can't just sit around

Short fictions & the like by Matthew Cook

Life on Other Planets: Chapter 1

So a year on from Pulp Idol I am making slow headway on the rest of the book, and thought it only fair to post the chapter. You can also read it in the Pulp Idol Firsts 2017 book here on Issuu or in print from Amazon and Waterstones Liverpool.
 

‘And lo, that celestial crucible which bore us all to Earth doth embrace thy spirit once again.’ Book of Jupiter, Chapter 6, Verse 3

1

When I was 15 my family had a nervous breakdown. It was August 1997, the summer my Great Aunt Edith died. The same summer that all the spiders in East Sussex chose to leave their homes and run amok for reasons no scientist on the planet could explain. Were these two things connected? I like to think so.

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Pulp Idol 2016: I’m in the final

This year is the 10th anniversary of Liverpool writing festival Writing on the Wall’s novel writing competition, Pulp Idol. Long story short: I entered. Heat’s yesterday. I’m in the final!

I read the first three minutes of Chapter 1 from my work in progress novel Life on Other Planets, and against some stiff competition I was picked alongside Helen Walsh to go through.

So if you want to see me quivering in fear and sweating horribly whilst mumbling the first three minutes again at the final, clear your diary for Fri May 27, venue TBC.

Listen to me reading Marble on Macguffin

Macguffin from Comma Press is brilliant. If you don’t know about it, find out now because it’s ace. Basically you can upload yourself reading your own stories so the world can listen and hate your accent as much as your friends do. Check out me reading my story Marble here and rate my accent as you see fit:

https://macguffin.io/matthew-cook/marble/listen/

You can read it on there too:

https://macguffin.io/matthew-cook/marble/read/

 

Invisibility Ray

This is one of the first ever short stories I wrote, and it won first prize in the now defunct Cool Dog Short Story Competition in 2009. Although it’s never been proven that the two events are connected – i.e. that the awesomeness of this story caused the publication to close and the organisers to move abroad and change their names – I will leave you to make your own mind up:

Making people not able to see me has always been a talent of mine. It sounds crazy I know, but it’s true. When I found myself stuck for dough a while back it seemed like the obvious solution. Not in a criminal enterprise you understand, as an entrepreneurial venture. I know what you’re thinking: what does a 12 year old girl need money for anyway? Well, a whole bunch of things actually. For starters my Neon fish, Gregor, has an illness which has made him really fat, so I need money for fish food and veterinary bills. Plus I need money for clothes and CD’s and things too. And I like to treat myself to a burger now and then thank you very much, I am human. Can’t you understand that a girl might like a burger once in a while? Can’t you understand that a girl with seven brothers and no mother might find herself without money now and then? So I needed money. So I went into business doing the only thing I was good at. Invisibility.
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Bunk

A flash fiction published by Spelk Magazine:

My older brother Gary and I used to share a bunk bed. He had the top, I had the bottom. This arrangement was established after much fighting and experimentation, and we finally learned to be happy. The bed was made from plain wood, pine or some such, and creaked like a sailing boat each time either of us moved the slightest bit. In his sleep he gulped air, like a hungry man eating. Sometimes I dreamed of the slats breaking and his body crashing down on top of me.
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Marble

This short story was published in Issue 8 of The Stockholm Review:

Ben Paladene stood perfectly still in the empty year 9 cloakroom trying to work out why he had just swallowed Alan Fennig’s giant marble. Fat Alan had been shoving it in everybody’s faces before assembly, and as soon as he saw it Ben wanted it so much his whole body began to vibrate. He had known instantly what was going to happen; he was going to excuse himself from geography at 10:15am exactly then sneak into the cloakroom and put his hand into Alan Fennig’s hiding place (the sweaty inside pocket of his tan pea coat) and then he was going to take it. Which is exactly what had happened, finally gazing into the exquisite inch-wide galaxy at the marble’s heart until his eyes crossed. He hadn’t foreseen the next part though, the part where he swallowed it, which was strange. Also strange, now he came to think of it, was the fact that he had very little recollection of doing any of these things. He remembered planning to do them, but not actually doing them. It was all weirderoo. Exceedingly weirderoo.

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The Backwards Child

This is a flash fiction published in 2015 by Oblong Magazine http://oblongmagazine.com/2015/04/07/the-backwards-child/:

From the moment my brother Jonathan was born it felt like everything he did was the wrong way round. He reached out for father’s bulbous nose with his left hand, not his right. All the lush black hair he arrived with slowly fell out and refused to grow back. I hardly remember seeing him eat, but I lost count of the times he was sick on me or someone near me or on the floor or on himself.

Other people noticed it too. When he started going to nursery he was loved by his carers for being so talkative, such a big grown up boy. But as the months passed they too became baffled and suspicious, complaining that he had failed to thrive. That he seemed to have forgotten so much.
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Mr Dishwasher

This is a story that I worked on as part of an Arvon course, that was eventually published by Number Eleven Magazine:

When Angela and I finally went our separate ways I suddenly found I had no money and took pretty much the first job I could find, which turned out to be repairing dishwashers. Mr Dishwasher Ltd was based in a foul-smelling garage and operated by a hairy dwarf-like man, who hated all of humanity as far as I could tell. He had worked his way through dozens of employees who refused to endure his hostility but I would just smile and think what I wanted to think and after a while we settled into a pretty amicable routine. He even let me live in the small flat above the garage, a flaking formica box with walls decorated in the sprawling doodles of previous tenants. The most ambitious of these was a sort of biographical tapestry etched in Stanley knife, which depicted the disturbing adventures of a stick figure in a hat all the way from the kitchen to the bathroom light switch.
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The Timely Murder of Naughty Rico

Imbroglio Magazine selected this short story for their third issue, which was supposed to be available on print but then was published on Issuu instead:

It had been another difficult car journey, in a difficult week. But just pulling up the drive to Pauline’s house Mumsy began feeling herself again. On the back seat, little Rico sat looking out of the window, waiting for her to open the door. He’s like the pope, she thought, a very precious person in need of very particular treatment. Rico wore no seat belt, he refused, but this did not worry her. She believed that he was charmed. For an instant, her heart welled unbearably.

“Come on Mumsy. Don’t be sluggish.” he said in his breathy voice. Nodding, she hoisted herself out and opened his door.
“Hell-ooo!” Pauline’s voice rang across the gravel and out she came, arms open, dress billowing. Rico accepted his Aunt’s embrace without complaint. It was a necessary ritual, he understood that. Like being frisked entering an important building, and he was gracious in allowing it. As long as relations were strictly below the waist, and he need not encounter the strange bumps on her face in any way, he was happy to oblige. Pauline played her part with all the bluster and dozen-arm fussing of a textbook adoring relative. It was as well-rehearsed an act as any in her domestic arsenal, and she clearly took pleasure in being effective. It reminded her of beating dust from a carpet. Feeling her grip slacken, Rico wriggled free and began towards the house, resuming the half-bored, vaguely contemptuous exploratory strut that he adopted on every visit anywhere.
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William Gaddis in the Paris Review (1986) predicting the financial collapse of 2008

An old blog article from a long while ago that I thought I’d reblog because I quite liked it:

GADDIS
….I’m frequently seen in the conservative press as being out there on the barricades shouting: Down with capitalism! I do see it in the end as really the most workable system we’ve produced. So what we’re talking about is not the system itself, but its abuses, I don’t mean criminal but the abundant abuses just within the letter of the law. The essential question is whether it can survive these abuses given free rein and whether these abuses are inherent in the system itself. I should think it is perfectly clear in my work—calling attention, satirizing these abuses—that our best hope lies in bringing things under better and more equitable control, cutting back the temptations to unmitigated greed and bemused dishonesty . . . in other words that these abuses the system has fostered are not essential, but running out of moral or ethical control can certainly threaten its survival.
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