If you’re looking for collection of striking short stories brought together for a great cause, we recommend checking out STORGY Books‘s latest anthology. Launched in paperback in July 2020, You Are Not Alone; An Anthology of Hope and Isolation was created in partnership with charities including The Big Issue Foundation and Shelter, to help raise funds and provide support for people affected by homelessness following the devastating outbreak of coronavirus.
The anthology features the work of dozens of talented writes, who have contributed short stories in support of those who have been left voiceless and isolated by coronavirus. You Are Not Alone is a statement in support of the homeless community, letting them know they’re seen and heard; that their voices are important.
All proceeds from purchases of You Are Not Alone will be equally distributed between our partner charities to provide ongoing support for people experiencing homelessness during – and after – the Covid-19 crisis. Find out more about the anthology and pick up your copy here.
To give you a taste of what you’ll find inside You Are Not Alone, we’ve included an extract from K.M. Elkes’ short story, Game Face. His short stories have won, or been placed, in international writing competitions, including the Manchester Fiction Prize, Royal Society of Literature Prize, Fish Publishing Prize and the Bridport Prize. He was longlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2019. His work has appeared in more than 30 literary anthologies and journals, and has featured on school curricula in the USA and Hong Kong.
Extract: Game Face, by K.M. Elkes
I, Caitlyn Amy James, do solemnly swear to stick by the following rules, so help me God. Number one – always, always, maintain game face. Two – make like the swan: maximum serenity above, paddling like the clappers below. Three – beware dad-shaped sad thoughts. These are for under the duvet only. And definitely not in front of every bottom-feeder in school assembly (but let’s give a big hand to Miss Butterfield for letting me sob it out on her made-for-grieving bosoms).
The rules will be tested tonight. Mum is in her underwear, doing flicky eyeliner in the dresser mirror ready for New Man. Three dates in and she’s already winding down the drawbridge and waving him in. The evidence of this surrender is everywhere. She’s ironed a dress. There’s napkins and a cruet set on the table. A duster has been put about. I’m taking secret selfies to see how my face is going on. No red rims round the eyes, no puffy-ness. I am game face perfection. “Look at me,” I say. Mum turns around, pouting scarlet. I snap a picture, then look at the results. “What’s the verdict?” she asks. “How many filters do I need?
In the image she looks quite perky, but she’s forgotten to sit upright, so belly rolls are evident. Maybe I should leave the phone lying about, so New Man will see the picture and turn tail. On second thoughts, that’s a shocking idea. I’ve Sherlocked the shit out of New Man online and he’s got a few spare rolls of his own. Dad was butcher’s dog fit. I rest my case. Drop the mike. Leave the stage. “You’ll do,” I say to her. She sits on the bed and bends her head: “Check my greys will you sweetheart.
I scout through, a gorilla looking for nits, though we’re sans silverback in this scenario. Where’s the big male with the huge hands and the sad brown eyes? The father of this little band of bottom scratchers? I feel a wobble coming on and have dangerous thoughts of clinging to mum like a baby gorilla, fists curled in her fur. Easy now Caitlyn, remember, we do not make scenes. Scenes we do not make.
“You’ll do. You’re not peak Cruella DeVille just yet,” I say. She puts on her dress and gets me to do the back zip and then does a few turns in front of the wardrobe mirror. “Are you sure you’re okay about tonight?” she asks, as though she has asked this a thousand times already, when, in fact, she hasn’t, because neither of us want to do that dance. I busy myself with some hardcore thumb work on my phone. “I know you heard me,” she says.
“It’s fine,” I say, then get up and look out the window until she’s distracted by shoe choice. Down below, on the road outside our house, is dad’s car. Ten months and seven days. There are leaves trapped between the wheels and the pavement. Mossy stuff grows on the wipers. The whole thing is entombed in dust. It doesn’t make sense – mum’s all dizzy for New Man, but can’t bring herself to sell dad’s car? And I thought I was screwed up. Thing is, I can’t do anything about it. If I mention the car, then Caitlyn’s Big House Of Cards could come tumbling down, because mum might just start thinking about all the other stuff she’s forgotten. And if she thinks about all the other stuff she’s forgotten, she might just think about checking the shed. And if she thinks about checking the shed, she might remember what’s has been left in it. Which, right now, is for me and me alone.
She’s at the perfume bottle, spritzing a cloud of it into the air and walking through. I make like I’m really, really into fingernailing bits of paint off the window. She doesn’t ever make the connection when she does the perfume thing. But I do. They call it pink mist when someone gets blown up, turned into nothing but a trillion-zillion tiny particles hanging in the air, just waiting for something to cling to, looking for somewhere to come to rest.
Saffy Alexander showed me pink mist on Google in class, about two weeks after dad’s funeral. Man, that was some stir. I grabbed her phone and walled it. Who started blubbing then eh, Saffy? Mr Timmins did the “Now, I understand why you’ve done that Caitlyn, …” bullshit and then asked me if I would like to say anything to Saffy. And I said yes, there is something I would like to say to Saffy. And that is that Saffy can go fuck herself.
Well, full-on shit storm. Mum called to the school. You’d think the moon had slammed into the earth, along with all the stars going out and the mountains falling into the sea. But all that had already happened to us. So excuse me for not being awfully concerned about sweary time with Saffy Alexander.
Mum puts the perfume bottle down on the dresser and faces me. Seeing her this excited is crazy weird. Like when the sun comes out, even though it hasn’t finished raining yet. “Will I do, Caketin,” she asks. Like I’m going to be sucked in by pet names. “You look really nice,” I say. Caitlyn James, you are one superstar Game Facer.
Read the rest of Game Face, and the anthology’s gorgeous stories, by picking up your copy here.
STORGY seeks to publish and promote exceptional literary fiction whilst providing authors with the opportunity to reach a wider literary audience. We take pride in discovering new and emerging talent, whilst also celebrating the work of established writers.