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    Fiction: Like Fire On a House by Daniel Townsend

    The reason my father’s eyebrows were singed that morning, he told me, was because he and a friend had rescued a man from a burning building the night before. He’d said it so calmly it took me a moment to hear it. He’d saved a man’s life.
    What did this mean for me?

    Suddenly, my empty breakfast bowl became filled with wonder. The day unravelled before me like a sacred scroll. All who saw me would become blinded by my second-hand glory. I wondered if the lucky ones might even touch the hem of my hand-me-down garment and be healed…

    My father had saved a man’s life.

    Sunlight crowned his head with gold as Dad recounted the night’s events in measured tones: The man had been drinking. He had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette. He had kept trying to go back inside to find his dog… There must have been firetrucks. And ambulances. Sirens, probably. I couldn’t believe I slept through it all; couldn’t believe they let me sleep through it!

    I couldn’t believe my dad had done that. And he was still eating Weeties like he always did, just with shorter eyebrows.

    Today, on the way home from work, unit number 31 was on fire. There was nobody inside, so I knocked on the door of the man at number 32. Sitting on the footpath as the firetrucks arrived, he told me he had been partway through The Lion King when I saved his life. I was pretty sure the setting sun was crowning my head with gold, but I don’t think he noticed.

    It was Jack’s family who lived in the rental across from the units. They’d had trouble from day one, both inside and outside the house. His stepdad threw Jack’s mum around a lot and kept her on the usual leash. When Jack visited our house one Christmas afternoon, his head was bleeding from being thrown up against the aquarium by that man. His mother had gone without food to pay for presents. So we invited Jack to mow our lawns. I’d suggested ten dollars payment, but he’d shook his head. Too much. He insisted on being paid five dollars front and back, since he was convinced we needed the money. Ten years old, he used to ride past our house once a week to check if the lawns needed mowing. He was always happy to get the mower out of the shed, start it up himself and get into it…

    At school, he would shout at teachers, and storm down the corridors with a furrowed brow. He used to punch and head-butt walls. And go for long, long walks, far from where his name was being muttered by the grown-ups in the staff room. At our house, he’d put the mower away, take his shoes off at the back door and come in for a cordial. Never asked for money, either. He’d just raise his eyebrows at me and smile.

    Jack was guileless. Once, a friend and I took him and one of his friends out for a day trip. Two men and two young fellas in a car for a day – it was a riot. The boys reminded me of puppies, yapping and playing constantly until one would nip the other and then there would be a fight. A minute later, they would be playing again.

    We’d been driving for half an hour when, out of the blue, Jack says “One time when I was praying I asked what I would do when I growed up and I heard singing.”

    In the front seats, my friend and I looked at each other with wide, curious eyes.

    Straight away, Jack’s mate says “That would have been God and all of his little helpers.”

    “Mmm,” says Jack carelessly. “Let’s play Eye Spy.”

    Jack said he spied something starting with R. It took us two country towns and a hell of a lot of highway to work out the worst speller in 4/5 Edwards was spying the windshield. We laughed all the way through Longford.

    So, the reason my father’s eyebrows were singed way back then was because he had rescued a man from a burning building the night before. The reason my car stinks like smoke today is because I’d parked it in front of a fiery housing commission unit last Monday, only to be parked in by two firetrucks as the building’s black breath billowed for hours.

    I’m standing on the footpath, same spot I sat one week ago, right out front of where Jack used to live. The descendant of some troglodyte is directing the reins of a petrol-powered brachiosaurus, removing the last few gigantic charred timber ribs from the body of just another roasted leviathan. The job done, he switches the engine off and leans back into his seat. The beast clunks obediently into stillness, jaws tilted skyward.

    He has seen me but does not acknowledge me. I don’t really want to talk anyway. I’m just looking at the black dirt square where someone’s home used to be. It seems so small…

    “Housing won’t rebuild it,” he shrugs, chin pointing at the empty space. “Not for another five years. Policy.”

    I say nothing, my eyes surveying the location where something became nothing.

    “It’s policy not to rebuild for five years,” he reiterates. “Otherwise they just burn ‘em all like dominoes.”

    I cross the road in silence, eyes fixed on the almost imperceptible pea-green specks throughout the sable earth. Just above my line of sight, he is clambering out of the machine.

    “Yeah, nah,” he continues, black boots thudding like Clydesdale hooves into the muck. “Won’t rebuild it.”

    We are now standing a couple of meters apart, staring at that space where red bricks became blackened and then became someone’s first job on a Monday, at the chocolatey loam where a concrete slab used to be, and at the tiny emerald blades pushing peacefully towards the blue.

    Then I hear my voice.

    “I had no idea grass could grow so quickly.”

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    Fiction: Rooftops and Other Poems by Heather Minette

    Rooftops and Other Poems by Heather Minette Now Available

    News from an author I’ve previously featured in Backhand Stories. Congratulations Heather!

    The Blue Hour is delighted to announce the launch of its second full length single author poetry collection Rooftops and Other Poems by Heather Minette. This book is a poetry collection honestly written to discover a deeper understanding of her life experience traveling, and finally finding her home. This book is an 82 page journey of poetry causing many smiles and a few tears.

    About the Author:

    Heather Minette grew up in Kemah, Texas. She developed a passion for literature and creative writing at an early age. Her desire to travel was inspired by a multi-cultural heritage and motivated by the writers of the Beat Generation. At the age of eighteen she began to travel alone and write about the people she met, the environment she lived in, and the moments that moved her. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from the University of Houston – Clear Lake and is currently studying for a Master of Arts in Literature. She lives in Texas with her husband and son, where she writes and continues to travel when the opportunity arises.

    About the Book:

    “Heather Minette writes poems of discovery through love and travel. In Rooftops and Other Poems, she imbues the faraway and familiar with the sparkle of imagination and a searching precision. This unique book enchants and strikes the reader with deep human feeling. Uncover her journey for yourself.”

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    Fiction: The Forest by Gal Nachshon

    I stand alone in a forest of people.

    When a tree falls nobody hears it, for the foliage is in Connecticut, or Central Park, and I wake up in Brooklyn. I take the train to work, look at my cubical wall and the photographs from the vacation I took last summer, or my feet in the orange tennis shoes I was wearing that day against the dirty pavement of Broadway and the filth and the flat black-holed, dilapidated, chewing gum stuck to the earth seems like the universe beneath my toes and I’m about to fall, a permanent feeling pinned to my cubical wall. There is no work but the office is loud, I look around and see a coworker on a business call. Looking at his own photographs, pinned to his own cubical wall.

    I go to the street at the end of the day and everybody is standing around, blowing in the wind in the colors of the season. One female with long legs and a light blue sock-hat stands a few paces onto the road, waiting, looking around, although the light reads ‘GO’. Our eyes meet as I tilt my head back to sip the coffee in my hand and I look at her from the corner of my eye as I walk by and she does so as well.

    At the entrance to the underground I turn my head over my left shoulder to see her still standing as she was, with the cars passing in front of her face. I walk down the steps with my head still turned and between her thin legs, at intervals when the cars pass by, I see the sun setting on the horizon of 14th Street and the West Side Highway.

    I regret, but it’s too late, and I forget.

    I get on the train. I read. I walk home and wait; something will happen. I play a song on my guitar, Don’t Know Why, then The Birds and the Bees, and my cellphone disrupts the music of practice and progress. It’s a reply to a text I sent this morning, ‘I left at 11am’ she says. I ask if she has plans for the weekend. Still no response, I wait; something will happen. The winter is almost over.

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    Fiction: Frustration by Francesca Curley

    I tried to explain, but I couldn’t.

    You looked at me.

    A train careered through the cerebral station. The words, who until that point had been waiting patiently in line, were too close to the edge. Sucked into the air stream and crushed unceremoniously beneath the grinding, metallic wheels.


    I tried to explain, but I couldn’t.

    You spoke to me.

    I grasped at your words, snatching them from the balmy air, desperately trying to take them and assemble them for my own, personal use. But in the confusion they slipped through my fingers. Gone.


    I tried to explain, but I couldn’t.

    You touched my hand.

    Hazy, shimmering shoals of adjectives swam into my consciousness. Excitedly, I caught one and held it close. At last! But it wriggled free and shot off into the abyss.


    I tried to explain, but I couldn’t.

    You turned away.

    Clarity came hurtling out of the darkness, crashing into my vocabulary with force of a Pacific tsunami. There were the words I’d been longing for, ready now, poised for action.

    I love you!

    Too late.

    I did try to explain, but I couldn’t.

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    Fiction: Cracked Shell by Sean Gallagher

    The man took a slow drag on his cigarette. The ember winked life-red against the warm evening backdrop. He exhaled, thinking about what he had just heard, what she had just told him, breathing out in time with his thoughts. The smoke floated up towards the dim porch light.

    “So you’re not coming back.” Flat voice.

    The woman shook her head. He glanced down at the floor and rubbed the back of his head with a calloused hand. The small glass table was the only witness to their conversation, the deck devoid of other furniture.

    He grunted softly and continued. “Well, okay.”

    “Okay?” She shifted her weight from one leg to the other.

    “Yes, okay.”

    She turned to leave, aged boards creaking beneath her slight frame. Just outside the threshold of the room she hesitated, pale fingers caressing the doorframe.

    “I can’t, I just can’t.” His gaze rose to the back of her head. She turned, still holding the frame, but couldn’t look at him. “I…” She stopped. “You understand.”

    He said nothing. Her eyes flitted towards his but fell short of a reunion. She exited the porch, skirt hurrying after her, and the man turned to face the shore. He rested his elbows on the weathered wooden railing and stared. Blank eyes took in nothing.

    A sudden splash in the water demanded his recognition. A sea otter, shell on its belly, rock in its hands, preparing supper. He watched the diligent animal fix itself a meal. Who would crack his oysters now?

    He finished his cigarette, flicked it over the rail. The butt glowed warm on the sand and he studied at it as he drew another from his breast pocket. He realized that he needed to pee, but instead closed his eyes. He visualized the house, his house, walked through every room noting every detail and committing it to memory. He opened his eyes and sighed. Sticking the cigarette between his lips and pausing briefly to light, he then hopped over the rail onto the sand. His left foot landed on the first smoldering butt and he picked it up in surprise. It burned him a little as he held it on his hand. Discarding the useless filter, he kicked sand over it and began to walk to the water while unbuttoning his shirt. He removed his blue jeans and underwear and piled them with his shirt about ten feet from the water’s edge. His second cigarette dropped to the sand. The man waded naked into the surf and let the water push him. He felt one with the swelling and receding of the waves. He looked around for the otter, but couldn’t find it.

    Dripping, carrying his clothes away from his body to keep them dry, he walked back up the beach to the house. He placed his clothing over the railing and pulled himself over the rail in a surprisingly nimble fashion for a man with his frame. He left his clothes on the porch and went into the house. He spent the rest of his night destroying all of her things.

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