Five Poems by Jake Cosmos Aller

Morning Light

the terrors of the night
the worst imaginings
of what might happen

war, rumours of war
end of civilization
nuclear war
and other horrors
ripped from the headlines

fade away into nothingness
with the morning light
and the love of my wife
who is always by my side
I regain my sight

and begin
regaining my smile
and my life

until the next nightmares
consumes my dark imaginings

Dora the Intergalactic Explorer

Dora the intergalactic explorer
Is travelling to the strangest planet
of all the known worlds

she is traveling incognito
with a video crew
making a documentary

the planet earth
is known as a planet
of intelligent monkeys

not much is known
about them
as very few
have ever been there

the inhabitants are described
as blood thirsty insane creatures
ruled by hidden sexual and political passions
following incomprehensible
religious dogmas following Gods
that clearly do not exist

the inhabitants are just on the verge
of developing intergalactic travel
and the galactic empire
is worried that they will be driven
to try to conquer the rest of the universe

driven by their needs to impose
their religious dogma
everywhere in the world

the planet is divided into large tribal groups
governed by corrupt elites
corrupt businesses destroying the planet
in pursuit of profit

and the locals are little more
than wage slaves
barely making a living
addicted to alcohol, drugs gambling
pornography and illicit sex

and their main land
is ruled by a clearly delusional madman
intent on poking a fight
with all his alleged enemies

Dora assumed the appearance
of a character from TV
and will pose as a journalist
trying to make sense
of it all

but she was afraid
that she if found out
could face the worst consequence

her ship crash lands
and she is outside
the capital

of the non empire empire
called the United State of America

Dora gets her crew together
and walks into the city
staring at all the strange sights
as the monkeys go about
their daily activities

she stops at a restaurant
tries the coffee
the chief drug of choice

and is instantly addicted
wow no wonder
these people are crazed

she tries the local booze
and smiles
perhaps she could
become an intergalactic merchant
introducing the world
to the galaxy

her thought are interrupted
as a mad man armed
with weapons of war
bursts in and starts shooting
yelling at people

and she is shot dead
the authorities
are shocked

when they recover the body
and realize
that she is not a human
as she reverts other original

sort of a giant feline like creature
two legs and arms
and clearly from an advanced
civilization given her gear

what was she doing
no one knew
as all the aliens
died in the gun blaze

the world is shocked
at what had happened
and fearful that the aliens
were coming to invade
their world

the galactic senate
decides to contain
the humans
declaring them
a threat to the global civilization

and the humans vow
to discover the secrets
of interstellar travel
and travel to her land

to enter into business arrangements
and spread the one truth faith
to the heathen space aliens

thus ended Dora’s excellent adventure
in the crazed world at the edge
of known civilization

Mocking Faces Staring at Me

Mocking faces
hunting my dreams
Hundreds of faces
morphing into one
after another

Faces I knew
The dead
and the living

women I knew
friends I missed
enemies I did not

One after another
Marching in my room
Staring at me

I tried to run
They laughed

They said
that there’s nowhere
to escape my cosmic fate

My time is coming
prepare yourself
the grim reaper
has your name

and once he has your name
your fate is sealed
and you will soon
join us

whether in heaven
or hell
is not for us to say

be warned though
you will be judged
and no one can escape
their cosmic karmic fate

a wild man sits in a gilded cage

a wild man sits in a gilded cage
a cage made out of chains of his wife’s love

a cage made out of chains of his wife’s love
the wild man yearning to be free from his cage

the wild man yearning to be free from his cage
wondering how and why he was now tamed

wondering how and why he was now tamed
dreaming dark wild dreams of demented freedom

dreaming dark wild dreams of demented freedom
the wild man looks about his prison cage

the wild man looks about his prison cage
wondering whether he will ever be free

wondering whether he will ever be free
a wild man sits in a gilded cage

2019 The Last Year of America’s Greatness

2019 was the last year of America
when the proverbial chickens came home

when the proverbial chickens came home
to strut about the decaying landscape

to strut about the decaying landscape
as the world begins to burn and die

as the world begins to burn and die
led by the mad great leader and his merry men

led by the mad great leader and his merry men
the whole world lay in shock and awe

the whole world lay in shock and awe
at the destruction of the America they knew

at the destruction of the America they knew
when the proverbial chickens came home

John (“Jake”) Cosmos Aller is a novelist, poet, and former Foreign Service officer having served 27 years with the U.S. State Department serving in over ten countries including Korea, Thailand, India, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Spain. He has travelled to over 50 countries, and 49 out of 50 states. He speaks Korean, Thai, Spanish and studied Chinese, Hindi and Arabic.

Poetry Drawer: Exuberance: Black Dice: Charlotte Mew, a Nemophilist: Sacred by Dr. Susie Gharib


What sort of plumage is my exuberant words,
words whose foliage no Autumns could scourge,
whose leaves still flutter in speech and verse
with eloquence?

With what sort of rhythm the word bells resonates,
a word that chimes with vespers and faith,
with Edgar Allan Poe’s metallic tales,
with Sir Betjeman’s Archibald and Hampstead plains,
with St. Mungo’s grace!

What sort of thrills are embedded in wings,
an ode to agility in fowls and fins,
a vision of freedom in inward things
and flights within!

What clusters of stars reside in smiles,
a word whose luster with galaxies vies,
a beam to de-shroud the downcast brows,
to rob them of frowns!

Black Dice

He drove me to work slowly in his own senile style,
a couple of black dice instantly caught my eye,
dangling from the rearview mirror, a taxi-driver’s charm,
with threes engraved in gleaming white
and numbers one and four on half-hidden sides.

I am used to seeing beads, fresheners, and ornaments
that some believe can distract the evil eye
but dice was a novelty that enflamed my mind.

What if these numbers are an encrypted message from the sky!
What if nothing is random in our complicated lives!
I pondered over their significance like a bewildered child,
then added the numbers up to figure some meaning out.
Eleven, the outcome, is double one,
the number I adored as a child,
but the appearance of its twin at that stage in my life
multiplied interpretations of what it could signify:
the twin pillars of Solomon’s Temple,
or a roofless gate to the other world!
Perhaps parallel lives,
but if so, what parallels mine!

Charlotte Mew, a Nemophilist

Who but Mew heard the grasses bashfully mate,
the cry of an angel admonishing the butchery of trees,
the agony of London’s ubiquitous planes
in every massacre enjoined by the modern age,
a sacrilege.

She evoked the spirits that dwelt in wood,
the oak-housed elves,
the consecrated yews,
the venerable beeches,
the beloved sycamores,
a sentient, sacred world.

She dreaded the three-headed monster that inhabited Europe,
machinery, democracy, and science with their torture tools,
the axe, the rope, the amputating saw,
that manufacture unhallowed roods.


The Essenes once settled on the Mount of Sion,
the sacred site the Templars were bound to woo,
over which many races their disputes would brew,
now a blood-stained metaphor for modern wars.

Edessa, the Syrian gem in the north,
upon whose throne a Nazarene monarch had ruled,
a Fisher King in the most purple of robes,
had lost its hallowed crown of thorns.

The Nile whose ripples had Moses borne,
in whose mirror Nefertiti and Cleopatra viewed
the resurrection of Osiris from a sunken tomb,
is now a battleground for water feuds.

And Notre Dame de-Paris, the grail of stone,
who frowned upon Jacques de Molay’s doom,
the immolation of a knight whose Order had bloomed,
now stands disfigured and badly scorched.

Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in multiple venues including Adelaide Literary Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, A New Ulster, Crossways, The Curlew, The Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ink Pantry, Mad Swirl, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, and Down in the Dirt.

Inky Interview Exclusive: Bestselling Novelist Linda Green with Kev Milsom

Hello Linda. Firstly, thank you so much for finding time for this interview with Ink Pantry. It’s always a joy for us to learn from established authors. I’d like to start by taking you back in time. What were your first literary inspirations/heroes? How active were you as a writer at school and during your adolescent years?

I was pony-mad at primary school so my favourite books were Jill’s Gymkhana and Black Beauty but I do remember reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and being utterly engrossed by Narnia and the world C.S. Lewis had created. I wrote my first novella aged 9 but I think I was a bit ahead of my time with a pony-based time-travel thriller! I had some wonderful teachers who encouraged my writing. When I left primary school, one of them wrote that she looked forward to reading my first published book and she wrote to congratulate me twenty five years later when it happened!

Recently, I was honoured to read your excellent novel, The Last Thing She Told Me. Can you share some insights into the initial inspiration for this book and some of the research that you undertook to give you further insights into the characters?

The idea actually came from something my 92-year-old grandmother said just before she died. She told us to look somewhere after her death, and when we did so, we found something which suggested she had suffered a secret loss and had tried to mark it. We will never know what her secret was, but it got me thinking about women of her generation and the secrets many of them took to their grave because of the shame they had been made to feel. When I researched the subject, I came across many heartbreaking cases of secrets and losses which had come to light only after elderly female relatives had died. I knew I wanted to write about several generations of women in the same family and I also realised that women of different generations had also been shamed, though often for different things. All of this came together in the plot of The Last Thing She Told Me.

Many of our readers are aspiring writers, poets and novelists. What advice would you give to anyone who seeks a similar career path in writing, or indeed to anyone who simply aims to write because they enjoy the process?

The key thing is to learn your craft and continue to hone it. I’ve just finished my tenth novel and I like to think I’m a much better writer now than I was when I started, and I like to think I’ll be a better writer still after my 20th novel! There’s lots of advice on the writing process and how to get a novel published on my website under the ‘about getting published’ tab. Improving your writing needn’t be expensive, there are lots of good books on how to write available from the library. If you want to get a book deal, be prepared for rejection and persevere – I had 102 rejections from agents before I was taken on. And if being published isn’t important to you, then please just enjoy your writing!

Linda, in terms of your organisation, are there set aspects for your literary work? Do you always write in the same location? Do you use music as a background tool, or silence? When you are developing a new book, do the characters tend to come first, or the general plot line to the story?

Ideas for my stories often come from real life events and issues I feel passionate about. It’s about finding a premise that keeps me awake at night and will hopefully keep readers awake too! I’m very much a plotter and a planner, so do lengthy characterisations and write chapter plans and do all my research before I’m ready to start writing. When I do so, I mainly write at home (in a spare back bedroom which is now my writing room) and generally in silence. But I also write in libraries, cafes and on trains, anywhere where I can find the time.

Whilst on the topic of inspiration, has this always been a strong aspect of your writing, since childhood? I’m sure many people will be interested in how much you perhaps found ways to ‘push’ yourself – to have ultimate faith/confidence in what you were writing and to believe wholeheartedly in your literary journey. How difficult was it for you to maintain this journey, despite possible rejection(s) from publishing companies?

I’ve always had a very active imagination and used to write lengthy and rather crazy stories as a child. I’d wanted to be an author since I was nine, but had a ten year career in regional newspaper journalism before I went freelance to try to write my own novel. It took seven years and 102 rejections before I finally got a book deal. It was hugely difficult to keep going at times but I did so because I wasn’t prepared to give up on my lifetime’s ambition and I did believe I had the ability to achieve it. But you must always be looking to improve your writing too, which can be a difficult balancing act!

In terms of contemporary writers, who are you drawn to and why? Do you tend to stick to strict reading genres, or are you more interested in the writing style of the author?

I read quite widely and in different genres, as long as a book has heart and soul, and well-written characters, I’m there. Margaret Atwood is my favourite author and I loved The Testaments. I’m also a big fan of Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) and am looking forward to her new novel. I’ve also enjoyed Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession and Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls recently. They all write stories where the characters are intensely real and their novels are so well-written.

Thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights with our readers, Linda. Finally, what does the future hold in terms of new works? Will you stick with novels, or are there perhaps new creative ‘doors’ that you wish to explore?

I love writing novels and would also like to write a children’s novel at some point soon. And I’d love to write a play, so they are both on my to-do list for the future!



Ink Pantry Publishing’s Krampus Poetry Competition 2019 Highly Commended: Krampus by Lel Meleyal

Krampus stole my grandchildren.
No goat ever threatened my son.
Just the mothers’ ally threat
‘Santa does not visit naughty children’
was enough, at least in December

Vienna is as beautiful as the girl
Who captured my boy’s heart
Who took him home
To celebrate life, love and Christmas
Held on the 24th December.

Which is not really Christmas
Where my boy grew up
But is where his boys now excitedly
Hope for a visit from the Christkind
And Saint Nicholas

My mince pies
Do not meet the approval of
Großmutter Anna
Though I like her Lebkuchen.
Thankfully, no-one likes carp.

The kids in accented giggles
Call me Die Englische Großmutter
When they tease my Yorkshire inability to ski.
I ache for Granny, or Grandma
Closeness cleft by air miles.

Judge Claire Faulkner writes: A different style and approach to the theme of Krampus, but one which captured my heart about the impact of myth in different lifestyles and cultures.

Lel Meleyal, previously a research academic, also writes fiction under the name Antonia Chain.  She writes a literary blog and enjoys performing her flash fiction pieces.

Lit Blog



Ink Pantry Publishing’s Krampus Poetry Competition 2019 Highly Commended: Krampusnacht (a triolet poem) by Tracy Davidson

On Krampusnacht, bad children quake
as anti-Santa stalks the streets,
cloven-hooved, with a chain to shake.
On Krampusnacht, bad children quake
and rue each sin and sad mistake,
receiving swats instead of sweets.
On Krampusnacht, bad children quake
as anti-Santa stalks the streets.

Our judge Claire Faulkner writes: A strong example of writing to a theme within a set form. One of the shorter entries, but a still story full of imagery.

Tracy Davidson lives in Warwickshire, England, and writes poetry and flash fiction. Her work has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including: Poet’s Market, Mslexia, Atlas Poetica, Writing Magazine, Modern Haiku, The Binnacle, A Hundred Gourds, Shooter, Artificium, Journey to Crone, The Garden, The Great Gatsby Anthology, WAR and In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights. 


Ink Pantry Publishing’s Krampus Poetry Competition 2019 winner: Krampusnacht by Amy Cresswell

Our tale takes place on December the Fifth,
On a suitably freezing cold night,
With a creature you’ve heard of, from olden day myth,
Eyes aglow with malevolent light.

The snow is disturbed by his cloven footsteps,
His grey beard, all matted and long,
Swishes as he stalks past the darkened doorsteps,
To the houses of those who’ve done wrong.

A red hooded cloak covers up his horned head,
Fur trimmed, just like old Saint Nick’s,
His first victim, cowering under her bed,
Gets a swipe with his great birchwood stick.

The next, vainly dreaming of presents and sweets,
Hears the deafening clanking of chains,
Downstairs, not Saint Nick, but Krampus he meets,
And the blood freezes inside his veins.

The third, hoping for a bit of good luck,
Squares his shoulders, prepares to attack,
But Krampus’s claw swiftly snatches him up,
And then bundles him into his sack.

Just like this it continues, and when dawn draws near,
He retreats, a full bag on his back,
Hurls the wicked children down to Hell for a year,
Then enjoys an ice cold glass of Schnapps

Judge Claire Faulkner writes: I enjoyed the style and structure of this poem. I feel that it tells us everything we need to know about Krampus using fantastic storytelling and imagery.

Amy Cresswell lives in Yorkshire, England, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She writes short stories and poetry for fun, and is currently writing a novel. In her spare time, she’s usually playing videogames, baking really sweet stuff, or throwing toys for her cat. 

Poetry Drawer: In avian company: Frangipani and honey-eaters: A raven among the sulphur-crests by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

In avian company

In the eucalyptus grove
I munch on my sandwich
tossing some crumbs
at the two eager bush turkeys
romping around in the grass.

suddenly one of them
takes an explosive shit –
an ochre-white splatter
with a black jelly centre
which its companion
promptly begins to peck at
seeing which, the bird
who took the massive dump
heartily joins the other
in dining on its poop.

I throw up a little bit
in my mouth
my sudden retching
startling the feasters
who scoot off a distance
before coming back
with renewed appetite
to resume nibbling
on the glob of excrement.

I look away
and quickly swallow
the small well of puke
pooled in my mouth –
it somehow seems
like the logical thing to do
in this particular
avian company.

Frangipani and honey-eaters

those stories
that grandmother used to tell –
malevolent spirits roosting
in the branches
of frangipani trees at dusk
something sinister
about the otherworldly perfume
of flowers in bloom
that drew tortured souls
caught between worlds
to the ivory perch
of their shadowy branches.

at the far end of the backyard
the gardener has trimmed
the frangipani tree
to limbs so bare
they look like floating fingers
splayed anemone
in the sea of the night.

from the u-shaped curve
of a comfortable fork
the honeyeaters stare
bodies tucked in their new nest
eyes filled with dread
as they study me
floating back-lit
half-human, half-ghost –
and I wonder
if their grandmothers told them
stories about my kind
even as I imagine them
with beady eyes
smouldering in the dark
and fantasise about demons
that quickly morphed
in the time
my back was turned.

A raven among the sulphur-crests

it’s an autumn morning ritual
stalking the balcony
awash in black
gunmetal hair
swelling in the wind.

the sulphur-crests
await my appearance
an army of twelve
perched on the railings
diamond formation
attention rapt.

in black lingerie
and beguiling lace
I fancy myself
a millennial Grimhilde
hands aloft
spilling cake crumbs and bread.

I toss them in the mist
and the birds circle
squawking, snowing white
tame in the power
of my sorcery
the mysterious human-raven.

on the balcony below
the neighbour gawks in horror
this manic wheeling
of wild cockatoos
my frightening nudity
madness on show.

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Sydney based artist, poet, and pianist. She holds a Masters in English. Oormila is a member of Sydney’s North Shore Poetry Project and Authora Australis. Her recent works have been published in Eunoia Review, Poets Resist, Rue Scribe, The Ekphrastic Review, and several other literary journals in Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom.

Poetry Drawer: Survival: Rehearsal: Nan’s Funeral by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon


One day, I’ll be alive.
Not sad, afraid to stir my mother’s rage
over breakfast each morning.

One day I’ll smile
touch-papers of joy and ignite love,
this way and that, far into the future.


It’s far away, the day
when I’ll be free to walk out
and make my way. Leave
my bedroom, quit my home
to make my own mistakes
and party. It’s far away
and secretly, I’m pleased.
More time to be a child,
loved to bits even though
I play my face, paint my nails,
line my eyes with kohl
and pick black Goth clothes
out of my old dressing-up box.

Nan’s Funeral

We crunch on frozen soil’s solid crust.
Skimmed sunshine ignites crystal sparks,
diamonds scatter on the ground.
My son asks, Mum, can I smile today?
I leak stray tears, laugh and squeeze
his hot hand: plump palm and curled fingers.
He’s too young and I’m too old to understand.

I see my Nan’s eyes gaze from his fresh face,
loss erased in currents of connection.

Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She has an MA in Creative Writing [Newcastle 2017]. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

Poetry Drawer: The Bartender’s Tale: Approaching 82 by Robert Demaree

The Bartender’s Tale

Part One: New Hampshire

We are having lunch with our poet artist friend,
Looking down toward the big lake,
Luminous glow of peak reds and golds
In an October mist.
The bar is crowded,
Favourite domestic brands on draft.
Why would you go to a bar at noon on Monday?
To watch replay of Sunday’s game,
To see if the Patriots win this time,
Or have a beer with your sandwich,
Which you could do by the window,
At the table next to ours,
And look out at the muted foliage.
Mainly, we conclude, for companionship,
The sense of being part of something,
Even—especially—in a resort town
In the off season.
We are ready to go.
We hug our friend and say
So long until June.
There’s an empty place at the bar now
I may come back in a while.

Part Two: North Carolina

At the supermarket where we shop
The marketing folk have sought to
Redefine the grocery experience,
So they’ve put up a sign out front
That says “Welcome to Our Farm”
And have installed a beer garden
In the beverage section,
Craft brews with exotic ingredients.
So at one pm on a Tuesday
There are people sitting at the bar
Enjoying a cool one.
Who drinks beer at a grocery store?
People who work for the distributor?
There is no TV, no football,
Sometimes no one to talk to.
They may be wishing for a companionship
Yet to emerge, a kindred spirit
To appear from down the produce aisle.

Part Three: Pennsylvania

I think of the bars on every corner
In the sad rust belt town
Where I grew up.
Priestly barkeeps move their towels
Back and forth with Rogerian attending.
Jesse and I walk by at dusk
Carrying our baseball gloves,
Close enough to hear those Pennsylvania voices,
The murmur of disappointment and companionship,
Esslinger, Schmidt’s of Philadelphia,
Old Reading Beer.

Approaching 82

I have created templates
In my computer
Wishing speedy recovery,
Funny cartoon characters
Sending all good wishes,
Thinking of you.
I cannot yet bring myself
To send condolences

These things all happened the same day:
The phone rang at six a.m.
A stranger from Memphis
Sought our help
In contesting someone’s will.
Sarah fell putting out the bird feeders.
A raccoon had gotten into the garbage.
The cable was out for twelve hours.
Then, toward midnight that same day,
The faint dampness of soiling nightclothes
The aroma of being eighty-one,
A point in life when
You run into a friend
Long unseen
And are afraid to ask
How’s your wife.

Retirement home dusk
A bicycle built for two
Rear seat riderless.

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders, published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

Flash In The Pantry: : Last Call by Alison Ogilvie-Holme

Six feet tall and full figured, Lena is all stature and curves. Punctuated by stiletto heels. She sips her iced tea and sways to the music, watching lithe bodies aglow beneath spinning black lights.

Energy shifts in the club as the bartender announces last call; strangers begin the distilled process of coupling for the night. They suss out their options and then dangle the bait.

Can I buy you a drink?

Are you here on your own?

Do you need a ride home?

Lena turns around to settle her bill and discovers a torn slip of paper tucked between two twenties. A proposition, of sorts.

Thanks for the lovely view. Drinks on me. Meet you by the coat check in five?

She feels almost giddy – once again the bashful schoolgirl passing notes in math class, butterflies floating freeform in her stomach.

It occurs to Lena that she is playing a dangerous game, inviting disaster. What would people think if they could see her now? Clad in low cut halter and tight pleather pants, smoky cat eyes accentuated with red lips. Of course, she knows enough to be discreet, unlike some of her daft colleagues, posting pictures of themselves half naked and properly smashed.

A quick stop in the loo to refresh lipstick and plump cleavage, and she is ready to make her appearance.

Waiting beside the queue is a bookish fellow with light red hair and horn- rimmed glasses, more akin to giving advice at the pharmacy counter or approving loans at the bank; his distinguished appearance entirely out of context in these surroundings. She smiles in approval as he takes her hand and presses it to his lips.

“Hello there, gorgeous. I’ve never seen you here before. Do you live nearby?”

“I’m just passing through, actually. Only here for the night. You can call me,’ Lena pauses to select her handle ‘Veronica. Veronica Desmond.”

“Nice to meet you, Veronica. You remind me of a busty Cleopatra,’ he winks ‘I’m whoever you want me to be.”

Without further preamble, Lena follows him to his car in the parking lot and wordlessly begins to undress him. She attempts to manoeuvre within the confines of the backseat, feeling like an aging contortionist while still assuming the appropriate sounds and expressions of desire. How did she ever do this in high school? He continues to adjust positions, narrowly avoiding death by stiletto on more than one occasion. They make forced love in record time.

Afterwards, they both sit in silence and light up. Another dirty little secret. She hears a tropical ringtone and swipes to retrieve the text on her mobile.

“Well, pumpkin,’ Lena exhales ‘looks like we’d better head home now. The sitter expected us hours ago, and Max has soccer in the morning.”

“Yes, dear,’ agrees her husband, rubbing his aching back ‘and next time, let’s just book the hotel instead.”