Smitten

(800 words) I have collected in my time – to the chagrin of my dear beloved husband, Cyril – snow globes, porcelain cats, and Tommy guns, and perhaps I should explain what happened to these old collections before I proceed to my newest hobby. My Tommy gun collection may be regarded as having been discontinued since I collected only two, the second and final one as long ago as 2003. Not only are they hard to come by and very expensive, but they are also highly illegal.

A Sliver of Silver

(800 words) Donnie Jackson went to bed feeling elated. Tomorrow was his fourteenth birthday and his mother had told him they’d be taking him somewhere for a special surprise. He lay in bed, listening to the traffic on the nearby motorway. Donnie likened it to the relentless waves on the shore at their summer home on Morton Island. He wondered where they would take him? Maybe to the climbing centre? He’d made noises about wanting to learn rock climbing. Or maybe they’d arranged a secret outing with his friends? To the bowling alley, maybe to the skate park? But his best friend Marty Chang had seemed normal at school. Not like he was hiding a big secret. And he knew Marty better than anyone. He hoped it wouldn’t be a trip to a boring museum or art gallery. The thought of that made a funny feeling in his stomach. Like he was going to puke.

In Memoriam

(800 words) We all know how much we depend on our postmen and postwomen,” intoned Arthur, the vicar, concluding the eulogy, “and Barney was one of the best. Everyone loved Barney.” I looked around the packed church. There was Mavis McLung with her cheeky face surrounded by a mop of ginger curls, courtesy of L’Oréal. Then there was Carol Hardaker, her pug-like visage glaring around at the other villagers lining the pews, her bitchiness silenced through necessity for the time being. In the front row sat Maureen, Barney’s widow, dressed in a neat black two-piece with a black hat and veil. Her two teenage sons sat to her right, their eyes red and swollen. My wife, Sue, took my arm as we finally traipsed out into the graveyard and the warm sun of an early spring morning. “What a bunch of hypocrites,” she whispered.

Train of Thought

(850 words) It was a spring day, and the writer sat on a bench under the station clock. He took a deep breath, revelling in the sensation of rebirth in the warm air. In the distance, far off, below the backdrop of craggy, pine-covered mountains, he could just make out a dot that signified the oncoming train. He was very old, and his thin frame seemed lost within the baggy grey suit he wore. He looked up at the clock, where the thick black minute hand against the white disc had just passed 11.50. Yes, the train would be on time.

A Woman Scorned

(800 words) “Lie down and die, why don’t you!” Clydie James shouted at a large black dog that had begun barking at her in the street. It was late afternoon, with heavy silver clouds looking bigger than cornfields, and presently it began to rain. Big round drops fell, still in the sunlight, on the hot tin sheds and sidewalks of the little town of Faraday. A hen and her string of yellow chickens ran in great alarm across the road, whilst the dust turned river brown. “Nobby!” An old man called the dog’s name, and – to Clydie James’s relief – they both disappeared.

The Invisible Man

(800 words) It was late in the afternoon when the bus stuttered to a halt outside the old hotel in the foothills. The town square was deserted, save for a cow in the shade of the once-imposing colonial buildings, swishing its tail by a water trough. Inside, we sat on worn leather sofas in a huge vestibule, cooled by the blades of an enormous fan above. “Buenos dias,” I heard a concierge say to our leader, West. “What’s your name?” a bespectacled woman asked me. Her hair was held back in a grey pony tail and her bare legs and calves were brown and pudgy. “Mine’s Norma.” “Oh, it’s Colin, pleased to meet you.” Though I wasn’t really.

The Assignment (One Crazy Day)

(800 words) Elvina hadn’t enjoyed it in the library, all those anonymous people staring at screens. Anyway, wasn’t it supposed to be about books in a library? Then there were the sour-faced, grey-haired women at the help desks, annoyed to have to look up and answer questions, and, of course, smelly old men reading the newspapers and farting. But her assignment had been to go the library and find a book, any book, but one on a subject she wouldn’t normally look at and relevant to the project. “Do you have a key for that glass case upstairs,” she’d asked. The woman at the desk had stared at her, squinting through thick lenses, irritated at having to break from her card-indexing. “What do you say?” Elvina found herself blushing as she repeated the question. The woman rummaged around for a key and got up, sighing heavily, “Oh, follow me then.”

Opening the Third Eye

(800 words) “Good afternoon, could you point me in the direction of the travel books please?” he asked. The woman was slim, neat, and quite pretty, he admitted, despite her pointed lack of make-up. She gave a friendly smile, got up and took him down a short, well-lighted corridor to the required area. Just then, the shop bell rang and a young woman entered with a small child in tow, a boy of about six. “Did you know you’ve got one of them square face things sprayed on your shop?” The shop lady sounded anxious. “What? No, I didn’t. What does it mean?” “I dunno, just I heard there’s been a few appearing round town. They say it’s to do with gangs.” “What do you mean, gangs?” “I dunno, something to do with an initiation rite, you know, to join the gang.”

Revelation

(800 words) Fish, a wet cold fish, that’s what Lazarescu reminded her of! The lights were on now and the audience on their feet giving rapturous applause. Rapturous applause for a lacklustre concert – to put it mildly! Freshny was on his feet, clapping for all his worth. He looked down at her, his eyes saying ‘Why aren’t you joining in this standing ovation?’ Matilde stood up and hit her hands together, watching the bald-headed old man bow and bow; surely, he’d barely be able to move tomorrow, she thought. She’d never enjoyed the scrape of the cello, but Freshny had got her a ticket. Made a big deal of it. Surely she’d heard of Lazarescu, the most famous Romanian cellist of all time? Then a look of incredulous disdain when she’d said that, no, she’d never heard of him.

Apple Cider

(800 words) When she looked up she saw the angel. He towered above her, shrouded in a black cloak and hood, looking down at her. In the light of the flaming torch he held, she saw his face was young, almond-shaped, his full lips pursed, as if intending to speak, … or about to kiss her. She felt a wave of the most glorious love she’d ever felt, washing over her, the best feeling she could ever remember. “Am I dead?” Looking around, she saw they were surrounded, almost cocooned, by a golden light. She felt completely at peace and asked the question without hesitation. The angel smiled. “If you were dead, would you be able to speak to me?” “Well, you know what I mean, ‘not alive’.” “Of course you’re alive. You see, you hear, you think!” “But, where are we, where’s Apple Cider?”