Grandad stood at the kitchen sink

Grandad stood at the kitchen sink, eating an apple with his gutting knife. His bloodstained vest strained against his chest as he sliced so delicately with the rinsed-down blade. His jaw muscles worked under leathery skin; white stubble caught the light. He looked at the fish piled on the Sunday dinner dish and at the guts in the sink. He was thinking. “Nipper!” I jumped. “Clear up these guts and get ready. We’re going out.” A pause. “And don’t feed that cat. V, the fish is clean. I’m taking the boy out.” He put on his weekday cap and went into the yard to wash.

Stefano crouched on the sharp volcanic rocks

Stefano crouched on the sharp volcanic rocks. Below him in the shade-dark water a sea urchin tipped back and forth in the rising swell, precisely as it had a million years before. Stefano looked at the sole of his foot. The broken spines were thin and black below the reddened skin.

He looked out. The wind from the north whipped the sea into low white-flecked waves closely lined together, like hard-packed sand at low tide. The inflatable mattress was moving fast.

His diving knife was strapped to his calf as always. He thought of things that should never happen and dived into the water. The first bodylength down was summer warm; when he hit the cold from the underwater springs he arched his back and arrowed through the bubbles to the surface. The mattress was further out and further down the channel, still red he knew but black against the heat-white horizon.

The sun worshippers on the rocks around him did not see his dive raise a trail of spray. Only the girl rolling a herbal cigarette saw the knife. She reached for her phone.

The wavelets smacked his face as he swam overarm towards the mattress and the shape lying motionless on it. The water whipping off the crests of the waves felt like sand in a desert storm. He realised his habit was to turn his head to the left to breathe. Now into the wind. He had left his goggles on the rocks. But he never swam without his knife.

The mattress was closer now, drifting fast. The form on it had not stirred. He turned on his back to rest a little. His knife was still there. He touched its handle, cold in the cold water. One last effort.

He breathed in deeply and ploughed on, shoulders stretching. The only cloud in the sky passed across the sun and the sudden shade woke him from his effort. Arms and lungs burning he arrived at the mattress as the wind whipped the waves higher. He held on with one hand and felt himself being pulled through the water, out towards the open sea.

He thought.

With a single strike, he slashed the mattress with his knife. It folded, crumpled and disappeared below them. Now the wind and waves would not take them so easily.

The girl speaking on the phone shaded her eyes with her hand and saw the two black dots in the blue. One disappeared, then the other, then both reappeared. They were moving slowly towards the coast but faster along it. She lost view of them around a high outcrop and closed the phone call. ‘Too late,’ she whispered. ‘Too late.’

I sat there among the young ones

I sat there among the young ones, my house and hope gone. The photographer must have thought I’d make a moving picture as I hunched forward, face in my hands, my daughter looking away from me. He must have knelt on the muddy torn grass to place the clever metaphoric clouds in my background. He must have made a noise to make me look round. But I did not look at him when I turned round, I looked at the man with the gun and the knife, who left only me to tell the story. And the camera he took from the photographer’s hand. 


Can also be seen at

Jazz hands

She paradiddled, paradiddled, stamped, stamped. She turned on her heel and flamencoed her hand. Light flashed. A shuffle, a shuffle. Her wide wide smile was toothy and white. One more box step – or two, too fast – then stamp! The knife missed the target but hit the man cleanly. Jazz hands!

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.

Kitchen sink drama

The washing up done, Tina drew a heart on the steamed up kitchen window. Her rubber glove squeaked as she wrote her lover’s name. A vegetable knife glinted from the bottom of the sink. Tina rinsed it and stared at the heart and the name. Then she opened the window so that the steam, and the name, disappeared. It was gone. Until Tina’s husband did the steamy washing up the next day. 25 November 2013