‘freely and fiercely inventive short stories… supercharged with ideas.’ Jon Gower, reviewing Pugnacious Little Trolls by Rob Mimpriss for Nation Cymru. ‘Where is the Welsh short story going? Wherever Rob Mimpriss takes it.’ John O’Donoghue. Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Bathed in white fire in every sense... Borges would happily own them.’ Gee Williams on Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘A fine Welsh writer working under the radar who deserves to be much better known.’ Nation Cymru greeting Pugnacious Little Trolls, a new collection of short stories published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Beyond question Wales’s finest and most subtle short-story writer working today... A work of great beauty and subtle force, a fine, distinctive voice.’ Jim Perrin on Pugnacious Little Trolls. ‘Zestful playfulness... along with a grand energy and capacity for invention.’ Jon Gower reviewing Pugnacious Little Trolls for Nation Cymru. ‘Dark, complex, pensively eloquent’ (Sophie Baggott, New Welsh Review) — Reasoning, For His Warriors and Prayer at the End, three short-story collections now published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Heaving with loss, regret and familial bonds.’ Annexe Magazine on ‘Gemini,’ a short story in Prayer at the End, published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Lucid, skilful, and above all, of enormous timely relevance’ (Jim Perrin). Rob Mimpriss’s new translation of Morgan Llwyd’s allegorical masterpiece, A Book of Three Birds. ‘There is nothing ostentatious about his writing... And yet the best of these pieces express something important about psychology and human relationships, and the sparseness of the writing is capable of considerable power.’ Brian George, The Short Review. ‘These stories are a rare kind of joy. Even when they approach moments of discontent and danger they bring an optimism founded in human relationships. This is a wonderful collection.’ Prof. Graëme Harper, editor, New Writing. ‘An invaluable translation.’ Angharad Price on Hallowe’en in the Cwm, the short stories of Owen Wynne Jones, translated by Rob Mimpriss. ‘Humour and pity often arise from the characters’ inability to understand themselves and those close to them. In suggesting the truth and the self-deception Mimpriss not only engages our sympathy but makes us question our assumptions about ourselves.’ Caroline Clark, gwales.com ‘Quietly written, contemplative... whose powerhouse is the depth of its moral reflection.’ Siân Preece, Rhys Davies Competition on ‘Hamilton Park,’ published in Prayer at the End. ‘An immaculate collection.’ Nigel Jarrett, twice winner of the Rhys Davies Award, on Prayer at the End, a collection of short stories by Rob Mimpriss published by Cockatrice Books. ‘Through the stealthy movements of his prose, Rob Mimpriss enacts the quiet enigma of people’s lives and relationships. The result is an understated fiction of compelling intensity.’ Prof M Wynn Thomas. ‘The story is called ‘Valiant’ in the collection, For His Warriors. I recommend it. Highly. It feels to me already like a classic.’ Fiona Owen, editor, Scintilla. ‘A quiet writer with a loud voice... I’ll be listening for more.’ Michael Nobbs, gwales.com on Reasoning: Twenty Stories, published by Cockatrice Books. ‘In the most seemingly unremarkable of Rob Mimpriss’s pieces there is a skill, and a mystery and elusiveness to that skill, which other short-story writers might envy.’ Gee Williams. ‘Industry in the Country of the Blind,’ new fiction in Land of Change, radical prose from Wales edited by Gemma Howell and forthcoming from Culture Matters. ‘This exemplary collaboration’ (Philip Gross). Dangerous Asylums, an anthology of fiction by leading Welsh writers, inspired by Denbigh Mental Hospital, edited by Rob Mimpriss.

‘The World, the Flesh and the Rev. Howell Jones’ was first published in Cambrensis 27 (1996), pp. 3-6.

The World, the Flesh and the Rev. Howell Jones: A Short Story

At 11:55 one Friday morning, the Rev (in name only) Howell Jones, obese and a smoker, suffered the first of three strokes that carried him off to his Maker when his son, John the builder, had slipped out for a hourī. This was in the basement living room of his house, No.7 Coed y Bryn, one of those endless black stone terraces on a hill overlooking the south coast.

The Rev Howell Jones sat in his patched arm chair, and at his feet lay the aged black Labrador, Schopenhauer, who continued to gaze adoringly at his master as the first of his convulsions passed over him. The whisky tumbler shook in his hand, shedding plashes of alcohol onto his trousers and into his face; the cigarette fell, providentially, into the basin of the candlestick that the Rev Jones kept by his side as an ash tray; the hand followed it, clutched at the candlestick, and shook it as he shook, releasing mingled smoke and ash into the air.

The Rev Jones’s house was large and sparsely inhabited. In the basement was the Rev Jones’s apartment: his bedroom, his living room and the kitchenette, which John used to cook their meals. The floor above that, the ground floor, was John’s domain: it contained the nether household’s bathroom, John’s own kitchen, which seldom contained more than a loaf of bread, some sour milk and some coffee, his bedroom and other, empty rooms. The floor above that was the realm of the lodger, skinny Steven the dreamy-eyed poet, the collector of rejection slips and the butt of many jokes, which with the sensitivity of all his clan, he remembered and did not forgive. Steven endured that household for the sake of cheap rent and comparative independence, being content to meet John on the stairs, or when the two door bells were confused by a caller. Occasionally he ventured into the basement sitting room to present the rent, and only find whisky or curry pressed upon him, or the conversation fall away enticingly into philosophy, or ecclesiology, or anthropology or poetry - but at other times he was seldom inconvenienced by his landlords, for he seldom heard them. Steven was in his living room that morning, and hard at work, but if he heard a faint voice filtering up through the floorboards, calling as though drunkenly for medical assistance, he assumed John was in, or pretended to be out, or was unaware of it.

The Reverend gave up screaming. Holding once again onto the candlestick for support, he levered his half-paralysed body further forward in his seat, and gave Schopenhauer a nudge with his toe. ‘Go on,’ he muttered. ‘Fetch the lodger. Fetch Steven.’ Schopenhauer was not sore distressed. He licked the ecclesiastical boot, and then licked his private parts for good measure. ‘Steven!’ said the Reverend, and continued the prodding. ‘You know Steven! Where is he?’ The dog gave it up for a bad job, and moved out of reach.

On the side of the room close to the door was a small tiled fireplace, and over the fireplace a shelf. Framed above this was a certificate of the Reverend’s ordination, and next to that, not framed, was a letter informing him that he had been defrocked. The shelf contained a censer and a picture of the Virgin (the Reverend had flirted with High Church) and a framed post card of the Devil’s Kitchen, Snowdonia. To the right of the fireplace was a stack of books, including the Bhagavat-Gita and the Qū’ran, and a bundle of letters, for the Reverend had flirted with other things. Leaning against the books was a bronze poker. The Reverend’s mind, in the hope of encouraging the dog, fixed itself on the poker. Repenting the neglect of castors, he put his foot to the floor and pushed. The chair moved slightly. This new disturbance was sufficient for Schopenhauer. He picked himself up and trotted to the door. The door was ajar. Schopenhauer sat down on his haunches again, and looked at the door handle hopefully.

Steven, the lodger, had a secret. In this house of dodgy building deals and defrocked clergymen, it was not much of a secret, but it was damning enough. His Divine Grace expected the highest standards of moral and legal probity in his lodgers; all other aspects of his life were above board; and this was only, as it were, in the course of duty. Haunted by the image of a circus sea lion spinning a beach ball which, his instincts assured him, possessed some unfathomable universal significance, and now bothered again by his landlord shouting drunken abuse at the dog, Steven produced this guilty secret from a drawer, rolled some of it into a cigarette, and set a match to it. Reclining on the floor, he exhaled significance through his nostrils.

The Rev Jones suffered the second of his strokes, and stopped shouting. By dint of effort, pushing with his one good arm against the back of the seat, he had managed to bring himself to a half-standing position, and now he slumped back, with his face towards the ceiling. Pain passed over him, the first he had felt.

The door on the Reverend’s left led into the kitchen. On draining boards a little rusted, an impressive collection of used saucepans and plates had built up. There was also, by the over-flowing rubbish bin, a plate for the dog, in which the flies were starting to take an unhealthy interest. A back door led onto waste ground, which commanded a view of the hill and the sea. From here, if the Reverend had been able to move, he would have seen a rusty green estate car labouring up the hill.

The car was John’s. Inside it was John himself, driving, a packet of cigarettes, a bottle of whisky and a few four-packs, and John’s girlfriend, Jeanette. The cigarettes and the whisky were intended for his father’s consumption, the four-packs and the girl for his own. Jeanette, who believed John loved her, sat in the passenger seat and allowed his hand to stray over the more desirable parts of her anatomy.

From where His Rotundity was now slumped he could see the ceiling, blackened over his chair with a halo of smoke. A filigree of cracks decorated the ceiling, a message of warning on which Steven had commented with alarm and which John had dismissed as unimportant. The ceiling also sagged very slightly. The Reverend swallowed with difficulty, and closed his eyes.

A key turned in a lock. The dog pricked his ears. Upstairs, the front door opened, and feet were heard on the stair. ‘I’ve got the whisky, Dad!’ came John’s voice. The dog was transfigured by this annunciation. Overcoming his reluctance to move and his inability to move doors simultaneously, he put his nose round the door and pulled. Short seconds later John entered.

‘You all right, Dad?’ he said.

But Dad did not reply. His eyes moved to follow John as he crossed the room; his lips quivered, but produced only a moan.

‘He’s got himself stone drunk,’ said John.

And at this point Jeanette entered. ‘John, I think he’s had some kind of fit,’ she said warningly.

She walked across the room and bent over him. The Reverend saw her neck like a smooth white tower, her breasts hanging limply over his face, and her legs, an ecstatic, delectable bareness, rising like pillars to the sublime and dizzy heights of her skirt. With this final, adorable vision before him, he turned up his heels and died.

As he did it, John howled.

The Shulamite left him to it. Running upstairs to call a doctor, she bumped into Steven who was staggering down. He was holding a spliff, and had a vacant expression. ‘What’s the noise?’ he demanded, and Jeanette told him. But somehow, the information failed to make an impression. He looked blank, and carried on downstairs.

John looked up as Steven entered. ‘Help me move him,’ he pleaded, without clear intention. Steven put down his spliff and joined him. Together they heaved and grunted for a while, and slowly it began to dawn on John that Steven’s help was doing more harm than good. He noticed the spliff, and the vacant expression.

‘What are you smoking?’ he demanded, belligerently.

‘Smoking?’ said Steven.

‘Give me that!’ said John, took hold of the cigarette, and sniffed. His face was bright red when he looked at Steven.

‘Get out!’ he said.

Jeanette found the telephone in John’s living room. It was a pay-phone. She looked in her purse for change, and gave up; started scanning surfaces, opening drawers. Finally she thought of John’s bedroom. With her hand on the door, she heard the shouting. She ran downstairs, and met Steven going up.

‘Where are you going?’ she demanded.

‘To pack,’ said Steven.

‘Sod that!’ said Jeanette. ‘Call a doctor!’ She pushed past him, and ran downstairs.

But entering the basement room she stopped, and nearly screamed. It was a sight more terrifying than Arjuna’s vision of Sri Krishna in his four armed form, but it was only John, man-handling the dead body of his father across the room by his arm-pits. Jeanette leaned back against the door frame in relief. ‘You scared the bloody life out of me,’ she said.

But John ignored her. He reached the door; Jeanette backed off; and he stopped. Backing away up the stairs, Jeanette heard scuffling, creaking, the occasional curse, and then a heavy thud as John dropped his burden, and started to cry his eyes out as though there were no consolation.

Alarm gave way to curiosity, and Jeanette descended the stairs. Standing in the doorway it was obvious what had happened, a delayed revelation of indignity. At last His Rotundity had attained to such girth, that in death his body would not fit through the door.

I am the author of four short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End and Pugnacious Little Trolls in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016. I am a contributor with Nigel Jarrett, Rachel Trezise, Tristan Hughes and others to Brush with Fate (Albawtaka, 2014), an anthology of Welsh fiction in Arabic translation by Hala Salah Eldin, to Land of Change (Culture Matters), and to Creative Writing Studies (Multilingual Matters, 2007), essays on writing as an academic discipline edited by Graëme Harper and Jeri Kroll, and of the foreword to Rivers of Wales by Jim Perrin (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2022).

I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, 2017), A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017), and of fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros. I was Artistic Coordinator of the North Wales Mental Health Research Project convened by Prof. David Healy at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and am the editor of Cockatrice Books. I hold a Ph.D. in Creative and Critical Writing from Portsmouth University, and am a member of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars in recognition of my academic work, and of the Welsh Academy in acknowledgement of my contributions to Welsh writing.