Friday, February 27, 2015

No Place for Sissies

 The mob hushes to a chill silence. A lit match is thrown, the whoosh- bang of boiler pilot light, then the roar of flame that engulfs him. He doesn’t scream? Her legs shake and she loses her footing on the  car roof, spins around, but too late; the image is already branded into her soul. She falls to the dirt track, covering her mouth and nose; the urge to help -do something- and the need to escape, pound, pulling her nowhere except down, down into a crouching ball. In her head moments unravel.

 Someone saying   ‘They caught him lying with another man - like with a woman. God’s punishment!’

She scrambles to get a view.

Tall, bloodied youth, trussed in a rubber tire, being bumped between three men like he’s inside a pinball machine.

Can of gasoline held aloft. 

She runs as fast as she’s ever run, faster even than when she won the university relay, away from that place by the river where women did their washing and sang together.

She double locks the door of her hotel room and turns the air con  up to max. Her reflection  in the  mirror  is of someone suddenly aged. She doesn’t know how she will collect herself :  put together her report for the  glossy magazine, already well overdue. She takes a long  shower,  lathering the  complimentary  jasmine scented gel which promises to exfoliate and   rejuvenate. But when she closes her eyes all she sees is his melting face - skin bursting, red flesh splitting  like ripe fig. And she recalls the parting advice of her father - a quiet man who’d once served his country, to be careful, advice  against which she always railed. ‘Where you’re going... no place for sissies.’

By Bren Gosling 

'No Place for Sissies' first appeared in Fifty Flashes of Fiction, The Worcestershire Literary Festival 2014.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine Baggage

You give it everything you’ve got. And then the day comes when you’ve got nothing more to give. Nothing. He’s had it all. So you decide to leave. Just like that. If you thought about it, you’d find reasons to stay. Your sister found reasons to stay. She said she’d be happy with what she had and develop a thicker skin. Your sister’s always had a thick skin.

You go. With your old suitcase. You don’t take the one he gave you to take on honeymoon, the red leather one with your initials on it, your married initials, for when you became his possession, Mrs Him. You take your old suitcase which was your brother’s when he went to college and which was handed down to him by Uncle Bert because your brother was going to be a lawyer, like Uncle Bert and not a farmer like your father who wouldn’t even give your brother a wallet when he left, never mind a suitcase.

You go.

But what do you take when you leave your husband? Some women would take his best things, or ruin them. You could wreck his Naim stereo equipment. You could shatter his collection of Ella Fitzgerald on vinyl. You could granulate the Royal Doulton dinner service his great-aunt left him over his Carrara marble tiles.

You won’t touch any of it.

And you won’t take anything. None of his presents. Not one. He can wear the sexy underwear himself.

You’ve left the house the way he likes it. The baby’s fed and won’t need attention for an hour, and anyway he’ll be home in fifteen minutes. No harm will come to her.

He’s at the door.

Valentine’s Day red roses?

By Joy Manné

Monday, February 2, 2015

Leaving Violet Town

The boy sits alone
while the carriage fills
around him. It's a V-line,
a long haul, thundering
into morning.

Barely legible,
a chipped sign fades
and Violet Town falls away.

He retreats to a paperback
kingdom, while oblivious
wheels devour miles.
Sometimes his eyes rise
to watch the landscape
grind from here to there.

Terminus halogen holds the night
at bay as a voiceover calls
passengers awake.

At journey's end,
crisp air whispers
possibility. Behind him,
doors hiss shut. Ahead,
a turnstile beckons.

by Ryan Stone

First published in Writers’ Forum Magazine issue 159, December 2014

Image courtesy of tongdang at