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This fortnight’s Very Short Stories

28th October

The rustle of a newspaper from the next cubicle sounded the death knell for the toilet stand off. He stood up and began wiping.

30th October

“I wish I’d gone for pine instead of this MDF rubbish” thought Blackbeard as he replaced his plank for the fourth time in two years

10th November

Whisky at lunch had been a big mistake. His eyelids finally gave in and his head crashed on to the keyboard, his nose landing on delete

11th November

The fire alarm rang to signal the two minute silence but something told him interrupting his pee mid-stream was bad for his health

12th November

Rosetta slowly opened one eye, looked at the vast darkness and bitter ice below and muttered – “no, not today thanks.”

13th November

He was unsure about publicising his belief in UFOs until his brother gave him the boost he needed – “Go on Ed, people respect honesty”

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A Weekend Away (tweeted 27th Nov 2013)

Marie pulled the final bag out of the boot, slammed it shut and looked over at the in-laws amassing by the cottage door. She had been looking forward to the trip. With others around it was a chance for her and Joe to have some much-needed space. They might even get time for a country walk, something they did all the time before kids.

But seeing them all now, bickering about who had the key, her optimism drained.

She had already dragged Ellie out of the road because Auntie Joan had forgotten that she was supposed to be watching her. In her heart she knew there would be no respite, no lie-ins and certainly no country walk.

They had arrived later than planned, so after the rush for bedrooms had taken place, Marie set about getting the children ready for bed. She was pinning Miles’ legs down for a nappy when Joe’s aging Grandfather stumbled in.

“Oh, sorry dear. I thought this was my room. You haven’t seen my toothbrush have you?”

“No, sorry George. Have you tried in the bathroom?”

“Ok, will do. Thanks love!”

He wandered out, banging the door on his way and headed straight into another of the bedrooms.

A while later, after Marie had calmed Ellie down because she had left Night Night Bear at home, she decided that she might as well get ready. She grabbed a towel and went into the bathroom.

After showering and taking off her makeup she searched for her toothbrush. Rather than in the glass where she had put it, it was lying suspiciously on the shelf.

She felt the bristles. They were wet and sticky with toothpaste. She reached under the sink and dropped the brush straight into the bin.

It was going to be a long weekend.

Wolf amongst the sheep (tweeted 25th Nov)

Kelly sat patiently, quietly bored, feigning interest.

She could just make out her roommate Sarah, frolicking in the waves right across the road from the restaurant tantalisingly located a stone’s throw from the best beach this side of the city.

After being told one too many times to ‘cheer up!’, she had learned to form her lips into a slight O, so as to alter her natural, apparently glum, expression, into one which said ‘I’m neither miserable nor excited!’.

The uni student prestige of working in an a-la-carte restaurant had quickly worn off; the reality was that being a waitress anywhere, was the bottom of the job-food chain. Memorising and regurgitating the ‘specials’ of the day like a well-trained monkey, delivering the grub-de-jour on precariously balanced, scalding hot plates, keeping the chef suitably arrogant…all the while maintaining a perfectly formed O.

A-la-carte just meant the customers were a higher calibre of awful.

Working at Martin’s on the Sea was a test of endurance. And ever the good student, Kelly approached today’s training session on serving wine as she did an exam; a necessary evil.

A glimmer of hope presented itself in the form of Dave, the new guy sat next to her. Quiet, with a glint of something in his eye; could he be a new ally? A scapegoat at the very least? Someone else for Chef to focus his wrath on.

Dave gave promising affirmations to Kelly’s muttered contempt at being there, unpaid, on a Sunday, and was suitably agreeable at each of her sighs and stifled yawns. Normally passive in speaking out, there was something about Dave that made her feel she should give him the heads up on his new place.

The following day, she entered Martin’s with a sense of calm and looked forward to getting to know her new colleague. Dave had arrived early it seemed and had not yet received his uniform.

“Morning Dave!”

“Yes, morning Kelly. Today you’ll be working on tables 1 to 8 and there is a new menu. I don’t want any mistakes and you’ll recite it to myself and Chef until it’s perfect.”

BY KH

He might even enjoy it (tweeted 11th Nov 2013)

“I’m sorry Madam” the officer continues “but based on what’s happened tonight and what you’ve been telling me, I’m going to recommend that your father’s licence is suspended straight away.”

My heart sinks but I tell the officer that I knew he was going to say that and it’s the right thing to do. I ask him not to tell Dad yet, and that I will speak to him tomorrow when things are calmer. He agrees and thrusts some leaflets into my hand.

“You’ll need to read these to him, make sure he understands. There are lots of options out there, buses, private taxis for doctors and hospital appointments. He might even enjoy it.”

I thank him. He gives me the keys and leaves. Dad is waiting in the passenger seat.

“It’s not like he was saying” he starts. “I just got confused. There was no need for the blue lights and noise. That just made it worse.”

I pause and then tell him that he could have killed someone.

Neither of us says anything else and I start the engine. The wipers come on automatically. They are worn and there is a loud squeak against the windshield with every stroke. We head back to the house, with no sound but the wipers and the rain to keep us company. I think about turning the radio on but it’s an old analogue one with a knob and I can’t see how to work it.

We pull into the driveway, weeds briefly present in the headlights before disappearing under the car. I turn the engine off.

The rain has stopped and there is silence.

“I’ll miss it” he says.

I tell him that we’ll talk in the morning and open the car door.

I am Spiderman (tweeted 8th Nov 2013)

I am Spiderman.

And you see that boy over there?

He’s Doctor Octopus and he’s going to trap me and take me prisoner. But then I’m going to shoot my web at him and escape.

No, no,no!

Actually he’s Batman but he’s a bad Batman and he wants to get me because I webbed his Batmobile. And I’m going to swing over him and escape to my base under the slide. And then I’m going to turn into Santa and take away all his presents because he’s a naughty Batman.

Actually I’m Freezeman and I’m going to freeze his feet with ice so he can’t move. And then Robin will come and help fix him.

But not good Robin…bad Robin.

And then I’m going to web Robin and catch him but Batman will escape and tie me up.

Actually, I’m Iron Man and he’s the Green Godlin. I’m going to fly up in the sky with my rockets really really high and then land on his head and squash him so he’s really small. And then he won’t be able to get me and I’ll carry him to prison.

No, I’m Robin Hood and he’s King Arthur and our mission is to stop the Green Godlin from coming in our castle. I will use my bow and arrow and he can use his sword. His sword is called Erscallyber.

No, actually he’s Little John and he can use a stick and he’s really strong and he knocks me in the water but really we’re best friends. I’m a fox and he’s a bear but we’re just pretending.

Actually I’m Superman and he’s Spiderman.

But he’s a bad Spiderman!

 

 

Razor clams (tweeted 6th Nov 2013)

Emmanuel looked down across the beach to the distant water. There was more sand than he remembered, and certainly more people, but he knew this was where his father had brought him many years before.

He had been woken while it was still dark, had a jumper forced over his head and carried down to the shore. The spring full moon was disappearing into the horizon but gave off just enough light to see the tide was lower than ever before. His father put him down at the edge, his feet recoiling at the cold, clammy mud, and they started looking for tiny key-holes in the surface. They had practiced drawing them last night and his father had taught him the importance of walking calmly as the clams could feel their movements and would burrow out of reach if frightened.

Once they had found their first one, his father handed him a metal rod, with a bend at the bottom. It was the handle from the old umbrella Grandfather had given them for their trip to Houlgate last year. As he’d been shown, he plunged it fast and deep in line with the hole, twisted it half way round and steadily pulled it up. With it came the long, elegant shell of the clam.

The last moonlight shined the glossy coat of the oozing creature hanging from the bottom, desperately searching for a way back to land. The electricity of the hunt was warm across his body and the dull ache of his naked feet in the cool ocean stopped. He wanted more.

Continue reading Razor clams (tweeted 6th Nov 2013)

Hunger (tweeted 4th Nov 2013)

As soon as the bell rang she stuffed the books into her bag and ran.

Everyone knew about the hole in the fence, but she hadn’t been brave enough to venture that far before. Today she didn’t hesitate; she just needed to get as far away as possible. She squeezed through the gap, the wire ripping at her jumper. She ran into the copse and kept going until she found a patch of leaves to sit on. They were slimy, and made the bottom of her trousers dirty.

She reached into her bag, pulled out the sandwiches she had made that morning and tossed them into the mud. The crisps and chocolate followed, their bright wrappers sitting tauntingly on the surface.

She had escaped school for the time being and that relief brought with it hot tears. She knew what the others said about her parents. She could hear some of the hushed comments when they came to parents’ evening or a school play. But Cara was supposed to be her friend, the one person who she had shared her deepest thoughts and worries with. To find her making jokes about her mum and howling with glee cut much more deeply than the whispers.

Her hurt turned to anger. Couldn’t they see what they looked like to other people? It wasn’t just their weight; it was their clothes and their appearance. Surely they noticed heads turn when they walked into a restaurant, and people exchange smiles. Surely they knew how much they hurt her. Why couldn’t they be like other parents?

She lay back, and the wet leaves kissed the back of her neck.

Her stomach rumbled. She turned on her side, reached over and picked up the discarded snacks.

The wind shook the branches above and her friend’s laughter echoed through the trees.

Re-training (tweeted Nov 1st 2013)

The instructions had been clear. Arrive at the hall at ten and grab a drink. The new manager will be running late but there will be other fundraisers to chat to in the meantime.

Jo had been pounding the streets on behalf of cats and dogs for a couple of years now. She could care less about the animals themselves. Like any salesperson she did it for the chase. She instinctively read body language and knew within seconds if someone would sign over five of their hard earned pounds to help little Tiddles come to terms with feline obesity or Max recover from a nasty encounter with a badger. She had a number of routines to turn to, ranging from “I’m so sorry to trouble you” to outright flirtation, and could quickly gauge the best.

She pulled into the gravelly car park, the first to arrive. She knocked on the door and then pushed it open. The room was empty except for a small table with refreshments and a large blue banner hung above the kitchen at the back.

It read “Be all that you can be…and more”.

“Oh god, one of those types of training” she thought to herself.

She poured a nasty smelling coffee and looked around. Strange that no-one else was here yet as she had been cutting it fine. In fact the whole arrangement had been a bit odd. Usually the bi-annual training was held in the swanky HQ in London, not some dusty building out in the countryside.

She went to see if anyone else had turned up but found that the door had been locked behind her. All of a sudden a voice boomed out from behind the banner.

“Hello Joanne, welcome to your re-training,” followed by a piercing laugh she couldn’t mistake.

Terror poured into every vein in her body and she sank slowly to the ground in disbelief, curling herself into a tight ball.

Consolation Prize (tweeted Oct 30th 2013)

Jake saw the console abandoned on a park bench. Nobody else was around apart from his mum. Grasping it in his hands he heard her call from behind but his excitement muffled the words. He switched it on, fingers instinctively knowing which buttons to hold. The screen lit up and suddenly the world grew dark. He could not see the park or his family. The console was all he could focus on, the words “Your game is about to begin” scrolled in front of his eyes.

A familiar picture appeared on the screen. It was the park. A pixelated version of the bandstand marked the exit, just as it did in reality. Jake could not understand why the screen was the only thing he could now see. A countdown appeared in the top corner

99, 98, 97…

and the words “You must escape the park” began flashing. Scared, he wanted to put down the device but his hands would not let go,

83,82,81…

He tried to run but his feet would not work.

74,73,72…

Panicking, he pressed his thumb down and instantly he was moving.

62,61,60…

Somehow Jake could control himself with the buttons.

54,53,52…

Using his fingers he spun around, searching for his mum but she was no longer there.

39,38,37…

He tried to head for the exit but with every step he took the park changed shape.

29,28,27…

The closer he thought he was the further away he became.

21,20,19…

Desperate he tried to make himself jump over the fence but could not find the right button.

18,17,16…

Jake fumbled for the off switch but there wasn’t one.

10,9,8…

The only thing that was left was to run, but it was too late.

3,2,1…

The words “Game Over” were the last he ever saw.

 

 

Thanks to DH for the excellent guest contribution – TL