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 canapĂ©s 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.