Unlocked: five more audio tracks of poems & short stories

All from the Let me Tell You a Story anthology.

Here’s ‘Tantric Twister‘ by multi prize-winner Tracy Fells, who is also a very naughty girl! Lyn Jennings, who isn’t – here reading her poem ‘Heatwave’, and you know you need that as the nights draw in up here in the north!

There’s Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s gentle poem, ‘Mrs Moreno’,  about grief and comfort, and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers’ insightful ‘Breastsummer‘, an awakening so many of us will recognise.

Finally, a bit of sci fi; a tale of first contact but not as we know it, Jim. This is ‘When Gliese Met Glasgow – and Muira made a mint’.

The print book is on sale at Amazon 

 

‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ – a Halloween(ish) tale of a ghostly (maybe) gran

drawing of people on a sofaDrop Dead Gorgeous – a Halloween(ish) tale of ghosts (maybe) and quantum phasing (your guess is as good as mine). Bit sweary so don’t let the kids loose.


I first met Dillon when my dead Gran tripped me up in front of him. There was me, meandering along the sea front watching small dogs on extending leads crochet themselves into yapping compounds each time they encountered others of their ilk; and there was he, arrowing through them, the sleek lycra-ed warp to their woof. I was ok but he landed up in hospital with several broken bones and his bike was a write-off. Gran beamed like it was her birthday and she’d knocked back her celebratory bottle of whisky all in one go.

I wasn’t planning on visiting him; after all he’d reason to be mad and maybe even to monetise that. Can you sue pedestrians? But Gran had other ideas; I got the train to uni, it broke down and the replacement bus dropped me outside the hospital. I walked, there was an incident and a diversion that went right past A&E. I tried taking a taxi; the driver had a heart attack. So to avoid any further disasters befalling the largely innocent public, I gave in. Five minutes tops should do it, I reckoned.

‘Ok, I’ll go,’ I said. ‘But I don’t need an audience, right?

Fat chance. ‘Lovely, innee?’ Gran said, breathing pickle fumes over my shoulder.

‘Shut up,’ I said, trying not to move my mouth as if this somehow compensated for the conspicuous absence of a third party. It didn’t. Dillon looked around the room and started to reach for the call bell. I could see his point.

‘No, not you,’ I said, and fiddled around with a fantasy earpiece under my hair. ‘Bloody signal’s gone,’ I said, palming the non-existent device and shoving it in my pocket. I gave him one of those modern technology, what can you do? looks and shrugged at him.

Gran continued her onslaught. ‘Physicist,’ she said, picking at teeth that would be at least a hundred years old if she’d managed to haul her liver past eighty-six. ‘Should suit you, with all your book-learnin’ an’ that.’ She gave me a shove, ‘Go on, sit on his bed.’ I was propelled forwards and alarm spread across Dillon’s face as the woman who had put him there in the first place threatened to flatten him all over again. I grabbed at a drip pole. It was on wheels so we took each other down, along with a vase of flowers, a jug of water, and a box of tissues. The almighty racket drew the attention of a frosty-looking nurse in pink scrubs who rushed first to Dillon to inspect him for injury, and then turned her rather less solicitous gaze on me, sprawled on the floor at her feet.

‘And you are?’ she said, like we were at a posh party and I wasn’t on the guest list. I opened my mouth preparing to kill two birds with one F-bomb but …

‘My girlfriend,’ said Dillon, into the gap.

‘What?’

‘Yes,’ Gran said through my teeth, tittering in my ear and making kissy-kissy noises.

The nurse glared at me, then at Dillon, ‘Well, in that case …’ and she stomped away to find a cleaner she could terrorise.

‘Jeez!’ Dillon said, rolling his eyes. ‘I owe you; bloody woman’s been ogling me since I got here. Never seems to be off-duty. Have you seen that Stephen King film?’ He smiled one of those crooked smiles you read about.

‘Look look look!’ Gran whickered at me, ‘Drop dead gorgeous!’

I cocked an appraising eye, ‘Well, actually …’

‘You saw it, the movie?’

‘No, I meant – anyway, how are you?’

He told me.

We laughed.

I stayed two hours.

I promised to pick him up and take him home when he was discharged, and cook dinner as he couldn’t use his hands that well. Turned out he could. Whole other story.

I moved in.

Gran stayed away for quite a while, probably to focus on another deviant descendant, then suddenly, back she came.

‘Cheating gigolo,’ she announced from behind the sofa. I nearly lost my takeaway. ‘Quantum research shove-it-up-your-jacksie conference, my Aunt Fanny,’ she said. Gran liked an expletive or two, albeit somewhat retro ones.

‘What do you mean?’

‘So-called research assistant – more bosom than brains,’ she said, ‘And the bosom’s not much to write home about, if you ask me.’

Gran was right; Rihanna, her name was, and I met her at the faculty Christmas do a couple of months later. There she was, goggling at Dillon, passing him wine and nibbles, chirping about quantum entangled whatnots and superstring that apparently has toes, and Dillon mesmerised by her heaving chest. Gran dug me in the ribs then grabbed both my ears. This, apparently, was a way of establishing a conduit between her plane of existence and ours. She shrieked at Dillon, ‘You cunning, conniving, slippery little wormhole, you!’ Then she rose into the air and loomed over Rihanna, ‘And you should know all about quantum, with your itty bitty IQ and your Schroedinger’s now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t brazz-ee-ere!’ Gran had evidently upgraded her vocabulary since our last encounter; she embarked on a cackle.

Then somebody with a beard that looked as though it might house a decent sized lunch, and a T shirt bearing the periodic table in swear words said, ‘Quantum phasing,’ in hushed tones like he was in a church. He gawped, simultaneously awestruck and terrified and Gran turned on him, treated him to a blast of old onions and fried liver right into his face. She clacked her teeth, ‘Phantom,’ she hissed, and hovered yellow fingers over his throat.

‘Cobblers,’ said Dillon. ‘No such thing as ghosts. Quantum phased reality shifts though, there’s mileage in that.’ His face went into intellectually distracted mode. It was short-lived. Gran loomed back in Dillon’s direction, ‘Quantum reality shift, my arse,’ she said. ‘Tell you what, though, let’s put it to the test.’ And she dropped the ceiling on him.

Some days it’s just Dillon sitting behind me on the train; sometimes it’s Gran; other times it’s the pair of them. They’re still arguing the toss about ghosts versus quantum universes and they can’t agree on suitable boyfriends for me, which threatens the long term survival of potential suitors. So Gran borrowed me a part-time dog for company. ‘Big bugger,’ she said, handing me his collars, ‘And he’s got what you might call ongoing duties elsewhere, but he’ll keep the riff-raff away; happy clappies, dodgy roofers, Tories.’

He is and he does because he’s got one helluva howl on him, but he’s a poppet and when all three of us are indoors together, we each have a head to pat.

(c) suzanne conboy-hill 2017

‘February-ish’

drawing cat and photographerThis week has been quite an eventful one in the life of our rather unremarkable little hamlet. Described variously as ‘picturesque’ (Oooh!), ‘quaint’ (Aaah!) and ‘sleepy’ (Oi!), our hitherto undistinguished residential aggregation has attracted the national press. Why, you may ask. Ok so you didn’t but you might as well stick around; you’ve got nothing better to do or you wouldn’t be here, right?  Apparently Dark Forces have infiltrated our local political environment.  Already somewhat right wing, apart from a very few socialists and a larger LibDem enclave whose meetings are apparently attended by one of my cats, the locality was obviously thought fit for an assault by an unpleasant but not banned extremist organisation in the guise of a harmless looking mum who appears to be involved in everything from Scouts to taking out vandals single handed.

Not that we have too many vandals. For the most part the kids here are decent and responsive so that even teenage boys are capable of mustering a social nicety when greeted in the street.  Headlines trumpeting the activities of miscreants generally end in the shocking revelation that litter bins were pushed over and bring to mind an article about terrorists hitting a nearby town.  After describing in detail across an entire front page the alert, the police, and the evacuation of three shops; the journalist, somewhat unwisely in my view, added the clinching commentary of an eyewitness that it was, ‘Really cold out here!’  Well that’s terrorists for you, no consideration of climate or people’s clothing requirements in the event of being decanted onto the pavement in December.

So anyway – Harmless Mum (HM) decided to get herself co-opted onto the parish council (think Dibley[1] here) which woke up with a start (even the bloke responsible for burials and booking the village hall) and began consulting protocols that hadn’t borne the gaze of human eye since Bob Cratchet’s day. The upshot was a parish council election and the sudden racking up of national interest with retired councillors putting themselves back on the market and a couple of new ones emerging to take up the slack, an ill-judged reaction as it (nearly) turned out.

The village, we were told, was divided with HM cornering the market in other HMs who were evidently able to get past the poisonous politics to the wonderful warm human being beneath, and the rest who consulted Babel Fish which translated ‘community involvement’ as ‘subversive infiltration tactics’. We were out in force. There were paparazzi.  Well, one anyway, presumably on the lookout for a rumpus which, disappointingly, did not transpire while I was doing my civic duty at the polling station.

The upshot? According to the parish web site (oh yes, there is one although you can quite easily end up on the god-botherers’ home page and narrowly miss signing up for the graveyard grass-mowing rota) the Good Burghers of the village thwarted the Silly Burghers by just twenty votes.  We went back to being journalistically immaterial.

[1] That’s the BBC’s The Vicar of Dibley with Dawn French, just in case this publication ends up in a time capsule under a bridge.

From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.

 

‘Soaked Again’

drawing of person and dogs

Ok, you’re getting the hang of it now, Brits really do talk about the weather constantly. This is because it is generally neither insipid nor deeply traumatic but impactful in that must-find-something-that-doesn’t-go-transparent-when-wet sort of way.  British weather is idiosyncratically variable such that prediction is rather more psychic than meteorological and today is no exception. After hurling rain with the consistency of stair rods most of the night and glowering in a hostile manner most of the day, it turns the heat up the moment I hit the fields.

Not that this evaporates the moisture (I say moisture – it’s more like an Olympic swimming pool dangling on threads at knee-height) from the vegetation.  No. Two yards in and I’m soaked from the feet up and the grass is at chest level so now I’m wading through the equivalent of the Thames and gathering enough seeds to keep me in lawn mowing for the better part of this century.

Donovan the Lonely Horse has friends today, both in outdoor kit.  A nod to him (if it still is him, I’m not that great at equine face recognition) and I’m nearly deposited full length over a patch of nettles.  The thing about long grass is that, while the motion is essentially one of wading through water, the behaviour of the medium is not the same at all.  One wrong placement of the left foot clamps the distal end of a clump to the ground and constrains the proximal end under which one’s right foot is now hooked so that an impromptu triple axel is both beautifully executed and irritatingly unappreciated.  The dogs, of course, are simply further convinced of the madness of humans and in that they are not far wrong. After all, I wouldn’t be out there at all if it weren’t for them. 

From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.

 

Typical NASA …

Asteroid flyby? Pah! It was the Fat Fairies, obviously.

Back in the day, Fat Fairy’s life was an unmitigated misery; at least during the episodes not involving jam sponge or double cheese pizza. She was surrounded by gaggles of thin, twinkly fairies who flitted and flounced through the air on gossamer wings, while her wings were more like the carapace of a large bug. Hence, she didn’t so much flit as lumber into the air in the manner of a VW Beetle being hand-winched upwards by a bunch of inebriated undergraduates. Fat Fairy had no friends and never got invited to star in pantomime, except as a joke when, quite often, she was also required to pretend to be a man in drag.

Read More: http://zouchmagazine.com/fiction-how-the-fat-fairies-saved-the-world-dr-suzanne-conboy-hill-short-story-month/#ixzz4vJnB6nTs

From: How the Fat Fairies Saved the World.

An asteroid came close to the earth, just above our highest satellites, on October 12th. NASA.

‘Rain’

It’s a Bank Holiday here in UK land – or the fifty-first state as it’s more commonly known.  Fifty-first? Fifty-second?  How would I know, I don’t even know how many counties we’ve got here and you could fit the whole shebang into Central Park with room round the edges for immigration and a dog track.  Although you’d have to find somewhere else for the Scots as they are currently on an independence high and sawing their way along Hadrian’s Wall with a view to casting themselves off[1].

Anyway, Bank Holidays are the times when us Brits arm ourselves with barbeque gear, enough food to feed the massed armies of several small republics, and an optimism that consistently fails to be met by reality.  The heavens open, we are deluged with rain and we retreat indoors with all the neighbourhood kids, their dogs and assorted elderly relatives waiting for the men (or man more often, as his mates are now down the pub) to dash in out of the thunderstorm periodically with unidentifiable, partially singed, and often still bleeding, bits of dead animal.

It didn’t used to be like that.  In fact when we wanted to be wholly dispirited and soaked to the skin in the interests of leisure, we would drive for hours to a coastal town in vehicles held together with string and started with the aid of a large spanner.  There we would sit in shelters on the sea front gazing dismally out at the pounding grey sea and rubbing the blisters caused by the compulsory wearing of plastic sandals.  Soggy tomato sandwiches and tea made at five in the morning from a flask that contributed a vaguely metallic flavour to the contents were something of a highlight as this frugal repast at least distracted the adults from that other traditional activity – yelling at the fractious and justifiably whingeing kids.

When that was all over and we had taken another painful stroll along the seafront for the bracing quality of the air, everyone would pile back in the car for the journey home. Dads would then, as one, leap out again and attack the engine with a spanner and off we would all go in clouds of exhaust fumes back to our home towns; all of which seemed to require exactly the same road for roughly 92% of the journey so that an immense queue would build up and vehicles whose spanners and string had not been up to the job would fall by the wayside.

For children, this was a wonderfully exciting diversion as a breakdown might mean the summoning of an AA Man. These jolly chappies would turn up in motorbike and sidecar and salute to your dad, and was that something to talk about at school or what!  It beat a couple of dead leaves and a beetle on the nature table that’s for sure.  If you were really lucky, you got towed to somewhere exotic like Pocklington or Nafferton and didn’t get home until after midnight.

Today, the Bank Holiday weather is doing its thing so it’s on with the wellies and out with the dogs to encounter people who have come to the countryside with the express intention of not meeting any animals.  Please then, go to CenterParks and sit on the astroturf under a polythene propagation tunnel.

[1] In 2014, they hacked through 42% of the way then got confronted by the English with a crack team of Morris Dancers and went home again.

From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.