In the beginning, Matt Driscoll was merely a creature of habit, but soon enough he became its slave. He walked to work in the mornings; in the evenings, he walked home. Each day, he took the same route and saw the same people: the woman who hid her sad mouth behind too much pink lipstick, the Sumo wrestler in a shirt and tie, the black man who sat and begged, blocking the narrow sidewalk with his twisted leg. If they noticed Matt—once a nice-looking fellow who’d grown soft and faded as an old towel—they never gave any indication.
When I give the driver the address, he tells me I shouldn’t go.
“Nice lady like you?” he asks in his accent from elsewhere.
I repeat myself, and he shrugs, pulls out into the street. Likely, he thinks I’m foolish for ignoring his warning. I want to tell him that I mean no offense, that he’s simply mistaken about who I am. I lean against the window and recall the thrill of being identified as “nice” by a stranger. Being able, encouraged, to pretend.
By Liam Smith
The window was open just enough to let in the cool, night air. Mark shut it before it froze the coffee. He stumbled through the motions of pouring coffee from the spout, rubbing his hand over the stubble on his face. The faint smell of cigarettes and dust penetrated the air. Sobriety chips were piled on the table. He fiddled with his own inside the warm confines of his trouser pocket. When he got outside, he would smoke one of those shitty, organic cigarettes he had bought.
Orion disappears. I go to his coop and find it empty. I circle the perimeter, searching for tears in the mesh, any aperture he could have used for escape, but there are none. The webbing is strong, the door secured. A cumulus of feathers surrounds the entry and creates a brief path leading away from the gate, ending abruptly at the edge of the yard.
By Cheryl Powell
When she leapt off the motorway bridge at Long Hampton, she was well prepared to meet God. She’d rehearsed for months, her bile growing and festering. Vengeful words ran like poison in her head. It mattered that she remember to tell God everything: how he was utter scum, how she hated him, how she would tear his sanctimonious head off with her bare hands, side with the Devil against him. It was important she left nothing out.
By Jason Jackson
I’m watching something about foreign miners stuck underground when Rachel tells me she wants to leave. I didn’t start watching the programme until halfway through, so I can’t quite tell if it’s real or some kind of mockumentary, and when she says she’s taking the car, driving to a hotel, maybe going to Judith’s place after that, I feel equally disoriented.