A Little Thing

He pressed the dial down and turned it. There was the hissing of gas and three sharp clicks of the spark before the largest ring on the hob ignited with a whomph! He poured a drizzle of oil into the wok and watched as the heat caused the surface of the oil to ripple slightly. Judging the heat to be right, he picked up a handful of green beans from the chopping board and dropped them into the wok, then followed with the last few as the kitchen was filled with the sound of the beans sizzling.

“Can I do anything to help?”

Her voice was quiet, and he glanced at her and smiled as he gave a flick to the wok, tossing the beans to cover them in the oil.

“You can grab the butter from the fridge?”

She did so, and cut a lump off and passed it to him. He gestured at the wok and she dropped it in. A hiss and fizzling as the butter began to melt, and he stirred the beans out of the way with a wooden spoon, settled the yellow rectangle into the centre of the pan. As the butter melted, he ground pepper and a little salt into the pan, and tossed the beans to mix them.

“Is that all it is?”

He smiled and shrugged.

“That’s it. Butter, oil, salt and pepper, let them blister.”


“It works though.”


He looked at her.

“You doing okay?”

She watched the beans in the wok, and the question went unanswered. He opened the oven door an inch or two and looked in. The sweet potato wedges were browning nicely, and the bacon wrapping the chicken was crisping up.

“Not long,” he murmured, and closed the oven door. As he straightened, she spoke.

“Sorry if I’m quiet.”

She was leaning against the kitchen doorframe, eyes on the hob, but looking inward, he realised. He smiled at her, and shrugged.

“Nothing to apologise for. Quiet company is still company; it’s nice spending time in yours. And if there is anything I can do…?”

She smiled a small smile, and then moved to the drawers next to the fridge. She tried the first, then the second and rummaged among the cutlery. He murmured thanks as she moved to the table and set places, and he reached for the handle of the wok once more. The beans were blistering nicely now; they were nearly ready.

He knew that there was nothing he could do to help, not really. But in going through his own few troubles, he’d come to believe two things very strongly. The first was that sometimes, little things could make a big difference. He tossed the beans one last time, and nodded. Cooking was only a little thing, after all. But it might be enough, for now.

“Right then,” he said brightly. “I think we’re about there.”

She poured two glasses of squash as he turned off the hob and the oven, then leaned once more in the doorway as he plated up their meal. Chicken breasts stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in bacon. Sweet potato wedges seasoned with paprika and soy sauce. A mountain of blistered beans. Food that sought to comfort. She carried the glasses to the table and set them down, sliding into a chair as he placed the plates down, sitting opposite her.

A moment of silence between them, before she spoke.

“Thanks for this.”

“Welcome anytime. Hope it’s alright.”

“It looks great.”

She speared a couple of the beans with her fork and lifted them to her mouth. He paused as she chewed, watching for her reaction. She met his eyes, and smiled.

“Bloody hell.”


“Oh yes.”

“Good. And…”

He faltered, seeking for the right words. The second thing he’d learned, that he believed… She waited, her eyes questioning, and it came to him.

“I just wanted to say… Storms come. But however bad they get, they can be weathered. And, in time, they pass.”

He smiled at her, worry at overstepping himself creeping in at the edges of his thoughts, but then she smiled back at him.

“Thank you.”


And so, sharing food and friendship, they ate together.


No One Should Be And No One Is

Take my hand

Her head rested on her arms as she leaned against the barrier, hair dancing in wisps about her face, her loose jacket rustling in the breeze. She looked out towards the distant hills with a faraway stare that suggested it wasn’t the fir trees she was looking at, or anything at all for that matter; the distant look of a thinker. I couldn’t put my finger on why but I knew I had to speak to her. Compelled you might say.

I let my hand run along the railing as I approached, the cold of the metal tingling at my fingertips. The water thrashed and churned beneath, throwing a fine spray into the air that made me blink hard while it caught on her eyelashes, seemingly unfazed. I came to stop next to her and rested my elbows on the side.  The air felt thick with her thoughts like they were pouring out of her, too many to contain, forming a cloud so dense I had to take a breath to make sure I still could.

I can’t

“They say the light here is beautiful.”
She said it like a statement but I felt it like a question.  “They do.”
“I hear it from everyone so I thought I should come and see it.”
“And now?”
She bit her lip, posing the question back to herself.  “I don’t see it.”  She propped her chin on her hand, still staring out, searching for it.  “I mean I see it, intellectually.  I can see that the line of the trees meeting the horizon just so, the mountain ridge folding inwards to the river, the rough and tumble of the water, I can see how people would find beauty in that…”
“But you don’t?”
“I guess not.”

Do you trust me?

“What do you think?”  She looked at me for the first time and yet it was as if she could see right through me; her blue eyes felt a strange blend of icy and warm, like snowmelt, like resignation.
“I think beauty is subjective.”
She glanced down, before turning back.  Maybe she had been hoping for more, something to give her what she lacked.
“I think it is a perfect example of the cruelty of nature,” she proclaimed, a sharp edge to her tone, “The water, violent and relentless, has carved its way through the land, doggedly determined to destroy anything in its path.”
“That’s a rather pessimistic way of seeing things.”
“Is it?” she challenged, piercing me with her stare once more, “It will take the very floor beneath our feet given time and inclination.”

Yes but

“True enough,” I concede.  She raised an eyebrow as her hair whiped in the wind, “That being the case, then what is the point?”
“Well there is none,” she retorted matter-of-factly.  “Life is short and hard and random and insignificant.”
“So you’re here to end it then?”
My blunt question catches her off guard and she shifts slightly on her feet.  “That obvious am I?”
I find myself fighting back a smirk dancing at the corner of my lips. “I have an eye for these things.”
She goes on the offensive, jutting out her chin, goading mixed with indignation.  “I suppose you’ll try to stop me.”
“Not at all.”
Her brow furrows, “Then what will you do?”

Then take my hand

“Help?” she spits, distaste and disbelief wrapped up in the word.
I nod gently, “That’s what I’m here for.”
She eyes me up, taking in my whole self for the first time, and apparently I am left wanting.  “You came to jump?” scepticism dripping from her voice.
“Not exactly,” I reply calmly, “I’m here for you.  If that’s how you want to do it then I guess that’s what I’ll be doing.”
The furrow deepens, the cloud of thoughts swirling once again.
“No one should be alone for this…and no one is.”  I catch her gaze and I push the cloud aside, dispelling it, and in that instant I see the familiar wave of clarity form on her face.

“Take my hand”
“I can’t”
“Do you trust me?”
“Yes but”
“Then take my hand”

Our fingers intertwine and the wind howls a cry across the valley.  Without a blink she grasps the railing and the world itself shifts as we pivot across the equilibrium.  She glances back at the railing, her pale bitten fingers the fine line between the now and the next, before locking eyes with me once more.  I smile and nod gently, and she lets go.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Darrell Tate prophet, founder and Leader of the Holy Church of the Fragile Earth lay still, enjoying the warmth of the two naked bodies pressed up against him. While his time may be short he could honestly say he’d never been happier. ‘God if you’re listening let this moment last forever,’ he thought. As if in answer there came the muffled thump of an explosion somewhere across the compound.

“Dick,” croaked Darrell stretching an arm out to his bedside table in search of something to drink. His hand roamed over glass bottles, ceramic mugs and a myriad of items of discarded clothing before closing on something soft. He gave it an experimental shake and was rewarded with the satisfying slosh of liquid in plastic. Without opening his eyes he unscrewed the cap and took a long drink. It was warm and stale but to Darrell’s parched throat it tasted like the finest champagne. “And all is well with the world again,” said Darrell crushing the bottle and tossing it away. As is hit the floor somewhere across the room an alarm began to wail deep in the heart of the compound.

Darrell opened one eye and looked up at the giant clock on the wall above his bed. One hour forty three minutes and fifty five seconds until the end of the world. He let out a sigh and, not for the first time, cursed himself for not picking a date another five years further out. Hell, one year further out. Even a month would have sufficed, but it was too late now. There was another thump closer this time and dust started to rain down from the ceiling obscuring the clock for a moment. He heard the boots of men running and somewhere in the distance but coming closer the wail of sirens.

The problem with death cults totally legitimate religions that just so happen predict the end of the world is that they tend to attract a certain crowd…

“Father, you in there?” called Bo as he pounded on the thick, metal door.

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” muttered Darrell squeezing out from under the two naked girls who continued to snore softly still sleeping off the previous nights excesses.

“Father Tate! Are you in there?”

“Yes I’m hear Bo God damnit,” cursed Darrel as he rummaged through the mess searching for a clean pair of pants. “I told you I wasn’t to be disturbed.”

“But Father, it’s those bastards from the government. They’re hear to shut us down!”

“They can try but by the time they have the proper permits it will be too late I’ll be miles away from… I mean… It won’t matter.”

“Don’t worry they won’t get passed us,” said Bo followed by a metallic noise that sounded ominously like the cocking of a shotgun.

“Bo, I hope you’re not going to do anything stupid,” said Darrell finally finding an old t-shirt and a battered pair of jean shorts that while scandalously short would cover his unmentionables long enough for him to get hell out of dodge. “We talked about this, God told me no fighting with the unbelievers remember.”

“Well, Bubba and Randy said…”

“I don’t care what Bubba and Randy said,” snapped Darrell as flipped back a painting of himself to show the safe hidden behind it. “Now, you just go down to the main hall with everyone else…”

“Aww, but Father I don’t want to kill myself.”

“No but’s Bo I…” Darrell paused the last digit of the code unentered. “Wait. What do you mean kill yourself? Who said anything about killing yourself?”

“Well, when I came up Maggie-Mae was passing out the emergency Kool-Aid.”

“What emergency Kool-Aid?! Does nobody tell me anything? I’m supposed to be the bloody prophet!”

There was another rumble of an explosion followed by the rat-a-tat tat of automatic gunfire.

“Christ what’s going on out there?” said Darrell heading over to the window, the safe momentarily forgotten. “We’re a peaceful cul… I mean religion. No suicide pacts, no bombs, no gun fights with the feds. Just nice normal tax sca… ah… I mean religious stuff.”

There was no answer.


Darrell crossed the room and flung open the door in time to see Bo’s back as he ran off down the stairs, the barrel an Ithaca 37 poking out from over his shoulder.

“Bo get back here God Damnit!”

“I’m a comin’ Randy,” yelled Bo as he reached the bottom of the stairs and hurried in the direction of the front gate.

There was a moments silence and then a huge whump and somehow Darrell was on his back his head swimming. The world spun around him andd Darrell could see the sky where the ceiling used to be through a haze of smoke and dust. His ears were ringing and he tasted blood as he dragged himself to his feet and threw himself down the stairs. He needed to see what the hell was going on for himself.

Darrell crossed the main hall keeping his eyes averted from the kitchen where Maggie-Mae had last been seen and crouched in the doorway to the outside. The compound was in uproar, it looked like someone had kicked open an anthill full of ants in flapping white robes. Initiates ran in all directions through the haze of smoke, some carrying weapons other helping injured brothers and sisters. All of them with wide eyes and wild looks on their faces. At the entrance to the compound Bo, Randy and Bubba crouched behind a makeshift barricade exchanging fire with black clad feds in full tactical gear. One was initiate wielding an AR-15 and firing feverishly into the ranks of the fed like something from the end of Scarface. Darrell tried to call out to stop him but before he could the man was peppered with bullets, blood staining his once pristine white robe. Darrell couldn’t even remember the poor saps name.

“Bastards!” shouted Bo as the initiate fell poking his shougun over the barricade and firing blindly in the direction of the feds. As he did Bubba tossed something into the crowd of black clad figures who dived out of the way and it detonated with a deafening roar.

‘Grenades?! Where the hell did they get grenades?’ thought Darrell. They were supposed to be a peaceful cul… religion. Yes, definitely a religion, not a cult. The intensity of the feds firing on the barricade increased, bullets pinging off the thick steel in every direction. One clipped the door frame by Darrell’s head and it was then he decided to get the hell out of there.

Taking a deep breath he dashed towards the rear of the compound keeping low to avoid the gunfire, and his ex-followers. Not that he thought anyone would recognise him out of his robes but he didn’t want anything that would draw attention to him right now. Covered by the smoke and milling bodies he managed to make it to the back of the compound undetected and unshot. Once there he found the small storeroom near the back that had a big sign on the door saying Private: No Entry by Order of Founder Tate.” He pulled on the handle but the door didn’t budge.

“Crap, padlock,” he said looking down at the large chunk of metal barring his escape. He patted his pockets but they were empty his keys must have still been in his robes. There was another explosion behind him and when he looked over his shoulder he saw a swarm of feds bursting through the smoke and tackling white robbed initiates. The barricade and its defenders was gone. In desperation Darrell scanned the floor looking for anything he could use to force the door and eventually came up with a large rock. Using both hand the brought the rock down, once, twice, thrice before the padlock shattered and the door swung open.

He leapt through the door swinging it shut behind him then ducked through a small gap between a large stack of boxes. At the back of the darkened room in one corner was a small door. Darrell pulled it open and crawled through into a narrow tunnel. He crawled for what felt like hours through the dark with the screams of the wounded and the rattle of gunfire hot on his heels. At length the tunnel started to widen and after a few hundred feet Darrell stood in front of a large wooden door. He pushed it open fingers and toes crossed. The alleyway was empty.

“Man that was a close one,” said Darrell as he emerged into the sunlight and walked calmly off down the street away from the smoke and the fire that made up all that was left of his fledgling religion. “I’ve got to get out of this game. Well, the end of the world stuff anyway. Maybe next time I’ll come up with a nice friendly cul… religion. Something wholesome and quiet. With no grenades. Yes definitely no, grenades.”


If you enjoyed this comedy tale of cults and forgotten gods keep your eyes peeled for my second novel ‘God but Not Forgotten’ coming to a store near you hopefully sometime in 2020… Assuming the small human chills out and lets me do some writing…