Friday, 17 January 2020

It'll Pass

by Sarah Bakewell

chamomile tea


It’ll pass.
Everything seems so unbearable. So difficult. So overwhelming.
It’ll pass.
It’s too much. There’s just too much crashing down all at once.
It’ll pass.
I’m struggling. Again. I can never remember how to get out of it.
It’ll pass.
I know it’ll pass but when? It’s been days. I want to do something to make it go away sooner.
‘It’ go away, or ‘you’ go away?
Whichever.
It’ll pass. Be patient. You have to ride it out.
Why? Says who? Who for? Who’s making it happen, testing how I deal with it?
Breathe.
What if I don’t want to anymore?
You do. Keep breathing. All will be well.
… It’ll pass.
That’s right. It’ll pass.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

An Important Call

by Rosemary Johnson 

 

Bitter Lemon

 


“Your call is important to us.  It has been placed in a queue.”
Greensleeves.
“Calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes.”
Handel’s Water Music, played on something weird, panpipes possibly.
“All our call-centre operatives are busy.”
Something by Bach… well known, terribly well known, but what on earth is it? 
“We are experiencing an exceptionally high volume of calls at this time.”  You don’t say?
Signature-tune to some television programme from the nineteen eighties.
“Answers to many frequently asked questions are available on our website.”  Yipperty do-dah.
I know that signature tune so well, but what was the programme?  I remember that I didn’t like it.
“Customers are respectfully requested to check that appliances are connected to the power supply.”
Yes, yes, yes.  I know all about the bloke (or woman) who swore his or her printer didn’t work and found he or she hadn’t switched it on.  But I'm not an idiot.  My issue is real.  I click my mouse several times.  Still nothing happening.  I need to speak to someone, a human being.
Still that awful theme tune.  I didn’t like it at the time, or the programme.  I don’t want to hear another note.  Come on.  Speak to me.
“Callers are invited to visit our website…”  But what good is that to me?
Come on, come on.  Where are you, you terribly busy call-centre operatives?  I don’t believe you’re there at all.
Not Greensleeves again.  I'm going to complain.  On Facebook, on Twitter – oh no, I can’t.  I’ll write to the local paper.  I’ll contact my MP, the Prime Minister, even.  He needs to know that people in this country have stopped talking to each other. 
“Good afternoon, caller.  How can I help you today?”
“Right.  At last.  I’ve got no internet.”
“No internet, madam?”
“Yes.  I mean, no.  No internet.  And I need you to send someone round- ”
“We don’t deal with internet queries here, madam.  You’ll need to log your service request through our website.”
How?

About the author


Rosemary is returning to short story writing after spending time writing a historical novel.  She has stories published, recently, in The Copperfield Review, CafeLit, Radgepacket, Mslexia and 101 Words.  In real life, Rosemary lives with her husband and cat in Essex, England.  She blogs about writing and everyday life at https://rosemaryreaderandwriter.wordpress.com

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The Search



by Tina Stager 

black coffee


Saturday night out with friends. We have been dancing for hours. The disc jockey played some of my favorite songs. I was having a fabulous time.
At four o’clock the music went silent. Is it that late already? I didn’t want to go home yet, so we went to the pub down the street to have the last beer.
There were five of us left. Dawn was breaking, when we decided to go to my place. We took the first bus and went into my apartment. There was enough room for us on the big couch.
MTV was playing eighties songs in the background and we were drinking and chatting about this and that.
After a little while, I got up and went into my bedroom, where I started emptying my closet. Piece by piece. Until there was nothing left in there. I did the same with my nightstand, then returned to the living room.
Next was the kitchen. I checked the fridge for its content, opened all the drawers, but didn’t find anything. I took out the plates and glasses, even the pots and pans. Nothing to be found in the cutlery drawer either.
The others had been observing me for a while now. They didn’t quit chatting. They just kept observing me interestedly. There was only the living room left to search, that’s where everyone was sitting.
I went to the sideboard with all my papers and started opening one door after another. I took out the entire pack of folders, and checked them, just in case. But nothing.
After the sideboard, I went to the brown wooden tv stand. It had a couple of doors on both sides and two drawers in the middle. I started going through the left side, then the right. Nothing either.
When I had emptied the last two drawers I sat there, in the middle of my living room, between the disaster I had just made. I was irritated. I had been searching the whole place for almost two hours. But there was nothing to be found.
One of my friends finally asked what everyone else was too scared to ask:
“What are you looking for?”
There was a sudden silence and stared at me, curious for my answer.
“The sense of life,” I said quietly and went back to going through my drawers without another word.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Miss Pringle Takes the Metro



by Gill James

still water

Miss Pringle did not like the Metrolink. It shuffled and shook her. Many of the people on it were a bit smelly and usually the smelliest of them all would sit themselves down right next to her. Or the only seat remaining would be next to someone who was a bit fatter than they should be and they would take up half of her seat.
However, it was cheaper than paying to park and it would save the hassle with the traffic.
She didn’t have to wait long for a tram. And though there were a lot of people on the platform she managed to find a double seat to herself. She generally marvelled at how selfish some people travelling alone could be. They would take up a double seat and later couples who wanted to travel together had to sit separately. But of course it was different for her. She was Miss Pringle, now retired, but formerly the respected teacher of thousands, yes thousands of infant school children over the years.
It wasn’t the best seat. It was rather near the wibbly-wobbly one that was in the bend in the tram. The bar on the window spoilt her view. If she had to travel by tram, she liked a window seat with a good open view of people’s back gardens. Her very favourite seat was behind the driver; it made her feel as if she was driving the tram.
It must have been all those years of teaching the little ones. That was the sort of thing they liked to do. It must have rubbed off on her.       
At Whitefield a couple with a young daughter got on. They stood near the door.  
“Why don’t you go and sit next to that lady?” said the father.
Miss Pringle shot the little girl one of her school teacher looks. Don’t you dare.   
The little girl buried her head in her father’s arm.
At Prestwich another young family got on.
“There’s a seat next to that lady,” said the mother.
The little boy shook his head and turned his back on Miss Pringle.
Quite right, too. She was no lady. It was funny how when she’d been a girl children were expected to get up from their seats and let grown-ups sit down.  Nowadays it was all about the children. Well she wasn’t budging.  She was over 60 now.
She was aware of a young man sitting behind her on the wibbly-wobbly seat. Well you could hardly ignore him He was constantly on his mobile and when he wasn’t making or receiving a call, he was exchanging texts with someone or playing some noisy game.
It was an intrusion into people’s alone time. If he’d been one of hers she’d have given him what far. So selfish!
The young man also had his feet on the other single seat opposite his own.  Disgraceful.  
At Crumpsall a third family got on, an extended one this time. Hindus, Miss Pringle thought. The females all wore shalwar kameez and had their heads covered. The matriarch, a big-boned woman, but perhaps not fat, promptly sat down next to Miss Pringle. At least she didn’t smell, except perhaps of a rather sickly perfume she was wearing. She should at least be grateful that the woman was clean.
The older woman, the same age as herself, Miss Pringle supposed, nodded and smiled. She seemed to be very careful about not taking up more than her half of the seat. 
The younger woman and the two High School girls made their way down the aisle. The man held the little boy’s hand tightly.
“Here,” said the young man with the phone. “Take these seats.”
The younger woman and the older of the two girls took the two wibbly-wobbly seats.  The older girl pulled the little boy up to sit on his lap. The younger girl and her father held on tight.   
“It’s so nice to see that young people still have some manners, is it not?” said the woman sitting next to Miss Pringle.
“It is indeed,” said Miss Pringle, though it hadn’t been quite what she had expected. A shock, really.    
Now what could she complain about?     

About the author 

Gill James writes fiction of all lengths for children, adults and young adults. She also works as an editor and publisher and in fact edits this e-zine, 

Monday, 13 January 2020

Jed and Tanya




by Nick Jarrold

stewed tea

 Not again, thought Jed as he woke up that cold and misty Monday January morning. It was that in-between time. In-between New Year and that first pay day of the year. It was miserable, no one wanted to go out as they'd over indulged during the festive period, there was nothing yet to look forward to. And the weather was shit.

He'd been in his job for the local railway company for more than a decade now, and over the last few months had really come to resent it. Well not the job. Her. He was good at what he did, he knew that and he'd been told by many of his colleagues and peers, some of whom who were now his friends. But she didn't think so. Not Tanya.

She'd come in as his boss around six months ago and for the first month or so, everything was fine, as she learnt the ropes and got her feet under the table. But not long after that the little digs started.

“Why's this taking so long?“
“That's not how I'd do it.“
“This could be better.”

Jed was a patient guy, but there was only so so much even he could take. It got worse as time went on. She took great pleasure in ridiculing him in front of his peers in a meeting without even thinking twice about it. As they were leaving the boardroom and heading back to their desks, Ben said to him “That was a bit harsh wasn't it?

At least Jed knew it wasn't just in his head, and that was some consolation.

As he made his way through the doors of the office in the City of London, that dread and anxiety he felt in the pit of his stomach returned with abundance. It had been there the entirety of his hour long train journey, but was at its worst the closer he got to work. He felt this way every day, especially Monday mornings. He hadn't always felt this way. He use to love his job, yes sometimes he had so much work to do he couldn't see how he'd get it all done, but at least he enjoyed it. That feeling was now a long and distant memory.

The lift made its way to the second floor and he kept quiet, looking at the floor, not wanting the doors to open. He wasn't yet ready to face talking to anyone, it was too early and he'd not yet had any caffeine. But it wasn't long before he was forced into his first conversations of the day, even if it was just a pleasant 'Good morning” to the people he passed on the way to his desk.

She wasn't in yet, thank god. Maybe she'd had some horrible accident at the weekend or on her way to work. Jed normally didn't have these irrational thoughts. Only when it came to her. He laid his bag on the desk and made his way to the cafe in the corner of the office and asked the person serving for a large flat white. It was then that his day got that little bit worse.

Tanya hadn't been in a horrible accident over the weekend, there she was large as life in the cafe, laughing in that annoying way, with her huge teeth showing for all to see. Laughing at one of Rick's jokes. No doubt she didn't find it funny, she was just buttering him up so when she needed a favour he'd do it for her. There was always an underlying sexual tension between Tanya and Rick. Rick knew it and she played up to it as much as she could. The thought of being sexual with Rick repulsed her, but he didn't have to know that.

Her and Jed acknowledged each other with a monotone “Good morning” with no more to it than that. After being given his coffee and adding two sugars, Jed made his way back to his desk. He had no meetings that morning, and thankfully Tanya did, for most of the morning. So at least he'd be left alone to get on with his, in her view, sub-par work. She came back to her desk around 12.15, not long before she took her lunch break 15 minutes later.

“How's the piece for Martin coming along?” she said, almost snapping as she did so.

“I haven't had a chance to look at it yet. This press release about the new product is taking longer than I thought.

It's next on my list, ” he said, trying to appease her.

“Why? It's a simple piece to do, shouldn't take YOU long.” With the emphasis on the word you.

“I want to make sure I've covered everything before sending it off,” he replied

She didn't say anything for a second, then replied “I want to see it before you do to make sure I'm happy with it, I've been doing that a bit too often recently.”

This really wound Jed up as she loved to take any opportunity she could find to put the boot in, especially when there were other people around.

That was it. The straw that broke the camel's back. Everything that had been building up inside, all the feelings, all the negative thoughts he'd had since she'd joined, came to the fore and he didn't care who heard.

“D'you know what Tanya, why don't you just fuck off?” Jed couldn't believe the words were coming out of his mouth, but he couldn't stop now. Here it comes.

“I've had enough. Enough of your sly little comments, the digs, the put-downs in private and in front of others. Fair enough, I might not be your cup of tea, I get that and you're not stupid, you know exactly what you're doing.  You didn't like me from the minute you walked in here, and you've made my life a misery ever since.
Do you know what you are? You're a bully and I'm done being the victim. So you can take your job and shove it up your arse, cos I quit.”

With the words still ringing in her ears, and the whole office silent, he picked up his bag and left that office for the last time, leaving Tanya speechless. A feat in itself.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

The Park Bench

by Jim Bates

English Breakfast Tea


The October wind suddenly gusted and blew leaves swirling along the pathway causing the old man to pull his worn fedora more tightly on his head. His battered cane kept him company as he shuffled along, feeling the sun's rays on his face, the fleeting warmth of the last days of fall. He hadn't been out of his tiny apartment in days and it felt good to breathe the fresh air.
            Up ahead an elderly lady sat in her wheelchair, dozing near a park bench in the sun, her head wrapped in a colorful scarf of bright green and scarlet red. He marveled at her peacefulness, then wondered for a nervous moment if she was dead. But no, as he shuffled closer he could see the rise and fall of her shoulders, the slight twitch of her knurled fingers. Just resting.
            She awoke as he passed and smiled a greeting. "Hello," she said in a foreign accent.
            He nodded in return, his perpetual frown unbroken, and continued on, realizing as he did so that it was the first time in days he'd interacted with another human being. He didn't have many friends or acquaintances anymore. Nobody, really, ever since his dear Emma had passed away nearly three years ago.
            Emma. Like a tidal wave crashing, the memories came flooding back: his darling wife, their marriage for fifty-seven years, the pure joy of their long, fulfilling  life together. A sharp, crushing pain suddenly pierced his heart. He stumbled. Fortunately, his cane propped him up, maintaining his balance. He put his hand to his chest ignoring the plaintive voice behind him calling, "Sir?"
            After a few moments his heart rate slowed and his breathing returned to normal. It wasn't a heart attack he was having. It was much worse; a heart broken by loss and still struggling to bear the weight of his ongoing sorrow. Still healing.
            He steadied himself and gripped his cane, equilibrium restored. It was then he heard the voice drifting into his consciousness. The lady in the wheelchair.
            "Sir? Can I help?"
            He turned and saw her look of concern vanish as she realized he was all right. She smiled and gave him a little wave, fingers fluttering like butterfly wings.
            He took a deep breath and let it out. She seemed nice. It might be good to talk to someone. Emma wouldn't mind, would she? Just to talk?
            He took a tentative step forward. Then another as he slowly made his way toward the old lady, his cane tap-tapping through the leaves.
            When he was next to her, he tipped his hat and introduced himself. "Hi. My name's Earl," he said.
            "I'm Sophie," she answered, smiling.  Then she motioned to the bench. "Why don't you sit?"
            Something about her caused his frozen facial muscles to thaw and relax. He returned her smile, obliterating his perpetual frown. It felt good.
            After only a moment's hesitation, he said, "Thank you."
            Then he sat down and joined her.

About the author 

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and writes full time. He loves contributing to CafeLit. If you like this story you can check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Time for a Change


by Robin Wrigely

black coffee

‘C’mon Lori for heaven’s sake, wake up, will you? I told you not to get so pissed last night cos we had this trip booked this morning. Get up and get bloody dressed or we’re going to miss the boat’.

     ‘Leave me alone. I don’t want to go on any bloody boat trip.’

     ‘But we’ve paid for it Lori.’ Katy was getting angry now as she knew her friend could be really lazy and stubborn at times like this. She had witnessed it so many times in the past.

     So what? Tell ‘em I’m sick or something. You’re pretty good at excuses’. Lori pulled the pillow over her head as she rolled away from Katy.

     ‘Alright that’s it. I’m never ever going with you on holiday again, Lori Chalmers. You’ve been nothing but a pain in the arse since we left home, and this is the last straw.’ With that Katy picked up her bag and stormed out of the room slamming the door behind her. 

     The two girls had arranged this trip to New Zealand at the last minute. Katy only came to accompany Lori to get her out of this huge well of depression she had fallen into when her boyfriend Danny unceremoniously dumped her on her birthday.

     The trip was an all-in deal booked on last minute deal and covered a four week’s tour of New Zealand. They had just explored the volcanoes around Rotorua when a tout suggested the trip to White Island to see the famous volcano out there.

     Having managed to get back to sleep for a few hours Lori staggered out of bed and headed for the bathroom. She was desperate for the toilet. Sitting on the toilet she mulled over the thoughts most prominent in her state of alcoholic depression. She flushed the toilet, walked back into the room, switched on the television and fell back on the bed.

     On the television two significant things caused her to sit up and audibly gasp. The first were the huge plumes of smoke emitting from what the television presenter said was White Island. The second was the time. She had been asleep five hours since Katy left.

     ‘Jesus,’ was all she could exclaim through the fingers of the hand clasped over her mouth. Having watched and listened to the report of the catastrophe that had occurred at the site where Katy was and where she, herself should have been, tears sprung into her eyes.

     Minutes later standing under the welcome relief of the shower a plan started to formulate in her mind. Everyone would think she was caught up in that disaster. Just like some those people she read about in the papers covering the tower block fire in London, she was going to disappear.

     It was time for a change. Wipe out the miseries of her past life and start afresh. She started to hum as she completed her shower. She had a lot to do.