All stories

Eight & One

by Russ

‘What do you want?’ she asked. I knew what she meant.

‘I think there’s still cheese in the fridge.’

‘Great,’ she returned without enthusiasm. ‘You go fetch that. We can eat it while we wait for the takeaway.’

Neither of us moved.

We’d lived together almost a year before our respective employers declared us temporarily unnecessary and listed us for several months of nothing, in return for eighty percent pay. In that time we’d barely interacted. Just people who shared a bathroom and a kitchen, glancing across each other’s lives a couple of times a day. With house arrest, things changed. By the fourth day we were watching TV in the same room and from the sixth we were eating together. It was about halfway down the second bottle of wine on day nine that we started fucking. I don’t know if she actually fancied me or she just couldn’t face another game of Scrabble, but I didn’t particularly care. As the rest of that week passed we found fewer and fewer reasons to get out of bed, and so this is where we were.

The sex actually petered out fairly quickly. It still happens, but I think it’s more in aid of preventing sores than anything else, like turning a bedbound patient a couple of times a day.

We lay like clock hands at eight and one, our shins overlaying in the middle. She was swiping listlessly across her phone, which lay balanced against the top of her tits, her chin tucked into her neck by the pillow wedged behind it. I assumed Deliveroo, but it could as easily been Twitter, or Tinder, or just endless pictures of cats. If you asked me I would claim to be watching the TV, but really I was staring at the ceiling in a sulk because one of the background flappers in Gatsby had been wearing a cheap Swatch and ruined the whole film.

‘Maybe we should learn a language?’ her voice floated. It wasn’t completely clear she was talking to me, but I was the only one there so I answered anyway.

‘Do you already know any?’

‘Oui,’ she quipped.

‘Just the one?’

‘Nein,’ she followed.

I lifted my head an inch and narrowed my eyes at her, she smiled without looking away from her phone. I let my head flop back and dragged a hand up to flip my scrotum from one thigh to the other, let the patch of skin underneath breathe a bit.

‘Chinese?’ she asked.

The debris from the breakfast burritos we ordered before was still on the bedside table, as was the stain on my t-shirt from that angelic pate of guacamole and sour cream. I wasn’t even sure I was hungry.

‘Yeah,’ I submitted.

She hit her phone a few times then dropped her hands away and watched it slide from her chest onto the bed between us, and I started to wonder if I could hold my pee until it arrived, so I’d only have to get out of bed once.

Maybe it was worth it

by Lewis

The air was porridge thick and seemed to press down on Jac as he lay in the baking morning sun. The thin tent canvas seemed to amplify and bounce the heat around him like a pizza oven. He hated camping. He tried not to move. He could hear the others talking outside, the sizzle of breakfast burning and Sandy laughing. He should get up, he knew that but it was soft and too hot and Sandy wouldn't care anyway. I don't care, he told himself. Sure, he thought.

He looked down at his cheap watch, like the rest of him it just about did the job but any sort of pressure and it would just fall apart. So really why did he bother. The Flapper. As nicknames go it wasn't the worst. ‘Shits’ got that honour and had done for the past 6 years despite many protests, so really he shouldn't complain. True he’d had a few panic attacks recently. But that's ok. It's good to talk mental health. He just wished things went his way a bit more.

“Flaps,” came a voice from outside. “I'm coming in”. That was Sandy's voice. He was terrified, excited and panicked in an instant.

“Uh huh,” he mumbled. An instant later the zip was down and she was tumbling inside. All elbows, scraggy hair and crop top.

“Its boiling out there,” she panted, collapsing next to him, followed quickly by. “It stinks in here”.

“That was probably shits,” Jac said. He had forgotten how to breathe since she spoke. She laughed and punched him.

“You're so funny.”

She had a laugh like angelic pate. It seemed sweet but you didn't really know what was in it or how you made it.

“Why you hiding in here then?” she said.

“Not hiding, just chilling out” He had to breathe soon. “What, what are you doing in here?

“Oh. I was just wondering where you were is all. Um well, breakfast is ready. Well it's burnt but there's bread.”

Before he could reply she sat up and darted outside again.

He gasped for breathe all lethargy was gone from him and he could feel the adrenilin causing through him.

She had come to find him. HIM.

Holy. Shit.

This was big. He had to find Shits. Tell him about it. He had to get out of bed. Then wash. He really had to wash. Man he lloved camping.

No need for an embarassing scene

by Dan

The sun beamed through the stained glass windows onto the angelic-looking bald pate of Phillip Finworth- Brown. It rersembled a halo framing the organist’s head as he practised in Saint Anthony’s church, Little Dipling.

The music soothed the dozing cattle on the glebe farm and sweetened the mood of Mrs Watson who was putting out her washing and talking to the stranger who was standing by her garden wall, asking her questions. These concerned the man whose magnificent musicality was dappling the village in beatific wellbeing.

“He plays so beautifully” she sighed.

It was the summer of 1970 and Little Dipling had stayed unaltered by plagues, world wars and the advent of both Elvis and The Beatles. Mrs Watson felt this was due to small things such as the neatness of her washing, the organ-playing of Mr Finworth-Brown and the flower arranging of Eugenia and Millicent Stroop.

The stranger pressed her for more information on the organist’s character, “He is a refreshingly private individual” She declared proudly, adding that his preserves had scooped several prizes at this year’s village fete.

“Does he practise the organ all morning?” Asked the stranger.

“Oh yes he’s regular as clockwork!” she enthused. “Always stops at 1.00pm on the dot!”

The stranger decided that Mrs Watson knew nothing of Fenworth-Brown’s colourful past and host of pseudonyms. These included liaisons with glamorous flapper girls, membership of Moseley’s Blackshirts, a prison sentence for fraud and the murder of a leading politician with an ice pick in Stockholm. He was wanted for over 100 further suspected crimes. In short he was more bad egg than angelic pate.

He consulted his cheap watch and thanked Mrs Watson for her time. Then he repaired to the pub opposite and waited for the boys from the Yard to arrive. 12.22! They would be here by twenty to. Then they could surround the church and make the arrest. He felt unusually excited that his twenty year quest to bring the malignant recidivist to justice would soon be over.

Meanwhile Mrs Watson had rushed to church. “You’ve done well.” said Fenworth-Brown, a faint smile flickered upon his lips. He reached into a secret compartment inside the organ and picked up his disguise and a bag containing, pistol, keys and passport. Then he departed quietly through the back of the church where his motorbike waited.

The stranger barely heard the music stop, it took him a minute or so to discern that it actually had and by that time he had already failed to register the sound of a distant motorbike engine disappearing. A moment later, after a horrible moment of realisation, he put down his pint and shouted a word that had never been heard in Little Dipling before and ran to the church.

It’s doors hung open and the ivory-tinkling criminal was gone.

Mrs Watson returned home feeling satisfied. It was a shame such a good organist had left the village but she was sure that another could be found. She was relieved that an unpleasant scene had been averted and that the village’s reputation as a place where that sort of thing simply didn’t happen had endured. Furthermore, she ruminated, the preserves prizes at the fete were now winnable again.


by Jenny

The peeling open of one glue and sleep encrusted eye revealed light so painfully blinding that I slammed it shut again immediately and let out a small groan, trying to get my bearings.

I was astonishingly uncomfortable, but why? I seemed to be clenched into foetal position, with something solid at my head and feet and my neck was bent in on itself at an unnatural angle.

I tried to move and succeeded in disgorging myself from the armchair I had passed out in, onto a carpet that stank of fag ash and spilled beer.

It was several moments before I could open my eyes fully and sit up. Jamie, in her white gown and angel wings was smeared over the couch, like pate, mouth open, legs open and snoring attractively. I could hear Luke in the kitchen, singing smugly and clattering about, probably happy and not in intense discomfort. Bastard.

The living room was a disaster.

I flailed around for a moment in an ocean of empty cans and congealing kebab remains that smelled horrifying before hauling myself to my feet. The huge mirror above the fireplace showed me to myself: one eye red veined and outlined in smudged silver glitter, the other weighted and palsied with drooping false eyelashes. The sequins of my 1920s dress were embedded in my flesh and crimson lipstick was smeared across my left cheek. The plastic face of my cheap watch had cracked. I was a mess, a horrible parody of last night’s flirting, fluttering flapper.

The door opened and Luke strode in beaming. He was carrying a pot of tea and three mugs. He smelled of toothpaste and sickening freshness. He smiled hopefully and I curled miserably back up in my armchair.

“Come on - it can’t be that bad?”

I scowled, snatching the mug from his hand and the edges of his smile sagged like the feathers in my headdress.

Jamie suddenly sat bolt upright with a gasp and vomited into a fortuitously placed kebab wrapper.

We spent the day huddled under duvets with the curtain shut watching reruns of Friends and eating Doritos.

“Shall we go to the park? It’s such a lovely day” gushed Luke “Come on, it’ll make you feel so much better.”

He gave it up eventually and flopped resignedly onto the sofa next to Jamie, who still smelled of sick. She curled up unhappily inside her robe and stared disconsolately at the TV.

“I’m never leaving this couch again. I will never drink anything again. I promise. No-one in the history of nights out has ever felt as revolting as I do now.”

“You’ll be alright” Luke told her and looked crestfallen when she only buried her head under the duvet.

The day slowly faded and the blessed softness of night crept over the room. Luke began to yawn.

“Another cuppa anyone?” he said “Or maybe it’s a bit late for caffeine? Time to be up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire soon...”

Jamie unfolded her legs and stood up. “Not really feeling tea, Luke, but I could definitely fancy a Jager Bomb. Who’s in?”

Squirty Cream

by James

It was Hilary’s cherubic pate that did it for Joanne, so soft and pink, like the head of a baby, and yet at the same time it was dusted with fine downy hair. Alison snorted at that; like a teenager’s ball sack she said, and that was a bucket of cold water and no mistake. Yet the thought of it lingered in Joanne’s mind: slowly licking squirty cream from that pink patch of skin. Would Hilary’s bow tie spin, or would his eyes roll so far back in his skull she’d need to take him down to the emergency eye clinic?

Alison kept on telling her to get her hair done, buy herself a push up bra and get on Tindr, because Hilary, from the Planning Department? Really? That flapper??

He was a myopic podge of rainbow knitted sweater, white socks, sandals, cheap watch and cheaper shoes, and nose hair doing its damnedest to make up for the paucity of coverage up top. He was a ten, on the dork scale, while she, Joanne, was at least a six, well within range of say an Ian, from accounts. That was Joanne’s problem: could she be bothered with all the faff that came with trying to snare a guy who was almost good looking? But dopey old Hilary, well, she’d never have to worry about his straying eye.

But the man, he was a total Wolf. She plonked her lunch tray on the other side of the canteen table and sat herself down. She had to bang it a few times to get his attention, and after he’d blinked several times and swallowed several more she managed to convey to him that yes, she really was interested in what he was up to that evening.

She sipped at her coke and choked on it when he told her he was planning on working on a pair of small yet perfectly formed breasts, with actual nipples. Joanne gulped, and folded her arms beneath her small yet perfectly formed chest. She could not say anything, yet Hilary warmed to his subject, a glow coming to his cheeks as he told her that once he was done with his finger work then there was nothing left for it to but to mount such a radiant beauty.

It didn’t matter that Hilary didn’t seem to have made much of an effort when she went round to his place, so long as he made an effort where it counted. He almost seemed surprised to see her, yet ushered into his front room all the same. He beckoned Joanne over to a large work table lit by many angle poise lamps, and proudly swung his arm in a wide downward sweep to unveil the large model ship that had pride of place. Joanne squinted, and yes, there it was: a tiny wooden figurehead lying beneath the large magnifying glass surrounded by miniature woodworking tools.

But Joanne, she was not a girl without a Plan B. She stepped aside to allow Hilary to take up his seat and his tools, and then from her handbag she took the can of squirty cream and began to shake it.