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Green_fields

Fiction

Issue No. 22

Maria Hummer

Fiction

Issue No. 22

We were told to pay attention to things that were different, and it seemed to me that sex was no longer the same. Now,...

Fiction

May 2018

Self-Improvement

Sophie Mackintosh

Fiction

May 2018

I had been sent back from the city in disgrace, back to my parents’ house in the country. It...

When I was born my mum and the nurses had laughed at my long baby fingernails ‘You were a soft ball with these sudden sharp surprises,’ my mum said, ‘like finding bits of eggshell in your omelette’ I think about this a lot I wedge my thumbnail into the omelette-y skin behind my other thumbnail I do it until red appears like tomato juice   I have always had long and fast-growing fingernails I am getting revenge on the woman who lives upstairs   *   On February 17th I meet Melanie in the foyer of our building To ‘meet’ a person can have three meanings:   To see or talk to someone for the first time To come together with someone intentionally To come together with someone unintentionally   When I ‘meet’ Melanie on 17 February in the foyer for me it is the third meaning   The building is supposed to be called Benson Tower but the first ‘e’ and the second ‘o’ have been gone since before I moved in It has always been Bnson Twer The building is marginally nicer on the inside that it is on the outside Melanie is standing by the fluffy green notice board but she isn’t looking at the flyers, she’s looking at her phone I close the front door behind me and walk past her I wait at the door into the stairwell She hasn’t looked up   ‘Are you coming this way?’   (Now she does look up)   ‘Sorry?’   ‘Upstairs Are you going upstairs?’   ‘Oh Yeah, sorry In a sec’   ‘I can wait’   ‘Do you live here too?’   It is clear that Melanie thinks we are ‘meeting’ in the first sense, even though we’ve met several times I can remember all of the times that we have met Once, we met in the doorway She approached me from behind and we stood side and side, looking at the street It was raining and I said ‘It’s raining,’ and she said ‘Cats and dogs,’ and then she laughed She pulled her scarf over her head and walked out She was wearing tan ankle boots and I wondered if they would fill up with rainwater like two novelty flowerpots   Another

Prize Entry

April 2018

The woman in the corner of the painting with the long fingernails

Susannah Dickey

Prize Entry

April 2018

When I was born my mum and the nurses had laughed at my long baby fingernails. ‘You were a...

When I was twenty-seven, my Sleep stepped out of me like a passenger from a train carriage, looked about my room for several seconds and sat down in the chair beside my bed This was before it became so usual, the shadow-forms of Sleep in halls and kitchens, before the mass displacement left so many people wakeful at uncertain hours of the night In those days, it was still surprising, to sit up and see the silver lean of Sleep, its casual elbows People rang one another, apologising for the lateness, asking friends if they too were playing host to uninvited guests   Sleep was always tall and slender but beyond that there were few common themes Experiences varied – a girl I knew complained her Sleep sat ceaselessly atop her chest of drawers, swinging its heels and humming, while another said her Sleep ran its fingers down her calves and demanded cones of mint ice cream Couples and cohabiters were the worst off – the Sleeps seemed generally more prone to behave badly in numbers, as though egging one another on A rumour persisted in my building that the husband and wife in the penthouse had locked their Sleeps in separate bathrooms to prevent them wrestling violently on the carpet A man I knew vaguely from the office told me in passing that his and his boyfriend’s Sleeps kicked at one another incessantly and flicked pieces of rolled up paper at the neighbour’s Bengal cat My Sleep had no one to fight with and so mostly preoccupied itself with rooting through my belongings, pulling out old photographs and allen keys and defunct mobile phones and placing them like treasures at the foot of my bed   Early on, we didn’t know what it was exactly Early on, a lot of people assumed they were seeing ghosts A woman in my building woke the seventh floor with shrieking, one night in mid-July Two am, dark throat of summer A bleary stagger of us collected in the corridor and were beckoned into her flat in sleeping shorts and dressing gowns We walked from room

Prize Entry

April 2018

The Great Awake

Julia Armfield

Prize Entry

April 2018

When I was twenty-seven, my Sleep stepped out of me like a passenger from a train carriage, looked about...

290 MILES TO GO   I am on the train now There are 290 miles to go From the window I can see people watching me from the streets and fields as the train speeds past They all appear to be wearing tight white tennis shorts and occasionally, when I look closely, I can see a deep red blooming at their crotches, spreading out across the tops of their legs They wave their arms very high in the air but for no real reason that I can discern There’s no panic or pleading on their faces, they aren’t crying for help All I can assume is that it’s some sort of dance, favoured by the people living in this part of the country Perhaps a ritual associated with the passing train, a means of protection against its speed and bulk After all, talismans do drip from their stiff cotton cuffs, mystical symbols are scratched into the dirty sand by their platformed feet   I see animals too of course Cows and sheep Horses with chestnut backs as reflective as mirrors They move along with the train like a pack of estate agents let loose, finding that their legs stretch much further than they thought Until they reach their limit of course, they hit a fence or a hedgerow or their lungs contract impossibly Then the train speeds away and I leave them behind Goodbye herds! I whisper Farewell beasts! I’ll probably never see the same set of sheep and horses and cows again   I am going to be 290 miles away for some time   WHEN I FIRST ENCOUNTER THE TRAIN I HAVE ALREADY BEEN EXHAUSTED BY THE STATION   I had waited to board the train next to a dusty crowd of people The platform stretched for two and a half miles and the sun maliciously heated the bleached concrete below us I hopped from one foot to the other to prevent the rubber soles of my plimsolls melting and sticking to the ground and most of the other people around me did the same, avoiding eye contact as we soundlessly pranced and waited The heat had

Prize Entry

April 2018

TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY MILES

Victoria Manifold

Prize Entry

April 2018

290 MILES TO GO   I am on the train now. There are 290 miles to go. From the...

Growing up, the joke in my family was that I could sleep on broken glass if I had to  Back then, I often slept for 11, 12, 13 hours at a time  If I woke to a quiet house I would turn over and go back to sleep, no matter how long I’d been in bed for  If I woke again and it was still quiet I would go downstairs to see if my father had killed my mother in the night, or the other way around   I stopped sleeping some time before my final year in school, when I was 16 or 17  I can’t remember exactly when  At first I was bemused by it  I would lie in bed and wait patiently for sleep to come  I burned vanilla scented candles and read huge novels, The Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations, War and Peace, Middlemarch  Nothing worked  When I realised I was never going to sleep again I was furious  What had I ever done?  So I stopped trying  I drank hot chocolate late into the night and wrote stories about girls who were dying to be saved, but in the end just died  Afterwards, I ripped them into tiny pieces that my mother wouldn’t be able to read when she was going through my waste basket and searching under my bed   I’ve tried all the cures for insomnia – counting sheep, counting numbers, warm baths, hot showers, warm milky drinks, chamomile tea, sleeping pills, magnesium, going to bed at the same time every night, herbal remedies, massage, sex, drunkenness – but the only thing that really works is to stop being miserable   *   As a rule, I don’t do well at parties, but I went along with it to seem good humoured and young, or at least as young as I was pretending to be  I’d been searching for somewhere to live for weeks when Kate’s ad appeared  ‘If you like books and music, we’ll get along’, it said, ‘Must like cats’  I’d read hundreds of ads by then and was sure no one in Dublin wanted to live with a 37-year-old proofreader, not even the 37-year-olds  In my

Prize Entry

April 2018

The Party

Lyndsey Smith

Prize Entry

April 2018

Growing up, the joke in my family was that I could sleep on broken glass if I had to. ...

Leo had stopped the car and sat talking at the dash He talked like he didn’t want to say any of it, but at the same time he seemed in a hurry to get it out, to reach the end of what he was telling her He was wired with excitement and shame, perched at the brink of a new life now, Jolanta understood as much   She sat in the back seat with her handbag Leo wouldn’t look at her, he kept his eyes straight on the street, the skip outside the neighbours’ house Jolanta looked at him in the rearview, looked hard at the black of his sunglasses   ‘I’ll help you,’ he said, finally   Where the mirror cut off his jaw hung the prayer beads that he had kept after his father died, smooth and dry like his voice, like cockroaches in the sun   Help her? she thought; a sock for the dismembered, and his help for her   She keeps her job at the campsite, beats dawn without an alarm clock now When the motion detector spots her, fluorescent lights suck the dark from the room The white tiles are glossed like wet teeth The floor is littered with paper towels and dragged in leaves The stalls smell of urine She opens the cupboard marked Private, plastic bottles rattling as she hoicks the cleaning cart over the threshold   There are different kinds of shit stains The darker the stain, the longer and harder she must rub with the toilet brush to get the porcelain shining like crockery again A drop flies up in her face, a cold mouche on her lip She wipes it off on the shoulder of her t-shirt and works her way down the stalls Sweat tickles her spine   She continues going into reception to sign off her shifts At the check-in desk, Eva is sitting with her head in her hand She is wearing a blouse with First Camp stitched on the back and a name tag pinned on the front A round office lamp hangs like an unlit gloria above her head   Behind Eva’s swivel chair is the shelf with the
Love & Accommodation

Prize Entry

April 2018

Jenny Karlsson

After sex that night, which was at best perfunctory, I lay on my back on top of the duvet with my knees drawn up to my chest, like I’d seen Maude do in The Big Lebowski Owen was in the bathroom and I could tell from the sporadic muffled yelps that he was tweezing his nose hair   ‘Gravity,’ I said aloud I’d read about gravity-assisted conception, how to give the swimmers a better chance Owen was the one who cooed over babies, so I assumed he would applaud my initiative   I was right Three weeks later, I waited nervously on a deckchair in our small garden, while Owen checked the pregnancy test One blue line meant no hCG hormone, no baby Two blue lines meant baby Of course it was two I knew even before Owen burst through the patio doors, holding the pee-stick triumphantly in the air, a wide grin on his face I just knew I stood up and we gripped each other tightly   ‘This moment,’ he said, to me, to the cluster of cells in my uterus, ‘this moment we will remember forever’   Owen knelt to kiss my stomach and when he raised his face to me there was a look in his eyes that I hadn’t seen before It may have been wonder Or excitement Or something else     Week 12   When I arrived home after work, Owen was in the narrow galley kitchen rinsing salad with filtered water and blackening two tuna steaks on a griddle   ‘To get rid of the bugs,’ he said, as he served up pieces of desiccated fish with a side of damp lettuce I was finally hungry again and could have murdered a rare steak with blue cheese sauce, but I guessed Owen would rather I went hungry than let me eat bloodied meat and unpasteurised cheese He poured a glass of wine and a glass of milk and we sat down at the small table   ‘I checked the book today,’ he said He’d spent the last few weeks reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting and regaling me with facts about the developments in my womb He

Prize Entry

April 2018

Foetus

Tabitha Siklos

Prize Entry

April 2018

After sex that night, which was at best perfunctory, I lay on my back on top of the duvet...

there is no doubt, here it is, on the sign:                Prawn chowder   prawn                                    chowder   (words already unfamiliar but growing more distant as I say them in my head for a third time)   prawn ?           chowder ?   on reflection        cream of cauliflower doesn’t seem so bad which is why I’m ladling (eyebrows peaking, just a little, at how the soup matches the sides of the takeaway container) And now I’m paying                                                               tap your card darling and tapping (darling)          and     walking and my hand!, container too hot, palm softening, losing lines, switching hands (surprisingly pink!), round to the lifts, sound chiming, me picking up pace, just fast enough to make it, stepping in someone else asking                                                             what floor   One ‘One’? Christ, should’ve said ‘first’ rubbing my leg against the side   Intercom, now,                                                                      First Floor Out, doors wide, down into the corridor (averting my eyes, upwards, away from the red and orange concentric circles across the carpet), upper arm preparing to negotiate the swing doors, nudging myself and the soup carefully slowly slowly through   I must walk as if I am not checking whether the sofa and table are free, I have no purpose, nonchalantly wandering, with my soup that is not too hot and my spoon that is just in my hand for whenever I fancy using it, purely making a casual parade of the office, bearing to the left, towards the kitchen area where a certain sofa resides, not that I’m hoping to get that exact sofa and table I use most days, just after the fridge, hidden behind the coffee station, and which may or may not be occupied, no no, just walking, just scheming at how, if someone has their lunchbox firmly on the table, how I can walk (not dejected, not me!) as if I am only passing by, not turning around,   (approaching now, scanning for a foot sticking out, a coat draped on the side) I will keep walking, I decide, walking, and just go

Prize Entry

April 2018

Little Scratch

Rebecca Watson

Prize Entry

April 2018

there is no doubt, here it is, on the sign:                Prawn chowder   prawn                                    chowder   (words already unfamiliar...

This, titled ‘Mouth’ in my father’s fading hand, found by my sister on a half-concealed shelf in his house after he had died…:   The last time I posted a letter I came home unable to speak   The postbox looked as it had looked for the last decade, red, solid and satisfyingly leaden, as if indeed it were made of lead, like one of the soldiers in bright regimental uniform I inherited from my father, and liked secretly to lick, and used to dispose in elaborate battalions on the linoleum floor of my mother’s kitchen, a floor that, when I stretched myself out on my stomach in order to imagine the armies I’d arranged around me, resembled a desert battlefield, especially when I half closed my eyes and mimicked the sound of bombs falling, making soft crepitations with my lips, a battlefield even though the kitchen floor was flat and smelled of the dust ingrained in its surface, a surface that, up close, appeared to be slightly porous, faintly cratered, like the scars on my father’s cheeks, which I associated with his habit of smoking for some reason, a dust so embedded in its surface that it emitted an almost imperceptible atmosphere, distinct from the carpeted or upholstered parts of the house, which were also landscapes to me, an atmosphere more like that of the moon, which has a mist, I’d assumed, that tastes of fine grit, from the fragments of rock that lie scattered on it like bones and teeth, boulders like the round ends of ball-and-socket joints   The red postbox looked as it had done then ever since I’d first encountered it, solid and dependable and smiling, an old friend, a Chelsea pensioner marooned on the side of the road on a tentative trip to the shops, or so I thought when I shuffled round it from the side, momentarily catching my left slipper, I was wearing battered felt slippers, and scraping it with a soft, rasping sound I liked on a piece of paving that protruded slightly, as if a creature I didn’t know existed had cautiously lifted it, like
Mouth

Prize Entry

April 2018

Matthew Beaumont