Friday, May 30

String Vests Are The New Black

by Emma J. Lannie

When your boyfriend dies you will lean against the wall, unable to support your own weight. After a while, you will slip to the floor and fold in on yourself, as though letting your body keep a body shape is too much now.

You will be aware of a noise, a low guttural moan that months later you will realise was coming from you, from somewhere inside that never learned to speak.

You will shut out everyone you know except his best friend, and you will ask this friend to tell you, over and over, things your boyfriend said about you, how he felt. Later, you will find yourself in bed with this friend, with the both of you trying desperately to reach inside the other, trying to snatch out fragments of who he was.

You will never talk about this.

At the funeral, all the seats will be taken by people he worked with. You won’t recognise any of them. He didn’t socialize with people from work. They are all strangers. You will stand at the back of the crematorium next to the tape deck. You will be standing with his friends, with people who loved him, wondering why these strangers from his workplace have taken up all the seats.

None of you will be wearing black. As previously agreed. In the seats, the people from the place where he worked will have got it all wrong, they will be cloaked in it. One of his friends will be wearing shorts and a string vest. He will do this out of love for your boyfriend, but none of the people in black will understand this. They will tut and mutter about disrespect.

The man will fumble with the cassette. The song is a song that meant a lot. You will cry uncontrollably for the next hour, even when the funeral is over, even when you’re under a tree in the Peace Garden feeling a lack of everything.

It will pass.

For the first year you will feel as though you are walking through treacle. You will kiss a lot of boys. Some of them will fall in love with your sadness. You will be indifferent.

After a few years, you will meet someone else. You will love him in a way you never could before. You will love him knowing that life goes on, no matter what. And all that fear will be gone.

Emma J. Lannie is a pop-loving librarian who blogs here, although lately, she has been spending a lot of her time at - the interactive library novel.

Tuesday, May 27

Final Curtain

by Rosie Sandler

The next big wave brought a body and Lillian Ashby made as dignified an entrance as she ever had in life.

‘Always has to be the centre of attention, doesn’t she?’ said Margot, looking up from her book and jerking her head towards the vision in white. Irene nodded and adjusted her straw hat, whose torn brim wasn’t giving enough shade.

‘Last week it was that opera song after dinner,’ said Margot, settling back in her deck chair. ‘Oh – and don’t forget her dance at the Easter party.’

‘I liked that poem she recited on Pancake Day,’ called Barnabas Foggatt, who was standing a few feet away, gazing out to sea. ‘What was it again? Something about a boot.’

‘Not a boot, Mr Foggatt, a boat,’ said Margot.

‘A what?’ He cupped his hand round his ear.

‘A boat – you know, a thing you sail in.’

‘Oh,’ he laughed. ‘I thought it was a bit strange, for the poet to have gone to all that trouble about a boot… It’s lovely here, isn’t it? Just look at the way the sun sparkles on the water.’

‘Shouldn’t someone do something?’ asked Irene, adjusting her straw hat again.

‘About what?’ asked Margot.

‘About the body.’

‘Well, she’s dead, isn’t she? I should think it’s a bit late to do anything now.’

‘Well, perhaps we should tell Mrs Simpson, or one of the nurses.’

Margot sighed and glanced around. ‘Mr Shaw!’ she called. ‘Could you grace us with your presence a moment?’

Gregory Shaw heaved himself out of his deck-chair and hobbled over; his cheekbones were flaming from their exposure to the sun.

‘Mr Shaw – have you seen that?’ Margot waved a limp hand towards Lillian’s form.

‘Oh, my goodness. I haven’t got my glasses,’ he rummaged in his pockets. ‘What is it? Some type of fish?’

‘You could say that,’ said Margot. ‘It’s an especially cold one, called an Ashby Flapper.’

Gregory stiffened and put his glasses on. ‘Good gracious. Poor Lillian. Has anyone told Mrs Simpson?’

Margot yawned. ‘No, not yet.’

‘Right, well, I’ll get on to it right away.’ He headed slowly up the beach, towards a group of people in pale-blue shirts. Margot and Irene watched him go.

‘Where’s he off to in such a hurry?’ called Barnabas.

‘To get Mrs Simpson,’ said Margot. ‘Lillian’s performing again.’ She gestured vaguely in the direction of the body.

‘Is she? I’ll go and take a look,’ said Barnabas, striding off.

‘What a shame,’ said Irene after a moment.

‘What?’ murmured Margot, returning to her book.

‘Well, it’s just… she was going to perform that piece from Hamlet for us on Saturday.’

‘Oh, yes – Ophelia, wasn’t it?’ Margot sat up in delight. ‘What an idea, for an octogenarian to play a young girl. Wasn’t Gregory Shaw going to play Hamlet?’

‘Yes, I think so.’

‘Well, I think she’s played Ophelia to the hilt, don’t you?’ said Margot, looking over to where a futile resuscitation attempt was now underway. She took a small tin of boiled sweets from her bag and held it out to Irene. ‘Blackcurrant or Lime?’ she asked.

Irene watched the figures moving around Lillian’s prostrate form, then turned her attention to the sweets. ‘Ooh,’ her fingers hovered over the tin. ‘Blackcurrant, I think, don’t you?’ she said.

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 You can read more of her work here.

Thursday, May 22

The Job

by Jenni O'Connor

The clack of computer keys fills the room; quiet, busy and studious. A muted giggle erupts; an email joke someone chooses not to share. Papers are shuffled, reports generated; a strident voice echoes down the phone. Sounds of stifled bitching, sandwich munching; an identity lived or a slow, living death?

Jenni O'Connor is an aspiring novelist with one travel novel and one thriller under her belt; she lives in hope of these being published and meanwhile spends her spare minutes writing flash fiction to keep her brain cells moving!

Tuesday, May 20


by Alison Bacon

"Inferno in Town Centre".

The headline in the local paper is arresting, the pictures nothing less than apocalyptic. Flames stream skywards above the silhouette of blackened masonry. Further down the page, workmen perched on cranes pick over the carcass of a church. I have kept the cuttings in our wedding album because it’s the church in which we were married, and exactly three months later it burned to the ground.

Thirty years on, the newsprint is yellow and ready to fall apart, but the images remain, a disconcerting souvenir. I pick out the once familiar outline of the lantern roof and the empty tracery of windows that told stories in stained glass. But the camera has missed something, or maybe it didn’t survive. At the top of the path and next to the door there used to be a bronze plaque showing the burning bush, and underneath the motto of the Church of Scotland: Nec tamen consumebatur, “nor yet was it consumed”. Ironic, you might say, since despite the heroic efforts of the minister and the fire brigade, St. Paul’s Parish Church was consumed entirely.

The facts of the case were soon established. The seat of the fire was a neighbouring cinema, closed for redevelopment; the culprits kids with nothing better to do. But fire conjures up the wrath of God. When it strikes a church, it touches something deeper than our everyday religion. I look beyond the facts and the wedding photos, and question what was lost when the church burned down.

I’m not looking for faith, because the church of my childhood was not, as I recall, about faith. It was about arriving on time and sitting still during the sermon. It was getting a prize every year for regular attendance at Sunday School, a prize that was nearly always a Bible. It was people who sat every week in the same seats, wearing the same clothes, until changes in the weather and the hymn sheet nudged them into next season’s wardrobe. It was Brownies, Guides and Christmas parties, all in a bare church hall with splintery floorboards and metal stacking chairs. It was knitted dolls and stewed tea at the Sale of Work in November, the throat clenching terror of singing in the Christmas Nativity Play, and, on the third Saturday in June, weather permitting, coloured streamers trailing from the window of the swaying double-decker bus that took us on the Sunday School Picnic. It was something other than home or school, but connected to both. It was a third of my childhood.

As teenagers we longed to cut the chains, but in a time of limited affluence our options were limited. The sixties saw us languish under the passionless neon lights of Youth Clubs, Fellowships and Saturday night badminton. There a few of us found God, and the rest of us bided our time, knowing escape was at hand in the shape of that ultimate ticket to ride, a student grant. For those of us who returned, after university, to knock at the door of the manse requesting a church wedding, it would mostly be our last visit. By now we had got out from under. We set off for new and distant lives, leaving behind the families who had nurtured us, and the church, that in its old-fashioned, closeting way, had nurtured them.

Since it’s been thirty years, I think I can risk going back. The changes to the town are predictable: strands of retail development join the dots of what used to be rural communities; the old town centre is preserved in the black and white lettering of a Heritage Trail, but lacks its old sense of purpose. The church has never been rebuilt, but curiosity drives me to the place where it stood. I arm myself against disappointment, anticipating a leisure club, a wine bar, a recycled row of charity shops. But when I get there I find none of these. In fact I find nothing at all. The site has been commandeered, as empty spaces are, by a few parked cars, but there are no marked bays, no council notices, in fact, no signs of life. I find this gap in the brickwork strangely satisfying, and think of R.S. Thomas’ Via Negativa, where God is in “empty silence … in the darkness between stars”.

The empty space in front of me defines a childhood, and gives home to the ghosts of an extended family that left its mark on a restless generation. I wonder if the church still owns the land, and, if so, why they haven’t marked the spot. They could have used the plaque that stood by the door, the one of the bush that burned but was not consumed.

Alison Bacon
has been writing for five years and is still working on the second novel, the clutch of blogs and the golf handicap. You can visit her here.

Monday, May 12

Taking More Bread & Butter With It

by Geoff Stevens

Looks can be deceptive

peaches and cream complexion

sponge cake lips and glace cherry eyes

breasts shimmering like jelly

blancmange belly and thighs

a bowl full of calories

sprinkled with hundreds and thousands of lies

not a girl to trifle with.

Geoff Stevens is the editor of Purple Patch poetry magazine and a widely published poet and artist.

Friday, May 9


by Rosie de la Mare

Many years ago, Mrs Droop had set herself a task: to tend to the snowdrops that appeared annually in the flowerbeds bordering the patch of grass in front of her dingy council flat. Snowdrops are for life and Mrs Droop wanted them to outlive her.

She loved seeing the hoods pushing through the late winter snows, and then wake up at dawn one morning to see the drops had appeared. Some years the flowers would show before Christmas and Mrs Droop would just stand by her sink, mug of coffee in hand, and stare out at them. For her they represented purity.

But this evening she had watched young Davey Brown ripping a handful of her precious flowers and shoving them in Donna White’s face, saying “’ere Don? Fancy a shag?”

And so Mrs Droop set herself another task
.She would add more colour to her flowerbeds and watch the local youth bloom.

Rosie de la Mare
lives in West London and discovered two years ago that writing flash fiction was a brilliant outlet for all the weird thoughts and sentences that wake her up in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, May 6

The Future Of The World Writ Small

by Peter Wild

At first, Street thought it was something to do with his pronunciation. He tugged his fur-lined collar free of his mouth and drew a shallow breath, the cold killing.

– Qamutiik, he said more slowly and then gestured, his hand skimming the plain of snow and ice ahead of them. Qimmusiq.

The Inuit didn’t follow the path of his hand, folded his heavy arms about his chest, slowly lowered his swollen eyelids once, as if in assent, but still didn’t move.

– Ah-ka, the Inuit grumbled, duskily.

Radford emerged from behind the sledge, clapping his gloved hands together.

What’s up, old man? he said, chipper.

Street turned, briskly, as Radford continued, saying, We should be getting on if we’re to make Bathurst in good time.

Mm, Street answered.

Ahead the other guides were starting to move off, as if the appearance of Radford was all they were waiting for, which annoyed Street no end.

Mulark, Street said, clapping the Inuit hard upon his shoulder. Una Soona?

Still nothing. Mulark glowered. Street grew red in the face. Radford, knowing Street’s temper as he did, took a step back, felt supremely conscious of the sounds his boots made in the snow. Crunch crunch crunch.

Ki-mook-sick – Street began only to have the Inuit they knew as Mulark push him to the ground.

Well, I say – Radford intervened, Street thrashing in the snow, a fine, bright powder rising in the air like kettle steam, the Inuit guides ahead drawing pause, Abu Lak in particular locking eyes with Radford, their conversation of the previous evening, the stuttered warning, the dangers, revived for each.

Street was raging, clumps of snow patching his hair and eyelashes and arm and trouser leg. He clambered to his feet and snatched at the dog whip Mulark held looped in his hand, the two of them tugging back and forth, Street easily desperate, Mulark implacable, statuesque.

Radford tried to play the peacemaker, raised a hand toward the only other Inuit close to them, Amoqlu-Arm-Ik, but Amoqlu-Arm-Ik was as cold and faceless and blank as Mulark.

George, Radford said forcefully; and then – George! – more vehemently. But George Street took no notice. He’d managed to wrench the dog whip out of Mulark’s paw and he was attempting to thrash the man with it but the two of them were barely a step apart and so the whip had no force, no swing, no power.

Radford entreated the other guides, despite the fact that, with the exception of Abu-Lak who was clearly maintaining his distance, they knew not a word of the mother tongue between them. Ick-a-yung-ga, Radford yelled. Ick-a-yung-ga!

Nobody moved, bar Street who flailed at Mulark again and again, uselessly, with the handle of the dog whip.

Enough was enough, Radford concluded and stepped towards the argumentative couple with his hands raised like a lay preacher, his intention being to bring the matter to a swift close.

Now, now, Radford said, his voice firm, his tone even. This has gone

And then he stopped, the tip of a spear protruding from the centre of his chest, surprised that anything could pierce the bone at the centre of a man’s chest, surprised at the fact he was surprised, turning, gruff Amoqlu-Arm-Ik loosing his hold on the shaft of the spear to face him.

Behind, Street roared, a high-pitched shriek as of a girl of fourteen.

Radford fell to his knees, the warmth blossoming beneath his buttoned up jacket, the contrast with the snow, the marrow warmth and the bone-chill. Awe-struck, upon his knees, gazing up into the heartless alien eyes of Amoqlu-Arm-Ik.

There was a kerfuffle, of sorts, as Radford drifted backwards and was then persuaded to fall to his side by the length of spear running through him. Street was running, his feet and ankles disappearing into the drift as he made his way around the head of the dog pack, the dogs quiet and silent as the grave. Mulark trailing him slowly, no need to hurry.

Amoqlu-Arm-Ik placed a foot upon Radford’s chest, pushing the spear all the way through from the other side. When enough was through, he gripped the shaft just below the head and jerked it out.

Street was yelling. Radford couldn’t really hear. Something bloody –

And then Amoqlu-Arm-Ik threw the spear a second time and Street was silenced as well.

Both men, Abu-Lak later told the police sergeant, Edgerton, were still alive when their throats were cut. They were left to bleed to death on the ice by the lake.


Wasn’t until two maybe three years later, 1912 or something, that Edgerton and his men caught up with Mulark and Amoqlu-Arm-Ik and by that point the crime was old news.

Stern words were exchanged in a mixture of tongues and then a warning was issued.

That was the thing with crimes that took place so far North. You couldn’t legislate.

Peter Wild is the co-author of Before the Rain and the editor of The Flash, Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall and The Empty Page: Fiction inspired by Sonic Youth. You can read more at

Sunday, May 4

Come what May

Greetings everyone,

Firstly, The Pygmy Giant would like to apologise for the recent delays to this service; these are due to lots of bank holiday weekend train travel leading to very little time spent in a house.

Secondly, happy May! I live in Oxford, which is probably the only place in the world that actually celebrates the beginning of May with quite some enthusiasm.

May here has in store a lot of great new flash fiction from the likes of Peter Wild, Rosie de la Mare, and plenty of others. We would like to put out an appeal, however for something a little different...

TPG has never been very high on its non-fiction content, so for the month of May we would like to challenge you to put pen to paper (and fingers to keys) to jot down for us some true-life stories. What weird, or funny, or touching, or terrible, or thought-provoking things have happened to you or those you know? Craft them into a well told tale of under 800 words, and we'll try to put them up during the month of May.


Mel for TPG