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Andrew Atkinson



Andrew Atkinson Merits

8 most prolific4 most esteemed

What A Scream

It was piercing, shiver-promoting and eerily close. The sort of scream that denotes heart- and soul-wrenching wretchedness. Pure horror. Unambiguous terror.

I traced the source of the shriek quickly – it came from me, quivering me. The vision in front of me was awful but I could not avert my eyes, no matter how hard I tried.

What is the worst thing that could happen to you? Have you the nerve to explore and confront this? For me it was right there, coldly staring back. A void, a blank page – completely unencumbered by words.

And I only needed exactly one hundred.

Problems Of The 100-Word Limit: No. 2

Dear Mr Jenkins

We are replying by drabble to the similarly delivered message received from your colleagues. Here at Hancock’s Novelty Goods we want all our customers to be 100% satisfied. We understand that your stag party was somewhat riotous and that said colleagues left you locked in a pair of our Fun Handcuffs. It must be uncomfortable lying in a bath chained to the cold tap. And you will obviously be concerned about getting to the church on time.

To business. You need the security code to get out of this predicament. The seven-digit code is nine, two, five…

Fish Tale

Annabel had not eaten fish for three years after nearly choking to death on an unfilleted trout. It was time to face her nemesis.

She stared at the solitary fish finger on her plate and then nibbled a morsel without gagging or fainting. Soon, the plate was empty and her thoughts turned to future meals, perhaps involving sea bass or bream.

Annabel was dead on arrival at hospital. A paramedic from the ambulance was chatting at A&E reception.

“Looks like she was heading towards the washing-up bowl but stumbled and fell. It was a fish knife that killed her.'

Problems Of The 100-Word Limit: No.1

“Inspector Campbell, you cannot possibly believe that I’m responsible for Sir Ernest Smyth’s death?'

“Oh no, Lady Agatha. The placement of your pearls by the body was intended to put me off the trail. The real killer is one of the men in this very room.'

Lady Agatha looked around the gathering in her library. Her son Reggie, grandsons and nephews? No. The colonel or the bishop? Surely not. The Foster-Wortley man – who had invited him for the weekend shoot? James, the butler? Hardly likely.

“Yes,' said the Inspector, spinning around and pointing a finger, “the killer is Mr…'

I Scream

Sometimes, the sadness is overwhelming. The pain is still sharp, even after many years. Now, in his retirement, there is time to mull over the sense of loss.

Life is full of ‘if onlys’. He has many regrets relating to the serendipitous path of his career, relationships and health. But this one simple loss still hits him hard.

He can vividly recall what happened, even now. The agonising time – seemingly in slow motion – it took for events to unfold.

Then the backward glance to see his precious ice cream splattered on the pavement, just as his mother tugged him away.

Blood Lines

I thwacked the stake through his heart. An eerie screeching reverberated around the cellar but died quickly, leaving a strange stillness.

“Dr Jenkins! Are you all right?'

“I’m fine, thank you Charles,' I replied to my assistant. “The deed is done.'

I took no pleasure from the act. It needed to be accomplished – for my sake and my sanity, if for no other reason.

Returning to the inn, Charles asked if I would be joining our team for dinner. But the moon was high and with my bloodlust no longer directly challenged, I replied that I would be dining alone.

Hot Shot

The sniper lying in the low brush shuffled to prevent the onset of cramp. Sam Armitage had been in position for twenty hours, with no break for proper toilet relief. Goes with the territory. Sam was the troop’s best shot, even if Chris Leyland sometimes scored higher in target practice. Targets are one thing, people a different matter entirely.

A clear sighting at last. Controlled breathing by Sam, followed by a gentle increase of pressure on the trigger. Ffffft – the silencer muffled the noise. The distant target collapsed.

Job done. Sam had no remorse. The target meant nothing to her.

Card Sharp

We were berthed at Pointe-Noire while a consignment of crude oil was loaded to the vessel, that I was unfortunate enough to be embroiled with through a series of events I will not go into here. Apart from to say that I was innocent of all alleged charges.

The skipper gave us a half day’s furlough. And that’s how I wound up in the bar holding a hand of cards and looking around the table at the cutthroats, drunks and riff-raff trying to ease me away from my money.

All eyes turned to me. I played a card.


Until My Dying Day

He awoke in an armchair, fully dressed and not knowing where he was.

“I’ve made us a nice cup of tea,' said a voice. “You nodded off.'

Instinctively, his hand went to his shirt pocket. Finding his glasses, he put them on to see a lady with greying hair.

“Just how I like it,' he sighed after an appreciative sip of his tea.

“I know,' she replied.

“But do I know you?' he queried.

“Course you do, Dad. But we have to get you back to the care home soon.'

Tears coursed down her cheeks. Tears of sorrow and love.

The Mists Of Time

“Jane’s only six, Billy. You’re nearly eight, so look after her,' pleaded their mother. “It’s really foggy today, so hold her hand on the way home.'

After school, Billy waited for Jane and dutifully took her hand.

How they parted company was never really uncovered – it was icy as well as foggy – but one or both of them slipped. Billy could not see his sister. “Jane!' he called, his voice disappearing in the swirling fog.

Now, seventy years later and after a lifetime of sorrow and guilt, the mystery remained. Jane sighed and yet again wondered what happened to Billy.

Having One's Cake

It was Gerry’s 40th birthday on the Wednesday and he wanted to take cakes for his work colleagues.

His wife, Joanne, baked a trayful of butterfly buns and a dozen fairy cakes. She knew – for he often talked about it – that Gerry lunched with the annoyingly curvaceous, conniving Chloe from HR, so she set two cakes aside. On one she inscribed in icing ‘Gerry’ and on the other ‘Chloe’.

Gerry went off to work on Wednesday and Joanne waved him off with a big smile. The two cakes had been injected with the strongest laxative that the pharmacist could recommend.

A Cup Of Tea Makes Everything Better

Penny put the kettle on for afternoon tea. She put out two cups and two biscuits – never more, never less. It was all part of the routine, though she longed for change. Gerald had his garden and Penny her reading and writing, particularly drabbles.

Looking out of the window, Penny took in the orderliness of the formal garden. Only one thing broke up the oppressive neatness of it all: Gerald lay on the lawn, his hands clasped to his chest.

Penny turned away and replaced one of the teacups in the cupboard. But she’d have both of the biscuits herself.

You Sure About That?

Edrib The Strong threw back the tent flap and raised a horn cup to those gathered around the village camp fire.

“It’s a boy child!'

After the cheering and toasting died down and the feasting commenced, the head priest approached Edrib.

“My Lord, I birth-named you Edrib The Strong and I announced the coming of your father, Edrib The Mighty. Your grandfather was Edrib The Bull and his father took the name Edrib The Slayer. What is to be your son’s name?'

Edrib puzzled for only a few seconds and then spat in the blazing fire.

“How about… Jeremy?'

Clinical Trials

There are two things about my wife you need to know. First, that she does not suffer fools and invalids gladly. Second, she has a caustic, somewhat literary, sense of humour.

I’d come home early from work. Not feeling too good. My work colleagues suggested I go home. I guess they didn’t want to catch anything.

“It’s probably that Asian bug,' I explained to my wife with a sniff and cough. “I should be okay in a few days.'

“Yes, it could be Asian,' she replied. “Quite likely to be a dose of Sax Rohmer.'

“Of what?' I queried.


Old Flame

Janine absently fingered a cigarette lighter – gold-plated and inscribed briefly and simply ‘Nick. Forever. J’.

She and Nick had appeared an ideal millennial couple. Ideal until Nick had ‘that’ affair. Nick’s legal team ensured he kept the business, but she was left financially comfortable and took her time seeking revenge.

Nick had always boasted about his corner-cutting in business, including lack of insurance. In the offices above the factory, Janine clicked the lighter and torched the curtains soaked in petrol.

She tossed the lighter near the empty fuel can. A bonus for the investigative police and forensic teams.

Frozen Asset

The brothers, Maxwell and Benjamin, left the factory to run itself and went skating on the frozen lake. It was a bitterly cold winter and the feeble sun – when it deigned to appear – had little discernible impact on the frost covering the land.

That day, it was barely three in the afternoon but already darkening when Ben slid the body of Max through a hole in the ice. Ben would never forget the look on his brother’s face – one partly of fear but mostly of surprise – and it would haunt him forever. For now, though, the factory was all his.

What The Doctor Ordered

It was a wet and dreary day and the patients in the waiting room looked miserable and morose, so I thought I would cheer them up a bit. I flicked on the intercom speaker.

“Pat Downe? The doctor will see you now.'

I followed it at intervals with: “Benny Fitte', “Summer Thyme', “Terry Lynn', “Rose Bush', “Sam Booker' and “Barry Tone'.

What a laugh! I could see through the door that it was cheering them up. So, where was the harm?

Well, the senior practitioner, Dr Seth O’Scope, was none too pleased.

“That’s your last warning, Joy Ryder,' he fumed.

Presents Of Mind

I’m off the booze until Christmas. I’ve gone cold Turkey. It’s given me time to prepare. I’ve been Stocking up for the festivities, and Stuffing cards into envelopes addressed to Noel, Holly, Ivy, Eve, the Carols and both sets of neighbours, the Shepherds and the Kings.

“Snow Wonder you haven’t been to feed us,' complained Rudolph.

“Yule need a rest after all this,' said Dasher.

“Oh Deer,' added Dancer.

“Rein it in,' provoked Prancer.

“Fairy nuff,' voiced Donner.

“Man, you Sleigh me,' glibbed Blitzen.

There’s still much to do, including pickling the walnuts and buttering the parsnips.

Christmas? It’s Crackers!

Job Lot - Part 2

He nipped outside the grotto for a quick smoke. The hordes of kids had disappeared so he’d put up a sign at the entrance: ‘Snow Break’.

So far today, there had been the usual beard-pulling, sticky-fingered stomach-prodding, and bursts of tears and tantrums. Despite all the requests for iPhones, laptops and “please Santa, a pony', he gave every child a wrapped mini-selection box of questionable provenance.

He hated this job. Bah humbug!

At least at the end of his shift, he got a free meal in the bistro opposite. He’d have the usual this evening: venison steak.

Job Lot - Part 1

The agency had sent him. He complained that he’d done the same job two years running. When he asked for a bit of digging, spot of painting, that sort of stuff, they said they did not have anything “more commensurate with your qualifications and experience'.

Last year on this job, a ‘client’ gave him a thwack on the nose. Didn’t hurt really but, technically, it was assault. The security guy had just laughed and told him not to be “a wet blanket'.

He sighed, pulled on the red costume and false beard, and looked outside the grotto. “Merry Christmas, children.'

Didn't See That One Coming

Sometimes you just know. You sense it. Call it second sight, a foreboding, clairvoyance or mother’s intuition, whatever. It’s like a telegram from the War Office arriving during military action – you know without opening the message. That’s what happened to me when Billy didn’t come home from school at the usual time. I knew.

Mary shouted from the front door. “Mum, it’s the headmaster.'

I took off my pinny and smoothed it over the back of a kitchen chair. I took a deep breath and walked slowly down the hallway.

“Mrs Davies, young Billy here has won a scholarship to…'

Name Game


“Yes, Watson.'

“Mrs Hudson brought the tea. I’ll pour,' said Watson.

“Watson, old chap, this case is devilishly tricky,' asserted Holmes.

“But Holmes, my dear fellow, who else could solve the Mystery of the Archbishop’s Missing Mitre?' queried Watson.

“Indeed, Watson, but I do believe it will be a three- or even four-pipe case,' stated Holmes.

“Drink your tea, Holmes, before it gets cold. And there’s another matter puzzling me,' declared Watson.

Holmes looked over the rim of his teacup. “What on earth is that, Watson?'

“Holmes, why do we never use our first names?' asked Watson.

“Indeed, Watson.'

Natural Selection

Daylight trickles through the last vestiges of darkness. Dew glistens on the grass and on spiders’ webs in the bushes. A robin busily patrols his patch, and a blackbird trills and thrills the coolness of the morning air.

You would have loved all this. But you did not stay with me.

The steam rising from my first cup of tea of the day momentarily clouds my glasses. You would have laughed at that. But you are not here. You did not stay. Loneliness engulfs me but I am too sad to cry. You died. And so did part of me.

Court Order

Thrang The Almighty glared down from his bejewelled throne and spake thus to his attendant courtiers.

“Why hast thou not done as I commanded? Didst I not order the fatted calf to be brought forward? And my golden chalice is empty of wine.'

The bravest of his lieutenants stepped forth. “Lord of all lords, such is the displeasure of the gods that they have poisoned our animals and our wine. There is little left in the palace to eat or drink.'

Thrang pulled his magnificent robes tighter and rose to his feet.

“We’d better go out for a pizza, then.'

Had One's Chips

The ginnel at the side of me mam’s house in Balaclava Terrace acts as a shortcut to the chippy in the still-cobbled Mafeking Street. That night, I was chomping on my F & C (with scraps, of course) and I had a wrapped haddock for Mam, but I was not expecting to find a dead body blocking my access up the passageway.

The coppers and medics who turned up talked of a slit throat and there was blood everywhere. There was a terrible smell, so I guess the body may have evacuated unspecified fluids.

Almost put me off me chips.

High Finance - Part 2

Ronnie’s thoughts are almost exclusively about money. Amanda dreams of downsizing by selling the properties in Surrey and London and moving to a small place with a cottage garden.

“I never like to bother you about finance, my dear,' he says. “Just to let you know that, like I said before, I’ve now switched several accounts into your name only. Nothing to worry yourself about, old girl. Just a practice with tax benefits.'

“I’m sure you know what’s best, dear,' she replies, putting down her knitting and picking up some well-thumbed leaflets headed ‘Walcotts – Country Cottages For The Discerning Single’.

High Finance - Part 1

They sit in matching ‘his’ and ‘hers’ armchairs either side of the fireplace. Amanda knits contentedly, occasionally sipping tea from a china cup. Ronnie gazes into the fire, his still-agile mind calculating the benefits of switching investments out of gold and into fine wine or art. He has a liquid surplus of around a quarter of a million to reallocate, still leaving a sizeable, undisturbed and diversified asset portfolio in equities, bonds, investment and unit trusts, treasuries, commodities and property.

Amanda looks up and sees he is deep in thought. She sighs and says “A penny for them, dear.'

Rugby Warriors

Liniment is smeared on bumps and bruises. Some forwards grease their ears to ease chafing and a couple don skull caps. Mouthguards are rinsed under a cold water tap. The air is thick with a heady mix of excitement and anticipation.

The team is fully kitted and salved, so the captain forms them into a circle. Studs are scraped on the concrete floor and a club chant reaches a roaring crescendo, intended to intimidate opponents in the next changing room.

The door opens, the captain heads the team down the corridor and she leads them out on to the pitch.

Stone Dead

Like his forebears, Edgar was a dry-stone mason in Nidderdale. The environment could be lonely and bleak, particularly in winter. Today, though, the vista was green fields interspersed with grey Yorkshire stone dappled with weak autumnal sunlight.

Edgar’s wife had not been seen for some time. “Gone to the bright lights of the city,' said some. “Skedaddled with a tinker,' opined others. No one knew for sure…except Edgar.

He picked up his possessions – snap tin, flask, chisel and hammer – and patted the top of a dry-stone sheep pen. The pat…was it pride in his handiwork or a valediction?

Round Table

I bring a tray of drinks to our table.

“Cider for Will, a cheapo lager for Abdil – you muppet ¬¬– a very expensive poncy lager for Tight Wad, and real ales for Bazza and myself.'

After a while, Tight Wad gets up to go the loo and, of course, we talk about him.

“He’s gonna try and not buy a round. Again!'

“Every week’s the same.'

“Bloke’s a miser.'

To our amazement, Tight Wad comes back and says, “My turn at the bar, lads.'

He adds, “I’ll get one packet of cheese and onion, one salt and vinegar and one plain.'

A Pain In The ...

Clutching a hand to her chest, the woman steadies herself against the kitchen table.

“Girl, bring me water. Now!'

A young girl, dressed in drab greys in stark contrast with the woman’s light blue bonnet and clean cream smock, brings a drink. Awaits further orders.

“Don’t just stand there, girl. Bring fuel. My pain eases, thank the Lord.'

The girl exits and enters the wood store. At the bottom of her log basket, she uses cleaning rags to cover a small doll with a blue bonnet and cream smock.

She fingers the sharp pins in her hair and she smiles.

Money Talk

“Well met, Master Thomas. How goest thee on this feasting day of St Matthew?'

“Why you talking daft?'

“And thy good lady, Beth. Hath she this morrow a rosy countenance and most pleasing complexion?'

“My Beth? She’s okay. She’s down the gym with our Chrissie.'

“Why prithee, sirrah, hast thou perchance taken time to review my beseechment of yestereve for a most modest fiduciary advancement?'

“Eh? Are you still on about that twenty quid?'

“Thou art as perspicacious as Solomon, who did make mighty judgements on our doleful existences.'

“Here’s twenty. Now will you stop the nonsense talk?'

“Cheers, pal!'

Case Work

Lettering on the door indicates ‘Casey P.I.’. That’s me and that’s what I do. How I do it depends on the investigation but often it involves me passing greenbacks in exchange for information. Sometimes, not always, it means I give someone a slap.

Today, I’m feet up on my desk, listening to Myra’s typewriter. She organises me and my work from a cubicle off to the side of my office.

“You’ve an appointment at quarter after three – corner of 49th and Hardaker.'

“Thanks, Myra.'

I pick up my gun, ID and purse, hitch up my skirt and leave the building.

Trade Off

The smugglers struggle up the incline of the wooded chine, weighed down by barrels of brandy and chests of tea. Above them, before the chine merges into heath, stand the Revenue men, armed but not as numerous.

Earlier that month, smugglers – or ‘free traders’ – and the Revenue had clashed, farther along the coastline. Five died. A similar outcome is now in prospect.

A forward scout from the smugglers forewarns his companions, and leaders from the opposing camps meet to parley. Shortly afterwards they disperse, the smugglers keeping the rum and the Revenue men going home with the tea. Transaction complete.

Life Cycle

They came together more by accident than design. They married and moved to a cottage in the countryside. Over the years they drifted apart. He spent more and more time in the shed, sharpening blades and mixing weed killers. He dug a trench-like hole beyond the cabbage patch. She started adding small quantities of powder to his tea, checking pension rights and carrying sturdy knitting needles.

The tipping point came over some burnt scones. Words were spoken and objects brandished.

Now, there is a For Sale sign outside the cottage but viewers are rare, given the history of the property.

The Wheel Stops Spinning

He lies in a ditch, partly under a bicycle with its rear wheel buckled beyond repair and its light extinguished by the crunch of metal. A puddle of blood and other liquids spreads under him and, as with the blood, his life ebbs slowly away. Eerily, there is now no sound – from him or the roadway. One eye is open, but is unseeing.

As for the car driver, she speeds away into darkness. She can run but she cannot hide, her memory damned forever by images of the consequences of drunken thoughtlessness. Her life, too, is as good as over.

Indian Summer?

“An Apache or a Sioux can be a tricky customer. As can an Arapaho. A Shoshone is usually smart. I’ll tell yer more ’bout them later. I got me a Sho wife once. She could cook great and kept me warm thro’ that winter of ’89.

“Anyways, I’ll tell yer of the fight with the black bear wot ’ad taken a fancy to my leg. Well…'

It was going to be a long night, so I threw some more tree bits on the camp fire, refilled my coffee cup and settled in to listen to the reminiscences of Old Stumpy.

Show Biz

The reflection in the back-lit dressing room mirror did not please her. Despite the administrations of the make-up guy, she thought she looked prematurely aged, wrinkled and sallow. Not surprising after the devastating news. James had found someone else – a younger ‘model’, of course. It always was. She hated him and his new ‘friend’ and she hated herself. Sleep deprivation and catty remarks from fellow thespians had not helped.

“One minute, Miss Langley!'

The show must go on. She could hear the M.C. doing his warm-up routine.

“Without further ado, a warm welcome for your host of ‘Perfect Partners’, Miss…'

Technical Issues

He’s not the most tech-savvy person on the planet. The reason – he thinks – that Sonia left him is because she was always complaining that their friends had this machine or that appliance, while they lived in the dark ages. He’d show her.

The box had been delivered that morning and now sat on the kitchen table. With some trepidation, he opened it and unpacked the contents. Wires, a remote – but no instruction manual!

He plugged the unit into the mains socket and pushed a red button.

“And coming up at 9.30, it’s Ken Bruce.'

That’s radio conquered. She’d be back.

All The World's Problems

“I’m particularly worried about the worldwide increase in geopolitical tensions. For a start, there’s North Korea, with its nuclear capabilities. That’s a real threat. Then there’s Iraq and Libya. And what’s Iran playing at? Or Burma, or whatever it’s called now? That Trump fellah is a bit of a loose cannon if you ask me. Where’s this Brexit business taking us? And don’t get me started on refugee flows and terrorist threats. Global warming’s another concern.'

He sighed heavily and put his beer down. “What do you reckon?'

“I’m wondering how ‘The Scamp’ did in the 2.30 at Kempton Park.'

It's Right In Front Of You

Cup of tea. Tick.

Sharpened pencil. Tick.

Dictionary. Tick.

Where did we get to? Oh, yes.

16 Down, ‘A cider mixed to “a T' goes east, so do away with it (9)’ is ‘eradicate’.

What else?

Well, 19 Down, ‘Sounds like a chap is very sincere (7)’ is ‘earnest’ and for 1 Down, ‘No runs at cricket as males in feathers play games (5,3,6)’ we now have ‘ducks and drakes’.

We’re getting there. Just a few gaps. But what about 18 Across, ‘Confused Bard nearly lost blood doing this (8)’? We’ve got ‘d-a---e’. Hmm.

Now what could that be?

Top Gear

Henri had a morbid fear of losing personal items while travelling, particularly umbrellas, hats, coats and briefcases. His track record in this regard was poor.

On the Eurostar at Gare du Nord, Henri had neatly organised his items on the luggage rack. At London St Pancras, he collected his belongings and exited the train.

Well into his taxi ride to his final destination, he suddenly remembered his hat. He raced back to St Pancras and explained his sadness at the Lost Property Office.

“Is this missin’ ’at similar to wot you’re wearing now, sir?'

His hand flew upwards.

“Mon chapeau!'

Known Unknowns

Anders Anderssen peered down below with rheumy eyes. Six fishing boats bobbed and nestled along the harbour wall. The ever-present smell of herring was always more pronounced when the fleet returned home. Six boats out of a fleet of seven.

Anders was very familiar with the absent vessel. He had been its skipper for over twenty years before passing that role to his son, Magnus.

In the bar the previous night, the fishermen had avoided eye contact with Anders. Knowing.

Now, he turned away from the harbour. He’d be back tomorrow to check. And every following day. Until he knew.

The Crossroads of Life

It was a very busy road and for quite a stretch a dual carriageway, a rat-run for commuter traffic.

He had to cross it. His senses told him that she would be there in the woods opposite so he didn’t need to call her. He tensed, looking nervously at the dazzling lights speeding by. The noise aggravated his concerns, his natural fears. She would be there; he couldn’t miss the opportunity. He had to try. She would be there.

She was. But he did not find her.

Just another roadkill, another dead fox at the side of the road.

Retail Outlet

Billy waited by the large open entrance to the store. All the seats just inside had already been taken by jettisoned husbands, bored boyfriends and aged grandparents. Large numbers of people were exiting and entering the store.

“Stop thief! Stop that man!'

A figure ran forward but Billy rugby-tackled him to the ground. Oomph.

“Not me, you plonker. I’m the store detective!'

“I’m so sorry. I thought you were…'

Afterwards, Billy walked to the multi-storey car park, opened a vehicle’s passenger door. He smiled at his brother and also at the knocked-off goods on the back seat.

“Team work.'

The Final Whistle?

He turned off the radio. The racket outside had drowned out his beloved music. Not for the first time. He knew why – the kid from down the road was yet again kicking a football against the brick wall running alongside his house. “I’ll do for that little brat!'

Then, thankfully, silence. Followed after several minutes by a persistent and annoying doorbell ring.

“Mister, my football’s in yer back garden. Can I ’ave it back?'

Bottle-thick glasses peered over the lad’s head at the quiet and deserted street. “You’d better come in.' Quickly and solidly, the door closed behind the youngster.

The Dance Of Time

“’Twas two Michaelmas past that Jed went off and he’s n’er come back.' His hands twitched nervously around the hat he held defensively in front of him. “So, I was wunnering whether you’d come out with me, p’hps to the barn dance at Steppins?'

“Why, William Henry!' she said. “Jed has often written to me and will be home shortly, so my answer is ‘no’ and I bid you g’day.'

He slouched off, knowing that she was wrong. How could Jed have written to her, what with his skull split and him being buried two feet down in Yates’s meadow?

Meat Draw

Maggie was cooking sausages with measured intent and hardly noticed his stare. Reg sat quietly, looking at her with wide-eyed interest. He licked his lips in anticipation. The smell of cooking also brought the three children to the kitchen. She asked if they had washed their hands and told them to sit at the table. The whole family watched and waited for Maggie to finish. When she had, she distributed two each to the children and only one to herself. Nothing for Reg! He snuffled in disgust and put his nose and mouth into his boring bowl of dog biscuits.

Wet Through

It had been raining all day and the roads were treacherous. Peering through the windscreen, wipers on double speed, he sped through the gears, racing to get there before she did.

He fumed. Jack was his son too, and he had rights of access. By phone, he told her he’d pick Jack up from school but she’d shouted, “No! You can’t!' He’d hung up.

Avoiding an oncoming lorry, he aquaplaned to a halt outside the school and addressed a startled school teacher. “I’ve come for Jack!'

“The school closed because of flooding. Jack’s at home. Didn’t his mother tell you?'