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My doctor said to swim
when my meds wore off
so I rented a locker,
pulled a smooth suit
over my lumpy body
and accidentally tiptoed
smack-bang into Senior
Aqua Fit and before
I could escape saying
sorry my mistake, they
beckoned me in and
for an hour we failed
to keep time with the land-
locked instructor urging
us to move our legs
and arms in right-left ways
through treacly water but
my God were we trying
like wooden cuckoos inside
glued-shut cuckoo clocks,
thwacking our little heads
against little doors like I will
chirp my solo, I will strike
the hour, I will snatch
a second in the light.


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I was loading the dishwasher when the clinic rang.
‘I don’t know how to say this,’ she said,

which seemed a strange opening
sentence for a medical professional,
‘…but did you use a sperm donor three years ago? Vial 2360?’

‘Yes,’ I said. I didn’t particularly like thinking
about the donor. It wasn’t something I thought about.

‘Well – and we’ve had several meetings
about the protocol around this – it’s unprecedented, you see…’
She sounded like she was vaping.

‘Obviously we vet all our donors, there’s a long form,
we meet them in person but, of course, we can’t know
what they will go on to do… in the future.’

‘What do you mean?’ I said.

‘He’s… The Radiator Killer.’

I put the rinse-aid down.

‘You know,’ she went on, ‘That man
who chained those girls to boiling hot radiators
then cut out their tongues and led them around on leashes
like dogs? The police called us, apparently, he donated sperm
to multiple clinics over a period of thirty years.’

I grabbed my laptop, searching ‘sperm’ in my emails.

‘Did you say vial 2360?’

‘It’s a shock,’ she said.

‘We used 2361.’

Her voice was replaced by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
I pressed start on the dishwasher.

‘Okay, thanks for waiting.
2361 is a completely different donor,
please disregard everything I’ve told you, have a nice day.’

‘Wait… did 2361 do anything bad?’

‘I’m sorry but I’m not able to divulge private information.
I’m sure he’s lovely. Excuse me,
I need to make another call.’


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Pete was in a bar called Ping
attempting to beat his girlfriend
at table-tennis
when our dad rang
to deliver his historic announcement.
His voice was strange
like he had a cigar in his mouth.
‘I’m abdicating.’
‘Advocating for what?’
Pete said, fitting his Bluetooth earpiece
before twirling his paddle
to smash a tiny ball.
‘I, Terry the First, do hereby
declare my irrevocable determination
to renounce the throne.’ It went on.
Something about ‘a dying era’
and ‘public opinion’ but
his burger had arrived so Pete said
‘Sure, whatever’ and the line
went dead. The next day
he received three boxes via UPS
full of family albums
and school trophies
then Dad sold his house
and moved into a campervan
in the Hebrides with a retired
mathematician called Ralph
to live off-grid
which was fine by me
but awful for Peter
who hadn’t read the small-print
disallowing descendants
all rights of succession
so now he’ll never be King
or wield the sceptre
like Dad did
in his fearsome puffer jacket.

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