Michael Callaghan

Finalist 2017

Excerpt from 'Snake Bite'

Everyone knows that noise is a baaad thing in a library.

It’s the first time I’ve been here. I like old buildings, especially old library buildings. I like the high ceilings and the big arched windows and those grainy white wall tiles. I like the stillness and the quiet and that rich, dark-brown smell of wood and leather and old paper.

Maybe that’s why the kids at school think I’m weird.

As I walk on I see three posters on the left wall. The first says what to do if there is a fire alarm. The second gives the opening hours. The last one that catches my attention. It’s a POLICE NOTICE, warning people to be on alert. It shows a hand drawn picture of a man. He has a mean, thin-eyed, expression and a stubbly chin. It’s not a very good picture – it doesn’t look like any real life person – but before I can read the notice I hear a cough. Not a real cough, like when you have a cold or something catches in your throat. It’s a can-I-have-your-attention cough.

I turn and see the librarian. He’s standing behind a long, horseshoe-shaped wooden desk, staring at me. I wonder how long he’s been looking at me. He has a grey, scraggy beard that looks oddly patchy -  like someone has pulled bits out of it - and silver rimless glasses that are too small for his face. He smiles, but in an odd way. Like something’s going on in his head. It strikes me that he might be the sort of man that my dad tells me to be careful of.

Coming soon

Our first anthology of short stories from The Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition 2014-2018