Category Archives: Fiction

Snippety Snip!

Ah, the wonders of snipping tools! With them I can bring you this:

Vampire Weekend

 

Yes, my first ever story reading. And here is another one, my first ever Paragraph Planet featurette.

 

paragraph planet

Cool huh? Will be playing around with this stuff more in future.

 

 

 

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Vampsov the Toddler

vampsov full cover

It has been a about three months since my first published novel, Vampsov 1938, made it out of the pre-publication darkness and into the light (OK, the Amazon warehouse, if you can call that light). This period  has been a rather hectic one for me, seeing as I had been moving around quite a bit and have ended up working in Germany. Germany? I’m sure Ludmilla my main character, would not approve. But hey, different times and places and all that.

 

So I sits here, nursing my Franziskaner Weissbier and twiddling a pretzel between my fingers as Oktoberfest goes on all around me and I reflect on what has been happening to my infant book during its first months out in public. Hasn’t won a  Booker yet or outsold Stephen King even. But hey, early days and all that.

Franziskaner_Hefe-Weissbier_Hell_with_glass[1]

In all seriousness, I have been told that it takes time for the gears to crank up and sales and critical opinion to begin to make their mark. Perhaps I am to blame for this neglect in some way because I feel that Vampsov is a bit of an orphan at the minute. The book was launched far away in the US, I wrote it in the UK, yet am now living in a non-English speaking market so I can’t very well promote the book other than through the web and all. Poor ickle thing must feel abandoned. Keep promising it a big launch party, press releases, bookshop signings, events etc. And I can’t do any of that here. Still, the money for all that has to come from somewhere and how else am I going to earn it?

 

Despite all this disruption I am still very much a happy camper. For a start here is the (perhaps childish) thrill of knowing I’ve done it. I’ve got a book out! Woohooheehaaaa! On a more balanced note, I have had a lot of feedback that has given me reason to smile. A lot of the people who have read my book get it: the drama at the heart of the story, the family struggle mirrored in the political savagery. The dark humour borne of hopelessness. The vampire and the Stalinist toe to toe… a real monster facing an imaginary one. I’ve even given a snazzy interview to the force of nature that is the amazing Johnny Worthen.

 

Vampsov unwrapped!

Vampsov unwrapped!

And even the criticisms so far have been fair, given me pause for thought, pointed towards things I can improve on. Because I want to improve, grow, become better at this fascinating and exasperating craft. Dammit, next time you will find it harder to find fault, any fault!

 

So here is what I’m going to do to help out my little orphan Vampsov. A UK launch event will happen sometime next year, I’m thinking of a launch and birthday party combo with Borscht and balloons. My little orphan will be getting a little brother or sister too. I am writing the sequel to this volume (Vampsov 1940), and I hope to have a polished draft sorted soon.

 

Hooray!

 

Finally, I will try not to think out loud when surrounded by chaps in lederhosen. Some of them are giving me funny looks, I tell you. Nothing to see here guys, just sippin ma beer and twiddlin me pretzel… Blimey, I must be the  only person wearing proper trousers this side of Holland.

 

 

 

The Wait Is Almost Over

It’s been a long time coming, my debut novel. Finished my first draft in late 2009 and believed it was all fine and dandy.  I even had it spellchecked! In my grubby mitts I held a copy of a Vampire novel set in the Soviet Union of the 1930s with Stalin in it and everything. What more could any editor want?  Lots, as it happened. Early the next year I submitted three chapters to an editor at a conference in Loughborough. He panned it. Not the idea, mind, just the execution. Told me to change it around to his specification and come back to him the next year. Head bowed, a tear in my eye, I swallowed my pride and knuckled down.

After a year I asked about submitting, but the agent concerned seemed less than keen. So, back to the drawing board, I began submitting to small presses with my updated version. Again, no luck.

My last batch of rejections included a good one. Kate Jonez the guru of Omnium Gatherum Press in far off Los Angeles, sent me a letter telling me she rejected the manuscript as it stood. She liked the strong female character at the centre of the novel, but the manuscript needed another thorough revision. Again, I went away and did as I was told.  This time (it was getting on for 2011 by now) success. Kate gave me the OK to send the full manuscript and in time, gave me a contract to sign. Success!

Well, sort of. Another rewrite was necessary. Again, I did it. By now 2012 had danced its way across the world until the beast had finally been tamed. Only minor corrections and proofreading remained. The beast of Vampsov had been conquered.

VampsovFrontWS

And so here it is, five years later, a lean, mean 80,000 word book with my name on it. Prould of the little fella, as it happens. Like all five year-olds its bursting with energy, ideas, imagination and thought-provoking questions –but it doesn’t start having tantrums in the supermarket when you don’t buy it sweets. I think you should own one. I’ll sign it for you too, if you like. You can buy them at Amazon or the good folks at Omnium Gatherum. Available to you from June 7th 2013.

Faction Paradox and how It Found Me

Writing is a funny old pastime when you think about it. It is at once the most solitary of pursuits while at the same time it throws people together into weird looking clusters; like those new-fangled breakfast cereals where grains and nuts are glooped together with honey (supposedly honey, corn syrup more like). And so my own story goes. The sticky substance of collaboration stretched sweet tendrils and drew me fast, into a world I had no inkling of before. And there, in the milky morning bowl of writerliness, I found some kindred souls (and overstretched a simile).

Faction Paradox (FP) is a fictional universe (multiverse, is perhaps more accurate) created by Lawrence Miles. It is based on the worlds created in the BBC TV series Dr Who, particularly the struggles and wars fought by Timelords and other dastardly shenanigans throughout history. FP stories are wide-ranging and varied. Time-travel can take you anywhere, after all. There is a defined nucleus to all the stories, the city of London and the mythical 11 Day Empire which is home to the time-travellers. There’s a lot more too it, of course, which you can read about here, if you want.

 Paul McCaffrey pic

And so Jay Eales, Obverse Books’ editor of the story collection Burning With Optimism’s Flames asked me to contribute. Jay and I are both long-term members of The Speculators writers group and had invited me (and fellow ‘Speccie’ Jim Worrad) to contribute stories. For me it was an honour, a chance to collaborate with Jay and contribute to my first ever short story anthology. I’m so glad I did.

JayEalesJigsaw-300x300

Jay Eales, staring out from his Jigsaw-Puzzled World

 

Burning With Optimism’s Flames is an excellent read. All the stories are good, although, of course I have my personal favourites. Stephen Marley’s ‘All the Fun of the Fear’ set in an Ealing comedy version of 1950s London made me chuckle and had a great little plot in there, driving the story. Cate Gardner’s Elizabethan tale of doom and ravens is another highlight. Alan Taylor’s story is also dark and weird and its description of the banalities of office life struck a chord too. Philip Purser Hallard’s story bubbled with ideas esoteric and doctrinal and reminded me of Philip K Dick’s last book, ‘The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Helen Angrove’s epistolary into the travails of an anti-Darwinist explorer. A mention too to Jim Worrad whose dazzling prose made an alien world come alive (It also reveals his background as a classicist, methinks). But as I say, those are the ones that I liked best at the first few readings. I shall, however, keep a lookout for further works by all these authors and am now hooked by the Faction and its devilish paradoxes. Cheers, Jay!

A special mention has to be made of the fantastic cover illustration made by Paul McCaffrey, especially as my wee story ended up being featured in the largest Russian Doll!

 MuerteJigsaw-300x300

One For St Patrick’s Day (belated)

 

A Craic in the fabric of Space-Time gentlemen please.

The wooden sign creaked as the breeze wafted it to and fro. It stood amid a cluster of palm trees by a small farm settlement. It had been there centuries; a tall, burnt out wooden post, almost perpendicular, supported the sign that hung there from a rusted brittle chain.

The paint on the sign had faded beyond recognition under the blistering sub-Saharan sun. When it moved back and forth in the wind, it twinkled as the last traces of golden paint caught the light. The sign had once borne the picture of a harp styled with curlicued Celtic patterns. It had announced the presence of the only Irish pub in this part of Africa. The city around it, Mombasa, had also fallen to rack and ruin. But the fate of the city wasn’t their concern.

Dermott Malley, dark skinned, blue eyed officer of the regiment of the Blarney Stone stepped down from the transport pod. His uniform bore the insignia of a De Valera class starship. He stopped before the sign and admired it for a brief second before barking orders into his intercom. It was the real deal. One of the last remnants of the Atomic Age Irish diaspora.

 

An excited Lieutenant Malley had found it. A relic of a time before the world wars (IV, V and VI) that had reduced the world to rubble leaving only Ireland to take humanity beyond the confines of a sick blue planet.

“Feck!” he said in reverential tones as he was joined by the Guinness (an old-style priest with black robes and a white head). After his blessing, two slaves – from the ancient caste of English navvies – cut down the sign and carried it back to the pod. Now it would be restored, placed in one of the grand museum collections dedicated to the millennia of Irish culture and history. Perhaps even to the very place where Irishness itself began: to the ancient city of Liverpool.

Coward of the Country

 (My one and only attempt at musical satire, written months after it ceased to be relevant. Words by Floppybootstomp with absolutely no input from Kenny Rogers at all)

 

Everyone considered him the champion of the Sky-Bid

He never said one single time that monopoly was wrong

His momma called him David but folks just called him useless

Something always told me he was a good Bullingdon boy

 

In office for ten minutes and he bottles the decision

Because Rupe’s a friend to Tories and they both got along

I still recall the final words that Murdoch said to Cameron:

‘The News of the World is history but my Sky-Bid must go on’

 

Promise me Dave not to leave my work undone

Remember all my favours if you can

The Sun comes out each day I can make our friendship pay

I hope your phone’s encrypted if you can’t

 

Sometimes your wallet needs an extra grand

There is someone for everyone and Dave obeyed Rebekah

With her lies he didn’t have to serve the common man

One day when he was working the Guardian boys came calling

They exposed Rebekah and the nasty Murdoch press

 

Dave opened up the door and saw Rebekah hiding

Her perjured heart, her shredded files was more than he could stand

He reached above the fireplace to take down Rupert’s picture

As he thought of legal loopholes he heard those words again

 

Promise me Dave not to leave my work undone

Remember all my favours if you can

The Times comes out each day I can make our friendship pay

I hope your phone’s encrypted if you can’t

 

Sometimes your wallet needs an extra grand

 

The house of commons laughed at him as he walked into the chamber

Or that idiot weasel Milliband? I really can’t be sure

He said he’d not refer the bid to the monopolies commission

but you could have heard a pin drop when he u-turned and ran away

 

20 years of crawling were bottled up inside him

But he knew that for the Murdochs he would crawl for 20 more

If Rupe got what he wanted he would finally be somebody

And if he didn’t get it, the Daily Mail would step in

 

And I heard him say:

 

Promise me Rupe not to drop me in the soup

Remember all my favours if you can

The Sun comes out each day I’ll do anything you say

Lat me stick my tongue up your behind

 

I’m the bestest little toady you will find

 

Everyone considered him the champion of the Sky-Bid

 

Le Chien Hirsute

 

Marcel stared out of the window of his shop. The inverted longhand calligraphy of the stencilled letters on his shopfront vitrine, cast long shadows over the display of cakes and choux pastry in the early morning light: Marcel Desmoulins, Patissier et Boulanger. His father had also been called Marcel. The family joke was that the son had been given the father’s name to save money on a new sign for the shop-front. If so, the joke was in bad taste. Marcel junior (whom some wags called Petit Marcel), hated the destiny he’d been saddled with. Baking was a terrible business for a man with ideas of their own. He had been trained to be old school, to get up at 4 am to start the dough for the morning baguettes, to make croissants, religieuses, Rhum Babas, pain-au-chocolat, tarte aux pommes and all the rest of it, from scratch. No chilled dough brought in from distant factories here, no shortcuts to ease the back-breaking sixteen hour days. His father had even complained when he suggested buying supermarket glace cherries.

“What are these things? Eh? How are we going to put that on our confections when we don’t know what chemicals they use, eh?”

“It lists the ingredients on the packet, papa.”

“Lists? Do you believe what these pigs, these salauds tell you? Don’t be stupid son. We can make our own glace cherries. They’ll taste better, you’ll see.”

The old bastard would have done it; wasted weeks of work every year glacee-ing his own cherries with raw fruit and sugar just to prove a point. They said that his perfectionism and overwork killed him. He certainly died with his boots on; hands crusted with dough as they stretchered him off to the ambulance, making young Marcel swear to keep the family business going. And here he was, trapped in this town with this poky shop to stock every morning and the most sour-faced, grudging, tight-fisted customers in the entire Auvergne to keep sweet. Marcel could not think of a worse destiny as he trudged towards the back of the shop. Pierre, his assistant, had let himself in and was washing his hands in the sink. An eager apprentice, one keen to learn the trade and with a ready smile to boot. His optimism cut Marcel to the quick.

“Morning boss! Should be a nice day.”

“Yes, Pierre. Not that we’ll see any of it.”

“Well, yeah, but it should be a nice afternoon for a walk or a cycle to the lake.”

“If you say so,” Marcel noticed a paper bag, lying on the work-table. It was something that would have driven his father mad, having a foreign object defile the sacred table where the dough was made. “What’s that you got there? And why is it on the table, Pierre?”

Pierre finished cleaning his hands and bounded toward the bag, tearing it open.

“It’s a cookbook, see? I found it in the second hand shop, its a handwritten manuscript from an old patissier. Probably a thousand years old!”

“A thousand years old? Don’t talk nonsense. Its nineteenth century at most. Here, let me look at that.”

The book certainly exhibited the patina of age. The pages were discoloured and the spine crackled as the volume was opened. The recipes, noted down in a fine, spidery writing, were certainly nineteenth century. Heavy, stodgy things designed for the limitations of wood ovens and a taste for calorific overload. Illustrations of each cake and loaf were rendered in what looked like pencil drawing but might be some sort of lithography.

“Looks interesting. How much did you pay for it?”

“Eighteen Euro.”

“You were robbed.”

“Isn’t it any good?” Pierre looked crestfallen. Marcel smiled despite himself. There was no need to take his frustrations out on the lad.

“Listen, Pierre, if you lend me the book, I’ll give it a look over tonight. Not promising anything, but if there’s anything in there we can use, I’ll reimburse your expenses. How’s that?”

“Great! Can I keep the book too?”

“Well, I don’t want it hanging around here.”

*

The next morning Pierre arrived to find Marcel already in the kitchen, his hands covered in flour, eyes shining like those of a man possessed.

“Morning, boss. You’re early with the baguettes today.”

“Ha! No, Pierre, it’s not the baguettes. That book you brought me yesterday, that book… I’ve never read anything like it. It will transform the business, it will make me rich I tell you. Rich!”

“Crumbs.”

“Good one, Pierre, crumbs indeed. This recipe is the killer, though. Never been a cake like it. You make it in the shape of a top hat, that’s the beauty of it… Hat cake! Ha, ha! Hat cake!”

“Are you alright, boss?”

“Never better. Tell me, what is that ingredient there, the third one down on the icing recipe?”

Pierre grabbed the book, it was looking a bit worse for wear and he had to brush the flour from its pages to read it. “Ooh, its green.. something. There’s a grease spot right on the word so I can’t work it out.”

“Excuses! Never mind, I’ll make it without that ingredient then. If it makes a difference, we can always work it out later. Get me some eggs, Pierre! And be quick about it!”

“Right on it, boss.”

*

Pierre and Marcel sat at the kitchen table staring at the culinary car-crash in front of them. The sponge, which after many attempts had managed to get it into the proper hat shape, looked decidedly unappetizing. The problem was the fondant icing that was supposed to cover the cake. Its present colour was a dull, nasty brown, rather than the silken black it was meant to be. It had to be a fault within the recipe itself.

“This is a disaster.”

“Don’t look good, does it boss?”

“You can say that again.”

“Don’t look goo… oww!”

“Don’t try and be funny, Pierre.”

“Sorry boss. Maybe we should try and work out what that third ingredient was again, see if that sorts out the colour.”

“Well, I’ve tried everything I could think of. Green food colouring, green almonds, green lime juice…”

“Because I was thinking… green fairy?”

“I feel you’re getting to the punchline, Pierre, so spit it out.”

“It’s just an idea, but you know they say, boss; Absinthe makes the hat cake fondant.”

 

Fin

Shaggy Dog Story

A VIKING SAGA

Eric, the blind viking, sat on his porch as the spring winds swept the clouds slowly inland. Up the steep path leading to Eric’s small house came Olaf, the village elder, eager to speak to him.

“Eric?”

“Who’s that?” said Eric, for he could not see.

“’Tis I, Olaf the village elder, we’re organizing a pillaging trip to England. As we’re short of warriors, we were hoping you might come along.”

“Sounds like fun. I’ll ask the missus about it and see what counsel she can give me.”

“Fair enough, Eric. Don’t get up, I’ll see my own way out.”

“As if you’ve got a choice.”

 

Later that day, Eric was met by his wife, Brunhilde, who’d just come back from the shops.

“Eric.”

“Who’s that?” said Eric, for he could not see.

“’Tis I, your wife Brunhilde, back from the shops.”

“Ah, Brunhilde, I have news. Olaf the village elder came to see me and offered me a job.”

“A job, my love?”

“Yes. I am to be a warrior again, to sail to England and loot, rape and pillage.”

“Well, Eric. I don’t know what to say. What if you have an accident or something?”

“It’ll be fine love. Go on, say I can go. I’ll bring you a present…”

“Well, I don’t know…”

“Any present you like! Just name it, it shall be yours.”

“Err… we could do with a new sink unit.”

“A sink? Say no more about it, my love. It shall be yours, I promise.”

And so it was that Eric was taken on board the longship on the journey to the coast of England. The trip was eventful with storms, sea-monsters and half-drowned berserkers weaving a saga of bravery, courage and good fortune. Eventually, the craft arrived upon its objective; England.

 

“Land ahoy!”

“It’s England, my vikings! Soon we shall raid the be-Odin of this poxy little island!”

“Hurray!” shouted the vikings.

Eric, however, looked worried. Chief Wolfgang spied his apprehensive, blind reaver and went over to talk to him.

“Eric.”

“Who’s that?” said Eric, for he could not see.

“’Tis I, Chief Wolfgang. I’ve been thinking. When we disembark I’ll get Lief to point you in the right direction so you can loot, rape and pillage everything ahead of you.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Eric.

The vikings spilled onto the English coast with blood-curdling yells to loot the undefended coastal villages. In a matter of hours, houses burned, defenders routed and barns had been stormed. Eventually they noticed that Eric was missing. The vikings immediately sent forth a search party to get him back.

 

Eventually, Eric was tracked down to a building site some miles inland. They found him running around in a circle waving his axe around and shouting. Lief, the leader of the search party, spoke to him.

“Eric!”

“Who’s that?” said Eric, for he could not see.

“’Tis I, Lief, I’ve come to get you. Put your axe down. The pillaging is over. We have to get back to the ship.”

“Oh.”

“What’s wrong, Eric?”

“It’s just that I need to find a sink unit for Brunhilde. I promised to get her one before I left.”

The search party split up to look for a sink unit. Their search was fruitless. Eventually one of the vikings picked up the first thing to hand; a bricklayer’s hod. [got the joke yet?]

“Sorry Eric, we couldn’t find a sink unit. This will have to do. I’m sure Brunhilde will understand…”

Soon the search party had returned to the longship with Eric. The vikings boarded the craft and made their way back toward their village in distant Norway. Storms and sea-monsters battered the craft on its return as they had when outward bound. After weeks at sea, the small vessel finally made its way back to their familiar harbour. The womenfolk waited eagerly for their men to disembark. Eric, hod perched on his shoulders, shuffled along the quay towards the awaiting Brunhilde.

“Eric.”

“Who’s that?” said Eric, for he could not see.

“’Tis I, your wife Brunhilde, it’s good to see you home again and well, my husband!”

“Aye, ’tis good to be back. And here, my love, is the present that you asked for.”

Brunhilde looked wide-eyed at the object her husband had presented her. “But this is not what I asked you to bring me,” she said.

“ I know but [altogether now…] A HOD’S AS GOOD AS A SINK TO A BLIND NORSE!”

Thank-you and good night.

Condemned To Repeat

GCSE History & Politics (Paper 1), May 27, 2029.

Question 4: “We have learned, a little late no doubt, that for states as for individuals real wealth consists not in acquiring or invading the domains of others, but in developing one’s own. We have learned that all extensions of territory, all usurpations, by force or by fraud, which have long been connected by prejudice with the idea of ‘rank,’ of ‘hegemony,’ of ‘political stability,’ of ‘superiority’ in the order of the Powers, are only the cruel jests of political lunacy, false estimates of power, and that their real effect is to increase the difficulty of administration and to diminish the happiness and security of the governed for the passing interest or for the vanity of those who govern…”

Charles Maurice de Talleryand (French 18th Century diplomat).

Discuss with reference to Britain’s role in the Iraq and Afghan wars (2003-2024)

[Fee for this question is £1,250 and a 1% surcharge on future Income Tax per exam grade above C.]

A Year Ago Today…

… Floppybootstomp Compress was born. To celebrate the fact, I offered to post a full-length story on the blog today. In fact, you get two for the price of one as the latest issue of Aphelion has one of mine too. How’s that for value?

Howard Jacobson, Mario Vargas LLosa and I have somethhing in common: we’ve all won literary prizes this October. OK, so I’ve only won story of the year at The Avatar, but we all have to start somewhere.  

So, without further ado, here’s your story:

 

CIRCUS GOLDILOX 

by Daniel Ribot

Act One:

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived three strange grown-ups called Clarence, Ruby and Malcolm. Clarence, Ruby and Malcolm worked as performers. Clarence plied his trade as a strongman, bending iron bars and flexing his barrel chest for the amusement of the crowds. He had a twirly waxed mustache that he was particularly proud of – and some Dundreary sideburns too. Ruby was a tiny woman with black hair that she kept wrapped in a silk scarf of many colours. She told fortunes in a booth, a sideshow that delivered mystical advice in exchange for crossing her palm with silver. Malcolm was a midget, a dwarf if you prefer, who dressed up in a clown costume and entertained the punters with some hilarious routines. He was always getting custard pies in the face. All three of them worked at the circus and lived together in a caravan.

Today Ruby would tell the boys their fortunes. The circus had arrived at a new town and she liked to see how things would go for them here. She laid three tarot cards on the table; one for each of them. Clarence and Malcolm were preparing the tea and biscuits. Just then the ringmaster showed up, poking his head inside the caravan door.

“Oy, you lot! Come and help put the tent up!”

They sighed as they left everything to follow the ringmaster to go and help the rest of the circus-folk. The door swung closed behind them, but the latch did not connect. It was an old caravan and the doors were rather sticky.

Act Two:

Goldilocks was a little girl who lived on the outskirts of a sprawling suburb of teeny-tiny first time buyer properties. It was set in a maze of cul-de-sacs with nowhere to play and nothing to do. It was a sterile desert for children with only cars, grass and gangs of teens outside the offie to look at. Goldilocks decided that, rather than stay here and wait for something bad to happen, she would meet her doom head on. She left the house and headed for the fairground. She was bored and wanted some amusement.

Soon Goldilocks arrived at the edge of the fairground. It was late afternoon. She saw a row of caravans behind the generator lorry. Ambulance sirens could be heard in the background and the area was deserted. Tiptoeing towards the caravans, she decided to try the doors. All were locked until she tried the last one. It swung open without effort. She looked around to see if anyone was looking. There wasn’t, so she let herself in.

Inside the circus caravan, there was all kinds of interesting stuff to see. There was a stuffed owl, a blanket of jewels and feathers and a pile of books with a plantpot on top. But her eyes were drawn to table with a deck of cards and some mugs of tea, still steaming hot. Goldilocks suddenly felt very thirsty. The biggest mug was full of liquid that was a dark copper colour. Strong and possibly stewed. Mary slurped it.

“Ugh, no sugar!” she exclaimed. She put it down on the edge of the table and tried the next one. This mug looked dead milky and weak.

“Groo! Herbal tea with milk, rank!”

The last mug of tea was tiny. It did look the right colour for tea. Goldilocks drank it. It was hot, sweet and delicious.

Next, Goldilocks started rummaging around. Soon she found something to go with her drink. Three cigarette packets. The first contained fags made of strong, high-tar dark tobacco. She lit one and took a puff.

“Yuck! Too strong!”

The second packet was full of roll-ups. When she tried one, her face crinkled with disgust. It tasted like pot-pourri dipped in face cream. “Yucky yuck, yuck!” she declared.

The third was cheerful-looking pack of low-tar menthols. They burned with a cool blue smoke as she inhaled. Perfect for a little girl. Excellent. Now she could really enjoy her tea.

 

Only then did she spot the cards on the table. Goldilocks leaned over towards them. There were three cards from an old, mysterious tarot deck, all laid in a row, face down on the tablecloth. The little girl shuddered. It was spooky. She knew for definite that these cards were somehow watching her.

“Perhaps they will tell me my fortune.” she thought.

Goldilocks took the first card and flipped it over. The Wheel. It had a picture of a big wheel, like the one at the circus fairground or Chessington Adventure Park.

“Huh! I knew I was in a circus already. Not very good these, are they?”

She flicked her ash on the table and turned over the second card. The two of cups. “And what is that supposed to mean?” said Goldilocks irritably. She flicked her wrist to brush away the ash on the table and accidentally knocked one of the mugs. It was the big one. It fell and hit the floor, smashing into a thousand pieces. Goldilocks shrieked and jumped out of the way as the tea and pottery fragments splashed all over the floor.

“Oh my God, this is so weird!” Goldilocks stared at the table. There were now only two mugs on there. Two cups. Just like the tarot card had predicted. She approached the table gingerly. There was the last card, calling her. “I’m scared!” she whined softly. But she had to do it. She crushed her cigarette butt into the tiny mug and took a deep breath. Then she turned over the last card. Death.

 

Goldilocks screamed, the world went black as she fainted.

Denouement:

When Goldilocks awoke, it was night-time. There was a gypsy woman and a man with a curly mustache looking down upon her.

“She’s awake, Ruby.”

“So she is. Well, my girl. It seems you’ve been caught red-handed, breaking and entering.”

Goldilocks blubbed. “I wasn’t…”

“You broke my mug.”

“You touched my cards.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be bad.. I’m just a girl from a housing estate with nothing to look forward to but meaningless sex, self harm, alcopops, cyber-bullying and drug addiction. I didn’t mean no harm or nuffink.”

“Well, no harm done, I suppose.”

“Not compared to what happened to Malcolm.”

“Who’s Malcolm?”

Clive looked stern and severe. “Malcolm, young lady, was a friend of ours. You drank his tea and smoked his cigarettes as he was dying. Squished by the largest tent-pole as we were putting up the big top.”

Goldilocks remembered the sound of the ambulance now and started to cry. “Oh, I’m so sorry! Didn’t mean to, honest!”

The two adults looked at each other and smiled. Ruby spoke. “It’s alright child. You can go when you like. Take our blessings with you.”

Goldilocks dried her eyes. She looked around the little rickety caravan. So much nicer than than a Beezer starter home.

“Can’t I stay?”

“You what?”, said Clive.

“It’s just that you’re so nice and my life is so crap and…”

Ruby rubbed her chin, pondering. “Well, we are short of a clown.”

“And Malcolm’s costume should just about fit her.”, added Clive

“Please can I stay, oh Please?” Goldilocks simpered. A tear ran down her apple blossom cheek. She wiped her face with nicotine-stained fingers.

“Well, we’ll need a letter from your parent or guardian.”

“…a contract and a CRB check.”

“And a National Insurance number.”

“But of course you can stay.”

And so it was, boys and girls, that Goldilocks joined the circus and everyone not living in a starter home lived happily ever after.

 

So goodnight and God bless.

THE END

ian sneath

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