Elly McDonald


Black cat crossing (4 March 2014)


Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument (because I do love argument), that I write some short stories that pivot on actual incidents from my own life.

For example, tales from the 53 bus, the routemaster bus – along with the N53 and the 54 – that travels through south-east London to Trafalgar Square. The linking theme here would be race.

Or the curious incident in Fez, Morocco. Theme: state repression, terrorism and the clash of North African and Western cultures.

Or something about the poison of gossip, running like mercury through corridors in glamorous West End offices. I’m thinking of the First Emperor, in Ch’in, whose tomb – legend has it – is lethally protected by a moat of mercury.

Or something about a cat that died. Make that two cats. Maybe four. No cat death should go unremarked.

Maybe something about families where children’s names and pets’ names constantly get mixed up. Or perhaps it’s not a cat who died but instead a father.

Maybe something about disorientation and over-stimulation in a megametropolis? Being lost? Being scared?

Lots of places to start.

Second: how to change the POV. The protagonists might be someone else who witnessed or participated in those episodes.  Someone actual or fictional. Or it might be me only older, or younger, than I was at that time. Or me as I might have been had my history then been other than it was.

Lots of places to go.

An image of a black cat crosses my mind. Heading somewhere I might follow … ?

HUNGRY GHOSTS SUITE – Exercise towards short stories 4/3/14

Hungry Ghosts on the N53

It’s night
And this bus takes forever.
This is the endless bus
The one that travels everywhere.
The ghost bus.
Spectre people sit glum
Sunk in jackets
Flesh grey and loose
The air about them heavy
with the absence
of connection. No conversation.
This bus tours history
Traverses an empire
Conveys a common wealth
But inside all are worn
Too tired
Too hollow.
It’s too late
For the dead.


Under an overhang
Where no one can see
No one is watching
You and me.
Tales of subversion
Resentment and pain
No one is watching
Nothing to gain.
Tear down a village
Put up a fraud
No one is watching
Maybe they’re bored.
Theme park Morocco
Fuchsia and blue
No one is watching
Me and you.
No one is watching
No one can see
They’ll come to take you
They’ll ignore me.


The office is divided
by corridors: this side
that side
In the centre a common meeting ground
With its wall-size red logo
W for War
The foot soldiers tramp
through the common area
primed for hostilities
ready to do damage
and die. Metaphorically.
They know so little.


God sees the sparrow fall.
But does He care for cats?


The shadow puppet is practising for death.
It moves in jerks.
No voice.
It is diminished,
Its rictus face a memento mori.
It dances, stiffly, behind a screen.

Big City

It’s a laser beam battle
In the city centre
Spears of light thrusting forward
Flung backward
The angles are askew
The speed an assault
The sound all surrounding
the pavement in revolt.
I cannot find my way.
The light darts target me
Shattering what’s solid
Glaring through dark space
Spinning me off centre
Blaring blasting blinding
I cannot find my feet.

Author: Elly McDonald

Australian-born, with English mother, has lived in several Australian cities and in London. Travelled widely. Way way back when, published widely as a poet and short story writer.

2 thoughts on “Black cat crossing (4 March 2014)

  1. They say that one should write from life experience… of course, “they” haven’t experienced much…


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