Thursday 31 January 2019

Sketching Snowflakes

by Jim Bates

camomile tea

Back then, back when he was just a gangly kid and before he became an artist, I felt I had a job to do - teach my son to be better at sports than I ever was. I'd been a second string jock during high school so on the day Joey was born I vowed to teach him how to play football, baseball, basketball and hockey better than I'd ever been able to. My underlying thought was that maybe one day he'd become a superior athlete, someone I could be not only proud of, but could also brag about to anyone who would listen. You can imagine my horror (or maybe not, but let me tell you, it was real) when Joey, try as he might, proved to be even less athletically gifted than his old man.
            He was nine years old when, after pre-season hockey tryouts, the awful truth finally reared its ugly head. Joey dejectedly skated over to where I'd been watching from behind the boards and said, "Dad, I'm sorry, I really am. I'm trying, but those other guys are just way better than me."
            One look at the fluid motions of the other kids on the rink, skating comfortably backward better than Joey could ever skate forward, and I had to finally admit it - my son was not now, nor would he ever be, a hockey player. Which was his best sport. Football, baseball and basketball? Forget about it. The reality of the situation was painfully apparent. Joey would never be the star athlete I once imagined he'd be.
            I swallowed my disappointment and put my arm around his thin shoulders, hugging him a little. "That's okay, son. Really. Let's head home," I told him, trying to man up, along with beginning to adjust my game plan for him. Now that sports were out of the picture what could I get him interested in? Chess, maybe? Cribbage? Orienteering? I drew a blank. None of them sounded too exciting.
            I went into the locker room with him while he changed out of his gear. When we sat on the bench, he unzipped his equipment bag and I saw a notebook.
            I pointed, "What's that?"
            "Oh, nothing," he shrugged. "It's just my sketchbook from art class."
            "Art class? You're kidding." I hadn't a clue. Having trouble drawing a stick figures, myself, I'd never once imagined he'd enjoy anything like painting or whatever.
            He grinned, "Yeah, Dad, for my drawings. Here, let me show you." He opened it. "Lately, I've been sketching snowflakes and winter scenes. I'm thinking about maybe using them for cards for the holidays. Tell me what you think."
            He laid the sketchbook on my knees and went about getting changed. I paged through his drawings, each one more impressive than the previous. He'd used what looked to be a pen and ink to create intricate snowflakes all with six pointed tips. Each one was unique and amazingly detailed. The snowflake sketches were followed by a series of charcoal drawings of winter scenes, mostly landscapes in the country, some with farmhouses, some with people, some with animals. One even had a horse drawn sleigh. He'd used colored pencils to make the scenes come alive with subtle tones of greens and browns and reds and blues. To my way of thinking they were utterly charming and made me think of those Currier and Ives calendars.
            I turned to him, "Joey, these are amazing. How long have you been drawing like this?"
            He laughed, "Ever since I can remember, Dad. Since I was a little kid." Then he was quiet for a moment before adding, "Mom kind of got me started."
            Oh. Gail. My wife and Joey's mother. She'd passed away four years earlier when he was only five. In many ways we were still coping.
            I looked at him seriously. "These really are wonderful, son," I told him.
            "Thanks, Dad," he said as we stood up to leave.
            He grabbed his heavy hockey bag, hoisted it over his shoulder, tilting to the right a little under its weight, and started for the door. I held his sketchbook in my hands, aware that I was holding something special, something that really was what my son was all about, not just some sad, preconceived sports fantasy of his father's. I suddenly had an idea. "Hold on a minute." He stopped and I took the bag from him. (It really was pretty heavy.) "How about if on the way home we stop at Blick's Art Supply and check out what they've got, maybe get you some supplies. What do you think about that?"
            Joey picked up his hockey stick and looked at me questioningly. He knew how much I loved sports. "You sure, Dad?"
            "Yeah," I said, biting a metaphorical bullet, "Looks like we've got an artist in the family."
            Joey grinned as we walked to the car. His step seemed lighter, somehow, like a weight had been lifted, and I don't just mean the equipment bag. It was good to see him so happy.
            Next to the art store was a sporting goods exchange. We parked and while Joey went inside and looked around for art supplies, I went next door to see if I could sell his hockey equipment, which I did. Then I hurried next door to met him. But before I went inside I stopped a minute, looked through the window and watched as he perused the aisles, happily caressing the paints and brushes and sketchpads and canvases. He seemed in another world, one that he felt comfortable in. Natural.
            I headed for the front door. Once inside, I'd get him to show me what all the art supplies were used for. Maybe I'd buy him an easel or something to get him set up properly for his art work. He was a good kid. I guess I had a lot to learn. It was time I started paying better attention. 

About the author 

Jim is a former hockey player and devoted parent, hence the genesis of this story.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

The Fading Light

by  Mark Kodama 

hot chocolate

The yellow lamp glowed dim in the early hours
The sun has not yet risen this winter morn.
Black strands and dark lenses veil my sight
The winter solstice is upon me.
I can barely see and can no longer read,
A blurred sojourn though God’s garden of life.
Yet the color of roses still bring tears
I can see the blurred face of a friend
Taste the goodness of hot chocolate,
Smell the turkey roasting in the oven,
And hear the laughter of children
No, my fading gaze cannot diminish my days.
There is plenty of life to be lived.
If I cannot see as clearly as before
What I can see moves me more.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

It'll Never Work

by Robert Ferguson


 “So I thought if I could just show you my design, you might be interested.”
          “I’m sure I would, but perhaps another…”
          “Well, its quite urgent, actually. You have so many candidates, and there’s already a backlog. Let me just show you…”. He spread his large sheet of paper across the documents on the other’s desk.
          “Yes, but…”
          “Now, you see how simple the design is. It can be knocked up quickly, from minimal materials, anywhere and everywhere you needed one. The main thing is a good, sharp blade, forged to fit these twin supports, and the other thing you need is grease, to make sure it slides cleanly in its run.”
          “I’m sorry, but I really must insist that you remove…”
          “Well exactly, you have to remove the remnants after each operation, but that’s easy enough with my design. There’s a basket here at this end, and the labourers simply slide the raw material onto this trough here before the machine is operated, and then slide the
 remainder out again into the cart from which it came. Just a matter of seconds per operation, you see.”                                 
          “No, no, M. Guillotine, I’m sorry, it’ll never work.”

About the Author
Robert has previously contributed a number of short stories to CafeLit, in addition to publishing “Late Starter”, a volume of poetry, and other poems in 2018 numbers of “The Cannon’s Mouth”. He is the winner of the Solihull Writers’ Workshop Poetry Competition 2018.

Monday 28 January 2019

Somewhere There Are Snails

by Louise Taylor

acorn coffee 

Jenny’s gloves were dark with blood. She stripped them off at the wristband, turned them inside out and dropped them next to the mugs on the suitcase. ‘That was the last of the oryx,’ she said. ‘Apart from the haunch we kept for ourselves.’
            In the corner, a pile of cotton Bags for Life shifted to reveal a sprouting of grey hair and the lower portion of a voluminous purple skirt. From somewhere in between, a muffled voice said, ‘I hope Bella appreciated it.’
            Sitting in a chair next to the suitcase, Mark pushed the gloves away and picked up a mug. Its faded legend was just visible: Visitors who throw things at the crocodiles will be required to retrieve them. ‘What about tomorrow?’ he said, as he chink-chink-clinked a teaspoon against the china.
Jenny sat beside him and rubbed her upper arms. She was cold but, more than that, her skin prickled and itched. She wished she could slough it off like a snake. ‘She won’t need to eat tomorrow. Maybe not for three days or so.’ She’d have named a day if she’d known what it was she was naming.
‘And then?’
‘There aren’t any bullets left. You know that. How can we kill her?’
‘You couldn’t have done it anyway.’ Mark no longer sounded like he minded. Either that or he had other things to mind about. With his thumb, he held the teaspoon out of the way against the side of the mug, and drank. ‘Coffee?’ He licked its dark traces away from the corners of his mouth. ‘It’s 100% acorn but it is hot.’
They rested their mugs on their knees, while in the corner the bags settled back to stillness. ‘Perhaps Bella could learn to like acorns too,’ Mark said. ‘Tigers must have fewer taste buds than humans.’
Jenny thought of her research for the MSc she’d never get. She’d been looking at the incidence of domestic prey over wild prey taken by captive-bred tigers reintroduced to the wild. There’d been something about taste, she was sure. If only she’d been able to retrieve her notes before she was hurried to the airport for one of the last flights home. Livestock was tastier than spotted deer – or was it the other way around? Not that it mattered. The study site was close enough to the Bay of Bengal to have been entombed in water for months now.
She thought of something else. ‘There are some capybara still, running wild in African Valley. Wilf wants to dig a pit to catch one. He’s got it all worked out. Says we can lay sticks and branches over the top, and camouflage them with leaves.’
‘I take it the kid’s been reading Zoo Quest again.’ Mark leaned back in his chair, a padded swivel one they’d taken from the HR department. ‘I knew there was a reason we hadn’t added it to the fire. Does it tell us what to do when we’ve eaten all the capybara?’’
            Jenny picked at the skin around her thumbnail. ‘He’s serious, you know. It’s a good idea. And we do have lots of leaves. We’d have no trouble gathering them.’
Mark sat up, the chair creaking beneath him. ‘Not from the insect house. You’re not having them. What’s in there’s our best hope.’
‘You would say that.’ Jenny put the mug on the floor so she didn’t have to look at its contents. She’d drunk it down to the sludgy, bitter grains at the bottom. Once, she’d have described herself as a super-taster. Cabbage, sprouts, broccoli, all of them had shrivelled her tongue and made her gag. But now? What she wouldn’t have given for a brassica now!
She stood up and pressed her forehead to the small window, smeary with dirt and the build-up of the warm breath from five still-living beings. Outside, the peculiar half-light – not quite day and not quite night – draped itself through the silent aviary opposite. She hadn’t thought she’d miss the metallic green clouds that had massed, army-like, for those first few weeks but she did. Now she thought about it, she could persuade herself those green clouds had been almost like the Northern Lights. She ought to have enjoyed them while she’d had the chance. This thick, almost opaque grey air that had replaced the green – when was it? – seemed like the shroud she’d never have. ‘Your leaves will stop growing too, you know – once the generator stops working,’ she said because it was more bearable to pick an argument with someone who was as frightened as you were than to allow in the thought of never seeing another sunset or sunrise.
‘They might not. And, anyway, the generator won’t stop. Not yet. See.’ He clicked his fingers at the single electric bulb dangling from the ceiling as if its yellow glow was a promise to the future.
She couldn’t think how he could let himself believe the bulb could do what the sun was not but there was grease on his cheek and his fingers were black so she knew he hadn’t given up, not yet. She heard herself try again. ‘Then the army ants will eat the leaf-cutters sooner or later. They’re bound to. Didn’t they have the tarantula the other day? Her tank is empty.’
Mark touched a small bulge in the hip pocket of his fleece. ‘No. They haven’t had her. There was another hatching of crickets.’
‘And you gave them to the ants?’ Jenny shook her head and turned away from the window. ‘Even though we could have eaten them. Toasted, like chestnuts.’ When she was angry, she smiled. Right now, her cheek muscles were tight with smiling but she grinned on, furious that she was now hungry enough to look on crickets in the same way as she had once viewed curry and a Cobra beer.
The only reply was a quiet snoring from the corner.
The door banged open, and the rack of dusty masks – gorillas, zebras and a single anteater – pivoted on its stand, as if it somehow knew it was showing off in front of a child again. But this child, bulldozing his way inside on a blast of the sulphurous wind, didn’t look at the masks or the cuddly parrots or any of the gift shop ephemera that once might have had him clamouring for an advance on his pocket money. In his arms, he cradled a biscuit tin, printed with scenes from the Nutcracker and obliquely advising its consumers that this was an M&S Christmas. By his side, the young chimpanzee, jumped up and down, puckering and smacking his lips. Eeeeeeee-eeeeeee he squealed. Eeeeeeee-eeeeeee.
‘Henry, shush!’ The boy’s cheeks were pink - and it was easy for Jenny to imagine that, underneath the black hair, the chimpanzee’s cheeks were just as flushed. Excitement radiated like heat from the pair.    
‘What do you have there?’ Jenny said, looking at the tin.
Under the boy’s encouraging gaze, the chimpanzee took the tin, put it on the suitcase and then clapped his leathery palms together as Wilf prised off the lid with a penknife.
Mark leant forward, and peered into the tin. ‘Oh. Snails.’
‘Let me see.’ Jenny bent down to look. ‘That’s loads! Where did you find them?’
‘Here and there.’ Wilf rubbed his chin with a grubby forefinger, and looked pleased with himself. ‘All over really. Henry helped too. Although he’s eaten about a thousand already.’
Noticing that some of the molluscs were making a slow but determined bid for freedom, Jenny fitted the lid back on the tin. ‘Then we can expect him to have a tummy-ache quite soon. What about you? Have you eaten any?’
‘Only one.’ He made a face. ‘It wasn’t very nice, and I couldn’t get all the bits of shell off, but I expect I’ll get used to the taste.’
‘That’s the spirit,’ came from the pile of bags.
 ‘You need a pin,’ Mark said, picking up the tin. ‘I’ll show you what to do. But we need to punch some air holes in the lid. We should starve them for a few days before anyone eats anymore. Get rid of the toxins.’
They turned to the snails once they’d finished eating the oryx. Jenny fretted about Bella, who hadn’t been fed in almost a week. ‘Do you think she’d eat snails?’ she asked, prodding at her portion with a toothpick from a packet Wilf had found on the empty shelves of the café.  
Mark laughed. ‘She’d tread on them before she noticed them. ‘Look, worry about us, not her. She could catch birds, couldn’t she?’
‘What birds? Those that are left aren’t hanging around her enclosure, that’s for sure.’
But Mark was already on his way out of the door, muttering about the diesel level in the generator.
Wilf’s laboriously dug trap came up trumps and snared a single capybara. He lugged it back to the gift shop in a wheelbarrow. ‘It’s for Bella,’ he said.
Jenny thanked him and didn’t ask whether the fall had killed it or whether Wilf had taught himself some other method.
Mark, who might have quibbled at the generous dispensing of 50 kilograms of meat into a tiger’s enclosure, was absent. ‘Probably counting his ants,’ Jenny said. ‘Perhaps he’s sacrificing a finger to them, unless he’s given in and fed them the tarantula.’
That made Naomi sit up from under her pile of bags. Other than when it was time to eat, she’d scarcely done so, not since she’d taken herself to her makeshift bed almost as soon as the five of them set up home in the little gift shop (‘quite well insulated,’ she’d said, when they were weighing up the relative merits of the shop and the café, ‘and it doesn’t smell of chips’). Jenny hadn’t liked to think how she was relieving herself and preferred to suppose she was creeping outside when the others were sleeping.
‘If any of us are going to see this through, it’ll be those of us with six legs or more,’ Naomi said. She peeled a snail, an escapee, from the wall near her head, looked at it and added, ‘or one large muscular foot.’
‘Do snails have feet?’ Jenny asked, and straightaway wondered why she, with her BSc in Zoology and so nearly an MSc was asking that question of a lady who’d spent her working life picking up the telephone and convincing wealthy widows to leave a share of their estate to the zoo.
‘If it moves it’s as least as good as a foot, if not better,’ Naomi said, and wagged her head. ‘Shouldn’t you look for him?’
Outside, Wilf and Henry were playing tag in the miniature train. ‘Do you think Mark could get this going again?’ Wilf called, while Henry screeched from the driver’s cab.
‘I doubt it,’ Jenny said, noticing how the wheels were rusting to the track. ‘Although come and ask him, if you like. You probably shouldn’t be outside alone anyway.’
‘Don’t see why not. No-one’s got in here for weeks now.’ But Wilf hopped down from his carriage anyway, and Henry copied him. ‘Are you going to the tropical house?’
The tropical house – and, in particular, the small “not on display” room where he’d moved his precious ants – was where Mark spent much of his time. It was where Jenny and Naomi had first found him, soon after they’d secured the main gates, when they’d thought it was just the two of them left. He’d been explaining the interplay between the carbon cycle and the oxygen cycle to a small boy it turned out none of them knew and a juvenile chimpanzee they’d thought was dead. ‘If we can keep these trees and those ants alive,’ Mark was saying, ‘we might have a chance.’
And, so far, he’d done it. Now, sliding open the steamed-up doors, Jenny saw how the trees – banana, two weeping figs and a single palm – were still green, and the ants, in their see-through plastic tunnels, apparently more numerous than ever. Of Mark, however, there was no sign.
‘That’s an odd noise,’ Wilf said, head cocked to one side. ‘It’s the generator. It doesn’t sound right.’
Jenny followed him outside, towards the place where Mark had relocated the emergency generator after the power went off. He was there sure enough, starfished on the ground, his rib cage torn open and diesel spreading in a blue-green bloody rainbow around his head. ‘I suppose the generator won’t be working anymore,’ Jenny said.
She regretted the words as soon as they were out there. They were a triumph she hadn’t intended.
The news made Naomi do more than sit up. She rose, Lazarus-like, from her camp bed, swept aside the bags and got to her feet. Jenny couldn’t recall seeing her so active, not since, purple skirt flying, she’d led the Conga at the staff party they’d thrown the day after even the BBC went off air. They’d gone all round the zoo: out of the function room and onto the terrace, disturbing the Eagle owl and the tiny Scops owl, up the hill past the leopards, the servals, and then Bella and her mate. Everyone had been shouting goodbye, knowing what was to happen, what had to happen – although even then Jenny’s chest was tightening at the thought of beautiful Bella taking a bullet. That was why she’d been up before dawn the next day – one of the last dawns, now she thought of it – suitcase in hand, ready to secure Bella’s enclosure with every padlock she’d been able to liberate from the smashed-up DIY shop in town.
The padlocks hadn’t been enough to save Bella’s mate, who was taking the morning air but, in the adjoining enclosure, Bella stayed in her sleeping quarters long enough for the vet with the gun to give up and go away. ‘She’ll starve soon enough,’ he’d said, ‘behind all those padlocks.’
‘And he thinks he won’t?’ Naomi had said, when Jenny told her what the man had said. The two women had met in front of the zebra paddock. The three Grevys were already dead and the sole Burchell’s zebra looked on mournfully as half-a-dozen men with two wheelbarrows sliced and hacked and chunked until the air was thick with flies. ‘We should be eating them,’ Naomi said. ‘The zebra not the people,’ she said, when Jenny raised her eyebrows. Together, they’d followed at a vaguely respectful distance as the men left the park. There had been others, of course, but when they were all gone, laden with their butchered spoils, the women had locked the entrance gates with more of Jenny’s padlocks. ‘We’ll stay, shall we?’ Naomi had said. ‘Might as well,’ Jenny had agreed, just as if she’d even thought of doing something else.
Now, all those uncountable rotations of the earth later, Naomi said, ‘Time to go, then.’
And Jenny nodded as she watched Naomi settle a grey shawl around her shoulders and stump off down the steps out of the shop. Without being told, she knew Naomi was going to lie down with the army ants.
‘And you’re sure?’ Jenny asked.
Holding firm to Henry’s hand, Wilf said, ‘Of course I’m not,’ but he was nodding and neither he nor Henry tried to turn the other back.
At the gates, the padlocks still held and, outside, there were fewer than half-a-dozen bodies, bones picked clean by crows and magpies, in the long grass. ‘Listen! Isn’t it quiet!’ Wilf said.
Jenny listened too, not sure whether she was hoping to hear something or not. ‘So, where will you go?’ she asked, sure she was speaking over nothing more than the wind in the trees.
The boy shrugged, and at his side, Henry copied the gesture. ‘Somewhere there are snails,’ he said, as she turned the keys in the padlocks, one after the other.
‘I’ll find Bella,’ Jenny said, when there was no one left to hear.

About the author  

Short story writer and poet, Louise Taylor sometimes tries to write about subjects other than nature but doesn’t usually manage it. She is co-editor of Words for the Wild and has her own blog at nofrigatelikeabook.

Sunday 27 January 2019

The Return

by Michael Howell 

sweet sherry 

The last time I saw my mother was twelve years ago.  I can’t remember how old she was, isn’t that terrible.  But I do remember her red hair.  It rolled past her shoulders like a wave.  The last thing I remember about her lovely face is the wetness from her tears.  My life certainly changed that day, when she disappeared.  I was twelve years old.  I withdrew… went inside myself.  Friends stopped coming round.  Dad went to pieces: couldn’t cope.  Not surprising, really.  It wasn’t his fault.  For me life changed irrevocably.  It didn’t stop, it just kind of went into limbo, faltered maybe.  That’s the way I’m thinking about it now, because I’m no longer a boy, I’m a man… okay, a young adult If you want to be pedantic.  I’m really looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.
The doctor’s said it was a virus that took my sight twelve years ago, but with today’s technology the damage can be repaired.  I can’t wait for the bandages to come off and I can see her again with her long wavy red hair.    


About the author

Michael is retired, having been a carpet fitter.  Following that, he worked for the NHS for nineteen years.  He belongs to a great writing group where fellow member, David Deanshaw, one of our that he should send some of his work to CafeLit  


Saturday 26 January 2019

Dry January

by Mari Phillips  

a mug of tea…


You sit staring at me. My perfectly curved goblet, unblemished, clear and cool to touch. Perfect for sipping when you hold my elegant stem, or quaffing when you cup your palms around my body. The crimson of a ‘good’ red and the touch of your fingers fill me with happiness.  You knew you weren’t supposed to fill me full, not etiquette, but you never cared. I suppose I should be pleased that you used me at all, rather than drinking straight from the bottle.
I remember the days when you kicked off your shoes in the hallway and headed for the kitchen without taking off your coat. Hand stretching out to the draining board - you never put me away - and the swishing gurgle and plop as you filled me up. Just you, me and the wine bottle. Your first gulp, no pause for thought, like the deep, deep draught of the traveller in a drought. Then you wait for the first wave of the fruity warmth to unzip your tension. Except you needed me more until nothing else mattered. I was there for you, your best friend for ever, listening to your troubles and cradling your hurts; all safe with me. I looked into your eyes until they were as red as mine.
Now I see the flicker of indecision; a recollection of promises made. Your hand reaches out with trembling fingers. You pull a mug towards you, brown, dull and graceless, an apology for a drinking vessel; a betrayal after my years of faithfulness. I watch you hesitate, maybe you have changed your mind, memories of better times. Don’t let this happen, we can deal with this together.
With a strength I didn’t know you possessed, you crush me in your fingers.
The kettle boils…

Friday 25 January 2019


by Roger Noons

a glass of Pastis.

The woman who answers the door is fat, untidy with a pouchy, sagging jowl, like a toad; a chest on which she can rest her forearms.
    ‘Anna invited me. ’ I smile.
    Obviously not a lady to rush, she studies me, thinks about it, then stands aside. As I pass her aura of garlic and sweat, she mumbles, ‘Up the stairs, second door on the left.’
    I tap on the designated door three times before it is opened sufficiently for me to identify a single eye. ‘Anna invited me, I—’
    ‘Wait next door.’
    I step into a large room, obviously for ablutions. A bell-shaped boiler in copper and brass throbs on it’s plinth. A free-standing, cast iron bath sits atop a platform so high there are three steps to provide access. The other half of the floor supports a high level cisterned lavatory and a wash basin. Above me suspended from the ceiling, an airer displays a range of women’s lingerie and hose. Sitting on the toilet seat cover I find the pull on the chain is a ten-inch high, ceramic Napoleon.
    Hearing a door open and voices, I stand up, but am surprised when a door in the wall between lavatory and basin opens and Anna enters. Her perfume engulfs me as she approaches, wearing a mini, silk robe displaying tigers.
    ‘Cherie, you should have made an appointment. I have lots of clients, you mustn’t walk in from the street.’
    ‘You said to come and see you, you didn’t tell me … you gave me no telephone number.’
    Frowning, she studies me. ‘Where did I see you?’
    ‘In the book shop, last week. Thursday, I think it was.’
    She shakes her head. ‘I don’t go in book shops, is not necessary.’
    ‘But it was you,’ I pleaded. ‘You told me your address.’ 
    Still shaking her head she says, ‘You must go now, I have a gentleman due.’

I become more annoyed as I walk back down the hill. At the bus stop a woman is attempting to control a toddler. Instead of sympathising with a smile, I turn my back and sulk. I try to analyse what upsets me most, being put in the wrong, or suggesting that I would need to seek the services of a prostitute. When the bus arrives, I am still undecided.
    At the supermarket opposite my apartment I stock up for three or four days. I will assuage my mood by writing. I begin a story with :

The woman who answers the door is fat, untidy with a pouchy, sagging jowl, like a toad; a chest on which she can rest her forearms.

It is Friday and I have completed the story, sent it off to a magazine. Needing to escape, I walk into the centre of town, sit at a café, order coffee with croissants. I am just paying the waiter when Anna walks past. If she recognises me she offers no indication. I follow and watch as she enters the book shop. Taking care, using a newspaper to shield much of my face, I go in; find her standing in a corner studying a child’s picture book.
    Her words come back to me. ‘You are a writer? How wonderful. If I give you my address will you come and read one of your stories?’ 

About the author 

 Roger is a regular contributor to Café Lit.

Thursday 24 January 2019

Test Pilot

Allison Symes

bitter lemon

The crash landings were becoming embarrassing. Nobody minded the odd accident. That happened to everyone but this one was going to mean the test pilot, if unlucky enough to survive, would be hauled before the Board of Inquiry.

Like all such Boards, there was a hell of a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork. Unlike most Boards, said bureaucracy was to minute in minute detail what happened to the late specimens who'd faced them.

And this latest Inquiry was going to play to a packed house.

The crash had been spotted by those pests of the universe - humans.

Nobody was going to forget the Board of Inquiry for Roswell.

About the author 

Allison Symes is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafe Lit, and Bridge House Publishing amongst others.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.  Her website is and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today -

Tuesday 22 January 2019


by James Bates

sweetened iced tea

Oh, how they danced this morning on the summer breeze, drifting through the garden, keeping me company while I worked under the bright, hot sun. Janie loved butterflies, even talked to them, their own special language, and she would have loved today, surrounded by their gentle ballet, their colorful beauty. I know for certain they would have had a lot to talk about.
            Before Janie died we'd often sit together amongst the zinnias and daisies and dahlias in the front yard, butterflies fluttering all around us, and watch them while we talked about this and that; the gentle musings of a couple married over fifty years. We'd sip sweetened ice tea and Janie would often dip her finger into the glass and hold it out next to her for a brave flutter-by (her endearing name for the braver ones) to join us. One often did, clinging to her finger, feeding, while we both watched in awe.
            Today, I stop my gardening and take a moment to stand, stooped, as they surround me, these butterflies carrying with them myriad memories of the past; memories with Janie that are quietly returning on the summer breeze like the brightly colored swallowtails, painted ladies and monarchs, flitting from flower to flower; so many memories of times spent with my darling wife, here in our garden, she and I, in this magical moment in time, coming together again.

About the author

 Jim is an avid gardener and can often be found in his garden talking to butterflies even though it might seem like he's talking to himself.

Monday 21 January 2019

The Window

by Lynn Clement

a glass of claret

Staring out of the window, I see tears streaming down the reflection. It can’t be me; I know how to hide my pain. One drop crawls towards another and they clasp at each other, forming a rivulet. It pools, and then falls off the edge of the sill.

  The storm is as fierce as forecasted, and yet it has such a pretty name – Fleur. She’s certainly battered her own name sake. Some early spring daffodils are bowing their heads away from the wind like shy maids, as if they have something to hide. The tall bearded trees are shaking with anger and the logs in the wood pile are sodden. They should have had a better shelter. The axe is off its stand and has been thrown to the floor, it will need sharpening now. Grey fists have formed in the sky. It looks as if they are trying to outdo each other. A fork of light splits them, and just for a moment they halt their battle, and then resume their sparring to thunderous applause.

  I pull my cardigan tighter round my chest. My sticky fingers touch the back of my neck. I think someone has just walked over my grave, and I know why.
  Moving away from the window I look at the boxes. I hadn’t kept to the rules very well. There are too many memories poking up over the rims. They’re probably too heavy to lift, but I haven’t got the energy to do it again.
The letters are on the mantelpiece, the one for my daughter Caroline on top, the other one hidden behind it. They can have that, it will be useful. I don’t need to read it again.

  The car will be here soon, even in this storm I’m sure they’ll hurry. I take up my position by the window to watch them arrive. The rain is almost horizontal now and has sheared one of the heads off the daffodils. Storm Fleur’s pent up anger seems vengeful.

  A pair of big, yellow eyes head up the driveway. They don’t screech to a halt like they do in the movies and no flashing blue light; I feel slightly disappointed. Two men in long rain coats step out of the car and try to shield themselves from the storm, but Fleur is taking no prisoners today.
My hands have dried now, making my fingers feel crusty, so I rub them together, and tiny claret coloured flakes flutter to the carpet. I slip the latch, let them in, and stare at their sopping wet shoes. They look at my red feet.

‘He’s in there,’ I say helpfully.

  They tread on my gooey and now rust coloured Axminster with their wet shoes. Observing the packing boxes, one of them retches into his handkerchief.

‘Not many men carry a handkerchief nowadays,’ I say.

  They look at me open mouthed.

‘What happened here love?’ one of them asks

‘Read the letter,’ I reply.

About the author

Lynn is a regular author for CafeLit. She enjoys writing flash fiction and poetry and has won some local competitions in Hampshire.

Sunday 20 January 2019

Black Socks on the Clothes Lline

by Roxy Thomas 

chai tea 

He walked very slowly down the back alley delaying the journey home and the inevitable questions he could not answer. Paul never took this way, he always used the front street, and always in a hurry, never at such a leisurely pace. Maybe he would finally learn something about the neighborhood he had called home for so long but never got to enjoy, as he rushed madly from the downtown skyscraper, to the crowded bus, to the quick walk past all the manicured lawns to his brick bungalow, like all the other suburban bungalows. Now he finally had a chance to see the hidden lives of his neighbors, most he had never met, nor admittedly wanted to meet. He left the socializing to his wife Doreen, and she kept him updated on all the comings and goings, whether he cared or not.

He sighed as he passed the Smith’s garage and remembered the story Doreen had told him of the couple’s recent vacation to Bermuda. He noticed with interest the colorful beach towels hanging on their clothesline. It was odd to see blue and white nautical towels flapping against the red and yellow autumn leaves left on the tress and crunching beneath his feet as he trudged even slower. Doreen was always pleading with him to take time off for a vacation, but he always felt that the timing was never right. He repeatedly told her he was the only person at work with the full knowledge of the latest project and never felt comfortable being away for more than a few days at a time. How silly he was to have sacrificed so much and shown such loyalty, what did it get him in return, and how was he going to tell Doreen?

He cringed when he thought of the condescending way he had spoken to her when she asked him for the first time why he couldn’t get away for longer so they could spend a few extra days in the mountains, the only place they ever went. Her face had crumpled when he told her that she did not understand how business worked, and if he was ever going to get the sought-after promotion, they had to sacrifice for the sake of his career. Over time she stopped asking about taking more exotic vacations and hadn’t even complained when a strategy planning day forced him to cancel last year’s annual Thanksgiving trip to Jasper.

Paul walked passed the unpainted fence of the Henderson’s and slowed even more as he recalled what Doreen had told him about their situation when he had complained about the state of disrepair and how it was bringing down property values. She told him how Mr. Henderson had left his wife for another woman and how hard it was for Mrs. Henderson her to keep up the yard now that their kids had moved out. He remembered Doreen’s not so subtle comment about losing a man to a mistress evoked sympathy, but losing a man to a job did not. At the time he felt anger, but now he felt shame at not recognizing what she meant.

He stopped to switch his shoulder strap to the other side, as the heavy papers and books were cutting into his neck. Packing up one’s desk on short notice took less time than he thought and he had accumulated very few personal possessions to bring home. Most of the knowledge he was leaving was electronic and he was only bringing home a few files, some reference books and a honeymoon picture of Doreen and himself in front of Niagara Falls, their only real trip. Her colorful pink dress shone in the sun and was almost as bright as her eyes.

Paul walked past the immaculate backyard of the Van De Kamp’s, and noticed the assortment of bright patterned socks hanging on the clothes line, next to the colorful button down golf shirts, flapping in the still warm breeze. Somehow the cheerfulness of the socks darkened rather than brightened his mood and he was not sure why. But a memory of Doreen sobbing when she found the bright blue striped pair she bought him for his birthday in the donate bag twisted his insides. She had been so happy when he opened the package and excited for him to try them on, but he had only scoffed and said they were too flashy. She tried once more to get him to wear them one weekend when she finally convinced him to take her to a movie after their usual Saturday lunch at their favorite Chinese restaurant. He refused and told her his black socks were perfectly fine for work and for weekends and to quit wasting money. She was sulky as they ate their usual combination plate of rice, pineapple chicken balls and sweet and sour ribs, so predictable that the waiter just brought them the same order each time. He recalled her sadness was drowned out somehow by the cheerful yellow sweater she wore. Doreen used to pride herself on her bright wardrobe, almost as an antithesis to his corporate attire, but lately she too had taken to sensible grey sweaters.

His pace slowed even more as he drew close to their back gate, dreading having to tell her that all the years of sacrifice had not paid off, all the years of loyalty to the company had not been returned when he received his lay-off notice. He could not help but regret all those missed vacations. As their back yard came in to sight, Paul noticed the well painted fence and mowed lawn, but was struck by what was on their clothesline, dozens of back socks, button down white dress shirts, and grey trousers. What he would not give to see one of Doreen’s bright floral dresses flapping in the breeze.

About the author 

Roxy is an aspiring writer by evening and a psychiatric nurse and safety specialist by day. She lives with her husband, two cats and a dog on 20 acres in Alberta near a national park where the bison roam. She has published a personal essay in her city newspaper and non-fiction pieces on the topic of mental health in a small town weekly. I am building my presence on her Website/Blog and on Twitter , Facebook and Goodreads .