A few months ago the Dundee Rep ran a short story competition, you can find the details here. Any-who long story short about entering a short story competition, I sadly did’t win. Since I didn’t win I figured I might as well post it on here. Enjoy.




Those who deserve our thoughts are never those who have them. I have a loving wife and four grown children, but those I love are never those I give my thoughts. My mind wonders now, more than it use to and more than I’d like. A hazy summer day filled with blinding light is how I remember her. Illusions tinged with yellow and a gentle breeze from an open window form the world in which I live. As my wife takes my hand I watch her leave with the older boys, the boys her own age, older than I was then and younger than I am now. Moments before we were closer, encompassing each other, now only a hand cups mine, biding. She wants to leave and be with me at the end but the other boys are waiting, cheering at the other side of the curtain as a shard of light breaks through the dust. Blinding. I focus on it as it moves back and forth from darkness, trying to find something tangible in the motion to hold. It was their idea and she leads me to my room. Draping hair sweeps against my face as swelling eyes begin to weaken. “It’s almost time” and all three of us know it. A switch is flipped and it’s done, a last slow breath escapes. I am calm for the first time and the last time in my life. Her grip on my hand tightens as she rolls off to embrace. A new step has been taken, a different world awaits. She lays and sits beside me, breathing heavy as tears start to fall. I want to hold her then, the way she holds me now. She starts to slip away and her grip never fails. “You can let go now if you want?” they tell me. I want to hold on, but I don’t know how. A yellow summer dress falls around her shoulders. I want to force her to stay, but I don’t know how. She’s too delicate. I don’t know how to act yet. I follow her sheepishly past the hall and to the door as she leaves. I notice the flowers by me on the bed. I don’t remember who brought them, no doubt a comfort in another wise sterile room. I hold one out for her to take. She smiles and walks away, the other boys are waiting. Her hand breaks free and the light is blinding. She’s walking away with the other boys; they’re older than I was then and younger than I am now. I can barely look and the light is blinding. She’s walking away with the other boys and my wife kisses me for the last time. I can barely see and the light is blinding. I can barely see and the light is blinding.





It all started with a reflection in the mirror, and ended with the distinct sound of fracturing. I repeatedly, forcefully and purposefully slammed my head against it. Blood was dripping along vertical axis. Along white porcelain, boxers, and floor. The mirror was shattered and so to the façade of a retched fucking existence. A whole lays scattered on the floor with edges and points and sinew and nerves left exposed and raw. There was only one question left, one question that could ever be muttered from these lips. Who the fuck are you, and what have you done with my life?


I put my hand down and inside. I reclaimed what was mine.


It all started with a reflection in the mirror. This is an arbitrary statement, a misnomer. The mirror was merely a catalyst for the revelation, a facilitator for the realisation. Twenty years of bad decisions, supplemented with a dead-end job, a frigid wife and a shit for a son will create one tiny mass after another, that over the years come together to form a cancerous life.


I haven’t had sex in two years. I haven’t had sex with my wife in four. I fail to remember the last time I masturbated. Sometimes I wake up during the night with my penis in hand, and try to see it through to completion before the dream of whatever spurred it on recedes to my subconscious. This rarely happens.


My day starts the same way my day always starts, with my feet squirming on ceramic and my eyes squinting under florescent. Sometime ago my life fell into a pattern of mundane predictability. I blame my job for this, twenty years sitting at the same desk processing insurance claims. In the last two years four men in my office have died from heart attacks. One of them was younger than I am now. If I’m alive in ten years I’ll be old enough for my pension. I can’t decide if sitting all day in my house would be better than sitting all day at work. I miss the old days when I was still able to maintain an erection for long enough to fantasise about banging the office manager. Now I just sit at my desk and watch the smug little bastard who will one day be my boss stare at her tits every time she walks past.


She sees him when he does it. She likes it.


On a Friday night, the office descends on one bar or another. It doesn’t matter where. They all look alike. They all serve the same purpose.


Fluids flow forth.


In the morning detested.


We’re gathered around two tables. The bar we’ve stopped at is exceptionally busy, even for a Friday night. The younger members of the office prefer it that way. They enjoy the atmosphere generated by a crowd mostly their own age. After several drinks I understand why, the laughter and music is an infectious combination. It’s easy to make connections and take an interest in the people around you. Normally, on nights like these I would just have one or two and then leave.

It’s near eleven o’clock before the bar quietens down; most people have left to go home or to go out somewhere else.


It’s just me and a secretary left.


She’s blond and petite and quick to laugh. She’s stayed here longer than she had too. Turning down unwanted offers of dancing.


Music and chatter recede to low din.

Still is the world.

All but for me.


Sweats of hair stick to her face, as her head rests towards the wall. I can smell the scent of her perfume. My nose is by her neck. Lips shut, I breathe. Her silky skin caresses my hand as it glides up her thigh. A cold breeze snaps and my attention is stolen by the hand on my shoulder. The bar comes rushing in. Reformed.


“That’s enough” he says, “I think you’d better leave.”




“You’re done here.”


Outside the night has turned bitter; I turn my collar up against it and watch from across the road as two barmen carry her to a taxi. My mind screams with all the force it can muster, ‘come on then, hit me just fucking hit me.’ I’ve already decided that I don’t care what they do. How far they take it. I’m begging them, daring them to beat me until I’m a bloodied mess on the ground. I doesn’t matter how loud my mind screams. All I can do is stare. They fail to notice my presence.


The stars shine as I walk home.

I wake up during the night with my penis in hand and a scent in the air, and try to see it through to completion before the dream of whatever spurred it on recedes to my subconscious. The moment is gone. Faded.

Feet squirming on ceramic and eyes squinting under florescent, I stare at my reflection. I repeatedly, forcefully and purposefully slam my head against it. Blood drips along vertical axis. Along white porcelain, boxers, and floor. The mirror is shattered and so to the façade. There is only one question left, one question that could ever be muttered from these lips. Who the fuck are you, and what have you done with my life?


I put my hand down and inside. I reclaim what is mine.

The Bold Baristas

It’s all but dead now, that first wave of excitement. I remember it fondly, though that’s about all I can amass these days. I’ve long since stopped trying to dredge the feeling back to the surface of my memory. Stopped trying to keep it afloat. Which seems strangely fitting, considering that I’m standing on a sodden carpet with an inch of water at my feet and a plumber in my ear. It was two years ago when we first started to seriously discuss it. Sue and I were still together at the time and as always on a friday night we had Mike and Stuart around for dinner. A little tradition that started back when we were all still at University. The four of us were well into the third bottle of Pinot and just finished playing our favourite game of whose job sucked the most.

“We keep talking about it. Why don’t we actually just do it. Between the four of us it would work. I mean think about it. Sue, I know you hate the kitchen you work in right?”

“More than life itself.”

“Exactly, so we open a little coffee shop. Serve sandwiches, panini’s, bagels you name it, the menu’s yours. You get to cook the kind of food you like cooking. And Rory can it really be that much more different serving people coffee rather whatever the hell it is your shop sells?”

“Ok first things first, I work in a bar, we sell alcohol. Secondly, did you miss my five minute rant on why I hate customers, I should not be serving people things. Thirdly I do a lot more than just serve people things. I practically run the place.”

“That’s perfect, we won’t have you on the counter then. You can do the day-to-day running of the place, the accounts, the ordering. You know all the boring stuff. You might as well use that degree for something. Right?”

“I do enjoy boring stuff.”

“Stuart, you could be on the counter then. You’re a natural people person. I’ve see you on a night out, think of all the pretty girls you’ll get to flirt with.”

“Well that’s me convinced.”


Stuart had said it as joke, but in little over a month Mike had found a location and we had been approved for a small business loan. By the time next month rolled round The Bold Baristas was open for business. It was fun at the start, everything we thought it would be. We had a steady flow of customers going in and out. All of them commenting on how quirky and charming our place was. How they loved the mismatched sofa’s with no two pieces of furniture the same or the bookshelves filled with classics. We even had our photos taken for the front of the shop. That was Sue’s idea, we had them done in that faded slightly yellowed nineteen hundreds style. Each of us in our uniforms, right underneath the arched gold lettering of the sign, striking some pose we thought at the time made us look poised and dignified. Heads pointing up to the sky telling the universe look at us we are the bold baristas, we four friends working for no one but ourselves; or at least that was idea. That was then and this is now. One of the photos have been taken down and the shelves are all but devoid of any books, with what few that remain a tattered mess with pages missing. The mismatch sofas are splashed brown by clumsy drinkers. That small business loan has turned in to a dark cloud above our heads threatening to drown us all.


Maybe Sue was right to leave when she did. Maybe I should have been the one to go, to have asked to be bought out. At the time it just felt like another betrayal, another kick in the gut. Just her way of letting me know how far our relationship had fallen. Business had still been pretty steady at that point, but after she left something was different. It was as though we had lost part of that quirky charm our customers loved so much to talk about. It wasn’t long before the thought started to creep in that maybe the problem isn’t the new chef, maybe what made our place special was the idea on which we built it. The idea of friends coming together. Sue’s last words,

“Its over”, swim towards my mind along with the overweight plumber’s.

“It’ll only you cost two hundred quid to fix the tank.” Right then and there I did’t know whether to laugh, cry or grab him by his overalls and scream, abandon ship. She’s gonna sink. I settle for a silent sigh, held under my breath and instead wade over to counter to write a cheque. What’s another couple hundred in the thousands we already owe? Nothing but a spit of rain in the Sea. Truth be told though, we’re already sunk and the lifeboats drink at Starbucks. A burst tank is just another in a long line of problems that washed on board when Sue left. I hand the plumber the cheque and reach for the bucket behind the counter.