Category Archives: Short fiction

Those SuperDry underpants

by Bianca Alice Walker

Oju scrambled the papers into his hands, creasing them and bending the edges. It didn’t help that he had ketchup on his fingers from the wings he had eaten or that when he bent down his tracksuit bottoms fell below his bum, showcasing his purple SuperDry underpants. It wasn’t reassuring in that moment either that he was ashamed of the very underpants he spent all his birthday money on. It was really, truly a pity that on that day Miss Wilfred was passing him in the corridor, approaching from behind thus not giving him enough time to neaten the kinks in his hair or rub his hands against each other for emergency moisture. It was a real, real shame that at that very instance he was telling his friend about his sister’s friend’s booty. Something had somehow led him to describe it in detail: the way the jeans hugged the circumference of her cheeks, like big Os, more scrumptious than any Cheerios, more sweet than Oreos, fresher than a Polo. His friend Dike had a laugh, while licking his lips. But Miss Wilfred didn’t. She didn’t say a word, only looked at him for a millisecond and then looked down at the floor and continued on. Her unspoken words were, however, more explicit than her spoken ones from only two days before: ‘do you really want to be that kind of person?’ He was answering the question involuntarily, his answer more true than he wanted it to be. The truth came too naturally, the change too unfathomable. He stuffed the pages into his rucksack, all handouts, none in order, hardly any ever read.

Third Floor, Passing Down

[Based on a true story]
by Ed Mayhew

He saw them waiting at the foot of the narrow stairwell and uncertainly sized up the gap they had left for him to pass through between themselves and the banister rail.

“You shouldn’t be wearing that.”

At first, Rashid didn’t register that they were talking to him. He had been exposed to racism around the block enough to have developed blinkers and mufflers towards these sorts of comments.

“Hey feller, you shouldn’t be wearing that.”

Rashid blinked out of his trance, fixed on the two men frowning up at him.

“No no, brother. Is good. I am Christian now,” Rashid said, indicating the poppy on his coat which they seemed to be deriding. “I want remember men and women that they died for this country I live in.”

“You know what I remember when I see a poppy?” one of the men cut in, “Every time, I remember all the people the British army killed in Ireland. Gunned down in the streets. You want to remind me o’ that do yer?”

The two men were clearly in earnest; one even ground his teeth. Rashid reached to his chest, and slowly took the paper flower out from his lapel. He cupped it delicately in his hand. “My friend, I did not mean to cause to you offense.”

“Ah don’t you fret, just educatin’ yer feller.”

Rashid made his move now they were smiling. They let him pass. He assured the two lads that he would tell other people what they had said; they told him he was a good man.

“I respect your people,” he explained as he moved on, “The poppy, I weared not for the people who kill. I weared for all the people they were killed.”

Down the remaining three flights of stairs, Rashid prayed silently. The Irish men on the stairs were the first people he had told face-to-face that he had converted. He was breathing heavily as he opened the door on the cold November morning, imagining that no flowers would be laid for him if his family ever found out what had happened.

Neymar Jr’s Cookies

by Bianca Alice Walker

My knees grated the cracked-up concrete on the football court, before I learnt how to leap over the unwieldy limbs of the older boys, flung at me from all directions. Despite my age I was able to navigate the web of salty, sunburnt flesh and coarse language to get swiftly from one side of the court to the next. The only reason I noticed when girls walked by was because the battle of the badly-timed legs lessened and I found myself running several meters forward with the ball, unhindered. When a real bonita passed, the games would stop for so long I could juggle the ball 200 times before someone beckoned the game to restart.

In those early days of my boyhood no girl ever stole my attention – none except Joao’s mother.

I was doing my signature body fake, two boys falling to the wrong side and another coming at me with his pendulum foot ready to swing hard and fast. Just as he was about to make his tackle, in a moment where I would usually flick the ball over his head and send all the blood of embarrassment shooting up into his face, I smelt something. I smelt the rich, thick scent of sugary dough, freshly baked, weakening my ankles and turning my calves to jelly. For the first time I left the ball and ran to the diamond-shaped wire fence that lined the court, thrusting my arm through it and in front of Joao’s mother’s box of cookies.

‘Why don’t we have cookies more often?’ I asked my mother that night, my stomach still delighted, the grin on my face, from the image of Joao’s mother’s skin-tight, leopard print dress and subtle wink, unmovable. My mother was dragging her feet, exhausted from her various cleaning and cooking jobs. My father was out working either as a postman, a plumber or a security guard – I could never remember which one he did on what day. I thought if I had enough cookies I could lure them away from their work and chores, as I was lured away by Joao’s mother, and show them my impressive football skills, see their wide eyes and flared noses again, their satisfaction.

‘Great footballers don’t eat cookies, meu filho,’ she said, handing me a small plate of brown rice and a fried chicken leg she took from the leftovers at her cooking job at a casona in São Paulo. It was then I realized that if I wanted to bring the joy of cookies to my family, I had to get my own money and make them myself. It was there, with the steaming chicken clutched between my teeth, that I told myself: when I got rich playing football, I would buy a cookie factory and make enough cookies to bring my parents home every night before my bedtime, and occasionally during the day, to see me play, taking breaks, of course, to savour the delicious sweetness of that baked dough and a family united, at rest from the unending demands of life.

Departures

by Amy Stimson

I remember when one I used to think of stations as Departures. The world, I thought, lay ahead in all its scintillating possibility, blazing a path like sunrise over the ocean. It’s all looking ahead, looking out, ever, ever on. They were a launch pad, the exhilaration of the bungee platform. The sheer number of trains made me giddy. What a world, I would think. To hop on in one place and hop off somewhere else completely new! Who knew where it would take you, who knew what you would find?

I think of stations now as departures. They are never still, never… stationary. How odd, how sickening is that paradox! There it exists, squatting on the line, the toad of the centuries, vomiting tinny tubes of mankind. Never stopping, and no one ever staying, no one ever lingering, only twitching. Like flies, about to dart away to the next place, their short existence leaving no room for standing still. Like sharks, they’ll die if they stop moving. Me, I can’t breathe like that.

I been thinking now, that ‘departures’ is an awfully long word. Its tracks unfold and unwind as long as a universe. It has no mobility, only distance, and it goes on and on. It’s too late for what I want now, now that time seems only made up of moments that are gone. Like the trains, they are fleeting visitors, all too soon snatched away, bulleted down the tracks beyond all reach, beyond recovery. For me, there is no traveling back on the same line. I’m stationary now, and I am fixed, watching the moments speed up and rattle away, carrying away another piece of me as if I could endure endlessly to be torn.

I can only think of stations as departures now. That last thread of connection is almost visible: I see it pull, streeeetch and snap at last. What a hunger that last moment created – those last words, the last touch! The physical separation now floats a continent between your hands and mine. Then, the feeling of the blood being drained, as if I’d left my own being on the platform, and was slowly (but now faster and faster) left behind, growing smaller.

Then all at once Home is swallowed.

There’ll be another train there in three minutes. And another one. But, for me, these trains only move in one direction. They’ll never take me back. If I must move, I move on.

I used to think of the stations as Departures, but now I am departed.

Popo and Izza

by Ed Mayhew

“They called the volcano Popocatépetl.” Freya flashes a smile as the strange name jumps off her lips. “They believed when it erupted that the world would end again. I suppose with the Spaniards coming in a few years later, they were almost right!”

Mark takes a sip of wine and looks at her, the story washing around him. It’s six years since they first met. Her bright red hair had been the only reason he remembered her at first. But soon he began seeing her in lectures, and by the time they left university, they were in the habit of talking on her bed until one of them fell asleep. Each had assured their respective partners at the time that they were friends, nothing more. After graduating, this friendship had negotiated a course through his ultimately fruitless Valentine’s Day stunts and her break ups with a man she hated, but couldn’t leave. After that, they had counselled each other through a series of first dates and disasters. A week before this evening’s meal in Pêle’s up in the Shard, they had kissed.

“Before he was a volcano, Popocatépetl was originally a warrior. He had a fiancé – Izza-something. They’re the Aztecs’ Romeo and Juliet really. Popo and Izza.” Over her shoulder in the open kitchen, a flambé glows blue. It leaps high, hisses and crackles. As it subsides, it draws a trickle of applause from around the restaurant. All of this seems to disappoint the chef, ashamed that this delight is so easily won.

They had kissed in a nearly empty cinema. She had leaned into him and he had wrapped his arm around her. A few minutes later, he had turned his head towards hers, their lips easing together. As the closing credits rolled, she laughed about it and said it was normal and it was nothing.

“While Popo was away, Izza heard rumours that he had died. Obviously, she was so distraught by this and, of course, being a woman, she had to kill herself!”

To occupy his hands, Mark straightens up his knife and runs his thumb over a ridge in the tablecloth from where it was folded. He remembers silently protesting Freya’s statement that the kiss meant nothing. He finds himself thinking two people’s thoughts: searching for her hidden inferences; pausing that extra half-second to weigh up whether his words might destroy their fragile flame; waiting for her heart to open a crack to him.

“So, Popo returned from fighting to find her dead, and he cried a bit and thought it was only decent to die as well. See, just like Romeo and Juliet! Except for the twist! When the gods saw this example of devotion and love, they transformed the couple into two mountains, so they could always be near each other.”

Before his eyes, Mark can see the Mexican landscape, the blue sky between the two rising white peaks. Freya taps him on the hand, breaking the trance.

“Hey, Mark! If I died, would you kill yourself? I think you should.”