Short fiction and serialised novellas of GJ Fairlamb

Archive for June 2012

Savage Writing: Appearing at Twilight

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This story is testament to me holding my brain hostage until it spits out a story. The theme for this week was ‘A New Word.’  

“Crepuscular” meant appearing at twilight. After days of slogging over the dictionary –  indexing entries by hand on countless blue-lined index cards before securing them in a fire-proof cabinet – she had become well acquainted with the stranger synonyms for times of the day. She liked “uhte,” from Old English, which sounded like ‘outer’, as in the outer hours of the day. “Gloaming” was wonderfully gothic; “afterglow” gigglingly sexual. And “crepuscular” had made her laugh at first, because it sounded like “craptacular”. But over time it began to make sense to her: it was a combination of “crevasse” and “precipice”, describing the time when all the light that exposed the day disappeared, and the idea that you could see and know and regiment your world into discrete categories fell over the cliff into the black depths of mystery. It was like when they had walked to Glenashdale Falls in the middle of the night, and the only gleam had been the frothing water far below.

So many new words for her, words to blot out everything else in her mind, from Latin and Old French and Old English – no, they sneered, Old English isn’t Chaucer, where do they get these research assistants from, the English Literature department? She’d promised Professor Kay that she would stay late again tonight and catch up with her work, since she wasn’t a specialist like everyone else and kept making rudimentary mistakes and falling behind. She needed to get better, and quickly, because twilight was coming earlier and earlier each day, and she did not like to be in the office alone. The office itself wasn’t sinister at night: it was placed in a beautiful Victorian building with dark wood panelling and far too many staircases for an allegedly wheelchair-friendly university. But every night, just after sunset, a feline yowling would start up from outside the window, and no matter how many times she went and looked outside, there was never a cat there. She told herself to stop being such a silly bint (to cease, halt, desist, refrain…) but it set her nerves on edge. She knew better than to ask her no-nonsense professor why she would hear a ghost cat outside. Her colleagues would snicker if they knew that she believed in all those things like ghosts and spirits and the supernatural, and she didn’t want to talk about Mark, as she inevitably would if she mentioned it. After all, she had come here to get away.

Nighttide. The Witching Hour. That’s what he had called it, when he said they should go up to the waterfall that night. Time for the ghouls to come out, he said, the fae and dryads. She knew the kind of people that she worked with would have laughed at him, but she did not, because she never laughed at him. He was so knowledgeable, had read so many books where the first line made her head hurt, and he said everything with such conviction that she couldn’t help but nod and follow him. They’d gone the steep winding way up the hill, the Milky Way clear above their heads, the branches of the pine trees stabbing up into the sky, showing how navy it was in comparison to their black limbs. She’d held onto his hand the entire way until they reached the viewing platform – bereft of the usual tourists and dog-walkers – jutting out above the tumbling water.

‘Let’s try to go beyond,’ he had said, and for the first time she had contradicted him. She wheedled and evaded but finally she told him: I don’t think it’s possible. Terrified that he would shout at her, and unable to see his expression, she had waited, ready to wince, but only a mad laugh had come.

‘Anything is possible.’

Where the flames had come from, she didn’t know. They’d chanted and sung and danced, and she had thought nothing was happening, but his voice had risen until shouting, and he threw his arms out to embrace the world and flames sprung from the palms of his hands, stereo lighting for his face.

‘I’ve done it,’ he had said, and his smile stretched too wide. A normal person would have guessed he was pulling a practical joke, a magic trick, but she knew him and she never laughed at him. It came to her in an instant: non-verbal, an instinctive realisation. She knew what he had said about the world, about people, about how things needed to change, and in one half-second flashed all the terror of being beside, and accomplice to, a man who had transcended biology and physics. Her perceptions of the world threatened to melt. Fight or flight. One flash, and self-preservation forced her hands: she stepped forward, as if to embrace him, and pushed him over the barrier and onto the falls. His light extinguished before he hit the bottom.

She’d played it safe, said he was missing, said he’d gone to the falls (but she wouldn’t do such a thing, she was too scared to go there in the dark, oh yes, he’d gone alone). When they found his body, there was no trace of foul play. Suicide, they said. The local gossips had always known he was a weird one. With grief veiling her actions, she left for the city, and got a job at the university, compiling the first thesaurus of a whole language. So many new words for her. She knew he would have enjoyed hearing them all.

Seven p.m. Twilight time, and as expected, the yowling began, sending the shivers up her spine. ‘Do you believe in spirit animals?’ Mark had once said to her. ‘I don’t know,’ she had said, as she always did when he asked her questions like that. His eyes had flashed with internal fire as he explained them to her. They could be your guide, or your companion, but more often they were an omen…

The yowling stopped, but she still felt on edge. A sound came from Professor Kay’s office, and she was compelled, obliged, coerced to investigate. When she entered the room she saw a glimpse of black tail darting into the shadow of the corner, before it was subsumed by the flames. There were no candles and the fireplace was boarded; in defiance of physics and biology, a mound of white index cards was blazing orange then curling black. Entire weeks of work ruined.

She ran back to the office, and hastily shoved her cards – uhte, gloaming, afterglow – into their box and into the cabinet before running to the front door. A normal person would have said the old door jammed because of the heat. She knew otherwise.

The only time most people hear the word “crepuscular” is when describing the shafts of light that shine from between clouds, often used to signify divine intervention. From among the black billows of smoke, it was like a crepuscular ray from God when the red blast of fire shot down upon her body, hot and all-consuming (fervid, vehement, violent).


Savage Writing: A Girl Can Make Mistakes, Can’t She?

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Theme for this night was “Games.”  I decided to stretch myself and take a ‘Love Games’ approach (what with playing games and doing a dissertation on games, I’m a bit gamed-out!), and took one scene idea from a longer story and expanded it into this.


The streetlight outside flared orange along the gun barrel as the masked man pointed it at Tony’s face. They had kicked down the door and dragged him out of bed before he had fully opened his eyes; now two men hovered over him while the third rifled through the organised piles of clutter next door. He crossed his eyes looking at the gun, and wished he hadn’t slept in his scabbiest pair of boxers. He didn’t want them to be the clothes he died in.

‘Whoever you are, whatever you want, I’ll give it,’ he said. Since he had no idea why they had invaded his flat at one in the morning, there wasn’t much point in being brave.

‘We’re only here for one thing, mate,’ the man with the gun said. ‘You friendly with a girl named Laura Harrington?’

The horror Tony felt upon hearing her name eclipsed any he would have felt had they threatened him, and the gunman smiled as he saw it.

‘Can’t find the bloody thing!’ came a shout from the next room. The gunman sighed and turned back to Tony.

‘Gonna tell us where your phone is, mate?’

Before he could refuse to answer, a loud saxophone riff, distorted and accompanied with a buzz of vibration, interrupted them, making everyone jump. The second intruder followed the noise, fighting with the duvet while trying to get to the phone. Finally, he straightened in triumph – and the phone stopped ringing.

‘Gone to answerphone,’ he said. ‘Let’s have a listen.’

He pressed the button and a sultry female voice filled up the room, beginning: ‘Hey hot stuff…’ Tony sighed and closed his eyes.


Twelve hours earlier, she had been waiting for him outside the coffee shop, brown hair artfully tumbling over her shoulder, arms folded in a way that accentuated her breasts.

‘Hey hot stuff,’ she said, as always.

He knew he shouldn’t meet up with her, knew that it’d be better for his health if he stopped seeing her, but she had whined so piteously down the phone about how “We’re still friends, aren’t we?” that he couldn’t say no.

‘How’s work?’ he asked, after a few minutes of listless conversation.

She stirred her coffee thirty times before touching it, as always, then glanced up at him from behind her eyelashes.

‘Boring, now I don’t have you to do on my desk.’

He gave an embarrassed laugh and looked away.

‘There’s guys queuing up, I’m sure.’

‘None like you,’ she purred. ‘But I’m sure you’ve plenty of office girls swooning over you in your fancy new job.’

She raised her eyebrows as she spoke, and apart from the stress she put on the words “plenty” and “fancy”, that was the only way to tell she was being sarcastic. He had always liked how stupid people never caught onto it. It was her blatant inside-joke.

‘Not exactly.’

And she was very good at catching on to every hint of his intonation, every breathy terminal and creaky laugh, and decoding it perfectly to guess his problems.

‘Have you got a crush, Tony?’ she said with a smile absent of envy. ‘I’m jealous. Who is she? What’s she like?’

They had always liked laughing at the absurdity of the world. She used to go on her laptop and find strange news stories when they lay around in bed on weekend afternoons, laughing as the golden light highlighted all the dust in her room and the freckles on her back. Hammock recalled because the wooden stand breaks if left outdoors, that kind of thing. Well, she would enjoy this.

‘She’s entirely inappropriate for me,’ he said.

‘Go on.’

‘She’s seventeen,’ he confessed.

‘That’ll never work, Tone. You need someone to boss you around.’

Trust her to make such an obtuse objection.

‘That’s not the worst part.’

‘Then what is?’ she asked, eyes gleaming. He breathed in, picturing again the blonde bundle of shyness and pink cheeks that had caught his heart’s imagination at the last company dinner.

‘She’s my new boss’s daughter. Laura Harrington.’

Gina burst out laughing, a piercing, high-pitched giggle that made half the cafe turn and look at them both.

‘You’re such a fuck-up, Tony,’ she said.

‘I know.’

She kept laughing. ‘Well, I’m always here, sunshine. If it all fucks up, I can fuck you up again.’

‘That implies you’ve stopped,’ he said. ‘Most exes at least pretend to be crazy before calling you in the middle of the night.’

‘It helps me get to sleep,’ she said. ‘Knowing you’re a phone call away, when I’m all alone in my bed.’ She finished her mug of coffee, before adding:

‘Makes me think that you’ll come round and alleviate my lonely loneliness.’

He didn’t know whether her redundancy was a joke or not, whether she was serious or not. And he had no chance to ask because she stood up and belted her coat, and he had to rush to finish his own drink. As they exited the cafe, she walked far too close to him for a non-girlfriend, arm nearly in his, her flowery perfume drifting over and settling on his body. Once outside, they hovered, waiting for the other to say something.

‘So…’ Gina said, swaying her shoulders backwards and forth, hands in her pockets. She was anticipating his next move already.

‘U-uhm,’ he said, ‘if you like, I can take a half day. If…you wanna do anything else.’

They had had sex at least five times since they broke up. He never intended to, but somehow whenever they met he always heard himself making this offer, new crush or none.

‘Can’t!’ she said abruptly. ‘I’ve got lots of work to do. Not to mention I’ve a date tonight. But I’ll see you soon, okay? Take care!’

With that she turned and walked away, springing on her heels. He felt as if he’d been dumped – not romantically dumped, but physically dumped into the sea. She was always like that. Every time, she swayed and smiled and made him think she wanted him, and nine times out of ten she snubbed him at the end. He scratched the back of his head and turned back towards the office.

‘Fucking Gina…’


When the voicemail had finished, the three criminals looked at each other and laughed, turning to leave.

‘That’s not her,’ Tony said, ‘I don’t have Laura’s number, that’s –’

‘Well, it says GF,’ the one with the gun said as he looked at the phone. ‘And it’s understandable why you wouldn’t want to put her name with her number, when her dad has such dodgy dealings…good thing we can get an address from this…’

‘Gina Foreman! It’s not her – I don’t have a girlfriend – listen to me!’

But the three men were making their way towards the door, laughing at his vain attempts to deceive them.

‘You just sit tight, “hot stuff”,’ one sneered. ‘Don’t touch the phone, and when her dad ponies up, we’ll bring her back in one piece…mostly…’

The door slammed behind them and Tony was left, still kneeling on the floor in his boxers, with the voicemail message running round and round his head:

‘Hey hot stuff. Just sitting here in my cold empty bed, thinking about you. I know I might have said some mean things yesterday, but a girl can make mistakes, can’t she? So I’m taking up your offer. Come on round…I’ll be waiting.’


At the end of the cafe scene, after I said ‘Fffucking Gina,’ Greg burst out ‘I hate the bitch,’ and I thought he was joking until afterwards when he said he actually hated her. I’m so proud I managed to provoke such a response! Matt also called this ‘Psychotic Mills and Boon’ which sounds like something I could get into to make money, ha ha ha…

The larger story is more about Tony and Laura and is a little different, but there are kidnappings and at one point Gina very nearly gets in trouble by calling Tony like she does here. The next day he turns up at her work and bitches her out and that’s her comeuppance, I guess. She has a shred of sympathy in the long run, Greg~!

Written by G.J.

14/06/2012 at 8:30 pm

Savage Writing: What’s Done is Done.

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This week each person’s contribution was read out by another person, so there was no real inspiration. This is the only thing that came to me. Graham read this out.

The book was floating in mid-air when he came downstairs to get his morning cup of coffee. Six a.m., and three feet above the chair closest to the living room doorway, an Agatha Christie book was floating, unsupported by anything corporeal, pages flipping every so often.

Joshua stopped on the stairs, stared at it, and – instead of chalking it up to his tired, ancient eyes – walked into the living room. As he moved around the chair, the air above it seemed to burst into scattered blue ripples, and like an optical illusion, as his perspective changed, the various glowing lines formed into a figure, complete and whole by the time he stood directly in front of the chair. The book snapped shut, the blue shadow rose from sitting, and he was face to face with his dead husband, David.

‘I’ve been here half the night reading it,’ he said, unsurprised to see Josh – as he should be, considering this was his home and he always rose at 6am. ‘Didn’t want to wake you, so I thought I might as well finish it.’

‘…was it good?’ Josh asked, as he always did when David finished a book.

‘Turns out the murderer was the first man they suspected, who they thought had an unshakable alibi. Pretty unusual – I can see why people like her so much. Pity I won’t read any more.’

In Josh’s mind, David had the same pitch-black hair and a clean-shaven jaw that was in all the pictures of them both when younger: dancing, drinking, kids’ birthday parties. Now, sixty-one years after they had first met, David appeared to him as he had been before death: old, with a wiry grey beard covering half his face. David had said grandfathers should have beards for the children, and Josh – a lover of suits and all things smart – had always contested with him. I don’t want bloody Santa, he had said. David had chuckled: “Ho ho ho.”

‘Fancy a ghost story?’ Josh said.

‘Same sick humour as always,’ the apparition said with a smile. ‘Go on.’

‘It’s not really a story. It’s more a myth,’ Josh said. ‘It’s said that before you die, you see the ghosts of those you love, and they take you into the afterlife. It’s like that cat that knew when people in the old folk’s home would die, and sat on their knee on their last night.’

‘Well I have a story,’ David said. ‘Strange one. In it, there’s a man – old, but healthy, could go another twenty years if he tried – who throws a party for his daughter’s fortieth birthday. Whole family’s invited. He’s healthy as anything, but he hugs his children and kisses his grandchildren, as if saying goodbye to them – then gets up at six in the morning to make himself coffee as if nothing’s unusual. What do you think of that?’

Josh rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, and when he opened his eyelids again, David was still there.

‘I think it’s a pretty scary story.’

His mouth was rather dry.

‘I’m getting some coffee,’ Josh said. ‘Don’t suppose you want any.’

David floated after him into the kitchen.

‘Didn’t you tell me you were going to give it up? How many years ago was that?’

‘Eight,’ Josh said, glad to turn his back to the ghost as he put on the kettle.

‘Eight years? That’s a long time. How have you managed?’

‘I paint,’ Josh said. ‘Walk the dog. Ginny’s even got me playing the new Call of Duty with her. My reflexes aren’t that bad, considering.’

David folded his arms. The sure sign he was going to give him a bollocking.

‘You let my garden die.’

‘Like I was going to muck around in dirt because of you.’

‘I was growing you bell peppers. They needed love. I was going to cook them in chilli for you.’

Josh smiled. Three adopted kids, a dog, a garden, and a kitchen full of cookbooks. David had been a better stepford wife and mother than most women they knew.

‘No point trying to keep them alive when I’m not you,’ he said. ‘All things have to end.’

David knew his philosophy, since he had said it so many times since retiring: once things were done, they were done, and there was no point belabouring it. His last article for the paper had been titled “How It All Ends”, and he had never written another word, as much as the urge threatened to overpower him. What’s done is done.

David defied his incorporeality by leaning against the counter top.

‘How is everyone? Gail and her new man okay?’

‘Mark isn’t new anymore. They’ve been married five years.’

‘How about Ginny? And Megan? She was only little back then.’

‘Well, Ginny’s nearly eighteen. And Megan’s thirteen now, and the biggest pain in the arse you wouldn’t believe. Matthew and his family came over just for the party – was good to see them again. Sara’s the same. All’s well, really.’

‘Everything’s fallen into place, eh?’ David said. ‘I’m glad. It’s more settled than I got.’

He spoke calmly, without regrets, but the stab of pain Josh felt seemed as fresh as new. He’s always thought he’d be first: he was older, and years of coffee and 7am starts at the paper and constant stress would do him in, he was sure, leaving David and his organic carrots to look after Gail and her family as they took over the house.  When the mouth cancer came he was sure that was it, but like the sod he was, he outlived it, and the blood in David’s ever-active brain had given out a few months later. Too many books, he thought, you smart bastard.

He made his coffee and drank it immediately. Burnt tongue. Nope, he was definitely awake. David laughed as he made a noise and slammed the mug on the counter.

‘What’s your plan for today then?’ he asked, as if it was years ago, and Josh was going to answer, “Going into the office. Got a big report to finish. Will pick Gail up from guitar club if I remember…”

‘Today? Don’t know. Paint. Play with the dog. Go on an adventure to I-don’t-fucking-know-where. Doesn’t matter really, does it? Nothing matters anymore.’

David brought a hand up to stroke his cheek. It felt like the lightest jet of water, like when the kitchen tap sprays off a plate and fizzles onto your arms.

‘Don’t worry,’ Dave said, with his most comforting, fatherly smile, and like sand blown off a sawmill, he scattered away. His last living words to him had been, “Josh, have you seen my glasses, I thought–“ These last words worked much better.

Josh sighed and drank another swig of coffee.

He said goodbye to his granddaughters as they left for school. He told his daughter and son-in-law that he would get the shopping for the week, but as he stepped out of the door of the butcher’s, his left arm shot with pain and the bags slid out of his hands. On the corner of the street opposite, he saw David again – black haired, beardless, young. Smiling.

Of course I wasn’t worried, you idiot, he thought, as he sank to the ground and the strangers nearby rushed towards him. It’s about time. When it’s done, it’s done, after all.


So I threw a mini wobbly after this was read out, because hearing Graham stumble over the stilted lines was agonising (he tried to blame it partially on drink…yeah right…) Everyone was very kind in disagreeing over my pronouncement of its awfulness, and I felt I’d made a fool of myself. The combination of these two things put me in a bad mood the rest of the night.

I only had the inspiration to write this because of The Sims. Yep. You should really try it for inspiration! I had an elderly gay couple where the younger one died and the other lived for ages (all the details in the story were pretty much from the game). Gail and Ginny had their birthday party and I made Josh hug all his children before he went to bed early. During the night, David’s ghost came back and starting reading in the living room, and just before he blew away in the morning, I managed to get Josh to speak to him and had David stroke his cheek. Josh died coming out the shops later that day. I just thought it was too lovely an end to them and all the hours I sunk into their family. Pity I couldn’t quite do it justice.

Written by G.J.

14/06/2012 at 8:19 pm

Savage Writing: Primavera

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“Waiting for Spring” was the task. Glen kept saying ‘That was really sweet’ at the end of every piece I read out, and I don’t feel my pieces are very sweet, so I wrote this to prove him wrong! Naturally he wasn’t there the week I read this out…Partly inspired by Graham’s work as well, since I really admire it.

I’m not too happy with some of the writing but in a way I think it needs this stiltedness. We’ll see if I want to edit it more.

The statue has been in the garden for three days now. Grace’s mum has told the police but they don’t recognise it, let alone know where it was stolen from. ‘Must be a prank,’ she’s said. ‘Or some form of modern art. They’re one and the same these days.’

‘Modern art is not art,’ Grace has said with all the confidence that two years of art class at school has given her, and all the certainty inherent in teenage opinions.

That statue, though, is art. White stone carved wondrously smooth; it is as if she sprung out of rock of her own will, that figure. A woman holding her head to the sky, blank eyes gazing at the heavens, flowing hair over rounded breasts, flowing gown and a hand clutching a gently swollen belly. The other arm carries a spilling bouquet. She has all the blank beauty of a master artist’s vision, but something in her expression screams of ecstasy, or fear. Maybe her eyelids are too wide apart. Maybe it’s because Crazy May from next door keeps coming into their garden to stare at her.

‘Just leave her,’ Grace’s mother has said. ‘She’s no harm. Besides, she won’t be here much longer anyway.’

Today is the first of May, and Grace is alone in the living room while her mother is at work. It’s no bank holiday for her either, since she has a mountain of coursework due in that week. The old clock in the hall starts to ping the hour, and at the hedge that serparates the two gardens, May appears.

She walks as if she’s crossing worlds: eyes unblinking, arms at her side, walking through the bushes and not over or round them. She is in front of the statue by the seventh toll.

Grace, irritated that she’s been distracted by the old biddy, turns on the television and flicks to the news at noon, hopeful that the dire messages from around the world will put her two essays and twenty questions in perspective. She starts reading about Van Gogh, easily tuning out the report of a bombing in Far-Away-istan, but unable to ignore the two figures outside the window, standing as still as each other. She sighs and closes her book.

It is blustery cold outside, and there hasn’t been a lick of sunshine for weeks. May’s white cardigan and yellowed nightie are flapping about with wild abandon, jerking away from her body like a dog trying to escape its leash.

‘Aren’t you cold?’ Grace asks, hugging her four Primark-thin layers to her chest.

‘She’s waiting,’ May says. ‘She’s waiting.’

‘Do you want a jumper?’

‘Primavera,’ May says, eyes stuck on the statue. ‘Personification of Spring. She gives birth to the new world.’

Grace rolls her eyes.

‘Look, do you not even want to come inside? Or have some tea?’

‘Spring is late this year,’ May says, eyes widening.

Fine, Grace thinks, see if I care if you die of pneumonia, you stupid old bat. She goes back inside and flips open her art book again. The stiff pages turn themselves to Boticelli. One of the women in these paintings is placed in the centre, staring out at the viewer, an ambiguously perceptive, knowing look in her eyes as they meet Grace’s. She sighs, flips the page away – and that’s when the TV volume jumps up high and the screams make her start. Another bomb somewhere – the BBC reporter tries to conceal the panic in his voice – Grace swears at the TV for its interruption, looks around for the remote, and a second scream, so close it seems right by her ear, stops her movement.

She jumps up, looks out the widow, but a sudden beam of sulight blinds her and she shields her eyes. A rumble, a multitude of cracks, an explosion of rock – then the light fades enough for her to look. She runs outside without thinking, while the TV is screeching at her, ‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!’

Mrs May MacIntyre from next door is lying motionless on the ground in a slanted beam of sunlight, eyes wide and blank, her expression caught between terror and ecstasy. With green and white robes, honey-golden hair, and pink petals dripping from her arm, the other figure turns and fixes Grace with an ambiguously perceptive, knowing look in her blue and brown eyes.

She looks up, and the Primavera looks down at her.


‘So, does she take place of the old woman, or…?’ Graham asked.

‘I dunno. It’s like she has to destroy the old world before she can make the new one,’ I said, when I actually had no real idea, and rather relished it, given that I’m prone to writing novels which require explaining EVERYTHING.

Written by G.J.

14/06/2012 at 8:06 pm

Savage Writing: Script Night – Babysitting is Magic

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For the Leeds Savage Script Night. This isn’t the proper format for a script but I never intended it to be “proper” anyway. Kind of wish I’d let someone else play Leanne’s part instead of me, but hey ho. Also, everyone though there was going to be a plot twist at the end…nope. Didn’t even consider it. The piece is about the horrors of friendship, people!

L:         Hey, you. Short one. Come over here and talk to me.

E:         I’m not short.

L:         Yeah, I’ve got boots taller than you, sunshine – come on, sit down and chat to me. Tell me about yourself.

E:         [Says nothing. Looks down]

L:         Ah, like that, is it? Your auntie Leanne comes to look after you and you haven’t even got a word for her? Not a peep for the auntie you haven’t seen in years?

E:         I don’t know what to say.

L          Well, tell me about boy bands you like – actually, no, don’t, I don’t wanna be sick – or what subjects at school you like, or what TV shows you like.

E:         Um, I like “My Little Pony”.

L:         Honey, I like “My Little Pony”. That shit is awesome. That’s not news.

E:         I don’t think my mum would like it if she knew you were swearing in front of me.

L:         Whatever. You can take it. Little bit of blue air in’t gonna harm you. [lights up fag]

E:         You know, smoking’s really bad for you.

L:         Wow, in the whole decade-and-a-bit I’ve lived more than you, this is honestly the first time I’ve ever heard of it. Good job!

E:         It’s bad for me, as well. And if mum smells it when you come back, you’re gonna get in a lot of trouble.

L:         Whatever. I’ll tell her it was you. Tell her you tricked me into giving you a fag, like it was some wacky American comedy piece of shit. She’ll believe me.

E:         No she won’t.

L:         Sh, sh, don’t contradict the grown-ups, honey. Anyway, you didn’t answer me. What do you like at school?

E:         I like maths.

L:         Maths. Maths? Good God, how did Kelly end up with a kid like you? Maths. Jesus Christ.

E:         What’s wrong with liking maths?

L:         Really, how could she turn out a kid that likes maths of all things? I mean, we spent all of school smoking by the art block–

E:         Mum doesn’t smoke. She’s never smoked.

L:         [barely listening] Well, as far as I remember anyway, fuck knows if I’m right, I can’t remember a thing. I’m not even sure either of us ever learnt to read.

E:         Really?

L:         Yeah honey, it was my dog that signed your birthday and Christmas cards last year. Keep up, sweetie. [pats chin]

E:         Get off, I’m not a little kid! You’re lying anyway – I’ve never gotten a Christmas card from you. And there’s nothing wrong with liking maths!

L:         Nothing wrong with dressing like a chicken and clucking through the egg section at Morrison’s either, but I don’t do it.

E:         And why do you watch “My Little Pony” anyway? It’s for kids!

L:         Just like optimism and outrage, sweetie.

E:         I’m not your sweetie! You’re not even my auntie! And you shouldn’t even be allowed to look after me. Dad told me about you.

L:         Ah, DisQord himself, sowing the seeds of chaos. Go on, what’d he say?

E:         He said a criminal shouldn’t be left alone with a child. He said you’re not trustworthy, and that you’d probably steal something.

L:         Puh-lease, like he keeps anything of worth in this shithole. You and your mum are the only precious things in this house. Sweetie.

E:         Dad said you went to jail. That means you’re a criminal. He didn’t want mum to let you babysit me but she made him. He said he’d rather pay a stranger to look after me than have you, and I wish he had.

[Leanne sighs.]

L:         You know, Evie – look at me, Evie, don’t you go away from me! – you know, Kelly was so happy when she found out she was going to have you. I thought she was way too fucking young to ruin her life, but she was happy, and even if you don’t remember it, I saw you as a baby and you were really cute and everything. Me and your mum were always thick as thieves, and when you were born she said I was your godmother – you know, not a real godmother, an atheist godmother-in-spirit kind of thing. I wanted to be there for you, so I sent you cards even when you couldn’t read them. And I’m sorry you haven’t really seen me before now – if I could’ve visited, I would’ve. Now let’s not talk about your dad. Do you like swimming? Or dancing? Or gymnastics?

E:         You’ve never sent me any cards.

L:         I’m sorry they weren’t very nice, sweetie – I only had paper and pens in prison, I couldn’t buy you one in there, and I’m not the best at drawing – but I tried, I really did.

E:         I never got any.

[Leanne pauses and looks at her]

L:         Did your mum ever talk about me, Evie?

E:         You’re in pictures of when I was a baby. She told me who you were. And then dad told me that you set someone’s car on fire and got put in prison.

L:         You know, out of all the millions of statistics and things in the newspapers, how come Kelly had to be one of the ones to have her baby-daddy stay with her? Why her out of everyone?

E:         I’m going to watch TV.

L:         Evie, Evie, please, don’t – well…you can go watch TV if you like, go watch My Little Pony, just come here first – come here, give me a hug.

E:         I don’t want to.

L:         Just a quick hug, Evie, then I’ll leave you alone forever. Okay? Okay?

[They hug. Evie runs off. Leanne smokes in silence. Evie sings along with the song off-stage:]

E:         “And magic makes it all complete…”

L:         I loved making those cards, Kelly.

[Song fades out – “Do you know you are my very best friend”. Leanne still smoking as lights fade].


‘I thought she was going to turn out the be the mother!’

‘Me too!’


Didn’t even think of it. I’m not a natural 1000 word writer! I don’t know you’re meant to put a twist at the end of everything!

Written by G.J.

14/06/2012 at 7:40 pm

Savage Writing: Sunglasses like he was James Dean or something.

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Inspired by a picture of a young boy sitting in a cafeteria, wearing shorts, jacket and sunglasses. The picture was from Yorkshire but I got an American vibe. Third piece I presented to the Savages. Got a pretty good response 🙂

Stupid kid. Wearing his sunglasses like he was James Dean or something, walking around the food court like he owned it. Yes, my younger brother had discovered “cool”, and was trying his hardest to personify it: leather jacket, slicked hair, and shades indoors. And with that, he had replaced his boring birth name of “Sean” for something more dangerous, more animal, more “cool”: Sharky.

He didn’t look like he could bite anything, let alone tear it apart like Jaws. He hadn’t even been able to watch the whole of that film with me, and had spent most of it cowering into my shirt sleeve. But still, he said, sharks were cool, and “Sean” was stupid, so he was Sharky.

I, as his older sister, was placed firmly in the “uncool” category in his eyes, just as he – the little blonde dork in the sunglasses, leather jacket and shorts – was firmly my own “uncool” category.

‘Shorts aren’t cool,’ I’d said to him on the way there.

‘Are so,’ he’d said, pushing the too-big sunglasses up his nose.

We hung about in the food hall, not eating – we didn’t have the money – and not doing anything. Sharky would wander around the tables, nodding at girls like he was hot stuff, and looking away just before they laughed at him. Me, I couldn’t move from my seat. I kept gripping my bag as if it might run away, looking around the place, watching every person come and go and twitching whenever someone middle-aged and male entered.

Eventually, after over half an hour, Sharky finished his circuit and returned to me. I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

‘He said he’d be here at two,’ I said. The clock minute hand was past the point where I could say it was “closer to two than three”.

He pushed the sunglasses up his face again.

‘A man can be as late as he likes,’ he said, trying and failing to lower his unbroken voice to an acceptable leading-man pitch.

‘Shut up,’ I said, nerves making me sharp. It had only been a few months since we had last seen him, but in that short amount of time he had become a stranger in my mind, and now I was as frazzled as a girl on her first date. Another girl, not me. I never had a true “first date” – I would hang out with boys and only realise later that I’d been on a date. The first time I’d realised it during a date – at the roller disco with Peter Howden – I hadn’t been nervous at all. I’d tried to go all willowy like Jerry Hall and show that I didn’t care, wasn’t fazed, but being willowy is not a good idea on a roller rink and my knees had felt it the next day. It got me some time in Pete’s arms as he tried to hold me up, though, so it worked out in the end.

Sharky pulled himself up onto the table in front of me, bare legs dangling off the crumb-laden top. I tried to gauge his expression, but those stupid shades hid half of his face. Surely, I thought, you’re a young kid and you’re younger than me – surely you must be feeling worse than me?

Five minutes ticked by. The queues for food thinned and the number entering dwindled. Sharky’s feet swung back and forth, back and forth like a pendulum.

‘Can you stop that?’ I finally snapped. He turned and looked at me, and didn’t say a word. ‘You’re driving me crazy. Take off those stupid glasses and come sit next to me.’

He leant back on his hands, facing the ceiling, and swung his legs more.

‘Cool men don’t need to do what uncool people say. They don’t understand.’

‘Stupid little boys need to do what their big sisters say,’ I said.

‘Yeah,’ he said with an infuriating smirk, ‘but I ain’t stupid, am I?’

“Ain’t” was another “cool” word that he had picked up.

‘Yes you are. Get off the table. What’ll he think if he sees you like that?’

‘He won’t think anything,’ my brother said.

I bit my nails, too tired to argue. Five more minutes ticked by. The clock minute hand told me it was far closer to three than two. When I turned my eyes away, I saw a tall, brown-haired figure entering the court. I inhaled and jumped up, straining my eyes to see him against the bright sun outside. Broad shoulders like him, strong walk like him –

And then he caught the light and I saw the fuzz on his face. Great ugly sideburns, fluffed out like a chick’s down, running down to his chin, unattached to any redeeming moustache or beard. My father had a huge brush of a moustache, running right over his lips so thick you could never see any skin underneath, and he’d never get rid of it, I knew it.

The stranger walked to the other end of the hall and met a woman who was standing there in a miniskirt shorter than my own. And my brother just sat and watched them in vague interest, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

‘I can’t stand it, Sharky,’ I blurted out. ‘He’s not coming. He was never going to come. He doesn’t care now he has his new family. He doesn’t care anymore.’

I sat back down and gripped my bag as if I was trying to strangle it. Sean had stopped swinging his legs. Five more minutes we sat like that, the clock said: nearly three pm. As soon as it ticked five minutes to, my little brother swung himself off the table and put his hands in his jacket pockets.

‘Let’s go home,’ he said, in a tone that almost hit the leading-man mark. I sniffed and stood up. We walked out of the court and into the harsh sunlight, and we looked around for any sign of the man that had been so familiar to us a few months before.

Sharky looked up at me, as if telling me to move when I wanted to stay there and wait forever.

‘He’s not coming,’ I said, trying to convince myself. ‘Let’s go home.’

We walked home together, holding hands like dorks, and occasionally my little brother would put a hand to his face and – while pretending to push the glasses back up his nose – wipe away the very un-cool tears that kept slipping down from under his shades.

Written by G.J.

14/06/2012 at 7:35 pm

Savage Writing: A New Start

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I write my own fanfic sometimes. This is a piece I modified from one which is meant to take place after the events of one novel, because it fit the theme of “A New Start.” I edited all the spec. fic elements away because it wasn’t exactly necessary in a domestic scene, and changed a few names. Second piece I presented to the Leeds Savages.


This was the house. On a normal street with a grey sky above the roofs, it was a narrow semi-detached house, with a tidy front garden and a blue front door. As the taxi pulled away from the kerb behind him, he suddenly wanted to run. He didn’t belong here. This was the world of birdhouses and school runs and taking the dog for a walk, not the world of flips and parallel bars; not the world of screaming fits and crushed beer cans; not even the world of champagne and opera that he’d so recently stumbled into. The wind rustled the bushes, cars hummed by in the distance, and here he was, outside a normal house in a normal street in a normal area, and he was so alien to it all.

The front door opened, and she appeared.

‘Ty? What are you standing there for? Come in, come in!’

It still surprised him, how much his mother looked like his older sister – or rather, how much his sister looked like her. They shared the curly red-brown hair, the button nose, the eyes that crinkled when they smiled – even their haircuts were similar, though that must have been coincidence. Only the grey in her locks and the tired look in her eyes distinguished the older woman from her daughter.

But of course that similarity should still surprise him. He had only met her for the first time the other night, when they all went out for dinner. God, what a mess that had been.

He walked down the stone-slab path and when he came to her she stepped aside to let him in, her lips pressed tight as she tried to repress a smile.

The first thing that hit him was the most delicious smell. He couldn’t quite place what it was, but it was warm and sweet and enticing. She apologised for the messiness of her perfectly normal, not-very-messy home, and led him through the narrow hallway to the living room at the back. Everywhere had pale walls, white, yellow blue, and oaky varnished floorboards. In the lounge there were old mismatched armchairs of differing back heights and cushion depth, including a rocking chair, and one couch with cracked leather on the arms. There were framed quotes on the walls and a picture of the Virgin Mary over the mantlepiece. Rugs! Scuffed rugs, not like the perfection he’d seen at Chris’s holiday home when he visited, rugs that were stepped on in a house that was lived in. It was as imperfect and homely as he could have wanted. He was even surprised when a blur in the corner stood up and came over to sniff at his legs.

‘Oh, don’t mind Jasper. You’re not allergic, are you? Have a seat, have a seat. Everywhere’s bit of a mess at the moment – I’m baking for a cake sale at the church this weekend and what with work and meeting you and Cathy, I’ve barely had the time. I hope you’re okay with tasting some for me!’

He almost cried at the idea of not being okay with it. Of course the smell had been home baking. Cathy had tried baking a cake for his birthday a few years ago and it had failed hilariously, and he hadn’t had anything like it since. Chris probably would have ordered him all the cake and sweets he desired, hand-moulded by French chefs, if he had mentioned it, but he didn’t like to ask too much of him. It was early days, after all.

‘Th-that would be amazing,’ he managed to choke out.

She beamed at him and went into the kitchen. He sat on the couch and held his hand out for the terrier to sniff, and scratched its neck, only sensible to the sound of Diane moving tins and cups in the kitchen, the dirty fur under his fingers, and that mind-altering smell. He was glad Cathy had refused to come today. He had just wanted to talk to his mother for the first time in his memory, but instead their dinner had devolved into a court scene where his mum was the defendant and his sister the prosecutor. We find the defendant guilty of abandoning her two children to a father not worth the ground he was buried in. Her sentence is to continue to never see her two children, on pain of verbal abuse from a twenty-two year old. Fuck that. Cathy might be right a lot of the time, but she couldn’t stop his curiosity about the woman that had given birth to him, and she couldn’t stop Diane from wanting to see her baby boy.

She came back through with a plate of assorted biscuits, with crumbling bases and icing dripping off the sides. The first bite exploded sweetness into his mouth.

‘Is it okay?’ Diane asked. He nodded, violently stuffed two more into his mouth before he had finished swallowing the first.

‘My, is it that good? If everyone responds like this, we should do well!’

He finished his mouthful, had a few swigs of water, and proceeded to cough for five minutes.

‘Are you all right?’ she asked after he had finally finished.

‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ he said. ‘Sorry, um, if I was rude or anything – ’

‘Oh, no, no, they’re there to be eaten –’

‘It’s just, well, I’ve never really had home baking before.’

You’d think he had said he’d never worn shoes before, such was the mortification on her face. She hugged him tightly, and like with Cathy, her hair tickled his face.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she said. ‘I…you know what I said to Cathy the other night. I don’t expect you to forgive me. I know what your father was like, and you…well, you know what he was like.’

The best thing the vindictive bastard had ever done was die. Diane forced herself to smile.

‘Anyway, enough of that – we had too much of it the other night. I feel I barely got to speak to you then! Tell me about yourself. I couldn’t believe it when I found out you were a gymnast – but of course you are. Look at those arms!’

She pinched his biceps and he smiled. Sinking back into the cushions, she gave him a knowing look.

‘I’m sure you get all the girls with those. Tell me, is there anyone special in your life?’

Only a boy with blonde hair and more money than could fit in this house. Only a boy who played piano and covered his mouth when he laughed. Only a boy who listened to him when he talked about his father. But even Cathy didn’t know about him yet.

He shook his head modestly and she teased him, and as he patted the dog and reached for another biscuit, he thought about what he would tell Chris when he phoned tonight. He had been so happy yesterday, when told that Ty had arranged to meet her alone today.

‘It’s only right,’ he had said. ‘She’s your only mother after all. And this is a chance for a new start with her, after everything.’

He blissed out of the conversation on the first bite again, and merely watched as his mother talked at him, surprised at how content he felt. A new start. He had always laughed at the idea, but maybe his boyfriend was right. Maybe it could be all it was said to be.

Written by G.J.

14/06/2012 at 7:20 pm