Makarelle Summer 2022: 'Sizzling Misdemeanours'

Sizzling Misdemeanours

Independent Literary and Creative Arts Magazine

Makarelle Ltd Company Number SC691879 Private Limited By Guarantee

Summer 2022

Cover Image by Jane Langan

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022

Contents

Editorial by Jane Langan

Feature - Visual Art : Youth by Amanda Dolan - Harrison

Feature - Short Story Fiction : For One Night Only by J.W. Wood

Feature - Poetry : I Dropped My Mind And My Kebab by Jade Prince

A Night Without Mercy by Dave Sinclair

Meet the Author : Lily Lawson

FCD Kentucky by Benjamin Lisle

7 Reasons by Helena Nwaokolo

Thirsty by Jonty Pennington - Twist

A Leave - Taking Of Friends by Stuart Cavet

Moving On! by Rukhsana C

Miss - Demi - Nas by Beck Collett

Peck by Wendy James

Around The Clock by Jane Langan

In Pursuit by Lily Lawson

Crimes and Misdemeanours by Louise Wilford

Procession Celebration by Jay Waters

A Summer Misdemeanour by Sue Davnall

Fun With Frank by Penny Benedetti

In The Shadow Of Vesuvius by Amanda Dolan - Harrison

Things Don ’ t Matter by D.H.L. Hewa

Branding Patrick by Jonty Pennington - Twist

Vassiliki by Mark Harrison

Another Lunchtime In The Art Room by Ken Smith

Finger Lickin ’ by Jane Langan

The Private Eye by Ron Hardwick

Strike While It ’ s Hot by S.A. Henderson

Burnt Offerings by Suzanne L Burn

The Damned With The Dead by Lauren Carter

What happened to Snowy? by Lucy Weaver

Hot Flush by Dini Armstrong

Jesolo by Jane Langan

The Injured Queen Of England by R.E. Loten

Meet the Editors

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022

Editorial

by Jane Langan

Image: Hamid Elbaz

I started to write this before we let people know our theme for this issue. It is an unusual antici- pation – will they – the authors, the artists, the creatives out in the world, get it? Will they un- derstand what is going on in the minds of three very different women who want to encourage emerging writers and artists, like themselves, to come up with something exciting, something innovative? Each time we think about a theme, there is a whole lot of ruminating and discussion. Is it broad enough, does it slap the imagination and make it produce something creative something interesting, something someone else wouldn’t think of, because that’s the point, isn’t it? To create something completely new, unthought of – and in this ever-expanding world of the inter- net – this seems to be more and more difficult. And yet our authors and artists surprise us every time. When we first decided on the theme of ‘Sizzling Misdemeanours,’ my first thought was of Missy Misdemeanour Elliot.’ Her song 4 My People (co-written with Eve) totally fulfils the theme. It’s mischievous, it’s sexy and it’s telling a story. Due to copyright laws I am unable to quote the song, but do check it out on YouTube here. Makarelle has been a labour of love for Ruth, Dini and me, it has been hard work, frustrating, inspiring and a huge learning experience for all three of us. It has bonded us in friendship and creativity in a way I didn’t think I would experi- ence again at my age. So, it is with great sadness that I must tell you that this will be our last

issue. There are many reasons for this and it is something we have considered carefully. Many of the reasons are personal, but some I will share. Creating an online magazine from scratch is de- manding work, we did it to give ourselves and other new writers and creatives a voice, but somewhere in the process our writing took a back seat and all three of us would like to con- centrate more on that. Similarly, all three of us need to eke out a living and creating Makarelle, whilst working and trying to write, is a struggle. I think that balance is one of those things all writers find difficult. So, this is it. Well almost it, we do plan to put together another anthology, so all those who have been published in our more recent maga- zines will be able to purchase hard copies in a book format. And our website will remain active for the next few months so you will still be able to download issues for free. So, as I said in the very first magazine (thank you, once again, Douglas Adams) – ‘So, long and thanks for all the fish.’

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FEATURE: VISUAL ART

Youth

Photographed in Prague by Amanda Dolan - Harrison Sculpture by Milo š Zet

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FEATURE : SHORT STORY FICTION

Dedicated to il miglior Jimbo. For One Night Only by J.W. Wood

Image: BestBe Models

Herbert Smith fingered the invitation in his breast pocket: it was still there. It came at short notice. Presumably some PR had called his agent asking her to find a cou- ple of meat puppets to fill the room. This was the first after- party he’d been invited to in ten years as a thespian: a full decade, not a single premiere. Thus far, his professional life must have delighted his family as they’d never wanted him to be an actor. Herbert was thirty-two. Since leaving uni- versity, he’d drunk deep of youth’s glorious tri- als: Bit parts. Stand-ins. The odd voice-over. Even four speaking parts in films, two of which finished on the cutting-room floor. To earn a liv- ing, he stacked shelves in a supermarket. Lines of beige metal at 3AM, waiting for Herbert to deposit another flat-pack of stewed tomatoes or flour bags that weighed a ton and leaked through their outer packaging. He’d also earned cash pulling pints, wait- ing tables and temping. So far he’d never done porn or driven a taxi – but yes, he’d do the for- mer before the latter. Still, he’d found enough acting work to justify carrying on: but not enough to earn a living. The worst thing in Herbert’s life, howev- er, wasn’t his own failure. It was the existence of

a man who shared his name, Herbert Smith. And worse than that, this Bert Smith – as he styled himself – was an actor. A wildly success- ful one at that. Famous Bert Smith was two years young- er than our Herbert. His angular features first cinema graced screens as CIA agent Craig Frank in Undercover , then as the male lead in some suc- cessful “Hollywood -meets- art” films. Bert had stolen Herbert’s name and run away to live his dreams, from features in style mags to a trophy girlfriend and football-pitch-sized house in LA. Herbert first encountered his homonym seven years ago, shortly after being promoted to frozen vegetables manager at the supermarket. Taking his regulation ten-minute coffee break one night, Herbert flopped into the filthy staff canteen with a cup of pseudo-espresso from a hulking, outdated drinks machine. He sat down and ran his hands over his face. Another four hours of throwing sacks of vegetables into a freezer before he could go home and dream sad dreams of stardom. Across the room, a figure in butcher’s overalls sat chew- ing the remnants of whatever snack it had just ingested. After some time, a voice emerged from its mouth to break the silence. “What you working here for, then?”

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Feature: Short Story - Fiction “ For One Night Only ” by J.W. Wood

Herbert recognised the voice as that of Jon Postlethwaite, Relief Night Manager in the butchery department. “What do you mean? I need the money, like everyone else.” “Not any more you don’t, does ya?” Postlethwaite grinned and held up an open copy of The Sun so Herbert could see the headline on the showbiz page: BERT’S A DEAD CERT! Best known to audiences on the box as CIA hunk Craig Frank, actor Bert Smith (23) has signed up to play the lead in Kate Callat’s Neck Romance – a story of vampires, love and intrigue in a big city morgue. Beefcake Bert, who hails from Tiverton but now lives in LA, has recently been spotted with glam- orous Model/Actress/Whatever Querida Chingar. Rumour says they’re house - hunting in Bel Air… The article pictured Querida diving off a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, her perfect form glis- tening in the sun. Herbert slumped back on the tearoom sofa and raised his eyes to the flourescent striplights above. This was the ultimate indignity. Failure was cosy enough, most of the time: if no-one knew your name, you had nothing to lose. But to watch a contemporary live your dreams, thinking it could be you, and one who had the same name … he that steals from me my good name steals something more precious than riches .. . Later that week, Herbert was walking down Tottenham Court Road to an audition. He looked up to find Bert Smith’s six -pack star- ing back at him from a huge underwear bill- board. About a month later, he picked up a stained copy of GQ in a dentist’s waiting -room a wryly- smiling Bert Smith advertising “ROLEX. BERT SMITH’S CHOICE.” Herbert passed his nights tossing frozen peas into metal sarcophagi, the monotony bro- ken by occasional calls to do corporate videos or auditions for parts he knew would go to whoev- er was banging the producer. But one day Herbert’s luck turned. He got a proper speaking part. One of those slice-of- life TV dramas set in a hospital. Herbert played a male nurse of dubious sexual orientation – fit- ting, given his total lack of action since a con- fused fumble at a wedding three years ago.

because the script was written that far. Herbert remembered his agents’ jowls wiggling with ex- citement when she said he’d got the role. She bought him lunch in the same Italian restaurant she took him when she signed him. As the wine flowed, his agent began making all kinds of promise. Hollywood. Product sponsorship in Asia. Nothing was too grand a fantasy after a third glass of Frascati and fifteen per cent of a thousand pounds per episode. *** A week after that lunch, Herbert found himself in a loaned dinner suit clutching the af- terparty invitation. He approached the paneled oak entrance to the party. A PR person ticked names off, glad -handing, air-kissing and smiling welcomes at entrants passing through her spiritual meat grinder. “Herbert Smith?”

Herbert nodded. “But you go by Bert, right?” “Well, actually, I” –

“Not another word. Let me know if the paps are bugging you and we’ll get you out via the kitchen, OK? Where’s Querida? I’m sooo pleased you could make it, darling!”, she gushed, enveloping him in an awkward hug. She snapped her fingers. A young man in a suit with a floppy fringe leapt forward from behind a plant pot. “Take charge of the line, William”, she said. “And do me a favour? Put Bert Smith’s name down as “VIP attended”, OK?” William nodded his assent. “Love your films” he wibbled before the PR lady guided Herbert into the main room. Herbert was flying and shitting himself all at once. He spotted Mick Jagger chatting to a model young enough to be his grand-daughter. Naomi Campbell, the image of statuesque per- fection in a tan-and-black gown. All of life was here – or what passed for life in the parallel uni- verse of celebritydom. A world hermetically sealed against the likes of Herbert Smith – until today. “There are sooo many people you need to meet. I thought you were based in LA.”, the

He was guaranteed at least ten episodes

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Feature: Short Story - Fiction “ For One Night Only ” by J.W. Wood

PR said, steering Herbert through the crowd. A waiter brought drinks. The PR lady – Herbert couldn’t read her name -tag, she kept moving so fast – handed him a champagne flute and took one herself. Herbert necked a long swallow. It had been a while since he’d been able to afford champagne: this hospital series would just about pay down his credit card. Al- most. He tried to guess the PR woman’s name from the scribble on her nametag. Linda or Lia- na or something. “Listen, Linda” – “It’s Liana, Bert. But whatever.” “Liana. I must tell you. I’m not” – “HAAAARVEY! Oh my God! I thought you were in New York! Let me introduce you to Bert Smith! Yes, I know – in London! What a surprise!” The public relations dervish released Her- bert’s arm and dashed towards an overweight man in his fifties with a greying, unkempt beard. The man wore an immaculate dinner jacket and expensive-looking tie. “Hello Bert. Pleasure to meet you. I’m Harvey Linitz – producer of tonight’s film for Sony Pictures.” Herbert took another gulp of champagne, feeling an overwhelming urge to dive into his glass and swim away even as his pulse raced with possibility. “Hello”, Herbert croaked, taking Har- vey’s hand and feeling smothered by his car - crusher shake. “So what you working on?” Harvey asked, looking him up and down. “Hey, you’ve lost weight, right? Love the new hair colour – quite the departure!” Herbert grimaced. Truth time.

“Come on, Bert. I know your agent. You

can tell me.”

Herbert smiled and was about to utter the greatest lie ever told outside the bedroom when Liana the PR ching-chinged her champagne glass for silence. “Thank you for attending this premiere of The Prophet’s Tears . I know we all have a lot of suits to hug and air to kiss” – a ripple of laugh- ter, though no-one found it funny – “but before we get going, I wanted to ask Harvey Linitz to say a few words.” Applause, then all eyes on Linitz. Now Herbert really wanted to disappear. “Thank you, Liana. And thank you, eve- ryone, for coming tonight. You know, I could talk for hours about this movie. If you’ve got any money, I probably already have. But let me say this: I’m proud of what we’ve done. It’ll gross millions, I’m sure. However, this is about more than money. It’s about that moment when you turn around and say, like the great Europe- ans of yore: je suis cineaste .” Harvey’s Brooklyn accent macerated the French phrase. Herbert glanced at the note the Monroe lookalike had stuffed in his pocket. A mobile phone number scrawled above a single sentence promising a spectacularly vulgar sexual favour. Herbert looked up as Harvey Linitz re- sumed speaking: “ART!” Harvey bellowed. “ART! That’s why we’re here. It’s true – everyone knows I’ve made money for my investors. But I never lost sight of why we’re doing this. Ladies and gentle- men, we live for art.” Harvey put an arm around Herbert’s shoulder. “As proof of how much we love art in movies, I have with me England’s most talented young actor. You will know him from Neck Ro- mance . Or Undercover . Or maybe you’ve just seen him in those underwear commercials” – more laughter. “But Ladies and Gentlemen, my friend Bert Smith is an artist. He’s not just in it to make moolah and end up in the Chateau Marmont with six strippers and a slag-heap of cocaine. No: he’s laboured for his craft. And to prove it, he’s going to recite Shakespeare for us.” Right, here goes, thought Herbert. My moment. He clutched his glass in both hands, that note from the Monroe impersonator twined

“Well, I” – he froze. Someone had

stuffed something in his pocket.

A woman brushed past him looking like Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot . She carried a tray of cigarettes and chewing gum. She popped something in the breast pocket of his jacket. Herbert assumed she’d given him a pack- et of gum. But it was a note – he’d read it later. Harvey Linitz looked at Herbert.

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Feature: Short Story - Fiction “ For One Night Only ” by J.W. Wood

between his fingers.

down this: say you too, that in Aleppo once … as he reached the thundering climax, there was first silence, then an eruption of applause. Harvey Linitz enveloped Herbert in a bear- hug. “I don’t know who you are, kid”, Linitz yelled in his ear over the applause, “But that was wonderful.” Herbert released himself from Harvey’s crushing embrace. He may never be famous. He might stack frozen peas for the rest of his days. But tonight, for one night only, he was swinging the world by its tail. And maybe that was enough.

“Thank you, Harvey.” Herbert smiled at his new friend in a simulacrum of the affection veterans who’d shared a fox -hole must feel for each other: “It would be my pleasure.” Herbert began declaiming the soliloquy from Act V of Othello . “ But soft you, a word or two: I have done the state some service, and they know it …” The audience listened in silence. Her- bert’s eyes floated around the room as he ran through the verses. Jagger moodily sipping champagne and checking his phone … one whose eyes dropp’d still their medicinal gum … Naomi Campbell rummaged in her clutch, poking her assistant and gesturing inside her bag … s et you

***

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FEATURE : POEM

I Dropped My Mind And My Kebab by Jade Prince

I drop my phone. It’s picked up by a tiny thing with electric blue hair. We were near some clubs with bright lights in them. Too near. Hurt my eyes. We could go in? Can’t dance she snaps. So what I tease. I can see her underwear. She drops her drink. They were cheap. I offer to get another but it’s turned down. I thought she was made of stars. Beautiful eyes. She lights a cigarette. We ride and taste the world together; sip ocean waves of vodka and post mix lemonade, popping moons like silver acid tabs. A cab? She says. I want her soul. Picked up by a tiny thing with blue hair, we were near some club with bright lights. We could go in? Can’t dance I snap. So what she teases. I want a drink. We sip cheap vodka and post-mix lemonade, popping silver acid tabs. Taste like they were made of stars. I thought she was too near. She hurt my eyes. I light a cigarette. Beautiful eyes she says. I can see the world in them, ocean waves, electric moons. I phone a cab, offer to get her another but it’s turned down. We ride together. She drops her underwear. I drop my soul.

Image: Jane Langan

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A Night Without Mercy by Dave Sinclair

Tuesday, 22nd

Hi Mercy,

Wow, that was a great plan you suggested at the weekend. I know we were both a bit squiffy on Bloody Marys but I mean, it really worked a treat. Well, until it went wrong, of course. I know you said that might happen but really, it went wrong in the most super, brilliant way. I’d booked onto the Divas and Devils dating site on Sunday evening – yes, I thought that was a bit ironic too – and just like we agreed, I put myself up as: Mature lady, with strong appetites – seeking younger male, willing to experiment – expect the night of your life. I posted a photo from way back – you know the one, with me in that dress with the full decolletage and the heaving bosoms – very Nell Gwynne I thought – just the eyeful for someone to get their teeth into. Well, I hooked up almost immediately. And was he hot? Yow-wee!! I could feel the heat coming out of my keyboard – though that might just be a dodgy battery. So, any- way, we arranged to meet down at the Horseman’s Head on Monday night – it’s hap- py hour from 5-7 – two cocktails for the price of one. His name was Vladimir, said he came from an aristocratic Russian family – but he wasn’t fooling me. He was hard - core Essex-man through and through, all that bare chest and 95 SPF. We shared a Zombie and Sweet Poison and were really hitting it off until…. Well! – he said he wanted a threesome! How about that!! I was keen but didn’t want to stop there. And there was a really hairy guy at the bar talking to another guy who was hung like a horse – so we went over and suggested a foursome! Yes, really!! Sadly the werewolf ate poor Vlad, but I had a fab time with the centaur. You should have been there!!!

Love and tootles,

Cherry

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022 ‘ Love is Love ’ 1/2022

MEET THE AUTHOR : LILY LAWSON

Lily’s writing life

I started writing poetry in secondary school. The first poem I remember writing was a fictional tale of a woman who died by suicide in Glasgow in 1825 haunting children as a ghost. I’m weird, ok?

A shedload of teenage love poetry followed.

In my twenties my poetry was published under my real name in obscure anthologies. I wrote on and off after that, unsure what to do with my efforts. I didn’t know any writers or poets. The people who did read my work made positive comments and encouraged me to keep writing, so I did.

publish my own books.

In June 2020 I published ‘My Father’s Daugh- ter’ which is a collection of poetry about my Mam's dementia, being a church volunteer and my experiences as a writer. 'A Taste of What’s to Come' followed in October; a kind of show- case of the range of my work. My latest book 'Rainbow's Red Book of Poetry', the first of the seven book Rainbow Series was published in June 2022. It celebrates love and tackling the challenges we face as humans. Putting together ‘My Father’s Daughter’ and ‘A Taste of What’s to Come’ I combined some of my back catalogue with recent poems. ‘Rainbow’s Red Book of Poetry’ has more of my latest creations, my archives are well plundered there’s not much left that’s usable. I love interviewing authors for my blog and some of them write guest blogs. My own blog- ging efforts include poetry, fiction, book reviews and my rambling thoughts. Sending out bloglet- ters means I get to add comments and exclusive content to the latest post on my site. If you want more Lily, check out my site. I get around a bit so there’s a few links to click. You can find my books on Amazon.

I ended up on Twitter as part of my Open University (OU) degree in 2017, returning full throttle in 2019. I met my first writer and tried my hand at writing for prompts. I actually shook when I tweeted – how things have changed! The OU ran a Twitter writing competition to celebrate their 50 th anni-

versary. I was shocked to win one of the eight days, but I did brag a little. I won a Future Learn course where I met the people who formed the first poetry group I belonged to. The OU Write Club liked my stories and I took the leap of joining their Facebook Group, feeling a bit more legit with a win under my belt – but I still said I was a poet chancing their arm at fic- tion. The 50 th anniversary anthology they published included the first short story I had ever finished and three of my poems. I have had poetry, fic- tion and non-fiction published online and in more anthologies since then.

Don’t forget – everyone needs some Lily in their life!

***

Being part of writing groups and connecting to writers on Twitter gave me the confidence to

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FCD Kentucky

by Benjamin Lisle

Image: Jane Langan

'FCD, OPEN UP.'

One slapped a thick binder down and took a seat at the chair opposite, the other still favouring the darkness of the back wall. The first one opened the binder, making a show of reading a few pag- es before looking up. 'Well, Colin, looks like you picked the wrong day for a cookout. We had a tip-off when a neighbour smelled smoke, and where there's smoke there's a fryer. We've got you down for a dozen charges, felony barbecue, purchasing hamburgers with intent to grill, possession of condiments for use in the enhancement of fla- vour... you're looking at a long time in the kitch- en here.' Colin was silent, blinking to try and clear his head, trying to think straight, trying to form words that wouldn't come.

The hammering at the door had lasted only a few moments before the breach, the lock flying across the room as the wood around it exploded in a shower of splinters. He'd been half-way to the patio door when the first officer had tackled him to the floor, the cuffs around his wrists be- fore he was even truly awake. 'COLIN SANDERSON, YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR FELONY BARBECUE BY OR- DER OF THE FOOD CRIMES DIVISION.'

He'd struggled, fought back for dear life, and then the world had gone black.

---

Colin awoke in a darkly lit room, the bare bulb overheard casting more shadow than light, his hands chained to the heavy steel table in front of him. It was cold, and his ribs hurt from where the police had so thoroughly tenderised them. He couldn't tell the time of day, maybe even night, and had no sense of how long he'd been out.

The man shook his head, half sighing, an almost sorrowful look on his face.

'How did it come to this? What, you click a cou- ple too many tongs and suddenly you're some big-shot flame flipper? Help me out here, we're on your side, we just want to hear what hap- pened. You work with us, maybe we can cut a deal. The condiments we can overlook, experi-

The door opened, and two men swaggered in.

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Short Story - Fiction “ FCD Kentucky ” by Benjamin Lisle

menting with a bit of special sauce, nothing seri- ous. The burgers and the grill, much harder to see past, especially the amounts we caught you with. But if you work with me, tell me who sea- soned the steaks, you could be looking at noth- ing more than misdemeanour sizzling. Come on, do the right thing.'

The two men struggled for a moment before the sudden sound of a ringtone from the rear man's pocket interrupted them. There was a pause, and then a mutual truce as the phone was answered.

'King here. Yes, we're just grilling him now. Should have a confession soon, just give us...

The man leaned in, his voice getting quieter, al- most conspiratorial.

'What... no, sir, you can't just...

'But we have...

'Who wore the apron, Colin? Just give me a name, kiss the crook, and this can all go away.'

'Yes sir. I understand.'

Colin looked up, met the man's gaze, and let his shoulders slump in defeat as he answered.

There was a quiet beep as the call ended.

'You're free to go.'

'Ronnie McD.'

The rear man came round the desk, and un- cuffed the suspect from the chair, letting him get to his feet. Colin rubbed his wrists, smirking at his two de-fanged interrogators. 'Like I said, I run with the real connoisseurs who appreciate an original griller like me. Tell your boss the Five Fellas say hi.' He pushed past the two men, pausing just long enough to flip the fingers over both shoulders, before the door opened and he was gone.

The backhand came out of nowhere, throwing him to the floor, still cuffed to the chair. The man leaned over the table, knuckles and face white with anger. 'You want to play games? Now? We have you on camera buying charcoal, but you think we don't know what you've been smoking? There are kids in that neighbourhood, you think their parents want them to grow up to be flippers like you? We've been after you for a long time, and you won't be able to to just pick your life back up and throw it on the grill like you do those filthy pucks you call burgers.'

The rear man patted the shoulder of the other sympathetically.

Colin laughed sharply, the sound echoing in the bare room.

'Next time, RB. Sooner or later, he'll click the tongs one too many times, and when he does, we'll be waiting for him.' The two clasp hands, their iron resolve as-yet unbroken. The life of one of the FCD's elite would never be easy, nor glamorous. But the work needed to be done, and until their dying breath they would fight the smoky scourge of unregulated barbecues and back-alley grillers.

'You think you have me? On a barb-charge? I'll never see the inside of a kitchen and you know it, I'm too valuable to the right kind of person. You think anyone can get such perfect grill- lines? I'm an artist, a visionary, and you're med- dling with people who OWN the beef I cook. Go ahead, have your moment, but in the end the only thing burnt here is your own career.'

One burger at a time.

The man lunged forwards but was caught by his colleague from behind.

***

'No, leave it!'

'Let me go! I'll stab him with his own spatula, the little greaser!'

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7 Reasons

by Helena Nwaokolo

Image: Edward Eyer

one

the blue of his eyes

two

the colours of his mind

three

the safety of his arms

four

the depth of his soul

five

the first time they kissed he didn’t want to stop

six

the second time nor did she

seven

the first time they made love despite the passion and the panic he gently kissed each baby scar

etched upon her stomach

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Thirsty by Jonty Pennington-Twist

Image: Oliver Archive

The White Mountains, Inyo County,

So as to spare Our sun-ripened blushes, We did what people do. Swift and hot and rhythmic.

California. Bone white trails

Cut about the arid desert skin. All about us, Thirsty looking trees.

Had our fevered union Been detected, Surely,

But that day, We too had a thirst, Did we not, my love? Breaking from the path And picking out a trunk

A humid, small-town jail cell Would await? And I wonder to myself,

Whilst together, In there,

With ample girth,

How would we have passed the time?

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A Leave-Taking Of Friends

by Stuart Cavet

Image: Jane Langan

The sunlight strikes the ground like an angle- grinder. The sound of cicadas flares up like a chorus of singing needles. It is stingingly, woundingly hot. The road is steep, begins to level out, and is then steep again. My knees jar as I make my way down. I am almost afraid of toppling over, and so I tread a ridiculously slow and dainty, yet heavy, tread. From the houses comes only the sound of air-conditioning units. There are no voices; there is no movement, no sign of anyone. The road is empty, too. But how pretty everything looks. Pink and purple flowers tower and tumble in profusion over garden walls and fences. Broad-leafed palm trees offer sporadic pools of shade along the sidewalk. And glimpses of swimming pool here and there spangle my vision with shards of tur- quoise and aquamarine. Looking back up the hill, I lose my bear- ings and can no longer see my friends’ house. I look for the sharp switchback and the place where the goat’s shelter under the spindly thorn trees, but everything is a confusion of dull green and pale brown and the random geometric white of occasional human habitation. I have been polite long enough; as have my friends, I suppose. Sometimes I have to escape;

sometimes I think their smiles are held just a lit- tle too long. Sometimes I think there is a show- down just waiting to happen, something that can never be taken back and which will end every- thing. Yes, sometimes I just have to escape. I carry on. The houses end. There are fields of long brown grass, orchards, crumbling earth, and stone. A white butterfly flits its insub- stantial way through the thin air; then a black one. The slope of the road is gentler now. The hairs on my arms tingle. I have been polite long enough. Not that one shouldn’t be polite, but one shouldn’t feel straitjacketed by politeness, not among friends. A chain-link fence hums in the heat. The overhead telegraph wires do likewise. I have been polite long enough; that’s for sure. A lizard scampers over broken rock. Primi- tive graffiti in the local language covers the re- mains of a low wall. Blue plastic bags lie dis- carded and scattered along the roadside. I blow sweat from my lips. I have, I tell myself, been far too polite.

*

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022

Short Story - Fiction “ A Leave - Taking Of Friends ” by Stuart Cavet

fact, engineered the entire conversation? Did they want me to know that they knew exactly what I was up to? Since then, we seem to be avoiding each other. They or I get up ridiculously early, or ri- diculously late, so that there is no meeting up for breakfast. And then I am outside while they are inside, and I am inside while they are outside. Or I am in my room while they move freely about the house, and vice versa. Meeting up for dinner, however, is something we either have not yet figured out how to avoid or have decid- ed, without saying so and without any discus- sion, of course – for that would be too awkward – to preserve as one last memorial to our friend- ship. I don’t know. But the conversation at din- ner is flat, desultory, forced, difficult; uncom- fortable; painful even. And though the language of the dinner table is relentlessly upbeat – “This food is delicious!” “Today’s weather has been amazing!” “I’ve had such a good day!” – that only throws into relief the stark actuality of our common daily experience. And then there is that thing my friends do, more and more often now it seems, that way of ending a statement with yeah? or you know what I mean? and transfixing me with a stare, as if to force a reaction from me, to make me say something, to give something away about my- self. But I don’t say anything; I don’t give in to them; I just stare back. It’s as though a storm is brewing. Clouds are gathering; thunder threatens; lightning, as yet unseen, charges the air; unreleased torrents swell the sultry atmosphere. A storm is surely going to break; a cataclysm is surely going to come; something terrible must surely be un- leashed. You know what I mean?

My friends are generous, liberal hosts.

On several occasions they say, “We only invite people we like.” But why, I wonder, is it necessary to say that? Why would they invite someone they didn’t like? Why would anyone? I wonder, until it seems the real meaning of their words must be the exact opposite of their literal meaning. It must be irony, sarcasm, a mind- game. My friends, they, too, are straitjacketed by politeness and cannot say what they mean. They also say that I am welcome to visit when they are not there. Especially when they are not there, I surmise; preferably when they are not there, I surmise. I am not stupid. I know what they mean. “Let me help with this,” “Let me do that,” I say. And always they say, “Why don’t you sit and enjoy the view,” “Why don’t you just have a drink and relax.” “Thank you.” “Thank you .” Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s like a bat- tle of competing politeness – or of something dressed up and disguised as politeness. Take nothing at face value, I say; trust no one, I say. Especially when it comes to friends. I don’t like to talk about myself, and so I try to be the one to initiate conversation, and I try to do so with questions about my friends, their family, and their interests, or about neutral topics. But whenever the conversation threatens to come back to me – “And what about you ?” “So, what do you think?” – I have to come up with another question of my own. I like to think I have become quite adept at this. We were talking about some battle during the Crusades and how Saladin outwitted and defeated the Crusaders – how he managed to avoid close combat with them simply by ex- hausting them in their heavy armour in the heat and then picking them off with his archers. And that, I thought, was a good analogy for my ap- proach to conversing with my friends. I didn’t say so, of course. But I wondered if my friends thought so, too. They didn’t say so, either of course. But I still wonder if they thought it; and I now wonder if they simply go along with me – aware, complicit, amused, disdainful even – let- ting me think that I am getting away with it. And was it they, in fact, who first raised the subject of the Crusades? Was it they who mentioned that particular battle? Had they, in

*

I step off the ragged roadside and pluck an olive from a tree that overhangs the wire fence. It’s as hard as a pebble. My thumbnail makes no im- pression on it, and it has no smell, so I let it fall to the ground. No one sees; no one is coming. In any event, there is no reason to be concerned; no reason to be self-conscious, embarrassed or anx- ious; there is no need to explain; no need to have a story ready.

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022

Short Story - Fiction “ A Leave - Taking Of Friends ” by Stuart Cavet

Behind me, the individual features of the village have all blurred into one. Ahead, the road continues for some distance, then disap- pears round a bend; the patches of cultivated land are soon replaced completely by scrub; ulti- mately, there is the sea, a broad blue-bronze shimmer much farther off. Actually, ultimately , there is the horizon, a luminous and livid weal of pink and purple, towards which both sky and sea, heaven and earth, naturally and inevitably tend. I am now consciously breathing in and out through my nose. If I open my mouth, it imme- diately becomes uncomfortably dry and warm; it makes me think it might be possible to drown in air. It’s strange. There is something about the glassy stillness of the hot air that suggests brittle- ness, that suggests that it might break if one were to move too suddenly or too quickly. But, in fact, it has a supple plasticity that constantly yields and accommodates and envelops. It’s im- possible to escape it; it clings to me and dogs my footsteps like guilt. I have been too polite. Gone today are the muffled hammer blows of distant construction work and the in- distinct shouts and laughter of the workers. To- day is silent, silent but for the cicadas, which

have started up again. Their excited song rises and falls as if measuring a wildly irregular and feverish pulse. They then, as one, stop. And then again, in perfect unison, they start, this time not pulsating but accelerating away, louder and louder, like an electronic scream. It makes me walk faster. Yet always I seem to be at the very epicentre of this deafening racket. My shadow walks faster, too, my anx- ious black ghost. It knows nothing of politeness. It jostles and fidgets, and seeks urgent refuge be- neath my feet, but always in vain. It, certainly, is not too polite.

*

I slip out the back door, leaving my friends lying in the pool. There are no last words.

***

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Moving On!

by Rukhsana C

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022

Miss-Demi-Nas

by Beck Collett

Image: Ekaterina Bolovtsova

Demi stood at the steps of the courthouse, trying to control her breathing. The previous day, she, along with another twenty- nine ‘ordinary citi- zens’ had assembled in the unseasonably hot April sunshine, nervously making small talk, and wishing to get their hands on a juicy case that would ‘make the papers.’ Demi found it dis- tasteful and kept herself to herself. The other women seemed to pal up early on, but Demi had a book with her so she didn’t care all that much. The court clerk had warned them early on that it was likely they’d spend the week sitting around, doing nothing, so for goodness’ sake, bring a book. A quick gaze around the room saw that only four of them had listened. Two were sat off to one side and were mirror images of one an- other. The third was young, like her, smartly dressed, like her, and, unlike her, male. Unable to see the cover of his book from her seat, Demi made her way over to the tea urn behind him. He wasn’t what Demi would usually term attrac- tive. His wishy-washy blue eyes, framed with long lashes, jarred against his acne-scarred skin. She noticed his left ear lobe had a hole pierced in it, but no earring. His nails, holding tightly to his book, were bitten down. His hair was slightly too long and overlapped his ears. All of this Demi took in, but as for his book; she couldn’t tell. ‘Morning,’ Demi offered, and smiled, ‘I’m—’

‘Demi, I know. I’m good with names.’ The boy smiled, ‘I’m Antony. Call me Ant if you want.’ ‘What’s that you’re reading?’ Demi asked, pulling out the opposite chair, ‘I can’t tell.’

‘You first,’ he replied, gesturing at her

tome.

‘It’s a book about Shakespeare’s women, characters, I mean.’ Demi nodded at the book in Ant’s hand. He held it to her, ‘Chekov. I’m teaching myself Russian, my great gramps was from Ki- ev, when it was Russian. It’s in the blood.’ ‘Is it?’ asked Demi. ‘Da, dorogoy – it means, yes, honey.’ Ant smiled and started to redden. ‘It’s a collec- tion of Chekov’s short stories, Russian in the front, English at the back.’ ‘Wow,’ was all Demi could think of say- ing. If only she’d left it at wow. ‘I did German in school.’ ‘What can you say?’ Ant asked and saw to his delight that Demi was rapidly blushing. ‘Umm, nothing useful in here,’ Demi ad- mitted, ‘only Das Wetter ist heiß und sonnig.’ Ant nodded, ‘very hot and sunny.’

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022

Short Story - Fiction “ Miss - Demi - Nas ” by Beck Collett

Demi looked around for inspiration. ‘I could probably have a go at describing someone, I’m very observant.’ ‘Alright, let’s pretend you’re in Berlin, and you’ve witnessed a robbery. I’ll be the polizist, and you’re the pretty little English tour- ist come to make a statement. We’ve got staff shortages, nobody speaks English. OK, the man over there, Darren, describe him for me.’ Demi looked over at Darren. She cleared her throat, ‘ahem. Umm, der mann ist groß, mit braun haaren, eine groß nase, und einen rot pull- over. How was that?’

it was a little bit wonderful, that’s all. Don’t be in a grump.’ Demi’s cheeks blazed fuchsia, and she fanned herself, becoming hotter by the minute. ‘For your information, I’m not in a grump, it’s just I’ve heard it before, that’s all. My maths teacher used to call me it when I did my home- work wrong.’ ‘Sorry. Shall I carry your jacket? Might help you cool down. I’m thinking of being rebel- lious, and taking my tie off!’ Demi tried not to smile, but failed, ‘Thanks. It’s the nylon lining, probably got pit - marks.’ She took her jacket off, and on inspec- tion, there were indeed stains, but they didn’t show up too badly. ‘Sod it!’

‘I think it should have been roten for the

jumper, but I’d probably still catch him.’

At that moment, the court clerk appeared

at the door.

Ant took off his tie, and waved it at her,

‘rebels together!’

‘Right, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that court two are ready to swear in a new jury. The bad news is the air- cons packed up, so you may want to leave your jackets, and bring a drink. If I call your number, follow me.’ She reeled off the names from her sheet, until only three spaces remained. ‘03: Darren Snodgrass, 13: Demetria Nasta (Ant let out a small ‘ha!’), ’and 29: Antony Gulko.’ The mood changed as soon as they entered the stifling court room. After the preliminaries, the accused (Helen Sullivan, ABH) was brought in, and so began the swearing in process. Ant spoke clearly, staring directly at the judge, Demi found herself looking at the ac- cused as she spoke. The woman held her gaze, and frowned. She had a face that could charita- bly described as a forensic artist’s dream. Jury sworn in, the honourable (and very sweaty) Mrs Justice Carpenter called a twenty- minute break. As everyone filed out to cool off, Ant nudged Demi and beamed, ‘Congratulations.’ ‘Thanks?’ she replied, utterly mystified, ‘why?’ ‘Your name! You’re a miss, aren’t you?’ Demi nodded. ‘So, you’re Miss Demetria Nasta: Miss Demi Nas!’ ‘So?’ ‘So, Miss -Demi-Nas, like misdemean- ours. Perfect name for court! Sorry, just thought

The court clerk rounded up the jurors, and Demi and Ant filed in, giggling like the children they’d so recently been. To say the trial was a disap- pointment was an understatement. The ABH amounted to the accused running over the foot of the plaintiff (George Stewart, jet-black hair, tanned and muscular, irritated as he couldn’t play football for three weeks after the alleged assault), threatening to ‘run over the other foot with her trolley when I shouted at her, your honour, and then throwing a tin of tomatoes at me,’ at 10:43am on 19 th of July 2021. The defence offered up two witnesses who had been present in the aisle. One claimed to have ‘almost been hit by them tomatoes, your honour,’ but neither had seen the actual running over of the plaintiff. The store CCTV would have recorded everything, but had been wiped by the time the police had requested it. Ant shook his head and tutted. Demi said nothing. The prosecution brought A&E notes, and an X- ray of Mr Stewart’s foot. Surely the case was clear cut? The jury were reminded by the honourable Mrs Justice Carpenter that they could find the de- fendant guilty only if the prosecution had been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Sullivan was responsible for Mr Stewart’s inju- ries. They then retired to deliberate – which, as far as ten of the jurors were concerned, was

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‘ Sizzling Misdemeanours ’ Summer 2022

Short Story - Fiction “ Miss - Demi - Nas ” by Beck Collett

clearly guilty as charged. And then there was one. ‘Right then, everyone clear on what you need to do?’ asked their cheery clerk. ‘Have you chosen a head juror to deliver the verdict?’ There followed a great deal of posturing from two of the jurors – one with biceps so over- developed that he couldn’t put his arms by his side, the other, a cocky semi-professional foot- baller nobody had heard of – before Demi cleared her throat, and said, in an oddly-calm voice, ‘Me. I’d like to do it.’ She looked at the other two candidates, and immediately, they nodded and sat down. Ant gave Demi’s hand a squeeze under the table, and whispered ‘well done.’ She smiled, but didn’t otherwise respond. The satis- fied clerk left the room, and the deliberating be- gan. ‘Well,’ began the footballer, ‘it’s obvious she did it, isn’t it? I mean, if her own defence finds two women who say she’s guilty, then she’s guilty!’ He sat down to much assenting from the others. But not Demi. ‘The judge wants us to decide if she ran over his foot, not if they quarelled. Both those women said they didn’t see it happen.’ ‘Yeah,’ interjected the gym - goer, ‘but one of them saw the tin of tomatoes being thrown, that’s assault too, that is.’ Demi shook her head, ‘did you notice her hands when she was in court? Ms Sullivan, I mean. Anyone? Nobody? No, I thought not. Her hands were shaking the whole time. She’s got something wrong with her that’s causing the shaking. She wasn’t all red and sweaty, not like him – Mr Stewart – not like he was. If she was guilty, and lying, she’d have been a mess. I think the tin fell from her grip when she was arguing with him. We can’t look at the tomatoes as evi- dence she’s violent.’ ‘Yeah, well, she still seems like a nut -case to me, so I reckon she’s guilty,’ said the gym - goer, though with a little less certainty than be- fore. ‘With what evidence, though?’ asked Ant, finding himself totally convinced by Demi’s argument. ‘Other than a “he said, she said” thing, what evidence is there? The police didn’t get the CCTV footage in time. Without that, what’s left?’

‘The hospital notes and X -ray, for start- ers. Or do you mean to tell me the doctors were all lying about his foot? I broke a bone in my foot last year, and I couldn’t play for weeks.’ Demi smiled, ‘Sorry you couldn’t kick your little ball around. I’m not saying he didn’t have a broken foot, that’s not in question, but if Ms Sullivan’s responsible for it is. He went to the hospital hours after the supermarket. And obviously we believe the doctors,’ this was di- rected at the footballer, ‘but that doesn’t prove she broke those bones. We can only find her guilty if we’ve got proper evidence that she did, and we haven’t. We have to find her not guilty.’ There was silence as the others took in Demi’s argument. Ant was first to speak, ‘I think you’re correct. Prosecution couldn’t prove Ms Sullivan was responsible for Mr Stewart’s foot, so legally…’ And though it took the best part of an hour, one by one, the others had to agree. Back in the courtroom, Demi stood and spoke clearly, ‘we find the defendant not guilty.’ Ms Sullivan looked stunned, but she mouthed her thanks to the jurors. Mr Stewart, on the oth- er hand, started spluttering and swearing at them, though he didn’t appear to be directing any of it towards Demi – but nobody picked up on that. The judge thanked the jurors for their hard work, and dismissed them. Outside the court, the sun blazed on and on. Ant walked with Demi towards the bus sta- tion, she, busy on her phone, so he didn’t inter- rupt her. Demi looked up from her phone, and smiled at Ant, ‘Mum says we’re having a barbe- que tomorrow, want to come?’ The following day, Ant arrived at Demi’s ad- dress, wearing his loudest summer clothes (beige shorts, cream shirt, flipflops) and carrying the cider and hot-dog rolls Demi had requested. The garden was rather unkempt, and thronging with people. Demi forced her way through them when she saw him, and kissed him on the cheek. ‘Life - saver! Can’t believe we forgot the rolls! Grab a plate, and help yourself.’

‘Nice weather for a barbeque,’ Ant said,

cursing himself for such a stupid line.

‘It’s in honour of my step - dad, actually,’

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Short Story - Fiction “ Miss - Demi - Nas ” by Beck Collett

Demi said, grinning broadly.

ruled.’

She ushered Ant to the sizzling grill, where steaks and sausages were being poked and prod- ded by a man with jet-black hair. He had his back to them, but when he turned around, Ant almost fainted. Mr George Stewart glowered at him. ‘Oh, it’s you. Sausage, is it? Or you more of a steak man?’ ‘Sausage and a burger, please, Dad’ Demi replied, fully aware Ant was temporarily mute. Away from the grill, Ant rounded on Demi, ‘what the hell! You know you shouldn’t have been on that jury if he was your step- dad!’ ‘Not important,’ she laughed, ‘but if he asks, tell him I argued for him but I was over-

‘Why, though? I mean, just why ?’

‘You said it yourself, Ant,’ Demi said, through a mouthful of burger, ‘I’m Miss Demi Nas, can’t help being a bit naughty from time to time, can I? Also, I hate him. Drink?’

Ant nodded, ‘and then some.’

***

Peck by Wendy James

It was always fish on a Friday. The hot fat spat back at him from the sizzling white flesh in the pan, as his mother looked on disap- provingly from the kitchen table. The smell of chicken shit permeated his pores. He would feed them after and then meet her under the tree, before her husband returned from the fields. And as the scraggly birds pecked mani- cally at the corn, he would once again taste her bright red lipstick.

***

Image: Jane Langan

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