Two in the Bush TEXT + IMAGE collaboration Tue, 29 Mar 2011 00:00:38 +0000 en hourly 1 The Wall Thu, 24 Mar 2011 10:08:27 +0000 harveyd

Writer: Florence Vincent
Illustrator: Joe Caslin

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Your Face Here Thu, 17 Mar 2011 17:12:28 +0000 bush


He is thinking of the man to his left when the arrow goes through his neck. It is quick. He turns on the spot to catch sight of the bow responsible. But it is lost already, amidst the crowds. The air churns and he feels the heavy shield at his side, the unbearable weight of his body, muscle and bone and armour. Things become slow, like dripping honey. Honey on his wife’s lips. The pain isn’t great at first but the sensation of surging blood is strange to him. His knees weaken and he finds himself in the dust. Near him is the light clang of metal on metal, the sound of whirring sand and feet beating the earth. War is more silent than he might have thought, down here in the dirt. The dirt damp beneath him and the sun overhead. The dirt damp with blood. He thinks of cypress trees bending in the wind, so dark against the sky they look black. He has fallen next to a man he may have killed, and knows under that helmet must be a face, like his own. He remembers the child in his wife’s belly, faceless, nameless, waiting for a life so short it is barely anything. Waiting to look like him. His head is heavy. He rolls onto his side and pulls off his helmet. It flashes in the sun. He stares at it and thinks how strange it is that one slim, sharpened piece of wood can take a life and how the blue sky is so blue he cannot bear it. He closes his eyes against the sun. The sun on water, on his wife’s skin, on her round belly and the honey on her lips and the bending cypress trees and blood turning black on the ground as it leaves him. He can feel his heart slowing. He must think not of pain, or of black blood, but of staying alive. The baby in her belly, waiting. When he opens his eyes he sees another of the faceless moving towards him, spear glinting, coming to finish the job. He thinks of how the pain is gone and how he is tired and of the scent of dripping honey. He thinks of everything. And then he thinks of nothing.

Writer: Florence Vincent
Illustrator: Joe Caslin

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Faces in a Tree Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:25:48 +0000 bush

Huldu, Aziza, Fairies, we are all brothers and sisters under the skin. The tree drinks us up in long silver skeins of sap and we poke our faces out through the bark veil of our wooden host to spy on the world passing. We are laughing but we don’t judge you; each year of your life a moment of ours, your baby-gazing at the leaves which will fall, your toddler tantrums, the initials you carve on our cheeks, hand in hand with your gum- chewing lover. Your penknife cuts us to the quick but we share your pain, just as you suspect the marks might last longer than your love, the tattoo on your thigh, because the woman walking behind you is also cute and the man in the distance is hot. We see you approaching, swollen with child, bent in labour as you walk to the hospital because you thought there was time. We suck your fingers with mossy lips, lick with a beetle tongue, but you are too tired to notice our kiss blown on twig fingers as you push the pram in the early morning light. We pity those who walk, dutiful on Sundays, with heads full of doubts and deadlines, and harlequin dogs barking at gulls, reined in on a retractable string as they jump for that first, feathered mouthful, the bones which fly.  And when you meander here, later, with slow steps, hoping to meet a neighbour, your children are a memory in postcards from Canada, stuck to your mirror with a vague promise to visit scrawled as a P.S.  We sense the cold limbo of see you soon read through tears while the kettle boils in an advert break.

Soon, after the solstice fire dancers, we will dive from our tree which falls in a January gale on Edinburgh’s Meadows, sink into the surrendering earth and swim, synchronised with pointed toes, through mud and the mulched leaves of last year’s summer to the root of a new tree, push past each other to be sucked up into the light. Laced with amber, we will lean from the thin, liquid ladders of the thirsty tree which cannot help but draw us in, and see you again as you pass; friends who never tire of the old stories told in changing light.

Writer: Victoria White
Illustrator: Majh Helen Alander

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Father for Justice — Roadkill Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:25:02 +0000 bush

‘Leave to remove is granted’. The verdict was not a surprise. Papers were being slid into brief-cases and the court was rising to go as Bobby hung suspended in the moment of losing his kids. If this was a new life to be grasped then it was a stillbirth. ‘It is probably for the best, less messy,’ whispered the social worker, squeezing his elbow to steady him.  He nodded, silent, crushed by the juggernaut of his dead marriage.

His plan formed salamander slow in the bath as it cooled, and he remembered the fathers in superhero tights crawling up public buildings as ex- wives drew their children to their breasts and turned off the television with a remote. He could block his wife’s route to the airport, he thought, and, with eyes blackened, a white stripe painted on his nose, the bathroom mat round his shoulders and a bottle of tomato sauce in his hand, he was ready for his stunt. Left with no room to grow into he dad he might have been, he fell into a run, little comfort in the drama he planned. Stepping onto Princes Street behind the number twenty-three bus, he spread eagled himself on the road, appearing in a cloud of exhaust fumes as badger road kill. He squirted sauce by his head and then lay pressed into the tarmac as brakes screamed.  A wall of traffic loomed above him as people ran to his rescue, then stood uncertain whether to touch him, transfixed by the sight of his raw pain which dripped as tears onto the ground and pooled there – each tiny pond the love for his lost children in the Andean grooves of the road.

He never felt the ambulance men lift him up. He never felt the orderly tuck him up in bed. He never felt the nurse’s needle sedate him. He was floating free. In a distant corner of his mind, now an empty room, he remembered he had had something important to say, an important message. Now he lay mute, tucked up in a perfectly laundered bed that no one was allowed to sit on. He longed to be held but no one came. The day crawled in sun shadows across the counterpane, his body the finger of a sundial, and the nurse washed his face and left water for him in a beaker.

Writer: Victoria White
Illustrator: Majh Helen Alander

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Flying South Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:23:23 +0000 bush

Two old birds:

‘We warned him.’

‘Always late for everything.’

‘Oh, he is. He is.’

‘Can’t believe he missed his flight.’

‘He never did give a hoot about anything.’

‘No, never did.’

‘Well, he’ll have to learn.’

‘Expect he’s up a tree somewhere learning right now.’

‘Still though, hate to see him end up on a plate.’

‘On a plate? Would you eat him?’

‘Well, no. Still. Some that would.’

‘Sure, sure. Some that would.’

‘I bet it was that chick.’


‘She ruffled his feathers.’

‘Oh, quiet you old crow.’

‘It’s true.’

‘I don’t like what you’re suggesting.’

‘I’d stay home too, for a hen like that.’

‘Would not.’

‘Would too.’

‘Then you really are a silly goose.’

‘Now that’s enough. You just focus on the flying.’



Writer: Rachel Wood
Illustrator: Maggie Yu

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Biscuits Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:22:32 +0000 bush

Something strange started happening in the cupboard where I keep my biscuits one day that simply couldn’t be explained. I reached for a little something to accompany my tea and found only an empty packet. What happened to my shortbreads? I assumed I must have eaten more than I knew. The next week was no different, only this time instead of my shortbreads, it was my Jammy Dodgers. I put a full packet in the cupboard and when I returned, less than half the packet remained. I live alone you see, and though I do sometimes get carried away, Jammy Dodgers make the fillings in my teeth hurt, and out of necessity I can’t eat more than two or three in one sitting.

The last straw came with the disappearance of the bourbon creams. It was as if something was living in my cupboard, and I could have sworn I heard a little voice whisper macaroons when I walked away empty handed that night. This is where the experiment began. I hate macaroons: in my darkest, hungriest hour, I can’t be tempted to eat even one. So, of course, I bought a tin full of them and placed them in the cupboard. Then I lay in wait.

Well, as it happened, there was something living in my cupboard. Not two days into my experiment I heard a little moan as I walked past, and when I peered into the tin to my utter surprise I saw a tiny creature, no bigger than the size of my palm, lying on his back, cradling his stomach.  Not a single macaroon remained.

‘Who are you?’ I demanded. When he made no reply, I pressed on. ‘Did you eat all those macaroons alone?’ He merely groaned and rolled over. Well, it simply wouldn’t do. I can’t have a creature living in my cupboard and eating all my biscuits. I told him so at once.

‘You won’t get another biscuit from my cupboard.’ I said

‘Bad man,’ he hissed. ‘A creature needs to eat.’

Well, this is true enough. But a man’s biscuits are his alone. When he finally fell asleep, I closed the lid on top of the sleeping mini-monster and walked with the tin through the empty city in the dead of night. I passed no one in the street and remained undiscovered in my scheme. When I arrived at my destination I opened the tin. The sign above us read bake shop.

The creature, of course, demanded I take him back to the cupboard and buy him more biscuits. But I soon persuaded him with my descriptions of treats, baked fresh each day, more flavors than he could imagine, more than he could ever hope to eat. That was all it took; he climbed up the doorframe and wiggled headfirst through the letterbox. I never saw him again after that night, but from time to time when I pass the bakery and press my nose up against the glass, I can see the creature’s tiny bite marks around the biscuit edges.


Writer: Rachel Wood
Illustrator: Maggie Yu

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Mermaid Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:18:04 +0000 bush

From the dark purple of the deep, you slowly tilt your head towards the surface. Rays of light sparkle through the sea of marijuana green, you close your eyes to hear the beam splash through the water.

Solitude: the painful pleasure of silent contemplation takes hold of you; is it the warmth you feel, the glow of anticipation, or is it the far-away sun? Your cold fingers linger on your arm; you stretch your hands in the water and try to hold the glow in your palms.

You swim toward the light, flapping your tailfin, arcing through the green. Thoughts of him haunt your mind. His fading smile, shattering glass, broken promises. You swivel, let yourself drown, close your eyes.

Away from the sun, the world, the sky. Away from life. You are lost to the world above, you do not exist. You are a mere speck in the deep end of the ocean.

Will he come in search of you? Do you want to be found? Do you want to breathe again? You hold your breath, it doesn’t matter anymore.

You glide for a while, force yourself to smile, but it drifts away as though it never had been. He destroyed you. Maybe you shouldn’t have fallen; you should have hidden amongst the weeds and stayed away from the world.

You think of the day you emerged from the cold blue sea of green, when you breathed. You remember the day you stood by clusters of bog cotton, sunlight filtering through white fluffy clouds, highland winds swirling around you. You felt alive. You cannot feel the joy of beauty anymore. He took everything you had, only the strange gratification of grief remains.

He chose her. You have no reason to breathe. Your heart sinks into itself. The ocean is not as deep as your heart, that chasm.

You spent all your energy in loving him, you have nothing left. You have no strength to hate him. Pain shall take its course. You submitted yourself to the vagaries of love and it’s too late to fight the flow.

Swaying slowly, in a curl, you cease to think.


Writer: Sindhu Rajasekaran
Illustrator: Laura Dixon

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Devadasi — The Temple Dancer Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:17:18 +0000 bush


I am her. I dance. I slowly stretch my hand out, hold my fingers together intimating a flower bud. When I open my fingers outwards, the flower blooms. There is a lotus in the temple pond with wet waxy green leaves. The blue sky breaks, I hear the thunder, and I feel myself get drenched in cold water.

I look into the mirror, I see her, but it’s me. There are gold jewels around my neck studded with stones of emerald, ruby and sapphire. There is a tangerine colored bindi on my forehead. I look at the old gilded frame of the mirror, the intricate curving designs on it. I am in the past, in the times of kings and palaces. I look around, everything seems hazy, yet I can clearly see.

He pulls my clothes off me. My chest heaves, and I breathe deeply. I can smell him, like garlic, all over me. He is in me, something gushes through my body. I tilt my head backwards and run my fingers through his curly black hair. I see the mulberry red curtains of the canopy bed fluttering.

I push him away, he pulls me to him. He holds my head in his hard hands and thrusts into me. I want to scream, but she doesn’t. She closes her eyes and tears run down my cheek.

My head feels heavy. I taste the salty water. I’m drowning. She doesn’t want to save herself. I feel the numbing cold pierce my body, but there’s nothing I want to do. I try to stop thinking.

I’m moving to the music of the flute, in front of the temple’s silhouette against the dark blue night sky. Everyone’s watching me intently. My eyes dart, my hand gestures various symbols, I look into the eyes of the man sitting on the throne of precious stones, with peacock feathers spread out behind him. He raises his brows and bites his lower lip. I bow to him and throw a handful of lotus petals at his feet.

I want to scream, I’m naked again, I want to break away, but I’m under him. She closes her eyes tightly and bites the insides of her lips.

Heavenly music plays, of drums, of lutes. She’s dancing again, graciously, like a celestial being. I see her for the first time. She’s outside me. I’m not her, anymore.

He holds her firmly by her hips; she struggles to get out of his grip. He squeezes her flesh like an animal and bites her bare shoulder. She opens her kajal-lined eyes. I look into her pained eyes, an abyss, and it pulls me under.

I’m twirling again, deep in the ocean. I feel heavy in my heart. My eyes are closed, but I can see her gold bangles glitter in the yellow-orange flames of the lamps.

The sky is black with sparkling clusters of crystal pink, turquoise blue and blinding white. I gulp for air. I open my eyes.


Writer: Sindhu Rajasekaran
Illustrator: Laura Dixon

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So-called Life Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:16:15 +0000 bush


A dull thud in the back of my head is the first thing I’m aware of when I wake up. Peeling my eyelids open, the blurry reality of an unfamiliar room comes into focus – all under the yellow haze of alcohol. Thud thud thud. My eyes pick out objects; shit-load of books, clothes like crumpled bodies all over the floor, a half-full glass of water.  Water. Thank God. I gulp it down like I’ve been trekking across the desert for days. It soothes my throat; there must have been tequila last night. I focus a crusty eye on the wavering numbers of the bedside clock: 11am, third of February. I’ve missed the deadline of several job applications. Financial advisor, interpreter, recruitment consultant; you’re so smart Alex, you could do anything. Right.

Where are my trousers? If I could just find my trousers I could make the afternoon essay hand-in. Well, if I’d written it. Oh God, a Norton Anthology. Did I really sleep with an English student last night? I can feel my brain crumbling inside my skull. Something is echoing, jangling chimes bouncing around my head. My phone; the screen flashes in irritation. ‘Mum calling’. No. No way. I switch it to silent; it still flashes up at me, squealing like a hungry piglet. Leave me alone. I don’t want to know how well Lisa’s doing in her PhD, I don’t care which billionaire boy she’s seeing now. I just need quiet, and some Irn Bru.

What are you doing with yourself Alex? You could get a first if you tried. Don’t you want to keep all your options open? But so many are already closed. Did I take a pill last night? My throat is dry. Oh, yeah, I did. Who’s in this bed? Oh, I don’t care. I just need…something.

20% of my grade. I’m sure that’s what that essay’s worth. That’s a lot. Thud thud thud. My brain pounds against the side of my head. It’s not worth thinking about, really. I drape an arm over the side of the bed, sighing openly. Whack; my knuckles rap against something hard. Ow. A globe. Maybe I could just leave. Slug on a backpack and just escape to…countries and oceans merge together as I spin the world around…the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Well done Alex, good plan.

Ok, I’m going to ignore this headache. Thud thud thud. I’m going to get up and sort my life out today. Now. Now. I slide a foot out of the waxy duvet. Why is it waxy? No, focus. I’m going to find my trousers, get a coffee on my way home, call my mum back and pass my degree. All in one day. I’m like a superhero.

“Mmmm,” a sleepy voice next to me. “Hey,” two big brown chocolatey eyes peer out from under the covers. A hand creeps along my belly, two fingers walking down, resting at the elastic of my underwear.

Maybe just a little bit longer in bed.


Writer: Susannah Pope
Illustrator: Laura Armstrong

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Park Life Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:14:25 +0000 bush

I was locked out of my flat again because an urban fox ran away with my keys and the locksmith refuses to answer my calls. I’m sure that’s illegal, but I can’t go to the police; they’ve stopped answering my calls as well. I wandered around Finsbury Park for hours and hours thinking about soup. It made me hungry, so I found the nearest Tesco Metro and bought the cheapest food stuff I could find. It happened to be advent calendars. The chocolate tasted hollow and watery, leaving my stomach growling for something else.

I usually bring my trolley to the bins behind Marks and Spencer, but it has since lost its front wheels. That’ll teach me for joy riding through Hampstead Heath. Something clattered down the alleyway as I dove for food. I poked my head up and out of the bin like a meerkat, ready to run. The hunched form of an elderly lady, decorated like a Christmas tree with pots and pans hanging from her mouldy tartan shawl, ambled towards the bins. The evening sun ignited her grizzly grey and ginger hair. Wrinkles crept from her eyes like spider’s webs. She was beautiful, delving into the bin next to mine as if I wasn’t even there. Her stubby little hands grappled with miniature pots of jam and egg sandwiches. Of course, when she left, I had to follow her.

She stopped for a nap in my favourite bus stop, her shapeless mass expanding and retracting as she snored like shifting continents, until she was rudely awoken by a city official. Screaming beautiful obscenities at him in her rusty voice, she hobbled awkwardly towards the park while I sauntered behind, at a distance. I couldn’t help but notice that she was miaowing softly to herself, perhaps as a form of comfort. I was entranced. People parted in the street for her, like Moses and the red sea; everyone was under her spell as she clanked towards them.

Eventually she stopped to rest again on a park bench, huffing and heaving, causing a well-dressed business man to ruffle his copy of The Telegraph in complaint. With one hand she delved into the folds of her shawl and produced a tiny, mewing kitten. Holding the creature by the scruff of the neck, she used her other hand to rummage amongst her pots and pans for an open tin of tuna. The kitten clawed at the air with its little paws. My new found love fed the little thing straight from her hand. The kindness and motherly nature of this act nearly made me weep. I could no longer stand in concealment, all my fiery nerve-endings fizzed with anticipation to talk to her. Strolling straight up to her, without a moment to think, I looked into her glazed eyes and began to speak.

“Hello there, my name is Arthur Switherington the third.” I doffed my trilby and offered her my hand.

With eyes grey as concrete she focussed on me; her lips were shrivelled and thin like wilting peppers. She opened her mouth and my organs tightened against my rib cage.


She threw the tin of tuna at me, scooped up the kitten and loped away, hunched and clanking, shouting obscenities at the top of her lungs. I have now resigned myself to celibacy until I find her again. I will only love one and she is gone. All I have left is a tin of tuna coveted by an urban fox that refuses to leave my bathtub.

Writer: Susannah Pope
Illustrator: Laura Armstrong

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