A third volume of shorts is nearing completion. It’s due for publication later this year. As previously, expect it to be a mixed bag. Unlike the other two volumes, however, this one does contain a small selection of monologues, including, That’s Technology, A Fracas at the Pig and Whistle and the longer, Our Rose. All three pieces are on the more humorous side.
On a more serious note, there’s the final story in the saga of Tony, the homeless man, To Elysian Fields. Needless to say, the clue is in the title. The story’s a sad and sobering reflection on the state of homelessness in Britain today.
A Set of Luggage came about as the result of a short story writing competition in the latter part of 2019 with the specific subject of ‘A Suitcase’. The other stipulation was that the story shouldn’t exceed 1,000 words.
I made three attempts to write a story within the parameters laid out, but each time exceeded the word count. I never did enter the competition, but I was left with A Set of Luggage.
Of the three The Swan, The Suitcase and The Man was the result of a combination of inspirations. Firstly, I saw a collection of photographs, revolving around a suitcase. One showed a swan, looking at a suitcase, perched on the edge of a river. The second photograph showed the suitcase floating down the river. It reminded me of the first line of the Leonard Cohen song, ‘Now the swan, it floated on the English River’
Two Total Strangers and Unforgiven are takes on modern relationships whilst The Listeners is a bit of whimsical nonsense, based around Walter de la Mare’s poem of the same title.
The opening story, A Tar Dark Night, was written in homage to Dylan Thomas following my visit to the little township of Laugharne, in south Wales. Here’s an extract:
A Tar Dark Night
It’s night-time in Laugharne but unlike most other nights, tonight’s all dark; total dark. Tonight’s tar dark, in fact, or bible black as it might once have been described.
There’s not even the slightest punctuation to all this dim from the streetlights perched high on their pencil-thin poles, positioned at strategic intervals around the place either. For whatever reason, the streetlights are switched off tonight though no-one in the little Township really knows why. For the most part, they can only guess even though there are a few who say they have the knowing of it for tonight is October the twenty-seventh.
Maybe it’s nothing more than the fact that a fuse has blown, or, perhaps, someone has forgotten to pay the electric bill. If that’s the case, then there’ll be some red faces amongst The Corporation come the morning, as well as red reminders on the doormat.
The reason why the lamps are switched off though is unimportant in itself; all that’s of concern is that it’s total dark. Even the moon’s cloaked by a bank of dense, thick cloud that has mysteriously appeared in an instant and all the houses, without exception, have closed their eyes, tight fast. There’s not the faintest glimmer sneaking out across path or pavement.
All’s quiet too, apart, that is, from the ghostly sound of an urgent wind that’s blown up of a moment, and the muted whispering, a whispering soft as a dandelion clock maybe, but a whispering none-the-less that’s carried faint within it.
Were this a town to have tumbleweed then it would have been helpless before such a wind tonight, but It hasn’t. Laugharne’s a tidy town with pretty painted properties and summer baskets that hang beside gloss-coated doors. Even the children are tidy too, as they snake their way home from school of an afternoon, under the watchful eyes and voices of mothers and grandmothers who give instruction as to proper behaviour when out in public.
Apart from those two sounds though, the wind and its whispering, there’s none other. There’s no rumbling coming from anything trundling the narrow streets, no clip-clopping of heels on night-time pavements, no barking of dogs nor meowing of cats. You would hear a pin drop, if only there were someone around to drop a pin in the first place; but there isn’t. Not tonight. There’s no one out to purchase a pint of milk, a granary loaf or a couple of welsh cakes for the shops are battened down; their keepers, long gone home to food and family. Browns too has been closed for some time, to both local and visitor alike. The last pint was pulled a while back.
Everyone’s gone home to bed tonight; a few, perhaps, to one another’s, if only in the imagining of the teller, for who can see what goes on behind such tight, closed curtains as there are in Laugharne this night.
Not even Brynmor Jones can see anything, and he’s been known to try on many an occasion as he wanders late-night streets in hopes of a glimpse of a couple caught in flagrante. He salivates always at the possibility as he runs his hand through the grease of his untamed hair and wipes it down his threadbare jacket.
At one time there was no bedroom window safe from the searching of Bryn’s night- visioned binoculars, bought second hand from eBay but, by now, all Laugharne has learned, to keep it’s curtains tight, its blinds to the floor and its shutters fast when the bedroom lights go on, just in case Bryn’s abroad.
Tonight though, even Bryn’s tucked up safe behind locked doors, as is everyone else in Laugharne. By now, they’ve all begun to hear the wind that earlier started to gambol over the otherwise quiet and the whispering that’s attending it.
Some will that say that it’s just an ill wind that blows tonight, an unpleasant breeze, whilst others will declare it to be the very soul of Dylan Thomas himself, restless to be out as he always was when cooped inside too long. Write as the poet might of an afternoon, come the evening he was always restless to be abroad. It’s especially so tonight it might seem; today would have been his birthday. He’d definitely want a birthday pint. Or three.
It’s all conjecture, of course, though it’s fair to say this wind didn’t blow in from the sea like most of Laugharne’s winds are prone to do. This one most definitely started in the cemetery where Dylan’s buried, the one by St Martin’s Church that is; not the one, off from Victoria Street, the one that overlooks the water. That one’s for chapel goers. The residents there get a much better view altogether in their afterlife, their headstones facing out across the waters of the Taf as they do.
Already, the rising wind is causing the little coppice of trees that holds the skyline above the graves to shake their limbs and waggle their leaves in agitation. The eyes of the white owl, perched perilously on the end of a branch that’s now beginning to whip like a chord, are wider than ever. It was mid-twit when the wind sprang up. There wasn’t the slightest chance of it making a twoo.
Mrs Morgan’s cat, a disreputable old tom, was the first, along with the owl, to hear the whispering and sense the new blown wind for, at that point, it was out on its nightly rampage, stalking across the cemetery. The cemetery’s normally a place that gives the cat no fear but of a sudden, as the night turned instant dark, and the wind rose, Mrs Morgan’s cat just fled, his ears flat against his skull, his tail fully in the horizontal and all four paws clawing at the earth for added traction as he cornered first this way, then that, in his desperate bid for sanctuary.
Only such a night as is tonight, thick and black as a seam of Welsh anthracite, could force Mrs Morgan’s cat to scurry home in such a manner; it’s unusual in the extreme. He normally returns in a more jaunty fashion for Mrs Morgan’s cat’s known the length and breadth of Laugharne for his widely, worldly pursuits. He usually searches all the hours he’s given to satisfy his appetites as Dai Evans’ stuffed Meerkat, the one that now carries a permanent, if lopsided, smile fixed to its embalmed face, can testify. He’d roger anything that cat and has done so for much the length of his life; but not this night. This night he too has bolted for the safety and comfort of home, padlocked his eyes tight shut and put his paws across his ears to lock out the whispering that’s closing in.
 © 1979 Leonard Cohen. From the song, ‘The Traitor’.