Shaping Tomorrow wiTh our penS
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
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for the magazine and website
looking for original articles regarding the art of writing
Shaping Tomorrow wiTh our penS
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
54 An Overseeing Perspective…………………….Shania Lakeman
57 Empire of Death………………………………………….Kevin Kirrane
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
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.
[...]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
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
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
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
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
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
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
AesTiVAre: a long poem
10 Writing Tomorrow Magazine
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
April 2013 21
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
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.
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
“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
“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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
He can’t feel any pain there any more. The burning sensation has
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
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.
April 2013 39
For WheN you Were
40 Writing Tomorrow Magazine
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
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
42 Writing Tomorrow Magazine
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
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.
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—
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,
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
What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“Tell the truth to those nearest, dearest, and most
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
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
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
“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
“Now just hold on tight and hope someone finds you. Don’t be scared
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.
Wullus ran along the shore after me. He looked worried but didn’t say
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.
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
“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
“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
eMpire oF dirT
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
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…..
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.
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.
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
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
How they flutter
through the air, those feet;
like a butterfly’s wings;
though it is said
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
April 2013 63
64 Writing Tomorrow Magazine
for their beauty,
I could not wish
the quelling of their flight;
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
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,
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
66 Writing Tomorrow Magazine
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
All submissions will be considered for standard publication as well.
Please follow the guidelines below to be considered for the Short Story
• 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
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