Posted in Announcements, Blog, Magazines & Ezines, News, Poetry, Submissions, Writing Journal, Writing Notebook, Writing Stuff

Shout Out To Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine

I’m pleased to announce that my poem ‘Conversations With Dead people’ is published in the April Issue of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine.

You can download a FREE PDF of the magazine from Lulu here.

My poem is on page 23.

I’m really pleased this poem has been published. I wrote the first draft many years ago. The poem is about grief and how it can make you think crazy things.

The poem has gone through multiple versions since my original draft.

The title is taken from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am being serious. Shh, don’t tell anyone.

Posted in Blog, First Drafts, Inspiration, Magazines & Ezines, Poetry, Writing Stuff

Writing Poetry In The Sestina Form

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I’ve been a subscriber to MsLexia, a magazine for women who write for years.

The magazine is currently accepting poems in the sestina form.

The sestina is quite a complex form to use. The sestina consists of six stanzas with six lines each and a final seventh stanza with three lines. The end word in each line is repeated throughout the poem in a set order. The final three line stanza repeats all six words.

The poem is unrhymed and the repetition of the six words can create a haunting tone.

The lines are repeated in the following order:

  1. ABCDEF
    2. FAEBDC
    3. CFDABE
    4. ECBFAD
    5. DEACFB
    6. BDFECA
    7. (envoi) ECA or ACE

So for example, my first stanza could be:

Every day I look for you on the beach where we once loved = A
I think of you as I walk barefoot across the sand. I feel soft heat = B
between my toes and remember how the moon used to shine on us = C
I can almost feel you beside me, touching me and forcing me forward = D
on legs that aren’t quite steady. Your voice echoes with the cry of the gulls = E
I feel your arms around me as I stand at the shore, waves lapping my aching feet = F

The words in bold are the words that are repeated. Taking the above example the end words of the second stanza would be FAEBDC:

1. Feet
2. Loved
3. Gulls
4. Heat
5. Forward
6. Us

It took ages for me to write a poem in this form. I couldn’t just write freely and see what came out because I had to follow such a set structure.

My poem is called A Haunted Life. The poem is about a woman who is struggling to hold onto her sanity following the death of her lover.

I found that A Haunted Life was more complex in structure and imagery than my usual poems. I don’t know whether this is because the set structure of the form naturally lends itself to more complex writing.

I’ve written the 1st draft and will edit the poem next week.

Posted in Blog, Competitions, First Drafts, Inspiration, Magazines & Ezines, Poetry, Writing Stuff

To Use Poetry Forms Or Not To Use Poetry Forms That Is The Question

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I seem to be obsessed with entering every competition still open with Writing Magazine. Maybe I think if I stalk them enough they’ll feel sorry for me and give me some money or a nice trophy stalker of the year.

They have a competition just now, closing date 14th March for poems that use the triolet form.

This got me thinking about poetry forms in general and how I don’t really use them.

A poetry form is basically a traditional style or structure for a poem that usually calls for a combination of rhyming couplets, set syllables count, specific meter or a set line length.

Some of the best-known examples are the ballad stanza, the chaucerian roundel, the choka, the haiku, a limerick or the rondeau.

I rarely write poetry in a set form. I tender to favour free verse poetry. I just find it better to work this way. I find using set forms very restrictive, forcing the thoughts and ideas running around inside my head into an unfamiliar shape.

Just like novelists and story writers, poets (and readers of poetry) tend to have a style preference. Some poets may love to write sonnets or haiku and some people prefer to read them. Poets like me would never attempt at sonnet and go cold when one poops up in a collection they’re reading. People like different things.

I like haiku. This form is really simple. I really like reading haiku. I read Glasgow Zen by Alan Spence recently and it blew me away. I have two thick volumes of traditional and modern haiku in my private collection. It can be a challenge to write a poem of three lines with a set syllable count per line. I’ve written a few haiku in the past and they take ages.

I’m not a fan of writing limericks. I like to read them now and again. They can be a lot of fun. I find them impossible to write. I don’t do fun or humour in my poetry. I just find writing limericks really hard and sort of like trying to get blood out of a stone. I write poetry for pleasure not because I want brain blood to drip out of my ears and out of my nose.

I’m also not a huge fan of rhyming poetry. There are some people who think proper poetry is a poem that uses a set rhyme scheme and all other poems are inferior. The best poems with a set rhyme scheme happen when the rhyme scheme is barely noticeable, the reader’s ear doesn’t listen for the repetition. Only on closer reading or analysis do you become aware that the poem rhymes. The worst rhyming poems are when the most obvious rhyme is chosen and the reader can hear the rhyme, the tune in their head. The music of the rhyme blots out the words and point of the whole poem.

When I first started to write poetry, I wrote screeds and screeds of rhyming poetry. I thought poems had to rhyme. The poems were awful, just awful, like trying to pass an iced dog turd off as a chocolate éclair. I don’t have many of those poems left. Most of them were destroyed in a controlled environment. Other were re-written until barely an echo of the original version remained.

There are loads of websites with examples of well-known forms of poetry and some of them have pretty good notes talking you through how to write in each form. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-terms?category=forms-and-types,https://www.youngwriters.co.uk/glossary-poetry-types, http://www.poemofquotes.com/articles/poetry_forms.php are worth a look.

I’ve only really used poetry forms in the past as a source of inspiration when I’ve got an idea for a poem in my head but don’t know where to go with it. It can be a good exercise to pick a form at random and force your mind to get into the rhythm and pattern. This can spark ideas.

Given my slight aversion to set poetry forms why did I decide to write a poem for a triolet competition?

A triolet is only eight lines long so it seemed something that wouldn’t pose much of a challenge. Give my insane idea to participate in NaPoWriMo in April I thought it would be a good idea to get myself back into the habit of writing poems.

I managed to write the 1st draft of a poem in triolet form. The poem uses some of my regular themes; death, loss and grief. The poem took longer to write than my usual poems but not as long as I dreaded it might. I’m quite pleased with the results.

Posted in Blog, First Drafts, Inspiration, Magazines & Ezines, Short Story

Writing A Dialogue-Only Short Story

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I currently subscribe to Writing Magazine

The magazine comes out every month and is a treat to read. The magazine has really good articles and advise in it and run writing competitions every month. They charge a small entry fee and also have competitions for subscribers with no entry free. This is a good opportunity to submit work and I do this regularly.

The current subscriber-only competition is for stories of between 1,500 – 1,700 words that only contains dialogue. There is no restriction on content but the story needs to contain dialogue and nothing else, no action or description.

This sounded like a fun challenge so I’ve written the 1st draft of a story.

The story is basically about two people, who used to be in a relationship meeting each other in the street. Many years have passed since they law saw one another. They talk and have a bit of a catch-up. The story gradually reveals some dark moments from the past and their unhealthy relationship.

I had a lot of fun with this. It was a bit harder than I thought and felt strange to write only in dialogue. I had to keep stopping myself from adding action and description. This kind of story would only work for a specific market such as the competition I plan to enter. I wouldn’t send a dialogue-only story out as a general submission.

The story is partly autobiographical and is basically an imaginary conversation between me and my ex-girlfriend. I liked being able to speak my mind in a way I didn’t when we were together. Some of the events discussed in the story are fictional but the two people and their shared past are very real.

I find that happens a lot. A large number of my poems and fiction are a combination of my own experiences and fictional elements. Most of the time the fiction I add is simply because really happened is quite dull at times and I want a bit more spark. I also feel uncomfortable with the idea of writing purely about my own experiences. I’m not a memoirist.

The story will need some editing but is in pretty good shape. It’s not possible to write a perfect 1st draft. There’s no such thing. There are writers who edit as they work so by the time they type THE END the piece is polished. I write a 1st draft, wait a few days and then edit the piece. The competition deadline is the 14th March so the timescale is pretty tight. I want to have edited the piece so I can submit it this weekend.

The magazine is also running a no-dialogue competition at the same time. The brief is the same, 1,500 – 1,700 words on any theme. The only requirement is that the story can’t contain any dialogue. This would be a bit of a challenge as well because the story will be action and description heavy which doesn’t always work.

I really like the idea of writing a new version of the same story I used for the dialogue-only piece and writing all of the action and descriptions I had to leave out. I like the idea of comparing both pieces. I don’t think I’ll be able to get the second version done for the competition but I will be a fun exercise to do. I might give it a shot.

Posted in Magazines & Ezines, Poetry, Samples Of Published Work

Hot Child In The City

This poem was published in Carillon Magazine in May 2010.

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HOT CHILD IN THE CITY

We sit on the cool grass
at the end of the street.
We take our shoes off and feel
the coldness with our hot feet.
I take a swig from a bottle
of mineral water and pass it
to you. I can’t take my eyes off you.

We spark when our hands
touch. I want to kiss you,
right on the lips and hard.
I need to taste you with my mouth.
I want to drink all of you in.

I pull my hand away.

I lie back and look up
at the sky. I see the bright blue sky.
The sun blinds me. My eyes burn.

I watch you in secret.

I love how your hair fans around
your face. I like the way you wipe sweat
from your brow. I love how tanned your
long legs are. I like the way your sunglasses
make you look cool. I love everything about you.

I lie here watching you
and quietly die. I shrivel
in the heat. I start to melt in
the light that radiates from
you. You turn me to goo.

I want to pull you into my body.
I want to cover your skin with bits of me.
I’d love to see if you smell as good
as you look. I’d roll around
on the grass with you night and day.
I’d love to take all your clothes off.

But I remain silent and scared.

It hurts to even think this.

THE END

Copyright © 2010 by Pamela Scott

(35 lines)

Posted in Magazines & Ezines, Poetry, Samples Of Published Work

Lonely Heart Letters

This poem was published in Carillon Magazine in November 2009.

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LONELY HEART LETTERS 

I
miss
you.
Please call
me sometime.
We can get
a coffee, some
of that cheesecake
you like. Okay?
Maybe we can
talk, try to
work this out.
I still love you.

I dreamt
about you last
night. We
fought again. You
hit me. Harder.
Please call me.
I’m worried about you.
Are you all right?
Do you need anything?

Do you remember
the day we made
love on the bed
of roses? How
the thorns jagged everywhere
and drew blood?

I’ve still got
the sweater
you bought me
that Christmas.

I got a little
drunk last night,
left a crazy
message on
your machine.

Please don’t
be mad at me…

I wish you were
here. I miss your
smell and the way we
used to talk in bed. I miss
touching you.

I want to fuck you…

I finished with Mike.
For real this time.
Turns out you were
right about him.
I just need to talk to you.

THE END

Copyright © 2009 by Pamela Scott

(51 lines)

Posted in Fiction, Magazines & Ezines, Samples Of Published Work, Short Story

For The Sake Of June

This story was published in If And Only If in April 2015.

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FOR THE SAKE OF JUNE
PAMELA SCOTT

1

I notice the curtains are closed when I walk up the path to my daughter’s front door. I know this means I’m in for a bad day. She’s twenty eight and has anorexia nervosa. That fancy word doesn’t mean much to me. I just know she’s thin as a rake and getting thinner all the time. I watch her waste away in front of me and know there is nothing I can do to help her. She’s severely depressed as well.

I tuck the potted plant I bought her – a lilac, her favourite when she was a child – under my arm along with the box of cakes I bought at the local baker. I rummage in my bag for her spare set of keys. On a bad day she doesn’t get out of bed. There’s no hope she’ll answer the door. I find the key at last. I unlock her door and enter the house. I lock the door behind me.

I notice the smell first, a pungent odour that catches in the back of my throat and makes me cough and splutter. The carpet’s matted with filth and sticky beneath my feet. She hasn’t done the house-work in a while. I check out all of the downstairs room’s. Everything’s covered in an inch of dust. I can smell rotting food. Her house always stinks of it. I never really knew the smell of rotted food or food that had gone bad before my daughter got sick. The smell of rotting food and the dust everywhere tells me she hasn’t been out of bed for several days. The last time I was here was two weeks ago. I doubt if she’s moved since.

The house is in darkness. I flick the light-switch but nothing happens. I check the electricity metre in the hall. She’s flicked all the switches off. I flick them back on. The lights all come on and the sudden brightness blinds me.

I march into the living room. I place the potted plant and cakes on the coffee table in the centre of the room. I throw open the curtains and bright daylight spills into the room. I throw open the curtains in every room. I can almost hear the house sigh with relief as daylight spills into it.

I still haven’t heard a sound. Anyone else would think the house is empty. I know my daughter better. She hasn’t left the house in months. It hurts her frail body too much to walk around. She lies in bed too weak to get up and too stubborn to ask for help. She gets that stubbornness from her father.

I pull the fridge door open. The stink makes me gag. I stocked the fridge the last time I popped round. She’s hardly touched a thing. The shelves are full of rotted meat, fruit and vegetables. The milk’s long gone sour. The cheese has started to mould. The putrid stink makes my eyes water.

I grab the bin she keeps under the sink and sit it on the floor in front of the fridge. I cover my mouth with one hand to keep the bile back. I sweep the contents of the fridge into the bin. I go through the cupboards as well. By the time the out of date food’s in the bin the shelves are almost empty. I pull the bag out of the bin, tie it into a knot and dump it in the wheelie-big outside beside the back door.

When I go back into the house I hear a floorboard creak above me. I listen to my daughter’s footsteps. I hear the floorboards creak, the toilet flush, more footsteps and the sound of her bedroom door slamming shut. I wait a few moments, take a deep breath and make my way upstairs.

2

I open the windows in all the rooms before I go into her bedroom. She’s lying under the covers, propped back against the pillows. She’s flicking through a book on her lap. I knew she’s not reading it though. She likes to pretend things.

Her appearance shocks me. She’s lost a lot of weight in the two weeks since I saw her last. She looks like a bag of bones under the thin sheets. I can make out the shape of her ribs and collar-bone. She doesn’t have a lot of her hair left. Her hair used to be blonde and down to her waist and was thick and glossy. The colour’s faded from it almost completely. There’s not any life in it. There are only a few limp wisps left. She’s skeletal thin. Her skin looks like paper. I can see all of her bones. Her eyes are sunk deep into her skull. Her cheeks look hollow. Her fingers are thin as twigs. In that moment I hate my daughter’s illness for turning her into something out of a horror movie.

‘I thought I heard you downstairs’ June says.

‘Why didn’t you eat any of the food I bought? I had to chuck it all out’.

‘I ate some of it. I wasn’t hungry. You bought too much stuff again’.

‘I bought sufficient food for one person for two weeks’.

I can hear the nagging tone in my voice. I know this will just rile her up and she’ll become defensive. I can’t help it. I gave birth to her. I was in labour for eighteen hours. She hits my ‘overbearing mummy’ button every time. I cross the room and yank open her curtains and the window. I can’t remember the last time they were open. She shrinks back from the air and light.

‘Close them again, Mum’ June says.

‘You need light and air in this house and around you’.

‘Not today’.

‘Don’t talk nonsense, sweetheart. You’re deathly pale. Light and fresh air will do you the world of good’.

’Mum –‘

I tilt my head towards her. ‘They’re staying open. I won’t have my daughter fermenting in the dark’.

‘Fine, you can do what you want. You always do’.

I perch on the end of the bed. She shrinks away from me like she’s scared I’m going to hit her. I’d never harm a hair on her head. I hate that she’s become so suspicious and cautious.

‘I noticed the house hasn’t been cleaned in a while’ I say.

Her hackles rise. ‘I haven’t felt up to it’.

I touch her hand. She shrinks away. ‘I didn’t mean it like that. I meant –‘. I stroke her paper-thin skin. ‘You should have called me. I could have helped you’.

She folds her arms across her chest. She looks at me, defiantly. ‘I don’t need your help, Mum. I can manage’.

‘You can ask me for help. It’s not a big deal’.

‘I’m fine. I don’t need help’.

I pace the room and fuss with her things. She watches me. There are so many things I want to say to her. I need to bite the words back every time they come into my head. If I speak them aloud she’ll cut me out of her life like her father. She only lets you in her life if you pretended she’s fine. You can’t mention her weight or her illness. You need to act like nothing is wrong.

Jake, my husband, can’t put on the charade, even for me. He told her a year ago to get help or she’d never hear from him again. He’s kept his word. He never asks after her. I can’t talk about her at home. Her name has become taboo in the house where she was raised. I can’t be like him. I can’t turn my back on my daughter. It breaks my heart when I see how thin and unhealthy she looks. I can’t cut her out of my heart like my husband. I gave birth to her. Even if she’s determined to starve herself to death I’ll never leave her side. What kind of mother would do that?

‘Why don’t you have a shower? I’ll make breakfast?’ I say.

‘I don’t want to get up today’.

I pull the covers off her. I wince when I saw how thin her legs are. Dear God! I don’t know how she manages to even stand upright on those frail sticks. I don’t even want to think about how she manages to walk. She tries to yank the covers off me.

‘Leave me alone, Mum’ June says.

‘You need to get out of bed, sweetheart’.

‘No, I don’t’.

‘You can’t just lie here like a corpse. It’s not healthy’.

‘That’s up to me’.

She yanks the covers out of my hand. She sinks back against the pillows. I grab the covers again. I yank them off her and throw them across the room. She gives me a horrible look.

‘You don’t want to talk about your illness so I don’t but I won’t allow you lie in this bed all the time and ferment under the covers. You get up now or I’ll march out the door and leave you to get on with it’ I say.

‘That would suit me’.

She lies down on the bed and turns her face away from me. I turn my back on her and march out of her bedroom. I try to set my face in hard lines so she knows I mean business this time. My lips are trembling and tears run down my face. I’m halfway down the stairs when I hear her get out of bed. I run back up and into her room.

‘Fine, Mum, if being out of bed will stop you complaining I might as well get on with it’ June says.

I mutter a prayer of thanks under my breath. I can’t remember the last bad day when I got her out of bed this easy. There have been days when no power on earth will move her. There have been days when I needed to physically drag her out of bed and frog march her to the shower.

‘I’m going to have a shower’ June says.

I kiss and hug her. This might be progress at last.

3

I rush downstairs to make her some food. I hear the shower. I can hear her walk about. There’s nothing left in the fridge. I find some frozen macaroni cheese in the freezer that I stick in the microwave. There isn’t any milk left. I find some still-in-date fresh orange juice wedged in the back of the fridge. I pour her a large glass.

I take a small plate out of the cupboard and sit some cakes on it. I water the potted plant and sit it on the window-sill. The microwave beeps. I scrape the food onto a plate. She comes downstairs and into the room. She sits at the table in the centre of the room. She has on a clean pair of pyjamas. I sit the plate of food and juice in front of her. I give her a fork.

‘Thanks, Mum’ June says.

I place the plate of cakes in the middle of the table. I make a coffee and sit in the chair opposite her. She gives the plate of cakes the evil eye. She starts to pick at her macaroni. I drink my coffee, have a cake and watch her. She eats a couple of mouthfuls and shoves the plate away.

‘Don’t you want to finish your food?’ I say.

‘I’m full’.

‘You’ve hardly touched your food’.

‘I’m full’.

She drinks the juice. She scrapes the rest of the macaroni into the bin. I take a large empire biscuit off the plate of cakes and shove the plate towards her.

‘I don’t want a cake’ June says.

‘It’s only one cake. What harm will it do?’

She gives me a nasty look. ‘I don’t want to put on any more weight. I’m fat enough as it is’.

‘You’re not fat, you’re too –‘. She gives me a warning look and I bite my tongue.

‘I don’t want a cake, Mum’.

‘Just have one cake. Please. You don’t even need to eat the whole thing. Just take one bite. Please. The doctor said you need to eat well’.

I plead with her to take one bite of cake. I’d force feed her the whole plate if I could. In seconds I know I’ve gone too far. Her face twists in anger and colour floods her cheeks. She stands up so fast she knocks her chair over. It makes a loud thud when it hits the ground. She sweeps the plate of cakes onto the floor with one hand. The plate smashes and broken bits of cake spray everywhere.

‘Do you want me to be fat, Mum? Why do you hate me?’ June says.

‘I don’t, I never said’

‘Don’t you how hard it was for me to lose weight? I’ve struggled for years to be thin and pretty. I finally left that fat stupid girl behind me forever. Why do you want to bring her back?’

‘I’m sorry. I never meant –‘

‘Get out of my house. I mean it this time’.

I grab my jacket and leave before she says anything else. I don’t want to fight with her. It will take weeks to repair the damage. It breaks my heart when we argue. I know neither of us means it. I decide to wait a few days before I go round again.

4

My husband’s home. He’s weeding the back garden. I wave to him from the kitchen window and start to cook the dinner. I want to tell him about what happened at June’s. I know there’s no point. He refuses to talk about her. He told me only to tell him when she accepts she’s ill and needs help. There’s no one to talk about what’s going on.

I wait three days before I go to see her again. I try to wait a week but can’t make it. I’m worried about her. There was hardly any food in the house. She won’t have gotten round to cleaning yet. I wait until my husband goes to work.

The curtains and windows are still open. This is a very good sign. I can’t remember the last time they stayed open so long. She usually closes them as soon as I’m gone. I let myself in. The house has been cleaned since we argued and smells nice and fresh. I can feel a breeze against my face. This is a very good sign.

‘June, sweetheart, it’s Mum. Where are you?’ I say.

There isn’t an answer. I check every room downstairs but she’s not in any of them. I’m halfway up the stairs when I hear a scream of pain. The sound comes from the bathroom.

‘June, honey, is that you? Are you okay?’ I say.

‘I’ve hurt myself. I think I broke something. It really hurts’.

Her voice is filled with pain. I take the rest of the stairs two at a time and throw the bathroom door open. She’s sprawled on the floor, wedged in the small space between the toilet seat and the wall. She looks like a broken doll. The shower is still dripping. The noise sounds enormous. I switch it off fully. Her face is a horrible shade of grey. Her shoulder looks twisted and swollen. The skin looks bright red and inflamed. I kneel beside her.

‘What happened?’ I say.

‘I took a dizzy turn when I got out of the shower. I fell. I think I’ve broken my arm or dislocated my shoulder. It really hurts’.

‘I’ll phone an ambulance. Try not to move’.

‘Okay’.

I turn towards the door. She grabs me with her free arm. I look down at her.

‘What’s the matter honey?’ I say.

‘I’m –sorry, about the other day. I know you were only trying to help’.

‘It doesn’t matter’.

I run downstairs and dial 999. I give them my daughter’s name and address. I explain her condition and tell them what’s happened. The operator tells me an ambulance is on the way. I go back up to the bathroom. I want to wait by her side until the ambulance arrives. I kneel on the floor next to her.

‘I’ve been thinking’ June says.

‘What about?’

‘Maybe I should see a doctor – about my weight I mean. I feel fat but I know I’m not. The person I see in the mirror isn’t the person I feel inside’.

Tears of relief run down my cheeks. ‘I’ll go with you if you want’.

‘I’d like that. I don’t think I can do this on my own’.

‘You don’t need to’.

‘Thanks Mum’.

I hug her, gently. She’s so thin I don’t want to hurt her. I’ll do whatever it takes to make her well. She can move in with us if that’s necessary. I’ll force-feed her if I need to.
The ambulance arrives and I go to hospital with her. The doctor’s wheel her away. I call the house and tell my husband she’s ready to get help. He gets in the car and drives to the hospital.

THE END

Copyright © 2015 by Pamela Scott

(2,900 words)

Posted in Creative Non-Fiction, Magazines & Ezines, Samples Of Published Work, Short Story

On Cellardyke Beach

This story was published in an ezine, Toasted Cheese Literary Magazine in June 2014.

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ON CELLARDYKE BEACH
PAMELA SCOTT

Every summer when I was a kid my parents took me to a little fishing village in Fife called Anstruther for two weeks. We stayed in a chalet at Anstruther Holiday Village.

My parents never had money for a holiday so the first year we went it was a treat. I was nine. Dad drove us there in the old red Volvo he was driving at the time.

The village was twelve miles outside St Andrew’s. We drove past hundreds of acres of corn and poppy fields when a massive road sign materialised out of nowhere. Welcome to the East Neuk of Fife. I thought the words ‘East Neuk’ were exciting and magical.

We almost missed the turn off for the village. The road sign was tiny. Faded white paint on a tiny pillar of stone. WELCOME TO ANSTRUTHER and a sign pointing to the right. Mum saw it at the last minute and yelled so hard Dad slammed on the breaks, thinking something was wrong. Dad reversed back along the road, turned right and followed the street.

The Holiday Village took ages to find. It was tucked behind several rows of houses. We drove along the same street dozens of times before Dad finally asked for directions. He weaved the car between the houses and drove through large wooden gates bearing a sign with the words ‘Anstruther Holiday Village’. He parked the car in front of a small building marked OFFICE. It didn’t take him long to get the keys and a map to our chalet.

It took ages to find the chalet. We drove around the place in frantic circles while Mum scrutinised the map and Dad yelled at her. He finally stopped next to a building we’d passed dozens of times, got out of the car and carried our luggage inside.

The chalet was a converted old one-storey, two bedroom Army barrack. The amenities were basic. Electricity. Calor Gas fire instead of heating. A bath and toilet. A colour TV with four basic channels. Basic furniture including a couch, a couple of chairs and a large table. Self catering of course.

As the years passed my friends went on holiday to Spain, Greece, the French Riveria and Italy and we returned to Anstruther. It never occurred to me to be jealous of them. The weather was always scorching. Every year I got a tan. I was with my favourite people on earth. I got to take pets with me. Foreign climates held no interest for me.

————-

Our first year in Anstruther was a year of discovery.

I took my budgie with me. Billy Boy. Dad had taught him to sing rude songs, swear creatively and make rude body noises. I couldn’t help laugh when Billy Boy whistled the sash, made belch or farting noises and sang Billy boy’s a protestant boy fuck the pope while Mum threatened to cook him for dinner and gave Dad one of her famous ‘looks’ designed to wither him.

On our first day in Anstruther I discovered the greatest second hand bookshop in the world. It was at the end of a street that looked directly onto the harbour. We were walking to the village to have a look around when I noticed a sign on a  lamp-post that read ‘2ND HAND BOOKS’ with an arrow pointing along the street. I dragged my parents with me. The book-shop was in a building painted bright blue.

I was in heaven. There were two large fold down tables in front of the shop covered in books. Inside the shop was my version of Aladdin’s Cave – every wall covered in floor to ceiling bookshelves breaking under the strain of books they carried. There were even shelves in the middle of the room that you had to squeeze past.

We hadn’t been in the shop five minutes when I started weighing Mum and Dad down with books. There was sappy expression on my face. My eyes were wide as saucers. I’m sure I drooled a little. They almost had to drag me screaming from the shop in the end carrying eleven carrier bags filled with books. The whole lost cost lest than ƒ£30.

I visited the book shop every year. I always bought dozens of books. As I got older my tastes changed and I discovered the joys of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Sean Hutson and Richard Laymon.

I have so many memories of summer days sitting on a blanket on the beach huddled over one book or another completely lost in the world between the pages.

On our second day we discovered the neighbouring village of Cellardyke. It was a tiny village a mile and a half away. We decided to check out the beach at Anstruther and were sorely disappointed. A few inches of sand and lots of rock. Dad clambered across the rocks to see where they led. Mum and I followed. I stumbled and fell a couple of times.

The rocks led to a proper beach and another harbour. Golden sand stretched  for miles. The beach had donkey rides, stalls selling gifts and a Mr Whippy ice cream van. Dad bought us a cone and found out the place was called Cellardyke, the smallest village in the East Neuk. There were a couple of rows of shops, a post office and a caf„e.

When we finished our cones we took the road way back. The road was called Coast Road. We walked past rows of caravans that stretched most of the way between the two villages. We found out later they were part of Cellardyke Holiday Park.

Over the years we spent a lot of time in Cellardyke. The walk was pleasant along the Coast Road. The breeze from the sea was lovely. We always bought a cone. Dad I walked along the narrow harbour wall and watched fish in the sea and looked at all the fishing boats. Mum always sat at a small bench on a hill overlooking the harbour. The idea of walking the harbour wall made her feel queasy. We spent a lot of time on the beach. Dad would drag Mum into the water and wind her up by splashing her. I sunbathed and read.

On our third day we discovered the little shop at the bottom of the hill behind the holiday village. There was a very steep hill that led from the back gate right down to the beach. The hill was too steep for a car and you had to walk very carefully. My legs were killing me by the time we reached the bottom.

We were behind a lot of houses. There was a sandy path that led down to the only sandy area of the beach. Right next to the opening that led to the sandy path there was a little shop. It sold the usual newspapers and magazines as well as hand crafted gifts and home made sweets.

Dad started to go down to the shop every morning to get a paper, bread and milk. We bought all of our gifts there. We started our daily walk to Cellardyke from there. As the years passed the hill seemed to get steeper and steeper. Dad’s legs got bad with arthritis and we had to stop using the hill.

On our fourth day we discovered the Anstruther Fish Bar. It was one of many businesses that overlooked the harbour. We’d been shopping one day when Dad noticed a huge queue leading from the building down the street. Curious, we went over to investigate. The windows of the place were covered in signs proclaiming the fish bar to be award winning, the best in the East Neuk and world famous.

We had to queue for almost two hours before we finally got a table. We sat at a table at the back of the restaurant. The place was mobbed and cramped. There wasn’t a lot of room for people to move about.

The fish and chips were amazing. They were served on plates inside cardboard boxes that looked like rolled up newspaper. You had to eat with a wooden fork.

We ate there at least once every year.

——-

I have so many memories of Anstruther than have never faded.

The smell of the sea. I’d never smelt it before and grew to love it. Even now I can’t smell the sea without thinking of those summers.

The sound of seagulls screaming as they flew overhead.

Hot sand squelching between my bare toes.

Rummaging inside various gift shops.

Sitting on the harbour wall and eating a Mr Whippy.

The hot sun in my face, making my skin sweat and my eyes water.

Walking along the pebbled streets that wound all over the village.

After we stopped going on holiday to Anstruther we returned for a day trip every year. We revisited all our haunts. We carefully made our way down the steep hill behind the holiday village. We walked across the rocks. We walked to Cellardyke and had a cone on the harbour. We paid a visit to the 2nd hand book-store. We ate at the fish bar. We walked the pebbled streets.

——–

It was during the first week of our second year in Anstruther that Dad has his accident.

It had been raining and miserable all day but it finally stopped. Dad wanted to explore the rocks with me and my dog Sheba. He wanted to show me how to fish in the shallow pools that sometimes formed in the rocks. Mum didn’t want to come.

The rocks were okay at first. A couple were damp buy nothing major. Dad walked carefully, stopping to wait for me to catch up. He lifted me over some parts I couldn’t manage myself. I had a net with me and Sheba was running around. He helped me catch tiny little fish. Sheba got bit on the nose by a crab and stayed much closer to us.

After a while we reached several large flat rocks that had green moss on them. They sloped upwards. At the bottom were a series of sharp rocks piled on top of each other. Dad tested the first moss covered rock. It was fine. We crossed it. He was testing the second one when his legs went from under him. He gave a scream and he lost his footing and slid down the flat rocks towards the steep ones. He smashed both knees off the sharp rocks. There was blood everywhere.  Sheba lay down at his feet and howled in pain.

He couldn’t stand up and told me to get Mum. I ran back towards the holiday village screaming my head off. I yelled and cried all the way to our chalet while everyone stared at me. Mum phoned an ambulance.

Dad had to get over thirty stitches in each knee. At the hospital they found out he had arthritis in both knees. The stitches didn’t come out for month and his knees were left badly scarred.

——–

Sheba came to Anstruther with us every year. She was my dog. My voice was the only authority she recognised. She never paid any attention to Mum and Dad. At home she used to escape from the back garden and run to the grass verge across from the house. She ran circles round Mum and Dad as they chased her. As soon as I appeared she ran to my side. I didn’t even need to say anything.

Summers in Anstruther were even better with Sheba. I’d play with her on the beach and in the water. I’d bury her in the sand. I built sandcastles that she took delight in demolishing. She had this big rubber bone that we used to play with. I would take a hold of both sides. She’d grab the middle and drag me around the water.

I came home from school one day and Dad told me Sheba was gone. I was thirteen. She’d bitten a kid at the end of the street on the hand and his parents made such a fuss she had to be put down. I went into hysterics. I locked myself in my room and trashed the place. I didn’t speak to my Dad for weeks and called him a murderer.

The summer after Sheba was put down we returned to Anstruther for the last time. It wasn’t the same without Sheba. I sat around the chalet moping with my head stuck in a book. I didn’t want the beach or the water or anything. Dad offered to get me a new dog that was trained but I only wanted Sheba. My best friend I’d shared so many happy memories with on Cellardyke beach.

THE END

Copyright … 2014 by Pamela Scott

(2,100 words)

Posted in Fiction, Magazines & Ezines, Samples Of Published Work, Short Story

The Left Of Centre

This short story was published in Scriptor 8 in October 2010 under the title Left of Centre.

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THE LEFT OF CENTRE
PAMELA SCOTT

1

I like to cycle at night. There are lots of places around the city where I can go. There’s a big stretch of grass along the side of the canal, waste ground all over the place, roads that stretch ahead for miles, woods and a park. You can go anywhere on a bike. The city is mine to explore.

I wait until midnight when there’s no one else about. I drive down the centre of the road without holding onto the handlebars. Sometimes I crush my feet against the pedals and stand up. I like bumping up and down stairs and cycling through tunnels.

There’s no one about to bother you at night. No crowds like there are in the daylight. No people to walk in front of you and act like it’s your fault when you almost crash into them. No dogs or kids running around you need to swerve. You don’t need to wait at the traffic lights to cross the road. I just cycle straight out with my arms raised in the moonlight.

One time the headlights of this car blinded me in the middle of the road and I crashed my bike into a bin. The car and driver were gone before I picked myself up.

2

I never make left turns. I always head straight out in front and when I go as far as I
can I turn right and cycle back the way I came.

People who take left turns are crazy. Anything could happen. A car could come out of nowhere and hit you. You could turn left and go into a wall.

I feel safer in the middle. I can see everything. There are no surprises.

People who take left turns just ask for trouble. Anything could block their path.
They’re suicidal. They turn on their blind spot. It’s crazy.

My friend sent me on this cycling course for my birthday once. It was a nightmare. The instructor wore luminous shorts and a matching helmet and hyperventilated a lot. We drove straight on through a park for a while then he told us to turn left. I stayed where I was and watched the crazy buggers turn left. The instructor hit a bin and went over his handlebars. It was a six-bike pile-up. I cycled straight ahead through the park and got home untouched.

3

One cold day I decide to cycle through the woods.

I love it. A clearing goes straight down the middle with tall trees on the left side so I don’t need to worry about taking left turns. The wind’s cold and I like the sharp feel of it on my face as I cycle ahead.

I’m tempted to leave the woods and go somewhere else. I’m not sure if this leads to any left turns and decide not to chance it.

I don’t know much of the city beyond the woods. If I went somewhere new it would increase the possibility of ending up at a spot where I had to take a left turn. There might not be a right turn for miles. It gives me an upset stomach to think about it.

When I reach the big old tree at the end of the woods I get off my bike. I look up at the tree and shudder. The branches stretch across to the left side of the woods. The tree’s a great big old thing with a trunk at least twice as thick as me and big long branches that disappear into the sky. The tree’s twisted and deformed with age and the weather. It looks like giant made of bark getting ready to pluck me off the ground and pop me in its mouth.

I get on my bike; make a sharp right and cycle home.

I feel the tree glare at me and shiver.

4

The next day I decide to cycle in the dark.

The whole city looks deformed and alien in the middle of the night.

In revenge, I cycle my usual route backwards. The big hills are tougher the wrong way round and I get out of breath. The long slops go down the way. I laugh as I zoom down them.

I overtake the old batty old woman who walks her dog and tries to give me her homemade rock cakes. She doesn’t even see me. I stop when I reach the park.

The park’s in the posh area of the city where the houses all have neat little trimmed lawns and big flashy cars that sit in paved driveways.

This side of the city is always light even when it’s dark everywhere else. It really creeps me out. It’s like Hammer House of Horror does the Brady Bunch. It feels even worse when I approach it from the wrong side.

I notice the biggest houses are on the left hand side and shudder. I cycle down the middle of the street with my head pointed towards the ground.

I stop at the end of the street when I see the big iron gates. They look like something the Addams Family would put in front of their mansion. The gates are too far away for me to see where they lead. I’d never noticed them before.

5

Winter comes to an end and spring approaches. The mornings start to get bright. I need to check my watch all the time to make sure I didn’t leave the house late.

I cycle my old route backwards. I’ve been doing it so long it feels like I’ve always cycled that way and my old route was a one-off.

I pass the big iron gates every day and wonder where they lead to. The intrigue of the gates gets me psyched up for my cycle every day. The new route’s more interesting.

Animals die on it all the time though.

I run over a fox one day. It lies stiff and inert in the middle of the road. I see it clear as the day on its back with its legs in the air. I’d swerve to avoid it but I’d need to turn left because there’s a bench on the right.

I can’t do that. Even for a poor fox. I shut my eyes and drive right over the top of it. It makes a big squelching sound. I get blood on my bike and it takes ages to clean it off.

That’s the only time it’s a fox though. The rest of the time it’s rabbits.

6

One day I see a larger animal in a pool of blood in front of the big iron gates. I need to see what it is.

My throat closes but I can’t go back until I see what died this time. It’s a small dog. The dog’s throat’s been cut. I saw posters all over the city weeks ago. I look up at the gates. They’re open wide.

I cycle through them and I’m in a graveyard. It stretches between rows and rows of the posh houses and over a hill in the distance.

I cycle along the path and look at some of the graves on either side. A lot of them are children’s.

I speed up over the hill and see a group of children stand around something wriggling on the ground. It’s an animal of some kind. I’m not close enough to see. It makes strange grunting sounds and I hear some of the children cry out as it claws at them.

The children lift up small rocks and start to hit the animal with them. The animal squeals and makes a sound like a human in pain. My spine turns to ice.

I spin my bike around and speed back towards the gates.

7

I open my eyes and throw up on the ground.

My head aches. I press my fingers against my skin and look at them. They’re spotted with blood. I can see a rock dotted with blood a few inches away. One of the kids must have hit me with it.

I roll over on my side and stand up. My bike lies on its side on the grass a few feet away. A dead cat’s draped over the headstone next to me. Blood’s ran down the black marble and obscured the gold writing.

I pick my bike up, get on it and head home.

Tomorrow I’m starting a brand new route. I don’t want to go past those gates anymore.

THE END

Copyright © 2010 by Pamela Scott

(1,500 words)

Posted in Fiction, Magazines & Ezines, Samples Of Published Work, Short Story

Girl On A Riverbank

This story was published in Carillon Magazine in March 2009 and re-published in Words With JAM in June 2010.

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GIRL ON A RIVERBANK
PAMELA SCOTT

I wait for Rosie in the park every lunch-time.

I sit on the grass beneath an old oak tree. I spread my lunch on top of my school-bag. I usually have corned beef sandwiches wrapped in foil, a ripe yellow apple, small yoghurt and a carton of apple and blackcurrant juice.

I take off my shoes and socks. I dangle my toes in the cold water. I splash my feet so I can watch the ripples spread across the surface.

There are lots of things to see at the river. There are always ducks gliding across the water. A few times I’ve seen some kids kicking a rubber ball about. There’s always a dog that runs back and forth across the path and barks at the ducks. I think it’s a stray. There are swans in the river as well. Two swans fight all the time. They spit and hiss at each other.

I eat my sandwiches first. Mum carefully makes them every night before I go to bed. She cuts them into little triangles and takes the crusts off. Mum knows I hate crusts. There’s usually corned beef inside. It’s the cheapest and Mum doesn’t have a lot of money. She told me once Dad took it all when he went away. I don’t remember him. Sometimes, if she has money left over from her giro I get thick slices of breaded ham. One time she saved up and bought me haslet. It was delicious.

I think every footstep on the path behind me is Rosie. I keep jumping up and turning round. It’s never her. I’ve seen an old woman loads of times who walks her dog in the park every day. The dog’s yappy. It looks mean. I’d be scared to pet it in case it bit my hand. A few times I’ve seen a woman who lives on our street. She has a pram with her that has her little baby in it.

The spot under the oak tree is our special place. Rosie will know where to find me. We spend every lunch-time here. We share our food. Her Mum’s got more money and her lunches are always better than mine. We feed the ducks the crusts. We love to splash each other with water from the river.

I don’t know why she stopped coming to school. I don’t understand why she never meets me here anymore. I must have done something to make her mad. Maybe she’s fallen out with me.

I hope she hasn’t. I hope she’s still my friend. She’s my best friend in the whole world. We’re like sisters. We’re blood sisters. We cut our hands with glass and rubbed them together. We had a ceremony and everything. I don’t know why she’d be mad at me.

After I’ve eaten the sandwiches I have my yoghurt. It’s always a French-set one so it’s pale and thick. Rosie always has fancy yoghurts with big chunks of fruit in them or little sweets you pour into the yoghurt. Mum could never afford stuff like that. My yoghurt’s usually strawberry flavoured. I like it the best. Mum always buys me strawberry-flavoured stuff.

One time my Mum gave me black cherry yoghurt. I didn’t like the way it tasted. There was an old woman walking her dog in the park. It licked my hand. I gave the yoghurt to the dog and it did a big pooh. The woman started to laugh. Rosie and I laughed as well and almost rolled into the water.

I don’t like being in the park without Rosie. It makes me sad. I don’t feel like having my yoghurt. My stomach feels bad. I put the yoghurt back in my bag. I have the apple next. It’s a red delicious. I hate them. They don’t taste like much but they look yummy. Mum always makes me have my 5-a-day. She needs to buy the cheapest of everything so I’m stuck with red delicious.

Mum read somewhere that apples are good for a kid’s bones or something like that. She buys them all the time. There’s this place where she can get them really cheap. She makes apple jam and apple pie all the time. I don’t mind them because sugar’s been added. You can’t really taste the apple.

Sometimes she buys me bananas. She can only afford them if they’re going bad and being sold off at a cheap price. I never eat them. They’re so sweet it makes me feel sick. I put them in the bin. I never tell her. It would hurt her feelings.

Rosie has a different kind of fruit every day. Lunch is fun when she’s around. I love waiting to see what she pulls out of her bag. It’s like Magic. She always has three pieces of fruit with her. She always gave me a piece but never apple because she knows I hate them. I tasted lots of different fruit. I had bananas that weren’t black, mangoes, cherries, blueberries, peaches, satsumas, pears and kiwi fruit.

I haven’t seen Rosie for weeks so I need to have my red delicious every day. I miss her so much.

We carved our names into this tree. She stole her Dad’s pen-knife one day. We did it during lunch. ‘Rosie & Maggie were here. Best friends forever’. I touch the trunk of the tree. I feel the words carved into the wood. It makes my stomach hurt because she’s not here.

I drink the juice last. It’s always the same, apple or blackcurrant. Mum gets it discounted at a place called a cash & carry. I think it sells food and stuff in big boxes. We have crates of the juice at home. I like the blackcurrant one. It tastes nice. The apple juice tastes funny. I think it must be made from red delicious. Rosie used to have a different flavour of Capri-Sun every day. She shared them with me as well.

I’ve seen Rosie’s Mum in town a few times. She always looks sad. Her face is usually all red and blotchy. I think she cries a lot. Mum told me she needed to take some time off work. I don’t know what happened. Maybe Rosie had a big fight with her.

Rosie’s house is next door to mine. There’s never a light on in her bedroom anymore. Her bedroom’s opposite mine. We used to make faces at each other across the way. Now no one ones makes the faces back.

When I finish my lunch I turn around and watch the path behind me. I think she might be running late. I don’t want to miss her. She might not see me under the tree and run past.

I watch a lot of different people. I can see groups of big kicks playing football, young couples and old people walking dogs and groups of men and women jogging through the park. I see families a lot of the time. I’ve seen them have picnics and fly kites.

Rosie’s never one of them.

I sometimes think I should stop coming to the park. I could eat my lunch in school. I don’t want to miss Rosie though. This is our place. I don’t want other kids to mess with it. She’d be hurt if she turned up and I wasn’t there.

Maybe if I wait here for a long time and am very patient she’ll come back.

Maybe this is a best friend test.

If I’m real quiet and patient under this tree she’ll jump out and yell ‘surprise’. We’ll laugh and roll around on the grass. We’ll be best friends again. Everything will be fine. We can share lunch and splash our feet in the river.

One time Mum told me a sad story. A girl fell in the river one afternoon and drowned. It happened right next to this tree. She was the same age as me. Mum said she tried to climb the tree and fell. Mum said the girl who drowned was Rosie. Mum cried and hugged me.

I don’t believe her. Rosie’s my best friend in the whole world. She’d never leave me alone. We’re blood sisters. She said we’d be friends forever. She wouldn’t go away.

I don’t know why Mum’s lying to me. I hate her. She doesn’t want me to be friends with Rosie. She thinks her Mum’s a snob and Rosie’s a bad influence. She’s trying to keep us apart.

I won’t let her keep Rosie from me.

Rosie will come back for me. We’ll eat lunch under this tree. We’ll play in the river. We’ll be best friends again. Everything will be fine.

Just you wait and see.

THE END

Copyright © 2012 by Pamela Scott

(1,400 words)