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One day my father gave me an empty shoebox. "That's love," he said and I said, "Thanks, Dad," and immediately went away to look for secret compartments. Finding none and being unable to decipher anything significant in the writing on the box I soon lost interest and eventually filled the thing with bric-a-brac I found I couldn't bear to part with.

One day my father asked, "Where's the love I gave you?" Being an honest child I gave him an honest answer. At that exact moment in time I had lost track of its specific location. (Afterwards I found it under my bed.)

"What did you do with it?" he also wanted to know. This time my answer was both honest and accurate.

"I see," he said and then he said, "Love is not a very effective tool you know - you can't build bridges with it," (and then he smiled) "well, maybe you can - but it's nice to hold and good for holding things. Shoeboxes are just like that. I've never met a shoebox I didn't like the feel of and that I couldn't do something with."

When he died a few years later we discovered one hundred and seventy-three shoeboxes in a cupboard in his bedroom, all empty. And that made me very sad, very sad indeed.

Originally published in Ink Sweat and Tears on 4th May 2011

 Ugly Truths

"What is it, Granda? Is it a toad?"

"I'm not sure, dear. My eyesight isn't what it was. We'll need to get closer. "

"It's very ugly."

"Oh, I see what it is."

"What? What is it?"

"A truth."

"What's a truth?"

"Goodness, me. I thought they were extinct."

"What's a truth, Granda, and why does it have to be so ugly?"

"Oh, truths were all ugly, dear. Most of them anyway. Some of them were quite gruesome in fact. That's why they started eradicating them before you were born. I wonder how this one managed to hang on so long."

"What's eradi...?"

"People started getting rid of them."

"Should I squash it? Can I squash it, Granda?"

"Wait! Wait. Hold your horses. Let's get a good look at it. I want to see what kind it is. There were lots of different kinds of truth. It might be something new altogether. A new strain."

"Well, I don't like it."

"No, not many people did, my dear. Lies were much more colourful, adaptable and interesting. And there were so many of them."

"Granda! What are you doing?"

"Oh, nothing. I just thought I'd dig it up and take it home. See what it grows into."

"You mean it'll get bigger?"

"Yes, and probably uglier. The biggest truths were really hideous. People could hardly bear to look at them."

"Ugh, Granda. I'll be ill if I have to look at that much longer."

"Well, some truths can make you feel like you're ill when you're not really ill."

"Why would anyone want to feel ill?"

"It's a kind of protection."

"I don't understand."

"Well, imagine every time you had to go out in the rain you felt a little poorly. You'd never go out in the rain would you?"

"No. But I have an umbrella. You can see through it."

"Well, that's good, too. But if you didn't have the umbrella what would happen if you went out in the rain?"

"I'd get wet. But if I felt poorly, Mummy would make me a bed on the couch."

"That's the idea. So you see why truths used to be a good idea."

"I think so. So why did people get rid of them?"

"Why? Oh, I suppose they all bought umbrellas. We should get going. Your mother'll be wondering where we are."

"She'll shout at you if you try and bring that thing into the house. That's what she does to me."

"Ah, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings..."

"I'm not a baby. I'm six."

"Of course you are, dear. Of course you are."

Originally published in Ink Sweat and Tears on 11th November 2009


I want to retch. I must not retch. My body wants to expel this thing but my mind tells me, "No. Maintain control." The plate is hard. I suck on it, swallow oxygen-rich saliva then press my tongue to the roof of my mouth. Correction. I cannot feel the roof of my mouth. Just the plate, the smooth, hard plastic plate. "How is it?" she asks. "Jusht fine," I say before starting to gag again.

Originally published in Paragraph Planet on 4th July 2010