Showing posts with label Booklet 6. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Booklet 6. Show all posts

Friday, April 16, 2021

Nifty-Fifty Stories

Bloodbath by Stephen Goodlad

In the corner of the garden stands a stone plinth supporting a stone bowl. The

birds like to gather to wash; a shared oasis, common territory in the summer heat;

they flutter and preen. My cat waits unseen in the shadows and pounces the

moment they are in their element.

No Longer Mine by Amy B. Moreno

I stalked the garden; skinny ribs hunting afternoon black birds, without a warning


I pushed myself up against the patio doors, pink nose flaring with questions – ‘Who

lives here now?’

My tail twitched, I watched, waited for a chance.

I slipped inside, looking for home, but they had gone.

Bloodbath by Emma Rainsford

The sound of lightning cracked through the silence almost drowning out the din of

the crowd hammering down Lady Clarissa’s door. Lounging in her claw footed bath

sipping a red liquid from an ornate goblet, Clarissa chuckled darkly. One way or

another, there was going to be a bloodbath tonight.

Clean Break by Ivan Skilling

Seven years of being monitored in this prison of an apartment. No more. He was my

husband, not my warden. I dragged my bag out the door, slammed it, and glared

into the doorbell camera. Knowing that he was watching from his phone, I flipped

him the bird. Take that.

Clean Break by Andrew Ball

That was it, then. All over. The future looked bleak, stretching out interminably

without access to my monthly fix, my addiction. What was there left in life now that

was gone? Why should I bother to get out of bed in the morning? The Naughty

Forty just wasn’t the same.

No Son of Mine by Ivan Skilling

My son is strong. He ignores baseless rumors about him. He's not swayed by the

snickers and taunts. He knows those messages on the Internet aren't real. So this

body below our building can't be him. My son wouldn't commit suicide over


So why did you do it, son?

Table for One by Vera West

Past the hostess, was a cozy table occupied by a man and my wife. They sat side by

side, uncomfortably close. His lips brushed against her ear; her cheeks flushed

blush. The hostess asked if I needed a table for one. I pointed to where my party

was already seated.

Table for One Jonathan Hunter

I liked travelling alone, people annoyed me. As a kid took the last buffet sausage I

sighed. Not looking I slipped over and a pain shot through my leg. I couldn’t move.

“I’m fine” I vented at a concerned waitress.

“Just fetch me if you need a hand” she smiled.

Table for One Marian Myers

Are those the saddest words heard in a bustling restaurant? My words for the last

ten years. No intimacies shared over romantic dinners. No whispered jokes. No

spilled secrets. Only the silent meals. All because I am the table in the corner, fit

only to be the table for one.

Table for One by Lorna Ye

“Sorry. It’s a table for one,” she said, avoiding his eager eyes, her tone as cold as

the iced tea in her hand. She’d rather keep the chair across the table vacant this

time. “Go home. Your wife’s waiting for you,” she added, taking a big sip of her tea.

Garden of Bones by Lorna Ye

The rain washes over the garden of bones, purifying the whiteness of their hard

surface, brushing off darkened bloodstains. Bones burst and grow like bamboos,

making crackling sounds with each sudden thrust. Along with the rhythm,

numerous souls are singing, laughing, and cheering for the foretaste of their new


Autumnal Muse by Yasmin Nabavi

 Sky cracks open

Peach flavoured syrup


The lilies bloomed

While you were asleep

Do flowers get stage fright?

Birds are exchanging secrets

In the form of cacophonous lullabies

You wish you knew what they were saying

Google search engine bar

“why am I so tired?”

“is it too cloudy to see the sunset tonight?”

Check the weather forecast for the tenth time in

Three hours (just in case it has changed)

Sky closes up again

Clouds gobble up the remnants

Of the peach flavoured syrup

We tell our friends they are strong, beautiful, wise

(but rarely take our own advice)

Wind is howling

Why are the elements so aggravated?

Wind is howling

I am cold again

Put on a jumper

Take off my socks

Deep breathing

Entangled thoughts

Oolong tea, noise pollution, irritability

Sky is a melting pot

Of the colours the cosmos filtered down

Until it isn’t.

Bright white

Slither of sky

Peach syrup hiding

Till the sunset decides

Cursed by the Sun by Hope Nguyen

 She told herself

It's time to burn the past;

Cleansing her memories

From the pain and heartache.

Born upon the sacred ground,

Her bloodline unleashed

The dark power

Within her soulless incarnation.

Cursed by the sun,

Eaten by ancestor's sins,

She pleaded her life

To the hours of darkness.

Under the blood moon,

By the power of three;

Earth, air and water,

The luminescence casted

An ambient sphere.

She chanted for an atonement,

But her fury erupted,

Turning a flame

Into a raging wildfire.

Autumn Equinox by Hilary Taylor

 As day meets night on equal terms

As hot Summer colours change to Autumn hues

As birds gather and swoop ready for flight

As creatures prepare for Winter’s sleep

As leaves age and dry floating to the ground

As waves crash to the shore with storms intent

As farmers harvest their year’s hard labour

As mornings become crisper

As breath becomes visible

The world continues to turn, and the seasons march onward.

Broken by Allison Xu

 When life scorches and

burns you, cracks

straining, hardening,

taste the moonlight and

savor its

tangy lemon wedge,

let your wings stretch out

against the

shadowy hollow,

smooth out the creased edge

of the tale

unspooling in you,

use your blistered hands

to pick up

your broken pieces.

Rounded Over by M H Pitcher

 As day meets night on equal terms

As hot Summer colours change to Autumn hues

As birds gather and swoop ready for flight

As creatures prepare for Winter’s sleep

As leaves age and dry floating to the ground

As waves crash to the shore with storms intent

As farmers harvest their year’s hard labour

As mornings become crisper

As breath becomes visible

The world continues to turn, and the seasons march onward.

Peace in Our Time by Eve Naden


London bears the brunt of the heatwave,

Buildings poured into a melting pot

Of glass and smog, cars gushing in streams of silver

Down the drain while I stand

Sweating in my armour

Cut off from the breeze.

Unlike my colleagues, I am programmable.

Putty with a human face.

Fresh out of Sixth Form, a baby, pock-marked and red,

Stuffed into a cot filled with paperwork and police cars.

Curled in my tiny fist is a baton.


The onlookers freeze, rabbits on the grass.

Stand in the shadow of Parliament,

Closing their fists over their phones before ushering

Their children, little girls, and boys with

Snow-white skin, to stay behind them, their eyes

Too transfixed to ask questions.

It occurs to me that I may not have

The answers.


In the heat, my hands liquefy,

Reshaping to twin riot shields, which

I press against the crowd. The crowd, most

With dark skin, wearing jeans,

Dishcloths with human faces, their sweat being wrung from

Their skin, all twisted together, arms pinned to their sides.

A stony voice pushes me further against the crowd,

Completing the formation.

All our bodies intertwine, moulding as one.

A single shape - Kettling.


Standard practice. In accordance with the rules,

My body follows suit, my head down, arms pressed in a crucifix across

My chest.

‘Thou shalt not’ scribbled beneath my uniform, a Holy tattoo.


Head rising, pulled taut on a string

My eyes catch his, wide and fleeting.

A deer in the forest, its leg caught in wire mesh

Fur bleeding, specks of red on his trousers.

He hovers in the outer rim of the Kettling formation, pressing


Up against a shield, a featureless face,

Staring at me.

An old friend. Same school, same neighbourhood,

When my Mum took me to Church,

He turned left, to the Synagogue.

Now another piece of tinned tuna,

Gasping for air.

My mouth opens in a silent overture,

And a chord of shame resounds within me. That

Thought, the truth: we are not altruistic.

I keep my silence, and with it, my job.


A golden afternoon dribbles to a crimson sunset.

The sky is rose quartz, as if the sun has cauterized

The clouds. Still here, all of us

Sweating, wreaking of ammonia and tears.

Slowly, the tunas are released, funnelled back

Into Parliament square.

One by one they go,

Their details now ours.

The flow

Of people disrupted by cameras flashing

From afar.


And somehow, my old friend

Mohammed, who basks around the rim

Of this fish-tank, is kept within our arms

Behind the riot shields, until the

Last dregs of sunlight have drained from the sky.

He is the last to be patted down and

I can do no more than drown

As he meets my eyes with his hollow stare.

The Eye of the Shrike by Crescentia Morais

 Today I make a covenant with my eyes:

To drop the condemner’s eye,

To drop the scorner’s eye,

To drop the bile-ful eye,

To drop the shrike’s eye.

Today I call my eyes back:

To sit in their own sockets,

To mind their own purview,

To see their own destination,

And to use their perspective

Only when that scope is invited,

Only when that parameter is required.

My eye shall no longer impale

With its sharp point of view

With its narrow blade of logic

With its precise angle of common sense.

Now I see:

The vision of my eyes is narrow,

The distance of my sight is short.

Today I covenant with my eyes:

To be single,

To be focussed,

To see in the light of truth.


Show me how to see.

Show me what to see.

Show me why I must see.

Perhaps it’s not too late

To learn how to navigate

A happy ending

In this shadow of this valley,

Because the dimness is growing in alarming clarity!

The darkness in the chambers of the heart

Is seeping out like defilement from a broken sewer,

And I cannot see past distress and dismay

To put my foot down in the right correct path.

It appears I have been trying to steer through near-blind eyes!

If you think you see still

Some small spark here at this late hour

Remaining of the fire you

Tried to light a long time past:

Then, before my time flickers out,


Gouge out my blindness.

Give me your eyes.

This journey of shudders

Needs clarity of vision.


After the Lockdown by Sabdapalan

 People drifting back

To the abandoned office

Annoying colleagues

Now long-lost friends

War stories of solitude

And incessant webinars

Facebook master chefs

Pleased to sip their office coffee

And in the corner, the empty cubicle

Of the IT support guy

Who will not come back

Letting Go by Carrie Hynds

 I try to grasp the memory,

but the more I reach,

the quicker it slips

through my fingers.

The remnants spatter

onto the coarse wooden floor,

become mere drops which

elude me, fade

into nothingness,

and are gone.

Cherie by Paul Warnes

 An Autumn storm stripped you.

“Is tree dying?” my daughter asked.

You were both very young.

For seventeen years I have watched over youwatched your shadow in the streetlight

edge further abroad,

your branches stretch and brush

the walls of another home.

When you were small I cut the stake

that tethered you,

stripped away the creeping ivy

that strangled you,

tended the lacerations

that scarred you,

Raked the leaves that you shed like tears

when the cold came.

And in return, each Spring birthday,

I swam in cherry blossom scent.

I’ve watched you both grow and change

but now she’s gone- uprooted.

The Greater Handful by Stephen Goodlad


Just stop.

No more running away.

She’s gone. You watched her slip away.


The stark reality we all had to accept.

Treatment. The harshness of trying to save.


Make comfortable.

Say Goodbye.


The bickering. The recrimination we all sought

To justify our place in her life.

Our status.

Her brother, her mother, her partner,

Her son.

Who was bestowed with the greater reason for


The greater reason for not moving on.

Let Go.

Time to throw the ashes into the wind.

Who holds the greater handful?

Intones the parting words?

Then she is gone and, in that instant, we stare at one another,

Bewildered by how we find ourselves now defined.


Caught in stone as the wind changed direction.

Dusk Hound by Sylvie Edwards

 Mind slows

Eyes glaze

All stops



Time ticks

Freeze pose

Brain drain

Heart goes

Chance skulks

Goals sleep

Fate dies

Dreams weep

Sweat creeps

Palms itch

Wants ache

Needs twitch

Breath squeezed

Bones tight

Pig sick

Draws fight

Blood rush

Heart pound

Hairs pricks

Depth found

Kick off

Legs thrash

Claw through

Air dash

Plane breaks

Lungs fill

Soul wakes

Drives will

The Wanderer by BC Nwata

 I’m a lost soul

Wandering in the desert of life

I’ve lost my compass, I’ve lost direction

What can I do now?

I’m very thirsty, am parched

I’ve passed many sand dunes, yet no oasis in sight

Do I go left or right?

What do I do now?

Yet even now that I want to quit and die

I keep seeing signs of a sun beyond the thick cloud

A peek, a peep and then it disappears

Should I go on?

My legs are giving way

Dried and numbed by weariness and thirst

But there is this voice inside still whispering me on

Oh, yes I won’t stop now, I’ll toil on

Then out of nowhere came blue skies and birds

I lost my footing and I fell inside a spring

Oh, there’s a garden, a pond, a paradise

Respite at last, heaven indeed at last

Washing Up RJ Gardham

 Oily rainbows slide over bubbles

On the surface of the roiling sea.

White foam clings to high dock walls

Of metal and chain all silvery.

I dive. The water is gemlike;

A brilliant, viscous green.

Slippery and hot, it washes past

Then through it an object is seen.

A wreck. Lying at the bottom,

Uniform shadow and shiny too.

The hull is blotched, tiny particles

Clinging on in the ocean blue.

What manner of barnacle locks on tight

With jaws of burn and blackened bite?

A swish of the hand, the stain wipes clean

To ceramic white and glazed sheen.

The limpets fall loose, the wreck is revealed,

A porcelain yacht with concave core

The prize moves upward, caught in a swell

To float above in the world once more.

Surfacing. Air. There’s more below

Wrecks and their treasure waiting to show

What hidden prizes are submerged, aglow.

I sigh. A few more pots to go.

Misty Mountain Feliz Piez

 Lift your garment misty mountain,

show your Dogwood lacy hem,

gently stroking surging waters,

sultry Spring.

Give a glimpse of dew soaked ankle,

painted toes of Trillium pink,

mountains pushing into heaven,

virgin forests at their peak.

Stretch your fertile valley wide, give the Fox a place to hide.

Lay your head on Nimbus pillows

beneath an azure blanket sky,

hum yourself a quiet song,

Lark and Robin lullaby.

While deep beneath the musty layer

of fallen leaf and mossy mound,

pushes up the Wintergreen,

red, and ripe, and round.

How I Lost My Lover by Liz O’Shea

 She glanced your way, you were in her thrall

You gave your life, your soul, your all

She drained your blood, stretched your veins

Ground your spirit and mulched your brains

She gave you agony, pain and strife

And still you took her for your wife

When she slunk onto your bed

She left you dying but undead

You live to be her devoted slave

She lives to see you more depraved

You love and hate her like no other

This is how I lost my lover.

Now you walk all entwined

Looking for solace, you will find

No help, no love, no peace within

For you and your lady……Heroin.

Quantum Entanglement by Ingrid Wilson

It’s quantum entanglement:

two bodies joined

in close proximity then

split asunder, still

matched in eternity

communicating over trackless wastes

of space and time unfathomable:

What am I to do

if I should seek to break free

from these charmed quarks and this

quantum weirdness

when I am part of you

and you of me?

Watching by Natasha Weber

 Jude was always missing something.

What he was missing, he couldn’t put his finger on, because his mind was always preoccupied with other things. Currently, it was preoccupied with determining the best way to remove a TV from the woman’s house he was staying at.

For as long as he could remember, Jude had a compulsive need to steal things.

He recalled the jolt of electricity that would run up his spine when he stole a book from the library in grade school, stole a ten-dollar-bill from his mother, or stole his friends’ girlfriends in high school.

There’s nothing quite like it, other than maybe a good smoke. Jude thought to himself as he unplugged the TV from the outlet in a sweaty fervor. Once it was wireless, he lifted it and carried it across the carpeted living room floor.

When he arrived at the front door, he set the TV down and pushed the door open gently, holding the handle the whole time and releasing his grip slowly to prevent any noise. He continued hauling the TV out to his car under the black shade of night, and then put it down on the sidewalk. Jude jiggled his keys in the car lock, eventually hearing the satisfying, click, of it unlocking. He swung the door open and plopped the TV in the backseat. Then, he clambered into the driver’s seat and started the car. He adjusted his rear-view mirror, admiring the golden watch he  had stolen from the same woman he had taken the TV from.

Becky? Andrea? He tried to remember her name, but it wouldn’t come to him.

He drove to a seedy motel with even seedier women hanging around outside. He   was so used to staying at sleazy places that he hardly noticed the soda cans, beer bottles, and styrofoam boxes littering the parking lot as he walked across it. He checked in at the front desk and took the apartment key eagerly. Jude dashed up       to  the second floor of the complex—butterflies still dancing in his stomach at the  fact that he had gotten away with stealing—and opened the door to his room, throwing himself on his bed.

He fell asleep quickly.

When he awoke, he headed to the bathroom. He saw himself in the mirror and shivered. He was still handsome, but if he couldn’t remain handsome, he wasn’t sure how he could keep up his lifestyle.

His best features were still his piercing blue eyes, despite the fact they were tangled    in a web of crow’s feet and dark shadows. His blond hair still had a nice sheen to it, despite the many times he had dyed it to appeal to  the  various  types  of  people willing to pay for him.

Could stand to gain more weight so I don’t look homeless. He thought to himself as he climbed into the shower.

When he stepped back out of the shower, he heard his phone ringing. He looked at the caller ID and rolled his eyes.

His sister had burned the bridge with him dozens of times, and yet she still checked in on him like she was his mother. He did not want to answer, but he knew he would.

He grabbed a smoke from his pocket, lighting it with one hand while answering the

phone with the other. “Hey.” Jude said simply.

“Jude, I just got a call from a woman named Marina saying that you stole her TV.

What the hell have you gotten yourself into this time?” His sister exclaimed. Marina. That was her name. He thought to himself. “I don’t know any Marinas. What are you talking about?”

There was a long pause, and then his sister said, “Jude. I’m so sick of this. Why   can’t you get a job—get a girlfriend, get a safe place to live? I’ll tell you what, I’m willing to send you back to rehab one more time if…”

Jude listened to the rehab argument for what felt like the tenth time with his

eyebrows knit in irritation.

He had been in-and-out of rehabs his whole life. He didn’t know why his sister thought they would be effective for him now when they never had been before. Sure, he was fine when he was in rehab, but when he was out of it, he went straight back to raising hell.

“Angelica, you don’t have to worry about me. I’m doing fine. Just worry about your kids, your husband, and your perfect life, Princess.” Jude told her as he exhaled a long stream of smoke.

There was another long pause, followed by the sound of his sister weeping. Angelica… I can’t believe her name is Angelica. Was all he could think to himself. Mom and Dad’s perfect little angel. Straight As, straight as an arrow. “Just give the TV back, Jude. She said she wouldn’t press charges.” Angelica informed him.

“How did she get your number, anyway?” Jude asked.

“She says it was on a piece of paper that fell out of your pocket.” She replied.

“Just because she says she won’t press charges, doesn’t mean she won’t. I haven’t got any money to pay this woman.” Jude said, standing up and stretching his arms and legs.

“I’ll pay her if it comes to that.” Angelica said without hesitation.

Jude couldn’t help but smile, sniffing out laughter through his nostrils.

Angelica had always been horribly enabling. She pitied him like most people did-- pitied him for the wicked hand that life had dealt him.

He felt the cold hand of guilt squeezing his stomach, making him feel ill for taking

advantage of his sweet sister. “Well… I’ll find a way to pay for it if it comes to it. Thanks anyway, Angie. Andrew was livid the last time you paid for my mistakes.” “It doesn’t matter. He’ll come around.” Angelica protested. “I won’t let you pay for it.”

Jude found his eyes becoming glassy. “Not all of us have your kind of luck, Princess. I really don’t want you calling me anymore. My bad luck will rub off on you.”

“Bad luck?” His sister was breathless. “I know that Peter dying wasn’t exactly good luck, but I think you’ve had a guardian angel watching over you your whole life.

You could have died when you overdosed, you could have died while living on the streets, you could have died when you had a  gun  to  your  head,  but  you  didn’t.” Jude tossed his cigarette on the carpet and stomped it out, then he leaned against    the window. He wondered why his sister thought she had the right to invoke his

twin’s name.

He didn’t realize how angry he was at her for using it until he saw that his hands were shaking. “Don’t talk about my brother.” Jude hung up on her and tossed his phone on the bed.

He looked out the window at the cars in the parking lot, eyes still glassy. He only said it because he knew it was that combination of words that would hurt her the most.

He had no idea why she thought he was lucky. He couldn’t hold down a stable job to save his life, he had been addicted to drugs his whole life, and his twin brother was shot in front of his eyes at age twelve.

But then…

He remembered the instances his sister had spoken of.

He remembered falling asleep on his back after taking an atrocious mixture of drugs, and then somehow being turned on his side to throw up.

He remembered being so hungry and thirsty while living on the streets that he  could barely move, and expected to be dead the next morning when he had fallen asleep. When he had woken up, there was a carton of fries and a glass of water beside him.

He recalled pressing a gun to his own head, and feeling a hand that was not there helping him to lower it.

Perhaps he had been lucky.

Jude returned the TV to  Marina, who decided not to press charges, and then called    up his sister, telling her that he would like  to  try  rehab  again  and  that  he  would like to stay the night at her house.

As he crawled into bed in the guest room, he realized that the thing he had been missing was his brother. He felt like he had been living a half-life since he lost     him.

He didn't know if rehab would help him; it hadn't so many times before. But he did know that he had to do everything he could to live a life rewarding enough for two people, as his second half was not there to live it with him.

It was a chilly night. He shivered in his sleep.

Hands that were mirrors of his own draped a second blanket over him.

© Natasha Weber

Interconnected by Ena Catlin

 Claire’s landlord licked his lips and handed over the keys to her new home, a

cramped and decrepit flat where the low-cost rent included utilities.

“If you ever need anything – I’m right upstairs,” he leered, leaning closer to Claire

who jumped back to avoid the sweat dripping off his bushy, greying eyebrows.

“I appreciate the warm welcome.” She pocketed the key with a feigned smile and attempted to put distance between the two of them by striding into her kitchen and pouring herself a glass of water.

Undeterred, Paul followed closely behind her like a shadow. His watery blue eyes tracked her every movement and watched in rapture as the cool water slipped down her throat.

“You remind me of my former tenant, Penelope,” he said. He scratched his head and dandruff fell like snow onto his slopped shoulders. “She was as beautiful as you.”

Eventually, Paul slithered back to his flat, but the mere memory of his presence left

Claire’s skin crawling.

Deciding a bath would relax her, she padded to the bathroom - which had a patch of mould on the unusually low ceiling - and turned on the taps. She peeled off her clothes and lowered herself into the warm water while her favourite song played gently in the background, soothing away her worries.

That was until the water stopped.

What looked like a piece of string was poking out the tap. Mindlessly, Claire tugged on it. It dislodged but more came in its stead. She kept pulling and pulling on the strands, but they snapped off and clung to her hands like leeches. A well-placed tug and the stuff came loose, but maybe it was best left clogging the tap because cupped in her soaking wet hands was a clump of human hair.

Claire screeched and sloshed around in the bath, struggling to get out in her panicked frenzy.

Now that the tap was unclogged, rancid water smelling of rotten eggs gushed out of it. The thick, slimy substance coated Claire’s leg before she could get out in time. It dribbled onto the floor as she gaped down at her bathwater which had turned a sickening grey colour. Claire’s stomach lurched. Gagging, she swiftly shut off the water and sprinted to the kitchen.

She grabbed a paper towel and soaked it in the glass of water she’d drunk from earlier. Only now did she notice the white flakes swimming around in the glass. Having bigger problems than a bit of limescale, she began scrubbing her contaminated leg raw until the gunk was gone. Relief flooded over her once she was clean, but it was soon replaced with unease which crashed over her like a boat in a torrential storm after realising she had to inform Paul there was obviously something wrong with the pipes.

The stench of rotten eggs returned as Claire went upstairs to knock on Paul’s door

which was slightly ajar.

“Paul?” she called. A gurgling noise responded from deep within the flat, beckoning

her inside.

Dirty dishes were piled in the sink and toenail clippings were trodden into the soiled carpets. There was a dedicated space on the fireplace mantel reserved only for candid photographs of girls around the same age as Claire.

The noise and suffocating smell filling the air led her through to the bathroom. It was identical to hers apart from the out-of-place cupboard in the floor, directly above the mould in her ceiling. Whatever was concealed within it groaned. Taking a steadying breath, she opened it, and was met with the reason behind the odours, the hair, the pipes, that made Claire think she was in a waking nightmare.

Concealed within the cupboard was a water tank. It was mouldy, rumbling, and the

intense smell coming from it hit Claire with a wave of nausea before she’d even looked inside its unspeakable contents. And once she did, the putrid, murky waters below reflected her wide-eyed horror back at her. Scrambling back across the floor, her eyes latched onto the pipes snaking around the room which connected Paul’s bath and basin wastewater to the tank and then downwards, through the floor to her flat. To her taps. To her. Where she and countless other victims had been fed  his filth and countless more would follow.

© Ena Catlin