by G.J. Williams
It’s in his face: no dog and twenty old ghosts. It’s in the way he sits, his clothes shining with years of ingrained dirt. Been in those clothes so long they’d have to be surgically removed, layer by layer. A man without. Muttering into his beard. And that muttering of his can fire up and things get noisy. Many’s the scuffle he’s had with thin air. Leathered on god knows what gutrot. Been at the end of his life for years kind of bloke. Always on his tod. With a bunch of ghosts. And like I say, no dog.
Ninety-year-old bare skin is crepe, crossed with turkey’s wattle and if you lightly bump or grip too tight it bruises like an evil has been done. My mother hates that her arms, her neck, her décolletage look this way.
When I hug her I can see Mum’s scalp through the thinning, flyaway hair now worn short, as her fingers can no longer manage hair ties. Mum was always proud of her hair so she hates that too.
Worse still is the oedema, the fluid retention that merges her ankles and calves into one inflamed whole. Anyone would hate that.
EVERYTHING MUST GO
by E. O’Neill
The hands of a thousand brides carry the life’s work of Saul Bergman. Stone tokens of love everlasting, each expertly cut and polished under his watchful eye. Now, the sign in the store window announces the closeout sale. The sign’s reach goes far beyond the store’s inventory. Its message has roots and limbs. It grows like ivy and covers all.
Four rows away a lawnmower rumbles, drowning out the rabbi’s prayer. Ida grieves but doesn’t weep. She steels herself to the weather’s chill and the uncertainty of the future. She’ll move to West Islip to be closer to her sister.
The Merest Crack
by Philippa Bowe
Syl balances on the Waterloo Bridge balustrade, waits for a sign, body swaying though there’s no wind, battered by gusts of forever-anxiety, and there! the last city lights stutter and go out, snuffed by the night’s dark, time to let go, plunge into the water below, wet cold shadows enfolding her, time to sink and rest, but no, up she floats on pillowing wings of clothes and lungs, face breaking the surface, tilting up to a seeping cleft in the sky, a finger of light beckoning as a solitary star – tiny, determined – eyeballs her, and she says, Well okay then.