November’s Flash Fiction Entries

A  FAMILIAR PROBLEM

by Louis Cannamo

 

Did you ring the bell?

Oh sorry! Madame Arcati?  – I pressed it but…

Oh no , it doesn’t work, it’s been disconnected-

But you…

Oh yes, I always know, you see…

Er, yes..of course- ..tell me- are you related to THE Madame Arcati?

That would be impossible, young man? She was a fictional character, as you can see- I am

not!

Ah yes, silly me…’Coward’ wasn’t it?

‘Blithe Spirit’ indeed,  A coincidence, given your current predicament?

You are GOOD..Yes, Yes .. the eternal triangle…very good …or rather …

Very bad, quite, please go and sit over there…I will summon Esme—(screech)—RALDA?

Er, who?

My familiar, dear boy…I must be quick as I sense a certain impatience from the other side-

Let me sit here, now please relax…and don’t be afraid

Easier said than done you see, they promised to….well you-

Yes I know,  now please clear your mind and focus on that light, that’s it…just let go -so calm and peaceful….GOOD!…quiet …quieter- more and more peacef-WAAA-AH!

Whaa-at was THAT?

It’s all right, just my cat..my familiar- rather playful, unpredictable- doesn’t know her own strength….Come on out now and say hallo to the nice gentleman…come Esmeralda!

YIKES!!!  THAT’s Esmeralda?…A LEOPARD!

She is a SHE dear boy, not a ’that’- and very sensitive… Now what have I told you about

Snarling, Esmeralda?….Didn’t we change your spots…didn’t we-eee? …Let us begin!

Come over here and stroke her while I go into trance…

Stroke a  (gulp) L-LEOPARD….

Yes come quickly- unless you want these two jezebels to haunt you for the rest of your LIFE!

But you said she was UNPREDICTABLE!…??

Only a sliver of light between us and them now, please be quick, dear boy- Come…!

Well all r—aaargh!!

ESMERALDA! – DOWN!…PUT HIM DOWN!!…

………  “Together again darling….Well, we promised! !”

The Bad Samaritan

by Stephen Selkirk

Frank, could you step into my office please?…Close the door behind you and take a seat… I understand that you have told one of your callers to go and hang themselves. Please tell me this is some kind of a joke.

Yes, of course it is a joke.

Well, I thought it was too much even for you…

No. I mean it is true I said it, but of course it was a joke.

You are joking, right?

No, I am serious. It’s a joke.

Are you trying to confuse me?

Would you like me to?

Frank. Stop. Do you seriously think that is an appropriate thing to say to a caller?

It’s not ‘a caller’ It’s Betty. We’re sort of friends. She has quite a black sense of humour.

I don’t care if you are best mates. This is a suicide helpline. You cannot say that.

Why not?

Seriously?

Yes. She enjoys our little chats.

What?

Yes. Surprisingly, some people like talking to me.

You’re not taking this seriously…

I am, but I’m just joking about it too. Sometimes it helps. You’re more worried about what it might look like than whether I’ve actually helped someone. Listen: Betty is not going to commit suicide.

How can you know that?

She’s fine. Just a bit lonely.

This is not a chatline for lonely people.

So next time she calls, I should say what … ‘Sorry, I can’t talk to you now, you’ll have to wait until you feel a bit more suicidal?’

No, of course not.

Actually, she would probably find that funny too. Maybe I’ll try it next time she calls.

Frank. Shut up… I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to let you go.

Boss, Seriously?

No. Now I’m joking, but please tone it down in future. OK?

 

When Naked In Hell

by Barry Charman

“Listen.”

  “What do you hear, child?”

  “A murmur, below.”

“You were passing, and you saw a light, I understand.”

“How are there lights?”

“What could grow in darkness, but illumination?”

“What happens… down there? I see such things. Coiled. Writhing. Stretching.”

“When naked in hell, one reaches for the shelter of the sky.”

“What I hear is so faint…like a whisper that must be heard before it dies. Their lamentations are… curious.”

  “Down there in the field- the harvest of what has failed- hunched shapes cower like covetous weeds. Frail bodies look up, barely able to contemplate the distance… You hear their song.”

  “I hear the wail of the world. One man… or all men?”

  “His name was flesh and bone, and all that drapes the twain. Now he is instinct, an abject flinching shade. Unable to reach, he will continue to try.”

“What binds these moans?”

  “He screams his ekphrastic prayer.” 

“Pitiful… And yet…”

  “Do not let their pain infect you.”

“You mean their humanity?”

  “It is the same, child, the same. Come. Let us ring the bells. The sound torments them you know.”

“…Yes.”

  “They know we are close. And yet so far. Salvation is not the song of peace-”

“It is the song of the journey!”

  “Foolish child. It is the song of the distance. Our song.”

“So… we can no longer fall?”

  “We are robed in grace!”

  “Is it more important to hear them or forget we could become them?”

  “Foolish child. Come, do not look back. You are young. You will learn.”

“What will I learn…?”

On Air

by Kareem Shehab

“We are on in 3, 2,…”

“Good evening lovely people around the world, this is The One-Minute Talk. Let me welcome today’s guest; a man who gave so much to the world. Former ambassador, former minister, and president candidate, Dumpi Piggar. Good evening, sir.

“Good evening, Bolina. Pleasure to be here.”

“Mr. Piggar, with all that’s happening in the world nowadays, the people are afraid that the damage will soon get to our country. What is it that the president and the government should do to protect our great nation in such dark times?”

“It’s not only about our nation, Bolina, it’s about all the world now. Such danger can harm us all if we do not put our hands and voices together to end this threat. Terrorism must be pulled out of its root. What we need to do now is take actions; speak loud and say no to this. We must never yield as long as there is hope.”

“And hope there is Mr. President. Thank you for your time, and thank you all intillegent people at home. This was Bolina Lynamite hosting The One-Minute Talk. Good night.”

“And… we are off.”
“80 thousand veiwers. Great job, Mr. President. Heh! Do you think they bought that?”

“And they will vote for me with no hesitation.”

“I wonder how they believe such nonsense. I mean, the country we claimed under terrorist attack is not even real!”

“Fear, young man. They don’t believe what I say. They believe what I make them feel. Fear. Show them they might lose their lives. Step forward and tell them you know how to keep their safety. Tell them you believe in them. They will give you their voices with no second thoughts. As if you were more than the flesh and bone they are. Fear, young man.”
“The car is ready, sir.”
“Come on, my young man. We have plans to make.”

Size Matters

by Mangal Patel

“Congratulations President Trump. How’s the White House?”

“Thank you Putin my friend. I prefer Trump Tower. It’s more glitzy.”

“Now remember what I did for you.”

“Of course. Hacking into Clinton’s email server was a brilliant stroke of genius. Have to say I admire your strong leadership. Your total disregard for protocol.”

“Yes. Yes. I admire you too. I especially envy your weird hairdo. Unfortunately mine is unsuitable for such flamboyance.”

“Ah but I wish I could have a six pack like you. I have a picture of you on my wall riding on horse back all bare chested.”

“Yes I have one too. In fact I insist all my staff have one in their homes. Now if I may digress to some trifle matters. You agree to stay out of meddling in Allepo right?”

“What’s Allepo? I am focused on making America great again so you can do what you like there.”

“And Ukraine? I’m not giving up any territory there. Those Euro supporters asked for trouble. Now I’m going to build a bigger wall than your Mexican one, to keep Ukraine in with us.”

“Don’t worry. Like Brexit I’m gonna do a Wrexit.”

“What’s a Wreckit?”

“World exit.”

“Haha I thought you meant wreck the world.”

“Hahaha I like that. Anyway do you like my suggestion for Farage to be British Ambassador to USA?”

“Yea then you can have a lapdog just like Bush had with Blaire. God those Brits are so gullible.

“By the way how big is your nuclear button?”

“Enormous.”

“Mine’s tiny but powerful. Almost accidently pressed it a few times already.”

“Mine’s really powerful.”

“Mine’s got bigger fall out.

“Mine lasts for thousands of years.”

“OK Let’s see shall we. Just pressed it.”

“OK then I’m going to as well.”

“LOL”

“LOL”

Pokéstop It

by Clair Chen

            “I love you.”

“On the count of 3, we both jump out, okay?”

“Did you hear me?  I said I love you.”

“Do you really think this is the best time to be discussing this?”

“I want you to know in case we don’t make it.”

“Jerry, the car is teetering on the edge of a cliff.  Can you please focus?”

“Do you love me?”

“For Pete’s sake, Jerry, can we just get out of the car and finish this conversation later?”

“Say it.  Say you love me.”

“It’s you who got us into this mess.  ‘There’s a Pokémon over there,’ you said.  ‘Quick!  I gotta catch it!  Go faster!’  Your name is Jerry and you’re a Pokéholic.”

“I knew you didn’t love me.  Oh, Tammy, I’ll do anything.  Please just love me.”

“Stop wailing!  You’re rocking the car.”

“I don’t care.  I don’t want to live if you don’t love me.”

“Yes, you do.  And I do love you, just not at this precise moment.”

“You do?”

“Yes!  Now, on the count of 3.  Ready?”

“Oh, Tammy!  I’m so happy.”

“Hey, what’re you doing?  Stop moving.”

“I just want to hold you.”

“Lean back!  We’re going to go over!”

“Remember when we first met?  How our eyes met over the last cronut in the bakery?”

“Yes, yes, I remember.  The cronut.  We split it.”

“I knew then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.  You were so practical, so decisive, so in control.”

“I’m telling you to get out on 3 RIGHT NOW.”

“I love you so much.”

“Help!  Help!  Somebody get me out of here!”

“Look, there it is – the Pokémon.  If I just lean forward I think I can . . . .”

Pillow Talk

by Old Beacon Hill

‘Hey Don how’s tricks?’

‘Oh, hi Harry, didn’t see you there, what you been up to’

‘Just hangin’ around mate…. heh….uuugh….. heh’.

‘The old fellow still smoking I see.’

‘Someone’s got to tell him about secondary smoke, it’s not on. What brings you here then?’

‘Well the lady of the house still has that bladder problem and….’

‘Say no more mate, I understand.’

‘Nice to be out in the breeze though eh?’

‘Yep nothing like a bit of fresh air to iron out the creases’, heh, uuugh, heh.

‘You want to take something for that cough mate’.

‘Well if he doesn’t stop soon I’m going to smother the bastard while he sleeps, that’ll sort the problem’.

‘Oh no!’

“What?’

‘Bird’

‘Shit’

‘Exactly!’

‘Ohhh Christ, just what I need’.

‘Not having a good time lately are you?’

‘Not really mate, emphysema, jaundice and now covered in bird shit….what a life. Bet she’s going to throw me back in the machine again too.’

‘No getting out of that one Harry, there’s a big streak all down your back.’

‘That thing gives me a headache.’

‘Spin cycle?’

‘Spin cycle.’

‘Never mind, things could be worse.’

‘How?’

‘Well you know their youngest son, the one with the acne?

‘Yeah?’

‘Well, he fell into the washing machine yesterday’

‘Blimey’

‘…….came out spotless!’

‘Heh, heh..…uuuugh….heh’

Untitled
by Emma Andrews
“I feel much better now, Doctor.”
“That is good.  Do you mind if I make some notes again this time?”
“No, I don’t mind.”
“I am pleased, very pleased with your progress.”
“Yeah.”
“Now, have you had any side effects?  Last time we talked about the potential-“
“Yeah, we talked about potential side effects.”
“Mmhmm.  Have you experienced any?”
“Um, no, not really, not at all.”
“I am thrilled, I really am.  You are doing really well, Kayleigh.”
“Yeah.”
“And how about your sleeping?  You said last time you were being woken up a lot in the night.  Is that still the case?”
“Yeah, um, no.  I’m sleeping a lot better.”
“Excellent, that really is excellent to hear.  And the nightmares?”
“Just a few.”
“Every night still?”
“Not every night.”
“How often?”
“Several times a week.”
“I see, I see.  Did you have one last night?”
“Last night?  Um, yeah I did actually.”
“Would you like to talk about it?”
“I suppose.  It was much like the others though.”
“With the faces?”
“Yeah.”
“So, what hap- oh, who is it?  Jane, sorry, I am with a patient at the moment… really?  Goodness me.  Right, Kayleigh, I am terribly sorry but I have got to take this call at the desk.”
“It’s fine.”
“I will be back in a couple of minutes.”
“Don’t worry, it’s fine.”
“Feel free to help yourself to some water while you wait – you remember how it works, don’t you?”
“Yeah.  Thanks.”
“I am sorry, see you in a moment.”
“…Okay… how does this… oh yeah.  Ouch.  No.  Ouch.  No, no.  Maxie, not here.  Go away.  Ouch.  Please, just go away for a…”
“I am back!  It was just a misunderstanding in the end.”
“Oh, right, okay.”
“Good, you got some water.  Everything okay?”
“Yeah.  Everything’s fine.”

The honour and men

by Ayfer Orhan

“Don’t know why you are so shocked mum. You must’v known that I knew?”

“Noo..no..,  what are you saying?”

“Blood hell mum! You ain’t gonna lie again are you? All you’ve done is lie. Flipping, hell. I’ve had to be ‘well behaved’ to protect you and your precious ‘respectability’. You make me sick….”

“Stop shouting. I need to thin….”

“You’ve lied and lied again, but worst of all, you’ve lied to my dad… A good man whose feet you are not worthy to kiss.”

“How?”

“It was those letters addressed to a ‘Mrs Smith’. Ha! How corny! The ‘visits’ to ‘friends’ we’ve never met or seen. Oh! most recent, I followed you to ‘The Midlands Hotel’.”

“I see. Did you hear us?”

“I saw plenty.”

“I am sorry you’ve had to see it darling, I’ve tried to protect you from the past. I…”

“How could you. He is young enough to be your son.”

“Stop shouting. He is, my son.”

“What?”

“His name is Ertan. He traced me two years ago and I’ve been helping him out with money.”

“Bloody hell… you’re a bigger fraud than I thought. You cheated on our dad! Your wonderful, loving husband and had a child with another man! Fucking hell.. you’re a shit person.”

“I was in love with Ertan’s father… we grew up in the same village.… we were betrothed, soon to be married. One evening… I went to the well for water….”

“How could you marry? You were married to dad!  You’re a whore.”

“Whore?… my son you don’t know.”

“Stop it… stop the innocent act.”

“Before you were born. Back home.”

“The law says, that if the woman were to marry the man who had raped her, then he will be spared from having to go to jail… I…… was forced….”

The Hitler Paradox

by Liam Hogan

“Well, you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because everyone does it.”

“That doesn’t make any sense!”

“Suppose you go back to the day he was born, smother him in his cot?”

“Sounds good.”

“You fail.”

“What? How hard can it be to kill a baby?”

“Easy enough, if you have the stomach for it. But even so, you fail.”

“Why?”

“Because someone else went back to his first birthday and tried to kill him then, so you couldn’t possibly have succeeded a year earlier.”

“But that’s–”

“That didn’t work, though, because some other damn fool attempted to put a bullet in the back of his skull during the Battle of the Somme.”

“I… um…”

“And he–or she–failed, because of a certain bomb in a briefcase on the 20th July, 1944.”

“Wolf’s Lair? I’ve heard of that. It almost worked, didn’t it?”

“Pah. Might have looked that way. But it couldn’t, wouldn’t; any more than the previous twenty-five recorded assassination attempts could have, each one superseded by the next.”

“So what you’re saying, is–“

“And to cap it all, to put the bloody cherry on the bloody cake, some total imbecile decides to fake his suicide in a Berlin Bunker, on the 30th April 1945, when the damned war was already damn well over!”

“Damn.”

“Quite. Perhaps it would have worked if it had been just one of you meddling idiots. But oh no. Too many cooks… To think, it’s time travellers like you who set his life in stone!”

120 Seconds
by Richard M. O’Donnell
            “Hey Harvey! Thanks for the call. I could sure a use break.  I thought interning at Samson and Young would be exciting, but gee, it’s as tedious as counting the bathroom tiles at Grand Central Station.”
            “Then my timing is perfect, Kay. I’ve got a hypothetical for you.”
            “Oh, I love hypotheticals.  Did you think this one up during your flight to Atlanta?”
            “No, it just came to me when we landed.  Ready?”
            “Batter’s up.”
            “A terrorist tells you have two minutes to talk to a love one.  Who would you call?”
            “That’s a curve ball.  Who would I call?”
            “Clock’s ticking.”
            “Yeah, but should I call my family or my new boyfriend?”
            “Tick-tock, tick-tock.”
            “This is a hard one.”
            “You’re thinking too hard.  Who came to mind first?”
            “To be honest, it was you.  I always call my BFF first.”
            “So you would call me?  Forty-five seconds.  The gun’s pointed at your head.”
            “Do you mean who ever I talk to will actually hear me getting killed?”
            “It’s a possibility.”
            “Then I couldn’t do that to my parents, but you and I have been through everything together since kindergarten.  You could handle it where they couldn’t.  I’d call you and ask you to tell them what happened and that I love them.”
            “I like that answer.”
            “So Harvey, what would you do if a terrorist gave you only two minutes to call a loved one?”
            “I’d call you and give you one last hypothetical.”
            “Harvey, you’re sweet.” 
            “Kay, tell my family I love them.”
            “What!”
            “More importantly, I want you to know I love you.  I’ve always loved you.  There’s never been anyone else. I’m hanging up now. I don’t want you to hear the…
            BANG!”

Always Measure First

by Carol Smith

“Don’t touch — it’s still tacky. I haven’t spent the last month sanding down and painting for you to smudge the final coat.”

“Does that mean you’re finally going to move it? Can I bring my game station back down?”

“I’ve told you before, I needed space to move all the way around it. You and Dad can move it upstairs this evening while I’m at work.”

***

“Come on, Tom, let’s move this wardrobe, then we can watch the game in peace. At least we won’t have to peer around it anymore.”

“Why do I have to go backwards?”

“One of us has to. Come on, put your back into it.”

“I am, it won’t budge. It’s no good, Dad, it won’t go any further.”

“Hmm! The ceilings too low; there’s not enough room to manoeuvre around the corner.”

 “But Mum’s spent weeks on this. What are we going to do? We’ve broken the old one up and put it in the yard.”

 “Hmm — hang on a minute!”

 “DAD! Where are you going? Kick-off’s in twenty minutes…”

“Here, son, plug this in.”

“But Dad, we can’t… it’s a chainsaw,”

“We can. It’s the only way. Now, hold it steady while I cut it in half.”

***

“Go On! Go On! Yesss!”

“G—O—A—L!”

“Hello, only me. Put the kettle on while I nip upstairs — I see someone’s already helped themselves to the old wardrobe’s doors.”

“Put the kettle on, Tom.”

“But, Da…”

“Go on, it’s almost halftime. I’ll have one as well, and while you’re out there make sure the glue’s put away.”

***

“Ah tea! Just what I needed. Thanks for moving the wardrobe, it looks lovely in the bedroom, but why can I smell glue? What did you two break?”

a Chance to Start a New
by D. A. Snowden
                                                                                         
 
“What do you think?”
“Whatcha asking me for I thought I had no say?”
“You don’t but I have to know what you’re going do.”
“You want that, your sister reset to factory setting. Big bro here to the rescue its prefect.”
“You’re the reason she’s in the hospital.”
“It wasn’t suppose-I-”
“You pulled her into your crap, she trusted you and now she can’t remember her name.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Out of excuses. Just let her start over.”
“I love her.”
“Then do right by her.”
“I’m tryin’, it was suppose to be my last job then my debt would be clear. I could go straight.”
“Then you should’ve done it by yourself.”
“We were down a man all she was gotta do was drive.”
“I don’t give a crap, the only family I have is unconscious her memory may never come back.”
“She wanted to help.”
“More excuses. She’s a good person. She loved you of course she wanted to help that’s who she was. No is, that kind gullible heart of hers will always be there.”
“I’m sorry.”
“You don’t understand those words. She deserves a second chance to put her kindness somewhere else.”
“I love her.”
“You don’t understand that either.”
“No maybe not but when she looked at she saw I could be somebody, she’s why I’m going straight.”
“I don’t care.”
“I am. And I won’t do nothing, so don’t tell her.”
“That’s the first unselfish thing I ever heard you say.”
“I’m gonna to get myself right, then I’m gonna to come back.”
“No.”
“I am, but I’ll go through big brother first okay. Look she complained about you but she knew you only wanted her safe. So I’m going to be looking for your okay.”
“I doubt it.”
“That’s fine for now. Later.”

Two Peas in a Pod

by Laura Besley

‘When I was young there a boy next door called Robert. We were best friends, then boyfriend and girlfriend.

‘What happened?’

‘I thought I was bored. When you’re young, you want excitement and adventure. I met your dad and he seemed very exciting.’

‘You don’t regret it, do you?’

‘No. No, of course not.’

‘Where’s this Robert now?’

‘In Italy. With his wife and two children. His parents still live next to Granny and Granddad.’

‘Really? But, Mum, my situation is completely different. I don’t love Fin, not like that, anyway. He’s just my friend.’

‘Sure?  I think he has feelings for you.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

‘I’m not being ridiculous. Janet and I have talked about it and we both agree, although he hasn’t actually said so.’

‘Exactly. He hasn’t said anything. You’re both just making stuff up.’

‘I wouldn’t say that.’

‘Why would he be dating Michelle Dale if he had feelings for me?’

‘Probably because he thinks you would turn him down. Or maybe he won’t risk your friendship by asking you out in case you refuse him.’

‘Well, he’s done a brilliant job of preserving our friendship.’

‘You’re not exactly making it easy for him.’

‘Meaning?’

‘I heard you two talking yesterday, Beth.’

‘After everything he’s done recently, I thought you’d be on my side.’

‘I am, lovey, I’m always on your side, but we forgive friends their faults, don’t we? Maybe he was trying to tell you something, but you never gave him a chance. If you want to get him away from that girl, that’s not the way to do it.’

‘I don’t want “get him away from her”. I just want him to be Fin again.’

‘If he stays with her, I think you might have to accept that you’ve lost him.’

‘Whatever.’

When you do a Fit for Work Assessment on a Wiccan

by Simon Pinkerton

@simonpinkerton

            “How have you been?”

“It’s been a terrible start to this year. My partner of 20 years dumped me when he found out I had cancer.”

“I’m sorry.”

“They’re going to cut it out. They’re terrified of putting me under because I was in a coma for a month years ago. That had nothing to do with anaesthetic though—that was because I got peritonitis and pneumonia at the same time. Almost killed me, but when I was in it, I could hear, and I heard a doctor say, ‘If you’re flying back to Canada, you’d best make funeral preparations,’ and so I knew my eldest son was there, and I wanted to see him, so I came round.

“Before I did I spoke with somebody else in Aramaic. I asked him if I was going to die, and he said, ‘No, I’ve got work for you to do.’ I wasn’t bothered one way or the other, just curious.

“I could hear my other kids crying as well, and I thought, ‘What are you crying for?’ I’ve done enough crying. My first husband beat me every day for twenty years. Fractured my skull, broke three ribs, and I had to have 223 stitches in my face. She did a good job, the surgeon, you can hardly see them.

“He’s dead now. I put a hex on him and a week later he had two heart-attacks. It did make me weak though. Very weak. For more than five days I could barely move.”

“The voice you heard…”

“God. Someone’s, not mine. I asked him why he took my parents so young. I was five when my dad died and nineteen when my mum went. He said, ‘I needed them here.’ I said, ‘I needed them! Did you think about me?’

Mister

by Alyson Faye

“Please Mummy can I go to the park?”

“O-Kay then. Just for fifteen minutes.”

“Hurrah!”

Amy races ahead, her kiddie GPS sending her straight to the climbing frame with its fake log hut perched atop.

“Mummy, watch me! See how tall I am!”

“Lovely Amy. Don’t fall. Mummy’s got to send some texts, so just play nicely.”

“Mummy, can I go in the hut?”

“O-Kay. But don’t touch anything in there. It’s all dirty.”

Inside the hut Amy hesitates. There’s a pile of old clothing huddled in the corner. At one end is a man’s head peeking out. His eyes are closed.

“Hello Mister. How are you? Are you asleep?”

Silence. So Amy instead shouts out of the hut’s window, “Mummy come and see who I’ve found!”

“OK sweetie, have fun.”

Amy shrugs and goes back to crouch beside the crumpled figure.

“Hey Mister, would you like a cup of tea? I can make you one.” She mimes pouring tea into a cup.

“Don’t you want it Mister? Well I’ll put it here for later. Oh no! Your laces are undone. I’m not that good at tying laces yet but I’ll try. Gosh you’re really cold Mister.”

Peeling off her pink fluffy scarf she places it across the man’s chest.

“Here this will keep you warm. Are you having a nice sleep Mister? I won’t bother you any more. Night night.” She pats his arm.

“Amy, what are you doing in there? It’s time to go. I’m freezing.”

“That’s my mum shouting me Mister. I have to go now. Bye bye. I’ll try and come back tomorrow.”

She clambers down the ladder.

“Amy, there you are. Come on! I hope you didn’t touch anything dirty in there.”

Brains

by Michael Snyder

“Who came up with this?”

“Steve.”

“By himself?”

A shrug. A push of an intercom button. Followed by a crackle, then a voice.

“Steve, can you come in here?”

“Sure thing, boss.”

Some awkward waiting. The creak of a hinge. Muted greetings all around.

“You want to tell me about this?”

“I’d rather not.”

“You want to tell me why?”

“Not particularly.”

“Well somebody needs to say something.”

No one said anything.

After a really lengthy short pause, someone (let’s say it was Trish) said, “It’s really not a bad idea.”

Someone laughed through their nose. But the more they thought about it the more they started to agree. And the more they silently agreed, the more Steve wished he had taken credit for it while credit was still available.

“Well, what are we going to do about it?”

The answers rained down. “Press conference…take out an ad…let’s hold a rally…media blitz…hire a skywriting company…”

A cleared throat, followed by a voice, the singular voice of authority.

“I say we sleep on it.”

“You serious, boss?”

A nod, tentative at first, but gaining confident momentum on its descent. He was, after all, the boss, the man paid to decide such things.

“Meeting is adjourned.”

Minds wandered as bodies filed through the doorway. Mistrustful glances ricocheted but never quite landed. Loyalties were considered, then reconsidered. Mental spreadsheets weighed risks against rewards, job security against the lure of more and bigger and better. Would this great idea be squandered? Was there not some moral obligation to resort to whatever was—?

“Steve?”

“Yeah, boss?”

“Why don’t you shut the door and have a seat?”

When everyone else was gone, the boss rested the meat of his chin on the weave of his fingers and said, “Now about this idea or ours…”

Tips

by Jay Lithgoe

‘If we’ve all read Terry’s piece perhaps we could commence with the critique. Terry, perhaps you could elucidate your prose, Terry, for the enlightenment of your colleagues.’

‘Huh?’

‘Thank you, Terry. Quite the wordsmith you are, Terry. Terry, I’d like to give you -and indeed everyone, Terry – some tips on creating more authentic dialogue, Terry.’

‘Why you doin’ that? S’creepy, Dude.’

‘Well spotted. One’s dialogue is not usually so liberally sprinkled with the person’s name, yes? It does rather jangle in the proverbial ear. Don’t you think?’

‘Word count, innit.’

‘Is it? Quite. Now, speaking of dialogue, ha, speaking of dialogue, no? Anyway, a few tips on making your dialogue more… Yes, Terry?’

‘Nothin’.’

‘Quite. Another excellently iterated point. I see a new professor in the making. Tips on dialogue, Terry. Repetition is an excellent.’

‘Words!’

‘meth… huh? Erm, that is, yes? What?’

‘Dialogue is words. Right?’

‘Spot on. Yes. Which brings us nicely to interruptions… Interruptions? No? Interruptions are common in natural speech as are repetitions, slang and, dare I say it, curse words don’t even think about it, Terry.’

‘Huh?’

‘Don’t swear, Terry.’

‘Why? What happened?’

‘Very little. And on the topic of very little do try to keep it brief. No-one really needs to know where we are exactly or the names of everyone in the room and what bus we all caught to get here, although I do understand Terry’s elegant argument on the pressure of “word count, in it”.’

‘In what?’

‘Similarly, one does not need to trawl through all the mundane niceties of a conversation. It is perfectly acceptable to pick up and move away from the dialogue whenever you…’

Spies Like Fuss

by Stephen Lodge

@steveweave71

Jerry Shearer loosened his tie as he pressed the required code into his desk telephone.

He smiled. Another day of shadowy intrigue ahead. He was disturbed from his reverie by the voice at the other end of a crackly line. It was his London Field Operative, Graham Chance.

“Hello, Graham,” greeted Jerry. “I need to fill you in on some overnight developments. Firstly the tail we put on Lord Silence fell off. We should have found a better way to keep track on him.”

“I’ll get on it, chief.”

“Fidler just called to say Mohr and Lesser had skipped from the safe house.”

“Wonder why they skipped. Wouldn’t running draw less attention? Smells to me like the work of Gorshenko. He’s as cunning as a frisky otter.”

“Can’t be, Gorshenko’s in the Crimea presenting the Florence Nightingale Awards.”

“Well, maybe they used a lookalike again. Darius Wibble or Reddy? Maybe it’s the old switcheroo again.”

“Reddy is in an airport hotel with a paperback and a prostitute.”

“What about Wibble?” Chance asked.

“Get on it, Graham. Start with Cornwall. He was living down there with a mermaid he met on a singles holiday. It’s time to ruffle a few feathers.”

Ignoring his chief’s near legendary mixed metaphors, Chance confirmed. “Will do, chief.”

Jerry sighed. “I’d better call Bridges. He won’t like it and nor will Sir Gerald Toadslapper. What a mess. Keep me posted, Graham. Bye.”

Jerry opened a desk drawer and noticed his sandwiches. He thought of his wife, Cherie, who, years ago, had showed him how to make them. Sitting back in his chair, he phoned her.

“Cherie darling,” he said when she answered. “I want to lick your lovely naked shoulders then cover them with several hundred moist, passionate kisses.”

Embarrassingly, Cherie replied “Who is this?”

Honesty

By Rachel Tonks Hill

“There’s something I need to tell you.”

“You’re breaking up with me.”

“No!”

“Then you’re cheating.”

“No. Well..”

“Are you cheating on me?”

“No. I mean yes. Look, it was just the once and I didn’t mean for it to happen!”

“And that makes it alright?”

“Of course it fucking doesn’t. I didn’t want to hurt you. I love you.”

“Oh that makes it all better.”

“I know I’ve hurt you and I hate it. If there’s anything I can do…”

“I need you to give me some time.”

“Of course. I’m sorry.”

***

“I still haven’t forgiven you, you know.”

“I know. I just wanted to see how you are.”

“Not great.”

“Yeah… I didn’t mean to hurt you. It really was an accident.”

“How do you ‘accidentally’ sleep with someone else?”

“I was drunk.”

“And that explains everything does it?”

“I mean… it was more complicated than that.”

“I bet.”

“Do you want me to explain what happened? Will that help?”

“I guess.”

“My ex was buying me doubles instead of singles. I tried to say no but they insisted. The next thing I remember I was in a strange bed with no clothes on. With my ex.”

“And you decided to tell me you cheated? Jesus!”

“Well, yeah. I had sex outside our relationship which is basically the definition of cheating.”

“And it never occurred to you that maybe you didn’t consent?”

“No…”

“For fuck’s sake your drinks were being spiked and your ex took advantage! Fucking bastard!”

“I guess…”

“I wish you’d told me this in the first place. Come here.”

“I’ve been so worried. I love you and hate that I hurt you.”

“I’ll be fine. I’m more worried about you. I’m gonna kill your ex.”

“Please don’t.”

“Okay. But only cos I love you.”

Interrogation

By JRJ Richmond

@JamieRichmond16

“It wasn’t me. Honestly. I promise.”

“Well you can’t seem to tell us your whereabouts that night. That makes you the number one suspect right now.”

“I told you, I was out drinking. It was Halloween.”

“Drinking isn’t an excuse for not remembering.”

“But I was smashed. I’d been drinking all day.”

“What were you dressed as?”

“What?”

“It was Halloween, what were you dressed as?”

“The Joker.”

“Which one?”

“What do you mean?”

“Which Joker were you dressed as? Was it Cesar Romero’s Joker, was it Jack Nicholson’s, Mark Hammil’s? Was it Jared Leto’s Joker or Heath Ledger’s? Which Joker were you?”

“The newest one. The one who had the writing on his head.”

“So Jared Leto’s then.”

“Yes sir.”

“Do you recognise this girl.”

“Erm…vaguely, why who is it?”

“Can the first witness come in please…”

“…Is this him, he was dressed like this.”

“Yeah I think it was. He does looks familiar.”

“It wasn’t me and I’ve never seen this girl in my life, what would she know?”

“Right that’ll do Emma thank you, can you bring her in please.”

“Yes. Two minutes.”

“…”

“…”

“By her, you mean that baseball bat…please, no…please…ow…ow…ow…please…stop…I’m sorry…”

“Nobody… gets… my… daughter… pregnant… without… marrying… her… first.”

“…………………………………………………………………”

Seventies

by Phillip Miranda

“This isn’t what I meant by ‘invisible,’ Sully.”

“What’d you expect? Grass and leaves?”

“Kind of.”

“That’s ’cause you’re old.”

“Probably; I’m from a time before death rays and lasers and Invisible Man suits.”

“Lasers are so… 2000s.”

“I was actually thinking, like, seventies.”

“Like I said…. Alright, I’m turning it on.”

“…I don’t-”

“Give it a second.”

“…Whoa.”

“Voila.”

“This is disorienting. I think I prefer old-fashioned camouflage. You know, green and black and you could still see your arms?”

“I think I remember reading about passive camouflage in history this one time….”

“Brat.”

“The active camo isn’t for human eyes anyways. The train is going to have sensors. That’s why I can’t be around when it gets here.”

“You didn’t bring your own suit?”

“They’re expensive, and I guess SOCOM didn’t think I was worth it.”

“That’s ’cause you’re young and replaceable. I am an antique.”

“Well, you are fragile. Here: Heavy grain. Armor piercing. Make it count! Remember about humidity and wind speed and gravity and all that. Oh! And remember they discovered the Coriolis effect since you were in sniper school. Hey there, don’t point that thing at me.”

“It would be so easy to say I thought you were a hostile….”

“Now, don’t be like that.”

“It’s coming. Get lost. I’ll meet you at the rendezvous.”

Like a Good Neighbor

by Alex Z. Salinas

@Alex_Z_Salinas

“Hey Victor, doin’ all right?”

“I’m okay, Carl. You?”

“Pretty good. Some straight lines you’ve got there.”

“Thanks. Guess I’m particular about my lawn.”

“My man. So what’s up, neighbor?”

“Well, there’s no easy way to go about this. My wife sent me to talk to you about Dylan. I think he’s been picking on Joey.”

“What?”

“Joey’s got a purple welt on his arm the size of a baseball, Carl. He showed us last night. He broke down. Then he showed us a dirty magazine in his backpack. Girls spreading their legs. Joey said Dylan gave it to him, told him he’d do more than punch his arm if he got rid of it.”

“Boy, Vic, you’ve caught me off-guard. I thought they were friends?”

“Well that probably needs some reexamination.”

“You sure he’s telling the truth? Maybe he’s got somethin’ against Dylan. You know how kids can be.”

“Carl.”

“Sorry, Vic. I tend to play devil’s advocate. Rita chews my hide about that all the time.”

“I want to keep this civil.”

“So what’d you suggest we do?”

“Talk to Dylan. See what he says. I trust you’ll know if he’s lying. Then we’ll go from there. All I know is whatever is going on needs to stop now.”

“All right, Vic. I’ll talk to him.”

“Thanks. Another thing. My wife found a note on her car this morning. Handwritten. Real disturbing stuff.”

“What?”

“A note. I’d rather not repeat it word for word. It was a sexual fantasy ending with strangling her. Talked about getting rid of me, too.”

“Christ.”

“What got me was it described her outfit yesterday, in detail. She called me at work terrified.”

“You need to call the police.”

“Pardon?”

“That wasn’t Dylan. He stayed at his grandma’s last night.”

 

Shattered worlds

By Mileva Anastasiadou

He spent his days ringing bells, informing neighbors about the world coming to an end. Considering his age, dementia would be the most appropriate diagnosis.

“Can you tell me your name?” I asked.

“My name is of no importance.”

Patients with dementia are often inventive. They find ways to avoid straight answers, in order to hide their disability.

“I will ask you some questions to check your memory.”

I have noticed that being direct is the best option. They feel less threatened, once reassured that you are not sneaking your way into their minds.

“I am sure you mean well, doc,” he said. I felt the barrier between us breaking down. “Yet there is no point. The end of the world is near. I see the signs.”

“Tell me about those signs, please.”

“Last week, I attended my best friend’s funeral. I lost my wife a year ago.”

Loss of a spouse can trigger the disease. Perhaps dementia is another defense mechanism. To help humans deal with the common fate of oblivion.

“You have your children.”

“They are busy living their lives. I raised them to do so. They belong into a different world, which will be shattered in time, yet first comes my turn.”

“You still can enjoy lots of things,” said I, realizing the old man’s point.

“You can’t fool me, doc. The world is coming to an end. Life goes on, but my own world is slowly collapsing.”

The old man was letting go and there I stood, trying to delay the process.

I prescribed some medication and left, unsure of my seemingly correct medical decision.

I could have just held his hand. In unity, we stand stronger against the unjust fate of shattered worlds. At the end of the world, company is all that matters.

I Remember Paris

by Kereen Getten

“I need my blanket, where is my blanket?”

“Your blanket is on your lap.”

“This isn’t mine. My blanket is red with black flowers. This is pink with grey flowers. I made it when he was born.. I knitted it for him.. he would play with the string while I knitted and he would giggle when it unravelled.”

“I remember.”

“Do you?”

“Yes. I would hold the bowl of wool for you.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You would sing to him and I would moan that the football was on. I wanted to be at the pub.”

“.. the Queens head?”

“Yes!”

“You were always at the Queens head.”

“You always said that, but I don’t think I was. Twice a week after dinner I went. I would always be back by twelve.”

“That’s because the pub chucked you out.”

“Hahaha, you’re right. But I would have come home anyway. I always come home to you.”

“Where is my blanket, I need my blanket.”

“It’s on your lap.”

“This isn’t mine. Mine is red with black flowers, this is pink with grey flowers.”

“It is yours; the washing machine turned it pink that’s all. I’m still getting used to it. Not very good am I?”

“What’s your name?”

“Clive.”

“I had a husband called Clive. He took me to Paris for our fortieth anniversary.”

“You wore a straw hat you bought at the Saturday market.”

“And you wore a beret that was too small for your head.”

“Yes.”

“It was black and you wanted to wear sunglasses with it but you’re blind as a bat without your glasses.”

“Yes. What else?”

“…..Where’s my blanket? This is not my blanket.”

“ No, you’re right darling. I’ll get you the right one.”

“The black and red one.”

“The black and red one.”

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