Saturday 30 September 2017

The Hunted

Wendy Ogilvie

a mug of green tea


There he is. I see him. The mountain foliage cannot conceal his large frame. Holding binoculars to his eyes he searches for his target. Does he know that I’m just ten feet behind him I wonder? — No, he has no idea. He may be a trained killer, but then so am I.

I sit perfectly still, hidden by sub alpine trees and moist liverwort. A small branch brushes my neck as it waves in the breeze; it tickles but I dare not move to scratch as any movement could give me away.

His rancid breath - a mixture of tobacco and strong coffee - has hitchhiked on the breeze and polluted the air to my nostrils. Men like him being paid for murder is sickening. Anger rises within me like bile and clutches the back of my throat. But I need to keep my hatred in check. I need calm, clear thoughts if I am to get the job done.

He shifts position and turns up the collar of his jacket. The breeze is stronger now. I saw his red truck parked at the top of the ravine. I know it’s his, I’ve seen it drive past on his way back from the mountain; heavy with the bodies of innocent victims. He has been sent by Mr Davenport to do the job, but looking at him I can’t think why he was chosen. He must be sixty years old with a ruddy complexion and two days’ worth of whiskers. Not exactly sniper material.

I can hear him snorting. He spits into the bushes and slowly lifts his rifle as he surveys the woodland in search of his target; looking only forward, never behind.

I have an image of what his face will look like when I shoot him. I picture a Krummholz: a tiny tree high in these mountains gnarled and twisted from being sculptured by the wind. I smile. It amuses me to think of what thoughts will be crashing through his mind. Don’t assume I’m not scared, I have a family who relies on me, but for now, I need to concentrate; there’s a sniper on the move.

            Holding his rifle butted against his shoulder, the hunter evacuates the safety of the bushes and carefully moves forward. Each step is exaggerated as he lifts his boots over the thick undergrowth. Slowly I rise from my hiding place. The hunter is in my rifle sight. He is still scouring the woodland before him. How foolish he is.

            Crack! A branch snaps underfoot. The hunter turns sharply. His face resembles that of a deer caught in headlights. How ironic. I smile and pull the trigger. Bang!
 
The bullet penetrates his right shoulder, which he clasps with his left hand as his rifle drops to the ground. He looks at me, his eyes wide.

 “Why are you …? He manages before I raise my aim once again. I step forward. He steps back, quickly checking the ground behind him but not wanting to take his eyes off me. He turns and runs. Just two steps on, he stumbles over some protruding tree roots and struggles to keep upright.

“Please!” he shouts between breaths. “I don’t know what…”

Still holding his wound, he tries to run faster but trips over a log. I can smell gunpowder and fear — his and mine. His face is now purple as he struggles to breathe.  

Bang! I hit his left leg just below his buttocks. Just a flesh wound. I feel a little guilty as his back was turned but I’ll get over it. Adrenaline pumps through my veins like a semi-automatic. The hunter is being hunted.

Slowing my pace enough to reload, I see him. He is thirty feet away, leaning on a tree stump. Time to end this now — I’m not cruel after all.

He looks up to see me moving towards him. “What do you want?” His face is red and contorted. “Please don’t shoot.”

My heart is beating so loudly I hardly hear his pleas for mercy. I don’t think mercy is a word he understands. The hunter pushes himself away from the tree stump still clutching his shoulder and stands squarely before me. Is he daring me to shoot?

Bang! The final shot hits him in the chest. The hunter is knocked back off his feet. I feel a twinge of sadness... killing should never be the answer but sometimes it’s necessary. Still holding my rifle I carefully check his pulse. The hunter is dead. Justice has been served.

I sling my rifle over my shoulder and lay a tarp on the ground. Grabbing the lapels of his blood- soaked jacket, I haul him onto it. He is incredibly heavy, probably 230 pounds, but I’m strong and running on adrenaline. I can feel the cool air catch in my throat as I stop for a second to rest. The rope I attached to the end of the tarp is helpful as I drag my kill through the trees.

By the time I reach the top of the ravine, I have discarded my jacket and grab the hem of my T-shirt to release it from my sweat–soaked body. The breeze has dropped and the early evening sun is filtering through the now steady leaves on the trees.  There it is, his truck, ‘Davenport Venison Meat Co’ is signed in black along the cabin doors.

As I open the truck door, the smell of warm body odour escapes. I move away quickly and look down at my kill. This is going to be hard work.

Heaving the carcass inch by inch into the driver seat, I stop to wipe my brow with his shirtsleeve. There, he’s in. Now it’s time to dispose of the body. I lean across and release the handbrake.

The truck is already parked on a slope and begins to move easily towards the edge of the ravine, picking up speed on its way. Just as the front of the truck tips over the edge, there is a crash, which echoes around the space below. The truck bounces off the ravine wall all the way to the bottom, about 1000 feet.

I stand with my hands on my hips watching with a satisfied smile. The truck is on fire. A job well done I think. As I walk away, I hear the explosion of the fuel tank finishing the job I started.  

On the drive home, there is a rock song on the radio, which I can’t help but sing along to. As I pull into my yard, my youngest son Tommy runs to greet me.

“Hey, Ma, we’ve been playing in the tree house. What’s for dinner I’m starving?”

“We’re having your favourite,” I reply, scooping him up into my arms. “Nut roast with home-made coleslaw and cornbread.”

“I’ll get started, Ma,” says my eldest daughter Suzie, who makes her way back to the house. As she reaches the front porch, Suzie turns and looks me in the eye.

“How was the hunting?” She mouths quietly.

 About the author

Wendy has been a Personal Trainer for twenty years but has always made time for writing. She is currently editing the sequel to her Chick Lit novel Wandering on the Treadmill and completing her first thriller.

In MaryWorld

Dawn Knox

Earl Grey tea (because it goes well with fruitcake)

Mary Wilson dragged a comb through her ginger hair and pulled until the curls surrendered allowing it to reach her shoulders. But when the teeth finally slipped free of the tangles, the hair sprang back to her ears in corkscrew curls. She frowned at her reflection in the mirror. Tight, ginger curls. There was nothing wrong with curly, ginger hair of course. Come the day when she moved to a deserted island and established MaryWorld, curly, ginger hair would be compulsory. It was just unfortunate that at the moment, no one lived in MaryWorld except her. There were lots of facts and truths in MaryWorld that didn’t get much credence elsewhere. Or, as Mary’s mother put it, “You’re a one off, dear. Completely out of step with the rest of the world. Always been a little madam, haven’t you?”
 
And that wasn’t all Mary’s mother had to say about her daughter. Take that morning at breakfast, for example.
 
“If you don’t get a move on and find a husband soon ̶
 
“Yes, I know, Mother, I’ll be left on the shelf ̶
 
“On the shelf? You’ll be lucky to get as far as the shelf. You’ll be packed away in some cupboard somewhere with all the rejected ̶ “ 
 
“Yes, thank you, Mother.” 
 
“Although…” Mrs. Wilson slid a newspaper cutting across the breakfast table, “you might rescue things at the eleventh hour. Speed-dating is the new way to meet a man.”
 
“It’s hardly the eleventh hour, Mother! I’m forty-two.”
 
“Exactly, I rest my case. Forty-two! I was eighteen when I married.”
 
“Yes but you didn’t even like Dad.”
 
“What’s that got to do with the price of fish, eh? At least I wasn’t on the shelf at forty-two.”
 
“Neither am I apparently. I’m in the reject cupboard.”
 
“Don’t be facetious.” Mrs. Wilson tapped the advert… again and again and again.
 
“Oh all right!” Mary snatched the clipping from the staccato beat of the yellow fingernail.
 
And that was how she met Derek Carruthers. Not that she’d liked him at first. She might have given in to her mother over the speed-dating evening but she wasn’t going to miss the last bus home because of it. Derek had been her last partner and he hadn’t made a promising start, remarking that he disliked ginger-haired women. Well, she hadn’t liked the look of him either. He had strands of grey hair combed over his bald head like strings on a strangely shaped musical instrument and a florid complexion that she later discovered was caused by his tie being pushed up to conceal the fact that his shirt collar was open because it was too small. Sartorially elegant, he was not. But that was good because Mother would hate his clothes sense and that might be enough to persuade her that Mary should stop seeing him. And then she’d have breathing space until Mother once again remembered Mary wasn’t married. But she was getting ahead of herself. They’d only been on one date – if you could call it that. She had called it that when telling Mother about it, although it was unlikely that Derek would have seen it as such. While they’d ridden on the last bus back to Basilwade together after the speed-dating event, he’d mentioned that she’d reminded him he needed mouthwash and that the cheapest place to buy some – should she feel the need – and he thoroughly recommended that she did – was Asco’s supermarket. Aware that Mother would be critical if she didn’t have any positive news from the speed-dating, Mary announced at breakfast that she was going on a date and had then spent most of the following morning prowling the aisles of Asco’s in case Derek should appear. She was just about to give up and go home when he rounded the corner, pushing a trolley. 
 
“I’m just buying mouthwash,” she said casually and after that, one thing led to another and they found themselves in the Asco coffee shop. 
 
He’d invited her out for a stroll through Basilwade on Saturday evening and he’d even bought her a bag of chips. Not that she liked chips but she was quite peckish after their walk and it didn’t look like Derek was going to take her to dinner. 
 
She was torn. Derek was definitely not the man of her dreams – there were no men in her dreams, indeed none at all in MaryWorld – but in order to keep Mother off her back, she needed to show she was trying.
“… so if you care to come round on Sunday, for tea, you can meet my mother…”
 
“Whatever for?”
 
“Well, I live with her, so if you come round for tea, you’re bound to bump into her.”
 
“I see. Well yes, all right then. How long will it take? The Grand Prix is on at half past seven and I never miss it.”
 
“If you leave at five, I’m sure you’ll get home in time.”
 
 
Now, how to introduce Derek to her mother? ‘Boyfriend’ was a ridiculous term. Derek had not been a boy for a long time. If ever. ‘Manfriend’ sounded just as silly. She’d overheard her next door neighbour’s teenage daughter at the bus stop the other day talking about her latest, and she’d used a term… now what was it? She must try to remember. It would be good to sound modern but casual. Slightly committed but not too committed. Yes, she definitely had to establish who Derek was before Mother started calling him her intended or fiancé.
 
 
Mary had anticipated that Derek would arrive early, so the table was laid and they were already seated when her mother came into the dining room.
 
“Derek Carruthers,” said Derek standing up and holding out his hand, “and you must be Mrs. Wilson.”
 
“How d’you do, Derek…” She fixed him with a steely stare, “So, you’re the man on benefits.”
 
“I don’t believe so,” said Derek sitting down and taking the large slice of fruitcake that Mary offered him.
“Oh Mother! Derek isn’t on benefits.”
 
“But you said ̶
 
“I said he was my friend with benefits.”
 
Derek choked, spraying Mrs. Wilson with fruitcake crumbs.
 
“Well, what on earth does that mean? Benefits? What sort of benefits?” Mrs. Wilson asked, flicking fruit off the front of her blouse.
 
“Oh, Mother! Honestly, you’re so behind the times.”
 
“That’s as may be,” said Mrs. Wilson. 
 
A piece of cake had gone down the wrong way and Derek was finding it hard to breathe. Mary slapped him hard in the middle of his back and with his airway free at last, he clawed at his collar, gasping for air.
 
“Well, I’m going to take Twinkle for a walk, I think I’ll leave you to it,” said Mrs. Wilson picking a half-chewed currant off her sleeve and dropping it on the plate. Whistling for Twinkle, she rose and left.
 
Leave us to it? You mean?... What, here?” asked Derek, “Now?”
 
“Well, yes. Now’s as good a time as any.” Mary looked at the enormous cake she’d made that morning. Surely he wasn’t going to leave immediately? Mother was enough to intimidate anyone but if he was gone before she got back, it would be obvious the date hadn’t gone well. “Mother will be out for a while. It takes her about twenty minutes to go round the block,” she added, hoping he’d stay at least until she returned.
 
“Twenty minutes! Look, I’m all for saving time and I know I said I wanted to be gone by five o’clock but this has all been a bit of a shock. I’m sure once I get going it won’t take long but I might need a few minutes to summon my… well, to prepare myself… to build myself up, as it were…” 
 
“What for?”
 
“Well… it. You know… the benefits.”
 
Mary didn’t know. The only benefit she required was that Derek remained in her life long enough to stop Mother criticising, and then to give her time to realise that her daughter was better off without him.  
 
“More tea? Cake?” she asked weakly.
 
“Have we got time for tea and cake as well as… it?” 
 
“Well, it’s up to you. How much time have you got to spare?”
 
He checked his watch. “Hmm. I’m not sure. Only eighteen minutes left until your mother gets back. Suppose she returns before we’ve finished?”
 
“Oh don’t worry about her,” said Mary looking at the large slab of cake. They definitely wouldn’t finish that before she got back. “Look, forget Mother. I know she can be critical but ̶
 
Critical? Critical of what? You’re making it sound like she’s going to give us marks out of ten!” Derek mopped his forehead. 
 
“Well, she can be a bit demanding but ̶ “ 
 
“You haven’t got a shot of whisky have you? Or two? I think I need help.”
 
 
“Mornin’.” Mrs. Fanshawe from next door rushed to her doorstep when she saw Mary walking down the garden path with Twinkle. “That was a lot of commotion in your house yesterday afternoon…”
 
“Yes.” Mary sighed, “Men are such strange creatures…”
 
“Oooh, I know. The late Mr. Fanshawe was very peculiar. Who was that man your mum had in a half-nelson? I almost felt sorry for him. Mind you, when she tipped him over the garden gate, he was off like a shot. Never seen anyone so bulky move so fast.”
 
“Yes, he definitely was a fast mover. Very fast indeed,” said Mary through clenched teeth.
 
“What! You mean? No! Don’t tell me he tried it on?”
 
Mary nodded.
 
“With you?” Mrs. Fanshawe asked incredulously.
 
“Yes! With me! I was just passing him another slice of fruitcake when he lunged.”
 
“Oooh I say. The beast! Lunged, you say?”
 
“Yes, lunged! His hands were everywhere. Even places I didn’t know I had. If mother hadn't come back when she did who knows what might have happened? Mind you in a way it's mother’s fault I was in that predicament. She was the one who convinced me to go speed-dating!”
 
“O-oh!” said Mrs. Fanshawe with sympathy “Well, why don't you try online dating? That's the way people meet up nowadays.”
 
“I’m not very confident with computers. I can just about manage to look up the bus timetable but I wouldn’t know how to do online dating.” 
 
Mary looked thoughtful. “Err, You don’t think your Amy could help me, do you? She seems to be an Internet expert, she’s always got that phone inches from her nose.”
 
“Well, I could ask her but I don’t think she knows anything about dating apps.”
 
“Yes, I think she does. I was standing behind her at the bus stop the other day and she was telling her friend about someone she’d met online.”
 
“My Amy? No, I think you’re mistaken. She’s only sixteen. I’d know if she had a boyfriend.”
 
“Well, he wasn’t exactly a boyfriend. She said he was her friend with benefits… Mrs. Fanshawe? Are you all right? You seem rather overwrought…”
Mrs. Fanshawe was stomping up the path to the house. “Ameeee! You get yourself down here right now my girl! You’ve got some explaining to do!”
 
Despite Twinkle trying to drag her out for a walk, Mary crept back into the house. Every time she’d mentioned the phrase ‘friend with benefits’, the world had gone mad. She sat down at the computer and logged on. 
 
Colour drained from her face as she read the definition. So, it was a euphemism for two people who were simply together so they could… Blood rushed back into her face, making her cheeks throb with embarrassment.
 
Come the day when she moved to a deserted island and established MaryWorld, dating would be banned, men would be banned, mothers would be banned and benefits of any description would be banned. And euphemisms would be banned too.


About the author

Dawn’s third book ‘Extraordinary’ will be published by Chapeltown in October 2017. She has stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France. www.dawnknox.com
 

Thursday 28 September 2017

The Silence of Watching

Janelle Hardacre

decaf americano

I wasn’t prepared for the needling agony of hearing like a normal person. The approaching tram was 

like the scream of feedback at a gig, the doors like atsunami and the overlapping of passengers’ 

voices, a cacophony I couldn’t switch off. 
 

But actually, I could. I pushed the little button behind my ear and I was back in the comfort of my fishbowl world. I breathed slowly, deeply and flicked it back on.

‘You’ll need two hearing aids’. The expert’s words I’d ignored for eight years. Typical bloke. Vain with a king-sized ego. It’d been fine. I’d managed. Sure, I couldn’t recognise classic songs after one bar like before and keeping up with conversation at a dinner party was nigh-on impossible, but I was still churning out good designs at work, still laughing in the right places.

But then, the scales tilted. My tongue was too big for my mouth. Words got stuck, came out missing syllables. I stopped singing. Scared I was unknowingly off-key. I taught myself to forget the ecstasy of being submerged in the clicks and curves of sublime music. And my Grace. She had moved to the other side of the bed, sat in the armchair now not tucked with me on the couch.  I guess she’d grown sick of repeating. ‘Sohail. SoHAIL. SOHAIL’. No more sharing. What was the point if I wouldn’t hear?  

And my girls, too. Their sparkling eyes. Wriggling fingers outstretched they’d run towards me, show me their creations, sob about their days, bring me clean plates. But they’d learnt their mother would answer first time, so they’d stopped calling for Daddy. I watched, then, from the outside, through thick aquarium glass. My girls. Living their lives.  

So that day, I felt the sweet pain of switching on for the first time. I hid them and their old man connotations under black curls. I turned the world back up, shocked at the layers I’d grown used to living without.

I can’t explain why I waited all those years on the wrong side of the glass. Grace’s hand rests on the small of my back where it’s supposed to. My girls shout for their Daddy again. And I can swim once more in glorious melodies and beats.

About the author


Janelle lives in Manchester and writes short fiction when she’s not working in communications or singing. Her work is published in Ellipsis Zine, Pygmy Giant, Paragraph Planet, FlashFlood Journal and Reflex Fiction. Her story 'Late' appears in William Faulkner's Typewriter, an anthology by students from Comma Press' Short Story course. She blogs at janellehardacre.co.uk and tweets @jhardacre1

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Becoming Me

Sandy Wilson

gin and tonic


Perched elegantly on the edge of my bed, I carefully apply polish to my finger nails. Red talons to match the red stiletto shoes standing on the dressing table. 
 
 As the buttery glow of the late afternoon sunlight infusing the room changes to shades of mauve and purple, I think, with a frisson of pleasure, of the journey home on the subway. Think of how the good-looking young man sat opposite had reacted as I casually crossed my legs, my short skirt riding up my thigh. He had looked up, looked into my cornflower blue eyes. I gave him a soft inviting smile with my ruby red lips and enjoyed, felt empowered, by his look of admiration edged with lust. I just knew he watched, felt his eyes follow me, as I left the carriage at Brooklyn and sashayed along the platform, passing his carriage window, hips undulating, feeling real pleased with my performance.

I complete my nails, hold them up, consider them against the glossy red of the leather. Buying the shoes had been another milestone in becoming me. My drunken mom and abusive father would not recognise the adult version of their child. One day I'll go home, go to Aliceville and sit in their trashy diner, order seafood gumbo and watch them; an anthropologist observing some low life species. There again, maybe I won't. Why bother? Why waste the time?

My nail polish is dry. I slowly roll the nylons up my smooth legs and connect them to the corset studs. Then I stand and lift the dress I will wear tonight over my head, let the delicate smooth fabric slide, like warm tidal water softly rippling down my body. I ease the red stilettos onto my feet then stand in self appraisal, in front of the full length mirror with the ornate frame, that leans against the wall. Maybe the red earnings? The red handbag? 

The hum of the lift ascending distracts me.

The doorbell rings. I walk with elegant choreographed movement down the corridor. I look down at  my scarlet tipped fingers as I brush them across the white petals of the flowers arranged in the vase on the console table, before I noisily undo the elaborate locking mechanism and open the door.

'Hi, I'm looking for George Morgan. I heard he lives here.'

It's my younger brother, my much younger brother. I lean against the door frame and fold my arms trying to look nonchalant. Which I'm not.

'He don't live here.'

'But I really need to find him bad.' He looks like he really does.

'Yeah, well, he ain't here.'

His face crumples. 'Don't know what I'm gonna do now. My Mom's died and my Pa's thrown me out. I really need to find my brother.'

I'm shocked, sad even, but not surprised. For a heartbeat I stare at my twelve year old brother. Memories spill in my mind. Of happy times before it all went bad. I guess that's what you do when someone dies. Think of the happy times.

'Gee, Eddie, I'm so, so sorry, you better come on in.'

I clasp my confused kid sibling close to my heart. Twelve years old. He'll need mothering right now.


About the author

Sandy's poems The Caress of Spring and The Arc of Time have been included in the international poetry anthology Indra's Net published by Bennison Books. All profits are donated to Book Bus, a charity that provides libraries for children in Africa, Asia and South America.

Indra's Net is available from Amazon.








Tuesday 26 September 2017

Matthew 5:38

Sophie Flynn

flat white

The woman at the back of the church was beginning to turn heads. Her words created a persistent rhythm; sorry, sorry, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry. Subconsciously, people tapped their feet in time to the beat.
The church had been packed when she’d arrive so she’d had to push through. Sorry, she’d said, sorry, as she wormed her way in, but then the words wouldn’t stop; at first, she recited them under her breath, causing only uncomfortable glances from those next to her. But as the vicar began to speak about the boy’s once-promising future, tears pooling in his eyes, the words became louder. And louder. They flew out before she could catch them, merging with the sobs of the mourners, sorry, fighting against the words of the vicar, sorry. Until finally, the vicar stopped; everyone turned.
The chant rang out in declaration: Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
The boy’s mother stood up, eyes searching packed pews until, finally, they landed on the chanter. She hadn’t expected to see her here. She looked even older. Thinner. Paler. Perhaps that’s what happens when you take a life; life must take some of yours in return.

About the author

Sophie is from the Cotswolds and is currently working on her first novel whilst earning a living as a copywriter and studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. She tweets from https://twitter.com/sophielflynn 








Friday 22 September 2017

A Deadly Time

Sandy Wilson

small beer

On the last day of their holiday, Bill and Sonia, from Chicago, were invited to visit a military enactment in a nearby village. They had enjoyed Jonathan and Martha's company while staying at the hotel, so they were pleased to be asked to join them. Travelling in their fellow holidaymakers's car they admired the beautiful, scenic countryside, illuminated by a bright summer sun. As they approached the outskirts of the village Jonathan turned into a farm track and parked under the shade of an oak tree.

‘We'll walk from here, guys! The organisers like to keep the village looking authentic,’ explained Jonathan as he switched the engine off. They got out of the car and Jonathan opened the car boot, then he and Martha handed out clothing.

‘We like to dress the part; adds to the experience,' said Jonathan. ‘Here, try this helmet for size, Bill, you too Sonia. I'm afraid we're all soldiers today!’

Bill pulled the metal helmet on and bent down to look in the door mirror. Smiling, he could just imagine himself as a Roundhead about to fight in a battle.

Dressed in their uniforms, they walked down the road to the village, their helmets and pikes glinting in the sunlight.

The village square resembled a film set; soldiers milled about and cannons pulled by horses clattered by on the cobbles, drowning out the shouting of orders. Then columns were formed and the soldiers started to march over the bridge.

‘Gee, this is awesome, so real!’ said Sonia trying to keep step.
‘Awesome, but pretty hot in this gear, Honey!’ said Bill looking around for Jonathan and Martha.

                                                                    




The battlefield stank of blood, burnt flesh, shit and smoke. The officer, looked sadly around at the carnage, then, bending down from his horse, took the strange object from the soldier.

‘You found it upon this body, soldier? Around the wrist, you say?’ he said, pointing at a butchered corpse.

‘Aye, Sor.’ Said the soldier.

‘Strange object indeed,’ said the officer picking away glass fragments.’ See, there are letters, an inscription, 'Rolex'. Perchance a Lord Rolex....? Odd numerals too, carved upon the rim. This the General must see!’

‘Perhaps 'tis an instrument of Satan, Sor?’ said the surly soldier, then watched resentfully as the officer rode off with his battlefield trophy.

About the author

Sandy Wilson writes memoirs, fiction and poetry. He has recently published 'Memory Spill' a memoir of his childhood in Scotland during the 1950s and 60s.. His poetry has been published in the international poetry anthology 'Indra's Net'. Sandy lives in Leeds, England.

His The Caress of Spring and The Arc of Time have been included in the international poetry anthology Indra's Net published by Bennison Books. All profits are donated to Book Bus, a charity that provides libraries for children in Africa, Asia and South America.

Indra's Net is available from Amazon.

He blogs as www.sandyscribbler.com and www.lifeaccordingtogramps.co.uk



Monday 18 September 2017

Follow the Rainbow


Lisa Williams

black coffee

She'd slept with the light on.
It was pink. A metallic glittered hue. It sparkled from across the room.
A girl's dream come true. A scooter. The one that chalked as you rode. Painting a rainbow behind you in the city streets.
Pom-poms from the handlebars shed glitter on her floor next to a discarded shoe.
Mum calling from downstairs broke the morning silence.
"I don't know what time you got in last night my girl. Or what drunken state you were in. But you're gonna be late for work. And you need to take that fucking scooter back."

Lisa Williams
Domestic Slattern. Avid reader. Writes a bit.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Jump Back

Sandy Wilson 

whisky on the rocks


The girl looked familiar.

Crouching , fingers feeling the sidewalk surface, glossy nails searching between the slabs, she looked helpless, as though blind.

'Can I help you?' Reluctantly, late for the meeting on the 95th floor.

She ignored me.

'Look, I’d like to help, but I'm late.'

'No, wait, please, you mustn't go. You must help me look.'

'What are you trying to find?' Checking my watch.

A shadow flitted over us, her answer lost in an explosion of sound above.
Distracted, I looked up, 'What did you say?'

'Myself,' she replied. 'My life.'

When l looked down she had gone…..

About the author

Sandy's The Caress of Spring and The Arc of Time have been included in the international poetry anthology Indra's Net published by Bennison Books. All profits are donated to Book Bus, a charity that provides libraries for children in Africa, Asia and South America.

Indra's Net is available from Amazon.

Sandy blogs as www.sandyscribbler.com and 
www.lifeaccordingtogramps.co.uk





Monday 11 September 2017

Passchendaele

Dawn Knox 

hot, sweet, tea with a dash or rum   


Passchendaele.
 
Whisper it.
 
Doesn’t it sound like a gentle breath of wind?
 
But in August 1917 there was nothing gentle about it. 
 
Not when shells were dropping into the quagmire, exploding and sending up columns of muddy, bloody water.
 
Not when bullets whistled overhead or struck home.
 
Not when screams filled my ears.
 
Only dead men were silent. 
 
And of course the mud.
 
That sticky, stinking ooze which sucked the unfortunate into its depths.
 
Not many who slipped into the mire escaped its inexorable pull, and unless eager, desperate hands were able to drag them out, they are there still.

About the author

Website

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Death of the Consumers

Sandy Wilson

cherry cola

In the streets below the driverless cars and buses slid soundlessly up to the sidewalk. The passengers surging into the stores mingled with those exiting through the revolving doors. A small child in the crowd stopped, looked up and waved, stirring in the watcher an eccentric emotion, an instruction to respond. 

Behind, a metallic voice said. "They consume everything. They are draining the planet. Are we agreed?"

The robot at the window whirred softly as it turned from the window to face the others. "Yes, the humanoids no longer serve a purpose." It said in a voice devoid of any emotion.

About the author 

Sandy's poems The Caress of Spring and The Arc of Time have been included in the international poetry anthology Indra's Net published by Bennison Books. All profits are donated to Book Bus, a charity that provides libraries for children in Africa, Asia and South America.

Indra's Net is available from Amazon.


Monday 4 September 2017

A Question of Timing

Dawn Knox


instant coffee (black because adding milk takes time)


It was all about timing, Derek decided.
Although arguably, it could be said to be all about time. And that was a commodity that Derek had very little of.
That wasn’t quite true, of course, he had as much time as the next man but there was only a certain amount of it that he was willing to sacrifice in order to find a wife.
So when he’d seen the advert for speed dating, he’d been rather excited although he’d been less enthusiastic when he realised it didn’t refer to dates that were concluded so rapidly he had time to catch the last bus home. It was disappointing to learn exactly what speed dating was but hardly surprising really. After all, how many women would settle for a packet of chips, a quick cuddle and if she was lucky a kiss?
He knew exactly how many women wouldn’t settle for that.
From experience.
He’d always offered to pay their bus fare home. But some women were so unreasonable. Fancy expecting him to go with them! It just wasn’t logical for him to take a woman out, escort her back to her house and then find his way home. It got to be quite pricey too. And don’t get him started on the length of time the whole thing took.
He turned the page of the newspaper and was about to forget the advert when he had second thoughts. What did he have to lose? After all, if it got too late, he could simply walk out and go home. All before the last bus.   
 
Derek arrived in the church hall half an hour early, as suggested by the information leaflet he’d received after registering. He ran his finger round the inside of his shirt collar. It was too tight, but by the time he’d realised it earlier this evening, there’d been no time to do anything about it. The top button was undone and his tie pushed up as high as his adam’s apple would allow. It would have to do.
He looked at his check list. Item one: Mingle and talk to people. Well, that was easier said than done. Women were either chatting in groups or not making eye contact with him.
Item two: Smile.
He smiled. After several minutes, women who’d failed to meet his gaze, now stepped sideways away from him.
Probably gone to the Ladies, he thought, probably nerves. It might be an idea to visit the Gents himself.
When he emerged, one of the women who’d previously avoided eye contact, now couldn’t take her eyes off him. He smiled at her. She was obviously checking him out although when her glance flicked up to his smiling face, her expression froze and immediately she looked down. She swallowed; her eyes closing and bulging open with the effort, then walked towards him.
You’ve still got it, Derek, old chap! He thought. She sidled up and as she leaned confidentially towards him, he noticed she was jabbing the air with her forefinger, pointing at his stomach.
“Wardrobe malfunction in the privates,” she whispered from behind her other hand, and glided away.
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Lydia Allen.” Her eyes flicked down to check his flies.
He sat down quickly and under the table, he probed the zip to ensure it was still firmly in place.
“I hope you don’t mind me… You know… pointing out…” she stabbed the air with her finger which was aimed through the table at where she thought his crotch might be.
He squirmed
“Yes, oh yes, thank you. It could have been embarrassing.”
Silence.
Item three: Ask each partner about themselves.
“So, Lydia, tell me about yourself.”
“Well, there’s not much to tell really…”
“Okay, well I’ll tell you about me then.”
There was a lot to tell and it was important to get things in chronological order.
 
Lydia checked her watch, “One minute to go,” she said.
“Goodness, nine minutes went fast! And I’d only got up to when I won the interdepartmental darts match in 1998. Oh well.”
“Don’t forget your match card and pencil,” she said pushing them towards Derek, “Ten seconds, nine seconds…”
“Well, thank you very much,” said Derek holding out his hand, “and better luck with the next man.” He placed a cross next to her name and moved to the adjacent table.
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Susie Patterson, pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise. Well, I hope you’re a bit more interesting than the last lady. She didn’t have much to say for herself. Dull as ditch water.”
“Really? Normally you can’t shut her up.”
“You know her?”
“Lydia’s my sister.”
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Maisie Ferguson, it’s nice to meet you, Derek.”
“You too, Maisie. You’re not related to… her? Are you?” he asked nodding at Susie.
“No, who’s she?”
“Never mind. Well, tell me about yourself.”
“Um, where to start?“
“Let me guess what you do for a living.”
“O…okay.”
“Now, let me see. I bet you have a food-related job. Cook or something like that.”
“No. I work in a dry-cleaners. What made you think I worked with food?”
She looked alarmed, “Do I smell of food? Is that it?”
“No, not at all. I can smell something like tuna but I don’t think it’s you.”
“So?”
“Well, you never see a skinny cook, do you?”
“I see.” Her shoulders sagged.
“Out of interest, what’s your opinion on just having a bag of chips for dinner?”
“I tend to keep away from chips,” she said, “they’re very fatty.”
“Don’t tell me you’re on a diet!”
“Well yes, as a matter of fact…”
“Oh, you don’t need to diet.”
“I don’t?” She smiled.
“Oh no. I always think once you’ve reached a critical weight, there’s no point dieting. You might as well just give up and enjoy it. Once you’re obese, it’s too hard to lose those inches, isn’t it? Mind you,” he said confidentially, “deciding when you’ve reached that weight is the crucial thing. I’d say I’ve got about another stone to go…” he grabbed the flab round his waist with both hands and jiggled it, “… and then I might as well give up being careful with what I eat. It’ll all be downhill from there but who cares eh? It’s compensation for getting old, isn’t it? I mean why make your life miserable in your autumn years? Scoff what you like and hang the fat, I say.”
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Dottie Regan. Hi, how are you?”
“Well…”
“You don’t sound very sure, Derek.”
“Well, it’s just that all the women I’ve met so far seem very prickly. I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t just give up. I haven’t ticked anyone on my match card yet and I’m nearly at the last table. I’m beginning to get desperate.”
“I see, well perhaps your expectations are too high. What exactly are you looking for in a lady friend?”
“Hmm, well I suppose someone who’s not the size of a Zeppelin like number five, and preferably a woman without a moustache like number seven. I don’t think it was totally inappropriate to enquire whether she was one of those transgender people. I mean I’m liberal and I really wouldn’t mind, but it’s important to know which bits of equipment she or he comes with. Don’t you think? It didn’t seem too much to ask. Number eight said I looked like a stalker and asked me to stop smiling at her. I ask you! That’s item two on the list! It says smile. So I keep smiling…”
“Perhaps vary it a little,” said Dot, surveying him with her head on one side, “Such a fixed smile is actually rather creepy, if you want my opinion. Move your mouth about a bit.”
“Like this?”
“Hmm, perhaps not quite so mobile. Think more Cary Grant… and less guppy.”
Derek placed a large cross next to Dot’s name and stood up.
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Mary Wilson.” She checked her watch and stood up, “Nice to meet you, Derek Carruthers, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to go. Sorry.”
“That’s fine,” he said, “I wasn’t going to tick you anyway. I’m not partial to ginger-haired women.”
“You’re not my type either. What a waste of time, eh? I didn’t find anyone,” said Mary.
“I’m not surprised.”
“What d’you mean you’re not surprised?”
Derek looked her up and down, “Well, you’re not exactly ̶
“Sorry, must dash,” she said putting her coat on, “I’d love to stay and chat but if I don’t hurry, I’ll miss the bus.”
“Wait for me,” said Derek, I’ll walk you to the bus stop.”

About the author 

Dawn’s third book ‘Extraordinary’ will be published by Chapeltown in September 2017. She has stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France. www.dawnknox.com