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.

The Poet Tree

(700 words) Who would’ve thought it? On the old wooden noticeboard, behind mouldy glass, it said that the poet Tennyson used to sit under the tree, reading his immortal words to the, doubtless bemused, villagers. What tree? I wondered. Then I noticed that the verdant mass of foliage and ivy behind the notice board hid an ancient hollow trunk, all that remained of a no doubt impressive oak, that could indeed have housed Tennyson and not a few peasants below its enormous branches and splendid canopy, albeit two hundred years earlier.

Six Feet Under

(700 words) Parish work is immune to dates. It has to be done three hundred and sixty-five days a year. For that very reason, Freddy Bucket sat up in bed and turned on the bedside lamp. Christmas is a very sad day of the year, he thought. Of all the millions of people in London, I am practically the only one who has to get up in the cold black of 6 a.m. on Christmas Day in the morning. I am practically the only one.

A Lincolnshire Churchyard Revisited

(700 words) Three years after I’d watched the red kite circling above the graveyard, I once more stood at my father’s graveside in the quiet country churchyard. No sound, just a warm breeze on my face and white clouds moving silently in the blue September sky. The grey headstone was stained and the three years since I’d last remarked on it could have been ten. No gilding to the letters on the plain dull grey stone, worn by the rain, wind and ice in colder months, meant close examination was required to discover whose bones lay interred there.

The Listening

(700 words) John Gamble looked at his son, Ian, with pride. He’d grown into a fine young man, just started at a prestigious architectural company after his degree, and here he was with Gloria, his charming new girlfriend. John admired Gloria’s long chestnut hair and her perfect smile, appreciated her intelligent conversation, and, dare he … Continue reading The Listening

Life Moves On

(700 words)

There was a text from Suzie on my phone. It said, simply, ‘Mike, tell her, yes.’ Hmm. OK, well it went against my idea of common sense, but, well, ‘Suzie knows best.’

It was funny how it’d turned out. The three years we were together quickly lost their appeal and alternately rowing and not speaking to each other became the order of the day. Then she’d met Vernon and I’d met Judy and we’d gone our separate ways.

On the House

(700 words)

We approached across sandy concrete to the faded green panels of the kiosk. Behind the counter, bustling around, moving cups and plates and things, a lady with a thin face and grizzled curly hair, the Loreal-colour long since faded. She smiled, her teeth falsely white against her brown, wrinkled skin. “Hello.”

“Hello,” Joy said, “it’s been a long time since anyone’s been open on the beach. Me and Tony, er, my husband, we walk along here most days.”

The lady compressed her lips, “Well, it’s exactly a year today since my Fred died, I figured I should do something to mark his … passing.”

Daydream Believer

(700 words)

The Monkees would be on the radio.

Cheer up sleepy Jean
Oh, what can it mean to a
Daydream believer and a
Homecoming queen?

We used to laugh, because grandma’s name was Jean. I never understood what a Homecoming Queen meant, I guess it’d have different connotations now.
It was never mentioned, but upstairs lay a terrible secret.

Great Aunt Delilah’s Blanket

(700 words)

“Granny, tell me the story about Great Aunt Delilah’s Blanket!”
“I’ve already told you.”
“That was ages ago, I can’t remember!”
We both sat by the fireside in my farm cottage. “Well, my grandmother, that would be your great-great-grandmother, had a sister called Delilah. So that was my Great Aunt, you see. Anyway, it was said she had healing powers and many sick people would go to her house and come away feeling well again.”
"Could she have healed Daddy d’you think?”

Letters from Reuben

(700 words)

I start to go around my apartment, dumping papers and associated junk unceremoniously into the boxes. Box one, a stack of writing magazines that have been cluttering my desk for months. Why don’t I read them? Or write, for that matter? Oh, I don’t have time, of course. Well I guess I could quit watching endless re-runs of Seinfeld, but, well, I wouldn’t want to break the habit of a lifetime. Anyway, out of sight, out of mind!

The Strangest Cross

(700 words)

Settlers followed pioneers, who followed scientists, who followed robots. Now, biodomes dotted the frozen red desert that stretched to the pink horizon. The settlers found the soil to be good and plants to grow quickly. Wells bored deep into the surface found aquifers to nourish the plants.

Soon – despite warnings – children were born. Children who grew imperially tall and thin, with brown skin, knowing smiles and, shining from green eyes, intelligence beyond their years. And strangest of all, many of them were born with an extra finger on the right hand.