Uncle’s House – Patsy Collins
1400 word Crime Story
Uncle Alfred always thought we could pick ourselves up from whatever life threw at us. He was wrong – a fact that was very useful to me.
I looked at the house and then back to the estate agents notes in my hands. Could this dingy depressing place really be worth £340,000? That sum of money would make a huge difference to my business. I was doing OK but a cash injection like that would put me on a whole new level. Help pick me up, as Uncle Alfred would say. I walked on to my Uncle’s house just three doors down. His was the end of the row, a little larger, a little more valuable.
Under – Jim Celer
4200 words General Fiction
A public assistance caseworker tries, but cannot quite be, insensitive to how his job affects the people he’s supposed to help. His is a conflict between duty and consequences, between theory and result. His refuge is the bathroom.
I sat in the can reading “Edward Mills and George Benton: A Tale”, a short story by Mark Twain, well after I had finished what you do there. What I was actually doing now was thinking, or not thinking exactly but being conscious that my mind was wandering. That’s what I was doing – that, and hiding from work, from the phone calls and frustration, and from the certain knowledge that Amber Romander was going to disappear. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services – that’s what surrounds the bathroom. The job is, nominally, to provide human services.
Under the Baobab Tree – Roger Woodcock
2000 word Adventure
A young boy is forced, because of drought in his country and his ailing parents, to go out in search of food, in the form of game, to have any hope of keeping his family from starving.
This story is included in the collection This Land is My Land
He paused by the scrubby stand of bush, its thorny leaves sharp against his leathery skin. Raising his hand to shield his eyes against the searing sun, he scanned the horizon. Nothing. Jabbing the crude spear into the baked earth he took a sip from the goatskin pouch slung around his neck. The water, warm and tasting of damp soil, slid easily down his parched throat. How long had he been out there? Four days? Six? He thought of his parents back in the village, a random collection of mud huts set in a sweltering dust bowl. Their life had been one of increasing desperation since the drought and subsequent failure of their crops.
Undercover Fae – Angela Pickering
2200 words Fairytale
With fairies disappearing from the Greenwood, the Fairy Queen is understandably concerned. Meriel, fairy detective, is assigned the case despite her human sympathies, or perhaps because of them, What will her investigations reveal? Where have the fairies gone and why? Perhaps even the Little People aren’t above a little skulduggery.
When she called me into her office, she was wearing huge rollers in her hair. They were those heated ones, and I could tell because her little face was all crimson from the heat. ‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea,’ I warned her, but she shook her head as much as the rollers would allow. ‘Magic doesn’t solve everything,’ she said, as if I didn’t know that. She gestured me into a chair. I narrowed my eyes, and waited for the blow to fall. The boss doesn’t call for me that often and when she does, it’s time to duck. Metaphorically speaking, of course; fairies don’t use physical violence on one another.
Understanding – Clive Graham
1050 words Crime / General
All Mitchell wanted was for people to understand how he felt. When they didn’t, he was prepared to take drastic steps to make them…
Mitchell lay watching the daylight as it leaked slowly across the bedroom ceiling. He checked his clock again. 05.38. That meant he had just under two hours to decide. Would he go to work today, or would he call the office, talk vaguely about ‘flu or some sort of stomach upset and stay at home? His sickness absences had been infrequent and he knew he would be believed. A few words of insincere sympathy and that would be that.
Unfinished Business – Jan Baynham
1600 words Women’s Fiction
Kathy will never settle until she finds her cat, Monty. She ventures out of the house in the dark and in atrocious weather to look for him. But will she be able to face her fears as she nears the end of the street and enter the place she dreads?
Kathy knew she wouldn’t settle until she found Monty so, even though it was almost dark, she put on her coat and scarf and left the house. I’ll leave the light on, she thought, telling herself it was for Monty but deep down she knew it was for her own benefit. That was one of the things she hated since John had gone coming back to a dark empty house. And knowing the night ahead would be a lonely one. Just lately, her beloved cat-companion, her reason not to go under, had begun disappearing. These were not just his normal mousing trips which lasted a few hours when he slinked back through the cat flap with his trophies all covered in blood.
Universal Energy – Lilliana Rose
2650 words Fantasy / Romance
The Universe can be a fun place to leave messages of love, creating a game of pursuit between star-crossed lovers, where feelings can unexpectedly change.
She is having trouble finding me. I had left so many signs for her; decorated the Universe and still I am alone. She even missed the circles in Andromeda. Oh Olan’ta why do you resist? You know we are destined for each other. At Jupiter I spent hours commanding the clouds into tessellations, gas swirled in harmony forming the message. Layers of coloured fumes glowed peacefully and spoke of my desires for Olan’ta, told her where to find me; above Earth. And how we would join and give birth to a new energy.
Unk’s Umbrella – Patricia Belford
1100 words children 6 – 8
Tim`s Uncle Kenneth, whom he calls “Unk” is an inventor and his birthday presents are always brilliant. When all Tim receives from Unk is an umbrella, he is disappointed, until he and his friend Oliver discover that it has magic powers.
Tim waited at his front gate for Uncle Kenneth, whom he called Unk, to arrive with his birthday present. It was three weeks late, but he didn`t mind. That morning Tim had received an email: “Birthday present ready. Will arrive at 10am. Unk.” Tim couldn`t wait. His uncle`s presents were always mega brilliant because… UNK WAS AN INVENTOR! For his last birthday Unk had invented a stupendous skateboard. Tim could do fantastic tricks, even figures of eight, without falling off.
Unlikely Hero – Greta Yorke
1800 words Children’s Story / Fairytale
After the beanstalk incident Jack was sad and he realised there were other sad people in Fairyland. When strange things happened he decided he might be able to do something about it.
Up the Garden Path – Patsy Collins
A Collection of 24 stories.
Eleanor has a traditional garden her grandchildren will love; won’t they? Mrs Dalrymple’s country home seems the perfect refuge for Daryl and there’s no reason Emma can’t call the big house home, is there?
Homes and gardens aren’t always peaceful havens though. Ted’s tranquility is under threat from a BBQ for teenage twins, Penny the Jack Russell is called upon to protect her mistress from a terrifying intruder, avoiding Frances’s annoying neighbour was almost the death of her and Rachel can’t bring herself to step out the back door.
A walk in the countryside might be less traumatic, unless your beloved tree has been damaged as badly as your heart or Mrs Bishop is lurking to find fault with all you do. Even the simple act of arranging flowers causes problems if your boss is as mean as Brenda’s.
Valerie managed to dig herself out of depression on her allotment but Sally was faced with the perils of half an hour in the potting shed with the attractive yet infuriating Jim.
Gardens, plants and people all have their story. Let me lead you up the garden path and tell you a few.
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Stories included: Going Green, Winter Damage, Digging For Victory, Blooming Talent, Busy Body, Delphine, Ethel and I.T. , Flowers for Milly, Your Granddad’s Stuck Up a Tree Again, Full Indian Headdress, Party Surprise, Mrs Dalrymple, The Scent of Home, A Piece of Pink Ribbon, Nice Weather for it, Organised, The Garden, Tainted Water, Coming Home, Watchdog, Easter at Eleanor’s, Goodbye to the Old Number Thirty-Seven, Strawberry Jam, The Boarhunt Oak
Vampirical Domesticity – Peter Lingard
1000 words Humour
Vampire parents make plans to celebrate their anniversary.
Dragan Sangster smiled when he saw what his lover prepared for breakfast. “Blood sausage! I must be in your good books.” “You had to figure you would be today,” Jagoda replied. “It is our first anniversary and besides, I want to give you a healthy glow to start the day.” “Happy anniversary,” he whispered as he nuzzled her left ear, fondled her right buttock and watched her roll the sausages. “By way of celebration, I’ve purchased a bag of rice and I thought we might satisfy our arithomania tonight by counting the grains. What do you think?”
Vanessa’s Group – Peter Pitt
1300 words Humour
Vanessa, the leader of her local Writer’s Circle, finds more than she expected, from a dwindling membership, when she arrives at the weekly meeting.
Vanessa, smartly dressed in a grey suit, carrying a folder under her arm, mounted the steps of the Community Centre. The speed and lightness of her step belied the age of a person in her sixties. Vanessa had been the secretary of the local Writers Circle since its inception six years ago. In those days the group had numbered more than twenty. These days they were down to less than half that number. Luckily though, there was a hard core of half a dozen who could be relied upon to turn up most Tuesday evenings.
Vanilla Snow People – Mary Raebel
1070 words Children 4 – 10 years
Poor Miss Sneakers-in-snot. People would turn up their noses as if she really were something awful stuck to their shoes. That’s why she built her own family and friends out of snow. Then one winter it didn’t snow, and Miss Sneakers-in-snot was forced to take matters into her own hands.
“Sneakers-in-snot!” That’s what all the kids called the old lady who lived in the huge mansion on Icy Top Hill. Sneakers-in-snot wasn’t her real name. Her real name was too hard to pronounce. It didn’t matter anyway. No one ever talked to her. Not because she was a stranger. She was just strange. When old Sneakers-in-snot would waddle into town, the kids would run away, and the grownups—except Papa and a few others—would turn up their noses. It was as if she really were…well…sneakers-in-snot.
Vanished – Patsy Collins
Maz and Maggie both used the same bus stop which made Maggie think they had things in common. Maz thought her life was very different from the old lady’s but that didn’t stop them becoming friends or prevent Maz worrying when Maggie vanished.
Maz was disappointed Maggie wasn’t waiting at the bus-stop. Over the last fortnight, Maz had worried about the old lady, but now something was obviously very wrong. She couldn’t explain why, but she felt a connection to Maggie, almost as though anything bad that happened to Maggie might affect Maz. Maz had first seen Maggie six months ago. Maz caught the 32 into town which got her to work just about on time. Maggie used the 17. Maz felt sorry for the old lady the first time she’d seen her, bundled up against the cold weather of early spring. How awful to be old and cold and alone.
Vermin – Raelke Grimmer
940 words General Fiction
Trapped with only a creature for company, she finds it impossible to tear herself away, to abandon the pathetic animal. But what is she supposed to do when she can’t help it, and no one else will?
Nothing but a single pane of glass stood between me and it. It stared straight back at me, decrepit little eyes boring into mine. It stared at me as long as I kept staring back at it; I had no chance of winning the contest I was unable to drag myself away from. The creature’s scraggly arms and legs propelled itself around the cage-like enclosure it was concealed in. I forced myself to avert my eyes from the unsightly thing long enough to pick up my dress.
Very Superstitious – Colette McCormick
950 words Women’s Fiction
She won’t walk under ladders and keeps a rabbit’s foot handy at all times but Jane will need more than luck to get her through this day.
“And just how exactly does it bring you luck?” Sally asked Jane who was kissing the rabbit’s foot that was clutched tightly in her hand. “It’s just lucky,” Jane said with absolute conviction. “Not sure the rabbit would agree with you.” Jane pulled a face at her friend and tucked her lucky charm safely into her pocket where she could easily find it and stroke it when her courage started to desert her.
Victims of War – Dorothy Davies
600 words Horror Story
The station is the passing through place for the young men off to the war zone. The porter sees them go…
Do you not think a train whistle is the loneliest sound in the world? When it echoes across the countryside at night, does it not tear at your heart? As the train leaves the station for places unknown to me, does the whistle not seem to ring with loneliness because you are being left behind? Or is it just that I think so, because I am here on this station – because trains are my life?
Visit to Tivari – Peter Pitt
2400 word Action / Adventure
When Danica left university, she immediately joined the partisans in their fight for democracy. All was well, until her group made an encampment near to the village that was her home.
A dirt road led up to a high point where a group of partisans were encamped. Had it been daylight, on one side of the encampment, the Adriatic could have been seen in the distance. On the other side there was a steep, heavily wooded, embankment which ran down to the valley below, and the village of Tivari. The scent of pine trees filled the air and the camp was bathed in moonlight. There was one small camouflaged tent, and close-by, a dozen or so figures were huddled around a camp fire. The glimmer of the firelight on their faces, revealed a couple of woman amongst them. The flap on the tent opened and a man came out.
Voicemail – Clive Graham
1100 word Ghost story / Humour
Just who was it that Michael spoke to on his mobile? And where was he when he really needed him?
Included in the Collection ‘The Day Death wore Boots’
Bedtime, and my nephew was conducting his usual fighting retreat, step by step, up the stairs. A favoured tactic was to pause, brow furrowed as if in thought, and then come up with a question carefully crafted to sound like an expression of real intellectual curiosity which he hoped I would feel obliged to satisfy, and so gain him an extra five minutes. You can come up with a lot of questions like that, when you’re seven. This time, we’d made it as far as the half landing.
Wait There – Gail Aldwin
1000 word Women’s Fiction
A teenager prepares for a Sunday visit from her Dad. She loves him to bits but things have not been the same since he left home. Her Dad suggests a trip to the beach as a way to patch things up, but it’s not long before things go awry.
Daylight stings my eyes when my Mum opens the curtains, but I’m glad the morning’s here. I stretch star-shaped under the duvet. Mum’s meddling with my things and the wardrobe door creaks. I hope she hasn’t chosen a dress for me to wear. ‘I’ve laid out some clothes for you,’ she says. ‘Your Dad’s coming at nine o’clock.’ ‘I’ll be up in a minute.’ ‘You better have some breakfast before you go. You know what your Dad’s like, he’ll probably forget you need to eat.’
Waiting for the 9.03 – Dorothy Davies
1300 word Ghost story
Train stations, departures, arrivals, passengers ever on the move. Why then does the lady, who appears to be out of time somehow, remain standing on the platform, and what magnetic influence draws the young woman to her?
There is nothing as heartbreaking as a train whistle at midnight across a desolate lonely countryside. Nothing tears at the heartstrings quite as much as the sight of the brightly lit windows making a streak of light as the train clacks and rocks its way along the glittering rails. Nothing draws the wanderlust out of the soul of someone more than the thought of the train travelling through the night to far off places where the people are different and colourful, where the food is exotic and the weather erratic and hot, where the language is like molten silver in the ears and you cannot understand a word of it.
Wake 2 – Judith Bruton
2500 words Mystery
Peter has an obsession, a very secret obsession that has his neighbours worried, very worried.
Peter ran his large roughened hands over her silken body defining the gentle curves of her sensuous form. With eyes closed he caressed her; she was cool perfection to his touch. He quivered at the thought of all she promised. A faint breeze aroused a bittersweet note from the shell wind chime hanging outside the double doors. As if waking from a long malaise Peter opened his eyes slowly. Deeply etched lines and folds of weathered skin gave way to watery reddened eyes with vulnerable blue irises—blue as the shallows of St Vincent Gulf in late summer, his wife used to say.
Walt and the Preacher – Henry Mitchell
Nathan Widenhouse wasn’t much of a preacher.
Walt Coggins was no saint.
They took the same road home.
Nathan Widenhouse asked his hopeless question to the old highlander whose fire he was sharing, “Mister Coggins, your sister would feel a lot better about your eternal prospects if you would join us for worship at the church now and again.” Walt Coggins, looking as old and craggy as the mountain looming over his small cabin, closed his eyes, nodded an indication that he was thinking about what the preacher said, sat silent long enough that Nathan wondered if he were asleep. Walt startled the young clergyman by spitting a sizzling wad into the fire, and then gave Nathan a broad, sparsely toothed smile, “It ain’t that I’m agin church, Preacher; just that it’s harder to fly when you’re in a cage.”
War at Salt Bush Flats – Hettie Ashwin
1850 words General Fiction
Dogs are part of farming life, but when one dog’s sexual exploits take on legendary proportions the farmer has to take drastic action. Who wins in the end is anyone’s guess, but Moss the dog and Bill the farmer find a compromise to the war.
It was war. Bill hunted around the dust bowl that was his front yard with his old gun slung low on his hip, squinting in the noonday sun. “I’ll get ya, you bastard,” he shouted into the wind. He narrowed his eyes and looked into the distance at the salt bush scrub trying to second guess where his quarry would be. “Don’t think I’m givin’ up,” he yelled and stomped back to the veranda, a trail of dry dust following him up to the steps. The screen door slammed shut as Bill thumped into the weatherboard house and headed for the kitchen.
Wasted on Lygon Street – Peter Lingard
2200 words General Fiction
A man thinks about his life and family as he lies in the street after being shot during a bank robbery.
People around him were behaving in an uncomfortable manner; they didn’t abandon him, but they didn’t want to be with him. He had been on his way to meet a client at a restaurant on Lygon Street when a bank alarm sounded and two hooded men ran from the building. As they rushed past, one of them made eye contact and waggled his gun as if to warn Morris not to take any heroic action. A lone policeman had appeared, shouted “Halt!” drawn his gun and fired into the air. The implications of being positioned between two armed antagonists had driven Morris to shelter.