Friday, October 23, 2015

All that is left

Emma loved bookstores. The intoxicating smell reminded her of the library in her late parents’ house: the sweet scent of all things lost. She liked to brush her fingertips over the sharp edges of books showcased on spotless shelves, seeking forgotten particles of dust. She could hear the hidden letters whispering to her, like the voices of men who had long since passed away.

On the last Friday of every month, there was a reading at the nearest store. Emma always made sure she got a seat at the front. She loathed sitting in the middle of the crowd, surrounded by the voluminous bodies of strangers pressing against her frail frame. 

This particular Friday there was an author who was dear to her. She had been his devotee since she was young. A love from years past had introduced her to him - now every page seemed to take her back in time. 
 
In agony, she pushed through the faceless masses streaming towards her on her way to the store. They were shoving her, knocking into her with their massive purses. 

By choosing a seat in the first row, she could opt out of the vivid conversations taking place behind her, lost in her thoughts until she heard nothing but a uniform hum. In anticipation of the reading, she folded her arms tightly around herself as she stared at the desk where the author would be seated. She wasn't even aware of the people beside her, though they were drawing uncomfortably close. 

Anxiously, she bit off flakes of dry skin from her lips. Determined, she fought down the nausea rising from her empty stomach. As the author read excerpts from the novel, the image before Emma's eyes gradually started to lose its focus until the person standing before her had melted into a shapeless blob. Mesmerized, she leaned forward, her brittle spine creaking under the sudden shift. The words consumed her, reviving her hollow shell. The withered skin on her face blushed with new life. Her veins filled with love and laughter, melodrama and murder. 

By the time the presentation was over, Emma was oblivious of her pain.

As the applause faded, she was the first at the buffet, hoping nobody would notice how her bony fingers trembled as she stuffed her moth-eaten purse with precious hors d’oeuvres.




by B.E. Seidl


Based on the 101word story The Remains, first published at 101words.org

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Apprentice Journalists

 A man was arrested for having sex with his bicycle. It was in all the papers from The Financial Times to the London Evening Standard. 
‘How did he do it?’ I asked my husband.
‘How should I know?’
‘You’re the man.’
‘This could only happen in your country, kiddo,’ he said. ‘Everyone here’s eccentric.’
My husband is American.
Only one week later a man was caught having sex with his garden table, the kind with a hole in the middle for a parasol.
‘More painful than fun,’ my husband said, holding his crotch.
We are apprentice journalists, my husband and I. We met at Southbank University, which has the worst record for out-of-work graduates. We think that’s why they took us. Good students didn’t apply. If you can’t be clever, be cunning. That’s what I say.
‘Have you worked out what these stories have in common?’ I looked at him slyly.
‘Sex,’ he said.
‘And gardens. Each of these guys was in his garden. Alone.’
‘Alone but for an audience. Both gardens were opposite primary schools.’
‘In lower class areas.’
‘Lots of drinking, unemployment.’
‘Wives out doing cleaning jobs or catering in schools.’
‘Scope for research?’ my husband asked.
It was his idea to rent a van and paint a logo: Pete’s Repairs. Hidden in our van, we staked out gardens in front of primary schools.
‘If we can find a story,’ he said, ‘it could lead to great things.’
Six months we spent observing.
Meanwhile someone exposed himself on Big Brother and we wrote the story. A c’leb interrupted Hamlet with a major fart and stood up for a round of applause - we wrote that one too. A politician was caught bonking a male model in a public toilet in Kensington. We churned out just enough silly stories to pay our bills and when we didn’t have a true one, we made one up. No one cares if these stories are true as long as they are entertaining.
Six months in that van but still no big story. No fame. No contracts. No riches.
I looked at my husband with criminal intent. ‘We’re going to set this up.’
We convinced IKEA we were doing a fashion shoot. They loaned us deckchairs, a wrought-iron bench; a string hammock and a barbecue. We hired would-be porn actors and took photos – never, never when children would see, of course.
It worked a dream. We became famous and rich. Well, we could afford restaurants and holidays if we flew Ryanair to Majorca without hold luggage. And then one day the actors didn’t turn up and we decided to photograph ourselves.
‘It was a stupid decision,’ my husband said, when the police arrived.
‘It truly was,’ I said when we were condemned in court.
But it wasn’t. Our sentences were suspended because we had been careful not to do anything where the public would see. And both the Mail and the Sun offered us contracts.



 By Joy Manné

Monday, October 5, 2015

I will bring you red apples

I will bring you concord grapes,
for you like the color of them


I will cut the meat for you,
in razor thin slices

the nurses tell me
to let you feed yourself
to gain your strength
back

but you and I know
your arms become more flaccid each passing night,
and no amount of measured movement,
will make that right

I will make the soft cloth wet,
caress the dirt away, for they scrub you
like canvas, painted all wrong
I will brush your hair,
a hundred strokes
as you did

I will read you stories
of children at play

I will bring apples
for your wooden bowl,
to help us remember red, round things,
beginnings, in a world before this room
of endless ending 





by Jim Cunningham