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Second Thoughts

Very Short Stories*
by ASH Smyth (et al.)

* inspired by the Galle Literary Festival’s Opening Lines Project

Antony Beevor
In history, as in politics, intellectual honesty is the first casualty of moral outrage. In both disciplines, the first casualty of intellectual honesty is one’s wallet.

David Blacker
‘He hit the morning, running, Benzedrine and ginger beer — more wakeup per milliliter than the most hardcore coffee — getting his tired arse out of the sack and into the trees.’ As the sun rose, the exhausted editor, eyes jacked open with several pints of the most hard-core coffee, restored the ‘e’ and ‘r’ to their rightful positions, and silently removed the superfluous comma.

Gillian Slovo
Although he had forgotten his own name, he knew a table when he saw one. Alas, he had also misplaced the word for ‘table’ – so his smugness was short-lived.

Ian Rankin
As Joe unlocked his car, he saw that there was something lying on the driver’s seat, something he definitely hadn’t left there. “I do not appreciate this,” snapped his fictional alter ego, the knife protruding from the small of his back.

Lal Medawattegedara
‘Even the clock, I sincerely suspected, was a conspirator: there was a deliberate withholding of every “tick” that denoted a second, and the resulting tension reminded me of my brother on his death bed minutes before his life ebbed away.’ I put down my pen and glanced across to check that he was still breathing.

Louise Doughty
My father’s funeral took place in great secrecy – he was buried under the cover of darkness and the only attendees, apart from myself, were the cleaner who had looked after him in his last days and a man from the Ministry who identified himself only as ‘a very old friend’. “Best not tell anyone about this”, he said.

Michelle de Kretser
She said they had a choice. She lied.

Rana Dasgupta
When you broke it down, he thought, life was mainly about moving things from one place to another. (The removals business was slow this time of year, and Barry had plenty of time for thinking.)

Ru Freeman
Everything had changed and nothing had changed. Her debut novel was out; but still, now, again, the blank page.

Shehan Karunatilaka
He woke up in a pile of vomit. A preliminary taste-test confirmed that it was not, alas, his own.

Shyam Selvadurai
In her letters, my grandmother had told me about the renovations to Chandra’s home, but I was still amazed when I saw it. The JCB sat, triumphant, on half an acre of scorched earth.

Wendy Cope
When you step outside, perhaps you’ll see
an envoy from the Nobel Literature Committee;
though it’s unlikely.

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