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.

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HMS Cleopatra | Short Story | Part Three

Read part one here…

Read part two here…

The scene that enveloped Bligh as he reached the deck was staggering in scale. Screams and shouts issued a group of women who were being forced to the hammock nettings of the ship by marines at bayonet point. Herded together like a writhing ball of herring, Bligh wondered at just how many had come aboard since the ship had anchored. Curses and threats rained down from the wives and prostitutes, more than a few of whom were spitting and clawing at the marines. These were dockyard women; scarred, calloused, and capable of defending themselves.

Standing serenely on the poopdeck and supremely unconcerned by the tumult beneath him was Captain Cowan. A mass of seamen were gathered opposite the pressed women on the main deck, held at bay either by the marines or by the force of their Captain’s will.  Men who had grumbled and muttered at Acheson’s flogging a few days earlier were now dangerously close to open sedition. Glares of fierce hostility were directed up at the poop deck and fists were clenched in anger at the treatment of the women.

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2020: Reflection

As a subdued Hogmanay draws to a close here in Scotland I thought I’d drop a line to say thanks to all my friends here on WordPress (I can’t abide the term ‘followers’ – there’s something far too messianic about the implied relationship!). I’m fortunate enough that after two and a half years of blogging my short stories and updates on the progress of my doctorate, I’ve met and engaged with some wonderful writers.

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Bar Creep | Short Story

The girl had been pleasant enough, but only just enough. She had returned Stewie’s attempts at conversation with disinterest, doubtless cataloguing his harmless chatter as just another sleazy old man’s attempt to chat up a student.

Stewie had patter; he had stories that would make the girl and her friends’ university pranks seem small time, but the teenager’s body language spoke louder than her clipped words. Stewie returned to the warm dregs of his pint as the girl took a call on her mobile. Jackie, the barmaid, was in the back, slapping the top of the CCTV monitor in an attempt to force it into showing a picture before the night’s rush began. As he watched her increasingly violent efforts, it occurred to Stewie to wonder what the pictures would show.

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The Poltergeist of Penicuik | Short Story

You’d be fair surprised at how cold the Edinburgh afterlife can be.

I’ve tried to fit in, I really have. I’ve attempted to carve out a wee niche for masel’ in the black basalt towering above Princes Street. Somewhere I can begin to build a reputation. Somewhere I can gee the wee wans a jump and make the old yins proper frit. It’s not been easy, though. As a recent arrival to the other side, I’m not carrying the same gravitas that some of the more established ghosts cling tae. Continue reading “The Poltergeist of Penicuik | Short Story”

Feel Free | Book Review

Feel Free

Zadie Smith

Penguin, Random House

£9.99

‘One last thing: writing this novel reminded me that a writer should not undervalue any tool of her trade just because she finds it easier to use than the others. As you get older you learn not to look a gift horse in the mouth. If I have any gift at all it’s for dialogue – the trick of breathing what-looks-like-life into a collection of written sentences. Voices that come from nowhere and live on in our consciousness, independent of real people…It’s this magic, first learned in the playroom, that we can never quite shake off, and which any true lover of fiction carries within him or her somewhere.

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