What’s black and white and ‘read’ all over?

I never got that joke as a kid. The answer is a newspaper.

I understood

What’s yellow and dangerous?

(shark infested custard)

which maybe explains why I enjoy the surreal. But news and headlines and stuff left me cold until my late teens. I guess it is the same with many, isn’t it?

Then, of course, the sort of punning headlines the delight of tabloid journalists appealed more than the content itself. And finally aged 17 I looked beneath the headlines into that content and began to engage with stories.

Charli Mills, over at the Carrot Ranch, has offered us this prompt:

July 29, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is ripped from the headlines. Look at local, regional or global news. You can link to an article if you choose to. Put your own fictional twist on it to make it unique to your story-telling.

I’ve read two blog pieces in the last couple of days that are on the subject of female oppression. I have a daughter aged 22 and every example I read, see, hear about the continuation about the power crazed masculinity of nearly every society grates with me a little more each time. It’s like a piece of grit in my shoe, grinding away at my tolerance levels and leaving me annoyed, then angered and then furious. At me. At those times I’ve walked on, stood by, condoned, engaged – as a younger man – in the ‘harmless’ banter . The blog posts are here, from Serins, about her Namibian experiences, and here, from Suzie at Suzie Speaks. They are largely aimed, I suspect at a listening sisterhood but it is the boy’s club that should pay most attention.

It is the headline Suzie mentions that is my theme. The Empty Chair; check the story here. The chair is for each abused woman who has remained in the shadows of a society that treats her as the problem; a society where daily the experience of the young woman in the video below is commonplace; so commonplace in fact that most of us let the behaviour pass, yet which both as individual acts and in aggregate may leave the recipient nervy, on edge and vulnerable.

Mary’s story.

An empty chair

‘Don’t sit there.’ Rupert, her half-brother’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. ‘It’s for… It’s her’s.’

Mary knew he meant Sharon, their long missing sister, without him saying. ‘Why Rupert? Are you doing this for me? Because you don’t…’

‘No.’ He spoke sharply. ‘For you, me, her, dad…’


‘He’s a victim, too.’

‘He’s the reason…’

‘No, Mary. We don’t know, do we? Not all the whys and whatevers.’

‘He abandoned her. I know it. I…’

‘You don’t know. You can’t. And until we find her, her story, our story, that chair will remind us not to judge.’

To follow Mary’s story in full click here


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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13 Responses to What’s black and white and ‘read’ all over?

  1. Charli Mills says:

    You get me laughing and reconnecting with silly jokes from my own grammar school days, then you bring up the empty chairs in the room. I ventured off and read the two posts. I’m not laughing at silly jokes any more. Many men feel as you do, whether they have a sister, mother, daughter or simply a close friend who gets unwarranted sexual attention. I worry, too about the women, girls, who intentionally go after that kind of attention because they think wolf whistles says something about their beauty. They haven’t yet learned to recognize the danger. It’s a bad cycle fueled by many underlying complexities of power and control, societal pressure, familial pressure, desire to be attractive, desire to have an attractive other interested in us; fear, anger. Ugh. There’s a lot represented by the empty chair.

    So…makes me wonder where you are going with Sharon and what happened to her. Good ol’ Rupert is standing up for her and Dad. Mary will get through this, I’m sure. But very curious as to what the writer is setting us up for next.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Ripped From the Headlines « Carrot Ranch Communications

  3. Norah says:

    Thank you Geoff for encouraging men to stand up and be counted in strengthening the respect for women in our society. It is definitely an issue that needs to be aired, discussed and acted upon.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Double Whammy! | But I Smile Anyway...

  5. trifflepudling says:

    I wouldn’t be too hard on younger self, Geoff. These things are complicated! You can’t be all things to everybody.
    I usually found a brusque “Eff off” did the trick – it usually shocked them, especially back then. If they looked dangerous, then I just kept going. It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and you learn to cope with it. Sadly, I think it’s still a man’s world and sometimes I think they’re welcome to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Now no giving in! You women will have your turn and then we’re in trouble! I think I am right to be hard on my youger self because I knew it was wrong to make people patently uncomfortable but it was better they wee uncomfortable than I was. And I can imagine your ‘eff off’ too. Still let’s focus on the Test Match shall we?

      Liked by 1 person

      • trifflepudling says:

        Yes, but it’s all about the context and the times. Never mind, I’m sure you’ve done your penance now!
        The Test Match – crazy, mental and hilarious yesterday: like some sort of out of body experience! But I won’t take it for granted that England will win. Surely Australia will make us work for it?!

        Liked by 2 people

      • TanGental says:

        Surely indeed!


  6. Autism Mom says:

    The sense of entitlement that was made so patently obvious in that video was truly unnerving.


  7. julespaige says:

    I really like how you tied this in with your ‘running’ story. It is quite unfortunate that some people of ‘means’ both men and women take advantage of other people. The sports hero who strayed, or the Matron Socialite who basically enslaved her housekeepers… It isn’t just women who get taken advantage of either. Take families of temporary undocumented farm-workers…

    Thanks for stopping by my post on the prompt. ~Jules

    Liked by 1 person

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