'Have you been in Nellie's yet?' Good. Well, better, anyway. At least you didn't mention Lancaster Bombers, you bloody fool.
'Nellie's - what is that?'
'It's a pub. A traditional English pub, with real ale on a hand-pump.'
She is not going to be interested in the methods by which Nelly Collinson dispenses her (no doubt exceptional) ales and stouts. God, you may as well just give up now. But again, you escape:
'Yes, I would like that,' she says, 'It will be a cultural experience.' And then she laughs, unexpectedly, and you laugh with her. So you fix a night when she is free and you think well, thinking about it, I might as well not go home from work that night, I'll just stay in Beverley and kill time between five-thirty and half past seven.
And that is it. You have done it. You have a date with Annette, Annette with the amazing blonde hair and the penetrating blue eyes and the fair, freckly skin and the cute turned-up nose and the soft
lips, and you are drifting again, drifting far from shore, but it doesn't matter because she is busy re-attaching Bumble and Fudge to their leads now that they have returned, tongues lolling, slobbering and panting with excitement, which, let's face it, is pretty much what you are doing now.
Anyway, either way, the rabbits of the Westwood can safely emerge from their burrows once more, and the people in the cars can carry on eating their ice-creams undisturbed and, at the end of the Summer, no doubt Mr Burgess, who makes the stuff, will cast his eye down his ledgers and remark that this day of all days was a particularly good one for sales and he will never know that this was also the day you asked Annette out on a date and she said yes.
But you're walking back now, side by side, close, but not touching, and you wonder what would happen if you just slipped your free arm (the one without the crash helmet) round her shoulders so
that you were really walking like boyfriend and girlfriend, joined at the hip, her long blonde hair trailing over your forearm, but it's all too soon for that and you don't dare to do it in case she screams or something, or shrugs you off with a German curse ('Schweinhund! Donner und Blitzen!' - don't go there. For you, Englander, the war is over).
All too soon, five minutes and forty seconds later, in fact, but no-one's timing it, you reach the wrought-iron garden gate of Dr Kryzwicki's
substantial house, and the inevitable awkward moment it represents.
Will she ask you in? Unlikely, since it will involve accommodating an extra guest, invited by a guest, at Dr Kryzwicki's Sunday evening table, and in a way, you hope she doesn't, because there would be awkwardness, though you might get to go to her room together and 'listen to records', but even that would be weird in the house of someone you have only ever previously met across the bookshop counter. Will she kiss you? That's a more interesting question, and an even more interesting one than that, is 'will you kiss her?'
In fact, though, neither of those things happens. She just turns to you with her - yes - beautiful (might as well admit it) heart-shaped face and she is half smiling a sort of amused smile and at the same time searching you with those steely blue eyes, and you say (your voice almost breaking as you try to swallow at the same time as you speak),
'Annette, I really like you.'
'I know.' She says, and then turns and is gone, leaving your 'See you on Thursday…' hanging in the still, heavy, still heavy, somnolent teatime air.
So, it's back to the bike and on with the helmet, tighten straps, heave it off the stand, kick it into life with one holey-trainered foot, then a careful U-turn (don't fall off in the road outside the house of your best customer and the girl you have just asked out, and don't spray their large expensive Georgian windows with loose gravel).
Then accelerate away, back out of Newbegin, back over the Westwood, where the trippers are packing their deckchairs and hampers into the boots of their cars and thinking maybe of making a move, and the ice-cream vans have thinned out, and even the cows are heading towards their evening pasture, 'lowing herds wind slowly o'er the lea', and the tableau, the tapestry of Beverley's skyline drops away behind you
Soon you are passing Walkington duck-pond and turning left at the signpost for Little Weighton, climbing up the dip slope of the Wolds, deserted roads, heading almost straight into the sunset, and wondering vaguely what your Mother will have lined up for you at home for tea, as the heavy hot hedgerows whizz by at forty-five miles per hour and the moped buzzes like a vexed wasp, and you think, I have just been a character in a story where nothing happened, or was it a story where everything happened, or everything will happen, but just not yet, not in the story, and you start to sing at the top of your lungs, so it reverberates inside your crash helmet:
'I know a girl from a lonely street
Cold as ice-cream, but still as sweet'
Live in dreams, Sunday girl.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Pain in Vain no Gain By Joan Moffat.
Sweat trickled down my face, droplets formed on my nose. Sharp pains tore at my back muscles.
Leaning over, as I struggled, constricted my breathing and squeezed my stomach into cramp.
Red flashes floated before my eyes. I was about to faint. I began to weep.
Why had I got myself into such a stupid situation? I was the victim of my own vanity.
I struggled more.
Fiction - Faster Than the Speed of Silence By Leah Scarpati
The phone's ringing again - the second time today. Its shrill chime echoes around the house, reverberating through the hall and into my warm little cocoon of a living room. It makes me nervous. It's like a foreign body, stealthily making its way through the house, looking for me- preparing to bump me off, to throw something at me when I least expect it.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - A is not only for Apple By Lin Whitehouse
Is this what it feels like to sit on death row, morbidly freefalling through the past? I keep averting my eyes from the clock face but the minute magnet holds me hostage.
Had I done enough to be reprieved?
Another hour swallows my resolve not to panic, in God's name how long does it take to open an envelope?
Perhaps the results aren't what we predicted.
Fiction - Everyone Loves The Big Girl By Leah Scarpati
The lights go back on and there are cheers, claps and wolf whistles as I
take my final bow. That plank of a DJ ruined the end of my performance
by cutting Shania off short instead of fading her out like I told him to.
Thankfully I don't think anyone noticed.
I'm sweating like a pack horse, but at least I've given it my all.
Large Lady Kiss-a-grams are getting a good reputation and I reckon
it's all down to me. Read more...
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - The Unkindest Cut By Manuro
Phil's partner in hell-raising had convinced him that it would be a 'good idea' to spend all of his gig money on pork chops. They had met during the summer at an all-night Clown Skills and Raw Food workshop in Worksop, where the ability to see through walls and predict future events had proved, at the very least, useful.
Unable to control his bohemian life, Phil took solace
Fiction - Later. Still. By Christopher Skolik
Maybe human beings get through life by focusing their attention down to the smallest details, those soap opera comings and goings that make up the flickering magic lantern show of day to day existence, the little things that make life worth living, the details that stand between us and the chasm.
Fiction - The Hunch-Back (in the style of The Hitman by T.C. Boyle) By Katherine Horrex
By the age of nine the Hunch-Back is aware that he has no place. He questions the existence of everything he sees and it is not until he grows shady from first stubble and hard with distracting pubescent bulk that he gains any sense of purpose, or raison d'etre if you will, for he is half French.
It is his mother to which the French in him must be attributed,
Fiction - The Terminal Brothel By Christopher Skolik
Gales crashed onto the housing estate. Grey sky like fractured mountains.
In the passenger seat Dennison read through the paper, as Snaith drives. As some story or headline caught Snaith's attention he would ask Dennison to read it in full.
The council estate was a maze of similarity -a dizzying optical illusion where homes, roads, and people all
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Kundalini By Andrea Longstaff
She was homeless and walking the streets.
Her mind was unhinged but full of new found awareness. A realisation that she was now free in the true sense of the word.
Her life always did have a surreal texture to it but after a night of no sleep and helping the stranger who had dropped his pens.
He looked into her glazed eyes, "I hope you get a good nights sleep tonight"
Fiction - The Artist By The Silver Fox
Pencil in hand, he stands immobile. His eyes are locked onto the pristine expanse before him as though searching for some secret buried within the paper itself; an image that his pencil will simply be highlighting rather than creating. Above and beyond his eye line, the graphite point gleams dully in the harsh light that cascades down onto the easel.
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Crackers By Pete Texas
I was 12 ½ when my dog ate my rabbit
He chewed on its head like a malnourished Gannet
So I traded Ben for an Arini Parrot
Put her in the hutch with the lettuce and carrot
I was sure with the straw to build Polly a nest
So when she fell asleep she'd have somewhere to rest
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - The Flat By The Silver Fox
He emerged from the oven to see the landlord eyeing him as though enquiring as to what he'd expected to find in there. He adopted a knowing expression - as though saying that he hadn't found it and was disappointed.
"Seventy a week?"
"That covers your water rates," came the expansive reply. He nodded, fearing that further conversation would bring
Fiction - Independent By Katherine Horrex Photos by Darren Rogers
The room was pulsing with white noise and euphoria. Giles was positioned behind the sound booth, stupefied by the scene on stage: five Burberry clad men thrashing manically at their instruments, their sixties feather cuts flicking through the damp air.
A final power chord growled through the Marshall stack, reverberating triumphantly and the lead