The On-and-On Tin
“When she first arrived they said nothing to her, they just looked. An ordinary enough woman, halfway through her life perhaps … modest and respectful, but they were shocked at this female on her own… She said her village had been wiped out in a mudslide, she alone had survived… The gods favoured her, then? No, she said, just lucky.” (from Too Much Too Soon) Across twenty bite-size flash-fiction stories of no more than 500 words each, the reader can travel from Pre-Conquest Latin America to Post-Catastrophe Britain; or see inside the mind of Don Quixote’s horse and the mind of an impatient would-be suicide bomber; or meet the mythological character who delights in other people’s dilemmas and the woman who decided not to tell the world about her supernatural experiences. Perhaps you will find the answer to questions you never thought to ask: What was the real effect of The Great Plague? And how did British cities end up with such woeful transport provision? If you get annoyed when others try to tell you what to feel, you’ll sympathise with Jeffery in “Che Bello!” And if some people just leave you exhausted but you don’t understand why, you’ll sympathise with Eddie in “Is This a Law of Thermodynamics?”
William Harvey's Visitor
In 1628, the English physician and anatomist, William Harvey, discovered the circulation of the blood. This story explores whether this great leap in medical knowledge might also be seen as a metaphor for something even more surprising. "William Harvey Esq was at his desk when God sidled in. Ungreeted, indeed unnoticed, God cleared the dirty coffee cups from the table, tidied up the tobacco pouch and ink - well, then set about laying a fire in the hearth. Still William Harvey’s head was bent in concentration over his papers: God is, after all, very easily missed. It was Spring 1629, the year after Harvey’s momentous book, On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals, had exploded into the medical firmament to change the shape of that intellectual space for ever. Thought by many to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Harvey had never experienced what it was to be penniless and unknown. After medical training in the finest institutions in Europe, he had married the daughter of Queen Elizabeth’s physician and was now, himself, personal physician to King Charles. Perhaps such a charmed life should have been enough for him, but his daemon of intellectual curiosity had led him through circuitous paths until, at the heart of the labyrinth he had had no option but to challenge the age - old wisdom of Galen by publishing his own revolutionary theory that in all animals, including humans, the blood is pumped around the body by the heart..."
"I killed my little brother. When he was two, and I was six, I crept into his bedroom and suffocated him with a pillow while he slept. ‘No you didn’t, Nadine,’ said my mother, ‘It’s a dream.’ ‘It’s a dream about guilt,’ my psychiatrist said, patting me on the knee. ‘You mustn’t blame yourself, my dear, it wasn’t your fault.’ On Tuesdays, I go to the Community Clinic for my weekly meeting with parents who are thought to present a risk to their children. Publicly, it’s called a ‘parents’ support group’ so they have a cover story when they come into reception. But these mums and dads are under no illusions; they watch me scribbling notes and know my risk assessment will dictate their future. If they give the right response, the courts may grant them a family life; the wrong answers and they won’t see their children again; something in between and they could get one afternoon a fortnight at a contact centre where, corralled by cuddly toys, they will try to engage their little strangers in a parody of play, under the watchful eye and busy pen of a social worker. While this process grinds slowly forward, the children who are being protected will metamorphose into sullen teenagers with unmet needs who will probably follow the pattern of their parents, having children of their own who will be in need of protection; and the cycle will start again..."
Carmen Nina Walton
Ahead of a visit from her returning sister, a woman considers the effect of her father on their family. "In the wedding photo on Ruth’s sideboard Mum is at the back of the crowd of relatives. I have to pick the frame up and bring it close to my face to see her there, behind Graham and Julie, slight with her hair cut short and that pale blue dress she liked so much. Da’s at the front of the picture, bold and bluff with pink cheeks and his paunch, standing where the best man should have stood if Da had had any decency, which he didn’t. The photographer tried to tell him but he’s not a man for taking advice he didn’t ask for."
The Non-Adventures of Mr Sproutface and Mr Wibbleton
Mr Sproutface and Mr Wibbleton, committed jumper wearers, museum visitors and lovers of minestrone soup, are looking for a way to escape their work in the circus. One afternoon, while sitting in a puddle of spilt breakfast cereal, they decide to follow their dream and bring cheese to the people of Basingstoke. However, the modern world is difficult. Sometimes, one faces prolems that cannot be fixed with a list and a damp cloth. Whether it is cheese-dinosaurs, bakers intent on World Domination, missing hamsters or being locked in a trouser museum, non-adventures are never far away. But for every problem, there is a solution. And as long as Mr Sproutface and Mr Wibbleton have their jumpers, a bowl of minestrone soup and each other, they will find a way to keep their dream alive. This story is aimed at children between 7 and 11 but there's plenty for adults to enjoy as well.