One Step Beyond #carrotranch #flashfiction

Charli Mills, this week, gets a little ethereal as she steps beyond with the challenge

December 22, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that steps beyond. It can be a door, a tunnel, a worm hole in space. You can create an explicit for what “beyond” is or you can simply use the word. Follow the prompt where it takes you, beyond what you think you know is there.


1970; grass and trees

We moved to Hampshire in 1969, to a ‘cottage’ on the edge of the New Forest. It felt cold and damp (it was winter) and just different. For a start, coming from suburbia there were few houses and less people. School was a cycle, train and walk away. But there were infinite possibilities if you took the positives…

I was 12, for pity’s sake. On the cusp of spots, random sproutings of hair and the dawning realisation that parents were both stupid and cruel. ‘Take the positives?’ Had that expression existed in 1969 I would have upchucked at the notion. My parents had uprooted me from all I knew, without so much as a by-your-leave and dumped me in a wooded, lichen encrusted wilderness. No friends, no means of getting outside beyond a bike that did worthy service in the Crimean War and a brother who actually seemed to enjoy the new environment. And they talk about brotherly love. Ha!


two years later

Trapped as I was, I didn’t ‘look beyond’. We had our new house and garden and had to make do. Ah yes, the garden. It was mostly grass, a few trees that once bore fruit but now cultivated disease and an ancient hedgerow teeming with wildlife. Mum could look beyond and imagine the glory it would become. I saw mud, a possible cricket pitch come summer if I could find someone to play with and a guarantee that these exploitative parents would want me to help dig the wretched plot.

We started work near the house. Outside the back door was a narrow path, about four foot wide before a couple of steps up to the beginnings of the lawn. Mum wanted to dig this area down to the level of the path and pave it so it created a terrace. So began our relationship with the New Forest’s soil.

If you’ve ever wondered why there is an area of 100 square miles in this part of southern England given over to heath and wood and grassland and not farmed, it’s because the soil is, in the technical terminology of agrarian experts, shit. The clay you use to make pots has less self adhesive qualities than this crapulous hoggin. You stick in your spade, you lift and you spend twenty minutes trying to remove the glutinous turd from the blade.


20 years later

It took forever. Well, okay, maybe a week or two. And late one Saturday afternoon as the gloom descended, one of us stuck in their spade and hit something hard. There were a few flints hereabouts but it didn’t take long realise this was more than a small rock.

With some growing excitement we poked around to find an edge. We dug down and unearthed a large slab of concrete about four foot square. Dad brought out his biggest fork, worked the prongs under the edge and heaved. We all joined in with our tools. Fraction of an inch at a time the slab lifted. It covered something, but what? A cave? A grave? The entrance to a mythical kingdom?

It took a long time but finally the slab came up revealing a dark circular hole. A well. A proper well, brick lined and full of the sort of water you see coming out of a washing machine after you do the kids’ sports kit.

Now this was a result. Who knew we could have something so interesting right outside our back door? It turned out that, until the mid 50s there was no mains water hereabouts so all water supplies to the house were pumped from this well. Yet, 15 years after it was made redundant, there was no sign of this stimulator to the imagination.

Now I know better. Now I can look beyond and what if such things. That grey February day of moaning about slave labour ended with my mind creating stories, debating possibilities with dad and the Archaeologist. Maybe, just maybe that was part of making me move beyond my resentment at the move and embracing the new future.

Do something scary everyday, the worthy modern philosophers say. Really, that is a heap of dingbats doodahs as a concept because you’ll end up with chronic indigestion but once in a while, yes, you should lift a slab of concrete buried in the garden just to see what might be underneath.

And Mary and Paul and Penny? What about them?

Man in the Moon

Penny closed the book. Her sister, Charlotte slept. Penny went and found her mum, Mary. ‘When did I stop believing in the Man in the Moon, mum?’

‘Have you?’

‘Course. Don’t be silly.’

Mary smiled. ‘You’re sure, are you?’

Penny frowned. ‘There’s no air.’

‘I know but can you be sure? That there’s no life there?’

Penny sighed. ‘It’s like Santa, and the tooth fairy. You want me to believe because it’s cute. But I’m 14.’

‘So you know, for sure?’

‘Stop it, mum.’ Penny turned away. ‘You’re being ridiculous.’

‘It’s worth holding onto a little doubt, sometimes, love.’

If you want more of the north family, click here.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. 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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11 Responses to One Step Beyond #carrotranch #flashfiction

  1. We know the New Forest quite well, and the soil is indeed, crap. Saying that though, we adopted a tree (unofficially) and spent many a happy hour trudging to and from it to muse, reminisce, relax, sleep or simply decorate at Christmas and New Year.
    We wonder if it’s still standing, and if not, if anyone found our two bottles planted at the base in 1989 and 1991. If so, I wonder if anyone wondered who had left them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Charli Mills says:

    New Forest would look like the mesas of Zion if not vegetated. I swear that same described glutenous clay crap is what the soil is here. Dry as a desert’s bone it’s compact and great for trails and roads. Wet it is impassable. Truly impassable by shoe or tire tread. I can’t imagine having to dig in it! Oh, wait, I can. When we had to dig out our truck four times in one rain-filled misadventure. Ah, but your post reminds me to adventure occasionally to avoid ulcers, yet hang on to the wonder of what can exist beyond a concrete slab in the clay. I also want to know what might lurk in that muddy water? And Mary is wise to pass along a bit of doubt. May we wonder and doubt in balances healthy to our own fortitude. Another great flash installment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Charli. Zion and mesas sound so evocative of another world I want to explore. Yes I remember the post of you being stuck admiring and despairing in equal measure at your exploring zeal and your blind eyed naivete!! One day I will join you on a trail and let you lead me heaven knows where.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Charli Mills says:

        Many more red clay adventures await you, Geoff! And I’d happily tote you over mesas and rims. No bungee cords that I’m aware of, but it fun to sit on the rim with nothing beneath your feet and watch the full moon rise over Zion.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. jan says:

    I had the opposite experience – my parents uprooted me from farmland in Michigan and moved to Reno Nevada – a gambling mecca in the desert. I remember feeling the same way.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Norah says:

    From underground to far above – great places for contemplating what lies beyond. I’m so pleased to hear of the origins of your imagination and positivity, both of which you share so generously. A little doubt is not a bad thing to cultivate. Great flash.

    Liked by 1 person

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