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-

'The Beginning's End' by Yuqing Weng

Some petals have fallen.
I look away, and walk away.
My friends gave me the flowers when I finished my finals.
With a bottle of prosecco that we downed that very night.
We toasted to the end of exams.
The next day, I devoted to myself to beginnings.
Resumes, interviews, apartment viewing and renting.
What is life but beginnings tailing ends?
Yet the chasm between beginnings and ends spins like a black hole.
I leaped forward and clung to the summer ahead.

One day I woke up to find pollen scattered on the windowsill, a tender yellow.
I put some on the tip of my tongue: It was bitter.
Then without much thought I wiped the windowsill with a rag.
I should have collected and spread the pollen into the wind.
Another day, I knocked the vase over while opening the window. Water everywhere.
A subtle smell, so similar to the refreshing fragrance of chrysanths, but ... bad.
After that incident, the flowers seemed to have suddenly aged.

Can one begin without ending? No, the black hole must be seamed.
Yet after lots of alcohol and hugs and goodbyes, I still haven’t bid farewell.
When L said “I will miss you”, my response was lagged and feeble.
When M messaged to say she was leaving, I pretended not to see.
Today is the first day I’m alone in an empty college.
In the morning, I open the window to the strangest familiarity.
Some petals have fallen.

'The Portrait Confronts the Artist' by Cheryl Snell


Where is my belly? I blacked it out. What about the kit and caboodle inside? That, too. It was just a jumble of beginnings. Did you see the second brain they say lives in the gut? No. That is a controversial theory, like climate change and evolution.

Scraping the canvas raw, the artist says, This is just not working for me. He puts the putty knife down and looks for the image that has slipped through to the underpainting. Complaining from deep inside the dark smudges, the portrait can be heard to say, Why do you always go too far?

'Found Flash' by Gina Dantuono

Snow announced dark brambles as night clocks through his marriage.

'The Girl Made of Colors' by Allison Renner

Once upon a time there was a girl with colors on her skin. Pictures and patterns raced up and down her arms and legs.

Some people smiled at the vivid images, walked away from the encounter wondering what pictures might show up on their own skin if they had her confidence.

Others gave her a disgusted look, wondering why she would go out in public like that, thinking she should cover herself with garments that prevented her from being seen.

But the girl was oblivious to these reactions. She went through her days in a blissful blur of color, thinking only of how much she loved her skin and what she would draw the next day, after it all washed off in the bath.

'Destiny' by Katie Willow

Dear Sir,

I read on the eleventh page of a book on the eleventh shelf of the eleventh row of the library on eleventh Thomas Street, Coombes, a message of mystery meant for me. I embarked on a mission to the eleventh house along the river and knocked eleven times on the door while turning eleven times on the spot. When the door opened, I entered and curtseyed eleven times and held my eleven fingers aloft and shed my shoes to show my eleven toes.

I shall not tell you how many years I spent searching for the house, the book, the library, the village. Only that it seemed this year would be the one I fulfilled my destiny. And yet nothing. I will return in November. Please be ready next time as this whole affair has been disappointing in the extreme,

Yours Faithfully,

Thomasina Coombes XI

'How to Leave Your Family' by Margaret O'Brien


You will need

a level head

1 moon calendar

some ducks

1 pond

some bread, stale

1 dark night

1 farmyard

a blanket of snow

1 marmalade cat

2 owls, white



First, it is essential to avoid weeping. Hatch your plan carefully and keep a level head. Timing is crucial. Lie to your sister when she notices you checking the moon calendar on the scullery wall. Spend some time by the pond observing the ducks and how they swim and then lift off to fly. Don’t be afraid to venture into the dark. Make some test runs. Take the bread you’ve been saving in your pillow. Although stale this will be your sustenance in the beginning. Be careful to avoid the snow covered farmyard, you don’t want to leave tracks. Likewise the muddy paths by the pond. Don’t talk to the marmalade cat as you pass through the kitchen, she cannot be trusted. But the two barn owls who keep watch in the eaves are your friends and wish you well. Spread your wings.

'Recalculating…' by Allison Renner

“Turn left,” the GPS told Madge, but she didn’t think that was correct, so she kept driving straight.

“Recalculating… Turn left,” the GPS tried again. Madge looked around and shook her head. She was in a new city for a work conference and didn’t think this was the type of area her industry would book. One side of the street had hulking warehouses with broken windows, while the other side sported dilapidated houses.

Madge was stressed after her flight delay caused her to miss the company shuttle. She had to rent a car on her credit card and was already calculating how long it’d take her company to reimburse her. Rent was due at the end of the week and now she was a couple hundred short.

She hated driving in unfamiliar cities and thought programming the address in the GPS would simplify the issue, but it kept trying to steer her wrong. Her knuckles were white as she gripped the wheel and tried to ignore her budding headache.

“Turn left,” the GPS repeated, and Madge rolled her eyes. She was passing the industrial area now and felt a small flicker of hope that the expressway was just beyond the curve.

“Recalculating… Turn left,” the GPS insisted. Madge looked at the screen in surprise. The tone had been purely robotic before and was now almost angry. She sighed, figuring she was already so late it couldn’t matter too much. Why stress herself out just to get ripped a new one by her boss?

Madge turned left. The ocean stretched out before her. “Parking to your left,” the GPS gently suggested.

Madge parked and walked towards the sand. She paused only to take off her shoes and leave them behind—along with her tension—as she stepped into the water.

'Bluebeard' by Roberta Beary

Of course they died of natural causes. Open wide, dearest.

'Eleven Word Story' by Gina Dantuono

Neither woman fixes the clasp hanging between their truth and desire.

'Finding Your Letter Again' by Patricia Bender


Your letter, from the day everything felt silver, shimmers. Burnished details from Fugard’s play, “The Train Driver,” glow just as when we sat in those theatre seats. How real the story’s anguish felt. How deep the demand for compassion.

We talked for hours with other audience members over coffee in the West Side Diner. Other diner patrons hearing our spirted talk asked about the play. Soon we were all together, the cook with his arm propped up on the delivery window shelf, the waitresses in shocking pink smocks, the cashier, her smooth black hair piled high and threaded with rhinestones.

'Eleven Word Story' by Anita Goodfellow

She is younger than me, younger than me, younger than me.

'I Thought You’d Never Call' by Allison Renner

“My wife found out about us.”

'Eleven Going on Eighteen' by Jo Derrick

You won’t find another fool like me. We all make mistakes, but I made one that summer of 1973. I danced with Steve Bates at the pony club disco and my best friend fell out with me. I didn’t even kiss him, but Sharon said I’d betrayed her and she was right. The smell of saddle soap and horse shit always reminds me of him. Put me off men with brown eyes ever since.

Steve had the cheek to invite me to the Halloween Disco. I went, of course. I’d be an idiot to refuse. Smoochy dances and snogs outside in the car park with a crafty bottle of cider smuggled in by the bad boys. The Monster Mash was a big hit that year and we loved it. I can’t help dancing to it to this day. I was working in the lab late one night. Who knew back then that I would be actually working in a lab late one night when I met my husband? Life has a funny way of throwing you coincidences and bizarre connections.

The Ballroom Blitz was the hit of my birthday party. It was the most original party ever back then! We played Sweet and Marc Bolan records, then Dad set up a projector and screen in our lounge so that we could watch old Laurel and Hardy films. It sounds weird now, but everyone loved it. Steve brought his records over and insisted on playing The Ying Tong Song about ten times. We girls got our own back by doing our dance routine to You Can Do Magic.

In bed that night I drifted off to sleep with burning eyes from Mum and Dad’s cigarette smoke, listening to Perry Como’s The Good Times. And I knew they wouldn’t split up now.

'The End' by Allison Renner

From a room away, I hear him try to place the glass on the counter silently. I hear the crack of the ice tray, the suck of the fridge as he pries it open. Like I won’t know what he was doing. Having a newborn had heightened my senses while it seemed to dull his. I feel alert about everything going on in the house at all times.

I close Elijah’s door behind me and tiptoe towards the kitchen, pausing in the hallway. My doubts catch up to me as I realize I’m doing something similar. Staying quiet, sneaking around in deference to the sleeping baby. Maybe that’s all he’s doing and I’m overreacting.

The floor creaks and James turns to face me, deftly positioning his body to hide the glass and the bottle of rum. My anger floods back. “You’re out!” I whisper as loud as I can.

“You’re crazy!” he exclaims in his overly-loud, already-drunk voice. “This is coming out of nowhere!”

I point at the almost-empty bottle. “What about when I confronted you about the last bottle? Or the one before that? What about our breakup last year? Get out!”

“But we have a family now, baby!” He steps towards me with his arms wide. He stumbles and falls onto me. I can’t breathe and I think it’s due to the fall before I realize his hands are around my neck. I gasp and shove at him. I think of Elijah and strength surges through me. I knee James and roll away, run down the hall, lock myself in my son’s room.

“It was an accident,” he pleads, right outside the door. “I’m drunk, I’m not thinking, “I’m sorry!”

“I’m calling the police,” I whisper.

'Dirty Laundry' by Anne Soilleux

Ladies’ knickers hidden way back in your drawer. Worn.

Eleven word story by Saddie Hopes


He is part of me, actually - every day is Father’s Day.



I want to be alone, but when I am I don’t. There’s so much I can do while they’re out enjoying themselves. I can hoover or dust or make a cake or read. I go for a walk, drink raspberry gin, scroll through Facebook. I eat crisps, assess the garden, resolve to do some weeding. I read old diaries and weepily reminisce about the good times. I’m busy wasting time in what has become a wasted life. Silly me, as always, wishing I was like Brogan or Myra. They have money, adventurous husbands and kids who invite them over. Envy isn’t an attractive emotion, as my glamorous mother would say. I decide that later I’ll dance crazily naked on the lawn.

'Love Notes From My Mother aka Why I Hate Strawberries & Cream' By Davena O'Neill


You left a note every day.

On the kitchen table, cleared after baking, one small flour covered corner, a perfect heart in its centre. You are awesome, in rainbow colours on the chalkboard. On the glass, after bath time, steam covered and dripping, a smiley face, or HI!

Letters on the fridge spelled I love you. It’s nearly home time, on a scrap of paper, pressed between pages of a schoolbook. It was always what I needed, something silly, or sweet. I saw your face and perfect hands, knew you sealed it with a kiss.

SMILE, printed on tissue paper. Sweet dreams, written in stars, left on the pillow. I saved all the ones I could, placed them in a box by the bed. You ran your hand along it and smiled. Said we’d have to get a bigger box as I got older.

But we didn’t need to. The box was big enough.

The last note was a treat for me to enjoy while you ran to the corner shop. A strawberry heart with a whipped cream smile. I had licked the plate clean, then vomited after I heard, pink and red running like blood down the kitchen sink.

As you lay broken beneath twisted steel, I had drawn a picture of us dancing. Oversized smiles on oversized faces, hands and feet tangled so that we seemed to move as one. It was intended as a thank you, became a parting gift, lying with you now between fingers entwined.

'The Love Dart Market' by Brenda Klingenmaier

 After rain, the Snail Love-Dart Market opens. Crow beaks. Coitus interruptus.

'Please keep your receipt as proof of purchase' by Anne Sollieux



McPherson and Devenish, Solicitors









Richards and Sons, Removals








27/2/2018  11:54

B and Q, Acton



2 Light bulbs



1 Oil fired radiator



1 Swingtop Bin



1 Light shade





01/3/2018 14:36

IKEA, Brent Park






BILLY bookcase



BILLY bookcase



SÖRE mattress





03/3/2018 17:16

B and Q, Acton



4  Emulsion 5 ltr Love Note



1 Eggshell Brilliant White



2 Paintbrush set








15/4/2018 09:10

Boots, Acton



2 Clearblue pregnancy test





20/8/2018 15:30

Argos  Acton Gardens



1 Joie Dream Car seat



1 Joie Voom Stroller



3 Sleepsuits



1 Bunny





25/8/2018  11:24

B and Q   Acton



2 Emulsion Paint 5 ltr Spring Rose



1 Eggshell Paint White





03/9/2018  16:20

IKEA   Brent Park






GULLIVER Changing table



WETTAR Mattress Protector





1/10/2018  10:05

Screwfix  Acton



1 Gutter brush



1 Extending ladder





02/10/2018 13:53

APCOA, Central Middlesex Hospital








2/10/2018   14:13

Café Nuovo, Central Middlesex Hospital








02/10/2018  18:30

Central Middlesex Hospital








02/10/1919  22:30

APCOA, Central Middlesex Hospital








03/10/2018  08:30

APCOA, Central Middlesex Hospital








03/10/2018  16.50

Acton Cabs



Cab Central Middlesex to Lynton Rd





09/10/2018  14:27

Next,  Acton



Black Maternity Dress



Black Tights





14/10/2018  10:16

Making Scents, Acton









Co-op  Funeral Directors



Funeral services





5/11/2018  18:34

Tesco Extra,  Acton



5 Ready Meal for One






Richard McCarthy Estate Agents, Acton Green



Sale Fee






McPherson and Devenish, Solicitors









Richards and Sons, Removals