Flash fiction, short stories, poetry …
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Dreams on the Estate

S

helly walks the palomino down the estate at night, after the scratchy kids go to bed and the lights come flickering on. She likes to carry a silver pistol and Merrick – the palomino – wears matching silver harness.

Shelly thinks this is a dream she has each night, after she mumbles through her little ritual of tea, toast and then hot chocolate. If it wasn’t for these things, it would be so much weirder, she thinks. She doesn’t know the half of it.

Out in the gardens, and streets, around the monotonous, uniform pebbledash, she wanders like a shadow. She doesn’t know what she’s wearing. If she did, she’d blush.

The palomino is a consistent friend. Shelly’s not a girly-girl into pink and ponies – she’s never had a thing for horses – but Merrick waits by the gate every night, as dusk falls and the sodium lights fire up, pink and dull. He nickers softly as she hands him some peanuts. She’s not sure where the nuts came from or whether nuts are good for horses (at least they’re not salted), but he scoops them up appreciatively with his wide, rubbery lips; hairy lips that tickle her hand. Afterward, she wipes her hand on her hip, amazed once again, that all her fingers are intact. Clever horse.

They clip-clop along Waveatree road, the night smelling of laburnum blossom – the trees as enthusiastic as fireworks – warm plants, and humidity. It’s quiet. She never sees other people out here when she walks with Merrick – another reason she thinks this is a dream. “It’s not a very complex dream, is it,” she says, patting the horse. He snorts and rolls an eye in her direction. She snickers.

They clip-clop along a few more garden fences, pass a few more identikit cars and front lawns. I feel like a suburban Indian, she thinks. Then: a suburban Native American, don’t you know.

Out in the darkness a cuckoo or a unicorn calls – Shelly really has no idea about wildlife, apart from the fact that horses like nuts.

Two houses down, a flicker of moving pictures comes from an un-curtained window. Inside, there is no one watching the TV, but a cup of tea sits next to the big fat couch, a couch as bloated as a witchetty grub and as multi-layered as a chocolate pastry. Merrick shakes his head. Shelly cannot but agree – how many more episodes of Red Dwarf can they show on Dave, before everyone in the whole, wide world has seen it twice?

Down at the bus station, Shelly peruses the timetables. Strange – she has never done this during the day. Shelly has no illusions about leaving Crestwood and all the humdrum monotony of her life. I was born here and I’ll die here, she says. If it wasn’t for these flights of fancy, I’d just be like everyone else. That’s what she says; mostly in this dream.

But Merrick found her and now she carries this pistol. That too is an anachronism. Why the gun? It rather implies she has to shoot someone, something, or defend herself, but unless TV can attack in a dream, nothing moves. The gun maintains its mirror shine, Merrick’s harness sparkles, the moon smiles down.

During the day, she could get a return fare to Burton. But that’s just the same as Crestwood. She could take the horse. It occurs she’s never tried riding him, and to do so would be somewhat impolite. Another scratch around horse ears. She thinks Merrick agrees.

Outside the football ground, Shelly considers turnstiles and horses and can see a traffic jam before it happens. They pass on, with Shelly wondering if Merrick might like some of the wide, green lawn that is Crestwood FA. There does seem to be a somewhat resigned plod to his step when they turn away.

Outside the bead shop, Shelly plays with her hair, wondering about how long it would take to braid it and fill it with colourful beads. She also looks speculatively at Merrick and his lovely long mane which flows like ice. Merrick is obviously not impressed.

They return through the ‘big park’, and once more down Waveatree Road.

Shelly tries a few quick draws and ‘howdy partners’ with the gun. There are a few hysterical moments, but it’s not as much fun as doing it in front of the mirror with a hairbrush. She carefully retrieves the gun again from the bushes. It is thankfully undamaged.

A block later, Shelly unlatches the gate to her garden. Merrick has already gone ‘poof’. She leaves a small pile of peanuts on the brick post and smiles happily.

In moments she’s upstairs, asleep once more.

September 25, 2010   No Comments

Lucy is a Werewolf

Werewolf school sign

L

ucy is a werewolf. She has long shaggy hair and pricked ears and big teeth. And then she turns into a werewolf. Ha, ha!

I think she hunts most nights around the full moon, but sometimes she just sits in with me and we eat chips and dips and watch old episodes of Weakest Link on her DVD player. Ann Robinson might also be a werewolf.

I asked Lucy why there aren’t other types of were-creatures, like were-hamsters or were-guinea pigs. Wouldn’t that be cool? We could keep them in school as pets, but not let the primary ones and twos look after them, in case they got bit.

I asked my dad if I could become a werewolf, but he said, “No, don’t be daft.” I don’t think he believes in werewolves, but I believe in Lucy. She’s my best friend, though she’s sometimes naughty. Like yesterday, she went hunting on a neighbouring farm and the farmer chased her with a gun. He was wearing pink wellies.

Then another day, I think she might have eaten Kensington, my neighbour Daphne’s pet cat. That could be a bit unfair. Lucy says she doesn’t think she did, but I did find Kensington’s cat medal wedged down the back of her mom’s sofa. Poor, pretty cat.

I think sometimes it must be hard to be a werewolf.

Tonight, after we’d done our homework, she couldn’t get out of the house. There was lots of whining and scratching, and my favourite program was on – Time Team, with a Special from York. I sighed a lot and had to go get the lead. Stupid Lucy, I thought.

We went round the block a couple of times and I let her off the lead, but only after I’d bopped her on the nose and told her not to go and bite anyone – except the crappy kids that live three doors up. They stole my trike when I was three.

Lucy slipped the lead for a while and came back smelling of pizza. I think she’d been rolling in garbage again. Worse when she rolls in poo.

I think looking after a werewolf is a big responsibility, just like dad said. He said, “You’ll have to look after her,” and that-was-that.

Handy, though, that I can go to school with her in the morning and she’s my best friend, especially for maths. She’s good at maths.

September 23, 2010   No Comments

Boris

U

nfortunately, Boris (our Border-Staffordshire cross with no small amount of whippet) is not particularly thrifty when it comes to using the Internet. His broad, big-toed lion’s paws are awkward on the keys of G and R, so, unsurprisingly, he is often found to be chewing in frustration on a Theakston and Harvard rubber-chew mouse, while words like ‘wobstoppef’ (instead of Gobstopper) and ‘Cafinal’ (instead of Cardinal) rise up his screen like lazy flies from the garbage of his day, and needless to say, the furious re-typing means those heavily laden insects never alight on the roof of his laptop with a little, light conversation. Rewriting with paws, is like that…

“Time for a walk, old dog.”

He pads beside me through the wet, grassy park, considering new ideas on Chaucer and Kennedy, convinced that his true canine instincts will lead him to a justifiable conclusion – some new, writerly insight, far greater than ever before found by a type-writing Gefalumpahound (or whatever cross he is).

I watch his big, saggy eyes like handbags holding bowling balls.

I observe the lappish tilt of his soft, brown ears, that perk up at the first sign of cats, small children, and fresh inspiration on his play (you know, the one on Brookmyer and Barbara Woodhouse – but it’s a long work).

Cats, of course, ruin his concentration, and make the vein in his forehead pound. Poor old dog – but certainly his work is some of the best of a type-writing dog this year, anywhere – or at least, that’s what he alludes to around his writing companions as they snuffle each other hello and drag through the leaves, in one big, happy, bounding, hairy writing group, camped out in wet, winter’s grass.

It suddenly occurs to me that Boris and I have quite misplaced Mother’s Day. Mother, of course, is quite attached to it and will let many things slide (such as Boris smoking his pipe indoors and observing her with one, blood-shot eye over his monocle – as long as his feet are clean) but not, unfortunately, the one day of the year that has her name on it.

I hope, amongst hope, as the lead goes slack and then straightens up again, that Boris has come to some poetic objectivity, some humorous story, he can pound in with his big, awkward paws, which can then be misdirected as the perfect, off-the-cuff gift for a mother who has everything, apart from a sense of humor.

Boris peruses a cat in an ill-considered manner. Good, good. Mother likes cats – big, stripy, slack-jawed cats, just like that; fuzzy like a jumper.

Then his attention snaps to a little, black, scratchy movement in the leaf-litter. No, for God’s sake, not Kafka – drop it, boy, drop it! I hate it when he eats bugs – all buggy-breath; the tongue that licks his master’s face and Mother will never understand it. The little black beetle navigates the drool, with the spryness of a 6,000,000 year old literary critic and vanishes between the leaves of crackling paper.

Boris is on the hunt, but fails to find inspiration by burying his wet nose in the behind of a pertly, pink Pekinese, running on an extendible leash, like a buzz saw cutting through the grass. The sour faced woman, with skin whiter than frost, sucks in on a lemon and reels in her maddened, canine appliance. It completes a four-footed take-off, and vanishes over a bush – reeled in out of the way of literary temptation. That lead has obviously come to an end.

I wonder, as I stand embarrassed next to Boris, who squats next to me like the spider-lady, rigid and shaking, if this is his final, writerly analysis of the matter. Tufts of grass fly in appreciation of the great outdoors.

Mother, I don’t think I’ll present you with Boris’ latest, greatest, master-work.

September 22, 2010   2 Comments