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July 20, 2018 / hbrowne4

Secret Writing by Heloisa Prieto

Running through empty alleys in the quiet of the night. Was it the darkness or my fears that drew long shadows, residues of old dwellers and passerbyes, or maybe ripped pieces of their lost souls?
I stepped, by accident, over insects, I was frightened by night cats leaping, I was terrified by the noises of the Wind tapping on trash cans. Deprived of any sense of orientation, I felt lost, helpless.
Suddenly, these haunted labyrinths were filled with rumours, not a soothing sound. I could glimpse at the shadow walkers turning on the corners.
I want to lie down in Green pastures, I thought.
I want to walk through the right paths, I wished
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil.
I tried to recall the verses I had heard as a child, but only a number kept coming to my mind: 23. 23. 23.
To reach the avenue and find my way back home, I would have to turn on the corner. The same corner where I had seen shadows.
I want a table before me, and the presence of my dear friends, I Said out loud. I looked down at my own feet, at least these I knew so well. I concentrated my thoughts trying to remember the Day I had bought those shoes. I focused on the sound of my own breathing, because it was the most familiar sound, after all.
Dawn. Sun light hit my eyes fully. I closed my lids and walked quickly, I turned on the empty, silent corner. I left the alley. I reached the street. Trees in the Center of the avenue. Large treetops projecting their shadows. I Sat down on the bench under the largest tree. All I had to do now was to wait for the bus to come. Not all shadows are dark.

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July 20, 2018 / hbrowne4

Trying New Things! by Stephen Brady

Brigid and Michael had gone out to dinner for their thirtieth anniversary. When it came to food, Michael had always been conservative – a meat-and-spuds man. Brigid blamed his rural background. But she was determined: tonight, of all nights, her fuddy-duddy husband was going to try Something Different.
She decided not to book anywhere, and just go where the fancy took them. Dressed in their finest, they trawled a slightly shady part of town. She’d heard that all the best ethnic restaurants could be found here. They wandered the dimly-lit streets, where neon signs blinked in language incomprehensible.
“I’m not so sure about this,” said Michael, donning his glasses. He squinted at the signs, and then looked sidelong at his wife. “Are you sure we can’t go for a bit o’steak or the like?”
“Give over.” Brigid took his elbow. “Don’t be such an oul stick-in-the-mud. You’re having something different tonight, Michael Finnegan. If it’s the last thing you do!”
They found a place down a dark side-street. A sign flickered green, with strange pictograms. A number of posters in different languages were tacked to the alley wall below. Only one was in English, and it read: “FOR ALL PEOPLES. FINEST FOOD OF MACAO.”
“This is it!” she said, and snapped the entrance with her phone.
“I don’t know,” said Michael. “It doesn’t look the cleanest, Bridge.”
“It’s the real thing. That’s what we want.”
“Are you sure…”
“Get in there, before I give you a clout.”
She shoved him through the door.
Inside was a gloomy antechamber. It was lit with a weak, greenish light. It made the bare counter and naked fixtures look slightly ill. Smells were coming from somewhere, faintly redolent of a distant sea.
“Hello?” Brigid yelled, as loudly as she thought polite. “Is anyone home? A table for two, please!”
An Oriental appeared. He was small and slim, his hair and beard braided in a style neither of them had ever seen before. Not even on the National Geographic, of which Michael was so fond.
The host ushered them through a curtained partition. Beyond was a dim, tiny room with perhaps half a dozen tables. They were the only customers. The piquant sea-smell was stronger here. Brigid felt a surge of excitement. This was the real thing, alright.
They were led to a table in the corner. It was covered in an old pink tablecloth, but was otherwise bare.
Michael took the host by the shoulder.
“Listen to me now, chum. This here is my wife, and it’s our anniversary. Thirty years and we’re still talkin. So give us the dearest thing on the menu. I don’t care what it is. D’you get me?”
The Oriental bowed, inscrutably.
“Good man. And two Smithwicks, as well.”
The fellow hurried away. Brigid and Michael sat at the table. She took his hand in both of hers.
“I’m proud of you, love. Trying something different, for the once.”
“Ah, sure.” He was pleased, abashed. “Might as well. Special occasion, what?”
It took a long time for their food to arrive, and when it did, it wasn’t quite what Brigid was expecting.
They were given a plate each. No cutlery, no side dishes, no drinks. On each plate was a… creature. They had never seen the like before.
They were sort of like crabs, and sort of like lobsters. But they also had tentacles, like those of an octopus. Their bodies were strangely jointed, almost insectoid. It was like something you’d see in a nightmare. They were covered in thin, greenish sauce that gave off an odour which reminded Brigid of a harbour at low tide.
“Jesus,” she whispered. “What in the name of God is this?”
“Looks alright to me,” said Michael.
“For God’s sake. Put your glasses back on.”
“Sure feck it,” he shrugged. “You’re right, what you’re always sayin. You only live once. I’m goin to give it a go!”
He picked up the strange creature and bit into it.
At the moment he did, the creature on Brigid’s plate moved.
Startled, she looked down. The thing on her plate had rolled over. In the middle of it’s stomach, a single eye opened and stared into her own.
“Don’t, Michael!” She pushed back from the table. “Jesus, they’re still alive!”
“It’s grand,” said her husband. He bit off a part of the creature’s midsection that had a limb attached. Brigid saw, with mounting horror, that the appendage protruding from her husband’s mouth was kicking weakly at the air.
“Michael!” She clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh, God. This was a mistake. Let’s go to Supermac’s!”
“Naw, naw.” He was chewing with relish. “It’s not bad at all. Bit different is all. Do you know, I actually think I-”
He froze. His face went blank. He had a lump in his throat, and it was moving.
“Michael-?”
He collapsed on the floor and began to scream. Brigid staggered back, numb with horror. A piece of flesh spilled from her husband’s mouth, and wriggled across the restaurant floor.
Some time later, she was in the alley speaking to a policeman. An ambulance was parked nearby, and she could hear him in the back, crying out: “I shouldn’t have eaten it! Oh Jesus God, I shouldn’t have eaten it!”
“Tell me again,” the policeman said. He was very young, and very bored. “There was a man in there, you said?”
“I told you already.” She dabbed her eyes. “A man brought us in. I described him to you. I want him arrested. He’s after poisoning my husband with some class of a… mutant sea creature. On our anniversary!”
“OK,” the copper sighed. “We looked in there and we couldn’t find anybody. Take me through it again.”
Just then, a blood-curdling scream came from the back of the ambulance. One of the paramedics yelled, “Oh fuck! Get back, get back!”
A sound of tearing flesh, and a splash as some sort of liquid hit the inside wall of the ambulance. The cop looked over, prodded by a mild concern.
“Trying new things,” Bridgid sobbed, as she collapsed against the wall of the alleyway. “Trying new things!”

July 6, 2018 / hbrowne4

Concentrate by Shea Walsh

A boy was born a bubbly bouncy happy boy an occasional ear ache but what a joy playful smiling learning to walk and talk asking if its time for bed? Kindergarten passed disarming first grade waylaid sitting on the floor in a circle not for him frustrated teacher have him tested University diagnosed Asperger Syndrome something unknown what to do where to go differing opinions no one really seemed to know neurodevelopemental department one on one is suggested who is going to make an argument with such an impressive recommendation how to do it is another question no resources in the schools worth the mention a therapist came to the house to guide us towards a workable plan helpful well intentioned but limited by the short time that this resources was available through it all this little boy tried his best charm to get a rest

The beginning was confusing sights sounds textures sparkling jewels toy to be disassembled cars trucks trains tractors ships boats submarines and airplanes animals snakes alligators splashed by an elephant at the Zoo

Life whirling by with an incredible velocity sounds sounds everywhere around clamoring through his acute hearing

Everything flickering by in glimpses trying not to miss one thing a bird a leaf a person with a limp undiscerning attitude unable to detect a change of mood unaware if someone is rude or crude

Naive trusting all are good no matter what their facial expression a slow sense obtained when explained again and again and again and again times a thousand or two won’t get in to personal hygiene

Also smart and sometimes savvy with an ambidextrous aptitude yet cautious walking down the stairs

Trying to develop an education a never ending labour labour with a ton of frustration a task for a very special person hard to find an Asperger angel an endless struggle at home and at school trying to find a way a system that is workable tiny steps forward and back persistence consistence try not to over pressure all the time remember you are trying to teach a treasure frequent breaks try whatever it takes

Through all this he sits and smiles using all his innate wiles to receive approval get a responding smile to take away the awful pressure  to concentrate a mind in flight in some forest of stimulation can’t imagine the effort it takes the exhausting effort to try and concentrate

This is full of contradictions airplanes fishing things that interest them then his focus is complete where their strengths are can be a good place to start driving down the road what car is that a Ford what are  the letters FORD just keep it up you will be so happy when you get to Lamborghini They don’t come with an instruction manual what child does basic math how many boats airplanes toys stuffed animals you have to learn to think out of the box take them with you as much as you can encourage them to direct you home yes left and right can be a challenge find a way to help them manage turn to your side or mine keep in a straight line try to make it a game that is not constantly pounding at their brain each step will be a blessing especially when you see their pride in achievement this is what you try and do trial and error yes it seems to go on and on but with time you will see the progress it will make your heart grow large to realize how much you have learnt sometimes you will wonder who is teaching who

This may seem to go on for ever then one day to your surprise you realize this child has grown into a person of their own.

©Shea Walsh 2017

July 6, 2018 / hbrowne4

Shit Wizard by Tim Stapleton

197.14.12.3 Physician’s Journal

We were high over a vast, arid grassland known locally as a “prairie” when Test Subject 045 was acquired. 045 was the chief of the great tribe that ruled these plains and adjacent territory. Subject expired under examination. Little could be gleaned from mental probe, but the following anatomical notes may be of interest.

045 was sedated upon capture and taken to lab for processing. When sedative wore off subject became combative and had to be restrained. Restraining was difficult. Subject’s skin was coated in an orange goo that proved to be quite slippery. Proctor Ai attempted to seize subject by the follicular mass at the crown of subject’s head, but it unspooled in the proctor’s hand. Appears the hair cover was a single piece of hair wrapped hundreds of times around the subject’s head. Proctor Ai was cited for excess use of force, as “hair pulling” is expressly forbidden by Codicil B to the First Contact Manual.

Vivisection produced startling results. Unlike anything sampled heretofore among the collected specimens. Abdominal cavity filled with an exceptional amount of excrement. In addition to multiple venereal diseases, subject may have been suffering from ailments related to the lower digestive system not previously observed in the subject species. Excrement had filled not only the subject’s abdomen, but also the blood stream, respiratory system, synovial cavities, and mouth; in some cases, entire organs were missing, their places taken by formations made entirely of waste product. Excision of subject’s heart revealed little more than a slurry of rotting excrement and syphilitic tissues. The room had to be cleared and aerated after the first incision was made, so offensive was the odor. It is not an exaggeration to say that subject 045 was nothing more than an ambulatory sack of primate feces and infectious disease painted over with cosmetics in an attempt to pass as fully human.

Medical database contains no reference to this condition, however, cultural attache was able to open a fruitful line of inquiry.

Lexical database on colloquial expressions indicate terms such as “shit head,” “shit heel,” “gob shite,” “bull shit,” “full of shit,” and “shit bird” can indicate vacuity, a lack of truthfulness, or a tendency to speak when one ought not to. These terms were thought to have no basis in biology, but rather to refer to the generally accepted unpleasantness of excessive dishonesty. (Cultural attache notes that a certain amount of mendacity was accepted by earth cultures and in fact, appreciated in certain contexts; e.g., drama, comedy, etc. In the economic context dishonesty could be dismissed as “mere puffery,” (embellishing the quality of an item up for sale or under-emphasizing the costs or risks of the same), or to constitute fraud, depending on the preponderance of falsehood. See entry on capitalism at 087.1.11.372. Much room for anthropological work in this field.) In light of subject 045’s unusual anatomy, these assumptions may need to be revisited.

Subject was mighty warlord ruling over a technologically advanced faction of earth peoples. Given the subject’s advanced disease state it is difficult to explain his position of power and prestige. Again, the cultural attache has offered a helpful suggestion.

Belief in magic as a means of explaining incomprehensible feats was widespread among earth cultures at time of first contact. Practitioners of “magic” were referred to as wizards. Various entries in the cultural database indicate wizards would draw upon various substances to power effects known as “spells”. It is possible that the subject’s infirmity was a source of strength, rather than a disability. Proctors have taken to referring to subject 45 as the shit wizard.

Whatever the source of his power, the reign of the shit wizard is over.

June 18, 2018 / hbrowne4

Today by Liam Kane

today I finally started my own job
see I had plenty of jobs before but none were mine
I was the employee of who I thought people wanted me to work for
loyal, hard working and on time
but the job was not mine

today I finally bought my own house
see I lived in houses before but none were mine
I was the owner of buildings that I thought people wanted me to own
grand, spacious, expensive and divine
but those buildings were not mine

today I finally married my own husband
see I was married before but he was not mine
I was the wife of who I thought people wanted me to marry
smart, successful and fine
but he was not mine

today I finally started living my own life
see I was alive before but the life was not mine
I was the person who I thought people wanted me to be
reliable, honest and kind
but the life was not mine
no it was not mine

May 31, 2018 / hbrowne4

Kids Holidays in 1950’s Bray by Ronnie Moore

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Joe poured tea for his sister and her husband in the Blue & White Pagoda tea cups. They talked together for almost two hours about their problems at work and mostly about their plans for summer holidays next year. Their summer holidays were always spent in Bray in a house they and their parents had always rented in August each year.
The house was a small cottage and in the garden was an old train carriage which the owner Mr Byrne had decorated as three bedrooms and a toilet. the steps up to the carriage were wooden and very slippery if it rained, but it seldom rained in Bray. There were two very large green gates to the road outside which led down under the railway bridge to the harbour.
There was also a small gate for people at the side of the big gate.
It was very cosy on holidays here in the house and some of the cousins would spend a lot of their school holidays together here even if their parents were not in the cottage at the time.
It was very nice playing in the garden with the other cousins and being brought to the beach for a swim.
In the evening times there were films shown on a big screen on one of the band stands.
They were all black and white films with no sound other than a recording of a person playing the piano. You could watch the short films from the back of the band stand for free but to watch from the front you would have to pay for a seat.
Sometimes there was a travelling group of players who put a large marquee in the small park beside the ballroom and the train station and they would have people playing on guitars and mouth organ and drums and a bass which was made of an old tea chest and a brush handle and strings.
They would also have a small play almost a fairy tale and a raffle or spin the wheel and then some more music. The shows were great fun. When the show had finished everybody would stand to attention for the national anthem some people would raise their fist in the air during the anthem, but not too many people.
Leaving the big tent was like leaving the company of the show people and out to the dark night air. They would walk the short distance home to their house and to their beds. They seldom went straight to sleep when they went to bed they had lots of fun talking to each other.
They would sometimes sing some of the songs from the show. At other times they would tell each other ghost stories and then huddle together to sleep. These were magic times for the children. Sometimes on Sundays other member of the family would visit on a train trip from Dublin or their uncle Peter who had a car that he had from work would drive down. He would sometimes bring all the children for a drive to the chip shop for chips for the dinner time and they all enjoyed his jokes and the sweet treats he would give them.
If they were on a day trip to Bray and not staying in a house the family would get chips in the chip shop and a pot of a tea from a tea shop who gave their dad a big brown tea pot that they had to return before they went home.
When the children were old enough their dad would let one of the children bring it back to the shop.
On the promenade there was a red hand cart with a wooden canopy painted red and white like a fish shop the man had white trousers and a white short coat and an apron of red and white stripes and a white rimmed hat with a red ribbon.
His stand smelled pleasantly of vinegar and he sold ready to eat shell fish like periwinkles which came in a small brown paper bag and he would give you a small badge pin to remove the periwinkle from its shell.
We all liked periwinkles and he also sold Oysters and cockles. There were other shell fish on his stand but only the older people knew what they were. The prices were 3 pence 6 pence and a shilling for a portion. These prices were written on a large sign on top of his hand cart.
He also had some sauces in large cockle shells also for the shellfish.
There were some small white kiosks along the promenade selling ice creams rock and lemonade sometimes they would also sell pink or white candy floss on a long wooden stick.
They would put the stick in to the round candy floss machine and turning the stick in the cloud of candy floss it would look like a large piece of cotton wool on the stick.
It was very sweet and melted in your mouth like sugar. Their parents did not encourage them to eat this but occasionally they were allowed to share one between a few children.
When they came home from Bray after a day or a week they would fall asleep on the train or in the back of the car with lots of nice memories.

May 27, 2018 / hbrowne4

Inhibitions by Catriona Murphy

My eyes cast down
To your
Curved lip
To avoid
Your eyes clear
Against your
Trojan skin.
A gaze
That could cut glass.
A killer wit
A craftiness
That has me on the run.
Hiding my heart
Between clasped hands
Hoping
You don’t see
How it pumps
For you.

An after tingle
Between words
Between sentences
Between heartbeats
Mundane conversations
Whatever.
I’m left
Wandering, wondering
Careening
Into
A new spring
An opening shaft
An existence I never conceived possible.
All thanks
To you
Just being you
And that is what I love more
All about you.

In nocturnal land
Your essence
Fills gaps
Murky, elusive, warm.
A psychological morphing
An unknowing
A hidden
That terrifies me.

That heartbeat
Skips
Turns, fumbles, runs.
To your words
To your walk
Your sitting bird pose
To your casual.
A relaxation
That impresses
Yet irritates me.
All of you
Irritates me.

Irritation leads to laughter
Leads to warmth
Leads to fear
Leads to respect
Leads to irritation
Leads to –

A depth you’ve struck
An earthquake shivers
Stronger than a tolling bell.
Beaconing
My homecoming.
For some reason
The picture
Is you.

I’m a bloody sucker.