Red Nose Day

dolls2

(550 words)

Ellen stood, gazing around the room in awe. Claire had said it was OK to look in here, but she felt somehow guilty, as if prying. Surrounding her, stood and sitting on the floor, and on shelves around the walls, were perhaps two hundred dolls.
She’d come to babysit her friend’s five year old daughter, Bonny. Claire had told Ellen that she collected dolls, that she had ‘a roomful’ of them, but Ellen had never imagined Claire had been speaking literally. She’d put Bonny to bed after the little girl had fallen asleep watching a Disney DVD, made herself a sandwich, watched TV, and, growing bored, thought she’d look around the house. Look but don’t touch. The babysitter’s dictum.
In the front row was a female doll with a black tunic top and rose coloured skirt. Wavy silver hair descended to her shoulders beneath a conical pale yellow hat and bright blue eyes looked out from the lifelike face above pronounced pink cheeks. She bore a curiously neutral expression. You couldn’t tell if she were happy, or cross even. Claire guessed the doll’s costume was Swiss or German. The other dolls were of every size, shape and nationality. Chinese dolls with slanted eyes, Indian dolls in beautiful saris, babies in shawls, ‘ladies’ in emerald green finery, blonde hair piled high in immaculate curls.
Then there was a section of clown dolls, perhaps thirty in number, varying in height from just a foot or so, up to an almost life-size clown in a rocking chair. Its face was chalk-white, its eyes were black hollows and its grinning lips a garish red.
Ellen noticed that they universally sported red noses, the one unique identifying feature of a clown she supposed. She heard the front door close and Claire call out, “Ellen, where are you?”
She checked her watch. Eleven o’clock. “Coming!” She closed the door quietly, hearing a creak from within. That was odd.
Downstairs, Claire was looking happy. “Hi, how was Bonny?”
“Oh, she was fine. We watched The Little Mermaid, and she fell asleep.”
“She must’ve seen that one twenty times!” Claire went into the kitchen. Ellen followed. “What did you get up to?” Claire asked.
“Oh, after I’d put Bonny to bed I watched TV then looked at your dolls. I didn’t know you meant it when you said you had a roomful. They’re amazing!”
Claire took some bread out of a container. “Yes, I collected them over the last thirty years. I’m making a sandwich. I’m starving, you want one?”
“No thanks, I already had one.”
“What did you do with the carving knife?” Claire asked.
Ellen looked puzzled. The block that held the knives had an empty socket. “I’m sorry, I washed it. I thought I’d put it back.”
“Don’t worry.” Claire opened a draw and picked out a serrated knife. “This’ll do.” She cut two slices and opened the fridge, taking out a pack of Lurpak Light and some slices of ham. “Which dolls did you like best?”
Ellen laughed. “Well, I’ll tell you which one I didn’t like. That big clown doll in the rocking chair!”
Claire turned, looking pale. “What d’you mean? I don’t have a big clown doll. I sit in that rocker myself!”
“What?!”
“Listen!”
Heavy footsteps were coming down the stairs.

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No Gold Pavements

Custom-White-passage-corridor-photo-wallpaper-for-living-room-sofa-spatial-extension-personality-wall-mural-wallpaper

(600 words)

Well, there are no black curtains, but it’s a white room I’m standing in. Quite large, I’d say about twenty foot square, and the ceiling’s high too. I can’t jump and touch it. The walls are luminescent, so there’s a fuzzy white-blue light in the room. I snap into reality. Where the Hell am I?!
You know when you’ve been dreaming because you know you’ve awakened. That’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m sure I’m not dreaming, everything feels normal. Well, as normal as it feels to wake up in your PJs in a strange white room with no doors or windows!
I try to rationalize the situation. I do remember going to bed. I’d been drinking Gallo chardonnay and ordering books on Amazon until gone midnight, then a DVD – Communion. I remember checking the newspaper headlines for today. Something about Prince Harry’s girlfriend – Meghan someone, Brexit, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Then listening to some music in bed. The Best of Cream.
But now I start to feel seriously worried. I feel awake. What are the tests for dreaming? Oh, yes. Jump in the air. I do so and immediately land back on the ground. Try to remember the sequence of events of the last few minutes. Well, I woke up, found myself in this room, tried to remember what I’d been dreaming. Remembered what I did before bed. Yes, a linear sequence of events. What else? Oh, yes. Look at some writing, look away, look back and see if it’s changed. Well there isn’t any writing, just snow white walls and floor.
Wait a minute, there is some writing! I don’t remember seeing that before! I cross to a small printed sign. It says, ‘Do you want to exit this room?’ Ha, yes! I look away for a few seconds, look back and the writing has changed! ‘Are you sure you want to exit this room?’ So, I must be dreaming! On impulse, I shout, “YES!” Then, “YES, I’M SURE I WANT TO EXIT THIS FUCKING ROOM!”
I shout repeatedly, feeling a little crazy and expecting to snap awake at any moment. My voice reverberates harshly around the bare walls. Suddenly, silently, part of the wall dissolves, leaving an arch-shaped doorway about eight feet high. Thank God! With relief I pass through it to find myself in a white corridor. Opposite is a door with a fluted glass window. There’s something blue and pink moving behind it.
I stand, nervous and expectant as a man emerges. To my amazement it’s my neighbour Alan, wearing a royal blue robe. “Hello John,” he says. “They got you too then?”
“What d’you mean? Where are we?”
A woman with long blonde hair follows him, closing the door after her. She wears no makeup and her face is pale, unsmiling. “Hello John.” It’s Alan’s wife, Sandra. She wears a pale green robe.
“Hello Sandy, what’s going on, where are we?!”
“I’m sorry, it’s bad news I’m afraid.”
A white shape appears behind the fluted glass. It’s tall, higher than the window. Twice it moves away, then back again. Finally the door opens. I shudder. It’s dressed in a white robe and has a large oval head with two huge black eyes. The mouth is small and thin-lipped. It doesn’t have a nose, just two small holes.
It doesn’t speak but I hear its voice. ‘Welcome to our ship … John. We will return you to your home presently. But first we need to run some … tests.’ It reaches into the robe and pulls out a hypodermic syringe. The needle is three inches long.

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Blind Hope

braille 3

(500 words)

Hard as winter ice, soft as summer grass. Her mind and fingers played with the forgotten contents of a bottom drawer. She fluttered her fingers over a mixture of bric-a-brac and clothing, plucking out something silky. She held it to her face and inhaled the faded scent of roses. A blouse! Yes, one she’d worn when she was young, twenty years earlier. She held it to her cheek, sensing the vibrations. Red or purple. Yes, of course, the blouse she’d worn to her grandmother’s eightieth birthday party!
She pictured a photograph – herself, Flora, with a group of cousins, fifteen in number, all her grandmother’s second generation offspring. They all stood before a huge fireplace. The fire wasn’t lit, it being summer, and the group had lined up in two smiling rows, symmetrically placed between two enormous bookcases that reached up to the high ceiling. She’d stood at one end, her cousin Maurice, recently divorced, encroaching her space, touching her shoulders with his, showing an interest in a relationship with her perhaps? But she’d had her own beau then, Hector, Hector Simons. That was after the birth of Emma, but before her … accident. She supposed she should feel sadness, loss, or something, but she felt nothing – empty, hollow, all longing and hope knocked out of her all those years ago. She wondered when she had last cried. At the death of her last guide dog, Billy, six years ago, she supposed. Six long years.
She wondered if the blouse would still fit. She took off a cardigan, then a T-shirt, feeling the air on her bare midriff and shoulders. Suddenly, for no reason, she unclipped her bra and threw it across the room. She sensed the weight of her small, hard, pointed breasts. She slipped the blouse on, feeling her nipples stiffen at the touch of the shiny, soft fabric. Yes, it fitted perfectly! Then she remembered that the curtains were open over the window to the street. Oh, what the hell, she didn’t really care if any passersby saw her naked. She realised that was maybe the reason she didn’t have net curtains.
The doorbell rang, and she heard Flossie stir in her basket. Normally she never answered the door, but she felt confident and curious. She felt the dog rubbing her leg, and reached down, holding its tail and letting the animal guide her through the door and down the corridor. There wasn’t time to find and attach the harness. The bell rang again. “Just coming!”
She reached the door and undid the chain. Opening it, she felt a comforting blast of warm spring air in her face.
“Flora, it’s me, Hector!”
She stepped forward and threw her arms around him, noticing the distinctive smell of coal tar soap that she remembered so well. She laughed. “You still use the same soap!”
“Emma told me where you lived,” he said. “I’ve missed you.”

Flora, hugging him tight, could say nothing more. Six long years were over.

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Pills for Thrills

alien-1979-ridley-scott-movie-review-xenomorph-harry-dean-stanton

(600 words)

“Profundity pills?!
“That’s right, three for a tenner, I bought six!”
“Wow, well done!”
Libby smiled, “Yes, they’d just got a new batch in, they sell out fast, I was lucky to get so many!”
The government had just licensed a new recreational drug with one eye on the national debt. ‘Profundity Pills – an exciting and safe way to relive your favourite books and films!’ said the ads. The pills somehow disconnected parts of the brain for a couple of hours, so that you had virtually no memory of anything you’d ever read or watched. A bit like a couple of bottles of wine but without the hangover. Consequently, you could watch a film, like Back to the Future, with no idea of what was going to happen when Marty plugs in his guitar at the beginning, even if you’d seen it ten times before!
Libby went over to a case of DVDs, running her painted red nails over the spines before plucking one out. Alien!
“Wow!” I felt a genuine thrill and some trepidation at the idea of watching it again for the ‘first time,’ unaware of the grisly surprises to come. “Then we could watch The Exorcist” I said.
“Yuk!” she exclaimed, putting the two DVDs on a table.
 –
It was the first time for Libby and I. She handed me two large green capsules. “This way we can watch both!”
I held the capsules in the palm of one hand and a glass of water in the other. “Here goes!” They went down quite easily, despite their size.
We sat on the sofa. After a few minutes Libby giggled. “I was just trying to remember the name of that book, the one about … Jesus … is it?”
“Oh, you mean the B …, the B ….” I just couldn’t remember the name!
I went over to the case of DVDs and scanned the titles. Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jaws. Hmm, they seemed somehow familiar, but I had no recollection of every having seen them, or what they were about, apart from a vague supposition sparked by the titles. I looked around the room, everything seemed familiar, including Libby, I could even remember getting up in the morning, but I just couldn’t remember watching any of those films. “I think we’re ready!”
Libby picked up Alien and took it out of the case. “‘In Space No-one Can Here You Scream!’ This one sounds scary! What’s this other one? The Exorcist, well we’ll watch that after.
“Wow, that was amazing!” I said, nearly four hour’s later. “When that monster came out of …”
“Yes, and when that girl’s head turned all the way round and she …”
“I’m not starting to remember properly yet, are you?”
“Not yet,” said Libby. “Maybe we should watch another?!” she giggled.
Just then the phone rang. It was my sister, Morag. “Hi, how’s you and Libby?”
“We’re fine, just tried those profundity pills, they were amazing!”
“Oh, yeah, I tried one yesterday. I watched Groundhog Day, I honestly couldn’t remember it. Just so funny. Hey, did you see on the news about that idiot who jumped out of a window. Seems he never read the instructions and took two! Then he watched some horror films and couldn’t stop hallucinating!”
I turned to Libby. “Hey, did you read the instructions?”
She shrugged. “I dunno. Why? What’s the big deal?”
“You idiot! Seems like we could be in for some unpleasant dreams!”
“Oh my God.” Her face was white. “Look!” She pointed at my stomach.

I looked down. Something was pushing against my shirt. From the inside.





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Time of Death

eye clock

(600 words)

“Become aware of your surroundings and return to the room,” said Valentina.
I felt lethargic, unwilling to come out of the meditation, even though it hadn’t been very successful.
“Joanna, return to the room and open your eyes.”
I did so reluctantly. She smiled at me. “Well, what did you see?”
I’d been doing a ‘future life progression’ meditation with a friend of my sister’s, a supposed clairvoyant. “That’s just it, nothing!”
“Nothing!”
“Well, when you said to imagine the clock one hour ahead, two hours ahead etc., and to look around each time, it was fine until 9 p.m., I could imagine touching the furniture, looking out of the window, going outside, walking round the garden, but after that … just blackness.
Valentina’s face was pale. She looked worried. She took my hand. Hers felt cold and clammy. She closed her eyes. I could see them flickering under the eyelids, as though she were dreaming. Shortly they snapped open.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said, “I just asked my spirit guide what it meant. He said not to worry.” She got up, avoiding my eyes. “I have to go now Joanna, take care.” She smiled a sad smile and left the room. I felt shaky. What did it all mean?
“Hello Jack, Joanna’s not well. She says she’s terribly sorry to let you down and she’ll call you tomorrow … oh, stomach pains, food poisoning she thinks … yes I will, thank you … yes, goodbye.” I turned to my sister, sitting on the sofa, rocking backwards and forwards, as if possessed. “Joanna, you’ve got to get this crazy idea out of your head!” She’d called round in a state after doing a meditation with Valentina, a friend of mine, saying she was going to die by 9.00 p.m. – for Heaven’s sake!
“Look, Valentina was hiding something, she couldn’t explain why I couldn’t see anything after 9.00 p.m.”
“Listen Jo, it was nothing! Another day you’d be able to do it!”
“Well, I’m not going out with Jack. The car might crash or I get could get killed by a mugger.”
“Look, stay here till I get back, then you’ll be safe! I’m going to choral society, so I’ll be back late. Just take it easy. Why not have a bath and relax?”
Joanna stopped rocking and gave a weak smile. “OK.”
It was gone eleven when I got back. The rehearsal had taken my mind off Joanna’s silly idea until Pete, a friend who’d given me a lift there, dropped me off outside my house. I looked at the darkened windows and remembered. My heart thudded. “Pete, sorry love, could you wait a minute, I’ve just got to check my sister’s OK.”
“Sure, what’s the problem?”
“Oh, nothing, see you in a minute.”
I unlocked the front door. Inside, except for the ponderous tick of the grandfather clock in the hallway, the house was dark and silent. Had Jo gone home? I went down the corridor to the bathroom. A light shone from under the door. I knocked. “Jo … Jo. Are you there?” All was quiet.
I hesitated, then opened the door and froze with shock. In the bath, naked, lifeless, was my sister. Her head, eyes open, was under water, surrounded by a halo of floating brown hair. I could scarcely breath. I put a shaking hand in the tepid water and closed her eyes.

The clock that had stood by the taps was gone. I noticed it in the water, down by her knees. I fished it out and looked in horror. The hands showed exactly 9.00 p.m.



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How to Eat a Peanut

peanuts

(500 words)

“Become one with the peanut!”
I looked at a small salted peanut sitting on a blue china saucer before me. “How exactly do I do that? “I asked Shinzen, my ‘guru.’
“Imagine it growing underground, in the dark, from a tiny seed, forming in a shell with its companion.”
“I thought they grew on trees, like spaghetti!”
Shinzen ignored my attempt at humour. “Now imagine it grown, being pulled from its hiding place and exposed to the sun and the air. Feeling the warmth of the sun for the first time in its life, seeing the sunlight penetrating through its thin shell.”
“Peanuts can’t see!”
“You must imagine!” he said, adjusting his round, silver-rimmed spectacles and brushing a hand over his bald pate, as if trying to remember what hair felt like. “Now, after drying in the sun for a few days, it is harvested. See it being spun in huge drums, the shells splintering and the nuts dropping down onto conveyor belts.”
“I didn’t know they did that. I thought it was starving kids, allergic to peanuts, who de-shelled them.”
Shinzen sighed. “Be serious now Stephen, imagine YOU are that peanut!”
That was kind of difficult to do but I didn’t want to spoil his fun, so I kept schtum.
“Now imagine huge ovens roasting mountains of peanuts. Can you smell that smell?!”
I closed my eyes and visualised enormous ovens, tended by black men in straw hats. I had no idea why. But I could smell roasting peanuts, an earthy, pungent, oily odour. Then the nuts on conveyor belts, salt sprinkling onto them from chutes, pouring into boxes. More men in straw hats loading the boxes into trucks. The vehicles roaring off down sandy roads, throwing up clouds of dust. I heard them shouting. “Hey Pablo, how’s Maria?” “She’s fine man, another one on the way!” “Another one man, you should have that operation!” Raucous laughter, the men slapping each other on their faded blue denim backs…
Shinzen brought me back to the room. “Now examine the peanut. Look at every line in its surface, see the tiny grains of salt clinging to it. Regard its shape. Except for the little nub on the end, almost perfectly oval.”
I did so, feeling a new respect for the humble nut.
“When you are ready, eat it!”
I looked at the peanut closely for a while, then, eyes closed, reverently put in my mouth, feeling its shape and size and weight with my tongue. The salt tasted tangier than I ever remembered. Finally I crunched down and my senses were overwhelmed with earthy, wooden, plasticky, oily flavours. I chewed and chewed like a man possessed as it turned into mush and I swallowed it bit by bit. Finally I opened my eyes. “Wow!”
Shinzen beamed. “Now wasn’t that the best peanut you’ve ever eaten!”
I laughed. “YES!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d done the exact same exercise with a raisin five years earlier…



Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 150! 
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If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

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Angels and Cards

cemetery-1655378_1920
(600 words)
“Everybody follow me please,” said the Angel, and a group of us proceeded into a large featureless chamber dotted sporadically with round tables and chairs. It reminded me of an austere oversized hospital waiting-room in some impoverished Balkan state.
“Hello Jack.” It was Dad, and there was mum too, just as she’d been in life in middle age. We embraced and slapped each other on the back, somewhat half-heartedly.
“And here’s your Aunty Irene!” exclaimed Dad, as a lady with a long thin face and compressed lips came forward and tearfully embraced me. I was too embarrassed to say I didn’t remember her.
Dad smiled. “Well, welcome to your first day of Heaven son!”
“What happens now?” I replied.
“Well, we’ll have a nice cup of tea, then we’ll have a look at the news, then we’ll have a game of cards. We usually play bridge. Can you play?”
“I’m a bit rusty.”
So the days passed. ‘In spirit’ we didn’t need to eat or drink, or sleep even, but to make ‘life’ more interesting, we drank endless cups of tea. It wasn’t really much different from being alive, on Earth, save for paying bills and worrying about who to vote for.
The ‘news’ was shown on televisions resembling those of the 1960s, a black and white picture with sporadic fuzziness. Endless reports of families welcoming ‘loved ones’, just ‘passed over.’ Soon it became mind-numbingly boring.
“Don’t they have colour TV?” I asked Dad.
“No, you have to wait to the next level,” he said knowingly, tapping his nose. “Come on, let’s play bridge!”
We found an empty table in a corner of the room, and me, Dad, Auntie Irene and Maurice, someone whom Dad had befriended as he seemed to have no relatives of his own, sat down to play.
Dad took a pack of cards from a box. They were gold leafed on the back with a design of stars and planets. He started to deal.
“Is Jesus here?” I asked the table in general.
“Who?” Auntie Irene responded.
“You know, the Saviour, the son of God!”
“Oh, I dunno, maybe higher up.” She shrugged her shoulders.
Hmm, ‘Heaven’ was a bit different to what I’d expected!
We’d played a couple of hands when I became aware of a brilliant light behind me, which lit up my Dad’s curiously unlined face opposite me. I turned, shielding my eyes, and saw a towering angel with huge white wings. It seemed to be female, judging by the beautiful face and suggestion of breasts under luminescent blue cloth. She approached a man, sitting at a table reading a newspaper, and touched him on the shoulder. He stood up, an instant celebrity, bathed in the brilliant golden light emanating from the angel, and, grinning inanely, smugly followed her out of the room.
“Is he going to the ‘next level’?” I said.
“That’s right son. Lucky sod!”
“Well how long do we have to stay here, at this level?” I asked.
“Well, it depends,” said Dad, “they have to wait for suitable, er, recipients for new souls, then we reincarnate. So there’s a bit of a queue.”
“What, six weeks, something like that?” I said.
The table erupted with laughter. Card players at adjacent tables looked round.
“No, son.” Dad wiped his eyes, trying to contain his mirth. “It could be five years, it could be fifty, maybe even a hundred.”
“What, you mean I’ve got to sit here playing bridge for the next hundred years?!”

Dad smiled reassuringly and shook his head. “No son, we can always play rummy…”



Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 150! 
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If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

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A Hidden Place

spiral staircase

(550 words)

‘Connect the Clues!’ said the library sign.
“What’s that about?” I asked a female librarian, middle-aged and plain-looking, with a grey bob of greasy hair. She didn’t look up from her screen, instead pushing a flyer across the desk at me.
“Thank you so much,” I said, my sarcasm seemingly falling on deaf ears.
Hmm. It sounded quite interesting. There were ten clues to things in the library. You filled in your answers to be entered for a draw to win a £100 book token. When was the last time I had one of those I wondered. Probably at least forty years ago!
I read, ‘Clue no. 1. Downstairs, there’s a painting, in a hidden place. If you find it then you’ll gaze upon a famous face.’ I trotted down some stairs labelled ‘To Public Archives’ and walked to an area with racks of newspapers and some stands to read at. Beyond was a corridor lined with shelves full of magazine holders. At the far end lay what looked like an alcove. Ah-ha!
Many of the strip lights down here weren’t working and the light was poor. The magazines seemed to grow increasingly old as I headed down the narrow corridor. I read a label. ‘Cycling Monthly Jan-Dec 1928’. No-one about. I was the only one down here. Disappointingly, a green-cushioned chair sat in the alcove, no painting. Behind it was a door with a push-button lock. Well it did say a ‘hidden place’ but surely that was private? I looked around nervously, then moved the chair and tried the door. It was locked. On impulse I punched 1-2-3-4 and bingo! it opened. Someone should change that code!
Inside lay an ancient brick stairway with an old iron railing. I pressed a switch and small light bulbs, curving down and out of sight, illuminated the way.
In for a penny… Closing the door behind me, I started down a spiral staircase. Down and round and down and round I went. There was wiring along the wall and the little lights continued, although the further down I went, the lower the roof became, until it was scarcely above my head. Finally the staircase opened onto a small dank cave-like space with an earthen floor. In the centre was a plinth with a book chained to it. Light came from a single dim bulb in the ceiling. The covers of the book were vellum, smooth cream calf leather. I opened it and my heart thudded at the image of a hideous demon.
Suddenly all the lights went out. In the total darkness I started to feel panic rising. Then I felt fetid breath in my face and the hot touch of a scaly hand on mine.
Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith!
I opened my eyes to find myself in a hospital bed, a pretty young Indian nurse gently shaking my arm.
“What happened?” I asked, groggily as the room came into focus.
“You fell down some stairs in the library. They thought you might be concussed. We’ll do some tests, it won’t take long,” she said.
“Oh, I had a strange dream.”
“Yes?”

I caught sight of my right hand. Across the back were four faint parallel red streaks. “Oh, nothing…”



Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 130! 
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If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Also, I’m very pleased to announce that ‘the best of my blog,’ To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories, and a short story, Bound in Morocco, are now both available as paperbacks and Kindle eBooks. Please see Shop in the menu above for full details.

The Electric Frying Pan

angel_esp3-large


(500 words)

‘Connect’ 10.05 service from Welwyn to Kings Cross pulled up at New Barnet station. I stood at the open door. It was February 2007, drizzling and cold. Where was Danny?!
Suddenly a small stout figure appeared from nowhere, bundling along the platform. Seeing me, he threw himself through the door, his plump face grinning widely. “Almost missed it!”
“Where’s your jacket?” I noticed spots of rain on his grey shirt.
“I didn’t have time to get it.” Typical Danny, always late for school or his guitar lessons!
“Aren’t you cold?”
“No,” he said, shivering. Then, “Dad gave me some money.” He brandished a couple of tenners.
“You’ll need it where we’re going!”
Half an hour later we passed through the hallowed doors of Harrods, England’s premier department store. There, for a month, was Born to Rock, an exhibition of electric guitars. We wandered past hundreds of instruments of every size and shape imaginable. Here, a handcrafted black guitar, sculpted into the shape of an alien. On sale at a cool eight and a half grand. There, a shabby, dented Stratocaster, nearly all the paint worn off, a survivor of countless gigs by the Irish blues legend, Rory Gallagher.
Guitars owned by members of the Who, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin rubbed shoulders with modern instruments given hand-painted custom finishes – a hummingbird sipping at iridescent flowers, a lizard with a long outstretched blue tongue, a naked woman with huge breasts. “Don’t look Danny!” I said covering his eyes with my hands. We laughed.
Beyond the guitars lay an art exhibition by the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood; pencil drawings, multi-media prints, oils. “Is that an original?” I asked an attendant, admiring an impressive portrait of Bob Marley.
She smiled. “No, some of the drawings are original but the rest are limited edition prints. You can take photos if you want…”
I busied myself taking pictures of everything, snapping lifelike images of Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury amongst landscapes and still-lifes. Ronnie was no slouch when it came to art!
We returned to the guitar exhibition, now thinking it odd to see all those instruments displayed like dusty museum pieces, instead of in the hands of some outrageous ‘rocker,’ pounding out ear-splitting riffs.
Most of them weren’t protected. When the security guards weren’t looking you could reach out and strum the strings. Finally we reached a glass case in a special enclosed area. A guard hovered nearby.
“What’s this?” asked Danny.
I consulted an article in the catalogue. “It’s the Electric Frying Pan. A prototype electrified Hawaiian guitar designed by Georges Beauchamp in 1931. The world’s first ever electric guitar!”
The fingerboard was in bad condition with missing and rusty frets, and the large silver pickup over the small round body was corroded.
“What d’you mean the first?” asked Danny, wide-eyed.
“The first. The one before the second! The one that started everything.” I waved towards the maze of guitars beyond.

We stood, silently, gazing in awe…



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Moonlit Gravestones

graveyard night

(550 words)

Any evening you’ll find me walking round my village, a brisk half hour’s walk. It’s much later tonight, gone eleven. I got waylaid sorting out books in my library, sifting through collections of Daphne Du Maurer and Victor Canning first editions. I pass occasional houses, farms and cottages. Is anyone awake? Alive even?! The sporadic street light casts its orange glow but windows are dark, silent, secretive.
The moon is bright. The full silver disk shines down, belittling my torch so that I replace it in my jacket pocket. Few stars are visible but a bright yellow ‘star’ shines just under the moon. Jupiter or Saturn? I realise I don’t really care. I approach the church along a little lane, overhung by trees, that loops off the main village road. To my left is a gate in the hedge. I stand there and gaze out over the moonlit gravestones. Sides facing away from the bright moon are in deep shadow, emphasising how most stones are tilted over. After hundreds of years of imperceptible toppling, some gravestones lean at 45 degrees.
I pass through the gate. Ahead of me are several gigantic yew trees. Pitch black, they remind me of rooks (or ‘castles’) in chess, almost square with small ‘turrets’ on top. I hear geese honking in the distance, then silence, air still as a quiet pond.
I look behind me, to neat rows of more modern gravestones. They resemble card, not stone, two-dimensional in the unearthly light. Suddenly right by me, a bird flies out of a bare tree, squawking loudly. I jump.
“Hello Stan.” A voice comes from my side, soft, recognisable – it’s Gary from the village.
I look around. “Hello stranger, you’re out late!”
“It’s peaceful. No-one’s about, not even ghosts!” he laughs. Then, “my brother’s buried here.” He gestures to his right.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” I say. “When did he die?”
“Exactly five years ago today. His motorbike went under a truck.”
“That’s awful, I hadn’t heard…”
“It’s still hard Stan, but at least I can visit him…”
“Yes, my dad’s here too,” I say.
I gaze around the churchyard, so very different by moonlight. So many gravestones I’d never noticed before. There’s even one under my feet. In the half-light, tall, round-headed gravestones look exactly like the heads and shoulders of half-buried giants. I glance round and notice Gary has gone.
I pass the church and leave the graveyard to continue my walk. A little further on is the village pub. Lights burn brightly still. “B & B’ers” drinking and talking late, no doubt. On impulse I go in. Sure enough, I don’t recognise the small gathering, but there’s Bill, the landlord and at the bar, Gary.
“Hi Gaz, you must be thirsty!” I say, seeing his glass almost empty.
He laughs. “What?”
“Well, you drank that quickly!”
“What are you on about?” he says.
“You came back from the church quickly.”
“I’ve not been to the church. I’ve been in here.”
“He has,” says Bill.
“You were telling me about your brother.”
“My brother’s dead and buried, over there in the graveyard.”
“I just saw you…”
Gary puts down his beer, hand shaking. “Jez was my twin. We were identical twins.”

“I could never tell them apart,” says Bill…



Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on my blog. There are over 130! 
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If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 300 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.