Two Golden Weeks

Sam Heslop-George

The accomplished author entered the room to rapturous applause. Many had turned up to watch him talk about and read from his best seller. Just as many had turned up to substantiate a claim to fame – “I’ve seen him in the flesh”, “I was so close I could’ve touched him”.

The author lapped up the applause. He was contented, if a little smug. He had the right to be – his bestseller had sold over half a million copies to date. Selling books was a difficult thing to do. He had worked hard to be in this position: from a middle class family, of which his father was a lawyer, he could have easily followed in line. Studied law at a good university. He had instead taken the hard option, which many had thought to be easy at the time. By choosing writing, the author had followed his heart.

He sat down and read aloud to the gathering. It was funny, the author thought, as his lips formed the sentences he had so painstakingly etched and edited: before he had found fame and success, few had taken him seriously. If, as a twenty six year old aspiring (i.e. not successful) writer, he couldn’t write without first consuming a pop tart, he would be called weird, childish. If this were the case as a twenty seven year old successful writer, people would laugh; emulate; write about it in magazines. Anything, everything, added to his genius.

It was the same with coming to universities and doing these book readings and signings. The author was far from a good orator, and was fully aware of this. Yet since his writing had taken off it didn’t matter one jot. He talked; people listened. If the author was to stumble over his lines, people would provide an excuse. It was because “he possessed so much knowledge and wisdom that it was difficult to put it into layman’s terms”. If the author made little eye contact with the audience, or seemed slightly awkward, it was as a result of the many solitary hours he had spent writing, working, slaving.

Once the author had finished, he sat at a small table, head protruding from between two great piles of his newest book. Before, his casual demeanour might have had people asking him why he was bored, why he couldn’t cheer up a little. Now it exuded nonchalance, class. People crawled up to murmur their obsequious platitudes and get the author to scribble in their copies of his book. He had always been told in school that he had terrible handwriting. Now people actively scrambled to get his scrawl onto paper.

The queue went from long to short, until there remained just one figure. This woman sidled up, unsure, and the author studied her. Chiming’s, from a distant past, sounded in the author’s head.

“Hey Paul, I don’t know if you remember me? I’m Emily, we were both-”

Her sentence went unfinished; the author dived across the table and embraced her tightly. He knew this woman from a different life.

“Of course I remember you Emily! We had some great times in Tanzania,” the author eventually said to the woman, detaching from embrace. The author had forgotten where he was, who he was supposed to be. The photographers in the corner of the room loved it. He kept on, oblivious. “We have to have dinner!” he cried. “Tonight?”

The woman nodded, pleased. It was a date.

Read More

Colour Amongst Grey

Sam Heslop-George

I had my haircut today. I went straight there following two hour-long back-to-back Chemistry seminars. I don’t know what it is about seminars, but I hated them: relaxed conversing did not exist; in their place stretches of silence, punctuated only by tense, spluttered reproductions of textbooks. I resented what I became in them. As the conversation dried up, so did my mouth as I, Reuben Jacob Timms, made a cowardly impersonation of a mute. I would sit there, right answers resounding in my head but left unspoken, as about me idiots battled about trivialities. After two uptight, resentful hours, my self-loathing was at an all-time high.

It was a decent cut, but the woman on duty seemed to think she was being paid according to how much discomfort she managed to cause me. Honestly, the way she went about with her razor conjured images of school, studying the American West. She was trying to scalp me. Another thing I wasn’t particularly appreciative of: the way in which beside each mirror, they have a television set that shoved a shite show like Jeremy Kyle down your throat. There’s already enough hate in this world; we don’t need to consume more each time we go to get our hair cut.

I always feel better once I’ve cut my hair. New hair, new me. I went outside and the world seemed brighter and better. As I walked, I glanced at my reflection in shop windows, checking out my gleaming reflection. Oh, how my mood swings! It being just an hour until my last lecture, I really should have stayed out and gone to the library or something. But my stomach growled, my scalp itched and I wanted to show off my new cut to whoever was back at the flat, so I skipped back.

Although it does give me a lift sometimes, when I see myself looking sharp, it is stupid – not to mention tiresome – the amount of time I spend on my appearance: washing face, gelling hair, staying toned by following a ridiculous room routine of sit ups and press ups. We live in a world of hyper scrutiny; scrutiny of presentation, the aesthetics. The sound of a voice, the curve of an eyebrow, the whiteness of teeth. Honestly, sometimes I just wish I could be judged by what I said, how I acted. I know that this is just not feasible. It has been said that a person’s judgement on another takes seven seconds; I would argue far less. Persona is Latin for mask; others judge literally by the quality of the mask being worn. It is impossible to rule yourself out of such an inherent, universal process. You have to take part. You have to put yourself out there, make the effort, however tedious. So, on goes the hair gel.

People judge on appearance. In addition, people judge on experience from years previous. That was the problem with my home town. People would keep regaling me with stories about that time a few years ago where I drank half a bottle of tequila and threw up in a tent, or some other such incident. There was never anyone new to meet. The town was too small.  Everyone of your age that you met held you to preconceptions, judged you by hearsay. Finding new people who saw as you now were, rather than what your distant relative of past-self had been. That was one of the major draws of university; of upping sticks and leaving all behind.

Read More

Def-Com 5

Walker Zupp

Once I cast the squashed shoe shit to one side and pull myself up three flights of stairs, I know this is paradise. Gregg knew this was paradise. A few newspapers line my room, what for, I don’t know; it’s not as if I read them, or even want to. There is only the rank-stench-stain of ink, which blots the air like an air freshener. I own a gun too. Occasionally, I stare out past the confines of my room and the rudimentary grass, only to find windows of windows of glass, staring back at me. The reflection hurts the most. I am in it, but alas, I make up a very small fraction of the picture. This short hair and stubble is overshadowed by cotton clipped clouds, along with tarmac and follicles of steam from Def-Com 5. Beyond that (or indeed within that) is a small screen of highways, cropping up like garden snakes in the distance. In the far right corner of the mirrored image is a group of children playing by the docks; cat nip lips, bad haircuts, their sister’s clothes – that’s them sorted. I don’t really like children. Then again, it’s only a reflection – nothing to be afraid of, I don’t think.

 

I have a shave occasionally to mix things up a bit (Oh yes, it is sheer excitement in my house). I clean the spit off and stretch the sacks under my eyes before I start; I don’t want to bleed to death. Picking up the razor, I gradually pull across my neck and my cheeks and whatever else needs a trimming. The whistle wind comes through my window and usually gives me a chill. I ignore it and continue ever so softly. Eventually the whiskers collect and sit like roadkill in the drain. I scrape it off and listen to the wasp nest outside my window.

Read More

A Night Full of Fun

Michael Keramidas

Blood is all over the place. Sweat is all over my face. Blood and sweat and sirens. Police sirens. Echoing inside my ears. I want to throw up. And I do. My vomit slops over her dead body and merges with her blood. I try to think what to do next. But I can’t. The last twenty five minutes whirl through my head with incredible vehemence and I can’t help but throw up again.

It was supposed to be a splendid night. A night full of fun. I didn’t know what was going to happen when I dialled one of the phone numbers I saw in the “naughty” section of this week’s newspaper. If I had known, I would have never asked the girl to come to my place.

Twenty minutes after my phone call, she came. As soon as I heard the bell of my apartment ringing, I immediately left my half-empty bottle of whiskey at the kitchen’s table and ran to open the door. I didn’t notice it, but my pupils dilated at the sight of her beautiful, cute face and they dilated again when I laid eyes at her even more attractive body. I invited her in, willing to pour her some of my whiskey first. She said she didn’t have time, there were a lot of other clients -despite the fact that I didn’t want to think of myself as a “client”, that’s exactly what I was and I knew it- waiting for her to please them. I didn’t have a problem with skipping the drink -I had already drunk a lot- and so I got into bed, taking her with me. I didn’t notice the knife until it was too late. But I was stronger and managed to kill her first.

 

Afternoon

Laura Lewis

Sudden movement screams for attention;
Only for rising and falling, beating like wings
Sleeping form.
The ticking is out of time but it bothers you not,
Shutting eyes, buzzing wasps.
Flashflood sunlight and a hint of a smile,
It’s not all that bad.

The moonflowers could have told you that.

Stoic

Aleena Ahmed

At each end of my mouth
there lays a sharp hook.
Whenever I smile, it is rapidly shaken.
The pain is poignant, and I start to cry.
Then slowly,
slowly,
the blood starts to dry.

Quentin

Walker Zupp

Tuesday, 9th May 2010

Dear Peter,

I often wonder what I could have been, if I had put some work in to my relationships, or indeed, where I could have been. That Romanian could have taken me back to her home country and I could have platonic pleasure upon lusty animosity! Then again, I suppose that deep down I’m quite old fashioned: one partner for life, like a bloody swan. Being married isn’t that bad – it’s a bit like having a really good friend being even friendlier, but not through buying you another pint.

We have a new flat in Clourn, in Upper Loxhall along with all the social rejects and lawyers. These days I’m a bit of both, even if they are indeed the same thing. That’s what she says at least. She’s been talking about having a child and I’ve been talking about work and I’m sure that you’re still talking about that Romanian. Few things change, don’t they? I told her that we couldn’t afford it (lying through my teeth naturally) and that we should focus our monetary supply on buying a better bloody house. Balls to the child, and I can say that because there is no child, as far as I know!

Oh yes, bugs. We’re getting the exterminator and the priest in next week to purge and bless the house, not necessarily in that order. Nothing political, I can assure you – it’s all just a precaution. That’s what she says at least. God knows why any old ghost or spirit or Flying Dutchman would want to move in to our little flat in Upper Loxhall. Then again, the insects have. I say more power to them. I like to see some motivation in the undergrowth because frankly, there’s none up here amongst the clouds and the employed. I’ll write to you soon probably, if the woman lets me. She hates you and loves me, I suppose.

Love to Sheila,

Chris

Read More