Fed-Up Waiting for Keith

By Odette Brady

On Valentine’s day I tried to make it work. I shut my eyes and thought of all the hunky men in my books, the many pairs of big arms packed into my romance novels. I wanted a big hand to cradle the back of my head and kiss me with a fresh, wet mouth. I thought imagining it hard enough might make it real. On Valentine’s day Keith forgot to put the heating on and I was cold. I had to make him hurry up, I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to be made love to. I just wanted it to be done with so I could roll over and sleep, and dream.

When we met we were young and we had fine facial features. As we’ve aged our faces have become fleshier. Keith’s face is all meat. His dreams are still refined. That’s all they are though: dreams. He told me he was taking me to Belize. I would have been happy enough if he’d dug the garden. The wet lawn and red blood in the skin of my eyelids – eyes closed and turned to the sun – would have been bliss. Dinner on decking, clematis on trellis. It would be ours. But he watched the rain and paced while I waited. He picked his nose and flicked through the sport channels while I read my books. He’d made snide comments about Christmas all through December, I thought he might cheer up by January. He looked miserable as sin when it came and it dragged me down. He trapped me in the slump of his jowls. Valentine’s day was his last chance.

Meanwhile, my sister was digging her own garden. She ruined her hands on her unvarnished spade and clogged her nails with black soil. Her elbows became leather in February’s frost. She took dead looking twigs and gave them time and affection. She threw seeds over the clay and she was patient, she waited, smoking cigarettes in the kitchen. In March I joined her and we waited together. We drank instant coffee and passed the time listening to the clock. We watched blade by blade of grass. Green overcame the black and shiny ground as days got longer. In return for her efforts purple flowers opened up and roses formed buds that were straight off the cover of a romance novel. By summer we had a lawn. In August we ate dinner on a blanket on the grass, closed our eyes and threw our heads back into the heat of the sun. Such was the bliss of my sister’s realised dream. I didn’t think about dinner on decking again. I forgot about clematis on trellis.


 

Author Bio: I am a fiction writer from London with a fascination for everyday people and all the things that make us similar. More of my stories can be found at odettebrady.com. I tweet as @odettembrady and my weekly serial novel can be read at soapnovel.wordpress.com

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Meat

By John Xero

In the end, aren’t we all just meat and bone and guts all piled into a greasy sack?

“You gonna eat that?” Benny asked through a mouthful of hash brown, waving his fork at the last sausage on Mitch’s plate.

Mitch looked blankly back at him.

There’s machinery in there as well. Bits of gristle and flesh that make things go up and down and wave around. Flapping things. Springy things.

“Earth to Mitch. You home, buddy?”

Bits of potato sprayed from Benny’s flapping mouth hole.
There is something else, call it a spirit or a spark. Hesitate, perhaps, to call it intelligence. Something that coordinates, and something that rises above even that, something that defines an individual.

Mitch shrugged loosely, “Sure. Have the sausage.”

Benny didn’t hesitate. His fork leapt the Formica tabletop
and speared the sausage. To his credit he did pause, a moment, before biting it in half.

Long enough to speak.

“You don’t look right. You’re thinking.”

Outside the café the world scrolled onwards. Meat sacks in their tin cans. Meat sacks taking smaller meat bags for walks on bits of string. Meat sacks hanging on to each other as if they might suddenly fall off, or fall apart.

Benny shoved the last piece of greasy breakfast into his toothy hole. The ground pork went round and round in his mouth, and his tongue flapped words at Mitch, meat in meat in meat in meat, “What’s up, buddy? The job getting to you? I seen it before, grave digging ain’t for everybody, most people don’t like to think too much about death, you know, about what happens to our bodies afterwards, just dropped in a hole. I mean, sure there’s all that serious business, pomp and whatchamacallit circumstance, but that’s more for the living, ain’t it? Or is it Jeanine again? It is, ain’t it? Jeanine. I thought we were over that. She’s old news, and we’re better off without her. She was never good enough for you, buddy.”

Bits of meat, doing meat things, making more meat to do meat things all over again.
Mitch sighed and focussed on Benny, “She was too good for me, Benny. We both know that.”

“Hey, I’m trying to cheer you up here. Besides, you’re a thinker, look at you, thinking away, and let’s face it, she… well, she wasn’t, was she?”

And inside the meat some brightness you might call a person. Some shine that makes them special. Except, get rid of all the flesh and guts and bones and bits and there is no spark, no spirit, there’s nothing, at all, just blood stains and scratch marks.
Time and bleach gets rid of even those.

“Listen, buddy, what say I fix you up on a date. There’s this friend of Sally’s; she’s not, well, she ain’t the prettiest, but she’s proper clever, and funny. You gotta get over Jeanine. She left you. Walked out of your life. Vanished. You gotta stop waiting on her to come back.”


Author Bio: John Xero has been publishing flash fiction on the internet for a decade and a half. Fiction of all lengths is the *legal* way you strip away all the fleshy bits and expose the monsters within.

He is the editor at 101fiction.com. He will almost definitely one day maybe tweet more @xeroverse

Choices Made (Part 2)

By David Olsen

That had been four years ago. It was Christmastime again and, whilst the people of the world celebrated goodness and cheer, Julian found himself somber and melancholy at the result of his life’s efforts.

He’d said goodbye to Eileen. He’d said goodbye to a decent, albeit boring, job. He’d said goodbye to a family that never really cared about him anyway. Now he stood in an apartment a lot like his last one, looking out at weather that he thought he had left behind, preparing to go out to meet a new girlfriend who probably loved him even less than Eileen had at the end.

All of his problems had followed him to where he stood today. Or had they? Maybe Julian had simply travelled full circle from within one air of malaise to a new one; wholly different causes with exactly the same end result. It didn’t really matter. He was here now, dealing with his brand new but all-too-familiar anxieties.

What if he moved on again? Would that be a solution or would the same gnawing anguish track him down? He imagined a wolf with the smell of blood in its nostrils, tracking the emotionally wounded form of Julian across land, sea, distance and time. There was no escape from the troubles that were carried within you. Julian thought of this and smiled, in spite of the turmoil in his mind. He couldn’t be alone in this realisation. That alone gave him some comfort. Although he had his own issues that tore him apart, others suffered similar indignities. Julian was not alone in his loneliness. For that, he was grateful.

Still, the thought of moving to a new life once more was a tempting one. Wherever he went, however, life would follow him. The same old concerns would be there upon arrival. The same anguish and doubts would remain, deep inside, like an odd sock at the bottom of a suitcase you thought you’d unpacked.

Julian wouldn’t run again, not this time. In a world of uncertainties, that was the only thing he could be sure of. It was time to deal with the pain he carried daily, not by running away, but by charging headlong into it. Mastery of the feelings that crippled him would only come from addressing where his problems truly stemmed from. He was his own problem, not the world at large. Wherever he went, the sense of dissatisfaction followed. Where was it coming from if he was not bringing it himself? Could he ever truly be without them if they actually were a part of his soul?

Julian left his apartment building and walked out into the downpour. His umbrella left behind, the water soaked through his coat and plastered his hair to his head. Today was a day to make a change, or two, or several. He was tired of unhappiness, tired of listlessness.

Today was the day that he would rewrite his own story and chapter one would begin with a walk in the rain.

Part 1


Author Links:

http://www.twitter.com/d_olsen
http://www.facebook.com/davidolsenwriter
http://www.instagram.com/dave.olsen

Choices Made (Part 1)

By David Olsen

She hadn’t cared about him for a long time and he was absolutely fine with that. He just wished that they could both stop lying about it. Every time that she used the word ‘love’ she did so with a look of forlorn hopelessness in her eyes. It was a look that said that what was being spoken should never be heard and that what was unspoken was tearing her apart. Julian understood. He knew the truth of it all, better even than Eileen thought he did.

Lovelessness wasn’t meant for the young and yet here they were. The feelings and reservations that were and that had always been were too strong and he was worn out from struggling against them for so long. However, unlike the legend of Sisyphus and his rolling stone, Julian could abandon his daily toil. So, on that cold Thursday morning in December, Julian walked away; from Eileen, his job, his family and everything else that had vexed him for as long as he could remember.

Julian had been satisfied that if he made a clean break with everything and everyone and every place that he knew, the issues that he had attached to them for so long would be left behind too. If only life’s troubles could be as simple as a one-off process of detachment, Julian thought, as he pondered the view from his new apartment in his new city. The rain poured down on the streets below and he stood pondering what followed next in the story of Julian; the man who had tried so hard to escape his problems that he’d simply created a whole new set of exactly the same problems in a different place.

He hated the rain. It reminded him of the place he’d left behind and its regularly soggy and somber inhabitants. Worst of all, it reminded him of Eileen. The day they had met had been a typically damp one. Eileen was bundled deeply in her soggy coat, her dark hair lank and shapeless, obviously unequipped for the downpour. Julian had stood under his oversized and gaudily patterned umbrella, a supposedly ‘amusing’ gift from his sister a few months previous, and watched her approach. How could she be from this town and yet be so unprepared for the elements, Julian had thought with a sense of comfortably dry self-righteousness. Despite this ill-fated beginning, Julian and Eileen had worked out quite well for a time. But only for a time. Good things never really last, at least Julian never believed that they did.

After a while, the feelings that they shared had evolved from like to love and back again. Neither of them voiced it, but the love didn’t last. The problems that Julian had always felt would be solved with the power of love, like so many songs before had promised him, were forever present. They lurked beneath the surface, just out of reach and obscured, but ever-threatening nonetheless. When Julian had said goodbye, Eileen had seemed surprised. Deep down she understood, he had thought to himself. She was probably just as relieved as he was, she was just better at hiding it. Either way, his choice was made.

Part 2


 

Author Links:

http://www.twitter.com/d_olsen
http://www.facebook.com/davidolsenwriter
http://www.instagram.com/dave.olsen

The Unloved Ones

By Lorrie Hartshorn

Resolution. That’s what you want, right? An explanation. You want that final breathing-out, the one that comes before you take that shaky breath and start to, y’know, rationalise it all. You want that moment where It Was All Just A Dream! Can’t give you that, son. Might find it on your own if you try hard enough – who knows?

So here’s what we’re going to do: I’m going to tell you a little story. Just float it up out there like them fungal spores – ‘cause sure, it ain’t pretty – and my recommendation for you is that you take one deep breath of your own and hold it while I do. I won’t keep you long, I promise. You don’t want to trust my word, and that’s fair enough, but what’s one little breath unless it’s your last?

OK, let’s keep it sweet. You want to know who I am and where I’ve come from, where we’ve all come from. You all do. Fine. First one’s easy: I’m no one. Can’t remember, never knew – doesn’t matter either way. Next one’s a little tougher. There’s talk but ain’t no official policy on this, you see?

We come rolling into town just like an ordinary show. Hiding in plain sight, boss likes to call it. Striped tents, big old wagons with covered cages on the back of them. Old-timey cars – Alec’s the one who looks after those – with the friendliest-lookin’ ones at the wheels. Good old-fashioned fun is what you ask for, and it’s what you’ll get from us – although whether it’s as fun for you as it is for us is another thing.

The outskirts. That’s always where you’ll find us, kind of a chicken-and-egg thing. We need the space – the actual floor space, you know? Don’t get no big old fields in the middle of cities now, do you? Beaches, promenades – them’s good too, depends where ‘bouts we are. And where there’s space, there’s folk that go wandering, folks that don’t get missed. Easy enough to pick up a stray on the edge of some woods, out in the long grass, maybe down in the warm sand by the pier. Few sweet words, a glad eye – see where I come in? – the promise of a hot meal. We throw the net, you come swimmin’.

We never stay long, you’ll have guessed. I know you can feel that churning underneath you now – you’ll get used to it. Sometimes when you’ve been on the road so long, you get a kind of sea-sickness when it stops. I promise you – yeah, another one – you won’t even feel it soon enough. You make yourself useful, you might still be here when we reach the next place. Maybe that’s what you want, maybe it isn’t. New beginnings aren’t for everyone, I know.

You can go ‘head, breathe it out now. Cough it out of you, son. Feel better for a while. Truth got a habit of stickin’, you know?


Author Bio:

Lorrie Hartshorn is a contemporary and literary fiction writer, whose work has been featured in a number of journals, including Compose, Paraxis, 1000 Words, The Pygmy Giant and Anthem. She blogs at circlesunderstreetlights.wordpress.com and is the founder of Halo Literary Magazine, a new journal of short fiction by women. Lorrie can be found on Twitter at @Bigoldsupermoon

Initiation

By Elizabeth Bradley

Dust exploded all around Seraphima and she shielded her eyes as the shuttle winked out of sight. The silence that followed settled heavy on her ears. Seraphima scooped up her battered suitcase and looked to the settlement that lay before her.

Dust exploded all around Seraphima and she shielded her eyes as the shuttle winked out of sight. The silence that followed settled heavy on her ears. Seraphima scooped up her battered suitcase and looked to the settlement that lay before her.  No turning back now she thought, passing a sign warning of wild animals on the stony path that led towards the pod-shaped buildings.

She had traveled here with another woman, who, the moment the hatch of the shuttle opened and she set foot on the planet’s bleak surface, turned around and asked how much it would be to take her back. Without argument she shoved her credits into the pilot’s hand and re-boarded. The pilot glanced at Seraphima. She shook her head. She was staying.

She had wanted to come here, she thought, kicking a pebble and watching it skitter down the path. She knew what she was getting herself into when she signed the one-year contract to teach the inhabitants of the newest federated planet.

A giggle coming from the bushes interrupted her thoughts, and a small girl popped out.

“Hi! What’s your name? Are you our new teacher?”

“Of course she is dummy” said a fat little boy climbing of the bushes behind her. “Who else would she be?”

“I’m Seraphima.” The little girl smiled. “And yes, I’m here to teach you the history of the Federation and about other planets.”

“Wow. Have you been to other planets?” the little girl asked, wonder shining in her eyes.

Seraphima laughed. “A few.”

The boy scoffed. He looked her up and down and said, “We’ll show you where your house is. Come on.” He made her uneasy but he had taken her suitcase and walked away, giving her no option but to follow.

“I’m Gemma,” the little girl said, taking her hand. “And that’s Clem. He’s my brother. He doesn’t like outsiders, but I like you.” Seraphima felt a warm glow as she listened to Gemma chatter away. She had just pointed to a low greenish pod, saying it was Seraphima’s when Clem stopped and whistled. He dropped the suitcase and ran to Gemma. He tore her hand away and whistled again. Gemma started crying. “Run!” she screamed. The two children left her frozen there as they ducked into the closest building and slammed the door.

A low roar behind her snapped her back to reality, and she ran, snatching her suitcase as she sprinted towards the green pod. The noise behind her was getting closer but she dared not turn around. She could feel hot, sticky breath on her back. The ground shook with a pounding rhythm.  Swinging her suitcase behind her she felt it make contact, and heard a primal yawp. She crashed through her door and slammed it shut.

The beast roared one last time. After a moment she heard receding footsteps. Seraphima fell against the wall, sliding down to the floor in a heap. This is going to be a long year.


Author Bio:

Elizabeth Bradley is a SAHM and writer living in rural Alaska. She loves bad reality TV and good wine. She is exploring science fiction worlds through flash fiction while working on her first novel. Check out her blog noplacelikenapaskiak.wordpress.com or follow her adventures on Twitter @LizjSmith7

Submissions now closed…

It’s the 1st May, May Day, an ancient spring festival day of celebration. We’ll have our UK Bank Holiday on Monday, but for now, let’s welcome the (chilly and very changeable at present!) breath of spring.

Submissions for our very first edition of stories, to be published here on the site and in a free PDF magazine, closed yesterday, 30th April. Work is now afoot to bring together twelve tales of new beginnings, to delight, impress, amuse and sometimes horrify the reader!

My (one person!) editorial team is now pulling these stories together; it’s been a labour of love, but I am excited and proud to be able to bring new stories to the world, from writers that may be new to you (and me), but that deserve your time.

Margaret
@lit500