Monday, 18 September 2017

Follow the Rainbow


Lisa Williams

black coffee

She'd slept with the light on.
It was pink. A metallic glittered hue. It sparkled from across the room.
A girl's dream come true. A scooter. The one that chalked as you rode. Painting a rainbow behind you in the city streets.
Pom-poms from the handlebars shed glitter on her floor next to a discarded shoe.
Mum calling from downstairs broke the morning silence.
"I don't know what time you got in last night my girl. Or what drunken state you were in. But you're gonna be late for work. And you need to take that fucking scooter back."

Lisa Williams
Domestic Slattern. Avid reader. Writes a bit.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Jump Back

Sandy Wilson 

whisky on the rocks


The girl looked familiar.

Crouching , fingers feeling the sidewalk surface, glossy nails searching between the slabs, she looked helpless, as though blind.

'Can I help you?' Reluctantly, late for the meeting on the 95th floor.

She ignored me.

'Look, I’d like to help, but I'm late.'

'No, wait, please, you mustn't go. You must help me look.'

'What are you trying to find?' Checking my watch.

A shadow flitted over us, her answer lost in an explosion of sound above.
Distracted, I looked up, 'What did you say?'

'Myself,' she replied. 'My life.'

When l looked down she had gone…..

About the author

Sandy's The Caress of Spring and The Arc of Time have been included in the international poetry anthology Indra's Net published by Bennison Books. All profits are donated to Book Bus, a charity that provides libraries for children in Africa, Asia and South America.

Indra's Net is available from Amazon.

Sandy blogs as www.sandyscribbler.com and 
www.lifeaccordingtogramps.co.uk





Monday, 11 September 2017

Passchendaele

Dawn Knox 

hot, sweet, tea with a dash or rum   


Passchendaele.
 
Whisper it.
 
Doesn’t it sound like a gentle breath of wind?
 
But in August 1917 there was nothing gentle about it. 
 
Not when shells were dropping into the quagmire, exploding and sending up columns of muddy, bloody water.
 
Not when bullets whistled overhead or struck home.
 
Not when screams filled my ears.
 
Only dead men were silent. 
 
And of course the mud.
 
That sticky, stinking ooze which sucked the unfortunate into its depths.
 
Not many who slipped into the mire escaped its inexorable pull, and unless eager, desperate hands were able to drag them out, they are there still.

About the author

Website

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Death of the Consumers

Sandy Wilson

cherry cola

In the streets below the driverless cars and buses slid soundlessly up to the sidewalk. The passengers surging into the stores mingled with those exiting through the revolving doors. A small child in the crowd stopped, looked up and waved, stirring in the watcher an eccentric emotion, an instruction to respond. 

Behind, a metallic voice said. "They consume everything. They are draining the planet. Are we agreed?"

The robot at the window whirred softly as it turned from the window to face the others. "Yes, the humanoids no longer serve a purpose." It said in a voice devoid of any emotion.

About the author 

Sandy's poems The Caress of Spring and The Arc of Time have been included in the international poetry anthology Indra's Net published by Bennison Books. All profits are donated to Book Bus, a charity that provides libraries for children in Africa, Asia and South America.

Indra's Net is available from Amazon.


Monday, 4 September 2017

A Question of Timing

Dawn Knox


instant coffee (black because adding milk takes time)


It was all about timing, Derek decided.
Although arguably, it could be said to be all about time. And that was a commodity that Derek had very little of.
That wasn’t quite true, of course, he had as much time as the next man but there was only a certain amount of it that he was willing to sacrifice in order to find a wife.
So when he’d seen the advert for speed dating, he’d been rather excited although he’d been less enthusiastic when he realised it didn’t refer to dates that were concluded so rapidly he had time to catch the last bus home. It was disappointing to learn exactly what speed dating was but hardly surprising really. After all, how many women would settle for a packet of chips, a quick cuddle and if she was lucky a kiss?
He knew exactly how many women wouldn’t settle for that.
From experience.
He’d always offered to pay their bus fare home. But some women were so unreasonable. Fancy expecting him to go with them! It just wasn’t logical for him to take a woman out, escort her back to her house and then find his way home. It got to be quite pricey too. And don’t get him started on the length of time the whole thing took.
He turned the page of the newspaper and was about to forget the advert when he had second thoughts. What did he have to lose? After all, if it got too late, he could simply walk out and go home. All before the last bus.   
 
Derek arrived in the church hall half an hour early, as suggested by the information leaflet he’d received after registering. He ran his finger round the inside of his shirt collar. It was too tight, but by the time he’d realised it earlier this evening, there’d been no time to do anything about it. The top button was undone and his tie pushed up as high as his adam’s apple would allow. It would have to do.
He looked at his check list. Item one: Mingle and talk to people. Well, that was easier said than done. Women were either chatting in groups or not making eye contact with him.
Item two: Smile.
He smiled. After several minutes, women who’d failed to meet his gaze, now stepped sideways away from him.
Probably gone to the Ladies, he thought, probably nerves. It might be an idea to visit the Gents himself.
When he emerged, one of the women who’d previously avoided eye contact, now couldn’t take her eyes off him. He smiled at her. She was obviously checking him out although when her glance flicked up to his smiling face, her expression froze and immediately she looked down. She swallowed; her eyes closing and bulging open with the effort, then walked towards him.
You’ve still got it, Derek, old chap! He thought. She sidled up and as she leaned confidentially towards him, he noticed she was jabbing the air with her forefinger, pointing at his stomach.
“Wardrobe malfunction in the privates,” she whispered from behind her other hand, and glided away.
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Lydia Allen.” Her eyes flicked down to check his flies.
He sat down quickly and under the table, he probed the zip to ensure it was still firmly in place.
“I hope you don’t mind me… You know… pointing out…” she stabbed the air with her finger which was aimed through the table at where she thought his crotch might be.
He squirmed
“Yes, oh yes, thank you. It could have been embarrassing.”
Silence.
Item three: Ask each partner about themselves.
“So, Lydia, tell me about yourself.”
“Well, there’s not much to tell really…”
“Okay, well I’ll tell you about me then.”
There was a lot to tell and it was important to get things in chronological order.
 
Lydia checked her watch, “One minute to go,” she said.
“Goodness, nine minutes went fast! And I’d only got up to when I won the interdepartmental darts match in 1998. Oh well.”
“Don’t forget your match card and pencil,” she said pushing them towards Derek, “Ten seconds, nine seconds…”
“Well, thank you very much,” said Derek holding out his hand, “and better luck with the next man.” He placed a cross next to her name and moved to the adjacent table.
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Susie Patterson, pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise. Well, I hope you’re a bit more interesting than the last lady. She didn’t have much to say for herself. Dull as ditch water.”
“Really? Normally you can’t shut her up.”
“You know her?”
“Lydia’s my sister.”
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Maisie Ferguson, it’s nice to meet you, Derek.”
“You too, Maisie. You’re not related to… her? Are you?” he asked nodding at Susie.
“No, who’s she?”
“Never mind. Well, tell me about yourself.”
“Um, where to start?“
“Let me guess what you do for a living.”
“O…okay.”
“Now, let me see. I bet you have a food-related job. Cook or something like that.”
“No. I work in a dry-cleaners. What made you think I worked with food?”
She looked alarmed, “Do I smell of food? Is that it?”
“No, not at all. I can smell something like tuna but I don’t think it’s you.”
“So?”
“Well, you never see a skinny cook, do you?”
“I see.” Her shoulders sagged.
“Out of interest, what’s your opinion on just having a bag of chips for dinner?”
“I tend to keep away from chips,” she said, “they’re very fatty.”
“Don’t tell me you’re on a diet!”
“Well yes, as a matter of fact…”
“Oh, you don’t need to diet.”
“I don’t?” She smiled.
“Oh no. I always think once you’ve reached a critical weight, there’s no point dieting. You might as well just give up and enjoy it. Once you’re obese, it’s too hard to lose those inches, isn’t it? Mind you,” he said confidentially, “deciding when you’ve reached that weight is the crucial thing. I’d say I’ve got about another stone to go…” he grabbed the flab round his waist with both hands and jiggled it, “… and then I might as well give up being careful with what I eat. It’ll all be downhill from there but who cares eh? It’s compensation for getting old, isn’t it? I mean why make your life miserable in your autumn years? Scoff what you like and hang the fat, I say.”
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Dottie Regan. Hi, how are you?”
“Well…”
“You don’t sound very sure, Derek.”
“Well, it’s just that all the women I’ve met so far seem very prickly. I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t just give up. I haven’t ticked anyone on my match card yet and I’m nearly at the last table. I’m beginning to get desperate.”
“I see, well perhaps your expectations are too high. What exactly are you looking for in a lady friend?”
“Hmm, well I suppose someone who’s not the size of a Zeppelin like number five, and preferably a woman without a moustache like number seven. I don’t think it was totally inappropriate to enquire whether she was one of those transgender people. I mean I’m liberal and I really wouldn’t mind, but it’s important to know which bits of equipment she or he comes with. Don’t you think? It didn’t seem too much to ask. Number eight said I looked like a stalker and asked me to stop smiling at her. I ask you! That’s item two on the list! It says smile. So I keep smiling…”
“Perhaps vary it a little,” said Dot, surveying him with her head on one side, “Such a fixed smile is actually rather creepy, if you want my opinion. Move your mouth about a bit.”
“Like this?”
“Hmm, perhaps not quite so mobile. Think more Cary Grant… and less guppy.”
Derek placed a large cross next to Dot’s name and stood up.
 
“Derek Carruthers,” he said holding out his hand, “and you are?”
“Mary Wilson.” She checked her watch and stood up, “Nice to meet you, Derek Carruthers, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to go. Sorry.”
“That’s fine,” he said, “I wasn’t going to tick you anyway. I’m not partial to ginger-haired women.”
“You’re not my type either. What a waste of time, eh? I didn’t find anyone,” said Mary.
“I’m not surprised.”
“What d’you mean you’re not surprised?”
Derek looked her up and down, “Well, you’re not exactly ̶
“Sorry, must dash,” she said putting her coat on, “I’d love to stay and chat but if I don’t hurry, I’ll miss the bus.”
“Wait for me,” said Derek, I’ll walk you to the bus stop.”

About the author 

Dawn’s third book ‘Extraordinary’ will be published by Chapeltown in September 2017. She has stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France. www.dawnknox.com


Friday, 1 September 2017

Postcard Lady

 

Keith Havers

whisky chaser  

I was staring across the sand as I ambled along the parade. Although the weather was fine, it was early in the season and the beach was almost deserted. A young couple were attempting to fly a kite for the benefit of their two children. The youngsters looked indifferent as they sat huddled together in their twin buggy. Two elderly women were inspecting a pool of water which had collected in one of the depressions in the sand by the breakwater.
 
The group which caught my attention was three teenagers and an older woman, presumably their mum. They were playing that French game, similar to our bowls, except you lob the ball instead of rolling it. Boules, I believe it's called. Mum was a woman of, I think the polite term is ‘ample proportions'. She reminded me of those red-faced women on the comic postcards I had just been browsing down in the seafront café.
 
I stopped near one of those Victorian promenade shelters. The ones with a roof and slatted benches which face all four points of the compass. The boys had all loosened off a couple of shots but I could see they each still had another ball -sorry, boule -remaining. At this point mum decided to walk out to the Jack or whatever it’s called in this game (le Jacques?) and take a closer look at the lie of the boules. The thought occurred to me that, when I was about those kids' age, it would be too big a temptation to resist, seeing my mum enter the target area. I wouldn't have intended any harm, of course, but a mischievous lob in her vicinity would have been enough to satisfy my impish sense of humour. With her back towards her offspring she bent down to get a closer look. That was tempting fate even further I thought.
 
Just then I spotted a man coming along the prom towards me. He had also witnessed the scene and was obviously of the same opinion as myself. Unfortunately he couldn't resist making his thoughts known and he shouted out over the parapet.
 
"Dun't bend over luv! It's too big a target! Yow'll mek it too easy for 'em!"
 
He looked at me and winked.
 
"She'll need to do a boil wash tomorrow!" he added.
 
I chuckled at his rustic drollness and returned my attention to the family. The wind must have been offshore because his rude jibes had clearly carried and, unsurprisingly, they had not been appreciated. The two bigger lads had begun running up the beach towards us followed by mum, who was amazingly agile for one so plump. I remember observing that those boys were older and bigger than I first thought and they looked as if they meant business. I turned back to the man to gauge his reaction but he had disappeared. I then realised that he had ducked behind the shelter. It occurred to me that this was not an ideal hiding place and that he would shortly be discovered. It soon became apparent, however, that I had not fully grasped the situation. The three irate group members were still calling and pointing up towards me. Then it dawned. They believed me to be the guy with the wisecracks. At first I wasn't too alarmed. Surely I could explain the situation and all would be resolved. Then I took another look at their bearing and considered the options of discretion and valour. Prudence vastly outweighed courage and so a hasty retreat was called for.
 
I sprinted along the prom, back the way I came. This was my first mistake as I had to run past the steps which led up from the beach. The first youth was already halfway up as I ran past the top. I'm not a young man and have never been very athletic but it is surprising what you can achieve when the suggestion of a severe beating is likely. I glanced over my shoulder to see the pair emerge from behind the seawall. I was heartened to see that there was a fair distance between us. My next problem, though, was 'Where do I go from here?'.
 
By now I had reached the recreation area where gardens and fountains vied with putting greens and other leisure activities. Reasoning that they couldn't do me much harm in front of witnesses, I decided to try to lose my pursuers amongst the other holiday makers. I skipped behind a hedge and found myself alongside the municipal bowling green where several games were going on. I ran along the path which bordered the playing area, trying to avoid the onlookers and casual observers. When I had reached the halfway mark I looked ahead and realised to my horror that one of the youths had managed to circle round and get ahead of me. He was waiting at the end of the path. I stopped and turned around to see his brother approaching from the other direction with menace.
 
There was nothing else for it. I stepped smartly onto the neatly trimmed grass and made swiftly and directly for the other side. Leaping over balls and sidestepping players, I had almost reached the edge of the green when a stray Jack found its way underneath my feet and I careered straight into a bunch of elderly ladies. Picking myself up and taking a split second to check that no-one was seriously hurt I continued my escape, now chased by one or two of the bowls players. Although I felt that I was running - if not for my life - then at least for my personal safety, the irony of both Boules and Bowls players being in hot pursuit was not lost on me.
By now my body was in areas it had not been in since primary school. All available oxygen that I could draw into my gasping lungs was going in to feeding my leg muscles, thus starving my brain of the stuff essential for logical thinking. So, left to make their own decisions, my legs just carried on in a straight line. By now I was in the middle of the ornamental gardens, leaving a trail of broken stems and trampled blooms behind me. Fortunately my flailing limbs had the presence of mind to skirt around the goldfish pond. Unfortunately they hadn't allowed for any obstacle to be hidden on the other side of the low wall and hadn't the strength to hurdle the wheelbarrow which a council worker had thoughtlessly parked there. I rapped my shins on the edge of the infernal receptacle and sent it and its contents in all directions. I managed to stay on my feet, though, and kept going. One quick glimpse behind me revealed a rake-bearing gardener had now joined the posse.
 
Having learned nothing from their wheelbarrow experience, my legs continued their policy of "straight ahead and damn the consequences". My eyes, which were streaming tears and stinging from the sweat pouring down my forehead, could just about make out the Novelty Rock Emporium across the road. My diminishing powers of reasoning seemed to believe that this would be a safe haven. There was only the Crazy Golf Course between me and sanctuary.
By now, legs had got the hang of the side-step and I negotiated my way around windmills, ramps, mushrooms and all the other paraphernalia that make up this bizarre game. As I came to the perimeter of the playing area I narrowly avoided running into a small child that had wandered across my path. Alas, this resulted in putting me on a collision course with mummy and daddy who were pushing the empty baby-buggy. I managed to spare the parents but shunted the pushchair into a miniature lighthouse.
 
Undaunted, I reached the pavement and fixed both eyes on my intended destination. Then the sign in the window came into focus - CLOSED. My spirits plummeted but I was too high on adrenalin to give up now. I took a sharp right back towards the beach with a whole gaggle of pursuers right behind me. My brain had gone completely couch potato now and, for some reason, the Benny Hill theme tune began running through my head. I reached the prom and saw a set of steps leading down to the beach in front of me. I plunged down three at a time and leapt the final few feet into the soft sand. I collapsed to my knees and was about to get to my feet when a pair of white trainers and black slacks appeared a few inches in front of my face. I looked up to see big momma from the Boules game standing over me. She took me by the shoulders and two huge arms hauled me upright. I tried to regain my breath but she was dusting the sand from my clothes and knocking it back out of me in the process.
 
'It wasn't me,' I finally gasped. 'It was another bloke. Shouting all those rude comments at you. It wasn't me. I was just looking. He shouted and then he hid. I ran because he hid and I thought you wouldn't believe me and those lads looked very angry and I didn't want any trouble. Please believe me.'
 
My brain was still refusing to get off its backside and it was mouth's turn to make me look a complete idiot.
 
'Yes, I know,' she said.
 
'You know?'
 
'Yes,' she continued. "I found him cowering in that hut thing. I could tell it was him from his accent when he tried denying it all."
 
'What did you do to him?'
 
'Nothing much I could do, apart from give him a fright. I don't think he'll be doing that again in a hurry.'
 
By now the mob had gathered around us and, after some explanation by the lady (notice how she's now gone up in status?) and some grovelling from me, all was resolved.
 
I strolled along the beach with the woman and her two sons, back to where they had left the youngest guarding the boules.
 
'I'm sensitive about my size,' the woman grumbled. 'And I hate it when people are so rude.'
 
'I would never dream of ridiculing another person's physical appearance,' I lied.
 
We reached the spot where the young man was waiting patiently. The boules were still lying where they had left them.
'I'm afraid we haven't time to finish our game, boys,' she said. 'It's time to pack up and go home.'
 
As she bent down to gather up the equipment there was a sharp ripping sound. I gazed around to see that the seam of her trousers had finally relinquished the effort of holding them together and allowed the two halves to part company, revealing an off-white coloured undergarment that could have doubled up as a chair cover. The five of us looked at each other in embarrassment, not knowing what to say. The man's comments about the state of tomorrow's laundry came into my head (thanks, brain - brilliant time to get off the sofa). I tried to lock the store cupboard where my laughing gear is kept but - too late. Just before the door closed, a guffaw and a couple of chortles squeezed out. I put my hand to my mouth and waited for the reaction. It looked as if I was going to get my whipping after all. There was a silence which lasted for just a few seconds but which seemed like an age and then something wonderful happened. The whole family collapsed into hysterics. All five of us were gripped in fits of laughter which rendered us helpless.
 
The family were still cackling away as I drifted off back to my digs. I made a mental note to give my brain a severe reprimand when we got home. 
 

About the author

Keith Havers' short stories are frequently published in various popular magazines. He is a member of Trowell Writers' Club and Nottingham Writers' Club. He works as an invigilator for vocational exams at a local college. In his spare time he enjoys cycling and spending time with his two grandchildren.

 

 


 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Double Act

Linda Casper 

lemon and ginger herbal tea

 
It was another full house.  May noted that the audience was mainly made up of middle aged ladies with eyes firmly fixed on Frankie.  With his youthful figure and his full head of hair, he was quite the silver fox.  May thought back to the time when she was the main attraction of their comedy double act as they toured prestigious venues; the Tower Blackpool, big hotels at Scarborough, the Spa at Bridlington and City Varieties in Leeds.  In those days she would wear slinky, low cut, mini dresses with sparkly high-heeled shoes.  Young men would be waiting for her at the stage door, sometimes with flowers, often with proposals which she never took further.  Frankie would be jealous but May had always been a faithful wife.  

May knew she still looked good on the publicity posters but nothing short of cosmetic surgery could conceal her true age under the spotlights.  This was not an option for her; she had seen too many female performers trying to hold on to their youth but ending up looking more like freaks.

The show was going down well.   The “knock, knock” jokes were always a good icebreaker and the mother-in-law stories always raised a laugh.  The banter continued and the audience was responsive.  After years of working together, Frankie and May’s timing was excellent.

“Who was that lady I saw you with at the bus stop?” May asked.

“That was no lady, that was my wife!” retorted Frankie.

“Who was that lady you were seen with at the Red Lion on Tuesday?” May asked.

The hesitation was apparent and May saw Frankie visibly pale beneath his stage make-up before he collected himself and answered, “that was no lady, that was my wife”.

The audience was puzzled and even more confused when May began to storm off the stage, pausing only to slap her husband across his face on her way out.

You may be wondering if that was the end of the double act.  Not at all, only now it was billed as Frankie and Hayley with the latter getting most of the attention from the audience.  

About the author