Black Petals Issue #104, Summer 2023

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Editor's Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Question of Money: Fiction by Eric Burbridge
Behold, a White Horse; Fiction by Spencer Jepma
Crawling Flesh: Fiction by Michael Stoll
Elm Weaver: N. G. Leonetti
Hunger: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
Mr. Fuzzypants: Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Stop the World: Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Road Less Taken: Fiction by Albert N. Katz
The Washer Woman: Fiction by Sophia Wiseman-Rose
Underneath the Sheet: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Shining Up Grandma: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Children of 666 Middle School: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Bleed: Flash Fiction by Liam Spinage
Good Times: Flash Fiction by Ronin Fox
Time Lost: Flash Fiction by Bruce Costello
Unhappy Shadow: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Cemetery Road: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Chasing Desolation: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Detroit Jurassic: Poem by Joseph V. Donaski
Colonia Somnia: Poem by Bianca Alu-Marr
The Precipice: Poem by Bianca Alu-Marr
Dread: Poem by LindaAnn LoSchiavo
Home Movies: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Peppermint Twist: Poem by Christopher Hivner
There's Always Tomorrow Night: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Joke: Poem by DJ Tyrer
Ceramic Duck: Poem by Pete Mladinic
Choice: Poem by Pete Mladinic
To Stop the Killing: Poem by Pete Mladinic
Reaper: Poem by David Barber

Paul Radcliffe: Mr. Fuzzypants

104_bp_mrfuzzypants_jenmong.jpg
Art by Jen Mong 2023

Mr. Fuzzypants

 

Paul Radcliffe

 

     Rosalind opened the back door of the charity shop. Being a ghost, a key wasn’t strictly necessary. She could have just drifted through the door. Sometimes it was fun to use the key. Like a grown-up. The key had been placed under a garbage can. It didn’t belong to Rosalind. It was there for the use of the volunteers who regularly staffed the thrift store. At three in the morning, anyone watching would have seen the garbage can tilt to one side. Lifted by an unseen hand, the key rose in the air. It inserted itself into the lock, and the door swung open. It did not creak ominously, as in all the haunted house movies. It just swung back. Rosalind entered noiselessly. She knew the place well. It was a cathedral of unwanted goods. There were bookshelves. Rows of best-selling paperbacks from fifteen years ago, bought in distant airports, read once and finally disposed of. Books from children who had left home long ago, kept by parents who couldn’t bear to give them away. It was not the books but the memories they evoked. The books took memories with them and stood gathering dust. Lost, as the memories would be.

   Rosalind glanced at one book. It was ‘How To Catch A Star.’ It had been a favourite of hers in childhood and in another life. It floated from the shelf, and she moved forward. Despite the hour, the light from the street lamps cast a glow inside. There were trays of used cutlery and old coffee mugs, racks of compact discs. Most were from artists from the recent past. The recent past—as all ghosts know and the living often forget—is the most distant of all far countries. There were plates of all shapes and sizes. Some had been placed on stands. One plate had a garish illustration of a surfacing whale. Beneath the whale was an inscription.

     Southern Right Whale, Kaikoura, New Zealand

 

     Rosalind had never seen a whale. Or a dolphin. She may have had a toy whale. Some things—though not all—were difficult to remember. There were ornaments of obscure purpose that no one would ever buy. The store had T- shirts, mostly faded and often from sports teams that had had their moment in the sun long ago. Silently, she found what she had been looking for. Sometimes children keep a favourite toy well into adult life. They are occasionally passed on to their own children. Losing interest, the toys finally end up in a heap of the sadly abandoned in a thrift store. There is a poignancy about them. Once loved, even cherished, now thrown away and forgotten. Love can be like that. It can light a world, and then vanish like melting snow. Rosalind saw a stuffed lion on top of the pile. The fur had been rubbed smooth by frequent cuddles. It had a small label. A child’s name had been written on this. It could not be read. In another time, the lion had been christened Lionel, though she couldn't have known this. The toy rose out of the basket. Book and toy lion were placed together in the air. She moved toward the door. A ghost, a book and a toy lion went out into the street. The door was locked and the key replaced. She was a ghost now. Once she had been a happy little girl. When she remembered, the sun always seemed to be shining.

        Until the headaches came.

      They came in the mornings and they never got better. She couldn’t really run. Later she couldn’t see properly, or even eat. Even chocolate ice cream. When her mother had read to her from How To Catch A Star it had not been the same. So tired, so tired, and the pictures were so blurry. She remembered machines and hospitals, lights and people crying. She had wondered why they were crying. There had been other children in the hospital. She felt sorry for them, and wanted to help them. She knew children liked books and cuddly toys ,and she knew where to find them. She had found she could do things she couldn’t do before. She didn’t know why, but she wanted to do things for the children that were sick. Rosalind did not want to frighten them. She knew there were children in the hospital. It had been a noisy place. The hospital was quite close to the charity shop. She moved through the night unseen. The hours between three and four are the dead of night. Had anyone been watching, they would have seen a book and a toy lion drifting down a dimly lit rear corridor that led to the children’s ward. The nurses were at the other end of the ward. A baby was crying. Poor baby. Rosalind saw a cubicle door that was open. A little boy was asleep in the bed and a man—probably his daddy—was asleep in an armchair. Rosalind had been in a room like this, but she couldn’t quite remember why. She cast no shadow, and the toy lion was laid gently on the little boy’s pillow. He did not stir. How To Catch A Star was placed carefully on a bedside table. There was a plastic beaker half-full of orange juice. Hospitals always give you orange juice. She wondered why. She thought the little boy would really like Lionel. Little boys liked lions. Rosalind knew it was always good to help people, so she would come back to the hospital later. She wasn’t sure why she could do all the things she could so. She was glad the headaches had gone.

          She thought she could find her way home and see Mummy and Daddy. They would be so happy. She had had a favourite toy. It was a bear. She had called him Mr. Fuzzypants. He slept on the pillow and was always with her, even in the hospital when the headaches were very bad. Rosalind thought she would go home and put Mr Fuzzypants on the kitchen table. Mummy and Daddy would see him in the morning. They would wonder how he got there. It would be a secret. Mr Fuzzypants would know but nobody else could. And maybe, after a while, Rosalind would find out why people were crying. They must have been so sad.

 

 

 

Paul is an Emergency RN. In the past worked in an area where children were sometimes afflicted with sickness of Gothic proportions. Some are ghosts now. As a child visited an aunt in a haunted farmhouse. This explains a lot. Paul has worked in a variety of noisy places unlikely to be on anyone’s list of holiday destinations. He is also a highly suggestible subject for any cat requiring feeding and practising hypnosis.

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