Standing Room Only – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s larger short story collection (250 stories), Fifty 5pm Fictions Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

Standing Room Only

With the only space on the bus next to you, standing room only, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, to say “hello”. You’ve smiled at each other for weeks, but not one word. You don’t know his name – no-one knows each others’ names on the number 42. He shows his pass to the driver, who you think is called Alex but his badge just says ‘driver’, as if he could be anything else.

It was the same on the train, a core of familiar faces for six years, grey suits amongst black ones, Financial Times mingling with Daily Mails and Kindles, but you want this to be different.

And now he’s standing next to you, rain soaked, with his hair sticking to his head. There’s a stray hair you want to move away from his eyes, the eyes that pull you in every time they meet yours. He reminds you of Mr Darcy and you wish he’d take off his jacket so you could see how damp his shirt is.

He smiles then looks down at his shoes. You look too, knowing they’ll be one of three pairs, all black, just different stitching, all polished as if they’re going to be inspected at any moment, and they now are… by him.

He coughs and looks up. “Not good for the leather,” he says and you nod.

“Kills suede too,” you say, never imagining that those would be the first words you say to him. You wanted them to be more romantic, invite him for a coffee, lunch perhaps or a film, but you know big talk starts with small talk, and even the weather as a topic thrills you. What you say next will be pivotal, you want to take your time but a woman rings the bell, moves towards the front of the bus and he’s looking at her empty seat, so you have to be quick.

You go to speak but he says, “There’s a seat there if you’d like it.”

“I’m fine, but thanks,” you reply and grip tighter on to the handrail as the bus lurches round a bend.

“Me too,” he says, and another standing passenger takes advantage, thumping down and stuffing his case between his calves.

There are only a couple of stops until you have to leave and you’re debating whether to stay on, be late for work, take the day off even, when you spot the white cable running from his right ear. “What are you listening to?”

“Classical. A bit of everything but Erik Satie at the moment.”

“Gnossienne or Gymnopédies?”

He laughs. “You know your Satie.”

“My favourite, next to Beethoven.”

“Much underrated.”

“Satie?”

He nods. “You get off at St Giles, don’t you?”

“At the top, yes.”

“Nice part of town.”

“Not too noisy.” You cringe as the talk shrinks further.

“What do you do?” he asks, as if he read your mind.

“Lawyer. Property. Pretty dull really.”

“Why dull?”

“Office-based. Little action.”

“You’d rather have your day in court?”

You laugh. “Something like that.”

Your stop approaches and you know staying on now isn’t an option. “Well, this is me.”

“It is,” he replies, then holds out his hand. “Tom Austen. See you tomorrow.”

You shake his hand and smile. “Daniel Taylor. ‘Til then.”

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Off the Back of a Lorry – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s larger short story collection (250 stories), Fifty 5pm Fictions Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

Off the Back of a Lorry

“He told me it was curry powder.”

“And it isn’t?”

“Doesn’t smell like it.”

“Let’s have a look, sis… You’re right, and it’s rather pale. Have you tried adding water to it?”

“Good idea.”

“You’ve bought a lot of it. What if you can’t use it?”

“I could, when I know what it is. Besides, it was cheap.”

“Cheap because he probably doesn’t know what it is. Saffron, I reckon.”

“Saffron. What’s that?”

“Only about a hundred times the price.”

“Really?”

“For once that boyfriend of yours has done you a favour.”

“He’s not that bad.”

“Everything’s off the back of the lorry with Laurie.”

“Ha. I think I’d rather have had curry powder.”

“Why?”

“At least I’d have known what to do with it.”

“Google it… or sell it on.”

“I wouldn’t know…”

“eBay it.”

“eBay it? But it’s food, isn’t it?”

“It is but… it’s got a date stamp, well in date, just missing the label. Take a photo and…”

“They do say people will buy anything.”

“And believe anything. What did Laurie tell about where he got it?”

“Friend’s Indian restaurant. Wrong delivery, or something.”

“They’d have sent it back, especially saffron. Or kept it and not said anything.”

“Or sold it and not said anything.”

“Then they’re as bad as he is.”

“He’s not bad.”

“He’s just drawn that way.”

“Sorry?”

“Jessica Rabbit. Who framed… film, late eighties, before your time.”

“Uh, OK.”

“So what are you going to do with it?”

“I’d like to cook with it. Make Laurie something nice.”

“You could make a third world food mountain with all that lot.”

“Mmm…”

“Mmm?”

“That’s a good idea.”

“What? Cooking a food mountain? Even Lard-arse Laurie doesn’t eat that much.”

“Don’t like him much do you?”

“Can you tell, sis? So what’s your grand plan?”

“Look for a local charity that can use it, maybe do an event with it, or something.”

“Like, try to break a record.”

“Yeah.”

“Serena Goodman, you’re all heart.”

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Cardboard Box in a Field – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s larger short story collection (250 stories), Fifty 5pm Fictions Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

Cardboard Box in a Field

I’m sitting here staring at a glass-topped table with a circle of flowers. Pressed ones. Real ones. Dead ones. You think they’d be more… diplomatic, sensitive.

Not sure why I’m here really. Mum didn’t want any fuss. “Stick me in a cardboard box and bury me in a field,” she’d told me once and I don’t think she was joking. But I couldn’t do it, could I? Not strong enough to move her myself, even as thin as she was, and I don’t know any farmers who’d be willing… And where would I get a box big enough? Tesco don’t do free ones at the ends of the tills anymore and sticky-taping them together would be… you know, disrespectful.

My left eye’s twitching. Tired. Overly tired. Not slept properly since…

There’s lots of organising to do so it’s keeping me busy. It’s like getting married – how I imagine, anyway – you wonder if you’ve remembered everything but then that’s what these people are for, aren’t they? Make sure everything flows.

They all look so serious. Of course I don’t expect them to be laughing and joking but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

I hope they’re not much longer. Didn’t expect they’d be this busy but then I suppose it’s that time of year, when it gets to old people. To mum. Six months shy of her seventieth too. Thought I’d be organising that not… this.

Catalogue? Really? OK.

Cup of tea would be lovely, thank you. Oh, weak please. If you don’t mind. Dunk and out. Little bit of milk, little bit of sugar, little bit of tea. Thank you.

Half a spoonful, yes please. No hurry, I can see you’re…

She was nice.

There’s a lot of choice.

Caskets. So they call them caskets. Coffin sounds so final. Caskets does have a nicer ring. Go for a light one I think, nothing too dreary. Oak. Beech maybe or… cardboard! Oh mum, they’ve got cardboard.

Type of service. Don’t suppose they do one without religion. She wasn’t a believer in all… short and sweet. It actually says “short and sweet”. That’ll fit her to a ‘t’. 5’7 at school but shrunk since then.

They’ve even got locations. Wow! They think of every… Two cemeteries. The out of town, definitely. That one looks… third option? No! Seriously? No way. A field. A specially-apportioned field overlooking the lake. Sold.

Oh, hello. Thank you, I’ll be careful. I usually let it cool. I’m not one of these…

It’s very comprehensive this catalogue.

I have, yes. The ‘Garden Casket’, short and sweet at Lakeside View. Thank you.

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Modern-day Cleopatra – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s larger short story collection (250 stories), Fifty 5pm Fictions Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

Modern-day Cleopatra

He imagined her naked. He’d imagined it dozens of times but today was different, special. She’d chosen today, a brilliant summer’s day, to wear a near-see-through dress. David suspected she hadn’t realised the sheerness of it but when it caught the light he could see the pattern of her underwear; tiny flowers.

His mind drifted to an imaginary field, to poppies, puppies and Ella. He didn’t know her name but she looked like an Ella. Italian. She had to be with that long black hair.

As she added soap powder to her washing, she pulled a stray hair from her dress and David studied it as it fell to the ground – even that looked seductive.

She turned to the tumble dryer and started reading the instructions. David had seen her use it every time the two of them had been there together but she looked at it like a stranger. Like him.

He knew which machines she preferred but kept his distance. “One day,” he told himself but so far, that day hadn’t come.

David’s washing was nearly finished and he knew he’d then have no excuse to be there, to watch her, to imagine the two of them together, lying in the field of poppies, dogs by their feet as he fed her grapes like a modern-day Cleopatra. He was her Anthony and he’d do anything for her.

He was still staring at her when she turned and walked towards him.

As she closed in, his mouth went dry. He wanted to run, to hide, climb in one of the washing machines if he could, but he sat, motionless, on the old padded seating.

“Hello,” she said in a soft European accent. “Can you help me please?”

David nodded but said nothing.

“I understand most but not all. There is one word I do not understand. It is c-y… c-l-e. Like bicycle, no?’

“Sort of. It just means it goes round and round.” David made a circular motion with his right index finger. “Like a bicycle wheel.”

“Ah, I see… You come here often.”

David laughed.

“I sorry. I make joke?”

“No. I’m sorry. Hi. I’m David,” he said, stretching out his right hand.

“Bella,” she said, shaking his hand and smiling. “It means…”

“Beautiful. Yes,” he said and looked down at his knees as a flush of red overtook his face.

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They Never Do – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s larger short story collection (250 stories), Fifty 5pm Fictions Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

They Never Do

It wasn’t as if she’d done anything wrong. She’d followed the recipe word-for-word but her effort looked nothing like Pauletta’s.

“They never do, Merys,” Tom said as he walked past, as if reading her mind.

She stared at him as he disappeared into the lounge, then heard the click of the standby and the football burst into life.

“They never do,” she repeated inside her head, unsure whether to take it as a compliment.

Having tipped the contents of the dish into the composting bin, she measured out more ingredients and started again from the top of the page.

Whisking to the second, beating in the correct directions: left twenty times, the right for the same number. She’d thought Pauletta was supposed to make it simple but try as she might, version number two turned out just as badly.

Grabbing the dish in both hands she tapped the bin’s pedal with her slippered right foot and was about to tip the ingredients in after its predecessor when she stopped, and let go of the pedal which made the lid drop with a resounding clunk.

“Shh,” Tom yelled from the other room but Merys was on a mission.

Putting the dish back on the counter, she picked up ‘Pauletta’s Parisian Puddings’ and, foot back on pedal, grinned as the book tipped into the bin, sending up a cloud of flour from the cavernous gloom.

Letting go the pedal with a secondary thud, which produced loud tutting from the lounge, Merys walked to her bookshelf, removed another book and said, “Welcome home, Jamie, welcome home.”

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Playing Safe – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s larger short story collection (250 stories), Fifty 5pm Fictions Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

Playing Safe

As the board flashed ‘Go to Gate 17’, Alfie turned round and peered out the expanse of glass – bullet-proof glass after the events of the previous Christmas. Or was it New Year, he couldn’t remember. He remembered there being snow on the ground and taking his aunt to hospital when she’d slipped and broken her arm.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” she’d said to him when he’d told her of the offer; a year’s contract leading to permanent.

Turning back to the flashing board, he picked up his holdall. He’d already checked it was regulation size but now half-hoped that he’d be stopped, that someone would tell him he’d made a mistake and his luggage would be found and taken off the plane.

He didn’t really care if it wasn’t found, it was only shirts and trousers. The things that mattered to him were in his holdall; photographs, rings… his and hers. His – he couldn’t bear to wear, and hers – removed at the hospital and put in a plastic bag, along with the bracelet he’d bought her for their tenth anniversary.

He knew it was now or never. His aunt would say, “now”, his wife, Carrie, would have agreed. He’d always been the one to play safe; suggest Europe when she’d wanted exotic. So they alternated Spain one year, Egypt the next.

Exotic was waiting for him now and as the board read ‘Final call’, he and his holdall headed for Gate 17.

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Exotic Spice – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s larger short story collection (250 stories), Fifty 5pm Fictions Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

Exotic Spice

Leona had thought it would be funny to visit a fancy dress shop in her lunch break, hire something to spice up what had become a rather mundane love life with Neville. Even his name bored her and she’d begun to wonder whether it was worth the effort, whether she’d be better off telling him it was over then escaping to the sun, when she’d remembered the shop and its colourful window.

As she closed the front door to the solicitors, she headed to the small shop at the end of the high street. She’d only walked past the newsagents and bakers when she stopped at the travel agent’s window.

There it was: six-inch-high letters, ISRAEL, next to a picture of an exotic beach and sun loungers with not a soul in sight, somewhere she could pick and choose her place, like selecting a desert from a menu card.

But life wasn’t that simple – she’d always ended up with the sunbed that squeaked or threatened to fold at any given moment.

As she looked at the Mediterranean scene she pictured herself being pampered by a tall, tanned waiter and comparing him to Neville, she burst out laughing.

But that’s what she loved about him… he made her laugh and yes, she was sure she still loved him.

So she kept walking, picked out a nurse’s outfit, and walked back to work wearing a silly grin while imagining wearing the uniform.

She wasn’t to know as she selected the next tape and legal file, that Neville had been a sick child and that when he would come home that evening, see her bending over the dining room table in the shortest skirt she’d ever worn, that he’d start screaming.

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