Fiction

‘Shoeshine, sir?’ asked the young lad with a shoeshine box in his hand, as I peered into the window of a shop in New Delhi’s fashionable Connaught Circus. ‘No thanks’, I responded. ‘I’m in a hurry. I have to go somewhere.’ ‘Will be quick, and make like new’, he said reassuringly. ‘No’, I said again. ‘I do not want to shine my shoes.’ I tried fobbing him off, but it was difficult. He then followed me and tried to engage me in conversation. ‘From where, sir?’ he asked. ‘I am Indian’, I replied, somewhat mildly irritated. ‘Don’t lie’, he snapped accusingly. ‘That is not Indian flag.’...

It was three weeks into Kurt’s big adventure that his digital self was stolen. Before that, everything had been going to plan. He’d been live-streaming the sights via a head-mounted HD camera and vlogging on Youtube at the end of each day. Though physically alone, his internet presence made him feel as if his friends and family were always with him. And he’d been keen to show his followers exactly how much fun he was having. He’d taken a Eurostar to France and a train to Monaco before cycling across the Spanish border, heading to Barcelona. From there, he’d boarded...

Winner of The London Magazine Short Story Competition 2015. Sometime between 1858 and 1864, Emily Dickinson embarked upon her self-publishing career. She copied out in her best handwriting about half of the poems she had written thus far (around eight hundred of them). She wrote them onto sheets of embossed, cream and blue-ruled stationery which she folded and sewed together with twine into 40 little booklets. Sometime in 1886, after the poet had died, Emily’s sister, Lavinia, discovered the 40 little booklets in a wooden chest in The Homestead, the big house on Main Street in Amherst; the house where Emily...

 As the young man came over the hill the first thin blowing of rain met him. He turned his coat-collar up and stood on top of the shelving rabbit-riddled hedgebank, looking down into the valley. He had come too far. What had set out as a walk along pleasantly-remembered tarmac lanes had turned dreamily by gate and path and hedge-gap into a cross-ploughland trek, his shoes ruined, the dark mud of the lower fields inching up the trouser legs of his grey suit where they rubbed against each other. And now there was a raw, flapping wetness in the air...

The landlady watches herself in the living room mirror, phone held to her ear. In the blurred morning light her face looks young again, almost. She flicks her pale fringe from one side to the other. ‘Yes, well let’s hope it’s mice’, she says into the receiver. If only the tenant would hope too. In the mirror she sees Mossi passing down the hall. In his white sports socks he hardly makes a sound. He is quiet as mouse, she thinks, her Mossi. ‘Right-oh!’ she says into the phone. ‘I’ll pop by this evening’. She hangs up before the tenant...

From The London Magazine Stories 11, 1979 Then the brothel was raided. Christ, he’d only gone down to Spinoza’s to confront Patience with her handiwork. She hadn’t been free when Morgan first arrived so he had chatted to the owner, Baruch — as his better-read clients whimsically dubbed the diminutive Levantine pimp - for half an hour or so, and watched the girls dancing listlessly under the roof fans. His anger had subsided a bit but he managed to stoke up a rage when he was eventually ushered into Patience’s cubicle. ‘Hey!’ he had roared, lowering his greyish Y-fronts, ‘Bloody look at...

A bee is trapped behind the curtains––its silhouette circles the head of a printed flower. Edith pulls her arm free of the tightly tucked sheet and watches the hand rising. The skin on the wrist and hand is loose, mottled, the blue veins twisted, weaving around the bones. It is the hand of an old person and she does not, will not, recognise it. A sound rises in her throat but it fades before the word, the question, reaches her lips. She wonders how she became tethered to this ancient husk. Against the far wall is a wardrobe. One of...

You had never heard of the word until an hour ago, but already your designers are as familiar with the concept as they are with their own mannequins.  To your ear, it sounds like the name of a Hong Kong Triad or a term from Jamaican quilting.  Not a fat quarter, but a fat-wah. Since learning the word, you have been unable to get the line of these legs right.  Every time you’ve put pen to paper, the pleated skirt in your mind’s eye appears before you on the drawing board like a pair of khaki shorts.  Your feet are...

That afternoon was a particularly trying one for Mary. Having changed her mother’s incontinence pad and left her on the sofa watching ‘Homes under the Hammer’, she had retreated upstairs, planning to work. But after turning on her computer, she heard the rattle and scrape of a metal stepladder being positioned outside, on the dank strip of gravel between the privet hedge and the bay. Its treads squeaked under the awkward weight of someone not expert at climbing ladders, but determined to ascend. Sonia from number six then appeared at eye level, wearing an apron over her dress and brandishing...

She communicates through flowers. Daffodils are for happiness, carnations for sadness, snowdrops mean hope and tulips stand for strength. She saves dahlias for saints’ days, even though she isn't religious, and gladioli for the family visits she dreads. A red rose means enter, a white rose death. This isn't, you may have noticed, the traditional language of flowers; it's her own system, her own invention, or her own garden, as she would say. The day we met she gave me a tiger lily. She said it was a promise; of what she wasn't saying. I teased her for clues, but her...

IN THE SUMMER, while their shells are still a pale colour, you may eat the white kernels of unripe hazel nuts. You extract their sweet, nutty juice while crushing with your tongue the pulp which in a few weeks would have become hard and brown-skinned. You take the fruit of the tree and deny it its maturity, its purpose. Adelaide Oxley preferred to wait until September, when the nut shells turned tan, and the bracts from which they hung shrivelled until they looked like tortured butterflies. The nuts were easy to find when the leaves fell from the tree. They...

Frank’s Englishness was all about him for he dressed in country wear:  tweed sports jackets, check shirts, Burberry rain macs, and a perpetual woollen flat cap.  One could spot him two hundred metres away in a Paris street.  In many ways his personality matched his dress style for he had firm conservative views on most things.  Once, although he was mildly inebriated at the time, I heard him say that recidivists should be shot.  In fact he was a throwback to earlier times. It beats me why Frank came to live in Paris in the first place for he was...

  Wednesday, 21 August 1968   The moment you and Slava enter the dining room, he throws himself on the first person he sees, kisses both of their cheeks and pulls them close in a bear-hug.  The recipient of his attention does not stand to return the greeting.  He doesn’t even look up.  You walk on to an empty table. ‘Galya, tell me, who was that?’ asks Slava, taking his seat opposite you. ‘I don’t know,’ you say.  ‘A second violinist.  Maybe a viola player.’ Slava looks around the room in expectation but no one meets his gaze.  He takes a slice of toast from...

Excerpt from Chapter One The battle was over, but still Kazuteru ran. He had duty to fulfil. The young samurai ignored the howling of his lungs and the ache within his muscles and bore forth his sacred burden: a dagger the length of his hand. His Lord awaited it at the top of the valley. It had rained all day yesterday and most of the morning too, an anomaly in the high summer. The sun shone bright now, but too late. Hundreds of feet and hooves had trampled the sodden slope and churned it into a swamp. Kazuteru’s armour and underclothes,...