Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Sunny Day in Wylie Gardens by Andre-Naquian Wheeler

A trailer park teen with an alcoholic father looks for redemption, with God or with Wylie Gardens; by Andre-Naquian Wheeler.

Allen Skipwith stomped on optimism-white daisies as he forced his way through the vast burdensome field behind his house. Allen thought he must look crazy viciously scratching his legs and jumping over certain spots, as the tall grass always made his ankles itch and the field was a treasured enclave for snakes. He had begged his father every day to mow the field. Allen would sit at the counter eating his after-school meal of Lucky Charms. He would ask, "Are you ever gonna cut that goddamn field?" His Dad would respond, just sauntering in from his shift at Wal-Mart and placing his typical six pack in the fridge, "I'll get to it." But his father never did get to it. But all of that did not matter now as it was the last time he would have to walk through the field.

"Fucking bastard," Allen said to himself as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a cigarette carton, there were only three fat white rolls left. He reached the end of the field and stood on the side of the country highway, cars whooshing by him at sixty miles per hour, and he thought about how perfect it would be if he were to get hit right then and there. He thought about how the funeral pamphlet would read "Gone 2 Soon" and his father would cry and everyone would rub his father's back telling him not be sad, that Allen was in a better place now. When really his father would only be upset over the opportunity he missed that one afternoon he yelled at the life insurance salesman that he had to be at work in two hours and to never knock again unless he wanted his teeth knocked down his throat. Allen's father was never pleasant when he first woke up or when he got off of work, which put Allen in an uncomfortable position as those were the only times that Allen ever saw his father.

So Allen stood by the country road, sometimes taking two or three steps towards the crackled painted line on the gravel. He liked feeling as if his stomach was being vacuumed.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Concert by Beryl Ensor-Smith

Mr Badenhorst must arrange a multi-cultural concert in this, another delightful instalment in Beryl Ensor-Smith's Prentburg series of stories driven by gossip and misunderstandings.

It was unfortunate that Nella Kritzinger was alone in the municipal offices when the call from the local counsellor for the area came through. It was also unfortunate that the counsellor, Brenda Dixon, inspired if not fear, then something very close to it in the breast of Nella and many others. An austere woman who did not hide her contempt for incompetence, Brenda Dixon's looks belied her severity. She was very attractive, which made her attitude even more disconcerting.

Nella started to shake at the first sound of her voice, and matters were not helped when Mrs Dixon chose to speak English although she was fluent in Afrikaans. Mrs Dixon's accent was the cut-glass kind and her vocabulary contained words unknown to Nella, who managed to stutter that both Jan Badenhorst, Administrative Manager, and Kobie le Grange, clerk, were away from the premises and only she, the telephonist, was available.

"Mr Badenhorst's meeting with the squatters over some problem and Kobie - that is Miss Le Grange - has the flu."

"Indeed? Then I shall have to rely on you to give Mr Badenhorst a message. A most important message."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Spring by Ethan Regal

Ethan Regal tells the tragic story of a girl from rural Nigeria trying to make her way in the world.

Perched on my bed, I stare at the window, at the china blue sky, the scattered streaks of clouds floating by. Outside, everything is coming alive. The flowers are beginning to blossom, the leaves are growing back on trees. Everything is new again, except me. Outside these walls, the world is moving on without me.

Seated in this room, I travel back to many years ago, to the time when I lived with my parents in a village in Nigeria. We slept under a thatched roof, a house made of mud. My father climbed palm trees for a living, providing the village with fresh palm wine, and my mother looked after me and my older brother. We didn't have much to feed on but as a child I remember being very happy. Perhaps I was naïve. The less you know is always better. I ran around in dirty underwear, playing with the other kids.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Belfast Girl by Freedom Chevalier

During Northern Ireland's Troubles, a teenage girl's life suddenly changes; by Freedom Chevalier.

1978 November

November hung damp and heavy about her shoulders, as Kathleen pulled her collar up. The double knit muffler she wore, her mother's Christmas gift to her last year, provided futile defense against the wind's frost-tipped claws. She had just turned the corner when sleet began to slap down around her. It would be a solid sheet of ice by morning. She could see the warm amber light in the front window, still a good fifteen minute walk away. She'd be soaked through to the bone, by the time she got there. The worst thing about working at the pub, she mused, they were all too drunk to give a ride home. Not that it stopped them from offering most nights.

She felt the thin crust of ice shatter as she stepped in the puddle. The biting water crested her ankle high boots, drowning her foot in a frigid slush.

Shite.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kasali's Love by Feyisayo Anjorin

Sade struggles with her conscience, and Kasali's motives, as she submits to his love; by Feyisayo Anjorin.

He slapped her buttocks playfully as they walked past the lake near the parking lot. She tried to be nice. It was painful, he looked like the kind that would have rashes in his pubic region; but fees had to be paid and time was running out.

"I have not eaten today. I am very hungry."

"You are a strong woman o. It is past midday already."

"I don't have anything to eat."

"Let's go to my farm."

"Please buy me some food there." She pointed to the Mr Biggs outlet near the UBA building. "Your farm is a bit farther than I can afford to go without food."

"It is just a twenty minute drive from here. I came with my Toyota."

Sade looked at the car, metallic green, clean and new; it was not the latest model. It was as if Kasali hardly ever drove it.

Sade glanced at her watch, folded her arms and kept her eyes on the floor. "I have a lecture in two hours, and I am very hungry."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Not My Own by Robert "Bo" Forehand

Robert "Bo" Forehand's character quantum leaps into another body in this quick flash story.

The light blinds me. It always does.

I wait for the accompanying migraine to stop before I blink open my eyes.

Mattress. Pillow. A bed. I'm under the sheets.

I swing my unfamiliar legs out and to the floor.

Painted toenails touch the carpet fibers.

Shapely, shaved legs.

Wearing panties. Nothing else.

Breasts. I'm a woman this time.

I flex my thin fingers. Glossy, acrylic nails glint in the morning light slipping through the curtains. An evening dress lies crumpled on the floor.

I glance into the mirror upon the dresser. A beautiful stranger stares back at me. Lush, black hair. Captivating auburn eyes. She takes care of herself, this one. Not a bad looking body to wake up in.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Final Shot by Bruce Costello

A car salesman has flashbacks to a more harrowing - and exciting - time of his life; by Bruce Costello.

"Bluetooth connectivity, greatest thing for motor cars since they rounded the wheel!" cried the vehicle sales manager with a jaunty side step, waving his arms in front of the assembled sales team, his blue corporate tie swinging against his white shirt.

Johnson sat clicking his pen and gazing into space, thinking of an old woman's twisted body and exposed white arse, grotesquely close to her bloodied face, with its drawn-back lips and yellow teeth, grinning in death.

"And Bluetooth protocol's now standard across our entire SUV range!" the sales manager continued. "Fellas, you gotta get out there and win our customers over... are you listening, Johnson? Get your mind on the job! You're gonna have to shape up or ship out!"

"Sorry, Boss." Bastard.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Operator is Missing by Paul Hamilton

A group of IT start-up employees start pulling pranks on the unpopular sysadmin, but they may have grossly underestimated her; by Paul Hamilton.

"We all despised Ramona, but I doubt any of us gave much thought to why," I say, feeling the eyes at my back.

"Would you say you've given it some more thought since then, Mr. Lloyd?"

I glare at him. "You could say that." After a moment, I shrug. "She was the systems administrator, you know? I've been in the industry nine years, never met a single sysadmin that didn't have that same bored contempt for guys like me. Guys that do the real work. She lorded over us. She clutched the security policies and doled out access permissions like a miser."

The agent is this thin, tweedy-looking prick. His suit doesn't fit. I'm guessing he got the case because he's the only one the the field office who took two semesters of compsci in college. "So you and your co-workers didn't like how she performed her job duties?"

"No, man. Listen. She just irked everyone, okay? She always wore these anime T-shirts that were too small and she talked in this nasal voice at inappropriate volumes."

Agent Gerhart wrinkles his nose. "She annoyed you?"

Friday, July 11, 2014

Life Through My Lens by Michael McKenzie

A lover of photography looks through his old albums, hoping to find inspiration that will help jumpstart his faltering life, by Michael McKenzie.

It is another blistering summer evening. With work at long last over for the day, I retract into my familiar isolation. The steam of freshly boiled egg noodles fills the air of my apartment for the third night in a row as I toss my unneeded coat on the rack and reacquaint the couch with my body's imprint. I groan from a long day and an aching body. I am tired, but it's not just from the heat. Life these days is exhausting enough without the sun. I work hard to little avail while my life is enshrouded in boredom. I may be healthy, safe, housed and clothed, but I stand dissatisfied with my life these days. There is no excitement, nothing challenging me. With nothing on the rise to look forward to, I find myself nostalgic for better times. People always say you should live in the present moment, but what if the present moment sucks? What if there were perfectly good ones just a few moments ago? I say hold on to those.

Time to do what I always do when things aren't going well, or even when they are for that matter; break out the pictures. I feel lost in the moving world, so I turn to the still ones I've accumulated over the years. This is the only world I actually can control, so I do it meticulously.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Was a Full Moon on Buck Creek by Charlie Bennett

A high school student in the American back-country visits his friend's grandmother to accept his punishment for trampling her flowers; by Charlie Bennett.

She was deadly with a fly swatter, and somewhere near barbaric with a switch. Even made my poor buddy Clayton pick them out. Don't bring one back too small and flimsy; choose one appropriate for the crime was her message to him. Clayton had learned a lot the hard way. With the switch.

Clayton lived with his widowed grandmother, Betty Mae Winkler. Young for a widowed grandmother, a tall, lanky mountain woman who'd developed a deep, rough voice over the years. She had tan, leathery skin, bleached blonde hair and azure eyes. Walked around with a Marlboro burning between her fingers half the time. The rest of the time, there was one burning in the large round opaque green glass ashtray on her octagonal end table beside her well-worn spot on the brown and orange yarn textured couch she enjoyed riding on Saturday nights through The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. A bunch of city-slickin' Hollywood bullshit, but fun to watch.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

View From a Zoo by Artie Knapp

In a departure from the normal format, here's a short children's story-video about a house-cat that seems to have it all, but longs for adventure, written by Artie Knapp, illustrated by Sunayana Nair Kanjilal and read by Emily Lou Zeller.

Thea appeared to have everything that a cat could want...










Friday, July 4, 2014

Septic Children by Michael C Keith

Johnny McKenna's searing account of his childhood as a ward of the Church of Ireland; by Michael C. Keith.

It must be said that charity can, in no way, exist along with mortal sin.
- Thomas Aquinas

Hello there. Name's Johnny McKenna, and I'd like to ask you a question... that is, if you don't mind... Thank you.

First, allow me to tell you a little about myself. Until I was nearly seven years old, I lived at St. Mary's on Dublin Road, in Tuam, Ireland. It was referred to as the "Home" by everyone, but it wasn't a home in the true sense of the word. It was more like a former military billet or an old mill that had been emptied of its crude tools and only slightly modified to accommodate a bunch of parentless kids and members of a religious order.

We were cared for by the Bon Secours nuns. I use the words "cared for" very loosely, because the treatment provided us was nearly always harsh and without compassion. Yes, the sisters watched over us but in a manner similar to that of a guard over his prisoners. The nuns showed us little affection and, in point of fact, appeared more burdened by and resentful of our presence than anything else.

To say we lived a meager existence is an understatement. We were fed twice a day - usually cold mush in the morning and boiled potatoes and bread for supper. Occasionally, we were given a shred of mutton, usually on a high holy day, like Christmas or Easter. The sisters would make us say an extra Hail Mary for receiving such a bounty.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

See Me Not by Jackie Bee

Jackie Bee's elderly lady character, doted on by her younger sister, is more wilful, cunning and malicious than she appears.

"Want some more?" Sheila bends over me and checks my plate. "Oh, you've eaten nothing yet! Come on, get started. How do you expect to have any energy if you don't eat?"

Cornflakes float in the milk, and they taste even worse than they look. I have no appetite in the mornings, but it's all irrelevant to Sheila with her mother-hen instincts. Each day she's busy feeding me, taking care of me and, in her words, fixing me up. She lets go a little bit only when the grandchildren - hers or mine - come to visit. Then she gets busy fixing them up, and I'm allowed to breathe for a while.

It's funny how we switched roles. I was ten years old when she was born, and as long as I can remember I enjoyed the responsibilities of being the older sister - watching her, making sure she was fed, dressed properly, not hurt in any way by other children. From the moment she came into my life, I've always felt older than my age. And now we live together again, this time as two widows, and she is seventy already - while I'm still ten years older, no escape from that - and now she's the one who takes care of me. She claims that doing so makes her feel younger, which is fine with me - if only she could fulfill her duties in a less fanatical manner.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Antimatter by A.T.J. Cember

After years of wandering Apollo returns unannounced to Aviva's arms; by A.T.J. Cember.

It was only a few minutes after take-off from the runway in Bangkok that he began to wonder about Aviva, whether she had kept her promise. On the one hand, he mused amidst the rainy-season clouds, it was objectively unlikely; one the other hand, she was crazy enough to promise in the first place, and it didn't seem too much more drastic for her to actually keep her word. She wasn't the kind of girl to whom it would matter that, as the rest of their acquaintances had doubtless phrased it between themselves, he had "disappeared into thin air".

Actually not thin air, as it turned out, but the soupy monsoon breath of the southeast coast of Asia, and a few forays here and there into stretches of desert, be it in the Sahara or the Holy Land. But his wanderings hadn't included any altitude. And it was only his peers who didn't know where he was - his mother, Bridget Devereaux Wang, had been kept well informed. She had continually wired him money on behalf of herself and his father, and he continually sent expensive ethnic jewelry back by airmail for her to adorn herself with and continued to eat ramen noodles or the local equivalent form of subsistence.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Outing by Beryl Ensor-Smith

When the Prentburg Church Sisters join their neighbouring congregations on an outing to Waterfontein, a mix-up on the buses causes a terrible muddle; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

The invitation to church members in Prentburg to join the congregations of other towns on a bus trip was met with varying degrees of enthusiasm by the Sisters of the Church.

"How lovely," was Sarie Blignault's bright response.

"I'm not so sure," Marion Klopper said slowly.

"Well, I am!" Mrs Merton shot back without pause. "Some of the branches of our church in bigger towns are so snooty I'm surprised they even bothered to invite us. They look upon our little congregation as poor relatives."

"Especially the Waterfontein lot," Helga Swanepoel agreed. "They're really an arrogant bunch."

Christina du Plessis, who had lived in Waterfontein for some years and been (in her opinion) a mainstay of that branch, bridled.

"They most certainly are not! In fact, they are known far and wide for their Christian charity. They've adopted the local township and there is no end to their good deeds."

Their interference, more likely, Rina van Wyk thought cynically, but left the thought unsaid.