Tag Archives: Short Story

A Cabin in The Woods

A Cabin in the Woods. 100 Words Week 7



Adam and Eve ran away from disapproval and family shame
Where people pointed since their unmarried love was a sin
They disappeared into the woods to start their life again
Where they built a cabin and a home for future children.

They built it far away from the well-trodden paths
By a lake with bulrush reeds and darting dragon flies
that hovered in the air with warm dog-rose scented wafts
drifting in the idyllic afternoons under the cloudless skies

Where behind the purple rosebay ran the bubbling brooks
They washed and bathed naked in the clear shallow pools
Guarded and watched over by a parliament of silent rooks
As they dried themselves slowly with white woollen towels

Alas with naivety of nature’s fruits, a mistaken death cap
was added for nourishment into a warm mushroom soup
As they peacefully slept, in their veins ran the poisonous sap
And in drifting dreams their souls followed a heavenly route

After fifty years, there were no records of the cabin in the woods
Or of the skeleton lovers huddled beneath a blanket of dust
The mystery became a myth full of folk songs with solemn moods
of young couples entranced by forbidden love and mistaken trust.


Three Line Tales – Mojito Sting

Three Line Tales


Photo by Wolf Schram

Mojito Sting.

‘Oye que bola,’ she sipped mojito in the Bertolt Brecht bar, hustling canasta. I had a sure winner and dropped in my Chevrolet keys. She turned a full house. ‘Want to come for a ride?’ She laughed. At the beach in the back seat, was I lucky or being screwed for my car?


I have added a short story from my collection The Listener.


A Girl on the Train.Short Story by James McEwan

On my journey by train into Glasgow yesterday I was reminded how anonymous we are to other passengers and seemingly invisible -unless they try and sit on your lap. We become strangers thrown together for a short period – and we sit in silence. Or do we?

I tried to capture this in a short story I wrote sometime ago where the interaction of sounds, furtive glances and seemingly disinterest is a cover for our instinctive curiosity.

Tell me what you think, can you envisage this situation?

On Camera Nov 2014 128

A Girl on the Train.

(She Blew Me A Kiss.)


The girl rushed into the train compartment and she dropped into the seat diagonally opposite me, to my right by the window. Seemingly agitated, she looked out and down the platform as if searching for a friend or relative, who perhaps might wave. But no one was there. Rapid beeps preceded the closing of the doors and the train smoothly moved off.

Her red hair was tied in a ponytail. Freckles dotted around her nose, her cheeks were clear and soft. She wore a white blouse underneath a tight tweed jacket, a short skirt and her faint green tights stretched down her legs into the ankle boots that matched the light tan of her satchel. Early twenties.

A woman directly opposite from me shook her Hello magazine and we exchanged glances.

I returned my attention to the crossword. Four down, the colour of jealousy, five letters. Green and isn’t that also the colour of envy?

An increasing volume of a ring tone from a mobile telephone had the girl rummaging in her satchel. I looked up. The woman opposite lowered her magazine, tightened her lips and shook her head at me as she glared over her glasses. I tried to ignore her and returned to the crossword.

Six across, slight discomfort in the organs. Ten letters, try irritation.

The girl placed a notebook on the seat, before retrieving her telephone from the bag.

‘Where are you?’ She spoke into her mobile.

The woman opposite rustled her magazine to a new page and turned sideways.

‘Well get the next one.’

I stared at my crossword. What kind of boyfriend misses meeting this girl, with bright blue eyes? Seven down, an inferior assistant, three letters. Slave, no that’s five, try cad.

‘Carol, you always say that.’

Not a boyfriend then, perhaps it was just a friend with a lame excuse, and who had probably slept in.

‘No its Ok, I can wait in Starbucks, you owe me.’

The woman opposite stared through her glasses at me. Well don’t listen I telepathically glared back and clearly you should avoid Starbucks.

‘He did what?’ The girl stamped a foot on the floor. ‘Oh Carol he didn’t. … He did.’

The woman took a deep breath and lifted her hand to cover an ear. Perhaps she doesn’t want to know what he did. I do.

Three down, something rare or unusual, nine letters. A curiosity. What was it he did?

‘But, is he coming with us? … He is.’ The girl stamped her foot again.

The woman folded her magazine and shifted in her seat, she crossed over a leg and accidentally kicked me. Ouch that hurt, I telepathically smiled at her and rubbed my shin.

‘I’m going to ask Mark along, if that’s Ok?’ The girl continued on her mobile and looked at me.

The woman opposite mouthed sorry.

‘No harm done.’ I said and return to my crossword.

‘What do you mean?’ The girl continued her conversation. She glanced at the woman and then stared across at me. She shifted the mobile to her other ear and turned to look out of the train window. ‘But Carol he’s good looking and …’

Eight down, having no choice eleven letters. Involuntary, now that’s an interesting word.

I watched the girl’s reflection flicker in the window where her face appeared contorted by the diffractions of light and passing background.

‘No no Carol … Mark said what?’ The girl stomped both feet.

Oh dear, what did he say? Perhaps Mark is too good looking or perhaps he is a two timing selfish sort. The woman turned a page in her magazine and a picture, of George Clooney with a beautiful woman in an evening dress, smiled at me. Oh how the celebrities live their lives.

‘I never want to speak to him again.’ The girl hugged the satchel resting on her knees.

So many times I’ve heard that before. Nine across intended to mislead, six letters. Deceit, yes we all fall for the same old excuses.

She started to laugh. ‘I know … you should have seen him.’

So clearly he made a fool of himself, somewhere.

‘I know what an idiot.’

So you’re better off without him, he can’t be trusted and you’ll find someone else. Twenty-four down, influenced by proximity, ten letters. Attraction, what does she find attractive?

The girl looked at me. ‘Who should I invite?’ She said into the mobile.

Why not me? I smiled.

Next clue: four across, an impractical person, and eight letters. Idealist.

‘No Carol, he’s too old for me.’ She looked out of the window.

She’s noticed me, but surely we could try. The woman turned over another page of her magazine and I saw Michael Douglas with Catherine Zeta-Jones holding hands. It works for some.

‘I don’t care, I am not going to ask him.’

She has no sense of adventure, I am sure if she got to know me, we’d be a perfect match.

‘That’s what you think.’ She spoke into her mobile and looked at me. ‘I’ll tell you later … later I said.’

The train announcement called out, ‘the next station is Central Low Level.’

In a connecting glance with the girl I instinctively felt a mutual desire and a perception of more to come.

‘No way,’ she said. ‘I’ll meet you in Starbucks, bye … bye.’ She returned her mobile telephone into her satchel.

Sixteen down inspired with foolish passion, ten letters. It can only be infatuated.

The girl shouldered her satchel and left the train. Rapid beeps preceded the closing of the doors and the train started to move off.

Someone knocked on the window from the outside. It was the girl. She frantically pointed at the seat where she had left her notebook. I grabbed hold of it. The top window was jammed and I rushed to the next compartment. The girl was running along side the train and I threw the book out to her. She picked it up, smiled, waved and then she blew me a kiss.

‘Oh really,’ the woman said as I returned to my seat. She shook her magazine to a new page. Renée Zellweger was smiling at me from a picture, as if she knew why the girl blew me a kiss.

Fire in Glasgow -West End.

The picture below reminded me of Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” and its ending few words.

“… but the sky on the horizon was not black at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.’

The implication was that Mrs Danvers discovered the truth about her beloved Rebecca, and in revenge she torched the large country house, ‘Manderley’.


Disused building West Glasgow opposite my daughter’s flat. (Live Friday 20 May 2016)

Fire is fascinating; it is like a cleansing of the past, as the flames leap and twitch. There is finality in the burning where all the elements disintegrate in smoke and leave behind a powdered residue, and is a very practical solution to get rid of the unwanted items in our lives. (I don’t mean people like witches and Guy Fawkes).

In my household it is impossible to be rid of such items, to me they are unnecessary clutter. The ‘others’ with their emotional claptrap always resist trying to make space and taking ‘their stuff’ to charity shops, and so the ‘big clear out’ becomes a day wasted by reminiscing about the good times and the sad times and those bloody times that drive me mad times. Everything is boxed up again and put back into the shed or else up into the attic to be forgotten. Perhaps it is the excitement of rediscovering items from your past, and the past of deceased relatives that sub-consciously makes us hold on to the most ridiculous of items.

Remember this scarf; Granny knitted it for my first day at school, shame about the mice gnawing the wool, and on it goes. Mementos slowly deteriorating and their only function are to reflect on our lives, perhaps we need to hold on to them. Since, once they are gone we’ll miss those ‘big clear out’ days.

No wonder fire is associated with insanity.

Six Word Story. Dog Walker.


Dog walker’s body found; no leads.

Our world – The Physics of Life.

The Physics of life.

I can see I am not the only nerd who is bored, the air is stuffy and people are shielding their iphones under their desks. Their vacant looks are directed at the front in a posture of disinterest, as their fingers collaborate in their cyber conversations. Others are blatantly asleep, and yet this all seems immaterial to the lecturer. “Jason” as we have to address him although he is at least 15 years older than any of us, but he considers “familiarity inspires creativity”. This is one of his big ideas he brought back from America from his time in NASA doing academic research. Put it in your CV, Jason; we get it! Yes, I was impressed at first but repetitive repetition of his self-importance is as interesting as cold tomato soup.

He drones on in a monotonous voice with his explanation of wave-particle duality, and I know he has got it wrong. Why doesn’t he use notes? I am the only one to notice, he is slurring and stuttering his speech and has a hangover. I don’t drink alcohol, but do I find it humorous the way people use this as an excuse; I think they’ve already planned their mischievous notions deep in their subconscious mind and after a few drinks play them out, then feel ill and foolish afterwards. Still it never seems to deter them, and it’s always the same response, it was the drink.

Jason is off at a tangent, me, me, when I was in America, how dull, blah!

I once interrupted him a few weeks ago when he clearly missed the importance of the integral spin of mesons. What a mistake. He didn’t accept my obvious correction but instead rebuked me for the interruption and then made a personal attack on my appearance. He told me I was a Gothic Satanic Vampire with no future in the world of quantum physics. The narrow-minded self-egotistic fn twat, and what an hypocritical view considering his cult following of Scientology, another of his big ideas from America. At least my blood is clean and untainted from the poisonous fluid that is pumped around his body and through his obnoxious brain full of dribble.

I don’t consider myself a Goth, my long black leather coat and boots with their stainless steel buckles is from my admiration of the “Matrix”, a film I felt appealed to my open-minded view of our world’s future. Cutting my hair short and dyeing it blond was great, what a conversation stopper as I walked into the lecture that day. I think I felt a cosmic pulse rush through my body in response to their momentary silence. But not a Goth, after all I wasn’t dressed or covered in make up as characters in the film, “The Crow”.

Image -Welt.de


I am afraid of Jenny, she is a real Goth with a few meaningful tattoos on her left arm, black and white make up on her face and hair of fluorescent pink stripes with lines of purple. Surreal, dressed as a Halloween doll. She describes herself as a walking canvas reflecting her artistic interpretation of her period in time. I have no idea what she means but I suspect she is suited to her description as a modern artist waiting for her special moment. Normally, I feel uncomfortable near groups of girls and have no idea what to talk about beyond scientific notation. I always felt they were internally laughing at me, but probably not. My new image caused a kind of magnetic solar pulse of attention from them about my appearance.

Jenny spoke to me first, I am sure she had never noticed me before. That is until I started wearing my matrix look. It was exciting and she was an easy talker and the way she looked at me made my adrenaline burst through my veins causing my heart to race. Or was it the grip of testosterone that flared my cheeks?   However, I still felt awkward and flushed aghast when she described her body piercing, and how liberating it felt. I formed an erotic image that remains engrained in my mind and keeps me awake at night.

She insisted that I come with her in June to the Gothic Wave Festival in Leipzig. The photo’s, she showed me from last year were fantastic, all the costumes were amazing. I am drawn to her ideas of Gothic inhibitions and being part of something across Europe, but am still not sure. She wants to share a tent and I keep getting that image in my head of her secret steel pins locking and sealing her virginity until she was ready for her special moment.

The lecture is over and Jason has destroyed wave particle duality. Jenny will be in the café, waiting for my answer. Should I decide to go with her to Leipzig, I wonder if I will discover the meaning of her special moment?

Leipzig 2015 costumes.

If I won the Lottery.

A whimsical piece of writing, for your entertainment.


What to do If you win.

Mary was sitting on a picnic blanket in the garden arranging her doll’s hair. She held the doll up to her ear.

‘Jessica says she likes the sunshine,’ Mary said and pulled a ribbon from the doll’s ponytail. ‘She wants to go to the beach.’ She looked up at her father who was reading.

‘Quiet lass, I’m busy,’ John, her father, said with a grunt and shook the Herald onto a new page.

‘We could build sand castles and Jessica says she wants a go on a donkey.’ Mary continued to brush the doll’s hair.

John stroked the wisps of grey over his baldness and dropped the newspaper onto his lap. ‘Well you can tell Jessica, if she doesn’t eat her sandwiches she’s not going anywhere.’ He stretched out his legs, lifted the paper and thumbed it open.

‘Oh dad! I don’t like tomatoes, they’re yucky.’

The garden gate squeaked open and a man walked in towards them. He had a cigarette hanging from his mouth and wore a paint stained Arran sweater that had tattered woollen threads hanging from the sleeves.

‘Uncle Bob.’ Mary jumped to her feet and ran to him. ‘Can you take me and Jessica to the beach?’ She grabbed hold of his hand. ‘You can watch the seagulls and Jessica wants to go for a swim.’

‘Aye,’ he said and sat down on a wooden bench. ‘Hi John, there’s still no sign of my pigeons, you know, Pearl and Oyster Blue.’

‘Uncle Bob, you can watch them fly over the sea at the beach,’ Mary tugged at his hand.

‘Aye,’ John said and shook the Herald up in front of his face.

‘Come on Uncle Bob, we can have ice cream.’

‘I put new rings on them last week, bloody regulations. They all require an international number.’

‘Aye’ John said and turned the paper over.

‘Cost a fortune, anybody would think you’d have to win the lottery to keep racing pigeons these days.’

‘If I won the lottery I’d buy a beach.’ Mary said and chuckled. ‘What would you do Uncle Bob?’

‘If I won the lottery, lass, I would build posh pigeon coops along the cliff tops and have a big house with a glass balcony where I could sit and watch Pearl and Oyster Blue fly about.’

‘I would travel the world.’ Mary giggled.

‘Daft lassie.’ John snapped the paper over to a new page.

‘Where would you go, lass?’ Bob said and lit another cigarette.

‘I would go to Manchester to visit Gran.’ Mary held Jessica to her ear. ‘Jessica wants me to take her to China, that’s where she’s from.’

‘Travelling, aye I might do that.’ Bob blew a cloud of smoke into the air. ‘Hoy John, what would you do if you won the lottery?’

‘Me.’ He drop the paper onto his lap. ‘If I won the lottery, I’d disappear and you wouldn’t see hide nor hair of me.’

Uncle Bob winked at Mary who held Jessica to her ear.

‘Dad,’ she said and smiled, ‘Jessica says that she really hopes you win.’

Hospitals are infectious.

Having taken my father to A & E (Accident and Emergency) and two weeks later my mother to a different A & E. It has been a fraught time with both being admitted into hospital at the same time. I am not a fan of hospitals, although they are wonderful places and do a great job, I just find them so cold and impersonal. I know the consultants, doctors and nurses mean well but I just felt my parents are too trusting as I listened to various contradictory advice and views. I know this was exacerbated on my part as I seemed to become the default carer running around at everyone’s beck and call. Both elderly parents are now back home (father minus his big toe)and completely ignoring all my health advice, instead they trust the doctors who have prescribed a pharmacy of pills, of which they don’t really understand what they are or why they are taking them. (I discovered from these events they have been on similar prescriptions for over ten years and was shocked at the number of different medications they are now on – and in Scotland this is free – how lucky.

This experience was formative to my latest short story. ‘Falling Stars’.

Picture Credit from the Avenue Story


Falling Stars.

Dressed in mourning suits, they listened to the minister as he read out the eulogy. My name was Benjamin Carmichael and at fifty-two years old this was my funeral. To me, it seemed surreal as if floating around in a euphoric haze viewing my coffin draped in the clan tartan shawl and adorned with white lilies. Peeping through a small gap I could see the faces of the congregation and by their demure I sensed an impatient acceptance. Were they saddened by the tale of a tragic loss as imposed on them by the monotonous voice of the minister or were they bored by the ritual? Surely, this was the day they had been expecting for years and eventually their long-suffering would soon be over, the body would be cremated to ash and the soul free to flutter heavenly in a plume of white smoke.

I pulled up my coat collar against the chill of the draught coming up through the floorboards where I was hidden behind the black drapes of the pulpit. I swallowed rapidly to suppress my impulse to laugh and muffled a cough.

When you least expect it, it’s a killer. I knew something was wrong, and horrified when I received the news that confirmed my journey towards an early death. The doctor had asked me to lie on my side and pull my legs up into the foetal position. I can tell you, no matter how pretty she looked with her warm smile and bright intelligent eyes, there was nothing erotic in the process. Perhaps, and I might have appreciated it more if the procedure was a little less clinical, and maybe, just maybe if she had warmed the gel before she put her icy fingers up my anus.

‘I’m afraid.’ Her expression had turned serious. ‘Your walnut is inflamed and enlarged, we’ll conduct further tests and examinations.’

Walnut! I would have expected her to use medical terminology, but it seems any reference to testicles or the prostrate gland is analogous with nuts.

‘The nurse will take some blood.’

I chuckled in response to my vision of a female vampire dressed in a skimpy nurse uniform embedding her fangs deep into my carotid artery as she sucked the life from me.


Three years of failing treatments were followed by my admission into the cancer research centre. That’s what private health insurance gets you, your own room and the privilege of being a guinea pig to medical science. I was delighted that all the students were able to embellish their knowledge as the balding consultant prodded at my swelling tumour in my anus and lectured on about my degenerative condition slowly spreading throughout my body.

I would smile at their cheerful mantra laced with an air of defeatism, ‘Good morning Mr Carmichael, you’re still with us today.’ As if somehow a miracle in the night had organised my escape, perhaps to a better place. Certainly, there were none worse than in this clinic where I was methodically dying under the careful scrutiny of medical science.

Oh, the family and friends came visiting always tearful and full of hopeless encouragement, but as time went on I saw less of them, and less of their tears. I had become a physiological burden and a nuisance intruding throughout their daily routine, it was the knowing and not knowing with the contradictions of fate and hope that pained them most. I gently encouraged them to distance themselves from all intrusive thoughts and to continue with their lives as I slowly edged towards my bodily disintegration. It was not the prospect of dying but the slow pace of the journey and the constant bobbing between episodes of pain and euphoric high of morphine induced hallucinations, it was the frustration of waiting as if my long haul flight was delayed indefinitely.

I played profession football until my knees protested after which I created a line of sports luggage. After meeting Carol I expanded my range with handbags for her fashion shops, and we married soon afterwards. Life was kind to us with two children, Mike and Vanessa.

On a particularly bad day after some rough radiation and mouthfuls of Bisphosphonates, I was feeling tearfully fearful of my fate. Through my ward window I observed the spectacle of stars in the clear night sky. There were occasional bright flares of meteorites streaking momentarily towards Earth before extinguishing as they burned out in the atmosphere. I absently unburdened my thoughts verbally in the presence of Rosanne the hospital cleaner, regardless if she was listening.

‘You only die if you want to,’ she said, and stood behind me.

‘What choice do I have?’

‘Falling stars, they are the souls of angels returning to Earth.’

‘What!’ I felt indignant for my outburst and so moderated my tone. ‘Yes, of course angels.’

‘Here.’ She took a small flask from her apron pocket. It contained some cold red berry tea. I sipped at the acrid juice as she placed her hand on my head; she closed her eyes and recited a prayer. Once finished with her religious ritual she said, ‘Dying is natural, let it go and make a choice.’

Next morning I sat up cheered by Rosanne’s rigid belief in the power of faith and sweet tea. Then I saw them. I watched through the hospital window as my wife Carol got out of a white Range Rover in the car park. The driver was Douglas my business partner, who hugged her and held her as he kissed her more lovingly than any mutual friendship would dictate. They were laughing beyond grief. At this, I felt my cancer inflame and rage through my bones causing my heart to race as it pumped its fiery liquid around my veins. She came up to my room alone and sat next to the bed. She held my hand loosely avoiding the permanently attached intravenous needle.

‘You’re looking better today.’ She said, her face blank and drained of emotional expression.

‘I know.’

‘It’s a lovely sunny day outside.’ She hid her disdain behind the stare of her hazel eyes.

‘How are Mike and Vanessa?’

‘You mustn’t worry about us.’ She lifted up her iPhone. ‘Look, our time in St Lucia.’

As she flicked through the pictures of her and Vanessa I noticed Douglas lingering in the background, but I said nothing. I had no strength to argue and was unwilling to change the mood. Who was I to judge? I didn’t recall seeing Mike in any of these recent images.


It seemed so obvious now. From my vantage point concealed in the dark of the church I tried to judge their expressions. Carol kept looking back down the aisle as if someone was missing from the empty seat beside her. On her other side she held on tightly to Vanessa’s hand. I couldn’t detect any emotion or tears from their blank faces, which were tanned by the healthy exposure to the sun and fresh air. There was no sign of Mike.

How I missed being outdoors during my confinement in the cancer ward where I had occasionally stared through the windows and marvelled at the view of the rain.

Behind my family in the church the rows were filled with my business acquaintances, dressed in black making them look like vultures ready to pick and clean the bones of some leftover carcass.

In the hospital research ward, I had indulged Rosanne’s constant attention with her insistence of prayer as I listened and at the same time sipped palmetto berry tea. How could she have so much belief when my family and the doctors had all given up? The limitations of medical treatments were replaced by her reliance on the power of God through the Bible and palmetto berries. She believed in fate and had made provisions for her passing. I learned that she was not the employed cleaner after all, but nevertheless enjoyed working on the ward, as it helped her spend what remained of her life feeling useful. She also introduced me to her friends and family, a group of people who had formed a deep belief in the regeneration of angels. They reminded me of sixties hippies with a naïve idealism of a perfect world. They accepted the failings of human bodies and that medical science would never surpass the inevitable end through old age or otherwise. They believed in self-determination and making choices, what they then offered as an end of life plan was exciting and so comforting.


From my teens I had built up a leather handbag and suitcase business, and my share was worth millions. Douglas, in my absence had taken over the concern in complete disregard to my son Mike who held a minor managerial position. Ever since my confinement, Mike had formed an unhealthy distaste for Douglas and was determined to surpass him to continue the family name. My house was mortgage free as was the holiday home in St Lucia. I know that Carol and Vanessa would be well taken care of, and Douglas would inevitable be around. I couldn’t help feeling inadequate and although it may seem illogical I blamed him for my cancer. My share in the business was sold reluctantly by Mike to pay for my trip of a lifetime, my end of life plan, as I had no intention of wasting away in some stuffy hospital bed.


I took one last look around the congregation and decided I had made the right choice. I then slipped out the back of the church and met Mike waiting by his car. We sped along the motorway towards the aerodrome to the lift off point for my final destination. I asked Mike how he had managed to arrange a body in the coffin, don’t worry he told me as such earthly matters were no longer my concern. I knew he was right.

I held Rosanne’s hand as we sat on the escalator chair taking us into the spacecraft. A sense of relief and feeling of self-control washed over me as I embarked on this last and final stage of our journey, Rosanne was smiling. Behind and in front us there were lines of other chairs taking people into the same rocket, although the sense of excitement was subdued there was a warm glow of happiness on every face. We were split into two groups, the inward and the outward bound.

In orbit we looked down and saw the blue glow of the planet suspended by the gravitation hold from the sun, its rays warmed us through the viewing portal.

The inward-bound group, all of whom had some form of terminal illness, would be released to fall from space and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, they would become the falling angels as Rosanne believed. The outward-bound group, containing the aged healthy people, would be released in small capsules to drift away into Space, where the occupants could marvel at the enormity of the universe as they slowly passed away. Their bodies would freeze dry and somewhere it maybe possible that from their DNA new human life in some other part of the universe would reform.

My fate in the inward group would allow me a final descent to a planet where I was born and to have had the humble privilege of a wonderful existence.



Gothic Horror Story.

Castle Park House

Castle Park House

I have tried my hand at the Gothic…a dark sinister tale or is it failed romance. A large dark house, a premonition, a sighting of Haley’s Comet and a murder of revenge.  The eight year old Rachel is a witness to an attack on a young woman in the woods, but the incident is never confirmed.

Years later, Rachel now nineteen is involved in a murder that takes place on the same spot in the same manner, but it is still a further four years before a skeleton is discovered.

Read my story listed under the Short Story tab, Gothic Horror – Rachel. Tell me what you think?



The Big Issue – Short Story

I admire the principle of the Big Issue Foundation in getting homeless people back on their feet. I have slept in the open, under hedge rows, in old barns and some make shift tents, but I have never been homeless as such – poor yes but not homeless. My short story allows the reader to think about social issues, not necessarily homelessness.


Big Issue Foundation

The Big Issue.

Mary rushed into the doorway entrance and stopped, she turned and shook the water from her umbrella; it was just another rainy day.
‘Excuse me,’ she said to the man blocking the door.
He was a Big Issue Seller sheltering from the weather. He grinned as he stood in her way. He seemed nice enough so she bought a copy from him, only then he moved aside to let her squeeze past into Harvey’s Café. Since her husband, Bill, was no longer around this visit was one of her regular treats, to have some warm broth before she went on to the Co-op for her shopping.
She had accepted that Bill had passed away, but occasionally she could still hear him in the kitchen making tea or washing up. She would slowly creep in and, as always, it was only the rain and wind rattling against the window. Often she would stand by the sink staring out into the garden. She would let her thoughts linger and imagine him in the garden pulling weeds from among the kale and turnips.
In the Café, she lifted her soup plate off the tray on to the table then realised she’d forgotten the bread roll, a napkin and a spoon.
‘Oh dear,’ she sighed and took off her glasses. She pushed back her grey hair that had come loose and pinned it back with a Kirby grip.
When Bill was around he would prompt her not to forget this and that, and he would also know where she had left things. ‘Aye’, she chuckled. She often forgot where she put her glasses. Same place as always he would tell her, on the table in the garden where she had been reading, and it was Bill who remembered where she had hid the spare cash for Christmas presents.
She smiled on the way to the counter where she fetched a bread roll and a spoon. Poor Bill.
Back at the table the Big Issue Seller had sat down. What! The cheek of the man, he was supping at the soup, and not so nice now. She hadn’t noticed him sneak in behind her, and although he maybe hungry had she not already given him some money to help out? Clearly that wasn’t enough, oh no, here he was eating the soup. She dragged a chair out from the table and sat down. She stared at him. He looked back at her, there was not a word of apology, and he just smiled. She didn’t want to make a fuss, but still he was taking advantage. Was he typical of the type she had read about in the daily papers? He was probably one of those asylum seekers or an immigrant after a free hand out.
She tore her bread in half and dipped it, soaking up some soup. So there, she stared at him, two can play this game. The man reacted by giving the plate a slight push towards her and carried on supping. So he wants to share, now that is very kind of him sharing her soup. She lifted her spoon and started eating but at the same time kept her eyes on him. He stared back not saying a word. Probably because he doesn’t speak any English or maybe he’s embarrassed, as he should be, imagine taking advantage of an elderly lady.
The carrot soup was hot with spicy coriander, and she began to enjoy this communal spoon for spoon race to finish the dish. She took the last of her bread roll and in one defiant swipe mopped the plate clean. She gave him a smug glare. He smiled, then went to the counter and brought her a coffee. He also passed her half of his sugary doughnut.
Still he had not spoken and it seemed in their silence that she felt an affinity with his predicament. He had a clean face and appeared pleasant, perhaps he was trying hard to get on his feet by selling the Big Issue, and perhaps he has a family back in his own country that misses him.
He got up from the table, put on his coat and gestured to her with a farewell nod as he left the café.
Mary finished her coffee, she smiled, although they had not spoken, she enjoyed the silent company of the Big Issue seller, who seemed kind. What would Bill have thought about her drinking coffee with a stranger? Of course it would never have happened if he were around.
Where were her glasses? She was sure she had put them on the table and her handbag on the other seat. They were gone along with her umbrella.
‘Oh dear,’ she gasped. How could she be such a simpleton in trusting a stranger and a foreigner? The newspapers were right about these people, who come over here to steal and take advantage of our country’s welfare. He’s probably thrown her empty purse onto the railway track and at this very minute heading to her house with her keys before she can do anything. If only Bill was still around, her eyes began to well up.
She clenched her fists, tensed her whole body and the soup in her stomach seemed to turn sour. When she stood up her chair fell over backwards. She couldn’t possibly go running down the street screaming stop thief, instead she would get the girl behind the counter to call the police.
She glanced around the café as tears flowed down her face and she stamped her foot.
‘Oh dear,’ she cried, ‘how could I be so stupid?’
Across the café, at an empty table, she saw her umbrella leaning against a chair with her handbag, and her glasses lay next to her plate of broth, which had now, gone cold.