The Neal James Website

                                  Guest Author

Submission Guidelines

 

As an opportunity for fellow writers to have greater exposure, this section of my website is reserved for those wishing to make a written contribution to its pages.

Each month, a fresh third party will be given the chance to list here a submission of their choice, together with a suitable image for the piece of work. If you are interested send a message via the mailing address below, and we'll go from there.

Content will be scrutinised to ensure that it fits in with the rest of the site's tone and appearance, but every effort will be made to accomodate those wanting to take part.

Submission length is limited to no more than 5,000 words, and a suitable spellchecker should be used to remove errors beforehand. A personal photograph should also be included (no avatars please), together with a brief biography.

Mailing address is: georgius4444@hotmail.co.uk

                                   January 2018

Colin Garrow

 

                       

 

Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland.

He has worked in a plethora of professions including: taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate.

All Colin's books are available as eBooks and most are also out in paperback, too. His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grind, A3 Review, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine.

He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories and the occasional song.

 


 

 The Not Mouse

 

 

                              

 

 

 

It was the bread he noticed first.

To begin with, Peterson dismissed it as one of the world's great unsolved mysteries - how small corners of a freshly-baked loaf can simply crumble into nothing, somehow evaporating back into the yeast-laden atmosphere. But when it happened again, it occurred to him that perhaps someone, or something, had eaten those small corners, nibbled them away leaving a neat little grotto of white bread at each corner of the loaf. And since no-one else lived in the house, there could only be one culprit.

He found the mousetrap in an old shoebox under the sink. It had been there since he'd moved in, and not being a particularly anti-mouse sort of guy, Peterson had never expected to have to use it. Stealing his bread however, was more than a little annoying, so he duly placed the wooden device on the floor near the gap between the kitchen cupboards and the skirting board - a clear entry route to the behind-the-walls-land that no self-respecting mouse would be able to resist.

The next morning the small lump of Cheshire had gone, leaving the mousetrap curiously untouched. The thief's getaway trail, etched across the floor in a path of cheese crumbs like a 'he-went-this-a-way' sign, pointed to the refrigerator. Peterson opened the fridge door and peered at what was left of the cheese he'd cut the 'bait' from. He noticed the near-empty plate, the doll-like footprints across the glass and the tiny grappling hook, still hanging from the shelf. Peterson sighed. Clearly, this was no ordinary mouse.

And then he noticed the boots.

Sitting neatly by the hole in the skirting board (the hole that had surely become larger since the day before), the perfectly stitched brace of miniature footwear were caked in mud and grime. Crouching down, Peterson picked them up. Each one was about two inches long with what appeared to be silk laces hanging loose from their tiny eyelets, as if the wearer had carefully undone them and slipped the boots off his, her or its feet before retiring to bed for the night. As he stared at these slightly unbelievable articles, Peterson wondered if he was the subject of one of those TV game shows where innocent people are thrown into seemingly improbable situations to see how they react.

About to place the boots back on the floor, Peterson noticed one of the laces was broken. Holding the boot up to the light, he pulled at the loose end. It appeared the lace had simply snapped off - no doubt due to wear and tear, albeit on a miniature scale. Should the owner of the boots attempt to refasten them, he, she or it would now be unable to lace them right up to the top. The lace would have to be re-threaded, taking into account its reduced length and thereby necessitating the abandonment of the uppermost eyelets.

Recognising his own irritation at this less-than-perfect footwear-type situation, the obvious next step would be to substitute the offending item. Unsurprisingly, Peterson did not have a miniature set of replacement silken bootlaces to hand, but a few moments contemplation was all he needed to come up with a possible solution to the problem.

Over coffee and Jaffa Cakes, Peterson unpicked the embroidered 'Motorhead' insignia that adorned the now too-small jacket that he had for years been unwilling to throw away. The faded denim still reeked of the heady Patchoulli oil he used to splash on everything in his headbanging days, and for a moment he was tempted to hang the jacket back in the wardrobe. One glance at the tiny unlaced boots on the kitchen table, however, was enough to bring him back to the task in hand. Carefully pulling the lettering apart with a needle, he soon extracted several useable lengths of brown silk.

Before replacing the laces in both boots, he cleaned the leather (if, indeed, it was leather) with a damp cloth and a cotton bud, then gently scraped the mud out of the tiny treads on the soles of the boots, brushing away the dirt with an old toothbrush. A squirt of Mr Sheen gave the uppers a nice shine. Then, rethreading the laces, he added a dab of glue to the ends of each one, blowing gently until it was dry enough not to stick.

It was at that point he finally turned his mind towards the vexed question of who or what actually owned the boots and if he, she or it would in fact return to claim them. Whoever this creature was, it would be a little vexing if the boots were to vanish without leaving Peterson a clue to their owner's identity.

After considering the purchase of surveillance equipment, setting up an old video camera on some sort of timer, or simply sitting up all night in the dark to watch what happened, Peterson finally decided that what was required was a little trust. Taking a pad of post-it notes and a pencil, he placed the boots on top of the pad, with the pencil sticking out of the left-hand boot, as if it were an inkwell.

Of course, Peterson was well aware he might be endowing the creature with rather more qualities than were actually available to it, and, he had to admit, it was pretty unlikely this same creature would not only have the capacity to utilise writing materials, but also the skills to communicate in a language Peterson would understand.

It was a tall order.

And so it was with more than a degree of surprise, that Peterson approached the hole in the skirting board the following morning to find the post-it notes had been picked up and stacked very neatly by the kitchen bin. The pencil lay on the topmost note with something scrawled underneath. Peterson bent down to read the single word:

Rubbish!

Peterson scratched his head. For a moment he wondered if he was dreaming, but as the newly-laced boots had disappeared and his un-picked denim jacket still hung on the back of the kitchen chair where he'd left it the previous night, there could be no doubt: this was not a mouse. This was a...

He scratched his head again.

 

At the small library in the village, Peterson spent the morning browsing through anything he could find about small creatures sporting miniature footwear. Rather unhelpfully, books tend not to have contents pages or indexes listing 'small creatures who wear boots' so after a while he moved across to the section on local history - just in case someone else in the area had, at some point (improbable though it seemed), encountered a similar difficulty.

By lunchtime, Peterson was fed up. It was certainly true there had been some strange goings-on in the village over the previous hundred years or so, but nothing that sounded remotely like his own particular dilemma.

"Not found what you're looking for?"

Peterson looked up at the librarian and shook his head.

"Perhaps I can help?" She smiled warmly, her arms folded across a grey cardigan.

Peterson shook his head. "I've got..." He glanced at her name badge, striving to avoid gawking at her ample cleavage. "I've got a problem, Morag. A rather strange problem."

"Strange how?"

"Well," he shrugged. "It's more a sort of unusual occurrence." He gave her a sheepish grin. "I thought I had a mouse, but..." He paused. It'd be ridiculous to continue. Whatever he said would sound crazy. He shrugged again, stood up and picked up his jacket. "No, forget it, it doesn't matter."

"A large mouse?" The woman was looking at him with more interest now.

"Large? Well, I suppose..."

"With big feet?" She touched his arm gently, her voice suddenly quiet. "And boots?"

Peterson sat down again. "Actually, yes."

The woman nodded. "You've got an infestation of goblin." She moved back to the counter. "I'll put the kettle on." She glanced back at him. "You didn't touch the boots, by any chance?"

He stared at her.

The woman pursed her lips and nodded slowly. "This'll take a wee while."

 

Back home, Peterson opened up the ancient tome at the relevant chapter. The pages felt crisp and sharp between his fingers, despite the book's great age. Smoothing down the crease, he placed a tea-plate over the edges at either side, keeping the book open as he slid a finger down the instructions.

The first bit was easy enough - simply wash the floor with a strong solution of bleach - this, Morag had assured him, would deter his recent visitor from stepping on its surface. Squeezing out the mop after the third rinse, he noticed the hole in the skirting had got bigger. Remembering the librarian's stern advice (to see it is to make it so), he avoided staring at the aperture, but couldn't help acknowledging that the opening was indeed now large enough to admit something considerably larger than a mouse.

Next, he was instructed to place a pair of his own shoes (preferably a pair with broken laces and poor-quality leather), at the very spot where he'd found the creature's boots. Then, he had to set down a plate of cheese next to them and retire to bed. If he was lucky - very lucky - the situation he'd created, and the possible consequences, might be averted before things moved to the next stage.

Later, lying in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, Peterson ran through Morag's instructions again in his head. The boots, she had assured him, might convince the creature he had meant no harm by interfering and that, in his simple act of kindness, he'd intended only friendship. However, she had gone on to tell him, in a kindly voice (no doubt meant to convey the improbability of this advice bearing fruit), that since he had meddled with the creature's footwear, there was no way of knowing what the reaction would be, as whatever was going to happen, in all likelihood, had already have been decided. All he could do was wait. And hope.

It happened shortly after 3AM. Clambering out of bed, Peterson pulled on his dressing gown and slippers and stumbling sleepily towards the bathroom became aware of a high-pitched whispering from somewhere behind him. Turning to look, something grabbed him by the ankles and pulled, causing Peterson to fall forwards. The force of his head hitting the floor didn't quite knock him into unconsciousness, but yielded a fuzziness to the events that followed. He remained alert enough to realise his body had been lifted and was being conveyed downstairs, but the feeling of being forced into a small, dark space was simply too much to deal with. He closed his eyes and succumbed to whatever his fate might be.

 

It was daylight when he awoke. He knew this because he could hear one of the neighbours leaving for work, the familiar growl of the motorcycle echoing down the lane. Everything else, however, was new to him. At first, he thought he might be in a sort of wooden box, but stretching out his fingers, he discerned that whatever was beneath him was cold, like earth, and that everything above and to the sides appeared to be made of wood. He was lying on his back and though the place of his incarceration was gloomy, there was enough light to see a spaghetti-type mass of electrical cables running along the 'roof' above his head.

The confined space created several problems, not least that of being unable to stand up. Nevertheless, with a bit of shuffling, he was able to turn himself around to face the other way. This new position allowed him to look out of the opening at one end of his new dwelling. It was a hole. A hole large enough (presumably), for a human, though not one that would provide the easy accessibility of, say, a door.

Crawling forward, the cables dragging against his spine, Peterson was at last able to poke his head through the opening. What he saw was a little disconcerting. The creature (now considerably larger than it must have been before), was sitting at the kitchen table eating porridge and reading the newspaper. It was dressed in Peterson's own clothes and wearing his best boots. More worryingly, its offspring (smaller versions of itself), occupied the other chairs.

This was exactly what Morag had warned him about. Had he left the goblin's boots alone, he might have had nothing more irksome to deal with than having the odd piece of cheese stolen from the fridge, or the occasional corner of a loaf nibbled away. But now the tables had very definitely been turned. If only he'd read the book properly! He particularly wished he'd taken more notice of the section entitled 'What to Do If You Find a Pair of Boots', but it was too late now.

He watched the new occupants of his house as they munched through breakfast and gathered their things together. One by one, they left the room and the slam-click of the front door told him that he was once again alone.

This was his chance. If he could squeeze through the hole and get out into the kitchen, he'd be able to grab the book and find the relevant section. But however hard he tried, the hole was simply too small. Somehow, they'd squeezed him into this tiny space, but it seemed that he was now too big to fit back through.

There was only one thing left he could try.

Stretching down, Peterson pulled off his slippers, grateful they were the zip-up type and had withstood the trauma of his being dragged down the stairs. Taking off each one in turn, he pulled the edging off one of the soles and pulled out some of the threads that held the zips in place. Then, placing the footwear side by side, he pushed them out through the hole…

 

                     

Back to Top