100-Word Fiction: ‘Squares: 25 X 4’

Stuffy and straightlaced, that’s a square. A word parents say, or are. Fearful, inward-looking, conservative, old-fashioned and boring. Boring most of all. That’s a square.

And the box shape of houses, dotted along roads. Little boxes with hats on, regulation size and order. Boring. Terraces and semis, square gardens, rooms.

Or the symmetrical flats and maisonettes, linked by decks of walkways, in rectangular slab towers of concrete. The sleek squares of modernity, left to crumble.

The squares where people meet, met, opening up the grey planning to communities. Puncturing repression and uniformity, letting people gather, think. What is square; who?

100-Word Fiction: ‘Barricades’

Batten down the hatches
Man the barricades
Prepare to defend your privilege
From the grenades of the betrayed

Send in water cannons
Baptise the unholy few
Shoot them with rubber bullets
But duck if they rebound onto you

Let sirens be of comfort
Reclaim the streets and the ‘feds’
Then raze the estates to the ground
And build a Tesco there instead

Let’s not look for reasons
Or concern ourselves with truth
Let’s just shout out ‘treason’
And blame it all on youth

Drugs will sedate them
Violence? Just self-harm
And if the prescription fails
Just carry on, keep calm

100-Word Fiction: ‘The Caterpillar’

It is high summer and through the oldest of urban gardens crawls the caterpillar. Which way will it turn today? It approaches a crowd of city kids, tucking into falafel and hummus. It watches them a while: a mixed, raggle-taggle bunch with hungry eyes, holding their lunch proudly, guardedly, as if it were civilisation itself that they cradled. Soon, the shouts go up, eyes are widened – wild – and the caterpillar’s monstrous shadow looms. Had they not heard the warning rattle? Had no one followed those caterpillar tracks? Flags wave. The caterpillar groans that tragic, murderous sound and the gunfire begins.

100-Word Fiction: ‘He Makes a Cup of Coffee’

He makes a cup of coffee: milk, one sugar. Drinks it in the kitchen, his bathrobe loosely tied. He dresses in front of the mirror, tweaks his tie and collar. He walks through the hallway, steps out to the waiting car. He checks emails in his office, calls meetings, takes lunch. He looks at figures, hires, fires, shouts down the phone. He wines and dines the influential. People, when they speak at him, they say… because there is so much to say, and he is the boss, the whole damn thing… if they say, if he was losing, what, what?

100-Word Fiction: ‘When It Changes, It Changes Quickly’

It’s not that I used to believe you and that now I don’t. Or that I thought you were amusing whereas now you infuriate me. I never thought you spoke the truth. It was clear that everything you did was a sham. Maybe you helped pass the time, or maybe I thought… what did I think? I don’t know. But the revelations don’t surprise me, not one bit. When I found out, well, it all made sense. It was like I’d always known. Maybe I had. Deep down. Only one thing has changed. Now it stops. It’s over. Done. Finished.

100-Word Fiction: ‘I Knew You’

I knew you for a while
but not for as long as
before, or after.
Oh, the after, it goes on.
Each summer the sunflowers
and the roads.
Rains in the North
and the heat of the South.
Mountains rise and rise.
Summer.
We shared those of course –
a handful, a decade, just.
Talking on the telephone;
long car journeys.

People come and go.
I said it then, laughed.
I said it when I moved,
when you did, friends did.
Things are lost.
Things begin.
And all the while.
All the while what?
I continue, so far.
You do not.

100-Word Fiction: ‘A Dream’

It came to me in a dream – woke me from my sleep – a unifying image, an idea that could take the insurgencies and economics, deaths and party politics, hopes for the future and legacies of the past, the festivals and hangovers, culture high and low, the academics and judges, phone hackers and strikers, pensioners and medics, the bankers and IT gurus, the heat of North Africa, heat of the Middle East, the singular sweltering heat of one day in a British summer, and wrap it up in a word, a phrase, a vision. It was a vision of a deluge.

100-Word Fiction: ‘A Conversation’

Old: We’ve never had any problems previously.

Young: Oh you’ve had problems?

Old: We’ve not done.

Young: You’ve not done anything?

Old: It’s not happened before.

Young: No, if that’s the case then something needs to be done.

Old: You want to do something?

Young: What could we do?

Old: If we are okay…

Young: You think you are okay?

Old: Are we not?

Young: No, we are not.

Old: Is this new?

Young: I don’t know. Has it happened before?

Old: I hadn’t noticed.

Young: But if you didn’t notice…

Old: I wouldn’t know.

Young: No you wouldn’t know.

100-Word Fiction: ‘Fashion’

Christ but there’s too many flags about, he said, sittin back down and slidin three pints across the table. Too much wavin from balconies, fly-pasts and old codgers grumblin bout the way they suffered. Christ, I mean. He sniffed.

Look at you man, the guy’s friend said, sweepin his fringe from his eyes. I mean your jeans, that shirt. Out of touch.

Oh don’t start.

I’m not startin. It’s just, you know, you’re old. Everyone’s lovin all that these days. Nostalgia. Fashion.

Fashion?

Yeah, why not? You’re suppin ale, everyone’s eatin cupcakes.

Tories.

Tory fuckin cupcakes?

Yeah.

They both laughed.

100-Word Fiction: ‘Little Georgey’

It clicked with Little Georgey at around the time of his eleventh birthday. At first it was his father’s inventiveness, the way there was always some unfathomable new excuse: No, there could be no new holiday, not while the roof needed fixing. No, there would be no big birthday presents this year, not while his mother’s job was unsettled. The roof was never fixed. His mum worked happily. But there were no big presents, no holiday. Little George asked why. His father shook his head and laughed. Little boy, he said, little boy, it’s the way things work. You’ll learn.