All the Magpies Come Out to Play


Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about lockdown by Annalisa Crawford.

Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall, UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons and canine writing partner, Artoo.

Annalisa writes dark, contemporary, character-driven stories, with a hint of the paranormal. She has had many short stories published online and in journals, and has won several competitions: her biggest success to date was third prize in the Costa Short Story Award 2015 with her story Watching the Storm Roll In.

Her first book, Cat & the Dreamer, was published in 2012. Three more collections – from flash to novella – followed, and her first novel Grace & Serenity was published in July 2020. Her second novel, Small Forgotten Moments, will be published by Vine Leaves Press in August 2021.

In her spare time, she is a fitness instructor.

‘All the Magpies Come Out to Play’ focuses on community relationships during lockdown.



The woman in the house opposite sits in her window, net curtains falling in an arch around her. She stares into the deserted road as though watching a switched-off TV waiting for a programme to begin. At regular intervals she wanders off, returning with a sandwich or a cup and saucer, and drinks with her little finger daintily extended. When she’s fed up with the empty street, she reads a book.

Two magpies sit on my fence. One for sorrow, two for joy… The lyrics bounce around in my head. I used to know the whole rhyme, all the way up to ten. Three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for… seven for…

The woman in the house opposite is watching the birds too, and waves when she catches my eye. I wonder if she’s been waving for a long time, eager for my reaction. Or if she’s waving to the people next door and I’ve intercepted it. Are the people next door also looking out of their window? Are we all?

I’m not actually at my window, I’m sitting on the sofa against the back wall, facing the TV which in my case is on. I’m watching repeats on Netflix – my mind is wandering too much to try something new, something I’d have to focus on. I drift and dream, and when I return the story isn’t where I left it.

It’s possible she sits at her window every day, while I’m new to it – new to the concept of being home on a weekday morning.

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