Category Archives: General

Two poems by Noel Williams

Overgrown

Windfall phrases flutter on the path, dry whisperings,
litter scratching at my boots. As if someone
doesn’t want me hacking through these brambles
to that neglected shed. Someone is me.
But I’m not listening.
Time to cut this to the root.

In it those toys that Oxfam should’ve had –
the microscope with slides of spider-legs
and eye-bright copper sulphate, a bible scribbled through,
bruised Swoppets and the yellow saxophone
with scarlet keys still creased in cellophane
as if a toy-shop window bent and buckled round it.

You knew I’d kept them. But never said. As if
your silent threnody could scour guilt from these things
heaped up and hidden. Forget this pushchair with rust-soiled wheels
once a chariot. Imagine this typewriter
stuffed with your hundred spidered drafts
holds nothing but pages yearning to be trees.

You wished, I know, to become tongueless as oak.
Instead of words we might have a treehouse.
But what’s the point of knowing? I know this billhook,
for example, was your aunt’s, borrowed to slice
the first thick swathe of nettles from this yard
to clear it for that red pedal car. So what?

I know now this Lone Ranger Colt falls from its holster
if you sprint on the road. I’d planned to stitch it.
I know that if I’d cleared all this and dumped it when I should,
we’d have new tools, oiled and gleaming,
mounds of fecund peat, a dozen rows of seedlings,
fingering the trickling sunlight, if I’d unwebbed the window as you asked.
It feels like rain.

Return to Kabul, 1990

Under the carcass of a T72, the greybeard
elbows professional orphans,
spreads a Quran against a pillow of stone.
We face the same way.

We filter rice and cumin with our fingers,
chew kidney beans folded in spinach.
Stained by firelight we laugh about the carpet,
the lost washing machine, the hours
we’d prayed at that fizzing TV.
Who now crouches by its flattery?
Is it kicked in and sightless, like Mazar-al-Sharif?

Yesterday we counted a blackened mile of buses
lining the pits. My father wouldn’t come back to his cell.
He gave me the hasp of its hacksawed lock, talisman
against its sixty thousand silences.

Between the crazed walls and the minarets
pale pigeons glide like angels.
In the Ziaranth glazed by autumn sky,
a woman in a white burqua kisses the caliph’s tomb.
Those lights rising over the broken stone
are not the beams of any helicopter.

‘Overgrown’ and ‘Return to Kabul, 1990’ by Noel Williams were highly commended and second prize winner respectively in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.

SLQ July – September 2016 Print Cover

slq-originaljuly-sept2016

Leonard Cohen is John Donne to Bob Dylan’s Shakespeare by Edward Docx

The first time I thought consciously about Leonard Cohen’s death was in 2002. I was listening to his 2001 album Ten New Songs while crawling my way through the writing of a novel in which each chapter took its title from one of the poems in The Songs and Sonnets of John Donne. I remember hearing the following lines, among the hundreds of Cohen’s that I’ve come to revere: “So come, my friends, be not afraid/ We are so lightly here/ It is in love that we are made/ In love we disappear.”

Enter the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2016) judged  by Roger Elkin

Enter the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2016) judged by Roger Elkin

In that moment, a network of biographical and thematic connections between Donne and Cohen suddenly rose up in my mind. No man is an island. Death be not proud. The bearable and the unbearable lightness of our being. The way that love makes us and remakes us. The secular sacrament of our lovemaking itself. The lover as saint. The high seriousness of love and death so entwined. The abiding generosity towards their listeners. Can there be two poets who credit their audience with more intelligence than Donne and Cohen? I wrote a few notes about the idea, the last line of which I underlined: Leonard Cohen is John Donne to Bob Dylan’s Shakespeare.

Read the article in full here

Article source: www.theguardian.com

Editorial Note

It is with great pleasure we introduce you to the October – December 2016 issue of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine. This quarter we have succeeded in releasing the magazine online and in print as we used to do in the past. The difference today is that the entire issue is available to read ‘at no cost’ on the net. We choose to say ‘at no cost’ rather than use the word ‘free’ in other not to cheapen the expensive creative products of many minds published here.

We recognise of course that with the entire issue available online at no cost, there is not a particularly compelling reason for anyone to spend £6 on the magazine + £2.99 for post and packaging to obtain the print version.

Let’s try these for compelling reasons then;
(a) Reading online may be great but the feel of paper is greater. True? Yes.
(b) The paperback on your bookshelf or a copy you sign and give away as a gift to a friend, relative, your old school or local library is …priceless.
(c) Sentinel Literary Quarterly will make a margin of around £1.57 on each copy sold. This will be a huge encouragement to us, but will go right back into running the magazine, paying for hosting the website and other associated costs.
If these don’t persuade you to part with under nine quid for something you can get at no cost in another format, please call or text me on 07812755751 and I am sure I will sell it to you. I will show you that literature loves a cheerful magazine buyer or subscriber.

What about the print version of back issues?
Good question. The past issues currently published online only will now have the paperback versions published too. We have promised this in the past but it turned out to be not too practical. We have worked out a way to do it now. This is by pushing ourselves to release a print issue every month until we catch up. Here is a schedule to watch over the next few months:

October – December 2016 – (Online  and print versions done.)
July – September 2016 – (Online done. Print version due 10-December-2016)
January – March 2017 – (Online and print versions due 31-January-2017)
April – June 2016 – (Online done. Print version due 28-February-2017)
January – March 2016 – (Online done. Print version due 31-March-2017)
April – June 2017 – (Online and print versions due 30-April-2017)

Fiction submissions
The email address fictioneditor@sentinelquarterly.com is currently closed. All fiction submissions should be sent to editor@sentinelquarterly.com. Apologies to so many people who have tried in the last few months to submit fiction and their submissions failed.

Appreciation

Great appreciation and thank you to Mandy Pannett – our poetry editor, for her unwavering belief in SLQ and her eyes and ears for good poetry. Her commitment to Sentinel Literary Quarterly is greater than mine. Analyse that, because I am totally and passionately committed to SLQ, yet Mandy’s commitment is greater than mine. She will continue to be blessed in every way.

Many thanks also to our contributors who have kept the faith through our often rough journey. Sentinel Literary Quarterly is your magazine and please don’t be shy if you want to have a bigger role beyond submitting your work. We are particularly keen on literary bloggers who would like to blog about all and everything about literature to provide fresh content all year round between our quarterly issues. Let’s have a conversation about your ideas. editor@sentinelquarterly.com

Happy Reading

Nnorom-s-profile-picture_thumb.jpg

Nnorom Azuonye Managing Editor

Go to October – December 2016

Vision – a short story by Laura Solomon

Vision

Gary was working in his dark room when the stroke took place.  There was nobody with him but he knew enough to know that something was terribly wrong as his balance felt suddenly off and his left arm had become uncomfortably numb.  He made his way into the living room and dialled 111.  The ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and he was taken to A&E and triaged.  The doctor, who looked half Gary’s age, diagnosed a stroke and Gary was kept in for observation as his blood pressure was 145 over 90, no doubt a contributing factor to what he had suffered.  They gave him medication for the blood pressure and let him go home after three days.  He no longer saw colour; his world had become black and white.  The doctor told him that the stroke had done damage to his occipital lobe.

Gary lived alone in Point Chev.  His wife had committed suicide a year earlier and he had fallen into a deep depression.  He had no interest in other women.  Gary didn’t know why his wife had suicided, but he knew she had always complained that he was too wrapped up in his work and never seemed to have any time for her, so he felt a requisite amount of guilt.  Following the death of his wife, Gary managed to continue with his photography but it was an effort, like wading through glue.  He was well respected in his profession and had held a number of successful exhibitions.  He knew he was one of the lucky ones; he made a living from his art, a rare and difficult feat in small, isolated New Zealand.  People called him egotistical but it was just a defence mechanism, a way of keeping his psyche intact when he was picked at and criticised.  He didn’t have too many friends.  People said he was ‘difficult’.  He spent most of his time holed up in his dark room, fiddling with chemicals, watching photographs appear in the developing solution.  Read the full story here

Amma – a poem by Sam Burns

Sam Burns
Amma

Amma rolls fatly
down the dusty morning chowk,
cradling a kadai.

Her dreamy grandson
totters at her heels. He lives
in another world.

Amma bends between
a bull’s hind legs and scoops dried
dung into the bowl.

She chatters gaily
to the barefoot toddler with
the thousand-yard stare.

Amma wipes sweat with
her bangled wrist. The child sways
in the rising sun.

The bull butts the gate
of the grain store. The road melts.
The whole city yawns.

Amma spreads her skirts,
squats, rolls dung, jokes with schoolboys,
secretly pisses.

Her small grandson stands
between the horns of the bull,
gazes till it runs.

***
‘Amma’ by Sam Burns was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2016) judged by Terry Jones.

Two Cups – a poem by Math Jones

Math Jones
Two Cups

Two cups set upon a stone, made altar.
At once naked and dressed in white,
linen on the rock. Silver and linden.

Two cups. Reach toward the one and it
will disappear, blink out of vision,
leave you grasping air. The other remains

to be drunk from. In the air now
is your life and beating days,
the nights like alternating breaths.

In the sky around is space to move,
to bathe within, and light that floats
and every touch is beauty’s truth and you.

The other remains, hard upon the rock
and to be drunk from. It does not disappear
if you reach a hand, or if you turn your back.

It is to be drunk from, if you want
its bitter taste, perhaps to have its poison
running through your veins, then

it will disappear, blink out of vision,
leave you grasping air, taking too
the memory that it ever touched your lips.

Two cups set upon a stone, made altar.
At once naked and dressed in white,
linen on the rock. Silver and linden.

‘Two Cups’ by Math Jones won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2016) judged by Terry Jones.

The Greens – a poem by Lesley Burt

Lesley Burt
The Greens

She deserves more, the woman,
than heaving his autumn leavings
while he rides northerlies south –

than to blanket corms in warm loam,
graft buds in bark, bank up moss
while he palms a turquoise shoreline –

than to quilt leaf mould, stoke
sets and dreys with chestnuts and worms
while he sinks grappa with buddies –

than to brace up for the bite
when he storms back to her forest
to sprinkle his killer silver dust.

‘The Greens’ by Lesley Burt won first prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2016) judged by Terry Jones.

In the Kingdom of the Complaint – a short story by Marie Chambers

In the Kingdom of Complaint

It’s a business lunch at Angelini’s. Kitchen noises marry sotto voce conversations in a restaurant the size of a small fishing boat.  All the waiters speak Italian.  With crooked teeth and the beginnings of a paunch, these men are clearly not in pursuit of the ubiquitous movie career.  They are career waiters, magicians of sanity amidst the illusory drama of a lunch meeting in LA.

There are four of us: the soon to be exhibited artist, my art dealer dealmaker boss, his girlfriend and me.  As my boss is a demi-regular, we’re seated pronto at a four-top near the window.  Pleasantries are exchanged.  Water arrives.  Scorecards come out.

“Nice place.”
“Yeah, reminds of me of Italy. We spent a summer there.”
“Oh which part?”
“Tuscany, you know that area?”

Phrases bump and grind their way out of the mouths of the players.  The artist’s pitch begins.  Then the girlfriend swings into action.  Sun is in her eyes.  Terrible.  Let’s all re-position our chairs, squeeze together to the left of the light.  Oh dear.  Still not right.  Let’s try another arrangement.

She hoists her palm towards her forehead to block the sun.  The blue of her eyes glistens. Her face is wide and pale as the moon and she apologizes with such delicacy, we scurry to nudge our chairs towards the corners of the table, attend to her needs as a roomful of fellow travelers pretend not to be inconvenienced by this myriad of rearrangements.

I realize I am here on false pretenses. My queries regarding process and transport of the artist’s large-scale panel paintings garner little attention from the dealmaker.  No exhibition specifics (my area of expertise) will be addressed.  The conversation stays rooted in memories of meals eaten in Italy and the New York art scene of the 1980s and 90s.  Smiles are exchanged in rapid-fire sequences, red wine – a wonderful bottle, yes I’ll have another glass – and sparkling water flowing as freely as their recollections of a more desirable past.

Despite all the pro-forma civility, I understand yet again, sadly yet again, I am not here to participate in this discussion; I am used as ornament.  I order an arugula salad and listen.

The dealmaker’s girlfriend is the widow of an artist, a very New York artist, an artist revered – His colors, man, I love that – by this living artist at table.  She spends her days providing care and maintenance for her husband’s paintings. Though eulogized and buried, acknowledged as officially deceased by all the banks, credit card companies and medical facilities that devoured the last years of his life, her former husband continues to weave his needs into her present.  She lives in the truly swell flat he purchased for them in the 1980s.  The sale of his work continues to pay her bills.  I feel confident the ‘sun’ that blinded her moments ago is yet another incarnation of his shadow, once again attempting to hypnotize her.

My dealmaker boss orders more wine and holds forth as to the status of wine making in the States.  When the bottle arrives, he insists on subjecting the test glass to a series of whiplash motions along the tabletop. Though he explains the necessity for this seeming violence, it feels excessive to me. As he sniffs at the decidedly ‘shaken and not stirred’ wine and contemplates what I can only imagine are memories of wines past, he launches into a story about a tour of the ‘fields’ with the ‘most important vintner in France.’  With every additional detail, he safeguards himself from interruption by increasing his volume.  By the time the specifics of bottle year and bouquet come tumbling forth, his approval of the wine choice secured, there is nothing for us to do but murmur appreciative non-sequiturs and re-read the menu again.

The artist’s eyes dart furtively from speaker to speaker.  I wonder if he has noted, forty-five minutes into the meeting we still have not mentioned his upcoming exhibit.  Nor have we actually spoken about his artwork.

Behind me, the front door swooshes open and then clangs shut.  The bustle of fresh-faced hipsters, loafer-wearing elders and women of a certain age with the bust-lines of a twenty-something continues.  Food orders are placed.  The waiters are patient – Can I get that without tomatoes?  Is it vegan?  No sea bass? Business as usual I suppose. Past tense reveries and disappointment seem to rule the day.

Yet outside the sky remains so very cheerfully blue.

I head for the ladies room where I am greeted by a bowl of orange tulips, yellow edged with black centers.  They’re placed near a designer sink barely large enough for hand washing but are splayed open with such carefree excess I forget about the trio back at the table.  Beauty might yet win the day.  I resolve to emulate these flowers during the remainder of this meeting.

I check my lipstick and look myself in the eye. You are not this business, I whisper to my reflection.  This phrase gives me such pleasure I repeat it several times.  You are not this business.  You are not this business.  No matter how I inflect it, every time I say it, relief floods my limbs like medicine.

It’s really no wonder she keeps company with the dealmaker.  Though I have come to understand him as a man who honors the size of the check above all else and conjures insult when a hotel’s turn-down service fails to deliver (I have written many a letter of complaint for him), perhaps she’s lonely or weary and he’s noisy; he’s a distraction from some larger grief and perhaps that feels like kindness.

Throughout the meal, between bites, they complain sympathetically.  Joyfully.  Knowing glances arrive as punctuation to choreographed expressions of dismay.  The horror of undercooked veal. The reliable inefficiency of parking attendants.  What a time we live in, eh?  The daily assault on a refined sensibility astonishes.  It’s a grievance driven life and they are intimates in this distress.  But, a silver lining does exist, as he desires attention but no real involvement and she remains essentially married to her deceased husband, they are perfect for each other. They can shop for pillows, discuss the best kind of olive oil and where to order it, sigh in unison about the sorrows of his adult children and her mother ‘s illnesses and never breathe their secrets.

The artist has now ordered his third glass of wine.  I surrender all hope of discussion regarding his exhibition.  Everyone has a spoonful –Wow is that good.  Yes, but not as good as what you can get anywhere in Italy – of sorbet.

But the great rogue I know as happiness is elsewhere.  He’s exited this four-top and pitched his tent with the valet parking guys, the ones whose voices bounce back and forth like a song, the ones smiling at the traffic on Melrose, enjoying their time amidst the cacophony of Southern California.

As I watch my boss and his girlfriend evaluate their gluten free biscotti, sunlight strips the features from their faces.  They ooze contentment and I have no wish to begrudge them their pleasure.  But I can no longer un-see my dismay with the tone of this chatter, this entire enterprise.  My days as a hired hand in the kingdom of complaint are numbered.

I lean my face away from the glare and imagine an orange tulip behind my ear. SLQ

Marie Chambers

Marie Chambers

Marie Chambers received an MFA from the Professional Writing Seminars at Bennington College.  Her work has appeared in The LA Review of Books. The Atlanta Review, Talking Writing, The Quotable, The Ilanot Review, Printer’s Devil Review, the Seven Hills Review, Ironhorse Literary Review, the California Poetry Society and (coming in the fall) Bookwoman, a publication of the National Women’s Book Association. She was a winner of the 2015 ARTlines2 Ekphrastic Poetry Contest for work inspired by a piece of art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (judged by Robert Pinsky and published by Public Poetry September 2015.)

In the Kingdom of Complaint by Marie Chambers was highly commended in the Sentinel Annual Short Story Competition 2015 judged by Alex Keegan.

Extractions – a short story by Daniel Knibb

Extractions

In 1903 the house was almost new. Still young, not married a year, Mr Franks and his new wife embarked upon their first project together: the setting up of a new dental practice, not more than a mile from the great names set in brass along the Brompton Road and Kensington Gore.

‘A damned fool enterprise,’ said her father to Mr Franks once the ladies had retired. As new father-in-law, not to mention guarantor to the rental agreement, he let no opportunity for criticism go by. ‘Anyone in town with any money has already had their teeth out by Weston or Dromley-Kent. Got themselves a nice mouthful of Vulcanite.’

His voice was dreary, heavy with port, sluggish through an ether of cigar-smoke.

‘You can’t pull a tooth twice, young man.’

Before they were married, Franks would have forced a smile. Now, he allowed himself a certain boldness, a shiver of conviction. ‘Sir, we shall not be seeking the custom of the rich.’

A chuckle, unamused, evaded the stout obstacle of the cigar. ‘Young man, I find your logic obscure. I fear for my investment.’

Franks began to explain. The science of preservation, the new materials. The middle classes who wanted painless care and would pay for cocaine, but wouldn’t complain at being treated by gaslight. Let Weston and Dromley-Kent buy electric motor-drills; normal folk would take the treadle and be glad of it. In any case, he said with warmth, those grand old men see no more than six patients a day at a guinea each, and break their backs bowing and scraping. Whereas he’d see fifteen in a morning: a bob a nob for the decently-waged, less for the others. Children too; he’d joined the new school inspection society, he’d run a list once a week, get the poor mites out of pain and back into their classrooms.

‘There’s more,’ he said in a rush of passion, ‘than getting fat off the proceeds of fat smiles.’

‘Is that a fact?’ His father-in-law rose, and the young man, his eyes smarting from the smoke and a feeling of having pushed too hard, stood also. ‘Your faith in the rewards of charity are humbling indeed, Mr Franks.’

‘This is not charity,’ he said, less certain now, ‘merely good sense.’

He watched the old man leave, hearing through the fireplace’s crackle a softly venomous mutter. Something about misplaced optimism. Something about picking up pieces, who would have to do it.

1948, and the queue outside the house stretched around the corner. Women, mostly, with their children squalling in their arms or scuffling around their legs.

‘Dear God,’ said old Franks as soon as William arrived. ‘What have you done to us, Master Atwood?’

‘You know it’s the right thing, Mr Franks,’ William said. He seemed to have been saying that for six months now, ever since he’d mooted the idea.

‘Is that a fact? Dear me.’ Franks took his arm. ‘You have yet to convince your father. He insists he won’t come in today.’ There was a shout outside, then a child’s outraged howl. ‘I’m beginning to wonder whether I should have.’

‘Mr Franks, you’re indispensable.’ William squeezed the liver-spotted hand. ‘We wouldn’t be Franks and Atwood without you, would we?’

‘Evidently not. But I am seventy, you know. Old dentists never die, William,’ Franks said, ‘but at a certain point they do seek to extract themselves.’

‘No-one’s pulling you out yet, Mr Franks. Anyway, I need you to talk my father round. You know he’s all for ripping up the government contract.’

‘My dear boy, what makes you think…’

A squeak of hinges, a slam that shook the walls. Atwood senior stood, snorting, in the hall.

‘What the devil has he done to us, Charles?’ He didn’t even take his coat off before hurricaning down the hall.

William felt Franks shudder. He held the old man’s arm a little tighter and stood his ground.

The argument, the latest of many, didn’t take long. There was nothing new to say, except that there were a good deal more outside than they’d expected. William’s father spoke only to his partner; if referred to at all, William was the new associate, the recent addition, or simply the problem.

Debate concluded, his father turned to William and raised a hand. ‘See that?’

William examined the squat, clever fingers. One bore a new ring.

‘Solid gold. Look.’ His father pulled it off and bit it. ‘I had the lab cast it up from restorations in teeth I’ve extracted over the years. Now, you – ’ He poked William in the chest. ‘It’s all very well crying give me your tired, your poor, your galloping gob-rot, but how’s it all going to end, eh? In ten years’ time Charles here’ll be long retired, I’ll be going too, and you know what you’ll be doing? Working out how to pay your bloody creditors, that’s what. Handouts and social theories don’t keep a business in the black.’

He pushed the ring back onto his finger. ‘There’s no gold in amalgam fillings, boy.’ His heels attacked the tiles as he stomped out.

‘Not to worry,’ Franks chuckled. ‘He’ll come around. Mind you, he’s right. I’ll not be here much longer, and that’s probably for the best. But, you know…’ He tailed off.

‘Yes?’ William prompted.

‘Ah!’ Franks patted him like a good dog. ‘You know, if I were your age again…by gum, I’d be right beside you.’

‘We’re not open till nine!’ Their receptionist bustled in, barking at the family at the front of the line who were making a push for the door.

‘Oh, let them in,’ said William, rolling up his sleeves. ‘Let’s make a start.’

‘Trust me,’ said the man, ‘1998 is the year places like this are going to explode.’

David tried not to look alarmed. He frowned at the card thrust into his hand: ‘TBMT Marketing Consultants’.

The woman, older than her colleague, led the way. Stiff back, stiff hair, heels clipping the tiles. ‘Of course,’ she said, glancing at the waiting room, ‘this would all have to go.’

The man grinned. ‘You were right to bring us in, Mr Atwood. We’ve had some brilliant ideas. So much potential.’

‘Mm,’ said David, uncertain. ‘It’s been a very successful practice.’

‘And, as practice principal, you want it to remain so,’ said the woman, leading them down the corridor. Her tone was that of a maiden aunt prevailed upon to look after a dimwit nephew: thinly patient, politely underwhelmed. By contrast, her colleague’s voice made elastic attempts to catch your attention, like an inexplicably chummy bloke down the pub.

‘You see, Dave – I can call you Dave, can’t I?’ said the man. ‘The way things are moving, it’s all centralising. Polyclinics, centres of excellence. One-stop health shops. Dentistry, chiropody, whatever. Homoeopathy, reflexology…’ His hands sliced the air as he spoke, dividing it up.

‘Sorry,’ David interrupted him as they entered Surgery One. ‘You’re putting all that into NHS dental practices?’

‘Don’t just think dental, Dave.’ The man spread his arms wide. ‘Dream large. And hey – we’re not just talking NHS here. Think partnerships, public and private, hand in hand. I don’t think we should be excluding services that people see benefit in.’ His sharp eyes smiled.

‘What I’m trying to say,’ David said, ‘is this place has always been about evidence-based care. I mean, my father was one of the first – ’

The man nodded, immediately grave. ‘Yes. And you know what? It’s the values of your father’s generation who brought the NHS this far. Without the William Atwoods, none of this would be here today. But, you know…’

He placed his hand on David’s arm. It stayed there, a solid pressure as if David were a barrier he were testing the resistance of.

‘If your father was here today, he’d be going where we’re going. Innovating healthcare for the twenty-first century. Creating visions. Taking them forward. Because we all want the same thing, Dave, yeah?’ The hand slipped up to David’s shoulder; any further and he would have had his arm around him. ‘Quality healthcare, affordable, there for everyone. For our families. For our children.’

His voice had hoarsened. For a horrible moment, David thought the man was going to weep.

The woman gave a small cough. ‘I think my colleague is saying that our evidence suggests alternative therapies are some of the fastest-growing, most profitable sectors in modern-day healthcare.’

‘I wasn’t talking about profit…’

‘Profit, Mr Atwood, means money for this clinic. More money, as I’m sure you appreciate, means more clinicians. More services. More patients receiving more and better treatment. It’s really not complicated.’

She turned away to inspect a dado rail, running a finger along it as though checking for dust.

‘Look, Dave.’ The man’s hand was back on David’s arm, escorting him out into the hall. ‘Bottom line, we absolutely believe this is the way ahead.’ The smile again. ‘You can absolutely trust us to deliver.’

Nausea rose in David’s throat. He wanted them to leave. His stomach growled, loud and embarrassing in the closing-time quiet. The man laughed, and David felt obliged to as well.

‘Sounds like you’re ready for something to eat. Follow me.’

As promised in their leaflet, they had brought a complimentary buffet supper. David allowed himself to be extracted from the room, feeling the redesigning eyes of the woman at his back.

The removal lorry’s back doors gaped, swallowing furniture, desks, old computers.

‘None of it’s worth a thing, David,’ Jenny said to him for the third time that week. ‘Let the developers shift it.’

David tugged his grey beard. ‘We’re supposed to leave the place empty. And there’s nothing wrong with this stuff, it’ll come in for something.’

Jenny did that thing with her eyebrow, just as she used to when David asked her to squeeze a thirty-minute crown-prep into a fully-booked day. ‘TFT monitors? iPads? They must’ve been here longer than I have, and I started ten years ago.’

‘Not ten years.’

‘Yep, 2015. The year you did that nano-research-thing with the hospital.’

‘Oh, the self-assembling enamel peptides. Fancy you remembering that.’

‘I was very impressed. Painting bad teeth with nano-whatsits to regrow enamel. Thought you were quite the dashing pioneer.’ She glanced at him. ‘Didn’t last long.’

‘Neither did the peptides. Study folded after six months, didn’t it?’

They shared a smile.

‘There’ve been a few successes, though, haven’t there?’ David didn’t like the beseeching note in his voice. ‘We were in at the start when they introduced ID-chip veneers.’

‘And we were the last practice round here to still have NHS patients, before that all finished.’

There was pride in Jenny’s voice. It made him sad.

‘Yes. That too.’

She didn’t look at him when she said, ‘You could carry on, somewhere else. Ultrabrite’d have you, now McReady’s going.’

He shook his head. ‘No. I’m sixty-six; I can’t begin again.’

‘Why not?’ She sounded angry. ‘Why should age matter? If you’re still good enough, why not keep going?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. Out with the old, in with the new.’ He tried a chuckle. ‘I’ll scrimp till they give me my pension and then…’

‘Slowly decay?’

‘Something like that.’

Once the men had filled the lorry’s maw, David went back inside to lock up. Jenny called goodbye from the front step.

‘Don’t hang around too long,’ she warned him.

But he did. He lingered till the sunlight died, pacing room after room, examining stains where chairs and cupboards had sat, mentally reconstructing the place. They should have had Surgery Two the other way around; better, surely, with the chair facing the door. That way you could fit a desk in, and that’d free up the consulting room, which meant –

Stop it. Pointless. All over now.

His shoes on the tiles reverberated, too loud. He took his coat from the hook by the door and remembered his father.

The Yale lock clicked home, soft as a root snapping. David hurried away and didn’t look back. SLQ

Daniel Knibb

Daniel Knibb

Daniel Knibb is a proud member of the NHS, and in his spare time writes short fiction and poetry. In recent years his work has found success in the Sentinel Quarterly poetry prize, the Harry Bowling Prize and short story competitions from Cardiff Women’s Aid, Writers’ Village, Leaf Books, Sentinel Quarterly and Exeter University. He lives in Devon.

“Extractions” by Daniel Knibb won first prize in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Alex Keegan.