Hot Off the Press!

Well, it’s been three years since To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories was published on Amazon, and following on from the success of that title, plus To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories and Bound in Morocco: A Short Story of Intrigue, (both published in 2017) it is my pleasure to announce the publication of not one, not two, but THREE new titles! This time, I have curated stories on the themes of humour and the supernatural from ‘the best of my blog,’ re-read and revised, plus unpublished stories. 40 stories on each theme have been collected into two volumes; Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth, and The Window Crack’d and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Horror and the Supranatural.

Comic Tragedy

(900 words) Monastic life had its ups and downs. At first it had been quite exciting, rising at 4.30 in the old Abbey in the summer, seeing mist covering the expansive lawns, whilst a golden glow on the horizon diffused over the orchard. Opening a window with its ancient leaded panes and breathing in that air, the air of creation. Taking it deep, deep into the lungs, holding it, thanking God for this life, and exhaling with gratitude. As the months went past and summer turned to autumn and autumn turned to winter, it wasn’t quite so exciting. The attraction of getting out of a warm bed onto stone cold flags, seeing your breath misting in the candlelight, not so appealing. Then a trip down a dimly lit corridor to fetch a jug of hot water for washing and shaving. Today, there was something wrong, the water was freezing cold, an ordeal to do my ablutions. Then out into the cold wind of the cloisters to the church and Vigils, the first service of the day. Brother Cecil greeted me, his double chin wobbling beneath his round pink face. “Having a lie-in Brother Paul?” “No, the water wasn’t heated, it took me longer.” Brother Cecil’s laugh sounded like a dog barking. “When I was a novice the water was never heated!”

The Stardust of a Song

(1600 words) Say nothing when Ruth comes in, Brodie Somers told himself. There she was. Tall, slim, long blonde hair blowing in the freshening wind. She was laughing, smiling at him. Robbie McClelland, the wretched layabout, lolling in his open-top Mazda. With his black leather jacket and hair greased back, he looked like a reject from Happy Days. An all-around bad influence on his daughter, Brodie thought. Ruth waved to Robbie as he roared off inland, down the little lane. Against the gulls calling, the waves rolling on the beach, and the rustling grass on the dunes, the intermittent noise of Robbie's revving engine as he careered back into town was like an insult to the quiet countryside, like someone throwing a dog turd in your face. Brodie hurriedly put the binoculars away as the door opened and Ruth came in

Connections

(650 words) Given that there were fewer than seven hours before the Sapphire of the Seas sailed from Le Havre, Third Engineer Giuseppe ‘Joseph’ Marino queued anxiously at Portsmouth ferry terminal. The ferry was due to leave in thirty-five minutes and the sailing time to Le Havre was five and a half hours, given a calm sea. He became aware of a small girl at his side. “All those destined for Bilbao, please proceed to gate C,” came an announcement. Joseph’s heart thudded. No, he was destined for Le Havre, gate F. That was OK, everything was fine. He wiped the sweat from his brow. “I’m lost, I’m not sure where my mummy and daddy are.” Joseph looked down at two brilliant blue eyes in the little girl’s upturned face, and his heart melted. Then back to the noticeboard. Departure in less than thirty minutes. In a pocket, his fingers crushed a used train ticket. If he missed the ferry, he missed the cruise ship. If he missed the cruise ship, he missed three months’ work, three months’ good wages, wages he couldn’t afford to lose. He’d be busting his nuts in a crummy, low paid job at home. No contest.

The Collecting Game

(800 words) “I’m here to talk about collecting,” said the man with a red face and a bald head with a couple of sandy tufts above the ears. He reminded me of an aged Tintin. “Why should you collect? you may ask, and what should you collect?” “Well, how would you like to fill your house with useless junk and annoy people?” my wife whispered in my ear. A very practical lady was Sandra. A place for everything and everything in its place. And if it hadn’t been used in six months, it was down to the charity shops or the tip with it, as I knew from bitter experience, looking in vain for my favourite mac on one – not to be discussed – occasion.

The Gold, It’s in the ….

(1250 words) Three men sat around an open fire in front of a tent. It was a hot night, for the time was early August, and the place Central America. To the north, the twinkling lights in the distance told of Mexico City. To the south, the skyline was blotted out by a huge black shadow, rising like a pyramid from the rocks that strewed the district. Borkovski swigged on a sliver hipflask, “El oro, ¿Donde està?” The Mexican’s face split in a wide smile, a thick black moustache above whiter-than-white teeth. “The gold, señor, well, how should I know where eet is?” “Because your brother, Carlos, he’s suddenly driving around in a brand-new Cadillac.” “Carlos, he gamble. Maybe he win big?” “Look,” I said, “don’t play us for bloody fools! You disappear into the mountains for six months, barely a couple of pesos to rub together. Then suddenly you set up this trekking company and Carlos is swanning around in a silver machine like he owns the town!”

Deflated

(1000 words) I remember it was a Tuesday when I awoke to feel that something had changed. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But I felt different, I didn’t know how. I looked in the mirror, then looked again in disbelief. My face wasn’t looking back at me! No beard and moustache, no kindly blue eyes (or so I thought), no curly blond hair. Instead, I could see the reflection of the wall behind me. What was going on? Was this some kind of practical joke? On impulse, I picked up my alarm clock and held it up in front of the mirror. There it was, ticking away, suspended in mid-air!

The Yukon Called

(1150 words) Miriam Jesney was a blonde, piquant thing of nineteen summers with no relations but Gilbert, a semi-mythical brother, on the Yukon, who had not found enough gold to send her any. She earned her living – two pounds a week – as a guitarist at the splendid tea parties of the Hotel Bemrose. “Hey, Miriam, honey, what was that thing you were playing tonight?” asked Hank Malone one evening, approaching her while she sat at the hotel bar, nursing a glass of white wine. Miriam smiled. Hank was OK, a lumbering, gentle giant of a man. “Well, which one? I played quite a bit of stuff.” Hank admired Miriam’s skin. It was like pink china, and her eyes, well, those huge green eyes, were like … like crystals! “That last one, a … a rippling type of thing.” “Why, that was a study in arpeggios, just different right-hand fingerings for the same chord progression. By an Italian gentleman named Ferdinando Carulli.” “Arp … arpeggios, what’s that?” Miriam looked into Hank’s open, honest face. “Know what a chord is, Hank?” “Yeah, sure … well, no, not exactly.”

Castle Trethergowan

(1100 words) Every morning, come rain, come shine, I’d walk the cliff tops, watching huge waves thundering against the rocks and hearing the cries of gulls being thrown across the sky. There, across the strait, in the far distance were the twins’ cottages. The twins who’d taken something of mine. Something very precious. Through binoculars, I could see thin white spirals of smoke from their chimneys. For now, they were still breathing. Then, past the broken and missing windows of Castle Trethergowan, its ancient greenstone weathered and pitted by the centuries and now surrendered to the unstoppable force of ivy. Today, a very special day, I resisted the temptation to climb its creaking staircases to huge, empty chambers, there to gaze through moulded glass out at the moorland and heather of the lonely island. Instead, I made my way back to the farm to collect warm freshly laid eggs from the chicken run.

Lost in Translation

(1000 words) We’d come down to the stream to find there was no bridge. Instead, lumps of rock protruded from the water at semi-regular intervals. Stepping-stones. “We cross here,” announced Eric. “Hang on a minute, it looks quite deep,” said Jan. “And those rocks look slippery,” said Petra. “Come on, girls, you’re not scared of a little stream are you,” laughed Eric. “What say you, Saul?” “Well,” I said, “we can’t go back. I’ll go first.” I took off my boots and socks, stuffed the socks into the boots, tied the laces together and strung them around my neck. Then I rolled my trousers up to my knees. “Good luck,” laughed Eric, slapping me on the back.

All Will Be Well

(1000 words) One summer night, a man stood on a low hill overlooking a wide expanse of field and forest. By the orange crescent moon hanging low in the west, he knew it was near the hour of dawn. A light mist lay along the earth, but above it, tall trees showed against a clear sky, and far off, the small dark rectangle of a farmhouse lay visible through the haze. She’ll be asleep in her bed, he thought, feeling his body stir at the thought of naked flesh enmeshed in an eiderdown and the smell of a sleeping woman. He turned the freshly sharpened axe to a more comfortable position on his shoulder and began to walk the path down the hill, the path to the farmhouse, nestling there in the grey distance, perhaps half a mile away. As he trod the track in the silent early morning, the first birds began to stir. Soon, the deafening dawn chorus would be ringing out over the countryside. But before then, it would all be over.