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Writer Of The Month: Thomas Nixon

Introduced by Joe Bedford

As part of Pen to Print’s Writer Of The Month series, I’m proud to introduce a selection of flash fiction pieces by writer Thomas Nixon. Thomas has previously written for Write On! magazine and has contributed scripts for Jay Sykes’ audio drama showcase Summer Stories.

The wide palette of emotional and thematic textures within these stories is a joy to explore. In these first five stories, we see Thomas’s work at its most contemplative and perhaps its most ambitious. In Neighbourhood Watch especially, layers of meaning unfold successively to reveal a fuller picture that nevertheless leaves the reader free to negotiate its ambiguous space long after reading.

Humanitarian Efforts

This was the third payload he’d delivered today; plumes of mist falling from the sky before landing gracefully over the trees. There, it solidified, creating a layer of protection and preventing devastating fires.

Lt. Carter thought he was doing a good thing. That by dousing the forests in this chemical, he was saving lives.

But Carter didn’t know what it did to people. He didn’t know about the women and children who choked to death minutes after inhaling it.

Nobody knew, in fact. Not of today’s deaths, or those across the valley.

But once they did, would they consider it necessary?

(c) Thomas Nixon


High Tide

Gareth was doomed before he woke up. In the first moments of frantic consciousness, he stumbled from his sleeping bag, swimming against the tide that had already engulfed him, his matted hair soaked in strands as his arms shot towards the shoreline, unaware that the sea had conquered all possible exits.

His dog was gone, either fled or drowned as Gareth stormed through on his own. Eventually he would accept his fate, that the force of the ocean’s currents were impossible to fight against. But for now, he continued to seize his way forward, desperate to live a life he’d always detested.

(c) Thomas Nixon


Neighbourhood Watch

The townsfolk were united in solidarity, something Mary didn’t need reminding of. She woke up every morning to baskets of fresh flowers, and answered the door to sympathetic smiles every night, along with pies, cakes, lasagne, and that ever-so-wonderful dessert: “Thoughts and prayers.” She couldn’t even pay for a meal in town; everything was: “On the house.”

“And it was so touching,” one woman said, as she stood (trespassing) on Mary’s porch, “for you to put your baby’s shoes on the corn.”

“Shoes?” Mary asked.

“It’s a wonderful memorial, honey. I just find it awful how they never caught that monster.”

(c) Thomas Nixon


Speaker For The Dead

Every night, the news read out the names of the dead

Every night, I sat, and listened

And every night, I begged to hear your name, so I wouldn’t have to suffer any more

And every night, there were so many. The young and old, buried together by a sigh from the newsreader’s lips. Never to be spoken again

And every night, I cried…

And every night, I prayed…

Then one night, the war ended. And the dead were put to rest, for the final time

And that night, I screamed, and screamed, and screamed

Because I knew you were still alive

(c) Thomas Nixon


The Circle Of Grief

“My dad had dementia. Awful, awful disease. First it took his mind, then it took his dignity. But the cruellest thing of all,” Graham said with a pointed finger, “is that it refused to take his life. It left that till the very end.”

“I know,” Karen said, grasping his hand as she scooted her chair closer. “But let’s not talk about that.” She looked back at her dad with a glowing smile. “How’s your week been?”

There was a more-than-brief silence before Graham turned his gaze back to her, and spoke once again. “My dad had dementia. Awful, awful disease…”

(c) Thomas Nixon


In the following three stories, we see Thomas stepping away from realism to pursue the more speculative aspects of his imagination. In Dads Home, in particular, the interplay of reality and fantasy is handled with extreme delicacy, leaving us with an emotional aftertaste that is both familiar and uncanny.

The Bay

There are bodies in The Bay. But this is a known fact. They bob on the surface, face down, dredged up by trawlers and fishermen alike. They’re blank slates, fingertips bleached, their faces nondescript. Mr and Mrs Doe, all the way. This started years ago, o’course. Nowadays they don’t even make the headlines, just a running total beneath the sports section.

In the end we incinerated them. But they’re still here. I see them in bed. Corpses sprawled over the sheets, staring with vacant eyes, icy blue lips moving without a sound.

But I don’t wake up. Because it’s no dream.

(c) Thomas Nixon


Dads Home

Rachel never mentioned her dad’s visits. Since the funeral, she was scared of the looks, of what people might think.

“Two sugars?” she called from the kitchen.

“Aye, love.” Dad’s voice echoed, but Rachel knew she could never look. Once she saw the empty chair, the spell was broken. “Weather’s barmy, innit?”

“Oh, yes.” Rachel walked through, eyes clenched, holding the mug out before him. Her breathing stammered then, its weight leaving her grasp.

“Ah, that’s lovely,” he sighed. “Nothing like a good cuppa.”

A tear fell beneath Rachel’s eyelid. She reached out to touch him, but there was nothing there…

(c) Thomas Nixon



The Millers passed away years ago: a marriage of metal on the highway, scenes nobody would forget. The only solace was that their deaths were instant.

Dr Barker had been staring at the chimney in a trance. He didn’t know how long; only that his coffee had lost its warmth.

Within a blink, he was at their front door, knocking, mug in hand. Maybe someone had moved in, or…

“Doctor, what a surprise.” Calvin smiled. Beyond him, Barker could see the kids by the tree: the same twins he’d last seen spread over a morgue slab. “We’re just unwrapping presents; come in!”

(c) Thomas Nixon


While reading Thomas’s work, I sensed an oblique political or perhaps social dimension to many of his stories; no more so than in the following four pieces. On a personal level, I was particularly intrigued by Thomas’s The Volunteer, which works as a very effective and subversive response to the opening chapter of my novel A Bad Decade For Good People, featured here in October’s Writer Of The Month segment.

Last Requests

“For every year I’ve been on the row, I must’ve been executed over 20. Yet every time, they give me my last meal, read me my rites, then send me right back here.”

There was the usual silence from the cells on either side. But in theirs, the kid on the bottom bunk raised his voice, barely a whisper. He was new here.

“Why’d they do that?”

“Sometimes the phone rings, asking for some reprieve. But most times they strap me in, then holler and laugh, like it’s one big joke.”

“Is it?”

“Only for them, my friend. Only for them.”

(c) Thomas Nixon


To End All Wars

They stormed the castle ruins, but Jerry had long gone. The only blood coming from the rats skewered on their bayonets, piled together with jokes. They’d make a fine stew. Nobody mentioned how little they had.

They patrolled to keep both the Hun and hunger at bay. Peter made his rounds going room to room, hunting for vermin while his rifle slouched against his shoulder. And in the grave of the master bedroom, scribbles once arcane revealed themselves to his tired eyes:

Sgt. John Forester – 03-08-1917

Peter stopped, then equipped his bayonet, carving out a passage beneath:

L.Cpl. Peter Forester – 18-11-1944

(c) Thomas Nixon


The Same Coin

“Don’t move!” the officer screamed. Sierra complied, palms open and wrists crossed, the shadow of her shaking hands imitating a pigeon’s wings against the wall.

“Please… This is a mistake.” Sierra’s lips quivered, her woven stature crumbling. She had never seen a gun before, never stared down its barrel. Two rectangles slapped together, two innocent shapes uniting to spread fear and death.

The officer stopped, but his eyes fell to her hip, where her badge read Attorney-at-law.

He spoke, but his words were stillborn, an amalgamation of apologies and regret, his hands collapsing as his body turned to flee the scene.

(c) Thomas Nixon


The Volunteer

He’s ready for war…

But it ended yesterday. Tonight, a peaceful demonstration gathers in a circle of sirens and rubber bullets…

To celebrate the dawn of peace.

His baton’s clean, never tasted blood. Much like himself. Those biceps and tattoos, they don’t give the game away…

This is his first rodeo.

Wait. I know what you’re thinking: ‘He’s a policeman,’ right?

But how can you tell? The badge on his vest?

Give me a break.

They sell that shit in bulk down at the cop shop.

Along with batons, handcuffs, gas masks…

They’ve gathered for peace…

But his war’s just begun.

(c) Thomas Nixon


Finally, in this closing section of five pieces, we get a sense of many of the above aspects of Thomas’s work coming together, competing and complementing each other within a shared space. It is in this blend of the contemplative, the ambiguous, the emotional, the uncanny and the subversive where Thomas’s narrative voice finds its greatest strength, cut through as always with a bitter sense of irony.

An Enormous Problem

The trolley spilled over the hill, its passengers holding on for dear life. The brakes had come loose, the driver seeing sense as he jumped ship. Now the chorus of screams overpowered the suicidal whirr of machinery, turning itself into a wrecking ball in a matter of seconds.

John had always hated himself. He’d tried the gym, he’d tried all the diets, but no matter what, his body remained an oblong. His was a life without purpose, until he saw the trolley veering down towards him.

“This is my chance,” John said, closing his eyes, and stepping onto the tracks.

(c) Thomas Nixon


Elusive Creatures

The black-wooded sparrow was elusive, but the prize was greater: a four-figure bounty for anyone who could capture its striking beauty on film. Fiona may have done just that, straining over her footage as a bird fluttered just beneath the screen.

Yet her eyes were drawn to the background, where a group of men huddled behind a car, each one suited.

Fiona peered closer. Through the gaps of their bodies, a hand jutted from the trunk, blood painting the skin.

“Oh my God…” she whispered, squinting at the licence plate as she screamed, the screen suddenly consumed by a black-wooded sparrow.

(c) Thomas Nixon


A Day Out

Grace popped her collar against the wind, blue lights pulsing against her leather jacket as uniforms around her did the same. All except one: the old man trudged forward, his flanks covered by two officers, his hands bound to his crotch by metal cuffs.

“Is this it?” she asked.

“Aye, this is the spot. Always nice coming back ’ere. A little anniversary, you could say.”

Grace stared out at the tundra, but the man had already answered her question.

“Don’t worry, dear, I ‘aven’t forgotten. I’ll show you where I buried the lass, then we’ll be back in time for tea.”

(c) Thomas Nixon


Public Execution

The end of her life was still a few steps away. Enough time to panic, not nearly enough time to come up with an escape plan. She cast her eyes towards her father, who stared ahead, latching himself onto her arm.

Tears swam down her cheeks, dragging mascara with them in skinny black tributaries as they stood before the doors.

“Happy tears,” her father muttered, eyes forward.

“What?” she murmured.

He turned to face her, expressionless. “Tell them they’re happy tears.”

The doors opened in that instant, revealing pews on either side filled with smiling faces, eager to watch the ceremony.

(c) Thomas Nixon



He looked before he entered and, as predicted, the suite was deserted. The bed freshly made, the dresser and drawers fully stocked. He could live here if he wanted to, if it wasn’t for the family who actually did.

Right now they were in the bath. He’d stood outside, listening to their laughter as water went overboard, soap suds filling the air. The children were happy, though yesterday he’d heard their mother crying as he hid in the storage cupboard. A part of him wanted to step out and hug her, to tell her things would be OK.

Maybe tomorrow he would.

(c) Thomas Nixon


You can connect with Thomas on X: @Tnixon98

And Joe on his website: or connect with him on X: @joebedford_uk.


Issue 18 of Write On! is out now or pick up a copy in local libraries and other venues. In the meantime, you can find previous editions on our magazines page here.

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Joe Bedford is the creator of the Writers On Research interview series and writes short fiction and novels, his debut novel being longlisted for the Grindstone Novel Prize in 2020.