The tree

The tree stood in an old flowerpot wrapped in red tissue. Tina sprayed it with bleach against allergens then with hairspray to stop needledrop. She wrapped it with tinsel and wove lights around the branches. Finally the crowning glory: the fairy from the shoebox was placed ceremoniously on top. A minute later she sneezed, opened her eyes, shook her head and flew out of the window. Tina stared, open-mouthed. In the kitchen Rocky was barking.

First published on 22 December 2015

Paper (paragraph 1)

Joe’s new editor tapped the lump of glass on his desk, his he-thought clever way of saying the paper could not wait. Suddenly he threw it against the wall by Joe’s shoulder, where it cracked and crashed and smashed into pieces, spilling out its soon-dulled corals. He looked at Joe’s face, the glass on the floor then leaned down and took an identical paperweight out of his drawer. It would be a long night.

We really enjoyed our stay with you

We really enjoyed our stay with you. The accommodation was spacious and clean, and the meals plentiful and tasty. The bones in the stew and what might have been a tooth in the jam were disturbing at first but we soon got used to them. My husband enjoyed himself so much I believe he has decided to stay on a while longer. Could I therefore book the same week for next year? Me plus one.

Published on 26 August 2015

I dive from the rocks of my now

I dive from the rocks of my now into the sea of my memories. Those I am so desperate to hold twist silver as lightning away from my grasp. Lungs aching, fists empty, I float back to the surface, my tears mixed with the salt. Again from sharp rocks I look down and I see them, peacefully swirling and calm. Again from the rocks I dive into my memories. This time I am so sure.

First published on 22 July 2015 

As the lights went out, everything changed

“As the lights went out, everything changed.”

Andi sighed and threw the book across the room. The standard lamp fell, flickered once and died. Darkness flowed across the floor and up the walls. The room was dark, dark with the furred black that swallows the light.

The clock ticked once. Andi waited for the tock but the soft thick darkness swallowed the sound. Then, shockingly, there was a sudden light, and Andi realised everything had changed.

Published on 10 February 2015

Murray taught his young wife to swim

Murray taught his young wife to swim so they could spend more time snorkelling and looking at the fishes. He loved it. She found diving easy, gently flippering around ten or so metres down. Later she learned to drive the boat so he knew she would be safe even if he was not there.

He shouldn’t have taught her to use the speargun, she thought, as she opened the throttle and sped towards the Albanian mountains.

Dancing in the sun at Glastonbury

Dancing in the sun at Glastonbury, his then girlfriend sitting on his shoulders. White t-shirt, straw hat, arms dark against the sky and flags, a camera magnet. Whooping with delight when she saw herself on the big screen, squeezing her legs tight. That night in the tent his neck was sore, red raw. It was only when they were screaming towards divorce she told him about the momentary loss of control. It was not sunburn.

Breath whistled

How can I ever know if people see their deaths in me, he asked.
A look at the back of the eye, the crook of an eyebrow, a flattening of ears, the whistle breath of fear. All these are clues, I said.
He sighed. I have seen all of those, he replied.
I heard my own breath whistle and closed my eyes.
No, open them, he said softly. You must see this to the end.

Originally published on Paragraph Planet on Friday 13 June 2014

No cape, no escape

No cape, no escape. The words thundered round his head. No cape, no…. The flames crackled, snapped. The smoke choked his thoughts and watered his eyes. Adults screamed as the 5-year-old carefully climbed onto the window ledge, his baby brother tight in his arms. And again when he jumped, eyes squeezed shut. Later, when it was quiet and he was alone with the smell of smoke, he knew he would not need his cape again.

Trim the tree

Stevie was hacking straggly branches off the Christmas tree with a bread knife when he got the idea. He wiped the back of his hand across his eyes and yelped as the tree sap stung. He jumped up from the floor, knife in hand, and ran to the bathroom to rinse his eyes. He leaned on the sink, looking down at the knife, then blinked red eyes at the mirror. Water ran. The idea had gone.