The woman screamed loudly as the huge man neared her. He was grinning and his badly squinted eyes were painful to look at. The woman however, was in no mood to even think about the eyes. Her car had broken before a mental asylum gate, and she had been looking under the hood for some sign of engine culpability, when a bellow from him had shaken her out of her senses. He had, in some manner broken free from the enclosure and was now coming up to her. She was all alone; it was getting dark and they were in a remote part of town.
Upon seeing him, she took off some distance, then stopped and turned, to see what he was now up to. Over the gate of the asylum, three other inmates stood, clutching the iron bars and making faces. One was laughing, the other was calling out to her, and the third was talking to himself.
She shuddered. They were all mad! And here she was all alone, with an engine break-down. If those three men also climbed the gate and came for her, where would she run?
Meanwhile, the huge man looked under the hood of the car. She could see him from the distance she was; he appeared to check something. Then he straightened up, came around and turned the ignition. The car roared to life! He left it running, pulled down the hood and called out:
“It’s working Ma’am. I’ve fixed it!”
She watched stunned as he walked back to the asylum, climbed the gate and joined his friends. As she hurried back to the car, dived in and drove away, the huge man gurgled:
“She thinks I’m stupid.”
“You’re not!” one of his friends retorted as they walked away. “You’re only barking mad!”
(c) Cindy Pereira
Sarah’s face was twisted around her button nose. Her left cheek, now red with the heat of the moment, drawn up, stretching her tightly closed mouth up towards her more sinister nostril. Her eyes were wide, reddening and welling up with barely contained tears.
Her head dropped, her left hand rising to support it caught her cheek and pushed it even further up her face, creasing her left eye closed, tight.
A tear made its way down her nose, only to be drawn into her nostril as she snorted, her attempt to prevent breaking down completely in front of her friends.
Embarrassed by the ugly sound of her struggle, she pulled her other hand up and dropped her head, hiding behind the baggy woolly sleeves of her navy blue jumper.
She felt the warm pressure of the hand upon her shoulder, a comforting touch from her friend. She didn’t look up, her tears were flowing freely now, her red cheeks were hot and wet, her eyes sore and her throat aching with the effort of keeping her sobbing silent. Her body started to shake and her shoulders heaved as her breathing became more erratic.
“What’s wrong, Sarah?” The voice was soft, whispered close to her hidden, sodden, face.
She tried to whisper her reply but her snorted, desperate breathing and restricted throat betrayed her. Whispered vowels became half voiced diphthongs, broken into hiccup like sounds that echoed around the room. “She thinks I’m stupid.”
She felt another hand at the base of her neck, a gentle rubbing over her hunched shoulders and a soft, sweet voice in her left ear.
“Actually, I think you’re as bright as a star, Sarah. Nobody knows everything, we all come here to learn. Even me.”
(c) Madelaine Taylor
“Do we have to go to dinner with that dreadful woman.” Lois sighed, as she finished applying blood red lipstick to her thin, pensive mouth.
“I do wish you wouldn’t say that about my mother.” Jeremy knew he was fighting a losing battle, but persevered nonetheless. He had always been attracted to headstrong women, but it often led to confrontations with his mother, a woman who was the template for the term “battle axe.”
“I can just tell she doesn’t think I’m good enough for you.”
A familiar tension filled the room.
“She thinks I’m stupid.”
Jeremy didn’t want to lie, but at the same time calling his highly strung and increasingly irritated girlfriend stupid to her face probably wasn’t the best plan either.
“Look, we’ll go, eat, make our excuses then leave. I’ll drive so you can drink.”
“And she’s making her Lemon Meringue Pie.”
“As long as she doesn’t make a comment if I go for seconds...”
She was smiling now, despite herself. Her dimples gave it away. It was in moments like this Jeremy remembered why he fell for Lois in the first place. Like a good meringue she was hard and elegant on the surface, but once cracked she had a centre that was soft, sweet and utterly irresistible.
“Shall we go then?”
(c) Caitlin Magnall-Kearns
Mike was already in a bad mood before he discovered the offending article in the bathroom bin. He’d briefly considered ignoring it and letting his wife Kate deal with the fallout, but that was the coward’s way. Instead he’d carefully picked it up and stomped into the lounge where his wife and daughter were sat watching TV. He’d had no idea how to broach the subject and had settled on righteous indignation; he always found the view from his high horse rather pleasing.
“Something you want to tell us, Claire?” Both Kate and Claire stared at him in bemusement. “Nothing?” They both continued to look at him nonplussed. “I thought we could trust you, Claire. I knew that little toe-rag was trouble, you wait till I get my hands on him.”
“Dad, what are you on about, I’m trying to watch TV?”
Her blasé dismissal was the final straw. “This is what!” and with a triumphant flourish he produced the used pregnancy test stick from behind his back. “I know this is yours.”
Claire’s eyes widened. “Dad, I…”
“No, don’t try and deny it or tell me it belongs to one of your friends.” Claire clamped her mouth shut and slowly turned to face her mum. “And don’t look to your mum for help either, this is your problem. So what have you got to say for yourself?”
“Actually…” said Kate speaking for the first time.
“Quiet, Kate, let her speak for herself.”
“It’s not hers.”
Mike was so consumed by rage that it took a while for those words to sink in. “What?”
“The test. It’s mine. I’m… we’re going to have a baby.”
A smug smile enveloped Claire’s face as she turned to face her dad. “So, Dad, what have you got to say for yourself?”
(c) Jeff Jones
“I know this is yours.” she said, staring at him with that glacial look he knew so well. “I think its about time you told me the truth- you at least owe me that!”
He glanced around, searching for an escape route, or at least some inspiration. If he told her the truth, the police would instantly be called, she would have no compunction of having him thrown into jail – he knew that. His heart was hammering away inside his chest, the sweat coating his brow, the fear was palpable.
She could read him so well, she could see how uncomfortable he was feeling, that he knew he had been well and truly caught this time and was worried about what actions she would take. It wasn’t the first time, but she had never had the physical evidence previously. This time would have to be the last, she was not going to allow him to continue along this destructive path.
Agitated, and rocking from one foot to the other, he felt the emotion building. Determined not to cry, he bit down on his lip and stared at the floor, saying nothing. This just enraged her even more.
“OK then. No more chances!” With that she darted forward and grabbed him by his collar. “You’re coming with me to explain to Farmer Johnson how and why you’ve been stealing these apples from him!” Grabbing the heavy backpack filled with the ripe juicy spoils he had gathered that morning and hidden in the coal shed to share with his mates later on, she manhandled him to the door. “I am not having you end up like your Da, thieving for a living and ending up spending most of your time In Jail, this stops now!”
(c) Hilary Taylor
“Why do you look so wistful today?” The carer asked the old lady as she came in to wash and dress her.
She looked into the middle distance as she replied, “They say an Englishman’s house is his castle. When I met my husband by no stretch of the imagination could anyone call his house a castle. Mismatched sticks of furniture passed for a lounge suite and the carpet was an awful shaggy green thing. The bedroom was equally Spartan a bed and a small side table. The colours of the furnishings reflected the same lack of taste, beige and green. The other bedrooms were empty, save one lonely single bed.”
“I should have run then, but no, I quite liked the guy and thought we could make a go of it. I was not starry-eyed but practical. Slowly, I changed things. When we transferred to another mine after his promotion, we also moved to a big house. I had my ammunition and said as we would have to entertain the company bosses when they come out we needed decent furniture.”
“Soon, my lounge boasted matching chairs, and a sofa made of solid Imbuia wood with comfy cushions. In the dining room, I had smart chairs nestled around a highly polished solid wood table. The spare room was cosy and welcoming to the occasional mining engineer who needed to stay over. But my pièce de résistance was the main bedroom. A wonderful concoction of modular pieces comprising chests of drawers, a dressing table top and best of all were the bedside tables which were mini bookshelves and across the top of the bed there was also a shelf for books.”
“Why did you leave it?”
She looked sad. “Ah, that’s another story and I’m tired now.”
(c) Felicity Edwards
I had seen the girl hanging around near the station for several weeks as I headed to the hospital for my shift. The area is where sad cases hang out together kidding themselves they have a bit of a community, maybe a few people who give a damn. Safety in numbers for runaways who get off the train in the big city, full of bravado but scared stiff. She had been with a tall dark youth, but lately I hadn’t noticed him around. She seemed to be alone.
She was young and thin but I began to notice her belly was growing. She was definitely pregnant. It was not my place to interfere, but as a midwife I couldn’t ignore her condition. I stopped to speak to her one morning and gave her a card with details of the maternity unit, but she looked at me blankly and stuffed it into her pocket.
Some weeks later as I crossed the road I saw a wraith-like figure putting a bundle on the ground and disappearing round the corner. It was a newborn baby, I would guess just hours old, wrapped in the coat I’d seen the girl wearing. I picked it up and dialled the emergency services whilst turning into the alley. I saw her immediately, leaning against the wall. It was as if she’d been waiting for me.
‘Come with me, you need help,’ I said, taking her arm. ‘I know this is yours.’
(c) Elaine Peters
“Hey Andy, What does your wife think about your common sense?” a Calcutta cab driver asked another, smiling. “She thinks I’m stupid.” Andy seemed upset. “Take a peek at the street!” murmured Andy’s friend. Andy looked at the street.
A little boy was walking barefoot on the road, approaching different cab drivers and moving on. Curious, Andy approached the kid. “Where are you from, big boy?” he asked. The boy asked in return “Why shall I tell you?” Andy changed his question. “Where are you going?” “To my grandma’s house to find the keys to that room,” he answered. Seeing that the boy was wearing gold jewellery and might be in danger if left alone, Andy decided to help him. “Let’s go to your grandma’s,” he babbled. He took the boy along with him to the Esplanade Police Station.
The policemen drove around in nearby areas, trying to find the house the boy was referring to. Acting on a hunch, they finally found the house in Central Avenue. “It is locked, sir,” a constable informed, “the holder’s phone is not reachable.” The officer-in-charge of the operation arched his brows.
“In which school are you studying?” he queried. “Strand Road School,” the kid replied. Turning to the information the boy had given about his school, the police contacted the school officials to track down his parents.
The school officials detected everything the policemen wanted to know about the boy. The principal asked the police inspector ‘What’s the reason behind this, officer?” “It’s still not clear, but he is lucky to have been found by Andy,” answered the police officer. “Yeah, the cab driver has shown immense compassion and presence of mind,” the principal agreed.
Tears coursed down his cheeks when the lost boy was reunited with his parents.
(c) Dipayan Chakrabarti
As the van drew up by the back door, she switched on the kettle.
“Hello dear, how was your day?”
He smiled at her usual greeting. “Fine, love. Where’s Lucy?”
“Oh upstairs, probably sulking, like all teenagers.”
I’ll pop up and see how she is while my tea is brewing.”
He softly knocked on her door. “Lucy, it’s me. Dad, can I come in?”
She opened the door, her manner subdued and with a tear-stained face. “What’s wrong, lass? Has someone been nasty to you at school?”
This brought on another paroxysm of tears. He gathered her into his arms. “What’s wrong, my girl?”
She sniffled, then burst out. “I hate domestic science. Why do we all have to do it at school?
He shook his head. “I don’t know, maybe some misogynistic notion that girls need to learn how to cook and clean.”
She sniffed and gave a muffled laugh. “I’m never going to sew again.”
He looked puzzled, with a frown said, “Why, what’s wrong with sewing?”
With a sigh, she went over to a pile of material in the corner. She picked it up and waved it around. “This is, we have to cut out and make a pair of pyjamas. I did the trousers fine, but I didn’t see I should have put the pattern along a fold of the material. Now I’ve only got one side and there isn’t enough material left for another.”
Confused, he said, “That’s why you are crying? We can buy more on Saturday.”
Her eyes were glistening with more tears. She shook her head. “Mum says she won’t help me anymore.”
“Nonsense, I’ll talk her round.”
Lucy was nearly hysterical. “She thinks I’m stupid.” As she flung herself down on the bed sobbing.
(c) Felicity Edwards
Rebecca wasn’t sure whether to take a sip of water. The tickle in her throat might pass, and she didn’t feel comfortable in the room. She felt self conscious and worried that she’d say something that might come out wrong. Phil looked at their counsellor, Trisha, waiting for her to speak.
“I thought it good to just sit a few moments and let things settle” Trisha opened with.
Nobody said anything until Rebecca raised her hand.
“You’re not in school, Rebecca. What did you want to say?”
“Well, it’s just that we often ignore the important conversations. The difficult stuff is what we don’t share” Rebecca managed to say.
Phil picked up his glass and took a large gulp of water.
“I have tried to speak to you. You clam up and change the subject. I can’t ask you anything without you leaving a room. That’s why we’re here” Phil locked eyes with Trisha avoiding looking at Rebecca.
Trisha saw sadness smothering her clients, she wanted to help them both breathe.
“What is the one question you need to ask one another in a safe space” Trisha asked.
Rebecca said she’d answer first and played with her hair a moment before speaking.
“My question is, why does it matter?…I mean, I’m certain and my word should be enough”
Trisha nodded at Phil to encourage his contribution.
“I want to know the truth about what has happened. I’d rather know. Should I be concerned?”
Rebecca turned to face Phil, moving her chair slightly. Her eyes were watering, tears were coming.
“You have nothing to worry about. I made a mistake but that’s in the past and we have a chance of a future together”
Rebecca took Phil’s hand and placed it on her small bump.
“I know this is yours.”
(c) Liz Breen
“She thinks I’m stupid.” I sign. Like for most people, it is my failure for not being able to communicate with them, never theirs for not being able to understand me. Few people start from the place of congruence, so the burden is always mine as the unconventional minority to bridge the gap in communication. Winston is one of the few people I know who talks to me from a point of similarity from which there is a more equitable outcome. He is my interpreter and I have to employ him. If this woman had to employ an interpreter to speak to me, would she bother?
He is signing to me, but not interpreting any more. He tells me that she is shouting now so that I might hear her better and that she is making eye contact with Winston, so that he can tell me what she wants me to hear. He has already explained that I require a seat with a clear view of the interpreter and she is saying that it is not possible, the auditorium holds a lot of people and due to the importance of the speaker, the venue is sold out. She is saying that if my interpreter does not have a ticket then he won’t have entry.
She looks to the next person in the queue apologising for the delay with her eyes. She tells Winston that Professor Norris the eminent neurosurgeon who is making todays lecture will not appreciate the disruption of people taking their seat whilst he is speaking. She looks at all the lanyards and names she still has to process and the queue building up behind me, then at her watch. “What is your name please?” again to Winston who signs the question. Professor Norris I tell her.
(c) Steve Goodlad
“Why did you leave it?”
She considered his question in silence as they gazed into the night sky. Why sounded so direct, yet its answers never were. They wove about her in a tangle of self-doubt, regret, and tender hope. Most of her reasons for anything were invisible even to her, but they wrapped about her wrists, her ankles, tugging her along in their jerky marionette’s dance. Those reasons that gathered fastest on her tongue tasted stale, dry, empty of any true insight.
Why would she leave? Perhaps that could be answered well enough. How could she leave? That never would be.
She looked again to the star, tiny in the sky, glimmering with the light of home. She thought again of the once-green planet, faded to grey, and felt the familiar guilt of survival, of escape.
“I left,” she said at last, “because there was nothing left to stay for.”
(c) Miriam H Harrison
‘Why did you leave it?’
'It was the worst hotel I’d ever been in.’
‘It looked fine on the internet,’ she said.
‘Close up, it turned out to be a low-grade sewer. My room was a walk-in cupboard. The smoke alarm was missing, and the ends of the electric wires were taped over with gaffer tape.’
‘Just like your study, in fact.’
I ignored the jibe.
‘The shower encroached right onto the toilet. It’s a clever concept, being able to have a shower whilst sitting on the khazi, an economy of effort admirable in these busy times, but I found it extremely off-putting.’
‘I’m not surprised – showers and you have been strangers for years.’
‘The management mustn’t have trusted the clientele too much, because they screwed the fourteen-inch television to the desk. I saw some of the clientele later whilst out for a short stroll. Every one of them looked as shifty as Beelzebub.’
‘You should have felt quite at home, then.’
‘The sink in the bathroom didn’t run to a plug, so, in order to get washed, I had to stuff a wad of toilet-paper into the plug-hole. There was no refrigerator, so I had to keep my juice bottle on the outside window-shelf, where it was attacked by jackdaws.’
‘Nothing wrong with jackdaws – intelligent creatures, unlike some people I could mention.’
‘The bedclothes smelt of an alpaca’s breath, and the pillows were filled with rocks. At three in the morning, one of the clientele, out in the courtyard, started arguing with another, in a language that might have been Armenian, for all I knew.’
‘You are your own worst enemy, choosing the hotel on price. Tight as a tick, you are. Always have been. I’ve no idea what possessed me to marry you.’
(c) RT Hardwick
The boss approached. Sweeping gracefully over the rippling ocean from the western continent which she must have finally finished inspecting. Apparently, they had gone all out over there. They’d inserted a preposterously long river, definitely the longest so far on this planet. A desert, a rainforest, enormous grassy plains and a wealth of underground ores and minerals. So predictable. They always had to be the ones to create the most prosperous continent. Every time.
“Now, Oz. You’ve been working on the great southern landmass. How have you been getting on?”
The boss scrutinised my work with vague noises of interest. Poking the south-eastern mountain ranges, judging their respectability. She pinched a small part of my widespread low plateau desert and seemed satisfied if not a little unimpressed. I waited, staunching the urge to interrupt.
“What is this?” the boss was indicating the red sandstone monolith in the middle of my continent.
I hesitated, “Don’t you like it?”
“Why did you leave it?”
“I meant to put it there.”
“Oz, don’t get me wrong. It’s original but I’m not sure it’s a good idea. The creatures intended for this planet may be confused by an enormous rock in the middle of such a large plateau. They have a predisposition for creating deities … and we need to discourage that.”
“But it serves a geological purpose! I’ve rigged it to produce streams of drinkable water once the surrounding landmass reaches a high enough temperature. The creatures will love it!”
“I don’t doubt that but we must be careful to make the planet as explainable as possible. You know that.”
“It’s my most innovative work,” I couldn’t keep the petulant, rebellious tone from my voice, “and I’m not moving it.”
(c) Rachel Smith
Weekly Write Stories
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