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Friday, 11 November 2011

Chapter 1 - FREE Preview

He stared at his pale, flabby, face in the grimy, blurred bathroom mirror and didn’t recognise the person starting back at him. He picked up his toothbrush despondently and continued to peer at the distorted image of himself. The same routine. He had followed the same regular routine since he had moved into the one-bedroom flat almost 6 months ago. When she had left.

As he brushed furiously around his mouth in a vain attempt to eliminate the taste of cheap rum and cigarettes, he reached with his left hand to wipe the mirror in a desperate attempt to see himself more clearly. No wonder she had left him he thought – the thinning hair, the droopy eyes, the chubby jowels and belly that are an unfortunate consequence of a job that involves sitting for a sustained period of time. The wheeze of the tap straining as he wrapped his mouth around it before flicking it shut and anticipating the inevitable crunch of the water pipes that followed. Swill. Spit. Rinse. He wiped the burning white toothpaste away from his mouth with the damp, smelly towel to hand. Exactly as he had done yesterday. He stared at the frothy white mix circling slowly away down the plug hole.

The letter box jangled and he suddenly noticed the sound of that house alarm that had been keeping him awake most of the night again as if it brought him back to his harsh reality. “Hold on a sec,” Kev bellowed, knowing exactly who it would be. He didn’t like keeping the old woman waiting so he marched swiftly towards the door, undid the chain and unbolted the latch. The door creaked open and stood in front of him was the familiar face of Norma who had almost taken it upon herself to become his ‘Mother Teresa’ figure. “Brought the post and the paper up for yer,” she announced as she walked slowly past him and into the state of a living room. She could have just put them through the door Kevin thought to himself. He supposed it was sweet really that this old Irish woman had taken a shine to him and wanted to mother him in this way even if she did go on a bit. “Thanks,” he said smiling. “Shall I put the kettle on?”
“Ooh, lovely,” she uttered in her gruff, Celtic tone. “Have you had yer breakfast?” she asked as he plodded into the kitchen to flick the kettle on.
“Yeah, i’m fine,” he sighed.

“Good, you need to keep your strength up with your work – especially today,” she said as she sat down on the brown mess of a sofa. Same uncomfortable silence. Kev reached round her thin frame for the remote which she was almost sitting on. She shuffled and he flicked the TV onto the news channel.
“Oh it’s terrible isn’t it,” she announced. “These kids today....” Kev nodded in accordance.

“Yep”, he said, not paying much attention to either her or the debate that was happening on screen. His mind was elsewhere. The kettle whistled and clicked. He knew the routine without thinking: cup, teabag, milk, water, one sugar, teabag in bin, stir. Not even a joyful clink of the spoon against the cup. He just discarded it with the rest of the dirty crockery and silver foil takeaway boxes in the sink. He brought Norma’s tea over to her and sat down on the sofa with it’s creaking cushions. “The country is going down the pan,” he announced, gesturing with his head towards the news footage of last night’s riots.

“Too many immigrants – they’re the ones causing the trouble,” she said in her heavy Irish accent, failing to recognise the irony in her words, before taking a sip of her tea, her eyes gripped by the TV screen. “All these black lads stealing and robbing.”
“Yeah, they don’t want to work – they just want something for nothing all these bastards,” Kev said watching.

“I mean, where are the parents?” she added as she rested her TV on her lap, still transfixed by scenes of destruction the screen. “11th commandment that is...honour thy children “.

“I know, yeah”. He shook his head. “If my lad was out late at night and it said on the news they was going to be a riot, I’d get him in, i’d drag him in if I had to. These parents couldn’t give it a toss. And don’t tell me they can’t get hold of them: kids these days have got all sorts of mobiles – they’re obsessed with them Blackberries and Iphones – it’s all they care about. They’re the shops they broke into and robbed stuff from – weren’t the libraries was it?.”

“Doesn’t your Chris work in one of them phone shops?” she asked turning to him and staring at his eyes which were watching the screen without release.
“Yeah, one of the ones that got broke into last night on Corporation St. Got a message from him earlier saying he had spent all morning clearing up – absolutely disgraceful. That’s the problem with this country these days,” his eyes relentlessly focused on London’s overnight chaos.

“Dear God....” she uttered as she returned to the riot footage on screen and brought her cup back up to her lips. They both sat there in the dimly lit room for a few minutes captured by what they were seeing, almost taking it in turns to shake their heads and tut. “Bloody kids in hoods wrecking things for no reason – is that what it’s come to? The police should just shoot ‘em all.” He stood up and faced her. “Should put ‘em in the army, bit of National Service, give ‘em some bloody discipline and respect. I see ‘em day in and day out, giving it all that, thinking they can get away with everything, thinking they’re invincible. I heard yesterday a load of ‘em tried to get onto a bus, started rocking it from side to side. If they try that with my bus, i’ll show em, I tell ya.”
“Good on yer”, she said, putting her empty cup down and standing up from the sofa. “Will I see you a bit later for a bit o’dinner?”
“No, I’m on shift 2 til ten”.

She dragged herself slowly past his bulky frame and made for the door. “Don’t forget your post – I’ve left it on the table over there,” gesturing towards the sofa.
“Alright....thanks”, he said, massaging the back of his head as if to calm himself down. “Thanks Norma.”

“Bye now,” she said as she shut the door behind her.
He marched over to the table and picked up the two letters. Both looked important. The first had the ‘NPower’ logo on. He carelessly teared it open, ripping the actual letter as well as the envelope: Dear Mr Holding....blah blah blah....your payments will increase by £38 per month from do not need to do anything.....thank you.” Brilliant. More money to have to fork out. Bloody country. He sighed.

The second had a Birmingham postmark on it and he again ripped it open with the same disregard he had for the previous letter, casually discarding the envelope onto the floor. He walked towards the clumsy coat hooks by the door and grabbed his ‘work’ jacket as his eyes scanned the letter. This was it. She’d actually gone and done it. Usually when two warring parties sign something, it is an armistice of some sort, a truce – there wouldn’t be any truce now: there was never going to be any peace between them and certainly no chance of reconciliation. She wanted to move on, go forward with her life and leave him behind, drowning, spiralling in his own despair.
He didn’t need to read it. Decree Nisi, he knew it translated as: “I do not love you.” Instead, he crumpled it up and shoved it into his trouser pocket. He grabbed his phone and keys hastily and left, slamming the door behind him. Making his way down the damp stairwell, he pushed open the main door and the uncertain murmurings of an uneasy city crept into his ears.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Short Stories

Hi all,

The stories are arriving all at once (a bit like buses) ready for the frst chapter to be published to this blog on 11/11/11.

This date will also coincide with the annual '11 Hours on the 11' organised by where participants in the event will be encouraged to try our sample chapter.

Looking forward to seeing the rest of the stories and putting them together.


Tuesday, 5 August 2008


This vivid collection of interweaving short stories explores the lives of those on the edge of society in a bleak portrayal of urban life in 21st century Birmingham. Based around the circular Number 11 bus route, which is the longest urban bus route in Europe, each story focuses on a journey on a tense day in August 2011.