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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.

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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.

A Day At the Zoo #8 – Tree Dwellers

I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties severely this month, but that will change as of September.  Just for now, here’s another of my musings after a day at London Zoo.

The sloth lives up to her name as she lazes in the foliage.  A mild, unhurried and affable face looks back at mine as she deftly slips along the branches.  One she is perched, her extraordinary curling toes begin to groom her fur.

There are, however, more surprises than the sloth among the trees in the jungle enclosure.  Brightly coloured birds circle the canopy and fleet-footed monkeys scamper along within it.  Some spring between trees as though pricked by a nail while others scratch themselves against the bark.  They are a comical sight to be sure, but one cannot help but marvel at their mastery of arboreal life.

Brilliant birds trill and chatter in the aviary; hardly surprising that their sharp songs are continuous as intruders are passing by almost continually!  But if you look with the senses of an artist, it is merely nature’s music and jewellery.

Black and white colobus monkeys sit sedately, or caper round their climbing apparatus, not as nimble as the marmosets, but still a wonderful sight.

On The Way To Miami

Once more, a flash fiction piece, on the theme “Break”.  I originally wrote this story purely as dialogue, but it worked better as full prose.

The sun was setting on a balmy Georgia spring evening. On the verandah of an ornate house in the suburbs of Savannah, a fastidiously neat middle-aged lady was pouring iced tea for three young men and herself, as they sat on green cast iron garden chairs.
“So, Preston,” she said as she sat down, “Were the roads good?”
“Smooth sailing all the way from Charlotte, Aunt Holly,” her crop-haired, wiry nephew said with a smile. “And there’s no roadworks anywhere between here and Miami.”
“The real problem was the SatNav,” droned Daryl, his slouched, thick-set, lank-haired companion.
“Or rather, Mike and the SatNav,” Preston said edgily.
“Yeah,” Mike uttered sheepishly. He had close-cropped hair, like Preston, but was much taller, thinner and more athletic.
“This lame-brain told the device to take us to 263 Larson Drive, Savannah,” Preston said irritably, jabbing a thumb at Mike, “Rather than 263 Carson Drive. We ended up in completely the wrong part of town.”
“Why didn’t you stop him when you saw he was going the wrong way?” Aunt Holly asked.
“He was playing Magic The Gathering with me,” Daryl grinned. “This dude gets pretty engrossed with that game when he plays it.”
Aunt Holly snorted. “Next time use a map, like motorists used to!”
“Actually, Ma’am, it’s quite good we got lost,” Daryl shrugged.
“No shit, buddy,” Mike chuckled.
Aunt Holly gave an indignant squeak.
“Better not curse here, guys,” Preston warned. “She’s a strict Baptist.”
“Then best not tell her our plans for Spring Break,” said Mike, pretending to stretch out contentedly while giving a theatrical wink.
“So why was it good you got lost?” Aunt Holly persisted.
Preston began the story. “Well, Aunt Holly, when we found that we were lost, Daryl jumped out of the car because there was a 7-11 nearby and he needed the bathroom. While he was walking over there, Mike reprogrammed the SatNav properly and turned the car around.”
“We were just driving towards the 7-11 to collect Daryl,” Mike continued, “When we see him further down on the sidewalk, yelling at this crazy black chick with real short hair while trying to pull this tyre iron off her!”
“She was about to go into this dude’s driveway and smash his car!” said Daryl, flinging his arms up. “I managed to block her but then she went for me!”
“So we run up and I pull the tyre iron off her and throw it away,” said Mike, “Then I shout at her and demand to know what she’s doing attacking Daryl. She yells she was after the, quote, ‘cross-burnin’ cracker in there who put that on his car roof’. You see Ma’am, Clorinda – that’s what we found out her name was later – had taken exception to the man’s Dodge. He’d painted it to look like the General Lee.”
“You ever watch The Dukes of Hazzard, Aunt Holly?” Preston smiled.
Aunt Holly shook her head. “I don’t hardly watch anything except the news and National Geographic.”
“Well, in that show,” Preston explained, “The heroes, Bo and Luke Duke, do all kinds of crazy stunts in an orange Dodge Charger with the Confederacy flag on the roof. The General Lee, they call it. This guy was obviously a fan of the show.”
“Well, this Clorinda isn’t going to let it lie all the same,” Mike went on. “She’s still pis… er, angry that the car’s named after a confederate general. But just then Jeff, the man who owned the car, comes out of his house with his wife Mary.”
“The joke was on Clorinda!” Daryl laughed. “Turns out Jeff’s wife was black! Boy, did she look awkward!”
“Well Preston, Mike, Daryl,” Aunt Holly smiled, “It sounds like you did Jeff and Clorinda a good turn. I hope they were both grateful.”
“They were,” said Mike. “In fact, Jeff treated us all to a cup of coffee before we went on our way.”
“How nice,” said Aunt Holly, still smiling. “Well, I’ve made your beds ready for tonight. I hope you all get a good night’s sleep. I’ve sure you’ve got some exciting things planned for Florida.”
“Somehow, I doubt it’ll be half as exciting as what happened today,” said Preston, smiling back. “Cheers!”
They all gave a toast with their glasses.