Corner Shop

31 August, 2011 at 23:06 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , )

“Spareabitofchangemate?” called out the old, homeless man on the street corner, running the words together as if they were one.

The girl ignored him, she wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, and ran along the pavement, the wooden end of her skipping rope dragging behind her. At the corner she stopped running and glanced behind her, the homeless man was peering into his polystyrene cup, trying to count the loose change there. The girl stepped up the two shallow, concrete steps into the corner shop and peered over the counter at the sweets there.

“Whachoo wan? Wishwon?” asked the grey old asian woman behind the counter, her English heavily accented. The girl smiled up at her, over the sweets.
“Wishwons?” asked the woman again, smiling back over the sweets.

The girl pointed to the cherry chupa chup lollies and held up one finger.

“Won lolli,” said the shopkeeper, placing it deftly in the bag.

The girl’s front teeth bit down thoughtfully over her lower lip. She pointed to the blackjacks and raised two solemn fingers.

“Chew off those.” said the shopkeeper, smiling broadly now. “Thas twenny pee.”

The girl glanced down at the fifty pence coin she held in her hand. She pointed at one of the white chocolate mice, two fruit salads and a packet of parma violets.

“Thas fifty pee.” said the shopkeeper twisting up the paperbag with hands as crinkled as the paper.

The girl handed over the coin and took the bag of sweets with glee. Then she took off down the steps of the corner shop and back up the street at a run.

“Spareabitofchangemate?” called out the old, homeless man on the street corner, running the words together as if they were one.

The girl glanced at him as she ran by but said nothing. Then she made it to the terrace house she called home, dashed through the door, slammed it and took the stairs two at a time to her bedroom.

Mumbled words shouted from the kitchen below didn’t penetrate the room clearly enough to be replied to and she happily ensconced herself in the comfy armchair in the corner of her room. With her back to the door she didn’t react when it was thrown open and her father came stomping across the floor to her. She did however, jump a mile when he laid a hand on her shoulder and placed a small object into her hand. She fiddled with it and he waited until she had it in place.

“Please stop going out without your hearing aid.” he said.

“Sorry Dad,” she replied. “But I had to get to the shop before Mr Street did or he wouldn’t go in.”

“His name isn’t Mr Street, you should stop calling him that.”

“Sorry Dad.”

“And I don’t think it’s polite you watching him and Mrs Harishandra.”

“Sorry Da…ooooh there he goes!”

Her fingers delved into the paper bag to pass her father one of the blackjacks and she nibbled on the nose of the white mouse as they peered out of the window. There the homeless man finished counting his coins and drew himself up to his full height before walking to the corner shop.

“Where do you think they’re going to go this time?” she asked her father.

“I don’t know, her son caught her last time so they can’t go to the back yard again.”

“Do you think they’ll try the bus shelter? All the kids from the big school do it there.”

“No, it’s too open, they need somewhere no one’s going to walk in on them, especially not her son.”

The pair of them chewed away on their sweets until they saw Mrs Harishandra flick the shop sign to closed.

“They’re staying inside then,” said the girl.

Her father shook his head, “Surely not, the smell would alert her husband and I’m sure he doesn’t approve.”

“Maybe the yard again…”the girl trailed off as on the roof opposite them the skylight began to open. Soon out of it poked Mrs Harishandra’s head and the homeless mans, with one arm each able to stick out they passed their illicit cigarette between them as the little girl and her father watched, fascinated to see if anyone would catch them this time.

(Three Word Wednesday: Drag, Mumble, Penetrate)

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Negotiation

27 August, 2011 at 12:55 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

“Babababababa” cooed the baby, clutching it’s toes with it’s fingers.

“No way, I can’t go higher than twenty, it’d be un-natural.” said the tall, blueish figure above the crib.

“Brrrrrrrrrp” sputtered the baby, wetly, one hand waving wildly, foot still stuck up in the air.

“I can go to thirty two for the second major sale, not the first. Anyway, we haven’t closed one deal yet, never mind a whole sale.”

“Ssssssssss” drooled the infant, letting go of it’s feet completely.

“We could go up to twenty-two, with two early molars to be replaced at two years with the usual type.”

“Babababababababa”

“What deal you broker with here is entirely between the two of you.”

“Gugagagugagasszzzz”

“So, for twenty two how much would I get?” asked the tall, slender man stepping back a little.

The baby rolled back it’s head and bawled, the cry echoed around the room and filled the house. Tears seemed to threaten to roll down it’s cheeks at any second. Then the baby stopped it’s cry and focused it’s gaze upon the tall, blue man.

“We have a deal.” he said, eagerly. “Look, can you hold onto the merchandise? I’ve got to make a call to the buyer?”

The baby wrinkled it’s nose.

“I can make a downpayment in good faith,” offered the man.

The baby might have seemed to nod to an observer. The man, in anycase stepped forwards and gently took the baby’s jaw between his fingers.

“It’s delayed, be a few moments before it kicks in. Right, I’ll be back tomorrow night.” said the man, then in a flurry of glittering cold he swept out of the window leaving some ferny patterns under the eaves and a solitary icicle hanging from the gutter.

The baby began to cry, the man would surely have cursed the tears that he missed, but the baby’s mother, snoring in the room below didn’t curse at all that she slept straight through. She didn’t even notice.

When the blueish figure returned he noted at once the smell and offered, tactfully, his services to change his client. His client was too proud, however, to accept. He did flash a sudden smile at his tall visitor, showing the beginnings of pearly, white teeth. Jack grinned back. Then, they got down to business and the baby cried.

Even Jack was tired when they had finished, but they were both pleased with the day’s work as Jack held up three long strands.

“Blackbird’s going to be very happy with this deal. If you can keep this up for the next couple of years you’ve really earned your twenty-two.”

The baby just lay back in the crib, breathing hard, all cried out.

“Not many can, you know,” continued Jack. “Even if they’ve got the lungs for it, they’ll be constantly interrupted.”

“baabaabaabaaaaa” burbled the baby.

“We’ll renegotiate in seven years then. Pleasure doing business with you.”

The tall, thin figure left a flourish of swirls on the window but the baby didn’t notice, nor did his mother come up the stairs before they had melted clean away. She did notice her baby’s new teeth though, and wondered, somewhat distractedly, how much a teething ring would cost.

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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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Voice Mail

17 August, 2011 at 14:13 (Flash) (, , , , , , , )

“I just need you to action this item.”

Again Paul wished that there was a mute button on real life, especially when it came to the heartless verbing of nouns.

“Sir?”

He blinked a little and brought himself back to the reality of his secretary and her paperwork standing in front of him.

“If you could sign…”

He shook his head. “Not now, just…out please!”

He looked at the phone, no message light flashed at him from the desk. He had become used to the messages, from the first sobbing, pained one he listened to on returning from a meeting.

‘They say the fetus isn’t viable. Please…please call back.’

He had left work at the usual time that night, unable to face her crying.

There had been angry ones, ones full of sobbing, then hopeful ones. ‘Jade made it through another night, I’m still at the hospital. Come visit us.’

He had, and he had peered at her baby through layers and layers of clear plastic and tubing. Machines beeped and tubes gasped around her. She had never seemed to be anything to do with him but had always seemed a life removed by a dozen layers of plastic.

The hopeful ones had been when the messages became more and more infrequent, rather than dozens all day there would be one or two.

‘Jade’s allowed to come home. Pick us up after work.’

Each one, getting more and more terse, to the point. He had thought that this meant she was feeling better, and in a way, he supposed, it had.

The final message had been very terse and straight to the point.

‘I’m leaving. I’m taking Jade. We’ll be gone by the time you get home.’

He had left work early that day, as soon as he recieved the message, but some cruel trick of fate had a tanker crash on the motorway ahead of him and he was trapped there for hours. By the time he reached home they had long gone and no helpful note or handy clue left to tell him where.

He had returned to work, uncertain of what else to do. He took refuge in the routine and now he sat in his office looking out across the other city-blocks and down from his window at the cars, looking like models, whizzing below. He could barely make out the people, only those sporting clothes of particularly vibrant colours were obvious to him, sat up here, being asked to action documents. He was looking at life again, through a dozen layers of plastic.

A loud knocking at his door startled him from his reverie.

“Paul? There’s a meeting in half an hour, will you be attending?” the head and shoulders of one of the younger managers poked through the door.

“No.” he said, standing. “No I won’t.”

Then he marched down to the switchboard, determined to cash in some old favours. He walked out some time later and made his way to a cafe where he ordered a coffee, nothing fancy, with milk and sugar. He sat at a table positioned on the pavement where he could watch all the colours move around him, then he took out his mobile and dialled.

“Hello?”

“Hello darling. It’s Dad, and I’d really like to see my Grand-daughter.” he said.

“She’d really like to see you too.”

(The words this week were: Gasp, Mute and Viable)

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The Manatee Army

16 August, 2011 at 17:41 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

He pressed his hand to her slightly clammy forhead, he couldn’t tell if she had much of a temperature today or not. He wished passionately his wife was there, she was so much better at this sort of thing than he was.

“You don’t have too much of a temperature today.” he said.

“It’s the manatees Daddy,” she said. “They took it away with them.”

He had to smile at that, he’d had no idea what a manatee was when he made up the first story of an invisible manatee army protecting his ill little girl, he’d just liked the word. As it turned out so had she and she’d demanded a picture of the strange creatures so she could better picture what her invisible army looked like. When he’d told her of the argument with the Dugong tribe that lived next door she’d asked for a picture as well. She had spent days, floating in a of fevered state of awareness, staring at the sea cows’ images until she had quite frightened him when she told him that she could ‘sort of see’ her army dancing their lucky get well dance around her bed.

“Tell me a story about the manatees, Daddy.”

He sat next to her on the bed and put one arm around her. It had become quite a refrain of hers. She especially liked the ones which ended with a manatee dance. Manatees’ dances were magical and caused all manner of ills to be fixed. It was by dancing that the manatees had taken away her temperature. It was also by dancing that they had eventually made peace with the Dugong tribe next door.

“Tell me where they took Mummy, Daddy.”

He was unable to speak for a moment. The question he’d been dreading had been already answered to be replaced by something unexpected. There was no doubt in her mind where Mummy had gone, the manatees, the answer to everything, had clearly taken her. But how could he tell her a manatee story when there was no happy ending?

She was looking up at him expectantly from the bed. He cleared his throat, wanting to explain to her that life on a remote island had seemed so exciting from the mainland, so romantic and that that was why they were here. He wanted to explain too that they hadn’t counted on meningitis, nor concentrating on the illness of their little girl to the exclusion of her mother.

He cleared his throat again.

“Once upon a time, when the manatee army was very busy they saw a very pretty lady who was very, very sick…”

One day, when she was older, he’d explain it all to her, but today there would be manatees instead.

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Dreams

14 August, 2011 at 22:08 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

“You’ll stop seeing her?” I finally asked as I stepped from the shower.

A pace behind and his arms wrapping the warm, dry towel around my shoulders. “Of course.”

His lips in my hair and in the bathroom, still humid from the hour long shower we had spent together, he outlined how we would spend our future together. He held me tightly to him, towelled skin to towelled skin and we dreamed aloud to each other.

I knew he lied, better than he did, he had fallen in love with our dreams more than I and had not realised he’d left them behind as soon as he had kissed her.

I pulled on my clothes, still giving voice to our dreams, he smiled as he kissed me before heading out the door.

All day I packed until not a single thing of mine remained within the home we had built together. I picked up the cat and left a sheet of paper upon the kitchen table.

It was her phone number and two words, ‘Move forward’.

Then I left to find my own future in a world more solid than spoken dreams.

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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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