Hiding Wednesday | Short Story

When I realised my hairdresser was an ex-student of mine, I blushed and hid behind my new prescription glasses. When I saw another student walk through the door, I full-on dug my nose into Hello! magazine. And when I witnessed them noticing one another for the first time in almost thirteen years, I peered over both and watched as the magic unfolded.

‘Daniel Harris?’

‘Eric.’

Daniel’s outstretched hand is crushed by Eric’s embrace.

‘You became a hairdresser then.’

‘Yeah, couldn’t pass up on that pun, could I?’ He points to a sign.

‘Eric Candu Hair,’ reads Daniel. ‘It’s terrible. I love it.’

They both laugh and the other hairdresser stops scissoring. She’s watching too.

‘What brings you here then? Everyday cut or am I also getting an invitation to a wedding today.’

Daniel laughs.

‘No wedding for me, I’m afraid. My dad’s getting remarried soon though, so I’ll send him your way.’

’Appreciate it.’

‘No worries. But, yeah. No girl for me. The only one I ever loved is off exploring the world now, spending her millions.’

‘Millions? Are you talking about Jessica Steel?’

Daniel nods. Another student! Yes, I remember now. I used to sit them together because I thought they liked one other. When the news came that she had won the lottery I was thrilled. To think she left this boy so heartbroken. An audible ‘Gosh’ slips out my mouth and Eric points to me.

‘You hear that?’ he says. ‘You’re scaring my clients!’

Daniel apologises to me, then reiterates that it is true.

‘What’s also true,’ he says, ‘is that today I need to find confidence in myself and Dr, I mean, Ruth, my soon-to-be step-mum, she suggested a haircut, so here I am.’

‘And what do you need confidence for?’

‘Well, today, I’m taking over Dr Tubbs’ clinic.’

‘Dr Tubbs? Wow. So if I cut off your ear—’

Daniel laughs.

‘No. It’s a vets.’

‘Ah. Wait. Wow. Miss Wednesday!’

I start and almost drop my magazine.

‘What about her?’ says Daniel.

‘Do you remember that day she asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up? You said a superhero with the power to communicate with dogs.’

‘Yeah. I had just lost my labradoodle, Hodge Podge.’

‘Man, that inspired me so much. You know, you gave me the confidence to be a hairdresser.’

‘No way.’

Eric nods and pulls Daniel in for another hug.

‘I’m glad I can return the favour at last. Take a seat, my friend. This one’s on the house.’

I’m overcome with emotion. Tear up like the old sop that I am, as the other hairdresser checks her list of bookings. We lock eyes and there’s a twinkle in hers and I see the temptation of announcing my identity dancing across her lips. I don’t know if I want her to or not. I leave the decision in her skilled hands.

Final Injection | Short Story

If you are a writer, the stakes are zero. Write a dreadful book, what’s the worst that can happen? You self-publish. Whoopee! I would love to self-publish! In fact, I just want the time to finish a damn book! If only. If only I wasn’t a vet. If only I had your “problem”, Daniel.

‘It’s because of the money,’ he murmurs. ‘I thought because my grades had improved I could do it, but school is fifty grand and…’

I lose my temper with him, say he should have thought about this already. His shoulders hunch over and he’s almost shorter than me. 90% of pet owners don’t want to be in the room when I inject their supposed loved ones, so the animal’s last moments are spent frantically looking around for their owners; it’s disgraceful how similar Daniel’s eyes look. Am I injecting him with my poisonous tongue and hateful mind? Is this the power of the wordsmith? Maybe I’m not fit anyway.

‘I do have one idea,’ says Daniel, fidgeting with a rigid otoscope before accidentally dropping it onto our well-organised table. I sigh and motion for him to continue.

‘I thought,’ he says, ‘that maybe you might like to be my sponsor?’

‘£50,000 to send a clumsy assistant off to university. Pah!’ Daniel is at a loss for words. Poisoned once again. To tell the truth: this is the first time I’ve ever seen him drop anything. A rare talent with his hands. But I want to believe it’s for his own good, that I’m saving him from the pain that comes with this job. However, his eyes remind me this is not my decision to make. Maybe he doesn’t want to write a book, I tell myself as a smile lines my lips and fear frolics across my assistant’s.

‘Actually,’ I say, ‘I will sponsor you. But only if—’ Daniel interrupts to thank me, but I hold on to my condition with a firm finger pointed upwards. ‘I will sponsor you if you agree to do something for me.’

‘Anything,’ he says; although, he means anything within reason and I’m sceptical where my demand lies.

‘I will sponsor you,’ I say, ‘if you agree to take over this practice.’ Daniel’s eyes widen. Yes. He frantically searches for his phone so he can tell his father and once again I think about how 90% of people don’t want to be in the room when I inject their loved ones. I didn’t give his father the choice.

Let me know what you thought about this story in the comments below? What do you think of the two characters?

Lottery | Short Story

04 – 05 – 22 – 26 – 31 – 35

My thumb drags across these sticky numbers as the church bells ring out behind me. What would I do with the money? Pay off Mum and Phil’s mortgage? That’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it. After that… I dunno. Pay for Daniel to go to veterinary school? He’s been working so hard lately; makes me proud. And ashamed. Proud of him, but ashamed of, well. I don’t even wanna go to university anymore. I want to travel. You know. Everywhere once and nowhere in particular. Badger Farm to Milan. Just imagine.

‘Didn’t even get ID’d in the end,’ I say, pocketing the ticket and pulling my hair up into a pony. Mum laughs. Then, I see Daniel making his way across the road; I cut Mum off mid-sentence. ‘Sorry, got to go. He’s here. Nah, he didn’t text me nothing earlier. I think he’s pretending he forgot; wants to surprise me later. Yeah, you know me, already planned the face. Haha! Yeah, okay. Bye, bye, bye, bye.’

‘Mum?’ Daniel asks. I beam up at him from my perch on the church wall.

‘Who else?’ I wrap my arms around him and squeeze hard. His arms hang limp by his sides. ‘What’s the matter?’

‘Um, biology,’ he says, looking down at my Air Force 1s. ‘I need to spend more time on it.’

I crease up, pull his chin to mine. ‘You’re telling me. I scraped by with an “E” last year.’

He doesn’t see the funny side. Turns away without giving me a kiss and repeats that he needs to study more. Worry wrinkles my forehead. Then I realise he’s doing a bit. Eyes empty, voice ice cold, all so I don’t suspect nothing.

I play along.

‘Need some time to yourself? That it?’ I tease. He looks at me like I’ve just told him I love someone else. I smirk.

‘It’s just,’ he says to me, ‘I only barely got the grades last year and now…’ He’s shaking his head, pulling at the baby hairs on the back of his neck. I wonder when he got so good at acting.

‘I love you,’ he says, ‘but I’m dying. I can’t keep meeting up every weekend, every day after school, every—’

‘Wait. You actually being serious right now?’ I say, my grin slipping into a gurn. ‘You ain’t funny.’

He’s quiet now. Just looks at me with those big, bug eyes, twists his mouth side to side. Serious.

‘Are you breaking up with me?’

He looks at my shoes again and I kick him in the kidney.

‘On my birthday?’

He looks horror-struck. Let’s go of his side and pretends that it was all a joke. But the tone of his voice tells me otherwise. I jump off the wall, push past him. He tries to follow me but I don’t want him to see me crying so I run and run as fast as I can. He gives up. When I get home, I get in bed and sob out a tsunami. Phil brings up a bar of chocolate and my hot water bottle. It’s 30 degrees out but he’s trying. I whisper thanks and he leaves me to wallow. I don’t come out of my room until it’s gone eight and my stomach is crying for attention. When I get downstairs, Phil is asleep on the sofa. Head back, arms limp, snoring for England. The National Lottery is on the TV and I reach into my pocket for my ticket. As the numbers are drawn, my lower lip quivers more and more and more until finally I shout: ‘Dad!’ Phil wakes with a start and I point a shaky finger at the television.

‘How many numbers?’ he says, rubbing my back. ‘How many are there.’

Supposably | Poetry

supposably 
english is hard
but for all intensive purposes
this you can disregard
i could care less 
about the colons and comas
and dont get me started 
on highschool diplomas
so please precede
wreck havoc if you must
you wont effect me
in that you can trust
take this poem by example
case and point if you will
of my abilities its a sample
it rhymes thus fits the bill

This was a painful piece to write but I love the end result. It’s an editor’s playground!

In other news, I just got offered a place to do a PhD, where I will be exploring whether learning Japanese through literature is possible. In other words, I will be writing a novel that teaches the reader Japanese as they progress through the story, combining my love for writing with Japanese and Linguistics. It’s a dream come true! And I promise I will take you guys on this adventure with me!

First Quarter Update | Yearly Goals

At the beginning of January, I ranked all my yearly goals from least to most difficult and created a points-based reward system.

5 points – book | 10 points – meal | 20 points – surprise | 30 points – book | 35 points – meal

40 points – game | 45 points – book | 50 points – meal | 60+ points – big purchase!

Here is how I am doing three months in. Current habit tracking numbers in brackets!

1. Writing Goals

  • Post to Instagram 100 times (25)
  • Write 40 blog posts (11)
  • Sit down to write novel 500 times (36)
  • Apply to 30 writing competitions (5)
  • Finish Novel (Again!) (👎)

I am happy to say that I have been regularly blogging and posting to Instagram. However, I do not sit down and write that novel as much as I would like to. This is the curse of doing a Masters; writing a novel gets pushed down the pecking order due to all the strict deadlines. But I cannot let that be an excuse! Surely writing the novel is something done around the pressing matters. I will work hard to remedy this in the second quarter of this year. Hopefully, I can get that 36 up to 150!

2. Book Goals

  • Read 40 books (18)
  • Read a book of a different genre every month (👍 )
  • Read before bed every other day (👎)

This year, I am reading a lot slower. However, I am still almost halfway to my target. I have read some great books too recently. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos being the ones that stand out in my mind. Sorry Past Me! I guess I do love Fantasy the best!

What have you read this year? Leave your answers in the comments!

3. Money Goals

  • Get paid to edit or write (3)
  • Get a job (👎)
  • Get paid from a writing competition (👎)

I have had three paid editing jobs this year and now I am working on editing the MA Anthology, which I just fundraised £120 for through an Open Mic Night. That fundraising felt like a job. Maybe I can cross that one off too?

4. Health Goals

  • Run 5K (1K)
  • Meditate 2x a week (👎)
  • Exercise 5x a week for 26 weeks (8)
  • Work up to the Saitama: 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups 100 squats, 10km run (40, 40, 40, 1K)

I said before that I suck at running and that I blamed the asthma. I still suck at running, but this time I will blame my sleeping schedule. It’s hard to keep a good sleep schedule when you’re inspiration for writing comes at night. It’s even harder to go out running when people are wandering around eating their brunch. New goal: get the sleeping pattern sorted and the running will come with it!

Exercise as a whole is going well and consistent though. The meditation has fallen off, but overall, I’m proud of how well I am working toward my health goals this year!

5. Japanese Goals

  • Watch 10 new anime (4)
  • Do Japanese practice 100 times (0)
  • Pass N2 (👎)

Well, this one was always a long shot! With writing a novel, exercising a lot, and studying more than anything there’s been very little time for language learning. I have been enjoying my anime though. That’s something!

6. Uni goals

  • Get a first in a module (👍)
  • Get 10 people to join a WES Group call (7)
  • Make 5 great friends (👍)

This section is what I focus on more than anything else at the moment and it shows! I have made a lot of great friends this year and I can’t believe all my taught lessons are already finished! The WES Group is also still going strong and we have a great community who share writing competitions and help one another sit down and write those words. I even got a first in my Radio Drama module. I guess that’s something else I could explore in the future!

7. Adventure goals

  • Visit the Lake District (👎)
  • Drive somewhere new (👎)
  • Get on a train to visit a friend (👎)

And from success to failure. I barely leave my flat, but I will be blaming coronavirus for that. Hopefully these goals will be fulfilled in the next few months. Whether I do or not, I’ll keep you updated.

What are your main goals for this year? Do you reckon any of my goals are a bit too ambitious? Let me know in the comments below.

Steak Lovers | Short Story

We’re sat at a cute, wobbly table in a cosy, dark corner. The lights are dim. A smooth jazz band provides the ambiance and my heart beats faster than it ought for someone so still. I know why it beats so hard though. And as I stare into your sea-green eyes and you stare back into mine of chestnut, I think you know too.
'It's love,' I say.
You laugh.
'It's the indigestion from the steaks,' says you.

This is a throwback to a piece of flash fiction I wrote a while ago about an expensive steak Nina and I enjoyed on our trip to Gold Coast, Australia. It inspired a poem that I posted on my blog a while ago, check that one out here!

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

how to relax | Poetry

A tried and true method on how to relax. Do as the poem suggests and please share if this poem helped you. If you know someone who needs to relax maybe this could help them too?

Relax your gaze
Think of nothing
Focus on your breath

Slow yourself
Don't move an inch
Become that itchy mess

Nose, eye, ear, neck, brow, wrist, lip
Scratch, shake, shift, sniff
Give up and go for chips.

The Harem Within: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi | Book Review

The Harem Within, otherwise known as Dreams of Trespass, is a character-focused deep-dive into life inside a harem.

Set in Morocco during the 1940s and 50s, Mernissi does well to depict enclosed life as claustrophobic and unsustainable, while also providing two sides to the story through its rich character cast.

Bathing is communal and meal times are strictly shared. There is little time one can spend alone in a harem. Some inhabitants feel wholly negatively about this. However, some feel there are positive aspects too. Some see it as safe haven, a place where one can enjoy the support of their family. Ultimately, the novel leaves the final judgement of whether harems are wrong or evil to the reader.

Leaving the final decision to the reader works brilliantly. It creates a dualism between the readers and the characters: the readers, for example, have a choice whether they want to speak up, the characters, who are trapped inside this book, are fundamentally voiceless.

The annotations and poems within this read work well too. I never felt taken out of the book when I read them, if anything I felt more immersed, as if I was being taken by the hand into this culture and not being blamed for being ignorant to what a harem even was before picking it up. However, this is not a plot-driven story, which can make it feel slow at times.

Overall, as a character study and an insight into what life in harem was like, this is a masterpiece. It provides a fantastic snapshot into an alien lifestyle and promotes female empowerment. It is not always gripping, but well worth a read. I would recommend it to anyone.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Em dash vs en dash vs hyphen | Made Simple

A hyphen (-) is a punctuation mark that is used to join parts of a compound word. Dashes such as the en dash (–) and em dash (—) are longer than hyphens and typically indicate a range, a thought, or an interruption in speech.

Hyphen Examples

  • Compound words
    • e.g. part-time, good-looking, funny-smelling, well-known, blog-loving, mother-in-law
  • Numbers
    • e.g. twenty-two, eighty-five, five hundred and forty-five
    • e.g. He is an eleven-year-old boy, but He is eleven years old
  • Suspended modifiers
    • e.g. take a 10- or 20-minute break

BEWARE Over time, hyphenated words can become closed compounds (single words with no hyphens) or open compounds (words made up of two or more existing words separated by a space). e.g. email instead of e-mail and ice cream instead of ice-cream.

En Dash Examples

  • Compound modifiers of multi-word elements
    • e.g. Ariana Grande–style music, pre–World War Two
  • Range of numbers
    • e.g. the meeting is at 10:00–10:30, read pages 10–15, the end score was 2–1
  • Thoughts (parenthetical information)
    • e.g. The old man – who was wearing his usual green sweater and grey trousers – entered the shop.

BEWARE When using an en dash for inserting additional information, you must leave a space either side of the dash.

Em Dash Examples

  • Thoughts (parenthetical information)
    • e.g. The old man—who was wearing his usual green sweater and grey trousers—entered the shop.
  • Amplifying information
    • e.g. The skies were red and all life on the planet was dying—it was the end of the world.
  • Interruption in dialogue
    • e.g. “Don’t go that way! There’s a giant, man-eating—”

How to type the En dash (–) and Em dash (—) on Windows

To insert an en dash (–), use the shortcut key combination “Ctrl”+”Hyphen”

To create an em dash (—), use the shortcut key combination “Ctrl”+”Alt”+”Hyphen”

How to type the En dash (–) and Em dash (—) on Mac

To insert an en dash (–), use the shortcut key combination “Option”+”Hyphen”

To create an em dash (—), use the shortcut key combination “Option”+”Shift”+”Hyphen”

Sausages | Short Story

At precisely a shimmer past a whisker, I bark for my pet to take me on my morning walk. Any later and we might see Max’s pet, Dr Meller on his way to the torture chamber. I cannot have that today, not with this wobbly leg.

I bark again and hear a jangling of a lead in the distance, then catch a whiff of teenage boy: it’s Daniel. Thank goodness! I prepare the wag.

As he rounds the corner, he says, ‘Walkies?’ and I bark in affirmation, then jump up and give him a grateful lick on the lips. He tastes like a chew stick, which makes me ravenous for more, but then he takes my paws in his hands and puts his nose to mine.

‘Come on you. If we’re lucky, we might run into the sausage man.’

Mr Tod! What a pet. He always keeps spare sausages snuck inside his jacket. I don’t know what I’ll do if I see him today. Probably forget about my bad leg and dance for joy! Sausages are good like that—perfect treatment for any injury. Better than that medicine Dr Meller uses, at least.

But when we leave the house, Mr Tod is nowhere to be smelt, so we head down the muddy pathway to the field. I do my business there and try to cover it with soil, but Daniel being Daniel, slowly squelches over to pick it up. I don’t know why he likes to do this, but I reckon it’s because he’s only allowed to poo in one place and he’s jealous of my freedom.

After he places my work in a small red box for safe keeping, I hobble around for a little longer, smelling Sally and Duke and Buddy. Buddy’s tried to claim the football post again, so I leave him a kind reminder that this post was mine long before he existed. I then leave the others a message to say hi and let them know what I had for dinner last night—you know, the usual. I then smell Max on the wind but before I can bark my woof, growl, howls, it’s time to head back again. My pet’s got school today and I don’t want him to be late, so I don’t make too much of a fuss. He seems to appreciate this and gives me a piece of liver.

Still chewing my treat, we trek up the muddy path and soon reach our road. But as we’re about to cross, the liver drops out of my mouth and I smell him. The man, the myth, the legend. Mr Tod! I bolt as fast as I can for the saucy sausage man, wondering what he has in store for me today. Then, I realise he’s in a car and I skid to a halt in front of his headlights, stunned and rather bemused. I hear something like a cup scooping through kibble, I smell iron in the air. When I see Daniel leaking water from his eyes and Mr Tod idle beside him, I wonder what happened. 

I can’t move any of my legs now. Maybe a sausage will help?