Dandelion

It was unusually bright as they walked that morning. The skies had been grey for weeks, but now the sun shone weakly overhead and Derek squinted as he went.

An unassuming man by all accounts; harmless with his feathery white hair, hunched shoulders, and padded jerkin.

A little girl of ten trailed miserably behind him, cold in her summer dress, and her bleached blonde hair whipping around her face.

‘I told you to wear something warmer,’ Derek called back smugly.

She said nothing, but her scowl grew deeper.

After a while, Derek began to feel sorry for her. ‘We can go home soon, okay?’

She folded her arms crossly. ‘I want my mum,’ she said, stamping her foot.

Derek stopped and knelt in front of her, irritated by her sticking out her lower lip.

‘You don’t have a mum any more,’ he said sternly, ‘or a dad. It’s just you and me.’

‘You’re lying!’ she shouted. ‘Mum says it’s wrong to lie!’

Derek grabbed her arm and yanked her towards him. ‘I’m not lying,’ he growled. ‘It’s just us.’

Her eyes welled up and her chin wobbled.

‘Now, now, don’t cry,’ Derek said, a little softer. He looked around for something to cheer her up, and found it in the form of his favourite yellow flower.

‘Look,’ he said, picking it for her. ‘It’s a dandelion. Happy and beautiful, just like you,’ he smiled. ‘My Dandy…’

At this, the girl snatched the flower away from him, crushed it in her hand and threw it to threw it to the ground. ‘I’m not Dandy!’ she yelled. ‘I’m not Dandy!’

She took off running, but she was nowhere near fast enough. Derek thought she would have known that by now.

He stepped across her path and grabbed her arm again, twisting it harshly.

‘You’re Dandy,’ he said. ‘You’re Dandy, aren’t you?’

She started crying, but this only angered Derek more, and he twisted his arm further. ‘You’re Dandy, aren’t you?’

She nodded, tears streaking her cheeks.

He let go and continued to walk, as if nothing had happened.

Unbeknownst to him, the girl had a small pocket it her dress, from which she pulled a tiny purple bag. She held it up to her snot-smeared nose and sniffed. Lavender. As long as she had this, she could remember her real name, and someone would find her. They had to.

She sniffed it again as they passed a post, and Derek ripped a poster bearing her face down from it.

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Interview: Cas Fletcher

Asexual Artists

Today we’re joined by Cas Fletcher. Cas is a wonderful writer who writes in a variety of forms. She writes short fiction, poetry, and fanfiction. Cas is currently working on a longer story, which might become a novel. It’s very apparent that she loves the art of writing, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I mostly write short stories and poetry, but I also write fanfiction and I am planning something of a longer piece at the moment. Not sure if it’ll be a full length novel, but I suppose I’ll find out when I get there.

What inspires you?

I feel like I have a lot of different stories to tell and I am mostly motivated by my characters demanding that I write them down, however I do feel like another…

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Impulse Buy

‘He’s too big’
I complained.
‘We could use a challenge’
she said.
I stared at him in his new tank.
‘He was in that shop for so long’
Mum said, not noticing his water bowl
was empty.
 
‘His name is Frank’
she said.
‘Great.’
I said, holding him at arm’s length.
His long, scaly body felt dry.
I check his humidity.
Mum doesn’t look up from the TV.
 
‘I don’t know why we got him’
I said, cleaning out his poop.
‘I just felt so sorry for him’
she said, watching me.
I cleaned his newspaper bedding.
I changed his water.
Mum had lost interest.
 
‘He looked so sad in that shop’
said Mum.
‘I know, you’ve said’
I tried to tempt Frank with his food.
Mum clicks through the channels.
I tap his thermostat,
the ‘on’ light flickering back to life.
 
‘He’s so cold!’
Mum cried.
‘His heat was off’
I said, immediately going to the faulty thermostat.
I took him in my arms.
Warmed him with my body.
‘Well turn it back on then!’
I said, impatient.
She hesitated,
did nothing.
 
‘Someone must have left it open’
Mum said.
I stared at the empty tank.
I said nothing.
It was too cold for him outside.
A shame, a waste.
I never wanted him but
I loved him.
She only wanted him for his story.

Halls of Residence

Halls of Residence

 

My bags are packed

into Nana’s car.

I say goodbye.

I’m going.

 

Stop for lunch.

I’m so excited.

Can’t wait to get there.

I’m gone.

 

Park the car.

I see a guy with a full-sized fridge and

drag my bags up the stairs.

I’m here.

 

All unpacked.

Books on the shelf.

I say goodbye.

Nana’s gone.

 

 

Take it in.

Get taken out.

 

I say hello.

I make a friend.

 

In his room.

With cool guitars.

I see a note.

It’s from his mum.

 

She wishes him luck.

Says she’s proud.

 

She misses him.

He misses her.

 

In my room. I have no note.

 

I don’t miss my mum.

She doesn’t miss me.

 

She doesn’t miss me. She won’t miss me. I don’t miss her.

 

I won’t miss her.

Salad’s Golden Eye

Vibrations ripple through the water. Maybe Dave (or Dan?) is here to feed me. I am getting rather hungry. My name is Salad, probably, and I think I’m a goldfish. I’m definitely some kind of fish. I swim up to where I think the glass pane is and look out. I can’t see much through the grime; I don’t think Dan has cleaned yet. Something yellow flashes past and the water vibrates again. Suddenly, a hand breaks the surface, wielding a sponge. It cleans the muck from the glass and Dave’s smiling face appears in front of me.

‘There you are,’ he says fondly. ‘Are you hungry?’

He picks up a familiar, blue tub and delicately sprinkles some of the flakes over the water. I swim swiftly to the surface and suck them in eagerly. Dave continues to scrub at the glass of the tank.

‘Everything has to be perfect, Salad,’ Dan tells me happily. ‘Veronica is coming over.’

Veronica. I think I’ve heard that name before.

‘I’ve told you about her before, haven’t I?’ he says absent-mindedly. ‘I don’t suppose it would matter if I had. You are only a fish.’

I slowly float down the tank, following the few flakes that I had missed and began gulping at the gravel that lay unevenly along the bottom. They must be around here somewhere.

Dan begins to hum as he sprays cleaning fluid over the counter and fills a bucket of water to mop with. I am quite happy to listen to him until he gets out the hoover. That awful contraption is not easily forgotten. The noise it makes frightens the scales off  me. I go to hide inside my house where it’s dark and safe, and no one can see me, but once I’m inside I feel something round and hard pressing against my side. I shift slightly to let some light shine inside and see a little snail stuck to the wall. I remember that this is the risk-taking snail. It always tries to escape from the tank, but Dan always catches it. It is a lot braver than the midnight snail, who only appears at night when it thinks no one can see it. Actually, this could be the midnight snail and I’ve found one of its hiding places. If that’s the case, then where is the risk-taking snail? I am suddenly gripped by worry for the snail and consider going to look for it, but the hoover is still going and I am still scared. I am not a risk-taking fish.

At last, Dave is done with the hoover and he puts it away in its evil lair before pulling on some yellow rubber gloves to do the washing up. I peek tentatively through the door of my house and float cautiously out of it. What was I doing? Was I looking for something? Oh, that’s right, I was looking for the risk-taking snail. I swim all around the tank, scanning all four glass walls from the bottom up, and I find it near the surface. Its shell had not yet been exposed to the air, so I suck on it in an attempt to pull it off, but its suction powers are stronger than mine. Unperturbed by my interruption, it continues to inch towards the dry atmosphere. I swim back to face Dave and try to catch his attention, but then someone knocks on the door. It is a sharp knock, full of purpose, but it is also cold and I remember that I do not like whoever this knock belongs to. I sink out of sight.

Dan is delighted by the knock, however, and hurriedly pulls off the gloves, shoving them away before rushing to the door. He opens it and a tall woman dressed in a tailored black dress sweeps in. Her immaculately dyed, blonde hair, reflects light, making it appear brighter than it is. She takes off her sunglasses and scans the room haughtily.

‘Hello, Veronica,’ Dan smiles, his voice quivering slightly.

‘Good afternoon,’ she replies vaguely, not bothering to even look at him. She places her shiny, red handbag on the freshly-cleaned counter.

‘How are you, today?’ Dan asks nervously.

‘I am well, and yourself?’

He doesn’t answer, nodding his head instead. Veronica leans against the counter and starts tapping her manicured nails against the counter impatiently. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the risk-taking snail let go of the side of the tank, it having decided that facing Veronica was too big of a risk.

‘Can I get you anything to drink?’ asks Dave, rubbing his hands together shakily.

‘No, thank you, Daniel.’

‘David.’

‘Yes, that’s what I said.’

They stay locked in the same position for a long while, Dan fidgeting nervously, and Veronica examining her nails lazily. I take the opportunity to swim up to her while her back is turned and get a better look at her. I have definitely seen her before, but I just can’t put my fin on it. Suddenly, she turns gracefully and stares me full in the face.

‘How sweet,’ she says, though I doubt she means it at all. ‘He has one gold eye.’

‘The better to see you with,’ Dave jokes feebly.

‘You must tell me his name,’ she continues, as if he hadn’t spoken.

‘Well, his name’s Salad.’

‘What on Earth kind of a name is that?’ she asks brightly, in an attempt at charm.

Dan falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. He blushes lightly.

‘He reminded me of fish and chips, but I thought he would prefer to be healthier, like a salad,’ he mumbles.

‘How positively adorable,’ she smiles, turning back to face him. He blushes even more and she moves closer to him. She lightly trails a hand down his chest and then pulls him in for a kiss. He gasps but doesn’t pull away and she guides him carefully back towards the counter. They continue to kiss and I start getting annoyed. What does a fish have to do to get some food around here?

Veronica held Dave closely with one hand and slowly pulls her bag towards her with the other. Then, without warning, she shoves her hand into it and draws out a nasty looking knife. Quick as a flash, she pushes Dan away from her and slides it aggressively into his chest, right between two ribs and into his lung. He coughs and pulls at it weakly, looking at Veronica with an expression of confusion and hurt, before falling heavily to the floor. Veronica tuts in annoyance, kicking him away from her expensive shoes. She yanks the knife out and wipes it on Dan’s jumper, then puts it away in her bag. She turns to look at me again. She smiles her first true smile and dips her bloody fingers in my water, the crimson drops swirling around in the tank, turning the water from clear, to a light shade of pink. Once she’s gotten the blood off and dried her hands on her skirt, she taps the side of her nose.

‘Let’s just keep this one between us, eh, Salad?’

She laughs maniacally, walking around the kitchen to a painting on the opposite wall. She moves it aside to reveal a small, silver safe set in the wall. I swear that had never been there before. She taps in the passcode and opens it, stopping for a second to savour the sight in front of her. The safe is stuffed full of notes that Dave had been saving. I think he wanted to go scuba diving to meet more fish. Moving all of the money from inside efficiently into her bag, Veronica kicks at Dan again on the way out and closes the door gently behind her.

It’s getting dark outside now and I can’t see anything beyond my tank. That’s all right though, because that means that nothing can see me either. Vibrations ripple through the water and the door slams open. Maybe Dave (or Dan?) is here to feed me. I am getting rather hungry.

The Great Escape

Cali sat at the top of the stairs, peeking through the white bannister at her parents. This time it wouldn’t be so easy to fool them. They knew now to hide the spare key somewhere else, so the front door was a no-go. She bit her lip at that. The front door was the least squeaky in the house, her dad kept it well-oiled in case of company.

Both of her parents had their backs to her currently, watching TV, which may have provided an opportunity for her if her mother didn’t have the superhuman ability to sense her footsteps. They laughed at something on the TV and she backed further into the shadows just as her father threw his head back. Then she was suddenly struck with an idea.

‘Thanks, Dad,’ she whispered as she quietly rushed back to her room. She threw herself down at her cluttered dressing table and dug through her drawers, pulling out makeup, a hair brush and a hand mirror, which she stuffed into the flattest bag she could find. She took off the jewellery she was wearing, which also went into the bag, and wrapped herself in her fluffy pink dressing gown, making sure the bag wasn’t visible. She’d wanted to wear her, lace-up boots tonight, but they weren’t practical for this particular plan. She instead opted for her black, fold-up ballet flats that fit perfectly in her pocket. For the finishing touches, she smudged her makeup and mussed up her hair – nothing that couldn’t be fixed later – and padded confidently down the stairs. As expected, her mother turned around just as her bare foot hit the bottom step.

‘What’s up?’ her mother asked, looking her up and down suspiciously.

‘Just going to do some homework in the kitchen,’ she said innocently. ‘The wind keeps blowing the tree outside against my window and it’s driving me insane.’

Her mum narrowed her eyes, but didn’t question it.

‘All right, well, I’m off to bed so don’t stay up too late. Goodnight.’

She kissed Cali and her dad goodnight.

‘I’ll be up in a minute,’ her dad said.

Cali tried to walk calmly into the kitchen, barely able to contain her glee and disbelief at her luck. Both her parents were going to bed and would hopefully fall asleep thinking she was using the family computer in the kitchen. Her feet touched the cool tiles and after she closed the door, she did a small, celebratory dance. Her dad had always suffered with high body temperatures, and there, on the other side of the kitchen, was the window that he always left open. Easily reachable by climbing on the counter.

She jumped up on the counter and tiptoed over to the window, jumping out and closing it most of the way behind her, so that if one of her parents did come into the kitchen for any reason, they would assume she had gone to bed. She hung her dressing gown in the shed, slipped on her shoes and exited through the back gate. Once she was a safe distance from the house, she called her best friend Bella.

‘Cali! Did you make it?’ she asked.

‘I made it! I’m on my way,’ Cali said.

Bella screamed down the phone and Cali winced, holding the phone away from her ear.

‘Awesome! I’ll let our ride know.’

They hung up and Cali skipped down the road to Bella’s house.

 

Hours later, Cali wearily trudged up behind her house and grabbed her dressing gown from the shed. The party had been amazing and she was particularly proud of herself for turning down the alcohol. Not that she wanted it, but her mother would have been able to smell it a mile away. She smiled to herself, turned to the window and froze. Inside the window stood her brother, grinning maliciously, waving with one hand and holding up the window key with the other. Cali gave him her best ‘I’ll kill you later’ look and hurried around to the front door. She scrabbled under the fake rock in the front yard for the emergency key, but the curtains in the living room move aside and there was her brother again, waving the key gleefully.

Cali hung her head. She knew she had lost. Her brother disappeared and she knew he would replace all the keys in the morning and come up with some excuse as to why he had locked the kitchen window. Dragging her feet, she went to the front door and rang the doorbell, ready to face her parents’ wrath.

Café de Luna pt 2

Luna walked into the café, fiddling with her bag and adjusting her skirt. She knew it was a bad idea to wear it today, but she couldn’t help herself, it was just so pretty. It went so well with her flower headband so she just had to. At least it kept her legs cool in this weather.

She went up to the counter and grimly ordered a decaf latte. Trying to cut down on caffeine was one thing, but she just couldn’t give up the taste, even if it was a little different when decaffeinated. As she waited for him to add the order to his list, she felt a creeping feeling on the back of her neck that tore her between looking to see what it was and keeping her eyes fixed on the coffee board above the counter. The boy told her it would only be a few minutes, so she lifted the laptop bag back onto the shoulder that it was trying to slip off of and started towards a seat. As she turned around, she caught the stare of a man in the centre of the café, a stare that he was clearly trying to conceal but not able to. His eyes looked hungry and she shivered, then walked past him, determined not to look at him again or let him know that he was having an effect on her.

Sitting by the window near the back, she opened her laptop and loaded up Facebook, then Tumblr, then Match.com. She checked all three for messages, which she had none of, and became aware of the man staring at her still. He had even turned in his seat to continue looking at her. She hoped he would stop soon and take the hint, though as time went on, she realised he wouldn’t.

‘Decaf latte for Luna,’ the boy at the counter called. She steeled herself to walk past the man again and went to collect her order. On her way past, she felt her skirt catch on him and clenched her jaw. She heard him sigh and tried to delay her time at the counter by ordering a small cake as well. As she turned back, the man was still staring so she decided to take action.

Luna stomped up to the man’s table and sat herself in front of him. She took a bite from her cake while she tried to think of something to say. His enraptured expression began to get to her so she just blurted out:

‘Why are you staring at me?’ she asked.

‘Because you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,’ he said breathlessly.

‘Well stop it. It’s creepy.’

She watched his expression change to that of crushing disappointment, then saw a flash of anger in his eyes.

‘My boyfriend will be here soon, so stop staring at me,’ she said hurriedly, knowing full well that she didn’t have one, and got up to go back to her seat, leaving the cake she bought in her haste.

Not long after she saw him leave, and she sighed a breath of relief.

Café de Luna

The girl’s blonde hair caught the sunlight and shimmered down her back. Jason stood, transfixed. The people in the café around him no longer mattered as she drifted in through the door. She was perfect in every way. He knew just from looking at her that she was The One. He had to speak to her, get her name and number, but she turned her pure blue eyes onto him and he lost all feeling in his legs. He quietly lamented his fate, all the while hoping she would once again look at him and feel his longing for her. He drunk in every aspect of her being, looking closer for the details that only made him fall more in love with her. She had purple flowers in her hair and the laptop bag on her shoulder was covered in Star Trek and Doctor Who stickers. The more he looked, the more perfect she was.

Once the girl had placed her order, Jason tried to conceal his staring and he caught a slight scent of lavender as she breezed past him to sit in a chair by the window. She pulled out her laptop. He couldn’t see what she was doing, but he had no doubt that she was writing a blog on highly intelligent subjects. He stared at the back of her laptop, seeing yet more stickers and he smiled at her good taste. The boy behind the counter called out her order and her name.

‘Decaf latte for Luna,’ he called.

He sighed in rapture. Luna. Only she could have such an exquisite name. She walked past him again and this time her skirt brushed his skin. He hoped that she would notice him on her way back.

Luna picked up her coffee and decided that she would have a small cake as well. She never made it all the way back to her seat, instead placing herself down in front of Jason and nibbled on her cake a little.

‘Why are you staring at me?’ she asked, her voice smooth as silver.

‘Because you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,’ he said breathlessly.

‘Well stop it. It’s creepy.’

His world shattered beneath him and he felt disappointment he had never known.

‘But-‘

‘My boyfriend will be here soon, so stop staring at me.’

She got up, leaving the cake as some sort of conciliatory prize, and went back to her seat, leaving Jason to sink into misery. She wasn’t as perfect as he thought she was.

My Old Dad

My Old Dad

Group therapy is probably the worst thing that was ever invented. You go in, listen to other people moan about their problems and then be expected to talk about your own. Well, not me. If they think that they can turn me into a weepy old ponce that doesn’t know how to shut up, then they have another thing coming.

If I hate it so much, then why am I here, you ask. Court ordered. That’s right. Big fat court order. Thick paper as well. So, not only have they got to send me to this useless meeting, they have to destroy the environment as well. It’s not even my fault that I’m here. I was having a right good time of it, but then this prozzie gave me some right clean heroin and I went off on one. Bloody bitch was just lucky I didn’t deck her one. Then again, I’m just lucky I wasn’t sent to prison. First offence and all, and it’s not like anyone was hurt. I mean, it was a near thing what with that woman screeching at me, but, hey, I’m here now.

There’s this one woman who sits across from me. Never caught her name, not that I was listening. She’s one of them that’s constantly crying. Got herself addicted to cough syrup. Cough syrup! I don’t know how one person can be so boring, or how she can go so long without showering. I’ve not seen her with clean hair once. No wonder her kids never want to see her, she must smell something awful, and that’s without the cough syrup breath! The counsellor just sits there and eats it up, nodding sagely like he knows something. He doesn’t; he only just got out of university. I’m old enough to be his dad and he thinks that he knows better than me. Bloody young people. They think they know all the answers. Truth is, nobody does. I used to think I had all the answers. I used to think I was right cool. Swaggering down the pub and amazing everyone with my wisdom. People stopped believing I had it right about the time my wife left me, but I couldn’t be told. I would just sit in that pub and bang on about how the wife didn’t know what she was talking about, like one of those sad old regulars that sit crying into their whiskey in the corner. I’m not one to cry. I’ve only ever cried once and that was when someone kicked me in my crown jewels, and I’m proud of that.

My old dad always told me that men don’t cry, and damn right am I a man. My dad was the best man that ever lived. He taught me everything I know, but by far the best thing he taught me was how to punch. A man’s got to know how to punch, you know, ’cause if he doesn’t, then he might as well be a woman. Don’t give me all that ‘but women fight too’ bollocks because you can teach a woman how to do whatever but that doesn’t give her the raw power that men have.

My dad was the best, all right. Knew how to treat women, he did. Kept my mum right in line, made sure she knew her place and wasn’t afraid to give her a good wallop when she deserved it. She never got the message though, bloody stupid woman. She went and left too and took my baby sister with her. As if she had the right! You see, I don’t have a problem! It’s the bloody women! They ruin everything. They should all learn to keep their bloody mouths shut and let the men get on with it, ’cause I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a woman opening her hole..