(1000 words) 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.
(1000 words) “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?” “What?” “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.” “Now what?” “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.” “What?" “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