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Author: John Holland

In Those Days

In those days, you might take any animal for a walk on a lead and no one would raise a single eyebrow. Indeed, you may well receive a pleasant greeting.

“Good day, Mr Bosanquet. I see you’re out with your python.”

“Indeed not, sir,” you say. “This is, in fact, an anaconda. From South America, don’t you know? Far more lethal.”

And they walk up to you and your animal in the street, or the park, or wherever you may be, and ask questions of you.

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“They’re not really called boys or girls,” you say. “It’s a female. The females grow some three feet longer than the males and have a yellowy hue.”

“What’s her name?” They say, tickling her under the chin.

“Oh, Anna,” you say, slightly embarrassed. “As in Anna Anaconda. A bit obvious really.”

And they stroke the top of her head or her long sleek back before asking further questions.

“What’s that great lump in her side, sir?”

“She ate a child. Near the jetty in the park,” you say.

“Do you mean the jetty near the tearooms, or the one where the recreational boats are moored?”

“The one near the tearooms,” you say.

“Ah, they make such commendable comestibles, do they not, sir?” they say. “But what kind of child was it?”

“Boy,” you say. “About four, I think.”

“Quite young,” they say.

“No,” you say chuckling, “I meant she caught him about four o’clock this afternoon.”

And they laugh at the misunderstanding. “Children are thicker on the ground at that time,” they say.

And you agree.

“Well, good day, Mr Bosanquet,” they say, raising their hat. “Splendid to meet you and Anna.”

And they walk on. If they’re lucky.


Flash Fiction by John Holland
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The Feather

A feather propped at the end of the kitchen window ledge. Brown and white in ascending curved stripes. Lighter at the base, darker at the tip. A pen-like quill divides its width. It is an accidental donation. A gift. Left by a buzzard that called in the ash tree. A passing visitor briefly surveying the garden, the house. A wild bird, daily familiar with death.

This year, in January, there are two buzzards each day in the ploughed field opposite the house. Running like crazy-legged chickens, they plunge their gritty beaks in the soil to feast on earth worms, grubs, beetles. Fly back and forth from the oak, the ash, the sycamores that fringe the field. Sometimes they spiral skywards on V shaped wings, buoyed by life. They scrutinise their domain. Their cries announcing their existence. Their need.

He is chocolate brown, smaller than her, his white princess. Is he attracted by her light feathered look? Does he find her behaviour beguiling, her stare captivating? And does she admire his call, his dark feathers, or perhaps his bug catching skills? Will there be others—rivals, suitors—wilder, stronger, more handsome—plumed with intent—who will compete for her attention? Her love?

I hold the feather, feel its soft resistance in my hand. Then place it back in the corner of the window ledge. Where it is instantly captured. Tamed.

And again, you swoop carelessly into my thoughts. A fleeting token, but one I accept.


Flash Fiction by John Holland
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Combining

Me and my mate Katie have always kept a record. For her it was-

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

sex

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake.

So I started to call her Cream Bun. She didn’t like that. Said she was jealous. Because for me it was-

sex

sex

sex

sex

sex

sex

cake

sex

sex

sex

cake

sex

sex

sex

sex

sex

I said to her, that’s my Darren for you, isn’t it? A man obsessed. I actually told Darren I’d like a bit more cake and a bit less sex. Let’s combine the two, he said. He bought a cream horn. A cream horn! Perhaps, Darren. We’ll see. But when I let him, he ate most of it. Right there. From me. I just got his salty lickings.

I can’t record that as cake, Darren, can I? It might have been for you but not for me. It’s going down in the records as sex. He said he didn’t care how I classified it. That he wanted to do it again.

Anyway, Darren and I drifted apart. (Actually, I told him to fuck off). So for me it became-

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

cake

Which was perfect. For a while.

Things change though, don’t they? These days Darren’s going with my mate Katie, or Cream Bum as I now call her. She’s happy. For now.

And I’ve just met Jared—who says he’s a big sausage fan. Could be worse, I reckon. But no mash for me, thanks Jared. Even if there’s a spring onion in it.


Flash Fiction by John Holland
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The Valley

They were children of the valley. They did not talk of the past or the future but only of the present. When they moved they moved slowly and with purpose. They lived in the sun and slept under the moon and stars. In spring their bed was one of celandine, and they swathed themselves in comfrey and borage for warmth and to bring sleep. It was her custom to spend the night lying against his body; his to sleep with his hand on the soft curve of her hip.

One night he awoke and gazed into the red black sky, at the moon and stars, at the valley sides, the escarpment beyond it. He was restless and left her side to climb the valley slopes, to scale the rising ground. He returned before she woke.

He began to rise each night to explore what lay between him and the moon and stars. The time away grew longer. Until one night she woke alone and called his name. The sun was in the sky when he returned. He held her, reassured her.

But nestling in his hand was a cultivated rose—its petals rouge and fleshy—which he had taken from the escarpment. He breathed its perfume. On each petal was a droplet of the night’s water. And in each droplet the moon and the stars.

She took the rose from him. A single thorn pierced her hand. She dropped it to the ground. Dark liquid flowed from her skin. She brought her hand to her lips relishing its earthy taste. Placed her mouth on his, so that he would taste it too. He turned his head away. She looked into his eyes and saw a distant light burning within him—as distant as the moon and the stars.


Flash Fiction by John Holland
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