Friday, October 16, 2015

Is South Africa Safe?

I was apprehensive. When I told folks I was going camping in a motorhome for three weeks in South Africa, the first question they asked--always--was do you think that's safe? It made such an impression on me that I actually broke my rule about being totally ignorant of the place and did a bit of research. After all, I'm not the biggest of fan of being knifed and robbed in my sleep.

How dangerous is South Africa? I'm not going to pretend to be able to answer this question for the entire country, but I can give you a good picture of how safe I felt--as well as how paranoid I felt due to the reading I'd done beforehand.

At the beginning of our trip we traveled in a motorhome during low season in and around Kruger National Park. We were a spectacle to be sure. We got stares. When we pulled up to traffic lights we made sure our doors were locked. I'd read about carjackings at traffic lights, where you'll find young guys trying to sell anything from USB sticks to oranges. They're not criminals; they're salesmen who work all day in the hot sun. There's probably a mafia behind it; the Koch Brothers probably have a stake in them. If you don't need a USB stick or a bag of oranges, keep your windows up and your doors locked.

(What you should do, even though it has nothing to do with safety: stop and buy some avocados from the women on the side of the street. The avocados are better and cheaper than the ones in the store--at least around Kruger National Park and Grasskop. For 25 rand (3euros) we got a net of 7 avocados, and they were all great. We had worse luck with roadside avocados in the South.)

In terms of safety, you're more likely to fall and break your ankle than to be robbed.

Beware of the vendors selling what looks like figures made from various types of wood. It's all cheap wood stained with shoe polish. They'll tell you their uncle hand-sculpted the elephant, but you'll find that exact elephant in the next village. That uncle is busy. We made the mistake of buying a foldable table that this uncle had made. By the time we were ready to fly home, it had mold all over it and its coat of shoe polish was rubbing off. Even if the quality of the knick-knacks was questionable, I still felt these people were trying to make a living the best way they could. If you buy something from them just make sure you know what you're buying, which is basically crap.

Kruger National Park

The most dangerous animal in Kruger National Park is apparently the African Buffalo, although I didn't feel very threatened. Of course, I also hadn't read anything about the beast before the trip. These animals are so ornery that, though they look like cows with wacky horns, they've never been domesticated. They're one of The Big Five in the Africa because of how dangerous they are to hunt. They gang up on hunters, which is odd since they look so dumb. Stay away from the cows with the goofy horns.

Elephants can also become aggressive. The speed limit in the park is very low, and there are police giving tickets. You could drive around a corner and find yourself up an elephant's behind. As long as you drive slowly, you'll probably be safe. Elephants are used to cars.

Although hippos are considered extremely dangerous, you probably won't get close enough to one to worry about it. If you have a camera like mine, you probably won't even get close enough to get a good picture of one. The same is true for lions.

All campsites in Kruger National Park have Jurassic Park-style fences, so you're safe from large animals. Your breakfast, though, is not safe from the pesky birds. If you leave your breakfast to go into your motorhome for just two seconds, your breakfast table will be all aflurry with three or four lovely species of African birds. I'd have my camera ready If I were you.

Cape Town

The moment we arrived in Cape Town we headed for the Table Mountain with the intention of climbing up that puppy. There are a couple of options. You can take the longer 5-hour route or the shorter, much much steeper 2.5-hour route. We took the shorter route because we didn't really know how steep it was going to be. It's a very steep walk. We nearly died. Seriously. I kept waiting for the laggers (I was always in front because I'm so damn fit) to keel over from a heart attack, effectively ruining everyone's day, but by some miracle no one died).

Before the trip, I read that you need to be vigilant while hiking, that there are robbers on the trails. The guy who was parking cars on the street corroborated this by warning us not to park too far away from the other cars he was parking. "There are robbers up here," he said.

"And so you'll protect our motorhome for a few rand?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Are you going to stay close to our motorhome?" I asked.

"Yes," he lied.

There are robbers in Cape Town, and most of them are parking your cars.

The second we started up the mountain I spotted three teenagers fall in behind us. I worried the whole 3 hours (it took us 3 hours instead of 2.5) that we'd be robbed and left for dead since none of the other panting, worn-out hikers would be able to carry us off that mountain. In the end, we had nothing to worry about. They were just three teenagers going for a very steep walk. Still, stay in a group when you hike.

We felt safe in Cape Town, but then we didn't go out at night or go traipsing through townships. We were too spooked by what we'd read before the trip. Actually, travel guides say an organized township tour should be a rewarding experience. I understand that this brings badly needed funds to the residents of these communities, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. If you've done this, we'd all appreciate hearing about your experience.

The Western Cape in general is an affluent wine-growing region dappled with quaint tourist-friendly villages, wineries and shanty towns. Yes, shanty towns. There is still very much a racial divide here. It seems to me black people harvest what white people drink. 


Is Johannesburg safe? No. That's the simple answer. We'd planned to have a walk around the center of Joburg on the Sunday before we flew back to Germany. We didn't get out of the car.

The center of Joburg has been destroyed by the turbulent end of Apartheid. The businesses have deserted this area, leaving it to the masses of people who flooded in from the surrounding townships.  Prostitutes linger in the doorways. Garbage is everywhere. Laundry hangs out of windows on the 20th floor of a building that was once the headquarters for a bank.

Yet if you drive just a few minutes outside the center of Joburg, you'll find a fairly normal city. There are beautiful gardens, nice restaurants and shops, churches and sports facilities--everything you'd expect in a functioning society. Then if you drive a few more miles, you come to Sandton, where all the businesses escaped to. These places seemed relatively normal and safe to me. But then there are also security guards everywhere you look.

Camping in South Africa

I worried a lot about leaving our passports in the motorhome. Usually, we kept our valuables in our backpacks, but it's also not smart to keep all your valuables in one place. Maybe we were stupid, but we often parked our motorhome at the edge of a town and spent hours browsing through shops selling the same malachite bracelets. We always returned to a motorhome unmolested, but maybe we were just lucky. When we returned our motorhome on the last day, the employee who checked us in asked us if the motorhome's safe had worked properly. "Safe?" we said. "What safe?" Yeah, we were just lucky.

We stayed in more than ten caravan parks around South Africa and felt safe in all of them. Most of them had security guards walking or riding bikes around the sites all night. All of them had secure gates at the entrances--except our first campsite. We arrived very late at night because we had trouble finding the caravan park. We had to stop and ask for directions. I even had to speak to someone, which was an awful experience. Opening my mouth and asking for directions: just awful. When we finally arrived, there was no one at the gate and the gate was open. The next morning, there was no one at the gate and the gate was open. Suckers!

Have you traveled through South Africa in a motorhome? I'd love to hear about your own experiences, whether you felt it was safe.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin.  


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kaleidoscope -- Writers Abroad Anthology 2015

Did you know that 2015 is the year of LIGHT? Well, it is. And Writers Abroad, a group of talented expat writers, have just published their 2015 anthology on the theme of light. All of the stories and poems are written by writers who are living, or who have lived, in another country. As you know, I'm very interested in the expat experience. I'm an expat myself, and I interview expat authors here at I Must Be Off! so of course I've interviewed a couple of the Writers Abroad writers. Sadly, I was never able to get an interview from Jany Gräf or Mary Davies, two WA members that passed away in 2014. Kaleidoscope is dedicated to Jany and Mary.

Writers Abroad always donates their proceeds to a charitable organization. This year it's Room to Read, an organization that provides reading material and education to children around the world. When you buy a Writers Abroad book, you support early childhood literacy.

And because early childhood literacy is also very close to my heart, you can win Kaleidoscope simply by replying to this post with "I support early childhood literacy" and your email address. The first five people who respond will receive the Kaleidoscope: Writers Abroad 2015. Be patient with Blogger. It may take you a few minutes to leave a comment if you're new to Blogger. I've apologized a hundred times for this platform.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Publishing News

–Art by Milan Vopálenský & Esmahan Özkan

If you haven't already popped by these wonderful places, I hope you will. I'm grateful to have been included in these journals: 

Literary Orphans -- "The Ground Above My Feet"

For at least a few years now, I've been thinking about fathers, not necessarily my own father but maybe myself as father or non-father. This story is another brick in this enormous wall. I'm not really sure what I'm building yet, but I know I need to write about it. 

"Fossilized" by W. Jack Savage
Change Seven Magazine -- "One for Rainbow"

Here is another character who needs a father. I can't get away from it. This character has everything--the sticky love of a grandmother, education and a comfortable home--everything except a father. 

Please have a read. If you have time to share your love with someone today, I hope you'll share it with a literary journal. These people put in hours and hours to provide literature free to anyone online just as we do at SmokeLong Quarterly

I can't imagine a better world than a more literate world.  I support Dolly Parton's Imagination Library--a project to provide age-appropriate books to children around the world. Literacy matters, and it has to start early. I'll be donating as always this Christmas, and I hope you will too.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin.  


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The 2015 I Must Be Off! Travel Writing Competition -- The Winners!

I hope you've been keeping up with this year's competition. We had an incredible variety of entries from almost all corners of the planet. Over 300 people from 43 countries sent in stories. Many of them, even though they did not make it into the semifinalist and finalist rounds, were memorable and very well written. Narrowing such a wide pack down to 30 semifinalists was very difficult, and shaving that number down to 10 finalists was Herculean.

Much thanks goes to Catherine Sweeney, this year's judge*. She loved all of the top ten entries, so it was very difficult for her to choose "winners". Winners, though, must be chosen in a competition. So here they are:

First Place 
A Leaf on the Wind by Joel Hindson (UK)

Second Place
Burning My Boots in Cabo Fisterra by Gabriella Brand (USA)

Highly Commended
Discovering Hen Rice in Viet Nam by Chris Galvin (Canada)
Sweet Homes by David Joseph (USA)
Crossing the Gibb by Gillian Brown (Scotland/Australia)

Readers' Choice Award
Discovering Hen Rice by Chris Galvin (Canada) 

The entries with the highest number of comments and hits divided by the number of days online: Barbara Amalberti's "Vientiane: Then and Now" (453÷54, 13 comments), Stacey Venzel's "On a Terrace in Peru" (458÷37; 18 comments) Maricarmen Ferrant's "A Vision Called Tutotepec" (688÷49; 9 comments), David Joseph's "Sweet Homes" (650÷43; 10 comments), and Chris Galvin's "Discovering Hen Rice in Viet Nam" (1432÷46; 18 comments). Barbara Vientiane is from Italy, Stacey Venzel from the USA, Maricarmen Ferrant from Mexico, David Joseph from the USA, and Chris Galvin from Canada. 

Again, thank you to everyone who entered the 2015 I Must Be Off! Travel Essay competition. Congratulations to the finalists and the semifinalists. As this is a free competition, you haven't lost. You've written, and I hope you'll continue to write. I'll be here next year, and I hope you'll participate again. As always it will be free.

Until next year . . .

I must be off,

*All entries were read blind by the judge, which means all authors' names were removed from the entries.


Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Big Five

If you're planning a trip to a national park in Africa, have you saved room in your backpack for one of these?

If you haven't, you should--not because you'll look sexier but because you'll see sexier. I made do with my pitiful little Sony, so the quality of the photos below suffers in many ways. Many times I wasn't able to zoom in as much as I'd wanted to. Some photos are blurry, taken through the windshield of our vehicle. Disclaimers are boring, I know. I did do the best I could with the equipment I had. If you want to buy me that thing up there for Christmas, I won't stop you.

Before I set out on my South African adventure, I knew a little about South Africa. I knew of course who Nelson Mandela was, I knew that South Africa hosted a World Cup, that South African wine is pretty good, that Apartheid was over and that Africaans was the official language. I did not know anything about The Big Five. What a dunce.

The Big Five is all anyone ever talks about in South Africa. Forget Apartheid. There are shops called The Big Five (there are none called "Apartheid"). Every belt and bracelet in those shops has The Big Five on it. You can buy Big Five ashtrays and Big Five statues. Big Five dishtowels and Big Five chocolates. Big Five keychains and Big Five ties.

"Did you see The Big Five?" one of my students asked me this week when I got back to Munich.

"Oh goodness. You too? Was I the only one on earth who didn't know what The Big Five was?"

"Yes. So did you?"

"Do what?"

"See The Big Five?"

"Yes, I did--apparently."

"Ah," he said. "You had a really bad camera."


"Next time you go," he said, "you need to take one of THESE."

"I know!"

So what is The Big Five? And how did The Big Five come to be called The Big Five? Welcome to the motherload of knowledge, dear dear I Must Be Off! readers. You're about to learn so much.

Each of the animals making up The Big Five was chosen for its difficulty of hunting on foot. Not for its beauty or size but for how hard it is to kill.

The African Elephant --

Or in Africaans, the Olifant! I like olifant much better actually, so I'm just going to use it. The African bush olifant is the largest living terrestrial animal, males standing ten to thirteen feet at the shoulder and weighing 10,360–13,330 pounds; females are a bit more petite. Here is a picture of one I took at a watering hole. I'm particularly proud of how close I was able to get. I had to climb up in a very big tree to get this bird's-eye view:

The African Bush Elephant

The African bush olifant eats almost a thousand pounds of vegetation a day, yet only about 40 percent of this is entirely digested. Olifant poop is probably the most common sight in South African national parks. Easily reconizable, they are the bowling balls littering the roads.


The African Lion -- 

The African Lion
I just have to say upfront that I have not seen The Lion King; so when a helpful tourist pulled up to our vehicle and whispered "lion," pointing into the bush a million miles away, I wasn't exactly sure what I was searching for and of course not really sure why the guy was whispering. When I finally saw it, I was elated. My first sighting of a lion in the wild (well, it's a national park, but I assume there's no breakfast buffet or room service)!

As you can see on the right here, the African Lion has a bit of an attitude--King of the jungle and all. Sadly, this beautiful animal lives only around 14 years in the wild, 20 in captivity (where there is a breakfast buffet). There are apparently 12 subspecies and even a couple of hybrids with tigers. I'm thinking the fellow on the right here might be a hybrid with Donald Trump.

Lions are noctural or crepuscular hunters. They sleep a lot during the day, so I think we were lucky to get such a good picture of this one awake. He does appear a bit drowsy, though.


The Cape Buffalo --

The Cape Buffalo
The Cape buffalo is apparently--after the mosquito--the most dangerous animal in Africa, killing more hunters than any other animal. They gang up on hunters, so good on 'em. Maybe Walter Palmer will choose it as his next project. We can only hope.

Due to their extremely aggressive nature, they have never been domesticated. While the African buffalo is highly susceptible to disease, populations remain strong with around 900,000 animals worldwide. Here are a couple of them on the left.

I didn't know how dangerous the Cape buffalo was when I took this picture--hell, I didn't even know there was a Cape buffalo. Apparently, when I took this shot, I'd never been closer to death.

It bears mentioning here that you are not allowed to leave your vehicle in a national park. There are a few areas where you are allowed to leave your car, but of course there are also signs warning you that doing so might make you a lion's lunch. I rolled down my window to get a good shot of these beautiful Cape buffalo. It was exhilarating as most bone-headed things are. I'm lucky to be alive.


The African Leopard -- 

I'm going to quote straight from Wikipedia on this one because I didn't believe it myself until I read it here: "African leopards exhibit great variation in coat color, depending on location and habitat. Coat color varies from pale yellow to deep gold or tawny, and sometimes black [emphasis added], and is patterned with black rosettes while the head, lower limbs and belly are spotted with solid black." Sometimes black! It's quite possible that I've taken a photo of a very rare leopard. I couldn't see its belly to see if the requisite spots--or limbs--were there, but this one is definitely black. And look at those beautiful rosettes!

The African Leopard

Leopards are quite difficult to spot--pun intended. They're usually lounging around on trees, but this one was just lying there in the middle of the path in the Knysna National forest, which allowed me the rare opportunity of walking through a rainforest on my own with no guide--risking my life once more to bring you up-close images of The Big Five.

This brings us to the last of the The Big Five. It's actually two species.


The White/Black Rhinoceros --

I have to apologize for the quality of this photo. This prime specimen darted across the road before I could zoom in on it. I can't tell whether it's a white or a black rhino (maybe a gray one?), so I'm just going to let it be both. The collective noun for a group of rhinoceroses is a crash, which is my favorite bit of useless information today. You will seldom see a crash of rhinos since male rhinos--like many animals in The Big Five--are solitary creatures. A crash, mostly females, may consist of up to 14 animals.

The White/Black Rhinoceros

Interestingly, there's a theory that the "white" rhino was not named for its coloring but that "white" is actually a mistranslation of "wyd" from Africaans, which means "wide" referring to the rhino's mouth. This made a lot of sense to me because the German is Breitmaulnashorn (wide-mouthed rhino), and this was confirmed to me by a South African woman at one of our campsites. Wikipedia, though, says this is a bunch of bull. 

Have you seen The Big Five while visiting a national park in Africa? I'd love to compare pictures!

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's writing has appeared in Indiana Review, Night Train, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, Contrary, [PANK] blog, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Bootsnall Travel, Chicken Soup for the Soul and over 100 other good places. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011 and the winner of the Ginosko Literary Journal's Flash Fiction Award in 2015, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.



Monday, August 31, 2015

An Island in the Baltic Sea by Pamela Hensley

My cousin Martin lives a clay-tiled house on an island in the Baltic Sea. Set back from the road, or what they call a road, a single lane of concrete slabs placed one after the other an axle-width apart, the house is one of four or five on a stretch of land above the shore. It’s summer and the wildflowers are in bloom, the colours like a Monet painting: poppy red, cornflower blue, camomile white, and the faded green of long, dry grasses. Martin sent me a text four hours ago, inviting my daughter and me to dinner. On bicycles, we rode from our rented cottage down the sandy path that winds through the wheat fields and joins with the lane that leads to his house.

Other guests arrive carrying bowls of lettuce leaves from their gardens, cardboard boxes of cucumbers, or freshly shelled peas. They greet us and kiss our sunburnt cheeks before leading us into the crowded kitchen where we lean against counters stacked with bone-coloured crockery, painted vases, open books, loose sheet music, cutlery, bread rolls, sliced watermelon, and cartons of dairy products. We talk and laugh as if we do this every weekend, but I have never been here before and I do not know my cousin. I look at his face in the grainy light to see what features I might recognize: a strong jaw line, a crooked smile, slate blue eyes behind dark-framed glasses. He is of my father’s stock, an ocean away, a generation removed.

My father and Martin’s mother grew up in northern Germany at the height of the second world war. Before my father turned fourteen, his parents were dead, his siblings scattered, his country devastated. He escaped to Hamburg, paid for passage on a boat, and sailed to Montreal. Martin’s mother, with whom my uncle Ernst was sent to live, soon married Martin’s father. They moved to Rügen, this farming island, so his father could take his first government post. Shortly afterwards, the Berlin wall went up and Martin came into this world.

After the men decide it’s time to grill the meat, Karen, Martin’s wife, calls me over to the window. I cannot help but like this woman. She’s a lightly-freckled, ginger-haired Saxon with a quick smile and a voice that sounds like home.

“Would you look at them,” she says, pointing to our children jumping together on a trampoline. They’re gangly kids at an awkward age, too tall for their motor skills. They’re bouncing wildly and acting silly, pretending not to be afraid. Karen speaks in a dialect I don’t always understand, but her face tells me everything plainly. We watch a moment longer before she goes back to the counter to arrange pastry on a baking sheet.

“What can I do?” I ask and am handed an electric mixer with brief instructions to mix mascarpone with quark and whipping cream. The other women decide to pick sour cherries in the yard so only two of us are left in the kitchen.

“Your hair is still wet,” I say to Karen, who smiles apologetically.

“We just got back. It was a quick swim.”

“We would have gone too,” I nod, “but we didn’t have our suits.”

“Oh, neither did we.”

I laugh and try to imagine myself swimming naked in public in front of friends and neighbours. Would I do it too, if I lived over here? I doubt I would be the exception. I turn on the mixer recalling last Sunday when I was introduced to Martin at his parents’ house, at the table where he ate his childhood meals. He seemed astonished to meet someone new, a woman from Canada whose father knew his mother when she was young. After coffee, he drove us in his black Mercedes to a thirteenth century church to view an art exhibit.

Dinner is served outside on a table covered with a blue damask cloth. While we feast, the light around us dims. The sky pales then turns purple then midnight blue. Beyond the yard is an expansive meadow, an hypnotic space of wild beauty over which the cormorants fly. After we finish, Karen gets up to light a cigarette while her son Max disappears. I pay no attention until minutes later I hear a startling sound, a single note of music, coming from above. It’s Max on the deck, a metal stand in front of him, a gleaming clarinet in his hand. He begins to play, and I think of conversations I overheard as a child about my father’s family. They couldn’t leave, they couldn’t talk freely, they couldn’t buy a car. In 1981, for the first time, my brother visited our uncle Ernst at his apartment in East Berlin. I saw a photograph of two of my cousins, little girls then, climbing on the shoulders of my 20-year-old brother, tall and tanned and muscular. They look happy, I thought and was surprised. As the air fills up with Max’s music, I sink in my chair and let the notes settle over me like a warm blanket.

We move inside when it gets too dark to see and settle on leather couches. While my daughter stretches out and falls asleep, Ernst passes around a box of chocolates. There are two generations next to me who lived through the fall of communism.

“How much has it changed?” I ask when everyone seems relaxed.

Martin’s father looks at me but doesn’t answer. “Not much,” he then says while Karen says “A lot”. We all laugh awkwardly.

“There used to be nothing in the shops,” Karen explains. “You would go to buy eggs and there weren’t any.”

“But we didn’t live much differently,” Martin’s father says. Indeed, they still live in the house where Martin was born, have the same garden, the same friends, the same interests. 

“But you have a business now,” I say. In 1991, Martin’s father left his government job to sell machinery to farmers on the island. Now he and Martin are co-CEOs of a company that supplies steel and other building materials, designs, and installations to companies all over the country.

“Yes. He works very long hours now,” Martin’s mother says. A guilty smile spreads across Martin’s father’s face as he tilts his head to look at his wife.

We talk some more and Karen asks: “What is your house like? Is it very big?”

It’s a little bigger than the house we’re sitting in, but not ‘very big’ by North American standards. “Big enough,” is what I tell her.

Martin smiles at me. “That’s a good answer,” he says.

We leave around midnight when Martin’s mother offers us a ride home. The whole way we don’t see another car and the darkness induces old dreams: if my father had never left Germany, who would I be now? Would I be living on Rügen, near Martin and Karen, among the wheat and the wildflowers? It’s been too quick, the way I’ve become accustomed to life on this pretty, strange island. I close my eyes and hear a clarinet’s note, clear and crisp in the cool night air. 

Pamela Hensley is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and the Humber School for Writers. Recently, her fiction appeared in The Dalhousie Review and she received an Honourable Mention in the Hamilton Short Works Prize. She lives in Ancaster, Ontario where she splits her time between writing and managing a consulting company.