Short Stories by Alistair Potter


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As part of the process of learning about writing I have written short stories. Some of these have been written with a market in mind, aimed at magazines or for radio. These very short stories came from stimulus sessions at writing groups I attended. I have collected some of the longer stories in a compilation Beach Life 2, which is available in the Kindle E-book format.

 

Royal Society Christmas Lecture 1926

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Mr Goofy

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The Obstruction

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Motes

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Another Day in Metropolis

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Basket Cases

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Hithcleef

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The Last Supper (Caution, contains swearing and adult themes.)

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Three Minute Monologue (Caution, contains swearing. For best effect, read with a Belfast accent.)

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The Tower

 

 

Royal Society Christmas Lecture 1926

 

I waited in the darkened wings of the theatre as the compere announced me;

"The guest speaker at this year's Royal Society Christmas Lecture is Strider the amazing frozen man. He was brought to life after being enclosed in ice for 5,000 years and now presents for your edification and entertainment an account of his last days in that bygone era."

As I walked forward a buzz of excited whispers ran through the audience - the sight of a Neanderthal dressed in a dinner suit seems to have that effect.

I waited for them to settle then began, "It was a Tuesday, I remember it well…"

"Fraud!" screamed a wizened character near the front of the darkened auditorium.

"Sir," I said, "I find your tone objectionable."

"Not as much as I find yours, mate. How'd you know it was a Tuesday then? Eh! Eh! Weren't no days in them days, were there?"

I knew what he meant, but it had been intended as a humorous embellishment, nothing more. But obviously this chap was too cretinous to recognise it as such.

"Sir," I said in a slow measured way, "it was intended as a joke."

"Weren't funny, mate. Now git on with it."

"Your servant." I said, bowing deeply.

I breathed slowly to calm myself, and was about to begin again when the cretin mumbled something to his neighbour. It sounded like, "Toffee-nosed Neanderthal twit."

This time I was able to ignore him and in a loud, clear voice I said, "I remember that day well… the ice had been advancing steadily." I paused and stared at the cretin, daring him to challenge me, but he was rubbing his nose on his cuff and seemed preoccupied with examining what had been deposited there. "My village had been crushed and we were fleeing. We left so much behind, taking only the best of everything. Furs, tools, weapons, but sadly there was so much we could not carry…"

"An' people,"' growled the cretin.

His words cut me to the core, and I faltered. This was something I'd chosen not to mention at my previous lectures. There was a nervous coughing in the galleries.

"This ah… gentleman is correct," I said. "We were uh… forced to leave behind the old and sick."

"Old and bloody sick," bellowed the cretin. "Old and bloody sick!"

He rose to his feet and for the first time I saw him clearly; his pronounced stoop, his sloping forehead, and his full rounded mouth.

"Father!" I shouted.

"Yer no bloody son of mine," he replied. "Leavin' me behind like that. Bloody froze to death I did."

 

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Mr Goofy

 

Poor bum musta been in a wreck. His face looked burned over, covered in scars it was, an' his eyes drawn back like a Chinaman's. But he's the wrong colour for a Chinaman, his skin's way too dark. Purple it is. He's got these shoes, look kinda funny, too wide at the toes, like one of those cartoon characters that's got hisself run over by a road roller. Probably where he gets his name from - Goofy, Mr Goofy we calls him.

Well he's sittin' there with this pile of junk on the floor beside him, chewing away at his burger, all hunched up like an' mindin' his own beeswax. But I'm watchin him an' he knows it. Well I had'ta serve a customer, an' blow-me when I looks again he's got that stinkin' pile a junk sittin' on the table and he's talkin' to it. I'm about to bawl him out, when I sees this big grin spread over his face. First time I ever saw him smile. His teeth, there was something wrong with his teeth. They was sharp like some dentist done fix him up like a 'gator.

He saw me watchin' him an' he froze still-as-anythin'. Then he stares me out, son-of-a-bitch stares me out. I was sure ready to throw him out there and then, but before I gets the breath in me to start in on him there's this commotion at the door.

These two rednecks come burstin' inta the bar with the biggest ugliest lookin' guns a man ever saw. Septin these weren't no rednecks I ever saw before. They looked like they'd… Shit! It was more Mr Goofys, but these guys was big. I mean big.

I risked a look round at our own Mr Goofy an' he's grinnin' away like it was Christmas, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving all rolled inta one. He steps out from behind his table and lets out this pile of grunts, meant nuthin' to me. But these big guys, they're gruntin' back like gruntin's supposed to mean shit.

Then sumthin' happens, an' Mr Goofy gets lookin' real scared. I seen that look afore. Like someone's about to get their ass kicked real good.

Then without a bye-your-leave or nuthin' these two Goofys brings up their guns and lets rip. Next time I look there aint nuthin left of our Mr Goofy ceptin' his big flat shoes.

I almost went for ma piece - then I sees the streetlights out back a' the building shinin' through a big hole in the wall, an' I think, aint none of my business if these Goofy's wanta blow shit outa each other.

One of them nods to me. The kinda nod the sheriff in one of them westerns gives the barman. You keep outa this, the nod says.

That's fine I'm thinkin', ceptin' I don't know the gruntin' talk for 'Who's payin' for the damage?'

Then these two big Goofys is walkin' out careful as anythin', pickin' their way through the folk layin' on the ground.

Once they's gone there aint no sound ceptin' the crackle off-of a small flame that's makin' its way slow-as-you-like up what's left of the back wall.

I pour a big mug a beer, goes across an' throws it against the wall an' it puts that flame out.

Then the piano starts up an' everybody's standin' up an' dustin' themselves off. Chairs is getting' righted an' before you knows it, it's back ta normal. Bit cooler though, what with the draught comin' in from the back.

Ferd comes outa the kitchen an' leans against the bar shakin' his head.

"Maybe havta put a window in there," he says. "Damn commies, why caint they take it outside?"

"Shit yes," I says.

 

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The Obstruction

 

"Madam," said Sergeant Walker, prim and bright in his poppy red jacket, jet black trousers, and white pith helmet. "Madam, if you will allow me." He stretched out his hand to offer assistance.

Pointedly ignoring the offered hand, Girda hitched her full skirt and stepped down from the open carriage. She turned her back on Walker causing him to jump back to avoid the tip of her parasol.

The matched pair of horses pawed and shuffled in the dry earth as they felt the carriage rock.

Girda strode to the offending object. "What is it?" she demanded, mustering the perfect diction afforded her by a leading English boarding school.

Sergeant Walker hovered at her elbow. "Well, ma'am, it's a Rhinoceros."

"Oh yes," Girda exclaimed, remembering a lithoplate in an illustrated encyclopaedia she'd flicked through in the school library one wet Saturday afternoon. There were definite similarities, but nothing in the book could have prepared her for the disgusting odour that rose from the beast.

"What does it do?" she asked.

"Do ma'am?" Walker now wore a puzzled expression.

"Yes do! What does it do?"

"Ehm… it's an animal. It doesn't really do anything."

Girda stalked round the mountain of flesh. "Looks big enough to pull a train, don't you think?"

"Possibly."

"Is the meat any good?"

"I really don't know, ma'am."

Girda came to the creature's head. "What is that for?" she said, pointing at the horn.

"I imagine for protection."

"I see," said Girda. She brought her gloved hand to her mouth and suppressed a yawn. Then after one last cursory inspection she strode back to the carriage and stepped aboard. "Drive on," she snapped.

The native driver coaxed the horses from the track and negotiated a small detour to avoid the carcass.

As Sergeant Walker led his horse around the obstruction, he glanced ahead. His charge sat bolt-upright in the carriage, her umbrella fixed rigidly across her shoulder, her posture a perfect match for the rigid expression she'd worn since their first meeting. In fact Sergeant Walker knew of another use for Rhinoceros horn, one that the natives of China made great claims of, but he also knew beyond any doubt that Miss Girda would have no interest in that piece of information.

 

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All content © Alistair Potter.

 

 

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