The Rainham Diver – Rebecca Metcalfe

 

The tide slips away, the river lowers, and he is there beneath the water. Striding across the mud towards the bank, he does not move. Seagulls circle overhead and shriek, boats chug past going East or West, but he does move. His body is a cage that imprisons river water with each high tide, releasing it as the moon shifts. In front of him, the reeds lead up to the bank, and beyond them the oil refineries, chemical works and factories that line the estuary all the way to the sea. Behind him is more of the same, just with the heaving mass of grey water between. He has sunk into the thick, green mud and so there he stays; a grey figure against a grey skyline. And he does not move.

 

 

22752130_10210178275199633_1006394601_nOriginally from Essex, Rebecca Metcalfe studied first at the University of Chester and then at the University of Liverpool. She now lives in an attic in Manchester with two black cats and works part time in a museum and part time in a restaurant. She has previously been published in Spelk, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Peach Street Magazine, Lumpen Journal, and Foxglove Journal, among others. She can be found on Twitter at @beckyannwriter.

Perfect Surfaces – Geraldine McCarthy

On Saturday morning, Pam cleans the mixing-bowl at the kitchen sink while buns cook in the oven. She’s wearing rubber gloves to protect her nails. Only had them done the previous day, and they’re €30 a pop.

She’s volunteered to bake for a local coffee morning, in aid of some orphanage in South America.

The fairy cakes will take fifteen minutes. Two dozen should be enough; twelve plain and twelve with cherries. She wipes down the already spotless marble worktops, takes out the cakes, and has a quick coffee while they cool on a wire tray. The aroma of vanilla wafts through the kitchen.

Upstairs, she opts for skinny jeans, and a new baby-pink top. Her face is a little flushed from the heat of the oven, so she applies foundation, and then a little eye-shadow and lip gloss. The neighbours are all so glam, with their highlights and lowlights, their clothes always this season’s.

Fairy cakes in boxes on the back seat, Pam drives to the community centre. The Audi glides along like a dream. She’s glad she traded up this year.

Once inside, she makes sure to hand over the baking to Audrey, the head of the committee, who pecks Pam’s cheek and thanks her profusely from a cloud of Chanel No. 5. Audrey persuades Pam to stay for a cuppa, so they sit down in the far corner of the room, away from the hub-bub at other tables. Deep in conversation about the Tidy Towns contest, Pam feels a tap on her shoulder. She twirls on her chair.

Her mother. Grey roots and crumpled cardigan.

Pam’s stomach clenches. “Mam!” she says. “How did you get here?”

“Diane next door brought me,” her mother says, “thought I could do with a break.” She raises an eyebrow. “There’s only so many kitten videos you can watch on YouTube.”

Pam glances at Audrey, who averts her eyes, and nibbles her bun like a bird at a feeder.

Pam addresses her mother. “Oh, well, you know I’d have collected you, but I thought you were watching your weight, that you’d have no interest.”

Her mother twists her wedding band around her finger, as if she’s strangling a turkey. “Hmm.”

“Well, I can drop you back later.”

Her mother purses her lips. “Sure, if I came with Diane I can go home with her.”

Pam feels her face redden. “Well, I’ll call tomorrow morning then. Is there anything you need?”

“Not a bit,” her mother says. “Diane is beckoning me over. See you tomorrow.”

Audrey finishes her bun. “Well, I must mingle. Thanks so much for all your hard work, Pam.”

“Not a bother, Audrey. I’ll see you Monday night for picking up the litter. The group is meeting at the church, isn’t it?”

“Yes, see you then.”

As Pam drives home, she notices the varnish has chipped.  She’ll go to the nail bar next week for a repair job. They look so nice when they’re freshly done.


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Geraldine McCarthy lives in West Cork, Ireland.  She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry.  Her work has been published in various journals, both on-line and in print.

Canvey Island – Rebecca Metcalfe

 

We spend the afternoon playing on the beach surrounded by fumes from the oil-refineries and chemical works. With our plastic spades we build sandcastles and dig for buried treasure. There’s a picnic of marmalade sandwiches and cartons of Ribena, then a shout of “tag: you’re it” starts the running around games. The tide hisses at us if we get too close. We run up to the bulging concrete flood-barrier and take it in turns to sneak round the edge to see if we can spot the troll we know lives behind it. He’ll get us if he sees us. We climb up and jump off into the sand with a thud. We have to rub our hands furiously up and down our legs to get the sand off before we can get back in the car. The drive home smells of seaweed and factory fumes, and we sit and laugh as we pick the grit out from under our fingernails.

 

 

22752130_10210178275199633_1006394601_nOriginally from Essex, Rebecca Metcalfe studied first at the University of Chester and then at the University of Liverpool. She now lives in an attic in Manchester with two black cats and works part time in a museum and part time in a restaurant. She has previously been published in Spelk, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Peach Street Magazine, Lumpen Journal, and Foxglove Journal, among others. She can be found on Twitter at @beckyannwriter.

Fissures – Jayne Martin

 

The new people had rebuilt from our ashes, from the scarred land to which we could not bring ourselves to return. The foundation had weakened over the years and the house had begun to sink on one side. Spider web-like fissures had creeped silently across the wall above our headboard as we slept.

We stood in only our robes, our feet bare on the cold pavement. The heat of the flames blew out the window of the second-story bedroom we’d planned as a nursery for children never born. The chimney collapsed onto your study where you buried your disappointment in work, while I buried mine in the kitchen growing larger with food that never filled the void. I may have reached for your hand. They said the fire was caused by faulty wiring. It’s true we had let things go. So many things.

I sit in my car across the street from the modern new design; all glass, sharp angles, and promise. No bicycles hastily discarded in its driveway, no toys forgotten from play on its pristine lawn. A gentle psst-psst-psst of a rotating sprinkler the only hint of life.

I wonder about the people inside and who they will become when the first cracks appear.

 

 

Jayne Martin 2Jayne Martin is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her debut collection of microfiction, Tender Cuts, from Vine Leaves Press, is available now. Learn more at www.jaynemartin-writer.com.