Archive for April, 2010

Two old people are chatting in the bathroom whilst outside the sun throws itself uselessly at the net curtains.

“Why can’t you leave me to pee in peace?”

“I’m just talking. What’s wrong with talking?”

“I need to pee. Can’t you give me a moment just to finish off? It always takes longer with you hovering there.”

“You always go off right in the middle of the conversation. I wasn’t finished.”

“I haven’t even started.”

“You know what I mean. You ask a question and then just as I’m giving you my opinion suddenly your bladder fills up or gives way.”

Outside a noise like concrete dragged over gravel shakes the house.


“What? Did you hear that?”

“You miss him. You get like this when he goes.”

“He’s not… I don’t… I just wanted. He’ll be back by winter.”

“If he can get a flight.”

“Yes. Maybe we should have gone with him.”

“We would never be allowed fuel. Besides, we’d just weigh him down.”

“Would we? He could carry on as though we weren’t there. We don’t need entertaining.”

“Without him? What would be the point? We might get stranded out there. Then what would happen?”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“We can try if you really want to.”

“No. You’re right. It’s warm in here. Shall I open the window?”

“No. I can’t bear the noise. I’m nearly finished anyway.”

“Then we can sit downstairs again. Noise? What noise?”

“The balloons. They’re coming home.”

Words: 248

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Perhaps I can cook it, he thought.

He picked it up and held it in his hand. Wet and limp. Suspended and swaying in the ebb and flow of underwater currents it had been so beautiful; now it lay glistening alongside all the other dregs of ocean life, waiting for the sea.

Holding the seaweed, the boy turned his back to the shore and walked up the deserted beach. The breeze was cool; against a slate grey sky two seagulls hung in an updraft.

He headed towards a small, rocky alcove just above the high water mark where the ground was loose stone, rock fall from the cliffs above. His stuff was a small mound of plastic bags, a weathered and stained rucksack and a piece of driftwood he had picked up the previous evening – it looked like his mother.

Dropping the seaweed he plonked himself down on a smooth rock, reached into his rucksack and retrieved a lighter and a small portable camping stove. He placed the stove on a flat rock, turned on the gas and flicked the lighter. The stove roared into life.

Grabbing a few fronds of the deep green and slick weed in his hands, he held it to the flame; instantly it hissed and began to blacken. Steam rose as he carefully worked the seaweed, making sure each inch was exposed briefly to the stove’s fierce blue flame. As it burned, he remembered the time his dad had taken him to a Chinese restaurant.

When the weed was suitably blackened he removed it from the heat and reached to turn off the gas; as he did the flame sputtered and died. He turned with the burnt seaweed in his hands and faced the sea. Further down the beach a man threw a stick for his dog.

He took a bite. Delicious, he thought.

Words: 310

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“I said it was an accident waiting to happen.”

The pair were stood together, on the doorstep, in the street, next to the road. It was funny that the doorstep – threshold to the homestead; scene of family life, gossip and drudgery – still sat there, sturdy as ever, slightly pock-marked but largely polished.

“I needed a fag.”

The embers glowed intermittently in the ebbing night and the pair pulled their tatty coats tighter, as if reminded they were now outside, not in. The man absent-mindedly pushed gently at a broken brick with his foot, applying incrementally more pressure to turn it over. He’d started slightly embarrassed, wanting to cause a distraction, but now it was like he really had to look under the fallen masonry for answers.

“I don’t know why you never have matches,” she sighed, breaking the silence. “I should buy you a lighter for your birthday.”

“You always say that.” His reply was soft, warm. He was trying to be kind; he knew it was his fault. “You could get me one of those with the ladies whose clothes fall off,” he joked.

“That’s pens, silly,” she said, and they laughed, teeth showing in the half dark.

It was quiet again, save for a few creaks of settlement and the odd crackle as shattered timber succumbed to the fire or splintered away to dust under the weight of three floors. The pair gazed at the house, stunned by the sudden change but mesmerised by its new shape.

Gradually, they became aware of people approaching, then surrounding them. The distant sirens they had recognised only vaguely became more insistent and were soon deafening.

“Those ones with pilot lights are lethal; you’re supposed to get them replaced.” The hulking man with arms like trees stared at her.

“Do you know how much those new ones cost?” she sulked. “Plus they put them in the kitchen, which is bananas.”

Words: 330

You can find more of Clare’s work on her award-winning blog

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“Get in”, he said. It was dark and wet. Cold. He had the heater on full and smoked constantly, talked on the phone while he drove. He shouted a lot. I didn’t know where we were going. I get driven around a lot but I never actually do the driving. I’m too young. 

“I’ll split it with you, Kenny,” he said into the phone; glanced across at me, cigarette dangling from his mouth. I sank into the chair, tried to pull my jumper over my bare legs.

“Yeah, Stretford, by the church,” he said, then flipped his phone shut. The cigarette had died in his mouth while he was talking; he threw it into a bag on the floor by my feet and pulled another one from the packet on the dash. 

“Where are you taking me?” I asked him, trying not to sound scared. He puffed his cigarette and laughed, turned to look at me, a glint of gold in his mouth. 

“Where do you want to go?” he asked. I thought for a second. Was this a test? I didn’t know what to say. 

“You’re not going to hurt me, are you?” I asked. I’ve been hit before but nothing too serious. I’ve got pretty strong nails and I can use them if I have to. He smiled, gold glinting again.

“Why would I hurt a sweet little thing like you?” 

There was a car in the car park, one person in the driver’s seat. We parked directly behind it. 

“Wait here,” he said, then got out and walked up to the other car, bent over to talk to the driver. I opened the door and ran as fast as I could across the tarmac, heading for the safety of darkness. I tried to be quiet but a rustling sound followed me, attracting his attention. The bag of cigarette ends had caught on my shoe. He came after me. 

Words: 329

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