Postcard Stories 2015: Week 24

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June 11th 2015 – Antrim Area Hospital

Cat and Levi Rogers

“Imagine if the hospital was left empty,” you say, “and we could sneak into the X-Ray Room and take pictures of the way we look inside.”

You think your toe was once broken. I have suspicions about my middle finger, related to that incident in Amsterdam with the lamppost.

“It would not point properly afterwards,” I explain, and lift my finger to you, by virtue of illustration.

There are other items I’d like to x-ray if the opportunity arose: water, candyfloss, helium-filled balloons; the closest I can come to photographing a ghost.

June 12th 2015 – Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Ryan Kee

My legs on the car seat, stretching and retracting as they pump the brake pedal are also the legs of my grandmother who is no longer with us and did not drive this car but rather a similar car, tooth-filling gray with a pair of pink dice furring from the rearview mirror and, on the parcel shelf, like a cliché sweating behind the back windscreen, a picnic blanket folded over itself like a fat, blue bandage, and an always nodding dog. It smelt in there of polo mints and the talcum powder she kept in a puffered, cardboard tub on the edge of her bath, which was avocado green, as was her sink, her toilet and her carefully hung handtowels. The corner of the car’s passenger seat was chewed away to reveal custard-coloured foam, lumping below. I’d done this with my teeth when I was younger and too small, or perhaps insignificant, to ride upfront with the adults. I was not easy as a child and had, quite naturally, taken my frustrations out on the upholstery.

June 13th 2015 – Botanic Avenue, Belfast

Glori Gray

“What’s the difference?” she thought, and went to the Pound Shop, where the dishwasher tablets were cheaper. She kept her mother’s change and felt no guilt.

Though the brand was identical to the dishwasher tablets they normally used, the writing on the packet was in a foreign language –Polish or Romanian- the words recognisably Eastern. She stored the box under the sink with the other cleaning products and hoped her mother would not notice.

Her mother did not notice. The dishes were no more nor less clean than usual but there were tiny European fingerprints on the cutlery and a strange taste off the cups, like sadness in a foreign film, which persisted even after a second and third rinse. She could not shift her thirst with these cups no matter how much she drank.

June 14th 2015 – Dundonald

Lori Englert

It had been an impossibly damp Spring and the lawn was two parts daisy to every part ordinary grass. That evening they sat out on a picnic rug watching the barbecue embers cool and crumble until it was almost midnight. While they talked he kept his hands busy with a daisy chain, pressing his thumbnail into each stalk in turn until there were almost a hundred of the little flowers hooked together like a sad, chain gang.

When the night was almost over he fastened the necklace around her shoulders, reaching under her hair to bind the first and last flower together.

“They’re already wilting,” he said, by means of an apology.

By the time she was undressing for bed the flowers were quite dead and she dropped them in the bed without a second thought. The evening stayed longer with him, lingering as a lime, green bruise just beneath his thumbnail where the daisies had bled and stained.

June 15th 2015 – Ulster Hall, Belfast

Daryl Woods and John Lassiter

In 1950 the movie director John Houston transported Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and, (by default), Lauren Bacall, to the Belgian Congo in order to shoot the African Queen. Having overspent on A-list actors and exotic locations there was little money left for necessity. Hepburn acted and when she was not acting, turned seamstress and doubled as the costume department. Between takes she ate like the locals ate and consequently found herself pausing between lines to vomit in an off-screen bucket. Bogart was made of sterner stuff. He consumed nothing but harder liquor, sweated like a stuck pig in the African sun and was the only person on set not to fall ill. Later, much later, post-production Oscar nominations, Hepburn and Bogart would appear on the big screen, whiter than white people should; graying a little round the edges in glorious technicolour.

June 16th 2015 – Linenhall Library, Belfast

Kat and Phil Mawhinney-Kam

The train was an old-fashioned affair with compartments which could be sealed off simply by sliding the door into its socket. Michael found an empty compartment, entered and was already settling himself by the window when he noticed the man slumped across the opposite seat. Sleeping, Michael presumed, then noting the grayish hue of the man’s face, understood him dead. There was no obvious signs of foul play so Michael sat on considering his options for two full stops.

The dead man was wearing a very fine jacket and Michael, who was not given to sentimentality, decided to take this jacket, for what use had a dead man with such an item. He started in on the buttons. They were a bloody nightmare and the arms, having already stiffened, equally problematic. The dead man slipped from his seat to the carriage floor and, fully committed now, Michael squatted over him, tugging at the jacket until at last it came free and he held it against his own chest and saw it was too small by far.

He wondered if the man’s shoes might be a better fit and how he might explain all this, and the blood, to the ticket collector.

June 17th 2015 – Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Ian Wylie

Which reminds you of an old women you once knew in a cottage with horses, somewhere in sight of the anxious sea. Perhaps this woman’s husband was a fisherman or a regular farmer of turnips and spuds. A man with mucky hands and a presence at the kitchen table who died of illness or accident and was buried no more than half a mile from the old woman’s front door. This was done without cross or stone on account of debts.

The old woman, feeling the lack of his heat in bed, let the sheepdog in with her and caught the mange off it so her skin came loose in flakes like boiled potato peel. And, when she died, they said it was of heartbreak and the mange and going to bed with a half-breed collie which, you are quick to point out, is a better story that the psoriasis and grief-related stress she’d be lumbered with today. No comfort for the old woman though, who is dead, despite all your poems.

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