COMMING SOON #ShortStories 6 excerpts from an all new collection of 12 stories.



Five excerpts from a new collection of twelve 
short stories.
Publication, early 2023


TWISTED FATE

The soft respectful chatter between guests had changed tempo and volume.
The bride was late, very late!
At the back of the church, a baby began to whine and whimper.
Soon it would be testing the full power of its tiny lungs.
The acoustics inside the church would allow us all to fully appreciate quite how loud a baby's cry could be.
Anxious murmurings, and some raised voices, caused restless stirrings in the pews.
I didn't have a plus one and was sandwiched between two strangers, so the minutes dragged on.
I'd looked at the order of service sheet several times, trying to figure out how long the ceremony would take.
There would be a few boring hymns, and then the bride and groom would stand in front of the vicar repeating a string of ludicrous outdated vows.
I'd looked around the church and admired the elaborate structure of its beamed ceiling.
I'd marvelled at the impressive floral display adorning the altar and pulpit.
I had gazed at the grim stained glass window, in which Christ was depicted hanging from a cross, blood dripping from hands and feet.
And I had internally scoffed at the silly hats, pastel-shaded frocks and fancy feathered fascinators.
Now my backside was getting numb.
The old oak pews were far from comfortable.
What was Kathy up to?
I'd seen her only days before.
Thinking back, I hope Kathy's no-show at the church was, in no way, connected to anything I had said on that occasion.

JIMMY AND THE FERRET

I don't really blame Jimmy. I should have known better.
There he was on that first day at work, with those rouge eyes and crooked smile. Jimmy's handsome in an unconventional way, but his casual self-confidence attracted me most of all. Jimmy's very comfortable in his own skin, which I'm not.
There's too much of it for a start. I could do with losing some weight. I've been bulimic since I was eleven. I stuff myself with food and then throw most of it up, and STILL, I get fat.
My dad's overweight too, but it doesn't stop him from teasing me. He calls me Miss Blobby and then laughs as if he's said the funniest thing in the world.
Jimmy homed in on me from day one.
I'd not had a proper boyfriend, just an unfortunate and humiliating incident with a boy at school who cornered me in the lost and found while I was trying to find my sports kit.

I didn't tell anyone, especially not my dad, he'd have blamed me.
Jimmy made me feel like I was the only person of interest.
We're not like those other losers, Jimmy would say.

He meant Jackie on the till, Marion the manageress, and Oli the shelf-stacker.
In what way we weren't like those other losers, I had no idea, and as it turned out, I was the biggest loser of all.
Why Jimmy had such an inflated view of himself, I can't say. His job was to transfer supplies from the delivery trucks and sort out where to stack them.
Jimmy was nearly thirty, and he'd already worked at Palmer's for over five years.
That was something else that attracted me, not that he'd worked at Palmer's for over five years, the fact that Jimmy was a grown-up man, not some greasy-haired, pock faced teenager like the boy, like the one in lost and found.
Jimmy's seemed so sophisticated in comparison, so worldly-wise, and I was high on his attention.
Jimmy would say nice things about the way I looked. He'd compliment my clothes and tell me how beautiful my long red hair was.
He'd look at me in a lust, admiring kind of way, and I wasn't used to that.
Beyonce would die for an ass like yours, he said.
It's twice the size, I said, feeling awkward and embarrassed.
Well, that just makes it twice as lovable, he said, giving my rear a cheeky slap.
When I turned up for my shift, he'd put his arm around me, give me a big tight squeeze and say, yeah! Mandy's here to brighten my day.
He'd tell me jokes and poke fun at Marion, Jackie and Oli.
It was mean of him to make fun of Oli, but he did such funny impressions and I'd find it hard not to laugh.

NOT LIKE BACK THEN  

They don't have weather like what we used to... back in the day. I said to the man at the checkout. We had proper weather back then, not like now. Winters were cold, and the summers were hot. These days, I can't tell if it's January or July half the time.
The man on the checkout smiled and nodded. Jeff was his name. It said so on his badge.
Still, I don't like that what's-her-name, Greta Thumburger. I don't like the look of her, not one bit. Who does she think she is, telling us what we should and shouldn't do. The climate's supposed to change... that's what it does. We had snow four feet deep back in the day, and no one made a big palaver over it, and what about acid rain. What was all that about? No one even mentions acid rain anymore.
I was about to bring up that time when it didn't rain for months, and we had to put our Mars bars in the fridge.
Then Jeff told me that the bread and fish fingers came to four pounds and seventy pence, which is a lot for just two things.
Still, I had a purse full of small change that I wanted to offload. Most of it was pennies and two-pence pieces, but there were some five-pence pieces.
The woman behind me muttered, fucking hell, but loud enough for me to hear. When I turned to look at her, she gave me a tight-lipped smile and pretended like she hadn't said anything. I'd never seen what I'd call an unfriendly smile, but that's what this woman had, she had a very unfriendly smile.
Honestly, Lucy, I said to little Lucy, who was being as good as gold, no one's got no time now for anyone else, not these days.

QUAGADOUGOU 

I have a laptop computer, my son Bryan made me buy it.

He said, We can email each other and I won't seem so far away.

You can travel the world from the comfort of your sofa.

He was wrong, Bryan is still thousands of miles away and his emails don't make me feel that he's any closer than he actually is.

As it is, he's living somewhere in America called Silicone Valley.

Is that where they do all the breast implants? I asked.

No mum, no, it's where all the computer geeks like me hang out.

You can go on Amazon, order anything you want, and they deliver it straight to your door, he said.

Oh, can I? Can I really? Is it all free then, the stuff you order on the internet?

Can you have anything you want and not have to pay for it? I don't think so!

If you're lonely you can go into chat rooms and talk to other people.

How exactly does that work, how can you go into a room with other people when it's invisible? Where are these rooms and who's in them?




NUMBER THIRTY-FOUR, THE IVY HOUSE

I've put things in the back lane for my new mystery neighbours to find. I've left them as if for rubbish collection, so they don't think I know about the break-in.
I lied to Glenda about the back gate. It would have been easy for them to access the back of the house.
The girl usually leaves early, before most people are up and about.
On recycling day, I left a black bin bag containing some blankets and a duvet near their gate. Then I went upstairs and out came the girl.
She pulled at the top knot and peeked inside, then dragged the bag back in across the yard.
I'm pretty sure the girl is the same person as the girl who sits in the doorway next to Tesco Express. She sits there reading. I haven't heard her ask for money, but most of us give her something, even if it's just a coffee or a sandwich. If I'm passing, I give her a few pounds. She's very polite and always says thank you. Her accent is London, east London.
I left a box of books in the back lane. Days later, I was pleased to see her sitting in the doorway reading one of them.
So, I decided to talk to her.

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