A Thousand Grains of Sand
The winter moon is high. The poplars cast their barred shadows on the empty road. Beyond the crossroads, just outside the arc of lamplight, a bicycle silently circles.
The rider is Liu Qiang. Despite his woollen gloves, his ﬁngers, gripping the handlebars, are cold. The Beijing air seeps through his padded jacket, chilling his bones.
Published in The Mechanics’ Institute Review, 2017
‘Beautifully crafted tales of not fitting in and yearning for the other. Brilliant.’ – Kit de Waal
My pa’s a hunter. He’s got a cool jacket, from the military, full of pockets for wire and bait. And boots with thick soles, that are good for sneaking up on things.
The soles are made out of special bark. They get sewed on with thread from vines that grow in the forest. The forest comes nearly up to our plot, but Pa keeps it back. With the other men he cuts the trees down with an axe. Then Ma and the women pull the bark off with their fingers. Their nails break and oftentimes their fingers bleed.
Published in Utopia Dystopia, Momaya Short Story Review 2017
Under a Different Sky
I saw it in my dreams: it framed my days and nights. The maw of the mine – a gaping wound in the burnt remains of the forest. All day the exhausted ground echoed with our blows. At night the forest screamed and called back to us, as if in reproach.
The distant king had chosen his secret playground well. When the mine had finished with a man, only the vultures would find him.
Winner, Yeovil Prize 2014
‘I know what we need,’ Max said, striding on to the patio one Friday evening in late July.
Lorna hadn’t heard him come through the house. She had been listening for a different sound.
She peered out from under the parasol, flinching at the heat. Max’s tie was undone, his greying hair flat with sweat, face flushed from the commuter train. Sun caught the beer glass in his hand. He smiled, and raised the glass at her, and Lorna saw an actor in a silent film, tightrope sliding under his polished shoes, the street falling away below.
Winner, Bridge House Short Story Competition
I’m walking so quickly I’m level with the van before I see it, parked at the end of the street I cross every morning. My chest pinches and I slow down. I can’t see the number plate, but it’s definitely his.
In the April sunlight the blue spray job looks even crappier. If I went round the front, I’d see the wing dent where he hit the wall the night he left.
It’s parked outside a gone-to-seed Victorian three-storey. There’s a basement too, I notice through the railings. There’ll be plenty of work: new windows, kitchen, bathroom; maybe knocking down walls and ripping out chimneys. Then all the decorating. There’d have to be a deposit for materials. And the bill settled in full, within seven days. I used to insist on that.
But insisting only got me so far.
Published in Hysteria 2, December 2013
In the Blood
Kneeling on her bed under the parlour window, the girl presses her cheek to the pane and watches the grey prairie. In the distance a dark funnel links land and sky. Her fingers grip the window sill, the draught sliding over her nails, bitten to the quick.
Behind her in the gloom her parents hulk in their chairs by the hearth. In the grate, the wind chases the last wisp of cold smoke off the kindling.
Overhead there’s a thud; and the sound of something heavy, rolling across the floor.
Published in Reaching Out, Cinnamon Press, September 2013
On the day in April that Ben’s headship is confirmed, two blackbirds appear in the back garden. Madeleine, who has forgotten the bird facts Ben used to tell her, doesn’t at first understand what they’re doing. But she recognises frantic activity when she sees it.
The male hurries across the narrow lawn, or swoops past the window to perch on the fence, his tail up. The dull-coloured female forages in the flower bed, her beak stuffed with scraps.
When Madeleine at last realises they are building a nest, their shared purpose makes her anxious.
Published in The Book of Euclid, Cinnamon Press, April 2013
Off the Shelf
I’m on the graveyard shift at NicePrice and I can’t stop scratching. It started as soon as I sat at the till. I’m sure it’s the heat: it’s the longest, hottest day of the year and the air-con’s broken. Even the perky Special Offer signs look limp, their shouted instructions about Last Chance To Buy! more desperate than inviting.
Published in New Writing, Mslexia magazine, Issue 44, and in the Momaya Press Annual review 2012.
The Logic of the Mine
I see it in my dreams; it frames my days and nights: the maw of
the mine, gaping like a wound in the burnt remains of the forest. You might think the location God-given, if you believed in the god these people do. When the mine has finished with a man only the crooked-beaks will find him.
Published in Momaya Press Annual review 2011
Looking for Michael
‘What brings you to Africa, Jill?’ Dana’s voice rises and falls behind me in the afternoon heat.
She appeared at my door ten minutes ago, opening it as she knocked. I was sitting at my desk, thinking about Michael. Now I can tell she’s scanning the small room, searching for photographs of grandchildren; maybe an airmail letter; proof that someone cares.
I keep my back to her. ‘Oh, you know – to do my bit for humanity.’
At least I’m conforming to type: the stuck-up Brit, cold-shouldering the friendly Aussie.