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Beryl P. Brown
'If we were still in our old house and not this one - this boat - I’d be out with my mates or we’d be in each other’s houses, gaming or just chilling. I couldn’t believe it when Dad said there was no phone signal and no internet on this rust-bucket.' A story about a boy settling into a new life. Would appeal to eleven to fourteen years olds.
Cut Back Flat
Double the rent or half a flat. Your choice. "Cut Back Flat ‘Bit of building work, Miss. George sent us round.’ George is the landlord, and for a moment I entertain some unlikely concepts. Things like upgrade and home improvement run through my mind, pushing darker thoughts down. There are two of them, both men obviously. They troop into my flat in a pile up of battered metal boxes and lengths of sawn timber. One is older, in his 50s, sort of lumpy, not fat but fleshy with exaggerated features. His shoulder length hair is slicked back to the point of recession. The other one could be my age, but is probably younger. He has that gaunt look acquired through serious and dedicated smoking, yellow fingers and teeth to match. They are both in white overalls, though the younger one has somehow rolled his down and is wearing them like hipster jeans, an inch of toned stomach between the waistline and his black tee shirt. He grins lopsided when he catches me looking. They start in the front room with a line drawn down the middle of the bay window. The column of concrete which divides the four panes is struck through in no time, but then the radiator underneath poses a problem, and they are seized by a fit of contemplation. There is a lot of head shaking. Teeth are sucked, pencils gnawed. They unroll a set of plans, consult in mumbles and hisses. More head shaking, loud exhalations through pursed lips. I try to get a look at what’s on the paper, but from my tentative perch on the sofa, the maze of lines bears no resemblance to my mental framing of home..."
A story for 8 to 11 yea-olds. Having eaten some of the wizard's magic jelly, which was supposed to make him sing better but didn't, King Popple spends every day making up football results. Meanwhile for a not unrelated reason everyone has purple wax constantly dribbling out of their ears and all the children under 5 think they are cows. Hopefully the chamberlain might have a useful idea... "The poor queen's nerves were strained to the limit so much of the time that some of her courtiers thought they might spring apart with a loud twang like an overtightened violin string. She was undoubtedly beginning to look much older than her age. The delicate gifts she and her husband received from other kings and queens were all placed on top of the mantelpiece over the fire in the throne room. There was only one problem. The mantelpiece was very old and rickety. The slightest knock could make it shake in an unpredictable way and one of the vases or cups or whatever would fall off. Even a loud noise, like a door banging in the distance, could get the mantelpiece shaking and items falling. Unfortunately, the king had eaten some magic jelly the wizard had made. It was supposed to make him be able to sing better but hadn’t and now he was suffering the unfortunate side-effects of the wizard’s disastrous concoction. The king had become too distracted to order the repair of the mantelpiece or to realise that if one of the china gifts were to fall off and break it would be likely that some form of unpredictable disaster would fall upon the kingdom. This was because all the gifts were imbued with magic and if they were broken, the magic contained within them would be unleashed randomly and uncontrollably. Instead, due to the side-effects of the jelly, the king just sat on his throne all day making up football results or reading them out once the Royal Newspaper arrived on Saturday evening..."
If the public don't have the discipline to watch what they put into their mouths then the state is just going to have to do it for them... "The lines are always long but no one ever complains about that. It’s to be expected. After all, this service is provided by the government. More than that, it’s for our own good.I shuffle along in the queue. The girl behind the plexi-glass window sees me out the corner of her eye and continues to monitor her customer’s products but I know she is thinking about me. The way she purses her lips gives away her disgust. The buzzer sounds and customer 4572 inserts his card into the payment slot. No unauthorised items. His units are deducted, his items are dispatched into suitable biodegradable packaging and off he goes. Relief obvious on his jowly face."
The Green Man
Looking for a fresh start, Maison moves to a remote country village. But instead of finding the peace and tranquility she'd hoped for, she discovers something rather more sinister in the shadows of England's green and pleasant land. "She let go of the tree then looked at it closely. It was gnarly and seeping sap but just a tree. She moved around the trunk, her boots sinking into the soft earth. As she touched the ridges and bumps she expected to feel the reassurance that the tree was ordinary and the same as all the others, but instead she felt sick, a wave of revulsion washing over her as she moved away from it. Instinctively she wiped her hand on her parka. At first she didn’t understand what she was feeling but then she saw it. Gouged deep into the wood was the outline of a face, eyes fixed down and staring directly at her."
By the River
Terrible things happen down by the river: it is a place of despair where humans do their worst to each other. Yet it is also a place where ghosts can be laid to rest. In By the River, originally published in Umber ( 2011 ), the voices of a bereaved 60 year old woman, a teenage boy who’s lost his way in life and a murdered Viking are woven into a dark story of revenge and tragedy. “From being all conquering giants, they were now instantly reduced to playthings for the deities; as the world seemed to expand, the river becoming broader and the sky higher, some men fell to their knees while others remained impassive awaiting their fate. They didn’t need to wait long. The sky fractured with a great fork of lightening, thunderclaps reverberated off the riverbanks in drum rolls and the water started to roil.”
Morgan is concerned about her mother... ‘She’s been living at the Cloud 9 care home for a few months now and in that time her memory seems to have gone downhill rapidly. It’s probably just the effects of the move, but it’s a real worry and as her only daughter I feel totally responsible for her. This parent, child reversal thing is a steep learning curve'. 'I chuckle to myself as I recall my visit with Mum yesterday. There we were in the communal lounge, often a fairly dismal place – bewildered people, mostly women, sitting marooned around the walls. It can be an uncomfortable void at times; a fretful silence, a waiting for something to happen, but yesterday? Well, yesterday was completely different'. How will Morgan handle what happens next?
The Weight of the Sky
A remote bay in 1970s New Zealand. Thirteen-year-old Bailey, trapped in a solitary life between his abusive stepfather and his weak-minded mother, discovers he has choices. The first choice comes as a shock. As he’s releasing the lobsters he was meant to boil, he wants to go with them, go to his father who never returned from a boat trip, who’s still out there – somewhere.