Brief Encounter


(1200 words) At Stamford Brook a couple got on and sat at the far end, and an elderly woman took a seat opposite me in the otherwise empty carriage. I looked up. She wore a smart silver-grey jacket and trousers, and a matching headscarf over curly white hair. I watched her take out a small notebook filled with tiny writing in a neat blue hand that went right to the edges of the pages. With a pencil she began to underline certain sentences and paragraphs. I watched her at her self-appointed task and the more I watched, the more I wondered. It couldn’t be, surely? The woman looked up over pince-nez, sensing my stare. an imperceptible smile playing on her rouged lips. Then she went back to her underlining. Finally, I could stand it no more. In a hushed tone I said, “Excuse me, do you know you’re the spitting image of … of the Queen?” She put her book down and looked at me over her glasses with piercing blue eyes. “That’s one way of putting it.” She gave a small smile. “And who are you?”

Down and Out


(900 words) It was easy to ignore a down-and-out, someone who represents a world you don’t want to know about, when you were streaming past with other cinema-goers. Not so easy now the streets hereabouts were empty and there were just the two of us and the poor soul under the bridge, sitting staring into space in the chill October air. I walked over to the canal that ran beside the path and gazed into the black water, wondering if anything was alive in that strange, dark, oil-polluted world. Far off,  the clock in the town square struck the chime for a quarter to eleven. Suddenly I heard a scream.

The Miner


(1000 words) Originally built nearly two hundred years earlier, the substantial farmhouse had withstood all weathers. Until now. Yasmin Hill looked back in the distance to the roof just visible above the floodwater, then to Tom, his old face furrowed in concentration beneath the miner’s helmet as he rowed them out further and further away from her home, or what had been her home. “We’re at sea now, young ‘un,” he said after a while. The sky was the colour of mud and heavy drops of rain fell intermittently, spattering Yasmin’s thin bare legs and anorak, the hood pulled tight over her blonde hair. “How do you know?” The rain ran in rivulets down Tom’s helmet, then were soaked up by the collar of an old duffle coat. “I can tell by the tide, it’s growing stronger.”

The Boy in the Attic


(900 words) “Word of advice, young lady.” Shannon Morris pulled a face. “What, Dad?” “When Granddad tells you it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed, d’you understand?” “Oh God, they go to bed so early. Granddad thinks half past nine is late!” “Look, they’re good enough to look after you for two weeks. Feed you, wash your clothes, drive you into town; the least you can do is show them some respect. D’you hear me, young lady. Hey …” But she was already heading for her bedroom.

When the Fat Man Croaks


(900 words) “Death, I am not keen on, overmuchly,” said Donut Dave, turning a funny shade of yellow. “Well, I’m only passin’ on what I heard last night at Max’s,” I said. “Seems Big Cyril and da boys is out lookin’ for you. On account of you visitin’ Missy Cymbeline Banks, Cyril’s best gal.” “Sure, I seen her, but only to measure her up for a trombone, says she wants to learn in secret like, give Cyril and the boys a big surprise at the club one night.” Donut was a hot jazz piano player, so I guessed there was some truth in his story. “Well, the way I hear it, Cyril’s gotta surprise in mind for you, he’s gonna be measurin’ you up – for a pair of concrete pyjamas!” There was a knock on the door and Donut looked around frantically for somewhere to hide.

Sink or Swim


(900 words) Agnes stood at the edge of the assembled villagers gathered around the old stone bridge. On the bridge stood Matthew and Tobias, both blacksmiths, and Thomas the cobbler with his half-witted son, Jacob. The latter wore a leering grin as the two pairs of men lowered two women, tied around with ropes, into the scum-covered river Lud that formed a pool below the bridge. A cheer went up as they were dumped unceremoniously into the water. “Now we’ll see as they’ll sink or no!” laughed Susanna, the village candlemaker, then all fell silent as bubbles rose from the submerged bodies.

Tastes Like Hippopotamus to Me


(800 words) Sprong and Brackett was distinguishable from other shops by the broomsticks, pointed hats and mountain of strange bric-a-brac in its bowed windows. Candles, crystals, and incense sticks rubbed shoulders with figurines of nature spirits, oracle cards and pendants of all shapes and sizes. Marcy pushed the door open and a bell rang. No one was around. She went through to the back and saw a small glass phial on a table. She put it in a pocket and left an envelope in its place. Then she hurriedly exited the shop.

Life Moves On


(700 words) So, I’d got into Judy’s silver convertible as she donned Ray Bans and drove us through narrow country roads, alternately overhung by green boughs then bordered by wide-open fields full of waving crops. I’d admired her sculpted profile. “You could slow down.” Of course, that was a signal for her to put her foot down even more. Judy was like that. Then we pulled up at an old church, much to my amazement. The windows had been knocked out and there was just the shell left. Inside were blackened areas on the stone flags where fires had been lit by persons unknown. It was cold and eerie. “It’s deconsecrated, looked after by the rural church commission, but they want to sell.” Judy’s voice echoed around the stone walls. “Who would buy a place like this?” I asked.

The Great and the Good


(900 words) I’d been distracted, adjusting my rear-view mirror, when this old codger had just lurched onto the zebra crossing out of nowhere. I wasn’t drunk but admittedly a couple of glasses of Shiraz at the theatre had perhaps dulled my reactions. Hannah and I looked and dressed alike so when we’d stopped the car, it was obvious he wasn’t sure who the driver had been. I breathed a sigh of relief as she did the ‘decent thing’ and saved my political career, ‘confessing all’ to the ambulance driver and the police.

The Telos Project


(950 words) “Attribution isn’t my favourite word right now, Dad.” Sandy said, taking her essay back from me. She smoothed her ginger hair and her snub-nosed, freckled face looked down at her feet. “Look sweetheart, if you’re going to use someone else’s work in your essay, you have to give credit to the author. If … Continue reading The Telos Project