NEWS & EVENTS
Billy and the Match Girl is now available on Amazon.
A sample is included below:
1 THE START OF IT
Shadows run the room, disappearing into the corners like rabbits down a burrow. Windows rattle like they’re tumbled in a washing machine. Except that nothing ever gets washed at Number 43, Lime Street. The floors are black with soot, the walls streaked in grey. “Billy, you’re under my feet,” Ma screeches, leaning to position the towel between the yellow stained window and its sill. I pull a face, wondering why she bothers. The flyover above our roof is a giant in the sky, those beneath it deafened by a thousand car engines, suffocated by fumes that no number of wet towels is going to stop. “It won’t work, Ma,” I say, trying to explain.
I’m met with a smile that is sharp around the edges.
“’Course it will, won’t it, Grandpa?”
Ancient eyes flicker open, like a ghost awakening. “What’s that?” Grandpa says.
“The towels. Keeps the air out, don’t it,” Ma says.
A leg shifts, with a groan. “If you say so, Martha.”
His wink brings out my smile, for perhaps the first time that day. I glance to the patterns of dirt on the window pane, wondering if that’s what gave Grandpa the arthritis: years of breathing in bad air?
“What about the park?” Ma says.
“It’s full of rubbish,” I say.
“Or one of Grandpa’s stories?”
The springs in the sofa crinkle, Grandpa’s chest crinkling also. “Get your sister and I’ll see what I can do,” he says.
I rise, wondering why it’s my job to get Lottie. She’s only a pain when she does come! Thankfully, the girl - all pigtails and buck teeth - is at the door.
“Here, sit yourself besides your brother and I’ll tell you a story,” Grandpa says, plumping the cushions.
“About the old days, when you was a boy?” I say.
“When you were a boy,” Ma says. “What are they teaching you in that place?”
The lines on Ma’s forehead are ignored, Lottie and I positioning ourselves at Grandpa’s feet. “When the world was at one with itself,” he says, eyes twinkling.
“What’s ‘at one with itself’?”
Lottie’s question is a meow. Like a cat. I throw the girl my best glare, although - if I’m being honest - I’ve little idea myself.
“It’s called nostalgia,” Ma says, clattering plates onto the dining table. “People see the past through rose tinted glasses.”
“But he doesn’t wear glasses!”
Lottie’s look is wide. “She doesn’t mean I wear glasses, my dear,” Grandpa says, chuckling. “It means folk remember things with affection, rather than seeing the reality of it; what really happened.”
“I see,” Lottie says.
I shake my head at her. Time passes. “Come on then, Grandpa,” I say. “What’s the story, today?”
“And nothing to do with the Phossy Jaw, alright?”
“But Ma, that’s the best bit---”
My words dissolve into the back of my throat. A shiver has taken hold, my teeth adopting a life of their own.
JOE AND THE GHOUL is a recent addition to my exploration of magic realism. Available on Amazon under my personal imprint, Magic Ink Press.
A sample is included below:
1 THE SLIPPERY SLOPE
It’s a drizzly Monday morning when Mrs Waxon-Ears dives into the nearest building to escape the rain and drags me in by the hand.
“Wipe your feet!”
Her face is screwed up, which is never a good sign. However, a glance to the marble floor makes me wonder at the point. No one else has wiped their feet. The entrance is a mishmash of muddy streaks.
“Do I have to?”
I realise that now is not the time for a sensible conversation between Mother and Son. With a grimace, I squat to my knees and slip off a shoe. The sock beneath is stuck like glue and requires a tug.
“Not everything. Did I say take off everything?”
Mothers can be silly sometimes. My feet are wet through. “Look at it,” I say, waving the dripping sock over my head. A stench of cheddar fills the air and Mother’s face flushes crimson, an event that occurs often.
“Joseph Waxon-Ears. What would your Father say?”
The use of my full name tells me I’m in trouble, particularly when the words are hissed with the venom of an Adder. Thankfully, the entrance hall is full of people. I know she’ll not want to draw attention to her terrible Mothering, so I decide to do it for her. “My feet are soaking and you want me to wear wet socks?” I shout.
Horrified faces turn as pain ripples through my shoulder. “Hey, you’re hurting,” I say, this time not exaggerating.
I’m dragged across the floor in the direction of an adjoining room.
“If your Father was here, he’d give you a good talking to.”
“Well, he’s not here, is he?” I say, a tear rolling into my eye, even though I don’t want it to. Why does she always resort to the Father thing?
“That’s not the point,” she says.
“Why bring it up then?” I say, unable to stop myself.
A bony hand rises to a rose-tinted cheek, the hurt on her face pulling at my insides. Is it her fault that the guy walked out on us? We reach a bench and she sits me down. “Here, take the other one off, if you must. We’ll dry them.”
I bend and remove the second shoe to find the sock equally as dripping as the first. Yuck. I’m about to swing the item around my head, when a stare makes me lower my arm and thrust it into Mother’s hand. “There ya go,” I say, adopting the Cockney accent that I know drives her bonkers. Her face retains its stone like quality, although some of the fire seems to have evaporated. “Wait there. I’ll see what I can do,” she says, rising.
I shuffle my sodden feet over the floorboards and gaze around the room of paintings. Searching for distraction, a shadow in the corner grasps my attention. It has the appearance of a man and I grin at the fellow. “She’s seeing what she can do,” I say, feeling it necessary to explain.
The shadow (whatever it is) turns away. Has it cloth ears? “Don’t mind me,” I call out.
Still, no response.
For sure, the person is deaf, and somewhat blind also, I think. Why is someone with such flaws working in an art gallery? Aren’t the wardens supposed to stop robbers running off with the art work? I’m on the point of testing my new-found theory when a chime catches my ear. The clock on the mantelpiece says half past eleven. Half past eleven is the beginning of break. If I’d been at school, that is. Certainly, there are times later when I wish I had been at school at that exact half-past-eleven moment. It’s IF’s fault, of course. If Maths homework hadn’t been so ridiculously difficult, I wouldn’t have needed to bunk off school. If the rain hadn’t been pelting down, Mother wouldn’t have dragged me into the stupid art gallery. If my sock hadn’t been so smelly, she wouldn’t have taken me to that particular bench to remove it. If the shadowy-man-thing hadn’t been so cloth-eared, my eyes wouldn’t have been drawn to the thing’s back as it left the room and I wouldn’t have noticed the flash of grey.
Ifs, ifs, ifs…and the rest is history as Gramps would say. The long, sorry, slippery slope is before me and - without knowing it - I’m sliding down.