The Dress

10 September, 2011 at 14:01 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

She kept tugging on her sleeve, hours after they had passed the shop-window.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Ella could feel the exasperation rising. Debbie had learned the word please only recently and seemed to think it was the magic word that unlocked everydoor. This wasn’t helped by Phil asking her everytime a ‘please’ was wanted – ‘What’s the magic word?’ Ella had grown more frustrated with that phrase as Debbie had grown more convinced of it’s literal truth.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Part of her wanted to turn around and shout at the pleading face. She wanted to shout ‘No! No Debbie, you can’t have it. It’s a dumb dress that you’re going to grow out of in months and it’s far too expensive what what it is. You can’t have it because I don’t want you to have it. You’re a horrible, whining little girl who doesn’t deserve a pretty sparkly dress. Now shut the fuck up and let Mummy pretend she doesn’t have a horrible whining child to satisfy all the fucking time.’
Part of her wanted to slap the child across the face. As she held Debbie’s hand waiting to cross the road she imagined accidentally-on-purpose tripping, sending the tiny girl sprawling across the path of the oncoming traffic. She imagined the tears she’d have to force to her eyes by digging her nails into her thighs and the sobbing way she would say ‘My baby’. She dragged Debbie hard across the road and looked, guiltily, into the eyes of a policewoman coming the other way.

***

“Isn’t it a bit expensive?” asked Phil, later on that evening.

Debbie spun around and around in front of him, delighted with her new dress.

Ella pasted a smile across her face.
“Anything for my little girl,” she said.

“I love you Mummy,” said Debbie, her joy evident in her eyes.

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Hole

9 September, 2011 at 14:47 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

Sam was angry. Sam was very angry. She was so angry that she had taken off the pretty party dress that Mummy and Uncle John had brought for her birthday and she had run up the garden in her vest and knickers. It would make Mummy shout, she knew, but Sam was so angry that she didn’t care.

Daddy wasn’t coming to her birthday party. Daddy had phoned to say that he had to stay on the rig for another few months. This hadn’t made Sam angry, this had made Sam upset and she had gone to the living room to have a little cry in front of the balloons that Uncle John had blown up. Mummy hadn’t known where she had gone, or else she hadn’t realised how loud her voice was, or how well Sam could hear, or, or, or she hadn’t cared.
Mummy had said to Uncle John that she had known that Daddy wasn’t coming and that Mummy and Daddy had decided not to tell Sam beforehand but to wait to phone her up on the day to say that Daddy had to stay on the rig. Sam was angry because they had lied and Sam was angry because she had been looking forward to seeing Daddy and now she felt stupid for doing so.

Sam was angry and she was running up to the fence at the top of the garden and she was climbing over it and running across the field in just her vest and knickers. She hoped that that would upset Mummy a lot, and, just as she hoped that she tripped. She fell over her own feet and tumbled, down and down and down, much further down than the ground because, it turns out that what she fell over was the edge of a hole. She fell right into the hole and tumbled and scraped herself going all the way down, it was a very long hole.

As she picked herself up she heard sounds, pleasant, gentle music, like her older sister Kelly playing the harp, but much nicer. She saw lights down the tunnel that it seemed she had fallen into and walked towards them. The tunnel widened out and she could see hundreds of people in beautiful clothes dancing and dancing to the beautiful music. To one side were tables upon which were set piles and piles of fruits and foods in a multitude of colours.
It occurred to Sam that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast and that she wasn’t going to go to her party so she edged close to the table.

A bearded man, a little shorter than she was, was filling his plate. He turned to her, “You s’posed to be here?” he asked.

“Um…not really,” admitted Sam.

“Ahh,” he said, nodding wisely and tearing into a chicken drumstick with his teeth. With his mouth full he continued, “If you eat any of this, you won’t be let leave.”

Sam’s eyes widened in surprise.

The man continued, “You’ll have t’stay here and dance with us’ns and you’ll never see your Mummy and Daddy again.”

“Good.” said Sam, who was still angry, and immediately swallowed a grape from the table.

Much, much later the ambulance crew were explaining that it might help Uncle John if he went on a first aid course.

“All that was needed was the Heimlich,” said the ambulance driver. “You’re lucky we got here when we did.”

Uncle John nodded in agreement, looking at his sister holding his tiny niece very protectively.

The driver continued, “You shouldn’t really serve such small grapes at a kids party, they’re so small they really are a choking hazard.”

Uncle John nodded again, “Yeah, I don’t really remember putting them out.”

“Kids eh.” said the other paramedic walking back from Sam and her mother. “Who’d have ’em, they find the darnedest things.”

“Yeah,” said Uncle John, dazed.

“Anyway, she’s safe and sound,” continued the paramedic, stroking his beard. “We’ll be getting off in case there are other little kids to save.”

Permalink 6 Comments

Bedtime Story

8 September, 2011 at 22:30 (Flash) (, , , , , , , )

“Daddy, just one more?” she asked, her big blue eyes looking up into his.

He smiled down at her. “One more.”
Then he looked down at the book in his hand and read the next story, ‘A Christmas Angel’, this one was about an angel who ate too many christmas biscuits. She fell asleep when he was about half way through reading it. When he heard her breathing become even and slow he put down the book and let the tears flow.

The nurse poked her head through the door. “Mr Chambers?”

He looked up at her.

“There are some more papers for you to sign.”

He nodded and got up, leaving the book on the chair besides the bed. It had been her favourite book when she was a kid, when she had been about seven she’d recieved it for Christmas and he hadn’t been allowed not to read from it for her bedtime story. Now she was thirty-seven and here in the terminal cancer ward he read it to her again. This time though, when she closed her eyes and slept he didn’t wish for her to wake with her dreams fulfilled, he just wished for her to wake at least once more.

Permalink 1 Comment

Vilcanota River

7 September, 2011 at 22:38 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

I look out from the hillside. My stone gaze falls on the grasses, the condor flying above and the Vilcanota rushing below.

My eyes have gazed from this rock even as it has eroded and I have slid, slowly, gradually, closer to the valley floor. They painted me, thos people who ran across the mountain-tops. They who sought to tie me to the roof of their world. They shored my mountains, propped up the landslides and tried to turn back time in that way people have. Still the condors spread their wings and fly above me. They did not succeed, those mountain-runners and I have not seen them for years upon years now.

The ground of the Urubamba Valley calls me on, the grasses grow up around me and my rock face erodes. The passers-by still see me, and my heart calls to theirs as they pass. It is only a few who feel it, most simply stop, stare and pass on by empty of all that gives such short lives meaning.

I call to those who can hear, I call to those who stop, who turn at the passing of the snake and who seem to hear the puma, nestled in the craggy top of my stones. They feel my heart beat with theirs and wonder what it is, they see the passage of the condor and a part of them runs the mountain tops again. A part of them leaps into the air, high above the Vilcanota whilst I, in my silence of the thousand years, observe and continue to erode with the rest of the sliding mountain.

(Three Word Wednesday: Erode, Heart, Observe)

Permalink 1 Comment

Freedom

1 September, 2011 at 22:46 (Flash) (, , , , , , )

“Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum” said the little girl, tugging at her mother’s dressing-gown.

“Not now dear, Mummy’s talking.” said her mother, not bothering to look down, “Do go on with what you were saying,” she said to the very attractive door-to-door salesman who’d explained that he was only recently out of prison and was in fact a door to door salesman in an effort to get into the army.

The little girl gave up on trying to attract her mother’s attention and walked back down the hall. She clambered up onto the kitchen table and then lent out to reach the lock on the back door. With no small effort she pushed down and the catch moved allowing the door to swing back open. Hoisting herself off of the kitchen table she looked back over one shoulder, her Mum was still talking to the salesman but it looked as if her dressing gown had slipped a little bit. This often happened when Mum was talking to good looking men. The little girl headed out of the back door, closing it carefully behind her.

She walked into the garden and crawled under the hedge until she wriggled herself through the dirt and discovered herself in the field behind the house. Laying down in the mud of the field she saw the blue sky stretching wide above her and smiled whilst watching the birds wheeling, high over head.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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)

Permalink 4 Comments

The Last Dance

30 August, 2011 at 20:38 (Flash) (, , , , )

“May I have this dance?” he smiled at her as she sat, sipping the last from a glass of bubbly.

She stood and he took her hand and led her onto the floor. It had been a long time but his arm went deftly around her waist, and he still led like a pro. With a good lead she managed to spin in her new heels and the skirt of her purple dress span with her.

“Don’t they look beautiful?” he said to her as they waltzed gently past the happy couple.

She smiled up at him and nodded. “Better than we ever did,”

He deftly altered their direction, avoiding a drunken uncle staggering about. “Dave looks good too.” he said, nodding to her second husband, still stood at the bar.

“Hands off you,” she said. “Yours is right there.”

Steve, his partner, bent over a table talking to the bride above the music, didn’t seem to have noticed their dancing.

“I’m glad we got married,” she said.

“You are?”

“I like our kids. Besides, we couldn’t have divorced else now could we?”

Permalink Leave a Comment

From The Cave

29 August, 2011 at 11:02 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

Jack Frost is a tall figure, tall and spindly and slightly blue-grey around the edges. If you were to see him walking down the street then you might think that he was very, very ill. If you were to see him sleeping upon a park-bench then you would probably think that he was dead. He wouldn’t be of course, it’s unlikely that a creature such as Jack would ever be found dead on a park bench. Unlikely, though not impossible.

Jack Frost is responsible for ice crystals, frost patterns and leaves frozen delicately into place on autumn mornings. It’s not exactly a well-paid job nor even especially rewarding, except in the most artistic of ways. The methods that Jack uses to supplement his income are spoken about in dark corners and beneath carefully warmed shadows. Most widely known about are the necklaces that he brings to markets on the edges of faerie, or those several layers beneath London and Baghdad.

The magic inherant in a baby’s first laughter is widely known, indeed there are merchants at such markets who, it is rumoured, have fathered many children to have ready access to such products. Who continually fashion the curious alchemical glassware needed to capture these things. Sometimes Jack does come to the markets with such a bauble, to the annoyance of the merchants he will often come close to giving it away. Those baubles are widely known, those magics are easily captured by the slightest practice of the hermetic arts. Jack brings something unique, necklaces of baby’s tears, bracelets of the impotent rage of children, earrings of toddler screams and the echoes of a child’s first swear-word. These things are unique to Jack, if a merchant is selling them and they are real, then he has bought from Jack.

No one knows how he gets them, though the whispers in the dark places tell of unspeakable things and of horrors in woodlands and the far places of a child’s world. There is talk tht Jack had a dalliance with a woman and that he took something from her and since that time has appeared at the markets with something to sell, something that men have killed for in the past and doubtless will again.

But whatever is said of Jack Frost, that cadaverous, slender man, it is certain that whilst he sells his merchandise, the old and young, the wise and the seekers will all continue to buy.

Permalink Leave a Comment

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.

Permalink 2 Comments

Necklace

25 August, 2011 at 22:57 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , , )

“Shhh” he said gently, to the crying baby. “If they come, they’ll stop you crying and then how will I harvest these?”

He held up a glistening dew-drop, suddenly solid and firm.

“Can you imagine how much I’ll get for a necklace of baby-tears?” he asked.

The infant stared, wide-eyed and the gangly blue man and, if you were of sufficient imagination, you might have thought it shook it’s head.

“A lot.” said the thin man. “And now for your part of the bargain. Sure about it?”

That imaginative onlooker would have sworn blind the baby nodded.

“It’s going to hurt.” he said.

The baby scowled.

“I can see you’re determined. Very well.”

Skeletally thin fingers were placed over the baby’s mouth and cheeks where they pressed for a moment.

“Right, pleasure doing business with you,” said the man. “And I promise they’ll start happening soon, but I’d rather take my leave first – never was very good with pain.”

So saying, he opened the window and clambered out onto the ledge leaving icy patterns in feather formation across the glass.

A few minutes later the baby set up with a lusty, roaring cry and it’s parents came racing.

Within moments the baby was out of it’s crib and being rocked by it’s mother whilst it’s father looked on anxiously, “What is it? What’s making it cry this time?”

The baby’s mother hushed and hummed and cooed nonsensically to the child whilst she tugged and prodded and pulled.
“Aha!” she said at last.

“Is he well?” asked her husband.

“Very,” she replied.

“No need to worry then?”

“None at all.” she laughed.

“Show him the window,” he said to her then. “Jack Frost’s been.”

“He’s not the only one.” she said, turning so the baby could admire the frost patterns on the window. “I think the tooth fairy’s started to call as well.”

Permalink 2 Comments

Next page »