You’ll never see unless you look by Janis Freegard
Your head sinks into the pillow, you pass through the tunnel where sometimes, briefly, voices speak words that don’t quite make sense, where there are shapes and patterns you only ever see in this state, then you’re through to the other world, the sleep world.
It’s different here. Life happens in fragments. Time means nothing. A friend can become a cat and then your cousin. You see someone you know but they are wearing a stranger’s face. Electrical appliances will not work. The dead were never dead.
Try to wake up inside this world. This way you can influence events. Flying is a good option for you. It may take a few tries. To start with, you might be hovering just above the ground, worrying about crashing down. Don’t. Don’t think about that. Concentrate on levitating above rooftops and trees. Get as high as you can because the view from here will be better. See? Drink it in. Now you are a karearea. Or a spaceship. The city, with all its city concerns, is far below.
If you’re not flying, and find yourself in a large house, and you are very afraid of what is in the basement, go on down there. Descend those cold, concrete stairs. The house is you. Open the basement door and say hello to yourself.
Sunshine through rain by Rob Walton
These days she found herself talking to the TV, sometimes keeping up her part of an imagined dialogue where she didn’t really like what either side was saying.
These days words from her youth, snippets of songs, lines from TV shows, crowded in all the time.
Why don’t you just switch off your television set and go and do something less boring instead?
She thought about the words when they arrived, gave them power. These days they were important.
If the programme’s not the one you want, get up, turn off the set.
She said, “Right. Enough is enough,” and quickly rose from the armchair.
“These days are the only ones we have.”
She found green spray paint behind a box labelled Mobility Aids. She found green emulsion, gloss, enamel, a battered pot of low sheen acrylic. She took some black, some white, a few others for mixing. She got busy for the morning, then called, “Coming, ready or not!”
She carried her husband downstairs, and showed him the television. She had painted a rainbow on it.
She told him she was bored of the old rainbow, which didn’t even make scientific sense at the blue end of the spectrum. Her rainbow was green.
There was the grass of their childhood sweetheart school field. Those beautiful bevelled tiles from the kitchen of their disastrous first apartment. That time they managed to synchronise throwing up at his cousin’s wedding. The green of the daffodil stems they insisted on buying each other every St David’s Day, even though neither had any Welsh connections. The spearmint which took over their place and the neighbour’s.
These days she didn’t really need to explain any of this to him.
He told her, “This is the green of your mum’s dress at our wedding. This is the spinach soufflé we said we’d never mention. This is John’s lunch box. This was John’s lunch box.”
She said “Festival tent.”
It became a game.
“That car. God, it didn’t even have a brand name. It was just Green Car! Your bag when we went back-packing. Those watering cans! Only one of them didn’t leak. We could never remember which it was. That tie I knotted too tight for you and you thought you were going to die and –“
There were way more than seven bands in the rainbow, way more than seven shades of green in their lives, in their world, and they kept pointing them out, there downstairs in the room with the worn emerald rug, for a while longer, for as long as they were able.
The wife of the tree shaker by Iona Winter
Last week I watched a white man shake a tree with such fierceness, that sleeping kakapō fell to the ground like sacks of kūmara. That man had a wife, Mrs Douglas.
I met her this afternoon, on my way to gather kai from the ocean.
She said, “Hello,” and thrust out her hand towards me.
For a tiny woman, Mrs Douglas was quick to describe how efficiently she had learned to shoulder her husband’s rifle. She gesticulated with hands and arms to make her point.
Putting this skill to good use, she explained how she brought the kererū down ‘in a very sportsman-like manner.’ And then went on to say how her good friend Alice, who was ‘not as accomplished’ as she with the gun, was content to ‘carry the bag’ whenever the two women went shooting.
“Do your people eat the wood pigeon?” she asked.
“Only in winter,” I replied, “for there are rules about these things.”
“Oh?” she said.
It was not appropriate to tell her why. An uneasy silence presented itself, before she rapidly continued on with her story.
At dusk, Mrs Douglas said she walked ‘armed’ with an umbrella. For there were numerous bats at that time of day, and they frequently bumped into her.
“The collisions are not a bother,” she said.
Mrs Douglas told me how she enjoyed ‘the subtle violence’ when their silken bodies glanced off her exposed skin. Then she said she wished she could use the rifle on her tāne at night, when he lay in a stupor with his flies loose.
She told me this because she did not think I understood her tongue. But when our eyes met, a realisation surpassed our contrasting skins — such is the shared history of women.
The Cough by Gloria Garfunkel
Kugelman was a world-renowned hypnotist and psychoanalyst. It was said that he was so brilliant he could cure patients of a lifetime of neuroses in a single session with nothing but a cough at the right moment. People came from all over the world and paid him thousands of dollars, waiting months, sometimes years, to see him. It was always worth it.
Henry had spent ten years and thousands of dollars he cringed to think about seeing his own psychoanalyst three times a week for both his Oedipal and pre-Oedipal complexes. Nothing had changed except the divorce and the move to a studio apartment. He would still be seeing his old analyst if she hadn’t died, and even now it gave him emotional relief to visit her grave, especially since he could do it for free and stay as long as he liked and there was nothing she could do about it. Nevertheless, he still felt depressed, like a loser, like he’d never reached his potential, like he’d ended up living the wrong person’s life.
“I’m an accountant when I should have been a novelist. I know, I know, Kafka was both. But he was a genius. I’m no genius. I’m Henry Neeble, Failure at Life.”
He’d been hearing about this Kugelman fellow for a couple of years but thought he must be a charlatan. How could such a man exist without putting all the other analysts out of business? But now, with his analyst dead for over a year, and still no improvement, even with regular two weekly visits to the grave, he decided to make the investment. “I’m going to do it. I’m going to see this Kugelman.”
So Henry called to make an appointment. They had a cancellation in three months if he was willing to come in at four on a Sunday morning. Henry hesitated because of the bizarre time slot, but booked it, a fifty-minute hour for three thousand dollars.
“If it does what ten years on the couch and one year at the graveside couldn’t do, it will be worth it,” he thought.
Once he made the appointment, he started to feel hopeful, for the first time in his life. “Maybe there is something better for me out there,” he thought.
A friend at work commented that he seemed different lately, calmer, more outgoing, and asked if he’d like to go out with his sister. Henry usually found blind dates tedious, but he immediately took a liking to Melinda and started seeing her regularly.
He began enjoying his work and colleagues. Then his boss gave him a promotion and a raise. He decided to look for a one bedroom apartment to replace his studio.
The day of the appointment with Kugelman was rainy and cold, not a propitious day for a major life change, yet Henry’s step was light as he ran from the cab to the revolving door. In his dignified office, Kugelman was surprisingly short and rumpled, with mussy hair casually tossed over a bald dome.
“Come, sit, sit,” said Kugelman.
“What? No lying? No couch?”
“Why a couch? Talk is talk. Why not a chair? So tell me. Let’s not waste time.”
So Henry told him. And half-way through the session, Kugelman coughed.
That night, Henry stayed up until midnight writing Chapter One. The next evening he asked Melinda to marry him and she said yes. Henry was a happy man.
A Kaleidoscope of Colours by Sebnem E. Sanders
The breeze puffs on the sails and I hum to the tune coming from my playlist. Where shall we take shelter tonight, which of the twelve islands? We’re spoiled for choice. Let that be my worry.
I’ll take you somewhere you have never been. This is the ideal spot to watch the full moon. I’ll make a salad while you cook the fish, perhaps, share our bounty with our neighbours in the cove. And some wine.
They arrive and we keep to the rules of social distancing around the table. A heated conversation begins: COVID, political and economic unrest. All I want to talk about is blue lives matter. The sea, the sky, the bluefish. Green lives matter; the pine trees, the cacti, the orange and lemon groves, the bougainvillea with multi-coloured flowers. I once discovered a rare species of sage up on the shores of Dalaman while rafting down the river.
After our guests leave, I take you up on the deck and we lie under the stars. I show you Venus and the constellations. The strawberry moon is now an ordinary moon, right above us.
You fall asleep in my arms, while I conjure colours in the dark. A kaleidoscope of colours, the endless spectrum. This is who we are.
Wellington-based Janis Freegard is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Reading the Signs (The Cuba Press), as well as a novel The Year of Falling (Mākaro Press). She was the inaugural Ema Saikō Poetry Fellow at New Zealand Pacific Studio and has previously won the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Prize and the Geometry/Open Book Poetry Prize. She grew up in the UK, South Africa and Australia before her family settled in Aotearoa when she was twelve. https://janisfreegard.com/
Gloria Garfunkel is a retired clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard University who continues to live in the Cambridge area. After thirty-five years as a family therapist, she has published over a hundred flash fiction pieces in journals such as Connotation Press and Blink Ink. She is also completing a memoir of her childhood with parents who were Holocaust survivors.
Şebnem E. Sanders lives on the Southern Aegean coast of Turkey and writes short and longer works of fiction. Her stories have appeared in various online literary magazines, and two anthologies. Her collection of short and flash fiction stories, Ripples on the Pond, was published in December 2017. More information can be found at her website where she shares some of her work.
Scunthorpe-born Rob Walton lives with his daughters in Whitley Bay, England. His short fiction is published online and in various anthologies in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand. His debut poetry collection, This Poem Here, is published by Arachne Press in 2021. He also writes for children, and collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway text. Twitter: @anicelad.
Iona Winter’s hybrid work is widely published and anthologised in literary publications internationally. She creates work to be performed, relishing cross-modality collaboration, and holds a Master of Creative Writing. Iona has authored three collections, Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019) and then the wind came (2018). Skilled at giving voice to difficult topics, she often draws on her deep connection to land, place and whenua. Iona lives on the East Otago Coast, Aotearoa New Zealand.