My lawyer’s intern offered me a coffee while I waited. “Black and bitter, please and thank you.” He duly obliged and threw metallic into the mix for good measure. The intern, Matheos, would undoubtedly translate this little incident, as well as the other countless valueless moments of his internship, into a glowing retelling of how he was so privileged to learn under a beast of legal nous, soaking up morsels of fine-tuned analytical reasoning and argumentative prowess.

“How’s the coffee?” “It’s pretty bad, I have to say. But hey, who cares, right? Long as it wrings a cry from the old gastrointestinal tract there.” I rubbed my belly contently and smiled honestly. He looked at me with his mouth slightly agape.

My lawyer’s office door opened and a fat man with thin eyes walked out. He did not look at me or seemed to notice my existence. I stared. His bald head was freshly shaven, as was the rest of his face. Only those slivers of eyes remained to adorn that fleshy blob. I liked this shoes. No, I loved his shoes. Brown leather loafers. They looked painstakingly carved from still-living mahogany and varnished over and over again for a hundred years. I fantasized about prying the hard briefcase away from his meaty fist and smashing his head in just so I could nab those loafers.

“Alia’s ready for your now”, the intern’s voice interrupted my daydream. I picked up the beautiful mug with the nasty coffee. “Thanks for making me feel like your number one client”, I said. “Good morning to you too, Gianni”. “It’s the afternoon”. “Don’t act like you didn’t wake up just before having to come here”.

I raised my hands in meek surrender. “Let me guess. The Blue Siren.” “Your spies deserve a raise.” “Right, let’s get on with it. Who’s dragging you to court this time?” “You think so little of me.” She seemed unamused and tired of my presence already. “I need you to write my will.” She laughed. “Why are you laughing?” “You couldn’t have picked a more tedious request to waste my time with. My intern can draw one up for you. In, say, thirty years from now?” “As much I appreciate your intern’s ability to navigate simple paperwork I’d prefer if you handled this for me.” “Fine. See you in about seven American presidential terms.” She had sip of water and started shuffling some papers around, looking to cross out the next task in her moleskine.

“We don’t have that much time, I’m afraid.” A brief moment of dead air and inaudible gears turning. I pushed out a wink and a smirk. She looked perplexed then sad before settling on stark. “What did they find?” “Colon cancer. Stage three. Not so much as catching it late as the ball being the size of a flaming meteorite and flying straight through the damn mitten.” I fake chuckled. She didn’t react. We’d always been honest with each other. She did not condescend. “I’m sorry”, she said. It was blunt and succinct but she meant it.

She turned to her laptop. “There’s a form.” “There’s always a form.” I finished my coffee. It burned my stomach lining beautifully. “The questions that follow”, she paused for a second, “some I know the answer to, but I need to be thorough and ask as if we’ve never met before.”

I stayed silent for the next five minutes while she filled in the more trivial parts of the document. I noticed that her desk was quite bare compared to the elaborate bookcase behind her. Both were made of walnut. The desktop had a grand total of four items on it. The laptop, a cream-coloured leather coaster, a journal, and an unpolished cast iron cube with four holes drilled into it which functioned as a pen holder. The bookcase, wall-to-wall wide and floor-to-ceiling high, seemed to have a system. Legal volumes in the top three shelves,  Greek, English and Russian dictionaries along with several history books below that. The bottom shelf, itself protruding further out as it doubled up as the ceiling for the cabinet space below it, contained books on philosophy, knowledge management, public speaking, diplomacy, politics and economics. The additional space on the extended surface of the bottom shelf was riddled with a handful of statuettes and several award plaques.

“You know, we’d save a lot of time if I just told you what I have and who’s still alive to get it”, I said, interrupting her form filling. She looked up at me. My phone vibrated. A message from my ex wife. “Don’t forget to pick up Eve from swim lesson. Drop off at my mom’s. No chocolate!”.

“Just a second,” I said, “have to text someone back real quick”. “Does she know?”, Alia asked. “Not yet. I found out ten days ago myself. I’d rather have everything sorted out before I let her know. Also, you know, she doesn’t like me much these days and, I guess, I don’t want to leverage this to dilute her true feelings. I mean, it’s inevitable that she’ll have pity and maybe some sympathy for me but I’m just not ready to invoke that yet.” Alia seemed unamused but said nothing and nodded. My phone vibrated again. A second message. “Swimming now at Olympia academy by the football stadium. Cheaper.”

“Would you like another coffee?”, Alia asked. “Yes, but only if I could personally ask your intern to make it.” “You’re such a dick.” “What’s his name again?” “George.” “Right.” She called his name. He walked in. “George, my man, I am in desperate need for another cup of magical brown poison. Change nothing. If it doesn’t taste like a bag of nails I’ll have you take it back until you get it right.” I showed him my teeth. He offered a timid “yes, sir” and went away.

“Are you sure you’re 44 years old?” I mimed spitting in an invisible dishcloth and polishing my bare dome of a skull. “Pretty sure”, I said. She let off an exaggerated sigh. “Wait”, she said, before leaning forward and sniffing vaguely towards my direction. “My god, did you roll up before you came here?” I said nothing and just closed my eyes for a few seconds, my shoulders slouching into the nonexistent depth of my chair. I stood up and walked to the right side of her desk. I picked up one of the framed pictures behind it. “Graduation day, huh? London, right?” “That’s right.” “You know, I think curly hair suits you.” “You’re a stylist now?” “Anything to pay the medical bills.” “Healthcare is free.” “Not every course of treatment.” “Treatment?” “Whatever.”

My phone started vibrating again. Alia gestured that I had her approval to tend to it. A message from my daughter. “Swim class finished early daddy.” I text her back that she can start on her homework in the reception area and to tell her coach that’ll I’ll be there soon to pick her up.

“But I’ve procrastinated. I have about nineteen grand in the bank. I want ten of that to go into a fund that can’t be touched until Eve turns eighteen. After that I want her to have it.” “All of it in one go or in stipends?”, Alia asks. “All of it. It’s not much. She might need it.” “OK. What about the rest of it?”. “I want three grand to go to Maria and three grand to my brother.” “Alright.” “My apartment…”. Alia interrupts me. “You own that?” “Grandma’s gift to her favourite grandson.” Alia’s doubtfulness turns to trace contentment. “As I was saying, my apartment will go to my brother. I’ll talk to him about it. It can fetch about 900 euros a month in rent. I’m going to ask him to split that income evenly between himself and Maria.” “Why not leave it to Eve?” “Maria owns her place now. Eve has a foundation to build a life on. Nikos has had some trouble with the business.” Alia acknowledges my reasoning and writes this down. Turning towards me again she says: “I know math isn’t your strongest suit but I know you know there’s three thousand euros unaccounted for.” “Funeral costs. Like a good little mongrel dog I take care of the shit I leave behind.” I laugh. “Your self-deprecating shtick is so thin, man.” “I know.”

Two timid knocks on the door. “Come in”, Alia says. The intern comes in with the coffee. I grib the wooden armrests and push myself up. “Your coffee, Mr. Gianni.” I take the mug with my left hand. I use the other to pat the boy on the shoulder. “Thank you, George.” I let my hand rest on his shoulder for a second longer than it needed to which throws him off even more. My presence jumbles his rhythm like an aggressively demanding father at his kid’s recital. “You’re doing fine, George. Alia, I’m sorry, Miss Nonda is the best lawyer in the city. You’re lucky to learn from her.” He looks nervous and lost but he knows that he has to acknowledge what I’ve just said and so he does. “Thank you”, he says, before leaving the room with the empty mug of coffee from earlier.

“Your indirect flattery gets you no discount”, Alia says. I laugh weakly. “Honestly, Gianni, aren’t you scared?” “Every moment”, I say with no hesitation. “Since finding out”, I look into her eyes, “I’ve been afraid of my own damned reflection”. I giver her respite and look beyond her. “But the more I process this the more I accept it. I’m still bitter, believe me when I tell you, but I accept it.”

I close my eyes and tilt my head backwards. “But you know what stings the most? You know what makes me feel rotten?” I pause. Alia is not afraid to let me know that she recognizes a monologue when she sees one and doesn’t gap-fill like an overzealous dolt. “Being unable to take care of my kid”, my voice trails off. “Well, every two-bit asshole feels bad about that. It’s an easy cop. Even murderous lunatics have honest affection for their children. Effortless. And not only that, but it fucking flatters them, it elicits sympathy. No, what actually dumps salt and powdery rust on this festering wound of a finale is that one day Maria might have found it in her heart to take me back and I won’t be there to capitalize on her error of judgement.”

Alia looks truly uncomfortable for the first time but it only lasts for a few moments. She smiles a weird accusatory smile. The cold bitch, I love her. “Is that everything with the will? I assume personal possessions go to your brother?” My mind quickly goes through all the shit I in my apartment that I use to lean for personality traits. An Umbro football jersey from 1998, a discontinued copy of ‘Internal Affairs’ complete with no less than six scratches on the jewel case, a hardcover of Stanley Kubrick’s “Drama & Shadows”, a signed and framed poster of Terence Blanchard, a leather replica of a 1930’s football with its cheap boobjob of needless decorative stitches, and so on and so forth.

“Yeah, everything, my brother knows how to disseminate them to people. Pretty certain he’ll keep the sports stuff.” She made a quick note and told me she’ll update the will accordingly. I nodded and thanked her. She stood up and walked to the window, drew the burgundy curtains apart and opened it, letting fresh cold air in. Turning towards me she took out a pack of cigarettes out. “Want one?” “I thought you’d never ask.”

I took my first long drag and washed it down with lukewarm coffee. “Actually, there is one last change I want you to make.” She breathed smoke out of her nose and gestured me to go on. “211 euros. Take that out my brother’s cut. Give it to my dad.” “That’s an oddly specific amount.” “It’s an oddly specific reference”, I say. “Do I dare ask?” I smiled like a devil who hadn’t quite met his soul quota that week. “A long time ago, when I was a fresh-faced romantic, I used some of the allowance he used to send me for university and booked a plane ticket. A three day trip to Belgium. Quick visit to my girlfriend. Long distance and all of that. A few days before the flight he checked my bank statement, as a guardian and guarantor of the account. He flipped out, called me long distance to bark down at me about priorities and hard work and ‘living it up’ on his dime. So, me being me, I cut the trip down to roughly 26 hours, thinking that a compromise would fix things. I disappointed both parties. I became single soon after and I haven’t looked at my dad the same way since. The most aggravating aspect was that he was making good coin at the time too.”

She didn’t patronize me with any ‘stuck in his ways’ nonsense and just scribbled the amount down. We finished our cigarettes and gave each other a quick hug. I walked to the lobby and shook the hand of the intern and thanked him for the beverages. My eye caught a Lacta bar on his desk. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind going to the other room and making a few copies of a form I had no use for. I pinched a five euro note from my wallet and left it on his desk before taking the bar and stashing it in my coat’s side pocket and making my way to the car to pick up my daughter.

Traffic was a nightmare, stop-start stuff. I crawled to yet another stop. First in line at a red light. I felt a little listless, listening to the engine idling, eying the space ahead that I could not yet move into. I scratched the stubble on my jaw. My phone flashed up at the same time the amber light glowed bright. I drove. I arrived at my destination six songs and one radio ad break later. I checked my phone before getting out of the car. A message from my ex wife letting me know that one of our daughter’s friend’s father gave her a ride to her grandmother’s house, followed by an apology for the lack of any substantial forewarning.

I looked at my car’s digital clock on the cheap plastic console. I wondered if it was broken. Stuck at something past six. The sheer state of living felt viscous. Time seemed to struggle to move forward. I thought of my expiring existence drip-fed back to the universe with scant mercy, molecule by molecule. Each one vibrating to the jagged freedom truth purports to bless us with. I thought about the coffee I had earlier. It wasn’t so bad, in recollection.


Kyriacos Nicolaou

A Song To Get Down To

view from the inside 1

The intercom’s tiny LED light beamed a healthy green, but nothing came through the ear-ensconcing headphones that clasped his head. He had turned the intercom console’s volume knob to its lowest level, an irritant dealt with.

The display’s versatile segments flashed an urgent red reading ‘ON AIR’, the microphone dutifully relaying the crackling silence. The microphone arm hung stiff and contorted into a flourished vee sign, an inanimate apparatus in its talon. The sound of faint breathing barely nudged the level meters along the green-to-red signal chain.

His breathing was slow and deep and every time he exhaled the next inhalation became unbearably conscious. The sound-proofing cans blocking him from the world bounced his own pulse back at him worsening the deliberation.  

The leather pads on each side of his head felt like a pincer’s ends, squeezing with more force and vigour the more he tried to ease his anxiety. He felt warm, then hot, sweat beads developing around his ears, then his forehead, gradually building volume for punishingly unhurried trickles.

Muted thuds laboured to filter through the thick, multi-layered studio door. The surviving sonic residue did not register. He glanced through the triple-glazed window and saw concerned eyes staring back, some congruously matched to petrified mouths. Some of them appeared to be screaming something he did not care to listen to. He had long decided that he would rather let an ocean of silence fill his empty lungs rather than reach for the raft of their hollered concerns. The salty staccato of a steady tide carrying him away from them.

His toes curled inside his shoes. They then pressed down firmly against the sole, keeping the tip rooted to the floor, while he slowly lifted his heels. He felt his toes crack, all except the big one. He repeated this movement several times until no clicking could be detected. Each time his heel lifted he pondered on how sticky the floor was, how it resembled a bar late into the next morning, after many a drink has been spilled by careless patrons.

No alcohol had soaked the floor there, however. He did not lower his head but could visualize his sneakers and regretted that they would need cleaning. Red stains on white leather would be a tough task. Perhaps some boiled water and baking soda and a thick-bristled toothbrush would be enough.

The blood from the unconscious body next to him had slowly pooled and began to coalesce around his feet. He thought that if he lifted his chair he would see five clean imprints made by the chair’s black plastic wheels. He checked to see if the body had stopped twitching.

It had been about two hours since he entered the studio and hit Mario Michael, more commonly known to his listeners as ‘DJ Turnal’, with an old Roland audio interface. The first blow caught him off-guard, knocking him to the floor and dazing him. The pummelling hits that followed cracked his skull open in two places. The long coiled chord of the radio DJ’s headphones extended along with him as he fell, but it had reached its end when his head touched the floor and now tugged back, putting his head at a slight angle.

He felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. The text read: “George, why are you doing this? Please come out. We can help you.” The message hung in his thoughts for a few seconds before fading away, its provisional charity methodically dismembered by resentment. George assumed that his brother was not aware of the full picture yet but would be soon. He knew that the offer for help would soon be retracted.

He picked up a piece of paper from the floor. The heading read “Approved Song Pool - Genres: R’n’B, Hip-Hop, Urban”. There was a logo of a radiant yellow heart setting over a navy blue horizon, the words ‘Kardia Media’ stencilled in white-on-crimson under it.

Kardia Media owned the radio station, along with several others, two TV stations, a handful of popular online video channels as well as other online media. A few years ago, an advertising corporation had purchased the media group in a leveraged buyout. It proceeded to align every entity owned by Kardia broadly under the same strategy.

Articles became shorter and more numerous, visuals took precedence over words, artists talked about during shows became increasingly younger and fresh-faced, and the songs chosen for airtime were dictated by the music labels the advertising corporation had an interest in keeping on side. This meant that a radio DJ’s say in what they could play was akin to that of a dog when deciding what kibble it would first chow down from its bowl every day.

He decided to call a sister station and make a song request. It would be funny, he thought, in a decay-affirming sort of way. A cartoon image of a distressed animal frightfully looking at a lit stick of dynamite inside its own stomach through an Acme-branded X-ray machine flashed in his head.

“Hello caller, this is 98.7 Zest FM, the number one music station on the island!” An explosion sound effect followed the effervescent declaration. “How can Zest FM make your day today?” He struggled to choke down the bile that bubbled up his throat but he managed a polite request. “That’s a terrific choice but a little bit on the old side, don’t ya think?” The song had come out 5 months ago. The radio DJ chuckled, the artificial, long-practiced laughter there to confirm his own rhetorical question. “Tell ya what, I’ll see what I can do for you. Thanks for calling!”

The people on the other side of the glass didn’t know who he had called or what he was saying. They appeared to have grown more numerous since he had last looked up towards them. He noticed someone from the crowded room pushing people away, trying to get to the front. A man half his age. Tight jeans ripped at the knees, a white t-shirt on a wide but lean torso, dark brown hair cut short at the sides with the rest of it slicked to the side and back.

The man pounded his fist palm side down against the studio glass, performatively mouthing “in-ter-com! in-ter-com!”. George enabled the intercom system again and waited. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”, the man outside said. “Who are you?” “I’m the radio station director.” Of course you are, George thought, before replying. “Director. Not exactly a christian name. How’d your mother convince the priest to go along with it during the christening?” “What are you on about?” “Maybe there’s some long-forgotten saint called Director, the patron saint of tasteless dickheads.”

George’s eyes were two halves of the same trickster god, transgressing boundaries, prodding and poking, desperate to push your composure to breaking point. His monotone delivery only heightened the irksome effect of his replies, his apparent calmness clashing with the heightening chaos outside the booth. The director’s anger flared, blistering rage visible on his face and body language before subsiding into exasperated confusion.

“Your name, director. What is your name.” “Andreas. My name is Andreas.” “Have you ever had a bad performance review, Andreas? Because you’ve been doing a fantastically lousy job.” The director stared back, his mouth agape. “I’ve been listening. Praise be to my patience oh have I been listening. Song after song, playlist after playlist. A betrayal to aesthetics, balance, honesty, variation, the whole damn lot.”

A few moments of dead air followed before George began to laugh nervously without actually smiling, taking a moment to pinch the bridge of his nose, straining to breath a long uninterrupted breath. The intense focus that had been propping his apparent equilibrium was quickly abandoning him. “A fucking embarrassment, Andreas!”, George’s voice exploded through the system.”

The intercom crackled for a few seconds and someone’s voice came through, all trepidation and timidity . “Mr. George, the ambulance is here. They need to access the studio. Please, that man needs medical attention.” George saw the two medics on the other side of the glass, their all-white uniforms standing out among the people staring back. “I think they can wait a little while longer”, George replied, his eyes vacantly looking at the body.

Andreas came back on the line. “The police are on their way. There’s nowhere for you to go, nowhere to crawl to.” The station director’s glee at this imminent enactment of justice was hardly hidden. “Do try to put that smile away when they come, Andreas”, George said, before continuing. “You wouldn’t want to seem joyous so close to a crime scene.”

Before a reply could be formulated George put the intercom system on mute. He’d gotten tired of the exchange. Besides, he had another call to make. “Good afternoon, friend, this is The Golden Hour on 98.6, Limassol’s last independent radio station. We hope the heat’s treating you better than us.” The host waited for acknowledgement but none came back.  “Any songs you’d like to hear?” George put the same request he had before. “I’m not sure I know that particular song, friend, but we’ll do our best.” The call ended.


The station janitor turned the volume up and readjusted his earbuds. He craved a cigarette. The mop was wet and grimy, had to be replaced soon, he thought, as he began rolling his equipment cart towards the stairs. He could light one up in between floors, technically not allowed, but management paid no mind as long as the cleaning was done.

He opened the fireproof door using his right shoulder and body weight, his two hands holding the grips of the cart. The cart was left just a few feet away from the door while he walked a few steps down to the intermediate landing platform. He leaned against the wall, looking out of the window, while his hand fumbled in his fanny pack for the cigarette pack and lighter.

Just as he lit the cigarette in his mouth he heard a door slammed open followed by an increasing level of commotion at the bottom floor, the building’s hollow spine filling with noise.  He peered down the rectangular spiral and saw several police officers in tactical gear rushing up the stairs.


The Golden Hour host let the music take over and put his own microphone on mute. Turning to his producer he used the internal audio system to ask her a quick question. “Hey, Dimi, do we even have the song that guy requested?” “It kinda rings a bell but it’s a weird request anyway, you can ignore it if you like?”.  “Nah, there’s something stale about the show today. Let’s see if we can find it, switch things up a bit.”


The police were almost there, only a couple of floors below the janitor, steadily pacing upwards. The janitor’s first thought was about how well-conditioned they must be. Carrying all that equipment with them and being able to move like that. He felt winded just by thinking about it. He didn’t even begin wondering why they were called for until a few seconds later. His shift was far from over and he just hoped that nothing messy had happened. He had enough work on his hands as it was.


After a few searches resulted in dead-ends, Dimi thought of trying something different. She typed the name of the song using Latin characters, rather than its native Greek, a trick that she had picked up during the internet’s nascent file sharing days. She smirked and gave the host a thumbs up without interrupting.


The police were outside of the main studio area. They began to clear the room, funneling the the gathered crowd to the corridor and then the staircase. They were all instructed to leave the building.

George had removed the headphones connected to the console long ago. He had also taken a tiny portable radio out from his pocket. He turned it on and tuned into 98.6. He let the show provide the sonic background to the scenes unfolding on the other side of the glass. The station manager was the last of the civilians in the room. George saw the police reiterating something and it was clear that they wanted the station manager to vacate the studio area. He appeared to be refusing or delaying his exit and actually walked back a few feet towards the glass and tapped on it. His lips seemed to be saying “You are fucked now.”. The station manager did not wait for a reply and just smiled, slowly walking backwards. His smile seemed wicked to George, who remained expressionless. “He’s learned nothing”, he thought.


“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Golden Hour, thank you for sticking around. We hope we’ve made this muggy afternoon a bit more bearable. The next song is for first time caller, George. Took us a while to get this, George, but here you go. Hope the next time you call you pick something easier to find!” The host laughed. “Just kidding, George. Enjoy your song.” The host faded the current song out and raised the volume on George’s request.


“Come out, there’s nowhere to go. We need to access the room. That man needs urgent assistance.” The tactical unit leader repeated the same lines as the people in the room had done earlier, only with more authority and conviction. Unconvincing and pointless, George thought. “You have two minutes to unlock this door. When those two minutes run out, we come in. And you don’t want that to happen. I promise.” George smiled and thought that the menace in his voice was becoming slightly more believable.

The song was in the middle of the first verse when the police breached the door using metal blades stuck between the door and the frame. “Impatient pieces of shit”, George thought.

The policeman holding the blades was covered by the wall to the side and wasn’t visible from inside the studio. Two officers in tactical gear rushed in and shot George three times. Two bullets went in and out of his shoulder and arm. One lodged into his abdomen. The small radio dropped from his hand and onto the hardwood floor. The black plastic flexed but didn’t crack.

The song was now moments away from its chorus, where the corresponding audio effect would kick in to artificially split the singer’s vocals into two distinct parts, detuning and delaying one of them, to give it the feel of more than one person singing.


“Dimi, what’s the chorus say?”, the radio host asked his producer. He learned some Greek after having moved to the island from London four years back, but it was rudimentary at best. Dimi waited until the chorus began repeating for a second before translating each bar as it was being sung. “It says: let the earth, tremble to its core, when they play, my song.”

Kyriacos Nicolaou

view from the inside 2


She blew out the candle that had illuminated her table. The flickering flame could toy with her anxiety no longer. She tried to will every other candle in the room to go out but to no avail. It’s true that if telekinesis existed it would be born of rage or extreme tension but this would not be the night she found out.

Her drink was almost finished. She thought it was no use sparing the tepid remnants any longer and downed the last finger of overpriced gin left in the glass. The stage she had occupied and the microphone she had held not five minutes ago were only a few feet away from her. She loved spoken word but hated how shaky her hands got and how crackly her voice became when reciting.

Her nerves were further tested by two people in the crowd staring at her with different types of potent intent. From the microphone’s point of view, two tables to her left, a man in his 30s, sharply suited but missing a tie. His hair was styled to a ridiculous degree and was a day past clean-shaven. He had barely touched his beer while she recited. He tried to lock eyes with her but the focal point that was her notebook proved to be a handy, nondescript shield from this attempt at imposing a momentary bridging.

Meanwhile, two rows in, right down the middle, a blonde middle-aged woman looked at her with what she interpreted as a disdainful coolness similar to that of a seasoned judge. Every two stanzas the woman would jot down something in her journal. She did not clap at the end, shrugging off the peer-pressuring effect of the crowd with ample ease, but nodded vaguely once the reciting ended.

She closed her eyes and waited for the break to finish and the second half of the night to commence. She noticed the man getting up. He finished his beer, looked towards her table and started walking. He walked purposefully, his head always looking towards her. His stride finally aligned with her table but he continued walking. He reached the bar, paid his tab and left.

While her focus had inadvertently been drawn to his movement the middle-aged woman had discreetly approached her. “May I sit down?”, the woman asked. She was befuddled but this seemed less threatening than the man asking her the same question so she easily replied ‘sure’. “I loved your poem. Did you actually live in Paris? It was too vivid and specific for you to not have lived there.” “I have, yes. Four years. Moved back to London last year.” “I knew it”, the woman said. “I lived there between ‘87 and ‘92.”

There was a hint of web-suspended tension in the seconds of  silence that followed. “Listen”, the woman continued, “I know this is all too sudden but do you have more pieces like the one you recited tonight? Would love to publish a collection. Maybe, say twenty?”  She wondered if haste could feel infinite. Though time felt viscous her tongue cut through the sludge to articulate a rushed “yes”.

Stumbling onto the opportunity of being published is such a serendipitous event you can’t afford to entertain the thought of declining. “I’ll give you some time to pick your favourites and maybe do some editing before we have a look. Is a month good for you?” Again, she nodded overzealously and said yes. “Excellent. Here’s my card. Email and number are on there. I’ll be in touch soon to confirm and arrange everything.”

She had hoped that the tremors emanating from her perma-honest hands didn’t travel up the woman’s thin arms as they went through the customary shake. Her anxiety had resurfaced with renewed determination a few moments earlier. It reminded her that a paltry three poems occupied the pages of her shamefully untattered notebook. Three poems that had taken the best part of a year, somehow managing an audacious escape through the array of filters her self-examination puts everything she produces through. Seventeen more to go.

Kyriacos Nicolaou





“Did you check the shed?”, Spiro asked. “Ah, no. Hold up. Yes, they’re here, wrapped in this old sheet.” 

I tried to unwrap the sheet but it clung onto the bundle of metre-long sticks. “We might have a problem”, I said. “No, it just means that the birdlime works. It’ll ruin the sheet when we finally remove it but that’s fine.” My cousin looked pleased at how sticky the sticks were.

I was still unsure what they used to make them so adhesive. “Why did you use again? Looks like snot.” “It’s mistletoe. Spent all last Saturday boiling it. Added some oil too. Works a charm.”

I offered to carry the sheet. It was heavier than I would have liked but being in charge of transporting it made me feel valuable. As if it was the last remaining M16 in working condition amongst a group of soldiers. I had never caught a bird before but tried to act as unphased by the possibility as possible. 

We set the sticks in strategic locations: by the stream, in low tree branches, poking out of hedges. All we had to do was wait for a bird to sit on one of them and that would be it. Caught alive and ready to be sold off as a pet. We were hoping for a goldfinch, they use to frequent the area, but could do with a robin as well, although it would fetch a lower price.

It took about two hours before a bird came even remotely close. A beautiful goldfinch no less. It began descending by a narrow, lazily-flowing stream that went dry during the summer months. The goldfinch sharply moved left and right in the air before finally resting on one of the sticks we’d placed there. It tried to fly away and though the mistletoe lime stretched a little creating an almost diaphanous collection of gel-like strings, it eventually brought the bird back down. Its own weight made it tilt to the side slightly. 

We used a pair of old rusty scissors to separate the bird from the stick. Snipped at the now somewhat stretched substance. It fought and buzzed with inadequate vigour in my cousin's palm for a few seconds but settled down after surrendering to his grip. Our dilapidated cage would have to do for now. Whoever bought the bird could put it into whatever cage they saw fit. Always wondered how mature that bird was. Still undecided if I'd hoped it was young enough to have lived long after we’d sold it or old enough to have died soon after it was denied the limitless playground of the open sky.