It didn't satisfy his daughter. She wanted more. Always did.

Today's Story


The Great Escape

By Michelle Ann King

Rosalie wanted to buy him a shed. A 16 by 10 Lincoln 4000 Double Door Apex Garden Shed. She had brochures. Ken took one, nodded at the page she pointed to and dropped it into the recycling bin.

She retrieved it, scandalised. ‘But Dad, that’s what retired men do. It was on the BBC, on breakfast news.’

Could you argue with the BBC? He decided to try. ‘I don’t want a shed, honey. But thank you for the thought. It was nice of you.’

He smiled, scrambling to rescue his manners from crowding images of wooden workbenches and pot plants. The smell of paint in the air, spiders being industrious in dark corners. A folding chair and a portable TV. Or should it be a radio? Are you supposed to listen to Radio 4, in your shed?

Ken had never listened to Radio 4 in his life. Was that the one with Terry Wogan? Was Terry Wogan still alive?

So many chunks of the universe that passed him by, jumped over his head, hid in cracks and crevices. So much knowledge and experience, slipped down the back of the sofa. That was what retirement was for. Finding out. Not sitting in a shed eating cheese and pickle sandwiches. Foraging, ferreting, maybe even a little light finagling. He didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded good. ‘I’m spending a year finagling,’ he could tell the neighbours. His mind dressed him as a highwayman when he imagined this. He wasn’t sure why, but he liked the image. It was dashing.

‘Good for you,’ they would say. Bob and Carol, next door for ten years, one shockingly well behaved fourteen year old and a spaniel. No shed. ‘You’ve earned it, old man, all those years slaving.’

Not that it had been, of course. Slaving. Ken enjoyed his work. But so unfashionable, to say that. For an accountant, borderline unforgivable. You were supposed to be crushed by the mundanity, the ennui, the Orwellian strictures of corporate life. But he liked numbers, liked the satisfying snick of balancing columns. And the kids in the office always brought in doughnuts on a Friday morning.

‘But what are you going to do with yourself?’ Rosalie wanted to know. She sounded almost frantic. He couldn’t work out why.

In lieu of an answer, he filled the kettle. Default mode, when stumped: make tea. Something he inherited from his mother.

It didn’t satisfy his daughter. She wanted more. Always did. Why, Daddy? How? What?

‘How long is a piece of string?’ he eventually replied, but she didn’t get it. She thought he meant it was a stupid question, but that wasn’t it. That wasn’t it at all.

He tried again. ‘I’m not necessarily planning to do, I’m planning to be.’ But she didn’t get that, either. In the modern world, being wasn’t prized. Wasn’t productive. Balance wasn’t enough, there had to be growth. Endless growth.

‘Cancers are a form of growth too, you know,’ he said, and Rosalie looked at him like he’d gone mad. He did this, sometimes: forgot that half of a conversation only took place inside his head.

‘Never mind.’ He patted her hand and pulled the brochure back out of the bin. ‘Tell me about this shed, then.’

She smiled. Relaxed.

He added a slug of whiskey to his tea when she wasn’t looking and settled down beside her on the sofa.

‘And a shovel,’ he said. He leant back and whistled, dreaming of digging tunnels.


Michelle Ann King lives with her husband and stuffed penguin in Essex, England. Her work has appeared in various venues, including Daily Science Fiction, Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, The Molotov Cocktail and others. Links to her stories can be found at


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