Verbose and other things…

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This coming Monday will be a big day for my family.

I’ll be reading one of my stories during the open mic portion of Verbose at Fallow Cafe, Fallowfield.  Alison Moore, Nicholas Royle, Conrad Williams and a whole bunch of wonderful writers will also be performing. We’ll be doing so in front of an audience that is as likely to heckle as it is to collectively leap into the sky and kick the moon into the heart of the sun.

Meanwhile, down in London, my mother and sister will be on the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, performing a dance routine live on national TV before a studio audience and roughly 10 million viewers. They will then be judged by four celebrities and, more broadly, the internet.

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While our experiences will be *slightly* different, all three of us will be so possessed by nerves and performance anxiety that we’ll want to vomit until our eyes drop out of ours heads. But we’re all stepping out of our comfort zones anyway because that sort of thing reminds you you’re alive. And vomiting.

So, if you could come along to Verbose that would be lovely. If you can’t, please vote for my mother and sister to get into the final of Britain’s Got Talent (which you can do for free). If you can do both, I’ll kiss your hand and call it ice cream.

 

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FlashFlood

I’m pleased to say that my story, ‘A Family of Armadillos‘, will be included in today’s FlashFlood event in the build up to National Flash Fiction Day. Every ten minutes a new story will be published on the FlashFlood blog, where you can also find archived stories from previous years. A total of 148 stories will be posted throughout the day, each under 500 words. Easily short enough to read on a sly toilet break and much healthier for your soul than yet another game of Candy Crush Saga. 

A Family of Armadillos

4320516714_0df8b18584_bIt was Christmas and the meeting room had been transformed. The table where we sat for appraisals and stern one to ones about our internet usage was covered with a red crepe tablecloth and dotted with plates and foil trays. Of warm quiches and air-dried sandwiches. Processed meat in all its forms. Coleslaw, crisps and brightly-coloured curry dishes. It smelt like a freshly opened can of dog food. Still we piled our plates high and settled around the table, chatting.

“So, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” someone asked.

I stacked potato salad and chicken biryani onto a segment of Scotch egg. Ready for a question like this.

I’d long defined myself by my capacity to eat. Anything and the most of it. Always the one with the fullest and subsequently cleanest plate. The 10 second rule meant nothing to me. Unless something had fallen onto a patch of vomit, I would pick it up and eat it. But as I opened my mouth to reel off a list, Derek got there first.

“A family of armadillos.”

Derek had spent most of his career in the army. Much of it in Jungle Ops. Eating whatever he could catch.

“You just gather them up in sacks,” he said, making it sound as simple and everyday as picking flowers. “Then separate them and pin the sacks to the ground with stakes. They just sit there quietly until you’re ready to cook them.”

I considered this poor armadillo family. Heading off on a summer outing and suddenly finding themselves swept into a dark web of burlap.

“Dad? What’s happening?”

“It’s okay, son. Just keep still and they’ll forget we’re here. Trust me.”

“Then you just roast them in their armour.” Derek said. “Like a big shrimp.”

I considered judging him for this but remembered how many Sundays I’d happily eaten a baby sheep then asked for seconds.

“We’d eat monkeys,” he said, enjoying the attention that should have been mine. “Black Mamba. Anything.”

“What’s monkey like?” I asked, unable to deny my curiosity.

“Stringy,” he said. “All sinew.”

You could see the memory of it on his face as he spoke. Of biting into a roasted arm, the meat coming away from the bone in threads as if he were eating a violin bow.

I couldn’t compete. I considered mentioning that I’d eaten alligator but I’d ordered that in a restaurant from a set menu. I hadn’t torn its throat out then carved a steak from its flank. I guessed there was that coconut mushroom I’d struggled to chew and, upon removing it from my mouth, discovered a large, blooded toenail embedded in it. But I’d spat that out.

“One time,” I said, rushed and desperate. “A moth flew into my mouth and I swallowed it. Then I coughed, it flew back out again and the cat ate it.”

Derek listened thoughtfully, picking his teeth with a plastic fork. As he’d surely done with an armadillo claw.

“Jungle rat was my favourite,” he said.

I jammed a bhaji and a pickled onion into a tuna sandwich then bit down. Determined not to be outdone.

 

Live reading at Bad Language

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Following my first public reading at The Real Story: LIVE! back in January, I’ll be doing my second at the Bad Language event at The Castle, Manchester on March 25th, taking one of the open mic slots below headliner Chris Killen and reading an excerpt from my short story The Wall.

I’m terrified of public readings and would rather wrestle a lion than stand in front of a small group of people and recite something I’ve written. But not having access to a lion, and knowing it’s for my own good really, I’ve no choice but to read. Literally no choice at all.

Bad Language is a great, free event, held monthly at The Castle and in various other venues across Manchester, where you will hear some fantastic stories and poetry. Seeing as I’m involved for the first time it might be a little less fantastic than usual but Chris Killen is great and I’m only on stage for four minutes. You could use that time to visit the toilet or the bar. Or simply to sit back, listen and think about punching me across the face and neck. Especially if you’re from Liverpool as I will be attempting a scouse accent, largely based on that of the boy from the “Accrington Stanley” milk advert.