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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

Creative Commons License
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.