He loved the drive up to Inverness: leaving Edinburgh on the motorway, crossing the Firth of Forth and looking across to the old railway bridge, wondering, each time, if it really was true that when they finished painting it they had to start all over again … Even the inevitable congestion around Perth he didn’t mind so much because once he’d got through all that it was the A9 and a free run all the way up to the Highlands. On a beautiful autumn day like today it was just unbeatable. He felt so good in fact that with only an hour or so still to go he decided to pull off the road into Aviemore and grab a bite. There was a wonderful ice cream store there that also sold cannoli and he picked up a box for the trip home. That put him behind schedule a little but he reckoned he still had plenty of time to do what he’d come for and get to the bed-and-breakfast by a reasonable hour.Continue reading “Loch Ness Monster by Steven French”
When I mention that I once spent a year in the island state of Tasmania, people look at me with interest and ask me the same question. A question as patented as Coca-Cola and as reflexive as a burp. “Did you see the Tasmanian Devil?” they say. They are probably thinking of that Looney Tunes critter that talks in growls and grunts—not that poor diseased marsupial that is practically extinct.Continue reading “Did You See the Tasmanian Devil? By James Hanna”
The body was still in the house when we got there. Graciela saw it first and let out a sharp, “Dios mio!” She was the most senior local employee at the Consulate and had seen Americans in trouble before, but none as distressed as George McMahon. He was lying on a thin mattress on the concrete floor of his living room. A machete was planted in his abdomen, just below the breastbone. It had been put there by his girlfriend, according to the police, but they also said he was at the morgue.Continue reading “Death Misspelled by David Robinson”
He could recall years before, when he was working down south, there had been this exhausted and exhausting expressway, the Togo-Badagry A1. As you curve out of the greater Lagos conurbation you eventually hit the track, a cheerless concrete, four lane highway which if you stayed on long enough took you clear out of Nigeria and would allow you to proceed along the coast road, looking out at the Bite of Benin, to Togo, Ghana and beyond. He remembered one occasion when he got so far as the Benin border, but it was not a good time to travel. He was young, mid 30s, and Nigeria was plagued by bad politicians, bad policies and bad law enforcement. Not a helpful combination if you are a young professional man from upstate, travelling alone.
Entering the train Robert didn’t want to talk to anyone. Once seated, the couple across from him bobbing gently with the rhythm of the tracks seemed strange.
He wondered if he could avoid conversation with them for the entire three hour trip. From the way the burly man was trying to make eye contact with him he was pretty sure he wasn’t gonna be able to.
There’s a feral cat watching the birds. Sparrows mainly. The birds remain oblivious, searching for crumbs which the tourists scatter unheedingly in their tracks. There are a great many tourists. It’s hard to understand why this place should appeal to the average visitor. I should know, I’m there against everything I’ve practised in my life. And, I’ve been a sinner – if sinners remain a recognised species. But I had to come. Something inexplicable drew me. Even so, the vast numbers are off putting and I’m wondering if there’s something else. Something I haven’t yet understood. Is it a bank holiday, or is there going to be a local football derby?
They said I could go anywhere, so long as my blood was there first. In hindsight, I really should have questioned the deal, but I wanted to travel, and they were handing me a key to the world, no flight reservations required.
We used to make tables from soft balsa. I can still picture them now; so many thousands of little tables, all the same shape and colour, stacked drying in rows inside warehouses. This was near Pattaya, Thailand, a few months after we left Myanmar. I would take the drums of lacquer – it was three years in this country before I found this word in English, lacquer – I would roll them around the outside of the building, where the high-pressure hoses were attached. I was a sprayer. Aung worked the assembly line, drilling holes for dowels. It was repetitive work, and the warehouse was sometimes so hot that all day sweat would be in your eyes. Still, we knew there were worse ways to make money.
Justin and the campesino, Santos, spent the morning hiking deep into a ravine, carefully picking their way down narrow goat paths and occasionally chopping through vines and thickets. Now they were at the bottom of the ravine and sitting on a boulder that sloped into a stream snaking around gray rocks and lush vegetation. Santos was tired, a man who had lived well past fifty, pushing sixty maybe; it was difficult to tell. He had been evasive about his age, gesturing with his callused hand and saying, “Viejo. Old.” The younger man Justin had stated boldly without shame that he was twenty-seven.