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.

Continue reading “Snatched | Short Story”

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

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.

Continue reading “A Spaceman Came Travelling | Short Story”

Balmaha to Inverarnan | West Highland Way (curtailed!)

Disaster struck on day three of our journey north up the West Highland Way. We couldn’t have asked for better weather – mist hung low over Loch Lomond as we ate breakfast at a fantastic little B & B at Balmaha. We were confident that it would burn off under the morning sun, and so it proved as we began the hardest day of the walk – twenty-one miles up the east side of the loch.

During preparation for the West Highland Way I had given myself problems with blisters on my feet. I thought I had given myself enough rest time for them to heal up and be ready for the ninety-six miles of the way. Upon the descent from Conic Hill, however, the tell-tale signs of blisters began to appear, not helped by my over-compensating in my stance. Sure enough, the evening removing-of-the-boots revealed the worst (a full description of which I will not sully your day with here). Polysporin was applied liberally overnight, but after three miles of significant pain along a beautiful coastal path, I was forced to abandon the journey.

I was heartbroken at having to stop, and tried to continue several times before coming to the sensible decision. My father and brother went on and completed the walk in unbroken, glorious sunshine over the next five days. I met them in Fort William on the Sunday and was by equal turns pleased for them and green with jealously. My foot has just about healed up and I’m walking with very minimal pain. The WHW will remain an unscratched itch for me meantime, but one that I will attempt again, with slightly better planning! My brother sportingly agreed to write the blog for the journey from Balmaha to Inverarnan below:


Balmaha was deserted as we set off from the village in early morning. The village itself is nestled at the south-eastern tip of the Loch, and the day’s route stretched 20.5 miles up its shore. 

An unseasonably hot sun cut through the soft haze and warmed our backs for the first few miles. A short distance in, though, and we had to stop. 20 miles of friction had turned my brother’s toe into one giant blister, and it became clear that the next 70 were no longer possible. Frantic phone calls were made as his little toe quietly oozed pus at the side of the road until a lift was arranged. My father and I reluctantly left my brother at the side of the road, to hobble his way back to Balmaha. 

It was ten o’clock and only three miles had been covered, so we hardened our hearts and lengthened our stride as the path undulated through native woodland. The canopy provided welcome shelter from the sun, but our t-shirts were stuck to our backs before long.

Seven miles in and we reached Rowardennan, little more than a couple of houses and a hotel. The path rose; the Loch was soon far below and the Arrochar Alps crept towards us on the opposite bank. Beinn Ime, Ben Vane, Ben Vorlich – all were snow-streaked and forbidding, but fell behind us as the afternoon passed.

After 14 miles the path degenerated to a scramble, squeezing between boulders and tree trucks, and we used our hands as often as our feet. 17 miles in and I allowed my mind to drift to our destination, the Drovers Inn, for the first time. But the going was slow, tired legs and feet combined with the punishing path to drive our pace down. 19 miles, and the pleasant Loch Lomond had turned into the Loch That Wouldn’t End. The sun sank below the mountains to our left. Our total mileage for the day, 20.5 miles, came and went without the Inn in sight. The Loch had ended but it was replaced with low bracken-clad hills that hid any view of our progress. The last of the daylight faded, and we were walking into the dusk, contemplating whether we should start using a torch, when the light of the inn appeared in the distance. After 22.5 miles, we stumbled into the Inn and put up our feet, suddenly very cheerful. We never did find out where the extra two miles came from.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Recent stories of mine include ‘Water Memory‘ 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

Chris has got a new book out! — luna’s on line

Chris Hall is a longstanding friend of mine on WordPress. Her writing is routinely brilliant and her work ethic consistently embarrasses me. Chris has six books to her name, her most recent being ‘Spirit of the Shell Man’. ‘A thrilling and compelling adventure story which combines action, fantasy and a touch of mythology’ reads a review, and I have no trouble believing such an endorsement. Take a look at her work – it speaks for itself…

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Read yourself into the venue via my second Six Sentence Story this week. The Prompt Word (helpfully) was BOOK. A neon sign lights up the narrow side street which leads to the Six Sentence Café and Bistro where a bearded man waits, watching as a minivan draws up. The driver leans out of her window […]

Chris has got a new book out! — luna’s on line

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