You, Me & a Bit of We – Excerpts 13-18

Celebrate National Short Story Day on 21 December 2013!

Join us today from 3-9pm!

As the afternoon sun fades and the longest night of the year rolls in, we’ll be posting a series of excerpts from our recent short story collection, You, Me & a Bit of We. So grab a cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa, slip into your jimjams (or PJs depending on which side of the Atlantic you hail from) and get ready to hunker down and dig in to some exciting new short stories! Here’s the list of the 42 stories coming up. There will be six excerpts posted on the hour, from 3-9pm.

5pm – Gonnagetya by Meriah L Crawford / Toxoplasme by Stefanie Dao / Blood Song by Alexis A Hunter / You Weren’t Heavy by Laura Dunkeyson / Last Funeral But Two by E A M Harris / The End of the Line by Cathryn Grant

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Gonnagetya by Meriah L Crawford
YOU’RE leaving your hotel room, mind on dinner and drinks in the restaurant downstairs, when two kids burst out of the room across the hall. A girl is fast on the heels of a young boy. As he runs, screaming, the girl shouts after him.

‘Gonnagetya, gonnagetya, gonnagetya, little pus head!’

Thirty feet down the hall, he stumbles and she catches up with him.

What do you do? Do you just stand there watching, doing nothing as she drags him by the hair, back the way they came?

The boy screams, ‘Hurtee, hurtee! Lizzie, hurtee!’ The girl’s pretty pixie face twists in a cruel, triumphant smile.

Do you try to stop her? She’s hurting him, but she’s just a little girl. Her pale blonde hair is in pigtails, her feet in pink flip-flops, and the rest of her is dressed in red shorts and a faded Pooh t-shirt. She looks far too sweet, too delicate to do much harm.

The boy, blond and blue-eyed, is dressed all in blue. His wet t-shirt, with its lopsided Superman logo, clings to his bony chest. He tries to twist away, and she swings around and punches him on the arm, making him howl.

His pain makes you flinch, and your heart pounds. Someone should make her stop, but who—you? What if she screams out for help and someone comes running and accuses you of abuse? It could happen…

Toxoplasme by Stefanie Dao
Stop. Take a deep breath. Let the air flow through your nostrils and into your lungs and out again over your tongue. What do you taste in the air? The warm, moist scent of earth, the sharp, itchy scent of pines, the sweet and delicate scents of endless varieties of flowers. But the earth and the flowers are of no interest to you. The scent you seek is not present.

Keep moving. There is no living blood here. Move slowly, smoothly. Your body burns calories like fire through dry brush. Do not make unnecessary movements. Do not waste energy. Walk silently. Prey is skittish and will flee at the faintest sound. Do everything you must to gain the upper hand.

The sun scorches your head and neck. Burns, some from today, some acquired weeks ago, blister your skin.

You were the quiet one. She did all the talking, always smiling and speaking and laughing for both of you. She was brave and was never afraid to voice the things you were too unsettled to even think about. One of her late-night musings, drifting from a lofted bed across the stillness of a dormitory room, remains in your mind even to this day.

‘We know so much about them, how they’re made, what they eat. Every day we learn a new way to kill them. But why can’t we figure out something as basic as whether or not they’re still human inside?’

Pause. The forest looms darkly before you. Any blood scent is swallowed by the pungent odour of pine, but forests of this size and age mean that water is nearby. Water means life, and life means prey. Venture forward, every muscle taut and ready…

Blood Song by Alexis A Hunter
Emptiness grows inside your chest, a void that screams in silence.

There’s a fire in her smile and two round scars on the side of her ivory neck. Her lips part as she moves. Hips swaying, she traces an invisible ribbon that connects her to you. Your heart aches as she approaches. Your gut twists and your lungs burn. She teaches you to feel alive, although she herself is dead…

You Weren’t Heavy by Laura Dunkeyson
You weren’t heavy. I carried you over the ice and up the steps. You seemed tired and we’d only walked from the car. You were slipping on the frosty bits of the path, I didn’t think you’d be able to cope on the ice and I didn’t want you to fall, and once I was carrying you it just seemed easier to continue up the steps.

When I picked you up I could feel your bones, even with two jumpers and my spare coat on. It was as if they were hollow. You told me once that bird’s bones were hollow. Back when the cat used to leave them on the rug in the living room and I used to give them a funeral and bury them in the garden. I’d hold them so gently, balanced in the palm of my hand. It felt like I would crush them if I held them any other way. You felt like that when I picked you up, like you were a bird. You started to fuss around when we got inside. You wanted to open the windows and air the house, to show me to the spare room, to check the use by dates in the fridge, but after only one step your legs quivered and you faltered.

‘Why don’t I make a cup of tea?’ I said, too loudly, too brightly. You nodded and laughed that laugh you used to save for teachers and the vicar’s wife. We were still feeling it out, what we could talk about, what was off limits, what our new roles were.

Your kitchen was organised logically and I had no trouble finding the tea bags in the cupboard above the kettle. They were in the little tin with the William Morris print…

Last Funeral But Two by E A M Harris
As the postman handed me the parcel, I thought of you, Amy.

Who else would send me something so heavy and at least a foot square, wrapped in brown paper and parcel tape?

Now I’m sitting at the kitchen table, looking at it, eating my breakfast and thinking of you. I’d like to say my thoughts are warm and cosy. Some are, but they are mixed with cold, worrywart ones. I think about how, after the funeral, you gave me a lift.

I felt all bubbly inside with gratitude and when you offered to help sort our cousin Muriel’s house, the bubbles got bigger. Her landlord, who’d let Muriel take over her parents’ lease, deserved to get his bungalow back quickly. Not that he’d said anything, except for condolences, but Muey would’ve wanted him considered—she was always grateful to him.

‘Oh, thank you, Amy. That would be marvellous.’ I’m not one for words like marvellous, but I thought you might need encouraging. I didn’t know you well enough to tell—still don’t. We would have grown up together and really known each other, but you and your mother moved away. After that, we only met at funerals. And if there’s one good thing about a departure, it’s that you can strengthen old acquaintances.

As we bounced between the gravestones towards the cemetery exit in your four-wheel drive, I pictured Muey flying above us. From up there she could overlook all of Croydon and beyond—particularly at this time of year with the trees still bare…

The End of the Line by Cathryn Grant
I didn’t mean to bloody your lip. The situation escalated too quickly. But that’s putting it nicely because I’m feeling like a thug for splitting your pale flesh with a thin crevice that spouted an unbelievable amount of bright red liquid. You were pushy, one of those types who thinks the rules don’t apply to you. What you didn’t know is that I’m one of those other types, compelled to enforce the rules.

My husband and I arrived early because we know how quickly the line grows at Stella’s Crab and Chowder house and that morning—as the sun crested the foothills and sparkled on the Pacific Ocean—we were sure the outside seating would be snapped up fast. The corner table sits apart, a private oasis with a view of the harbour and the entire span of the bay. We call ourselves creatures of habit, and we are. We like the front table on the patio and are willing to loiter outside the locked doors, wasting thirty minutes of a glorious day, just to get that table.

But then you came scurrying up and wriggled between my husband’s elbow and the cart displaying items from the gift shop…

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If you enjoyed these excerpts why not check out the paperback or Kindle edition of You, Me & a Bit of We?

  

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