Valentine’s Day : That baby faced killer thing



He rests his elbows on the rail, gazing out at the twitching streaks of sandy fur, a few square yards of mounded dirt littered with scraps of drying vegetable.

‘Aren’t they amazing?’

‘I guess,’ she says.

‘You don’t like them?’

She shrugs. ‘They’re a bit done, aren’t they – meerkats?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘All that standing on your back legs looking cute and killing snakes – ‘

‘I think it’s mongooses that kill snakes.’

Another shrug. ‘What’s the difference? Anyway, they’ve got the baby faced killer thing down. But they still smell like my hamster after it ate one of its babies.’

This wasn’t how he’d imagined the conversation. ‘But they look out for one another. Their family units …’

He feels her body stiffen against his.

‘You want to talk about that here?’ she says.

‘Well. You know. Spring. Nature in all its fecundity.’

‘And kids screaming for ice cream. And kids screaming because they “didn’t see the monkey pooing, Daddy”. And kids just screaming because that’s what they’re good at.’

‘I just thought …’

‘No, you really didn’t. And next time, take me somewhere that doesn’t stink of dead rodents.’

He smiles. ‘Next time?’


First posted in response to for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practioner, Week # 15 2016. See here for full Ts and Cs.

Another repost, this time with a Valentine’s Day theme. Well, ish. Look, it’s about as romantic as I get, alright?

Will be posting and commenting in the flesh again soon, when normal service will be resumed.



FFthPP : The luckiest man who ever lived


Old Man




Artie Baybrock was born three weeks premature on the concrete floor of a public bomb shelter. As incendiaries engulfed the city’s churches, as flames turned surplices to black tissue and melted chalices gilded worn tiles, Artie arrived – purple, bloodied, cat cry drowned by the city’s moans.

Artie survived the night, though his mother died just as the all clear sounded. Lucky Artie, you might think, though during a childhood with Sour Aunt Gertie and her cane, he didn’t.

Decades later on his 72nd birthday, Artie was alone as usual. He had been a lifelong bachelor, no children, few friends left above ground. He hobbled to the charity shop to treat himself to a new jacket, the old one too worn and stained, or so his carer said.

As he left the shop, new purchase drooping from coat hanger shoulders, he slipped his hand into the pocket, felt a bump in silky the lining. He pulled out something round and smooth – a watch, golden as a melted chalice.

On the back an inscription:

For Artie, from his loving Mother x

That night Artie died in his bed, safe in the knowledge that he was the luckiest man who ever lived.


Written for Roger Shipp’s FFthPP. See the photo (no guiding line this week) and write a story in 200 words or fewer. See here to join in.

The original draft of this was longer, the opening based around the deadliest night of the Bristol Blitz – 24th November 1940 – when Bristol lost so many of its landmarks (including  the beautiful Dutch House and several churches). Two hundred people died that night, 187 seriously injured.

The effects of those raids surround you in the modern city – in the gutted churches that still stand as memorials to the dead; in many of the city’s parks and open spaces (one of which is at the bottom of our road) where houses were cleared by incendiaries, never to be rebuilt. To read some personal stories, visit here.











FFftPP: Scorched carpet and ash filled shoes




‘There’re his shoes. Where’s Simmonds?’ Constable Grant points at the lace-ups with his Biro.

The end’s chewed, suggesting he needs something to do with his mouth while he’s thinking. Never a good sign.

‘If you have more searing insights, be sure to tell me,’ says Butler.

Butler passes from the bedroom (scorched carpet, floorboards untouched; ash filled shoes) and into the kitchen. A sink of dirty crockery – a lot for one person – and an odour only a single man would live with: feet, stale cigarettes, badly aired clothes. It’s a smell Butler knows from his own flat.

‘Grant,’ he calls. ‘Check out the bathroom.’

‘Sure, guv.’

Was he as clueless when he started? Too many TV coppers, that’s the problem. Too many Morses, too many Frosts.


There are more scorch marks along the kitchen counter and one on the wall above the hob, as if a flaming tennis ball as bounced along the surface …


‘What?’ he snaps. He needs the forensics. That’ll kick start his brain. And a double espresso.

‘Inspector Butler, you need to see this.’

Fear in Grant’s voice.

‘Alright, son, what marvels do you want to share with me?’

Butler walks into the bathroom. The smell of drains, of burnt flesh – sulphur. ‘Christ,’ he says, staring at the walls.



Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Pureposeful Practioner. See the photo, use the sentence – this week it’s There’s his shoes. So where is …” – and scribble away. See here for full Ts and then some Cs.

FFftPP : A tiger in my pocket



‘There are no half measures with you, are there Mr Gibson?’

Gibson stared at his slippers, a little boy caught misbehaving. ‘Mother said I had an addictive personality.’

Shame you’re not addicted to cleaning, I thought, but kept it to myself. The stench in the flat made my eyes water. A blue feathered missile dive-bombed me, claws tugging my hair. I should have brought a hat.

Gibson flapped an arm towards the bird, which ignored him. ‘I’m so sorry, Miss Milligan. Captain Flint doesn’t like strangers.’

Flint perched on the dresser, preening his lurid feathers with a beak that could open tin cans.

I looked at the guano mottled floor, the streaks of white and black staining Gibson’s cardigan. ‘Quite. Last time I was here, I counted 53 birds.  How many are living here now?’


‘Mr Gibson, you must rehome them ‒’

A harsh caw shattered the air. ‘Tell the hooked nosed council baggage to leave us alone.’ Captain Flint stared down at me with beadlike eyes.

Gibson flushed purple from his wattle neck to his thinning hair roots.

‘Just do it, please,’ I said.

Some days, I so long for a pet tiger.



For Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. See the pic and try to include the sentence – this week,  “You never do anything halfway….” – in a story of no more than 200 words. See here, why don’t you.

FFftPP : The whisky lifejacket



‘The first one was a surprise…’ Father Connell clung to the mug of whisky as if it was a life jacket.

I’d never seen him drink anything stronger than an espresso from Molly’s Café and I’m sure that ended up watering the sickly looking yucca in the window.

I smiled – I hoped – reassuringly. ‘I should think it was.’

His hand shook, amber liquid lapping at the mug’s rim. I considered taking the 21 year old Glenfarclas malt back into protective custody, but resisted the temptation.

The phones were ringing behind me, Constables Ross and Dunlevy stemming the flow best they could. Calls had mainly been from local newspapers, but as the story spread, the nationals had been in contact too. There would be a press conference at three, the Chief Constable’s chance to sound reassuringly in control while not having a clue what was happening.

The priest had closed his eyes, mug raised, shivering. ‘The bird’s a moa?’

‘So they say.’

‘And the other?’ He licked his lips. ‘The missing one?’

I gazed longingly at the bottle of Glenfarclas. ‘A smilodon. Sabre tooth tiger to you and me.’


I shrugged. ‘Better ask your boss, Father.’

Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. See the pic, read the quote – this week ‘The first one was a surprise…’ – and be inspired. Ts and Cs here.

Oh, how the mind works in convoluted ways. Saw the bone belonged to an ostrich, thought of animals in incongruous places … And naturally, that led to extinct animals appearing in English rural communities.

FFftPP : How the crocodile got his smile




They were the length of my palm back then, scales soft as Grandma’s jowls. They’d walk along my arms, claws tickling. In the sunlight, they glowed emerald, an iridescent flash as their tails curved against the sway of their bodies.

I was okay with them eating worms and slugs plucked from the veg patch – even the crickets that were daft enough to hop into their garden cage. It was only nature after all.

Then one day I found them draped in cloaks of lapis velvet. For a moment I was caught by the beauty of shimmering blue against the green. Then the gears jumped in my head and I saw – a butterfly. They were eating the most exquisite blue butterfly, frail wings shuddering in their jaws in a sickening imitation of flight.

They mewed as I opened the cage, cried out as I threw them into the river. They called in the night but I pulled the pillow around my head.

Now they’re back, grown beautiful and monstrous. They bask in the garden, trample the peas, pull down the bean canes.

They’re waiting for me.

Through my terror I know – it’s only nature.


For Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practioner. See the pic and include or allude to the sentence – this week It was instinct. I just let go of them- and write a story in 200 words. See here to join the fun.

FFftPP : A moment only



‘I’m not staying here.’ Helen’s arms are crossed, chin tucked close to her chest.

Phil hates this, the three-year-old inside a body ten times that. It’s sickening – self-indulgent in light of everything.

He looks through the grubby windscreen to the motel. The paint’s peeling from the sign, falling away like scabs from a healing wound. There’s a group of figures smoking by the main door. Their skin and hair shines orange in the lamplight, their clothes are torn and greasy with dirt, boots scuffed. He can smell their tobacco through the open car window – it’s the cheap smuggled kind, the only type left since imports were halted.

Phil sighs. ‘Look, the place has a roof and four walls. Better than most we’ve seen since we left London.’

And these people are at least alive, he thought. There was one point in their journey, just outside the ruined Stratford, when he wondered – was there anyone not dead or running?

One of the men laughs, showing one gold crown radiant amid white molars. It’s a moment only. But it’s warm and human and Phil yearns for more.

He opens the car door and slams it behind him.


Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practioner. See the pic and be inspired by the line – this week ‘I’m not staying here, honey’ – though I omitted the ‘honey’! See here for full Ts and don’t forget the Cs.

FFftPP # 20 : A little diversion



‘Coming in for coffee?’ Her stilettos swing from one hand, she gestures inside the flat with the other.

I’d hoped to hear those words all evening, since I’d spotted her across the room gulping champagne like it was lemonade. Alcohol is my right hand man – it helps make these little diversions so much easier. Conscience pricks my chest, a spark of chivalry fighting the greed.

But I’ve always been a greedy man.

‘Sure.’ I  follow her inside.

The shutters are open. I’ll have to close them, block out the world so we’re truly alone.

She trips, hand slamming the wall. I’m at her side – the attentive suitor.

‘You okay?’ My arm encircles her tiny waist. ‘Maybe you should lie down.’

She looks up. Something’s wrong – her eyes are sharp, angry.

‘So arrogant.’ Her words are knives, tearing into me.

A jolt and the room cracks, ceiling and walls splintering into a million shards. Bitter cold pierces my lungs, frost crackling over my eyeballs. Arms flailing, I grab for her, for the window, for anything to keep me in the world. But it’s too late.

The last thing I see – her pouting lips blowing me a kiss.



Written for Roger Shipp’s FFftPP. See here to play a long.


FFftPP: Hold high the lantern, love


‘Hold high the lantern, love,’ she whispered, her skirts sighing in the long grass.

He did as he was asked, stumbling over tussocks, the scrub and dash of barren moor. The moon disk beam of lamplight shone over skittering voles, rabbits bobbing away from their midnight feasts of grass. Once he glimpsed the golden mirrored eyes of a vixen who stopped to watch them, a cousin of the feasting conies hanging from her vice tight jaws.

He didn’t falter, didn’t wish to see.

‘Where are we going?’ he asked, the only reply the swish of skirts, her gasps of effort, fleeting as the breeze.

Finally, she stopped. ‘You brought the shovel?’ She took it from him, the weight swinging like a pendulum from bone fine hands.

His breath was ragged from walking, he thought – until he saw the shovel swing higher, felt sharp pins of fear pricking at him.

‘You should never have strayed,’ was all he heard as the shovel fell.


Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practioner. See here for full Ts and Cs.

FFftPP: Wuthering Heights and Orcs



‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ said Carol. ‘Very Wuthering Heights.’

‘I was thinking more Lord of the Rings, myself.’ Ted handed her the cup from his Thermos.

‘Thanks. You’re a star for bringing the flask.’

He smiled. ‘I was a boy scout, you know ‒ always prepared.’

Carol gazed up at the granite boulders. ‘I can imagine Catherine Earnshaw running across these moors …’

‘And being cut down and eaten by Orcs,’ said Ted, topping up her tea.

‘Ha! Well, they’ve had Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – why not Wuthering Heights and Orcs?’

‘We’ll sell the movie rights to Peter Jackson for a fortune. Clever girl.’

Carol laughed. ‘Ooh, I think girl’s pushing it.’

He looked up at the clouds. ‘Nonsense. You’re obviously very … ahem … fit.’

She blushed, shaking the last drops of cold tea from the cup. ‘Well, I hope your scouting skills are up to finding the rest of our team. They vanished ages ago.’

Screwing the cup back on the flask, he said, ‘Doubt it. But I do have an unerring instinct for finding country pubs with blazing fires and fantastic food.’ He offered her his arm.

Carol smiled. ‘Best team building exercise ever,’ she said.


Written for Roger Shipp’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. See here for the rules and to join in the fun.