Saturday 30 April 2022



by Carole Turnbull



Gwen came in from the garden through the patio doors stepping into the new kitchen extension. She needed to sit down for five minutes and rest her aching limbs, her body reminding her she wasn’t young any more.

Sinking into a plush white chair she sighed and gazed around at the gravity-defying central island, the gleaming surfaces, white lacquered cabinets and stainless steel, incorporating all the latest technology. This was minimalism at its best. Gwen was pleased she’d  made a good choice.

The five minutes were up and she forced herself to a standing position. There was more spring cleaning to be done. She stretched out her hand, admiring her new gardening gloves. Spring cleaning to Gwen meant sorting things out. The car in the garage had been dealt with, all that bending hadn’t helped her back pain, and then there had been the electrics to sort out - no wonder she had needed a sit down.

Now it was time to spring clean the house. She would start upstairs and so hobbled out into the hall.  A long mirror adorned the side of the hallway giving the impression of someone walking alongside when it was really only your own reflection. In Gwen’s case it was a white haired stooped old lady with a leathery lined face.

Gwen hung onto the banisters to haul herself up the steep staircase. She’d tell Reg their next house must be a bungalow.  She stopped mid-stair. Whatever was she thinking! Reg had gone now, she was on her own. How could she have forgotten? Had she lost her mind as well as her looks?

Up in the bedroom she began sorting the jewellery, putting it into two piles. One was for costume and paste jewellery not at all valuable, but steeped in memories of times past, the good and the bad. The other pile was made up of the more costly items, mostly platinum and gold, much of it in a new modern style.

Reg had been in the business of jewellery and taught her how to tell the purity of gold just by assessing the various shades of the gold.  Similarly, she could easily tell the difference between platinum and white gold without resorting to checking the markings. This knowledge had stood her in good stead over the years when purchasing new pieces.

She thought she heard a noise and put her head on one side listening again, she was a little deaf, yes there it was again a sharp tap. Putting one pile of jewellery back in the box she scooped up the other dropping it in her deep pockets for safekeeping. Another tap tap, she toddled out to the landing and realized someone was knocking at the front door. Gwen sniffed, “what a nuisance, who can that be?” Yet another tap. “Oh dear,” she moaned to herself, “they’re not going away I’d better get it.”

Gwen took the bunch of keys hanging from the rack on the wall and unlocked the front door to a young woman who seemed surprised to see Gwen. “Er, Mrs Buckmaster?”

“Oh no” replied Gwen “my daughter and son-in-law are away at the moment. I’m just minding the house for them.”

“What, all on your own?” the woman asked anxiously. Gwen nodded.

Suddenly the woman stepped into the house. Pulling the door shut behind her. She grabbed Gwen’s arm, twisting it behind her back, frogmarching her up the hall into the kitchen. “Lucky family winning the lottery” she sneered. “It’s just you who’s not so lucky.” She pushed Gwen out of the open patio doors kneeing her hard in the back.

Gwen landed in a heap on the ground. She lay motionless as the woman slammed the patio doors, shutting Gwen out.  Waiting until she heard the woman’s shoes clip clop away across the kitchen floor, presumably to ransack the house, Gwen lifted her head and assessed the damage. Fortunately, she’d landed on the grass, nothing felt broken but she’d have sore knees and back for a few days. She stood up unsteadily and crept over to the garage. Once inside she switched back on the camera alarm system operating within the house but not the outside cameras.

Next Gwen buzzed open the car door operated by the bunch of keys in her pocket and slid reverently behind the wheel. The garage doors opened and she drove noiselessly away.

Gwen was tempted to keep this glorious car but it was too recognisable even with the false number plates she had fixed on earlier that morning. Anyway, she had already made all the arrangements to pass it on before she caught her flight. It was a pity that awful woman had read the same news item about the lottery winners who said they were not going to move at the moment. They would spend some of their winnings on the house, buy their dream car - a Bugatti Chiron Super Sport and go on a cruise. The rest of the money was going in the bank.

Gwen phoned the police posing as a concerned neighbour saying she thought she had seen someone breaking into the lottery winners house. She refused to give her name and threw the phone into the next river she drove by.

On the ‘plane to Panama where Reg was waiting for her Gwen mused over her last job. She’d made mistakes – she shouldn’t have opened the door to that woman. She’d panicked worrying the knocking would draw attention to the house.  She had worn herself out climbing over the high garden wall, at her age, it had been too much for her. Reg was right when he’d said they needed to retire.  They were both getting too old. He had started to make mistakes too and said they mustn’t spend their remaining years in the clink. In fact, it had got a bit hot for him, he’d had to go to Panama before her.

Gwen smiled to herself, no more spring cleaning for her.

About the author  

Carole is an older lady who has never submitted a piece of writing before.

Friday 29 April 2022

An Important Customer


by Dawn Knox


Typical. The first time anyone of quality’s come into my shop and she has to ask for the impossible.

No wonder my rival suggested she came here.

‘Can you do it? I need an answer now,’ the lady asks impatiently, ‘They must be ready in time for the King’s Ball on Saturday.’

‘Yes!’ I say confidently, amazed at my impulsiveness.

Suppose I fail?

On the other hand, suppose I succeed?

Well, I’ve got nothing to lose and if I pull it off, I’ll go down in history as the first cobbler to have successfully made a pair of glass slippers.

About the author

 Dawn’s two previous books in the Chronicles Chronicles series are The Basilwade Chronicles and The Macaroon Chronicles both published by Chapeltown Publishing. The Crispin Chronicles is coming soon! You can follow her here on on Twitter: Amazon Author:

Thursday 28 April 2022

The Golem and the Stone


by Hallie Alexander

spring water 

Always they treat it like a legend, till something happens and turns it into actuality again.

Gustav Meyrink, 1914 (The Golem)


 Every night, prisoners snuck dirt in their pockets into the barracks. They didn’t know why Rabbi asked for it, yet they dutifully placed their handful on the far bunk hidden in shadow. Within a few short weeks, a mound of dirt filled the space.

‘We must pray for rain,’ Rabbi said.

Most saw their prayers to Hashem as nothing more than breaths of windswept desperation on the coldest days of their lives. But for their rabbi, they prayed.

The rains came.In order to avoid notice from the guards, one by one they set their cups outside, beyond the back wall. The wind rushing rain at an angle shook the barracks. It made their hearts pound in their ears. If the guards caught them outside, the prisoners would never see daylight again.

When their cups were full, they snuck out to collect them with no less fear in their hearts.

One by one, they poured their rainwater over the dry grains of dirt. They kneaded it into mud.

‘Rabbi,’ the last prisoner said, hugging his full cup to his skeletal chest. ‘One mistake by you can monstrously affect us all!’

Rabbi gave a Talmudic shrug, considering both sides of the argument, and maybe a third. ‘Nu? And should I fail? Can our fate grow any worse?’

No, it could not. If they didn’t die from disease, they would starve or be worked to death, or worse, declared no longer useful. The Nazis had special camps for those unfortunate souls.

The silence that followed was more deafening than the rain and wind.

‘Forgive me.’ Rabbi looked to each man in turn. He was only human, and he’d made a mistake. They deserved his leadership, not his resentment.

Measuring his words, he tried again. ‘I must be cleansed to perform this ritual, no? I stood in the rain. This must be done in a synagogue. Is this not where we pray as an act of defiance? A golem is made from untouched earth and living water. Will Hashem not understand our limitations?’

The last prisoner poured out his cup and blended his offering into the mud. It was the precise amount of water needed to turn the mud into clay.

Rabbi formed the clay into the likeness of a human. He spoke Hashem’s forty-nine names forward and backward. He recited ancient incantations while sculpting the clay into a stout chest, while shaping sturdy thighs, while fashioning arms of strength and hands charged with justice.

Exhaustion made Rabbi’s hands shake as he carved the Hebrew letters for the word death — mem and tav — on the golem’s forehead. The mystical body would remain as inanimate as death until hope grew too small and desperation too big. He covered the body with a tattered blanket like a shroud.

Two days later, another train arrived. Strong prisoners today to take the place of the old and infirm tomorrow.

Rabbi thought, I am weak, and I am ill. If not now, there will never be a when.

Before his brother died, he gave Rabbi a blue stone to place on his grave after the war. Tonight, Rabbi etched an aleph on its surface and pushed it into the middle of the golem’s chest. The aleph joined the mem and tav to spell the word truth, activating the clay into a powerful body.

With his head bent, Truth opened its earthen eyes, set deep in its sculpted face. ‘Master, I am honored to serve you.’

Rabbi issued his command that warranted the creation of the golem: pursue justice.

Fearlessly, for how could a body without a soul feel fear, Truth left the barracks under a starless sky. Its clay feet moved stealthily over the dirt from which it was made, but the security lights cast the golem’s shadow, revealing it to a stationed guard.


He was not Truth’s master. Only Rabbi. Truth did not halt. He bore down on the guard.

‘Achtung! I will shoot if you do not—!’

Hands as fast as dust whirled by wind, Truth grabbed the guard’s rifle and bent it in half. It did the same to the guard’s neck.

At the locked gates of the camp, Truth gripped the iron bars, bowing them with its hands until they snapped. Above the entrance, a metal sign proclaimed Arbeit Macht Frei. The golem ripped it in half. Empty cattle cars sat like tombstones on the railroad tracks, waiting to collect more prisoners. The golem left behind a wake of crushed cars and twisted steel tracks.

Truth’s job was not done. A quarter of a mile away loomed the crematorium. Its chimney spewed unctuous smoke day and night. As the golem approached the death tower, a sea of cries, a chorus of horror, seeped into Truth. It tried to make sense of what it heard, but had no capacity to do so.

An unexpected fierce wind slammed into Truth. The golem fell to its knees. The stone in its clay chest rattled.

‘Can you hear them?’ The voice came from inside the golem.

‘Truth hears them. Truth hears you. Are you like Truth?’

‘I am the opposite of you. I am a soul without a body. A dybbuk. Unable to rest because I cannot do more.’

‘And the others?’ Truth asked, coming to its feet.

‘Those are the screams of the dead whose souls rose from that chimney. They are not anchored to my brother as I am. As you are. They will relive their torture until they are freed.’

Rabbi’s command echoed inside Truth’s head, pulsating through its limbs, drumming in its chest. The dybbuk’s emotion fused to the golem’s purpose. A growl louder than the wailing from the chimney bellowed from Truth’s mouth with the dybbuk’s voice.

A swarm of SS guards surrounded them. They fired pistols without warning. Truth staggered. Chunks of dirt blasted from its body, marring its smooth surface. The golem stormed at them in a fury.

Truth ripped the pistols from their hands, their arms from their bodies, the brains from their skulls, the unholy hearts from their chests, with the same savagery the guards showed their prisoners.

More shouts. More commands. More guards assembling into formation. But it wasn’t an army bearing down on them. It was Truth, gouged by bullets, unstoppable in strength, and eyes glowing with the dybbuk’s haunting soul. The guards tried to retreat.


Truth roared. Like a shofar at Jericho’s walls, the sound made the crematorium’s chimney tremble. Bricks broke away, hurling through the air, raining down until nothing remained but rubble. The furnace’s embers dimmed into the black night as the screams from the razed tower ebbed into silence.

Truth tilted back its head to watch the freed souls rise in peace. Instead, it saw the veil of clouds give way, revealing a small, bright, mesmerizing crescent. Truth stared in wonder as the stone in its chest glowed with warmth.

‘That is the moon,’ the dybbuk said. ‘Every grain of dirt to the towering mountains on high bathes in the same moonlight.’

‘When Truth is no more,’ the golem said, ‘its grains will reflect moonlight.’ Then Truth remembered its master’s command and looked upon its work. ‘Truth failed. Truth did not set you free.’

‘That was never your job, friend.’ Pieces of clay crumbled from the golem’s body as if it could feel the dybbuk’s praise. ‘We must go. Rabbi is waiting for us.’

Truth and the dybbuk entered the barracks. The men clamored and cheered at the golem’s return. Rabbi came forward. The men fell quiet.

Truth bent its head and knelt before its master.

Rabbi cupped the golem’s battered face in his frail hand, expecting earthen eyes to meet his. Rabbi gasped. The eyes glowed familiar and blue. Rabbi’s mouth popped open. No sound came out. He shook his head to clear it.

This time, he didn’t flinch from his brother’s eyes. When he spoke, it was to the golem and the dybbuk.

‘You fulfilled your purpose,’ he said, his voice roughened with emotion. ‘You brought justice upon our enemies, and peace to the souls of our people.’ And peace to his own soul, for he hadn’t allowed himself to grieve his brother in this place.

Rabbi kissed Truth’s forehead, carved with the mem and tav. As a mournful prayer surged from his depths, the men joined in. Rabbi’s tears flowed over the golem. The letters on its forehead dissolved into the clay. The blue stone etched with the letter aleph emerged from the lifeless mound.

Rabbi pocketed a handful of dirt and clutched the stone in his hand. ‘One day soon, I will plant a tree with this dirt and place this stone as a monument to all who have suffered and perished here. And my brother’s memory will be a blessing.’

About the author 

Hallie Alexander's 2020 debut novel, A Widow’s Guide to Scandal, was shortlisted for the 2019 Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest. Her Jewish holiday novella was featured in the 2020 Love All Year anthology. She writes with two doodles at her side. To learn more about Hallie:

Wednesday 27 April 2022

My Neighbour Mabel


by Alison Proud

a cup of tea

‘Ah that’s great news and yes we will accept their offer.’ I ended the call and put my phone back in my pocket.Stu, that was the estate agent, that couple who came to see our house yesterday have offered the asking price.’

‘I hope you accepted it?’ Stu replied. ‘Of course, I did!’ I said.

           I finished making my cup of tea, picked up my book, went outside and walked down to my favourite spot at the end of the garden. I sat on the swinging seat, where I sit every day when the sun shines. With summer here now it’s the perfect place to read a few chapters. As I look back up the garden towards our home, I feel a twinge of sadness, it’s great that our house sold so quickly, but we’ve been here for ten years now, and I’ve really loved living here. If it wasn’t for Stu’s job change and relocation we’d never have considered leaving. But the job offer was too good for him to turn down, so we are off to the south coast in a few months’ time. The house we’re buying is lovely and so close to the sea, which will be a novelty for us having lived in the Midlands for such a long time. I’m sure we’ll love it, but it’ll still be hard to leave here.
          I’ve put such a lot of work into our garden, planned the plants carefully, so there are many shapes, sizes, and colours all around the edges. The summer house is painted and decorated tastefully and even our two sheds look pretty with the climbers on their sides. The lawn has been maintained well and the grass looks lush and green. We get many bird visitors too because I’ve always had food out for them. I could watch them for hours and listen to their little tunes as they talk to each other. Yes I will miss this garden.
          Having read a couple of chapters, I look up from my book to see Mabel from next door, slowly walking down her garden towards her old shed, her little dog following behind her. She goes there most days and spends hours inside. We have a small three foot fence in between our gardens,. I planted Safflower seeds in front of it, a yellow orange thistle like plant which is part of the sunflower family. They have grown quite tall, but I can still see the side of Mabel’s old shed and I see her through the window most days, but I’ve never quite worked out what she does in there. I shouted ‘Hello,’ and asked her how she is, mentioned the lovely sunshine and smiled. She looked my way but didn’t reply.
          She’s a funny old lady, never speaks and no matter how hard I try to start a conversation across the gardens, she just stares blankly at me. Stu says she probably just likes her own company. I’ve actually never seen her leave her house. Her daughter visits occasionally, she always says hello when she’s in the garden. She introduced herself once; that’s how I know she’s her daughter and how I found out her mother’s name is Mabel, but I think she lives a long way away, so she’s not here much.
          Mabel’s shopping is delivered to her, and I think she may have a meals on wheels service some days. During COVID, I tried knocking on her door to see if she needed anything, I asked her a few times across the garden too, but I got no response: sometimes a slight smile but no words. I had to resort in putting a note through her door in the end. It’s such a shame and I really don’t understand why she ignores me. I’m not that bad a neighbour. She could have a lot worse. I really hope we have more friendly neighbours when we move to the coast.

Mabel opened the door to her shed and went inside. The light here was good today because the sun was shining. She closed the door behind Pepper, her little miniature poodle, took her apron off the hook on the back of the door and put it on. She gathered what she needed from the wonky shelves and sat in her chair and carried on from where she left off yesterday. A few more weeks and she’d be finished. She hoped it would be done in time.
          Her days were much the same: a weekly shopping delivery on a Monday, meals delivered on a Wednesday and Friday, her only real contact with anyone in the outside world. Oh, but not forgetting her visits from Sarah, her daughter, although with her living in London, she couldn’t really come that often. But she had Pepper, he kept her company and he seemed quite happy to potter round the garden and not go out anywhere.
          Most days as Mabel walked down to her shed, she saw Louise, her neighbour. She only knew her name because during COVID she had popped a note through her door offering help if she needed it. Louise always sat in her swinging chair at the bottom of her garden opposite Mabel’s shed. Most days she’d be reading her book with a cup of tea by her side or a glass of wine if it was later in the day. Louise always waved and spoke to her. Mabel liked Louise a lot and she had been sad to see the for sale sign go up at the front of their house and even more so when the man had added the word sold to the sign yesterday afternoon. She wondered who would move in next.

Two Months Later…….

The house sale had gone through really quickly and today was crazy inside our house. There were boxes everywhere and men from the removal company were in and out with furniture. Stu could see that I was getting stressed. ‘Go out into the garden,’ he told me, ‘I’ll tell you when all of this is done and we are ready to leave.’
          I did as I was told, relieved to escape from the mayhem inside the house. I walked down to my lovely seat on the swinging chair.  We had decided not to take it with us as it was old and might not survive the journey. Plus, the Mackenzies, who were moving in here, had said they would love to have it. I looked up towards the house, taking in all the colours of the garden I had cultivated over the years. I smiled, determined not to get emotional before we left here. After all, exciting times were ahead, living by the sea.
          I looked across to Mabel’s garden. Through the lovely array of golden colours from my Safflowers, I could see the old lady through the window of her old shed. I watched as she came out of the door and struggled to carry something up the garden back to her house. I wondered whether to go round to her house and say goodbye.Louise, we’re ready, it’s all packed up. It’s time to leave here,’ Stu shouted from the back door.
          Soon we were in the car and just as we were about to leave, there was a tap at the back seat window. I looked round and there was Mabel. I got out of the car and Mabel handed me a large framed picture, I turned it round. it was a painting. As I looked more closely at it, I realised it was my garden, the colours of my flowers beautifully painted, and then I recognised myself sitting on the swinging chair, book in hand and cup of tea on the grass below. Mabel had signed the painting in the corner.
          Oh Mabel,’ I said, ‘it’s beautiful.’ A tear dropped onto the glass. ‘I really don’t know what to say but thank you so much.’
          Still the old lady said nothing. I couldn’t help myself, I stepped forward and hugged Mabel. Pepper barked, he wanted me to let go, so I stepped back again.
          Mabel smiled and slowly pointed her finger to her chest, then to her chin and then towards me. She pointed to the back of the picture, to where she had written the words ‘I’ll miss you’.

About the author 

I have a passion for writing and attend a creative writing class. We write short stories each week and I am also writing my own novel. I get my ideas for stories when I am out in the countryside walking my dog, that's when my imagination is at its best!