When a reader wants to try out a new author, or a new series by an author, I’ve often wondered what it is that makes someone want to give that book they’ve found online or in a bookstore a whirl. I know that, for me, it’s sometimes the cover that attracts me, and sometimes it’s the book title. The blurb on the back, or on the online store page, can be the factor that intrigues me, too. It’s also possible (because I’m human without an indefinite depth to my wallet, like many people) that I might well be intrigued by a price that seems reasonable to try out the book I’ve found. It may even be that I’ve managed to find a snippet of the book posted by the author and decided I really fancy giving the rest of it a go. I have to say that I’ve made a number of audiobook purchases by listening to the free sample first.
Like any author, I love people to want to read my books. I love to be able to tempt new readers to try out my series. Most of all, I love to find the right readers – those who feel that my books resonate with them. No matter what I write, whether it’s the Hearts & Crimes series, or the new crime and suspense series I have coming up soon, or the Victorian detective series that I’m planning to start releasing next year, all my books have the same qualities – something dark and unnerving lurking in the minds and hearts of the characters, suspense (sometimes strong and tense and sometimes subtle), a deep emotional connection of some kind, a twist, and a murder (or sometimes more!).
If you’ve never come across my short story collection, The Reason for Everything and other short stories, then I thought today’s blog post would be a good place to share a complete crime short story with you from this collection. So here you go…! 😊
Joy is a bubble
There’s a man sitting on the riverbank, gnome-like, with a fishing rod in his hand. All he needs, she thinks, is a pointy red hat and he’ll look just like the ugly little statue in next-door’s garden. She hadn’t noticed him as she went down to the newsagent, muttering her list of things-to-do to herself. She stands now, holding the newspaper, the packet of cigarettes she was expected to fetch hidden in her handbag, and a mental note to ask for the money this time, watching the little fairytale action taking place right below her.
The human gnome stranger casts his line then sits in silence, with a Tupperware box of sandwiches waiting their turn on top of the wicker fishing basket, not to be confused with the second tub containing a Dolly Mixture assortment of maggots. She hadn’t realised they came in so many colours. She can see them, wriggling en-mass in the tub, their sense of desperate urgency mimicking the squirming that’s going on just below the surface algae in the deep green secret land of ‘keep net’, while the white float with the psychedelic orange tip bobs half way across the water.
Suddenly the white vanishes, and the man proves he’s better, cleverer than the fish; she watches, gripping tightly onto the newspaper as the scaly sliver whirls past her vision and into the man’s hand. She watches him remove the hook from the fish’s face then hurl the creature into the keep net to join the rest of the mystery in the green pool. Catching sight of a big stone, she has the urge to throw it and hit the man on the head – see how he likes being bashed about, having his skin damaged, cast aside to keep for later – but she knows she won’t.
Her fingers hurt and she realises how tightly she’s holding the newspaper that’s not for her, either. The sweat has seeped into the print and left grubby smears in regular oval patches on the front page. Something for him to have a go at her about over breakfast, and he won’t even need to look hard this morning. She starts to feel ever so slightly sick; it’s the empty belly, she tells herself. She needs to get some breakfast. She needs to go home. She sighs, but it’s an inaudible one because she’s used to making them that way. Her face adopts its invariable impassive ghostly expression, ready for the kitchen and the multitude of sins she’ll commit at breakfast.
But then, just briefly, she catches sight of something on the water. There, in the keep net, expanding on the river’s surface, a series of penny-sized bubbles catch the early morning shards of sunlight. They wink back up at her in a glorious rainbow of colour, and she smiles back at the sign of life under the water. As a kid she used to sit on the bank and watch the bubbles rise to the surface when the fish came up to gobble the air. Little bubbles; she’d had to concentrate to see them. Once she sat there for over an hour, waiting. She spotted one. It sat, alone on the surface, and a wet tear surprised her cheek as she smiled at it. Then he came along with his school shirt rolled up to his elbows and scudded a stone across the surface, and the bubble was gone. He shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t even notice she was there at first. Then he grinned, and scooted off on his bike. She didn’t see any more bubbles on the surface that afternoon.
Without warning, the fisher gnome gathers in his line, and grabs the keep net, hurling his captives back into the algae. All at once the bubbles are forced into the algae, too, and they burst on contact. And she thinks how sad it is that the bubbles must burst and that things must end.
She leaves the gnomish sadist and makes her way back along the dirt track where the grass bank stretches beyond her vision, then round the curbing pathway in front of the cul-de-sac of Council bungalows and its artificially planted beech trees, that grow haphazardly on the patches of grass in between the parking bays. The milkman is still out on his rounds, such as they are now, and she stops to listen, eyes closed momentarily, to the chink of glass against hard plastic as he lifts the bottles from the deep ocean blue crate and takes them to number 27. He catches her eye and smiles, waves, and she returns the gesture. He’ll have been to her house already and the milk will still be sitting in the doorway, already in the sun, by the time she gets home. It’s already heating up outside. Another scorcher due. She sighs. She hopes it won’t taste funny. He’ll let her know in no uncertain terms if it is. It’ll be her fault. And her job to clear up the cereal running down the wall, and the bits of broken bowl. She should have got home quicker. He’ll tell her that it’s not worth having the milkman, that they can get their milk from the supermarket. No one relies on the milkman anymore. But she does. He brings her what she needs every day. Just like the postman. Just for a moment she glances up and down the street, wondering whether he is already on his rounds, too.[Read more…] about Joy is a bubble: complete crime short story