Friday, August 15

we're all going on a...

So long for two weeks.
Use them to write stuff.
Make an appointment to come back in September.
Write it on your hand and then don't wash for a fortnight.

The secret pleasure of anger

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

The GastroPods

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.’

‘Hallo, Vera.’

‘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.’

‘Do what?’

‘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.’

Sarah Hilary won the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with Fall River, August 1892. Her story, The Eyam Stones, was runner-up in the Historical Contest. Both stories will be published in the Fish anthology 2008. MO: Crimes of Practice, the new Crime Writers’ Association anthology, features Sarah's story, One Last Pick-Up. Her work has appeared in Literary Fever, Every Day Fiction, Ranfurly Review and Zygote in my Coffee. Sarah lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and daughter.

Thursday, August 7

Beyond the Border

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 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

Summer Slackness

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

Elvish Ain't Dead

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.

"Good Morning."

"Morning Dr. Glossop."

"And how is the patient today?"

"Very disturbed I'm afraid sir, he was raving all night. Dr. Tanner was forced to administer sedatives."

The doctor's pristine brow furrowed, wrinkling the skin over his bald head and displacing his horn-rimmed spectacles. "What a pity, when we were making such excellent progress." The nurse nodded with the jaded sympathy of one who'd seen a thousand such tiny tragedies. "Very well, you'd better let me in."

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.

"Hello Mr James, I'm Dr. Glossop." No reply punctuated the vacant silence. "You remember me don't you? I've been visiting for ten months now. We've been talking about Terrapposita." Stillness. "Edward?"

"Hmm?" The man looked up at last. That is to say his face looked up, his eyes appeared to be focused somewhere else entirely. "Oh hello Dr. Glossop, I didn't hear you come in. I was just talking with Sycamore." Not for the first time the psychiatrist scanned the empty room. There was evidently no-one present but the two of them.

"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."

Ah yes, the book. He'd read it cover to cover a dozen times or more in an effort to understand the root of the author's delusions. "You'll be pleased to hear it's selling well, Mr James."

"Sales don't matter Dr. Glossop! What matters is that people know Terrapposita exists and how it can be reached." Glossop adjusted his glasses with an incredulous cough and scratched his nose as he always did when considering a thorny problem. "I'm not mad you know."

"Of course not Mr James," the psychiatrist responded in a conciliatory tone, "you're simply here to recover from a stress-related mental episode". Glossop's bedside manner was legendary, a fact to which many of the more suggestible nurses could attest. The patient however had lapsed again into silence, cocking his head like a dog listening to the distant call of its master. Somewhere out in the corridor a bell clanged ethereally.

"I'm afraid I have to go doctor, the Bell of Oakholt is striking noon."

"That's the lunch bell, Edward," Glossop snapped, letting terseness overcome his measured tones for an instant. He was beginning to take James' lack of progress as an affront to his professional skills. "I'll see you again this afternoon". The author however had returned to his previous catatonia and Glossop turned back into the corridor with another practised frown. The nurse had vanished to be replaced by a burly orderly who had somehow crushed himself into a narrow wicker chair and was engrossed in a thick, colourfully bound tome. Glossop leaned inquisitively over his shoulder.

"It's Terrapposita sir, by Edward James. It's very good. I'm reading it for the Richard and Judy book club."

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."

In the silence of his room Edward shut his eyes and calmly counted to seven and a half before opening them again to a view of a beautiful wooded hillside.

"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.

"Dr Glossop," the author replied distantly.

"From the book?" The voice was laden with apprehensive concern.

"From Earth."

There was something like fear in the creature's huge almond eyes as she took his hand with her own, gloved in exquisite pearl dragonscale.

"You shouldn't say such things, Edvardion. Earth is just in your imagination, it isn't real..."

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.