Tag Archives: short fiction

I’ll Be there in a Minute

Another blast from the past. This was one of the first shorts I ever wrote and the first one to be published anywhere – things moved on from there but I still like this one – well like isn’t the proper word for something so awful but you know what I mean.

I’ll be there in a minute

Hello – Are you there?  I am at the station now, I know you are there, you always are. It’s quite busy here, but of course you know that don’t you. As I look around it is unreal, like looking through aged Plexiglas, scarred and scratched, opaqued by time and use. The shades move about on the other side, drifting and indistinct. You probably recognise it still. For you it is most probably just the same, our station, but to me it is another world.

When they came and told me, two men, uniforms and sad faces, there was no pain. It was too great, too powerful that feeling to describe as pain. Too far beyond any human capacity to feel, a great, endless nothingness. No way to travel through it – no way back

They told me as gently as they could, that there was not much left of you, not enough to recognise as you. There would be a box, brought back on the plane and paraded through the streets, a box, a flag and pomp and ceremony but not you.

The arms, your arms would not be there, your beautiful, strong, clever hands they were vaporised. Enough of that, you are not there in the box you are here with me now on this platform, in the underground.

As I stand here, do you know I have no shoes on – I wanted to curl my toes over the edge of the platform, the same as we used to do on the high diving board and so I stand now in my business suit and no shoes. A man further along looked at me puzzled but, this is England and so you don’t talk to a woman in a business suit and no shoes. He turned away, wrapped his conscience back in the newspaper and left me with my bare toes curling over the hard stone.

Today when I left the house, took a last look – the daffodils are in flower by the way, of course I suppose that you know that, where you are. Anyway, I left and I looked at the garden with the swing in the sunshine and I understood that one great pain, the loss of the babies was now so clearly a great blessing. If they had lived I couldn’t have come today, I would have had to carry on, meet our responsibilities plodding on forever and so there we are. We can all be together now, you and the babies and me.

I have left it all tidy and as you would like it to be. There shouldn’t be too much trouble for anyone, they have all had enough already so I have tried to be kind and make you proud. I am ready to leave now, I want to be with you and let you take care of it all again.

Are you ready, I can hear it now, the train is coming, my toes curl over the stone, the wind rushes through the tunnel, are you ready. I am coming now, the train is coming. I can see it – wait for me I’ll be there in just a minute……

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Agoraphobia – a short story

I thought I’d take an umbrella. I peered out of the window and drew back the curtain.  It was dark and cloudy.  I didn’t think – snow – but perhaps rain, sleet, maybe.  So, yes I decided an umbrella. That was back then, when I was brave, when I thought I could do it today. That was when I operated on a “normal” level, sane.

Of course I needed the pink one, mine, the one with the lovely wooden handle and the frilly edge but it was in the car and the car had already gone.  Damn, when we decided to sell the old car – mine, I hadn’t appreciated how much it had meant, how it had made me independent even though I had given up my job. It was a joint decision of course, Andy suggested it but he really needed the new computer that it would fund, well I couldn’t refuse could I?

I felt the tingle then.  A panicked sort of fizz, as if I was a bird in one of those old fashioned cages and somebody closed the door, flipped the tiny latch.  It was small then.  I shoved it away.  At that point I believed I could go.  I wanted to prevail.  I imagined Andy, proud, when he came home.  He’d be late, probably late as usual.  Back from his world to this little place and the empty rooms and the quiet of the lonely street, but to a smiling, valiant me.  When I remembered how far away he was I think that was when the doubts began.  So, the depression came next.  Black dog, here it was, snarling at the corners of my mind, it wouldn’t go.  I cried to it, silently through the early tears.  Leave me, get out and let me be me, let me laugh and feel my spirit soar with the sight of the daffodils as it had used to.

I still hadn’t had my shower, I knew that it should be next.  I had to make myself sweet and fragrant.  For what – the damned demons demanded, why should you, what does it matter.  I tried; I did, so very hard to shake it.  I turned on the tap and as I watched the scalding water cascade into the tub my resolve washed away and I crumbled and gave in again to the misery.

Even so I had to dress.  Andy would be angry if he came home and found me in my dressing gown again, dopy and listless on the couch, watching the television, wasting my life.  My skirt was stained, a splash of sauce from the tasteless meal of last night. Rubbing at it with a wet rag made it worse.  Then there was the blouse, as I lifted the thing I caught the stale perfume smell of last week’s effort, a mocking miasma of yet another failure.  An abortive lunch with my sister, I had crept out of the back entrance of the restaurant.  The noise and incessant, brittle brightness had beaten me and then when she rang and rang and rang I unplugged the ‘phone.  She wouldn’t understand, she never did. She told me to pull myself together, chin up and all that.

Well I would pull a cardigan over the blouse and trap the perfumed memory a guilty thought, against my skin.

I made another effort.  I did, I tried to be brave, to leave the house.  I glanced about, there was no-one there, no-one that I would need to speak to.  I tipped a toe over the threshold.  The world spun and jolted.  My heart pounded, I remember I gasped and gulped, a landed fish.  A poor pathetic breathless creature, out of depth, out of air.  I stepped back, slammed the door and slid down the wall.

So, here I am, slumped against the wainscoting, the stupid, stupid brolly propped against the door.  The black one.  If it had been the pink one, my pink one I could have done it, I could.  It wasn’t my fault, it was the black umbrella, a jailor, mocking me now as I crouch and crumble and submit.  If I had only had my pink one I could have gone out today.

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A Nice Night In

Leaning against the grimy brick Mel scuffed her feet on the flags.  She flicked a fag end into a puddle of scummy rain water.  Her fingers quivered and shook, fiddling and picking at the little gold clasp on her shoulder bag.  She sniffed, wiped the back of her hand across her nose. She needed a fix but couldn’t have one yet, she needed to keep her wits about her.   She hated being out on the street, well of course she did but it was Saturday and so there was no choice.

If she could just stick with her regulars, Stephen and the big fat bloke who wouldn’t tell her his name, then she’d be in easy street wouldn’t she?

She’d been meeting Stephen for nearly a year now, every Tuesday and Friday and almost every Sunday.  He was nice, nicest bloke she’d ever met.  He was clean, pretty good looking actually and he always gave her a couple of extra quid.  There were times when she pretended, a silly little daydream, pretended that he was her boyfriend, her lover, her man.

The fat man wasn’t so nice but she felt a bit sorry for him really.  He didn’t often manage to get it up and his sweating was horrible, made her feel grimy and panicky sometimes.  He was never rough though and he always paid, even when he couldn’t manage it.  Every Wednesday and Thursday.  She only had to come down the town on Mondays and Saturdays and knew how lucky she was.

Saturdays were best for money, there were tourists and Stag Nights, usually so drunk that, either they couldn’t do it at all, or it was over so quick that she didn’t have to make any effort.  They always paid, well nearly always, a mixture of guilt and embarrassment made em pay.  Two on a Saturday was usually enough and then she could go home but it was raining and the middle of February, nobody out, no trade.

She shivered, glanced around, took a couple of steps across the pavement.  Tricia was up on the corner talking to someone in a black car, Sues was down in front of the Kebab shop, it was warm down there and brighter, a good spot, safer perhaps.

Eleven o clock, maybe she could call it a night, no that’d be stupid the pubs’d be letting out in a bit and if she could just get one job then she could get a bottle of cider to take home and then tomorrow was Sunday, a Stephen night.

A car pulled up to the kerb, she sashayed over the damp pavement.  “’Ello love, you lookin’ for business.”  Arabs, she didn’t do it with Arabs, they scared her.  She backed off, turned around and scuttered on her too high heels up the street a bit.  The car swung past with the driver’s window down, he flipped her the bird.  The gesture didn’t even register, the everyday currency of her life.  Sues, waved to her, face split in a grin.  She raised her hand in acknowledgement.

The night felt odd, uneasy, the mood was all wrong. She would go home.  There was a little stash in the wardrobe, she could take a hit, opt out for a bit, waken up tomorrow and tomorrow was Sunday.

She lit another fag, raised a hand to Sues and pantomimed a blown kiss.  Her shoes clattered on the road as she crossed under the streetlamps and tottered down towards the park.  Tugging at the skinny jacket, pulling the collar up to her freezing ears, she hunched her shoulders. A bus rolled by, in front of the park gates, blazing lights and pumping fumes, it was homely, took her mind back.  Back to when she’d been a nipper. Coming home from the pictures with Mum and Dad.  She was swept with memories. Days out, shopping trips, daft teenage nights and all the lost crap that had nothing to do with now, and this, and what she was.  Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes, the deep sadness that was always a whisker away nudged at her heart, she sighed.

The shadow against the wall moved.  It slid in behind her, floated nearer, she was unaware, wrapped in the past.   Her street sense was numbed by sadness, thoughts of the other life betraying her as they always did, taking her somewhere else, anywhere but here.  Her animal cunning and nervy vigilance were numbed by the dreams of what could have been, the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if onlys.’

There was very little sound, it was mercifully quick and, in the end strangely lacking in terror.

The shape loomed beside her, caused her to gasp, just once there wasn’t time for more. There was no pain, not at first, just a flush of wet heat on the front of her body, cooling quickly in the February chill.  Then the pain hit with the second slice of the blade, a pain so deep and so unlike anything else that it refused to be named.  She tried to scream then but the pain had stolen her voice. The shock rendered her dumb, mouth gaping, hands slick suddenly with the flow, groping at her belly. Another thrust, she folded at the knees, crumpling quietly to the floor as her life stole away with the footsteps, running in the direction of the park, thudding on the grass.  She heard the bus whining now as it started the climb to the church, the rumble of tyres on wet tarmac, softer, fading, fading until finally there was only silence and the shine of the spreading puddle of darkness under the street lamps…

“I’m home, Fliss, it’s me.”

“I’m in the kitchen Stephen, won’t be long.”

“Right, d’ya want a drink.”

“No thanks, not just now.”

“You going to the Gym tonight.”

“No, I thought we’d stay in.”  She waited, spoon poised above the pan.

“Stay in, but it’s Sunday. Oh, well I might have to pop out later, I said I’d meet Phil, that’s okay isn’t it.”

“Put the news on will you, the television.”

“What? Oh right.  Did you hear, I’m going out later, that’s okay isn’t it?”

“Reports are coming in of the discovery of the body of a young woman in the Victoria Park area of the city.  The dead woman was found in the early hours of the morning by a man walking his dog.  We understand that the woman, who was apparently in her early twenties, was known to the police and had been arrested in the past for soliciting in the Mill Road area of the town centre.  Police have issued this photograph of the victim and are searching for anyone who may have seen her in the town centre or Victoria Park area in the last few days to come forward.  Any contact will be treated in the strictest confidence.”

In the kitchen, Fliss stirred the soup slowly, quietly.  Her ears were straining, would he speak?  The washing machine whirred, starting the final spin.  She walked through to the living room where Stephen stared wide eyed at the photograph on the screen.

“Actually, I don’t think you’ll be going out tonight will you Stephen, I thought we could have a nice night in together, just the two of us.  It’d make a change for a Sunday, don’t you think?”

 

 

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Short Story – Love is blind.

I groaned even before I opened my eyes I’ll admit it, Bloody Valentine’s day – Yay.  So, we had to start early, pratting about with stupid roses and pathetic shiny hearts scattered on the table tops.  They’d all have to be cleaned up later and we would have to do it because the cleaners had refused.

We all had to wear antlers – bloody antlers with sparkly heart shapes on em. I ask you what the hell have antlers got to do with sodding Valentine’s day – huh.  Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Luigi had us all in for a staff talk before the lunch time service.  “You are my link with the lovers – oh for Pete’s sake.  My waiting staff are the ones who make the impression on my beautiful romantic customers, well I would have thought it was the free pudding and inclusive wine deal but, hey what do I know?  You must smile, be so very, very nice to them, make the restaurant hum with love.”  Hum with soddin love, he’s from Preston, Luigi, his name is really Les but he’s got so caught up in his pretend Italian background he makes me want to vomit.  On he went “Make sure all of the candles are lit and the glasses are sparkling yadah yadah yadah and not a word of thanks to those of us who had taken an extra shift to help out.”

So, I thought of the extra cash and the red stiletto heels I was going to buy with the bonus, I gritted my teeth and I got on with it.   It was every bit as ghastly as I thought it would be, simpering bloody girls giggling and crying and stupid arsed blokes looking smug, – Oh look at me aren’t I the cat’s pyjamas, I’m so cool, I remembered to make a booking three weeks in advance and with a bit of luck it means I’ll get my end away tonight.  Pathetic.

That was until they came in.  I saw one of the other girls jump to open the door, that was what attracted my attention.  Two older people struggling with the heavy wood and glass.  Milly showed them in and checked their names and took them to the table in the corner, one on my tables.

I grabbed the menus and gave them a minute to get themselves sorted, coats off, seats adjusted but they were making all sorts of fuss, that table is behind the pillar and I couldn’t see everything that was going on but something was.  Yes, I admit it I sighed, great just my luck a high maintenance pair.  Nothing to be done, think of the shoes, think of the shoes.

Well I took them the menus, they were holding hands and he was leaning over and kissing her on the cheek, and I mean they were old they must have been nearly fifty.  I felt like making that fingers down the throat gesture but that would have lost me my job and I thought of the shoes!

So, I got there and by now he had picked up the freebie rose and kissed it and handed it to her and she was sniffing at it, oh bloody hell, think of the shoes, think of the shoes.

Then I saw, two Labradors under the table, well behaved, tucking themselves in out of the way, both wearing yellow harnesses.  The bloke turned to me “Hi, could you be lovely and read the menu to us, do you mind?  They were still holding hands, they were both smiling and then he said “It feels so lovely in here, you can feel the love in the air.  It’s our big treat this we come every year it’s the anniversary of the day we met.  Are you all wearing those silly antlers again? The waitress last year said they were giving her a headache.”  I nodded and then realised that wouldn’t do it and so I just muttered

“Yeah, yeah sparkly antlers,” and I looked at her and at him, sitting there so – you know together somehow and so happy in spite of their problems.  I poured them some water then I told ‘em, “The tables are set with white linens, the cutlery is the heavy silver stuff that we keep for special occasions and there are silver vases with red roses in each one.”  There are little shiny hearts scattered on the tops.”  I picked a couple up and gave them one each to hold, “there are vases of lilies in the corners, I expect you can smell those?” she nodded then,” The lights are very low and candles are stood on all the window ledges in red heart shaped holders, each table has a wine bucket with white wine chilling, Shall I pour yours now before I read the menu to you?”  He nodded and reached out and just found my hand and squeezed it.

“Thank you, thank you so much. That’s the first time anyone has taken the time to tell us what it looks like.  It sounds wonderful, you have made this so very special for us, bless you.”  I think they enjoyed themselves.  I even sneaked some chicken to the guide dogs.

Yeah, I got the shoes, they rubbed a blister on my toe

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