Archive for May, 2012

It was Fat Tuesday and she had always been curious about the holiday. She was not Catholic and she was not a Cajun but once when she was six years old she toured New Orleans with her parents. Bourbon Street was her favorite part, all that music, all those smells and dirty dancers with tassels on their nipples. Ever since that vacation, she had been appreciative of all things New Orleans but especially Mardi Gras, which she had always wanted to attend but never did.

She was in Gun Barrel City, Texas getting her toenails painted Disco Lurk and her fingernails painted Green Onion because the disability check had been deposited in her checking account. It was Fat Tuesday and she was in a festive mood. She sent sexy text messages to her boyfriend and drove to Wal-Mart intending to splurge on a King Cake, which she had seen and heard about but never eaten. She knew the King Cake was round with green, purple and yellow sugared icing and a plastic baby Jesus somewhere inside. She knew that whoever got the slice with the plastic baby Jesus inside was lucky and would get laid or win the lottery or something. This sort of thing made her ebullient, made her step on the gas and crank up the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the stereo.

There were no King Cakes to be found in the Gun Barrel City Wal-Mart Supercenter. “Damn Baptists. Damn Texans,” she muttered. She would not accept defeat, not today. There was too much at stake. She had promised her son they would celebrate Fat Tuesday with a King Cake. He knew about the plastic baby Jesus.

He wanted proof.

The pricey grocery store down the street sold King Cakes. She bought one. She took it home and gave her son a slice.

“No baby Jesus,” he said.

“We’ll find him,” she promised.

Eventually the plastic baby Jesus was found. He was very pink and tiny.

Words: 329

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This Wednesday, 330 Words will be taking part in a very special event with Manchester writing group Flashtag (in association with the marvelous National Flash Fiction Day).

From 10am to 5pm, 330 Words, along with David Hartley (Screen 150), Fat Roland (Fat Roland on Electronica) and Sarah-Clare Conlon (WordsnFixtures) will be visiting dozens of iconic venues across Manchester in a series of unique flash-fiction flashmobs celebrating National Flash Fiction Day. One writer from the Flashmob collective will read a piece of their work in each of the amazing venues kind enough to allow the performances.

Venues so far confirmed for the day include Manchester Museum, The Hive, John Rylands University Library, The People’s History Museum, The Cornerhouse and the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Performance times for each venue will be posted on the official Flashtag site, although if you can’t make it down for any of the performances, you can chart the progress of the day by following the Flashtag Twitter account or by using the #flashtag hashtag.

We will see you on Wednesday.

Words: 171

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Rosalie sat in her wire chair and watched a butterfly float around her garden. She has always been fascinated by winged creatures. As she watched the butterfly darting around she poured herself another cup of tea from the blue teapot she had inherited from her mother. Although Rosalie was by herself and never had any guests, the table was laden with several sets of cups and saucers. Without removing her gaze from the fragile yet graceful flight of the butterfly she selected a biscuit from the bowl, broke it in half, and offered one half to Sam, her yellow Labrador, lying in his customary position at her feet.

Rosalie thought about flying, as she often does. She was obsessed with the idea. As she watched the butterfly float from leaf to leaf she thought: I could do that. She had mentioned the idea to her counselor once who had told her that it was silly and that humans can’t fly. But as long as she imitated the butterfly’s movements perfectly she could do it. Rosalie was suddenly enticed and excited by the thought, how would the counselor know if it were possible or not anyway? She abruptly stood up from her wire chair, startling Sam. She was going to do it!

The butterfly made a refined landing on the mirror that was lying face up on the table. It took off again, the flap of its wings gently disturbing the white powder neatly laid out in perfect lines across the reflective surface. Rosalie watched the butterfly until it disappeared over the wall, then bent over the table, put a straw to her nose and snorted up her eleventh line for the day.

She removed the ladder from the shed and laid it against the wall. Excited, she almost ran up the rungs until she was on the roof of her two-story house, the action confusing Sam. Rosalie took a deep breath, visualizing the flight of the butterfly. Then she leaped.

Words: 330

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Even in the rain I knew it was her. Had there been leaves piled over, or a thousand miles between it and me I would still know it was her. That shape was just too perfect to be mistaken. Too perfectly her. No hair on earth had the same shape as hers.

I knew it in the way in which it kept its perfect bob, its perfect shade of perfect black. It had been a day, a year, maybe even a lifetime but neither time nor rain could change a shape like that. It was the moment time stood still. It was the bell that summoned the grandchildren. It was the jar in which she kept herself. It was her. It was her hair.

And I knew it well enough. I knew it from the way she came ready brushed each morning, the way her headscarf defied the weather, the way she sat prim against hard leather when her bones had all but worn to a whisper. No other hair could do that.

Not even death could shake that hair. And it had its chance. It had its chance. As she lay caressed by the cold embrace of the preparation room it had its chance. In the rough and tumble of the undertaker’s dance it had its chance. But no, not even death could shake that hair.

And death had more opportunities with her than I did. The radiation saw to that. It shrunk us to down to friends and no more, and no hands but hers could ever reach that beautiful head again. No hands. No hair.

So yes, it was her hair I saw. Even at this distance, with my eyes, I knew that it was her hair I saw in a parking lot. No cat, lying beneath a car, no raven, waiting to go home, could be that perfect.

Words: 312

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‘This room is full of potential,’ you said, hands on overalled hips, standing in the doorway.

And you were right.

At first, it was my room, my retreat from you. We had just moved in together, two young lovers unsure of our footing and uncertain of our boundaries. For a time, the room of many things was my respite from you; a foreign embassy where I hoarded my relics from the time before we met. At first, I was worried you may have mistaken my nostalgia for regret. But you understood.

Time passed and the definitions – what was mine, what was yours – became less important. My room became ours; a place for bikes, empty suitcases and cardboard boxes which were too large for the recycling bin. And then, it became his room. We emptied that space of our ridiculous hoardings and filled it with something infinitely more precious to us both. Our Matthew.

And time passed.

A crib became a bed and we measured the passage of time through the changing patterns on the wall; ducks became robots became footballers became film starlets. The room of many things changed as often as he needed it to.

But the sun is hovering low over the sky, its creeping orange slipping under the curtains. Our handsome boy has long gone and the room of many things has fallen into confused limbo. Random snatches of our life together collide on the shelves surrounding your bed; the bed the disease filling your bones has forced you into. Relics from different decades awkwardly grind against each other in a room that no longer understands its purpose.

‘This room is full of potential,’ you said many years ago, standing in the doorway with your hands on your hips.

I rest my head on your shoulder and a smile spreads across my young lips.

Words: 312

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I was asleep all of last week: from the minute I got off the plane and almost wept in the taxi on the way home, all through the April showers until yesterday when the sun finally showed its face. I was overcome with a feeling of unbearably loneliness as I handed over squillions of pounds to the chirpy black cab driver outside my front door.

My head was swarming with little worms who wormed and wormed until I gave in and they froze my brain. Music lost its magic and even the allure of the skybox was thwarted by those lumpy pink things nestling in my grey matter. The invaders were dead set on afflicting me with emotional constipation and weren’t ready to relent until they said so.
The milk turned sour and the mothers pride blanched a delightful green colour.

I refused to cry because of the worms – I simply shoved them back up my nose when they threatened to drip out. When the rain leaked through the window and stained the paintwork and the shower leaked through the kitchen ceiling and the skylight leaked onto the rug…water water everywhere: then I cried and yelled at my son to give me a wide berth and not expect tea, unless he was happy with another frozen Kiev.

After one whole week and a one whole day and half a night, I woke up in the middle of that night and ordered the worms to leave. I squeezed them out with words that I tippy tapped into my iPad. I flushed them down the loo with all the unshed tears.

Every nano second of every single day of my entire life I have to live with me and that includes crap from the past and all the accompanying bells and whistles ‘time gone by’ has blessed me with.

Time 4 am….time to purge the demons.

Words: 317

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Little George loved Granny Gert’s dresses and Granny Gert loved little George and so did I. I am Cousin Sam. Kissing cousin. Twice removed.

That’s how they talked about family. First and second and step and half. Removed.

George and I wore old lace from Granny Gert’s days in England, taffeta from Persia and calico prints from India. The gowns and petticoats torn by our little girlboy hands when we pulled them over our sweaty heads. She did not care. Time, she told us, wore them thin. We spun around and around in tatters and shreds, wearing time wearing it thin.

Granny Gert told stories of ballrooms full of princes and princesses, kings and queens. Her old world was grand.

Our new world is small. California barely a state.

They said Granny Gert was old not right in the head.

Their heads were wrong. How else to explain?

They took George down to the San Lorenzo after a big storm when the river was full of the ocean and they held him down. Granny Gert’s calico swelled like a bruise around him.

They held him down filled his face with saltwater and sand and told him to be a man. The minister held him down. Our teacher held him down. The bartender held him down. Even our neighbors held him down watched him fill with ebb and flow.

I flew from the cliff on taffeta wings and raised him up. I raised him up and we danced.

We dance.

Words: 249

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