The Read More Project features some of the best prose, poetry, and narrative non-fiction around. We regularly publish work from a variety of writers, with a special focus on new and emerging writers. These works will span genres, styles, forms, voice, and more – we want our corner of the literary world to be as varied, as eye-opening, as challenging as possible.
All Poems and Stories
Yesterday it rained from lunchtime. The whole of the previous fortnight, we’d been sweating in the mid-thirties and so we were dressed only in light clothes for the journey. The sky didn’t seem to take any enjoyment from its performance. By the time we got to the hotel, we were shrunken with cold.
The television set sizzles with static while the world burns at your feet – a war that’s been seen before is teetering on the precipice of unhinged jaws and fingers cut off from the electrical charges of the brain. Here lies all the truths that were kept buried while every lie hums just outside the […]
The man behind the desk had introduced himself as Albert Ryman the first time he and Haytham met, and Haytham hadn’t believed it for a second. He was tall and thin, with white hair and black glasses that framed his face. He always wore impeccable suits. But it was all a little too perfect: the hair too well-maintained, the jacket and shirt too complimentary, and the tie knot always impossibly symmetrical. His glasses weren’t crooked in the slightest. Everything about him seemed cultivated, right down to the pretence of humanity.
10.36pm. They’re not just late now; they’re Amy Winehouse late. The blips and wub-wubs of the Never Gonna Give You Up cover version are barely audible over the audience’s detached impatience and theatrical sighs. The song’s ironic. I think. I hope. The crowd, however, are being more vocal at this one moment than during the entirety of the support slots. I guess clapping is out again this season.
He was the only child; they always listened and made sure he got everything he wanted. Sometimes life was too comfortable for his own liking, but it was a privilege and he enjoyed it. They sat in the parlour and listened to all his fears and dreams, before they burst into laughter. It was something they had never done before.
Mr K. was unhappy. He felt entirely alone. Mrs B., sitting just a few meters away, typing at her desk was no comfort. And since sitting down, a dread feeling had come over him; he felt his life would soon be ending.
Let’s talk about the newness of it all, of thebeginnings that followed me homethe entire hour drive back from your housethe morning you heard me throw upfrom last night’s wine and tried to kiss me goodbye anyway. The night was warm. I mostly remember how I was shaking when I took your handand put it on my […]
He wants to be the beating blood beneath her skin, he thinks, as he drops his new gym bag next to her canvas backpack. The skin of our lips is a hundred times more sensitive than our fingertips; he wonders if she knows this. She must be knowledgeable since she’s always reading. White veins have developed on the buckled corners of her War and Peace, which, he sees, is sitting ready by her neat white trainers.
We believed ourselves the monsters of North Dallas, curly-headed and leaning on trees. We painted our faces green and black, and we wore second-hand fatigues from thrift stores and family attics. We buttoned up and were war-ready, swaggering with ammo and plastic rifles tipped with orange. Airsoft gave us the thrill of war without the warring. We talked like we killed, and we found ways to best each other. In the forest with our guns, our mothers didn’t exist.
Soldier’s Buttons, Robin noted the spiky blooms of cornflower-blue underfoot as he trod his familiar, solitary track out of Newlyn harbour. The cliffside above Mousehole, the next village along, was raucous with heather, sweet-scented bells ringing silent and glowing in the early-evening sun, a sun that showcases a unique shine in this small corner of Cornwall. The surrounding sky was burnt orange, a stain that would soon blossom into lilac. Blue skies were rare in this part of the world and time of the day, signalling when they did appear a good day ending.
Your dad tied you behind his pickup with the strong quality rope we used to tie up the horses. He dragged you the length of the driveway and everyone knew.
As the overwhelming underdog, and the American, the crowd was rallying for him. Now approaching four hours, the match had matured, building like tantric sex or ostinato music composition. Twice a woman had legit screamed out prior to the conclusion of a point, prematurely anticipating its end; once just before a phenomenal backhand stroke from Rodrigo which went crosscourt zipping right past Tristan’s eyes seeming to emit heat and hum like a missile. Tristan was right to let it fly, it had landed just out.
At quarter past three one April afternoon, Lucy Mackenzie had picked up her six-year-old daughter from school, and the mother’s body had been pulled out of the river at seven thirty by a jogger. The daughter had never been found, despite the dredging of the canal and the most expensive missing person investigation that Catharine had ever instigated. The last sighting of her had been by her teacher when the child had been picked up from school. The police investigation had circled for eighteen months, unable to reconstruct a mere four hours.
A devotee of Red Dead Redemption since way back, Tony was familiar with jackalopes. He’d never seen one though. He’d never even been sure if they were real or not – he’d never paid much attention to science, or anything really, in school – until that day on the loading dock. But when he tried to tell his buddies at the bar after work about it, they all laughed at him.
It happened today: my first strand of grey.In my bathroom’s bright light, I felt shock, then dismayas my fate flashed before me: arthrosis, infirmness,decay, the faint footsteps of Death on his way.I felt hopeless already: aging, unsteady,and struggling to think. “What about me won’t shrink?My backaches? My future collection of hair dye?The length of my […]
You are Dolly and Mousey, and Bunny, and others. With each new pet name that he gave you, you used to imagine yourself experiencing a quick metamorphosis into that animal or object.
Parting the Red Sea The bog – bolbus berries blistering red, burst ripe in the late September sun. I, captivated, carried courage in my life before – carelessness. I returned home from the coast of clams to find Pa had become one of the ghosts of the bog. I wade through red water and I wait in my waders wondering how long it took the […]
Just Waiting For A Title I have a song in methat doesn’t have a title.It has a Tastee Freezclosed for the winter sadness.The song occurs in late fall.Even though there are lovers;it is not a ballad.The refrain is stabbedby saxophone urgency.But I goose bump to the lyrics.They are exceptional wordsthat go together so wellI always […]
George doesn’t want to be here, you can see it in his expression: eyes darting nervously from side to side, perspiration shining his top lip and brow, an uneasy smile offered through closed lips. You can sense it in the way he stands: sagging shoulders anticipating defeat, clenched fists buried deep in trouser pockets. It is clear from only the briefest of glances that George feels out of place, out of his comfort zone. A zone that was far from the spectrum of spaciousness to begin with.
Gerald didn’t like working at home. He found it hard to concentrate. He’d much rather be in the office. It was the whole routine he liked. It gave him a focus. He was someone. He was Gerald R. Scott, Actuary for the Ask Us Insurance Company. At home he was just Gerald or Gerry.
Sometimes she would make up stories if the conversation turned to first kisses. Her first kiss was when she was thirteen at a summer camp, Or fourteen with her friend’s brother. Often she would steal a story from others if the groups didn’t intersect. Her problem was keeping her stories straight.
A starfish. That’s the lobster out the window. I clean the surface. Smoothing the card out so I can see it properly. I worry that I’ll miss something one day and throw a winning card out. The thought makes my belly ache.
I’m not sure, but I think the phrase “Gloves Off” may have originated in hockey. In a demonstration of perverse chivalry, the first step in the all-too-common hockey brawl is that the opposing players will throw down their gloves prior to trying to cold-cock one another. This may have been due to the fact that early hockey gloves had stiff little edges that could possibly poke an eye out and clearly, beating the shit out of someone does not include poking out an eye.
Once his acne cleared and the hormones settled, like a glass snow globe – fragile, still there, but took a good shake to rise them – I watched him fall headfirst into love affairs, rife with pain. My fingers twitched, desperate to hold him back: make him think, make him see, make him more like me. I watched him tackle with two legs out front, drive without indicating, and drink until he was rendered a clown.
Nevada Suicide Prevention has previously appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic Friends catch her by the shoulderson the edge of a casino balcony,drunk and reeling above gaggles of tourists. Cocktails in hand, the revellers gaze: first with curiosity, then malice. Vulnerability brings out their sadism.They point and laugh. She tries tohurl her body into their upturned faces. Hands […]
The Earth was beset by a great psychic panic. We have seen them before. The dancing plagues. The birth of Christianity. Suddenly, the things we knew were uncertain. Worse, in fact; what we knew, we knew to be false. But what new things we needed to know, those things we call the truth; we didn’t know those yet.
The Bollywood industry is prolific, in almost every sense of the term, including the sheer number of women actors that are encapsulated within a strip of time. Some become household names; some reach a flux; some walk back, while some pass to the dirty hands of oblivion… and I take the latter-most as the grim child of destiny. This becomes the subject of my discourse here: remembering the forgotten dancing queens.
By then she’d started to scroll and tap her phone. What are you doing now, I asked her? Just checking Google reviews for what’s good here. I must have gaped. She looked up. Did you get the oil? I told her they didn’t have it. She went back to tapping the phone screen furiously.
The Dandelion has been previously published in Writer’s Egg Magazine. The seedling…most recently aware,frolics newly-sprouted in a fantasy of yellow.It smiles and gigglesunder the sun,which nourishes the bright skin.It crouches and tremblesby the harsh whip of the stormwhose shadows echo and howl.It dances and singswith the light kiss of a shower. Yellow bloom…most recently rooted,stands confident […]
The bathrobe? I found it in the flea markets down on Gagarin street. It was just hanging there, among a bunch of old peasant clothes. Yes, I know it’s ugly. Orange squares and blue stripes. But it’s still got its silk ribbon, look!
A previous version of “Carnivore” has been published in Squeeze 2020: UEA Creative Writing Anthology rorschach’s nose bleed Rorschach’s nose bleed, you don’t sit on the paper like you ought to, – you twist and turn and try to defy shape. you try to defy everyone – it’s the only thing that lets you get […]
A kitchen where nothing has ever been thrown away, two mouths with tongues grown old before they even got to know each other, a sip of coffee, some rusks dipped in milk, bronze peacocks, a TV ad selling creams made from snails and the heavy smell of mothballs. And amongst all of this a tray with semolina cake, nine candles stuck in the top and a parcel on the table.
There’s a child downstairs that I’m ignoring. I have business to attend to right here. She’s great, the child. It’s not that I don’t like her, a whirlwind of incomprehension, but she is young. A sapling. Sapping. At the stage in her life where autonomy is not on her radar.
La Pietà to be published in the online magazine, They Call Us, in early January 2021. Museum Entrance Two ancient lovers hold handsas if they’ll dissolve away from each other like heated sugar;a woman holds herself, rocking a crying baby slung on herchest like a gold medallion. A glass door holds ustogether. We slide in […]
Through the open door he can hear the clutter of cutlery being pushed into the dishwater basket – forcefully, with annoyance, just as everything Wanda does. In the background, KLW3 and Dolly Parton’s nasal drawl praises ‘The Coat of Many Colors’ her mama made for her. He can hardly picture Miss Big Boobs Parton in any coat, never mind in one of many colours, but Wanda likes the sentimental stuff.
Although they never met in person, I often spoke to Alex about my austere Presbyterian upbringing, the type of ideals that the family pursued and how hard it was for an outsider, not born and bred in Middlebury, population 513, to be accepted by the local community. You were either in or out – there was no middle point. According to an unspoken agreement, the Middlebury community held monopoly on moral values and any other lifestyle was sinful and condemnable. Rooted in traditions and immutable ways, life seemed to move in circles there and no one expected any changes.
Tommy lay draped over his mother’s protruding belly, her short fingernails massaging his scalp. The smell of salmon slowly saturated the air in the living room, wafting under the crack below the kitchen pocket door. They never used to close the door, but for weeks now any whiff of food sent his mother running for the bathroom.
Tonight, I’m at the Bradford Hotel. It’s your typical seaside establishment, full of newlyweds, elderly widows. You know the type. The hotel has seen better days – purple carpet threadbare in places, gold paint rubbing off the stair rails showing dirty white underneath.
Those who were home either waved at me—some ladies even sending flirtatious kisses)—or ignored me, eyes fixed on television screens or laptops. Many were out though, and each suite was a stage on which I imagined a life story playing out. The props were comic, sad, intriguing, revealing or puzzling. The stuff folks collect is surprising. Suggestive.
Hidden behind a row of seemingly unrelated hardcovers, a secret compartment of sorts. A secret place where his most precious tome could rest, unnoticed. Reverently, he withdrew it, drawing it close to him as I tried to inconspicuously take it in. Despite the worship he clearly held, someone had not been particularly kind to the book, a dozen dog-eared corners bulged the worn edges of the pages and made the cover warp unevenly.
At least it wasn’t word-for-word long time no see. His eyes focus on my face. If he wasn’t already too drunk, he’d be analysing how each line of my face has changed, but he is already too drunk, so he’s simply trying his best to look like he’s analysing something, when in fact he can probably see two of me.
Yes, he’s funny, and I can be funny when I want to be, but he’s the butt of the joke. He’s a complete and utter clown. Hannah’s not going to want to be with a clown, is she? She’s going to want to be with someone tough. I’m tough. At least, I can be – I’ve had four teeth out, and I didn’t even make a fuss. I’ve got them in a small red box in my bedroom.
Hannah feels my presence. She sits straight up in bed, alert, and she looks directly at me. I wonder if she has an image of me, of the real Miranda. I wish I could communicate with her. As she calms I stay and watch over her, as if I’m a carer tending to someone who is sick. She relaxes in bed. This is timeless for me.
…the director turns up for work. First thing he sees, right there on the pavement in front of him: a discarded cigarette stub, life in it yet.
Macavity, she thought, like the cat. As a birthday present, she’d splurged on a Versace bathrobe for him, with a design of a leaping tiger. Or rather, her allowance had, though to keep within budget she’d gone without a lovely little number that she was almost sure she could carry off. It hung in his wardrobe, worn only on the day she gave it to him. And he’d been such an elegant dresser.
Right now, before he opens his stupid mouth any wider, I’m feeling just fine. But I already know that’s all about to change. Any second now he’s gonna spill it. Can’t help himself. He’ll hand his burden off to me like a baton and it’ll be my leg to run in the anxiety relay. Well, I don’t want that baton!
The charged stillness of the house enveloped you even as you stepped into the open wooden porch. Piles of rotting leaves disguised the intricate floor tiling, and there was a shudder as the front door swung open to reveal evidence of activity abruptly abandoned.
The rain started on Olivia’s second round of houses, and reached its most torrential by her fifth. That day she walked more than she had ever done in her entire life, knocked on countless doors, spoke to hundreds of strangers.
Freddie Fredrickson owns Car Cars Cars. His voice makes fingernails on a chalkboard sound like a Brahms lullaby. He used to do his own ads for awhile but finally accepted that his screech was a turn-off and hired me to dub him. The Cars Cars Cars gig has become my bread and butter.
She parked up on the side of the road. It was already dark – quarter after seven. The only things that lit the neighborhood were lampposts and windows from seemingly lively houses. She made sure the shadows camouflaged her car, certain nobody would remember seeing it there the next day.
Do not talk to me of Hiroshima, he saidSurprising the nurse with one free hand. Not fourteen anymore and not quite forty,He had manned the pickets for over a weekWithin the tear gas amphitheatre.Briefly, the sea of khaki had partedFor an elderly teacher who, bewildered,Called them his children and urged surrender.I had taught you the […]
As the afternoon deepens, and the shadows get longer, the Parrot watches as the chickens start to come out to peck at the dry ground of the courtyard and the near-baked grass in the garden. Signor Lucan watches too, ready to shoo any bird that tries to nibble at his prize tomatoes.
I was in no condition to be driving an eighteen-wheeler. The medication kept me tethered to the world around me, but rendered heavy machinery out of the question. So when the dispatcher called me for an international run, I flushed the pills.
Dad built Mom out of pipe cleaners when she died, sat her on the kitchen counter in fuzzy green dress and wire eyes. Took him days; barely three foot of her, starch-stiff ragdoll on the kitchen side but enough, big enough for you to press your head between her nylon bristle legs, small twin scars on your forehead where the wires catch.
“He’s always late, Lord. Always!” he complained to The Man Upstairs. His complaints went unanswered, as they always did, but it still made him feel good to lodge them. “It shows a complete lack of respect for the process.”
My final memory of Let It Come Down is the four lads running onto the football field at St James’ Park in replica home jerseys, like over-excited magpies, to a bemused silence and then, when the backing-track finally kicked-in, incessant booing from every corner of the stadium, as the boys tried gamely to get their song and dance routine going.
Robert Buckley looked around his bedroom for the last time. He thought he would feel sad, but everything inside him told him he was making the right decision. He latched his suitcase closed, annoyed that he couldn’t find one that stood out less, and set it by the door.
My mother bears the mark of the jellyfish. On the soft, pale inside of her right arm. It grows fainter as she grows older, but it is still just about discernible: a round stamp on the wrist and a single long tentacle, with a curl at the end, reaching almost to the elbow. It could be mistaken for a question mark or a fishing hook.
I knew we had been in the car for hours but time blurred. All I remember is the pinch of pain as my teeth bit away the skin on my left thumb.
Michael was dozing on a bench. He opened his eyes and looked up. “A week last Tuesday.” He turned away from Ian, who was standing with one foot perched on a spade. He gazed out at his own garden. The seed pods hanging from the laburnum tree swayed in the wind. He was sorry that he had missed the yellow flowers this year. They were out so briefly, and he had been too ill.
One of my neighbours informed me she had had a dream about the aliens, but she termed it a prophecy. She held up her hands to the sky and asked them to transport her. “In the prophecy, they gave me the power to fly,” she said, smiling at me, revealing yellow and cracked teeth. She was wearing a white nightgown and it fluttered in the breeze, like a flag of surrender.
The world ends while she is sitting in a doctor’s office.
The smell of antiseptic and cheap plastic furniture singes her nostrils as she breathes it in. She hears the fish tank burble and a patient cough into a face mask. An outdated magazine sits abandoned in her lap; she rubs her thumb against the sharp edge of its peeling corner.
The next best thing to Santa Claus is the Tooth Fairy. As inconvenient as wobbly teeth go, a very shaky tooth means another visit from the Tooth Fairy, and that means extra money! Even better, the older you get, the more generous the Tooth Fairy seems to be. Last year, after you turned 10, she bumped up the value of your tooth from a pound to two.
My mother was never the same after we buried Scott. When he died, soon after turning thirteen, she wept that it was too soon. Wept he was too young. Wept that no parent should have to bury their child. It was torture for us to watch him waste away, to know he would never again find peace in life. The cancer was in his bones.
Five, four, three, two, one, and a roar of guttural cheers and whoops and howls as the sky pulses and we glimpse our saviours again, our bug-eyed angels, in their ship which holds our planet. A copper skin of lines and lights that is, for that moment, a shell before it fades, becomes transparent, becomes the night sky again.
If I had to describe that time as a single image, I would tell it like this: the sun trapped in long golden hair, and us, the girls, submitting ourselves to it completely. Here’s the photo: school uniforms, standing with our arms around each other, me as the tallest in the middle, and a pair of girls each side of me. The parched grass beneath our feet. Our frozen laughs, a joke made perpetually funny.
Maxim rides the S9 commuter train without a ticket – Schwarz, it’s called in Switzerland – and he rides first class. Quieter. Fewer worries about dogs. Or some jöööö-shrieking kid chasing after him.
On our canal, in the absence of trade and the din of tourists, we’re left to listen to the slap of waves, the clicks of loose rooftiles, and for the stealth of a silent predator. Beyond the city, there’s only water and the horizon, no sailboats, fishing boats, powerboats, or cruise ships. No vapour trails scratch the glassy-blue sky. Hungry gulls and pigeons cry for cold crusts, cones and crisps. Night folds on us like a wartime blackout curtain.
I started working in the shop a good 10 years ago. I’m not entirely sure why. It just seemed to happen one day. One week I was a taxi driver, and the next I just appeared behind the till at King Kebabs 2. Weird name, isn’t it? King Kebabs 2. I’ve never understood it. Was there a King Kebabs 1 somewhere? Was this shop some sort of fast food sequel? Who knows?
The herring did not come. October brought damp weather and the salt barrels filled to the brim waiting for the hasty lads peering from the lookouts along the coast. The harvest time ordinarily meant the currents would be teeming with fish. None came this year. The boys kept watch atop the towers for the first signs of the fish. They kept watch through into Martinmas. Alas, the hissing flashes of the shoals thinned and died.
She cradles her belly in front of department store mirrors, smooths her fingers over the soft cotton of her oversized blouse. Whispers, hello in there. A passing shopper smiles and their faces break open in wide smiles back. It’s our first. We never thought it would happen for us.
Contemptuous looked over the top of Cerebral’s head at the entirely empty room. “If you can call it interesting.” He looked down. His steel-grey hair was parted and waved in precisely the way it might be if he didn’t want people to think he was vain. But didn’t mind if they said so, anyway.
The route C3 timetable still hangs in the bus shelter: charts of undistinguished places linked by obsolete departure times. Admirals Court, Bishops Rise. Six and forty-two minutes past every hour. Weekend services operated by Travels with Bonzo Ltd. Panes of aged glass filter the light sour yellow and the early autumn shadows seem weighted with damp.
I look from the curtain-less window to the couch where she is lying and then back to the window again; I don’t know why she is still here. She did warn me this would happen. Not this, exactly, but something like this. She used to joke with me, she would say, “If I died, you’d be fine… you’d have some other woman here in no time.
“It’s not like that,” Graham told his wife. Standing in the bedroom doorway, he watched her shoulders shudder along with her ragged sobs. Finally, she raised her face from her hands, grabbed the phone and flung it at him. It bounced off the doorframe and thudded to the carpet.
When I come to, I am under the impression that I am having fun, or, at least, that I had been having fun at some previous point in the evening. She is underneath me and I am hard and an active participant. I don’t know what that means. I don’t even remember her coming back to my place. She is very skinny like she doesn’t eat at all; her hair is jawline short and she is only naked from the waist down. She is still wearing her tank-top and bra. I figure out what is happening and I am very confused. I just go with it.
“They would never do it now. It wouldn’t be allowed.”
The paper was delicate between the swollen joints of my mother’s fingers. She flipped the worn pages, and then her gaze caught on the photograph there. A small, tender smile lit her face.
Strips of moonlight were trying to help me find my phone in the disorientating black, and my fingers managed only to disturb the ornamental steroid cream that now lives behind the bedside table.
II switch from leisure to education mode with my eye movement detection glasses, wondering what today’s topic might be. I still need thirty credits to finish the semester so I hope it’s interesting.
It was monsoon in Mumbai. I looked out the bus window and saw water hung like a sheet between the sky and the ground, too dense to discern its falling. I had a six-week internship with the design school at the Indian Institute of Technology, and it was my first day. Outside campus was Mumbai’s chaos—cars raring to go, trucks honking for dear life, vendors singing their commercial chants, and more ant-like human bodies milling about than the intersection could handle.
There was one unspoken rule: don’t go beyond the gates. If we did go out and cross the main road, we’d find ourselves in the village that had been consumed by our locality. The one time when, consumed by adventure, we’d try to sneak past the sleeping security guard at the gate, Ma’d spotted me on the way back from the high school across the main road she taught at.
They say cold air does you good when you’re drunk – a bit of outside to help right the senses. That’s what they say, right? It helps the buzz settle and the world stop spinning. Then, you fall into a blissful post-drunken sleep that even the most irritating alarm clock can’t wake you from.
It’s now almost twenty years since those headlines, following Charles Davidson’s strange disappearance in 1965. As someone who knew him well, it was to my door that the media initially came. At the time, I told them nothing, but as I now start to feel my years, I realise I ought to set down these biographical observations.
Eugene and Carol sat on their sagging porch outside the house they bought when they were young and oblivious to the tight grasp of this flyover country. Their land was hard, but Carol, at least, remembered when it had been harder. Hard in a way most had already forgotten.
To Arthur’s eyes, speckled with dim cataracts, and to his mind that was slowly untethering itself from solid ground, the green tour boat drawing alongside the little wooden quay floated like an exotic dragonfly he’d once watched hovering and dipping amongst banana trees in Burma. As the boat drew closer, it disrobed from its hazy disguise and presented itself whole and ordinary, inviting in the way that only real things can be.
Randolph Minster woke up squint on Monday morning. Although his bed was straight on all three plains, and although he was relaxed and sunk flat when he awoke, it seemed his body was bent to the right and determined to stay that way. When Randolph stood at the toilet to void yesterday’s liquids, he stood askew. When he padded around his little kitchen making boiled eggs – five minutes for large soft boiled, toast notch three on the dial – he was undeniably squint, as if gravity’s pull had moved a little, but always to his right.
People faint now and then. Eva envies their respite – she’s been awake for nearly 26 hours, and Matt too. The night before, they stopped at a small lake surrounded by poorly assembled tents. The moonlit water shone like heaven. Yesterday’s driver had warned against bathing. Matt obeyed, Eva tried to, but others were scrambling in, cooling off.
Dom entered the shabby bus station and walked past a shabby pigeon, which said ‘Alright, mate?’
Colin knocks on my door at 6.56 pm.
I spot him through the window at least 10 minutes before our date is due to start. His too-big overcoat is drawn tightly around his skinny torso, and his hands are rooted in his pockets. I watch him through the blinds as he approaches my door, rocks on the balls of his feet for a moment, then leans in, as if scrutinizing a notch in the paintwork
Tawny just thought people had stopped noticing her. Perhaps the bus driver hadn’t seen her outstretched hand. She didn’t speak loud enough in the coffee shop. But standing in front of the bathroom mirror that night, she saw only the room reflected back. After staring at her toothbrush for some time, she picked it up, and it appeared to float unaccompanied.
Before getting underway with this little letter, we must ask you a rather pressing question. You see, it seems simply vital that we understand how to properly address you. “Dear Kate” – it just sounds ever so churlish to write to a lady as dignified as yourself and to commence in such a common manner. “Kate” does have something of a plebeian ring to it, wouldn’t you agree? Certainly, it doesn’t seem fit for a Duchess
All high schools are pathetic, as are all high school students, high school existences, high school achievements. That your team beat anyone else’s, ever, you should forget two days after graduation. We’ve fabricated childhood – damn you, Locke, damn you, Rousseau – then built traps to keep young people in it – that comfortable space of “for your age” and “improving” and “participation.”
Everything was beautiful: blueschist states of mind. The night sky was complete and we knew it, thanks to the old mnemonic. Mother didn’t show us anything per se, but she bought the book in which I learned the trick: a Junior Collins Encyclopaedia that included a comprehensive chapter on the subject of Space. It was simple and beautiful, the way certain things are: nine words forming a coherent and logical sentence that perfectly aligned to its raison d’etre.
I remember the day when Charles’ parents moved to town. They came from the city, which was an intimidating thing for us in our small slice of English countryside. They hadn’t had Charles yet, but they did have another baby, about two years old I think – I never learned its name.
I pronounce the words as I scrub toilet bowls. The clerks are on their way back home. The lamps on the desks are off, but still warm. The sweat on the keypads drying. The trains murmur on a dark blue horizon.
When Subha began working for us, I was twelve, and she said she was seventeen. It seemed a big age difference at the time, despite the fact that I was already taller than she was, and broader too. She was the latest in a long line of full-time housemaids that my mum had employed and subsequently fired for various reasons: stealing my old stuffed animals, taking extended holidays to their hometowns, and the most recent, moonlighting as a sex worker.
As any sensible person would be, Cylia was wary of long-distance relationships. Given the lack of options in her own vicinity however, she was inclined to look further afield, succumbing to the smorgasbord of electronic dating sites. Eventually, her search reached such sequestered spaces, the depths of some of the most seldom used applications, yet she had little to show for it except for some faded sparks, clumsy comments and innumerable unopened messages, each with a hint of potential, though probably promising disappointment.
He paid the man, got out of the car, and took off up the driveway. It was a long driveway. More like a dirt track, with various winding twists and turns. He could not see the house; the track was surrounded by large trees and high untrimmed hedges. When the driveway finally opened up, and he did see the house, he was taken aback.
I was visiting St Kilda. I’d come to see the colonies of gannets, when – for no reason I can think of – I found myself remembering Simon. Simon in his black jacket. The two of us in St James’s Park. But that’s the way with memories, isn’t it? They come to us in ripples. Then they’re gone.
My German Grandmother Was Totally a Bitch, and Also So Much Cooler than Yours by Shannon Frost Greenstein
Certain things are absolute, compulsory. There are universal experiences of a German grandchildhood that link so many of us in a complicated daisy chain across space and time: holiday cookies. Hiding an ornament shaped like a pickle on the Christmas tree. Church, specifically Lutheran church. Being early. Raggedy Ann dolls and Hummel figurines and Black Russians and, at the foundation of it all, resilience. Grit.
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