Short Story Published: “…in acceptance” in Litro Magazine

FeaturedShort Story Published: “…in acceptance” in Litro Magazine

My short story “…in acceptance” has been published by Litro, one of UK’s leading literary and creative arts magazines. This is what the Editor had to say about it:

‘…there are (literary) communications from beyond the grave in Richard Lee-Graham’s strange but touching (and playful) “…in acceptance.”’

The piece appears in issue #171, which can be purchased in the Litro Shop, or you can read the story online here, along with the other excellent writing available on Litro.co.uk.

I hope you like the story!

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Short Story Extract: The Meat I’m Tethered To

Short Story Extract: The Meat I’m Tethered To

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but my writing’s been picking up some pace since my wedding (those things take up a lot of time). Here’s an extract from one of several stories I’m currently juggling. I’m not sure it’s the most efficient way to work, but I always seem to have several pieces ongoing at various stages of completion. Other writers might draft and redraft the same story until it’s polished and ready to go. That just doesn’t seem to work for me. The drawback is that I have a lot of stories that aren’t polished and ready to submit. Here’s a bit from one of those:

Two noises dominate when it’s just me and The Meat in here: Beep and Shhhp. Beep. Shhhp. Beep – The Meat’s heart still beats. Shhhp — The Meat’s lungs still breathe. I’ve tried to tune them out: impossible. I’ve tried to extract a beat or some kind of musical pleasure from them: nope. There is a sort of rhythm, but it’s not exactly one you can tap your foot to.

I saw The Meat tap his foot once. Well, it was more of a twitch. The nurse saw it too while she was in here changing his shit bag (that’s right, he shits). His big toe started twitching away like Thumper and the nurse yipped with excitement and called in one of the leaden doctors – they’re all leaden when they come in here; gravely serious and pissed-off and put-out. I mean, I get it – they want to heal the living, not flog the dead horses down this end of the corridor.

So, this doctor lopes in and sees The Meat twitching and he says, “It’s nothing.” The nurse looks crestfallen, so he explains a bit more: “By week six, his brain will have liquefied.” The nurse’s eyes fill up with liquid. “I’m sorry,” says the doc. “This,” he points at The Meat. “Is a corpse. The family need to understand that. Please don’t tell them about the twitch. They’ll just use it to prove their case.”

When he says ‘The Family’, he’s talking about my wife, Jenny. She visits every day. A black cloud of guilt brings her here around 9am, after she’s dropped off poor little Alistair at primary school. On weekends she’s here from 7.30am and stays until the solicitous nurses timidly ask her to leave.

Jenny arrived one morning and became hysterical because she saw a dried out bogey hanging from the tip of The Meat’s little finger — she was convinced he’d been scooping out cadaver snot in the night. “Proof!” she screamed, holding The Meat’s lifeless arm aloft like he’d vanquished Death in a bloody fistfight. “Proof, he’s still in there! He was always picking his nose.”

True as that may be, it was in fact poor little Alastair who’d left that bogey on The Meat’s finger. The little scamp.

Will The Panda Please Rise?

FeaturedWill The Panda Please Rise?

 

“The Panda had a tendency to go berserk,” the newspaper said. And I couldn’t deny it. My unpredictable behaviour was a great inconvenience to friends, who often had to prise me off fellow binge-drinkers, or talk me down from gastropub tables, or apologise to bar managers for damage to windows or furniture or structural beams. ‘The Panda’s lost-it, again’, they would declare, before wading in to prevent injury to regretful drunks who had caused me offence.

Anyone who knows me well, calls me, ‘The Panda’, or ‘Panda’, or ‘Pand’, depending on the formality of the situation. For example, when I was in school it was, ‘Pand, wake up! It’s home time.’ But in court, it was, ‘Could The Panda please rise?’

I’d like to say my nickname was coined by close friends, drawing affectionate comparisons based on my size (overweight and cuddly), demeanour (lethargic and docile) and parentage (black and white). But no, the moniker was conjured by the wasted wit of a bully. A hateful, ugly little worm, who put all of my traits into his mixing-bowl of inner torment and parental neglect, to serve up a fitting and painful insult —‘The fat panda’. I was able to have the ‘fat’ prefix dropped after I finally erupted and beat the boy into unrecognisable shapes.

‘The Panda’ stuck though, and I came to like it. So much so, I changed my name by deed poll in the midst of a week-long bender. Hence, when in court, the judge was obliged to ask, ‘How does The Panda plead?’ This was headline manna for the red-top newspapers, which devoted spreads to the story, with side-by-side pictorials of me (‘The Panda’) and a real-life panda (‘The accused’). And if the readership felt inclined to scrutinise the small print, they would learn that during a run-of-the-mill bar scuffle, I had allegedly crushed a young man’s head like an overripe melon.

My barrister refused to accept that the compliant man he saw before him could have committed such a brutal crime. ‘I think we need to get you on the stand,’ he said. ‘No jury will believe that such a softly spoken gentleman would do that to another human being.’

‘But, sir…I did do it. And I’m afraid, if I go on the stand, I might explode and smash the courtroom to smithereens’.

‘Ok, maybe let’s not do that then.’ He backed away and loosened his tie. He was a smart lawyer.

I don’t drink any more. I couldn’t if I wanted to in here. Alcohol was the worst thing in the world for me to discover. I dare say, that young lad would still be alive had I never been introduced to drink.

They still call me, ‘The Panda’, in prison. I hear the inmates whisper it to each other. No one really speaks to me, though. I suppose some people must have read about me in those red-top newspapers. And gossip spreads through prison faster than a fresh carton of cigarettes. I’m a nice guy, really. For now though, I tend to agree with the judge; ‘The safest place for The Panda, is in captivity’.

‘Proud’ Englishman sectioned under Mental Health Act.

‘Proud’ Englishman sectioned under Mental Health Act.

A man from London has been locked inside a padded room after boasting he is still proud to call himself ‘English’.

Paul Hill, from south London, was heard by members of the public speaking in tongues and babbling things like, “We’ve still got a lot going for us. The tennis is on, which means we can drink Pimm’s and eat strawberries. The parks of London are beautiful at this time of year. Our music is the envy of the world. Shakespeare is from England, you know? Things aren’t so bad.”

Dr. Stephens, who is overseeing the care of Mr. Hill told us, “National pride is now considered a mental illness. Patients presenting these symptoms are clearly delusional and suffering chronic denial.”

Paul is being kept under 24hr surveillance at South London Mental Hospital. Reports from staff claim that Paul remains stoic, with his chest puffed out, sometimes bursting into powerful renditions of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Dr. Stephens concluded, “Paul is a mentalist.”

Beach, inspired by Barrett

Beach, inspired by Barrett

Humans clothed in their own skin,

Bare for all to see,

Chasing plastic bags,

Turning towels to face the beams,

Like soft sun dials,

Who leap in the waves

And share salty kisses

As the foam breaks against

Their cooked leg meat;

Then return to dry in the grit

And the dust of the beach.

The eternal sand,

Found weeks, months, years

After the beach is forgotten,

In creases at the bottom of bags,

Dug out by finger nails searching

For some miscellaneous crap.

 

We must go back to the beach.

 

Father’s Watch

 

My father’s watch,

I notice stopped.

His movement ceased

to turn the cogs,

that spin the gears,

which move the dials,

that give the promise

of a while.

 

The watch now mine,

but still it’s stopped.

It sits inside a precious box.

The frozen hands,

my father still,

his whispered breath,

his secrets kept.

Regret, regret.

 

One day ready

to wear that watch,

I’ll move the gears;

start time again.

In good knowing,

the hour I’m stood

will come to be;

eventually.