Monday, 20 June 2022

'The Back Catalogue' by Gina Dantuono

Every night Ella’s dad would read her a bedtime story and always change the ending to And We Lived Happily Ever After. She’d be almost asleep when he’d whisper, “goodnight my girl, dream sweetly,” grabbing her blanketed toe on his way out of her room. Ella would fall asleep smiling.

But that was before Ella’s dad moved out. Before their happily ever afters no longer coincided as a family. At first, Ella had trouble falling asleep but she has since found a way to be her own fairy tale. At bedtime, she picks out a story and places it next to her in case her dad stops by to visit. She takes jawbreakers from her nightstand, only sucking on them long enough until they lose their color. Ella’s mouth is a tie-dyed lollipop; the colors a portal for magical powers that let her live in a nighttime rainbow. She giggles while placing each translucent ball in her special box thinking she has captured a box of stars beneath the bed. Ella’s eyes grow heavy watching the remaining sugar shimmer under the glow of her nightlight. She dreams of running through orange groves and swimming in blue lagoons, watching red pandas and purple people eaters play. Pink peonies spring to life as she meets green goblins while walking down a fabled yellow brick road. Somewhere from a distance, riding a glittery breeze, is her dad’s voice. Sleep is a beautiful colour.

'Expense Sheet for Krishnakumar Household' by Sumitra Singam






50 dates

$   2573

5 bunches of flowers

$    156

20 movies

$    873

3 weekends away

$   1524

1 engagement ring (24 carat gold, princess cut solitaire, 6 baguette cut diamonds)

$   2599

1 wedding, standard Hindu (priest, 1000 guests most of whom the bridal pair don’t know, catering, door gifts)

$  21735

Honeymoon phase


Honeymoon (Maldives, beach hut, all-inclusive package with one (1) scuba or helicopter tour and two (2) massages)

$   8755

50 dates (last 20 takeout and Netflix)

$   1258


$   2455


$        32

20 movies

$     853

2 birthday presents (inequal split)

$     254

1 house in trendy-adjacent suburb, 3 bedrooms (with capacity for 4th)


Maintenance phase


50 dates (50 takeout and Netflix)

$     575


$   2400

Disney Plus

$   1200

Amazon Prime

$   1500

IVF (1 stim cycle, 3 embryo cycles)

$  20755

Denial phase



$   2400

Disney Plus

$   1200

Amazon Prime

$   1500


$   3756

Despair phase



$   2375

1 week for two at Byron Rejuvenation Facility

$  10485

IVF (1 stim cycle, 2 embryo cycles)

$  15750

Acceptance phase


Family lawyer 1

$  33276

Family lawyer 2

$  32753


'Happily Ever After' by Saddie Hopes

 Her wedding is actually today. We were invited. Our families go back a couple of generations. Her grandfather and our father happened to meet as international students in Edinburgh. These things can stick. Even though we have all lived in many countries. We hope she will live Happily Ever After

'The Phoenix always tries to rise' by Saddie Hopes


Hey, this is a pretty striking image,’ he said, admiring the photograph showing a waif-like-girl, holding a rose, standing in rubble. ‘Looks like a destroyed building or something?’

‘Oh yeah. That’s one of Rania Matar’s. I discovered her on Instagram. After the Beirut explosion, in 2020, I believe,’ she says.

‘Yeah, I remember. A massive explosion in the port area. I heard it was improperly stored and forgotten explosive chemicals, Ammonium Nitrate maybe, that blew up.’

‘Stinks of incompetency, neglect and, maybe corruption,’ she sighs.

‘Probably all the above. Sadly common. Caused a huge amount of damage. Still being supposedly investigated and protested,’ he says, shaking his head.

‘I think I saw something about some rebuilding too,’ she adds. ‘Actually, that is what the photograph is about. It’s called ‘Hope and Destruction.’ Phoenix rising from the ashes and all that.’

‘Or trying to rise, when they let her,’ he scoffs.  

'Freedom from Time' by Molly Lanzarotta

In every age, a mature woman of experience is eyed with suspicion, called names (but “Wise” is not often one of them). 

She recounts: “There’s a pull, a push.”

We listen, in a hush.


“Our cycles,” she says, “the moon.” Then whispers, “New rules soon.”


“Light, its speed, will not budge,” might say the professor, a decisive judge.


The reporter: “Truth is not a perspective.”


The officer: “Time is a detective.”


“Laws are unchanging, inscrutable,” says the minister, mutable.


The philosopher: there’s no “yes,” no “no.”


The up-and-coming starter-upper says: “Let’s go!”


But that wise woman of every century: when she spotted accepted truth, that old dragon, she slayed it, soon as she could see it.


I asked her, “Can you tell time?” so she told it off, and so it stayed, like truth and the dragon, slayed. Time—no longer fate—reduced to this lesser state.


Time turned off, so: there is no mystery, no history. What then of you and me? You sing, “I love you to eternity.”


But time, ended, its arrow, bended to an arc that peters…stutters…derails. Where is the fact that never fails?


In truth, then, love must subdue all, of a moment, and our story’s rise and fall.

'Steel Anniversary' by Gina Dantuono

For our eleventh anniversary’s gift of steel, you bought me a car. A sleek, silver bullet promising to stand the test of time. It was a sharp roadster, just two seats. You called it a perfect symbol for you and me.

By our twelfth anniversary’s gift of silk and pearl, my wedding dress was its only passenger when you traded it in for a newer model.

'Waiting: Leaping' by Laura Cooney


We waited for a long time, barely touching, by the side of the river and the boats kept passing the pontoon. I sometimes wonder if it was a timing issue with us, and if it was, why didn’t one of us, just stop? We were passing, passing and always missing the boat. We had a chance to get on, that once. We visited the top deck and for whatever reason, I can’t understand, we disembarked after a while aboard. And went back to the riverbank to wait again.


One day we’ll meet on the banks of the Styx and you’ll take my hand and you’ll say you’re sorry and our regret will finally be consolidated. Neither of us will have a piece of jade so, this time, we won’t wait for the boatman. And not blinking; we’ll finally leap, with abandon, to the other side.

'Under the Bed' by Sarah Oakes

I keep a box of stars beneath the bed, for days when I run out of magic. When my soul loses its sparkle, I take out that box and gaze at the stars, until I shimmer again.

I keep them next to legendariums, for when my heart runs out of hope. When I can’t find a way forward and the world seems dark, I reach for those bright vivid tales of old Norse, of magic and myth and old one eyed gods who are as dear as friends, until life doesn’t seem so bad after all.

I keep a crate of words under the bed, for days when I run out. When monsters start eating my words, spewing hate and spitting doubt, I reach for the box and find words of joy and hope, until I feel better.

I keep scraps of positivity in bag beside the legendariums, for when I can’t find any. When my mind focuses on negativity, bullies me, mocks me, humiliates me, I find that bag of positivity and I remember that I am worthy after all. 

'The Wooden Heart' by Rebecca Kinnarney

Margaret passed the 11 plus.

James failed. 42 crosses on his year 8 report card. 5 mediocre GCSEs. ‘James needs to sit still in class.’

Hour after hour after hour, Jim sits and focuses. He turns, shapes, smooths, polishes.

Maggie will always treasure the heart that Jim's given her.

'Strokes' by Petra Reid

it’s been so many times I know that it’s exactly eleven strokes from here to the end of the pool and if I can just get there before the hand on the Speedo clock reaches 12 I’ll be in the team for Saturday but as my fingertips reach for the overhanging lip as I make my last propulsive move my stomach cramps it’s agony agony as the second hand beats me to the 12 and I hear coach say what the hell is wrong with you Paige you’re nowhere near the qualifying time not your finest hour just get dressed and go home so I do even though there’s blood on my costume she’s losing her pre-puberty puppy fat advantage Mum tells Dad at teatime like I can’t hear let her eat as much as she wants now I’m twenty-two and I eat as much as I want because I’ll never beat the relentless sweep of the second hand on its way to 12 again it’s been so many times I know it’s exactly eleven strokes from here to the-