Wednesday 31 October 2012

Two Mothers

Two Mothers
Julie- Ann Corrigan
Mother's Ruin

 Even at thirty I still love my mum to smooth a stray curl and push it lovingly behind my ear.  Her rhythmical touch is both mesmerising and meditative, never failing to send me off into a much-needed sleep.
My mother though, has been dead for sixteen years.
I’d spoken only to my younger brother of her visits.  I began recounting our mum’s late night drop-ins from the time he was a baby, and as he grew older it seemed natural to continue.  Jason never questioned me; he always believed. It brought a closeness that was sometimes, lacking.
Theresa Molineaux died giving birth to Jason.  I was fourteen and been waiting for a sibling for most of my life.  Often I would wonder that if I hadn’t talked incessantly of wanting a brother or sister, my mum wouldn’t have had another child.  And wouldn’t have died.
‘We both wanted another one, Angelina … it just took a while for the whole conception thing to happen to us a second time,’ Dad had said.
I was never sure if I believed him.
With Jason in my arms, I cried silently at mum’s funeral thinking, if you weren’t here, Jason, Mum would be alive.  But I loved him, which was just as well because in all but name I became his mum.  As I threw the wet, sticky soil onto the wooden box that held mum’s body, I promised her that I would look after him. 
And that was the first time I felt the smooth cool fingers of my dead mum, pushing a rebellious brown curl back behind my ear.  Afterwards, this only occurred at night, in bed, with the lights down and me in the twilight zone of semi- sleep.  It always happened then.

I wish I hadn’t listened to anyone.  Giving up work at three months pregnant wasn’t a good idea.  I was healthy, full of energy, with far too much time – time  that led me deep into my head.  And that was a place I didn’t like visiting too often, because here was where I questioned my ability to be a mum.
I’d never been one for ‘going for coffee,’ but boredom and restlessness changed my habits.  I was grateful when a group of women befriended me.  It was the beautiful Brazilian, Giselle, who after pouring green tea suggested flippantly we try having an Ouija.  As we all gulped the murky liquid, only I appeared reticent.
I don’t know how it happened, but it was decided that we ‘have a go’ around my house the next day.
Mum had visited every night since her death; but she didn’t visit the night before the Ouija.
My new friends arrived, making themselves very comfortable very quickly.  They seemed at ease with each other, but suddenly my own home felt uncomfortable.
‘Shouldn’t we have done this in the evening?’  I asked.
‘It doesn’t matter … does not have to be dark.’  Giselle scanned my lounge.  ‘Might be an idea to close the blinds though.’
‘Giselle, I’m not sure about this …’ It seemed a few of the other women had felt the same way.  Only Giselle, Florence and Florence’s au pair, Miriam stood in my lounge.
‘Oh, stop worrying.  It’s not serious.  Now girls, is there anyone you want to get in touch with?’ Giselle said.
No one said a word.  Giselle looked at me.
‘Angelina, seeing as you’re the hostess – you should go first.’
The other women nodded in vigorous agreement.
‘But I don’t know what to do … might be better if someone else goes first?’
‘No, we insist.’  Her gaze took in the other two women.  ‘You first.’
 It dawned on me this was the real reason I’d agreed to something I knew was wrong.  I wanted my mum to speak.  I wanted more than an ethereal touch.  I thought of Jason and what he would say, bloody hell, Ange, you don’t mess with stuff like this.  Sensible Jason.
Giselle ignored my hesitance, understanding my deeper need.  She was already pulling out the board from her designer metallic bag.
‘Have you got a wide-rimmed glass?  Giselle asked.
I rushed into the kitchen, beginning to understand how domineering she really was but obeying anyway.  I wanted to tell them to go, to leave.  But I couldn’t.  Forever the follower.  My hand touched my growing stomach.  I hadn’t wanted a baby, not yet, but everyone told me it was a great idea, ‘something of your own.’
      My lounge looked eerily different with the blinds closed in the middle of the morning.  Giselle produced a candle from the bag, placing it next to the Ouija.  She then lit it.
‘We all need to be quiet.’ Miriam said, theatrically.  The silent au pair was now leading the show.  Because for me it was a show.  That is what I kept telling myself, trying hard not to feel apprehensive.  I thought of my motherless night.  Mum never said anything on her visits.  She didn’t need to; I knew it was her by the blast of spicy perfume that I’d grown up with; the calming presence and the sublime serenity I felt in the moments that she moved my hair.
Why hadn’t she visited me the previous night? 
The four of us sat down and placed a hand on the glass.
Miriam’s face was blank.  The flame of the candle grew in size.
Giselle’s face became animated.  I realised I knew nothing about any of these women who sat on my floor, used my house; understanding with a jolt of familiar emotion, which I hadn’t felt since my unhappy school days, they were using me and my home.
‘I can feel it, I can feel it,’ Miriam said.
The flame of the candle was now massive and the colour a strange green hue – as if someone had added sulphur.  The aroma overpowered the strong smell of the Lavender flowers that sat in my windowsill.  I got up to open the window; Giselle pushed me back down roughly.  Then the flame returned to normal and the smell disappeared.
I looked up from the board.  Not wanting to.  Terrified of what I might see but hoping I would see my mum again. 
And standing motionless at the back of my lounge there she was.  My mum. 
I took an intake of breath, trying to smell spicy perfume.  But I smelt nothing, only the burning aroma of candle and a hint of sulphur.
The loneliness of the past sixteen years overwhelmed me and I registered my sorrow at what Jason had never had – our mum.  But she was here now.  Standing so near.  Finally, I could admit her nightly visits were real.
Her upper body was shadowed by something that didn’t appear to exist.  I was desperate to see her face and rose from the floor.  The others were silent but when I glanced at Giselle, I saw a slow smile beginning to spread across her chiselled features.
       My hand touched my stomach.  I’d been waiting weeks for the first movement; then I felt my baby.  The wriggling became persistent, almost punching me from the inside.  I was aware of my baby’s distress.  With a surge of quickening love I talked to my baby, using the same calming voice my mum had used with me. 
But what was wrong?
Because something was wrong.  Very wrong.  As much as I needed to believe this thing in front of me was my mum, everything inside of me was telling me it wasn’t. 
Whatever had been shadowing her face had now disappeared.
I didn’t want to look but I did.
I looked directly at her face and stepped back in sickening panic as I peered at what seemed to be … an undefined image of myself.
There was no spicy smell, no calming feeling.  My baby moved rapidly inside my body – as if trying to escape.  Although the feeling of dread was palpable – the fourteen-year-old girl in me waited for the apparition to raise an arm and touch my hair.  It didn’t.  And when finally I peered into the soulless, empty eyes, I knew why.  This wasn’t my mum.  The smile was alien; the demeanour unlike anything I remembered.
I looked towards my supposed friends.  They smiled knowingly.  They had done this before and knew how dangerous it was.  I was their entertainment.  Pampered women’s entertainment.
I yelled at them, and at the thing.
‘Get out, get out of my house.  Leave me, and my baby alone.’
 My baby moved violently again.  The dim light began to fade.  I had finally said what I wanted to say and inside my head told my child I loved and wanted it.
But then I lost sense of all reality.

*     *     *     *     *

I woke up in a small room.  I knew I was in hospital – the melange of antiseptic smells was too strong for me to be wrong.  My husband slept in a chair.  I moved my hands towards my stomach.  The memory of the demon, and the women, clear in my memory.
I had lost my baby. The demon had taken it. 
And then in the room’s half-light I smelt the spicy smell.  My sadness a thing alive and living within me.
For the first time in sixteen years I saw the face of my mother.
She sat on my bed and slowly stroked my lank hair.
‘Don’t worry sweet Angelina, everything is fine.’
I smiled through tears, ‘Mum, it really is you.  This time it’s you?’
‘Yes, my darling.  It’s me.’  She continued stroking.
‘My baby, mum, – it’s gone.  Everything is my fault.  Letting those women in my house … ’
She placed a hand on my stomach, ‘No, your baby is still here,’ she patted the mound, ‘and happy – happy that you will be her mother, Angelina, as Jason has been happy for you to be his mother – you’ve done a good job with him, Ange.’  Her use of Jason’s name for me made me smile.
‘But what about the demon…?’ 
‘The demon doesn’t exist – only in your head – the demon is you, and maybe your so-called friends.  It, and them, represent your fears and anxieties, your insecurities.  You won’t be seeing it, or them again, I can assure you.’
My mum visited me only once more after that night.

It was five months later.  I watched as mum stroked my daughter’s unusual mop of hair.  The spicy scent much milder than I remembered.  No word was spoken.
I didn’t see or smell her again.  My peace exonerated her from further visits.  But she was always there, somewhere, on the edge.

Julie-Ann Corrigan has had a number of short stories published including one in Bridge House Publishing’s Devils, Demons and Werewolves. Two of her stories were chosen of the Best of Cafelit 2011 and she has been shortlisted and commended in short story competitions. Her first historical novel is currently seeking an agent and she is currently working on her second novel.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The Answer

The Answer

a chalice of poison

Debz Hobbs-Wyatt

You said it would rain. You said it always rains.
Words spoken by a gypsy in a fairground when you were ten years old. Words you later repeated.
You said she wore a scarf draped around her head, sunken cheeks and hoop earrings that made a moment dazzle when it should have been grey. Your mother pressed silver coins into her begging hand and asked for a miracle.
“Save me,” she said.
But it was too late.
The world begins and ends with rain.

It was raining the day she died, the day she tasted the offering you pressed to imploring lips and uttered goodbyes through a veil. It is raining now, each drop as if to realise the prediction. Or perhaps it never stopped.
What of the rain?
Not soft gentle summer rain.
Not leaf dripping hazy rain.
Hard fierce unrelenting rain.
Lion’s roar rain.
You wait in a doorway, close enough to touch it, but held back as if something stands between you and it. You become the hunted. A finger poised in a moment. It is a slice of time as thin as the fracture in the sky where a lip of white light cuts the world in half. As thin as the draught that stirs coldness into time like drips of venom. Are you the sculptor of your own demise? The composer of your own requiem? Are you the author of your own eulogy?
Are we all?
You beg for one more moment, stealing only what you claim is still yours; clutching it to your breast. But it’s not yours – is it?
But still you hold on.
Until it’s gone.
Until all that’s left is mist.
And now you have it. The answer.
But what you leave behind is the question.

Debz Hobbs-Wyatt
Debz is a writer/editor/publisher and she also edits for CafeLit. She says she would not normally publish her own work here, but came across this that was written a long time ago and thought it seemed apt for Halloween.
She says she has no idea where it came from and why she wrote it or indeed what the answer is. She says it’s not 42. She wonders if she was possessed at the time she wrote it.

Friday 26 October 2012

Fighting Mr Fat

Fighting Mr Fat
a rich glass of port
 Dianne Bown-Wilson

I first realised that things were serious again when I came home unexpectedly early to find Alison, my wife, standing chubbily naked in front of the full-length mirror. She had drawn two dotted lines in thick black marker pen down the length of her body – one on each side; she looked like one of those cut-out paper dolls.
    I raised my eyebrows; she glared at me.
    'I'm trying to get an idea of what I would look like if I lost all the weight I need to. I have to motivate myself somehow!'
 Knowing it was more than my life was worth to comment I merely nodded, as if what she was doing was the most natural thing in the world, closed the door and slunk off.

Downstairs, the dog cowered, reflecting the mood of the house. Cruelly, I added to his misery by curling my lip and growling at him. Why shouldn't he suffer too, especially as the raison d'être of his existence: Alison, good food, and a quiet life – so closely mirrors mine? All the signs indicated that for the foreseeable future this nirvana would be a pipedream. Alison is preoccupied; dinner – if it appears at all – will be late tonight, and the atmosphere is as fragile as glass. Unless I'm much mistaken, the fight with Mr Fat is once again on.
Trust me, I'm not usually a heartless rat but when it comes to Alison's weight loss, mind-boggling boredom doesn't begin to describe my reaction. Mention the word 'calorie' and like a mad dog I positively froth at the mouth. Years of  being wed to my well-upholstered sweetheart have turned  me  into an  encyclopaedia  of nutritional values, an absolute wunderkind  of  weight-loss plans  -- and all against my will. The problem is that although age will no doubt catch up with me in time, encasing my ribs in a duvet of pudding-related padding, for now I can eat what I like. Tasked with supporting a body that's well over six feet tall my hollow legs gratefully absorb whatever comes their way. Unfortunately, by contrast, Alison's tiny frame is less accommodating – her weight is her Achilles heel and a constant source of misery in our otherwise almost perfect life.
Since his arrival during her unhappy childhood Mr Fat, as we know him, has been her constant and unwelcome house guest and like a troublesome relative she seems incapable of either banishing or ignoring him.  While the world at large considers her no more than curvaceous, her self-esteem nevertheless bears the deep scars of their endless bitter wrangles.  Alison was pleasingly plump when we met and since then I have loved her unreservedly whatever her size.  So it was not for me that she lost three stone for our wedding although I was delighted for her that on the great day she was as slender as a lily. But, unfortunately, the discarded weight bounced back as swiftly as a boomerang and within months our new household was facing our first joint skirmish with Mr Fat. This time the weapon of choice was a strict, calorie-controlled diet which worked for a while, but then.
A year or so later, I sadly concluded that this relentless pattern probably would form the fabric of our lives for the remainder of our years. Up to two weeks of hell, then total despair, a binge with the chocolate biscuits, ice cream, or chips (usually all three) and suddenly it was all off. I could relax again – until, of course, her next new fancy came along. Oh yes, over the years she's flirted with dozens of diets including Gary-Grapefruit,  Sylvester-Steak-and-Salad, and Derek Dukan – not to mention good old Fred-Fibre: boring,  predictable,  but ever-so-dependable in the fight with Mr Fat.

However, on the day of the paper-doll incident I saw no more of Alison until later in the evening when, although dinner was served to the dog and I (while Alison ate salad), I judged it expedient to let the episode pass without remark.  Nevertheless, the atmosphere confirmed that there was something my beloved wanted to share.
'I'll be away for the night,' she said finally, quoting a date some two months hence. I wondered why she was telling me now as being a management consultant, she travels a lot.
  'A school reunion.'  The words  rattled  out  like  dried  peas on a table top. 'I've been asked to speak to the sixth form at St Catherine's. You know, living proof that fame and fortune can happen to an Old Kat.' 
'Well, well. That rather knocks your theory of never having achieved enough on the head, doesn't it? Obviously you're one of life's great successes if they're asking you to do that!'
There was no nod of acknowledgement – and modesty wasn't the reason.  I've known my darling long enough to realise that there was more to the story than had so far emerged; something was definitely wrong.
  'Clare Seagle has been invited too.' She spat the words out. 'Can you imagine the two of us on the platform together?  We'll look like a porpoise and a whale!'
 An image of the blonde and reed-like Ms Seagle as seen on TV every evening flickered into my mind but I was careful to prevent any hint of approval from crossing my features.

            Alison stared moodily into the distance and I looked beyond her, non-committally. Another thing I've learnt over the years is that in our house silence is like a big hole in the road. One way or another it has to be filled, and swiftly, or you'll come a cropper.
  'What really gets me is not that she's held up as the TV presenter with the personality of Mother Theresa and the brains of Einstein,' she sighed, eventually.  'That's rubbish – and I can live with that. What I can't stand is that she's thinner than me and always was.'
Another hole opened up in the road. For a matter of moments we sat and surveyed it.
  'At school she always hated me because I consistently did better than her in every single subject and she couldn't get out of second place – not that I was bothered. So at our leaving ceremony she was upset because I'd  scooped the  annual prize yet again and just as we were leaving the hall she turned on me, in front of everyone,  and said: 'I'm glad I'm not you, because whatever you do  and  however clever you  are,  you'll  always  be a fat ugly cow.' And look at me - she was right!' 
 I didn't need to lie. 'Of course she wasn't. But if she makes you feel like that, just avoid her. Don't go to the reunion - tell them you're not available.'
 'It's too late.  I'd already accepted before they told me that she'd be there.  I can hardly  back out now.'
 Silence descended again and inwardly I heaved a sigh and resigned myself to a further hour or so of providing comfort and reassurance to my beloved. Not that it was difficult, the comforting. After all, Alison Pringle is not a fat cow; at thirty-four she is sexy, sophisticated, warm, witty and alarmingly talented.  As I say, we've been through all this before - again and again – and  the  format always  is that I tell her how wonderful she is and how her weight problem is a figment of her  imagination and she cries and eventually starts to feel a bit better and then starts to tell me shyly, as if describing a new lover, about this fabulous new diet and what do I  think, should she give it houseroom? And we agree that maybe this will be the one and a new peace descends upon her and calm is restored.
But this time was different. Before I even had time to draw the  deep  breath  required  to launch into my standard words of comfort, she abruptly stood up and swept from the room, dry-eyed, and (I wondered if I should tell her by way of encouragement) decidedly thin-lipped.  This was obviously a new type of skirmish and as a man not keen on living dangerously I decided to hold my counsel.

 As the weeks went by, I found that I was still holding it. For once she didn't seem to want or need my advice; something had definitely changed. Prudently, I waited to see what – and as the weeks passed what became apparent was that, without any fuss, bother, or bosom-beating, the lovely Al was slowly disappearing before my eyes. The grim persistence which until now had always reserved itself for every sphere of her life was obviously at work.  I knew to my cost that faced with this mindset the only reaction was to stand clear and let her get on with things: untrammelled, uninterrupted, and definitely uncommented upon. But finally my curiosity overcame me.
 'Are you still going to that thingy next week?' I asked in an offhand fashion as we sat coordinating diaries as we do most Sunday evenings. In all the weeks that had passed no more had been said about the dreaded reunion so I was keen to know.

    'Of course. And by then I'll have lost another three pounds; the suit I'll be wearing is a size 10.'
 I made a sort of noncommittal clearing of the throat noise, but said no more. Strangely, she hardly seemed in celebratory mood although in view of what she had achieved she should have been on the phone ordering the champagne, brass band and dancing girls. Even in her Sunday night t-shirt, leggings and no makeup, she looked fantastic. Witty, sexy, sophisticated, talented, and now fashion-plate slim. 
And mine.  Oh lucky, lucky man. Even the  vision of the forbidden but secretly lusted-after  Clare Seagle  had now been banished  from my disloyal brain, bleached out by  the  beauty of  my beloved. I had loved her cuddly. I would love her huge. But slim …. she was the apotheosis of every man's dreams, the walking fulfilment of all desire.
Nevertheless, she was prickly with it. As I say, when she has her determined head on it's like she's encased, mentally and physically, in a suit of armour. It takes a brave or foolish man to bother her until it comes off. So I didn't. I knew enough to hope that all this was the build-up to the reunion and once it was over, the barriers would be down. It'd be a great success of course, she'd come home in triumph – and then, relaxed and victorious she would, in all her new loveliness, be mine.
And I was right. 
The day after the event she was home waving the invisible conqueror's sword. Modest as always, even with the gleam of victory in her eyes, she said little, but I was itching to know.

             'How was it, then?' I asked casually finally cornering her in the kitchen, having given her time to change.
 'Good, I think. Yes, very good. The girls seemed really impressed and they honestly seemed to like me. We connected; it was fine.'
    'And did Ms Seagle turn up? How was she?'
    'Mmm - she was there but the reaction was quite subdued really. Perhaps people have seen too much of her already. She seemed surprised to see me though – said she hardly recognised me. Actually, she looked quite haggard. I think it's all that TV makeup; they say it's very ageing.' 
 So that was it.  The battle was over; paradise regained, peace in our time. Inside, although I tried not to make it too obvious, my joy knew no bounds and I reached towards her, a happy, happy man. But victory in battle doesn't win the war. Armadillo skin shed,  my winsome wife smiled provocatively in  return but neatly sidestepped my outstretched arms,  reaching  instead  into  the  cupboard behind  me  for  a  packet of her favourite double chocolate chip cookies.
    ‘Want some?' she purred, simultaneously pouring out a large glass of full-cream milk and lapping the crumbs of the first two rapidly consumed cookies from around her mouth. 
   From behind her eyes Mr Fat smiled his gleeful, disingenuous smile.

Dianne Bown-Wilson is a freelance writer and management consultant. She is fascinated by people – as demonstrated by the fact that she has a first degree in psychology and a PhD in organizational behaviour. To date she is a published non-fiction author but her real love is fiction in which is now striving to make her mark.
Dianne was born in England, grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Oxford where she has a partner and an elderly cat. Her grown-up daughter has flown the nest.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

On The Rocks

On The Rocks
Sue Cross

Dermot thought he must’ve heard ‘Lady in Red’ at least eight times since being in Riley’s Bar. 
Taking another slug of his whiskey, he glanced at his watch.  It was only ten -thirty but felt more like three in the morning.  His eyes felt gritty, his brain like blancmange.
   The barman wiped the counter as if in a trance, his eyes fixed somewhere in the distance as if watching an apparition, seemingly oblivious to his last two remaining customers.
  “Could I have another orange juice please?” 
The stranger’s question seem to break the barman’s reverie and he served his third orange juice that evening.
“Sure. More ice?  he said.
The barman had a soft Dublin accent and his hands shook as he opened a bottle of juice.
 “Yes please and a packet of those peanuts,” the stranger said. “Then I’m heading home.”  He looked at Dermot for a moment, then looked back at the barman.
The phone on the wall jangled, making the barman jump.  He grabbed the receiver as if it was a hot coal.
            “Yes.  How do you know?  Okay, thanks for the tip off.  Sure. Bye now.”
 Slamming down the receiver, the barman turned up the volume of the CD player a notch before disappearing into a room behind the bar, as he left, his eyes darting from side to side like a trapped animal.
 Dermot called out, “Another whiskey,” but his words evaporated in the stale air.
Crunching the last piece of ice in his glass, Dermot swivelled on his stool to face the stranger.  “Not seen you here before,” he said.
 It was more of a question than a statement.
 “Er, no.  The barman seems to have disappeared.  Not very friendly is he?” 
Simon looked directly at the man who said his name was Dermot. He saw a smartly dressed man in his late twenties with dishevelled brown hair.  He wore a grey suit, his pink silk tie undone and hanging forlornly like a forgotten rag.  The man was clearly as drunk as Simon was sober.
   “I stood her up,” said Dermot.
   “Left her at the altar.  Couldn’t go through with it.  My life’s a mess. Should have told her before.  I’m just a ruddy coward. The guilt's eatin' at me stomach but I've no regrets. No, no regrets. She'll be at her mother’s house by now. God, I can imagine the sobs and her mother’s bloody righteous indignation,"  he slurred before slumping across the bar.
    Simon wondered if he had dropped off to sleep.
   ‘He must be drunk to sleep through this racket,’ he thought.
            “I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” Simon said. “I’m supposed to be on a blind date but she didn’t turn up.  I’ll be off in a minute.  Where’s that barman got to?”
   Dermot sat up suddenly, as if revived from a coma.
   “Reckon we’ve got the place to ourselves.”  He staggered behind the bar and poured himself another drink, gazing at the golden nectar as if his life depended on it.  “Wanna whiskey?” he asked.
   “No thanks, recovering alcoholic.  Silly place for me to meet someone on a blind date.”
   “What you do for a living?”  Dermot was back on his stool again, staring at Simon as if for the first time.
   “I’m a pharmacist.”
   “Is that arable or do you have live stock?”  Dermot asked.
   “Neither.  I’m a pharmacist,” Simon felt as if he was yelling and they both laughed. “What job do you do then?”
  “I work for the police department, believe it or not.” 
   Dermot shook his head as he said this.
    “Interesting.  Don’t worry I won’t ask you any questions.”  Simon drained his drink and checked the time.  “Well, I’m off.  Got an early start tomorrow.  Hope it works out for you.  Bye now.”  Much as he felt sorry for the man, he did not feel equipped to be an agony aunt and hated the sour smell of the bar; too many ghostly memories in such places.
            Simon made his way across the worn carpet with the sickly green swirls and noticed that the bar tables had not been cleared of dirty glasses, even though it was now past closing time.
   The door seemed to have stuck.  Irritated, he tried again.  “Barman,” he called, “can you let me out.”
   “Lady in Red,” the music played on as Simon battled with the door.
   “No use, mate.  We’re locked in. You might as well have a whiskey.”  Dermot staggered across as if to escort Simon back to the bar, but didn’t make it.
   Viewing the collapsed form at his feet, Simon dragged him over to a sofa, where he left him to sleep.  In repose his tortured features had become serene, almost childlike.
   Simon allowed himself the luxury of gazing at the row of bottles lined up behind the bar, beckoning him to just have just one little drink, but he fought the urge, knowing that it could never be just the one.
   Instead, he went in search of an escape after switching off the infernal music.  Frustration mounting, he tried the door behind the bar, expecting to see the barman. Feeling like an intruder, he entered a shambolic office that reeked of grime and cigarette smoke.  Suspicious looking posters glared out from the walls.  Simon glanced around and, to his relief, found a door to the outside.  He tried it and a waft of crisp, clean night air rushed in.  Freedom at last.
            He hesitated for a moment.  Should he leave the stranger asleep or call for help?  He decided on the former after throwing a five-pound note on the desk.  That should easily cover the cost of the orange juice and peanuts.
  Feeling as if he’d been in a battle, he hurried home, deciding never to enter a bar or go on a blind date ever again.
The next morning, as Simon picked up his newspaper from the hall mat, a picture accosted him on the front page. It displayed the disappearing barman.  Above it, the headlines shrieked, “Sean O’Connery walked into a police station late last saying that he had given birth …” Simon held his breath as he turned the page and continued to read, “…to the idea that not all bombers were bad people.  He gave himself up claiming that his identity had been discovered by a plain-clothes policeman and his associate in a bar last night. “  

Sue Cross lives in the Cotswolds and started writing seven years ago.  She has produced her first novel, Tea at Sam's, and has recently finished the sequel.  When not ironing, cooking and generally muddling through life, she likes to paint (pictures not skirting boards).
Sue Cross is the author of Tea at Sam’s – details on


Friday 19 October 2012


Roger Noons
Sea Breeze - a cocktail of vodka, cranberry juice and pineapple juice, with a wedge of lime

I trudged along the beach, every step on the shifting shingle, a case of one forward, half a pace back.
After what seemed an age, I reached the monument, and paused to enable my breathing to return to normal. I stared at the four metre high scallop, registering its texture; relishing the effect of the winter sun on the blue-tinged, stainless steel. I looked around; there was not another soul apparent within my view.
             I stepped back, the better to enjoy the sight of the structure within its environment, and realised that in fact, I was not alone. On the seaward side was a slim, long-haired woman. Despite the nature of the weather, she was clad in the merest of summer garments and physically demonstrated no signs of the wind or the low temperature, upon the skin of her face, arms and legs.
            She smiled and moved towards me, resting her hand on the edge of the shell.
            ‘It was designed by an artist called Maggi Hambling,’ she said, ‘she lives not far from here.’
            ‘I know.’
             ‘It’s a tribute to Benjamin Britten, the composer,’ she added.
              ‘I know that too.’ It was my turn to smile.
              ‘Do you know that it has magical powers?’
            ‘No, I didn’t know that.’
             She grinned, having found a fact with which she could acquaint me. Her head on one side, she gently wagged a finger in my direction.
              ‘Come. Place your hand on this spot.’
            When I was near enough, she removed her hand and I placed mine where hers had rested. The metal was hot, such that I was surprised, but I did not withdraw my fingertips. My persistence appeared to provide the catalyst for her to grasp the hem of the short skirt of her garment, and drawing her hands upwards, she pulled the pale pink shift carefully over her head, exposing her naked body. She lowered her arms allowing the dress to slither to the pebbles alongside her feet.
            As I stared, she stretched out her hand towards my left side, the furthest from the scallop. Nodding, she encouraged me to take her hand in mine, and the moment we touched, a deep sigh emanated from her lips. It was audible above the sound of the incoming sea and the gliding shingle.
              ‘My name is Karina,’ she whispered. ‘You must accompany me, come.’
            I released the metal, and as she moved away, I found that I was able to follow, walking as if on a surface with the least possible resistance. In fact, we seemed to float just above the beach. As we reached the sea, I saw that her feet and legs fused together, and the lower half of her body transformed into a fishes tail, covered in lustrous scales.
            She drew me to her, and held me firmly in her arms. She pressed her cool, salty mouth against mine, and when my lips parted, she slowly inserted her tongue, which seemed to be endless, and slipped without obstruction deep into my body. Her chill overtook me and as her power flowed between us, my body relaxed. I felt the water rise, over my feet and up my legs, and as it did so, it brought with it warmth, a cocoon-like comfort that wooed me and melded me to her. Our bodies became as one, as the water flowed over our heads, and the world went away, to leave Karina and I in a state of ultimate solace.
The Festival’s final concert which should have been held on Saturday evening has had to be cancelled. The body of Sylvia de la Cruz, the virtuoso violinist, who was due to solo in two Concertos, was found by a group of bird watchers at Orford Ness. It is thought that Miss de la Cruz, who enjoyed her twenty-first birthday only last week, had made a pilgrimage to the Scallop, the monument to Benjamin Britten on Aldeburgh beach, and may have walked too near to the sea, during the high tide of two mornings ago.
            Miss de la Cruz’s agent, Robin Pinero, during a tearful statement, admitted that the artiste would be much missed. He also confessed, when questioned, that Miss de la Cruz was unable to swim.

Bio: Roger Noons
Having spent the best part of thirty five years writing reports on such subjects as ‘Provision of Caravan Sites for Travellers’ and ’Aspects of Pest Control in the Urban Environment’, Roger Noons began even more creative writing in 2006, when he completed a screenplay for a friend who is an amateur film maker. After the film was made, he wrote further scripts and having become addicted, began to pen short stories and poems. He occasionally produces memoirs and other non fiction. He has begun to perform his poems, and has just published ’An A to Z by RLN’, an anthology of 26 short stories. He intends by the end of the year to have followed that up with a novella.
He is a member of two Writers Groups and tries his hardest to write something every day. As well as CafeLit, he has had credits in West Midlands newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, Paragraph Planet, Raw Edge and a number of Anthologies.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Baby Blues

Baby Blues
Gail Aldwin
Nettle tea

Lining up the bottles of baby formula, I thank God for the respite of when she’s asleep. An adult’s company is a bonus, even if he’s only come to fix the boiler. Alex raps his knuckles on the kitchen counter. The back of his hand is smattered with freckles and his skin has the honey shade of a light tan.
‘I’ll be back to do the service next year. Thanks for the cuppa.’ He counts the notes that I offer and folds them.
 ‘You mean I've got twelve months to wait until I see you again?’ Tilting my head I notice his red hair is streaked with grey, rather more silver than gold. He smiles, making the dimples appear. I bite my lip, resisting the urge to smile back and Alex lingers, the silence holding us. Moving closer, he angles his head to reach my lips. His bristles scrape as he works his tongue and I wrap my arms around his neck. When saliva seeps onto my chin, I nudge his elbow and step away. Studying the lines of laminate on the floor, I straighten my shirt.
‘I can drop by one day next week.’ Alex arranges the tools in his belt.
‘That isn’t such a good idea, there’s the baby to think about.’
‘And your husband, or is he a boyfriend?’
‘She’s my partner, actually.’
‘You mean I just kissed a dyke?’
He tosses the spanner in his hand and aims it at the window. Stepping back as the glass shatters, his blood speckles the paintwork. My shoulders cinch and I’m frozen in place. Slamming the door as he leaves, air seeps through the broken glass. I force my limbs to work, tiptoeing to avoid the shards and I stare through the jagged hole. Alex is on the pavement. He swings his head from side to side, as if he’s checking for witnesses and a few moments later, the van drives away. I’m left wondering how to explain the damage but the baby’s still asleep, so I have time to plan.

Bio:Gail Aldwin enjoys all sorts of writing, from six-word-stories to novels.  Her collection of flash fiction and short stories titled Four Buses is going to print shortly. She has a regular column in What the Dickens? magazine that answers writers’ questions. You can also find her at:  http://gailaldwin.wordpress.comand @gailaldwin

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Making Up

Roger Noons
a bottle of Beaujolais Villages

‘So what’s his name?’
    ‘Shan’t tell you.’
    ‘Don’t be childish, I only asked his name, the chap in the silver BMW.’
    ‘It’s none of your business.’
    Susie paused for thought, and until her daughter looked her in the eye. ‘I’m only being polite. It would be nice to know his name, so that when I meet him …’
    ‘You’re not going to meet him.’
    ‘Oh Jess, grow up.’
    ‘I am not going to invite him in mother; I don’t want you putting on your usual act and …’
    ‘What on earth are you talking about? I won’t eat him, or ask him if his intentions are … What do you mean my usual act?’
    ‘Your gushing greeting, your blouse open at the front and your skirt up around your bum. ‘Oh nice to meet you Colin, I‘ve so looked forward to Jess bringing you home, I’m Susie, she‘s told me all about you. Then two weeks later, he‘s dumping me for you.’
    ‘That was just the one time, and I was …’
    ‘Mother, you must be losing your memory. You’ve done that with the last three guys I’ve been out with.’
    ‘I’m sorry love, but I can’t help it if they find me attractive, can I?’
    ‘They don’t find you attractive; they find you easy to get into bed.’
    ‘Jess that was a horrible thing to say.’
    ‘I’m sorry, but if you want a bloke, go out and get your own, don’t steal mine.’
    Susie sulked, looked hurt, turned away from her daughter then quietly said. ‘What chance do I have to meet men? I’m stuck at that Home twelve hours a day, six days a week.’
    ‘Go out in the evening, that’s what I do. Don’t forget I work as well.’
    ‘I’m too knackered to go out. You’ve no idea what it’s like looking after old folks all day.’
    ‘Don’t you meet anyone at work?’
    ‘Oh yeah, there’s Leslie, I get to put his willie back in his trousers half a dozen times a day, and Bert, he keeps promising to give me one, if he could only remember how. They’re both eighty six, for God’s sake.’
    ‘Well advertise, use your imagination, join a club, or a group. The local amateur dramatic society’s appealing for new members, which would be a good place. You‘d make a terrific barmaid, or tart.’
    Jess swept out of the room, not realizing that she had left her mother in tears.

    When Jess arrived home on the following evening, she found a message propped up against the microwave.
‘I’ve gone out, should be back around ten.’
    In fact it was almost eleven o’ clock, when Jess heard the front door of their semi detached house open, and her mother walk along the laminate floor into the kitchen. She threw down her magazine and joined Susie.
    ‘Well what?’
    ‘Where have you been?’
    ‘None of your business.’
    ‘Mother …
    ‘What? That’s how you treat me.’
    ‘Sorry,’ she looked away, then quietly added, ‘please tell me where you’ve been, I was worried, you said ten, and it‘s gone eleven.’
    ‘I went for a drink … after the meeting.’
    ‘What meeting?’
    ‘The Amateur Dramatic Society, I’ve joined the Stockbridge Players. In fact I’ve got a part in their next production.’ Susie smiled.
    ‘What’s the play?’
    ‘It’s a French farce … and … I play Monique, a prostitute.’
    Mother and daughter hugged each other as they burst out laughing.

Having spent the best part of thirty five years writing reports on such subjects as ‘Provision of Caravan Sites for Travellers’ and ’Aspects of Pest Control in the Urban Environment’, Roger Noons began even more creative writing in 2006, when he completed a screenplay for a friend who is an amateur film maker. After the film was made, he wrote further scripts and having become addicted, began to pen short stories and poems. He occasionally produces memoirs and other non fiction. He has begun to perform his poems, and has just published ’An A to Z by RLN’, an anthology of 26 short stories. He intends by the end of the year to have followed that up with a novella.
He is a member of two Writers Groups and tries his hardest to write something every day. As well as CafeLit, he has had credits in West Midlands newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, Paragraph Planet, Raw Edge and a number of Anthologies.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Little Savage

Little Savage

Patsy Collins

No drink required

She stared fascinated as his sharp little teeth ripped at the chunk of fresh, red flesh. The sight appalled her, yet she could not look away. Sally knew she dare not take her eyes of him, not even for a moment.
Holding the skin firmly, he feasted on the juicy interior. Greedily he bit off chunks; eating noisily and chuckling with pleasure. He wiped his hand across his face, dispersing the crimson liquid that ran freely from his mouth.
What a savage little monster, thought Sally as she watched her two year old son eat his first slice of watermelon.

Author Bio:
Patsy's latest novel, Paint Me a Picture, is out now available from Amazon here: LINK