A Pawn Shop

Once upon a time in Russia there was a very nondescript KGB spy called Putin. He had expensive tastes and supplemented his meagre spy income by driving a cab at night. His passengers were often drunk and either vomited, pissed or shat in his cab; soon, he hated everyone and thought, This can’t go on. If I’m to be rich and feared as a supremely powerful dictator, I need help – but who from? The solution came to him in a flash: Satan. He falls asleep at the car’s wheel to the smell of vomit. He dreams.

He sees himself lighting a candle in St Basil’s Cathedral, and hears his prayer of supplication to Lucifer. Out of the intense darkness an old priest, smoking a cigarette and wearing a cassock covered in ash, approaches Putin, who stammers, Are you really …

Yes, I’m Lucifer, he says as he unlocks a heavy door. They descend into an ancient crypt filled with the bright light of flaming braziers. Lucifer leans forward into the flames, and lights the cigarette in his mouth; his skin smoulders. 
Putin sees glass demi-johns stored on shelves. What are these? 
They are labelled.
Putin reads: Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Genghis Khan. Something like a tiny hurricane twister is swirling inside the jars. Are they trying to escape? 
Lucifer laughs. They pawned their souls for power and lost all moral sense.
Do they get them back? Putin asks.
Lucifer almost chokes with laughter. They failed to achieve my ambition of destroying God’s world; so they remain here everlastingly trapped in their unrequited rage. I’ve been watching you for some time Vladimir, and I think you might be the man to realise my dreams.
What do you want me to do?
Create hell on earth. 

Putin wakes to find Lucifer sitting next to him in the taxi. A drunk staggers towards the car and pisses on the windscreen. Lucifer points at the drunk who explodes. The windscreen wipers clunk as they push fragments of bloody flesh aside.
Putin retches.
Wimp, Satan chuckles. Shall we visit your mother?
You know where she lives?
Of course.
I have a test for you.
She’ll be asleep at this time of night.
All the better.

Back in the crypt. Lucifer shows Putin a demi-john.
Is that my soul? 
Yes, you passed the test; your mother never knew what was happening. 
I didn’t know I was capable of doing such a thing, Putin says, crossing himself.
Compassion? Stop that nonsense. Crossing yourself is pointless. God doesn’t give a shit about you. Listen. You will provoke the West over and over again as you try to bring the USSR back to life. America will destroy Moscow with a nuclear weapon. You will retaliate. 
You really want to destroy the earth? 
It’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. So we’ll make hell here. It’s too late for second thoughts, Vladimir. Remember, I have your conscience in a jar.

I hope you enjoyed this story. Please feel free to pass it on to others who may be interested. You can read my previous 500 word stories on my website www.philcoskerwriter.com under ‘Writing’.>>>More

© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

Returned to sender

I first encountered Nathaniel just after I’d moved in next door to his large stone house in Moffatt. He was shouting in his back garden.

Oi, you up there. Call yourself a fucking god? Here I am, ninety-two years old with my mind as sharp as a tack with fucking limbs that refuse to do what my brain tells them. I go to walk forward but my feet don’t move quickly enough and I end up falling flat on my face. I’m supposed to believe in you but what do I get out of it? Bugger all. So, fuck off!

Well said, I shouted.
Who’s that? 
I’m Dunbar, your new neighbour.
Fancy a dram with me later? he asked.
From that moment we became friends and began an early evening Saturday ritual of putting the world to rights over a bottle of Tamnavulin.

On Thursday 8th of September 2022 Queen Elizabeth II died.

On Saturday September 10th 2022 her death is the only topic of discussion

For Christ’s sake, man, Nathaniel says, The Windsors are Germans, and ersatz Scots, still living in Victoria’s fantasy of a mythic Scotland of kilts, tins of shortbread, stags at fucking bay, whisky, pipers, haggis and soldiers in fancy dress.
Maybe, but she did a good job.
So have our nurses and all the others who got us through Covid. No one will glorify their deaths.
Of course we will, I replied.
You know we won’t.  Listen, the monarchy’s facade is a charade. Strip off their fancy dress and fancy ways and they’re just ordinary people – just rich racists. They describe us as their subjects, whereas we’re citizens whose rights as human beings are inalienable and not a privilege bestowed by Royalty. 

He was about to go on one of his rants so I made an excuse and went home. 

On Saturday September 17th I arrived for our normal Saturday dram. Eventually I found him lying dead under a freezing shower. I couldn’t have felt greater guilt; he was ninety-six and I should have taken more care of him. The doctor said it was natural causes and he could have been dead for days. I couldn’t help but compare the Queen’s Lying in State and Nathaniel’s end.

In a state of shock I went through all the formalities as he had no immediate family. Searching through his address book I found a London postal address of a ‘distant cousin’. 

Following his minimalist cremation I posted his ashes to the London address along with my name and address on the cardboard box.

Weeks pass, then months. The postman returns the box of ashes. There are multiple addresses crossed out and finally, ‘Return to sender’. 

The Queen’s death faded from the news agenda and the world rolled on. I buried Nathaniel in his overgrown garden. He deserved a better death, if there is such a thing. I marked his grave with a wooden cross and a small plaque.  

‘Oi, you up there.‘

I hope you enjoyed this story. Please feel free to pass it on to others who may be interested. You can read my previous 500 word stories on my website www.philcoskerwriter.com under ‘Writing’.>>>More

© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

A Familiar Dog

The dog is large, long-haired, and with deep-set black eyes. He sits on a huge heap of rubble near bombed-out apartments in Grozny, Chechnya. An elderly woman, struggling to carry a large hessian sack, is passing. She sees the dog, sets down the sack, picks up a piece of jagged concrete and hurls it at the beast, shouting, Get away! You brought us this! The dog snarls. The woman looses her footing, falls and hits her head; blood flows from a deep gash in her head. The dog watches her die. She’s still. He climbs down from his vantage point, sniffs the dead woman, lifts his back leg and pisses on her. He walks away into a city razed to the ground by endless Russian bombing.

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It is the evening of June 7th 1983. Archie and his wife, Rosy, are watching a Conservative Party Election Broadcast on their twenty-two inch PYE television in the front room of their council house on Orchard Park Estate in Hull. 

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Today I’m going to try and be more measured – fuck knows why.

Okay, hypocrisy.

The government, made of sugar (an aftermath of the slave trade) and all things nice, is supported by Tory MPs who have consistently voted to (or turned a blind eye to):

  • Privatising the NHS
  • Voted not to increase NHS nurses’ pay
  • Slashed NHS and Social Care budgets
  • Introduced Universal credit as a punishment system for the poor and oppressed
  • Increase the spending on Mental health services and done nothing
  • Privatising the NHS
  • Promised to build 14 new hospitals (excluding the Nightingale)
  • Lauded their radical solutions of support for the aged but, done nowt Celebrated austerity

 Need I go on?

But all is well – their coronavirus plans and promises are in disarray – but nevertheless there they all were last night – including the bilious bibulous bonker bastard Boris outside number 10 – clapping his little fat piggy paws in praise of the NHS he sought to destroy – until he needed it! 

Until the government needed to cling to their privilege and let us die on their behalf.

In the First World War soldiers going into battle weren’t properly armed. In this ‘war’ the NHS isn’t either. Why not?  It couldn’t be because soldiers and nurses are predominantly working class and therefore expendable? Just as the old and infirm have been seen by Cummings and his preening poodle, shag-a-lot, Johnson, as natural waste. Or are these Tory c…ts  just totally fucking useless? 

Answers on an email please.

But they say ‘We love the NHS’.

Would I be correct in thinking that what they mean is – Fuck, we’re in the shit, and the only way out of not losing power is to come up with new bollocks about our love of the NHS?

Is this hypocrisy?

Capitalism, and in its neo-liberal iteration, is not for the benefit of all, but for the benefit, the PROFIT, of those who – currently – own the means of material and intellectual production. 

Doctors of medicine, metaphorically, sign the Hippocratic oath to care for the sick.

The lickspittles of capitalism, sign with the broken bones and the blood of all they oppress, their Capitalist oath, asserting their rights, exercising their duty, to exploit all in pursuit of profit and extol their virtues via the Daily Mail with the goodness of their hearts. 

Money, money, money, that’s what they adore.

And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I have learnt that my rants become loquacious.

So, let me be focussed.


Until we call them out. Tell them they lie. Until we take responsibility, then we have nothing to blame but ourselves as we complain of our chains. 

We have moved beyond what Lenin said – arm the proletariat, not because it needs to defeat the ruling class but because it needs to defeat itself. 

We need to defeat our own cynicism. 

To do this we must abhor hypocrisy.

Make the world anew. Now is the time. The last time?

Unless we act we are the problem.

No ecocide. 

For the new better abnormal normal.

© Phil Cosker 03.04.2020


Olga Tokarczuk’s novel is magnificent.


The title comes from William Blake.

The blurb on the back cover is good but doesn’t do it full justice.

I couldn’t put it down.

There is so much to take from this work e.g. what Fieldfares can do to an attacking hawk; “Newspapers rely on keeping us in a constant state of anxiety, on diverting our emotions away from the things that really matter to us.” And insight and argument into the human condition in the this century and the dilemmas we all face and not just in Poland.

Please read this book

Brexit nightmares

Oscar Wile said, “the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.”

May is the unspeakable is in pursuit of the unacceptable.

Corbyn is the ‘acceptable’ in pursuit of what ????

Come on Labour get your act together or are you going to create an alliance with the extreme right believing that catastrophe will bring about a socialist revolution. If you are  – shame on you.

I am a member of the Labour Party