Friday, 22 June 2018

Alchemy

by Susan  A Eames 

Bucks Fizz

Hannah was bored. Why had she allowed Gavin to persuade her to attend this event? She knew nothing about modern art and felt positively cross-eyed from the strain of listening to the artist pontificate about the alchemy of his Pieces. She downed her champagne and wandered away from the group of sycophants surrounding the bore. She’d had enough of pretending she gave a rat’s arse about his work.
‘Isn’t he marvellous?’ said Gavin handing her more champagne.
‘He’s an egotist.’
‘With good reason, Hannah. He’s sold over half the Pieces in this exhibition.’
‘Well, that’s nice for him. But I don’t understand modern art and he’s said nothing to enlighten me.’
‘Your approach is wrong. You must embrace the alchemy.’
‘Alchemy, schmalchemy.’ She gulped her champagne.
‘Stop pretending to be a Philistine.’
‘Oh, please. What does that even mean?’
‘Philistine?’
‘Alchemy.’
‘Well. Um. He’s talking about the magic within his work. When you embrace a Piece, it changes before your eyes: transmutes, transforms.’
‘Yeah, right.’ Hannah finished her fourth glass of champagne.
Across the room a beautiful man smiled at her.
Hannah perked up. ‘Now that’s an alchemy I want to embrace.’
Champagne-brave, she was off, Gavin forgotten.

About the author

Susan A. Eames left England over twenty five years ago to explore the world and dive its oceans. She has had travel articles and short fiction published on three continents. After several fascinating years living in Fiji she is busy exploring Ireland.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

A Date with Paprika

by Morna Sullivan

bloody Mary 


“What does paprika do, love?”

She studied the labels searching for star anise and cloves. She was intent on replenishing her supplies after cooking her Christmas aromatic ham. A well-stocked spice rack was a necessity. Wouldn’t you think the herbs and spices would be arranged alphabetically to make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for?

She was aware of a pungent smell to her right. She wasn’t convinced it was coming from the jars and boxes in front of her. It certainly didn’t smell aromatic or appetising and didn’t belong in this food aisle. A splash of Old Spice might have helped disguise it.

He was standing looking at her, expecting an answer. She looked back at him, taking everything in as she replied.

“It’s pepper – just like white or black pepper except with more flavour.”

“Pepper? Are you sure, love? Then why don’t they just call it pepper? Is it not more exotic?” he asked.

“Well, it’s a kind of pepper. There are lots of different sorts. Look, there’s hot paprika and smoked paprika,” she said, pointing out the jars.

“Oh, I like it hot,” he said, smirking.

She pretended she hadn’t heard his retort and returned to scrutinising the shelves. She lifted a refill box of cloves and popped it in her trolley. Surely this supermarket had star anise. It was usually well stocked. She’d already been in three supermarkets this week looking it and they’d all been sold out.

“Would you use it for Indian?” he asked.

Ignoring him clearly wasn’t going to work.

“You could, but you would need to use other spices too. Like turmeric and fennel seeds or cardamom and coriander seeds. Paprika would give the dish you’re making a good colour but you need the flavour too.”

“Oh, right.”

Under his pulled down beanie hat he looked puzzled. Tall, a bit older than her, tired and relatively attractive, but puzzled.

“It depends on what flavour you want,” she said.

“I want Indian. Is paprika Indian?”

“I don’t think so. I think it’s European originally -  from Hungary possibly.”

“Are you sure it’s not Indian? I’m sure she said it was. Are all spices not from India?” he asked.

“A lot are Indian - but spices come from all over the world.”

The smell didn’t seem as bad now or maybe she was getting used to it, or it was being masked by the spices beside her. He looked as if he’d been wearing the grey work trousers with pockets all the way down the legs and the faded navy blue hoodie for the last few days. They were stained with oil streaks and mud.

“How would I know which ones are Indian?”

He still looked puzzled, bewildered and overwhelmed by the colourful choices in front of him.

“The jar labels will tell you. You know, the spices can be quite expensive. You might be better buying one of those mixed jars like curry powder or tandoori mix or tikka masala because you need quite a lot of different spices to get the right flavour. If you don’t use them often they can lose their flavour in time. Which Indian dish do you like?”

“I like paprika, love,” he replied. “She said she wanted paprika in it.”

He shuffled over in his muddy work boots to look at the ready mixed spice jars. She took advantage when he moved out of the way to find the star anise refill box and popped it into her brimming trolley. She also took the chance to take a better look at him. His eyes looked tired and his body was slightly hunched as if this was all too much of an effort for him. He probably wasn’t as old as he first appeared.

“They’ve a lot of Indian dishes in the ready meals section and the freezers. You can heat them up in minutes in the microwave. They’re quite tasty. You can also buy jars of the sauce already made up. It’s not bad if you’re in a hurry,” she suggested, trying to be helpful.

“Thanks – I know you can buy them.”

“It would save you time.”

“I have to cook this myself. I promised her. I promised myself. What’s that you’re buying? Is it for a curry?” he asked.

“It’s star anise. I use it to flavour my spiced ham. Its quite sweet. It’s used in biryani dishes. It won’t bring much colour to the dish. I don’t think it would help your curry.”

“I want paprika. She’ll know if I don’t use it.”

“You could get away without using it. Paprika will add to the colour but there are other ingredients that give colour too. You could add more tomatoes, or buy a jar of curry sauce and add paprika. Paprika won’t give the strength and depth of flavour you’re looking for.”

“What about this? What about turmeric?” he asked.

“It’s used in Indian cookery. Lovely colour, but you’d need to use other spices to get the authentic flavour. What curry are you making? Do you have a recipe?” she asked. 

“I really like paprika, love,” he said.

“That’s a good start. What do you like about it? Is it the colour, the smell or the flavour?” she asked.

“Everything. And I like its name. Paprika! Most of all I like how it sounds – exotic, warm, spicy, mysterious, magical, tantalising. Just like her. I like her name. She’s called Paprika Moldova. We’re meeting for the first time tomorrow night. I’m cooking dinner for her. She said I had to use paprika and she’d know if I had. She’s lovely isn’t she?”

He thrust a photo on his phone in front of her.

“She seems very attractive.”

“She’s a consultant surgeon.”

“Really - she looks quite young - to be a consultant. I know it’s none of my business, but how long have you known her?”

“A few days. We’ve been chatting online. She’s very friendly.”

“I’m sure she is. What if you don’t like her when you meet?”

“I’m sure I will.”

 “Why don’t you just go for a drink with her - maybe see how you get on. You could maybe cook dinner the next time. She might not appreciate the effort you’re making.”

“I’m sure she will.”

“Sometimes people you meet online aren’t quite the same when you meet them in person.”

“Sounds like you’ve had your fingers burned.”

“I have. And I’ve heard all sorts of weird and wonderful online dating tales. You have to kiss a few frogs before you meet your prince. And, believe me, there are a lot of frogs – very few resemble their online photos. But I could be wrong. Paprika Moldova could very well be the beautiful, intelligent, rich, young woman you expect her to be.”

“I know what you’re thinking – what could she possibly see in me?”

“No – not exactly. I just don’t like seeing people get hurt. Sometimes when something seems too good to be true, it is. You can’t be too careful. Do you really want this stranger in your house? Sorry, I’ve said too much. Its none of my business. Don’t let me put you off cooking your Indian meal. You could always practice making it for yourself so when you meet her the next time you could cook it for her – or for someone else.”

He looked straight into her eyes. She shifted from one foot to the other and glanced at her shopping list.

“I should have just lifted the paprika without speaking to you.”

“You should just buy it if it’s what you want. But you should maybe also get one of those ready mixes. You can’t go wrong with them. You could always experiment by adding paprika to one of them – maybe the tikka masala one?”

“I like trying something new,” he said, again looking straight into her eyes.

She was beginning to feel very warm under her puffed feather down coat. She loosened the hand knitted stripy scarf wrapped tightly around her neck. Why had she bothered coming out shopping tonight? And why had she even bothered to look for cloves and star anise? It wasn’t as if she needed the spices tonight or tomorrow or even next week. Then she recalled one of her New Year’s resolutions - to get out of the house every evening – even if it was only for a walk or to the supermarket. One of her other resolutions was to make an effort to speak to strangers. Well she was definitely ticking all the boxes tonight!

“Are you going to cook chicken or lamb? Maybe you’re vegetarian?” she asked.

“Me a veggie? Do I look like a veggie?”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“Does it matter what I cook it with? It’ll probably be chicken.”

“No. It shouldn’t. Chicken will be lovely. That’s what I usually cook,” she said.

“How do you know all this? Are you a chef, love?”

“No, but I like cooking. I did an Indian cookery course last year so I know a little about it,” she said.

“You seem to know a lot about it. I like it hot.”

 “You can add more spices to make the dish as mild or spicy as you like,” she said.

“Definitely not mild. I like a spicy dish,” he said.

“Most men seem to have a palate that tolerates spicier food than women.”

“Right.”

“That course was great fun. It was at the local tech. You should look it up on the internet. They might still be running it. They usually start a new course after Christmas. I learned so much about cooking Indian food. Everyone was really nice. We cooked a different dish each week. Do you know ‘Tandoor’ on the Bristol Road?”

“Yes, I’ve been there loads of times.”

“Well, it was the guy who is the head chef there who took the course, Sanjeev Rashid, lovely guy. So it really was authentic. He used to tell me off each week for chopping my onions the wrong way. Who’d ever have thought there were so many ways to chop onions? And so many types – red ones, white ones, Spanish ones and shallots. The large Spanish ones were the worst. My tears were tripping me when I chopped them. According to him you have to chop them different sizes depending on the dish you’re making. He certainly knows his onions – and all his spices. I used to chop them as big as possible as chopping onions always makes my eyes water and I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.”

“You seem to know your onions, and your spices too love. I’m sure you could teach me a thing or two.”

She smiled as she remembered it had been more than onions making her cry this time last year, but the onions had been a good excuse to blame for her tears, dropping into the meal she was making in the class, adding a bit more saltiness with each tear drop. Sanjeev hadn’t told her off, even though she knew it broke every food hygiene rule in the book. He’d just smiled kindly, clearly knowing the difference between onion induced tears and those brought on by a broken heart.  As each week passed her tears had lessened. She put it down to perfecting her onion chopping skills, rather than her broken heart starting to heal.

He selected a jar of tikka masala mix and a jar of turmeric and put them into his basket.

“I love Indian food. It’s so much healthier when you cook it all from scratch. Don’t forget your onions,” she said.

“Which sort should I use?”

“I’d recommend starting with the large Spanish ones. I’ve found they’re best for disguising heartache.”

“Sounds just what I need, love,” he said.

“You should try that cookery course. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I made new friends – real people. I love calling into see Sanjeev in the restaurant now to swap recipes.”

“Ok. Thanks for the advice. Maybe I will.”

“Don’t listen to everything I’ve said. Good luck with the cooking and your date with Paprika tomorrow night. Maybe I’ll see you back here in a few weeks buying more spices to cook for her again. Maybe you’ll have signed up for that course.”

“I hope so, love. I might, but then, maybe I could cook dinner for you?” he asked.

“When you’ve got the flavour right, I might like that,” she said, smiling back at him.

“Maybe you could help me with it.”

“Maybe I could. But what about Paprika? What will she think?”

“I think I’ll give paprika and Paprika a miss. I’ll go for something with a more distinct flavour that can bring out the best in the dish. I’ll focus on cooking what I like.”

“That’s important. You’ll enjoy it more then.”

“I’ll have fun experimenting in the kitchen. See you back here then.”

January wasn’t looking so bleak after all she thought, as she stood in the checkout queue and set her onions and spices on the conveyor belt.

 

 

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

To Be .... To Become

Nick Maynard 

new wine 

A life is a sum of its parts –
and this is the sum of ours…
To be is to become, and in a thousand words I hope to transform you –
a thousand utterances cast upon the wind,
to find a home somewhere deep inside,
where I might find a home…
and be remembered…
and become something other than alone…

I knew from the first moment I met him, that I had known him already…

A lifetime of lifetimes passed/past… I know that I had always loved him… To be with him was to be whole again – it was as if I’d been missing something all of my life – as if I had been holding my breath just waiting to surface, since forever... And now I’d finally found what I’d been missing all this time – in him… I had become whole again… He had saved me from myself, and so now I belonged to him, for him to do as he wanted. I gave him the power to hurt me… And I knew that he would… ‘Whom the gods destroys, they will first make mad…’ And he was the embodiment of god made manifest… The most dangerous and contrary of all the gods... My god… My contrary…  My other half… My better half… My double…

I had thought him into being.

A Thought Form - conceived by a fantasy, brought into being by the force of sheer Will… From that poster I used to have on my bedroom wall – and that picture I tore from the magazine – and the dream I once had so vivid I could have almost touched yhim -

He is desire made flesh –
My desire made flesh…
He consumes me…
I watch him… I watch the way he moves –
the way his muscles move as he walks –
that effortless beauty of him…

The way he wears his hair
his shy downward glance
the soft baby-soft skin of his neck
his perfect shell-like ears... His voice,
His eyes,
His skin,
His smell,
His smirk.
His tenderness,
His touch,
His tension,
His release…

To be and become his sex – his addiction - his attitude - his closeness – his distance – his confidence - his shyness – his sweat – his torture – his dark – his light - his turmoil – his peace – his dreams – his desires…his hands – my hands on his – the way he lie on me – and they way I lie on him – his legs across mine – and his feet in the morning. The small of his back – his thighs – his arms – his chest - his belly and muscle… The cleft between his buttocks and the hair that grows there… And his cock – yes his cock – and the round of his arse – and the quivering – flickering… I see it all… From the perfect diamonds of hair under his arms, to his sulking pout and the way his nostrils flare - and the face he make when he cums… And that knowing smile that follows. His laugh - and my fears - my agonies - my lusts - my loves - my dreams. He is the place where I rest when I am tired of it all… he is my peace of mind. He is my fun – my sleep – my strength and my weakness… He is my past – my present – my history and my future… My living archive - all that is consumed by his truth and his lies, and his beauty, and his ugliness…

He transports me – transform me – makes me want to be and to become altered… he makes me want to become better – to be better –

We never looked for each other. We stumbled into being and fought to be free of the inevitable… Breaking, restoring – forging and growing - into this… Whatever this is… Unhealthy - some may say…
I say…
There are three things I cannot change…
The Past, The Truth and You…
One thousand words –
Six thousand miles –
Two and a half thousand sleepless nights - and long-haul flights.
And counting…

So far away you are now… I can barely hear your heart beating for the sound of mine breaking… So, to try to restore the little I have left, I close my body down… I choose to die another day… My love now dare not speak its name, because to name it would be to give it credence – would give it life… And I want it dead… I have no life… Full-circle again, the whole time turning, to be broken like a butterfly, in this life and the next, until eternity… And I search for him still… An endless unconditional love that hurts so badly, I could dash-out my own brain, to release the pressure it puts me under daily, hours – millisecondly

Do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the pit of me, my breath – the last…
My soul I sell for fleeting sight For the end of all beginnings, and the start of everything.
I love thee to the last and first
Forever, as day to night
I love thee like no other can or could.
I love thee as pure as I can.
I love thee as passionately as you will let me.
In my grief, and in my future
I love thee with a love I can barely understand
With all my lost saints, I shall love thee with all my heart,
With all my laughter, all my tears - of all my life;
and, in the hereafter
I shall love thee even after, until eternity and beyond.

And it means nothing…
Less than nothing…      
You are not here to hear it…
Or to see what I have written about you and me…

                        To be and to become whole,
                        To be and to become alone again is to look into that hole,
and wish you could slumber there until he returns again,
and you can be and become once more…

And eighteen words remain to say one last thing…

I’ve used up nine… So I can whisper, nothing.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Let's Do Lunch

by Copper Rose

iced tea

The rain battered her shoulders, her head covered by yesterday’s newspaper as she slipped through the door of Giovinci Consuelo’s Bistro. Patty scanned the conveyor belt of her mind to pin down the perfect excuse for being twenty minutes late. Being late. Something she wasn’t proud of. Her mother used to tell the ladies at coffee klatch, “Patty will be late for her own funeral,” and they would laugh, knowing it was true.

Gaze flitting left then right, Patty searched for a glimpse of Amy in the sparsely populated dining area. An excuse had yet to expose itself. She started to sweat. She jumped when she felt the hostess’s hand on her forearm, jolting her back to the moment. “Table for one?”

Patty scrunched up the side of her face, shook her head, and then flicked up two fingers. She even laughed out loud at how it reminded her of the peace sign, which was what this luncheon was all about. She’d bumped into Amy outside the nursing home as Amy was coming out from visiting her father. Patty was on her way in to visit her mother. The chance meeting had caught them both off guard and in a hurry. After realizing how long it had been since they’d talked to each other, they’d pressed their cheeks together in an awkward hug. Amy had said without hesitation, “Let’s do lunch.”

It wasn’t an in-the-mail-box invitation but Patty found herself saying, “I’d love that. The Bistro?”

“Sure. This Saturday? 2:00 so we miss the 12:00 crowd?”

“See you then.” Patty didn’t have a hammer and didn’t nail it down; the invitation. Instead Patty had nodded as she ran off to convince her mother aliens had not stolen any money out of her wallet. Amy ran off to who knows where. Probably having an affair with her dentist. Or better yet, the Deliveries R Us guy. Come to think of it, he was awfully cute. Patty took out her little black book and made a quick entry.

The hostess led Patty to an empty booth, where it turned out, an excuse was not necessary. The view overlooked the street. Neon kaleidoscopes formed on the sidewalk, the pavement, the clothing store window across the way, blinking—blinking sighs of relief. It wasn’t often Patty was first at anything. She smiled, something she hadn’t done in a long time. 

The server waved a hand in her direction as she held up an iced tea. Patty grinned, nodded and was soon sipping the cold drink as she flipped through the old yearbook, smoothing her finger over each senior picture. 

The server came with a second glass of iced tea. A small drop, condensation on her glass, dripped onto the page.  She grimaced at the wrinkles it created on the picture of Amy’s face. She swiped it away with the side of her little finger causing a tear in Amy’s forehead. 

“Oops.”

Patty tried to smooth it out but the rip became bigger, now showing red through the tear, from the band instructor’s shirt on the adjoining page. Patty’s finger pressed down too hard and Amy’s head separated from her neck. 

It had been forty-five minutes, with no sign of Amy, that Patty sat in Giovani Consuelo’s Bistro sipping iced tea. Just sitting there and sitting there sipping iced tea. Patty kept glancing at her cell phone thinking she’d missed Amy’s call detailing why she was running late. Thoughts appeared on the conveyor belt, thoughts about respect and responsibility. Thoughts about entitlement. How some people got to be cheerleaders and other people didn’t…

“Can I get you another glass of iced tea?” Patty jumped when the server touched her shoulder, breaking into her reverie. 

“No, thank you. I thought I was supposed to meet someone, but I must have gotten my dates mixed up.” She pulled a five dollar bill from her wallet and slapped it on the table. She slammed shut the cover of the year book, and scooped up the book hidden underneath.

The server caught a glimpse of the familiar book tucked under Patty’s arm. “How to Cast a Spell – Just In Case.”

No one heard the squeal of tires on the other side of town as two cars collided. Head on. Well sort of, head off, but no matter.
***
“How about we do lunch?” Jan said to Patty when they bumped into each other at the post office.

About the author

Copper Rose perforates the edges of the page while writing unusual stories from the heart of Wisconsin. She also understands there really is something about pie.


Monday, 18 June 2018

Ben-Gurion On The Hill

by Neta Shlain

water

David looked up at the grey sandy hill with its poorly scattered vegetation, saltbushes mostly, and wiped his bald head. What was left of his once marvellous mane now tickled the inside of his ears with wetness. Sun was getting high; he placed the cap back on and began ascending followed closely by ministers of defence and agriculture.
     David might’ve not been a man of grand height yet his physical abilities could be compared to the more agile and much younger members of the Knesset, not that there were many of them. Quickly moving his short legs, he felt a sense of freedom rising in his chest, that same freedom that most of his dear ones left in Poland were denied. Tears welled up, he inhaled deeper and fastened his step still followed closely by the overly tired ministers.
     Finally, they reached the top. ‘Here it is!’ David extended his hand exposing an armpit soaked with sweat. ‘Here it is,’ minister of defence collapsed on the dusty ground, ripping a bunch of leaves from the saltbush and placing them in his mouth to create saliva, another hand grabbing the chest. ‘What is this?’ Red like a crab, minister of agriculture pulled down his hat to hide his eyes from the sun.
     ‘Ha Negev, my friends. Nothing defines a human more than the ability to make wilderness arable.’

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Waking up to Life

Boris Glikman
drink: a cup of blackest coffee



A woman with a gun in her hand demands of me and my companions that we provide good reasons why life is worth living—otherwise she will terminate us.

I think to myself: This is the very question I have struggled with for so long and now I am being forced to provide a definitive answer. Do I make up some fancy reason and perhaps escape with my life? But if I lie, then my life is not really worth pursuing. 

How many times have I dreamed and read about this kind of a life-and-death situation and convinced myself that I thoroughly understood it, assumed that I knew exactly what it felt like? And now it has finally happened for real and this time I cannot wake up nor close the book. 

I realise that we all have to go some day, but no one can ever accept that it will happen to them. Death is something that happens only to other people. What a pity it would be to go on a brilliantly sunny day like this, when the whole world is pulsating with life and every cell of my body is screaming out with the desire to live. On a day like this, I want to shout out "I AM ALIVE!!!!!" from the top of the highest mountain. How much more fitting it would be to leave on a cloudy, sunless day with the sky shedding cold tears. No, this doesn't feel like the right time to die! But when is the right time to die? How can one tell that one has accomplished all that one can accomplish on this Earth? 

To make the most of my existence, I really should try to cram it all in, all of my life, into these last few remaining minutes, the way I used to try to squeeze in all of the information just before the start of the exams. Now is the time to live my life to the fullest degree, like I never bothered to before.

Yet this fear of death that I am feeling right now is out of all proportion to the joy and satisfaction that life has brought me so far. Why does my life seem so dear and precious to me now? Is it because only now, on the threshold of death, does the vision of ideal life appear  to me, life free of all the illusions that have previously brought me down, illusions that only the proximity of the end can destroy? Is it because that only now can I see life as it really is—cleansed of all the grime that besmirches and distorts its true visage, unshackled from all the trivial annoyances that make life such a tedious grind to bear in day-to-day existence? 

It is as if, during the day of my existence, life concealed her features with dowdy garb and only now, as midnight approaches, does she shed her frumpy dress and stand before me in all of her natural, radiant, shining glory, revealing her most intimate, most treasured, most beautiful secrets. 

In the distance, I see my friends being finished off—obviously their answers weren't good enough. Almost certainly they all used the "My life is unique" defence and it didn't work.

My thoughts are racing now, desperately searching for a solution: Should I make my reasons stand out from theirs? But I am a person just like them. Wouldn't making my reasons more striking imply that my life is more valuable?

But what does the tormentor want from us? Honest, straightforward replies or singular, elaborate explanations? How can one justify one's existence? Where does one begin? I have no need nor reason to justify my past, for it is already gone and she can't take it away from me. In any case, I am powerless to change it in any way, no matter how much regret I might have about my past actions, and so what is the point of trying to justify something that cannot be undone. Nor can I justify my future for it hasn't yet occurred and is therefore of unknown nature, lacking any reality. It follows then that I am only in a position to justify the now, the immediate moment during which I am alive. 

Should I appeal to her humanity, her compassion? But is there a more futile endeavour than trying to find a speck of goodness in the heart of a stranger? What is morality after all but some intangible, nebulous substance that we can only hope has found a safe refuge in the breast of fellow man. The only thing that prevents some total stranger from shooting you for no reason is a vague, insubstantial concept of conscience, invisible to the naked eye, as well as to any vision-enhancing instruments. That is all we can rely on for our protection from mortal harm. 

It is now my turn. I go in and face the interrogator. In a voice devoid of any tone, she commands me to present my case.

"Life is hard, really hard sometimes" I reply, "and a lot of times I don't want to go on struggling against the unyielding, overpowering forces. Yet I want to continue living. That is all I can say. I want to live."

The interrogator gazes at me with an empty, impermeable look—a look lacking any human expression, pondering her answer.

Just as she is about to make her pronouncement, I wake up to life.

About the author


BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. The biggest influences on his writing are dreams, Kafka, Dali and Borges. His stories, poems


and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs.