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Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent international monthly publication, based in New York and Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide Franco Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish quality poetry, fiction, nonfiction, artwork, and photography, as well as interviews, articles, and book reviews, written in English and Portuguese. We seek to publish outstanding literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and to promote the writers we publish, helping both new, emerging, and established authors reach a wider literary audience.

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Published by istinadba, 2020-01-23 22:21:08

Adelaide Literary Magazine No. 32. January 2020

Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent international monthly publication, based in New York and Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide Franco Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish quality poetry, fiction, nonfiction, artwork, and photography, as well as interviews, articles, and book reviews, written in English and Portuguese. We seek to publish outstanding literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and to promote the writers we publish, helping both new, emerging, and established authors reach a wider literary audience.

Keywords: fiction,nonfiction,poetry

INDEPENDENT REVISTA
MONTHLY LITERÁRIA
LITERARY INDEPENDENTE
MAGAZINE
MENSAL

ADELAIDE FOUNDERS / FUNDADORES
Stevan V. Nikolic & Adelaide Franco Nikolic
Independent Monthly Literary Magazine
Revista Literária Independente Mensal EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR-CHEFE
Year IV, Number 32, January 2019 Stevan V. Nikolic
Ano IV, Número 32, Janeiro 2019
[email protected]
ISBN-13: 978-1-951896-51-5
MANAGING DIRECTOR / DIRECTORA EXECUTIVA
Adelaide Literary Magazine is an independent inter- Adelaide Franco Nikolic
national monthly publication, based in New York and
Lisbon. Founded by Stevan V. Nikolic and Adelaide Franco GRAPHIC & WEB DESIGN
Nikolic in 2015, the magazine’s aim is to publish quality Adelaide Books LLC, New York
poetry, fiction, nonfiction, artwork, and photography, as
well as interviews, articles, and book reviews, written in CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS IN THIS ISSUE
English and Portuguese. We seek to publish outstanding
literary fiction, nonfic-tion, and poetry, and to promote Dylan Ward, Michael Hetherton,
the writers we publish, helping both new, emerging, and Ashley Jenkins, Joseph Austin,
established authors reach a wider literary audience. Loren Sundlee, Virginia Marybury,
Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb, Andrea Carlisle,
A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação men- Richard Rose, Michael Gillen,
sal internacional e independente, localizada em Nova Denise Cloutier, Peter Fraser, Jay Hookham,
Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Ade- Bill Stoddart, Sean J.H. Rubin, Vince Barry,
laide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objectivo da revista é Stephen Stratton Moore, Terry Sanville,
publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia de Jim Tuggle, Lynn Dowless, Cody Bennett,
qualidade assim como entrevistas, artigos e críticas Marc Toso, Katie Ridlington, Claire Lu,
literárias, escritas em inglês e por-tuguês. Pretendemos Phoebe Myers, Amy Newman,
publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim Marisa Mangani, Shauna Speakman,
como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudan- Wendy Swift, Nate Tulay, McKenzie Fletcher,
do os autores novos e emergentes a atingir uma audiên- John McKernan, Danielle Hanson,
cia literária mais vasta. Bruce Morton, Alan Berger, Terry Brinkman,
Austin Adams, Andre DeCuir,
(http://adelaidemagazine.org) Christopher Barnes, Nardine Saric,
Al Fournier, R. Bremner, John Tustin,
Published by: Adelaide Books, New York Leandro Almeida, Uko Tyrawn Okon,
244 Fifth Avenue, Suite D27
New York NY, 10001 Scott Waters
e-mail: [email protected]
phone: (917) 477 8984
http://adelaidebooks.org

Copyright © 2019 by Adelaide Literary Magazine

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission from the Adelaide Literary Maga-zine
Editor-in-chief, except in the case of brief quo-tations
embodied in critical articles and reviews.


CONTENTS / CONTEÚDOS RETRO – GENESIS 5:24
by Stephen Stratton Moore 93
EDITOR’S NOTES
THE LAST TRAIN FROM LISBON 5 TWO CANES
by Terry Sanville 100
FICTION
ASTRAL FEARS CONCEPTION
by Dylan Ward 9 by Jim Tuggle 108

ENTER JOSIE LEGEND OF THE MAGIC WOK
by Joseph Austin 14 by Lynn Dowless 114

TWO WORLDS OH MADELINE
by Loren Sundlee 18 by Lynn Dowless 124

TAMALANE ОF PETROGRAD WATCHING
by Virginia Marybury 24 by Leandro Almeida 131

GRAVITY NONFICTION
by Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb 34
OUT HERE ONCE MORE
POSSESSED by Marc Toso 135
by Andrea Carlisle 36
MS. MARY
THE LADY WITH THE by Katie Ridlington 139
TWENTY-FIVE-LETTER ALPHABET
by Richard Rose 40 A SANCTUARY
OF WORDS
CHEAP DATE IDEA: DEFILING A GRAVE by Claire Lu 141
by Michael Gillen 46
PALIMPSEST OF THE PLAINS
TELL HER by Phoebe Myers 144
by Denise Cloutier 54
JELLYBEAN
MY ROOM IN SAVILLE by Marisa Mangani 152
by Peter Fraser 62
YOU KNOW
ONE LONG NIGHT by Shauna Speakman 156
by Jay Hookham 65
THE PSYCHOPATH
COLD WAR GIRL by Wendy Swift 159
by William R. Stoddart 72
THE ARGUMENT
THE BOY IN RED by Nate Tulay 164
by Sean J.H. Rubin 78
OUR CELLS
THE DYING ROOM by McKenzie Fletcher 166
by Vince Barry 87

3


POETRY Adelaide Literary Magazine

LOOKING UP AT THE SKY INTERVIEWS
by John McKernan 175
CINDY STOCKLER
NORTHERN ISLET author of the
by Danielle Hanson 178 CALLIOPE: THE SLAVE FROM ATHENS 215

THE FROGS CAROL LAHINES
by Bruce Morton 180 author of SOMEDAY EVERYTHING WILL ALL
MAKE SENSE 220
TABLE FOR ONE
by Alan Berger 182 JOHN BALLAM
author of the MARY’S HOUSE 224
SLEEPY WHALE
by Terry Brinkman 183 DAVID GERBER
author of the
SAY ANYTHING A ROBOT’S JOURNEY TO FIND A HEART 228
by Austin Adams 185

MEDUSA
by Andre DeCuir 188

LIBERTY ATOMS
by Christopher Barnes 191

ENCLOSED BY LOVE
by Nardine Sanderson 193

MEMBRANE
by Alfred Fournier 197

OBSESSIONS
by R. Bremner 201

ARMS OUTSTRETCHED
by John Tustin 204

THE CHAIN IN THE SKY
by Uko Tyrawn Okon 209

THIS IS THE LIGHT
by Scott Waters 210

4


THE LAST TRAIN FROM LISBON

The Last Train from Lisbon
That Friday evening

As the streetlights turned on
She walked out

And left on the pavement her footprints
Like music notes

From the Moonlight Sonata
Since then I carry on my lips
A kiss as glorious as Milky Way
And I am looking for a word
That will describe her magic

I was born that evening
On the Faro train station
An orphan with no past
Deceived by the future
Accused by my own words

Cursed to love
Without ceasing
Enchanted goddess of longing

I still remember
The last train from Lisbon
The evening of my birth
As the streetlights turned on
That Friday evening in Faro

5


FICTION


ASTRAL FEARS

by Dylan Ward

On an icy Christmas morning Hunter is “Funny, dad,” his sister, Angie, says.
frozen in front of the Orion SpaceProbe. It
gleams black in the winter light, like a mys- Ellie regards her son as he ambles away
tical entity electrifying the speechless boy. from the kitchen. “All this interest in space,
When he breaks free from his awestruck Liam. It might be too much?”
shock, Hunter splashes through shreds of
wrapping paper and rams into the bath- Liam gives her a questioning look. Ellie’s
robe-frame of his father to hug him. He eyebrows lift.
squeezes for a long time until it becomes
embarrass-ing and his mother’s hand gen- “He’s ten. It’s good to have healthy inter-
tly pries him away. ests.” Liam shrugs and winks at her over the
edge of his beer.
Each night at full dark, with a fierce com-
pulsion, Hunter hefts the telescope outside Across the room, Hunter leans close
to the nearby field against bone-chilling to the computer, scrolling through other-
air, against his mother’s objections. Red- worldly im-ages on the screen. His lips move
cheeked, his breath pluming in the weak light in silence, reading with intense seriousness.
from the back porch, he views the heavens.
The ethereal beauty of the cosmos reveals it- ***
self through the eyepiece: the craters of the
moon, Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s cloud belts, When he dreams he dreams of space. He
the Andromeda galaxy. A wondrous gasp es- sees visions of undiscovered planets in bril-
capes him at the sight of Orion’s Sword and liant luminescence, dazzling spheres paint-
the celestial river of Eridanus. ed in effervescent colors. Hunter longs for
it, lost in fantasti-cal tales of interplanetary
*** travel and hours spent playing with his toy
spaceships. In his memory, he sees the Vir-
“What’s the most dangerous star?” Liam’s ginia Air and Space Center and NASA exhi-
lips curl into a smirk. bitions at museums, all those beguiling as-
tronautic tools and gadgets. His eyes open
Hunter glances up from his book. “Huh?” when he recalls the disturbing appearance
of the unmoving space suit, its mirrored
“A shooting–” face shield watching him back.

“–dad.” Sliding away from the chair, Hunter At the school library, Mrs. McGillis has
clutches the book close. new selections of books about space each

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

week. She reserves them at her desk and re- rising. With exploratory swipes of his fin-
veals them to Hunter in a neat stack, saying gers he searches and traces the orderly
softly, “For you, dear.” structured de-signs of constellations. If he’s
lucky, he sees a shooting star.
Hunter’s face flushes, eyes alight at the
masses of new discoveries. His pulse soars But lately something nags him, about
with wild imagination at the blue sunsets of other things, darker things. And he begins
Mars, the breakneck winds on Neptune, the to won-der at them. How something un-
glacial moun-tains of Pluto. He is surprised known is stealing pieces from the Milky
into wonder by the ancient days –– the Way. Of the prehistoric rock hurtling from
Egyptian’s astronomical alignments to build deep space across earth’s atmosphere; all
those towering pyramids, the fearless Vi- those fearsome dinosaurs succumb-ing
kings navigating uncharted high-seas under to their death. He thinks about the awful
the stars, the Mayan’s shadow-casting de- Challenger Space Shuttle’s explosion, rever-
vices tracking the passage of time. berating and smoking through the January
morning sky.
And the countless stars. How they out-
number every grain of sand on Earth’s There’s the horror of what happens if an
beaches. Hunter considers this and ponders astronaut becomes untethered and floats
the fathomless depths of space. away, devoured into that limitless vacuum.
And the infinite blackness of yawning
He flinches when he learns space is cold. holes that bend and swallow light. To what
abysmal end do they lead?
***
In the starlight Hunter grapples with the
In his bedroom is a prized collection of sky immeasurable universe before him: cold
atlas books. Each night Ellie finds Hunter and soundless and airless.
sound asleep, an open book cradled across
his naked chest. With motherly affection, Wisps of stars float above, shifting like a
she replaces it to the shelf, leaving her boy terrible phantasm. Hunter shivers.
undisturbed. Among the bookshelf, glossy
National Geographic magazines and pull- ***
out posters fill the slim cracks, stuffed be-
tween the timeworn spines of as-tronomy At Jonah’s for a sleepover, the boys sneak
books. Sometimes Hunter pulls them out downstairs late that night, pillows in arms,
and lines them along the floor, surrounding sleeping bags dragging at their feet. They
himself in his own private universe. stretch out close to the TV and crinkle open
moon pies and slurp cream sodas. Halfway
On warm evenings when gardenias and through the movie a sickening thrill swells
honeysuckle perfume the air, Hunter waits within Hunter. The inky alien monster
in the cool grass, underneath fluttering creeping through the shafts of the lonely
bats and fireflies winking green, like tiny spaceship makes him tremble. Breathing
electrons. Dying sun-light pinks the sky and hard, he twists away to hide his fear from
shimmers through Hunter’s eyes until the Jonah, who hunches forward, grinning, his
dome of earth deepens, light diminishing, teeth shining in the TV’s glow. Hunter thinks
and the stars materialize. Hunter observes he shouldn’t be afraid if Jonah isn’t afraid.
the trajectory of the bone-colored moon
“That was awesome,” Jonah whispers.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“Yeah,” Hunter says. He hesitates when Hunter counts his steps, recites state
Jonah shuts off the TV, sinking the room into capitals, names of presidents, working
darkness. his mind in feverish pace, ignoring the in-
creasing worry of invisible cracks in the
Cocooned inside the sleeping bag Hunter window. He can’t open the blinds. When-
sweats, a dreadful feeling rising, and his ever exhaustion consumes him, he sits
mouth dries. After a while he hears strange, against the wall, chin to his knees, and stays
whispery sounds. When he lifts the flap for there for a while, blank and numb. To fight
some air, some-thing is slinking along the sleep, he sneaks into the hall bathroom to
edges of the room in the shadows. splash his face and sip cool water.

*** His sister catches him one time. “What the
hell are you doing?” Angie asks. She stands
By the time Hunter gets back home he bur- at her bedroom door, squinting groggy eyes
ies the Orion SpaceProbe deep in the back against the glaring bathroom light.
of his closet. Before he slides the door shut,
he can’t help but look at the telescope. It “Nothing,” Hunter tells her.
appears like something inhuman waiting in
the recesses. The glint from the bedroom Angie frowns. “Well, quit it. I can hear you
light along its black exte-rior vanishes in the pacing.” Fading through her dark doorway,
narrowing gap of the closet door closing. she says quietly, “You’ll wake the dead.”

When Liam peers in later, he sees his son Hunter hastens to his room, blood
wide awake, eyes straining upward at the rushing through his chest.
bed-room light.
***
“Time for sleep.” Liam cuts off the light.
He comes downstairs another night, stom-
Hunter is conscious and wary of the ach-sick, head throbbing, and finds his moth-
abrupt darkness. Feeling unnerved and er reading, his father working on his laptop.
edgy, ready to explode with anxiety, he
stumbles out of bed, flicks the light switch, “What’s wrong?” Liam asks.
and checks his room.
Hunter’s eyes sweep toward his mother
Every night after this is the same –– after and he leans over his father with a vulner-
the door closes, the light floods the bed- able ex-pression. “I can’t sleep,” he mumbles.
room again, eliminating every dark corner.
Hunter keeps the blinds shut to conceal the Ellie closes her book. “I’m sorry, baby.”
pitch-black out-side. Through the long night, She holds out her hand.
he busies himself by reading chapter books,
the thicker the better. Nothing about space. When Hunter comes forward, Ellie smiles
Sometimes he does gentle yoga, calming and Hunter curls up beside her and rests his
his breathing. He tries meditating once head on her soft stomach. Ellie rakes his hair
but closing his eyes spooks him. He calcu- and this comforts and relaxes him until he’s
lates intricate math problems, penciling nearly asleep. She takes his hand and walks
and scratching and erasing in his notebook. with him back upstairs.
Sometimes he doodles indeterminate
shapes and labyrin-thine spirals. “Good night, baby…” His mother’s voice
trails away with the soft click of the door
clos-ing.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

Hunter awakens to a state of grim appre- ***
hension. He thinks of the sun, its warmth,
wish-ing there was no night. Then he re- On the class trip to the planetarium the
members the extreme coldness of shadows butterflies in Hunter’s stomach erupt into
in space and his breath quickens. The 3D screams. He runs out, fainting in the hallway.
glow-in-the-dark solar system above him When Ellie comes to get him, the teacher of-
shifts and spins like ghostly orbs. He stares fers ineffectual assurance. The class gawks,
too long at them and the glow-in-the-dark dumbfounded.
stars sprinkled across the ceiling begins to
blur. Inexplicably, all of it lurches at him with In the car, Hunter presses his head
a violence that frightens him. He clambers against the glass of the passenger window
to the top of his bunk bed and rips them off in gloomy quiet. He avoids the dust across
the ceiling, bending back fingernails. One of the dashboard that looks like a trillion stars
them bleeds. in the afternoon sun.

*** Ellie is cognizant of his colorless, haggard
features, his eyes red and ringed and heavy.
The next evening Hunter lugs a trash bag She sees his chewed nails. One of them is
down the back stairs stuffed with his as- rimmed with dried blood. Her forehead
tronomy books, the National Geographic creases.
magazines, his posters, the glow-in-the-
dark stars. In the rain he hoists the trash ***
bag into the metal dumpster behind the
house. The lid clangs shut. “No!” Hunter screams.

Coming back through the kitchen, drip- His stunned family looks at him as if he
ping rainwater, Hunter peels off his shoes has three heads. But they reassure him
and socks. His mother is in the dining about the star watch party, reminding him
room, paperwork spread across the table, how they look forward to it all year. Liam
her back to him. He almost sneaks past even gets the tele-scope from Hunter’s
her when her soft voice stops him at the closet and sets in the back of the car.
bottom step.
They arrive early to the nature park and
“What are you doing?” Ellie asks. they set out a blanket and a picnic dinner
in a sunny clearing. Ellie and Liam sip wine
Hunter looks up at her, hair plastered to and cuddle, gazing skyward. In the gloaming,
his forehead, teeth clattering. Ellie assesses Hunter panics, his heart thudding, muscles
the round slump of his shoulders. full of adrenaline. The stars emerge and
thicken, billions of them, high above the dark
“Sorry.” shapes of trees. Hunter shrinks from them,
nauseous, curling into a fe-tal position.
“Hunter?”
“Mom?” Angie touches her mother’s arm.
Their eyes meet and Ellie holds his gaze.
Ellie glances distractedly toward her son.
“I’m sorry, mom,” Hunter murmurs. He As Hunter buries his face and shudders, Ellie
bounds up the stairs two at a time, like makes a sound and loosens herself from
jumping across the surface of the moon. Liam. She holds Hunter and rocks with him,
sobbing into his hair.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

*** “Where?”

“I don’t understand. You’ve always loved “In space.”
this stuff.” Liam searches the bare walls and
ceiling, the half empty bookshelf in Hunt- The dark silhouette of Liam’s head turns
er’s bedroom. He turns to his son, scruti- toward the closed blinds. He is quiet for a
nizing the blue veins bifurcating the side of time. “I don’t know,” he says. “It’s just space.
his translucent temple, uneasy at the deep- Nothing to worry about.”
ening circles around Hunter’s eyes. “What’s
got you all worried?” Hunter eyes the wraith of moonlight
pressing against the blinds.
There’s a tightness in his throat and
Hunter shakes his head, unsteady breaths “It’s been there forever, kiddo.”
escaping him. “I just don’t like it anymore.”
“Forever?”
Liam gives Hunter a warm kiss to his
forehead, noting his son’s tremors under “Forever.”
the sheets. “It’s okay,” he whispers.
Pulling up the sheets, Hunter’s breath
At the door, a faint tug of affection holds heats his freezing hands. Liam can dimly see
Liam and he waits before casually turning his son working over a conundrum.
off the light.
“But, what’s out there, daddy? What’s
“Daddy?” out there in all that empty space?”

The door widens, Liam backlit from the “No one really knows.” Liam lowers his
hall light. “Yeah, kiddo?” voice. “Close your eyes, buddy. Try to sleep.
Okay?”
There’s a weighty pause before Hunter
speaks from the shadows, “What’s out there?” Hunter whimpers as his father closes the
bedroom door, trapping him in the darkness,
the cold moonlight slipping in.

About the Author

Dylan Ward lives and writes various things in North Carolina.
His fiction has appeared in One Person’s Trash. When not
writing, he is usually reading something thrilling with a
strong cup of coffee, pondering the mysteries of the world.
He has a long way to go.

13


ENTER JOSIE

by Joseph Austin

Enter Josie. A raven-haired beauty with find charming. Good luck. If you ask for
blue eyes sprinkled with saffron. Barbara baby pictures, I’m kicking your ass out!
knew her kind the moment her son, Darren,
brought her through the front door. This She answered anyway, for Darren’s sake.
girl looked like trouble. Not that she invit-
ed it, but that she had invented it. The 15- “He was an average little boy, I guess,”
year old said hello to Barbara as if she was she told Josie, though Darren had been any-
meeting the other woman. It was all Barba- thing but an average little boy.
ra could do to keep from throwing the bitch
out of her house. “I find that hard to believe,” Josie said, a
coquettish tilt to her head and a lift of her
She served them tall glasses of iced tea shoulder. She looked practiced. Very prac-
and small plates of homemade potato salad ticed, Barbara thought. And good at it.
that Barbara immediately regretted sharing
with her. She didn’t want her sitting at her “Yeah,” Darren affirmed. “Nothing special.”
kitchen table. She didn’t want this girl to
hurt her baby boy. Barbara wanted to smack him.

Darren, though, seemed so pleased “Oh, come on. Stop being so modest,”
to be bringing a girl home. He had never Josie said, and she put her hand on Darren’s
done it before, and now, at 16, and after arm.
only four dates, Barbara knew she couldn’t
ruin this for him, so she tried to be kind; “Really,” Darren said. “Just your average
Barbara hadn’t gotten this far in this world kid. Right, mom?”
without being able to see Josie for what
she was. Barbara had said that, hadn’t she? Was
Darren actually calling her on it or agreeing
As they nibbled and sipped and chatted, with her?
Josie tried to lure Barbara into conversation.
Josie lifted a forkful of potato salad to
“So, what was Darren like when he was her lips. She turned her head toward Darren,
little?” she said, giggling. but Barbara felt her eyes were directed at
her.
Nice Try, Barbara thought. Try and get
me to talk about something you think I’ll Barbara gave her the same look back
and said, “Well, to be honest, he was the
same as now. A nice kid. The nicest kid
you’d could ever hope to meet.”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

If anything, Chickie, her older son, was her son’s sake. She thought of her boys and
average and Darren always the exception the great differences between them. Chickie,
to the rule. Darren had always been intro- who wore his confidence on his sleeve like
verted and quiet, unlike Chickie and his a proud, bloody battle scar, put his brother
sister, Franny. She had been exactly what in a shadow, who, if he wore his confidence
a little girl should be and now, at 19, she on his sleeve at all, wore it more like a stain.
was the perfect young lady. Well, Barbara
hoped. What Barbara didn’t know was that Barbara would never do what her par-
Franny was somewhere between what she ents did to her; she would never tell her
thought she was and Josie. children who to date or who they could be-
friend. Let them make their own mistakes,
But Darren? He always required encour- let them learn, she thought.
agement. She always had to be careful with
Darren. With Chickie, she didn’t have to So, she tried to be more accommodating.
think about him; Chickie always thought for
himself. He had even given himself that ri- “Why don’t you two take your plates and
diculous nickname, short for Charles, in the iced tea outside to the patio?” she sug-
third grade. gested. “I’ll put the radio on for you.”

Barbara attempted to change the subject. Darren smiled, and Josie, who smiled too,
stood first and went to the back door. She
“Are you new to town?” waited there for Darren to open the door.

“Yeah,” Josie answered. “Just moved here If Josie was what Darren wanted, she
two months ago.” would let it happen until it ended. He had to
learn, though Barbara knew she was going
Did she just wink at me? Barbara won- to hurt her boy. Though it was only 3:00
dered. Was that some sort of lie? on a Saturday, and she knew her husband,
Eddie, wouldn’t be home from the paper
It didn’t really matter, though, did it? What until around 7:00, she decided to start a
mattered was Darren seemed to like her and lasagna. He had a deadline to meet, which
Barbara knew exactly what sort of boy Darren always made him intolerable, and Barbara
was and she was sure what kind of girl Josie had suggested he go to the paper and work
was. He was shy, but handsome, in a plain way. on his article there, rather than rant and
His brother, Chickie, however, was very hand- rave and scream around the house.
some. Chickie could be anything he wanted,
Barbara knew. He could be an actor, a poli- If she was busy cooking, she wouldn’t
tician, anything. Darren, she thought, would be tempted to look out the back door every
always be just Darren. She couldn’t ruin this three minutes.
moment for him. He sat so confidently beside
Josie, so happy to have such an attractive girl She began to brown some ground beef
agree to date him. She knew what it meant when Chickie came in through the front
to Darren to feel as if, finally, someone found door. He stood in the kitchen doorway and
him handsome enough to date. said nothing, but just stared at his mother.

She let the wink go. “Can I help you?” she said.

As much as she disliked even the look of “Watchya cooking?”
Josie, Barbara tried to smile a bit more for
«Lasagna.»

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

“I’m not gonna be home,” he told her. dipping the spoon back into the bowl. Bar-
bara swatted his hand with a dish towel.
He seemed to get taller everyday, she
thought, noticing him leaning more out of “Make yourself a dish,” she said. Chickie
the kitchen than into it. just threw the spoon into the sink. It clat-
tered against the porcelain. He looked out
“And where do you think you’ll be?” Bar- the back door.
bara said.
“Who’s out there with Darren?”
“Out.”
“His girlfriend.”
“And where do you think you’ll be?” she
said simply, as if she hadn’t heard him, let- Before Barbara could do anything, Chickie
ting him know she didn’t appreciate the first was through the back door. She immediately
answer. knew it was over for Darren. This girl would
see Chickie and know, without a doubt, she
“I’ve got to go out tonight. Just out,” Chickie had chosen the wrong Doyle brother.
said.
Barbara stood there, her hands on her hips
He was nearly 18, Barbara knew, and wondering what, if anything, she could do.
there had to come a time when she stopped Maybe this time, she thought, things would
insisting that she know where her children be different. Maybe, with a pretty girl at his
were at all times. She also knew that Chickie side, Darren would muster enough confi-
would never tell her the truth anyway. He dence to not disappear into Chickie’s shadow.
was a lot like his father; that frightened her
sometimes. She often looked at him, listened She moved closer to the door. She heard
to his gruffness, watched his cocky attitude that tramp Josie giggling. When she looked
in the way he walked, even in the way he sat out at them, Josie was running a hand
and she wished there had been something through her hair. Jesus Christ. Barbara never
she could have done years ago to change it. hated a girl as much as she hated Josie right
then. She was also afraid to admit that a
Barbara knew better than that, though. little of that hate spilled over onto Chickie.
She knew there was nothing more she
could have done about Darren growing Two weeks later, around midnight, Bar-
into an insecure, nervous man, or Chickie bara watched from her bedroom window
growing up to mimic his father’s behavior as Chickie leaned against his father’s Buick.
and grumpiness, or Franny from growing Josie was also in the driveway, her hands
up almost too happy, too cheery. Though snugly in the back pockets of her cut-off
she loved all of her children, they were all shorts. Chickie was smoking a cigarette and
so different that she wondered if they all she thought she saw, in the glow of the
had different fathers and somehow, she had street light, tears on the girl’s face. He had
never been the wiser. taken her from Darren almost immediately.
Darren never heard from her again after
“You can’t tell your mother where you’ll that afternoon, and Chickie began to talk
be?” she asked him. about her almost incessantly. Every time he
said her name, Barbara looked for some-
“I could,” Chickie said, and finally en- thing she could hurl at Chickie. The pain
tered the kitchen. He took a spoon from on Darren’s face, the abject humiliation of
the drawer and tasted the potato salad,

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Revista Literária Adelaide

losing to his brother once again was far too She wanted to shout out that he was no
much for Barbara to bear. And now, Chickie, longer welcome in her home. He should just
was breaking up with her. stay away. That he was a monster.

Barbara leaned closer to the window, Barbara did none of those things. She
trying to hear anything at all, but the two just turned away from the window and went
teenagers just stood there, staring at each down the stairs to the basement where she
other. Then Josie turned and began to walk couldn’t be seen or heard. Eddie was asleep
away. She crossed the street and turned in the chair in the living room. Franny was
back to look at Chickie again. He just waved in her room with a girlfriend named Georgia
at her and then flicked his cigarette into the who was spending the night.
street in her direction.
Barbara turned on the light and sat
“Christ, he’s horrible”, Barbara said, as down on the old sofa that used to be in
she watched Josie turn and walk away. She her mother’s living room. She drew her
never turned around again, and Chickie just legs up and wrapped her arms around her
looked up at the house and waved. Barbara knees. She thought she was going to cry.
knew he couldn’t see her. It was Darren he Honestly and hysterically cry. Instead, she
was waving at in his bedroom window. The found she was too angry to cry. She wasn’t
poor bastard must have been watching the angry at Chickie or sad for Darren. She was
whole episode, too. angry for letting herself, for even one mo-
ment, feel nothing but hatred for one of
She wanted to go into Darren’s room her children.
and console him.
She didn’t know how to forgive herself
She wanted to go down to the driveway for that.
with a baseball bat and knock some common
decency into her son.

About the Author

Joseph Austin lives in Forest HIlls, Queens, NYC. His fiction
has appeared in Christopher Street Magazine, The First
Line, Fleas On the Dog, Newtown Literary, and Every Day
Fiction, and works as a middle school English teacher.

17


TWO WORLDS

by Loren Sundlee

The sand slips away so gradually from the to and around the huts. Among them were
huts to the sea one might think that little huts with compost toilets on one side and
more than a high tide could be one’s immer- on the other bathrooms with large water
sion and destruction. Aubrey Calland sat on tanks and a dipper. Tea kettles with holes
a bamboo chair on the deck of his hut behind in the bottom hung from the ceilings. Dip
a fence of palm stakes that offered about as water into the kettles and you had showers.
much defense against tide or thieves as a Near the main office was a covered social
cough drop would a heart attack. area of tables with chairs, fans overhead
and half walls lined with drink coolers, ther-
That morning the placid sea climbed into moses of hot drinks and books representing
a haze behind which reached the mountains two decades of vacationers’ diversions.
of Timor Leste. Nearer a ragged straight
edge of reef angled at low tide. Several The old friend he was visiting in Singa-
times a day long, lean ferry boats brought pore suggested that the hyperactive pace
guests to Atauro Island from Dili, circling of modern life could be toxic to a troubled
around the reef and dropping their passen- heart and recommended Atauro Island as
gers on the shallow sandy beach. In smaller a place so mellow and removed from the
boats fishermen, alone or in pairs, angled or modern world that it might be palliative.
netted their living. Calland had thought it might take a while
to adjust to showers from a holey tea kettle,
While most guests were off diving or compost toilets and group meals–not to
snorkeling, the too old, too young or other- mention the heat, humidity and when there
wise deficient opened their books or played was no breeze, flies. But all of that had
with their toys. To Calland, this indolence come easily, as did reading and dozing on
was part of his perpetual engagement in the deck of the hut, grateful for any breeze
staying alive. His doctor had prescribed that passed.
some activity but not too much. Walking
or jogging, light exercises, a regulated diet Mornings he walked the beach before
and a battery of pills which, as far as Calland breakfast, hoping to delay the atrophy of
could tell, merely served to counteract one his leg muscles. Toward 7 a.m. he would
another. shuffle into the dining area, pour himself
coffee and observe the other guests. The
The huts sat among patches of flowers only other person there early was a woman
laced with byzantine paths of sand leading

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Revista Literária Adelaide

he had noticed the night before, and it Chicago?
seemed awkward, maybe rude, not to join
her at one of the long tables. He said good A little farther south, he said.
morning, offered his name and hand. Her
name was Fiona Barber, and her accent was Peoria? Springfield?
Australian.
So how do you know Illinois?
Do you dive? He asked.
I lived in Iowa for a couple of years.
Not much anymore, she said. I seem to
be susceptible to ear infections, the preven- But why? Just kidding. Iowa is a fine state.
tion and cure of which is more trouble than
it’s worth. How about you? Yeah, well . . . She looked away again, out
to sea as if to summon something.
Never took it up, he said. I’ve spent most
of my life in colder climes and waters. The next morning, after breakfast, Cal-
land walked through the market next door–
So what brings you to Atauro? wooden stalls packed with mostly useful
items: soap, shampoo, batteries, canned
Heard it was peaceful–from a friend in goods, cigarettes–things he remembered
Singapore. from variety stores when he was a kid.
Like the old Woolworth stores–things
She gazed out past the overhanging roof that were both useless and necessary. A
and a hut to the blue sea. Well, it is that, young woman between the stalls and the
I suppose. Maybe all the peace a person beach sold fruit: fat, stubby bananas, coco-
could want. nuts, mangos, papayas and others Calland
couldn’t identify.
What about you? He asked.
Then he continued down the dirt road
A friend is coming to join me on an af- that paralleled the beach, past houses,
ternoon boat. some without doors, where kids of varying
ages mingled with dogs so crossbred it was
How nice! Calland said. Fiona Barber hard to imagine a DNA test tracing their
glanced at him then back to the sea. Her muddled ancestry.
light brown hair was starting to gray at the
edges of its curls. Her skin retained some At a dive shop he watched divers don
of its smooth texture, and blue eyes invited their apparatus: rubber suits, tanks, regu-
a second take. She seemed like a woman lators, gauges, weight belts, and with fins
who would not be without companions if in hand follow the dive master down to the
she wanted them. boat where they sat along the sides, put on
their fins and held their masks ready for the
Is your friend a diver? boat to stop and they would follow the dive
master’s lead and fall back into the sea.
No, he’s . . . my friend wants peace as well.
Calland wondered what it would feel
Then may we all find it, he said, raising like to be submerged but with the help of
his cup as if to toast. She smiled just a little gadgetry able to pretend for a while to be a
and raised her own cup just a little. fish. It was one of the thousands of things
he would never experience and would en-
What part of the States are you from? deavor not to regret.

Central. Illinois.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

He wandered on up the beach. Ahead I’m sorry to hear that, Calland said. He
a small plane lifted off from an airstrip he was tempted to add, Is there anything I can
couldn’t see that ran parallel to but inland do? But that was a phrase he had heard
from the beach. A group of shirtless boys so often, usually insincere or useless, he
kicked an old, tattered but still-inflated had trained himself to avoid it. Instead he
soccer ball. nodded toward the dining hut, They’re
serving lunch.
When he had his fill of sun, humidity and
flies, he turned around and headed back to I’m not hungry, she said and turned away.
the resort hoping a breeze would bless the
afternoon. When Calland had finished his lunch, he
filled a second plate and carried it to Fiona
Passing the resort office, its door open, Barber’s hut. Following the serpentine path
he heard Mrs. Barber talking to the recep- among the flowers, he mused at how many
tionist. So why can’t they just take one more people might find it a blessing to spend a
passenger? She asked. few days on Atauro. He set the plate down
on the small coffee table on the deck. The
Because the boat is full. They can only door was partly open, and he could hear
take so many people. It’s the law. You’re movement inside.
scheduled to leave on Thursday.
Mrs. Barber, he called. I brought you
But I have to get back to Dili, Fiona Barber some food in case you get hungry. I’ll leave
said. it here on your table. I’ll stop by later and
take the plate to the kitchen.
Is it an emergency?
Thank you, she said. That’s very thoughtful
Not exactly, but I do need to get there. of you. She didn’t appear at the door.

The only way would be if someone A breeze had arisen, and in the shade of
should cancel their trip. If they decide to his deck he read and dozed to the sound of
stay on longer . . . But that isn’t likely. Then kids playing in the shallows, sun glistening
they would give up their reserved passage. off the salt water on their brown skin. Far-
ther out and up the beach the dive boat
Can you let me know if there’s a cancel- was anchored above the divers in their af-
lation? ternoon dive, their days portioned between
the two worlds.
Yes.
After a couple of hours he grew restless
Fiona Barber emerged from the office and walked back toward the social room,
scowling. passing Fiona Barber’s hut. Much of the
food was gone, so he picked up the plate,
I’m sorry but I couldn’t help hearing, Cal- carried it to the kitchen and left it with one
land said. Is something the matter? of the young workers. In the eating area, he
drew a bottle of chilled water from the re-
I need to get off of this island, she said. frigerator and signed for it on the chit sheet.
Among the trees and buildings the breeze
But your friend . . . was blocked and the heat seemed to squat

Change of plans. My friend had a change
of plans. Now I’m stuck here alone for two
more days. She looked up into the trees as
if for advice from the coconuts.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

on Calland. Small fans hanging from the talking with animation. As the diners
ceiling turned lazily waiting for sundown. thinned out, she rose, too, glancing toward
Calland and waving discretely as she left.
Fiona Barber walked by to the water dis-
penser, reached a plastic cup from the cup- The next morning after breakfast he
board, poured a drink and sat down across wandered past the neighboring shops
from Calland. Looking at him directly, she looking for souvenirs. The infinitely inbred,
asked, Would you be willing to swap boat mostly hairless dogs seemed to hang out
reservations with me? I think you leave to- everywhere or wandered from one shop to
morrow; I leave the following day. another in amiable dereliction. He was most
interested in the weaving called tais. Most
Calland met her gaze and said, I fly out often they were the work of women who
for Singapore the following day. I have a had kids to feed. The ones he found weren’t
hotel reservation for tomorrow night in Dili. the best quality but that hardly undermined
all the labor that went into their making.
Could you change them?
Toward noon the boat arrived with new
The hotel probably. The flight I don’t know. guests. Fiona Barber was a passenger on
My friend is planning to pick me up at the the return trip. Calland watched from a
airport. I’d have to change those plans, too. distance as she boarded the little skiff that
took her and her bag out to the main boat.
I wouldn’t think of asking, she said, ex- Mid-afternoon a boat from another com-
cept that this is very important. pany brought passengers. Among them, a
tall, handsome fellow went directly to the
He looked into those pale blue eyes–eyes resort office, where he seemed agitated.
droves of men had probably got lost in over
the years. How important could it be? He The receptionist noticed Calland walking
wondered. If it was an emergency, a plane by and said, There he goes now. There’s the
could be called to evacuate her. That would man who changed boats with your wife.
be expensive. Where do important and
expensive intersect? And where does her Excuse me. I’m Dennis Barber. I was told
friend fit into the picture? And does her favor that you traded passage to Dili with my wife.
of him justify his asking those personal ques-
tions? But then how inconvenient would it Calland introduced himself and ex-
be to change his hotel and flight reservations plained that Mrs. Barber was eager to leave.
and call or email his friend in Singapore?
How bad would it be to spend another day Did she mention why?
on Atauro? She probably doesn’t deserve it;
she may have had a lifetime of favors. Only that she was expecting a friend to
join her but that the friend had a change
Sure, I’ll trade with you, he said. of plans.

Oh, you’re a darling, she said. Immedi- Did she say anything about the friend?
ately he regretted his decision. She bounced Were they going to meet in Dili?
off toward the resort office to begin ar-
rangements for the switch. No, there were no details. But she
seemed eager to leave, he said. Barber was
That evening at dinner Fiona Barber clean shaven with sandy colored hair, and
found an Australian family to eat with, Calland guessed that he played a lot of

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

tennis. He ran his fingers through his hair years? How can a supposedly intelligent
nervously and went back to the office where man be so duped? A classic cuckold.
Calland could hear him ask about the next
boat to Dili, which wasn’t until the next day. You’re not the first. She must have been
very careful. And after all, she chose you not
Later, before dinner, Calland joined him.
Barber at the dining hut, where he was
drinking a can of Bintang beer. She chose us both. Our friends go on
about how we’re the ideal, loving couple.
I understand you spent some time in the What will they say now? How will I face
States, Calland said. them?

Barber nodded. That’s where it started. Have you decided what you’ll do?
I was a visiting professor of agriculture at
a college in Iowa. We liked it well enough, I don’t even know what I’ll say. It’s an-
in spite of the weather, so I extended for a other world.
second year. A guy named Toffness was in my
department, and we became good friends. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It sounds
He’s the friend my wife was going to meet like you were a good husband.
here. He’s in Timor L’Este trying to help with
the crops. I didn’t know he was here. We live Stupid would have to be good, Barber said.
in Darwin. My wife said she was flying up to
do some diving. Only a chance email from Calland shook his head. I’m no expert,
another friend in Iowa tipped me off about but I think love asks us to take risks, dare to
Toffness. I began to suspect. make mistakes. Fiona probably knows how
lucky she is to have you–and she’s probably
He gazed off at the beach at low tide. It terrified right now about this.
was only then that the past–the true past–
began to come into shape. Trips over the I hope so, Barber said.
past decade–almost two. Her trips alone or
with a female friend to Malaysia, Indonesia, The Timorese girls had brought the pans
the Philippines–places to dive, shop, get of food over from the kitchen, and guests
away. Toffness just happened to be in those were filing in, cleaned up from their diving,
places. I never put it together. snorkeling, swimming and hiking. They
helped themselves to wine, beer and soft
Barber took a swig of his beer. He must drinks from the fridge. So far as Calland
have heard that I was on to them and could tell, he and Barber were the only
backed out on their little rendezvous here. guests who were there in suspended ani-
And now they are both in Dili. He finished mation, waiting.
his beer and said, You want one? Calland
declined and got a glass of water from the Calland slept fitfully until the high tide
dispenser. Barber pulled the tab on his beer withdrew and waves ceased their crashing
and asked, Where are you from? in front of his hut. By the time he was out
walking the beach, the sand sloped down to
Illinois. We were practically neighbors. jagged rocks and coral that were disguised
by placid sea at higher tide. It was his last
That’s all I needed–more friends. How morning, and he wanted to implant in his
could I have been so dense for so many memory the graciousness of water, beach
and coconut palms, mangroves and fig
trees. He would not come here again.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

When he got back to the dining hut, passengers on their way out to the ferry.
Barber was there drinking coffee. His eyes Barber was under a coconut palm waiting
were bloodshot. Calland got himself some for his boat to load later. Calland could
coffee and sat down across from him, de- imagine the man’s anxiety and fatigue
ciding to let Barber speak first. facing a three-hour boat ride and then the
mystery of what he would find in Dili. He
You might think that for all the stewing I could hardly be in worse shape to face an
did on the subject of marriage last night I’d encounter. He was tempted to feel sym-
be ready to write a book. pathy for the man. But he couldn’t.

Does that mean you have it figured out? Maybe this conflict would be the be-
ginning of the end of his marriage. Maybe
Barber snorted, Not bloody likely. his life would alter drastically. Maybe this
was a sad time. But to Aubrey Calland it
Calland looked out to sea. Looks like we was a time to cherish. Barber and his wife
may have a smooth ride if this holds. had been married–mostly happily it would
seem–for more than twenty years. Nothing
We are somewhat protected here, could erase that, even if it was a false joy,
Barber said. It’s out in the Wetar Strait even if Fiona had been unfaithful, Dennis’s
where it can get choppy. Always be on the joy had been true. And even now in this
lookout for what’s around the corner. difficult time, he was alive, vital–too vital
to sleep. Anxious, hurt, embarrassed–but
Barber smirked just a little as he said alive.
that. One of the girls gave the call for break-
fast, and the guests lined up. The two men When all passengers were aboard, the
ate quietly, having just one topic for con- pilot steered them around Atauro Island
versation and it being just one man’s busi- and out into the Wetar Strait. Calland’s
ness. When they finished, Calland offered body cradled his fragile heart. He gazed out
his hand and said, You seem like a good across the calm sea, near and far, hoping
man, Dennis. Fiona knows that better than that something would appear. Maybe a
anyone. Good luck. whale would breach.

Calland didn’t see Barber again until
he was in the skiff with a couple of other

About the Author

Loren Sundlee has published a dozen short stories. His
novel Unsaid is currently being considered for publication,
and he has begun work on a second novel. He lives with his
family in Yakima County, Washington.

23


TAMALANE ОF
PETROGRAD

by Virginia Marybury

Of all the flat, marshy edges of western Carterhaugh
Petrograd, nowhere was as haunted by
former people as St Basil’s Island, that A white-satin flapper was making her way
diamond delta in the river’s throat. One over the rutted snow, the lapels of her long
cold November night, a platinum-bright fur coat swinging with the string of beads
motorcar descended onto the island from between her tiny breasts. Caught by the
the Tuchkov Bridge, carrying Jana the NEP- headlamps of Jana’s motorcar, she screwed
man’s daughter, in search of the night club up her face. Her lips were half-lipsticked,
she had been forbidden. half enpurpled with a bruise, but she gave
Jana a haughty look.
She flashed through the island’s radiant
parallels and perpendiculars to the other Jana shrank against the bag of grain she
embankment, where lay the baroque had brought. It had seemed such a light
mysteries of the bullet-scarred University matter, taking a single sack out of the de-
and Old Peter’s museum of curiosities. livery to be made at midnight. Misha hadn’t
One of the archways would admit her to even told her not to do it. It was only her
the place, she had been told, and so she father who had said no.
navigated the darkened openings, one by
one – driving in and reversing out – until In the corner of the courtyard, a door
she found it. Someone had banished all the stood open, dark behind the bright klieg
debris of life: all the metal bins for burning, lamp. Filling the doorway, a man wiped
all the firewood, all the desperate little something dark from his mouth – whether
huts. There remained just two motorcars, it was blood or lipstick, she could not tell.
parked against the smooth stucco walls. A figure out of the recent past, of Chek-
In the rear corner of the courtyard, in the ists in the streets and on the stairs. The
light of a klieg lamp, she saw a strange, for- black-jacketed man approached Jana, ig-
eign jumble of Latin letters upon the wall. noring the woman he had already had. The
This was the place. flapper was running for the archway now,
slipping in the icy slush, scrambling again,

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Revista Literária Adelaide

jerking as though caught in the mania of a pelmeni swirled about. Two couples swirled,
Charleston. too, foxtrotting in the mirrored depths of
the large cellar room.
Jana’s engine stalled, jolted her from her
seat. Holding her bag of grain, she struggled So this was where her father’s extra
out of the other door, and fled toward the grain was going. There was a slight mist on
doorway. the mirrors of the far wall: perhaps that was
their distillery? Twinned in the distorting
Caught on the wrong side of her motorcar, glass, the bottles on the shelf looked old,
he thumped the roof. “You enter Carter- pre-Revolutionary. A pair of samovars sat
haugh without my laissez-passer?” on the silver-topped table below the bottles.

Jana glanced back at him from the Jana stepped carefully through the ta-
threshold, and swung the tails of her fur bles, eyeing the clientèle, bourgeois and
cape with all her new-bourgeois pride. louche and un-Soviet in their evening
clothes of black and white. Soft jazz music,
He moved again, flicker-fast. Jana was from a hidden gramophone, muffled their
only just in time to turn his hand away. conversations. Finding an empty table, Jana
folded herself quickly into the chair, and let
The smell of aniseed swirled in the the furs slip off her neck, her panic cooling.
cooling vapour of his breath. He no longer
looked the fierce Chekist, but fiercely drunk, “-abroad,” someone muttered.
with a face as pale as a fish on ice at Eliseev’s.
The black-jacketed man entered the
“Don’t touch me!” she blurted out. “I’ve room. In this cosy obscurity, he had regained
come from Bakery No. 25, and this grain is some colour: his pale eyes gleamed light
from my father. It’s all agreed with the Green blue. He went to re-fill the glasses of the
Fairy, and you can’t touch me!” The sack of dancers, then moved to the far wall and dis-
grain was safely behind her now, between appeared behind the slightly grubby white
her body and the open door. curtain which hung between the misty mir-
rors. Was he a waiter? Waiters were not
He leaned closer. “Everyone who enters meant to stand guard at their night clubs,
must pay.” nor molest their customers, but who under-
stood how to behave, these days?
“You’re no Chekist, and I will not ask your
permission!” she cried out. Now a different waiter approached Jana,
this one correctly attired in white, offering
As he shifted his weight, she remem- drink and delicatesses. Her square, zinc-
bered how fast he had been. Impulsively, edged table was almost too tiny for food,
she swung the sack at him, as though it were but Jana ordered vodka and a butterbrod
a body. “Here, I’m paying you now, so I will with salami.
go in, if you please!” She stumbled down
the little steps into the dark semi-base- The waiter poured vodka into a glass for
ment, and blundered through a dark, stuffy- her.
smelling curtain.
The first man re-emerged and passed
Heat beamed dim but sun-like from a by. In the warmth of the room, Jana again
Dutch stove, from dancing bodies, from smelled drink, like the haze around a stove.
samovar tea-lights. In the humid air, the
scents of fur and wine and butterered

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

He moved smoothly, though, swerving but at least Carterhaugh had sugar for their
toward a table where two men were be- absinthe. The white cubes crumbled slowly.
ginning to raise their voices. The foreign-
er’s German Rs made his talk of eugenics At that moment, in the depths of the
seem childlike and ridiculous, but the other room, a new jazz trumpet sounded a soft
man seemed unable to change the subject, breathy note – so weak and lacking in mo-
even with blunt, proletarian Russian. The mentum that it seemed ready to stall – yet
black-jacketed man glided up like a battle somehow it caught and wound up into gear
cruiser, quelling their dispute instantly, and found itself a minor melody. The cap-
then raised the German with one hand tive lady joined her German on the dance
and towed him away, across the floor. He floor and they began a slow, desolate fox-
deposited the foreigner at a table in front trot with the other two couples.
of an emaciated, fair-haired lady. Looking
up at the black-jacketed man, she slowly A cold current slithered around Jana’s
raised her champagne glass. “My thanks, ankles. The false Chekist had returned. “We
Tamalane,” she murmured. He took the have wine as well as vodka, madame. Will
glass and slid away, toward the samovar you have red or white?”
table and the white curtain.
He had addressed her in pre-Revolu-
The pale woman called the other waiter tionary style, but was still offering that ter-
for more champagne, and set her thin rible choice. Jana let her eyes travel up his
shoulders, as she faced the German. His ab- Chekist’s leather jacket to his face and said
surd voice rose again, in a question about firmly, “No. I have vodka.”
the family she came from, whether it was
truly decadent, or whether there was per- “No pickled radishes?”
haps still some red blood left in her. The
lady seemed to shudder, but she answered He was mocking her now, but she had
bravely, in good German, and when the paid. She was a customer here. Annoyed,
waiter brought her champagne, she drank she let her voice grow colder. “Why white?
it in one swallow. Why red? Why not...green?”

Behind the white curtain, the silhouette He turned pale. “Why... green?”
of the black-jacketed man up-ended her
other glass into his mouth. She gestured toward the absinthe
drinkers. “Green. It’s a colour, isn’t it?”
Lowering her eyelashes, so as not to be
caught staring, Jana reached for her butter- His forehead shone in the gloom, but
brod and nibbled at it. The sliced kolbasa he made no move to wipe the perspiration.
was surprisingly meaty and well-spiced, and “More vodka, then, madame?”
the kitchen had used butter, not margarine.
She gripped her glass firmly. “I haven’t
In another corner, a pair of gloomy White finished yet.”
officers leaned together across their small
table, watching water drip into the green He retreated, snagging the empty cham-
poison of their glasses. There were no for- pagne glass from the table of the pale lady,
eign women here to lead them into exile, and disappeared again behind the white
curtain. As his shadow up-ended the stolen
glass and held it there in hope, his brow and
nose and chin seemed to form a familiar sil-
houette.

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Jana looked away quickly. These days, She shook her head, pouring herself
everyone looked like someone, only it could coffee, and taking a roll. “I’ve visited all
not be true, because most of them were the others, Papa, but there aren’t many
dead. foreigners. This one at least had a German.
And can you guess what else there was?”
Having lost his German companion,
the Russian seemed bored and frustrated, “Hm. Watered vodka? I can’t control
drinking and drumming with his spare hand what people do with the grain I sell.”
across the shining surface of the table. He
was missing two fingers. He looked toward “No, actually, they’re making absinthe.
Jana, but she turned her eyes away from Listen, there’s a man there. I heard him
him, too. A NEPman was of no use to her. called Tamalane, but I think...” She watched
him narrowly. “I think he’s Aunt Sveta’s son.”
This place, for all its appearance of cosi-
ness and plenty, was just like one of those Her father put down his cup so abruptly
awful co-ops, where you might offer money that the coffee slopped out, staining the
or blood or alcohol, and yet the citizen white tablecloth. “He can’t be! They all
would simply withhold the bargained-for died!”
goods, because there weren’t any.
“They didn’t find... what was his name?
Jana set down her glass, and slipped on Was it Tamas, or someth-”
her furs to go. On the threshold, she turned
back, and saw the man, Tamalane, leaving “Tomas.” There was a hollow ring to her
her table, her glass in hand. father’s voice. “His name was Tomas. His fa-
ther was that Lithuanian baker.”
***
“They never found Tomas.”
The sun rose late in November, but so did
Jana and her father. She found him in their “They didn’t find Sveta and Jonas, ei-
dining room, where he often spent his ther,” her father said, darkly. “When Petro-
mornings amid breakfast rolls and coffee, grad was cut off in ’19, people were fleeing,
whenever he was not travelling with his people were dying. Who knows who got
precious grain shipments. From his clothes blown to pieces and who got eaten?”
now, he looked a born borzhooi, but his
hard worker’s hands had firm hold of the “Oh, Papa, there weren’t any cannibals
china cup and his twin account books. here, that was far away! And I should know
Peering at the figures of grain used by the better than you because I was the one
bakery, and grain sold, he grumbled, “Mi- driving your damned supply truck out of the
sha left a note about last night. I don’t want starving villages because you were drunk!”
you messing up my accounts by making
separate deliveries.” “Well, despite our supply efforts, they
were definitely starving in the city!”
She smoothed back her blonde bob,
which felt flat and sticky today. “I needed a “Oh, what does it matter? I really think
fee to get into the night club.” it’s him. He looks like Uncle Jonas. He’s a
drinker, too – that’s how I recognised him.”
“I don’t want you in that night club.”
Her father hunched his shoulders. “Look.
I didn’t get back from the country until ’21,
and they were all gone. Dead. I was lucky

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

to get hold of the bakery. This man – who- She snatched her hand back and
ever he is – is not your cousin, and the slammed it down next to her plate. “I don’t
bakery is mine – ours! I brought in the new need to know about the old world because
grain. I set up the new customers – those it didn’t survive, and this one is doomed,
stills and night club owners. We’re finally too! Hell, my silk stockings don’t survive
making money after all that bloody chaos, more than a few washes.”
but I need the bakery as a front. I can’t just
give it up.” “–Jana, please–”

He snorted bitterly. “Funny. We can’t “–Papa, please–”
live on bread alone. Not like this, anyway!”
He waved his bread roll, indicating their “I tell you, dochenka, that woman is dan-
bourgeois dining table and the high ceil- gerous. As for Tomas – if he is Tomas – he’s
ings of their Petrograd district apartment. her son now. He’s not her prisoner.”
Refracted bars of colour, from the cut-glass
lyustr above, striped the yellow walls. Yet there had been that tremor in the
man’s hands, and the haze of alcohol which
“What if he doesn’t want the bakery? seemed too much for just one night’s binge.
He’s a boss in that place. He’s got an inher- He had looked tempted to drink the dregs
itance right there, and we-” of her vodka – drink right through the smear
of her red lipstick on the glass.
“The Green Fairy who owns the night club
is hard, Jana. They say she’s foreign, maybe “Papa, he is a prisoner, and he is my
Scottish, but she’s got the secret police on mother’s blood. I can’t leave him there. You
the payroll – just like she had the Okhrana in said she was dangerous!”
the old days – and she owns them, not the
other way around. If she’s taken him under “She is. He is, too. I forbid you to go again!”
her wing, he’s her son. She’ll give him an
inheritance, but not you. Leave them alone.” ***

He groped through the books and Yet she did, the very next time her father left
crockery for her hand. “Jana, dochenka, I the city to help one of his Moscow contacts
know I said I’d let you meet a foreigner to pay a bribe. This time, the courtyard was
take you out of here. But not at Carterhaugh.” half full of black cars. The moon’s reflection
floated amid iridescent wisps of gasoline, in
“Why not? I saw that German there, and a warm puddle under the klieg light.
even a lady, a proper aristocrat. Tamalane...
he introduced her to the German. They Downstairs, an upright piano had ap-
danced.” peared. A lily-horned gramophone sat upon
it, playing a Scottish ballad, denatured by a
“So that German’s used up!” he shouted. jazz ricky-tick from the waiter standing at
“And that also makes your Tamalane no the silver-topped table.
more than a dirty pimp. At least I’m a pro-
curer of honest grain.” The lily sang:

“–which you sell to the distillers–” She’s prink’d hersell, and preen’d hersell,

“What do you know? You were only born By the ae light o’ the moon,
in ’03. You know nothing about the world.”
And she’s awa to Carterhaugh,

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Revista Literária Adelaide

As fast as she could gang. Speaking above the music, Tamalane
said, “There’s always a tithe to be paid.” He
She hadna pu’d a red red rose, turned his partner back toward the piano,
and snatched up a glass of champagne for
A rose but barely three, a brief sip, holding it instead of her wrist.
Glancing at Jana, he seemed to raise his
When up and starts the young Tamlane, voice a little more. “Of course, every seven
years is pure superstition. We paid in 1905,
Says, “Lady, let a-be! and in 1917 – twice – and then again in the
Civil War. But everyone must pay, whether
What gars ye pu’ the rose, Lady? they want to cross the border and get out,
or stay here, and stay alive.”
What gars ye break the tree?
The grey lady hung sideways in his
Or why come ye to Carterhaugh, dancing hold. One thin, broken feather of
her headdress swayed against her neck. As
Without the leave o’ me?” she leaned on his arm, her dress seemed
crumpled and dirty, and her diamonds were
Tamalane was not wearing leather to- gone. Jana leaned forward. Was that the la-
night, nor even black, but a fine suit of dy’s price?
dark blue wool. He was dancing with a lady
adorned with an ostrich headdress and di- Jana’s own cheap glass beads suddenly
amonds. felt cold against her exposed décolletage.

Jana slipped into a chair by the edge of Tonight, it was someone else who came
the dance floor, and examined them boldly. in black leather, haloed in violence like
vodka. A Chekist – a real one – stood at
The lady was a “former” person in every the door, letting in the freezing December
way. She had holes in her earlobes, but no air. His hard stare was like a metric weight,
earrings, and her pale grey dress was no So- rolling over them, crushing them.
viet satin, but old silk, cut down into a flap-
per’s shift. The diamonds lay awkwardly on The gramophone played on, the ballad
her neck, in a jewelled collar made for a much plaintive now, denuded of its jazz accom-
more substantial woman. This aristocrat was paniment.
as transparent as the light in a glass daguer-
rotype. Her tiny feet, in worn old shoes, fol- But when she came to her father’s hall,
lowed Tamalane’s. Her own strength was
gone, her fortune, her name. How strange, She looked so wan and pale
that she should have been left behind.
The Chekist seized the champagne bottle
“And never would I tire, Lady, from the piano. “Nice vintage, for a former
princess.”
In fairy-land to dwell;
The lady remained silent, her gaze low-
But aye, at every seven years, ered.

They pay the teind to hell;

And I’m sae fat and fair of flesh,

I fear ’twill be mysell!”

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

Weighing the bottle in his leather-gloved He persisted, slurring, “You had an of-
hand, the Chekist looked at Tamalane. fering last time, so I let you go, but you
“Empty, eh? Guess that’s a former bottle,” came back again, madame, without paying.”
he added, and smashed the bottle against Now he tried to seize her waist, in a danc-
the side of the piano, scattering green glass er’s hold, but she thrust out the silver flask
on the floor. “Former piano, too, see?” Then she had ready.
he took the glass from Tamalane’s hand and
tipped it. Chilled champagne fizzed and “Here’s my offering, you idiot,” she whis-
sparkled on the keyboard, mixed with dia- pered. “Though I shouldn’t have to pay you.”
monds.
“Why not?” He loosed his grip on her, but
A shot rang out. kept hold of the flask. “You’re no-one to me.”

The white curtain dissipated like mist “Yes I am!” she hissed. “You are Tomas
around the Green Fairy, as she stalked into Lazarevičius, and your mother was my aunt.”
the cellar room, livid in white and green silk.
In her right hand, she held a silver and black “Not... Her?”
pistol, and in her left a wedge of green cher-
vontsy roubles. She stared into his pale, colourless eyes.
“No. Your real mother.”
Tamalane snatched the needle off the
gramophone. “Yes,” he blurted out. “Yes, all right, you’re
right. But I can’t talk here. Meet me to-
“Which is more deadly for you, little Bol- morrow morning at eight, on the Spit.”
shevik?” asked the Green Fairy. “Is it my gun
or my bribe?” Bright green eyes glittered in ***
her white face, but her hair flamed auburn.
In the long night of the far north in De-
Jana stole a glance at Tamalane. Was he cember, eight o’clock was a dark hour. Only
Tomas? He looked feverish, scarcely able to the street lamps and Jana’s silver motorcar
stand, and yet he held the lady upright. Her shone in the murk. She had wrapped her-
diamonds had disappeared again. self in her blackest furs, and parked well
clear of the Spit.
The Chekist snorted. “Poisoner! I won’t
let you taint me with your money or your ab- She stamped cautiously as she de-
sinthe, but be warned: your day is coming.” scended to the waterline, driving her
spiked heels into the ice. At the bottom,
The Green Fairy lowered her right hand she stopped, facing the dark tide of ice
and fired again, raising a spark from the steel and water. Upstream to her left, across the
toe-cap of the Chekist’s boot. He flinched. Lesser Neva, there was another spit, a spire,
but it stood golden and vertical and harm-
“Out!” she shouted, and he ran. The grey less, while down here, at the tip of St Basil’s
lady fled, too, abandoning Tamalane. island, the Spit sliced the river in two, par-
rying water and ice and debris.
The Green Fairy flurried away behind the
white curtain. “Jana?” His dark silhouette strained over
the upper embankment. “Why are you
Tamalane seized Jana by the shoulders, down there?”
but she stepped back, sensing weakness in
his grip. She retraced her steps, and did not
speak until she could answer in a whisper.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“I thought you didn’t want to be seen. My “Oh, listen!” Jana hissed. “I’m not inter-
father’s away, but the Green-” He flinched ested in all this red-white, black-white busi-
violently, and she steadied him with both ness. Now you have your family back, and
hands. “All right, I won’t use her name.” we can help you. You can get out, go abroad,
and then send for us! Or send for me, if my
“You don’t know her name – do you?” father won’t go.”

Shaking her head, she released him and He shook his head.
searched her pockets for the flask of beer
she had prepared. As he took it, his hands “I’ve been drunk for years, Jana. I can’t
seemed steady, but he immediately un- cross borders in this state. They won’t let
capped it and took a swig. me through.”

Jana took his arm again and led him down A chunk of ice smashed into the Spit.
to the lower Spit. “We can talk in peace Crying out, he threw himself back against
there,” she urged. the embankment wall, staring, as the frag-
ments slid along the waterline, taken by
Unsteadily, he followed her down to the the Greater and Lesser rivers. Cursing the
cobbled edge of the river, his eyes on the Neva for its histrionic energy, Jana patted
Neva and not on her. his arm, trying to distract him. “Can’t you
stop drinking?”
“Tomas,” she said firmly.
“I could die from the withdrawal, the con-
He straightened up and faced her. vulsions!”

“How did you end up in her power, “How long would it take, to be free?”
Tomas? My father says she’s a serious crim-
inal. What happened to your parents? I’ve “Days, not hours!” Still staring at the river,
known for years that my aunt Sveta must be he drank again from her flask. “See, I’ve fin-
dead, but... you!” ished already,” he said, hoarsely. “Jana, I
can’t go.”
“I don’t know how she died, or whether
she just went missing. I was sixteen in 1918 “There must be a way.”
and Mama and Papa were hiding me from
the army, so I didn’t see them every day. He wrapped his arms around her, bowing
Then when the fighting reached the city, his head over hers. “She won’t let me go.”
She found me. She told me if I wanted to
live, I should come with Her.” “She has to. You don’t belong to her.”

It was difficult to see his expression in “Only if you hold onto me, come what
the darkness. Daylight was still hours away, may. Did you listen to the music last night?”
far under the southeastern horizon. Jana Softly, he sang from the ballad:
tried again. “But now? You’re not a criminal
like her, are you?” They shaped him in fair Janet’s arms

He gave a bitter laugh. “You don’t believe An aske, but and an adder;
that Bolshevik bullshit about social origins,
do you? People can change into something She held him fast in every shape,
else. They can be poisoned.”
To be her own true lover.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

“It’s like a spell, Jana. If you hold onto me, Inside the miasma of her cousin’s alco-
no matter what I turn into-” holic breath, it was poison. Pure vodka to-
night, without the slightest breath of a herb.
“When, now?” No fennel, no aniseed, no wormwood.

“No, not now. I’ll tell you when. The Green His face had turned pale and green, like
Fairy likes to go to the ballet on New Year’s absinthe in water, and he clasped her in his
Eve. We’ll come out of the theatre and we’ll turn. Surprised, Jana looked up. His pale
all go driving. On nights like those, we’ll cross blue gaze, unfocused, rested on her a mo-
every bridge in Petrograd.” He screwed the ment before he made a first, unsteady step.
cap onto the flask and handed it back to Jana, Jana kept hold of him, also staggering.
then continued, in a low voice, “Wait for the
third car....” Was his face changing? He moved into
the white beam of the silver car, his pupils
*** shrinking to blindness. He twisted his head
and growled, like the still-rumbling car en-
Jana waited until the eve of 1924. The sick, gine, then dragged Jana another step.
rust-red man in Moscow was dying, and her
father was sleeping at the Petrograd ware- Beside the motorcar, the Green Fairy
house, to secure it against looting. Jana stood at bay, watching her champion and her
went alone to the Bridge of Kisses. challenger. Jana turned away from the gang-
ster, and searched Tomas’s face. What was he
Her gun and her motorcar were of silver, turning into? A bear? He bulked large above
and she wore an evening-gown scaled with her, clutching with clawed paws until Jana
green sequins, under her black furs. The felt sure her fur coat would rip. She curled
Moika lay dark beneath the bridge, con- her arm around his shoulder, squeezing her
fined only lightly by ice. eyes into slits, intent on his face, his con-
torted, ursine muzzle. Nothing else.
Outside the bright State Theatre, bal-
let-goers trudged away into the darker He tightened his grip and she hissed
streets, but Jana’s bridge lay empty, marked with pain, her lips folding back, a true bour-
by a confusion of sleigh runners and tyres. geois snake from one of those Bolshevik
nightmares. They staggered another turn,
Finally, there came the convoy of the and again the Green Fairy rose up on Jana’s
Green Fairy, as Tomas had promised. horizon. The girl grimaced.

Jana let pass the black car, which pranced His paws slipped, slicing the sequin
with its driver’s drunkenness. scales of her evening gown off her neck, and
she whirled, facing Tomas, while he faced
Then came the grumbling diesel of the his foster mother again, small like a rat.
brown.
Pressing her advantage, Jana squeezed
Third and last came the silver charger of him, feeling his body cringe with the desire
the Green Fairy, and Jana let her gun flash. to disobey, to escape, to change.

Wounded, the car slewed; its body broke Three more times they revolved, strug-
open against the embankment wall. gling. The foxtrot went widdershins, always
to the left, grinding out a circle in the snow.
Jana ran. She reached for Tomas and
pulled him out. Held him hard, as he had
begged her to do.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

Lights gathered, a ring of motorcars and “So you don’t love him as a man, but you
sleighs, washing away all colour. The mid- love him.” The older woman spoke more
night air felt harsh in Jana’s lungs now. Tomas softly now. “He is broken. You thought
was still changing, convulsing. he was an iron bar, and you threw him
into the water, expecting a man of steel,
Last of all came the barest animal, a thug but he’s rusted, just like that old man in
of a man, nothing more than a burning slab of Moscow. You will never temper him, not
steel, singeing her furs and skin. This was the even in a flood that washes Petrograd off
end, he had warned her, but he was heavy and the map.”
her body ached from the way he had twisted
and bent her. She strained to shift the pure Was that the cracking of ice? Jana
fire and weight of him. The Green Fairy leaned checked her pistol, but it lay warm and inert
forward, willing her champion’s victory. in her hand. From below the bridge came a
small moan of effort, then a splashing erup-
Meeting the gaze of those ancient for- tion from the canal.
eign eyes, Jana took a breath and planted
herself like a tree. Over the railings she Jana showed her teeth. “Now it is your
hurled Tomas, into the river, there to drown turn to pay the tithe to hell, Green Lady.”
or be washed clean.
The silver and black pistol reappeared in
The Green Fairy’s scream raged red in the Green Fairy’s hand, but she was in retreat,
her white face. “You will never hold him!” withdrawing step by step, until she merged
with the circle of lights, and was gone.
“He’s my cousin, not my lover, and he’s
free of you!” Jana shouted.

About the Author

Virginia Marybury read Russian and French at university, and
wrote her M.A. dissertation on late Soviet corruption and
power, so you may imagine the sort of people she writes about.

33


GRAVITY

by Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb

The two professors might as well have been the drooping of the lids caused by inebria-
talking in another language, for their con- tion. “Oh, Realsom, you still worship at the
versation was most definitely beyond the temple of Positivism, but how do you know,
interests of those who considered them- for instance, that I am actually here.”
selves ordinary. The Comparative Literature
and Philosophy department, as the rest of Provoked, Professor Realsom leaned
the university, was closed for the holidays. over sideways to his companion and play-
Not that the two elderly men needed a rea- fully tapped Professor Allearned’s shiny,
son to indulge their cravings for multiple bald head. Aware that their loud voices had
gin and tonics at the nearby tavern. By late attracted a small audience, Professor Re-
afternoon, like on many afternoons over alsom concluded that entertainment was in
the past decade, they were quite drunk and order. He was particularly pleased that Pro-
engaged in argumentative discourse. fessor Allearned seemed irritated by the first
tapping. So he impishly tapped his friend’s
“My relativistic friend,” Professor Randy head again, but harder. Upon retreat of his
Realsom sloppily slapped his glass down hand, he flatly stated, “You feel substantially
on the bar countertop as to emphasize real to me,” adding wryly, “although I must
the point he was about to put forth. Wisps admit that, without actually seeing it, I can
of his gray hair flopped over one of his only assume there is a brain in there.”
shaggy eyebrows as he quickly looked
down to wipe up, with the edge of his un- To which Professor Allearned responded,
tucked white shirt, drops of liquid that had “You think you’re so clever, but how do you
bounced out of his glass. He then resumed, know we are both not payers . . . players
“Human nature and values being what they in your dream?” It was obvious that certain
are, still there are certain, well, ‘facts,’ shall sounds were becoming an effort to produce.
we say, that accommodate the laws of na- Then, “Another round, bartender!”
ture—gravity, for instance.” His glaring eyes
captured the dim lights of the tavern as he The two men downed the new drinks
intensely stared down his colleague. and then switched to bourbon. The con-
versation continued. “You see, Realzoom,”
His friend but philosophical nemesis, Professor Allearned’s slurred his words be-
Clarence Allearned, a small man in a brown fore catching himself and making an effort
suit coat that seemed mismatched to his red to reclaim his vocal dignity, “Everything is in
and black flannel shirt, countered, “How do relationship with everything else; in other
you know that? How do you know for sure?” worgs . . . words, it is all relative.” Pleased
His eyes squinted into slits, mostly due to that he was able to pronounce L in the
words of his last sentence, he became more

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Revista Literária Adelaide

confident in both his speech and his convic- Outside Clarence Allearned’s head, the
tion. “There is no absolute troof . . . truth. I, world went on and on in the way it had
for one, find that a relief—not to be trapped always existed. The paramedics carefully
by our arbig . . . arbitrary assumptions. It loaded him onto a stretcher and carried the
is the culture that designs . . . defines us, downed professor past the police who were
not what we perceive as the physical world.” keeping curious onlookers at bay.
And for a moment, he did not seem drunk.
A startled-to-sober Professor Realsom
This is why Professor Realsom underes- walked along with the young men in dark uni-
timated how drunk his colleague really was. forms and spoke as they hovered around the
deathly still body on the stretcher. “He just
“Perhaps you are right, my dear Allearned. walked off the roof. We had been drinking,
But I need some proof. So I dare you to do but I had no idea he would . . . he would . . .
something, anything, to help persuade me of You must tell me, do you think he’ll survive?”
your point of view.” Had Professor Realsom he asked the nearest paramedic.
not been drunk himself, he might have seen
the danger of his sarcastic suggestion, given “I don’t know, Sir. He appears to be in a
Professor Allearned’s state of mind. coma.”

Without hesitating, Professor Allearned About the Author
got up, wobbled, and stumbled to the stair-
case in the corner of the tavern. Curious, Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb’s prose and
Professor Realsom followed him up the poetry have appeared in About Place
steps until they both staggered through Journal, Serial Magazine, Clockhouse, AJN:
a door leading out to the rooftop balcony, The American Journal of Nursing, Watershed
where they were greeted by a fading pinkish Review, The Conium Review, Flash Fiction
sky and the pungent smell of exhaust from Magazine, Eastern Iowa Review, Into the
five o’clock rush hour traffic. The two pro- Void, Terrain.org, the anthology Talking
fessors pushed past some scattered chairs Back and Looking Forward: An Educational
and potted plants until they reached the Revolution in Poetry and Prose (Rowman &
edge. While Professor Realsom wondered Littlefield Publishing Group), and elsewhere.
what his friend was going to do to pro- Her work received Honorable Mentions
mote his point of view, Professor Allearned in 2016 from both Port Yonder Press and
stepped over the foot-high safety railing Erbacce Press. She has been an educator, a
and kept going. researcher, and an editor, and is co-founder
of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit natural history press.
As his body fell, he thought to him-
self, “Now I will end this debate once and
for all.” He landed on a passing car before
rolling onto the street, but indeed he felt
fine, better than ever, not even drunk. It
was simply mind over matter. Professor
Allearned, shortly after, noticed the hor-
rified Realsom and some other younger
men leaning over him. Professor Allearned
chuckled out loud, or so he thought, and
attempted to comfort Professor Realsom—
and a little gloating would be in order later,
he decided, as well. “You see, Realsom, it is
all in the way you perceive things. I’m fine.”

35


POSSESSED

by Andrea Carlisle

Jane became aware of someone coming was late Friday afternoon. The long lines at
up close behind her in the crowded check- every cash register didn’t move so much as
out line, so close she could hear breathing. oozed. She only had a few things in her cart,
When she turned to look, she saw a pale, but the express line drifted all the way to
thirty-something woman with dark hair in the pharmacy and she refused to use self
loose braids, a bruise big as a fist on one check-out. It put people out of work.
cheek and a rash across her forehead. She
stared down at the credit card in Jane’s A twinge in her right leg told her that
hand, her lips moving as if trying to memo- her new knee didn’t like standing still for
rize the numbers. Jane slid her thumb over so long. She saw the bruised woman was
her card and whispered, “Don’t do that.” looking vaguely in the direction of the ca-
shier.
The woman didn’t seem ashamed or
walk away, as Jane had expected. Instead, Maybe it was the fact that a man with
she asked, “Why not?” She didn’t even a full cart rolled up behind them, trapping
bother to whisper. “You got enough. I don’t.” them together, or maybe it was that bruise
glowing red at the center and surrounded
“Because,” Jane said, “if you steal some- by a storm of blue-gray, or possibly the
one’s credit card number you can go to jail.” thought of people out of work, but some
force that had no agenda, that only wanted
“So?” The woman hitched a dirty back- to speak, took hold of Jane’s tongue. What-
pack up higher onto one shoulder. ever the source, the words were out of her
mouth before she could stop them. “Are
No cart, Jane noticed. She hadn’t even you hungry? I can buy you some food.”
bothered to pretend to be shopping. She’d
seen Jane pull the credit card out of her The woman turned to scan the point of
wallet and hold it loosely, numbers exposed. purchase shelves, most of them crammed
Old woman: easy target. with candy bars.

“Sixty-five isn’t old,” Jane wanted to say, “It’d be a one-time thing. But it will be
but she knew someone so young would food, not candy.” She thought of her parents’
disagree. Lately, even she was starting to childhoods, the way they’d barely scraped
disagree. by during the Depression. This wasn’t ex-
actly that sort of time, but it wouldn’t hurt
Since the woman didn’t budge, Jane felt to offer.
she should go to a different cashier, but it

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“You got plenty of money,” the woman need and a general, brazen pissiness, she
said. “Buy me both.” She continued scan- didn’t necessarily have to point at it. She
ning the candy shelves. wished she could bring herself to shut up
and turn around. She needed a way to sum
Jane wanted to explain how not all old up, renege on her offer and go home, put
people had money, and surely she didn’t the groceries away, get on with her life.
have a lot, but she knew that argument
wouldn’t get far. People believed whatever “Listen,” Jane said, trying for a reasonable
they wanted. “Real food only,” she said, and but firm tone, “you use other peoples’ credit
nudged her cart a few inches when the line cards, you go to jail. Go to jail and you’re
crept forward. “I’ll check out and then we away from people you love, people who
can shop for you.” She looked at the carts love you and probably some who need you.”
rolling in behind them. “I’m not going to
lose my place in line now.” The woman shaded her green eyes with
one hand and looked around the store like
“I’ll shop by myself. Can I use your credit someone on a desert island would scour the
card?” One hand reached, palm up, out to- horizon for a ship that could save her. She
ward Jane and slowly drew back. “What are turned back to Jane and opened her arms
you supposed to be anyway, offering to buy wide, which emphasized not only their emp-
me some food? Jesus Christ?” tiness but their thinness in a jacket too large.
“Yeah?” she said. “Like who might that be?”
“You got it,” Jane said. “I’m trying to be
Jesus Christ.” She wanted to turn around, Jane realized she hadn’t delivered the
but something held her in place so that she right exit line for turning away and getting
faced the rash, the bruise, the scuffed back- on with her life, but she was wearying of the
pack that looked as if it had spent most of comebacks. “Nobody whatsoever needs
its existence under an overpass. The bruise you. I get the message. Nobody whatsoever
seemed to get larger by the minute, a needs me either, when you get right down
splash of blue-black ink in milky white. The to it, but I’m not going to go to jail for doing
eyes beneath gently arched brows were a some stupid crime in a checkout line.”
brilliant, disarming green.
Jane felt another twinge in the vicinity
For a moment, the woman looked down, of the new knee. Apparently, in addition
then off toward the crowded store. “Keep to grocery store lines, it didn’t like argu-
your god shit to yourself.” ments. Or it could be reminding her that,
although she could walk around as much
“I don’t have a god,” Jane said. “We’re in as she wanted, it hadn’t healed enough yet
the same godless boat here.” to stand its ground securely if an unknown
woman she insisted on talking to decided to
The emerald eyes jerked away from the give her a shove.
crowd and toward her. There was some-
thing in them in addition to anger. Loss? When she tried to meet the gem-like
Remorse? Battered faith? “Unless maybe eyes and communicate a wish for peace,
you do have a god,” Jane said. Jane saw they’d almost lost focus. Hunger or
drugs; she decided on hunger. The threat-
Now what had possessed her to say ened knee relaxed; it even bent slightly
that? Just because she’d intuited some- so that she could lean forward a little,
thing else might be going on other than

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

positioning her body in an almost friendly which had started to ache. She saw the line
posture. She spoke in a soft voice, not out had shortened by only two people since the
of any kind of gentleness so much as not conversation had started. She waited to sense
wanting the man behind them to hear. movement behind her, the rustle of a depar-
She’d seen him out of the corner of her eye ture, but nothing happened. She stepped for-
enjoying this conversation for all the wrong ward as the line edged slowly along, and by
reasons to judge by his smirk. “I’m serious the time she’d punched in her code for the
about buying you food. I promise it won’t credit card and checked out, the woman had
be a repeatable offense. You can’t put me moved in front of her and stood waiting.
in jail for it. What do you say?”
Jane bent her right leg slightly, testing the
The eyes snapped back into focus and knee to see if it could take another tour down
the response came in a loud stage whisper. the aisles. She felt no pain but thought maybe
“I say fuck off, you Jesus freak.” it would be better for her peace of mind if she
went over to the pharmacy section where she
Jane stood up straight, gathered her could sit down at the blood pressure machine
coat around her, and felt a sweeping sense and wait, then pay for the woman’s groceries
of confidence in her intuition. Somewhere when she’d finished shopping.
back in a long ago time, probably childhood,
a sense of holy something or other had al- Yet, the sense of being possessed by
most definitely been part of this woman’s something continued, and whatever was
life, and it was more than likely Christian. doing the possessing wanted her to do oth-
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll fuck off, if that’s re- erwise. It was probably old age itself, she
ally what you want. But I don’t think Jesus suspected when she caught a glimpse of
would be very happy with his little girl the blood pressure machine. She may be on
right now. Why can’t she have some food the younger side of old, but she’d already
like anybody else? Shouldn’t matter how learned that old age felt free to ask for a
she gets it.” It felt liberating to say some- new knee, please. And wasn’t it just like old
thing she didn’t believe but suspected this age to lead her into a conversation with a
woman just might. It felt a little manipula- stranger and make an offer she shouldn’t
tive, too, but she didn’t really care. make, given her meager income? Old age
didn’t mind tricking anyone, either her or
The woman glared at her. “Fuck. Off.” the young woman, into doing what was
good for them. It was taking her over, bit by
Jane knew she had to be careful, not to bit, day by day, in its insistent way, and par-
push it too far. “It’s just an opinion,” she adoxically the possession often manifested
said, calmly certain this would be some- in a kind of free feeling within her that felt
body’s opinion of how Jesus would judge somewhat familiar, an echo of childhood’s
the matter. She might as well borrow it and free-ranging days, making it hard to resist.
surrender to whatever was driving this offer
in her to feed a stranger who tried to steal And now, in the packed and sprawling
her credit card number. “Some would say store, old age possessed her to leave her
that’s how Jesus might see it, that’s all. If full bag of groceries with Customer Service
there ever really was such a person.” and head with the cart toward the bread
aisle alongside the woman whose name she
Jane turned away and leaned against did not yet know, but soon would.
her cart, glad for the relief on her lower back,

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About the Author
Andrea Carlisle’s short stories, poems and essays have appeared in Catamaran, J Journal:
New Writing on Justice, So to Speak, Northwest Review, Willow Springs, Calyx and other
literary journals. For seven years she wrote a blog about caring for her mother: Go Ask Alice…
When She’s 94. A book of her essays on aging will be published by OSU Press in the Spring
of 2021.

39


THE LADY WITH THE
TWENTY-FIVE-LETTER

ALPHABET

by Richard Rose

The bookshop had been quiet for most of and uttered what he hoped was a barely
the morning but on hearing the bell signi- audible “good grief.”
fying that a potential customer was enter-
ing, Mr Hope glanced towards the door. His “I’m sorry,” said Mr. Hope, raising his eye-
instant recognition of the lady crossing the brows as if in disbelief, “I didn’t quite catch
threshold caused him to smile as he antic- what you said there.”
ipated an opportunity to engage in some
light-hearted entertainment at the expense “It was nothing, really,” replied a slightly
of Mr. Pritchard, his new and very willing embarrassed Mr. Pritchard. But he couldn’t
assistant. help following this with, “You say she is one
of our most important customers?”
Summoning Mr. Pritchard from where
he was carefully arranging a display of the “Yes, indeed,” Mr. Hope reiterated this
books recently shortlisted for the Booker information with a nod and a smile, as he
Prize, Mr. Hope informed him that an im- reviewed the expression on his young as-
portant customer had just arrived at the sistant’s face.
shop and that he would require his assis-
tance for the next few minutes in order to The customer in question was a lady of
ensure that she received the best of service. indeterminable age, short, squat, with lank
As he did so he nodded his head in the di- greying hair, which was barely contained on
rection of the lady who had commenced the crown of her head by what Mr. Pritchard
to browse through books on the history could only describe as a floral elasticated
shelves just inside the door. Mr. Pritchard, ring, the effect of which was to produce
following the clue provided by his employer an image something akin to the crest or
turned his attention to the lady indicated comb that is more commonly seen on the
head of a cockerel. The lady observed was
wearing a long raincoat, which may once

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Revista Literária Adelaide

have been of an olive green colour, but had turned and made his way to small room at
clearly faded with time and now appeared the rear of the shop, where books ordered
to be of a more similar hue to her hair, give by customers were shelved awaiting collec-
or take a few stains. A pair of good stout, tion in a tall wooden cupboard. Mr. Hope,
if somewhat scuffed black shoes beneath with his customary efficiency had arranged
bright red crumpled socks led Mr. Pritchard each shelf within this cupboard with a series
to conclude that the customer before him of alphabetical labels and it took less than
could not by any stretch of the imagination a minute for Mr. Pritchard to find the name
have been described as sartorial. To add to Lapinski and the associated tome, which
this impression the lady was well laden with was awaiting collection. Taking this book
two large fraying hessian bags, from which from the cupboard he began his return to
protruded a cornucopia of detritus made up the shop only pausing briefly to glance at
of what appeared to be a jumble of papers, the title and then across to the lady who
magazines and folders. had ordered this specific volume. “Poems
from Iqbal: Renderings in English with Com-
“This important customer;” Mr. Pritchard parative Urdu Text.” Having read this title
placed an incredulous emphasis upon the Mr Pritchard halted briefly to check the
word important, “does she have a name?” order paper that had been slipped inside
the book. Could he possibly have made a
“Of course,” replied Mr Hope, “but I tend mistake, he wondered? This scholarly book
to think of her as the lady of the twenty five appeared to be an unlikely match to the
letter alphabet.” This latter declaration was lady who was currently deep in conversa-
made with a barely concealed smile, and tion with his employer. But there on the
enjoyed all the more by Mr. Hope because order paper within the book he found con-
of the bemused expression on the face of firmation that it had indeed been ordered
his assistant. I’ll let you work out that one by a customer named Lapinski.
for yourself, he thought.
“Ah, I see you found it Mr. Pritchard,” said
Having completed her perusal of the his- Mr Hope taking the book from his assistant
tory section the lady customer approached as he returned to the counter.
the desk behind which both men stood.
“Excellent,” exclaimed the customer
“Good morning Mr. ‘ope,” she began, looking towards the younger man. “I always
greeting the proprietor like a long lost and know I can rely on the efficiency of Mr. ‘ope.
much trusted friend. “I was just passing and I’ve been coming ‘ere for years and ‘e never
I wondered if the book I ordered ‘ad arrived.” lets me down.” Taking the book she browsed
carefully through a few of the pages before
“Good morning and may I say what a stating, “very good, this will ‘elp me consid-
pleasure it is to see you here again, yes I do erably. You know Mr. ‘ope, my Urdu is quite
believe it may have,” Mr. Hope replied, and ‘opeless, but ‘aving the Urdu text alongside
turning to his colleague commanded “Mr. the English, well it will ‘elp me no end. It
Pritchard, could you please go to the orders will certainly assist as I look for the mean-
cupboard and see if there is a book under ings ‘idden in the more complex ghazals. Of
the name Lapinski awaiting collection.” course, as you probably know, Iqbal wrote
much of ‘is early poetry in Persian, though
Mr. Pritchard, eager to please both his
employer and this rather dishevelled, but ap-
parently important customer, immediately

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

it’s taking me all my time to manage the there’s a fine example for you; such a clever
Urdu at present, but who knows, per’aps in man with words, most interesting rhythms,
the future I’ll give the Persian a go.” though sadly sometimes lost in the obscu-
rity of imagery, wouldn’t you agree?”
Throughout her brief speech, Mr. Hope,
who despite his customer’s confident asser- “Time held me green and dying, though I
tion had in fact never previously heard of sang in my chains like the sea” she intoned
the poet Iqbal, had been watching the reac- in a languid, soulful voice. “Such beautiful
tion of his young assistant with mischievous images don’t you think?
pleasure and he now took the opportunity
to introduce his clearly bemused colleague The lady briefly halted her peroration
to the lady who stood before them. and sensing a lull in proceedings the young
Welshman felt that he was required to
“You will not have met my new assistant make some effort at a response.
as yet,” he began. “He joined me only last
week, allow me to introduce Mr. Pritchard. “Well yes, Dylan Thomas is greatly loved
even today,” he began “And not only in his
“Very pleased to meet you I’m sure,” native Wales of course, I understand that
exclaimed the lady looking intently at the he remains popular in many parts of the
young man. “I know you will enjoy working world. And er… if I might just correct you,
for Mr. ‘ope, ‘e’s a proper gentleman.” the name is Pritchard.”

“And very pleased to meet you too,” Mr, “What, yes, of course it is.” The customer
Pritchard responded. “Yes, I’m sure I will looked at the young man as if to confirm that
be very happy here, Mr. Hope has already he of all people should know his own name.
made me feel quite at home.” Determined not to be diverted by such a
trivial issue, and now having embarked upon
“Ah, now;” the lady customer’s curiosity a theme which she was determined to ex-
had clearly been ignited by Mr. Pritchard’s plore, the lady continued. “There have been
response, “is that a Welsh accent that I de- so many fine bucolic Welsh poets down the
tect there Mr. Protheroe?” centuries, each with a golden tongue and
love of the rugged Celtic landscape. George
“Pritchard,” the young man corrected her. ‘erbert, Vernon Watkins, R.S. Thomas, Lewis
“Yes indeed my accent still retains traces of ‘opkin, Gillian Clarke, though I myself of
my Welsh ancestry. Both of my parents course, relate more closely to those who
were born and bred in the principality, but trace a direct line to the Mabinogion, that
although born there myself, in Brecon ac- greatest of all the Welsh epics. Now then,
tually, we moved to Bristol when I was just Waldo Williams, ‘e’s the man for me.” And
five years old. So indeed you are correct in saying this she burst forth into another loud
your deduction that my roots are most cer- rendition, which drew the attention of the
tainly Welsh.” only other customer to have entered the
shop, a rather timorous, mousey gentleman,
“Yes, I thought as much Mr. Prichett. A who on hearing this sudden outpouring of
most beautiful accent it is too. A land of a foreign tongue hid himself behind shelves
great bardic traditions and legendary tales. in the gardening section and remained con-
So many great lyrical Welsh poets, as being cealed until sometime after this loud cus-
a Welshman of course, you must know tomer had left the shop.
better than I. Now then, Dylan Thomas,

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Revista Literária Adelaide

Beth yw byw? Cael neuadd fawr deliberate provocation? he wondered; he
tried to bring the conversation to a con-
Rhwng cyfyng furiau clusion. “Actually, whilst my mother spoke
some Welsh, my father had virtually none.
Beth yw adnabod? Cael un gwraidd You see there was little need for the lan-
guage even in Brecon at the time and they
Dan y canghennau.* got by very well in English.”

“Now then, what do you think of that Almost as soon as the words had been
young man?” she demanded at the conclu- uttered, Mr Pritchard recognised that his
sion of this brief recitation. feeble repost sounded exactly like the sur-
render that it most certainly was.
Mr. Pritchard’s facial gymnastics at this
point might best have been likened to that His interrogator shook her head and
of a goldfish, that having been wrenched smiled, recognising that her new acquain-
from its bowl was gasping for air. When tance had little more of interest to con-
eventually he was able to speak he could tribute to the conversation. “Ah well,” she
do no more than stutter his confession. “I’m replied, in a more placatory tone, “There
afraid I have hardly… well barely a dozen are several fine translation of the works of
words of Welsh. As I said, I was brought Waldo Williams available these days and
up and educated in Bristol, not a great call many even better interpretations of the
for Welsh in the south west of England I’m Mabinogion in English than there were
afraid. Very sorry.” He found himself apol- when I was a young woman. I do ‘ope that
ogising, though unsure what he had to be someday Mr….”
sorry for. He looked towards the customer in
anticipation that she would not letters rest “Pritchard,” came back a pleading voice.
easily after heard his timorous response.
“Yes, of course, Pritchard, you’ve no need
Sure enough, he was not to be easily to keep repeating this; I got your name first
let off the hook. “I see”, exclaimed his tor- time. Now then young man, I do ‘ope that
mentor, though she wasn’t entirely sure you may find the time before too long to
that she did see. This young man she felt, read some of the extraordinary literature
seemed somewhat ill at ease in his own cul- ‘anded down to you by your Welsh forefa-
ture, something that she always found dif- thers. We all ‘ave a responsibility, to ensure
ficult to understand. “So, Mr Phelps, was it that our ‘istory and literature continue to
a deliberate act of you parents to deny you be recognised and appreciated by future
access to your ‘eritage, or were they trying generations. Every one of us, and that most
to assimilate themselves and you, into a certainly includes you Mr… Well, every one
foreign culture? Subservience to an impe- of us must play our part in keeping our cul-
rialistic hegemony has been a weakness tural ‘eritage alive.”
resulting in the marginalisation of many of
the world’s most beautiful languages don’t Mr. Hope had been standing back,
you know?” smiling and enjoying the spectacle of one
sided jousting that had been enacted be-
At this point Mr. Pritchard decided that fore him. His customer now turned towards
a tactical retreat was called for. Therefore him and asked, “’ow much do I owe you Mr.
deciding not to once again correct the ‘ope?”
mistake with his name; was it a mistake or

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

Taking up the paperwork that had come sometime Professor of Literature at several
with the book and was now lying on the of the finest universities in Europe. She is ap-
counter, Mr. Hope indicated the price clearly parently fluent in at least six European and
printed on the document to the lady. “The four Asian languages and has rather more
price is fifteen pounds ninety-nine, but for than a working knowledge of several others;
a much valued customer as yourself, let’s though I confess that until today I had no idea
make it a nice round fifteen pounds I think that one of these might be Welsh. A veritable
Dr. Lapinski.” phenomenon and as I said one of our finest
customers, and I’m sure that as you get to
“That’s very kind of you Mr. ‘ope, very know her you will find yourself to be less ter-
kind indeed.” And with this, she scram- rified.”
bled to the depths of one of her hessian
bags until she found a small leather purse, “So many languages; the woman must
which on being opened revealed a large roll be some kind of genius,” suggested Mr.
of money bound together with a rubber Pritchard. “Though you would hardly have
band. Removing this band she handed over thought so judging by her appearance.”
a twenty pound note to the bookseller, who
duly presented her with a five pound note “Yes, you are not the first to make this
as change. This she incorporated into her observation, though of course you will have
wad of currency and returned the purse, noticed that she does take some shortcuts
along with her newly acquired reading to in displaying her linguistic prowess. It would
the bag. Her mission accomplished, Dr. Lap- for example appear that within the English
inski turned and headed towards the door. language, competent as she most certainly
is, Dr. Lapinsky regards the letter aitch as
Halting briefly she turned back towards being totally superfluous,” replied Mr. Hope.
the two men. “Goodbye Mr ‘ope and also “However, an alphabet of twenty five letters
to you Mr. Pritchard,” she pronounced the seems to have served her perfectly well,
new assistant’s name with exaggerated and enabled her to prove herself more than
emphasis and more than a hint of a mock a match for you I would suggest!”
Welsh accent. “I’ll see you again soon. I’m
off ‘ome now to brush up on my Urdu, and Both men laughed before Mr. Hope
who knows, I might dust off my collected slapped his new assistant on the shoulder
poetry of Waldo Williams, just for old time’s and suggested, “I think it’s about time for a
sake.” Mr. Pritchard could have sworn that cup of tea don’t you? Be a good fellow and
she proffered him a wicked wink as she put the kettle on there’s a good chap Mr.
turned away. Pritchard. Or should that be Mr. Prentice or
Mr. Parker or Mr. Padgett?”
The doorbell clanged behind Dr. Lapinsky
as she left the shop and shuffled her way Mr. Pritchard sensed that his employer
down the High Street. had enjoyed a good laugh at his expense
this morning and now felt confident enough
“Goodness me,” exclaimed Mr. Pritchard. to share the joke. As he went off to make
“Who on earth was that extraordinary and I tea he reflected that he was likely to enjoy
must say, rather intimidating woman?” his new job in this quirky provincial book-
shop. Just as they say, he thought, one
Mr Hope threw back his head and laughed. should never judge a book by its cover.
“That,” he replied, “was Dr. Theodora Lapinski,

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Revista Literária Adelaide
*What is living? The broad hall found
between narrow walls.
What is acknowledging? Finding the one root
under the branches’ tangle.
From Pa Beth yw Dyn? By Waldo Williams (1904 – 1971)

About the Author

Richard Rose is a British writer and university professor. In
addition to more than 100 academic publications his fiction
and essays have appeared in literary magazines in several
countries. He works regularly in India and is a regular columnist
for The Bangalore Review.

45


CHEAP DATE IDEA:
DEFILING A GRAVE

by Michael Gillen

The sun was transiting Capricorn, his tarot he ran his fingers through his hair again,
reading that morning was an upright star, darting his hand back into his pocket as
and he had done self-affirmations all morn- soon as he was done.
ing. David was ready to put himself out
there again. Bells were hung on the diner’s peeling
green door handle, so everybody turned at
He pulled his rusting red Hyundai into a the sound as David went inside. There was
space, requiring only two attempts to park a smattering of disinterested faces: people
between the lines. He briefly touched each who weren’t expecting anyone anyway.
of the seven statuettes he had glued to his The tables were sparsely populated, but
dashboard for luck, and then, for more pro- the low ceiling and overstuffed blue vinyl
saic support, Prozac, downed with a chug seats made it seem more packed than it
from his water bottle. Energized, David was. A bored looking waitress with greying
strode out of the car with all the confidence chestnut hair nodded at David. Wordlessly,
his recent thirty pound weight loss could he gestured that he knew where he was
muster. He checked himself in the side view going: Bernardo, his date, had said he would
mirror: the wrong side of thirty, but still be in the back corner. David walked past the
handsome in the right light. Now all he had rows of booths to his destination, having to
to do to look quite presentable was not run suck his stomach in a bit in a few tight spots.
his fingers through his sandy hair. He did so The smell was strong coffee and bacon fat.
as soon as he turned away.
When he got there he saw that Bernardo,
The air was cold, so he hurried to the or Bernie578–as David knew him for most of
door, hands deep in the pockets of his their interaction–was a short man, slightly
cracking brown leather jacket. He should overweight with caramel-colored skin and
have worn a scarf, but that always felt like a straight black hair. He was wearing a grey
weak old woman was choking his thick neck. suit vest over a perfectly pressed white shirt
He should have worn a hat, but he didn’t with the top button undone. Distressingly,
want to mess up his hair. Absentmindedly, he was more handsome than his photos

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Revista Literária Adelaide

online seemed to indicate, with a kind, David grabbed Bernardo’s cup from
round face and bright amber eyes. When the table and gulped down some coffee. It
Bernardo’s pink lips melted into a gentle was black, bitter, and painfully hot. Sweat
smile as he recognized his date, David dotted his reddening forehead as he clum-
sucked in his gut as he tried his hardest to sily returned the cup to the saucer with a
stop sweating. clatter. The searing heat passed through his
mouth, then throat, then plummeted into
“Hey.” Bernardo’s voice was warm but his stomach with enough force to make him
distant. forget the ever worsening knot growing in-
side.
“Hello, uh, hey.” David sat down at the
table and took off his jacket. He picked up a “It’s great to see you in person,” David
curiously sticky menu, expansive, but with said at last. “I feel like we know each other
several items crossed out with smeared well enough that I don’t need to try to im-
black sharpie. “Were you waiting long? Did press you anymore. You already know the
you order? I’ve never been here. Is it any truth.”
good?”
Bernardo’s laugh was warm and sur-
“Just coffee.” Bernardo gestured to the prisingly genuine. It gave David the freeing
half-empty white cup on the table. “Thanks emotion of being laughed with rather than
for meeting me here. I know it’s a hike for laughed at for a change. After a moment,
you. My job’s nearby, and I don’t have a car.” Bernardo’s face rested into a broad smile.

“Not a problem.” David looked up from “Certainly don’t need to try.” Bernardo
the menu. “You work the front desk at that waved the waitress over for a refill. “You’re
hotel down the road, right?” the first guy who didn’t immediately ask for
a nude pic. That’s impressive already.”
“You remembered?” Bernardo laughed
for a moment, then said: “That’s why I’m “You mean you would have given me one
glad I was finally able to get you to come if I asked?”
out.”
Bernardo laughed. “And now we’ll never
“Of course. But, yes, we’ve been talking know.”
for like three months, right?” It had been
two months, three weeks, and six days “But, nude pics.” David’s sweat had started
since Bernardo had first messaged him on to subside. “I didn’t know you wanted to be
Grindr. Each time David had found a day his viewed as a sexual object.”
horoscope portended success, Bernardo
had a conflict. Coming up with excuses for “Screw the sexual part.” Bernardo smirked.
inauspicious days had grown increasingly “I just want to be viewed.”
suspect, so David acquiesced to one that
should have been neutral, despite his plans “If you just wanted me to ‘screw the
for later that day. The idea was to let his sexual part’ why are we bothering with
cool charm and devastating wit make up coffee at all?”
the difference. He continued: “So, uh...yes...
it’s good...I...thanks...well...um…” Bernardo laughed again and thanked
the waitress as she poured more coffee in
“Okay there, bud?” the cup. She shot a surly smile. A person
coming in and ordering just a cup of coffee

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

was bad; two people literally sharing a cup that). He smiled, he shifted, he sweated, he
was unforgivable. stammered, he imagined those cute animals
that gnaw off their legs to get out of traps.
“Good weekend?” Bernardo leaned in Bernardo, for his part, continued talking en-
and raised an eyebrow. thusiastically. David thought of how good-
looking people rarely stumbled over their
“It was really good. I went to see an ex- words: when you have less riding on being
hibition on punk sexuality at the museum.” smart and funny all the time, you can relax
and have fun. With each moment, David
Bernardo grinned. “Wasn’t aware ‘punk’ sunk lower in the seat as though he thought
was a sexual preference.” he could disappear into the floor. He absent-
mindedly used his right hand to try to play
David scratched his chin. “Well, the orig- with an engagement ring that he had taken
inal etymology of punk is a young criminal off months ago. When he realized what he
who engages in receptive anal sex, so it was doing, he stopped speaking and stared
works out.” at his empty finger for a moment.

“They got so many words for that,” Ber- “Well, this has been fun,” David said as
nardo said with a laugh. he reached for his jacket and a reason to
escape. “But, well, the thing is, my Dad...”
“Yeah, I know.” David leant forward.
“They’ve got ‘punk,’ ‘catamite–’” “You guys close? I have to work to not
hate my dad,” Bernardo said. “I make myself
“‘Bernardo’ If you play your cards right…” remember him taking me out in my pajamas
to get ice cream sundaes on a school night.
Bernardo reached his hand across the I make myself remember driving along on
table, gently touching David’s. His hand was the big old highway to the beach, a hundred
rough, calloused, and absolutely nothing degrees and the windows down, the two of
like David’s ex-fiance’s. David did not react us laughing at something on the radio. Even
at all, and simply let Bernardo hold it. After make up memories. Teaching me Tagalog.
a moment, David flashed Bernardo a sad At my graduation. Hugging me after I told
smile and then took his hand back to his lap. him I like guys. Not laughing when I told him
Bernardo leaned back and kept his hands I’m really into big guys.”
on the coffee cup as though he were trying
to keep a baby bird warm. “Oh.” David put down his jacket. He tried
to choose his words delicately, leaving what
The talk veered towards the mundane. was implied unsaid. “I guess you don’t need
David followed up on some threads that they him, but you need a dad.”
had talked about online: taste in movies, jobs,
living situations. The tenor of the conversa- “What?”
tion had changed from date to interview as
quickly as phone call interrupting things just “I’m sorry,” David said quickly. “I didn’t
as they started to get hot and heavy. mean to intrude.”

David checked his Apple Watch twice: “Nah, man,” Bernardo said. “Just sur-
first for the weather (the blizzard was holding prised you had something to say to that.
off until later that night, so he would still be You must think about dads a lot.”
able to do what he needed to do), then to
fill an awkward gap (he didn’t even have
the presence of mind to make a joke out of

48


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