Makarelle Love is Love 2022

Love is Love - Issue 1/2022

Independent Literary and Creative Arts Magazine

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Cover Art: Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs by kerry rawlinson

Winner of the ‘Love is Love’ Makarelle image competition Dec 2021

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Welcome to Makarelle!

Image : Jane Langan

What else is love but understanding and rejoicing in the fact that another person lives acts and experiences

for your home, your dog or your car. We love all sorts of things. I love that moment when the sun breaks throughs the clouds and you see a shaft of light beaming down, brightening a field of oil seed rape into a golden yellow oasis. Or the sight of a child spotting a perfect rainbow. We spend a lot of time complaining, and there is a lot to complain about. Covid just never seems to be going away. Global warm- ing. Idiot politicians. Our world is far from per- fect, but those moments of love can make us forget and treasure our world and the people and things in it. Think of the perfect symmetry of an ammonite. Or the beauty of a coral reef, or a sunset. There are so many things we can love and enjoy and all of these things can make us feel better. We were thrilled, as always, with our submissions. We have so many amazing sto- ries, poems and images this issue which reas- sures us that in a broken world, love can make things a little better. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together and reading everyone’s work.

otherwise than we do?’ (Friedrich Nietzsche)

When we initially thought about the theme for our Winter issue and decided on Love is Love we wanted our community to explore the theme in as many, non-traditional ways, as they could think of and they certainly haven’t disappointed. We knew that we would be publishing the issue just after the holiday season where it it is customary to spend time with those we love, whether that be family, friends or a cherished pet. Similarly, we would be a month away from Valentine’s Day, another time to celebrate love. So, by publishing our magazine in Janu- ary we could lift some spirits who may be in between holiday doldrums. Mostly, however, we want to acknowledge and honour all the different types of love in the world. Yes, of course, there’s the love between people; sometimes passionate, sometimes passive, sometimes long and slow and other times a brief spark in a lifetime. These types of love are brilliant and beautiful. Let’s also consider, however, the love

Dini, Jane and Ruth

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06 Editorial

34 ‘ Best Friends Meet After Two Years ’ by Sarah Quibell

08 ‘ Untitled ’ by Stephen Johnson

35 ‘ Valentine Tango ’ by Jacqueline Jay Wilde

09 ‘ Lift ’ by Toby Goodwin

36 ‘ Tweeting Jolene ’ by Elizabeth Eastwood

13 ‘ Reserve ’ by D Larissa Peters

39 ‘ Discovering Kaela ’ by Ron Hardwick

14 ‘ Love is love is love is love …’ by Frank McMahon

42 ‘ Bill Ding Connections ’ by Lindsey Morrison Grant

16 ‘ The Obsession ’ by Lin de Laszlo

43 ‘ Diptych ’ by Stuart Cavet

17 ‘ Until Death Us Do Part ’ by Lola Langan

46 ‘ Anatomy of a Baby Ghost by Sujatha Menon

18 ‘ Wild Love ’ by Mina Ma

47 ‘ Under the Hammer ’ by R.E. Loten

20 ‘ My Javanese Inamorato ’ by Dave Sinclair

49 ‘ Floyd Memorial ’ by Lindsey Morrison Grant

21 ‘ Goodbye Auntie G ’ by Stephanie Green

50 ‘ First Auntie - love ’ by D Larissa Peters

24 ‘ A Dog ’ s Last Days ’ by Chris Robbins

51 ‘ White Nancy ’ by Michael Butcher

25 ‘ An Angel in Time ’ by Ken Smith

54 ‘ The Beautiful Nurse Philautia ’ by Dini Armstrong

27 ‘ Rickety Bridge ’ by Pri Victor

56 ‘ Yoga with Matcha Tea ’ by Anne Hill

28 ‘ Whisper My Name ’ by Louise Johnson

57 ‘ For Love of King and Country ’ by Henry Loten

Contents

58 ‘ Love Andy ’ by Lily Lawson

78 ‘ I ’ ll Still Bring Flowers ’ by Beck Collett

60 ‘ When the Sun Comes Up ’ by Flynn C - S

79 ‘ these liberating delights ’ by Finja Tineke

61 ‘ My Boys ’ by Anne Hill

80 ‘ Pornochic ’ by Clare - Rose McIntyre

61 ‘ The Second Day ’ by Helena Nwaokolo

82 ‘ Waiting ’ by Dini Armstrong

64 ‘ Ich hab dich lieb ’ by Dini Armstrong

83 ‘ Everything Candy ’ by Rukhsana C

65 ‘ Unlike ’ by Claire Hartley

84 ‘ Journal Entry ’ by Lelia Tanti

66 ‘ Portrait of my Husband ’ by Anne Hill

85 ‘ A Winter ’ s Tale ’ by Sue Davnall

67 ‘ Him and Me ’ by Jane Langan

88 ‘ Little Lady ’ by Catherine Airey

70 ‘ Sailors Blue ’ by Jacqueline Jay Wilde

90 ‘ too big for your boots ’ by Pri Victor

71 ‘ BLM ’ by Lindsey Morrison Grant

91 ‘ Muse ’ by Cheryl Powell

72 ‘ Another Chance ’ by D.H.L. Hewa

93 ‘ Chess Pieces ’ by Louise Wilford

75 ‘ Splinter and Splice ’ by Sarah Wagner

94 Biographies

76 ‘ Brother Oak ’ by Clare Shaw

95 Meet the Editors

Contents

Editorial

by Ruth Loten

and ‘Storge’ in For King And Country and ending with ‘Philautia’ in the aptly named ‘The Beautiful Nurse Philautia’. The Five Expressions of Love are also abundant throughout this issue in pieces like Auntie G, The Second Day and Love Andy. When it came to my own writing however, I was a bit stumped. I’d already written a story about two men who fell in love for the ‘Tattoo’ issue and I didn’t want to produce more of the same, but no other ideas sprang to mind. Nev- ertheless, when it came to the editorial, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about: ‘How I learned to love myself’. I realise that sounds a bit ‘self - helpy’ but that isn’t how I mean it. When I hit forty, I realised after years of trying to please other people, that ultimately the only person I had a duty to make happy, was myself. I spent my twenties and thirties doing things I didn’t want to do to try and bring joy to others, even at the expense of my own well-being. The morning of my fortieth birthday I woke up with a new sense of ease. I was comfortable – perhaps for the first time ever – with who I was. I decided it was time to

When we chose the theme for this issue, the three of us were very clear that although we were publishing it close to Valentine’s Day and wanted to give a nod to that, we didn’t want it to be a replica of everything else that surrounds the day. Nice as Hallmark can be, we consider ourselves to be made more in the Tim Burton mould! Consequently, when we opened our submission window, we made the decision to ask specifically for forms of love which were either under-represented or unexpected – we thought we might get some poetry about a woman’s love for her car, or a short story about a rescued cat who brought love into its owner’s heart. As always, our submissions did- n’t disappoint and we had a fantastic range of crazy pieces all with love at their core. We were delighted that not all the love was roman- tic either. Ancient Greek philosophers identi- fied seven types of love and we’re confident that most, if not all, of them are represented in this issue. Submissions ranged from ‘Eros’ in Tweeting Jolene, through ‘Philia’ in Him and Me

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embrace the person I was and learn to love my inner geek. It felt a bit like the cliché of an AA meeting – my name is Ruth Loten and not only am I a geek, I was a geek before it was cool. I could write reams about how much I like Star Trek, Star Wars, Sherlock, Lord of the Rings etc, or even reading and writing. Howev- er, much as I love all those things, the thing I enjoy more than anything else, that always brings joy to my heart and a smile to my face, is dancing. “But dancing isn’t geeky,” I hear you say. Not now perhaps, because of the Strictly influence, but back in the 1980s, ballroom danc- ing was not considered ‘cool’ – this was the world of Angela Rippon and ‘Come Dancing’ not Tess and Claudia on primetime Saturday evening! I never cared – I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. The playlist for my 40th birthday party had been put together with a view to getting people up and dancing and fea- tured Abba, Bruno Mars and the like. At the last minute, I decided to add some Phil Kelsall and Glenn Miller on there as well. I’m so glad I did because someone videoed my sister and me doing a Cha Cha Cha and since her passing it’s one of the many memories that makes me smile. I’m writing this editorial while sitting in Blackpool Tower Ballroom watching the rest of

my family dance. I did most of my writing as a kid in here and I love this place more than I love most people! So many of the happy memo- ries from my childhood are linked to the ball- room – family, friends, teenage angst, unrequit- ed love, the pain of missing James when he spent a year living in Vienna, the ballroom was the backdrop to them all. So of course, when I wrote ‘Unforgettable’ (my debut novel for adults, which is coming out in February!) there had to be a large part of it set in the ballroom and obviously, it required me to visit – purely for research purposes of course! So yes, I like dancing anywhere, but the Tower Ballroom is where my heart belongs.

When the weather is too cold to be out walking, there’s no place on earth I would rather be.

All Images : Ruth Loten

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Feature: Visual Art

Untitled

by Stephen Johnson

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Feature: Short Story

Lift

by Toby Goodwin

I can see this wee guy oot buskin on the street, through the glass of the lift and then again through the windies of the shop. Makes me burn. Not that the music’s bad, I’m just burnin. That’s whit bein a musician is, being jealous. But mah jealousy’s no the normal kind. It’s a kind that I cannae dae anyhin wae, tae much arthritis. I wish I could still batter oot a tune. “Press the up button,” she says. She’s polite, but there’s another element in there, like she cannae be fucked. “Press the whit button?” I say. I can hardly hear the lassie through this ridiculous plate glass. It’s an annoying material tae work wae; not flexible enough, not strong enough. “Press the up button,” she says. She’s got blonde dreadlocks and a black and green

Specsavers’s uniform. A’d been ushered through the shinin, opening lobby, check- marked on a list, and then curtly instructed in the ways ae sanitizing mah haunds, as if ah didn’t already ken at this point. It’s no as if mah very life depends upon it. I’d then been led tae this dinky disability lift at the far end and had mah cane taken aff me. “The button is on the right -hand side of the screen,” Dreadlocks says, wae a shit -eating grin. I guess it must relax alottae folk, this faux- medical/sales, crap. I hink her dreads are quite cool, though. I still ken whit’s cool and whit’s no. The rooms fullae backlit spectacle shelves. Prices startin low on wan side and increasing as you cross tae the other. I see wee bams on the cheap side and doddery yuppies on the other side checkin oot the latest in Gucci eyewear.

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Feature: Short Story - Fiction “ Lift ” by Toby Goodwin

“Just press it with the tip of your finger.”

gency,” the graceful sales tone is slippin away.

“Aye, aye,” I say. That busker must be aboot eighteen, playin a Taylor. Mah pal Keith had a Taylor. Nice, trebly resonance. Went well wae the warmer tones oot mah Gibson.

“Right, sorry.” A few other opticians come over, tutting, offering advice tae each other, forgetting aboot me. “We need tae explain tae the auld yins be- fore they get on,” wan says. “Right, I’ll press the stop button again, shall I?” I stomp mah palm on it and the lift halts, hovering aboot a foot aff the ground. “Now press the up button.” This time a wee man’s talkin. He’s got a pair ae thin glasses hangin aff his nose, and brown hair gelled in a neat quiff. I can see his mooth moving behind his mask. Middle- agers. Bet he’s got kids at hame, working only tae get hame tae work some more. I bet his marriage is on the ropes.

“The up ,” she says.

“I heard you.” I go tae press the touch screen, wae conviction. I find these machines respect conviction. The lift shudders and then halts. “You pressed the stop button.” “I ken which button I pressed, tell me which button tae press noo.” “The up arrow.” I look doon. Wan looks like an eye in a cir- cle. Another looks like a triangle, actually two triangles. I ken whit a triangle means, but this lassie is pissin me right aff so I take mah time findin it. Hovering, like how she wiz hovering over me at that sanitising station. I press it and the floor vibrates upward. Dreadlocks sighs and follows up a set of stairs tae the right. It’d usual- ly be Louise but, of course, she’s avoiding me the now. Daydreamer , Cerys always called me. It was kinda mah hing. I was always the guy wae a dream. First, I thought music wiz ma hing, but it wiznae. I waznae good enough, even if I de- luded masel intae hinkin I wiz. After that, the dream wiz tae open mah own café, The Wee Red Caf , aff Great Western Road. This wiz before I met Cerys. When I met her, the dream was tae have a family. I look doon at the screen again, at the wee red button in the middle, and press it. The lift stoaps mid- ride and I’m like, “Fuck!” The lassie stoaps on the stairs and starts marching back doon, ragin. It’s a poor design really, they shouldnae let auld yins have control. I press a button. The lift shudders and starts gawn doon. “Sorry, hen!” “Press the stop button.” “I ken, I pressed it. Noo I’ve got tae start it again.” “Naw, you can just stop it again!” “Is it no fer emergencies?”

“Naw, ah pressed it.” “Aye, I ken. Noo press the up button.”

“I pressed the up button.” “You pressed the stop button.” “Would you mind no shouting, pal?” I say, “I’m tryin mah best here.” At the caf, we hired Cerys fer the head chef and hit it aff right away. She was wise. She cared aboot hings that she didnae need tae care aboot, that wiz whit I liked aboot her. She made sure tae ken all aboot everyone; whit they liked, whit they did wae their free time, who they were as people. It made me happy tae be aboot her, so we fell intae it naturally. She had this fiery hair, and her lasagne was the best hing on the menu. Tabby looks just like her. I mind Tabby and her wee brother Sam, as wains, runnin aboot the kitchen as Cerys wiz tryin tae get on wae the prep, and I’d be away cleaning the coffee machine and chattin shite tae folk. It was basi- cally just two tables, a bar, and a swingin door tae the kitchen. Red tablecloths, red chairs, and a red coffee machine. Sam was always the quiet one, an accountant noo, but Tabby’s still figur- ing hings oot. Looks like her ma did at that age, but her personality’s mare like mine. I never ken whit tae say tae her. I pull mah mask doon, wanting a breather. “Sir, would you mind putting the mask back on,” Quiff says. They don’t care aboot me, they just don’t wantae get sued.

“You just pressed it, that wiznae an emer-

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Feature: Short Story - Fiction “ Lift ” by Toby Goodwin

“I’m trying tae see the fuckin screen, mah glasses’re all steamed tae fuck. Can you’s not just work it?” I already ken they cannae work it, but I like tae take the piss. “Sir, you inadvertently pressed the emer- gency stop, it overrides our controls.” “ Inadvertently , big words fae the glass shav- ers.” “Whit?” Dreadlocks says, stepping forward. I double doon, “I ken you’s aren’t shaving they lenses.” “Whit?” “The last time, they said; fer an extra twen- ty pound; they could shave doon the lenses, but there’s never gonnae be any shaving going on. You’s are just pouring the glass intae a smaller mould. There’s nae shaving. If anyhin, they thinner lenses’ll be less fuckin materials.” At this point, Quiff marches aff in the direc- tion ae the manager’s office. I keep doddering aboot, squinting at the stupit my-pad until I see her: Louise. I knew she’d be in. She’s Tabbys age, she’s got black hair, a navy -blue pantsuit, and I can see the words ARMANI sketched along the legs of her glasses in gold. She goes, “Peter, can you just press the up arrow for me?” She sounds like wan ae they bastarts aff the sales channel on the TV. Sharp blue eyes peekin oot the eyeshadow. “A’v been tryin, hen. It’s no workin. Can I come doon?” She sighs and then barks at the onlookers tae get back tae work. They shuffle aff, but don’t quite move away. They wantae tae see how this pans oot. It’s funny how hings never go the way you expect, but when you get tae the end you see that it was always inevitable. The endin ae hings never comes fae naewhere. There’s al- ways some hint, like in the way a person speaks, or the way they hold themselves. Tellin who they’re gonnae be long before they show you though their actions. It’s like the path ae least resistance. It’s like The Wee Red Caf . “Feckin McDonalds of opticians,” I mutter. “Whit was that?” Louise goes. “He’s like Insulate Britain ,” Dreadlocks says.

“Fuck off,” I say.

“Peter,” Louise, goes. “C’mon now.” “I’m trying mah best,” the lift’s still hover- ing aboot a foot aff the ground. I pull mah mask doon and go, “Why don’t you get in and show me?” “The lift is only fer wan person.” “A’m an auld man, yer a wee woman. It’ll be fine.” “Naw, Peter…” Every time she says mah name I wantae hurl, “I’ll bring it doon, and you can help us,” I say. I press the down arrow; three clicks and it hits the ground. Door opens, ramp extends. “C’mon then. I’m in a rush.” “Fine,” Louise goes, and she gets in. She’s reekin ae fruity perfume and her face is caked in bronze powder. She taps a button deftly and we start on the upward climb. Dreadlocks fol- lows up the stairs. The wee group of onlookers on the ground onlook. Gonnae need a distrac- tion. “Whit’s that wee bam daein?” I say, tappin on the glass. “Whit?” Louise goes, following mah point, and quick as a flash I bang mah hand doon on that emergency stop. The lift halts and we fall intae each other. “Get aff me,” I say, pushin her away. I then reach doon and get a finger roond the mains power connection on the controls. I pull hard and the wee screen goes black. The folk below us look up. The wee busker keeps hammering. “Why’d you do that?” Louise says. “Ken whit, Louise ? I’ve been wanting tae get you fer a wee chat.” I stand up, squaring mah shoulders. Cerys wouldae had a private phone call or suhin, but Cerys isnae aboot anymare. A’m daein this mah way. “Louise, you walked oota that hoose wae that car that you and Tab- by paid fer thegether. You’ve left her wae the mortgage because yer credit wiz so shite you couldnae put yer name up. You’re a thief and a user. I could tell from the first moment I saw ye. You abuse the people who love you, tellin them they’re no good enough, wearing them doon. You made mah Tabby feel shite fer lov- ing the hings she loves. Manipulating her, let- ting her hink she’s gawin mad, shouting at her

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Feature: Short Story - Fiction “ Lift ” by Toby Goodwin

then acting like it never happened. Making her sell her guitars so you could get a new kitchen put intae that hoose, that you’ve now fucked aff outtae, stickin her wae the bills.” “This has nothing tae dae wae you,” Louise says, “You never understood.” Tabby and Louise met at university and stayed thegether fer years. Each year we saw less of Tabby, and each year it seemed like a little piece of her had been stripped away. I mind as a teenager a’d try tae embarrass her by holding her haund. I could feel the callouses on the tips ae her fingers fae the geetar. Last Christmas, the pair came roond and I went tae hold Tabby’s haund at the dinner table, but she pulled away, “Can an auld man no hold his wee girl’s haund?” “A’m thirty, dad.” But I just grinned and gave her a squeeze. I could feel the tips ae her fingers were smooth. She seemed drained, and every time she opened her mooth, she had tae first look tae Louise, tae see if it wiz okay. Wan sharp look was all it took, and mah wee girl would shut her mooth and sit in stoney silence. “I don’t give a fuck aboot

ten all over her face. “Louise,” I say, “cut the fucking crap. Pay her back, let it end, or I’m gonnae keep coming back tae embarrass you in front of all yer fuckin colleagues.” “This is futile.” “Don’t use pain tae elevate yerself,” I say and then I turn back tae the iPad. “Right then. A’v said mah piece.” I reset it, easy as pie, and get aff. “Dae the right hing, pay whit you owe. At least she can get the money. The time and sanity she may never get back.” I then take mah cane aff Dreadlocks and sidle oot the sliding doors, nodding tae the busker as I do.

Might stoap by Guitar-Guitar on mah way hame, get a wee Taylor fer Tabby.

***

Image : Jane Langan

that, hen,” I say, mah words echoing in the lift. “This is aboot the way you treated mah wee girl,” I then turn tae the fairly substantial crowd that has gathered below. “Don’t ken how you’s can stand this wumman!” No sure Tabby wants, or needs me tae dae this, but she’s a wreck just now. I needed tae dae suhin. Of course, the café didn’t last. Fuck did I ken aboot cafes? Mah brether got us a maintenance joab fer the ho- tels, keeping the lifts gawn. It was piss easy once I got the hang ae it. “You cannae gie her back any of the time you stole, but you can at least pay fer the car, and fer the hoose. You can dae suhin.” Louise kens I’m tellin the truth. It’s writ-

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Reserve

by D Larissa Peters

Image: Jane Langan

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Feature: Poem

Love is love is love is love …

by Frank McMahon

Well, obviously, as vole is vole and window window.

The logic is unbreakable but it’s still a noun mired in its circularity, a serpent nibbling its tail locked into its own Socratic debate.

Just open the bloody door marked “transitive verb” and venture into the universe of actions!

Gift and receipt, offer and acceptance: feeding at 4am through aching nipples, cleaning the incontinent sphincter, on hunger strike for the captive wife, love all the time persisting, persisting knackered, yes but still persisting.

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Study the bleak region where no offer is ever made when every fibre thirsts for it, abandoned orphans in shit-smeared cots.

Wander discreetly the rooms of offer and rejection where love and hope have been confounded.

Sit in the public theatre

where love of self, first and always first, is a black hole of voracious space and dying time.

Loving is love compounding, blood and air and water driving the heart-beat of the cosmos.

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Feature: Flash Fiction The Obsession

by Lin de Laszlo

And there they were. Decadent. Extraordinarily expensive. Perfect. Blood red five inch heel, body darker than an abyss. Shoes. Commanding the whole shop window and dar- ing anyone to approach them. She imagined that she could feel their smooth- ness. Could imagine running her fingers along the length of the heels. The silkiness of the in- soles. The incredible arch that screamed impos- sibility. The shape and the sheen of the leather that made her salivate. How could they not be hers when they knew her name and called and called and wouldn’t shut up, even though they knew she could hear them. How could any self-respecting woman even walk in them? How could she even think about them as if it were normal for her! The fact that they existed was feeding her temptation like some kind of drug. She’d read about addiction and was more afraid of the shoes than any con- sequence because of them. Would they go with how she dressed?

Could she keep them secret in a house where it was not allowed to keep secrets? Her sisters would be outraged and she would never be forgiven. If they knew. Mother would not spare any sympathy for her. If she knew. But they always said that woman had a second sense. And a third one. You couldn’t get away with anything at home. Home slash holding cell slash whatever you wanted to call it. She had stolen money because of her obsession with these perfect, beautiful objects in front of her and that was very bad. The ramifications of that were too horrible to think about. Flaunting themselves in front of her eyes! Taunting her and making her do evil things just to be near them and to own them. Possibly. In- vading her dreams, her thoughts, all the time since fate had brought them together. If she could even be bold enough to go into the shop and ask for them. As if! Whatever, she could ignore them no longer.

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Feature: Flash Fiction - “ The Obsession ” by Lin de Laszlo

The staff would think that she was posing as something that she was not. They wouldn’t be- lieve for a minute that she was simply, well, what she looked like. But she had come this far and done terrible things, and now she had to follow it through and get this out of her system. She would cross the bridge of where to hide them and try not to covet them, when she came to it. She knew that she would find a way. There had to be an an- swer and it would come to her. But the guilt was settling itself in but the angels on her shoul-

ders knew which one was going to win.

“Just get on with it” said one of the voices. Which voice she couldn’t be sure but was too far gone now to care. Biting her lip, she tucked her hair into her habit and pushed the door open.

***

Until Death Us Do Part

by Lola Langan

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Wild Love

by Mina Ma

You’ve heard a lot of bullshit about us, so I’m setting the record straight, right here, right now; ask me anything. Okay, how we met: I was in the middle of the forest with dad and my brothers – Jim, Andy, and Mike. It was the first day of hunting season; my first time out there with them. I hadn’t fired a rifle before, because I’m the baby of the family, and the only girl, but I knew my way around them – I’d cleaned them, oiled them, loaded them for dad and the boys – just never fired one myself, and dad said it was about time I learned. We were wearing ugly high-viz jackets, creeping around, trying not to be seen or make a sound. I was feel- ing like an idiot, I mean, we were all stumbling about, tripping over roots, slapping at mosquitoes; no wonder we hadn’t managed to kill anything. And, you know, thinking back, dad and the boys never brought much home from their hunts, for all their efforts. Anyway, dad found tracks. He held his hand up, which was his signal, and we froze, then followed behind, like we’d been taught. It felt like hours. Dad would move forward a few meters inspecting the ground, stop, check the wind direction, screw up his brow, take off his hat, wipe his forehead, then begin again. Truth be told, I already knew hunting wasn’t for me. I just wanted it to be over, so I could meet my friends at the bar. I was probably daydreaming; that’s what I used to be like, back then. Then there he was. He rounded a tree, stopped right in front of us, and reared up on his hind legs. Ten feet tall, spiky blackness, all meat and fur, teeth and claws. And there I was. Hot and sweaty, decked out in

fluorescent orange, which isn’t my colour at all, staring up at him, holding a rifle. It’s a cliché, but I knew I’d been hit by cupid’s arrow. Maybe there really are fairies and gods in the forest, I don’t know, I’ve never seen them, but I felt it – my heart fluttered, cheeks burned, pulse raced; all the things you hear about. I looked to my left, and dad had his rifle raised, pointed right at Bear, one eye pressed against the sight, the other squinted closed. I shouted, ‘No!’, or something, and threw myself at him, knocking the barrel aside. The shot went wide, and the sound reverberated, scaring all the birds out of the trees, but Bear stood right where he was, brave as anything.

‘Why’d you mess up my kill shot, girl?’ dad

asked, looking at me like I was stupid.

‘You can’t kill him,’ I said. ‘I love him.’

I told you it was love at first sight, and I wasn’t afraid to say it, not even to dad, but he didn’t understand then, and still doesn’t. I guess he doesn’t believe in true love and destiny – I mean, we didn’t find Bear, he found us, which just proves it, right? And you know the real reason I was in the forest with them? My other brother, Ben, was sick, and they needed an extra pair of hands, so it was fate, wasn’t it? Dad looked like he was about to spit, then Bear growled, real low and deep, and moved closer. Dad and the boys fled. I stayed put. Bear reached his paw out to me, all tender, and I placed my hand in it. We’ve been together ever since. Yeah, how they reacted: Mum phoned the rang- ers, reported me lost. They found me easy enough, of-

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Short Story Fiction - “ Wild Love ” by Mina Ma

fered to walk me out of the forest. I declined, so they went back and told her I was safe and sound, right where dad had left me. Then, when I didn’t come home that night, she phoned the police. They found me, too, interviewed me, and I told them my side of the story. They went back and, according to the grapevine, said to her, ‘Well, your daughter’s over eighteen, she can do as she pleases.’ Dad and mum showed up on the edge of the for- est, demanding I went home with them, but I refused. They ordered us to break up, but we didn’t. Mum tried emotional blackmail, saying, ‘You’ve just gone and bro- ken my heart.’ I told them to go home. That was that, as far as I was concerned. We were like Romeo and Juliet; telling us we couldn’t be to- gether, that just made us want to be together even more. Of course, I know how those lovers ended up, and believe me, Bear and I’ll fare better than they did. My aunt let us move into her garage. She’s di- vorced from mum’s brother, so likes to piss him off by doing the opposite of what he says. I used the door into the house, so I could go in the kitchen and bathroom; Bear used the electric panel door, and went round the side of the garage into the garden – the forest starts right after her fence. We were quiet, clean, and didn’t get in my aunt’s way too much. It wasn’t all plain sailing, but we knew it was just temporary till we got our own place, so we made it work. But going from caring about only my- self, to caring about something else; that was the easy part.

‘We don’t need a common language,’ I said. ‘I look in Bear’s eyes, and I know his thoughts, and what’s in his heart. He tells me stories, without words.’

‘Don’t you both want different things, what with

him being a bear?’ they asked.

‘No; we want the same thing: to be together, for-

ever,’ I said.

They kind of stayed away, after that. I think they’re jealous, or something. I get it, though; not many fish in the sea, in this town. Yeah, I’ve heard people say things like ‘What do you see in him, anyway?’, and ‘Go back to your own habitat!’, or ‘Aren’t humans good enough for you?’. We just ignore them. What do they know, with their closed minds? What do I love most about him? The stillness I find when I’m alone with him. ‘He’s nothing but a crea- ture,’ my dad said. ‘Always will be.’ Well, those words are meaningless in the forest. Dark past? Hell no. My past is darker than his! I can tell by your face you don’t believe me; listen, I’ve skipped class, shoplifted cheap make-up and body spray that mum wouldn’t buy me, had a few underage drinks, smoked the odd joint, and done other things I don’t care to see in print for the sake of our future kids, but what’s Bear done? Nothing but roam the forest, scratch at trees, eat berries, take salmon from the stream – and those things don’t even belong to anyone, so it’s not like he’s trespassing, vandalising, or stealing. Despite what some people say, there are rules in the forest. Oh, yeah, I forgot; there was that incident with my uncle. What happened was, we ran into him one day, on the street. He started yelling, saying things I won’t re- peat, and Bear bit him. Now, Bear isn’t used to biting hu- mans, so, yes, my uncle lost his arm, and we’re sorry about that, but it wasn’t intentional or anything, and real- ly, Bear was provoked. Yes, there will be kids, and no, I’m not going to talk about our sex life; it’s private, and I’m sick of people asking.

Bear proposed.

Yeah, we were moving quick, but we knew it was right. Have you ever felt like that? No? Oh, you will one day, I’m sure of it. We went round to tell my parents. Not to ask permission, since we knew they’d never give it, but just to let them know, out of politeness.

They wouldn’t let Bear in the house, so the con-

versation happened on the front porch.

Dad said, ‘I didn’t raise you to marry no god-

damn animal.’

I said, ‘Well, we’re all of us animals, aren’t we? Deep down. Some more than others, perhaps, but, I mean, I’ve always thought of myself as being part -animal; part- wild.’ He had no answer to that. And what’s the dif- ference between a bear killing its food in the forest with claws and teeth, and a man going into the forest with a gun? There are different types of wild , and one type is more natural, kinder, than the other, I’d say. Mum decided I was under a spell. Went to the faith healer, the tarot card reader, the herbalist. Asked the priest to do an exorcism – we’re not even Catholic. She decided I was crazy. Went to the doctor, begging and de- manding they lock me up, for my own protection. Paid a fancy psychiatrist in the city. I spoke to all of them, like she asked, and said to all of them, ‘I’m just a woman who knows what she wants.’ And I’m still here, aren’t I? No one’s locked me away, so I can’t be crazy.

No, not even off the record.

You know, I saw an article in another magazine, where a psychologist said I only love Bear because he’s ferocious, and can protect me, and that I must have some childhood trauma. Well, that’s not right at all. I’m the one who’s ferocious, and my only trauma is people standing in the way of this relationship. Make sure you put this part in your story: The vicar refused to marry us. Said we were ‘an abomination’. Well, I didn’t want church bells, white lace, and flowers anyway, and I didn’t want a ceremony performed by someone with a wicked heart, but the nice lady at the registry office – Janet – she said if Bear comes from the forest, then he’s a citizen of this town too, so we could get married, providing there were no objections. Well, Bear and I looked at each other, because we knew there’d be objections, but we also knew we’d handle them. Of course, Dad had a few things to say to Janet as soon as he heard about our wedding plans. Told her she

No, my friends didn’t get it, either. ‘How do you

communicate?’ they asked.

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Short Story Fiction - “ Wild Love ” by Mina Ma

couldn’t do the ceremony, that she didn’t have permis- sion or authorisation, or something. She told him to go to hell, but in a more formal way. ‘I know my job, better than he does,’ she said to me later. Our wedding was beautiful. Bear with his dark fur, me with my long crimson dress, matching earrings, and necklace. We had a two-tier cake, and my aunt came with her camera and confetti. Dad showed up, and my brothers, wearing their high-viz orange, waving their rifles about, and mouthing off. The surprise was on them; I’d learned to shoot my rifle in the four weeks since I’d met Bear in the forest, practicing in my aunt’s back garden with tin cans lined up on her fence. So, I shot dad. I shot all four of my broth- ers. If mum had been there, I’d have shot her, too. Just in the legs, mind; they’re still alive, but limping. No more hunting trips for them.

With the carnage and moaning bodies lying all around, Janet did our paperwork. She told us we were a lovely couple, gave me a little hug, and wished us well. Then my aunt and Janet threw handfuls of con- fetti up in the air, and as it floated down around us like a peach pink blizzard, landing on my hair, Bear’s fur, and the pools of blood, all the same, I bent down to dad, who was white in the face, cursing, and clutching his leg. The old me wanted to say, We will live happily ever after, no thanks to you, but instead, I said, ‘Thank you for attend- ing.’ Then Bear and I turned, and paw in hand we walked back into the forest.

***

My Javanese Inamorato by Dave Sinclair

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Goodbye Auntie G

by Stephanie Green

She died one week after her ninetieth birthday. The care home assistant saw the fluffy pink slippers sticking out from under the toilet door. The slippers that had been a birthday present from her nephew. She hadn’t liked them; she’d thrown them down dismissively as she did with every gift she received. Her nephew sug- gested that, if she didn’t want the slippers, if she really did hate the colour, he was sure one of the other ladies in the home would like them. She then relented and said, grudgingly, that she’d keep them. Even if she wasn’t going to admit it, she loved them. She was always generous with her giving but she was hopeless at receiving. It was those fluffy pink slippers sticking out from under the toilet door that heralded the demise of that indomitable, can- tankerous, bossy and often bloody-minded spirit that was Auntie G. Maybe every family has one; the maiden aunt who is the source of much frustration and many humorous stories; the maiden aunt who always gives endless advice about relation- ships; the childless aunt who always knows best about how children should be reared; the elderly aunt who gives endless instructions to great-nieces about how they should have their hair styled and the length they should wear their skirts. She told all the family how they should run their affairs; she wrote to council- lors to tell them how to run the town and to her MP to advise him on how to run the coun- try. She called us on a regular basis and de- manded that we visit her and often we went. But we didn’t just go because we were sum- moned, or out of duty. We went because it was fun to lock horns with her bossiness, or to listen to her spirited arguments or to enjoy her redeeming feature, her tremendous sense of humour. But mainly we went out of love. For

despite all her attempts to domineer it was al- ways apparent how much she loved her nieces and nephews and their children. And, despite the number of times we felt like throttling her, the love was mutual. Clearing out the house of a loved relative is always a heart- rending occupation. We’d put off the task when she first went into the nursing home. The explanation we used, to excuse our laziness, was that there may be a point when she felt recovered and fit enough to return to independent living. She didn’t; once the door had closed behind her, as far as she was concerned, that was a chapter of her life closed. All she wanted from the house were her clothes, her dressing gown and a foot- stool. The rest of her possessions she told us, with a dismissive wave of her hand, should be ‘got rid of.’ She was now in a new place with a new set of people to boss and a bell to ring. ‘Could you tell your aunt that the bell is only for emergency use, not to summon the staff to help her with her jigsaw puzzle,’ the care man- ager requested. Auntie G understood that in- struction, afterwards she only rang the bell to call for help if she felt unwell or dizzy, then she asked the care assistant, ‘while you are here can you see where this bit of jigsaw fits?’ In the wardrobe there were clothes with a scent that over-ruled the background whiff of mothballs. It was the scent of 4711, the eau-de- cologne she had worn for years and was so evocative of her. A beige, well-worn cardigan brought back memories of her with it wrapped around her shoulders, sitting too close to the coal fire. Old but well cared for coats handbags and shoes spoke of outings to weddings, chris- tenings and funerals when they were briefly brought out of the protective wrappings. Then there was the furniture, cared for and polished

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to within an inch of its life which was now cart- ed, unceremoniously, off to the Salvation Army shop. Her precious nest of tables, which I was told, was my inheritance but which I didn’t want, joined the sideboards, sofa and heavy oak wardrobes. The pans worn by the scouring and cleaning of years joined the furniture in the re- moval van. Then there were the kitchen cup- boards to empty; tins of peas that still had the pre-decimal currency price labels on them; herb and spice packets that were five years and more beyond their sell-by date; the tins of evaporated milk, thirty-six of them. Why would anybody need thirty-six tins of evaporated milk? In her bedroom drawer we found her old address book. It was poignant to see that

baby; black and white pictures taken in an un- recognised summer garden. There was one of her and her two brothers and her sister, all smil- ing and dressed in tennis whites. Three fit and good-looking young people and herself, shorter dumpier and plain. As an elderly lady she bore a striking resemblance to a gargoyle but it ap- peared that she never was much of a looker. The ugly duckling amongst the swans; yet that ugly duckling out-lived all the beautiful swans. In the drawer was a small diary dated 1942. Many of the pages had been removed, many were blank or simply had a time and an initialled reference against them, only five pages remained intact and filled in. Friday March 27 th : Met up with Mavis and

Douglas. Mavis brought Johnny along and we went out for afternoon tea. A lovely day. Hope I get to meet Johnny again. Sunday April 26 th : First Sunday off for months, the four of us went for a long walk in the woods. Johnny was great fun. Saturday May 9 th : Dance at the mess. Good band. Didn’t dance. Sat at the bar with Johnny. Had too many G&T’s. Had to hold each other up going back to barracks.

scrawly handwriting, which had adorned so many of our birthday and Christmas cards, still alive. It was a book that dated back years so we didn’t rec- ognise many of the names and many of the ones we did recog- nise were crossed through. It appeared that once a friend or relative died they re- ceived a thick black scribble across their name. She was the eldest of four children who all had passed away years ago. Her siblings names in the address book had joined her deceased

Wednesday 10 th June: Mavis was on duty so just Johnny and me met up. Went to cinema. Day- light when we came out so went for a walk. Saturday 25 th July: So busy recently this first time that Johnny and me have the same day off. Went for drink then for a walk. Warm night. Full moon. Stayed out until sun-rise. Wish the night had never ended. That was it, the rest of the pages had been removed. Had the relationship with Johnny progressed or simply floundered in the mire of wartime Britain? In that fragile time did Johnny survive? Did he have a wife far away from where they were stationed? Where were they stationed? The diary gave no clues. Yet the dia- ry did give a brief insight into the person she was before she became the eternally elderly, perennial spinster Auntie G that we all knew. The person in the diary was a complete stranger

Image courtesy of the Oliver Archives

friends, and neighbours in being boldly crossed out. She always looked forward, never back. She never seemed to grieve, she put a line through the dead friends and relatives and moved on. She simply treated funerals as a so- cial occasion, a time to catch up with old ac- quaintances, not as a time of sadness or reflec- tion. She loudly greeted everyone she knew, en- quired after their families and looked forward to the following wake. Maybe that was the secret of her longevity the fact that she didn’t dwell on what couldn’t be altered, she didn’t grieve for what had gone, she lived in the present. There were very few photographs amongst her personal possessions. One or two of us as children, one of a much younger her holding a

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to us, a younger, brighter person who drank too many G & T’s and went walking in the moon- light with Johnny. My ten-year old daughter once asked Auntie G if she had ever been in love. I flinched at the temerity of a child asking a question that we would never have dared to ask. I expected that she would get a sharp re- sponse, but Auntie G smiled and replied ‘once,’ then before any further questions could be asked she bustled off to make the tea. We never both- ered to ask any questions about her past and she never willingly talked about it. She once or twice mentioned she’d worked in the War Of- fice in London during the war and when a friend was visiting with me, she unexpectedly started to talk to him about being stationed in post-war Germany and the hatred of the Ger- mans for the occupying troops. I vowed that next time I visited I would ask her more about her war years and about her youth, but I never did. My cousin, David, insisted that she was a sergeant major during the war, he said it was the way she carried her umbrella as if it was a swagger stick that gave it away. I don’t think there was a rank of sergeant-major in the ATS, I think, David’s theory had more to do with her attitude than her rank. After the war she turned her sergeant-major inclinations towards the staff at a shipping company. She commanded a squadron of girls; typists, clerks and comptome- ter operators with strict rules and discipline. After I had found that diary, when it was far too late, I regretted not having asked about her past but even if I had maybe she wouldn’t have been forth-coming. The past was the past, not something to wallow in. Why do we only realise that the life the elderly had lived was full and interesting when it is too late to ask them to talk of it? At her funeral the eulogy, from a vicar who didn’t know her, was surprisingly relevant

to her life. He talked of times lived before we came into her life; it was almost as if he’d had access to that fragment of her diary. The funeral was also surprisingly well attended for a ninety- year-old who had so many names crossed out of her address book. ‘They’re just here to make sure she’s finally been consumed by the flames,’ said my cousin, Andrea, unkindly. ‘I kept ex- pecting her to sit up in her coffin and tell me I should be crying and I shouldn’t wear black be- cause it makes me look sallow. That’s what she told me at my father’s funeral.’ There were a few tears shed but when a person lives to that age there can be no real lasting regrets about their passing. I stood outside the crematorium, trying to talk to those non-relatives who had come to say their last farewells to her. A frail and delicate-looking elderly lady with fine fluffy hair escaping from under a black felt hat touched my arm. ‘I’m an old friend of your aunts,’ she told me in a thin voice, ‘I’m Dora Johnson.’ She must have noticed, from the blank expression on my face, that the name meant nothing to me. ‘Didn’t your aunt ever talk about me?’ she asked. ‘No, but then my aunt rarely talked about her past,’ I told her. She looked crest -fallen. ‘How did you know her?’ I asked gently. ‘During the war we worked at Bletchley Park,’ she paused. We watched the black hearse moving away slowly down the road. Tears formed in her eyes and one slowly trickled down her powdered, wizened cheek, ‘Are you sure she never mentioned me? I wanted to tell her, ‘Yes, she often talked about you,’ but I couldn’t lie. She lapsed into a quiet thoughtful silence. ‘Although if she talked about me, she wouldn’t have called me Dora, my dear Gretta always called me Johnny.’

***

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‘ Love is Love ’ 1/2022

A Dog ’ s Last Days

by Chris Robbins

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An Angel in Time

by Ken Smith

I can see for miles today. The air is purer than the finest glass. I’m standing on the ledge looking out, framed in a crumbling curve of limestone. All obstacles to sight are dissolved and I am open to every- thing; to all that moves below and around me. Everything is immediate: no matter how near or far, everything is poised on the edge of touch – everything is … present. I can see over the entire city, through all its crevices, into its warm corners, along its angry, seeping alleyways. I can’t recall whether it was a gift or a punish- ment to be sent to this place. It can feel so ex- hilarating and so wearisome. I am settled now upon this stone, its winged shape echoing my shimmering eternal form – and I look out. Today, on this crystal-splitting morning, it doesn’t seem to matter why I was sent. Nor can I remember precisely when I came here, into the world. It was an immensely long time ago and yet it seems as if it were only this morning. Days and years disperse in all direc- tions, well beyond the possibility of holding them still. I have noticed a change, though,

since I came here: a drawing in of time. I have started to see the things that happen solidifying as memories, fixed and curiously sharp, where- as the visions I saw before were unbounded and flowed freely. Now, I remember seeing the city burn, once when it was made of wood and mud by overwrought hands; and then later, when its supposedly more permanent bricks and stone vainly sought to fight off the flames. I remem- ber when death fell from the sky. I remember seeing the city rising from the fields. Sometimes I still try to find a reason for my presence here. I may have asked, too keenly, why this world was created and tucked into a far off, small corner of everywhere else. I may have asked what its purpose is. That was my presumption: to ask and not accept. And though from that moment I had no choice but to be sent, it was never made clear whether I was to be a witness or a guardian, a messenger or a fearless blazer of signs across the sky? There was no time for conversation about such things, only the lightning strike of a divine wish, as I was despatched, with the pointing of a finger.

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