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When I Called in Dead

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The boss was angry when I called in dead again. I could tell by the way he didn't respond, gave nothing but a frustrated huff and clattered the phone back to its cradle. Still, there was too much undone to take the day off, so I went to the office as usual.

First stop, coffee, but no one would serve me. Not even Yolanda who knew my usual. She didn't even smile, in fact yelled NEXT to my face and beamed at the fellow behind me. He pushed me out of line.
Nearly missed the bus. It didn't help that the driver practically shut the door with me in it. She was upset, probably because I'd forgotten my pass, but she didn't need to gun the bus forward when I hadn't even found a grab-rail. No one bothered to help me up off the floor.
The only thing I can figure is the boss sent an email. What else explains the reason for the entire office to snub me? Karen, on the front desk, who for years showed me photos of cats, didn't even speak. My office mate didn't look up as …

The Dandelion

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I can’t stop looking at the vase. I was silly to get it out this year. Its loud emptiness is worse than not seeing it at all.

If I’d known last year, I wouldn’t have been so casual about throwing away the flowers. I would have pressed them on to card, covered them with cellophane, sealed them forever.
The breeze blows the curtains and they tickle my arms. I turn my face to the window, the sun hot through the glass. 
I worried about this house being too secluded once, too remote. But he was a country boy, convinced me it was a good idea. He was right. We have been happy. And at least I don’t have to worry about the neighbours judging him now. 
My eyes fill with tears as I watch him out there. Completely naked, rolling down the grassy slope in the garden, shrieking like a little boy. I’m worried he is going to break something, but he never seems too. His mind thinks he is young so his body agrees, I guess.
My heart is a stone in my chest, my throat contracting. I want to scream at him to ‘St…

Sara in Her Father's Arms

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Cell by cell the baby made herself, the cells Made cells. That is to say The baby is made largely of milk. Lying in her father's arms, the little seed eyes Moving, trying to see, smiling for us To see, she will make a household To her need of these rooms - Sara, little seed, Little violent, diligent seed. Come let us look at the world Glittering: this seed will speak, Max, words! There will be no other words in the world But those our children speak. What will she make of a world Do you suppose, Max, of which she is made.

by George Oppen




(Poem taken from this article about U.S. poet Nick Flynn.) 
I particularly enjoy this quote by Flynn on writing prose and poetry:
“The way I write I don’t see much distinction between the two, although prose seems more suited to daylight, and poetry to night. I try to cook both down to something essential—by the end hopefully some balance between mystery and clarity remains.”

Axel's Flight

Overhead, they swoop and soar, chirp and chatter, but Axel doesn’t seem to hear. His defences strong, resolve weakened, he protests his plight in that way of teenagers. His old head on young shoulders says he was destined to be caged.

My heart breaks to see him, happy in his own skin, with eyes black as the crows, but never to be free as the birds. 
I told him, ‘Accept nothing, Axel; challenge everything.’
He slants his eyes at me as if to say, ‘Don’t be ridiculous; it’s the way it’s always been.’ 
His chair squeaks with each slow wheel rotation but when he’s in a playful mood he’ll make it whir like a rotor that might lift him up to swoop and soar in the blue sky and billowing clouds. 
‘I figure it’d be pretty cool up there but I guess I wouldn’t last long,’ he says. 
‘Probably,’ I reply. I don’t want him to tell me he’d prefer to be up there. He’ll be there soon enough. 
I cannot imagine my life without him, empty of his squeaking and whirring, but I swallow, smile and open the door. He pr…

A Suitable Candidate

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Within days, I’ve selected him from the saloon passengers as the most suitable candidate. Sensitive, tidy – not flamboyant like some of those men. And always attentive to his son – a family man, if you will. I do like a family man. Especially one with no wife! 

If he’s emigrating, he’ll be looking to make friends, that much you can count on. I smile broadly as we pass on deck. His pace quickens. The boy follows, looking down. So, he’s shy – what’s wrong with that? Shy I can work with. Shy I can handle. If only my ex-husband had been so shy!
During lunch, I occupy a nearby table. He orders pea soup. So I order pea soup. He gets out a copy of the Times. And I do the same. His hand shakes as he turns the pages. I might be making him nervous! Is this the right time to introduce myself? Maybe I should bide my time.
Several days pass. On some I don’t see him at all. They must be keeping to their cabin. Once or twice we say a courteous ‘hello’. But never more than that. Not yet. We’re getting t…

A Spell in France

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‘I believe I lost my husband outside the Church of Miracles. I knew he had been there at the time in the gardens, which were dark green and dismal after rain. I was trying to use up the end of a long roll of film and called out to him. He looked back at me and I think he smiled. But when the photographs came back from the developer, he was no longer there. You could just about make out some distant shape, almost a shadow, at the end of the avenue of cypresses, but it no longer resembled a person.’


Cafe Aphra follower M.S. Clary has won three prizes for short fiction and has now published her first novel, A Spell in France, with Matador. It is available as an eBookon Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad and all electronic readers.


Cafe Aphra: Tell us a little bit about your novel, A Spell in France. How would you sum it up for a potential reader?
M.S. Clary: It's a psychological thriller which involves a mysterious disappearance and its aftermath.

Cafe Aphra: Can you tell us about the writi…

Battlefield

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She watched it fall in waves gracefully down to the floor. She’d always been told that it was her best feature, thick and luxurious with a single streak of white. It was natural, she insisted. A reminder of her busy life with four children. That streak was a trophy, the spoils of battle on a field of teenaged angst where more than once she’d had to pick her hill to die on.

That battlefield had changed over the years. Now she was waging a war upon her own body as the chemo worked its gruesome magic. Her life was a whirlwind of doctor’s check-ups, follow-ups and throwing up. Now those very same teenagers were riding into battle alongside her, lances raised and armor ready to fight off the latest onslaught of her disease.

Breast cancer. A large tumor that had grown in the single year since her last exam. She’d lived the past months in suspended animation, going through the motions as they rallied around her. She worked at an elementary school, the kids all making get-well cards, wishing …