Before our births, void of choice, we became part of the story,
During our lives, with a choice, we can't escape the story,
After death, abandoned choice, the story continues to seep.
- Andrew Mansell

Category: Short Stories

short stories

Feeling Blue

Walking around to see Liam, I settled on the nicest way to describe him ­– Natural. A pre consumer is what he calls himself though. Everybody else just calls him an unemployed loser. He’s not down about this though; on the contrary, he’s full of optimism, he has a degree in conservation. He’s also odd which most people see as indifference but I see originality. Besides, he’s never boring and that’s all that matters.  Last week he told of his shutdown process and prioritisation.  When unable to afford electricity or gas he’d stop cooking and make a bottle of no-name sauce and a loaf of yesterday’s bread last a week. In winter his jacket from high school was his heater and in summer his undies were his cooler. To save water he’d walk to the park and use the public toilets, said they were safe during the day, but if desperate he would just go in the back garden. He only washed himself when it rained heavily enough. I don’t know what he’d do if he had to pay the rent. Luckily my mum’s the landlord and Liam’s an old mate despite him kissing my sister once.

Waiting for Liam to open the front door, I noticed a downpipe that used to be firmly fixed vertically to a brick wall of the flat, was diagonally strung up by pieces of wire. And instead of entering the ground, the pipe had been duck taped to the edge of a kid’s plastic swimming pool. Mum would have a fit if she ever came over. Liam opened the door.

‘I see you’ve solved the water problem,’ I said.

‘Do you think it’s for drinking or bathing?’ Liam asked.

I didn’t answer as I was immediately distracted by Liam’s outfit. He stood barefoot, wearing a school uniform dress much like the one my sister used to wear. I must say, I was glad the dress was cut below his knees. It then occurred to me that perhaps Liam had more than kissed my sister once.

‘I’m not even going to ask.’ I smirked, not sure how to laugh and cry at the same time.

‘About what?’ Liam twirled his finger in the edge of his beard that had been tinged blue, the colour of sunny days.

‘Couldn’t find the Tbars?’ I asked

‘What?’ Liam stared at me, nonplussed. ‘Everything else is dirty or won’t be dry till later and what were the odds of you coming around?’

‘At least your hair’s not long enough for a pony tail.’ I smiled.

‘That’s an idea.’


Photo by Nick Normal

Photo by Nick Normal

After setting up my new 3D printer, the first thing I thought to print was a girlfriend. I imagined her voluptuous figure – persimmon shaped breasts, taut bottom, wavy blond hair and eyes the colour of summer skies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally into outer surfaces. Her personality was to be – caring, helpful and intelligent. Her clothing stumped me though and I hoped the dress I printed stayed on her forever, saving me the cost of going clothes shopping. I was a uni student who spent my last dollar on a 2 year lease plan just to get the printer. I could have printed her naked but decided that was taking things a little too fast.

That’s when I remembered Gregory and the 200 dollars he owed me. I thought if I could get that money back, the dread of shopping with my new girlfriend might be bearable. Hell, we could probably even see a movie and grab some munchies. Gregory was always broke though, despite him being the instigator, the one to say let’s go out! or how about we order a pizza? or your place will do for the party. It was only later on, when payment was needed, that he’d open his wallet to reveal a black hole.

Gregory had been bragging about a new job for weeks but his stinginess remained a constant, sort of like the stains from bird droppings on an abandoned car. I’d lost count of how many times asking him for my money back.  If only I were a pickpocket.  If only I could print a pickpocket. Yes! I remembered one of my favourite shorts and clicked on The Hitchhiker.

I couldn’t bring  the pickpocket, who described himself as a finger smith, from  Roald Dahl’s story back to life as that would be plagiarism – frowned deeply upon at uni but rife on the internet. In any case, I needed a pickpocket with less class than a fingersmith, like one of those thieves that prey on tourists in Barcelona, somebody with a permanent three day growth, glazy eyes, who cared not if his jeans were ripped  –  somebody who appeared to be unassuming like Gregory or me but with a hidden talent to boot. That way, I wouldn’t raise suspicions when introducing the pick pocket to Gregory as a uni friend or even an overseas student.

I made my pickpocket thinner, shorter, smaller and weaker than me, cunning but not too clever, just in case my new character got out of control and I needed to rein him in. Above all though, I concentrated on the fingers, long and thin, flexible with fingernails that melded seamlessly into the fingertips. With my digital blueprint set, the printer grunted and got to work, beginning at the feet. Bones, tendons and flesh grew before my eyes; designer runners way cheaper than those from a factory outlet came to the fore. In a seemingly random pattern the printer moved upwards; ankles, calves, thighs, hips appeared momentarily to be covered by my made to order, ten year old, navy blue jeans. Then came the gut which I made a little flabbier than mine. I’d always wanted an inwards belly button and gave him one. The upper torso soon covered his ribs and raspberry jelly like heart. His arms were long and thin to match his fingers but also strong and strained like steel wire.

The Depressants

Claire woke before the alarm beeped and remembered to switch it off. The shower was neither hot nor lukewarm; somewhere in between, exactly to her liking. Her clothes were unruffled and her shoes polished. She walked towards the kitchen with expectancy that something had to change; something had to go wrong and spoil this perfect start to the day.

No, not just yet, her thoughts were quelled. She was taken aback by Chris, who had let her porridge cool enough to dollop honey on without it turning to a fast running sap. He poured her coffee and kissed her. His fresh breath persuading her to inhale deeply.

‘Enjoy the rest of your day,’ he said and smiled broadly. ‘’I’m off.’

Claire watched as Chris seemed to glide across the gleaming floor tiles. He left, closing the front door gently. Claire then looked towards a rattling of dishes near the sink.

‘Good morning,’ she said.

Paul washed. ‘Hi mum,’ he said.

Carolyn dried. ‘Morning mum,’ she said.

They finished their job and Paul asked, ’can we watch the cartoons?’

‘You know the rules about school mornings.’ Claire sighed then sipped on her coffee, wondering why rules mattered.

‘But mum,’ Carolyn said. ‘We’ve made our beds, got our lunches ready, done our homework, practised the piano, let the dog out and look – when you’re finished breakfast the dishes will be done.’

This is amazing Clair thought. It’s not even Mother’s day. She glanced around the house and it really was so clean. ‘Oh, alright,’ she finally said. ‘Just this once.’

Cali’s Gate

Andrew Mansell

The chill of the wrought iron gate handle cuts through my fingers. I struggle to release its wedged latch. Above me, iron spearheads pierce the smoggy haze in search of the full moon. The moon flickers like the turning lamp atop a lighthouse. It flickers less often than expected though, as if faulty. Teardrops, the colour of black night, appear and slither down the spears’ bars. Through the bars, I can barely make out the shadowed outlines of Cali’s grey stone house.  She could have at least left one light on. That’s Cali though; I find her indifference desirable. I have no choice but to push harder. The latch finally releases, keeping the skin off several of my knuckles as a memento. Best leave the gate open.

No form of light, not even moonlight, ever reaches the dank entrance to Cali’s. She says the old prison is built of bluestone but never once have the stones been that colour. I knock on the hulking iron-clad door only to hear a dull sound instantly dissipate as if it just got lost. I wonder if the sound made it through to the other side, to Cali. Cop this door. I bang as if I’m angry till my hands lose feeling but I’m still left with no clue as to where the sound goes. Cali’s gate closes and I sense a being pace to and fro behind me. I hope the being is of a prison officer, here to protect me and not one of the prisoners in search of revenge.  I glance back to see nothing. Surely, it’s just the gate’s beating shadow. I keep banging the door; my knuckles scream. By the time Cali appears, my blood has dried and become just like the other numbers scraped into the impenetrable door.

Father’s Day 2012

Photo by Brian Valentine

I’ve thrown away countless faulty plug-in headsets for my PC. This new wireless headset is sure to be my saviour, ensuring another set of expletives are kept to themselves. I’ve no explanation for my technology rage at times. Perhaps, I should simply be more patient. I do try but when the repeated greeting – hello – hello – hello – tonelessly sounds, signalling the end of another headset; I just lose it. No more, I hope. Time to test these bitches – yes, I can hear.

‘Meet me now. I’ve got the bad gear; pure as,’ a male teenage voice says.

‘What will I tell my dad?’ a female teenage voice replies.

‘Just tell him, you’re going to the shops.’

‘Alright, give me five.’

Hang on a minute, that’s Julie’s voice. ‘Testing,’ I say into my new microphone.

‘What? Who’s that?’ The male voice says.

I quickly disconnect.

Before I can think about what Julie’s up to, she’s walked past and told me she’s going down the shop.

‘Hang on,’ I say and raise my voice a notch. ‘What for?’

‘Do you have to know everything?’ She says. ‘Dad, just chill. I won’t be long.’

She’s out the door in a flash. Not a moment to contemplate. By the time I’m outside, she’s ridden off up the street towards the shops. What am I supposed to do now? He has the bad gear which I’m sure is nothing to do with top notch sporting gear. Surely it’s got to be drugs, hasn’t it? Pure as, he did say. I’m definitely not going alone. Well, I’m insinuating a drug deal here. I grab Wagger’s lead and rattle it; a call she’ll do anything for.