Short Story: On the Way Down

My people brought me down the mountain. I was shod with dirty, cap-split walking boots, no longer fit for purpose; my backpack was weighty, sharp corners jabbed my spine through bulging material, and my ancient head was numb, paralysed.

The Snowdon Railway ran alongside our path. A train chugged past. Its passengers gazed through smudgy windows. I couldn’t afford such luxury, and my people didn’t need it. We’d trekked for hours with few rests.

Thick clouds were nauseating, but as we descended, the air became fresher and the sky clearer. My woman, my adventurous love, would have exclaimed how beautifully green and perfect the view was. I’d conquered another peak from her list, but it meant nothing without her.

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The Journey of a Story

Four years ago, I had a story idea, and then last year, BAM, it wrote itself! Yes, that’s a lot of brewing time…

It was inspired by a comment from my Creative Writing tutor about his name, Wayne. Eventually, this idea created a ‘spark’ with another idea – someone I noticed in our local skate park. I wrote it for an OU assignment. It needed unusually little editing. I showed it to Mum, having lost trust in my own judgement, and she was shocked when she couldn’t find much wrong with it either. We both wondered if that meant it was too ‘basic’ for MA level. It didn’t help when a fellow-student described the story as ‘good, but a bit lightweight?’ – a comment that has become a bit of an inside joke. (It’s all a question of taste. ‘Wayne’s Name’ is no action thriller, that’s for sure!)

The best stories don’t always Continue reading

When an Old Lady Hits Her Head

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at my local café to do some writing. One of the old lady regulars – let’s call her Mary – was sprawled out across the pavement. She had tripped as she walked out and hit her head. She was surrounded by café regulars, staff, and a couple of passers-by. The café chef put his hand out, preventing me from treading in the blood on the floor – always looks worse than it is with head cuts!

They helped Mary up and sat her down in the café. One of the passers-by was trained in First Aid and knew exactly what to do, the questions to ask, the tone to take, and the front-of-house lady rallied everyone with calmness and humour.

I put my bag down at the back of the café, and then hovered around, in case I could help in any way. When I Continue reading

Short Story: The Five-Metre Marathon

I need a cup of tea more than I’ve needed anything in my whole life.

My husband Roger likes to berate me, saying I exaggerate every single time I open my mouth. That’s his little attempt at humour. The emergency beeper hangs from my neck and I hold it loosely between finger and thumb, willing my grip to tighten – by mistake, of course. I imagine the look on my carer’s face if she were to be called back so soon – I forget this one’s name. It’ll come to me.

Sandra, she would say, a hankering for a cup of tea does not constitute an emergency, sorry. And then Roger would give me a stronger shove towards the appropriate action. You’ll just have to take the long journey to the kitchen by yourself, he would say, while you’ve still got legs and half a brain.

Very well, I shall.

This will teach me not to Continue reading

Short Story: Why I Killed Ian Rankin

We wait with bated breath. Great, I can’t even get through the first sentence without a cliché. Cut! Bated breath…annoying expression really. I’m not even sure it’s the right one. Google informs me that it means ‘to hold one’s breath due to suspense, trepidation or fear.’ Hmm, that sounds a bit negative for the excitement I’m feeling. And now I’ve committed the crime of going off on a tangent. Focus, Hannah!

Glasgow, May 22nd 2019, St George’s Tron Church. (There, I’ve rooted you in time and place. You’re welcome.) It’s my first writing award ceremony. Ian Rankin, the evening’s host, makes a Continue reading

Short Story: The Question About Sadness

‘Mummy, what’s the saddest story that’s ever happened to you?’

She gripped my hand so tightly that I could hardly feel my fingers. The harbour was quiet at that time of morning, tourists not yet crowding the quay and businesses only just starting to rise and stretch. Occasional banging of bins. Kitchens clattering. Men in orange jackets bent over the drains, blank-eyed and yawning.

‘Hmm, I’m not sure about that.’

‘Tell me.’ Continue reading

This Kind of Happiness

There should be a special word for this kind of happiness. I’ve never needed my feet in the sand and sea as much as I needed it today. And what a beautiful day to do it.

As I swished my bare feet through the shallows, a grey-haired lady in a pink and white striped top, beige three-quarter lengths and sturdy trainers, walked by on the beach. Her eyes were open to conversation.

‘Get your feet in here!’ I laughed and flicked my hair for dramatic effect.

‘Oh, not today,’ she said, smiling. ‘I don’t want to get my feet wet and sandy when I have to walk back to St Ives afterwards!’

‘Fair enough.’

We were soon deep in conversation. She told me all about herself, how she lives in Dorset but is from Scotland originally; how she and three friends moved down to London in the 60s with no idea what they would Continue reading

Short Story Acceptance and Rejection

I’ve been shortlisted twice in the past month. The first was in the International Writing Competition for this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival – I’m looking forward to a trip to Glasgow for the award ceremony and meeting Ian Rankin. The second was the Cambridge Short Story Prize, which happened in an odd way.

I keep careful records of all my short story submissions. When I looked through them recently, I realised my story ‘To Live’ was sitting at home (well, on my laptop), abandoned. Perhaps it was exhausted from the four rejections it had received! It’s a story I wrote for an MA assignment last year and I considered it a breakthrough effort, delving into the voice of an old man using stream of consciousness.

I scheduled Friday morning to look at it again, for the first time in two months. There was something that didn’t sit quite right with the Continue reading

Weather

I went to the care home and had a chat with a lovely carer. She works hard, is kind to everyone, and always has a smile on her face.

She had brought in two puddings for my great aunt to choose between. One was a trifle in a tall sundae glass; the other a piece of Victoria sponge in a bowl, swimming in cream. My great aunt chose the Victoria sponge.

I smiled at the lady, who has a foreign accent, and said, ‘It’s lovely weather today – feels like spring!’

She hesitated Continue reading