The Kromlau Gambit published in Galileo’s Theme Park

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I’m very happy to have my story The Kromlau Gambit published by Third Flatiron Anthologies in Galileo’s Theme Park.

This is a bit of a milestone in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s my first professional story sale, something I intended to achieve before the end of 2018. Secondly, it introduces a character who appears in two other, as yet unpublished, stories. He has been one of my favourite people to write, even though he is a somewhat morally compromised character (to say the least).

Here’s the opening paragraph of The Kromlau Gambit. I hope you’ll follow the links and buy a copy. The full table of contents is below. (Buy Galileo’s Theme Park at Amazon UK/US/DE)

“The room was too hot and too small, and the black haired man was coming up fast on the fly agaric he’d ingested in preparation for the meeting. Sand flies crawled across his scalp and over his eyebrows. He let them find the warmth of his mouth, dedicating each small death to a different perished god. Blood sacrifices were still blood sacrifices, no matter how small.”

 

Contents
And Yet They Move by Alex Zalben
For the Love of Money by Ginger Strivelli
The Kromlau Gambit by Steve Toase
Vincenzo, the Starry Messenger by Dr. Jackie Ferris
A Hard-Fought Episode at the TON-1 Black Hole by Eric J. Guignard
Titan Is All the Rage by Jemima Pett
Signals by Erica Ruppert
Night on the High Desert by Connie Vigil Platt
Dispatches from the Eye of the Clown by Justin Short
The Beast and the Orb of Earth Deux by Wendy Nikel
Growing Smaller by Jimmy Huff
Titanrise by Adrik Kemp
New Heaven, New Earth by Neil James Hudson
First, They Came As Gods by G. D. Watry
And the Universe Waited by Jo Miles
The Bright and Hollow Sky by Martin M. Clark

Grins & Gurgles (Flash Humor)
Devouring the Classics: Ten Recipes by Rachel Rodman
No Encore by Ville Nummenpää
Just Right Guy by Art Lasky
Advice for the 2060s Birder by Lisa Timpf

 

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An Interview with Steve Toase

Recently Ranylt Richildis from Lackington’s Magazine interviewed me about my story Verwelktag in the latest issue. I talk a bit about Scream Comic, Bavarian flower patches, and the disruptive nature of storytelling.

LACKINGTON'S

We’re celebrating the launch of our Gothics issue by finding out what it is about the Gothic that appeals to our authors, and what inspired their Issue 17 stories.

steveLackington’s: You describe “Verwelktag” as a modern Schauerroman—the German term for Gothic fiction, literally meaning “shudder story.” Did you have any particular examples in mind as prototypes as you were writing your story, and do you have any personal affinity for that German tradition?

ST: I’ve got to confess, I’m not as familiar with the German tradition as I am with the English. We moved out to Munich in August 2017. When I saw the call for submissions I wanted to write a different take on the Gothic story. I researched the themes of the Schauerroman, and found that they involved secret societies, necromancy, and often had a more pessimistic feel than stories of the British tradition. That appealed! I grew…

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Flowers and Lips-New Stories Published

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“Blumen, Blumen selbst pflücken

Kommt mit mir nach Hause

Du bist süβ und sehr, sehr schön

Drinnen oder Draußen

Eine ist weiß, eine ist gelb

Einige begann sich zu röten

Ob im Boden

Auf dem Tisch

Immer für die Toten”

(Song from Verwelktag)

This week has been a busy week for publications.

On Monday Asymmetry Fiction published my story ‘White Lips’. This is a story about strange neighbours, childhood fear, and getting yourself into situations you can’t easily extract yourself from.

You can read the story online here; www.asymmetryfiction.com/white-lips/

In some ways ‘Verwelktag’, published in the latest Lackington’s, is a very different story, yet there is still that sense of compression by the place where you live. This is my attempt at writing my own take on a Schauerroman, a German tradition of Gothic story.

The magazine is a real treat, with stories by Premee Mohamed, Kate Heartfield, R.M. Graves, Laura Friis, A.J. Hammer, and J.M. Guzman. Subscribers will also get an Exquisite Corpse story by Mike Allen, Amal El-MohtarVajra Chandrasekera, Natalia Theodoridou, and JY Yang.

You can pick up the issue, or subscribe here www.lackingtons.com/issues/issue-17-spring-2018/

 

More Publication News and Cover Reveal

May is a busy month.

My new article for Folklore Thursday is now up and available to read. #folklorethursday is a hugely popular hashtag, covering the vast scope of folklore. The website collates articles about various subjects that fall into the subject. This article is about the Maibaum and Kindsbaum throughout Bavaria.

You can read the article here. May Day, Weddings and Births: Folklore Trees and Traditions

I’ve also just signed the contract on my first pro fiction story sale. Third Flatiron Anthologies will be publishing my story The Kromlau Gambit in their upcoming Galileo’s Theme Park.

To finish the publication news for the moment, check out this fantastic cover for the Lackington’s Gothics issue. If you glance at the left of Richard Wagner’s illustration you might be able to spy a vase of flowers. That’s important. Remember that.

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Newsletter Giveaway

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As some of you know, I also run a newsletter every couple of weeks. The format is pretty simple. It contains updates about my work, a bit of waffle about stuff I’ve found interesting, the occasional bit of archaeology, or art, but mainly it’s a delivery system for free flash fiction. Every newsletter includes a flash fiction story, just long enough to read on the train or while you’re having a coffee.

At the moment I’m having a bit of a membership drive. Anyone who is on the subscriber list on the 9th May will be entered into a draw to win the t-shirt at the top of the page.

The design is by William Cunningham and is from my story Flick of the Wyvern’s Tale in the anthology BUILT FROM HUMAN PARTS edited by Cameron Callahan.

To be in with a chance to win the t-shirt all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter at www.tinyletter.com/stevetoase (remember to check your spam filter for the confirmation email). That’s it. I’ll do the draw on the 9th and in the meantime you’ll get some hopefully enjoyable, definitely unsettling, flash fiction in your inbox.

The Many Faces of Mephistopheles Published in Fortean Times 366

Article

One of the aspects of living in a city like Munich is the opportunity to visit shows and exhibitions. Currently there is a major festival ongoing about Goethe’s Faust. After a visit to two of the museums involved (Kunsthalle and the Deutsches Theatermuseum) I was inspired to write an article about the changing appearance of Mephistopheles from Goethe’s famous play in the 19th and 20th century.

I’m very happy to say that the article was published in the latest Fortean Times, FT366, out today.

The contrast between the three articles I’ve written for Fortean Times so far shows one of the reasons I have so much affection for the magazine. The sheer range of subjects and viewpoints presented is breathtaking. I would highly recommend picking up a copy, but especially this one. It’s a good deal. Just sign here…

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Runs on the Board Flash Fiction All The Rest

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Today is my last day of sharing work from the Runs on the Board commission. As with many projects I get involved in I write many more pieces than get used/published. These are the stories that didn’t get into the book due to space constraints, but I’m still proud of the way they capture my experience of witnessing the passion of over 50s cricket in Yorkshire.

Cow Corner

Law 13-Wisden 1963

 

In cow corner the calf and his mother stood staring into the distance, waiting for the fruit to be struck onto the short, already cropped, grass. Above them the scoreboard clicked the overs, marking the changing day. No strikes disturbed them. Slowly, over the innings, the calf and his mother turned to stone.

END

 

Solstice

Law 31-Wisden 1963

 

As we get older weeks pass by faster. Six suns rise, six short days, the linseed soaked atmosphere spinning Sol out of sight. The following week the six suns rise from the other hemisphere. The year carries on until a solstice strikes the turned wooden trilithon, heaves it from the dried out earth and the year begins again.

END

 

The Semi-retirement of Gunter Chain

Law 8-Wisden 1963

 

He is taking it easier these days. At one time, in his prime, he measured fields and moors across the country, dividing the land for men to render in coloured inks on thick parchment. Now machines do that, the maps living in the 1’s and 0’s of the digital world. Surveyors have no need of his links on commons and meadows. Instead, each weekend, he checks the distance from wicket to wicket in grounds across the county. He is glad of a job he enjoys in a land changing too fast for him to keep pace.

END

The Spirit Of The Game

Preamble-2000 Code

 

Finding the Spirit of the Game wandering lost through the woods the cubs took him back to the den.

Unsure what to do they gathered the grandfather foxes, who walked in circles around the faint and translucent shade.

Taking the initiative the first grandfather fox gave the Spirit his sight, still keen, so he could tell the difference between a Yorker and a Doorsa.

The second gave his sharp, pointed claws to dig in so the Spirit could hold his ground, or gain purchase and run.

The third gave his hearing so the Spirit could hear snicks and death rattles alike.

The fourth gave his grey and scarred pelt to keep the Spirit of the Game warm while he waited at deep leg for his turn to bowl.

The fifth gave his instinct so the spirit knew when to move under a catch.

The sixth gave his whiskers so the Spirit could sense the narrowest of gaps to drive the ball through.

And all gave their tails, six in total, so anyone who met the Spirit of the Game would know his great age, and the wisdom that  came with those years.

END

In Japanese folklore fox spirits, or kitsune, can appear as older men. They gain the ability to grow more tails when they reach 100, and are noted for having as many as nine.

 

Third Man

Law 35-Wisden 1963

 

The past is close here. Third man stands with his feet in the terminus of the gully, shoes damp from the standing water in the base. Any rubble from Morzinplatz is long forgotten, now buried deep under the pitch, filling the scar quarried into the earth. The wrist spinner runs up. His watch flashes, arm the pivot of the Weiner Riesenrad, and the ball streaks down the pitch like a shaft of light in an Innerestadt doorway.

END

Set in post war Vienna The Third Man is a classic British film noir, starring Orson Welles.

 

Time and Tide

Law 11-Wisden 1963

 

Draping their nets in the corner of the field the fishermen wound up their clockwork arms, escapement wheels clicking in their joints. They launched small, balled, fish into the depths. Later the nets would shelter upturned boats used to protect the trampled grass from the dark, bubbling ocean of the June sky.

END

 

Watch

Rule 45.2-Wisden 1963

 

Outside the pavilion there is a gentle mumble of conversation from the spectators. The zip of his kit bag sticks for a moment, before parting its jaws. At the bottom, underneath his gloves waiting like swollen field spiders, he finds his watch.

The strap is made of cracked red leather, stitched with white, thick twine. The dial is not circular. Instead it is shaped like a long extinct ammonite, extended or contracted by holding a tiny handle on the end. Hours are absent, the face marked with the numbers one to thirty, the space between each numeral divided into six. The later numbers are obscured as the handle is grasped and the dial telescopes in on itself. On the face two numerals sit edged in gold. Turning the crown they move up from one to eleven before returning to one again.

He straps the watch to his wrist, hides it below the swollen gloves and walks out to open the batting.

END

I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories, and thank you for reading.

Runs on the Board Flash Fiction Part 4

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These are the last of the stories in the Runs on the Board book. Tomorrow I’ll share other pieces of flash fiction written for the project. Out of all the pieces I wrote inspired by the cricket matches we watched, I think that 53.71704 N  is my favourite. It combines cricket, myth, and landscape. It also influenced the way I frame my newsletters.

 

Beating the Bounds

Law 20.1-Wisden 1963

“If flags or posts are used to mark a boundary, the real or imaginary line joining such points shall be regarded as the boundary”

 

These men from across the county, wearing white knit mummer’s guize, are of the travelling parish of the three trees. This is a fragile ward able to be dissolved by rain, or worn through by the fading of dusk.

Sometimes, the parish is found below chiselled stone moors or pressed against the inside of a walled garden. On other summer days it weighs down on the corrugated earth of a thousand years. The boundary is vulnerable, soft and porous and must be walked to remember its course.

Like Yeoman Warders, in Pathé’s newsreel gaze, these men step out in ones and twos with willow under their arms. Pausing, they let linseed soaked wood rest between white flags. Each second motionless pins the boundary to the grass before the walkers set off once again.

Moving anti-clockwise they pass the black faced house, whose sightless windows flicker with white numbers, while one man faces eleven. By the ground tethered sail they wait while pace plays out and the grove at the centre is defended. On the far side of this smallest of parishes they walk tight between fence and flags. Not once do they cross the stuttered line, all the time marking the circuit with spiked steps. The men in white knit mummer’s guize return to the lime-washed hall, where they wait for their turn to stand in front of the three trees.

END

Distracted by Shadows

Law 41.6-2000 Code

“While the ball is in play and until the ball has made contact with the striker’s bat or person, or has passed the striker’s bat, no fielder, other than the bowler, may have any part of his person grounded on or extended over the pitch”

 

Waiting by the pavilion the shadows attached themselves to the spikes of players walking out to take the field. Each time the sun emerged from behind strands of cloud the shadows became young once again.

They played their own game, leeward of these men whose height did not change with the lengthening of the day. The players ignored their tissue paper companions. Except when the shadows lay across the footworn pitch and the unchanging men turned to statues, as if waiting to catch the shadows moving on their own.

Staying still the shadows wove themselves into the grass. They kept their arms solid and their legs planted, even as the afternoon stretched them across the cracked ground. Then, when they heard the snick, the shadows ran for the ball, elongated by the shifting sky.

END

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Law 9-Wisden 1963

“The popping crease shall be marked 4 feet in front of and parallel with the Bowling crease. Both the Return and Popping crease shall be deemed unlimited in length.”

 

Kneeling on the worn turf he brushed thin whitewash onto the ghosts of old popping creases and reincarnated the line once again.

Reaching the return crease the line became too faint to see, picking up speed as it headed toward the boundary. Outside the ground it coasted across the moors, drawn on by the scent of the sea. Listening to the songs of fallen rocks before slipping under the water.

The crease continued. It could have floated on the waves, or plunged through the water where nets and lines draped from boats. Instead it sank to the sea floor. Drawing itself through Doggerland the crease marked across long drowned valleys and long forgotten forests, now only remembered as archaeologist’s survey data.

Making landfall on the island of Nordeney it passed to the north of the hospital. None of the ambulances noticed the fine, thin, mark under their wheels.

Travelling across North Germany the crease continued east, passing through the heart of forests so dense only trees whisper folktales about them.

In Belarus it touched the northern shore of a small lake, watched from under the surface by three reed dressed sisters with sand coloured eyes.

Making harbour at Portage Bay on Wislow Island the crease mixed its flecks of whitewash with the cooled, grey dust of Makushin Volcano.

Through Canada the crease stayed in open country, to the north of Hwy. 37. The road markings whispered to stay with them. To press itself to the tarmac where they hid when the season of darkness came, but the crease paid them no heed and carried on its route.

Outside Edmonton dawn turned the sky rust and corroded through to the day behind.

From the western side of Lake Michikamu the Toad Man whispered,

“You will always stay here in the Lake.”

The crease shuddered fit to blur its edges, but kept on moving.

Avoiding the  grasp of fish jaws and blind ocean dwellers the crease made landfall in Ireland. In Muckloon it saw the shell of George Moore’s house and heard from deep inside the hill the song of Drithliu, a sound like trees burning in autumn.

Crossing the Irish Sea the crease found itself at the junction between the M65 and M6, where it nearly ended up heading toward Lancaster. Realising its mistake in time it continued on, back across the county border.

Passing through Luddenden Foot, where there is a full moon every night, the crease felt on safer ground and accelerated on.

Breaching the ground’s boundary the unseen line came to rest against the return crease, where the groundsman applied the last brush of whitewash onto the ghosts of old popping creases, reincarnated once again.

END

 

Corridor

Law 31-Wisden 1963

 

A light flickers in the panelled ceiling above me. No, not one. Two. Three maybe. The rhythm is syncopated, slightly uneven. Just when I think I’ve nailed down a pattern it throws in an offbeat. The candle dim glow doesn’t quite reach the walls. I know there is no entrance behind me in this corridor, nor an exit in front.

I can just make out three doors in the long wall to my right and, if I squint, one to my left. I walk along, running my hand over the frames and the doors themselves. All feel in need of sanding and several thick coats of varnish. No-one takes care of this narrow ginnel.

An inquiring mind gets the better of me and I open the first door, by my right shoulder. The scene is warm, not the height of summer, the sun dressing the field in a fine webbing of heat. The grass is empty apart from the echo of footsteps crossing the outfield toward the pavilion. I follow the sound. The scene changes. Now the view is from inside the changing room. Outside I can see my team-mate (at that moment I can’t remember his name). Next in the batting order he takes his position and taps his bat against the popping crease. I try to close the door, but the wood is warped, or the frame has shrunk. A little pool of light leaks through onto the corridor floor and I step to avoid it.

Though doubt sets in I open the second. There is nothing to see. The view is scrubbed out. The emptiness of a scoreboard waiting for the white to appear. There is only noise, the repetitive echo of the fielder’s appeal. I was wrong. There are no options left through this door. I lift it closed, preparing for this one too to be warped against my efforts, but it shuts easily. Moments later, as I step away, it swings open once again and I can hear that appeal looping on itself.

The third doesn’t wait for me to turn the handle, instead drifting open. The scene is from my perspective. I am unbuckling my leg pad as if all the games ills are stitched into its gambeson-like surface. Once undone I drop it into the kitbag and rub my shin before leaning on the window frame to watch the rest of the game I will no longer take part in.

My curiosity is depleted. Little is left, yet there is a little. With a pause to take a breath I open the single door on the left. The view is toward the boundary. The flattened patch of grass beyond the line of flags tells me all I need to know. The scene through the door pivots and is now staring at the white coated umpire whose arms grow vertical as if hydraulic. I have no intention of closing this door.

Turning, I stare deep into the gloom at the end of the corridor. A single red pixel appears in a sea of between-station noise. With four doors open around me I wait.

END

Runs on the Board Flash Fiction Part 3

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The original inspiration for my approach to Runs on the Board was Italo Calvino’s Time and the Hunter (UK/US), which led to me writing Willow;

Willow

Law 25-Wisden 1963

“The ball shall be held to be “dead”-on being in the opinion of the Umpire finally settled in the hands of the Wicket-keeper or the Bowler or pitching over the boundary”

 

With a gardener’s steady hand he planted the willow shallow in the short grass. Roots take well here. Branches sprouted in all directions, each bearing a single red fruit, skin like bruised pomegranate. He chose one curving bough and watched it arch to the left. Those rejected crumbled to dust on the breeze until the one remaining fruit settled in the grass. Seed to windfall in a glance.

END

Using this as a starting point it gave me to approach cricket from a different direction.

 

Hawk-Eye

Law 47-Wisden 1963

“The Umpire shall not order a Batsman out unless appealed to by the other side”

 

There are no Hawk-Eyes here. Only a vulpine gaze dusted with half a century of pollen, scored by the track of a thousand overs worth of leg break and off spin. Behind oval pupils the ball plays out again and he makes his decision. The players wait, a choir of appeal, their chorus scrubbed by distant traffic. The umpire raises his finger above his head. Applause ripples from the fielders, surrounding the retreating batsman like heat haze.

END

The Gamemaker

Law 23-Wisden 1963

“The ball shall be bowled from each wicket alternately in overs of either 5 or 6 balls according to the agreed condition of play”

 

Suspended dust hung from twine thin light that somehow found its way through the sawdust glass of the windows. The Gamemaker lifted the workshop door shut, breathing in the linseed oil and cork air. He shrugged off his old fleece, hanging it on a nail, instead slipping on his axle grease coloured, once white, coat.

The radio struggled to find a long-wave signal in the heat-haze. With a shake of his head he let the words fade in and out, delivering updates in stretched, cracked voices.

His latest creation sat in the middle of the bench. A wooden slotted drum balanced on a lathe turned stand. Reaching his glasses from a pile of shavings the Gamemaker peered at the recently dried timber, thirty layers of varnish pinning light to the woodgrain.

Nodding to himself he ran a palm over the drum. With his other hand he turned the polished brass handle, a series of hidden tooth and nail gears rotating the cylinder. A slight breeze born of still air spun out from the centre. Satisfied, the Gamemaker dragged across a stool and sat down, stretching out his back and hands. Life returning to stiff tendons.

From behind the radio, still singing with faint Raudive voices, the Gamemaker pulled an old manilla envelope. He read the crossed out address on the front. For a moment a memory of a brick, wood-fronted, hut by a white flagged line made him smile. Unfolding the seal-flap he pulled out the thirty paper strips inside.

Holding the first up to the light he was surprised the half century old paper survived. In places red marks and grass stains risked obscuring the sketched figures. For a moment he thought about cleaning the strips, then shook his head. Marks and scars are earned and should be worn with pride.

Each figure was faint, the pencil scored lines in the paper marking the shape as much as the sun faded graphite. Satisfied he placed the first in the zoetrope, pressing the strip into the thin slot running around the inside edge of the barrel.

Pausing, he poured a cup of tea from a lukewarm chipped pot, drinking the brick red liquid in quick mouthfuls. Through the slots the figures waited, unmoving. Resting.

Drink finished the gamemaker lowered his stool and grasped the zoetrope’s handle. The players came to life. The bowler’s arm released the only intentional colour on the paper strip. The batsman met the fleck of red, sending it careering to the upper edge of the Zoetrope. From the base of the device came a sound of applause across a sun-bleached ground. He played the strip five more times. Each revolution the bowler released the red spark at a different moment, the batsmen streaking it toward a different point. After the scene had played six times the Gamemaker took out the paper strip, flattened it before placing it back in the envelope and slid the next paper strip into the device.

END

 

Pearmain

Law 5.2-Wisden 1963

“Except in the United Kingdom, or if local regulations provide otherwise, after 200 runs have been made off a ball in First-class matches, the captain of the fielding side may demand a new one”

 

A battered Pearmain of a thing the ball sat half hidden in the grass beside his feet. Every so often a confused, drunken wasp crawled slowly over the surface and finding no flesh to feast on took off again.

Holding the ball high the boy eclipsed the late afternoon sun.

Shivering with the disappearing light he tried to rub life back into aching arms. The game had been long that day with overs of four, five and six balls running into each other. As much time spent searching in the field scrub for the ball as bowling it down the stamped grass, makeshift pitch.

By the end no-one was quite sure if the boys who lived up-field or the boys who lived down-field were victorious. It mattered little. The joy was in the pitch and the bat and the sprint of the fielders.

Having done service in a millennium of overs, leather scuffed to bunting edged the surface of the ball. The boy grasped a scrap and pulled it loose. Coming away in his hand the fragment dislodged a length of seam, drawing it free from the stitching. Dropping the first piece to the ground he noticed a second strip had come loose. With a compulsion usually saved for scabbed knees he grasped the leather and pulled it free. Instead of tightly wrapped string underneath he glimpsed the shellac shine of fresh red leather. Curiosity gripped and he tore away the next strip then the next. Gold leaf print of the fresh ball caught the tail end of the day’s light as he peeled away the last of the skin from the old ball, revealing the new underneath.

Fresh, unscarred and unbowled the Duke County International felt just right as he walked out to the crease. Glancing across the ground he saw those boys from up-field and down-field standing at slip, mid-wicket, extra-cover.  Now, many years after those long summer games, they all played on the same team. These days the aching arms were already there before the game, but the joy was still in the pitch and the bat and the sprint of the fielders. He smiled to himself and prepared to bowl the first over of the game.

END

Runs on the Board Flash Fiction Part 2

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Here are the second group of stories I wrote for the Runs on the Board commission. (To find out more, please see yesterday’s post.)

 

Never Play Chess With A Cricketer

(With apologies to Henry Normal)

Law 17-Wisden 1963

“The umpire shall allow such intervals as have been agreed upon for meals, 10 minutes between each innings and not more than 2 minutes for each batsman to come in.”

 

Kasparov would have won the chess game if the cricket player hadn’t thrown away the board, placed the chessmen on the green baize of the card table, and insisted the Russian could only change the position of his pieces after every six turns.

Kasparov waited for his opponent to hit the timer to mark the end of his turn. Instead the cricketer picked up the small double faced clock and threw it out of the window.

Halfway through the afternoon the cricketer called for tea, dropped cake crumbs all over his opponent’s pieces and sipped noisily from his cup.

Every time Kasparov attempted a flanking pawn advance the cricketer called it wide and removed one of the Russian’s pieces from the field of play.

When the grand-master picked up his Queen to move in for checkmate a draught extinguished the candle and the cricketer announced that day’s play at an end due to poor light.

After twelve days the game was declared a draw when Kasparov had to return to the docks before his boat left for Russia.

END

Between Galaxies

Law 5-Wisden 1963

“The Ball shall weigh not less than 5½ ounces, nor more than 5¾ ounces”

 

Each bowled ball was a red dwarf, long burnt out in the spin of energy as the bowler released it toward the wicket. Each conversation and pavilion debate was an echo, like thousand year old starlight travelling between galaxies.

END

 

Moonlight (Grey Fox 1)

Law 12-Wisden 1963

“The Batsman may beat the pitch with his bat”

 

The grey fox walked onto the empty field, stepping through the pools of moonlight. He did not bite at the glow like his younger brethren who chewed up turf and dirt, leaving divots in the once pristine earth. Instead he turned and brushed the white light with the tip of his tail, pinning the crease to the grass and waiting.

END

Uncertainty

Law 13-Wisden 1963

“The choice of innings shall be decided by tossing on the field of play”

 

Uncertainty sits by the pavilion, raincoat not blocking out the scent of sun-cream on his skin. He holds a thick yellow book. One hand is smooth and tanned, the other dry and creased. Drought cracked. Around each wrist he wears a single stitched band. Underneath his nails are snags of turf.

The batsman recognises Uncertainty’s eyes first, the same colour as skies that have haunted many games he has walked out for. The type of sky that can scorch the ground to dust or drown it for a season.
He walks over and Uncertainty smiles the easy smile of an old friend. The batsman leans forward on his bat, keeping it just out of reach.

Uncertainty puts aside his copy of Wisden. The batsman catches a glance before the cover closes. The pages are blank.
“Will the game go our way?” The batsman asks.
Reaching into his pocket Uncertainty brings out an old, tarnished coin and tosses it into the air. As it lands upon his left hand he covers it with his right, never showing it to the batsman. Instead he gives the same non-committal smile he has for the past 40 years, gets up off his seat and walks into the pavilion.

END