A Mad Max World

Remember when those government ads had Sid Seagull dancing to get us to slip into long sleeves, slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat to protect us from the sun, protect us from skin cancer? That was when we went outside. We don´t do that anymore. The sun now is shrouded in a veil of grey, a membrane stretching to a horizon licked by flames that swallow both eucalypt and rain forest, belching the stench of burnt Koala fur and paw pads, foreseeing a Mad Max world fallen prey to the vagaries of this sunburnt land. Inside, the tv goes blank and the fridge stops humming. There are no government ads anymore.
Sylvia Petter

Don't Look Back

This isn’t the first time I’ve stood in a ditch, stick in hand, poking a dead body. But it’s never been a human one before. “How did he get there?” my sister whispers, unable to suppress a hint of excitement. “Haven’t the foggiest” I reply truthfully, as I liberate him of his velvet jacket and slip it on over my tattered hoody. We go back to walking in silence, each step taking us further from home. Steady rain sets in. “Poor fella’s gonna get soaked” my sister bemoans. I turn to her, a glint in my eye. “He needs a good wash.” She frowns, but doesn’t say anything. We keep moving, leaving behind our home, our past, our pain. Crimson specks drip off my new jacket and stain the route along which we’ll never return.
Daniel Clark


Let us discuss the fly who drifted into the work fridge and landed on her leftovers – the Christmas Lunch sandwich with the “herby pork stuffing” – and vomited a mixture of spit and stomach acid right there. Let us think about her biting and swallowing the sandwich and – around 72 hours later – vomiting her own mixture of spit and stomach acid right there, near the work fridge. Let’s see her going home and next morning texting her boss: “Apologies – I’m sick” again and her boss texting back “Hope you feel OK soon” again. Let’s imagine her lying there, sick, as she starts to think and decides, firmly, that she will quit that boring job with the nice boss. Let us think about the fly, the same fly, gliding into her flat and resting on her pillow. Let us discuss what a difference it made. How small and huge that was.
Henry Barnes

Lunch At Luigi's

At home she is meticulous. She retreats into the alignment of cutlery. The squaring of corners. Clean follows dirty as day follows night. Whatever they do in the bedroom thrums to a fast-forward image of fresh sheets. At work there are crumb armies in her keyboard. Collaged notes, tissue tails, and sweet wrappers. Mugs with strange countries tea-stained inside. Liquorice twists of connectors and cables. When her husband of 15 years says, 'I hope you behaved today', he means, 'Did you stay in your shell? Did you make yourself microscopic?' And she says, 'Yes.' Because this is mostly true. But lately, she’s been counting backwards from death. Being the first voice in the room at meetings. And today, Karen, from the desk opposite, casually said, "You coming, then?" Lunch at Luigi’s. Spectacular and plain. When he asks, she crinkles the café’s printed napkin, messy and safe in her pocket.
Linda Grierson-Irish

Time Will Say Nothing But I Told You So

It was a mistake to meet you in the woods after school, linger long after we both should have left, feel your lips against mine, tasting of cherries, soft like bruised fruit, my hands tracing the contours of your landscape, so familiar, so strange, so often, then afterwards take the shame of us home, press you between pages of my diary, safe and unrequited, then not to stem the rumours, careless whispers along hushed corridors that shadowed you and distanced me as I saw less and less of you and when I did your eyes were haunted and your locker was graffited and the cuts on your arms were a language I couldn’t read and your parents were called in by the Headmistress and I should have told them about the woods and the lake where we’d swum but I thought if you were gone, I wouldn’t miss you.
Alison Woodhouse

My daughter made me a beaded bracelet

It breaks while I'm waiting near the school gates. Dropping to my knees, as if to pray, I scrape my fingertips over the dusty gravel and pick the beads up one by one. Other things I find there; a penny, a curled leaf, a shard of glass and a single clover clinging on by loose, fragile roots. 'Did you hear me?' I look up at the woman. The sun haloing behind her head makes her the image of something ethereal. She has a son in the year below my daughter but I've forgotten his name. I want to remember, because it's important now, but I can't. 'The shooter is dead,' she says, 'they'll be getting the children out soon.' Before rising, I notice a gold bead hiding near her feet. I reach for it and close my fist tight around it.
Sam Payne


When is one boot without the other? Pining at night for its symmetrical opposite, ‘til light spits through eyelets, finds a dry tongue unnaturally folded. When does one boot glide through a window to land pointing skywards? When will the man in the barn lift his head from the bale, contemplate his feet, one sock stiff and muddied? A boot flies with some grace when it’s hollow, his wife has discovered. Let him bed with the chickens. Let him limp moss-eyed into the yard seeking the partner boot. Let him recollect its rude removal in the blood-cold kitchen, where he made a grab, c’mere mi beauty, his covert winnings tumbling from the sweaty stowage of that upturned hoof. Let him remember her words: one more time, Zachary. His vow: one last win to fix everything. From the house, the smell and crackle of frying. Of unlaced leather. Of never again.
Linda Grierson-Irish

Let Them Eat Cake

½ pound butter ½ pound sugar 4 apples She hands her son the note. She clicks open her change purse and empties it on the table: 8 quarters, 12 dimes and 4 nickels. She takes the note back and carefully rewrites. ¼ pound butter ¼ pound sugar 2 apples He returns with the butter and sugar, but only one apple. Her face clouds briefly then she sets to work. The aroma of warm butter awakens his hunger. She distracts him with her movements, humming along with the radio as she peels and slices and stirs. For lunch she makes him two mayonnaise sandwiches. He wants more but only two slices remain. The bell rings. She pulls her creation out of the oven, gingerly, as if it were made of porcelain. Then she sets it down before him and hands him a fork.
Tina deBellegarde

Saturday noon. Fine rain.

Saturday noon. Fine rain. The disorderly melody of the roaster. A waiter on the lookout. Takes his place between the zinc and the toilet. The delivery boy slips and drops his cargo which opens at the boss’s feet. Yellow chicken, fried potatoes. No, maybe later. Three guys load up while they moan. A fourth joins them. Silence. Shards of laughter. The rattling of a crate, a plate that breaks, the old lady coughs (it is often these days). She thinks, “It’s not the surplus that overflows, it’s the absence that grows.” A square wheel. Her life. A life. Loneliness is a funny idea. Caramel apple tart. No coffee. The pavement is overrun with the heels of the kids of the school opposite. A chill wind enters without asking. Soon the skull is empty. The creaking of a hinge that lingers, then dies, easy. The wind said nothing. It left again.
Vivianne Rozen


Dad is snoring amongst the daisies, hat over his face, belly peeking out over his shorts. Mum looks at him with a mix of disappointment and relief that she often uses on me. Seeing me fumbling with my daisy chain, she clasps her cigarette between her lips, clicks her fingers and holds out her hands. Then I marvel at how quickly she splits the stalks with her blood-red nails, and how she can hold the cigarette between two fingers and thread flowers together at the same time. After a while, she exhales a long stream of smoke, which floats down and settles lightly around my throat. Looking down, I find it’s not smoke but daisies which are so feathery against my skin, and let out a long breath too, both relieved and disappointed it’s finished. Mum nods and flicks the ash off her cigarette onto Dad’s belly. He doesn’t notice.
Ceri E


There were two of them when she walked in. Teachers never went in those toilets normally. The doors to each stall, like using a hand towel to get changed on the beach. And they stank. But it was before school and she had no choice. It was awkward to position herself in the cubicle and balance on the Lilliputian throne. Looking down and touching in disbelief; knowing immediately what it meant. From that point, the experience becomes a before and after. The after is a memory of senses with no accompanying thought. Her dress had a blue bird print. The toilet paper in her underwear was balled up like a mistake. Her face was wet before she doused it with water. Her abdomen clenched like a fist. In the basin where yesterday there would have been paint flecks and PVA, there was blood. She left, almost certain she was alone.
Kristina Jackets

Bin Day

I tear off a bin liner and begin in the kitchen. Spices we never used; asafoetida, saffron and zatar are trash. Saucers, sauce-boats and saucy fridge magnets. From the dresser; your late mother’s silver cruets are recyclable into solar panels. From the bathroom; lubricant jelly and last Christmas’s antidepressants. From the bedroom; yoga mats and the Working Couple's Karma Sutra. I feel facial winkles flatten out. From the living-room, the family photos, books of haiku and scatter cushions are excess. Stepping into the bin liner is a liberation, a delicious weariness. I knot off from the inside and re-read your note. ‘Tuesday. Bin Day. Remember!’ Your notes are a sales pitch for euthanasia. The light inside the bin liner is black, the air, womby. I feel like an eggshell, broken, but with some inner purpose. The calcium in me is good fertiliser. I can be puréed and added to toothpaste.
Steven John

White Noise Playlists at St. Bernardine Medical Center

FILTER BY: (Name) (Date Played) Julie Ramos: Waterfall in Yosemite, Waves at Big Sur, Bathing in a Tub. Sammy Jefferson: Auto Assembly Line, Interstate Highway, Wind. Thomas Nez: Mockingbirds at night. Rachel Chin: Inner City Park, Brooklyn PS 320 Recess, Suburban Playground. Marine James: Wind in the Sequoias, Clay Chimes on Back Porch. Bob Alameda: Walking on Fall Leaves, Campfire in Yellowstone, Cicadas. Mary Robeson: Fetal Doppler, Heartbeat. Hiroaki Nakamura: Crowded Theater Lobby, San Pedro Fish Market. Jim Abbey: Colorado Thunderstorm, Summer Rain, Faucet Running. Andy Morgan: Freight Train, Train Whistle Across Nebraska, Mourning Doves. Sara Maduro: Raking Leaves, Tumble Dryer, Furnace Ticking. Mark Barone: Typing on Manual Typewriter. Henry Washington: Whetstone, Sizzling Bacon, Montana Morning. NEW PLAYLIST (Create) Name: Amy Jiang Password: •••••••• ADD SOUNDS TO YOUR PLAYLIST: (Browse Categories) (Play Random) (Search) Travel RESULTS Airplane Cabin at Cruising Altitude Sailboat on Chesapeake Bay Commuter Train Harley Davidson Whale Song
Charles Duffie


Sam sees the flint head. Its fish-like shape reminds him of cat biscuits. The glass case steams up as his breath pours a fog across the surface and the flint head swims away. Salt water slides down his cheeks until he licks a drop. Eyes squeeze, heart pumps, his pulse bounces like a ball thudding - don’t, don’t, don’t. Jack watches, “Are you crying?” His whisper crackles like static. His fish hook smile is close to Sam’s cheek. Mum said count to 10. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10..” 10 bored school children, 10 washed out yawns. Mrs Keel’s T-shirt has 10 flowers on it. She’s too far away to see. Always too far away to see. To see the scrape of a heel down Sam’s shins, the pinch of overweight hands on Sam’s flesh. Maybe she needs glasses – mum says lots of people need glasses.
Sarah Richmond

Abyssinia Beloved

Abyssinia, the horn of Africa. I hold my life in a bowl. The rice of today sits fluffy and white as the foam of the sea. The rice maybe my only food for today so, I wait to midday to consume my food. The bowl then becomes useful for coin. My parents departed when I was an infant and I became an orphan to the motherland. I refuse to beg for coin so, I sing the songs of the faithful. I chant the names of the most-high and praise humanity's beloved. When the sun seeps into the bowl of the sea I rest under a nursing tree that my parents planted when they had married. I cup my praying hands into a bowl and speak. ‘I am grateful for my voice, my tree and my bowl. May the joy of life always keep my bowl full of passion and love.’
Abdul-Ahad Patel


Sine over cosine equals tangent. A fly is hitting the window, over and over, by his ear. The square on the hypotenuse is equal ... Every time it hits, the buzz-drone jumps. He is staring at the pattern of its tiny marks, and imagining Charlie, naked. Want to smell my cheese? It's his mate, this fly. Trapped, like him; cruel, really. He bends back his clear plastic ruler to give it a good, hard whack into oblivion, and misses. The fly fizzes up the pane to do its business further off and Miss looks straight at him, sideways, as always. His eyes drop to the notes on his desk. Eat it and find out. Two desks to his left, Charlie shimmers: perfect, engrossing, red cheeks glowing under eyes as blue as this summer afternoon. But those eyes are not on him. They are on Miss. An equailateral triangle. Always.
Andrea Bennett

505 Streetcar

On Sumach, blinking strings of Christmas lights hung with old twist ties light the cracks in broken windows and split veneer, a half-moon is on its back rocking in the severe cold warning at the edge of the tenements near the misplaced Mercedes Benz dealership marking the cross into civilized territory and we still avoid eye contact, the look of disgust on one guy’s face is palpable while he stares at a sex worker who’s staring at me because I’m an easy target for her amusement, white-knuckling my purse, sweating though it’s cold, until the streetcar shakes and screeches into a turn on Broadview, out of the projects, to the station where we burst from the doors and start breathing once our feet touch ground and we part with a secret we can’t tell, like drunk strangers who fuck and wake up hungover, pull on our clothes and slink away.
Trasie Sands

Great White Shark

Sharks rarely attack people. But, when they do, you don't want a top-of-the-food-chain great white. The great white will sever your leg in the blink of a cold, black eye. Probably swim off when she realizes her mistake, but life leaps away with the bloom of your blood if the medics don't get to you quick. Victims say they feel nothing. Just look back and their leg is gone. Can't imagine being so numb. Most sharks are cold-blooded, but great whites are endotherms: they can raise their temperature for sudden bursts of speed. I throb for you all of the time. People think great whites are ugly because they're scary. But – beginning with Jaws – it's the music that renders them monstrous. If you extinguish the noise, they're majestic: their beauty literally awesome. Like yours. If only you came with a soundtrack that would teach me not to love you.
Michelle Christophorou

The Ocular Precision of the Photography Teacher

His finger caresses the shutter button of the Nikon like the lips of a lover. When he’s captured enough life, he takes the camera and retreats into the dark room like a hermit. I follow on the whisper of hope. As he dips and swirls, rinses and hangs, I watch the miracles appear. He spreads his images on the table and points to the tiny details he’s picked up, things he says are not discernible to the human eye: The sun feathering the wing tip of a red kite. The glint of white fear beading the blackness of a vole’s eyeball. The wind sweeping the whiskers of wild barley. But there are things he doesn’t pick up. The red glow highlighting the swirling steam of my coffee cup. The quiver of my blouse covering my beating heart. The pheromones of longing keeping me close to his side.
Louise Mangos

Falling in Love with Vinnie Sparrow Inside and Out

Vinnie Sparrow regularly turns his eyelids inside out on the playground at break time. We squeal with grossed-out delight as he chases us with his sherbet-furred tongue sticking out and those pale pink slivers of skin half covering his sky-blue irises. It snows for four whole days in February, and a group of us goes to the top field to slide down with bin liners borrowed from the custodian’s cleaning cupboard. Vinnie loses control of his stolen canteen tray half way down and tumbles into the wire fence at the back of the football pitch. The packed snow drift behind the goal is splattered with crimson. I clutch him, and stare into the chasm of his gashed cheek, past the shiny amber jewels of fat globules, to the blank white smoothness of his jaw bone. Until Mrs Smithfield says they really need to get him to the hospital.
Louise Mangos