Friday, 27 June 2014

Fudge It by Sam Carter

Read by Bhavini Ravel

People always think it’s so cool that I had fairy Godmothers at my christening, and for a while I did too, but really it’s turned out to be a pain in the abdomen. And if you’re wondering why I’m being so coy about using a certain three-letter word, you can blame my third fairy Godmother, Beata, and her double-edged blessing.

The first two Godmothers I have nothing against. Beneficia made me “fair of face and clear of eye,” so I’ve never had acne or needed glasses. Benevola gave me “fleet of foot and sharp of mind,” which meant I was one of those kids who was sporty as well as academic. But don’t hate me yet, because Beata made me “sweet of voice and sweet of tongue,” and that was the kicker: while I can sing like an angel, I can never, ever swear. Not a single curse word can pass my lips.

I know, I know, you can hear the world’s tiniest violin playing for the pretty, athletic, clever girl with the great voice, right? Oh boo hoo hoo, she can’t say f- f- fudge (see what I mean?). So what? Who gives a shoot?  But you underestimate the centrality of swearing to human social interaction; its function as the glue of camaraderie, the marker of informality and friendship. Sure, nobody swears in the office. But at drinks afterward, who wants to talk to the prude with the stick up her abdomen who talks like she’s teaching primary school?

The Accidental Triad by John Robertson

Read by Daniel Levia

I was the last person you’d expect to get a tattoo.

Most people knew me as the quiet, geeky English-as-a-foreign-language teacher at a local school in Yau Ma Tei. But anything can happen after you’ve been drowning your sorrows in a nearby Mong Kok dive bar at 2am.

You see, I’d been having a rough time at school. I’d joined it a year before only to soon find my self-esteem being crucified everyday by the most vicious fourteen-year-olds, none of whom could understand how in this white man’s world such a pushover of a gweilo teacher had been handed to them to taunt, heckle and occasionally even slap or kick as they wished. Within the span of every lesson, it felt like centuries of colonial oppression around the world were being reversed and fully compensated for.

And so I found myself getting smashed one school night with my only colleague who spoke to me on a regular basis: Freddie Fung.

Now I do remember that after I’d bawled my eyes out to him, it was Freddie who suggested that the best way for me to reclaim my dignity was with a big diu lei to society like a tattoo.

But everything after that is blank. All I know is that it was the next morning when I caught a glimpse of my neck in the bathroom mirror. And I almost swallowed my toothbrush.

Two monstrous, unintelligible Chinese characters sat right across my throat. They looked like a stain on my very soul.

Bless You by Richard Meredith

Read by Damien Barnes

For days, weeks, months, years, decades, the old man laid in the cell. The only words his gaolers ever heard him utter were gentle words of forbearance and forgiveness. He adhered to the Other God, whose disciples had been slaughtered a generation ago, but as the last and highest of their holy men, the High Priest of the New Faith had decreed that instead of being executed, the old man should be made an example of.

“Imprison him until he converts,” the High Priest commanded, and so they had. Even twenty years ago, the old man was not young; the faded frailty of extreme age clung to every withered limb and white hair. But he submitted uncomplainingly to his punishment, never raising his shallow whisper of a voice in protest, but never converting, either.

When the old man’s wife was beaten before his face, the thin lips trembled and the eggshell skull shook in grief and disbelief, but “Bless you,” was all he said.

When the High Priest killed the old man’s children, tears cascaded down the papery cheeks, but the only words he uttered were “Bless you.”

Blood of a Mole by Zdravka Evtimova

Read by Hin Leung

Few customers visit my shop. They watch the animals in the cages and seldom buy them. The room is narrow and there is no place for me behind the counter, so I usually sit on my old moth-eaten chair behind the door. For hours I stare at frogs, lizards, snakes and insects. Teachers come and take frogs for their biology lessons; fishermen drop in to buy some kind of bait; that is practically all. Soon, I’ll have to close my shop and I’ll be sorry about it, for the sleepy, gloomy smell of formalin has always given me peace and an odd feeling of home. I have worked here for five years now.

One day a strange small woman entered my room. Her face looked frightened and grey. She approached me, her arms trembling, unnaturally pale, resembling two dead white fish in the dark. The woman did not look at me, nor did she say anything. Her elbows reeled, searching for support on the wooden counter. It seemed she had not come to buy lizards and snails; perhaps she had simply felt unwell and looked for help at the first open door she happened to notice. I was afraid she would fall and took her by the hand. She remained silent and rubbed her lips with a handkerchief. I was at a loss – it was very quiet and dark in the shop.

"Have you moles here?" she suddenly asked. Then I saw her eyes. They resembled old, torn cobwebs with a little spider in the centre, the pupil.

The Supervisor by Mike Rampton

Read by Tim Selby

The supervisor held his clipboard like a shield. It contained all the information he needed to get things done, but crucially, no more. That was how he liked it. He looked at the crew he had for the evening's job. They were a sorry-looking bunch, and all of them seemed to either be too big or too small for their high-vis jackets. It was probably possible to swap the jackets round so everyone had one that fit, he thought, but that wasn’t really anything to concern him.

He'd done a few jobs like this before – private contracts where they didn't want anyone asking too many questions, memorising too many floorplans, telling anyone anything they had no place knowing. He'd helped install emergency underlighting in a missile silo once, one that didn’t show up on any maps. He’d built a panic room behind a revolving bookcase in a very high-up politician's study, and once led the clean-up crew on an industrial accident that technically never happened. He prided himself on his efficiency, discretion and ability to completely lack curiosity in the world around him.

He cleared his throat and addressed the rag-tag crew in front of him. “Right lads, I'm the super for this, so do what I say and we'll all be good,” he said. “It's all a bit vague and top-secret, and it's on a need-to-know basis. None of you need to know, so let's just get this all done and get back up out of here in time for our lovely brekkies.”

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Together By Yalun Tu

Read by Sean Hebert

I don’t know how much you know but we’re supposed to end up together. The narrative was written long ago, starting with a kiss in New Haven on a party weekend. Your friend – remember her, the red haired, wild one? – was snapping pictures and captured it, by coincidence, by circumstance, by fate, and really, how perfect is that? Our first kiss, destined to adorn a wall in our hallway. Oh, that picture? It’s a funny story, reallyIt was our sophomore year in college... I could practically hear your girlfriends gush.

I don’t know how much you know but we’re supposed to end up together. There was talk of a house, a dog, winters with sweaters. We’d kiss in the rain and clink champagne glasses. The years would turn but stay the same: I’d read newspapers; you’d eat muesli in the mornings. But we’d still be us.There’d still be that secret look you give me during parties. You know, the one that means I’m doing this for you and I hope you know that but oh-I-still-love-you and it’s-alright-provided-you-tidy-up-when-they’re-gone. And I would, because dirty dishes should never separate two people and oh-by-the-way-I-love-you-too.

I don’t know how much you know but we’re supposed to end up together. Together we were Friday – the anticipation of pleasure, a weekend that could fall in any direction. There were Tunisian restaurants and moonlight tangoes, a surprise trip to Florida where we cooked my grandmother lamb chops. “I swear, it was one of the top meals of my entire life,” she still says in her Maryland twang.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Two Fellers by Maria Kyle

Read by Sean Hebert

Patrick and Michael were lumberjacks, and they both lived in log cabins in the deep forests of British Columbia, in Western Canada. Their nearest town was a little place called Squamish, which boasted, in order of importance, a sawmill, three bars and a railway station. Sometimes a lumberjack would marry a barmaid and take her off to his log-cabin in the woods, and that was what had happened with Michael and Mary, for Patrick had not been quick enough off the mark.

Patrick and Michael were both fallers and they’d been working together for fifteen years up and down Canada. They came as a team, and a good one: so close were they, like brothers, that they’d even built their cabins nearby each other, before a great stand of pine. They lived a mile apart, but in the forest that makes men close neighbours.

One fall morning, Michael knocked on Patrick’s door. The smell of brewing coffee and frying bacon wafted out as Patrick opened the door and stared at him. Michael was wearing travelling clothes and carried a kitbag. He didn’t come in.

“I’m off on a job in Saskatchewan for three months,” said Michael. “Look after Mary, will you?”

Taking the Edge Off by Carolyn Eden

Read by Jennie Davies

“And tomorrow,” Mr Choo murmured slowly, “you’ll walk into a convenience store and, on shelves behind the till, you’ll see them.” He paused to let the scene nestle. “And you’ll say to yourself:

“Hello! I remember you guys. You used to be my friends. We used to be inseparable. But you weren’t good for me and I don’t need you anymore.”

Gina’s closed eyelids fluttered as she nodded, remembering the good times of sharing and the bad mornings of grumpily searching for a lighter or matches, and the stupid times she singed hair leaning over a gas hob. 
The therapist’s soothing tones drifted her into a 7-Eleven where her two-faced pals enticed her to choose. “Me,” begged the purple low tar, “Non, tu desire moi!” smarmed the Gauloise – pungent with the smell of the South Bank where Jean-Luc had broken her heart. 

As Mr Choo droned on about how soon she’d gradually regain full consciousness, remembering all that he had said, she watched a carousel of images he’d previously planted flicker by. 

Five pound notes cascaded from towering tobacco plants landing beneath a rumbling harvesting machine which scooped all in its path, including rats and cockroaches and even a sad-eyed monkey. All shredded and mashed into an ochre haystack upon which scaffolding erupted to clutch a wench with burnished pigtails tangle-trapped within the kindling. A Joan of Arc sporting Gina’s unborn daughter’s tiny nose above cherubic lips which cruelly slithered open to display a brutal range of nicotine stained milk teeth.

“And now,” Mr Choo intoned, “take three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. And open your eyes. Breathe and smile. Welcome to your first hour of freedom.”

Wanderers by Andrada Coos

Read by Candice Moore

In the beginning, there were two. She, wandering barefooted in the snow, clutching the torn and bloody dress to her chest and he, a bulky old warrior, covered in wolf skin, sword by his side. They noticed each other in the distance, mirroring shadows in flight. Their trajectories seemed to glide together naturally against their better judgement and desires.

The first real glimpse they caught of one another equally frightened them. She thought him a monstrous wolf of legend. He saw a spectre, draped in white, with a fiery halo wiping up around her face. But the storm receded and playful nature took away their fantastic attributes and they were left in front of each other as they were: he, a one-eyed Norseman, towering above her in height and girth, bearded and scowling, his sword conspicuous, and she, a Roman matron, small in frame, red haired, trembling in her fluttering white dress, but clutching in the torn fabric of her dress, a hidden dagger. He visibly relaxed while she continued to shake irresolutely, whether from cold or fear she did not know anymore.

The Norseman moved abruptly, taking out his sword and she was ready with her dagger, but he simply planted it in the ground, then speaking in his own language, loud and uncouth – or so it seemed to her - removed the wolf skin from his shoulders and, nearing her, draped it around her shaking figure. He held it tightly around her neck with one rough palm. When she did not move, he raised his fist closer to her face and repeated the same words again. It only then occurred to her that he wanted her to hold the fur around her shoulders herself. She reached out a hand, still pale with cold and replaced his firm hand.

Ms Terious by Esther Cleverly

Read by Howard Ho

Dear Madam,

I won’t call you “Ms Terious,” as we both know you’re no “Ms” and there’s no “mysteriousness” left surrounding your identity, more’s the pity. I just can’t believe you let me find out this way. After all the teasing, the clues, the midnight vanishings, the flirtatious notes left at crime-scenes, the tight-fitting outfit – for God’s sake, you must’ve known it would destroy me to discover who my slinky female nemesis really was.

But did you care? Apparently, you did not. Apparently, that was the last thing on your mind as you left a trail of suggestive destruction through the city simply to ensure you were my No. 1 Enemy. You wanted my attention and boy, did you get it with your crazy crusade of crime. I don’t know if it was a hormonal thing, or working out some serious relationship issues, and believe me I don’t want to. But what you did was selfish, and thoughtless, and frankly pretty creepy: all the things I swore, when I became NightGuard, never to be.

When a man (or woman) dons the guise of a superhero, he (or she) puts on more than a mask and cape. He or she (actually let’s just stick with “he”, since you’re hardly a good example of the female costumed demographic) takes on a burden. The burden of responsibility. The burden of setting an example. The burden of morally-upright behaviour and not just doing what the hell she likes just to piss somebody else off.

Harriet Beecher Stowaways by Michael Skansgaard

Read by Warner Sallman

Delilah was headed for the wrong side of the tracks. And in the days before railroad tracks crisscrossed the midwest, the only tracks in Missouri belonged to runaway slaves.

Delilah worked—or daydreamed, rather—alongside the rest of us in a tobacco field. Our plantation stretched serenely along the Missouri River, owned by Master Henry, a mild-mannered, dimwitted, and alcoholic specimen. The adjoining partition belonged to Master Dalrymple, a hot-headed, bald-headed, ambitious frontiersman who took pleasure in everything he overdid. Our Masters were generous folk. They gave us liberal amounts of supper, hard labour, shelter, and solid beatings. Did this make them enemies, or friends?

Delilah was headed for trouble well before she changed her name. As a child she stole candles from Master Henry so we could tell ghost stories. As an adolescent, she stole kisses from Master Dalrymple. On her 14th birthday, she luxuriously resisted his cornucopia of chrysanthemums:
“I'm not for sale,” she coyly smiled.

“Well,” stammered the poor gentleman, “yes, technically, you are.”

Done by Jeanne Lambin

Read by Saffron Chan


His cock is still in my mouth, growing limp, when he tells me, “I’m done.”

I find this rather obvious, so in push-up fashion, I raise myself and sit up. He pulls a pillow over his lap.
“I am done with… this.”

I look at him.  When we got married, among the many other things that we pledged one another, we promised that oral sex would not go the way of party dresses – only to be brought out for special occasions. Perhaps there would be no party dress for me, I think.  He does seem tired.

“Okay, that’s….” I start.

“No.” He cuts me off. “I am done with us.”

The Reunion by Daniel Bird

Read by Tim Selby
“Barney Hodges, you drink like you did when we were at school!”
Paul slapped my back so that I coughed up my beer. I walked towards the toilets. He threw a bag of nuts at my head.
In front of the urinal, I thought back ten years ago to my high school graduation ceremony. That was the last time I had seen Paul. When his name was called he’d approached the stage in a wheelchair he’d ‘borrowed’ from a shopping centre. He wheeled himself along and frowned at the two steps in front of him. The Headmaster turned a steaming beetroot red as parents began shaking their heads and muttering at the poor arrangements made for those students with disabilities. Paul pretended to cry then reversed out of the hall, knocking over two presentation tables. Paul Slayer, the boy who did what he wanted, to me, to others - whatever pleased him. 
I washed my hands and wondered if Paul ever thought about our times together. I was jealous of Paul’s guts. Everything I had done was for the typeface bold on my CV. I was shocked to receive my first ever email from him last week. Apparently he had travelled the world and now he wanted to throw nuts at my head and get me drunk.

Monday, 16 June 2014

SCMP interview

Read about how it all began in our interview with the South China Morning Post!

Published Sunday, June 15 in The Review section of the SCMP.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

True & False - chosen stories!

We're back!

Come to the Fringe Club Dairy on June 30th to find out the truth...or are we lying?

The lineup is as follows:

The Bridge by Jerome W McFadden
An Imagined Life by Sarah Evans
The Township Party Committee's Head Photoshop Clerk by Robert Powers
A Grip on Reality by John Robertson
Portrait of the Artist's Model by Cherry Potts
All the Signs by Daniel Bird

Again, we start at 8pm (sharp!) and we're expecting a big turnout, so please arrive early to secure seats. It's happy hour all night.

See you there!