‘Little Ones’ by Ben Halls

A stand-out story from one of the best collections of 2020, ‘Little Ones’ is the story of a bouncer who works the door of a pub on the fictional Quarry Lane estate in west London; a tale that manages to be funny and moving while exploding the myth of masculine invulnerability. Most of the story’s length is taken up with the mundane chat of the doormen; exemplars of emotional inarticulacy, especially when talking about having children – the little ones of the title – or the children who are no longer with them. Like the other stories in the collection, it pivots on a moment of unexpected tenderness and human connection, one which comes at the very end when the narrator makes an unplanned detour on his drive home from his shift; a heartbreaking mission all the more arresting for its lack of saccharine sentiment or bombast. 

First published in The Quarry, Dialogue Books, 2020