Unraveling – a new show!

I’m playing a gig Thurs 29th and besides all the speaking out loud excitement I’m also gonna bring along a seriously limited edition run of pamphlets. Yes! So you can pick up a little souvenir.Really looking forward to the whole thing. Details below – see you there?

Future Perfect present UNRAVELING

An evening of story and song dedicated to untangling the knots created by time, life and love. Come listen as we unpick the perils of dating, try to deal with the twisted mess that is holding down a 9-5 and find out why, in an emergency, it is always safer to stay on the train.

Attempting to help me keep hold of these disparate threads will be Stephanie Gerra on words and Marvin Gore on music.

Date: Thursday 29th May 2014

Show starts: 7.30pm (doors 7pm)

Venue: The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, King’s Cross, London WC1H 8JF

Tickets: £6/£5 concs. buy on the door


The Great Pretender? Who Are You? I Am What I Am!

Hi gang!

V excited to be hosting a bijou Jukebox Story at the North London Lit Fest with the inimitable Madame Gerra on April 3rd at midday.

We’ll be reading  a selection of flash fiction inspired by pop songs on the theme of ‘Identity’ with a teeny weeny open mic as well, cos we like to spoil you.

So get your records on and get scribbling – submit 200 words or so to jukeboxstory@gmail.com by 24th March and we’ll let you know if your piece makes it through.

Now, just to think of songs about identity… hmmm…

Spilly over with words

So on Saturday I went on retreat.

You know, I thought I had a terrible attention span but actually I just needed NO PHONE and NO INTERNET. And to be fed and watered all day like a particularly lazy housecat. I didn’t have to think about anything, and because I didn’t have to think about anything my brain kind of unfolded and all the bits that had been hiding or buried under shopping lists and PE kits and appraisal forms and those knickers (I was wondering where they’d gone) – those bits, they reappeared. So I chased them down and now I have some more poetry to show for it. In fact, I finally have enough for that pamphlet I’ve been banging on about for years. Perhaps you will even be able to buy it at some point this year. Certainly I’m planning to go on retreat again. And I have all sort of other ideas swirling about too now…

I can’t recommend it enough, if you never seem to have time to sit down and truly be with your writing. You can find out more about the one I went to – including how to book your own place – at Chez Goldberg.

Here’s one of the things that turned up whilst I was sitting quietly and looking at the clouds racing up and down the Shard (I didn’t mention the view did I? My God, the view.)

Type: Writer

I’m not judging you. No. I’m not that type.
Best counsellor face on; head to one side,
Handing you tissues whenever you cry,
Tugging out things that are best kept inside.
Your secrets are spilling straight up from your gut,
You think that your stories are safe with me but
I’m reserving the right to polish them up,
To twist them about with a nip and a tuck.
I’ve stored them all orderly inside my brain,
Until the right moment to use them again
and put them in writing toward my own ends.
But judging you? No. Of course not – we’re friends.

I’m just… that type. Writer.

I’m not using you. No. That’s not like me.
We have fun when we’re out and you’re good company.
If I seem a bit distant whenever we kiss
It’s only because I’m remembering this
lad in the Midlands who once sadly said
I was never that ‘present’ when we were in bed –
Maybe cos I was thinking of ways to describe
The feel of his hands as he parted my thighs.
You think I don’t care and that’s not really true
I’m telling our story to my whole Writers Group.
Things seem more dramatic than they need to be?
It’s only because you’re involved with me and

I’m that type. Writer.

The dust has settled…

… on Camden for another year. Drinks were drunk, songs were sung and words were read. Now the reviews are in (admittedly the reviews have been in for ages but I don’t read them so I didn’t pay any attention.)

The Family Plot was reviewed here and here (and earlier in the year, here.)

Truly, Madly, Keighley was reviewed here and here.

So if you didn’t make it, you can read all those and feel like you did. Or alternatively check out the Non-Brontës YouTube channel, we threw a coupla things up on there for you.

I’ll be posting some of the work as and when so make sure to check back. Things are all quiet gig-wise for a while now, whilst I toy with the idea of putting together a pamphlet.

Would you buy it?

Heart Cries Wolf

“There’s a wolf!” shrieks Heart, skittering in through the front door and hiding behind my legs. “A big wolf!”

I look around. The front door has been left wide open and is flapping wildly in the wind. There’s an animal stalking up the garden path. Stalking? I squint at it.

“That’s not a wolf,” I say, reaching behind me and lifting Heart up. “See?”

“But I’m frightened,” squeals Heart. “It must be a wolf.”

“It’s not a wolf.”

I tuck Heart down behind the sofa and go to close the door. It’s not a wolf, or even a fox, but a very big rat. I don’t tell Heart. We stay up all night listening to it scratching at the door. “I survived a wolf!” Heart tells me proudly as the sun comes up.

“It was just a rat, Heart,” I say gently. “Just a big rat.”

Heart says nothing. I sigh. Heart sees wolves everywhere.


“Wolf!” yells Heart from the garden. I roll my eyes indulgently.

“It’s not a wolf!” I shout back. I’ve grown used to this.

“Wolf!!” shouts Heart insistently. I lift my head from the washing up and stare. There is a wolf on the lawn, mangy and old. Heart is up a tree pointing. I lean backwards and reach for my rifle. I know my duty. I must protect Heart. I level the barrel on the window sill.

“Don’t!” shouts Heart. “It’s old! Don’t kill it! I’m safe!” I lower the rifle and squint at the wolf. It has its nose on its paws and its eyes closed.

“Okay…” I say, slowly. I unlatch the kitchen door. Heart tears down from the tree and stands beside me shivering. We approach the wolf together. I don’t understand why it’s not moving. Heart is hopping up and down. The wolf doesn’t even look up as we draw close.

“There’s something funny about this wolf, Heart,” I say. Its fur is matted and its eyes are dead. I ease the safety catch off the rifle. Heart darts out from behind me for a closer look. There’s a flash of green from the wolf’s mouth and Heart screams. Then I scream. It’s just a wolf skin lying in the grass, flat and empty. The snake that was hiding inside is sliding off through the grass to its next victim. Instinctively I fire, missing my target by miles. The shot rings in my ears for weeks after. I kneel down next to Heart.

“Are you hurt?”

“I’m bitten. I don’t understand. It wasn’t a wolf, was it?”

Heart was poisoned. We stay indoors for a long time after that. I make up soups and stories over winter, a long winter, hard and cold. Heart dreams of wolves. I dream of snakes in the grass.


“Wolf?” asks Heart, half afraid.

“I don’t know. I found it in some bushes.” I stroke the ball of fur in my hand. “Shall we keep it and see?”

Heart nods, slowly. It’s not a wolf but that doesn’t matter. Heart is getting better. I watch them in the garden playing out Hearts favourite stories. The Wolf and The Nanny Goat. The Wolf and The Fox. The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids. Heart is happy. I am happy.

I am happy.

And then the wolf comes.

I see him slinking through the trees at the back of the garden, a streak of grey amongst the green. I put it down to tiredness; to failing eyes; to an overactive imagination. One night I wake up with a gasp. I can hear the wolf howling at the moon. I put my pillow over my head. I am too old for wolves. I pray that Heart is still sleeping.

Months pass. I’m in the middle of “The Wolf and The Man” when Heart says –

“I saw a wolf.”

I stop reading. What can I say?

“I know.”

“What are we going to do?”

I look up.

“What do you want to do?”

There’s a pause, and then Heart says very slowly and quietly –

“I would like to see a real wolf before I die.”

I close the book. Then I close my eyes.

“So would I, Heart,” I whisper, “so would I.”


The next day when I go for my rifle it isn’t there. The house is empty. I rush into the garden in a panic. From somewhere far off there is a shot, and then I see Heart walking back over the field to the gate. Alone. We don’t say anything to each other over breakfast. We are both too sad.

We spend the rest of the morning preparing.
“Now remember, Heart,” I say as I strap on my sturdiest boots. “Don’t be disappointed. We have been wrong about wolves before.”

“I know,” says Heart, checking over the rest of the kit. I shoulder the rifle. We head into the woods.

It’s dark and quiet. We don’t talk much. Twice we almost mistake mossy boulders for our quarry. The woods are deep and confusing. We stop for a rest. I prop the rifle against a tree and start unwrapping the cellophane on our sandwiches. Heart eats three. I eat one. I feel enormously tired. We don’t speak for a long time, but we make no move to leave either. Eventually Heart says: “Shall we go home?”

I get up, moving away from Heart. Moving away from the gun. I’m about to say we should go home, that we were wrong, that there is no wolf after all  when there’s a sudden confusion of fur and teeth and growling.

A wolf has Heart pinned to the ground and is biting and snarling between me and the gun.

“Shit,” says Heart, bleeding out on to the ground. “Shit. That’s a real wolf.”

“Shit,” I say.

Heart’s right.

It is a real wolf.

(c) Em Fleming

Constant Craving

Carbohydrates are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
The main carbohydrates are sugar, starches, and cellulose.


Sugars are sweet carbohydrates: monosaccharides or disaccharides. In the same way that drug addicts experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit using, sugar addicts can also experience withdrawal from their drug.

My heart is skippy in my chest; my lungs are fluttering.  The rush of him pounds in my blood.  You wouldn’t think you could feel your own pupils dilate, but I am here to tell you – you can. My iris disappears in his presence and my brain empties of everything but one thought – how can I get some more?

Other women leave things behind. Knickers. Jewellery. Once, inexplicably, a shoe. It’s so they have a link back to him. So they can call up and say ‘oh, did I leave my bracelet there? How silly of me. Can we meet up so I can get it back?’

It is silly of them. They never get them back.

I have left things there of course, in my own fashion. Warmth in the bed; a smile; a sea salty smell in the air. Nothing tangible. Nothing you could keep. And food. I’ve left food. An Easter egg, a can of Lucozade. That cheap bottle of rosé we bought in the corner shop but were too distracted to drink. Votive offerings to a god of all that is sweet and easy. But never anything that might last. There’s never a reason to return.

That’s what I tell myself. There’s no reason to return.

I usually manage a week or so. I can handle the craving but only for so long. It’s getting worse. I need the hit of him on my tongue. The way he fizzes straight up to my brain and calms everything down. He is sweet, so sweet. So good. I get sick now if it’s more than a few days. My skin crawls. I can’t focus. Have to get back. Get more.

My only consolation – I know he needs the comfort too.
Carbohydrates are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The main carbohydrates are sugar, starches, and cellulose.


Starchy carbohydrates are a mixture of two polysaccharides. They are the body’s main source of energy.

Pastry. Pasta. Pizza. Pies. When we eat together, that’s what we eat. Comfort food. The full range of burger patties from gourmet Mexican monsters stuffed with guacamole and jalepenos to those two slightly cool post-coital Macdonalds cheeseburgers. They were almost cold but we ate them anyway.

That’s us. Doing it anyway.

They were delicious.

I laughed when he said he knew how to treat a woman. We were in Pizza Express. Pizza Express is where you take people to break up with them, I told him. He looked at me and smiled his big bad wolf smile. We can’t break up, he said.  We’re not together.

That big bad wolf smile.

All the better to eat me with.

I need a quick hit often. He can last longer, because he takes more and he takes more deeply. Takes his time and eats his fill. It satisfies him. And I want him to be satisfied. How I want him to be happy. I want to be a comfort to him. A safe place.

Carbohydrates are made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The main carbohydrates are sugar, starches, and cellulose.


Cellulose is a linear polysaccharide polymer. Fruit and vegetables are vital for a healthy diet.

He‘s never given me anything, but I have taken something. I almost fainted one morning, getting up from the bed too quickly. I had to leave but I felt light-headed and dizzy. We hadn’t eaten anything but each other in twenty four hours. There was an apple on the table, small and green and perfect.

He was fast asleep.

I had to eat. I dropped the apple into my bag and waited until I was outside to sink my teeth into it.

I ate every piece of it. The skin. The core. The stalk. The pips.

You can’t grow an apple from pips. They’re sterile.

They’ll never become anything.

(c) Em Fleming

Wooden Horse


He’s trying to be kind, I think, with his roll call of all points north
Huddersfield;  Heckmondwike; Hebden Bridge
Sat outside the pub, defiant in his shirtsleeves, in January
(Smoking a fag)
He’s trying to say: we’re the same

We’re not the same

He’s trying to call a truce, I think, singing softly and smiling (fag in hand)
Noting the echoes in our voices
Detailing the Venn diagram of our past, the overlaps
He wants us to be friends

But we are natural enemies
Separated at birth by a bloody great mountain range
And a bloody great battle

All I can hear is the clash of swords
Cries of defiance; moans of defeat
I’ve a head full of smoke and pain
And all I can think is I can’t let him win
I won’t let him win
He’s not going to win
Not again

White versus red
Heart versus head
And, to the victor, the spoils

(c) Em Fleming

Suzy & The Devil

It was around this time last year, the dark time of the year when the hours had fallen from the clocks and the last leaves had fallen from the trees.

It was this time last year that my friend Suzy met the Devil.

A night like any other – a few too many drinks, too late for the last tube. She took the bus. She sat upstairs at the front, feeling reckless. Everyone knows the safest place on the night bus is downstairs, by the driver. But she sat upstairs. Upstairs at the front and then, he came and sat next to her. The Devil sat next to my friend Suzy one Thursday evening on the N3 to Crystal Palace.

She told me about it the next day, breathlessly, her eyes a little too shiny. She said she blamed herself, she said that at Hallowe’en she’d got pissed on cheap cider, alone in her flat and wished for a lover. She lay in the bath, eating an apple and wished for a lover. And now look. Now look what had happened. The Devil had heard her calling, and he had come to her.

Don’t be ridiculous Suzy, I told her. I’d never heard such a stupid thing. How can you say he’s the Devil? How would you know?

So she told me.

Firstly, when he sat beside her and looked at her she knew she would do anything he said. Power rolled off him in waves.

Secondly, he spoke Italian and Suzy believed that the Devil would probably speak Latin, but that Latin might look a bit odd in South London, in 2010, so he’d chosen the next best thing.

Thirdly, when she looked more closely she saw the twinkling in his eyes was actually twin pools of hellfire.

Fourthly, when he kissed her, his tongue was quick and darting like a snake’s and she was excited and afraid in similar measure. Deliciously afraid.

And if it had been summer, she said, she would have gotten off the bus and gone in to the park with him. And if it had been summer, she said, she wouldn’t have been wearing tights, and the ground wouldn’t have been cold and wet and if it had been summer, she said, she would have let him fuck her right there.

And if he were ugly, I said, he would have been a rapist. Suzy how could you, what a dangerous thing to do, getting off with a man you met on the bus, for God’s sake! Thank god it wasn’t summer.

And Suzy said no, no, if only it had been summer. If only it had been. I could have given him what he wanted and it would all be over now. She hadn’t given him what he wanted so badly. She had disobeyed him. All he got was her phone number, and he wanted so much more.

The next day he called her. And the next. And the next. And he sent her messages. Message after message. She showed me one. Amore, it read, bella, come and see me. I want to see you. It’ll be nice.

So see him, I said, he sounds keen. You wished for a lover didn’t you?

And she said that I didn’t understand. From the minute she’d seen his missed call she knew, she was quite sure, that he wanted to kill her. That he meant to call her to his house, soak her in alcohol and pretty words and then use those hands of his – for she was sure it would be his hands and not a weapon – use those strong hands of his to silence her. She also knew, with the same certainty, that now he had called her, she had to go. Suzy had crossed the Devil and Suzy would have to pay.

And when I said, when I suggested that all she had to do was leave it, ignore his calls, his texts, block his number, she laughed at me, a hollow laugh. As though I’d told a junkie to just lay off the H for the rest of their lives. He’s the Devil, she said, don’t you see? I’m his now. I have to do whatever he says. I’ll have to go, eventually, I can’t escape.

Suzy for heaven’s sake, I said, you met some sleazy Iti on the bus – do you have to be so frigging melodramatic? See him, don’t see him, I don’t care. Get over yourself.

Early December. The snow came.

She sent me a text. ‘Going to Gipsy Hill to get some Bolognese. Thought I should let someone know.’

And my friend Suzy was




Too Much Music

When we do this – which isn’t often – when we do this it never occurs to me that you’re married. That I’m married. That we are married. When we do this – which isn’t often – it’s not about us or them or rules or society. It’s a purely selfish act, when we do this. It’s not an affair. It’s not a relationship. It’s not anything. It’s just us and the night; and probably too much wine and certainly too much music. It’s a connection, but not to each other. It’s a connection to the past. It’s the fun we should have had when we were eighteen but we didn’t, because we were too busy playing at being grown-up; playing house and making commitments and not thinking about how the choices we made then would still be affecting us ten years later.

It’s a clear space, when we do this, a moment of clarity. To be the people we think we are in our heads and not the people our friends know or our children see. You tell me I’m funny and beautiful and a very clever girl and when you tell me those things, they become true. Just for a moment. Just for the time when we do this. It’s addictive. It’s selfish. I’m not sure how you feel about it. It’s never expected. It feels natural and it feels nice but it doesn’t feel right or wrong or good or bad. There’s no judgement when we do this, there’s no darkness to it or malice. There is recognition of a need, and that’s all. Maybe it’ll turn into something else, something more complicated but I don’t think it will. You don’t want it to.  I don’t want it to.

When we do this – which isn’t often – when we do this, it’s always the last time.

(c) Em Fleming

Schrödinger’s Fuck

Are we something?
Or is it nothing?
Until someone notices:
It’s both

We are happening
And we are not happening
All at the same time
Of all the many worlds
We have found a way to inhabit two at once
Clever us
Quantum explorers

An abstract equation
expressed as the simplest of diagrams
Your straight lines against my curves
Our fundamental interactions unobserved

We’re keeping a lid on it
This dangerous experiment
Keeping the lid firmly closed
With us inside
Any act of observation would lead to collapse
The choice made for us
Before we’re ready

Are we something?
Or is it nothing?
Unless someone notices:
It’s both.

(c) Em Fleming