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They seek out the confused, the timid, the lazy   Are you still feeling frightened? they ask, mock concern on their faces After all this time? Really! How can that be?   Get a grip, they cry If only you could just make up your mind! This indecision can’t go on forever, you know   Channel that introspection into strategy, is our advice Your goals will be your stepping stones to greatness   There’s no room for uncertainty now Just pick an objective Follow the necessary path to realise your ambition We will be here to guide you   The lost ones scour their bedrooms, their cupboards, their gardens, for an idea or a clue: anything that might have weight, have longevity   That? That’s your ambition? You can’t be serious!   The lost ones bow their heads in shame and recognition   *   I cross the city to see my mentor in the area where he lives I have to travel east to west, going past the institute and taking another bus out further still It is an ordeal I once queried this arrangement, but it was not possible to change what we had agreed in the past   Today we are meeting in a park It is an unreal summer day, hazy at the edges so that the appearance of things cannot be trusted I can’t shake the feeling that the children who hang off the climbing frame are fakes The racket of their voices is like a cloud that casts a quick shadow over a garden, appearing near and far away at the same time Their noise seems to waver in the air, like it is unconnected to their bodies, a time delay between the movement of their mouths and the release of their garbled words The parents who sit on the benches observing, hands spread defensively on their laps, are probably fakes too   The banners don’t help Around the perimeter of the park, they are strung up, sagging in places, showing the warped faces of familiar-looking children and parents, but more attractive, more ecstatic They play tennis, run and hug They laugh, mouths open to show substantial white teeth The foliage they pose in
Career Advice

Prize Entry

April 2019

Sarah Trounce

Ok late I know was supposed to be home at 12 to pick him up and do this thing and now gone 2 and just getting out of office In my defence busy and if honest quite challenging morning/afternoon so not full ready to step into surrounding season as parting words from James still in ears re Quarter 4 full 14% off target and deep concerns These justifiable as variance from target pronounced and compounded by Quarter 3 variance and need now to address issues Fully understand I said and committed will get out there today and shake the tree But have also made counter-commitment at home Texted Nicki running late lots on any chance could push tree thing with Charlie into tomorrow?   No He’s been waiting since 12   Ok on way X     Stop saying on way when nowhere near This a problem in Quarter 4 too Have assured will come good but nowhere near Have texted Nicki again outside can you send Charlie out as have to do quick call in car Do not need to do call just do not want to go in Should make call Should let James know working on making Q4 good But not actually doing Already called best prospects all saying check in after Christmas let’s see in Jan enjoy break etc Enjoy unlikely given 14% adrift and 2 days at best remaining before closeout Also nice just sit in car take moment As house has full feeling Full of kids Kids fine Generally fine Just one thing would say and not critique of any specific individual but three is a lot no? House weather moves between extreme screaming and extreme tired Piles of things everywhere Piles of clothes in hall and on stairs Piles of twins on floor eating crayons or similar Nicki mainly asleep on couch when not actually correctly asleep in bed Charlie often left to own devices as in literal just face lit by screen and seems content but that not active parenting So nice perhaps if indulgent to stay in car and not step into just yet Plus enormous amount

Prize Entry

April 2019

Shine / Variance

Stephen Walsh

Prize Entry

April 2019

Ok late I know was supposed to be home at 12 to pick him up and do this thing...

I met Ryan on Tinder He only had one photograph of himself on his profile, edited with a grainy filter I thought he looked alright I didn’t have much in the way of standards My own picture wasn’t even really me; it was another lanky brunette that I’d found online, her face turned away from the camera My bio was Tinderloin, after my favourite cut We met in The Crown and Sceptre I ordered two wild boar sausages with mash and caramelised onion gravy Ryan was older than me by eleven years He worked for a cab service, picking up the phone His hands were nice and thick, a good ratio of muscle to fat, and he’d crack his knuckles when there was a lull in conversation, or smooth out a napkin with his palms When I told him about Papa’s shop he joked that he was a vegetarian I raised my eyebrows and smiled; I’d already overheard him order the roast chicken at the bar   I went back to his after He lived in his grandparents’ garage There was an electric heater groaning in the corner, and the corrugated iron door gave the place an industrial look I felt at home in there; it reminded me of the shop in a way A few carcasses wouldn’t have looked so out of place, hung up next to his book shelf   When I slept with Ryan that first time I bled through the sheets I was sixteen and I’d done my waiting   A virgin then, are you? he’d said   I’d just looked at him There wasn’t much point in lying The blood had dried fast between my thighs and matted up my pubic hair, so the skin there pulled tight when I shuffled off the bed The whole garage smelt of copper, like after opening a fresh pig     I spent the next evening in the back of the shop with Papa, sawing a few lambs down into primals We had Radio 4 on in the background Papa likes The Archers so much he has the theme tune as his ring tone If I speak during it

Prize Entry

April 2019

Tinderloin

Saba Sams

Prize Entry

April 2019

I met Ryan on Tinder. He only had one photograph of himself on his profile, edited with a grainy...

Fiction

March 2019

Oval

Elvia Wilk

Fiction

March 2019

The gym was crowded, so crowded there was a line forming at the showers, so many white bodies so...

Fiction

Issue No. 24

What Everybody Knows

Nael Eltoukhy

TR. Robin Moger

Fiction

Issue No. 24

I’m a woman who’s been through terrible trauma. I’m a woman whose first husband committed suicide, and whose second...

Fiction

Issue No. 24

Vashti

Zakia Uddin

Fiction

Issue No. 24

I met John at the dance summer school. He was standing at the lower set of doors towards the...

Feebleminded

Fiction

December 2018

Ariana Harwicz

TR. CAROLINA ORLOFF

TR. Annie McDermott

Fiction

December 2018

WHISKY WITH MOTHER as the electric blue fades into the small hours and now, a long way from home, my hands are covered in...

Fiction

August 2018

RETRIEVALS

Edward Herring

Fiction

August 2018

  About ‘Retrievals’:   I like to hear writing that is made out loud. Words vibrate in the air...

Fiction

July 2018

The Kid

Michelle Steinbeck

TR. Jen Calleja

Fiction

July 2018

There’s a child in the yard, its shoes flash every time it takes a step.   It carefully places...

They keep killing us

Fiction

June 2018

Sergio Loo

TR. Annie McDermott

Fiction

June 2018

They stuck photocopies in the urinals again and again we covered them in our names. Sheets of paper advising what to do if you...

 

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