The Beauty of You

The moon wound, smell the sea, nostalgic memories, my first poem.

Mellow after light, the wrinkled blue purple bay, my inner prophet,
spreading into lines of poetry, writes through me, a poetry of my soul.

Winds of heaven blow across the heavens, waves clasp, I lay here, just
dreaming of being.

Sea, browning grey, white laced, under limitless sky, as time plays, life
moves on.

Face of the clouds, faces of the past, who I really am, you give, may together
we break through iron gate of life.

Seasons I have seen, hold fresh, blue, yet green, the beauty of you, so close,
so near, makes me think, as seasons do not fade.

* * * * *

Dennis Thomas is an Australian poet who resides in Canberra.  His work has appeared in The Lost Words, and The South Townsville micro poetry journal.  He is currently preparing his fourth collection. His contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

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Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Vol. II, Week 20

Dr. H took a little summer breather this week, but we still featured a great short story by former guest editor Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke, and some photography. Check out a new contest below, too!

Contests

Fiction

Photography

We look forward to seeing your summer contest entries!

Dr. Hurley’s Summer Contest Series № 2: Wet/Dry

Dear Snake-Oil devotees,

The doctor has informed us that he is inspired by the extremes of weather we have been experiencing around the world this Summer. While on a research mission, we, the Editors, experienced a taste of England’s Worst Summer Ever – by which they mean rain, floods, cold, and damp. Meanwhile, the States are experiencing history’s worst-ever drought. Where England’s strawberries and potatoes are rotting in the ground, America’s waves of proverbial amber grain are shriveling under an ever-hotter sun.

Never one to despair, Dr. Hurley has chosen to assign these phenomena as the basis of his next Summer Short-Short contest! Send us 100 words of fiction about Rain or Drought (or other major meteorological phenomenon if you’re in a more wintry clime) by next Sunday, July 29!

Hop to, writerly friends! We look forward to your scribblings!

Sincerely yours,

EEJ & DLR, Eds.

The Custard Legacy

1.

igel gloomily stared at his goldfish. They seemed not to notice him, or the debris littering his apartment: dirty saucepans, chocolate bar wrappers, milk cartons, and empty packets of custard mix.

“You’re not eating properly, are you,” said Ernesto, the greying Estonian condiment importer, and Nigel’s only friend. “I knew you weren’t, so I’ve brought you some rye bread herring and pickled onion sandwiches.”

Nigel took the sandwiches, began to munch, and waited for what he’d heard many times before. Ernesto dragged on a rancid smelling cheroot. “It’s not normal for a young man your age to lock himself away like you do. You should be out enjoying life, Townsville has much to offer young men, all those pretty girls with long legs out for a good time. Go out to Flinders Street East, don’t waste your time with this crazy obsession. You’ll never make it, and no-one cares anyway. Are you listening to me?”

Nigel munched a herring and pickled onion sandwich impassively. He always took what Ernesto said with a grain or three of salt.

“Lump-free custard is an impossibility. You hear me?”

“Yeah. That’s what they said about flight and space travel. Don’t you see Ernesto, I have a vision. I can see the day when I’ll be able to go into any restaurant in the world and order pudding with custard, and the custard won’t have any lumps. And it will be because of me.”

“But you’ll never get Rachael to like you,” sighed Ernesto.

Nigel reddened. Rachael, the ex-Miss Universe, was the daughter of Clive Palmfrond, the iconoclastic self-made coal billionaire, and Nigel had been in love with her since he met her at a Gala Soufflé at the Jupiters Casino in late 2009, after Ernesto had offered him a complimentary ticket he’d been given, then twisted Nigel’s arm hard for over three weeks before the event to persuade him to go.

“She’s just a tart,” Ernesto went on. “Look what happened when you gave her your blancmange recipe.”

“Yes, I was a trifle disappointed,” Nigel admitted, “I was hoping she’d at least tell me what she thought of it.”

“She’ll have thrown it straight in the bin you soft-headed dimwit.”

“I don’t know why I’m friends with you. For goodness sake put out that wretched cheroot. What I need is an excuse to talk to her,” Nigel continued, looking glum. “Maybe I could ask her over to feed my goldfish . . .”

“Look Nigel, take my word for it. She is not interested in you. No-one will ever be interested in you until you cure yourself of this ridiculous obsession with custard.” Ernesto spoke with the authority of years in the condiment business.

“Maybe if she knew how I felt. Ernesto, I’m going to visit her.”

“You’re making a big mistake . . .”

2.

Three hours later Nigel knocked on the door of the Palmfrond family villa in North Ward, nestled near the top of Castle Hill. The spectacular view was the last thing on his mind, though.

A valet answered the door. “Yes?”

“May I see Rachael please?”

“Whom shall I say is calling?”

“Nigel.”

The look on the valet’s face suggested he thought Nigel belonged in the kitchen tidy. “Please wait one moment sir.”

By the time he came back Nigel was having second thoughts about the whole thing, but it was too late for turning back.

“Come this way sir.”

The moment he saw Rachael, the little courage he had left evaporated.

“What do you want?” she said brusquely.

Nigel saw his life pass in front of his eyes.

“um . . . er . . . um . . .”

“Well, what is it? Hurry up, you’re keeping me from brushing my hair.”

“. . . um . . . um . . . Rachael-I-think-you’re-really-nice-and-please-would-you-like-to-come-to-a-plum-pudding-tasting-with-me-next-week-please-if-you’re-not-doing-anything . . .”

Nigel looked at the floor, crimson and shaking like a strawberry jelly. The look Rachael gave him was withering. If he’d been a dog, all his fur would have fallen out instantly.

“If you were like everyone else and read the Bully, you would know I got engaged last month to Jeremy Robertson-Davies. Jeremy’s a real man, not like you, you mealy-mouthed wimp. You’re nuttier than a packet of cashews. Get out and don’t come back.”

Nigel felt desiccated.

“But Rachael, I . . .”

“You want some advice? Go find a big compost heap and bury yourself in it.”

“. . .but . . . please, I . . .”

“If you don’t get out of here right now I’ll tell Watkins to turn the Alsatians on you.”

“. . .but . . . please . . .”

“Watkins!”

3.

hat has Jeremy Robertson-Davies got that I haven’t?” a dejected Nigel asked Ernesto some time later.

“Well, for one thing he’s the national hang-gliding champion. For another he’s a mauve belt in Ju Kwando. I’m warning you Nigel, if he finds out you’ve been bothering Rachael your life won’t be worth living.”

“It’s not anyway. Doesn’t she realise I could make her the happiest girl alive?”

“You’re always feeling sorry for yourself. If I looked at the world like you do I would never have become a successful condiment importer.”

“All right. What do you think I should do?

“The first thing is to forget about custard. No-one eats custard any more, they either eat health food, like I import (Nigel rolled his eyes), or McDonald’s. You need special help, my friend. I know a good doctor . . .”

4.

Three weeks later Nigel walked in to the rooms of Dr. Sigmund Floyd.

“Lie down on the couch my boy. Now tell me, what’s the problem?”

“I don’t know where to start . . . for as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in custard . . . when I was a teenager I never did the things normal boys do, I shut myself away and read cookery books . . . it got so I couldn’t cope with people, only packets of custard mix. Are you related to the TV chef? . . .”

Nearly an hour passed.

“. . . then I met Rachael, and though I really liked her I was so afraid all I could do was give her a blancmange recipe. I can’t go on like this. What’s wrong with me doctor?”

“Well my boy, you are suffering from a severe case of White-Wings-osis.”

“What’s that? Can I be cured?”

“It’s a very rare illness. But you have the classic symptom: an abnormal obsession with custard. Unfortunately it cannot be cured.”

“Will I die from it doctor?” Nigel was close to tears and whiter than a litre of milk.

“I can’t say. But perhaps if you told this young lady Michelle she might understand. That will be $450, payable by cheque, Bankcard, or cash. I prefer cash.”

5.

s always in Nigel’s apartment, the curtains were drawn shut. Ernesto helped himself to a square of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut and waited. He had a reasonable idea what was coming next.

“If I’m going to die anyway, I might as well do it.”

“Nigel, Nigel, I don’t have a son and heir. I don’t know why most of the time, but I like you, and I want you to have my business after I’m gone. There’s an old Estonian fairytale about a boy, a wolf, and a plot of radishes. In the end, notwithstanding the wolf, the boy gets the plot for perpetuity. This latest idea is pure insanity. One radish in the ground is worth fifty-five dead wolves. Don’t you see this?”

“Not really Ernesto. Listen to me. July 8 is Rachael’s twenty-fourth birthday. I went to Willows yesterday . . .”

“Well thank God you’re at least getting some sun,” Ernesto interrupted.

“. . . and bought the Bully, and she’s having a party at Jupiters to celebrate. I’m going to go, and I know this time I can win her heart, because since I saw that doctor friend of yours, I’ve been working twenty-three hours a day on something that will make me, and her, the richest and happiest couple on the planet.”

“She’s not short of a dollar, and what about Jeremy Robertson-Davies? That’s assuming you get past the security on the door.”

“Minor details, Ernesto. Trust me, this time, it’s life or death. I have the confidence of a wizard with the whisk . . .”

6.

“Where’s your invitation? And what is with that sports bag?” a burly man in a tuxedo asked Nigel.

“One moment, it’s in my pocket.”

Nigel put his hand deep into the pocket of his best slacks and pulled out what appeared to be a small bottle.

“Please leave before I . . .”

Nigel took the top off the bottle and thrust it into the security man’s face. A custard-like aroma filled the air. Suddenly the security man was wearing a stupid grin. In Nigel strode, a man on a mission.

Next stop the Men’s near the gaming tables. In the privacy of a cubicle, he pulled a large canister out of the bag. Fully armed now, he took a last look in the mirror, gave his wayward curly hair one more comb, and rejoined the action.

He entered the crowded ballroom.

“Behold the angel of the yellow skies!” he yelled at the top of his voice.

Everyone instantly froze, then quickly turned around to see the source of the whoop.

Nigel quickly unscrewed the canister, and every last person began to swoon. “What is that sublime fragrance?” “Come here, you gorgeous man, I need more of that.” “Young man, you’re the most wonderful son-in-law-to-be I’ve ever seen; I want you to come home with me after this and you can really get to know my daughter,” opined Clive Palmfrond . . .

“Nigel, Nigel, wake up, what’s wrong with you? It’s 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Um, Ernesto? Where, where am I?”

“You must have slept for three days and nights. I’ve been so worried about you. Nigel, have you been snorting? Be honest.”

Nigel, still only just awake, looked sheepish. “Since Dr. Floyd, I’ve decided to live on the edge. If Curt Kobain could use a shotgun, I can sniff custard gas.”

“Custard gas?!”

“Yes, forget cashew oil, it’s the most lethal intoxicant known to humankind. And I know how to make it.”

“You never told me.”

“There’s lots I don’t tell you, Ernesto. You think all these experiments I do here don’t come to anything . . .” Nigel’s words trailed off in the semi-darkness.

“I don’t know what to say.” And for once Ernesto genuinely was speechless.

“I’m an addict. There’s no hope now.”

Ernesto crossed himself and muttered something in Estonian.

7.

afe Bambini in North Ward was busy as usual at a Saturday breakfast time. Ernesto took his numbered stand and rejoined his friend Carlo. “It was a bad business, Carlo. There were only three mourners, myself included.”

“Don’t trouble yourself too much. Think condiments. There’s an old Croatian proverb about a man whose best friend went to China, made his fortune in the soap trade, came back to the motherland and slipped into a well and died. Things happen in life.”

An American girl, probably a traveller working there temporarily, brought them their coffees and took the metal stand.

“I loved that boy. It’s strange, you know. When I packed up his apartment I found a manuscript in a box under his bed. It was streaked yellow, and stank of custard, but I’ve read it, and to me it is an excellent, an exceptional read. Perhaps I should send it to a publisher.”

“What’s it about? My niece Wanda works for a publishing firm in LA, and she might be able to advise you.”

“It’s strange, Carlo, like he was. A fantasy novel set in a kitchen that reminded me of the Estonian author Eliisabet Väljas. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Every Estonian knows her avant garde play The Dark Green Uncle.”

8.

“Do you, Jeremy, take this woman, Rachael, to be your lawfully wedded wife, for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

“Do you, Rachael, take this man, Jeremy, to be your lawfully wedded husband, for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do.”

“I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

The kiss. Mrs Palmfrond began to sniffle. Clive barely successfully tried to suppress gas.

9.

“Ray, have you got a minute?”

“Yeah Wanda, what’s up?”

“Can I ask a favour? Would you mind having a look at this?”

Wanda gave her colleague a wad of photocopied sheets. “I’ve read this, and I’d like to know what you think.”

“I haven’t got a lot of time.”

“Pleeese.”

10.

“If you don’t finish your homework James, your father won’t drive you to your Ju Kwando class tomorrow.”

“But mum, I’ve read this book twice, and I just don’t get it. It’s like shagged.”

“Don’t use that word. Do you know what it means?”

“We all say it. It means like what your foot feels like when you step in dog shi . . .”

“Shut up! Jeremy, can you come here a minute. Your son needs a talking to.”

“What’s up?” Jeremy didn’t like anything to interrupt his watching his favourite detective series.

“Dad. Listen. I might be good at physics and the best at Grammar at rowing, but English just no way. Here, you read this stupid book.” James threw the book at his father and stormed out.

“Let him go, sweet.” Rachael gave Jeremy a resigned look. “I think he’s got girls on his mind.”

“What is this book that they’re studying anyway?” Jeremy asked.

“I don’t know.” Rachael picked it off the kitchen floor. “The Custard Legacy – oh my God!”

“Honey, what’s up?”

“Nothing,” Rachael quickly replied. “It’s nothing. Really.”

Keen as he was to return to “Inspector Tex”, Jeremy didn’t push the point, and returned to their home theatre.

Rachael resolved to go to Mary Who? – and soon.

11.

looked at the packet and my flesh began to burn. The room was turning yellow and spinning and Rachel stood naked before me and I knew the world began and ended in this kitchen and as our lips locked I saw billions of custard lakes and the moon had descended into the room and at this moment I knew I was alone with my custard self and Rachel and then my erection began to fountain custard and our bodies were whisked into a time when there was nothing except the history the prehistory the timeless future of this custard moment.

Rachael was transfixed by the beauty of this incredible work. Jeremy was still downstairs in the home theatre. Her hand slipped between her thighs and her fingers began to explore. What if. What if.

She perhaps imagined it, but suddenly, just a faint whiff of custard.

Exposure № 092: Fireplace

Photographer Nils Blondon: The medium used is digital. The photos are captured at a focal length of 35mm with a Sony Alpha 330 D-SLR. I never leave my house without my camera, and often spend hours trolling through vacant homes and storefronts looking for a good shot. I look for grit and character in my subjects, and it often works as a system of barter – they ask me for smokes, or money, and in return, I ask for a photo. I’m on a first name basis with nearly all of those I shoot. I take the time to sit with them and ask questions. I always shake my hands and introduce myself after I take their picture.

* * * * *

Nils Blondon is a writer, photographer, student, and educator with a background in music, journalism, and social work.  His recent projects include the photo-documentation of Toronto’s disused buildings, along with its displaced, addicted, and homeless residents. He takes time to establish a rapport with those he shoots. All of his subjects participate willingly. His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest: Vol. II, Week 19

New photographers and writers joined some old friend poets this week at Snake-Oil Cure. If you missed it, shame on you! But check out more below.

 

Photographical

Fictional

Poetical

Pulp

Happy reading, friends.

Sterility’s Dead

.

have it on good authority
that the plum tree is pregnant
and so is the mighty oak at the
far end of the garden.
Watch with me their nine month,
See the fruit come to splendor,
leaves to color,
and then doctor gravity, doctor wind,
will jerk the babies free,
slap their backs for good measure.

And yes, the fence is with child,
even where it sags,
and 1 speak for the garden when I say
a flower is due any day now.
Scratch a newspaper and births pop up.
Even songs on the radio
just can’t help being fertile.
Listen to that chorus
and tell me that drum kicks
not an umbilical cord snapping.

Feel your stomach if you will
but remember the kettle will
soon hiss steam child,
the coffee pour from deep inside
its egg sac.
In this world, nothing’s sterile for long.
I kiss you, step away.
See, you just had me.

* * * * *

John Grey is an Australian born poet who works as financial systems analyst. Recently published in Poem, Caveat Lector, Prism International and the horror anthology, “What Fears Become”, he has work upcoming in Potomac Review, Hurricane Review and Pinyon. His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Hurley Pulp: The Storm-Collector

he sky was the color of a three-day-old bruise. A strong wind gave new life to discarded papers. My sister and I dashed into the house as a sharp crack announced an apocalyptic downpour. I noticed something strange as I shut the door—a man stood alone in the street, holding a bottle up to the sky.

I ran to the window, but he was gone. I thought I’d imagined him. It wasn’t until I saw his photo on an ad for Snake-Oil Cure that I realized that Dr. Hurley was the man I’d seen that day, collecting the storm.

Mary Mann

Exposure № 092: High Summer Contrast

As a photographer, Snake-Oil Cure editor EEJ is a contrast junkie. That is evident in these two photos. The contrast in the first image is due to over-bright sun and over-long developing. In the second, it’s due to low light and over-enthusiastic shadow metering.

* * * * *

EEJ is founder and co-editor of Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure. When she’s not working here, she is writing about food and photography and life at www.darbyoshea.com, noodling around on Flickr, or reading obscure German literature. Also playing with her dogs. Her posts at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be seen here.

The Parrot Tree

.

person out for a pleasant Sunday stroll could have easily mistaken Will for some sort of like-like, front yard fountain. If on this peaceful date, their eyes had fallen upon him standing still like a statuesque flesh lawn ornament, they might have second-guessed themselves as to if he were truly human or some form of futuristic robot gardener. For almost ten minutes now, Will Disco had been staring up into the oak tree rooted at the edge of his yard, pivoting the head of his garden hose back and forth in a rhythmic, almost mechanical motion. Besides the smooth revolutions of his wrist, the rest of his body had not moved in quite come time. The only detail that could, hands-down, convince an innocent passerby that Will in fact was a living, breathing male was his eyes. If the weekend ambler were so bold as to inspect Will closely, face his gaze head-on, they would see that he possessed something no sculpture or machine ever could. Fear.

It was a picturesque California afternoon in the suburb of Modesto. The summer sunshine was blanketing Will’s quaint neighborhood with its warm presence, reminding everyone that life wasn’t so bad after all. The trees and blades of grass were a lush green, cool and inviting to the touch. Small whitecaps of cloud floated through an endless sea of blue sky while a light breeze swept across the earth below. There was no aspect of this charming day, however, that could steal Will’s attention away from the oak tree full of parrots.

Branch after branch of bright red birds now sat where the oak’s leaves had once been. Eerily, the tree still resembled its former self, swaying with the wind, calm and quiet. The flock of parrots perched patiently with an air of confidence, as if their replacement of the foliage was normal. The scarlet tree seemed to tower over Will, hypnotizing him with its wavy wash of red ruffling feathers. The plumage looked thick. Thick and crimson like that young girl’s blood.

Will broke free from his hallucination, slumping down cross-legged into the wet grass. He sprayed himself in the face with the hose, running his palm up and down from chin to forehead. He was losing touch with reality, teetering on the edge of sanity, unsure about what action to take against his ever-cracking mind. Will’s horror consumed him, creating a constant state of paranoia about what bleak future might lie ahead. If he was losing his mind, how much longer did he have before his grasp on reality was completely exhausted?

.

.
r. Theo White had diagnosed Will with extreme fatigue due to stress, and ordered him a two-week leave from work. In his tranquil psychiatrist tone, he had told Will that the profession of Emergency Medical Technician is accompanied by many burdens, the worst of which was standing witness to horrid sights and extreme situations in which others would lose composure. He had even convinced Will that an EMT’s resolve was stronger than the average person’s, having been desensitized by the hectic duties performed daily. Dr. White has assured Will that he shouldn’t worry about the anxiety attacks and recurring nightmares, just to rest up and regain a solid hold on himself. That forty-five minute session, a mandatory meeting scheduled by Will’s boss, was now a week behind him and Will’s hallucinations were becoming more frequent and grandiose. Will could not bear the thought of contacting Dr. White to admit that now he had started to see apparitions. Driving that ambulance over the past ten years had filled his head with numerous visions he could do without, cramming the recesses of his mind with gruesome memories. He had observed countless grisly accidents and he had viewed many untimely deaths over the years, all without personal mental or physical repercussions. Why was his psyche shattering now? A shiver trickled down his spine as Will tried to pretend that he did not know the answer to that question.

The earthquake. It had caused so much chaos and commotion. Bridges had crumbled like crackers, swallowing motorists up mid-air. Sirens, screams and smashes had reverberated through town while a choir of car alarms belted out a dizzying hymn of conflicting melodies. Houses and businesses had shaken violently, their foundations creaking and some even collapsing due to the unexpected shifting of the earth.

Dispatch had ordered immediate assistance at the girl’s apartment on the other side of town, five minutes before the quake hit. Will still wanted to believe that they would have been able to save her if it wasn’t for the massive trembling disrupting traffic. Still, he knew, deep in the dark caverns within him, that she had lost too much blood for there to have been any hope. Will just wished that he had been the second man in.

The precise moment in which he had entered her bathroom kept replicating itself over and over inside Will’s head, skipping his train of thought like a scratched record album. Her gaze. Her lime-green gaze. Her lifeless, lime-green gaze. Her lifeless, lime-green gaze had shocked him into a state of paralysis when his own eyes locked with that inert stare. Young and beautiful, her smooth, pale face had been drained of its living glow, making it appear as if her skin had been crafted from the same piece of porcelain as the toilet she leaned against. Like a lone and distant island, she sat motionless in the center of an ocean of blood, blankly gazing back at a mainland she would never again be a part of. The pure travesty of the moment had jolted his mind so severely, Will hadn’t even been able to move, let alone perform his duty of attempting to save the young woman. It had seemed too morbid to be reality. She looked so young, so sweet and beautiful. Fixed in place on the linoleum floor, clothed in a blood-soaked sundress, she had been peering up at the door waiting for someone to save her life…or at least what was living inside her.

Will hadn’t even realized that the young girl was pregnant, most of her body lying wedged between the toilet and the wall, until Juan burst into the bathroom, banging the gurney on the doorframe. His partner’s loud entrance had broken Will from his trance, and from that point on was no more than cloudy chaos in his mind’s eye…Juan screaming for him to get his shit together and start administering CPR…his own bloody hands attempting to connect the artificial resuscitation unit to the girl so the baby’s brain would be receiving its needed oxygen…sirens and swirling red light…standing alone in the hallway of the hospital that night, his hands shaking as violently as the earth had two hours earlier…

He had not been the same man since. Crippling panic attacks started interrupting daily life. Dark, distressing nightmares began to invade his evening; and now, if that hadn’t been enough, the ever-growing frequency of the hallucinations.

Will pulled himself up from his soggy indentation on the lawn, now conscious that a neighbor might have been watching him this entire time. His weary eyelids squinted together, blocking the sun’s rays in order to better assess his surroundings. He scanned his neighborhood, mentally taking note of what objects he could prove were actually there, a task that was becoming increasingly more difficult. He exhaled a desperate sigh, craving his old sane life as if it were some euphoric drug he had once been under the influence of. Will didn’t want to see parrot trees or buildings with grinning faces. He didn’t want to watch fuzzy, orange caterpillars crawling across his fingers as he ate. He didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night sweating over the horrid, but instantly forgotten, images that plagued his dreams. Will Disco did not want to lose his mind.

Why did he have to look that girl in the eye?

*

This post is part of a series on trees. Submit your tree features to snakeoilcure[at]gmail[dot]com.

* * * * *

Matt D. is currently a resident of Roslindale Village, but spent many years enjoying the hip culture of Cambridge, MA where he resided with friends, lovers, pets, and his overflowing imagination. He has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College, but that does not mean he knows more about writing than you do. He digs good tunes, cold beer, and loud laughter. His submissions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.