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She hadn’t been here before. It was expensive and new. And at half past seven on a Friday night it was full and noisy, city bankers plump with money at the start of the weekend. The menu was clipped to a wooden board, clear dark font on ivory paper. Prices, she noticed, were missing.  ‘You look nice’ she said, kissing him, and he did. He looked good in a suit. Tall and dark. The clichés.

Grilled lambs’ hearts, peas and mint sauce .

She listened attentively, smiling, laughing at the right moments as Jason told her about his day. Why is it always that way round she thought, me laughing at his day?  She was quite impressed how Jason had planned all this. A window seat here? He must have booked it weeks ago. Men, with their extravagant romantic gestures. All calculated. All points marked up, credit earned. To be cashed in of course, in some way, at some time. The whole wall was glass at this point, the commuters scurrying past avoiding the puddles under a darkening sky, seemed in another world. The table was small and dark. Designed for intimacy. Intrigue. Placed far enough away from its neighbours so, when it this was busy, you could hear the buzz of conversation but, unless you really tried, not the individual words. One small table lamp and that was it. No flowers. Passé? Ah he has tried so hard she thought, and then suddenly she warmed to him. He was handsome she thought suddenly, looking at his stubbled jaw line, the muscles on his neck. She leaned in towards him and the table rocked, sending the light sliding suddenly towards him.

Ah I hate that

Jason said, quickly catching it. Normally, in a pub or a café, they would have folded up beer mats or napkins, jammed them under the legs in a quest for symmetry. Here though, that didn’t seem right. Rose leaned back again, conscious of the wobble.


Sirius 2 was the most advanced space ship man had ever sent to the stars. It was also an awful eating experience Rosamund thought. The crew were coming together to the refectory for the highlight of their day, evening dinner, when all 7 of them came together. On a journey this long you get to know people. One and a half years into their three-year journey, they were now like family.

The refectory was a rectangular plastic table in the middle of a small room. It was relatively bare except for cupboards, where their supplies were kept, and a microwave to cook them. (All the supplies were also designed to be edible cold, in case of any malfunction).

What’s on the menu tonight Rose

Jason called out in his bantering tone. Rose was close with all of them. Jesus with the amount of psychological profiling they had undergone beforehand they should be, but Jason, she must admit, was starting to irk her. That he found her attractive was obvious. That the feeling wasn’t reciprocated she had consistently communicated with all the usual tactics. But still this bantering tone always on the edge of flirtation.  


she said, as plainly as possible.  She placed the seven boxes in the microwave and set the controls then poured out the water and placed a large jug in the middle of the table. The microwave pinged and she served it up, joking all the time about playing mum, a role she didn’t normally play, a woman who had grown up taking tractors apart, then plane engines, and now here, leading a space mission.


someone said,

you’ve messed up the system.

laughing. It was true he had taken someone’s ‘place’, causing a domino effect across the table. Everyone laughed at the silliness of it all, but all knew it to be true. The human desire for order, routine disturbed. ‘Is he going to be a problem?’, Rose thought, then dismissed it from her mind. Impossible, no other humans in history had been subject to such intense psychological scrutiny. She sat in the only seat available to her, next to Jason, and pulled her plastic box towards her, peeling off the lid. A waft of meat and tomato, creamy cheese congealed on top. She slid on the plastic bench leaning over for her cutlery, her leg brushing against Jason’s. He did the same, then, as they started to eat, leaned his leg over to hers, touching it again. ‘Yes’ she thought. ‘Yes, he will be a problem’ as she lifted the fork to her mouth.


The room was sparse, clean, smelling slightly of bleach.  A bay window opened out onto a lawn, a willow tree bending in the unseasonable weather.

Like autumn.

the young woman muttered.

Just like autumn, Dad.

Jason lay staring up at the ceiling, bones punching up through his cheeks. There came a point in illness, she realised, that death came as a blessing. There was no point now to her visits. He didn’t know her anymore, of that she was sure. But what if he does, a little voice spoke to her, what if he does and he is trapped in the carapace of his unworking body, her visits a comfort in the terror of it all and a horror filled her and she turned away. It just seemed so unjust, all that life, a life full of work, a striving like most to do good. And her father had been a good man, most would say.  After her mother died, he had tried so hard to be the father to a teenage girl, an awkward one at that. Indulged her Goth phase. Took her to concerts. Forgiving of the men in her life, her mistakes.  Yes, he had been a good man, and all that work, effort, life, to end up here, like this, seemed such a waste. Like many she had a half-hearted belief in karma, what goes around comes around, but saw no evidence of it here. A knock on the door and a nurse came bustling in to her relief.

Dinner time

she said smiling.

How are we today Jason,

efficiently plumping up the pillows behind him, raising him to a sitting position. She swung a sturdy plastic eating table from the side and placed tonight’s meal on it. A thick slice of ham sweated pinkly, a fried egg, crispy white, yolk just leaking into the golden chips. The punch of vinegar filled the room.

Ham, egg and chips Dad,

Rose said, bringing her chair closer.

Y’alright love

the nurse said, relieving her of the duty she knew to be hard.

It’s just like Autumn.

the nurse said, cutting off a chunk of ham and ferrying it to her father’s mouth.  As she watched, Jason’s mouth dropped open, in reflex, as the fork neared. He started to chew slowly; looking past her to the wall with clear blue eyes.


Jason clung on to his sisters Rose hand tightly. It was all so strange, so loud, so scary. Old rock and roll music played, teenage girls laughed as a man span them ever faster on the Waltzers.  People screamed as the Octopus sped, impossibly ever closer, in interweaving circles.  Men, on the coconut shy or hook a duck stalls, called for business. A sudden bang as a young man slammed down the hammer striving to reach the bell. It was all new for the young children and Jason was scared.


whispered his sister and squeezed his hand tighter,


They had stopped in front of a wide silvery box on wheels. Heat and sweetness emanated from it.

Look at this Jason.

He was lifted up and looked in. As he watched a man poured something in, ‘sugar’ someone said, then slowly, carefully started to move a stick around the middle. The air seemed to thicken and congeal into pinkness around the stick, then, as the man continued to move it, carry on growing impossibly quickly, bigger and bigger. Someone passed the stick to Jason. Some of the pink stuff touched his nose and stuck to it. The thing was massive, like a cloud, bigger than his head. He couldn’t eat all this. His wellies slurped in the mud. Stars shone above. He looked at his sister and they both laughed as he leaned in and took a big bite.

Lee Garratt

Lee Garratt is an English secondary school teacher in Derby. Over the last two years he has had a number of poems and stories printed in a variety of different publications.