Wednesday 25 January 2017

Old Billy

Roger Noons

half of mild ale

    I first met him when I was twelve; I used to deliver his morning newspaper. He was always shaved and smartly dressed no matter what time I rapped on his back door.

    ‘Ow do young un,’ he would grin, displaying his few remaining teeth, as I handed him an Express. ‘Any good news today?’ I always shrugged. My job was to deliver papers not read them.

    When the summer holidays began, I stood in for the evening paper boy while he went to Rhyl with his parents and younger sister. It was during that week that I got to know Old Billy better. Everyone in the street had a comment about him.

    ‘He was in the War, got blown up.’
    ‘Prisoner of War, in Germany, he was.’
    ‘I heard he never left England.’
    ‘Don’t believe a word, he makes it all up.’
    ‘Supposed to be a chain maker, but he hardly ever goes to work.’
    ‘Never fell out with anybody as far as I know.’

    Were just a selection of comments from the residents of Cokeland Place.

    On the Saturday evening, after completing my round, Mary Anne, in the paper shop, asked me to drop off a Sports Argus to Billy as he’d not turned up to collect it.

    ‘P’raps he’s not very well,’ she said, ‘And it’s on your way home.’

    Arriving at his back door, I found it open. Thinking he was in the closet behind the wash house, I stepped inside to place the paper on the sideboard. 

    “That’s good on yer, lad,’ came from Billy who was lying on the floor. He seemed to be wedged between his armchair and a cupboard in which he stored his groceries. ‘I’ve had a bit of a tumble an I can’t get up.’

    ‘I’ll go and fetch somebody,’ I said, and ran out, along the entry up to our house. When I returned with my father, we found Billy had passed out.

    ’Go to Miss Willets,’ Dad told me. ’She’s got a phone, ask her to ring for an ambulance.’

    By the time the ambulance came, Billy had died. Sergeant Bills arrived and after they had carried the old man out, he found a box that must have been under Billy’s body. He opened the lid and showed us the contents. It was a funny-shaped cross with a lion and a crown on it, attached to a maroon ribbon.

    ‘I bet the King would have presented that, at Buckingham Palace,’ the Sergeant announced.

    As we walked back to our house, I asked. ‘What’s valour mean, Dad?’

Monday 23 January 2017

Bad Smell

Cathy Leonard

un coup de champagne

Sipping a coup de champagne on one of those famous French boulevards when the call came through. From home. Heart sank. What now?

Bad smell in the study.

Well, what do you want me to do about it? Figure it out. Trace source of bad smell- it’s not rocket science.

We were on our twentieth wedding anniversary weekend break and damned if a bad smell was going to ruin it.

But as we joined the queue at the Glass Pyramid in the expectation of a glimpse of that enigmatic smile, however minuscule, the bad smell enveloped us.

Food left to spoil by careless brother? Dead mouse? Or dare we venture? Dead rat under the floor boards?

How long did it take a dead rat to disintegrate?

And so the dead rat scuttled alongside us around the Ile de Saint Louis. It circled the gargoyles, snuck past the bouquinistes and imbibed our every other coup de champagne in whatever rue we ended up in. Our ubiquitous topic of conversation-rats turned to plagues, bilboes as big as apples.

There were of course the frequent updates by text.
It’s still there.
Can’t use the study.
My mock leaving cert starts in 3 days
When are you coming back?

Can’t she move the fecking computer?

And then the arguments about our parenting skills, or lack thereof?
The Celtic cubs’ lack of initiative, the infantalisation of the modern teenager, their hopeless dependency, how we in our day would have sorted it out ourselves, how long does parental obligation last? She’s over 18. It’s our twentieth. For Christ’s sake!!!

And so Paris was one long whine about children, parenting and dead rats.

About the author

Cathy has been writing and teaching for over thirty years. She has published poetry, short stories and children’s stories and has been shortlisted for a number of awards, most recently runner up in the Fish Flash Fiction Award 2013 and the Sceine Poetry Competition 2014. She had a short story selected for publication in Baubles 2016. Cathy lives in Dublin with her husband Stephen, two adult children, Molly her trusty red-setter cross and our new arrival- a stray one eyed three month old kitty- Sherlock. Now all we need is a Watson!


Sunday 22 January 2017

The Patio

Roger Noons


a glass of home-made lemonade

My mother and brother giggle on the patio. They are ignoring me as I stare from the hammock slung between the apple tree and the holly. I remember my father creating that crazy-paved area where they sit with their fancy tumblers and the jug of home-made lemonade. I helped him break up the slabs which had previously been a boring rectangle of grey, an area to collect leaves during the autumn.

    Dad arranged the fragments of two inch thick concrete and with me mixing the sand and cement, gradually filled in the joints. Here and there he left spaces in which, after filling with rich, well-rotted compost, he planted roses. My father loved roses, but never allowed a stem to be picked from the bush. He favoured the long established varietals, ones that had a scent. Ena Harkness, Peace and Orangeade were his favourites. He was not a skilled gardener, but roses being his passion, he studied and learnt how to cultivate them and each summer produced many beautiful blooms.

    It was always a topic for discussion between my parents, leaving the flowers on the bush. After I had gone to bed on warm summer nights I would hear their arguments. My mother’s common sense case against my father’s emotions. 

    It was late August, a Friday. Unusually for me, I was downstairs and ready for breakfast at eight o’ clock. My mother stood in the kitchen, her face wet with tears, her hands wringing a tea towel.

    ‘He’s gone,’ she announced.

    Embarrassed, I looked away. On the window ledge there was a slim-necked vase containing a single stem of Peace. My draw dropped.

    ‘Look outside,’ my mother whined.

    I stepped through the doorway and saw that the roses had been slashed. Every stem, even those without a bud or bloom lay on the patio. Petals were scattered across the entire surface. They appeared to have been stamped on, rubbed to confetti by a grinding, heavy boot.

    ’And he won’t be coming back,’ my mother added as she came to stand alongside me. ‘I only picked the one,’ she snivelled. ‘It smelled so ...’

Saturday 21 January 2017

The Late Joe Berry

R.B.N. Bookmark 


1980 something……….

Back then, Joe Berry was banned from just about every major football stadium up and down the country. 
A hard man who neither gave, nor expected quarter and whose battle scarred reputation, earned on the Scoreboard terraces at Old Trafford, demanded respect from lesser men. 
The stretches he served in prison had only served to make him more rebellious and an even greater threat to society.  Joe`s parents had all but given up on their only son, who it seemed was hell bent on a life of crime.
The present

Long gone is the trendy Stone Island casual clobber and the “Fuck Off” attitude - that was the swashbuckling Joe Berry of old. All that remains is the ACAB (All Coppers Are Bastards) tatoo on the knuckles of his right hand, the ink like the past faded with time.
Let me now introduce you to the present day Joe Berry.  
Gone the six pack and the once intimidating physique of a streetfighter. You see before you an overweight family man, with a receding hairline that has stopped halfway up his back.  A seemingly average 33 year old home owner, living in an average leafy suburb of Cheshire in North West England. A once illustrious past has given way these days to mortgage rate worries, bringing up two young boys and raising them in the designer clothing bubble all budding Man Utd hooligans should be accustomed to. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels one could drown in, were it possible to wade in his bloodstream were the only thing fearsome about him nowadays.
Joe had married and settled down with his childhood sweetheart Mona, and they went on to become the proud parents of two young boys now aged six and seven. 
It was no easy task, yet he had turned his back on the past and had become a respectable member of the community. Still, despite the aura of repectability, he always slept with a baseball bat under the mattress. 
Joe`s parents were understandably relieved, and as proud as can be of their reformed son. No longer was he the family renegade once dubbed by his father as “The Blackberry of the family”.
Yet Joe found the stresses of family life, surburbia and encroaching middle-age far harder to digest than his inglorious past – he missed the old days.
Little did he know his middle-age crisis would get a helping hand in the shape of Bingo, the family black and tan Belgian Hovawart.

It was the 3rd July 2013 and Joe Berry had decided it was time to remove that troublesome wasp’s nest, from under the guttering above the boys` bedroom window.
Mona had implored him to employ Anticimex to do the task, but to no avail.
Joe Berry was a stubborn chap, and even more so should it involve money. Mona would wryly call him Stingey Berry, noting it was a wonder he could part with wind let alone money.
‘I`ll be done in a jiffy and it won`t cost us a penny’ he said as he nipped off to fetch a pair of step ladders from the garden shed.
Perspiring heavily and out of breath, he returned with the ladders, placing them just under the boys` bedroom window. Wearing a motorcycle helmet and a pair of Mona`s flowery kitchen gloves as protection, Joe`s cumbersome frame slowly made its way up the ladder.
Once at the top, he opened up the black bin liner he was clutching in one hand, carefully placing it beneath the wasp´s nest until the nest was within in its confines.
It was just at that moment a magpie landed on the bottom rung of the ladder.
All of a sudden Bingo the dog caught sight of the magpie, an ill omen if ever there was one.
Bingo you see was a fervent Sunderland supporter who hated the “Magpies”.
With one fateful lunge the dog removed the ladder from the equation, and Newton`s Law did the rest.
Bingo - a fait accompli.
It was like waking up from a dream: there was an ambulance in the driveway and two paramedics crouching over a figure while swotting irate wasps that were orbiting whoever it was that lay there. The figure was lying prostrate on the crazy paving Joe had laid the previous year, but had never got round to finishing the pointing. 
Mona and the boys stood ashen faced, looking on from a short distance. Mona embraced the boys, each clinging onto one of her legs, hiding behind her back whenever an angry wasp made a beeline for them.
Perched on top of the Meyer lemon tree, that Joe and Mona had been given as a wedding present, sat the magpie, peering down at the proceedings below.
At the base of the tree, staring up at the magpie sat Bingo, oblivious to the commotion going on around him.
A small band of neighbours had now gathered across the street. A bit like when Pavlov`s dog reacted to the sound of a buzzer, only their salivary glands were activated by the sound of ambulance sirens – gossip being their reward.
While all this was taking place, there you were Joe. The onlooker.
It was as if you were still on top of those ladders, looking down at everyone, when all of a sudden your bird`s eye view was interrupted by a tap on the shoulder.
‘Excuse me,’ came a croaky voice from behind him.
Joe turned his head slightly and caught sight of the magpie sitting on a branch in front of him.
‘I´m afraid this tree is taken man,’ said the magpie.
‘I´m sorry mate, I didn`t mean to rattle your cage,’ whispered Joe under his breath as he half heartedly apologised, in disbelief and taking in the strange sight before his eyes.
The magpie was wearing a pair of turtleshell Raybans and smoking a spliff in a long black shiny cigarrette holder so as not to get nicotine stains on his wings.
Hearing Joe`s barely audible comment, the magpie let fly with an irritated “Squaaaakkkk”. His Raybans slid down his beak and peering over the top of them he said.
‘Take a pill and chill dude, that cage jive not called for man. I´m a free bird baby - you ain`t a cop are you?’ 
‘Me?’ replied Joe, feeling his hooligan cred had been dealt a low punch. 
‘No, I´m not a cop,’ said Joe.
‘I´m just a dude stuck up a tree talking to a magpie smoking a spliff.’
While Joe was strongly reiterating his non affiliation with the forces of law and order, he observed as the magpie inhaled deeply from the spliff hanging precariously from his beak.
Disappearing behind a thick cloud of Lebanese Black, the magpie coughed and wheezed as he attempted to catch his breath.
Wafting away the smoke with his wings, he finally got his bird shit together and said  ‘Man you`re one chillin suspended in the air cool dude.’
‘Cmon over to my place and perch your ass beside me brother,’ said the magpie, inviting Joe to share his branch and a spliff with him. 
Just then the sound of a moblie phone and a Jimi Hendrix Hey Joe ringtone blaring from his feathered hipster pocket had the magpie clamouring to answer his Iphone.
Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand, hey Joe where you going with that gun in youuuurr hand.” 
Magpie: ‘Dude, 
I need you to do me a cosmic favour, it is my old lady being uncool and cramping my style. Will you take this call for me?  Just say I´m helping out a friend moving to a new nest. Tell her I`ll be back for tea……oh and send my love to the chicks.’ 
‘Ok,’ said Joe, feeling sorry for the magpie.
‘I´ll answer the phone for you.  Hey, did I tell you I´ve got two chicks of my own?’
Joe:  (what am I saying….chicks???)
The magpie stretched out his Iphone to Joe.
Joe: ‘Hello’
Iphone: ‘Joe?’
Joe: ‘Yes?’
Iphone: ‘Joe?’ 
Joe: ‘Yes ……is that you Mona???’
Iphone: ‘Joe, wake up ……you’re late for work!’
‘Oh Mona it`s you!’ exclaimed Joe. 
‘You wouldn`t believe the dream I have just had.’

About the author

 R.B.N Bookmark was born in Manchester, England during the late 1950s.
Having been surrounded by extraordinary real life characters all of his life, it comes through in his writing. When times are hard the one thing that’s plentiful is humour…..and its free!
Nowadays he lives and works in Scandinavia.

Friday 20 January 2017

The Good Deed

Paul Westgate

a glass of brown ale

 I’d seen the couple earlier, at the chapel.

‘Took him under our wing like’ the man said.

‘Had him for Sunday dinner as soon as we found out he lived alone’ the woman added. ‘Proper roast dinner, once a month regular’ she continued. ‘Thanked us no end of times, said he really enjoyed it’.

‘Under our wing like’ the man repeated. ‘Some company for him, something different like’.

‘He were a nice man’ the woman concluded.

‘Yes’ I said ‘a very nice man’.

I didn’t mention the many friends, the range of interests or that he’d been a life-long vegetarian.

About the author

Paul is an enthusiastic but sporadic writer. He lives in Essex and works in London and uses the two train journeys each day to read books, sleep and, occasionally, to think up stories; sometimes these are even written.

Thursday 19 January 2017



Oliver Charlton


                              a delicate tea in a fancy cup


“Jones! Jones! I got a bone to pick with you.”

Larry Jones was unperturbed by the tone at which his friend was shouting at him across the very public tea shop. He merely placed the porcelain cup neatly on the saucer, and straightened his jacket and he sat up.

“Ah, so good of you to join me on my lunch break. What can I do for you? How’s the design-temp working out?”

“Well” said the man, taking a seat “that is exactly why I have come to find you on your lunchbreak Jones.”
“Oh, you did hire Ms. Boggart in the end, then?”

“Yes, mostly upon your recommendation. Sight unseen, I might add. You made such a fuss that you’ve used her so often over the years, and you yourself being so meticulous. Raving endlessly that no matter the task, no matter how wild the need, she has always met your famously high expectations.”

Larry Jones nodded in response. “Indeed I did my friend, she’s only ever been exemplary in any capacity I’ve hired her in. Always met my expectations.”

“So you say” continued the other man, shifting his weight in his seat “So I too, naturally, trusted in high expectations.”

“As I said you should” re-affirmed Larry.

“So you say, Jones, so you say. But I started to have doubts as soon  as she walked through the door. She really didn’t look like your standard suit designer. All alternative and dumpy. With weird necklaces with all these wooden charms on.”

“Oh really?”

“Her voice put me off too” continued the man “very nasal, really weird accent. Not professional at all.”

“Was that all that put you off her?”

“No, actually, as soon as she came in she started telling me she’d been in the business for six centuries, I wasn’t even sure what to think anymore. She barely picked up a pencil all day in the end. An utter waste of space. So really, I have no idea what you recommended her for Jones.”

Larry Jones raised his cup to his mouth and finished the last dregs in one gulp. “I don’t know what to tell you, pal. She’s a real interesting creature, that Ms. Boggart. She always meets expectations.”

About the Author

This is Oliver’s second submission to café lit, and he promises the next one won’t be set in any sort of hot drinks shop.
He is also currently writing for a fake radio show on Youtube. It’s about a radio host, a radio show and a dust cloud

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Waterloo Sunset

Alan Cadman


a celebratory glass of champagne

I’d never heard of the credit crunch. It reminds me of a proverb about a fool and his money . . . hello, meet the fool.

Late evening July sun is setting over Waterloo Bridge. There are magnificent views. I can see the London Eye, Royal Festival Hall and the Houses of Parliament.

If I rest my elbows on this parapet, and balance on my toes, I’ll be able to lean over and gaze into the river. Interfering do-gooders, what are you staring at? 

Hypnotised by old Father Thames, I plunge into darkness. I’ll soon be celebrating death’s quick release.

About the author 

Alan has been writing short stories for eleven years. In 2011 he made the short list for one story and was a prize winner for flash fiction. He also won first prize, of £100, in a poetry competition in 2013. The three accolades were awarded by the best-selling UK magazine for writers. His work has been read out on Internet radio and published in hard copy magazines and e-zines. He has also been published in CaféLit anthologies.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Sunday – The Sound of Silence

 Robin Wrigley

a glasss of red wine

The Reverend Paul Burroughs looked around the dining room of the hotel and beyond his fellow guests to the River Avon and the cathedral across the meadows where he has been summoned later that afternoon.

     He finished his coffee, drained the last drop from his wine glass willing the alcohol to bring him the strength to accept whatever decision the Bishop was about to deliver. He signed the bill the pretty young blonde waitress had left at his side and returned to his room.

     Sitting on the edge of his bed he attempted without success to read a passage from his bible, the copy his mother gave him the day he was ordained almost twenty years from this day. But the thoughts of recent events in his parish kept flooding back into his mind and made reading impossible.

     He carefully closed the bible, placed it back on the bedside table, stood up and walked towards the window. Once again he looked at the cathedral spire and then to the river now swollen by the early autumnal heavy rains the previous week. The current was fast moving and carrying several bits and pieces of fallen branches.
    It would be so easy to circumvent what he knew in his heart of hearts would be the outcome of his meeting with the Bishop by the simple act of quietly slipping into that river unnoticed.

     But suicide was never in his DNA so kicking off his shoes he picked up the remote and opened the television to the first channel, stretched out on the bed only to nod off moments later. During the sleep he had a series of strange dreams, culminating in a nightmare scene where he had been condemned to die placed in position like one of the founding bishops lying in the cathedral and told to remain there until he stopped breathing.

     The scene caused him to awaken, sweating and alarmed. Looking around the room to gather his whereabouts he was surprised to notice that his travel clock showed he had been asleep for almost two hours. He went to the bathroom, cleaned his teeth, combed his hair and prepared to meet his fate.

     Minutes later he was climbing the elevated section of pavement at the end of the street as it curled round and rose to the bridge over the river downstream from the hotel. As he came in full view of the bridge itself he noticed a young girl dressed in a red hoodie, blue jean and strangely, barefoot.

     The figure in the red top looked as if she was trying to climb onto the wall then stopped when she saw him coming. He continued walking towards her rehearsing in his mind how to approach the subject that looked as though she was preparing to jump. But his concern was unnecessary for he never got beyond saying, ‘Excuse me.’

     The girl whirled around to face him, her face contorted in a white rage as she slapped him hard around his face with such force that his spectacles flew off over the bridge wall into the river below and he fell against the wall painfully grazing the left-hand side of his face on the rough stone-work.

     It was over in a flash, the girl fled the scene leaving him dazed, sitting there until moments later he unlaced his shoes, removing them he stood up and silently launched himself over the parapet into the river.

     His body was discovered half a mile downstream, caught up on a large branch. A lady nearby had been alerted by the sound of a dog howling who was found, desperately clinging to the branch. It transpired the dog had been reported missing by a guest at the hotel earlier that afternoon.

     The vicar’s elderly mother was quoted as saying that her son must have dived in to save the dog as he was passionate about animal welfare.  A week later Wiltshire constabulary said they were not treating the death as suspicious.

     The unpaid hotel bill was settled by the Bishop’s secretary who said that he had been expected for tea with the Bishop that afternoon and had been concerned when he didn’t arrive. The next day a Polish chambermaid left her employment from the hotel unexpectedly, returned home to her native town of Gdansk and applied to enter a convent.

     Three weeks later a funeral service was held in the village of the Reverend Burroughs’ adopted home. The service was officiated by the Bishop and was widely reported on the local news. The local RSPCA inspector read the eulogy.  A thirteen-year old Iranian immigrant choirboy fainted during the service. His adoptive mother said he was very upset because it brought back memories of his journey to Europe and he had been very attached to the vicar who was helping him with his plans to become a professional football player.

Monday 16 January 2017


Fiona Mills

home-made elderflower with sparkling water

Let me take you under my wing,’ you said, ‘together we will ride the thermals, reach heights you never imagined.' So I flew the nest, leaving behind all family and friends.
    ‘We are swans,’ he said, ‘paired for life, needing no-one but each other.' I thought we were turtle doves.
    We flew around the globe, just the two of us, stopping long enough to say we’d seen life, but never long enough to live. And for a time I was happy to listen only to your call. We watched as others defined their territory, built their nests and raised their young.
    ‘How lucky we are to soar above those ordinary lives!’
    But then I heard it. The beat of a thousand wings in perfect harmony; a murmuration, a moving tableau in the sky. How did the common starling, so raucous, so angular, create such beauty? I felt its ripples overwhelm me.
    ‘Don’t leave,’ you said, ‘I cannot live alone.’
    But you are not my swan or my turtle dove. You are an albatross, loyal to the end, but content to live on the wing. You are weighing me down and I can no longer fly.
    And so I leave and join the dance. I swoop, I soar, I find myself in the crowd. I am, it turns out, a home-bird after all.
Note: The male albatross spends many years choosing a partner, and remains loyal till one of them dies. It is not part of a flock, and only joins others to select a mate and breed. 


About  the author

Fiona is a freelance radio journalist and mum of three who has always secretly longed to write fiction.