Monday 28 February 2022

Moonlight Shadows


by Robin Wrigley

black coffee


Standing in the small village church of St Peter and St Paul, I looked around the congregation marvelling at the numbers, so many they also sat in the choir stalls. It must have been nearly sixty years ago that I spotted the small tower of this church from up on the hill from where I first viewed the farm belonging to the man whose funeral we were assembled for this morning.

            He, along with one of his farmhands, caught me one night entering his barn looking for shelter for the evening. I felt sure that he would have handed me over to the police, but he didn’t. He took me home with him, and his wife fed me the best meal I had eaten in months. Later I was given a bed for the night and the next day started the most lengthy and difficult process of becoming a legitimate citizen of my new home. England.




It was easy to spot the farm workers and their dog as they arrived in the morning just before dawn. Their vehicle lights acted as my alarm clock. From my hideout on the hill, it was like watching a life-size clockwork toy from a distance. They resembled one of those town clocks that had fascinated me when I was travelling across Europe on my way there.

            The cows would then head towards the buildings, anxious to have the weight of their swollen udders taken from them.  Later, the milk would be put into heavy metal containers and stored in the room at the end of the cowsheds and the men would sit around after the first part of their daily labours. When they left the place at the end of the day, they loaded  all the milk  onto the trailer that was towed by a blue tractor and drove off down the chalky track before disappearing at the far end, over the railway bridge.

I would watch them as they got smaller, finally disappearing completely over the railway bridge until only the smoke from the exhaust showed. I would dream and conjure up pictures in my head of how their homes might look with a wife waiting to feed them.

Then I knew I had to stop  those daydreams, or I would have become overwhelmed with homesickness and increase the depth of my inward despair at the loss of my family. Before I could banish the scene though, the smells of mother’s lamb stew became so strong I could taste it. The warmth of our family home and the friendship of my brothers. When could I own up to someone that I had come to their country uninvited, hiding on the hill?

            After I was sure they were gone, I would search around the yard for any scraps of food they might have discarded, usually in paper bags if the cats hadn’t beaten me to it. I’d even had a bonus once with some hot tea when they forgot their flask. I had to be quick though, as those feral cats would beat me in the scavenging race. They also grew some rough cabbage and turnips on the farm which they gave to the pigs. I’d eaten worse in those times.

That day, I decided to chance sleeping in the barn and avoid the night cold on the hill. It would be risky but in the months on the road I had learned to sleep in catnaps. Always ready to protect myself or leave in a hurry. I didn’t think I would ever be capable of sleeping normally again.

            There I would be able to sleep on the straw bales in the barn which they only closed with a chain and no lock. Either the people in this area were very honest or the farmer very trusting, or both. Where I came from everything would be left with a lock and key and possibly a guard as well. The only thing I really disliked around the yard was the large, noisy crow who never tired of making those incessant ‘caws’. I even threw a stone at it once, but it simply moved emitting an ever louder ‘caw’ as if to mock me.

            That night, I was able to see my way around the place better because it was a clear sky with a full moon. As a boy that would have sent shivers down my spine walking home from school in the winter. Back then, I’d had so many scares I think I was immune from such petty things. Survival meant my ascent from boy to man happened overnight, or so it seemed. Maybe I had simply forgotten what real fear was. There were times when I just didn’t care.

            The farmer and his workers seemed to be late that evening loading up the milk and making their way home. I didn’t mind, after all I had all the time in the world. After they eventually left, and the last puff of smoke disappeared over the bridge I came down and entered the farmyard. The sun’s shadows had started to lengthen as the day gave way to evening and the moon took over. The ever watchful crow eyed me from the roof of the barn.

            That was my first experience of a clear, full moon since I took up residence on the hill. Though I inwardly boasted to myself all my fears were behind me, the iridescent, heavy moonlight on the buildings started to unnerve me. The biggest of the feral cats suddenly sprang backwards from behind a water trough, arched its back and emitted a loud hiss before backing off and disappearing. That caused a light sweat to break out on my forehead as I also stepped back. I cursed the animal though it did me no harm. It was necessary to tell myself to calm down; there was nothing to fear.

            I carried my bottle of milk I had filled and reserved from the morning along with a medium size swede and made for the barn. A shadow crossed the yard in front of me causing me to start again. It must have been the wretched crow relocating to the cowshed where it could watch me enter the barn. I looked back but I couldn’t spot it. Maybe it had gone further afield. Who knows? Why did I care, it was just a stupid bird, wasn’t it?

            I pulled open the tall barn door and the interior now seemed so much darker than usual because the moon was on the other side of the building. A rustling sound came from inside. Something I had never noticed before. It must have been my nervous state I had allowed to take over my mind.

            As I stood there holding the barn door I started to quake in fear when a voice from behind me said, ’Hello, and who would you be?’

            They had returned and caught me red-handed; I suppose I should have known they always would.




After the church service when all the kind words about the deceased farmer were exchanged, I excused myself and wandered back up the chalky track where the blue tractor and trailer had travelled so many times.

            I walked past the farmyard now bathed in the low glow of spring sunshine creating shadows quite different from those moon shadows all those years ago on that fateful night.

            The hill seemed steeper and longer now on my aging legs. On the crest I sat down regarding the sight of that white track as I did all those years ago. Memories of the family I lost and the family I gained. 


About the author

obin short stories have appeared in CafeLit both on line and in print on a regular basis. He has also entered various writing competitions but has yet to get past being short listed. In 2021 he published his anthology Idi's Ark & Other Stories on Amazon 

Sunday 27 February 2022

Delia’s Choices


by Allison Symes

bitter lemon with ice


Delia walked down the street as if she owned it. She smiled sweetly at the young and good-looking, regardless of gender. She ignored the middle aged and the elderly but, to be fair, they ignored her now.

They’d had their say – mainly telling Delia she was all fur coat and no knickers.

Her retort was at least she had the fur coat.

But the days when the young and good-looking flocked to Delia’s renowned parties were long gone. Nobody came to her soirees any more. So she stopped having them.

She had been invited to something more suitable for her age by her neighbours when they were still talking to her but the idea of tea and cake over a game of bingo at the local church hall left her cold.  And her manner to the neighbours left them cold.

Delia guessed it all evened up in the end.

Finally she reached her destination. She looked around to make sure nobody she knew was watching. Convinced, she finally walked into the shop in question.

It was a Specsavers.

Nobody but the optician and Delia would ever know her sight was not what it was. The one comfort Delia had was she would at least be able to see her fur coat once she had the right prescription. And it was to be contacts. The only glasses Delia would be seen with were champagne flutes.

Delia would not let her standards slip for anything or anyone.

Not after her mother ended up as a sad, shabby old woman.

There was no way Delia would be like that.  Her mother had been glamorous. And Delia was determined to stay glamorous.

But on coming out of Specsavers, Delia went down a side street. About half way down was a cosy looking home.

It was time to visit Mother who liked to see her daughter in glamorous things.

There were some things dementia would not erase.

Standards, Delia, standards. We maintain them always.

And she did.

About the author 

llison Symes, who loves quirky fiction, is published by Chapeltown Books, CafeLit, and Bridge House Publishing.



Her flash fiction collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic, are available in Kindle and paperback.

Her Youtube channel, with videos, is at


Saturday 26 February 2022

Eight New Messages


by Laurel Osterkamp

Merlot from a box


The answering machine’s red light pulsed like wound. Ruth was powerless to ignore it. Someone had called while she was in the shower, and Seth, oblivious as always, let the machine pick it up.

She walked across her living room and pressed play. “Hey Man. I’ll be by with the van in an hour. I have something at 10, so be ready to go.”

Seth was leaving her today; this was no surprise. Ruth, who was ready for the day in her business attire, her hair slicked into a bun and her makeup skillfully applied, strode back into the bedroom. Seth was still sound asleep. She grabbed the glass of water that she kept on the nightstand and threw it on him.

He bolted up. “What the fuck?”

“Your friend called. He’ll be here in an hour to help you move. You need to get ready.”

Sleepy, shocked Seth, in his boxer shorts and V-neck t-shirt, hair rumpled and in need of a shave, still squeezed at her heart. Ruth leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “Take care of yourself, Seth.”

And then, Ruth picked up her bag and walked away.

All day, she congratulated herself on her composure, on her dignity. She wasn’t even sad. Ruth was fine, right up until the moment when she walked back through her door and into the dark, quiet solitude. Then the realization hit her like a gut punch: Seth took the answering machine.

Ruth could have smacked herself. The answering machine was the one thing Seth had brought to their relationship. Now it felt like she had nothing left.

The absence of that blinking light finally made her break down.

Ruth allowed herself a cathartic round of angry tears. Afterwards, she dried them with a worn t-shirt that Seth left behind (probably the same V-neck he’d been wearing this morning), poured herself a generous glass of wine, and turned on the TV. There was big news. Charles, in an interview for some documentary, admitted to cheating on Diana, after his marriage became “irrevocably broken down.”

“Whose fault is that, asshole?” Ruth slurred at the TV. That was the last thing she remembered before passing out on the couch, and then waking the next morning, determined to walk to Best Buy and purchase a new answering machine. She would pick out the best, most expensive one they had. She deserved it, after all.

When she got home, Ruth took her answering machine out of the box even before taking off her shoes, and immediately plugged it in. There were already eight new messages! She stared at the flashing, digital eight, wondering how this was possible.

Realistically, Ruth knew that someone must have bought the answering machine and then returned it without erasing their messages. Yet, she still clung to a futile, irrational hope that she would hear Seth’s voice, that he’d beg her for a second chance, so then she could call him back and shoot him down.

Ruth played each message, one by one. They all came from the same gruff male voice, a voice that did not belong to Seth.

(Tuesday, 7:14 PM.) Hi. It’s me. Please give me a call. I’d really like to talk.

(Tuesday, 9:02 PM) Look, I am so, so sorry. Okay? Please call me.

(Tuesday, 10:58 PM) Come on. Call me back.

(Wednesday, 12:17 AM) I swear she meant nothing to me. I promise, I will never cheat again.

(Wednesday, 2:01 PM) I’ve heard that cheating is a symptom of a bad relationship, and not the cause. What about your role in all this?

(Wednesday, 4:48 PM) Sorry about that last message. None of this was your fault.

(Wednesday, 7:27 PM) Hey. I left behind my brown sweater, the one my grandmother knit for me right before she died. I’m going to come get it. I’ll be there in a few.

(Wednesday, 8: 39 PM) Sorry I yelled and pounded on the door. But I know you were home. I swear, I’m not giving up. You’re the one for me, and we belong together. I will always love you.

            The messages weren’t for Ruth, yet she owned them as if they were written underneath her skin. After all, Ruth had put $129.00 on her credit card for an answering machine that she didn’t really need, just so she might hear from a man wanting forgiveness. So what if the man didn’t want forgiveness specifically from her?  That was immaterial.

            Ruth thought about Diana, about how many messages she had waiting on her answering machine. Did she long for Charles to call and leave a message, saying that it had always been her, that he did not love Camilla? Ruth wondered whether Diana and Charles would ever reunite.

She hoped not. Diana would live a long, fulfilling life, away from the royal family and from the pressure of being queen. When Charles eventually ascended the throne, he’d be alone and empty inside.

            Still, Ruth had to acknowledge an essential truth: as long as there were answering machines, there would be wronged women waiting to hear, I made a mistake. Please, I beg you. Please take me back.

About the author

Laurel Osterkamp’s short fiction was recently featured in Tangled Locks Literary Journal, Bright Flash Literary Journal,and Sledgehammer Lit. In August, her novel, Favorite Daughters, will be released by Black Rose Writing. Find her on her blog,, or, or on Twitter - @laurellit1 

Friday 25 February 2022



by Nancy Geibe Wasson



I am standing over the toaster making breakfast while waiting on my almost-a-teen-going-on-knowing-absolutely-everything-daughter-with-beautiful-hair to emerge from the restroom ‘red carpet ready’ for the school hallway. Ahh, glorious smelling toast. The warm bready aroma of comfort, or maybe even Paris - some of us knowing one or the other, some never knowing either. The smell that longs for butter. Mmm…Butter…Once an afterthought, now too much fat for me to enjoy, but I give her as much as she wants. I wait on my girl and wait on her toast.

Someday my daughter will make her daughter toast. She’ll wait by the counter as her mind wanders while the hot toaster makes browned badges of honor saying ‘I’m toast now’ on the soft white bread. She’ll accidentally get a glance of her reflection in a microwave door or a fingerprint-smudged stainless-steel range hood and think about the beautiful hair she used to spend an hour a day to make it look just so. My daughter will think of all the dreams and ideas she had to make the world a better place but now makes toast. She will ponder as the bread color reaches its peak if it’s too late for those ideas. She’ll grow impatient waiting on her daughter, but, when that daughter, (whom I will call pickle like a silly, old grandma), emerges like a butterfly from her personal salon she’ll feel love swell deep down like the warmth that bread feels, and wonder about the woman she became, who she once was, and the little beauty she made that tends to her hair in the next room and be so glad, but also a little empty.

The toast springs forth and I spring into present day reality as my favorite girl appears from the restroom only to sit down in a hurried huff. She is beginning to be encased by the crisp shell girls develop. Knowingly and lovingly, I’m smiling. She grimaces at the morning but softens as the butter melts over the crispy bread.

 About the author

Nancy Geibe Wasson's flash fiction work has appeared in A Story in 100 Words, The Drabble, Flash Flood. She is a member of WFWA and AWP. Nancy lives with her family in Northwest Arkansas, USA.