Creative Work: ‘Suffering Saints’ by Thomas McDade

Creative WorksThis week we have another riveting short story by Thomas McDade, who brought us ‘Skydiving‘ last week. In ‘Suffering Saints’, the prose is quick and punchy, with McDade never lingering on any one event, whether it be a priest smoking pot or an attempted bleach-induced homicide by a lover. The flow of the piece is fluid and perfectly-paced, the narrative voice is unique and humorous, and the characters do well to keep the reader’s attention throughout.

Suffering Saints

Lofty the Saint Maven had “gentle” stamped all over him as obvious as the scar on his face. He thought I knew about St. Lydia before we met but it wasn’t until I heard him reeling off Saints for the dwarf dishwasher that I looked up my name. A reference librarian gave me some of the information.  A St. Cloud Chapel priest I’d stumbled upon smoking pot at nine p.m. sitting on a park bench served up more details.  I was walking a manic Jack Russell Terrier when I whiffed weed.  Father Todd was wax bean of a man with a clump of unmanageable blond hair.  A sexton who saw his shadow on a wall said it looked like a royal palm but teens whispered “royal pain.”  Continue reading

Creative Work: ‘Foundational Crack’ by Ste MackIntosh

This week we are featuring a short story by Ste MackIntosh entitled “Foundational Crack”.Creative Works The story, slightly bizarre and wholly entertaining, walks the line between the real and the imagined in a charming and funny way.

Foundational Crack

The snow had gone, more or less. A homeowner I passed on my way home had blown up an inflatable Charlie Brown, larger-than-life-sized, and set him up in a dark bedroom window. His rubber head cinched round in a pattern like a perfect cauliflower. He held a red LED candle to his face, that glowed unearthly orange on his features. What vigil could he have been on? Who was he waiting for?

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Creative Work: ‘In a Big World’ by Christian Fennell

Creative WorksToday we have another short story by Christian Fennell. His narrative tone is consistent with this first piece, ‘Under the Midnight Sun‘, but both stories are unique. The prose in ‘In a Big World’ is calm and surreal, the characters sad and deep, and the storyline mysterious and captivating.

In a Big World

A simple silhouette to a barren land and a dead crow’s nest hangs falling before the coming night, and you can see me. I know you can.

I close the door of an old pickup and watch it drive away, the sound of the tires on the gravel wanting the last of my resolve. But I won’t let it go. No. And I am coming.

The wind picks up and takes the nest and it drifts crazy-like above the road—so far now from that little bay of Bala, hands laid upon the water.

The nest breaks apart and flutters away, and I walk away, slow and unsure, beautifully broken and drifting—perfect really, for this movement: wandering and wondering, in a big world.

The wind pushing me on still, and now down a narrow path between tall trees born of the coming night’s broken light—most of wanting is always there, in the trees without leaves, in the wind: You can’t have everything. You can’t fix everything.

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Creative Work: ‘Under the Midnight Sun’ by Christian Fennell

This week we have a short story by Christian Fennell, “Under the Midnight Sun.” Its strength stems from its ambiguity and its ability to raise questions while painting a strange, evocative picture of a barren land Creative Worksdisrupted by this unspecified man.

Under the Midnight Sun

Oh fuck no.

He lifts his head from a thick and darkening pool of his own blood, hellish pain rushing forward.

He spits dirt and gravel from his mouth and he brushes away bits of it stuck to the side of his face.

He sits up and rests his arms on his knees and leans forward and closes his eyes and exhales.

He opens his eyes—RVs are driving by. A long line of em. Continue reading

Creative Work: ‘This Modern Love’ by Joseph Pierson

Creative WorksIn the 1980s, the Talking Heads told us “you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and you may ask yourself ‘Well… how did I get here?’” While those days of unbridled material excess may be over, our modern times pose new problems for the confused and lovelorn.

This week, Kingston University MA student Joseph Pierson brings us a snapshot of life and love in the era of social media. ‘This Modern Love’ offers the cheeky voice of Anna on a typical afternoon as she contemplates her surroundings—and her love life.

 

This Modern Love

Anna sits in the corner by a potted spider-plant and orders a coffee. She’s brought her own food, a box of sushi from Tesco. She injects white rice with soy sauce from a tiny plastic fish.

Fuck me, she thinks, you’re so sophisticated.

She chuckles to herself. It’s November, bright and cold, a pink smudge across the sky. Giro day. She opens her notebook, a touch self-conscious, enjoying it anyway. Her coffee comes. The regulars, some of them, nod and say hi and Anna smiles back and every time (every time) she smiles back she thinks brightly of herself, you know, you have a really charming smile, Anna.

She sits here with a black Americano writing something, doodling, a scene or a sketch for a scene – It’s difficult to drive while blind drunk and fucked on crack – and a girl comes in, a girl she’s seen before. The girl is tall, she always has a cold, she’s wearing a loose-knit yellow cardigan over a series of tops and skinny black jeans. The barista at the counter bashes the coffee-scoop against the machine and says, “Skinny latte?”

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Creative Work: ‘The Letter’ by Karima Kanji

Creative WorksThis week, we take you on a journey into the thoughts of a trapped mind, where reflection and heartache go hand in hand. Karima Kanji’s short fiction piece ‘The Letter’ captures the morose musings of an ageing narrator stuck in a nursing centre—and in thoughts of days long gone.

The Letter

I’m writing a letter to myself in a room I share with another patient in Lakewood’s Nursing Centre. My room is quaint. The wilted potted plants, the stark bare window sill, the view of the ravine from my bed and the soft, melancholic hum of the highway are comforts to me. Destiny is fixed, fixed like the position of your heart, our heart that is slowly dying. Fate cannot be altered by a secret letter to a part of yourself from the past, the you that has already existed, but still longs to exist. Exist.

Regret. A strong word to associate with life, but all life bears regret, all life bears suffering; sweet, silent, soulful suffering. During the day, usually after my bath, or after I’ve eaten my breakfast of fluffy scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast I feel futility trickling into my soul, into my bones and into the very depths of my being. Pieces of my past have gone missing, have vanished and all I have left to remember are moments, mere moments, but even these are diminishing from my mind. The memory of my childhood is fading. What I miss most is my mother with her sad, puffy eyes and my father bending over his work. One day they will be dead and you will still be alive.

There will be a point in your life where you will lose love. A girl will give you her heart and you will destroy it.

Destroyer of love.

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Creative Work: ‘Soul Child’ by Sophie Jama

Creative WorksWe have a dreamy little piece of fiction for you this week from Ethiopian-born writer Sophie Jama.

‘Soul Child’ is a metaphorical imagining of a child’s internal process when facing a traumatising experience. “It is a way to show how the wise and resilient soul of a child can wisely detect how to survive during times of difficulty,” says Jama, whose own experiences living apart from her parents as a child give her a unique insight into coping with separation and loss. The result is a series of lovely images haunted by oncoming tragedy.

Soul Child

I was five when my soul left. I was not surprised. I let it go, for safekeeping. It was destiny. We forget that as children, we already know the answers to life’s deepest questions. That is why at five I knew that something was coming. Something big. What it was, I did not know. But I needed to protect my beautiful soul.

My soul existed as a colour. It was shapeless. But it had a light that looked like a glimmering moon. It flowed like a waterfall and yet it sat still like a mountain. Unmoved and unfazed by changing seasons. It was a wise soul. I sat near the water as I prepared for the ritual of letting my soul go. I whispered gently to her and promised that I would let my adult-self know how to recognize her. It would be difficult. But I would guide her. She slipped off my fingertips and into the water. I gave her a gentle nudge and watched her float away, farther and farther into the moonlight. I paused and closed my eyes. I was trying to capture the picture in my head. I opened my eyes and with sadness I saw her white light sparkle in the water. She drifted towards the moon until I could not tell where my soul ended and the moon began.

I sat for a moment longer and drank in the gentle dusk. The sun had almost fully gone down. Night was approaching but I was not scared. I relished the quiet. The only sound was the gently swaying waves and sound of a cooling breeze. I welcomed the night. Even as a child, I knew solitude was a time for the soul. A time when the stillness of the night quieted our mind such that answers came easily. Finally, I walked away from the edge of the water without looking back. She was better off now. I had to get back home before anyone noticed I had gone.

Beautifully mournful, ‘Soul Child’ speaks to everyone’s need to protect themselves from the traumatic experiences life hands us.

Stop by next week for a change of pace: our end-of-summer reading list!

Competition Winner – Short Fiction: ‘Dad and the Romans’ by Diana Beharrell

Creative WorksWe are pleased to present the winning entry in the genre of Short Fiction from our 2015 Creative Writing Competition, ‘Dad and the Romans’ by Diana Beharrell.

Reading this story was a simple pleasure for us editors. It has a graceful pace, and a strikes a warm and, at times, wistful note.

Our fiction judge thought that “‘Dad and the Romans’ offers a thoughtful contemplation of life and death through a depiction of a trip to some ruins by a father and son. It has a lovely shape and a good eye for detail and place description. There’s a layered depth and metaphorical richness to this understated story, which excels in showing rather than telling.”

Dad and the Romans

We are off for an outing, Dad and I. We have left the slice of a house on the Market Place, passing the pele tower, stony and windowless, standing close up to St Andrew’s. Passing the Blue Bell; passing the gracious homes of Victorian industrialists; passing the bungalows of the polite and the retired; and soon out of Corbridge entirely, finding the turning off the old Hexham Road and swinging left into the car park of the Roman site.

Dad points to the disabled parking bay near the entrance. There is only sixty pence off concessions, and Dad is very definite about requiring a guidebook. I push through the swing doors, holding them open for Dad to follow, and find the site spread out in front of us, reduced to its foundations. We can see little more than a two-dimensional outline, the stones pilfered long ago. Where the fence borders the site and separates it from the field beyond, the foundations disappear underground, and sheep are now grazing and lambs skitter in the early summer sunshine a foot or so above the Roman remains.

‘The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to sit’, says Dad. He looks around. He stoops and has to peer up to see what is on offer here, straining like a tortoise sticking its head out from its shell.

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Creative Work: ‘0 Days Accident-Free’ by Brian Tucker

Creative WorksThis week’s piece comes from Kentucky, with a flash of the future. With this piece Brian Tucker introduces us to what he sees as everyman’s experience in the year 2212.

0 Days Accident-Free 

A111’s neighbor hummed in the shower. She, B211, held a joyous drone, a sound foreign to him. He stretched his phone up to the ceiling, and clicked on its Recognition App®. The hum wasn’t precise, but the app was—it recognized a song from the end of the 2nd millennium.

Three loud knocks struck the door and A111 dropped the device.

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Excerpt from ‘The One Less Traveled’ by John O’Connor

Creative WorksThis week we have an extract from a novel by John O’Connor using stark simple language to create a tense, Carveresque atmosphere.

The One Less Traveled

“Are you even sure it’s what you want Jess? Have you properly thought about it?”
“Yes of course I have Rob, I’m not a fucking idiot”.

Robert had to be more careful with his phrasing.

“No, but what I mean is, are you sure the idea of a baby isn’t better than the reality? And why now? Why is it suddenly such an urgent matter?”
Jess stared at Rob with a look of submission, the reality dawning that perhaps they were incompatible. It was the look of one who has done all they can to explain themselves, to make their partner understand, and has still failed to breach square one. She shook her head slowly, more bemused than angry, closed her eyes, and rubbed her forehead. She was worn out by their irreconcilable opinions, by Robert’s incapacity to identify with her perspective. She gave it one last go.

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