Issue #24 - March 28th - April 3rd, 2003

Sister Janice and the Law
Be merry, my children, and remember.. no matter how inept you feel, there's always someone more boring, uninspiring and socially disadvantaged out there than you.
By Sister Janice Slejj

Naked Living
Listening to the river, all of a sudden clothes are nothing but a rash. All of a sudden I have more in common with the wind than with any boyfriend.
By Emily Ann Potter

A guide to Cats
I didn't see him again for a couple of days and was beginning to think I was going a bit mad. Perhaps I had imagined him? Even cats can't just disappear can they?
By Belle

What The Pillar Of Salt Held Up
I'm told by my mother (who's a kind of nurse) that she was told by people in white coats (who are kind of doctors) that if the clot had moved or built up anymore then I would have been dead.
By Paul Williamson

A Summer As Imaginary Local Heroes
You need love to be an imaginary local hero. It is not enough to burst your best-kept-hidden ego up by playing the guitar in a rock’n’roll band. Kind of playing. Kind of guitar. Kind of band. Kind of Summer infatuation.
By Stefano Santabarbara


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Sister Janice and The Law

Sister Janice is our new agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career. These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed.

Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer...

Hello again my little satellites of sensuality,

It has been a troublesome week..

To begin with, I have not had a single enquiry about my 'Find Your Inner Truth Through Disco' classes. My mail is clearly going to the wrong address. I suspect that this is what comes of crash-landing your shed from into a drive-through restaurant.

I've had that bloody clown staring through the window of The Space Shed all week.

He worries me less, now I realise he's made out of plastic, but I still find those dungarees hard to excuse.

I've also had a number of the unfortunate types that this place seems to attract trying all sorts of techniques to make me move. Apparently, I'm parked in front of the McWindow. I told them I wasn't parked, I was crashed. Stuck. Unable to move. They said their obstructing their McWindow was a dangerous game, and that I'd regret tangling with a family friendly eco-conscious nutritionally-commendable restaurant chain such as theirs..

I don't think they're bluffing. This morning, someone who looked suspiciously like a policeman spent most of the morning trying to get me to open the door. I hid my alternative herb garden behind a Stevie Wonder album, and pretended I wasn't in.

Its a good job nobody signed up to the bloody classes. I wouldn't be able to leave this place to teach them.

Something occurs to me, my dears. I shall return in a moment.

I now realise how foolish it is to underestimate one's enemy. The Answer lay before me, but I did not realise the depths to which those around me would sink.

Clearly, the people inside The Restaurant are trying to hamper my attempts to save the world through the medium of sound. THAT is why I haven't had any letters. They've all been STOLEN, before they GOT to me!

I have just marched into their den, and challenged them with this.

Oh, they covered up well.. they did their best to look apathetic and unmotivated and exploited but I could tell they weren't just normal fast-food workers. They are hiding secrets.

I told them I was here on the work of The Lord, and that if they hampered this I would invite him to Smite them with a Plague Of Boils.

Wrong choice of plague. Most of them look pre-smitten.

Next time, I'll pick frogs. Or locusts. Nobody likes locusts.

And, tomorrow, I won't let that postman escape until he's given me everything I demand.

Until then, here's my Disturbed Soul of the week. I hand-picked him from the Letter-Stealing Bastards of the Burger Bar Staff. He looked just that little bit more despondent than the rest

Hello err... whoever is reading,

My name is Roger. I am having a bad day. In a bad month. In a bad lifetime.

I work in a burger bar. That wasn't my first choice of direction in life. I wanted to be an astronaut, a politician or an avon lady, but my mother said I lacked the application.

Day after day, I haul myself through the bleak streets of this nondescript northern town, to the place where my soul is tethered to the unceasing demands of the all-devouring regime and my spirit crushed by the cudgel of capitalism. I long to lift myself away from the meanness of this life, towards -

Oh, for God's sake...

I'm sorry about that, my little sesame-seed buns of sublimity, I had no idea he'd be so bloody boring. Next time, I have a real treat for you. I will guide you through one of my Finding The Truth Through Funk workshops. Its a shame you can't make them in person. All it would cost you is your time.

And some money, of course.

And maybe one of those milkshakes they make in there. I'm bloody starving, and I'm buggered if I'm buying one myself.

Be merry, my children, and remember.. no matter how inept you feel, there's always someone more boring, uninspiring and socially disadvantaged out there than you.

Unless of course you ARE that person.

Blessed Be


Sister Janice Slejj

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Naked Living

A pleading river in a dark night asks for nothing of propriety. Give him no amount of decent modesty, no sting of philosophy.

Such a moment needs nothing but my naked body.

Listening to the river, all of a sudden clothes are nothing but a rash. All of a sudden I have more in common with the wind than with any boyfriend. Several years ago I finally realized that the only purpose of having long hair was to allow it to fulfill its rightful purpose time and again of transforming into moss. No perm or hairsprayed bangs can compete to the beauty of a woman's hair clinging to rocks in a river's lackadaisical rush.

Naked. I remember when I was a child that "nude" was almost a bad word. It paired up with giggling almost every time. Adults still have a hard time, thinking that it pairs up with sex. Oh how limiting. You're allowed to be naked all by yourself. You're allowed to love your body for its smallest intricacies and miracles. When you give your naked body the gifts of innocence and adoration, you're making love to life itself.

Once upon a blue midnight a lake invited me to jump in him. He was very fresh with me. My skin was young and he took advantage of it. How brilliantly the night flickered on me. The endless waves seeped into my soul effortlessly. Many rivers in the desert wilderness also know and love my bathing body. And just recently a 4:00 a.m. rain storm on the ocean coast spotted a woman running bare and beautiful among its silver lines, porous and free.

I've lived in many kinds of living arrangements in several countries. A small Russian apartment was once my home, and a huge South African mansion was once another. For the last several years, I have given myself the memory of walking alone and naked under every roof I've ever called home. It's almost a measuring tool: how much will I allow myself to grow up, and how much will I always be a naked, vulnerable child.

In those endearing alone times, I don't care to listen when society tells me to put my clothes on. Maybe I just believe in miracles too much. I am the miracle. Touches of my skin can be traced and tickled, milk can form in my breasts. I even have soft, delicate hairs called lashes growing from the top and bottom of my eye lids. Isn't that absolutely wondrous!

Living, I've learned that rain echoes in its own unveiled chantings. Life lives its own purity. Rivers rush, exposed and fearless.

So living, why can't I.

Emily Ann Potter


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A Guide to Cats

Cats are strange, strange creatures. Some have long hair, others have short hair, some are orange and others are black, some visit me in my garden, others stay well away. They do have some similarities mind you. Every cat I see seems to be roughly half my size, roughly the same shape and all of them think that it is their mission in life to drive me bananas. If I'm honest they do a very good job of it. Not only that but they have the knack of getting me into trouble with my girl.

The other afternoon a very annoying cat had been repeatedly coming into my garden and taking things from the black bags that the girl gives to the big black bag eating truck each week. Not only that it had been waking me up each night by tapping on my window to laugh at me sleeping. When I told it to go away and stop waking people up I was the one who got shouted at for by the girl for waking people up!
This particular afternoon I was not in any mood to put up with any of his nonsense and I successfully protected my girl from his evilness by chasing him out of the garden. I think I'm pretty scary when I want to be because he didn't stick around long. Instead he sprinted to the top roof of the shed next door where he sat twitching his tail, stealing the sunlight and laughing his head off. I had had enough and I told him to stop showing off and go and sit on someone else's shed. I was so sure that the girl would have been grateful that I had protected her and banished the cat from the garden. But do you know what she said?
“Belle stop that noise and get inside now!”
Honestly, life can be so unfair at times!

I came across another cat while I was staying at the house with the garden as big as a park. He was slightly less irritating than the cat on top of the shed, and I'll have to admit that he was even a little bit interesting. I have a lot to thank him for. He opened up my eyes to whole new worlds.

It all happened one crazy day in October. I was doing a bit of surprise gardening for my girl. I was hidden from her view behind a large tree and dug her a very impressive hole when out of the corner of my eye I caught a fleeting glimpse of orange. I blinked and looked again. There he was again! I leapt from my hole and belted at full speed across the garden.

This cat was no fool. As soon as he saw me coming he decided he should disappear. He literally vanished! I screeched to a halt before conducting a thorough search of the parameter of the garden. There was not a single sign of this cat.

I didn't see him again for a couple of days and was beginning to think I was going a bit mad. Perhaps I had imagined him? Even cats can't just disappear can they? He made his next reappearance early on a Sunday morning. This time I was ready and I gave chase. Round the prickly tree, over the soft squashy plant, through the long grassy things around the back of the guineapigs, in and out of the trees that surround the garden. I was on his tail; There would be no escape for him this time. Except there was an escape and he vanished again- this time up the big apple tree in the middle next to the pond with the fish. Apple tree? Pond with Fish? Something clicked in my brain. This wasn't the garden as big as the park. Something magical had happened and the cat had brought me to a world that I hadn't known existed before.

Of course when I returned back to the real world I got shouted at for leaving my girl to fend for herself for 10 minutes. I didn't mind quite as much. I had seen a new world.


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What The Pillar Of Salt Held Up

HOLY FUCK!! NO FURTHER!! NO! TAKE THE FUCKER OUT! OUT I TELL YOU!! Bed, railings, knuckles white then red then kind of purple, clawing into and scraping the wall- FUCKING NO MORE! The nurse grabs my hand and drones “I know, luv, I know it stings”, like fuck does she know, she's only read what she's read in the thickest of tombs or in the 'News of the World' and this pain can't be scribbled in medical journals or Sunday supplements.

Holy what?

Her hand's on my bare thigh, and that surgeon does his bit with his tools in my backside. I'm reminded of Sid and Ken and Hattie and Charlie in 'Carry On Up My Rectum' or something. Or something. The Pakistani surgeon drools over his young nurse, tells her she has a nice breast, then chest, then laughs, says he as only watching time, while she says he's a married man, and all of this happens whilst he leaves a ten inch needle in my arse.

I can't scream but I want to, and when the nurse asks the doctor how long he is supposed to leave the needle in my arse for, he says to her “Well how long do you think”, and she says “How long does it take to boil an egg doctor”, and he says “Exactly”, but what in God's name's a boiled egg's got to do with a needle in my rectum, I don't know.

The needles out. So the nurse shoves something else up there. When she pulls it out, it's bright red and dripping, and then she puts another one of these things up my arsehole and hen she pulls it out THAT'S bright red and dripping too, and so forth and so forth for about fifteen minutes, then she seems bored with poking things up my bum and straps something to it and tells me to put my trousers back on. I do as I'm told. I must be lightheaded.

She talks to me a while, and keeps looking directly at me, into my eyes, which makes me uncomfortable, though why it should after she literally fingered my arse, I have no idea. Still, I avert my gaze.

I'm given a prescription and some swabs and things so I too, may partake in the pleasure of shoving things up my own arse. That implement that she fitted five minutes ago is saturated already. The doctor is back. “Drink lots of water, eat plenty of fruit, take a salt bath three times a day-“

Yeah yeah yeah…

I can barely walk. The only way I can manage it is by spreading my legs about a half metre apart so that my buttocks don't touch.

I get home, fill a glass with water and chew on a satsuma. I can't sit down. I run a bath, sprinkle copious amounts of salt into said bath, and you know I can't sit, the doctor sure as hell could've guessed I can't sit, and the nurse could've looked it up in her book, so anyway I splash a little water on my behind, and THERE'S THAT PAIN AGAIN. I jump up and out. I fart and blood is sprinkled in tiny speckles and I'm sure if I look then my bum cheeks ill look like one of those butterfly paintings you did at infant school.

I don't look.

I'm told by my mother (who's a kind of nurse) that she was told by people in white coats (who are kind of doctors) that if the clot had moved or built up anymore then I would have been dead.

I'm lucky. Or clumsy. I don't know which, I get confused between the two.

The doctors have forbidden me to drink for six months at least, but I'm not lightheaded anymore. I pur a long, tall whiskey, and move into another room. I still can't sit, so I stand, wait, and smile to myself.

Paul Williamson

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A Summer As Imaginary Local Heroes

The telephone rang. The telephone always rings at the beginning of stories. It was that familiar voice I have heard since the second year at High school. It was a late spring afternoon, spent sitting on the sofa, not looking at the ceiling, not at the telly. There was news, he said, good news, and to come and to meet him over at his flat. There was a plan he said.

Half an hour later we were there, the four of us, sitting around the stone table. Rudy, the German Shepherd, was slowly moving around and possibly wondering what we were talking about. Probably he wouldn’t have got the clue anyway as the nonsense starts growing pretty soon, and few more cans did the rest. Our summer as local rock’n’roll stars was set-up and on the way.

That was us: T-Stoff, for short, Hydrogen peroxide oxyquinoline stabilised in extended form. A so-called guitar player who can’t play the guitar; a so-called drum player who can’t play the drums; a so-called blues singer who can’t speak in English; and a so-called harmonica player, who allegedly joined the crew in order to wreck the ship, who can play even less then the other. One could play, and that was it. But don’t ask me what it was. A rocket propeller, someone said. Can be. Can’t be. No one bothered. We were rolling into a summer we wouldn’t forget, almost at the zenith of our shape.

The summer has been hot. The air heavy to breath. The lake low and all the other ponds around generally smelly. The winter mud has dried. A good season for wine, if there were any grapes where I grew up.

The mornings were short, and I couldn’t generally remember them, I’m wondering if any of us could.

The fags were generally a forgotten, obscure and, more noteworthily cheap Italian brand, with exotic portraits of ships and foreign lands on the box.

The booze wasn’t any better.

And local town were springing up all over the local towns. Aunts and Uncles were dancing at the sound of cheap keyboard waltzes, and out of time, and out of tune, brassy complexes.

We were drinking the cheapest wine.

I eventually graduated.

No one was there, but my parents and brothers. Were they all just nursing another hangover?

I could only think at crank M. amp. A post war relinquish. Almost an object of veneration indeed. Something of his Uncle’s. The family legends want him to have played with one of the Italian ‘golden sixties’ singers that topped the charts. The legend, of course, goes that he also bedded her - but that is the classic detail you have to add, haven’t you?

None of us bedded anyone those summer days. At least it’s what I reckon. I might be wrong. At least it is what I did - or I didn’t. Someone did fall in love. Or at least he thought he was. You need love to be an imaginary local hero. It is not enough to burst your best-kept-hidden ego up by playing the guitar in a rock’n’roll band. Kind of playing. Kind of guitar. Kind of band. Kind of Summer infatuation.

I did believe in the band.

I knew I couldn’t trust them. But I was looking for some kind of comfort into that bunch of strangers.

Did they believe in the band?

I guess they did.

I want to think they did.

One day, a few weeks later, L. phoned again. We were scheduled. We had to play a festival. We had to play. And we were still to write a single damned tune.

The tables were the same. We were sitting the same way. Rudy, the German Shepherd, made his ritual patrol, and no one said a word. It was just three of us. Talking about the absolute and nothing.

And not a single idea.

We knew we could have made it.


(To be continued...)

Stefano Santabarbara


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