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Lisa's Revenge-Fiction by Janet Hatwell
Her Passion-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Threes-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
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No-Fiction by Bruce Costello
Fat Trucker, Hot Wife-Fiction by Matthew Copes
Between the Sheets-Fiction by K. Marvin Bruce
Hearts in Retrograde-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
From a Buick-Kind-of-Place-Fiction by Darrell Petska
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Old Mules-Fiction by Mickey J. Corrigan
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Daybreak Over I-15-Poem by C. W. Blackwell
Confetti and Juicy Fruit Gum-Poem by Kenneth James Crist
Night in Cumming's Cove-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Scar-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Graveyard Love-Poem by John Grey
Plan but No Really Plan-Poem by Joe Balaz
Audible Sigh-Poem by John Tustin
Erica-Poem by John Tustin
Heartbreaker-Poem by Meg Baird
La Guitare-Poem by Meg Baird
Parking Garage-Poem by Joel Matulich
Vintage Trade Paperback-Poem by Joel Matulich
Perpetual Motion-Poem by Stephen J. Golds
The Best Ones Are the Crazy Ones-Poem by Stephen J. Golds
Black Widow-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Out of My Skin-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
The Terrible Shadows-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Lucky Number Seven-Poem by Bradford Middleton
The Old Routine of Dreaming and Blasting-Poem by Bradford Middleton
F**K It, Let's Listen to the Ramones-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Our Open Window-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Wandering Woman-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Winter's Twilight Sky-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
You, I, Together-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Each Day-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Ghost Dance-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
He Paid For-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Winter Woman-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
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Angel of Manslaughter
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No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

84_ym_no_kcwalker.jpg
Art by Keith Coates Walker 2021

No

by Bruce Costello

 

It was 3am. I was on my knees in the toilet, arms wrapped around the bowl, trying to vomit but couldn’t.

          After ten minutes or so, feeling a little better, I had a quick shower, then went back to bed and thought over the events of the previous day.

          I probably wasn’t physically ill, just in a state of shock, having done what the idiot counsellor suggested and having to face the consequences.

 

It started with a visit to Student Counselling in the morning.

          “Rachel, have you tried just saying no to the guy?” the counsellor asked me, “without feeling the need to explain yourself?”

          “You mean saying no just like that, without saying why?” I said, staring at the counsellor, a thin man in his fifties with a ring in one ear and a gray pony tail that swayed when he shook his head.

          “If he’s a decent type he’ll respect how you feel, even if he doesn’t understand, and if he’s not, you’re better off without him.”

          “Well, that sounds a bit simplistic,” I said. “Rather cold and hard. No without any explanation to soften things? How do you think that would make him feel?”

          Ponytail leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head. “You need to stop worrying how other people feel, Rachel, and think about how you feel yourself.” He crossed his legs, then uncrossed them, peering at me through half-closed eyes. “Depression is common among first-year students, especially if it’s the first time away from home. There’s normally a simple cause that requires a simple solution. It’s not a good idea to over think.” He nodded sagely, casting a sideways look at the clock.

          “Well, maybe, but it’s not as easy as that. I was expecting you’d come up with some clever strategy. But to just say no and leave it at that? I couldn’t do it.”

          “Maybe you could now that we’ve floated the idea.”

 

I had lunch by myself at the Student Union Cafeteria and in the afternoon went to a couple of lectures, Psychology and Theology, although I can’t say I took much in. Afterwards, I walked home to the flat via the public gardens, shuffling my way through the autumn leaves on the paths. My flat mate was out when I got home, probably at the pub. I tried to get some study done, but couldn’t concentrate, so I gave up and blobbed out on Facebook and You Tube.

          Around tea time, Quentin Sullivan turned up with fish and chips. He’d been really nice to me since I’d told him I was on a downer.

          We watched the television for a while, kissing and fooling about with each other on the sofa, then we had a joint and a couple of beers and Quentin said “Let’s go to bed.”

          “No.” The word just popped out of my mouth.

          “Eh?”

          “I said no.

          “What do you mean - no?”

          “What part of no don’t you understand?”

          “You‘re having me on!”

          No.”

          “Is it because your father’s a minister?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

          No.

          “Then why?”

          “Just don’t want to.”

          “Don’t you love me?”

          No,” I said. “I don’t.”

          “I thought you did,” he whispered after a lengthy silence, his voice thick with emotion.

          No.

          He got up from the sofa and slumped into a chair on the other side of the room, took off his John Lennon glasses and stared at the ceiling with blinking eyes. Then he lifted his knees to his chin and covered his face with his arms.

          Such a boy. Weak with softness. The son of a surgeon. Awfully clever, a bit of a nerd, thinking he could pull chicks like the other guys, though his heart wasn’t in it. Victim of the student sex/booze culture. Trying to be what he wasn’t.

          He looked up, breathing heavily. Tears ran down his cheeks. His mouth moved. He didn’t speak but made a weird moaning noise, which seemed to well up from somewhere deep inside him. I wondered what old memories my words had triggered in him. The thought flashed through my head that I knew very little about Quentin Sullivan.

          And then I said…and God knows why…it was as if something in me was enjoying a new sensation, like a surge of my own power, a sense of control at last. Inserting the butcher’s knife and then giving it a good twist.

          “Love you? Never did. Never will. You’re a dork.”

          Quentin ran from the room. I think he was genuinely upset, not just doing a Hollywood. I heard the front door slam, his footsteps running down the path, and his car speeding off with a scream of tyres, probably to his mother’s place.

          Then I had this weird feeling, like I’m lost in time and space and everything’s unreal and nothing’s for sure. Was this really me…here in the city, far from the family, drinking alcohol, having dramas about sex, smoking, doing the very stuff Mum and Dad had warned me about? Don’t just follow the crowd, they always said. Stick to your principles. Concentrate on your studies.

          Last year I was Head Prefect at Hampden District High School. I played in the Hockey 1st Eleven and sang in the school choir. I taught Sunday school at my father’s church and played the guitar during the evening youth service.

          Was that me? Or is this me?

          That was when I started to feel sick inside and ran to the loo, wanting to vomit. After the shower, although I felt better, my mind was going a million miles an hour. I made myself a coffee and collapsed onto the sofa.  What if…there were so many what ifs, too many to count. My imagination ran wild. All sorts of scenarios ran through my head - what Ponytail had called ‘catastrophe thinking’ - and I felt the emotions that went with them, as if they were real.

          The most disturbing scenario had me really freaking out. Everything was in sharp detail with cartoon-like colour and clarity. I imagined a loud knocking at the door. A red faced, blue-eyed policeman was there, together with a tall policewoman with black eyes, straight yellow hair and a prominent jaw.

          Quentin had been killed, they said, speaking in a matter-of-fact way. He’d driven headlong into a logging truck. Can you confirm he was here last night? Had he been depressed or suicidal? Did he do drugs? How much alcohol had he consumed? How well did you know him? What was his state of mind when he left?

          Quite upset, I said, because of something that didn’t happen.

           What didn’t happen, the policeman wanted to know, flipping out his notebook and nodding from time to time, like he’d heard it all before.

          And that was it, except as they stood to leave, the policewoman asked if I’d been upset by the news of Quentin’s sudden death and offered to organize a Victim Support counsellor for me.

          “Not bloody likely,” I said. “I’ve had it with counselors,” and showed them out.

          My head felt like a volcano about to erupt. The minutes seemed to go on for hours.

I paced up and down, freaking out. Telling myself it was all in my mind and that nothing real had happened, I’d imagined it all - Quentin wasn’t dead, he was alive. But I couldn’t stop crying and felt like ringing Mum and Dad, only I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone.

          There was a loud knocking at the front door and something exploded inside me. I felt like I was wading through mud as I struggled across the room to answer it.

          It was only my flat mate drunk, as usual, and couldn’t find the key.

          Then I got a phone call from Quentin. “Sorry I was such a dork. Do you think we could start again, somehow?”

          “No,” I said.

          I finished off a half-smoked joint, and then climbed into bed.

          A watched clock never boils. No, that’s not right. A potched watch, ha ha, get it right, girl. Roll on tomorrow, if it ever comes. Still pitch black. How many days till dawn?

***


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 135 short story successes – publications in literary journals (including Yellow Mama), anthologies, and popular magazines, and contest places and wins.



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 2021