1. Short Story #1
2. Short Story #2
Also By Tim Heath
Over to You…
The Importance of a Review
The six-word story. Ernest Hemingway––erroneously as it turns out––often gets credited with maybe one of the most well known ones;
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
A year or so ago (I forget now, though the original phrase has always stuck with me) I came up with my very own six-word story, which forms the title of this book, the reason this collection––one that’ll grow I hope as others showcase their writing skills––now exists.
I’ll leave the exact story of how the phrase came about for maybe another occasion––it’s loosely fitted into my second story, anyway––and just let the words speak for themselves.
I hope you enjoy this––the first volume––something which I assume will grow over the years, as others contribute their own take on the phrase. I can’t wait to see what these might all be.
Mama had always told me never to go south of the railroad tracks down in the south side of town, where no respectable person was meant to be seen. “It was dangr’us,” she’d say, a baby hanging from her arms. She always had a child in arms, though I was the oldest. I don’t know how mama coped really. Even in those days, ten kids was a lot. My folks weren’t religious or nothin’ like that, they were salt of the earth kind of folk, God rest their souls. Always had time for ever’one, food on the table for the strays that always came knockin’ on that old wooden door, the aged planks on our front porch talking to us about the next visitor long before they ever got around to knocking.
I guess it ain’t good to look back too much. ‘Ain’t much joy to be had in doing that,’ ’swat mama always said. She said a lot of things really, always the one doing the talking, always the one the ladies came to as they crossed our street, making their ways to the factories or someplace similar, always making a stop over at old mamas. I guess ten was never enough for her, she was a mama to most of those folk back then.
As the oldest, most of the hardest chores fell on me. I didn’t mind, as such, it was just the way things had to be. Mama couldn’t manage on her own. Papa worked long hours in that factory, most of the folks around town did, it was the main industry. Cotton was the towns reason for first existing. I always wished it was gold, or some other reason. Maybe then there woulda’ been hope or somethin’, anything to make you believe this was your day, you’d strike it rich with the next shovelful of dirt. But cotton picking had its upside too, you see––girls. There were plenty of them around town in my day, and not just my five sisters. They would work the fields like all us boys did, equal rights and all, as my boyhood town caught up with the rest of the country. Most of the girls were the same as us, poor working class folk with little hope of really getting away from it all. Those that didn’t marry by ‘bout twenty never left. Mama always said that an education and a good work ethic was all it took to break the cycle. I never learnt what cycle she was talking ‘bout, but it sounded clever. I ain’t never owned no bike. Where would I have ridden to, anyhow? We lived on the farm with the other workers, the grocery store was front left, and the church on the corner of fifth and main street, not five minutes walk from home, even on a slow day. Surrounding us for as far as the eye could see was nothin’ but cotton fields, white as the snow is fallin’ fresh on those first cold days of winter.
Only the south side of town was any distance worth cycling to, and no one would do that in a month of Sunday’s. The rich kids lived there, or so they thought they were. Cars were plentiful even in them days, but their trucks always seemed that much newer, shinier than our trucks, too. Like they had some guy washing them all, some south side savvy who did nothing but make sure them damn cars shone bright and proud. They even had their own school, not that many folks went to school in our part of town. Too much real work to do, most families needed every hand they could get. I did school until I was twelve. Then my childhood was finished, real man work started. Twelve was no age to get an education. Mama knew that too, I think. The youngest four all finished school, but I was gone by then, anyhow. The gangs had got to me and life would never be the same again.
We were five of us to start. I ain’t no leader, you see, but we knew on our own we weren’t no one. Together we could be. As teenage years left me, them south siders kept coming across to our side in their goddam spotless trucks, wanting our cotton, our seats in church and then our girls. One girl got attacked late one night, no one was ever caught for it though. Nothin’ ever done. But we knew it was them. Had to be. So we wanted to have some means of protecting our part of town, showing these invaders that these were our streets, our shops and our girls.
No one asked us to do this, we kinda just self appointed ourselves to the role. We were pathetic really, just one knife between us, no experience and a lack of any real fighting ability. Who we thought we’d teach a lesson to, I ain’t got no clue. But we were young and eager. Ain’t no war to send us off to in them days, so we had to make our own war. Weapons would come into play later.
Then one summer it all changed. Some sweet looking thing with yellow hair and a pink top came looking around them goddam cotton fields out front. My cotton days were over, I’d declare to Mama not just once that spring. But that day I joined my brothers and sisters. She drew me in, you see. She didn’t belong there and yet I was captivated. I’d never seen anyone half as beautiful. She’d come as part of her high school project. She wanted to know what cotton harvest felt like, and came to volunteer that summer. Notepad in hand, she often wrote stuff down. I soon imagined she was writin’ stuff ‘bout me, but I’m sure it was probably other stuff, now I reflect. But she was like no drug I’d tried before. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t into anything serious, me and the boys back then, but did smoke some pot from time to time. With her, that summer, I didn’t need anything else. She turned my world upside down.
It was a full week before I plucked up enough courage to even mutter a word to her. We’d just smiled at each other occasionally across rows of cotton. She didn’t seem to notice my constant watch I’d kept on her since she’d first arrived–either that, or she did well to avoid letting on. She was bright, that was for sure. She dressed clever, you could tell. I’d never thought of where she lived, just imagined it was some place around here. I hadn’t been to school already for a long time by that point.
My brothers knew what was going on in only the ways siblings do. I guess Mama knew something too. She stopped shouting at me. I was working on the farm, at least, so I guess she counted her blessings. It wouldn’t have taken anyone long to discover my infatuation. I was lost.
I don’t ‘member what I said to her that day, but we got talking. She must have been only a couple years younger than me, but had this presence about her. She was a bright girl for sure. We walked to the shop and then I offered to walk her home. To my delight she agreed, and we just kind of kept walking. She sounded so sweet, I’d only ever caught the occasional sound before in the fields, too scared to go less than two rows from her. Now, she sounded angelic. Her accent was different, from somewhere exotic, no place round my part of the country, for sure. She was captivating. We talked all about her project. She said how much her legs and back ached from all the cotton picking. Her hands were bleeding too. I remember how it felt when I first started too.
Then we got to the railroad.
She carried on, leaping the tracks in one simple move, before turning. I was stuck as if facing a brick wall, as if it would take all my effort to even move one inch. She looked at me, puzzlement showing in her eyes for a moment, the first sign that she was trying to work out who I was. It bothered me.
I stepped across the lines, only a few seconds hesitation, but it seemed to affect the conversation after that. She seemed less interested, or maybe that was me. I couldn’t tell, my own thoughts and emotions racing. So she was a south side girl. The thought had never crossed my mind, but as my feet had crossed those tracks, it was as if I wasn’t so sure about anything anymore.
The summer went on, and my walking her home became a daily activity. It was far, but her company made it all the more enjoyable. The tracks became less of a barrier, even if the idea of being in that part of town was still unfamiliar. The boys I was hanging with at that time knew I was keen on her. They would quiz me about her, where she lived, what her folks did, what they drove? Did she have any sisters or girlfriends?
She had no sisters, for sure. I’d meet all her siblings one evening, three older brothers, the youngest of which was at least my age. I could tell they didn’t like the idea one bit about me being anywhere near her. They didn’t need to tell me to my face. They all had long necks and big honks, a family trait that even their folks shared, except the daughter. She was pretty. The prettiest girl I had ever seen.
I told the gang about them all. We’d had a few beers, glad we could buy them legally now, for once. I can’t remember who first coined the phrase, but it stuck that very night. We referred to the brothers as simply geese, owing for the long white necks and big noses. Geese, quack quack, we said, over and over. They didn’t scare me, I lied all night.
Summer came to a close. She’d kissed me once, as I’d walked her to her door. Nothing over the top, just something on my left cheek. I had to bend down to let her do it, which was no issue. She smiled and went indoors. Turning around, her brothers were standing there, circling my exit. They seemed calm, but their positioning suggested a certain menace. I didn’t move. They didn’t say anything. Moments later the front door flew open again, and out she came, standing next to me, holding my hand. She held my hand. “This is the guy I’ve been telling you about,” she’d said, the oldest brother standing directly in front of me, eyes fixed on mine. I squeezed her hand in mine, but held his glare. Mama taught me never to look away first. She would always hold her gaze longer than Papa could.
The stand off lasted only a minute. She went over to her brothers and said something. The only part I could hear was her telling them to be nice. She returned inside. I walked past them, but they didn’t seem to be listening to their sister. “You better not hurt her,” is all the oldest of the three brothers spoke to me. I had no intention of hurting her, and as I walked back, those miles seeming to float by, I dwelt for the first time in my life that a girl had been telling her brothers about me. Me.
Cotton harvest was over, and just like that she stopped coming to the farm. Now, in those days, we didn’t have no telephone or nothin’ like that. Yet I’d never walked south side without her, unless I was headin’ back from droppin’ her off. Did she want to see me anymore?
Drugs started becoming an issue too. The gang, that had grown to twelve of us now, was starting to make some nice money passing on a few tablets here and there. We wasted the profits, at first, on our own habits. As always, that wasn’t then enough. The serious money was south side, where the posh kids lived. We started venturing across the tracks more and more, my right hand man the only one who owned his own truck. We called it the battle wagon, but it ain’t ever seen no war. It was just battle down rusty to the core, but it was wheels and had a flat bed, which meant the guys could jump on the back also. There were no real cops around town those days, none that ventured our way, anyway.
I often thought about her. Once we drove down her road, though the guys weren’t to know and I hadn’t said nothin’ about it either. But business was picking up. Which meant someone else was losing business. We weren’t to know that another gang ran that side of town. We weren’t to know that I’d been looking into the leader of that gangs eyes just weeks before, as his sister held my hand for the first time. We knew very little back then, just your average street kids, grafting their way through life.
Troy was twenty-two when he vanished. We’d been south side to pick up another batch of tablets. He’d been on look out. I’d known him since we were both ten. He was as close as a brother as any of my real brothers. We’d pulled the truck away before we realised he wasn’t with us. We figured he’d been spotted or somethin,’ just doing a runner. We fled too, but later went back to look for him. He hadn’t come home that evening nor by the following morning. No one had seen or heard anything from him.
I dropped by her house. She hadn’t heard anything, and seemed pleased to see me. She said she’d help me look for him, and we drove around in her folks car for a couple of hours. I didn’t say what we’d been doing when he went missing, but I sensed she could guess. We’d not been in contact for some weeks, and there was a general coldness to her now. She seemed a little different. Later that night, she dropped me back at hers, I said I wanted to walk home from there. She didn’t need to drive me all the way back. Plus I wanted to speak to her brothers. They were bound to know something.
They denied any knowledge, didn’t seem at all bothered in any way. They’d asked what we were doing in town. I lied, and it was clear they knew I was lying. I should have suspected something then. I left them, more confused than I had been in days.
Troy was found days later, shot to pieces. The police had sealed the area of, tape and everythin’. It was quite a circus in those days, we just hadn’t seen nothin’ of that nature before. His folks were taken to see the body. They were distraught, and had no idea what we’d been getting involved with. I think Mama knew. I’d stopped going to church with her each Sunday. I think she was praying that the Devil wouldn’t get hold of me.
His folks told me how Troy had been found. He’d been shot five times in the chest, killed almost instantly, and a metal spike had been stuck into his stomach, a pink cardigan tied to the spike. I knew what it meant straight away. They’d done this to him, they’d done this to get at me.
I ran all the way to her house that very day, further than I’d run since junior high when I had the stamina for it. She was home alone. Her brothers were out. I’d asked her straight out to see the pink cardigan she’d first worn to the cotton fields that summer. She seemed confused at first, saying it had been ruined and she’d stopped wearing it once the harvest had finished. She’d given it to her brother who was changing the oil on the truck and had needed something to use.
Trembling with rage, I’d made it back to our gang. They had all just heard, none of them knowing what to do with it. His younger brother had also been part of the gang for a year already. We were a tight group. “Them Geese,” I’d said, the name sticking from that original encounter I’d had with them after walking her home for the first time that summer, “they lied!” There was a look of confusion. When they’d last seen me they knew I’d met with those red necks and I’d said they knew nothing about Troy’s whereabouts. But that clearly wasn’t the case. We’d underestimated them, and though I’d spend the rest of my years in prison as I am now, I knew it was her oldest brother’s fault. He’d made it personal. I turned and, facing the group, in my clearest moment of leadership, said with all the meaning, pain and anger I could; “He’s dead!”
The ground crackled with the sound of boot hitting frozen gravel. Leaves that had otherwise remained uncollected now dusted in ice-White and crumbling on human contact. It was still too dark to see much of where he was walking as he bounded from his still cold car to the front gate of his latest employer.
Nathan was a little later to school that morning than he usually was, the two other cars that had for once made it in before him testament to that fact. That confirmed his tardiness which he’d known the moment his alarm clock sang out its chorus to him at five-thirty that morning, and yet it was just the start of a fresh, new week.
He’d been out of the country the previous week on a school trip––not the type where he had to accompany children who were too young to be away from home––but as a teacher to visit another school. To see how they did things over in Luxembourg. At least it had been warmer there.
He certainly knew he was back home in Tallinn that morning. Home––it’s funny how he’d adopted the Estonian capital so quickly, though he had been there long enough. The onset of cold––and all that it therefore hinted was to come––still took some getting used to, even after three winters there. It was as if the arrival back from warmer climates had shocked his system, winter sneaking in when he’d been away. Maybe that was why he was running late that morning?
He’d been expecting snow to start falling from the sky any day now.
Nathan had a friend who lived in Latvia––David, an Englishman in the country south of Estonia––and they saw each other maybe once a year, twice at a push. Contact was largely through Facebook, like most of his acquaintances. It was just easier that way. Every year David noted the day he saw the geese flying south for winter. David swore by this heavenly wonder as a sign that winter was coming, that the migrating geese were letting him know that within ten days there’d be snow. The geese knew about that type of thing, or so David had tried to convince him.
Nathan had been passed-on this meteorological secret only the previous year––and so it had proved. Whilst it was not the heavy snowfall––that came much later in winter, sometimes only in December in fact––it was still the first white carpet of the autumn.
There was something mesmeric, something almost magical about snowfall that still managed to fascinate that particular forty-five year old Englishman. Was it growing up in a nation where proper snowfall was rare? In his new home nation, when the snow turned up it would hang around for months, like an ageing relative who come March hadn’t yet worked out she’d long outstayed her welcome. In England even heavy snow would last just a few days. If they were particularly unlucky––or lucky, depending on your persuasion––it might last a whole week. There was something about the consistency, the permanence that made Estonian winters so mysterious, so different.
Nathan had so far managed three long years in Tallinn. Latvian David––though actually a fellow Brit of course––was proper hard core; he was approaching twenty years and counting. When Nathan was swimming in one of Estonia’s lakes or beaches during the long summers, he knew he could manage twenty years of this life. On mornings in deepest winter, clearing his car of yet another two inches of snow, he marvelled that he’d even lasted as long as he had.
His job––a secondary teacher in the European school––did at least give him a standard of living that he wouldn’t have otherwise had in the UK. It wasn’t the huge salary––he quickly realised that salaries were low in the most northern of the three Baltic states––but he was earning more than most, and with a lower cost of living, he was relatively well-off. Being able to afford a car was proof of that. He’d never managed that working at schools in central London. His monthly transport costs there were twice what it cost him each month to run his car. And on mornings like this one, despite the deicing, it made having a car a real luxury he now had become accustomed to.
“Good morning, Nathan,” the lady on reception said as he finally made it in through the front doors. “Still no snow,” she added with a smile. She was clearly a sceptic to his now proven system, as he had been last year. She’d soon see. He’d make her a believer yet.
“Today’s the day, Kristi, I’m telling you.” She was Estonian. One of the many he had met during his time in Estonia that had one of the hundreds of a name variations––it appeared––that started with the letter ‘k’. At least he had managed to remember hers.
He took the stairs up to his floor two at a time. He was glad to be home again.
Thankfully his classroom wasn’t the disaster it might have been. Between the cover teacher that had taken his lessons the previous week and the weekend cleaning staff, they had kept his room in order.
Walking into the staff room just five minutes later––something he intended to be in and out off in just a few seconds; collecting some printing he’d just sent through to the shared printer, as well as placing his lunch in the fridge––he encountered his first ‘oh boy’ moment of the day; a day that would hand out its fair share before it was time to leave.
“Good morning Steph,” he said, far too enthusiastically for that time of day, “I didn’t see you there. Did you miss me when I was gone?”
There were tears starting to roll down her pale cheeks before he’d even finished speaking, his smile dropping from his face as he took in the scene. He felt stupid for not noticing before. “Is everything okay?”
“Actually, no, it’s not. Life’s a bit crappy at the moment, if I’m honest. It’s my husband. He left me for good on Saturday night.” She couldn’t say anything more.
“Gees, Steph, I had no idea.” He took the spare chair from next to her, turning it around to face her whilst keeping between them both what he deemed a respectable distance.
There was a period of silence––awkward and uncomfortable––where Nathan said nothing. He’d already made a fool of himself once, he feared putting his foot in it again, as Stephanie remained still, head in hands, quietly sobbing to herself.
It was still twenty minutes before any students would arrive at school––that was something, no one needed to see her in that state––they had time.
It was Stephanie who finally broke the deafening silence. “It’s okay, really. Well, it’s not okay, of course. It’s crap. But you didn’t know when you walked in here. You’re the only person to know anything about it, actually. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything around here at the moment.”
“Goes without saying, Steph, you know me.”
“Thanks,” was all she managed.
He became aware of the time. “Is there anything that I can do for you right now? A tissue maybe?” and he handed her a bunch that he’d just grabbed from a box to the side of them.
“Thanks,” she said again, this time with a small smile. She hadn’t smiled in days. “You didn’t come in here to comfort me, however,” she said, spotting the time herself now, “so go, do whatever it was you came in here to do. I’ll be fine.”
Whether she’d be fine or not––he sided with not from the way she looked up at him, her eyes puffy, cheeks damp––she insisted he get moving. After a quick, rudimentary hug, he did leave her there. Others would be in soon, other staff running errands before doing what he’d done, Steph going through it all again no doubt a few times before the first bell rang.
Nathan’s first lessons of the week were with his Secondary Two class; an hour and a half in total. After break he had S6, the current oldest year group in the school. Those that moved up from that group at the end of the school year––most were expected to––would form the new and final class the school would have. Before lunch, he had S1, the youngest group of children Nathan taught. These children––they weren’t yet qualified in Nathan’s book to be referred to as students, despite it being school culture––were caught between the tension of not quite being old enough to really get along by themselves in the Secondary environment, and being too old for Primary.
Nathan certainly most enjoyed teaching his older students than that particular S1 class.
His Monday afternoons were filled with back to back S4 lessons. His teaching day usually finished at four on Mondays.
“Nathan,” the Director of the school said, poking his chubby face around the classroom door during his first double lesson of the morning, “can I have a word?” Nathan left his students to the task they were working through and stepped out into the corridor.
“We haven’t heard anything from Victor this morning. He’s failed to show up.”
Victor was the only science teacher the school had, and was by far the oldest colleague there––his exact age was something of legend, an insider mystery, a constant source of humour and intrigue shared by most of the other members of staff. Obviously he was young enough to still be working, though only just––unless you believed the growing rumours of his need of work in order to pay back some vast gambling debt, and he was indeed the hundred years old that his ravaged facial features displayed.
“I’ll need you to cover his final lesson today,” the Director said, handing Nathan a copy of the timetable. Victor’s last lesson on Monday’s started at four––so much for his early finish that day.
“Okay, that’s not a problem,” he lied. Of course it was––well, maybe problem was too strong a word; annoyance, certainly, pain in the neck; he hoped not. When staff called in sick, it was school policy that others filled in for them. The supply system––which Nathan had worked in during some of his time in the UK––had not yet made it to Estonia.
“Thank you, Nathan,” the Director said, already moving away. Of course Nathan would cover the lesson, what else might he otherwise have to do in all that free time?
Nathan took himself outside during lunchtime that day––something he allowed himself to do in moderation, his now longer day a just reason today––and he walked the five minutes it took to get to the vast shopping centre down the road from them.
Sat in McDonalds for his dessert––he loved their milkshakes but that was his limit––Nathan was about to trudge back to school, to read through the lesson notes for his cover lesson, when he spotted Charles. He taught French across all year groups––two skills Nathan could only admire; his abilities to speak more than one language, whilst also teaching Primary children. Charles was slumped in his chair in one corner of the restaurant, a telephone in his hand which just rested flat––lifeless––against the tabletop, not obviously now speaking with anyone, just sitting there with a vacant gaze.
“Charles!” Nathan called out, walking over to his colleague who had arrived in Estonia from Australia the same year Nathan had started at the school. Born in France––a French speaker from birth––his parents had relocated to Sydney when he was just a boy. “Is everything okay? You seem kind of distracted?” Charles looked anything but okay.
“I just had a call out of the blue from my mother. It’s my dad. He’s been diagnosed with cancer; they say he has months, if that, left to live. I’m going to have to drop everything and see him. I don’t have much choice!” Charles’ Estonian girlfriend––another name beginning with k that Nathan could never remember––had just given birth to their son, maybe only two months back.
There were tears beginning to border the edges of Charles’ blue eyes––like an advancing army approaching the crest of a hill, ready to charge forth and destroy all, tinkering on the brink. Nathan wasn’t at all sure he could handle another colleague––this time in a packed McDonalds––breaking down in front of him.
“Oh boy, Charles; that’s not good. I’m sorry to hear that.” What else was there to say? Sydney must feel a really long way away at moments like this.
Neither man said anything for a while––Charles’ blank focus staring at nothing unchanged, despite his answers, Nathan unable to muster up anything more helpful than he had already offered. It was getting painfully awkward––Charles just sitting there, holding his phone like it was an unexploded grenade, desperate to keep the pin from flicking out, his head lowered, breathing now slow but heavy. Nathan standing with one arm reached out––but not making contact, so the gesture was entirely pointless––not knowing what else to do.
After a full one-hundred and twenty seconds––Nathan had counted off the last thirty in his head––he made his exit. Charles clearly needed time alone, time to process, time to think.
It was a slow walk back to school for his afternoon of lessons.
How these lessons seemed to drag. Maybe it was the knowledge that S1 were up next, maybe his thoughts were still with Charles––still with Stephanie? Once he’d raced through his youngest children––quite what they took in he was at a loss to be able to really tell––he did feel that pressure, that heaviness, release considerably. What was it about these particular children that made him so nervous, so bound up?
Moving between classes, he passed Stephanie in the corridor, their eyes making contact for a few seconds as they passed but they carried on their paths regardless, without actually saying a word. Maybe it was just easier that way? She seemed to be holding herself together, anyway, probably bottling it all up for another time. He’d have to pick his timing a little more carefully tomorrow.
At four––the bell ringing out, Nathan glad to be through his first day back––he was heading for the staff room to return a dirty coffee mug when with sudden remembrance, like a heavy weight falling into a cloth sack, he registered the fact he was taking Victor’s last lesson. He did a one-eighty on the spot––thankfully no colleagues were in the corridor at that moment to witness his blip––and headed for the stairs, going up to the third floor where the students were clearly waiting for their teacher to arrive. They automatically filed to their desks as he entered the classroom, Nathan then taking out the detailed lesson plan and opening up the text book. At least the students were old enough to know what they were doing––small mercies, he thought, at the end of the day.
One of the things Nathan enjoyed about teaching at that school––and not just the kids who sat before him now, working through the exercises he’d instructed them to complete––was their keenness to learn. That was a stark contrast to some of his inner city postings in England. Maybe it was because here the classes were small––his largest class consisted of twelve children––or maybe it was down to the mix of nationalities, though some of the inner London schools had been very multicultural.
Maybe this was just how this caliber of child was, the product of wealthy parents––this school was the first private school he’d ever taught at––but he doubted this last point made any difference as it was forming in his mind.
Whatever the reason––he’d never been able to specifically explain to his former colleagues still in England what it was––he now never dreaded teaching there. His S1 class were immature––he’d never volunteer to teach them all week long––but they weren’t dangerous, weren’t aggressive nor violent. The mere thought of some of his placements in East London whilst he was a supply teacher was enough to send an ice-cold shudder down his spine. He instantly focussed back on the students before him; who were all sitting in almost complete silence, the only real sound being of pen on paper.
Just before five, the school day now over for all, he was heading back to his own classroom––his urban sanctuary in a jungle of children––and spent a little time preparing for the following day. He sent some more worksheets through to the printer, going to collect them once more from the staff-room––thankfully now empty of Stephanie who he’d seen leaving for home twenty minutes before––though he felt guilty for even avoiding her.
As he exited the staff-room, Charles was himself coming out of the Director’s office across the corridor.
“How did it go?” Nathan said, needing to say something but nothing better jumped to mind.
“He’s allowed me to take extended leave, starting immediately. I’m not really sure when––if ever––I’ll be coming back.” It’d clearly been a difficult afternoon for Charles, Nathan had no clue who’d covered for him but someone must have.
“That’s good that you’ve been allowed that, important, really. Of course you require as much time off as you need. If you do ever come back, there’ll be a beer waiting for you from me!” It seemed the least he could offer after his lunchtime debacle.
“Thanks, Nathan,” Charles said, but there was no real emotion there. Enduring another sensitive moment with his socially awkward English colleague was not high on his list of reasons to come back.
As Nathan walked away from Charles––realising he probably wouldn’t in fact see him again––he passed the main office, where the administration staff worked. The Estonian who oversaw the teachers’ calendars––another female, another with a name he kept getting mixed up that started with the letter k––came out to him as he hovered in the doorway. Nathan didn’t want to provoke a situation that he didn’t need to––but he didn’t like surprises. Assuming she’d heard from Victor by now, and that Victor wasn’t in fact coming back in tomorrow already, he’d like to know if he was needing to cover before he left home in the morning, before he starting his teaching day. Knowing in advance just helped him––soothed him, mellowed him.
“I’ve not actually managed to get hold of him yet, so no, I don’t entirely know,” she said in reply to what had been his long winded––what was he trying to get at––airy question.
As he started to move on, he told her once more––something he’d said one hundred times already since working there, and always after he’d been asked to cover at short notice, a situation the school really had no control over; “If you do need me tomorrow, I’d appreciate a little more notice,” he said, one-hundred and one and counting. “A call tonight would be ideal.” It always was with Nathan.
“Of course, I’ll let you know as soon as possible.” He’d heard that many times before. He let it drop, pulling on his jacket, and positioned his hat and gloves as he descended to the ground floor, despite the relative short walk it would take to get to his car.
Outside––as he knew it would be––it was chilly, the darkness of winter already hanging heavy like a fur coat, like a foreign invader that had taken them all by surprise.
Halfway across to his car, he recalled Latvian-David’s message on Facebook from the start of the month, when Nathan had just touched down in Luxembourg. He’d just seen the geese flying overhead and wanted to warn Nathan of its ominous connotation. Yet, eleven days later, there was still no snow.
“Those geese,” he thought to himself as his key hovered by the boot of his car, “they lied,” he added, with a smile––so much for his proven method. He was dropping his laptop into the boot when the girl from the office came jogging over towards him, calling out his name when she was halfway across the car park. He turned to face her.
“Its Victor,” she panted, “I just spoke with his son. He’s dead.”
The Last Prophet
The Shadow Man
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I really hope you have enjoyed this series––so far! Want to add something? Want to see your own story included in the next volume of this series? All I ask is you use the six-word story as a basis––it could be very loosely connected, or heavily engrained, it doesn’t really matter––and see where your writing takes you.
&Email me a copy& of your completed story;
&I can’t promise& it’ll be included but I promise I will read it and let you know!
Reviews should be automatic. Think of it as a tip left for the waiting staff after a meal out. Except, the book you’ve just devoured wasn’t prepared in just the last twenty minutes––the author has possibly spent months agonising over it.
Sadly, very few people leave a review.
Reviews greatly help an author. They do not need to be wordy (but they can be), you do not need to talk about all aspects of the book (but you can if you wish), they just need to be there. Visual. They help other readers to choose a book, thereby increasing the author’s readership. They also affirm, encourage and help the author to keep going. Believe me, there are days when you just want to quit.
So now you know. I make it a matter of principle to always review a book I’ve read––how about you?
Though not one of my novels––therefore it didn’t go to my excellent editorial team as they were already working on one of my books––there have still been a number of people, as always, that have assisted me with this!
Thank you to Edith Chenault, an American I happened to meet in Tartu who gave my deep south short-story the once over.
Thanks as always to Taaniel for the cover design.
This is the first text of mine that went out to my Advanced Reader Team (ART for short). Thank you therefore to Fraser Drummond, Zan-Mari, Maxine Heath (no relation!) and Victoria Myatt (aka Tor––who happens to be my little-big sister) for your feedback, comments and corrections.
Thanks finally to the wonderful community in ‘Tea Time with Tim’, the awesome Facebook group we are all members of. It’s so much fun getting to meet you all there––I’m making this reference here, because I know without saying anything, you’ll see this (because you are keen readers!) and it’ll give us something more to talk about around the virtual table.
The six-word story. Ernest Hemingway––erroneously as it turns out––often gets credited with maybe one of the most well known ones; For sale: baby shoes, never worn. A year or so ago I came up with my very own six-word story, which forms the title of this book, the reason this collection now exists. I’ll leave the exact story of how the phrase came about for maybe another occasion––it’s loosely fitted into my second story, anyway––and just let the words speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy this––the first volume––something which I assume will grow over the years, as others contribute their own take on the phrase. I can’t wait to see what these might all be.