Friday, December 21


by Mel George

She had just sat down for the first time in what seemed like months, when the doorbell rang. With almost a sob of frustration, she heaved herself to her aching, sore feet, and shuffled into the hall. Through the frosted glass peered an unfamiliar man, and she frowned and smoothed her hair behind her ears before opening the door.


He was tall and dark, and for an insane moment she was reminded of her morning’s horoscope. She had long passed horoscopes off as another thing she would have liked to believe in, but couldn’t. The stranger smiled a wide and disarming smile. There was something about his eyes that made her quickly drop her gaze.

“Yes,” he said. “I am Manuel. I have come to mend your washing machine.”

A look of sudden relief and recollection crossed her face as she let the man in, the spell broken.

“Ah, yes, thanks, it’s in the kitchen.” She stumbled down the hallway behind him, harvesting crumpled tissues from the floor, kicking shoes out of the way and wishing he had let her go first.

“Ah!” he exclaimed, upon entering the kitchen, beaming around like an architect who has just set foot inside his finished cathedral for the first time. A little unnerved, she pointed out the washing machine and then set about tidying up around him.

She hastily snatched up a pile of junk mail and random paper from the counter, and in doing so freed a photograph, which slipped to the floor. With a small gasp she dived to retrieve it, picking it up as carefully as one might handle an ancient and fragile document. She put it down on the counter with an attempt at casualness, but stole a look back at it out of the corner of her eye and moved a finger to touch the face staring up at her with its fixed laugh.

“You think it has been too long now.”

She almost jumped out of her skin, and the photo was knocked onto the floor again. The repair man’s voice echoed from inside her washing machine, where he was delving around.

She took a couple of deep breaths to steady her nerves again. His sudden speech had taken her by surprise, that was all. There was no need to feel like she had been caught in the act. Smoothing down her shirt, she asked politely, “I’m sorry?”

“You think,” he said, his head not emerging from the drum, “that it has been too long for you still to miss him so much.”

Stunned, she grasped the counter top with one hand and stared at Manuel’s back. Her eyes flicked down to the fallen photograph and back up. With a last attempt at normality, she gave a little, choking laugh and said, “what do you mean?”

“I apologise,” he said gently, groping around for a spanner. “I noticed the photo on the way in. Who was he?”

Afterwards, she reflected that there had been no reason to suspect the photograph showed somebody who was dead; and that in any case, it had been hidden under a pile of paper on his way in. At the time, though, she was satisfied and greatly relieved.

She wasn’t sure why she answered the man. From anybody else, this gross intrusion of privacy would merely have made her clam up and leave the room. Instead, she bent to pick up the picture again, and looking thoughtfully at the smiling face within, replied, “He was my brother. An accident – a long time ago now.”

“Time is a relative thing,” said Manuel. “Especially where love is concerned. Those who are most important to us do not lose their importance over time.”

Still staring at the photo, she felt a familiar lump in her throat. “He was most important to me. He was the only one who really knew me.”

Manuel finally extracted his head from the washing machine and fixed her with a thoughtful, tender gaze. “The only one?” he asked. “I wonder… do you ever think about your Maker? Surely He must know you?”

This brought a jolt to her stomach, and she put down the photo to stare unseeingly at the grubby toaster. “Er… not really my thing,” she forced out, with an unconvincing little laugh. She opened her mouth again to change the subject, but was interrupted by the repair man, who had got to his feet.

“Sometimes you still pray, longing for an answer,” he murmured. “You ask things to change, but they don’t seem to. Friends surround you, try to comfort you, but you don’t let them, because it still hurts. And why pray at all, when he seems too far away to hear you?”

Despite her best efforts, tears were now dripping silently onto the lino. She hid her face in her hands and tried to stay standing.

“But I know about every tiny, feeble prayer, Katy,” said Manuel.

Through everything going on in her head, she still managed to give a great sniff and stare shakily at the man.

How do you know? Who are you?!”

The way he looked at her made her collapse in tears again; but they felt like good tears, something she hadn’t thought was possible.

“I am the repair man,” he whispered. “I have come to mend what is broken.” He smiled, and stepped forwards to embrace her. “And I am with you.”

Mel George is a fan of allegory, especially at Christmas. On behalf of The Pygmy Giant, God rest ye merry, everyone. TPG will be back in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19

Werewolf You A Merry Christmas

by Richard Rippon

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring...except perhaps, the large, drunk, salivating werewolf that was in my lounge.

The acid had been a bad idea.

I’d decided to recapture some of the magic of Christmas. I’d lit a fire, turned on the TV, sunk a bottle of red and dropped the tab. Two hours later, the flickering light from the fire had started to cast questionable shadows about the room and play havoc with my synapses.
That’s when the big guy appeared.

His boots thumped down, sending embers out onto the hearth. He turned immediately and pissed on the fire, his back filthy with soot, more black than red. He pulled a bottle from somewhere and drank deeply, swaying. Finally, he pulled up his zip, belched loudly and turned.

He was horrible. His mouth a black, stinking ditch of sharpened fangs. Hairy black snout, slick with booze, surrounded by a clearly fake white beard. He towered over me, staring down with bloodshot eyes. I was dissolving with terror, becoming one with the couch, marinating in the fabric and lint.

“Pull yourself together son, I’m Santa,” he said and laughed asthmatically. He grabbed the remote and clicked off the TV, then pulled out a notebook covered in minute scrawl.

“Right, now, I’ve got my good boys list and I’ve got my bad boys list”, he stroked his rotten beard ominously, “You’re on my third list, boy; the arseholes list.”

He referred to his notes and struggled to focus. I could smell something like rotten meat mixed in with the alcoholic fumes on his breath.

“'Arrogant, ill-tempered, rude, selfish, uncivil' it says here,” he said, “and I don’t get this wrong, son; I check the bugger twice.”

He swigged greedily.

“So here’s your present.”

He slammed a hairy fist into my face, sending me back into the couch. My nose bust instantly, hot blood leaking into my mouth. I held it to try and stem the flow.

He produced a short pencil stub, licked the tip and drew it across his notebook. Without looking at me again, he ducked and disappeared back up the chimmney.

I waited a moment, to be sure he was gone, and then I flicked the TV back on.

Richard Rippon writes stuff. He has also appeared in Cautionarytale and Mannequin Envy, and is due in 6S and Monkeybicycle. You can also see some more of his work here.

Friday, December 14

Nude Woman Bathing

by Emma Ballantine


The soap slipped from Persephone's hand as she tried to wash. It was difficult with a circle of art gallery patrons staring at her, and more than once she lost the slippery thing underneath the surface. There were not going to be enough bubbles – that much was becoming clear. She scrabbled in the bottom of the bath, painfully aware that the more soap dissolved in the bath, the quicker the foam would disappear. Worse still, the heat was being slowly exhaled into the cavernous vaults of the gallery, and goose-bumps were beginning to mar the smooth sheen of her shoulder-blades which, after all, was the part of the reason she was there in the first place. Across the gallery floor the much-lauded Irving Gallant was eating canapés and explaining her. She shot him a look which he laughed at, popping an olive into his mouth. Somebody took a photograph.

At last, when every bubble and every canapé had vanished, Irving shook his last hand of the day, posed for his last photograph, and came over with a towel.

"I love you", he said, by way of reconciliation, "but a bet's a bet".

Emma Ballantine is a third year English undergraduate who writes when she should be working.

Tuesday, December 11


by Simon Thomas

Their usual table, please, if it is free.
Of course it is – it always is
And everything always is, as is.
The plastic crocuses will never droop.

Her fingers snap in place onto his arm,
He feels them cold, yet gets in character,
And whispers lines he’s learnt by rote
And wears his father’s overcoat
And wishes he were in a ‘thirties film.

The clocks would always point to May
And flowers and incidental tunes
Played softly whilst Forever sits
In eyes and glorious grayscale sunsets.

Her eyelashes aren’t radiant,
His face is not a chiselled one
It never was, but winter’s light
Confirms autumn’s suspicions right,
Though quite the opposite was thought in spring.

A gentle thaw begins to spread;
Her icicles will split in two.
A spiteful thaw begins to spread;
Then winter leaves them both alone.

Simon Thomas is a trainee librarian, obsessive reader, and amateur book critic from the middle of nowhere. To the literary community he is better known as Stuck In A Book. He once appeared on Countdown and won't let anybody forget it.

Sunday, December 9


... are one of those things associated with Christmas. That's all I'm saying. Not that you guys are crackers, no indeed.

On the other hand, there do seem to be some eccentric, bitter, call-me-Ebenezer, goodwill-is-for-idiots writers around at this time of year. Thanks to Richard Rippon for sending us a truly heartwarming tale of Christmas love and cheer (I'll leave it to you to decide how sarcastic I am being on a scale of one to ten after you have read it. Watch this space). If you really want to be edified and filled with festive wonder, I recommend you check out this cheery offering by Ralph Gamelli at Monkeybicycle. It made me laugh. It would make Rudolph cry.

Us Brits do rather like to celebrate all the crummy things in life, but I am not a complete cynic. So please send us in some seasonal offerings to this yuletide season of The Pygmy Giant, merry or otherwise, and make our readers smile, laugh, cry, get depressed or do a little dance in their office and hug a stranger. Thanking you.

PS Why don't we compile all the very worst cracker jokes that we are tortured with this Christmas? Send them in and we'll make a list in the new year and celebrate their awfulness together.

Thursday, December 6

a dish best served cold

by Mel George

Twenty years. Twenty years and they hadn't changed one bit. The beautiful people stood across the room, laughing falsely at the people they despised and basking in the helpless admiration of grown women who were now old enough to know better. There they were, just like when we were teenagers, except that now they were armed with tales of their towering successes, their prize-winning offspring and their perfect husbands. I thought of my own perfect husband crashed out on the sofa at home, and steeled myself as they made their predatory approach. I would not fawn, I would not allow a single delighted giggle to escape my lips as they paid me false compliments. I would not tell them about my unexpected good fortunes or let them make a lunch date. It was too late for popularity now. It was twenty years too late to become one of them.

The ringleader lavished an enormous, saber-toothed smile on me and crooned, “darling! I've been simply longing to catch up since I spotted you across the room. Now tell me, what are you doing nowadays?”

I looked her square in the eye. “Thirty years,” I replied, deadpan. “Arson, manslaughter. Wasn't it nice of them to give me day release for something like this?” I glanced across at one of the waiters who was lurking by the door, and nodded reassuringly to him, raising a hand.

Her head shot from me to the waiter and back again, her perfectly-formed jaw hanging open. “It's all right, they won't get their weapons out as long as I behave myself, eh?” I grinned, elbowing her in a chummy manner.

Later, when I replayed the night to myself over and over until I could grin no more, I reflected that the elbow was the real touch of genius. She leaped back, and spent the whole rest of the evening trying to pretend that she hadn't. I suddenly began to rather enjoy this reunion, as I watched the rumour spread in whispers; written over beautiful faces which struggled admirably to smile politely and respond to my jovial conversation as if nothing at all were the matter. One of them, taking a headlong dive off a conversational cliff, talked to me passionately about beekeeping for a good half an hour. I smiled, and nodded, and watched her squirm through the bottom of my wine glass.

“This was one of the best evenings I can remember,” I declared, quite honestly, as the last stragglers left with nervous glances at the waiters. “Even before I was sent down,” I added spontaneously, and scolded myself for enjoying this all a little too much.

Mel George is a frustrated administrator and copy-editor living in Oxford. Editing this thing keeps her brain working. She really is a pygmy giant, and is probably one of the only people who still keeps a blog here.

Thursday, November 29

The Stars Confess

by Helen Burke

It is time we owned up.

It is you, your very selves that

are the things we steer by.

Your mortal souls that guide us westward.

Long have we plotted our uncertain course

by the knowledge of you.

You who have been here long before us.

You who will be here long after we

small wizened fry, are gone.

Carefully, by groups of three or four of you,

where so strategically you are placed,

(often you actually LOOK like something),

we can be sure of all our routes.

Be certain of the great divide.

To fall off the edge is not our wish.

So it is, that today, the stars salute you.

We say too, that – in a certain light

and on the clearer nights –

you are, quite beautiful.

Helen Burke has been writing and publishing poems for 25 years. She has just won the Sheffield Festival PoetStars Prize and second prize in Ilkley Lit. Fest performance, which she has won on two previous occasions. She had a show at the Edinburgh Festival this year which was rated highly starred by the Scotsman.

Monday, November 26

Stones In My Shoes

by Bob Jacobs

The stones in our garden move at night. They edge closer to our house. In the morning I put them back, but they don't like it. The stones were Gloria's idea. She started with Green Paddlestones and Plum Slate, then she bought a Blue Drilled Monolith, six feet tall, as a centre piece. She's created a rockery from Iberian Quadrock that came in Candy Stone, Rainbow, Red Laguna and White. I thought we had enough, but since then she's bought boulders of Granite and Schist, Caledonian Pebbles, and a bag or two of Sea Green Granite Chippings.

Last week I found a lump of Red Gritstone on her side of the bed. She claimed she didn't know how it got there, but I have my suspicions. They love her, these stones, and it's easy to see why. She cuddles and strokes them and makes them feel loved, talking sweetly to them, just like she used to do to me.

Sometimes at night I hear them moving. They whisper like children, then drag themselves across the lawn. Every day I find stones in my shoes, and it doesn't happen by accident. They want me out of here, I can tell, but I won't go without a fight. If they want her, it'll be over my dead body.

Jacobs lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio.

Thursday, November 22

Toast, parts I and II

by Simon Stratton

Part I

He crawled a little closer, not believing his luck. Out here, in the remotest of places, there was a man sitting quietly in a foldaway deckchair and enjoying a glass of iced lemonade. He was watching him approach, wearing bright Hawaiian shorts and a loose canvas shirt, only buttoned once.

'Hello.' He said tentatively.

The man didn't reply, but watched him rise shakily from his knees and try to make himself presentable by brushing off sand and grit.

'Can you help me? I've been out here for days.'

There was still no reply, but abruptly, the man in Hawaiian shorts took a long, hard swig at the lemonade that made the wanderer want to jump forward and grab it out of his hand. He held back, just.

'Please, at least give me some of the drink, I have had no water out here, only a brackish pool earlier, and what I have managed to squeeze out of frogs and lizards. I need something to drink, please.'

He stumbled forward and would be crying with joy to find someone, but there was not enough moisture left in him. The man in the Hawaiian shorts jangled his glass, which now contained only ice cubes and a tint of yellow. How the wanderer longed to suck on one of those ice cubes. The man continued to stare at the sunburnt form in front of him and then suddenly stood up.

The wanderer was just saying 'Plea…' but that motion was enough to trigger him into making a dive forward for the glass. Like an experienced matador, the man in Hawaiian shorts stepped smoothly out of the way, holding the glass high, and simultaneously collapsing the deckchair with his other hand, whipping it around like a cloak. The wanderer collapsed into the dust, wheezing.

A truck full of Mexican farmers, out in the desert looking for a lost dog, pause in their search, when they noticed in the distance an emaciated white man alternate between beating the hell out of a large man-shaped acacia cactus and sucking thirstily on a pile of yellow dried gopher droppings.

Part II

The wanderer was surrounded by Mexicans, talking away furiously in Spanish and gesturing wildly, none of which he could understand. He raised his hand hesitantly.

'Um, excuse me?' He said. The talking slowly died down.

'Would anyone like some dog?' He queried, pulling a half eaten mongrel terrier out of his tattered rucksack.

Simon Stratton
lives and works in Manchester, and enjoys his job as a professional strip-o-gram, specialising in wakes and barmitsvahs. You can also book him for hospital visits.

Tuesday, November 20

Falling Woman

by Helen Burke

She falls into my room,
so I fell into conversation with her (it was easy).
She was drinking water upside-down.
Here’s a nice kettle of fish, I thought.
“Don’t take the medication,” she said.
“Especially not the little green pills.”
She says she doesn’t need them. None of them – just cause
everything is falling. Her life, her tits, her bank-balance.
That’s how it starts she says –
your husband stops visiting, your kids lives turn to dust
and your food becomes a fire-engine.
Oh, they mash it up all right, but it’s still on fire when it goes
down your throat.
That and the goldfish they make you wear.
Stay alert, she warns me as she falls
into the jug of water left, (oh so carefully) for both of us.

Helen Burke has been writing and publishing poems for 25 years. She has just won the Sheffield Festival PoetStars Prize and second prize in Ilkley Lit. Fest performance, which she has won on two previous occasions. She had a show at the Edinburgh Festival this year which had a highly starred rating by the Scotsman. She has just completed an M.A. in Literature Studies at St. John's University in York.

Saturday, November 17

Cut the Red Wire

by Bob Clay

There are a lot of people who think we know no fear in this job. Take my word for it, that is equine brown stuff. The fear is like a bear trap, buried deep in the stomach, and tightly shut around your guts. If you don’t show it, it’s because you’ve blanked out your imagination. Imagination is a bad thing when you’re dealing with a bomb.

It’s the relay that scares me the most, more than the clock even. The relay has four sets of make/break contacts, all wired. These wires then disappear below the clock. Another four sets of three wires emerge from beneath the other side of the clock to the four detonators, buried deep in semtex.

Each det has three wires instead of two; so our bomb maker has put in another, possibly a dummy, probably a make circuit for the relay. If I cut it, the relay drops out, one of the four contacts makes, big bang, and oblivion.

There are four batteries, all wired, he loves the number four does this fellah, and the clock is extra special too. It’s a cheap thing, and he’s painted red lines on it to tell me how close I am to being a dripping red smear on the ceiling. Right now… perhaps thirty seconds.

I can’t obey rule one (don’t mess with it) because there are people on the floors above me. I can’t clamp or block the relay contacts, he’s resin glued a perspex cover and there’s no time to cut through it. I can’t get to the power connectors on the relay coil, they’re underneath, and I can’t yank the dets out because the whole thing is fitted into a box with the precision of a Harrison clock. It’s not a high tech bomb, but it’s a good one. The way a bad nightmare is good because you wake up from it. Except this nightmare has a cheap tick, and the ticks are running out.

So do I cut the red wire ? … Well, he’s thought of that old cliché too, because in the bowl of spaghetti that is this bomb’s wiring, all the bloody wires are red.

Bob Clay is an ex Merchant Navy / GCHQ / general layabout now living in Cornwall and looking after computers in a comprehensive school.

Thursday, November 15

matthew thirteen

by Mel George

The fingers
of my left hand
are calloused and numb.
Every guitar string
pressed against them
raises their defense;
each time
more self-protective,
nothing hurts anymore.

I can't feel with them.

You tell me
my heart
grows the same
with every disappointment
pressed against it.
Come then
and strip it down,
it can hurt

and feel again.

Mel George is an underqualified psychologist and an overqualified administrator. She is not a poet. If you are, you can raise the standard of Pygmy Giant poetry by sending some in.

Wednesday, November 14

A Small Cheer

Readers, writers, accidental visitors, hello!

A giant thank you to all of you for having got The Pygmy Giant off the ground.

With the number of submissions we have received, we hope to be able to put something up every other day from now on until... well, until we get enough submissions to publish something daily. Or until we come up with another idea.

We're still looking for some more poetry and non-fiction in particular at the moment, though do keep sending in your fiction too.

I know this is a place for British writing, but please don't be all British and reserved about leaving comments. It's the only way we'll learn, as my mother might have said, and this is the first audience these pieces have got. I reckon the authors would like to know how they are being received.

So keep sending in your wonderful small-on-the-outside, giant-on-the-inside pieces. Here's to you for making it happen. Hurrah!


Tuesday, November 13

Plan for a Phone Call

by Emily McPhillips

Hair like fondant icing dripping in the heat, it sticks to her face. Eyes like plumped pillows, discomforting eyes, eyes quietly bulging heavy with tears. She sits by the phone with a sheet of lined paper; she has written a list of twelve topics, they include: university course, the new Robert Redford movie, the name James underlined.

The surface she sits on is a glazed kitchen worktop of marble. The kitchen units are dark mahogany brown, their handles are unfashionable. Her whole body is elevated, her legs tight together and the phone held in her left hand; she nurses it against her ear, her chin against her knee, and her right hand clutched over her legs so tight together. She is making herself feel very small. She dials the number as though she is sure it won't ring; the phone rings and the handset fills her mouth; it is tasteless, like forgotten chewing gum. The phone rings and the words on the sheet of lined paper look like severe sounding notes played on an organ. The sound of the organ filters into the handset, she gets scared; she can't play any musical instruments and she hangs up the phone.

Her cheeks are a shade of stinging red, of cherry blossom in a Japanese garden. She looks very beautiful in the dimly lit light. She sits by the phone like a jilted lover, and lets the shadows cast by the window blinds stripe her skin. Pink tissues surround her feet like soft flowers. She is as delicate as porcelain, and is admired by many as an acutely tuned porcelain doll. Her lips have dried under her lipstick and they crack at the edges. She tastes the copper like taste of old two-pence-pieces, and she is all too formidably aware of the stillness around her, the phone off the hook, and the dead drone emanating from the receiver resting slightly askew.

Emily McPhillips was born in 1985. She lives in Manchester. Take a look at her fanzine 'Ministering to a Lunatic' here.

Sunday, November 11

Home Town

by Helen Burke

This is his home town only because
he doesn’t know how to leave.
The way out involves time-tables.
He has trouble with them.
This is his home town.
This is where he cleans his teeth.
Like a bruise, he is not sure how he got here.
Just that he is here.
He offers strangers crisps.

He stands at train-stations
looking at maps.
Eyes as big as gob-stoppers.
“Skegness, it's so bracing,” the poster says.
He wonders where it is.
Once he went to Leeds but
he kept his eyes shut and so
the memory is blurred.
He has come to call for Peter.
Peter is his mentor, rides ladies’ bikes
and thinks he’s from the moon.

We ask him where he’s from, he says
a hospital in Middlesborough.
His mother had him there because of Aunty Sadie
and her breeding dogs like.
He’s never known his dad.
It seemed the best for all concerned.
Though sometimes on his birthday
he wonders if he’s dead.

This is his home town, his I’m–in chains
He used to be a window- cleaner, but
didn’t like heights.
He could only do the bottom ones and people
can be funny. Now
he works at the bookies but has never seen a horse.
He stands and watches trains.
Watches people boarding them
and offers strangers crisps.

Helen Burke has been writing and publishing poems for 25 years. She has just won the Sheffield Festival PoetStars Prize and second prize in Ilkley Lit. Fest performance, which she has won on two previous occasions. She had a show at the Edinburgh Festival this year which had a highly starred rating by the Scotsman. She has just completed an M.A. in Literature Studies at St. John's University in York.

Thursday, November 8

Not a Boat Story

by Simon Stratton

As the boat glided across the lake in exactly the same way a bowling ball wouldn't, she offered him a small hand that was as gentle and steady, as a pneumatic drill was hard and shaky.

'Jason.' She murmured, and the name drifted across and nibbled at his ear, in the complete opposite way a shark rips pieces out of an unsuspecting surfer.

'Yes, my dear?' Her eyes were deep, if up were down, they'd be mountains. But as it isn't, they weren't. 'God,' he thought, 'her eyes are deep.' They were the depth of a million teaspoons.

'Would you… would you call me Steve?' Her diminutive voice quavered and small tears had gathered in the corners of her eyes, as crisp and clean as a sewage pipe after a flush was dirty. He held his gaze as steady, and thought, 'Yes,' his stomach rumbled, not at all like an otter mewls, 'teaspoons.'

'I love you…' he paused, '…Steve.'

'Oh!' She said. And across from his bristling moustache, her face lit up, in exactly the same way an ex-smoker can't.

A struggling writer, Simon Stratton has won awards for:
- The best use of the letter 'r' in a sentence
- Translating David Beckham's Autobiographies into Hutonti (the language of a minor African tribe (pop. 62)).

Saturday, November 3

by Bob Jacobs

My wife can travel faster than light. She thinks it's funny. Yesterday I got up from the sofa and she asked where I was going. "Going for a pee," I said. Halfway up the stairs I saw the tell-tale flicker, a brief shimmer in the air. You have to know what you're looking for or you'd never notice. By the time I reached the toilet the door was locked and she was in there, laughing secretively.

I've never complained about her putting on weight. Over the years she tried every diet going and I gave her every encouragement, but each Christmas she'd be heavier than the one before. I told her that I loved her and I meant it, but at almost twenty stone she didn't love herself and couldn't believe that I did either. She could hardly walk and would barely fit through the door frame.

One night, after she'd gone to bed, she came down without me noticing and caught me on She cried all night. I said I was sorry and tried to reassure her, but I ended up in the spare room. The next day she joined Weight Watchers, the following week she signed up at the gym. She started a five-veg-a-day thing, then took up jogging, and she just got faster and faster.

This morning I knew something was up. The air didn't stop shimmering all the time I was eating my cornflakes. She appeared in front of me and said, "I'm leaving you." I asked why and she said she was bored and wanted to make a fresh start somewhere else. When I asked her where she was going she said, "Gliese 581 c. It's a planet."

I looked it up on Wikipedia while she packed her stuff. "But it's over twenty light years away," I told her. She said she thought she could make it in a few hours if she pushed herself. The last time I saw her she wore a heat resistant suit, with a polo neck jumper underneath, and a sealed glass helmet. She carried an oxygen cylinder, five portions of veg and some clean underwear. The air shimmered, the clouds shuddered, and that was it. She was gone.

After she left I went back on, but as I browsed the pictures it was my wife I was thinking of.

Bob Jacobs lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio.

Tuesday, October 30

Infantry Game

by Bob Clay

They have a saying in the army, probably the same in all the services, whenever things go bad, you console yourselves with the words; “It’s all a game anyway.”

I remember my Dad, a World War 2 infantry veteran, who never talked about the war much, suddenly got inspired to tell me a story. We were watching a news program from the Falklands war. A news reporter stood on some windswept hill, his monologue suddenly interrupted by the scream of an incoming shell fired from far below. The camera dropped, a blur of grass and rock tumbling past. The reporter could be heard cursing as he tried to fit himself into any hole in the ground. “Now you’re getting it,” said my Dad, very quietly. “Now you know what it feels like, now you’re beginning to understand what it’s really about.”

Then he turned to me and told me this story about World War 2. In some forgotten wood in Italy his platoon were dug into slit trenches, hastily dug slots in the ground, but deep enough to give a soldier some cover. There was no talk as they were all exhausted. They were dirty, frightened, hungry and deep to the bone tired. Then the mortar fire started.

“You have to understand about mortars,” said my Dad, a little venom in his voice. “The bloody things fire at a very high angle, so when the shell comes down, its path is almost vertical.” In the imagination of those soldiers, the shell would drop straight into the slit trench with them. The probability might have been small, but a soldier’s thoughts don’t often follow the rules of probability.

So there they were, huddled in those tight coffin sized little holes, hands on ears and faces buried in the freshly turned soil. All around them cataclysmic bangs rent the air, split trees, hurled dirt and rocks into the sky. “It only lasted a few minutes,” he explained. “But that was a very long few minutes.”

The shelling stopped, and then came that strange silence. A blanket silence. A stunning silence, unlikely as that description sounds. Ears have retreated from the cacophony of explosive noise, birds and insects have fled this scene of human folly, even the constant backdrop of distant gunfire had faded.

The soldiers savoured this for a few minutes, spitting dirt out of their mouths, and checking themselves for injury. Suddenly a voice shouted out of one of the trenches, “If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn't have fucking joined.”

A mad cackle of laughter ran across all the trenches, it became almost hysterical, even a few returning birds chirped in, perhaps they had a sense of humour too. It was an old joke, but this was exactly the right time to tell it.

My Dad laughed again as he thought about it, all those years before. “The thing is,” he told me. “If you can laugh, you’re still alive. It’s all a game anyway.”

Bob Clay is an Ex Merchant Navy / GCHQ / General layabout now living in Cornwall and looking after computers in a comprehensive school.

Friday, October 19

some pygmy guidelines

1. Please send your work within the text of your email message (we won't open attachments in this day and age), along with a one-line biography. We'll link to your own webpage if you want.

2. The word limit is 800 words or less. Even shorter works are often even better, and capture the Pygmy Giant ethos!

3. Please send no more than THREE pieces of work per email. Otherwise it will take ages to get back to you and everybody else. You can always send some more along another time.

4. We'll accept flash fiction, flash non-fiction, poetry, rhyming prose, or whatever other random form of expression you can fit within the word limit.

5. If it's vulgar, racist, blasphemous or unecessarily lewd, we're not gonna publish it, mate.

6. There are no set topics unless we say so. Use your imagination. However, we do have a fondess for the British sense of humour and observations about life on our strange little island.

7. If it's been published anywhere before, please don't send it, we don't want to get into copywrite trouble. The Pygmy Giant will not itself claim copywrite of your pieces (we are not paying you, after all), but if we publish one of your pieces and it later gets published somewhere else, it would be nice if you would add a footnote saying "first published in The Pygmy Giant", or some such. Our web address would be lovely too. Thanks.

8. Leaving comments. Part of the reason The Pygmy Giant has been set up as a blog is so that readers can easily comment and give feedback or contructive criticism on each piece. Note the word constructive. Don't slam anything unless you have a suggestion about how to improve it! Let's maintain some good manners.

9. Bring your closet-writer friends!


Please send whatever you've written to:

And have a look at the submission guidelines first so we don't have to email you back cos you forgot your biography, or sent us a novel, or insulted our families.

We will get back to you as soon as posssible, which at the moment means within about two weeks.