Issue 4                                       November, 2006

Amsterdam Scriptum


Rokin, Amsterdam  © Norman MacDonald


Featuring work by:

William Brazill     Kim Hutchinson       Sati Benes
Dow Ford    Renee Holland Davidson  Zinta Aistars



We’re pleased to be back, after a long leave of absence due to health problems. I’m glad to report I’m recovered and that Amsterdam Scriptum and I will now do our imitation of a Phoenix.

You will find it has been worth the wait. Some new artwork and layouts have been added and the site will be getting a real facelift very soon.

It gives me tremendous joy every time a true gem of a story or poem comes over the transom. Sometimes I offer reprints of stories or poems that have appeared elsewhere; good writing should be shared with as large an audience as possible. If an exceptional novel can be compared to a feast, the flash fiction available here is a superb assortment of small dishes.


William J. Brazill: ON WINGS OF SONG
Sati Benes: RIPTIDE

Renee Holland Davidson: GRANDPA’S FARM

Kim Huchinson: FLASHBACK


Zinta Aistars: SCRABBLED

Don’t be shy: please give me and/or the writers feedback. Contact:
Browse the archives for more reading pleasure.

The next issue will be online in the middle of January.


On Wings of Song
by William J. Brazill  

Dorota Florkowska played the violin at funerals.  Not at large churches which had their own choirs and organs, but in small intimate ceremonies held at funeral homes.   

She specialized in playing Massenet’s Meditation from Thais, which she thought had the lyrical transcendence to console the grief-stricken and to hearten those who felt bereft of hope.  Her income was modest from this work, but it maintained her identity as a professional musician, which was important to her.  

Last Tuesday she was summoned for a performance at Justify Funeral Gallery, and she arrived to discover that she was to play for her mother’s funeral. She did not know that her mother was alive, so the news that she had died was not a deep shock.  One result of not living at home was that she did not get news of the family.  

Her brothers were surprised and irritated to see her, doubtless feeling that her coming back would lead to complications about dividing up the mother’s estate.  Andrzej, acting as he had since a child when feeling stressed, began to bark.  Grzegorz slammed the lid of his mother’s coffin shut with a bang. Piotr went into his imitation of a catatonic state.

In the face of these early-warning signs of possible trouble, Justify kept the funeral service moving on schedule.  Father Chrobot rose to read a set formula of prayers from a well-thumbed breviary, his voice nasal and pinched.  Then he decided to speak spontaneously, unintentionally revealing that he knew nothing at all about the deceased and her family.  He had her name wrong.  He praised her skills as a seamstress and embroiderer, despite the fact that she could not even sew a button on. He spoke of spiritual virtues she did not in fact have. “Arf! Arf! Arf.” Andrzej’s barking grew louder and more insistent.   Grzegorz tried to push the coffin out of the room, but he chose a doorway too narrow to permit it. Piotr’s eyes rolled into the top of his head.

Passersby heard the din and hurried inside to investigate.  Before long the rooms were filled with crowds of curiosity seekers.  Justify pushed Dorota toward the coffin in the hope that a musical interlude might lull the crowd into quiet.  

Dorota placed the bow artfully over the strings of her violin. To her surprise, the violin did not play Massenet’s Meditation from Thais. It began to play Mendelssohn’s On  Wings of Song.  She was unable to get the instrument under her control as it sped into playing the sensuous notes with deep passion.  Andrzej’s barking intensified.  

The crowd drew suddenly quiet when the coffin lid burst open and the mother leapt out of the coffin with astounding agility.  Dorota continued playing On  Wings of Song as her mother took her by the arm and led her out of the funeral home.  The crowd followed them.  

As Dorota and her mother made their way out the front door, they met the police summoned by neighbors who feared a public disturbance. Assured that the mother was alive, the police decided just to control the flow of traffic. Led by Dorota and her violin, the crowd wove through the streets of the city, steadily increasing in numbers along the way.  

Back at the funeral home, Father Chrobot dozed on a sofa, Andrzej barked disconsolately, Piotr floated three inches above the floor, and Grzegorz lay in the coffin. Justify began preparing the gallery for the next funeral.  

The tones of On Wings of Song slowly receded into the distance.



About the author: William Brazill had a career researching and writing in the social sciences, including two books, until  discovering that truth lies in fiction.  He now lives on the Virginia bank of the Potomac River in the US where he writes fiction and watches the water flow by. On Wings of Song was originally published by Barfing Frog Press in 2005.




by Sati Benes

The sand is thick and glossy like raw Hawaiian sugar. I dig my white toes in deeper, listen to the rhythmic pounding of the surf and feel the sun beat a tattoo on my torso.

A girl walks by. She is as brown as a vanilla bean and glistens with tiny droplets of seawater which bead on her flesh as they touch coconut oil.

I’m here, in Honolulu. I’ve made it. 

I chew on a fluorescent cherry and drain the rum from my Mai Tai. I almost close my eyes when I see Noriko— the woman I’ve been waiting for. She struggles to cross a busy road with two small children. I materialize by her side; help them by scooping up the boy and his inflated green plastic turtle. Noriko’s never seen me before but asks me to join them for an ice cream. I say yes, of course, and by the time macadamia nut ice cream has melted down her son’s tiny chin, we’ve become friends.

It is almost too easy.

The alarm goes off the next morning at 6:00 a.m. I stretch slowly and wince at the scratchy nylon bedcover under my legs. I think about why I am here: Christian, the only man who ever meant anything in my life.

If I close my eyes I can still see his cool green eyes and gleaming smile, a small dimple in his left cheek. If we’d married all those years ago, we’d be a restless couple by now, no doubt about it. Perhaps we’d have children with his green eyes and mischievous grin, children I’d be struggling to ferry across busy parking lots after a day at the beach. That’s my alternate future, of course. 

The parallel universe in which Christian does not blow his head off at age twenty-one.  

Noriko and I quickly become friends, and a few weeks later, when her nanny calls in sick, she calls me to help take the kids to the beach. I go, of course. Cotton ball clouds dot a perfect azure sky, and Mika and Chris squat like impassioned architects, building a sand castle not three feet away from us. I ask Noriko the question that’s been burning a hole in my throat. I’m still cautious, though—I ask about the girl first.  

“So, what does Mika mean? It’s Japanese, right?”  

“Beautiful flower.” Noriko twirls white sand with her fingers, head cocked, and stares dreamily at Mika in that way that only a mother does: two parts adoration and one part obsession.  

“And Chris?”  

“Oh, it’s always been a favorite name of mine. His full name is Christian. I had a boyfriend in college with that name.”  

“Uh, what happened to Christian?” I blush and quickly reword my question. “I mean, between you and Christian, that is?”  

Noriko slips her sunglasses up onto her head and stares out at the dark blue sea. She is quiet for a moment before answering. She suddenly looks older, and for the first time I wonder if I am right about her guilt.  

“It was a long time ago. I wasn’t ready to settle down. Back then, I couldn’t imagine marrying an American. He got a little too intense, and so we just drifted apart. Then my mother died, and I moved back to Japan. And that was it.”  

There’s a long silence as I digest everything that Noriko says. Is it possible that she has no idea that Christian is dead? Or is she lying?  
There’s no way to know for sure. I can only guess. And so I push it a bit further. “Sounds like you really liked Christian. Whatever happened to him?”  

And then, every bit of compassion that has begun to build in me is destroyed when she says, “Oh, it was nothing serious. Not for me, anyway. Christian had some boring girlfriend his family expected him to marry, and I imagine that’s how he ended up—fat and bored, but rich, thanks to the girlfriend. Anyway, like I said, it was nothing. We weren’t together very long. I just liked his name, that’s all.”  

With that she stands up and stretches her slim frame so that the tiny red and black hibiscus patterned bikini barely covers her.   

I feel the collective interest of every person within a half-mile radius and think “Bitch. Lucky for you all eyes are on us.”  

Oblivious, she reaches in the cooler for a Diet Coke. She glances at me, yawning. “Want one?”  

If I stay here much longer, attention be damned, I’ll smother her in the sand or beat her head in with the ice cold can of soda. I mumble something about going for a swim and stumble down the beach, diving headlong into a big wave that is too close to shore. I feel myself spin under the wave, then get dragged back out to sea, my back rubbed raw by sand and salt. Something sharp pokes at my spine, perhaps coral, but I don’t fight the ocean. If it’s my time to go, I’m ready.  

It's only as I surface, twenty or thirty feet from where I started, that I realize it is my time, not to die, but to act.  

Noriko must pay. She ruined my life as well as Christian’s, and she doesn’t even realize it. I take a deep breath and scan the shimmering sand for Noriko and the kids.  

I wonder if they can swim. 


About the author: Born in Kathmandu, Sati Benes taught English in Japan before getting her MA in Japanese Literature from the University of Hawaii.  She works in the Asian Art Department of a major Honolulu museum and is a slave to her miniature dachshunds, Toffee and Mocha.


Grandpa's Farm  
by Renee Holland Davidson


When Grandpa died, he left us what he'd called a farm, what we called a five-acre patch of hard dirt, abundant with nothing but weeds and rocks.  He'd lived on that farm for forty years, twenty of them alone after Grandma up and left him, took off with nothing but her gawd-awful temper and her calfskin handbag. Mom and Dad tried to get Grandpa off that land; it just wasn't healthy for a man to be alone so much of the time. But he refused to budge, telling us he was staying 'til Grandma came home.  But Grandma never came back, and then Grandpa died, all by himself, with nothing but the dandelions around to wave good-bye.  

The five of us--Mom, Dad, Sis, Jerry and me--walked the land with Grandpa one last time, his ashes encased in a brass urn, a gaudy thing he would have hated. We came upon the dried-up creek, and followed it up the hill to an outcropping of bedrock. From there we could see the entire farm. We placed Grandpa's urn on top of a flat rock and said our final good-byes.  

It wasn't until Jerry knelt down to open the urn that he noticed it. At first, he thought it was only a small stick protruding from the soil. And then he looked closer.  

It was a bone, a human finger. Eyes wide, Jerry picked up a sharp, pointed rock and began scraping around it.  

When the entire hand came into view, he jumped up, kicking Grandpa's urn off its pedestal.

Grandpa's ashes escaped into the breeze while we all stared, dumbfounded, at the skeletal hand in the earth--the tiny diamond in Grandma's wedding ring like a yellowed eye squinting in the sun. 



About the author: Renee Holland Davidson lives in Southern California with her husband, Mark, and their two mischievous mutts, Josie and Kinsey.  Her fiction has appeared in flashquake, Espresso Fiction, T-Zero and various other online and print
publications. Renee's flash memoir Nothing At All is published in Chicken Soup for the Shopper's Soul.




by Kim Hutchinson


Rain drum
beats a steady
January grey.
She sits cross-legged
on the painted floor,
staring at  shadows
of dead days,
picking lint
from the rug,
her thoughts wandering
at the edge
of her sanity.  

A lifeless sky
colors her void.
Her battered past,
finds its way
home to feed
on her shame.  

She closes her eyes;
the shadows
Yesterday shrieks
in the dark,
but not defeated.  

Quieted, she
opens them again
to the sight
of wrinkled hands,
blue-veined legs
too tired
to stand alone.
Nothing can ever be
the same.
History is hers.
She is doomed
to repeat it.
Repeat it. 


About the author: Kim Hutchinson is a writer, filmmaker, journalist, and a transplanted Detroiter living in southwestern Ontario. Her short stories have been published in The Adirondack Review and Shattercolors Literary Review. She’s currently working on a non-fiction book, due out in the fall of 2007.


by Dow Ford


I had a dream last night.  It was just your standard flying porcupine dream.  You know, the one with the porcupine tethered by a golden wire as he floats over the bald-headed men wearing shorts and cowboy boots.  There was a sound track this time:  a Mex with a thin mustache "si senioring" over and over to a quartet of belching lumberjacks.  The bald-headed men were trying to stab the flying porcupine with sharpened sticks, and as they lurched at him, he shot sequined quills at them.  It was all really entertaining, of course, but what did it mean?

I got up and had my regular breakfast:  a cup of black coffee and two cigarettes. Angeline was waltzing around in the new robe I got her for Christmas.  I never told her I got it with green stamps.   I traded my air miles to old Mrs. Pense for a suitcase full of the moldy stamps.  She needed the miles to fly up to see her boy in the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.  And I wouldn't be flying again any time soon what with the Homeland Security measures and such. 

Out on the interstate things were brisk.  When I got to my exit the cars in the cloverleaf looked like a giant fire ant bed that someone had stirred with a yard rake.  Finally, everything just ground to a halt.  I cut my engine, got out of the Firebird, and walked over to a bridge railing.  Down below, the creek roiled angrily with sick city water.  Out on the hem of it, the dark woods beckoned.  As I watched, a porcupine waddled out into the sunlight, stretched and arched his back to the warmth.  He turned his head toward me and, I swear, he winked.  Drivers began blowing their horns and cursing.  I rolled my britches legs up over my boots, scrambled down the bank, and picked up the first sharp stick I could find.  I knew I could suture up all wounds with a sequined quill and a length of golden tether.


About the author:   Dow Ford lives in Oak Grove, Mississippi.




by Zinta Aistars

His mind was like a Scrabble hand without vowels: confusion like molasses, sticking together thoughts like tiles, a glop of senseless sounds. This. Never. Happens. Champ of the wordy arts, he was Wordsmith Extraordinaire, and she, well, she wasn’t half-bad. While one hand fingered and moved the tiles on their rack, arranging and rearranging, the other plucked at the tip of her long braid, snaking across her shoulder. He could almost see the letters forming into words of syllabic potency in her fine mind.  

Dare he admit his competitive nature? So much of his life spent in a cubicle, not unlike these rows of squares, only the walls rising up around him and keeping in his creative whims. Monday through Friday, slave to the Company, the Boss with his whip: produce, Wordsmith, produce!  

And he did. Relentlessly, dependably, efficiently, and with an excellence that never went unpunished. Finished with one task, there were always three more. Wordsmith the Wordslave, daily flogged into service of the senseless imbroglio.  

But this board of words built upon words was his domain. Here he ruled, and here, there was order. This board of even squares appealed to his mildly obsessive-compulsive nature. The beige of the tiles did not confront or offend. The pink of the scoring squares was as soothing as the color of Pepto-Bismol for the cramps of the addled brain. His words crossed and intersected and so logically grew and multiplied one from the other.  

There was even something subtly sensual about it. How the tiles kissed. And produced their offspring. Yes. He was a Word God. Had never lost. Not once in…. years. Perhaps never, because at this molasses moment, he could not remember such an atrocity happening. Not to him.  

She placed them in orderly progression:


Triple word score.  

Heartbroken, he looked at her across the table, and was in love.


About the author: Zinta Aistars is a writer and editor (LuxEsto, Zeenythe Communications, The Smoking Poet, Her Circle Ezine) whose work has been published in the United States, Latvia, England, Sweden, Germany, and Australia. Scrabbled  was previously published in Flash Me Magazine in 2005.