A bit of Christmas flash fiction

img_0791I was lucky enough to receive this exciting looking box for Christmas.  As you know, I love to write but, like most others, often have days when my mind can’t come up with anything worth writing.  Nonetheless, looking through some of the ‘tools’ in my ‘toolbox’ I admit I was a bit sniffy.  Their are sticks with random sentences, wheels with different protagonists, settings, obstacles etc, and ‘sixth sense cards’ which just seemed to have random ideas on.  In fact, my daughters and I had an hilarious half-hour trying to string these together into some sort of story.  It was rubbish of course, but fun.

However, once the Christmas festivities were over, and I was in a bit of a slump, I looked properly at the ‘instructions’.  Basically I should pick out three or four cards put them face down, turn over the first one and write about it for three minutes using the timer supplied, then the next and so on.  Not unlike some of the exercises we did on my creative writing course so ok, I’ll give it a go, I thought.

The cards I picked were:

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink

Sticky raspberry yogurt

Yoga girls toenails

the sound of a garden hose

I honestly followed the rules, and amazingly I was quite pleased with the result.  So pleased in fact, I’m sharing it with you here.  Enjoy!

No Lady

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink.  For my age that is.  Fifty year old women shouldn’t wear pink, or so my father used to say.  He’d know of course.  Women’s fashion was his thing.  He’d been a hairdresser in the 60’s, and met Mary Quant, or so he said.  She let him help design some of her collections, so he said.  He had an eye for fashion that’s for sure, especially the skimpy sort.

Apparently, some of his clientele was sure he was gay because of his good looks and nice manners, at least that what he said. Though it was probably because of his delicate fastidiousness in all things, which may have been appealing in the fancy salon, but drove us all mad at home.

I remember the day I spilt sticky raspberry yogurt on the carpet in the living room.  He was livid. Pinker than the yogurt with rage.  Made me scrub at it for ages until any hint of spillage had been eradicated completely.  I was only six. I had sore hands when I finished and dad wouldn’t let mum put any cream on them or anything. I think she was sorry for that.  I think she was sorry for a lot of things.  Including marrying my dad.

She was a model in a department store.  Modelling the clothes for other, richer, people to buy. She was pretty in a fairly conventional way but had to work to keep the slim figure that Twiggy was promoting around that time.  Dad even cut her hair the same as Twiggy’s.  He really liked that boyish look.

She used to practice yoga. It was the only time she seemed at peace.  Sitting cross-legged on her mat on the bedroom floor, quiet, closed eyes.  Once I painted all her toenails bright red while she was busy meditating and she didn’t even seem to notice.

My brother and I must have been a handful for her, but she never really complained, just meditated and smoked her funny cigarettes to ‘keep her calm’.  Dad would’ve been furious if he’d have caught her smoking, and we were sworn to secrecy.  No dirty ashtrays in our house, no dirty anything. Except dad.

Once I remember my brother and I messing about in the garden after it had been raining.  It’s fair to say that we got a bit carried away and were making mud pies and throwing them at each other, and at everything else in the garden too. It ended up like the Somme.  When dad found us, he turned the hose on full blast and made us stand naked under its powerful spray for a full ten minutes.  We were frozen stiff by the end of it.  The sound of a garden hose still makes me shiver.

Anyway, I digress. Yes, I’m wearing an outrageous long and tight flamingo frock, complete with feathers and sequins.  I’m wearing a wig of shoulder length silky blonde hair, and I’ve made sure my make-up is impeccable.  My entire torso is squeezed into spanx, giving me the curves my mother would have had if it weren’t for dad denying her chocolate and pies for years. Despite dads opinion, I look fabulous, even though I do say so myself.

I’m neat, and clean. Dad would be proud.

Or maybe not.

I’m not sure that he thought the way he treated me (us, my brother suffered just as I did), that he’d turn me into a full blown queer old drag queen.  Shame he didn’t see it, I would’ve enjoyed that.

I squish my stub under my stiletto, hitch up my boobs, and head out to face the rowdy crowd in the grubby nightclub. Easy money.

 

 

 

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It seemed like a good idea…

Written in response to the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner challenge week#2 – 2016

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It seemed like a good idea at the time, after all it was only another one of my brother’s ‘dares’.  He never believed I’d take them on, never believed in me, but oh did I love proving him wrong!

He watched as I climbed over the railing.  We were only one floor up but it still felt pretty high.  I clung on to the bannister and leaned out over the vast hall below. The floor shone from it’s morning polish, and the flowers in the huge vase in front of the portrait of my great-grandfather were fresh.  I could smell them even from my vantage point.

‘Go on then’ he urged, smugly waiting to taunt me.

So I leapt.

Falling forward as planned I grabbed the glistening chandelier. It’s crystal drops shuddered and tinkled as it took my weight.  Pleasingly, I heard my brother gasp.

But then I realised my predicament.  I hung there like a chimp, not knowing what to do. I couldn’t let go and I was too light to make the thing swing.

My arm ached but I managed to cling on until one of the butlers passed by. Not in a position to scold, he fetched a ladder to rescue me.

My mother was not amused.

A Loss? – Flash Fiction

Although the walls on each side were black and sooty, she could see the light in the distance beckoning her with the promise of safety.  She expected to hear her footsteps echo, but all she could hear were her gasps of effort.

She couldn’t quite remember how she had got there, although it seemed to her that it had been quite a journey.  She knew she wouldn’t have taken public transport, she hadn’t done that in at least fifty years.  She remembered quite clearly her revulsion at having to sit on the filthy seats, pressed too close to grubby strangers when she was a student, and how, as soon as she could, she’d bought herself a little car. But she hadn’t been able to drive for a couple of years now, not since they’d taken away her licence. Bloody old age.

She’d felt ok really.  Still had her wits about her although, in general, modern life was a bit of a puzzle.  The youngest members of her extended family seemed to live on a different planet, what with all their gadgets and gizmos, and what rare communication there was with them always seemed difficult. That’s not to say she didn’t love them all, but there were just so many these days…

She wondered where they were now, and instinctively looked down at her hand where the gold band still glistened, though it’s pair had been long gone.  It had been buried with him.  His only bit of decoration against the best black suit that they’d put him in. She wondered if it was still there, in the ground, encasing his bare finger bone, and shuddered at the thought of how cold his touch would now be.

Ineluctably her thoughts turned to her son who’d made it big in the US and then came to grief with the help of chemicals and alcohol.  She’d been mystified and heartbroken that her perfect boy had gone so soon. He’d been naughty as a child. A tease, with a cheeky chuckle, but he’d grown into a handsome man, broad and muscular with long dark hair that softened him and disclosed his gentle nature. She was so sad for his wife and their twin boys who had had to get along without him all those years, but they’d diligently kept in touch with her, emailing photos of special occasions, such as the boy’s weddings, and the babies births.

Looking ahead at the light, she saw she was progressing. It was becoming dazzling, and she closed her eyes, after all, she knew the path was safe. She could feel a slight breeze just brushing her cheeks like a gentle kiss, and for a second, thought she could smell perfume, the one her daughter Lillian liked that was hugely expensive and came in a fancy bottle. Smiling, she remembered her firstborn, who hadn’t been the brightest spark in school, but whose bright eyes and curves ensured that she’d married well.  She’d lived in an impressive house, with a room for the au pair, and a paddock for the ponies, but had ‘downsized’ to an idyllic country cottage when the children left for university. They had said it came with a ‘granny annex’ but they had converted it for the cleaner to live in before they moved in. It was a shame it was so far away, she felt she barely knew her children, or their children.

And then there was Jennifer.  Her youngest daughter, scrawny little Jenny with the mousey hair and crooked teeth. Always angry at the others, she was a loner who seemed content with her own company, so it astonished them when, in her fifties, she married a man 10 years her senior.  A professor or something.  He was a ramshackle widower, with umpteen adoring grandchildren always clinging to his hands. Jenny took them all on like a trooper. She became the perfect grandma, baking cakes and biscuits, letting the hoard have run of the house. It was good to see her happy though, even if it did make her forget her own mother sometimes.

Resolutely she strode on, picking up pace and as the light penetrated her lids, she knew she was close. Opening her eyes she grew accustomed to the brilliance enough to pick out dark shapes against it. As her excitement grew, her breath got louder in her ears and turned to an uneven rattle.  She gasped her last as she saw the shadows become the two men she missed so much, waiting for her, there, as she reached the end of the tunnel.

Five day challenge, Day Four – The Red

Day four of my five day challenge courtesy of Scillagrace!  Another bit of flash fiction, this time inspired by this photograph of Mount Arenal which was puffing odd bits of smoke out when we visited a few years ago. Nevertheless, it did seem quite benevolent when we were clambering over it’s rocky foothills and bathing in the glorious hot springs. I can only hope that there is plenty of warning for everyone should it ever decide to erupt with any force ever again.

Costa Rica 179

The Red

When the child woke, he looked up at his mother smiling above him and simply said

‘it’s coming.’

‘What is coming child?’ the mother asked.  She wasn’t surprised. The soothsayer had welcomed the child as an omen, and had told her that he would have powers even as he had taken his first breath. Now, at four years old, he was precocious and serious, with a permanent frown.  He didn’t play, but was often to be found sitting with his back against the mud walls of his home just observing the world through his dark eyes.

‘Tell the others’ he said in his curiously unchildlike voice ‘tell the others they need to leave. It’s coming’

‘You need to tell me more child’ said the mother as she washed him.

‘Mother, be warned. It is coming. It is coming soon.  The Red is coming.’ And the child gripped his mother’s hand and looked at her so earnestly she thought her heart would break.

‘Red? What Red? Explain child’

‘The Red, from the mountain’ and he pointed towards the volcano that had towered over theirs and many other villages for time immemorial.  It was the volcano who’s quiet breath and rumbling snores had only ever been heard by ancestors.  It had stood silent, still and benevolent while rich flora and fauna crept further and further up it’s sides.  Some of the young men had even dared to climb to it’s broken peak and peer into it’s secret stomach, but even they had not reported any danger, just a craggy, dusty interior.

The mother did not know what her boy meant.  She had never heard of an eruption, nor seen it’s effect.  She had not been schooled and had never left the safety of the remote village.

Her husband occasionally went as far as the town, but even he did not understand what the child had meant by ‘the Red’.   So they took him to the soothsayer, where he repeated his prophecy.

The soothsayer, as was her habit, was sitting on the large rock that guarded the entrance to her hut. She puffed on her long carved pipe before declaring that the whole village should take note, and flee as the child had urged.

‘But why?’ asked the mother ‘What is the Red that he speaks of.’  And the soothsayer explained how the volcano would one day spew forth it’s innards, spilling rivers of blood red molten rocks on to the village.

‘No one in their path will live to breath another day’ she said.

Word spread quickly, and since the soothsayer’s word had never been questioned, all the villagers packed up their worldly goods and walked away from the small settlement they knew and loved. Not a tear was shed, as they believed life was more precious than any belongings, but they did turn and bid farewell to the volcano with sadness.

They walked for two days before the child and the soothsayer, having been consulted, declared the new site for the village.  From it, they could still see the volcano in the distance, quietly brooding over it’s surrounds.  The child watched it knowingly.

After a week, the new village was complete.  To mark the occasion the villagers held a party.  It was a rare event.  All the men got dressed up in the feathered headdresses passed down from their fathers, and the women all wore elaborate beaded necklaces.  The darkness descended as the happy group danced and sang around the huge fire which burned between their new homes.  They feasted on meat and fruits, and drank purple juice that made their heads swim merrily.  The boy still watched.

‘The Red is coming’ he muttered to himself, not without a frisson of excitement.

There was no time in that place. No clocks. No beginnings nor ends. But at some point as the revelries of the evening were beginning to slow and the huge fire was turning to embers, a firework display began.

The first boom rocked the very soil they sat on, and they watched in wonder as that gentle volcano put on a show, shooting red stars into the air, and spilling glowing streamers down it’s sides as if in celebration with them.

‘It’s the Red’ the child said.

Death in Delhi – Five day challenge.. day one

I’ve been invited by the lovely Scillagrace (visit her super blog here) to take part in a five day challenge.  To complete the challenge I have to post a photo with an accompanying story every day for…yes, you’ve guessed it, five days!  So here goes on Day One with a bit of flash fiction….

Death in Delhi

Delhi

It was cooler under the shade of the Ashok tree that wept close to the newly carved tomb but still Nirmala didn’t want to be there, but her mother had insisted.

‘He was your husband. It is your duty to grieve’ she said dragging the protesting woman by the wrist.

She had barely known him when they were married.  He was at least thirty years older than her. He’d agreed to ‘have’ her when his second wife had died in childbirth. It didn’t matter to him about the deep purple birthmark that disfigured her left cheek which her mother had said would prevent interest by any other suitor. She could look after the child, even if she was only a child herself.

She’d been married to him for nearly twenty years, and in her care the child had become a young man.  Like his father, the boy had treated Nirmala as a slave, and she thanked her gods when he eventually left the family hovel.

Her ‘husband’ had got fatter and more unpleasant by the day, but she served him as best she could. She never had a child herself since the marriage was never consummated.  From the start he had made it clear, that he didn’t need that from her, he had money enough to buy himself ‘proper’ women if and when he needed, and for that, she had been mightily relieved.

Just like she was when she found his overstuffed body cold in his bed.

However, widows were considered bad luck and ended up living on the outskirts of society where no man would venture and her mother had made it clear she wouldn’t take her back into the household

‘I’ve enough mouths to feed’ she’d said without a shred of compassion for her distraught daughter.

Now, standing over his grave in the stinking heat of a Delhi afternoon, her mother watching critically from her seat under the tree, she realised that she was nothing, her miserable and empty life was now meaningless.  So she didn’t hesitate when she withdrew the small knife that she’d hidden in the folds of her sari, plunging it deep into her stomach with a force she didn’t know she possessed. She felt her soul flutter before her body collapsed over the sun warmed stone tomb, her blood staining it forever.

Masks

Meg was feeling slightly sick as the little dinghy bobbed about on the swell. There were seven of them all crowded on to the little rubber boat, sleek in their wetsuits, unnaturally pressed up against each other, tanks propped between their knees.

She had got most of her kit on on-shore, heaving the heavy weight-belt on with fingers numb from the cold Atlantic breeze, and strapping the big bladed knife to her thigh in case of trouble. Then, with no dispensations for age or gender, she helped carry the dinghy down the pebbled beach from the car park to float it on to the matching grey ocean.

This was her first open water dive. A virgin diver, the lads called her with a nudge and a wink. She was the only woman on this trip, although there were one or two other, younger girls, who came to the weekly meetings at the echoey old Victorian pool back in London. That was where she’d trained and suffered, and very nearly drowned on many occasions, in the months since she’d joined the club. She remembered the first lesson, when she was told she would have to swim 10 lengths with the weight belt on before they’d consider teaching her anything else. Grim determination got her there, her arms pulling the water out of the way and legs kicking frantically, just managing to keep afloat. It had taken four attempts, but she finally succeeded and progressed on to the next stage.

Clearing your mask.

Doesn’t sound very difficult she had thought at the time, but it proved to be another stumbling block, that still she struggled with sometimes. The trick was to grasp the bottom of the mask and lift it up at the same time as blowing through your nose.  Theoretically it should empty any water out of it. But no, usually Meg ended up feeling more like a goldfish peering through a bowlful of water at the world beyond.

Nevertheless, as the weeks passed, she became more confident and was eventually able to take the final hurdle, which was to put all the equipment on at the bottom of the pool. Again, it took several attempts. More often than not she just didn’t have enough air in her lungs to blow the water from the mouthpiece before taking a breath, and resurfaced gasping and spluttering, giving the men good reason to tease her mercilessly when she joined them at the pub after the session.

She had seen the advert for the diving club in the local paper. She had never been sporty or adventurous, but now she was on her own she felt she needed to prove herself, and it would be good to have an unusual distraction that took her away from the daily grind at the surgery, where she had to fix her smile in place to cover her almost constant irritation with both the patients and doctors. The other receptionists seem to cope all right, and she thought she did too until the episode with old Tom Burns, who had always been difficult and abusive, but this time he’d actually slapped her. Sandra, the junior, had been quick to call the police and they took the poor old soul away.

Try as she might, she couldn’t really remember what had happened. She might very well have been sharp with him. She often was prickly since the divorce, and sometimes said things she regretted later.  She suspected, that that was why Dan had decided to leave her and go and live with his dad instead. A 15 year old boy only has so much understanding to give his mum.

Anyway, he had thought her new hobby ‘cool’, and she was hoping that he might even start to join her at the pool every week, even if it was only with the foolish and unrealistic promise of warm waters in exotic locations to come. At least it would be regular contact. Not like now, when he often seemed too busy to even talk to her on the phone. She’d tried texting too, but somehow her texts didn’t seem as urgent as those from his fan club of girls.

Now, though, it was her time. The virgin diver. She sat on the edge of the dinghy pulling on the big black flippers, accepting help with the tank, and tightening the mask, pulling out wisps of hair, knowing that there would be unattractive ridges on her face when she took it off. Someone turned the air on and she put the mouthpiece in and blew out as had become natural now.

She tipped backwards into the uninviting water. Hearing the now familiar mechanical sound of her breathing, she sent an ok signal to her companion and headed off into unknown waters.

The letter – writing 101 challenge

Today’s writing 101 challenge was for a bit of brief fiction based around finding a letter.  Here is my attempt.  Hope it makes some sort of sense:-

It lay there, half submersed in a puddle. Dropped in shock from a shaky hand perhaps?

‘further investigation…  An appointment has been booked….. please bring….’

The time and date is in the coming week. An urgent thing then.

Whoever this was addressed to will need it, but the water has seeped across the page blurring words and making the letters weep inky tears.