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 hopelessness by Leon Coleman.

Leon Coleman lives and writes in Manchester, England. His first publication was in 2019, when he placed third in the Henshaw Press Short Story Competition. Since then, Leon’s fiction has appeared in LitroThe London ReaderThe Fiction PoolBanditLiterally StoriesMisery TourismHenshaw Three and elsewhere. In 2020 he won The Cheshire Prize for Literature short story award. His next goal is to publish a collection.

‘Capricorn’ follows a woman in a hopeless job trying to move forward with her life.



Her head spins, her feet ache, and the ‘Idle’ icon counts the seconds since her last call, while the on-screen graphic transitions from green to amber, about to turn red. With a sigh, she rolls her neck and stares at the blue icon that says ‘Free’.

In her last review, concerns were raised about her performance statistics. She can’t delay. Her mouse twitches, and she’s back in.

‘You’re through to Sandra, how can I help?’ she says, answering the call.

Mr Jones is annoyed that he’s waited twenty minutes to get through. After apologising, she completes authentication.

‘What’s going on with my Direct Debit?’

‘Oh, which one is that?’

‘The one for my car insurance.’

‘Let me check…  Oh, it looks like it was unpaid.’

‘Yes, I know that, but why?’ His voice rising.

‘Unfortunately, there were insufficient funds available.’

‘You’re kidding me. I was only paid four days ago.’

‘Yes, you were paid on Friday, but other payments have left your account, leaving insufficient funds—’

‘Well, why didn’t you return some of the other payments instead? Like the gym, or the internet, or council tax? Why did you have to stop my bloody car insurance?’

‘I’m sorry, they just—’

‘How am I supposed to get to work if I can’t drive my car? And if I don’t work then how am I going to pay these bills next month? Answer me that.’

Sandra checks for overdraft and loan recommendations. She hopes that he will have some options, but the system indicates that he is overindebted. There’s nothing she can do. The sky outside is starless, and the colossal floor-to-ceiling windows reflect the open-plan office like a mirror. She sits tethered to the desk by a corded headset.

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