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Baked in the Cake-Fiction by Hilary Lyon
The Bridge is Over-Fiction by Tim Frank
Free to Leave-Fiction by Mickey J. Corrigan
Bruno-Fiction by Edward Francisco
The Sicilian Doctor's Tale-Fiction by Paul Smith
Money Heals All Wounds-Fiction by Chris Fortunato
Flag Day-Fiction by Paul Beckman
Dance Fever Part II, Fiction by Greg Smith
Black Fedoras, Fishnet Stockings and An Old Master-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Lunar Madness-Fiction by J. Brooke
Killing Chauncey-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Dee's Sentence-Fiction by Steve Prusky
Fire Man Sings the Blues-Fiction by Terry Butler
The Sequel: My First Novel_Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Switchbacks in the Forgotten Corner-Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Carnival Days 1969-Flash Fiction by Robert Kokan
Break-Flash Fiction by Martin Zeigler
Isabelle-Flash Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
All You Young Dudes-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Irony-Flash Fiction by Betty Reich
Even the Dead Need Somewhere to Live-Flash Fiction by Jon Park
Boiled Like Lobster (Not Me)-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Black Summer-Poem by Wayne F. Burke
14 Days-Poem by Ann Marie Rhiel
Lives Alone-Poem by Kenneth James Crist
My Palimpsest-Poem by Leon Fedolfi
I Lay with Tigers-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Rushing Slowly Through a Lucid Dream with Roberto Bolano-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Dive-Poem by John Sweet
The Poem as a Bouquet of Broken Glass-Poem by John Sweet
The Projector-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Boston Common-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Along the River-Poem by Holly Day
The Voyager-Poem by Holly Day
All Points from Zermatt-Poem by Henry Bladon
Lost Letters-Poem by Henry Bladon
Black Throat-Poem by John Tustin
Working It All Out-Poem by John Tustin
The Brutality and Terror-Poem by John Tustin
A Nice Poen for a Change-Poem by Marc Carver
The Lover-Poem by Marc Carver
Metier-Poem by Marc Carver
Strangers Keep Friending Me-Poem by David Spicer
True Love-Poem by David Spicer
Rita Hayworth and Me-Poem by David Spicer
Green Lasers-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Rodeo Clown-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
My Nightmare-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Joker-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Darren Blanch © 2020

The Bridge is Over


Tim Frank

That night the artist wore his hoodie up, a pollution mask strapped across his face, a shaded figure hidden in plain sight under the spotlights of the London underground.  When the time was right, he slipped into a tunnel. The trains had all been docked in their depots and the artist was venturing deeper into the darkness than he'd ever been before, past where any graffitist would ever want to go because in this murky world filled with scuttling rats nibbling on crisp packets not even the most determined tagger would see the sense of facing this abyss. Why did he do it? For the business commuters - their heads buried in their papers, oblivious to the signs he’d carefully crafted outside their windows charging past at sixty miles an hour? No, the artist carried out his task despite this, because what he really wanted was another challenge, another surface, another piece, to elevate his art to the next level.

That night inside the tunnel, after he’d finished a new work, he heard a stone collide against a railway track and like a frightened rabbit the artist raised his head, packed his spray cans and darted out of the area without looking back. As he made his getaway a beam of light was cast from a phone, confirming to the artist someone had really been there and he wasn't losing his mind. As he bolted out of the tunnel, a couple of note pads came loose, tumbling to the dirt out of his rucksack.

In a park the next night, the artist was sketching in new pads, starting from scratch - drawing a tree lit from beneath a street lamp, a still and sparse winter scene, as if God had pressed pause on nature. A teenage boy in baggy jeans and puffed up trainers placed himself beside the artist on the park bench, catching him off-guard. The artist hurriedly began to pack his things but the kid said, ‘I'm Jeff. Don't go, I've wanted to talk to you for so long.’

Jeff had a cockney accent and a shaved head. It was like he was out of the past, a relic of style and attitude - overly familiar and without boundaries. Some would say he had no respect.

‘What do you know about me?’

‘I know you push things to the limit. I know you're serious, deadly serious - tagging is no joke for you. I'm with you on that. You might have seen my tag. I go by CNN. We could make a team. Look, it's cold out here, let's get a coffee and talk about it.’

Intrigued, because he believed maybe someone had truly noticed him, because he had nowhere to go except home and that was no place to be, he followed Jeff to the local hospital café where they sat opposite each other and sipped coffee from Styrofoam cups in the antiseptic surroundings.

They remained in silence for minutes. ‘You don't say much,’ said Jeff.

The artist wriggled in shame and discomfort. ‘I'm a bit shy,’ he said.

‘Oh, well, that's not a bad thing. Hey, I'm happy to do the talking. They don’t call me CNN for nothing. Listen,’ Jeff said leaning in conspiratorially, ‘I have this plan to tag suicide bridge in Amersham, the ultimate score, the Heaven tag.’

‘I know the place. But I can’t. To be honest, I just don’t think I’m ready yet. There's more for me to study.’

‘You're ready, I've seen your stuff around, my mates have too, we're all convinced. And joining up with me, well, we can make history. You're not afraid, are you?’

That jolted the artist into life, ‘I've tagged more dangerous spots than I can count. I work on the edge because I’m representing myself with every throw-up. I'm not scared. I work alone, instead of with a crew, for my own reasons. Of course, everyone's goal is to make their mark on suicide bridge but...’

‘But what?’

‘But, finding the right time is key.’

‘OK, Ok, guess I hit a nerve, I'm sorry. Hey, let's go to the park and get stoned.’

‘I don't smoke, never tried it once. I need the loo.’

Jeff watched as the artist shifted his way around tables and chairs towards the toilet. He opened the door and there was a half-naked couple coiled around each other, their bodies angled uncomfortably on the loo.

‘Get out!’

As the artist found another toilet, Jeff quickly pulled out a notepad and flipped through it until he came to a page he had clearly studied before. There was a drawing of a woman with a mane of hair cascading down to her shoulders and emerging from the curly locks was the word 'Mum' intricately designed. Underneath were the words, 'If I am not my body, not my senses, what am I? I am immortal.'

The toilet door opened and Jeff was able to hide the pad before the artist returned.

‘I've been thinking,’ said the artist, ‘maybe you could show me how to smoke weed. It could be fun, but I hear it makes you paranoid.’

‘That's why you need to do it with someone you can trust. Let's go.’

It only took several puffs for the artist to break out of his shell and talk a blue streak, reminiscing about things he hadn't focused on since time had set them in dust.

‘There was the time my girlfriend and I, we must have been eleven years old, played dare with oncoming traffic, dodging cars with glee, then after a near miss, one afternoon, I was rewarded with my first kiss by the roadside as drivers honked their horns in celebration. Or that's what it seemed like.’

 He told other tales but he was getting very stoned now and he was going in circles, stuck in the coils of memory.

In a moment of silence, Jeff said, ‘Did something happen to your mum?’

The artist shut down immediately, filled with suspicion. ‘What do you know about my mum?’

‘I, er, it's just you haven't mentioned her.’

‘Have you been following me?’

‘No, I always hang out at this park and I know you do too, but I’ve never wanted to bother you. I was in the tunnel the other night. I wasn't following you though. It's like I've been thinking, we're on the same path. You dropped some pads. I met you here tonight to return them.’

 ‘You stole my pads?’ the artist exclaimed. ‘Give them back now.’

‘Sure, sure, listen, this looks bad but I just wanted to know about you. You're destined for greatness and I want to be on the front line when it happens - maybe you can teach me what you know and help me get there too?’

‘You'll never make it, because you're a thief and a hack. I've seen your tags and your throw-ups and even your most ambitious pieces show you have zero flair and zero inspiration.’

‘But if you show me, if you explain, maybe...’

‘Trust me,’ the artist said, snatching his notepads from Jeff, ‘you don't have it in you. Just give up, because you're giving us all a bad name and turning the city into a cesspit.’

The next day, the clear light from the mid-afternoon sun mirrored the artist's clarity of thought. Far from feeling hungover from smoking grass for the first time or harbouring any bitterness about the fight he had with Jeff, he felt guilty and ashamed of his actions and went to the park to make amends.

When he arrived the sound of skateboards striking concrete curbs and wooden benches echoed around the area like ripples of a wave. Jeff was surrounded by other taggers, skaters too and he stood on a bench as if he was lecturing on preacher's corner. The artist couldn't hear what he was saying and, feeling he’d wasted his time, he turned from the crowd to leave. A few seconds later he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned and saw Jeff smiling at him, surrounded by the rest of his crew who were analysing him like he had just caught a fly in one hand and they couldn't fathom how.

‘I didn't expect to see you again,’ Jeff said, as the skateboarders' beady eyes scoured his profile for something - a sign maybe, to capture his essence. The artist blushed violently.

‘Is this him?’ said one skater.

‘Uh-huh. Give him some room boys, come on now please,’ said Jeff.

The artist wanted to collapse in on himself like a Venus fly trap. Jeff put his arm around the artist's shoulder, led him to a quiet spot in the park that was dotted with auburn, dried-out leaves. He said, ‘Ignore them, they're just shocked they've seen someone in this game that's better than me.’

‘I'm not better than you, we just have different styles.’

‘I wish it was that simple. But thanks for saying so.’

‘Look I was thinking,’ said the artist, ‘I have this piece I've been carrying in my head for a while, haven't even sketched it yet. It's not ready, but I believe it could be something. How about we work together on it? A way of apologising for what I said last night. I know you've got skills. And I know the perfect place to spray it.’

So, the artist let Jeff into his room, where no one – not even friends or family, were allowed to enter, regardless of the occasion. They worked in there day and night, sparking ideas off each other while crawling about amongst piles of old stencils and posters the artist had discarded, many of them with the same design; a pregnant woman holding her belly as if she was cupping a giant crystal ball. They lived off stale pizza and smoked hash that made them low and mean but it seemed to fit the situation perfectly.

One day Jeff just blurted out, ‘The pregnant woman, it's your mum isn't? Please tell me what happened.’

The artist thought carefully and then said, ‘She died in a car crash. She was eight months pregnant. I was in the back seat. My dad and I survived.’

‘I'm so sorry.’

‘Yeah, and I've been trying to reach her ever since.’

‘What do you mean reach her?’

‘Find a way to contact her or connect with her, something like that.’

‘Through your pieces.’


‘That's why I can never be like you, I need a muse.’

‘You want your family to die?’

‘No, of course not, but nevertheless I want something in my life to inspire me.’

‘I'd rather be happy. There's only so much soul searching someone can do without becoming jaded and just sick inside.’

‘But look at this, look at the colours, the colours,’ Jeff exclaimed, clutching reams of paper covered with illustrations. ‘This stuff will make you a legend.’

‘You don't understand, all the pieces I have aren't even close to how they should be, how I pictured them in my mind. I can feel it and see it but I can't put it down on paper.’

‘I don't get it, just what is it that you want?’

‘I want to stretch the boundaries between life and death. I want to reach the other side.’

‘Let's get this piece out on the streets tomorrow. People need to see what you can do; they've been waiting for it - whether they know it or not.’

The next night they set out on their most ambitious mission yet - to graffiti the suicide bridge in Amersham. Trains would whirl through all night, making the bridge more difficult to access and it was high, creating a treacherous drop. It was almost impossible to find a comfortable position to paint as the bridge’s brickwork would give way at any moment. But it was worth it. The fact people went there to kill themselves only added to its allure. The bridge was dank, and sparse lighting created a gloom that spread like mist from a spray can. There was a young man there, cradling a bottle of JD in his hand, pacing back and forth, making indentations in the mud. The artist paid him no mind and started work on his piece - climbing over the lip of the bridge, held in place by Jeff.

‘Why are you here?! Why are you here?!’ cried the young man suddenly. The artist and Jeff ignored him and the artist got to work until after thirty minutes he said, ‘Pull me up.’

Jeff lifted the artist up on to the bridge and they gave each other smiles and a fist bump. The artist had finished the background, the splashes and added the cast shadow; ‘I’m done,’ he said.

‘So, you just need to sign it and we're good to go,’ said Jeff.  ‘Rest a bit and then I’ll help you down to put the finishing touch.’ After stretching his legs and arms, the artist knocked back hot cocoa from a flask and then, holding onto Jeff’s muscular frame, he took his position to complete his piece.

 The young man leant his head over the bridge and said, ‘You shouldn't be doing this, it's my area.’ He leant his head in close to Jeff's so Jeff could smell his toxic breath.

‘Get out!’ the young man cried.

Jeff loosened his grip on the artist's hand. A spray can spilled from the artist's grasp and he said urgently, ‘Jeff, have you got me?’

‘I've got you.’

And then a dark thought clouded Jeff's mind.

‘Get off me!’ Jeff cried.

‘What's going on Jeff? ’said the artist.

‘This guy, he's attacking me. I'm losing my grip. He won't let go; I don't know how much longer I can hold on.’

The young man was doing nothing of the sort. He was sitting on his haunches, huddled up with his back to the bridge, muttering to himself. An oncoming train could be heard as whipping sounds shot up and down the tracks.

The artist looked up at Jeff's strained expression, then back towards the hurtling train and said, ‘It's OK, Jeff, I'm ready. I've done it, I've got it out of me, the best I can anyway. I can live with it.’

The artist was released. As if in slow motion his arms and legs flailed like an upturned spider trapped in a glass. A spray can landed before him, creating a metallic crack as it landed on one of the sleepers. He plummeted to his demise as the train's wheels rolled on, ruthlessly gutting the artist. Blood settled on the tracks.

The young man sobered instantly and said, ‘I saw what you did, I know what you did.’

Jeff turned to him with a stern face, ‘You better get out of here. Who do you think they're going to believe? I'm his friend, you're just some drunk nutjob who doesn't care about life or death. Now go on before I call the cops on you right now.’

 The young man dropped his bottle and it crashed to the ground sending shards of glass scattering across the patchy tarmac. Whisky drenched the ground. He ran. Jeff looked from side to side, checking for onlookers, but he was in the clear.  He bent down over the edge of bridge and tagged the piece the artist had painted. It was still pitch black. Night was his ally, for the time being. By the morning he’d be immortal.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in journals many times, including Bourbon Penn, Bartleby Snopes, Thrice Fiction, Foliate Oak, and Able Muse.

He is an upcoming writer, specializing in the comic and the surreal. He has written a semi-autobiographical novel, Devil in my Veins, and is currently writing a sci-fi thriller novel.

Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.

Digital arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.

View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at: www.facebook.com/ivsma3Dart, YELLOW MAMA, Sympatico Studio - www.facebook.com/SympaticoStudio, DeviantArt - www.deviantart.com/ivsma and launching in 2019, as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and publishing promotion - SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2020