Category: Fiction

Heal and Grow by Jake Kendall

The photographs have not done justice to the cottage.

Sarah recalls the website thumbnails: that vibrant red door; those shells, set between the bricks framing the windows; hanging baskets that are an eruption of life and colour… Gorgeous. She’d sent jubilant screenshots to her mother from the train. Yet photographs can’t capture the true allure of this place – the remoteness, the quiet. The trains had taken her only to the nearest village. For the last two miles, Sarah’s taxi was the only vehicle winding down narrow country roads.

The Sam Experiment by Pete Able

The old woman in the apartment across the hall always called me “Sam,” but Sam wasn’t my name. My name was Joe. But I didn’t correct her. At first it was out of embarrassment, but then I began to see humor in it. Guests would come by and she would call me “Sam” and I would explain the joke and we’d laugh about it.

But then later, after awhile, I began to think that maybe she had it right. Maybe I really was a “Sam.” I thought that maybe I was given the wrong name at birth, that perhaps there had been some kind of crazy, cosmic mix up.

Storm by Aldas Kruminis

During the stormy night under the starless heavens, thunder and lighting reigned the sky. Bolts of violent light blasted through the heaven like the raptures of human veins. Stiff uprooted trees lay dead in the trembling grass, frail huts shivered at the sound of the cracking fury and the living buried themselves from the rage. This was the night when Gods cracked their whips at the sins of men and the winds, full of evil, haunted the scattered villages. It was a violent and tempestuous night, ordered to conceal the secret birth.

Birdhouse by Nidhi Arora

Peter changed into his pyjamas, brushed his teeth, shaved and settled in front of his computer for the Friday night whole-family video call that Mary had started when the lockdown began, ‘to keep their collective spirits up’. She lived two streets away with her husband and twin daughters. David dialled in from Napa Valley. Between Annie’s drawings, Katie’s handstands and David’s virtual tours of his vineyard, they didn’t get much talking done, which suited Peter just fine.

The only good thing about these calls was that he didn’t have to make eye contact. If he pasted a benign smile on his face and stared somewhere in the proximity of the camera, he could get through the whole call analysing his own receding hair line. It helped that Olivia preferred to dial in from her own phone from her own room.

Resignation by James W. Wood

To Harry Furniss, working for a corporation felt like wearing a clown suit: a façade that made it easy to avoid taking anything seriously. After all, working for a global brand lubricates some people’s social lives better than a bottle of Scotch. Turn up at some hotel bar, and before long a slightly heavy nonentity in middle-manager casuals (polo shirt, belted chinos worn above the navel) will ask what business you’re in. After comparing your burdens, from regulation to office politics, you’ll stagger back to your room with a card in your pocket, plus an invitation to visit him and his wife next time you’re in Pensacola. Or Reykjavik. Or wherever.

The Cat Conveys by James Willsey

­­­­We noticed the cat—a standard tabby, dusty from dandruff or dirt—upon entry because we expected the residence to be empty. It gawked from a corner, one muddy eye fixed on us, misaligned other paralleling the wall—not unusual for a cat but it made the stare appear vacant or as though it were looking through us. It also appeared to grin, the way its mouth was set. Ava commented on how the listing made no mention of pets and our agent deftly responded that “it also doesn’t say that there are no pets.” We ignored the cat for the next hour or so, our guided tour, opening cabinets and peering in empty closets, inspecting oddball nooks not really knowing what to look for. The remodeled bathrooms and kitchen had farmhouse sinks and stainless appliances; there was a mudroom in which Ava and I glanced at each other and she absently touched her tummy; in sum, the house was just about perfect. We were already talking about making an offer before we got to the backyard, which is when the cat escaped. It slipped between the agent’s legs in a stealthy trot, nearly knocking her on her ass. “Ope,” she said.

Troutface in First Class by Robert Garnham

1.

He looks like a trout. Or at least, he has the kind of facial expression that you’d think a trout might have. If the trout were on a train, that is. Pursed lips, pale skin as if he’s not used to coming out into the light, one of those creatures of the deep. A baseball cap pulled down low, snakey hips. The first class carriage is almost empty, just myself in one of the big chairs along the side with my own table, and snakey-hip trout-face, sitting at the big four-seat table near the door, thumbing his mobile phone.

I think I fancy him.

He’s wearing a tracksuit, this prominent cheekboned lad, all bright colours, red and white reflecting back from the dark window like there’s two of him, a team mate, perhaps, in whatever sport the tracksuit advertises. He looks confused as he fumbles with his phone, and the tracksuit makes his body shapeless and crumpled. I can only guess at its proper shape and definition. Oh no, Troutface is now making a phone call.

Flightless Birds by Patrick Eades

We were in the garage by Christmas. The temperature refused to drop from 35 degrees at nine in the evening, our stomachs stuffed with prawns, ham, fruit cake and beer. John was half cut and I felt on edge from the heat and stench emanating from my husband. We lay there on our bed, surrounded by old push bikes with flat tyres, a set of golf clubs from the 1970s and tools upon tools hanging from the walls. It’s pretty hard to fall asleep when there’s a two-foot bow saw in your eyeline. Peaceful dreams I think not.

‘What a year,’ John said.

What a year. Part of me wanted to pull the bow saw off its hook and saw John’s face off. Or at least his tongue. The other part of me wanted John to roll over and hold me, tell me everything would be alright. That the next year would be better, that we were still young and free, the best years yet to come.