And so the ritual begins. Small humans roam the streets, all hyped up on the kinds of treats that big humans typically ration for the purpose of bribery. Humiliating outfits are abound, comprised of old rags, plastic sacks, enormous white sheets, obnoxiously large, wide-brimmed hats, and an array of peculiar masks which make humans look a smidgeon uglier than they already are. Vegetables are carved to look like ghoulish grinning faces and plonked outside doorways and in windows to give us poor felines a fright as we go about our night-time exploits. (Felines other than myself, of course. Nothing frightens me, I can assure you.) Then there’s all the noise—the yells and screams and cries from humans of all sizes, even the ones large enough and old enough to know better. The entire palaver makes my tail itch.Continue reading “A Lockout | Short Story (Excerpt from ‘All Hallows’ Hell’)”
Missed Part 1? Read it here
Missed Part 2? Read it here
I remember the first visit to the specialist hospital for treatment. That building, a giant grey block of concrete, was like a great tombstone towering over us. I had visions of it careening over and crushing us as we walked through its doors. And it did, in its way. It snuffed out our spirit.
She grew sick of hospitals, sick of doctors, sick of me telling her to cooperate. And I was sick of her too.
‘I’m not going back again, Sharon. All they do is prod and poke me and then tell me its more doom and gloom.’
‘They’re trying to help.’
‘They all know I’m a dead woman walking.’
‘They’re trying to keep you walking for as long as possible.’
‘What if I don’t want to?’
‘You’re ready to die, are you?’
‘I think I am, yes. You should just shoot me rather than keep dragging me down that hospital.’
‘Alright, Mum. I’ll see if the bloke at Holme Farm’ll lend me his shotgun and we’ll put you out of your misery, eh?’
‘You’d love that, wouldn’t you?’
‘Absolutely. Would give me a great deal of satisfaction to blow your old brains out.’Continue reading “My Mother and Her Cat (Part 3) | Short Story”
Missed Part 1? Read it here
The wee thing didn’t stay wee for very long. It grew at a rate of knots on a diet of sardines, mackerel, salmon, steak—bloody steak!—and anything my mother left on her plate after each meal. That sodding cat was better fed than Mark and I had ever been as kids.
It wasn’t fat, necessarily, but by heck was it big. Solid. Strong and burly like a furry, whiskered wrestler. It would strut up and down the street like a panther, intimidating anyone who dared to approach it with vicious hisses and snippy flicks of its tail.
Arrogant, it was. It would lay out in the middle of the road on its back, sunning its belly and getting its coat blathered in dust and flecks of gooey tar that had melted in the summer heat. When a car came along it wouldn’t move. Brakes would screech and cars would lurch to a halt, and the damn cat would merely peer up at the vehicle before it and blink at the driver, as though they were doing it an inconvenience. A pip of the horn or rev of the engine was the only thing that got it to shift, and even then it moved at half-speed, luxuriously stretching out each of its limbs as it got to its feet and wandered over to the pavement to find a new sunbathing spot.
And it was this sheer bloody arrogance that killed it. Eventually a driver came along that couldn’t give a cat’s arse for the wee thing and its ego.Continue reading “My Mother and Her Cat (Part 2) | Short Story”
My mother always said that cats choose their owners. I always said that my mother talked a lot of old shite.
It wasn’t just when she was old that she talked nonsense. It started when I was young. Scratch that; it probably started when she was young. She insisted that eating my crusts would make my hair curl, but I ended up begging for a perm by the time I was fourteen because all the sodding crusts in the world wouldn’t put a single kink in my limp locks. She said apples were as good as toothpaste for brushing our pegs, but that theory was disproved when our Mark insisted on eating two apples a day instead of using a toothbrush and spent more time in the dentist’s office than he did in school. She insisted that leaving shoes on the table brings bad luck, but I don’t think I’m any unluckier than the next poor git despite going against this titbit of motherly advice more times than I can count over the last forty-nine years.
And she said for decades that she’d be dead by eighty. Said she could feel it in her bones. Said it was written into her fate. She got that wrong. No, she stubbornly hung on for as long as she could. Shame, really, because if she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had to put ourselves through the shambles that was her eightieth birthday party.Continue reading “My Mother and Her Cat (Part 1) | Short Story”
Constellate Literary Journal recently published my short story, All Fixed. Read it here.
The pub smelled of stale lager and pork scratchings, but that’s just the way Dad liked it. One of the last good, proper pubs left, so he used to say. A shithole, in other words. But at least it was friendly. I watched Mum as she wandered across the dingy maroon carpet. Her nose crinkled as she noted the soles of her shoes clinging to the sticky pile with each step. I sipped my large white wine and hoped its effects would wash over me quickly.
Gavin nudged me. ‘One drink and we’ll be off.’
I took in the clusters of mourners which filled the room. ‘I haven’t spoken to anyone yet.’Continue reading “All Fixed | Short Story”
Thunder rumbles ominously in the distance. Polly suppresses a yawn. She glares at the night sky which is blanketed in clouds heavy with storm.
Rain already, she thinks. Get it over with.
Almost as though they are lending an ear, the heavens open. Fat raindrops make their rapid descent down to Earth and Polly quickly pulls up her hood and directs her camera at the Stormy Princess.
For decades the Stormy Princess has guarded this short, barren stretch of Yorkshire coastline. From the day she first appeared in 1959 — crafted from clay by an anonymous artist — the sculpture has been the source of superstition and rumour. She’s bewitched, say the residents of nearby towns and villages. She’s made of magic. Every time a storm passes over her, she moves.
His heart is pounding. He’s lost in her gaze. His lips are a hair’s breadth away from hers.
And then it all disappears.
He’s wide awake, staring up at the white ceiling, cursing himself again. Why does it always have to end there, right before the kiss? Why can’t he keep himself asleep for just long enough to feel her soft, full lips against his mouth? Continue reading “It All Disappears | Short Story”
I wrote this story nine months ago and put off publishing it in case it was too morbid or doleful. It’s certainly a lot different to the silly, whimsy fiction I tend to post. I was also scared of sharing too much of myself. This story is fictional, but it is inspired by own experiences with depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK right now. I figured that sharing fiction like this might help in one way or another.
Ask for help. Lean on your loved ones. Don’t be too proud to admit when things are getting too difficult.
‘What are things like at home?’
I think of the thick layer of dust that sits on every surface in my living room, the unopened mail which carpets my hallway and the stacks of dirty mugs in my kitchen sink.
I shrug. ‘Fine.’
‘Do you live alone?’
Dr Taylor looks away from his computer screen. ‘And how do you find that?’
I shrug again. I’ve lost count of how many shrugs I’ve given him over the course of the past five minutes. ‘Fine.’
‘What about when you need support? Who can you turn to?’
Another shrug. ‘My mum, I guess.’
‘Does she live nearby?’
‘You see her often?’
‘Does she know about the self-harm?’
My hand automatically moves to my forearm so that my fingers can poke at the fresh wound which lives there. It’s just beginning to crust over. The stab of soreness calms me. I’m looking forward to the inevitable sting that will occur later when I peel away the fabric from sticky, angry flesh.
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘So if you were in crisis you could go to your Mum’s house?’
‘And do you?’
Course not. When I’m in crisis I wallow in it.
‘Sometimes,’ I say.
‘Good. So your mum is an important part of your support network. I’ll make a note of that.’ He turns back to his computer screen and taps away at his keyboard.
I look at the beige walls of the bland office and wonder how Dr Taylor himself isn’t stir fucking crazy.
Her chest heaves as she looks at the photograph of days long gone. Her and her big brother, eight and ten years old, throwing sand at each other on Brighton beach. A snapshot of childhood, back when summers seemed to stretch out for years rather than months, giving them hours upon hours of play and playfights to indulge in.
She jumps at the sound of her husband’s voice and the photo frame slips from her hands and lands with a crack on the edge of the hearth.
“It’s alright, I’m sure it’s fine.”
She retrieves the frame, leaving chunks of smashed glass behind on the floor. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” The tears fall fast.
“Hey, it’s okay. We can replace the frame easy enough, can’t we?” He takes the frame from her, swiftly removes the backing and hands her the photograph. “There’s something written on the back of that.”
The world seems to slow down around her. It’s like a spider has wandered across the page, its legs covered in ink. Her brother’s unmistakable scruffy handwriting.
Alright, knobhead! I KNEW you’d drop this frame. You’re so predictable. And stupidly clumsy.
Don’t feel too bad, the glass was already cracked. And it was 99p from Asda — you know me, I love a bargain.
Now, it’s time for a good old-fashioned TREASURE HUNT!