74 Are You Challenging Me?


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My tongue burns from the tea I drank too quickly, but the burning from you insult is worse. Sitting there with your can of Monster energy drink like it is nothing. What are you saying with that? You open the can with a click and a fizz and I can already smell the sickly sweet additives polluting our breakfast. Are you saying that I will not dare say anything to you? Well, you are wrong mister.

‘This is MY house, we play by MY rules here, and don’t you forget it!’

You stop with the can at your lips. You lower it. ‘What?’ you say, raising your eyebrows.

‘Get that affront to everything out of here.’

You look at the can in your hand. ‘What, this?’

‘Don’t you act all surprised,’ I say, ‘you know perfectly well how I feel about stimulants.’

‘But it’s just an energy drink,’ you shrug, ‘what about coffee?’

‘Coffee’s traditional. Now get it out of here before I ground you.’

You pick up your school bag and the Monster can. I hear a ‘whatever’ before you slam the door behind you, and I know that the war is not won yet.

About Father Christmas


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I sat on the hill and watched the house of Mr and Mrs Clem as the world drained of colour. Comfortable in my large down jacket, I waited as the temperature dropped and Mrs Clem read a goodnight story to the children in their upstairs bedroom. I had overheard Mr and Mrs Clem tell their twins about Father Christmas in the playground that day, and I imagined them asking all sorts of questions about him every time Mrs Clem stopped for breath.

When Mr Clem went upstairs to say goodnight, I slipped down the hill, jumped their garden fence and snuck into the backyard, my surprise tucked snugly under one arm. The frosty grass crunched under my boots, but there was no snow to steal my footprints.

I took the ladder from their shed, they always leave that shed unlocked, and used it to climb onto the roof. I crawled slowly up the gentle incline. When I reached the chimney, I straddled the roof and pulled the duct tape out of my pocket. I secured my surprise to the chimney. The black boot was excellent at holding it all together. I picked out the fuse and threw it down the roof.

When I was securely back on the ladder, I lit the fuse, then hurried down and then up the hill to watch the fireworks.

The explosion was not as loud as I had imagined it would be, but it was loud enough. Mr and Mrs Clem rushed out the front door as the red glow faded, and just as the twins appeared in the doorway a smoking black boot, half a candy cane and a burning Christmas hat landed in their front yard. I thought I could even smell the cinnamon and cloves, which I had put in the hat, and I smiled.

Now Mr and Mrs Clem would have to tell their children the truth.

70 67%


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That’s the title, really?


How am I supposed to write anything about a percentage? And calling it a bit more than two thirds doesn’t help at all so don’t even go there.

I need something with essence.

Something with soul.

Something with poetic potential.

Like a sunset over a mountaintop.

Or a radiator.


Remember: Radiators and Is There Anybody Out There?

Getting Rid of Things


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I can’t get the red stains out of the floor.

They must be from her red wine, but people will likely think someone was murdered here, and how am I going to sell the flat then?

Then there is the carpet. That old mop of black and grey stripes will send almost anyone running and the rest will be out the door, when they see the cat hair sofa.

No, it is not actually made of cat’s hair; there is cloth under there somewhere. I think.

I should never have told the estate agent that I would sell the place furnished, but I just want to get rid of it all at once.

The flat,

The furniture,

The cats,

The oven, which smells burnt from my first cookies,

The memory of the long dark evenings huddled around the radiator,

And her rasping voice telling me of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland or her cats’ adventures in the forest,

And the Earl Grey, too sweet from all the sugar cubes, the oversized cup warming my cold hands.

It is too much,

And it has turned bitter in spite of the sugar,

And I just want to pour it all out in the sink.



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I remember through the smoke,

Flames licking up the walls.

The rabbit showed me the way out,

And as I stood there watching the fire

With a group of strangers

More screams

And I recognised their voices.

And it was not over when my childhood home was a black ruin.

It was not over when the orphanage swallowed me up.

It was not over when Dr. Deadeyes told me that some memories are not constructive,

And I dissolved into a swarm of blue butterflies.


The screaming will never be done.

A Taste


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I take a deep breath.

Cinnamon and paprika.

The chicken has probably been marinating since yesterday. Now the hissing fat is dripping into a tray, while the chef yells to her minions about the sauce. I imagine what it must be like to live upstairs in this mansion, not only having a feast for dinner every day, but having people prepare that feast for you. Eating a whole chicken, the cinnamon tickling my nose, the gravy running down my chin. I lick my lips.


The chef’s call pulls me back. I must have leant against the door while I was imagining, because it is wide open now. The chef marches over to me.

‘Oh, it’s you.’ With one hand, she adjusts her apron; the other clutches half a lemon. ‘Look, I don’t have anything for you today.’

I stare at the lemon.

‘I’m sorry,’ she says, ‘but you have to leave.’

I point at the lemon.

‘What?’ she says, ‘I’ve already pressed it.’

I point at the lemon again.

‘Alright,’ she hands me the lemon, ‘but you still have to go.’

I cradle the lemon in my hands as I turn my back. A firm push gets me started and I stagger across the courtyard. Beyond the gate, I sit down by the side of the road with my prize. I hold the lemon above my mouth and press it for all I am worth. The tart drops sting my lips. It is heaven.

Homemade Clothes


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I sew clothes from silk scraps and cotton sheets.

The donators think their contributions go to the third world,

But they go to this one,

Right here.

They go to my three children and me,

After having been through my algae green, foot pedal driven sewing machine.

And I know it’s wrong to lie to them, but ever since I saw the x-ray of Dewey,

My son,

Ever since, I saw the thing, which should not be in his chest,

I have seen everything through cloudy glass.

It makes everything

flow together and it

Blots out all the small things like lying

And stealing.

And if I can steal my boy away from death

I don’t care how expensive the treatment is

And I don’t care

Who has to pay for it.

First One Way and Then the Other


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In a red plaid shirt and green jeans, he walked first one way and then the other. My bushes behind him mimicked him; a mix of green and red blowing first one way and then the other.

He was looking for the house he bought. Everything had been settled over the internet during the last week, he told me. He had been planning to move away from the city for years.

I gave him a lift. I knew the house. It had been empty for a year and a half. When he saw the picture a week ago, it was love at first sight, he said.

‘It’s the kind of place you settle down, you know?’ he said, looking first one way and then the other out of my windows. ‘A place to raise three kids and for them to come home to at Christmas with their girlfriends and boyfriends.’

Later he told me he was single.

I saw him at the shops many times after that, running first one way and then the other. He did a good job of renovating the house, although the façade ended up being both a light lilac and blue and a deep green around the door. He had an extra living room built with a large fireplace and then he had a windmill installed in the garden.

We only have two pubs and one of them is too local for a first date. So I saw him date first one woman, then another. Sometimes several at once. They must have been from the internet, because they were not from around here.

About a month after he had the windmill installed, he asked me out. I said I had enough to do with my dogs and my sheep, I did not need children as well. He told me that he did not mind not having children, and I asked him what the house was for then. His words blew first one way then the other, until I said:

‘No. My new puppies are more decisive than you.’

His face showed first one emotion then another, and he sold the house next week.

77 Test


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She raises one eyebrow and studies the man on the other side of the table. Is it a test, she wonders. Maybe a trick question? His jaw covered in its nine o’clock shadow is set in a serious expression and his voice when he asked her had been level, but the question itself had seemed so obvious.

‘Nnnooo…’ she sits back in her chair, ‘I do not think that it is all right to lie.’

He sucks at his teeth.

‘In my opinion,’ she continues, ‘one should always tell the truth. Always.’

‘So what you have told me here today…’ he stares her in the face.

‘It’s all true,’ she stares back, ‘every bit of it.’

He pulls a hand through his hair.

‘You don’t believe me?’ she asks.

‘I believe you should be locked away forever for what you did to your family.’ He sighs and gets up, pushing the metal chair away. ‘But after what I’ve heard, they’ll probably just throw you in a loony bin a couple of years.’

‘It was just a couple of pranks,’ she smiles, then giggles at the red memories.

He shakes his head and slams the door to the interrogation room as he leaves.

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