Archive for September, 2011

You may know that, aside from being a place for pretty photographs and amazing stories, 330 Words is also part of FlashtagMcr, a collection of five writers (all of whom have appeared on here at some point) dedicated to bringing the written work to the masses.

Tonight, we’re launching our very first book; a collection of short stories from us, our friends, and the many talented writers of Manchester. The tome, called Quickies, is a labour of love and, at 35 stories strong, is not to be sniffed at. It also features tales from a number of 330 Words regulars including:

  • Laura Maley
  • Claire Symonds
  • Dom Conlon

The book, Quickies: Short Stories for Adults, is based around one theme – love. It’s a collection of witty, erotic, playful and sinister stories designed to get you thinking about romance, smut and all the things in between. You can purchase the book from here or download it onto your Kindle from the link on the left-hand side.

Our launch event is tonight, from 8pm, at the Northern Lawn Tennis Club, Didsbury. We’ll have readings from many of the writers in the anthology, as well as a set from the fantasic David Gaffney. Do pop in. So to speak.

Words: 195

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Man playing the double bass in the jazz band, I know you’re a good musician, I like what you play, and your instrument is like architectural marvel. The mahogany of its structure is so shiny, if that is the kind of wood it is, and if it isn’t, well the compliment is still there.

Your jazz band play for fun not money, but still, you make money, and if I were you I’d let, ‘Meet Tom, he plays the double bass!’ be your introductory sentence at dinner parties; you deserve it. I’ve figured to myself that you’re called Tom, because we all do imagine what peoples names might be just from how they look, and as Tom is a good solid kinda name, quite like the instrument you play, I think Tom is a good bet. I know I’m going to talk to you once your set is finished. I know this because I know how nice it is to hear good feedback. I’ll involve your fellow band members too. And if this all goes as well as I hope it will, I’ll ask you if you’d like some ice-cream from the ice-cream van that’s parked just beyond the fence of the park where we’ll sit and talk for hours, set either width end of a cased double bass, there acting as a table to our first unhealthy meal together.

My pink cardigan will be draped across your double bass; I do this so that you’ll have that image in your head of when a part of me was draped over such an important part of you. Awkwardly we’ll walk to catch the subway, awkward because of bulk that’ll leave you talking to me from behind your instrument, but I’ll be enjoying the moment of when I felt like I was on a date with a double bass, one that thanked me for ice-cream, and one who kissed my left cheek only to look forward to kissing the right.


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The Manchester Blog Awards

Last October, we were gobsmacked after winning the Manchester Blog Awards prize for Best New Blog. It was wonderful. We got a bit teary.

So imagine our shock when we learned that we’d been shortlisted for this year’s competition. In October, everyone’s favourite flash-fiction blog is in the running for ‘Best Writing On A Blog’. It’s all very exciting.

So, here’s what you can do:

Vote for us. We’re in a tough group this year and there are a number of wonderful blogs competing for the trophy. If you’ve enjoyed reading any of the tales, please do pop us a vote.

Secondly, read our stories. Our nomination for Best Writing isn’t down to fluke or chance and we’ve featured hundreds of fantastic tales from writers across both Manchester and the United Kingdom. We’re honoured to have played host to some of the best sentences and paragraphs ever seen by man and it would only be right that you spent the rest of your day enjoying them as much as we have.

Thirdly, write us a tale. We need your stories to keep going. Otherwise, it’s just us sitting here on our laptops, talking to ourselves.

Words: 189

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Where is all the jazz? Nashville was so quintessentially country, and Memphis, for all that Beale Street was worth, was most certainly the blues city. I’d always regarded New Orleans as the home of jazz, expecting every bar to swing and dive and bellow out the screech of the sax, the pipe of trumpets and the thud thud thud of the walking bass. Without yet fully getting to know the city, my lofty expectations and the disillusioned reality have only delivered me mild disappointment.

Bourbon Street is a disarray of carefree young party players and out-of-date has-beens lost, trapped in a world of tacky, cheap entertainment and the din of competing noise and vulgar neon-lit lifestyles that ideally I’d rather not exist in many places, but especially not New Orleans. Not my New Orleans, bred from teenage fantasies and dreams of marching swing bands and topiary-laced balconies overlooking authentic, smoky jazz joints and the street life bustling with sweaty energy and enthusiasm, vivid colours and coloureds, whites and everyone in between dancing in joyous unison. Has this city changed, or was my preconceived idea of it all one big illusion?

So far the Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street is the only place I’ve found that’s come close to the musical aesthetic I was expecting of this city. 20s, 30s, old-school brass band jazz—flat caps, tubas wrapped around the body, the thumping double bass and brushes caressing the kit to the toe-tapping, swinging rhythm. Here the rum flows cheap, trumpets parp, the trombone squeals and slides and the old sax players fiddle up and down on worn brass keys. The old crooners croak down the microphone as if you’re listening to an ancient record, thrown back into a time forgotten, black and white, whilst the eloquent dancers tear up the floor, throwing out shaky feet and swinging moves and all. Berets, flat caps, high socks and cool old cats… this is my New Orleans.

Words: 330

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Although the Manchester riots were clearly a consequence of the brutal i-snatch squad attacks on the pandemonia or Pet-in established following the Pet Shop Boys concert at the iRena in December i2020, no-one could really blame the riots on the pandemonia or, heaven forbid, blame the Pets (although some attempts were made by gov-e-media outlets). Neil and Chris of the Pets and their manager went into hiding as result which was unfortunate as their concert was their first public outing in five years.

No, the riots were a dis-aster waiting to happen, indeed according to the Synchronisers they were caused by the phenomena of mass dis-aster, namely that some much of the population was in a disconnect with energies of the cosmos. But they would say that wouldn’t they?

Also the fact that the Gay, Pol*, Chinese and Italian quarters of the city were all involved in the riots suggests that a simple ‘this was Gay or Pol bashing’ view of the riots was just that: simplistic. This is not to deny the brutality shown by the snatch squads when operating in the Gay or Pol quarter of the city. Indeed in any overly ‘civilised’ society a public inquiry of some sort would have happened.

The Manchester riots lasted five days and over 1,000 Snatchies were deployed. 100 people were alleged to have died in the riots although due to extensive fire damage the true figure will never be known. Certainly 60 bodies were recovered and 451 people were hospitalised with fire, gunshot and tazer injuries. Things were so bad at one point that the city and surrounding region was declared a Grade P disaster zone. This needs to be set in the context that the hunger riots in Glasburgh only resulted in a Grade M disaster declaration.

*Pol(s) slang term for for polyamorists who openly have more than one loving intimate relationship at any one time. As a group they seemed to have emerged around 1972 ( in the old PPM calendar)

Words: 324

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There’s a shop just opened on High Street where you can buy wasted time. The owners must have secured a last minute deal for the premises because nothing’s organised and the fixtures and fittings are yellowed, left over from the last tenants who went bust trying to sell sporting memories.

A group of us went in after school. The others were smoking and the girl behind the counter asked us to leave but there was just one of her and half dozen of us and some of us were big and had facial hair. The girl ended up saying we could stay, just put out the fags and don’t steal anything. We decided to do as she asked, so she went back to looking bored.

The others had no money and just wanted to hang out until the bus came.

I played along but really I was a little bit interested. Ok, more than a little bit. I didn’t mind the girl either but she was older and I didn’t have facial hair.

I wandered to the back. The shelves were uneven, where there were shelves at all, and the wasted time was stacked one on the other like nobody cared. Some were labelled and I could see why nobody cared. Who’d want to buy stuff like a whole term wasted reading a novel with no last page? Or a train journey sat next to someone who stank?

The girl was looking at me all funny. My friends stepped outside for another smoke but I didn’t follow because it looked like I was nicking something and I’m not like that so I grabbed the nearest bit of wasted time and placed it on the counter. The girl didn’t stop looking bored. She glanced down at what I wanted to buy and then looked back at me. You can’t afford that, she told me. Just go. It’s all right, she smiled.

I left, leaving behind a life of no regrets.

Words: 329

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“Welcome, welcome, Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Be dazzled! Be astounded! Slipperfield’s Circus of International Repute presents for your delight and delectation… The Incredible Corrugator!”

Whispers flutter around the vast canvas tent and fall into my hearing. The ring plunges into blackness; the moustachioed strongman pulls my trailer in and lowers the ramp. I concertina my way down smoothly, silently wending my way as the trailer rattles off. A muffled boom as power surges through the spotlight and brightness attacks me.

Stiffly starched men in seats tug at their buttoned-fast collars and look away in disgust, but quickly turn back. Women standing squashed together are open-mouthed, tongues lolling in shock, just above the penny licks they’d been greedily consuming.

I fold tightly in on myself, mere inches wide. Anxiety ebbs, thinking stops and I begin to move. My puckered head unfurls, arms fan out from floor to ten feet tall. Legs ripple wide as I expand silently over the sand, catching my body up with itself, and contract into myself.

“Daddy, daddy, what’s that man wearing?”
“Where are the eyeholes? Can he see me?”
“Is he coming to get me?”

Girls and boys all so inquisitive and excited, you want an explanation don’t you? There can be none.

Freak. Mutant. Act of devilment. Godless creature. I’m none of these. I’m not a monster, I long to scream at them. Be the first to see me. Who hears the heart that beats so hard and heavy? Who feels the soft downy folds of my belly? Who tickles my thickly crimped feet? Who? Who would curl themselves around this dull, grey mass?

I see the pity in her face, as she sits apart; her fair face framed by black curls loosely tied. Does she smile at me? My arms crinkle outwards and her warm brown eyes meet the exact spot where mine used to be.

Words: 315

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End of term, the beginning of the holiday season, and for the first time in my life, the prospect of a life beyond full-time education. I had finished early, my last assignments handed in weeks before my peers were relieved of their academic duties. Eager to make the most these new circumstances, I’d make a point of doing things I’d never done before: I climbed onto the roof of my house, visited Blackpool, dressed-up for a catwalk. I was fed-up of student hangouts; I spent long evenings drinking with the locals on cobble-stoned side streets.

It was early summer, pre-dawn, and Max and I had spent the evening drinking around the city. The sky was no longer black but a dark shade of blue, and it was now possible to make out the shapes and details of buildings without the aid of streetlights. Soon the early-morning commuters would be seen coming in and out of newsagents or waiting at bus stops. Max was several paces ahead of me, kicking a flattened Coke can up the hill.

The sound of muffled pop music could be heard shortly before we stepped inside. To get to the bar we walked through the entrance, down a flight of stairs and along a narrow corridor. It was a dark, window-less room, around the size of a large living room. I sat on a bar stool while Max ordered us drinks. Swivelling around, I noticed a solitary couple dancing clumsily in the middle of the room. Elsewhere a few people were sprawled randomly on sofas parallel to the walls. Strobe lights coming from a disco ball in the far corner of the room glistened red, green and blue on the shoulders of the dancing couple. After ordering the drinks, Max sat on a stool next to mine and we both faced the dance floor, leaning against the bar, not talking much.

My beer was warm. We would walk out and it would be daylight.

Words: 327

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The last time I saw him was in tunnel B29, entrance 12. The opening leads to the disused gasworks on the eastern side of town.

The speed of our parting didn’t do justice to our friendship.

We were in our early twenties when we met. He was forceful, intelligent, handsome. A leader even then. His followers would come in time. I was already his first.

I was his equal in many ways, but leadership was not in my nature.

Leaders need to be able to make unpleasant and unpopular decisions for the greater good. I would have wavered too easily. He never appeared to waver.

The weather had been beautiful in London that year, but we flew home as soon as our exams were finished. We had important work to do.

Had we known the full horrors of the bloodshed that lay ahead, maybe we would have delayed our flight and enjoyed the Summer.

We did some good things, despite what our grandchildren will be told. They will only hear about the bad things.

Historians will not record how we taught them to use the pens and keyboards they will write their new history with.

But that’s how it works, we should know that more than most. And we did do some bad things.

As we raced down the tunnel, the roar of the engine against the narrow walls stole our last chance to speak.

Fifteen minutes of shared noise and shared silence.

When we came to a stop at the opening, he disembarked quickly and threw his arms around me. He squeezed so tightly I expected my bones to crack. Instead it was my voice.

“Goodbye my old friend, I will see you soon.”, he said.

I watched as he started to climb the ladder.

He turned and gave his last command.

“Go! Now!”

My foot hit the pedal and I sped off down the tunnel, alone.

Four decades is a long time. Perhaps a lifetime.

Words: 326

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Jennifer’s ears are burning. She can feel the throbbing and the heat coming off her. She bets the red is dead obvious too. Oh, dear God, don’t let anyone see. Jennifer’s ear is burning. Left is for love, right is for spite. She tips her head, pulls her hair forward.

Jennifer’s ear is burning. Left used to be for love, but now it’s for lust. The shift caused a national outcry; it was in all the papers, on rolling news. People were in uproar. The previously innocent were outed; the actual innocent affronted. The saying changed and a new word was introduced into our vocabulary.

Jennifer’s ear keeps burning and she can’t tell who’s to blame. Her husband is careful. Her lover wouldn’t be so reckless either. A couple more suspects might be more daring, but it’s unlikely. No, it has to be a secret admirer – a fancier.

The first time I saw her was at the station. She passed me near the arrivals board and I couldn’t stop looking at her. I’ve not been able to stop looking at her since.

She’s tall, taller than me. She’s pretty, she wears pretty clothes. She’s confident – I wish I had the confidence to go up to her and say something. I would never be able to, for so many reasons. I just watch and listen and follow. I know it’s weird but I can’t help myself; I can’t get her out of my head. I have become a fancier.

I watch her get off the 9am train. I listen as she orders an espresso. I follow her to where she works. I sit outside on a bench until she makes her way back through the bustle, sometimes straight to her platform, sometimes to a bar, sometimes to the gym.

I watch, I listen, I follow. I also think, and I know that’s where I should leave it. I know her ears are burning, and it’s all my fault.

Words: 330

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