Volume 1 Issue 1

A Letter from The Editor

     Over the last few months, we have heard you roar. The From Whispers to Roars community has grown at an amazing rate, welcoming creative ventures, encouraging artistic opinions and expression, and providing a forum for writers and artists to share their work.

     In January of 2018, this was only an idea – a hope that a more intimate community could be formed that gave everyone a space to share, collaborate, and grow. In our few short months of existence, From Whispers to Roars has done just that – I am proud, and in awe of this community.

     Thank you to everyone who supported this project from the beginning. At first, I know it seemed like a thing of day-dreams, but your steadfast support and encouragement brought us where we are today.    

     To this community, thank you all for your support, submissions, and engagement. There will never be another inaugural issue of From Whispers to Roars, and this is an amazing beginning.

     Within Issue 1, you will read about mystical adventures, find humor and liveliness in the seemingly mundane, be introduced to new perspectives, maybe shed a tear or two (sad or jovial), and look upon some beautifully captured moments. I can confidently say that I will never stop enjoying this Issue, and I truly hope you agree. 


Rachel R. Noall



“Medication” by Frank Rivera

Plug the nostril

white doves dance as I breath

reversed snowflakes

I can hear my heartbeat in my




The warmth of my blood travels to my fingertips


My body illuminating gold





Everything begins to slow

Eyes cured of reality

Windows of truth


My heartbeat slows

Eyes low

Tongue            swollen

I can hear my heartbeat in my           


“Fragility” by Christy Goff

You are as gentle with yourself as your enemies.

You hold your shame in the same hand as your value.

This leaves the other hand only for judgment.

In your eyes, most people possess a papier-mache heart.

You mistake fragility for insincerity.

Forgiveness is the answer, not love.

You don’t need to see through their eyes.

This will only make you blind.

Revel in what sets you apart.

Wear your scars like badges of honor.

Perfection is overrated.

“A Sweven of Stars” by Jonathan Garcia

Since my youth, I dreamt of flying. the settings the same, the lost hours between midnight.
My first flight most memorable. Slumbers spell overcame mine eyes and I awoke outside

til I was planted on the
roof of the brick yellow apartment. There I sat, soaking in what little I can and gazed at the stars abovehmm,
clearer than any painters portrait of the

Milky Way
And they moved and jazz danced communicating to me in a language
only understood by my souls reality.
I was tranquil and curious
like a turtle discovering the sea
and experiencing bubbles for the first time. I watched as a seer of light
Watching the stars, like fireflies,

form patterns before

breaking apart
until I sank through and came to being.

I was haunted, misunderstanding what happened. A deep despair invaded
In retrospect I knew intuitively
that world to be true

and the bed I fell onto
was an illusion.
This world is an illusion,
and only in sleep are we awake. From that dream forward,

I wished the stars would visit me again.

“Promise Nothing” by Sarah Fox

No room for doubt. No room for regret. No room for anything, only love

and the promise of nothing.

This one life, this tossed sea-shell shaped smile.

This tiger lily heart bleeding happy rain.

This starfish hand high-fiving yours. This is all I can give.

Promise me nothing and I’ll be the happiest person alive.

For you, I wouldn’t be a martyr, a freedom fighter or

a golden saint hiding in a 15th century cathedral.

For you, I’d promise nothing but myself. All else is nothing more than ravished fate.

Promise me nothing, speak through laughter, pray through me,

hike with me through the dark forests and valleys, dance and sing and gamble.

Cry on my shoulder and I’ll cry on yours

till we’re laughing and roaring and snorting

giddy tears up our noses.

Streak naked by the seaside, fall in love, fall out of love, just promise me nothing.

Promise me nothing, and I’ll give you all,

because you roll into my shaking arms as softly as this summer breeze.

Lift these red party cups and salute a Dalmatian-spotted sky.

We’re promising nothing, but we can’t help knowing,

it means everything. 

“conversation two.” by Laura McQuiston

When a heart is broken and anger is all that is left trying to bandage, staple, tie it back together. We fail to understand the pain hate-filled bloody words disguise.

We need to have 2 bedrooms.

Then we need 2 apartments.

I’m not sleeping in separate bedrooms.

after 22 years you know how to break my soul invisible

“conversation three.” by Laura McQuiston

i am experiencing some

suicidal ideation.

                                                            What are you talking about?

Feelings that things

would be better for

everyone if i

ceased to exist

                                                            Well I guess you need to go down to Fairview

i don’t know.

                                                            Well I do. You have to go.

maybe in the morning.

                                                            I’ll take you


                                                            but I can’t fix this.

i know.

                                                            Only you can fix this.

                                                            If I could I would have

                                                            fixed this years ago.

i know.

                                                            It’s been years.

                                                            You got to fix this.

                                                            On your own.

i’m sorry.

                                                            Sorry doesn’t help anything. You know that. 

i’m        i know.

                                                            Because I can’t live like this anymore.

                                                                                    Why didn’t he say and neither can you..

“Saint Lynx” by Peregrine Lee

“Saint Lynx” by Peregrine Lee

“Carving Hearts” by Diana Radovan

The heart is just a muscle, 
He said.
But I went on
Carving hearts
Out of rainbows,
Turning them
Into cotton candy clouds
And gifting them,
To strangers.

“The Park Bench” by Christopher Osswald

He is old.

He jumps

the curb and,


face plants!

I feel

embarrassed for him.

Does he?

I wonder

in silence,


I didn’t see.

Every day,


for ten years

he leads me

to the little

park around

the corner from

our house.

I sit on

the single bench

and watch

as he sniffs,

eats grass and,


plays with

his friends.

Every day,


I’m alone,


on the bench.

My thinking place

when thinking

is needed.

My solace

from an argument,

my daydreaming place

when I escape life.

If it had ears…

a son talking

to his father,

a husband whispering

ill of his wife,

a boss decide,

a man praying,

being grateful,

or crying

over the latest


Every day,


it waits

to listen

as my life

plays out

on a

park bench.

“Bimodal” by Stephen Barichko


having slept

since dusk

to relax

ponder dreams

have sex


chop wood


by moonlight


oil lamps

“Space Camp” by Sam Kealhofer


Got my first girlfriend

At Space Camp. I

Was feeling big and bold

That weekend. I

Had just graduated

5th grade.

And now, I

Was going on this trip

To “space camp,” in

A place called

“hunts ville.” I

Was cool

That weekend. I

Had discovered that if you

Slap the instant camera

On your palm,

You could make the flashlight go. We

Did this all weekend

And ruined all the film. We

Had some free time

At night. We

were all running


Lighting each other.

Momentary bursts

of piercing light

Into the fading night. I

Find Meagan and

Light her, and then

She lights me, and then

I light her back. And then


we’re running

Through the playground

Lighting each other.

We caper and whirl

Passed replica rocket boosters

And giant metal coils.

Swing sets that could launch us

To the moon.

And there was,

For the first time,

Something all betwixt us.

Something without a name

But only a feeling.

And then,

We were standing on the

Top of the slide, and she

Asked me if I liked her, and I

Said yes, and she

Asked me if I wanted

To be her boyfriend, and I

Said yes, and she said



shoved me down the slide.

“stay now; leave later” by Tyler Zeanah

i don’t want to ruin this

with any what ifs

or what’s nexts

so instead
i’ll just lay here

against your chest

breathing your breath in

“A Toast” by Christopher Watkins

Here’s to every hour
that we don’t spend drafting wills,

inspecting bed pans,
or re-learning how to walk.

Or tearing lashes from our eyes,

crazed with anguish,

wondering how we’re to get past
the death of a child.

A child who, for the moment,
still hovers in the halls
of our crazed imaginations,

waiting, like an orchid under care,

for his or her chance

to rescue or destroy

our feral lives.

“Haiku for Miss Clara Bay (at 4 1⁄2 months)” by Christopher Watkins

Her rhythmic pursing
lips; her dream of suckling—her

chest motion, so slight,

we check her breathing.
The water-sound around her

circulating. Her

hands get tired too,
and now they’re sleeping. Her

hands get tired too.

“The Flow” by Alison Finch

The swift flowing stream

Always changing, never still

Soothing to my ears.

“Daffodils and Gasoline” by Alex Sullivan

You’re emotionally worn out

I’m sober or trying to be

Funny how life

Gets to you after awhile

I think of smashed glass

See a reflection of myself

I see daffodils

And you in a field at peace

I hope you don’t get

So worn out that

You find the gasoline

And burn down the field

But I couldn’t blame you if you did

I’d probably hand you the matches

Funny how life

Gets to you after awhile.

“Palabras Nuevas” by Anni Bartlett

How did we unwrap this night?

It was you;

bringer of wildflower skies

and palabras nuevas.

Cielo rosa, you say, tracing your nails along pink clouds

and the palm of my hand.

How did the moon exist before you?

Grass against your back,

like fingers,

     how most perfect must be

that place.

Soft spearmint breath,

the first clue

that you are

too clean for this world.

Drops of deep Atlantic,

I could wander through the

    forest desert ocean floor dream of


watching your eyes

watch the ants that are soldiers and the

worms that are trying and the

birds that are drifters;

Los pájaros! (I am in love with your memory and your joy and your hands that pull knowledge around you like blankets.)

You extend to me

the branches of your trees,


and I point towards the sky;

  Estrellas en el cielo rosa,

I am learning, returning your new words, and


each mark on you;

Craters and fields on this world that is your body,

I long to settle there.

Cuando estoy contigo, estoy en casa;

When I am with you, I am home.

“SSSatisfaction” by Kristi Annelie

There’s a sort of satisfaction
That comes from being loved.
That glow of generousness
That floats about between two people.

Even alone, snuggled up in a cold, damp room
Without their warmth, their pumping blood, Their thoughts, and I love yous,

You feel it.

It comes out in warm tears and sudden shivers,
It hangs, like a weighted blanket, and sleeps soundly over you, cradling your head in its seams while it pulls you apart at your own.

“Fear: An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous.” by Hannah Holmgren

Fear is a migraine that manifests
an hour before the start of your shift.
It’s a panic attack in a department store.
Fear is labored breathing on a
dark highway in the torrential rain.
It’s a fake smile or laugh at a wedding.
Fear is counting every dime that enters
or leaves your checking account.
It’s an unproductive, unfulfilling Sunday.
And fear is a notebook carried in hand
at every turn life has to offer.
It’s a pseudonym to hide behind.

“Macro Lens” by Amy Smith

I came across a photograph
Shot seven years ago
Of my then six year old daughter
On a couch
in her orphanage, in Ethiopia
Someone picking up their child snapped it for me.
It’s taken seven years for it to click,
And i shudder
when I view it.
The negative effect
from stripping her from her culture,
is exposed
in our everyday portraits.
And I wonder
Is it really better here?
where her teeth
Get knocked out
Just so she can be
Force fed
A liquid diet
Of white rice.
I know it fills her belly
But she is still
A stranger, in a country
Where picket fences
Were made to keep
Her people out,
Not an attainable dream
When HER hue is in view.
But she’s the lucky one,
Rescued by the white saviors
Who can give her everything
she never knew she always wanted.
Instead, she’s placed in a country
of walking dead.
As if a soft place
to lay her head
Is enough to rid her
Of the nightmares she faces
when she’s awake.
I can’t even
cover her wounds
With bandaids
That match her skin.
And we fail to notice
That little brown boys
And little brown girls
Are bleeding out
Because they can’t stomach
Being stitched back up
And bandaged
By something that looks
Nothing like them.
Slavery still exists
In young men
Who sell themselves short
Because for generations
They have been told
Who they are doesn’t matter.
It’s alive in young women
Who give their bodies away
To the lowest bidder
Conditioned to believe
That their only value
in being treated
Like they are worth-less.
And we allow the dance
To continue.
Being lulled to sleep
By a melody
Sung from the lips of the lynchers
And while I don’t see my daughter hanging
From a tree
It doesn’t mean she’s
Not choking
Afraid to look at her teachers
the wrong way,
And be labeled
A bully or a thug.
Unable to speak
For fear she will be
Reminded that her voice
Is never heard.
Sent to the office
Because somebody
Was disruptive
When her teacher’s back
Was turned
And somebody became nobody
And that’s a name
she is used to answering to.
How is it
that the darkest body
in the room
Still can’t find a shadow
To hide in?
There’s too much light
Too much white
Washing out history
In text books
Written for those who
Were taught
To be color blind.
But failing to realize
Forgetting color
Still leaves us
With black and white.

“Sustenance” by Reese Leyva

I am nourished by the days

            of sun rays blossoming

            from far behind her enchanted eyes

When the snow twinkles

            like a carpet of fallen stars

            cradling love-laced wishes

And her rainbow laugh

            pierces my aged and stoic

            armor … and her beauty

Wraps itself around me

            unbidden, as if my fluttering heartsong

            summons her home.

“The Limpet and The Lioness” by Oak Ayling

You said

‘Maybe we should write about other people’

And I just stared out the window

At all the falling leaves

Thinking about how

This time

You’d learn to make me grieve

And I’ve already buried

Your time capsule

More than once

Then heard you from the ashes

Call to me

I’ve got soil covered hands

You’ve got a pocketful of matches

And you look at me

Like a bear cub through the trees

And I know the price

Of loving wild things

But I’ve got

Limpet’s teeth

And I told you

That I could withstand every wave

That I would love you to the grave

I know I can

‘You’re a lioness’

You told me,

And You’re the shark I gave a name

Then you looked up with a smile

And said

‘Things change.’

“Fractured Old Games” by Clarence Barbee


in a puzzle factory,

with products in pieces

because impatient teens

multipled without prophylactics

and created, an improper production.

A by-product of

Regan’s War on Drugs;

the casualty came

in the form of

under-developed lungs,

depleated attention span,

and a horrible disposition

whenever another


with their perceived

perception of correctness–

I can honestly say

I know meth and crack babies


No. No you may not

bring in a live fish; this

is a treatment center….

And comments

about your peers

smelling like fish

are rude, inappropriate, and


Yes, it is even

inappropriate for a

meth baby.

You cannot shame a child

who has no shame,

has never learned it; has

no home training, because

they never experienced

a home.

Ain’t never had a parent

that put them

ahead of crack,

ahead of meth,

or the chasing of dragons

on a Tuesday afternoon

because they just lost

their fourth job in three months….

And all they want to do is,

“fix it,” get fixed, get a


It’s been fifteen years since that

last fix; so now,

products in pieces

pace around highly medicated

in puzzle factories

as casualties of Regan’s

war, and their so-called parent’s

bad decisions.

I know crack-babies and meth-babies


Attempting to place their pieces

back together,

so they can grow wild as


instead of just wild

“Willard’s Tavern” by K.W. Peery

“Faster Horses”…



“Strings” by Riley Henderson

A word is said,

a wistful breath,

and a line is drawn


into our intentions.

We pour again,

of ourselves.


into the buckets we’d tossed

out to the driveway

for sake of space,

and now

drowning out


that’s not sitting

at this table.



we walk the tightrope

between our eyes.

“‘I’ before ‘we’” by Riley Henderson


were like a word

I used a lot.

A word I loved,

at least I thought,

but then I realized

I’d been spelling it


the whole time.

“Dandelion” by Helen Cox

Persecuted cousin of the sunflower,
christened after the king of beasts
but dubbed the botanical fool.
Which treasonous tongue banished you?

Did they not know you are a warrior
at your roots? Battling with your jagged,
lion-toothed leaves in the August heat that sent
all the bluebells to their graves.

Did they not know you are a healer?
A medicine man. Head bowed, gilded cloak
powdering his own petals into tea that clots
the blood; closes wounds and soothes muscles
burdened too long by boulder-heavy regret.

Did they not know you are magic
to every childish heart that made a wish
and with a single puff of their lips, trusted
you to spread the seed of their dreams
in the windless summer?

Did they not know that far from homogenous,
suburban lawns there is a wanton wild?
Where all things that grow, grow together
equal beneath the sky.

“A Binding Kind of Love” by Helen Cox

She was his favorite book, ink streamed
through her veins instead of blood.
Spine flat upon the table, she opened up
baring every page, smoothed from the raw
pulp of white-stemmed birch; the sapling
that grows back first on earth blackened
by forest fires.

                         The boughs that inspired
songs to be sung on December nights
in the Gaelic tongue,

                                     beckoned him
to roll her imperfect lines around his mouth
misspelled secrets she’d tried to cross out.

Even in the dark, he turned each trembling leaf,

fingertips tracing braille; goosebumps stirred
by the rough parchment of his hands
cut from grey wolf-skin instead of lamb.
A thousand tiny thrills surfacing; longing
to be deciphered by him alone, and all at once
be known.

                  Reading each sentence of her soul
uncensored; studying

                                   the spaces

each curvaceous vowel that idle eyes would skim,
he marked what belonged to him. Imprinting
his signature on every sheet; the scent
of red cedar, whose berries feed the blue jays
in the winter. Those dense, penetrating roots
rope-thick; tough enough to lash, to fasten
and constrict wove themselves into a story
nobody else would ever hear.
                                                   Under the covers,
His was a binding kind of love.

“and she is drunk” by  Joe Barca

And she is drunk

on the beauty

of lonely mountains.

And on certain days

the chime of church bells.

The concrete bench

in the center of town.

A perch for angels.

She paints metaphorical flowers

on the shadows

of passing strangers.

“The Whisper” by Billy Dew

A strain to hear it’s subtle tongue

A slither in your ear
It grows louder

Finally, like a baby’s first words

But it doesn’t say much more
It grows louder

Yearning for the voice

You follow
It grows louder

The meaning becomes clearer

Frightened at what it wants
It grows louder

Sinister, evil, insane, and violent it was

No way to escape yourself
It grows louder

Now a strain to keep it out
Instead you do what is told
As evil unfolds
When the whisper is actually your own

“Shoes on the train” by Troy Cabida

A woman’s burgundy ballet flats

squirm around the tight space

they have to themselves.

Laden with holes shaped like suns

with petals as sunrays, they look like the ones

your friend used to wear a lot, the one

who had little money and loved it that way

until she outgrew the city that carved her,

polluted air pushing her back

to a motherland not as a native but as a wanderer,

brand new, worn out of London’s frigid ways,

craving warmer water.

Nowadays those shoes are declared lost,

their heels greyed out and their tips open

like tired, hungry mouths. She’s exchanged them for trainers

that better survive islands yet to be touched,

her palette now familiar only to sunset orange horizons

and floating canoes, fresher coffee

and sleeping to the sway of palm trees,

occasionally dipping toes back to Manila

whenever the need for cement whispers too loud.

While in between North Greenwich

and Canning Town you send your friend a message

but the faceless sun emojis you send her

simply just cannot compare.

“Wall & Window, China” by Emma Sywvj

“Wall & Window, China” by Emma Sywvj

“Pick Up The Caution Tape” by Emily Shively

How do I feel better again

Because right now I feel like a crime scene

Maybe the bloody kind

And Maybe the kind where somebody

Just disappears

Never comes back

Hold your breath for the 6 o’clock news

“How I Lost My Way To God” by Emily Shively

I think these indiscretions

Would have been better suited for someone else

Anyone else

I didn’t ask for them

I didn’t want any of this

It’s enough to drive someone crazy

To want all I can’t have

To be wanted by who I can’t let myself have

And everybody looking in

Always watching

Calculating my next move

Analyzing my motives

I’m a danger to them

I think I always have been

Because other is stranger and different

Other is frightening

Let’s burn the witch right out of me

I’d be happier

But I’ll keep her and fall in love with her instead

She’ll never fault me for loving her

Everyone else has

“Pure Happiness” by Kaity Zaiser

“Pure Happiness” by Kaity Zaiser


Crescendo by Tazeen Said


She can feel his fingertips burn through her skin. Scalding, penetrating, she imagines the angry crimson marks that cigarette burns leave. One fingertip is resting just beneath her shoulder blade.  The music starts; her body tenses. She holds her breath. 

“Come on all of you, head up and to the side…. I want to see nice strong straight lines with those arms… don’t let them drop!”

He places one foot in front of her and starts to lead. To the ebb and flow of the music, they start to glide across the floor. She can feel his breath on the side of her neck;  hot, heavy, suffocating. She senses his flexed jaw and that his teeth are clenched, but his feet…his feet make generous, sweeping movements across the floor, carrying her. She is unable to control the direction, the pace, any of it, and so she surrenders. As the music quickens, she closes her eyes, her shoulders drop a little, and she starts to mirror its movement. Her breathing calms, and she inhales more deeply, when suddenly, 

“Come on…” he mutters to her, tightly under his breath, “Quicker! And keep…your…back…STRAIGHT!” he spits out the words. She can feel moisture on her ear, angry droplets, sticky and hot.

Her head jolts upright, her eyes wide open again.

“Sorry, sorry, I am trying…”

“Well try harder! It’s embarrassing… everyone’s looking at you!”

She feels herself burn up, lowering her eyes and refusing to let herself look around the room. Biting her bottom lip, she tries to remember where she had been in the counting… was it two steps and back or three, why couldn’t she remember the simplest of things, everyone else seemed to keep up with the instructor just fine. As his fingers carve deeper into her skin, she feels the sudden sharp pain from a fingernail.

“Right everyone,” the instructor was clapping, “let’s swap partners now. Find someone else in the room and we’ll go through those same steps again.”

She turns back to her husband, another apology leaving her lips, but no one hears her words. He is already at the other side of the dance studio, another woman in his arms, and a smile on his face.

She stands in the same spot, her feet heavy and leaden now that he isn’t there to lift her, direct her. The music is picking up pace, feeling as if it were getting louder and louder. The couples are circling around her, “again… again…again…” the instructor shouts out, as she feels the sting of familiar tears in her eyes. Where is he, she can’t see him amongst the other couples now, she turns agitatedly around and around, but he is nowhere to be seen, “again… again… again!” shouts the instructor excitedly, “again…again…again!”


In the beginning, he used to make her feel like she was the only one in the room. In the beginning, in those rare moments when he left her side, she knew exactly where he was; suddenly marooned, she would look up and immediately feel his eyes on her. She would be anchored once more. “No one has ever made me feel this special before,” she remembers telling her friends.

The weeks leading up to the wedding were a strange time, now consisting mainly of a blur of conversations, of phone calls, of becoming accustomed to the typical reactions from people due to the speed of it all. That little pause of bewilderment- sometimes worry (her mother). And then came the congratulations, last of all.

  She had seen other friends of hers running around for months before their weddings, but she didn’t have very much to do during that time. He organised everything. The venue, the photographers, all of it. All she had to do was decide what to wear- and she knew which colours and styles he liked on her, so that wasn’t even particularly difficult. He had made it so easy for her she had thought at the time, so considerate of him to save her the stress and anxieties that plague all these other poor brides- ‘you need to look after yourself’- ‘you don’t need any wrinkles from the worry after all, that won’t do!’, he had joked to her.

He was happy, in the beginning.

They travelled, they saw places she had never dreamt of seeing before or would have dared visited on her own. She left the familiarity of her home of twenty-two years and dizzily fell into her new world with the wide-eyed wonder of a teenage girl who couldn’t quite believe her luck.

Slowly she lost contact with her mother and with her friends. But she felt no significant loss. Her mother had never liked him anyway and had hoped it would be a brief affair, a childish infatuation on her part – temporary and tumultuous, as the most consuming of childish infatuations always are.  However, these hopes were short-lived whilst the relationship grew more permanent, and when she told her mother about his proposal and that she had accepted with no hesitation, her mother had looked at her for a few moments, silently and curiously. Finally, she had simply asked her how, how after all she had seen as a child, she could look upon indifference, possessiveness – disdain –  and mistakenly find in it comfort and love.

He was happy, in the beginning.

The first year of their marriage continued in the same way, in a blur of whirlwind holidays, of being showered with gifts, with love, with adoration in its simplest and purest forms. She knew she was the centrer of his world, and that was the only place she ever truly wanted to be. After they lost the first baby, he was shaken, but they vowed to try again when they regained their strength, and he helped her- little by little- emerge from the numb void of loss. But the second time was different; it was his loss, his hurt, his frustration at the injustice that had occurred, and she was responsible for it.  He became hard, cruel- shades that she had seen in him before they were married, but which now appeared openly, resolute and unforgiving. He was impatient and demanding with her and sometimes, always the most hurtful, he ignored her.

Soon his late returns from the office became a regular feature, as did his overseas trips. When she came across lipstick stains on his shirt, she wasn’t at all surprised; she had always known deep down. In fact, as she tossed the shirt into the washing machine, she had smiled to herself, a peculiar almost amused smile, at the thought of how her marriage had turned into a plot from some sort of clichéd television drama. Just like her mothers had. Perhaps she could have asked her for advice, but it had been some years since she had passed. He didn’t accompany her to the funeral. Attending a service for someone who had openly disliked him seemed deceitful behavior on his part, he had explained at the time.


He is sat in the lounge, reading his evening paper, while she prepares dinner. His bag tossed to one side, his blazer on the sofa; she will tidy up around him while he eats. Classical music plays loudly from the stereo, the flow and the rhythmic pace of the strings and piano interrupted every so often by the crisp sound of turning newspaper pages.

She stands at the counter, the plates set out in a tray in front of her. She stares down at them.

“Any chance we could have dinner sometime this evening?” he shouts from the lounge, “what have you been doing all day for god’s sake…”

“Yes, sorry! Just coming, just a second,” she quickly replies back.

She places the glasses on the tray, next to the cutlery. Reaching over to the cooker, she takes the steak off the heat, delicately lowering it onto the serving dish.  Rare and piping hot, the red-stained juices spread across the plate. She hears him toss his paper down on the table. She pictures him doing it, pictures him tutting as he does it. And then the music is turned up louder.

She picks up the steak knife, moving it over the dish. Pausing for a second, she holds the shining, glistening knife in her hand. The music gathers pace. She turns the knife over to its side, staring at it. Slowly taking her other hand, she lightly and delicately runs the end of her index finger along the length of the blade, stopping to let it rest at the tip. She taps the knife against her palm, lightly against her skin, then with more force. The music becomes deafening, she closes her eyes in a vain attempt to drown it out, but it feels louder and louder. She pictures him… his hands around the back of her neck, while he leads her in dance, round and round, dizzyingly, confusing her, pushing her in every direction until she can’t breathe. She pictures him… the back of his head, the nape of his neck, the quick short dip to his shoulders. The edge of the knife against the skin of those small, rounded shoulders, brushing against the concave dip in between his shoulder blades.  Lightly at first, then the edge of the knife pressing firmer, and firmer still, “again…again” she hears the dance instructor cry excitedly, “again… again… again!” She smiles to herself, as she places the knife onto the tray, and carries it into the lounge. 

“Time Standing Still In The Shadows of A Life Well Lived” by Kieron Circuit

“Time Standing Still In The Shadows of A Life Well Lived” by Kieron Circuit

The Inexorable March of Time by Jenny O’Gorman

“Immortality is the most terrible curse.”

She rolls her eyes. “You are not immortal.”

She’s right, but I feel like I am. Hilda is the last of my friends, the last to grow old while I remain young. She is the last person in this world who can really see me.

She signals the barman, and he refills her glass, turns to walk away. Hilda coughs pointedly until he tops my drink up as well. The port seems to shimmer in the bar’s amber lighting; Hilda tilts her glass, watching the liquid dance. I stay quiet as she clinks her drink against mine. She raises an eyebrow until I mime, raising the glass to my lips; I throw my head back as if doing a shot and she chuckles.

“What did you expect?” I shrug. “I am a teenager, after all.”

She makes a face as if she has sipped lemon juice instead of port. It seems an effort for her to swallow.

“I went home yesterday,” I tell her. “I think Lara spotted me.”

Hilda waves a dismissive hand. I watch my hopes scatter across the bar. “Lara’s a child,” she reminds me.

“I know that.”

Hilda drains her drink and pulls my glass towards her.

“Maybe if I see her regularly, it’ll hold.” I hear the hollowness in my voice and understand when Hilda cannot meet my gaze.

“I wish you wouldn’t keep doing this to yourself.”

I drum my fingertips on the bar, looking at them instead of her, at the jagged pink hollow where the fingernail on my left pinkie will never be.

“It hurts me too, you know,” she continues, her voice suddenly hard and cold like she’s held her anger for so long that it’s crystallized. “It’s hurt all of us, over the years. It was bad enough when it was just our gang you were holding on to – we adjusted our lives to keep that space for you. We could live with that because we loved you. But watching you clinging on to a family that doesn’t even belong to you any more-“

She breaks off, coughing heavily into a napkin. I wait, uncomfortable but unwilling to intrude. She thinks I am unaware that the tissue will come away bloody.

“I’m sorry,” she says once she’s recovered herself. “It’s not your fault. Everything’s just so unfair.”

I see the barman shoot her a sidelong glance. He, too, thinks he is being subtle.

“I have throat cancer,” Hilda says, as if she is confessing some great crime. “I know.”

“Laryngeal cancer, to be precise,” she goes on. “It’s very rare, I’m told. I guess that makes me special.”

“You’ve always been special, Hilly.”

She smiles at the old nickname. “I’m not having treatment. It’s not been a bad life. A little quiet, perhaps. I do wish I’d travelled more, but I did outlast the rest of our sorry bunch, so that’s something.”

I can’t help but grin at that, but the spark has gone out of Hilda’s smile. She coughs again and signals the barman for another drink.

“Are you sure you haven’t had enough for tonight?” he asks, even as he’s pouring our glasses. She snorts. “I’m an old lady dying of cancer. How much would be enough?”

He nods and offers one of those tight smiles people adopt in times of fake sympathy. I saw a lot of them in the days after my funeral. Hilda makes her face go hard in the same way she did back then. The barman turns away quickly but leaves the bottle of port. I wonder if it feels as much a consolation prize to Hilda as it does to me.

I shouldn’t have been at my own funeral. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to materialize. They had just finished burying me, scattering white roses and fistfuls of dirt over my glossy black coffin. I hadn’t realized I would get such a fancy send-off. I don’t suppose I would have if Rory’s family hadn’t paid for it, but if you have a rich friend with a guilty conscience, there ought to be some perks.

Bethan saw me first. She squealed and ran at me, clipping her knee on a headstone when she realized my less than solid state. The look of delighted confusion on my little sister’s face almost made up for the screams and shouts of the others.

Leigh told me later that the event had been chalked up to mass hysteria. There might have been something to that, because only he, Hilda, Rory, Lisa and Bethan continued to see me after that first week. Poor Bethan was carted off to shrink after shrink. My parents thought she wasn’t dealing with her grief properly. I guess it’s hard to move on when your brother’s ghost keeps hanging around.

“I wish you didn’t have to be a secret,” she whispered one night, about two years after my death.

I leant down from the top bunk and looked at her upside down face. “Would you rather go back to spending an hour a week with Doctor Pointless?”

Bethan giggled and clapped a hand over her mouth.

“And I’m guessing you’d rather see me in secret than not at all?”

I knew it was a terrible thing to say, but the words were already out. She snapped her eyes shut and rolled over. I continued to watch her long after she had fallen asleep.

She climbed onto the top bunk in the morning and pushed her face right up to mine, her hair hanging around us like a shroud.

“Sometimes I wish you’d just stayed dead,” my little sister whispered, her voice harshly adult. I smiled at her and mimed kissing the tip of her nose. “I love you too, a little bit.”

She scrunched her face up in that way she did when she was determined to stay angry. I listened to her getting ready for school, a mess of slammed drawers and muttered curse words she must have learned from me once upon a time.

Bethan was married in the same church that hosted my funeral. I watched from the front row, clapping and cheering with the rest as my little sister married my old friend. I didn’t stay for the reception. It was hard to watch them being happy and moving forward. Bethan smiled and pretended she understood, but there was a pinched look around her eyes and a flush creeping up her throat. Leigh swept her off to dance before her tears fell.

“I’ll never get married,” Lisa declared, settling herself atop my grave. She was thirty-two, twice the age I’d ever be.

“Hilly’s happily ever after hasn’t rubbed off on you, then?”
She barked a laugh. “Hilda and Geoff and their endless dinner parties.”

She didn’t say it then, but I knew what she meant; the game of enforced civility was one to which we’d never learn the rules.

“They’ll be next,” Lisa continued, jabbing her roll-up in the direction of the church hall. “Beautiful Beth and Lusty Leigh. She’ll have babies, and he’ll pay for their holidays and one day they’ll retire in the country. What part of that sounds like living? At least Rory got to see the world.”

Rory had been a sore subject for a number of years. He hadn’t stuck around for A-Levels, but instead escaped with daddy’s money. His long adventure of hopping islands and beds had ended abruptly when he had developed HIV at the age of twenty-seven. Hilda said he would always have found something to run away from, but I can’t help feeling guilty.

I made some sort of non-committal response that was apparently enough for Lisa. She sighed and closed her eyes, resting it awkwardly against my headstone.

“You’ve got that look in your eyes again,” Hilda says in her best nagging grandmother voice. “You’re thinking about the others.”

“It’s stupid,” I tell her. “Selfish.”

She cackles madly, and the barman shakes his head but doesn’t look over. “You’re sixteen, Nick, and stuck with your own company. Hard to avoid selfishness in your situation.”

“That’s just it. I’m going to be trapped like this forever, aren’t I? I’ve watched my parents grow old and die, seen my sister lose her husband, sat at my friends’ deathbeds. You’re the last, Hilly, the very last, and then I’ll be alone. The world will change, but I never will.”

She squeezes my hand, and I try to imagine the sensation. “Loneliness is the stalker of men,” she murmurs. “She hovers on the horizon and lurks around every corner. She dogs us all, a reminder that no matter how we live, we all have to die alone.”

It’s a poetic sentiment, but I am not in the mood. “We don’t all die alone, though, do we?” Hilda presses her lips together. It’s her thinking face, and I know better than to interrupt. “Do you remember the day you died?”
“I try not to,” I lie.

There was nothing glamorous about it. The whole day was dull. Low, heavy clouds huddled in the sky; the sea was a tough gunmetal grey; even our beloved sand dunes had been leached of color, the grasses silvery and brittle. The wind alone was alive, whipping the local campsite into a frenzy of snaking guy ropes and the sharp cracking of canvas as tired tourists tried desperately to secure their tents.

We had quickly bored of watching their efforts and Rory had suggested we hunt for our old hideout. The sands had all but buried our upturned tin boat, but we had been canny enough to fix a length of fishing line between it and the beach cafe, so finding the spot was simple enough.

Getting to the boat itself was a different matter. Between us, we managed to displace enough of the sand that we could make out the prow, but the hull was locked tight and the earth refused to let go.

“Maybe if one of us crawled inside,” Rory had mused. “We could dig on both sides then.” “Go on, Nick,” Lisa said, emerging briefly from Leigh’s embrace.

I looked at the others, but not for long. I was the smallest and that usually meant being the one to go first, whether shimmying through a bathroom window to let the others in through the front door or wriggling into a storm drain to retrieve the ball we’d been kicking about. It was a natural extension of my role in the group that led me to squirm into the space beneath the boat we’d played in as children.

“How did we all fit in here?” I called up. “There’s hardly room to turn around!” Rory laughed.

The others had lost interest, but he and I had a vested interest in extracting the boat; Rory because it had been his idea, me because I had been fool enough to crawl into it. We dug at the sand with our bare hands, sweeping it aside haphazardly. The boat creaked and groaned above me, but I dismissed the sounds, too wrapped up in the challenge to care.

The actual moment of my death was swift and understated. There was a lurch as the sand shifted beneath me and a thud as the boat dropped down, but the rest of the memory is black and empty. I’ve always assumed I lost consciousness quickly and was spared the experience of suffocating.

“He held your hand the whole time, you know,” Hilda says. “Rory. He wouldn’t let go, even after your fingers stopped scrabbling.”

“I miss him. I miss everyone. Mostly, I miss-“

I frown. My voice has stopped working, like it’s been switched off. Hilda is looking at me strangely, her eyes flickering from side to side.

“You’re going thin,” she says, and it’s like I’m underwater. “Nick, I think-“
Hilda doesn’t finish her sentence, but she does finish the bottle of port the barman left behind.

“Street Spirit” by Jeremy Goulder

“Street Spirit” by Jeremy Goulder

“Elephant” by Rianne Hobbs

“Elephant” by Rianne Hobbs

Circles by Jessica Turnbull

Circles always fill her dreams.

      A lone black dragon stands on top of a lone, jagged cliff overlooking a sea of pine trees.  The crisp breeze made the leaves whistle as it shakes the trunks, blowing many away into the night sky.  The sky is dark, but comforting with twinkling stars scattered like blobs of paint on a canvas.  A small gasp escapes the dragon’s lips at the sight of the moon, the biggest she’s ever seen it.  The silver orb hangs just above the skyline, large enough to see individual craters on the rocky surface.  The dragon silently wonders if it’s close enough to touch, but quickly shakes that thought from her mind.

She cries out in joy as a group of fireflies dance towards her, their orange glow causing her black scales to shimmer.  The tiny creatures move in tight circles, weaving around her limbs and gently bouncing off her scales with their tiny wings.  With a wide smile, the dragon purses her lips and blows a circle into the air, the cold air reacting with her hot breath.  The fireflies zoom through it before heading towards the trees, taking their dance elsewhere.

The black dragon takes a step towards the cliff edge, in awe of the long drop that leads towards the swaying trees.  Glancing behind her, she grins at the sight of her long, bat-like wings; strong enough to carry her through even the worst wind currents, she knew they’d have no problem with the steep drop.

A loud roar catches her off guard, and she instinctively jumps back, baring her sharp teeth.  A familiar red dragon with blue feet drops in front of her, an amused twinkle in his blue eyes.  Relaxing at the sight of her friend, the black dragon scolds him for scaring her with a growl, but he just rolls his eyes in return.  Before she can say anything more, her friend cracks his wings and steps backwards off the cliff; the strong flap of his wings keeping him suspended in the air.  Motioning for her to follow with his long tail, he does a quick flip in front of her, his tail tip briefly touching his snout before soaring towards the trees.  His red and blue scales stick out like a sore thumb against the blue and purple hues of the sky, so the dragon was confident that she wouldn’t lose sight of him.

Wriggling her rump in anticipation, the black dragon dives off the cliff, free-falling for a few seconds before a wind current catches her wings and steadies her in the air.  A happy roar escapes her lungs, ringing out into the silent night.  She drops down to the trees, skimming her feet against the leaves and making them fly in all directions.  Briefly, she glances back at the trail, watching as the torn leaves disappear into the night.

A loud roar from above tears her out of her thoughts, and her friend motions for her to come up higher.  With a careful flap of her wings, she zooms towards him, too fast.  The two of them collide in mid-air, their scales clinking at the impact, but neither dragon loses any of their shining scales as they are thrown back a few feet from each other.  Both of them recover quickly though, and approach each other more carefully this time.  With an apologetic grunt, she leaps over him and takes the lead as they explore the unfamiliar area.

As they fly further from the cliff, the stars slowly start to go out in the night sky; the tall, dark trees start to look a lot more menacing without the twinkling stars in the background.  The breeze picks up as well, turning into a strong wind which the two dragons have to drop lower to avoid.  Eventually, they come across a large bare area with some sort of fence in the middle.  Her friend drops down to have a closer look, intrigued by the foreign structure.  Though her gut tells her to go back, she follows her friend.  On closer inspection, it’s some sort of small paddock, with a large barbed wire fence flanking it on all sides.  The middle of the paddock is filled with chains, shining ominously in the moonlight. 

Uncomfortable, she growls her disapproval to her friend next to her, but he’s vanished.  Panicked, she looks around wildly, trying to pinpoint where the colourful dragon could have gone.  An ear-splitting groan from beneath her makes her jump, barely giving her enough time to register what is happening before one of the chains flies past her head.  With a terrified screech, she launches further up into the sky, horrified as the chain follows her up.  Desperately, she tries to flies away from the evil chain, but is unable to.  Her wings feel like they’ve turned into jelly, leaving the black dragon suspended in the sky, completely immobile. The chain snakes its way towards her, coiling around her legs and making its way up to her neck.  With an angry snarl, she breathes a funnel of ice at it, but it bounces off harmlessly.

As the chain snakes towards her face, locking around her muzzle, the dragon squeezes her eyes shut, hoping that when she opens them again she’ll be back on the cliff, and she and her friend will never have to come here.


The new voice startles her into opening her eyes.  Recognition dawns on her face as she fully shakes sleep from her indigo eyes.

She had been dreaming.

“Time for work, hurry up!”  The person who woke her up steps into her view, holding a heavy whip in one hand.  The man is chubby, with a long scraggly beard and a crooked nose.  The hair on the top of his head is thinning and patchy, the man unable to come to terms with the fact that he is balding.

With an annoyed growl, the black dragon rises to her feet, the chains wrapped around her legs and muzzle clanking together each time she moved.  The sound makes her blood boil each time she hears it, as it is the sound of her freedom being stolen from her.

The black dragon exits her nest, which comprises of a dirty mattress covered in leaves, and makes her way to the middle of the paddock, purposely kicking up sand at the man behind her.  Like in her dream it’s small and perfectly round, sparse apart from three mattresses and a barbed wire fence surrounding it at all angles.  Children outside the fence squeal as she lumbers towards the middle, taking her place beside the other dragons.  The blue-footed dragon from her dreams headbutts her as she sits beside him, his blue eyes twinkling at the prospect of play.  Acknowledging him with a curt nod, she looks up towards the sky.  Surprisingly this morning it is the clearest it’s been all season.  The sky is a warm blue with not a single cloud in sight.  Visions of her soaring through the air fills her mind, and her chest aches at the desire to be free.

The chubby man steps in front of the three dragons, hiding the whip behind his back with one hand.  He clears his throat with a chesty cough before speaking.  “Good morning children!  Please form a queue depending on which dragon you would like to ride – Russet is the black one with three black legs and a white one, Muddy is the red one with blue feet, and Ophelia is the pink one,”  He points to each dragon in turn, though Russet flattens her ears at the sound of her name.  “You can only ride one, and its first come, first serve.”

Ophelia, stuck up as always, barges past Russet and Muddy to take her place in ‘her’ corner, the one most covered by the trees, casting a cool shade over her.  The pink dragon lashes her tail, whacking the two dragons in the chest as she goes.  Muddy tries to get his friend’s attention once more, pawing at her tail and looking up at her with pleading eyes.  He’s the youngest of the three, brought here only a few months ago when his companion died.  All he ever wanted to do was play.

She shakes her head slowly, feeling a pang of guilt at seeing Muddy’s shoulders droop, but the red dragon respects her wishes and takes up ‘his’ corner, the only one with no tree cover.  Unable to look at him any longer without thinking about the dream, she stares at her front feet instead; one white, one black.  She hopes that one day she can be free once more, and take her friend with her, then they could both be truly happy.

Anywhere was the better than this place.

“Move it!”  The man warns, pressing his whip against her face.

With a growl she complies, dragging her tail through the sand to ‘her’ corner before flopping down on the ground, her back turned purposely on the children.  Luckily for her, all of them rush towards Ophelia and Muddy, fascinated by their colourful scales and upbeat personalities.

She prefers it that way anyway; she always hoped they wouldn’t pick her, she hated entertaining them.

Rolling onto her back, she turns her gaze up at the sky once more, imagining herself soaring through the air, bursting through clouds, landing on tree tops…

A grunt pulls her away from her daydream, and she turns to see an emerald green dragon on the other side of the fence, giving her a disapproving look. Scraping the barbed fence with a claw, he tells her that she should be nice to the children, and then trots over to his companion, a large man with a clipboard trying to calm the children down.

Flattening her ears, she ignores his ‘advice’.  What would he know, when he was on the other side of the fence?  He was free to do whatever he liked, so long as his companion was with him.  But just because hers died meant that she had to come here.

Pawing at her face, she tries to wipe the thought of her companion from her mind.  They used to fly through the sky together, share adventures…  But then she got sick.

Consumed by her grief, her chest starts to ache once more, the one hole that even freedom could not fill.  Closing her eyes, she hoped to be pulled back into her dreamland, where she could fly once more without a care in the world.

She knew that the peace would not last.  It never did.

A sharp pain shoots through her wing as the man whips it.  “Up!  You have a customer!”

With a growl she rises to her feet, glaring at the child in front of her.  A small female, no older than six, clutches a raggedy pink stuffed dragon and bites her lip nervously as Russet’s gaze pierces through her.

“Are you sure Ophelia isn’t available?  Her parents paid for her to ride Ophelia.”  A tall man wearing a brown suit argues, holding a wad of money in his sweaty hand.

“I’m sorry, but the rest of your class has beat her to it.  You won’t have time to wait before you have to leave.”  The chubby man reasons.

“I’ll ride her, I just want to ride one before we have to go back to school.”  The girl mutters meekly.

Though anger still burns in the suited man’s eyes, he puts the money away and steps back.  Crouching down, Russet allows the chubby man to lift a worn leather saddle onto her back, clipping it securely around her stomach.  The girl cries out in glee as she climbs onto the dragon’s back, grasping onto her neck with her small hands.

“Move it.”  The chubby man grabs hold of the chain around her muzzle and yanks her forward.

The three of them walk slowly around the paddock, the girl crying out and waving to her friends who are still stood in line.  After three laps of the same circular pattern, the girl jumps off, a large grin plastered on her face.

“Thank you!”  She throws her arms around Russet’s neck in a loose hug.  “I want a dragon like you someday!”

Though the girl’s words warm Russet’s heart, the feeling is quickly replaced by dread as children line up to ride her.  Several kids break away from Ophelia and Muddy’s lines, wanting to ride the black dragon instead.

Another child replaces the female, giggling on her back as they do laps around the paddock.  With each child her shoulders droop more and more, and as the day goes on the vision of her soaring through the sky eventually disappears.

She couldn’t be free. Not when her life was full of circles.


Second-Hand Virgin by Alicia Stephens Martin

I am fifty-five and a virgin. Well, that was my response after my friend Teresa, a recent widow, called me a second-hand virgin.

I witnessed terror – or should I say the female hysteria – in her eyes after I revealed my celibate status. I tried to explain to her that I hadn’t planned to become an undocumented nun. And while the orgasmic solution might appear simple to virile members of both sexes, it’s complicated. You see I am a widow, too.

Margaret Atwood called the female body “my topic.” Well, my topic is (to be specific) my beaver, jeweled box, hooch, vajayjay –any way you tag her, my topic is unemployed.

Sleeping Beauty’s resume is sadly out of date. Old picture albums and slides document the wrestler (her first), the scuba diver, rich man, poor man, an Indian chief, a one-night stand with a dark and mysterious stranger, and that one who slipped away… a forever regretful mistake of mine, not hers.

When I first discovered her soft sensual pinkness, Helen of Troy went forth and conquered. I consoled her, stroked her. She cried in lust, ripe, fertile, fluttering around the world.

We sought our one and only. Our Prince Charming. Searching until the slipper seemed to fit. We went everywhere with him: the sofa, the shower, the forest, the beach, studying every angle for our Kama Sutra PhDs. We wanted only him. His hand in marriage. On her. Forever.

Ménage à trois – him, me and Suzie. Newlyweds. Lusting and loving, until our tenth anniversary when our Prince got sick. The Cancer, the fading begins. We dwindled. Suz slowly starved, her wanting quivers gradually mutated to frigid shivers. My hot topic was a like a washed-up prostitute, a prisoner behind steel bars in a dark dungeon.

It’s partially my fault. And the Romans. Confirmation at age 13, Sister instructed, “Choose a Catholic Saint you can emulate.” There were hundreds, but I only cared about emulating Barbie. She had Ken. And a convertible.

Who really understands the magnitude of such a decision? I chose St. Barbara, but not until recently did I learn her true fate – like Rapunzel, a virgin locked in a tower. My flower’s destiny set in prophecy.

My mother (as usual) needs to shoulder some blame, along with the Pope, all the saints, and my eternal guilt-ridden Catholic upbringing. But most of the blame goes to Oprah and her inspirational guest speaker Tony Robbins.

My husband died.  The castle sold. I was standing alone and barefoot facing a path paved in shards of glass.

One night after an arduous day, my wounded body and soul faded on the couch in front of the TV. Drifting off, I was barely listening until God miraculously intervened through his surrogate, Tony Robbins. “How does one find a soulmate?” Oprah asked Tony.

I perked up. Yes, Tony. How does one find a soulmate?

His words vibrated through the screen like thunder. “You must be your own soulmate before you can find a true soulmate.”

Lightning struck. Hallelujah!

My primary mission was raising my daughter. Suzie had to go into hiding. To her tower.

I would be the best mom, get a college degree, run my business and fulfill my lifelong dream to write a novel. No more sun and sand, Suzie by the seashore. “Hush, go to your room, back in your box!”

I leapt tall buildings, catapulting from car to both our schools, home, church, horse lessons, music lessons, and work. I cleaned, studied, juggled time like Hermione Granger, and managed money like Suze Orman (an entirely different breed of Suzie). For god’s sake, I was running for mother of the year.

My daughter’s elementary years were a collage of 2+2=4 and my college algebra. Pay the bills, run the business, make payroll, pay taxes. I missed the deadline? Oh no, music lessons? Running late again? Did I feed her? (I know I fed the dog.) Now she wants a horse?

Middle school years read like the lyrics to a country song. Paint the house, break the mower, dead car, dead truck, dead washing machine, get a horse and learn to drive a trailer the size of South Dakota.

Now she’s a freshman? Gotta take her on the trip of a lifetime. When, where? No time. Study for finals, teach her to respect, volunteer, attend church. God, we missed church! (Bless me, Father. I have sinned. Again.) She’s driving, the dog is sick, she has a date! We jumped over the candlestick from both ends. Graduation.

We did it. My degree, her degree, my life’s dream of writing a novel. We fox-trotted around the kitchen. We went to New York City. Wow!

She searched for college.

Alone, I am alone. My topic –  silent.

Sure my life is full of men – mower man (quite the virile hunk), hot plumber (reeks of cigarettes), my attorney (married), the beefy man who delivers hay, the sexy cowboy at the horse shows, rich man, poor man, Indian chief. A bucket list of men… but zilch, nada, nothing.

Soulmate? Suzie, vajayjay, you still there? Tony, where is my soulmate?

I hear the slurs. “You haven’t dated anyone for how long?” Family is the worst. My brother-in-law judges, “Not normal.” “Suzie’s gay, poor girl.” “Getting too old now.” “Jilted bitch.” “No one good enough.” Too late, too long…

Truth is they don’t realize the ache. I am frightened by my own topic. I ask my GYN nurse. I cry. She is sweet and rubs my shoulder. “Will she still work, will she remember?” I ask.

“Sure, honey. Get some Astroglide cream, it’s the best. Like riding a bike…” I was terrible at riding a bike. That’s why it’s in the garage with flat tires. Suzie is flat. I have no man, no prospects. But I buy the cream.

Female hysteria, I was living it. I can’t let my topic take her final vows. In a flying fit of feminism I scream, “Wake up!” I want her back. I wonder if popping extra estrogen tablets might help. First I shielded her, then I sealed her. Now she’s stuffed in middle-aged jeans… tight, strangling, angry. This cat needs out of the bag.

I start working out, reading sexy stories. I let her go topless. (Or is that bottomless.) Open a Victoria’s Secret account. I search for lace and silk, maybe some leather. I want to feel her again. I try anything that stirs my Madonna. Heels, stilettos, she used to love them. Instead, I fall. Well, back to pumps. I am 55 years old. I am not done, nor is she!

Maybe Botox?  No. (My lips are already numb.) Suz lost her tingle. I was not her soulmate.  I had jilted my girl.

You can get comfortable when you’re busy – it’s easy. Once you lock something away, something you once found pleasure in, you risk losing it. Haunted by a feeling you somehow don’t deserve it. Excuses rise from the sheets – you feel too flabby, too wrinkled, a little grey, less beautiful, less desirable. I made my topic feel that way – ashamed.

But now the house was clean, grocery bills cheaper, Christmas cheaper, vacation cheaper. No shared time in the bathroom, and I don’t have to get a new mattress or change the sheets as much.

I hear other whispers from my so-called friends, afraid I might steal their man. Suggesting they would never get married again if they lost their husband. “Oh, who needs him?” they confess at the nail salon and gym. Activities I only dream of doing. Baubles sparkling from their ears fingers and throats, gifts from the dear hubbies they can live without. “I could do it.” Right. You’re independent? Right. Free to do anything you want? Right.

It’s lonely. Very. Cold and lonely. Quite frankly, it’s an icebox down there.

No, they couldn’t.

My friend Teresa says I’m like the resurgence of the vinyl record company – Second-Hand Virgin. Yup, that’s me. At least I can finally lay with John Denver.

She commands, “We must do something.”

Sometimes I surf the channels now that I am truly alone. Just me in search of Oprah and Tony. I am writing my next novel, about two widows – one is frantic, living in fear of her fate… the other, a fifty-five-year-old virgin, ready to let the puss purr.  The title?  You guessed it, The Second-Hand Virgin.  It’s a romantic comedy, well definitely a comedy.

“Rooted to the North” by Kaity Zaiser

“Rooted to the North” by Kaity Zaiser

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