Archive for February, 2012

‘Have you looked in the kitchen drawer?’ he shouted over the sound of his electric razor.

Holly swore as she paced down the hallway, frantically patting down the pockets of her coat for the sixth or seventh time. She would be late for the staff meeting.

She pulled open the drawer and stared hopelessly into the heaped mess. The Drawer of Lost Things they called it; a home for the misplaced. Holly had always been meaning to clean it out but, with the wedding and the baby, other things had just gotten in the way.

Slapping the yellow manuscript of Love’s Labour’s Won onto the top of the cabinet, she sighed and began to rummage through the chaos. She scrabbled around in the drawer, pushing aside two loose AA batteries and Buzz Aldrin’s Omega watch. She lifted up the cassette featuring the missing 18 minutes from Watergate. There was no sign of her keys.

Florence started crying in the room upstairs. Holly swore as The Great Mongul Diamond rolled past her hand.

‘David,’ she called out irritably, ‘Can you see to her? I’m late for school.’

Holly was stretching now, her shoulder pushed hard against the kitchen cabinet as she fumbled around in the back of the drawer. Her outstretched fingers touched the gilded metal of the Ark of the Covenant and then, as she clawed further into the void, a smooth square of paper.

Curiosity got the better of her and she stepped away from the kitchen counter.

It was a Polaroid, a photo of Holly taken just after university. She was standing outside the offices of a national newspaper with a young, aspirational grin, her arm draped across the shoulders of a friend she no longer remembered the name of.

She smiled sadly at the women, two girls she no longer recognised. Placing the photo back into the drawer with the other lost things, Holly silently walked into the living room to check for her keys down the back of the sofa.

Words: 330

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We, that’s Martha and me, always met outside the Savoy on Friday night. No, not the Savoy in London, it’s a cinema in Chorlton. They always changed the films on Friday. If we didn’t like the look of it, if it was too weird or scary, we’d just go for a walk if it were summer, or maybe next door for a drink in the Mason’s. In those days Martha was a real looker, tall and slim, very pale, pillar box red lipstick, long black hair.

Martha died in the war, no not a bomb. I blame the chemicals; she worked in the munitions factory in Ancoats. No-one but me knew she was pregnant at the time. It was a sailor – he met her at a dance in the town centre – you know the place where the library used to be off Deansgate. The sailor – Steve was his name – never knew but he did turn up at the funeral. I’ll say that for him – dirty bugger though – it takes all sorts.

“What are you blethering on about now?”
“Oh nothing.”

The tea trolley arrived just then. I like a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

They buried him last week at Southern cemetery. No-one came to his funeral apart from two of the staff from the nursing home. As he had no living relatives the council paid for the funeral and so there is no headstone on his grave. The local paper is not big on obituaries any more. After Martha’s death he never really bothered with women again. He signed up for the army and did not really care whether he lived or died. In fact that’s what made him a war hero though he never felt like one and as for being given medals for killing Germans it never made any kind of sense to him.

Words: 314

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Winter winds thumped his chest as he weaved through traffic. He’d been warned about drivers who aimed for cyclists. He was getting the message.

It was dark by the time he arrived. The city’s largest park was close by and the dingy terrace houses nearby leaned in against each other like battle stations against the gale.

A shaft of light through a chocked-open door was like a luminous ‘Welcome’ sign. Inside, an urn bubbled, a lone finger prodded an untuned piano and voices; many voices. A tall guy was bent over a trestle arranging sheet music into piles. Underneath a pile of stackable plastic chairs, a long-haired mutt snored with his paws in the air.

Nobody looked his way when he poked his head in. For a tiny second he considered backing out again, but his legs were like pylons cemented to the step. A strong antiseptic smell wafted over other bodily fumes and out the back, a door to a laneway flapped against the wind. He’d seen a few old guys sleeping rough on the pavement. Maybe he was safer inside than out.

A pear-shaped woman in a homemade orange poncho marched towards him. Her polyester slacks stretched over wobbling flesh and her bright red smile resembled a side-show alley clown.

“You must be Simon. Welcome to the choir.”

He kept his sweaty hands in his pockets. Few people seem to notice his nerves, and if he slipped up, he always had his pills.

The director was on the stage, surrounded by choristers. He had the energy of a pup. If he was a teenager, he’d be a candidate for medication. He was cute though. Simon begged him to turn around.

A stylish woman cradled a teacup.

“Warm up time! Come on everyone!”

Circles reminded Simon of youth groups. Every weekend he suffered them, until he was old enough to stay in bed.

“If they hold hands, I’m out of here” he thought.

Words: 330

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She’d shopped for food. She was sure of it. She checked her pockets.
Nothing.
She pulled into the doorway. Uncertain where to spend the night. Certain there’d once been a place with food. Here. This place. She remembered. Curtains. Small tables. Coffee cups thick-handled and sturdy. Crockery.
Some words came back.
She checked for her hat.
Gone.
Gloves.
Gone.
She’d had a blanket. Tarp? Something stiff and damp against her cheek. Newspaper?
Maybe hair.
Uncertain now, she wandered into the street.
She’d had a cart.
She was certain.
She looked around.
Gone.
Certain she’d once held something, she wrapped her arms around herself.
Nothing.

Words: 104

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“Now, the good thing about living here, Fran,” she said, “is that nobody mithers me about me parking.”

I couldn’t argue with that, I supposed. We’d seeped out of the car twelve hours previously, in the dark, sticky with sweat and covered in some mysterious dust that had wafted in through the open windows as we bowled along the highway in a haphazard manner. No sign of a parking ticket or even a disgruntled neighbour. Back home, somebody would be trying to shoehorn a Micra either side, and tutting as they did it. But this wasn’t back home.

I’d never expected to go on a road trip with my mother. Actually, I’d never expected to see her again, to be honest. She left me a note when she left; explained it had all been something of a mistake but that she may as well make the best of it. She did call me a few days later. “The good thing about starting again, Fran,” she said, “is you don’t have any obligations. Bye, love.” And that was that.

Only it wasn’t. It wasn’t that at all. A few weeks later, I started getting strange things in the post. Bits of maps and timetables; pages ripped from travel guides; clippings from foreign newspapers; and once: a tiny pressed flower. Then I received notice that £4000 had been wired to my account. The same day I got a postcard: “I’ll pick you up in Paraguay!” And that, it transpired, actually was that.

I thought about whether I should go. I leafed through the scrapbook of the things she’d sent me (I’d done all nice edges and some glitter), and I had a vermouth, and I thought, “Fuck it, why not?”

Anyway, there’s nothing stops my mum when she gets an idea in her head. It would have been Dad’s birthday tomorrow. She’s baking a cake. She’s got all his shoes lined up under her bedroom window. I didn’t even know she’d brought them.

Words: 330

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