Both stories have been published in anthologies this year. The one I posted here earlier this week was included in National Flash Fiction Day’s 2014 anthology Eating My Words.
I was invited to write the second story, below, to appear in an interesting and unusual project that used flash fiction to promote positive expectations of local government services. Gosh!
I chose to celebrate the mobile library service in my story, because the village in which I live is fortunate to have a visit from one every fortnight. Mobile libraries are invaluable resources, storing an extraordinary assortment of fiction, non-fiction, CDs, DVDs and even jigsaw puzzles in their limited space, for the benefit of remote communities, free of charge. They are especially valuable to those who have no independent transport to reach their nearest public library, but they’re also welcome to those who can’t otherwise get out very much, such as parents with small children at home, or those caring for housebound relatives who do not have the freedom to leave the village often.
My preamble is in danger of being longer than my story (the required word count for submissions was 350 words), so without more ado, here we go….
Every other Tuesday, half way through my shift in the village shop, I’d watch the white mobile library bus trundle past on its way to park by the village school. On its return trip twenty minutes later, the lady driver would wave cheerfully to me. In our narrow lane, the giant books painted on the side of the van almost touched the shop window, making me feel the size of a Borrower, which was ironic, because I’d never borrowed any of its books.
Then at the start of October, my hours at the shop were cut. Our takings had been falling since the new superstore popped up a few miles away. After that, I was always at home on Tuesdays, alone in my cottage opposite the school. I’d watch the library van park outside my house.
As soon as its doors swung open, school children bearing books would bound up its steps. Older folk followed more slowly, cautiously gripping the handrail with their book-free hand. When they’d emerge one by one, they’d all be smiling, large print books a common bond between the very old and very young.
As the days shortened, I grew weary of daytime television. I wished I could afford more bus trips into town, or to anywhere that would make my life less dull. Then last Tuesday afternoon I finally found my courage. Once its regular visitors had dispersed, I slowly mounted the mobile library’s steps.
“Can I help you, dear?” asked the lady driver, now standing behind the counter. It seemed odd to hear her voice at last.
“I don’t know,” I faltered. “You see, I’m not much of a reader.”
When she ducked behind the counter, I thought it was to hide her scorn. But she popped up again with a library card application form and a pen.
“Ooh, everyone’s a reader, dear!”she exclaimed kindly. “You just haven’t found the right books yet. We’ve got something here for everyone. I’ll help you choose.”
But that’s all I have time to tell you now, because I want to get back to my book.
Change the Ending is an intriguing anthology which includes the work not only of seasoned authors but also of local government workers who had never written fiction before, but were persuaded to by the project’s creator Dawn Reeves, a powerhouse of energy and inspiration. It’s now available to buy here.
To read more of my short stories, you might like to try either of my single-author collections:
- Quick Change, published in the summer to mark National Flash Fiction Day, featuring 20 flash fictions on the theme of change
- Stocking Fillers, just published this month, to celebrate Christmas with 12 humorous short stories
Both are now available as ebooks on Kindle, but if you’re ereader-averse, you’ll be able to buy them in paperback very shortly!