Archive for October, 2011

She had always called him her ‘Little Boy’. He was never able to decide if that was touching display of her affection or a demeaning insult to his maturity. It didn’t really matter now though, did it?

So… her birthday then. What is an appropriate present to give someone you’re still desperately in love with, but who no longer loves you? Bath salts? No, too many naked connotations, she wouldn’t be happy with that. Artwork? No, too… relationship-y and expensive. Not that he minded the expense of course, but there are connotations with spending vast quantities of money on someone you’re not allowed to be in love with any more. It sort of says that you’re still in love with them, and he mustn’t be. A book then. There are no connotations to a book. Well, there are obviously some connotations, but nothing that suggests he still wants to have sex with her, and nothing that suggests that he cannot imagine his life without her. A book: pretty harmless. Never gives anything away.

That is to say it shouldn’t give anything away.

But he would have to inscribe it, wouldn’t he? He couldn’t just give a book and leave it blank. That is simply bad form and will not stand. What to write, though? How could he convey his feelings delicately? He wanted something moving yet subtle. Something with a subtext of a love that would endure, even if hers hadn’t.

Was that even possible? And would it make a difference? Would she read it and suddenly, horrified, realise her mistake? Realise that their years of growing up together had given them an unbreakable bond that she had been callous to discard? He didn’t know, but he wrote something he knew would speak to her. He could do nothing more.

‘From “Little Boy” with the curly hair and the broken heart, Summer 1933’

Words: 312

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Jessica has only just started and, already, she’s running out of words. As she types, the letters flow through the gaps in her lean, nicotine-stained fingers, a relentless torrent of nouns and verbs which threatens to flood the glowing white page in front of her. And, it doesn’t matter what the sentences mean, they all say the same thing. That you don’t have long together.

And Jessica had such ambitions.

You could have seen so much. A kingdom where crystal towers stretched into a deep purple sky. Or a journey back to the black and white streets of 1940s New York. She might have told you about the tragedy of Samatha. Samantha who sat alone on a park bench with tears streaming down her pale face.

She certainly doesn’t have the words left to tell you who murdered Dr. Francis. You don’t have the time to hunt around his mansion for clues. You’ll never find out if it was the adulterous wife, thieving maid or inconspicuous butler.

Jessica has a great story about a talking cat.

But, you’re running out of time and she’s hyphenated as much as she can do within the blog guidelines. She genuinely wishes she had more words. She really does. She could have shown you so much; taken you to places that she can only dream of. You would have had the best time.

Jessica doesn’t want to leave now. Not when there’s still so much to say.

But, she’s out of words. There are only 16 left between you now.

“Please. Please don’t let me waste them,” she mutters into the darkness.

As twilight descends on her story, Jessica brands the page with a final full stop. Twenty minutes later, she wonders if her name will count towards the word limit.

Words: 296

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The plastic bag, Tesco-grade, pulled itself, handle by handle, up the drainpipe. A gentle breeze – too gentle, too gentle – began to ripple across its body. The last remnants of a banana peel fell out scattering across the face of the bag’s human pursuer who had just begun the long climb.

It was now totally empty. Nothing more to give. It’s energy drained and fell away with the peel. It could let go, risk the razorwires strung between the buildings. Or keep climbing. The roof was near, but the breeze was weak. It lifted a handle, grasped, lifted the other, grasped and tried to scrape bits of metal off the pipe for sustenance.

Six years running, floating from cityscape to cityscape. It longed for the bliss of pre-sentience, to be lining bins and clogging landfill sites, without care, without thought. Even the Bag Appeal years of reverence and documentaries would have been better than this.

How quick we go from evolution to endangered species, thought the bag, how quick again to enemy and prey. The planet, once green, now grey, was expiring but its humans were not. In their panic they exterminate; every threat, every element of blame. The Sainsbronians. The orange rebels, saved from extinction, began to use hurricane winds to lodge in the mouths of children and round the necks of livestock. They saw a planet to be claimed, and tried to bag it.

It reached the rooftop and leapt for wind. But the breeze had died and the bag flopped stupidly onto the floor where it waited for the human. The knife sliced in, and down, and the pain was nothing physical. It lifted one handle to the human. It spoke.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” it said. “Oil ships overturned off the shores of New Zealand. I’ve seen ice sheets fall off bergs at the Alaskan Gate. All these moments will be lost, in time, like pre-sentient carrier bags floating in wind. Time to die.”

Words: 330

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“I’ve got you a present,” says Martin. “I hope you like it.”
“Ooh, what is it?” says Jane, girlish excitement fizzing from the phone.
“Come and have a look,” says Martin.

He’d spotted her some weeks before, framed in the third-floor window, gazing down over the claggy mud and broken mill bricks. She said later he looked like a Lego man behind the wheel of the mustard Tonka truck dumper in his white hard hat. She described them as bright plastic toys she wanted to play with.

He met her the Wednesday she let the towel fall to the floor at the precise moment he tipped back the Thermos cup of black coffee he’d brewed fresh that morning. He liked the finer things in life, but he so often messed them up. He thought of the crumpled Porsche and sighed. Glancing round, he slipped past the hoardings holding the building site in.

After 15 minutes, she appeared: tall, slim and clad in a smart suit and high heels. He was suddenly embarrassed: a) that he’d stupidly hoped she’d still be naked, and b) that he was wearing concrete-splashed boots, dirt-encrusted overalls and a hi-vis jacket stained with black coffee.

“Hi, I’m Jane,” she said, smiling white teeth.
“Uh, Martin,” he said back. He felt like a complete dick.
“I’ve been watching you,” said Jane. “I’m glad the work has restarted on the flats.”
“Um, yes, me too,” said Martin. Dick. But what was he supposed to say?
“What time do you knock off? I’ll be back here at 5.30, if you fancy coming up.”

Three weeks and twenty-two trysts later, it’s Thursday 20 October, Jane’s 40th birthday. At half past eight, Martin pours some coffee and dials her number.

“I’ve got you a present,” he says. “I hope you like it.”

A giant red crane has sprouted from nowhere. From the cab, Martin lets a 60m banner drop open. “Happy 50th Birthday!”, it says.

“Dick,” she says, and hangs up.

Words: 330

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The Sea loved the Cliff and every day she would visit him, showering him with wet kisses. But one day her love left her. She still visited, but soon had worn past his sure limestone exterior exposing the soft sandstone that she could mould with ease. She had now completed the ground work and, though from the outside all looked well, a trained eye could see signs of the truth. Soft cold water now filled that space that once held sure solid rock.

On a stormy day, she would send an army of waves crashing into the cave, sending angry blasts of water high into the sky. But, even on a calm night, her gentle lapping would work and work expanding the void to an ever increasing size.

Rabbits played their games on the top of The Cliff as the sun shone done on the lush grass, and ramblers ambled past looking for Gulls and Terns, rarely giving a thought to the hidden nightmare that lay beneath. All this time, The Sea continued her relentless work teasing out the tiny fragments of rock.

Soon the space was large enough that stalactites reached as far as they could; stretching for their friends on the floor, like synapses creating hateful thoughts in the minds of the wounded.

One day during spring, her victory was completed. The North wind somehow sensed that the space had become too large; he was ready to strike. He sent his lover a storm so ferocious that, with a thunderous crash, the rock face collapsed leaving nothing but rubble. But his final cry could not be heard over the sea’s rage. Even this was not enough.

And that was how I felt.

That day.

When I watched you walk away with your hand in his.

In the morning, as the warm sun shone down on the devastated scene, The Sea picked over what remained of the once proud Cliff.

Words: 321

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Lemon meringue pie: the Sunday favourite. After dinner, family members would poach scraps of juicy pork from the roasting tray, dip cold left-over roast potatoes in lukewarm gravy and spoon a dod of apple sauce onto a shard of crackling.

Sometimes after nursery they would bake together, mother and daughter. Mother crimping and egg-washing a steak and kidney pie for dinner, daughter rolling out the pastry scraps with her plastic rolling pin and cutting out shapes with a set of metal cutters; crinkly circles, birds, and people. She would secretly pop little grabs of shiny, stretchy raw pastry into her mouth when mother wasn’t looking and lovingly brush each shape from a small bowl of milk, sprinkling on grains of sugar. They’d eat them warm from the oven, spread with a little butter and jam, washing them down with a cup of tea and a yellow beaker of milk at the breakfast bar before the rest of the family returned from school and work, shattering the mother-daughter peace.

Mother doesn’t cook now; she’s cooked for instead. Black plastic trays of mid-brown portions go into the industrial oven, their fork-pierced lids uniformly lined up in rows on a vast baking tray. The indistinguishable contents are slopped out into bowls as the bibs are fastened around everybody’s necks at their numbered tables with their cheerful vases of flowers. Whether chilli, spag bol, shepherd’s pie or beef casserole, their flavours are as hard to decipher.

After the Aunt Bessie’s fruit pie and carton-carried too-yellow custard, they all shuffle through to the wipe-clean pale blue winged armchairs or are wheeled in to the television room. They watch Eastenders and tut at how ridiculous it all is, muttering that nobody is really like that. Then they turn over to BBC2 for The Great British Bake-Off and falteringly reminisce about the days of Sunday roasts and lemon meringue pies.

Words: 313

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Now Simon rubs the tile between his finger and thumb, his eyes darting across the crowded board. He chews his lip and glances up at the two players sitting opposite him. One, the old man, smiles and stares down at his own letters.

‘I did always like to take my time,’ he says, not looking up.

Now Simon scowls and hastily places four squares onto the board. It earns him forty points.

‘Triple word score.’ He leans back in his chair triumphantly and looks expectantly across to Simon In Ten Years.

‘Yet, always so impatient,’ Simon In Thirty Years adds with a wry smile.

They have been playing the game for years, yet the board never gets full; fresh words replacing moves made centuries ago.

Simon In Ten Years looks across the board and strokes the thick beard covering his face. Now Simon and Simon In Thirty Years do not have facial hair, although Now Simon desperately wants to know why he will decide to grow such a monstrous thing on his chin. He won’t ask because he doesn’t want to seem rude.

Simon In Thirty Years already knows why he decided to grow a beard and he already knows why he decided to shave it off.

‘Twelve,’ Simon In Ten Years announces, clicking the tiles into place.

Simon In Thirty Years knows what move he will make. He has played this game before, although he was sitting in two different seats on the previous occasions. Simon In Thirty Years already knows what his opponents are thinking and he already knows the eventual outcome of the game.

Now Simon opens his mouth to speak, but Simon In Ten Years interrupts him.

‘Careful, we can only ask one question each,’ he warns. ‘It’s the rules.’

Simon In Thirty Years knows what questions they will all ask. He slowly places his tiles on the board and hopes that, this time, one of him will notice his message.

Words: 328

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