Those SuperDry underpants

by Bianca Alice Walker

Oju scrambled the papers into his hands, creasing them and bending the edges. It didn’t help that he had ketchup on his fingers from the wings he had eaten or that when he bent down his tracksuit bottoms fell below his bum, showcasing his purple SuperDry underpants. It wasn’t reassuring in that moment either that he was ashamed of the very underpants he spent all his birthday money on. It was really, truly a pity that on that day Miss Wilfred was passing him in the corridor, approaching from behind thus not giving him enough time to neaten the kinks in his hair or rub his hands against each other for emergency moisture. It was a real, real shame that at that very instance he was telling his friend about his sister’s friend’s booty. Something had somehow led him to describe it in detail: the way the jeans hugged the circumference of her cheeks, like big Os, more scrumptious than any Cheerios, more sweet than Oreos, fresher than a Polo. His friend Dike had a laugh, while licking his lips. But Miss Wilfred didn’t. She didn’t say a word, only looked at him for a millisecond and then looked down at the floor and continued on. Her unspoken words were, however, more explicit than her spoken ones from only two days before: ‘do you really want to be that kind of person?’ He was answering the question involuntarily, his answer more true than he wanted it to be. The truth came too naturally, the change too unfathomable. He stuffed the pages into his rucksack, all handouts, none in order, hardly any ever read.

Winter’s Sun

by Anita Jean

Hello lifting light, I am yours.

You can take me in the paleness that earns colour on the skin.

Your touch is the only one my body accepts.

I am glad to be felt by your warmth. Suspended in your rising, it is good to be held.

The lonely are clothed by winter.

Red

by Faith Amurao

I say now that the colour red is my story’s first throb. Red is the colour of our fears. Like the colour of blood, fears are vivid and bold. They remind us that we are only human.

The little girl in the red coat that runs through the derelict and war-torn cityscape in Spielberg’s Schinders’ List continues to run through my dreams which are, thankfully, not as empty of people. Not yet anyway.

I cannot help wonder whether that little girl, alone, and innocently winding her way down a ravaged road, is a directorial trick used to force the eyes to follow what they dare not follow.

Most of my shoes are red. I will know I am going blind once all things red disappear, including the red of my shoes, once the red rose is like a faded muslin night gown, white and ghostly.

A pianist by night, I try not to be half-hearted as I make my way through a piece of music even if it is something I have played a thousand times, memorised to death at the noisy places in London far from the quiet landscapes I ramble through. Only in solitudinous paths that cut through quiet valleys in which the soothing gurgling of brooks can be heard, do I count myself a queen of infinite space. I want always to be away from the city and its indifference.

The only hymn I have ever played in my life is ‘O Love that wilt not let me go.’ It was at a moment when I was at the threshold of love. The world then seemed to me more vast, eerie and incomprehensible than I ever feared it to be. I was in my mid-twenties, frivolous and blind.

I walked with him for the first time into a red-brick church. Asked to play the hymn after I introduced myself as a musician, I heard its words and the music which became to me a song of our love. The terrible irony is that it was a love that I had to let go of. When most things fail we find ourselves completely alone like that little girl in the red coat. Her end is our end at a point when the red of her coat is barely visible in a pile of corpses carted off by a truck rumbling away through a valley into the distance.

Third Floor, Passing Down

[Based on a true story]
by Ed Mayhew

He saw them waiting at the foot of the narrow stairwell and uncertainly sized up the gap they had left for him to pass through between themselves and the banister rail.

“You shouldn’t be wearing that.”

At first, Rashid didn’t register that they were talking to him. He had been exposed to racism around the block enough to have developed blinkers and mufflers towards these sorts of comments.

“Hey feller, you shouldn’t be wearing that.”

Rashid blinked out of his trance, fixed on the two men frowning up at him.

“No no, brother. Is good. I am Christian now,” Rashid said, indicating the poppy on his coat which they seemed to be deriding. “I want remember men and women that they died for this country I live in.”

“You know what I remember when I see a poppy?” one of the men cut in, “Every time, I remember all the people the British army killed in Ireland. Gunned down in the streets. You want to remind me o’ that do yer?”

The two men were clearly in earnest; one even ground his teeth. Rashid reached to his chest, and slowly took the paper flower out from his lapel. He cupped it delicately in his hand. “My friend, I did not mean to cause to you offense.”

“Ah don’t you fret, just educatin’ yer feller.”

Rashid made his move now they were smiling. They let him pass. He assured the two lads that he would tell other people what they had said; they told him he was a good man.

“I respect your people,” he explained as he moved on, “The poppy, I weared not for the people who kill. I weared for all the people they were killed.”

Down the remaining three flights of stairs, Rashid prayed silently. The Irish men on the stairs were the first people he had told face-to-face that he had converted. He was breathing heavily as he opened the door on the cold November morning, imagining that no flowers would be laid for him if his family ever found out what had happened.

Lost in a Garden

by James Watts

As far as he was concerned, the garden at the house where his grandparents had once lived could only ever be recalled in disparate sections – he had no sense of it as a unified whole.

He thought of the vegetable beds, constrained within railway sleepers, canes hung with climbing peas that collapsed if shaken too violently. It was connected, somehow, to the orchard with its low trees, and the nut-brown rotten apples, pitted and dusted with mould like snow. Somewhere near the bottom where the grass became mossy was an old shed, dusky with a thousand smells, from the dangerous odour of petrol for lawnmowers to the smell of earth rubbed into the grain of wood where plants had been potted. There were tools like museum exhibits hung on old nails, and a vice at the end of the workbench where rotten apples could be squeezed into a plastic bucket to make cider.

The house had the muffled stillness one finds on stepping back inside at a summer garden party. Cool, almost eerie quiet springs from everyone being nearby but elsewhere. Memories flickered before his eyes like blurred, over-saturated cinema.

He returned to the garden. Patio furniture stood as if only momentarily abandoned, as if an aunt or uncle were about to return to it. There was a shimmering, timeless haze to the place as memories and the present reality shifted past one another, giving him the sensation of looking out of a grubby window. Glass and garden were jostling for primacy in his field of view.

He found his way to the deep hedges where dens had once been constructed and his oldest cousin played the villains to his heroes. It was an act of charity he still admired her for. He would have hated to play a villain.

He hadn’t planned to climb inside, but he did. The hedges seemed endless in childhood, but he soon reached a fence that prevented further advance. He turned.

He was surprised to see nothing but foliage. The garden beyond had retreated out of sight. Surely he hadn’t come all that far? He began clambering back only to find that he must have come much further than he remembered. Just as he was thinking it was only a moment’s work to reach it, he realised he could no longer see the fence. He was surrounded by greenery on all sides, and an idea altogether too ridiculous was forcing itself upon him. His incredulity meant he was able to cling to the promise that he would emerge in a moment to dying sunlight and early evening. But he did not.

Several minutes more and a change of foliage brought him further towards admitting something he assumed impossible. Childhood memories of the volume of hedges allowed him to hope he was simply lost in them, and the garden was only just out of sight. But as he advanced, this hope diminished further, leaving him with other explanations that were yet too great and terrible to believe.