The reservation

Mick approached the couple with a smile, drying his hands on the towel slung over his shoulder. “And what can I get you this evening?”

It was the man who took charge. He was dressed smartly but looked uncomfortable in it, like it was unfamiliar to him. In the dark of the bar he could’ve been anywhere between 25 and 40. “We’ve a room booked for tonight. Should be under Harrison.”

“Ah! Yes, of course.” Mick reached under the till and pulled out the reservation ledger. It was rare for them to get bookings for accommodation; he’d wondered what they would be like when the email came through. The Horse and Crown only had the two rooms upstairs and they were mostly empty, and when they were occupied it was usually to put up one of the locals who’d had one too many or an argument with the wife.  They’d only really advertised them because Mary thought it was a waste to just have them there unused. Lots of pubs in the county did it, apparently, although Mick couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t book a hotel.

He ran his finger down the page until he found them. “Harrison, there we are. Just the one night was it?”

“That’s right.” The man’s voice was clipped, businesslike – or maybe nervous. His companion was shorter than he was, and hung back as if readying to run out of the door. She kept her eyes on the man, not looking towards Mick, and had her hand on his elbow. She’d dressed up too, a shawl over her bare shoulders, and bright lipstick.

He must have stared a little too long because the man gave a polite but clear cough.

“Will you be paying by card?” Mick asked, but the man had already pulled out his wallet and was counting out notes onto the counter. “Marvellous.”

He gave them the key and showed them to the room. “Just let me know if there’s anything you need.” The man thanked him and closed the door.

Well, thought Mick as he went downstairs. He’d assumed they were husband and wife when he’d got the booking, but he’d known no married couple so tense and awkward with one another. A prostitute perhaps? No, he decided hurriedly, ashamed of himself for having thought it; there was more to it than that. (And besides, he was given to understand from television that they would only book rooms by the hour.) An affair then maybe, a clandestine meeting arranged at a country pub where they wouldn’t be recognised. That would account for their hurry to be rid of him, and the payment in cash, he reasoned.

He wanted to go in the back and tell Mary, ask her what she thought of it all, but he knew better than to do that. She’d tell him it was none of his concern, that he shouldn’t be such a nosey so-and-so. And she was right, but all the same, there was something fascinating about other people’s lives. But then again, he thought, shrugging as he pulled the next pint, maybe it was only interesting so long as he didn’t know.


Bobo’s last stand – in Prole

(c) Joanna Sedgwick

My flash fiction Bobo’s last stand is in the new issue of Prole, available now.

It’s an excellent magazine of prose and poetry that I genuinely always enjoy reading, so it’s very exciting to be within their covers! I hope you will as well – whatever you think of my very short story about a depressive clown.

Beneath the midday sunshine – at Ellipsis

Ellipsis is an exciting new flash fiction website & zine, and I’m very pleased they featured my story Beneath the midday sunshine on their site.

(regular readers may have read this before – if you have, or if you haven’t but especially if you have, please read another of the stories on their site instead!)

If there’s anything we can do

1,737 words – approx. 6 minutes

No-one saw Harry Fletcher reach the top of the stairs and lean heavily against the wall outside his door, a roar in his ears like the sea. He was relieved – with people would come questions, concern, misunderstanding, or sympathy. You never knew how quickly news travelled these days, how much time you would have to yourself.

He’d had to fight to convince the hospital staff to let him leave unaccompanied, but in the end they had better things to do than argue with a stubborn old man. The steps had been a challenge though; it would have been good to have had someone to lean on. It was several seconds before he had his breath back and could open the door, the lower lock turning anti-clockwise as you’d expect, the upper one clockwise, contrary. He scraped his feet twice on the mat and went inside.

Continue reading If there’s anything we can do

The dogs

Forget the sand you knew as a child. Forget the thick, wet sand you pressed into crude castles; or the hot, dry sand you sank your feet into, wriggled your toes under to cause tiny earthquakes, and later tipped out of shoes for days to come. That’s not sand.

This is sand. It has more in common with misting Yorkshire rain than anything solid, the way that without you noticing it settles on you like new skin, and by the time you realise it’s part of you, coating your hands, stinging your eyes, cracking between your teeth.

Continue reading The dogs

Not my leg

The leg on the poster is not my leg. I can see it through the grimy windows of the tube carriage, which are still speckled with rain: it starts on the right-hand side of the poster, near the hip, then extends in fishnet tights and ends in a red stiletto that points towards but does not quite reach the left-hand side. I can see it because there is nowhere to sit in the morning rush hour, so I am standing and looking out of the window, and it happens to be there. The other passengers have not noticed the lack of similarity between my leg and the leg on the poster. Perhaps they can’t see the poster from their seats, or they are facing the other way, or are distracted by a book or a fellow passenger. I want to complain to them, to gain their support for my plight. But they will say: “So what? It’s not my leg either.” There is a trainful of people whose leg is not on that poster. Unless, perhaps, its actual owner, the woman whose leg was preferred to mine even after the photographer contracted by the advertising agency to produce the shot for the play’s promotional material had paid me to raise and extend my leg (right) again and again until he had the take, is on the train, but this would be quite the coincidence, and anyway, as only one of the seven hundred passengers it would not change my overall conclusion that my protest would be met with derision. She would also be unlikely to identify herself as the leg’s owner if I began to demonstrate. She would remain quiet until her stop, maybe Moorgate, or even London Bridge, then go about her day. This is, of course, assuming that there is indeed an owner; perhaps my leg has undergone electronic surgery, cropped and shaded, with cursors rather than scalpels. This replacement of my body with pixels and colour codes, done without my knowledge or consent, is an affront. As the train starts up, southbound on the Northern Line, and the poster slides from my view, I reach a decision: I will leave my husband.

A trip into town – at The Short Story

Back in June, I was very excited to have been selected as one of The Short Story’s writers for 2016-17. I’m now very excited to say that the story I submitted to them has been published on their website. I’m very proud of this story, and I really hope you enjoy it.

There’s a fantastic range of stories, articles, and interviews all about short stories on their website, so once you’ve finished reading, keep exploring!