Railings – Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 96
It grew long on the house side of the short, red brick wall. Erect, unbidden; it had taken the place of the iron railings cut down in the War. With roots nestled deep below the cracked terracotta tiles, it neither sought nor got any cultivation. But the stems wanton waving did not evade attention. Each morning, the army of women who scrubbed their front steps and wiped the sills of the bowed and netted windows, tutted and nodded to each other. In Albert Road, there was no space or grace for greenery, especially when uninvited.
Soon displeasure gave way to warnings: ‘Don’t go near that house. Keep well away. Walk on the other side of the road’. Such Hansel and Gretel admonishments merely make children braver. After school, they’d run past the house, stealing a look at the curtains that never moved; the scent of the mint in pursuit.
March 8, 2017
Departure – Postcard Shorts
“How are you?” I asked, as though we were ordinary people having an ordinary conversation. “How am I?” “Yes Lena, how are you?” I felt I ought to repeat the question. What else could I say? Lena leant back against the wall and sighed. I hoped it was an exit cue, but she was just beginning. “Oh well,” I said when she’d finished. “Ah well,” she replied. We were in strange unison, an uncomfortable feeling like anaesthetic wearing off, or a memory half returning.
Lena stared at the train indicator board, I stared at her head. She wore a black felt hat. I couldn’t tell the length of her hair. Or the colour. “You left,” Lena said sharply but still looking at the indicator board. “Hmm,” I mumbled, as I watched pages of a newspaper flounce along the track.”You left,” she continued, “a box, some books and a letter.” “Ah,” I exhaled, to suggest I remembered when all I could recall was leaving something behind. Lena turned to face me. I glanced back to the track “I didn’t open it,” she said. “The box?” I queried. “No, the letter.”
Lena had once told me there was something called the truth. I said I believed her, but that’s not true. I didn’t believe her now. The lights of an oncoming train flashed against the tunnel wall; I moved toward the worn yellow line. As the train nosed sharply out of the tunnel, I waited for the train wind to hit me.
September 30, 2016
Mrs Barclay – longlisted for an Ad Hoc Fiction Autumn Special with Project Calm
“She’s in her room,” shouted Cathy, who was struggling to help a damp Mr Edmonds out of his chair. He didn’t want to get up, again.
Bella hurried along the carpeted corridor and opened the door labelled ‘Mrs Barclay’. Mrs Barclay was propped up in bed. “I was tired,” she whimpered, “of waiting.”
Bella scurried across and refilled a plastic sweet dish on the bedside table, next to a chipped photo frame and a cup of cold tea.“Do you want a fresh cup?” There was no reply, so Bella edged herself into the high-backed chair.
“You’re going to get into trouble,” tutted Mrs Barclay. Bella stared at the sweet wrappers on the floor. “You didn’t go to school today, did you?” “No,” Bella whispered, “not today.”
The door opened and Cathy popped her head round. “Everything all right? Mum’s been quite calm today – haven’t you?” Mrs Barclay smiled.
September 28, 2016
The following shorts published at Paragraph Planet – a creative writing website which has been publishing one 75-word paragraph every day since November 2008.
Duncan had wanted to be buried at sea, so Vera tipped his ashes into the sink and left the tap on for a long time. He’d told her it was because of his Viking ancestry and took to wearing rough Fisherman jumpers and brown leather loafers. Vera had been sceptical and wondered about DNA testing. Too late now she thought, as she turned off the tap and wiped the sink clean with bleach.
January 5, 2019
They said she wouldn’t notice the difference, but she did. Well yes, they added, there were changes, improvements. They weren’t. Finally, they told her it was progress and she must accept, adapt.
Her body didn’t adapt and there would be no acceptance. She lay awake throughout each bright white night as the morning birds sang plaintively, continuously. A lament for the lost dreamy yellow glow, the new blackout curtains could not hold back.
May 21, 2017
We were alone in the room. He seemed easy with it but didn’t get up. I looked around. Nothing had changed, maybe a little tidier. I couldn’t see any signs.
He was sitting in his usual chair. I knelt down next to him and leaned in. ‘Who is she?’ I asked. ‘Is it Maria?’ I leant closer, almost touching him and asked again. He put his soft brown head down between his paws.
April 11, 2017
“It’s a bit messy.” “Life is,” I replied, letting him off the hook.“Um,” he continued, “we’re….” I peered over his shoulder to see who ‘we’ could be. Wearing oversized sunglasses, the woman he was leaving me for was sitting low down in the car. She looked on the run. “Sorry,” he muttered, noticing my gaze. He thought that was an apology. I knew it wasn’t. “We’re…,” he faltered. “Going,” I said. “You’re going.”
August 27, 2016
The house had moved in the night and so had the plumbing. Small but steady drips fell from the cold water tap onto books, stacked high and deep in the bath. The wash basin taps dripped too, although only cold water came out of both. This seepage tapped away at unopened mail cradled by the basin. Now there was another sound, slippered feet on uncarpeted stairs. More mail dropped into the basin. The drips continued.
September 10, 2012
At the Kingdom’s edge, Wilderness Hill has it all. One hundred feet above sea level, and that sea near, its skies are frequently blue and the sunsets coral coloured. Breezes chase clouds, and the gulls that haunt the tides. But it’s miles from a city and the nearest is far. The streets are swept by closure and the buildings are on the run. Winds tear at the throwaways. Wilderness Hill has it all.
March 8, 2012