Towards the end of the summer holidays we would catch sight of Barry walking aimlessly around the town. Down the streets and through the fields he would plod along and not take notice of anyone. His only concern it seemed was to find a river or large pool of water. This was not a worrying or bizarre act – the days were long and hot as we cycled and played out in the sun. We would zip past the fat boy on our bikes. Trying to edge ourselves as close as possible from striking him. Only Nick would dare get the closest. He would spit with long drawn out phlegm gurgled especially for him. “Watch out fat boy” or “Barrel belly’s gonna get ya” he would chuckle as his bicycle handlebars grazed the boys arms.

I had caught sight of Barry along the nettled bank of a stream while carrying wood for a fort. He was wallowing in the water. Letting it go up to his chin. There was a sloshing noise. Like a fish struggling on a reel. Yet there was no movement in the water. Only Barry. His eyes drifting off to some far away place in his mind. I felt it then. A kid does not know the cruelty that gathers on the edge of isolation. It warps the frayed image of a person. But I felt it then, or some shade of it. Bubbles rose from the water near his covered mouth. Then with a shiver he began to wade himself out the water.

It was only four days later when I saw Barry again. His face was hollow. He did not carry his glowing yellow rucksack filled with snacks. He was making his way to the river again. The fat and marrow of his arms and legs had melted off. Yet even more bizarre was the sudden swelling of his belly. Perhaps it was the sudden weight loss on the rest of his body that made the stomach appear so much jovially rounder. “Pot belly pig” Nick snorted and pushed Barry. He did not register it and carried on down the small slope to the water.

‘Don’t walk away fat boy.’ Nick said, slowing down his bike and parking it on the grass. He followed in pursuit of Barry.

‘Just leave him. He wants to go into the water.’ I said, standing at the top of the slope. ‘Just leave him to go into the water.’

‘I’ll let him in the water…’ Nick was especially venomous that day for no reason. He began to prod the boy from behind. ‘Let. Me. Help you. In. The.Water.’

And with that final word he kicked Barry in the butt sending him flying into the shallow muck. I thought that would be the end of it but Nick wanted more. Barry’s soaked body was streaked in brown and greens. He waded into the water with Nick heavy in pursuit.

‘The water. I need water.’ Barry said in a dull tone.

‘Piggy needs to clean himself?’ Nick grabbed the shirt of Barry awkwardly and without knowing his strength he ripped the front buttons off. Barry’s shirt popped open and belly protruded. Long and swirling shadows marked something under the skin pulsing. Barry held onto Nick as he slipped onto his knees. Kneeling infront of Barry I heard him squeal in disgust at the sight and scream for Barry to get off. The boy pulled Nick closer. Pressing his face against the protruding belly.

Barry’s eyes rolled white. His head rolled from side to side unconscious but his body still held onto Nick. And with mouth wide open and tongue laid flat we all saw something crawl from his throat. What we thought was just the steamy rising of milk and bile was infact much harder. It was smooth and buckwheat brown. What I imagine now to be the head slithered out full and rapid. Wriggling out as thick as a cucumber at a state fair, it latched onto Nick. Nick struggled with the ropes of its body unfurling out of Barry’s belly. He could not shake the fat boys grip from him. He could not stop the worm slipping around his neck and under his shirt. Spewing a great white mulch of eggs onto his hair and neck.

It did not fully leave Barry’s body. It was still controlling the boy. Manipulating him to pull himself and Nick further into the water. I watched on. Transfixed and terrified as the two boys and the worm sank under the water. I waited there on the rivers side. Fist clenched to strike anything that arose. Every thought screamed for me to run yet I could not. I stood on. Watching the river continue to flow downstream.

I never saw the two boys again.

Seeing Things Hearing Things

‘Ockroot. This is the place. This is the place you can’t seem to shut up about.’ Sadie said as she slammed the boot to the red Volkswagen beetle shut. She slung the green barrel bag over her shoulder and tapped on the back window. The sun beamed down over the parking lot and reflected off the large tortoise rimmed spectacles Sadie had left on by choice while she drove. She claimed it was always by choice that she wore them. Just as it was always a choice whether she wanted to breath or not. The grey hood to her jumper could not hide the long ashy blonde waves of hair from swaying in the wind. A new place with the same assholes. She was sure all these middle of nowhere towns were the same. The locals sat at their local diner eating the local livestock fucking their neighbours. They would give a cold stare at the sight of her silver septum piercing. Scowl at the fraying denim cut-off jeans and lightning bolt yellow t-shirt. Linger on the fleshy pale legs and bristled armpits she had forgotten to shave while on the road trip to this town of turds. Only a town her father would move to must welcome strangers with such questionable character.

Dolby was twisting the volume higher to the beginning drum beat of “A View To A Kill” by Duran Duran.

Meeting you with a view to a kill. Face to face in secret places feel the chill.

‘This place is home to the best root beer floats. That’s what I’ve been told. What’s not to love when it involves sugar.’ Dolby felt her teeth itch, deep in the root, when she began to crave the taste of something sweet. The sticky sugar glaze remnants smeared over her fingers from chewing the dough. The lashing of liquorice wrapping around her tongue. A great bubbling of root beer encircling the floating vanilla scoop of icecream. Dolby would contemplate how she would commit murder to get her fix. Yet sitting there in the  seat, feeling her legs peel from the leather, she couldn’t stop herself from gazing at Sadie. Soaking in the thick stretch of muscle running over her thighs downwards to the delicate opening at the back of her knees. Dolby chastised herself yet continued to look as if she was waiting for something. Was it the thrill of secretly watching her best friend? That inner dare to linger as long as possible. To capture every detail. Every fray of the cut off jeans tickling the upper thigh. Each long streak of sweat trickling down open skin. “You’re a pervert. A rotten pervert…” Some part of her repeated again and again. “Just wait though… Wait until our eyes meet.” 

‘Hurry up Dolby. We have to check into the hotel before we can go meet my dad at the café.’

Dolby adjusted the dungaree straps and stuffed the remainder of her clothes into a backpack. Locking the car they strode across the quiet parking lot.  As the sunlight crawled down the front of the building Dolby was caught by the words of her Architecture lecturer.

“Architecture is inhabited sculptures.” She was sure those words had been spoken a countless times or presented in the opening slide of a first-years presentation – yet she found them claw into her mind. Quotes were often spouted by the dull but Nesbo had put such passion into those four words Dolby couldn’t help being moved. Perhaps it was more the idea of “inhabited sculptures” that resonated inside her. These towering obelisks pregnant with children. Like an old god; a building could live on through the tide of generations scurrying throughout it.

A plaque near the hotel entrance stated that it was based, in honour, of the original hotel situated in England. Dolby squinted at the sign and wondered at which point the owners had given up trying to keep it to the same design. The front of the building retained the chunky English charm of red brick outlined with a white archway and window frames. Along the windowsills lay clusters of white blossomed flowers and hanging ivy. Yet this charm at the front gave way to a bloated renovation enveloping it. Like a bloated corpse wearing a dolls mask the front could not hide the  modern renovations made.

The white flowers were inside too. Bundled over tables and the hotel desk. Dolby followed behind Sadie, trying her best not to gaze down for too long. Sadie rang the bell and a large lady appeared from behind the curtain. Dolby could feel the wind rush forth from several fans the lady was using to cool herself. To say she was large would be to allude she was fat. But large was all Doby could think of to describe the muscular woman. A middle-aged lady, tanned with her mustard blonde hair pulled back. The black and white vest strained to contain her physique; stretching to contain the hard ridges of her shoulders and chest.

‘Oh my, look at you two darlings. Bone-a-fide models. My name’s Maria and welcome to Ockroot.’ There was an accent Dolby couldn’t quite catch. Eastern European with a twang of americana possibly. The ladies positivity to welcome them was refreshing. Dolby was almost worried the lady would grab hold both of them for a hug and squeeze the life from them.

‘We booked a room here. Under Sadie Mapel.’ Sadie replied. Maria tapped a few keys onto the computer keyboard beside her.

‘Ofcourse, there you are. Well please take these…’ She turned around, plucked two keys from the wall behind her, and handed them over.

‘Just take the stairs up to the next floor and you should find your room on the right. Breakfast is every morning at eight until ten. I’ve spoken with the chef and we now include crushed avocados on toast.’

‘That sounds delicious’ Sadie seemed as excited as Maria. The thought of eating something green smeared over toast sounded diabolical to Dolby. She had been hoping to stuff her face full on complimentary pancakes and bacon. Even snagging a croissant to eat later in the day.

‘Do you have any questions?’ Maria asked the girls.

‘Weren’t you wondering about those floaters Dolby?’ Sadie asked. Dolby took a moment to process what Sadie meant with the term “floaters” before her eyes lit up.

‘Yes! Root beer floats. I read this place is famous for them – Do you know where I can try the best?’

‘The syrup and icecream thing? I can’t say I’ve ever tried it. I stay away from most sugars if I can; whether they are frozen, liquid, or have a sparkler stuck in them. You could try the Smoked Stack for that sort of thing. It’s in the center of town.’

‘I’ll get my dad to meet us there.’ Sadie said.

‘Let’s go drop our things off then.’ Dolby said before thanking Maria and picking up her bag. Moving through the lobby Dolby noticed some other guests in the hotel. Several men were sat in their business suits around a table with half-filled sparkling waters. She could feel one or two of the old men trying to catch hers and Sadies gaze. Coming down from the stairway Dolby saw an old lady being helped down the stairs by her grandson. Taking her time to step down, she held onto the young man by his arm. He waited dotingly for her to move. There was something about the old lady that caught Dolby’s gaze. She was not sure whether it was the funeral attire or the glossy shine to her pale right eye. She paused over each step, waiting a beat or two before stepping down.

After passing through the first floor corridor they found their room at the end. Dolby noticed the “do not disturb” sign hanging from the door opposite theirs. Beside the door were several pieces of paper. As Sadie fumbled with the key Dolby moved to the door opposite. Kneeling down she saw that the pieces of white paper were in fact wrinkled petals. It seemed bizarre at first to find them separated from the flower. She recalled the time she walked into her garden two months ago and discovering the remnants of a bird being killed. A streak of blood and burst of feathers shaking in the low breeze near the decking. Only a trace of what could have been lingered, yet instead of the passing sadness of a dead bird these petals promised romance.

‘Dolby, what are you doing?’ Sadie asked as she saw noticed the girl kneeling down beside the door with her ear to the wood.

‘I’m trying to listen…to see if they are still at it.’ Dolby replied, curious to hear what sordid acts the couple on the other side of the door were committing.

‘Eugh.’ Sadie moaned and clicked open their rooms door with enough calculated strength to have the door swing into the wall with a loud bang. Dolby fell back and recovered herself in fear of their neighbours coming to check what the noise was.

‘C’mon perv  we have to drop our stuff off and meet my dad.’

Azure Walls

A misplaced step. Twisting to the shrill echo of her voice on the wind I found myself slipping down. Down into the crevasse. Hands frantically pressing against the walls to no avail. Falling deeper until the white began to bleed into a deep blue. Slowing. The ice closed in tighter, scratching up my legs, tightening like a bottleneck. I found myself stuck. Ruffling the snow from my head I felt a warmth around the back of my skull. Pulling my hands away I found blood smeared along my fingers.

Pleading to the gods I made promises I knew I would break. Only the distant echo of ice cracking replied. I held my breath. Fearful my body heat would soon begin to melt the surrounding ice. My eyes were losing focus, softly blurring my vision of the ice into the form of clear skies…

No clouds had gathered on that last weekend I spent at home. It was a welcoming change that we took advantage of. Alice had called our daughter down into the garden. I had stepped over to peek at my wife from the kitchen window overlooking  the back garden. Mindful not to linger as the bubbling risotto would need several more ladles of chicken stock. She was dressed in a pair of dungarees and an old top I had tried to throw out. She had worked so hard on this square of land we called a garden.

‘Come quick and see the bumblebees prepare for dinner.’ Alice said, waving over Madeline. Madeline lingered at the edge of the patio, squatted low with her back to us.

‘Mum, this bee is asleep.’ She whined.

I had called out for her not to touch the bee until her mum was there.

Alice hurried over and knelt down.

‘No, no he’s not sleeping. He is tired from the heat. Go ask your dad for some sugar water.’

I was already mixing the solution together before Madeline jumped into view. She tugged at my hand and pulled me over to the decking. I watched on as the struggling bee twisted its legs and paused every so often to make its way to the spoon. At that time I wasn’t sure if it was right for us to intervene. Yet seeing my family caring over the smallest of creatures gave me comfort in knowing this place was worth the struggle.

The gash on my nose left an imprint on the ice wall. The ridge of my nose did not feel broken but it had began to swell and grow tender to the touch. I must be imagining her voice out there. She was at home. I pressed my head back down. How soon will they search for me once the radiocheck isn’t answered? It was night now and the winds were growing sharp overhead. How long had I been fading in and out of consciousness? A dull ache was setting into my bones. I would have to move soon. There was a small ridge jutting out just a few feet above. Stretching out I thought of Madeline…

I wanted to be there when Alice would tell her how we first moved into that house. How we had sunk every penny we had into it. We needed a place before the Madeline arrived. That was our only incentive. We needed a place for our girl to grow up feeling secure when she knew her father would not be back from his trip for several months. Just a week after the purchase I found Alice laying on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around her. I had asked what was wrong and she had replied that this was not the home she had envisioned. The garden was a collection of weeds and rocks. Upstairs our rooms were bare and pipes rattled. I paused for a moment before asking her what she had imagined the first item her house would have.

‘A teal chest of drawers laced in vines… I was ten at the time I made the list.’ She laughed. I nodded and kissed her lips. That next day I drove around the village charity shops. Hunting through the trinkets and hand-me-downs until I came across a small oak chest; scarred with some heavy dents and chipped ridges. I sanded It down and cut a series of vine patterns onto paper for the stencil I would paint over. Alice returned later that night, flicking her shoes off on the hallway floor. She entered the dining room to see the painted furniture drying in the setting sun.

‘What is this?’ She asked.

‘This is my promise to you that this place of ours can be the home you dreamt of. We just need to work toward it.’I heard a faint sound of snow crashing overhead. I did not mind. It was much warmer here in the memory.


The Cave

We used to make our way to the river when we were young. Grabbing mother’s keys while she slow-cooked the lamb stew. Running through the cracks of the suburbs we would hold our conversation until we arrived at our destination. Strumming our fingers over the bricks and railings. Other kids used to be so harsh, throwing berries as we would run past their houses. All those houses were brought down in the nineties. Snapping our swords from the trees we swiped and chopped our way to the river. He would scream “Excalibur!” and raise his sword in triumph, slashing the nettles in delight. He would scream so much I had to grab him. Hold him close to me tighter and tighter. Squeezing until all the noise bubbled away. I was his medicine for the blues. We carried on walking beside the river, kicking pebbles from the side. Sometimes he would talk about how the other kids called him names when I wasn’t around. I pushed my sword as deep as it would go into the murky mud in the river, churning up my face with thoughts on those kids. I would tell him to do the same. He gave a gap toothed smile and his eyes glinted. It was the glint of ice-cream sundaes and that first peel of the Christmas wrapping around his presents. 

We had found a possible new base. A small cave beside a stream. We had spent several hours following the rocks and unknown signs. Holding our shoes up as we let the water lap at our ankles. Stevie wanted to catch a crayfish with a loose netting he had stolen from his neighbours shed and a sharpened stick. Excalibur. We stood on either side of the entrance, ears cupped to make us hear better. A tapping came from the darkness, perhaps water dripping over the ground. Then a scraping and clicking sound appeared.

‘It’s a crayfish.’ Stevie said, raising his spear. He threw the net over to me. I clutched it eagerly.

‘What if it’s something bigger?’ I had asked, knowing that we would just run away. Sometimes I worried that Stevie could not understand the dangers we were always scorned about at school. I felt a fear he would be too brave.

We twisted to the entrance and was blinded by a growing light coming towards us. Stevie dropped the spear infront of me. Frozen. I raised my hand to block out the light.

Children, do not be alarmed. A voice called out strangely clear. Yet I could not hear it through my ears. It spoke over the world. The whistling of branches in the wind, the water passing down the stream, they all drifted away. It reminded me of the headphones I would use at night. I would press the padding over my ears and all sound would disappear until I pressed play.

I shouted to Stevie but he could not hear me. I could not hear my own voice.

Stay still darlings, I will not harm you.

Light fading, I caught the shape of the thing the voice belonged to. A long one-armed creature loosely made of what seemed to be fish bones and jelly-like flesh. Translucent skin stretched smooth over the angular face. Long mouth with small black pebble eyes. It stretched out from the cave. It’s long jutting nose aiming towards Stevie.

I couldn’t move my body. Other kids would have ran away. Wailing in terror that the creatures they saw on late night television were real. I was just numb to it all. Distant to my own body. The creature was almost atop Stevie now.

‘Wh-what are you?’ I asked, barely loud enough for myself to hear.

It turned slowly to face me, shark-like nose almost stroking Stevie’s frozen cheek. It’s face seemed circular with lips so thin like a line cut through clay. Yet behind those lips, like a kid ashamed to show their braces when speaking, it hid its teeth. 

God. It replied. Placing the white webbed fingers around Stevie’s skull; it spoke to him and him alone. 

Purple Haze (Extract)

Licking the cigarette paper before twirling it tight around the weed and tobacco, Jamie contemplated multiple decisions. Summers unbearable length was coming to a stark ending and he still had no idea where Sasha had disappeared. Spread out on the deck chair in the shabby grass of his back garden, charcoal hood lifted up over his head. Sparks and the glow of embers reflected in his eyes, sucking in, he let his mind wander. Tapping it, the ash floated down onto the ground.

‘I’ve made so many mistakes recently Sasha,’ Jamie spoke into the darkness. Taking another drag, he packed it into his lungs. Hanging over the void of no reply. The tree’s rustled and melted together between half-closed eyes. Releasing, he let the smoke crawl out of his mouth.
Feeling light but
Shackled to the chair. Expanding with each breath, rising up. Floating down. ‘No-one knows a single thing. I should have come back that night you rang.’ Jamie felt his most comfortable away from people; he couldn’t help but live a lie in front of them. Closing himself off, eyelids tightly shut.

Three quarters through, he rolled the roach back and forth. A weight pressed onto his shoulders. Tar smeared the back of his throat. Teeth clenched tight. ‘You found me.’ He said, smiling. A single tear escaping as the wind ruffled through his fringe. Fingers covered his eyes. Jamie laughed without a sound, his body bobbing up and down. Slowing, the laughter scratched into a deeper melody.

‘I’m getting your fingers all wet hun.’ The heat pinched his lips. Her image trickled over the walls.

His Bed of Dirt Extract

There is a man at the bottom of my garden where the trees grow low and the ground seems upturned. He is far below, buried deep, he tells me. I know he’s a man and what he says is true as I listen to him speak. I came across his humming one day while scratching lines into the mud to make small rivers for my toy soldiers. Mother does not let me into the house when her friend comes over. Often I find myself waiting for hours in the cold. It was a day like that did I hear the humming, pleasant at first, coming from the bottom of the garden. Crawling under the scratching twigs I saw where the melody was coming from. I didn’t have my cardigan yet the noise filled me with warmth. It felt like I had heard it in a dream. Sitting down I listened to it until I heard the back door latch unlock and my mother call out. I did this every-time I found myself out in the garden. Happy to listen to the singing come from the dirt. Sometimes the humming slowed and I found that if I stomped my feet on the ground it would pick up again. Maybe he was delighted he had company. A week later I found a small red root risen from the dirt. Flicking it out of curiosity I heard a whisper. I leaned in closer and to my surprise a voice came out from the hollow center of the red strand. It was like mine when I would not speak for a day. Croaky and garbled like a stone being smoothed on the road. “Hello?” I said, “Who is this?”. “I am the one who hums and sings.” the root replied. “You are a funny thing. A root that sings.” I replied. He laughed. “I am not a root. I am a man. The root is just a part of me now. I made it so we could talk.”

Sad Violins (Extract)

violin animation


Retreating to his music room, giddy in excitement, Alwin knew the realities of his talent-less body. What was once a room to practice, had become a private concert between him and Sofia. He would linger there for hours, bringing all work to this room when she rehearsed. It wasn’t just listening to the high craft of a genius, watching her playing – with such devotion and peace – let him forget his troubles. Being in her presence eased the pain that he could never replicate such delights.

Resting the case on the wooden table, he unclipped it and took hold of the violin. Light as a birds bone, he eased the chin rest into place. Plucking the strings lightly while twisting the pegs, Alwin was amazed that it was all in correct tune. Taking hold of the bow, he eased his mind to recall the month he spent on the violin as a child. His clunky fingers held down on the neck ready for the bow string. Old Joe Clark. At fifteen, his mother had gifted him a violin for his birthday. Sat on the long windowsill to his room, he cracked his knuckles and twisted the digits, letting sandwiches harden out on the table untouched. The hum of Old Joe Clark still remained in his adult self, a constant whisper. Here he was again, a man now with heavy fingers, fat and sprouting hair. Drawing the bow back and forth, he went over the tune, surprised to find how easily his fingers adjusted. He played it slow, discomforted by the lack of difficulty. Picking up the pace, he went through the repetitions, swiftly dithering his hand at the correct beat. Lost to his senses, he did not notice his fingers stretching along the neck. Finger tips along the razor wire.

He stopped. Pouring himself a celebratory glass of whisky from the cabinet. Running his finger along the spines of music books, he stopped over the violin sheet music. Shuffling through the papers, he rested on one and took position once more. Danse Macabre. Swiftly he began to play, not a touch incorrect. Raising his eyes to the ceiling, tears streaming down his cheeks. Rocking back and forth, the playful notes began to turn bitterly haunting. Fingers pushed down forcefully and switched nimbly. Frozen in ecstasy, he could feel his eyes rolling back into his skull as if possessed. Chin wet with tears, they dripped down the neck.

‘Alwin!’ Sofia screamed. Fingers froze as her presence. His soul sliding back between the familiar bones and flesh. Turning, he saw her with Stephanie, his daughter, clung to her legs. My darlings, he thought, they’re in shock at my skill.

‘Sofia, my love, did you hear? Had you been deceived in thinking I was playing a record in the music room? It is something is it not. To think, I had been so cruel on myself – too brutish in my early years, to not give myself the possibility I had potential. Will you play with me? Let Stephenie dance until ten even if it’s a school night. She can tell her teacher and classmates she danced to the music her father made.’

‘You’re bleeding Alwin.’ Sofia said, trying to comfort Stephanie with her hand.

The Witch & The Spiders Bite (Extract)

Like the veins of a leaf did the Amalfi coasts pathways twist, narrow and steep, throughout the city. Stepping down through the streets I found myself in constant awe of the sea, unmovable and ever-watching. Growing over me as the heat bore down. The pastel pink and yellow painted houses were darkened with age in this part. Cracks ran through, splitting open to reveal cement and yellowing stains. It was not far now, just a ten minute walk from the hotel. I thought back to the woman rummaging through her desk drawer when she asked for the reason of my visit. Grabbing a handful of sight-seeing pamphlets and bus schedules. The two boys playing in the sun stopped at the mention of the name. Crawling to the nearest seats to eavesdrop easier. The woman smiled politely and said she did not believe in such stories but it was wise to not talk so openly. Superstition chirps around the area like cicadas, heard but elusive to catch sight of.

They had spoke of her as Walking Weaver, or more apt the Spider Witch. A recluse, shut off in her home. She would come out to feed her minions and take word on their gossip. Ever-waiting for the news of a new-born baby. For the first night a baby would sleep alone, The Weaver would skitter over the rooftops when all was silent. Tapping on the glass to check for weary parent, she would descend. Upon morning the parents would check their child and witness a horrifying sight. Their child would lay still. Soulless.

I caught sight of The Weaver. Hobbled over the front porch of the address I had been given. Her straggly grey hair ran black at the end of the two fishtail braids. Speckled grey and black like the horses that ran across my grandfathers land. I put my hand on the cast-iron gate, unsure of how to breach this silence between strangers. Plants stretched out and tangled to form a tapestry of herbs and flowers in the front garden.

The old lady seemed oblivious to me watching. Pursed lips hidden under the furrows of her cheeks. The whites of her eyes shone out over the deep tan she must have acquired from walking outside for hours. I could hear her muttering to herself, scraping apart the remains of a fish with two forks. Digging into the skin, she tore it into smaller pieces.

She spoke louder, catching sight of me. Turning to face me she repeated her words. I froze, unable to remember any Italian I had recited before the trip. I waved my hands in the air, catching sight of the black mongrel beside the bench on the porch. Ears pricked, awaiting a command. I stammered a phrase. Pausing to recall the word for “speak”. It was the first line I had jotted down when I had made the decision to come here. I had repeated it countless times over the flight, under hushed breath to not engage the sweating businessman beside me in conversation.

‘I speak…little. You came. For witch?’

I nodded, dropping my bag onto the ground. Rifling through the side-pockets for the travel dictionary. How could I translate what I needed to say to her. ‘I traveled far.’

‘American.’ She repeated my word, letting it linger as she recalled something. Perhaps she knew why I had ventured all this way. ‘Yankee fucks.’ She spat out, plunging the fork through the fish head. Dumping the carcass into the dish on the floor. She tapped the dish several times before making her way to the bench.

‘Scusi,’ I said, finding I had jotted it down on the front page.

Her pebble eyes seemed sharper as they looked over at me. A long drawn out cry wailed through the garden like the breaking cord of dolls voice box. Crawling through the gates and other slivers of darkness, several cats slid out towards the fish. She waved her hands at me.

‘Please, can I just speak to you-‘ I darted back as the mongrel lunged towards to the fence. The folds of its lips raised to bare its teeth. I snatched my bag and backed away. She stood on, letting her mutt end the conversation for us. I would have to return the next day.


Twas Nochi and the rozz did patrol and grumble in the grove. The bogaty would raise their nose to the wheezing of the urchins whose sweating phalanges were marked on the knuckle lead me, a fellow kind, to the Jabberwocky. My father warned of its igra to love would vred like a razors blade and shiv from sharries to yarbles. But he did not say to the licking pleasure that oozed over your skin with zoobies biting so gentle but naughty and volos that tickled and teased.

I slingered closer to the door, remembering the devotchka I lived with between months, playing with the Jabberwocky under tempest nights. All our dreams spilled out like ghosts as we lubbilubbed until the moon turned blue. I preached and prayed the daily dose but her appetite grew too large. Nagoy and bezoomy she sprang into traffic as I followed – spotlights blinded like the stars. Devotchka spread her crurals and smiled with those perfect goobers as a double-decker ran her down. A quick striking to the door with barter and sweating and I had that little creature in my sight. Oomny or nazad I cannot decide for I am now the monster, a terrible bloodsucker.