(1000 words) Monastic-style beers were her favourite. Heavy, sweet, and above all, high alcohol! She peered through the small opaque panes of Oliver’s Beer and Books. No sign of anyone in the small cafe behind the faded yellow door. She pushed it open and a bell rang. Inside was a counter, and behind, shelves upon which stood perhaps twenty dusty brown bottles. Bold fonts on cream and blue labels displayed odd foreign names - Zundert, Achel, Gregorius, Westmalle, all ones that she was now familiar with. Perhaps too familiar? A coffee machine, all shiny bright steel and red levers stood at one end of the counter. The enticing odour of coffee was noticeable by its absence.
Category: 700-1200 word stories
(950 words) Their mother's voice became serious. “Now the moon has gone through one cycle, it is time to make your own way in life. I will no longer be here to suckle you, and you must continue to wean on the fruits of the woods and farmers’ fields.” “But will we still see you, mother?” asked Blackberry, Sycamore’s brother, with a tear in his eye. “Yes, son, I will still frequent the same woods and fields, but it will only be a few moon-cycles before you will father leverets of your own. And just a few more before Bluebell, your sister, gives birth to her first litter.” “How exactly does that happen?” asked Sycamore, bemused. “You will find out son, never fear!” An older hare lolloped onto the moss. His coat had many curls and grizzled areas. Mother cleared her throat. “Now, I want to introduce someone to you. This is Uncle Ditch.”
They Come at Night
(900 words) “Head for the hills, ‘cos I’m looking for thrills …,” sang Hamish, his Scottish burr prolonging ‘thrills.’ “I could use some of those,” laughed Julia, a short, stocky woman in her sixties. I hoped she didn’t have me in mind. The sun was sinking, lengthening the shadows of saguaro cacti, towering here and there along our way. Ahead, in the distance, across miles of flat, arid, semi-desert scrubland, lay a low range of hills, our destination.
The Wind and the Waves
(850 words) With a heavy heart, I’ve decided to set down here an event from my distant youth, one that’s been troubling me for many a year. I’m now five years short of my century, not long for this Earthly plane and I need to get it off my chest. Well, it would have been back in about 1933, those inter-war years I so fondly remember, when hope burned in all our breasts, and optimism exuded from every pore. We’d gone on a school trip to South Wales and were staying in a youth hostel, a converted lifeboat house.
Once a Hero
(1200 words) Say what you like about Charles – and plenty of people had plenty to say – but before Charles came into my life Dominic had been a nightmare, fighting all the other kids at school, ranting and raving at home, and refusing to help out or tidy his room; in short, a real devil child. But he looked up to Charles, saw him as a kind of hero, which he was in a way I suppose. Charles would give Dominic little jobs to do – cleaning his crampons, coiling his ropes, helping to sort out the mountaineering gear he’d stowed in my shed, all those bits and pieces that had names I suppose, but looked like junk to me.
The Silent Woman
(1000 words) I was sitting at a bar with Tom, my ex-husband. He was being pleasant, that’s why I should’ve known it was a dream. “I think Toni should go back to art school,” he was saying, as an alarm shattered the illusion. I fumbled for my phone under the pillow as the clouds of sleep reluctantly rolled away. Any messages? Just one, a destination alert. ‘9 miles to The Silent Woman.’ What the hell?!
Promise the Moon
(1000 words) “Be polite and listen carefully,” said the old man to his four daughters, “and don’t speak unless you’re spoken to!” Their names were Anshula, Bakula, Chandhini and Darshini. By the grace of God, they had been born exactly three years apart so that all four shared the same birthday – that very day, the first of November – unique in all the land. Anshula was sixteen, Bakula thirteen, Chandhini ten, and little Darshini just seven. Now they waited, dressed in splendid saris, Anshula in maroon, Bakula in ruby red, Chandhini in royal blue and finally, little Darshini in emerald green.
Blow Up the World
(800 words) “Be quite sure to follow all instructions,” ‘Missileer’ Thomas Papineau reminded us, “to the letter.” Our white Dodge Durango turned off Interstate 80 just short of Sidney, Nebraska, heading north across the featureless Great Plains.
Nothing More, Nothing Less
(950 words) “Oh, look, darling, we simply must get rid of this ghastly furniture!” Reginald Wright rolled his eyes. “What’s wrong with it?” “Well, it doesn’t match for starters! And this green – thing – is ancient! Look, let’s order a new suite from McIntyre’s. They can do us a custom job. Top-of-the-range leather and how about a deep ruby-red? It’d suit this room to a tee!” Reginald held his tongue. Melissa was always right. Why argue? Her mother had died and left them a respectable sum. Now Melissa had her eyes on this old pile, Dalefern Manor, along with its almost-equally-old furniture. He replaced the dusty white sheets over the suite.
Come On, Bite!
(700 words) Persistence was wearing us down. “Hey, guys, let me come fishing with you, I promise I won’t muck about again.” Jeff must have said that twenty times. Martin and I exchanged glances. Jeff had come on an early morning trip to Hertford canal with us once. We’d cycled along empty lanes, the sun sparkling in the green canopy overhanging the road, past the infamous Clibbon’s post, marking a highwayman’s grave, and down to the deserted canal, where mist rose, steaming and ethereal. After an hour of catching nothing more substantial than minnows, Jeff had spent his time throwing stones at ducks and carving his name into a memorial bench. Never again! we’d agreed.
(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!”
(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.