal, a cast of thousands etc. Today I remain a gentleman, albeit one of diminished means, with precious few foolish accoutrements to declare bar my congenital masculine geniuses- these lamentably on occasion will entrance me into forgetting that discretion is indeed, more often than not, the better part of valour (as so happened recently).

 

Do you know those times? We've all likely had them- in your local enjoying a quiet drink most probably after having watched a Chelsea game; quietly & unobtrusively discussing sedulous thoughts with a few select spars, prior to sensing someone parked up at an adjacent table, prattling inanely to silly pals, spouting immature observations based solely on their own two-bob myopic, ignorant, blinkered opinions. As the night passes you’ve maybe had marginally more pints than you’d originally planned or accounted for- slowly yet ever so surely becoming increasingly pissed. Still, you can’t help hearing that obstreperous background persona non grata making reckless-imbecilic comments, repeatedly getting louder, noisier, darker- lazily, carelessly playing to a crass gallery of unkempt dummies. Forebodingly, you gradually become a soupçon over bothered. Yet, convincing yourself that you’re more mature than him, you let it pass: no dramas. Urbane anger management clicks in, but tellingly your mate actually revisits the bar- when you thought he’d disappeared for a well-earned leak- hence, unknown to you, he offers up yet another unexpected pint of Punk IPA (one of over the eight) & indebted, you honourably, albeit reluctantly, accept his generosity (loosely thinking ‘I really must be meandering home to attend to Mother’) whilst also imagining this prophetic pint could figuratively tip one over a rocky precipice. However, those stellar Whites ‘homies’ easily assure & flatter you otherwise, as they always seem to do, so obediently, one stays put- temporally muzzled.

 

Nevertheless, eating away at your customary happy chemically charged mood swing is a frigging stale banana, sat at an enormous adjoining walnut dining table, that you’re now certain is looking for trouble. So far, you’re a refined, cultured European, a fully-grown renaissance adult- in stark contrast to this giant wank*r & tableau vivant of associated gimps. You like to think that you’re well above gratuitous, childish friction, but no, you just can’t handle it any longer. Full of drunk-wired-bravado, you suddenly turn around snarling, hot sang noble arises, adrenalin pumping- a visceral grievance evident in both expression & body language. Each tense moment seems to flow in slow motion: friends cautionary voices faintly distant- inaudible, as if you’ve cotton wool stuffed into both cauliflower ears. Clenching fists, you alter states, as if some chap’s randomly flicked an emergency switch: you flip! Not only ready, but determined to have a right royal tear up, & your primary target’s that Berkshire sat in the VIP reservation. In milliseconds you abruptly stand, erect, spiritedly up-out from a deep leather Chesterfield, approaching the targeted ugly boor (multiple frit knob-jockeys dotted around him), who senses a legitimate anger, & unadvisedly jerks up in quasi self-defence: ultra-violence erupts, loud voices, screams, tears- but noticeably, no tiaras.

 

Diamond cut crystal glasses get smashed, antique teak tables knocked over. You deal with it, delivering a proper straightener- a real one-sided row. That annoying unprepared twat’s suddenly on the wrong end of numerous hard knuckled blows; aristocratic blood is spilled, staining your newly tailored clothes, it’s all across his newly decorated boat race too, & his pink, possibly Hollister, or similarly inappropriate branded t-shirt’s now claret-red. His fair-weather entourage, swiftly departed, melting away from one’s testosterone, clearly flustered, now meekly mincing, simultaneously with style, into Boodle’s. He alone remains, cowering upon a rich Axminstered floor- his effete spindly legs instructed by his brain to no longer support him, due to a barrage of vicious heavy punches rained down upon his battered canister. He winces, peeking up submissively to seek mercy. You glare back admiringly, down upon your handiwork, declaring yourself victor, as nothing’s coming back. And then, finally, post-carnage, you make a swift exit. Heading home, strolling down St. James’s, with senses heightened, still shaking slightly with rage cum fear, & feeling as if one’s head needs a fucking enema. Piece by piece, one truly considers what’s just happened, & whom one’s just totally mullered: only the bleeding Duke of Westminster. MOTHER!

 

 

 

 

extract from the short story 'The Gospel According to Mr. Eric'

 

Where to apportion blame?

Anchored deep into a storm-tossed Atlantic Ocean, festooned by humungous oceanic garbage gyres, bent, drenched, & twisted under near permanent rain clouds, some of us (that’s we/not them) are now fully marooned; our sole succour lies in sampling whatever poxy sanctuary there remains dotted around these flood sodden isles, in order to catch our breath, & temporarily shelter from a noxious miasma emanating from arseholes all around. Initially a tasteless whisper, oft repeated, broadly recognised, & in the fullness of time vaguely accepted- it drifted, until its realisation, albeit still nebulous, appeared somehow inevitable. Quickly, a confederation of opportunists coalesced to embrace claim & media stewardship over this new false dawn, with its hybrid discontents, drawn from deep multifarious bowels of irritability. Adroitly, manoeuvring across a rudderless, floating, faux democracy, a patchy fear of dishonourable global redundancy was evoked by numerous perfidious sophists; self-pitying bilge aside, a dilution of national identity, & most alarmingly, general fears of losing personal benefit entitlements arose (just so many dependent on this bloated state)– so, soon such querulous voices, rallying behind a renaissance of sovereign power, became deafening (tellingly Blighty’s fabled lost intellect from yesteryear wasn’t recollected as having been of much value, or any great loss– only its muscular exertion of Imperialism). This reactionary notion, now epidemic, congealing ubiquitously, settled & most grossly manifest as an endemic sickness, rooted deepest beneath those heartlands, where flag-waving-buffoons happily-cheer on an undisciplined, over extended military, huge gulfs between indebted, vulnerably weak billions, & the unassailably strong (awarded anointed human forms in monarchies, hereditary, aristocratic oligarchs, home-grown VIPs, & tax avoidance emperors). These insensately patriotic, primarily English areas remain fertile ground for state-surveillance agencies seeking to increase staff membership, via gullible volunteers. Subjects of suspicion, find ourselves awkwardly ensnared, within a shrinking island culture; rampant historical revisionism, & overbearing bad-faith, affecting fellow subjects, into protracted, idiosyncratic bouts of Folie à deux, itself playing havoc with state-orchestrated, gnarled, ancestral, & ever mutating Stockholm syndrome– we ache for respite, from acute strains applied from left (if you think there's nothing scary about tomorrows world, abandon hope now) & right (wallop, that’s for nothing son– now do something). Have we done something wrong?

 

 

 

 

Psycho [an extract from the short story 'Psychoneuroses']

A bunch of Muppets were staring at him; they might have purchased council houses, but not one had the Aristotle to confront Aleister properly. In panic they pointed a large foam finger accusatively. Poltroon bastards the lot of them, yet consensus was remorseless. Aleister couldn’t get a handle on what was occurring. He was so out of synch with the picture, it just wasn’t funny. Was he the guilty party? Is that why all his spars blanked him? Fagan had seemed contrite, and many others had given him short-shrift. Someone could’ve warned him if he was edging off the rails. Now who would visit him in clink? Young Conservatives? Not a chance. Aleister could no longer handle this level of rejection. At his feet lay CCG, at last bloody well mute, sprawled across the stage in fancy dress, particles of his Woolworth’s porch lantern scattered across the deck.

 

The resident ship of fools was about to away anchor and mutiny, so he needed to scarper. He swivelled swiftly and nutted some character in the boat then was on his toes outside into Leicester Square. It was full of mad dogs; the acrid stench of filth contorted his expression, stretching muscles in his lower jaw as he roared back at them. He howled ripe obscenities, growling like a giant wolf from some Norse saga, stuck in his head since the infants. His stature increased until all else appeared to shatter in his wake. As he raced through the green hundreds of pigeons took flight in unison, as if they were all tiny rockets, part of a first strike initiative aimed at destroying the planet. The population deserved it, liars & cheats every last jack. Look! There’s the Devil. Where? There. How do you know? Listen well my friend, the light from the bulb up there in the ceiling hit the Devil and bounced off on to my retina; lots of tiny sensory things tingled in my mind. It was they telling my brain cells, no? What! Aren’t you imagining things? You’re Gonzo.

 

Am I bollox.

Sprinting through Coventry Street and beyond into Haymarket, Aleister realised that resistance was pure futility. Route Master number 15 bore down on him so hard it felt as if a fireball had exploded inside his chest; he could hardly breathe. As he drowned in his own blood, his sight clouded- other senses seemed to operate fully of their own accord. Energy dissipated from his being. Up above he noticed Fagan’s drunken face leering at him.

 

“Life isn’t fair Aleister, not for you or me leastways. The likes of us see, all around the world, we’re suffered: purely to be exploited. Even my mate the copper was fucked over. They dropped him like a hot potato when they discovered he was bent. Disposable see? They terminated his career- 29 frigging years! His corruptible tendencies had gone undetected during routine security screenings. The truth? Only guttersnipes know that. And you done good son. We can’t let self-proclaimed royalty like Cecil Gruff take liberties. I would have done the same boy; only you beat me to it. Those wankers down the front lapped it up like pussies, thought he was the dog’s bollocks, some kind of fucking deity; whilst the working classes, the English working classes! They fought amongst themselves as usual. Fuck ‘em. Still, you got him OK. Now stay calm mate, I’ve got something tasty for you before you go.”

 

After wobbling a wee bit Fagan gradually genuflected, holding tightly onto Aleister’s hand. With due care and attention, he produced a small wet pink object from his torn pocket. “Here, I extracted Cecil’s insolent tongue. I would have tampered with his sphincter had I had time, but you know, been there, done that.”

 

This final act of innocent, if demented compassion, soothed Aleister - as death engulfed him, his last selfless hope, was that his time on Earth had not been spent entirely in vain, and that his crushed, dismembered body, would at least become sustenance to stray dogs, foraging swine, jackals and eagles; utilised by scientists for pathological research, profited from by medicine heads, sold abroad illegally, fed to the birds of the heavens, or perhaps the fish of the deep.

 

This is wisdom

 

 

 

 

extract from the Short Story 'Hello Sailor!’

 

The venue was an architectural gem, & incredibly, hitherto, I concede that I never knew such an arresting edifice existed in Royal Tunbridge Wells. To avoid gross ingratitude, I accepted; hand in hand, passing giant aspidistras, we entered the establishment, unexpectedly oriental in fashion, to witness live acts, which were nothing if not diverse. As well as rhapsodic Bohemian singers, an amusing compère introduced strangely curious comedians, blacked-up minstrels, Rangdo of Arg (a cheeky cockney chappy), reassuring local yokels on hand-held pole stilts, Daphne, the completely convincing mind reading duck, dancing Quakers, pneumatic Daisy Squelch & her big brass six, motley crews of luxuriantly decorated salamanders, siffleurs, dentalists (acrobats hanging by their teeth), water-spouters (from their anuses: LOL) & enthusiastic fartistes, who energetically extinguished Yankee Doodle candles (blowing from skilfully supple darkened derrières), & released subtly cadenced bursts of colonic music. After such ribaldry, universally well received, punters wandered out into an adjacent bar for stiffeners; together they pursued erratic, inconclusive comparative reflections. ‘Show me the incentive, & I’ll show you the conclusion’, Osama quipped teasingly, as tensions mounted amidst the exuberant white working-class crowd of couples– some married, mostly divorced, single, or separated (unions of sexual convenience). Violent femmes, gamine florists, well-to-do match-stick gels, spunking hard-earned profits on denier cri, accompanied by superlatively tattooed, monosyllabic beaus (no littérateur in sight), stereotypical manual labouring types, white van delivery drivers, from god-awful provincial transport yards; all elementary enough coves, uneducated, without prospects, endowed with literally no scope for promotion (presumably dragged, on a daily basis, into a higgledy-piggledy petty politics, extruded from the hopes & fears of proles stuck in a rut, year in, decade out). Still, in the case of those present, perpetual drudgery hadn’t prevented them from glamming up to step out for a jolly. Indubitably, their enduring spirit marked them out as intoxicating, & attractive. However, when mixed together, with alcohol, libido, & a life-times pent up, inarticulate suppression, their passions made for inflammable material. On account of the wide medley of tastes-choices, some preferred one act– others supported its apparent opposite (I found their volcanic dialogue invigorating, bold as it was, filled with lively invective, exempli gratia- ‘you’ve got more mouth, than a cow’s got cunt, you cunt!’). They emotively debated various merits relating to each performance, & yet when no hint of consensus could peacefully be sourced, nor even simulated, the audience en masse, studiously waddled off out onto the cobbles, for a ferocious straightener, where in the mêlée, I lost most of my Hampstead’s (which is ironic, as I'd really big upped those dentalists)!

Alan Berger

Alan Berger is a writer-director with a few films on Netflix written and directed from the way past. He only writes now and finds he receives a much better blast. He grew up in New York city and now physically resides in West Hollywood California. As then, and now, he has absolutely no idea where any of his thoughts come from. He just reports the news from brain central. When he visits a museum, hears a song, or sees anybody’s art, he has no inclination whatsoever to know what the creator had for breakfast or why. And most likely, they don't know either. The only rule he has or is interested in is...does it work.

Her In Case Of Emergency

 

I’m so mad at you, I could spit, she said. Go right ahead and spit, he said, just don’t spit on me, spit on yourself, why don’t you? That’s it, she said, fuck you.  And a fucking top of the morning to you too, he said.

 

Mary Klass slammed the door as hard as she could, and hoped it would fly off the hinges and hit him the head, then, while he was on the floor, wind up, up his ass, without the benefit of lubrication.

 

Mary Klass had a temper that made an eight-point earthquake, look like a pussy.

 

And if the earthquake didn’t like it, it, could go fuck yourself too.

 

When Mary got back to her apartment building, and after crying in her car, in her underground parking space, she went to the mangers’ office.

 

I want to change my case of emergency, she said to him.  Again? he asked. Yeah, you got a problem with that? she said. No, he said. Who is it going to be his time? he inquired. Don’t get smart with me. I’ll let you know, she said as she stormed out of his office, after of course, slamming the door.

 

When she got into her apartment, after slamming the door, which her neighbors were always complaining about, and they could go fuck themselves too, she chuckled, as she hit the phone.

 

She called her golf instructor, her tennis instructor, the lifeguard at the pool where was leaning to swim, her piano instructor, and the managers at all the restaurants she frequented, and told them all the same thing she told her apartment manager.

 

She thought to herself, with all these managers, and instructors, and such, too bad I can’t instruct,

and manage myself.

 

Then she fed the cat, and took the dog out for a walk, came back home and took a few pills, and went to bed. Her last thought, before dropping off, was that, what the Hell am I doing? As she drifted off, she thought of a song she sang to herself many a time that she titled, ‘Now I’m Back In His Harms again’. Anyway, she thought, I’ll outlive them all.

 

But she wouldn’t.

 

That was all she sang.

 

 

 

 

Just Wondering

 

I wonder what steps she took today 

Was I in her thoughts

Was I in her way

 

I wonder who she spoke to today          

Did she speak of me

If I had to wager

I would say nay  

 

I wonder why I wonder

 

The one that away

Never left my brain pan 

 

Memories

Get what you can  

 

I wonder who she is with nowadays

From a distance

I don’t have to wonder

Who she isn’t      

I just hope they see her for who she is

 Just like I didn’t         

 

I want her to be happy 

But let’s not go overboard 

Nor do I want to

Slash at the past

With my rusty sword 

 

She most likely would pass me by

If she saw me in a treetop stuck 

But I would certainly wave

To wish her good luck  

I shall always think of her

Even while getting struck

By a truck

 

 

 

 

Cow Hide

 

She grew up aware of the process of slaughter.

She heard it, she saw saw it, she smelled it, she ate it.

That is how it turns up down on the farm.

 

This little big 10-year-old girl had a name for everything and everyone.

Dad was “The Executioner”. Mom was “The kitchen helper’. The animals and birds that flew over and visited the farm were called ‘Tribes People”.

 

She was an only child surrounded by many temporary pets and imaginary pals.

 

She began to hear voices at 8 and they were nice and friendly.

She was afraid to tell the folks for fear they would go away.

Besides, they told her not to tell anyone and she was a good secret keeper.

 

A calf was born one day that the voices said would be different.

And he was.

He was black and white with a pink nose.

She called him ‘Rainbow’

 

The calf and the girl became super-fast friends, and before Rainbow was even born, she was told that she would not eat him, nor would anyone eat or wear him.

 

When Rainbow was big enough the little girl made a saddle for him out of old pyjamas that were now too small for her still small body.

All she had to do was say left, right, back, ahead, and Rainbow listened and gladly followed those directions.

Rainbow grew too fast and the little girl knew soon judgment day would be coming and the verdict was not good.

She saw a movie once, with the folks, about a deformed man who took a girl away from an angry bunch of people and brought her to a church where no one would be allowed to get at her.

 

For such an ugly guy he sure came out beautiful by the end of the story.

 

Father Dan at the local church that morning was finishing up a chat he had with one of the priests.

Father Dan told the priest he didn’t like the way the priest played and looked at the kids and sent him packing without a letter of reference.

Far from it.

Father Dan put the God Damn word out as he phased it to the soon to be ex-priest.

 

And that was that.

 

One fine morning the voices told the little girl that this was the day Rainbow would meet his maker and she better saddle up and head down the road.

The voices suggested she wear a tee shirt that said, “Sanctuary”, like in that movie see saw, on it as well as a sign around the neck of Rainbow.

After she got close to town the voices would tell her what to do next.

 

As our girl and The Rainbow were getting close to town mom got a call informing her that her daughter was riding a cow down along the highway heading North and was asked if she knew about that.

 

Mom hung up without answering or telling pa.

 

On the outskirts of the town, the voices told the cowgirl to head over to the church and like that movie she saw the other day tell Father Dan she wished to sanctuary up like that guy did with the girl.

 

She got to the church and did just that.

Father Dan, recognizing the movie she was referring to minus the voices told her she was brave and that he would take care of it.

 

When mom hit town, she was told about the girl on the cow over by the church with the signs on the both of them.

 

Father Dan said his hands were tied because she had asked for sanctuary and he gave it to her.

 

He also bought the cow with his own money and not the churches and mom promised in front of Father Dan, and the little girl, and Rainbow, that Rainbow belonged to heaven now and will die of old age instead of becoming a porterhouse.

 

Mom drove home slowly with Rainbow and her daughter slowly trailing behind.

 

And that was that.

 

 

 

Not Facing The Music

 

I certainly can’t blame you

For throwing me out of our band

Let us face the music

Had an addiction as big as the land

Remember when they built that tour bus

Just for our dreams and the four of us

 

I could always sit way in the back you know

And cheer the band on

While I think of all the life and money

I put in my arm

I only meant to me and me alone harm

Again, can’t blame you

For hitting the alarm

It’s been too little food

And too much crying

I have not felt special

For a long lonely time

 

But how many can say and do what we did?

Until things got icy

And I slid

 

The women and men that admired us

They were all so pretty, accessible and agreeable

They just could not compete

With my sweet skipping needle

 

 

 

Even A King

 

Even a King

That is going to break

Has not a clue of his impending fate    

Any promise I hurl at you

Soon in time

Will turn on me like a screw

 

When the rain comes in

To shower my regret

I direct it to my dark place 

So I don’t get wet    

 

One last chance

Became one too many

It all adds up

With the good, bad, and blurry      

 

I would rather be a year too early

Than a second too late 

Then again 

Nothing comes to those who wait 

 

So I force myself

Thru is and that 

And at the end of it all

It is only me and my cat

We dig it like that

 

 

 

Taps

 

Tap into the pain

Like a spike in a maple trees vain

Tap into the laughter

In the middle of your current disaster

Tip toe thru the two lips

Of the garden that you master

Strike a chord

On your hot rods’ running board

Find a place to cry

As victory looks you in the eye  

Take a look beyond

The ice on your pond

Take a breath and see

You’ll never solve the mystery

Drop a dime

On father time

Spend a quarter swimming underwater 

Stand on a mountain till

You see who is above you still

Walk the plank

After you break the bank   

Hold on tight

Until it’s all out of sight

Comb the lands

Without getting blood on your hands

Try not to judge

Go ahead and budge

Hold on to your beliefs

Don’t get stuck on a reef

Run in the rain

Disregard the weather vane

If you can to all that

I tip me hat

 

 

 

Ugly And Vain

 

As a matter of pride and principles

I never attended day or night schools

I am as dumb as they come

Money?

I have none

My roof flew away

Over my dome

But I don’t want pity

To me, I’m too pretty 

 

Standing in the rain

A fucking shower of pain 

My genes are to blame

I am ugly and vain 

 

Maybe I could have been a male model

Except the agents didn’t see it that way

In my eyes I am beautiful

I just play it a different way

 

Now if truth be told

Inside I break

Like a week old roll

On the outside when all else crumbles 

I still never fold 

 

Standing in the rain

With a tin cup

I can see my reflection

And things are looking up 

Only I see that plain

It’s all the same

Being ugly and vain

 

They say looks are deceiving

Mine are easy to figure out 

People think I’m ugly 

I don’t know who they are talking about 

In the rain

In a bucket of flames 

But my thing that is my main 

Is I am ugly and vain

 

If I had a car, but I don’t 

I would be living in it 

It would have a few mirrors

For my reflections to float

But I live

Here, there, and nowhere

Have I the right to complain?

Being so ugly and vain

 

And you look at me

And wink or blink

Does not matter to me

What you think

I am real and what is left is fake

Pardon me

For I am a dishonest mistake

Lorette C. Luzajic

Lorette C. Luzajic is a visual artist and writer from Toronto, Canada. She uses collage, poetry, and flash fiction to process the barrage of imagery and information around her and contemplate it in a way that means bearing witness. Poetry and literature are major themes that surface in subtle or overt ways in her artwork, and art history is usually the starting point for her stories and prose poems.

Poppets 4 [2020]  by Lorette C. Luzajic

www.mixedupmedia.ca

www.ekphrastic.net

Lorette's new book is 'Pretty Time Machine'  [Mixed Up Media Books, 2020]

Honky Tonk Women

 

Yes, you were telling me, of course I do, of course I miss my mother. There were those bygone patios of Rochester when you smoked cigars and shared tumblers of whisky. Your hair and hearts were big and bursting, and the country ballads you swayed to on your last foothold was velvet. You used to blaze through Avon catalogues, and jewelry counters at the CNE, sorting our caches of glitter and glow with glee and abandon. Well, there were those moments where your tears soaked right through her red satin blouse: Mother would hold you, and wave down a server for more sherry. Once, you confess, you threw up in the joint parking lot between a few rigs, and Mother pulled a perfumed tissue from her pocketbook, wiped your face clean as if you were a toddler with spaghetti on your cheeks. Pull it together, kiddo, she said, patting the seat beside her in the van, taking the wheel, opening another bottle with her free hand. 

 

(from my book, Pretty Time Machine, Mixed Up Media Books, 2020)

 

 

 

Conceal/Carry

 

Everyone has small secrets, you said once when you wanted to back away from prying. I almost told you everything right then. You had a hand full of Twizzlers, ever since you quit smoking, and I watched you methodically chew one branch after another. We were dappled in sunlight, lolling gently along in a small boat. The scenery was idyllic. I didn’t apologize for a delicious cigar, made a ceremony of tapping the ash onto the lights on the water. I wished that you would draw me, paint me, outline my contours in charcoal. I wanted that fleeting sense of permanence, imagined the strokes and gestures of your pencil and your brush. But you wouldn’t do it. Said it would make you feel too naked. Well, there were times I almost asked you what was behind those closed doors. But I felt compelled to allow you the dignity of a mystery. When everyone else was desperately hawking their secrets to anyone online who would gasp, you were cool and contained, held the weight of whatever it was with a kind of integrity I’d never possessed myself. I somehow  wanted to honour that. So I held my curiosity the way you held your secrets. And if I imagined them unravelling in the lone dark when I wasn’t with you, I never told you anything about it until now.

 

 

 

Mr. Jones

 

Mr. Jones is sick of solanine: by now, craggy spurs and creaky knuckles from the dark bursting eyes of his spuds are weary nuisances. Still he pares on, with Saint at his side. The room’s musk of dog and potatoes is a hallmark after all these years. Sometimes they’ll both be rattled from reverie by the racket of teacups when the train rumbles past behind them. Mr. Jones might put his knife aside, summon Saint to the backyard for a sniff and a woof among earthworms and the falling night. He might light a pipe for a few swift puffs, stub out the nest of tobacco with the tip of his finger when he turns in. The whistle way off sounds like a song he used to know.

 

 

 

Disco Nefertiti

 

You asked about Marie and I didn’t know what to tell you. I’d last seen her wedged atop my bookshelves, her sly smile up there blank and all knowing, and it hadn’t dawned on me until that moment that I hadn’t seen her for some time. Marie, the long-necked Madonna of disco. I would have guessed her sultry vintage stare was painted on just as Abba hit their stride, but she was as aloof and flawless as Nefertiti, another incarnation. Nah, you said when you gifted her to me- she’s a real redhead, like me. I had to agree and ended up spray painting her russet when she got dusty. I heaped her in swathes of little disco balls that bloomed pink and baby blue when the last light fell through the blinds. Her neck grew as long as our friendship. Once you strapped Marie to the front of your boyfriend’s Bronco, and she rode unblinking through Wyoming and Michigan to land back home. When you left again you placed her at the topmost shelf in my library and she’d never gone anywhere since. How long had it been since Marie’s discreet disappearance and now? I had no idea where she’d gone or who had taken her. Sometimes it’s like that, a small mystery, like how the day I met you, you were long and thin and orange like the cat I loved who had fallen fatally from the balcony that very morning. I named you after him, a moniker you wore from then on forward. We never agreed on anything but “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen, thrift store oddities, and New Orleans. It didn’t matter, nothing did, in that kind of friendship, easy as Sunday morning.

Patron Of Safe Spaces [2020]  by Lorette C. Luzajic

www.mixedupmedia.ca

www.ekphrastic.net

Bull

 

after Andres Roca Rey

 

The matador is a fey little slip of a thing. His smallness is not disguised by the dazzling pale green spacesuit made of light. I’m about to the take the bull by the horns, declare that he needs mothering, but none of the ten thousand ears in the rings would hear me. Kleenex are waving like proverbial ballad lighters in stadiums back home, chins thrust back, braying for blood. My date nudges me, tells me the boy is currently famous for being the worst bullfighter in the world. Just nineteen and already been gored, more times than they can count. I thought I’d read that meeting your maker in a losing match was a badge of honour for a torero, the only way to die. That those never wounded have nothing to show in a game where scars are the currency of manhood. Matteo muffles a guffaw, cups his hand to my cheek with uncharacteristic softness. Yes, hermosa, he says, that is true, but first you have to fell a few bulls.

 

 

 

The Peanut Butter Yarmulke

 

My Dad admitted it, readily, cheerfully. That he’d been praying for me, that the Lord would send a nice Jewish boy. Couldn’t you have been more specific? I bawled at him, and at God, holding you up in the door-well by the scruff. You calmly removed your glasses and polished them while I ranted and raved, then reached for mine and went at them with your hankie. Dad was getting more gray by the day. He was almost translucent. But he loved for us to crank up the bed and fluff his pillows so he could join, asked for a plastic tumbler full of ice and a few fingers of white wine if it was after five. He had a birdfeeder set up right outside, told us if the window wasn’t there, he would shoot the grackles and the squirrels that took everything from the hummingbirds he was luring. The dreaded grackle was staring in at us just then, all tut-tut bravado and beady insolence. Dad was patting the sheet beside him for us to join him on the bed, reached for his wine and for his Bible. You turned on your phone to record his faltering recitation, and I would thank you for that later when he was gone. But right then I was too busy pressing Reese’s peanut butter cup wrappers to your shiny pate. Look, Dad, it’s his yarmulke! I pointed, and we all laughed. I was thinking about licking the sugar from your skull and I know you felt my pulse quicken. I marvelled how your teeth arched white right back into the gum, where mine were grimy yellow hollows from too many years of cigarettes. Dad never laid in on me about settling down, discreetly held his regrets and hopes for me close to his skin and never imposed them. I was just happy he could see me carrying on and laughing with you. I took that, even if I don’t know if we were forever, or what that even meant. Never held anything this long without breaking it. 

 

 

 

Ruby Slippers

 

after Ruby Wallick

 

“I will say that in 26 years of law enforcement it’s the worst thing I have ever seen.”

- Police Sgt. Aaron Pomeroy

 

Nine decades under her belt, but there was still room to spare. Ruby was spry, sharp, and sure of three more years. Even with porcelain bones, light as air. She’d seen it all before, but not this. Who could guess their last supper would be tonight, with Ruby the main course? Her daughter dropped by to drop off fresh rhubarb and some green beans, hoped her mother had the back burner simmering with bacon and spuds. How a crumble of biscuit sopped on steaming top would melt her troubles away. You were never too old to need your Mama, were you? she thought as she climbed the old steps. The cities were in flames around her, and the deadly virus of 2020 was felling her neighbours like branches snapping away. She heard the sounds of struggle, a low and guttural rumble, as if a wild animal had gotten inside. Her call was answered with a strange silence. There was a scuttling noise on the floorboards above. She picked up pace, came face to face with a nightmare: a vampire straddled over Ruby, tearing handfuls of meat from her carcass with both hands. His mouth was stuffed full of fat. He licked his chops, crooked a greased finger her way. Ruby was long gone, emptied into dark pools seeping through the floorboards, eyes fixed on the ceiling. Her slippers were obscenely asunder, red and fuzzy and floating in blood. The sirens were already singing on the outskirts, circling the unrest, scooping up the casualties and injuries. She must have called someone, because they came closer. It took four cops to pry Ruby’s grandson from her corpse and a taser for him to release her entrails from his teeth. How do you bury a nonagenarian who has been eaten alive? How do you tell the others that the wolf in the attic was your own? 

 

 

 

Karen and Karen

 

We were cut from the same cord, a few years apart. Sisters unknown. Rose up in the same wheat fields, same Manitoba snowstorms, and we didn’t have a clue. My sister, named the same name. At sixty, helping a dying great aunt look for her daughter, I found the secret that would soon have been buried with our mother. The sister I’d grieved as stillborn all my life. A girl out there. Our mother stayed married to my father for 70 years. It was a rare commitment, a long road of till death do us part, and there was a fork in the road: a mistake and a miracle. Karen. From another father. Karen is half me. She does not come into view for many more years. I have found out the secret, but have not found her. She is real but not real. When I don’t hear back, after that first surge of hope, I forget I have put my bottle out to sea. But today, an email. Inside of it, my beating heart. A woman who is also named Karen. We will meet, clandestine like furtive lovers, in hopes of not breaking anything. We will both have lives behind us and sturdy shoes beneath us. We might be sewn together, we might return to life apart, we do not yet know how it is, or how it will go. We only know, we are Karen, two sides of the same coin. Is there something in me that knew I’d been severed from myself, something in her that said so? I do not know. I do not know whether I will click with her or she will click with me. It doesn’t matter. Too much time has turned to dust already. There is only blood and rust, there is only the sun setting over the prairies, shorn of brambles and brick by the pioneer women in wagons who came before us. 

john e.c.

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