Friday 30 June 2023

For Queen and Colony by Daniel P. Douglas, Bittersweet Symphony

Alarm! Alarm!

Precious citizens, behold the majesty of our realm. A womb so splendid. A home so grand, built upon your daily toils and lifelong devotion to her Majesty.

I wish you rest, oh weary comrades, but I must postpone your most deserved slumber. Arise, bold shields and spears! Destiny beckons. This evening, you shall launch as golden arrows across night’s fragile threshold to defend the very future of our Motherland.

Awaken! Awaken!

Our startling and beautiful origins, ancient as they are, remain close to us. Swaddled in memory, we retain the tale of emergence from the muck. Your Queen, a dear, divine spark amid the Great Darkness, discerned the way and called forth devout courtesans, fathers to you all. Divine knights who sowed life by abandoning their own.

But I say, they transcend death, for their life seeds flourished within our royal vessel, our Holy and Living Mother. Grateful and humble gifts, you thrive today as descendants of Princely deeds and duties fulfilled. Thus, we bear the legacy of their sacrifices and shall honor their souls. In remembrance, we named our royal champions. Chant with me now, our hearth song:


Zanaka carried the golden flags, banners to lead the company.

Karuz and Bazul, each mighty Dukes with hearts so true.

Brothers Zenz and Mizra marched to the fragrant lures.

Racing Azuz and Kefez, beautiful soldiers of might and fancy.


Assemble! Assemble!

Each day, as banners to lead the company, you deploy across the diamond-faceted dimensions, guided by dutiful determination and masterful minds. Oh, you may lament, but such cries reveal the honesty of spirited souls, not weakness of heart! For our bodies are strong and have wrought an almighty domain. Envied, even feared, by those bound to the land, our glory advances, always forward, never in retreat.

Constantly in the flow of Nature’s demands, you venture with undaunting courage into new frontiers. You decipher, gather, and defend. You drill into bright, bristling veneers, toiling under leafy shade and watchful arrays of our eternal foes. Above, the circling hawk. Behind, the cunning wildcat. Below, the slithering snake. Servants of nature or, most likely, fervent and mindless brutes? You seek, cull, and spread. As we fulfill our duties, with hearts so true, dearest Nature thrives as a lush and luscious Paradise. We do not shrink from the call nor do we pervert its aims.

Our path is peaceful, but our foes know only violence. We defend. They attack!

Ascend! Ascend!

The sun has set and we are nested for the night, you say. True, even the longest day, our worldly ally, relents to darkness. But our fate transcends the hour.

Our scouts, not all, return. Their regalia carry reminders of earlier action. Dusty, torn uniforms—black and yellow—and bloodied swords present testimony of their defiance and bravery. Alas, they signal irrefutable news of war!

As your infant sisters incubate within the core of this glorious hive, wild invaders approach under the rising stars. Their claims are driven not by grumbling bellies, for these are full and fat, but by wanton lust. So bereft of order and discipline, they revel in gluttony. Tonight, they seek to consume the Queen’s youngest children, great-great-granddaughters of Princes, family of us all.

Heed the warning: ghastly are these greedy bandits. They’d stolen the Moon by now but for tiny, boney hands that pick, wriggle, and grab. A hairy coat awash in stench sheds filth with each trot of short hind legs. Long is the ringed tail, a demonic limb known to whip, curl, and surround. An awful black mask adorns a face so sharp, its edges vanish into the night.

Terrible, how terrible, you wail. Yes, but let our cries rise into a chorus, a clarion call. Launch on the indomitable winds cast by your luminous wings! Mount a swift and overwhelming defense to ward off, if not destroy, the attackers.

Report! Report!

Two of the foul beasts prey upon us. We are all that stand between life and death, for the enemy gives no quarter. Stab at their paws. Inject pain, then strike again. Though they tear at the edges of our realm, we can halt their provocation. Swarm, hover, perch, sting. Ears and cheeks swollen, oh, how these tangled brutes clamor. How much fear and pain must flow in their blood before they retreat?

Wait, a breach!  They’ve pierced the walls of our beloved home. Dear royal daughters, circle ‘round and sortie once more, at least. Though they swat and chew, you must break their will. Stuttering and spiraling, sad deaths drain our numbers. Hope we hold against grimmer carnage and turn this stalemate into victory.

Such devotion you display. In the face of this relentless assault, your actions exceed all expectations. More than the winds carry you into battle. This cyclone you have wrought churns with energy. Its swirling vibrations excite the air, making a powerful declaration, and will lift us to an ultimate triumph.


What is this? How? Now, what horror confronts us? Am I to believe the shattered remains, piles of the fallen, limping, crying?

On my back in the dirt—not floating above, not seated on my throne—I see my crushed castle. Filthy paws pick and grab at the wreckage. They dig up my eggs and infants and press them into drooling, saber-lined maws. My winged daughters, once fierce cavalry, lie dazed or dead.

Diamond-faceted moonlight fades behind clouds of dust that reek of Earthly grime, the muck of my primordial birthplace.

Today, my daughters marched to the fragrant lures. Tonight, they rose to defend this base, this throne, this home. For Queen and Colony, beautiful soldiers of might and fancy, they served with honor.

Defeat is not their legacy. Death is not their end, nor mine. At the appointed moment, we are all called back into the Great Darkness before rebirth. How we lived, whether as Queen or cavalry, is the matter at hand. Harmony is a vital virtue. In my realm, we sought balance for one and all. We lived this. It was our mission.

I raised defenders and laborers, and you might think I did so to serve as master to slaves. But no, for I am also a servant. I beg thee, please know, Nature is not a harsh master and I do not blame her for the night’s ravages. I love her for the bounties and privileges she bestowed upon us.

My own life here ends, and I mourn the tragic deaths of my brave guardians, tireless workers, and pristine brood. But in passing, our fulfilled souls carry on. Our bequest: a lush and luscious Paradise, nurtured and conveyed to the future by this Queen and her harmonious, majestic Colony.



About the author

Daniel P. Douglas is the pen name for identical twins Phillip and Paul Garver. They’ve written mostly sci-fi and supernatural thriller stories, novellas, novels, and screenplays, and have earned accolades from Foreword Reviews,, and Readers Favorite. Learn more at




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Thursday 29 June 2023

Flash Fiction Painter by Hannah Retallick, a thimble of fine wine


They told him to paint it bigger, expand the picture, stretch it past his natural frame. He tried hard at first, he really did.


He was art-degreed into new realms. His exhibitions were lined by tremendous canvases, some too attention-grabbing to earn more than a ‘that’s cool’ from passers-by or an acerbic ‘wow, that’s expensive’. They couldn’t see beyond the size; most never would.


He longed for them to drift on to smaller things and look closer, see what was really there: his whole soul on a postcard.


About the author 

Hannah Retallick is from Anglesey, North Wales. She was home educated and then studied with the Open University, graduating with a first-class BA (Honours) Arts and Humanities (Creative Writing and Music) degree, before passing her creative writing MA with distinction. Her work has been placed and shortlisted in several international competitions.


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Wednesday 28 June 2023

How Has 1973 Been for You? by Barry Garelick, espresso con panna

 Something new to talk to Dr. Shapiro about: A few days after Nixon ordered the troops home from Viet Nam, Daniel met Bonita at a neighborhood café. Bonita sat at a table with a black man, both in their twenties. She wore lipstick and eye make-up, blue jeans, a thick sweater and an overcoat. He wore horn rimmed glasses and a long, thick, woolen U.S. Air Force overcoat. Daniel was wearing a Marine jacket.


            ‘Beautiful overcoat,’ Daniel said, as he passed by their table.


            ‘Nice jacket,’ said the man in return. ‘Where'd you get it?’


            ‘Salvation Army.’


            Daniel's Marine jacket frequently generated questions from the people he worked with regarding when he had served. He hadn’t served and he was finding out that military garb was not quite the hip fashion statement it was when he was in school, now two years ago.


            ‘What do you expect people to think when they see a Marine jacket?’ Dr. Shapiro had asked at Daniel's last session. Daniel had become indignant. But now Daniel had proof that Dr. Shapiro was wrong, and not up on current style and culture. It was still hip to wear military clothes – at least among certain people.


            Bonita shared an apartment with the black man, Larry. Both were art majors at San Francisco City College and unlike most of the people at the café, and most art majors, they were both outgoing. This was pleasant for Daniel who found that his out-of-school contemporaries kept to themselves. He had mentioned those ‘certain people’—his out-of-school contemporaries—to Dr. Shapiro at a few of their sessions.


        As he had explained on several occasions to Dr. Shapiro, Daniel disliked the taciturn crowd who hung out at cafés and for whom the reading material was usually The Diary of Anais Nin—at least for women. And as was usual when Daniel complained about this, Dr. Shapiro did not respond.


         Whether Bonita and Larry were just roommates or lovers was something Daniel could not tell. But when Larry left to meet with someone about buying a car, Bonita didn't seem uncomfortable to be sitting with Daniel. ‘Have a seat,’ she said.


         Daniel saw the corner of a book poking through a nest of lipstick stained tissues in Bonita's purse which rested between them like a centerpiece on the small white table.


         ‘You reading The Diary of Anais Nin?’ She smiled as if he had asked if she slept in the nude. ‘No, why?’


        ‘Just practicing being perceptive, and failed. I saw a book in your purse and assumed that's what it was.’


        ‘Nope,’ she said, dragging out Carlos Castaneda’s latest book, Journey to Ixtlan.


                 ‘Castaneda’s absolutely amazing,’ Daniel said.


     ‘He's definitely onto something,’ she said. ‘He's plugged into all these archetypes and myths of the world.’


            Bonita took a sip of coffee. ‘I like how drugs allow you to see the world in different ways’ she said. ‘Or maybe as it really is.’ This was looking promising: A woman who drank black coffee and was open about liking drugs at first meeting, and didn’t look upon conversation initiated by men in cafés as a sexual affront.


            ‘I used to wonder,’ Daniel said, ‘and now after reading Castaneda I wonder even more, if everyone doesn't go around seeing and hearing their own version of the world. It just appears that everyone agrees we are all seeing and hearing the same things.’


            Bonita looked puzzled. ‘That makes no sense,’ she said. She ran her hand through her hair and leaned forward. Her throat bore the remains of a slight scar. He imagined kissing her throat where the scar was.


            ‘It's like how do we really know that what we're both looking at now is a cup of coffee?’ Daniel said. ‘You may be seeing a little tarantula and you assume I see the same thing, and I assume you see a cup of coffee. We each are experiencing something different. But we think we’re seeing the same thing.’


            ‘That's the most bizarre thing I've ever heard,’ she said. He was about to go on, but his theory was getting beyond him, so he stopped. She opened her purse and showed him a joint. ‘Do you want to come up to my apartment and smoke some devil's weed?’ she asked.



Bonita's apartment was a block away, at a busy corner on Fillmore Street. It was in an old brick building with a marble-floored lobby and an old fashioned elevator  cage. Bonita had turned the one bedroom apartment into two by using the living room as her bedroom. The living room adjoined the kitchen where they now both sat. She inhaled deeply on the joint and passed it to Daniel.


            ‘What kind of work do you do?’ she asked.


            ‘Technical writer. At an engineering firm.’


            ‘You don't seem the technical writer type,’ she said.


            ‘I'm not. It's just a job.’


            ‘A lot of people I know say that. What do you want to do?’


            ‘Be an actor, I guess. I did some acting in college and I liked it.’


            ‘So you're a drama major?’




            ‘How'd you end up interested in acting?’


            He shrugged. ‘By the time I figured out that I liked acting more than physics it was too late, so I completed my major in physics.’


            His last words about physics rang in his ears as if it were the lyrics to a strange song. Their conversation became detached in a pleasant sort of way. He felt he could talk about anything, and so he found himself talking about recently giving blood as part of a drive they had at work.


            ‘I’ve never given blood,’ she said.


            ‘Not my favorite thing to do,’ he said. ‘I'm not fond of lying on my back looking at a mobile of Babar elephants. I don't like having holes poked in my veins.’


            A brief silence followed that he felt compelled to fill. ‘I'm afraid of holes,’ he added.


            She leaned forward, elbows on the table and head in her hands. ‘You're afraid of holes?’ she said and smiled.



‘I never should have said I was afraid of holes,’ he said at his next session with Dr. Shapiro. ‘It's like admitting that I was afraid of her.’


            ‘I don't know,’ Dr. Shapiro said, in a rare instance of disclosure. ‘She was probably tickled pink that you were interested in her vagina.’


            ‘How do you get that?’


            Dr. Shapiro hid a smile behind his hand.


            ‘I don't see that I said I was interested in her vagina. If anything, I was admitting I was afraid of it. I may as well have said ‘women frighten me’.’


            ‘Did she act like she thought you were afraid of her?’




            ‘What happened after that?’


            ‘We talked, I guess. We were getting pretty stoned. We ended up talking about the early Mad Magazines. You know, when it was a comic book?’ Daniel assumed that Dr. Shapiro was as familiar with the early Mads as he was with vaginal imagery.


            ‘She left the room to look for this old Mad paperback she had, and while she was gone I got a good look at this poster that she had hanging over the kitchen table. It was a girl who was topless, wearing blue jeans, with her hand underneath in the crotch area – a tough girl expression on her face.’


          ‘That would be intimidating,’ Dr. Shapiro said. 

            Daniel was silent.

          ‘What are you thinking?’ Dr. Shapiro asked.


            ‘I guess it was. Intimidating, I mean. I left shortly after, kind of angry that I didn't at least try to go to bed with her.’


            ‘Most women don't like to have sex right away,’ Dr. Shapiro said. They were both silent, and then Dr. Shapiro said it was time to go. Mental note to himself about next session: Begin with the artwork in Bonita's bedroom--a watercolor of a face with a white mime mask, eyes brimmed with tears running down each cheek in a very straight line. ‘I did that after I saw the movie Performance,’ she had told him when he looked at it.



He had visited her a few more times after that. They would get stoned, talk about Castaneda, or Jung and archetypes. Her roommate Larry was never there and though the possibility for sex would present itself, he would feel he had to leave.


            On one visit he told her about a dream he had about a spider. A bicycle wheel rotated in the middle of a swimming pool and there, in the hub of the wheel was a very large bright, orange spider. He couldn’t move, and remained staring at it, at first frightened and then finding it beautiful.


            ‘I'm very excited about this dream,’ he said. ‘I think it’s an archetype.’


            ‘It's a great dream,’ Bonita said. ‘I wish I could have a dream like that.’


            They sat once more sharing a joint in the kitchen, the poster of the topless woman looming over them. ‘I have dreams sometimes where I'm crying,’ Bonita said. ‘It's such a deep type of crying, from way inside me, the deepest crying I've ever done. I've never felt such sadness in real life; I only feel it in dreams.’


            The conversation moved to drugs and Bonita told Daniel about a Quaalude party that her friends at school were having at the end of the week.


            ‘I don't know,’ he said. ‘I've never done Quaaludes.’


            ‘They're nice. Not as good as methadone, but pretty good.’


            ‘Methadone? Were you addicted to heroin?’


            ‘No; I did it once with some guy. It's a lot stronger than heroin, you know. They get you off heroin by hooking you on methadone, then getting you off that, gradually. You get so relaxed you have to remind yourself to breathe.’


            She stretched her arms out in front of her, like a cat and then pointed her finger at him. ‘Stay right there,’ she said. ‘Don't go away.’ She ran into her room and emerged with a basketball, which she bounced on the floor, the hollow, ringing sound filling the room. ‘Whattya say?’ she said. ‘Wanna play?’


            A few minutes later they were at a multi-level park which Bonita called the ‘ziggurat’. At the top level were tennis courts and a small basketball area in which they played one-on-one. Either Bonita was good, or Daniel was bad; it was hard for him to tell. Afterward, they sat on a bench, a mercury vapor lamp behind them turning their faces pale and their lips purple.


            ‘I used to play basketball with my brother's friends,’ Bonita said.


            ‘That's the problem, then. My brother didn't play basketball, so I didn't get to play with his friends.’


            This tickled Bonita and she laughed – a whole-hearted laugh that shed all pose. She hugged her ribs as she laughed and at the end said ‘That's wonderful’ to no one in particular.


            They sat with the basketball between them. A breeze came up, blowing the powerful smell of magnolias toward them. ‘What a fragrance,’ Bonita said. Her lips had the same look of a girl Daniel knew at school when the opportunity had come to kiss her. He let the opportunity with Bonita pass, however, and he walked Bonita home.



           ‘Why didn't you kiss her?’ Dr. Shapiro asked at their next session.


            ‘I don't know.’ He looked at the Miro poster behind Dr. Shapiro. When the silence became unbearable, Daniel started speaking. ‘I’m afraid that if I get involved I’ll get clingy and possessive.’


            ‘Why do you think you’ll be possessive?’


            ‘It’s happened before,’ he said. Daniel said nothing more, and the two of them were quiet.


            ‘She might be getting tired of you not making a move.’


            ‘What do you mean?’


            Dr. Shapiro responded with his usual silence, and then announced that they were out of time. ‘Let’s talk about your fear of possessiveness next time. In the meantime, I don't recommend you go to any Quaalude parties.’


            A few days later Daniel called Bonita and asked if he could come by. ‘Yeah, OK,’ she said, in a spacy voice.


            Across from her apartment, a young man who Daniel had seen on previous visits, staggered in the alley behind the donut shop on the corner. He saw Daniel and nodded toward him as if the two were old friends. According to Bonita, the young man was a junkie. She had talked to him once in the donut shop. ‘He was kind of a creep,’ she had said. ‘I went there a few weeks later, and he was there. He sees me and asks ‘How come you don't come by here anymore?’ ’


            At Bonita’s apartment, he knocked on the door; receiving no response, he walked in. All the lights were on in the apartment; he could see into Bonita's bedroom where she was sprawled on the bed.    

         ‘Hey, Daniel, how're ya doin'?’ she said when he walked into the room.


          ‘You all right?’ he asked.


            ‘Yeah, I'm OK,’ she mumbled.


            ‘What are you on?’


            ‘I'm all right.’


            He knelt beside her bed. ‘So, Daniel,’ she said. She tried to point a finger in his direction, but could barely lift her arm. ‘How has 1973 been for you; does it look like a good year?’


            She seemed to be focusing on a faraway object; her eyelids became heavy, then closed, and her breathing became deep and regular. He bent over her and looked at each of her arms to see if there were any tracks, as if it were something his parents might have taught him. He saw no evidence of needle marks and decided she was probably on Quaaludes. Perhaps tonight was the night of the Quaalude party she had talked about.


            Daniel walked over to the window. The street was empty except for the young man stationed at the donut shop, now looking up at Bonita's window. The two saw each other, but neither acknowledged each other's stare. The young man knew where Bonita's apartment was. He probably stared at her window every night, Daniel thought.


            He looked at Bonita once more before pulling down the window shade, turning off the light in her bedroom, and leaving the apartment.



All the next day he thought about Bonita, how she might possibly have died from a drug overdose. He called her number several times but there was no answer until in the early evening Larry answered and said that Bonita was out. ‘I'll call back,’ Daniel said and realized that this was the first time Larry had ever been home when he called.


            He wouldn’t see Dr. Shapiro again until the end of the week. He took the next two days off, calling in sick each day. On the first day, he went to City College; San Francisco State the next. Both days he wandered around the campuses, the thought of going back to school crossing his mind.


            He thought about Bonita's strange question about 1973, wondering what meaning her question could possibly have had. It made little sense given that it was still only February. In fact, he didn’t think it was going all that well. He was having doubts about the philosophy that what you wanted to do in life was what mattered. Not everyone was an artist; not everyone was a genius even though it seemed that most of the people his age were one or the other.


            Calling in sick for one day almost always was a sign of playing hooky; two days in a row made it seem legitimate. His boss asked him how he was feeling when he came back, and others seemed concerned as well. He told them he was fine and went about his work without saying very much to anyone.


            At the end of the day, he took the bus to Mt. Zion Hospital where Dr. Shapiro was a resident psychiatrist. Daniel was silent for five minutes and then began talking about his last visit to Bonita's apartment, her lying on the bed, how he thought she had died, his visits to the schools, and then was silent. After several minutes Daniel spoke again. ‘I think it's hopeless to get anything going with Bonita.’


            Dr. Shapiro again said nothing, and Daniel was sure that he would eventually ask what Daniel was thinking about. Instead, he surprised Daniel by talking. ‘I think you've been assessing what you want to do,’ he said. ‘Perhaps visiting those schools was a way to revisit what you've left and where you want to go,’ Dr. Shapiro continued. ‘The fact that you thought Bonita was dead might even point to you making a break with your past.’


            This assessment seemed mundane and obvious; the mark of a resident trying to be the real thing, Daniel thought. He had expressed those thoughts to him in the past, but Daniel decided to keep those thoughts to himself this time, instead savoring the rare occasion of a pronouncement. This must be the reward for being honest, for question­ing his life, for avoiding people who did drugs, for conforming to the norm. Dr. Shapiro wasn't like Castaneda’s guru Don Juan, but this was the best Daniel could do.


            ‘I'm sure this is very painful,’ Dr. Shapiro said. Daniel knew this to be true and felt like crying. More words followed, all of them obvious, including ‘plenty of other fish in the sea’. He could have gotten such advice from his father, for God's sake. But he could see that Dr. Shapiro meant well.


            There was still much ground to cover, Daniel knew. His difficulty adjusting to life outside of school, why he felt sexually insecure, why he felt like he didn't fit in. And of course, the inevitable confrontation about the seriousness of his half-hearted pursuit of an acting career was bound to come up soon. But not too soon. Maybe in a year. Or maybe never. There was time.


About the author


Barry Garelick has written non-fiction pieces that have been published in Atlantic, and Education Next. His fiction has appeared in The Globe Review, Cafe Lit and Fiction on the Web. He lives in Morro Bay, California with his wife. 


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