Writing

tomorrowswords

Writing

Writing

Shaping Tomorrow wiTh our penS

Tomorrow

A.J. Kirby

K.S Dearsley

Andy Kastelic

Shania Lakeman

Kevin Kirrane

Rolli

Noelle Sterne

Edward O’Dwyer

Luke Benjamin

April 2013

WWW.WRITINGTOMORROW.COM


April 2013

Volume 1 Number 3

Twister at the horizon

© fotola70 - Fotolia.com

Editor Miranda Kopp-Filek

Publisher Kristopher Gage

Writing Tomorow Magazine

Volume 1 Number 3 April 2013

© 2013 Kristopher Gage/Writing Tomorrow Magazine.

For submission information please refer to

www.WritingTomorrow.com.

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Seeking Applicants

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looking for original articles regarding the art of writing

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Writing

Shaping Tomorrow wiTh our penS

Tomorrow

Fiction

6 Music From an Old Hominy Can…………….……Andy Kastelic

11 The Enchantress’s Pets……………………………….K.S. Dearsley

22 The Miracle in the Clearing………………………………A.J. Kirby

50 Wullus……………………………………………………………………….Rolli

54 An Overseeing Perspective…………………….Shania Lakeman

57 Empire of Death………………………………………….Kevin Kirrane

Poetry

10 Aestivare……………………………………………………Luke Benjamin

40 For When You Were a Cactus……………………Luke Benjamin

42 Big Sur Log—Moon of Many Rainbows……….Luke Benjamin

63 Poem for the Ballet Girl………………………..Edward O’Dwyer

65 The Bones of It………………………………………Edward O’Dwyer

Articles

20 Backstory/Behind The Enchantress’s Pets….K.S.Dearsley

44 Wake Up Worn-out Words

and Faded Phrases…………………………………….Noelle Sterne


He would rescue just one badger from

this mass slaughter, perform this one,

somewhat minor act of salvation, and

maybe, just maybe, karma would give

him a break....

The Miracle in the Clearing, by A.J.

Kirby

[...]what Vultures they were, fighting

over such a meager scrap when there

was a perfectly good dead man laying

not twenty feet away…

An Overseeing Perspective, by Shania

Lakeman

jade stone sea

maker of stones!

in your waves

I found my breath

though you said

nothing at all

Big Sur Log-Moon of Many Rainbows,

by Luke Benjamin

Then I wondered what I was doing. It

didn’t make sense now. I woke up in the

cold water. I still felt terrible, but I felt

scared too. That means you’re worried

about your life. That got me thinking. I

had to get out of this. I might miss things.

Wullus, by Rolli

4 Writing Tomorrow Magazine

But this orange grove was not like the song,

this one was ablaze. She walked down the

fiery aisles and started to cry for the first

time in a long time, for oranges were his

favorite, and he had been gone so long that

she had forgotten this detail.

Music From an Old Hominy Can, by

Andy Kastelic

Wolf, Phimenides, man, dog. Soon he

would be lying in front of the fire and begging

for scraps; a fate that was fitting for

neither man nor wolf.

The Enchantress’s Pets, by K.S. Dearsley

I closed his eyes, which stared up at

me with the same studious expression

of doubt and fear and loneliness and

hatred that he had so often shown in

his last days—first his right eye, then

his left, working silently, without tears

or weakness, just with simple measured

calm.

Empire of Death, by Kevin Kirrane

How they flutter

through the air, those feet;

like a butterfly’s wings;

Poem for the Ballet Girl, by Edward

O'Dwyer


FroM The ediTor:

MirANdA Kopp FileK

Humankind vs. nature…At times allies. At times enemies. At all times,

shaped by each other. Our relationship with nature is complex; nature

nourishes and protects us, yet for every swath of land we steal, for every

forest flattened or species plundered, nature bites back, tumbling coastlines,

felling homes, or battling extinction with venomous stings.

As writers, we often attempt the impossible through our characters: working

out the complexities of our relationship and our role to this natural

world. In these pages, a man searches for redemption by saving a single

otter; a twister lays bare a woman’s lifelong journey; a vulture innocently

exposes the atrocities of humankind; an echantress finally discovers the

one beast she cannot tame; a dancer’s feet, like butterfly wings, create a

phenomenon; a lone cactus symbolizes our strength and purpose; a boy

finds his heart at the bottom of the river....and a son watches his dying

father face that part of nature which we find most volatile, most corrupt,

most beautiful, and most inexplicable—human nature.

Because, while we live at the mercy of the wind and the rains and the sun

and the beasts, the nature we strive most to understand....is our own.

Welcome to the April 2013 edition of Writing Tomorrow.

April 2013 5


Music FroM AN old

hoMiNy cAN

Andy Kastelic

She was Sophia, soft and sweet, with eyes that spoke simply. And he

knew it from the other side of the brook. But things went astray, as they

always do, and the years split everything.

The wind broke fences with fury, and dust ruled the sky. The bottle

of milk crashed to the floor and her tired, bare feet were cut as she entered.

A vibrant pink crept through the floorboards, and she sat down, letting

it form shapes. She sat for a long time, and the wind grew deafening. It

kicked in the front door; it broke the faded window panes; it stole the porch

and ravaged the wooden swan until it was defeated, and she was left sitting

amidst the murdered timber and jagged steel with nothing but muddy

feet. It was when all was silent and dark that she stood up and walked

east, towards the old windmill that held the secrets of anyone who had ever

fallen in love in that town. She passed the hundreds of carvings and hearts,

and smiled, for all the whittled adoration was killing that windmill, and

though she knew she wouldn’t be around when it happened, she knew it

would topple.

She walked through the town with battered bars and windswept stages.

Light posts and tree trunks blended as uprooted brothers with electric

roots. Orphan pianos rested in the middle of the street, aching to release a

Russian. Smashed china littered the gutters, and the unemployed huddled

together with a few drops and the photo albums of strangers.

The stars were snuffed out for all, save Sophia, who strode as a lion

down the desert boulevards, leaving red footprints on stray cash and corrosion.

The horizon pulled her in, like she belonged to it, like she was coming

home. She didn’t strive at a reason, didn’t question the cyclone’s bearing

of a quest. It just was. Sophia, soft and sweet, with eyes that spoke simply,

put one foot in front of the other, and it became her breath. Past the motels

with floral cinderblock designs and empty pools. Past billboards sporting

fun and lust. Past children on shelves next to shotguns for sale. She hurdled

the barbed wire and blew kisses to the fox that wouldn’t see tomorrow.

6 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


She didn’t stop. The gang watched her pass in her nightgown, and neither

jested nor shrugged. Past the tired pharmacist, puzzled like always. She

bore through the cement at the border because it was in her way and left a

wake in the gash of moonlight that managed to break through. Her shadow

skated across the abandoned bulldozer, adorned with rusted glory.

The native grass, with the yellow flowers, grazed her legs, and she

thought back to when they sat on the dryer together, warm, telling each

other stories, true or false, and finishing the night with a rooftop session,

serenading till dawn as atrophy struck up a conversation with the world

and then poured it a drink. The storm was on her mind. War comes in

many forms, she thought to herself. It’s in the cornfields. It’s at the train

station, it’s backstage, in the passenger seat, in a letter, in a bottle cap that

hits the boot of a stoic who once felt something real. It’s at the top floor; it’s

in the bedroom. It rages on, she thought, and the real fight lies in the aftermath.

That’s where the phoenix is, the real poetry, if people are still around

to write or listen.

These thoughts unfurled as she marched on, through lonely canyons,

through the desert, through the blackness. Her sleeves disappeared, but

she didn’t notice. And a blue breeze rode in to nuzzle her skin. That’s when

the wolf appeared. Gray like April and taught like a bride seconds from

the aim, he bared a mouth full of experience. He circled her, elegantly, as

menace dripped from his tail, for the wolf is a lonely creature, dishonored

from the beginning. She knew that, she understood him. She understood

his grudge. So she spoke. “I understand your grudge.” And he screamed

back “No, you don’t!” And she screamed back, “Yes, I do, and I’m sorry.

Someday, the explosions in the sky will burst for you, ferociously and brilliant!”

He gazed at her with gray eyes, the kind of gray you get when you

stare at the moon too long. That’s when he bit her, but she tasted of ash. She

dripped and he bolted into the distance, howling as though he was the one

that had been bitten. It was a sad howl. She ripped a piece from her gown,

wrapped it around the mess, and continued forth.

There was no Dvorjak, just the rise and fall of each step. No Eliot, just

the snore of cobras. She thought back to her machine, the one that clothed

proper soldiers, and how it used to feel to guide the cotton into the force.

Up and down. How her mind would wander to flying fortresses high above

the Orient. How it must feel to fly with the gulls, falcons, ravens, lightning

and thunder. She remembered how she had once felt so restless, with her

red dress under uniform, that she had stepped outside to catch a breath

April 2013 7


of air. She made her way through the trees, the princess with simple eyes,

down to the brook and he was on the other side. He was a lieutenant. She

had met a thousand lieutenants, but this was the first one to be unarmed.

He didn’t mind getting his oxfords wet.

“Your shoes are wet!”

“What do you know about that?”

The smoke brought her back. She had stopped. She hadn’t noticed.

Sophia had been broken several times, but there was no time for stopping.

She had been ripped off dance floors, struck to the ground with sorrow and

spit back at the pity, burned the idle, burned the regret, caught fire and put

herself out with leaps into the lake at the bottom of the quarry. Why sit on

it all and wait for it to devour her from behind? This was the runway, the

slingshot, but to what, she didn’t know. She burst into a sprint, her bones

bending inches away from snapping, her frailty never a factor. She leapt

buildings, sliced through the highways. A happy desperation overtook her,

like rushing home for souvenirs. Airplanes became fireballs behind her,

young faces were slashed beyond recognition, people lost jobs and found

new ones, infants appeared on milk cartons, the small crevices became

bigger and the freaks were still bowing, but this maiden’s fight was taking

place, it was in motion. She had given all her money, kissed all the duds,

thrust herself at the lapels, grappling for someone who would listen or

adore. And when she did find him, she never let go.

She burst through the night and came upon an orange grove. She

thought of a song that she had once heard. But this orange grove was not

like the song, this one was ablaze. She walked down the fiery aisles and

started to cry for the first time in a long time, for oranges were his favorite,

and he had been gone so long that she had forgotten this detail. She didn’t

want to forget anything, so she closed her eyes, squeezed her fists, and

thought about him. Sophia, soft and sweet, with eyes that spoke simply,

had nothing left to offer but herself, and she hoped he knew it, hoped that

he understood as she stood amidst the bursts of citrus and cinder. She forgave

the wolf, relinquished the shrapnel ills that pervaded her milestones

like a march, and let fade the things left unsaid. “With your hand in mine,

I could always fly.” Her gown slipped away and her hair sizzled like the

candle’s end, but before the fire could take her, her arms turned to wings

and she turned into that tiny sparrow. She flew from the burning orange

grove into the morning, leaving the charred remnants, leaving the terror,

8 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


graduating to the ethereal morn of purple.

She had always kept his first letter under her pillow. When it started

to fall apart, as the creases grew wiser and gave way, she kept it there, his

bouquet of arias posted from Italian carnage. She’d always loved him for

stealing her skipped heartbeats.

“Where do you keep them?” she asked.

“In a box,” he replied.

She hung on to him until he drifted away one afternoon, gracefully,

silently, and so frightfully young and golden.

William was on his third week with the fire department when the

windstorm hit the town. He hated that they all called him ‘Hawaii’ because

he had never been to Hawaii. They didn’t take him seriously until he held

a straight face on the fourth of September. That was the day that he was

assigned to Singer street. They split into teams and scoured the houses for

families that might need help. Great barns that housed generations were

scattered with fine linen and spatulas. William followed the black lab to a

lone ice box, and that’s when he found Ms. Swan with cut feet and an old

letter, huddled on pink floorboards, dead.

Hark! The tempest of woe was steady, lashing to finish us, but we were

out of reach, as we rode fervor into the morning, all aglow and victorious!

Andy Kastelic has always been drawn to writing passionate

and powerful writing that seeks to change

a person’s mind. He studied theatre while attending

Eastern New Mexico University and then moved to

Seattle with his wife, where he continued to hone his

craft in writing and acting. He attended the Lee Strasberg

Institute for Theatre and Film in West Hollywood

and is now writing screenplays and short stories while

fiercely pursuing magic and relevance in his work.

April 2013 9


excerpT FroM

AesTiVAre: a long poem

10 Writing Tomorrow Magazine

for summer

Luke Benjamin

no, Archimedes

you give me

a lever long enough

and a summer’s horizon

on which to place it

and I will merely aid

in the turning of the sky

See Luke Benjamin’s full biography on page 43


The eNchANTress’s peTs

K.S. Dearsley

“O, father Helios, without whose daily journey across the sky we

would all shiver in permanent darkness, accept these offerings from your

humble daughter, Circe! Hear her plea—blind them with your light! Set fire

to their sails! Parch their throats and blister their skin! Drive them mad

with your heat—only do not let them set foot on this island!” There was a

hiss, and aromatic smoke unrolled from the altar before the golden statue

of the sun god. The nose of the great wolf, lying like a threat in the shadows,

twitched at the smell of seared meat, but it was otherwise motionless

as it watched its mistress through slitted eyes. Circe stepped back from the

smoking altar, gazing at the statue of her father. She appeared in her prime

rather than the first bloom of youth, but the expression in her eyes and a

firmness about the mouth denoted an attitude to sorrows and mishaps that

only came with great age. The wolf had never known her to look any different.

His own joints were beginning to stiffen, and there were silver flecks

on his muzzle. He was old for a wolf; he was even beginning to be old for a

man. Soon he would be unable to chase down prey, to feel the warm metallic

taste of blood from the dying victim bloom in his mouth. The great

beast stretched and yawned as Circe waited for an answer from her silent

father.

“I no see need to fuss. Ships arrive before. Deal with same as ever.”

The wolf’s tongue struggled to make the right sounds. Instead of becoming

easier, the wolf found speech increasingly difficult.

Circe sighed. “But this ship seeks us, wolf. No one comes to the isle

of Aeaea who can avoid it—the stories he and others tell see to that—and

this ship bears his banner.”

“He! As if he only one to come here!” the wolf snarled.

“Odysseus, my tawny fox. Shame that was never put to the test. For

a moment I had thought it was him, that his restless spirit had tired of his

patient, loyal, boring Penelope and sought me out once more.”

The wolf made a rumbling sound in his throat.

April 2013 11


“It’s not him though, wolf, even he would be too old now to attempt

such an adventure, and no one else there can have any love for us. He will

have blamed me for all to excuse his absence to Penelope. I had hoped to

spare Cassiphone the knowledge of what the world thinks of her mother.”

The wolf considered as he scratched lazily at his ear. Wolves took

their cubs hunting when they were old enough, taught them the tricks of

the stalk and the chase. But Circe had kept Cassiphone ignorant of her

enchantments, and with no knowledge of the outside world, she accepted

things on Aeaea as normal. For all she knew every wolf could speak. She

had ridden on his back when she was barely able to walk, had pulled his fur

and fallen asleep curled against his side in front of the fire. It never occurred

to Cassiphone that he might once have been a warrior, fleet of foot,

whose spear flew far, whose black hair and flashing confident smile put

uncertainty in the enemy’s eyes and lust in the women’s. He barely remembered

it himself these days. She was not equipped to deal with a deceitful

world.

Circe threw another morsel in the flames, which shuddered as a door

banged at the far end of the room. A quick, light step approached. The wolf

stopped mid-scratch to watch the young woman who had entered. She was

lighter and softer, but unmistakably the product of the woman at the altar.

The flames leapt in her excited eyes.

“Cassiphone, daughter, there is something you wish to tell me.”

Circe brushed a strand of hair from the younger woman’s face. Cassiphone

turned hurriedly away, her skin glowing, and poured a libation on her

grandfather’s altar.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt your prayers.”

“You didn’t, dear.” Circe watched.

“Good!” Cassiphone caught Circe’s hands and began pulling her

down the room. “We have visitors—a whole ship full. He said, their leader

that is, that they would camp on shore, but I insisted they should stay here.

That was the right thing to do, wasn’t it? His name is Telemachus and he

says they’ve come all the way from Ithaca. He looks—they look—so noble,

and they’ve traveled so far, and we see so few people...”

The wolf growled: Telemachus, son of Odysseus and Penelope.

Circe smiled. “Of course. Aeaea is renowned for its hospitality.”

The wolf coughed.

“You go on, I must finish here.”

12 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


Cassiphone hesitated, then ran out, banging the door behind her.

Circe’s smile vanished.

“ ‘He’ again,” growled the wolf.

“The day I have dreaded has arrived. My enemy is here and will steal

Cassiphone from me, and all I can do to protect her is reveal myself as a

sorceress.”

“I could tear throat,” the wolf offered, feeling his teeth sink into the

flesh as he spoke.

“No, wolf. You saw her face, already she loves. I shall just have to

hope she understands.” Circe looked a silent plea up at Helios’s statue and

picked up the last remaining sliver of meat. Her hand hovered over the

altar for a moment, then flung the scrap to the wolf. The jaws snapped shut.

* * *

The wolf padded after Circe along a corridor banded with light and

shade in the afternoon sun. Sounds of male voices and music vibrated

through the floor to greet them. It had been a long time since any male

voice but his own had been heard there, not since Odysseus and his unruly

band of Greeks had left. The year he had stayed with the enchantress had

been good hunting indeed. Man and beast had vied for the best kill, and

in the evening, both had reveled in feasting and recounting the day’s doings.

The wolf had been part of his pack. But then the Greeks had left and

he had stayed to be pampered and spoiled in their place. The noises stirred

uncomfortable sensations of the past that stood the wolf’s fur on end. The

scene as they entered the great hall of the palace added to them. All sound

and movement ceased as Circe entered, as if like some Gorgon she had

turned the company to stone. Looking at her face as she beheld her daughter

rapt in the words of Telemachus, the wolf knew it was the sorceress

who was petrified. His sensitive nostrils caught a trace of fear, not from her

guests, but from Circe herself.

Cassiphone broke free first. “Mother, this is Telemachus.” Her face

pleaded for her mother’s approval.

He rose and bowed. Circe waved him back to his couch.

“My daughter tells me you have traveled from Ithaca.” Her eyes never

left his face as she spoke. “You were unfortunate to be blown so far off

course.”

April 2013 13


The wolf settled next to her chair and fixed his own unwavering yellow

gaze on the intruder. He was like his father, with a mane of tawny hair

and wiry build. But had he inherited his cunning?

“We are not off course, lady. My father told me much of his stay here.

I have come to see the great enchantress of Aeaea for myself.”

“Mother?” Cassiphone’s eyes were wide.

Circe brushed Telemachus’s words aside. “Our guest flatters me. All

I ever did was show men their own true nature. Not all of them liked what

they discovered, of course. And how is your father?”

“King Odysseus does bravely for his years, but even heroes such as

he don’t live forever. One day I must rule in his stead, and it is fitting that I

should gain some experience of the world before that time.”

“Kill some monsters of your own, perhaps.” Circe’s and Telemachus’s

eyes locked. Whatever their smiles might say, there was cold metal

in their stares. The wolf felt the clash of it thrill along his spine.

Telemachus retreated from the battle of words. “Perhaps, but I would

rather enjoy your hospitality awhile first. It would give me pleasure to hear

Lady Cassiphone play again.”

Hands trembling, Cassiphone picked up her harp.

“Tomorrow, perhaps,” Circe interrupted. “You must all be weary now.

Servants will show you to your quarters.” She clapped her hands and attendants

appeared.

“Then I must look forward to tomorrow,” Telemachus told Cassiphone.

There was no mistaking the smell that clung about him when he

looked at her. The wolf felt the urge to let out a challenging howl. As he

passed him, Telemachus stopped.

“Ah, yes. Father mentioned a wolf. Does it talk?”

“Ask it,” Circe said.

The young hero turned expectantly to the beast. The wolf remained

silent, knowing his mistress’s pleasure. But once the sailors had left, he allowed

himself to roll on his back and wriggle before standing an impressive

hunter once more. Odysseus remembered him!

“You funny creature! Why didn’t you answer?” Cassiphone frowned.

“Because he has doubts about these men,” Circe interrupted. “I know

you will not want to hear this, but there are things you should know:

things I should have told you before, only I had hoped there would not be

the need.”

14 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


Cassiphone sighed and rolled her eyes at the wolf. “You never want

me to have contact with the outside world. You even shoo the birds away.

Would you have me remain a virgin all my life, trapped on this island?”

“Trapped?” Circe’s face became as marble. “I only urge caution. You

do not know men, what their natures really are. They pretend to nobility

and loyalty, to gentleness and love, but it is all on the outside. I have seen

their true selves manifest—even Odysseus—he chose to stay with me for a

year despite the fact that he had a wife and child waiting for him to return.

He made me think he was content and would stay here forever, but he lied.

He would not have got back at all without my help, and then he was so far

from being wily and wise that he couldn’t control his men enough to stop

them stealing Helios’s cattle. You have never seen your grandfather angry;

he’s splendid and terrifying—and much of that anger was turned on me for

the help I gave Odysseus. But even so, I don’t blame the king; duplicity is in

man’s nature.” Circe grasped Cassiphone’s arms in her vehemence.

Cassiphone twisted free. “Telemachus is not his father.”

“No, he is not,” Circe agreed, adding more gently, “All I ask is that

you be careful.”

Cassiphone’s frown became a smile once more. “I shall be more than

that, I shall keep wolf with me whenever Telemachus is by. Wolf will protect

me, won’t you?”

The wolf made no reply.

* * *

“Your mother would not approve of this.” Telemachus stood so close

to Cassiphone that his breath brushed her cheek.

They were in the olive groves which covered the slopes above the

palace.

“Why should she object?” Cassiphone countered wide-eyed. “I am

only showing an honored guest about the island.”

From his hiding place in the long grass, the wolf caught a new scent

mingled with the musky heat of the Ithacan. Lighter, but just as stirring,

it came from Cassiphone. The girl allowed her guest to take her hand and

draw her to him. The wolf raised his head just enough so that she could see

his ears above the stalks. She drew back, blushing.

“What? Am I not allowed one kiss?” Telemachus asked.

April 2013 15


“I... I... mother...” Cassiphone stammered, held by the look in his eyes.

“Yes, your mother,” Telemachus relented, and they continued walking.

“She cannot be pleased to see me.”

“Why not? We have so few visitors.”

“Because I might steal you away,” he teased, sweeping her up into his

arms. “Whisk you off to my ship and take you back a bride to Ithaca.”

“Only if I wanted to go.”

“No doubt Circe has taught you her power.”

“What power?” Cassiphone pushed away from him.

In the grass the wolf’s ears twitched.

“I would not wish to provoke her. My father told me how terrible she

can be,” Telemachus murmured as if to himself, with a sideways glance at

her.

“Terrible? Circe? What nonsense!” Cassiphone strode away.

The wolf detected a clash of scents—anger, frustration.

“Forgive me, of course, she’s your mother.” Telemachus was contrite.

Cassiphone halted in front of him.

“No. Tell me what you’ve heard. Then I can tell you how wrong you

are.”

“Very well. She hates men. Any who come near her are placed under

a spell and turned into brute beasts to do her bidding and live out their

lives in degradation. So my father told me,” he added as an apology, but his

fists clenched at his side.

Cassiphone stood a moment open-mouthed, then threw back her

head and laughed. The wolf edged closer, tasting violence in the air.

“My mother has no love of company, that’s true, and after the way

your father treated her, who can blame her? No one likes to be abandoned.”

Telemachus’s face hardened. “Then ask the wolf. She turned my father’s

crew into swine and would have treated him similarly had Hermes

not warned him. If you love me, as I love you, you will ask it. When Odysseus

was here, its name was Phimenides.”

Cassiphone turned and called. “Phimenides!”

The wolf’s heart pounded, the muscles tensed in shoulders and

haunches ready for flight but held by the reverberations of that word. Yes,

Phimenides had been his name in the days when he had been a man, but

now he was a wolf.

16 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


“You see?” Cassiphone triumphed. “He doesn’t answer.”

Telemachus’s eyes slid past her to where the wolf rose from the stalks

and began to circle around them.

* * *

“And what did you say?” Circe was in her bedchamber working at

her loom. She dropped the shuttle and cursed. “How that hypocrite, Penelope,

could spend year upon year weaving is beyond me!”

“Hyp-o-crite?” the wolf asked, trying not to cringe.

“Pretending she was so virtuous when all the time she’d let Hermes

seduce her in the shape of a goat. A goat!” Circe broke off her tirade as her

eyes fastened on the wolf again. They narrowed. “What did you tell my

daughter?”

“I say, Phimenides like being wolf.” His belly slunk lower.

Circe closed her eyes. “Did she believe him? Does she think I’m a

monster?” Her eyes flew open again. “What if he abducts her?”

“I tear his throat,” the wolf growled.

“No, wolf.” She patted him on the head. “We both know what I must

do.”

The wolf’s hackles came up. As she left the loom and set about the

familiar preparations, he was restless and uneasy. Wolf, Phimenides, man,

dog. Soon he would be lying in front of the fire and begging for scraps; a

fate that was fitting for neither man nor wolf.

* * *

The breeze brought the wolf many smells. The warmth of afternoon

was giving way to the chill of evening in the twilight. Time for all the small

beasts to scurry back to their burrows. His ears twitched with the sound of

restless creatures hurrying though the undergrowth. He subdued the impulse

to lope across the meadows in search of prey and trotted around the

palace walls until he was beneath a shuttered window. He scratched at the

wood and the shutter was thrown open.

Cassiphone was startled. “Wolf! What are you doing here?” She

looked past him. The wolf sensed disappointment. He was not the guest she

expected. He leapt onto the sill, and she closed the shutters behind him.

April 2013 17


18 Writing Tomorrow Magazine

* * *

A crackle of power set the wolf’s fur standing up all along his spine

as Circe drew her wand from the casket. Her preparations had lasted well

into the night. Now, bathed and purified in the smoke of sacrifice, she took

up the instrument of her power and silently made along the corridor to

Telemachus’s chamber. Such was the intensity of her concentration that

Circe did not appear to notice the loudness of the silence. The swish of her

gown and the tap of the wolf’s claws were the only sounds to accompany

them. No snores or sighs or creaks of protesting beds leaked through the

doors lining the corridors. The absence hammered in the wolf’s sensitive

ears.

Circe paused and listened outside Telemachus’s door. At last there

was a sound of breathing from within. But for the wolf, she would have

found his chamber empty too. Circe turned the latch and entered. In the

faint glow of moonlight squeezing through the cracks in the shutters and

the bluish tint of power from the wand, a bunched shape wrapped in covers

could be made out. The smell was almost overpowering to the wolf. His

mouth flooded with saliva. Beside the bed was an overturned goblet, the

dregs black as blood in the silver light. Circe murmured an incantation.

“Show yourself as the beast you truly are!” She touched the bundle

with the wand.

Wolf and enchantress waited. The shape of the bundle did not

change, neither did the smell. The wolf’s jaws ached with restraint. The

bundle shifted position and let out a grunt. Circe snatched the covers back.

“A pig! I had expected a fox like his father, or a rat,” she paused.

“Poor Cassiphone, but better she knows the truth now. Fetch her, wolf.”

The wolf remained bristling and massive in the doorway. Circe

looked questioningly at him, then back at the pig. Her eyes narrowed.

“Telemachus, wake!” She slapped the beast’s side. It squealed, opening

mean, greedy eyes. She searched them for traces of Telemachus. “What

is this?” she demanded.

“A pig,” the wolf responded.

Circe whirled and touched the pig with her wand once more. “Take

your manly shape!”

The pig’s form blurred and melted, resolving into a fat man with a


few bristly hairs sprouting from his chin and scalp. Circe stepped back.

“Trickery!” She rounded on the wolf. “You betrayed me!” She moved

to the door, but the wolf blocked her path.

“Too late. Smell the breeze. Ship sailing.”

“Out of my way!” She pointed the wand at him.

Behind her the manpig swung its head from side to side as if trying to

shake off its confusion. It pawed at the ground and chomped its jaws. Lowering

its head, it rushed the doorway. Circe recognized the danger too late

to move. The instant before it struck her, the wolf sprang, latching strong

jaws and gleaming teeth on its neck. For a whirling space of time, the

chamber was filled with snarls and squeals, furniture was knocked aside

and trampled as the manpig tried to shake off the wolf. Finally, it collapsed

to its knees and sank to the floor. The wolf gave it one last shake, feeling his

own blood race faster as the manpig’s slowed. It released its prey, turning

yellow eyes on Circe. A mist had come between them, distorting his vision.

The scents of blood and death were overpowering. A growl rumbled in his

throat.

Circe watched him calmly. “What now, wolf?” She knelt and exposed

her throat. “I can ask for no storm to destroy him, for Cassiphone

would also perish. Better that I should be the one to die. Do it, wolf.”

The wolf’s vision began to clear. He saw not the weak beast which his

jaws could snap in two with one bite, but the proud, beguiling woman who

had tamed him so long ago.

“Phimenides no pet to do bidding,” he growled. “And Cassiphone no

bird to sing in a cage.”

Circe bowed her head and a tear dropped to the floor. The wolf approached

and licked her hand. Then he sprang past her and out into the

balmy night. Racing to the slopes above the palace, he looked across the sea

glittering beneath him in the moonlight and saw the black sail of Telemachus’s

ship rise to catch the breeze. The wolf threw back his head and sang

to the night.

See K. S. Dearsley’s full biography on page 21.

April 2013 19


AcKsTory:

behiNd The eNchANTress’s peTs

By K.S. Dearsley

At the back end of the last century, there was a competition run by the

Library of Avalon in Glastonbury, England, for short stories with a theme

of myth or legend. I wanted to enter, but felt that the world and its aunt

would probably send in stories that concerned King Arthur, whom legend

says was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. I turned to the New Larousse Encyclopedia

of Mythology for inspiration. Since my teacher had read Barbara

Leonie Picard’s retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey to the class at primary

school (probably to get a few minutes peace!), I had been fascinated by the

wily Greek hero.

My eye caught on the encyclopedia’s entry for Circe. What I saw intrigued

me: her daughter, Cassiphone, had married Odysseus’s son, Telemachus. I

could not imagine that would have pleased Circe much. In fact, I thought

she would probably have tried to cast a spell on Telemachus as she had his

father. It was at this point that the saying, You can’t make a silk purse out

of a sow’s ear came to mind. Circe had turned Odysseus’s men into swine,

because that was their basic nature. Maybe they would have been happy to

stay that way–hence the arrival in the story of Phimenides, the wolf. Circe

is one of those female characters throughout mythology and history who

have been treated as little more than a stereotype–either as an evil temptress

or as passive and virginal. The Enchantress’s Pets was a chance to

redress the balance a little.

It is a long while now since I wrote the story, and maybe time has given me

a soft-focus memory of the process. Once I had the basic idea and the wolf,

the story almost wrote itself. That is not to say that it did not go through

several drafts, only that I did not hit any of those horrible ‘now what?’

moments. In any case, there was a competition deadline to meet. The Enchantress’s

Pets did not win, but it did come third. I am glad that it has

found a good home in Writing Tomorrow.

20 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


In revisiting the New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology to write this, I

came across some interesting interactions between the dutiful, patient Penelope

(Odysseus’ wife) and Hermes (the god who helped him escape from

Circe). I feel another story coming on!

K. S. Dearsley has an MA in Linguistics and Literature

and has had numerous stories published on both sides

of the Atlantic. She lives in Northampton, England,

and is Writer in Residence at The Grid artists’ studios

in Warwickshire. When she is not writing, she lets her

dogs take her for walks. Her fantasy novel, Discord’s

Child, is now available on Amazon. Find out more at

www.ksdearsley.com.

April 2013 21


The MirAcle

iN The cleAriNG

A. J. Kirby

Richard leaves the car to the side of the road where it won’t be seen

for the dense darkness of the trees. He climbs out and thumps his feet on

the spot a moment, then tugs on a new Barbour coat. Then it is round to

the back of the car. He opens the trunk and sits on the lip of it as he changes

his trainers for Wellington boots. He closes the trunk and begins to

walk, then slaps a palm against his forehead—it is not like him to forget,

but recently he’s been asking his brain some newer, more difficult questions—and

heads back to the car. Out of the trunk, he pulls a suitcase-sized

carry case. Then he walks. More swiftly now, as though he wants to put

distance between him and the car.

The floury moon is out. Not full. Richard’s imagination, which has

for so long been out of order, cranks into life and decides the moon looks

as though something has taken a chunky bite out of it. It casts a mournful

light on the road, which is little more than a track really. Weeds grow like

a—his imagination’s crackling now—Mohican haircut down the middle.

There isn’t enough room for two cars to pass on it, so every half mile or so

there is a passing point cut into the hedgerows.

Richard follows the road, his feet crunching and splatting through

muck and loose gravel. There is a strong mulchy smell ripe on the air. Eventually,

he reaches a stile and clambers over it, and then he’s in open fields—

where it is darker and at least five degrees colder in an instant. He burrows

into deep pockets, the inner lining high-pitched singing as he touches it;

roots past the slimy-sounding packet of food, which he has brought as a

lure; and at last pulls out the torch. He fumbles for the switch with thumby

gloved fingers and it takes way too long. Finally it belches out a sickly yellow

beam. The beam makes him feel naked. Watched. And as soon as he

can, he edges back over to the hedge and walks close alongside it.

He walks. He thinks he can pick out the pinprick lights of a farm-

22 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


house in the distance. Thinks he hears looming, cow-sounds closer at

hand. He once heard of a man trampled to death by cows. Not bulls. Cows.

It was on the local news. An “And Finally” piece which wasn’t very funny.

He wonders whether it would be a fitting way for him to go. Richard, the

man who never believed in anything, trampled by a common or garden

cow. Because he couldn’t imagine anything more magical, more mythical,

prowling in the darkness.

He’s getting tired already. Too much thinking and he’s not used to it.

For years his mind has been a closed-off, dank place, and now he’s thrown

it open, dampness is spilling out. It is seeping into his body. His joints are

seizing up, thickening with rust. He tells himself it’s the cold. He can’t remember

feeling this cold. He feels ice moving in his veins, clinking together,

like he’s been served on the rocks. His breath practically congeals in the

air as he exhales, and it almost makes him wish he still smoked.

The carry case is awkward now and bangs against his thighs as he

walks. There’ll be a bruise in the morning. He’s always bruised easily. Like

a… piece of over-ripe fruit. Something inside the case is rattling and he has

no idea what it is, but the cold means he isn’t inclined to stop and take a

look.

There’s something else too. He senses if he stops, he’ll simply turn

round, go back to the car. He doesn’t trust himself not to do this. Giving up

has been his default mode for years now. For years, nothing has been worth

the effort. And though he wants to change, is desperate to change, he is

aware of how difficult this will be.

It will be a glacier slow process, like an ice age slowly, slowly dripping

to a more temperate conclusion. For now, while he dries out, while the

frozen parts of him melt, he believes he can achieve things mechanically,

through conscious effort. He shuts down receptors and impulse-generators

in his brain. Over-thinks things. Plans each and every step. Fundamentally,

he is in the midst of a project to re-wire the whole of his brain so that he

doesn’t do what Richard always does.

He can’t remember when he became like this. The Richard of no

imagination. Certainly he wasn’t like this when he was a child. When

his mum died, he was in charge of sorting through her house. He took

the photo albums. The rest of it went to Oxfam. All the pictures of him

as a child showed him a sunny boy, full of wonder and smiles. Perhaps it

was school. Or college. One of those institutions certainly. Peer pressure

April 2013 23


trained him never to want to learn or show enthusiasm about anything. A

sneer was the best form of fitting in. And he’s worn that same sneer most

of his adult life. He’s like a rebel never had a cause. And the rebel look

doesn’t wear well. Certainly not when you’ve just crested forty and should

be relaxing into the plateau of comfortable middle age, before that inevitable

final decline into decrepitude.

Now he knows he must change, become less rigid in his views, in his

essential Richardness, or else Angela will leave him. Maybe she is already

in the process of leaving him. For years their marriage has been a battle

ground. He can’t understand how she so easily, so mindlessly, lives life.

How she isn’t bristling with anger as he is at the crap passed for entertainment

on the television, or the endless cliché which are films today, or the

abortion which is modern music. For years, he’s struggled to make her

see things from his perspective. That the world and everything in it is just

some slough of despond. That there is no originality, nothing to be celebrated

anywhere. No imagination. No nothing. Just despair. Recently, she

has started to agree with him. Unfortunately, Richard thinks she may also

have reached the conclusion that the root of all this pollution is him.

Now he wants to do something unexpected, something good, which

will maybe prove to Angela that there is something in him, in them,

worth saving. And he knows he’s been thinking in clichés, but forcing

these changes takes up all of his imaginative energy. And so, he’s been

thinking about adopting a fluffy creature—cat, rabbit, guinea pig, who

cares?—or else do something spur of the moment, like book a cruise. He’s

always hated cruises and everything they represented and thinks maybe if

he goes against this instinct, it might, through negative positivity, be the

right thing to do. Or else talk about the thing, that great yawning chasm

in their married life which is baby-shaped… Or else take Angela on a

midnight walk. Maybe bring a picnic. Buy plastic wine glasses and good

cheese and to hell with the cost.

Taking Angela on a midnight walk seemed the easiest option. One

small step. Only, Richard had convinced himself he had to come out here

first, on his own, just to be sure of the lay of the land.

He came here last Wednesday, when he said he was away in Glasgow

with work. Forgot the torch, the Wellingtons. Forgot to hide the car properly.

He’d been walking down the track before the stile when he’d heard

the coughing engine of a large vehicle. Larger than his Volvo anyway.

24 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


And he began to hear other sounds too. Some whooping and hollering.

Bestial sounds of men out of civilization. Hunting sounds. Also

the thudding beats of heavy rock music being played at such a volume the

drumbeat could have been the sound of hooves. Could have been the four

horsemen cutting a swathe through the countryside on his tail. Richard

pressed himself back against the hedge for safety and also, no kidding,

because part of him didn’t want to be seen, caught like a deer in the headlights.

He saw the lights early. The yellow of them rising up above the hedgerows

like coloured mist. Like someone had run an ink-dried highlighter

pen in a zigzag line, spearing the gunmetal grey gloaming. Then he got

the full beam of them as the vehicle rounded a bend, and for a moment, he

really was dazzled. Bewitched. Incapable of movement. A voice inside his

head which was so small it might well have swallowed a voice, gulped, what

if they don’t see me? What if the vehicle crushed him into the hedge?

Which was a very real possibility. Because the vehicle was combine

harvestering down the road, its flanks clipping roots and branches from

both sides, its tires running up the banks on both sides, too. The vehicle

was steaming towards him like some raging bull, steam pouring out from

underneath it, from the exhaust or the chassy. The lights like eyes, burning

with hatred. And him like an invisible, but sensed, red rag.

And then the horn sounded. First, a few sharp blasts and then later,

one long Bracheosaurean note of warning. And Richard was snapped out

of his reverie. Frantically, he began waving his arms above his head like a

man drowning. Which was patently ridiculous because the vehicle had to

have seen him, otherwise why had it sounded the horn?

Loud rock music, the squeal of brakes, some hoarse shouts, and finally

the vehicle dragged to a halt directly in front of Richard. So close he

could reach out and touch the wing-mirror, if his arms weren’t caught in

amongst the thickness of the hedge. He felt roots, thorns, claws? digging

into the fleshy parts of him. He also felt four sets of angry eyes branding

his silly, townboy ass.

The vehicle, he then saw, was one of those low-loading trucks with an

open back section and a front cab. It was red. Rusty. But somehow angry

too. In the open back section, two men were standing, hands gripping the

roof of the cab. One of them had a large, dead creature draped about his

shoulders like a scarf. Richard could see the front and back paws of it. In

April 2013 25


the front, two more men. The one closest to him, the passenger, had his

window rolled down. A thick arm draped out of it. There was mud and

maybe blood on that arm. Richard couldn’t make out much of the driver.

Just his angry eyes.

One of them shut off the rock music. One of the men in the back—

not the one with the animal draped about his neck—kicked down the back

panel and jumped down onto the road. Grunted as he landed. Then walked

round to Richard and the hedge, his shoulders rolling as he walked, his

boot-clad feet sounding like God’s heartbeats in the sudden silence. He

regarded Richard with a cocked head. And then plunged his arm into the

hedge to drag him out of it. By the coat collar. Richard had no choice in the

matter. Nor did he choose to have this big bowling-ball headed man dust

him down, spank the leaves and crap off his coat.

“Wha yer think yer doin walkin this time o’ night?” The man had a

strong local accent. He sounded almost bumpkinish. “Get yerself killed.”

Another spank across the front of Richard’s coat.

Richard opened and closed his mouth like a grounded fish.

The man narrowed his eyes. “What yer doin here?” He threw out his arms

in an expansive gesture, indicating the whole, dark countryside, and Richard

flinched. “Yer one o’ they protestors?”

Richard’s brow became furrowed. “I–I’m not sure what you mean.”

The man jerked a thumb back to the back section of the truck. His

colleague nodded his head down at the creature which was draped about

his neck. Richard bit his lip.

“Whass he up to, Neil?” bellowed the driver, leaning over in the seat

so that now Richard could see more of him. Like the others, he was a big

guy. Type Richard would cross the road to avoid in town or, if he’d encountered

him in a pub, he’d have queued over another side of the bar and

perhaps, if the barkeep deigned to serve Richard first, Richard would have

bitten back pride and nodded over, whispering, serve that guy first. All of

them looked as though they worked the land. As though farm machinery

shaped their wide shoulders and their hands had grown necessarily large

through the handling of large things. Things larger than the common or

garden pens and laptop bags Richard handled on a daily basis. “Wha yer

up to, lad?”

This second question was directed at Richard, and he was momentarily

taken aback. It was a long time since anybody had called him ‘lad’. Even

26 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


when he was at college, his typically careworn features and his sighing,

disappointed attitude seemed to make everybody think he carried more

years than he really owned. And the question stoppered his tongue. So that

all that came out was a dry, clucking sound. He fumbled in the pockets of

his Barbour jacket—bought that very afternoon—for a handkerchief to buy

himself some time.

“Well?”

Richard hung his head, like he’d been caught out at something.

When he thinks back on this now, he realizes they were the ones who’d

really been caught out and he wonders how he never saw it then.

The driver changed tack. “That your car back there?”

Richard looked up. Something in him snagged. He imagined the metallic

roar as the big truck dragged its flanks against the side of his Volvo. Imagined

the scratches, the decapitated wing-mirrors they must have left in

their wake. He forced himself to be calm. Nodded.

“Wanna move that off the road proper. Onto the sidings.” This was

the man with the creature about his neck. It was the first time he’d spoken.

“Almost ploughed that bastud we did.”

Almost. Richard gulped.

“Not safe out here.” The driver’s comment was greeted with nods of

approval from his passengers. “Yer wanna go back to yer car an’ go back to

town.”

“I do,” agreed Richard. He was nodding too now, like some mechanical

toy left on the back window ledge of a car. “I really do.” The words were

tumbling out of him at last like some huge sigh of relief. “Look, I’m sorry I

was… you know… here. Sorry I made you… you know… stop.”

The man who’d helped him out of the hedge shrugged largely. Some

bone, some piece of muscle or cartilage in his neck, crunched. “No bother,”

he grunted. Then narrowed his eyes. “Long as yer not one o’ they environment

wallahs.”

“The Environment—” Richard stopped. His eyes twitched involuntarily

to the man with the creature draped about his neck. Then, too quickly:

“No… No of course I’m not. I’m just a regular—”

“Yer saw nothin.” The driver fixed him with eyes as fiery as the

truck’s headlights. He rolled up his lip into a sneer. A real sneer, not like

the ones Richard had been attempting most of his adult life.

The guy who’d helped him out of the hedge extended the arm of

April 2013 27


friendship once again, this time helping him down from the bank, or

what these men called the siding, and down onto the road, so that he was

braced against the back section of the truck. And Richard meekly allowed

himself to be led. And he allowed himself to be brushed—patted? — down

and then sent on his way with another meaty paw slapped against his

back and a few cracks about not wandering into hedges again for good

measure. The men roared with exclusive in-joke laughter. Richard felt on

the brink of tears; the brushes and pats were harder, far harder, than they

needed to be. They left behind a strange burning sensation in his chest

afterwards, like the big man’s touch had scorched through the wax of his

Barbour coat, through the grungy thickness of his pullover, and into his

skin. Richard winced, tried to ignore the pain, and his reaction was greeted

with another burst of guttural laughter from the men. The report of

this laughter cracked back off the metal of the truck.

And Richard accepted this. He took it as his due. He wanted to

cause no more friction here. He simply wanted to slip away, smoothly,

leave these men to their own creasy devices. But as he began to shuffle

away in an awkward crabwise walk so as to heft past the truck, Richard

happened to look down into the bottom of it. And now he wishes

he hadn’t. Because what he saw, he knows, will remain with him for the

rest of his life—like some scar in his brain, or like an imperfection in his

retina, which means whenever he now sees an animal, he will also, in his

mindseye, see this. Like some ghastly palimpsest. For laid, piled, onto the

metal of the back section of the truck, Richard saw furs. Skins. No: fuller

than that. They were bodies. A slag-heap of animal bodies. Bodies with

their necks twisted or their paws sheared off or with crater holes in their

flanks. Bodies bent into unnatural angles. Confused bodies, so that Richard

couldn’t tell where one body ended and the next began. He saw dead

eyes, cold as tombstones and as shiny as taxidermist’s buttons, staring

back at him.

They were all of them badgers, though it took him some time to

work this out. For their fur wasn’t simple black and white, like in the

picture books. The coloring of them was more a dull blue and rain-cloud

grey. And their snouts were longer than he’d expected, their showed teeth

sharper, and their claws redder. Perhaps fear, or rage, at the end, had

changed them.

Richard was jerked out of his awful reverie by the sound of one of

28 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


the men hauling himself up onto the back of the truck, where he landed

with a heavy clang. His eyes followed the sound, and when he looked up,

he saw the silhouette of the other man, the one with the creature draped

about his neck. This man grinned. His grin was gap-toothed and sinister.

Richard’s brain at once showed him two quite distinct options, fight or

flight. And even before he had a chance to consider the pros and cons of

each, his body was reacting, signaling for him to lower his head like some

subservient dog, wiring him up to shuffle away, into the night. He heard

the gunshot crackle of the men’s laughter as he went. He felt his eyes and

nose streaming, too, like some allergic reaction. And when he lifted his

arm to wipe away the runoff on his sleeve, he smelled the grave, mulchy

stink of death around him, fresh, coppery and horrific. This aroma was to

remain with him all the way back up the road to his car. He can still smell

it now, like some of it has caught on one of the hairs in his nostrils and has

clung on, like some burr.

When he got back to the car, he collapsed against the wing of it, broken.

He couldn’t catch his breath properly. His heart was skipping beats.

There was a very real sense his heart had taken too much shock and was

now clunking into failure. He could still feel the burn of the man’s touch

on his flesh, and it made him want to tear off his coat, his pullover, his

check shirt and let the balm of the night air salve him. Gauche fingers shivered

for awkward buttons. A trickle of sweat, or tears, pooled in the corners

of his eyes. He looked down at the coat, willing the buttons to creep out

of the blur. And they did, finally. He saw them. But he also saw something

else. There was a hole in the chest of his new Barbour jacket. A profoundly

perfect round hole the size of a grape, cut into the wax. And as he looked

closer, he saw the hole was charred around the edges. Scorched. As though

something had entered him there. As though the man’s touch truly had

burned him.

This aftershock, following so soon in the wake of the sight of the dead

animals in the back of the truck, acted to galvanize him. It forced him

into the car, back onto the roads, back to civilization. He’s come to understand

that this had a secondary, collateral effect. It meant he never truly

considered what the hell the hole was, what had been done to him, until

later. Because if he had thought about it, out there in the liminal, gloaming

night, he might have terrified himself into meek submission. He might

have simply laid down across the Mohican of the road and let fate take him

away.

April 2013 29


He got back to the B & B running on pure adrenaline. Dosed himself

up with a good few measures of Famous Grouse before he could face removing

his clothes to check whether the man’s touch had marked him on

the flesh. But when he was naked, there was not a scratch on him, and he

let out the long, raggedy breath that until that moment, he hadn’t realized

he’d been holding. It could have been that he’d been holding it the moment

he’d first heard the sound of the truck much, much earlier on this strange,

strange night.

After he’d studied his body for a long time in front of the full-length

mirror, he retired to the bathroom. Bathed and scrubbed himself until his

flesh was red and raw. He wanted to wash his eyes down, too. And burn his

coat. Transform the wax into a molten pile of dribbling green so that there

was no hole to be found in it.

And then, finally, he sat there, on the small wooden chair behind

the pinewood desk, clutching a coffee in both hands like it was some kind

of beacon, like it might alleviate the shaking. Trying to work out whether

there was any meaning in the narrative of the night or whether, at the end

of it, it was all incoherence, like he’d always thought life really was.

When he couldn’t face the big questions any longer, he tried to piece together

the puzzle of the smaller ones. He’d his laptop with him—Angela

had truly needed to believe he was working away in Glasgow—and he

opened it up, logged on to the B & B’s faint wireless network, and began to

trawl through the online versions of some of the local newspapers, thinking

maybe there he might find some kind of explanation for the men he’d

encountered.

In amongst the puff pieces about cattle markets and planning disputes

and pub quiz nights, he found buried a story in the Chronicle which

made him sit up and take notice. It concerned a proposed badger cull

which was to take place across Gloucestershire and Somerset. According

to the article, badgers had been proven to carry bovine TB, and the Department

for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had green-lighted this

cull in order to protect livestock. Only, there’d been petitions, demonstrations—the

Queen guitarist Brian May had been prominent in these—and

the cull had been postponed. Richard decided that the men he’d seen—the

hunters—must have taken it upon themselves to get the job done whilst

Defra dithered, whilst townies like him ummed and aahed over the moral

ramifications. He decided this hunting party was an example of that

30 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


old-fashioned thing: men taking the law into their own hands. Men taking

that law and crushing it, like some animal’s heart, so that the blood trickled

through their fingers, or else the heat of that law became tattooed onto

the largeness of their palms.

These were things—the laws, the caring, the bloodied hands—which

Richard barely recognized, but at least they explained something about the

sheer outlaw nature of the night. And so Richard finally decided to go to

bed. And it was as he was tossing and turning, trying to forget that grave,

mulchy smell, or the gleam of those dead eyes in the back of the truck, that

he’d fixed upon his idea. His hope. He would rescue just one badger from

this mass slaughter, perform this one, somewhat minor act of salvation,

and maybe, just maybe, karma would give him a break.

So now he’s here, in the fields, and all he can think of is collecting

this badger in his carry case. What he’ll do once he has it remains a mystery.

Will he take it back to Angela like some offering to the altar of her?

Will he simply release it into the wild somewhere else, outside the red

borders of Somerset and Gloucestershire? He doesn’t know. He can’t bring

himself to think on this now because to think is to restrict his actions and

to invite doubt back in. And he won’t let himself doubt now, even though

it sucks at his Wellington boots every time he plunges them into the wet

ground.

Walking has become an endurance test, but this is good because it is

a distraction. He feels the burn in the backs of his legs and the strain in his

hamstrings. His breath rasps in the cold air. But that is good, too.

Whenever he fixes his eyes on the darkness of the hedge as it sprawls out

before him, he picks out an audience of bright eyes which watch him unblinkingly.

But whenever he reaches the spot where the eyes were, they

have disappeared. Occasionally, he hears rustling in the hedgerow, but

again, whenever he closes in on it, it ceases to exist. But he remembers the

badgers from the back of the truck, recalls the size of the one scarfed about

the man’s neck, too. And he thinks the creatures he’s seen and heard so far

are too small to be badgers.

Sometimes thoughts creep in, despite it all. He wonders whether a

badger would retreat from him. Whether it would attack.

He wonders whether the carry case is large enough. It’s only meant

for a cat. It’s the biggest size they had in the Petscene store, but it still might

April 2013 31


not be roomy enough.

He also wonders whether the fact he’s here to save a badger means

anything. Whether it is somehow symbolic. Badgers are not the most loveable

of animals. They’re not cute, or rare, or useful. They’re prickly. Awkward.

Nobody will thank him for saving a badger. But he’s committed now

and somehow it seems if he fails at this, even if nobody knows he’s failed,

he’ll still know, so there is something at stake.

He’s a good couple of miles into the fields now, and he’s reached yet

another point at which he could turn back. There is a wire-mesh fence

which cuts across his path. It is topped with barbed wire and wispy strands

of wool hang off it from where sheep have stepped too close. This wool

reminds him of his grandfather’s yellow-white hair which he used to twiddle

when he was a very small boy. He doesn’t think he’s thought about his

grandfather’s hair, the oily thinness of it, since he was a not-much-larger

boy. And somehow, he takes this as a sign he’s on the right track. Past the

fence, the fields give way to woodland, and it is dark and unknowable in

there, and yet he decides he must bite back his fear and plunge into it, as

though his grandfather has just whispered in his ear.

Richard tosses the carry case over the fence and it lands on its side.

Whatever’s inside it rattles around some, and then comes to a rest. He

hears other sounds too. The pitter-patter of tiny feet scratching through

leaves, the larger noises of bigger animals crashing through undergrowth.

From the distance, he believes he hears the chug of an engine. And it is this

sound which braces him to lift the barbed wire with one gloved finger and

then limbo underneath it.

First thing he does is he rights the case. Then, carefully, and with

thumby fingers, he removes the mesh front of it. He thinks about reaching

inside in order to discover whatever it is that’s been rattling around

in there, imagining his fingers closing around something unexpected,

something which would tell him beyond a doubt that being here was the

right thing, something which would tell him that it was fate, or karma, had

dragged him out here. But snatches his hand back, thinking sometimes it is

best not to know.

Instead, he reaches into his pocket again. Closes his fingers around

the packet of food he’s stored in there. Cat food it is, bought from the same

pet store. He tears it open with his teeth and presses out the gloopy contents

onto the lip of the case. Then he moves away from the case. Finds a

32 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


large tree with a thick trunk he can lean against and he sits, back braced

against it. Waits, looking out into the clearing by the fence, betting against

time.

He plays games with himself, with his own endurance. He allows

himself one glance at the screen of his cell phone every fifteen minutes. Out

here, this quarter-hour drags so that sometimes he convinces himself he’s

waited nearly an hour, and then he looks and sees only seven minutes have

creaked past. Nobody sends him a message, nor will he get one here—no

reception—but he keeps up the ritual, at least until he notices the phone is

running out of juice, and then he weans himself off the habit. Just in case.

Sometimes, he forgets where he is. Or he believes he’s watching some

screen. And this relaxes him. Somehow, it is warmer in the woods. Something

to do with how closely packed the trees are in this circle surrounding

the clearing, or else he’s just used to the cold. He’s worked in one office or

another all of his working life. Sometimes he thinks they set the heating in

these offices so that it will eventually melt all ambition out of him, so that

he’ll become like the frog dropped in the saucepan, so that he won’t register

the heat gradually rising, so he won’t realize it is starting to become painful.

Perhaps being out here is the reverse of that. Perhaps he’s really getting

colder, only his body hasn’t realized it.

He feels his eyelids drooping after a while. There’s been no activity in

the clearing, at the carry case, and it won’t hurt just to close his eyes properly

for five minutes will it? Every time he finds himself thinking this way, he

reminds himself he’s sitting on mud, not on the bedspread at the B & B, or

he tries to fix his ears on the faraway drone of that engine. Mostly, he tells

himself he’s not a hunter, far from it, and therefore he has to be even more

alert than the average man.

When he finally sees the badger, it is by mistake. So for a while he

deliberately does not look directly at it, but continues to regard it out of the

corner of his eye. It is as though in turning his head, in fixing his eyes on

this visceral creature, he will transform it into something else, something

looser and less well defined. It is a pessimistic form of optimism by which

he’s achieved a number of other things in his life, such as getting married

to Angela. He’d been staring off into the trees over the other side of the

clearing. Counting the number of mushrooms which had molded their way

onto the trunks. Had to be over two hundred of them and the thought of

them, poisonous and sporey, made him gag, almost. And then, to the side,

April 2013 33


in amongst the weight of the weeds and the tumble of fallen leaves, he saw

a pair of eyes sparkling out of the undergrowth.

They are definitely eyes and they are definitely watching him. And

the cat food. And the carry case. So Richard remains as still as stone and

regulates his breathing to such an extent he may as well be hewn from

stone. And gradually, the badger edges forward, and Richard feels his heart

quicken. A sudden urge to shout rears up in him, like that time he and his

father had been fishing once, way back in the mists of time, and his father

had seen the kingfisher spearing through the clammy silence over the river,

and he’d simply yelled ‘Yes!’ as though he was celebrating a goal, and then

the kingfisher had been gone and they never saw it again. His father had

probably frightened the life out of it.

Richard keeps schtum and the badger slowly, painfully slowly, shows

more of himself. First, the long snout, twitching, taking in the scent of the

cat food and that of Richard. Then a better look at those eyes. Richard can’t

rightly fix upon what those eyes seem to convey, whether there is meaning

or emotion in them, or whether it is simply animal blandness.

For a while, the badger performs a strange, ponderous dance-like

ritual. He’ll creep forward and then fall back, as though readying himself

for something he has to do, something he’s not quite sure about but tempted

by nonetheless. And though Richard chastises himself for his anthropomorphism,

there are occasions that the badger looks as though he is

doing exactly that. But then the badger yawns—what big teeth he has—and

Richard thinks maybe he is wrong, maybe the badger’s not bothered by this

situation at all. Maybe he is simply doing what badgers do.

Slowly, slowly the badger breaks cover, and now when he does, he

doesn’t turn all the way back. Richard sees he is a big boar of a badger,

larger than he’d given him credit for, and his body seems to be made of

pure muscle. It is as though the body of him is made of something weighty,

some heavy metal, which is camouflaged with blue-black and grey-white

fur, and his legs bow to contain the heft of it. Or perhaps Richard is reading

this wrong too.

Come on, he urges, silently. A few more steps…

But even though they are spoken in his head, it is as though the

words have somehow broken the spell, inviting something else, bitter human

reality, into the clearing. With a start, Richard sees the artificial lights

frittering through the leaves. And then he hears the clumping sounds of

34 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


heavy boot-clad, dead-leather-clad, feet through thick undergrowth. And

he knows these are heavy feet which want to sound more piano than they

are, so the steps are exaggerated. He can read these signals far more effectively

than he can those of the badger. Conversely, it appears the badger has

absolutely no idea what the hell is going on. He flicks his head right, glares

at Richard as though believing he made the clumping sounds, and then,

seeing Richard unmoving, the badger looks back at the carry case, for the

first time identifying it as a potential danger.

The badger freezes.

“Shoo,” Richard hisses at the creature. “Go away! Go on, get!”

If he had the time to examine his emotions in this outlaw moment,

pulling away the camouflage of them to reveal the true interior, Richard

would mark that, for some reason, right now, he believes his fate is somehow

wrapped up in that of the badger. That the two of them have here, in

this clearing, become somehow entwined, so that the badger is at once a

representation of him and his awkwardness, the bristly, uneven nature of

his subjectivity, the way he sees the world, and also something entirely separate,

something that he needs to save.

And as the clumping noises increase in volume and Richard believes

he can smell the sour stink of the men’s sweat and the Lynx they tried to

cover it up with, and then, underscoring that, the deeper reek of their raw

and untreated natures too, as though he is sniffing with the snout of a badger,

the badger himself breaks out of his trance. He runs low to the ground.

Scurrying off one way, towards the fence, and then hitting it and turning,

desperately, fleeing the other, his barrel body tense, his fur standing on

end. Like Richard’s. And then, finally, releasing a pained grunt and kicking

up the dirt with his claws as though attempting to bury himself.

And all the while, the hunters dragging closer. So close Richard can

pick out the individual movements of them. The click of a kneecap, the

swish of a sleeve against the torso of a coat, one hissed command. And

then the clunk-click of shotguns being hitched onto shoulders and the

crick-crack of them loaded. And before he knows what he is doing, Richard’s

pushing himself up from the ground and loping into the clearing,

waving his arms about his head just as he did when he thought the hunters’

truck was about to combine harvester him into oblivion.

There is a madness in Richard now. It is as though in all his attempts

to re-wire his brain, he has somehow skipped back, deep, deep into the

April 2013 35


ecesses of genetic memory and has uncovered himself as animal. He

couldn’t speak now. Language is not a part of him. Would Angela crash

into the clearing, he would regard her as an alien species.

When it happens, the thing he, the badger, and the hunters have

all been primed for: the badger almost jumping the gun, playing his proscribed

role early—explaining his reticence to enter the clearing in the first

place, his wait for the cue; Richard’s inexplicable urge to be here; the incontrovertible

fact of the huntsmen…it all happens at once and too fast and so

incoherently, it is as though everyone who plays a part in it has suddenly

forgotten, or never knew in the first place, about narrative and fate and

consequence.

It is all just sensation. The blaze of artificial light as four powerful

torches invade the clearing. The scrabbling urgency of the badger. The

warning shout. The answering smell of fear. The crack of the gunshot. A

moment iced in time. A bullet seen from every angle, travelling, spearing

through the moment, through history, geography, and reality like a kingfisher.

Felt, heard, seen all at the same time.

Then the gunshot’s report, crackling around the woods, ricocheting

off trunks of trees, bulleting, balleting off branches. The badger kicking up

dirt, leaping up off the ground and twisting like a salmon. Men, shadow

shapes looming out of the darkness behind the torch beams and conspiring

towards Richard and the badger who now, strangely, occupy the same

space. And then Richard stumbling, falling. Blacking out. And no more.

No more.

***

When he comes to, Richard is sure he’s been shot. There is pain all

over him, like his whole body is suffering a migraine. Like pain is something

he could tug on and wear, like some wetsuit. He hardly dares check

for blood because he knows it will be there, soaking into the sponge of the

clearing, claiming him.

He closes his eyes and thinks of all the things he regrets, mostly

things he hasn’t done, hasn’t achieved, and then decides those things were

all pointless anyway. And so he believes himself ready for death, and secretly

wonders whether this was not what he hoped to achieve in the first

place. Sod all these midnight romantic walks or checking out the lay of

36 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


the land or saving a badger. All he was trying to do was navigate his way

around the sticky subject, the burry subject, of his own mortality, and then

snuff it out. Dead.

But he can feel the wetness of the ground under him and the fallen

leaves and he can smell—he believes—gunpowder in the air too. And his

foot begins to twitch like he’s held it too long in the wrong position and,

before he can stop himself, he’s cracked open an eye and is surveying the

clearing from this odd angle as though he’s just opened the earth of his

own grave.

He sucks in a deep breath of life-affirming air.

Then he lifts his head, scans his eyes across the clearing. He looks

for the dead body of the badger, for the huntsmen. But he sees no sign of

them. Not even any blood. His heart slows. He raises a numb hand to it, as

though to make sure of his heart, as though he must push it back into his

chest. And when he does, he touches that strange hole in his Barbour jacket.

The one with the charred edges like it is the site of some small, landed

asteroid.

He can’t feel any pain there any more. The burning sensation has

gone away.

From the trees, he hears the twittering of birds. They are rowdy for

the coming sun and eager to tell somebody about it. And Richard feels

rowdy too, suddenly. Fresh in his body and keen. He drags himself to his

feet and stands, scratching his head, trying to work out just what has gone

on here. How he is still alive.

He fixes on the carry case and as soon as he sees it, he feels drawn to

it. Perhaps the badger is inside, having slunk away to die somewhere quiet

and enclosed. That’s what living things do, isn’t it?

But the badger is not inside.

Something else is though. Richard remembers the rolling thing inside

it. The thing he didn’t want to contemplate earlier because somehow he

believed it could be something symbolic. Angela’s wedding ring perhaps.

Her house keys. Certainly whatever it was sounded as though it contained

some metal. But the thought is ridiculous, he sees now. Angela has had no

access to the carry case. Knows nothing of its existence, nor of his nocturnal

haunting of this stretch of countryside which could be anywhere in the

world. Now Richard has it in him to find out what is in the case, and he

reaches inside it, clawing his fingers to grab it. It rolls away in response to

April 2013 37


his touch and again he hears the metallic sound as in hits the plastic side

of the case. But he tries again and this time closes a gloved fist about it and

pulls it out, clutched inside that fist like a torn-out heart.

One finger at a time, he reveals what has been inside the case. And

then he discovers that all he has known about the world and everything

in it has been wrong, that there is magic as well as the moribund. Because

what he is clutching in his hand is the bullet he saw fired at him. Actually,

it is a shot cartridge. Red plastic with a silver tip. The weight of it tells him

it has not been fired. The weight of it is too much for him to hold and he

tosses it to one side, into the undergrowth, and then collapses down onto

his knees as though he is still holding it and it is now trying to dig him

down into the very earth.

When he gets ahold of himself, he slinks over to the undergrowth

and tries to rediscover the cartridge, but even though the thing is red and

everything else is green, or dark, he can’t fix upon it. And he wonders if

he is dreaming, whether this is all the narrative of the longest dream he’s

ever had because there seems to be a message here for him, and it seems so

clear. He is alive, but he has been carrying death about with him, draped

about his neck like some butchered creature, in the hole in his coat, in his

carry case. He can’t fail to see the literalism in the symbols. Even as the

symbols themselves are beginning to cover their tracks, dissipate into the

reality of his wakefulness.

Richard stands again, removes his gloves and brushes leaf mulch off

him with bare hands. Even the hole in his Barbour coat seems to be disappearing

now, waning into nothingness. Although it was nothing to start

with, so perhaps it is becoming something. Wax, material, warmth.

He blows out his cheeks. All around him, steam seems to be pouring

up through pores in the very ground so that he can barely see his feet. And

from the east, he sees light creeping back into the world. And he feels like

shouting, laughing. But he won’t, because that same shouting and laughing

may become a primal scream. He feels himself close to the edge of something

and to open his mouth, to give voice to everything he feels at this

moment, could plunge him into the abyss.

This is not a bad feeling, and some of him wants to plunge, wants to

leave everything behind him, live like some wildman in the woods. And

he still might, but for now, he wants to see where this excitement will take

him. Casting one last look at the clearing, he leaves. He leaves the carry

case, the shot cartridge in the undergrowth, and the cat food exactly where

38 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


it is, walks life back into his aching legs. Walks life back into his mind, too.

Now he vaults over the barbed-wire topped fence.

Somewhere at the back of his mind, a snide, cynical voice wants to

tell him he fell back there in the clearing. Bumped his head. He’s suffering

from concussion.

It tells him he’s maybe just come through some genus of nervous

breakdown. Perhaps he’s been ill in the head a long time and he’s only recognized

it now he’s, well, feeling better.

The voice tells him that there’s no such things as miracles, not even

the tiny ones like the one he’s just suffered.

But for now, he won’t listen to that voice. That voice belongs to the

darkness. And Richard’s seen the light. The light is not God, it is something

else. Something essential, something everyone knows about, something

profound which has been on the tip of his tongue for most of his life,

only he’s been looking at it from the wrong angle. And in this moment,

he feels closer to expressing it than he ever has before. As he stomps back

across the fields, passing through the herd of sleep-numbed cattle, giving

the occasional one of them a pat on the rump, he rehearses the message of

this night in his head, but soon it begins to lose clarity. And then, as the

sun properly crests, he forgets it all, the whole entirety of it.

But it doesn’t matter.

The only time A.J. Kirby speaks in the third person is

in biographies. He is the author of six published novels,

the most recent of which, Paint This Town Red, was

shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize in

2012, and his short fiction has won numerous awards

at UK literary festivals. He is also a reviewer for The

Short Review and The New York Journal of Books. A.J.

Kirby lives in Leeds, UK.

www.andykirbythewriter.20m.com

April 2013 39


For WheN you Were

40 Writing Tomorrow Magazine

A cAcTus

Luke Benjamin

I came upon you in the desert

past sidewinding snake prints

and rabbitbrush twitching

with the movements of lizards

—you, little cactus

freshly formed, still a shade of purple

who put tiny holes in my hands

so small the blood could barely draw

but it was your power I sought

and in the blistering daylight

I plucked your pink and yellow spines,

peeled your darkening skin

and swallowed your wet and bitter meat

and it was you

little cactus

who gave me your eyes

to enter the dry night

and see the looming shadows of time

and the hovering uncertainties of form


it was you I kept hearing

in the shape-shifting darknesses,

you who played tricks with my tongue

and with my mind

and you who showed me

the faces of truth

but assured me they could never be held

and it wasn’t until dawn

as the light broke as if

through thousands of prisms,

and the outer layer of all things

subtly shifted in its flame

that I came to know

why you and I are here

and what we must do.

April 2013 41


iG sur loG—MooN oF

MANy rAiNboWs

42 Writing Tomorrow Magazine

Luke Benjamin

o turning red-tailed hawk

spread against the air

pushing out above the slope and sea

I saw the morning sun

reflecting on the ridges of your wings

there is snow on the hills above you

and I have already forgotten last night’s dreams

/

o dashing rocks!

what mysteries cling to your sides?

the moon has pressed the sea against you

and with the wind makes you jagged and dark

perched upon your ridges I have seen

the meeting of realms,

felt the rumble of a dancing sea,

heard a song my tongue won’t sing.

sea lion sea lion

who glides through dark water,

what do you see

when your eyes first emerge

and are touched with rain?

/


wisp of fog

in from the sea

the wet valleys

shudder in the wind

the rain stops

but its song remains

duetting with the trees

jade stone sea

maker of stones!

in your waves

I found my breath

though you said

nothing at all

Luke Benjamin was born among swamps in New

England. It didn’t take him long to hit the road, and

he’s been exploring the shapes of continents ever

since. Aside from poetry, he finds a living channeling

music and altering wood. He currently lives in a

vegetable-oil powered bus, among the mountains, on

Turtle Island. midnightponcho.bandcamp.com

/

April 2013 43


oN WriTiNG:

WAKe up WorN-ouT Words ANd FAded phrAses

By Noelle Sterne

Let’s face it—we all use clichés. They spill out easily and, we think, spark our

writing with color. Like an old shoe—er, favorite flip-flops—they’re reliable

and relievedly comfortable.

Maybe clichés are acceptable in conversation, but they’re no way to write.

They reek with flaccid platitudes, wilted metaphors, tired similes, and every

other trite, hackneyed, stereotyped, commonplace, overused word, phrase,

and expression. Clichés are lazy automatic reflexes and bypass the need to

think. They require no ingenuity but only mindless convention-following.

The only excusable exception could be your creation of a deliberately clichésoaked

character for dramatic or satiric effect.

Why Succumb?

If you want your writing to shine, why succumb to clichés? Are you

convinced they attach you to great literary tradition? They don’t. Do they

“feel” right, inspired, or perfect? They’re not.

Clichés only feel right because we’re so used to them—the old slipper

syndrome. So guard against that cozy feeling. If it feels instantly appropriate,

watch out. If it comes effortlessly, don’t trust it. If you know you’ve heard and

read it before, excise it like a stinging splinter. And ever after, avoid it like the

plague—er—a sneezer in a crowd.

Editors aren’t fooled by clichés. They look for writing that’s fresh, original,

snappy—new takes on old bottles. At the first whiff of a cliché, an editor will

likely drop the manuscript into the editorial garbage like spoiled fruit—er—

overripe feet.

Do you need more reasons? Consider why you write and read. I do both

for amusement, learning, and that “A-ha!” feeling. Clichés don’t give

44 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


writers or readers any of these rewards but only the quick fix of superficial

understanding. With clichés, instead of “A-ha-ing” the reader, writers evoke

nods of smug comprehension and, for the more discriminating, boredom

and possibly annoyance.

The Case for Clichés

But if you must use clichés—and occasionally, they really are apt—enliven

them. Convert them to the unexpected but relevant. Then, instead of

readers groaning at your predictability, they’ll snort with laughter or grin

with admiration at your cleverness. They’ll feel a jolt of pleasure at your

word mix and, if they’re writers, a stab of jealousy.

So, to help you dazzle editors, peers, and your fancy-attorney big sister, here

are three principles I’ve discovered for literary CPR. Others may exist for

regenerating weary words, but these three can save the lives of your dying,

rejected manuscripts.

Revival 1: Puns

Puns or wordplay will revive your writing. The key is to twist (or torture)

a cliché to relate to your subject. Two punning principles will help you

renew well-tread phrases and show off your wit as well: homophones and

homonyms (pardon the pedantry).

Homophones. These are two words that are pronounced the same way but

spelled differently, as in write, right.

For my children’s book of dinosaur riddles (Tyrannosaurus Wrecks: A Book

of Dinosaur Riddles; New York: Harper/Collins), the title riddle plays on a

homophone:

What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks.

For less fossilized uses of homophones, look at the following examples and

notice how punning power invigorates the clichés.

In another children’s book, the household pets took over the town:

“It was reigning cats and dogs.”

April 2013 45


Alternatively, in a political science essay:

“The animal kingdom has a unique form of government. It

reigns cats and dogs.”

In a report on mishaps along a mountain-winding highway:

“Most drivers make it down the mountain with lots of lucky

brakes.”

For an article on the rising divorce rate:

“Today, more couples than ever have tied the not.”

In an interview with a mountain climber on his next challenge:

“Mount Manyboobs certainly peaks my interest.”

Homonyms. Close kin of homophones, homonyms are two words spelled

the same way but with different meanings: pen (writer’s tool) and pen (pig

farmer’s tool).

For an article on fast-track careerists:

“The burned-out Wall Street broker could no longer stand

hearing all those stock phrases.”

For a report on a history-making earthquake in a tranquil countryside:

“The rolling hills never stopped.”

In a report on a haunted house:

“After we heard terrible banging and hammering noises,

unbelieving, we saw a skeleton crew.”

The last riddle of my dinosaur book puns on an aged homonym:

What did the fossil scientist say to the dinosaur?

“Dig you later.”

The Alphabet. You can also use the alphabet to access puns and wordplay.

For the book, I reflected how dinosaurs would spend their weekends and

knew I’d never deprive them of Sunday brunch. To a native New Yorker like

myself, this naturally means bagels and lox. So, I put both words through

their alphabetical paces. Substitution of other consonants for the “b” in

“bagels” was a bust (“cagel,” “dagel,” “tagel”), but the “lox” exchange yielded a

46 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


meal:

What does a dinosaur have for Sunday brunch?

Bagels and rocks.

When you mentally doodle with one letter at a time, both vowels and

consonants, you whet your creative juices. As you let your unconscious

percolate, new combinations of words and ideas pop up, and you chortle at

your surprising, delicious innate cleverness.

The alphabetical method can also be used for any cliché that surfaces too

easily: For example, A room of one’s own:

For an article on native Indian weavers,

“When girls reach adolescence, at a special ceremony they’re

given a loom of their own.”

For an article on sextuplets,

“The one thing each craved was a womb of his own.”

Revival 2: Related Words and Phrases

When you use this approach, start with a cliché but alter (or mutilate) it by

words and phrases that connect to your subject.

In the riddle book, I played on the cry of mall-weary women, “My feet are

killing me!”

What did one dinosaur shopper say to another?

“Your feet are killing me.”

On one’s last legs: For a report on county fairs,

“By sundown, the girl in the kissing booth was on her last lips.”

Sticks out like a sore thumb: In a fashion review,

“The celebrity dentist in tasseled tux stuck out like gold front

teeth.”

Forest for the trees: For a report on a wedding reception in the woods,

“You couldn’t see the forest for the aunts.” (Note bonus pun:

April 2013 47


“ants”–“aunts.”)

Dead of night: For a psychological profile of prison inmates,

“Doubtless wanting to be caught, she committed the crime in

the dead of day.”

Separation of church and state: For a profile of a certain former president,

“He seemed to have difficulty separating skirt and state.”

Revival 3: Surprise Endings

Not only an excellent humor device, the surprise ending is also a great way

to energize fatigued phrases. Begin with a bald-tire phrase and bend (or

warp) it in a surprising, unforeseen, funny, or satiric way, connecting to

your subject:

Knight in shining armor: For a romance story,

“She hoped this Halloween party would deliver her knight in

shining armor. Instead, she was approached by her cross-

dressing neighbor, a knight in sequined pantyhose.”

Bloom is off the rose: For a piece on graduate students’ difficulties in

finishing their dissertations,

“By the second year, the bloom is off the research.” (Note

alliteration to original cliché.)

For an article on ballet dancers at a prestigious ballet school,

“Three weeks after their elation at acceptance, the bloom was

off their toes.” (Note use of alphabetical method.)

Those nearest and dearest: In an advice column on breaking bad news to

family members,

“Tell the truth to those nearest, dearest, and most

hysterical.”

The title of Judi Barrett’s classic children’s book, of which I’ve always been

bilious with envy, delivers a perfect surprise ending. Schools use the book to

teach children about the weather, and now it’s a feature film. The title:

48 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

And finally, a possibly irreverent application of the Biblical verse, Only the

pure in heart can see God:

“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”

Who said this? Not Billy Graham or Betty Crocker—but Herr Beethoven!

In Confusion . . .

Exhausted words surround us—in conversations, on TV and radio, and

every print medium you lay your eyes on (oops!). With these examples,

you’ll be more sensitive to overtired sentences and depleted descriptions

when you encounter them and find yourself magnetically, monotonously

repeating them in your writing. Collect them if you like, but, on pain of

dozing readers, don’t use them in their expected state.

The principles here will help you refresh, revitalize, refurbish, reinvent,

resuscitate, and rejuvenate clichés in your works. You’ll improve them and

feel prouder of your productions. Readers will chuckle, and even your

sister-big lawyer will admire you. And you’ll very likely increase your rate of

acceptance and publication.

Noelle Sterne, Ph.D., is an author, editor, ghostwriter, writing

coach, and spiritual counselor, with over 300 pieces in print and

online venus and a current column in Coffeehouse for Writers.

For over 28 years she has assisted doctoral candidates to

complete their dissertations. Her book, Trust Your Life: Forgive

Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), contains

examples from her practice, writing, and other aspects of life

to help readers let go of regrets, re-label their past, and reach

their lifelong yearnings. Her new book-in-progress, a practicalpsychological-spiritual

handbook specifically for dissertation

writers, is titled Grad U: Complete Your Dissertation—Finally

and Ease the Trip for Yourself and Everyone Who Has to Live

With You. Visit Noelle at www.trustyourlifenow.com.

April 2013 49


Wullus

Rolli

I used to like things or hate them. If I could’ve made up my mind, I

might still be okay.

I didn’t jump in the river, I dropped into it.

I hadn’t planned, but my legs kept kicking. I kept floating up. Wullus

kept encouraging me. He was in the middle of the bridge.

When I hit the water, I hit something, probably a big rock or a piece

of something. People are always dumping things in the river. At the garbage

dump you have to pay.

The river moved me. It was harder to kick because I hurt my back

bad. My arms felt different. I should’ve took my jacket off. I was moving

along without trying, the town moved by me. That’s how I’d been feeling.

“Are you hurting?” said Wullus. He was actually in the water with me

now.

I told him yeah. I did hurt a lot.

“Are you still hurting?” he asked a bit later.

50 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


Of course I was still hurting.

“That’s too bad, Kobo. Look out!”

Something stuck out of the water. It looked like rusty junk. Part of a

car? It was too dark.

It was hard moving my arms. My legs were frozen from cold. I got

around the junk almost but my shoulder clipped it. It cut where it was

jagged.

“That’s too bad,” said Wullus again. “Is it bleeding?”

I didn’t know what to tell him. It was too dark.

Wullus swam just ahead of me, on my one side. He was keeping an eye

out for junk now. Once in a while, he turned around to say something.

“What will your mom and dad do?”

I’d been thinking about that. I waited for Wullus to say something else.

“What about your stuff?”

I told Wullus he could either have it or just dump it.

“You have to pay a fee at the dump now.”

Dump it in the river then, I told him.

I have a great family. I have two parents. I love them both. When I was

thinking about them, I cried. That was a couple nights before this. I squeezed

marbles in a bag. I couldn’t get calm again.

“When will it ever end?”

I don’t know if rivers ever end. I told Wullus that.

There was one big light by itself. The park light, because it was bent.

Someone drunk crashed into it.

Sometimes I felt something brush my legs. It could’ve been a fish or

seaweed. I was never so cold in my life. Not even once.

The town ran out. It was just dark. If there wasn’t a moon, I couldn’t

see anything. The moon in the water was helpful, too. It was something I

could move towards. It was my goal.

The river got faster the more it got out of town. It got colder too, and

took my breath. I couldn’t stop breathing in.

Then I wondered what I was doing. It didn’t make sense now. I woke

up in the cold water. I still felt terrible, but I felt scared too. That means

you’re worried about your life. That got me thinking. I had to get out of this.

I might miss things. My parents both love me.

Wullus thought this was a great idea.

“The next thing I see, Kobo, you should grab onto.”

For a while there was nothing, but then there was something on the

April 2013 51


shore, a tree stump. No, a fallen down tree. There were two longer roots I

grabbed onto.

“Now just hold on tight and hope someone finds you. Don’t be scared

of yelling.”

I could really feel the river pushing now that I was holding still. It was

hard holding on. The roots were slippery and I had to keep gripping. I kept

yelling. I was in the middle of nowhere.

I needed to swing at least one leg out onto the shore to pull myself

out. I figured that out myself. But my legs were completely dead. I was

hungry. I had to think of something.

“Could you just hop out like a fish?”

I didn’t try that, but I tried squeezing the roots hard and pulling out

my whole body. That didn’t work. The one root poked my stomach, plus it

was hard holding on.

I let go of the one root.

“Uh-oh,” said Wullus.

But I grabbed onto the other root with both hands now and pulled

as hard as I could. I did almost get my hip onto the shore. I tried again but

didn’t get as far.

I was so tired. While I rested, Wullus talked, but I didn’t listen. I

couldn’t pay attention. I rested and tried again, but my hands kept slipping.

I kept trying till I was crying. But I held on.

I held on for a long time. Wullus made suggestions, but they weren’t

realistic. They didn’t make a lot of sense.

Whenever my hands slipped on the root, my heart went down. It was

sinking down in the river.

When my hands got to the end of the root, I even bit down on it. I

knew that couldn’t stop things from happening.

The river took me again.

“Uh-oh.”

Wullus ran along the shore after me. He looked worried but didn’t say

anything.

I said his name. He still didn’t say anything.

I could hardly move my arms now. My head went underwater. It

came back up.

I said Wullus again.

It felt darker and dizzy.

52 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


“I am so sorry, Kobo,” said Wullus, very clearly. “I really am sorry.”

I swallowed more water. I was underwater. I could still see the spot of

the moon on the water. It was dancing. I thought it was Wullus in the moon.

I saw my heart on the bottom of the river.

Then I drowned.

Rolli is a writer/illustrator hailing from Canada. He’s

the author of God’s Autobio (short stories), Plum Stuff

(poems/drawings), and several forthcoming titles for

adults and children. Visit his blog (www.rolliwrites.

wordpress.com), and follow his epic tweets @rolliwrites.

*artwork © Rolli 2013

April 2013 53


ToMorroW’s Words TodAy

iNTroduciNG shANiA lAKeMAN

Shania is a farm girl from a small

town in central Alberta, Canada.

She has been writing for as long as

she can remember and has been

very passionate about it. She also

has two other pieces that have been

published. In addition to her passion

for writing, she enjoys several other

hobbies: snowboarding, horse back

riding, camping, and dinner theatre. She has a taste for the darker side,

as seen in An Overseeing Perspective.

AN oVerseeiNG

perspecTiVe

Shania Lakeman

I liked the camps; they intrigued me. I liked to sit on roof tops and

watch as all the people slaved away, working and walking, working and

walking. I found it strange that they all wore the same grey uniform, tattered

and worn; they were nothing like the authoritative men I saw in the

green. Upon further analysis of these strange creatures and the strange

environment, I soon determined that the men in green were in charge of

the grey people. That’s what I would call them: the Grey People. I hopped

down from the roof to examine more closely. The Grey People were dirty

and thin, an extremely revolting sight. They reminded me of vultures,

all ugly and unkept, with hunger burning deep in their eyes. I quickly

changed my mind and decided to call them Vultures. Satisfied with my

analysis, I moved on to the men in green—how proud they stood, an air

of authority swirled around them thick enough to choke a crow. They

54 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


were clean and well fed, heads held high, guns cradled in their arms like a

newborn, or pointed at the Vultures, waiting for one to make a mistake. I

immediately took a liking to the Green Men, they reminded me of ravens,

big and strong, not afraid to attack and defend what is theirs. I called them

Ravens. I moved back to my perch and continued to observe.

There was a building to my right with smoke coming out of it and a

horrid stench that ruffled my feathers. I determined I would have to inspect

that building later; there were several small shacks, sad and desolate,

where several Vultures were exiting and entering; I came to the conclusion

that that is where they lived. It then made me curious to know where the

Ravens nested, but I soon determined that search would be for another day.

I turned my attention to a small Vulture boy sitting in a corner, facing the

wall to the outer world. I cocked my head to one side and looked at him intently;

he was eating something. I quickly descended and stood beside him,

looking at the piece of bread held in his hands. It could hardly be called

a meal, but he devoured it as if it was a kingly feast. The Vulture looked

at me, chewing his bread intently; curiosity fluttered in his eyes, then was

replaced with pain—pain that had obviously been there for longer than I’ve

ever known about these interesting camps.

The Vulture boy dropped a reasonable chunk of bread on the ground

without noticing; I leaned forward and quickly picked up the bread. I was

about to take flight when I was swatted off balance, the bread flying from

my mouth and back onto the ground. “No!” The Vulture boy screamed,

taking back his feast. I soon became angered with the insolent Vulture and

began to scream, kicking and clawing, swatting at his face.

The action soon attracted attention, and somebody spotted the bread.

There was a stampede of Vultures as they rushed to scavenge off the bread.

I almost got stomped on trying to move away from the madness, but I

managed to escape and returned to my perch. I observed the fight; what

Vultures they were, fighting over such a meager scrap when there was a

perfectly good dead man laying not twenty feet away. My eyes widened

when I saw the body, and I advanced, wanting a pick at the best parts before

my brethren came.

As I sat on the body, harvesting its eyes and plucking its skin, I continued

to watch the scene. The boy was obviously killed in the stampede,

but the Vultures didn’t seem to care much. All they wanted was the scraps

of bread. How filthy, I thought as I pulled off a chunk of the man’s lip and

April 2013 55


devoured it greedily. Finally, a Raven came over and broke up the fight…a

few Vultures tried to fight back in the heat of the moment, but they were

too weak and too stupid, so the Ravens easily took over and shot them one

by one. Not that it bothered me none.

One Raven, a big one, had something on his coat, round and shiny;

it engrossed my full attention, and I listened to this superior being. He

perched on a rather large rock and cawed loudly, getting the attention of

Vultures and Ravens alike. He spewed about authority and social place,

something about Jews—I assumed that is what they called bread—and

about how filthy it was to be one (I was confused at that point). He then ordered

another Raven to take twenty of the Vultures to the showers (whatever

those were). After the Raven made his speech and had gone on to more

important matters, one of my brethren landed, and we conversed about

what had just happened. We obviously both agreed that the Ravens were

the more superior race, and he complimented me on the clever names I had

thought of.

“Look at them, those Vultures obviously can’t take care or discipline

themselves, they need the Ravens to keep them in line. I think this is a

fantastic solution to the problem of things getting out of line.” My brother

spoke, ripping out some of the corpse’s hair.

“I completely agree brother; look at those Ravens, proud and majestic,

exterminating the lesser species. And look at how much food it provides as

well, all those bodies must feed plenty of their families. They do eat them

don’t they?”

“Well, what reason is there for them to not? It’s perfectly good meat.

Stringy and a bit tasteless, but it’s a meal none-the-less.” My brother

looked up and spotted the boy in the corner. Dead. His body mangled and

bruised, covered in foot prints left after being trampled underfoot by the

mob. “A child would be much more tender, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, it would.” I agreed, and we flew to the boy and began to devour

his young body. More of our brethren joined us, and we feasted until two

Ravens came over and shooed us away, obviously taking the body for their

own enjoyment. We all gladly dispersed and flew into the afternoon sky

looking for a place to rest off our lunch. As we flew, a great sense of pride

filled my body as I thought about how lucky I am, to be part of such a majestic

race. I cawed in joy and flew up into the clouds, anxiously waiting the

days at the camp that lay before me.

56 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


Novel excerpt from

One

eMpire oF dirT

Kevin Kirrane

The moment I saw my father’s prone figure, his arms spread out, his

legs apart on top of the bed sheets, exposed in his underpants and a t-shirt

that revealed the thin, white knot of muscle in his arms and legs, I felt that

this story—this autobiographical life-story masquerading as a novel—was

coming to a close. My father had lived to seventy-nine—a man I did not love,

but could not hate, not in those last days when we had become close enough

to pass simple banalities, pleasantries at most, both of us, by then, long past

arguments.

I guessed that my father had tried to escape the constrictions that

ripped through his chest, the uneven pounding of his heart that must have

sounded like an explosion in his eardrums. And the jolt of pain, worse than

the last strokes, then some relief when his heart stopped midway through and

would not restart.

I was his only visitor in those last few weeks. He trusted no one; he

snarled and frowned and spat between his gummy lips at the world, banishing

it, removing himself entirely from recognized society.

A faint smell rose from his body, a smell I couldn’t place—of rotting

meat? Of stinking flesh? Of innards emitting gas? I held his hand, which was

already stiff. I lifted up his left arm, bending it a little at the elbow to cross it

over his chest. Then I did the same with his right arm and, finally with some

effort, intertwined his fingers. I closed his eyes, which stared up at me with

the same studious expression of doubt and fear and loneliness and hatred

that he had so often shown in his last days—first his right eye, then his left,

working silently, without tears or weakness, just with simple measured calm.

I imagined myself his undertaker. One remove or more.

I fetched his good pants from the dresser and wrestled them on, fighting

April 2013 57


them up those pale legs, his veins shrunken away, the skin puckered and pimpled

like goose flesh, then found a clean shirt and, unhooking his arms and

fingers again, buttoned it up. If nothing else, my father deserved some dignity

in his death—the dignity that he himself seemed to let go of.

I sat by his side for some time. Waiting—I don’t know for what, but

knowing that this would be the last time to talk to him alone. The battle was

over. He, as always, had won. The advice he’d attempted to imbue me with

(“I’ve worn it into you time and again,” one of his favorite sayings) was unheeded,

and now, father (a man I’d never even learned to call through intimacy,

Dad) those warnings have come to pass, and my own life is suffering

just as you said it would. But perhaps I’m being unfair. He was, as others

more forgiving would say, of the old stock. The kind that sunk their feelings

through any method they knew how. He preferred demolition. Abstinence

of love and absence of emotion were the methods he ruled by. Did he ever

realize my very failings—these confessions I tell to his dead body—were the

product of having a father like him? I don’t believe so. Still the words pour

forth, my hand clasped on his cold fingers…..

Two

My father no longer drank when I returned. That was the one major

difference. I never quizzed him on it. Our relationship simply didn’t work

that way. Maybe it was my disappearance at sixteen that shocked him into

change. I like to think that played a part.

When I returned first, we greeted each other awkwardly. I’d hoped

for better. I’d expected worse. We stood facing each other, only partially

recognizing the marks in our faces that time had cut away. Sunshine

poured in the door, and my father shielded his eyes with a hand. His hand

was shaking, a constant tremor from a stroke that I mistook for emotion.

A stench of day old sweat rose from his body. Despite myself, I began to

cry on the doorstep when I saw his frail, withered figure, and hugged him.

There was nothing to his body. My hands sank through his clothes and felt

the knot of bone. We stayed that way for some time, my head on his shoulder.

Nothing had prepared me for this moment, and the tears kept coming.

58 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


Finally, he patted me on the back, and we separated again.

The house was smaller than I’d remembered. Dust engrained every

surface. A film of dirt saturated the air. The house was in darkness. All the

curtains were shut. We sat in the living room, a lamp burning in the corner

throwing out a sickly glow over everything. After some perfunctory conversation,

we sat in a silence that weighed uncomfortably. He didn’t even

ask me why I ran away. Or anything much about my life while I was gone,

while he, in turn, only talked about the deaths that occurred in the family,

listing names that were unfamiliar to me, telling me gloomily that he was

the last one left.

“Everything has changed,” I said, remembering the drive down here.

New housing estates mushroomed the mile and a half out from the village

to the house, where once there was only pastureland. “I hardly recognized

the place.” My father considered this for a moment.

“It has,” he said finally.

Even his voice had a different quality. Voices age, I realized for the

first time. Voice boxes wither. He was sitting on the rocking chair next to

the window. The chair creaked and groaned every time he moved. “I suppose

you wouldn’t know the place. I hardly do myself.”

We waited in the silence for something conclusive to happen. Something

solid to build on. But nothing occurred. He told me about the

strokes. I thought about telling him about the book I’d written, but reconsidered.

It was about him. About the person he was. The bully and tyrant of

old. He was too weak to be any of those things now.

As I left, I kissed him on the forehead. He looked at me wondrously

surprised. His eyes large, the hidden emotions swirling in there somewhere,

locked away for so many years.

“I’ll be back soon,” I promised.

I returned early the following Saturday, armed with cleaning implements,

and began cleaning the house from the kitchen onwards.

In the kitchen, everything was covered in grime and filth. I cleaned it

as best I could, but the dirt was deeply ingrained, coating the counters, the

cooker, the table. Pots and pans were piled up in the sink.

Eventually, after clearing everything away, I went out to the garden.

The garden was once the center of my mother’s attention (it was she who

planted the beds of flowers and kept the hedging neatly in check and had

April 2013 59


the grass mown every two weeks in summer; it was she who picked and

pruned and tended and sowed and cared for the little oasis of color amidst

the blackness of everything else). Now it was overgrown: an old washing

machine and parts of some old motor my father must have tried to fix

were thrown out the back, which itself was almost covered by nettles and

dogleafs that reached shoulder high.

After that first week, my father took to bed. His bedroom was dull

and dank, staleness lingered in the air. He looked tiny in the center of the

bed, his two skeletal hands like bird claws on the duvet that was gathered

up as far as his neck. This once powerful man barely had the strength to

pry his eyes open.

Pictures of my mother stared down from the wall, and another in a

silver frame was on the bedside table, obscured by bottles of tablets.

I sat down next to my father. I held onto his hand.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Fine, fine.”

His breathing was shallow, little puffs of breath between long sighs.

“You’re feeling weak today?”

My father blinked. His mouth hung open. Maybe he even drifted off

to sleep for a moment.

“Yes,” he said at last. “A bit weak.”

I stroked his hands, up along the knuckles. Those same hands had

rained down blows on Mam and me. Now they seemed like they might

crack in my own hands.

“Have you eaten?”

He blinked again. He was staring up at a point in the ceiling. But he

rolled his head to the side to look at me.

“Have you eaten yet?” I asked again.

“I’m—not hungry,” he said. He closed his eyes again. Even his eyelids

were veined, withered, stained with age.

“It’s important that you eat something,” I said. “You need to keep

your strength up.” I squeezed his hand tightly. But there was no response.

His hand was stone cold like frozen meat.

After a couple of seconds, he opened his eyes again. He rubbed his

tongue over his cracked lips, his throat sucked dryly.

“Some water,” he said.

60 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


I fetched a glass of water from the kitchen and brought it back to the

bedroom. Then I helped him into a sitting position in the bed, angling the

pillow so it supported his head.

I placed the glass in his hands and wrapped my hands around his

so it wouldn’t slip from his grasp. He took little sips, sucking at the water.

When he was finished, I replaced the glass on the bedside table.

“Feel better?”

His mouth hung open. Spit dripped from the corner of his mouth,

which I wiped away with a Kleenex. His eyes stared at the opposite wall,

his breath still irregular. I craned over him to look into his eyes.

“Feel better?” I asked again.

He lifted up his hands towards the glass of water, and I fetched it for

him.

“More?”

He inclined his head forward where it lolled. He lifted the glass up,

and I guided it to his lips.

Sitting in silence, the only noise my father’s breath, I considered

telling him everything. Time was the great divider between us now: not

his power, not his fists, not the eruptions of violence that took hold of him

when he drank. Bounding that lapse of time would have been impossible;

the gap was too wide, the fall too cavernous. As I was thinking these

things, my father suddenly held my hand again. He cleared his throat, then

began to cough.

“Are you all right?” I asked. “Can I get you anything?”

My father lifted up his hand, beckoning me to be silent.

“I’m…” he swallowed, “I’m glad— you—came back before—” He

closed his eyes again.

“That’s okay. I’m glad…”

“No,” he said, his voice was weak but purposeful. “Let me— finish.

I’m—I’m sorry I was—the father I was.”

Despite myself, tears sprung to my eyes. I kissed him on the cheek.

“I’m sorry… ” he said. He began crying. Fat tears rolled down his parched

cheeks, and his whole body shook with emotion.

Blaming him now, keeping the flame of anger burning for this frail,

helpless creature was useless, pointless.

“I’ve thought—about it a lot,” he continued. “I always—thought about

you. I— I—never forgot.”

April 2013 61


He seemed like the core of everything that was wrong with me, my

nightmares, the root of my fears. Now seeing that he was not embittered

as I thought he would be as an old man, but defeated, defeated by time, by

sorrow, by regrets—his wife had died and his only son had run away, leaving

him bereft, a shipwreck.

The tears and show of emotion exhausted him. He laid his head back

on the pillow, his breathing worse than before, his neck visible, a scaly series

of ridges and crevices.

I couldn’t bring myself to say I loved him. Was that all it needed? For

the reunion to be properly built? Say it before it’s too late. Say it before he

slips away. Say it or you will regret it forever. Is it even true, though? Or do

you simply feel sorry for a battered animal, losing its fight for life? I chose

not to say those words. I stemmed the flood of emotions and pulled back

from the precipice.

In the end, I never got the chance to say I loved him. I found him

dead the next morning.

Kevin Kirrane is a journalist with the Dungarvan Leader, a provincial newspaper

in Co. Waterford in the Republic of Ireland. He is a previous recipient of the

Sean Dunne Young Writer of the Year award for a piece of short fiction and has

had short stories published in literary journals in both Ireland and the U.K. This

extract is from his novel-in-progress, Empire of Dirt. The novel’s name comes

from the lyrics of the Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt’ which was one of the last

songs covered by Johnny Cash.

62 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


poeM For The bAlleT

Girl

Edward O’Dwyer

How they flutter

through the air, those feet;

like a butterfly’s wings;

though it is said

in Science

an action so small as the flick

of butterfly wings

may cause a catastrophic disaster

half-way round the world,

were the newscaster to announce today

that an earthquake

has pulverised Tokyo,

or that another tsunami

is invading the Indonesian coast,

or that, so long now quiescent,

Mount St. Helen’s is spouting down

once more

on Washington,

April 2013 63


64 Writing Tomorrow Magazine

for their beauty,

I could not wish

the quelling of their flight;

could order

no net cast over them,

not those feet

like a butterfly’s wings

* photo credit: modern ballet dancer © Nejron Photo


The boNes oF iT

7Th JANuAry 2013

Edward O’Dwyer

Today the featured article on Wikipedia

is for the psittacosaurus,

and it was a moment after learning

that it was gazelle-sized

and a bipedal herbivore

my mind left the text

and started thinking how it is such a shame

they, at least, if not the carnivorous ones, too,

are extinct

and not among us today,

maybe not the way dogs are among us,

but perhaps the way tigers are.

Not to suggest that what we’d want

or should do

is have them locked up behind secure fences

so there’s something interesting to do,

the whole family, on the next fine afternoon,

whenever that will be.

Nothing like that; there’s no plan as such,

but generally when you hear

the phrase ‘the bones of it’,

it is to suggest the most of it and the best of it

if not quite the entirety of it,

whatever it is.

April 2013 65


But in this case we’ve seen the bones of it.

We’ve been to the museums, some of us

standing over the magnificent femurs or vertebrae

of even the biggest dinosaurs ever discovered,

and yet we remain unconvinced

these are the most of it and the best of it.

Edward O’Dwyer (b. 1984 in Limerick, Ireland) is published

widely in journals and anthologies throughout Ireland, the United

Kingdom, the United States and Australia, among them, Poetry

Ireland Review, THE SHOp, Southword, Agenda, Weyfarers, The

Houston Literary Review, Danse Macabre, A Hudson View Poetry

Digest... He was selected in 2010 by Poetry Ireland for their

Introductions Series, the same year editing the anthology Sextet

for Revival Press. Since then he has been short-listed for the

Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry, the Millwheel Writers Prize,

the Pushcart Prize and the Desmond O’Grady Award. His first

collection, A Love Poem Mostly For You, is forthcoming from

Salmon Press.

66 Writing Tomorrow Magazine


writing Tomorrow

ShorT STory award

Open to all writers from April 1-May 31st, 2013. The first-place winner will

receive $500, publication online and in print, and a free copy of the print

edtion (if residing in the continental USA). Second-and third-place winners

will receive $100 if published. Winners will be contacted by email mid-

June. Please visit http://writingtomorrow.com/rewarding-talent/contests/ to

submit.

All submissions will be considered for standard publication as well.

Please follow the guidelines below to be considered for the Short Story

Award:

• Do not put any identifying information in your work. Contact information

should appear on the cover page. Only a name and email

address is necessary.

• There is a reading fee of $10/submission.

• You may submit up to three works, but please use separate files.

• The works must be original and unpublished.

• Simultaneous submissions are welcomed but must be indicated as

such in the cover letter.

• Up to 12,000 words. Novel excerpts are welcomed if they are

self-contained.

We look forward to reading you!

April 2013 67


Hark! The tempest of woe was steady, lashing to

finish us, but we were out of reach, as we rode fervor

into the morning, all aglow and victorious!

68 Writing Tomorrow Magazine

~Andy Kastelic, Music From an Old Hominy Can

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