From New Short Stories 1

From “Kid in a Well” by Willie Davis

“…So I wait until they’re gone, pour some of my dad’s rum in a Styrofoam cup. I knew I couldn’t just sit next to her and make googly eyes without getting maced, so I look for a book or something I can pretend to read. But nobody in my family reads, so there were no books in the room, except for my brother’s Encyclopedia Browns and that might give off the wrong impression.”

“Oh yeah,” Jesse said. “You wouldn’t want her to think the seventeen year-old who spends his vacation ogling her was unsophisticated.”

“Right,” I said. “So I go in and take out the Gideon’s Bible. My mom left her compact in the sink, so I taped it on the inside pages. That way, I could admire my new moustache without seeming vain in front of her.”

 

From “Mrs. Nakamoto Takes a Vacation” by Steve Finbow 

Later that evening in an izakaya in Ginza over beer and yakitori, Mrs. Matsuda, slightly drunk, admitted to Mrs. Nakamoto that her husband beat her. He would come home from work, eat his food in silence, read the newspaper’s sports section and, after neatly folding it, would nod his head. Mrs. Matsuda would strip naked, bend over a chair and Mr. Matsuda, taking a three-foot bamboo cane from the kitchen cupboard, would issue a dozen lashes to Mrs. Matsuda’s buttocks. …  Looking up, she smiled and in a voice Mrs. Nakamoto could barely hear Mrs. Matsuda said that she was embarrassed to admit it but, yes, she quite enjoyed it.

 

From “Jolt” by James Lawless

Three or four goats appear and start following them. They frighten him as they get closer with their horns, bells tinkling. She laughs at him. He’s embarrassed. Kathleen knows goats. They had them on the farm in Galway.

She sheds her shyness in the open countryside. She wants to make love al fresco. There is no one about except for the goats. She breathes in deeply the fragrance of the pines. Lying down on the scorched earth, she loosens her blouse, drawing him into her. ‘Is it possible, Michael? Say it’s possible.’

 

From “Paradise” by Nicholas Hogg

My father was born at the height of clouds. He entered the world wailing, lungs pumping the mountain air and desperate for oxygen. He lived because he had the breath of a Kalenjin, as had his father and his grandfather before, a long line of proud and noble descendants from the ancient tribe of highlanders from the hills of the Great Rift Valley.

He grew up at an altitude where visiting relatives from the lowlands fainted and had to sit and take a rest from the sky. A village where the rhythm of life was set by the stars and the moon, the sun and the rain, a village where horseless cowboys herded the cattle, and my father and his brothers ran down the strays barefoot.

Like all Kalenjin boys he ran everywhere. He ran to school. He ran home from school. He ran to gather firewood. He ran to the river to fetch water and spilt none running back. He ran but did not race. Running was not a sport. It was a way of life.

 

From “The Dead Don’t Do That Kind of Thing” by Wes Lee

“She was my twin!” Claire shouted.

The word felt terrible in her mouth, something fell away as she said it; halved and fell like a fleshy fruit – an overripe babaco. She tasted the sweet, slightly putrid hit at its core. My twin, she hadn’t wanted to say it, she hadn’t wanted to let it out, she hadn’t wanted it to escape from her body and lose it forever. But Alison had made her say it. As if someone living, breathing in the world could be blind to the simple fact that Deborah had been her twin.

 

From “Dodie’s Gift” by Vanessa Gebbie

There is a little blood on the sand, in a hollow in the dunes. There is semen too, although it is hidden in the shadows where sand and grass have been churned. The blood is clear, scarlet, bright; both its colour and its brightness out of place in the soft grey-green and pale straw colours here. It will fade soon, darken until it’s almost black, and it will be lost when a herring gull chooses this place to bring the head of a newly dead catfish. He will drop it, stand over it, stabbing at it with his yellow hooked beak, parting skin from muscle, lip from cheek, eye from socket, until all that is left is a mess of reddened bone and one thin sliver of catfish skin with a feeler still attached.

 

From “Charles Magezi-Akiiki/Daphne Darling” by Olesya Mishechkina

Across the street from my building, men replace the swamp cooler of an expensive restaurant with air conditioning. They drill. It scares the birds away. The windows framed by the thin walls of my apartment shake. I have to listen to it when I come home from work.

Every

single

fucking

day.

 

From “Atlantic Drift” by Arthur Allan

Dear Ellie,

I want to tell you something that happened out here today. I hope you don’t mind.

One moment it was bright as ever; the next, a massive slate cloud in front of the sun. Migrating birds, flying low. Thousands of them.

The wings pumped in synch, the uniforms of grey plumage passed in their great repeating pattern. The noise terrified me. A clamour of bullying squawks: keep going, don’t pause, this is the way, this is what we do, this is the only direction.

When they had passed, one bird was left behind. It had taken refuge on the deck, exhausted. It wore a stunned, lopsided look as the din of the others faded.

For a while it shuffled gimpishly about. Then it stopped. Only its eyes twitched, aware that it was being watched. And people did glance at it as they passed, with disgust and embarrassment, hoping it would go away so they wouldn’t have to deal with it.

It was gone when I went back above after supper. I suppose someone kicked it overboard.

My love (if I may),

Murray.

 

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