Author Archives: rpatersonwriting

About rpatersonwriting

I live in Hertfordshire, UK, and have been writing fiction for fun since I was 5. This blog is here so I can share my work with the world and connect with others who are of like mind. Being a great lover of animals who has spent time riding and looking after horses in the recent past, my first featured stories are about an impish little pony named Cheesecake. They are aimed at children of early independent reading age and if published, would have page-by-page illustrations. I will aim to post each story, with an illustration, approximately once a month. I also aim to post other written works I have produced on this blog in future, for adult as well as younger readers. These works are copyrighted to me, so please, no replication of this work without my permission. Those of you with Twitter may follow me at @FromHerts81.

Whitsun Tide

This is, it seems, the last of the flash fiction tales I’ve written for my secondary writing group.  I’ve decided, for various personal reasons, that attending is no longer worth it for me.  However, the members liked this, my final contribution to their stories.  The theme this final time was “exotic”.

Mary Prentice was special to everyone she met.  She was a loving mother to her children, David and Polly, and loyal to her husband Bill.  She had been a memorable presence at her old office, the local Women’s Institute and in the choir she and Bill had sung with.

No wonder everyone, especially her family, was heartbroken when she died.

The Prentices had never been especially well-off, so none of their holidays had taken them further than Europe.  Yet a quirk of fate ensured that Bill and Mary’s honeymoon was an exception to that rule.

“Around then, your Great Aunt Imelda sold her house so she could move into the retirement community,” Bill Prentice explained to David and Polly.  “She let us have some of the money as a wedding gift.”

Now, 27 years later, David and Polly agreed with their father that the most memorable place their mother had been should also be her final resting place.  They pooled their money and booked the trip.  They decided to take it in May, when Bill didn’t have any choir concerts and the younger Prentices didn’t have to worry about colleagues wanting time off for the Easter or summer holidays.

“Besides,” joked Polly, “What better time than Whitsuntide to pay a visit to the Whitsunday Islands?”

It was an exhausting journey.  Their flight from London to Singapore set off at 22:45, but none of them could sleep easily in cramped seats with noisy jet engines nearby.  Only David enjoyed the onward flight to Brisbane, because he knocked himself out with a shot of whiskey from the airport bar.  The local flight to Proserpine was much more pleasant, as was the subsequent bus trip, and the boat ride over to the Whitsunday Islands themselves was bliss.  The fresh sea air wafting over the cool blue waters were a wondrous relief after so many hours’ flying.

“The Aussies often come here for some sun during their winter,” Bill had once explained to his children, and David and Polly could see why.

The islands had to be the most beautiful and exotic setting imaginable.  Staying as they did in a wooden hut with an open veranda, beside a sun-kissed beach with hammocks strung between palm trees, the Prentices felt like they were part of paradise.  What’s more, despite the tourist presence, the islands were remarkably wild.  Scrub turkeys squabbled on the beach near the hut, while vividly colourful lorikeets swooped through the treetops.  Polly even got the shock of her life one morning when she discovered a huge monitor lizard – a goanna – resting in the shade under the veranda.

“It looks like it belongs in Jurassic Park!” David chuckled, as the great reptile snaked away into the forest.

On the third day, having thoroughly enjoyed the sun and no longer suffering jet lag, the Prentices went to perform their sad duty.  Bill took his wife’s funeral urn out of his suitcase, wrapped it in one of Mary’s old cotton scarves and slipped it into his rucksack.  Then they set off for the island’s main beach.

It was nearly dusk when Bill, David and Polly got to the beach.  They walked along a jetty were jetskis were being moored for the evening, until they were far out over the lapping waters.  Bill took the smothered urn out of his rucksack and began proceedings by reading a short eulogy for Mary.  Then Polly read W.H. Auden’s Funeral Blues (substituting “he” for “she” of course) and David recited the lyrics of Dust In The Wind by Kansas (he knew he’d never do it justice by singing it).  Bill unwrapped the urn as he did so and took the lid off.

“Well, Mary,” he sighed, “Time for one last journey.”

He sprinkled the ashes into the water and let the tide carry them out to sea.  Bill, David and Polly all took each other up in a crushing hug, as their hearts broke and their eyes overflowed.

They turned away from the sea to watch the sun set, as the islands showed their wild side once more.  Hundreds of bats began soaring into the crimson sky, away from their daytime roosts in the forest, creating a spectacle Bill, David and Polly couldn’t help but feel awed by.

“If only Mum could see this,” whispered Polly.

“Who knows, Sis?” David said wistfully, “Maybe she can.”

 

 

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Sid’s Souvenirs – Flash Fiction

I’d really hoped to post more this month, but circumstances in my personal life took over.  As it is, here’s a flash fiction piece I wrote with my writers’ group.

Four years ago, having saved up for ages, I flew all the way to Australia to dive the Great Barrier Reef. When I was passing through Cairns airport, I saw a novelty pencil with a kangaroo on the end, bouncing around on a spring. I decided it would make a great souvenir, so I bought it.
Three years ago, I was on a business trip to Paris. Passing through the Ile-de-Cité, I saw a souvenir stand selling plaster replicas of Notre Dame. I bought one for my brother Ralph – he loves that sort of thing.
Two years ago, Hettie and I tied the knot. We had our honeymoon in Rio. She loves plushies so I decided to buy her a cuddly toucan at a supermarket counter.
Last Christmas, Hettie and I went round the Kristingle markets in Bavaria. We came back with a wooden nutcracker doll and a porcelain replica of a German townhouse.
Yesterday, I was on Oxford Street and passed a souvenir stand.

UGH! No bloody way am I buying tat like that!

Pushed Too Far

The theme for this short story was “The Return”.

There’s only so far I can be pushed.  And Vanessa pushed me too far.

“Do you expect me to believe you’re not having an affair after what I saw, Piers?”

Wow, my fiancée had shown jealousy before, but never quite like this.  Why couldn’t she believe that Anabel was my long lost cousin?  Vanessa knows Matthew and Ida aren’t my real parents, even though I tend to call them Mum and Dad.  Why couldn’t she see that I might have relatives I’ve never known, or that my reaction might be… extreme if I met them?

“She had her arms around you, Piers!” yelled Vanessa.  “You kissed her!”

OK, to be fair Vanessa didn’t know who Anabel was, or how we knew each other.  Alright, Anabel might have thought up a more subtle approach than pouncing on me with that photo and those documents, just as I was waiting in the café with Vanessa’s usual espresso and brownie.  But when is the best time and what is the best way to tell a person they’re part of a family they never knew about?

“You know something, Piers?” Vanessa went on.  “You may as well return this.”

She pulled off her engagement ring and tossed it across the bed at me.  I felt it bounce off my forehead as I ducked.  It felt like a slap.

“I’d sooner die alone than marry such a liar!”

“Then maybe it’s better you do!” I retorted, as I tore open the wardrobe and started stuffing clothes into my overnight bag.  “You turn every disagreement into a shouting match, you spend our money with abandon when we need it for restoration work, you don’t show me any respect when I found and paid for this house…”

“It’s a wreck!” Vanessa shrieked.  “A real man would have bought me a house that holds together!  And just where do you think you’re going?”

“Mum and Dad’s,” I said as levelly as I could.  “I don’t believe I should go, but I can’t be around you when you’re like this, Vanessa.  When you’ve simmered down, come and find me.”

I closed the now full bag (jamming the zip twice in my anger), grabbed my keys and wallet and stormed out of the bedroom.  But Vanessa pursued me wrathfully onto the landing, hissing like a snake.

“You can’t fool me, Piers!  You’re off to see her aren’t you?  You’re using this as an excuse just to go and…  Will you stand still when I’m talking to you?

At this point she seized my arm and swung me round with such force that I overbalanced and collided with the landing rail.

Oh no!  Why hadn’t I been quicker with the restoration work?  The bolts on the landing rail were loose and the wood was rotten.  This meant that the rail broke away as I struck it.  My overnight bag went flying as I began plunging through the gap!

A fraction of a second before I fell, my left hand shot out and I grabbed the more secure rail next to the one that had broken.  Still, I wasn’t at all safe.  My toes were now slipping on the ledge and my wheeling right arm couldn’t reach any handholds.  The patterned tiles two storeys below on the hallway floor spun through my field of vision, as I fought to right myself.

Vanessa!” I screamed.  “Help me, please!”

Vanessa’s anger now vanished.  An eerie calm overtook her.  A look came into her eyes I didn’t care for much.  I cared even less for her expression as she leant forward and reached out towards me.

“Of course, Piers,” she smiled.  “Let me send you on your way.”

Didn’t I say Vanessa pushed me too far?

She lied to the police, of course.  Oh, what an actress she was!  She even managed to cry as she described the unfortunate accident; how I leant back on the faulty rail only to have it collapse under me.

“If only he hadn’t held off those repairs!” she wept.

She’s in bed now.  I watch her as she sleeps soundly, not losing a wink of it, not even tossing and turning.

Just you wait, Vanessa.  Go ahead; gloat over my grave.  Cry crocodile tears in front of my family.  Console Anabel for having lost me as soon as she found me.  You pushed me too far.  But I’m back, and I’ll have my revenge on you.  I can wait forever if I have to.

A Day At The Zoo #10 – Departure

Ten posts; a nice round number to end this theme on.  Please enjoy!

The last on your tour is the warthogs; not truly ugly beasts, just uneven, with their curling tusks looking slightly disjointed beside their lips.  Their fur is brindled grey-brown, with hints of black on closer inspection.  Their ears are rounded tufts and their bellies are reminiscent of small barrels.  They caper about in the mud of their enclosure, but the keepers put out straw to lie on when they require a smidgen more comfort.

Now it’s time to go.  A dark and brooding tunnel leads you back to the entrance.  Primitive huntsman’s daubs line the walls, almost coming to life in the dancing half-light, evoking the world these simple men inhabited.

Now you’re back in the light and going through the turnstile.  It’s been quite a day, and one you will no doubt remember for years to come.  But just to be sure the memories stay fresh, best put them down in a journal somewhere…

THE END

The Animation Before

How do you know your writing is improving?  When you start to win more prizes!

Last year, I got 1st prize in one of my writing group’s competitions.  It was a non-fiction writing competition judged by an individual and mine was 1 of 5 entries.  Last week, I won 3rd prize in a fiction writing competition with this piece judged by popular vote.  That time, it was 1 of 16 entries!  Things are looking up!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story.  The theme of the competition was to write a piece about a writing group; an amusing conceit, but one that really got people thinking.  I ended up submitting this piece, which tells the story of an unfortunate turn of events for an unlikely star, and proves the old adage that there’s 2 sides to every story…

Late July was when the Toonberg Writers’ Circle (or TWC) broke up for the summer, when they traditionally held a huge party. Beefy Bull, Honky Goose, Yellowstone Stan and all the TWC’s wild and wacky members looked forward to this time. Better still, this year the circle’s dapper chairman, Quinn Pushapen, sent round the following mysterious memo at the penultimate meeting…

Dear all,
Next week’s bash is to be held at a secret venue. A greyhound bus shall pick you all up from outside the municipal hall’s main entrance at 8pm. Vittles will be provided there, so don’t bring food or drink. Make sure you’re punctual and I’ll meet you at the venue.
Yours truly, etc., Q.P.

Intrigued, the partygoers gathered outside Toonberg Municipal Hall (their usual meeting place) at 8pm on the appointed night. Right on time, there was a great rush of air and a colossal silver-grey creature screeched to a halt in front of them.
“Ruff ruff!” a cheerful voice sang. “I’m Speedy and I’ll be driving you this evening. Just jump inside!”
Speedy would be an unbelievable sight anywhere except Toonberg. He was a twelve metre long, four metre high greyhound, with the windows and roof of a single-decker bus jutting out of his slender back. The toons weren’t taken about, however, so they piled in when a door swung open along Speedy’s side.
“And away we go!” grinned Speedy.

VROOOOM! SCREEEEECH!

Speedy rocketed through Toonberg’s streets, flattening the passengers into their seats. Trees twisted over to 60 degree angles and newspaper stands turned into papery tornadoes as he thundered by. Finally, he leapt over the gilded gate of an ornate white mansion and jerked to a halt before the front door.
The TWC members dismounted, head spinning like pinballs, to find Quinn Pushapen standing before them. He was a dapper caricature of old-time gentry, with a creaseless lilac suit, a white lacy cravat, a monocle in his right eye, well-coiffed ginger hair and a thick, curling moustache.
“What ho, chaps!” he chuckled. “Sorry about the ride; Speedy’s a tad too enthusiastic at his job. Well, time to explain. You’re not just here to celebrate the end of another spiffing year. You all know me, for you’ve been rocked over the years by my seminal readings of rollicking literary gems.”
“Oh yes, Quinnie,” squealed Racey Horse, the ravishing romance novelist. “Remember when you read the ending of Orphan Jimmy? I was in floods of tears.”
“Yes, washing our smaller members out of the building, my dear,” Quinn said ruefully. “But now, friends, it’s time for a shocking confession. Those stories… were not my work.”
The toons gasped and started muttering in horror. Surely Quinn wasn’t saying what they thought he was…
“No, no, chaps, relax,” Quinn laughed. “I’m not a bally plagiarist. What I am is the acceptable face of a talented fellow whose work couldn’t be credibly attributed to the man himself. Follow me inside and I’ll explain why.”
More intrigued than ever, the toons began following Quinn; through the mansion’s sturdy front doors, along a splendid hallway, up a broad staircase, then to the last door along the landing, which he knocked on.
“Come in, y’all,” a voice called weakly from inside.
Behind the door lay an impressive bedroom. A brass-framed bed with creamy white sheets stood by the far wall. On the bed, propped up on a pile of pillows, lay an ancient, shrivelled toon man with dark brown skin, lips as thick as bananas, vivid white eyes and a bald, domed head. He smiled as he saw them.
“Hey, Quinn. What’s up, everyone?”
Beefy Bull spoke first. “Duh, I gotta say… yah look familiar, old timer.”
“That ain’t surprisin’, boss,” the old toon grinned. “Quinn, gimme mah banjo, will yuh? It’s in the usual place.”
Quinn rummaged under the bed and pulled out a worn old banjo with a ragged hole in its head. He placed the instrument in his benefactor’s frail hands.

CLANG!!!

The jaws of several older TWC members literally hit the floor as recognition struck them like a sledgehammer.
“Tarnation!” bellowed Yellowstone Stan. “You’re Pickin’ Nicky!”
“Yes I am,” came the reply. “Now I bet some a’ y’all ain’t never seen me before, but I used to be everywhere one time, playin’ the blues on this here banjo and dancin’; TV, radio, flicker shows. I packed out theatres, wrote screenplays, got film deals, book deals, everythin’… happy days.”
“Sadly, everything changed when the Anti-Stereotype Reforms began 50 years ago,” Quinn sighed. “Nobody wanted to publicise a toon with a look – or a name – like Nicky’s anymore. Fortunately, he wrote his own material so he kept the money from his bally royalties. Even so, he daren’t even leave the house now, for fear of being heckled. All he can do is dictate his work to me and have me as his mouthpiece.”
“An’ I was one a’ the luckier toons,” Nicky said bitterly. “After the Reforms Prissy Goodwife drank herself to erasure, Yiddy Yentel ended up homeless, Big Chief Bubblegum got sent to the nuthouse…”
“Yeah, I heard about one of them,” interrupted Honky Goose. “Mincey Flowers he threw himself into a barrel of turpentine ‘cos he was no longer big.”
“Mincey was always big!” Nicky snapped. “It’s the cartoons that got small!”
He doubled over in a fit of coughing, which faded into an uncomfortable silence.
Quinn was the first to speak.
“Now chaps, downstairs Nicky’s family is serving food and drinks. But before we go down there’s one more thing. Next year, I’ll need volunteers for a new writing project; a book which will tell the world the full story of Nicky, and all the toons who lost out to the Anti-Stereotype Reforms. I believe it’s a tale that must be told. I hope you coves do too.”
The TWC members looked at Quinn, then Nicky, and then at each other. An unspoken agreement passed between them as they silently turn and headed back downstairs.

 

 

 

A Succinct Verse About the Paralympics

Many have written brief yet brilliant poems over the years; haikus for example.  Here’s one I once wrote about one of the significant sports events of our time.  It is intended to amuse, provoke discussion and, as all the best written work should, give you a new perspective from which to look at something familiar.

Was there ever such a great event

That looks like it was never meant?

A Day at the Zoo no.9 – The Outback Exhibit

We’ve nearly come to the end of these musings from my day at London Zoo, but something else will soon be taking their place; something much more exciting!  There’ll be the usual flash fiction tales and entries for writing competitions, but just for now, enjoy my musings on meeting the wildlife of Australia.

Again, as in other enclosures, there’s no room for the ‘roos to go bounding over to me, or for the emus to streak over.  The only thing they can do is scratch for their food, their movements either fluid and sinuous, or sharp and punctuated.  Unable to stroll or trot, the wallabies “lollop”, scooting by to find some decent “tucker”!  Black swans and Radjah shellducks paddle in the makeshift creek nearby, sifting for food just as the first settlers in the land panned for something much more valuable, even if it was inedible.