Category: Modern Fiction

Take A Number Please By Tamara Jones

Take A Number PleaseHarry and Oliver sat on the bench at the bottom of the stairwell and stared morosely at the lino floor beneath their feet.

‘Getting a bit boring this,’ said Harry, scuffing his boots on a large patch of worn lino and grimacing.

‘Got boring ages ago,’ said Oliver, shuffling on the bench and looking around vainly, but not for the first time, for a clock. ‘Must be getting on for lunchtime, don’t you reckon?’ Silence. ‘How much longer before our numbers come up do you think?’

Harry shrugged dismissively, but before he could say anything the doorway from outside opened and a man entered the waiting room. Harry and Oliver stared at the newcomer and watched curiously as he stood looking around the room, at the benches against the walls and at the stairway leading up to the blue sky filled doorway above.


Edward’s First Love By Jay Moussa-Mann

Edward's First LoveTomorrow the world changes. A new dawn, bringing with it new times, new foundations, new concepts. Tomorrow the blood and sweat poured into the tracks that will now carry people from one town to the next will not be in vain. The passion I have borne for the past years will finally see fruit. Tomorrow all our efforts shall be rewarded. The Stockton-to-Darlington railroad is born.

I turn from the window (I don’t know why I am stood here, it is the dead of night and outside is pitch black). His breathing in the corner of the room has become more laboured, as if the body is craving, heaving, fighting for the air all around it yet unable to take enough in. Rapid breathing, now quieter. Easier. I feel my body relax again. I didn’t even realize I was tensing with every inhalation. Subconsciously breathing each breath with him.


Cabinet Reshuffle By Thomas Mogford

Cabinet ReshuffleThere were eight of them on the terrace, sweating in their emerald tailcoats. Dinner plates had been discarded, congealing taramasalata stabbed with fag butts, torn pita breads swollen pink with spilt claret. The Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ blasted from the CD player, drowning out the evening sounds of the Corfu peninsula – the chant of cicadas, the distant ebb and flow of the Mediterranean, steady as a heartbeat. Above, the Milky Way glowed eerily, but none of the group was looking up. They were staring instead at the three-inch gecko lying motionless beneath the outside lights.

‘Slops,’ hissed the group, ‘slops, slops…’

As the song reached its final verse, the young man knew he was running out of time. He crept towards the wall, black shoe in one hand, seeing moths fluttering around the light fitting. Then he let fly. His aim was true, a fast bowler’s length and line – the reason, his brother would always insist, that he was allowed to run with this crowd at all. A slap detonated above the music as the shoe hit the wall, then fell to the ground.

‘Did he get it?’ someone called.


Dirty Laundry By Lisa Blower

Dirty LaundryYou’ve been reading about the cuts and Icelandic banks but you only put two and two together when you’re given your cards and see the state of your pension. You call and see Beattie – a steamroller of social action – who laughs repeatedly and is lost for words. You are 58, she reminds you, and not cheap. “Alma,” she says putting on Bi-focals to read your statement. “You’re lucky you’ve even got that.” She makes you another a cup of tea and lets you weep on her settee.

A week passes.


Sleight of Hand By Tracy Fells

MagicThe parcel waited, sullen and brooding, on the hall window seat where I’d let it sulk all day. I flinched as Jake let the wind snatch the front door to slam shut, cracking like a starting pistol. He bounded through to the kitchen tossing the package on to the breakfast bar towards me.
“Why haven’t you opened this yet, Mum?”
I shrugged. “Because I know what it is.”
Thankfully the interrogation stopped there, as Jake was already heading out with a packet of crisps and a fizzy drink. I called out the obligatory maternal plea: “Don’t ruin your tea!” The parcel was wrapped in brown paper with a handwritten address. Tracing my name on the paper I decided to leave its contents contained for a little longer. Instead I picked some flowers from the garden, an occupation that never failed to calm me.
The roses, flushed pink like geishas, dripped from the earlier rain shower. Ignoring their flirtatious blushes, knowing that once plucked they wantonly shed their petals at the slightest glance; I headed for the Michaelmas daisies, Granddad’s favourites, wide-eyed and welcoming.


The Biter Bit By Helen Holmes

Blank billboard in metro stationWhichever way you cut it, Property In Transit Services deals with crap: dumped crap and lost crap. You can tart it up all you like with a fancy moniker, but at the end of the day Left Luggage is humping heavy bags and Lost Property’s dealing with idiots. So where exactly is the job satisfaction that Vanessa from Human Resources keeps banging on about? That’s what Kirsty would like to know. Kirsty wanted Ticketing Services. Everyone says TICKS is the launch-pad, the passport to promotion. Without TICKS experience, there’s not a prayer of getting a job in Customer Support. CUSS is a doddle. PITS is the pits.


Bluebirds by Jamie Ryder

BluebirdsWhen John Harris saw the swastika, his hand clenched until the knuckles turned white. He imagined some jumped-up little gobshite coming here in the dead of night, giggling while he drew this monstrosity. The sheer disrespect made his teeth grate. Salford Lads Club used to be a place of hope. Windows were now cracked or faded and the brick work was rotting. The painted roses that once hung proudly above the door were chipped away. The Dangerous Building sign completed a tarnished picture of childhood memories. A place of gymnasiums in the evening and choirs in the morning. Knitted scarves and free meals at Christmas. Eighty years of breaking his back and he’d returned to a miscreant paradise. John gripped the railings, took a breath and turned away.


Clay by Lauren Bell

clayI know I shouldn’t stare but I just can’t help myself. It’s like when someone tells you not to turn around because something bad will happen to you if you do, and even though you might lose an eye or several teeth, you can’t help but to turn around and look. It’s human nature.

Except this girl doesn’t look fully human to me.

I see her every morning on the train into town with her hair in a sleek midnight bob which effortlessly frames her face. She reminds me of a china doll with her small hand-crafted features making my heart giddy. She doesn’t look at me even though I know she can see me from out the corner of her eye. I’m just another suit-wearing guy with far too much deodorant choking the air.


The True Color of The Sky By Chrysler Szarlan

true color of the skyWhen I was thirteen, I made a dress. I have no idea what possessed me. The dress was denim, sack-like, too big for me. It had a ruffle at the bottom, swooping just below my knees. It was the 1970’s and such things were in fashion. The bleached and faded fabric pleased me. It reminded me of sky. I watched the clouds pass in that sky as I pushed the fabric at the machine I was afraid of, all the time trying not to think of the speeding, piercing needle. As I stitched seams, I saw dragons and warriors with drawn swords in the fabric, a dog barking, the Virgin Mary. She was at the back of my dress, just below my right shoulder. But by the time I noticed her, she was upside down. I hoped she didn’t mind so much. She didn’t seem to, I imagined she looked serene. Just to be on the safe side, every time I wore the dress, just before I pulled it over my head I said a little prayer. Not an entire Hail Mary, but something like, “Dear Mary, I’m sorry you’re upside down, but maybe you will bless me anyway.”