The Treat

Mother was raised in the depression years
and then the war
she knew hunger

Groceries bought on tick
begging the man for a single cigarette to appease her Father
who had nine young ones to feed
each sent out to work the day they could leave school

Mother would raise herself up
“save the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves”
clear the debts before considering luxuries

I was her late baby, her last baby
after me she could go back to work
house paid for
small deposits in her bank account

Old habits die hard

We had biscuits, sure, but not those that were chocolate covered
if she baked – for visitors you understand – there might be melted chocolate left over
to smear on a few from the packet she kept for youngsters
a treat

when my new friends called round that afternoon
it was those I offered
how they laughed
“You won’t catch us out with your laxative chocolate”
I had no idea such a thing existed.

The Horseshoe

It sat below the bench, propped up amongst last autumn’s leaves, now ignored like so much else. She was not superstitious but when the postman knocked it over, leaving a parcel of books bought to distract from her grief, the last of her luck leaked away.


Written for The 50-word Fiction Competition (August 2017 – prompt ‘Horseshoe’) run monthly by the Scottish Book Trust. The winner, and the latest prompt, may be read by clicking here.

Test Results

I am frightened. I need to be hugged. To be held close by my husband, told that I am loved.

He puts his arms around me. Grateful, I snuggle in. Unfettered now, my tears flow.

I am thinking of our children, ask, “Do we still have life insurance?”

I tell him I love him. Receive no reply.

I say, “We’ve been all right together, haven’t we?”

But he is angry now. “You’re not going to die! You’ve probably got what your mother has.”

Always so sure of himself.

Unlike me.

I need to be told that I am loved.

Bringing home the bacon

As I fed the severed limbs of my fourth victim into the grinder, I realised I had stopped caring about being caught. After the first time, which hadn’t been a part of the plans I had for my life so may not even be categorised as murder, I spent weeks expecting the arrival of the cops. The fear followed me. I would break out in a cold sweat in the grocery store when a passing patrol stopped to pick up a sandwich or grab a coffee. I avoided the town when I could, although my family had long been inclined to live apart.

And maybe that was what enabled me to carry on as before. The delivery guys were used to me signing for their loads. When a buyer collected our produce they might ask after Pa but accepted he was sleeping off the night before’s indulgences. Pa had a vicious streak when disturbed and they harboured guilt at triggering previous rages and the human damage caused. I’d stare straight into their eyes and drive the lie home.

He was a drinker was Pa. After he knocked his third wife down the stairs he didn’t dare risk another woman’s demise. Ma died when I was four having miscarried a baby a year since I was born. Her replacement moved out after a beating put her in the hospital for nearly a month. Cops made their threats but nothing more. If Pa hadn’t turned his attentions to me I would have walked out the day I legally could. Funny how the law once influenced my plans.

I don’t think any murderer believes they will remain uncaught forever. There’s always a looking over the shoulder for whatever exposes what’s been done. My biggest crime was being a girl with a figure men felt entitled to. I learned from Pa there’s a moment when primal need makes a man vulnerable.

We had always run the farm with minimal help. I could stun and butcher a full grown pig from my early teens. A man on his own need only be taken by surprise. The tricks I could turn when cornered grossed me out more than their aftermath. It helped that I had equipment on the farm to deal with a body and the mess of disposal.

One day someone is going to work out that missing men maybe visited with me here. I only kill the ones who try to take me by force. Whatever our faults we’ve always slaughtered livestock humanely, and the fattening pigs benefit from the added protein. The quality of our meat is talked of locally with pride.

Wedding Day

Peirene Press are running a flash fiction competition on their Facebook page which you may check out here. Entrants must submit a story of no more than 30 words on the subject of Cake.

I haven’t written any fiction in a long time but decided to give it a go anyway. This is what I came up with.


The cake had cost more than her second-hand dress; it fell like a rock.

Her bridesmaid crawled from the car, sparkling now with bloodied glass.  

His injuries were life changing.


A visit from Mother

She loves to opine. She sits back on my sofa sipping tea from the best china cup and proclaims. With each hard won breath disapproval flows sharply through her browning teeth, now loose in her gums. Dissatisfaction with the state of the modern world emanates from every pore in her increasingly fragile body. This isn’t how her life should be. She has paid her dues and deserves better.

Opinions radiate around matters of health, a care system on its knees. There are infections in hospitals which, once caught, cannot be cured. It is no longer safe.

It is the fault of the cleaning staff, all foreigners, why were they allowed into this country? It is the fault of the doctors, a different one every time, no interest in sitting down and chatting to their patients as they once would. It is the fault of the nurses who huddle together while patients are ignored. What they need is a matron to keep those youngsters in line.

And so many fat people taking up space, demanding treatment for avoidable illnesses. Greedy and selfish like so many in this world. Taking without giving.

Why do they not take more care of themselves? Resources that would be better used on the undeserving ill being diverted to care for the obese and the depressed. Life is easy these days, not like it was for us. What have they got to be depressed about?

She bemoans the lack of stoicism, accepting your lot, working harder to make life better. Eat less and exercise more, it isn’t hard. They should be made to lose the weight before treatment.

I am riled enough to respond, gently pointing out that obesity often has underlying causes. She glances my way, her body language screaming disapproval. I whisper that without treatment they may die.

The smile is thin, the eyes hard. “Let them”, she says.

At my age she was slim and beautiful. Money was never plentiful but she was always neatly dressed, hair coiffed, make up on, smiling coyly at the lens. Perfection was captured. The camera never lies.

She married at nineteen, was a good wife. She loves to tell of how the men opened doors, gave up seats, but I know there was a cost. Those neatly presented bodies would be silently groped, no fuss made about something that should flatter. Lewd comments passed for humour and the women were required to laugh. Their women. Ownership for coveted protection.

She looks at my body with its rolls of fat, its make up free face. Uncut hair is pulled back into an unflattering knot. Androgynous clothes are stretched over a despised shell, for comfort rather than appeal. She sees everything that disappoints her about this world.

I will not tell her about the scars on my arms. I will not mention the pain of a cold blade drawn from wrist to elbow, the gasp of anguish and then release as the blood flowed.

I will not tell her of the resources I wasted. Those medical staff gave me the best care in the world. They did not opine or complain as they patched my hated body back together.

She would call me selfish, and I was.

She would believe that had I truly wished to die I would have succeeded. She would look at me with those familiar, contempt filled eyes and wish I had.

So do I.