Amy Finlay – fiction

The Recital

 

My name is Vincent Roberts and I am recounting to you the events that happened several years ago in the summer of 1998. My psychiatrist says that if I write it all down things might begin to make sense – as though I haven’t replayed it in my head hundreds, even thousands of times before. Oh and by the way, in case you are wondering, no, I am not crazy. My test results show that I have no signs of psychosis. I have been recommended several doctors, neurologists and mental health experts over the years and they all conclude I am certifiably in sound mind. No one believes my story – heck I wouldn’t either. Because it defies belief. I wish it were a lie, an elaborate fabrication, but those who know me best know I have no flair for imagination. I am committing my story to paper and I will be as detailed as I can. I invite you to judge for yourself the events that took place that strange summer of 98.

I had recently moved from Boston to the small town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. I have, had, been a classical pianist with the Boston symphony orchestra but an unfortunate repetitive back injury meant I had to take a period of leave to recover properly. This was a short-term arrangement, a sabbatical of sorts. I was annoyed. I had worked ceaselessly for several years and I am not being boastful when I say I had a growing reputation as a celebrated classical pianist. My injury however required time for recovery. Wanting a fresh start following a recent break up with my girlfriend Susan, I decided I needed a change of scenery so I asked around and before I knew it I had accepted a job as a professor at the Falmouth musical conservatoire. So that July I packed up my tiny apartment and headed to the cape, to the picturesque town of Falmouth.

I settled into life in Falmouth quickly. My colleagues were mostly like me, ex orchestral musicians, easy to get on with, the job undemanding. Sure, it wasn’t ground breaking work, I wasn’t teaching musical protegees, but I enjoyed this new pace of life compared to the demands of the orchestra back in the big city. I was beginning to see the appeal of the cape. On my free days I went swimming and surfing, heck I even started composing my own music with ambitions to record an album. A change is as good as a rest so they say. Life was good. That was until a phone call from Susan. We had split up a while back so I was surprised to hear from her. Her mother was sick. Very sick. She needed to see a cancer specialist in Canada but her health insurance wouldn’t cover it. In short Susan needed money and I knew it was serious because she was a proud woman who wouldn’t ask unless absolutely necessary. I wasn’t wealthy by any means but I told her I would do what I could. So when I saw a notice requiring a piano tutor for an eight grade student in the college one day I did not hesitate to apply. What I would give to turn back the clock and not apply for the job.

That evening I called the number on the advert and after a few rings a husky voice answered. It was a strange voice, unlike one I had ever heard before, female, raspy. She sounded old, perhaps retired. I said: ‘Hi my name is Vincent Roberts and I saw your advert for music tuition in the music school. I am a piano professor there and am interested in the position.’ There was a strangely long pause and finally the voice said ‘Mr Roberts, I am so glad you called. My name is Mrs Hale. I require a teacher for my niece – she is nine years old and plays at a level exception for her years.’

We discussed the details. Mrs Hale and her niece lived half an hour away in a house called ‘The Rectory’, on the other side of the cape where I had not been before. I was to come and meet them that Friday after work. Being new to town I didn’t exactly have a thriving social life so I didn’t mind working on the weekend. So off I set for The Rectory. Having lived in the city for so long I didn’t have a car so I resolved to get a bus after work. Packing up my desk around 6, the janitor Karl asked me what I was doing this weekend. He was polite, feigning an interest in me, a newcomer.

‘I got a tutoring job at The Rectory, west side of the cape,’ I replied.

With hindsight Karl’s reaction should have alerted me. His friendly face seemed to suddenly stiffen as though he had seen a ghost.

‘I thought that house was empty after the accident.’

‘What happened?’ I said, my interest piqued. Continue reading

James Bates – fiction

Patchouli Oil

The stink of the diesel idling outside their apartment agitated the old man. His caregiver opened a vial of patchouli oil and wafted it under his nose. Instantly he calmed. A smile formed as he remembered the sixties, a long-haired, tie-dyed hippie in love with life and a flower child named Sunshine. Who became his wife. And caregiver. He watched as Sunshine breathed in the scented fragrance and put a scratched Jefferson Airplane album on the old turntable. Then she joined him on his lap and held him tight while Don’t You Want Somebody To Love played. It was perfect .

 

🍃

 

 

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLitThe Writers’ Cafe MagazineCabinet of HeedParagraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords, The Drabble and World of Myth Magazine, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2, The Best of CafeLit 8, Nativity Anthology by Bridge House Publishing and Gold Dust Magazine. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.

Glen Donaldson – fiction

Would the Real Maxine Miller Please Wake Up?

Around the age of fifteen, Maxine Miller had taken a long hard look around her and said, “Nope, not for me.” The entitled private school girl with the perfectly pressed uniform and a liking for colorful hair bands began to carry herself from that time forward like some imagined liquid tub of gold. In the process she became remarkably good at fantasizing.

The arid world of grammar lessons and Algebra II were like being on a planet with very little gravity for young Maxine. The endless classroom days stretched before her like a prairie road into a horizon she couldn’t be bothered to walk. Her thoughts would drift and soar amongst the clouds even as the school bell sounded around her. Maxine Miller was the daydreamer who never got her work done but wasn’t lit or Gucci enough, as the cool kids said, for that to be seen as a positive trait.

 But come the night, the drabness of her days would be burned away and the carousel of her deliberately fantasizing thoughts brought to a halting stop by the oblivion of sleep. In a house she shared with parents who were always on the phone, night’s rest was when her subconscious would go into swirling, beautiful freefall and create her imagination’s true magnum opus.

 At these times freckle-faced Maxine Miller, she of the tight smile and blue-rimmed glasses, would transform into adored best-selling author Caprice Crawford. The dream, repeated night after night, was always the same. A woman from the publishing company appeared and would announce that Ms Crawford, whose reputation positively rippled around the world as one of the genuine superstars of the modern literati, was finally about to make an appearance. The orchestra would start to play and on cue all conversation amongst the champagne-sipping guests ceased. All eyes would be directed towards the top of the stairs. Stunning and uber intelligent, Caprice Crawford, with her delicate chin and piercing eyes of green, would begin her slow and graceful descent, sliding her left white-gloved hand along the dark, lacquered staircase banister as she went.

The star-struck crowd knows that soon she will be among them and that maybe this literary god made flesh might have coffee and cake and talk with them. Some of the assembled make a mental note to try to say something meaningful that would make captivating Caprice notice them and think they are interesting. “What does it matter if she doesn’t remember our name a minute later?” a few ask themselves rhetorically. “Perhaps some part of us will remain in her mind? Perhaps even some piece of ourselves will find its way into her next book?” Oh the joy! Oh the splendor! Oh the anticipation!

And oh the heartache when pigtails and braces fifteen year old Maxine Miller awakens the next morning only to have to confront the stark reality that Caprice Crawford is not real and is most certainly not her. The gateway between Maxine’s worlds of fantasy and reality has been abruptly sealed shut. The door was locked. To that otherworldly realm, it always had been, and, unbeknownst to her now and for reasons too involved to untangle, always would be.

Somehow sensing this, Maxine does what she did most mornings when emerging from the twilight of the dream half-remembered. She laughed. Heartily. Musically. And in spite of herself. It was like yoga for her overworked, let-down synapses; a handy sanity-saving act of clear thinking. She had done it many times before. It felt familiar. Restoring balance quickly was her survival mechanism kicking in. It was very Maxine. It was not at all like the over-successful, puffed up la-de-da Caprice Crawford Maxine had invented. And the true beauty and magically helpful insight of that was something the awkward teenage would grow to love and appreciate in the fullness of time.

 

🍃

 

 

Glen Donaldson wishes people had a brightness setting and longs to elevate small talk to medium talk.

He has had work published by Jotters United, Positive Words Magazine, GhostStory.com, Tiny Owl Publishing, 101 Fiction, Tokyo Voice Column, Ipswich Life Magazine, Australian Writers Center, Lend Me Your Literacy, Into the Void Magazine, Fictuary, Octavius Magazine, Ether Books, The Binnacle, DesiWriters, The Flash Fiction Press,Cadillac Cicatrix, 81 Words, Wattpad and QWeekend magazine.

 

He is forthcoming in The Bombay Review and Horror After Dark.

Samuel R. Buckley – Fiction

Cheena Say

 

A jet of electricity into Arjan’s arm woke him up, as normal.

The Speedfeeder app on his phone gave him the rundown. It was twenty past six and twenty-seven degrees Celsius in London, with expected highs of thirty-eight or nine, humidity eighty per cent, precipitation unlikely. Song of the Day was null – recommendation unavailable and the No.1 Show to Watch was also null – recommendation unavailable. On the upside, there were ninety-five HOT SINGLES matching Arjan’s socioeconomic profile, weight, height, age, muscle mass, penile mass, body hair coverage, interests, intro-extroversion and sexual proclivity spectrum scores within a nought-point-five mile radius of his bedroom.

In travel news, strikes had paralysed SubTrain lines one through three; a failed terror attack had closed line six; a suicide had closed line four. SurfTrain EcoBus routes were expected to run today at five hundred per cent capacity and commute time was expected to be one hour forty-two minutes per mile.

In the rest of the world, the death toll from flooding in Bangladesh had reached one hundred and fifty thousand; sixty-eight rocket attacks had been shot down by the Judge Defense System in three hours, over Tel Aviv; scientists had warned that the western areas of Amsterdam and Rotterdam would be lost within three years to rising sea levels; the Fairness and Equality Board had ruled that the films Die Hard, Terminator, Star Wars – A New Hope and Mamma Mia were problematic and offensive, and should not be publicly shown; and finally, protestors had destroyed more than a thousand books held in the Bodleian Library after the institution had refused to give up offensive texts for destruction.

As Arjan dressed, there was a familiar sound of aluminium grating against aluminium from next door: Continue reading

Mare Leonard – fiction

The Dorito Man

I couldn’t believe that the Dorito man had disappeared. His truck was always parked outside the ranch where he lived a pretty ordinary life with his wife and two kids. He seemed sane, always greeted me with, Hello runaround Sue, tipping his Mets’ hat to bow and giving me a big smile. I felt safe seeing the black logo, Doritos floating on his small white truck. For chrissakes I didn’t even know the Dorito man’s name.

My street was all-American from the outside but every house had a secret. Rose’s kids were all crazy. Sean, the sanest, had Down’s syndrome but Rose, his mother, refused to have him live in a halfway house and go on with a life of his own. Sean was thirty and strolled up and down our street, looking for someone to talk to instead of staying in the house with his brother who believed he was a general. Danny marched up and down the street in his father’s old marine uniform. The rest of the time he dressed in his mother’s clothes.

Next door, Ralph lived alone in his neat brick family home, worked at Shoprite and did some gardening on the side. Maybe something illegal on the side too.  Now fifty, he was in a constant battle with his brothers and sisters for ownership of his parents’ house. He took out his frustration on his one eyed dog named Judy. I’d hear him screaming every morning: “You bitch Judy!   Don’t pull so hard!  You bitch… Whoa!” Continue reading