It’s been a busy week, busier than usual. I’ve dedicated myself to posting once Mid-Week (so Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) and once at the Weekend. That said, my Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays have been my busiest days, and Friday, usually very busy, is empty of plans. It’s “Labor Day” (to translate to American) here in Barcelona, so classes are cancelled.
That said, I shouldn’t accept excuses from myself, especially not this early in the game. Planning ahead, getting work done ahead of deadline – skills I don’t have, but I might as well use this blog as a chance to practice and learn to organise myself.
So here’s an old poem that I’ve recently been looking at and trying to tighten up. It’s called “Disentangle”, and it actually has a partner poem (“Enrage”) that’s supposed to go before it. However, that one’s in a much sorrier state, so I’ll post this one, and if I ever fix that one, I’ll put it up too.
I see now, as I step away,
that that sick feeling
tight in my stomach
was knots. A tangled train
of thoughts – each intention
thwarted by the next
or the last, creating my
aaaaaaaaaaaso as I walk
away, I breathe out, and
slowly the rope uncoils
behind me, each part drawn
out onto the path, laid out
in an unfrayed line.
When I need to return,
I pick up the threads neatly.
Every week on Thursday, I meet up with a couple of other creative writers, and we talk about stuff we’ve written. Two of them are short story writers, which is totally my favourite area. One is in the middle of writing a novel, and brings us extracts. There are a couple of others who turn up sporadically, but with me and my poetry / short stories, we’re the centre of the group.
Last week we decided that this week we should all write a piece of Flash Fiction – a story in 500 words or less. It’s something they’ve all had some experience of and I haven’t, but I was totally up for the challenge. After all, if it’s half way between the two media I use write, it can’t be too hard, right?
Before I go further along this line, here’s the story, with a brief introduction (which may be part of it’s imperfection. It’s the last 500 words (and the only words yet written) of a short story idea that was born from a dream, fully fledged. Sounds corny, I know, but I was SO excited that it happened. I woke up and wrote and wrote notes of what happens, and, while I have yet to re-read them, they came to 20 A5 pages of scrawl.
Anyway, without further ado:
“Here’s your car.”
She stood, patient and warmly smiling by my car, her hands clasped on her handbag in front of her, as I fidgeted with my car keys.
“Well, this is goodbye, then,” I said, trying to inflect my voice with a heartiness that fell flat.
She smiled in sympathy at me, a ‘poor boy’ smile at my attempt. “You’re not used to goodbyes, are you? I am.” We looked at one another.
“Tell me,” she said, “Can I… can I touch your face?… Can I feel… if it’s…?” She didn’t need to finish that sentence. I took her right hand, gently, and brought it up to my face, then let go. First she touched my forehead, just with the tip of a finger, then moved it gently sideways, her other fingers joining it, and slowly moved to my hair, and brushed lightly against my ear. Her hand circled my ear, and I looked down to her to see that she’d closed her eyes. I removed my glasses. Still brushing lightly, with the tips of three fingertips, she drew down to my bristly cheeks and sighed as she touched my chin. Then, infinitesimally slower, she drew her whole hand up my face, feeling with each finger the contours of my lips, cheeks, eyes, nose, and finally back to the forehead, before it rested for a second, then lifting her hand slowly away. She opened her eyes, full of sadness.
“So much the same, and yet so different… … did I tell you how, when you picked up the phone, your voice… it made my heart leap?”
She looked down at the tarmac, and I said, “Things change. Time moves on, and things don’t just stay the same forever.”
“And despite it all, the dead would want us to be happy, to live our lives.” She chuckled. “Sometimes the clichés are true. I hear them at funerals. You’re far too young to know the real truth of that wisdom, a lesson it takes a whole life to learn, and yet… it still surprises you, catches you by the throat.”
“Still, I’m glad to have met you.”
She smiled warmly at me. “You know, in all you have shown me, nothing has felt quite real, except the time I’ve spent with you.”
It seemed wrong to, but I leant down, and lifted her chin, and kissed her, briefly, softly, on the lips.
I stepped into my car and drove away.
Having read that, a few points, which may explain its confusion. It is about the narrator’s grandfather’s lover, and she’s not blind.
This was amongst the criticisms I received – lack of clarity. I’ve also learned to cut all cliches from my writing (including “sometimes the cliches are true”) , and that,despite all the positive reinforcement I’ve been getting, I still have a long way to go.
Which is why I’ve posted this version of the story – as something to look back on when I’m better at this and say, “Yes, I’ve improved.” I think Flash Fiction merits more practice, for a start, and I also think this story may resurface as a complete short story.
I’m back with more blogging, and this time, spending more time trying to come to terms with image and writing copyright law than with editing. Luckily, I’ve made friends with the whole Creative Commons movement, so hopefully it won’t take too long to find and choose my photos in future. (To find my sources for my pictures, click on the attached links. If there aren’t any links, then they are either my photos or photos given to me by friends)
“The Gardener” (for want of a better provisional title) is a short story that I wrote last term. This scene was one part of it that I just wrote in about 10 minutes. Every line just seemed to follow every other line, one of those moments when writing is everything you wish it always was – exciting, fun and easy. When you don’t know what your brain is going to offer next, but it delivers.
Looking at it now, it works as a kind of Flash Fiction on its own (it’s about 1,000 words). It’s possible I’ll end up tidying this up and ditching the rest of the story.
“Did Gary come today?”
“In the downpour we had this morning? I drove through it on the motorway.”
“He got here before it, and started working on the hedge, but then it started chucking it down.”
Max chuckled. “Got caught in it, did he? And then went home?”
“He should’ve known it’d rain this morning, just by looking at the sky. That boy is just an opportunist, Charlotte. Dedication. See, if it hadn’t rained, if we’d been wrong, if it had passed and rained somewhere else, think how much he’d’ve got done.” He raised his eyebrows rhetorically, and Charlotte could tell he was about to start a speech, like those he made to junior partners. “He’d be good in the City – he takes his chances when they come, like this, and when he fails it doesn’t even make a dent in his resolution, he’ll just keep going, keep trying. And then one day, the luck will all go his way, luck’ll be on his side and he’ll really get somewhere in the world. If he keeps pushing, sticks to his guns, doesn’t lose his resolve. That’s how it happened with me, in business, that’s how I got my first real chance. Pushing and graft. And that’s how I got you too, remember? Perseverance, taking my chances, waiting” he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek, “for the right – you all right dear? I’m not too cold, am I?” Max rubbed his hands together. “This damn summer.It’s cold out today, this weather has sucked all the heat out of summer. Did you go back to sleep after we left? You looked tired. Or did you go shopping in the end?”
“No, I thought I’d leave it ‘til tomorrow.”
“Forecast’s no better, I heard it on the radio on the drive home.”
I’ll tell him, she thought. I’ll tell him when he stops talking, I’ll tell him when he asks me about my day. But Max was so full of his day, so certain that, on a rainy day when she didn’t go shopping, that nothing of interest had happened to his wife. So he didn’t ask, but talked on about the merger or verger. But I’ll tell him anyway, she thought. Wouldn’t it just show him for thinking her day boring and uneventful? Before Lucygets home, not over dinner, after Lucy had gone off to her room, as they were getting ready for bed, she’d tell him, she’d sit him down and get his attention.
Then a thought came from the back of her head that surprised her. Why tell him? It niggled. Why tell him? It won’t happen again, you made sure of that, you told him off, he apologised, he won’t do anything so silly again. Kids make mistakes, as a mother she understood that better than anyone, they make mistakes and learn from them.
Why tell him? He’s a good gardener, punctual, it’d be a hassle, a scene, the neighbours would hear, gossip, her standing. And Gary won’t say anything if she doesn’t tell Max, he’ll be embarrassed. Ashamed, most likely, of making a fool of himself. He might resign anyway, she should give him a chance to, instead of ruining hisreputation, she shouldn’t just think of herself, that poor boy has made a fool of himself, but he’ll learn from his mistake.
Why tell him? He didn’t tell her when he flirted with that secretary, which she knew he did, because women know, because she’d seen her look at him, that winning cheek-boned smile, so transparent it was sickly, he wouldn’t really fall for that, but still he hadn’t told her he’d flirted.
She knew he’d flirted with that American correspondent that one time two years ago – these shameless Americans who’ll use their looks and charms to get whatever they want – he’d never told her that. She’d heard a snatch of a business call, and then he’d bought her flowers out of nowhere, and she knew nothing had happened, he’d felt guilty, but nothing had happened, she knew that, but he’d not told her. Been honest. The flowers had been poppies – his favourite, not hers. But the thought was there.
And nothing had happened here. Gary had kissed her, she’d instantly pushed him away, she’d made it thoroughly clear he was mistaken, and it wouldn’t happen again.
So why tell him? And for once, it was strangely nice to feel appreciated. She couldn’t tell Max that, either, he’d be offended: “But I do appreciate you”. He wouldn’t understand, it would cause a row, they’d fight and shout, he’d think her unfaithful, not literally, but he’d think she’d been encouraging the boy, flirting with him. Which she clearly hadn’t. She couldn’t tell him that. So why tell him any of the rest of it?
A smile grew on her face. Years from now, she’d tell him, when she thought he needed a shock. When Gary had gone back to university or wherever, and they’d gotten a new gardener, and when he was being pompous or talking like he owned her, not respecting her or doing his share. That’d shock him, when he needed it most, when she needed him to pay her a bit more attention. It would be funny, that look of surprise on his face, her teasing, him not knowing if she was lying or not.
“….so hopefully, it’ll all be resolved by the end of the week.” Max stopped, and looked at her. “Am I boring you?”
She smiled, as if at some private joke. “No, sorry dear, I drifted off for a bit in the middle. I was thinking of something else.”
“I suppose I should save that kind of talk for Bill. I told you Bill might come this weekend, come out here for a game of golf and then dinner on Saturday, didn’t I?”
“You did, but is that definite now? Is Julie coming too?”
That night, Max commented that her chicken stew was lacking something.
I expected setting up a blog to make me more creative, at the very least starting a little creative burst. But what I didn’t expect was for it to suddenly make me a much more vigorous critic of my old writings.
I didn’t want to start off with a half-finished half-baked poem, so I found a recently updated poem that I thought was a good “debut”, but I’ve been tinkering with it for a couple of hours now, finding small holes and imperfections. There are still a few problems with it, but it’s much closer to where it should be.
Same bus, same pre-dawn view,
Same seat in the back corner.
Barely awake, I slump forward
and nod at passing mopeds.
My heart-beat slows to near-sleep,
eyes glassed with lolling thoughts:
my life now, my life then,
my life to come.
My life now – A blue folder,
a pre-planned conversation,
leading to a discussion and
correction of minor grammar.
My life then – school, university,
friends, family, a summer holiday
in Mauritius: beaches, sugar canes,
green volcanic mountains in the sun –
and suddenly, the two lives coincide.
The bus flings right for a roundabout
and my seeing and unseeing eyes merge.
Ahead, the rising sun
lights up the waving cane.
A dust track winds through a
glowing field. Behind, a white wisp
clips a jagged mountain top,
A distant ramshackle town at its base,
and brilliant blinding sunlight
shakes me conscious.
We pull round the roundabout, and
glancing back, I see the reedy bush,
not sugar cane.
The road signs read in Spanish,
and my neighbours jabber in Catalan.
But for one, brief second,
I was not here, but then.
My life to come – every week,
I wake at that turn to gaze into
Hello, and welcome to my Blog. My name is Matt Ridgewell, and what will follow is a collection of my creative writing, in form of drafts and “finished” works, poetry, short stories, extracts from larger fiction, and writing exercises to sharpen my abilities.
Please feel free to post any comments on anything I’ve written, and I will either defend my work or bow to your superior taste, depending. Encouragement is encouraged, as is constructive criticism.
I love writing, and always have – this blog is designed to make me produce more, because I won’t improve without regular practice.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and please don’t post my writing anywhere else without my permission.