HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for the Toys & Games Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website. Below are just a few of the pieces we loved. Keep an eye on our website for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release date of Toys & Games…



Ricky Hawthorne


She hears the click and
Wanders into the kitchen and
Kneeling on a chair
Buoyed by a cushion
He plays
               Snapping together
               The pieces scattered
               Across the table
                                   Lost in his world
Constructing dreams
Streaming imagination into
Fortifications, express trains, an
              And she wonders where this
Comes from, standing
In the doorway both
Temporal and Eternal
                                        He hears a thump and looks
Sympathetically toward her
‘You dropped your brick, Mummy’


Ricky Hawthorne: short-listed for Bridport Poetry Prize 2015. Graduate of Warwick University in Theatre, Literature and Film. He has written 3 film screenplays and three teleplays, the latter adapted from his own short stories. Website: http://johnmaudlin.wixsite.com/writing


A Salesman’s Mentality

Joshua Lindenbaum


I now have four pages of submissions on Submittable,
which means I will have almost four pages of rejections on Submittable.
After some time, the poetry is no longer submittable:
the sender is,
nouning the adjective:
I am submittable,
letting go of every piece
as I press Submit.
It’s a #’s Game.
119 RECEIVED submissions
We read about Stephen King’s railroad spike: it keeps us going.
We read lists of successful authors who were rejected over and over again: it keeps us going.
We think about the competitive job market and the debt: it keeps us going.
We think about our legacies: it keeps us going.
We think about the power the word can have: it keeps us going.
After a while we’re just going.
I just wish
I could be submittable to dating.
Press submit.


Joshua Lindenbaum is a quixotic and neurotic (lots of tics!) poet whose work has appeared in Carousel, Blue Lake Review, 3Elements Review, Oddville Press, and The Write Room. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at Binghamton University, and will become a full-time professor despite a dismal job market. The pen has been his companion for quite some time, but it’s still waiting for him “to put a ring on it.”


Playing Office Politics

Karen Lethlean


When you visit us you’ll be told, “Sit anywhere. No, wait…not there!”
   We wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself on that chair.
   Our office furniture might look similar but there is one piece…well, you will find out…has something different; a life of its own.
   I can clearly remember the day said chair arrived.
   “Sign here,” says a truck driver only slightly smaller than a front row forward for the All-Blacks Rugby Union team; he’s a lock or prop for sure, definitely not a hooker.
   “But we didn’t order a single chair?”
   “Never mind, it’s got this address, this company, paid for, it’s yours, mate.”
   The electronic form was thrust at my chest with such force that I was too scared to refuse. May as well try to argue with a school bus or front end loader, or full set of double doored fridges. And then what if he called in the rest of his team?
   Office hockey was the first event that brought recognition of that chair’s idiosyncrasies.
   “Get it – that one’s yours, Gorgy….come on,” we yelled, as he stretched and directed the cylinder taped to a drink bottle towards our paper-sticky-tape-ball, just a fraction too far. Well, it didn’t seem too far to me, but suddenly Gorgy was flat out spreadeagled on the floor. Drawing a chorus of: “…Ex-cell-ee-ant face plant!”
   “Score! 4.5, 4.7.”
   His nose was streaming blood so much that the game had to be abandoned for injury time.  
   “I had that,” stuttered Gorgy. “I swear…the chair – it bucked me off.”
When it came to moving about, that chair wasn’t playing by the rules. More than once the Chair seemed without steering control. As if any preceding directional obedience had been a strategy to lull us into a false sense of security.
   “Frank, good to see you; sit here.” A common greeting for our IT dude.    
   We’d all stifle giggles while the office girl, ‘Shads’, frowned and rushed off in an effort to avoid asphyxiation from the cigarette fumes that sense-surround Frank’s clothes. Or she might have reeled away from Frank’s equally rancid deodorant-virgin’s B.O. When she was safely away from his array of aromas, Frank was free to mess about with her desk-top computer.
   Sure enough, as Frank reached across ‘Shad’s’ desk for a pen, the Chair goes into crumble mode.
   “You right?” I tried to sound concerned as rescue attempts were made. Those in closest vicinity tried to remember to breathe through their mouths to keep potential fumigations to a minimum.
   “Jeez, sorry, Frank – there must be a loose wheel on that seat. That should not have happened.” This, uttered while I hoped my face reflected appropriate compassion. The whole time pushing my cheeks together as I too resisted an urge to giggle. Most of the floor staff would have agreed the smelly-one’s crashing dismount was fair payback for his attack on our nasal sensors.
   Another incident involved the auditor’s assistant, Big Al, weighing in at about 140 kg, who seemed to have a preference for multi-servings of chocolate biscuits, scones or whatever morning tea was on offer. Food was like a magnet to Al; lay out a spread and guess who showed up, requesting paperwork that had long since been archived? What was he doing while you searched to find that requested invoice or contract? Shovel, shovel… enough said. Much as we might try to keep any nosh secret, you only had to turn around and there Al would be, salivating. Spillage and crumbles followed him across desks or over just-cleaned carpets. Not to mention those greasy fingerprints on whatever paperwork he’d examined.
   That time Al took a tumble, we were able to blame the half sandwich that had found its way under the Chair’s wheel.
“I swear this is boring. No phone calls, no orders, nothing,” said some underperforming lackey.
   To which the accountant replied, “That’s because no-one wants to get any products just before tax is due. I for one would rather count customers than stock.”
   “I got an idea.”
   Forklifts were moved to one corner, chairs lined up and teams allocated for The Great Office Relay. Gorgy was allocated starter, because he was the only one with a clean handkerchief in his pocket. He made a fine figure, standing on a milk-crate while everyone jostled for the best starting positions.   
   “Come on. Ready…set…GO!”
   Suddenly that one Chair pranced sideways, almost bringing four others crashing down, as if allergic to this newly assigned task.
   “Oh that’s crap, who put the Chair of Death in here?”
   I believe this was the first time such a title had been allocated to that bastard.
   You’d think one of the firm’s handyman types could fix the culprit-seat; but no. The fault was not something about the wheels, not something about the variable back angle or seat height. Still, at least these elements were tried, in the quest for a solution which gave office-equipment-tinkers an interest. And kept them from fooling with the forklifts. Again. Last time that happened, Pete nearly impaled the postie.
   What about that time when Col took the Chair into the fancy, freshly-renovated reception area? The new girl on the phone had no idea. Still, nothing cropped up for a few days. In spite of our constant supervision. After all, we had bets laid on what might…and when. So we kept sticking our heads around reception, on the feeblest of excuses like,
   “I need a new dot file.”
   “Where are those office tarts we ordered for morning tea?”
   “You know how to set up an empty stock file?”
   “Just need to get a left-handed flexible ruler….or long weight (wait)…”
   All those same old sundry pranks got played out. None of which gained the merest acknowledgement from the executor Chair.   
   That new chick didn’t even notice our speculation, nor our multiple attempts at being on the spot to witness the anticipated catastrophe.
   Nothing eventuated until, late one Tuesday, everyone cringed when a blood-curdling scream rocked our world. Shit – we all missed it. Turns out she’d worn some very expensive, fancy patterned stockings and, quick as a flash, the Chair managed to snag her; producing a growing hole, which expanded into an abyss bigger than the auditor’s waist measurements. And a nasty graze that now grew on her leg flesh. Poor love even broke one of her artistic ceramic fingernails.
   For a while, the Chair seemed to have a thing about that director’s-style seat we put in to fuel the delusion of grandeur of Kim, the new marketing manager. His power-seat, as we called it, cost more than the $350 standard office chair price-tag. The Chair of Death was inexplicably drawn to the power-seat’s real leather, four way castor wheels and titanium frame; or something chair-sexy, like the way supporters flock to their team’s success, wear gear and insignias when they’re ascending the points ladder, and buy tickets to a grand final only half-way through the season. On more than one morning we found those two chairs both arse up or shoved together, under a desk, with all the bottom bits on show. It’s like the Chair had a vendetta or contract out, with the target being Kim’s power-seat. Maybe these couplings were chair sex? After all, Kim’s beast must have been the furniture equivalent of a Jennifer Hawkins-esque cheerleader.
   At first we thought these weird chair couplings were down to the cleaners, but why would they?
   Let’s call these pairings the office furniture equivalents of crop circles. They were the real beginnings of a new era in office chair migration. Due to these movements, a random sitter would inherit the Chair of Death. We all had to pay close attention because, sure as eggs, one day when you’re tired and plonk yourself down, or are seedy from last night’s drinks, yours will be the Chair. Cue the Jaws music – Du du…du..du…a seat-demon of the deep was lurking! Ready to slip from under you, or spin suddenly sideways or catch something out of your desk drawers and spill the entire contents on the floor, like a madman’s stock-take.
   We all wondered why it was so difficult to identify the Chair. Frequently, someone floated the idea of putting some sort of distinguishing mark on it, like a stain on a random mutant gene; but then we’d get distracted and this worthwhile preventative medicine didn’t happen. The Chair often found a way to blend, anonymous again, like it was wearing team garb. Then, sure enough, an inevitable accident shone high-beam accusatory lights back on the Chair of Death.
   Occasionally the Chair played thank God its fa-fa-fa-Friday pranks. A few beers turned things just a little feral. The less said about that the better. The rule here is – what happens Friday nights, stays behind on Fridays.
   Christmas was party time! The last day meant limited work and mucho drinkie-poos. Alcohol hatched all sorts of regrettable schemes. Once enough of us had a skinful on board, we reached consensus easily, which was how the real game was born. You see, at the time, it seemed a better idea than the usual photocopy machine terrorism. Do you remember when Frank sat on the screen? Took the best part of a week’s cleaning to remove that oily film.
   The Game was another of John’s ideas; a sort of chair high-diving competition. We lined up – a few spins to disorientate, only stopping the gyration when the rider screamed, “Let go!” This start was added to with a further push to really build up speed down the hall, fast enough to skim over the carpet. Eventually chair and rider would be tumbled onto the grassed lunch area. Chairs were selected, someone had The Chair of Death, but no-one cared. That only added a Russian roulette risk factor. Besides, you never knew The Chair’s location.
   Winners from this event were judged by fastest time, most spectacular finish and, of course, everything had to be vomit-free. Points were lost for excessive screaming, flying spittle or wall contact. Riding the chairs worked well a couple of times, until Daz spun out the other way. Everyone held their breath as he careered towards the stairs. She’ll be right we thought; after all, it was only five steps. He was laughing. Just a bit of fun. Maybe everything would be fine.
   “Go for it!”
   “Good one, Daz!”
   A shocked silence settled, as we were open-mouthed witnesses waiting for an inevitable train wreck; the driver mistakes accelerator for brake; the car rally vehicle is airborne over a dusty rise – you know the sort of thing. Daz just vanished. Heck of a way to finish up before retirement. Had to give him the Christmas trophy that year, even without the chance to catch a slowmo replay (no one thought to pull out their phones). Sent the poor bugger a huge care basket when he got out of hospital. All of us still wonder if his hip will ever be the same?
   O.H. & S. really got their knickers in a knot about that one.

Karen Lethlean is a retired English teacher who just finished 15 years teaching students in their last two years of secondary education. Her fiction has appeared in the Barbaric Yawp and Ken*Again. Black, Red and Yellow was runner up in Wild Word’s 2015 winter solstice writing competition. A flash fiction piece Cenotaph was also runner up for the Ink Tears, UK. Bum Joke was also commended for The Best of Times Humorous writing #22 competition. In her other life Karen is a triathlete and has done the Hawaii Ironman championships twice.