Tuesday, 18 October 2016

100 Worder: Almost Time

Almost Time

Lisa Williams

a champagne cocktail 

I saw through one half opened eye. Someone had rolled back the shade, just a fraction. Let in the midday sun, strong for October. Warmed bits of me not covered by the hospital cellular.
We all knew it was almost time. No last supper planned, so long since I'd managed food. But I'd wanted just a last squirt of perfume. A little decadence in the sterility I'd become used to.
As the aroma wrapped its arms around me it took me to places. Life didn't flash. It danced. And I danced too. The joyful caper of a life well lived.

 About the author

Lisa Williams: Avid reader. Domestic slattern. Writes a bit.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Predictive Text

Predicative Text

Gill James 

A pot of builder's tea   

“Good. That will do for today, I think. Shall we make another appointment?” Sandy opened the calendar on her phone. 
Mrs Adams had been pottering about in the kitchen. The door was open into the dining area. She took her cue.
“What do you think, then Jon? One more before the holiday?”
Jon nodded.        
Mrs Adams turned to Sandy. “Is that all right with you?”
“What about Friday 22nd? Same time?”
Mrs Adams and Jon both nodded.
“Good. That’s a date then.” Sandy started typing. The predictive text did the usual trick. No matter. She was used to it. She knew what it meant. She couldn’t be bothered to change it.  

Two days later Sandy’s phone rang. There must be a problem with Jon’s lesson, she thought as the name of the caller appeared on her phone. “Hello, Mrs Beans, how can I help you?”
Sandy blushed as a flustered Mrs Adams muttered something about a wrong number.
And to think that it was Jon who had told her that the latest word for “cool” was “book”.      

About the author

Gill James writes for children, young adults and adults. She has recently retired from working as a lecturer at the university of Salford.  Follow her on her blog, Gill James Writer.          

Friday, 14 October 2016

100 Worder Pumpkin soup with a dash of magic

Pumpkin soup with a dash of magic

Helen Laycock

Pumpkin soup 



 Shelley hated basement living.

By five, the light had faded. She stood at the window and craned up to street level. Lit pumpkins swung next to little feet while she was cooped in her musty flat browsing lonely hearts ads and stirring soup.
The gloom seemed to drop heavily and squat on the cobbles. A clump of moss needed clearing from the damp steps. She slipped out, hugging her cardigan closed.

A toad! 

Shelley squealed.

No sooner had she run inside and slammed the door than there was a knock.

‘Harry Prince,’ said the handsome stranger. ‘Just moved in upstairs.’

About the author

A regular contributor to CafeLit, Helen Laycock writes for both adults and children. She has published three short story collections as well as several mystery/adventure books for readers of 8-12. She has had work published in a further ten anthologies, as well as online, and has had success in writing competitions with poetry, flash, short stories and plays.

Further details of her writing can be found on each of her websites:

Helen Laycock | Fiction in a Flash

Helen Laycock | Children’s Author

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Stalking Diana

Jan Baynham 

strong dark espresso  

A group of us arrived together. We were the Christmas volunteers at a homeless shelter in east London. Easy for me, I thought. Third time, this is. I didn’t have anything else to do but many of them were using up holiday leave so that they could help out at the shelter’s busiest time of the year.
‘Hello, I’m Diana,’ she said, beaming a smile that lit up the room.

‘Hi, I’m Kevin.’

My voice sounded quiet, unsure, small yet in my head those three words were booming in time to my heartbeat. I knew from that very moment that she was special, a magnet I’d be unable to resist. What I didn’t know then, though, was how this girl would change my life for ever.

‘It’s my first time at volunteering so I’m all yours. Just tell me what to do,’ she said.

For the next five days, Diana and I were inseparable. We decorated the community hall with gaudy foil decorations, served Christmas lunches to over three hundred homeless guests and organised entertainment for after the present-giving. Who would have thought that well spoken girl would have been such an expert in making balloon animals?

‘The little ones I look after love it when we make these,’ Diana explained, transforming two long orange balloons into a squeaky recognisable dachshund. ‘Did I tell you I work as a nanny?’

I was sure she didn’t need to work as a nanny. She rarely gave much away about her private life but from her accent and a few hints about where she went to school and what her home was like, I knew our backgrounds couldn’t be further apart. I was being drawn into her net, becoming obsessed. Diana’s was the last face I saw when I went to sleep and the first I saw when I opened my eyes to begin another day. Yet, she had no idea the effect she had on me …or did she? The way she looked at me coyly and the way she leaned her head on one side running her hand through her cropped blonde hair made me wonder whether she was playing with my feelings. There could be no future for us, I knew that.
 ‘I can’t believe this is all coming to an end,’ I said.

Diana just smiled and I knew, then, I would never be able to say good-bye for good.

The end did come and we exchanged mobile phone numbers, promising to text each other.

            ‘Perhaps we can meet for a coffee sometime?’

            ‘Maybe,’ Diana said, without much conviction.

A lump formed in my throat as I watched her almost break into a jog as she left the building for the last time.

            ‘Perhaps I’ll see you next year, Kev,’ she shouted, without a backward glance.

It was as if now the Christmas period was over and her charity work was at an end, she would go back to her privileged lifestyle and forget all about me. What’s happened to the compassionate vibrant girl who made the guests feel so at ease? I thought. What about the girl with the infectious giggle who made me feel on top of the world? Was I part of her ‘ease-my conscience’ plan too? Well, she hadn’t got rid of me as easily as that.

I went back to the pokey flat I shared with my mother. She was pleased to see me at least, so she said, but soon started nagging again.

‘What’s up, Kevin? You’ve been moping around getting under my feet ever since you got back from that shelter.’

‘Leave off, Ma,’ I said. ‘What’s your problem?’

‘Charity begins at home, I say. You went swanning off to help them homeless without thinking that yer nearest and dearest was ‘ere all on ‘er lone-some over Christmas. I don’t know what the attraction was.’

Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head, there, Ma, I thought. The attraction was in the form of a beautiful young girl I just can’t get out of my mind.

‘It’s about time you got out there and tried to get yourself sorted. A job for starters,’ she said, droning on. ‘That way, you could start paying your way in this place. Plus, you may get something resembling a social life too instead of staying in night after night.’

I glared at my mother and stormed out to my room. You don’t have to rub it in, Ma. What had I got to offer Diana, anyway? I had no job, no money, no friends. I would put her out of my mind and forget all about her. Well, that was my plan anyway.
I lasted a week before I texted.
‘Hi, Diana. Hope u r ok. Missing u. Luv Kev.’ I hesitated before adding XX, then pressed ‘send’.
Nothing came back. I suppose I expected an answer back straightaway.
I pressed ‘Resend’.
And so began my pursuit of the one girl who’d made me feel so special. We hadn’t kissed, we hadn’t even touched apart from that first handshake and the odd brush against each other but without Diana I felt empty inside. I called her mobile.

‘Hello. Who is this?’

‘It’s Kevin.’

‘Umm, Kevin? I don’t think I know a Kevin.’

I felt as if I’d been kicked in the stomach.

‘Kevin. Kevin Smith. We met at the shelter. You gave me your number.’

‘Oh, that Kevin. Hi.’ At the other end, Diana’s voice changed. Her words became more clipped, as if I was taking up precious minutes of her time. ‘What do you want?’

‘I just wondered how you were. It’s been a week and I’ve missed you. Do you think we could meet for that coffee we talked about?’ My hand was shaking and I knew I sounded pathetic. How could one person have an effect on me like this?

‘The coffee you talked about, you mean. I don’t think so. I mean, it was jolly good fun at the shelter and all that, but that was it. Move on, I say, and put it down to doing our bit of good-will for those pooor people. Bye.’

I was left looking at my silent mobile wondering if I’d heard correctly. Surely she couldn’t just dismiss me like that? How dare she?

I began phoning several times a day after that but she never answered again. Either the phone was picked up and immediately switched off or it went straight to answer-phone.
 ‘Hi, you’ve reached Di. I can’t take your call at the moment. Please leave your message and phone number after the tone and I’ll get back to you.’

But she never did. I left message after message telling her how I felt. It was hopeless.

            I started using my mother’s phone when she was out at Bingo. She never remembered to take it with her. I rang Diana’s number and waited to hear her voice.       

‘Hello. Hello.’

I was unable to answer, so shocked at hearing her voice once again. I pressed the off button and re-dialled.

‘Hello. Who is this?’

I cut her off again. Her voice sounded more anxious that time. I carefully pressed each of the digits and waited for the dialling tone.

‘Who’s there? Just say something.’

But I didn’t. I just held the phone close to my mouth, knowing she would hear every breath.
‘Who are you? What do you want? Who are you, you perv? GET OFF MY LINE!’ This time she cut me off.
I waited a month before phoning again. Ma was in bed and I rang Diana’s number at two in the morning. She took what seemed like an age to pick up. She hadn’t blocked the number, then.

‘Hello.’ Her voice was husky and each syllable was sleepily monotone.

I exhaled a long breath and whispered, ‘No one rejects me. Ever. You’ll live to regret it.’

Diana’s scream pierced my ear before the silence of being cut off brought me to my senses. What have you just done, you stupid man? I thought. She’ll know it’s you now. What if she contacts the police? You’ll be charged with harassment. They’ll trace your mother’s phone. You love Diana, for God’s sake. Why terrify the poor girl?

I decided not to contact Diana again and life returned to tedious regularity. I managed to get a job packing boxes so at least my mother was happy about that. I got up each morning went to the factory, came home, ate my dinner and then spent every evening alone in my room.

‘I don’t know what you do in there,’ Ma said. ‘All I hear is that awful music, pounding away. It’s as if the ceiling’s going to cave in.’

I got up and left the table, making my way into the hallway.

‘Not healthy.’ I heard her say. ‘Not healthy at all.’

It was no good. I couldn’t get Diana out of my head no matter how hard I tried. Even the ‘awful music’ my mother detested was full of melancholy with lyrics about lovers being spurned by beautiful girls, girls who discarded suitors like unwanted rubbish. I began to see her face everywhere, or so I thought. I was being pulled and sucked into a vacuum, where I couldn’t breathe, with Diana at the centre. If only I could find out where she lived so that I could see her in person just one more time, then I’d leave her alone, I told myself.

A voice pounded in my head.

‘She told you where she lived. Don’t you remember? Not the actual address but the area. Don’t you remember how she laughed when you let out that long whistle?’

I did remember. The properties in that area of South Kensington were worth millions but she assured me that she and two friends were ‘just renting’. I remember jotting it down on the back of the information pack the people at the shelter had provided when we’d arrived. I rummaged through the discarded pile of papers in the corner of the room and found was what I was looking for. My heart raced in my chest. I knew that one final sighting of Diana was all I needed to get over her, once and for all, and by finding that address, it was there in my grasp.  

I started missing work. I’d leave at the normal time but would take a tube across London getting off at Gloucester Road station and wander round the nearby streets searching out the names. Stanhope Gardens, that was it. I remembered her saying it sounded as if she lived in a garden not a street. I walked up and down peering in all the windows especially the basements where I could see right inside the rooms. The white houses there were very grand with square bay windows and steps up to each front door but some had separate entrances to basement flats.

It was a particularly wet day in August when I spotted Diana for the first time since I’d started searching. I was on the point of going home after yet another wasted journey and was sheltering from the rain under a bus shelter. The number 49 bus drew up and a group of three girls got off, armed with bags of shopping. I’d know that giggle anywhere, I thought. My heart started racing and I shifted to the corner of the shelter to avoid being seen. I put my hood up, pulling it forward over my face, then followed Diana and her friends along the street. They crossed over and disappeared down the steps to a basement. I made a note of the number and stood to the side looking down in on them.

I knew then I’d be back. In the dark. I could watch all her comings and goings from the gardens opposite. Before leaving the street, I used my new phone and dialled Diana’s number.

‘Hi, Di speaking.’ (‘Ooooh, Di speaking.’ Someone taunted and giggled in the background.) ‘Shut up,’ Diana said. ‘Oh, not you, sorry.’

I took a deep breath, exhaled and said, ‘I know where you live. I can see you. I’ll be back.’

Why had I just done that? I imagined the scene in the flat. Diana would be shaking with fear, I was sure. Maybe hysterical. Her friends would be comforting her, sympathising, offering to check the street perhaps, insisting she rings the police. I knew I had to get away and fast. I was taking a risk just being in the vicinity. Hadn’t I told myself that I wanted to see her one more time and then I’d leave her alone? Yet here I was, getting in deeper and deeper. She was my drug. The more I had, the more I wanted and I couldn’t stop.

I left it a few days until I went again. It was a Thursday night. I walked up the street. It was dusk and I saw that the flat was in darkness. I sat in the gardens opposite and waited and waited. There were plenty of people around to begin with, using the path around the fountain in the centre as a short-cut between streets. When darkness descended completely and it got later and later, past midnight, the gardens became deserted, quite spooky in fact. The light from the only street lamp was blocked by the full leaf of the trees. It was a place of shadows and two female voices carried clearly through the night air. I was in luck; one of them belonged to Diana. I made my way through the blackness to the opening on the other street.

‘I’ll be fine. It’s only a minute or so through here,’ I heard Diana say. ‘It takes absolutely yonks to go all the way round. I’ll be fine as long as that saddo who keeps ringing me isn’t around.’

You shouldn’t joke about things like that, Di. You didn’t think it was a joke last week, did you? Annabel told me how upset you were. They were on the verge of ringing the police. Why did you put them off? And another thing, how did he know your number?’

‘I think it’s a guy I met at the shelter last Christmas. He was besotted with me. My fault; I did rather play up to him. You know what I’m like. He’s completely harmless.’

‘Well, if you’re sure.’ The two young women embraced and Diana made her way along the path.

She was a couple of yards in front of me.

‘Saddo, am I? Harmless am I?’ I said, in a low whisper.

She turned round, her mouth open, eyes wide. ‘Oh my God, who’s there? Kevin, what the hell do you think you’re doing?’

‘Nobody turns me away. Nobody leads me on and then dumps me.’ I grabbed her arm and pulled her towards me, twisting it up behind her back and dragging her into the gloom of the trees.

‘Kevin, you’re hurting me. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have flirted with you. It was only a bit of fun. I’m always doing it. Just let me go, pleeeeease!’

I could taste the fear in her eyes and I hated myself for it but there was no turning back.

It was starting to get light and somehow I knew I had to get away from there. I couldn’t remember what had happened but I had a feeling of terror, my heart was thudding in my chest. It was more a denial that I couldn’t even admit to myself, I suppose. I left the gardens behind and walked back to the tube station. My eyes darted everywhere.
On reaching the flat, I fumbled to turn the key in the lock and let myself in.

            ‘That you, Kevin? You dirty stop out. Why didn’t you tell me you were staying out all night? Some girl eh?’ My mother’s voice shouted from the living room. ‘Hey, d’ya know what date it is? Ten years to the day that poor Diana died. It’s all over the news. Look at all them flowers people left. Aw, so sad. I don’t believe it was an accident though, do you?’

            I steadied myself against the hall door, shaking uncontrollably. Diana. Yes, she died. My hand made its way into my jacket pocket. I felt the cold steel blade inside. No, no accident, Ma. The blade felt sticky. 

Yes, I remember now. I started to sob and reached for my phone.


‘Which service?


‘Kevin. You alright, love?’ said Ma. 

About the author

Jan is a  fiction writer living in Cardiff, Jan regularly submits short stories to magazines and competitions. Several have been published on Alfie Dog Fiction and Cafe Lit. A member of RNA's New Writers' Scheme 2016, she is in the process of submitting her first novel to agents and publishers. www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Angry Man with a Beard.

Angry Man with a Beard 

Lisa Williams   

A Beer

It was Friday night. He had a creased brow, a magnificent mane and a lot to say. I watched him across the room from behind my pint. Then he stopped, looked over towards our table. I dropped my gaze. Cheeks coloured at being caught staring. I didn’t want to feel his wrath.
"He’s coming over!" mouthed my ventriloquist friend as she drained her bottle of beer then said out loud “Right, I’m off.”
I woke early on Saturday. Remembered the crowded bar. The attentive audience to his heated words. I ran my finger along his unfurrowed brow and he purred.

 About the author 

Lisa Williams.  Avid reader. Domestic Slattern. Writes a bit

Monday, 3 October 2016

100 Worder: Inside Looking Out

100 Worder: Inside Looking Out

Michael Hennessy

A bucket load of water with a dash of vinegar

It had started with a ladder, bucket and a squeegee.
                All his life Lenny had been on the outside looking in at the rich through their gracious windows.
    Now, his window cleaning business had given him an even bigger house than those of his well-heeled clientele.
            He was finally on the inside looking out, just like them.
            But, unlike them, he had failed to share his hard-earned wealth with the taxman.
            Instead of admiring his sun-dappled swimming pool, he was gazing at the dismal exercise yard below and high perimeter wall beyond.
            How he wished he had his ladder now.

About the Author
Michael had a successful career as an award-winning, advertising copywriter. Now he spends his time writing short stories, novels for adults and children, scripts for stage and TV, screenplays and the occasional poem. He is widely travelled and his article about beach dogs in Thailand won The Telegraph Travel "Just Back" competition. He has been shortlisted, winner and runner-up in many writing competitions and is currently looking for an agent/publisher/producer. His website is currently under construction.

Published October 03 2016

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Strange Habits

Strange Habits

Jenny Palmer

Sweet Coffee

There was a dog guarding the door. It was a mongrel sort of thing. It looked harmless enough. Should she pat it and run the risk of having her hand snapped off? If only it would stand aside and let her in. For in was where she had to get. She must have her early morning coffee. She would be hopeless without it.
            A man suddenly appeared at the door. The dog owner no doubt. He ushered the dog away so that she could get past it.
‘What a wonderful guard dog it makes,’ she said. It was always best to be complimentary with dog owners.  She preferred cats herself. You didn’t have to do much with them, except feed them. And they would sleep on your feet at night. Keep your toes warm.
            She ordered her usual. A cup of coffee, to start with. Then she would see. She might have a slice of toast with marmalade on it. They did that here. They did lots of things here. Marmalade. Marmite. Whatever you wanted all served immaculately with plastic gloves. She didn’t know why they had to be quite so meticulous about it all. It set your mind wandering, made you wonder about all sorts of ghastly diseases.
            There were four tables in the place. Two of them were occupied. One was free. She could have sat on that table but the girl had smiled at her. It would be nice to have a bit of company. The girl was dressed in a woolly tartan coat and was wearing a hat and gloves.
‘Cold weather we’re having,’ she said, by way of an opening gambit. ‘I hope it isn’t going to snow.’ She found she was always cold these days, something to do with not having much flesh on her bones.
Snow isn’t expected,’ the girl said.
She could have sworn it was going to snow. It certainly felt cold enough.
The coffee needed sugar. There was a container full of condiments on the table. Which was salt and which was sugar? It was so easy to get them wrong. In the old days, she’d had perfect vision.  She used to be able to spot the number of a bus from miles away.
The girl handed her a sachet. Fancy putting sugar in a sachet. It meant you got less and she would have to use at least four of them, to make the coffee palatable.  The other two containers were salt and pepper. You had to check everything these days. Double check.
The trouble with this cold weather was it made your nose drip and she’d forgotten her tissues. She would have to use her gloves. It couldn’t be helped. The girl was staring at her now. Which would you prefer – a dripping nose or me using my gloves? she wanted to say. There’s no law against it, as far as I know. But it was no good antagonising people. It only made matters worse.
The girl was on her way to work.  Friday was her favourite day because it was nearly the weekend.  Funny. She could have sworn it was Sunday. When you were retired every day was Sunday. That was the glory of it.
The morning had been a rush. She’d hardly had time to get dressed. In the end she’d gone for the pink hat, to match the grey coat. And lipstick. You couldn’t go out without your lipstick. Some people were colour blind. They mixed orange with pink. She’d chosen a ruby lipstick to go with the pink hat. She’d learnt these fashion tips when she was on the stage.
The lipstick would remind her of Jim. Jim, her heartthrob, her lover, her husband, her deceased husband. She had been wearing ruby lipstick it when they first got together.  She remembered it clear as day.  It had been a Sunday like today. They’d both stayed on after the rehearsal and he’d asked her to go for a drink. He worked backstage. He’d admired her from afar but never had the nerve to ask her before. It had been Sunday too when Jim had proposed in that pub at the back of the Lyceum, the night before her debut. Sunday was her lucky day.
Was it the ruby lips he had fallen for, or her acting talent? She’d never been sure. She’d accepted of course.  At the end of the season they’d got married and that had been it - the beginning of a happy marriage and the end of her acting career. After the children had left home she’d never returned to the stage. She’d lost the knack. And she couldn’t leave him by then. He’d needed round-the-clock care.
They’d had a good life.  It was just a pity that Jim had passed away first, that was all.  She missed him. She had to get out of the house. It was worst in the mornings.
This café was a godsend. It was very good for breakfast. And they didn’t mind how long you stayed there. There was another cafe for afternoon tea. It was further down the High Street. That one was altogether different. You had to be feeling pretty sound for that one. It really made you appreciate your stage training when you went in there. It was lively. You had to put on a good show.
The girl was saying goodbye. Why on earth was she going to work on a Sunday? Some people had strange habits. It was better not to interfere though.
‘Bye. See you next Sunday, dear,’ she called out.

About The Author
Jenny Palmer has self-published two memoirs and a family history book and is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Published 24 August 2016