Archive | Weekend Showcase RSS feed for this section

Weekend Showcase: Sonja Seear (Photographer)

15 May

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

.

Sonja Seear

.TimeforTea

Click to make the image bigger

.

Time for Tea

The image is from my project ‘Time for Tea’ focusing on the subject of tea drinking. I chose afternoon tea as a subject, as it is quintessentially an English tradition despite tea drinking being imbibed in many cultures across the world. The project aimed to reflect the social aspects of tea drinking, the intimacy of this experience where increasingly time is more precious, and communication is becoming instant, yet impersonal and superficial. The project aimed to illustrate how the ritual of tea drinking is individual in terms of colours, flavours, and setting.

 

https://twitter.com/Sonja_Seear

https://www.behance.net/Sonja_Seear

For more information about Sonja’s Photographic Services: http://www.sonjamartinphotography.com/contact%20page.html

 

Please do get in touch if you would like to be showcased via the form in the What’s On page, or the reply box. 

Weekend Showcase: Stuart Slater (Artist)

20 Mar

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

 

Stuart Slater

.

Get Carter

Get Carter 

From the RYBG Series

.

Artist’s Statement

Rediscovering Art

Art was always my strongest subject when I was at school. However, after graduating from Aberystwyth University with a degree in Fine Art I sadly lost interest in the subject. All passion for creating art had simply faded.

​In February 2014, some 16 years later, I was persuaded to once again have a go at some simple sketch work. One sketch turned into many and soon the sketches became paintings. I had found my passion once more. Since then I have produced over 70 pieces of work; the most prolific I have ever been.

I have a great love for colour in art and I am currently based Solihull. I produce abstracts and portraiture.

 

stuartslaterart.co.uk

https://twitter.com/Stuart_Slater

.

 .
If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page , or via the comment box.
>>>>>>>
 

 

>>>>

 

>>>>

Weekend Showcase : Stephen Thom (Writer)

13 Mar

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

______

Stephen Thom

.

Marbles

 

.

IT IS ALL LITTLE MARBLES IN OUR EARS

by Stephen Thom

.

Hugh placed his plastic cup of sparkling wine beside the picnic hamper and pushed the tweezers deep into Lottie’s left ear. She slugged her own cup back violently, wincing as the bubbles surged down her throat and cold metal tongs simultaneously wriggled into her earhole. Selecting a pair of tweezers for herself, she directed them into Hugh’s right ear and tried to focus on her own prodding and poking. And as it was, she succeeded first. A little, smooth, dark round bead was tugged from Hugh’s ear, clenched between the pincers of the metal implement. Swiftly the bead was followed by more and more tiny round balls, connected together by some sinewy, sticky tether. Hugh’s ear bled as the beads were carefully extracted; dribbling, red pearls hanging from the lobe.

‘How does it feel?’ Lottie asked. Hugh’s head was throbbing, but he didn’t want it to show. Instead he tried to change the subject. ‘I can’t seem to get a handle on yours.’ He switched positions, wedging the blanket into the sand beneath it as he shifted onto his knees. Finally he felt his tweezers click around a smooth surface, and with his eyes screwed up in concentration, tugged the first few beads from Lottie’s left ear. They slid out with comparative ease; soon a whole, slick chain of dark little stony spheres was unravelling out of her earhole, and she barely flinched as she focused on yanking and squeezing Hugh’s assorted beads out individually.

‘Ow,’ he muttered, craning his neck against the roving tweezers. ‘Ow.’ His eyes flickered to the trail hanging from his ear. ‘Ah…Jesus.’

‘They look a bit like marbles,’ breathed Lottie, stroking his head to calm him. ‘I thought you’d be able to see…more, or anything. Maybe they’re different on the outside, like, maybe they change?’

‘Maybe,’ choked Hugh, grinding his teeth as water formed in the corners of his eyes.

With a sucking noise, what appeared to be the final bead was wrenched from Hugh’s ear; Lottie laid his collection in a bundle on the blanket beside her own, long since unravelled to the ground. They surveyed the piles of beads in silence for a while, Hugh rubbing his ear. ‘How long do you think we have?’ He murmured.

Lottie looked up at him. His eyes were jet black, but she declined to inform him of this.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said, reaching for his hand. Hugh let her caress his palm for a moment, then picked up one of his beads. He rotated it between thumb and forefinger. In the centre of the little ball, a cloud swirled amongst the gloom. As he watched, it gathered texture, accumulating into a structured mass. This mass snaked out to incorporate fleeting glimpses of minuscule limbs, features, stretches of environment – a world condensed into a smooth, sticky marble.

‘No, you were right,’ Hugh concurred, ‘it must have been a type of…camouflage, or cover. Look, this is when I met you.’

He held it up to her glassy eyes, still in ownership of their pupils. A scene danced across the minute circular landscape.

‘It wasn’t, though,’ she replied, averting her gaze. Then, looking back at Hugh, she saw a thick sliver of black liquid ooze from his dark eyeballs. He wiped his cheek in shock. Hastily, he pulled the beads up one by one, scrutinising the pictures the little marbles conveyed.

‘This is Greece!’ He cried. ‘This was our holiday! When I was twelve…I had such bad sunburn. I had to have cold showers. Look, this is when Mum was ill…we were waiting at the station for Dad to pick us up, but he’d got the time wrong, and you just kept talking about how you have to pay to use the toilets there, I guess you didn’t want to talk about anything else-‘

‘Hugh…’ Lottie covered the bead with her left hand, and pulled the arm of her jumper down over her right hand, wiping away some of the black fluid flowing down his cheeks.

‘I don’t know if it was the right thing to do anymore,’ he croaked. He was having trouble kneeling upright now; he seemed to be hunching into himself without realising. ‘Even if they’re not ours, or mine, or whatever, it’s what we knew. It’s all I knew. I should honour that. It doesn’t feel right, or like I thought it would. I still spent my life with these people.’

Lottie kissed him on his smudged cheek. ‘It is right,’ she said, and she felt her own voice flagging as she did so. ‘You did spend your life with them, and you will meet them again, just in the right way this time. These things, here…’ her hands fumbled with the beads, ‘they’re not our own, they’re someone else’s interpretation. But all these…links, they’ll come back to you. You will see them again,’ she finished, trying to sound decisive.

Hugh’s face was a mess of black fluid, and he sunk to the blanket as his knees failed him. The sand that had drifted onto the blanket mingled with the thick oilish substance as cracks and sores opened across his skin, and more of it flooded forth. Lottie held his head tightly, staring straight ahead as her own eyes dulled to black.

‘Hugh, did you hear me? Hugh, it’ll be your own now.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he sighed as a black mass converged before him and fractured into a million splinters; splinters that remolded themselves as little black marbles, tumbling in every direction.

He saw his embryonic, shapeless shadow chasing after them, ready, renewed-

‘Don’t ever be sorry,’ Lottie sobbed, somewhere far behind.

.

.

Biography

Stephen Thom is from Carrbridge in the Highlands of Scotland, and enjoys reading and writing fiction with an interpetive element. His pieces have appeared in Firewords Quarterly, Holdfast Magazine, Fur-Lined Ghettos, High Flight, Don’t Do It, Thought Collection Publishing, Thick Jam and Puffin Review amongst others.

http://stephenthom.wordpress.com/​
@StephenThom3

Stephen also plays mandolin in a folk-rock band called ‘Dante’. Their debut album, ‘Wake’, was released in October 2013 to fantastic reviews and features in the Herald’s ‘Top 50 Scottish Albums of the Year’.

http://www.dantemusic.com
@wearedante

 

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 Image by Barnaby N: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/212455

 

 

 

Weekend Showcase : Marie Gethins (Writer)

6 Mar

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

______

Marie Gethins

.

Brigid Painting

 Painting by Brigid Delahunty

.

Jeremiah and the Singing Sheep

.

A few months after Jeremiah turned the fields around Gallybeg blue, sheep began to sing. People in the village called it singing, but it was more of a hum. Shamie Howlin claimed he heard the chorus to O’Donnell Abú one night when he took a short cut home from the pub. However everyone knew better than to trust Shamie’s opinion.

Jeremiah arrived one April with a long beard and an orange tent. “A New Age blow-in,” my mother said, shaking a finger at me. “Now lad, don’t get too familiar.” By the end of his first week, she puzzled together enough information to serve Jeremiah’s life story with my father’s Saturday steak. “Brains to burn, degrees coming out his ears. He’s here to set-out those wind turbines.” She poured pepper sauce across his meat and potatoes, tapped the metal spoon against the pot. “From Kentucky—so they say.”

The wind turbine project pleased almost everyone in Gallybeg, bringing with it a handy cash injection. A protest group from Dublin came down a few weekends until a bull got loose and chased them through the village. “If we had the climate for tomatoes, it would be as good as Pamplona,” my father said. But we could only grow grass and by the look of the livestock, even that didn’t seem to be doing so well.

Part of the preliminary crew, Jeremiah took measurements and pounded sticks into fields marking off access roads and tower bases. He said that he liked to live close to nature. Although the company would pay his expenses for a city hotel and commute costs, he preferred to pitch a tent near the construction sites, landowners permitting.

Jeremiah’s orange tent became a regular fixture and feeding him a competitive sport. It began with a sandwich pile and tea flask, but stakes rose to a full Irish breakfast and hot dinner by farm number three. When he arrived at our place, my mother pinned meal plans and a baking schedule to the kitchen curtains. My mother decided she couldn’t cook, bake and deliver, so my father and I shared the task of bringing Jeremiah his meals.

He had an easy way of speaking: slow and gentle, leading you along. Philosophy, engineering, nature, mythology—Jeremiah covered them all, mixing one with another. Often I couldn’t tell my mother what we had talked about, only that I agreed with him. One evening my father and I shared a warm apple tart and tea with Jeremiah while the ewes and lambs nibbled around us.

“That’s hard dining.” He motioned towards the flock with his fork. “Ryegrass, what’s the variety?”

“It’s a mix,” my father said. “Irish seed mostly, but I was thinking of trying a bit of Italian next.”

“Italian ryegrass? Wouldn’t you consider Poa? Works real well back home. Poa pratensis, Kentucky bluegrass. Those sheep would be so content they’d sing.”

My father shook his head and laughed.

When the construction team arrived, Jeremiah moved onto his next job, but he said he’d return to Gallybeg before the wind turbine commissioning. Although everyone had stared at Jeremiah’s stick outlines for several weeks, big machinery churning up the fields came as a surprise. The post office, petrol station and pub buzzed with complaints. My mother put away her recipe cards and told me to stay well clear of the crew. From my bedroom window I watched the white towers rise, giant fingers pointing to heaven. On rainy days, they broke the grey clouds into marshmallow pillows and when the sun came out, clinging drops glimmered on their sides. With rotors fitted, the turbines became a line of fairground pinwheels waiting for God to blow. My father heard the electrics still had to be wired up.

The heavy works crew left and after a few days Jeremiah appeared. We walked around the wind turbines with him, our wellies sinking in the muck.

“Not a blade left in the field,” my father said.

Jeremiah stroked his beard. “I believe there’s a reseeding contingency in your contract. This could be an opportunity my friend.”

Two weeks later several sacks of Kentucky bluegrass seed came by special delivery. My father covered them with old blankets and locked the shed. When he deemed conditions were ideal, I helped him plough the field and spread the new seed. Soon tufts popped up. A mixture of green and teal blades surrounded the wind turbine bases and covered the soil. When seed heads appeared, the land turned a blue tint in twilight. The ground firm, we moved our flock into the wind turbine field. The sheep rustled through the new coarse grass, happy to dine on the American gourmet fodder. We started to notice other Gallybeg fields the same shade as our farm.

Commissioned at last, the wind turbines began to rotate. Regular rent payments arrived from the energy company. My father talked about building a new shed, my mother a conservatory. Reporters interviewed farmers, photographers snapped shots of white wind turbines and fluffy sheep against bluish fields.

Summer rains shifted into autumn frosts. On a clear November night, my father and I checked on the flock. An orange harvest moon hung heavy in the dark sky, stars scattered like bog cotton around it. A rhythmic hum grew louder as we approached the field.

“Do you hear that?”

My father nodded. “It must be the sheep.”

“What?”

“Jeremiah said that grass would make them sing.” He slapped my back and chuckled.

That winter noise pollution protestors from the city went round the village asking people to sign their petition. They wanted the wind turbines silenced. “But the wind turbines are silent,” the villagers said. The protestors passed around leaflets on infrasound, asked about headaches, nausea and tinnitus.

“Don’t you hear that hum?” one said. “How can you sleep?”

“Ah that’s just the sheep.” My father handed back a leaflet. “They’re so happy with the Kentucky bluegrass they sing for joy.”

A CD and a letter from Jeremiah came with my father’s latest seed order. The cover had a picture of him outside a tent, beard plaited, a funny looking guitar in his lap. He wrote that he’s started an Ashram in the Appalachian Mountains and plays bluegrass music on the sitar for the local wildlife. Next birthday I’m going to ask for an orange tent and when I’m older, I’m going to grow a long beard. In the meantime, I play the CD for our flock, a background hum in harmony.

.

Biographies

Marie Geth­ins’ work has fea­tured in the Litro, 2014 NFFD Anthology, Flash, NANO, The Incubator Vin­tage Script, Circa, Firewords Quarterly, The Lamp, Control Literary Magazine and Word Bohemia. She won or placed in Tethered by Letters, Flash500, Drom­i­neer, The New Writer, Prick of the Spindle, Sen­tinel Lit­er­ary Quar­terly and 99fiction.net. Marie is a Pushcart and Best of the Short Fictions Nominee. She lives in Cork, Ireland, working on her MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

https://twitter.com/MarieGethins

.

 Artist:  Brigid Delahunty:

Award winning artist Brigid Delahunty’s work reflects upon the different shapes of man-made objects built or left in the landscape with their random presence creating a new perspective and incongruity in the environment. Each scene is individual and fictitious with a narrative approach that emphasises a sense of emptiness and isolation. Contact info: https://brigiddelahunty.wordpress.com/

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Showcase : Rebecca Violet White (Poet)

6 Feb

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

______

Rebecca Violet White

 

.

Welcome

.

How is London treating you?
London sticks like a burr
chases me shoulder to shoulder
drags out my elbows

and straight lines are like this
bird feet in the snow
from one to another

*

questions

I have thought about who chose the bus stops
names the streets here after birds
and therefore the bus stops

where are the flies

answers

My bed is always in orange light
the mice under the trains
tread out the map

*

Mice in the snow

would they trace the Piccadilly line
with their soot feet

.

Biography

Rebecca Violet White has lived in Nottingham, Cardiff, Devon, Norwich and now London. Some things of hers have been published by Ink, Sweat and Tears and For Book’s Sake. She likes to write about her places.

realrvwhite.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/RealRVWhite

.

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Showcase: Louise M. Hart (Writer/Poet)

16 Jan

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

 

Louise M. Hart

.

sunrise

 

.

North by West Midlands

by Louise M. Hart

.

I journeyed north in pursuit of happier thoughts
And a deep fried mars bar
But, blind were the eyes, watching me arrive
And burnt was the mars bar

My baggage was heavy with burdens
Beside me, were a loving Mother and my black (and white) dog
It had been a long, exhausting ride
Whose terminus,
Under the conceit of summer sunshine, concealed the cloudy thoughts
That burst inside my mind

Thus, I regressed to a developmentally former time
My awareness of my impending pain
Like the cries of a virgin bride
Hidden from world view

Cradled in the comfort womb of the Scottish landscape
“It’s beautiful,” I cried
I could never distinguish calculated deceit from honest lies
And, thus, unpacked my luggage, as though
I was holidaying in a land of enlightenment and fun

And the sea called to me, “Run”

So, we turned our backs on reality and ran
Billy, my beloved dog before he was taken and I
Hugging feral fingered trees in the name of city slickers
We blamed ourselves for our inability to defeat the bourgeoisie
With our indiscreet charm and our inadvertent attempts at infamy

But, soon the sun was gone

And the trees were as bare as my face
Expressing thoughts as toxically as fumes of human waste

I realised that my end was nigh, when I could no longer cry
My life collapsing, like The State’s self proclaimed fiscal cliff
Into the gluttonous foam of the North Sea’s residential home
In which my austere soul sprayed stingy piss
And fired blanks thoughts with life denying regularity

I became undone

And, then winter’s chill arrived
Articulating its intent in my mind’s shrieking descent

Into gloomy thoughts and conspicuous insanity
I entered a race I was born to lose
Whose other competitors existed as alien forms
So prolific that I believed mine to be the only existing human face
That interpreted the unnatural selection of human rejection
And the death of universal subjectivity

A belief in fate’s omnipotence
Became my faith, my anti-God delusion
Of confinement secured by thought intrusion
And mental institutionalisation

Wintertime thrust me between the thighs
Of a system I summoned, but despised
Whereupon a nurse knocked my gentle door
For I had slept not, the night before
Rising before the portents of a spreading dawn
And staring blankly at the dark and silent screen of my television

There are clubs, up north, especially created for the chemically inferior
Staffed by people who, even before the humiliation of an introduction
Know every member’s name
For in their eyes, we all look the same
Sporting diagnostic labels and medicated shuffles
Our identities socially constructed and acted out in vain regard
For the needs we espouse
And contradicted by the nature of the pills
We consume to reinforce
And legitimate the acute angles of the pain we survive

They wiped my arse, but closed their ears when I spoke
Offering computerised basket weaving and messages of no hope

Ooh, there’s trouble up north
When identity crumbles, like ideological rubble
For I had fallen and been captured by a beast with two faces
One face that soothed my heated brow
The other, functioning as subjectivity’s adversarial sacred cow
Cock, bull and ball breaker of all fleshy nuts of bone and brain
It destroyed meaning, like the presence of a double negative
In a sentence, articulated in the open parenthesis of pseudo-silence
And intellectual non-sense

Eventually, I wrote a book
And defected to the way out west, to try my luck-
The mid land of nowhere

Life had knocked me down
But, creativity lifted me back up

.

You can find more about Louise and her poetry here:
 .
.
If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.
>hhttps://twitter.com/shunterthompsonhttps://twitter.com/shunterthompsonvhttps://twitter.com/shunterthompsonhttps://twitter.com/shunterthompsonhttps://twitter.com/shunterthompsonhttps://twitter.com/shunterthompsonvttps://twitter.com/shunterthompson>>>>

 

>>>>>>>
 

 

>>>>

 

>>>>

Weekend Showcase : Elizabeth Rose Murray (Writer)

9 Jan

Spotlight

Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.

______

Elizabeth Rose Murray

.

Gothiclitterabastarda3

.

The Books, They Cry *

.

Sarajevo, 1993. No idea what date exactly – it’s not important any more. Food and cigarettes are the only currencies that matter.

Zoran pulls himself out of his bunk and into his hole-ridden combat jacket, rescued from a dead comrade last week. Bullet holes in a jacket bring you luck, they say. Bullets are proud like Serbs. Never hit the same spot twice. There’s no glory in that.

The scarf that Zoran tied carefully around his face has slipped in his sleep. The dusty air burns, dry and hot. Every breath suffers. He gulps like a suffocating fish, checking around nervously to make sure he hasn’t disturbed his comrades. As his gaze falls on his commander, Zoran stiffens, straightens as much as his tired body can manage. He wonders how the commander sleeps so well.

Before he turns sixteen, Zoran wants to be in charge of a unit. The Great Siege is all he has left. His mother, father, brothers and sister; they all died unremarkably. Zoran was outside sketching the last lime tree in his village when return fire blew their makeshift home apart. He found remnants of his mother, but the others evaporated like mist. Hiding in the apartment was a cowardly act. They should have been fighting for the cause.

Under his commander’s care, Zoran is no longer the snivelling boy found curled around his mother’s severed body. Tomorrow, he starts his first shift on the barricades on the Northern Bank of the Miljacka. The barricades offer the best contact fighting. They’re where you earn respect.

“Are you ready to join the men, Zoran?”

Zoran had not noticed the commander wake. He stares into his leader’s eyes. The others say the commander can see into a man’s heart. Zoran believes it, even though his own vision is clouded. He puffs himself up, sucks in his cheeks like he’s seen the others do.

“I am, sir.”

He hopes the thin croak in his voice doesn’t betray him. He’s been dreaming of this moment, can’t risk his excitement being mistaken for fear. The commander reaches out, grabs the boy by his shoulder and squeezes. Zoran accepts the pincer-sharp grip, fights the urge to pull away. Inside, his heart pumps like rapid-gun fire.

*

The Gazi Husrev Bey Library is so silent Ismet can hear his father’s breath from the other side of the room. Before the war started, before the bread queues and blockades, before the trees were cut down for firewood, the building would have been full. Nobody comes to read books any more. They’re too hungry or cold or afraid. The majestic glass dome is now a withered skeleton. There is no glass left in Sarajevo.

Ismet’s father used to say the library was the middle point between heaven and earth. He talked of how the books came alive at night; “Imagine, Ismet, while we sleep, philosophers and scholars from every country, every era, leap from the pages to debate the world’s most important ideas.” When war threatened, Ismet’s father didn’t panic. He smiled, cupping his hands around a decorative spine. “In times of war, books and prayers can be of great comfort to a man.”

Back then, Ismet would examine the treasured sixteenth century manuscripts, trying to make sense of the beautiful, handwritten script. Scarlet, viridian and indigo inks whispered to him, offering a glimpse of the nighttime chatter of ghosts. Ismet listened carefully, trying to decipher their incessant noise in languages he couldn’t understand.

Those days ended when the ‘men in the hills’ arrived. Now, Ismet’s father is silent. He holds the books close, smells their musky scent, strokes their covers. But there is no smile. He reads very little. Always, he worries. The books, they cry.

Once one of the most respected scholars in Sarajevo, Ismet’s father is reduced to stacking abandoned manuscripts into banana boxes. See the remnants of his past in the elegant angle of his neck as he concentrates? Ismet tries harder to see it every day as willow-thin and grey as the sky, his father methodically piles book upon book, then seals the box.

An act that could cost him his life. His son’s too.

*

Zoran secures an excellent view of the Latin Bridge: a necessary crossing for civilians in need of water. Day after day, war-worn men and grief-bruised women race across the bridge in the hope of reaching the Brewery. Here, they drain water from the pumps, then risk their lives again to get back home to their families.

A tall, wiry sniper stationed at the Northern Bank barricade grins at Zoran. He nods his head towards the bridge.

“Easy pickings.”

In return, Zoran widens his lips and shows his teeth. It isn’t what a smile used to look like.

“Easy pickings,” he repeats.

Holding the high-precision rifle makes Zoran feel taller. Excitement rages through his body. Unlike the defending soldiers, he has ammunition. Ignoring the rusted trigger, chipped handle and uncomfortable weight, Zoran imagines that his weapon gleams against his hip. He’s thankful that there are no mirrors. He doesn’t want to see the oversized, tattered gun against his slight frame.

Zoran was never athletic or academic. He only excelled at art. Looking back, he scorns that weak, sunburned boy who spent hours dabbing at canvas with a sable brush. Cerulean blue, lemon yellow, alizarin crimson: all distant memories buried under the dust and debris of constant shelling. What need is there of such wasteful occupations? The city’s freedom will be beauty enough.

*

The city’s main library is bombed. Ismet’s father grows increasingly restless. What will stop them from turning on the Gazi Husrev Bey next?

“It is time, Ismet,” he says.

A disused fire station near the tunnel that leads from the city to the airport is their only chance. No one attacks the tunnel. The fighters need their cigarettes. The black market needs its extortionately priced food. And those who can pay need their way out.

“How many books will we take, papa?”

“All of them.”

More than ten thousand tomes have made their home in the Gazi Husrev Bey. Ismet sighs. He wonders whether, with all their wisdom, those revered scholars saw The Great Siege coming? Pausing, gleaming manuscript in hand, he peers skyward, expecting to see apparitions. There is only the flat grey sky where the dome once glistened like dew.

“When, papa?”

“Morning.”

Ismet’s mother begs her son not to go. She says it is too risky for a boy of fifteen. She has not heard the books whispering, isn’t familiar with the sound of their important ideas. Ismet knows that if Sarajevo is to be rebuilt, it cannot be left to the criminals and thugs that have sprung up on both sides. Whoever wins, whatever the future, the books will preserve the city’s identity. They need to be heard.

*

Pacing the barricade, staring down into the city, Zoran feels sweat drip down his spine despite the wintery air. With every step, the sniper’s eyes sear into him, calculating his next move. Zoran knows his future relies on impressing this man. Otherwise, the commander will be disappointed.

“Smoke?”

Zoran takes one of his companion’s cigarettes, taps it against his palm before lighting it to buy time. After three days of watching, he must shoot. But the choice of target is critical.

As he sucks on the cigarette, Zoran tries to think like his commander. Could shooting a man earn him the most glory? Maybe killing a woman would show he’s cut all ties with childhood? Or would a toddler be best? He looks into the sniper’s eyes, trying to read him like a colour palette. But the sniper only sees in monochrome. Zoran has to make his choice alone.

As soon as his cigarette is finished, Zoran stubs it into the ground and perches his rifle on the barricade. Closing one eye, breath slowed, he waits. Instinct tells him to let the first few people cross. But when a man in an expensive blue suit and hat steps out, Zoran’s heart thumps. The world pales. The blue suit gleams as it sprints across the Latin Bridge. Zoran aims, fires.

Recovering from the thump of the gun against his shoulder, he sees the man make it safely to the other side. His hat lies crumpled and smoking in the middle of the road. As Zoran lowers his weapon, a fist strikes him in the mouth. He springs back, but doesn’t cower. The blood is bright against his palm as he wipes it away. The sniper fixes his stare on the boy, spits his cigarette to the floor.

“Idiot! There’s no room for failure, here. If you want to lose, join the other side.”

*

Ismet and his father are ready. The city library still burns, lighting up the sky as their stooped figures step out into the morning, each loaded with a banana box full of books. Their task has made them strong. In single file they run across streets, dodge down alleyways, duck behind boxcars. Last night’s mortar attacks leave the air extra thick with dust, cloaking their movements.

When they reach the Latin Bridge, their hearts throb with fear. The bridge is open and in full view of the Northern Bank barricades. No dust will save them now. Waiting with the stragglers and empty water cartons, tucked behind an upturned truck, they watch. Ismet scribes a prayer in the dirt. War involves too much waiting.

A woman runs out, plastic water bottles clanking by her hip. She kicks an abandoned hat adorned with a single bullet hole, stumbles, but makes it safely to the other side. As another woman crosses successfully, Ismet decides he will grab the hat as he passes. A gift for his father as protection; they say no Serb bullet strikes the same place twice.

“It is time,” says Ismet’s father. “I will go first.”

He believes a sniper will fire as soon as he sees the box. There won’t be enough time to reload and shoot at his son.

“See you on the other side.”

Taking a deep breath and heaving the box of books close to his chest, Ismet’s father races into the street.

*

Sucking on his wounded lip, Zoran peers out across the range. There’s been little movement since he missed his shot. Just a few women he’d let pass to lure better prey. The others cower like starving dogs, sheltering behind vehicles. Zoran has heard that some people count the seconds after a sniper shot, trying to guess the safest time to cross. When will they realise it will only be safe when they, the Serbs, have taken the city by force?

Avoiding his comrade’s gaze, Zoran squints into the distance. He knows this is his last chance. If he doesn’t hit his target this time, his commander will be informed. His dreams of leading a unit will crumple in cadmium flames like the city library.

Zoran wears his non-smile as the civilians relax and begin to cross. First: a bent, grey man with a proud face. He runs slowly, only just able to bear the box he carries. Zoran blinks. Did he see right? His eyes haven’t deceived him; the box is imprinted with bananas. Zoran stalls. He knows that the black market is thriving; cars, clothes, toys, water. Anything can be bought for the right price. He’s seen the men in tracksuits with their oily hair and oilier palms, slicking their way from tunnel to hill to valley. They didn’t bother him before – smugglers are always chameleons in war – but the bright yellow-gold of the bananas feels like an insult.

“We don’t even have bread, and they have bananas,” says Zoran quietly.

Anger creeps into his stomach. His heart shrivels. As his blood pumps faster, making his forehead throb, he knows he will shoot the next person to appear. Under the watchful eye of his fellow sniper, Zoran lifts his rifle. Prays he won’t fail this time.

 .

* ‘The Books, They Cry’ was shortlisted for the RTE Francis MacManus Short Story competition (2013) – it was aired on national radio but this is the first time it has appeared in print.

 

  Biography

Elizabeth Rose Murray lives in West Cork where she fishes, grows her own vegetables and lives for adventure and words. Book One of her Nine Lives trilogy for children (aged 10-12) will be published by Mercier Press in August 2015.

Elizabeth has poetry & fiction published in journals across Ireland and the UK, and she has been shortlisted in the following competitions: RTE3 Short Story (2014) Penguin/RTE Guide (2013), Powers/Irish Times (2013), Writers & Artists/Anam Cara (2013) and Aesthetica Creative Works (2011). In 2012, she performed in Ciudades Paralelas: Station – a live writing installation in Kent train station as part of the Cork Midsummer Festival.

Twitter: @ERMurray
Facebook: /ERMurray.Author

Elizabeth will be returning to ArtiPeeps on Wednesday 25th February for her first FreeSpace. Do watch out for her. 

 

If you would like a Weekend Showcase please do get in touch via the contact form on the What’s On Page or via the comment box.

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: