Would you buy a 300 Stories book?

No new story today. Instead: a question. Or rather: a couple…

Since I’m now only 60 stories removed from my 300 stories target, the question of what to do with these tales after I finish my mission has been on my mind of late. Of course, publication in book form would be the logical next step. But what kind of book? One in which I’ve edited the stories a bit more thoroughly, that’s a given. But should I publish it in print? As an e-book? Both? And how many stories should it contain? The lot? Or just the cream of the crop?

So here’s my question to you, my beloved readers. Would you be interested in buying a copy of 300 Stories should I indeed publish it? And if so, do you prefer paperback or e-book? One with all the stories or a selection of the best?

Feel free to sound off in the comments…

240. Monday

Monday.

They are fighting. The sound of their voices bursts through the dining room ceiling, into our bedroom. Gilly asks me if it will stop. I promise her it will.

Tuesday.

Dad is yelling again. Mom is crying. So is Gilly. I take her into my arms and comfort her. I can no longer promise her it will be all okay. I don’t want to lie to her.

Wednesday.

The pillow around my ears is insufficient to stifle the sounds that come flooding in from downstairs again. I swear, one of these days he’s going to kill her.

Thursday.

It doesn’t stop. It never stops. The screaming. The shouting. Gilly cant’t take it anymore. No-one should do this to a six-year-old. It’s torture.

Friday.

It ends. Gilly wants to go downstairs.

Only barely can I prevent her from doing so.

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239. Think of it as a miniature time machine

“Think of it as a miniature time machine,” the salesman explained. “The nanobots spread across your body and simultaneously create tiny wormholes that – put together – produce a stable temporal vortex. That basically allows you to travel back in time. Of course, it would be impossible to take a trip to, say, the stone age. Since the nanobots are constrained to your body, all temporal travel is restricted to your personal timeline.”

“So,” the man at the door said, “say I missed the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series because I wasn’t interested in baseball back then…”

“You can’t. If you want to travel back days, let alone years, you’d need a temporal vortex so powerful it would just rip you apart. There’d be nothing left of you but a messy soup of quarks and mesons. So we have put the time travel cap at one minute.”

“That’s nothing.”

“No. That’s sixty seconds. In that time your brain can make as many as one thousand conscious individual decisions. Any of which you might come to regret in the following minute. It could be the difference between hitting a kid on a bike or braking just in time. Between an incoherent stammer and that perfect chat-up line. People make mistakes all of the time. Tempus Fugit can help you erase some of them.”

“And it is one hundred percent safe?”

“Well, is something ever one hundred percent?”

The salesman cringed at his own reply. He was falling behind on his sales compared to other salesmen. And his wife counted on a hefty Christmas bonus. This was not the time to joke.

“And it is one hundred percent safe?” the man at the door asked again.

“Absolutely,” the salesman replied.

“In fact, I’m a satisfied Tempus Fugit customer myself.”

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238. You look thirsty, Pavel

“You look thirsty, Pavel. But as luck would have it I’ve had an exquisite – and expensive – Ardbeg smuggled in last week.”

Yakov had invited me over to his Budapest pad, overlooking the city from the east bank of the Donau. To ‘have a talk’.

“Tempting,” I said.

“Shall I?”

Yakov had already all but twisted the cork off.

“Don’t bother,” I replied. “I always bring my own.”

If Yakov’s eyes were alarm bells they’d be ringing now. Yet he did not say a word as my hand went into my pocket. He was too smart for that. He knew that if he let but slip a soupcon of anxiety, he’d no longer have the upper hand.

“Got more of those hidden pockets in that suit?” Yakov jested, pouring himself a 250 pound dram.

“A couple,” I bluffed, taking a sip from the small flask he had not found when he’d searched me five minutes ago.

“I know you’re onto me,” Yakov said.

So he did know.

“Have you been a naughty boy, Yakov?”

“Enough with the games, Pavel. Let’s get this out in the open. Nothing left to hide.”

He was calling my bluff.

“I’ve known for quite some time, yes. We all have.”

His golden ring tapped the tumbler.

“Define ‘some’ time.”

“1984.”

The tapping intensified. He was getting nervous. Unless it was a decoy. Somewhere in the room a gun was bound to be hidden.

“I take it you won’t be going quietly?” I asked.

Yakov shook his head.

“This has been a fun game of wits,” he replied. “These past ten years.”

I ducked the tumbler that suddenly came flying my way as we simultaneously reached for the gun taped under the salon table.

For one of us the witty days would soon be over.

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237. Across the mountain pass

Across the mountain pass, between the scattered trees, a shadow lurked. It had been there since they’d left Gjorahi, following them from a distance, always hiding, never gaining on them yet never falling back.

Nabin and Bibek, chasing an interview deadline, had at first simply pretended it was not there. But with the fog rolling in and a white darkness soon about to descend on them, anxiety fuelled their curiosity.

Through his camera lens Nabin tried to steal a glimpse of the creature while Bibek, immaculately dressed even in these conditions, opted not to kneel down on the fresh layer of snow. Instead he peered into the distance as if he were an enigmatic film noir hero, his notepad in check, just in case some story might emerge from between those pines.

They would miss that interview deadline, in all likelihood. But they didn’t care.

This, the thrill of the maybe, was what being a newspaper man was all about.

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236. The corruption of Alexandra

The corruption of Alexandra started at the age of six when her brother dared her to take candy from a baby. Soon she was spiking the home-made lemonade she sold to church pensioners on Sunday and kicking kids for no particular reason. She was dropping f-bombs on unsuspecting passers-by and nicking money from her little sister’s piggybank.

Had she been older than six, she would have been called a liar, a fraudster, a bully, a cunt. Now her parents just branded her a ‘difficult child’ and sent her into therapy.

“That’s the fun of being corrupted at my age,” Alexandra told her shrink on the living room sofa, while in the kitchen the family dog started licking the translucent liquid in its water tray.

“I could get away with murder.”

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235. The labyrinth

The labyrinth daily lured adventurers, warriors and princes from all over the Peloponnesus, intent on conquering the maze and thus collecting the handsome reward king Lysander had offered for the first man to reach its centre: the hand of his youngest –and most beautiful – daughter Ariadne.

Peeping from behind the purple curtain of her bedroom, Ariadne derived no fun from the spectacle. To her, anyone attempting the labyrinth was a fool. And a fool had no place in her envisioned wedding plans.

Since she was five years old, she had planned the colour of her dress – of course – but also the seating pattern of the guests, the gifts she would receive, the vows she would recite and the amount of white doves that would fill the heavens in simultaneous winged dances.

She had a menu with twelve courses set in stone, that would be prepared by a chef who for the past seven years had done nothing else but refine every meal, so on Ariadne’s wedding day not a single course would fail to wow the diners.

Of course she also had a fixed idea about who her husband should be. Many of the men whose rotting corpses now littered the labyrinth would have been perfect suitors: muscled warriors with brooding eyes and ambitious princes with manly jawbones. But they were fools. Dead fools.

On his balcony throne, king Lysander couldn’t care less who would wed his youngest daughter, as he quietly smirked when an especially devious maze trap splattered Crete’s most feared warrior’s guts all over the already crimson thorns of the maze hedges.

The monarchs of the surrounding kingdoms were so intent on marrying his youngest daughter, they kept sending their best soldiers to their death.

Soon they would run out.

Soon they’d be defenceless.

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234. I might love her

“I might love her.”

He blurted it out, unprovoked, unexpectedly.

They had been talking about quantum computing, philosophy, football, politics. In short: everything two friends would talk about after not having seen each other for months. But on the fifth pint, they finally arrived at the subject of girls and the surprising confession.

His friend didn’t even know he had a girlfriend. His love life was not something he often talked about after all. Not because he didn’t have one. But because he didn’t like to arouse wild expectations about what would often be a fling and nothing more. Yet somehow, tonight, he felt compelled to tell his friend he could perhaps love the girl he was currently seeing.

He didn’t know why he chose to utter those four words. He didn’t even realise he felt that way before he expressed the sentiment. It had been a long time since he last told anyone he might be in love, as a matter of fact. A very long time.

His friend patted him on the back and for the next few minutes he told him how they met, that they were colleagues and that nobody in the office had an inkling they were seeing each other. He told him he didn’t really expect this affair to go beyond the one-year-itch that had proved fatal so often in his life. And he told him once more that – despite all that – he might love her.

He might.

He just might.

Or as his friend, the guy he’d known longer than any other person in his life bar his family, proudly, happily, more accurately put it:

“You do.”

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233. We need a five point one rating in metered markets, not a snowball’s chance in hell

“We need a five point one rating in metered markets, not a snowball’s chance in hell. Let alone an untested format from a hillbilly girl who I’d pay serious money for to see in a Girls Gone Wild video but who has fuck-all experience in the TV game,” the network president told her, adding “Seriously, who did you fuck to even get this far?”

She had poured her all into the presentation, which was – to her – the culmination of a meteoric rise in the television business. Three months ago she was still an Alabama yokel. Now she was in the same room as the fifth richest American on the West Coast. She was not going to let him kick her all the way back to Alabama in three all too easy put-downs.

“Who I fucked? You really wanna know? Billy Driscoll at KCRW, in the alley behind the station. His first time, he told me afterwards, not that I hadn’t already noticed. Then I crossed the state line to Tennessee. Robin Walcott: he was a kinky one. Dripping candles, handcuffs, whips, the lot. And before you know it, I’m in New York fucking City, where suddenly everything goes very fast indeed. In a week’s time I’d fucked my way from the Bronx all the way up to a Central Park West loft with silk sheets and an Ann Geddes wedding photo turned towards the wall. That was Stephen Vanderberk. You know, the veep sitting to your right as we speak.”

“Girl,” the network president, flummoxed, finally said, shaking his head, “you have much to learn about this business. Fucking a veep won’t get your show produced. Really.”

She realised that now, back at KCRW, working on another spec script.

Next time, nothing but the network president himself would do.

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232. The news from Baltimore arrived in a hearse

The news from Baltimore arrived in a hearse. Cornelius Francis Poehler was dead. And not a single relative that guided him to his final resting place would shed a tear for him. Not even when the coffin was lowered into the ground, and amid the soothing rustling of autumn leaves, the persistent anxious thumping from inside the wooden box was clearly audible.

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