November 24th

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She takes a careful look round first. The detective thinks he’s being clever, posing as an ordinary shopper but she sees him straight away. What ‘ordinary’ business man would really spend such a long time trying to choose a baby’s outfit.

She tries to see who he’s got his eyes on. Can’t be her, otherwise he’d be over here where he could see her actually picking up the goods. And it’s then she sees the young mother with the crying toddler in the buggy. She’s done that one before, stuffing goods into the pleats of the rain hood for a laugh, but this one looks as if she’s doing it from real need. The woman’s face is pinched and tired; she’s not even bothering to try to stop her kid sniveling. Bastard detective. Couldn’t he just turn the other way for once, it’s not as if the shop couldn’t afford it. Look at the prices they charge, the jewelry dripping off the shop assistants, the softness of the carpet.
She takes another look at the young mum. She could go over and try to warn her, but time’s short and Kenny’s waiting. She can just imagine his reaction if she came back empty-handed, polishing her halo.

The scarves are light and floating, and in a reverse motion of a conjuror’s trick she waves her arms and watches the bright jewel colours slip up her sleeve. She wants to curtsey in anticipation of applause but when she looks round to see if anyone’s watching, she sees instead the detective walking purposefully toward the mother. She exits quickly, not wanting to catch the inevitable consequences.

In the café Kenny’s stirring his coffee impatiently, barely looking up, not even when a silk rainbow start falling out of her hands and onto the table.


  1. I was sitting in my office waiting for the phone to ring. It hadn´t rung for a while, but I was a patient man. That was my business. Being patient. Then at the slightest whiff of something off, nosing in to sniff things out. My speciality was divorce. But with all the counseling couples were now taking up like a sport, my forte was as strong as lavender in a pot of steaming tar. No match. I was scraping under my fingernails with the letter opener when the phone rang and I almost dropped the receiver.
    “Do you do thefts?” a woman´s voice said, lisping the last word.
    “Lady, I´m a private eye. You need the police.” I was about to slam the phone down and go back to my nails, when she said. “Wait!”
    It wasn´t just the urgency of her voice that kept me connected, it was a certain timbre with husky Lauren Bacall feel to it. I could just see her. Redhead. Had to be.
    I leant back in my swivel chair and tipped my hat into my eyes. “What’s your problem, lady,” I drawled and then heard her sigh.
    “I´ve been robbed.”
    “Police?” I had the feeling we´d been there before.
    “They´ll think I’m crazy.”
    “Maybe I will, too.”
    “Shoot, lady.”
    What she said next sounded like “halo”.
    “Your what?” But business was business. Nutters also got into trouble. Maybe it was code. “Someone pinch it off your head?” Geez, I hoped she had money. My time wasn´t free. “Lady. Hope you can pay. If you can’t, I’ll have to hang up. I’m a busy man.” Yeah. Nails were waiting.
    “I´m sorry,” she said. “Of course I can pay. But you have to believe me.” There was a pause. “How did you know?” she said.

  2. She tries to see who the camera’s got its eyes on. She tries to see the magic eyes but their positions are not clear; hidden amongst bunting, in hanging baskets, on street lamps, road signs, traffic lights, shop awnings or waste paper bins; on the bank, the bandstand, outside the kebab house and the Green Dragon and the burger place; the conservatory in the park, the supermarket car park not to mention inside the shops themselves but of course they started it all.

    She tries to get from one place to another without being captured by them, stalking through the shadows after 4.30 in the afternoon, dressed in a long, black raincoat and wearing a brown headscarf and gloves, sliding along the pavements sideways with her back brushing through the hedges, craning her neck around corners and no doubt attracting curious glances from other people going about their rush hour business.

    Coming back, she retraces her steps precisely, rewinding, pausing and fast forwarding over the cracks in the pavement and hoping that nothing gets in her way or distracts her from her perfect trajectory; she will not be seen.
    She has posted a letter. She has posted a letter in a box on the other side of town. As she gets through the front door, she slips off her wellington boots and runs them under the tap in the kitchen. She dries in between the tread on the soles with a piece of plain kitchen towel and places carefully them back by the door. She runs the kitchen towel under the tap before putting it in the bin. She removes her raincoat and folds it into the washing machine together with her scarf and gloves on programme F which is the quick wash; the pockets are empty of any traces.

  3. Steam rose from shoppers’ coats, from the bubble-and-squeak sizzling in the frying pan, from the mud-brown tea in the mug warming his hands. The café window was so steamed up that he couldn’t indulge in his favourite pastime, watching the shoppers move between the market stalls. He shopped in the market himself, for padded shirts and no-brand shampoo, but you couldn’t watch when you were out there in the bustle. When the window was clear, he could see the handbag stall, which was good because it was always women who stopped there. He liked to watch women. Not in a pervy way, he didn’t hide in gardens at night in case they left the curtains open, but women were nice to look at. He just liked to watch them going about their business. And the window protected him. It was harder to watch women inside the café, because they might see him and feel uncomfortable. He didn’t want to make anyone feel bad. And anyway, there weren’t any good-looking women in here. Two old dears chatting away over tea and toast, they were sweet but not eye candy. Three generations at another table, the mum might have been worth a second glance but she was feeding slop to a whingeing toddler and the grandma was a right old battleaxe. And then it was just single men like himself. Although one of them seemed nervous, his leg jiggling, watching the café door open, then turning his gaze quickly back to the table as a woman joined him. Now she was beautiful, a lovely graceful mover. And evidently a working woman, as she was pulling silk scarves from her sleeves and handing them to him. She never got those on the market. She had real style. That bloke was a lucky bastard.

  4. I was ten years old when they first sent me out to steal. The bag bothered me most. Brown stiff leather. They kept loose potatoes in it, (ones they didn`t use from a five pound bag), in the kitchen, on the floor. It stank. Bits of soil ended up in my fingernails and on my clothes. The handles were frayed down to the white wire, which cut your skin if held for too long. I held it for too long. Later, they told me I held it too high, like a bloody shield. I was making it obvious. They said that was the last thing you did, made it obvious. That was stupid cause that`s how you got caught and if you get caught you are on your own you stupid bitch.

    Dawdling up and down the same isle, reading the labels twenty times, holding things for ages, then putting them back. All the time them watching me. Coffee and salmon. I was to take nothing else. Two large jars of coffee and three tins of boneless salmon. Tinned salmon doesn`t take up much room. Get four tins if it`s easy. I had twenty pence for a packet of malted milk biscuits. When I got to the till I had to make sure the bag was zipped all the way along. The zip had teeth missing and would refuse to slide any further after the halfway mark. Finally I take one jar of coffee and two tins of salmon and drop them into the bag. The zip glides easily to the end and I let out a breath. I stumble heading towards the till. My head fuzzy. The lady smiles and calls me a good girl for doing my mum`s messages. I smile back and step outside into the sunshine.

  5. The policeman was pleasant enough. A plain clothes detective not that much older than she was. He must have joined up straight out of college and they’d stuck him with the easy stuff. She looked up from the floor. His shoes were scuffed brogues with a tooled detail of swirls across the toes. She’d seen them in her mum’s catalogue when she’d been bored enough to look through the men’s pages.

    Polyester brown trousers and matching jacket, the cuffs slightly frayed and a button missing . He sat on the edge of the shop manager’s desk, one leg on the floor and the other up, his hands clasped over the raised knee. He had nicotine stains on his fingers, the nails of his right hand yellow and cracked where he bit then in moments of anxiety. He wasn’t biting them now.


    She shifted her gaze from his fingers to his face. The long hair, well past regulation collar length for a boy, didn’t really suit him. He looked like an in-betweener; neither part of the establishment nor the revolutionaries. He probably listened to Led Zeppelin and thought himself trendy. His moustache did him no favours and emphasized his weak chin.

    “Sorry?” She looked hopeful. “Please don’t tell my mum.”

    “Got to, love, sorry.” His voice softened a bit. “Look. I’ll do it myself. I can see you’re a good girl. You go to the Catholic school, don’t you? Do you go to church?”

    A nod. “Every week.”

    “You’re not going to do it again, are you?” He doesn’t wait for her reply. “You’re only a young-un. We won’t be pressing charges.”

    He lets her go. She still has to tell her mum before he phones up. How do you tell your mum you got caught shoplifting a playboy magazine?

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  8. With some women it’s shoes, with her it’s hats. Without one, she’s nothing much to look at; average height, boring sort of hair not worth wasting money on. Hatted, she is transformed, a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

    Her collection is vast, kept in a small attic room, a shrine to hats. The walls are covered with photos of her, each modelling a different one. Whenever she returns with a new hat, she summons William, who captures it on film. By the following day the image is on her wall.

    Today is her most daring exploit. Hatless, she goes straight to the millinery department in John Lewis. She decided long ago that exclusive Boutiques, whose hats she envies, were too small to be safe.

    She tries on four, the choice is easy to make. She has nothing quite like it, large, black, dramatic. The minute she tries it on, she feels the epitome of elegance. Dare she walk out in something so conspicuous? But she wavers only momentarily; never allows herself to change her plans. She deliberately puts the hat aside, selects a much smaller model, green, which holds no attraction for her. She finds an assistant, tells her she has more shopping to do downstairs; she is given a basket. Back with the hats, she picks up her black beauty, tucks the price tag into its narrow lining and wears it. She hurries downstairs and chooses her perfume.

    At the till, she smiles ruefully. “May I have a refund for the hat if my husband doesn’t like me in it?” The assistant puts perfume and hat in a bag, hardly looking at her. “No problem Madam, provided you bring this receipt.”

    She goes straight to her car, removes her hat; with both now in the bag, she drives home.

  9. Claire let out a high pitched yelp as Kenny grabbed her wrist and yanked her down into the chair.
    “Stupid wench you have a tail. What’s wrong with you? You led him right to me!”
    Claire looked up the street. There was the detective looking into a bookshop window.
    “I …”
    “Shut up!” Kenny growled at her. His hand still held her wrist and he had continued to apply pressure. Her eyes began to tear.
    “Kenny, please, you’re hurting me.” She whimpered.
    “You should have been more careful. Who is he?” Anger flashed in his eyes but he released her.
    “I… I … don’t know. He was in the store but I thought he was watching another woman there.”
    “Brainless fool! I don’t know why I keep you around.” He glared at her. “Okay, look, I’m going out back. Do not, do not follow me and for God sakes don’t go home tonight. Make sure you lose him. Make sure you lose him good before I see you again, you hear!” He leaned towards her looking affectionate to anyone who might be paying attention, but he had placed his hand on her thigh and was digging his nails into her soft flesh.
    She nodded because she could not speak through the pain. He was up and gone before her eyes stopped tearing. She wished she was stronger and could be through with him. She hated him at times but she knew it was her fault. If she hadn’t been so stupid he wouldn’t get so angry. Lost in thought she hadn’t noticed anyone near until the detective sat down. She looked up startled as he signaled the waitress.
    “Hello Claire,” he said.
    “Do I… do I know you?” she asked.
    “Not yet,” he replied. “But I’ve come to rescue you.”

  10. I’ve been sent over here to choose some sleep-suits for our baby, but I don’t know which ones to get. I really can’t face getting this wrong. I really can’t face being grumped at again today.

    ‘Seeing as you can’t do anything else useful,’ she said, ‘go over there and and pick up some sleep-suits. The newborn ones are cramping his toes. Get the nought-to-three-months, with built-in scratch mitts. And poppers, don’t get any with buttons. And I want the ones with feet in. Don’t get any of the towelling type either, they’re too scratchy.’

    Mmm, I thought. Just like you.

    Don’t get me wrong. I saw what she went through for the birth alone, let alone all the breast-feeding, nappy-changing, dressing, bathing, the getting up in the night. I think I’d be pretty grumpy on five hours (broken) sleep. The problem is that she won’t let me do very much. I am allowed to cook, and change the odd nappy, but that’s about it. She moans that I don’t help, but when I try, she just says I’m useless, and that it’d be quicker to do it herself.

    I wish she’d let me show her that I can be a competent parent too.

    So, at last she has let me out of her sight, to choose some clothes for my baby. But I can’t decide whether to get the blue ones (too predictable), or the white ones (too boring), or the beige ones, which I quite like, but am afraid my wife will say won’t match his room (bright green and yellow).

    There’s another woman over there, and I’m tempted to ask her opinion; but she keeps giving me funny looks, and the last thing I want is another dubbing today.


  11. She thought of herself as a thief.

    She closed her eyes and tried to listen to the next soul that would be hers. She could see it behind her eyes, red and shifting, an unformed shape that emitted heat.

    The soul belonged to a little girl, no older than twelve. Her cold, white skin glowing in the darkness, she made her way towards the child.

    When she stood in front of the girl, she sighed. Death was not an easy job; it was a necessary occupation.

    She crouched down so that she could talk to the girl. She looked up at her with green eyes that were shiny with pain. "Who are you?" the girl whispered.

    "A friend." Death filled her voice with warmth, though she did not feel any under her skin.

    "I've never had a friend before." The girl coughed and Death saw blood cover the snow around them.

    "I'd like to be your friend." Death said. "If you'd let me."

    She reached out and touched the girl, brushed her matted blond hair back from her face. It felt like straw. "How did you come to be here?"

    "I ran away." The girl said. "He was hurting me." Tears began to slide from the girls eyes, forming icy tracks on her face.

    "I won't let anyone else hurt you." Death said. She leaned down and kissed the girl on the forehead. She watched as her coldness took the life from the girl, as the girls soul began to leave her body like smoke.

    Death gathered up the soul into her hands and opened them to reveal a ruby, shining bright. She placed it in her bag that hung from her neck, sighed, and went to find the next soul.

    As she ran, icy tears ran down her cheeks.

    Jamieson Wolf

  12. Kenny’s in the café. ‘She’s been too long,’ he thinks, ‘what’s she doing in there?’ The parking must have nearly run out and he can see a warden on the far side of the square. Doesn’t seem to be doing much at the moment, though, just staring vacantly down the street. ‘She’s been too long.’

    The warden is on the corner. It’s not his usual beat, but there’s a few people off at the moment, so things are stretched. ‘I need a bloody holiday,’ he thinks, and then suddenly notices his wife, who he thought was at home, rush across the road further down and into the expensive lingerie shop. ‘What’s she doing in there?’

    His wife rushes into the shop and stops. She’s in a hurry, but wants to get just the right thing. It’s never simple. ‘I need a bloody holiday,’ she thinks, feeling the delicate burr of expensive white lace between her carefully manicured fingers. Glancing up, she catches the condescending eye of the young girl behind the counter. ‘What’s she looking at?’

    The young girl stares into space. The money’s ok, but she’s rather do something else with her Saturdays. This is boring. The shop’s been open nearly two hours, and no-one’s actually bought anything yet. She looks through the window at a woman gazing in. ‘What’s she looking at?’ she thinks, ‘way too old for this sort of thing.’

    The woman pauses by the window. She doesn’t really want anything, doesn’t really even see anything, just wants to take a few minutes to gather her composure. She’s too clever to show it, but her heart’s racing. It always does. ‘Way too old for this sort of thing,’ she thinks, subtly adjusting the bright fabric secreted beneath her nondescript coat. ‘Ah, well. Kenny will be waiting.’

  13. She looked over the fabulous mountain of colour into the awful darkness of his eyes, trying to gauge his reaction.
    They threatened anger and indifference.
    Her hand moved involuntarily to her throat with its own remembrance of the last time. When he had grabbed her, choking her life out, for nothing. Choking, choking. And her feeling as if he would never let her go.

    Kenny looked over the pile of stuff on the table, and sighed as he lifted his gaze to her stupid face.
    Not for him, the excited anticipation of a lover’s gift, chosen for the sheer extravagance, the pure delight of it. Just the chore of dragging down to the pub and trying to con a few quid out of some mug.
    He’d warned her. If she couldn’t do better than this he’d have to let her go.

    The security man looked over the pile of plastic packaged absorbent pads. He thought about breaking it open and giving her one so she could at least use it to deal with the source of the horrible smell which was rapidly permeating every square inch of his cramped office. It was so strong that after seconds he could feel it creeping into his suit and discolouring the pile of empty forms in front of him that he was about to start filling in.
    He could do with an easy conviction to keep up his monthly figures, but wondered if it might be simpler to give her a quick warning and just let her go.

    She looked over her baby’s rain hood into the detective’s eyes, unaware of his discomfort, so accustomed herself to accommodating its cause.
    He looked as if he’d rather be somewhere else. What might she offer him to look the other way and let her go?

  14. 'Where the hell have you been?' Kenny says in his 'quiet' voice. She can almost taste his frustration bubbling up, like the froth on his coffee.

    She shrugs. Plonks down in the seat opposite. He finally looks up before glancing at the mound of pink and orange froth on the table. His calloused hand fondles it for a few seconds (it's almost obscene). She does her best not to shudder. He finally spits out 'What good's a bit of material? I've told you. How many times have I told you to grab the expensive stuff, the ...' 'It IS expensive, Kenny, just look at the label, it's ...' 'Are you taking the piss, or what?' he almost shouts. The effort of not shouting brings out white bits of spittle at the corners of his mouth. She tries not to grimace. 'Sorry' she mumbles in a not-sorry voice. She knows he's too thick to notice. She WAS taking the piss. As well as being a pig, Kenny ws an illiterate pig, couldn't read or write to save his fucking life. She tried to remember why they'd hooked up back then. It brought on the start of a headache. She realized who the biggest headache was at THIS table. 'Are you listening?'

    She nodded.

    She wasn't.

    Kenny rustled around in his coat pocket for a few seconds before bringing out, under cover of the serviette, a couple of expensive-looking watches. He leered at her before poking her arm with a dirty fingernail. 'Now THAT'S a job well one' he said. She didn't say anything. She tried to return his watery smile. It wasn't working today. And it hadn't worked yesterday either.


    Bastard pig.

    She'd had enough. Wants shot. Two of a kind. Wonders if that bastard detective is still around ...

    Louise Laurie

  15. She dressed in the same dowdy outfit every day. A grey skirt, plain blouse, black shoes with matching bag. She might have been an office worker, a shop assistant, someone browsing for an outfit for a friend’s new baby. An inconspicuous non-entity.

    She longed to dye her bobbed hair burgundy, wear hooped earrings, flowing skirts that barely covered her sequinned flip-flops. But this role demanded sobriety and she was obliged to conform. As a ‘resting’ actress she was desperate for cash, but this was not her forte and she had to rely on her imagination to make it bearable.

    When she placed a firm hand on a shoulder, marched the culprit to the manager’s office, was rewarded with a nod, she felt cheated. Where was the applause, the foot stamping, the cheering? And where was the satisfaction of escorting an old man with watery eyes, trembling hands who had merely taken a warm jumper for his granddaughter’s sickly child. She turned away, reluctant to witness the manager’s smug expression; wished she had ignored the misdemeanour as she had that of the young mother whose bony shoulders, drawn features had been too much.
    ‘Don’t let me catch you again,’ she’d murmured, tempted to add a warm coat to the bootees she’d seen her drop into a plastic bag.

    The schoolgirl in her posh uniform was another matter. She watched as she lifted a talking doll from the top shelf and popped it into her ‘New Look’ carrier. But maybe this cool teenager had never been loved; maybe the doll would answer her needs?

    No, this job was too painful. After a week she handed in her notice and as she left the shop she filled her arms with soft toys, bundles of woolly coats, bobble hats and didn’t look back once.

  16. It wasn’t until I was paying for the shopping that I realised something was missing. I couldn’t pin point it at first. I checked for my handbag and the carrier bag containing the baby grow I’d bought in town. Then of course, I knew, it was you I’d forgotten. A feeling of panic swept through me. What had I done? The worst of it was I couldn’t think when I’d last had you.

    The girl at the counter was getting impatient so I dumped my goods and ran back to retrace my steps. Through the pharmacy, past the washing powders, past the chocolate aisle where I must admit I’d dallied quite a while before selecting the hazelnut. On past the cheese counter, yoghurts and milk, turning the corner into cold meats, sausages, hams, past the mince and then at the very instant it came back to me, there you were, completely oblivious, asleep in your buggy in the poultry aisle next to the chicken breasts.

    One or two shoppers were giving you odd glances, clearly not sure what they should do. Had someone taken you and had second thoughts? Had some poor mother found it all too much and abandoned you where she knew you’d be found? No, you were just forgotten. I got a little side tracked. It must have been when I was deciding what to put with chicken for supper that evening. I probably wandered off in search of a ‘Cook in Sauce’.

    I retrieved you as casually as I could, as if there was nothing unusual about leaving you there for a while.

    You didn’t mind – you slept through the whole ordeal. When I reached the checkout, my shopping had been put back on the shelf. I didn’t feel like going back and starting again somehow.

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  19. The whole gang do it. Every Saturday afternoon they join the throngs in town and try to conceal a few little extras in their pockets and bags. Bracelets, lip gloss, scarves and free cover-gifts from magazines. Anything which can easily be hidden is game for them.

    They know it is wrong. Most of these items are easily affordable, but the thrill of danger is addictive. All around the stores are notices in many languages, threatening to prosecute shoplifters. Of course retailers are far too aware of the threat nowadays to stock anything valuable without security tags. Almost every shop has its own uniformed guard, standing around looking bored. Door alarms go off with such regularity that nobody really takes any notice.

    They split up so as not to attract unwanted attention. They hunt in twos or threes, so at least one can act as decoy and stand nearest to the direction of security camera. They act like the privately-educated middle class girls they are and do not arouse suspicion. At school on Monday they will compare their loot and sell some items on, in order to help finance their drugs.

    The police really aren’t interested in them. They are too busy trying to arrest gangs of Eastern European pickpockets and the dodgy Koreans trying to flog bootleg DVDs in the shopping precinct. Every so often though, something happens to make the girls think. They see a teenage Goth being handcuffed outside HMV. A scruffy young woman is surrounded by security guards outside Primark and led away, loudly protesting her innocence to a gathering crowd and sobbing that her three young children are waiting for her out on the street.

    It won’t happen to them, of course. But if it ever did, Emily’s father just happens to be a criminal lawyer…

  20. His stares blankly into the steaming swirls in his cup, blinking spasmodically as she adds a pair of diamond shaped earrings, a stirling silver bracelet and cufflinks onto the table. Kenny wants to make a move. Go somewhere else. Be someone. Be seen. Doing this didn’t give him that certain thrill anymore. He flicks ash from the cigarette into the ashtray and took a puff, elongating the circles of smoke with his mouth as he tilts his head upwards, staring first at the ceiling then at the table and back to the coffee, mind decidedly made up.

    Kenny’ll get enough for the job done well today. More rizlas, more rounds. No problem. The money she sacrificed for him over the year and a half, bought the single ticket at long last. Plans in place, bags packed, certain for the first time, he kisses her for the last time, starting with a peck on the cheeks moving to her forehead and finally to her hair as he voices inaudibly, ‘back in an hour or two, said I’d meet Mark at The Horse & Cart’.

    He moves his chair back, stands, snatches everything on the table and bundles them into his carry-all. Nothing wasted, nothing lost. Just one brief look around, he hesitates for a split second before disappearing down the alleyway. She’ll go home now and make herself a corned beef and pickle roll before settling down in front of the tv. She’ll leave some oven chips out for him.

    Except that tonight, he’ll be on his way to the Straits of Gibraltar where he’ll be part of the ‘Dream Boys’ act on a cruise around the Mediterranean. They’ll love him. They’ll make him feel special, wanted and felt. Kenny made his made up. Sometime soon, he’ll explain why. He will.


  21. This one used to be a bit touch-and-go but today the scarves are light and floating as she waves her arms in the reverse motion of a conjuror’s trick and watches the bright jewel colours slip up her sleeve. It must be love she thinks with a grin. Ever since she met Kenny her knack for making things disappear up her sleeve or into her bag or the hood of a buggy has never been easier, it’s like magic.

    When his angular fingers tease her size eighteen folds of flesh with their feather-light strokes and he breathes the barely audible words “my little bandit queen” into her neck, she knows that she will do anything for Kenny. No one has ever loved her like this.

    None of her previous lovers ever came close to discovering the secret of her compulsive habit, but Kenny adores her for it, encourages her. It’s what first brought them together. He’d spotted her slipping an eye cream into her pocket in Selfridges last Christmas. He’d followed her into the street then stopped her, saying he was a security guard and would she come with him. Then he’d laughed and said he meant come with him for a drink. Things had blossomed from there.

    Just knowing that she’s doing it for Kenny makes the thrill more intense. She doesn’t always understand everything on his list – sometimes there are even women’s perfumes and last week, a size ten leather jacket – but she doesn’t care. All that counts is his approving nod when she returns each day with her loot, her love booty, as she likes to think of it.

    In the café Kenny’s stirring his coffee impatiently, barely looking up, not even when a silk rainbow starts falling out of her hands and onto the table.

  22. I was shuttling between the hall where the T.V was kept when a mega serial was on and the
    kitchen Preparing hot coffee for the family. The village land lord was chasing and chasing the
    urchin for stealing mangoes in his garden, and the fear ridden boy fleeing for life ,lest he should
    be whipped, tied to a tree, and in the process the hunted fell into the ground well. My palpitation
    came to a halt. when the tragic scene came I dropped the coffee mug, much to the sudden
    diversion of the rest of the family.

    It was morning 10A.M. “ see ma, please clear all the semi rotten tomatoes, onions chillies,
    Potatoes and defunct vegetables to the backyard so that inside supermarket would be tidy”.
    The manager addressed the women workers so that they would clear all the decayed and
    discarded in a baskets be shared among themselves. That was the daily routine.
    Seethamma’s was not here in the shop, her mind was meandering about the girl baby in the
    Cradle, though she was segregating the vegetables,”tender, wriggling in the cloth cradle hung
    to the beam of the thatched roof, her drunken husband ,a watchman getting a pittance, is my
    aged mother-in-law awake to feed the baby with thin diluted milk”. Her eyes fell upon a
    milk powder, branded AMUL,quiely tucked underneath, the basket, started moving to the
    backyard. The supervisor to unease her burden came near the entrance ,gave her a helping hand,
    whereby the basket almost tilted and on the verge of falling all the rotten vegetables betraying
    AMUL milk powder. HE said “I shall pay for the tin.”
    I was at the counter, “thank you very much",tears swelled, folding both her
    hands, the sweeper, pleaded with the vigilant supervisor.
    Ordinary woman, extraordinary situation.

  23. Kenny grunted when she sat down.
    ‘Is that it?’ he asked. ‘I’ll give you a quid each for them.’
    ‘These are pure silk,’ she told him ‘ they sell for fifty pounds each.’
    ‘Take it or leave it’ he said.

    With some of his suppliers, she knew he’d offer a pittance, knowing they needed every penny; they couldn’t afford to turn him down. She knew he offered her a pittance because she didn’t need the money. She drove around in a Mercedes, and looked like she belonged in the shop she’d liberated the scarves from. She did it for the kicks.

    Not like that exhausted woman with the grizzling kid. Where was the joy, the satisfaction when you had no choice? She prayed to the god of credit cards and Chanel that she would never be like that again. It had been tough, then. In a one-bedroom flat with a screaming baby and a layabout boyfriend who wasn’t capable of changing a nappy. Then Adam had come along; her friend Paula’s dad. He’d taken a shine to her and had installed her in a nice apartment. He wasn’t into kids, so she’d had to leave everything behind. A fresh start he’d called it.

    ‘Well then?’ Kenny interrupted her thoughts.
    ‘Call it two pounds each and you have a deal’ she said, liking to make him pay. His eyes narrowed and he fingered the bright coloured silkiness strewn over the table. Then he gathered it up and pushed a crumpled note towards her.

    After he’d left, she ordered a coffee. Sipping it slowly, she wondered what she should do with the rest of her day. When the waitress brought her the bill, she neatly folded the ten-pound note into four and handed it to the girl.
    ‘Keep the change’ she said.

  24. Ted had a nose for these things. His suspicions were first raised the day the couple moved into Number 47 across the street. He was outside trimming his hedge when the wife arrived; she had wild dark hair, tamed by the thick rope of a plait, cheeks as earthy as apples. She wore a green flowing skirt with tiny bells sewn on that chimed as she walked. He didn’t see the husband that day, nor had he seen him since, though he was led to believe there was one.

    Ted had viewed No.47 when it was on the market, seen the outdated fixtures, the damp and grime for himself, so he was surprised when the new occupants didn’t start work straight away. It was then he decided to keep a notebook on Number 47. Unseen behind the bedroom net curtains he jotted down the couple’s many visitors. The wife always answered the door, smiling meekly, dressed in her trademark floaty skirts. The visitors didn’t fit a particular age group, but they were predominantly male and this led him to conclude they were indulging in drugs, prostitution or both.

    He’d been in the loft and would have missed the ambulance if it wasn’t for the siren. He rushed to the window to see a man on a stretcher, wrapped in a blanket secured by thick black straps.

    ‘Irene, come and look at this,’ he said, thinking either a heart attack taken at the peak of the moment or an overdose.

    ‘Poor man’ said Irene.

    ‘Do you know something?’ he asked.

    Apparently he’d got it wrong.

    ‘That’s the husband, fell seriously ill just before they moved in,’ Irene told him, ‘this looks like the end.’

    But Ted decided to keep watching her all the same, his nose didn’t normally let him down.

  25. Red: roses; the colour of your blood; garnets; rubies; claret. The Scarlet Pimpernel. Scarlett O’Hara. Little Red Riding Hood. Stop! Danger! Fire! Your lipstick, your nails. Rosy apples. Strawberries, cherries, redcurrants. The colour of your face when you see the man you love. Hearts. Flowers. Tomatoes. Red wine.

    Orange: juice; squash. Orangeade. Oranges are not the only fruit. Orangetown. Orangemen. Orangutan? Orange Pekoe. Orange blossom. Orange water. The glow of a sunset. That jumper you always used to wear. Lucozade when you’re ill. Ginger cat; marmalade; candied peel; glazed carrots. Pumpkins. Lentils.

    Yellow: sunflowers; bananas; custard. Primroses. Daffodils. Yellow belly cowardy custard. Mustard. A bowl of lemons. Your car. Buttercups; butterscotch; butter. Sherbert fountains. Stars. Sunshine. Golden sands. Golden syrup. Maple syrup. The colour I painted the walls in my bedroom.

    Green: limes; celery; asparagus. Green light, green room, greenback. Green, green grass of home. Deep water. A walk in a forest. Emerald eyes. Surgical scrubs. Chinese jade. Snooker tables. Green fingers; green tea; greengage. Pine needles. Christmas trees. Christmas. Green tea. Green with envy.

    Blue: skies and seas. The blue lagoon. Singing the blues. Blue Hawaii. Electric blue; cobalt blue. Baby blue eyes. Blue for a boy. My blue, blue heart. True blue. Bluebird. Blue for you. Blueprint. The colour of your best suit. Speedwell. Forget-me-not. Bluebells. Blue with cold.

    Indigo: dark and inky. Deep skies. Blacker than black. Purple heart. Purple prose. Velvet petals of pansies. Mascara and smutty eye make up. Huge eyes. The edge of your iris where it meets your pupil. Crocuses, tulips, irises. Crisp tissue paper.

    Violet: is a flower. Parma violets. Crystallized violets. Your aunt Violet. Lilac. Mauve. Pyjamas; skimpy underwear. Icing on a birthday cake. Litmus paper that can’t make its mind up. Basildon Bond notepaper. Little sugar flowers. Ultra violet light.

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  27. Once there was a boy who dreamed fantastically vivid, fully scored, Technicolor dreams. Sometimes he’d wake up exhausted from all the laughing, playing, and, yes, flying through worlds he’d never seen.

    Every morning, over porridge and orange juice, he’d recount his adventures to his mother and brother. When asked about their dreams, they’d only say, “Can’t remember” or “I never dream.”

    After a while, the boy’s dreams began to dissipate. The pictures in his mind garbled like satellite TV during a thunderstorm.

    “Maybe it’s The Dream Thief,” his brother chuckled, in response to the boy’s laments.

    “That’s enough,” his mother said. “Hurry up, or you’ll miss the school bus.”

    That night, he stuffed pillows under his blankets to make it look like he was sleeping. Armed with Red Bull and a baseball bat, he hid under the bed. The house grew silent and the hours crept by. He was about to give up when he saw unfamiliar black slippers.

    He swung the bat at the intruder’s ankles, caffeine-enhanced adrenalin trumping any trepidation. He pulled himself out from under the bed and found a wiry man on the floor, knocked unconscious by the fall. A silken black bag lay next to him. The boy, ever so gingerly, peered inside …

    Dad playing baseball, a cauldron of dragon’s fire, Grandma’s chocolate cakes, free-floating roller coasters and a laugh-filled snowball fight in Wembley Stadium. Smells of oranges and peanuts and campfire-roasted marshmallows. A Dalek with butterfly wings?

    The stranger stirred. Opening his eyes, he gasped — terrified to see the Louisville slugger standing above him, clutching his loot.

    “Why would you want to steal people’s dreams?”

    “If everyone held on to those,” the thief pointed to his satchel, “we’d have more artists than accountants. What kind of world would that be?”

  28. I want to have a fable written about me,
    my conjuring tricks... the allure where others
    want to know me, the aura of a heady scent--

    jasmine at night with fireflies--silk scarves
    embroidered butterflies threaded
    in iridiscent tones. In a previous life, I was princess

    slash concubine of the Chinese Emperor.
    I wasn't always pure, but good luck came my way
    in the form of red slippers. I was reborn a red fox,

    with slim legs and nimble feet, people wrote tales
    about me but I was always misunderstood,
    they always wanted my comeuppance--I could evade

    them so they always hunted me, strung me up
    as vermin. The last time as fox, I was born on the steppe
    south of Kunlun where Queen Xi Wang Mu,

    protrectress of Immortal Peaches, tended orchards.
    None of the nomads in Bod ever called me
    a wild animal. I was simply, wa, fox, and I ran

    by portraits of buddhas and paintings of mantras
    painted on rocks. I circled a sacred stone twice
    but stole a snow leopard's prey. This time around,

    I'm gorgeous young with beautiful feline eyes,
    but I can never stop stealing, never stop wanting,
    never stop disdaining others' ignorance, never overcome

    my need to abscond.The detective I abhor was once my lover,
    last time my fox mother. Such are the ways of the world
    of rebirth and karmic retribution. Kenny, my lover,

    doesn't believe in rebirths or karma, he's a nihilist
    slash former Catholic, alcoholic and heroin addict.
    But I have forseen my future. Sirens at twelve fifty-one,

    I'll run, the policemen, hounds in former life. I'll be cornered,
    one will covet me, but an accident will occur. My files
    will be stolen. This time, I'll hold the mantra on my tongue
    and swallow it and be reborn a nun.

  29. Trevor’s retirement heralded the passing of age old tradition. Finally, father time gently tapped him on the shoulder, strongly advising a ‘little chat’ followed by life changing, enforced action. This, to his credit, was exactly the manner in which he dutifully fulfilled his professional obligation every working day for thirty years previously. His honour was signing off possessing full knowledge of his elevated, almost mythical status; Trevor Wilkes, last of the great ‘route one’ covert investigators.

    Throughout a colourful career entrapping dishonesty, remaining loyal to a self imposed ‘no informer’ policy provided his backdrop to success. Reliance on word of mouth or technological innovation failed to deter. ‘By Stealth’ was the only Modus Operandi worth embracing.

    Trevor was an instinctive predator; a water serpent lying hidden within the silent, murky depths of swamp reeds, patiently awaiting his prey. A gratified smile flickered across his stony features; his memory banks launched past glories into sharp contrast as a final farewell.

    Usually, it started with something small, like a chocolate bar or canned drink. Unfortunately, once the core is exposed, virulent, destructive rot ensues. Within three months, pilfered confectionary metamorphasises into organised crime, whether goods or cash.

    During those three decades in situ, police transcripts illustrate at least one weekly substantiated apprehension resulting in prosecution (not including scores of ‘smash mouth’ apprehensions when the perpetrator attempted violent escape).

    Not once did his morality challenge his designated targets, ultimately objects of obsessive attention every week. Why should he worry? They were always guilty.

    Zero succession provided his only concern. His departing void required expertise and specialism. Public shoplifting was the domain of rookies. An ongoing war –his war- against countless numbers of staff electing to steal from their employer was expected to be fought without the benefit and wisdom of its hardiest general.

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  31. Sometimes she’d look at people with two children – or three or four – and wonder how they maintained any semblance of normality when she found it so tough with just one. Just one active, headstrong, determined toddler, past the stage of sitting quietly in the buggy but not yet amenable to reason. If she took her eyes off him for a second he’d be emptying shelves and knocking things off displays. Once she found him posting groceries under the buggy and had nightmares for weeks about being apprehended by store detectives. Another time he lifted all the shoes off a stand in Marks and Spencer and dropped them one by one onto the down escalator, so they piled up at the bottom in a higgledy-piggledy heap.

    The week she had flu she was at her wits end. She struggled out to the chemist for day nurse , but she hadn’t dreamed how alluring the shelves of shampoo and toothbrushes could be to a two-year-old. He’d never climbed out of the buggy before, but within minutes he’d wriggled free, and when she tried to manhandle him back in he screamed so loudly everyone in the shop turned round. When she saw the pharmacist approaching she felt like weeping. Felt like walking out and leaving him, quite frankly. See if you can do any better, she’d say.

    But the woman crouched down and held out a small brown medicine bottle. She shook it gently and his tears stopped instantly.

    “Back in here and you can have it,” she said. “Don’t worry, Mum, there’s nothing harmful in there.”

    So this was what they meant by a guardian angel, she thought, watching her son being strapped in again without a murmur. Nothing anyone did for her, ever again, would make her feel quite so grateful.

  32. She was seven when she discovered the treasure at the end of the rainbow. It was hidden at the bottom of her Grandma’s wardrobe, underneath a pile of exotic silk scarves. She loved peeking inside the old oak wardrobe, usually when her Grandma was making the tea or tending to the plants in the garden. The wardrobe was bursting with fur and lace, velvet and silk. It reminded her of the magic wardrobe in one of her favourite books; the wardrobe that led to Narnia.

    Each time she visited the wardrobe she would select a fabric that best suited her mood. On thoughtful days when her head was full of questions she would spend the time tracing the intricate patterns of a white lace shirt or black lace bolero with her fingers. It helped her find the answers. On angry days when she wanted to stamp and shout she liked to run her palms along the sleeve of a velvet dress or jacket. It helped her relax. On days when she felt bored she would brush a silk scarf against her cheek. It took her to far off places. But it was the fur days she enjoyed the most. These were the days when she didn’t feel much at all and would sink her face into a lush fur coat until it made her sneeze.

    It was a silk day when she found the treasure. She felt it whilst carefully replacing a yellow silk scarf back in its correct position in the pile. Her Grandma kept her scarves in the order of the colours of the rainbow. She peered underneath the bottom red scarf and there it was sparkling like a star, the most beautiful object she’d ever seen. She picked up the ring and put it in her pocket.

    Sarah Charsley

  33. I put cream on my face first. I was told that it sets your make-up. Not sure what that means, but you never know, it might stop the odd wrinkle or two. Then I dab on concealer along the side of my nose and under my eyes, and then I blend it in. Next is the foundation. There are lots of shades to choose from, but I know which one suits me now, so I use the same shade unless I've recently tried the self-tanning stuff. The blusher is next. I prefer the powdered kind unless I can't get the cellophane wrapper off easily. I find that a large brush is better. It gives a smoother finish. Those silly little brushes you get with the blusher aren't any good, but they have bigger and better ones in stock further down the aisle.

    Then I put on my eye shadow. I have a different colour every day. It's nice to have a change. Black for mascara: if you want to get your eyelashes noticed you might as well go for the black.

    Now I don't know about you, but when I put on my mascara I pull a funny face. I open my mouth, look down my nose and try to pull my cheeks down so that I don't smudge the lower lashes. So I always look round first. I'd feel such a fool if anyone saw me. That's the problem with doing it in public.

    Anyway, when I looked round this morning I saw this girl nicking silk scarves. I was really shocked. Thieving toe-rag, I thought. Then I put on my lipstick. They've got these new glitter ones at the moment. I replace everything neatly and leave the shop. I'm ready for the day now that I've got my face on.


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