All stories


by Russ

I was practically vibrating with excitement as I walked towards the restaurant.

Jane was inside, the receptionist at her hotel had been sure of it.

‘Red-hair, short-ish, serious-looking but really friendly?’

That was Jane to a T.

‘Yes, I called the taxi for her, she said she’d be meeting someone. Was that you? You’re quite late!’

It wasn’t me. Jane was meeting a client, the reason we couldn’t be together on her birthday, the first since we’d been each other.

‘You should go...’

I thanked her and asked if she could call me a taxi to the same place. The cleaner who’d been lurking nearby waived his litter grasper impatiently at me, so I moved away to the door.

We’d only been together a few weeks, but Jane had looked so sad when she’d rolled over in bed and declined my offer to take her away for her birthday. She had a meeting she couldn’t get out of and we’d just have to celebrate when she got back she sighed, before dropping her hand under the covers and picking up where we’d left off.

I sat in the taxi, chugging on a can of nerve-steadying beer, and thought about how easy it had all been. Jane hadn’t specifically said York, but she’d said Yorkshire, so when I saw she’d been asking for hotel recommendations on Twitter it had fallen into place quite quickly. It only took a few calls and a cunning sidestepping of GDPR to find the one she’d booked, and that was that.

Arriving to find she was out was a bit of a set-back. I’d never considered her meeting might be in the evening, it was the image of Jane spending her birthday night alone in some hotel which pushed me to surprise her in the end. Still, I got the details and was on the way.

I hadn’t thought through the next part. She was in a meeting, should I wait at the bar for her to finish, catch her eye as they were splitting the bill? Maybe I should have, but by the time I walked through the door, I was fizzing too much to hold off any longer. I told the Maitre D’ I was meeting a friend and stepped passed before they could stop me. I scanned the room for her glorious red hair. There she was, in the middle, clinking champagne flutes with her client, and glowing. I’d never seen her so dressed up and I was stunned with how incredible she looked. I practically floated until I was stood by her table, looking down, tingling, as I waited for her to register what I’d done and stand up to embrace me.

The colour flushed from her face until she was white and shaking. I held one arm out, the other hiding the roses behind my back, and watched her swallow.

‘Gerry…’ she stammered.

‘Who’s your friend, darling?’ the man at her table said.


It was then I noticed they were holding hands, and saw the rings, the ring Jane had never worn before. My heart turned into a boulder, and my arms fell to my sides.

‘What…’ Jane tried to speak as I saw her eyes dart to the flowers in my hand, now quickly rotting in the poisoned air.

‘Shit,’ I caught escaping in her breath, as the tears swelled under her eyes.

Java Juice

by James

It was a few minutes before nine and already the sloth of the daytime crowd had gathered, here in this pub because it did a decent fry up – for under a fiver – and all of them eyeing each other and wondering who was going to break first and buy a pint.

Johnny had his laptop bag up on the bench seat next to him. He had a notepad set out on the table. His shirt was clean, his shoes almost shiny. He was the perfect image of some young professional killing time before a client meeting. He had a booth tucked out of the way near the entrance but still in a place where he could keep an eye on the bar. He was holding yesterday's Guardian but not really reading. He was waiting for Clipboard lady to take her sour face from behind the bar.

When she was gone he slipped his almost perfect match white china charity shop mug from his bag and sauntered. He put the mug under the spout of the coffee urn and twisted the handle. Free refills till noon. Lovely jubbly.

Waistcoat drifted across to him, his perma-smile showing, and those round glasses of his perched low on the tip of his nose. Today’s waistcoat was muted, by his standards – turquoise check with monochrome parrots in little top hats marching a quickstep.

Johnny grinned at him. 'No drama this morning then?'

Waistcoat mock shuddered. 'Don't remind me. Two kids and their lunches delivered safely. Then top it all off: dozy Jinny left her flute behind.’

'This place wasn't the same without you - people were near rioting.’

Waistcoat screwed up his eyes and surveyed the room of slumping old men and slack eyed youngsters in tracksuits, all of them with their grasping hands formed in rigid curls around a lifetime of cheap beer cans.

He looked at Johnny. ‘These people?’

‘I said near rioting.’ Johnny raised his full mug. 'Fill you a cup?'

'No thanks. All that coffee. I'd be on the ceiling.'

‘I tell you, I need this, so bad. Four-hour meeting on fiscal standards to come, and that’s just this morning.’ He grinned at Waistcoat again. ‘Catch you later.’

Johnny returned to his seat. The old man sitting opposite was lost in space, and the swing doors were silent. Johnny flipped open the cover of his laptop bag. He reached inside, unscrewed the cap of the thermos, and then, following one last check of the doors and the bar steps, tipped the remainder of his coffee mug into it. He tightened the lid and then sat back to pretend sip his coffee. Another couple of trips and that was him with coffee for the day. He was saving himself one pound fifty every day, and it wasn't much but it was enough to buy him lunch, or it was a week of cornflake breakfast and dinners if he was sparing with the milk. Now wouldn't that be something, get himself a second thermos and fill it from the insulated jugs of milk they kept next to the coffee urn.

The stuff that dreams are made of.

by Dan

Flutes, harps and other heaven-type instruments are being played by a bevvy of attractive girl-angels.

St Peter (who resembles Hugh Hefner) is sitting on a golden throne in front of the Gates of Heaven with a gold chain round his neck, surrounded by his lovely be-winged musicians. Next to him on a black throne sits the Devil, who is smoking a cigar and has a Terry-Thomas Moustache.

An American man voices over in deep, manly tones :

“Only one beer can give you the courage to be strong.”

One of St Peter’s Angels is Keith’s school home economics teacher Miss Bray. He’d recognise her scent anywhere, wet dough and burnt cheese straw. He’s always fancied her.

With the devil is the Fenella Fielding from Carry on Screaming, she is tempting Keith like the harpy she is. “D’you mind if I smoke?” she says in her husky throaty voice, Keith feels himself weakening as she appears to catch fire.

St Peter, unconcerned, picks up a can of Kleinbrau Lager. He takes a refreshing sip. The foam forms an extra white layer upon his moustache. A smile covers his bronzed but wise face.

“Only one beer helps you keep cool when things get hot.”

St Peter hands the beer to Keith, who takes a deep swig. It is a lager like he has never tasted before, ice-cool clean, sharp, straight to the brain, it makes him feeling capable of anything.

“Only one beer makes a man out of a mouse.”

Fenella Fielding is imploring him, reaching out to him.

But, with a single Karate chop Keith vanquishes both Devil and vampish temptress. They fall screaming back down towards hell. Keith has proved that he is too early for both St Peter and the Devil.

St Peter rolls out the celestial down escalator while the lutes and flutes play Stairway to Heaven. He shows Keith his full array of sexy assistants, these also include Emma Peel, Daisy from The Dukes of Hazzard and Jessica Rabbit, and beckons for him to choose one. Keith points to one at the back clutching a small lute. His former university girlfriend Emily.

“Kleinbrau, A beer for men.”

With her on his arm he starts to descend.

Then suddenly he feels himself tripping off the escalator and falling, it’s his turn to scream! Emily is looking worriedly over the side but cannot save Keith.

He Lands on the grassy floor with a bump. His sheets are a mess of sweat mingled with wet dream. He is grasping his pillow firmly. He’s fallen off his campbed again.

Reluctantly he sits up and looked at his watch it was 5.19am on a summer morning in 1998. He just can’t sleep properly these days, he blames the early dawns and the birdsong and tries to banish the thoughts in his constantly fuzzy head. After a shower and a shit and a cup of tea he’ll feel much better. Be ready to set up the CAMRA bar at Dugglestone Steam Fair.

“Please only drink Kleinbrau in moderation” warns advert voice guy.

This reminds Keith that he still has a can of Theakston’s in his rucksack. The ring pull gives way with it’s usual satisfying “schwip” and he sucks the warm, brown, metallic liquid from it’s hole.