Friends by Jenny Vernon
We were friends. Your dad’s boat took us through fifty miles of ice to your fishing camp. We gathered bog cotton for seal oil lamps, Your mother told us stories. You translated. We baled the plywood dinghy as your brother rowed to fetch eider duck eggs. I trailed my hand in the sea and watched salmon swimming up to spawn.
We wrote for years. You said ‘That Lukie tried kiss me. He’s sick in a bum!’ We lost touch for forty years.
I traced you, we e-mailed: ‘I don’t remember you Mrs Bromley - but I’m sure we were friends.’
Hardy by Jane Giles
Nettle’s teacher Mr Hardy had a secret crush on her Mum. It started one parents’ evening at the end of last Autumn term when he found himself looking into her sad grey eyes and she had inexplicably touched his arm as they discussed signs of dyslexia in twelve-year-olds.
Mr Hardy’s spirits remained uncharacteristically raised well into winter. He gave Nettle top marks for her essay about a hungry wolf, and privately inhaled the smell of her homework book. He could hardly wait for the next parents’ evening.
Mr Hardy was at his desk all night, but Nettle’s Mum never came.
Momento by Alan Alderson
Toward the end the bullet hit him from somewhere below and filled his mouth, reminding him of a lozenge or loose tooth, feeling twice the size it was because it did not belong there. Instinctively he did his best to spit it out but the bullet had an argument of its own in the matter. Something definitely came out of the poor man’s mouth but it was more like an iris or a trumpet, fluting back through the teeth and the throat into the soft red lungs where the wound lay, the blood gushing out and a final gurgling. “Ghaaaaaaaaaaa…”
Revelation by Gabrielle Cox
“I shall ask her to marry me,” he thought. His happiness rose in his throat, a bubble of joy. She was wonderful, beautiful, strange. He had seen a ring just right for her. He would ask her today.
His phone beeped. She’d sent a text. She had been thinking of him just when he was thinking of her. Two minds in such exquisite harmony.
“Sorry this isnt working for me i dont think we should meet again so sorry”
The lorry in front on the motorway was going round a bend. It stopped suddenly in a traffic queue.
Chocolate by Victoria Barry
The Departures Hall is almost empty, and I see her straightaway. Her ridiculously long sheepskin coat sweeps the floor, parting to reveal those expensive shoes I bought, as she walks away from me. I can smell chocolate, sweet on the air, but all I can taste is the salt on her skin and all I hear is the absence of her voice. She drops suddenly to the floor, the coat spreading like caramel around her, creeping towards the Check-In desk, but she has checked out. The gun in my right hand smokes as the chocolate wrapper falls at my feet.
Water Torture by Mel Read
My neighbour, a stranger to me, has had her ginger cat drown. The loss has occurred in my pond, which grates. A condolence note seems unfeeling. I should knock while the problem of the corpse persists.
Did I say the neighbour is, to date, ignorant of the death? The disappearance she does know of-notices all over about Tommy. Dustbin day is five days hence and matters cannot stay unattended. It is July. The animal remains her property regardless of circumstances. Rights are rights.
I’ll leave this squat come morning. The manner of ginger Tommy’s passing tells me it’s time.
Fan Mail by Dyana Rodriguez
Doreen read in The Independent: ‘Tracy Emin looking for love’; and beneath it, a photo. ‘Fascinating face,’ Doreen thought. ‘How can I contact her?’ A little googling and she found Emin’s agent. Posing as a dealer, Doreen emailed the agent, who responded with Emin’s email address. That’s how it began. Dozens of daily emails, with photos – some of them risqué – of Doreen attached. Tracy began to dread opening her Inbox. ‘Wish I’d never said that to Terry,’ she thought, ‘I must’ve been pissed.’ The emails suddenly stopped. Doreen read in The Independent that a certain Thespian couple had split up. ‘Which one shall I write to?’ she wondered.
Snake’s Lane by Tom Hales
I looked up Snake’s Lane from the step. The first bend curled like a sour lower lip. The trees blocked out nearly all of the sunlight, only fine needles shooting into the splintered, rough tarmac.
I waited with the others, silent as they murmured, bravely starching upper lips, some in suits, women in hats, mostly black or grey, some dark blue.
Snake’s Lane blurred as the engine purred, still out of sight. I steeled myself, stood tall, straight-backed, with vice-gripped lips as the car slid around the corner, long and black, with her body consumed in its transparent belly.
Dead Dark by Hasan Dervish
The darkness poured in through the crack under the door and spread like a black oily pool from beneath the armchair, where, dead drunk, he’d fallen asleep.
Terrified he fell back while the room slowly filled with a shadow that swallowed everything.
He hoped the pounding was someone trying to break the door down to rescue him. The slow realisation it was the desperate beating of his heart punching blood through his veins, made him gasp one last time before he stopped breathing.
He awoke, relieved but still dreaming, then awoke again for the darkness to take him completely.
Sibling by Cressida McLaughlin
‘Didn’t he do well?’ Not really, she wanted to shrug, nothing special. His image on the screen was a familiar punch in the guts, never to be deleted by glowing parents. From Sony camcorder to thirty seven inches of widescreen technicolour, the picture stretched, his slender frame, gleaming trainers, squashed.
‘Have you,’ her mother enquired, eyes averted, ‘ever thought of doing something like that? Like your brother?’ She stared at the TV, paused now on his arms raised skywards at the finishing line. She shrugged, but the words stayed inside. Her crunch into the biscuit sounded loud in the silence.
One, One, Six and the Pit by Jon Brooks
It’s five o’clock in the morning and my first day in the small,
cramped space known as ‘the mottie office’. I’m dog tired
and someone, whose name I don’t know, is clasping my hand
so tightly that the blood has left my fingers.
His grip is all powerful, his stare and brow are beetled like bronze.
My throat dries. I feel a gravity pulling me forwards, lowering me to
the hatch where our worlds met just two minutes ago.
‘I’m one, one, six; don’t forget it.’ he breathes. I’m released. He strides on,
towards the winding house and the dark drop.
Painful by David Walker
Morag worked for the County Archivist, and we had met at an evening class on art history. I was not actually very interested in art. I enrolled anticipating visuals to make the lecturing bearable – also because I was living in a strange city and my evenings were chasms of emptiness. After the weekly lecture I used to eye Morag. I began hoping she might fill my empty chasms – after all, we both wore glasses. Twice we had lunch in the café near the cathedral, and it was during the second and more painful of these lunches that she proposed marriage.
Naked Rescue by John Lucas
Foot missed board, then sucked below the sea. Ahead, the loud, echoic, belching swirl; the hazy green bisected by dull tea-time light. Inhaled saline, the crystal of it ripping at your throat. Water-bloated lungs stretched tight. A flare of burning panic giving way to woozy calm. So this was death: crescendo then a muted end? Your beach bum rescuer, sans Speedos, came when, brine-brained, you’d ceased to care. The slap of soaking skin, then powered up in hairy arms. Mouth on mouth, breath lent. ‘A bulky nudist carried you ashore!’ Your friends made fun. Humiliated or relieved: which one?
Home by Paul Ramshaw
Hi babe. I said, the door swinging back into its frame.
Why doesn’t she lift herself of the sofa and throw her arms around me, rock back on her heels, resting her toes on mine, a sweet glint of mischief in her eyes?
Like she used to, like she did before.
Did you eat?
I had a take-away.
She can’t bring herself to look up from the laptop warming her knees.
Need anything from the shop?
She coughs a little, I pause a little and listen to the silence before I slip back into the night.
Retribution by Srabani Sen
She squashes me against the window so I have to twist into the space. She doesn’t see me any more. She’s bored with me. More fool her. Little does she realise how poisonous I can be. But it’s alright. I’m waiting for the right moment. The moment when she places her tea beneath my curling leaves, shrivelled with lack of water and a pot I outgrew long ago. In that moment, one dry leaf will drop, its subtle juices mingling with the brown liquid. She’ll sip. Five hours later, she’ll be doubled up and retching, never knowing it was me.
Snow birds by Richard Stevens
Ten years ago my love Maxi left with a frizzy blond from Queens. They have three children and live in Bakersfield.
I’m lonely, it’s winter. I came to Miami South Beach to a three story walk up.
Kids shout ‘Hey Fats don’t swim you’ll make a tsunami`
I weigh two eighty pounds and love the sun, so I wear a bikini I knitted myself .
Sometimes I go topless. The kind life guard lets me sit hidden in the grass.
It was Jewish and Kosher here, now it’s Dominican, so I can eat pigs feet .
Silica Memory by Gail Wieringa
Playing in a sandpit with shadows half forgotten. A voice in my head saying
“Let’s play… let’s be sand – like your self has been crushed into bits and scattered, but you are still strong enough to hurt a foot, soft enough to trickle warm over skin.”
And Mum’s voice strained through the open kitchen window…
“She’s in the sandpit talking to herself again – pouring sand over her hair – should I worry?”
The slap of the front door slamming – Dad disappearing - then the tap running, her chirpy song sounding savage and sad
“Stupid Cupid – you’re a real mean guy!”
Honey-cake by Virginia Moffatt
The clang of the dropped teapot brought her to his attention.
Her quick submission and honey brown eyes were enough to stop him from hitting her. He returned to the general’s war plans.
“It’s delicious. Home-made.”
“All right, then.”
She took the silver knife, slicing with precise execution.
It was delicious. So was she. The general could wait. He pulled her towards him, smelling the scent of jasmine in her hair. She smiled, as she whispered in his ear, “Khalifa.” The knife slid into his stomach with ease.
His father always said village girls were trouble.
To Be Honest by J P Glover
The wheels on the overnight bag go round and round, making a trundly sort of noise on the tarmac as I walk to the bus to catch the train. Three times I turn back. I don’t want to do this. The third time I turn full circle round a tree and keep going. If the bus turns up in two minutes I’ll get on it. It’ll be a sign. From a God (as rather god that I don’t believe in). Otherwise I’ll go back. Definitively.
It arrives at one minute thirty two seconds. A big red double decker.
07 Jun 2011