As part of our writing session “Less is More” we wrote some flash fiction. Using photographs as our starting point, which had to contain people, we tackled a 300 word story. The results were varied and fascinating. Helen
‘Now we’re for it. He’s on his way and he’s hopping mad.’
‘Well don’t blame me. You shouldn’t have been so greedy.’
‘You persuaded me.’
‘I only offered you a taste. I didn’t expect you to eat it down to the core.’
‘But I did enjoy it. D’you fancy another one?’
‘No! We mustn’t. He told us not to.’
‘Just a little nibble?’
‘No! He’ll be here any minute. And anyway, the animals are watching.’
‘They’re watching for him. They know he’s coming.’
‘They always do. They seem to have a sixth sense, that we don’t have.’
‘That’s right. It’s called common sense.’
‘They’ll probably spill the beans.’
‘Don’t be daft, Eve. They can’t talk.’
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if that bloody chimp can. He’s not as stupid as he looks.’
‘True. And the serpent spoke to you, didn’t he?’
‘He persuaded me to do it. Talk about a smooth tongue! He sounded like you, when you’re after something.’
‘That’s a catty remark, Eve. You’re just like the tiger.’
‘How did he find out, Adam? He didn’t see us himself. He wasn’t here.’
‘He might have been. He is invisible, you know.’
‘Ah, yes. Actually, I did see a bicycle riding round the garden with no-one on it. Do you think that was him?
‘Perhaps he sent an angel to spy on us. After all, he can’t be everywhere at once.’
‘I wish the animals would stop staring at us, Adam. The lion disapproves and the camel’s got the hump.’
‘Hold on, my mobile’s ringing. Oh, it’s him!’ Good morning, Lord. Yes, we’re waiting for you … You’re not coming? …What do you want us to do? … Leave? What now? … Clothes? What are they? … Ah, fig leaves, I see. Yes Lord. Thy will be done. Goodbye.’
The dog had been with her for many years. A life-long companion when her errant husband was on one of his outings to see “a friend”. Now, her faithful Chappie was unrecognisable, a tangle of blood and fur, barely visible under the wheels of his car.
She pulled her headscarf tight and turned away. She had learnt to swallow tears from that direction most of their married life.
He was getting out now. Slowly, of course. Arthritis and last week’s fall have taken their toll. Not that he’ll ever admit it. As if he would ever admit anything. Certainly, he was never going to concede that his driving days were over. All part of his argument that old age could be beaten with the proper degree of determination. Yes, indeed, he was stubborn to the core.
She saw him doing that thing with his hands, patting pockets, looking for his glasses.
“Bloody Hell, your animal has made a frightful mess. Is it Bertie? Ran straight out in front of me. I suppose I might have had a chance if the sun hadn’t been in my eyes.”
She sighed inwardly as she examined the cloud-filled skies.
“No, Bertie’s inside. Chappie and I were supposed to go for a walk with the girls. I imagine we’ll postpone that now. You’d best tell them what’s happened.”
“Your dog. Might be better coming from you.”
She turned and faced him.
“No…”, swallowing a conversation for later, “not this time.”
“So be it! I’ll move the car back so it can be sorted.
He was not to be stopped.
“Slowly!” she mouthed.
But he had already put the car in drive and it accelerated forwarded knocking her to the floor and pinning her next to her favourite corgi.
“Bloody sun,” said Philip.
Chelsea sat on a marble block as the guide droned on about temples and gods. Two weeks’ holiday on Naxos should have been a teenager’s dream, but so far it was just boring culture.
‘Remember,’ said the guide. ‘Walking under this arch will take you to the other side.’
Got to be better than this, thought Chelsea and, when everyone else walked away, she ran between the pillars.
Immediately everything was different. Bluer sky, brighter sun, a much stronger smell of herbs. And different people, all angry, shouting and running towards her. She tried to escape but was trapped by half-built walls that hadn’t been there moments before.
They grabbed her and forced her to her knees in front of the arch. When she tried to get up, they slapped her down again, all the while chanting, ‘Dionysus, Dionysus.’
Suddenly he was there; tall, handsome and sexy, everything a Greek god should be. He reached out a hand and touched her face, a touch that made her shiver.
‘You are beautiful,’ said his voice in her head. ‘But not of this world. Go back but remember, as you came to me, so I shall come to you.’
The world swirled, the chanting faded and wind blew dust in her face. She opened her eyes and saw her parents kneeling beside her.
‘It’s the heat,’ said the guide as Chelsea struggled to sit up. ‘Everyone – go to the bus.’
They all obeyed but, as Chelsea reached it, she looked back. Dionysus was standing in front of The Portara.
‘We all need believers,’ he told her. ‘Thanks to you, I am once more the god of Naxos, and we shall meet again.’
Chelsea glowed with excitement. Her holiday had just gone from boring to an episode of Love Island.
Emma Jay Neal
Sitting in her car, trembling, she waited for the traffic lights to change.
Nervously, she looked over her shoulder, was anyone watching her? She didn’t know.
The lights turned to green, she set off, quickly moving up the gears, trying not to break the speed limit. Following the written instructions on the text, she turned next left, then immediately right onto a country road.
The country road was narrow, winding, extremely quiet. The verges were overgrown with neglected hedges and brambles creeping onto the uneven road. It was getting dark, not a building or person in sight.
Her wheels spun as she narrowly missed a wild rabbit, braking then pulling up sharply in a small lay-by. Bending forward, her moist forehead on the steering wheel she silently said a prayer.
Picking up her bag, she snatched the car key, then opened the driver’s door stepping out into isolation. She began to walk slowly, too scared to glance behind. As she turned the tight bend, the oncoming car lights blinded her.
A muscular arm wrapped around her neck.
She stood at the end of the jetty overlooking the lake, gulping in lungfuls of air. Was he still on her tail? She caught sight of him through the twilight, standing on the shingle fifty metres away, silhouetted against the western sky.
Mentally she kicked herself. A mere slip of the tongue and his suspicions had immediately been aroused. The bar was almost empty and no one noticed the way he grabbed her arm and dragged her outside. Screaming was futile. In the yard he slapped her across the face, making her stumble.
‘Bitch, I should have realised!’
She knew how much violence he was capable of and didn’t waste time in replying. Summoning all her strength, she wrenched herself away from him and darted down the alley at the back of the bar. Thank God he was heavy-set and didn’t have her nimbleness. Within a minute or so she was way ahead of him on the road out of the village towards the lake. It was getting late and the shore was deserted.
There was no choice – she had to do it. She had thought about it a dozen times but now she was desperate. Fear of him overcame everything else.
There was a splash and black ripples radiated out across the water. A searing cold hit her body. He heard the noise and gave a roar, but it was too late. She had sunk down into the darkness.
When she resurfaced she could just make out a figure on the jetty, but she didn’t believe he would follow, at least not now. Her mission had taken him off guard and he needed to rethink his strategy. She struck out strongly for the far side of the lake, where her handlers would be waiting to pick her up.
Frances Nugent, 2019
THE YOUNG PIANO PLAYER
I first saw him when I was a young woman playing my piano at the cabaret club.
If the truth be known, I wasn’t old enough to be playing in such a club, but he was also far too young to have been let in.
No matter. He was my age, very handsome, and oozed eligibility.
The burning question was, ‘How was I going to attract his attention?’
I was playing a boogie woogie, and decided that the next number had to be slow and romantic.
My plan was to catch his eye, and firmly lock his gaze into mine.
If I could do this, he’d have no chance!
Instantly, I had a few butterflies in my stomach, but only for a moment.
My confidence soon returned.
‘I can do this!’ I said to myself.
So what should I play?
I settled for the song “Some enchanted evening” from the musical, ‘South Pacific’, which contains the line “ ♪…across a crowded room …♪ ”.
I don’t know how, but that night I gave the best performance of my life.
And it worked.
We had a short courtship, got married, and now we have a young daughter of our own who plays boogie woogie on the piano!
I go and listen to her at the same nightclub, and last night I unexpectedly felt those butterflies again.
She was playing a love song.
I looked at her, and I could see that she was looking across the crowded room.
I followed her eyeline, and my heart fluttered, for her gaze was firmly locked into that of a very handsome young man…
© Bob Reader February 2019
The New Suit
He shook with anger as he raised the baton of wood found ten minutes ago on the building site. Despite the red mist he was still aware that his choice of weapon was clean and wouldn’t dirty the new suit he had put on that morning for work. His first day behind the counter at the local bank of Northern Ireland; how he had dreamed of such a job. He hadn’t intended to involve himself in the riot but he’d seen the stones being hurled and the impassive faces of the soldiers as they stood there with their shields and guns. They were in his country, his land, his life. He could never return home without some token of his hatred of this invading army.
Arm raised he went to bring the weapon down. With luck it would strike one of the men. He would turn and run. When life had been simpler, kinder, back in the day, he’d been an athlete but IEDs, and barricades had turned his beloved city into a war zone.
He hurled his stick; pathetically it shot out of his hand and fell, ineffectually, in the path of the men. He couldn’t move. He froze as he realised the stupidity of his action. He felt a pain in his right shoulder and then hands grabbed him and he was thrust against the wall. The smell of sweat, fear and plastic surrounded him.
Slowly he slid down to the littered ground. He could no longer see that his once pristine suit was now covered in the remains of brick, detritus and his own seeping blood.
The ship’s PA system relayed the Captain’s message. Rough seas ahead. Warnings to take care on stairways, use handrails and don’t go out on deck tonight.
Pauline didn’t open her birthday gifts or cards. They sat in the middle of the table all through the meal.
Eight of us plus the baby dined together that night to celebrate Pauline’s 50th birthday. The food was great, but the service was slow. Probably due to the rocking of the ship. Pauline kept saying she felt hot. Needed a breather.
Cutlery and glasses rattled on the table as the ship ploughed through the waves.
When coffee was served a huge slab of gateau was placed in front of the birthday girl. It had a sparkler in it. Five waiters serenaded her.
Several diners left before dessert, evidently feeling the effects of the swell.
The baby was getting fractious. Granny Pauline put her in the buggy and told us she was taking her for a walk. Daughter Claire warned her not to go on deck.
Whilst Mike took Pauline’s gifts back to their cabin the rest of us retired to the Champagne Bar.
An hour later we’re roaming the corridors searching for Pauline and the baby. Where the hell were they?
Sick bags out on the stairwells and in the loos. The storm was getting worse.
I said we had better inform the Captain. The pair seemed to have vanished.
Claire was hysterical. Sobbing and shouting ‘Mum and my baby. Where are you?’
Man overboard! Man overboard! The PA system went into overdrive. Searchlights scanned the decks and the raging sea.
Then we heard a baby cry. Someone had spotted the buggy jammed between piles of deckchairs.
Pauline was never seen again.