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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Leanee the Mermaid

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This is more of an opening to a longer story I think but the brief was to write a 1000 word short story around someone else's sentence. I chose this

    "She rises through black waters, leaving the City behind, and as the light above glimmers and grows, she knows she will need to remember how to breathe."

Leanee was up early, she'd hardly slept anyway. Today she was leaving her world and the excitement made her tremble.
''Don't be afraid child. I know you are small but you have great strength from your breeding and loving support from your people.'' said Mother. Leanee didn't say ''I'm not afraid, I just can't think because I'm so happy to be going'', instead she whispered to her mother. ''I won't let you down, you don't have to worry.''

Now she was on her way, swimming strongly eyes wide open, she rises through black waters, leaving the City behind, and as the light above glimmers and grows, she knows she will need to remember how to breathe.
'I have been to the surface before, I have to pull air in through my nose and mouth. My lungs will expand and my gills will relax. It's easy.'

Leanee pops her head up out of the water, sucking in air as she looks around. The air tastes sweet, just as she remembered and the coast looks familiar.
'I must be close to the meeting place.' ''Hello, hello.'' Her voice sounds odd, it lacks all the resonance that water gave it and sounds faint almost timid. Her mother had reminded her of this before she'd left. ''Yes Mother, you were right.'' she says looking down, ''as usual''.
Taking her bearings from the rising Sun and the headland to the North she turns and swims along the coast.

At Gythio a boy stared out to sea. He'd got up before Dawn too and had been pacing along the beach to settle his nerves.
'Will she come? Will I like her? I've learned a lot about Merpeople but I don't know if we'll be friends. I must be gentle, Father said.'
He pulls the pipes from his waistband and blows a note. Merpeople loved music he'd been told and Memnos had composed a new tune in preparation for this day. He sits down on a rock and plays, closing his eyes to let the music flow better. He began to enjoy himself, Memnos was brought up in the wooded areas of Greece. His family usually travelled around the southern coast in Winter and moved up to northern forests in Summer, this year Memnos had stayed behind close to this beach waiting, although the Sun was hot on his fur.

Leanee knows when she's arrived at the right place; like most of her people she has sensitive nostrils that help her identify places by sampling the water she moves through. Now with her head above the water her ears hear music and she catches sight of Memnos.
She pulls herself up onto a rock and unfastens her tail. She looks at the boy, noticing the tiny horns on his head above ears that were twitching in her direction. He was obviously pretending not to see her. She smiles at her Mother's comment that Memnos' folk were not renowned for tact. Merpeople thought self restraint was important and Leanee had been in trouble for being too friendly with everyone she met.

She stands up, tucks the tail under arm, breathes deeply and walks a little unsteadily towards him. Memnos plays his new melody again .

'That's a pretty tune. I like it.'

Memnos opens his eyes to look at her. 'Thank you I'm happy it pleased you. I'm glad we have the chance to talk together before they come.'

Leanee decides she likes him because he makes her feel comfortable.

' My mother told me your people were friendly and fun to be with. I expected you to have your family with you. I'm told you're more sociable than us sea-dwellers.'

'We thought it would be easier if there was only me here. I've already said my Goodbyes.'

'I can see that was hard for you. You miss them, don't you?'

'I do, yes, but I'm excited about the future too. Do you know anything about the Offworlders?'

'No.' Leanee frowned. ' I don't think any of us ever met one before.'

'Same here; that's a pity. I hope we don't get too much of a shock.' Memnos laughs. 'They can't have grown extra arms or heads can they?'

'I don't know. Mother told me the Offworlders are highly advanced people, but would you need to create extra limbs to live in Space?'

'We're about to find out. Look.' Memnos points to the West where a craft is flying towards them.
They watch as it circles overhead and then comes vertically  straight down a short distance away. After a moment a door opens then a ramp is lowered.

Leanee swallows hard, Memnos nods at her and they walk together toward the Offworlder craft. A glow shows inside, it grows steadily brighter until it's too strong for Leanee's eyes. Memnos sees her falter and takes her hand. Then he gasps as the Offworlder comes down the ramp.

'It's an Angel. It has wings. I never believed in Angels.'

The tall shining figure has an old lined face. It opens it's arms and says.

' I never believed in Fauns or Mermaids until today. My name is Michael, please come aboard and I'll take you to my home.'

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Last Third is mine.

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 A story by 3 authors

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Half a Clue

I'm gradually getting photos in order, so I thought I'd jump back into the Friday Flash Fiction with Chuck Wendig's weekly challenge. This week, the challenge was to continue a story begun last week by another Wendigo. I selected Jemima Pett's fun mystery, "Half a Clue." Just because he can, Chuck changed the rules on us after the first week, so Ms. Pett's half a story is now 1/3 of a story. Or whatever he insists on. I complicated things enough for several more 500-word segments if needed.

Oh, and I finished early, so my Friday flash goes up on Thursday. So sue me.

Half a Clue

(This is what Jemima Pett wrote last week)
The last thing Scarlett expected to find that morning was a dead body.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the excitement of the previous evening she had not slept well. The stuffy old dinner party had turned out to be so much more. As usual, she had been seated next to the vicar, and his groping hands had strayed to her thigh on several occasions. Her mother had asserted some years earlier that little girls did not tell tales, especially about such a respectable person. On maintaining the truth of her allegations, she had been sent to her bed without supper for five consecutive days. She had learned to endure and avoid as a result.

The only person she had confided in was Alba White, the cook. To her immense relief, Alba just nodded. “Say nothing more,” she had advised, and gave her a signal to give to the butler. On the next occasion the vicar’s attentions became too intimate, Scarlett acted as planned, and the reverend was mysteriously taken ill after the sweet course. Last night it happened again, and Scarlett hoped the man of a different god than hers could see it was divine retribution.

She had thrown off that mischief after dinner. Russell Peacock, home from the war, and his mother had been the centre of attention. Russell only had five days leave, but he looked so handsome – and so grown up since their last meeting in the summer. They had known each other since childhood, of course, but there was something so different about him now, it made her heart fizz. Even their entrance had been exciting. Reeves had announced them, of course, but as Russell had shaken her father’s hand his eyes had turned to her, that sudden spark shooting through her, confirming his thoughts were on her as much as hers were of him.

He had done his duty to the rest of the company, of course, and he and Scarlett had only minutes together before dinner was announced, minutes that Scarlett had dissected and savoured in the early hours when she was trying to sleep. Of course, she also examined the scene that, having simmered throughout dinner, finally erupted afterwards. How dare the stuffy old Colonel disagree with Russell about his analysis of the Hun? What right had he to call Russell a ‘young pup’? Scarlett thought Russell had been most heroic in the way he controlled his rising embarrassment tinged with ire. The Colonel was drunk even before he arrived, or so she had heard the professor whisper as he gently led the old soldier onto the terrace after the meal.

Scarlett’s only regret about the evening was its premature ending; Russell and his mother had to return early to nurse his sick father.

So much for Scarlett to think about. No wonder she had risen early to see the dawn. It had just been the last thing she expected to find: Colonel Mustard, in the library, a revolver by his side.


[And hereis where I take up the tale]

Scarlett drew in a breath to scream, then thought better of it. A scream would draw the whole household, blustering or hysterical as their personalities dictated. She closed her mouth and rang for Reeves.

She met the butler at the door.  “It’s the Colonel.”

“Has he been taken ill, Miss Scarlett?”

“He’s been taken dead.” Surprised at her own calm bluntness, Scarlett stepped aside to reveal the corpse on the library rug. Reeves sniffed his disapproval, of bodies messing up his rugs and of young ladies finding them.

“You go to the kitchen, and ask Cook for tea. I will telephone the police.”

An hour later, Inspector Clueso had them all lined up in the lounge. A pair of policemen, or surgeons, or something, worked over the thing in the library.

Scarlett had blurted out the news as soon as they were gathered, of course. Colonel Mustard was dead in the library, with a revolver at his side. Speculation ran wild. Whose revolver? Had he shot himself? Had someone else shot him, and left the gun to make it look like suicide? Who could have hated the old army man that much? People got annoyed with the Colonel, with his rambling stories and his dogmatic pronouncements, but they didn’t generally care that much what he said.

Scarlett hadn’t mentioned what her quick look at the body had shown her: that the gun had not killed the Colonel. And she very much doubted he had killed himself. Not that way.

The Inspector looked over the household. Mrs. White managed the staff at one end of the room, while Reeves kept the family and guests comfortable in the over-stuffed chairs around the fire. “Is anyone missing who was here last night?”

Scarlett glanced at her mother. “There’s the Vicar,” she ventured. “Reverend Green.”

“But he went home after the pheasant, poor man,” her mother protested. “He said he felt rather ill, and I’m sure he looked it.”

Scarlett avoided looking at Reeves. She was sure the Vicar had felt very ill indeed.

The professor cleared his throat. “There was Mrs. Peacock and her son. They departed rather early, as the senior Mr. Peacock is ill. Young Mr. Peacock is home on leave from France.”

Scarlett glared at him. How dare Professor Plum hint that Russell could have had anything to do with it? She thought of the Colonel’s blustering dismissal of all Russell’s opinions about the war. But Russell had kept his temper so beautifully! And anyway, he and his mother had been long gone before this had happened. Well, the Inspector would have to figure it out. At least so far he’d been smart enough not to mention how the man had really died.

Scarlett glanced out the tall windows that opened onto the garden, and her heart began to pound. Russell Peacock was crossing the wide lawn, his cap pushed back and lips pursed as he whistled a tune she couldn’t hear, but imagined was “A Long Way to Tipperary.”

(My piece)

Russell came in from the garden, still whistling until he saw the assembled faces looking at him.

"I say. Whats up? Everyone's looking rather glum."

Inspector Clueso spoke "Per'aps you can helpme. There's been a murder."

He pointed at Russell. "You 'ad a quarrel wiz Colonel Mustard last night?"

"Not exactly. He just didn't think I understood much about war. It was nothing."

"But you did not, how you say?, kiss and make up before leaving did you?" Clueso twiddled his moustache as he waited for an answer. Russell started to speak but Scarlett jumped into the interrogation.

"This isn't fair . Russell went home and it was probably Professor Plum who was the last person to see the Colonel alive."

Clueso whirled around to stare at Professor Plum who choked on his cup of tea.

" I only talked to the man for five minutes, tried to calm him down. We smoked a pipe on the terrace then I came in and went to bed."

"You are 'ere as a guest Professor? What kind of Professor are you?"

"I'm an archaeologist Inspector, spent most of the last ten years in Mesopotamia, that's where I first met Mustard, nice fellow, but a bit long-winded."

"Ave you ever seen this before Professor?" Clueso waved an elaborately carved Silver dagger under the Professor's nose.

" I most certainly have. I found it on the Mesopotamian dig. It's at least three thousand years old. Where did you get it?" The Professor bristled.

"I pulled it from the chest of the Colonel Mustard." There was a communal gasp from the room.

"Why was it not in your possession Professor?"

"I'm sure it was locked in my suitcase. I'm going up to London to donate it to the British Museum along with some seals and beads."

"Did anyone else know you 'ad it in your room?"

"I don't think so, maybe the servants." The Professor mopped his brow with a large handkerchief, he looked flustered.

"Then I shall 'ave to arrest you on the charge of murder."

Just then Reeves arrived bringing more tea from the kitchen.

"He was in the Professor's room." said the Vicar who had just come in through the french windows
".....and he's the chap who was trying to poison me! I've been robbed as well."

There was chaos. The Vicar accosted Reeves. The Professor collapsed into an armchair. Russell grabbed Reeves as he tried to hit the Vicar and Clueso watched it all.

"I see it all now........... said Scarlett.
"The Butler Reeves stole the dagger from the Professor's suitcase to sell it. He had it on him when he came into the library. The Colonel who had just said 'Goodnight' to the Professor was still on the terrace. He saw Reeves with the dagger and pulled out his gun. He must have told Reeves that he knew he was a thief and was about to call the police when Reeves threw the dagger into the Colonel's chest!"

Clueso said. "Zhank you Miss Scarlett. I could not have expressed it better. I recognized ze Butler as a expert burglar I had arrested one time before zis. I also know he had made ze Vicar ill so he could enter the Vicarage and steal the valuable paintings there. Now he iz a murderer too."

The constables took Reeves away.

"Per 'aps we should make a partnership Miss Scarlett, you 'ave a flair for the work."

"You're most kind Inspector but I have another partnership in mind." Scarlett smiled as Russell put his arm around her waist. " I think I might have a flair for that too."

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Middle Section

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 Last week I had to write the first 500 words of a story.
This week I'm writing the middle section, another 500 words, to somebody else's story.
I'm following on with Ryanjamesblack's story 'The End of the World according to Bill, Gus and Harry.'
If this is confusing you, head over to and all will become clear.

I should add that Ryan's story is very different to my usual stuff, so it's been quite a challenge to try and do it justice:

The End of the World According to Bill, Gus, and Harry


Three men stand around a table.
They were seated a moment ago, but sit no longer because each of their chairs toppled as they leapt up and pulled out their guns.
Gus’s gun is a Heckler & Koch HK45 semi-automatic pistol that he scavenged out of a pawn shop display case. He has no idea how to use it. It’s pointing in the general direction of Bill’s head.
Bill’s gun is a .357 Magnum that in actuality is not a gun at all. It’s a movie prop. A replica. A rather poor one at that. Regardless of its realness, it’s pointing dead center at Harry’s chest.
Harry’s gun is not a gun at all. Not even a replica. It’s a hand grenade he dug out of the WWII display at his local history museum. It’s a real grenade, but unbeknownst to Harry, a dud. He’s waving it at Gus, the way a Priest might brandish a crucifix towards a vampire.
What’s got these three a-holes wound so tightly? Ready to kill?
Each of them blame the other for the end of the World.
Actually, the end of the human race, I suppose, is more accurate. The World remains. The Starbucks, the Wal-marts, the McDonalds, they’re all still there. Mossy, rank with rotten food, and chalked full of wildlife, but still there. It’s the people that are gone. POOF! All of them. All except for Bill, Gus, and Harry.
I know this because I did it.
I did it, but don’t misunderstand. I’m not responsible. No. One of them is responsible. Bill, Gus, or Harry. One of them summoned me.
Who am I? Well, I have lots of names. Leviathan the Dimension Devourer, the Merciless Void, the Infinite Gaping Pustule, the Fathomless Grotesque. The list goes on and on. You can just call me Levi.
Like the jeans.
Before I take us back to the Gassy Narwhal Pub & Eatery, to the Mexican stand-off between these giant turd sandwiches, let me explain, how in the big empty world, they managed to find each other.
Bill, Gus, and Harry each checked their email…

This is an automated message from Sir/Madam, your profile indicates that you are seeking a female, ages 21 – 45 as a friend/hook-up/mate. Regrettably, all 3,742,567 Soulmatch profiles save the following 3 have expired due to dormancy:
Gus, age 23 – “Whassup ladies? I don’t wanna brag, but a chick once told me if you fed George Clooney, Brad Pitt, some hair gel, and a can of orange paint through a wood chipper, I’d be what comes out the other end. She maced me, but it was totally a flirty kinda macing. Interested?”
Bill, age 37 – “My Mother’s making me do this”
Harry, age 52 – “Hello. I am a recent divorcee who is anxious to climb back up on the horse. Not that I’m saying you’re a horse. Whoever you are. I’m sure you’re extremely un-horse-like. Also, I didn’t mean to imply I’d be climbing up on you. Unless you want me to. Ha ha ha. Please inbox me. Please?”
Would you like to adjust your sexual preference?

That awkward email led to some awkward online chatter, which eventually led to their face-to- face-to-face sit down/stand up, which led to their weapons being shoved in said faces.
I’m not getting involved here.
I may be an all-powerful, interstellar deity, but I don’t actually know who’s responsible for summoning me any more than you. All I know, is one instant I was slumbering soundly outside space and time, the next I was gorging myself on an all you can eat buffet of human life force.
One of them did it. Ended the World.
Which means, strangely enough, that two of them are completely innocent. How did those two avoid my intergalactic digestive tract? Well, that’s a bit of a noodle scratcher also.
Bill, Gus, or Harry?
One of them did it. The question is, which one?
Let’s return to the Gassy Narwhal.
Harry’s finger just wormed its way into the grenade pin.
Gus has five and a half pounds of finger pressure on a six pound trigger, and he’s about to sneeze.
Bill has had to pee for the last four hours. He’s about to say something stupid.
Let’s see how this plays out.

------------------------------------------------------ Now for my bit--------------------------------------

Gus sneezes, he has an explosive sneeze, the kind that makes dogs bark and cats yowl. His finger pulls the trigger and absolutely nothing happens. It seems like Gus doesn't know you need to put bullets in first. The other two have dived to the floor but now they're embarrassed and get slowly to their feet. Bill speaks.
'Now I definitely gotta pee. Stay right there.'

He heads for the door, but it opens before he reaches it as the most incredible piece of Gorgeousness sashays into the bar. I can't imagine what the gormless trio think but this girl is a red-head, my favourite kind. Her hair cascades down over her shoulders, her breasts are capable of independent motion; she has a waist so small it's hardly there at all and hips that cry out for hands to grab hold of and pull towards you.

I'm generally sleepy after a meal but suddenly blood is racing through every vein in my body and every artery too, my heart is skipping around my chest and my hands tingle and shake.

The guys must be feeling something similar because they're transfixed apart from the drool running down Harry's chin.
'Hi fellas. Y'all got my email then?
She smiles then turns her gaze on me.
I don't recall invitin' you Sweetie, but you're welcome to the party. My name is Lilith. Now if any of you boys read your Bible lessons, that name'll mean something to you. Does it?'
Lilith's eyes pierce each man in turn.

'You were Adam's wife, weren't you?' Harry mumbles.

'Correction! That worthless piece of trash thought he was my husband.'
Her eyes turn molten gold.
'He was utterly contemptible and it was an insult to try and mate him to me.'

'You're awful pretty' says Bill, his eyes on stalks
'Have you come to meet me?'

'I certainly have Sugar.'
Lilith purrs and I can see a leopard's tail swaying below her skirt.
'And you other two Precious boys, of course.'

Harry and Gus preen and glare at Bill.

'Now why don't we go upstairs where we can be comfortable....and away from the big Slob by the bar.'
I know she means me and I'm stung by her dislike. I move to reproach her gently, but I'm frozen to the spot. I can only watch as Lilith shoos her pets up to the first floor.

Once she's left the room I try to follow, I can move now but only in real slow motion. It takes me ten minutes to make it to the upturned chairs. My progress is accompanied by the sound of creaking bed-springs and cries that may be blissful but sound more like agony. I start sweating. I realise Lilith is killing those poor guys. I don't know why I feel protective but I want to save them, although she certainly has a body worth dying for.

Now it's gone quiet. Are Gus, Bill and Harry dead? I can hear Lilith padding across the room overhead. She's headed for the stairs. I think she's coming for me.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night..........................

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This is the first 500 words of a story. The aim of this challenge is that somebody else will write the middle section, while a third person finishes it off.
This could be interesting:

It was a dark and stormy night, the night that I was born. My mother gave birth without help because the villagers thought her cursed and dangerous. My father was absent, as always when the moon was dark.
Next day as she slept, my father's servant came and slipped a bag of gold and jewels beneath her pillow; it wasn't a gift from my father, but Renwick had a soft heart and had been fond of my mother. He also left a note, I still have it. It simply says that my father had left for England and that he might see me when he returned, but he never came back. He came to a bad end near Whitby; the English having proved to be less cowardly than the good folk of Transylvania.
As soon as she could get out of bed my mother slipped away, with me wrapped close to her body. She travelled East because her people came from beyond the mountains. I think her people were gypsies because she was a raven-haired beauty with a fiery temper. We never found her family, but I don't think we'd have been welcome anyway.
The years of my childhood were years of constant travel; we'd stay a few months somewhere, my mother would prostitute herself to make money and sometimes she would sell a jewel. She never stayed long anywhere because she knew I would eventually give us away. I had my father's taste for blood and I would scream constantly until my needs were met.
When I was about ten years old we met an elderly monk travelling the same hills as us. we camped together and he talked all night with my mother. The next day instead of heading to the large town in the valley we accompanied the monk on his journey home.
At his monastery I was drugged and bound while my mother sobbed. When I awoke my mouth was pure agony. My lips were swollen and I had no teeth.
The monk came to see me.
'Your poor mother has suffered long for her sins. We have taken you so that she can be free to live with ordinary people. You will not see her again; however we will love and care for you. We will teach you how to live a good life.'
The first years were terrible. The monks diet was vegetarian, but it did me no good to scream or threaten. They would smile, pray and put me in solitary confinement for a day or two. The same cycle would repeat until I was willing to eat their food. I still do not like rice but I learned that it fills the belly. Discipline was strict but they didn't make me take part in their worship, instead I was allowed to read or draw. Some months later, as they knew I would, I asked to join them in the temple. I began to be a Buddhist.
A life of tranquil peace and study was mine until the day the armies came.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Bewitching Chasm......title courtesy of Chuck Wendig

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 Another story written to a given title.


Rory had to get there. It seemed easy enough, the eruption was happening in a remote area, but it was on tv in the bar. The news said there were roadblocks to prevent anyone straying too close but the place was deserted apart from daily patrols of geologists.
The bartender said  'It's unsafe in the wild parts, especially for a foreigner.' Rory felt insulted, he wasn't foreign, he was English.
'Fuckin' cheek'. Rory like many of his kind, only felt patriotic when his nationality was attacked.

He'd sulked all the way along the national road, his hangover worsened by the bouncy springs on the bus. When the driver stopped and told him this was as close as he could get Rory was standing in the road looking at the tail-lights before he realised,
'This is the middle of fuckin' nowhere. Bastard!' he shouted at the disappearing vehicle.

'If this isn't the End of the World it's near enough.' Rory's heart sank as the alcoholic boost in courage leaked from his body. The road he stood on was single track. On one side there was nothing but bare hills, on the other there was a rocky convoluted coastline, no houses, no cafes, not even a petrol station.
He stood stock still, thumb out for a lift and waited; after twenty minutes without a single car or lorry passing he sighed and trudged off across the hills.
'I'll see a farm soon and they can tell me which way to go, maybe even gimme a lift on a tractor; they'll certainly have some food.' He'd passed on breakfast, knowing that he'd throw up if anything hit his quaking stomach.
Rory had to admit he was very much alone and it creeped him out.
'I can't even see any planes up there.' he yelled at the sky. Then he saw the plume, Rory didn't know that's what it was called, but in a clear blue sky a long tapering cloud that seemed to go down behind these endless hills had to be coming from a volcano. Rory had seen his fair share of disaster movies and things were beginning to add up.
'Course there's nobody here. Fuckin' idiot. ' he told himself 'they've all been evacuated. It's probably a sea of lava over there. I'd better get there quick before it all stops.'

The bet, so far as he remembered the details had gone thus: they'd been discussing which was more dangerous, a volcano erupting or a tsunami, when it all got personal.
'You are shit scared an' thass the truth.' Jamie had said to Rory.
'I ain't scared of any stupid mountain you Dick-head.'
'Well go out there ' Jamie pointed at the tv showing lava somewhere, 'and bring some of that stuff back then, because I think you're a bleedin' coward. You don't have no balls Carter, you never have had.'
At that point Rory had punched Jamie in the throat. The other lads had looked at him with a new respect, this was turning out to be a great stag do, nobody punched Jamie and lived to tell the tale, but there he was retching on the floor of the bar and little Rory Carter had put him down there.
'Well good mate.'
'That was a hell of a punch'.
' You was real tough there.'
The accolades petered out and Jamie sat up. Before he could scream 'No don't say it you Numpty' to himself Rory said.
'An I meant it about that volcano. I'll go there tomorrow and I'll bring back the evidence.'
'You're braver than me.'
Rory had been bought more beers, even Jamie had bought him a pint when he'd regained the power of speech and it was all bleedin' marvellous..........

Now he was trudging up this hill looking for a real exploding volcano and he was getting scared because he could hear it.
When he could eventually see over the crest of the hill, there was nothing but emptiness, that was the only word, the land was empty apart from the plume of dust and smoke that was coming straight out of the ground and roaring defiance at him. It was hard to tell how far it was away because there was a great plain spread out before him. The ground was dark grey and chocolate brown with streaks of yellow. It wasn't flat either, Rory could see large cracks, they all looked old because they were dirty, sort of dusty and dead. There was nothing growing anywhere around, no weeds, no grass, nothing.
 The area where the plume started was hidden by some grey mist rolling about and was also where the noise was coming from. It wasn't continuous noise, mostly there was a dull rumbling but there were occasional cracking and clapping sounds that hurt his ears. He stood and sucked it all in.

'This ain't a great place for a tourist trip, is it?' Rory asked of the scenery, ' but it's bloody amazing. I never knew there could be so much space.' Rory wished he had his dad with him so Rory could show him these wonders; his dad had been a sailor and often told Rory there was nothing so beautiful as the sea.
'I think I found somewhere that stands up to your seas Dad. Jamie an' the rest would hate it, no women, no football. I could go back and tell them what I saw but they wouldn't care, not really. I've got here tho' and this is all right innit?'
He took his mobile phone out of his pocket, snapped a photo and sent it to Jamie. Rory turned to go back over the hill, but he couldn't make himself walk away from the sights. He turned to look again.
'I come this fuckin' far an' I want to see this all for myself.' He started walking across the plain, black dust puffing up around his feet.
'Come on then! Call yourself a fuckin' volcano? You ain't as good as the big fellas are ye'z?'

It was an awesome sight even though it wasn't a proper volcano. There was a long line of little hillocks going away from him, most looked as if they'd been split open with an axe; from them enormous spurts of red lava rushed up into the air then splattered down and turned black. The black gobbets were spreading across the plain and they'd gone a long way from their source.
'I ain't gonna be able to get right up to it, coz my boots'll catch fire.' Rory reminded himself of the details of a favourite movie. 'In 'Dante's Peak' the hero drove across the lava, but that's not much help to me.'
He was feeling very hot. He'd opened his shirt as well as his jacket, but now he wound his scarf across his face because the air stank.
'Where would be a good place to pick up a pretty bit of lava, Rory lad ?' He was glad nobody could hear that he was talking to himself. He stopped and took stock of the situation. He was scared sure enough, but he was more mesmerised by these lava fountains and part of his mind was trying to work out the pressure it must take to push lava up so high. The vents must go down a long way too. He badly wanted to look down into those open chasms.
'I weren't bad at physics in school. I could work it out if I could measure the height properly, lava don't weigh much. It weighs less than water because it floats.' This nugget he'd also gleaned from movies.
Rory decided that if he went to his right where the lava wasn't so fresh he could find a cold bit. Walking cautiously, but as close as he dared Rory passed alongside the flow until he found an older section. Here the lava had cooled and broken into pieces at it's leading edge; bits were falling off and the upper surface was heavily crazed.
Here too was another person. A man was laying face down, he looked dead. Rory knelt down and turned him on his side. The man groaned.
'Shit. He's alive. Come on mate, wake up. It's not safe here.' The edge of the lava was steadily moving towards them. Rory grabbed the man's arm and pulled him across his own back. Then he got to his feet.
'You're no feather, are yez?' Rory struggled to make his feet move, they seemed too heavy to lift.
'Come on. We ain't going to die here, if I can help it.' His own words helped him to move and he lurched away from the lava flow.
It was the hardest thing he'd ever done, bets included. Rory's brain went on auto-pilot. He couldn't say afterwards how long he walked carrying the stranger or how far he got before he heard happy shouts.
'There he is'
'We've found him.'
'Stefan. Stefan.'
Other men appeared and Rory was relieved of his burden. He sank down on his heels, put his hands on the ground to steady himself and cried.

Back in Reykjavik hospital Rory was re-hydrated and his scratches tended by a pretty nurse. The Icelandic rescue men who'd taken him and the stranger to safety were there and Rory was making new friends.
'You were amazing to carry Stephan all that way.'
'It was so lucky you were there.'
'You saved his life.'
'Thank you guys, but I was stupid to have gone out there. I'm glad Stephan is getting better. Why was he there?'
'He's a geologist like some of us. The rest of us just love being out in the country.'
Rory nodded. 'Me too.'
Someone produced a bottle of vodka and toasts were drunk to Stephan and to Rory.
'Is there anything we can do for you to say thanks for Stephan's life?' said the owner of the vodka.

' Nah, I'm just so glad you came along when you did.
' But you could tell me how to find a place to live here. Oh and is it easy to get a job with you guys?'

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bad Parent

There is no book that teaches you how to be a parent; it's something you can only really learn by doing. Sure you can read books, watch videos and listen to other parents but that's no substitute for the experience.
You also can't get everything right first time. You might be expecting to lose a lot of sleep for several months and believe that you'll cope fine, but when you're sleep deprived you can't think clearly about all the other stuff. Stuff like how to have great bath-times with your baby or even precisely how much formula a baby can drink at 3 a.m. It takes lots of practice and mistakes before you can handle those early weeks.

Once you have your baby sleeping through the night you think you've got it made. I remember taking Sondra for a walk in the park one day and meeting an old friend.
'Hi Lisbeth. How are you and how is your little Angel doing?' Jean stuck her head under the stroller canopy and made silly noises at the baby.
'We're doing fine thanks.'
'She's kinda tiny isn't she?' said Jean. 'I mean my sister's new baby must be about the same age as yours and she's very bonny. In fact she's sitting up already.'
I looked down at Sondra and wondered if she was small for her age, I mean I'd never thought about it before.
'Well I'm sure she'll catch up. You're looking quite well, no bags under the eyes I see.' She laughed.
'No, we're out of the sleepless nights now; it get's easier. '
'Yes that's what my sister says. I say she should have got the hang of it by now, this is her 3rd baby after all. I think I prefer to stay single.' Jean's laughter echoed as she tottered off on her expensive new high heels. Jean's remarks struck hard. You always feel guilty when you're a mother, somebody else always seems to be doing a better job.

I did learn about nutrition and attainment goals for small children. I learned about toilet training and tantrums too. It was hard going and nobody ever seemed to notice how difficult life was for me.
I felt isolated and inadequate, I got depression and then I felt more guilty and more depressed until by the time I had my 4th child I wondered if I'd been a fool to ever become a mother.

My husband, Dick, is a kind man and I'm sure he loves me. He was there for me when I was at my lowest and drinking a bottle of wine every day before lunch.
'You are the important one Lisbeth. You're the one who matters to me. I want you to be happy and I work hard so there's enough money to make you happy. You wanted to be a parent more than I did, but I guess that's normal. I do like kids and I'd like to play ball with my sons and dance with my daughters, but not if all this is making you miserable. I hate it when you're so sad.'
'I love you too and I know you want what's best for me. I love you and I want to make you proud of the children we raise together so that someday when we're old we can laugh with our grandchildren.
'Maybe I was just a bit too young and foolish and I thought I'd be the perfect mother. I thought it was instantaneous. They gave you the baby and suddenly you were wise and good and loving. Now I know it's not like that. I'm sorry.' I snuggled my face into his chest and cried my heart out.

That crisis seemed to sort out my head and I got right back into my parenting job, which Dick had assured me was way more important that his work as an aeronautical engineer.

In the end I had 7 babies before I raised one successfully all the way. The people at the clinic were always sympathetic and so understanding, they said some of the best parents had troubles early on.

It never became routine. Every time I had to take a baby back and have it re-cycled I cried. But every time I came back with the new one it was easier to manage. I didn't get so upset when I made a mistake and consequently I made fewer mistakes each time. I guess I must have been a 'sensitive' mother because other people seemed to accept their failed attempts with a shrug and a laugh.

Now Dick and I are living in Seniors Paradise which is a very fancy and secure resort. Our grown children, Michael and Dawn pay all the bills and they too are getting married and raising children of their own. At last we can all laugh at those days when I thought of myself as a bad parent.

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad

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His eyes almost lost in folds of skin, nose mushed across his face with it's network of red veins, hair that lived it's own life in sparse clumps over his skull. Sinbad scratched thick stubble on his chin as he stared into the bronze mirror. 'I'm so old I must be dead.'
He pinched his cheek and it hurt so apparently he was still alive, but he felt no gratitude for this; sighing deeply he turned back towards his bed and was about to climb in when he heard his wife calling.

'Come downstairs you lazy bag of bones. Now!' Did she have eyes that could see through walls? He dressed and went down while the insults grew in volume and coarseness.

'I'm here my Princess.'Sinbad smiled. The beautiful maiden he'd loved so long turned her head and glared at him. Her eyes had lost none of their sharpness although her chin almost disappeared in jowls that in turn melted into her enormous bosom.

'You stink. I swear you are rotting away in that bed.'

'I need rest. My back hurts and my feet burn, my...'

'No!' she interrupted. 'Don't start a list of excuses that I could recite better than you can. Get yourself out in the fresh air and walk to market. Go buy me a magic lantern that will bring me back the handsome pirate I married.'
Sinbad hung his head. It was true his looks and energy were gone. She was fat, but still pretty and able to whisk him out of her way with the broom.
'I will go for a walk my Love and I will fetch you peaches from the orchard.'
Her gaze softened and she patted his cheek.

As Sinbad walked down the hill he looked at the sea beyond the town. The water looked like silk and it was as blue as the finest turquoise. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and he could feel a Westerly breeze. He loved the sea, it was good to be outdoors. His back eased as he walked on past the orchard and down to the boatyard.

She was a small, elderly Felucca. Her paintwork was rubbed and her sail had been re-patched many times, but she entranced Sinbad. He looked at her a long while causing the shipwright to wander over and ask if something was amiss.
'Who does she belong to?' Sinbad asked.
'A man who traded down the coast, but he died of fever last year so I suppose she belongs to me.'
Sinbad patted his robe but he'd forgotten his purse.
'I want her. Will you take these in exchange?' he asked as he pulled off his jewelled slippers.
'The stones in those are valuable enough for a much bigger boat.......But I'll take them' said the shipwright. He helped Sinbad down into the boat.
The warm planks felt good beneath his feet. Sinbad settled himself next to the tiller.
'Give me a push......and thanks.'

It was wonderful how skill and understanding came back. He held the sail's rope in his right hand and rested his left arm on the tiller. The wind on his left cheek, his feet away from the coils of rope. The Sun ahead lighting a path across the water. Sinbad was content again.

'I'll sail along the coast because this boat knows the way and when I'm tired I'll beach her.'

The day wore on and Sinbad felt stronger. He trailed his hand in the water to measure her speed and she went faster and then faster still, this was marvellous. Part of Sinbad's mind was surprised by how well he felt, he wasn't hungry or thirsty or too hot. He shook off his robe to better feel the sun on his skin. He looked down to scratch his belly and noticed his belly had shrunk; rubbing his hand across his head he felt long hair growing there. He stood up and no joints screamed in protest when he pulled hard on the sail. The boat responded and took him out to deeper waters.
He'd turned away from the Sun but there was a fire above in the sky.
Sinbad frowned 'What is this? It's no fireball or shooting star surely?' The fire grew closer and he could see it glimmer and sparkle. Light bounced off the fiery thing and hurt his eyes, he blinked and rubbed them. Now it swooped lower turning in the air and he could see it from the side. It had the shape of a bird. Sinbad hoped it wasn't a Roc. 'Allah let it be an Eagle.'
The bird moved closer and suddenly was on the boat. It alighted on the upper edge of the lateen sail and sat there flapping it's wings to keep it's balance. It's wingspan was half the size of his sail and each feather was aflame. Different colours played over the wings, crimson and scarlet reds, silver, gold and emerald flickered and danced. It had talons of bronze and it's eyes seemed to be molten copper.
Sinbad sank onto the deck and stared speechless at this terrible beauty.

'You are Sinbad the sailor?' The bird enquired. He nodded.
'I am the Phoenix.' The bird paused. 'You look confused. Perhaps you have not heard of me, this name was given me by the Greeks. Others have different names, but it's always me they mean.
'I have come to give you the chance to choose your fate. You are famed far and wide for your bravery and recklessness on the oceans, yet you left the sea years ago and live a comfortable life on land. Are you content to pass your final days in warm sunshine and talk with other old men of your glorious past? Or do you crave one last adventure; a journey through wonders you never dreamt of to a destination known only by those who went before you?'

Sinbad found his voice.'I went ashore for love of a chaste and delightful maiden, but I've found the Sea has a hold on me far stronger than any woman and she will not mind if I travel on; I think she's always known I would. I choose adventure Phoenix.'
'You will not return, but your loved ones will meet you in another place. If you are sure you wish to go take hold of my tail feathers and don't be afraid.'
'Take me with you Phoenix.' Sinbad reached for the bird's tail and felt the strong muscles of his forearm flex as he seized hold. There was a moment of fierce pain then his heart burst open spilling immortal light. The Phoenix rose up into the darkening sky carrying Sinbad into a night clothed in stars.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

1000 words on the theme 'We're all human, even when we're not.'

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She hadn't known it was possible to cry so much but crying now occupied her waking hours. She didn't eat, she scarcely drank.
'I'm not hungry' she said 'but I'm cold' so she wore a big sweater although it was high Summer. She performed only those actions that were absolutely essential. Everything was dominated by her need to cry. It isolated her from her friends but that didn't matter, she had to cry it all out of her. When she went to bed she passed out, there were no dreams, there was no moving around in the night to find a more comfortable position. When she woke up she started to cry again.

One morning she woke before anyone else, even before the dog. It was thick dark but she got up and dressed. She left the house and began walking. She didn't know the area because she was staying with friends so took the path in front of her. It led through a field then when the path reached a road it continued on the other side so she kept following it. She had no idea where she was but she walked on because it seemed important to do so.
Then she realised she wasn't alone, he'd joined her, he was chatting and laughing with her. He remembered an incident from years before that had amused him and frightened her. He was sorry now for teasing her. They walked on and the birds began to sing. The path ahead became clearer and there was the sea. The path opened out and that was when he left telling her 'Don't worry, everything is going to be all right.' She watched the sun rise out of the sea and felt warm now for the first time in days; no longer cold inside or out, something had thawed.

Her friends noticed the change when she returned. When she told them he'd come to see her they weren't surprised and neither was she. She smiled, everything would be okay now. She kept smiling to herself over the next few days. There were things to do and as she did them she smiled; people noticed but forgave her odd behaviour, she was obviously not coping well they said.
When the big day arrived she was completely in control. She greeted everyone and thanked them for coming. She'd asked for flowers and music, she would have asked for dancing but there was no room to dance. The day was hot and she wore a Summer dress. She could feel everything now: the heat and her perfume, the voices in all their variety, the faces, some well-known to her and some almost strangers. She welcomed all of it. He'd enjoy this.
Then he arrived. He was wearing his best black silk shirt and he looked so handsome that her control slipped for a moment. She loved him so much and he loved her still, she knew that with unshakeable certainty.

When the service was over she leaned over him and kissed him. She felt love surrounding her and moving through her. His love was more real and vivid than ever before, she smiled as they closed the lid of his coffin.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Three Wishes (1500 word writing exercise from Chuck Wendig)

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Clive entered the building, his professional face firmly locked in position. As usual he was greeted
variously,  with deference,enthusiasm or anxiety. He could see the interns like playful puppies, willing
to do anything the Master required while senior staff lowered their eyes and backed away or
switched on wary smiles. His gaze swept past his employees as he saw a wealthy client
'Jacqueline, Dearest. You look fantastic. You grow lovelier every time I see you.' He brushed
her cheek with his lips.
'Where were you last night, did you stand me up?' she hissed in his ear.
'I'm sorry we missed you yesterday, Wendy had a cold. May I call you to discuss another meeting?'
She looked him in the eye. 'If you're not too busy please do.'
Was there a glitter in those eyes? Clive wondered if Jackie was getting possessive.

He walked into his suite hushing his secretary as she handed him a sheaf of papers.
'No calls, no coffee.' He said closing his office door before she could respond.
He sank into his armchair and gazed at the Thames.
'I'm getting stale. I'm entirely dis-enchanted with architecture. I need a change.' He sighed and
watched the boats chugging up and down river. 'They know where they're going, lucky bastards.
What's left for me? I've done it all already.'
'So, money don't buy you happiness?' squeaked a voice from the curtain rail.
'No, It's just another load of manure ....' Clive looked around, at a loss to locate the person
speaking. 'Have I got talking mice now or am I finally losing my mind?'
'I'm not a mouse Stupid. I'm a fairy' came in answer and now Clive saw movement overhead.
Something winged and brown fluttered above him.
'A fairy?'
'Don't freak out. It's a weird world, I should know.'
Clive stared 'You don't look like a fairy, aren't you supposed to be pretty and colourful?'
'Listen Chum, forget fantasy. I am a fairy, there's a reason for the colouration. I'm incognito.'
'You're likely to be swatted with a copy of 'The Telegraph' look like a horsefly. What are
you doing here ?'
'Your name has reached the top of The List.' The fairy made an excited face.
'Do you mean a Wish list, the magical kind?'
'Uhuh. Your turn, 3 wishes. Don't ask why, I don't make the list. I'm only doing my job.'
'Really? said Clive ' I remember this from childhood. I get 3 wishes and you have to fulfil them?'
'I need a minute. Bear with me.' Clive grabbed a pen and started writing on his scratch pad. He
was busy for several minutes. When he looked around again the fairy was lounging against his
Ormolu inkstand. 'What you got this for? You use a Biro.' said the fairy.
'It's part of the image, I hate it.' The fairy shrugged it's shoulders.
'I've chosen my first wish. Let's start.'
The fairy pointed at the desk top where a sheet of closely typed paper now lay. 'Read and sign.
Indemnity papers.'
It took ten minutes for Clive to check over. 'It looks okay but I should have my lawyers look at it.'
'Sorry, no third parties. Sign or I go, I've got loads of Wishees waiting.'
Clive grimaced but signed, his hand shaking from sudden excitement.
'Tell me your wish.'
'I want to be outdoors I'm sick of offices. Give me sun, sand, and space.'
The fairy said 'Close your eyes. No peaking.' then he tapped Clive on the head.

'Now open'.
Clive was definitely outdoors; there were hills, mountains and a river running past his feet. There
was also hot sunshine and sand..... between rocks, lots of rocks. Looking down slope Clive noticed a
scruffily dressed man with a cowboy hat, he was hunched over a garden sieve.
'Good Morning.' said Clive.
The man started and staggered to his feet. He was holding a rifle, the barrel pointed at Clive.
'Where you from Stranger?'
'London. Where is this?'
'California. How'd you get here?'
'I don't know to be honest. What are you doing?'
The rifle rose to firing position. 'Fixin' ter shoot.' said the man.
'I mean you no harm'. Clive was afraid, this felt too real.
'Well you ain't armed, so mebbe that's true. I'm doing a little panning. Rush is over now, not much
gold, but enough fer coffee and rifle shells. I was a preacher man, retired three years ago.'
'Have you been here ever since?'
'Pretty much. It's peaceful.'
'You don't get lonely?'
'God talks to me, so nope I don't get lonely.'
'It must be a hard life . Where do you stay?'
'I got a little place, it's hid away. I ain't showin' you where.' The man unlocked the safety catch.
'No, quite, that's sensible, I'm just curious. Do you see many people?'
'See Indians down at the trading post; good folks, we chat about the Great Spirit sometimes.' He
grinned. 'I like it alone, you know.' He waved the rifle towards the hills.
'Yes. Yes, I see. One more question if that's okay.' There was a nod.
Clive swallowed 'What year is this?'
'1857 why?'
'No reason. Thanks. I must be off. Goodbye.' Clive turned .........

And there was his office and the fairy.
'You didn't say you'd send me back in time.'
'Didn't ask.' The fairy rubbed his toe along the desk top, smudging the polish.
'Well I need to think about the next wish. I didn't like that place.'
Clive scribbled on paper again..........................
' OK..... I'd like to go back to the Middle Ages, to Sherwood Forest. I loved
Robin Hood movies. I want to be a Merry Man.'
Clive closed his eyes, felt the tap on his head and then he was in woodland. Massive trees
surrounded a pretty glade. It looked like Spring. The trees had buds and soft green leaves. There
were flowers at his feet and mushrooms.
'Aaaaaah' he breathed deep ......'Beautiful England, this is more like it.'
Seconds later he sneezed, then again louder, his eyes watered. He pulled out a handkerchief
and felt for his nose drops, they weren't there.
Determined he set out; sneezing at frequent intervals. He'd barely crossed the glade when an
arrow thunked into the nearest tree.
......Outlaws ..... Clive looked around but could see no-one.
.....It's that Lincoln green camouflage..... He shouted. 'Hello please come out. I come in peace.'
Suddenly he was on his face in a muddy patch and something was sitting on him.
A pair of dirty boots appeared before Clive's eyes.
'What manner of creature art thou? You come unarmed into our forest. Are you a fool? ...Off Tyrell.'
The pressure lifted from Clive's back, he saw a short man with a large bow.
'Are you Robin Hood?' The face was grimy and didn't resemble Costner or Flynn.
'I am Robin of Locksley, who wants to know?
'I'm Clive of London, pleased to meet you.' and he was.
'Have you word from King Richard?'
'Well last I read, he was in some castle in Germany, he'll get back eventually. I think.'
'The King dallies too long. We needs must fight Nottingham without him. Join us, we'll find you a
bow.' They moved off accompanied by the dog carrying a brace of rabbits in it's sharp teeth.
Clive trudged along, his nose running now, hay-fever in full flow.

The Merry Men looked decidedly downcast.
'They have Ague .' said Robin.
'We're soaked through is why. Bloody weather, Bloody trees.' snarled a huge man with no teeth. He
leaned on a stick. 'My back's killing me.'
'Little John?' said Clive.
'You bein' funny?' said John.
'Er No, not much. What's cooking?' He pointed at a pot over a smoky fire.
'Rabbit stew. Every day rabbit stew. Sometimes there's no stew, sometimes no rabbit.' said a skinny,
tonsured figure.
'Are you Friar Tuck?' Clive was shocked; this was no jolly fat cleric. 'You're not what I expected.
Where's Marian?'
'Never say that strumpet's name. Have you had her too?' Robin came close holding a big knife and
grabbed Clive by his shirt. Clive panicked and closed his eyes.

He peeked.................................................... and the fairy was laying on his blotting pad, whistling. Clive shouted angrily.
'I was almost killed ! Two wishes and both absolute rubbish. You're a poor excuse for a fairy.'
The fairy burst into tears.
'Can't help it....sniff. Didn't want this job. They'll laugh.'
'Who will laugh?'
'Other Elves. I'm not fairy, fairies borin'.... sniff, but they were short-handed.'
'You Fraud. I should report you to some authority, you have authorities don't you?'
'Yes, but please, forgive me, it's my first day, I'll get in big trouble else.'
The Elf sobbed.
Clive knew he was being soft, but the Elf's tears unnerved him.
'All right. Calm down. I won't tell anyone.
The Elf grinned.
'Ta ever so. I'll do you a favour. I'll give you contentment for your last wish. You didn't ask for that
but I reckon it's what you need. Close eyes!'
Clive obeyed. When he opened them again his office was empty, but for a soft,warm glow. He felt
weepy, he loved everything now, even the Ormolu inkstand.

Just over the 1500 allowance. In case it wasn't apparent:
Clive was number 10 on the list, the Fairy was number 49.The Californian was number 14, Robin Hood number 6 and Clive became number 22 at the end.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Opening Line from Allison Forsythe, she's not to blame for the rest.

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Today I fed some ducks at your funeral.
It was a cold day, they looked hungry. You might have appreciated my gesture. You used to think well of me. I don't like ducks much, but needed to get rid of the cake somehow. The ducks definitely liked it. The cake was chocolate, your favourite. I dislike chocolate. You could have bought Lemon cake, I like that, but you didn't.

You came to my flat carrying the box from the confectioner's. It's traditional to bring something nice to eat when you want to share good news, that's what you said.
You'd applied for and got a new job, it hadn't come up in conversation before so I was surprised.

'It's what I've always longed for. A job with such a prestigious company. I'll have my own assistants and I'll be in charge of an entire department.'

I got up to make coffee. I enjoy drinking coffee and it calms my nerves.

'I had the second interview week before last, they were very positive and I was pretty sure the job was mine. I had to wait the whole week but the letter came yesterday.'

I hunted for the Kenyan beans to make your coffee; I prefer Peruvian but this was your special day.

'You know I really didn't think they were impressed by me at the first interview. I was very nervous and I think I chose the wrong blouse, I wore that blue one that you said went so well with my eyes, anyway the top button came undone and I didn't even notice until later. I was sure that Kevin had noticed. I was so embarrassed and I thought he'd write me off as cheap, but he said later how he liked a feminine touch around the place.'


'Uhuh. I was so flushed after the interview that the Personnel department secretary thought I looked ill. She gave me some water and I sat in the outer office. Then Mr Malone, Kevin that is, came out. He saw me and he was so kind. He took me out to lunch he said
"Because I expect you haven't eaten today due to butterflies." Wasn't that observant of him?'
I debated over scalding the milk or using cream from the fridge for your coffee, I opted for the milk. Did I want you to burn your mouth? I don't know.

'Are you listening to me Paul, you haven't said a word ?'
I'm fairly sure I'd said something, but you probably didn't hear me.

'You are exasperating, you know that; it's one reason I applied for this job. I think we need a break.You don't really appreciate me Paul; I only realised because Kevin is so considerate and it's such a contrast.
'This cake is delicious, it's Black Forest Gateau you know. I thought you liked cherries. Hurry up with that coffee or I'll eat your share too.'

Digging in the cupboard I found the Demerara lumps and put them in a bowl on the tray with the cups and the coffee pot. I brought it over to the lounge and set the tray on the table. You'd started picking at the cake already and your fingers were sticky so you were licking them. I fetched plates and the bread knife; I don't have a cake slice.

'Cut some for yourself Paul, you'll make me feel greedy otherwise.'
You smiled as I handed you a plate with a large piece on it. I went back to the kitchen for the hot milk. As I sat down across from you you said.

'So I'm moving to London next week.'

I spilled coffee down my trousers.

'Don't look like that. You weren't listening were you? I have this new job with more money and more responsibility. It's good for me.'

You pushed cake into your mouth and smiled at the same time.

'It'll be good for us.' you said, spraying crumbs.'We need space to decide if our romance is still working.'

I poured the milk. You had more cake in your mouth and you were looking at me like I was a small boy. I handed you the cup and saucer and you took a gulp of coffee.

'Gaachh ! Too hot s' burning my mouth.'
I hurried into the kitchen and came back with a glass of iced water. You grabbed it and drank and then you coughed and flapped your free hand about.
'You did that on purpose! You're horrible, you really are. I don't know if I love you at all anymore.'

Tears appeared in your eyes, but whether you were sad or trying not to cough I don't know. I went to fetch tissues from the bathroom as you bit into another piece of cake.
When I came back you were sat on the couch staring pop-eyed at the kitchen and you were making funny gasping noises. I could see you were choking on something so I handed you the glass of water. You raised it to your mouth and still retching and spluttering you drank some. Then your face turned blue and you dropped the glass and the plate of cake. You started pawing at your throat and you looked at me. I think you were looking longingly, but perhaps not. There were a few judders and gasps and then you were quiet.

The Coroner's verdict was 'Accidental Death'. Apparently there'd been a cherry stone in the cake and that had jammed in your windpipe. It took me days to clean up the coffee stains. This morning I saw cake crumbs in the dustpan, that's when I thought of the ducks and how happy they would be.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence. Another tale from the Han

The fire had settled down for the night and glowed comfortably. The camel drivers relaxed. It had been a long day, covering rough terrain, but in this friendly caravanserai dusty journeys could be forgotten with a full belly.

When the coffee had been poured all eyes looked expectantly at Hamid. He was the resident storyteller and his latest visitors wanted a new story.

 'We've heard all the ones about princesses and flying carpets. Give us something different.'

 'Tell us one about a dog'.

 'No I want one about magic.'

 'Give us a story about travellers.'

Hamid smiled at his audience and began his story.

 'I heard of a Christian hermit who once lived high in the Urals.
He was a reluctant hermit and unhappy. He'd been cast out of his monastery. At chapter meeting the Almoner said nobody could tolerate the snoring that woke everyone every single night, then the Abbot said Brother Pyotr's farting made the chapel stink to high Heaven and choked them all. On top of that it was universally agreed that Brother Pyotr was grouchy, which is not ideal in a holy monk.

So they had put him in a hut in the mountains, called it a hermitage and waved goodbye. He was visited once a month with food, when the monks remembered.
 Time passed and Pyotr grew lonely and even more ill-natured.
 In the same region lived a Djinn by the will of Allah. This Djinn was also lonely; although he could fly all over the world very fast whenever he wished he found that most people were scared of him. They never stayed around long enough to find out his good qualities.
But this Djinn had another small problem; he'd found a casket on his travels. It had fallen from the camel-bag of a wise man and the Djinn could not unlock it despite all his magic. So he'd tucked it under his arm and carried it everywhere.
Well, the Djinn chanced upon the hermit when both were wandering in the foothills because Allah willed it so.

 'Hello Djinn' said Pyotr.

 'Uh Hullo' said the Djinn, who'd thought himself invisible. He was not a very clever Djinn, he didn't realise that holy men could see all magical beings.

 'What have you got there?' asked Pyotr.

'A casket. A strange casket 'cause it won't undo; there's no key.' the Djinn looked downcast.

 'I can undo that.' said Pyotr

 'You can? Do it then. Please' said the Djinn thrusting the casket forward. He was always polite and kindly.

 'You need to do me a favour in return.' said Pyotr folding his arms.

 There was a pause.

 'I do ? Oh Yes I do, don't I?' The Djinn was rather forgetful.

'What do you desire? One wish only.'

  'I don't want to be lonely any more.'

 'As you wish. Just a minute'....... The Djinn gave an eloquent little twirl. 'Shazam!!!!'

The hermit looked around and the hills were as empty as before.

 'You are a poor excuse for a Djinn. All that messing about and nothing's changed. Why are we still here and not in some great city?'

 'It has changed. It really has, you'll see. Please open the casket now.'

 Pyotr picked up a rock and smashed the lock clean off the casket.

 'You broke my casket' wailed the Djinn.

 'But it's open, isn't it? Now give me my wish.'

 'I have. I'm your wish . I am your friend. You aren't lonely now.'

'I don't want you for a friend.'

 'Why not?'

 'Because you're a Djinn and stupid too.'

 'You are not very nice. Hermits are supposed to be kind to strangers.'

 'But not necessarily to friends.' Pyotr grinned nastily.

The Djinn looked inside his casket, it held a beautiful orange topaz. The Djinn smiled. He loved pretty things. He looked back at Pyotr and sighed.

 ' Kay. What do you want instead of a friend?'

 'I want to be a dog.
'Not any old wild dog , I want to be a beautiful educated hound that can run like the wind, then the great King in Novgorod will want me in his palace. He will take me hunting and feed me delicacies. A Borzoi would be suitable. You can take me to him when you leave here.'

Now the Djinn had never seen a Borzoi so he furrowed his brow and thought; it took a while, then he remembered seeing an attractive dog once. Maybe that was the hound Pyotr meant.

 'Hmmm. Abracadabra..Shazam!!!!!'

  Pyotr was gone, in his place was a pug.The pug looked extremely cross.

 'Ooops?' said the Djinn.

 'But you're so cute!' said the Djinn and scooped the pug up into his arms.

 'You are the mostest beautifullest hound in the wide world.'

 The pug screwed it's face up and stuck out a little pink tongue.

 'Oh you're adorable. I can't let you go to some tyrant king. You won't be happy there. Stay with me. We'll be bestest friends forever. Oh, I forgot, we are friends already aren't we?'

The Djinn flew off with the pug, the broken casket and the topaz inside it. He had the topaz set in a collar for the dog and made the casket into a basket and they settled down in an oasis because the Djinn didn't need to fly anywhere now.
 The pug squirmed, grumbled and farted all day and snored when he slept but the Djinn didn't mind. He had a friend.

And the moral of the story is two-fold. Remember Djinns can be nice and remember to be precise if you are granted a wish'.

 The camel-drivers applauded and gave Hamid a generous handful of coins before they all fell asleep.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thoughts on latest novel effort

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence. Sounds defeatist to talk about an 'effort' but I still feel silly talking as if I were a writer. Anyway my current thoughts about Farid....... My hero is an exile. His family of Moorish Spaniards have sent him away, mainly for his safety but he has only been persuaded to leave by telling him that he can find them somewhere safe to live. He's young and has to learn a lot quickly just to survive. He's on a ship when we first meet him, headed for ?(not sure where to be sending him yet). He's been brought up to be proud of his heritage, so it's hard for him to feel worthless and even despised by the larger world. He tries to keep his feelings under wraps because he sees them as weakness that will harm him and anyway he has no friends and soon learns that trust is not a useful characteristic to have. His experiences in the first year or two after leaving home are brutalising. It's hard to keep his own values and he's involved in situations that will inevitably degrade him, but he has inner strength that will surface. All he wants is to go home, but this isn't an option. He searches instead for somewhere that will be a new home for his family. He has a vision of rescuing them and bringing them to a place full of happiness. Obviously he's naive at first and when that is rubbed away by Life he becomes a man who affects not to believe in anyone or anything. He becomes strong physically and tough mentally, but inside there's still hope for love and friendship.