By Zannier Alejandra
He comes in every Wednesday afternoon and sits in front of the counter for about an hour. He’s an artist. I can tell by the way his dark eyes take in everything around him, including me. I wonder, has he memorised every line of my face, every freckle of my skin as I have of his?
He leaves his sketchbook behind one day. I can’t resist, I wait for him to leave and seize it; but, inside, I don’t find a masterful portrait of myself, just a bundle of incomplete Tuesday crossword puzzles. He was not an artist after all.
Alejandra is a Bolivian writer with an MA in creative writing from City University. In a past life she was a banker, but now spends most of her time writing, watching TV, analysing TV and talking about TV – occasionally, she even gets paid for these things.
By Richard Day Gore
It’s a random coffee shop moment, but the soft intensity of the old woman’s gaze is anything but random. Her smile bears the warmth of sweet memories. I remind her of someone. A son? A lover? A departed husband? She knows me, it seems, yet I have no idea who she is. I cringe with the sensation of being studied by a stranger. I don’t like it. It brings back memories.
So I sit next to her. Break the ice. Later today her life will ebb away under my fingers, and the memories will retreat, hers and mine.
By Mat Smith
I’m hungover and tired and eating brunch outside a café.
A family are at the next table; an older guy, his daughter and a woman in her twenties. He orders for all of them and I instantly dislike him. She’s telling the young girl about wherever she’s from; Sweden, perhaps. I can’t understand why she’s telling her about snow: It’s already one of the warmest days of the year.
He says that he doesn’t like America. He says he doesn’t like Paris because it’s “too French.” I don’t know what this means.
I know that nothing will make sense today.
By Veronica Haunani Fitzhugh
A lone ant patiently carries an impossible load.
The weight’s so heavy, she loses her balance in every small step.
Instead of asking for help or splitting the bundle–
she stops to rest, dances, and eats what she carries.
Her burden nourishes, energizes as well as challenges her.
How do I eat my challenges, so I may also carry them home?
july 7 8:00am
the surfer dude kept smiling at me
and it was kind of fun
until my daughter said
mom he doesn’t know you’re 46
he’s like maybe 21
By HS Quarmby
Huge photos of her wedding day still hung on her wall, she was now divorced. The brilliant white of her dress the same white of her cat, now her only companion. The poor creature was overly pampered, overly loved and only allowed out on a lead. So we saw her, for hours every day, wondering the streets, walking the cat. Occasionally she talked on the telephone, sometimes smoked a cigarette, as the cat meandered around her feet. And then it died, as cats do, so her parents came to take her away, she couldn’t cope anymore.
Ice cream vans remind me of childhood. 99 Flakes, Screwballs with forbidden bubble gum lurking in the bottom, ice cream dribbling down cones and making my hands sticky. Now I’m too old for these fascinations I peer into the vans, intrigued by who might be manning them. And there he was: surprisingly young, tousled blonde hair, open necked polo shirt. He had no customers and filled this void by strumming his guitar. Was it an alternative Pied Piper tune to attract sugar-hungry punters? As I passed, he flashed a toothy grin; no, he was just happy.
For the next hour I am just me.
I sip coffee and watch the people.
A young man hooks my gaze. He is writing. You don’t often see that these days.
He is young but … attractive. I wonder if he would glance at me and see past the shell of motherhood. We would talk of art and of writing and of how it could never work. Then have a delicious affair.
He looks up. I quickly look away and think of groceries.
As I leave I catch the eyes of an elderly man. He averts his gaze. He looks uncomfortable.
By Tom Fegan
A moment of living stunned me cold. My attention connected to two little girls playing hopscotch on a crudely drawn pink chalk diagram in the apartment complex courtyard where I lived. Parents played sentry as the girls giggled and skipped back and forth. The playmates stopped to draw figures with different chalk colors. Their imagination and faculties of play danced from their young minds. There were no laptops or smart phones for toys, just simplicity and allowance for fun. These little girls were liberated from the computer age.
By H.S. Quarmby
She shuffled around the supermarket on broken heels, turning her thin ankles. Her thatch of bleached hair obscured most of her face and the childish smudges of makeup. Her clothes were almost rags, once bought for a night club, the tights were laddered, the short dresses ripped and stained. Her whole posture was painful to watch. Bent over, carrying a can of beans, a packet of pasta. The other shoppers turned and stared as she passed; the shop assistant followed her at a distance, watching her shaking hands.