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The Hunter-Fiction by Sebnem Sanders
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Milky Way Galaxy. Solar System. Earth.-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
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Elegant on the Outside-Fiction by Bruce Costello
A Life Examined-Fiction by Doug Hawley
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My Only Christmas Story-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Ode to Old Brooklyn-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Bacardi Taillights Machine Gun Farewell-Poem by John Short
Pearl Diver-Poem by Wayne F. Burke
Abandoned Sofas-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Kafka Museum-Poem by Henry Bladon
Elegy for Frank-Poem by David Spicer
Schmoozy-Woozy-Poem by David Spicer
Dangerous-Poem by Marc Carver
Eternal-Poem by Marc Carver
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The Endless Nightmare-Poem by J. J. Campbell
The Last Word-Poem by Meg Baird
Vision of Steel-Poem by Meg Baird
Zen-Poem by Meg Baird
Estrangement-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
First World Herd-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
Christmas Morning in an East Hollywood Hovel-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
A Season of Bailing Wire and Duct Tape-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
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Hail, Tiger!
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No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

77_ym_elegant_kcwalker.jpg
Art by Keith Coates Walker 2019

Elegant on the Outside

 

Bruce Costello

 

 

Warder Morton Lockwood was a portly Dickensian character, good-natured with whiskers. He led me up a narrow flight of stairs, and through a steel door into a barren corridor.

“I’ll fetch Paul Stone from his cell for you, Reverend. Have you met the man before?”

“He took over from me as minister at St Jebusiah’s.”

“Buggered if I know how he ended up in this place. Awfully nice turn-the-other-cheek kind of chap, do anything for anyone. The other prisoners think he’s great.” Pointing to a seat by a door marked Interview Room, he said, “You can wait there,” and strode away, boots heavy on the floor, a bunch of keys dangling at his side.

I didn’t feel like sitting.  I paced the empty corridor, looking out through the inner windows onto prisoners walking in the mesh covered courtyard below.

***

The interview room had a table and two wooden chairs. Paul Stone and I sat staring at each other.

“Is it true?” I asked.

“No, it’s not true.”

“You’re the last person I would’ve thought...”

“You believe me?”

“You and I went through college together. Ordained on the same day. Brothers in Christ for forty years…”

Paul spread his hands, palm upwards, on the table. “Praise the Lord,” he breathed. “I prayed you at least would believe I’m innocent.”

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,” I quoted. “Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned. Do you want to talk about it?”

Paul took off his big round glasses and wiped them with his handkerchief. “Do you remember a Mrs Angelina Renton, a divorcee? She was at the church when you were minister.”

I nodded.

“Every now and then, when she was laid low by her chronic depression, I’d visit her on my pastoral care round, pray over her, read Bible verses and so on.” He cleared his throat. “One day, when I was leaving, I touched her shoulder, as you do, an innocent gesture of empathy. Well! She spun around, embraced me, and said she wanted to have sex with me. ‘It’s perfectly okay,’ she said. ‘It’s only love. I wonder where she got that idea from? Anyway, I refused. She flew into a rage and I took off. Soon after that, the allegations were made against me by both her daughters. But I’m sure you read all that in the newspaper. Absolute lies, I swear to God. Just her getting back at me. Never saw any of it coming.”

Same old Paul.

“The irony is, standing up to her was the godly thing to do and it’s landed me in jail. If I’d given in to her, I’d still be a free man, like you.”

My face reddened. Paul gazed at me with a strange reproachful expression. I saw his mouth twist into an incongruous smile.

“We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God,” he said, reaching across the table to pat my hand. “Don’t worry. The Lord works in mysterious ways. I like being in here. The other prisoners might be rough diamonds, but they’re straight up and down. They accept me for who I am and open up to me.” He smiled. “There’s a genuine closeness I’ve never had before and a refreshing honesty you don’t get on the outside.”

***

  “It’s one of the last operational Victorian Courtyard Prisons, you know,” said Morton Lockwood proudly, leading me back down the stairs. “Built in 1885. Queen Anne style. Elegant on the outside, but inside grim, dark and claustrophobic, as the books say.”

“I know. But Paul Stone seems happy enough.”

“He’s a really genuine guy. We all love him.”

***

The factories and nearby shops were closing as I stumbled down the worn stone steps onto the street, where flocks of people plodded the darkening footpath with faces like yesterday’s porridge.

Car keys in hand, my thumb and forefinger caressed the jade cross Angelina Renton gave me just before I left the parish. It evoked the smell of her hair when we kissed for the final time, her breasts in a strapless dress pressed firmly against me, our hands still hungry for each other.

My wife was waiting in the prison car park across the road, checking Trade Me auctions on her i-pad.  She didn’t even look up when I got into the car.

“How was Paul?” she asked, sliding a finger across the screen. “Do you think he did it?”

“For sure...” I said, staring back at the prison as I reached to close the door. The keys fell from my hand and the jade cross broke on the concrete.

As I bent down to retrieve the pieces, the copper cupolas of the prison, luminous through the winter smog, glared down at me disdainfully.

 

 

The End.





After studying foreign languages and literature in the late sixties, Bruce Costello spent a few years selling used cars. Then he worked as a radio creative writer for fourteen years, before training in something rather weird and spending 24 years in private practice. In 2010, he semi-retired and took up writing to keep his brain ticking over. Since then he has had 131 short story successes – publications in literary journals, anthologies and popular magazines, and contest places and wins. Two stories, "Doctor in Distress," and "Away from Home," have been previously published in Yellow Mama.



Keith C. Walker was born in Leeds in 1939. He studied Ceramics at Leeds College of Art and the Royal College of Art. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, he was Personal Assistant to Eduardo Paolozzi. Keith taught at Hull College of Art and Leicester Polytechnic, which is now De Montfort University. In 994 he retired from Academia.

Keith says, “Digital technology has made and continues to make big changes to all of our lives: the way we communicate, the way we are monitored, the way we entertain ourselves, and much, much more. 


We now leave a digital footprint wherever we go, and with whatever we do. 

Do we already have one foot in an Orwellian world?


 My collages are an investigation, with a small “I,” on the impact of digital technology and its possibilities.”

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019