F.F.F. Stories – Tuesday 9/7/21

5. Your Turn, by Marjan Sierhuis

Brad’s sleep is interrupted by strange sounds as he lies on the stretcher. He groans and pulls the hospital sheet over his head. But the noise remains, accompanied by the occasional abdominal cramp.

His memory is foggy when it all comes back to him.
.
“The visual examination went well, Brad,” says Dr. Smith as he walks over and touches his patient on the shoulder.

“I told him it wouldn’t be so bad,” says Brad’s wife, walking over and kissing her husband on the cheek.

Dr. Smith replies with a gleam in his eye. “I will schedule you for next week.”

4. Cannot Go Back, by Lisa Miller

Norman’s face shines with self-satisfaction and pleasure when he pulls off his wife’s birthday surprise. But her mood darkens, face red, when the same Singing Telegram from last year performs. A modest woman, pretty with golden hair … Norm teases her relentlessly, reciting the most current blonde jokes along with tired one-liners featuring sex toys and used condoms. All eyes on her, he looks for her reaction when he announces her age along with a wisecrack about antique cars. A cold silence fills the room. Her second marriage has her longing for the first. Too late for a change of heart.

3. Paradise Left, by Nicky Johnson

Old Man Jarrett wasn’t a recluse, nor was he that old. In fact, the handsome gentleman often fraternized with the locals at community events. He simply adored his vast acreage and felt no reason to travel. The majority of each day was occupied tending to a truly majestic butterfly garden while sipping coffee from a thermos.

In time, a lovely young lady rivaled the haven. Full of energy, she begged him to see the world with her. He consented. Consequently, as the plane plummeted, he prayed not for his life, but for forgiveness from his beloved butterflies.

2. Sunrise, by Don Tassone

Haiti awoke in the darkness, slipped out of her small house and headed for the beach. She would be back in less than an hour, before her daughter and husband awoke.

She followed a dirt path, the moon lighting her way. The waves softly called to her, like old friends. She took her shoes off, the sand cool on the soles of her feet, and sat down where she knew the sand was soft and dry.

Haiti closed her eyes and whispered a prayer … then opened them just in time to watch the sun rise, as she did every day.

1. His Death, by Julie Achilles

We both stood there looking down at him. Knowing he was close to death, I wanted no more of it.

Jordan was still full of anger, stored-up, revengeful, for all those years of endured abuse. I had never forgiven, yet, I knew this had to stop–now. Jordan delivered another hefty kick to his side and I watched, horrified, as he lay there. He cried out no more. He was done.

‘Please, Jordan,’ I begged. I begged for our abuser’s life.

It was too late and he was dead and Jordan stood beside me and cried.

F.F.F. Stories – Thursday 9/2/21 (B)

5. Little Miss Dolittle, by Henry Bladon

I thought I’d come to the park for a sit down. It’s my second month not working and it’s driving me mad not being able to talk to people. I’ll soon be talking to the dirty pigeons. Well, at least I can use the time to have my hair cut and go shopping. And I can go drinking at lunchtime – with the pigeons, of course; you should never drink by yourself. Ha, ha … talking to the pigeons and then drinking with them. I’m Little Miss Dolittle.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m telling all this stuff to a squirrel.

4. I Knew A Guy, by William Beeker

I knew a guy who bought new shoes that were a little too big for him but he liked the color and style and wore them to work anyway and during his commute a boy ran out into the street to catch his bus on the opposite side and the guy couldn’t get his big clumsy shoe on the brake in time to stop and he struck the kid with his car and the kid bled out in the street while his classmates watched from little plastic windows on the bus.

3. The Nice Lady, by Lisa Miller

Walking into the home, some patients look up … then gaze back at the colorful moving images on the screen. In the dining room, the pale pastel walls look festive with bright pink-n-black balloons dangling over the table. Most residents nibble on white cake while some push the melting vanilla ice cream around with a fork. “Happy Birthday, Mom,” I whisper, kneeling beside her when she unexpectedly starts stroking my hair. And for a moment I’m the little girl she loves. Still, holding her hand, I know she always welcomes me. But only as the nice lady who drops in.

2. Daffodils, by Gordon Lawrie

Irene loved daffodils: a sign of spring, a sign of hope. Carefully, she arranged them in a glass Dartington glass vase designed specifically for the job … then half-filled it. She added some sugar, a trick she’d learned from her mother decades previously … then placed them on a table near the living room window.

Once, flowers had been a regular part of her life. For over fifty years, Harry had brought some on the way home every few days. He’d bought her the vase, too.

It was harder to buy flowers for oneself, she thought, wiping a tear from her eye.

1. Nature Enhances Arts, by Sankar Chatterjee

Renowned microbiologist Bonnie Myerson, Ph.D., was visiting Chicago’s Arts Institute. She began exploring the gallery housing baroque paintings of Italian artists from 1600-1700 C.E. Strolling, she noticed a somber painting depicting the crucifixion of Christ. But the flaming red robe of the weeping lady in corner appeared surprisingly fresh. Her curiosity led her to the curator, requesting a gentle cotton ball swab over that red pigment.

Later, Dr. Myerson would discover a novel bright red micro-bacterium from that cotton ball. The species’ life cycle needed the metal found in that pigment, thus their colonization.

Now the arts world wonders about the original colors on all era-specific paintings.

F.F.F. Stories – Thursday 9/2/21 (A)

5. A Midlife Crisis, by David Croll

Damon puts on really dark sunglasses even though it is nighttime. A crucifix necklace dangles around his neck. Driving a sporty convertible with a girl barely in her twenties, he pulls up to his friends.

His behavior perplexes his friends.

“What has gotten into him?” asks one.

“You don’t suppose … No. It couldn’t be.”

“What?”

“You don’t suppose he’s going through a midlife crisis, do you?”

They laugh. Vampires do not go through midlife crises.

“Hey, Damon. You’re 800 years old. Act your age.”

Damon smiles, exposing his fangs. He flips off his friends before racing off with his dinner date.

4. The Spy, Left Behind, by Sankar Chatterjee

Jack was navigating byzantine alleys of historic medina in Casablanca (Morocco). Amidst surrounding cacophony, Hassan from a sidewalk café grabbed him, offering the “best kebab anywhere”. Jack bit the bullet, grabbed a red plastic chair, and ordered a mixed platter. Nearby, a seated gentleman, face obscured by brim of his hat, was writing on a notepad.

Jack: Who’s he–a poet, a painter?
Hassan: A leftover spy.
Jack: What?
Hassan: Ever seen Bergman – Bogart’s Casablanca? This area was full of spies. But, nobody told him the war’s end.

Jack snooped from back. The gentleman finished sketching the corner building, labeling “Enemy Post”.

3. Plastic Smiles, by Archana Nagarajan

Sasha bade goodnight to her Barbie dolls, all two hundred and sixty-six of them. It was her nightly ritual. In the last twenty-six years, not once had her dolls failed to greet her back. The constancy of their smiles reassured Sasha. Dolls had no rules for smiling. No terms or conditions; no flattery or favors required. Unlike in the real world, Sasha didn’t have to second guess the reason behind their smiles: Too wide. Insincere? Too brief. Do they even care? Too eager. Ulterior motive? The real world with its real smiles was perplexing, exhausting. Plastic smiles suited her better.

2. Prelude to an Act of Remembrance, by Steven Holding

He hasn’t been back since his teens … only in dreams and drunken memories.

Three of them huddled by the canal side, hungrily sucking the butt of a poorly rolled reefer, choking down the smoke, then off on a laughing jag.

Red-eyed and careless, wandering along the water’s edge, navigating the path to the aqueduct. The motorway down below never failing to amaze.

Swigging cans, sniggering as they unzipped, unleashing a torrent of piss onto unsuspecting motorists.

He grins, remembering.

Rockets his cigarette over the rails; cherry red trails as it falls.

Lights another.

​And waits to see what will happen.

1. The Perfect Housekeeper, by Mark Tulin

She came to my apartment every Tuesday morning. While I was at work, she mopped the floors and scrubbed the tub. I didn’t have to tell her what needed to be cleaned; she knew instinctively that there’s dust on the blinds and under the bed. She even found the grime at the base of my electric toothbrush. There’s nothing that she didn’t clean and she never missed anything. She’s an omnipresent goddess, knowing all my dirty habits, what messes I made and where. She was so good it was scary. So, I fired her and hired someone who wasn’t perfect.

F.F.F. Stories – Saturday 8/21/21 (B)

5. Fleeting, by Don Tassone

The old man sat in his armchair and looked out his window.

One springtime long ago and far away, he had walked down boulevards lined with cherry trees bursting in pink. He breathed in the sweet fragrance of a million blossoms as delicate petals drifted through the air like snowflakes. It all made him feel so alive.

Returning home, he had planted cherry trees in his backyard so he could remember the experience each spring. This morning, his tired eyes strained to see blossoms in the trees, but overnight the season had advanced, and he felt his life ebbing away.

4. Fertility, by Austrian Spencer

The seat is leather and within minutes my back is damp, and my t-shirt sticks to my skin. I am shaking. I see through blurred eyes, as Phil holds me to his chest and does not let go. The doctor is mumbling, but I do not hear or care. Phil will tell me later that for him, it is a relief. That he will always have me to himself. That he wouldn’t want to share me with anyone else anyway.

All I hear is that I am to blame.

3. Relocate, by Deb Whittam

There was always a risk when they decided to open the border and welcome their tired brothers to their homes. Some suggested that the flood of immigrants would use their generosity against them and waste their precious resources.

While there was an admission that this could occur, they knew it was hypocrisy to denote their brothers as poor and then do nothing to assist them in their bid to seek salvation.

Their hope that this act of kindness would bring all joy was soon laid to waste.

The demons took no time in destroying heaven, leaving the angels furious.

2. Privilege, by Dart Humeston

The anger increased to the point where my left ear pained me something terrible. I was kind enough to hang up the phone. The person at the insurance company shouldn’t suffer, too. After all, as a relative of mine told me once, health care is not a right.

I guess it is a privilege?

The Declaration of Independence states we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But that was a hate letter to the King of Great Britain and was never included in the U.S. Constitution.

My death-preventing insulin will be $1,400 this month.

1. Mismatched Pairings, by Archana Nagarajan

There was an abundant shortage of love in my married life. She found me pointedly dull. There was a profound simplicity about her which I found greatly annoying.

“Why can’t you be more sophisticated?” I grunted.
“Oh, stop being so acutely obtuse,” she leveled.

Our differences kept precipitating slowly. She couldn’t keep up with my slow pace. I couldn’t tolerate her blunt avoidance of our marital problems.

One day, our paradox peaked into the lowest point of our married lives – we almost fully separated but thanks to intervening friends and family, we finally decided to start at the beginning.

F.F.F. Stories – Saturday 8/21/21 (A)

5. A Premature Exhumation, by R.S. Pyne

The scraping sounds got louder. She could hear them now, their muffled voices filtering down through the loosely packed soil. Shovels scraped against stone as they undid the sexton’s hard work.

Wait, she told herself. They couldn’t hear your screams when it mattered. Why waste breath you no longer have? The noises continued and she grew more impatient. How much longer would she have to wait? Then, a crowbar loosened the coffin lid and she felt air on her face.

Close your eyes and play dead – wait just a little longer. The bold Resurrection Men were in for a shock.

4. Work Day Surprise, by Charles Gray

I sip coffee and drive to work.

While stopped in traffic, yesterday’s rumors torment me; if thirty percent cut, I could survive. My job evaluation says creative. I have a ton of experience and should be ranked top ten in the department.

Park Camry.

Enter building. Coworker exits, security guard at his side. “Sixty percent,” he shouts.

People scramble in corridors. Gossip. “Who got hit?”

People congregate in cubicles. Stare. Hand over mouth.

Close office door. Sit. Wait. Tremble.

Books. Schematics. Unfinished to-do list. Master’s degree on wall. Wife’s picture.

Phone rings. Boss. “Can I see you in my office.”

3. Into the Sea, by Julie Achilles

​I saw them running towards the sea, clothes abandoned, hand in hand. I could hear the sounds of their laughter as they run.

They were splashing about in the darkness and I could only just make out their heads bobbing about under the moonlight. So typical of them both, so full of fun, so full of life.

Then Silence. I scanned the horizon and saw nothingness.

I knew they were gone, carried away by the strong tide. When the sun rose I watched as the sea gently rolled over the stones at the shore.

2. The Arrival, by Bruce Levine

Fifteen hours and twenty-two minutes had gone by. He’d waited. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could wait, but he also realized that he had no choice. There’d been no warning, no signs that this was the time. It wasn’t his first time going through this, but, in the past he’d always known it was coming. This time – nothing.

He paced the floor in circles, and then forced himself into figure eights and then back and forth. He looked at the floor to see if there was a rut forming.

The plane landed – the puppy arrived.

1. Multnomah County Pound, by Kirsty MacKay

Corinne and her kid go straight to the Kitten Play Room. I linger before the cats in cages. They are asleep, resembling furry pancakes. Only the chubby one is awake and sitting up. She blinks her yellow-green eyes at me. She flops to her side with a soft grunt. I kneel to look at her; she reaches a paw through the bars and pats my cheek. I break away. Corinne’s daughter rushes up to me squealing, “We picked one out!” We drive home with a shaggy black kitten, but I feel I’ve left someone behind.

F.F.F. Stories – Sunday 8/15/21

5. The Intruder, by, Marjan Sierhuis

Ariel opens her eyes to a room that is pitch black. She glances at her illuminated watch dial, notices the time and swears under her breath. Falling asleep while reading on the sofa is going to stop.

She suppresses a yawn, flicks on a table lamp and once again fights the urge to fall asleep.

She suddenly hears strange noises coming from the kitchen.

Ariel dares not move a muscle. She keeps her breathing slow and regular. After all, she doesn’t want to alert an intruder to her presence.

But if the raccoon is back, he has got to go.

4. Rescued Me, by Lisa Miller

Enough for a bed–let’s get the hell out of here, Sam thought. “Come on, Girl. Let’s go,” he says, hugging his dog, Sally, wishing they were taking a drive to the lake. Instead, they’re living out of a car. Two years after bringing Sally home from the Paws-and-Claws shelter, Sam lost his job and place to live.

Tonight, Sam pays for a motel (mostly for her). He feeds Sally, then sighs, staring at the lasagna turning around and around like his life lately. Glancing down at Sally, Sam realizes she’s more of a friend, the more miserable he gets.

3. Silver Linings, by John Cooper

“So this really is it–time to take my leave and for me to retire.

It’s a shame that we couldn’t find anyone to take the business on and that we’ll have to shut it down, but that’s the way it sometimes goes, I suppose.

Anyway, nearly 6 o’clock, so time to pull down the shutters – same old routine for the last 29 years. Not sure I’ll miss this bit, though it will be strange that I’ll not be here tomorrow opening them. Ah, well … can’t be helped.

Now where did I put that lottery ticket?”

2. Free To A Good Home, by June Rollins

“The runt is all that’s left,” she said, handing it over to outstretched, calloused hands. “It will be prone to health issues which can be quite expensive. This one has been on a special diet to limit diarrhea.”

He handed the runt back and left. He needed a mouser, not an invalid.

“Sorry, little one … looks like your time’s up.” She removed the Free Kittens sign from the window. “Too bad he didn’t want you. Will you forgive me for lying? I had to when I realized I did.”

And for the first time, the tiniest kitten began to purr.

1. The Crazy Doll, by Yoey B.

She sits atop my bookshelf. Her long brown hair and light pink dress make her look innocent enough, but those eyes. It’s bedtime. Can I move her? Certainly. But she will always pierce the object of her gaze while staring intently at me.

The floor lamp bulbs fade away to reveal a soft, white, merry glow around the shelf. She speaks through tightly pursed red lips. Is it a message of foreboding? Perhaps. She lunges at me. Grabbing an empty medicine bottle, I crush her rosy little face. Then I recall flushing all in a grave attempt to heal myself.

F.F.F. Stories – Wednesday 8/11/21 (B)

5. Mother’s Day, by Archana Nagarajan

She came home to find pink flowers everywhere. Pink gerberas lined the hallway; the dining table was pink with roses; there was even a vase of pink poinsettias atop the bathroom counter. Her husband had gone all out to make her feel special on Mother’s Day, the one day she wept while mums around her celebrated their gifts of pattering feet, messy homes and non-stop chores. Later, she went to the bathroom to freshen up. The note was tucked between the poinsettias:

“The moment you let someone into your heart, you become a mother. Pregnancy and childbirth are just after-effects.”

4. Fifteen Minutes of Fame, by Gordon Lawrie

As the crowd bayed for the climax, he stood on the stage, jaw jutting upwards proudly.

“I’m an artiste,” he pleaded. “I need time. Everyone agrees that I write music, I perform, I write prose and beautiful poetry.’

The crowd was having none of it. “Now!” they yelled.

“Don’t rush me!”

The audience began clapping rhythmically, demanding action.

“I’m worth more than a mere Warhol 15 minutes of fame! Someone with my talents should expect to be famous for a lifetime!”

“I think we can manage that, sir,” said a voice behind him, slipping the noose over his neck.

3. The Warlock’s Curse, by Shawn Klimek

When a witch he recognized was buzzed into the building, Horace lunged to keep the door from closing, and then slipped in behind her. Racing the elevator upstairs, he reached the third-floor hallway in time to observe into which apartment she had entered. Approaching that door, he blocked the peephole with a bag of Chinese take-out and then knocked. It opened just enough for an elderly woman to peek over the chain.

“Oh. It’s you, Horace,” said Griselda, the Coven High Priestess. “No warlocks allowed.”

“But Griselda,” Horace pleaded. “I self-identify as a witch.”

“Ain’t curses a bitch?” said Griselda.

2. Last Dance, by Lisa Miller

You asked for it, they said, dressed like that in skintight clothes. Stupid kid. But back in ’85, a cop sits beside you in a crowded café, lending an ear over hot chocolates and coffees. A friend, he said, when your beloved Eating Disorder waltzes in with sympathy and sweets. Later, in constant motion, twisting, turning while tap-dancing around the tasteless food. In rhythm, counting calories, chewing, sickened as it slides down your throat.

With misplaced guilt, you denied closure until saving yourself for the last dance. Now in step, gliding, leaping into a life so different and wildly beautiful.

1. Down the Aisle, by Raymond Sloan

The soft sting of morning air brought her round. She rubbed her eyes before raising herself beneath the big open skylight.

She sat.

She applied make-up, did her hair, stood and draped the dress in one arm. Heart bumping; scene forming.

She then slid on the dress, and smirked to herself in the sloped glass. Then poked on her shoes, whirling herself into a total giddiness, arms whipping her round, eyes searching the clouds as she swung.

​She stopped, watched the sky for two watching cracks, then began.

Down the aisle would be – The Baileys, the Becks, the Grey Goose.

F.F.F. Stories – Wednesday 8/11/21 (A)

5. Tiara’s Shame, by Mark Tulin

Fear startled Tiara from sleep while shame kept her awake.

She made sure not to disturb her husband as she slipped out the bedroom. She stooped in the dark hallway, feeling a heavy burden on her tiny shoulders. She wanted to get rid of it but didn’t know how. Her shame was thick with crimes of the heart.

The chickens had finally come home to roost, she thought.

Hours passed. The tears fell.

Soon the hopeful light of morning shone through the window, embracing Tiara’s face. The dawn of a new day weakened her shame enough for her to stand.

4. Second Childhood, by Archana Nagarajan

“What shall we do today?” she asked.

“Ice cream,” he chirped.

“We’re diabetic,” she reminded.

He frowned. “Walk to the park?”

It was her favorite activity. “Let’s take our checkers board,” she added.

“Yes.” He pumped a fist.

They set up the game on a stone bench beneath a shady tree.

They were missing 3 coins.

She handed him a quarter from her purse.

“Two more?” he asked.

“No.”

“Three quarters of my life I gave you and all you can give me in return is one quarter,” he quipped.

They laughed and went looking in the bushes for flat pebbles.

3. A Lonely Blue Box, by Jack Hilbourne

As she walked down the street, she thought about the fleeting moment of joy that followed the disappearance of a stack of paper through the slot in the lonely blue box at the corner of the street.

When she arrived at the mailbox, she paused for a moment before letting go of a bundle of postcards in her hand. The muffled metallic clank gave her a sense of closure. Her work was done.

And there it was: the feeling of accomplishment that told her she had done something of value. The feeling that kept her coming back here every week.

2. The Celebrity Life, by Russell Conover

Ever since they appeared in the very first Friday Flash Fiction story, Alice and her cat dodged the paparazzi and tried to live normal lives. Doing so, however, was difficult.

A trip to the store meant reporters barraging Alice with questions. A walk in the neighborhood resulted in throngs of people asking for autographs. The two were going crazy. All this attention for one little story?

But then, they remembered they were the ones who kicked off Friday Flash Fiction, over five years ago [now over seven, in 2021 … ]. They were pioneers. They grinned, high-fiving and high-pawing. They loved this life, frantic as it was.

1. Their Eyes Spoke, by Guy Fletcher

They spotted each other on a crowded street. Neither of them uttered a word; their eyes spoke.

Tom had cared for his wife when she was terminally ill but one evening had visited a pub in the town for a respite as his wife escaped in dreams.

This was the first chance encounter between himself and Julia, one of his wife’s friends.

“I can’t believe we did this,” he lamented at Julia’s flat.

“This is our dirty, dark secret,” said Julia softly.

Everyone thought Tom was an angel. Oh, if only they knew!

F.F.F. Stories – Saturday 8/7/21

5. Gone Fishing, by Kim Favors

Mac would have enjoyed the attention.

At his beachside camper, grownups drank beer and retold stories — of his beloved dog, cheating ex-wife, and grown children who’d abandoned him.

On the pier, we kids remembered “Uncle Mac” as the fatherly ex-Marine who untangled our lines and grabbed flopping fish.

He spent afternoons mostly watching the horizon, rarely casting out.

“Don’t you fish, Uncle Mac?” I asked once.

“Every day, girl.”

They had found Mac, dead of heart failure, sitting upright on a bench at the pier. Some wondered why he hadn’t been fishing.

But he was.

He was fishing for memories.

4. A Wisterical Death, by Bill Engleson

“It was a strange way to go, don’t you think?”

“Well, he was a wobbly old fellow towards the end. Took a tumble down some stairs a while back, as I recall.”

“Didn’t know that. Always seemed … so darn erect.”

“I agree. He gave that impression. Probably strained to maintain that snooty self of his. Towards the end, I mean.”

“Snooty? That’s not how I would describe him. More … droll … slightly absurd.”

“He had his moments. Still, the way he went, tripping on a tendril, breaking his neck … ”

“So weird. Wisteria can be lethal, if not pruned.”

“I agree. Timely pruning can save lives.”

3. A Trip to the Theatre, by Kim Hare

Deafening noises intrude violently into Sofia’s heavy, sluggish sleep. Slowly, a glaringly white, topsy-turvy world emerges. Her body is paralyzed, pinned down by wires and tubes. Memory floods in and her mouth burns. She’s feverish for water, for answers.

“’Bout time you woke.”

A face rears up, a nurse with a green-masked mouth.

“C’mon–let’s wheel you back to the ward now, and no trouble later. You hysterectomies are so demanding. I could do with a bloody lie-down myself; my hip’s a nightmare; you’re lucky I’m in. Eh? A drink? Nope. We’re short-staffed. You’ll have to wait.”

2. Eugene, by Jane Briganti

Eugene hesitated and took a deep breath in preparation. This was it! No backing out; all eyes were on him. He’d been waiting for what seemed a lifetime. Rising from the bench, he walked slowly toward the swings. There she was. Standing alone, waiting her turn, completely unaware of Eugene’s approach. His breathing became shallow, his cheeks turned cherry red and his entire body shook with fear. Taking an even deeper breath, he tapped Suzie on her shoulder. She turned around and smiled. Now standing face to face in front of twenty-eight other Kindergartners, Eugene did it. He kissed her!

1. A Sorcerer’s Day, by John Cooper

Although the night mist is still evaporating from the fields, they say today will be the first good one in weeks – we may even have some sunshine.

That will certainly make a change.

It’s been a harsh winter and trapped inside by the weeks of bad weather, I have hardly managed anything ‘practical’ … just hit the books – day in, day out.

My professor will be pleased, of course, but as my grandfather always said, there is no substitute for the tangible when it comes to magic.

Yes – today is a day to cast spells in the real world.

F.F.F. Stories – Sunday 8/1/21 (B)

5. As Time Goes By – by Fliss Zakaszewska

“But Jilly says you want to marry me. Be Daddy to your kids. I’m not the marrying kind … “

Through gritted teeth, Damaris hissed, “Nor am I. I’m sick of hearing that. I don’t need a husband … “

“But … ”

“ … and as you prefer to believe her, Harry, we’re through.”

Damaris smiled at her glass of wine. That’d been 30 years ago. The kids had done well. Daughter a lawyer … son, a pilot. Damaris herself, head of I.T.

Somehow, he’d found her. Harry touched her hand. “Well?”

She sighed. “Sorry–no. Didn’t want to marry anyone then. Don’t want to marry anyone now.”

4. Together, by Bruce Levine

His days were filled with happiness and it was simple to know why – she was there. They shared their time, their efforts and their loves – not just for each other, but for everything they did and cared about. It was a good life and every day was an adventure simply because neither knew what the day would bring – another project, another chance at the golden ring … In the end it didn’t matter because he had the golden ring and she was it. Their love for each other would sustain them through the ups and downs of life. They were together.

3. Crazy Life, by Henry Bladon

It’s a crazy life I lead, constantly spinning about, seemingly out of control. I’m always at the beck and call of others, and there seems to be little I can do about that. There are a few days when I get a rest of sorts, free from the manic screaming and the need to be perpetually moving. Normally, these are when things have gone wrong, or when it’s particularly cold. There’s not a lot you can do on a day like that.

I suppose I’ll carry on, giving other people pleasure. That’s what it means to be a fairground carousel.

2. Hallway, by Charity Jordi

I can feel the hair on my neck stand up. Footsteps come closer. I check the door and a dark man seems to leak into the hallway. The steps cringe with every foot fall. My sense of fight or flight kicks in. I grab the nearest thing to me. A candle? I put it down and search the room and find my knife under the pillow. I clench my jaw. The door handle slowly turns. I stab him and run. Then something grabs me and yells my name. I open my eyes to mom telling me that breakfast is ready.

1. A Funny Thing Happened When They Got to the Forum, by Gordon Lawrie

This is for Shakespeare fans and Roman historians.

15th February, 44 B.C.

Cassie and Cindy waited, impatient and angry in equal measure. They’d persuaded their boyfriends, big brutes called Mark and Declan, to come, too.

“See Julia – see her?” Cassie growled. “I’m gonnae sort her proper.”

An hour later there was no sign of Julia.

“Did she get the message, Cindy?” Cassie asked, irritated.

Cindy wasn’t very bright. “I told her … The Forum, Ides of February, 3.00 p.m.”

“Aw, ya dope. The Ides are the 13th this month – dae yez no’ ken that?”

“Saw-ree,” flounced Cindy, sulkily. “There’s always next month. Or it could wait till the Fall.”