Strange Days #flash fiction

They both knew. While Alice hid it well, you could read it in Josh’s face – the anxiety, the desperate need. The administrator sighed. Poor kids. Losing parents so young, they deserved a break.

The prospective adopters looked unsure. Alice spoke brightly but it was Josh who would make the difference. No one wanted to separate the siblings; they needed to take both.

The administrator studied the little boy. What he had been through in his six years, it was amazing how he seemed to cope. Just then the boy looked at the man and smiled.

Everyone relaxed. The administrator said, ‘Shall we deal with the paperwork now?’ The woman nodded and led the way out. She whispered to the administrator as they left. ‘Such sweet children. And they lost two sets of parents?’

‘Three if you count the grandparents who they lived with for a period.’

The man laughed awkwardly. ‘Are they jinxed?’

The woman glared. ‘Gerald, that’s an awful thing to say. They are so sweet.’

Back in the room, Alice listened at the door. ‘I think that worked.’

Josh chewed a nail. ‘Can we use poison this time?’

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In Which Three Becomes One And A Star Is Born #writephoto

Sue Vincent’s #writephoto this week is

Dr Humphrey Mildew stared at Hartley Jombe’s stomach. The image was, frankly, stunning.

‘See, Doc. It’s terrible.’

‘I’d have said it was the work of a skilled practitioner.’ He reached forward, gently wiping a finger across the blazing sun. 

Hartley winced.

‘Sorry, does that hurt?’

‘Not as such. More a deep…’ He swallowed, apparently at a loss for words.

‘It’s definitely a tattoo, Mr Jam.’

‘Jombe.’

‘Jombe. Sorry. Your name, it’s just…’ Humphrey smirked. ‘So when did you get it done?’

‘I told the receptionist. It just appeared. Last night.’

Humphrey Mildew had been a GP for fourteen months. He hadn’t been a particularly stellar student but the one lesson he’d absorbed well was how to come across as a patronising smart arse. ‘Naturally there are people who are disappointed in the results but I’d have said you’ve chosen your tattooist well…’

‘I DON’T WANT A SODDING PICTURE ON MY GUT EVEN IF IT’S GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN THE BLOODY TURNER PRIZE.’ Hartley breathed in slowly. ‘Sorry. See I was abducted by aliens yesterday…’

Humphrey pulled his pad to him and scribbled ‘mental illness’ in small unreadable letters, followed by ‘possible drunk’. ‘Aliens?’

‘Last night. After East Enders. They knocked and…’

Humphrey held up a hand, forestalling Hartley. ‘Sorry. To be clear an alien…’

‘Three. I think. They sort of oozed together at one point, but I’m pretty sure there were three when they knocked.’

‘Right. Three aliens who are capable of cellular integration…’

‘Is that even a thing?’

‘No idea. These three knocked on your door…’

‘Toilet.’

‘Are you here as a prank, because I’m …’

‘No, seriously, Doc. After East Enders finished I went for a slash and there was this knocking from the cistern. I lifted the lid and these three emerged…’

‘What were they like?’ He immediately wished he hadn’t asked. 

‘You don’t want to know. Sort of three shades of Piers Morgan…’

‘You’re right. I don’t. So these three, what, things…?’

‘Aliens.’

‘Sure. They climbed out and what?’

‘Asked if I’d been in an accident recently?’

‘You are taking the piss.’

‘No. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t damaged. They then asked if I’d take part in a survey of life-forms. Said they’d been studying humans and wanted a different perspective.’

‘And you said yes?’

‘Course I bloody didn’t. You think I’m some sort of numpty?’

Humphrey mumbled ‘Quite possibly,’ but waved him on.

‘No, I asked what they’d give me in return. They said…’

‘These aliens spoke English?’

‘Course. Do I look like someone who speaks alien?’

Humphrey shrugged. ‘Who knows? Then?’

‘They said I’d get what every human wants. I thought they meant, you know, a plate of fries and a massive…’

‘Quite. You could have asked for a personality?’

‘What?’

‘Nothing.’

‘They said they’d  read my mind and I’d get what humans of my age and demographic want, plus my oldest desire.’

‘So, what then?’

‘They made me lie down, sort of covered my head in themselves, while they read my mind .. it was horrid.’

‘Bet it was.’

‘Next thing I knew I was sitting in the kitchen, this painting was seeping out of my tummy, and they were checking an AtoZ for the address of their next call. Somewhere in Ruislip.’

‘Naturally. You’re sure you didn’t just have one tin of something amber too many and got this done on the high street? I mean it’s a pretty far fetched story.’

‘I can prove it, Doc.’ Hartley began to undo his belt.

‘Woah. I don’t think showing me you’re hung like bread fruit will prove anything.’

‘No. They said the tattoo was what all young men under thirty want. Give me a break. No, this is the oldest desire.’ Hartley dropped his trousers and then his pants before turning to face the wall as he bent over.

Humphrey squinted into the glare. ‘Christ, what’s that?’

‘My mum used to say if I was very good then the sun would shine out of my backside. Can you do anything, Doc?’

Dr Humphrey Mildew turned away, his eyesight temporarily absent. ‘I think you might need some Gaviscon. Super strength.’

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, miscellany | Tagged , | 32 Comments

Apprenticed To My Mother: Guest Post

Please go to Marje Mallon’s lovely blog for a guest post and new material about my mother and I and more information on my latest book, the paperback for which is now available via Author Spotlight: Geoff Le Pard

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A Whole Lot Of Time #timespast

There’s a rather lovely prompt that’s been going for a while, from the one of Irene Waters, a memoirist (is that even a thing?) from Australia, which she calls Times Past. The link to the latest prompt is here.

She is after the biggest change we have seen in our lives, asking us to tell our readers the generation from which we come. I’m a runty little baby boomer, born at the back end of the 1950s.

It would be obvious to mention technology – computers and latterly smart phones have utterly transformed the way we interact and consume information and ideas.

But for me, the biggest change I see is in our relationship with time. We have become temporally poor, especially in the developed world. Technology has exacerbated this issue but it isn’t the cause.

When I began my working life we communicated face to face, by letter or by phone. There was also this thing called the telex, a weird machine, a bit like the teleprinter at the end of the sport’s report on a  Saturday that spewed out the football scores. Then came the fax, with its waxy Izal toilet paper and fading messages, followed by word processors, email and now the plethora of social media.

But even before these innovations, the working day was extending. I left the office, routinely at 5.30 in 1979 when I started. The office building was locked shut at 6. By 1984 the building I was in shut at 8 and on several occasions I had to hurry to leave before being locked in. I did my first all-nighter in 1987, three in a week in 1992 and lost count by the millennium.

We had our first TV in 1961 when there were 2 channels, a TV capable of receiving the third channel in 1969 (it had been going for a while by then), breakfast TV in the 1980s  and a fourth in the early 1990s. And then satellite hit and the number of channels exploded; TV went around the clock. Sport that never made it on screen, became commonplace; ditto films.

By contrast I ate my first meal out (ignoring a fish and chip supper) at a pub in Lymington in January 1970; by 1984, I had enjoyed a range of international cuisine in various restaurants and to take away.

Clubs and bars opened later and later. Concerts like Glastonbury grew exponentially. I travelled more widely; my first trip abroad was to France in 1976, my first flight in 1980. By 1990 I had visited 17 countries over three continents.

I could fill my days, and nights with a constant diet of action, whether work or play.

It was the same when I had children. The number of organised events I ferried them to was enormous but when I talk to parents of school age children now I feel I got away with things lightly. Indeed, with fears about safety driving parents to oversee so much more of their children’s lives than before, there is less room for children to be without some sort of activity.

The death of boredom, that’s the biggest change. I mourn its passing. The ennui of a summer’s afternoon with nothing to do, no one to do it with and no equipment to be used in the creation of that nothing. Yet out of those longueurs came ideas, make-believe, stories and so much more.

And better still came frustration and disappointment and a sense of loss. Not a waste of time – it was only a waste if there was something that you could be doing but weren’t. No it was just time, pure, unadulterated, unspoken-for. Because those were stimulants in their own right, the stimulus to be creative.

It was dreadful, being bored. So what did you do? You went to find out ways not to be bored. Yourself. Not through parents or family, or teachers, or organisations who charged you, or even your friends.

No, it takes a village to raise a child and an imagination to overcome boredom.

Nowadays, when I have so many things I can do, I enjoy those moments when I have nothing. On a walk with Dog I stop and notice a tree that I’m sure I’ve not seen before. It’s been there 70 plus years and I’ve walked by it for 25 and yet I’ve not given us the time to get to know each other. I need to. I owe it to both of us.

People meditate, are mindful, do yoga, go on retreats and I’m sure these are good for their mental health – well, they tell me so. But that’s not the same as being bored rigid, with nothing to do that will stimulate you. The boredom that a child faces on long school holidays.

“Are we there yet?”

The classic moan from the back of a car of the bored child. Nowadays there are ipads and colouring books and interactive games and bluetoothed podcasts and heaven knows what. And if they aren’t working their oracle it’s because the over-stimulated little darling is fast asleep, catching up. Whatever happened to staring out of a window and wondering about the lives of others?

I don’t exactly miss boredom, but I’m glad I experienced it in its rawest, purest form. At least that way I know how to be grateful that I know what I’m missing… And it did take me to places I might not otherwise have gone to.

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It’s a Dog-gone Conclusion

We are a pet house. Two ancient cats inhabit the top of the boiler or the sofa back, next to the TV. An even more ancient tortoise roams a flower bed, doing… not very much, in return for some grapes and cucumber.

Neither cat is much interested in my lap though they moan enough if we don’t provide food when expected. They’re nice enough, so far as indifferent hair balls go.

And then there’s Dog.  He’s a rescue dog, the second we’ve been lucky enough to live with. I could list his attributes, his foibles, the things that irk me and the things that make me putty in his paws. In truth his only irksome characteristic is his inclination – more visceral need – to greet every visitor to a volley of barking that has any delivery person back pedalling from our front door as fast as a Dog rushes towards it. It’s positively Newtonian, this each action has an equal and opposite reaction.

While I could wax lyrical on the subject of Dog specifically, today I want to consider dogs as a species make the case for them being the second most intelligent, intuitive species on this little lump of rock we inhabit.

My posit is that humans, for all their stupidities and senseless behaviours are the most intelligent and intuitive when measured against a range of parameters. You may not agree.

But what about second place?

I have read thesis and seen a number of programmes, making the case that other primates are the runners up.  Or dolphins. Or Crows or jackdaws. Or Parrots. Or Elephants. I’ve no doubt there are wackos out there building a case for the meerkat, based on its ability to corner the insurance advertisement market.

Wrong, all wrong, all of you. Well, all of you who don’t have the dog in second place by a margin, at least the length of a street of lamp posts.

Dogs do not have opposable thumbs. They cannot pick things up easily. Their language is relatively simplistic. They don’t clean up after themselves. They have yet to invade Iraq. Or type Shakespeare.

But which species has found its place closest to we humans such that we have rescue centres for them? Even more than cats. That we share our homes with?. Which species do we work the fields and mountains with? Which do we trust with some of the most vulnerable members of our community as sensing dogs (hint: it’s in the label)? Which species have we bred over thousands of years to perform a myriad of roles in support of our dominance of the planet and who still adapt to modern needs, be it forewarning of strokes or epilepsy or sniffing our drugs?

DOGS. None of the above listed.

OK, most of the others are more independently minded. They know better than to snuggle up to us. Ha! Dumb-asses.

Dogs know who’ll fill their bowls, keep them warm, keep them safe, give them medical care and mourn their passing. And clean up after them, as we only really do for our children, the cunning little critters.

So yes, Dog, you might look worried because I’ve sussed your game. I can be hard-nosed, you know. I could stop all this kowtowing, just like that. In an instant. At the snap of my fingers, in the blink of an eye, in a heart beat. Now stop that. Don’t look like that. No, come here. I didn’t mean it. Come on. Come to daddy’s lap….

Posted in dogs, humour, miscellany, thought piece | Tagged , | 43 Comments

Fighting Poetry #poem #poetry

Once again I’ve taken a famous first line, spun out a sonnet and come up with this 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Said his gut, after the tall tattooed prat

Began to give him a load of old crap

And offered his chin for a left then right.

The policeman took swabs with a defeated air

And radioed base for some medical help

The bungling nonce caused him to yelp

As another swab was jammed in his eye.

‘I am too old for this lark,’ he thought

With a smile, while his opponent gave vent

To his pain. A typical Friday that meant

A Saturday gone missing. After, he fought

The urge to return to the scene of the fight

And prove, he’d never go gentle, day or night.

 

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It’s What’s Inside that Counts – Believe That If You want #carrotranch #falshfiction

Charli’s prompt this week is 

 June 7, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about man glisten. It was a fun term coined by two men with glitter in their beards. What more could it embrace? Look to the unexpected and embrace a playful approach. Go where the prompt leads.

‘You know, Logan, I thought I’d get a tatt.’

‘Berk. That’s for teens and Maoris.’

‘Just want to be different.’

‘Don’t bother with such fripperies. Just be your weirdy self.’

‘Yeah but that doesn’t make me stand out. What if I dyed my beard?’

‘Call that a beard?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You know, the other day when that guy collapsed at work?’

‘Yeah?’

‘They shouted ‘Man down!’?’

‘Yeah?’

‘I thought someone was trying to describe your beard to someone who’d not met you.’

‘That’s not fair.’

‘It’s bum-fluff, mate. Rub hard with a flannel and you’d lose it.’

Posted in carrot ranch, creative writing, flash fiction | Tagged , | 18 Comments