New short fiction by Janet Yung

Dining Out

“Do you want me to call an ambulance?”  The chubby manager of the all you can eat restaurant is seated on the floor next to Peter, the elderly patron, who’s barely had time to settle at the table waiting with his wife, Clara, while their two nieces have gone to the food bar.

“Yes,” Clara nods her head.  Clara’s white hair sits in a bun on top of her head, tears welling up in her eyes.  The manager and one of the girls who work the room at lunchtime, clearing tables and fetching drinks along with bread and butter, laid Peter gently on the ground when he bent over the table and uttered an “Oh, my,” Clara looking helpless.

It’s the thing Clara has worried about most in her life.  “What’ll I do without Peter?”  Now, sitting on her chair while the manager and the wait staff try to make sure Peter doesn’t die on the premises, she thinks the worst is happening.

Clara smiles when the manager, now arranging towels under Peter’s head looks up and says, “His eyes are open.”

“How do you feel?” she asks and Peter‘s eye lids flutter, the first sign of movement since he‘s been on the floor.

People at surrounding tables only stop eating for a second at the start of the commotion.  Now, they resume eating and the trek from table to steam tables.  No one wants to feel cheated.  It isn’t the first time this has happened at the buffet.

“Everyone in there is so old,” Peter complained when the girls suggested taking their aunt and uncle to the restaurant.

“It’ll do you good to get out of the house.”  Clara encouraged him, dressing in her favorite purple dress, something she only wears on special occasions.  “We need to do more outside the house,” she said, putting the final touches on her hair.  Peter says she looks nice, but he’s always said that no matter what she’s wearing.

Clara stares at Peter’s black leather round toed shoes pointing towards the ceiling, white socks showing between the bottom of his cotton trousers and shoe tops.  She should have insisted he wear dark socks, but they’d been running late and she didn’t want to keep the girls waiting. 

“I like these socks,” he told her when she spotted them. 

“Your slacks are too short,” she said, “that’s why I can see your socks.”

“I like ‘em,” he said, ending the discussion.

The girls arrive back at the table, unaware anything is wrong till they’re standing next to Clara and Peter, their plates filled with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. 

“The ambulance is on it’s way,” one of the cooks announces and the manager shows a visible sign of relief.

“You’ll be okay,” the manager tells Peter and Clara pats Peter’s shoulder.  The nieces huddle around the couple, their food forgotten on the table.

When a diner spots the ambulance, the manager and the cook help Peter back onto the chair.  Clara hovers close by while Peter’s vitals are checked and then he’s lifted onto the gurney.  Clara is grateful not one of them referred to Peter as “old timer.”

“We’ll follow you to the hospital,” one of the girls says.  Clara, glad for the company, even though they’ll miss their lunch.

“We’ll have to do this again soon,” Peter quips as he’s rolled out to the ambulance on his way to the emergency room.

“Not exactly and not too soon,” Clara replies, adding “we need to get you some new clothes.”  And then they are on their way without the sirens.

• Janet Yung lives and writes in St. Louis.  Her short fiction has appeared in Writers On The River and online in Foliate Oak, Terrain and Flashquake.

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Three short poems by Colin Cross


the first two people
I spoke to in the pub
were so drunk
that when they spoke
they spat all over me
the third person
was either sober
or missed
~ ~ ~ ~ ~


ninety per cent
of what
most people say
is bollocks
I just say
the ten per cent
that isn't
~ ~ ~ ~ ~


in the kitchen
for a drink
a bottle of water
I was Jesus

• Colin Cross lives in Norwich and is a regular IS&T contributor

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Flash fiction by Tola Ositelu

This was the sixth Doctor’s surgery he was visiting that week.  Harold had long ago resigned himself to the fact he had a problem.  That he savoured the pleasure of sitting around, observing the infirm.  Usually after a couple of hours of avoiding the receptionist’s gaze, they would approach him and the game was up.  This surgery had a male receptionist.  Harold stared at the TV watching a sexual health promo with disdain.  Contrived, he thought, compared to the others he had seen.

“Harold”.  He jumped as the receptionist called his name, ever so soft, maybe even a little sympathetic.   “It’s time to go now”.

On the footpath outside Harold made up his mind, again, to stop this.  After all, he couldn’t possibly track down all his former patients.  Yet two years after being struck off he still hadn’t kicked the habit of trying.

• Tola Ositelu was born in South-East London, 1981 to Nigerian and Ghanaian parents. She studied law at university and is currently a trainee solicitor within a local government organisation in North London.  Away from the day job she can be found organising, hosting and singing at live music events, seeing as much of the world as her annual leave will allow her, trying to make her mark in the world of music and literary freelance journalism, watching plays and attending various musical and literary events across London.

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Feeling guilty?


just before sleep –
picture it –
stabbing something to black.
a needle –
pressed between –
tongue and palate.

• Marguerite O'Callaghan is a 25 year-old writer who recently moved to Norwich from Cork and is just finishing a Diploma in Creative Writing at UEA.

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Martina Thomson's Ferryboats – reviewed by Ken Head


by Martina Thomson
Hearing Eye Publications, 2008, Pamphlet Series No. 54
ISBN:  978-1-905082-36-0, £3.00, 32pp

Reviewed by Ken Head

The publication reading for this volume of twenty-nine poems took place at the Torriano Meeting House in London on 9th March and until then I had never heard of Martina Thomson.  Not unusual with poets, given how little exposure they receive in the mainstream media and on the shelves of the major bookshop chains.  Without the lifeline of small presses, open mic events and, increasingly, online publication, even the best of the new would probably either never achieve publication at all or simply pass us by unnoticed, which is why series such as Hearing Eye’s pamphlets, published at a good price and an impressive level of quality,  are so valuable.

Martina Thomson was born in Berlin, of Austrian parents, came to England as a child and is now a potter living and working in London’s Camden Town.  Ferryboats is her first published volume of poetry, although a prose work, On Art And Therapy, was published by Virago in 1997 (See for more.)

The collection begins with Glaze Test, a short poem, fourteen lines written in couplets, about the response to “glaze and flame” of “The contours of three brushstrokes / on my test piece”, before moving to draw a parallel between the lines of her brush on clay and those “ever-shifting versions” which she finds in nature, in “the line a hill draws / in the sky … ever-shifting versions / as I walk towards it – ”.  “So many goes”, she adds, “at touch / and demarcation”, the thoughtful conclusion of an artist and a poet for whom representing reality is an infinitely varied and complex task.

Meditative concentration on the relationship between the concrete and the imagined is a quality found throughout the collection and is used skilfully in a variety of ways.  In Silver Spoon, for example, “the small silver spoon / in the palm of my hand / my fingers across it / my thumb in its hollow –” leads to a dream of yesterday, the memory of her mother serving coffee “in the blue room / among her friends” and asking, “Ein Mokka?”.  It is difficult not to grasp what this suggests about what was lost in the family migration from Germany all those years ago.

“Yesterday dreaming” is perhaps a useful shorthand for a number of the poems in this collection.  Tristanstrasse, for example, remembers her first home, the milk-cart rattling over cobblestones, “the high, clear sound of Hübner’s bell”, but recalls at the same time a more sinister reality, which doesn’t need explaining, of “black boots … in the street / … the dog … poisoned”.  

In the moving Elegy for C. L. R., which is placed among the concluding poems, we read of “His fingers … / like the strings of an instrument, / when he raises them / the air makes music. / His words are agile creatures / that ferret out distinctions, … / that span distances.” and remember Shakespeare’s Prospero, his power to transform, undoubtedly this poet’s gift also. 

• Ken Head's poetry weblog is at and he'll appreciate your dropping in to browse and maybe leave a comment if you're passing.

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Football's coming home

With the Euro 2008 football (or soccer for our American readers) about to get underway, what better than a football poem by Gwilym Williams…

Just over the bar?

On the box and the bottle
their words are like the words of poets
– more powerful though less profound.
Those shirted logos speak
and millions gawp and gulp
– and take another sponsored swig.
Do we dare to hope
that brighter goals
may soon be on the way?

• Gwilym Williams is a regular IS&T contributor and living in 'mittel Europ' – he is going to be in the thick of things football-wise.

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Introducing Miss Thailand

Miss Thailand

He’s in love with another

who’s hot and spicy
and bears ripe mango
for him to taste

Her water embraces his tanned body
her palms give him shade
when he laps her coconut milk

In her he’s got the freedom
to roam and be rich

Every 90 days he leaves her
to cross the border
but she always welcomes him back
like I would

Because he’s not in love with another girl
he’s in love with another country.

• Louise was born in Sweden on a cold winter's day in 1982. When she was old enough she escaped to England and ended up in Brighton which inspired her to write a novel. It's called Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd and was published in Sweden last year. She's also active, going by the stage name of Lou Ice, as a performance poet.

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