Monthly Archives: May 2016

Before Juno (Flash Fiction)

My second WWII themed flash fiction story, this one on the subject “bridge”.

The bridge of the HMCS Yellowknife lay silent as Captain David Silverman glanced at his watch, waiting for the pivotal hour he knew was coming.  Minutes ago, he and his crew had heard the crack and thud of bombs striking inland targets, while plumes of fire rose into the sky.  Soon, the Yellowknife would make its own mark on proceedings.

And after that…

Silverman didn’t envy those poor fellows involved in what came next.  So much was at stake, yet so many of them would have to fall so that others would win through.  He just hoped it would all be worth it.

“Captain,” First Officer Stuart announced, “The gunners have acquired their targets.  They just await your signal.”

“Thankyou, Mr. Stuart,” said the captain, with a curt nod.  “Ninety seconds.”

The sea was calm, and the Yellowknife rocked gently in the swells.  It had been smooth sailing from Portsmouth.  The Met Office had done its job well and High Command’s gamble to move on the evening of the fifth had paid off.

5:22 AM.  Sixty seconds to go.

There was no gunfire from the coast.  Silverman and Stuart knew that a lot of false information had been spread to fool the Germans about where the blow would fall.  It appeared to have paid off, but neither of them could relax, in case the ship needed to take evasive action.

Thirty seconds to go.

Tension hung in the air as thickly as cigar smoke.  The bombing had stopped now and in the gathering dawn light, the shoreline lay silent and undisturbed.  How fragile that illusion would soon seem.

“Ten seconds, Mr. Stuart,” the captain uttered.

“Here, sir,” said Stuart.

He handed Silverman a telephone receiver, already connected to the gun deck.  Apprehension flooded the captain’s whole being, but he fought to hide it as 5:23 AM arrived at last and he spoke two fateful words.

“Open fire.”

There never was a sound quite like it.  The air seemed to split in half, as if cloven by an axe blade.  The floor of the bridge reverberated as the destroyer’s guns opened up with a roar of apocalyptic fury.  120 millimetres and 40 millimetres, joined by the Yellowknife’s little 20 millimetre Oerlikons, poured a ruinous deluge onto the coast of Normandy.

Captain Silverman and Officer Stuart took up their binoculars and joined the sighting crews in picking out targets.  A gun emplacement was transformed into a mess of flame and twisted metal even as its crews scurried towards it.  A pillbox burst open as a shell impacted, creating a shower of concrete fragments like crumbs from a stale cake.

Throughout the firing, Silverman continued to issue orders to the gun crews.  They had been trained well and he shouted encouragement down the phone to keep their spirits up.

The Yellowknife’s gunfire was joined by that of British, American and fellow Canadian vessels along the Normandy coast.  A deafening cacophony shook French citizens from their beds and German invaders into stupefaction.  Deck guns thundered, rocket batteries howled, while overhead fighters and bombers circled, ready to see off any foolhardy Luftwaffe pilots who tried their luck at stopping the onslaught.  To the east and west, jets of fire flashed at the edge of the horizon, then, just like a thunderclap, the boom of the guns followed.

Finally, at 6 AM, as forces on the shoreline began mustering, the next, decisive wave was at hand.

“Cease fire,” Captain Silverman ordered, and the guns stopped.

Silverman took the wheel and ordered Stuart to set the engine room telegraph to half speed ahead.  The Yellowknife turned about and retreated out to sea, to avoid the counterattack of the recovering German defenders.  They watched as scores of landing craft, some filled with their fellow Canadians, now passed them on the way to Juno Beach.

What Do You Download?

For many years, I have used iTunes to download the tunes I love.  Until recently, I’ve focussed on single tunes, but I have recently begun downloading albums as well.  It’s not as secure as CD’s in my mind, but it saves me taking up space on my shelf with them.

But this new practice gets me thinking.  What sort of tunes do you, I, or others download and why?  It’s not usually as simple as liking the tune.  Here are some of the reasons I can think of.  (For some songs, more than one reason may apply.)

  1. Nostalgia value.  They were tunes I listened to and liked when I was first into pop music, but no longer have in my music collection.  Some examples in my collection; Mr. Wendal by Arrested Development and When I’m Good And Ready by Sybil.
  2. Attachment to good times.  The song may be related to something enjoyable or inspiring; a pop concert, a birthday party or a holiday and I download it to preserve the memory.  Examples; The Wild Boys by Duran Duran and Get Lucky by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams.
  3. Popular culture value.  The tune may be part of the soundtrack of a movie or TV show and I want to be able to access it to remind me of it.  Examples; Crockett’s Theme by Jan Hammer and Harold Faltermeyer’s Top Gun Anthem.
  4. There’s no point buying the album.  If an artist has done one or two tunes on an album which I like but the rest of the tracks aren’t all that, I download the individual tracks in order to save money.  Examples; Prince’s songs Partyman and Crush from the Batman soundtrack.
  5. I can’t find them on a compilation.  I used to collect the “Now” albums avidly and still occasionally buy music collections in a genre I like.  However, not all of them have the tracks I most want and iTunes usually has them.  Examples; Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf and Ghost Town by The Specials.
  6. Novelty value.  The track is a rare treat that’s not likely to get airplay, so I download it to save it.  Examples;  Lost in the Shadow by Steven Curtis Chapman and the songs of the Burger Project.

What about you?  If you download music, think why you do it.  The answers might tell you a bit about yourself.

 

Scandal at St. Septimus’s (Flash Fiction)

The theme for this story was “Absence”.  It was inspired by a similar campaign that has hit the headlines in recent times.

 

“Interview commencing at 15:18 on 12th July 2018.  Present are myself, Inspector Stacey Doyle, with Constables Bronson and Colethorpe.  Can you please state your name for the record?”

“Alistair St. John Thistlethwaite.”

“Do you confirm the tapes were new and unwrapped in your presence?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, ‘old top’, quite a stir you caused up at your school today, huh?”

“That was precisely the idea, my dear inspector.”

“My giddy aunt, what is the world coming to?  A St. Septimus pupil appearing in the buff, in public, in broad daylight?  Will all the nobs be doing that soon?”

“I doubt they’d have the guts.”

“Yes, you were bold, I’ll give you that.  Can you confirm that this is you in that photo, tweeted this morning from the St. Septimus school grounds, sittig on the now vacant plinth that until recently held the statue of Percival De Joie, Fourth Duke of Gwenham?”

“Inspector, why, when you can clearly see…”

“Is it you, toe-rag?”

“Yes, it’s bloody me!  You know that!”

“Jesus, you’re digging yourself a hole here.  You could have waited for legal counsel to be present, you know?”

“Why?  Ultimately I will be vindicated.”

“This isn’t the eighteenth century, Thistlethwaite.  No-one escapes justice just because of blue blood or the Old Boys’ Network, especially when protesting against a move meant to promote equality and diversity.”

“That tommyrot again!  Percival De Joie founded St. Septimus’s!  That school is centuries old!  Some of this nation’s greatest minds and leaders owe their status to him!  Now people lobby to take him down just because he had a few anti-Semitic views not atypical of his day?  Isn’t that as narrow-minded as prejudice itself?”

“He tried to bribe the king in an attempt to continue the exclusion of Jews from Britain!  Doesn’t that shock you at all?”

“I don’t believe in such policies.  Hardly anyone today would!  But it was the Middle Ages!  Can’t such wrongs simply be left in the past and forgotten, and men’s qualities be seen over their faults?”

“Whatever.  You’ve given me all I need.  Interview terminated at 15:23.  Bronson, Colethorpe, lock him back up.”

*  *  *  *  *

In the end, Alistair St. John Thistlethwaite was released without charge, having signed an agreement not to repeat his actions.  It helped that the local crown court judge and the station chief were old Septonians.  While the school excluded Alistair from the St. Septimus Debating Society to set an example in principle, many praised his bold stand and he passed his final exams with excellent marks.

The plinth in the centre of the St. Septimus grounds remains empty.  But to this day, on the 12th July, some students wear special badges in praise of “Alistair the Agitator” and the stand he made.