Category Archives: Flash Fiction – Super Super Short Stories

Room


1. Yellow

We painted the walls sunshine yellow

A busy frieze of buses, bikes and boats because we weren’t going to buy into any gender stereotypes

Hung mobiles, placed posters

Carefully fitted cherry red handles to door and drawers, ensuring we left no sharp edges.

2. Pink

Already feeling the space between you, other children and the world

I chose the pinkest pink i could find

Festooned every surface with fairy lights

A cabin bed with a tower of teddies standing sentinel

Stack boxes each with a picture of what lived inside for ease of tidying

And on your special shelf, your treasures, silver fairy wings, a horseshoe from your first pony and one bear, too precious to be simply part of the cuddle toy hoi poloi

 

3.Accent wall

The accent wall is black and white abstracted flowers

So, black desk, black duvet on the bed that made into a sofa

Your pad i called it

You hung posters of bands whose names i didn’t know

And i learnt to knock

Learnt that often your choice was not to let me in

 

4.White

The walls are utilitarian white now

Filthy with handprints, footprints, smeared make up, other stains

Bed a mattress on the floor, after you destroyed the third bed in some inarticulate howl of rage i stopped replacing them, stopped repairing furniture, stopped worrying about the shattered shards of mirror glass

i used to make speedy sorties inside when i had run out of plates, bowls and cups

Excavating only to top layer

Careful to not see that unfilled prescriptions, the unattended appointments

Now i just buy new crockery

 

5.Doors and walls

i’m waiting for the day when the policy want will to look inside this room, will want to look for clues, will want to look for meaning

We will stand on the threshold, me squirming with shame, they already on task

i will smile some terrible social smile

Tell them how sorry i am, tell them how nice it used to be in here.

 

 

 


valentines day


its valentines day and the trafic is at a standstill

gridlocked

we’re going nowhere

and i’m tapping, no, actually i’m punching the steering wheel

come on, come on, come on

as if my voice alone can make movement

 

its valentines day

and all over my network

bunny bookins is wishing mr fluffy a really special day

Kevin is wondering if you want to play hide the carrot ….later

my texts are terser

i’m on my way, i’m coming, please wait, just wait

 

its valentines day and every song on the radio is a fucking love song

and now i’m starting to sob

those shoulder shaking, snot making sobs

 

and i’m seriously considering just driving down the hard shoulder

i’m sorry officer, it was an emergency and besides its valentines day

 

the man in the stationary van next to me has had enough time now to see that somethings not right

so, he gets out, taps on the window, asks if i’m alright

and i look at him

hair standing on end

snail trail tracks of tears

mascara on my chin

i nod and smile and tell him i’m fine

its valentines day and finally, we’re moving, a miracle

and i make a 40 minute journey in 25

and when i get there,

you’re still there,

you’re still there

and you make that special noise of recognition

that

bpppphhhhhhhh

so we feed you mints and carrots and apples

your favourite things

 

afterwards, the vet hands me your headcollar and lead rope

 

and its valentines day

and i’m driving home alone

my thumb brushing over the brass buckle of your best headcollar

your leather high days and holidays headcollar

and i’m beginning to understand that this

this is going to be my valentine’s day memory

 


this thing is the saddest thing


This thing

This thing is the saddest thing

This is sadder than the face my dog pulls when a bigger dog steals her tennis ball and runs away with it

This is sadder than the time someone told me i was a poor friend and my first thought was well no more late night drama laden phone calls from you then

Sadder than my mother’s fridge, a neat line of pale blue saucers, each containing a tablespoon of left over lunch and in the fridge door, 5 unopened cartons of milk, just in case.

This is sadder than when at 17, 18, 19, your heart broken for the first time, you lay on the bed, quite convinced that you would die, because who could endure such pain

Sadder even, then when later, at 40, 50, 60, veteran of multiple failures of heart, you know all too well that you will survive this break and the next and the next.

This is sadder than food banks

Sadder than my neighbour, beginning to lose language, beginning to feel meaning slip away

This is sadder than the boy in the doorway, his dog wrapped in a coat and a duvet, snug as a bug in a rug, but when I look down, the boy is wearing shoes, but no socks.

This is the very saddest thing

This is the hearse and this is the coffin that doesn’t fill it

And all the flowers and helium balloons and teddies in the world cannot erase this space, cannot fill this gap, cannot hide this hole

This is the very, very saddest thing

And then the lights change and they turn left and I execute a clumsy right hand manoeuvre

It’s hard to drive well when you’re crying for someone else’s saddest thing.


That was then and this is now…..


I was the speed poet at a recent spoken word event….3 ideas from the audience, an hour to incorporate all 3 into a poem. i wasn’t too thrilled with the end result, but one of the suggestions….being 18 ,stuck with me.

 

At 18 I was careless,

Let things slip through my fingers, pretty boys, opportunities , a fabulous Biba frock,

confident that around the corner was a bigger, better, shiny thing.

At 58, things still slip through my fingers, arthritis is clawing at my joints, I’m losing my grip

And around this corner is probably another corner.

At 18, in the room, in the squatted house, on the street that nestled beneath the 3 tower blocks,

I filled the space with mirrors, papered the walls with pages torn from the glossy magazines that Jem stole so stylishly from the better department stores.

On days where there was not much going on, we recreated those photos, expressed dissatisfaction, but each of us secretly  a little in love with our own reflections.

At 58, there are days when I don’t recognise the woman who smiles hesitantly at me from plate-glass windows.

At 18 I was all about brazen presence,

Walking through the market at 6am

Grey fedora

Men’s vest slashed just below my breasts

No bra and on my feet workmen’s boots, spray painted silver.

At 58 in my sensible dog walking coat and my sensible dog walking shoes and my sensible dog walking hat, I am almost not here.

The boys who congregate on the park to smoke weed are solicitous when they spill from their bench onto the path

“mind” says one, ” that lady needs to get by”

At 18 I knew everything I would ever need to know

At 58, I tentatively offer these 3 truths

Dogs are better than hot water bottles

You cannot own enough pairs of reading glasses

And never take a good nights sleep for granted.

 


your cleaner hates you


Your cleaner hates you

Not of course in the way she hates Crocs, Jacob Rees Mogg or the kind of people who talk about going for a cheeky Nando’s ,

But, make no mistake, your cleaner hates you.

And just because she knows the names of your dog, guinea pigs and husband and remembers to ask about your son, studying what was it…..forensic physiology and photography ……don’t be fooled, your cleaner hates you.

Sometimes, your cleaner wonders what exactly it is you do all day, given that you have a woman to clean your house and a woman to iron your clothes and another, slightly younger posher woman to walk you dog….

Oh, they hate you too.

You tell your cleaner that you have projects on the go as you waft to your study on the 3rd floor, your room of your own

What you don’t do up there….ever…..is bring down the multitude of mouldy and malodourous mugs, some homage to a long gone undergraduate lifestyle and your cleaner would like you to know that emptying an ash tray into a wicker waste paper basket is exactly the same as not emptying it all but with additional hoovering work.

Your cleaner hates you.

Your cleaner has flicked through your expensive moleskin bound journal and quite frankly her advice would be to not give up your day job, if of course you had a day job to give up.

Your cleaner hates your poetry.

Your cleaner hates the rumpled crumpled used tissues your leave in your unmade bed.

She hates the ring of pubic pelt around your bath, but at least she knows for sure that you’re not a natural blonde

But most of all your cleaner hates the notes

The ‘House in a bit of a state today, please work your usual magic, kiss kiss”

The “ If you get time today, can you empty all the kitchen cupboards, clean them and put everything back, but you know, just better, kiss, kiss, kiss”

The ” Don’t bother coming for the next 2 weeks, we’re away, kiss”

Come the day of the glorious revolution, you will find yourself not with your back against the wall, instead, you will be issued with an official cleaner car,

12, 13 years old, prone to making noises of terrifying potential expense that you will be forced to drive everywhere with the stereo as loud as you can bear, while you mumble prayers to some god of paupers transportation

Please just let the car last a few more months

And every time you hit a speed bump or a pothole, the buckets and mops and Hoover in the boot will jump into the air and crash down with another layer of cacophony chaos

And you will get to wear cleaner clothes, badly fitting grey joggers and a sweatshirt full of holes where neat bleach has burnt through fabric to meet soft bare flesh.

You will become your cleaners cleaner

Your cleaner, your ex cleaner will look you in the eye and she will know that you hate her, but actually, actually, your cleaner, your excleaner, well actually,

Your ex cleaner won’t give a flying f******.


Chubby – Part 1


She remembers the first time she ever pulled her t-shirt down to cover her stomach…a new outfit, baby blue leggings, matching t-shirt with tiny pink flowers, she was pleased, had twirled to show off the shiny newness to her mother, her baby brother……but later…..at the park………..aware of a new feeling that she had no words for, she looked down in dismay at the rounded swell of her belly and tugged harder and harder to cover herself up and later still, trew the top into the far corner of her wardrobe and pulled out the hand me down hoody, passed on from a far older cousin.

She remembers her first book of calories – a free gift with Jackie or My Guy or Blue Jeans, carefully unpeeled from the front cover, trying not to tear Davids’ perfect smile. The book lived in her school bag, consulted daily, within 6 weeks, she had memorised the calorie value of everything she ate, might eat, could conceivably ever come into contact with. The book outlasted David and Bryan and even Donny.

She remembers the aching of her budding breasts, pads of fat on already padded flesh. She tried to disguise them from classmates, pulled her vest this way and that, learnt to hunch her shoulders, be the last to unpeel her sensible airtex top, undress under other clothes and prayed for a miracle, an over night sea change, back to what she used to be.

She remembers the agonies of saturday mornings, Bust Stop and Snob and Top Shop, she the designated holder of coats, grabber of hangars and all the while hoping against hope that she would find something, anything to fit, so that she too could walk along the high street, swinging the coveted new clothes bag, ready to dissect their purchases in the Wimpy bar, burgers eaten with a knife and fork, trying hard not to finish the food on other girls’ plates.

She remembers the phase “puppy fat”, forever confused in her mind with the Osmonds’ song

“This is not some puppy fat lalalalal”

Her mothers’ casual tone betrayed by tightened lips, a poorly held together sigh when she, starving, always starving, reached for another biscuit, another slice of bread.

She remembers another song

“Hey fatty boom, boom”.

The rough boys at the bus stop, the ones from the estate, the ones who went to the new comprehensive would sing it as she, easy to spot, green gaberdine, brown school bag, waited for the bus that went the other way.

She became expert at hiding in the shelter of the co-op, eyes peeled for the bus, ready for a split second dash across the road.

It didn’t always work – sometimes she got it wrong, missed the bus and then of course, it was far, far worse.

She remembers her mothers’ purse, blue leather, gold metal clasp, which had to be teased apart to avoid a tell-tale click. Then, hand in, grab loose change and jump away as if the purse itself was red-hot. Money hidden in her pencil-case or later still ,the special purse, the curse purse.

And after school, the walk down Bond Street, into the sweet shop.

Aztec bars

Star Bars

Spangles

White and brown jazzies

Pineapple chunks and acid drops.

Bags and wrappers jammed into her school mac pockets, hand, dip, reach, mouth and repeat and repeat and repeat.

Then rubbish dumped in the bin not near their house.

She remembers the family wedding. Her outfit, bought 8 weeks before, smocked top, blue Oxford bags and hessian heeled red wedge sandals….but somehow everything outgrown before the date and the loaned dress, mohair, pea green, a- line. The only thing her 30-year-old cousin had that fitted her and her mother fussing round, pulling the fabric, bright, brittle smile, the offer of a scarf to jazz it up and the overheard/half heard/half denied comment

“Perhaps big pants would help – flatten everything out”

She remembers starting to smoke – leaning against the chain link fence at the back of the tennis courts, she and Claire Allen, whose parents had got divorced and who had to eat 2 Sunday lunches every week.

Claire said that cigarettes killed your appetite, killed it stone dead and so she smoked and coughed and wheezed and walking home, afterwards, wondered if she felt  a little lighter, a little thinner.

She remembers school dinners, so easy in the junior school, dinner ladies who saw her hunger, relished in her appetite, happy to dish up seconds, even thirds, if no-one was looking. But now, in big school, it’s a different landscape, another country.

Girls who eat only yogurt, the rebel who has declared herself a vegetarian, the others, already thin, became masters of the re-arranged plate and she took to eating on her own, hands shielding her food, head down, load and leave.

She remembers the Christmas discos – her girls school bussed out into the Norfolk countryside to provide the female interest at a well-known boys school and how when the coach pulled in and the fuggy comfort of Charlie and Tramp and bubble gum lip gloss were swooped for the cold night air and the boys stood either side of the doors and when she and Claire – 2 dinners Claire – stepped down to a chorus of oinks and piggy noises and she knew they were trapped there until the coach came back and fumbled in her bag, fingers discovering Sobranie Cocktails and sugar mice.


lost week-end – Part 2


And then, there is a pause, a moment of perfect still, complete calm, a sense of rightness.

Nothing to reproach herself about, nothing to make her fall into the abyss of self-hatred which she knows will follow.

At this point, she could, she knows she could, turn it all around, simply pick up the still packed grocery bags and with one decisive, beautiful movement,  dump them straight into the bin. She has done this before and lesson learnt, now knows to spray kitchen bleach onto the packages.

She could still save today, coke zero, peppermint tea, an hour of net surfing, seeking out thinspo – the perfect collar bones, the thigh gap, jutting hips to make a bikini bridge and then the gym.

After all, now she has the whole week-end, no ties, no commitments, she could, really she could make the whole week-end a 48 hr coffee fast.

She stands in the hallway, body twisted around itself, a pretzel of indecision, of contradictory longings and is unable to move.

Time passes

And then, she walks into the kitchen.

First off, there  is housekeeping, minimising the damage that the next few hours  will inevitably  bring.

This is, if she is being honest and honesty plays such a small part in these lost weekends , so much lying, to herself, all to X, Ys, As,Bs and Cs, hell she even lies to women in supermarkets who don’t even care, but this, this is  big lie, the one she doesn’t even admit to herself.

She tries to not even notice what she is actually doing, as she sits here, right here, right now….fingers popping out a pile of tiny yellow pills, 7,8,9,10. It is becoming more difficult to buy laxatives locally. She fears that  the pharmacy staff will start to recognise her, dreads an altercation, even questions, a request to account for her actions.

She has started using unfamiliar pharmacies, choosing the busiest, the most impersonal and squirrels away, hoards away in drawers and cupboards that she generally tries to pretend don’t exist, little boxes and packets. She finds them worryingly comforting, even if she can, almost, pretend that she had nothing to do with their presence there.

Now she is, like a junkie with a bag of fat rocks, edgy, wanting to make a start. The day, less face it, the rhythm of the weekend, this lost weekend, is already set.

All she is doing now is delay, she opens the kitchen door, regards the mountain of food, the just beginning to melt ice-cream, the cakes, pizza box and flanking it all,  the super sized sugar free drinks.

First things first…ice cream in freezer, oven on, cake sliced and resisted. It’s not time yet, there is still some pretence of control, of eating like normal.

She even sets the table, fills a glass, gulps down the first glass of cola, washes  down a handful, two handfuls of diuretics.

She waits for the pizza, the Indian ready meals….mouth salivating , she paces in front of the oven, one ear open for the microwave ping.

And the first 6, 7 minutes of eating is glorious, she has been so hungry for so long , stomach empty, always cold, skin too thin to cover bones.

She knows, tries not to know, that she is making that noise, a keening, moaning of physical pleasure, as she dips naan bread into chicken tikka and crams the bread, chicken combo into her mouth.

And every time, at this moment, she wishes she could stop now or in 2 or 3 or 4 more bites. This would be normal eating, a little greedy, but salvageable. She even tries a pause, wipe the sauce up, licks her fingers.

She could stop now, but smell of warm cheese, hot dough is filling the kitchen.

It’ s all too late now…..she knows how this will play out

Minutes later, the first onslaught is over, she licks her fingers, sucks the spicy, sweet processed food, mops the plastic containers with another piece of naan bread. There is no room for social niceties, for crockery, cutlery.
Not during a lost weekend.

Her stomach feels full, warm, she rests her hands there and then disgusted, punches hard, enough to almost wind herself
“Disgusting, useless, fat bitch”
She needs to wind herself up, get up a stream of hatred, stop feeling comfortable.

Grabbing and chugging the first bottle of coke, she checks her watch…12 minutes…..no damage done yet.
Upstairs, bathroom, do what needs to be done and afterwards, sitting on the bathroom floor, tears, fat tears, well what else would they be?
Experimentally, she tastes one with the tip of her tongue, warm, salty.
She wonders if tears have calories and the irony of that thought, pushes her to her feet.

The pizza will be ready, needs to be eaten, eaten quickly, fast enough to risk a burn to the roof of her mouth.
Real, external pain, a reminder of just how bad she is, how there can be no pleasure in any of this.

Later, much later, she huddles on a kitchen chair, its wooden back pressing into her spine, she presses hard against it, hoping for bruises, more pain.

Her throat hurts, burns, eyes sting and she can feel her stomach churn, waves of discomfort with the threat of more pain, her body, her desires brought down to simple, shaming function.

She is reduced to hunger, shit, puke….and tears.
Almost new-born but with no hint of promise, no hint of salvation.

Just 2 more lost days until Monday morning.

And before that, late, very late on Sunday night, she will creep from the house, face swollen, stomach distended, body hidden in an over-sized sweat shirt and take the bin bag full of empty packages, boxes, tins, wrappers and drive a safe distance from home before shoving the bag into an empty bin and pushing the evidence far away, far from home, far from her.