Tag Archives: fiction

Dirty Stop Out – a poem

Dirty Stop Out

Left you

In your bed.

Smell of you;

Easily led.

Pizza slice

On my way out;

Rolling dice,

& messing about.

Crunch on snow

to where I stay.

Consequences flow—

Come what may.

Netflix chill

Just another night

Might not fill

What I fight.

AEW

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Excerpt from The Vermilion Smoke

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Looking out into the nebulous horizon, Rigo steered the wheel. The tails of his flight coat flapped in the breeze. He could taste a metallic flavour in the air. Tears began to sting at his eyes but he was unsure if it was due to the quality of the air or the thought of Persephone lost in the ether. He shook the doubt from his mind and decided the woman was far too formidable to not have made correct calculations. Although she might not have yet reached her destination, she would do. Or perhaps she already had, he thought. Perhaps she found Captain Pepperdrake and Lenore. Perhaps even now somewhere in time, she might be toasting to her success in helping her brother find his lost love. She most likely was basking in the glory of their admiration and gratefulness. She was also most likely cursing Rigo and wondering what was taking him so long to get to them.

Or perhaps not. There had not been any transmissions from Persephone’s coms device in two days. However, the dials on the Tempus Sextant rotated chaotically indicating she was still moving through time. This gave him hope. It meant, theoretically, he could track her and find her. He would be able to follow her if he could just track the sky right. He needed to see the signs so he needed to fly into the eye of the storm. Although he was a navigator, he was not a scientist. That had been Persephone’s talent. She would know when all the conditions were right. She would know when to anchor and lock in to time. With one vial of Fluxinium left, he knew there would be only one chance to make it through the porthole.

He felt he reached the correct altitude. There was the familiar electricity in the sky prickling his face like the last time. He threw the lever into auto-pilot to maintain the course. He needed to be at the Captain’s override when the porthole opened so he could plug the Tempus Sextant into the Captain’s control panel. He looked at the spinning dials on the sextant once more before putting it into his large coat pocket.

Rigo had thrown any excess weight off the aerostat before he left the dock. All valuables had been stored at the Dr. Griffin’s warehouse. The Vermilion Smoke was barren of everything that meant anything.

Almost everything. He turned to look at Aursezz. His dragon regarded him from her corner on deck. He could not bear to part with her yet he did not know whether she would survive the journey. Her death would be even more unbearable. She never asked for this. He walked over to her, bent down and put his forehead to hers. I’ll set you free, my friend. I hope to see you again, he thought. Aursezz purred and sent him her thoughts of understanding. She acquiesced. He unlocked her from her security cable. She stretched her wings, shook them flapped once and took flight into the billowing air. He watched her fly away until her silhouette faded into the white lightening and tumorous clouds.

He was now the solitary member left on the Vermilion Smoke.  Tears stung his eyes again. This time it was not because of the air. Angrily, he wiped the tears away and brought his goggles down from the top of his leather flight cap to cover them and tightened his chinstrap. Rigo went back to the instruments and read all the gauges. He was unsure of most of the readings but he knew enough to know the craft was in good running order. The mad engineer had taught him enough to keep her running.

He reached into his coat pocket and reassuringly touched the sextant again. Then he put his left hand into his other pocket and took out a box. He brought this box to Persephone during the early days of their acquaintance. He had not long been onboard the Vermilion Smoke. He opened it. All the letters he wrote to her were still in it along with one she wrote to him. She had never sent it. He wanted to read it but a crippling regret threatened to suffocate his heart. He regarded it for what seemed an eternity lost in a golden reverie. Anger and fear took hold of him suddenly and broke the spell.

“I lied to you. I said what you wanted to hear. It’s what you wanted, my dear,” he said out loud to no one. He closed the box, walked to the bow, steadied his resolve and dropped it into the amber and bronze clouds.

The lightening clawed past the Vermilion Smoke and an eerie green illumination burst into view. This was the sign. The porthole was about to open. Rigo wished Chongan was there. The monk understood the magic of things. His quiet serenity gave the crew strength. He should have been the one to do this, thought Rigo. He bit back his doubts, went to his navigator’s podium and looked at the charts. He took out the sextant. The needle continued to move but was now wavering between two points. This was more than satisfactory.

Persephone, he thought. He picked up the vial of Fluxinium that was strapped to the podium and went to the engine room. He opened the door to the boiler and tossed the vial in. The fire went green. He slammed the door shut and bolted it. In a fluidity of motion, he turned wheels on gauges, flipped switches and pulled the correct levers for the engines then sat in Pepperdrake’s chair. The dials and switches on the arm of the chair formed an elaborate control panel that parroted those at the steering wheel. Rigo took a moment to marvel at the invention. Of course it had been Persephone’s genius that allowed her brother to fly so well.  The auto-pilot had been maintaining the course steadily but it was time to accelerate. Rigo strapped himself in, took the Tempus Sextant out of his pocket and plugged it into the control panel then flipped the master switch releasing the Vermilion Smoke from the auto-pilot.

Suddenly, the needle on the sextant steadied and locked in. The control panel accepted the reading; the lights went from amber to blue on the control panel. The sextant began to chime. The course was set. Rigo’s heart raced as he felt the thrust of acceleration. He saw the eerie green starburst of light at the centre grow bigger and bigger. He was headed into the eye of the storm and into the portal. His trajectory was set. He would see Persephone and Pepperdrake again.

–A.E.W.


#8 Stephen Kings Top 20 Rules for Writers– Don’t worry about making other people happy…

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After Party

Sitting in a semi-darkened office, the smell of coffee drifted in from somewhere else. Her need for coffee, however, was not as insistent as her need of order and she dutifully sat at her desk creating folders on the hard drive—organizing and re-organizing—drag, drop, save, delete. As focused on the task as she meant to be, transient thoughts of Saturday’s misadventure wafted in and out.

She was married. She had children. She baked at the weekends and made sure the laundry was all done through the week. She hung out clothing on the line in the morning and set the washing machine on a timer so that it would start to wash just as she was able to bring the clothes in when she got home from work.

Meals were planned. Homework was charted and checked off. Her husband never had holes in his socks. She was happy going to bed before him to wake up before him and have a quiet cup of coffee—and then she would do the weekday before-work-chores. Sheets were changed on Mondays, Windows were cleaned on Tuesdays, Surfaces were polished on Wednesday, floors were swept on Thursdays and Fridays were dependant on what she and her husband had planned for the Friday night. If people were coming over, she would make sure all the good crockery was ready to set out. If they were going out, she made sure that the babysitter would have everything to hand that she could prepare for the children.

This morning, Cecilia had her cup of coffee—luxuriated in front of the mirror and applied her make up as she had when she had been at the party on Saturday night—she changed her outfit half a dozen times—she wore perfume to work. She left dishes in the sink and made the school lunches in the morning because she did not prepare anything the night before. Her morning had a chaotic feel to it that unnerved her as much as energised her. She could not remember being this distracted since the days when she was newlywed.

Saturday was very much a dream. There had been food and alcohol and people that she did not know. It was meant to be a girl’s night starting at the pub and then ending up at an Ann Summer’s party. There had been men walking in and out of her field of vision at the pub– A few ventured into close proximity. She enjoyed their conversations—she enjoyed rebuffing them as well. She waved around the gold on her finger like some kind of talisman against evil. Later, at the party, she met a circle of women that had come at the invitation of one of her best friends. They were a glamourous lot. Their hair and make-up were perfectly arranged as to give the effect that they belonged on a glossy magazine rather than in this suburban get-together.

She had struck up a conversation with Toni—ivory skin, violet eyes, auburn hair. They laughed. They talked about their children. They drank and ate and modelled the lingerie. They laughed some more. Toni rang for a taxi. She ordered it for 2pm. They stood outside waiting for it. Toni hugged Cecilia. They made plans to meet up for coffee. Cecilia promised to put in a holiday to meet her after the school run. They would go shopping, perhaps. Toni teetered on her heels as she stumbled to the taxi. Cecilia put her arm around her to help her in. Toni kissed her. Cecilia kissed her back.

“Call me,” said Toni.

“Yes,” said Cecilia.

It was Monday. The linen had not been changed. But her mind felt fresh. She texted Toni.


Of Level 20 Dragons and Goats- (excerpt)

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The room was filled with a coterie of game aficionados. They all had the same look about them—arrogant and unconcerned about mainstream subjects of fancy. Their blithe demeanour seemingly imbued the air with an ever-so-slightly-unwashed pong. Within the sea of black t-shirts, backpacks and beards, there were a few females attached here and there to some of the men who came out to the opening of the new shop called Games Afoot. Somewhere I could hear the spumescent sounds of a cappuccino maker. I made my way through the crowd to get a cup of coffee and to find Doug.

Doug had sent me a text earlier in the day that simply read: It’s the store opening tonight. She won’t be there. She’s gone. Please come. We had been friends for over twenty years so I cancelled my squash game, dug out my d20 t-shirt and headed out into town without question. It had been ages since I saw him.

I met Doug one summer in 1990 when a friend of a friend invited me to play D&D. Doug was someone’s cousin and was not originally invited to play but there had been a drop out and he was keen to learn something new having just moved to town. Within five minutes of rolling out our characters, I knew this guy would one day be best-man at my wedding—or at least talking about it. Over the years we would have a share of dips and peaks. Failures and successes in our everyday lives would never hold as much weight as to in-game minutes that siphoned off our realities. Everything we ever did revolved around table top games, dice, miniatures and complicated systems until the day we were forced to find ways to fund our paper and plastic addiction. We needed jobs. Doug got one in a pub and I decided to go to the University of Edinburgh.

Doug killed off my 10th level paladin in the summer of ’96 ceremoniously when my character, Khodin, fell to a level 20 dragon the night before I left for Uni. That dragon came up widdershins on our party and smoked me like a kipper. I remember being so angry with him that night. I had plans of going out on an epic storyline that would take me through my days at Edinburgh University. Instead, I sat there eating pizza and drinking ale as I watched as the other PCs rolled and devised and played through one of the best campaigns ever run.

Doug met Linda when I was at Uni. He would send me emails waxing lyrical about how she was the one and how he could not wait until I met her. I remember thinking she looked like some kind of a grimalkin curled up in his arms in the pictures he would email. I thought she was beautiful and cursed his luck. Over the months and years, he looked more and more like she did. He began wearing his hair like some kind of boy-band escapee and he looked more and more serious in his photographs. When I came home and finally met her, she surveyed me and it was obvious that I was not what she expected. I opened up my first ever conversation to her with memoirs of happy goats I encountered on my gap year in China. Her eyes scintillated with each new random topic I brought up and I thought things went well. But I never did get an invitation back to their place again. I would see Doug when she allowed it. I also inherited a lot of his old games and miniatures when they moved into their new place.

My friendship with Doug became more of an online, social network and Xbox one. He had become a businessman. He was even into politics. He had been in the local paper more than once and always with her by his side. As an academic, I could only read about him since I was not the kind that would travel in his circle. The greatest news he ever sent me was his announcement that he was opening a games store. He asked if I would be at the grand opening and I had given him my congratulations and regrets. I said that I had prior commitments but that I would send him a bottle of champagne and a box of ale. When I got his text message, I was all at once nonplussed and elated.

I walked up to him and he beamed at me.

“Mate!” he shouted.

“Hey! Are you ok?”

“I am now, matey,” he said. “Look at all this! This is great!”

“Ah, yes. I meant about Linda. When did she leave? I mean, when I got your message—well, I thought you were upset but you seem ok.”

“Linda. Yes. I’m afraid my relationship reached that level of effloresce that we all hoped would never come. But what did I expect, really. She was not into all this. I am surprised that she stayed with me as long as she did,” he said and raised his cappuccino in the air. “This was her idea. She wanted a barista. I wanted a games parlour. She wanted a business. I wanted a community.”

“She did not like this, I take it?”

“Meeting her was simply an obliquity. I think she was that level 20 dragon I sent to kill you off because I was so upset that you were going away,” said Doug.

“You asshole. Still have not forgiven you for that.”

“I know. But I could not forgive her for not liking your goats,” said Doug. He took out his phone showed me his wallpaper. He had taken my photo and put text on it that read THE BRO GOAT. I shook my head.

“I’m sorry, man,” said Doug. “I should have stood my ground. I knew you before I met her. I have no idea what I was thinking. I’m really sorry.”

“No need.”

“We got a Magic tourney going on later. Shall we play?”

“I brought a deck.”


The Yummy Mummy Brigade– Just Musing

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Soft jumpers over denim mini skirt over leggings–bare feet in Kelso clogs–the women of the Yummy Mummy Brigade file into the coffee shop. I just beat the traffic of the school-run-odyssey to boot up my laptop and prepare for a meeting at the engineering firm down the street.

But I got lost in the debate over letting baby use a pacifier or his thumb and the best way to puree homemade food for him. All of a sudden, my pencil skirt felt very scratchy and my high heels pinched. My skinny latte did not look as nice as the cream-topped hot chocolate.

Then I think of him and what could have been.

Pen a “five-minute-prompt”. Ok. Here it is. Is it curing my writers block? Maybe on it’s way.


Old Nam

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Old Nam Out

As I was running to get in from out of the downpour, I saw Old Nam walking up from the post office and going to stand under the awning of the café under the aqueduct. I’ve seen him around often enough–mostly unshaven, wearing a tired trilby and a battered American army coat–he would walk all over town. He did odd jobs for people. He was always pleasant. He would say good morning as he passed other men. He would tip his hat to little old ladies. I would see him helping someone push a car or changing a tire. Once I saw him walking a dog. He was laughing with some people outside of the bank as they stroked the dog. I heard him say that it was not his dog. The owner collapsed outside of the Four Seasons and had to be taken away to casualty that morning. The son had to get in the ambulance with the owner of the dog. Old Nam said he’d look after it for a bit.

They say he sleeps rough but he always looks as though he has somewhere to go. But he is out at all hours. Once, on my way home from the pub with some mates, I saw him intercept the unwanted attention of a group of rough men from a 13-year-old girl. What she was doing out at that time of night, no one knows. But she was vulnerable, we all agreed. We walked gingerly at a distance and watched in horror as the men inappropriately released an onslaught of jeers and jibes at the girl. But it was Old Nam walked over and told her to get off home. He got knocked around a bit by the three men but the girl got away. All we could manage was calling out and letting the men know we had called the police. They ran and Old Nam got looked at by paramedics.

Today, the rain was coming down hard. I called over to Old Nam. He came over and I beckoned to him to join me in the café. I ordered us some coffee and a sandwich. He said he could not pay. I told him that I could. He asked me if I had any jobs that “needed doing.” I said my only job was to find a story that day. I was on a deadline and I had done fuck all. He smiled and said he could help me out. He took a sip of his coffee warily, blew on it a bit then smiled at me.

“Still too hot?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. He looked at me and sat back a bit then said “Well. I am a scrawler that much is true. Working my way through the greasey word dumps–resent those so scheme. So Scheme they be so clever. I don’t run in those circles. Don’t got that company. They know how to get paid. They get paid but me won’t. Reason being I call me a scrawler. Got them stories. Thems sit and likes a listen. Are you a writer or a scrawler?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

” I know others like you. They won’t call theyselves a scrawler, though. Oh no. They is a writer. Proper. Scrawlers are more like storytellers weaving something out of nothing or making more out of something. Maybe be adding them some wizards and shit–Then making movies–Them’s clever and business-like. But not me. I live a bit and that’s it.”

Old Nam took a sip from his coffee and the food came. He smiled and took a bite. I looked outside and the rain seemed to have cleared the street.

“Is you a poet? I got some of that, too. But not that rapper shit. Them boys down Titchfield Park, they be rapping and called that art. Then I wonder if they be artists? Shit, I don’t know that. From all I heard artists say it ain’t art unless you go broke, or choke or get banged up, or starve. Hey, I done all that and I don’t be thinking me any old artist. I just sit and watch —-talk to thems that’ll listen— all them stories happening in front of me—and I scrawl them right here in this book. To be remembering. I’ll not abide scribbling against money. Not for these stories. I scrawl against art and that.”

We sat in silence for a bit as we ate. He looked around and waved at someone who waved back at him with unexpected joy. And I looked at Old Nam and asked myself all the questions I always ask about someone. He seemed to hear what was in my head.

“I thank you for sitting here with me. And for the coffee and sandwich. It’s a kind thing. So, you need a story? Ok. Now, let me tell you a story…”


Crossroads Car Dealership

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Met Old Scratch the other day–was thinking of trading in for something better–Had been dreaming about it far too much– Had been feeling a little left behind by all my contemporaries and such. So there I went to see Old Sratch there at The Crossroads.

He strutted over. You know that walk– Smiling all friendly and happy to see me. We joked a bit. He put me at ease– wanted to know what would make me happy– how HE might make ME happy–Had the conversation about fame and glory as we walked around the lot.

Then it all went dark–cloud blocked the sun…or maybe it was the moon…and Old Scratch, he looked at me and I looked at him. I said that I would quite like to see my self having fame…having glory…

But Old Scratch looked into my eyes and sucked in air through his teeth– the way builders do when they are pricing up– then he shook his head and asked if the soul I had to trade was all I had.

It’s a good soul. Yeah it’s been around the block a bit but it’s still got a lot of juice left, I said. But the most Old Scratch could offer was a few more followers on all my social networks.

I was more than a little disappointed. So I said I’d think it over some– I walked away and went to the coffee shop instead to scribble in my little book and look out the window.

It’s a nice little soul. Worth a bit more than what was offered. A collectible, really– and it’s mine.


Scuttle Mind

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He lay in bed looking up at the ceiling. The flutter had turned into more of a scratching. The scratching turned into a scurrying sound. The annoyance that it had been a pigeon taking shelter in a nook in the eaves now turned to revulsion that it was most likely a rat that found its way into the loft overhead. It sounded busy—whatever it was doing up there. But for whatever reason, Matt could not seem to build up the wherewithal to investigate. Instead he took comfort that rats were nocturnal and it was getting light outside. If anything, he would sleep when the rat did. Until the sun rose, Matt lost himself in the events that had been scuttling through his head for hours—days—weeks. “Has it been a month?” he whispered to himself. “No. It’s been more,” replied a voice from within. But Matt wondered if it had all been a dream.

That weekend in Golders Green had been real. He knew it had been real. The surreal assent from the tube station out onto a busy street then over the road to Starbucks— the earthy, warm smell of coffee teased the air with the same gossamer flutters of her dark lashes. The flirtation that lead to that long, slow walk to the guest house played out in his head like some kind of recording stuck on repeat. He had been alive, surely. He had playfully built up the passion—conversing—laughing–smiling as they wandered up the high street to the guest house. She had giggled as she lay there, wrapped in a white sheet after hours of lovemaking.

The scratching overhead broke him from his reverie. His mind went to looking for the latter. He had used it in the summer. It was in the shed. Or did he lend it to the neighbour on his left. Then he recalled when the neighbour to his right had knocked on his door to warn him not to leave the conservatory door open—that there was a rat in the garden. Matt told him he was not worried. His Jack Russell dogs were ratters. They would make sure the rat would not get in. “But dogs cannot climb drain pipes, can they, you great pillick?” How long ago was that? He could not remember what he did yesterday. He was not sure what day it would be when the sun came up.

Matt thought about putting his dogs in the loft. Maybe they would get the beastie. Maybe the dogs would chase it—run it down—eradicate the pest in the loft. But some things were just too quick and canny to be exterminated. He thought back to her eyes as they held him in soft stupidity. They were on the tube. They stepped on together but were jostled apart—separated by a plain woman who smelled like chip fat. She stood between them, removing herself from the reality around her by plunging herself in her book. The doors opened at Camden and he broke through the crowd to swing his arm around her and guide her out and up onto the burst of movement on the pavement. She had been on a mission. She was hungry but did not know what she wanted. She laughed at how much choice she had as they walked up and down the market. He told her he loved her for the first time at the lock. She burst out crying and held him tight.

The scampering started again. It was followed by some more scratching and he could hear his dogs downstairs becoming anxious. He could hear them clawing at the kitchen door. He knew they wanted to come upstairs. They could probably hear the ruckus with their super-dog-hearing. But they would not be able to get into the front room, let alone upstairs and up the loft. Matt’s mind went back to trying to locate his latter in his mind.

He saw her walking away from him at St. Pancras pulling her suitcase behind her. The loud, rattling wheels were more than he could bear. The day had been bright and the light streamed in through the grids and windows overhead. The white noise of the train station reverberated through his head and he could make out nothing discernable but the wheels on her suitcase rolling—rolling-rolling away from him. He compartmentalised that moment. But the sequestering of those raw emotions exposed him to her derision. She looked at him—there had been a Y shaped crease between her brows. She asked the question silently but he would not answer. He waved at her—as a friend would—when she stepped through the turnstile. She had turned around to look at him one last time before she joined all the nameless and faceless people boarding the train north.

The scooting overhead startled him again. The room had lightened. It was the break of day. He heard birds chirping outside. He resolved that he would get poison in the morning—or the afternoon—or whenever he would be able to. He would buy it down at Steptoe’s down the street. Steptoe would have rat poison. There would be no need to put the dogs up in the loft. He would see if the neighbour would give him a hand getting the poison up there. He resolved to get up, take his citalopram, have a slice of toast and go to Steptoe’s then talk to next door–at some point.

He closed his eyes and promised he would not dream of her.

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Dialouge

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“In an effort say something poignant and illustrious, all I can muster is being true and in the moment. I have lost track of the actual time that I have been in your company now because it seems that I have always been in your head. The connection between us is more than a little scary but we have both said we are standing firm and seeing this through.”

“Is that what you are actually sending her?”

Johno nodded. He looked at his phone again. Somehow it felt heavy to him. Brogan scratched her head and shrugged.

“Will she understand all of that?”

“She’s not stupid,” said Johno.

“No. No. No-no-no, of course she is not, no,” she said. “But maybe it’s just a bit—I don’t know—a bit out there.”

Johno deliberated on this for a few more seconds and sent the message to drafts. Brogan sat hunched over her latte admiring the foam art the barista made with cinnamon and nutmeg. He had etched a fire-breathing dragon into the foam.

“This is clever, isn’t it,” she said and looked up over at the barista. He noticed her and smiled. She gave him two thumbs-up. “I think he’s proper gorgeous. You think he fancies me?”

“I think he’s gay.”

“Shut it,” she said. “You are just jealous.”

“Of what? –Some pretentious coffee maker with too much time on his hands? –Get a real job,” said Johno.

Like his father, John Joel Denny was a manufacturing process engineer. When he was at college, he did his apprenticeship at the company his father worked for and then went to university. His aloofness about the barista was not because he had any distain for art. He thought it a lively hobby. However, talent like that should be applied to making the world more proficient. Johno looked at Brogan who had made eye contact with the pretty-boy-coffee-Van Gough. She smiled and wrinkled her nose at him like a bunny. He beamed, raised a coffee cup at her and winked.

“Good god,” said Johno.

“Sometimes you don’t need to say something poignant and illustrious,” she said. “Now text your girl and tell her you want her and stop arsing about.”

“She’s married.”

“Then find someone else.”


Suddenly, Someone Brings Up Hemingway #4

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BE POSITIVE, NOT NEGATIVE

The BBC news droned on in the back of the room.

“…five cars and a lorry at Junction 25…”

Coffee smelled better than it tasted. There was no arguing that. The office had chipped in and bought a mini barista at Christmas. It did not matter that we used the generic beans. The smell snaked through the room. It was God-dammed lush. The top of the day morphed into mid-morning. People moved about the office. Everyone talked fast. They laughed at random information that featured heavily in their lives. People droned on about television shows and the football.

“…the driver of the SUV had been travelling south-bound…”

Everyone smelled clean. The clinical nature of office attire made the clipped chit-chat and general anecdote trading appear like something out of an advert on antiperspirant.

“…police are questioning the lorry driver who is from Lithuania…”

People yammered on the phone. Others tapped away on the keyboards. I’d been mentally skiving since 8:45am doing just enough work to exculpate getting this job. Someone decided they preferred tea to coffee. Janine asked if anyone else wanted a hot drink. She was taking the kettle to go get water. Only two people wanted tea. One said he would not bother because there was no milk. Someone said they drank green tea. The debate on green tea versus regular black tea morphed into how many atheists there were in the office.

“…the M1 South is open again…”

The tally was three atheists, one ex-Catholic agnostic, a Buddhist, and the rest C of E. Someone mentioned the Green Man and everyone decided that pagans had it rough. Everyone switched to spread sheets when the manager walked in.

“…in other news, a rare Grevy’s zebra is born at Chester Zoo…”

The manager motions to me to follow her. Her eyes looked watery. Her lips were taut. As I walk through the corridors, I notice people in other offices going about the day as I have. I spot Stubbings. He owes me £5. I see Hayley. I wonder what she will be making for tea tonight. She always talks about what she will be making. I walk into reception with the manager. There are two policemen standing there. She introduces me to them. My heart begins to race. She leads us to the boardroom off reception and closes the door.

“…regret that your husband did not make it…” he said.

“I’m sorry…” she said.

I remembered the BBC news had droned on in the back of the room.