Category Archives: Books

I placed it here to taunt you…

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My, how he hated the emaciated sub-species. It gave him no small amount of pleasure to drive his Daimler slowly along the perimeter fence laughing heartily at their plight.

In moments of particular malice it was his singular delight to have them polish the bodywork.

‘This automobile is like you. A collection of elements brought to heel and bound up in a chamber of fiery combustion into which gas is pumped.’

Defeat came quickly and there was little time for sentimentality. He left his precious vehicle behind and fled into obscurity – abandoning his Reich and his identity.

For many years he retreated ever south, constantly in fear of capture, plummeting at last to a lowly lean-to in the woods…

…outside of which…

…one morning…

…he discovered the husk of his once proud possession.

Despite the revulsion there was something to be admired in their audacity.

‘I can only imagine the logistics involved in such a feat.’

They rose from the undergrowth and spoke as one.

‘This automobile is like you. Burnt out, expended.’

 

Written for: Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

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Flash Fiction: Preordained

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Richard was fond of saying: ‘There’s something cathartic about knowing where you’ll end up,’ but in truth the photograph was the death of him.

He was just a minor when they lowered his father’s body into the earth.

‘Seven generations of Langhams languish in this graveyard,’ an ancient aunt alliterated, ‘and one day you too will reside here with the tree roots nestling against your belly.’

The words burrowed their way into his impressionable little mind and set him on a path of narcissistic self-reflection. Richard kept the photo about his person at all times and haunted himself long before he became a ghost.

 

Written for: Saturday Mix

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100ww #9: No Great Shakes…

Bikur

Image Credit: Toa Heftiba

The Sloans were, by nature, an incurious community, which was why they’d been granted stewardship of the egg. Twelve feet tall and wrapped in a thicket of ferns it stood in the town square weathering the seasons and centuries. In all that time The Sloans never once prodded it or tested the shell’s integrity. They were too diligent for such temptations; regarding it as a duty handed down from generation to generation.

Till finally.

One evening

A crack.

A seam of ethereal blue light.

And a voice.

Intrigue eventually aroused they gathered around.

‘What’s it saying Margot?’

‘Sounds like…’Ah, snacks.”

 

Written for: https://bikurgurl.com/2017/03/08/100-word-wednesday-week-7-2/

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Flash Fiction…

I’m in the process of touting various manuscripts around literary agents at the moment, but am also entertaining a few quirkier pastimes, one of which is Flash Fiction: the practice of telling a story in approximately 50 words. Here are a few of my efforts…

 

Paradox

‘I’m you from the future. Thirty years from now you’ll invent time-travel and prevent nuclear catastrophe.’

‘So, what you’re saying is that I grow up to be a fat, slap-head with horrendous body odour? Screw that, I’m ditching the books and hitting the gym.’

 

‘Serendumbity’

Harry conceived an idea of genuine genius.

‘This will change everything!’

Running to tell the world he tripped, fell and became concussed. He awoke in a hospital with memory loss. A nurse offered him a snack. He’d forgotten the nut allergy. He flailed and banged his head.

‘This will change everything!’

 

Theatre People

As he began his soliloquy Horatio called to mind Freya’s advice: The best way to overcome your stage fright is to imagine the audience naked.

A woman in the lower-circle had loin-conquering breasts and he was subsequently fired for delivering his pivotal death scene with a monstrous erection.

 

Consultancy

‘Tonight’s the night. At light’s out we make good our escape. Tommy, have you acquired the guard uniforms?’

‘Yep.’

‘And Jake – the fake passports?’

‘Check.’

‘And Sebastian – Is the tunnel complete?’

‘About that…the solutioning phase went well, but due to scope creep we’ve only just commenced the spade optimisation phase.’

 

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Ten things to do AFTER you’re 40…#NoOneCares

Google the phrase ‘Things to do before you’re thirty,’ and all manner of wondrous suggestions cascade like an invitation to dream the impossible – jump from a plane, eat caviar on top of a mountain, grope a woman way out of your league whilst wearing high-performance running shoes etc.

Google the phrase ‘Things to do before you’re forty,’ and the dream has been somewhat curtailed – do a sit-up, try to remain relatively stationary, make up with an enemy (presumably before you feel death’s icy fingers around your embittered heart?)

I resent the idea that I am (we are), at every moment, running out of time to do stuff. I therefore present ten doors that open (rather than close) as you get older:

TEN THINGS TO DO AFTER YOU’RE 40…

1. Go to Topshop and complain about why they no longer sell boot-cut jeans. ‘Yes, I know I should have stopped coming in here ten to fifteen years ago, but what’s with all this skinny crap and court-appearance-suits, and why do you keep glancing down at your phone? How else am I am going to (continue to) look like a Top Gear presenter you little shit?’

2. Go somewhere uber-hip. Know with a certainty that it isn’t you – It’s everyone else. Relax in the surety that you will never ever be hip again (if you ever were). Wear what you like. Resist the urge to beat up metro-sexuals. Lament the decline of masculinity. Revert to northern stereotypes when confronted with pretentiousness, safe in the knowledge that your adversaries will do anything to avoid conflict as their hair will get un-ironically messy: ‘These chips appear to be made of beetroot. Bring me potato before I turn feral.’

3. Gaze in amazement and horror at teenagers who’ve never heard of Gandhi, Thatcher or Hitler (I lived with teachers – this happened).

4. Leave mortgage statements lying around for young people to find (or hen’s teeth / unicorn’s horn). Talk openly about being in the market for a second house (cash buyer obviously).

5. Rejoice in the fact that interest rates really are interesting. Why else would you talk of nothing else?

6. Harness the power of forgetfulness and never worry about anything ever again (or at least forget that you were worried in the first place).

6. Have I already talked about not worrying? Where am I? Why am I still in my pyjamas?

7. Congratulate yourself on not having one of those voices? That goes up like a question? But isn’t? Slavishly take people who do at face value e.g.

‘I went out at the weekend?’

‘Well, I don’t know. You tell me.

‘It was amazing?’

‘Again, only you can be the judge of that.’ etc.

8. Get asked by a bald, diminutive, comb-over-sporting Indian man if you’d like to come with him to Bangalore for ‘Buy-one-get-the-second-half-price- follicle-replacement-surgery.’ Reply: ‘I don’t think you need it. What are you, 46?’

‘I’m 34.’

Work with him under increasingly tense circumstances for a further six months.

9. Genuinely remember when all this was fields. Realise that people have started consulting you on how we used to live. 

10. Get laughed at for owning Level 42 and Gloria Estefan albums on cassette (plus workable analog devices for playing them on). Smugly know that they’re coming back in fashion any day now…

Any day…

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Gift of the Gabbage

Someone has labelled everything in the park. A tree has a piece of paper attached to its bow with the word ‘tree’ written on it, the ground is labelled ‘ground;’ a lamppost ‘lamppost.’ Not everything is so literal. One of the bushes is christened ‘Bean Head,’ and a bench sports ‘No Thugs.’

FullSizeRenderAll in all there are close to forty such signs. It’s like something out of Alice in Wonderland (‘Drink me.’)

What would prompt someone to do something like that?

My initial ideas (in the order they arrived): Prank / Peruvians / Some kind of protest / Epic breakdown / Insane.

It’s not in Spanish so it can’t be my Peruvian stalkers, (unless they’re deliberately using another language to throw me off the scent – Los Rapscallianos!) See previous post: Digame!

If insane then just imagine what a treasure trove their home must be – all the nouns assigned a little sticker – knives labelled ‘stabby friends’ or ‘she will be mine.’

‘I’m just going down to the ‘Green-play’ (park), but first I shall put on my ‘cloth skin’ (coat) and ‘fruit-bowl’ (pants).’

FullSizeRender (1)I want to engage with you fellow human. What are you?

I got to the train station without being accosted by a white rabbit (shame). I have a long commute each day. On occasion it grinds me down. Yesterday, wedged against some guy’s ass-crack, having miraculously secured a seat, I thought ‘You know what would spruce this journey up? A Mariachi band! I could hire one and get them to follow me around for the day. Sure, it would compound the overcrowding, but think of the joy it would bring, to you and your fellow commuters. I dismissed the idea as fanciful, but later found myself researching the matter thoroughly and ascertained that I could employ said musicians for the grand sum of £300 (el etiquette Trabajo de Mexicanes es muy bueno!) Were it not for the prohibitive train fares I may well have proceeded (£50 a head for a day return! (plus the guy who plays the bass is normally as fat as a house / sports a coffee-table sized sombrero – he’d need two tickets)) – Maybe if I booked in advance I could get some kind of super saver, but then I’d need to travel off peak…
…the point being – it would be amazing, but people would think I was unhinged…

Perhaps the phantom labeller was attempting something equally uplifting. Who can say? Unless they leap naked from behind the bins one morning, a half-dead pigeon twitching between their teeth, and screech a heroin-fuelled explanation into my face we’ll never know. I apologise crazy person. Our failure to communicate is 50% my fault…

But it’s not all misfire. I know a guy with a Filipino wife thirty-two years his junior who speaks no English. They communicate exclusively through Google Translate (and presumably blowjob morse code – one speculates), and they seem to get along just fine!

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My Tuba Shame…

In 1989 I rocked a stone-cold mullet and whenever I walked into a room heavily coiffured heads would turn. I was thirteen years old and the world was my oyster / toilet. I had no mobile phone (they existed, but were the size of microwaves, cost a gajillion pounds and were only used by YUPPIES (Young Urban Professional (Take that you acronym obsessed Millennials – LOL))). In the evenings I generally pootled around on my Grifter bike, taped music off the radio, or wrote actual letters to my actual girlfriend with an actual pen (steamy smut about how I wanted to ‘hold her hand’ and other such filth). At weekends I’d rifle through LPs in a second-hand record shop, sit waiting for blocky games to load on my Spectrum 48k or hang around with an annoying kid whose dad owned a sizeable cache of video nasties and porn – the hiding places of which weren’t fooling anyone. I made things, played the clarinet, knew the location of dens…

Then one day it all changed, or rather – it didn’t.

In the 80’s it was compulsory for all Catholic schools to have comedy names. Ours was called Blessed William Howard (or ‘Blessed Bills’ to the initiated). One Autumnal morning me, my mullet and my fellow hilariously dressed classmates were shepherded into the ALF  or ‘Active Learning Facility’ (Couple of tables with some state-of-the-art ‘personal computers’) to be introduced to something called ‘The Information Super-Highway.’

Our teacher – “Mr quotey-fingers” proceeded thus:  ‘The “Information Super-Highway” or “World-Wide’Web” will “revolutionise” the way in which we view and share “bits and bytes” of “data.” Instead of seeing this computer as a single machine, try imagining it as a “node” on a “network.”‘

He turned on the screen and (once it had warmed up) a pre-Google / Lycos / Ask Jeeves white DOS-prompt flashed before our eyes.

We were asked to type in a phrase or “keyword” and see what came up.

I went first – ‘Boobs’ – nothing! (Can you even IMAGINE? (the horror)). A couple of guys followed suit – ‘Willies’ (nothing), ‘Kylie Minogue’ (nothing), ‘fart-face’ (nothing). Something said ‘try just fart‘ (nothing) etc. The kid next to me had tried ‘nipples’ and ‘poo’ all to no avail.

‘Try typing The Gross Domestic Product of China,’ the teacher encouraged.

We duly obliged and were rewarded with a string of text (no pictures) and links to incredibly stodgy academic papers.

‘I hope this demonstration shows you how the world as we know it has irevocably changed forever,’ he concluded.

‘What was that bullshit?’ someone shouted as we filed out (earning themselves a detention and 400 Hail Mary’s (Protestant kids these days don’t know they’re born!))

One thing was for certain – It would never catch on.

Anyway, I told this story to a grad last week and it was like I was talking about my hardships during The Great War.

My tuba shame‘Computers used to operate with less memory than is found in today’s lowest resolution photo,’ I proudly divulged like a luddite neanderthal banging on about the glory days before wheels and fire. ‘And data used to be stores on flimsy five-and-a-half-inch floppy discs.’

‘How did they fit in the USB socket?’ I was (genuinely) asked.

‘We used to roll them up and wedge them in,’ I replied.

Later that evening, tormented by the ridiculous notion that I might be old, I perused through a few photo albums and found that a good twenty-percent of my childhood pictures were in black and white…and that I was wearing flares in all of them!

Twenty years from now someone will be explaining cloud-computing and reality TV to a young person born in 2016 and they will be laughing their arse off at how quaint it all was back in the day…

…but enough reminiscing for now – granddad needs his nap…

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