Masters tales · Short Stories

A Guest Writer – Mike Jenkins

This Wednesday the 20th March  a guest author came for what I thought would be a reading… Except he ran a workshop.

Before I get into that though I need to tell you who Mike Jenkins ( is.  He is a poet and author. He has performed at the Hay Festival and the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, and now (more importantly *cough*) at Trinity Saint David.

He read from his book ‘The Climbing Tree’ a young adults dystopian novel and then we got to have a go. To have three goes in fact so I’ve popped them below. I must admit though I love the genre. Disasters and dystopian writing is something I enjoy reading and writing.

The first piece:

My prompt was – forced to live underground

It started with a girl, a boy and a pram. There was a baby in it and the parents seemed to have walked a long way. The boy knocked. And Jack answered. It was then that I got a good look at him, he was young. I was calling him a boy but really he was a man, after all, he had a partner and a child.  He asked Jack for a space to sleep but Jack just shook his head. He even asked to stay in the caravan during the day.

“You can’t,” Jack said. “You’ll cook.”

“We’ll cook outside too,” the man countered.

Jack sighed and looked out the door, a the dusty dry landscape. “Okay,” he said finally, “but tomorrow you gotta move into the community shelter.”

The man smiled and ushered his wife in. Which is why at sunrise we all found ourselves in the old Andersen shelter, crammed in like sardines. At least the pram had been left in the house and I was glad Charlie, my dog, had already passed from old age, otherwise he would have been locked outside. There just wasn’t enough room.

The next one was – the power goes out

The power went out, suddenly. Damn it, I thought, not wanting to speak aloud. Just in case someone answered. Silly, I’m alone, sat in my chair in the living room. But the dark is so absolute and the silence…

Nothing. No hum of electricity or clunk from the fridge as it tries to keep the food at a bacteria hindering temperature. A low whine echoes and I jump. “It’s okay Frank,” I say to my dog, a brown tufty creature of indeterminable breed. “You wait. It’ll come back on in a minute.”

So we sit. Him nestled up against my leg body shaking with fear, like he is so cold he can’t help it. I reach out a hand and pat him, relishing the comfort from his solid form and wiry texture. “It’ll be back on soon.” Still we wait.

It must have been at least half an hour. I’m going to move. Okay can’t remember where I put the candles. Inspiration comes and I tut to myself. Silly. Reaching I stretch to my mobile phone. I look at it. Odd. Why? “Well, that’s odd.” I say and I can feel Frank turn to look at me. “It’s the phone. It says there is no signal.” Frank huffs in agreement at this strangeness. The phone might be useless for calling for help but in such a dark room the little screen lights up like a small sun. I turn it out into the room and Frank is immediately illuminated, his brown eyes looking concerned. “Not to worry. Everything is fine. It’s just a power cut.”

And the last we had to work in a dialect – this I did but not too well, dialect is not my forte.

I drove into work. The gate was open which was really srange. No dogs littered the yard like discarded teabags and Jack’s car was was the wrong way round. It meant he’d been out. He never went out. He used to delight in telling us that running a dog kennels was a full time business, he even worked on Christmas day. So where had he been?

Pulling he car up next to his; the bonnet disappearing under a reaching magnolia tree I turned the radio off. Silence. No dogs. I got out and locked the door, and then shut the gate. There ought to have been more noise.

The yard was shaped like a horseshoe with barns and sheds butting up to the farmhouse. It’s there that I took off toward, my feet scrunching on the gravel. The door was open and I pushed it, forcing it beyond the lifted tiles.

“Jack?” I don’t hear anything but upstairs I think I can just about make out the creak of a stair. “Jack?”

“Here, I’m commin,” a voice said, gruff and raw.

“You okay?”

“Aye lass,” he said coming into view. His usual pink shirt was unbuttoned to his waist and his belt an old dog lead. The trousers were a well worn tweed.

“The gate was open.”

Jack nodded and shuffled over. His white hair sparse on his head and his shoulders stooped. When had he gotten old?

“I went out to the doctors,” he paused and put a hand on the back of a chair. “Now, you’re not to worry but I got angina.”

“Angina?” I said my voice too high. “What does that mean?”

So they are my three pieces and I love the middle one. Thinking about expanding it into a short story for the masters.

4 thoughts on “A Guest Writer – Mike Jenkins

    1. Me too, but I think the second could go anywhere as far as plot is concerned. I was worried that the first was too crowded and a little confused. Course I can clear that up – decisions! :-/

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