Saturday 31 August 2019

Talia and the Jinn 2

by Mason Bushell

chilli hot chocolate, fiery and sassy like the Jinn is

Talia once again sat on her bed wearing her new nightdress. The Jinn had torched her old one when she summoned him last night. His advice hadn’t worked either, the bullies were worse today. She picked up the talisman and looked at the horned creature of fire upon it. She hoped he’d keep his word. With a hopeful sigh, she said the incantation. In moments, her room grew orange and muggy warm around her. 

“Yes." Boomed the Jinn's voice from atop the wardrobe, "You, summoned me. What do you want?” he said picking at his nails as he leaned against a stray nail. Talia gasped at the five-inch tall man. His muscle appeared carved from granite and dripping in flames. 

“Jinn, what are doing? Get down before you incinerate my wardrobe! My mother nearly killed me for the pig you destroyed yesterday.” 

“Oh, it's you again.” The Jinn blinked out of existence, reappearing on Talia’s saucer of biscuits. “Sorry about the pig. I trust my wisdom failed.” 

“Big time.” Talia indicated her black eye with sadness consuming her. “They said they weren’t jealous, and started pummelling me again.”  

“I see.” The Jinn smoothed a hand through his flaming hair. The chocolate melting off the biscuit beside him. “Did you fight back?” 

“No.” Talia shook her head.

“Why, you heard the phrase slap-happy, right?”


“So, it’s for this situation. You slap the bullies, you feel happy.” The Jinn took a bow.

“No, I slap bullies, I get expelled, and killed by my mother.”

“Expelled, Huh, I’ve been expelled from dimensions, more times than I can count, for standing up for myself. I always marched right back through the portal and won the next round.” 


“You’ll be surprised what burned sausages, and balls of fire can achieve.” The Jinn raised his smouldering eyebrows and smirked. “So, will you give those bullies a flame grilling tomorrow?”

“No, they’ll just beat me even more.” Talia flopped back on the bed, a defeated figure. The Jinn kicked free of the pool of chocolate he was standing in and flew into the air above her. 

“Not if I bring the flames, they won’t,” he said, leaving her smiling.

The following lunchtime, Talia walked from the school building on to the playing field. She looked pretty in her uniform of emerald green skirt and blazer over a white blouse, and tie. The only part she liked was her plaited pigtails, as her mother had specially put them in for her this morning. She sat upon a bench near a telephone mast, with her cheese rolls. She wanted to watch the footballers on the field, while she ate. Trouble soon came her way, it always did.

“Ah, there’s Ta-Ta, Charlie” jeered an overweight girl.

“Yeah, shall we rip her pigtails off, Paulette?” asked her friend with folded arms. Talia ignored them and made to bite into her roll. Charlie snatched it away and stomped it into the grass. Paulette picked up the other with a fat hand and took a big bite.

“Oh, you’ll pay for that,” Talia said with a fire in her eyes. Paulette snatched her right pigtail and forced her to stand.

“Go on then, make me pay,” she said through her mouthful.

“You asked for it.” Talia squeezed the talisman, saying the incantation in her mind. Only she felt the temperature rising, just a little.  

“Well go on then, do something.” Charlie put her hand in Talia’s bag and shrieked. Withdrawing it, she revealed all the hairs were singed, her false nails had melted, and her signet ring was smoking. 

“Naughty girl, that’s not your bag.” said a voice. 

“Nice trick.” Charlie threw Talia to the ground. “Make her pay, Paulette.”

“My pleasure.” the big girl stood astride the fallen student and made to grab her by the blazer. Talia looked at her with a fearless stare and folded her arms. 

“My pleasure too.” The voice came from the muggy ether. The weighty bully looked about her in confusion. “You’re rather sparky for a bully, Paulette. Shame it’s causing an inferno, in your rucksack.” 


“Paulette, your bag's smoking,” Charlie cried. Paulette threw it off and watched flames engulf it in a small blaze. 

“No. My homework, Miss Childers will, kill me,” she cried. Talia stood and grinned.

“Shame your homework wasn’t on combustion,” she said. 

“It’s all coals on a bonfire now,” the voice broke into laughter. Charlie was scared, she backed away and sat on the bench, shaking with fear. Paulette, on the other hand, was seething. 

“You did this.” 

“How? I was lying on the grass remember?” 

“You did it.” 

“Liar.” Talia grinned. 

“You burned her hand.” Paulette grabbed her pigtails. 

“You burned my homework.” 

“Pants on fire.” Talia broke free and watched the bully’s eyes grow wide. Her backside was getting very warm, very quickly. She screamed and began running across the field with her hand clutched beneath her smoking skirt. Everybody watched, and stood laughing at her, as she ran across the football pitch. Flames burst forth from her crotch, and she jumped into the pond, creating a lot of steam. 

“Talia, what's going on? How did you do that?” Charlie asked. 

“Never you mind. Just promise to leave me alone, and it won’t happen again.” 

“Deal. I’m sorry for bullying you.” Charlie put out a hand and Talia shook it. The bully looked frightened as she walked toward Paulette in the pond. It was then Talia looked to the aluminum phone mast and smiled. The Jinn sat on the top, pretending to file his nails. 

“Thank you,” she said.

“I haven’t had this much fun since the seventies.” 

“Really, what happened in the seventies?”

“Oh yeah, I loved Disco Inferno.” The Jinn began dancing on the pole. 

Talia chuckled at him. “Well, I’m glad you had fun, I appreciate your help.”

“My pleasure, Talia. I told you I’d set their pants on fire. didn’t I?” 

“You did. That was hilarious.” Talia laughed again. “Oh Jinn, I command you to be free of the fire, and to be the wielder of all the powers you need to help good people.” 

“Yahoo!” the Jinn performed a somersault and snapped his fingers putting his flames out. “Thank you for freeing me, dear lady, I’m forever indebted to you. It’s time for me to party.” The Jinn clicked his fingers and vanished into the air, leaving disembodied laughter in his wake. 

A large ham and cheese baguette appeared in Talia’s hands and she sat to eat. She wouldn’t need the Jinn anymore. The bullies wouldn’t dare touch her again. At least if they wanted to keep their pants from combusting, anyway!

Friday 30 August 2019

Some Things Are More Important

by Jerry Guarino

homemade lemonade 

  Jack and Alice were high school sweethearts.  They continued their romance in college and then married soon after graduation.  If any couple would be together forever, Jack and Alice were that couple.  They raised two beautiful children who gave them wonderful grandchildren.  It was a life well lived, until they reached their seventies.  That’s when the problems started.
            “Alice, where are my keys?”
            “Where did you leave them Jack?”
            “I don’t know sweetheart.  That’s why I’m asking.”
            Jack puttered around the house looking for his keys.
            “Are you going out?”
            “Yes dear.  We’re going to church.”
            “Jack, it’s Thursday.”
            “The kids are coming over for dinner Jack.  You need to go to the store and get burgers, hot dogs and ice cream.  Here, you can use my car keys.”
            “Yes dear.”
            Jack returned home an hour later with two grocery bags.  Alice emptied them on the kitchen counter.
            “Jack, what is this?”
There wasn’t a hot dog or hamburger to be found.  The only food was for cats and dogs.  There were cleaning supplies and storage bags, toiletries and even some clothing items.
            “Jack, where is the food?”
            Jack pointed to the pet food.
            “Jack, we don’t have a dog or a cat.  Where are the burgers, hot dogs and ice cream?”
            “Why do we need that?”
            “The kids and grandkids are coming, remember?”
            “I think my show is on.”  Jack walked into the living room.  Alice took the groceries back to the store and got food for dinner.  Jack had been getting forgetful lately, but nothing like this.  It was almost as if his memory had been erased.
            “Jack, I’m home.”
            No answer.
            Alice rushed into the living room.  Jack was asleep, she hoped, in his chair.  She gently shook his shoulder.
            “Oh, hello dear.  Guess I drifted off.  What time is dinner?”
            “When the kids get here, around six.”
            “Why are they coming?”
            “Jack, we’re having a barbeque, to celebrate.  It’s the fourth of July, remember?”
            “Oh, all right.  Do you want me to go shopping?”
            “All taken care of dear.”
            “Who’s coming?”
            “Our children, Bob and Nancy and their children, your grandchildren.”
            “Great, can’t wait to see them.  What are their names?”
            “Bob and his wife Jill, and their girls, Amanda and Heather.  Nancy and her husband Joe, their son Charley and daughter Stacey.”
            Jack’s confused expression worried Alice.
            “That’s a big family.”
            “Yes dear.  We are blessed.”
            “Maybe I should go get a cake.  Kids love cake.”
            “Well, if you like, but make sure you’re back by five.”
            Jack went back to the store.  He saw all sorts of holiday cakes on display.  He found one just the right size.  This time he didn’t buy any pet food or extraneous items.
            “I’m back dear.”
            Alice took the box from Jack and opened it.  It was a dinosaur birthday cake.  Alice looked at her husband, lovingly at first, then.
            “Jack, this is a birthday cake.”
            “Yes, I know.  It’s America’s birthday.”
            “Well, the kids like dinosaurs, don’t they?”
            “Yes.  Maybe we could put a couple sparklers in there and take the dinosaurs off.”
            “Should I go buy some sparklers?”
            Alice wasn’t going to let him buy fireworks.  “No dear.  I think we have some from last year.”  She removed the plastic dinosaurs from the cake and washed them off.  Little Stacey will probably play with them.  Then she carefully lifted off the birthday lettering.  If the cake wasn’t green, it wouldn’t have been so bad.  Fortunately, she had some July 4th decorations: a red, white and blue plastic tablecloth, paper plates, napkins, and balloons.  “Here dear.  Why don’t you set the picnic table.”  How much trouble could he have with that?
            Soon, the doorbell rang and the family gathered around their papa.  The grandchildren loved him.  He always read them stories and gave them treats.
            “Papa!” came a chorus from all four, as they grabbed his legs and hugged, almost knocking him over.
            “Kids.  How are you.”
            “Read us a story.”
            Little Charley handed him a book.  They all sat around Jack on the couch, with Charley and Heather sitting on his lap.   Bob and Nancy joined Alice in the kitchen.
            “Hi mom.  How is he doing?”
            Alice showed them the cake.
            “What is that?”
            “It was supposed to be for today, but Jack bought a dinosaur birthday cake.”
            “Better add more sparklers.”
            “Dad set the picnic table.  Can you go check.”
            “Sure Mom.”  Nancy came back.
            “Mom.  The table isn’t set.  But the sprinklers were on and the table is soaked. I turned them off. Do you have some towels?”
            “Oh my.  Thanks Nancy.  Here.  Can you set the table.”
            Fortunately, the dinner was uneventful.  The kids even liked the cake.  Bob and Nancy consoled Alice.
            “Let us know if you need anything Mom.”       
            Jack and Alice sat on the front porch watching the fireworks.
            “Alice, remember when we first met.”
            “That was so long ago dear.  What are you thinking about?”
            “I remember the yellow summer dress with blue flowers you wore.  Your hair smelled like strawberry.  When we kissed, you would touch my neck.  Your hand was so soft.  There was that time when Nancy fell off her bike and we held her for an hour until she fell asleep.  And the night Bob was born, no crying, just lay there sleeping in your arms.”
            “Yes, we worried something might be wrong.”
            “But he was fine. The doctor said sometimes babies just don’t cry at first.  He never was a cry baby.  Always content.  So different from Nancy, our sentimental girl.  Then there was the time they both had their first sleepovers at friends houses.  We stayed up all night worrying that they would call us to come home; the next morning they found us on the couch exhausted.”
            “I remember.  They slept like babies and we worried for nothing.”
            “Then, they began dating in high school.  Bob met that red-haired girl, Samantha I think.  She had freckles and long hair.  He took her to a movie.  When he got home, we asked him how it went.  He said it was the best night of his life.  We could see some lipstick on his neck, but didn’t mention it.  He practically floated off to bed that night.”
            “I liked Samantha too Jack.  It crushed him when she had that car accident.  It was the first time I ever saw him cry.”
            “But thankfully, she recovered.  Bob learned so much from her.  She was so good for our boy, his first love.”
            Alice squeezed Jack’s hand and rested her head on his shoulder. 
            “You were my first love Alice and always will be.”  He turned and kissed her.  Alice put her hand on Jack’s neck.
            “Maybe we should make our own fireworks tonight.”
            “All right dear.  If you’re not too tired.”
            They retired to the bedroom.  By the time Alice finished brushing her teeth, Jack was asleep.  She cuddled onto him and slept, not sure of what to expect tomorrow.
            Jack woke up early, as usual.  He turned to Alice and kissed her.
            “Good morning beautiful.  How were our fireworks last night?”
            “Honey, it was great.”

About the author 

Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, "The Best of Café Stories", is available on and as a Kindle eBook. Please visit his website at

Thursday 29 August 2019

The Clockwork Mouse Part 1

Mitzi  Danielson-Kaslik

steamed copper tea 

The moon disappeared behind a pearly white veil of cloud. Its subtle luminance remained hidden and the inky darkness of the night sky was uncorrupted by stars and no ray of light fell upon the narrow alleyway beneath.
London was in darkness.
Beneath, the walls of the alley were towering with thick rough stone that ran thick with silvery veins that appeared at first to be only of mundane grey then as the tiny flecks of light penetrated its surface further, it gleamed with multi-faceted glimmers of dazzlingly bright colours that seemed almost out of place here. As the fleeting light dallied, the bright coloured died away. 
At the narrow entrance to the alley,was a crimson door with old peeling paint and an opaque brassy knocker, sculpted into the shape of a mouse’s head. Locked and bolted for the night. a large grimy window stood alongside, poorly lit, displaying an odd assortment of goods with yellowing price tags attached. One point on the left side of the window was reflecting a small circle of bright light.  It appeared that within the circle of light was inscribed several darkly coloured roman numerals, though it wasn’t clear if the numbers were a product of the light or simply something in the window was illuminated by the ray. 
What was casting it?
Across from the shop window, an imperious black void. Almost blacker than the night itself. No light seemed to penetrate it. One could only imagine what lay within. It was impermeable and cold and full of everything and somehow it was full of nothing. The eye was soon drawn away from the void and onto a low standing ornate metallic lamppost, powered oddly by gas. Its luminescence was golden and warm and in the chilled darkness it was a welcome sight, if not a peculiar one. Around it was cast a pure halo of light upon the grey cobblestone floor which gleamed from the now thickly falling rain drops that plummeted down from the darkened heavens and landed sharply and silently. 
Its delicate beauty seemed most out of place in an alley such as this. 
We talked there opposite the streetlamp for a time in the darkness. It was not long until I realized that the alleyway – if it had been possible – was a fraction darker than it had been when we had arrived there not a few short minuets ago. It was not the streetlamp that had died. What other luminance had there been here? Out of curiosity, I grabbed his wet hand with mine and pulled him towards the window, it was the disk of light that had illuminated the roman numerals that had died. Looking behind me, I could not see what had been casting it. It was gone anyway. I felt my sudden moving of him to the window had irritated him, as if I wasn’t listening to his words so I softly moved us back to our previous position opposite the strange streetlamp. 
And it was in the darkness that we first heard it: a soft mechanical pattering of tiny metallic feet pattering at a speed across the rain weathered stone floor.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Princess Jasmine And The Genie

by Tim Strugnell,

lime juice and soda

One hot summery day Princess Jasmine and Terrible Tim were playing football in Terrible Tim’s back garden. Princess Jasmine as usual was showing all her tricks and scoring lots of goals. After a while she kicked the ball just wide of the goal and it ran under the hedge.Terrible Tim as always rushed after it and crawled under the hedge to pick it out. Princess Jasmine heard a shout as Terrible Tim came back out covered in dirt with the football and what looked like a rusty old oil lamp. 

The two of them inspected the find. Princess Jasmine held it in her hand and gently rubbed some of the rust and dirt off it. As she did this the children began to notice a trickle of steam coming out of the spout, then suddenly there was an enormous whoooooosh and a huge cloud of smoke appeared and gradually the form of a young boy of about 16 appeared. He was dressed all in purple with a purple kind of head dress. The children stood in amazement at a total loss for words. 

Eventually Princess Jasmine plucked up courage to speak, “Who, who, who, who are you?” she stuttered still hanging onto the lamp.

“I’m the genie of the lamp, my name’s Gene!” said the boy, “I’ve been waiting so long for someone to find me and now I need your help!”

“We’d love to help you!” the children shouted with enthusiasm. 

“Right then, I’ll just get my magic carpet out,” and a  multi coloured carpet appeared from nowhere to the children’s amazement. “Sit down and I’ll tell you where we’re going. They sat down on the carpet which felt really soft. “Now I’ve had a message from Africa to say that the King of the Jungle, the Lion, is in terrible pain with a huge thorn in his paw. Nobody can get it out, and we need a real life princess to do it!”

Terrible Tim looked at Princess Jasmine and she immediately said, “Yes I’ll do it!”

“Ok, then hold tight and we’ll be back here before anybody misses you.”

He pulled back a bit of the carpet to show a control panel and the carpet slowly rose from the ground. They flew over Auntie Kirsty’s house and could see her playing in the garden with Stanley and Reggie. If they had looked up in the air they would have seen the magic carpet flying overhead. They also flew over Granny’s house and she was sitting in the garden with Teddy and Kedi, relaxing in the sunshine.

They carried on getting higher and higher, faster and faster. They had a fantastic view of the main sights of London including, the London Eye, Big Ben and the Gherkin. Now they were flying so fast they flew past a jet plane with the pilot looking at them in disbelief!

They carried on, over the English Channel, over France, they could just see the Eiffel Tower as a tiny spike they were so high. Then they crossed mountains, more sea, then what seemed like endless desert until they reached the jungle in Central Africa. Only then did the carpet begin to slow down and gently drop towards the ground. Jasmine noticed a large clearing come into view and in it there were lots of chimpanzees running around, jumping up and down, and waving at the children. When they finally touched down they were surrounded by the excited chimps. One of them, obviously the leader, made some strange noises and Gene replied with similar noises.

“What’s going on?” said Princess Jasmine, always curious to know what was happening.

“The lion is on a bit of a walk through the jungle. He is in great pain and as he is a king he will only let a princess touch him, so that’s you Princess Jasmine. Will you help?”

“Of course I will, it will be my pleasure and my duty to help the king of the jungle!”

So without further delay they started their trek through the jungle. They saw and heard lots of different animals that they had never seen in the wild before, but they ignored the children and the chimps as if they knew where they were going. After a while they could make out a sound which was like a cross between a roar and a cry which got louder as they got closer. Finally they reached a small shady clearing by a stream and they saw a huge lion lying down clearly in a great deal of pain.

The others all sat down quietly while Princess Jasmine and Gene cautiously walked over to the lion.

Jasmine was very brave and stroked the lion’s huge mane. “Don’t be frightened your majesty, my name is Princess Jasmine and I’ve come to help heal you,” she whispered gently in his ear.

The lion looked at Princess Jasmine with his huge dark eyes and to her amazement started to purr. It was much louder than Kedi’s purr at home!
Princess Jasmine looked at the enormous paw and could see immediately what the problem was. There was a very large thorn sticking out of it and it was very red and swollen. She gently held the paw with one hand and with the other she took hold of the thorn. It was stuck in very tightly but she carefully moved it from side to side gradually loosening it until finally out it came. It was the biggest thorn she had ever seen, about ten centimetres long. She put it carefully into a pocket. Gene put his hands inside his clothes and magically pulled out a bottle of water, some ointment and a bandage. 

Princess Jasmine carefully washed the wound and then put some cream and a bandage on the huge paw. The lion almost looked as if he was smiling and continued to purr. Princess Jasmine put her arms round him and gave him an enormous hug and said a tearful goodbye. 

She and Gene moved slowly back to Terrible Tim and returned to the clearing with the chimps. They all said goodbye and the chimps waved farewell as the carpet slowly rose into the sky until they were tiny specks. 
The journey back seemed almost quicker than on the way out. It seemed no time at all before they were back over Colchester and it looked as if Granny and Auntie Kirsty had hardly moved!

As they landed in Terrible Tim’s back garden, they all hopped off the carpet and  tthanked Gene for their amazing adventure. They heard Terrible Tim’s mum shouting from the kitchen asking if they wanted a drink and they went running up to tell her what had happened. She laughed and told them they had fantastic imaginations. They dragged her down to the bottom of the garden but there was no sign of Gene, the carpet or the lamp. They all laughed and guessed they’d had a fantastic dream.

Later that afternoon when Princess Jasmine returned home she went up to her room to think about her day. As she sat down she put her hand in her pocket, and she found .................................. the largest thorn she had ever seen. Maybe it hadn’t been a dream after all!