Where new writing finds its voice
Short Story

Sawn Off Tales

David Gaffney

Don’t thank me, thank the moon’s gravitational pull

Christine was managing the office relocation, an opportunity to take her mind off the break-up with Malcolm. Malcolm, however, was health and safety, and everything had to be approved by him. 

She indicated with a polished fingernail the position of the new building but Malcolm moaned, shook his head and did nervy jazz hands. 

‘You’ve forgotten something vital. The building’s relationship to where staff live.’

Christine explained about public transport.

‘I was thinking more about whether it’s east or west. I only ever work west of where I live, so that on the way to and from work the sun is never in my eyes.’

‘But you come to work on the Tube.’

‘I have strong sense of the planet. Even underground I know where I am in relation to the sun.’

She agreed to go with him to a cellar bar so he could demonstrate this skill.

All this did explain something. The time he’d consulted a compass before making love, claiming the moon’s gravitational pull enhanced his performance, he’d been lying.


Music like ours never dies

Marion said the article could have been written with me in mind, and I riffled through the supplement and there it was: ‘Losing it – the Bay City Rollers story’.

The Rollers had everything, but threw it all away. They were egos on legs, emotionally cramped, and manager Tam Paton had a sinister, seamy undertow that eventually destroyed them.

Marion was right. Their story was my story. I was self-obsessed, vain, and paid slipshod attention to Marion’s needs. The Bay City Rollers were encoded in me. And Tam Paton? He represented my father. Emotions unsilted themselves, tears fell on Les McKeown’s face, and when Marion came back from her run, I hugged her close.

‘Darling, I will never allow us to become the Bay City Rollers.’

She flipped Les over. ‘This is the article I meant.’ 

‘EMOTIONAL INFIDELITY’, it said, above a picture of a man and woman on a park bench.

Alone, I drew a penis jutting out of the man’s trousers and a moustache on the woman. That’s what the Rollers would have done. What matters is the moment, not everlasting fame.


Do the voice

It began with the door to the balaclava cupboard. Its two-note see-saw creak, in descending thirds, sounded exactly like the uh-huh catch phrase of the disturbed woman in Little Britain. I heard this every time I changed my balaclava, which was three times a week, and once I’d noticed it, my house became a polyphony of comedy quips. The moaning floorboard on the stair said suit you sir, and the bolts on the door went what a plonker, Rodney. Smothering the cacophony with piano accordion practice didn’t work either. Underneath the tunes, I could still hear the wind rubbing a branch against the guttering, going what are the scores, George Dawes, and water curling through the radiator murmuring you wouldn’t let it lie. The voices insinuated themselves into my sleep, to be borne out into the day with me.

A jittery council man confirmed the infestation, but explained that eradication was expensive. Instead, he adjusted the noises to make them sound like songs.

The balaclava cupboard door plays Hey Jude, the low deep-stretched hum of the boiler is O Superman, and things are a little better. But I sometimes miss the fridge clucking stupid boy and the dishwasher hissing you’re my wife now. The phrases had a live, fleshy quality. Now, a postmodern chill permeates everything. I’m even thinking of changing my balaclava for a trilby. 



He crept down the onslip. Typical bank holiday, solid from three to seven, just as the traffic girl said in her juicy, posh voice.

He should have screamed away in a cloud of dust. But how could you in this choked-up, tangled mess? Crawling off like an insect, just how Deborah would like it. 

Juicy voice cooed more traffic news. Spider had rung to tell her the M55 westbound was closed from twelve to eighteen. It was awful on the A38, horrible at a roundabout near Stoke.

It was the first time he had stormed out. Now he was trapped in a river of steel, with a thousand seasiders fresh from penny-falls and whippy ice-cream. He had no idea where he was going, and getting nowhere fast. According to juicy voice the M6 had coped very well today, considering the pressure.



David Gaffney’s ultra-short story collections Sawn Off Tales (2006 Salt Publishing) and Aromabingo (2007 Salt Publishing) are available now, and his novel, Skip Trace, a tale of debt counselling and trepanning, is out in 2008 on Tindall Street Press.