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

A Spaceman Came Travelling | Short Story

Morning folks,

I’ve been lucky enough to have a short story picked up by Idle Ink. ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ is an odd little piece that went through several iterations in my head before eventually making its way onto laptop screen. I’m not sure it fits comfortably in any particular genre, but I’m reasonably pleased with how it turned out.

Read it here.

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Water Memory | Short Story

They say that the Pacific has no memory. Whoever they are, they say this in such a way as to invoke images of old men looking wistfully across sun-beaten bays, and of winsome young girls with sea-grey eyes walking on beaches, their shoes dangling from one hand. What is says to us, to my brethren and I, is that the Pacific is a body of water in its dotage.

Subject to vicious mood swings? Sure.

Hiding her fair share of secrets? What grand old lady isn’t?

Where I’m from, memory is muscle. Without it we are formless, foetid water, stilled in a dip in the ground.

We provincial rivers remember. We remember the low-lying expanse of flood plain waiting to be crept across. We remember the imperceptible shift in the levee during the last spell in spate, the fingertip journey through crowded gabion.

To rely upon brute distance a la Point Nemo is clumsy – girth is no guarantor of fear. I have people looking up at bruised, pregnant skies with fear written large on their faces. Villagers listen to the thrumming on their roofs whilst in their minds already clambering on to those same roofs. My tributaries of threat steal across minds like capillaries over brains.

The river has burst its banks trills some bedraggled reporter, her umbrella tugging at her hand. Surely your forebears taught you that I have no banks, no boundaries. I wend my way through rock and soil as I will, as I have willed since the crushing darkness of mile-thick ice carved out the routes I follow still. Memories are made this way.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Image courtesy of Piqsels. Recent stories of mine include ‘Something Borrowed, Something New‘ and ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn, and Hazel‘.


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, 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 Wind off the Clyde

Only the cut-glass wind and a cloud-wreathed Christmas Eve moon trouble the dark surface of the Clyde.

In the wee hours, river-cold coils around the destitute, their blankets threadbare and their cardboard ragged. They look northwards not for St. Nicholas but for the Campsies, black against the breaking dawn.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Visit Shelter if you can donate anything this Christmas. Recent stories of mine include ‘Something Borrowed, Something New‘ and ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn, and Hazel‘.


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, 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

Pine | Book Review

Pine

Francine Toon

325 pages

ISBN: 9781784164829

£8.99

Penguin

Paperback

Review

Amidst the winding Highland B-roads and the long, creeping dark of a northern winter, Lauren and her father Niall try to come to terms with the disappearance of Christine, Lauren’s mother. One cold October evening when out guising, they find a gaunt, barefoot, woman lying in the road. Lauren and her father give the woman shelter, but when morning comes she has disappeared. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards and in the sideways glances of friends and neighbours. In a close-knit and claustrophobic village, someone knows the secret linking the two disappearances. Although Francine Toon’s poetry has appeared in the Sunday Times, Best British Poetry, and Poetry London, ‘Pine’ is her first foray into novel writing. It was shortlisted for and won a slew of literary prizes and in my opinion is well worth the praise.

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Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel | Short Story

I’ve been rather staccato on WordPress of late. Work and writing up the first project in my doctorate have crowded out anything more cultured, so it is with some relief that I can report my short story ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel’ has been picked up and published by Writer’s Egg magazine.

‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel’ is an odd, dark little piece. It was one of those stories that a writer wants a good home for. It was with increasing despair then that I saw ABHH rejected by five separate lit mags and ignored by another two. This would normally be enough for me to send it to the beige desktop folder from whence no stories return, but this was one I couldn’t let go.

When I had just about given up hope, I received an acceptance from Writer’s Egg, a Bristol-based print magazine that won Winner of the Best Start-Up Magazine with South West England Prestige Awards 2020/21. I am delighted to feature of course, and it is a timely reminder for me that the distance between waste paper basket and magazine is not always so great.

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Something Borrowed, Something New | Short Story

Thimbles are old hat. As are hatpins, come to that.

We don’t skirt along wainscots anymore – linoleum and robot vacuum cleaners have made that too dangerous. Nor do we abseil down curtains – blinds are not nearly so conducive to a silent descent. And the pets…People still talk about Eggletina having been eaten by a cat, a story whose horror is not in any way reduced by its being apocryphal, but in modern Borrower life the Human Beans are far more eclectic in their tastes. Ferrets, parrots, tarantulas…my cousin Dimmer swears he had to squeeze through a letter box brush to escape a fucking micro pig. These days it is ventilation grilles, wood burners, and shimmying down USB cables.

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Very Good, Jeeves | Book Review

Very Good, Jeeves

P.G. Wodehouse

Penguin: Random House

ISBN: 9780099513728

£8.99

Review

There has been a glut of non-fiction in my reading diet recently. Doctoral literature has been eating up a lot of my at-home reading time, whilst I am finding that the commute to work lends itself more to non-fiction (history mostly) – my tendency to let my thoughts wander whilst driving means that I’m better able to plug back into a narrative I’m already familiar with. In an attempt to remedy this imbalance, I read my first Wodehouse, an author regularly cited as a bona fide genius by the likes of Stephen Fry and Kate Mosse. Wodehouse was prolific in later life, writing more than ninety books, two-hundred short stories, and forty plays. He is perhaps best known for his Wooster and Jeeves series of novels and short stories chronicling the chaotic, bumbling socialite Wooster and his long-suffering, brilliant manservant. I chose to start with ‘Very Good, Jeeves’, a collection of stories about the duo.

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HMS Cleopatra | Short Story | Finale

Read part one here…

Read part two here…

Read part three here…

Read part four here…

The woman showed no surprise at the midshipman’s entrance. She stared at him, a smile nudging at the corners of her lips.

Bligh stood with mouth hanging open; a small boy caught stealing apples from the orchard. He had seen this fine green dress once before; across Bantry Bay, on a captain’s wife with a kerchief pressed against her mouth because she could not bear the smell of the harbour. Gone was the timid, sickly looking woman who had rushed off in her carriage as soon as it was politic, replaced with this confident, sensual creature.

                   “I was looking for…” whispered Bligh. His voice sounded childlike and tiny amongst the oak beams.

                   “You were looking for Ugly Bertha,” prompted the woman, her voice low and melodious. Bligh could smell orange blossom from the woman, the scent replacing the dank rot of the hold.

The woman held out her arms to each side of her petite shoulders. “Here she is.”

Continue reading “HMS Cleopatra | Short Story | Finale”

HMS Cleopatra | Short Story | Part Four

Read part one here…

Read part two here…

Read part three here…

The sound of rolling glass permeated Bligh’s slumber and he woke slowly to the smell of rot and dampness. Looking down from his repose, he saw an empty olive-green rum bottle rolling from beneath the surgeon’s desk and under a hammock occupied by Harper. The young topman lay sleeping and, judging by the rum fumes emanating from him, was well sedated. From what he could see of the boy’s ankles, Bligh did not think that the boy would ever again climb rigging. On top of the table lay slouched the surgeon himself, drunk. Bligh sighed and looked around him. As a place of well-being and recuperation, the sick bay of the Cleopatra left a lot to be desired. Situated in the aft part of the lower deck, there was little light and even less fresh air. Bligh took a moment to wonder why surgeons, always lecturing about how bad airs contributed to disease, were put to work in one of the dankest, dingiest parts of the ship.

Continue reading “HMS Cleopatra | Short Story | Part Four”