Wednesday 29 February 2012

Edinburgh Departures

They were dressed in black. Corporate Bohemian. They could have been mistaken for a couple. She talked incessantly, her coffee cup at her lips. She was being herself, he guessed. He had spent the day trying desperately to be something other than what he was, trying to be something she might want, something more Corporate than Bohemian. Her lips were moving, but he couldn't hear. His own voice was loud in his head. Don't leave. Not yet. Please. She placed the cup on its saucer. 'I'd better go through,' she said. He embraced her. It wasn't like the last time, twenty years before, when he was the one who was leaving, when she had begged him to stay as he wiped tears from her eyes. 'I wish I'd had kids with you,' he said, but it was too late. She was gone, turning the corner into Security, the place where they check for things you shouldn't be carrying.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

The Next Stop Is Croy and other stories - Andrew McCallum Crawford

A series of six short stories about the complex relationship between a son and his father.


The stories in this collection were not written in the order in which they appear here; they certainly were not conceived as part of a continuous narrative. However, I have decided to bring them together because of the chronology and themes which, it turns out, run through them. Please bear in mind that this is in no way a novella or novelette. It is a collection of short stories, and each story stands or falls on its own, as short stories must.


 A beautifully written portrayal of things felt but not said. - Carol McKay

Andrew's new collection is like finding a flower sprouting out of cracked concrete - it's unexpected and he's yet little known.......eminently readable. - Steve Alker

There are no great tragic outpourings; tragedy is a very personal experience, marked by memories of seemingly trivial things......But, when recollected, they have the resonance of major life events, signifying much more than their surface suggests. The stories convey the fragmentation of life, its refusal to cohere into a constant flow, the power of memories and the helplessness we feel before them. - Bill Kirton

I've had the honour of publishing other works by Andrew McCallum Crawford and I hope that you seize the opportunity to read this moving collection of stories. - Amy Burns

The book is available for purchase here and here.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

The Lovers on Wee Fictions - Brian Hill

Welcome to My Life, Tattoo

In the wide mirror I sat, a chain around my wrist, as blue as the sky, on my arm, a net, running up the skin, reticulated. Over time, my eyes had become watery and ill-defined, just as the tattooed skin had blurred, decade by decade. So, too, the memories they stood for, feathered at the edges, merging. Tattoos: moments scratched beneath the surface. As if memory alone was not enough.

I put my shirt back on, covered up my illustrated past. Most days I lived without it bothering me. But today was St Valentine’s and I remembered. The first cut is the deepest. Like the song.

I actually claimed the Who inspired my first tattoo, from their song of the same name. It was almost a complete lie. No, I did it for love. Unrequited, as it turned out. Unacknowledged. I pulled up the sleeve on my left arm. On the inside, just above the elbow, where I could keep it hidden: tattoo, my secret love.

Going on seventeen to my eighteen, she was pretty, fair, and I was, what, still a boy? I longed for her at a distance. I decided to have her name embroidered on my flesh, in a heart, with a crude lighting bolt, my indelible love, just out of sight, just short of painful.

It would have remained secret, but for a word from someone else. She confided, ‘Anne really likes you. She’s just shy, that’s all…’ Encouraged, I walked on air and my tattoo throbbed with the memory of its bloody making.

Valentine’s Day came. I had a card. Just the one. In the cafĂ© that evening, Baz, Anne’s brother sat across from me. Pure chance. Out of the blue, he said, ‘I’m heading back to the house. Anne’ll be there… You don’t mind?’ On the way, he added, ‘I’ll drop you off, then I’ve to get Lynn. Catch you later.’

Alone with Anne, conversation circled the unsaid. Courage was hard to find. But I found it. I got the words out. ‘Did you send me a Valentine card?’
‘No’ she replied.

All the things I could have said, all the things I could think of now, escaped my stupid tongue. Where was, ‘I think you did…’? Where, the lie, ‘I sent you one…’? Where, even, ‘I wish you had.’? No, ‘I love you’. No, ‘See me, feel me, touch me… heal me’. ‘Oh’ I said.

Baz and his girlfriend came back to find us sitting in unimaginable silence. Quizzical glances, shrugs. Love was history so I had to leave. In time, ‘Anne’ became ‘Mary-Anne’ across the tattooed heart. 'Mary-Anne with the Shaky Hand', another song by the Who. Another lie.

In the mirror after so long, I remembered it. I remembered all the tattoos that followed and the life they led me. In the blue glass, the bluer haze of my skin was a mist, like the past. I buttoned my shirt up to cover everything. My own hands were shaking.

*     *     *

Brian Hill is designer and filmmaker living in the wilds of Moray. He was, and still is, a founder member of Brian and the Brains and has also been known as the rhyme-slinger, Hilly cunctator, the cartoon cowboy, and latterly the planetarium poet. In between he has teased a living in the voluntary sector, designed for money and made tiny movies. He did have something published once and has written (and performed) many poems on astronomy, the cosmos and our heathen past, usually in complete darkness. His last public work was a voice over and short poem for Gill Russell’s Long Wave installation at the Clan Donald Centre in Skye, late 2010.

Monday 13 February 2012

The Lovers on Wee Fictions - Jim Murdoch

The Linguist

(For B.)

Though she could converse in French
and German
you could see she was not a native:

She couldn’t think in French
or feel it,
nor could she understand me:

O, she knew all about the language
of love
but so much is lost in its translation.

Saturday 11 February 2012

The Lovers on Wee Fictions - Jay Passer


He didn’t want to cover Big Railroad Blues because his favorite porno featured the song while two women did the deed.  He complained that I never had enough toilet paper in my bathroom.  When we’d take a break to smoke and drink, he’d sit on the edge of his stand-up bass, a French model over a hundred years old, which he paid 15 grand for.  The seams started to split, and that was it, repair was necessary.  We went out drinking, full of vanity and lies, imagining our band ruling the world.  It was more about liquor and drugs and fantasy.  Rock and roll is like that, though we were, in actuality, a folk-blues project.  He insisted on a female accompaniment – some chick bartender he had the hots for.  She told me she loved my songs.  Held my arm traversing the street after practice.  The guy, he didn’t dig that.  Drank too much, blathered foolishly, insulted our server at the bistro before refusing to tip.  All the while pawing at our new singer like a ravenous dog.  When he went to relieve himself she confided to me that at her bar, he was a sort of fool that the clientele considered the equivalent of a town drunk.  But boy could he play the stand-up bass, a saving grace (till I heard it on tape).    

*     *     *

Jay Passer's work has appeared in print and online since the 1980's.  He makes a living as a cook.  Two chapbooks of his poetry are due out in 2012.

Friday 10 February 2012

The Lovers on Wee Fictions - Gordon Urquhart

Lost the plot

Heard you laughing,
Climbing the stairwell with Ewan
West Maitland St. on a sunny afternoon
Your freckled shoulder
White banded, I would rest my head there for 20 years
And counting…

But now I think you’ve lost the plot
we should get shot of these kids and live in a barge in the Midi or

*     *     *

Gordon Urquhart is a Scoattish Heelander living in Zambia, where his short attention span attracts less attention. He likes making wee films about animals, portmanteau electronic music, his children, Inverness Caley Thistle, history and the bittersweet prospect of the death of capitalism. Though she gets irritated by his sarcasm, he loves his wife. He thinks he isn't nearly sarcastic enough.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

The Lovers on Wee Fictions - Christopher Barnes

Ideal Couple
Unblurred to one and all
Spoiled bodies
Ridden by each-word-a-blow tempers,
Thundering outhouse, porch and stairway.

When they’re unlatched
Ringside seaters squinny.
He swigs hole-and-corner methadone
Backstage of bins
While she drags the truth of her face
Into see-red mania.

*     *     *

Christopher Barnes' first collection, LOVEBITES, is published by Chanticleer Press. He is a participant stem cell research writer with and reads each year at Scotland's Callander Poetry Weekend. He has also written an arts review for Peel Magazine.

Monday 6 February 2012

The Lovers on Wee Fictions - Andrew McCallum Crawford


A cracking sound. A crack and a jolt. He opened an eye. It must have been his head off the step. Marble. There was no pain. How did he get here? He’d climbed three flights and he was outside his gaff. He leaned over and dug the key out of his pocket. It was buried under a wad of coins and banknotes.
The place, in darkness, stank of old shoes. He managed to open the balcony door. He staggered to the mattress and collapsed. Old shoes and newsprint. Joss sticks.
The Weeping Song.
He reached over and pulled the phone out of the wall.
Oh, Matt.
Pissed again.

Shards of light through the shutters. Fuck. The daily interior. This would have to stop. He was aware of the problem. It was simple. Whatever money he made, he drank. That was it. In a nutshell. He liked getting pissed. Is that so bad? It was a stage and it was almost at an end. It couldn’t go on much longer. Not this. Not living like this in a flat where the only furniture was a mattress on the floor and a kitchen like a bombsite. The Single Man left to his own devices. He was clean, though. He wasn’t a tramp.
What was the alternative?
He felt better after three Paracodol and a shave. He did some reps with the dumbbell. No point getting fat. He felt strong. Arms of iron. He knew how to look after himself. In this life, no one else did it for you. He rinsed the glass under the tap and added gin. Up to the brim with lime juice, that diluting stuff. Neat.

It was too cold to sit outside. He parked himself next to the stove and fished a couple of coins out of the tangle of notes. It was better to pay like this. It was easy to lose track. He wasn’t a daytime drinker, not in the real sense. Maybe it was a matter of time. He pulled an old Guardian off the shelf. Yanni threw him a pen. Araucaria. Fuck that. He turned to the quick crossword. Alan’s writing; he insisted on using small letters. Matt finished it in a matter of minutes.
Then the fidgeting started. He asked Yanni what day it was. Saturday. He had enough cash for another week. Plus he was due dole money. He was trying not to touch it, though, save it up till the end of the year then go in and collect it in a oner. ‘Husbanding the cash flow’ some idiot had called it. He’d see how things went. Someone had phoned during the week asking about privates. They were getting desperate. The results were out and they needed to take resits. He could hike the price, that would be an idea. Not too much, though. He didn’t want to price himself out of the market. He couldn’t remember which genius had come out with that line, but he supposed it made sense.
There was plenty of work. He just couldn’t be arsed doing it.

Alan pretended to be annoyed about the crossword. He brought over the tavli. It gave you something to do other than talk. ‘Fancy making it interesting?’ said Matt, and promptly took him for a fiver. They sat over the board, smoking, contemplating the mess of red and white counters. Alan suddenly jerked upright and pressed his face to the window. ‘Fucking hell,’ he said. Matt looked outside. Nick Cave walked past, a girl on his arm. They were both laughing. ‘Did you see that?’ said Alan.
     Matt waved at Yanni. 2 beers. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Lanky, eh?

He got a toasted sandwich and went back to the flat. He could feel that thing descending on him, as it always did at this time of day, just as the sun was going down. It had nothing to do with the beer. He’d been hoping the beer might stave it off. Analysis. Examination. The maudlin exploration of the self. Garbage. The facts didn’t need much working on. She came over here. You followed her. It didn’t work out. She left. You’re still here. What’s the point? There’s no point. What are you going to do? Stay here. You can’t go back there because you’ve been here too long. You’re a stranger here and a stranger there. In Limbo. You sleep most of the day and go out barring it every night. You drink. You drink. It’s got nothing to do with forgetting. Memories are sacred, no one can take them away from you. If they tried you’d kill them. You drink because you like it. You like that feeling. You like that lack of feeling. You like that numbness.

The bar. 4am. Alan’s there. Yeah, you. Good looking. Looking good. Lanky. Not Nick Cave. That singer, what’s his name, Suede. Cocky bastard. A hit with the ladies, that’s what they say, but you aren’t someone who brags. I like your style. You know how to keep your mouth shut. There’s no side with you. No bullshit, no trying to be something you aren’t.
‘An Amstel,’ you shout. ‘And a Gimlet for Matt.’

I open my eyes. The place is heaving. Dancing all over the place. Someone bangs into me, but it’s the way things are, I’m used to it. There’s none of that macho stuff. If you want to be macho you ask something if she’s interested and if she is she is. Like Alan. Like me. I’m fit. I’ve got arms of iron. That’s it. Everything is here and now. There’s no. What’s it called? It’s something that happens. No strings. No stories. You do it, it’s over, move on.

The Weeping Song. The last song of the night. Time to go somewhere. Where? Time to go. The record spins on the deck. Focus. The only light is the light on the needle, searing the vinyl. The vinyl bobs. Focus on the light, but it’s moving. This is the Weeping Song. I raise my glass. I look at it closely. I examine it. Maybe it holds some kind of secret; the answer to a question I haven’t thought of. The contents are emerald, precious, glinting in that tiny light, the only light in the bar, the only light in the world.
Your voice is in my ear. ‘We’re all avoiding something,’ you say. A kiss on the side of my head – I give myself up to it. I tap the rim of your bottle with the bottom of my glass. It’s a gesture I’m comfortable with. It’s a gesture I like. It feels good, like something shared, like something I’m looking for. It feels like love.

 *     *     *

This story was first published in Spilling Ink Review.