Monday, July 31, 2017

The Magic Carpet by Brooke Fieldhouse

Mohammed buys a rug from IKEA and discovers it has a very unusual property; by Brooke Fieldhouse.

'STOCKHOLM', that's what the on-line catalogue said.

There's a whole family; a lamp, a table, a sofa, a mirror - nothing to do with the city, it's just a name. Mine is Mohammed - Mo I prefer - and I work in The City. I'm a global accounts manager, I'm twenty-five, shockingly well paid but don't have much spare time. I don't have a girlfriend either.

IKEA was made for people like me. I click, and it don't matter whether its aktad, antilop, backaryd, beboelig, fanigt, fillsta, stig, or sprutt it's here in two shakes of a monkey's tail, or two shakes of an apa's tail I guess I should say. Stockholm by the way is a rug; 2.4 metres by 1.7.

The day Stockholm arrived I was crazy busy juggling the Asshole Airlines account with Parmesan Homes, and it was past midnight when I shimmied out of the lift of my apartment block on Upper Thames Street. I could see that the courier had left a parcel outside my door - 1.7 metres long - same height as me, a smidge taller if you allow for the chunky visqueen in which it was wrapped. I dragged it in, dropped it onto the laminate, and glanced at the label before heading for a bit of the old aqua treatment. Hand Woven in India it said.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Psychedelic Basement by Mark Tulin

Mitchell skips school to visit his friend's blacklist hippie den; by Mark Tulin.

Shawn and I were walking to school Friday morning. Shawn was wearing bell bottoms with moccasins and a loose fitting white button-down collar shirt. I wore dark Levi jeans with chukka boots and a tan v-neck sweater over a white undershirt.

"Dude," Shawn said, "do you want to cut school?" He always referred to me as dude. "Why don't you come over my house and we can chill?" he said.

He didn't have to coax me very much

"I fixed up my basement, dude. I want you to tell me what you think."

"Groovy," I replied, not worrying about whether my mother would find out. My father always said, "What they don't know, won't hurt them." I gave my mother no indication that I smoked pot or took off from school on occasion. It was our last year of high school and we felt entitled to skip a day or two.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Lost Property by Sharif Gemie

Steph's habit of losing things forces some introspection; by Sharif Gemie.

'Please remember to take all personal belongings with you,' said the voice over the loud-speaker as the train reached the station.

Steph stood up, adjusted her jacket, picked up her handbag, and walked off the train, leaving her overnight bag on the luggage rack above her seat.

Outside the station, she thought about catching a bus, but decided that she'd been sitting down for too long, and so she walked home. Steph enjoyed the walk, feeling curiously light. She arrived home at three. It would be at least a couple of hours before Tom came back. What could she do? She made a cup of tea, and she remembered an interesting article in the paper that she'd half-read while waiting for the train. Now, where had she left the paper? It was in the outside pocket of overnight bag. And where was her overnight bag? Oh. It hit her.

'I've done it again.'

Her first thought was how awkward it would be telling Tom that she'd lost something else. What would he say?

Friday, July 21, 2017

As the Wind Blows by Charlotte Silveston

Charlotte Silveston's character is hounded by bullies that make themselves out to be the victims.

Yes, I know - it's very easy to blame someone else. But in this case, it really wasn't my fault, OK? Let's get that straight from the off. If it weren't for that sociopath El Gordo, I wouldn't be locked in this tiny basement room.

From the first day of secondary school, he was out to get me, El Gordo. Not his real name of course but it might as well have been. Even Mrs Purcell called him that, as though she was the mother of some miniature mobster. Which, in a way, I suppose she was. El Gordo was a name that just fitted him - unlike his school shirt (ha!), which always popped open to reveal his flabby gut. But he was never ashamed, not El Gordo. Suppose if he had been, he would have been the victim of bullies. As things stood, that spot was reserved for me.

At first it was a dig in the ribs here, a missing packed lunch there. But then his older brothers got involved: an unholy trinity, if you will. Oddly, the eldest brother was the smallest. He could have been straight out of Lilliput - the runt of the litter, so to speak. The middle one was bookish; 'gifted', some teachers called him. Personally, I thought the word 'boffin' was more appropriate, but of course nobody ever asked my opinion.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Feud by Beryl Ensor-Smith

Beryl Ensor-Smith takes us back to South African backwater Prentburg for another comic story of gossip and misunderstanding, this time with a cute little kitten.

"A storm in a tea-cup," Christina du Plessis said loftily, on first hearing about the upset between Helga Swanepoel and Suzie Lamprecht.

"I've always maintained that pets cause nothing but trouble, and that spoilt pig-of-a-dog of Helga's is the worst of the lot!"

Rather harsh words to say of Helga's beloved poodle, Bianca, but one with which many of the church sisters agreed. While many rather liked poodles, Bianca did the breed no favours. She, unlike most of her clan, was a dog of little brain and nervous disposition and had made the mistake, when unexpectedly encountering Suzie's newly-adopted kitten, of reacting in fright by pouncing on the much smaller animal and sinking her teeth into it.

Neither the cat nor Suzie took kindly to the attack. The ferocity with which Suzie defended her pet surprised the entire sisterhood when Helga regaled them with an indignant description of what had transpired.

"She swore at Bianca using an expression that would have shocked Dominee Seibrandt to the core and aimed a vicious kick at her! If it had connected, it would have sent Bianca flying. I couldn't believe my eyes, and when I objected, she swore at me!"

Friday, July 14, 2017

Iron Horse by Philip Barbara

An old man signals train drivers his horse racing picks as they pass his local tavern, and befriends a boy in need of a father figure; by Philip Barbara.

Louie DaRosa stood beside the railroad tracks near the crossing gates that had just descended, halting car traffic on Main Street. A freight train rumbled toward him. When the locomotive was close enough to see the engineer's face in the cab window, DaRosa raised his right arm above his head, showed three fingers, then lowered his arm and swiftly raised it again to show five fingers. He added his left index finger to make six before finally holding his right arm out parallel to the ground.

This sequence of signals took only seconds. He stepped back and the engineer gave two short blasts of the horn in reply. Satisfied, DaRosa turned away from the track and found Nicky sitting on his bicycle, one leg planted on the ground for balance, watching in bewilderment.

"Jersey Meadows Racetrack, fifth race, sixth horse, to place," DaRosa said by way of explanation. His voice always sounded as if it were filtered through waterlogged gravel. "That was Frank Barry up in the cab. He's a friend."

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Island by Martyn Clayton

After a family tragedy, Murray brings his daughter Isla to visit his childhood home, a bleak and windswept rock lost in the harsh Atlantic; by Martyn Clayton.

"Was granddad sad to leave?" Isla asks as the boat pulls away from the harbour out into the blue ocean. It's a precious sunny May day. A large herring gull, feathers pristine white, fixes the departing craft with a prehistoric eye.

"I don't think so. I think he knew he was the last of the line. He got the better deal I think. His father though, your great grandfather - now that's another story."

"What about my great grandmother? You never mention her."

"I don't know too much about her. I know she only had a smattering of English. Hardly left the house when they got her to the mainland. Terrified I think. Completely lost. Most of the older ones were. It was cruel to uproot them like they did but there was probably no choice. You couldn't leave a handful of ageing folk with no one to help feed them and keep them okay."

Friday, July 7, 2017

Donation Box by Ayesha Marfani

A poor and roughly educated child longs to make a contribution to the school donation box; by Ayesha Marfani.

They set the beautiful donation box at the entrance of the school. I loved the beauty of the box. The purple ribbons over it were cool. I saw students and parents putting in money. Every time someone neared it to put anything in its mouth; shaped as purple smiling lips, I felt happy and sad at the same time - happy because I loved the thought of money reaching the victims and sad because I couldn't contribute anything.

I didn't have a single penny to put in the donation box. I am poor penniless. The reason I am in school is my brilliant mind and the benevolence of one man who saw me selling the balloons. He asked me if I want to study and I said yes. I never disappointed the man. I excelled, and so he maintained his scholarship.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Home by Jonathan Yom-Tov

Mike's retirement home is going out of business unless he can find a drastic solution; by Jonathan Yom-Tov.

"You're dead, or you will be in a year tops." Sam looked up from his papers. "Actually, that's an unfortunate choice of words, especially given the circumstances. Sorry," he laughed weakly. "I meant the home will go bankrupt."

"That's terrible," Mike said. He ran his hand through his thinning hair. "I can't let that happen, I'll be out of a job. Isn't there anything you can do?"

"Me? It's not up to me. Your business model is the problem. It made sense years ago, but now, with life expectancy going through the roof, you're losing money on almost every customer."

"I don't understand. If they're living longer we should be making more money, not less. This doesn't make any sense."