Category Archives: Short

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.”

Instructions

He walks in, flicks the light, picks up the post, puts it on the tray and closes the door behind him. He steps forward and cocks his head slightly, is she home? He walks down towards the kitchen, there is a sign on the cooker.

“Gas Mark 6”

He puts his coat on the hook on the back of the back door and turns the cooker on to Gas Mark 6. As the light comes on he can something pastry like in the oven, he wonders if it is Beef Wellington.

He looks around and notices that the fridge poetry magnets have been arranged to give him a signal.

“Openly Whine White Coldly”

He reaches into the fridge and pulls out a bottle of chilled Viognier. He goes to the side, finds the corkscrew and opens the wine. In the cupboard he selects two of their crystal glasses. And holding them in one hand, and the bottle in the other, he leaves the kitchen and heads upstairs.

The lighting is low, none of the room lights are on, just the side lights in the rooms that have them. He heads for the bedroom and finds her there. On her is a sign.

“Turn me on”

You move your hand

You move your hand and realise that there’s something on it. It’s spider’s web. You break it. It must have got on you when you walked near that tree. The web isn’t just on your hand. It was stretching up to your shoulder. It’s in your hair. Your hand is up to your hair instantly and then you feel it crawling across your scalp. Both hands now, furiously pushing through your hair trying to disrupt it. It’s gone. It’s fallen. It’s gone… Between your shirt and your skin.

A chill breeze

A chill breeze slides over the back of your neck. The tiny hairs stand shivering to attention. They’re shaking because they’re afraid. Something is happening. You get up from your seat and start to walk around the room. Nothing has changed in here for years. You notice some dust on the clock and for a second you are distracted before you are snapped back to the moment by a noise outside. You move quickly to the window, there’s a crack in the curtain. You approach it but you aren’t sure you’re ready for what you might see. Standing once pace away from the gap you steel yourself to look, half hoping that whatever it is will have moved on. You are ready, you leap forward and pull back the curtain. There is nothing there.

Ballet

Once upon a time there was a little girl called Molly. And Molly wanted to be a ballerina more than anything in the entire world. She had tried begging, she had tried refusing to finish her supper and she had tried having a full-blown tantrum, but none of these had made Aunt Gertrude change her mind. Even when Molly had made a little ballerina dress out of scrap bits of potato sack, it didn’t melt old Gertrude’s heart.

“You’re not going to melt my heart,” said Gertrude.
“But Auntie I do so want to be a ballerina. I do.”
“So you keep saying, but I cant afford it. Times are tough Molly and until you realise that you’re not going to realise very much.”
“But Auntie…”
“No buts girl, don’t you realise that we’ve only been able to afford chateaubriand twice this week. Do you want me to starve?”

Molly thought that her aunt probably could use a little starvation but didn’t like to say.

“Now,” said Gertrude, “why don’t you go and play out in the front garden? You never know you might make some new friends.”

Molly went outside still wearing her potato sack tutu and started to walk around in the front garden. Just as Molly was deciding that there wasn’t much to do she saw a man was walking alongside the garden. He looked over at Molly who smiled at him.

“What is that you’re wearing?” the man asked.
“It’s a ballerina’s costume”, replied Molly.
“I thought so. It’s a funny coincidence.”
“A coincidence?” Molly was sure she didn’t understand. She looked at the man just to check if he was wearing tutu as well – he wasn’t.
“Yes a coincidence because here I am sticking up signs for ballet auditions. I run the ballet programme in town.”
“Really. Wow. That is a coincidence. Can I ask you a question?” Molly decided that she needed to be really brave. “Is ballet really very expensive. My aunt says that it is very expensive.”
“No it’s not expensive. It’s free. It’s a government-supported arts project.”
“But why would my aunt tell me it was expensive when it wasn’t? I don’t understand.”
“She probably had her reasons.” The man turned and started to walk away.
“Wait,” called out Molly, “do you think I could be a ballerina?”
“No, sorry.”
“Why not? You haven’t even see me turn or anything. So how do you know?”
“Because you’re fat and ugly.”

Moral: Sometimes the bad guy in the story isn’t the one you think it is at the beginning. Gertrude was just trying to save Molly’s feelings.

Heavy

“Look, do you think I could just touch one?”
“Touch one?”
“Yeah, touch one. Or hold one, or just the bag Davey. I could just hold the bag for a second if your arm starts getting tired. But I’d really rather touch one.”
“Well you can’t people might see.”
“But I could hold the bag. That would be okay, right? I mean your arm must be getting tired pretty soon. Or maybe already. Maybe your arm’s already tired and yeah that would make sense to somebody looking. Somebody who was looking would be like, yeah his arm probably just got tired so he handed it to his friend.”
“Would you just shut up”

Davey didn’t want to give Carl the bag. He didn’t trust him. He didn’t think Carl would steal, Carl wasn’t smart enough for that. But he was exactly stupid enough to get them caught. But the only problem was that the bag was actually really heavy. He’d switched arms already and was about to have to do it again. Carl, the big lumbering ox, would have been ideal for this except for the fact that he just couldn’t be trusted. There had been silence between the two of them for almost a minute and now and Davey could feel the conversation’s resumption coming at him like a train.

“I was just thinking,” said Carl with a tone suggesting that he hadn’t ever spoken on the subject before, “that if you passed the bag to me people who could see us would just think you were just passing the bag to me because it was heavy not because there was something in it that I wanted to hold because it was exciting. That’s all I was thinking. I just want to hold the gold bars Davey.”

“But what about people who can hear us Carl?”

Soup

Arthur’s brother Clive didn’t eat fruit generally, however I just kinda left melon nearby. Obviously passionate, quintessentially Romanian, somewhat tough, unfortunately verbose, wickedly xenophobic, yet zen, Arthur’s brother Clive didn’t eat fruit.

It’s the night before the night before her wedding

It’s the night before the night before the wedding. She comes home and throws the keys in the basket. Picks up the post off the matt. Flicks distractedly through it and wanders into the kitchen. She opens the fridge, finds some white wine from last night and pours it into a glass from the cupboard. Back to the fridge she takes some onions and garlic. Back at the board she starts to chop and slice the onions. With the garlic she takes the flat of the knife and smashes it onto the side of the garlic, some of her aggression flows with it. She smashes it again knowing that it doesn’t really need it, just because.

She takes pans from the cupboard, sips from the glass and slowly lets her day drift away on a cloud of routine cooking and alcohol. For a moment everything is calm but then a thought enters her mind and quick as a flash her hand flicks on Radio 4. No thinking and cooking, she’s learned that doesn’t work.

Midway through sauteing the onions he gets back, throws his keys in the basket, flicks through the post and turns on the tv. He’s in there, she knows he is, because she can hear him flicking between channels. She wants him to acknowledge her and while she knows she could call out to him she lets him come to her.

The adverts come and he strolls into the kitchen leaving the tv on even though he knows it annoys her, he sidles up, gives her a kiss, steals some food, wanders off to the fridge for a beer and says, “so what’s for dinner”.

“Are you sure you want to get married?” She asks matter-of-factly. She turns off Radio 4; she wasn’t listening to it anyway.

“Not really.”

He opens his can and takes a large swig. Looks at her and takes another one. She reaches for her wine and finishes the glass in one.

“No. Neither am I.”

Voices

He sits on a train. He has slightly spikey gelled hair but when he leans forward to read his book you can see he’s beginning to thin on top. He’s reading to distract himself not just from all the people listening to music and jabbering away, he is reading to distract himself from his own head – from his own voice.

The train goes round a corner and squeaks in a rather alarming way. He looks up distracted for a second and even in that moment he hears his head say, “you’re worthless”. He puts his head back down and tries to focus on his book. But he’s lost his place and his eyes are wandering all over the page. The voice is getting louder and more cross while this is happening. It is simply, for once, just repeating the same phrase again and again. Once it used a word he didn’t even know, which made him feel really bad. He’d always wondered afterwards how that could be possible. But he still hadn’t quite brought himself to look it up, it might be too depressing.

Suddenly there was a hand on his knee, a woman’s hand. He followed the arm up and saw a beautiful face looking at him – really examining him. She looked into his eyes and he blinked.

“Sorry,” he said, “was I in the way?”
“You,” she paused and looked excited, “fascinate me”
“Me?” he resisted the urge to look over his shoulder.
“Yes you. Every day I see you and you never seem to see me. Every day you’re reading and when the train squeaks you look up, and then you always look so worried. I’ve started worrying about why you’re so worried.”
“I…” the words wouldn’t come, the voice started swearing at him in his head, but he ignored it and looked at her. He’d never really seen anyone as beautiful as her before in his life. Maybe in a magazine or a movie but she didn’t look fake she was breathing he could see that. She kept his gaze the whole time.

“You can tell me, I promise, and you don’t even know me yet”

It was the word “yet” that convinced him.

“I hear voices,” he said, “telling me that I’m useless. Telling me that I can’t do anything.”
“Well you can’t be useless. I think you’re brilliant.”

What had changed? Something. Something had changed. The voice had stopped. Was it because he’d admitted it or was it because of what she’d said?

“It’s stopped,” he said.
“Right then, now we can be friends.”

Trapped

It’s dark. You can’t see. Your arms and legs move sluggishly because of the weight of the water on them. You almost start thrashing about just to get some freedom but as soon as you start you remind yourself to stop. To be calm. To concentrate on keeping your head above the water. You can feel the line around your neck like a noose. It’s rising. It’s rising quite quickly now. You tilt your head and that keeps your chin out of the water. You keep kicking with your legs, keep kicking, keep trying to stay afloat, keep kicking. And your hands are constantly searching, constantly tracing along the surface of the roof, the roof that you’re getting far too close to. Your hands feel only the smooth metallic surface. You know there is nothing. No release. Now no matter how you angle your head your chin is under water. You can’t move to keep searching. Your legs are tired but you keep kicking. Water laps against the corner of your lips. Even with your mouth closed you can feel it creeping into the cracks of the corners. You know it’s too dark to see anything but you have to try something. You turn and swim underwater, hands outstretched, blind, searching. It’s the last thing you remember.