(1000 words) “Calm down now and listen up,” said our sixth form tutor, Miss Hughes. “That includes you, Kara Simons.” She jabbed a finger in my direction. "Now, today's the first of our career sessions and I’m pleased to welcome our two guests to speak about their careers and what you could expect if you were to follow in their footsteps.” I looked from a twenty-something woman in a pink two-piece to a man of a similar age, clad in camouflage get-up, olive green with grey-white bits. He wore a green beret with two rows of little white and red squares at the bottom, and a thick black belt. His lips were thin and he looked around the classroom with disdain. “This is Miss Cheskin,” said Miss Hughes, gesticulating to the woman. “She’s here to talk about a career in retail sales.” The woman stepped to the front and gave a bright smile. “So, how many of you like the idea of working in a department store? Hands up.” A plain spotty girl, Ruth Smith, lifted a fat arm up. “Wouldn’t mind.” “I wouldn’t want to be served by you!” said Johnny Harris. The class laughed. “That’s enough, Harris,” snapped Miss Hughes. “Please carry on, Miss Cheskin.”
(1000 words) Known to my friends as a rather, dare-I-say, boring type – “Sammy doesn’t even have a television, he reads books!” – and for someone who eschews festivities and hedonism in general, I surprise even myself with what I am about to reveal. How a staid bachelor-type, working in an admittedly mundane computing role, came to regularly indulge in an activity with a buxom young Thai, that is, well, what some might call downright kinky. But I digress.
(950 words) Cattle auction car parks aren’t the kind of place where I’d have expected to pick a girl up, but there I was at the ticket machine waiting for a young woman in a brown raincoat to finish, when she turned to me with an exasperated look. “I’m sorry, I just got a new car and I can’t remember its number plate.” I smiled. “I have that problem too!” I pulled out a business card and turned it over to show my registration. She laughed. “Ha ha, that’s a good idea. I’m just going to guess for now. It’s not that important, it’s free anyway.” She stabbed the letter pad once more and I noticed she was left handed and wore no wedding band. She took her ticket and smiled at me. “Do you come here often?” I laughed but the irony seemed to pass her by. “Tuesdays and Fridays usually, when there’s no auction on.” “I only come when the auction’s on normally, I help lead the animals.” She spread her hands out wide. “Did you know a bull’s erect penis is thirty-eight inches long?”
(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.”
(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
One tall, lanky shape was the loathed silhouette of Mark. Whenever no one was looking, he’d say, “How’re you going, Jack,” and either punch me on the upper arm or pinch the skin on my forearm. I swear, sometimes after an evening with Mark, my arms were literally black and blue. I’d complained to mum and dad but they just said, “Don’t make a fuss, he’s only playing. Don’t be a softie.”
Softie! My arms REALLY hurt!
I took the firework to the opposite corner instead, and with my own torch, stolen from the Scouts, read the label. WARNING. I ignored the rest, spotting the fuse. It was only a firework after all.
“Where’s the key for the wardrobe in the spare room?”
“What … why?”
My wife, Jane, looked down at the carpet. “Oh, uh, I just fancied looking inside. Who knows what’s in there?” She gave an unconvincing laugh.
“What’s Lucy been saying?”
“Come on, what’s that girl been imagining this time?”
“Look, Tony, I’m worried about her. First there was that nonsense about Roman soldiers under the bed, now this.”
“Well, she said not to tell you, that you’d be cross.”
I felt a twinge of guilt. Perhaps I had been less than sympathetic over the soldier episode. But Lucy was eleven, for heaven’s sake. “Come on, out with it.” I smiled. “I won’t be cross, promise.”
“Well, she said she heard whispering from it.”
“She said it said ‘Let me out, it’s dark in here.’”
(1000 words) Feeling a little apprehensive, I went into the hotel, passing a smiling receptionist, then through to the bar and restaurant area. Smartly-dressed family groups ate at tables or sat in a more casual area with sofas, easy chairs, and leafy potted trees, drinking coffee or sipping wine. Quiet jazz music played in the background. For some odd reason I suddenly had an image of a group of skinheads bursting in, all braces, high Dr. Martens and shaven skulls. Up-ending tables and hurling them around, smashing glass and porcelain alike. People screaming as jabbing fists and thudding boots left a trail of broken and bloodied bodies. Fortunately, nothing like that occurred, and the sound of a gentle, tinkling jazz piano solo was all there was to be heard. At one table sat a young woman, conspicuously alone, looking at her phone. That must be my blind date, I thought, Jules. As I grew closer, she looked up, put her phone down and smiled. “Hello, are you Vincent?”
(1000 words) Then aged four, Elizabeth would shut herself away, writing words, gradually stringing them into sentences, accompanied by little pictures in green, red and yellow crayon. ‘The cat sat on the mat,’ ‘The bat sat on the cat.’ “Lizzy, why don’t you want to go and play with your friends. Little Josephine next door, she likes you. I’ll take you to the park together.” “It’s OK, mum,” she’d say, now five, going to her room and writing and drawing on her notepad. ‘The black-as-soot vampire bat dive-bombed the funny tabby cat.’ But the kids at school didn’t want a ‘clever clogs’ in their class and she knew her mother and father had to struggle to feed her and her two siblings. Writing, painting and drawing came low on their menu of survival.
“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 it’s almost-equally-old furniture. He replaced the dusty white sheets over the suite. “Fancy a snifter at the Coach and Horses?”
“That’d be nice, Reggie my darling, but look, let me call round at McIntyre’s first.”
Reginald sighed. “Whatever you say, dear.”
Timothy was an armchair, nothing more, nothing less. For fifty years he’d stood in this living room, with its high Georgian ceiling, chandelier and huge fireplace
“Do come through to the lounge. I’ve heard so much about you, Peter.”
“Oh, yeah, right, thanks.”
“My husband’s still at the church. He’ll be along presently. When he’s finished the service.”
We proceeded along a deep-carpeted corridor. Photographs of smiling family members hung on the walls and a tall grandfather clock ticked ponderously, attempting to keep the silence at bay.
Peter sat on a red-leather sofa with his back to a bay window, overlooking a neat garden which receded into the distance. He wore blue jeans; a black leather jacket and his long hair was washed and in a neat pony tail. “This room’s very nice Mrs. Johnson.”
“Oh, thank you, yes, there are many family heirlooms, as you can see. She gestured around at glass cabinets. All under lock and key!” She blushed furiously. “Oh, er, I mean ….”
“Of course, Mrs. Johnson.” Peter gave a charming smile. “You can’t be too careful around here.”
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.”
I wasn’t working today, so I’d set the alarm for 9.30. Best get up. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a door closing downstairs. I froze. There was no one in the house, just me.
I reached into a bedside cabinet and took out a kitchen knife. I quickly pulled on my underwear, some jeans and a sweater, then, with shaking hands, I crept down the stairs, startled at the loudness of my breath, and the thumping of my heart. On the second last step it creaked and I heard a noise from the kitchen. Adrenaline pumping, I threw the door open, brandishing the knife.
(1000 words) 9.00 So it’s nine in the morning and I’m on my first call, a pickup from The Admiral Derek in Castlehorn, driving to Lincoln. I pull up outside. No sign of anyone. I get out of the taxi and enter the hallowed doors of the hotel. Claude, the doorman greets me. “Good morning, … Continue reading Return of the Gnome
(1000 words) Old Man He looked across the village green to a small huddle of folks, dressed in T-shirts and shorts, mostly. They surrounded a boy, tall and skinny, his long brown hair flopping over his face. The boy, holding a long bow, reminded him of a lamppost gone wrong. Seemingly without effort, the boy … Continue reading Souls and Arrows
(1000 words) Head Cook and Bottle Washer was the name of the quaint little cafe I’d discovered. It looked empty, but I’d fancied a change from the noisy, greasy clientele, and the even greasier sausage rolls of Kell’s. “Here you are, sir.” A girl placed a silver tray onto the blue chequered tablecloth in front … Continue reading Golden Tips
(1000 words) “Servant?, well it’s, er, someone who performs duties for someone else, like someone who used to work in a big house in the old days, like a butler or a maid.” “Did they get paid?” asked Elsa, my eight year old granddaughter, a pretty little thing with blonde hair. I laughed. “Yes! … Continue reading Just the Ticket
(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 … Continue reading Monasticity
(1000 words) Melt the ice, that was the name of the game. I’d done it myself in guitar classes. Go round the circle, getting everyone in turn to say why they wanted to learn the guitar and what they hoped to achieve. This was a bit different though. We had to say why we wanted … Continue reading Is There Anybody There?
(1100 words) Waves in Plasmas. I flicked through pages of mind-boggling equations in the heavy hardback book. The Susceptibility and Dielectric Tensors. How the hell could I have understood this stuff? Thirty years later it might as well have been in Chinese! At the sound of muffled hammering I threw the book back into a … Continue reading What’s in Store?