Saturday, 21 February 2015


I am sitting near the back of the bus. Not at the back. I am not ‘cool’ enough to sit at the back. I am glad I am not cool enough. As Moon often says ‘Bathe and be blessed that you aren’t Goat.’

Moon. Moon is my new best friend. She started coming to our school last year. Her parents moved North. Moved from somewhere in Florida. I am so glad they did.

First day in our class. I mean her first day. She walked right in, real bold, crisp as a winter’s morning, introduced herself to Mrs Tice – French teacher – and plonked herself down. Down in the free chair next to mine.

You see, I am not completely ‘nerdy’. Not that. But I am a bit of a geek. Okay, okay, no point in wandering a looping path when the way ahead is straight, as my Granny was wont to say. I am a lot of a geek. And a ‘swot’ according to the popular girls. Like I said I am not ‘cool’ so often, in whatever class, the seat next to me was free.

When Moon arrived though, everything changed. Break that morning, she wanted to hang with me. Blackest curls, thick hair flowing past her shoulders, framing a pale face, she grabs my arm in the corridor. Her voice…her voice when she spoke, well, I didn’t know the word then but it was euphonic, clear as a crystal bell.

‘Hi, I’m Marcia but everyone calls me Moon.’
I peer at her vole-like from under my fringe (figures I thought). ‘I…I’m Gert, short for Gertrude but,’ I hesitate, reddening, anticipating the abuse, ‘ but everyone seems to want to call me Goat.’ I look away.
‘Goat, what a wicked name,’ she replies without a trace of sarcasm.

Sorry, sorry, I am not being ‘germane’ as our English teacher, Mr Hunter often tells me when I waffle in class, adding ‘Get on with it girl’!

So, months later, we are sitting on the bus, nearly end of Summer term, and Moon says, ‘these Birkenstock hurt my feet’.
Did I hear right? The ‘cool’ girls are making lots of noise. ‘What?’
‘those berks at the back have me beat,’ she pulls a face.
‘Oh Moon,’ I giggled.
‘Are you saving for the trip?’
‘The trip?’ I played dumb.
‘Goat, the trip, the TRIP,’ her eyes are incredulous.
My mouth is dry, it needs lubrication but I know my water bottle is empty. The TRIP is one to Paris. That’s Europe not Texas. It is in the Autumn but my parents have ruled it out. They cannot afford for me to go. Not told Moon yet.

She is waiting. Only a few months and already I hate to disappoint her. But that day, when she fixes me with her ocean eyes, I guess that day I realise I am a little bit in love.

Copyright Gabrielle Goldsmith 2015

The Dark Side of the Goat

Goat says "You must give up the story of the man in the moon. It is just a nursery rhyme after all."
Vole looked at him in disbelief holding up a crystal dewdrop lantern looped in a blade of grass."But Goat, how can you tease me so? I can see him up there with my own eyes. Look!"
"No, I will not look" Goat said, "there is too little euphony in the story. How could a cow jump over the moon? It is too high, however crisp the springs on the trampoline."
"But you must believe, Goat" said Vole ruffling his fur indignantly. "It is pertinent to our very existence to believe. If we do not believe how can we know your milk will turn to cheese or that rain is the same as snow or that the river runs to the sea? We cannot see these things and yet we know they occur."
"Ok, ok, don't get your tail in a knot. I will go to the head of the path at the top of the hill and look from there when I am closer. Maybe I will see the dish running down the other side with the spoon."
" I don't like the tone of sarcasm you are using Goat. Go if you will, but go with hope in your heart and stars in your eyes. They will lubricate your mind to the possibility of truth. But first, let me climb on your back and ride up the hill with you so that my eyes may see what yours see."
Goat waited for Vole to clamber up on to his back then trotted away along the moonlit path snailing it's way to the top of the hill with Vole enjoying a fine new prospect. On reaching the top Goat paused, catching his breath and began to eat the grass.
"Well?" said Vole.
"Now I am here I dare not look up Vole. I find I am frightened of what I might miss."
"Have faith my milky friend. I am with you and you are certainly sure to discover nothing if you carry on with your head in the grass and your eyes closed to the possibilities."
Goat drew a deep breath and blew out stars as he gazed for the first time at the Man in the Moon. He is real.

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan


The cold air shears the night in two as the doors concertina open. I have been sitting near the front. I shoulder my rucksack and nod to the driver. Step from the bus. Another bus, different emotions. Another beginning. Another end. That day when she'd questioned me about the Paris trip had been on my mind. It was as if the two bus trips were bookends and between them was the story of Moon and me.

Moons words haunted my thoughts as the miles had ticked by, metronomic. The 'terror' of what I faced at the end of the trip was bad enough to produce an anxious state but her words, her rejection and my reaction were magnified with mounting embarrassment and sadness as I churned them over, squirming in my seat, unable to rest.

The last time I see her, sitting in the park yesterday afternoon, our conversation goes from light to dark, from talk of final exams, leaving home, of college to 'us', so quick I feel like I do when I try to ice-skate. Uncertain, wobbly and a moment of silence, she holds me at a distance, her hands in mine. Crack.

'Give it up Goat, say you'll give it up. Give up on the idea of you and me? It is crazier than the man in the moon.' Her smile is there as always. Moon smile, but plaintive, a cloud across it. Her words etch a crack in my heart. I hear myself say 'no' a lot, say 'why' a lot. I feel my cheeks grow hot, become wet. Her eyes betray concern. She holds me, puts her arms around me. Soothes me as if I were a child but there is no doubt. She is ending 'it', ending 'us'. I rub my eyes dry, use a few choice words, call her a bitch, told her to go screw herself and worse. A pause and then for some reason we are both laughing and rolling around on the grass.
'You will write,' I say when we have calmed down.
'Of course Goat,' she beams.

I know she won't.

Moon is ending 'us'. But what was us really? A shared diary that had sustained us through senior high; helping each navigate the lows and the highs (remember the Paul and Dan episode Moon?); weekends and evenings at each other's houses when I marvelled at her parents' prosperity, and was in awe of her bedroom, walls plastered with her amazing art; sleepovers when post 2 am I would whisper fervid loyalties to her sleeping back; and, lately, the tortuous coffees at our favourite cafe over which we discussed our different college plans and I'd wrack my brain for a template that meant they would not steal the pearl of our friendship, be the end of us.

My 13-hour journey from upstate New York to DC is over. Moon and me are over. Outside the station, I blink into the milky grey. Lights still sparkle in the sky but eastways an uncertain blue presages the dawn.

Moon is going to study Law in NYC and I am in Washington for an interview at an art college. Graphic design. Funny how it worked out. In the three years I'd known her she'd opened my mind to art, shown me I could draw. And I'd helped her out with her sciences, heavy 'boring' stuff like essays! You never know where the river will take you but it won't take you anywhere unless you trust it, as my Gran used to say. When it came to study, I'd followed my passions rather than what I was really good at. I know my parents are worried but they hide it well. I hope Moon is also following her heart. Yes, of course she is, she always is.

Yesterday. In the park. After we hug forever, I watch her walk away. She stops, turns, six feet from me. 'Hey Goat, don't wish for the Moon, the stars will bear you up.' I watch her walk away.

In a cab. On the way into the city. I look out of the window at the fading stars. Emerging from behind a cloud, a silvery disk winks at me before disappearing into the morning. I feel abandoned but see the blessing in it.

Copyright Gabrielle Goldsmith 2015

Sunday, 15 February 2015


Ruby sat atop the serpentine curve of the dune watching the sinking sun, her eyes following the lengthening shadow of the lone bleached tree in front of her as it ghosted towards her over the sand. The Eritraean coke bottle lay empty between her blistered feet buried to it's waist in sand. It had been a reminder of better times, of when they met but now it was defunct it could not satiate her thirst. There was no message in this bottle. Well not that sort anyway. Thoughts of him bled into her consciousness and she felt the bile rise to her throat. The betrayal was still fresh and the wounds deep, still oozing. She could not think of him kindly, not yet, even as she absorbed the warmth of the African sun to heal her wounds.

This time of bitterness and gall would pass though. Her internal goodness was preserved in spite of the abuse. Obscured at present it would rise again along with the strength at  her core where it lay in hibernation, hermetically sealed out of his reach. When they met she had been a delicate bloom, a blossom of orange fruit and over the years she had become pulverised like marmalade. There was no going back, no undoing of the process but time would pass like water under a bridge and one day she would trust someone enough to unscrew the lid on her marmalade heart and let them taste the preserved bittersweet delights within her.

As the sun finally dipped below the distant dunes, chased away by the approaching night she prepared to turn the hour glass to its new beginning. This wild space untouched by the hurts of men was a balm to her soul. She was enveloped by its protection. It sang to her "walk my scorching sands and use my blisters to obscure the pain. I contain innumerable moons, one reincarnation after another. Stay with me until you find the one that reflects your soul-song and then you will have found the strength you need to go on."

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan

Last Orders

Ben took a deep draught of his Black Rock, rolling the dark, bitter taste across his tongue. Hmm… just the right hit of roasted barley, singing with vanilla and aniseed in the back of his throat. Well kept, indeed…
Appreciation of the full flavoured smoothness momentarily diverted his attention from the clock over the bar, mercilessly informing him with every glance that his Blind Date was now more than averagely late. Twenty-two minutes and seventeen seconds, to be exact.
Ben wished he had never agreed to it. As if there wasn’t enough humiliation in the world. And sometimes, even worse things happened than being sold a poorly kept pint.
His mate Steve - who had set up the date - said Ben was like Marvin the paranoid android from ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’. “Except you haven’t got a brain the size of a planet.” He said. “Not if you turn this one down. Jenny’s seriously fit. Likes geeks, too, so you’re well in there.”
In the end, from sheer boredom, he gave in. Just to shut Steve up. And because he liked the sound of being ‘well in there’ after his long, dull - and though he hated to admit it - entirely celibate year of divorced singledom. Not that he had ever had much luck with ‘the fairer sex’. His ex-wife - She whose name must not be taken upon mortal lips - was proof of that.
So he said a pessimistic ‘yes’ to Steve and here he was, waiting for the fabled and ‘fit’ Jenny. At the very least, it was an excuse to come here, the newly resurrected ‘Bell’. Its cosy, intimate rooms, laughter from the bar, the sense of all the years of familiar gatherings, made him feel he’d come home. Every time he stepped inside, he was welcomed by all those forgotten generations and their peaceful evenings around the open fire. And, of course, by the great selection of beers. Finishing his Black Rock and examining the pumps, he thought he’d go for Rebellion brewery’s ‘Hole in one’ next; dark, complex and earthy, to match his mood. He was in no state for light and hoppy…
He glanced back up at the clock. Half an hour late.
He ran through all the rational, non-insulting reasons for Jenny’s tardiness that he could think of:
a) She was so thrilled by the prospect of a date with him - (he hoped that Steve had laid it on thick - even lied a bit about how fabulous he was) - that she had spent the last six hours getting ready and lost track of the time;
b) She had a flat tire and/or some other car-related disaster. (He refrained from thinking any sexist thoughts about her not being able to change wheels, fix fan belts etc.);
c) She’d been abducted by aliens or, alternatively, was herself an alien and had been called back to the Mother-ship, or;
d) He had been stood up.
It was d), wasn’t it.
He had hoped that his tentative forays into the world of women would have moved on, by now. After all, he was officially a grown-up (thirty-four, to be exact), with a job, a car, two kids and a real-life mortgage. He even liked watching ‘Question Time’: proof positive. But all his experiences had remained depressingly reminiscent of his early dating disasters. Women just didn’t seem to ‘get’ him. Least of all his ex-wife.
He had three main passions in life (apart from the obvious): real ale and his membership of CAMRA, Marvel comics (of which he had an enviable collection) and Starbuck (the female one) from ‘Battlestar Galactica’. His ex-wife had joined the ranks of women scornful of all three. She told him regularly that she had married a twelve year old, that he refused to inhabit the real world and that he had never grown out of his pathetic idea of being a super-hero trapped in a mundane life. (That last part was probably true.) Well, if he was a super-hero, his ex-wife must be his
Nemesis. She was the evil She-Cat-Ego-Slayer-Alimony-Demanding-Empress-of-Darkness and from her there was no escape. If only he had a cloaking device.
Ben shuddered at the thought of her, as the hands of the clock ticked inexorably on. Thirty-five minutes late.
But perhaps it was a good thing Jenny wasn’t going to show. Knowing his luck in the amorous department she would probably turn out to be twenty-two stone, with a penchant for humiliation and dismemberment.
He needed another drink. Approaching the bar, he saw that the guest ale was sporting a picture of a merry-looking Carl Jung. He had heard good things about Vale Brewery’s ‘Synchronicity’ and thought he’d give it a try before heading home. Returning to his table with his prize, he supped back deeply. His mouth tingled at the rye malt and playful alpha hop, liquid gold flowing down his throat, teasing all the way. He breathed in, savouring the after-taste: complex and bitter. Not how he liked his women.
Speaking of which… A breath-takingly gorgeous female had just walked into the bar. Male heads turned in unison to follow her high-heeled, tight red-dressed progress. Her long, softly curled golden-brown hair played at her amply rounded breasts, her pale azure eyes roaming the tables with a certain child-like vulnerability, nervous, yet lit with a playful expectation. Her full, tender lips smiled as she spotted him.
“Are you Ben?” She said, her voice lilting and husky. She leaned over to kiss his cheek - he was too stunned to stand up - and he glimpsed a certain dewy moistness in her cleavage. He breathed in her sweet, exotic scent and realized he was staring like a man possessed.
“Er… yes…” He managed at last.
She didn’t wait for his invitation, but sat herself opposite him, smiling into his eyes with astonishing, warm intimacy.
“I’m Jenny.” She told him, as if she were confiding some naughty secret. “Steve said you were handsome.”
“Er… thank you…” He would have to do better than this.
She tossed her teasing, light-flecked hair back over her shoulder, undeterred by his brain-dead responses. Anyone would think he’d had six pints of ‘Death or Glory’.
“Sorry I’m late, by the way. I was all caught up in season four of ‘Battlestar’ and lost track of the time.” She laughed, waves of warmth flooding over his senses. “I’m such a geek. I love my super-hero films, too. Any graphic novel stuff, really.” She reached out an elegant, beautifully-manicured
hand and touched his fingers gently. “This is going to be a good evening.” Reminding himself how to sound out words, he stammered:
“What can I get you to drink… Jenny?”
Her blue eyes sparked at his use of her name. “Oh, let me think.” She was playing with him delightfully, as if he’d just proposed something shocking. “A pint of…” “Yes -?”
You can’t win ‘em all, thought Ben as he headed instead for the loo, remembering that the window was large enough for him to escape out of.

The copyright of this post belongs to Alisha Bailie.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015


I sit here in my tall tower watching through the eyelash window-slit at the Ravens wheeling about in the blustery pewter of the skies.
No silver lining. No ray of hope can I detect.
Where did you go that day when they collected you for the train? My Soul sister who I have loved in exhausting and excessive ways. No one could have shared what we have shared. I know you more than myself and love you far better. Do you dream in French still when you are dreaming of times past?
You have left me with my secluded longing, all alone in Rapunzel's tower awaiting a rescue that will not come no matter how many eye lashes I wish upon. Maybe it doesn't count if you pull them out but it was all I could think to do and now I am left with a naked red rimmed eye, salt raw from tears, and no hope.

Would you send the train back for me? It could bring me to you. We could be together again.We always had each other.
But now you have someone else and I am left with nothing. Worse than nothing. I have the memory of together and sharing and it is like an acid angel, wings beating at my heart. I cannot love a memory.

If I could put on my waterproof coat and escape through the window magic I dreamed of and ride the blustery raven, would he fly me away from here? To you?
But I don't remember the magic. My despair is total.
Waterproof? Would the raincoat be waterproof in a magical realm?

I saw the gold box on your bed with your suitcase. So small. I could have taken it then but I didn't want to. I thought it was for me. I wanted you to give it to me.
Who was your gift for?
And now you're gone and I don't know whether I shall see you again in this world or the next. And the gift is gone to. It was not for me. And I thought you loved me. But it is gone. You are gone.
Who do you love?
Did another love you?

Is that why you have left me in this place with the blustery Ravens for company and a heavy sky and myself? It is not enough.

The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan

Friday, 6 February 2015


Huddling, enveloped in my caterpillar sleeping bag, cocooned from the icy air, from the unseen forces of the callous night, I sink deeper into the recesses of the fluffy bag—my armour, my shell. I am alone with my thoughts—ideas crashing into one another in the confined space; jumbled; disorderly; images swirling past as if carried by ocean currents: his handsome face, the tranquil summerhouse, taking shelter from the sudden storm; our circle of friends and the comfort of their joy and warmth radiating through their eyes and mouths in smiles and laughter. But then the apple is split—its core laid bare, the seeds dashed out—vulnerable and exposed—the champagne bottle, fizzing with promise of celebration—then deflated, flat—Jonah swallowed by the Whale.
The sound of a digger sneaks into my ears; consciousness intrudes upon my mental ramblings. The outside penetrates the tent, the sleeping bag, my armour, my thoughts.

The copyright of this post belongs to Monica Jenkins

Scissor Sister

She was the spinster left at home, her purpose wrapped up in scissors,
because aspirin would not do. She had turned to aspirin, liking the small white brick like shapes in the neat box. Then she turned to talcum powder, it only cost a shilling a tin and besides, it lasted longer than the aspirin. The whiteness and the smell of it soothed her nerves when the frolics of her mother became overwhelming.
Her mother called her slattern, and tall, stupid llama. She always thought these names more as consolations than insults. She grew so adept at being able to navigate the vitriolic that her imagination took wings. She withdrew all judgement of her mother and with linked arms and linked smiles took to studying the heavens. Earth often became too much. Constellations a comfort: the seven sisters.
The stars, strung out across the universe, the more she studied the more she felt a sisterly wind blowing from the east. The reflection of the stars was like a secret sister on the other side of the mirror, negating the loneliness. Surprisingly, she found a friendship close to the bone. Who would have thought the answer could be in the stars?
Yes, she was the spinster sister at home, but she knew her mother was not really wicked, not even a Russian troika sister missing her journeys to Moscow. No, her mother’s private holocaust was far more sinister and complex. The howl of pain that surfaced in her deep, dark hours of despair, were like tattoos on her soul. Unfathomable and inscrutable.
For a mother like this one, only scissors would do.
So, scissors rule: cutting, shaping, venting and creating.
Aspirin poisoning aside, spinsterhood turns on the wheel of sisterhood, even between a mother and a daughter.

The copyright of this post belongs to Valerie Rule