I've been writing for fifteeen years. In that time I've had three novels published. The latest -  'Match Day'  - was published in August 2010. I'm currently writing a new play and novel. I am also seeking representation.

 

I've recently finished a new short story "Mae tae Cymraeg" which you can read at the bottom of this page or you can download it as a PDF.

 

I've had around thirty five (ish) short stories published. A  short story of mine "Splott Road" can be read at the "We Are Cardiff" website. Feedback appreciated!

 

I have just uploaded my short story "Breaking Hearts and Taking Names in Splott" or you can download it as a PDF.

 

You can read my short story "The Last Temptation of Arthur Askey" or you can download it as a PDF,

 

 

In November 2009 I adapted a short story "Moments of Lucidity" for the Sherman Theatre. The orginal short story is reproduced below or you can download the PDF. The story details the accidental meeting between Elvis Presley and Howard Hughes in a Las Vegas hotel in 1968.

 

Mae tae Cymraeg

 

Thomas drove the spike into the ground under a slate grey sky. He stabbed the ground so that the others who followed him could lay down the track. It had seemed, at times as though the track would never end. He stood six foot seven over the broken earth, his muscles were tight like knotted ropes moving under his shirt. He hated and loved driving the spike in. It pushed, pulled and tore at him, but after the day was done he bathed in the contented open feeling of the physical work. He looked at the rail track snaking off through the valley until it disappeared into the horizon. The track was coming to an end, he knew it.

“You don’t talk much?”  John - a fellow worker- cupped the sun of his eyes and squinted up at Thomas.

Thomas was tempted to just nod his head in acknowledgement.

“No.” he said with a whisper of a smile.

John stared at Thomas and was about to say something when Thomas continued.

“I don’t have much to say.”

“Right then, well, I’ve been told that they’ve found a pot hole so we’re going to be put up in Llantenynedd until they decide what to do.”

“How long?” asked Thomas.

“Don’t know. Could be one day, could be one month. Still, free board and lodge until they make up their minds on what they’re going to do. So count your blessings.”

Which was the way the way that Thomas came to be in Llantenynedd, and how he came to meet Rachel.

 

Thomas ran one of his fingers across the grain of the Pew. Even with his rough callused skin he could still feel the slight raised lines which ran through it. His eyes followed his finger as it slowly traced the grain. Thomas loved the smell of the Chapel, it reminded him of his Gran’s house, clean but slightly musty with a scent which could have been Sandalwood or Rosewater; scrubbed with Carbolic soap, scrubbed clean but not banishing the smell of dead years.

“…and seven great plagues were visited upon them!”

The Preacher was telling the story of Moses and the Plagues. This wasn’t Thomas’ favourite Bible story – that was Cain and Abel – but he still loved the story of Egypt.

“…the Angel of Death!”

The Preacher leaned forward to emphasise the passage and impact, Thomas had seen him do it before, it worked very well.

 The gang had been in Llantenynedd for a fortnight and Thomas didn’t care if he never went back to the track. He’d be happy living his life here listening to Bible stories.

After the story Thomas walked through the dirt road back to Mrs Jones’ house where he was being put up. Occasionally a person nodded and said good afternoon to him and he nodded back. Thomas would have his Supper at Mrs Jones’ then he’d head to the bar and meet up with some of the gang. Thomas wasn’t by nature one for self reflection, but in the years ahead he’d think back to these last innocent moments and wonder if he’d been happy, if this had been his last moment of contentment.

Smoke and laughter swirled around the bar. He looked around and saw his buddies at their usual table. The actual bar ran the opposite length of the room, where an unbroken stretch of hardworking, varnished oak was broken up by small stain glass partitions depicting Mythical scenes. Joshua was in mid laugh and raised a hand and an eyebrow at Thomas. A pint of Whoosh was already in front of Thomas’ usual chair. Thomas sat looking at the door; he leaned back in his chair and listened with a smile to the conversation. He liked to hear them talk and on the rare occasion when the conversation turned to him he could satisfy them with a slight nod of agreement. Thomas sat back and looked at the bar and the people. Most looked exhausted but relieved to have a day’s rest.

Rachel walked into the bar, and it seemed to Thomas that she brought the Sun with her. Rachel’s red brown hair tumbled down her long neck like lava. Her white ruffled blouse seemed exist solely for the purpose of emphasising her curves and planes. She was five foot six, slim but rounded, her lips were puckered bee stings and her skin had the hint of coffee. Her eyes were blue green cat.

 For a moment Thomas thought that her tight black skirt had a tear in it, but it was a slit which gave an alarming glimpse of leg.  Thomas had never seen anything or anyone like her before. There would be many stories told about how she ended up in Llantenynedd. There were whispers that she’d ran away from a Gypsy camp, or that she was fleeing from heart break from another city, there were even whispers of her dabbling in sinful ways, but the most common story was that she’d simply come to Llantenynedd to stay with relatives and escape debt. This was the only rumour that she would deny.

Woman weren’t allowed in the bar let alone unaccompanied ones, but she walked through the bar as though she was the Queen of Seba, people carried on talking but many of the eyes were on her. As she passed she looked at Thomas. In all his years he’d never seen anyone look at him like that. It was a hungry, feral look, which stirred Thomas as he watched her walk to the bar and orders a drink. Everyone was scandalised but no one could bring themselves to say a thing. Thomas found himself standing up and walking over to her. He could hear his friends speaking but they may as well have been speaking in tongues for all the sense they made to his ears.

“I saw you walk in.” despite Thomas’ size and bulk the sound of his own voice sounded like the squeak of a Church Mouse.

“And I noticed you sitting down.” Her voice was like a sea breeze and she had a smile which was both mocking and amused which he’d get to know in every infuriating and heart melting detail.  He caught a caress of her scent. It smelled like nothing he’d ever experienced, it whispered of foreign lands.

“Where you from?”

“No where near here.”

“What’s your name?”

“Rachel.”

 

From that moment she took him. Rachel took hold of him like a fever and burned him up. It made his friends weep to see how she treated him, “You wouldn’t treat a dog like that.” They growled, but Thomas and Rachel’s passion shone brighter than the North Star. Their passion was that of tangled dirty bed sheets and screaming in the streets, but a cwth from her was like a kiss from God and just as rare. Thomas took to the drink to keep up with Rachel. His friends wept to see the state she got him into.

The Prince of Wales was the only other bar in town, and right minded people knew to give it a wide birth. Thomas and Rachel barreled out of it most evenings, and this one was no exception. He could feel the thick buzz of the beer in his head and she was trying to stop her head from drooping.

“I’m just waiting for a telegram and I’ll be leaving - yes -  then I’ll be off.” Rachel said wobbling.

“Who’s sending you a telegram?” Thomas knew what a telegram was but had never seen one.

“The great Ellen Terri!” Rachel announced with a flourish of her hand, she paused and bobbed from foot to foot. Thomas knew from her expression that he should be impressed, but his knowledge of ‘the great Ms Ellen Terri’ was actually less that his knowledge of telegrams.

“Yes?” he offered. She didn’t spot his blank look and linked arms with him and Thomas felt a hit of joy greater than any that the beer had provided.

“Yes. Back in Islington I was building quite the reputation as an actress and have been on the boards with all the greats.”

Rachel gave Thomas a sideways glance and studied his face quickly before continuing.

“Ms Terri said she was very impressed with me. I was much in demand in London…which is why I had to come here to rest, I worked too hard. I expect she’s going to send for me when she…when she does her Macbeth.”   

For reasons that Thomas couldn’t understand Rachel’s revelation of her imminent departure didn’t concern him. They could often be found brawling and kissing outside the bar and he was a stranger to the Chapel.

“I must be getting back to London soon, there is a famous Artist begging me to return, I’m his muse. He’s lost without me.” She said one night and Thomas nodded, but the next night he wished he’d taken more notice.

 

She left him waiting in the rain for two hours, he couldn’t move and he had visions of her dancing with her famous artist in London, laughing and drinking and who knew what else.

When Thomas had almost given up hope she walked past him laughing with another man. Thomas didn’t have to say anything to Rachel’s potential suitor. He looked down at him and glowered which sent him on his way.

“Why do you treat me so badly?”

“Cause you let me and cause I like to.”

“Marry me.”

“Don’t be stupid. What do you want that for?”

“I want us to be happy.”

“That’s not happy, that’s prison. You just want to break me.”

Yes, in a dark part of Thomas’ knew he did want to break her, like she’d nearly broken him. He wanted to be able to tame her chaos and thunder.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He lied “I just want us to be happy.”

“Don’t you want more? Don’t you want people clapping when you turn up? Don’t you want you’re name carved into stone to live after you’re rotting in the ground?”

“No, I don’t know why anyone would want that. I just want to live my life.”

“You don’t want anymore than you can hold in your hand?”

“What must I do to prove myself to you?”

She looked at him in the wet.

“Go away.”

She ran through his body like poison as they danced around each in the rain.

“What must I do to prove myself to you?”  

“There’s nothing you can do to prove yourself to me. Go away.”  She pushed against the granite of his chest, he didn’t move an inch.

“Marry me.”

“No. That would be the death of me.”

“What must I do?”

“Do you want to know?”

“Yes what must I do?”

“You must get a rose tattooed on your palm; it must be cut into your palm in one unbroken line. No man has ever stood the pain. That is the only thing you can do to prove yourself to me.”

Thomas knew that there was no bargaining. That this is what he had to do; he had to travel to the Docks Town where such things were done.

 

He walked and arrived just after lunch the next day. The whole place stank of sulphur and filth. Painted women and Bar Parlours where the owners where you could get passing out drunk and rob you, he knew all about these places, oh he knew, but today he wasn’t looking for a girl or booze. Finally down a dimly lit alley way, in a doorway with peeling red paint, he found a Tattooist.

“Bloody hell you’re a big one Boy Bach.”

 The Tattooist was a leathery tanned man with a shock of white weeds for hair and a snow white bushy moustache which curled up at the end.

“What can I do for you Boy Bach?”

“I need an unbroken Rose cut into my palm.”

The Tattooist fixed his brown watery eyes on Thomas.

“You know what you’re asking?”

Thomas nodded.

“You’re sure?”

Thomas nodded.

“Let’s get to it then Boy Bach.”

The Tattooist brought a dirty bottle from a cupboard, It had a cork in the top and an known liquid sloshed about inside. He took the cork out and a vinegar smell of alcohol flooded the room, and placed the bottle close to Thomas. The Tattooist then brought a needle out and pressed his thumb against it. The moment the man’s weathered skin touched the needle it a bubble of blood appeared. The Tattooist looked at him, Thomas nodded. The Tattooist wiped his brow, then the needle and set to work.

The pain started the instant the needle scrapped into his palm and the pain was like nothing Thomas’ had ever experienced. It was molten red and burned any rational thought from his skull. This was the first time he’d had anything inside his head other than Rachel since the day he’d met her. Thomas clenched his teeth. The Tattooist gave him a pristine clean bone wrapped in a leather cloth; it looked like the only thing – including the Tattooist – which had seen soap in a long time. Thomas could see the impressions of teeth in the cloth and knew his would soon be joining them. 

The Tattooist cut and dug into Thomas’ palm, he lasted only five minutes before he reached for the dirty bottle and took a swig, and for a split second the pain racing from his palm was replaced by a scorching pain at the back of his throat. The Tattooist grunted and carried on, he dug the needle into Thomas’ pulped flesh.

“Come on Boy Bach, dig deep.”

When Thomas could bear to look down he could see that his hand barely resembled that of a man’s. It had swelled to twice its normal size. If his head hadn’t been lashed with pain he’d have notice that it looked like the paw of the lion who had the thorn removed by Androcles. The only time the tattooist would pause would be to wipe away the blood. Soon the floor was carpeted with blood soaked rags. Thomas seemed to fade in and out of the room. The pain was constant and he couldn’t remember a time when there hadn’t been the pain. He thought he’d pass out but he managed to cling on. A hazy, delirious smile had settled on his lips when finally the tattooist coughed out “Done.”

Thomas shook his head and looked down at his hand. It looked like a fresh piece of raw steak with a crimson spiders’ web etched into it.  The Tattooist threw some of the liquid from the dirty bottle onto Thomas palm and for one single second all the pain Thomas had experienced was frozen into that moment. It brought the room back into sharp focus. The Tattooist lit a Cigar.

“Make sure you keep it clean or the pain you’ve just had will seem like a splinter.”

The Tattooist closed the bloody paw into a fist and bandaged it.

“I hope she’s worth it Boy Bach.”

Thomas staggered out of the parlour as though he was getting out of a boxing ring after a fight. A long time ago Thomas had seen a boxing match where a man had been pulped ferociously over the course of just three bloody rounds.  After, the defeated fighter managed to retrieve a scrap of dignity by getting out of the ring by him self, but Thomas’ always remembered that his legs looked like they were made of bamboo. The fighter had wobbled like his legs were going to snap under him.  Thomas’ legs buckled under him like that fighter and he did have to reach out with his good hand to steady himself. He stank of the foul spirit.

“Temperance!” some shouted at him as he staggered down the road.

 

Thomas had to wait two weeks before he went back to Llantenynedd. Day after day he followed the Tattooist advice and cleaned the hand. Even the slightest touch would cause teeth grinding pain. After the second week when there was no change Thomas thought that he was destined to forever have a misshapen lump for a hand but gradually it began to heal although it would hurt till the day he died.

Gradually the pain lessened until the lump of flesh sunk back into the shape of a hand. Thomas’ unwrapped his hand and slowly opened his fist. The Rose bloomed out of the bloody mess and into full view. The crimson petals radiated out of his palm and seemed to grow in the sunlight, the unbroken line of the flower grew out of his flesh.  

For the first time in an age a smile not induced by delirium graced his lips.

As Thomas walked back to Llantenynedd he’d tentatively look at the rose and smile. The pain and suffering would be worth it. When he thought about the future he saw Rachel as his wife, with children and maybe a home in Llantenynedd. Like anyone caught in the punch drunk madness of love he convinced himself of the reality of how things would be. He arrived back at dusk and went to the bar where he knew he’d see Rachel. She was stood at the bar with a man, giving him the same look she’d given Thomas when they’d first met. Thomas felt rage flood his body. She noticed him out of the corner of her eye but carried on. He felt a slither of panic but strode up to her and swept the man aside. Thomas opened his palm towards Rachel and revealed the blood born rose. She looked at it and laughed. Thomas rolled the fist up and with his body lit up with fury shot a punch at her head. At the last second he swerved and the fist smashed though one of the stain glass petitions of the bar. Fragments of glass ripped through Thomas’ hand as he brought his other fist down on the bar sending a ripple through its length and sending drinks tumbling. Tears ran down his face, but they weren’t caused by his ripped up hand. Rachel cupped his damaged hand in hers and slowly took every single shard of glass out of the torn rose. He saw a look of tenderness in her eyes which he’d never seen before and knew he’d never see again. She bathed his hand, dried it and then left the bar. He never saw her again. A week later he began work on the tracks again, and a week after that the final track was put down.

In the long years ahead, even when the cold seemed to soak into the very marrow of his bones he could still summon a spark of heat by remembering that one and only look of tenderness from Rachel.