Reuben graduated from the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2013.
Lisa graduated from the Hagley Writers’ Institute in 2014 cum laude.
Brie Sherow is a freelance planning consultant involved in community development, urban policy, and arts initiatives in the recovery of post-quake Christchurch. In Australasia, her narrative non-fiction has been published by The Pantograph Punch and Freerange Press and her fiction has been published by Yen Magazine and Flash Frontier. She recently graduated Cum Laude from Hagley Writers Institute and is looking forward to her second year of study in the program.
Brindi Joy is a writer and editor in the backpacker industry. She has lived in Seattle, Denver, New Orleans and she currently lives in Christchurch where she makes the most of the mountains and the sea. She is a graduate of the Hagley Writers’ Institute and won the Year 2 Margaret Mahy Award for Best Portfolio in 2013. Her fiction has appeared in Landfall, JAAM, the Christchurch Press, Flash Frontier, Takahe and a recent collection of New Zealand short stories, Sweet As.
I am waiting and
watching from the house, and
there is one. I can tell
by the way she frets
and walks, and sits and
twists. I go away.
The water’s spilled down
her back legs. I watch.
She twists, paws the ground, frets.
It’s been all day.
I bite my lip. “Here we go,” I say.
I go through the wooden gate, call,
She won’t come.
I hold out my hand, show her
I have her by the neck. She’s breathing
hard. Her nostrils flare, in-out in-out.
How do I get her to the ground?
I twist her. Her legs give. She shows
the whites of her eyes. I sit
on her stomach. “It’s all right,” I say.
In the pines across the paddock, a starling
sounds an alarm. “Okay,” I say.
I look at the place between her back legs.
Her vagina is red and stretched.
There’re two soft cloven hooves
in the opening. I push up
my sleeves and lean across her side.
Between the hooves I can see
a black nose. I touch a hoof.
I have to see if I can get my
fingers around it.
I have my hand inside—
around a leg. It’s soft and
wet, and bone. I must pull it.
I am pulling. I am
The ewe groans.
It could be me
I am pulling,
pulling with both arms. Pulling
on both legs. I am using
all my strength. My thighs
are warm against her flank.
I am pulling. I feel the strain
across my shoulders. I doubt
my strength to hold her
down and pull.
She is struggling.
I am pulling.
Her haunches give.
I am pulling.
The flank heaves.
I am pulling.
The ewe pushes. Something pops
– a soft pop – and releases. And
Have I broken it?
I am not pulling.
There are wet black eyes…
… a head
in place of the stretched black rim.
There are ears—black-tipped ears, a film
of slime—slimy wool. Did I say eyes
—black shining eyes? Two legs. Two hooves.
She grunts and shudders. The rest slithers out. It is still.
the lamb. It’s alive
but tired. Bone tired.
I think, Shouldn’t it get up? I
slap it. Once. Twice.
It lifts its head—just a little.
My hands encircle its slimy yellow
girth. I place it
beside its mother’s head and
she begins to lick.
I lie down on the grass on my back.
I am bone tired.
A starling calls out in the pines
across the paddock.
Brie Sherow 2014
We return from a day at Sea World and open the front door to hear bubbling and sloshing of water in enclosed spaces. The sun is nearly down but in Texas the heat stays after the light is gone. The air is heavy in the summer and it hangs on our limbs. It makes everything move in slow motion. It makes everything move in slow motion for me, but my baby sister moves in a parallel dimension.
Evan runs in the house ahead of me, leaping and twirling. We both know something is wrong, the air is always damp but today it is also rotten. I move cautiously, footsteps light on the cold stones of the front hall and trying not to breathe too hard, sneaking a glance around the corner into the living room. Tippy is running in circles, barking and chasing his tail. He can never catch it, snapping his teeth and his tail whips towards the tall white shelf with Mama’s shell collection. His feathered tail sweeps the shelf and Mama’s shells scatter across the floor, sinking into the soaking burl.
Evan is already there, giggling in her discovery of the disaster. She jumps, splashing her feet in the puddled mess. Our carpet is a swamp. I don’t want to get my feet wet but I come closer to assess the damage. The fish tank is leaking, leaking badly, it’s already all leaked out, only an inch of water left. While I had spent the day watching sharks and Belugas, my own fish had been suffering slowly. The survivors are piled at the bottom of the tank, gills struggling, mouths bubbling. They are covered by the dead bodies of fishes already gone, belly up, dried out.
Evan can’t contain her excitement, she already has the net and pleads with Mama to flush them herself. She loves watching them spin in circles as they get sucked down. Round and round they go, the Tiger Barbs, the Gold Dust Mollies, the Red Fire Guppies, the Rummynose Tetras. A whirlpool rainbow of fishes.
Salty tears blur their tiny bodies until all I can see are trails of neon spiralling down the toilet bowl. The toilet gargles like a sea monster’s giant maw, swallowing my fishes. After they’re gone I imagine their dull eyes staring up at me through the dark pipe. My baby sister squeals with excitement.
Evan loves all creatures, she loves bringing them into the house. Nothing is safe from her, snakes under rocks, beetles in the dirt, and spiders on trees. The green anoles in the spiny yucca plants shake their little stubs. The lizards drop their tails when threatened by predators, or by my sister.
I love animals too. I spend hours setting up obstacle courses for my gerbil, training him to run through a simulated wild environment with surprises at every corner. When I’m confident in his abilities I will set him free in the backyard.
Evan imagines the flushed fishes swimming through the sewers, back out to the rivers, where they can be captured and brought back to the tank after their adventure. I know better, I know that they are dead.
I am a practitioner. My explorations are careful and considered. I take note of everything around me, and my understanding of the world is based on what I’ve already learned. My sister is a wild philosopher. Her world is, and always will be, infinite in scope and possibilities.
Frankie McMillan 2014
here she is, the unhurried length of her under the blue candlewick. She is reading again. This time it’s ‘The Sparrow,’ a biography of Edif Piaf.
When It gets lonely in the house we lie on her bed, our voices singing like Sunday. There is a squabble over who will get up and make the tea. My mother gives a dramatic sigh. She shifts a layer of newspaper from the bed to find her purse. She pays my sister a shilling to make a pot of tea and a tray of cheese scones. But it has to stop, my mother says. Other children, proper children would do it for nothing.
Eventually her bed becomes an island and we have to swim over to get to her. Arms and legs flailing over the rising mess. ‘Get up. Get up’ we say. But my mother raises the book higher. Then one day Edith Piaf gets lost in the tide and my mother holds up her pale arms like a woman, drowning. ‘You win, you win,’ she cries.
Frankie McMillan 2014
Because he was an abseiler he was used to going back to what he knew and for that reason his first girlfriend was his only love. He thought he saw her in a picnic area by the Hanging Rock. She sat on a rug, her red skirt ballooning in the breeze. He let the rope drift through the descender. As he fell, lichen and rock and inch and toehold she held up something from her basket. At first it was just a tiny blur of white but as he came closer he saw her take a sniff of the sandwich as if something were off. It was a moment, the abseiler realised, which could go one way or another. He wanted to call to her. Of course she would wonder who the man was on the end of the rope. His bottom looked ridiculous in the harness. He let himself fall some more.
Frankie McMillan 2014
In my childhood my mother took in boarders and in this way I developed a tolerance for the odd behaviours of men. They were noisy, they put posters of big breasted woman astride motorbikes on their walls, and sometimes they cried because they were missing a woman. Mostly though they were hungry. At the dinner table my mother fed them first with soup so they didn’t need such big plates of meat and on Sundays, when they grew restless, she served them roly poly pudding oozing with burnt jam and topped with clotted cream. That silenced them; they had to stagger to their beds to sleep it off.
All this is by way of saying there are ways to manage things. I tell this to my daughters. There they are striding the tussocky hills, pale legs lit up by the sun. ‘What odd men?’ they say, ‘ what are you talking about?’ One stops to examine a tiny flowering shrub and I think that one will always save herself. She stands lost in the wonder of the purple star shaped flower, her head bent low. Then they are both striding up the steep hill again and I struggle to keep up; too soon I will be the Innuit woman left behind in the snow, waving her family goodbye. ‘I’m talking,’ I yell, ‘ about how to keep everyone happy.’
Guest editing The Quick Brown Dog was a privilege and a challenge for all three of us. It was also something of an eye-opener. As writers ourselves, we were able to experience the submissions process from ‘the other side’ and to forge a path forward through the jungle of personal, and sometimes very different, ‘taste’.
We came across fresh and intriguing offerings, pieces that took flight, tasty morsels and pieces that we would rather not eat but still wanted to keep. Reading these submissions was a delight and couldn’t really be described as work. Choosing between them, however, was more daunting. We gave every piece a fair appraisal, reading each one closely (several times) and then deciding on a shortlist. Fortunately when we compared selections, most were unanimous – but there were a few that required discussion, a degree of give-and-take.
Consider rereading this? This is what I get – what do you read? You’re quite set on that one?
This highlighted the fact that the selection process is always subjective no matter how objective the editors try to be. In our case at least two out of three of us had to want it (or be persuaded to want it) or it didn’t go in. So if your piece wasn’t selected, remember that one of us may have loved it.
We ended up with an impressive and diverse range of poetry, flash fiction and short stories. There are themes of survival, family, birth, death, time, memory and striving – the human condition reflected and revealed in its many guises. Love, as always, was prevalent: ‘She didn’t mean to bombard him with poems…’ (The Bombardment by Victoria Broome); ‘For you, I set my table with wooden spoons and meditate with keys like mala beads…’ (Metal by Viv Smith).
Thank you to our contributors for offering up their work and we wish them all success in their writing.