dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Book Market Advert

Welcome to a hotbed of short random fiction between 400-800 words.
Most of the content on this site is © Blog of Glob

Winner of competition judged by NICHOLAS ROYLE
Recent publication in NOT SHUT UP magazine.
KOESTLER judge of writing last 2 years.

My 2 main themes now the blog is taking shape are Female Bodybuilding and topical/popular fiction, featured in MAY and JUNE. With an individual spin on them, of course.

(I am maturing from a history of dark, tense prose)

APRIL was devoted to my interest in ceramics. Elsewhere may be spattered with other bits of writing, poetry, music, etc.

If I had to use one word to describe the list of unpublished books on the right hand side of the screen, which range from teenage to adult, spanning the last 14 years, I would use PSYCHOLOGICAL.

I am currently working on my third collection of extremely varied flash fiction/short stories.

My most mainstream book is a THRILLER and you can find details below.

After exploring every genre of interest to me, I am ready to move on from my misery memoirs and liberate myself in COMEDY.

Please have a browse, by clicking on a particular month in the sidebar you can scroll down through that whole month's content. Thank you.

SLITHERING LAKE 2003 (83,000 words) is almost completely liberated from sexual/racial tensions. A teacher (STAN) is bound to a woman (LUCY) by a childhood accident. His favourite pupil, a psychic (KARA), lives in LUCY’S street. LUCY’S boyfriend (HANK) is involved with a covert organisation who secretly helps govern the world. Its leader (HELLERMAN) holds base underneath the young criminally insane unit where KARA is admitted to, where STAN and LUCY are reunited, where STAN comes to understand why the world is as it is – and why he is the most important person in it. Between HELLERMAN’S explanations, and KARA’S help, he discovers that there is no life outside Slithering Lake to go back to, even if he was free to leave.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

AIR HOSTESS by Emily Reed

Emily Reed claims to be the only person she knows not suffering from England Fever. As the World Cup gets a grip of the nation, Emily gets a grip of more Gerard Butler DVDS from Blockbuster, including Gamer and Law Abiding Citizen. Daisy and the other local stray cats Emily occasionally takes care of are all doing just fine.

Howdy, yo and hello! My name is Alexia Needy, and I work as a cabin crew member for Jet2.com, located at the grind-pit that is Manchester Airport. Manchester isn’t my favourite city, but I studied at Liverpool, which was just as bad. Unfortunately, I live in Warrington Town, which is ten times worse than either of them.

A typical day for me involves mad-dashing to the airport 1½ hours early before departure for my pre-flight brief. Can you believe that, 1½ hours early? At first I thought they wanted me to help build the damn planes, arriving so prematurely. Then I’ve got to keep my eyes open and not drift off during the security checks. Just skip the checks, I say, it’d make my day go a lot faster, although one idiot several years ago asked my colleague who is now in jail for being a mule to pull his finger. She thought he was going to fart when she did so but instead he tried to detonate a real bomb in his sock! It failed to explode though and only ripped his foot off. Every hostess has a mad story like that to tell. Apart from me, coz I’ve been bored from day one.

Once all the passengers are on, it’s my job to help them, and believe me, the endless queues of moron lemmings always need a ton of help. Don’t pity them, as they can purchase tax-free cigs and booze once we are airborne, depending on our route. The regular food and drink knocks me on one if I touch it……ugh! That’s why I brown-bag my own scran.

After another tedious security check once everyone is off again……are you ready for this……I have to tidy the blinkin’ plane. Yeah, moi, degree-educated and all. One thing I certainly didn’t sign up for, I can assure you of that. The gents’ crapper often looks like an explosion in one of those porta-loo turd cubicles at the end of Glastonbury weekend.

Don’t get me twisted though, it’s a social job and I meet new people every flight. The catch is that most of them are dunces, dipsticks, pillocks and plonkers. Straight up, right across the board. When down-route, and not tending to blockhead kids in ‘cattle class’, I have the pleasure of checking out the flatlands of Kazakhstan or some other place you’d have to pay me to step foot on. I suppose that’s exactly what they’re doing, actually, innit? Paying me to step foot on ‘em.

Fancy my position? I’ve had enough, me. Career switch looming. Check out cabincrew.com and fill out the online application. Just mention that UP IN THE AIR starring George Clooney is your fav film of all time and I guarantee you’ll get the job.

© Emily Reed MMX

Monday, 21 June 2010

Audio Dreams

My cousin A.Michael once suffered from regular night terrors, even as an adult. Now he has the occasional nightmare.

"I wonder why," he says, speaking to me on the train as he heads to the city to enjoy Manchester Day. "Maybe it's because of the dark stuff I've written. I think that by tapping into 'the other side' for material and research it leaves its mark with you. I believe its psychic phenomenon, to some extent. I'm not afraid to say that I think I have had a vision. Yes, I was half asleep, and that detracts from my validity, but in my own experience, this particular insight stands out above everything else with its own psychic quality."

I asked him about his most recent nightmare, for the sake of any Blob of Glob readers who might occasionally fancy dipping their feet into the world of chills n spills.

"Last night," he replied instantly. "The sound of a woman screaming woke me up. Fortunately, it was just getting light, but I opened the window and stuck the light on anyway. That's the best thing to do, put the light on. And the radio. It works. I used to just sweat it out in the dark. No more. Anyway, this screaming was definitely female, and it was regular, every one or two seconds. The sound of it was so rich in all the wrong ways though. There was a real inner grunting depth to it, a liquid aspect almost, and my mind conjured up notions of true violent horror. I thought of Jack the Ripper, to be blatantly honest."

I asked him if he could really hear the sound of a woman screaming.

"In my head, oh yeah. That's what was strange about it. There was no accompanying visuals at all. I was left imagining what on Earth might have caused such an awfully timed and rhythmic harrowing noise. I wasn't dreaming in the traditional sense, for 12 seconds in black & white. I could just hear them in my snoozing head. Just as I was waking the woman threw a 'f******g hell!' in there, which I was absolutely delighted about, because it meant that at least that she could still talk."

I told him this was a bit full on. I was watching CBeebies at the time.

"I don't know where it came from. I haven't watched or read anything lately that might have provoked it. I believe it's a side effect from writing horror, in all truth, although I don't even write splatter or gore, never have. There's a price to pay for regurgitating all the scary stuff from head to page. But to finish, once the light was on I was fine, plus dawn was breaking as well, but just as I'm nodding off again, I hear what could only be the screaming woman's voice, perfectly calm now, over her ordeal, and she whispers 'Goodnight'."

Is he making this up? you may ask. I doubt it. Having noted some dreams down myself several years back, I can testify that any writer who has to 'invent' his dreams must lead a very dull subconscious life, not to mention real one. The MANCUNIAN NOVELIST NICHOLAS ROYLE, who I met and judged a competition with in 2008, edited a book called THE TIGER GARDEN, which is a collection of writers dreams. He has a blog under the same name.

My cousin's above account gives a whole new meaning to the e-zine SCREAMING DREAMS, where I was first published on-line. This is run by STEVE UPHAM, who has been short-listed for the 2010 British Fantasy Awards, for work including the edition in which my story appeared (and which links me to the awards, in a way, cool!). WARRINGTON WRITER CONRAD WILLIAMS, who beat the big man STEPHEN KING back in 2007, tries to outdo him a second time.

d r e a m s

Sunday, 20 June 2010

What I Want to Write

THE SECOND COMING, first and foremost. I need to read up on it in the bible. How will Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ reveal himself? Digitally? In the sky? This is the end of days after all and I would like to get done jotting some ideas down about the method in which humanity's judgement could appear to everyone, all at the same time.

TWO ROMANTIC RUNNERS, who run the same part of the same course on their tiptoes, by a strange coincidence.

A DUMB ZOMBIE, who gets battered.

RON TODD, the daftest character of them all. He has been in my mind for over a year and is probably script material. He makes money by selling salt as drugs.

THE BOTCH JOB TERRORIST, a sketch about some other daft dude who is having a nightmare trying to blow himself and everyone else up......he just can't do it.

WHEN SPECIES MEET, about what different types of animals (or the brutes, as Aristotle called them) might say to each other when they meet, if they could talk.

I am not writing any more books. Once the 50% Rude stories are done that will be an unlucky 13 in all. I would rather write speculative scripts. SALFORD HAM will be my first. I would rather revamp/rewrite/revise SLITHERING LAKE before writing another book. I would rather begin to type up the novel TOUCHED, or, more likely, type up a particular part of it which is long enough to be a short book in itself. Or type up the condensed version of Touched (which you might say takes the book tally to 14), which doesn't even have an ending after 8 or however many years. All of this demands my attention before starting another book......and yet the lure of a new journey does, in its perversity, have its own appeal.

Damn, even compiling a book of poetry should take priority before a new book. The last two have been short story collections, THE VIOLENT ARSONIST was (and still is) a mess, EXHAUSTURBATION got pissed and flew off on a tangent......going further back, most of TRAGIC UNITY and DREAM KIDS got LOST! Why not write 'em back again?

There could be so much work to be done on the books that already exist that starting a fresh one seems like feeding more and more coins into the slot machine when I should be pressing the collect button and taking stock.

It's a bit of fear, unwilling to start the long road of at least 40 odd thousand words, and be connected with characters for longer periods. The point of short stories is to cover as many interesting themes and ideas, and make them as diverse as possible, whereas in a book you're banging your head against the same few premises until you break through into a couple more. And that's the allure......where you might end up.

I am on the verge of finishing a short story which has been calling to be written for a couple of months. I had to lay it down and I feel better for it. I really don't have that much more to say. It is all just ridiculous comedy now, because I want to have a laugh. I will never see the point in writing commercial novels without getting paid for them. I've written one novel and one novel is enough; if you can't say what you want to say in one then the quality will suffer, in my opinion, unless they get better and better. Some of these commercial novels are all the same. It is more of a craft, rather than expressing oneself. Not disrespecting it at all, mind you, just envious of that best-seller prestige a radical-but-unheard-of novella could never achieve......

I don't wanna be a GEEK NERD writer sat at a desk all his life. I want it to just be a phase I went through while becoming something else.

And pigs might fly.

P.S The Widnes and Warrington writers of DNM FICTION® by the way are very cool and trendy! In this circle, being a 'creator of worlds' is like being a celebrity. Like normal people, only better.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


A.Michael is my cousin and editor of DNM Fiction®. He writes very serious and unsettling short stories like Circle Host, adapted from the award-winning Druid's Temple: Virgin's Prey, which was about possession in a stone circle. You can read his invoking paranoid reflections in the Fiend or Foe post in MARCH, if you can hack it. This is him speaking about his most recent work:

"I'm not prolific at all. Sometimes I write only an hour a week. This was written exclusively in a coffee shop in black gel and biro pen. I never plan it out before hand. The plot develops in my subconscious over time. That's if what I'm writing even has a plot. The good thing about Druid's Temple is that it had a beginning, middle and end. Well, I'll tell you now: Escaping Hazel doesn't even have paragraphs, because it IS just one HUGE paragraph; 4 or 5 thousand words worth of unbroken sentences without a single line break.

"Stephen King wrote the whole of his book Dolores Claiborne without chapters, which I thought was odd, but even he had the decency to split it into paragraphs. I will not afford any such courtesy, because the uninviting prospect of reading a long solid block of text is appropriate for the ugly content. It isn't pretty.

"There's not a single line of dialogue in it so far. I've reached what could either be the end of a short story or the end of the 1st part to a novel. There's more fuel to burn there. But I think I'll wrap it up into a short piece. Like I said, it's not family reading.

"Basically, it's about a downloaded interactive holograph. I wouldn't want to give any more away than that because it is only an early draft and I haven't researched the technology side of things yet. Not that my research involves anything more than a quick Google search. I'm a stickler for as little research as possible. Haven't even finalised the title yet.

"I wouldn't say it was scary, just dark, gloomy, and all doom, but as usual I've written it in first person perspective. It's not meant to be enjoyed. It's more of a lesson, or a warning. Super sombre, and VERY emotive, it is what it is."

'darkness is for everyone'

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


For interview with Cam Lee see 'DNMF Interviews' post in Feb.
Within three seconds of crossing FRENCH CONNECTIONS doorway, Cheryl was pounced upon by shop staff. This particular clerk bore an uncanny resemblance to Dame Edna Everage, and frogmarched Cheryl into a corner at the mention of the word 'dress'. A moment later, they were on first name terms, prior to Cheryl being persuaded into trying on a white number she could tell just by looking would be too tight on the bust. She figured she would stand a far better chance of convincing Dame Edna if she went ahead and tried it on anyway then showed her how small it was, rather than argue, but she couldn't even get the zipper up over her generous chesticles.

Nonetheless, she was told that the zip was just 'stiff' because it was 'new' and would 'give' once she'd 'worn it in'.

"I can't wear white, I'm a guest at a wedding," Cheryl lied.

"Technically, it's vanilla, so don't worry about it."

"Still......I think, er, um......"

"Give me a minute."

Before Cheryl could get out of the friggin' thing, Dame Edna had returned with an armload of alternatives and cheerily informed her about their no risk 7-day returns policy. After just hiding there behind the fitting room door doing absolutely nothing like a mong, Cheryl decided to buy the cheapest item and bring it back at the weekend, when Dame Edna was least likely to be working. It was a red blouse. The price tag made her swoon. This bright idea was meant to be a fast solution, but it was the beginning of Cheryl's problems, because after Dame Edna accepted Cheryl's credit card (with both hands), she then subjected her to a thorough 'mix n match' tour of the entire store, hunting for suitable accessories.

Shoes, shoecare products for the shoes, and jewellery, for the most part, but they did spend some time deliberating the different colours of a Morrocan suede bag. Cheryl's account balance plummeted as Dame Edna complained about the minimum wage and store bonuses. At the checkout, Cheryl was quizzed and questionnaired for a quite unbelievable length of time while 'voluntarily' signing up for a storecard and surrendering her details for a mailing list.

All the way through Dame Edna bumped her gums like she had all the time in the world. Still polite, and all manners, Cheryl thanked her at the end.

"Any time, dear," Dame Edna Everage said. "Glad to be of service."

© Cam Lee MMX

Friday, 11 June 2010

Magazine Publication

ANDREW DONEGAN was paid for publication in NOT SHUT UP magazine recently with his 2000-word short story PROTECT THE PRINCESS. It is his first publication in print and he hopes every one of a possible 7500 people will read it, although if only a single person reads it and likes it then that will do him. His overriding emotion is relief that one of his best efforts has gained some exposure. It is a personal favourite for him and the added pictures were a pleasant bonus. He says "It is very nice seeing someone's interpretation of your work. It gave me an idea of how nice it must be to be a best-selling novelist who can sit back and watch movies adapted from their books."

For anybody remotely interested, the idea was a direct result of watching the climactic scene at the end of the movie BEOWULF. He doesn't usually watch 'animation-type' movies, but the action finale in this one touched him so much he had to translate his interpretation of it into words. From screen-to-page instead of vice-versa. He says again:

"I was heart-struck, and I knew I wasn't ever doing better than that. So I imitated the premise. And from that starting point, developing those emotions that had vibrated so potently within, from there could do no wrong."

Not Shut Up published by Hugh Stoddart (Thank you!)
Black& white Illustrations by Anita (Thank you!)
Top official Beowulf comic illustration coloured-in by Andrew Donegan

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Music Update

Yamaha XDJ
DB Tinkerbell's fingers are back where they belong again......roaming over plastic keys. He's been out of production for what must be a whole 2 years, with only a miserable organ to keep his practice up after losing his previous equipment to weather damage. The organ was hardly dusted off, it was so rubbish. This is only his third keyboard (which equals his number of cars), and he is delighted to have secured another Yahama. After proving himself by really playing his way through every note during the The Aliens Are Coming (2006), if that makes any sense, it is now time to sit back with a machine like this and let the samples do the work, finally giving meaning to the catchphrase: 'Going for a key change...'

"Got a fantastic lucky deal considering what you get for your buck in an Argos catalogue," says Tinkerbell after first impressions with his new toy. "It's taken me 2 hours to know where I am with it though. It's like a honeymoon period where we are both getting to know each other. At first I thought it wasn't for me, because I like to play, but this is a fantastic noise machine. Ideally, I have 2 keyboards, one to compose melodies and one to make noises. I've got the other one lined up, a PSR 1700, another oldie. First thoughts with this thing though is this: Give me a bit of time, and I could stand in for Tiesto at Ibiza."

DB Tinkerbell will continue to upload existing tracks onto his YouTube channel while working on new ones for the future. Simply search Quasarboy 77 on YouTube for videos. All videos courtesy of Ya what, ha? Productions®.


Monday, 7 June 2010


Clarence is one of Sebastian Worboys' characters. Sebastian is no longer with us, but he left behind no shortage of written works. I have the first nine chapters of his first book, written when he was only 16 while banged up abroad on tissue paper with a golf pencil. The remaining 15 chapters were destroyed by his insane in the membrane bunk pal.

Roscoe pistol-whipped him clean-out and hopped into the car, engine still running. He planted one hand at 12 o’clock on the steering wheel and hung his other outside the open electric window, signalling to Amber. “Get in, gorgeous!”

She never budged. “What are you doing?”

“Taking you for a spin.”

“But you can’t even drive.”

“Are you mad? I never stop robbing cars. Why do you think I’m always suspended from school?”

She hesitated. “I’ve got to be in. It’s dark.”

Roscoe grinned at her.

She added, “I’ve got homework.”

Roscoe laughed. Amber loved the way he held eye contact whenever he laughed. She checked every direction again, contemplating the wrath of her father if she got into trouble. Roscoe looked like he was having the time of his life, unhurried, unworried, patiently waiting.

“Come onnn,” he urged.

She bit her index fingernail. “Is that a real gun?”

© Sebastian Worboys 1996


Sebastian profile

Clothes: Adidas

Heritage: Welsh

Hair: Sidepart

Meals: One a day

Music: xSkindeepxx

Gym: One swim a week

Study: Buddhism

Girlfriend: Pat Lem PO

Typing: 60 words per min

Fav Film: Vanilla Sky

Occupation: Shift Worker

Comedian: Paul Merton

Art: Jimmy Hughes Portraits

Sport: Bowls

Hobby: Archery

Would love to Meet: President Nixon


Sunday, 6 June 2010

KELLY, SCAFFOLDER by Erika Babbage

For interview with Erika's husband, Errol, and other DNMF writers, see Interviews post in February.

Kelly’s first day as a stand-in scaffolder had her huffing and puffing within two minutes of starting to load a wagon in the yard. It was barely eight am, a time she only ever saw if the dole had her on Jobclub, and the bosses – two posher-than-thou nerds – stood over her like hawks. Her Pathways to Work advisor had wangled her a day as a stand-in for somebody, could have been Steve the Scaffolder from Somerset for all she knew, and the day, from this position, was looking longer than a month of Sabbath Sundays with nothing but confessional wafer bread to eat. The poles and planks were ridiculously heavy to manhandle, jesus tonight, and her skin seemed to bruise upon mere contact with all the knobbly fixtures and fittings. After five minutes she’d cut her finger, after ten she’d ripped her Moschino jeans, and before the passage of half an hour she’d learned a valuable life lesson – that she would never be undertaking any kind of manual labour ever again. Not ever. This was even worse than The Turkey Factory, when she’d upchucked her breakfast onto a conveyor belt of flapping headless turkeys after not five minutes. Well no, actually, there was no worse than that.

When she saw a big plug-ugly pensioner pointing at her and laughing, Kelly didn’t know whether to say something or ignore him. Why a man who looked so downright weather-beaten and utterly ass-rough should ever have the right to laugh at anyone was a mystery, but there was no mistaking what was happening; Kelly was getting the mick taken out of her because she was new here. And it was a private joke, which was much more offensive than being laughed at by a group of people, in her book.

“Hurry up lass!” the oh-so plug-ugly pensioner told her. Shouting like that, he was obviously deaf as well as gormless. Cheeky twerp. Where did an over-the-hill bum like that get the right to tell her what to do anyway? The dude was filthy and he hadn’t even started work properly yet; Kelly was reminded of a mechanic who had swindled her for five hundred notes and put her off driving for life.

Glancing about, everyone here apart from the snooty bosses looked like they’d turn bathwater black just by taking their clothes off next to it. She couldn’t see from here, but she was willing to bet her Yves Saint Lauren belt and her Pringle socks that those chum balls didn’t have black fingernails. Is that all they did, stand there like generals while everyone else busted a gut lifting this and shifting that? She reckoned they would just shake their heads if she asked for a plaster to wrap over her finger. Either that or point her towards the office where it would take her ten minutes to hunt down a first-aid kit and make her look like a waste of time.

So much for The New Deal. More like THE BUM DEAL.

© Errol & Erika Babbage MMX

Thursday, 3 June 2010

BOMB IN THE BARN by Doogie Howsar

For an interview with Doogie Howsar see Febuary's DNMF Interviews post.
The Willis family were very happy to move into their new countryside home. They'd saved hard to escape the exhaust fumes and smog of the inner suburbs. All the refurbishment was complete, all their old furniture unloaded and in place......everything sorted. Except for the barn at the bottom of their expansive garden, tucked away within the spruce trees. How the seller had failed to mention it was a mystery. The Willis family could have had it converted into a studio office had they known. Too late now, because their budget was gone save for leftover change to buy granite worktops for the utility room.

It was Joshua, their six year old son, who discovered it. He stepped inside the creaking door into bright beams of light from cracks in the roof, swinging his yo-yo around his head like a cowboy lasso. It clinked against something metal and broke off the string. When he turned to see what he had hit the first thing he did was call for his older sister, Jemma, 8, who was playing on the tyre swing outside.

"Is it a giant firework?" he asked her.

"No, silly," she answered, "it's a rocket."

"I wanna go the moon in it!" Joshua said excitedly.

"Let's see what's underneath."

Together the kids just about managed to push the four foot tall First World War artillery shell from an upright position onto the floor. The almighty clang was like the dong of Big Ben and it brought both their parents rushing in. Nick and Sally Ellis assessed the scene with wide eyes.

"Oh my God!" Sally tugged her husband's sleeve. "Nick, quick, go and fetch the camera."

Her husband extracted his Samsung. "No need, I've got a camera on my phone."

"Get the instant print one, and fetch some cleaning products as well. We'll spruce it up first before we take any pictures."

He did so, tutting. They gave the shell a good scrub with soapy water and green scouring pads. Then they posed for snapshots like tourists at a funfair: the kids riding it like a log fume, Mum dancing on it like a cheerleader, Dad rolling it under his shoe like a giant rugger ball.

"Tell your brother, tell your brother!" Sally suggested to her husband. Nick's brother was ex-military. The call was very short.

"He scolded me," Nick said. "I have to ring this special number he gave me immediately."

"What for, skip hire?"

"No, Bomb Disposal Unit."

"But won't they make a big fuss and move us away? We've only just moved in. It's probably a dud anyway. It would have gone off by now if it wasn't."

Nick scratched his head. "My brother sounded really cross with me."

"But we wanna go to the moon," little Jemma said, fiercely supported by Joshua.

Then they all fell silent, because the shell had started to tick very loudly, like a Grandfather clock. Dad's jaw dropped before he shouted "EVERYBODY RUN!" at the top of his voice. He turned and pelted straight into the door, head busting through the rotten wood like it was made of matchsticks. Sally swung it open with him still trapped in it, wriggling, and pegged it up the garden towards the house.

Nick shouted "DON'T LEAVE ME!" but the kids were laughing their heads off as they ran past him. Joshua even went back to pull his father's pants down because Jemma told him to. With a girly whine Nick finally pulled his head out of the hole and made a bare-legged break for it, but he tripped and fell into the tyre swing, which snapped, sending him flat on his face in the grass. When he looked up there was a field mouse only an inch away from his eye which made him scream and bolt up in a hurry, pulling up his pants as he run.

Later, once evacuated, and, luckily, still a home in the countryside to the good, he complained to a medic about a splinter in his neck. The medic, along with the police, fire department, and Bomb Disposal Unit, once Sally had shown them the photos, all gave both parents dirty looks. There was probably a case of some kind coming their way.

Still, they had gotten off lightly though, wouldn't you agree?

© Doogie Howsar 2010

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


DNM FICTION edited by A.Michael

Sharon Hood is 27. She is outgoing and quite childish at times. Her biggest asset is her ability to approach and talk to total strangers. Her biggest downfall is drinking one too many in Wetherspoons and doing exactly that. The most important thing in her life is her son, who she has just got back, and the thing she is best at is looking after him.

Beatrice the instructor, 44, took a liking to Pedro on their steady climb to 13,000ft, over landscapes and lakes green and blue. He’d been in the group she’d been training all morning, but only now in the cramped confines of the aircraft did his presence really sink in. His features were soft, his manner softer. He looked at her in a funny way that made her belly itch with butterflies. He wore an expression that seemed to indicate he had some kind of icebreaker to share with her. Like ‘what are you doing tonight?’ for example, or ‘I think you look great for your age’. He was silent, however, except for the obvious concerns most 1st timers have. His heart wasn’t really in it; she knew that today was his birthday and the jump was a present from his family, who were watching from down below.

She did her best to relax him, more so than other clients, because it struck her that he reminded her of her first husband, who had sadly passed away when she was eight months pregnant with her 1st and only son, who had also been tragically lost to sudden death syndrome when only six years old. Beatrice’s 2nd husband had walked out halfway through their third year together and ever since the only chance she ever had time to enjoy male company was in work, when she was jumping in tandem with men in what could only be described, for them, as either very intense or very exhilarating situations. For her it was ace every time.

The 1st timers could be tricky to work out. Bravado on the ground counted for nothing in the air. A lot of them bottled out last minute. Pedro wasn’t a bottler, but she could see that he was infected with fear by the power of the vertigo. She could help him with that.

They jumped. All was good. His face was a giant blissful smile. Then disaster struck. The cord trapped and the parachute failed. They went spiralling out of control, the planet a spinning canvas of blurry colour, the wind a screaming banshee. Given no choice, she had to open the reserve without releasing the first one. The two instantly tangled. And that was it. Game over. Just like that. Bye-bye life. Pedro was very quiet, and she admired that in him, but he clung to her like a baby. She realised the coincidence then that he was the same age to the day as her son would have been, had her son still been alive.

When someone reminds you of a loved one, she thought to herself, you almost want to love them unconditionally too, even though you may not know the slightest thing about them. It was like Gods sending down angels and messengers, and they never came more than once or twice. It was cruel for her to encounter someone special at the very end like this. Cruel. Her life had been sad, overall. She’d spent many months and years in grief. But there had been good times, and those good times flashed through her mind like a stream of rosy photographs.

This was a good time. The freedom of the sky and the clouds. The peace. She would die flying, and flying she loved more than anything else in what was left of her life. No sweat. She had done it a thousand times before. Pedro, though, none. She held him back just as tightly, and they communicated so-so much without saying a word. As one they plunged like a bullet to the earth, Beatrice making sure she was on the bottom underneath him to take the full force of the impact.

Pedro didn’t like this, and tried to stop her, but he was no expert of the heavens like she, and was eased gently into submission. Her back hit the ground first and dead pain exploded throughout every outermost nerve-fibre in her body, but she only felt it for half a second before the whole world and all she knew of it collapsed inwards into a chasm of black pixels, and out she went, like a light.

She awoke a week later, in a wheelchair, wearing a neck-brace. The hospital ward was sunny. Pedro sat opposite her with tears on his cheeks. She felt so overjoyed to exist at all, for the both of them to exist, that her present condition didn’t bother her one bit. She was so happy, she started to tell jokes to cheer him up. Soon enough they were laughing together. She would get better. As author of this story, I guarantee it.

It was in a fit of giggles and laughs that Pedro proposed to her. Beatrice thought that was his idea of a joke. It wasn’t. She had saved his life and he wanted to be with her.

“But I’ve got twenty years on you,” she protested.

“I don’t care,” Pedro replied, “it’s what me and my family want.”

“Yes then,” she said.

© Sharon Hood 2010

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

SCHOOL RUN MUM by Emily Reed


Emily Reed of Latchford is in her thirties and loves to cosy-up on the sofa with a good rom-com from Blockbuster. She fancies the Scottish actor Gerard Butler, currently taking Hollywood by storm, but admits to not recognising him as the guy who played the washboard-stomached hunk in the action flick 300. “I liked the spoof version with Sean Maguire in much better,” she says.

Are you a mum with a kid in school yet? It was my little boy’s first day today. I was so excited and proud taking him in and kissing him and waving him goodbye, I think I embarrassed him. The noise and commotion at the school entrance in the morning took me back to when I was in school, which wasn’t that long ago really. I may be a young mum, but I’m not a statistic. I’m a good mum, willing to learn, to do whatever it takes.

There were plenty of other mums about once the kids had gone inside so I thought I’d wonder over to have a chinwag. Socialising has always been my strong point. Dump me in a party full of strangers and I’d still be the last to leave. Before I could take a step however I was called over by a heavy woman who was sat on a yellow grit/salt bin, away from everyone else. I found big girls to have nicer, kinder faces, and bubbly attitudes to go with them, more often than not. Big girl = big laugh. A lotta fun. Not this one.

She introduced herself as Ethel than promptly quizzed me on the spot about anything and everything so long as it had to do with my personal life. She warned me not to go ‘over there’ if I was unemployed. They could sniff joblessness if they were blindfolded. Even she, from twenty paces, could see my green label Smart Price Asda groceries in my transparent shopping bags. Was it still 3 for £2 on the toiletries, by the way? Did I ever choose my own 4 pizza toppings at the deli counter? Weren’t they just yummy with chilli oil and black pepper?

Plus, to head ‘over there’ in my George denims would be suicide. Anything less than Debenhams was mocking fodder. I should upgrade to Tesco at least, but I wouldn’t be able to con them with an M&S bag; stupid they were not. Could I see Rita there, leaning against her £14,000 run-a-round? Yeah? Well, Rita looked over other mums’ shoulders to find the ones she wanted to talk to. She would likely look straight through me, if I approached. Rita dished out a Monday rota for other mums to pick her ‘twin enfant terribles’ up whenever she couldn’t get back from her luxurious weekend retreats in time. See the hair on her too? Looked like she’d been dragged feet first through a tumble of barbed wire. Right snake in the grass, that one. Mind like a booby trap.

What about the lanky model Chantelle in the designer sunglasses with legs like a giraffe brainwashing a small group of four beside her husband’s gas guzzler, could I see her too? The epitome of greed, those Range Rovers were, nothing but extravagant spoils. Chantelle claimed her kid had the IQ of Stephen Fry and had been selected by the headmistress for the Gifted Child Register, when everyone from here to Atlantis knew that the snotty-nosed numbskull was about as intelligent as a boiled rock. Chalk eater, apparently, at the back of class. Wet his kecks as well. Poor mother was in denial, addled from all those glamorous model-lifestyle drugs.

I tried to say goodbye but Ethel butted in, explaining how all the mums fell out with her because she didn’t go along to their planned Mama Mia night at the cinema. Really petty like that, they were. Not that Ethel was bothered, as all they ever yakked about was parks, potties and nappies anyway. And they all hated each other, really. They were just putting a front on because they were all in the same boat. Just like me and her were in the same boat, she said! Their world, beneath the surface, was a pantomime of secret feuds, mind games, grudges, and rivalry.

Oh lookee here, it’s Dennis in his slinky joggers, who power-walked his daughter back and to every day, but in reality probably parked his banger two streets away to give that impression. Now his child was genuinely clever but she had nits and buck teeth, which was never a good combination. If Dennis was the jam though then these moms were the flies. Those joggers were so tight Ethel could determine his religious affiliation. I didn’t get that joke, but I think it might be to do with circumcision. He’d slept with the lot of them, so it wouldn’t be much of a revelation. Not bad going for a man who worked in Greggs the baker shop. Any old how, Ethel finally concluded, rising from the yellow grit/salt bin, I was lucky to have found a ‘real friend’ in her.

You know, someone who I could get along with.

© Emily Reed 2010