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Weak

31 Oct

They said that I was too sensitive, thin-skinned, highly strung. Weak was the implication. Too weak to do what I wanted, to follow the career path that was my heart’s desire. I tried not to listen, but the words fed into my soul.

I lost myself in other words, words that took me to other worlds, where I could fight for the freedom of Narnia, solve mysteries with Nancy Drew, explore jungles and far off planets. I stacked the books around me, building a wall to hide behind. I slipped my little pieces of paper in place of mortar, like the faithful at the Wailing Wall.

A wall became a tower, then the tower became a fortress. I worked in a library, built my own at home, added more protection. For I am weak. Like Wilbur, I am the runt of the litter with nothing to commend me.

Cannonballs blasted at my castle, breaching the defences, arrows slipped through cracks, and spears rained over the ramparts. From within I could feel the forces that rocked the very foundations. I had two choices: to hide in a corner, make myself small, close my eyes and let my mind go into the books, never to return; or to come out fighting my foes: fists clenched, armour on, and with a strengthen roar that would silence the world.

This piece was inspired by the writing prompt for 23rd of Oct at Creative Writing Ink

 

Not One More

10 Oct

Not One More

I promised you I wouldn’t: not one more shoe; not one more drink. The shoes should have been easy, once the diabetes had taken my legs, but the beauty of them persisted, especially without the attendant blisters and wobble.

I didn’t care that staff laughed behind my back, or in front of my face, when I wheeled myself into their shop. Didn’t respond to their wisecracks of whether I thought they would be comfortable. What size? they would ask like it didn’t matter, but it did: there had to be consistency. A six is always easy to get and has the added benefit of looking in proportion, not shrunken or supersized, and I would always consider it my size.

I had low-level shelves erected all around the apartment and furnished them with my collection. I could touch the soft leather, smell the unboxed fragrance; pierce my fingertips with stiletto heels. Nubuck, patent, distressed or polished; red, pink, electric blue, anything but black. I don’t do laces either, or pumps, they must have a heel. Boots would be problematic for the height of my shelves, and they would flop unless I reinforced them, and no one would want to see that.

The drink, at least, was more understandable: I’d drink too, in her situation. The fact that it had contributed to my situation was neither here nor there.

I imagine that most drunks crave the alcohol, but for me, it is all about the aesthetics. My cupboards contained an array of glass sizes and shapes, for whisky, brandy, red or white wine. They didn’t have to be crystal, although a good malt deserved nothing less, but they do have to be beautiful. I love sitting (which is just as well) with a glass in my hand; warming the liquid to the optimal temperature or downing it before it loses its chill.

Breathing in the scent of a full-bodied Bordeaux warms my spirit for hours. The consumption, such as it was, was a by-product of the pleasure.

Not one more shoe; not one more drink. I would have kept my promise too, if you had kept yours: not one more fling; not one more affair.

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This piece was inspired by a prompt at Creative Writing Ink (2nd Oct 2019)

 

A Star is Born

28 Aug

Just before I was deluged by proofreading work – Beech Editorial Services – I popped this little flash in the post (i.e. email). You can read A Star is Born here. If you like it, Like It.

I had written it originally for the wonderful Creative Writing Ink prompt, but thought it could do with another outing. I find the photographic prompts on the CWI website really inspiring, but have deadlines money attached to get on with – maybe at the weekend I’ll be able to grab a few minutes to get some writing done.

The Real Jazz Baby

26 Jul

Can’t be bothered reading more than 360 words at a time, then do I have the publication for you – The Real Jazz Baby is published by Reflex Press and contains ‘162 flash fictions from over 120 of the best flash fiction writers in the world.’ (My italics, as I am excited to be included in the collection). Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Walk in Special

14 Jun

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It had been a horrible day, the worst of a terrible week. Delayed train, torrential rain, broken umbrella. So, I get to work soaked, only to be told that my classroom has changed and that I need to get myself over to the other campus PDQ.

The taxi is on the college account, but I pay for it, having to listen to the driver’s flat earth beliefs. When I get to Woodbridge the students are all but rioting, and I see that the guy I thought I’d got rid of, is back.

Apparently, I am not allowed to comment on his objectionable t-shirt, as it might be the only one he has, and we can’t do anything to discourage him, can we? I’m fed up having the argument that the female students find it repellent, and no one cares what I feel about it.

I get through the lesson, though there’s little enthusiasm for my compulsory slot, and spend the rest of the morning trying not to give the students the marks they deserve, as that wouldn’t go down well with management.

At lunchtime I am back at the main campus, but I can’t face the staff room. Everyone hates their jobs; hates their students; hates their lives.

My doctor has told me to walk; that the fresh air, sunlight and exercise will help, but my feet drag, especially on the way back where steep hills lie between me and my afternoon.

Then a sign catches my eye: Walk in Special. Should there be a hyphen there? I wonder, but no, maybe it’s a command. So, I take a deep breath, pull my shoulders back and walk in: special.

This piece was inspired by the above photo prompt at Creative Writing Ink

As Yet Untitled

27 Jan

If you want to cheer up your Sunday, or at least have a flash read, then one of my stories has been published here. https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2019/01/27/as-yet-untitled/

If you have the time, it would be great if you could add a comment on the Flash Fiction Magazine page.

You might also like to download their free ebook of previously published flash.

Or, if you are a writer, why not pen a few lines and send them on.

The Wedding Party

4 Mar

The Wedding Party

She’d been to these parties before, when a bride wants another wear out of her wedding dress. ‘It’ll be fun,’ Stacy said. ‘All the girls from the office are coming. Another chance to feel really special, eh Christine?’

It was also a chance to have a snide look at your friends’ weight gain; the not- yet-revealed pregnancies; the workmates who would have to make excuses because their dress came out of the hire shop, or the man they called their husband wasn’t really.

Christine had no such worries: at forty she had accumulated three traditional white frocks and two less formal ones – one from the beach wedding with Javier, (who turned out to be gay); and a grey suit from the Registry Office with James, who believed that everything should be functional (he was a bag of laughs).

Stacy’s party definitely called for white, but no amount of SlimFasting would get her into the dress she wore when she married Andy. She was so tiny then, withered away to almost nothing. Three kids later, and a hell of a lot of comfort eating and she was in a plus size for Ali. He said he liked something to hold onto, but it turned out he wasn’t great at holding onto anything.

So those two were out. All that was left was her first dress. The one that made her mum cry when she tried it on. The one that made the girls in the bridal shop rush with a veil and shoes to pop on, and even an artificial bouquet that she could hold in front of her, so she could get the full impression in the mirror.

She lifted it off the hanger, and slipped it on again. After the years of a yo-yoing waistline, it just about fitted. She circled the gold band on her finger; the one Euan had given her twenty years before. The one she had refused to remove for Javier and Ali and Andy and James. The one she had kept faithful with throughout all the subsequent failures.

Maybe if she wore this dress to Stacy’s party she would stand out among the other brides. Maybe Euan would realise what a mistake he had made. And Stacy would regret inviting her new husband’s ex-wife to her stupid wedding party.

This piece was inspired by a prompt at Creative Writing Ink

After the Beep

4 Nov

After the Beep

He goes to the phone box every day – 20ps in his pocket; the number he used to know by heart, on a scrap of paper.

Some days no one answers, on others a voice gives racing tips. Fewer times now there is the offer of a job – something local, nothing that requires speed.

The walk takes longer each day, the occasional stumble; the rare fall. He had a phone put in in the 70s, has the latest smart technology in his inside pocket, but each day he varies his route to the last phone box, hoping that before he dies, the voice on the end of the line will reveal where the loot is buried.

 

This post was inspired by a photo on Creative Writing Ink

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Inheritance

3 Nov

‘And now,’ Clare said, ‘do you regret not opening the door.

She’d caught her at a bad time, otherwise Eve would never have shared so much with Clare, but once she had started it had all come out. She re-focused on the obituary in her hand, carefully cut from a newspaper and sent thousands of miles.

She had made the journey in the opposite direction two years before. The streets of her home town had been both familiar and foreign. A differently coloured front door causing her mind to falter, to stop the memory, to check the dream.

She’d driven the rental out to the farm, parking a mile away, then walking slowly towards the house. At no point did she think she wouldn’t go through with it. Her kids had jobs now, no longer dependent on her; and her divorce settlement allowed her to book the plane ticket with barely a thought.

It was only when she was there, her hand on the doorknob, that she hesitated.

A noise from within startled her. Footsteps. A nicotine-strained cough. The scrape of a chair.

Fear clenched at her stomach, anger at her bowels. The scars she had etched on her thighs with sharpened sticks, pulled.

She wasn’t sure if she had come to forgive or seek forgiveness.

‘Do you regret not opening the door?’ Clare repeated.

What Eve couldn’t explain was that she had heard no raised voices, no pitiful cries or smashes of crockery. But she could feel the quiet disappointment oozing through the door; the aggressive silences; the oppressive power.

‘No,’ Eve said finally. ‘Je ne regrette rien.’ She smiled, deflecting with humour.

‘And did your mother leave you anything?’ Clare asked, picking for secrets to share at her book group.

Eve nodded. ‘I inherited everything.’

 

 

This piece was inspired by this prompt at Creative Writing Ink

 

prompt door open

Away with the Fairies

3 Nov

When the children asked why Granny couldn’t remember their names, or talked to them like they were her childhood friends, I couldn’t bear to use the words – Dementia, Alzheimer’s. Their little tongues wouldn’t be able to wrap themselves around the syllables, so said she was away with the fairies. It made them giggle, satisfied their curious minds. It made me wonder how long I had accepted the same explanation when my mum used it for my little Nan. How long before I drummed up the courage to ask if it was really the fairies that were occupying her mind. From my reading of the Brownie Handbook, I would have thought it was more likely to be imps, making Nan leave the gas on to boil the electric kettle dry; making her strip to her girdle and knickers, and walk out to meet the postman.

It seemed appropriate that we took Mum out to the woods to scatter her. The roots of blown down trees looked like fairy skyscrapers, with nooks and crannies to hide precious memories. A ring of mushrooms under an oak. Stones neatly piled. Tinkling in the breeze.

‘What do we do now?’ Moya asked.

The rituals at the church and crematorium were for others to command, now it was my turn, and I struggled under the weight of expectation. A new tradition about to be born through this death.

‘Form a circle,’ I said, thinking back to my childhood’s Thursday nights. ‘Hold hands. Now we skip.’

John looked at me, and I knew he thought I’d gone too far.

‘Even Daddy?’

‘Especially Daddy.’

We skipped in a circle as I mumbled incantations from all the cultures that had brewed in my life. Then I broke the circle, stood in the middle, a tight little group, clasping hands around me. I took her from my pocket, and silently asked the fairies to look after her.

This story was written in response to this prompt at Creative Writing Ink

A photo by Robert Lukeman. unsplash.com/photos/_RBcxo9AU-U

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