Monday 20 May 2024

Selective Reading by Peter Lingard, a flat white

A booming voice caused me to lift my head and pay attention.

‘The disk was like this when we goddit ’ome.  I even tried to clean it up some.’

‘I’m sorry, Mister Davies, but that’s our policy.’  The librarian was a mouth-watering vision of auburn-haired beauty.  Her eyebrows were auburn.  Even her freckles were auburn.  She wore a single strand of pearls around her throat and pearl clip-on earrings.  The olive-green pullover and sweater accentuated her shining hair.  She was a total babe.

‘It was up to you to examine the CD before you left the library,’ she told the man in a cultured, husky voice.

‘That’s nonsense, lady.  If you inspect every disk that’s returned, why’s it necessary for us to inspect ’em before taking ’em out?’

He had a point, but I had to support the beauty.

‘Well, unfortunately, we’re not infallible.’

I’ll grant you infallibility, luv, I thought, if that’s what it takes.  It was time for me to get a book or two to check out while she was still on duty.

‘Neither am I, miss.  Why don’t we call it a draw?’

I stopped in mid-stride to watch my dream and hear what happened next.  She bit her bottom lip and re-inspected the disk.

A small girl pulled on the man’s jacket.  ‘Daddy, don’t you remember r…’

He brushed her hand away.  ‘Not now, Suzie, there’s a good girl.’ 

The librarian put the disk in its holder and placed it under the counter.  ‘We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time, Mister Davies, but please take care of any disks you take out in future.’

‘Daddeeeee,’ the little girl insisted.  ‘Remember…’

‘I said not now, sweetheart.  Daddy’s busy.’

 

The babe looked at the little girl and then, pointedly, at the father.  Silence reigned.  The librarian knew … I knew … everyone in the library knew the girl was privy to what had happened to the disk.  And the father knew we all knew.

He coughed.  ‘Well, that’s it for now.  I don’t have time to take anythin’ out; the wife’s waitin’ in’t car.’

He started to cross the room to the one-way electronic exit door.  The big man strode and the little girl trotted past the silent, staring people who waited in line to check out books and compact disks.  They passed within three feet of me.

‘What’re you looking at?’ the man truculently demanded of me.

I shrugged my shoulders.  ‘Nothing.’

He moved too quickly for his daughter and she now had to run to keep up with him.  ‘Mummy’s not in the car, daddy.  We left her at home with Mikey.’

The man said nothing.  He increased his pace and the girl almost stumbled.  ‘Not so fast, Daddy.’

 

The librarian looked at her feet as she recovered from the experience.  It was my moment.  I reached out to the nearest rack and grabbed two books.

 

‘You okay?’ I asked her as I jumped the queue and reached the counter.

She raised her head and looked at me.  ‘Me?’  She even smiled at me.  ‘Yes, I’m fine.  Thank you.’

I offered her the books and noticed she had no rings on her fingers.  I took my wallet out of my pocket.  ‘You often get situations like that?’ I asked as I explored the dark spaces, looking for my library card.

‘Only once in a blue moon.’  She looked at my books and smiled again.  It had to be me.  It was time to ask her out for a drink.  ‘How’d you …’

But she was already speaking.  ‘Is your wife or girlfriend pregnant then?’

‘What?’

‘Your wife.  Is she pregnant?’

‘No, I … I’m not married.’

‘Your girlfriend then.’  The smile was still on her face, and in her eyes.

‘No.  I don’t have a girlfriend.’  It was weird.  ‘Why do you ask?’

She lowered her chin and raised her eyebrows.  ‘These would seem to be books for an expectant father.’

I looked at what I had picked off the shelf.  ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘Pregnancy After Thirty’.  After thirty!  I looked back at my delicious keeper of books.

‘I, erm, look, er, when that man …’  What a fool!  I looked at the floor and wished the space between two tiles at my feet would suddenly open wide and swallow me.

 

About the author 

Peter Lingard, born a Brit, served in the Royal Marines, was an accountant, a barman and a farm worker. He once lived in the US where he owned a freight forwarding business. An Aussie now because the sun frequently shines and the natives communicate in English. 

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Sunday 19 May 2024

Sunday Serial, 280 x 70, Gill James,17. The Woman in Red 30 November 2018,spring water,

 Introduction

This collection is a collection of seventy stories, each 280 words. They were inspired by the first picture seen on my Twitter feed on a given day.

She was a tall woman and she held her shoulders back proudly. Her dazzling red dress swirled around her legs as she moved quickly. Who was she? Why was she dressed so strangely? His own Edee would not dare to wear something so daring.  

The answer was obvious: this dress empowered her.

He couldn't help but follow. She dashed down streets and crossed broad allies. They arrived in places they could have got to sooner. He noticed, though, that she stopped every so often and muttered something under her breath. The lights would go out in nearby houses and the people would protest.

He could smell smoke, taste it even. He began to realise that every house at which she stopped had started to burn. Whatever she muttered put the fire out. Was this some sort of magic? 

People were piling out of the houses on to the streets now. They began to fight. When she raised her palm, though, they stopped. The fights were erupting so quickly now that she could hardly keep up. He knew that he should serve. He held his bow and arrow ready.                                  

Suddenly she noticed him. She bowed and a thin smile appeared on her mouth.

He took his bugle and blew on it fiercely. The crowd quietened. "Let the lady speak," he shouted.

She stood even taller now. "My friends. These fires are the manifestation of the evil in your hearts. Cleanse your hearts and you will be left in peace."    

The town’s people bowed their heads and one by one made their way home. The flames and the smoke subsided.

She touched his arm. "Thank you for helping your queen," she said.

 

About the author

Gill James is published by The Red Telephone, Butterfly and Chapeltown. 

She edits CafeLit and writes for the online community news magazine: Talking About My Generation.

She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing.   

http://www.gilljameswriter.com 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B001KMQRKE

https://twitter.com/GillJames

 

 

 

Saturday 18 May 2024

Saturday Sample: Kathleen by Amanda Jones, still water


 

They Said

They said the pain was all in her head. She had struggled since being a tiny baby due to a mishap which damaged her bowel. But, no-one would listen.

Moving away and renting her own flat in Blackpool in the 1960s gave her time to think in her late teens. Somehow she found the strength to approach the hospital.

They sent her to the psychiatric hospital after tests were ‘fine’.

And so, she experienced electric shock treatment. The sort once used to ‘cure’ homosexuality. The treatment was approved for stimulating seizures to get rid of depression. All of her pain was blamed on mental illness.

Subjected to intensive electric shocks two to three times a week and kept in the secure mental health unit she saw terrible things. People were severely mentally ill here and she forced herself to think she was imagining her pain.

Tightly pressed on either side of her head she dreaded the next session, and the next and the next. She was awake throughout and felt the shocks passing through her, convulsing her body.

Then she was discharged, back into the community, no explanation, still in pain.

 

Strong, loving lady.

How did she get through? How did she survive so long in pain?


Find your copy here 

 

Friday 17 May 2024

Lysha by Lynn Clement, sweet tea

 

The electronic arm swung towards Lysha and jabbed the top of her flabby shoulder.

We, The Federation, cannot afford for you to be fat. You will lose two kilos per week for four weeks or you will be de-regulated and have no access to medical services.

The huge screen delivering the message went blank.

A robot wearing a white mask showed Lysha to the door of the hospital.

She blinked in the bright sunlight and immediately the sweat came with the searing heat.

This was her second time at the clinic and now she was chipped.

She stood in line for the swoosh. She couldn’t walk in this heat. The pavement bubbled.

An evil-eye rounded the corner. It slowed on seeing Lysha and scanned her. Its red light flashed.

Now Lysha was chipped, it rolled on its way.

She wiped the sweat from her top lip. She needed to get home to her pod and stay where no one could see her and her flab.

The swoosh came, Lysha boarded.

The automaton in charge looked her up and down. ‘There’s not much room in here you know,’ it said with perfected disdain.

Lysha kept her head down. Passengers tutted.

One woman in a black uniform, put her lunch-pack on the seat next to her, defying Lysha to ask her to move it.

Lysha didn’t ask. She held on to the over-head hoop.

The swoosh jerked. Lysha fell forward. Embarrassed, she said sorry five times, before she looked up into the eyes of a man who was clearly from the high-tech section of society. He was wearing a red uniform with one button open at the top. A little curl of black hair poked from underneath.

Lysha’s face burned. ‘Sorry,’ she said again.

‘It’s okay,’ said the man wearing thick rimmed black glasses.

Everyone’s eyes turned towards them.

‘He spoke to her,’ one of the passengers whispered.

‘And he smiled,’ said another, readying their ring for a recording to submit to the Poliznasers.

Lysha couldn’t stand the scrutiny. She got off at the next stop. She certainly didn’t want the man reporting to the Poliznasers because he spoke to a flabby person. He did have a lovely smile though, said her inner voice.

The sun burned down on her skin. She walked towards the tree museum. It was air conned.

As the door opened, she felt a breath on her neck. Her hair prickled. Someone was close. She held her handbag tight.

‘Let me,’ said a voice she recognized. He held the door back. It was the man from the swoosh.

Lysha gulped.

‘I had to follow you,’ he said.

‘What?’

He smiled that smile. ‘I felt a connection, so I followed you.’

‘But you’re…’ Lysha was anxious.

‘I’m a man,’ he said.

He held out his hand.

He wants to touch me, thought Lysha. Flabby me, a social outcast.

She put her hand in her pocket.

‘I’m Asa,’ said the man. He looked deep into Lysha’s eyes, and she had a strange feeling. Something she’d not experienced before.

In a timid voice she said, ’Lysha.’

‘Lysha, a beautiful name, for a beautiful person.’

That smile again.

‘Can we sit together for a while?’ asked Asa.

‘But what if we’re seen?’ said Lysha.

‘It’s okay,’ Asa said, and he threw his beany hat over the CCTV camera.

This time Lysha smiled. What was it about this man?

Asa bent his head towards Lysha’s.

 For the first time ever, Lysha felt her spine extend.

 She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him as hard as he kissed her.

About the author 

Lynn is a regular writer for Cafelit. Her first flash fiction collection, The City of Stories,' is published by Chapeltown Books. See 5-star reviews - #amazonthecityofstorieslynnclement Lynn has stories in The Best of Cafelit 11 12 & 13 

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Thursday 16 May 2024

Return by Louise Arnott, brewed coffee

‘Honey, these work pants need to go back,’ said Gerald, tossing them to Margaret. ‘You do returns better than me.’

Margaret sighed and held out her hand. ‘Receipt?’

            ‘You don’t need one at Costco, do you? I’ll spring for supper after you dump the pants.’ 

            Margaret grabbed her coat. ‘Come on. I don’t want to be there all night. While I do your return, you get the groceries. I’m assuming your supper splurge is the usual hot dog deal.’

            ‘Hey, I’m no cheapskate. I’ll toss in an order of fries. See you at the food court.’

            Twenty minutes later, when Margaret reached the front of the returns line, an obviously exhausted clerk waved her up. 

            ‘Hi, I need to return these pants. My darn husband . . .’

            The clerk interrupted. ‘Membership? Receipt? Slide them through the slot.’

            Margaret made a pretence of digging through her bag. ‘I’m sure I have it here somewhere,’ and gave the clerk her best oh, so sorry look.

            The clerk, minutes away from retirement, scanned the barcode, struggling to keep the boredom from her voice. ‘No receipt? You get the last sale price.’

            ‘Gerald wouldn’t have gotten them on sale,’ said Margaret. ‘He always pays full price.’

            The clerk eased her shoulders and looked back at the screen. ‘They were on sale in February for $24.99. The last ones were further discounted a week ago. $15.85 plus tax goes back on your card.’

            ‘ No, you can’t do that. I’m sure that he paid nearly $40 for those pants.’

            ‘Ma’am, that is store policy. Not my decision. Do you want a refund?’

            ‘That’s just not acceptable. Gerald will be furious. He said I wouldn’t need the receipt. You could look it up when he bought them.’

            The clerk exhaled. Without a receipt, you get the lowest price.’

            Margaret vacillated. ‘Gee, I don’t know. What would you do?’

            The clerk, beyond caring about customer relations, barked, ‘Truthfully Lady, if it’s your money, find the receipt. If it’s his, give me the pants, pocket the cash and tell him to do his own damn returns in future.’

About the author 

 

Louise moved from land-locked Calgary, Alberta to Victoria, British Columbia to enjoy ocean views. Instead she spends hours in her basement writing about the uncommon in the commonplace. 

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