Wednesday, 25 November 2020

The Wrong Road

 

by Tony Domaille

 

black coffee

 

It’s happened again. I never learn. I keep trusting her and, though she lets me down time and again, I still listen to her. 

Now I will be late. There is not a sign of civilisation, yet the confident voice of my sat nav says, ‘You have reached your destination.’

 

About the author  


Tony has written a number of award winning plays, published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Sized Plays, that have been performed across the world. He has also had a number of stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here - https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/

 

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Besieged

 


by Matthew J. Richardson

black filter coffee (bitter and with a few gritty bits at the bottom)

 

Tunnels are the worst. If the sand is too dry, you can’t get any shape. Too wet, and the whole thing collapses into a gloopy mess. In the hour-and-a-half Cara has been playing at the beach, she has got the perfect mixture of sand and seawater. This is just as well, because a sandcastle isn’t really a sandcastle if it hasn’t got a secret tunnel. How else does the queen escape if she is besieged?

Aching eyes – too much squinting in the sunshine – bring Cara out of her make-believe. It takes the girl a few micro-seconds to remember where she is and how she got there – beach, road trip on her one-day-a-fortnight with Dad. Cara considers hopping over the rockpools to where her father is sitting in his deckchair just out of sight. It’s been a while since she has checked in and she could do with some of his bottle caps for castle windows. The lunch that Mum had packed would be nice too. Then again, Dad prefers to be left alone when he’s taking the edge off with a few beers. It barely even crosses Cara’s mind that to get back to the beach proper she’d have to go past The Cave.

Cara had been searching for crabs in the rockpools when she had become aware of the gap in the grey rock behind her, dank and silent. The opening was narrow and crooked and not at all like caves in fairy tales. Nor did it look as though it had ever been touched by the waves crashing in the distance. Something that Cara’s mum once told her was shale lay on the floor of the gloomy cavern, piled far into the gap as though desperate to get away from the ocean. Crackle-dry, black seaweed threaded through the stones. One glance into the cave was enough. It smelled like bad things and her voice sounded flat and small when she shouted into it. Cara still felt the empty cave behind her so she had moved further around the beach to build her sandcastle.

The keep is good, the towers tall enough, but the fortress is not yet safe. It is time to excavate a moat. Sand juice pools at the bottom of the channel no matter how quickly she scrapes. Still, this isn’t Cara’s first sandcastle, and before long there is a moat complete with a drawbridge for the queen’s carriage.

Cara should probably shout to her father to reassure him she is okay, but instead she squeals because the sea is now near enough to flood her moat with REAL WATER. A connecting channel is dug with two fingers. Cara lays her head close to the ground and looks towards where the waves are scurrying up the beach. Three or four go by before a nice big foamy one manages the journey in full. Scummy sand-water slowly trickles up the channel and makes its way into the moat. It is working!

She goes to yell for her dad again, this time for him to come and see. Then she remembers that Dad is around the headland and that he probably built hundreds of better sandcastles when he was a kid. No matter – this castle is Cara’s. Another rush of foamy water and the moat is really starting to fill up, so much so that the sides of the fort start to crumble and collapse. She pats the damp sand back into place.

The bottom of Cara’s bathing suit is wet before the girl realises she is in trouble. Water is slipping across the smooth sand like a monster’s hand slips up from underneath a bed. Where gentle waves had fizzed in the distance, unseen currents now swirl around Cara’s waist. Most alarming of all is when the water picks her up and drags her a few centimetres towards the long, empty horizon.

Things are getting bad. Nothing looks the same to Cara as she stands in the now knee-deep water. She knows that it is time to shout for her father but when her voice leaves her chest it feels as though it is from shrunken lungs, the type that Miss Rutherford had told them were found in Canopic jars in Ancient Egypt in the Valley of the Kings. Cara looks around the headland, hoping to see her father’s veiny eyes in his red face and to hear him ask her what the hell she is playing at. Dad isn’t there, though. There is just the sea pressing and probing the rock as though looking for a way to climb.

There is no such route. Cara can see that as she splooshes against the drag. The stone is too smooth to climb and even if it were not, Cara’s fingers are too jittersome to pull her up. There is only The Cave. The waves are rolling now and the girl has to claw herself into the gap. In the moments before rock replaces sky, Cara thinks she sees water pluming somewhere behind the cave, surging and foaming its way to freedom.

 

  

Monday, 23 November 2020

Returns Not Accepted

 

by Amy B Moreno 

a double-shot macchiato

The walls of the changing room were painted the colour of surgical bandages; lightly blistered.   The piped-in pop music was bubble gum sweet and sickly.  Felicity twisted her shoulders as a hungry bead of sweat made its way down her spine.

Her fingers fumbled around the front of the dress, buttons straining in dissent.  Her centre protested, pushing against the seams.  She side-eyed her reflection, and a rosy marshmallow frowned back.

Viewed this way, from the outside, she looked like she was missing a piece. Her face bore abandoned crochet holes where glinting hoops had sung.  Her hair limped along, carrying faded sky-blue tips.

But inside, underneath the pastel-pink, sat a fierce punk rocker, waiting for the next time it was her turn.  She would be blue spiked with tattoo sleeves and complicated boots.

And, reaching yet further inside, into the tryptic mirror, Felicity knew there lurked something else altogether: the final piece of a painted Russian doll.

Pencil scribbles stretchmarks worked their way from one side of the changing room wall to the other.  She pulled off the dress and the white-blonde hairs on her arms stood to attention, heckles up.  Swallowing back the acrid worries, she quickly stuffed the unwanted maternity dress into her schoolbag and exited the cubicle.

About the author 

Amy B. Moreno writes poetry and prose for adults and children. She writes in English, Scots, and Spanish, including multilingual pieces. She has recently been published by MsLexia (Little Ms), Secret Attic, The Common Breath, The London Reader, The Scottish Book Trust, and The Ogilvie Literary Review.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

The Leaping Tiger

 

by Henry Lewi

cup of Indian tea

The men of the 2nd Battalion had been retreating backwards from Bordeaux  across France towards the Alsace-German border. Harried by Allied soldiers and French Resistance fighters the battalion suffered increasing casualties as they fought back with their usual tenacity, it was not for nothing that the foreign volunteers of the regiment were considered one of the most elite regiments in the German Army, recognised by their unit badge of a “Leaping Golden Tiger”.

They had spent the preceding 6 months based around the beaches of Bordeaux, resting training and refitting in relative peace.  They had welcomed their numerous reinforcements – more of their countrymen who immediately felt comfortable amongst their comrades, despite the majority of their commanding officers being German, the unit culture represented a home away from home.

The allied invasion in June and its subsequent drive south meant that the battalion had to pull out of the relative serenity of Bordeaux and head backwards to join the gathering German Forces who were preparing to defend the very borders of the Fatherland, though not their Fatherland, like the many other foreign battalions and divisions they would fight to protect their adopted masters – after all where else could they go?  Home was far, far away, and would they be welcomed back? Possibly, possibly not, but considering the political upheaval at home, that welcome would be sometime in the future. 

They made a stand against the Allied forces outside of Dijon, but their defence failed in the face of the overwhelming superiority in allied numbers; and they continued to head northward, pursued by elements of the 6th Army Group,  constantly harried from the air by Allied planes, and on the ground by members of the French Resistance.  

The battalion and the remaining survivors of their Regiment attempted to regroup at Strasbourg alongside other German units to face the French General Leclerc’s Armoured Division, but the French with Allied support proved far too strong, and the remnants of the Battalion continued their retreat, finally crossing the Rhine into the safe refuge of the Fatherland.

 The Battalion finally encamped outside of the town of Stetten just a few kilometres north of Lake Constance and the Swiss border to refit and re-arm in preparation for the defence of the southern corridor to Munich.  It was here that it was announced that the Regiment, like all other Foreign Volunteer Regiments had been subsumed into Himmler’s Waffen-SS, but the men of the regiment had little idea as to the implications of this re-designation. All they knew was that they were now designated as a “Volunteer Legion of the Waffen-SS”.  Now in the South of Germany in relative isolation, they received news of the entry of Allied troops into the Fatherland and the progressive collapse of their adopted country. Fearing for their future the remaining men of the Legion marched the short distance to the German Border to seek sanctuary in Switzerland, but the Swiss ever mindful of their neutrality would not allow them entry.

 The men of the Legion had little option but to surrender to the US 7th Army in the hope that by avoiding capitulation to the British they would not be tried and executed for treason; as those surviving one thousand men of the Free Indian Legion of the Waffen-SS had deserted the British Indian Army and had fought against their Ruler and Emperor - the British Raj. 

About the author 

Henry is a retired Surgeon and member of the Canvey Writers Group.
He has published a number of stories on the CafeLit site

 

 


 

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Nina Hearts Rasheed Foreever

 

 by Julian Grant

espresso

 

I, Nina M. Johnson do take

Rashaad J. Collins to be my husband

forever and ever –

Bye, love yours only

Nina M. Collins

 

I flipped over the page I’d picked up to see the scrawled note that Ms. Johnson (hopefully soon to be Collins) had added to the front of the folded message. I’d found her paper on November 21, 2020 and she’d poured her heart out on September 9, 1999. She’d even scribbled down the time (11:05 am) and that she was in English class at the time she had written it. Here I was, a decade later, trying to figure out if this was an old letter recently found and thrown out – or had it never been sent? Had fear and possible humiliation stopped Nina from sending it and she’d found it recently or something else?

 

Water spotted and torn, I’d dug the declaration out of the trash that collected on a regular basis in our front yard. All kinds of garbage smashed into the ripped patch of lawn fronting our home. I’d thought it was just another piece of junk that normally I’d just bag and toss it - but it was folded with writing all over it and I’m nosey by nature. Three-holed, bleached white by the weather, it had been kicking around in the wind for a long while.

 

Nina had covered both sides of the page with her tight writing even listing their favorite song as ‘Never Gonna Let You Go’ as my neck tingled at her obsession with Rashaad that kept getting tighter and deeper and I figured that Rashaad had gotten the note and tossed it. But that was a helluva time for it to be in the wind and it would have been long gone.

 

A large black oil-stain blotted out the further message scribbled on the page – small fragments left to be figured out – “shit to do”, “beat my ass”, “be good”, and the most telling, “when you get out.” It was that last fragment that flashed me back to when I worked next to a juvenile offender’s facility. I’d find torn-up letters like this lying by the trashcan or stuck on the bus stop shelter windows. Teenage declarations of love, crude fuck poems, simply written and barely legible forget-me-nots all lost or thrown away. I figured Rashaad had probably been locked up too.

 

So, I kept Nina’s last letter because someone should remember that she loved Rashaad forever even if he didn’t know or care. Her letter promised eternity and I felt I owed her some kind of memory and that someone should care enough to value her teenage love. She’d sent her heart over the wall and Rashaad probably tossed it in the street when he finally got out. Maybe he was one of my new neighbors? I hope Nina didn’t mean what she wrote and had moved on – not wanting to wait for him after all. He might have forgotten her or given up on her. I hope she’d forgotten about him and they hadn’t stuck it out. 

About the author

Julian Grant is an award-winning filmmaker and educator based in Chicagoland, USA. He's expanding his creative world to include new and daring dark fiction in both flash and longer formatted works. 

 


Friday, 20 November 2020

Stacey to Prompt

 

By Janet Howson

English Breakfast tea

 

Stacey left the read through for ‘The Ruby Revenge’ murder mystery early. She had made notes to indicate where the cast were meant to pause in case she prompted them unnecessarily. It had happened to her on various occasions and she didn’t want to make the same mistake again.

    She had got a lift back home from Jason who ran her to the front door of her mother’s house. She realised how drained she felt when she put the key in the lock. The effects of her injuries from being mugged, had left her with permanent fatigue but she was determined to get over it. She had been signed off from work for an indefinite period and so she would use the time to build herself up. What worried her more than the fatigue and scarring on her forehead, was her self confidence had gone. She felt nervous about going anywhere on her own, and had not dared to go to London or into the office. Where had the ‘in your face’ Stacey of old gone. She felt she had hidden it pretty well at the drama meeting but she knew she couldn’t fool Shirley or Jordon, hence the role as prompter. It would seem strange to her to be in the wings as opposed to on stage. The experience would do her good though.

    Stacey threw her keys onto the hall table and shouted out to her mother, “I’m home mum, just getting myself a drink, do you fancy a cuppa?” This was another change in her life. She would normally come through the door and get a bottle of wine out of the fridge. Now all she could fancy was a cup of English Breakfast.

    The silence lay in the air. She spotted a note selotaped to the hall mirror with Stacey  written on it in her mum’s scratchy writing. She unfolded it. ‘Gone to Laura’s for the  evening, see you later.’

    Her mum had always been closer to her sister. She was her dad’s favourite. She missed  him so much since the divorce. He had come out as gay five years ago and her mother could

not come to terms with it. They didn’t even speak now. She sighed. How foolish to be afraid

of staying alone in her own childhood home. Her mother seemed to be out more and more

since the divorce. She had met someone but Stacey hadn’t met him yet. There was so much

change in her life.

    Okay, so should she just go to bed? She didn’t really want to be in bed in an empty house,

then she had an idea. Dean, the office clown, the one who had been with her when she was

attacked. He had come in to see her every day when she was in hospital, giving her all the

office news and was always armed with a few corny jokes. He would just talk and talk, not

expecting Stacey to reply when she was really ill.  Then when she started to improve, they

would put the world to rights. She hadn’t realised how sensitive and kind he was. He blamed

himself for running ahead of her on the fateful evening and he wasn’t able to initially help her

or run after the bag snatcher. Stacey had told him not to be so silly. There was nothing he

could have done it happened so quickly. She had got fonder of him as time went by. He was

the one who collected her from hospital and brought her home, waiting with her until her

mother got back.

      Wasting no more time she rang his mobile number. Would it be too late in the evening?

She nearly cut the call but suddenly the doorbell rang and he was there.

    “Hi, Stace. How are you? Was just thinking about you, but there again I do little else but

think about you, so I just thought I’d call on the off chance you were home. I cannot bear a

day without seeing your beautiful face and…”

    Stacey laughed at his banter, “will you just be serious for a moment? Come in. I want to

ask a big favour of you. I promise I will never be rude about your awful… sorry… wonderful

jokes again.” She held the door open for him to come in.

    “I would go to the ends of the earth for you Stace, you know that.”

    “Well, it isn’t quite that big a favour. I actually want you to babysit me, ridiculous though that sounds. My mother is out and I am not even sure she will be back tonight. She often stays with my sister overnight. I know this is ridiculous, you must think I am a right baby.” She felt tears welling, another consequence of the attack.

   Dean put his arms around her and pulled her towards him, rubbing her back gently. “Hey, don’t be silly. You went through a hell of a lot and it wasn’t that long ago. You are still in shock. I would love to babysit you. I can even read you a bedtime story.”

     Stacey laughed and wiped her eyes on the back of her hand. “Thank you, Dean. I don’t know what I would have done without your visits in hospital. My mother and sister always seemed too busy and my father hates hospitals. Hey, come on through and I will get you a beer.”

    “Sounds good to me. As it happens, I have a favour to ask you but get yourself a drink first, I don’t like to see you without a glass of something alcoholic in your hand.”

    “Cup of tea for me, Dean. I am a bit of a light-weight at the moment. Plus, the medication I am on doesn’t really mix with alcohol.”

    “So, I will come out in sympathy with you. Make that two teas. Can I have it builders’ strength and it goes without saying, if there happens to be a biscuit floating about, begging to be eaten?”

    Stacey made the teas, found some chocolate bourbons and they both settled down on the settee in the front room, munching and dunking their biscuits in the tea. She felt so relaxed in his company. She used to consider him a bit of an idiot. How wrong could she be.

     Dean seemed to be struggling to say something, as if he didn’t quite know how to put it.

    “Come on Dean, spit it out. Not your biscuit though, please. Mum would burst a gasket.”

    Dean looked quite serious and placed his mug on the table. Stace, I have noticed since you left hospital that you are struggling to live with your mother, now she has made a new life for herself and I know the evenings are the worse. I have a two-bed flat and I was thinking of advertising for a tenant. You would be helping me out if you moved in with me? I could be there for you in the evenings and weekend and I am due some leave so I could help you move your stuff and be around all day whilst you settle in.”  This was all said in a rush of words. “Say something Stace.”

    Stacey was amazed. She had never foreseen this. He was right, she wasn’t happy living with her mother since her father had left home, hadn’t been for a long time, way before the attack. She knew Dean would do anything for her. She looked at his worried face and smiled. “That is a lovely idea, as long as you can put up with me. I am terribly untidy and an awful cook. I have only just mastered baked beans on toast.” 

    Dean breathed again and settled back in his chair.

    She hadn’t been fooled by the story of him wanting to let his flat. He had often said he wouldn’t risk someone else in his kitchen, bathroom and taking up room in his lounge. No. he was just a kind friend helping her out in this difficult part of her life.  The thought quite touched her and for the second time that evening she felt near to tears.

    “No problem, meet the new Jamie Oliver. I am known throughout the region for my skills of picking up a take away meal.”

    “You clown Dean,” Stacey paused and turned to him, “I appreciate what you are doing for me though, I really do.” Instinctively she bent forwards and kissed him gently on the lips. “You are one in a million and I am very lucky to have you as a friend.”

    As an answer he held her by her shoulders and returned the kiss. He couldn’t believe this was happening. The girl of his dreams had agreed to live in his flat and had just kissed him Even Dean didn’t want to belittle the situation with some silly joke. He didn’t need to. He had no need to hide any embarrassment as this felt the most natural thing in the world.

“You never know, Dean, you might join the drama group with me. How are your prompting  skills?”


/www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2020/10/dramatic-episodes-act-two-murder.html