Monday, 31 March 2014

Clocks go Forward Again.

That horrible day when the clocks change, one fewer hour in the day but paradoxically the day feels longer, with the light lasting long past its bedtime and the body clock struggling to adapt. Spring had well and truly sprung; the sun hung high in the sky despite the late hour, its beams  were warm on Anna’s face as she looked down on the street below. The cold and the snow of winter seemed a long way away. 
It had been a year since the crackdown, a long, grey, austere year of sporadic violence, police brutality, disappearances and suppression. But unlike last year there was a sense of hope in the air. 

Yesterday, Anna had been woken by voices; singing old songs, traditional songs, songs she hadn't heard in a long time. The voices grew louder as the trickle of people became streams. They were coming from all directions, descending on the square in their droves. The square below became flooded with people, a sea of colour and noise, a mass statement of defiance. 
Anna had noticed the atmosphere was different from last year. Last year there was no hint of the sudden response from the authorities so people had believed they could bring about a change for the better. But this year, despite the gaiety, people had been expecting the violent hand of the law to clampdown on their insubordination at any moment. There was a sense of resigned defiance, a feeling that the action was worth the reaction; the anniversary of last years protest needed to be marked and damn the consequences. 
But something strange had happened. The singing continued, the chanting got louder, faces relaxed, smiles grew. There were no police, no rubber bullets, no water cannon. There were no bloody reprisals. The crowd dispersed organically, people went home peacefully.

Now, a day later, the streets teemed with people enjoying the late evening sunshine. Nothing had changed, the defunct regime still had a firm grip on power, but somehow the lack of violence had offered hope, hope that one day soon change might come. The clocks had gone forward and maybe, just maybe the country Anna had loved for so long had taken a little step in the right direction too.

Did this story sound familiar, the clocks go forward every year. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Free ebook

If you enjoy my short stories and would like them on your ereader device you can now download this FREE ebook with 20 short stories. 

The massed ranks of frowners.

The teens were boisterous but not nasty, okay they were consumed with themselves, not really noticing other people around them, but they weren’t being out of order. Okay their language was a bit raw, but they weren’t being too loud.  And okay their amorous touches and slurps were a bit much for public, but hey they were 15 what harm were they doing?

So why were all the other people on the tram frowning and tut-tutting at them? What had these 2 girls and 2 boys done to attract the wrath of the middle-aged? I wasn’t frowning, I found them cute, reminding me of my own teenaged years, (although I’d never had quite the success with girls that these two lads were having.) I think their crimes was to remind the rest of us that we were getting old, to remind us that we were no longer carefree and innocent (or not so innocent judging by where her hands were.)

But when we were their age we were like that, we were loud and selfish and horny, we used words that we shouldn’t have and we hated it when the massed ranks of the grown up world tut-tutted at us. So why can’t we forgive those who are behaving like we did? Why can’t we just let them be and smile at their youth? When did we go from being the hated to being the haters? And why does human nature make us repeat that cycle?

Then from nowhere the sound of thunder and the boys collapsing with laughter, the taller one had let rip* and the tram filled with the most putrid smell imaginable, I felt my face change, the smile disappear, the grooves on my forehead formed. To my horror I had joined the frowners.

*let rip = break wind 

If you enjoyed this, you might well enjoy my novel Maggies Milkman. Click here for more details.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Furtive Glance Part 4

This is part four of the Furtive Glance for part one click here and part two click here and part three here
         She followed me to the bar and let me order the drinks. It was a dimly-lit dive, filled with the last stragglers of the night. I suggested we take the drinks to a booth away from the great unwashed, she nodded feeling like she didn’t belong here. I dunno why but she sat the same side as me. She was too close for my liking. I could smell her scent, and feel her breath on my face, I didn’t know if that was good or bad but it felt uncomfortable. Her eyes were as clear as earlier in the evening, inviting me in with their emerald charms, but her face looked older, tireder somehow, maybe it was the lighting in this joint, or maybe it was the strain beginning to show.
‘Why did you go to see him?’ She asked, if her eyes were inviting, her tone wasn't. She stared at me, waiting for an answer.
       I let silence do some talking for a moment, letting her stew in her own anger. I took a swig of my drink, maintaining eye-contact.
      ‘Listen lady,’ I said indignantly, ‘don't tell me how to do my job, either trust me or take the money back.’ 
I was hoping this could be my escape clause, but she didn’t bite. She just looked down at her drink. She was so close, I could smell her hair, it smelt of lavender. She looked back at me, tears in her eyes, but that was an old trick, she didn’t fool me for a second.
      ‘There's no mystery here lady,’ I said, voicing the thoughts I'd had earlier in the evening. ‘You know he's got the kid, I can follow him to find out where, but you probably know that already, and anyway then what?’ 
It was her turn to let the silence linger, leave the question unanswered.
       ‘Ive paid you to find him Archer Stanley, Don't ask me why.’ She spat the words at me.  ‘Either do it or give me the money back. 
She was putting on a good show, she flip-flopped between helpless dame and Iron Lady with ease.
‘You got 24 hours' she said.
That was the second time Id heard that tonight, I thought to myself.
        ‘Show me you really are as good as you say you are.’ She continued. ‘Or maybe you're all talk.’
I didn't know if wanted to slap her or kiss her. But of course I’d never slap a broad and I’d never kiss a client, but that never stopped me wanting to.

         We sat in silence for a moment before she got up to leave, the tears back in her eyes. ‘Just find him Mr. Stanley, just find him.’ she said and this time I thought the tears just might be genuine. She walked from the bar, leaving me alone with my thoughts, the eyes of the stragglers watching as she left. I decided it was time for just one more, what harm could one last drink do? A drink would help me think and right now I needed to think.

for part 5 click here 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What is that?

Do you remember when fire alarms just used to be a bell, a loud bell but a pleasant enough sound? Why did they change it to the awful blearing sirens they have now? So can you guess what shook me from my reverie while I was showering in my hotel room this morning? 
What do you do when the fire alarm goes off and you’re in the shower? Do you just pretend nothing is happening, hope it’s a false alarm? Or do you get out, get dressed and then go downstairs?  Or do just go downstairs immediately with a towel around your middle?
What did I look like standing outside with shampoo in my hair, jeans on but not much else? Did I look an idiot? What did the mother say to her daughter who was pointing at me like I was some kind of freak?
And do you know why the alarm was set off? Why I was standing outside shivering?  Would you like me to tell you?
Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you are going to light candles on a birthday cake in a hotel room, to check with someone that the smoke detectors are not overly sensitive? What harm would it do to think things through a little bit? Why don’t people take a bit of time to think about the consequences of their actions instead of just doing things?
But what really gets me is, why, if the staff knew what caused the false alarm, didn’t they let us back in? Why did we have to wait for the fire brigade to come? Why did we have to stand out there in the cold? And why did that fireman just wink at me?

This is one of my experimental stories, did you notice what it was? I’ll post the answer in the comments later, shall I?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Strip Bar


Robert loved having guests from different countries visiting, he had the company credit card, an unlimited, budget and for once in his boring life, he was the main man. He sat in amongst his 4 guests holding court, telling stories about the country, the politics, the food and the women.
‘Right and after we’ve had desert and coffee I’ve got a surprise for you.’ he said handing out small business cards with the word ‘Dolls’ emblazoned over it in crude gold lettering. ‘VIP passes my friends, VIP passes.’ He sat back looking pleased with himself. He was the main man and he had orgainsed a treat for his 4 ‘friends.’ All four men smiled outwardly but their eyes told different stories.
 ‘Great idea’ said Honza, but his words belied the real feelings. A bloody strip bar, what on earth would his wife say? she’d bloody kill him if she found out. But he couldn’t back out could he? What would the others think of him? ‘Hen-pecked' Honza, doing what his wife told him. But he loved his wife and didn’t want to look at other women. And what would he tell her? Would he lie to her or tell her the truth? He excused himself and went to call her, better to be upfront and tell her now.
‘Brilliant’ said Karl, but to the educated ear his intonation was not quite genuine. He hated these trips; back home everyone knew what he was and accepted him. But every time he met new people he had to come out all over again. Sometimes when he was with a group of alpha males like this, he would rather step back into the closet temporarily than have to deal with the potential problems he might face if he told them all he was gay. It was usually fine, it was usually just being economical with the truth but going to a strip bar he’d have to pretend and he hated pretending.
Mitch didn’t say anything, just looked at his fellow diners. He hated moments liked this. He didn’t want to treat women like animals, like objects, he hated the growth of these horrible, sleazy gentlemen’s clubs with horrible leary men. He thought it set feminism back 20 years and he didn’t want to be part of it. But what could he do? The others were all agreeing to go along with this horrible little man. If he said no and told them why, he’d be called a killjoy a bore. This was an important meeting and an important contract, he couldn’t rock the boat could he?
‘Really?’, said Ludek, ‘ a strip bar?’ This gave Mitch hope.
‘Of course’ said Robert, special treat.
‘Well, if we must.’ said Ludek. Mitch’s heart sunk.
Ludek had rolled his eyes but the protests were superficial. Deep down he was excited. He was the oldest,  49, and had been married 25 years and you could say the spark had gone out of his marriage and the thought of real life, naked flesh sent a shiver down his spine.

Robert was pleased, it was obvious his guests were happy with his choice, he hated these places himself, they were horrible, soulless, hollow places. But if it pleased his guests, then he was willing to put up with it for an hour or two before heading home to his bible.