The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Camel

David Henson


The boy didn’t remember when he first wanted to be a camel. Maybe when he was learning about animals that start with C in first grade. Maybe sooner. Perhaps the desire had huddled in him since birth. 

The boy felt if he behaved like a camel, he might become one. He began to bellow after he spoke. He grazed in the back yard and asked his parents for a potted cactus so he could toughen the inside of his mouth. He tried to sleep standing up, but realized that would require much practice. 

The boy knew camels could go months without water. Because he wasn’t a camel yet, he decided to start with a week. When his parents realized what the boy was doing, they put a cup to his lips and forced him to sip. The boy spat out the water. He hated to be disrespectful but knew it was a camel’s nature to spit when upset. 

The boy’s parents asked his sister to talk some sense into her brother. 

“It’s really stupid to go without water.” the sister said.

The boy squinted to keep the blowing sand of her words out of his eyes. “You won’t think so when I’m a camel.”

“Whatever.”

The parents took their son to the hospital to be hydrated intravenously. A counselor visited the boy and asked why he wanted to be a camel. 

“Because” the boy said. He was immediately embarrassed by his childish answer so he bellowed. 

The counselor pointed out that just because a camel can go without water, doesn’t mean it will if it doesn’t have to. The boy hadn’t thought of this and agreed to drink water if his parents took him home. 

The mother and father hoped a breakthrough had been achieved but instead the boy’s obsession gripped him even more tightly. He refused to go to school because what use is arithmetic and grammar to a camel? Each time the boy’s parents pressured him to behave normally, he snorted and seemed about to spit.

One morning the mother went to her son’s bedroom. Instead of her son, she found a camel. She screamed the father and sister into the room. 

The father wept and accused the sister of spiriting away the boy and replacing him with the camel. 

“You would’ve heard the beast climbing the creakwood stairs in the night,” the sister said.

The camel bobbed his head, but no one noticed. 

The father ran to the closet, looked under the bed then knelt and buried his head in his hands. The mother and sister continued throwing accusations and denials.

The camel watched the three shout and sob. He was sorry to upset them. Even sorrier for their flat backs and short eyelashes. He felt the tug of the desert thousands of miles away. Beyond the sand were forested mountains. A beautiful place to be a moose, the boy who became a camel imagined.


David Henson and his wife reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions and has appeared in various journals including Pithead Chapel, Moonpark Review, Spelk, and Eunoia Review. Find him at his website and on Twitter (@annalou8).

Untitled

Rae Rozman


I just forgot the word for penguin…

If I have forgotten this,
what’s next?
The taste of coffee burning my throat?
The feel of your name brushing my lips?

To define essential in any language
is to admit
what will be the first to go.
The adjectives?
The memory of stars exploding
into fireworks —
or were they fireflies?
The enormity of us?


Rae Rozman is a middle school counselor in Austin, Texas. Her poetry often explores themes of queer love (romantic and platonic), loss, and education. You can find her on Instagram (@mistress_of_mnemosyne) sharing poems, book reviews, and pictures of her two adorable rescue bunnies.

Flowers for My Daughter

DL Dowling


“I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through, Kay.”

That’s my best friend, Sally. And she’s right. She can’t imagine.

I’m using my imagination now: I see Beth, walking down an aisle, her arm threaded through Pete’s, as he leads her to the man of her dreams. This man of her dreams would love her, cherish her and… look after her. Better than I did? No, that’s unfair, I did look after her. It was taken out of my hands.

I imagine my grandchildren playing in my garden, running into their grandmother’s arms. My arms. 

I imagine dying. I imagine dying before Beth. The way it should be.

I look up from the table as Pete enters the kitchen.

“She’s here.” He touches my shoulder: “Come on love. It’s time.”

I sway as I get up from the chair. I put one foot in front of the other. Pete leads me out of the kitchen and towards the front door. I turn to look for Sally. She’s right there, behind me, pressing a tissue to her eyes.

Daylight invades my darkness. I pull sunglasses down from my head, onto my eyes. Black clothes. Black car. Black day. Everything; black as the cancer that brought this day here.

I force my eyes to look into the back of the car. A white coffin. Beautiful lilies, white and pure, pure as my beautiful little girl, who lay inside.


DL Dowling is the Editor of Secret Attic.

aperture

mercy party


there is a comfort
in slipping unfated
failing to grip the rail
when there is no way
to get away with just covering
a small tear in your sail


mercy party provides no context about the author other than what is within the words

Communicating With Cheese

Steve Lodge


I made my way through the wet car park to the Institute Of Puthing building in Ringstad, the capital of Belzonia. This would be the third time I was to hear Dr Quadrant Ears speak on the subject of “Communicating With Cheese”.

Such opportunities to hear Dr Ears were becoming less frequent since he married the actress, Nola Lovelock, who almost never allowed him out of her sight unless she was filming in the Egyptian desert or Paris.

I forget where Nola was, but the good doctor occupied himself with another of his Cheese Talk tours. The Institute of Puthing was my best option to see him as I don’t need a visa when visiting Belzonia. Some years ago, I had donated a stilt and striathlete motif to the Fledgling Sportsklub of Ringstad and have been treated as something of a minor celebrity/mentor ever since.

I looked down the Boulevard Of Heroes as I stood outside the venue, nibbling camembert and brie blended to my own recipe with wasabi and Otis Atomik Mustard Preparation. I’d had some good times in this desperately shabby city. Famously, ‘Mule’ Edgar’s Silent Band played a gig here in 1972. It was memorable in ways that only jazz gigs can be when they are held in small, smoky clubs with 500 people crammed into a space that looked full with only the bar staff in it. The club was The Coldhead Aubergine, owned by Professor Olaf Flute, a good friend of Dr Ears, who lectured in Advanced Football Statistics at the Ringstad University of Belzonia.

The gig lasted over 3 hours, during which the band only played one song, their haunting “Find The Lady”. There was no encore. “Find The Lady” was later adapted and translated by Belzonian Poet Laureate, Istvan Manuskript-Texte, and is to this day the National Anthem of Belzonia, under the bonkers title, “Music With Belzon”. The original song was, of course, written by ‘Mule’ and long-time band member, Kieron Wolfe. Kieron left the band in 1985, blaming musical differences and a long-running feud over royalties. He later formed a band called ‘Disturbed Rabbits’ and was never heard of again.

My mental meanderings were brought to a rude conclusion when screams were heard coming from the auditorium. Jolted into action, I replaced the camembert and brie blend in my raincoat pocket and ran inside. Dr Ears’ secretary, Ingrid Kaltenbrunner, was sobbing uncontrollably. Then I saw why. Dr Ears lay on the floor surrounded by his notes. His face covered in what looked like Minstralig Veined And Lightly Tickled Triple Matured, his favourite cheese. He would not be the first to have taken too much of this massively powerful vintage Belzon speziale from the Minstralig family dairy in the nearby town of Kontaminatsi.


Steve Lodge is a wandering minstrel from London, now living in Singapore. By day he sells food ingredients and by night he writes short stories, poems/lyrics and plays. Prior to lockdown he has acted on stage, TV and film and done stand up comedy and improv, and played in a band.

I sleep a poem

Lynn Caldwell


after my eyes fill
with words
coming in
an open window
one ear to the pillow
the other to the moon
a sage wand wafting
over my prone body
under a canopy
of my own dark sky


Lynn Caldwell‘s work has been published in Crosswinds Poetry Journal; Dedalus Press’s anthology WRITING HOME; The Irish Times for March 2019’s Hennessy New Irish Writing Award; Cassandra Voices; and The Antigonish Review, and has featured on Irish radio’s Sunday Miscellany. Lynn blogs here.

A Spot Not Blue

Leah Sackett


He pushed through the crowd of kids hanging about the edge. It was summer, but it was 7:30 in the morning. The water was freezing. He jumped into the warm blue air, splashing down into the cold blue water; by the end of the swim lesson his lips would be turning blue. But here he could move unfaltering and uninhibited. He was in my world. And the summer played on with the vast blue skies and my blue pool of water, until my paint chipped. I was revealed an ugly spot by the drain. He nudged me with his big toe. He might have been the one to chip my blue paint. The illusion broke as he realized the water was just clear, water without color. The pool itself, me, was painted blue. This bothered him beyond measure, a dark spot waiting for discovery. He became obsessed with the chipped spot. He stopped swimming. He just floated around this mar in a world of purity. No one else noticed, nor cared.

He would swim down to get a closer look at my blemish, which marked him. This blight revealed me, the pool, the summer, the vacation to be a lie. Once when he dived in, there was an old Band-aid stuck to me. It waved in the currents of the forced water. He picked at it. My spot was a weakness, and little bits of the foundation easily broke off and floated away. One day while underwater examining the spot, something blotted out the sun. He swam to the surface to see what was casting a shadow over us. It was a lifeguard, and he wanted to know what the boy was about. Later that afternoon, his mother appeared at my edge. She came from work in her nylons and heels looking hot, like she might melt, to pick him up. He was banned from me. The lifeguard claimed he had vandalized the pool, and the mother would have to pay for the necessary repairs. He stared into a patch of blue sky. His mother moved to look into the blue expanse of me, demanding an explanation. I had none that I could give voice to, and he could not explain his obsession with my scar, the deception of a blue illusion, the sophistry of himself.


Leah Sackett is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.  This is also where she earned her M.F.A. Her short stories explore journeys toward autonomy and the boundaries placed on the individual by society, family, and self.  She has published short stories in several journals including Connotation Press, Blacktop Passages, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Writing Disorder, Crack the Spine, and more. Learn about her published fiction here.

A Golden Shovel after Sandra Simonds

Theric Jepson


I still remember when
I stood alone and you
bade me think
not of myself but about
my thinking of myself. It
may have helped, but mostly
—just to stand outside a
memory of the cast-iron cage
my grandmother inherited…. is
its bar more lasting than the air?


Theric Jepson is just another writer spending too much time thinking about the plays Shakespeare wrote during the plague. Find him here.

Skint

Melissa Graham


Growing up, our family was skint.
A blue collar father and stay-at-home mom,
there was no depression here.
My mom could make something out of nothing
with incredible skill.
Mom could drag Christmas from Marley’s ghost
and make him sing in two octaves.


Melissa Graham lives in North Carolina with her husband. She has two grown children and three grandsons. Melissa just discovered her love of writing six months ago, inspired by the #writingcommunity and many great prompts. This is the first time her writing has been published. Melissa is not retired yet, but aspires to write more and more and work less and less.