All stories

a good session

by Dan

“Do you suppose that it is like ven you vere 12?” The earnest psychotherapist Dr Hans Pfister stroked his beard, “That moment ven you vont to go in a Sveet schop but know that you must give up on youthful pleasures! Perhaps zis sudden increase in innuendo is because you know ze gate is shutting on part of your life!”

“I’m not sure I understand” said Archie, who had not been listening but casually observing a large pair of breasts belonging to the elderly shrink’s secretary, Miss Norks, which were passing in the corridor behind the glass window.

“In ze sweet schop. It is acceptable for a boy who is 8, to say Mama I vont to lick upon a chocolate starfish! But ven you are a teenager, this is shaming, not appropriate, childlike! Sveet-time is over.”

Archie was listening now and could feel a rush of forbidden laughter rising in his chest at the mention of chocolate starfishes. He couldn’t resist goading the innocent old fool. “I’m not sure I understand…”

“Vell let us stretch the analogy, my favourite candy ven I was a boy was der Gefrorene Zehen, ‘Frozen toes!!!’ As a small boy I vould cry unless my mutter gave me some. But now if Miss Norks had any, I could not ask her to let me suck upon her frozen toes, because I’m not a child!”

Archie felt the blood rise, a surge of heat coursed through his body. His desire to roar with laughter suppressed only by his need not to offend the innocent old professor who seemed completely out of his depth

“It is like this, you haff reported to me that while people once laughed at your double-entendres, they don’t anymore! But you should understand that this vos ven you had ze floppy hair und lowly position, now you are a deputy headteacher, ze times haff changed, you haff changed, unt you must act differently. But you are sad to leave yourself behind.

So it follows zat if my secretary came in with a bag of those golden coins you get at Christmas you could not anymore say “Miss Norks let me put my tongue upon your tuppenny bit!!”

At this point Archie was gone, his face purple, his nose full of snot, he may even have produced a little semen. He couldn’t let the professor or Miss Norks see him like this, so he mumbled something about an appointment and rushed from the room with tears of laughter upon his cheeks.

When he got home, Archie who had eventually stopped laughing, cleaned himself up and then sat down sadly and thought seriously about the session. It had cost £200 for only 10 minutes of therapy, but he now saw that the old man was right. It was time to become a more serious human being. Especially as he loved his wife and would never act in a sexually inappropriate way with anyone.

Back in the office Dr Pfister reclined on his patients chaise-longue whilst Miss Norks administered fellatio. “Was it a good session?” she asked matter-of-factly when she’d finished.

“Yes thank you” said Dr Pfister “Most satisfactory, I do not think he will need to, uh’m…. come again.”

And Miss Norks couldn’t help but observe a twinkle in the old professor’s eye.

Kira Adjacent

by Russ

It’s been forty minutes since Kira smiled at me and I still haven’t thought of anything to say to her. I’ve tried to find words in pints of eggy lager but none have arrived yet Not in the first, second, or third, so that’s two quid seventy up the spout.

She’s been dancing for the last few songs. Her blue hair whipping about as Fred Durst’s delicate musings on chocolate starfish, and his complex applications of the word ‘fuck’, permeate the air. Every repetition is spat through her black lipstick and punctuated by her silver-ringed fingers. It’s hard to see why I’m struggling for inspiration in this poetic cacophony.

Note to self: Probably shouldn’t say musings, permeate, or cacophony when I do go over.

In another half an hour the lights will go up, and we’ll be shunted onto the street to take our chances with the crowd from the other club. To scurry for safety in hope we don’t get seen as easy prey for those in bright shirts looking to impress their short-skirted counterparts. Those of high heels and frozen toes, crouching over drains to spend giant pennies in the most polite way they can think of.

Another note: Don’t say counterparts.

I know words, loads of them, so why can’t I put enough of them in front of each other to break the ice with the only actual human female who’s noticed I exist since I walked into this place. Probably the same reason I haven’t managed to string a coherent sentence together in our English classes since the start of term. Whatever that reason is.

What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here. I’m a…

Yeah, probably shouldn’t take my lead from this song. She is still dancing though, and I don’t think there’s anyone with her. Surely that’s what any normal person would do, just pootle over and start dancing Kira adjacent while the slow-ish song plays.

Note three: No to pootle, no to adjacent.

Note four: Do not let her see you making notes to yourself in your head.

The problem with me going over to dance is I’ll be all limbs and no rhythm, and it’s a proven scientific fact that girls who dance very much prefer their boys to be the other way round. Well, maybe not proven, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.

Twenty minutes.

‘May I have this dance, m’lady…’


‘How’re you getting on with that Hamlet essay?’

Not the time.

‘Your nose ring looks resplendent under the UV...’

Definitely not.

Fuck it.

‘Pint of eggy beer and a cider and black please, barkeep!’

Barkeep. For fuck’s sake...

The one where Johnny shares his antique coin collection with a lady

by James

Gosh, well, yes – it was bikes down the Amalfi coast – three hundred miles, poot poot, one hundred and fifty horses between my thighs – one hundred forty for the little lady – pasta every night, Limoncello. We stayed in the tiniest of villages, no hotels, you are guests in people’s homes, you eat what they eat. Fresh pasta – they pick it off the trees, you know – oh, and the porcini - so lively it was snuffling around for truffles in the afternoon before! The Germans have a word for it – torschulsspanik – literal meaning is gate closing panic – from back in the day when you had to race home before they locked the city gates for the night.

I’m not ashamed to admit it though – mid-life crisis is what it was, which is why me and the little woman bought ourselves matching hogs and gave ourselves this summer to reconnect, to centre one’s id. Happens to us all, what?

It was at this point that Avery finally paused for breath. He raised his glass of rare and precious self-imported Pinio Grigio to the rest of the table of chinless wonders and then took a delicate sip. Johnny forced himself to join the entire table in smiling a gormless grin. He had to cross his legs and clench his entire body to stop himself from leaning across the table to grab Avery by his honest to God cravat, slap him about the face sixty of seventy times whilst screaming it’s bloody torschlusspanik you pretentious bastard.

Johnny did not speak or read German, but he knew that the idiot kept on saying schusls when he should have been saying schluss because he’d surreptitiously googled the bloody word to find out what the bloody idiot was yakking about. Now he was on about hiking across a glacier to see the borealis at dawn – six frozen toes and a near heart attack, but oh so worth it.

Johnny murmured an apology and fled to the toilet. No one seemed to notice him leaving. He killed time in there a while and then went through into the kitchen to very slowly get himself a drink of water before taking an inordinate amount of time to select for himself a foil wrapped chocolate starfish from the dish next to the half demolished Tiramisu (hand made by Avery to a secret holiday recipe).

As he turned for the door he was startled to find Avery’s ever so slightly tipsy wife Karen in the doorway, wine glass in one hand, door frame in the other.

Karen said, ‘Ally in accounts sent me an interesting text message. She told me to ask to see your giant pennies.’

Johnny’s heart sank as his face grew hot. Bloody Alison, always trying to spread it about how much of a boring middle-aged fellow he was, but what was wrong with having a hobby? What was wrong with collecting overlarge novelty copper coins anyway?

Karen looked him in the eye again. Her gaze was firm. She left the safety of the door and stumbled into him. Wine drenched the back of his shoulder as she grabbed him for support, her other hand against his chest.

‘Oops,’ Karen said. She looked up at him. ‘Avery’s not the only one with a mid-life crisis, you know…’

Clean up on Isle 4

by Lewis

Till opening on

He only has moments to act, but Harold stumbles on his thoughts and feet as he tries to spin 180 degrees and walk forward at the same instant.

... Isle 4.

He moves too late late as he jerkily tries to balance the grapefruit at the top of his precarious basket. He hates grapefruit. His back aches from the weight, why didn't he get a trolley. Bloody typical.

Sandra, sales executive, with the perfect body of an amateur swimmer. Funny, clever, caring.

The grapefruit begins to roll, hovering for a fraction of a second on the thin metal rim. Time stops.

“We’re interested sure, can you come down to Islington on Thursday we can talk more!”

Then like a falling star, the grapefruit descends crashing into a 100 small pieces the size of giant pennies. The juice trickles over his flip flops. He always hated Christmas shopping.

“It's just Christmas with the parents, what are you worried about?”

Why did he worry about showing commitment. And now his only commitment was paying rent.

He stands unmoving, his toes frozen from the chilled Isle, mind racing. All those wrong choices.


“I’m sorry but it's a long way to go just for a chat about a job.”

Fuuuck. He was 53 and utterly alone. How did that happen.

“Look just don't come then, stay here. I'll see you in the new year…for god's sake your not even going to argue are you. No don't like at me”


“Excuse me sir, was that your grapefruit?” The 10 year old shop assistant, looked up at him disappointedly. Harold pauses before turning his fear filled, angry eyes to the unfortunate lad.

“I hate grapefruit. Did you know that? Course you didn't, you don't care about having to eat crap you hate so you don't have a heart attack, you push a broom around and the rest of the time your just out fucking and drinking and god knows what else. A world of opportunity ahead of you, that you don't care about because you will live forever. Well fuck me. I live in a one bed flat on my own in a job I hate. That wasn't the plan And now what, whose gonna hire someone in their 50s? I could have gone to Wisemans and Cribb, a top Islington law firm....”

The basket drops to the floor, an explosion of rice crackers, bulger wheat and celery.

The shop assistant cowers behind the sweets counter. Harold approaches.

“You should have seen her. Clever, funny, confident, stunning. I’m taking these.” Harold grabs a pack of Chocolate Starfish.

“What? Don't look at me. That's what she said actually, on her way out. I'm an idiot. You ever tried getting a date as an overweight, underachieving 53 year old? HAVE YOU?”

Harold sinks to the floor, opening the chocolates on his descent. Between stuffing handfuls into his mouth, he uses the chocolate bag to stop hyperventilating.

Then around the corner, the clip of heels and a voice from his memories, a meld of past and present.

“Oh my god, Harold?” The chocolate mess looks up, wiping his mouth and smeering chocolate further up his cheeks. He has never forgotting those eyes. Slowly a hand extends, offering the bag.

“Hi Sandra, chocolate starfish?”

Eye candy

by Jenny

It’s five-thirty on a grey, dismal October evening and Cerianne is waiting for the bus. She hasn’t dressed for rain, not even a coat, and the leaky brolly she took from Reception drips rainwater miserably down her back. The soft canvas of her black pumps is soaked through and her toes are frozen.

The road in front of her streams with cars and buses - none of them hers - that fart and belch and groan. She is surrounded by looming office high-rises and pollution-stained shop fronts. It is exactly the same as it was this morning, and yesterday and every day that she can remember.

Cerianne looks at her watch. The five-thirty bus is not coming. She tries to share an ‘oh well’ sort of smile with the old man beside her, but he just scowls and reasserts his place ahead of her in the queue.

Then a big, grey dirty van that has been parked in front of them revs its engine and drives away and suddenly it’s like the sun has come out from behind a cloud. There, nestled among the weathered grimy, featureless fronts is a burst of vibrant colour that seems wildly out of place among its dreary fellows.

The window is big and bright, glowing golden and framed in freshly painted red wood. The walls are freshly scrubbed and gleaming, but it’s the goods inside that really draw Cerianne in. A sweetshop - not like the grubby Happy Shopper near her flat that sells cheap fags and dirty magazines - but a colourful paradise of brightly wrapped confectionary that makes Cerianne’s mouth water.

She looks at her watch. Five-forty-five.Could she manage it before the six o’clock bus? The next one isn’t until seven, if she misses it, it will mean a long wait in the rain. She glances behind her to the trail of grey, dispirited people behind her.

She’d be at the back of the queue.

Her heart is racing.

Cerianne turns back. She can see giant silver pennies, wrapped in foil nestling in the corner of the window. Chocolate mermaids and seahorses and starfish dangle among blue cardboard bubbles in a nautical display. Rows and rows of gaudy, delicious chocolate reaching back into the depths of the shop.

The watch says five-fifty now. She has forgotten her wet shoes and leaky brolly, her head is filled with praline and sugar and caramel, her mouth is watering. She lifts one foot to step out of the queue and cross the road.

If she’s going she has to go now.

But what if the bus comes?

She puts the foot back, but lifts it immediately up again. No, she can get a Peppermint Cream at the Happy Shopper.

But, she’ll be dreaming of those chocolate starfish all night, imagining how they’d melt on her tongue.

It will still be here tomorrow.

But she wants it all in her mouth now.

Five-fifty-five. The six o’clock bus will almost certainly be late, won’t it? She can do it, she can make it. There’s a gap in the traffic, if she just runs now then maybe -