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!

Short Story Extract: O.B.E.

Short Story Extract: O.B.E.

Here’s an extract from another short story in progress. Hope you enjoy…

After leaving his seat, Alfred was still in the habit of looking back to check if he’d left anything behind, like his umbrella, or his scarf, or his body. He’d told me that he’d rarely been present in his youth; always lost in a daydream or marinating in thought; always forgetting something-or-other. Now, as a mindful, meditative septuagenarian, he lived in every moment like a tableau figurine, entirely aware of his surroundings and inhaling the perfume of life.

The gilded chair that Alfred had just levered himself up from was upholstered in red velvet and framed by an ornamental, gold-leaf backrest. He was dressed in keeping with this opulent perch: a charcoal morning suit he’d acquired from Saville Row, tailored to make his hunch seem corrected, his pot-belly hidden, and his chest puffed like he was ready to swim the English Channel. Alfred’s suit was the most expensive purchase he’d made since Margret’s engagement ring (and that was over fifty years ago).

Why the big effort? Two reasons: Today, Alfred was meeting a woman he was in love with, but had only ever met in a dream. And  the second reason? Alfred was about to receive an OBE for services to education. You see, Alfred was in love with The Queen of England, and the gilded red velvet chair he was now slinking away from was in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace.

His name had been called, and he was now walking towards The Queen to receive his honour, using his large palm to flatten the long wisps of hair he persisted in lacquering and combing to his scalp. Perhaps, in his youth, he would have been trembling with nerves, his mind considering every potential mishap on the short walk from chair to monarch; a stumble, a wet sneeze, a foul word blurted in error. But I could see that Alfred was now completely calm; his focus was on his breath, on his steps, on his tingling flesh. He was profoundly present and aware.

Margret had been the one to introduce meditation to their marriage. After the loss of their daughter, she’d been recommended ‘mindfulness’ by her GP as a method for baring the pain; for somehow accepting it. Alfred had been sceptical at first – I know, what a cliché – but remember, he’d been born in the 1940s, when men were men and never spoke of feelings other than those mustered by their empty stomachs.

However, behind closed doors, I knew Alfred worshipped Margret and only wanted to see her happy again; so without complaint, he’d meditated alongside his wife twice-a-day for the next twenty years. That is, until, Margret herself passed away, some four years ago.

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.

Question: How much free time do we really have? Answer: The Godfather: Part III.

Question: How much free time do we really have? Answer: The Godfather: Part III.

Have you ever set your watch five minutes fast to stop you from being late? Yea, me too. But the problem is, you know it’s five minutes fast, so you end up just subtracting five minutes every time you look at your watch. It doesn’t work. What you really need, is for someone else to set your watch a few minutes fast without you being aware of it. That’ll work — for a while at least. But, if you aren’t aware that someone’s adjusted your watch, does that mean your time’s been stolen? Have you just lost five, ten minutes of life? And if time can be stolen, just how much can be taken from us?

There are 168 hours in a week. But how many of those hours are actually yours to live? You know, to do the things you keep saying you want to do more of: cycling, sewing, knitting, rowing — all those things ending with, ‘-ing’.

In a typical working week, doing an eight-hour shift, you’re losing 40 hours a week. And we’ve got to work, right? Time is money, after all. We need that stuff to help with the living part. And if we sleep eight hours a night (as we should), that’s 56 hours per week in the land of nod. That leaves 72 ‘free’ hours per week.

But then, let’s factor in your commute to work, all that housework you need to do, the kids that need chauffeuring, the shed that needs varnishing. Plus grooming, washing, and personal hygiene-ing. What are you left with? Maybe 50, 60 hours?

How are we treating those hours? Are they our most prized possession? Do we measure each minute out, like we’re dealing in precious stones? Ofcourse we don’t. We leave our time hanging out our back pockets, in unclasped bags, in unlocked rooms, letting pick-pockets and time-thieves take what they want.

Television steals hours from us. The average Briton watches 24 hours of TV per week (that adds up to about a decade over the course of a lifetime). TV companies sell this time of yours to advertisers, who compete to impress us with their elaborate pitches. Then we spend another few hours in shops or online, buying all of the things we never knew we needed.

Is watching TV ‘living’? It’s a choice, I suppose. And one I make regularly too — I’m not immune to TV’s powerful story-telling, and, in weaker times, junk-food for the eyes. But, 24 hours a week? Wow.

And then we have social media. In the UK, the average person spends 11 hours a week on Facebook et al. Some people would never give this up. It is their lives now. I can’t judge (please retweet this).

Have you been keeping up with the maths? For argument’s sake, let’s look at the worst-case scenario…

Let’s just assume your time spent doing chores and sat in front of screens isn’t what you value most in life. Let’s pretend, that stuff won’t be part of the highlights reel when you look back on how you spent your days on Earth. How many hours are we left with to do what we really want to do, to see the people we really like, to be the person we want to be?

I work it out to be around 20 hours a week*. Or, 2hrs 42 minutes a day. That’s the exact run-time of The Godfather: Part III — a film that won’t be making my highlights reel.

This is the paragraph where I consolidate my very obvious point and preach about how time is precious and all the guff you’ve heard before – words that are so easy to ignore when you’re watching Ex on the Beach. I’m not going to do that. I’d be a hypocrite if I tried. But, I will save you some time if you haven’t seen The Godfather: Part III. This line pretty much sums up the whole film:

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU

How many minutes of yours have I just stolen? Sorry about that.

*Just to clarify my maths: 168hrs in a week – 40hrs work – 52hrs sleep – 20hrs commute/chores/grooming – 24hrs TV – 11hrs social media = 20hrs per week ‘free’ time.