Out Of The Frying Pan

26 August, 2011 at 12:31 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Frying Pan was not your typical greasy spoon cafe although it liked to play upon the image. Ma, behind the counter, looked just slightly too young to be anyone’s actual mother, certainly not any of the patrons of The Frying Pan. If you looked closely at her you might suspect that was because of judicious botox rather than actual youth, nevertheless, Ma was what it said on her namebadge rather than a friendly nickname. It was all about image at The Frying Pan, a real greasy spoon would never have survived in the heart of The City, a real greasy spoon would have had the bankers and the PAs and the enthusiastic cyclists up in arms talking about health and safety or trans fats. The Frying Pan was talked about, but in glowing terms, terms that embraced it’s image and liked to extend it’s pretense that a family run, greasy little cafe had been in The City for generations patronised by those bankers who were down-to-earth and real men’s men.

The Frying Pan had been open nine months. ‘Ma’ had stood behind the formica counter and called unrecognisable terms to ‘Pa’ everytime one of the smartly dressed customers ordered.

The Frying Pan liked to play upon the image and did it very well. Ma liked to pretend that it wasn’t The City outside her plate glass window, on somedays it was Manchester or Leeds or even Sheffield and her shout backs would affect the trace of a Northern accent. The days she pretended it was Manchester her accent was better than the days she pretended it was New York, New Orleans or San Francisco.
Ma’s real accent came from the Home Counties but she didn’t use it much. Ma’s real hair was brunette but she hadn’t seen it in years. Ma’s real name was a lot less obvious than her real accent or real hair and hadn’t been used for half a decade before the brunette had vanished. Ma would quite happily have told anyone that she was a ‘Total fake, but a real fake, like Holly Golightly’ and she didn’t really think that much of herself.

This is why she was surprised to find herself inching along the ledge of the window in her bare feet. “I have my limits,” she’d say, her ‘northern’ accent oscillating from Lancashire to Yorkshire and back again. But her limits appeared not to matter today. She took a deep breath and readied herself for what must come next.

Ma had come in, around four thirty as she did every morning. She had expected Johnny (Pa’s real name) to come in around five, but for once he hadn’t shown up. She’d called his mobile and his home and then she’d gone into the kitchen to work out how to turn the ovens on so they’d be ready when he did turn up. Whilst inside the kitchen she’d been vaguely aware of a pouring sound, like water running in the next room over, but she hadn’t thought anything of it. Ma didn’t have much in the way of a sense of smell and so the fumes didn’t hit her as soon as they might have done a younger woman who’d never smoked. She also hadn’t heard the lock of the front door being forced, it had been done quietly, professionally, so that was understandable. Later she would be very glad that Johnny hadn’t come in to work on time or she’d have been in the front when it had happened. As it was she was in the kitchen in time for the sudden rush of hot air to hit her followed by the unmistakable roaring sound of flames.

Ma turned and the nylon in her skirt crinkled back, showing more fear than she did as years of lectures and training actually hit her. She dropped to the floor as the petrol fuelled fire roared above her across the ceiling. She scuttled, crablike, backwards as fast as she could across the tiled floor. Her shoulders hit the fire-exit door harder than she would have liked, but she knew she bruised her knees when she knelt up to push the bar to open the double-doors. She couldn’t fathom why they wouldn’t open, only that they didn’t and her exit route had been cut short. Side to side her eyes flicked, aware that outside was a few inches away if the door had not been blocked, the flames looked like some vast hot liquid in front of her, racing across the tiled kitchen, then she saw, to her left, the stairs leading to a small staff toilet upstairs.

The tiny staircase was hot and smoke-filled, back smoke that she tried not to breath into her lungs. As she crawled up the stairs the wood grew hotter under her palms until she felt that they were blistering, the nylon on her skirt had melted solidly together with the net petticoat.
It was the sanitary bin that she used to smash open the window in the pokey little toilet, it was solidly full and on the second try broke the glass with it’s weight. The high-heels she tried to use to clear the broken glass away from the edges of the window as she’d seen on television but it didn’t work so she flung them out. That was the first clue that the gathered onlookers had to her being in the building. The second was her eventual emergence onto the window ledge.

“Jump!” they shouted to her. “Jump! Ma! Jump!”

She looked down, through the smoke and the flames and knew that she’d have to do it. She knew that she’d break her legs on the street below, there was nothing to catch her, but it was either that or stay here and suffocate or burn.

She took a deep breath, then Amy jumped.

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The Shipwreck

21 August, 2011 at 19:09 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The storm cracked it’s lightning whips from overhead and still the rig continued it’s journey, tossed by the waves. For a moment it was outlined against the black clouded sky by a crack that echoed around the sky. It strained over the racing waves, beneath the clouds. Not even those aboard could hear the creaks of it’s timbers as the wind tore a line free of the mizzenmast. The roar of the ocean was too great and the thunder too loud. Then the ship seemed to catch itself in the trough of two waves, the fore tossed by one and the aft by another, there was a moment when the sea seemed to pause, hover above the decks, and then it crashed. The figurehead plunged into the trough of the wave and the jigger tore from it’s hold and the foam and salt of several tonnes of water plunged upon the ship.

There was no time for anything to be done, as the sailors aboard the ship tried to race up from below decks the sea pushed them back. The sea wrapped itself around the full-rig like a serpent and squeezed with all it’s might. The foremast joined the jigger as the sea squeezed. Lines from the mainmast span free from the rigging and spiraled up in the water like tentacles from a drowning sea urchin.

The next morning the sea was calm. The yellowed sky glowed free of clouds and the only evidence of the previous nights events was the driftwood that came ashore as flotsam. The beachcombers ran for such, but the gentlemen on the beach ignored the spars of the ship and it’s intricately carved figurehead to favour the barrels floating merrily as jetsam upon the tide.

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The Ball

9 August, 2011 at 16:17 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , )

The little boy watched the ball bounce all the way down the stairs and out of the door onto the pavement beyond. He glanced back over his shoulder to see his mother completely absorbed in the brightly glowing images of the television set, then, with a determined expression on his face he set about climbing down the stairs after the ball.

By the time he had made it down all of the wooden steps, some of which had hurt him as he had tripped and stumbled, he was no longer able to see the ball, just outside of the door. Having had to have been a very brave boy with no one to praise him for not crying when the stairs had hurt him and no one to rock him gently when he had wanted to make a very loud, pained noise he let himself shed a few tears but kept the sound in so that his mother wasn’t disturbed from her programme.

He stepped outside of the house and onto the pavement. The ball was not there. He looked left and right, up and down the pavement. There were plenty of people out here and he knew that if he were too slow one of them would call his mother down and he would get into trouble for being outside. Then he looked across the busy road where all the cars were and saw the bright blue of his ball. It had been knocked somehow into the central island in the middle of the road.

The little boy took a deep breath as he had seen his mother do before she was about to do something very difficult. He took a step out into the road. Then another one. He looked left and then right and took another step. No cars came. He took another deep breath and then his bravery finally gave way and he ran straight for his blue ball and straight for the central island. Then the cars came and the little boy, hugging his blue ball in middle of a busy road, began to cry.

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