In the Ribboned Fog

A leaf covered in hoar frost

In the ribboned fog of a February daybreak, dog barks stilt strangely in the dank air. Hoar frost clings to raw-fingered branches and to the tortured holly. What leaves are left from autumn’s mulch sit skeleton and crisp, drifted in between tree roots or huddled at the entrances to abandoned setts. Clouds scud over the lightening sky, looking upon their skulking brethren clinging to the dells and corries below. A time for paperboys and farmers, milk floats and commuters huddled bitter at some rural bus stop. The sensible stay put – the foxes in their underground fugues, the hares in frozen, clod-circled forms.

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The Dead Don’t Moan | Short Story

The dead don’t moan.

Dirt-packed and clod-mouthed, they stare silent at earthen skies.

Rain gutters down the slate tiles and the stained-glass windows. It bubbles down into the drain gratings, down through the salt-leached soil. down amongst the dead, where it sits brackish black and silent in the cheapening pine boxes.

Yew roots curl around the sleeping dead, whose wayward ivory pates are held soft in wooden elbow crooks and bark fingers. The shifts and shivers of the topmost branches do not trouble the subterranean silence.

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Curlews and Cows | Ayr Writers

One of the best aspects of being a member of Ayr Writers is the variety of outside speakers we have in our programme. Writers are by their nature storytellers, and we’ve had some fantastic yarns spun to us in my time as a member.

Some of the most interesting talks have come from (to my mind at least) unusual sources. We’ve had workshops on writing song lyrics and publishing via Mills and Boon, both of which taught me things about writing of which I was previously ignorant.

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Heave and Harry | Haiku

Morning folks,

a couple of blustery haiku today, as Autumn has well and truly arrived…

Heave

Heaving, hissing trees

Writhe and cling on to their leaves

Early Autumn winds.

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Harry

Mackerel sky skates

Over hill and into dell

Gleam harried by gust.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Images courtesy of Rawpixel and Wikipedia. My recent short stories include ‘Cooks Matches, Lentils, and Sofa Stuffing‘ and ‘Snatched‘.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, Idle Ink, The Wild Word, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

Cook’s Matches, Lentils, and Sofa Stuffing | Short Story

A yellow box of cook's brand matches, lying open on a white background

Siren’s wail and loudspeaker’s bark are dampened as Adam closes the door against the night. One, two, three padlocks go on. Two deadbolts scrape across the pitted iron of the doorframe. The smell of the flat welcomes him home – mildew and rusty water.

Adam lights a candle using the box of Cook’s matches. A man at the food line had told him that, pound-for-pound, matches were now worth more than gold. The expectation had been that Adam would have been impressed, or even disbelieving, but who had use for gold anymore?

The candle is placed atop the cardboard box that serves as a table, and Adam uses its guttering light to place plywood over kitchenette and bedroom windows. It doesn’t stop the wind whistling through the blown insulation, but it might persuade the after-darkers to move on to the next house. The next target.

A guttering candle on a dark background

A dinner of cold lentils, soaked all day, is eaten. Adam’s eyes never leave the guttering, tremulous flame. The wax is cheap. It runs down the sides of the candle and pools, translucent, on the cardboard. The candle occasionally pops and fizzes as it burns, like fireworks.

Adam glances covetously at the book he is halfway through, but he knows he cannot spare the wax. Licking the tips of his thumb and forefinger, he pauses, and then pinches the flame out. The lumpen, darken shapes that he knows so well immediately rush into the grey. The sofa, stuffing removed to supplement his duvet. The bank of bottled water that has to last until spring. The squat radio in the corner – his one link with what now passes for civilisation. Adam only switches on at 5pm Sunday for the emergency broadcast.

It was alright, he thought, picking a lentil from between his teeth. The Prime Minister’s budget would get people working again.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Images courtesy of Flickr and Wikipedia. My recent short stories include ‘Snatched‘ and ‘A Kind of Magic‘.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, Idle Ink, The Wild Word, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

Snatched | Short Story

Moving across a room is more of a challenge than it used to be. Mark has given up waiting for his sea legs – landlubber ones will have to do. He opens the door to find the first mate about to knock again. The man doesn’t even bother to sneer at Mark’s seasickness anymore.

                ‘We’re here.’ The man looks warily at Mark as though worried he might shortly be wearing his guest’s breakfast. ‘Although why anyone would want to be is another matter.’

Mark nods and begins to follow the sailor up the narrow corridor, arms braced against the corridor walls like a drunkard. His lifejacket puffs up in front of him ridiculously, and the first mate opens the door at the end of the passage for him.

The wind, whose fingers had already been tendrilling through the broken seals in the door, seizes the opportunity and heaves through the doorframe, salt-spittle-flecked and cold. The first mate does not waste any more words in the squall. He mimes that Mark should remain clipped in whilst on deck, and through a wagging finger the fact that no-one will be coming after him if he does go overboard. Mark nods and clips in.

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Bake and Breccia | Haiku

Morning folks,

This was going to be a couple of drought-themed haiku, but in the end I thought a refreshing one to finish was more palatable.

‘Breccia’ is a haiku based on the Flannan Isles off the west coast of Scotland, a notoriously difficult place to land a boat and the setting for a mysterious disappearance in 1900. I’ve just finished ‘The Lighthouse: The Mystery of the Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers’ by Keith McCloskey – an excellent book on the subject if you are interested in reading more.

Bake

Riverbed, tarmac,

Ray-baked, dust-choked munro path.

Cringing under sun.

Breccia

Foam-licked breccia teeth

Sheathed, and unsheathed as boats approach.

Steps rise to safety.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Images courtesy of Chris Downer and Wikipedia. My recent short stories include ‘The Road‘ and ‘A Kind of Magic‘.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, Writer’s Egg, Idle Ink, The Wild Word, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

The Road | Short Story

Beginnings everywhere, like tributaries. The barely-there footpaths over the needled forest floor, the slightest heelprint in the wet sand moments before the tide arrives. Beginnings everywhere, and nowhere.

The path begins to become more cultured, more knowable. Towpaths trail obediently canalside. Lines of scree wind up Bens Lomond, Vane, Ime, slowing only to slip underneath footworn styles or to dip beneath the scurried, hurried surfaces of highland burns.

Soon, the little country lanes with thick, sunblock hedgerows, honeysuckle woven over the threads of sunlight that have made their way through. The pitch-dark laybys overhung with blackberries and sloes, indigo fruits on an indigo road under an indigo sky.

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