Magdalenes Against The Wall
....The bad part is arsenic doesnt smell.
Angora. Breath low.
Cats fur Im not allergic to.
They asked me what balance is like.
Balance is when you spin too fast to be remembered. Then they asked me
about the rain.
The day I was born, my auntie tells me, was the day rain started raining
I like my sky blue.
If it fell upon it, from the Earth, rain would bleach the sky and make
it curl at the edges and then Id have to repaint it each day, with
wise moves and a hand like a spinner.
And then my time would be my own and the skys and not hers.
Dont tell anyone, but I still keep some of my time secret and close
to me. And a bag of sand on the other shoulder for balance.
If you dig deep enough, in places that are special and marked, the sands
turn red and you find red sand to gather and carry home and mix with water.
My auntie does it all the time.
She does it so much it spills all over her sheets and down her legs and
into her slippers and into mine. I feel it, painting my toes red, and
its good news. It means I dont have to go to her special place.
It means I can run, and so I do, I run up to the river where the water
is wetter than sand and the boys are wetter than girls and you can see
how they all like that.
It s there that I learnt to make myself small.
Back home, I make myself small for my auntie and for her special place,
so that it burns less when she pushes it against my face. If it tastes
too much like custard, Im excused from pastries all week.
She says things with a veil over her mouth, my auntie.
There are deep cuts all over her knees because she is a woman of God.
I know that, but still shriek at the marks they leave below my ears. She
puts her fingers on my forehead and makes me choke on the veil.
She says there is no sand left.
"There is no sand left when youre old unless you dig for it
Then she makes me lift my tongue. Its just like at the tooth-doctor,
only theres no candy here unless I dig for it myself. Her thighs
press against my ears like hands playing the echo game.
"And the child shall hear no evil."
She will only taste it.
"And shame shall be your penance."
Shames a thing of the belly.
She knocked down one of my teeth this morning.
I tied it to a string, threw it over the roof and made a wish. It didnt
come true. Instead, I got a mouthful of moist and curly hair.
"And what does the conscientious penitent do in times like these?",
the Apostles asked their Teacher.
Water wash off the unclean.
And God said, "let My Only Son be washed by the hands of man."
If wet is dirty, then waters dirt. Id only bathe in sun.
"Your wicked tongue", my auntie says to me. "God made it,
the devil found a job for it and the cat shall eat it when its done."
"Yes God made you, all of you, bit by bit, when He breathed life
into the filthiest of sins", she says. "And when your time is
up, Hell plant His Holy Legs into your shoulders and push you back
I know some things about legs. I know mine can never be too close together.
"The path you walk, the footprints you leave are sinful and shall
be washed away", my auntie says, walking behind me with a Smart Mop.
"You are the most unworthy of Adams ribs. When God first set
His Holy eyes upon you, He was appalled by the mistake." Woman, like
the fall of Lucifer, is something Good Old Poppa prefers to keep quiet
about. God never fucks up. Walking counter-proof most unwelcome."
"Why not make another one then, Teacher?"
"If Daddy had popped another rib out of Adam, he would have had no
use for a woman at all!"
She took me up to the forest and let me look at it.
I looked at the forest.
I looked some more.
"You re made of flesh and bone and holy ash gone wrong."
I kept looking.
Im made of wood. Wood has memory. The kind that doesnt come
off, not even with your strongest Mr Clean."
"Just wipe your nose and it will."
I wipe my nose and it does.
I always make myself ready for her guests. I watch them flow through all
the openings, in reverent rows. She shows them around, my auntie. I listen
to them marvel at the sights and bow down at the teachings. With golden
manners and pinchable cheeks, I stand on the modesty pedestal.
"What a sweetie", they conclude. "What a sweetie."
"Indeed. Sweet enough to boost your blood-sugar quicker than a back-seat
Explicit warning. They keep their distance as advised.
When I run, I run faster than they could ever spin. I run to where flowers
are pretty and furry white things make trampolines of their backs and
grass grows all over you if you dont watch it or if you want it
"Soon you will learn to be nice to all Gods creatures",
my auntie says. "Even yourself. Just pull the blinds when you do."
Over her shoulder, I watch the sky getting a little bit blurry at the
corner. When she leaves, she leaves me abusing the blue crayon for another
half an hour
Myanmar. Seven-lettered word, fourteen points. Weve got a winner!
Daddy died in a bathtub full of water-colour blue, with a Lego hammer
up his anus.
"A bathtub full of what?" snaps my sister, pulling a face that
threatens to stay on forever. How terribly unpoetic. Not something she
would have expected from a man of his background.
We can tell she hasnt quite gotten over it when she blatantly lowers
her coffin-holding left shoulder to retrieve half a Monopoly bill.
We shared duties and I am the announcer.
I call our dear long-lost brother and talk for 25 minutes with an itch
building up at the back of my tongue and no interruptions.
He coughs into the receiver, as if to blow the dust off the wires.
I turn to the kitchen sink for help. Will the chord stretch that far?
" Sis? Hrrrmmmm..."
"Perhaps this isnt the best time to ask."
A flow of brownish liquid comes splashing out of the tap. They must be
draining the pipes again.
"...but do you think I could be best man?"
Itch, itch, itch, again, spreading up and down and all over.
"....I dont think they have best men at funerals, Bro."
Long silence, as if to let the dust settle back on the wires again.
Itch, itch, itch, itch.
If I pushed my whole arm down my throat, what would be the danger of getting
In case youre wrong about that.
Could you please keep the position open? Remember I was the first to ask?"
We shared duties
and she is the interpreter.
"Funeral stylist, not mortician. Just remember that, and Ill
handle everything else."
Just remember that and Sis is gonna handle everything else:
Hug, hug, kiss, kiss.
"So? What do you think?"
"The pants, honey, the pants! Glitter-free, see?
Ive told you before.
All these dead people, their surface is highly adherent to anything
They cling desperately to all wordly things. Its like they know
theyre going down for good.
Glitter? It spreads like dermatitis from neck to toe and then you have
to either skin them or add an extra wax-secured layer of powder.
So I thought, theres got to be a better way of handling it! ...
and then it hit me: Glitter-free pants! Cant call yourself a caring
funeral stylist without a pair."
"Brilliant, darling. Brilliant."
"I know. I know."
Kiss, kiss, hug, hug.
"Now for my favourite client. A bit of a shy guy, if I may say
so, but I think hes ready to see you now."
Daddy under a yellow sheet of aseptic vinyl plastic.
Do I have the stomach for it?
"So? What do you think?"
"Ok, whats wrong with it?"
"Why,....the... ss...mile, darling."
"The smile? Whats wrong with the smile? A bit too pointed
at the edges maybe but still a perfectly good smile for someone this
"Thats my point, darling. Are you sure its appropriate?"
"Appropriate? Honey! Its a funeral, not a new wave party!
I wish everybody stopped being so eighties about this."
"If you say so..." She seems to be taking it nicely, but you
never know with my sister.
She stamped on my foot when we came in.
Twelve years ago, in a coffee shop, she stung a muffin with her fork
twice and said "Die, muffin." Thats not a reasonable
thing to do. No, you can never know with my sister.
"What about you darling, have you thought about it?"
Hes asking me.
"The masters project, Sis", says my sister.
"Oh, yes. Ive thought about it, we all have, as a matter
of fact. And Im afraid the answers no. Theres no way
we could delay the funeral again, now that the invitations have been
Im really sorry."
"Oh. Ok. I understand."
"Look, theres no need to take it so bad, Im sure there
are loads of much better specimens out there just waiting to be dicovered."
"Of course, of course.
But its still a shame, really, we kinda had a bond there, the
little fellow and I. Its not very often that you come across cheek
bones like that."
"Tell you what, well let you know if anyone else in the family
"Thanks a million, honey."
"And youre still welcome to attend the funeral, of course."
"Thanks. A real shame though. Real shame."
I keep the door open for my sister and she stamps on my foot again.We
shared duties and thats how it went. Faced with the long white
cobbled alley, Sis felt perfectly confident and poised. So what if the
bastard would have no death march? Shed just hum the Kaiserwaltz
to herself while preserving an excellent posture. Its just like
walking the catwalk with a big box on your shoulder.
Her glamour unglamoured when the big box wouldnt close.
"It wont close, Sir."
At five years of age, my brother pinned a fancy-looking badge to his
shirt. Little servile men have been following him around, calling him
"Sir" ever since.
"It appears that his right hand is inconveniently stuck in a vertical
Stiff and upright, making a mock of the dignified assistance, stood
my Daddys hand.
"Cant you just cut it off?"
"I dont think that would be appropriate, Sir."
"Well, whatever you do, better handle this quickly! The march is
almost over", said my sister.
"If the march is over, dear Sis, youll just have to start
humming it all over again", said my brother.
"Die, muffin", said my sister.
Brighter and wider, making a mock of the dignified assistance, grew
my Daddys smile.
"Sir? Theres a man here, says hes got permission to
review a masters project."
"Fuck off, wrong address!"
"He says this is the last masters project hes gonna have
to dig up himself, Sir."
"Sickos. Sickos all around me", noticed my brother.
"Tell you what! Why dont we just stuff it down his throat
and have him digest it?"
"I dont think we can do that, maam, hes dead."
"Somebody bring the chain saw, then!"
"Here, crush it with my boot!"
"Slam the lid against it!
"Drive your car over it!"
"No, stick it in the radiator!"
"Have Old Betsy bite it off!"
"Anybody got a platform shoe?"
"Anybody got a blender?"
Up to the Heavens, higher and harsher, rose sentences for the rebellious
They never noticed my sister jumping at it, victorious and fierce, while
preserving an excellent posture.
And boyng, boyng, berserk and away went Daddys hand with Sis speared
on it, and suddenly, in a blaze of Divine light, it came quite clear
to me why they build cemeteries in the outdoors
female. Decent match. Fine pedigree. Nice ass. Life expectation average.
Artistically inapt. Cant hold a note. Cant jump a fence.
Aged five, though, she was such a cute little boy.
"Thank you sir, thank you maam, but shes a girl, really."
"A girl? Then why dont you just pierce her ears, lady?"
Sure. Drill an extra hole and itll say woman". Sweet Cheeks.
Baby. Back row, please. Mujercita. Delta. Divine fuck-up. Drop your ballast
HERE. Aaaaarrrssshhht, phew.
Theres a knock on the door.
She opens it and finds herself in front of a man she remembers from the
paper as 'The Serial Killer Who Either Skins His Victims Or Covers Them
In A Wax-Secured Layer Of Powder And Then Writes 'Hows That For
A Masters Project? ' On Their Walls'.
So theres a Time Machine in your kitchen. One with big orange buttons
and tacky Taiwanese labels all over. When you go in, it makes weird wobbly
noises and teleports you into the kitchen of this girl Cindy. She always
sits there, with her palms around the blue cup and a flashy something
at the corner of her eye. And on some days you get to be Cindys
best friend, or her brother or sister, on others shell have you
as her uncle, shaman or aunt.
You are never Cindys lover/spouse/significant other. Cindy already
has a boyfriend called Joe. In fact, theyve been walking together
this very morning and shes dying to tell you about it.
They had a drink down at Muddys and bought Pomegranate T-shirts
for each other and bred spring and stepped in gold. Then she picked up
a knife over the Kyoto coffee-table and said something about slitting
him open from head to heel to ear and then all over again twice.
At this point you start finding Cindy and the whole situation rather creepy.
She has got a Time Machine in her kitchen, what could be creepier than
"And you know what the funny part is?", she asks, and you feel
a sudden urge to run away from Cindy.
"The funny part is I meant it."
You end up running away with her. In and out of unrewarding backseats,
dragging a cuddly little poodle that the Acid Rain keeps forever pink,
you'll find that there is always a good part, a bad part and funny part
to look out for.
The bad part is arsenic doesnt smell.
The good part is neither do your hands.
A regular young
contributor to hackwriters - this is her thrid piece for us. She lives
and studies in Romania
if you want to comment on her work email
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