Through a glass, darkly #flashfiction #carrotranch

And we’re off; another Charli Mills prompt. There’s a lot to be said for reading Charli’s posts that lead to the prompt. She’s battling leaks and homelessness and red mud and a strange if compelling landscape and all the time ponders life’s vagaries with wit and wisdom. Anyway, this week she gives us this…

September 21, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using a lens. It can be literal, like looking at the world through rose-colored lenses or the need for spectacles. Or you can treat the idea like a perspective, showing how one character might see the same action differently from another. Think locally, globally, culturally. Is there a common lens by which we can achieve peace?

Two thoughts occur when lens are mentioned. One, a field of dry grass, a small lens and some curious boys lacking in any sense of ‘what if..?’ As in, what if we see if we can set fire to a small tuft with the lens and the bright sunshine. There was a game we played at Christmas and family get-togethers called ‘consequences’. The first person wrote a male name, and folded the paper; the second, a woman’s and folded it; the third wrote an action and folded it; leaving the last to write the consequence. Or something like. The idea was to read it out using the following framework. Hilarity would result. When [the man] met [the woman] and [the action] the consequence was ….

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without doubt, no mischief ever crossed their minds…

I don’t recall we ever did two boys lighting grass, to give me an inclining of the likely consequence. Shame. It might have been useful. We spent about five minutes succeeding in creating fire and a panicky hour in eradicating it using our small feet and increasingly scorched pullovers. I guess we fell into the ‘lucky’ category because, had it got out of control, heaven knows what the consequence would have been.

The second though revolves around mum’s cataract operations but that’s a post for my ‘Apprenticed to my mother’ series. Another time.

Meanwhile Paul is back from his old school friend’s funeral,

The aftermath

‘How did it go?’

‘Interesting. In a Chinese sense.’

‘Really? How?’

‘I thought it would be awkward. But it was good.’

‘So you’re pleased you went?’

‘I think so. Funny really. You go to a funeral not expecting much yet all these ghosts appear.’

‘I suppose that’s what you get at a cemetery.’

‘Ha, I guess. Funny though, meeting old contacts. It’s like a mirror being held up. No, more like a magnifying glass, a lens. You think you know yourself but seeing old faces makes you see yourself differently. A different close up.’

‘Older?’

‘And none the wiser.’

 

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Hard Baked #prompt #shortstory #flashfiction

Jane Doughtery’s microfiction prompt this week is here

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Hard baked

Amy Potter knew with a cold certainty that her life was about to take a downward spiral as complicated and intricate as the much-vaunted sourdough noose she had made during Bread Week of The Great British Bake Off. The fact that it was an homage to Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman had caused a Twitter sensation and been mentioned during Prime Minister’s questions when a right wing MP used it to demand a new free vote on the death penalty.

Amy had become the media’s darling, what with her hippyish dress sense, culinary excellence and warped ideas. The liquorish and millefeuille concoction that won her Baker of the Week had stunned environmentalists with its life-like representation of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but climate change naysayers had had a field day. Rumour had it that her publicist had been behind a stunt when her effigy was baked in a mobile oven in Trafalgar Square.

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Blood(y) Rivals #microcosms #flashfiction #shortstory

Microcosms 37, anpother little flash

Home Town Advantage

Dugald and Donald were born on the same day, with Dugald appearing first by no more than five minutes. On their first day at school they fought over the the sandpit. From that day on, Dugald came out on top.
In the nativity, he played Shepherd one, and Donald two.

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A feat of endurance #carrotranch #flashfiction

Charli Mill’s prompt this week is

September 14, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an amazing feat. What is the accomplishment and why is it amazing? Think small or go over-the-top large. Is it realistic or fantastically exaggerated? Go where the prompt leads.

Brought up in the 1960s, my family comprised a traditional, though not restrictive household. For instance the Archaeologist, being older than me, had a slightly later bedtime. As with a lot of petty rules that discriminated on grounds of age, it pissed  annoyed me slightly to the core of my being. So it was a big deal when mum agreed to allow both him and me to get up at the cold wee hours of July 21st 1969 to watch as  Eagle, the lunar module landed on the moon. My gran, then in her 70s sat on the sofa watching the grainy black and white pictures with us, taking it all in.

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A New History #crystalpalacesubway

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There was nothing special about Sydenham Hill in the 1840s. A minor lump 7 miles  pretty much due south of St Paul’s it’s future changed with the decision to move the huge glass buildings of the 1851 great Exhibition to a permanent site.

It was a major attraction with two railway stations allowing the visitors to come and go with ease.

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The second to be built, the High level railway, permitted first class passengers to access easily via That access a sumptuous baroque subway designed by Charles Barry, its vaulted arches redolent of Italian cathedrals.

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The Devil Take The Hindmost #writephoto #prompt

Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt is this

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The Devil’s Own
‘New boy?’
‘Been down a year.’
‘Done well then, getting a posting like this. Wadya do? Serial killer?’
‘Sort of. The Weetabix Murders?’
‘Ah The Cereal Killer. That explains it. So did they say what we do here, umm… What’s the new name?’
‘Gloom.’
‘I’m Macabre.’
‘Better that Gloom. I’ve always had a happy disposition.’
‘Not exactly a winner in this place. Luci isn’t partial to smiles.’
‘Luci?’
‘The boss. Term of affection though not to his faces.’
‘So what do we do?’
‘Easy in theory. We stop people – well anything really – leaving by the back gate.’
‘Why don’t you lock it?’
‘It just takes a couple of trolls wanting to pop out for a swift magnum of beer and it’s another large bill. Luci hates spending money. Not like Him up there what with his trust funds and those golden harps he can pawn.’
‘How do you stop trolls?’
‘You reason with them. Just get them thinking and all their vital functions shut down and they fall asleep. After that you use their phone to call an Uber and they’ll wake up, see what they’ve spent on a cab home, assume they must have had a great time and forgot about it.’
‘Ubers come here?’
‘They’ll go anywhere for a fare, that lot.’
‘They the worst then, trolls?’
‘Noooo. There’s banshees. Always in a huge cloud. Like liquid bats that lot. Luci doesn’t mind them doing a bit of scaring but…’
‘But?’
‘They like to dress up a bit. A banshee in spandex and a frou-frou doesn’t cut it in the shit-scary stakes.’
‘And you stop them how?’
‘Tell ’em you fancy a kiss. They know they’ve been rumbled. Though one did give me a peck on the cheek once.’
‘Is that why it’s missing?’
‘My fault really.’
‘So they’re the worst?’
‘No there’s loads worse than banshees.’
‘What’s the worst then’
‘Hen parties. Utterly resilient to reason, charm, abuse, napalm, all know alcoholic substances and shame.’
‘How do you stop a hen party?’
‘You tell me, mate. We just enter it as the Hounds of Hell are out and hope Luci is in a forgiving mood.’

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Apprenticed to my mother: selling the family home

The months roll forward and summer approaches. The builders have nearly finished the now total internal upgrade of my mother’s new bungalow and the prospect of selling the family home looms large.

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My mother is sanguine about the prospect. She has already moved emotionally and enjoys each final season with a slightly melancholic relish, rubbing eucalypt leaves between her fingers and collecting seeds from fritallaria and foxglove for her new beds.

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The contorted willow sheds its deep olive green leaves for her last time and her sighs contain yet another packaged memory – of my father’s rootless anxiety when she announced she was planting this willow next to the illegal overflow from our cesspit.

Dad knew of the overflow though he refused to acknowledge it – in dry summers the verdant green strip across the lawn rather gave it away – like some early punk rocker who experimented with agreen Mohican, the grass nourished by diluted faecal matter that seeped from 70 year old pipes stood loud and proud for all to see.

‘Barbs, the willow finds water. It’ll be in – you know where – like a ferret up the trousers and if the council gets wind…’

‘Don’t be ridiculous darling.’ Mum’s put downs always comprised a mix of infantilising the speaker with a leavening of love.

Dad waited for disaster which came some fifteen years later when a council man, cleaning the ditch alongside the garden hedge after yet another flood ‘got wind’ in a tangible way one steamy summer afternoon. ‘Did you know you had an illegal overflow mate?’ He asked dad.

‘Really? That’s appalling,’ said dad, ‘The previous owners never said.’ He omitted to mention we had lived in the house for 25 years at this point. ‘I’ll get it sorted at once.’

A shame in a way. One feature of our growing up, for the Archaeologist and me, were the occassions when ‘Lavender’ Jim came to empty the cesspit. We’d make ourselves scarce as he pumped and bucketed it empty, making a mental note of another career choice that was closed to us.

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The modern septic tank sits buried next to the greenhouses. They, more than any other feature represent the gradually deterioration of mum and dad’s garden, no longer tthe old man’s refuge from any of his many frustrations.

My children, by contrast, are devastated at the idea of the sale. It’s a tangible part of their upbringing, a place of the happiest of memories. Why I am both asked and ask myself do I not feel the same way? Isn’t it home?

The answer is that it will always be a part of me but home has never been a place but a state of mind.

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It is a Saturday, early July 2006, when I come to mum’s. We have an appointment with reputedly the best estate agents in Lymington. That turns out to be something of a misnomer but we don’t know at the time. More to the point we have no expectations on how attractive the house will be. Mum and dad bought it in 1969 for £6,500. Since then, they have extended it and added to it. It is well proportioned, sits inside the boundary of the New Forest National Park and has a fabulous garden. It is surrounded by farms and another ten houses but otherwise resides in rural isolation. On the other hand there is no public transport nearby, the nearest shop is well over a mile away and it is on a fast road, by a junction where accidents happen with somewhat sickening regularity.

‘Ooo,’ he says, he being the agent we speak to. ‘Where exactly?’ He’s dribbling, metaphorically, as he imagines the fee. ‘Circa £450,000 I’d say.’

Mum nods, I smile.

‘We should put it on at £475. Perfect time too.’

‘Why?’ We both ask together. We are stunned by the price, only capable of querying the timing.

‘Start of the school hols. Loads of people come here for a break, fall in love and decide to buy somewhere. This is ideal.’

Mum and I exchange another smile at our foresight, as if we had deliberately chosen this moment.

The man – Mr Gubbins, perhaps – begins to scribble. It becomes apparent that he wants to launch the property on an unsuspecting but inevitably receptive audience within a week. Ah, problem number one.

‘Next weekend we are going away – a residential course in Marlborough for a week. Maybe we launch when we get back.’

Gubbins is not happy, his dribbling now a pout. ‘If you leave us with keys we can show people round.’

Now Mum isn’t happy but she allows herself to be persuaded – generally she doesn’t fall for the charms of snake oil salespeople but Gubbins must have a secret musk undetectable to 50 something lawyers. Gubbins will produce the draft particulars for our approval and show people round, ‘a pre-look, if the particulars aren’t ready’ he says, staring on Saturday afternoon. We will have left on Saturday morning.

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As you can see the price crawled up to £485,000 by the time these were printed

We are content. Mum and I head off for a well earned lunch with her brother, wife and my cousins and leave Gubbins to swoon in his office. On Monday he will appear to photo the house, take measurements and agree the descriptions with Mum. I, in the meantime will organise a seller’s survey, something I’m aware can save time and argument if any likely defects are noted before offers are made – too many times in my property selling life, both personally and professionally have buyers sought to chisel the agreed offer when they have a survey done. Not this time, I tell myself, smugly.

We are standing by the car while I fiddle with the keys. Mum leans on the roof and looks at me. ‘What do you think of that young man?’ she asks.

‘I guess he’ll do a good job.’

She pulls the door open and begins to lower herself in gently, her new knee not yet fully mobilised. ‘Yes I suppose. It’s just a shame he was such a prick.’

And here are a couple of Dad’s poems to Mum, as originally typed by him

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Next time: Apprenticed to my mother – offer and acceptance

 

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