Flash Fiction: Fear of Flying


The plane is full. The fat man spills over his seat into mine. I count tiny houses from the window, a blue tear behind each one.
‘Going to England on vacation?’ The man asks.
‘Going home with my Dad,’ I say.
‘You couldn’t get a seat next to him?’
Something in his voice makes me turn. He’s gripping the arm-rests, sweat beading his top lip. ‘Scared of flying, he says, teeth gritted.

We hold hands for the rest of the flight, while he tells me about his holiday and I try not to think about my father’s body in the hold.


This is a Friday Fictioneers story, inspired by the picture above. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, our host is doing a few re-runs of previous pictures, and this one is from February 2013, as is my story (although slightly edited). The picture was supplied by Rich Voza. You should go to Rochelle’s website to read her joint story (with Doug Macllroy) which is incredibly moving, and there you can also see how you can join in with Friday Fictioneers or read other people’s stories.


Flash Fiction: Feral


I set down the saucer of milk in the corner of the barn and scuffed around in the straw, calling and blowing little kisses. Every day I’d visited the kittens, pressing each soft face against mine and sighing.

Cara had sighed too. ‘They’re not your babies, Frances. They’re feral cats and in a month they’ll be yowling, and scratching and copulating.’

Now she stood in the doorway, the sleeves of her shirt sodden.
‘Have you been to the lake?’ I said.
She held out a sack, the dead-weight at the bottom dripping water on the concrete floor.
‘You’re too old for playing mother,’ she said.


This is a Friday Fictioneers story of 100-words or so, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and this week the picture is provided by Piya Singh. Click here to join in or here to read other people’s.


I had some great news yesterday. One of my short stories, A Quiet Tidy Man, has been shortlisted for the Royal Academy / Pin Drop short story prize. The winner will be announced at a ceremony later in June at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where the story will be read by the actress Juliet Stevenson. More information.


Flash fiction: Waiting Room


In the autumn of 1968 Cara Adamo alighted from the 15.47 at Napoli station. As agreed, she sat on one of the hard benches in the waiting room, her suitcase by her side and the baby – Alberto – sleeping in the crook of her arm. The 18.20 was late and the room soon filled with hot, bored and eventually, angry passengers. Cara looked up each time the door opened. At 19.05 the room emptied, leaving behind only the bitter smell of coffee. Alberto woke and cried when the 20.47 pulled in and no one entered. She fed him. At 21.17 Cara Adamo caught the train home.


This is a 100-word (or so) flash fiction story inspired by the picture (supplied this week by J Hardy Carroll). It’s part of Friday Fictioneers – a group of online writers who write and upload a weekly piece of flash fiction. Click here to join in, and here to read other people’s.


I asked Lutyens & Rubinstein, an independent bookshop in Notting Hill, London some questions.

Flash Fiction: Reflection


There were no mirrors in my apartment. Not through design or fearfulness; only circumstance. Some days I would go down to Cara’s, sit on the edge of her bath and watch her at her morning mirror: checking the whites of her eyes, the gaps in her teeth, that no hairs had sprouted from her chin. She would smile and grimace at herself. She needed the mirror to know she existed and that she hadn’t aged in the night. Sometimes she would swing open the cabinet door, and only when her eyes found mine did I know I existed too.


This is a 100-word flash fiction, part of the Friday Fictioneers, hosted by the lovely Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week the picture above has been supplied by Ceayr. Click here to find out more, read some other stories or join in.

Flash Fiction: Taken by the breeze


We laid our underwear out to dry across the over-grown box hedging. My dangling suspenders and skin-coloured corsets, wrinkled like the corrugated stomach of a worn-down mother. Cara’s nighties and slips, cream silk, taut among the green leaves.

In the night a breeze got up, whistling through the gaps in the window frames. When I looked out, the wind had hold of Cara’s chemise, lifting it and tugging. As I watched, it filled with air, became alive, a torso which let go of the hedge and spun away into the night.

In the morning, Cara too, had gone.


This is a 100-word Friday Fictioneers flash fiction piece inspired by the photograph (this week from Mary Shipman). It’s been brewing in my head since Wednesday but just wouldn’t come out right, and today I wrote it in half an hour. Click here to read others and join in.


I interviewed Mr B’s bookshop in Bath, England. Read it here.

Flash fiction: Songs of Beuren


They were docile and doe-eyed. They gathered silently in herds under the street lamps at night. No one knew where they’d come from but we all agreed they were beautiful. We named them Beuren and didn’t wonder what they wanted.
They were easy to catch and to pen.
As we slaughtered the first, some of the others made a low musical sound. More joined in, their voices coming together, urgent and louder. Words, I thought, Latin even. Some of the skinners dropped their knives, ran away, but me with blood on my hands, cried, ‘What Have I Done?’


Songs of Beuren is the English translation of Carmina Burana. If you don’t know the
O Fortuna section of this piece of music you might like to listen here.


I can’t believe Rochelle has been hosting Friday Fictioneers for four years today. Happy anniversary, Rochelle! This is a 100-word Friday Fictioneers flash fiction piece inspired by the photograph (this week from Madison Woods). Click here to read others and join in.


This spring Our Endless Numbered Days was picked as a Richard & Judy book club book, along with seven others. For those in the USA this is the closest we in the UK come to Opra’s book club. Now that the season is over readers can vote for their favourite, and of course it would be lovely if you would like to vote for me. Click here.

Flash Fiction: Decree 770


Around the back, saplings have sprouted, some growing up through the floor and out through the shutters. She isn’t sure if they are trying to break in or to escape.
‘Better the place is bulldozed, forgotten,’ Vişinel says.
‘We grew up here,’ she says.
‘And spent the whole time trying to get out.’ He kicks some litter. ‘I don’t know why we’ve come back.’
She remembers the rows of iron cots, the thin blankets, the years she could only speak Romanian.
‘I’ve bought it,’ she says. ‘The building. I’m going to make it whole again.’
They both know she means us, not it.


This is a 100-word or so Friday Fictioneer story, inspired by the picture. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields hosts the Friday Fictioneers, posting a picture each week (this week supplied by J Hardy Carroll). Click here to read other people’s and click here to join in.


My story this week might require some explanation. Decree 770 was a 1966 Romanian law which restricted abortion and contraception, which led ultimately to many children being placed in state orphanages where they were forced to live under terrible conditions.

Flash Fiction: Crossing the river alone


Yesterday I asked the fat nurse to describe the view.

‘A river,’ she said, her big hands moving confidently as she changed my dressings. There was no disgust in her face, although even I can smell my decaying self, my rotting body.

‘And on the opposite bank,’ she said, ‘are two yellow chairs. What d’ya say we break out of here and go and have a nice sit down?’

Today it was a new nurse, thin. I imagined her fat colleague, weighing down one yellow chair, waiting. But I didn’t ask her to look. I don’t want to know that both chairs are empty.


This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (or so) short story based on the picture provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and written about by writers all over the world.


This week WordPress interviewed me about my writing, and included a big mention for the wonderful Friday Fictioneers. Read the piece here.



Flash Fiction: Into the Sun


Cara goes by bicycle to the village shop. The sky is polished blue.
As I lie down with Peter in the grassy hollow I imagine Cara peddling home, into the sun.
Time slows: minutes become hours
Peter turns towards me.
Hours become days
I think of Cara squinting, stopping.
Days become weeks
Peter leans forward.
Weeks become months
I picture Cara pushing the bicycle, head bowed.
Months become years
One first kiss, and a shadow falls. We shade our eyes, look up. Cara, her face dark under her hat, frowns.


This is a Friday Fictioneers story: a 100-word piece inspired by the picture (this week provided by Sandra Crook). Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to read other people’s stories, or here to join in.

I’d love to know what you think – constructive criticism gratefully received – leave a comment below.


Flash Fiction: Third Person


In books there’s always the drunk one. And the hesitant one. And the sober, sensible one – the person warning about the lake’s depth, the submerged dangers and the weeds to get tangled in. I should have been that person when we went down to the water in the dark, but instead we three were all the first kind. Giggling, we pulled off our clothes, plunged in, screaming at the cold.

A full five minutes of laughing and splashing went by before we missed him.

‘Peter!’ We tread water. ‘Stop messing around!’

In the blink of an eye we became the third person.


Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this weekly 100-word Friday Fictioneers writing event. Join in. Read other people’s. The picture this week is supplied by Erin Leary.


Another competition to win BOOKS. But this time not only Our Endless Numbered Days, but also books by Kazuo Ishiguro, Yann Martel, Kate Atkinson, Danielle McLaughlin, Julian Barnes and others. Click to enter.