Archives for My Short Stories

‘Endings’, a short story

The woman in the red coat stood beside her on the northbound platform, it was a feminine coat, cut tight at the waist and flaring out like an ice skating skirt. Just as Sue was framing the words, ‘Ooh, is that from Next,’ the 10.23 to Manchester Piccadilly arrived and something red flew past her. It was so quick she thought she might have imagined it. But then she saw the white staring eyes of the driver and heard the desperate squealing of brakes on rails. Footsteps behind her, people running, jostling, pushing. ‘What happened? Oh…’ ‘Is she? How…’ ‘I’ll go and find…’ Sentences unfinished. Sue knelt at the platform edge and looked down to the rails, the crushed Coke cans, crinkly crisp packets and dark stains, red fabric. The front of the engine loomed over her like a tall cliff. Death smelled like the diesel Sue put in the car. ‘Hello.’ Not even a whisper, smaller than a sigh. Sue pulled the red coat aside and two eyes looked up, black, like pieces of coal in a snowman’s face. ‘Help.’ Sue’s voice wasn’t working, it sounded nothing like the noise she usually heard in her head. She tried again.
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Space’, a short story

‘Ground Control to Major Tom.’ The thin tune came from his mother’s mouth, not the radio which was spouting some rubbish about cruising down the Nile. ‘Take your protein pill and put your big hat on.’ John stood in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil, his mother was in her wing chair by the picture window in the lounge, a crochet rug over her knees. ‘I’m floating in the most pa-pa-queue-lee-ar way,’ she sang. ‘Rocket ma-an-aan-‘ He poured the boiling water over the teabags, gave it a swirl and a squeeze then poured out two mugs of tea. ‘That’s Elton, Mum. Not Bowie.’ He offered her the fine bone china mug with a pattern of bluebells which was her particular mug ‘Thank you dear… and I think it’s going to be a very long time-‘ ‘That’s Elton. The first bit’s Bowie.’ ‘I know, Jimmy, I know. But it’s what we sang, for fun.’ He worked hard at not smiling, not wanting to upset her. She was always doing this, getting his name wrong. Wrong facts, wrong lyrics, wrong singer. ‘Where?’ ‘Where what, dear?’ ‘Where did you sing?’ ‘Oh, at Mission Control.’ He did smile now, his mother didn’t have
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Home’, a short story

Demerara was Joey’s favourite. She wasn’t the colour of sugar but her nature was just as sweet, the sweetest pigeon in the loft. The least sweet was Darth who was almost completely black except for a flash of green on his left shoulder. He was the fattest pigeon, he ate the most and flew the least. Actually Darth was a pigeon version of Joey, a fact that neither recognised. Joey would spend every moment in the pigeon loft at his allotment if he could but he worked in the other direction, near enough home to walk or cycle. Two miles northbound, a straight road but a bit uphill. Two miles southbound at night, downhill, straight as an arrow, no map required. Every morning Joey pulled on his old fleece and got into his rusty blue Escort, carrying a pack-up made by Gill. It was because of Gill’s baking that Demerara was called Demerara. And Bakewell, Muffin, Drizzle, Battie [for Battenberg] and Simnel. Even Darth had originally been named Parkin but the name never stuck. It was the beginning of Spring and change was afoot. The pigeons were restless, strange birds were appearing at the bird table from the south, finding
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Movies’, a short story

‘Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.’ Jarek locked the doors, engaged first gear and nudged the nose of his black cab into the stream of traffic. His passenger didn’t acknowledge the stab at conversation. A pick-up on Regents Street at 6pm, the week before Christmas, it was going to be one long crawl, a back-double, then baby steps over the bridge to Waterloo. He sneaked a look at the passenger. A man. Dark business suit, smiling to himself, teeth as white as his shirt. Jarek studied him; no not a smile, more of a grimace. He tried his usual banter. Football. Stock market. State of the roads. Cyclists. Skyscrapers ruining London’s skyline. Whether Boris should be PM. No answer from the back seat. ‘What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,’ Jarek muttered to himself. He didn’t like driving in silence. He paused, then waved at the silver and gold flashing lights, the red and gold streamers, people carrying bursting carrier bags. ‘If you build it he will come.’ No answer. Was he asleep? ‘I mean the shops.’ He hated that his voice sounded apologetic, hated the need to explain himself. ‘You build the
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Celebration’, a short story

The floor wasn’t big enough for all three girls to lay out their paper patterns so Jenny went first. Her dress would be full-length pale blue satin, spaghetti straps. Anne and Liz sat and watched. Jenny had sewn things before, the short tartan wool skirt she was wearing now was home-made, fully lined and everything. Jenny knelt on the floor, pins between her lips, smoothing fabric and smoothing paper, pinning along the lines. Her treasured scissors were in her sewing box. Satin was horribly slippery fabric to sew and Jenny wished Anne and Liz would do something rather than just sit there like wet weekends. All she could see was their feet. Anne’s white tennis shoes were muddy around the rubber sole. Liz was in bare feet, the red polish peeling off her toenails. The Rag Ball was on Saturday. She had no idea how Anne and Liz intended to sew their dresses. She got the feeling they only bought patterns and fabric because she had. This happened a lot. If she’d said she was going to bleach her hair blonde, they probably would too. It had been like this for almost three years. At first it had been giggly,
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Revenge’, a short story

They are bought with a purpose. Not cheap, but worth it. June prepares carefully. Works out the best place from which to spy, disguised, far enough away to be unsuspected. The binoculars take a bit of fiddling with until she gets the hang of them. Simple really, she doesn’t need her reading glasses. On the chosen day she dresses in brown, the better to disappear into the natural surroundings. The caramel cable cardigan she knitted herself when Jim was ill, the khaki trousers bought from the bargain bin at the supermarket, her comfortable gardening shoes and a clever sunhat which folds flat and fits in her pocket. She settles into position, her back against a tree, sitting on a picnic rug. See and not be seen, that is the plan. It will be impossible to miss the guilty party from here. Beside her she lays out provisions: cheese and pickle sandwich on granary bread, flask of black coffee, fingers of buttery shortbread. Nothing that will rattle or crunch, no plastic wrapping or greaseproof paper. Only cling film. She misses her daily lunch apple but it too involves crunching, perhaps she will eat it for supper instead. And so she waits. A
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Beginnings’, a short story

Eliza Tavernier set aside her sketchpad and rubbed her aching neck, her hand cupping the curls of bobbed hair which brushed the tips of her ears. Winter darkness had fallen and the dark panelling of her office intensified the gloom. She sat at her desk, once her father’s, and wondered if he would ever have been proud of her achievements. Leon Tavernier had only one ambition for his youngest child. Marriage. Eliza considered her greatest achievement to be the Relámpago sapphire necklace, featured in La Moda magazine, and now Miss Fitz was taking trunk calls from Rome and Vienna from gentlemen and ladies wishing to place orders. Atop of a pile of unread magazines sat a jewellery box. Her fingers lingered over the gold embossed lettering ‘Atelier Tavernier, Fitzroy Square, London’. This was the first piece of Atelier Tavernier jewellery she had owned, her father had proclaimed her too young for precious gems and to this day she simply opened the display case every morning and chose something to suit her dress. She had paid for this tiara with her own money. She remembered the first sketch, how her sharpened pencil had flown across the paper knowing what it would
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Sally’s List’, a short story

Sally lies in bed in the early-morning limbo of darkness. Unable to snatch more sleep before the alarm rings, her mind drifts and she wonders how life brought her here to this bed. This house. This husband. This life. The me I am now. Her husband snores and rolls over so his face rests inches from hers, the rush of breath on his out-snore brushes her fringe into her eyes. How did I get here? She remembers the list of ‘When I Am Married’ she’d compiled when she was 19. I will always paint my toenails. My bra and knickers will always match. I will wash and blow-dry my hair every morning. I will never go anywhere in the car with a coat over my pyjamas. I will never do something my husband wants to do, just for an easy life. I will never fake a headache. Ditto a period pain. I will not squeeze myself into tight black lingerie, just because he bought it for me. I will keep my own friends, and not adopt his friends as mine. I will not pretend to understand the rules of Formula One. I will not expect him to watch the boxset of
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Running’, a short story

I didn’t run the Reighton Fun Run in 12 minutes 14 seconds, so why does everyone keep congratulating me? I didn’t come first, I didn’t win anything. I never win anything. No-one’s ever patted me on the back before, but it felt good. The Mercury sent a photographer to take my photo and I told him it wasn’t me but he took the picture anyway. Wanted me in my running vest and shorts, the best I could do was my blue trackkie bottoms and the t-shirt I wear for gardening. But he didn’t seem to care. It’ll be in Saturday’s edition. A boy knocked on my door. Are you famous? Don’t like children, I said. You boys run around our street shouting when you mother’s thrown you out of the house for being too noisy. Why can’t she be bothered to look after you instead of letting you litter the street with bikes and footballs and noise? Dunno, he said. But he’d seen a man with a camera walking down my front path. Had I murdered someone, or won the lottery, or done something really clever? No, the man wanted to take my photo because I ran in a race. Ooh,
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Categories: My Short Stories.

My favourite bits: The Milk of Female Kindness, an Anthology of Honest Motherhood

The dust has settled now on the anthology of women’s writing about motherhood, The Milk of Female Kindness, which includes two of my stories. Now I’ve had the chance to sit down and read it from cover to cover. My favourite bits? ‘Fresh Eyes’ a poem by anthology editor Kasia James, on seeing life through her child’s eyes. ‘Mama Spider’s Sacrifice’ by Angélique Jamail says everything about the sacrifices a mother makes for her child. ‘Telling Tatiana’ by Tara Chevrestt [below] is a story about three generations of women, dealing with a bad mammogram. ‘An Open Letter to My Son’ by Gemma Wright must have been so difficult to write, a difficult letter about a difficult life. But there are some things a mother cannot fix. ‘My Real Mother’ by Judith Dickerman-Nelson [below] is about her own adoption and life with two mothers, the love involved in giving a baby up for adoption, and that love needed to seek a child to adopt for the rest of your life. To read more haikus by Kasia James, click here for her blog. For Angélique Jamail’s blog, click here. To read Tara Chevrestt’s blog, click here. For more of Gemma Wright’s work,
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Categories: Book Love and My Short Stories.

‘Whiteout’, a short story

It came without warning, the white, as quickly as a sigh. There was a moment of silence as he fell, of disbelief, a moment of loss when he thought, “Oh Jill” and reached for her hand which wasn’t there. Then all went black. * She was cold. A finger of ice wriggled along her spine, through the gap at her waistband where her thermal ski top had worked loose. She tried to straighten her clothes but the effort stole her breath so she rested for a moment, looking around, trying to assess where she’d fallen. She had never known quiet could be so dense. “Bill?” She reassured herself. He wasn’t answering because he hadn’t fallen, was bringing help. Not knowing which way was uphill or down, left or right, she cursed the loss of her spectacles. Above her was a structure, ghostly in the blankness which surrounded her like an unsatisfactory cheap duvet. Something dark loomed, it was the only thing she could see through the damp air which brushed her face like grubby cotton wool puffs smudged with mascara and eye shadow. It was tall enough to be the spire of a church; perhaps St Peter’s where they had married.
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Categories: My Short Stories.

One year old, what a journey!

A year has passed since I published my first post here. Looking back, I didn’t know much about blogging. I saw it as a way of getting my writing out into the public sphere, getting people to read it. What I didn’t expect was the huge community of bloggers who love books, reading and writing, just as much as I do. So THANK YOU to everyone who has read my blog over the last 12 months – thanks for finding me, and liking me, and adding your comments. It’s been a real learning process, some things worked, others didn’t, it took me quite a while to figure out how to work WordPress. Some things are still a mystery to me! To read my very first post, a short story called ‘Magic and Mischief’, click here ‘Magic and Mischief’ was a finalist in the London New Writing competition in 2002. In 2003 it was published in Diaspora City: the London New Writing anthology [pub. Arcadia Books] along with short stories by Maggie Gee, Iain Sinclair and Toby Litt. Buy it from Amazon here
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Categories: Book Love, My Short Stories, and On Writing.

‘Little Boxes’, a short story

Brown boxes, empty boxes, boxes full to bursting. The badge on Michael’s lapel said ‘storage executive’ but the way he saw it he just kept the boxes safe. No space for your belongings? Trust them to Safeplace2store. It said it in the local newspaper every Saturday. It occasionally said it on the TV which, since his mother died two years ago, was always switched on to chase away the silence. Michael took as good a care of Safeplace2store’s warehouse as he did of his flat high in Hungate Towers. At work twice a day he walked along every corridor, cloth and jar of cleaner in hand, and wiped off the black marks from the yellow doors and walls of the boxes. He helped people unload their cars and stack boxes and wondered what they stored in their boxes – forgotten things, too-big things, un-needed things, things with bad memories. First to arrive every morning was Jake in his old white Ford Transit [J8K 556], more brown with rust than white with paint. Jake had a market stall on Wattle Road, Michael’s mother had been one of Jake’s customers and now Michael was too. Washing up brushes, soapy scouring pads, plastic
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘I Am Not a god’, a short story*

It was difficult pretending to be a god. Dion looked in the mirror and there was a new spot on the end of his nose. Dealing daily with the weight of expectations was rubbish. He opened his front door to find a group of weirdos camped out beside the wheelie bin. He tried to sneak out, but they sank to their knees and chanted: “Dionysus the beautiful.” “I’m not Dionysus, I’m me. And I’m not beautiful.” Then he ran away. At work, he took out his thyrsus. Like everything else at Godsworld, the fennel stick was falling apart. Its pine cone was stuck on with Blu-Tac and the ivy trailed loose. Really, he thought, this place is a joke. He’d taken the job thinking it would be fun, perhaps meet a few girls, he hadn’t expected to work with a cantankerous leopard. “Feeding the lions is about to start,” said a tannoy announcement. He sighed. At the lions’ den, a boy with cherub curls pointed at the spot on Dion’s nose, now the shape and colour of a holly berry, and giggled. “You’re a joke, call yourself a god?” I’m not really a god, Dion thought desperately, I don’t know
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Clap Your Hands if You Believe’, a short story

The sign on the door says ‘Miss T Bell – Consultant’. I pour the third of the four glasses of wine required for courage before I go on stage, then hide the glass at a knock on the door. “Yes?” “Miss Bell, can we come in?” I wave them in and three members of the chorus settle on the couch in my dressing room, tidying the beech leaves of their skirts. “What do you want?” “I’ve read that all fairies were angels in another life,” says the petite blonde. “But Celandine over there has read that fairies are spirits trapped between heaven and earth. Miss Bell, please tell us the real story of Peter Pan, not the pantomime version.” “Ooh, I wish I could meet him,” says the third, wide-eyed fairy, who winds her auburn hair around a finger. Oh dear. I swig half the glass of wine in one gulp. Should I tell the plain truth or embellish it? * Why am I always doing things for him? He never does what I want to do. I turn my back on the wooden walls and with my right toe I prod at the neatly piled fabric underfoot: pink pyjamas
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Procreation’, a short story

The packet was 20 years old, the use-by date was before the law changed. Jessie tore the Predictor packet into pieces and flushed them down the toilet. Then she shoved the white plastic paddle to the bottom of her handbag and went back to her desk. The Predictor still worked, at least it looked like it did. She’d followed the instructions and it had done everything it said on the packet. The space in the box had turned blue: she was pregnant. Her hand shook as she reached for the computer mouse. The time monitor on her pc had noticed her five-minute absence and an e-mail in her inbox confirmed the deduction off her week’s wages. With a sigh she clicked on camera three and looked at the grid-locked traffic. A red icon flashed and she bent to her microphone. “Driver of LP3A 22B. You have not purchased authority to drive on the A1 between junctions 2 and 3 today, Wednesday August 3rd, 2031. You must pay £1,000 to City Central. After midnight tonight the fee goes up to £2,000. How would you like to pay? I can accept American Express…..” * She’d taken the Predictor from the store cupboard
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Useless’, a short story

The cups on the buffet trolley rattled out their accompaniment as the train’s wheels rumbled over points. Mary stumbled as the train lurched to the right and she caught a cup before it hit the sticky grey carpet. Then the train entered a tunnel and a rush of air transported the passengers into darkness, their ears tightened with pressure. Some people rubbed their earlobes, others pinched their nose with two fingers and snorted. A businessman chewed a toffee as he tapped at the keyboard of his laptop, a teenager nodded his head in time to music piped directly into the coil of his inner ear. It all added up to the combined rhythm section familiar to all train travellers. A buzzer heralded an internal train announcement: “My name is Colleen Murphy and I’m your customer services manager aboard this train today to Waverington. I hope you have an enjoyable journey. Thank you for travelling with Northern Rail.” The words faded away with a hiss. The train felt like Mary’s second home. She travelled the same route north every Friday and south again on Sunday, watching the countryside flash by at 70 mph. That was the average speed of the train,
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘The River’, a short story*

 * with thanks to Bruce Springsteen Mary stood on tiptoes to see over the mossy stone wall of Barsteeple Bridge, watching the murky brown water speed out of sight beneath her feet, through the middle arch and away to the sea 10 miles away. Oh how she wanted to be swept up in it, swirling in its current, sped away to another world. But her feet were heavy on the ground. She rested a hand on the swell of her stomach and felt a kick inside. She turned away. Of course she couldn’t leave, her feet were rooted here as solidly as the foundations of the bridge. She didn’t know anywhere else, had never left the village. She’d grown up here and got with child here. Tomorrow she would become an adult here. The whole village knew that tomorrow, Sunday, Mary Struthers was to marry Johnnie Dart. Tomorrow they would right the wrong of one night’s fumbling and prodding in a dusty corner of the churchyard. Tonight was the last night of her childhood. The bells rang for evening service, calling her back to reality. She turned from the bridge, from its promise of escape, sub-consciously smoothing the fabric of
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Categories: My Short Stories.

‘Magic and Mischief’, a short story

‘Magic and Mischief’, a short story The lift doors opened with a clatter but Elinor didn’t get in. For the third time she checked her handbag. Keys. Purse. Cheque book. Paying-in book. Two dividend cheques to pay in, four bills to pay. She ticked the items off her mental checklist. Then she looked again at her keys. Had she locked the door? Oh dear. The lift doors closed empty as she retraced her steps to h’r front door. Twinkle followed. She didn’t need to tug once on the white Scottie’s elegant Smythson pink leather lead, Twinkle went wherever Elinor went. And he knew her routines well. Yes, her front door was locked. As her long fingers, now bent with arthritis, struggled with the heavy bunch of keys, another fear popped unbidden into her head. The fire. Was it off? A tall elegant woman, Elinor looked younger than her age. She was bored by other women of 74 who seemed pre-occupied with the twin domesticities of grandchildren and husband. Elinor, who had neither, had always been comfortable in her own company. She was satisfied with her own internal monologue and comfortably isolated herself from modern society. And she never sought the
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Categories: My Short Stories.