Desperate Islands Are Ours by Cheryl Anne Gardner

I find you, sitting in a piazza at a café table, alone, a dusky bowl of prime opaque in front of you, served with a side of sticky bacon and gin. “Soon,” you say to me, but you always say soon when I’m late, so I tap my foot and wait while squids serenade us from a balcony above; then after a brief violin concerto and a careless “Thank you mister” to God for all the small matters he’s chosen to ignore, we ride raindrops on eucalyptus dust, lace handkerchiefs crumpled in our pockets. I only fear you when you’re near me. I want to tell you that, but just then, the waiter arrives with a stone tablet. You pay the bill with a fist full of coin and ask if the pharmacy’s open all night. It is, so you make mental notes in time and shadow while walking behind me in irritation as I foretell the future in condescending rivulets, my rubber boots flip, flap, flopping against a sunset that isn’t ours . . . and never will be.

When she isn’t writing, Cheryl Anne Gardner likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. She writes art-house novellas and abstract flash fiction, some published, some not.

A Wee Frog by John Gerard Fagan

I knew about him. He tried to keep it a secret, but I knew. A wee frog was living in his mouth. I had a bad feeling sooner or later that wee frog would get bored and be on the lookout for a new home.

“Not in my mouth – not my fucking mouth,” I screamed at him in a supermarket checkout queue. His mouth was closed, but I knew the wee frog was listening inside. He was buying a bottle of gin – he never drank gin. The wee frog was obviously making him buy it. The old woman in the checkout looked like she was afraid of me. Her nametag read Ethel. I cupped my hand over my face, mouthed the letters W-E-E-F-R-O-G, pointed to my mouth and then to him as he hurried into the car park. Ethel looked even more confused when I wasn’t buying anything. I resisted giving her the slap she deserved.

*

That man’s name was Geoffrey, and he lived next door to me. He was an old fashioned gentleman who once had a wife, before I drowned her in their garden pond. I think in some way she wanted me to drown her. We all agreed it was a suicide. I was so close to telling the police it was Geoffrey, and I saw him do it. He was a lucky bastard to have a neighbour like me looking out for him. I wrote a poem about his wife’s ugly face that night and gave it to him. I thought it would cheer him up but he looked surprised and ungrateful.

Geoffrey once took a piss through my letterbox and soaked a birthday card I got from my gran. I saw his tiny pecker poke through and let flow. He was drunk and it was the night of his wife’s funeral. I forgave him after I performed minor surgery on his left hand. I told him, when he finally woke at the hospital in a panic, that these things happen when you drink too much. How he got into my house and had that accident with my shredding machine was beyond me. The doctor said I saved his life – he was on the verge of death with the amount of blood he lost. I told the handsome doctor woman I was his guardian angel. I knew she wasn’t a real doctor; women never were; she was probably a hospital spy. I took a mental note of her reddish face, thin lips and shrimp eyes and put her on my list of people to hunt in the winter.

*

Geoffrey always had sugar puffs for breakfast. After the night of his wife’s suicide, I spied on him everyday for four years and documented everything he did. I soon knew all about him. I knew really important things – like he dyed his hair black every Friday morning and sprayed on this foam to cover his baldy bits. Geoffrey also plucked his left eyebrow every Sunday night before he went to sleep and he liked to take a poo, while eating a lemon on Monday evenings, usually around eight.

I burgled his house while he was on holiday one summer. I took his T.V. and a pair of shoelaces from his work shoes. He wasn’t too happy on his return, so I had to give them back. I was tempted to burn him alive in his house that night, but I didn’t want the smoke blowing through my windows and disturbing my house smell. I was very proud of my house smell.

*

Geoffrey went from being a plump fellow to a gaunt bastard. It was all down to the wee frog – it ate nearly all of his food. How it never got bored of sugar puffs every morning and cheap microwave dinners every night was beyond me.

The wee frog had lived happily in a cup of coffee. Geoffrey was stupid enough to drink the coffee. The wee frog had no choice but to make his home in Geoffrey’s mouth. I can’t say I blame the wee frog. I found the wee frog in a puddle the previous week and rescued him. I knew he liked coffee – only poor people and spiders didn’t.

After three months, Geoffrey suddenly dropped dead in a café. I was first on the scene, trying to steal his wallet, when I remembered it was a Sunday and he only ever took his wallet out on a Saturday. I made a grave error by stealing his un-eaten sausage roll. After the second bite I was in shock. I opened my mouth and looked at the reflection in a glass window – the wee frog was sitting between my teeth.

After a week, I decided to stop eating and try and coax the little prick out. And it worked. He hopped out when I was asleep, went down into the kitchen and into a bottle of milk. I was delighted that morning when I woke up and he was gone. Only after my second mouthful of milky porridge did I realise what had happened and he was back.

He left on several occasions, only to trick his way back. He did, however, always give me enough room in my mouth to feed myself. Respect is what we call that. Respect.

One morning, exactly a month since his occupation, he sneaked out and died in my porridge. I think it was down to old age. His autopsy, however, was inconclusive.

A strange thing happened – I missed him. So after a restless night of thinking, I decided it was best if he returned to my mouth.

I got used to the smell of his decomposing body and the hot sick taste it left in my throat after a few days. Everything felt like it should again. I can’t remember when I swallowed him exactly but I do remember seeing pieces of him in my shit. He looked happy. I buried that special shit in the post-box.

*

I became lonely without the wee frog. I sat in my bedroom and stared out the window most days. Every time it rained I was always on the look out for a new wee frog in the puddles.

I saw my new neighbours dancing in their kitchen. My binoculars gave me a prime view through all their windows. I still had the key I borrowed from Geoffrey, so was able to help myself to their food when they went to sleep – they were an elderly couple so it was never too late. They had a cat called Levi. I wondered how long it would take me to kidnap Levi and turn him into a hat for the winter. I had been practising my suffocating technique so the old lady was sadly going to die in her sleep. The documentation of the old man, just like poor Geoffrey, was to begin. The thought made me happy.

John Gerard Fagan is a writer from Scotland. He has an MA in Creative Writing and has had stories published in several magazines and anthologies, from Black Static to the Scottish Book Trust. He currently lives and writes in a tiny fishing village in Japan.