Yellow Mama Archives II

Bruce Costello

Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Centorbi, David Calogero
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Fortier, M. L.
Garnet, George
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernice
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Koperwas, Tom
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Jen
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Prusky, Steve
Reddick, Niles M.
Robson, Merrilee
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snethen, Daniel G.
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Temples. Phillip
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark

Think Tank


by Bruce Costello


It began with a champagne breakfast. Afterwards, the twelve thinkers sat in a semi-circle, hands behind heads, eyes on the Minister of Health. The morning sun streamed into the room, illuminating a fish tank in which goldfish swam in endless circles, or pressed their vacant faces against the glass, staring out, opening and shutting their gobs.

“Thank you all for coming,” the Big Man said, standing and reading slowly from a tablet, his fancy business shirt barely containing the belly that flowed over a belt extended to the last hole. “Mental health reform should seek to increase access to mental health care across the nation, deliver it in timely manner, efficiently and effectively, and identify and disseminate evidence-based practices to improve consumer outcomes.”

He looked up and swept the room with his politician’s eyes before continuing.

“This Think Tank we have assembled here today brings together a broad range of expertise to pursue excellence in mental health policy. You are all without exception experts. Your thoughts are exceedingly important to the government. So welcome to you all.” He smiled and for a moment looked almost human. “Now over to you guys to toss some ideas about. Sorry I can’t stay. I’ll hand you over to your esteemed colleague Dr Hamish Bacon representing the College of Psychiatrists, who has kindly agreed to chair the meeting.”


Dr Bacon, who had drunk three glasses of champagne over breakfast and whose neighbor Mrs Jones had recently died, staggered to his feet.

“Who would like to speak first?” he called out, after rapping on the desk for silence. “One at a time, please.” He plonked back into his seat, aware of being rather tipsy, hoping nobody would notice.

The Think Tank erupted into life and soon speech bubbles filled the room. Dr Bacon could actually see them. Dribbling down chins. Ricocheting around the walls. Bouncing off the ceiling. Buzz words puffing out their chests, oozing pseudoscience. And lengthy professional terms reeking of scholarship – like cognitive-behavioural, psychoanalytically-oriented, psychopharmacological and biopsychosocial.

‘Brown words, all of them. Blah blah blah,’ Dr Bacon said to himself, gazing at the fish tank and thinking of the deceased Mrs Jones. ‘We are born. We struggle through life and then we die. What’s it about? And what’s the use of words? We know nothing but think we do, say one thing, do another and lie about the truth. And who cares? Blah blah blah. Rah de rah de rah. Did I say that out loud? Nobody’s looking at me - I can’t have. Or maybe I did and nobody heard. Everybody talks. Nobody listens. And this room’s like an oven with sunlight pouring in and I’ve got a head like a pneumatic drill and I’m meant to be chairing this bloody meeting. How do I get them to shut up and speak one at a time?

Dr Bacon looked around. The Manager from the Ministry of Social Welfare with earrings like bicycle wheels was opening and shutting her scarlet lips with supersonic rapidity. The President of the Psychologists Guild was punching the air with his fists, and shouting about this or that, causing his ponytail to swing wildly. And the Vice President of the Counselors’ Association (apparently standing in for the President who was having a mental health day) had issues coming out of her ears, all crying out for vociferous expression.

But to rap on the call the meeting to stand and challenge the onslaught of take charge? A chainsaw started up inside Dr Bacon’s mind and the room grew giddy around him. He clasped his head in his hands and his face slumped to the desk.




He wanted to stand. He wanted to shout: “Stuff your stupid evidence-based systemic approaches, your endless theoretical constructs, your long, learned words, your intellectual formulations and your statistically-proven best practice treatment methods.”

 He wanted to shout these things at the top of his voice and overturn his desk with a great crash and run from the room.

Or - the thought suddenly occurred to him - he could do the professional thing...insist on silence... then calmly share with the meeting what he’d learned from his personal therapeutic encounters with the loving Mrs Jones, a woman of short words, who’d never stepped foot inside a university. The loving woman he’d always turned to when his soul was troubled...who looked at him quietly with gentle eyes...saw every quiver on his face and heard every word he said or didn’t say...who listened to him with her ears, her eyes and her heart...who discerned the buried secrets of his soul and restored his belief in himself.

 Dr Bacon stood up, swaying, an impressive figure with a bushy beard and a red face with swollen eyelids through which glinted red eyes.

And it seemed to him that nothing was real anymore. Nothing. HE wasn’t real, the people before him weren’t real, just a two-dimensional collection of pretentious gits who knew everything and doubted nothing, opening and shutting their gobs, talking crap words, listening to nobody, their academic brains no more capable of understanding the human mind than goldfish were of swimming to the sun. And the sun would rise tomorrow and Mrs Jones would still be dead.

There was only one thing to do and Dr Bacon did it. He upended his desk with a great crash.

In the silence that followed, Dr Bacon tiptoed to the fish tank, picked up a pottle left lying alongside, and sprinkled a little fish food on the surface of the water. He watched the fish rise, googly-eyed and gaping, and he gazed for a time at a stream of bubbles gurgling up from the bottom. Then Dr Bacon turned to enjoy the shocked stillness behind him, where the others, like stunned cod, were gawking at him in a silence as thick as aquarium glass.

He walked over to the President of the Psychologists’ Guild, emptied the pottle of fish food on his ponytailed head and departed.

Weird World


Bruce Costello


           Feet on the coffee table, hands on the windowsill, a shaggy dog is conversing with the moon. Hearing human noises, he leaps down. His young man enters the room with a female person. They’re holding paws.

          The dog recognises the female’s body smell from regular inspections of his man’s clothes and hands, though she’s obviously been trying to disguise her natural aroma by rolling in stinky female stuff.

          So that’s what she looks like,” the dog thinks.

           “Oh, you’ve got a mutt!” the female exclaims. “Does it shake hands?”

          The dog brushes past her outstretched arm and sniffs her crotch. She yelps.

          “Down, boy!” says the man.

          The two humans lick each other for a time and then shut themselves in the bedroom.

          The dog returns to the window, which is now wet with condensation. Two blobs of water slide down the glass collide and merge.

          The dog runs to the bedroom door and smells around its edges. He whines, slumps onto the carpet, stretches out his front paws and lays his head on them. Time passes, about as long as it takes to eat a bowl of biscuits. He drops off to sleep, but twitches and cries.

          Waking with a start, he hurries into the kitchen, where he’d left a pig’s ear on the floor.  With his snout, he pushes it into the spidery space between the fridge and the wall.

          In the morning, the humans emerge from the bedroom. The man looks dog-tired, as if he’s been chasing cats all night. The female struts about like she’s got two tails, head held high, ears perked up, eyes bright. Says she’s gotta see a dog about a man, leaves the room, and returns looking mighty pleased with herself. The dog runs to the kitchen to check on his pig’s ear, but it’s still where he left it amid the dust and cobwebs.

          The female has a thing she calls a bong. She sniffs smoke from it.

          “Please don’t,” says the man. “My father was an addict and my mother taught me to hate that bullshit.”

          “Just try it. For me. You’re only young once.”

          That day the man stays home.


The female remains at the house for many moons until they start to fight. Then she runs away and doesn’t come back.


 The man gets his own bong, gives up going out every morning and mopes around the flat with a hang-dog look. He stops grooming himself and hair grows wild all over his face. He won’t take the dog for walks and sometimes gets very growly.

          The dog experiences a spiritual crisis, no longer converses with the moon and starts peeing inside.


 Day follows day and night follows night.


Something’s not right. The dog pricks up his ears, sniffs, and runs to his man. Water is falling from the man’s eyes and over his face. It’s like rain, but tastes different. The man is making strange noises. He tells the dog his mother has died. The dog nuzzles into him and that night returns to his rightful place in the man’s bed.


More days, more nights.


There’s a knocking at the door. A young woman is there with kind brown eyes and a gentle smell. The dog stares at her, head cocked to the side, tail thumping against the porch wall.

          “Oh, hullo, Pooch. Just thought I’d pop around to see if Peter’s alright. We miss him at work, you know.”

          “I’m fine!” the man shouts. “Bugger off.”

          The dog seems to shake his head. His tail quivers, and then curls between his legs.

          “Thanks, fella,” the woman whispers, ruffling the dog’s head.

          She calls out: “I’m worried about you, Peter,” and enters the flat.

          The man is sitting on the sofa. The dog leaps onto his lap and looks expectantly at the young woman, his big brown eyes glowing through straggly eyebrows.

          “They do say people grow to resemble their dogs,” the young woman jokes. She sniffs the air, and looks from dog to man, and from man to dog, as if she can’t tell one from the other.

          The man’s face cracks a smile.

          The humans talk and talk, slowly at first, with grunts and silence from the man, and softness from the woman. Then words start to fall fast and loud from the man, like biscuits into a bowl. The dog hurries to the kitchen to retrieve his pig’s ear. He wolfs it down, and returns to the sofa, but gets bored with talk talk and goes to his place by the window.

          The sky is dark. The dog lifts his head and bays, then watches as the clouds scamper off and the moon appears, big, bright and odourless. It winks at the shaggy dog and frowns down disapprovingly on the human world.

The end.

In 2010, New Zealander Bruce Costello retired from work and city life, retreated to the seaside village of Hampden, joined the Waitaki Writers’ Group and took up writing as a pastime. Since then, he has had 148 short story successes— publications in literary journals (including Yellow Mama) anthologies and popular magazines, and contest places and wins.

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