Protest by Niles Reddick

Fiction

 

20181105_143405 (1)

Children by Kasia Grzelak, 2018

 

For Melanie Safka who performed at Woodstock

 

I read the obituary of my friend’s mother on the funeral home website and scrolled through other obituaries. I was surprised to learn my third grade teacher had died, apparently from cancer. It had been over forty years since I’d seen her, and it made me sad that I couldn’t thank her. When she taught us in third grade, all the boys, including me, had fallen in love with her.

Maybe she was our “mother figure”, like Helen Crump was to Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show. Ms. Katherine wore stylish clothes, drove a 1970 blue Camero convertible with a white stripe, and gave us all MIA bracelets to wear in memory of her husband who’d been shot down in Vietnam. We asked her if he’d be alright. Her eyes had teared, she said she didn’t know, but hated war and hoped we never had to go. We didn’t want to go either, even though we were too young, and vowed to each other at recess we’d protest if they tried to make us.

Contrary to high school and college, I don’t recall what we might have learned in Ms. Katherine’s class, but I knew I learned to love the letter “K”, the color blue, convertible Camaros, hair with frosting, dimples, and sandals that matched Ms. Katherine’s clothing. I asked my mom if Ms. Katherine could come to my seventh birthday party, and she did. I watched her smile and interact with my grandmothers, aunts, and even my mother when she wasn’t spooning out ice cream to go with each slice of cake. At some point, I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to marry her. I imagined her fighter pilot husband would approve, and I could take care of her like she took care of me at school.

My mother, who was a great cook, periodically prepared one meal that I despised and just the smell of it frying in a pan on the stove could make me throw up in my mouth or at least have dry heaves. I’d faked an allergic reaction to her fried liver, stomach aches, and diarrhea to try to get out of it and even begged for our outside dog to come inside, so I could feed him underneath the table. After she fried it, the whole house smelled and it seemed to take an entire can of Lysol, with windows open, to get rid of the smell. Finally, I made up my mind that I would protest, go on strike, and runaway, if necessary, to avoid the fried liver.

“You’ll eat it or you’ll go to bed hungry,” my mother said. Had my dad been home at that point, she may have given him her look, raised eyebrows and pursed lips, and he might have threatened a whipping.

“Oh, no, I won’t. I’m protesting, just like the people on TV.”

“You will eat it or your daddy will whip you when he gets home, just like the police do to those hippies on TV.”

“The hippies are right. War is evil. Vietnam killed Ms. Katherine’s husband. I won’t be here to eat liver or go to war.”

“You’re too young to go to war, and just where do you think you’ll be going?”

“I’m running away.”

“You’re not going anywhere, young man.”

I put some clothes in a brown grocery sack, walked out the door, got on my Huffy, sack in the basket, and drove down the hill and onto the two lane artery that ran through our town, pedaling as quick as I could until I got to Ms. Katherine’s house. By the time I glided under her carport, I cried, propped my bike against the brick wall, and knocked on her door.

“Why, Michael, what are you doing here? What’s wrong? Come on in. You want a Coke?”

She took a Coke out of the refrigerator and popped the cap off.  The glass was ice cold, I took a swig, and then explained that I loved her, I wanted to live with her, that I hated liver, and that I had runaway. We sat at her Formica dinette in the mint green kitchen and she held my hand. “Your mom and dad love you and would be very sad to know you had runaway.”

“My mother doesn’t care.”

“Oh yes, honey, she does. She may be too busy to tell you, but she loves you very much and is probably crying that you left, frantically calling your aunts and grandmothers. Let me fix you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to go with your Coke because I know you must be hungry, and we’ll put your bike in my car and I’ll drive you home before you mother cries too much and calls the police.”

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t want to be sprayed by a hose or beaten with a baton.  Ms. Katherine patted my head, told me I was a dear, and said she had high hopes for me.

Ms. Katherine’s convertible Camaro pulled in our driveway, and my mother came out crying. Mom apologized to Ms. Katherine, told her she’d been on the phone with everyone, told her the story about liver, and hugged her.  Ms Katherine told her it was fine, that I was a sensitive boy, she had high hopes for me, she’d fed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Coke, and I probably didn’t need supper.

I took my bike, put it under the carport, and unpacked my clothes from the paper sack and put them in my chest of drawers. Mom came into my room where I was playing with matchbox cars on the braided round rug on the wooden floor and told me I didn’t have to eat the liver, that she wouldn’t cook it anymore, that she didn’t really like it either, but it was good for us and she just wanted us to be healthy. That was, of course, before we knew fried foods would kill us. We hugged and I told her I was sorry, I wouldn’t protest anymore, and I wouldn’t run away again.

About the Author:

Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies and in over two hundred literary magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Cheap Pop, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others.

 

Hers/Mine by WORDSMiTH

Poetry
Motyl

A Moth to Light by Victoria Holt, 2017

 

the two saucers

are Hers

 

they are in

Her cupboard

 

but only

one cup

 

My cup is here

holding my coffee

dark, bitter & sweet

 

My cup

has no saucer

 

My cup

stands alone

 

in the cupboard

when it is empty

 

 

About the Author:

WORDSMiTH is a penname of Rob Turnbull. He is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. His life long interests are music, the dramatic arts, reading, philosophy, and travelling. He hopes that his new found love of writing will unlock even more doors to enlightenment! And he is overjoyed that Fragmented Voices should be the first to publish his work.

Introducing Stela Brix

Art

 

 

Stela Brix’s illustrations have lifted many of our beautiful written pieces. Stela is a Slovak artist who has studied fine art at the universities in Britain and Australia. She is about to finish her fine art degree at the Newcastle University. In her art work, she is often inspired by nature and the elements of wonder. She likes working in various media. Her experience involve illustrating stories and books for children. We hope that you like her sensitive and delicate work as much as we do. Feel free to get inspired by her beautiful images. Today’s word is FLOW.

Cailín Maith by Frances Mulholland

Fiction
82554332_226972814966042_5789210375605977088_n

Maria Magdalena by Ida Saudkova, c.a. 2000

 

 

‘And WHY weren’t all of you at Mass this morning?’

Father Reilly loomed over the little ones as they stood in a grubby row, their faces twitching with an impulse to laugh at this enormous gargoyle with tufts of white hair sprouting from his nostrils.

Miss Cunningham, the priest’s secretary and driver, watched, embarrassed, from the threshold of the kitchen as the kettle shrieked and whistled on the stove. The children’s Aunt Kathleen poured the boiling water onto the tea leaves, muttering in the Cant the entire time. She was still muttering when she carried the priest’s tisane through in its dainty periwinkle-blue cup and saucer.

‘In ENGLISH, if you please, Kathleen; remember, we ARE in England!’ he bellowed over her curses.

‘That’s not what you said last week, Father,’ piped one of the children, seizing her chance. ‘You said that the Holy Father was mistaken to allow the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular.’

The priest turned his rheumy blue eyes on Deirdre, who was thirteen, and Jimmy, the youngest of the siblings, saw his chance to escape. But as he made a run for it, Father Reilly’s enormous paw clamped down on his shoulder, and held him fast.

‘So we can add listening at doors to the LITANY of transgressions you have failed to confess, Miss Connolly? That was a private conversation between myself and your brother, who, coincidentally, has also not seen fit to grace us with his presence at Mass today!’

‘He’s unwell,’ retorted Deirdre. Upstairs, she could hear the effort of Gerry trying to be quiet as he moved around his bedroom.

Father Reilly peered up at the ceiling. ‘The old injury?’ He drained the dainty teacup in one gulp.

Deirdre nodded. Gerry had taken a bullet in the Battle of Monte Cassino. It had never healed properly, and Father Reilly was not known to be sympathetic even to those injured in the course of their duty to King and Country.

‘Athract,’ began the priest, turning to Deirdre’s grandmother, ‘you understand that it gives me no pleasure to visit you here today. You, of course, are welcome to receive Communion in your home, on account of your age and infirmity, but when hale and hearty children risk the wrath of God, and imperil their immortal SOULS – ’

Bridget, who was only seven, began to blub. This was nothing new. At least eight children had been reduced to tears by him this week alone in Catechism.

Athract waved a bony hand dismissively. ‘The little ones were enjoying the snow. They all say their prayers before bed and do their bit around the house. I think that pleases God, even if it doesn’t please you.’

‘Might I use your lavatory, Mrs Connolly?’ asked Miss Cunningham. Athract shrugged, and jerked her head towards the back door. Miss Cunningham was used to less well-off families regarding her with suspicion and disdain.

‘Fetch me some more tea when you’re done, Miss Cunningham,’ barked Father Reilly, thrusting his cup at her.

She squeezed awkwardly past Kathleen, who was doing a reading for a neighbour, and ran into the outhouse, her teeth chattering. She was still carrying the priest’s teacup.

She locked the netty door behind her and thought of all the things she needed to ask her employer forgiveness for. How she’d casually scraped her door key the length of Father Reilly’s car when she’d seen him parked outside Mrs Lewis’ house, because he’d thrashed her son Michael for daring to ask if maybe God wasn’t real. How she’d let his tyres down after seeing  Morag Anderson wet herself in terror during assembly by bellowing to the whole school how he’d seen her sticking her tongue out during the Eucharist. How she and the curate had gotten tipsy at a wake last week and egged each other on to crueller and funnier impersonations of Reilly.

I’ll give him something worth absolving me for.

She pulled down her knickers, and aimed a warm stream of piss into the translucent china vessel. Before leaving, she shook herself, and genuflected reverently at the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that hung on the inside of the netty door. His warm, pale, oval face smiled down blandly at her own sharp features.

“Thy will be done,” she muttered.

 

About the Author:

Frances Mulholland has been writing ever since she was five years old, when she realised that putting an amusing caption on a drawing of her dad could get cheap laughs. Her inspirations include folklore and mythology, as well as the everyday lives of the people around her. She lives in Northumberland.

Two Poems by Eileen Carney Hulme

Poetry

 

Amy McCartney- Church window

A Church Window by Amy McCartney, 2019

 

If Clouds Could See the Cracks in Stones

Watching the Oklahoma sunset, Donald

writes I Love Your Ghost and his heart

skips a beat until it reaches the Leachkin

to sit by the cradle stone where he lets

his words escape. He is travelling light

as dandelion clocks, finds himself in odd

unfamiliar places sipping whisky while

his heart, often out of kilter, finds its

touchstone in the North. This is like

the day you left, he thinks, but the words

are out there, away with the breeze. He searches

his pockets for a knife, a scrap of paper,

an answer to a question never asked.

 

From the Great Book of Distances

Donald tells me he is afraid

of leaving and having left

wakes in the night, thinking

of trees and roads and ghosts.

He wants to telephone, to know

we are ok but trees have no

numbers, roads are circular

and the ghosts do not reply.

So he gets up, puts the kettle on,

remembers Dan and his music,

wonders why the distance between

here and there is never less.

 

i.m.of Dan 1980-2007

 

About the Author:

Eileen Carney Hulme lives in the north east of Scotland. She has three full collections published as well as having many poems published in  anthologies, poetry magazines and online poetry websites.  She has won or been placed in a number of poetry competitions. More info can be found on her author page at Indigo Dreams Publishing https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/ech-tsm/4589983025

 

Introducing Kasia Grzelak

Art

Our regular readers are familiar with Kasia’s work. You can learn about her inspirations and background in her personal statement. We love Kasia’s work, the playfulness, that reflects our world sometimes almost in a satirical way. If you like, you can get inspired by her work. Today’s word: dystopian.

 

 

 

 

 

Artist’s Personal Statement:

Work by Kasia Grzelak consists of paintings on canvas and paper. She explores the concept of Polish Identity in England after immigrating to North West  of England in 2006.

As a Polish immigrant Kasia Grzelak has been using painting as a translatory form of expression throughout her experience of two cultures. Her large scale work on paper , attempts to convey emotions through form making, often placing Polish women against a symbol to represent individual experiences they had during immigration. She creates these large drawings to convey a certain vulnerability and alienation that Polish working-class women feel in the North of England. She is particularly fascinated in how psychological states can convey and correspond to physical and social spaces. Through conversations with her subjects, she uses pets, reflections and objects to tie to an individual and become representative of their experience.

Her work on canvas attempts to capture a sense of moment in the painting. Her paintings depict everyday life whilst capturing aspects of her culture through details. Through her position of figures you will get an idea about the relationship dynamics between the people portrayed and what they represent.

 

Knives and Forks by Sarah Leavesley

Fiction
Red_in_the_Morning

Red in the Morning by Stela Brix, 2018

“There’s no milk!” Luke slams our fridge door closed, then tips his bran flakes back into the packet as noisily as feet stomping on shattered glass. “Didn’t you sort the shopping?”

“Oscar had two bowls of Cheerios this morning. I thought I’d get some on my way back with the kids, as I’m dropping and picking up again!” I try not to shout but my tone is unmistakably barbed. These days whenever we talk about money, work and chores, simple sounds, letters and gestures are suddenly as sharp as knives, pierce like forks.

Luke growls, then clunks two slices of bread into the toaster, clangs the cutlery drawer open and loudly pulls out a knife for the margarine. The kids have finished that too, I think. Though neither happening is my fault, that doesn’t stop the sliver of guilt, as I gulp my last mouthful of milky coffee.

“I’m sorry, Tilly finished the spread with her toast.” I say, putting my arms around Luke’s back before he opens our near-empty fridge again, twists to throw another jibe or I have to look him in the face and see his tired disappointment. But he doesn’t move, doesn’t say anything, simply rests there in my hug, swaying slightly.

When he finally turns to look at me, his exhausted expression mirrors how I feel. We’re like two ghosts living on the memory of who we were ten years ago.

“Do you want a cereal bar?” I rummage through my bag and pull out a green packet. It’s a little squashed and crumpled from weeks of being carried just in case, but Luke swallows it in two bites, then crunches through one slice of dry toast.

Oscar bounces into the kitchen with his book bag, followed by Tilly.

“Time to go!” she announces, looking up at her dad and me with expectation.

I glance across at Luke. He’s still frowning, forehead puckered by lines as if his whole essence of being were buried deep inside his mind. Sometimes, the unspoken thoughts between us feel sharper and more piercing than any hurled words.

“I’ll be home around seven,” he offers, smiling briefly before he kisses us all on the cheek and grabs his car key.

#

Later, as I unload the shopping after my shift, I realise I used the wrong bank card. I’m not sure it matters much; I know they’re all close to maxed out. Maybe that’s what Luke’s not telling me. I try to bite back my tears, wondering how it got to this – crying over milk that isn’t even there to spill.

I switch my phone on and it buzzes a backlog of messages.

I’m sorry. Neck massage later. Xx Luke’s text must have been from this morning, but with work rules, it’s only now that I get to read it.

There was a time when I’d have made his favourite lasagne and he’d have bought me cherry ganache to savour while he flirted with what to massage next – turning even a row into romantic foreplay.

But these are not those days.

Ok, me too. See you later. Xxx I reply, then cut two small sandwiches for Oscar and Tilly, who are beautiful and funny and cute but always hungry for something.

There’s no text back. The conversations in which neither of us want to say goodbye or stop chatting belong to different versions of ourselves, in a different relationship.

I take out the ‘Non-Stop Red’ lipstick I slipped into my pocket just before the checkout. It’s wrong, of course; I felt it as soon as I left the store. But it’s not like I can simply return the lipstick. And the colour looks so good, as if it were invented for my kiss. I examine ghost Claire in the mirror: my lips are the only part of me that’s still alive.  Simon says my smile’s the first thing he noticed. But smiling comes naturally when I’m around him.

I pull away from the mirror and these thoughts. While Oscar’s busy playing and Tilly’s sorting her homework, I might have an hour to prepare something different for dinner. I’ve not tried homemade tomato soup in a while, but I think I remember everyone loving it. Besides, it’s quick, will slip down easily and only needs spoons.

 

 

About the Author:

Sarah Leavesley is a fiction writer, poet, journalist and photographer, with flash published by journals including Jellyfish Review, Litro, Spelk, Ellipsis, Fictive Dream and Bending Genres.