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"Never trust a man" out now

Updated: Jan 1

A few months ago I was lucky enough to see my novelette, "ten thousand hours", published in the excellent new literary magazine "Prole Books". Now they've published another of my stories, "never trust a man with egg on his face", in issue 6. A strange, dreamy story about hot air balloons, carnivals and Paris, with a title borrowed from Adam and the Ants, this is one of the strangest stories I ever wrote. Here's a sample:

"Their fingers – his dirty white, hers clean brown – unwrapped each from the other‘s clutches like withered roots. Adam watched Zainab float up and into the drizzled morning with a puzzled look on her face, that same slender hand now searching her Kaftan for cigarettes, the other hand pushing long black hair from her gold face, her eye-whites shining but her eyes sad with loss or resignation as she rose towards the heavy clouds and the blue sky beyond. The burner breathed hot air into the balloon‘s mouth, an asthmatic dragon, like the way she had blown smoke into his throat at Disneyland.

As the balloon slowly rose the festival-goers around him stepped back for a better view, admiring its rainbow colours and peace slogans but mostly its enormity: shaped like a light-bulb the size of a cathedral, raw savage gases propelling it skyward, Zainab inside with her cigarette and tranquillity. Even at this height, fifty, sixty feet and rising fast, Adam saw thin trails of smoke from Zainab‘s lips drift over the basket‘s edge, disappear into the blue.

The basket gained momentum and Adam could no longer see Zainab‘s face, just the wicker basket they slept in sometimes when safely tethered to earth. Imagining Zainab‘s tough brown body suspended by thin wires he shivered slightly in the summer sun, rubbing his bare arms, rubbing his eyes as he looked upward, squinting as the balloon grew smaller, a coin, a midge, its fervent colours blurring to a small black dot in the immensity of space.

Soon the tiny dot was indistinguishable from the bird-flocks passing overhead, the tiny air-bubbles inside his eye that flitted across the sky like spermatozoa. Adam became aware of a rock band warming up on the main stage, the warm sun on his beard, the fact he hadn‘t eaten breakfast and felt weak. Looking up through the eye-glasses his father had given him he finally located the balloon, suspended between earth and space, Zainab‘s face peering down, smoke leaking from her nose, waiting for his signal..."

Read the rest of Never trust a man" - plus short stories and poems by loads of very talented writers - in issue 6 of Prole Books.

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