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Vol.3. No. 2. January 2010





Andrew Campbell-Kearsey
Claire Godden-Rowland
Dike Okoro
Dominic James
Emmanuel Sigauke
Mandy Pannett
Noel Williams
N Quentin Woolf
Olu Oguibe
Paul Jeffcutt
Sharma Taylor
Susanna Roxman
W Jack Savage




N Quentin Woolf


 Ė Big man! he hollers, while I fold myself through the doorframe like some giant stick-man. Itís a feat. Youíd expect clicks and cracks as my bones snap back into shape. Big man, how are you. He doesnít wait for the reply because he doesnít want the reply. I fall for it anyway.

 Ė Well, thank you, I begin, couldĖ

 Ė You are big guy, he says. How tall you are. Two metre twenty? Two metre thirty?

The waitresses ignore us. Look at this, he tells them. This guy is a-big! Two metre thirty!

 Ė No, not as tall as all that, I lie. Itís certainly raining hard this morning, isnít it? I wonder if itíll clear up anytime soon.

 Ė You play basketball, he says.

I donít play basketball. I donít play anything, for that matter: I am a chain smoker (worse, since mother came to stay). I am forty-four and all my joints ache because our couch is too small for a man my size. This little Turk cook does not imagine I play basketball. A feedline, comedians call it.

 Ė You play basketball, heís chortling, the way the Jackass goons do while snapping their balls in mousetraps. It easy for you! You can just put ball like this! The mime he performs is an extended, hybrid version of Iím A Little Teapot.

At an estimate, Iíd say this is the thirtieth time Iíve heard him crack this joke.

A small queue of irritable pre-commuters has established itself behind me, clicking its collective tongue at his dumbass badinage. I order coffee. This is my privilege, surely, my right as a patron: to focus on the transaction; however I do not place my order for this reason, but because I feel Iíve now undergone sufficient height-based ribaldry to have earned my coffee from him. There are no other coffee-houses on my route to work. The Turk, who barely comes up to my midriff, has me by the balls.

 Ė I make you extra large, he tells me. Because you are big man. Extra large for extra large.

The others in the queue sniff and tap to show their impatience. Perhaps they think I enjoy this special treatment. Perhaps they think my ego gets off when Iím called big. Pulling up the lapels of my raincoat, I sneak a glance at them: they are various to the eye; they are Londoners. I visualise the aftermath were he to offer a skinny drink to the secretary with the hunch and the obvious eating disorder; if he were to say to the black office worker: hey, I put no milk for you: black for black.

 Ė Here you are, Big Man, he says, giving me the drink, laughing all the while, and I realise the appellation has crossed into the realm of the proper noun. I am Big Man. Should I copyright myself and contact Marvel? He takes my money without pretending to any courtesy. I have been dismissed.


Out on the mean streets, caressed by the drizzle, Big Man, in his guise as a middle-aged facilities manager with a bad back, sets his hat against the breeze and heads underground.


The London Tube was engineered by pixies: itís the only explanation. I cram into a corner seat but get told to get out of the way. My legs, they mean. I want to tell them I canít get any further out of the way without actual amputation, but of course I donít, because people get very scared if a big man seems annoyed. If Big Man doesnít stay sunny, come what may, heíll be perceived as a thug. So I stand and try to make my neck fit to the curvature of the roof, and focus on reading my graphic novel, praying that the train wonít make any sudden jerks and kill me outright. People look at me and tut, as though I am being tall just to be difficult.


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N Quentin Woolf is a London-based writer, arts broadcaster and creative writing coach. He chairs several successful critique groups, a book group for young professionals and teaches creative writing to new writers, as well as running a calendar of literary events. His recent writing acceptances/credits include several short pieces for the stage, local interest pieces for several regional publications, short stories for a number of literary magazines and literary criticism for an arts-based magazine.



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