On May 30th last year, Charli Mills prompted us thus:
In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a decision between two clashing priorities.
And I came up with this:
He stared at the letter in his hand; he had done it again. Got all the way from car to post box and forgotten to post it. He would forget himself one of these days.
Milton whined from the back; he had forgotten to walk the bloody dog, too.
Sighing to himself, Peter climbed out and made for the phone box. Halfway there he remembered he hadn’t wound the window down. Poor Milton, it was so hot.
He hesitated fractionally and then set off again. He would only be a few minutes.
The stroke, when it came, was huge.
That turned out to be the first instalment in what has become Mary’s Story.
This week Charli’s prompt is:
In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase, “Man, it’s a hot one.” You can choose a gender neutral replacement for the slang, “man” or any other general address. The phrase can lead, end or show up in the middle of the story. If the prompt leads you to a creative idea to alter the phrase, do it! And stay cool this week!
Maybe you can see the echo in my original piece.
The phrase ‘It’s a hot one’ brings back a memory from when I was about ten. My class at primary school was taught by a fearsome woman – Miss Hazel – known for obvious reasons as Witch Hazel – who complained constantly during the winter term about how cold her classroom was. We had these large metal radiators like huge brass musical instruments that jutted out from the wall about which is was said ‘if you sit on those you’ll get piles’. Piles of what I wondered but since everyone sniggered I sniggered too, a beat behind the boy who said it. The story of my primary school life, laughing a beat too late. Maybe that’s why I find leading a dance so tricky.
The whole of the rest of the staff knew about the misfiring radiator and the Witch’s grumbles – she was an Olympic standard moaner – because if they ever came to see her when she was teaching they might hug themselves and say ‘chilly, isn’t it?’ or look at the windows and offer ‘is that ice on the inside?’
Eventually the lugubrious caretaker, Mr Stephens appeared and, with much teeth sucking and the application of a large wrench bullied some life into the beast. It made a very satisfactory gurgling noise which we all much admired. One consequence was, however, that as the day progressed the radiator became hotter and hotter and we were warned to keep away. Miss Hazel would stand close to it while teaching, warming her hands from a safe distance.
It can’t have been much after this engineering masterpiece that Miss Hazel fell ill – not enough eyes of toads for her soup – and Miss Taylor took our class for the day. Miss Taylor was much younger and, it being the sixties, prone to wearing short skirts. You can see where this is going.
My memory of the particular lesson is limited to a moment of utter concentration by the whole class. We were 29 children and we were both mixed ability and mixed attention span – some of the class would today be diagnosed with ADHD or with one learning difficulty or another – and we had a not completely unwarranted reputation for being a tricky class to keep in control. Especially as the day progressed.
So Miss Taylor was probably delighted with how we remained hooked by her every word; how we never let our focus on her waver. Gradually her movements narrowed; facing us she made a grand gesture and, delight on delight took a short step back.
In my head I can still hear the sizzle. I can still see the thin red line running down her thigh. I can still recall the surprise as she became the first adult to utter ‘bloody hell’ in our presence.
As a class we recognised the look on her face; it was the precursor to teacherly revenge. She knew we knew. You leant early that, pupil against teacher was a fight the pupil never won. But occasionally all the subsequent detentions and random punishments paled against the collective wonder of being there at that glorious moment of bum branding.
Turning to the prompt, I missed a post last week on my blogiday so here’s last week’s flash followed by this week. And this is the link to the whole saga.
‘Are you Mary North?’
‘Sorry to disturb. We’ve bought 52 Rose Street. And, well, we found this.’
The woman fumbled in her bag, smiling apologies. ‘We’re doing a few things. Modernising, you know. We’ve been clearing out the attic. Filthy of course.’
Mary felt her embarrassment. She knew she was removing Mary’s parents from their home.
‘It’s a locket. There’s a catch…’
Suddenly, the pewter pendant sprang open, revealing a sepia picture of two chubby babies.
‘Is one you?’
Mary caressed the silky smooth surface and nodded. One of these girls was her twin.
‘Were you identical twins?’
‘You’re getting warmer…’
Rupert, Mary’s half-brother, wiped his forehead. ‘Too dammed hot for me.’
Mary smiled. ‘Me too. Heat and pregnancy don’t mix. Penny loves it, though. Dad did too.’
Rupert nodded. ‘So Paul said you’ve found some things about your twin?’
Mary showed him the locket and the book. ‘She was Sharon. Aunt Gloria lied when she said that was my imaginary friend.’
‘Don’t be hard on her. She had reasons. And we’ve something to work on.’
‘True.’ Mary rubbed her back. ‘I suppose we might just be getting warm at last.’
‘Rupert nodded. ‘Soon we’ll be very hot. You see.’