• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 08

The Courser’s Tale

The weight of a small boulder is similar
to that of a dead dog. I have carried both.

You would think the boulder the heavier,
but you would be wrong, even for a whippet.

It depends on how much you loved the dog
but this is not important in the end;

what matters is how much the dog loved you.
How simple life is for lurcher or basenji –

find a voice, a scent, and dedicate your life to both.
Finding purpose, harder for a man:

first, cut out your heart and place it
in the aviary you have fashioned from the rib-

cage of an owl, then carry it, draped in hessian –
for the heart used to darkness startles easily –

to the lichen-orange rocks that hide the source
of your blood and release it.

Let it circle in the water-scented air until,
lost from sight, it makes its way home,

or slows its beat and drops, light as a finch,
into the braided stream to be discovered

by a man out walking, next to a submerged rock,
or a too-slow hound.

1

Sepia

The picture had been his idea.
She had always hated it.
He seemed to think it the height of sophistication.
To have placed himself and their various pets into a faux ye olde picture and been clever enough to include a reference to the raven.
Which he seemed to think he needed to explain.
"The raven
himself is hoarse ..."
Yes she got the reference.
He had grinned like a boy when he showed it to her.
She had kept her comments to a minimum.
He hadn’t noticed her dislike.
And then he had it framed. And placed it in the hallway.
So that it was always commented on as people entered the house.
But somehow she always seemed to have to answer the questions.
Yes, he made it himself. Yes, those are our dogs. Yes those are our cats.
No, we’ve never had caged birds.
It is a raven.
Yes, that is how we met.
Yes, in his English tutorial.
Why sepia?
That was her least favourite question.
Why indeed?
Sepia.
That which is now faded.
She had a sudden desire to smash it.
In the division of assets there had never been a dispute about the picture.
Of course it was his.
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2

Artistic Licence

"This is not at all what I was expecting." Irene Molloy looked at Carmichael’s drawing again. "Sepia, you said? You didn’t consider … oh, I don’t know … colour?"

"No, boss." Carmichael shook his head vehemently. "It would have been too … harsh, I think. Yes, harsh would be the word I’d choose."

"Too harsh?" She held it up for the others. "What do you two think?"

"Well, boss, I like it." That was from Stevens, of course. Always challenging her authority. She made a note to finally do something about him.

O'Neill just looked down at his highly polished police-issue shoes.

"Far be it from me to get picky," Molloy said, turning back to Carmichael, "but of what use is it to us?"

"What don’t you like about it?" asked Carmichael. "Specifically?"

"Specifically?" The word came shooting out of Molloy’s mouth like a bullet. She pulled down the sides of her police skirt, annoyed at how tight it was. "I gave you specific instructions and you have specifically ignored them. That’s what I don’t like. Specifically."

Carmichael took off his police cap and began cleaning the hard brim with the sleeve of his navy jacket.

"So," continued Molloy, "we’re meant to find Phineas Parsons, Bird and Dog Fancier," she waved the drawing in the air angrily, "in a crowd of people… using this? You’ve got to be joking. I wanted detail, Carmichael! To identify him! Scars, the colour of his hair and eyes, missing teeth, tattoos. Anything but a softened sepia portrait that his family would be proud to hang above their bloody mantelpiece."

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