Black Petals Issue #104, Summer 2023

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

Bruce Costello: Time Lost

Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2023



by Bruce Costello


The smell of Arnold’s aftershave lingers on the pillow, although a week has passed since he left.  Where does lost time go when it’s gone, Margaret wonders. Is there a Lost Time Shop somewhere in the universe where you can retrieve lost time, have another go? She imagines an old building in weathered brick with “Lost Time Shop” in faded yellow letters above the entrance. And the slogan in bright red: “Name it, claim it, relive it.”

Margaret sees the building through sleepy eyes and enters it through a crack in her tired middle-aged mind. The shop is dark. She cannot see anybody but feels a presence behind the counter.

          “Can I help you?” a male voice says, old but distantly familiar.

           “I’m wanting to buy some lost time. I saw your sign.”

          “What sign?”

          “The one outside. ‘Lost Time Shop. Name it, claim it, relive it’.”

          “You must be seeing things.”

          “I’m looking for a shop where a woman can get back the time she’s lost, so she can relive it.”

          “Sorry, Margaret. The past is irretrievable and unalterable. It cannot be relived. It can only be talked about and learned from.”

          Margaret wakes abruptly, wondering how he knows her name.



She stumbles out of bed, makes a coffee, and sits at the kitchen table, on which is spread an unfinished jigsaw puzzle.

          “Well, that’s a relief,” she says. “I can’t think of a single time in my life that I would want to relive, anyway.  I just wish I could switch my brain off, stop thinking about things, always trying to put the pieces together when I know there’re bits missing or broken.”

          She picks up a jigsaw piece and stares at it.

          So many broken or discarded bits to my life. Mother a drama queen. First husband Peter, a waste of six years. Then two utter wonkers: Wally the weirdo and Allan the unspeakable. Then Arnold, the second husband. Everybody said he was so charming, how lucky I was to have him, only I wasn’t, and the wounds he caused are deep and unseen. ‘Such a lovely guy’ they all said, and he was—except when he didn’t get his own way. Then he got into moods that went on for weeks, full of silence, putdowns and accusations, with everybody blaming me, including me blaming me. Arnold hollowed me out until I ended up thinking I really was as pathetic as he kept saying I was.

          Margaret finishes her coffee. Her thoughts return to the voice at the Lost Time Shop. What was that about? She is so tired. Her head droops and conscious awareness fades.

          Unconscious processes flood her mind with memories of the long-forgotten past. For the first time in many years, she remembers her father whom she last saw when she was fourteen. Is he alive or dead?

          Dad, who listened and said little. Dad, who was kind when he was there but kinda not there. Dad, who vanished into the background when Mum butted in and took over. Mum, who over thought, over felt and over talked. But Dad, he was just Dad. He was nobody really. I never actually liked him. I don’t know why not. I guess because Mum didn’t and Mum set the mood. Mum was sand in a sandstorm. Dad was rock in the desert. I never got to know him but he was always there. Until Mum discarded him, and then everything changed.

          A sob fills the kitchen, jerking Margaret back to conscious awareness. She sits thinking, then goes back to bed, and cries herself to sleep, only to dream she’s back in the lost time shop.

          It is lighter now and she can see the man. ‘Talk to me, Margaret,” he says, in a voice from long ago.

          She leaps the counter and lands in his arms.

When she awakes, she’s forgotten that part of the dream but feels an overwhelming sense of relief, as if she’s figured something out and knows what she must do. 

          Sparrows are chirping merrily outside the window. The city is stirring and a new day shines through the tears in the curtain.

When professional counsellor Bruce Costello of New Zealand retired in 2010, he took up short story writing as a pastime. He has now had 148 short story successes - publications in literary journals, popular magazines and anthologies and contest wins, commendations and places.

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