Two Becomes One #shortfiction

They stopped the wheelchair to let him look along his arbour one last time, whispering in foggy ears for him to stir. He didn’t move and they turned, saddened at his incomprehension, but letting him have a private moment.
He smiled as they left. His eyes may be hollow but the westerly breeze let him feel the shape of the arching boughs as it touched his face; the warming sun coloured in the dappling leaves and the mummeration of the insects stirred the blossom into as clear a picture as from any camera.
He looked back down the long years, back to his sap filled adolescence when the land was brown and the living hard. He had planted his cuttings with the tenderness of a lover, intent on sowing his own legacy. He nurtured the thin twigs through cruel seasons – sharp winters and harsh unforgiving summers – youthful confidence overcoming the setbacks and slights to his dreams.
He marched with others at a siren’s call to far places where he learned of courage and friendship and inexplicable death. When he returned his hopes lay cracked and neglected, corrupted by indifference and constant dread.
For a time he despaired; as with his dream, he withered, gnarling and twisting away from the light, unhealthy disease seeking an insidious hold in those dank drear places.
They came, with money and typed paper and saws, offering a refuge from toil and a strong wall to hide his hopes. He prepared to go; it was all too much but an unexpected word came to him, floating on a strong westerly. ‘Wait,’ she said. ‘I will never leave.’
He trusted that promise, through tender, sweet-sweat-softened nights. Like water to a wilted palm, at her touch he unfurled and grew tall. The charlatans and destroyers went, churlish and angry.
Renewed, he bent again to his scheme but now he was two; another bending too, mimicking his swift fingers training, pruning, cropping, feeding, loving.
The twists and gnarls were too deep-set to change and risk a fracture, so they worked with Nature’ contortions. As time passed they all grew, slowly at first, but ever constant in their intent until their fingers interlaced and became one, dancing with and twining into and around the other; each might have come from a different root stock but each was now reliant on the other for support and shade and health.
Slower now, the work more delicate, intricate, shaping, shaving, giving form to dreams until the glorious arbour of their love was complete.
Sightless, and bereft, he wondered if his trust had been betrayed in that last cruel frost-sharpened winter. But he kept a small private faith and returned to their arbour, seeking a sign of a promise fulfilled.

And there she was, today, waiting at the far end, leaning on a stick, curled towards the opposite side, waiting for the space to be filled. For the first time in the years he stood to fill that space, his place opposite hers, bending forward, offering support.  As their lips met one last time, melting, melding, becoming one, becoming part of the glory he released his tenuous hold. ‘I promised,’ she said.
When the carers returned, the wheelchair lay on its side. Their initial apprehension slipped to smiles as they looked upon the arbour and recognised the truth, just out of sight, on the edge of the shadows, a new bough had taken root and linked with its opposite. At long last complete, two had become one.

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1000 voices: a reprise #1000speak

I wrote this three years ago. I still think it’s worth a re-run. via Me, me, me; You, you, you #1000speak

Posted in miscellany | 1 Comment

Ice So Vain #carrotranch

February 15, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.

Charli Mills is one icicle short of a glacier some times, but the descriptions of Swedish ice caves, here, has me wanting to visit.

Iced

 

‘Hey Logan, you got any ice?’

‘Sure. Bottom drawer of the freezer. What you want it for?’

‘A bath. This guy said it’s good.’

‘I think ice is the devil’s work, Morgan.’

‘You been puffing the wacky-backy, dude?’

‘No. Maybe. A couple. Anyhoo, how come it floats on its liquid self…’

‘That’s because…’

‘And it’s like totally cold and can burn you?’

‘Sure but…’

‘And you can stick you face onto an ice box like mega-glue and still slip over on the stuff like frozen oil?’

‘Paradoxical.’

‘An enigma.’

‘Like a politician’s promise.’

‘That’s a shit analogy, Logan.’

‘Sure.

Posted in carrot ranch, flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The Old Road (with random pictures…) #dad’spoems

I thought, to be different I’d offer another of my father’s epic poems for you, interspersed with some pictures from Crystal Palace Park. There’s no obvious link, just I rather enjoy both.

The Old Road

(A Tale Of The New Forest)

 

It is said that civilisation is only a thin veneer,

And just a crack in the surface can uncover a well of fear,

A morass of superstition, where reason is put to rout,

And comfortable, clear convictions degenerate into doubt.

*

Four of us boarded the local stage at the ‘Angel’ in Lymington Town,

With Coachman John that made five souls, all of us Ringwood bound,

And the cheerful chatter and bustle as the coach prepared to leave,

Was enriched by a note of revelry, for was this not New Year’s Eve?

*

In the Year of Our Lord 1815, a time of England’s might,

When Wellington, at Waterloo, had shown how Englishmen fight,

And healed, with that great victory, the nation’s running sore,

By bringing peace to the people, after weary years of war.

*

No Christmastide had ever seen more wassail and goodwill,

And the poorest in the parishes for once had fed their fill,

For the Mayor himself had made it known that joy should come to all,

And even the Frenchy prisoners had danced at the Yuletide Ball.

*

But that day we four good citizens, merchants of some renown,

Were travelling to Ringwood, to dine that night at the ‘Crown’,

Meanwhile, to keep out the bitter cold, we had cracked a bottle or two,

While Coachman John had supped right well on the ‘Angel’s’ famed home brew.

*

‘Come, gentlemen all,’ called Coachman John, ‘tis time for us to go,’

‘The wind has turned, it’s due nor’east, and I don’t doubt it will snow.’

We hurried then, though we were loath to leave the fireside bright,

For we were aware that the Forest was no place to be snowbound at night.

*

Though John had a brace of pistols and each of us wore a sword

And none of us was a coward, yet we knew there roamed abroad

Desperate and dangerous rogues, vagabonds, thieves – and worse,

Who would slit the throat of an honest man for the guineas in his purse.

*

The wind, as we hastened across the yard, was razor-sharp and raw,

And its icy fingers froze the flesh through the thick coats that we wore.

The coach-springs squeaked as we climbed aboard and huddled in our seats,

With blankets wrapped around us and hot bricks at hands and feet.

*

John swiftly mounted the driving-box, felt the bite of the wind and swore.

Then grinned at a buxom serving-wench, ‘You’d keep me warm for sure!’

The ostlers let go the horses’ heads and the coach, with a jolt and a lurch,

Moved forward though the ‘Angel’s’ arch and swung right towards the church.

*

Through the town we drove at spanking pace and soon we could espy

The high, bare mounds of Buckland Rings, stark against the sky,

While lower down the great reed beds stood drowning in the flood

Which well-nigh every winter makes our water-meadows mud.

*

I looked at my companions, men I’d known all my life,

The Manson brothers, Paul and Hugh, whose sister was my wife,

And whose good Forest timber, oaken planking from their yard,

Was part of every man-o’-war launched from Buckler’s Hard.

*

Beside me, Martin Johnson, late of the Fusiliers,

Who had gallantly campaigned, unscathed, for nearly fifteen years,

‘Til the sabre of a French Hussar, south of Salamanca,

Had sent him home and changed his rank, from brigadier to banker.

*

But the wine we’d drunk in our merry mood was strong, and talk soon lagged,

And eyelids drooped as the coach rolled on, and on four chests four chins sagged,

And none of us noticed the first snowflakes, soft and white as they swirled,

For as John pulled out onto Setley Plain we were sleeping, and dead to the world.

*

How long I slept I cannot say – I awoke with a violent start,

And the certainty that something was wrong, and a pounding in my heart,

While all around was a curious light, a strangely luminous glow,

Which revealed my three companions and, dim, through the window, snow.

*

Martin Johnson and the Mansons lay sprawled out, still fast asleep,

And it seemed to me uncanny that their slumber should be so deep

For surely what had awakened me should have aroused them, too,

And I shouted as I shook each one, ‘Wake up, Martin, Paul, Hugh!’

*

There was no response, I thought they were dead – then I saw, thank God, I was wrong,

By the regular movement of each man’s chest as he breathed steady and strong,

But their features were still and lifeless, as though carved out of stone,

And I knew that whatever lay ahead I would have to face alone.

*

I climbed from the coach into a world snowbound, silent and still,

The weird light illuminated all, and I recognised Wilverley Hill,

Across the valley Wooton sloped, and I knew, though I peered in vain,

That far ahead the turnpike ran, in the shadow of Goatspen Plain.

*

As a boy I’d explored this countryside on my Forest pony’s back,

I’d forded the streams and skirted the bogs and climbed every hill and track,

I’d known where the otter took his trout, and the honey buzzard flew,

I’d seen badger cubs playing by moonlight and followed the fox through the dew.

*

I’d walked in the deep inclosures by the charcoal-burners hut,

And, on quiet October evenings, heard the red deer roar at rut,

I’d skated over Hatchett Pond, and laughed as the summer rain

Spangled the hair of the gipsy maid who I’d kissed on Red Shoot Plain.

*

I’d welcomed the wild December gales when they raged in from the sea,

And watched the great oaks writhe and twist and bow to their mastery,

I loved this Forest in all its moods, and I’d leaned its secret ways,

And it had been playground and schoolroom since my earliest childhood days.

*

But the Forest this night, as I stood alone, was an awful, alien place,

With features entirely familiar – but wearing no friendly face,

But breathing a brooding menace, an evil malignant air,

And I felt a numbing helplessness, like a rabbit in a snare.

*

I looked up at Coachman John, that big man, bluff and brave,

And I saw how he sat on his driving-box, like a statue over a grave,

Shoulders hunched in a caped topcoat, tricorne rammed low on his head,

While this thick-gloved hand held the reins to horses as still as the dead.

*

Frightened, alone, in that frozen world, above all I craved human speech,

When the silence was violently ripped apart by an eldritch screech

Shocked, I staggered against the coach while beneath my feet the ground

Shook and trembled and rumbled – then again that unearthly sound.

*

I saw a huge black form rush by, belching fire and smoke,

The stench was foul and sulphurous and I thought that I would choke,

But though I smelt its acrid breath, I even then knew well

That this was not some demon, or fiery hound from Hell.

*

No pale apparition this, sad fruit of an unhinged mind,

But something hard and tangible which was drawing close behind

Several great wheeled boxes, each one filled with light,

And thundering by in line, almost snakelike in the night.

*

With senses reeling I half fell, my body could stand no more,

And stumbling to the coach I clambered back in through the door,

I was drained of any courage, trembling weakly, and I wept,

I collapsed back in my seat, closed my aching eyes, and slept.

*

Then I heard Martin’s laughter and saw him pretend to frown,

‘Come, wake up, you old rogue, we are nearing Ringwood Town!’

‘And tell us, pray, what was your dream while you slumbered long and deep?’

‘For you have kept us all awake, muttering in your sleep!’

*

But how could I answer his question? And who, indeed, would believe

Such an unlikely take – especially on New Year’s Eve?

But I know something happened out there in that curious light,

And I see it all as clear today as I did on that far-off night.

|*

I’ve made that journey many times, and always I tense in my seat

As we reach the place, and I live it again, and feel my heart miss a beat,

And you ask why a sensible man like me trembles with foolish fear?

Well, they say common sense, like civilisation is only a thin veneer!

Historical note: The Southampton and Dorchester railway (now long defunct) opened in 1847, some thirty-two years after the above events occurred, and the track across the New Forest is believed by some to have followed part of the old Lymington to Ringwood stagecoach road.

 

Posted in miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , , | 21 Comments

Life In A Flash #review

There are fun posts and informative posts, poignant and pithy. There are posts that assault the sense and posts than numb the brain. And then there are those gems that make you smile and keep smiling. As an Author there is no better example of such a post than a review of one of your books, unannounced and unexpected as it is. Yesterday afternoon I stood on a platform waiting for a train to Crystal palace and I gave into my e-ddiction and checked my phone. Nestling there, in my much loved inbox was this little golly-dolly of a treat. Sigh.

Of course it is spot on; of course you should all rush out and buy it immediately followed by writing a review. But, hey, even if that isn’t on your bucket list yet, make me glow by popping over to Robbie’s blog and have a dander at her kind words.via #Bookreview – Life in a Flash by Geoff Le Pard

Posted in miscellany | 8 Comments

Memories are made of what exactly?

Knitted penguins.

Back in the goodness knows when, we acquired a TV. A large wooden box with a small square of thick greyly opalescent glass set, centrally near the top with two black Bakelite nobs either side of a speaker. It was an exercise in faith because you needed a large dollop of unreasoning belief to consider the image that appeared in the foggy soup of 405 lines to be a recognisable picture. And you needed to toss logic out of the window if you wanted to think the sound had any link, tangential or otherwise to the grainy scribblings that you were peering at with some sort of myopic group delusion.

I was maybe five or six.

The first programme we saw on that pulpit of optical obfuscation was, I was told, gardening but in black and white with a healthy dose of sleet it could just as well have been orthopaedic surgery.

Disappointment doesn’t really describe the let down. But I was a resilient child – the Archaeologist was my older brother; that situation would breed resilience in soggy toilet paper – so I persevered with this new fangled, to me, technology. I began to interpret the shapes and linked sounds. And I found children’s TV.

Now let’s face it; I wasn’t a discerning viewer. The sophistication of the likes of Andy Pandy and the Woodentops weren’t obvious to many.

But, while a lot of my generation remember these characters from their nascent TV viewings, no one seemed to remember the Pingwings and especially the shoe polish tree. Now I’m an aged crumbly old soak these days, I admit but I was bloody certain such things as Pingwings existed and I would occasionally look for them.

However, while I knew there was such a thing, I got the name slightly wrong, remembering them as Pengwengs and my searches drew a blank. I was mad; making up these nonsensical details, apparently.

Then, just yesterday there was a piece on some radio programme about the creator of the Clangers

another famous piece of educational tomfoolery: Oliver Postgate, who also came up with the notion of Noggin the Nog and that most sumptuous of cartoonish villains, Nogbad the Bad

And something told me it was he, the genius, who’d been behind the Pingwings. And lo! The great knowledge bank of wikipedia did the honours. Now I had the right spelling, I had youtube and… yes! The episode of the Pingwings and the Ice Cream Tree presented me with the proof I needed.

There was a shoe polish tree. My work here is done….

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Taking The Top Off #writephoto

Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt is 

There is no accurate record of when the land became infertile but certainly before the fifth century when the Abbey records speak of a strip of failure in what was otherwise the most fertile acreage possessed by the St Jerome Monks. Many attempts were made to change the base nature of the soil but ‘dead man’s passage’ it remained for several centuries.
In the second half of the twentieth century, soil samples were tested and, to the surprise of the scientists they were found to have a total absence of any nutriments. In the words of one expert, it was as if a defoliant many times as powerful as Agent Orange, used against the Vietcong had been sprayed across the middle of the field.
In 2021 a satellite image of the area appeared using a new high resolution camera. This revealed a curious feature: the strip appeared to continue under the nearby hills, much as if a trench had been dug and then the hills placed on top. ‘It’s as if it were man-made,’ said one, not bothering to hide the sneer from his voice.
Further detailed study was commissioned. More images revealed the faintest trace of a line spreading across the countryside beyond the hills and towards the east coast. Samples were taken and in each case the land along this line was found to be one of extremes. Either it was utterly barren or so fertile that absolutely anything would grow on it.
When the 2027 unmanned probe to Mars took detailed images of the Earth, using a new ultrasound technique, the men of science were astonished to realise the strip continued under the North Sea and across Denmark into Continental Europe, eventually disappearing under the Alps.
Seismologists opined that it might be the residue of some sort of now redundant tectonic plate edge but most people thought it just one of those things.
When the strip was found to continue in the other direction, across the west coast near Chester and then on beyond Iceland and through the Canadian tundra, interest turned to concern. A multinational probe was commissioned and work began in the autumn of 2031.
There is, inevitably no record of the events that followed the probe’s impact with the base of the strip that occurred on the 15th March 2032. Earth rupture was so sudden, so catastrophic no agency had any time to record the rapidly unfolding destruction of the planet.
The Mars Establishment Team were the last humans to be able to process what had occurred. They had two hours of utter terror and incomprehension before the first wave of debris from the exploding Earth destroyed the surface of Mars and knocked it out of its orbit. Had Jerome McKay been able to describe what he saw that morning on his Earth Watch monitor it might have been something akin to watching a boiled egg rip its own top off. Needless to say his mind was not focused on a food based analogy just then.

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, prompt | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments