AMSTERDAM SCRIPTUM ISSUE 2 JANUARY 2005
Science fiction? Politics? Crime? Humor? Poetry? Nostalgia? Exotic venues? You’ll find it all in this issue. Within this talentful eclectic mix, each writer offers a personal glimpse of the past, present and possible future.
Utahna Faith: PAGAN
Dina Soraya Gregory : DETAILS
Steven D. Rogers: THE THIRTEENTH HOUR
Tad Wojnicki : WHERE TALES WORTH A PULITZER GO FOR A DRINK
Wayne Sullins: CRAFT AND DECEIT
Nettie McDaniel: Here’s to jazz and sweet strokes
Eddie Bruce: RECEIVER
We appreciate reader feedback. Please browse the archives of our earlier incarnation as Treehouse Scriptum for more reading pleasure. The next issue will be online in March.
by Utahna Faith
Pagan runs along the grassy bank on her strong, dimpled little legs. I watch her, my heart, as always these days, breaking. I wanted so much for her — I still do. When I found out about her that autumn, between the MoveOn meetings and registration drives, I loved her already, a little black-eyed pea hiding in my body, growing, going everywhere with me while we worked and hoped.
"Patty, back this way, sweetie!" I call out to her. She turns, curls bouncing, smile joyful, and skips back toward me. I hate to have to use that name for her, but I do it even at home so I don't confuse her. How can a three year old understand? How can anyone? I think of her birth name even as I call out her Adjustment Name, and I still try to hope that, someday...
The Vesper Bells sound, and I take out The Good Book. I've always believed in living, but I might kill myself now if it weren't for Pagan. She knows what the bells mean, too, at least on the surface, like any of us, and she runs to our blanket and sits next to me, hushed and waiting.
I adjust the lemon yellow chiffon of my pleated skirt and tug at the scalloped collar of my itchy blouse. The beige nylon of my pantyhose rubs over the blanket. I'm almost crying again; I'll never get used to this. Never. I want my black t-shirt that says Fuck the Establishment. I want my burgundy Doc Martens and my fishnet tights. I want to bang my head and scream and be free again. I want a fucking revolution.
An M.P. rides up the riverbank. He dismounts and strides toward us. We look down at The Good Book and murmur the words. Pagan does it just like I do, learning from mommy. I could die right now, I could die.
Closer. I hear his spurs jingling.
After the reading, we recite The Credo.
I lift my voice, holding back the tears and the vomit as the M.P. passes near us. "All hail Our Great Leader, The Chosen One, God's Right Hand Man. We adore you. Yee-ha, and amen."
About the author: Utahna Faith lives and writes in New Orleans . Her work appears in Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Letters and Life, Night Train Magazine, and elsewhere. She is flash fiction editor and poetry editor for 3am Magazine and is editor of Wild Strawberries: a journal of flash fiction and prose poetry. www.UtahnaFaith.com
by Dina Soraya Gregory
She’s telling me
Forcing me to listen
Her face is close
The one eye squinting while the other
Greedy and alert
Darts across the surface of my features
Determined to elicit a curving of the mouth
Perhaps a furrowed brow
That would spell victory
Go on, I’m curious, it would say
I think of how to stop her
She has me now — I made a noise
No word, nor gesture
A mere sound
In place of a response
And yet for her it is half a conversation
The missing half
The half she never had
She’s leaning in
Her breath is warm and pungent
More details, ghastly details
Must I know how long it took?
And worse still, the time it takes
On a normal day
In her normal life
A life of, details
I can breathe again
There’s been a question
Somewhere along the way
Between how late she was
And how early she is
And now I am exposed
“I … agree?”
What did I agree to?
Oh hell, it’s done, I’ve passed
The eye is dancing on my face
What she heard, what she saw
What time is it?
Why do I cringe?
What harm in harmless talk
A human trait
If only to be sure
That one exists
I promise you exist
You and your chatter
Have me convinced of your being
And my not being
The more you speak
The less I become
My fate is sealed now
I know what I must be
By your next encounter
I feel the weight of what I am
About the author: Dina Soraya Gregory is a British writer living in New York. Her eclectic body of work includes poetry, songs, plays, musicals, and short fiction. She has had work produced on stage but this is her first published writing. Dina can be reached at Sorayagregory@aol.com
THE THIRTEENTH HOUR
by Stephen D. Rogers
She stood within the circle. He stood without.
Though she could feel his discomfort, it did nothing to lessen
her own. While she was the High Priestess of the village, he
represented The Mother World, still rich and powerful after all
these years. He was just one, but he could bring shiploads of
others, a raging river that would scour the fields clean, destroy
all that she had worked for.
He shifted, his right hand touching his computer and his
holstered weapon as if for reassurance. "So let's see if I have
this right. Approximately three months after the ship landed, a
series of massive solar flares destroyed all the electronics."
"That is correct."
"You were left with nothing."
"We were left with our hands and our minds and the land."
"But you had no functioning computers." He spoke as though he
could not even imagine such a tragedy.
She nodded. "There is knowledge older than any collected in your
databases. It is known by the seeds that grow and the winds that
blow and the moisture flow."
He made as if to walk one way, and then the other, clearly
agitated by her words. "So what you're saying is that, for the
sake of survival, the colonists reverted to a pre-technological
state, sort of a pagan ecology."
"We learned to listen to this planet."
He nodded without understanding, and despite the threat he
represented, the High Priestess pitied this poor traveler between
the stars. He had become so accustomed to the sound of vacuum
that he had lost the ability to hear.
"And you took command when Captain Verskals died."
"It seemed appropriate."
If someone could pace in place, he was doing so. "And why again
did it seem appropriate?"
"I had the strongest link to the planet."
"The strongest link. I see." He paused. "There are standard
operating procedures outlining the chain of command, the transfer
of power. You weren't even a member of the crew. You were a
"I had my own power, a power which resided within me. If I had
been unable to talk to the soil, we all would have died."
"Yes, you mentioned that before. I'm sure the other colonists
are quite thankful for what you accomplished. Certainly they owe
you a debt of gratitude if, as you say, you kept them from
starving that first year."
"We worked the land together. I only led the way."
He shook his head. "The thing is, I have to report what I've
found here. To an unbiased observer, to someone who didn't face
that starvation, this whole situation smacks of mutiny. For all
we know, you poisoned Captain Verskals and then used some mumbo-
jumbo you once read in a book to convince a scared population
that you were their only hope."
"We know that isn't true. I know it and you know it."
He smiled as if he could fool the High Priestess. "What I know
or don't know is not the issue. I can only report concrete
"Tell me these facts."
"One, you are in charge of this colony. Two, you have no right
to be in charge. Three, I can't get any of the colonists to
discuss the source of your command. Four, you refuse to accept
my mandate. Five, if I'm not mistaken, you've threatened me."
"And how have I threatened you?"
Again his hand brushed his weapon. "I don't know." His facial
muscles pantomimed fear for just an instant. There's a part of
me that thinks--"
"That feels." He drew a deep breath. "There's a part of me that
feels as though we've been having this conversation for a very
"A long time?"
He chuckled. "You know, this may sound funny, but if I could
talk to the soil beneath my feet, do you know what I think it
"No. What would it say?"
"I think it would tell me that I've been entranced by you." He
licked dry lips. "I think the soil would tell me that you cast
some kind of spell on me so that I would remain here asking you
questions instead of returning to the ship to make my report.
You knew I was dangerous but you couldn't harm me, so you cursed
me with inquisitiveness."
"The soil here appreciates irony."
He nearly whimpered. "Is it true? Did I not just land here
yesterday? Have we talked more than twice?"
"I'll tell you this because you'll forget it tomorrow. You have
been here for centuries, asking your questions again and again.
Your ship is long dust. Your communicator and that weapon have
not worked for decades."
He wiped a sudden sweat from his forehead. "Why don't you just
kill me then?"
"Because they would know, and they would send others. This way,
they are too confused to respond. Their computers can not
comprehend what has happened to you, still alive after all these
He slumped. "You've made me your prisoner, taken away my free
"No." The High Priestess shook her head, sad beyond telling at
the thought that even if he did grasp the truth in a sudden
blinding light, tomorrow it would be lost to him. "You are not a
prisoner. You came to ask questions, and so you shall, to the
end of your days."
The Thirteenth Hour appears in THE WITCHING HOUR, Silver Lake Publishing, 2001.
About the author: Over three hundred of Stephen's stories and poems have been selected to appear in more than a hundred publications. His website, www.stephendrogers.com, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.
WHERE TALES WORTH A PULITZER GO FOR A DRINK
By Tad Wojnicki
Pacific breeze picks up beach sand, palm fronds, food-wrappings and old papers, smashing them against the walls, poles and billboards. Drivers roll up windows, attacked by tumbling seaweed. Grills blow empty. Ashes sweep drives. Mouths go dry.
I park at the Fisherman's Wharf, sucking in the fresh stink of the harbor, walk by the Custom House, built in 1848 and still here, and go up Alvarado Street, historically full of watering holes. That year, Monterey’s career as the capital of California had ended, but the street’s career boomed. Till today. No better street to connect on the gut level — and Steinbeck knew it. He polished the stools of downtown bars with the seat of his pants often. His ghost is still wherever they shoot breeze.
At midnight, the fishing boats throttle into the sea. The wine in my glass gives a whiff of diesel fuel.
It’s time to go.
With my feet, I grope the path back into my four walls to hole up, trying to write the guts out.
Previously published in Simply Haiku /www.simplyhaiku.com/
About the author: Tad Wojnicki holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and an M.A. in English/ Creative Writing. He is the author of a factual novel, Lie Under the Fig Trees (1996), a flash chapbook Under the Steinbeck Oak (2004) and he lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, where he leads "poetry powwows" on the beach and teaches "Write Like A Lover!" workshops. www.writelikealover.com
CRAFT AND DECEIT
by Wayne Sullins
Cochinchina suited him, literally. Never in France could he have worn linen year-round. While his compatriots brought charges against the rain for driving down morale, he savored those months alone in his study with a pipe and a bottle and memories of summer in the Ardèche — his mountain home.
During the dry season M. Boisson would take his Victrola outdoors and torture the coolies with Satie and Saint-Saens. His laundress — mother of five, her teeth black from betel and her breasts long gone — found Trois Morceauxen Forme de Poire for two pianos especially painful. And each time she carried a load of the master’s sheets and pillowcases past him she’d sway her hips in contempt of Satie’s jaunty rhythms.
Trung Trac was her name; the jewel under the dragon’s tongue.
One night Boisson dreamt that the Mekong had risen dangerously high. He alone, with just his hands, was struggling to reinforce the embankment using a mixture of mud and straw. But the river kept rising as his frustration mounted. Then he heard laughter, and turned to see the Trung woman spitting betel juice on sheets hanging from a line running alongside the river.
In the morning he ordered the woman’s teeth removed, strung on a thread and hung around her neck.
About the author: Wayne Sullins was born in Texas and escaped to New York at 21. His travels have taken him to Europe, Israel, India and Japan. He now lives in Massachusetts, raising a son. Besides writing fiction and poetry, Wayne is also a photographer.
Here’s to jazz and sweet strokes
by Nettie McDaniel
(Removed by request)
About the author: Nettie McDaniel is a poet/naturalist/teacher living with her family in a small Louisiana city minutes away from the prairie fields where she grew up. Early morning writing excites her. Nettie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: Non-British readers may not be familiar with Cockney slang, but should nevertheless be able to enjoy the following story.
by Eddie Bruce
“Yuk! What’s this?”
“Where’s my tea?”
“You spilled it when you fainted, don’t you remember? When you dropped your tray and your ‘andbag on the floor?”
“Fainted? Not me!”
“Never mind, love, you’re looking better now. Do you have any relatives I can phone? You shouldn’t be out on your own if you get dizzy turns. I put all your stuff back in your bag; check it out if you want. What’s your name, dear?”
“Flo, Flo Warboys … what’d’you mean, dizzy turns? I tripped; that’s all! Hey, gimme my Mars bar, you thieving little minx!”
“Pardon? I just bought it, you ungrateful old cow!”
“O.K., if you say so. Look, I’m sorry, let me cut it up for you. You old biddies don’t ‘alf take liberties though.”
“Ah, I remember now, it was seeing our old wireless in the junk shop across the street — must be forty years since — made me go all goosey. What’s your name, girl?”
“Sharon. See, I told you, you’re losing it. Like I said, I’ve got my mobile if you want to …”
“My Harry now, he could show you a thing or two about stealing. Like a magician he was. Shall I tell you about that posh wireless we had?”
“Yeah, in a minute. Take sugar Flo? I’ll get you that tea.”
“I was a looker myself, you know, Sharon, in the old days. In a demure way though, not tarty like you lot with your mini-skirts and boobs hanging out. I’d two blokes fancying me at the same time, and that’s when men were scarce, just after the war.”
“It was in them days.”
“No TV and you had to make your own entertainment, right? I get it from Nan all the time.”
“Exactly, and I hope you listen and learn! It was Harry I planned to marry, if I ever stopped him thieving, but John was always hanging about, trying to impress my dad and upstage Harry. I played one against the other, just for the hell of it.”
“You old slapper, you!”
“It was a Kolster Brands, the wireless I mean. About two feet square and polished mahogany; none of your cheap rubbish. Dad’s pride and joy it was. Then he came ashore and was out of work for ages. We never missed a news bulletin, even after the war was finished. He used to tune it to the trawler wave band and listen to the skippers swearing at each other. Mum had her Housewife’s Choice every morning and Two-Way Family Favourites on a Sunday. Then there was Tommy Handley and ITMA, Charlie Chester, Workers’ Playtime, Take It From Here. Top Twenty on Radio Luxemburg was my favourite … and the big bands, Glen Miller, Joe Loss, Ken MacIntosh …”
“Never ‘eard of ‘em. I have to go soon, Flo.”
“Well, I’m not stopping you, am I?”
“Then one of the valves went. I don’t suppose you know what I’m talking about. They were like little electric light bulbs, some clear, some coloured, with needle-like prongs at the base. The house was silent for days after it broke down. We couldn’t afford a repairman and there was only one shop sold the model we had. Harry got all dressed up to the nines and conned the manager into taking the back off one of them, to show him what was inside. It was the only time I was glad he was a tea leaf.”
“So you married ‘arry and lived ‘appily ever after like Bonny and Clyde, is that it? I should be back at my desk by now.”
“The next time our wireless went on the blink there was only one KB left in the shop. Everything was being made out of Bakelite then, not a patch on the old wooden ones though. Money was still tight, but I put my foot down there and then with Harry - no more stealing or he could forget about shinning the drainpipe to my bedroom, even if it meant playing cards, dominoes and draughts to pass the time.”
“That must’ve done your ‘ead in! What about John?”
“Oh, he saw his chance to make a name for himself.”
“’e stole the valve you needed?”
“He nicked the whole wireless, but dad asked him to get rid of it the next day.”
“Because of ‘is principles?”
“Because there was a valve missing, the one that we needed, the one that Harry had stolen ages ago from the same sodding set.”
“Look, I ‘ave to rush, Flo. Will you be all right?”
“Right as rain now, love; thanks. I enjoyed our little chat.
“What kept you?”
“I’m sorry, love. I was telling this young girl what it was like for us in the old days and I must’ve got carried away.”
“You’re losing your grip, Flo; getting soft. Maybe I’d better go back working the crowds myself. Find the Lady never goes out of style and I still have the knack.”
“Don’t you even think about it Harry! I didn’t marry a criminal!”
“What did you get anyway?”
“She practically handed me her mobile and I got her credit cards when she bought the tea. She’s a nice kid, that’s all. I’ll be all right with a decent cuppa inside me…what’s this?”
“In my bag; how did that get there? There’s a teaspoon and a knife and…oh no…a Mars bar!”
“You’re getting right up my nose, you know that, Flo? Mars bar?”
“Oh, I did the helpless geriatric scam, waited ‘till I got to the till and let everything drop with a clatter. I thought this girl Sharon had nicked my snack, but she must’ve just thrown it into my bag with the other stuff. I feel awful Harry, accusing her like that.”
“I’ve had enough. Lend us a tenner, I’m off down the Nag’s Head.”
“Hang about! Well, would you Adam an' Eve it? The thievin’ little tart! She’s nicked my purse!”
Eddie Bruce writes short stories mainly based upon real-life experiences. The above story is included in his anthology A Drifter's Legacy (Short Stories from the Highlands and Lowlands), Publish America, 2003.