Friday Fictioneers – Brittle as Paint

Hi all, greetings from Spain. If I can’t manage a 100 word story for Friday Fictioneers while on holiday then there’s no hope for the rest of the time! Uploading on my phone has been a little tricky as has not having an automatic word count, but I hope I’m not too far off.

Beams of torchlight in the darkness. The bark of soldiers. A hazy silhouette of a man being hauled by his armpits.

Realising that it was her man.

Here, a parting like that was a parting forever. A total rending of her heart and her hopes of escaping this godforsaken country.

Later, under a bloody sunrise, she looked down at the bench and remembered the schemes they’d concocted there, brittle as the paint she was flaking with her fingernail.

No, those crackpot plans weren’t worthy of hopes. This is why, with no faith left to gamble, she would take those flimsy chances anyway.

Unwanted Gifts

Roberta hurried out of the front door in her husband’s slippers and shawl. Neither were adequate protection for the occurring downpour, but she marched down the street anyway. One of Roberta’s elderly neighbours was hobbling along the pavement some distance away.  Roberta always forgets her name; the street she lives on is friendly but not that friendly. The old lady started to cross the road, but her foot skidded on a stray piece of gravel as she stepped off the pavement. Roberta, however, was ready to save the day, and roughly grasped Bridget (The name dislodged itself from somewhere in Roberta’s memory) by her upper arm and pulled her up before she could fall onto the road.

Some five seconds later, a silver Toyota dashed around the corner, narrowly missing the kerb.

“Oh!” exclaimed Bridget. She stood for a second in silence, clearly contemplating what could have happened if Roberta had not been there. “How lucky you were here, R-“

“Bridget, we should get you out of the rain!” interrupted Roberta, through gritted teeth. Her slippers are already sodden.

After escorting Bridget to her front door, Roberta returned home and dried off. She made a milky cup of tea and began to confide in Fudge, her placid tabby cat.

“Oh, so lucky you were here, Roberta!” she imitated, with a dollop of sarcasm. “Yeah, lucky for you, you old bint. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my Saturday, and if Dave’s slippers don’t come out of the tumble dryer alright, I’m done for.”

Roberta’s in depth chats with Fudge only started when she started having the visions. The cat wouldn’t think she was crazy, and most importantly, the cat couldn’t tell anyone else that Roberta had gone off her rocker and thought she could see the future. Fudge yawned and stretched across the settee on the opposite side of the living room to the Roberta.

“Okay, Fudge, I know. Dave deserves to have his slippers ruined, the cheating bastard. Though, he might not have cheated on me yet, and we know that we can change what’s in the visions or Bridget would have met her maker this afternoon. So maybe he won’t cheat on me. The vision of him and his ex-wife could be completely out of context?”

In response to this, Fudge stared glassily out of the window.

“Or maybe I’m in complete denial,” Roberta sighed.

 

Reflection

For years, I’d noticed unnatural things about my own reflection. Sometimes I saw a slight delay in movement, or an odd twitch that I didn’t feel. The eyes would blink maybe a second before I did, and I’d catch some strange expression in the corner of my vision as I turned away from the mirror.

When my mirror image finally spoke, I felt relieved that I hadn’t been imagining it all this time. There was another person there, or some other version of me.  We became good friends, in the end, understanding each other so perfectly. I began to feel sorry for people who didn’t have a reflection who could talk back.

Months went by, and then he asked me a question I couldn’t answer.

“What do you do,” he asked, “when you’re not being my mirror image?”

The question rolled in my head, and I realised I couldn’t remember where I was before I came to this particular bathroom mirror, I didn’t know what laid beyond the door behind me. When my mirror image walked back into his life, I was surrounded by black fog.

I was nothing but his reflection.

Bad Decisions

“If it wasn’t for the fact it felt so good, I’d never make bad decisions, ever,” Caroline slurred. She was almost lying down on the couch opposite me, as listless on her fourth glass of sauvignon as she’d been energetic on the second.

“I never seem to have the opportunity to make half the bad decisions you do, at least be grateful for that,” I replied.

This seemed to pull Caroline half upright.

“But you are happy, right?” she asked.

Yes, I was happy. I’d lived in that sleepy town for six years, and made some friends that weren’t as dysfunctional as Caroline, and was one year into a relationship which seemed gloriously uncomplicated to any that I’d been in before. Caroline, meanwhile, floated along wherever the winds took her, and if there was any kind of storm, she sheltered here with me for a few days.

Last time it had been regrets about changing her job and working with a new company. This time, it was a broken heart, which had been the likely outcome from the moment she had fallen in love with her boss.

“I would let you know if I wasn’t happy, it’s definitely my turn to sit on your couch and drink your wine until I cheer up.”

Caroline walked over and sat next to me.  She took my glass of beer and put it on the table. Before I could ask why, she kissed me hard on the lips.

“Sure you’re not suffering from the lack of opportunity to make bad decisions?”

Friday Fictioneers – The Grinning Cat

Okay, slight mistake, accidentally used last week’s prompt for Friday Fictioneers. Bear with me here, it’s been a while.

As Alice checked her watch, the seconds hand was ticking past 9. Her date was late. The only company available was a yellow-eyed cat, watching from the path.

“The thing they must understand,” she told the cat, “is that I can’t bear lateness.”

She stared at the lake. The night sky reflection was so perfectly clear, Alice felt she could tumble in and end up amongst the stars. She leaned further over the wall. Suddenly, the cat was between her ankles, her balance was gone, and in she went.

Curiously, there was no splash.

“Enjoy Wonderland,” the cat chuckled.

Memories

I hesitate before I open the wardrobe. Fingertips on the cheap chrome handles, I feel it would be more neurotic to stop myself at this point than to give into my curiosity. After opening the doors, I kneel down and hunt through the debris at the bottom of the wardrobe; khaki shorts, tangled shirts, stray socks, grey-smeared trainers. The disturbed dust makes my eyes water.  I pull out an old shoebox, dark green with a fox logo, and place it on the bed.

Opening the box feels indulgent. They say that people now prefer to spend their disposable income on experiences rather than goods. A good memory is like good wine, it becomes more valuable as it ages, and so creating and preserving such memories is an investment. It’s more pleasurable to examine your mementos when it has been some time since you last did so. Digging out this shoebox, I’m not only letting my current emotions ruin what should be an enjoyable session of nostalgia, I feel that I’m permanently cheapening my memories.

I don’t cut to the chase. I carefully leaf through all the photographs, reread all the important cards with loving words of encouragement. I look through old loveletters, sketches, and cinema ticket stubs with mindful devotion, giving them the time they deserve. I try to let myself pretend I’m not just doing this for one reason. When I find what it is I’m really looking for, I place it face down on the duvet until I’m done with everything else.

Finally, I examine the photograph of me, Amy Gladwin, and Charlotte Foster. It’s Amy that I focus on.

“It’s so awful,” I say out loud, to no one in particular. But I had to say it, because I can’t say it to her directly, no matter how I wish I could. Before everyone found out about what happened, I wondered whether I should get in touch. We were connected online, so it would have been easy. I enjoyed seeing her photos and updates, but when she became semi-famous, I didn’t want to be that old friend who crawls out of the woodwork when they smell success.

I still don’t want to be that old friend. I wonder how many people are doing what I am doing right now. You are not special, I tell myself. Up and down the country, right now, there will be old classmates, student flatmates, colleagues, all digging out photographs and thinking about the connection to Amy they once had. Looking at an old photo of a girl I was best friends with, it’s easy to forget that I barely know the woman on TV.

As a teenager, Amy Gladwin was an unambitious student who somehow did nothing but knew everything. Her specialty was doing the bare minimum in class whilst probing those sitting next to her for news. She was a professional shit stirrer, knowing exactly what to say and which buttons to press, and so she was an entertaining friend to have. Despite knowing their secrets would be around the school by the end of the day, people still talked to her, because she always made the process of spilling the beans feel wonderfully cathartic.

Amy Gladwin, 27 year old journalist and media personality, was one of those funny people on panel shows who aren’t well known but make the most controversial jokes. She wrote opinion pieces for newspapers about austerity, feminism, the media, education, and all sorts of other things. She ran the London Marathon and recently went on holiday to Brazil.

Last week, someone stabbed Amy in the back and left her to die in the kitchen of her apartment.

How to be a Completely Unambitious Writer

It’s odd to think that, as recently as 2013, I had enough self-discipline to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.

Shortly after that, I wrote my series of vignettes for the Library Book Project. I still feel that series is possibly the best fiction work I’ve ever completed. At that time, I had absolutely no issue with calling myself a writer. There were stories I wanted to explore, and it felt so good to get them all down on paper.

While I never really had grand ambitions in terms of getting published, I felt like I was definitely improving and developing a skill. There were so many times growing up where I didn’t feel that I had a “talent” like other kids, and finally I felt like I could be really good at something if I just took the time to practice.

Unfortunately… things happen.

There’s a number of factors involved, but the truth is that I really regret dropping the ball. Being out of practice has meant that I’ve lost some faith in my ability as a writer. It doesn’t feel the same as it did before.

Another problem currently is that I’m also so stressed I find it difficult to actually relax and enjoy writing. Like, I’m really stressed out. Final year and graduate application rounds are totally kicking my arse. And, I get it, there are probably people who have lives exponentially more stressful than mine, and you have to be resilient, but, I’m seriously stressed out.

So, writing might not be my biggest priority right now.

BUT

I’m not going to give up. I’ll try things from different angles, maybe start some smaller projects, and keep talking to the people who I know will motivate me. I’m confident that one day, I’ll get some writerly mojo back.

 

 

Too Real To Be Real

I’m no memory of how I came to be here. I feel like I’ve been on this dark road for hours in trance, and now my eyes and brain have just gained focus on the present. The street I’m in is too real, the winter breeze is opaque, and the stuccoed walls of the semi-detached houses seem to make dents in my vision. The sodium streetlight casts an extradimensional glow on the scene.

I’m frozen to the spot, the air inside my lungs feeling foreign as it enters. My heart seems to have stopped.

There’s a painful flash, and I feel like my synapses are burning. Devoid of the ability to see anything but blinding white, I hear some cheering, and a voice.

“Experiment number three hundred and fifty nine. Success.”

Friday Fictioneers – God of Sales

PHOTO PROMPT - © Dale Rogerson

Copyright – Dale Rogerson

Another entry for Friday Fictioneers. Click the link to find more 100 word stories, read the rules, submit your own, etc etc. Struggled this week!

A cantankerous witch living in the forest stole my wife’s voice in a tantrum over turnip prices.

When we heard rumours of a river spirit, I was hopeful. I dreamed of a great dragon sliding through the murky waters of the lake, every lustrous scale shimmering with magic, wise and benevolent.

The second I kneeled down to pray at the lake, a voice called out to me. I looked up to see an aquamarine-suited figure right in front of me, smile spread wide over oddly white teeth.

“Wife needs some new pipes? I can do a great deal on that.”

Sunday Photo Fiction – 2056: Revival of the Demolition Derby

123 09 September 27th 2015

Copyright – Al Forbes

Click the link to take part in the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.

“Listen, sweetheart, these cars are priceless.” He leers are me as he enunciates the last word, his face pinching like he wants to spit in my face. “They’re the last of their kind left. To scrap these cars is like burning famous artwork.”

The second man takes a friendly tone with me. “I understand you have to do your job, and a demolition derby isn’t to everyone’s taste, but this is history we’re talking about. We’re trying to preserve history!”

I cast a final eye over the dented rusting boxes these men claim to be vehicles.

“There’s a reason banger racing died out. Regardless of the purpose, these cars don’t meet the legal emissions spec. If they’re used, you’ll be liable for a hefty fine. You’ll have to find newer cars to destroy.”