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have curated stories on the themes of humour and the supernatural from ‘the best of my blog,’ re-read and revised, plus unpublished stories. 40 stories on each theme have been collected into two volumes; Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth, and The Window Crack’d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.
Category: over 1200 word stories
(1250 words) “Maximus, Maxie!” Down at the edge of the breakers, I could see my little King Charles spaniel running along with something in his mouth. At my call, he hesitated, looking out to sea, his senses full of the foaming waves crashing on the beach, then he was running up the sand towards me, carrying whatever it was. He reached me and shook his coat, spraying my face with drops of salty water. “Oi, Max!” I wiped myself down and went to look at what he’d dropped on the sand. It was a piece of wood, thin and slender, worn smooth by years of abrasion. “Clever boy!”
The Moonlit Garden (A Play)
The Moonlit Garden, a play for five voices (2000 words) Martin: Actually, my dear, I had a rather odd dream. Would you permit me to recount it? Rebeca: Of course. I’m intrigued! Martin: Well, there I was in a garden. It was night and there was a gibbous moon in the sky, turning the garden to silver. There was a fountain made of brick, with a large shallow pool around it, the whole set in a large depression off from some lawns. Rebecca: How lovely! Martin: Well, that’s the odd thing, the brickwork was old and the fountain nozzle bent and dry. The cement pool around it was cracked, with weeds poking through in places. Rebecca: How odd. Martin: Yes, as I looked around, everything seemed overgrown, as if time had forgotten the garden. But then I heard singing, soft gentle voices. I walked up from the fountain to a lawn, and there were women in long dresses, and with their hair unfettered and flowing free. They were beautiful, smiling, holding out their hands; wanting me to join with them in a circle.
Billy Bunter’s Christmas Surprise
(2000 words) Harry Wharton looked at the letter in disbelief. His hopes for Christmas had been shattered. My dear Harry, we most deeply regret to inform you that we are currently undergoing extensive renovations at Wharton Lodge, and that they will not be completed in time for Christmas. So, your dear mother and I shall have to spend Christmas on a cruise to the tropics. Alas, funds do not allow for you to accompany us, dear boy, so, unfortunately you will have to spend Christmas at Greyfriars School. Mr. Quelch has kindly agreed to stay on over the holidays to look after you and give you extra Latin tuition, very good of him, I’m sure you’ll agree.
New Forest Frolics
1750 words “Funny things can happen on caravan holidays,” I said. “Well, she’s only going with Jack and Joanna, oh, and Bob of course, he’ll look after her, it’s just...” Bob was Sally’s brother, my grandson, Jack was a schoolfriend and Joanna his sister, all quite ‘sensible’, admittedly. “The other boys on the campsite. I know,” I said, “they’re randy sods at that age. They’ll do anything to get girls into their caravan, get them on the wine, and before long the lasses’ll be dropping their knickers!” “Don’t hold back mum!” laughed Trudy. “Look, make some tea, there’s something I need to tell you...” I replied.
Full Fathom Five
(1300 words) I stood at the railing, gazing out to the haze of the distant level horizon. The sea was calm, low deep blue waves undulating slowly, barely hinting at their potential ferocity. Ahead and far below me was the bow of the cruiser, where people, ant-like, sat by an unusually empty pool. I sighed and thought of Janie. Bitch! We’d had problems, sure, who doesn’t? But her leaving had come as a shock. It was Valentine’s Day, of all days, and I’d ordered some Adrenaline roses, her favourites. Unexpectedly, a silver BMW had pulled up, and I'd recognised Andy, her gym trainer, his dyed-blond hair swept over in an attempt to look youthful. Obviously it had worked. Janie appeared. “Look Steve, I don’t want a scene. I’m leaving. Me and Andy … I’ll be in touch about my things.” She’d looked embarrassed and hurried out, clutching her sports holdall, before I’d had time to reply. I watched her get into the car and kiss him. They drove off without looking back. Just then the flower delivery van had turned up. I’d taken the roses and thrashed them to pieces in the back garden with tears streaming down my face.
Just One Little Crumb
(1700 words) Oswald remembered his mother’s advice. “Never accept food from strangers.” “Why not mother?” he’d asked. “Well, if you buy it from Mr. Barmwell, the baker, you know he will have checked the ingredients and made sure they were all tip-top and wholesome. If you buy food from a shop, well they have important people who will have made sure the food is healthy and safe to eat.” “Yes, mother.” “But a stranger, well, they could have put poison in it, or worse!” Oswald scratched his head. “What’s worse than poison!” “Ah, well, there are potions that would turn you into a giant cockroach, or make your arms shrink to nothing, or turn everything you say into a scream of pain, or ….” “No, I won’t mother,” Oswald interrupted hastily, not wishing to hear further horrors. But now the wicked witch, for such was she, held out a crumb from the most delicious-looking cake Oswald had ever seen. “My mother said I mustn’t accept food from strangers.” “Ah, one little crumb can’t do any harm, surely?” Oswald, hesitated, then took the crumb from the old woman’s wrinkled hand and popped it into his mouth.
(1500 words) I poured boiling water onto fresh ground coffee, inhaling the feisty aroma. 11.30 p.m. Joanne should be here any minute. What the hell did she want? I couldn’t get my head around it. Unless someone had tried it on with her inappropriately. Molested her. That was the last thing I needed. “Darling, are you coming to bed?” It was Becky, my wife. Her blonde hair was ruffled and her heavy breasts pressed through her thin nightie. I felt my body stir. “No, someone from work called. They’re calling round any time now. … they want to talk. It’s urgent. I don’t know what it’s about. Some neurotic woman. I’ll get rid of her as soon as I can.” I kissed Becky’s warm nose. “Love you.” But Joanne didn’t call round and she wasn’t at work the next day. In fact, she wasn’t at work ever again.
The Psychic on the Hill
(1700 words) "What does he do all day, d’you think?” Alison said, standing at our bedroom window, looking out across the valley and up at the dilapidated farmhouse on the hill on the far side. I swivelled my chair around at my writing desk. “Didn’t you hear? Jenny says he’s a clairvoyant, does readings over the phone for people.” Alison looked in the mirror, restlessly brushing her long chestnut-brown hair. “What? How does that work, then?” “I don’t know how he does it, but they do tarot readings and stuff over the phone, don’t they?” “Hmm. That’s interesting. What, you mean people pay for it, without him seeing them?” “That’s what Jenny says. She cleans for him on Fridays, didn’t you know? Says he seems a nice bloke, keeps himself to himself. ‘Very spiritual,’ that’s what she says. D’you think he’d give me a message from mum?” I sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe. Why don’t you give him a call?” In slow motion, her long, slim fingers replaced her hairbrush on the dressing table. “OK, perhaps I will.”
An Eye for an Eye
(1400 words) I stared in total disbelief. I’d returned home from work to find my front door hanging from broken hinges and the whole house surrounded with yellow tape, stating POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS. I looked around. There were no police vehicles, that I could see anyway, and nothing happening at any of our neighbours’ houses. All seemed quiet and deserted. I ducked under the tape and went in. A table in the hall lay on its side, but in the lounge, everything seemed normal. Then I looked in the kitchen. It looked as if a giant arm had swept everything onto the floor. There were broken cups and plates strewn around everywhere. I spied a mobile phone amongst them, my son Jack’s, I thought. How odd. I picked it up and put it in a jacket pocket. As I did so, I noticed a dark stain on the brown kitchen carpet tiles, and what appeared to be speckles of blood all over the crockery. A saucepan on the stove, now cold, had a blackened base, as if it had boiled dry. “You’re not allowed in the house, sir!” I turned around and jumped out of my skin. A man stood in a yellow suit with a huge clear visor. Through it, I could see he was breathing with a respirator. He wore black rubber gloves and shoes. “What’s going on. Where’s my wife and son?”
A Tall Story
(1450 words) Reaching the end, I closed my eyes and turned around on the plank by feel. Then I opened them again and looked back at Jessie, silhouetted against the top of the tall spire. I couldn’t see her face, just blonde hair blowing in the breeze, against the slate-grey tiles. She was stood on a platform close to the top of the steeple of St. Stephen’s church, Budhaven, one of the tallest in Britain. Above, on the very tip of the spire, a small but ornate metal cross surmounted a thick strip of copper lightning conductor which ran down the side of the steeple and ultimately into the earth. “You OK, Ben?” she called. I gave a thumbs up sign. The plan was to photograph me for Facebook, standing at the end of a narrow plank with a four hundred foot drop below! Now, out here, the reality was a bit different. It was really quite breezy, it might be dangerous.
Reflections of a Traitor
(1200 words) Like something out of a James Bond film, I was to observe and photograph a Russian agent being handed secrets. The setting, Painter’s Fairground, set up for the week on a field just out of town. It was getting dark and I wandered between the brightly lit and gaudily painted stalls, laden with brilliantly coloured boxes containing tacky plastic toys. I inhaled the smell of electricity, petrol engines and candy floss, whilst my ears were assailed by the noise and excitement of the rides. The bumper cars careening across their conductive floor, sparks flying from the connecting rods as they moved across the ceiling. Crazily driven by laughing teenagers, girls made up to look ten years older, twenty-five instead of fifteen, accompanied by lanky youths in coloured tops and tight jeans. I passed the Ghost Train, hearing the thundering vehicle passing through the wooden shack, children screaming in faux-fright, and always, the relentless chugging of generators everywhere. I tried in vain to imagine someone designing a Ghost Train vehicle and the ‘spooky’ house it ran through. And factories manufacturing them in some godforsaken place. “Hey, Pal, wanna try your luck?” A barker with a time-worn face and pork-pie hat addressed me from a shooting gallery where little ducks ran on rails. “Sure.” I put two pound coins into his brown leather hand and took a rifle