Category Archives: Short

Elephant loses his banana

Once upon a time Elephant, Gwen and Nina were all playing when Elephant realised that he was quite hungry.

“Maybe you should eat a banana,” said Gwen.
“I thought I had one around here somewhere,” said Elephant, “but it seems to have gone missing.”
“Maybe you’ve put it in one of your pockets,” said Nina.
“I thought that,” said Elephant, “but I’ve checked and it’s gone.”
“Maybe,” said Nina, “it just walked off by itself.”
“That’s impossible, isn’t it?” said Gwen, “Bananas don’t have legs.”
“But this one does because it’s special,” said Nina.
“Was it a special banana,” asked Gwen?
“Yes it was,” said Elephant, “it was special to me, it was going to be my lunch.”
“Well then,” said Gwen, “we’ll have to look for it.”

So Gwen, Elephant and Nina decided to go and look for this special banana.
“Can you remember where you last saw it?” asked Gwen.
“It might be in the fruit bowl,” said Nina, but it wasn’t there, there were only three apples in there, and elephants don’t like
apples, at least this one doesn’t.
“Actually, the last place I saw the banana was in the shop,” said Elephant.
“What? You didn’t actually buy it?” said Nina.
“I don’t remember,” said Elephant.
“Maybe you bought it,” said Gwen, “but left it on the counter.”
“I think,” said Nina, “that he might have actually forgotten to buy it, popped it in his pocket, then it dropped out on the
pavement so it will be really mucky now. Oh, Elephant, you are so forgetful sometimes.”
“I am,” said Elephant, “but don’t worry about it being mucky if it’s on the floor, because you don’t eat banana skins, so it’s got
its own wrapper.”
“That’s true,” said Nina, “shall we go and look for it?”
“Yes,” said Elephant, “I’m still really hungry.”

Sure enough, as they were walking down the road they suddenly saw, lying on the pavement, a single banana. Elephant went running
over and was about to peel it and pop it in his mouth when Gwen said, “Stop! Didn’t Nina say you might have forgotten to buy that?
If you haven’t bought it then you shouldn’t eat it yet. Let’s go in to the shop and check, it’s only over there.”

So they went in to the shop, and the shopkeeper was very surprised to see Elephant again. “Hello, back again Elephant, you can’t
have eaten all of those bananas that you bought already, can you?”
“Oh,” said Elephant, “did I buy more than one?”
“Yes,” said the shopkeeper, “you bought a whole bunch. I saw you eating them as you left the shop. You were in such a rush I
wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t dropped some as you were peeling them so quickly.”
“Ah,” said Gwen, “that must have been how you dropped your last banana.”

And that was the whole true story. The friends all went back home really quickly, so they would be in time for lunch, and Mummy
made them a lovely lunch of tuna sandwiches for everyone, except Elephant who had another bunch of bananas!

The end.

Standing in a garden in rome

John and Katie are standing in a garden in Rome. They are standing in a part of the garden that, for some reason, has been covered with corrugated plastic. It has paths that would be fun to run along, but they can’t do that because they are pretending to be sophisticated. Shortly John will run briefly, ironically, along the path, looking square at Katie so she knows not to judge him.

But she will judge. Not him, he’s enjoying himself, maybe not enough, but there’s something there. He’s being free. What the hell is she doing? She can’t just run down the winding paths.

Some pigeons are walking on the top of the plastic corrugated roof. The racket is deafening. PECK PECK PECK.

SCRAPED FOOT, SCRAPED FOOT, PECK, SCR… PECK, PECK, PECK, SCRAPED FOOT.

“It sounds like it’s raining,” John says.
“Bloody pigeons,” Katie says, “must have followed us here all the way from London”.
“Must have taken the plane,” says John.
“Yeah,” Katie says, “do you think they flew business class?”
“Would they fly do you reckon?”
“What,” Katie asks, looking at him with a grin on her face, “rather than taking the boat?”
“Well,” says John, “I meant, regardless of what transport method they were ostensibly taking, I wondered if they would fly around on a plane? Or a boat?”
“If that floats your boat”.
“Indeed, but what would it be like for a pigeon flying around on a plane?”
“Yeah,” Katie says, “‘No I don’t want any bloody hot towels, I’m about to get the land speed record.'”
“Well it wouldn’t be the land speed record.”
“‘Well, no, the air speed record, that’s what I’m about to get’, he’d say, ‘and bloody get out of my way with the sky mall magazine, I don’t have time for that rubbish'”
“‘There is a very handy GPS device listed here’, ‘a GPS device? I’m a homing pigeon, what on earth would I do with a GPS? Use it as a paperweight?'”
“Yeah,” Katie says, “They wouldn’t be fans of distraction like that up there.”

The conversation drops and John does his run down the path. Katie thinks about sighing, but doesn’t want to discourage him. They are having a nice time. Imagine when we are grown up, Katie thinks, it will all be different, we’ll have kids and stuff, and we’ll do important grown up things. Important boring things.

John thinks about saying something, but doesn’t. It’s a nice day, he thinks, why ruin it by talking about stuff?

Katie suddenly says, “I’m not sure what the point of growing up is? I mean, yes, having kids, I suppose you need to raise them”.
“Well they need to learn to eat I suppose”.
“But what’s the point in growing up? What’s the point in choosing to be serious and not laughing each day?”
“Well I guess you have to eventually?”
“Do you?” Katie asks, she looks at him.
“Well maybe not, actually I think you’re right. Although, maybe real growing up is not being worried about being serious all the time?”
“So you think those codgers are doing it wrong?”
“Yup.”
“Me too. Although there are some cool codgers you know?”
“Oh yeah, that’s us! The light and soul of the retirement home.”
“Yeah, I guess, but maybe we need to grow up a bit?”
“I guess, I guess, but we have time for that don’t we. Or is it annoying that we haven’t?” John asks.
“I don’t know, I feel like we might be missing something, but everyone who has grown up that I know hates themselves.”
“Well that sounds like a good reason to avoid it.”
“Yeah,” Katie looks at him, “but maybe we could be a bit more grown up sometimes, maybe a bit more… well…”
“Yeah.”

Katie wonders whether that’s an actual “Yeah”, or even if they are acknowledging the same thing? The conversation drops for a bit.

“Those pigeons,” John says, “they really are incredibly loud aren’t they?”

Airborne

Stephan sits back in his chair and tries to make his head comfortable. The muscles on the right of his neck ache slightly, it’s impossible to get comfortable back here in cattle class. Stephan had asked them what the “current economic climate” had to do with his nine o’clock tomorrow, but to no avail.

He tried to move his head again, nothing, this was hopeless. He looked out the window and there, to his immense surprise, he saw a man. A man in a business suit flying next to the ‘plane, his legs and arms out in a star shape. Was he flying or falling? A lurch in Stephan’s stomach told him that the plane was falling but had recovered. Out the window the man fell under the cloud cover.

Did he have a parachute on? Was he fine? Why hadn’t Stephan shouted out? Why had he remained silent? But what could he have done? Was he still asleep? Was it a dream?

He turned to the guy next to him… Or rather he turned to where he had been. The words, “did you see that…” just kind of petered out. He must have gone to the bathroom and missed it. He thought about telling somebody, but had he just imagined it?

He picked up the glass of Vodka tonic on his tray table and drained it. He closed his eyes and thought about what he just had seen. Surely if he just opened his eyes everything would be back to normal. But he didn’t re-open his eyes, he fell asleep somewhere over Connecticut.

The shake on his bicep gently waking him didn’t seem to him to be as gentle as he, as a seasoned traveler, was used to.

“Excuse me sir, sir…”
“Sorry, I must have dropped off. Have we landed?”
“Sir…”
“Excellent, sorry I…”

Stephan looked up and noticed that the face of the stewardess was not fixed in the fake kindly gentle face he was used to but instead looked rather concerned.

“What’s the problem?”

Stephan looked around and decided that they were certainly still flying.

“Sir, we are about to make our decent and we have been unable to find your… Well the gentleman who was sitting here.”

She pointed to the still empty seat.

“Sir, do you know where he’s gone? I know it’s a funny question.”
“Um… I… I assumed he had gone to the bathroom.”
“They are all empty.”
“Well, um, well… Honestly, I thought I had been dreaming, but…”

Your hair

Lucy sits in the bar watching you talk. Each time you move your hands, I see Lucy’s eyes flick to your fingertips. She looks as though she isn’t looking, you won’t notice. But she keeps checking. You push your right hand through your hair, and I see Lucy sigh and look away. What does she think about you? I don’t know if she’s even been brave enough to see you properly. Lucy can’t even know the colour of your eyes, she’s never let herself get close enough to you for that. She’s not brave enough for that, no, she’s had the look of a frightened animal since you walked in here. What’s she afraid of? You? The idea that anyone would be afraid of you? Crazy. It’s not you that she’s afraid of, I guess. I would guess it’s the idea of the two of you. You are oblivious to all of this, as usual. You just keep talking, laughing, having a great time and pushing your hand through your damned hair.

Jim at Gym

Liz didn’t want to go to gym, not after last night’s conversation with Barbara. Liz had mentioned Jim, hadn’t she, but she hadn’t meant to. It was… It was just an idle thought that crossed her mind. Why she had voiced it to Barbara last night, she would never know.

Liz had simply asked, “so, do you think we’ll see Jim at Gym tomorrow?”

The problem wasn’t in the question. The problem was that she had no reason to ask it. Well, no reason she could say to Barbara.

Barbara had immediately wanted to know why Liz thought he might not go. And Liz couldn’t think of anything to say. She needed something snappy and quick and convincing. Something like, “well last week he was saying that the instructor had bad breath and he might not come back because of it”. That would have worked because the instructor did have bad breath. Breath bad enough to stun an Eskimo at five paces. Or probably an Inuit these days.

But Liz didn’t think of that. All that kept popping into her mind was “well, with his piles”. Which wasn’t fair because, as far as Liz knew, he didn’t have piles. It was just the only excuse that she could think of. So she didn’t say that. She just left it hanging.

She just wanted to see Jim at Gym. That was all. And he was on her mind. That was all it was. But why did she have to let it slip to Barbara of all people? Did she want everyone to know? Or did she?

Well, that was something to think about.

Sitting in my dressing gown

Sitting at my dining table, on a cold December morning. My padded dressing gown keeping the chair and the cold away from me. How did I get to this moment? This melancholic, brain-deadening moment?

I suppose it is from a peek, the merest glimpse, behind that old Wizard of Oz curtain. A slight view of what it is that drives and makes us. A person should never know who they really are, because to know makes you into an actor. It makes every action filter through that part of your brain which asks, “is that what I would do?”. You shouldn’t need to ask, you should just do.

The gnarled knobs of grey gunk that electrically control our lives don’t seem to know what they want. And neither do I. The animalistic core doesn’t so much confuse the cerebral total of the mind, as pretend it doesn’t exist and forget to forward its mail. And the act is reciprocal. “Oh no,” we all say, “we don’t have animal urges”.

It’s an uneasy balance. A tightrope we each walk every day blindfolded. We don’t fall off the rope into those easy rages of childhood as often anymore. So we are tricked into believing that it is not a rope we are walking on. It’s a normal path. But don’t take off that blindfold, oh no. There’s no need for that. No good will come of that.

Then you see yourself. You are walking past a conversation about you. A mirror which is a window. And you see in. You see how you are seen and it makes it hard to remember how you are, how you behave, who you are, who you present yourself as.

What you do is who you are, to other people. Remember that. They can’t see the parts inside your brain. They can’t see what you really think. It’s only what you present that makes up your character for them. What you present consciously and unconsciously.

When I saw into myself, I saw that I forgot to tell the world something. I was screaming something in my head, that I didn’t know you didn’t know. I want to be famous.

Street party

Sandra put her arm out of the kitchen window. A couple of tiny raindrops landed on her hand. IT IS NOT GOING TO RAIN. She didn’t really know who she was thinking this to. She hadn’t been to church since last summer when she’d tried to will the vicar into helping with the tombola.

Sandra closed the window and turned back to her kitchen. Rows of sandwiches were arranged with military precision on trays. There were bowls of hula hoops. Enough, by her calculation, for everyone to have five hoops each. More than enough.

There was no cake. She’d left the cake to Dorothy. A risk certainly. But a calculated risk. Last year Dorothy had brought one cake along (Sandra had made the other six). And all anyone had spoken about for three months was how nice Dorothy’s sponge was. Well, it’s all very well making springy sponge when you only have to make one, and you aren’t making the sandwiches, sorting the drink, making Matthew collect the drink, so Matthew can talk about how he’s sorted the drink, getting the council to close the road despite the objections of the Robinsons (as usual). It’s all very well making cake in those conditions.

This time Sandra had made it quite clear to everyone that she was making no cake and that it was all Dorothy’s responsibility. Dorothy was a flake and couldn’t really be trusted. In fact the only thing she could be trusted to do in Sandra’s opinion was to cause trouble – something that she excelled at. So by that reckoning there would be no cake a all. Sandra turned and strode into the back room and opened the door to the larder. There were two victoria sponges each in their own Tupperware with a third Tupperware container with some raspberry jam, long spoons and some napkins.

Nobody knew of these sponges, not even Matthew. Would, Sandra worried, Matthew know how to collect these when Sandra sent him back for them? She couldn’t have there be no cake, that would reflect badly on her. That would mean poor organisation. So she had some backup cake. It shouldn’t be necessary, but if Dorothy didn’t appear then Matthew could run and fetch them. She’d have to keep Matthew off the lager until the cake materialised one way or the other.

Everyone, except the Robinsons, had removed their cars from the road as asked. She had taken Reggie out for a walk and seen that it was all done. Then she had made the sandwiches – all the other food had been done the night before. If there was one thing Sandra didn’t like, it was soggy sandwiches. Then she had attacked the hoovering pausing loudly near the children’s rooms and knocking repeatedly against their doors with the hose. And now she was ready. She took her pinny off and hung it behind the kitchen door. Now to shower. She looked back over the room. She slid open a drawer and pulled a pad of Post-It notes out and a pen. Then she wrote on a note that said, “Matthew, I know how many hula hoops there are in this bowl – don’t even think about it”. She placed the Post-It note on top of the bowl and went for her shower.

As she left the kitchen the clock ticked over and proclaimed the time to be seven o’clock.

Amber

Amber lay on the sloping bank, her feet cooling in the river. She looked across the river to a house. A dragonfly hovered in front of her nose. Dragonflies do live up to their name, she thought. They seem so old. Amber felt old, too old to be lusting after young boys, well, young men. On the opposite bank of the river, in the garden of the house, were three such young men. They were probably about 25 and they were mowing the lawns. She had been walking along the river and one of their naked torsos had caught her attention. She hadn’t really thought about it but suddenly her feet had felt quite hot and tired. Perhaps cooling them in the water might be good after all.

Amber stopped, sat and took off her shoes. She suddenly wasn’t sure about the water. It looked clean enough but it had only really been warm for the last few days. The water was liable to be freezing. She didn’t have a towel to dry her feet afterwards either. But she decided that it would look better if she was cooling her feet. Otherwise somebody looking might have thought she was just there watching. She wanted it to be clear that she had just stopped to cool her feet. That the lawn mowers had probably arrived afterwards and that their noise was probably an annoyance rather than anything else.

But the noise was perfect. The drone of the mowers, the slipping of the stream, the birds calling out to each other. Amber wondered if there were bashful birds? A Zeppelin-like bee came poot-pooting past. It was doing a pretty fair approximation of the lawnmowers. The breeze was making the grass tickle Amber’s fingers. The sun was warming her face and chest. Amber experienced the summer version of “did-I-leave-the-gas-on?” which is “did-I-remember-sunblock-this-morning?”. Which of course she had. What about her feet? The water was probably washing it off. It was supposed to be waterproof, but she had never really believed that, when the children were young she had always rubbed sunblock back in the moment they had come out of the water. She started wondering how the children were doing. Neither of them had called for a few days. What were they doing? She hoped they were happy.

Amber caught herself. She had forgotten the moment she was in. For a second she wondered if any of these three had called their mothers recently. Of course they had, she decided, they were good boys. Despite the sun on her the running river was robbing Amber of her heat. It was probably time to move on. Amber began to worry as she often had in the last few weeks. Even in the perfect situation she didn’t seem to be able to live in the moment. Her brain kept cycling on.

She wondered when she last did something impulsive. Something tried to tell her that just stopping and admiring the view had been impulsive. But not really, she knew it wasn’t really. She had worried what people who saw her would think. There are no bashful birds, she thought.

And with that she stood up, and threw herself into the river. She righted herself and launched herself upwards, breaking the surface of the water. She started treading water and shouting, “Help, help”.

Her dress, waterlogged, had stuck itself very tightly to her body. All three of the young men who had been mowing the lawn heard the noise, downed tools, and started running towards Amber.

“Interesting,” Amber thought, “I wonder what I should do next?”

“No,” another part of her brain said rather firmly, “we will just have to find out what happens next. For now, it is not for us to decide.”

Girl in a brown dress

She is sitting opposite her boyfriend. She is wearing a brown, lightly patterned figure hugging dress and knee high leather boots which match the thin black strap around her neck.

She looks worried behind her glasses. Her chin dimples. She casually puts her hand on his forearm. He flexes his muscles as she touches him making his shirt tighten around his bicep. He has said something to her and she wants to challenge him. Can she at this stage? Is their relationship strong enough to let him spend the evening with his ex girlfriend? Why does he want to anyway. She knows he said why. But that isn’t the reason.

He is explaining further. Too much. Clearly too much explanation. But then why explain it? Why bother. If he wants to sleep with her so much why doesn’t he just do it?

Gary and Fern

“Fern?”
“Yeah, Gary?”
“Fern, you’ve excreted some formic acid over here.”
“Sorry, Gary.”

There was a pause while Fern walked over and took a look, “Oh man, sorry Gary, I feel so ashamed. Eat me now. Seriously eat me now.”

I looked at Fern, an ant who had hopped off a bus and into my life. Hi, I’m Gary, I’m a spider. Normally we eat ants, but Fern was funny.

He piped up again, “Seriously Gary, for a second, I know you had a big lunch, two wasps wasn’t it?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, after a big lunch like that, I thought you might have a little indigestion. You might want some ant acid. No? C’mon?”

Or at least I thought Fern was funny. For an ant.

Some music struck up in the apartment next to where we were standing.

“Fern, do you like rappers?”
“What chocolate wrappers or gangster rappers?”
“Ganger rappers I guess, I mean rap music more than any particular gangster connotation.”
“I don’t know. I mean, yeah it’s okay I guess.”
“Okay, so I’m going to ask you this question. Do you trust me Fern?”
“Yeah sure Gary. I mean, of course.”
“Would you be willing to step onto my web?”
“Um…”

Fern knew that if he stepped onto the web his only chance of escape was for him to be given the chance to eat away at the silk which would attach itself to his legs. He could do it. We both knew of ants who had escaped, but he’d have to trust that I’d give him the time to do it. I would of course. I didn’t need to eat him.

“Why Gary? Why would you want me to step onto your web?”
“Just because Fern, until you’ve listened to rap music while standing on a spider’s web you’ve never experienced rap music. What I’m talking about is the vibrations, even rap artists have never experienced rap music properly.”
“So you’re not just talking about rap music are you Gary. You’re talking about anything with a thumping baseline.”
“Yeah, in theory,” I said, “but this is 2008 in South London it’s not like we’re going to hear any drum and bass.”
“You really haven’t been off this window sill in a while have you Gary?”
“You’re right,” I said, “ I’m not one of life’s travelers. I was one of life’s waiters.”
“All right, in that case I’ll have the nettle soup.”
“What? Oh. Waiter. Right.”

A few seconds passed, more music was playing and vibrating the web very hard.

“Alright Gary. I’ll come and listen.”
“Thanks Fern, it means a lot to me.”
“You not eating me means a lot to me, remember that.”
“I promise.”

Fern walked away and climbed up the wall. He then walked upside down onto the ledge of the next floor up, twisted his body and dropped off the bottom of the windowsill. He wouldn’t have been able to get to the middle of the web any other way. One step in from the side and he’d be stuck. As he dropped I wondered how he’d ever get off the web, I was sure we’d work it out together.

He landed a strand over from me. After the initial rocking the strong vibrations of the bass line started to vibrate us up and down.

“Gary.”
“Yes, Fern.”
“This is a very moving experience.”