Now I Am Ten


desert island survival

(600 words)


March 27th

It’s my birthday! I am ten. Mummy and daddy say they have a speshal surprise for me. But I have to wait until next week! Today they gave me a Lego set. It is a very big one, so I don’t mind waiting. I will make a model of the Houses of Parliment and a space rocket.

March 28th

School was boring. Denis Lavin got punched in the mouth by a boy in year six. He lost a tooth and his face was all bloody. The boy who punched him was laughing but he got caned. Then he wasn’t laughing.

March 29th

I hate my school! Mrs. David was horrible to me in RE cos I said I don’t believe in God. But that’s what mummy says.

March 30th

Hooray! I’ve found out what the surprise is. We are going on holiday tomorrow and I will fly in an aeroplane! There will be mummy and daddy, my brother Stephen and my uncle David.

March 31st

I was so excited I couldn’t hardly sleep! We are going to the airport soon. Daddy’s friend Dave is driving us. I am taking Enid Blyton. The Folk of the Faraway Tree. That’s my favourite. And this diary too. Of course!



Day 1

Something horrible happened. I am on an island with uncle David and some people I don’t know. From the plane. It crashed in the sea and we came in a dinghy. Somebody put a lifejacket on me. I don’t know what happened to mummy and daddy or my brother. Uncle David says not to be afraid. But I am. He found me some paper and a pen. They have lit a fire.

Day 2

It is very hot here. There are men from the plane. They are trying to chop down parm trees to make us shelters. They are shouting a lot. A nice lady called Nadine came and read me a story but it was a grown up one and I didn’t really understand it. About love and stuff.

Day 3

Me and uncle David have a kind of house. They made it out of bits of plane that washed up and some trees. I like it here but there’s no other kids so I feel lonely. I like Nadine. She and uncle David are friends.

Day 4

I have got to no some of the men. There is Tony. He is very big. And Dean. He likes to talk and shout! They are making a big fire so we can be rescued. Today I swam in the sea. They said it is safe if I stay close to the beach. I don’t think there is sharks. I like it here but I’d rather be rescued.

Day 5

Today there was a fight. A man called Derek told Tony that he wanted a bigger house. He said Tony took to much stuff from the beach that had washed up and that Tony’s house was WAY bigger than his. He started pulling bits from Tony’s house. Tony punched him in the face and it was all bloody. I think Tony bust Dereks nose. A lady called Wendy looked after him. She seems very nice.

Day 6.

This is the end of my paper. I rote on both sides but there is no more space. There was some food washed ashore and there is some coco nuts and bananas. But I don’t know what will happen. I miss mummy and daddy and my brother Stephen. I hope they are all right. I am scared and I hope we are rescued soon.

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Quid Pro Quo

dragon firepit

(650 words)
John threw a log into the fire pit and I pulled my bare feet up to the edge of my chair, bringing my knees up to my chin and stroking my smooth, bare calves. Yellow and orange flames curled skywards, momentary daggers of light, dancing in the indigo twilight. “I’m not going through with it!”
He laughed, not speaking.
I heard a clock chime and looked up the lawn to the house. Ten o’clock. A faint light showed through an upstairs window but it otherwise lay in darkness. Beyond, a car door slammed and an engine started up. Our last guests leaving.
John got up and walked over to the barbecue, returning with a sausage and a chicken leg.
“Haven’t you eaten enough? And did you hear what I said?”
It was suddenly silent. I looked up at the twilight sky with the searchlight of Venus rising over a distant roof. I imagined I could feel and smell the encroaching darkness, reach out and caress it. A cricket chirruped in the distance.
“You’ll be letting everybody down, especially Paula.”
“How does that work, exactly?”
“Everyone else will go along with it, they’ll all get publicity, except Paula.”
One of our guests ran a tattoo parlour. “It’ll hardly be front page news. Anyway, it’s alright for you, you won a haircut. Not exactly life-changing!”
“You don’t need to have KILL across your forehead.” John laughed. “You can have a nice little butterfly in the small of your back.”
“Yes, for whose benefit!” I had to laugh, despite the bizarreness of the situation. We’d hosted a charity barbecue to raise funds for a local animal shelter, fortunately just out of barking range. Each guest had contributed a prize in the form of a service voucher, which had been drawn between us. So, there’d been vouchers for manicures, hairdressing, massage, car servicing, meals at restaurants and so on. There’d been general hilarity as Alice McMahon had drawn a free work-out at a gym. “Oh, I think she could do with a week at a health farm first!” exclaimed her husband, Fred.
“Cheeky sod!”
We all laughed. Alice, although attractive, could definitely do to lose a few stone.
The wood crackled and a warm breeze changed direction and blew the smell of soot and smoke into my face, making me cough. I felt indignant. “But I don’t want a tattoo, ‘free’ or otherwise!”
It was growing dark now, just the flickering flames playing on John’s handsome face. A light went on up at the house and I saw a torch bobbing towards us. My daughter, Heather.
“I know where you can have a tattoo,” said John. “Just above your sweet little ….”
“Shh! It’s Heather.”
She had her long blonde hair in a pony tail and was wearing a nightie and dressing gown. She plumped herself down on one of the deck chairs, gazing around at tables covered with empty beer and wine bottles, plates with grease and chicken bones, ash trays with cigarette butts, crumpled napkins. “There’s a lot to clear up.”
“Yes, you can help us tidy up in a minute, or the foxes will come in the night. Guess what, Mum won a free tattoo!”
Heather smiled, showing perfect teeth in the firelight. Kids were so lucky nowadays, orthodontists weren’t on the radar when we were growing up. “Oh, you lucky thing! What’ll you have? You could have dad’s name tattooed on your arm!”
I smiled. “OK, that’s a good idea, sweetheart, I’ll do it if he has my name put on his!”
I looked at John and John looked at me. His face wore an inscrutable expression and he sat, staring at the flames, not saying a word.
The cracks in our marriage had been showing for a long time. Maybe, just maybe, winning that particular prize was a blessing in disguise. It was time to face up to reality.

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What Am I? – competition


My FIRST is in HARRY but never in POTTER


My THIRD is in ACE and features in SPADES

MY FOURTH is in MACE but never in BLADES

My FIFTH is in HORROR but not in SCREAM

My SIXTH is in DEMON but never in DREAM


My EIGHTH is in SPIDER but never in DULLER

My NINTH is in WEATHER but not in VANE

My TENTH is in HOBO but never in BRAIN

My ELEVENTH’S in BITTER and also in BEER

My TWELFTH is in FLITTER but never in FEAR


My EIGHT plus my TWELVE will aid you to solve!


If you can solve the riddle and would like to win an inscribed copy of my latest book, To Cut a Short Story, vol. II: 88 Little Stories, please send your solution to me via the contact page, together with your name, address (worldwide) and the name you would like the book to be dedicated to. Do NOT post your answer in the comments! The senders of the correct solution will be put into a ‘hat’ and randomly drawn to give one winner.

The competition will remain open until the end of February 2019 (Midnight GMT (UTC)

The winner will be announced here shortly thereafter.


NOTE: I received NO correct solutions before the deadline, so I am extending the competition until the end of March. The FIRST correct solution received will win the prize and terminate the competition. I’ll announce it here as soon as possible, should I receive a correct solution before the new deadline.


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If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 250!

Gender Concerns


(1000 words)

Feeling a little apprehensive, I went into the hotel, passing a smiling receptionist, then through to the bar and restaurant area. Smartly-dressed family groups ate at tables or sat in a more casual area with sofas, easy chairs, and leafy potted trees, drinking coffee or sipping wine. Quiet jazz music played in the background. For some odd reason I suddenly had an image of a group of skinheads bursting in, all braces, high Dr. Martens and shaven skulls. Up-ending tables and hurling them around, smashing glass and porcelain alike. People screaming as jabbing fists and thudding boots left a trail of broken and bloodied bodies.
Fortunately, nothing like that occurred, and the sound of a gentle, tinkling jazz piano solo was all there was to be heard.
At one table sat a young woman, conspicuously alone, looking at her phone. That must be my blind date, I thought, Jules. As I grew closer, she looked up, put her phone down and smiled. “Hello, are you Vincent?”
“Yes, nice to meet you. Can I get you a drink?”
“I’ve ordered a coffee. I gave them my card. Just ask the waiter for whatever you like, he’ll put it on the card.”
“Oh, that’s kind of you, thank you.” I took my jacket off, put it on the back of the chair and sat down.
“So, Sarah’s told me a lot about you,” she said.
“Oh.” Sarah was my big sister. I wasn’t sure what there was to tell exactly, and I couldn’t imagine it being favourable, the way I knew she’d tell it anyway.
“Me and Sarah were close at Uni – that was a while ago! We shared a room on the farm, did she tell you?”
“No … no, I didn’t know that.”
She began to reminisce about their days at agricultural college. I looked at her and wondered ….
She had short brown hair and an oval face, quite pink, healthy looking, with no make-up. She wore a green tunic top and new ‘designer’ jeans with smart brown leather boots. Her chest seemed quite flat – two small lumps. Her teeth were white and even and her voice was mid-range in pitch.
As she chatted, and I attempted to make intelligent noises, I realised there wasn’t much to mark her out as specifically feminine. Her skin looked to be smooth, though, no sign of a beard.
Sarah had said Jules was ‘special,’ and there was something strange in the way she’d said it, a hint of a smile playing on the corner of her lips.
The waiter brought her coffee and I ordered a pint of lager. “Sarah said you work in healthcare,” I remarked.
“Well, my path’s meandered a bit! I went into yoga and meditation classes, then counselling, now I’m a gender-assignment advisor.” She smiled, noticing my bewilderment. “I still work for the NHS, though.” She sipped some coffee, leaving a brown rim above her upper lip.
“Oh, that sounds, er … different.” I wondered if I should say something about the stain on her face.
As if reading my thoughts, she extracted a tissue and wiped her mouth. “Yes, things have got a bit complicated nowadays. There’s gender binary and cisnormativity.” She laughed. “Male and female, if you like. Then there’s what some call genderqueer. Those are people you may call bigender, trigender or pangender.” She stopped talking and looked down, sipping her coffee as the waiter deposited my lager before me, in a tall elegant glass. He put her card on the table, together with a receipt. “Thank you, madam.”
“So, what exactly do you do then?” I asked.
“Well, we have to match the perceived sexual identity with the actual, er attributes desired.” Noticing my blank look, she said, “In other words, whether they want a cock and balls, vagina or tits.”
A portly lady in red at a nearby table looked around. Jules stared at her and she hurriedly looked away, carving into her coq-au-vin, face flushing.
Embarrassed, I took a gulp of lager, feeling the alcohol rushing to my brain. I realised I hadn’t eaten for hours.
“You see, we have the medical technology available now to offer a full range of options. Some of it will be covered by the NHS, for instance a boy wants to be a girl, they can prove it’s a deep-seated desire and last the assessment course. But others, well, they just want a bit of fun, but of course they have to pay for it!”
“Oh.” I’d planned to talk about my work as a car dealer but it would no doubt seem deadly dull compared to the ‘characters’ she came up against.
She hesitated. “I’m sorry, I need to pop to the loo. Can you look after my handbag please?”
“Yes, no problem.”
I watched her walk briskly away and noticed a direct motion, a lack of sway. The toilets were through a side door at the far end of the restaurant area, and once she’d passed through it, on impulse I quickly followed her, oblivious to the regular family chit-chat going on around me. I reached the door to the toilets and, opening it, saw the men’s toilet door swinging shut.
Not daring to go in, I took a chance and opened the ladies’ loo door, ready to apologise effusively. However, all the cubicle doors were open, no one there!
I hastily retreated and made my way back to the table. An elderly couple sat in silence nearby, nursing glasses of red wine and staring blankly at each other.
“Could you tell the young lady that I had to go please, keep an eye on her bag?” I asked.
They looked up, surprised, then appeared pleased to have something useful to do. “Of course, er, should we say why?” said the lady.
“Oh … thank you … er, yes, gender concerns!”
I quickly made my way to the exit, leaving them looking at each other in bewilderment.

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The Butterfly’s Revenge – A Short Horror Story


(400 words)

Leah glances anxiously around the waiting room. Everyone looks so calm. How the hell can that be? The waiting room is dim, perhaps a dozen men and women of all ages sit, staring ahead as though unseeing. The door opens and a bright light behind him silhouettes the towering figure of Dr. Chansette, a huge cockroach, six feet high. His antennae wave. “Miss Leah Hope?”
Leah looks around. No one seems interested. She gets up, her guts knotting, but knowing she has no choice. Following Dr. Chansette, she proceeds along a shiny white corridor. He turns and waves a leg. “Please, come through to the dissection room.”
Feeling fearful, Leah follows him into an operating theatre. The room is full of strange, throbbing machinery and lights flicker on wall panels. In the centre of the room, under blazing spotlights, is an operating table, surrounded by banks of electronic equipment.
“Greetings, Miss Hope. I am Mr. Cuttemup, I’ll be doing your procedure today.”
Leah turns to face an enormous butterfly. She sees shimmering emerald and ruby tones in his wings. Trying to stay calm, she says, “Is … is this really necessary. Can’t I … can’t I just go home?”
Mr. Cuttemup flutters his wings and laughs, holding up a long scalpel blade which scatters light from the iridescent lamps above. “No, I’m sorry, we have to see … what you’re made of!”
Two giant earwigs, dressed in green theatre gowns, take Leah’s elbows and lead her towards the operating table. “Don’t worry, it’ll be painless,” says one, smiling and waving her glistening antennae.
Leah finds herself fastened down to the operating table and looks up at the brilliant spotlights above her, giving white spots before her eyes. Suddenly she has a frightening thought. “Wait a minute, what about the anaesthetic, where’s the anaesthetist?”
“Ah, that won’t be necessary.” Mr. Cuttemup unbuttons Leah’s blouse, then pulls out the scalpel. “Nurse, prepare the patient please.”
The earwig-nurses exchange glances, then one leans forward and yanks Leah’s bra up, exposing her large pale breasts.
Leah suddenly becomes calm. Of course, this is a nightmare. She’ll wake up in a minute!
Dr. Cuttemup’s scalpel stabs into her chest, right between her breasts, and carves a two-foot wound down to her groin, as she realises that the earwigs were lying – the pain is beyond belief – and yes, this is a nightmare, but it’s no dream.

To purchase the stories on To Cut a Short Story Short up to December 2018 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audio-book form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

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Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 250!

Knocker Quarry

bellwood-quarry-bs 750xx4928-2773-0-506

(1150 words)

It was midday, the sun’s yellow disc was high in the clear-blue, summer sky and it was sweltering. The heat burned into every cell of my body and mind. I could feel my back beneath my rucksack wet with sweat, and drops of it ran down my face from time to time. The grass beneath my walking boots was dry and brown, there’d been little rain for weeks. “I think we should take a break, it’s too hot.”
My girlfriend, Sara, turned to me. Her eyes were hidden by dark black sunglasses but her face was pink and beads of moisture covered her sunburned forehead. Dark pools stained her T-shirt under the armpits.
I looked around at the desolate moorland – parched grass with the odd brown rock, all that was visible to the horizon in every direction. There was no sign of life, no sheep, no birds, nothing.
“Look, we can go and rest on those rocks over there,” said Sara, pointing to a jumble of boulders in the far distance, off to one side. A haze of heat rose from the moorland before them, and my heart sank at the thought of walking so far out of our way. But we only had five miles to go to the next village, where we’d booked a room in a pub, and we had plenty of time to spare, in theory anyway. “OK, yeah, I might have a little nap too.”
“Not one of your two-hour ‘naps’ I hope,” she laughed.
As we approached the rocks, we were amazed to find a pool of clear water, perhaps the length of a train carriage in diameter, and deep, more than a man’s height in depth, by the looks of it. We could see square-shaped rocks, far down at the bottom, tinged with brown algae, but there were no reeds or any sign of life within the pool, just clumps of brown-green grass around its edges.
“Wow, this is amazing!”
Before I’d realised what was happening, the pink, naked form of Sara had plunged into the pool with flapping pale breasts and a huge splash.
“God, this is lovely, nice and cool!” She kicked out and swam backstroke across the pond to the rock face on the far side. I wished she would trim her pubic hair.
“Tom, come on. This is great!”
I looked around, no one in sight for miles. I stripped off, dumping my rucksack down with a feeling of hatred towards it. I tiptoed to the edge and gingerly stepped across a square brown rock. It was slippery with algae and I found myself losing balance. I tried to regain my stance but realising it was no good, jumped. The coldness of the water shocked me like an electric cattle prod as I sank down through the still depths. Looking up through shafts of golden sunlight, filtering down, I could see the bright blue sky through the water as if it were itself blue. I surfaced, gasping for breath. Sara was right by me, treading water, laughing. She put her arms around me and kissed me on the lips, poking her tongue into my mouth. There was an unusual, slightly sweet taste.
We splashed around for several minutes, then lay in the sun to dry off. “We must come here again,” I said.
Sara smiled. “It’s peaceful, mysterious too.”

We dressed and lay in the shade of some of the bigger rocks, where I soon drifted off to sleep.

“Tom, Tom.” Sara was pulling at me and whispering in my ear.
“Wh … what?” I didn’t want to wake up.
“Look, there’s something … a creature. You must see.”
I jolted awake. “What? Where?”
“On that big rock over there. Directly opposite. About four feet down.”
I looked to where she was subtly gesticulating. I couldn’t see anything. Was this some kind of joke? Then suddenly I saw it, a small brown figure crouching on a ledge in the rock. I guessed no more than a foot high. It wore a brown tunic and trousers, and its tawny face was topped with a pointed cap. It was too far away to see its eyes but I sensed it watching us with curiosity. I stood up, waving my arms. “Hey, hello!”
At that, the creature jumped into a gap between two rocks and was gone.
“You idiot, Tom, you frightened it.”
“What the hell was it?”
“It looked like some kind of pixie or imp!”
It was hard to disagree.
It was a beautiful summer’s evening when we arrived at our night’s lodging. The landlady was there to welcome us and made congratulatory noises about our day’s walking. “It’s been so hot and you’ve walked so far, across all that moorland too! Freshen up, my dears, and come and have a drink before your supper.”
We took a very welcome shower in our old-fashioned but well-appointed room. I was looking forward to getting my head down in the four-poster bed.
Soon we were back in a corner of the bar, fresh and clean, and the landlady brought over two glasses and a bottle of wine. “Complements of the house. Is white OK for you? It’s well chilled.”
We sat, sipping chardonnay, whilst she sat with us for a while, making small talk, occasionally glancing around to see if any of the other customers, few in number, needed attention. “It’s been the hottest day of the summer, they said on the news!”
“We went swimming in an old quarry on the moor,” said Sara. “To cool down. Do you know it?”
The landlady’s smile vanished and her expression became inscrutable. “Yes, it’s well known. Knocker Quarry. They worked it until, maybe fifty years ago.”
“Why did it close?” I asked.
“Well, there were so many accidents, no one would work there and it was sold. Then, a few years later, the new owner reopened it and they dug deeper. They hit an underground stream and it filled with water.”
“What happened then?” I asked.
“Well, the gentleman who hit the water was drowned and it’s stood as it is since. But ….” The landlady looked around, then lowered her voice. “But they say it’s haunted. Haunted by his ghost … and watched over by the little people. Any who swim in it … well, I may as well tell you … they say will be cursed. Women will be barren, and men infertile and money will slip through their fingers like sand. They’ll always be poor.” She brightened up and laughed, “But it’s OK, they say that’ll only happen if you actually make eye contact with one of the imps! Oh, excuse me, my dears, someone needs serving. Enjoy your wine and your food will be ready in half an hour.”

Sara and I looked at each other. Suddenly the wine seemed to taste sour.

To purchase the stories on To Cut a Short Story Short up to December 2018 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audio-book form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 250!

Not to Forget, but to Forgive



To apologise, yearn to repent,
To feel sadness in our heart.
To now admit we caused your pain,
We selfishly did start.
And will it make it better?
Will you feel good that we feel bad?
Or are the words we use what matter?

Mea Culpa – Je regrette
For actions done and said.
That perhaps weren’t meant to do you harm,
Or, yet, intended to disarm.
But with time’s all-crowning wisdom,
With the passing of the days,
We now admit we ‘got it wrong,’
See error in our ways.

And through God’s grace, we have a wish,
To take back what we said or did.
To numb the mind, to salve the soul,
To blank out memory,
To stay the bruising to your pride,
That lack of any thought,
Or selfishness, applied.

Know forgiveness can release all pain.
It calms the breast,
It soothes the heart,
And washes clean, like rain.
Not to forget, but to forgive,
To put away the thoughts of grudge,
Undoes the traps in which we live,
And frees us from the path we trudge.

But then, by equal,
Feel we the right,
For those who’ve hurt us,
To leave their fight.
To make amends,
Those heartless lovers, selfish friends.
Siblings blinded by base concerns,
To our true and honest yearnings,
Our soul’s desires,
To them,
As compared to earnings.

And, rarer than the rarest stone,
That’s mined in any quarry,
One day to hear those precious words,
“Lo siento”
„Es tut mir Leid“
« Je suis désolé »
“I’m sorry.”


To purchase the stories on To Cut a Short Story Short up to December 2018 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audio-book form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 250!


the somme soldiers

(900 words)

“Covered in shit, not in glory, that was the reality. The trenches … well, you can’t imagine the stench of them, and wet – water everywhere. They never seemed to dry out, even in summer. Then they’d stink even worse, like a toilet with piss all over the floor.
“Our boots would be soaked and the socks our mums had insisted on giving us – in bagfuls – would be wet through too. We’d laughed at them – ‘why are you giving me all these bloody socks? I do know how to wash socks, you know!’ – but you know what, when push came to shove, dry socks were like bloody gold dust out there.
“And then Fritz would start shelling us. We’d be huddled down in the mud whilst the sky lit up, just like fireworks. Every now and then you’d hear a scream and you knew some poor sod had just bought it.
“One time, I was with Charlie Fellowes, my best mate there. It was all quiet, no shelling for hours. Suddenly there was a stupendous bang, as if a gas boiler had just exploded in a room next door, and there was Chas with half his face missing. He didn’t die but he’d never know another woman. Had to wear a special mask they moulded from an old photo of his face ….”
Suzanne turned to me, “Christ, what’s the point of going over something that happened so long ago?”
I looked at the old soldier, holding forth to a dwindling audience in a corner of the Coach and Horses. “I suppose it’s hard to forget about something like that.”
“Well, he couldn’t even have been alive in the First World War, it finished a hundred years ago, for God’s sake!”

I took a mouthful of Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, savouring the gently roasted chocolate malt and cocoa, closing my eyes and letting it roll around my tongue. The First World War seemed a million years ago and, to be honest, I just wasn’t interested. Things had moved on. It was fifty megaton nuclear bombs now, that would wipe out a city and kill and maim millions. Having half your face blown off would be a luxury.

I was in a field with a bunch of red poppies at my feet. I bent down and caressed the velvety redness of the petals, feeling the texture, like soft crêpe paper, and stroking the fur-like stems.
I became aware I wasn’t alone and stood up, looking around at a circle of men, surrounding me. They were dressed in uniform. Rough brown cloth and olive knapsacks, modern camouflage fatigues, dark blue air force jackets and trousers. There were some stripes here and there, a few medals, but mainly non-commissioned ranks, as far as I could see. The ‘grunts,’ in modern parlance.
More came in, and more, until I was surrounded by hundreds of them, then more than I could count, stretching to the horizon in all directions. Their faces were mainly young – eager, bright-eyed, happy and smiling. Some were smoking cigarettes whilst others held pipes in their mouths.
“Who are you?” I asked.
A young man, perhaps twenty-five, with brown hair and a large moustache, answered. He was dressed in the blue of the Royal Air Force. He had a couple of stripes. I didn’t know what that meant, maybe a captain or whatever?
“Who do you think we are?”
“I dunno, people who died in the war?”
He smiled. “Got it in one!”
“Why are you here?”
“It’s Remembrance Sunday. It’s what we do on Remembrance Sunday. Put our uniforms on and come back, to remind you. We don’t want to, but you … expect it.”
“You make a big deal out of it.”
“Shouldn’t we?”
“What we went through wasn’t so bad. For those of us who died, I mean. For those left behind, our families, friends, they were the ones who went through hell. We’d visit, try to console them, send healing, but sometimes their grief put up a barrier.”
“But aren’t you proud of what you did, fighting for our country?”
“We weren’t fighting for our country, we were fighting for politicians, those safely ensconced in nice warm houses, back in Blighty.”
“But ….”
“Look, we didn’t want to fight. We were told to fight, we had no choice. We weren’t heroes or anything like that. We were mugs, more like.”
I felt deflated. Surely war heroes were just that, heroes?
“Look, when you’re … up here, if you like, you realise you were just fighting yourself. We’re all brothers … in spirit.”
“Will there ever be an end to war?” I asked, intrigued.
He gave a wistful smile. “In a word, no. It’s the nature of mankind to fight. If there were no men, only women, then yes, but then there’d be no human race left to fight.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
He shook my hand. It was dry and warm and his eyes shone with friendship. “It’s Arthur, Arthur Hinchcliffe.”

I awoke and found my eyes were wet. I looked at the clock. It was half past six in the morning. I got up and made some tea and a decision. I was going to go and listen to the old chap in the pub. I’d give him ten minutes, anyway, and, if he wanted, I’d even buy him a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout.


To purchase the stories on To Cut a Short Story Short up to December 2018 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audio-book form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 250!


Doing Time

gentleman highwayman
(700 words)
“Mr. Donovan Jones, the court has heard how you, as Jaspar Harding-Heath, did on the fourth of November 1833, together with accomplices, Ned Barret and Harold Mutton, ambush the evening coach from Lincoln to Great Wenlock, and in the process of robbing the travellers therein did cause the death of Lady Sylvia Rossington, namely by slitting her throat with a Bowie knife.
“You were later recognised by the deceased’s travelling companions and also identified by your accomplices, under interrogation. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty, Your Honour.”
“Do you have anything to add before I send the jury out?”
“Yes, Your Honour. This is the year 2018. The robbery was one hundred and eighty-five years ago.”
The nightmare had begun twelve months earlier. I’d had an overwhelming feeling of guilt since childhood. No one could explain it. I’d had therapy of different kinds over the years but I was guilty of nothing worse than stealing a bag of sweets from a sweetshop at the age of seven. Hardly a crime to cause a lifetime of remorse. Then a friend had suggested I try a ‘past life’ hypnotic session. Well, it was incredible. Within a short time, I was reliving scenes that seemed completely real, but that I had no conscious memory of.
I’d learned that I’d been a highwayman in a previous life. As a member of the ‘Witham Gang,’ we’d had rich pickings along the roads into Lincoln, especially from ecclesiastical folk and rich pilgrims. Apparently, I’d thought of myself as a kind of ‘cavalier-thief’ and my comrades and I, with our faces well-powdered, would wear black cloaks, broad-rimmed Manilla hats with an abundance of coloured ribbons, satin neck-cloths and masks over our eyes. We would also adorn ourselves with brooches and rings, the pickings of previous robberies.
Well, there’d been a change of government and a case where a ninety-year-old was hanged for killing her brother, aged seven, when she was just twelve years old, something she insisted she had absolutely no memory of whatsoever. A touch of dementia hadn’t helped either. There was good forensic evidence however.
Following that, it was argued that it was only a small step to look into crimes that had gone unpunished in previous lives. It was now the duty of all regressive hypnotherapists to report relevant cases to the respective police department. Unfortunately, I must have missed that on the news and the therapist hadn’t mentioned it either. However, ‘ignorance is no defence’ as my lawyer told me.
Because it was in a previous life they’d decided not to give the death penalty, but here I was, doing ten years in ‘stir’ in Lincoln prison for something I’d had no control over – that’s how I looked at it anyway. It didn’t seem right.
But my lawyer, one Henry Barrowclough, thought we had grounds for appeal. “Hello, Mr. Jones, how are we today?” he said, one bright sunny morning.
“Well, I’ve stayed in better hotels, what’ve you got?”
He laughed, sat down and opened his briefcase. “Look, I think we’ve got a line on this matter of identification.”
“Your – that is to say, Jaspar’s – companions in crime identified you under duress – torture most likely, so we could argue that the only real identification came from the travelling companions of Lady Sylvia.”
“Well, you were wearing a mask. How could they have recognised you for certain?”
I tapped a small oval birthmark high on my right cheek. “This.”
“What you mean Jaspar had the same birthmark?”
I sighed. “I believe so. If you go through the transcripts of the trial you’ll find it.”
“But ….”
“The hypnotist who regressed me to Jaspar explained it. He said birthmarks are often signs of wounds from previous lives.”
“Yes, they’ve researched it, found correlations. Anyway, seems I was stabbed in the face.”
“I thought you said they were signs from previous lives?”

“Yes, he took me back further. I didn’t mention it before. Seems I was one William Widrington in the Civil War. I got the wound at the Battle of Winceby in 1643.”


To purchase the stories on To Cut a Short Story Short up to December 2018 in paperback, Kindle eBook, and audio-book form, and for news on new titles, please see Shop.

If you are interested in joining a fortnightly 500 word story group please contact me and I’ll send details.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other stories on the blog. There are over 250!

To Cut a Short Story Short, vol II: 88 Little Stories

TCASSS II final cover

In case you haven’t visited my blog recently, you may not be aware that I’ve a new book out! Published on December 8th 2018, it is entitled To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories, and comprises the ‘best of my blog’ from July 2017 to December 2018. All the stories were read and revised, then rated by fellow writers to select the most suitable 88 for inclusion in the book.

The stories are longer, totalling some 85,000 words, versus 55,000 in volume I, and it includes 7000 words in the form of two stories that will NOT be posted on my blog. They are Billy Bunter’s Christmas Surprise (2000 words) (a tribute to ‘Frank Richards‘) and In Dulci Jubilo (5000 words), the heart-warming and heart-breaking story of a transplant operation.

To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories is available as a premium quality paperback (recommended) and also as a Kindle e-Book. If you don’t have a Kindle reader you can download a free app from Amazon that enables you to read Kindle books on any device. Or why not buy both, one to look nice on the bookshelf and one to read ‘on the go’!

I’m very pleased and excited with the latest volume and can wholeheartedly recommend it!

To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories on Amazon U.K., and on Amazon U.S.

Also, a reminder that my first two books are still available. They are pictured below with links to the UK and US versions (otherwise please check your national Amazon site) and they are also available as audiobooks, expertly read by experienced narrator, Angus Freathy, who has narrated almost forty audiobooks to date! I give the link to the US Audible site but you will be redirected to the most relevant site for your country.

Again, the paperbacks are lovely in terms of paper, ink and cover quality and the audiobooks are hugely enjoyable. They are both available as Kindle e-Books too.

Read reviews of To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories HERE


tcasss back covertcasss front cover 2


The ‘best of my blog,’ from its inception in August 2016, to June 2017 (pub. 1st Jun 2017, 254 pp.).
Amazon U.K. (paperback and Kindle e-book)
Amazon U.S.  (paperback and Kindle e-book)
Audible U.S. (audiobook version)



bim rear coverbim front cover

Bound in Morocco: a short story of intrigue (pub. 19th May 2017, 42 pp.). NOT on my blog.
Amazon U.K. (paperback and Kindle e-book)
Amazon U.S.  (paperback and Kindle e-book)
Audible U.S. (audiobook version)