Liars’ League is a monthly short story event that takes place in London. Whereas most literature reading events involve the discomfort of watching reclusive and shy authors stumbling over their words or churning through pages of their work in suitably serious literary tones, Liars’ League does away with all that because all the stories are read by professional actors. It also takes place in a pub – good readings, good stories and good pints – it’s the perfect combination.
This collection brings together some of the stories that have appeared at Liars’ League over the last few years, all themed around London. There are urban fairy tales, post-apocalyptic cities, royal wedding riots, football fights, office steeplechases, awkward dates, hippo fights and scrabble.
My two stories are ‘The Frog’, which was first read at Liars’ League in 2008. It’s an urban re-telling of the Grimm brothers’ story ‘The Frog Prince’ – a girl helps a frog she finds in a North London street, but the deal she makes with it turns out to be more complicated than she thought. The second story is ‘The Escape’, which I wrote in 2010 for an event celebrating the history of the Market Estate in Camden, which was about to be demolished. Set in the 1930s when the area was the site of the Metropolitan Cattle Market, it follows the escape of a bull and the fate of a father and his two sons. Below are two extracts from the stories.
From ‘The Frog’
“So, the girl and her deepest darkest heart’s desire go out for drinks after work and one thing leads to another and she takes him home. But she takes him a different route, nowhere near the New River. They go to bed, and she discovers his secrets; the line of dark hairs down the centre of his chest, the scar on his thigh, the taste of his narrow mouth. Then, when they are lying there in the dark, her heart’s desire fast asleep because he has an early start tomorrow, the girl hears a noise on the stairs up to the door of her flat. Pur-flop. Pur-flop. It’s soft as a purse dropping from a pocket. Pur-flop. Pur-flop. It stops outside her door. Flop.
“Open the door. Lift me up to your bed. I have come to sleep on your pillow.”
The girl lies still in the dark, her scalp prickling. She doesn’t answer.
“Open the door. I want to lie against your cheek and stay with you wherever you go.”
Her heart’s desire shifts in his sleep, but still she doesn’t move. She doesn’t sleep herself, not that whole long night, or even in the very early morning when she hears the soft pur-flop, pur-flop, moving away down the stairs. She takes the other route to work that day.”
From ‘The Escape’
“It’s Lionel Levett who releases the bull, unhitching the hasp from the ring through its nose. He watches it slip between the wooden boards of the stall and into the street, smooth as a ship launching. As it sails past he reaches up to douse its wide, warm flank with a splash of lemonade from the glass bottle in his hand.
The bull reminds Lionel of his father, and if there’s one thing in the world Lionel would like to do for his dad, it’s set him loose. Nev Levett owns a market stall selling the scrap silver that stains his hands black with sulphide. Sometimes Lionel finds his dad stretched out under the stall with a handkerchief over his face like a corpse, but he isn’t sleeping, he’s shaking. Annie, Lionel’s stepmother – that’s who Lionel blames. Annie has a sting like a gadfly when she gets going. So the bull, sweltering in its stall in the Cally Market, makes Lionel think of his dad, and so off the chain comes and out the bull goes. Lionel watches after it with the feeling of a job well done.”