Kim Farleigh




Cruel Laughter

Tortoise-shell glasses framed Marc’s lively, brown eyes. He worked in Foyles, a leading London bookshop. With his typically huge smile, he said: “A workmate has written three novels. He’s forty-five and hasn’t published anything.”

“Is age important for publishing?” I asked.

“It’s an indicator,” Marc replied. “I’m writing a novel about him. Obviously, he doesn’t know.”

“About false illusions?” I asked.


“Maybe he might have to sell the book in Foyles,” I said.

“Imagine the reviews,” Marc replied.

Marc raised his chin, feigning an announcement, and said: “The bookseller’s colleague’s award-winning book decimates the bookseller, who, forced to promote his own foolishness, suffers complete humiliation at the hands of his own delusion.”

He was feeling so good, I asked: “Do you get discounts at Foyles?”

“Twenty-five-percent on all purchases.”

“There’s no limit?”


“So you can buy books for friends?”

“Why do you think I work there?”

Being from a privileged background, adversity had avoided him.

“Can I bring a friend to next week’s sales?” I asked.

“Fine by me.”

My friend asked: “There’s no limit?”

“That’s what he said.”

“Can’t be right.”

“I know. But that’s what he said.”

“Okay; if that’s what he said.”

We stacked books on Marc’s counter during the sales, Marc’s self-assurance washed away by swelling concern that flooded his eyes with worry. As I had brought Anthea because “no limit existed,” I ignored his concern. My priority was her.

At the section’s other till, a man’s greying hair swayed in floppy ringlets. That man’s V-shaped beard ended in a moustache. He resembled a sixteenth-century Spanish conquistador. Parallel forehead lines curved in unison with his black eyebrows, like thought shock waves. His fourth novel, about a bookseller, who dreamt about becoming a writer, and who had to spend two hundred and twenty-seven pounds when he invited two people to buy books during the sales, won the Booker Prize.

The one-hundred-and-fifty-pound The History Of Photography I snared during those sales became a collector’s item.

“He looked worried,” I said, as we had left Foyles that night.

“Serves him right,” Anthea had replied, “for being so cocky.”

The History Of Photography is now worth thousands. Xavier La Fontaine’s fourth novel, Judgement Day For The Jealous Judge, has now sold millions.

Anthea said: “Thousands have bought the book in Foyles just to see Marc’s reaction!”

We giggled. Cruelty is better expressed through laughter than aggression.

Marc’s illusions led to Anthea and I to becoming lovers, “no limit” having been used to entice her to the sales.

The press said Marc refused an interview after La Fontaine won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Marc’s three novels remain unpublished. I sold The History of Photography for twenty-five thousand pounds.

Such is life.






Kim Farleigh has worked for NGO’s in Greece, Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine and Macedonia. He likes to take risks to get the experience required for writing. He likes painting, art, photography and architecture. 151 of his stories have been accepted by 89 different magazines.

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