Five Reasons To Be A Star


SKU e-book Category

134 in stock


By Sarah Barter

ISBN: 978-1-905610-85-3
Published: 2007
Pages: 85
Key Themes: short stories, self-help, polymorphic psychosis, stress, recovery



Coming soon.

About the Author

Sarah was born in a small town in Staffordshire to Ben and Antoinette and grew up in an idyllic location in a cottage in the woods, with horses, donkeys, goats, chickens and ducks, dogs and cats.

She was educated in Staffordshire too, but by her Secondary school her parents had found work commitments too difficult to keep the cottage and they moved into Stafford itself, where she lived near the railway line. Her grandmother lived with the family, and was a great influence on Sarah, and one of the characters in her novel, ‘The Conspiracy Theorist’s Alphabet’ is based on her.
Sarah was encouraged by her A’ Level teacher to become a writer, and was fond of writing short stories. These became a collection of short stories called ‘Five Reasons To Be A Star’.

Sarah is now seeking publication for a further novel, which is called ‘Concepts of Time’, and will shortly begin work on another one.

Book Extract

The road where Nick and I lived was past the hospital and the library on the left hand side. The houses were modern with small front gardens and patios with plants and flowers. I was sitting outside now, on the pavement, rolling a bottle of cold beer round in my hand. I had a short dress on in a summer fabric. I was wearing sneakers and smoking to the calm sound of the angel chimes on the window spinning round. I felt an empty daze in my heart and a hot ray of sunlight in my eyes. I reached out for the newspaper but the only thing that was taking up my head was the way Nick had got into mine. He would be upstairs now, thinking of new ways to drive me crazy.

I had the ambition at this time to become an actress. I used up all my free time having makeovers done and photos taken to achieve the correct look and sparkle and made appointments with agents, whoever would see me. This took out most of my college time.

Nick was really quite clever though. To get around this problem, he had devised a plan whereby I would get practice for my acting and go to college and he would record all my progress for me, and write it into a comedy later.

Nick was an artist who made money as a draftsman. He planned car parks and illustrated gardens for magazines.

Tamzin, my cousin who lived a few doors down, came up the road. I let us both into the kitchen with the key I wore around my neck and lifted her onto the breakfast bar.

‘How are you, gorgeous?’ I asked, ‘did you have a good day at school?’
I put a set of crayons on the breakfast bar and went upstairs to call Nick. This was the time we usually walked to the water park if he had time.

I got on my shoes while Nick closed down the application on the computer.

‘What you drawing, Tamzin?’ he asked a few minutes later. He got no answer. Tamzin stuck her tongue out and concentrated a little bit harder. Nick went to the tall fridge and got her a glass of milk.

‘Can you come with us?’ she asked.

‘No, darling, I have too much work to do,’ he said.

He went upstairs and we waited in the lounge until he finished his work on the computer. When we finally got to go to the park the sky was iron grey. Tamzin fed the geese and Nick watched as the sun set over the pylons. He had located one of his exes and was ready to put the plan into reality.

That night, as we lay in front of the TV, I aired my thoughts, although I knew there was really no point. The thoughts in our heads must have been identical, because we took in information every night from the same channel. I hated to think that we were held to ransom by this little grey box in the corner, for want of money. Held to ransom for a few golden coins.

It was okay making plans, but Nick’s plans made me realize just how different we really were.

Nick wanted me to go visiting all the ex-girlfriends he had ever had, asking them questions he had never found the answer to. He wanted me to pick up an old sweater he had left at one house, and find out why he and his ex had split and so on. How could he demand something like that from me? To help my acting skills he explained. To make the most of my ability to make something out of thin air.

That night, I rang Richard, Tamzin’s father. Nick had been out with Tamzin’s teacher a year or so before. He thought it was as good a plan as any other. Clare was Tamzin’s music teacher. Of course, I would be going with my brother to the concert, it was normal.

I was nervous as I sat in the auditorium in my tight black dress. I listened to the Head teacher rambling on. I watched as Clare looked proudly and yet warningly at the children as if they might run off the stage. The Head teacher’s speech went on and on.

There was something heroic, repetitive and meaningless there. There was something infinitely satisfying. As the teacher’s voice rose to the rafters, I felt my own task there increasing in my own estimation, as if was really a role play in which I really could be marked technically excellent.

A nervous boy of about ten took to the stage. Clare’s fingers flew over the keys in accompaniment.

At the end of the concert, I said no to a lift home with Tamzin and my brother, saying I would walk in the summer air. I saw Clare standing by the hatch to the food counter, looking through her music.

She had her back to me and her hair was red and long, tied up in a cheerful striped scarf. I approached her with a smile, which I hoped looked perfect for a natural, social smile.

‘Clare?’ I took a few steps forward and nervously extended my hand. ‘You used to go out with my friend, Nick’.

‘Yes, I did go out with Nick!’ Clare looked and answered surprised.

The hall was nearly empty. But she responded when I asked if we could talk by leading me beyond the classrooms on the ground floor, to a narrow staircase covered with pictures, one of them was the head of a woman painted in green, with a lovely soft look about her like she was made of clay, and her hair was all soft and her black eyes were kind.

When they got to the top the pictures were less professional and looked like they could have been done by the children, and some of them were needlework. Clare led the way into the attic.

She sat down behind a large roll top desk and reached across an arm to snap the blinds upwards. She revealed a view of playing fields and flashed an efficient and concentrated smile in my direction.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said, given the loneliness of the situation and the heavy paperweight which held down her marking. ‘It would take me years to escape from behind this desk.’

I took a deep breath and took out my notepad and pen. ‘How long did you go out with Nick for?’ I scribbled down the answer – two years. The questions followed one after another. ‘I am trying to stop a psychological repetition of failure,’ I said. ‘I want to know why you split up.’

‘We weren’t compatible in many ways,’ was Clare’s starting point. The list of differences and disputes spiralled into a full three-page essay.

Suddenly, sensing noise behind me, I turned and looked at the door. Dry ice was rolling underneath it towards me. I shrieked as Clare’s eyes started to flash on and off neon pounds and dollar signs and cherries from the fruit machine. Then she shrank to the size of a doll and started singing, ‘I’ve been used and abused for years.’ I took one last look at the desk and found she had turned into a spider.

I didn’t hesitate any longer. I turned and ran away down the stairs into the street. I looked neither up the street, nor down the street, but turned into the road by the traffic lights and went next door to a café over the road to get my head together.

Nick was dead excited by the results of my ‘interview with the vampire’, as he called it. He said he would put together a file of results, so that I would be even more sophisticated next time. He was sure if I videoed myself with a hidden camera keying into these raw emotions, I would be sure to get a part in a film.

Every time I went out I hoped to see Clare, but it was a long time before I saw the flame-coloured hair and the distinctive scarf again. I recognized her one day when she was standing in front of me at the cash machine.

That day, I got in to find Nick standing up at the sink where he was mixing up paint.

‘Nick, how could you?’ I complained. I grabbed a big handful and threw it at him. We both grabbed big handfuls of paint and threw it at each other until we were both laughing and we ran upstairs and shoved it in each other’s face and collapsed in the bath.

The next assignment came a few days later. It was time to deal with Nicky. Nicky was a Doctor who researched into Cancer Studies. When Nicky had begun her career she was shocked by the way the losses kept coming on. Now she was more practiced. She could cut out cancers as efficiently and swiftly and as effectively as Henry the Eighth could cut off his partners’ head.

Nicky was in the phone book under Pollard. The street was quiet and hushed. It was cold. The car with the stereo on was parked just a hundred yards or so away from the front door, behind which was Nicky. This was psychological warfare. I ran through the details.
1. Pretend you know her from training college.

2. Mention the names Nick’s told you.

‘Hello Nicky,’ I said smoothly as the front door opened away from the road.

‘We haven’t seen each other for a long time.’ Nicky smiled. Her open face was a picture of untroubled beauty.

I held out my hand, and also flashed a photograph. ‘Training college 1991,’ I said. ‘Oh, come in!’ said Nicky. Nicky was small and dark. Her hair was cut in a dark bob.

I followed Nicky into a small, pretty hall with a marbled floor and into the lounge where there were silver ashtrays on small coffee tables, it was honey-coloured. Nicky was an occasional smoker, and she reached for one now. She thought, ‘long time no see?’ But Nick had said Nicky was ditzy. He was right. No sooner had she taken the cigarette out of the packet and smoked it than she reached for a tub of Evening Primrose hand-cream from under a purple cushion and started rubbing it into her hands. She was an associative thinker, Nick had said. I was wearing the clothes Nick told me to increase the familiarity.

I had come in for information and interview again, a scenario based role play, but this time Nick had dared me to add some action. I had therefore come in for something else as well.

In the corner of the lounge, there was a silver dog, a Dalmatian. It was life-size and Nick had told me that it was valuable. It was by a black fireplace. Now that I knew the corridors I had to navigate to get back to the street, I decided to seize the moment.

‘Have you got any pictures of that time, Nicky?’ I asked sweetly.
‘Only I’ve been away.’

Nicky was lighting her cigarette again. She left the room to get the photos and I hear the footsteps disappearing upstairs. I grabbed a hold of the silver dog. I stuffed it under my jumper and ran out into the street to the car where Nick was waiting.

Now, the last trip I made for the partnership was to a cul-de-sac where someone lived who Nick had loved many years ago. When I saw her I realized many things had changed. The door was opened by a woman in a wheelchair who was small and bent over. She pointed to the sky as if to signal to me that it was about to rain. She moved back to allow me into the hall.

There was the sound of happy laughter coming from the kitchen. Sarah laughed.

‘This is my recording of the swimming pool,’ she said. ‘We’re on the children’s swimming section, it makes me laugh.’

I did not say what I had meant to say. Instead, I said that I knew Nick and took Sarah for a swim. In the pool I held Sarah in my arms as she floated while I pulled her along. We looked like Water Boatmen on a bright pond full of other flies. The minute we both reached the side we both reached to the cement floor and took a breath and looked around.

‘I want you to tell me why you and Nick split up,’ I said. ‘Please, tell me all about him.’

Sarah reached herself up out of the water and like a monster she gathered up all her strength and punched me in the face. While I held my jaw and looked at her puzzled Sarah said, ‘I know why you are doing this. But you have got to face facts my love. Nick has been dead for more than two years now.’

If you want hate I can do hate.

Of course I can do hate.


Also Available

‘The Conspiracy Theorist’s Alphabet’ by Sarah Barter
Paperback / e-Book


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