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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.
A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação mensal internacional e independente, localizada em Nova Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Adelaide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objectivo da revista é publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia de qualidade assim como entrevistas, artigos e críticas literárias, escritas em inglês e português. Pretendemos publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudando os autores novos e emergentes a atingir uma audiência literária mais vasta. (http://adelaidemagazine.org)

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Published by ADELAIDE BOOKS, 2021-08-05 12:15:40

Adelaide Literary Magazine No. 50. July 2021

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.
A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação mensal internacional e independente, localizada em Nova Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Adelaide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objectivo da revista é publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia de qualidade assim como entrevistas, artigos e críticas literárias, escritas em inglês e português. Pretendemos publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudando os autores novos e emergentes a atingir uma audiência literária mais vasta. (http://adelaidemagazine.org)

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 VI, Number 50, July 2021 Stevan V. Nikolic
Ano VI, Número 50, julho 2021
[email protected]
ISBN-13: 978-1-955196-84-0
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 Emily Chaff, Shylee Yachin, Sandra Colbert,
the writers we publish, helping both new, emerging, and Joe Baumann, Phil Brunetti,
established authors reach a wider literary audience.
Sabahattin Ali, Aysel K. Basci, Robert Parker,
A Revista Literária Adelaide é uma publicação men- Susan Cornford, Charlotte Graham,
sal internacional e independente, localizada em Nova
Iorque e Lisboa. Fundada por Stevan V. Nikolic e Ade- Mike Dillon, Jose Recio, Preston Canavan,
laide Franco Nikolic em 2015, o objectivo da revista é Kylie McKenzie, Lane Goble,
publicar poesia, ficção, não-ficção, arte e fotografia de Ben Shahon, Paulette Carter,
qualidade assim como entrevistas, artigos e críticas
literárias, escritas em inglês e por-tuguês. Pretendemos Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar, Bridget Kiley,
publicar ficção, não-ficção e poesia excepcionais assim Christine Kiefer, James Hanna,
como promover os escritores que publicamos, ajudan- LeeAnn Weaver, Dian Parker,
do os autores novos e emergentes a atingir uma audiên- Mary Casey Stark, Alexis Garcia,
cia literária mais vasta. Bethany Reid, Korkut Onaran,

(http://adelaidemagazine.org) W. Colin McKay, Roseangelina Baptista,
Roger D Anderson, Dale Cottingham,
Published by: Adelaide Books, New York Peycho Kanev, Steve Mentz, Eugenia Fain,
244 Fifth Avenue, Suite D27 LG Pomerleau, Benjamin B. White,
New York NY, 10001 Sean Murphy, Miodrag Kojadinovic,
e-mail: [email protected]
phone: (917) 477 8984 Nathan Tluchowski, Gigi Guizado,
http://adelaidebooks.org Kushal Poddar, Randall Rogers,
Van Anderson, George Mathew,
Copyright © 2021 by Adelaide Literary Magazine
Monika Martyn, R. Nikolas Macioci,
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be Ryan Swifte
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 NONFICTION
ISOLATION
FICTION by Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar 87
THIS WINTER
GOING HOME by Bridget Kiley 89
by Emily Chaff 7 FOR THE LAND OF THE FREE
by Christine Kiefer 91
THE UNFORGOTTEN GIRL THE SOWBELLY TRIO
by Shylee Yachin 14 by James Hanna 95
CONCESSIONS FOR CASH
FADING AWAY by LeeAnn Weaver 98
by Sandra Colbert 18 THE PERILS OF BELIEF
by Dian Parker 103
SMOKERS THE FADE
by Joe Baumann 21 by Mary Casey Stark 109
DISCOVERING
STALLER BREAKS by Alexis Garcia 113
by Phil Brunetti 30 A BIG WIND KNOCKED IT OVER
by Bethany Reid 116
FRECKLES
by Sabahattin Ali POETRY
Translated by Aysel K. Basci 35 OF SCRIBBLING
by Korkut Onaran 123
A CUP OF TEA NARCISSISM
by Robert Parker 41 by W. Colin McKay 126
SEÑORITA BANTE!
TUNNEL VISION by Roseangelina Baptista 128
by Susan Cornford 51 COMING AND GOING
by Roger D Anderson 130
UTOPIA AMERICANA HOME GROUND
by Charlotte Graham 53 by Dale Cottingham 134
ONLY STARS
SEATTLE, 1961 by Peycho Kanev 139
by Mike Dillon 64 SEA AND SOIL POEMS
by Steve Mentz 142
BEYOND APPEARANCES
by Jose Recio 68 3

PERENNIAL UNDULATION
by Preston Canavan 70

RUNNING WITH THE WOLVES
by Kylie McKenzie 72

THE PRICE FOR GREEN
by Lane Goble 75

SHIVER
by Ben Shahon 77

IN THE LIFE OF A SLEEPWALKER
by Paulette Carter 83

Adelaide Literary Magazine

TIME INTERVIEWS
by Eugenia Fain 145
GEORGE MATHEW
TAKE TEN Author of THE LAST CRUSADE 187
by LG Pomerleau 147
MONIKA MARTYN
HAPPINESS Author of THE LUCKY MAN:
by Benjamin B. White 151 AN ACT OF MALICE 192

OLD SCHOOL R. NIKOLAS MACIOCI
by Sean Murphy 153 Author of the ROUGH 197

THE FROGS OF SUN YAT SEN UNIVERSITY RYAN SWIFTE
by Miodrag Kojadinovic 163 Author of CARELESS 202

WORTHWHILE CREATURES
by Nathan Tluchowski 167

BASIL
by Gigi Guizado 171

CARDINAL SINS
by Kushal Poddar 175

HOW MUCH OF HISTORY IS TRUE
by Randall Rogers 178

MAPLE
by Van Anderson 181

4

FICTION



GOING HOME

by Emily Chaff

Springdale, Ohio. mainstream media says I’m a racist. Heads
shake in commiseration over the state of
God, what a place. the world all around. You don’t see that
kind of thing here in Springdale.
It was the sort of small town that lacked
any of the charm that made small towns Ray Thorenson left that town in his dust
desirable in the hearts and minds of people the moment his high school graduation
who didn’t live there. There was a Target, a cap hit the ground. His whole life up until
movie theater attached to the mall, and a that point had felt like serving out a prison
host of chain restaurants from which one sentence. Once he did his time, eighteen
could choose. You want Applebees tonight? long years, he was out. He was gone. Adios,
Or should we mix it up and go to Chili’s? amigos– it’s been fun and it’s been real, but
They have boneless chicken wings and steak it hasn’t been real fun.
quesadillas on special.
He moved to New York because, well,
There was money there. Most of the res- what else is a kid from a small town in the
idents were older, retired. The average age Midwest with big dreams of being an actor
of a Springdale local was 54 years. Everyone meant to do? He followed the formula:
was white. Everyone was from there or an- move to New York. Check. Rent a tiny room
other suburb nearby. Some citizens acted in a tiny apartment. Check. Get a job as a
like Springdale money was real money. waiter and gorge yourself on free cokes and
They’d never been anywhere else. But they stale fries so you don’t have to spend pre-
looked down on people from North Hill or cious savings on food. Check. Go to every
Ellet like their postal code put them in Milan audition, every casting call, put it all on the
or Geneva. They clutched their purses a little line and pray they call you back. Check.
tighter and tried to stifle a grimace when
some undesirable from the city passed by Ten years go by. He got a few parts here
on the street. and there– an extra in a Spiderman movie,
two lines as a jogger who discovers a body
People have to be so ‘PC’ now, they’d in Central Park on Law&Order, Hamlet in a
lament over lunch at the Olive Garden, but production put on in the basement of a roll-
where’s all the crime coming from? It’s only erskating rink in the Bronx. He was “working
when those people come in that cars start on his craft,” he said. “Creating a body of
getting broken into and kids get hooked on work.” All his friends back home were so
drugs. But if I point that out, well, then the

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envious. He was a real actor. He lived in Disappointment settled in his chest like
New York City! He took the subway to work! like a stone when he recognized his sister’s
He saw Robert DeNiro outside Rockafeller number on the screen. He thought about
Center! not answering out of spite. He didn’t want
to talk to Allie. He didn’t want to talk to
All his friends in New York were in “The anyone except the casting agents for the
Industry” as well. Actors, backup dancers, pilot he’d auditioned for last week. He
screenwriters– everyone was there to sighed and rubbed his eyes, as though
follow their own big dreams. They slept on waking from a dream, which he supposed,
couches and waited tables. They ate beans in a sense, he was.
from a can and Styrofoam cups of micro-
waved noodles. But they were doing it, Ray “Hello?” he said, trying to keep the defeat
thought. They were all chasing what they out of his voice.
wanted. They all escaped the prison of their
hometowns. “Ray?” his sister’s voice sounded strained,
worried.
He was close. He could feel it. Just like
when he was going down on his on-again “Yeah, what’s up?”
off-again girlfriend, Michelle—her back
arching, body tense, whispering “oh my “Ray you’ve got to come home. It’s Dad.
God” over and over again into the pillows Dad died.”
he bought on sale at Target. His jaw would
be aching, almost numb from the exertion, Ray felt as though he were a puppet
but he knew once she went rigid like that those strings had just been cut. All his mus-
she was almost there. So he kept going, cles gave out in a instant; his head fell for-
working his tongue past the point of ex- ward, his mouth went slack, and he doubted
haustion in those tried and true circles he he could move if her tried. He didn’t drop
knew worked every time. When the orgasm the phone though. Allie had begun to cry
finally took her she rocked and spasmed as and she was struggling to be coherent as
though possessed. His career was poised to tormented sobs overtook her.
explode the same way. He could feel that
same tension. He had put in the work and “He had a stroke,” she said between ragged
he knew if he could just keep going a little gulps for air, “he was driving. H-he was driving
longer it would all pay off, and goddamn it to the store and had a stroke in the parking
would be worth it. lot.”

Ray was sitting alone in his apartment Ray was trying to listen but a low
when the phone rang. His roommates were hum was building behind his eyes. It was
all at their various day jobs. Michelle had drowning everything out. Allie sounded far
freaked out a couple nights before because away. She said something but he couldn’t
he hadn’t given her a key to his place so he make it out.
wasn’t sure if she was coming back around
any time soon. The hairs on the back of his “What?” he said, the fog in his mind getting
neck stood up and he grabbed for it. He thicker by the second.
sensed he was on the precipice of a massive
shift. He was ready. Beyond ready. “I said, Mom is losing it. You have to come
home right now.”

Home. But, New York was his home.
Springdale, that was his confinement, a

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temporary constraint he’d had to overcome Ray stepped off the bus in downtown
in order to get to his real home. Akron. He spotted his sister’s old, blue
Honda across the lot. Allie tore herself out
“I–” he said. of the car and ran towards him, tears al-
ready running in rivulets down her cheeks
“I don’t fucking care,” Allie cut in, “Just in preexisting tracks. Ray wondered when
figure it out, Ray. Just get here because he would cry.
I can’t do this, I can’t—” her words dis-
appeared again, swallowed up into a ca- Allie dragged him in an awkward em-
cophony of grief. brace as he tried to maneuver his duffel bag
out of the way. He hugged her for a moment
* then held her at arms length.

The next day Ray found himself on a bus “You look like shit,” he said.
heading west. The static buzzing in his head
which had commenced when he heard the She laughed, a harsh, barking sound.
news of his father’s death hadn’t abated
and he was learning to simply exist within it. “I missed you too,” she said.
His limbs felt like lead as he threw clothes in
a duffel bag. He had one suit which he tried They both turned and headed for the car,
to pack carefully, but it ended up rumpled which Allie had left running. Ray wondered
amidst the jeans and old, worn tshirts. He absently if she had done it on purpose or if
hoped his mother would know how to press in her grief she was forgetting things. They
the wrinkles out, either ironing it or steam- pulled out of the bus station and onto fa-
ing, he didn’t know. But it seemed like the miliar streets. Ray looked out the window.
sort of thing his mother would know. All He felt like time had gone on without him,
mothers, he thought, knew those things. yet everything remained the same. They
passed a gas station where he used to be
He leaned his forehead against the cool able to buy cigarettes underage and a Mex-
glass of the bus window and thought about ican restaurant beside a truck stop where
his father. What did he even remember he’d taken Julie Neiman on his first real date
about the man? It had been almost three in the ninth grade.
years since he had gone home to visit. Large
hands, mashed up and hammered out from He knew all the landmarks and street
a lifetime of work. Black coffee and the New signs as they approached them. It made
York Times crossword puzzle. Sliced tomato him feel strangely psychic, or like he was
sprinkled with salt and pepper. Ray remem- suffering from a perpetual case of deja vu.
bered when he was about thirteen, sitting His bones remembered the place. But he
in the car, his father driving him somewhere, felt isolated and removed from it.
and his father said to him, ‘God must love
the mediocre. He made so damn many of Fifteen minutes later they arrived at
them.” When he told his father he wanted his childhood home where his parents still
to be an actor, the man looked him over, lived. Well, where his mother still lived. Ray
scrutinizing and evaluating. He pursed his felt a dull thud in his stomach as his brain
lips and took a sip of coffee. “Life’s going to corrected itself. They went inside and his
be harder if you don’t go to college,” was mother was sitting at the kitchen table. She
all he’d said. rose, tears streaming down her face as she
hugged Ray. Her arms held him in a vise grip

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

as her body shook. She buried her head in hair, always falling in her face as she bent
his shoulder and cried. her head, scribbling stars and hearts on the
sides of her tennis shoes.
Ray stood, dry eyed, as waves of pain
wracked his mother’s body. Her tears felt “Good,” he said.
hot on his neck. He stroked her back, awk-
wardly murmuring what he hoped were His friend, Jason slapped him on the
soothing things. It felt strange to him, this back and sat down beside him.“Yeah, Mr.
role reversal, trying to comfort his mother Big-Time-New-York has finally graced us
like he was the adult and she the child. Fi- with his presence.”
nally, she released him. She slumped back
into her chair and stared vacantly at her “I heard about your dad,” Adriane said,
son. She looked much older than Ray re- offering a sad smile, “I’m really sorry.”
membered.
“Thanks,” Ray said. He began to squirm
“Mom,” Allie said, “can I get you anything? under her gaze. He didn’t want to talk about
You want me to make some tea?” his dad. “Can I get a beer?”

Their mother shook her head. She They sat around reminiscing and after a
reached for a box of tissues that was sit- few drinks, Ray felt his body begin to relax.
ting on the table and began mopping at her The buzzing was still in his head, but it felt
damp face. The tissues came away wet and softer now.
smeared with dark smudges of makeup.
“Do you remember those trips to the
“No,” she said, “But there’s coffee over ledges?” Jason said. In high school they had
there if you want some honey. How was your all piled into Jeremy Deever’s old Chevy and
trip in?” She looked at Ray. He shrugged. He driven out to some cliffs in one of the metro
couldn’t think of anything to say. He just sat parks to get high.
down and held his mom’s hand. He stared
at her wedding ring and wondered how in “Oh yeah,” Ray said as Adriane set an-
the midst of losing her partner of almost other beer in front of him. His fingers grazed
forty years, she had still managed to make hers as she pulled her hand away from the
coffee. bottle. For a moment, their eyes met and
Ray thought, with a start, he may actually
* have a shot with Adriane Horowitz.

That night, Ray met up with some friends at When her shift ended Adriane went to
a bar. Adriane Horowitz, who had been his the other side of the bar and sat down to
lab partner in twelfth grade science class, have a drink.
was behind the bar serving drinks. She
smiled when he sat down. “So how’s New York?” she asked.

“Well look who it is,” she said, “How’ve “It’s great,” Ray said. He answered the
you been?” question so many times whenever he was
home the response was mechanical and
Ray remembered how she looked back he knew with complete certainty what the
then. She’d worn a denim jacket two sizes follow-up question would inevitably be. He
too big for her. He used to watch her blonde took a sip of his beer and right on cue:

“You ever think about moving back?”

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Revista Literária Adelaide

There it was. It was like no one could his polished dress shoes and leave a chill
have a conversation about someone’s life if in the air. Ray didn’t mind. He always felt
it didn’t directly involve them as well. They strange attending a somber event when the
lived in Ohio so they only wanted to talk sun was shining and birds were chirping.
about living in Ohio. Ray closed his eyes and The clouds felt appropriately mournful.
rubbed the bridge of his nose. It was always Although the rain dissipated and became
the same. more of a heavy mist, he held an umbrella
over his mother’s head as they navigated
But wasn’t he guilty of the same thing? carefully down a hill to the grave sight.
In New York, he and all his friends sat
around talking about living in New York and As the casket was lowered into the
how they were all collectively lucky to have ground his mother clung to his arm and
escaped their hometowns. Sometimes they wept. It seemed like the woman would
would try to one-up each other, compare never run out of tears. Allie sat beside him
whose adolescence had been worse, which with her husband, Jim, and dabbed at her
town was the most dismal in which to grow eyes in a practiced, controlled way. Ray
up. Wasn’t it natural to search for common knew how his sister was and he was sure
ground, to want a connection, to relate? she’d given herself a pep talk in the mirror
that morning, instructing herself to be
Adriane was looking at him expectantly. strong for her family and not to go to pieces.
He realized he hadn’t said anything and an
awkward silence was yawning between Ray watched as the box containing
them. what was once his father disappeared into
the Earth. It was made from solid poplar
“Not really,” he said. He left out the part and polished to a high shine with a cream,
where he would rather be eaten alive by velvet interior. Ray wondered what a mess it
wolves than return to life in Springdale. would be on that creamy velvet once decay
set in. Did bodies even decay anymore? Or
A couple hours later, Ray was amply were the treated with something? Were the
drunk. He wanted to take Adriane home with coffins airtight in order to somehow pre-
him but the logistics of bringing a bartender serve their inhabitants? All these thoughts
home to his grieving mother’s house, to passed through his mind as the funeral di-
sneak up and have sex in his childhood bed- rector walked around and passed out roses
room with the faded Ozzy Osbourne posters for the bereaved to throw into the grave. It
on the wall– it was a little more than his ad- all seemed so pointless. People didn’t even
dled brain could manage. So when his cab return to the earth anymore. They were
showed up, he said goodbye to his friends stuck in a damned box. When his turn came,
and headed home alone. He could already Ray stood before the casket, looking down
feel the drunk turning on him, from happy and feeling awkward. How long was he sup-
to hungover, and he knew he was going to posed to stand there? He let the rose fall
feel like death in the morning. Which, he from his hands and it made a soft thud as
thought, would be fitting since death was it hit the lid.
what he had to wake up to anyway.
As they made their way back towards
The day of the funeral was overcast. the car Ray felt the buzzing in his head
The morning let loose a cold, stinging rain, growing, intensifying. They were just going
enough to turn the ground to mud beneath

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

to leave him there. Everyone was going Ray felt like he was drowning. He felt
back to their lives and his father, the man like his mother was drowning and he swam
who taught him how to walk, how to shave, out to save her. But in her panic she was
how to change a tire, they were leaving him thrashing around and was going to take him
there alone. In a box. under with her. He knew he had to get out.

Allie said something and Ray shook his He needed the life he’d created for
head in an attempt to clear out the noise. himself back, instead of the mess of a life
in this town, in this family that he’d been
“What?” given by chance or fate or whatever it was.
He needed his auditions, his monologue
“I said, ‘everyone is meeting back at development course, his job, his friends,
mom’s.’” the subway. He wanted to run as fast as he
could from his mother who wouldn’t stop
“Oh, right.” crying and his father who was in a box and
all the people who reminded him of who he
Allie gave him a queer look. “You okay?” used to be because they were all still them.
she asked.
He kissed his mother’s cheek and gave
“Fine.” he said. her arm a reassuring squeeze.

* “It’s okay, mom,” he said, “I love you.”

Two days later he was packing up his things. His sister dropped him off at the bus sta-
He couldn’t afford to take any more time off tion. She grabbed him hard and hugged him.
work and besides that, he was itching to get
back to the city. The packing itself wasn’t “When are you coming back?” she asked.
hard. He had done a load of laundry while
he was there so his clothes were clean. But Not even gone yet and it’s already ‘when
he knew they’d be hopelessly wrinkled as will you be back.’ he thought, grimacing in-
he crammed them forcefully into his bag. ternally.
He didn’t care.
“I’m not sure. I’ll let you know.”
His mother hovered near his door,
watching him. Ray hastily said goodbye to Allie and got
on the bus that would take him back to New
“I wish you didn’t live so far away,” she York. He jammed his duffel bag under the seat
said. Ray hung his head. She always said and looked out the window. Allie was still
that. But this time he knew when he left her, standing outside watching the bus. Her figure
she would be much more alone than she’d stood out starkly against the gray backdrop of
been all the other times. He felt the familiar the city behind her. She seemed frozen there,
weight of the guilt around his shoulders. He like if Ray came back in two weeks or a month
put the bag down and went to his mother. As or six months he would find her right in that
he hugged her, she began to cry again. Ray same spot, staring at him in that exact same
really couldn’t understand how it was phys- way, like he was a coward and a stranger and
ically possible for the woman to keep crying. her blood all at the same time.

“I miss you so much,” she went on, “Your As the bus began to move he turned
Dad missed you too. He was always so away from the window. His eyes were dry
proud of you.” and it hurt to look out for too long.

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About the Author

Emily Chaff is writer originally from Akron, Ohio. She enjoys traveling the world, learning
new languages, and adding to an ever-increasing book and record collection. She has lived
all over the country but finally found her forever home in Philadelphia in 2019 where she
has befriended a tree. In addition to finishing her first novel, she hopes to soon be fluent in
Hungarian and master the art of making the perfect avocado toast.

13

THE UNFORGOTTEN
GIRL

by Shylee Yachin

He knew she lived in the egg house on the Everybody who lived on the island was
corner of Windflower Lane—the faded yolk aware of avoiding the ocean when these
one with cream-shell shutters. He knew fish were feeding because they surrounded
who she was and where she came from and and harassed flesh. You go before noon
he even saw her once when he was in el- when dawn had settled little bites of soft
ementary school, she homeschooled, play- wind on the water or when the sky had
ing hopscotch by herself with chalk lines deepened into darkness. That was the rule
that had been washed away from several for those two weeks—plastered on the
spring storms. But he had never seen her window shops and newspapers. These fish
like this. She was older now, a stupid reali- will bite skin until it’s a raw red or rip a scab
zation; he was older too and they were the right off a fragile shin. They were ruthless.
same age. But he wasn’t prepared for her
striking beauty in the feminine body that He assumed of all the people who would
seemed like it could not belong to her. She populate the water at two in the afternoon,
had stepped into the water with the gravel it would be her—but wasn’t he here to do
tucked into her flip flops, under the tight the same? He had taken his bike and rode
arch of her feet. He watched her as the little down to the shore, fully knowing there
fish, with the pattern of the sunlight hitting was a good chance it would get much too
the ocean, circled around her pale calves humid and hot not to wade in for a swim.
as she pulled her thin pants up to let them Maybe what really bothered him, was that
gnaw at her skin. The fabric of her clothing she did not seem to notice him, nor care
clung to her like the Winged Nike, a replica that he was watching her. They were the
of which stood in his mother’s study. She only two on the isolated strip of white sand.
then tilted her head back toward the over- Why wouldn’t she look in his direction? She
cast sky, her neck long and narrow, and she knew who he was. She followed him on so-
submitted to these little fish in the ocean cial media and liked his pictures, even the
who did not matter. She knew they didn’t stupid ones of him catching mediocre fish
matter, insignificant swirling creatures, and that only his friends from the inlands appre-
he knew it too, yet he was disturbed. ciated. He flushed at the realization that he

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always noticed when she liked his pictures. passed around like a wine decanter at a
She had none posted except one of an un- dinner party.
named book cradled between her translu-
cent legs, a sliver of a mint dress peeking She didn’t say anything, but began
beneath the pages. walking toward him, still in the water. The
fish followed, forming a pack behind her like
He felt weird for memorizing a detail a shark’s tail.
of a seemingly personal life when the real
person was right there, ankle deep in the “Who are you?” She asked.
cool water. And then he did something he
couldn’t manage to do on vacation in Italy “I’m Jack.” He was offended she didn’t
when the most (or second most) beautiful recognize him if she regularly saw his posts.
girl graced the hotel pool every day and he
salivated, and his mom said go say hi and “I’m Mneme, but you can just call me M.”
he ran down the stairs to urgently pee in
the Mediterranean Sea just at the thought “I remember your name.”
of the girl looking at him. With this girl,
maybe he felt unamused by her beauty, or “Wow, you know who I am and you know
her strange behavior had cancelled out the if I should get in the water. Have we met in
intimidation, or maybe he just felt superior another life?”
for some strange, unreasonable, and unfair
reason—he said hi. “No!” His cheeks reddened, and he
wanted to regret having started talking to
She didn’t hear him at first, the sound her in the first place, but he couldn’t stop
getting carried by the gust that swept staring at the plump pink lips that gently
through the white oak trees, and in that mo- graced her silky skin.
ment, he breathed a sigh of relief—nothing
was said after all. “Well, Jack, let me tell you something
that you don’t know. This island is a scared
But his lips kept moving and called out one—not mean. If you go into the water
even louder. and stand still and let the fish come near
you, they will just eat the dead skin off and
She turned her head rather slowly, secrete this salt mineral that will make your
making him anticipate meeting her eyes. skin feel buttered like you are swimming in
“Hey,” she said back. honey warm oil. Like the Dead Sea. It’s in-
credibly healthy for your body and it makes
“You know—you’re not supposed to be my legs rather ravishing.” She stepped out
in that water.” and lengthened her toned leg, which did
appear awfully smooth and soft.
“Meh, fish shouldn’t have that power
over me.” He could see that she had light “But you walked towards me—didn’t
eyes from far away. they bite you then?”

“They will when your skin is dry and He couldn’t decide if he liked learning or
bleeding when you get out. You’ll have to if he was scavenging for a gotcha moment,
soak them in a warm bath for weeks.” He but she enlightened him regardless. “The
spoke as if from experience, but he was fish know me; they trust me. I’m their only
only reciting the legends shared annually, company every day for two weeks out of
the year. I feed them and comfort them—
they’ll never hurt me.”

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“Fish aren’t able to cognitively think like For a fleeting moment, he pictured her
that.” head leaning against his as they danced
on a sticky aluminum floor, or her neck
She rolled her eyes, and he noticed their tilted in laughter after drinking an entire
pear green sparkle. She could roll her eyes peach schnapps bottle or her smooth legs
all day at him and he wouldn’t mind. “Go on his while they read books on the dock
ahead and try it—they’ll bite you.” after summer vacationers fled. Or her body
under his with the window open in the af-
Jack got up; he was skinny and skirmish. ternoon. A vision rolled through his mind, of
He didn’t bother taking his shirt off, even her feathery hair nipping at his skin as they
though he had gotten a wonderful tan to painted her house a salmon color to match
match his silver blonde hair and he wanted the lifeless pomegranate tree and the rows
desperately to show off to her, but some- of summer homes which lined against theirs.
thing told him that wouldn’t impress her. In each evanescent, yet lingering, image
Jack felt the desperate yearning to tell her
When he put his big toe into the water, everything, to show her the Winged Nike
immediately tiny teeth met his feet. “Ah!” in his mother’s office and lead her up the
He got out. levels of his home with every door shutting
quietly behind them; to share with her the
“Yeah—they don’t recognize your feet strange feelings creeping in his chest and
so they’re tasting you; they want to under- weighing his body down like anchors pulling
stand.” him into the abyss of the Atlantic.

“I’m too complex, it will take them years But just as fast as the encounter hap-
to understand,” Jack joked, but she was dis- pened, she rolled her pants over to her feet
pleased. Her lips pursed to form a kissable and waved goodbye, heading in a direction
pucker and her frown highlighted deep dim- away from his neighborhood. He wished he
ples. got a chance to tell her that her beauty was
not the compelling feature which drew him in.
“So, would you have talked to me if you
didn’t think I was pretty?” Jack never saw her again. After a few
weeks, her house went up for sale and Jack
“Huh?” Jack had nothing to say. hung around the yard to say goodbye, but
it seemed like her and her dad had packed
“If you were as complex as you say you up in the middle of the night and fled. Like
are, I wouldn’t have immediately known Persephone plucked into the underworld,
your intention when saying hi.” only she never came back to their sanc-
tuary of an island, leaving the fish to hover
“I’m sorry, I. . .” the sea in loneliness. No one in town had
missed her terribly, but Jack never stopped
“Yeah, I’ve been told I got very pretty re- thinking about the fish girl, Mneme.
cently. I think it’s because I remind people
of Heather O’Rourke, you know, if she grew Every year, he would visit the fish, en-
up. Anyway, it’s okay—I forgive you.” during their claws momentarily before
escaping to the shoreline where he softly
The slight static simmering over the reassured them that their phantom would
shallow pools of water in the sand caused her
fine hair to reach out and glaze his shoulder.
A chill vibrated and extended from his arm
toward the bottom of his abdomen and flut-
tered below the elastic band of his shorts.

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return; don’t worry, she was not a water covered in spilled champagne, he felt a
ghost who left only a fog of memories im- strange gnaw that something had gone ter-
possible to recapture. The fish didn’t seem ribly wrong if it was Isabella beside him and
to hear Jack. They beat on, against the not her. It felt like that afternoon by the sea
waves, and never stopped kissing the des- was a parallel universe’s offering to escape
olate beach which still held her footprints. into another life, an enigma, which he re-
jected by accident. Maybe he should have
Together, they had ephemerally fallen in swum or called out to her silhouette or
love with a stranger, one who would never maybe he should have searched for her, but
come back to memorialize their time. With he always sealed the thoughts with the sad-
each woman that graced his life after, Jack dest one of all: he was terrified that she was
only felt further from Mneme. Each glance not the memory he had of her. That night,
at another left him wondering if the anguish and nearly every night following, he won-
he felt was that of regret or curiosity. Even dered where she was, what she was doing,
when he married, in his wedding bed and if she even remembered him back.

About the Author

Shylee Yachin is a senior at the University of Maryland,
getting her dual degree in English and Family Science. In
the fall, she will continue her studies at Columbia’s School
of Social Work, where she hopes to become a child and
family therapist specializing in writing therapy.

17

FADING AWAY

by Sandra Colbert

Why was he looking at me? I was trying to “I know where there’s a shelter. It’s just a
make myself invisible. I know I looked awful couple of blocks away,” he said.
– a complete mess. Was that why he was
looking at me? Did my slovenly appearance Go away! Leave me alone! my brain
attract attention instead of deflect? screamed. But the words didn’t come out.
I continued to shake my head.
I stepped back farther into the doorway.
I could feel the doorknob press against the I gathered what little courage I had left
flab that had developed around my waist. and pushed past him and ran. I didn’t know
where I was running to, but it didn’t matter.
He moved. He was walking towards me. I did what I had been doing the last two
days – running.
I could feel the panic setting in. Nowhere
to run. I saw a fast-food restaurant in the dis-
tance. Time to clean up. Time to get some-
“Hi.” He said this one little word. thing to eat. Maybe then I won’t attract any
attention. Maybe I can walk down the street
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t. and become what I was once was – a forty
something woman with home, who once
The panic continued to surge. I could feel had a job, who had a decent education - a
the blood stream through my arteries. forty something woman who had never
killed anyone before.
I had seen pictures of animals trapped in
corners. I was suddenly one of them. Whatever happens with me in this life,
whatever this fog laden future holds, I’ll
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. never forget the face, especially the eyes.

Isn’t that something you would say to He begged me to give him the pills. The
a trapped animal? His voice was soft and leathery, disease ravaged face of my father,
liquid. It made me think of caramel. with tears that formed rivulets down his
cheeks will stay with me forever. The few
“Do you need help?” he asked. strands of grey-no white- hair peaked out
in all directions from the bottom of the knit
I wanted to laugh. I almost did. cap that he wouldn’t remove, in spite of my
gripes that it needed to be washed.
Instead, I shook my head to the negative.

“Are you hungry?”

Of course, I’m hungry, I thought. Two
days on the street, with only a few dollars
in my wallet left me hungry.

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A man so cancer ridden that it consumed some died, and some moved, but in my
not only him but me as well. mind, they just faded away.

He had a stash of pills that he began to One day it was just my father and me
accumulate once he heard the diagnosis. in our rented house, the only house I ever
He said he would go on his own terms. “I’ll knew. My brother sent us postcards over
do it my way,” he would sing, distorting the the years from different parts of the country.
words of the Frank Sinatra song. A few times, he even came home and stayed
for a while. But then he left again.
But life has a way of throwing a wrench
into even the best laid plans. Weakened by Daddy had his drinking buddies and for
the chemo, he fell and broke his right arm, a short time, even a girlfriend. But they, like
rendering him even more helpless. The pain everyone else faded away.
medications completed the picture. But his
voice was as strong as ever. I had my job at the department store. But
I knew my main job was taking care of Daddy,
Before my memory fades, I ask myself – and the house. I put everything I learned from
How did I get here? the ladies into good use. I made a lot of good
meals and baked a lot of bread and pastries.
Mommy died when I was eleven. Hit in the The house was always immaculate. I would
head by a huge icicle that fell off a downtown tell myself that Mommy would be proud.
building. Such a strange way to go. I laughed
when they told me. I thought it was a joke. Daddy was sick a lot. He said it was because
of his factory job. It was rough on the body. I
Daddy took it badly. My older brother, did what I could. He told me I should go part
Ben, took it worse. He was six years older time at the department store. He needed me
than me. We were never close. Now he was to take him to doctor appointments. I didn’t
angry and suddenly he was gone. Left on his want to go part-time. I liked my job. I was now
eighteenth birthday. Left me behind. a department manager. But I did.

We seemed to suddenly be surrounded I was with him when he found out that
by family members. Mostly women, my he had lung cancer. He blamed the factory.
grandmother, different aunts and cousins, I never mentioned that he smoked since he
all fussing over me and my father, mostly was fourteen.
me. There was no shortage of food as all
these ladies wanted to teach me how to Once the cancer diagnosis was in, he had
cook. I was a quick learner. to quit working. Fortunately, he had good
insurance through his union. He did get sick
I went to school and had girlfriends. In pay for a while. But that eventually dried up.
high school I even had a couple of boy- I had to go back to working full time.
friends. There was no money for college.
Even if there was my father saw no reason I was so worn out.
for me to go. Go work at the department
store, he told me. So, I did. My sleep was often denied by his painful
groans, his bodily functions, his other de-
But then things began to change. mands.

The ladies, the aunts and cousins began I tried hard to keep up with my job, the
to disappear. They just faded away. I’m sure housework and the cooking and the doctor
appointments and everything else.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

When he first asked me to give him the grieve. I grabbed my purse and crammed a
pills, I said no. I couldn’t do it. He was my few things in a bag. I called nine-one-one
father and besides, it was illegal. I could go and ran. I had the foresight to keep the front
to jail, I told him. door wide open for them and the neighbors.
I knew the police would be looking for me
He ordered me. I said no. Then he begged when they saw what happened. What else
me. I said nothing. I gathered up the pills could I do?
in my shaking hands. He wanted a whiskey
chaser and Frank Sinatra on the stereo. I did I’m on the street now. I’m walking to the
what he told me to do. shelter. Nothing looks the same. Nothing
sounds the same. I’m so afraid. I’m so tired.
When he took his last breath, I realized I could feel my mind fading away.
what I had done. I was too horrified to

About the Author

Sandra Colbert was born and raised in Chicago, where many of her stories take place. She is
currently a board member of the Chicago Writers Association and a member of the Society of
Midland Authors. She has written three collections of short stories, Chicago Bound, Chicago
Bound Two and Reflections & Echoes, as well as a three book crime series - The Reason,
Damaged Souls and Extradition. Sandra currently lives in Rockford, Illinois with her husband
and pets.

20

SMOKERS

by Joe Baumann

Simon and Mills buried the dog the day be- tasted like burnt, bitter paint. “I’ve always
fore the coffee shop opened. wanted to be a regular somewhere.”

“I’ll be okay,” Simon said when they Mills frowned and blew on his still-steaming
came home from the vet’s office. He held cup. “But we hardly ever drink coffee.”
Bailey’s leash tangled tight around his fin-
gers, tips iced white, until Mills unwound it “They serve tea, too.”
and tossed it into the mess of their garage
where it was lost among tennis racquets The furrow in Mills’ brow deepened, the
and empty cardboard boxes. skin above his nose crinkling into a miniature
maze of flesh. He set his coffee cup down.
“That can’t be true,” Mills said as he held Mills’ movements were deliberate and
Simon’s head with both hands. Simon inhaled slow as always, his large hands constantly
the smell of his palms, the orange-scented shocking Simon with their capacity for dain-
lotion he plied into his hands each night. tiness.
Mills kissed Simon’s forehead, and then they
laid down on the couch, silent until bed be- “Tell me, Simon, what color is our tea kettle?”
cause what else was there to say or do?
“Red?”
The coffee shop, nestled in the corner of
an industrial style building with residential “Trick question. We don’t own one.”
lofts on the second floor, stood right across
the street from community college where “This is a nice place, though.”
Simon taught. The building was all black
window frames and bright neon signage, They both looked around, eyes circling
wrought-iron railing surrounding the apart- the room. For a coffee shop it was, Simon
ments’ small balconies. Simon insisted they had to admit, somewhat sterile. Perhaps
leave early that morning to check it out, to in springtime, when more sun poured
be good citizens of the world supporting a through the windows that took up the two
new small business. Despite the grand sig- exterior sides of the shop, things wouldn’t
nage draped over the entryway, they were be quite so gray. The brown concrete floor
the only customers when they arrived. and matching tabletops didn’t help, nor
did the buzz of the two standing refrigera-
“We could become regulars here,” Simon tors shaped like Pepsi cans. A sheet of cor-
said after taking his first sip of coffee, which rugated metal ran along each side of the
pastry case, decor that seemed more appro-
priate for a storage shed. Then there were

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

the hookahs. One towered on a table next “You’re really sure you’ll be okay?” Mills
to the door like a snake staring at incoming said as they climbed into his car.
customers, ready to strike. The other was
mounted on a large circular booth in the “Yes,” Simon said, even though a large,
back corner near the restrooms, whose chunky part of him wanted to say no.
doors were adorned with hand-painted pic- Wanted to say, Of course I’m not okay, be-
tures of fruit, a banana on the men’s room cause our dog is dead. Our dog is gone, so
and a peach on the women’s. please stay. But he couldn’t do that; Mills
had a career just as much as Simon did, and
“We don’t smoke, either.” Mills would never ask Simon to mess up his
own for anything.
“You used to,” Simon said.
The drive from the coffee shop was over
“Cigarettes, and I quit, thank you.” almost as soon as it began. Rain spattered
the windshield as they idled in the parking
Of course Simon knew this; if not for lot in front of Simon’s building.
cutting himself off cold-turkey, Mills might
not have written Smokers, the short story “You could start dropping me off every
collection that was sending him jetting to all Tuesday,” Simon said. “And we could go to
sorts of bookstores and college campuses the coffee place in the morning. Then, in
for readings and signings, including the one the afternoon, I could park there so I don’t
he would be leaving for within the hour. have to stay cooped up in my office until my
night class.”
“Isn’t hookah much safer?” Simon said.
“We could start, as a new hobby.” “You want to start smoking that bad?”
Mills said.
Mills stared at him. “That seems unwise.”
His voice softened. “We should get going, “It’s just an idea.”
probably.”
Mills smiled and ran a hand through
“But your coffee.” his hair, then fiddled with the pine-shaped
air freshener dangling from the rearview
Mills stood and walked over to the mirror.
counter where a dark-haired girl leaned
against the glass display case holding over- “Just think about it while you’re driving,
sized scones and cakes that looked too dense. okay?” Simon said.
A note written in pink marker on the glass
proclaimed that they had been fresh-baked “Okay.”
that morning, but Simon didn’t believe it,
and he knew for sure that Mills didn’t either. “Sell lots of books.”

“Can I get a to go cup?” he asked. “I’ll do my best.”

Without a word, the girl bent down and Simon tried not to, but as he walked
produced a white plastic cup, setting it in into the Humanities Building he thought of
front of him. the dead dog. They had adopted Bailey less
than a year ago, Mills’ idea when he came
“Maybe a lid?” he said, and one was home from the first leg of his Smokers book
plunked onto the counter like loose change. tour and, when asked how the two weeks
had been, Simon said, “Boring.” Mills had
Simon stood and they walked out.

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dragged him out of their house and drove least impressive. Mills was the one whose
them straight to the animal shelter nearby. resume popped with magazine publications
The mutt with large swaths of golden re- and impressive conference presentations.
triever blood, eight years old and recently Yes, Simon had slightly better course evalu-
abandoned for reasons neither Mills nor ations and spent way more time crafting his
Simon asked about, was perfect: trained, teaching philosophy statement, but even
calm but friendly, shoving his nose into both after signing his contract, he still felt a weird
of their extended hands and flopping over in pang of failure and jealousy every time Mills,
search of belly rubs moments after being in- who hadn’t wrangled a single job interview,
troduced. They had to wait an endless three bashfully admitted that another magazine
days for paperwork processing and had to had bought one of the stories he’d written
undergo two home visits before Bailey was about people quitting smoking. That was
theirs. But the day he was, they stopped at the central thread of Smokers: in every nar-
a pet supply store, the kind where you could rative, someone addicted to nicotine made
bring your animals in, and Bailey strained at least a passing attempt at quitting, some
on the leash, wanting to smell everything, successful, others not so much. In the ac-
poking his snout at bags of food, squeaking knowledgements, Simon was mentioned
toys, plastic litter boxes. They filled the cart specifically, for helping Mills quit smoking.
with everything they imagined they might What that thanks didn’t mention was Simon
need and plenty they didn’t: a sprawling had given Mills an ultimatum: no more ciga-
dog bed, metal food and water bowls, a rettes, or no more Simon.
closet’s worth of jingling toys and pull ropes,
bags of treats, extra tags for his collar. “They killed my mother,” he’d said the
night he put his foot down. They’d been to-
Simon was the fun parent, taking Bailey gether for over a year. Both were recently
on morning jogs before breakfast, returning ABD. “I won’t let them kill someone else I
breathless and dewy with sweat before love.”
Mills was out of bed. He lost weight, the
belly that had started pressing against his Mills had blinked at him, pulled his pack
belt buckle when he hit thirty flattening like of cigarettes from his pocket, and tossed it
a deflating balloon. Mills was the bad cop, on the floor of Simon’s apartment. “Okay.”
clapping his hands or smacking at Bailey’s And that was it.
nose and chasing him away after commit-
ting some doggy sin. By the afternoon, the coffee shop’s
windows had turned into kaleidoscopes of
Simon slumped through his composition searing orange, green, and yellow light from
classes, a pair back to back; as soon as they the sign extolling free wi-fi. A high-backed
were over, he had no memory of what he’d chair from an empty table held the door
said, his brain flicking into autopilot as he open, and the same sleepy girl from the
explained thesis statements for the thou- morning was standing behind the counter,
sandth time. The great mystery that he had talking to a young man slouching against
never managed to solve was how he had the glass, his shoulder blades pinched be-
landed his teaching gig; both he and Mills— neath a nylon jacket.
and several other PhDs in their program—
had applied for it, Simon’s CV by far the The young man turned and glanced
at Simon, then unfurled himself from the
counter, making his way to the large corner

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

booth in the back where four other men “What about it?” she asked, setting down
sat, two of them holding the pipes of the the coffee.
large hookah. Simon watched him slide in
and pick up the third tube and take a deep Simon shrugged. “Anything, I guess. I’ve
inhale, the water burbling. never done it. Is it like a cigarette?”

“Hi,” Simon said to the girl, who blinked The girl chuckled. “So much better for
and stood up straight. “Long day, huh?” you than a cigarette.” Then she went on,
pointing toward the young men at the back,
She pulled her arms from the counter. explaining about the bowl and the wind-
screen and coals, that the hoses meant that,
“I was here this morning. You served me technically, they weren’t using a traditional
some coffee. I don’t remember which kind, hookah, “but who would really know,” she
though.” said with another shrug. “Then the smoke
goes down through the hookah’s body to
She forced a smile. “Can I get you some- the water base at the bottom, where it
thing?” cools and gets humidified.”

“That coffee would be great.” “What’s it taste like? I mean, there are
flavors, right?” Simon pointed up to the
“We have a lot of coffee.” She pointed at board touting peach, mango, even a bub-
the menu, hand-written on a chalkboard blegum flavor.
hanging behind her, the letters slanting to-
ward one another like good friends. Simon “Hey, Jeremy,” the girl yelled toward the
hated to admit it, but Mills had been right: table in the back. The young man she’d been
most of the words made no sense to him talking to when Simon walked in looked up.
whatsoever; Simon couldn’t explain to
anyone the difference between mocha and “Yeah?”
lattes and Americanos, nor did he know
whether Brazilian, Colombian, or Peruvian “Mind if, uh—”
coffee was the best.
“Simon.”
“Whatever I had this morning was four
dollars and sixty-two cents with tax in- “Simon tries your hookah? He’s a first-
cluded, if that helps.” timer.”

“Probably a grande Colombian dark Simon felt his face blanche as the young
blend,” the girl said. man looked him over and stood, nodding
and smiling. He walked toward Simon with
“Let’s do that, then.” a swagger, and the other men at the table
looked up, grinning. Simon felt old, like a fa-
She rang it up, pushing buttons on the ther chaperoning teenage girls to a concert,
cash register. “That’ll be four sixty-two,” she his limbs somehow too long, his clothes
said with a smile. He handed her a five, then dated, his muscles saggy.
dumped the extra coins in her tip jar, whose
three or four singles and handful of quar- Jeremy stuck out his hand and Simon
ters laying at the bottom looked lonely. took it. The man’s grip was strong, his hands
tan, cuticles clean and pink.
While she poured his coffee, Simon
asked, “So, can you tell me about hookah?” “Nice to meet you. Come try.”

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“You own this place?” prominent cheek bones and jawlines. None
of them spoke to Simon, but they nodded,
“Well, technically we’re renting. So you gesturing toward the hose that Jeremy had
haven’t had hookah before?” sucked on moments ago.

“Never smoked a thing in my life.” “I’ve never done this before,” Simon said.

This was true. It had caused him frus- “Let me get you a fresh mouthpiece first.”
trated trouble during graduate school; he Jeremy pried off the tip. He disappeared
and Mills, before they’d fallen into bed to- behind the counter and came back with a
gether after a party where both drank at piece of colored plastic two inches long that
least three glasses too many of rich red wine, looked like a miniature traffic cone. “Slip
hadn’t spent much time in the same orbit this over the end.”
even though they were fellow fiction writers
who had started the program at the same Jeremy handed him the hose. The glass
time. Mills cavorted with the troublemakers and metal were cool, and the hose weighed
who were often late to their comp classes less than Simon expected. He worried that
and came up with lesson plans on the fly, he might grip it too tight, snap the thing in
often while drinking pints of Purple Haze at half.
the Southern Monkey, a smoky bar south
of campus. They were tattooed and had Once the mouthpiece was in place, Simon
grisly facial hair—Mills the only exception, looked up at Jeremy. He could feel the other
clean-shaven always, except for mornings men staring at him. “Now inhale. Deep. Like
he was hungover—and they all smoked. Not you’ve never breathed before.”
just cigarettes, but weed and occasionally
peyote and, just once, apparently, opium. Simon placed the tip of the hose in his
When they were at the same parties, Simon mouth and sucked. He didn’t have a chance
glanced at Mills from afar where he slumped to notice the cherry taste before he started
on couch arms, his spine bent into a C-shape choking, two long, slow coughs that hung in
even though he was a muscular runner (de- his throat before he was able to hock them
spite his nicotine habits), arms regularly on out.
display thanks to the short-sleeved t-shirts
he always sported. Mills would inevitably “Sorry,” he said, setting down the hose.
vanish outside whichever ramshackle rental His throat felt raw, like he’d swallowed a lit
was hosting, caught up in whirls of exhaled match. Seizing warmth spread through his
tar with his fellow smokers. Simon spent torso and he coughed again, shuddering.
much rueful time taking glimpses out win- When he reached for his coffee, he realized
dows and through open doorways at the he’d left it at the counter.
slouchy object of his affection.
“It gets much easier,” Jeremy said, the
Jeremy gestured for Simon to take a seat men in the booth nodding and grinning.
at the booth and the young man closest to
Simon slid across the beige pleather to give “I think this one time might be enough,”
him space. Simon sat. Simon said. He wanted to slide out of the
booth and get his coffee, or some water,
The other men were Jeremy’s age, anything he could pour down his throat
mid-twenties. They all had smooth, tan skin, to calm the burning itch. But Jeremy was
standing directly in front of his only way out,
the oversized buckle of his belt at Simon’s

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

eye level, his crotch seemingly ready to goodbye, and he raised an arm toward her
bounce Simon back in if he made a move to as he stepped outside.
escape. “I forgot my coffee.”
The rain was heavier than it looked from
Jeremy stepped aside. Simon could feel inside, and Simon was soaked just waiting
the men around the table smirking, and he for the light to change so he could cross the
didn’t look back as he grabbed his drink street. He imagined a tiny flood in his bag
from the counter and sat far away from that would soak everything up, turn the es-
them at a small table butted up against the says into a pulpy, unintelligible soup. Bailey
front window. He opened his messenger used to love rainstorms, the only dog he’d
bag and pulled out a stack of essays. He’d ever seen that would dash to the window
had them for two weeks, and his students and bark, tongue lolling, at every crash of
were restless to get them back. It wasn’t lightning and roll of thunder. Rather than
until he finally unfurled them that he dis- spook him, stormy weather would wind
covered that Bailey had somehow gotten him up, and he would chase his tail, dart
to them, gnawing on the stapled corner of through Mills’ legs, leap up toward Simon’s
the topmost paper. Instead of anger, Simon waist, whimper to be let outside. Simon
felt an overwhelming sorrow as he ran his once loosed him into the backyard during
fingers along the edge of the teeth marks. one such downpour and watched through
Only a day after taking Bailey to the vet for the glass door as Bailey sprinted through
the last time, he was already forgetting the the grass, chasing every rain drop as it fell,
exact look of him. It was all Simon could his golden coat thickening and plastering
do not to cry. But he felt the gaze of the against his blocky xylophone of ribs, his
men and he bit his lower lip and sucked in whole body studded with soil.
air through his nose, his esophagus still raw.
He felt old, a creakiness stirring in his wrists Simon let himself into his office, flipping
and knees. The hookah burbled as one of on the light and shutting the door behind
the men took a long, deep draw. him. His office, on the inner side of the
hallway, had no windows, and the walls
Simon looked at his watch: he had nearly were aircraft carrier gray, the computer
an hour before his night class. Mills wouldn’t desk a plastic laminate that reminded him
be back in town until at least nine-thirty, of a doctor’s office. The air still smelled of
half an hour after Simon’s class ended. He the rice-and-beef lunch he’d brought with
uncapped a pen and tried looking down him. Sitting back in his seat, Simon rubbed
at the first essay, but after reading the in- his face and took a sip of water from the
troductory paragraph three times he’d bottle he kept on his desk, the liquid luke-
made no marks. The burning in his throat warm. He stared at the dark computer mon-
screeched out at him and sipping on his itor in front of him for a moment, his mind
coffee, which had settled to a cool, thick as blank as the screen. He pulled his phone
sludge, did nothing to soothe it. He stared from his pocket and dialed Mills’ number.
out through the window flecked with spits
of rain. The parking lot was a blank black His voicemail clicked. Simon looked at
mass. Simon shoved the essays back into his his watch: five-fifteen. Of course: Mills was
bag and sucked down the rest of his coffee. probably at the pre-reading dinner with a
The girl at the counter shouted some kind of select batch of students from Stephens Col-
lege, which was hosting his visit.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“You’re right. I don’t like coffee,” Simon “I don’t know how to say goodbye to him,”
said. “I liked having a dog, but I don’t like Simon whispered in the dark that night, but
coffee. Or tea. Or, it turns out, smoking.” He Mills was asleep. He slipped out of bed and
told Mills about trying hookah, its burning found Bailey on the couch. Simon didn’t
touch in his throat, how it felt like he had pet the dog because he didn’t want to
been blasted by a blowtorch. wrench him from a final night of comfort-
able slumber, so he simply sat next to him,
“I don’t know what we do now,” Simon watching the hitchy rise and fall of the dog’s
said, exhaling. “It’s scary.” He told Mills he ribs.
would be in his office after his class was over,
that all Mills needed to do was come to him *
and he would open the door. When he hung
up, he set the phone down on the desk and Light knocking woke Simon. His mouth was
crossed his arms in front of his keyboard, raw, his lips chapped. When he sat up, he
lowering his head onto his wrists. Simon knocked a stack of papers off the side of his
took a deep breath and held it, his throat desk and they fluttered across the office
throbbing and sooty. floor like a swift snowfall.

* The knocking came again, this time
louder. Simon looked at the clock on his cell
In the weeks before he was put down, Bai- phone: nearly ten. He’d slept right through
ley wasn’t the energetic dancer he used his night class.
to be. When Simon went jogging, the dog
slowed down first, and in the beginning Si- Simon stood and pulled the door open.
mon chalked this up to his own increased There was Mills.
endurance, his O2 content, his better rest-
ing heart rate and the conditioning in his “Jesus, Simon. Thank goodness. Answer
legs. But then Bailey started vomiting up his your phone now and then, how about it?”
food and refusing his favorite toys. When
he fell down into the grass with a whine one His head was still groggy. “I’m sorry,” he
afternoon, Simon was hit with a sharp pain said, standing up.
like someone had slipped a knife into his
belly. Mills insisted they take Bailey to the Mills looked down at the swath of paper
vet, where an ultrasound revealed a cancer- on the floor. “What’s going on? I thought
ous mass the size of a football in his torso. you were going to the coffee shop after
class. You weren’t there.” His black hair was
“There’s nothing we can do,” the vet said. thick on his head, streaks of water clotted
He was in his fifties or sixties, white-bearded into his clothing.
and yellow-toothed. They took Bailey home
for one more night. They fed him McDon- He remembered the voicemail, the mea-
alds hamburgers and curled around him liness of his voice. Mills would have hated
on their bed. They took him to a park and the way he sounded.
unleashed him and watched as he barked
at squirrels and managed a short burst of “You didn’t get my message?”
speed to give chase to one that sauntered
too close. “You know my stupid phone swallows
voicemails.”

Of course. That was why Mills preferred
texts; his phone would wait for weeks to

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

announce voicemails, if they arrived at all. “The advance,” Mills said. He pulled Simon
Simon tried to picture his voice swirling into into a tight hug.
the air. Where did those lost transmissions
go? “Great,” Simon said into his Mills’ shoulder.

“I came back here,” Simon said. Still squatting in Simon’s office, Mills
didn’t deny the cigarette. Instead, he said,
“Clearly. Let’s go home. It’s late.” “It smells like you did, too.” He gathered up
Simon’s papers and pulled them to his chest
“You know,” Simon said, bending down to as he stood. “It’s been a rough day, hasn’t
pick up the papers, “there was a time in our it?” He held out the essays.
lives when ten was early.”
Simon felt a lurch in his chest, some
“We didn’t even know each other then,” knotted combination of loss and betrayal.
Mills said, joining him in a deep squat on He opened and closed his mouth.
the floor.
“It was only one cigarette,” Mills said. “I
Their heads were close together, and promise.”
Simon could feel Mills’ breath along his ear.
It smelled of mouthwash and something Simon nodded. “Your reading was good?”
acrid.
“I’m sorry I went.”
“You smoked a cigarette,” he said.
“Don’t be.”
The day Mills got his book offer, he came
bursting into Simon’s apartment without Simon hugged Mills, chin lodged against
knocking. Simon was already packing, his neck. Mills’ breath was hot against Si-
readying for the move from Louisiana to mon’s throat. The papers crumpled between
Missouri. He and Mills hadn’t yet broached them. “I wish my voicemail would show up.”
the tough questions in their path: where
would Mills go, jobless and wandering? “What did it say? You can just tell me.”
Would he follow Simon? Would they sever
their ties, bask in the good times they’d had Simon took the papers. He turned and
but recognize that distance would other- set them on the desk, losing them among
wise destroy them? the rest of the clutter. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Look!” Mills had said, handing Simon a Mills raised an eyebrow but shrugged
printout. It took him a second to understand. and turned toward the door. Simon gath-
ered his things and they walked out, the
“A two-book deal?” Simon said. long hallway dark and empty, a silence
filling the space around them. Mills reached
“They want me to write a novel, too.” for Simon’s hand and Simon let him take it,
but he could only wonder how long and
Simon pointed to the publisher: a big far the quiet could carry them, whether it
one. “They bought both?” could keep them holding on or if they would
let go, the things between them expelled
Mills nodded. into the air like so much dirty exhaust.

“That’s great,” Simon said.

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Revista Literária Adelaide

About the Author

Joe Baumann’s fiction and essays have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Iron Horse
Literary Review, Electric Literature, Electric Spec, On Spec, Barrelhouse, Zone 3, Hawai’i
Review, Eleven Eleven, and many others. He is the author of Ivory Children, published in
2013 by Red Bird Chapbooks. He possesses a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana-
Lafayette. He has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and was nominated for inclusion
in Best American Short Stories 2016 and was a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction. He
can be reached at joebaumann.wordpress.com.

29

STALLER BREAKS

by Phil Brunetti

It was all on stall for a short while longer. she’d laughingly point it out. She had fun
He’d put himself on stall. This was one of with it . . . But anyway, it was after him
the few options. Now that his heart was that she left for the Midwest. She left for
broken and he’d wept in the wallpapered one guy but ended up with someone else.
hallway with the echoing reverberations of I was not interested in this someone else.
his wails and sobbing. Crying it all out there Except to say that, I should’ve been him. It
and then like a little bitch. But no, that’s not should’ve been me she was with—that was
how she would’ve seen it. my feeling. At least back then. And it lasted
for a long while.
*
But no matter. There’s a dead reality
It’s natural that they were enemies. They now. And this is a much more serious con-
had to be enemies from the start. Except cern, though some would say it’s just a
they weren’t. Instead she’d been a very perception. My perception. As if all of this
good teacher and brought him along sex- hadn’t been happening. As if all of this that
ually. She’d lost her virginity at 13 in her is now—was natural. But there’s no need to
parents’ bathtub with her 14-year old boy- decide. Or I’ve decided: The dead reality is
friend from down the block. Somehow this real and I live in it.
moment was beautiful between them, she
said, and I believed her. I really believed her. *
And I envied her because I’d had it so trite—
my own loss. He ate a ham-and-cheese sandwich across
the table from her, some roadside diner.
* They were driving somewhere upstate. New
Paltz maybe. Not that far. They’d spend
She went to the Midwest and forgot about that day and the next fucking in a rented
me. This was six or eight or ten years later, cabin in the woods. Something small and
after some other foolish first marriage of cozy and enticing. Particularly for breakup
hers that I’d barely witnessed. Once I think fucks—their first real breakup. And the fi-
I played the drums with her first husband— nal breakup coming next, just around the
or he played them. He was always the most bend. This fact impending and heightening
handsome man in the room, according to their fucking. Increasing its frequency and
her, and he always licked his dinner plate intensity. But still, the sad feeling of a last
clean. She wouldn’t make him do this but time lingered. A last time doing it—togeth-

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Revista Literária Adelaide

er. Spent so beautifully though, it almost her foot on my shoulder, near my neck and
made up for it. face. She’d put a little pressure there, the
slightest. She’d blow across my pubic hairs.
* She’d blow on the patterned head. Then
maybe the other hand and fingers—going
He sunk love. He never impregnated her suddenly for the rough stuff. Maybe if I
and he sunk love. How didn’t he fuck his didn’t feel like it that way, I’d wrestle her.
way into a family with her? Maybe it was I’d take her down. And then she’d open
the motility factor. Or her peach’s inner her slim sweet legs, ready. A quick-thrust
walls a bit askew. Yeah, but that feeling, insertion, her wet hiccup, my groan. Then
together. And together, knocked-out fast rocking. Then rocking and rolling with a
asleep afterward. Then she’d hop out of kind of innocence like it was the 1950s. And
bed in the middle of the night. She’d set doing it so sweetly until it could be done no
the alarm clock across the room for 3am. more. And loving her—and loving fucking
A form of comfort and punishment. She’d her—and loving her . . . so true.
spring out of bed and feel comfort that she
still had 3 ½ hours’ sleep time. She’d pun- *
ished herself by awaking and getting out
of bed . . . and then of course she’d punish She’s in another state now. She’s still in
me. I felt her fingers digging here and there. that other state . . . all these years later. But
Pushing and prodding. It was better when we’ve started the slightest re-interaction.
she’d whisper her way through it. Even Digital, of course. Simple old-fashioned
though I was a man, she treated me like a email. With long gulfs of time in between.
rag doll. A plaything. And for 2-3—some- And the slow—the very slowest—and unac-
times 5-10 minutes—I’d let her. knowledged mutual seduction. Unintended
even. But there . . . And something to bring
* them back together. It’d be improbable for
them. It’d be dangerous and destructive.
She was stretching the time, trying to make Technically illegal. They hadn’t lain in each
the ragdoll time last longer. The middle- other’s arms since ages 18-21, the kingdom
of-the- night plaything punishment time of fuck. And love. That best-of-times time,
. . . He was asleep—that is, I was asleep. I together.
was fast asleep. But, after the alarm, she’d
jump back into bed roughly, bouncing the But the staller breaks. I am the staller and
mattress. Then I’d feel her hand like a spider if I go to her, then I am with her. And we’re
wriggling down to me. My junk. She’d finger together again. For real. A couple . . . But no,
walk the penile periphery with the slightest, it’s just a flurry of memories. A flurry of re-
subtlest touch. She’d blow softly in my ear memberings and time spiraling and reoccur-
and whisper things—‘dirty,’ erectile- inspir- ring. Yes, time coming back—in an emotive
ing things. I’d start getting it up . . . she’d pull way. A wildly emotive way that is not time
away. The punishment. per se but mixed memory and desire, other
unconscious intangibles. And so, the staller
The tissue touch was next. The draping got caught up. Inspired even. Something
and brushing of a tissue. If I got excited instead of nothing. Written. To her . . . The
again, the tissue was abandoned. She might staller breaks.
swing down to my mid-section then, rest

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

* been excised. An array of algorithmic soul
surveillances. More than that even. In the
She’s painting my face then. We were in the dead reality.
bathroom, the same bathroom in which
she’d lost her virginity. This was five or six But anyhow, up in Michigan. She’s in the
years later. Not that many years, but she LP. Or she’s in the UP. Some such peninsula—
was legal now and so was I. And she painted it’s sad. Somewhat sad. If a half-moribund
my face and glued on the exaggerated sin- guitar started playing . . . the story’s music.
gle false eyelash. Then the bowler hat, the
combat boots. Let’s not get into it. It was And so I’ve reached out to her twice so far.
Halloween and she painted her lips blue Without her acknowledgement. She’s gone
like a succubus. Like the succubus of dirty screen quiet, after our little re-interaction.
dreams that I’d asked her to be—if just for Our little communicative buildup. I don’t
Halloween. Our first Halloween, together. blame her. There’s a fire here, between us.
We could burn each other up—burn up our
She didn’t call me A—. But fuck it. We hit current lives and lifestyles. Burn up how
the city and dance clubs but they wouldn’t everything’s middle-aged and in place . . .
let my club—a stickball bat, wound with Burn up our status quos. But we could also
black electrical tape—through the front door. go farther than we’ve ever gone before. If
I could bash it over someone’s head, they such a thing exists—and could happen still.
said. Yes, I could. But to what end, exactly? And matter . . . And the staller breaks.

Her tongue was super long and darting *
that night. It slithered all purplish and lap-
ping. She was more fatale Bride of Franken- Her current husband’s invisible. I don’t
stein than succubus. She was half robotic think about him. I don’t even remember
too—or in photos. How she appeared in his name. He’s Average Joe. He’s fine. He
photos from that night. With her frozen runs an office-cleaning business in wher-
stare and stiff-limb stance. A different kind ever Wisconsin. Whichever state. Works
of succubus, oddly mechanical and per- all night, managing and dispatching office
plexing. cleaners. Making a living . . . But this is fol-
ly. The whole thing’s a farce. Just a way to
* gnaw and feast on yourself. On myself then.

She’s there now. Far away. What am I sup- When first love goes away, it becomes first
posed to do, here, now? Claim auto-fic—if loss . . . First vital loss. A kind of gone-pain
this is that? I don’t want to go there. But feeling that you inevitably feast on. Then it
there’s some concern that someone will diminishes and, if you’re still not over it, you
know the truth. I’m probably not that feast on yourself. But emaciated and lean
someone. I’ve been living in an off-kilter in leftover feeling—so not much of a feast.
reality since they started the dead reality. Maybe an inside-out and a nothing-left feeling,
Or since I became aware of it. Did I tell you in the long-run. The longer run. Staller days.
about the dead reality? I told you . . . The
dead reality’s what they made of it. The *
world. And it was there in my heart too.
It’d overcome everything and was how we The question was how did she spin back into
lived now. No choice. The authentic had my orbit? After so much time had passed,

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Revista Literária Adelaide

so much distance, different lives, different my heart. Into my whole being and con-
states, different directions, so how? But the sciousness. The lack of love therein. The
how doesn’t matter. That’s not the crux of dead reality. Maybe one and the same. But
what’s going on here. The crux is will you or not exactly. Those other things that I told
won’t you? Will you hold your static posi- you—the dead reality was that. And a mis-
tion—stalling—or will you break? take. A mistake of living. Or of that kind of
living. A falsely constructed kind of living
The story goes from first- to third- to sec- that became the way of living. This should
ond-person narration. Everything that you be known. And so our worst impulses and
should never do. It’s best not to be aware of fears . . . for generations and generations . . .
it. It’s best to let it come as it comes. until we arrived. In the dead reality.

The staller stalls. Or the staller breaks. *

The staller acts. Philosophical tracts . . . could never save
you. And they could never save the author
‘If the staller acts, the staller breaks.’ of the tracts, except for the time it took to
Someone is saying this. write them. And barely then even.

* But the staller breaks. Or the staller
breaks away—and goes in another direc-
To have gone invisible like the husband. To tion. A surprise direction, even to himself.
have gone invisible, into that other life. To
have made it—and been somebody too. The staller breaks—away. I break away
Whatever that entails. To have found your from these hampered and hampering
niche and then disappeared into it. Or thoughts. These needlings and obsessions.
made a life from it . . . But it’s of little im- These awry semi-factuals. . . . The dead
portance. reality. And the insistence, maybe the per-
sonal insistence, on such deadness.
I will reach out a third time. I’ve done
it twice, to no avail. Twice in a number of That girl, the one I almost married and
weeks. Maybe five weeks, maybe seven. It’s had children with, she has a name. She lives
been a longer than expected silence, on her in the LP. Or the UP. You know the state.
part. I’m a little disappointed. But no matter. Blame auto-fic. . . . But she has a name like
Whitaker or Williams or Wilson. Or that’s
There are other things. I have had other the last name. The name he gave her. Her
things to contend with and cope with . . . Or first name is Bunny. No, never Bunny. It’s
conceive of. Like the dead reality. But the Lotte. A diminutive of Charlotte. If her name
dead reality is pushing it—the metaphor. has been Charlotte all along, I never knew it.
The metaphor in my heart. That I live with. Or I only knew her as Lotte. And Lotte loved
Because it’s not just a metaphor. It injures me. And I loved her. Once upon a time. The
inward—an interior taint. A slow kind of staller breaks.
murder of reality. And the staller breaks.
*
*
But that’s what happened then. That’s what
The problem of the dead reality had come went on, and down, then. And it was a kind
from without. It’d come from the out-
side and then gone inside—into me. Into

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

of pre-cursor to the dead reality. But no, it That’s why and how we came to be together
was really the tail end of the living reality. Of again, at least for a while. Except it hasn’t
being in a certain millennium that’s show- happened yet. I mean the rest of it hasn’t
ing the last waning signs of life. And then happened yet. The happily ever after part.
about 30 or 35 years into your own person- And my naysaying of such stock and stan-
al journey, your life, the whole thing collaps- dardized happiness. Such happily never af-
es. The proverbial sky falls and the dimness ters . . . and the staller breaks.
of the dead reality overcomes. With a cer-
tain permanence and totality. And its only But no, other things are here for us.
enemy is love. But maybe it’s not for us. Maybe I’m just
dreaming still. Or stalling. Yeah, stalling. And
Lotte as counterpoint: Love. That’s why so, no staller breaks. Except to love. Or except,
I went into the emails. That’s why I recon- to love? A question, maybe.
nected with her—and started the affair.
But what kind of question?

About the Author

Philip Brunetti writes innovative fiction and poetry and
much of his work has been published in various online
or paper literary magazines including The Boiler, The
Wax Paper, and Identity Theory. His debut novel Newer
Testaments, published in November 2020 by Atmosphere
Press, has been described as ‘an innovative existential
novel told through hallucinatory poetics’ and is available
for purchase: (https://www.philipbrunetti.com/)

34

FRECKLES

by Sabahattin Ali

Translated by Aysel K. Basci

It was a hot, sultry day. I had just left a table near the jazz performers sat six
friend’s home, where I had spent most of young women whose long gowns were as
the evening drenched in perspiration, lis- wrinkled as their faces. Their clients were
tening to a load of nonsense, and was walk- a mismatched bunch. A few young men in
ing slowly along the Kordonboyu. During a corner behind the dim beams, probably
these sticky and moist İzmir nights, which single civil servants who somehow had
are worse than its days, the sea does not managed to get a little money in their hands,
bring cool air, but instead ushers in a mist were sharing beers, and every time the
permeated by the smell of filth and moss. dance began, they rushed to the young girls’
The road was empty. The masts of sail- table, thinking they were having a fantastic
boats that crowded the shore rose from night being rakish. At a table in the middle,
the sea like dry tree branches, disorganized four sailors from Marmaris were racing to
as if they had run into one another. Masts waste the money they had earned from
large and small moved very slowly, and the their last outing on a motor boat—which
Greek conversations of Cretan sailors could they had purchased with their earnings
be heard. A little further away near the from sponge fishing—buying back-to-back
ferry port were porters and horse coach- drinks for two fat women, one Turkish the
es whose operators were sleeping in their other Greek. At one of the upper-level box
places. Beyond that, bright lights and bad seats, a middle-aged, gray-haired woman-
dance music poured onto the sidewalks izer had three women sitting around him,
from a building’s second-floor windows. I no doubt because the bar owner was his pal,
was in front of the port’s parade of four or and he was trying to have one of the most
five bars. Just to see something lively, I be- pleasurable nights of his middle-aged years
gan to climb the narrow stairs of a sailors’ at the least cost.
bar. Perhaps I was trying to get rid of the
numbing effect of those nonsensical con- A waiter with dirty fingernails and a dirty
versations I had wasted my time with at my shirt leaned across my table and asked what
friend’s home where I was staying. I wanted to drink. I noticed his tuxedo’s
sleeves were worn out. I asked for a beer
Not all the tables were full, but there and began to watch the dance that had just
were four or five crowded groups. At a started.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

Advanced drunkenness had overtaken look at the faces of the women they cling to
many of the men present: some were well while turning on the dance floor. They just
educated and cultured; others were illiterate search for a naked piece of flesh they can
and hadn’t had the time to get cultured be- touch, and they need the strong scent of a
cause they’d been too busy earning a living woman to fill their noses.
at sea. But those with culture and those
without it—the good and the bad—were When I noticed that the blond woman sit-
in an identical state, their faces masked by ting alone was still gazing at me persistently,
ungainly, lustful grins. The women, by con- I became uncomfortable. I turned my head
trast, both drunk and sober, seemed collec- to the dance floor where a thin woman with
tively to be asking, “Oh God, when will this straight black hair falling on her face, and
end?” It was clear that their wish related whose eyes were half closed from being
not just to that night or their current life, it drunk, was exchanging slaps with a sailor in
related to everything. These women would his 40s who had a very red face. The sail-
smile at the men next to them because it or’s shaved head and his uneven mustache,
was their duty to make sure their clients longer on one side than the other, were
spent the maximum amount of money trembling from anger. While a waiter tried
that night. But if the men tried to snuggle to separate those two, another waiter ap-
too closely or stick their unshaven, sweaty peared next to me. He bent towards my ear
faces to the women’s cheeks, they would in a friendly manner and made a sign with
turn into cats whose tails had been pulled, his eyebrow pointing to the blond woman
and would push the men away with both sitting alone. He said, “The lady wants to
hands. However, immediately afterward, come to your table.”
they would put on moves for their partners
to ensure they did not get angry and leave. I responded, “My lad, you know I am not
These changes happened so quickly, the one of those wealthy clients!”
transformation in their expressions was so
abrupt, that it was foolish to look for any “No, she just wants to talk to you about
real change in their feelings. something.”

Feeling weird and crushed, I tried to look “Okay, she is welcome!”
elsewhere. I noticed a blond young woman
in a black velvet gown who was sitting alone The waiter looked at her and beckoned.
at a table, her entire back, shoulders, and I too looked at her, trying to give an impres-
most of her chest were naked. And she was sion that I had agreed. She rose and, just
looking at me. Her face was not unfamiliar. then, I realized how drunk she was. As she
But, over time, women in these places walked she held onto chairs, tables, and
begin to look like each other, so I thought, the beams located in a row from one end
“I must have seen her somewhere, or maybe of the saloon to the other. She was having
she resembles someone I know.” Although difficulty standing up.
I tried to leave it there, I found it odd she
was sitting alone while a lot of men were in She collapsed in a chair that the waiter
line waiting to dance with a female partner. pulled out for her. She looked down for a
She wasn’t very ugly. And besides, during while, turned her gaze at me, and looked
these late hours of the evening, men do not carefully. In her eyes, I could not see any-
thing other than a very drunk person’s ex-
traordinary effort to come to her senses.
When I looked at her up close, I realized this

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Revista Literária Adelaide

face with a slightly upturned nose, slightly many years ago was all this? I calculated. It
slanted eyes, and especially those reddish was 14 years ago. Now, when I looked at
freckles around her eyes and nose, was fa- her face, I didn’t see a drunk woman. I saw
miliar. However, I did not force myself to try not just mine but the entire school’s dar-
to figure out where I had seen her. She was ling, little Freckles! It was as if she had not
silent and kept moving her face muscles in changed at all. That nose, those eyes, her
a futile effort to come to her senses. For the golden blond hair, and those freckles.
sake of saying something, I asked, “Why ar-
en’t you dancing?” I tried hard not to ask that first question
that comes to mind, “How did you end up
With her hand she made sign as if to say, in a place like this?” Just like I used to do
“Oh, forget it!” Then, she suddenly tried to in our light classroom, I tried to frown so
get up and compose herself. With a voice I wouldn’t smile, looked at her face and
that sounded sober, she asked, “Don’t you waited. Then she said what I unconsciously
recognize me?” expected to hear.

At that moment a felt a little strange. A “You haven’t changed at all. You still look
shiver traveled down my spine, as if I had at me the same way!”
malaria.
“You are the same Nigar!”
“Is it you! …You?”
“No I am not!”
“Yes, it’s me, Nigar!”
As soon as she uttered those words
Then it all came back to me. It was in her face changed. I felt that the closeness
Aydın, at a school with lots of windows. which took us back 14 years was slowly dis-
There were many bright-faced students, appearing, and I became sad. Nigar put her
and in the middle section of the classroom, naked arm on the table and her head on
sitting in the very front row, was a little girl my shoulder and whispered, “I don’t intend
with freckles, her hair in two long braids. It to give you a headache. If I did not have a
all came back to me. I taught them German. problem, I would not have introduced my-
This mischievous girl, the daughter of a self… since you did not recognize Freckles
civil servant from Eskişehir who worked at even after looking at my face.”
the train administration, was learning the
meaning of those foreign words faster than She pulled her head away from my
the other students, and memorizing them. shoulder and leant against the table with
And when she got up, she always looked at her chest. Without any introduction and
my face with a half mocking smile and with quite unexpectedly, she said, “I have a child;
an expression that said, “Oh, this is nothing. that’s why I came to you.”
I can learn so much more!” As soon as the
bell rang, she would grab my hand and say, I did not exactly understand what she
“Let’s play volleyball.” She would drag me was saying, but to show my empathy, I
out to the schoolyard, and although she was smiled as if to say, “Continue,” and shook
a short little girl, she would shoot the ball my head.
like an arrow behind the net. She must have
been around 12 years old. She was fiery, and Freckles said, “I will tell you.” And ca-
life sprang from her every movement. How sually she told me the following, as if it
were someone else’s life story, using back-
to-back broken sentences and words that

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

disintegrated even before coming out of but I yelled behind him. I didn’t know any
her mouth. better, just my foolishness. I said, ‘Don’t go,
all this is happening because of you.’ My old
As soon as she had finished middle man got stuck to these words. He dragged
school, at the age of 15, her father married my name everywhere and humiliated me
her off to a 45-year-old man, an assistant to the entire town. I could not get anyone
to the chief of train administration. Nigar to believe I did not have a relationship with
continued: Kemal. Sir, you know me, I am just an erratic
girl. I still don’t know how I lasted with that
“What could I do? Was I supposed to stay man for seven years! As I said, I was foolish.
with him? Anyhow, I did all those years! But My blood boiled; I shut the door in his face
then, in his fifties, his drinking got out of and left. Of course, there was no Kemal
control. You may say other women have to be found anywhere. Apparently, he es-
drunk husbands too, but at least they have caped while I was yelling behind him, and
children, from whom they take comfort. that evening he returned to Buldan. Under
the circumstances, I couldn’t go to my par-
“Mine didn’t even have the conditions for ents’ home either. I was tired of all their
that. On top of this, he was crazy jealous! nagging and didn’t want to hear them nag
Remember, in our class there was a Kemal again about what had happened. That night,
from Buldan? At that time, he was in med- I went to a friend’s house. The next day, I
ical school. Now he is a doctor! A real ass! had my belongings fetched from home; I
Remember, he was a good-looking guy; he sold my gold bracelets for cash and came to
used to take me on rides with his bicycle? İzmir. If you want to know, a few days after
That Kemal. Anyhow, he was in Aydın for that, I came here. This was three years ago.
school break, and one day I ran into him at At that time, I worked for six months.
the park. I remembered our good old school
days, so I said to him, ‘Why don’t you come “I didn’t care about anything! What’s
over and visit us?’ and gave him directions the big deal? Isn’t that life? One can live in
to our house. What do you know? The a house or a bar. What difference does it
news immediately reached my old man! make? However, one day, Kemal showed up
He rushed home from the bar to fight with at the bar with a bunch of his friends. As soon
me. I was surprised because he never came as he saw me, he ran to my table and began
home that early. Before I could open my crying and sobbing. He kept saying, ‘You
mouth, the insults began, ‘You were seen are in this situation all because of me! This
talking to a young man in the park. Around guilt is killing me.’ Of course, it was all ‘drunk
here, I have my honor to think about, slut!’ talk.’ But one wants to believe it! When he
He came at me. Well, I was at the end of my pleaded, ‘I can’t leave you here. Let’s go, you
patience, and I said to him, ‘Asshole, I don’t will leave with me, and we will get married,’
know what you have, but I know too well I believed him. I quickly settled my account
what you don’t have! Enough of this putting with the owner of the bar. He owed me some
up with a useless man like you!’ back pay, but I let all of it go. In exchange
they let me leave without any trouble. We
“I’ll be darned! He grabbed his umbrella lived together for five or six months. He kept
from behind the door and started to hit my saying, ‘As soon as I get permission from my
head and face with it. Wouldn’t you know, father, we will get married.’
just at that moment, Kemal showed up!
When he saw the situation he tried to leave,

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Revista Literária Adelaide

“I didn’t give a damn whether he married “I will do all I can my dear girl,” I said. “But
me or not. Except, one day, I discovered I why don’t you inform his father?”
was pregnant. He said, ‘Get rid of it, im-
mediately!’ I tried to object and asked why. Perhaps because of the seriousness of the
He said, ‘No way, impossible! I don’t want story she was telling me, a much less drunk
a child out of wedlock.’ Then I realized his sounding Freckles looked at me in anger.
real fear was that I would tie him down; he
was just playing the honor card with me. “Of course not!” she cried. “Why would I
He fell greatly out of favor with me. Don’t inform someone who did not want his own
they take you for a fool? That really hurts! I baby? I gave birth to him, and I will bring
said, ‘Okay, don’t worry. I have a few doctor him up. The idiot will not even know.”
acquaintances in İzmir. I will take care of it
without much expense or noise.’ I got on She looked tired. But in her eyes was
the boat and came here directly. Right away, that almost fierce light that shines when
I started to work at the bar to make a little mothers talk about their children.
money.
“Sir, you will do this for me, won’t you? I
“It has been eight months since I gave know you used to like me a lot. But I shouldn’t
birth to a beautiful bouncing baby. I wish bother you...”
you could see him... I hired a woman who
is taking care of him. She breastfeeds him She rose and propped her hands against
too. Here, we are always drunk. And the the table. Then, she bent and as if whis-
milk of drunk women is not good for ba- pering in my ear she said:
bies. Kemal doesn’t know my address. He
has school and can’t come. Besides, it is “Sir, you will see. I will not eat; I will not
questionable whether he actually wants drink. I will bring up my son and make some-
to come. What was I saying? Yes, my baby thing of him. One day, while walking in the
is getting wasted in hotel rooms. When I road with my son, we will run into his father.
saw you, I remembered that you know a I will ask my son to walk away. Then, I will
lot of people in Ankara. There is a nursery confront his father and say, “Look bastard!
there. Can you help place my son there? That son you thought was not born has
When he reaches the age of two, I will take grown into a healthy, good-looking young
him back. Even if they wanted, I would not man. But, he will not know you and he will
leave him there! But for now, he needs a never call you ‘father.’”
normal life.”
She turned her back and, as if her earlier
drunkenness had returned, she staggered
off holding onto tables and beams. Eventu-
ally, she got back to her table and sat down.

About the Author

Author: Sabahattin Ali (1907-1948) was a prominent Turkish novelist, short-story writer,
poet and journalist. His short novel “Madonna in A Fur Coat” (1943) is considered one of the
best novellas in Turkish literature. This novel’s translations have recently hit the best seller
lists and sold record number of copies. With this novel, Sabahattin Ali became one of the
two Turkish novelists whose works became Penguin Classics.

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

Translator: Aysel K. Basci is a nonfiction writer and literary translator. She was born and
raised in Cyprus and moved to the United States in 1975. Aysel is retired and resides in
the Washington DC area. Her writing and translations appeared in the Michigan Quarterly
Review, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Entropy, Critical Read, Bosphorus Review of Books,
Aster(ix) and elsewhere.

40

A CUP OF TEA

by Robert Parker

Of course, time travel is impossible. If it had in a dull, smoky office in Croydon. It made
been invented or discovered, we would me wonder. He left a gap in his sentence
know about it. This is for the simple reason before adding, rather incongruously, the
that no matter what time the invention was word “Pop” and raising his hand in a curious
made, the existence of one would either be manner. It was a bit like a salute. After that
commonplace or at the very least, familiar it was set in my head as a notable thing. I
to all in a post-industrial age. Before that of rarely forget such things; they are stored
course, it would have been known as magic. away at the back of my mind and trig-
gered like a mental trip-wire. My thought
Ray was about forty years older than processes began whirring away in a back-
me and apart from his disfigurement, quite ground routine.
youthful. An accident had damaged his face
to the point where people looked away but My hobby was quantum physics but my
he was lean and fit and about the same job, as Ray’s, was as a humble engineer, al-
height as me at 5’10”. He had only been in beit a senior one is Ray’s case. We installed,
the job a few months. “Fancy a cup of tea?” repaired and modified equipment for our
he asked. employers and had built a reputation for
doing good work quickly. I didn’t much care
He was sitting in a small room in Beck- for my job, but it paid good money which
enham, Kent, England (Elevation 124’, allowed me to work in the evenings on my
57.649516° North, 3.757325° West) drinking hobby. One day I hoped to invent something
tea with me and a few other fellows. It was useful, the patent upon which I could retire.
10h.48m.48s am on Tuesday, September 18th
1979. I remember it very well, but it is only Six months after the Croydon event, in
significant now. “That’s a frothy brew” he ex- a small café in Streatham High Road I knew
claimed, after adding the synchronising word. something was afoot when Ray replied to
I noticed the word, but gave it little thought. the Polish lady who was calling out the food
A colleague nodded at the cup of steaming orders. “Sossige sandvitch”, she squawked.
tea sitting on the table. “Where did that “Pop!” he replied, raising his hand. She
come from?” he asked. “It’s OK, it’s mine” handed him the plate on which sat the ov-
exclaimed Ray, dipping a thermometer in it. en-baked and crusted sausage cut into two
and placed between two slices of Mother’s
I thought nothing more of the word until Pride, the butter starting to congeal and vin-
he said it a second time, nearly a year later egary tomato ketchup completing the image

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

of a suppurating ulcer butty. He accepted it of the car and punched the driver through
from her. “Thanks”. He looked to the back of the open window of his BMW. There was
the room as if he had seen someone before blood. Nothing more was said or done, as
carrying on with our conversation about the the other driver sensed that he had more
pompous bank manager in Norbury. to lose than Ray.

“So I asked him ‘where do you want it?’ In silence we squeezed through the mon-
and he replied that he wanted it on the oxide mizzle and made it to Tooting in just
top floor, out of the way. Well I didn’t say under 20 minutes. I was still quite shocked
anything, I just went down the stairs and by the turn of events and suspected that I
started measuring around the downstairs had misjudged Ray. Perhaps once he had
desks. I did this for a while until the man- been a geek like me but geeks avoid physical
ager could stand it no longer and came confrontation as it is futile. I was interested
marching over. ‘What are you doing?’ he to see Tooting as I would inherit a flat there
asks, so I says. ’just estimating where the from my uncle Ralph. As we sat behind a
whole thing will land when it falls through belching number 249 Routemaster bus, my
the ceiling’. That shut him up and he agreed thoughts wandered into unexplained or
to site the equipment on the ground floor unexpected occurrences and how we try
next to the vault, which is what the planner to clarify everything through science and
planned in the first place”. “Nice one” I re- logic. Magic, the antithesis of logic, is an
plied with a chuckle. We had a tea slurping outmoded and somewhat Disneyfied con-
and sandwich munching moment before I cept these days. Yet, like religion, it keeps
asked him. “Why do you keep saying ‘Pop’ cropping up and was about to do so again.
then?”
We entered Ray’s flat and had another
To his credit, he was very calm. He put cup of tea and a digestive biscuit, con-
his green china cup down on the green tinuing the conversation we were having
china saucer with a chink. His reply was in Streatham as though there had been no
quite unexpected. “Tell you what, let’s intervening period. Ray spoke after seeming
forget the job at the bank and go and fix to consider the implications of what he was
my car”. He stood and we left the smoky to say next.
fug of the interior for the carbon monoxide
miasma of Streatham High Road. There was “Pop” he said “is a synchronising word. It
a light drizzle which turned the ground-up is monosyllabic, has a simple, plosive sound
tyre and brake dust powder into an emul- which is easy to lip-read and has become
sion. We drove to Tooting in his 1970 Rover. my marker, along with a raised hand as I
It was dark green with a bit of rust and a travel in time”.
very loud exhaust. It was very comfy and a
perfect vehicle for 1980s London travel as I quickly tried to assess this bluntly de-
few other drivers were willing to challenge livered statement and also what I had actu-
such a dented car in a snarl-up. “Go no” he ally been brought to this flat for. Did I really
yelled at an aggressive driver who was evi- know this man? Had I misjudged him to be
dently vying to cut us up “I don’t give a toss!” a bit odd but basically a good bloke? Was I
The ridiculous slow-motion tussle for posi- about to disappear in awful circumstances?
tion in the jam subsided when Ray got out
“Follow me” said Ray, with some theat-
ricality.

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We walked out to his shed at the bottom are all over the geek vocabulary, we use it
of the shared garden, which didn’t help my to exclude non-geeks, but it bugged me that
concerns. It was an old shed with larch lap- I didn’t know this one. I had heard of Pulse
wood walls all stained brown by multiple Code Modulation and Frequency Modula-
applications of weathered creosote. It had a tion but this one was a poser. Hmmm, Pulse
moss-covered asbestos roof. He opened the Frequency Modulation? Or was it Printer
heavily-locked door to reveal not a sound- Font Metrics?
proofed slaughter house but an engineer’s
workshop, full of wires, strewn components “Pure Fucking Magic!” Ray blurted with
and the warm smell of burned Bakelite and oil. glee. There comes a point in science where
“This is my machine” he announced, grandly. we just don’t know. We can’t call it magic
because that would be unscientific. In-
Relieved, I walked in. The air was still and stead, we say something like it is a known
warmer than outside. unknown or some such bollocks. “I have no
idea how the bastard works” Ray added.
“Watch this.” said Ray, consulting his
watch. There was a long pause he before “What is it?”
he vehemently said “Pop” and flipped his
hand up. He looked to the small wooden “Well, if it’s anything, it’s a television for
table by the wall in the shed. It had a mug seeing through time.”
with some screwdrivers in it. I followed his
gaze and was astonished as right next to “A temporal television?” I asked, cleverly
the mug, from nothing, a lemon appeared (I like alliteration).
on the table. There nothing to indicate a
change except for a small amount of raised “That would be impressive on its own but
dust. “Pick it up!” invited Ray. I cautiously this can do even more! Yes, it can look into
picked up the lemon and closely examined the past, but it can also affect the past. It is
it. It felt right and looked right: it was a per- a time editing suite, if you like.”
fectly normal lemon.
“Blimey”, I replied, somewhat inadequately.
“What did you do?” I gasped.
“Imagine the power!” he began to sound
“I moved a lemon through time!” enthralled. “You can go back and change
anything you want! All those regrets that
“How?” you have- all those cringing errors you re-
member in the wee small hours, all those
“With this time-machine!” times where you wished that you had said
something, or nothing at all, only thinking
“Yes, but how does it work?” of a response days or even years later.
Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“Simple question, complex answer, but
effectively it uses a PFM system” he added I considered this and savoured the
as we gazed upon the contraption which thought of who I would tell to sod off, or
stood before us. It resembled an old film tapping myself on the shoulder as I am
editing desk from the 1950’s. It had a 10” about to embarrass myself.
screen in the middle and many knobs on a
grey metal fascia. “There was no instruction book, so I had
to do a lot of theoretical reading. Everything
“Oh, OK” I replied, trying to sound as from Einstein to Hawking. You see, there are
though I knew what that meant. Acronyms

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

vast implications for anyone meddling with machine in front of me and the lemon in
time in the classic sense, but this machine my hand.
enables me to make changes in one time
line whilst leaving all others intact”. Quickly changing track, Ray moved to
the door. “Let’s sort out the Rover” he said,
“Others?” I asked. nodding towards outside. After he closed
and elaborately locked the creaky pine door
“Yes, there are any number of possible of the shed, we walked out to the car which
futures to every action you make in the was slightly listing on the driveway. Being out
present”. in the open air returned me to safe reality.

“So there are lots of me?” We bodged up the exhaust, as well as a
wing mirror which he gaffer-taped together.
“Correct, but you never meet of course, After we had cleaned up, Ray said that he
nor could you. The Grandfather paradox would drop me back at my car back as it
makes it impossible, which if you are not was knocking-off time. How the country
familiar with it is what would happen if you managed to be so economically successful
went back in time and killed your grandfa- was a mystery to me. Perhaps it wasn’t, or
ther.” perhaps it was just PFM. The Rover’s V8
motor was noticeably quieter as we rum-
“So parallel universes mean that you bled towards Tooting.
cannot move forward in time.”
“Remember.” said Ray as I alighted to col-
“Spot on!” said Ray “Yes, only backwards. lect my car “Cause and effect is only inevi-
But time travel is not the problem: I can do table in hindsight. Newtonian Determinism
that- it’s relatively simple”. I appreciated his suggests that we can calculate the future
geeky joke. from current information. But it doesn’t just
follow that there is an inevitable progress of
“No,” he continued “the problem is history”. He left me on the kerb with much
making the future change for you. It’s quite to consider and a resolve to find out what
an existential concept really. We change Newtonian Determinism might be.
the future every second of our lives, but we
live with that as a continuity and therefore The next day we met in Dulwich where
don’t really appreciate the effects, believing we had been given two weeks to complete a
them to be the natural train of events. Only job. We planned to do the job in five. There
hindsight allows us to regret, thus causing a was a good café up Gypsy Hill so it was to
wish to return and alter the past.” there that we repaired with much time in
hand. We had been discussing time-travel
I was captivated. “No regrets because on the walk up to the café and the inevi-
you have corrected them all!” I was well table subject of killing Hitler came up.
ahead of him, racing through all the possi-
bilities in my mind. “Sure, I could go back and kill Hitler” said
Ray. “But I would then only exist in that
“My machine allows me to pinpoint a time-line to make it different for me, and
moment in the past, enter it and then live with the knowledge of how things would
with the results of changing it, whilst car- have been. You, living now are unaware of
rying the knowledge of what things would my time-meddling and history remains the
have been like had I not intervened!” It was
a revelation and I marvelled at both the

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same because we are by then on different “After I found this machine I spent years
time-lines.” finding out how it worked” he explained. “I
imagined that the best way to return some-
I understood the principle, “I have one where was to specifically identify the time
more question. How many times have you and place in my own past. I made a point of
used the machine?” Ray pondered the clearly saying the synchronising word over
question, once again giving the impression the subsequent months, so that I could
of considering the implications of his an- identify them with the machine. I did that
swer. “Ooh I lose count” he lied. only when I knew it was safe to inject into
that time unnoticed and with minimal dis-
We completed the majority of the work turbance. Does that make sense?”
in Dulwich over the next three days, skip-
ping lunch to make time. On the Friday, after It made perfect sense and it confirmed
breakfast, we drove back over to Tooting what I had already formulated in my own
to have a look at the machine again. My general ideas. “It requires an awesome
thoughts that week had been racing with amount of power, surely” I asked
theoretic time-travel and where Ray might
have gone on his time-trips. I knew that I “Not as much power as you may think”
was about to find out and many ideas and he replied. “As I said before, it’s PFM”. “Pure
questions formed in my head as I sat in Fucking Magic!” I replied proudly. “Yes, re-
Ray’s Rover in the drab south London traffic: gard it as such and it makes the whole deal
Has he effected the time-line? How far back much more manageable. It seems to create
did he go? Obviously, he had not effected a portal which is effect a mini black hole.
the present, so how did he do it? This would be incredibly dangerous unless it
were very securely contained” He motioned
Ray bumped the car up on the drive but towards a large metal ring behind the con-
instead of walking towards the shed, he sole It was encased in thousands of bound
started running away from it and out into wires. “This Torroidal Containment Field,
the road. “Pop!” he cried over his shoulder or TCF, securely contains the unimaginable
“Hold on a mo’!” He ran, arm raised, onto power of a collapsed star in the form of a
the pavement. It was quite bizarre to behold. black hole. In fact, there it is again: magic.
Awesome, dark magic, profound and pow-
To my amazement, he lunged at a man erful. But scientists call it a black hole be-
walking along the pavement, knocking his cause it is black and appears to be a hole.”
legs from under him who fell to the wet Ray disdainfully waved his hand at the imag-
and grimy ground with a crump. He stayed inary scientists.
there for a few moments, as did Ray. There
was a strange dwell in reality before Ray got “At first I started sending objects back to
up and offered the man a hand-up saying specific points in time, to see if it worked.”
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else.”
The man, obviously winded and a little “What did you send?”
frightened muttered something like “That’s
OK.” Strangely, I recognised the man, but “Well, there was some trial and error” he
couldn’t quite place him. Who is Ray? Once said, with some hesitation. “When I operate
Ray had wiped some of the wet grime from the portal I need a lot of energy, very quickly.
his face and hands, we once again stood in The more power you have, the further back
the shed. you can go. It may interest you to note that

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Adelaide Literary Magazine

behind this shed is a South Eastern Elec- arrived! I had got the time and elevation
tricity Board sub-station. I have illegally, but correct but the co-ordinates were slightly
discretely connected to it. The containment wrong. The ball-bearing had appeared in a
of the black hole requires a powerful field man’s chest, killing him instantly. It made
around it, perfectly balanced.” the papers: “Mystery death in Tooting” but
it forced me to realise that miscalculation
“Then you just step into it?” can be very, very serious.

“Essentially, yes. But first, you need to “When did this happen?” I asked.
view the scene into which you are stepping”.
He operated a few switches and low hum He looked at his watch. “Twelve minutes
emanated from the machine. The screen in ago” he replied.
the centre of the console blinked into life
and I could see what appeared to be a blurry It was with some shock that I realised
silent film. It was only when Ray adjusted that I had witnessed the event.
the controls beside the screen that I realise
that the scene was massively speeded up, “Yes” said Ray, seeing my realisation “I re-
hence the blur. turned to correct the error: I could not live
with having directly killed someone.”
“I use global co-ordinates: elevation, lon-
gitude and latitude, to locate a place and “But you only killed him in that time-line”.
this part of the machine here to select the
time.” He gestured towards a separate panel “Only time will tell” was his wry reply.
of controls. “It has millisecond accuracy.” “But it has made me extra vigilant. I exer-
cised extreme caution with all my subse-
“But what actually did you send?” quent time-editing. The second thing I sent
back was a…”
Evading the answer but like a politician,
he continued, undaunted. “My third object “Lemon!” I guessed. The implications of
was more successful than the first two. It detailed reverse future thinking became
had to be a combination of organic, inor- clearer.
ganic and with a specific temperature, so
that I knew a live person could make the “Yes, the lemon was my second attempt.
jump”. I wondered what could you send It was organic, so gave me a better idea of
back to prove that. He adjusted the controls how safely such a thing could be sent. All
and it was with shock that I recognised my- my subsequent jumps were as prudent as
self drinking tea in a room. I recognised the they could be at the time. In fact, I have
room. “The cup of tea! You sent a cup of decided that the next will be the last.” He
tea back!” suddenly immersed himself in a fiddly job
to avoid further explanation. I took the hint.
“Correct! It was even a cup made before
1979- to avoid reverse anachronisms.” I Eventually Ray said “It is entirely pos-
liked that term. sible that I have made some irreversible
mistakes”.
“However, it wasn’t all plain sailing. My
first, a ball-bearing, had been a disaster. “How’s that?” I responded.
The implications for error were highlighted
when I sent it back in my own shed. It never “I leave the future in order to change the
past, which in turn changes that future.” Ray
was quite intense and speaking slowly and
clearly. “You see, if I disrupt the time from

46

Revista Literária Adelaide

which I started then I don’t know in what “But why destroy it?”
way the time from which I started from will
be affected”. “When I realised the massive implica-
tions of what I had done with simple tests
“I’m not sure I follow you.” I said. “You alone, I thought: what the hell, the damage
will find out when you return, surely.” is already done. I might as well sort out all
those little errors of judgement. Put some-
“Sadly, no.” thing right, you might say.”

“So how do you get back?” “Like what?”

“I cannot. Especially now.” “Like that bank in Norbury. The floor
actually did collapse, killing six workers. It
“Why especially now?” was originally my doing, so in my second at-
tempt, I argued the toss with the manager,
“Because I am going to destroy the ma- thus averting disaster. I also punched that
chine.” idiot in the BMW on Brixton Hill. He was
going to speed around the outside of the
“What? You can’t do that!” I exclaimed. traffic jam and would have killed little Fa-
“How will you get back?” bian McDermott, who was crossing the road
on his way to school. To be fair, his death
“I have already told you, it is impossible was nothing to do with me, I just happened
to get back. The machine only travels to the to view the accident on the scope.”
past. Once there, there is no returning to
the future. This isn’t a Ray Bradbury novel.” “So it can be used for the good?”

“But I thought you had returned before.” “I only did it to redress the balance- to try
and claim back some good from the incred-
“No, it travels forward in time at exactly ible bad this machine has done”. I reeled at
the same speed as everything else and me the possibilities of what the machine could
with it. It has been here at least since 1978 have done.
and I have no idea how it got here, but I
am guessing from the styling of some of the “The man who stands before you now,
components that it might have been here has only ever used the machine on himself
since the 1950’s.” once.”

There was silence between us. There “Once?” I asked, puzzled.
was a huge truth rising from the depths. Ray
was on a pre-determined mission that I was “And this is it.”
integral to.
“A one-way trip?”
“There is some irony that I have returned
to the past to erase some of my regrets when “Yes. I have returned to my past. Your
in fact it is time travel that I truly regret”. present.”

“But this machine has the ability to do The jolt of recognition hit me hard and
such good!” the implications of what I now knew to be
true overwhelmed me, destroying reality
“On the face of it, yes. But even in doing like the incoming tide on a sandcastle.
good things with the right intention, bad
things happen. Bad things.” Ray’s brow fur- “You are me.” I said with certainty, my
rowed. knees starting to weaken.

47

Adelaide Literary Magazine

“Bingo! I know what you will do and how “Identity theft?”
and when you will do it. Not exactly now of
course, as I am here, changing things. But I “Doesn’t matter, but believe me, it will be
have allowed for that.” big next century.”

I was unable to speak, my head reeling “I found this machine; you found this
from the repercussions of such a revelation. machine” he continued “in 1979 but it was
incomplete. I worked incessantly on it and
Ray pressed on. “You will move to a flat it wasn’t until 2021 that it was ready. I used
in Tooting and in the back garden of that it to return to 1978. I wanted to beat myself
flat will be a shed. In that shed, you will find to finding the machine.”
the machine. You will work day and night on
this machine. It will become an obsession: I found myself considering how in such
it is in our nature. It will be sweat, toil- and… circumstances, order and grammar became
pain.” irrelevant.

He lingered on this last word and I feared “I no longer exist in the future, nor ever
to ask. “Pain?” will I. You and I however are now in an
eternal loop, to the last recorded syllable of
“Yes; the heat from a poorly shielded mi- time”. Ray raised his hand in salute. “Pop.”
crowave beam will sear part of your face. It
will hurt, but it has been fortuitous that the Immediately there appeared in the
subsequent disfigurement has masked me.” middle of the shed a backpack. Ray went
straight to it and opened it. Inside there
I looked at the ugly, burned left side of were some wires and three small lights.
his face for the first time properly. Now it They were all green but when Ray had fin-
was clear: the eyes blinking behind that ished fiddling with whatever it was, they
swollen flesh were mine. were red.

“Forty years had made me unrecognis- “Bomb.” said Ray. I turned and ran.
able to you, but I recognised you of course.
Hindsight is so irritatingly clear. You never The explosion happened seconds later,
consider your own mortality, let alone what although not quite as Ray had planned. The
you might look like when you are sixty. Be- machine was blown to smithereens and
cause of my accident, which by the way, you the shed didn’t fare much better. Ray was
were due to have soon, I was familiar but thrown into the garden shrubbery, minus
unrecognisable to you. All I did was change some clothing. The door of the shed that I
my name.” had just passed through took much of the
blast but in doing so gave me a bang to the
“My Dad’s name.” I stated rather need- head and I was knocked out. Ray was in a
lessly. poor state but present enough to construct
a credible story as to what the explosion
“Our Dad’s name. Back in these days of was when questioned by the police. Also
naïve optimism, it is much easier to get a why he was in his underpants in a back
passport and documentation. In the time I garden in Tooting. We would at the very
left, the checks and distrust were immense, least lose our jobs.
will be immense. Nigh-on impossible to fal-
sify documents, let alone commit identity Once the emergency services had man-
theft.” aged to bring order and the electricity

48


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