Alice slips on her shoes, quietly opens the door, pulls up a frayed coat collar against the rain and walks unsteadily away. Turning the corner she stops, leans against a wall to breathe and listen, but there is only the echo of a barking dog and her own footfall moving on. She does not know where to, but it will not be back: her bloodied eye tells her that. It is not the first time he has hit her, this time for forgetting his lottery ticket. His ticket. Her ticket, and five million pounds, will take her far, far away.


100 words

“Judge not…”


Bing bong.
Like Wyndham’s Chrysalids, they are crisp, clean, cloned and innocent.
Wanly smiling she says “Do you think about the future at all?”
It must be cold dispiriting work, winter door-stepping the unsaveable, so I say “At my age I think more about the past”.
They laugh, and put at ease come in for debate, tea and homemade scones.
“These are lovely,” he says, “really unusual flavour. May I?”
“Of course,” I say, “help yourselves. Take some home if you like.”
Leaving, already giggly, she hands me leaflets.
Mulling Matthew 7, I wonder what they’ll think about their futures.

100 words

“Distance Past”


His heart recognised her immediately; after 30 years it still skipped. She did not see him in the cafe; she was stirring soup, and his memories. His eyes traced the olive soft skin of her arm, rising and falling, the little birthmark that still peeked from her sleeve.
He had never understood how the space between them could ache so. Now it ached more than ever but she, still wearing a ring, and he one of his own, was still untouchable.
So holding the thought that, if she knew, she would really love him back, he turned and walked away.

100 words

“True Love”


Cheryl is giving Victor his regular trim.
“How’s your week been?”
“Same old, same old”, he lies.
The lost love of his life has just arrived at the home, but does not remember him. Dementia.
“There, Victor, nicely presentable.”
Tidied, he sits staring at the garden, untended like his love, holding her hand. Once soft and supple, her thin skin maps a long life with another.
Rehearsing passion never declared he squeezes and mouths “I love you, Jenny”, but it escapes.
She squeezes back, staring now at him.
“Are you Eric?”
Her slight smile is worth the deceit.
“Yes dear”.

100 words

“Putting the Clocks Back”


It’s that time of year again, but it is years since John rose to the alarm. He weighs the value of getting up at all but then sighs and rolls stiffly out of bed, edging downstairs one step at a time, the bannisters for support not fun. Through the steam of a boiling kettle he contemplates the cold dark morning, fingers his coarsely stubbled chin and wonders how others, out there, live with caution bred of age and uncertainty.
Waiting for television to emerge from its nightly chrysalis he adjusts all the clocks, except the one he cannot turn back.

100 words

The Nine Loves of Henrietta the Great (and six other stories)

This leading story is one of eight I submitted to a Reader’s Digest 100 Word Story competition.  The stories had to be EXACTLY 100 words. It was published on their website – I suppose a sort-of commendation.  If you like it, six others are added below.

The 9 Loves of Henrietta the Great

Anthony was mooning, tentative, and no match for a captain of netball: he gave her mumps. 

Hardeep, life after A levels already mapped by his parents, gave her self-determination.

At University, Viktor was exciting and dangerous: he gave her causes.

Alan, unsure of his sexuality, and Nigel (sure enough to become Nigella) gave her self-awareness, but dear Daniel (dearest, it transpired, to Mary) gave her anorexia.

Johnny, challenging – especially to his probation officer – and Pierre, charming, sophisticated, and married, gave her resilience.

But Lionel, who knew the art of compromise, just gave and, in return, Henrietta finally gave herself.

A small thing

It was just a bent coin, prized from a slot machine by a boy with his penknife.  He paid for chocolate with it. The newsagent passed it to  a commuter in too much of a hurry to check his change.  At lunchtime it helped pay for his chicken baguette and passed, again in change, to Veronica.  Homeward bound, she jammed the only ticket machine in the station: the surging crowd baulked, then backed up into the street, toppling Mr Jenner under the 49 bus.

“Good day?” Dylan’s mum asked.  “Nah, Nothing special. Found some money though. Got some cheap sweets.”

Flight of Fancy

Ellen flicked toast crumbs off her nightdress as she read the engagement notices.  Of course he had a fiancée.  “Pity,” she sighed.

The idea had taken root long before she noticed: a seed drifting through her autumn garden.  It was just a thought.  She had not encouraged it, but neither did she uproot it; she liked the way it teased.  It wasn’t a weed, just something unexpected: a bit of welcome chaos in the ordered rows.  She had never even met him.

Later, admiring earrings she pretended he had bought for her, she thought “Still, I’m not bad for fifty.”


He counted every grain the scorpion flicked against his eyelid.  It was drinking his sweat.  Moving, to check that his rifle was still concealed, startled the visitor and it scuttled away. How he hated desert training: searing days, freezing nights, flies, snakes and scorpions, but especially scorpions.  Along the wadi an engine coughed and camels growled good morning.  His target would be coming soon. Sand dribbled again; his visitor was back.  The cold hard metal pressed behind his ear signalled otherwise.  “You plonker,” he thought.  “Sorry Sarge,” he said.”  But, looking up, it was not Sarge.  “Allah hu akbar.”  Click.


 Holed by bad decisions, failed marriages, and plain bad luck, John’s life had run aground. 

He grasped the idea of disappearance with uncharacteristic energy, scanning the news for opportunities.  And then it came: a storm had sunk a ferry only 10 miles up the coast, and a suitcase containing some personal items, if found on the shore, would identify him as one of the lost.  Then he could start again.

Returning home to complete his plan he found the storm had cut the power.  He struck a match but, in his haste to disappear, he had left the gas on.

Food for thought

The birds systematically emptying the nut feeders were suddenly absent.  Speculating where they had gone Steve thought out loud, “I expect they’ve knocked off for lunch.”  Elaine laughed at the absurdity, but at two o’clock exactly back they came.  He wondered.

That evening, following the chattering chaffinches into the woods, he found thousands of them queuing by a “Global Bird Foods” van collecting, exchanging, tiny packets of seed.  In the morning they found his bloodstained clothes, shredded, pecked: nothing else.  Think about it next time you’re buying fat balls: what are they made of exactly? After all, it’s big business. 

98, 99, Coming

 “They’ll never find me here, in the dark” she thought.  She could hear them coming, giggling, scuffling.  “I’ll sit still as a statue.”  The door creaked open and two small faces peeped in.

“Ready or not, here we come.  Are you in here, mummy?” and then triumphantly “Got you!”  Soft skin pressed up against hers, smooth arms that smelled of chocolate and marzipan.  “Tell us a story.”   But she was tired. “Not now, off you go and play some more”. 

Outside, matron comforted them.  “Don’t upset yourselves.  She’s happy, but doesn’t really know you’re here: it takes some like that.”