very short stories




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Miss Bodine-Matzel was in a hole. It had appeared suddenly and now she was juuuuust holding on to stop herself from plummeting.

She knew what lay below her swinging legs – nothing.
And she knew what would happen if she went there.
A few people would say that it was sad. For a few days. The hole would be sealed and people would walk there as if it had never been. And life would go on. As it always did.

And she knew what happen if she climbed out.
She’d feel different for a few days but then she’d go back to her normal routine. Her everyday concerns. No one would really be interested in her hole story. And life would go on. As it always did.

Miss Bodine-Matzel knew that promises during crisis were shallow. And legacies were rare. So she couldn’t use some fresh motivation to make an impact with her life to compel herself upwards. So she decided to just see what might happen. If she pulled with her arms. If she let her toes search for a foothold.

So she did. And gradually, she moved. Up. Up. And out. Until she was back on the pavement.

And as she walked home, she felt the hole getting further and further behind her.

But she knew that there would be another hole. Sometime.

And eventually, there would be one that would truly swallow her.



He is Saved

or download He is Saved

A man is drowning.
A man is drowning.

He was sure. He was steady. But now he is struggling for air.

Familiar hands reach out to him and he knows that they are trying.
But they are not her. Her beside him. Her with him. Her near him.
They are hands that remind him of her. And that she is forever gone.

A man is drowning.
A man is drowning.

His body is sinking. His mouth fills with water.
He could hold on to them – those proffered friendly arms.
But they cannot pull him free.
From floundering.

They can only keep him breathing.
Still in the deep dark water.

A man is drowning.

But then there is a light.
A new hand. A new face.
Something that can take him away.

He reaches. He grabs.
He is on fresh, firm ground.
A new her is beside him now.

With him. Near him.

Together, they walk away.

A man is saved.

And behind him, the others struggle
Still in the deep dark water.




or download Universal

1:01 mins / 493 KB

One man came a thousand miles and finally reached the shore
One man came a hundred miles from the town that was next door
One came from a neighbourhood a mile or so away
The last from his house down the street – a brief walk, no delay

One was tall and one was dark, one wore his hair wrapped up
One had strong arms from wheelchair thrusts ­–­ the host passed each a cup
He poured the brew into each one, the steam began to rise
And rows of teeth grinned back at him beneath twinned shining eyes

Some didn’t have the words to voice their questions, thoughts or views
Some had no inclination to discuss philosophies or news
Each was content to sit and sup, together to just ‘be’
And share in the collective bliss of a tasty cup of tea



On the Water

On the Water

or download  On the Water

59  secs / 475 KB

Two men sat on a lake.
They looked down at the water.
“Why do the fish not bite?” asked one.

“Why does the water not swallow us?” asked the other.

Two boys stood on the bank.
They looked out over the water.
“Why can no one fish out there?” asked one.

“Why does the water ripple just above that old wreck?” asked the other.


The lake was silent.


The first boy frowned. “Wonder what it’s like to drown.”

The first man frowned. “Those two never wave back.”



Solomon the News

Solomon the News

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1:41 mins / 815 KB

Solomon was what had happened. What people thought of what had happened. What might happen in the days to come.

But none of that mattered to him. He liked what was right in front of him. He liked the real people.

Sometimes they thawed and showed glimpses of what was inside the shell. But mostly he just sensed the real life flickering within – plans, memories, musings.

Sometimes they slept. Or let their brains still to just reflections of smudged platforms and darkness beyond the window. Or seated bodies that moved with them but were nothing but shapes and colours.

But Solomon saw life. Beyond recounted stories, summaries, analysis.

With no life to perch on, though, things began to change.

He felt flatter. At the will of those who didn’t want the present, but the past. Foreign climes; angry judgements; exploits already gone.

Before long, even Solomon was lifeless. Like the rest. And all that could be heard was the cold rustle of what had once been his happy animation.

(To see Solomon, click on the story icon above)


Ernst & Karl

Ernst & Karl

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1:31 mins / 733 KB

Ernst and Karl played cards. Always did.

Always had.

They didn’t talk much. Just played.

Through jobs and unemployment, marriage and divorce, celebration and bereavement – and the long days in between. They played.

Sitting. Considering. Shrugging and nodding.

Like anchors in a whirlwind, they played.

When they’d been travelling, they’d stop the campervan and set up chairs and a table alongside.
That’s where it had started.

And even after arguments over girls or disagreements over politics, they played. Cards settled them.

Not that they weren’t competitive … they were. But the rules were clear and the highway was straight. And they were evenly matched. As much as luck allowed.

So they played.

From fellow travellers to friends to neighbours. To nursing home roommates.

Until Karl was buried at the age of 87.

So Ernst moved to Solitaire.

Minus the Ace of Diamonds.

Because that had gone too. In Karl’s back pocket.


The Key Note

The Key Note

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1:29 mins / 717 KB

The Keynote Speaker had big ideas for toy manufacturers, the publishing industry and more. “A Business Improver,” Dave muttered to Lex, “we could use one of those.”

“These books about secret religious codes and epics about vampires – how are they expanding minds? Poorly written, clichéd rubbish …” the Speaker proclaimed.

“… that sell hundreds of millions,” added Lex, rolling his eyes.

“And kid’s building blocks – back to basics, I’d tell those toymakers … a big bag of all shapes and sizes and let the kids’ imaginations run wild … we’d have another Steve Jobs in no time.”

Lex smirked. “But one bag would last a kid for years. With kits, once it’s built, it’s done … and they’re nagging for a new one.”

The applause was polite as Lex shook his head. “Not for us, Dave. This guy’s not improving anyone’s business. Quality? Education? What’s he on about? It’s BUSINESS – sales, the bottom line. He hasn’t got a clue with all this shit about inspiration and advancement?”

Dave nodded. “Prob’ly why he’s touting himself on the speaking circuit. If he was such a Business Improver, he’d have improved his own so much he’d have retired years ago.”


Dog Days

Dog Days

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1 min / 483 KB

On weekdays and in the city, it wasn’t possible.
There was safety to consider. And rules.
But every second Sunday on the roads behind the old airport, he got his chance.
Sometimes it was just Bill; sometimes a couple of the others would come along for the ride.
But it didn’t matter.
Once they had passed the pub, Bill would wind down the window and pat the front seat.
And from then on it was all rushing wind and freedom.
“Alright, Charley,” Bill would say far too soon. And there was nothing for it but to return to the hollowness until the next time.
His ears hung limply, his tongue was dry and his eyes streamed.
But Charley had been to paradise. And the wind outside the window had painted on his smile.


12000 Years of Fermentation
12,000 Years of Fermentation+

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1:35 mins / 766 KB

“Oh, go on … you’re not driving.”
“Loosen up! You’ve got to have ONE.”
“Drink up … you’re behind!”
“It’s your round.”
“Come on – it’s a party!”

A big night.
A liquid lunch.
Getting together with friends.
Winding down after work.
A toast.
A few quiet ones.
A nice glass of red.

To relax.
To celebrate.
To forget.




+ Purposeful production of alcoholic beverages has been proven to have existed at least as early as c. 10,000 BC (due to the discovery of Stone Age beer jugs)

The sound effects used in the audio version of this story were sourced from


For the First TimeFor the First Time
This video footage  triggered the following story.

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1:29 mins / 971 KB

I couldn’t see it. Up and up I looked. But there was nothing … nothing but strange pale puffs – far … far.
I might float away with nothing to cover me.
But I could feel softness under my feet. Holding me. A floor that crumbled with welcome. That offered up sweet-smelling tufts of juiciness.
And the air all around. It was filled with freshness and tang and rich deep everything.
Ripeness. Vibrating. Colour.
And so much.
So much.

And he was there. Right beside me. And the other one. And them. All.
With fur that could brush on mine. Warm skin to touch. Eyes to capture me. Others. So close. So close I could feel lips and hair and breath. Not mine. But meeting mine. Together.

A new world.
Forever space.
And no space at all.
In ways I never knew I had been always waiting for.


A Hat Man
A Hat Man

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1:29 mins / 717 KB

He had never been a Hat Man. Not even caps. It was just something that he’d never thought to do.

She had never been a Scarf Woman. All that draping and wrapping seemed like a lot of bother. And it was something she’d associated with … well, … the elderly.

But one day, while browsing to replace some business shirts, he had seen a natty fedora and half-heartedly tried it on. And he’d realised that he could think about himself in a different way. He could become a Hat Man.

At the bus stop, she had noticed the fedora. Business Man had suddenly become Hat Man. During the journey, a young woman with a carefully knotted fine silk scarf had caught her eye. So, at lunch time, she had perused a haberdashery and  found something between ‘understated’ and ‘flair’.

So Hat had provoked Scarf.

And those small extras might have set shoulders at a different angle.
Chins held higher.
Even a sparkle in the eyes.

Because a fresh look can really be illuminating.


For the Love of Derek
For the Love of Derek

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0:43 secs /352 KB

Derek loved her. But she left him.

So he spent the day on the bed smelling her smells or just sitting in the hallway, crying. He was destitute without her.

He took to rifling through cupboards and boxes of her things – perhaps for comfort, perhaps to punish her for his abandonment. His pathetic whimpers were no consolation for her absence. But he couldn’t stop himself.

At 6pm, though, she opened the door and walked inside.

And all Derek could do was bark with joy at her return.



 Two Wrongs …

or download Two Wrongs …

0:52 secs /422 KB

He took her to ‘Smithereens’ because the guys at work had said he should.

And he’d regretted it before they even went inside.

She said it was the kind of place that reminded her of her twenties – and not in a good way. So they had found their first thing in common.

The food at the restaurant wasn’t good – but they each said they’d had worse. And her Kung Pau chicken story had just edged out his bacteria-riddled smorgasbord.

When they clashed heads before aborting a goodnight kiss, they’d both laughed.

So he had been left wondering – could you base a relationship on only failure and disaster?

And he fell asleep in a small puddle of drool with the last thought that he might not be able to tolerate seeing that on the adjoining pillow.



or download Invisible

0:58 secs /475 KB

When he rode his bike, car drivers came from nowhere without a glance in his direction …
Don’t they see me? he wondered.

When he walked along the street, eyes looked elsewhere but shoulders and elbows gave him
no quarter …
They don’t seem to see me, he thought.

When he went to parties or bars, he would try to catch a gaze or make light comments at the
buffet but ended in a quiet corner before leaving early …
They don’t see me, he said to himself.

And so he didn’t even write a note.
No one would see it, he decided.



or download  Olympiad

2:01 mins /975 KB

The trolley sat in the canal. There was no kind of reward that would ever make it worth retrieving. Groceries had been exchanged for murky water and a family of spiders. And its wheels had always stuck.

As the sky darkened, dew dotted the cluster of webs lacing the metal framework.

A match flared.

A cigarette was lit, flickering through each soft draw that kissed the quiet.

A tiny spider made its way back and forth across its careful silvery lines as the intermittent headlights swept its progress, igniting the crystal dewdrops like excited camera flashes.

A swelling chorus of approval from nearby crickets warmed the twilight air.

And the spider’s skill was celebrated by the settling evening.

But before long it was night. With only the soft tobacco glow to lift outlines from the dark. There was no noise but for the thick breath of one whose lungs were wet with nicotine and outdoor living. And when that found its best rhythm, one or two feather-light scuttles emerged to briefly scratch the empty air.

When morning came, the scattered garbage and drooping weeds weren’t hidden by the dark. And the moon didn’t reflect in the blackened water.

It was a shopping trolley. Stuck in the fetid slime of the old canal.

And the smoker had moved on to his daytime places.


A New Gauge

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0:22 secs / 184 KB

It had rained for days. And days and days. So long that she knew only wet and dripping.

But one day it stopped.

And then, cloudy skies were brighter than any sunshine she had ever known.


|Self|• Character, Nature

or download  |Self| ~ Character, Nature

1:05 mins / 528 KB

The pigeons congregated on the wires above the racing stables.
“It’s the feed,” her dad said. “Grain … wheat … that’s why they hang around.”
But he couldn’t know. Perhaps they liked horses.

She tried to help one once when it had been attacked by a crow.
Poor bird – stunned and bleeding and then scared and flapping.
But the vet said that there was probably nothing they could do because it wasn’t a native.
But it was born here, she mused. Does it know it doesn’t belong?

“Flying vermin,” her granddad shrugged when she told him. “Bad as rats –diseased and dirty.”

But it’s just a bird, she thought. Eating, flying … not sick until the crow got it.
And it likes looking at horses.

I’m lucky I wasn’t born a pigeon.



or download Old

1:16 mins / 618 KB

At the retirement home, Jo interviewed the experts for her school project on ageing. They showed her photographs and talked about their younger days.

So when did you know, then, that you were … old?” she queried.

Miss Trelawny told her that it was when she’d needed glasses to read and she’d gone through the menopause. Mrs Yeoh said “I suppose it was when my first grandchild was born”.

When my hair went grey.”

People offered to help me carry bags and held my elbow to walk downstairs.

I think it was when I started noticing little things I’d ignored before – like the colours of flowers and a nice warm smile from a stranger.

Things stopped working …”, “ … parts of me ached”, “everything drooped”.

I had to take pills every day.”

But Mr Wentworth just looked at Jo for a moment and narrowed his eyes. “Probably when a girl asked me questions for her school project on ageing.


More Wondering

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0:33 secs / 274 KB

She woke. She ate. She moved along. And then she slept. And woke and ate and moved.

And when she finally felt it fading, when she could no longer move or eat or wake,
the only thing she had was to wonder what she’d really done.

And, too late, she knew.
That she should have done more wondering.


Into the Blue Again

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1:06 mins / 534 KB

It was a mackerel sky. That’s what they called it. Careful puffs of cloud in rows like scales on a fish. He walked beneath it before he flew over it an hour or so later.

He wished that he could touch it. If he were a giant, he would comb his fingers through and watch it fragment into patterns made of smaller and smaller pieces. Until it was a design of such minute close dots that the blue had been lost to a milky sheen, its brilliant azure gleam just a memory.

But he wasn’t a giant. And clouds were clouds.

Far off and simply vapours. Not really warranting their place in metaphors and imaginations.

So when his plane landed, he returned to his life. And left the rows of white to drift away.

Until there was another mackerel sky.


The Theatre

or download  The Theatre

1:37 mins / 760 KB

“Good job on that speech last week – real substance … well-delivered.” Lionel and Geoffrey briskly strode the corridor together.

“Thanks … following in your footsteps with some family-focussed stuff – thought it was time.”

“Speaking of which – how’s your mother?”

“Oh, fine. And your lot? That eldest of yours done more damage on the football field?”

“Only to his ego.” The two chuckled in unison. “So things are alright then … after that business last year?”

“Well, my mother was much happier when Terry was my ‘flatmate’ – but the papers have to find something to write about. Not sure if outing me was news – didn’t think I was ever ‘in’.”

“Well, it was taboo a generation ago. Not like now … not an issue.”

They entered.

Found their places.

And when Lionel stood, it was Geoffrey he addressed.

Braying voices came from both sides to pepper his attack. And when the catcalls and barked retorts had finally diminished, only Lionel’s final line hung in the air.

“And if the Member for Jessop thinks we’ll be backing any of the proposals he put forward last week, he’s more deluded than my four year old. And she believes in fairies.” He smirked, “… maybe I should introduce you.”

It took the Speaker five minutes to calm the House. But the politicians’ jeers and guffaws echoed through the Chamber long into the night.

“Standard session,” the journalists told their editors. “Nothing worth reporting.”



or download Far

0:46 secs / 364 KB

His mother named him Far because she had high hopes for him.  She said that she had never meant for him to leave her behind, but she suspected that he might.

“Great things are never done in small places”, she would say.

But Far didn’t travel, except daily by bus – first to learn and then to teach in the local school.  And it was there that he and his classes journeyed to ancient Egypt and the plains of Africa, through poetry and fantasy, in clouds and volcanoes and across mysterious planets.

And Far said to his mother, “The greatest things can happen in books and in imaginations.”


Knowing You

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1:12 mins / 572 KB

“Why?” he said.

“Why what?”

“Why don’t you like it?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”

“You didn’t have to. I can tell. By the look on your face. And I know you …”

“No, you don’t … well, you do – but you don’t know everything about me. You don’t know every little thing I think and feel.”

“I’m pretty sure I can work them out.”

She shook her head. “I know you are. But you probably wouldn’t be right. … Everyone’s got their own stuff inside – well, ninety-nine … ninety-five of percent of people probably.  There are all sorts of ideas and feelings that never come close to the surface. … So no one can really know anyone – not properly. The closest you’ll get is thinking that you do.”

He didn’t get the chance to finish rolling his eyes. The new lamp hit his head with a splintering thud before he even saw it coming. He crumpled to the ground just as a faint look of confusion tried to make its way through his bloodied haze.

She looked down at him.

“See. I like it. I’m actually pretty disappointed that it’s broken.”


2 responses to “very short stories

  • Robyn

    I had a tasty snack of very short stories over breakfast this morning. I loved both ‘The Theatre’ and The one about getting old (can’t scroll on this thing to check title, sorry) both resonated with me.

    • alisonearlsALOUD

      It’s actually simply called ‘Old’ – a word that often seems to have such pejorative connotations in Western society.
      So glad they hit the spot over your morning meal … I do try and offer a smorgasboard of fiction so I feel from your feedback I’ve at least accomplished some bite-sized morsels. I really appreciate you finding time to fit some of my stories into your busy day.

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