Monday, 26 June 2017

Crucifix



Gill James

communion wine 

 

The sky went black. The cool wind that came along at the same time felt nice. A few drops of rain began to fall. They tickled and made Tom want to giggle.
‘I told you we’d have a storm. I said we should have brought our macs,’ said Mum. She pulled him and Maisie and Daisy towards her.
‘Don’t be daft,’ said Dad. ‘We’d only have had to carry them. This’ll be over in no time. It’s just a summer storm.’
There was a flash of lightning and then almost immediately a loud bang.
‘Is that the clouds bumping into each other?’ said Tom. ‘That’s what Alfie always says.’ Alfie was his best friend at school, a bit of a clever clogs. He was usually right about most things, though.     
His mum and dad ignored him.  
Maisie and Daisy were now clinging on to Mum’s skirt. The rain was falling faster now. Their dresses were beginning to stick to their legs and were becoming see-though. Red dye was running out Maisie’s dress, making it look as if her legs were bleeding.     
‘Come on let’s get out of this,’ said Dad. ‘Look, let’s shelter in the porch of that church.’
Tom wondered what a church was. He’d seen them before, of course, but he didn’t know what they did. He knew all about shops, hospitals and schools but not about churches.                
Several other people had had the same idea. It was a bit of a squash in the small doorway. Mum accidentally leant on the big wooden door and it opened a little.
‘Oh look,’ she said. ‘It’s not locked. We could go inside. Take the weight off our feet a bit.’ 
She took the little girls by the hand and ushered them in. Dad guided him from behind.
It smelt funny, a bit like the soil after the rain has fallen on it. The cold seemed to come up through your feet. Maisie and Daisy were shivering now. It was hard to believe that last night none of them had been able to sleep in Mrs Quinn’s stuffy old boarding-house.
A few other people sat in some funny chairs that had hard-looing backs.
‘You must be really quiet and sit as still as you can,’ said Mum. ‘These people are trying to pray.’
He didn’t understand what that meant. ‘What’s praying?’ he asked.
‘Talking to God. They’re talking to God,’ said Dad.
‘What’s God?’
Dad sighed. ‘Well I don’t believe none of it myself. But some people think this very clever man – God  - made everything and it’s a good idea to talk to him now and then. That’s what churches are for.’
Tom noticed the coloured glass and the paintings on the wall. ‘Can I go and look at the pictures?’ he said.  
‘As long as you don’t touch anything,’ said Dad.
‘And don’t make a noise,’ whispered Mum.     
He walked along the narrow passage between the funny chairs and stopped from time to time to look at the pictures, the coloured glass windows or the statues. There were some interesting things here- like the man who was guiding some animals into a great big boat, the tower that was falling down and the bush that seemed to be on fire. ‘Dad,’ he called. ‘Can you tell me what these stories are about?’
‘Ssh!’ said Dad. ‘You mustn’t make a noise in Church.   
  Mum was cuddling the little girls, whispering to them and occasionally stroking their hair. Why didn’t she cuddle him like that anymore? Dad stared towards the front of the church and didn’t say a word to Mum, or to him or to Maisie and Daisy. The other people sitting in the funny chairs kept their heads bent low.
There was a big table covered with a very posh looking cloth and it had candlesticks on it. There was something near the door that looked like a big stone baby bath. He remembered helping to bath Maisie and Daisy until one day he got soap in Daisy’s eyes and she screamed the place down.
‘What have you done to her?’ Mum shouted.
After that he wasn’t allowed to go anywhere near the girls at bath-time.  
Never mind. So, you came here if you wanted to speak to God, the really clever man who had made everything. This was incredibly cool. Tom wondered whether he should say something but he couldn’t think what and he felt a bit shy actually. Besides, he didn’t know exactly where God was.    
At the side was a little room without a door and with proper chairs facing away from the main part of the church. Why were the chairs like that? In front of them on the wall was a huge wooden cross and on it a man with nails through his hands and his feet. There was blood coming from them and from his head on which were thorny branches, woven together to look a little like a crown. Oh, it made him feel sick. That must really hurt.   
There was a woman sitting on one of the chairs. He couldn’t help himself. He just had to know. ‘Miss, who’s that?’
‘That’s the Lord Jesus. He’s the Son of God. God sent his only son to us. Died for us, he did. So that God would forgive us for being so wicked. He did it because he loves us.’
That was terrible. What a horrible thing to do. Fancy sending your only son away.  He was Mum and Dad’s only son. Were they going to send him away? And would somebody put nails though his hands and feet and make him a crown out of brambles? 
He screamed. Then he started sobbing. Great breathless sobs.
‘There now, there now,’ the woman muttered.
Dad came running into the little space.  ‘What are you making a racket like that for? We told you you’d got to be quiet.’ He turned to the woman. ‘I’m so sorry.’ 
The woman shook her head. ‘No problem. I was just telling him about what Jesus did.’
‘He’s cruel, that God. You’re not going to send me away are you Dad?’ 
‘He’s probably never heard about that before,’ said Dad. ‘You see, we don’t go to church.’
Mum and Maisie and Daisy wandered along.
‘I think we can go now anyway,’ said Mum. ‘I think the rain’s stopped.’ She pointed to the sunlight that was now streaming through the stained glass windows and making patterns on the floors.
The other people who had been in the church were beginning to shuffle out. They looked away from Tom and his mum and dad and his two sisters. He was probably going to get a ticking off now for embarrassing them.
He took some deep breaths and tried to calm down. He began to hiccough, and each hiccough was followed by a shudder. 
It was sunny again outside. The puddles were steaming. The sun was getting warm again but it wasn’t so sticky anymore.  
‘No wonder the kid was scared,’ said Dad. ‘That figure was as large as life. It looked like something out of a horror film. That’s one of the reasons I hate the whole business. And all that stuff about the bread and wine becoming the body and blood of Christ and eating and drinking him. Barbaric!’ He ruffled Tom’s hair.
Tom really was sure he was going to be sick now. If you went to church you had to eat God’s son? No, he must have got that wrong.
‘Come on then,’ said Dad. ‘Let’s get going.’ 
Tom wanted to tell Dad that the man on the cross hadn’t frightened him. That he knew it was only a carving and not a very good one at that. It was the idea of God having a son and that son loving everyone so much that he was prepared to let them put nails through his hands and his feet and he would die for him. Would his mum and dad do that for him? Would he do it for them and his sisters?
He couldn’t say a word, though. If he did he knew he would start crying again and he didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of his dad and his sisters. He’d done enough damage already, getting into a tizzy like that.
‘I think the best thing we can do now is go and get an ice-cream, don’t you?’ said Dad.
The little girls clapped their hands and jumped up and down on the spot. Tom tried his best to smile. 

About the author: 

Gill James writes all sorts of fiction - novels, short fiction, flash fiction and experimental fiction. She is also a publisher and editor. Visit her blog at http://www.gilljameswriter.eu/  

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Wizzo

Roger Noons

a glass of magic potion from a secret recipe

 

‘You mustn’t laugh at me,’ I told my wife as she gazed through the bedroom window. ‘I’m Wizzo the Wizard, I’ve a pointy hat with a W on it.’
 
    ‘You can’t wear that in bed, so your spells won’t work. Besides, I’m a witch so you’ve no power over me.’
 
    ‘I have … for twenty minutes. I could turn you into a cat and send you off to catch a mouse.’
 
    She shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t do that, it’s cruel.’
 
    ‘A terrier then, to yap outside. Wake up Mr Edwards.’
 
    ‘He’ll be up and about by now, it’s eight o’ clock.’
 
    ‘I don’t think I’m much good as a wizard, am I?’
 
    She leaned over and kissed me on my forehead. ‘Be a good retired wizard and I’ll go and fetch the paper and magic up a cup of tea for you.’
 
    ‘Thank you dear,’ I smiled.
 
    She said a rude word as she walked downstairs. I’d twitched my nose and heard the pearls from the string around her neck drop into the hall and bounce around on the laminate flooring.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Flight

Roger Noons

 

a strong orange squash, mixed with lemonade

 

Harriet found out her bicycle was magical when freewheeling around a bend in Orchard Lane, she approached the Council’s rubbish lorry which was blocking the road. Open-mouthed, she clung to the hand grips. Her fuchsia pink two wheeler flew  into the air. The bin men waved as she sailed over and landed safely at the junction with Parson’s Grove. She found she was outside number 42 and delved into her bag, but couldn’t remember whether the occupier took the Mirror or the Sun. Holding one paper in each hand she faced the lamp. It lit in favour of the former.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Taste of Coffee

Paul Westgate


a demitasse of Arabic coffee


I make coffee in the traditional way I learned as a child in my Mother’s kitchen. Boiling and stirring, the pot lifted from the heat each time the foam rises to the brim. The smell of coffee and cardamom takes me back to that kitchen; to her blessing and the old coffee pot she pressed into my hands before I fled the country. I serve the coffee in tiny cups with a small plate of dates. At the same time bitter and sweet, familiar and strange, exotic and ordinary, the taste of coffee is all I have left of home.



Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Weather Behaving Badly

 Dawn Knox

Prairie Fire, a spicy shot of tequila and tabasco


Bernard finished the letter of resignation with his signature and a small flourish. He didn’t, however, add his usual two kisses. They didn’t seem appropriate under the circumstances. He read the letter, checking grammar, spelling and punctuation. It was all so important. An incorrectly positioned comma, for example could result in all sorts of confusion and he couldn’t risk any misunderstandings. 
With a sweep of his arm, he moved the stuffed teddy bear, the small cactus in the Mexican hat-shaped pot, the travel set of Newton’s Balls and the fluorescent pencil case aside, to reveal the long scorch mark on the top of his desk. It ran from the front to the back, finishing just in front of where he was seated. He stood up and looked down at his chair. The greasy stain and singed line were all that remained of his predecessor although arguably, there might be a few bits of him embedded in the wall behind the desk. The crater in the plaster had been repaired although the burns in the carpet and the damage to the furniture were still evident.
Well, the budget was tight this year. 
In his less generous moments, Bernard wondered if his boss hadn’t wanted there to be reminders of his wrath – just to keep the staff in check. But with any luck, that soon wouldn’t apply to him. Not once he’d handed in his letter of resignation. He put it in an envelope and sealed it, then placed it over the scorch mark on his desk.
Now what?
He needed to deliver his letter… but to whom? Mr. Thor, Mr. Jupiter or Mr. Zeus? They were all as scary as each other. Of course, the logical choice would have been the one who was most senior but they all claimed seniority and who was Bernard to argue with any of them?
Perhaps he should just leave it on the desk of whoever wasn’t in his office at the time and then disappear before anyone came asking questions. He’d been as much as promised a job in the Sunshine Department and he couldn’t wait. There was only a certain amount of lightning and thunder one could take in a lifetime. And he’d had his fill. 
Suddenly, he realised the decision was about to be taken out of his hands. Thunderous footsteps rang out and echoed ominously along the corridor with the odd flash of lightning that Bernard could see through the crack round the door. 
He placed his hands over his ears to protect them from the booming noise and blanched as the door flew open.
“Ah! There you are, Bernard.”
“M…Mr. Thor, sir?”
“I just came to see how you’re settling in.”
“F…fine, thank you, sir.”
“Pleased to hear it. The last chap only lasted two weeks. No stamina. No drive. No tenacity. In the end…” he glanced at the blackened line in the desk, “he ended up with not much of anything… Well, what can you expect from a chap who wanted a transfer to the Sunshine Department?”
Words died in Bernard’s throat and he emitted a cross between a high-pitched squeak and the hiss of a slow leak in a tyre.
Mr. Thor aimed at the desk with his index finger and Bernard ducked as tiny sparks crackled round his hand and up his arm. 
“Is that the mail?” he asked pointing at Bernard’s letter of resignation. 
“No, sir. I was just tidying up, sir.”
Bernard slapped his hand over the letter, pulled it into his lap and tearing it into little pieces, he dropped them in the bin. 

About the author: 

Dawn's second book 'The Great War, 100 stories of 100 words honouring those who lived and died 100 years ago' was published in 2016. She enjoys a writing challenge and has had stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in several women's magazines. Dawn has written a script for a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in her home town in Essex, as well as in Germany and France. Married with one son, she lives in Essex.

Monday, 22 May 2017

I count

Dawn Knox

sweet, milky tea such as might have been savoured in the trenches


It is 100 days since our massive bombardment of the Germans began, and 92 days since we went over the top believing this battle on the Somme was ours. 

I count everything.

The number of rats per day I see, the number of letters from home I receive each week, the number of pals who’ve been maimed, the number of those who still lie in No Man’s Land. 

I can’t control this hell; I can only count the consequences. 

Now I count the seconds until I go over the top again. 

I count everything, yet, my life counts for nothing. 

About the author: 

Dawn's second book 'The Great War, 100 stories of 100 words honouring those who lived and died 100 years ago' was published in 2016. She enjoys a writing challenge and has had stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in several women's magazines. Dawn has written a script for a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in her home town in Essex, as well as in Germany and France. Married with one son, she lives in Essex.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Janus Stone

Paula R C Readman 

Whisky Mac on the rocks

‘It’s that age old question,’ my wife said turning an accusing eye in my direction as we stood staring at a stone circle high up on the wind swept moorlands
As far as I was concerned, it was of no importance to me to find the answer to riddle of the sentinels.
‘That’s the trouble with you, Janus you’re so blinkered, when the facts are before your very eyes.’
I cast my eyes toward the heavens and held my breath and my tongue, knowing there was no point in arguing with her. She was like a starving wolf, once she has a bone between her teeth.
‘There you go, you can’t deny it now. The truth hurts,’ she said bitterness edging her tone.
I gave her a sideways glance; suddenly realizing she wasn’t talking about the stones at all.
‘Too busy looking back, aren’t you?’ she said, with an air of smugness.
Oh yes, she was right there. I’ve been accused of being backwards looking before, but I do often look forward too. Dreams of a peaceful life seemed impossible from where I was standing.
‘Well, haven’t you got something to say for yourself?’ she snapped.
I narrowed my eyes, and wondered if it was possible.
‘Oh yes, just like your father as your mother use to say, you’ve no balls. Well, it’s about time you manned up.'
I shrugged, turned, and walked away.
‘Where the hell do you think you’re going Janus Lot?’
As I drove out of the car park, I did look back.  My wife stood rigid with anger and disbelief that I was finally leaving her. I laughed. Not quite a pillar of salt, but close enough to leave a nasty taste in her nagging mouth.   

 

About the author

Bridge House, Chapel town, English Heritage, Parthian Books have published Paula R C Readman’s short stories. She was also the overall winner in the Writing Magazine Harrogate Crime Short Story Competition 2012.
Check out her Blog: paulareadman1.wordpress.com