What the story of St Clare doesn't tell... In this poem, Alwyn Marriage suggests that St Clare (1194-1253) may be a rather more interesting figure than history suggests. Clare Offreduccio (Chiara) was a normal, healthy and enthusiastic teenager until she was swept off her feet by the dashing young Francis, whom she heard preach with passion. Abandoning her previous life to follow him, she devoted herself to a life of chastity and charity. Images of St Clare in art tend to depict her as an icon of humble obedience and purity, but there may well be more to the story than that. While not wishing to diminish Clare's genuine piety and good works at all, this story suggests that Clare's obvious love of St Francis was more full-blooded and passionate than the official stories have suggested, and that ending up in a convent was not quite what Clare had in mind. (Please note: This is a poem, rather than a story)
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?”
Mr H's Angels
London in the eighteenth century is no place to raise a child alone, without money or a place to live. Lili knows that the only hope her son has of living a better life is to take him to the Foundling Hospital where he might, if he's lucky, find a place in Mr Handel's famous choir. ('Mr H's Angels' was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Short Story Prize in 2014)
The White Dog Of Barafundle Bay
A soldier home on leave sees things he cannot quite believe and finds his wife in a strange, compromising position. "The Boathouse Café had an air about it that suggested sea and sand. If it had been inland patrons would have drank their coffee, eaten their scones and felt nostalgic for the beach without knowing why. It was the décor, Phillip decided. Crisp white walls, low beams, driftwood picture frames, and a candy striped canopy over the ice-cream booth outside. He ordered a fried egg and sausage bap but the assistant with a tattoo on her boney arm, written in a script he couldn’t decipher, informed him that it was after eleven o’clock. They didn’t serve breakfast after eleven, but since when had fried egg and sausage become solely breakfast food? Had he been away that long? If he decided to take the next tour – Middle East, Mosul or Marshhad no doubt – would he come back to find soup sold at lunchtime only or teacakes served only after three in the afternoon? The girl’s lip curled when she spoke to him as if he were the hundredth person to ask for sausage and egg that day. Did she have no respect for a uniform? For all he knew she might have thought his clothes were fancy dress and him, just another case of too much sun to the head. The sun had a lot to answer for in these parts..."
Twenty-Five Tenpenny Tales
Brindley Hallam Dennis
A collection of twenty five flash fictions. Most of these were written during 2016/17 although a handful date from earlier. The Flash Fiction label is a mixed blessing, not least because it doesn’t seem to have settled down yet into any specific meaning. Discussion centres around that word flash. American originators of the term meant the flash of a single white page being turned. Some writers I know feel the story should have some sort of jolt, or flash, at the end: Ta Dah! All except one of the stories here are less than 500 words. Other than that, they are simply short stories, as varied as any other group of stories I might produce, joined perhaps by the one facet I look for in all short stories, however long or short, that they have a narrator who knows why he, she, or it, is telling the story!
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 this story, 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.
The Daddy In The Box
It’s early 1950’s and 4-year-old Ruth is embarking on a new phase of her young life. She’s off to live at the seaside, with her great aunts, Constance, Rose and Pearly Trice. The story covers the next few years of Ruth’s life as she struggles to come to terms with the mystery surrounding her father and the bewildering behaviour of adults.
Where the Four Winds Meet
Where the Four Winds Meet is the first novella in a Trilogy. This story reveals the emotional journey through time of one man as he tries to discover how his biological father really died. ‘I’m fifty-two years old and today I saw a picture of my father for the very first time. Can you imagine how that feels?’ Bobby is about to open Pandora’s Box to unlock the secrets of his past – but is he prepared for the turbulent secrets which are about to be revealed about his biological father? ‘You know when I was in Germany? A woman came to me and she said, “‘Your husband’s given me a baby as well.’” How will the two immensely different scenarios, one good, one bad, impact upon the present and especially upon his two sons, a moody wannabe rock star and a ghostbuster who falls for a mental medium? ‘He was a wonderful man you know, your father. Such a lovely brother to have.’ Bobby uncovers what he believes is the truth and resolves to let the past go – until it surfaces once more to haunt him.
No One Ever
“Many who waded through the water coloured it with their blood, wine-red – a new meaning for the wine-dark sea of legend…” The battle of Marathon, fought in a time of treachery, danger and intense fear and superstition, was a military disaster for the Persians. But it was not the end of danger for Greece, and the courier’s famous triumphant journey, commemorated in the Olympic race, carried a frightening secret: “His own shadow, long and thin in front of him, was like a rope pulling him towards Athens; as he neared his destination so it gradually shortened, so the sun rose, so the enemy fleet moved towards Phalerum.” What of the Athenian runner himself? Surely, there was no way he could have known how his feat would be celebrated: “Thousands upon thousands of people running. In all the known world, and even lands beyond.” He would surely not have known or cared how fast he was running. And he would not have been able to predict that two messengers, not one, would be named in the annals. Or would he?
My Mind's Eye
Anna Maria is an opera singer who, following an accident, has forgotten how to sing. She starts to find her voice again in the most unlikely place and with the most unlikely people, in a place of sanctuary where the strangest character of all is a young boy whom only she can see.
David wants to give his wife Kate everything she didn't have before meeting him: security, a nice home, another baby. He wants to be a good step-dad to Josh and erase the memories of Tom, Kate's first love and Josh's father. But none of this seems enough for Kate and after the birth of their daughter she slips into depression, her only solace the run-down summerhouse at the bottom of their garden. When David discovers what he thinks is her betrayal he sets out on a path of destruction. (The Summerhouse, a novella, was shortlisted for Gateway's New Fictions prize in late 2014)
Beyond Her Scream
‘Beyond Her Scream’ is the story of a mother-daughter relationship strained by the effects of FGM. It is set against a background of cross-cultural differences and contrasting worldviews. It contains some graphic descriptions which may not be suitable for younger readers.
Do They Know it's Christmas?
Set in Edinburgh's 'Sick Kids' Hospital, this heart-warming seasonal tale tells of a cleaner's interest in the Ebola crisis during the festive season in 2014, a seemingly lonely young girl, and the connections his kindness enables. ‘I held the tip of the pen against the window. Jeez, I’d not drawn a thing since primary school. It was a bit squint but you could tell it was a star. The expression on her face didn’t change but I saw a wee click in her eyes. I started on a Christmas tree.’ A story written as part of Linda Cracknell’s writer’s residency at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children, illustrated by Cate James. All author’s royalties go to the Sick Kids Friends Foundation http://www.edinburghsickkids.org/ Scottish Charity No. SC020862.
An unexpected twist in the closing frames of an old home movie sends Rose hurtling back to her childhood - a time and a place where no one else's parents were divorcing, and where stepmothers were as exotic as shop-bought cake. Revisiting her memories of glamorous part-time fathers and fortnightly treats, Rose unpicks the unspoken adult acrimony, and the childish confusion: "Each time they were returned to her with their bounty she was tight-lipped and unimpressed, flattening their ebullience to a shapeless guilt, their double bind of love and loyalty teaching them early to suppress their enthusiasm in her company." Dual Carriageway is about parents and children, and how complicated it all is.
Our Lady of the Iguanas
How will Graciela cope with the spells and the men now Granny is gone? Bring on the Iguanas.... "The alarm snake swayed above her bed. He hissed until Graciela opened her eyes, then spiralled back into the roof. Job done. Graciela could take her time in the mornings now there was no old woman to clean up. She fetched water and washed, lifting her hair away from her neck and spearing it with pins of shell. She struggled into the blue cotton dress and wrapped her shawl around herself, so that nothing could move. The straw hat, big as a planet, waited on the rocking chair. Granny’s voice whispered, Wear the hat, Graciela. Wear it as your crown."
Laxmi, a girl from the lowest caste of a village in the remote west of Nepal, is told that she is the unlucky kind. But, resourceful and fiercely protective of her sister and niece, she is determined that low birth will not ruin their lives. All profits from this story go to aid work in Nepal.
Providence is a collection of three short memoirs. The stories reveal a mother haunted by the loss of her family. Her child becomes a woman, shaped by the loss of her ancestors, deepened by the compassion for the suffering she witnessed and the resilience that grew from it.
At the end of a long hot summer holiday, as family conflicts simmer, the unexpected appearance of a stranger tests and then shatters the bond of friendship between two boys. Excerpt: ''During the last summer holidays before I started secondary school, my father decided to dig a pond in the back garden. I think my mother must have encouraged him, because she loved animals and wild flowers. Large yellow and white dog daisies sprawled over the rim of the broad earthenware vase on the sill behind the sink, competing for space with the bamboo wind chimes that tinkled whenever the window was open. Even when my mother wasn't washing up, she'd often rest her hands on the edge of the draining board and watch as a robin or some other feathered visitor plucked a nut from the wire cylinder that hung from the bird table''.
How It Begins
There you are, minding your own business, trying to get this jigsaw started and there's a knock at the door. Who is this strange woman? Actually, she does look a little familiar, and she seems to know who you are. But you have to be careful. Don't trust anyone. Even the inanimate objects are out to get you...
Between the Pages
From between the pages of the very last book I picked up, fell a sheet of paper. Stained manila with ragged edge where it had been ripped from a journal. The network of creases, suggestive of the roads and railways on a map, showed that once torn from its source it had been crumpled and perhaps thrown across the room.
A Rat's Tale
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Doctor Dominic du Mortier and I am a hundred and sixty one years old. No no, stay where you are please. It’s not that I’m unwilling to shake your hand, please don’t think that. It’s really more a case of my being unable. Permit me to explain. I am beyond reach. And behind glass. And a rodent. Nothing special you understand – just a Rattus norvegicus, or a common brown rat to you. Oh yes, and dead. Did I mention that?
Leaving The Garden
Maureen the Assistant Librarian has spent a night in her suburban garden, having drunk too much champagne at a high class midsummer party in the Holland Park garden of her work colleague Adrian, whose style, wealth and exalted friends raise the question of why he is still working in the Library. As the perfect midsummer night passes into dawn and Maureen thinks about the events of that party, her solitary existence seems to be coming to a crisis – but someone - or something – has followed her home and is in the garden with her.
Waiting for Sister Constance
This is the story a day in the life of eleven-year-old Sara. Like thousands of other children in southern Africa, she’s an orphan, and she’s looking after her younger brothers and sisters. A kindly nun, Sister Constance, is due to visit the family today – but she’s late, and Sara is getting worried. Will she come? What if she doesn’t? Why hasn’t she come? What will the children do if Sister Constance doesn’t turn up?
The Emancipation of Margot Feather
Margot could have danced, but she bashes away on an old typewriter in her husband's carpet business. Feather's Carpet Empire had never amounted to much, and had her husband listened to her, things could have been very different. But, one day, she hears a voice from the fire escape...
Big JUNE lives alone in her childhood home, a large house in suburban South London. She has been there since 1954 and no-one has re-decorated since 1973. Anyone noticing June thinks she’s odd; people keep their distance. One day, a stranger - a young woman called Lottie - walks in uninvited and starts to ask questions. Over the months, June and the house seem to reveal their secrets. June loves Space and especially, the star of the TV Sci-fi programme to which she is addicted. Lottie helps June to transform her life, build her telescope and finally prepares her to leave to pursue her dream. But where has Lottie gone?
Stop, Look and Listen
Stop, Look and Listen is a short collection of flash fiction pieces. It features Escape, a story about a son who wants to keep his parents together for the sake of his father, Mannequin, a creepy tale about a husband and his wife's disappearance, as well as the titular story Stop, Look and Listen, an exploration of life through instructions. The collection also includes other pieces by Akeem Balogun that have appeared in various publications throughout his writing career. Stop, Look and Listen is an enjoyable read that will appeal to all fans of the short story form as well as to any reader who is entertained by writing that is precise, fun and thought-provoking.
Last Day of Summer
September 10th 2001 - Chris and Annie are on the final leg of their road trip around the USA. Heading towards New York, the frayed edges of a relationship spawned from post-graduation euphoria are beginning to show as they confront the end of their summer and the swan-song of their youth. Aware that their lives are going to change, they face up to an uncertain future, completely unaware of the global events into which they are about to be propelled.
Vicar Up The Tree
Set during the second world war, Isabel does not understand why everyone seems to be so uptight. The war to her is just an inconvenience. When Edward asks her to write to him at the front, all she can think of is to copy out some of Browning's letters. When Edward credits her with the maturity she does not possess, this changes everything.