Well... That's it.
The Pygmy Giant is dead; long live The Pygmy Giant - now at
Tomorrow our new and prettier incarnation will be sporting the winning piece from our birthday competition.
Watch that space.
Goodbye from here. Hello from there. And thank you for a very fun first year.
Wednesday, October 29
Well... That's it.
Monday, October 27
by Bob Clay
"Turn right now."
Who is this silly tart in that Sat Nav box that keeps giving me orders ? "I'll turn when I'm good and ready, and not before." Hah, that's telling her.
"You have missed your turning, stop and do a U turn as soon as possible."
"I'll bloody well do as I please and you won't have any say in it. I don't take orders, especially from bossy women. Up yours." Oh yes, I was starting to enjoy this.
"You have deviated from your route, you should do an immediate U turn."
"I deviated cos I'm a deviant, I'm free, I don't take orders from anybody, especially a stupid bloody bint who lives in a small box. I make my own decisions and go where I please, something a being who lives in the tight confined world of a printed circuit board could know nothing about." I glanced at the Sat Nav smugly, challenging it to defy me.
"You should stop immediately. STOP NOW!"
I laughed, loud and hard, but I should have listened, because while I had been talking to the bitch, a petrol tanker had suddenly braked to a halt in front of me. Just before I hit it, I'm sure I heard her laugh back.
Bob Clay lives in Cornwall.
Friday, October 24
by Yaja Kindermann
“I’m going to leave that cling film on.”
“Why? Winter’s over. It makes your window look dirty.”
“No it doesn’t.The sun makes it look like ice.”
“You’re mad, mad and cheap.”
“No I’m not. I’m a writer. Even that orange is a fiery planet to me.”
“And me? What am I?”
“My inspiration of course!”
“I love you.”
Yaja Kindermann is from Herefordshire.
Wednesday, October 22
Her back curved in a C with age, she bends over and scratches. Behind her, a queue of people line up and wait. I just want to go home, but the unstamped letter in my hand prevents me. The air in the Post Office is thick with sweat, stifled by the smell of stale deodorant. I watch as a wisp of grey hair falls from her bun and her brow furrows. She peers up at the sales clerk and orders four more. Total jackpot: six million.
The people in the queue shuffle their feet and sigh collectively.
Her hand trembles as she pays with a crisp ten pound note. She receives no change. Using a yellowed fingernail she scratches again, discarding each card on the floor in turn. One of these days she will win back all the sacrifices she gave throughout her life. She will win back her lost years and her forgotten home. But not today. The last card falls from her fingers and she moves on. Pocketing her hope with the remainder of her pension. Saved for a day much rainier that this one.
The queue shuffles forward and forgets her.
Aimee has recently had a short story published by the small publishing house 'The Time Travel Opportunists' and lives in Derby where she is currently working on her first novel.
Monday, October 20
by Richard Barrett
this first line came to me waiting for the bus in Eccles,
opposite the wetherspoons
(the idea for the rest of the poem fell into place pretty
(although I wasn't to pick up a pen again for three days
(and only then after discussing the idea with my mate
(taking his bafflement as a sign of encouragement I
I worked very hard on this line
this line too also took a lot of effort
(I couldn't make my mind up about it
(I read it and reread it several times, before deciding
it was okay)
I worked very hard on this line
(although really it was just an earlier line which i'd
I worked less hard on this line
(I thought I'd ask someone at work for some input
(then I decided I wouldn't)
showing the finished poem to a few people
here and there
the consensus seemed to be
it isn't so much a poem
more just a list of
Richard Barrett likes to listen to The Fall and drink Stella Artois. His blog can be found here.
Just a lil reminder about the birthday competition/party game due in at the end of the month...
Non-fiction, something to do with birthdays, by October 29th. The original post is here.
"The first thing ever published here was a splendid piece of short non-fiction by Bob Clay. I think it would be fitting, therefore, if the first thing to be published over on our new site, on our birthday, was another piece of short non-fiction. So - you've got until October 29th to write and send us something, and the pick of the bunch will be the birthday piece. And just to make this a little more fun, it has to have something to do with birthdays, and be under 800 words as usual. Go to it!"
Thursday, October 16
by Sally Cook
'Why did you do that?' you are saying. Actually, saying probably isn't an accurate enough description. I'd like to get this right. For the record. It's more like squealing, a sort of strangled squealing. Your face is red. You are practically snorting with disbelief.
'Why did you do that?'
I am calm. I am holding the mop, head down, in my right hand, arm extended to the side, legs crossed at the ankle, like a cabaret dancer about to perform a routine with a cane. Where's my top hat? I don't have a top hat. Or even a cane. I wish I did have a top hat, I think. It might lend the occasion a sense of ceremony.
On the floor at our feet, between us, surrounded by the shiny wet kitchen tiles, is your open laptop. Your laptop is made of white plastic. Your laptop is awash with dirty water. It is standing in a small grey puddle. There are particles of dirt and gravel and bits of food and hair that were trapped in the mop on the keyboard. It looks a bit like the beach when the tide goes out, not pretty like sand and shells and seaweed, but filthy like nappies and plastic beer can things and bits of polystyrene. For a moment there is no sound, and we both gaze at the computer, which sits there, inanimate and sopping, an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, really. I feel sorry for the computer. Sorry, computer, I think.
Then there is a rattle and a clap and a miaow and Nellie, our one-eyed cat, appears from between your legs. She winds herself proudly in slinky figure-of-eights, around your legs, the laptop, and my legs, loving us, purring loudly, oblivious. She doesn't seem to find it odd that there is a wet laptop on the kitchen floor. She loves the wet laptop with as much devotion as she loves us. Man, woman, wet computer: all are equal in Nellie's eyes. Eye. She leaves through the door behind me, stalking off, tail in the air, to lie on her woolly cat bed over the radiator in the hall. I have tried to learn dignity from Nellie. She is very dignified. There are small, wet cat footprints on the floor in circles around you, me, and your laptop.
I mopped your laptop. I mopped it vigorously. I mopped it really thoroughly and hard; so hard that the screen fizzled and went dark. I mopped up the email that came this afternoon, that email about thank you for the flowers, they are beautiful. I wonder what kind of flowers they are. I wonder if they are gerberas, because I like gerberas and you don't know many other kinds of flowers. I wonder where you bought them. I pass the mop handle from hand to hand, a bit like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. I whistle a couple of bars of Singing in the Rain and tap one of my feet experimentally.
You stop doing nothing and start moving, crouching, picking up the laptop, cradling it like an injured child, setting it gently on the kitchen table, dripping grey liquid everywhere in dot-dash trails, like blood. You dab at the laptop with a tea towel, and the room smells like disinfectant and stagnant water. You're making a low, moaning sound. I shake my head, sadly. I'm no expert, but even to me, the prognosis doesn't look good.
You are pressing the 'on' button again and again. Holding it down for a long time. Holding it down for a short time. Pressing it hard. Pressing it gently. Nothing is happening. The screen is blank. You look at me, and there are tears in your eyes. Your face is shiny. 'It's wet,' I say. 'It won't work because it's wet.'
'I know it's fucking wet, you mad bitch. For fuck's sake, why did you do it?' You ask in your new strangled voice. It's really unattractive, that voice, I think.
I have my answer prepared. 'I want you to leave,' I say. I am still calm. I try to imagine what it would be like to have botox injections in your whole face. I have no expression. Like a balloon. I look at you levelly, and the penny drops.
The confusion in your eyes is replaced by sudden comprehension, which is replaced by panic, which is replaced by fear. The whole gamut of guilty emotions, one after the other, like a kaleidoscope, or still-frame photography of clouds moving across the sky. Obvious as a written confession. Or CCTV footage.
Or, a secret folder of love letters in your email account, that you carelessly left logged in when you went to work, early, and in a hurry. Presumably, to order the flowers.
Sally Cook has a blog at ninechainstothemoon.blogspot.com and helps organise the manchester-based reading night there's no point in not being friends with someone if you want to be friends with them.
Monday, October 13
by Pat Tiger
I sit decked in stripes – yellow, blue, green;
a radio plays Elton’s Healng Hands.
Unscrewing the flask I think about
how you always asked me to do this.
I do it automatically now – remembering
that your sandwiches were the best
and the serviette you always included
made things so fine …
Pat Tiger writes short stories and poetry.
Thursday, October 9
by Emily McPhillips
How you were when we met was never a problem.
I loved you for it.
Your faults were not imperfections to me. They were like the freckles on your nose that came out in the summer. They were mostly hidden, but I knew that they were there. If I looked closely enough I could always find them, but they had charm about them now, they belonged to you, and you being you was an excuse for many things.
I wish I had enjoyed you more. I wish I had licked your every pore just because you were mine, and I could.
I felt like I had found a new planet when I had met you, that I would never be able to find again; it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. It was my secret and it was exciting. The night sky looked more active than ever. Daylight didn't exist for the first few months I knew you. Romance works better at night. We would talk until daybreak.
I haven't heard your voice in over three months. I worry that my memory will fail, and I'll create an image of you that never existed. I wonder if I got so used to you that you began to not exist at all. I am pawing at my skin, I am pretending my hands are yours; I am trying to remember the exact way you held me.
I can't recreate any of this on my own.
I am thinking of placing an ad in the paper. I am looking for a substitute love. I am writing my advert, and I am throwing it in the bin before I read it over. I am still in love. And I am joining your freckles together like a dot-to-dot.
I am hoping that joining your freckles together will translate into a plan, and this plan will make everything make sense again. Your freckles will tell me what the problem is, and they’ll teach me how to fix it, because some part of you must be feeling as lost as I am. I can't remember the pattern of your freckles. I can't remember the last thing you said to me. All I can remember are feelings, giant feelings that have eaten up everything else about you.
I am in bed and I am looking out of my window. The sky is coal black. My eyes are fuschia red.
On my bedroom ceiling our relationship plays out like a silent movie. It is a love story that follows all the simple ideas of other love stories. I watch it like I am watching a foreign film without subtitles, vaguely understanding it, but feeling like I am not completely in on what is happening. This doesn't feel like this is my love story anymore, this feels like something completely different to that. I am wondering when did something so simple become so complicated.
I feel quiet and sad. I imagine I feel like how one of those cat ornaments whose head bobs up and down without really wanting to might feel. I would like things to stay still for a little while, just to give me enough time to feel steady about things again; but things are whizzing past me in speeds that are like light-years, as I begin to try to work my way backwards to the things I used to know.
Emily McPhillips blogs here
Monday, October 6
by Fiona Sinclair
Illuminated photographs of lily ponds
invite us to drown our sorrows.
A rolling frieze of old masters manifests
then dissolves like hallucinations.
This is a waiting room for patients
whose affliction has turned them inside out.
Despite the walls attempts at tranquillity
our symptoms like unruly pets will not be house
Economy of space means that comfy seats
are placed uncomfortably close.
Visitors know madness isn't contagious
but even the outpatients can be unpredictable.
The woman's bulk is not loss of control
but a massing of strength.
She is painted in colours that nature warns
are dangerous, aggravated by a comedy hat.
In her urgency to organise her weekly medication,
she overwhelms a small table, loudly tabulating her
The elegant man, dressed to confuse, is betrayed
by the querulous monologue into his phone.
Suddenly, he demands more than
silent agreement from his listener,
instinctively half turning his body in
a semi observed cue for privacy,
he blatantly extorts loyalty with a clichéd phrase
that is an implicit threat to them both.
I marvel how, beneath the rubble of his personality,
he can still estimate his worth high enough
to expect such extended credit.
Friday, October 3
by Avis Hickman-Gibb
I am no longer of substance. Now I float through the days like gossamer. Once I connected in this world; I laughed and cried; had joys and sorrows. I cast a shadow when the sun shone my way. Lived my life amongst the minutiae of every day. When my children called me Mother I cared for them, and performed all their small personal tasks - as mothers do.
When the wind swept through my life I presented an impediment to its flow. But in recent years, I have felt a change of direction in this existence. I no longer have an umbra of substance. I am a pale copy of what I once was. Every day I slip further toward transparency. My purpose is depleted; my chicks all gone. I wait for a second lease; wait for the next generation to begin. To give my life substance again.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter. I no longer feel of matter.
Avis Hickman-Gibb lives in Suffolk with her husband, one son and two cats. She’s had stories in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, The Pygmy Giant, BackhandStories, Boston Literary Magazine, Short Humour, The Ranfurly Review StaticMovement, Microhorror, Bewildering Stories & The Shine Journal.
She’s currently working on a book of short stories and a novel but is addicted to writing flash fiction.
Wednesday, October 1
Greetings, you talented bunch. And you, you readers of impeccably good taste.
As has become tradition, I would like to welcome you to a new month.
I quite like October.
Anyway, October is, for The Pygmy Giant, a month of medium-large significance. Anybody know why? Come on, hands up. Oh, sit down. Anybody else know? Put those pogs away. No?
Yes! That's right. October marks The Pygmy Giant's first birthday!
Can you believe it, hasn't he grown, I remember when he was this big, yadda yadda yadda. But yes, it's true. October 30th was the date of our first publication, and I'm getting nostalgic just thinking about it.
Two things are happening to mark this auspicious day.
Firstly: We are moving house. Don't worry, we're going to a better place. We'll be here for one more month and then on October 30th will make the move to a larger and better decorated home at Wordpress. All the current contents will be coming with, so your work is not going to disappear into the ether of the interweb.
Secondly: There will be a party game. The first thing ever published here was a splendid piece of short non-fiction by Bob Clay. I think it would be fitting, therefore, if the first thing to be published over on our new site, on our birthday, was another piece of short non-fiction. So - you've got a month to write and send me something, and the pick of the bunch will be the birthday piece. And just to make this a little more fun, it has to have something to do with birthdays, and be under 800 words as usual. Go to it!
So enjoy October - there's lots of good stuff in store; I know because I read your emails. I sometimes read them too slowly. Apologies for that. Oh and while you're here, please have another look over the submissions guidelines, because they have changed ever so slightly, mainly to stop the inbox getting so clogged.
Thanks as ever, your imaginary friend,
PS if you didn't read Jenn's rather nice article about the online lit scene at Vulpes Libris, here it is.
Monday, September 29
by Leah Armstead
You shrug off conversation as if it's a fussy coat
too tight around your chest, hampering breath.
It's easy to see your mouth as a sliver of moon
hidden by clouds that filter out brightness.
In perpetual silence you've found a way
to fade from focus, to receive vague notice.
They call you a loner, but I've been with you
alone, heard your wit and insight, know that
your silence in a crowd is as necessary
as stone walls that keep a garden intact.
Leah Armstead lives in Aberystwyth and has had poems published in Ragged Raven, Leaf Books, Recusant, and Pipeworks among others.
Saturday, September 27
by Yaja Kindermann
At first it’s quite innocent.
But it soon becomes very sordid – very, very sordid, and it all begins with a carrot.
You think that what you’re doing is okay; that every woman does it – at some point. That it’s just normal behaviour. But you’re wrong and you know it.
You’re just deceiving yourself.
And when you feel guilty enough, and dirty enough, you switch the CD player off and turn the volume up on the kid’s T.V. programmes instead – for comfort – for vindication whilst you’re doing it.
If it happens on a Sunday, there’s no more ‘Steve Wright’s Love Songs’ during the session – oh no. You feel too guilty. So you switch on ‘The Country File’ programme instead and mute it because if you can’t hear them, they can’t see you.
The carrot soon progresses to a cucumber but it’s only when you dip the end in low-fat salad cream, that you know you’re really finished. Soon, what’s left of the French-bread ‘sandwich’ and curled up vol-au-vaunts from the day before is history – kids stuff. Ten more minutes and you’ll be deep frying a rich tea biscuit and pouring custard over it that hey, you’d made up without even knowing.
You curse the manufacturers of crisps for making them too ‘sharp’ then realise with fraying innocence that if you weren’t cramming two twenty-eight gram bags in each cheek, perhaps they could be forgiven. And all the while you’re blaming the carrot that had been left on the chopping board since yesterday. The carrot that made you do it, the carrot that’s making you think, ‘What happened? Where did I go wrong?’
Things were going so well when you first got up and began focusing on the day ahead. But the thought soon leaves you because there’s still a half eaten terrine of pate to get through to help you forget. You suddenly remember an actor once saying that the best way to avoid over-eating is to watch yourself doing it in the nude. Well more fool him. Clothes only restrict your ever expanding stomach.
And eating standing up doesn’t count apparently. So you try your best to rise from the counter, but your stomach’s so full, you’re doubled over and your size ten figure now resembles one of those pregnant models on the cover of a magazine.
Then things get really sordid.
Stuff you’ve dropped on the kitchen lino during the savage attack on a packet of frozen pastry suddenly looks very appetising. And isn’t that a strip of charred potato hanging off the edge of the chiller compartment? Without thinking, you hoist yourself up to it and catch sight of yourself on the steel flap, but as you snatch the potato with your teeth, the only thing that manages to pass between your lips is a painful groan.
What could be jam, jelly or juice is dripping off your chin. Your hair is littered with cake, bread and other suspicious looking crumbs and there are strands of chive poking out from in between every second tooth. You can’t swear on it, but something that looks like marmite is smeared across your face. You should feel terribly guilty, but instead the only thing you’re wondering is whether or not eating frozen chips could kill you.
And all because of a carrot.
Supplies are getting thin so you fall back onto your arse and survey what’s left of the weekly shop. You stare blankly at one egg, some left over ‘dip’, and a piece of broccoli cowering in the corner of the salad tray. It’s amazing how quickly your imagination can outstrip anything Jamie Oliver could cook up.
As you struggle to your feet, your stomach suddenly feels a lot better after the little sit down, and you eye up a bag of flour and bottle of olive oil on the side as if you were a sex maniac.
You spy a raisin on the floor and your mouth drools. You must keep going. If you stop now, you’ll realise that you’re still wearing your dressing-gown and haven’t even made it to mid-day. But you know that tomorrow will be different. You know that tomorrow you’ll be good. So you turn the frying pan on again, reach for the broccoli and give yourself a pat on the back for looking to the future.
Yaja Kindermann is from Herefordshire.
Wednesday, September 24
by Nick Allen
Elizabeth draws a card, looks concerned.
“How old is your daughter?”
“Seven,” says the young woman.
“Listen, you must be sure she can swim before her ninth birthday. Do you understand?”
The young woman pushes £30 into Elizabeth’s hand, rushing to leave.
Elizabeth smiles. That line always works.
Nick Allen is a mental health nurse living and working in Manchester. He is a member of a local creative writing group and also participates in an online writers group.
Monday, September 22
by Oonah V Joslin
‘and then the clock struck midnight and the pumpkin coach became just a pumpkin and the mice, just mice and all her lovely clothes turned to rags as she fled the castle,’
‘except for one glass slipper…’ intoned Peggy sleepily.
‘I’ll read you the rest tomorrow night. Now be a good girl and go to sleep.’
Peggy turned over and imagined midnight magic.
At New Year when she was eight, her mother put her to bed a bit later than usual but staying up so late had made her cross and she argued to stay up later still – ‘til midnight. Her mother said it was only one day to the next so why bother? She might not stay up herself. Midnight would come and go. One minute to…the hour…one minute past, same difference. There was no magic in it. And she ushered her up stairs.
Peggy longed to stay awake until midnight and she tried. She tried. To see that single moment when darkness must surely be darker still, and ghosts could come out of hiding. But she was always so sleepy and watching the clock, now she could tell the time, only soothed her with its tick-tock lullaby and her eyes would shut of their own accord and that magical moment would be lost.
On her tenth birthday, Peggy forced herself to sit awake on her bed. She watched the clock for a few minutes to midnight. Then she slipped out into the summer garden wearing only her nightgown and slippers to see what kind of creature midnight was; and whether things would change.
From the darkness of the hedge, shiny eyes peered out. Peggy stood very still, arms held close about her shivering body. The eyes darted away followed by a stiff tail. Moments later, something else moved across the stones – a toad, perhaps. What if there was a rat? A sudden breeze ruffled the hedge and made a shushing noise like a giant’s hand sweeping across its leaves. Next door’s cats yowled and scrammed and screeched and made her jump. The sound of grunting over by the flower pots drew her gaze. A hedgehog was snuffling for worms. A caravan of snails climbed up brickwork, leaving a moonlight trail. Stars glinted, clouds scudded and the moon shone blue and wide-eyed. Jupiter sparkled brighter than any other point in the sky. Peggy knew about Jupiter. Teacher said Jupiter had a day that lasted only ten hours so Peggy wondered whether it was midnight there too but she couldn’t figure it out. None of them, the animals, plants, stars, seemed to take much notice of the hour. It might have been just any time.
Perhaps mother was right and midnight’s only midnight only by our clocks, - like the big one on the church steeple. But grown-ups like to measure things and then they pretend the things they measure are real, when it’s the Sun and Moon and animals that are real.
And now today was tomorrow and nothing had really happened at midnight. In fact Peggy just wanted to get back to her warm bed and go to sleep.
“Peggy, get in the house at once, you’ll catch your death! Don’t you know it’s after midnight? What are you doing out there anyway? One of these days, the bogey-man’ll get you!”
Bogey man! Adults could be so… silly.
Oonah V Joslin is a newly established writer living in Northumberland. For more information and links to her work, see www.oonahs.blogspot.com
Saturday, September 20
by Richard Barrett
forewarned, act surprised, bought for that
the card, half an hour ago when heard
a meeting or announcement soon, in all likelihood
applications finally paid off it'd seem, but
keep it to yourself, let him break the news
I'm shocked, I know, never thought he'd get it together
sufficiently to go, congratulations though
of course, have to be pleased for him, sad as well
but, anyway…good afternoon, can I take
your National Insurance number please?
HEO position, Oldham, Middleton area
just informed, couldn't be more shocked
maybe a month, you'll be taking us to the pub?!
oh aye! Look, he's going red! How happy is he?!
understandable – getting out of here! seriously
: well done, yeah – nice one…
…you okay? I think I might cry, I mean
my first boss, never before had a job, knew
nothing about rules of work or the office, he
taught me all that stuff, end of an era,
exactly! I agree! didn't want to say as much
for fear of…appearing sad? yeah, don't be so
soft – we'll all be thinking that
except her, maybe but, who'd want to be her?
about anyone – except herself, need to go home
I'll email you, wondering how to admit
Richard Barrett lives and works in Salford, enjoys the music of The Fall, and yesterday bought a biography of the writer Patrick Hamilton; what he's read of it so far has been 'quite good'.
Wednesday, September 17
by Crispin Best
There are six eggs in the pan. I fill the pan with cold water from the tap until the eggs are covered. I place the pan on the gas.
After two minutes, I remove an egg. This egg is chosen at random. I hold it. If you hold an egg up to the light, you can see the inside. I do not do this. This egg is cold. It is not cooked. I removed the egg too soon. The insides are clear where they should ideally be white. The yolk is feeble. This much I know.
I wait a further minute. I remove a second egg. This egg is also chosen at random. It is also not cooked. The insides are once again clear. The insides seem more viscous this time. I wonder if this is perhaps my imagination. For later reference, I give this egg a viscosity score of 6 out of 10, where I imagine the standard viscosity of an uncooked egg to be 5. I rough out a chart and write this score in a small pad that is sitting on the countertop near the toaster. I use a clicky pen. The pad says ‘recipes’ on the front cover. I ask the pad to forgive me.
I wait a further minute. I remove a third egg. This leaves three eggs in the pan. I am using a teaspoon to retrieve the eggs. Bear this in mind. This egg, which has been chosen at random, is also not cooked. There is some evidence of what-looks-like peripheral coagulation in this egg. All the same, I decide to give this egg the same viscosity score as the previous egg. I don’t deal in half marks. This egg is warm. I have touched the egg. I blow on my fingers to cool them where the egg stung me. With the fingers of my other hand, I click the pen.
I wait a further minute. I remove a fourth egg. It dries quite quickly. This egg is partly cooked and has been chosen at random. There is evidence of a reasonable amount of congealment. The yolk, however, still quivers in a small see-through pool. This is not ideal. Opacity is ideal for eggs. This much I know. The insides of the egg are extremely hot. They drip down the dark pink palm and fingers of my right hand, my egg-crushing hand.
I wait a further minute. I remove the fifth egg. I smile. I am confident. I swaddle the egg in a paper towel. My face is upside-down in the spoon. I lop the slender end of the egg off. This egg is cooked. The yolk is soft and penetrable and lies snug in the white. The egg’s shell is very hot. I am eager. I feel my head nodding on my shoulders. In my haste, I neglect to give this egg a viscosity score. I sprinkle salt on my toast soldiers, which is a secret of mine. I dip the soldiers in the egg. The yolk yields. I eat.
After finishing, I wait a further minute. I remove the sixth egg, which is the final egg. I place the egg on the chopping board. I turn off the gas. I swallow saliva and put my ear close to the hob. There is no sound, which is ideal. I pour the hot water from the pan down the plughole and place the pan in the sink. I examine the final egg. This egg is overcooked. The yolk is churned, its colour unimpressive. I smash the egg three times with a rolling pin. I wash my hands, roll down my shirtsleeves and fix my tie in the mirror. I set off for the big conference. I can do this. I know I can do this.
Crispin Best was born in 1983 and lives next door to the house in London that he grew up in.
Monday, September 15
by Rosie Sandler
The big wheel had been still for about half an hour when the lights went out in all the pods. It had happened again, then: he’d been forgotten. Dermot sat down on the bench in the middle and stared out. The lights of London spread before him like something he ought to care about. Instead, he was fighting a sudden urge to go to the toilet.
Dermot could recite a list of places in which he had been locked at closing time. They included Santa’s grotto in Hull, a train outside Inverness and a department store toilet in Liverpool; at least he’d been able to urinate in that one without worrying. He sighed and looked about him for a suitable receptacle. In the absence of anything better, he took a half-empty water bottle from his bag and aimed into it, splashing his shoes and the bottom of his trouser legs. He screwed the lid back on to the bottle, then wiped his shoes with a tissue, turned up his damp trousers and began to plan the time ahead.
He could easily pass an hour identifying landmarks by their illuminated silhouettes; Canary Wharf, with its flashing beacon, would be a good starting-point. Another hour could be spent finding ways to traverse the pod without touching the floor with his feet. He was emptying his pockets in search of a makeshift dinner, when the capsule lit up and the wheel crept back into motion.
'I’m so sorry about that!’ blustered the attendant when he reached ground level. ‘We’ve never left someone onboard before.’
‘You remembered about me?’
‘Of course. Well – one of my colleagues did.’
Dermot had gone from inconspicuous to memorable in a turn of the wheel. He stumbled home, hoping it would never happen again.
Rosie Sandler's stories have been published in 34th Parallel magazine, The Local Writer 2007 collection, and an anthology of flash fiction called Jealousy (published by slingink.co.uk). She has been shortlisted for competitions in the Essex Chronicle newspaper and Essentials magazine. You can read more of her work here.
Friday, September 12
by Pat Tiger
A’m sitting ‘ere in mi Blackpool deckchair
Flask an’ cream crackers tucked under mi feet.
A quick smoke fer now but maybe later
Some er that candy floss – just fer a treat.
‘Ave fetched mi wireless – can’t miss two thirty
A quid each way on that young day tripper.
If ‘am in wi luck at York then likely
I’ll pay fer a go on yon big dipper.
Seein’ as it’s warm a’ll tek off mi waistcoat
Can’t wait fer look on them young uns faces.
They’ll ‘ave a reyt laugh when a’m parading
Mi’ brand new yellow an’ red striped braces.
Off wi mi cap – now where’s mi clean ‘ankie?
I need it to stop mi getting sun stroke.
‘Ave thought about inventer er tissues
I reckon he must be a reyt daft bloke.
It’s folk such as ‘im that’s angling fer change
Sure as eggs is eggs he’d not be seen dead
Wi’ flimsy Kleenex, knotted in corners
Just try keeping one er them on yer ‘ed!!!
Pat Tiger writes short stories and poetry.
Wednesday, September 10
by Jennifer Walmsley
It knocks, banging away in my mind, the one question that has plagued me since yesterday, 'What if I fail?'
Sunday, September 7
by Leah Armstead
One face among
as a serpentine
a secret face,
as the night is
Lost poems mean
There is just seeing:
If only my gaze
could be met and
my name called out,
and to know that it
mattered, did not
as from a high altitude
leaving no doubts,
no question at all
that it should
or could be
anything other than
what it is.
Leah Armstead lives in Aberystwyth and has had poems published in Ragged Raven, Leaf Books, Recusant, and Pipeworks among others.
Friday, September 5
by Jenn Ashworth
All I know is that when I got to work there was something tapping behind the panel you have to take out if you want to clear a paper-jam, and the woman who answers the phone told me not to touch it. I knew it was the boss because her desk was empty.
I sat at my desk and tried to go on as usual. I make tables. I copy words from one document and retype them into a grid. You’re not allowed to cut and paste, and they can tell if you do it. They’ve rigged up the computers so they make the noise the computer on Family Fortunes makes when the contestants give the wrong answer.
I typed between the lines of the table until lunch. The tapping inside the photocopier grew louder. People ignored it, but they angled their bodies away from it whenever they had to use it.
Towards two, the tapping grew weaker. The last tap, was at 3.08. People are slacking off now. Three of the typists are making a massive rubber band ball. I am thinking about clocking out an hour early, but I’m not sure.
Jenn Ashworth is a compulsive liar and a collector of cacti.
Wednesday, September 3
by Joshua Seigal
Mr Garritty was a teacher of mine, a red-cheeked theologian
and a God-fearing man. He’d engage us in discourse in broad
Scottish brogue and traverse the arguments through
knowledge’s caves, helping us look up to see the sun.
He’d draw snaking diagrams in spiders on the board,
and pick at our bones for answers, one by one. Finding
fallacies like polyps on our nascent tongues he’s steer us back
onto reason’s path. He seemed to have an answer for everything:
He was studying at
on Thomas Aquinas, was familiar with
evolution as well as myth. He would sit
with me after hours in his study, chewing
over the twigs of Descartes and Derrida;
discussing whether or not God exists.
I have since found out that he became a priest.
I want to fire questions like bullets as he kneels in a pew,
to ask, as he crosses his heart with his kindly fingers,
and you believe a virgin gave birth to a child,
and that some beneficent teacher watches over us?
You mean to say that when we die we’re not dirt in the ground,
and that God splayed open the sea to let the mortals pass through?
I’ve since lost faith in reason.
Joshua Seigal studies philosophy at Univeristy College London. He is a featured poet at Poets' Letter Magazine.
Monday, September 1
[Welcome back. We've missed you. Here's something ridiculously British to start off September -Ed.]
by John Richie
Blue's red and Red's true blue. Me I'm White. Reg White, not to be confused with Reg Dwight who changed his name to Elton John and who is a good six inches shorter than I am. Not that that has anything remotely to do with anything, but it makes a good chat up line. Or so I like to delude myself, not that it has ever worked, other than with Gloria from down the chip-shop and by all accounts she's not too choosy. Red supports the Blues, Birmingham City that is, not Chelsea. And of course, Blue supports Red or at least licks his face when he passes out from too much lager, or whatever was on offer. Blue is a Red Setter, Red is a copper-knob from Wallsall, and I'm his mate.
I wouldn't be bothering you with all this but we are enjoying our fifteen minutes of fame. Well actually we are savouring our last thirty seconds, so I had better be quick.
It was last week that we were down the Post Office getting our Giros. Not Blue of course, he gets a pig's ear or some such from the abbatoir. But he comes along for the ride so to speak. Well there we all were, waiting in line, each minding his own business according to his lights. I was trying to see down the cleavage of the woman buying stamps, Red was doing his football pools and Blue was licking his balls.
Next minute, all hell breaks loose. These two lads in anoraks grab the handbag of the woman buying stamps and push her backwards over onto me. I miss a heaven sent opportunity when I grab her round the waist but we both go over anyway. Red reaches out to try and grab me and inadvertently clothes-lines the lad with the hand bag. As he goes down his foot catches Blue in the ribs and throws him right in the path of his mate who is making a run for it down the far side of our queue. He trips over Blue and goes head first into the door frame. That's him out of the picture. The other bloke is just trying to roll away from all the feet that are kicking him when Red drops on him from a great height. He kicked Blue and that is all the incentive Red needs for a quick bit of GBH. Blue, who thinks the whole thing is a game invented for his benefit, barks, growls and grabs bits of anorak which he chews on with enthusiasm. With the help of a couple of Army lads who were just out of training and keen to work off a bit of testosterone we soon had the The Artful Dodger and his mate looking decidedly worse for wear and threatening all and sundry with legal proceedings.
Well of course it was all for show. It turned out the pair of them had only been out of Borstal a week. The Magistrates gave them both six months and me and Red fifty quid each. We got our name in the local paper and Blue got his picture on the front page. The lady with the handbag gave us both a tenner and put Blue's behind the counter at the Butchers. Actually, that's not all she gave us, and I didn't even have to use me chat-up line.
John Richie writes for fun. Which is just as well as nobody will pay him.
Friday, August 15
by Fiona Sinclair
At first, she experimented with outlawed words,
whose pronouncement was God’s forbidden language,
until all the words became blunt.
Once she unleashed an exhilarating curse.
Her reckless aim proved a lucky shot, piercing
the heart of a stranger’s worst fear.
Yesterday, swollen with much rage, she
gave voice to Munch’s scream but learnt
that her rage has the power of hydric regrowth.
Now fantasies of cartoon violence
riot through her mind; whilst overlooking
your bad manners, she is hacking off your head.
Soon she will lose herself in the moral blind spot
of her fury where virtual violence will
no longer satisfy the secret pleasure of anger.
Then carrying her anger like a homemade bomb,
triggered at the slimmest provocation,
she will sacrifice her dignity in a public frenzy
more shocking than squatting in the street.
Wednesday, August 13
by Sarah Hilary
It only took a week from the day they moved in for Rosemary and Basil Woodruff to get nicknamed The Gastro Pods.
Vera at number twelve declared it, ‘Invasion of the ruddy body-snatchers,’ and everyone glowered when the pub door got painted with Farrow and Ball, a colour called Arsenic. ‘I’ll give them bloody arsenic,’ said Jacob Lovage.
Jacob was the village window-cleaner. Never mind he was knocking ninety and drunk from eight in the morning to nigh on midnight. ‘I’ve had this job since I was a nipper.’ It was the nips that bothered the Woodruffs. ‘Health and safety,’ said Basil, eyeing Jacob’s ladder with disquiet.
It was bad enough when they knocked through the nook. ‘Open plan!’ scoffed Primrose Sorrel. ‘Bother that! I want my quiet corner back.’ When they painted the bar in shades of heliotrope, the village elders had all sorts of a fit.
The final straw was when Basil started messing with the menu. ‘Fennel in the shepherd’s pie? Not on your nelly!’ Things’d been better in the old days, when Cicely was in the kitchen and you knew what was what even if you couldn’t taste it because of the pipe smoke.
Fact was, the Bull’s was the only pub in Chervil-on-the-Woad. Where else could they convene to thrash out issues like the closure of the post office or the banning of traffic in the high street?
Day eight of the invasion, Jacob Lovage scaled a barstool, spindly-legged steel affair. ‘Must’ve cost a mint,’ he reckoned of the refit. ‘Hurts my arse,’ he complained of the stool.
The ladies started arriving. ‘Evening, Primrose.’
‘What's on the menu today then?’
‘Chicory and dill soup, would you credit it.’
They wouldn’t have minded so much if the Woodruffs were buying from the villagers. ‘I’ve a back garden stuffed to the gennels with flax,’ moaned Myrtle Feverfew. ‘You and me both,’ said her sister, Marigold.
They fell silent when Rosemary came through from the kitchen in a Cath Kidston apron, carrying a casserole dish wreathed with steam. ‘Beef carpaccio with wild rocket and parmesan dumplings!'
‘I’ll give her rocket,’ Jacob muttered, ‘to the bloomin’ moon.’
‘Where’s the darts board?’ Peter Marsh enquired.
‘My husband’ll explain,’ said Rosemary.
Basil emerged from the kitchen with a lavender chef’s bandana around his head. Peter jerked a thumb at the newly-violet wall. ‘Darts board?’
‘Ah,’ said Basil sagely, ‘demographics said the way to go was mahjong.’
‘Mahjong. The tiles are in here,’ he produced a calico bag with a drawstring neck. ‘You’ve got your dragons and flowers, seasons and winds –’
‘That’ll be the chicory.’ Jacob barked a laugh.
‘You’re pulling my leg,’ said Peter. ‘No darts board? It’s called the Bull’s Eye, for god’s sake.'
‘Oh we’re changing that!’ Basil rattled the bag. ‘As of Monday, we’re The Cowslip.’
Jacob spat his pint and fell off the barstool, getting a nasty bruise on the way down.
‘Hold still,’ soothed Rosemary, ‘I’ll fetch the arnica.’
Thursday, August 7
by Rosie Sandler It’s neither grey nor quite black. It feels like grit rolling between my fingers, tastes of the ashes on my school-boyfriend’s tongue, the dust that is everywhere, seeping through our clothes and graining our hair. When I ask for water, they laugh, their throats full of this gravel and nothing to wash it down. Never enough to drink, they show me, miming the rain that doesn’t fall, the rivers that have deserted, leaving their banks to crumble. We start to walk again and as we trudge, I have a sudden sense that all the ground is treacherous, that the lines that knife it might gape suddenly. I lurch, clutch at my neighbour’s arm, and she pulls away, snapping at me from inside her headscarf. She has a baby. I see it now. It is too small, too quiet, a grey rag wrung out and draped against her chest. ‘I’m sorry,’ I tell her, and she nods at my tone. We have so many languages between us, but not one that works. The others have come to terms with our plight. They know the conflict is no longer between armies, but between the earth and the sky. There seems no likelihood of armistice. My feet are bleeding – the only liquid in this dry place. My shoes are shreds, and all my belongings paid my way across the border. We keep moving. Only when night forces our submission do our thoughts catch up. We have left so much behind. Rosie Sandler's stories have been published in 34th Parallel magazine, The Local Writer 2007 collection, The Pygmy Giant, and an anthology of flash fiction called Jealousy (published by slingink.co.uk). She has been shortlisted for competitions in the Essex Chronicle newspaper and Essentials magazine. You can read more of her work here.
by Rosie Sandler
It’s neither grey nor quite black. It feels like grit rolling between my fingers, tastes of the ashes on my school-boyfriend’s tongue, the dust that is everywhere, seeping through our clothes and graining our hair.
When I ask for water, they laugh, their throats full of this gravel and nothing to wash it down. Never enough to drink, they show me, miming the rain that doesn’t fall, the rivers that have deserted, leaving their banks to crumble.
We start to walk again and as we trudge, I have a sudden sense that all the ground is treacherous, that the lines that knife it might gape suddenly. I lurch, clutch at my neighbour’s arm, and she pulls away, snapping at me from inside her headscarf. She has a baby. I see it now. It is too small, too quiet, a grey rag wrung out and draped against her chest.
‘I’m sorry,’ I tell her, and she nods at my tone.
We have so many languages between us, but not one that works.
The others have come to terms with our plight. They know the conflict is no longer between armies, but between the earth and the sky. There seems no likelihood of armistice.
My feet are bleeding – the only liquid in this dry place. My shoes are shreds, and all my belongings paid my way across the border.
We keep moving. Only when night forces our submission do our thoughts catch up. We have left so much behind.
Rosie Sandler's stories have been published in 34th Parallel magazine, The Local Writer 2007 collection, The Pygmy Giant, and an anthology of flash fiction called Jealousy (published by slingink.co.uk). She has been shortlisted for competitions in the Essex Chronicle newspaper and Essentials magazine. You can read more of her work here.
Tuesday, August 5
Greetings, you giants in small clothing.
I would like to take the opportunity of this very rainy day to welcome you to August.
We've had so much good poetry and fiction in recently that I can only assure you it's going to be a great summer chez The Pygmy Giant. Dear writers, I've been greatly appreciating your combination of sharp humour and breath-catching poignancy. Since I never introduced July's contents, I'd like to give an honourable mention to Avis Hickman-Gibb, whose The Power to Decide did, in so few words, leave me gasping. Truly a tiny, giant piece.
I'd also like to put in a word of apology for not managing to post every other day throughout July - house-moving chaos has put a proverbial spanner in the works, but I hope normal service will be resumed before long. Also an advanced warning that The Pygmy Giant will be taking a complete break in the last two weeks of August. Use that time to go outside, paint your nails forty times, ride an ostrich, whatever you like - just make sure you come back in September!
Keep visiting, keep commenting, keep sending stuff in, because the in-tray will eventually be ploughed through!
Enjoy everything. Yours sporadically, Mel.
Friday, August 1
by James Edwards-Smallbone
The psychiatrist paced down the seemingly endless grey corridor. Despite the best efforts of a team of decorators the relentless dinginess clung to the mental health centre (they were officially discouraged from using the 'A'-word) like a leech, sucking away any last watery remnants of joy. He approached room 42 and lifted a medical chart from its hook on the bland wall, acknowledging the tired looking nurse with a tipping of his glasses.
Keys jingled in the lock like fairy bells as the nurse opened the door of the padded cell. An atmosphere of restful, sterile calm washed out over the psychiatrist and he entered, a reassuring professional smile pasted over his features.
"Miss Sycamore is here now?"
"Of course! You just have to know where to look, how to look."
Glossop sighed inwardly but tried not to let it reach the surface. James was a difficult patient who clung to his delusions more firmly than most.
"We've been over this rather a lot, doctor," the man added reproachfully, "it's all there in the book if you're still unclear."
Glossop's scowl could have iced over active volcanoes. He preferred biographies; at least the characters in those were real. "Come on," he growled, "I've got Napoleon and Julius Caesar to see before lunch."
"Who were you talking to?" The speaker chirped with a high musical voice which exuded warmth and friendship as she pushed white-gold hair back over her large pointed ears with dainty elfin fingers.
James Edwards-Smallbone (and no, he did not make that name up) is somewhere between Baloo and Brian Blessed and writes to get rid of ideas that are taking up valuable brain space.
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