Immunity, Teardrops, An Englishman Walks

Well hello there.

I’ll start with a quick bit of self promotion, and get it out of the way. In the past month or so, I’ve gone from co-running Improvised Comedy workshops and putting on the occasional show, to running a theatre company (B.I.G. – Barcelona Improv Group), organising regular shows, venues, promotion, weekends away, creating a website, AND running Improvised Comedy workshops.

The website is here: www.barcelonaimprovgroup.com , and it’s not finished… but it’s getting there. I’m making a little progress every day.

I spent the afternoon on a train to Sabadell to visit a friend (but let’s call her my financial advisor to make it sound more professional), so I got some bits of flash fiction done, and a haiku, and the themes of each one neatly flows into the next… sort of. So I’ll post them in the order of construction. Don’t be too critical – it’s the first time I’ve really gotten much done in all of hot, sweaty August. My brain doesn’t seem to cope well with the heat.

The first is heavily based on something I wrote once before – I apologise if I posted that, and am now repeating.

Immunity

He’d insisted: “When my son is born, we’re not feeding him that medication every day. What if he spits it up? It’s impractical. We’ll give him the injections – he won’t remember the pain.”
Twenty-four hours after the birth, when the nurse entered with the needle, he tried to leave, but his wife held his hand.
Five minutes later, the father emerged clasping his once-again quiet child. “Your first tears,” he whispered, “I caused your first tears in this world.” And he wept.

Teardrops

He stared at the train window; at the rivulets of rain that ran down the glass, gathering weight from the flecks as it fell. His grandmother slept in the opposite seat, her day smile washed off, leaving an exhausted sadness. Her reflection in the glass was half gone, and raindrop tears ran down her face.

a

An Englishman walks
with head held high in drizzle
and doesn’t get wet

Walk Up (Microfiction)

Hey,

I don’t have much to say today, but as it’s the last day of July, I thought I’d sneak a quick post in.
I would like to tell you that I’ve joined a creative writing group, which is nice. It’s working well because rather than the usual “you should get yourself published” that I hear from my friends, I’m getting criticism, feedback, advice….
I will admit, it stings when you get 90% criticism and 10% praise, but I write it all down, and I would say at least 70% of the criticism comes from a good point, so I’m learning. It’s a learning experience.

Here’s a piece of microfiction (this one limited to 50 words) that I came up with as a writing exercise. Basically, my brain needs training right now and if I can get through tasks like this and do them well, then I will get better. It’s all about practice practice practice….

Walk Up

The cold biting wind washed her lungs clean, but left her drained. She couldn’t march on like she used to. Pausing for breath, she looked back down on the valley of her married life. Scrub and rock it was, heather and gorse. Sharp, unyielding, barren. And yet she loved it still.

Aunt Wendy’s New Home

Every break from class
I rush to the computer
and pray for wickets.

 

Hey all. It’s getting towards the end of the month and there’s only two posts up. Why? Well, excuses are lovely things, but the only one worth spouting is it’s the dreaded time of year where I have to write reports, and while they’re not too onerous a task, they’re mind-sapping.

courtesy of bbc.co.uk/sport

The above haiku was a silly one I threw together about today. For the first time, well, ever, I’m making the effort and paying attention to the Ashes (giant up-to-25-day cricket competition between the best two teams, England and Australia). This was written during a day of Australia batting, of course.

Before we get to the story, I’m making a new Category in the side called “Haiku”. I know Haiku are poems too, but I’m going to class them differently so it’s easier to find the haiku if you’re looking for them.

So, I’ve got some Flash Fiction for you today. It is, strangely, a sequel to Tomatoes, although that’s not apparent by any character names, or by the narrative voice, or location…. or anything. It has the same source material; my grandmother, telling me stories from when her grandchildren were just little. She has a natural gift for storytelling, and perhaps this has something to do with her being born a Ridgwell (there, the “original” spelling of my pen name). It’s called:

Aunt Wendy’s New Home

a

You don’t remember? Well, this story is the type you always liked the best – it’s one about you.

Continue reading “Aunt Wendy’s New Home”

Red (and talk of Peace)

I wanted to talk a bit about a few things I learnt in Japan before I get on to my spooky story below. And I use “spooky” in a very broad sense.

Japan and Peace

While I was teaching in Japan, the Prime Minister resigned. Why? One of his election promises had been that he would remove, or at least move, the American military base from an Okinawan Japanese island to the south of Japan. The fact that his failure to do so led to his resignation says as much about honouring your word in Japanese culture and politics as it does about how important an issue this is to many people.

A lot of Japanese people dislike having an American military presence in Japan at all. I thought I understood this at first – it seemed like a hangover from the Second World War, with the Americans “keeping an eye” on them. Probably that’s how they got the land to build a base on in the first place.

But then I found out from recruitment posters in the university that Japan has no standing army as such. They have a “Self-Defense Force”, but everyone working in it is technically a civilian. 3% of the national budget goes to them. Japan, despite being a world economic power, isn’t even slightly a military power.

Continue reading “Red (and talk of Peace)”

Lack of Progress Report

This.

This handsome creature is to blame.

me and nick

My NaNoWriMo is progressing slowly. These next 4 days are much less busy than the previous week, so there’s a reasonable chance I’ll get a good bit down. But I’m massively behind my target.

I figured I could post extracts here to spur myself on, not just to up my word count, but also to make something of some quality. Unfortunately, quickly scanning what I’ve got doesn’t seem to reveal a great deal of merit.

The scene for my story is Barcelona, which is actually a pretty smart move for me. I seem to be quite bad about writing about the place where I am – it’s places where I’m not that draw my creative eye. So this is a good experience, in that it gets me to observe my surroundings and try to describe them. Also, if I ever get stuck as to where to take the story next, I can pick a scene, somewhere in Barcelona, and hopefully while I’m lavishly detailing that scene, some ideas will come to me.

Here’s a description of an apartment in the story, hopefully the scene of many interesting events to come…

a

It was one of those big-rooved, small-corridored, dingy little places you see, with two shuttered windows out onto the thin grey street, and two or three more that opened out on to a dark, close, inside balcony.
For those of you who don’t know Barcelona, they’ve got these inside balconies all over the place, and sure, they let in a bit more air and don’t take up to much space, but they’re depressing. In the centre of a whole block of house, there’ll be this big open column that’s like a hole in a donut. People hang their washing out in here so it dries, so there’s often a smell of warm soap, especially in the summer. Then they open their kitchen windows, so it smells of garlic and salted cheese and whatever else they’re eating that’s got a strong enough smell. Then their windows and blinds are open and up, and the lights are on, so you can see across and see what they’re doing, with their equally poky grimy kitchen and their balding heads and hairy arms. And of course, you can hear them all. The couple upstairs who aren’t speaking Spanish or English, but something more foreign, and their screaming kids. The dour wife of the working man, who frowns at her washing and her cooking. The unemployed guy. Those Swedish music-lovers across the way. A couple of quiet ones, I suppose, but mostly, it’s this claustrophobic tunnel of darkness and light, noise and smells, and most of all, no privacy. I suppose the feeling of never being totally alone is a comfort to some – in fact, some of my friends love it, and it seems to be pretty Spanish to me. But me, I can’t stand the lack of silence, the peace, the time to be yourself with no one judging.
So, this house. It was the middle of autumn, so it was often dark outside anyway, but inside, what with the shutters and the indoor balcony, it had a dark corners even when they had the lights on. The furniture was probably brought in from the street – more wood with a cloth cover on it than anything comfortable to sit on. A few plants. A rug on the wall, and darkly painted rooms to absorb what little light was left when you turned on the floor lamps. Perfect for when you’re hung over, don’t get me wrong. And a little white neon-lit kitchen. Of course, Tom wasn’t much of a chef at the time – now, at least he’s passable – and I imagine the kitchen was a bit of a mess of dirty dishes and bowls.

Right. Back to work. See you on the upside of 15,000, I suppose.

Tomatoes

Arghblarg.

Blog. I owe you more things. It’s not that I’ve not been writing…. it’s more that I’ve not been posting. More things will appear. Presumably this weekend, we’ll have 3 (that’s right 3) little bits.

This is a flash fiction. A friend of mine wrote a flash fiction the other day about a woman making a cup of tea, and if he posts it to his blog, then I shall post a link to it and stuff. In the mean time, here’s a flash fiction I wrote the other day about a woman making a cup of tea. To clarify, this is a different story, not his story stolen and plagarised.

Tomatoes

mrs duckIt was a grey day out, and windy, but her daughter was insisting. Allison had always been demanding as a little girl, and though she was now a mother of two, she still had a way of carrying herself that made Margaret give up and go along with it. They would go down to the duck pond with the little ones and feed the ducks. Margaret was making tea, taking out three mugs, putting the kettle on the Aga, then turning back and putting one of the mugs back in the cupboard.

Allison was off somewhere with the baby, who was crying about something. Margaret supposed that meant she was in charge of little Steve, but then Steve seemed to consider himself quite capable these days.

He had, after all, spent half of his childhood running about the old farmhouse. He knew all the little corners, knew what he could touch and what he shouldn’t. Margaret found herself comparing his eager survey to hers on that day, when she’d first moved in. Back then, her father-in-law had put in that creaking black stove, especially for her. Coal burning, it had been, and a darn sight better than whatever had come before it. An accomplished cook, she had upgraded to the Aga when they could afford it, which now stood dusty. But both, she reflected, had kept them warm through the winters.

A young bride, she’d walked round the house with a mix of excited pride and despair at how much work there was to be done. She’d had to convert an upstairs room for the summer help, and she’d kept his bed and board. It was a big place, and it took a good long time to clean, especially without washing machines or dryers or dish washers. Lunch for her husband and all the workers at midday, when this kitchen, now so quiet, had buzzed with talk and heat. And Allison and her older brother and sister, eventually.

All of the things little Steve couldn’t touch were things that she’d bought, or at the very least approved, over the years. All of his hiding places, his mother had found in her turn. In that strange way that children and grandchildren mimic one another, both Allison then and Steve now held a certain reverenced awe for Margaret’s bedroom, with its neatly tucked sheet corners, not to be disturbed. She’d not told Allison, but for the last two days Margaret had taken to sleeping in the guest room. It was the other side of the house, and the air felt different in there.

Of course, there were things that needed talking about. Allison’s brother would be coming home from agricultural college, and so Margaret needed to spruce up the old bedrooms for him and his family. But mercifully, today was not that day.green toms

Today was a day with little wellingtons and anoraks by the door, and egg and cress sandwiches, and the leftover loaf for the ducks. She poured the now boiling water in the teapot, and turned to the window again, wondering if it would rain, like she felt. Sometimes a miserable day was just what you needed.

She realised she’d forgotten to put the tea bags in the pot, so put them in and stirred them with a spoon. The bang of a door told her that Steve had been in the little white conservatory by what was officially the front door, although of course everyone used the back door these days, which led out onto the farm.

The baby upstairs had stopped crying. That was one of the joys of being a grandmother, she reflected. You had the kids when they were good, and the parents dealt with them in their moods. The positives without the negatives. Whenever her grandchildren visited, Margaret was filled with a kind of warm glow, and although today was no exception, it somehow felt simultaneously weaker and stronger, as though the fire had grown stronger, but she was colder, distanced from it.

“Granny,” Steve had trotted solemnly into the room.

“Yes, dear?”

“I’ve watered Poppa’s tomato plants.”

“Thank you.”

“The tomatoes are still green, but he said they’d turn red soon.” This wasn’t a question; he was informing her. She nodded.There was a pause, and she turned back to the tea, but she knew by the way he was standing, he wasn’t done.

“Granny?” he said, fidgeting. “Is there a greenhouse in heaven?”

She looked down at him, and her eyes welled up again, only this time, she was smiling brightly, as brightly as she could muster.

“Yes, Steve. Yes, there is.”

“Oh, good,” he said, and she could hear the relief in his voice. Satisfied, he ran off, and Margaret looked out the window again, crying quietly and thinking of tomatoes.

Dog This Big; A Tragedy

Hey all. It’s Saturday, and I’m putting a blog up. Yes, that’s right, a day earlier than I said I would. I think this is in part due to the cooler air up here in half-sunny half-cloudy Galicia. I’m based in La Coruna – check your maps, it’s the north-west corner of Spain.

In the last week, I’ve taken buses from coast to coast of Spain, and hopefully, there is a poem on it’s way about that. I also got a nice poem started sitting in a park in Madrid. Madrid has some lovely parks, by the way. But it was 39 degrees Celsius.

Anyway, enough faffing. I have a theory that the oft-promised short story will appear as soon as it’s not promised, so it definitely won’t be appearing for at least two weeks. Things will come when they come.

Luckily, I have a trusty co-author who I can turn to in times of need. True, Lily has now disappeared out of my life for a couple of months (and I will miss her dearly, as demonstrated my how much I kept hugging and kissing her before they left), but before she left, we got a story done.

Continuing on from the huge media storm after her first literary success, Lily has petitioned me to once again co-write a masterpiece. This time, like all great authors who wish to make each of their works stand out, she has chosen a different subject matter, and while some of her themes remain the same, her new approach to these common threads present a stark and astonishing new light on the nature of human life; its joys, its fears, and doubts, but also its transience, and futility. Yes, that’s right, she’s tried her teeth out on a tragedy.

Dog This Big; A Tragedy

Once upon a time, there was a girl called

The co-author strikes again
The co-author strikes again

LILY
and her friend
HANNAH
(spelt with an H) (Lily is spelt with an L)

There went on holiday to France. in a town called Bookmarks. They had two bookmarks. One for Lily and one for Hannah.They went to the town in a big van, with big bookmarks.
The kids were on their own, coming home.
Lily was holding Baby Sam.
They had a cochecito. (little pram)
Lily was pushing the cochecito with Baby Sam in it, and she was happy.

There was a naughty doggie in the town.
A big big old doggie, like this (arms stretched wide)
He was blue and white and yellow, and his name was… Clarjoo.

The dog was chasing them. He was scary.
And the doggie tried to eat Lily and Hannah, and then he got them.
Then they got eatened.
And he ate Hannah. And then he went to sleep, and there was no more Hannah and Lily, because they died.

And their daddies looked for them everywhere, but they couldn’t find them, because they
got eaten. Because they died the doggie’s tummy.
They’re dead.
The dog was very giant, like this much.

“Where’s Lily gone?” said Daddy. “Where’s Hannah gone?” said Hannah’s Daddy.
“Where’s Lily gone?” said Mummy. “Where’s Hannah gone?” said Hannah’s Mummy.
“And where’s Baby Sam and the cochecito?” said Yaya Lisa and Poppa Ray.

Then, Mummy and Daddy and Hannah’s Mummy and Daddy and Yaya Lisa and Poppa Ray said “Where’s
Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito?”
And then, they saw a big dog, the woofie, he had a really really big belly,
because he’d eaten Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito.

“Oh no!” Said Mummy and Daddy. “This dog has eaten Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam and the cochecito!”

“What a NAUGHTY doggie!”
“We want our children back”
“We’re going to make new children.”
“How will you make new children?”
– “But if we make new children, they would die again.”
“Also new children, won’t be the same, and we love Lily and Hannah and Baby Sam very much.
And we quite liked the cochecito too.”

And all the mummies and daddies and Lisa and Poppa Ray got eaten too.

That’s the end.

“Coconut Together” and “Tease”

Good afternoon, ladies and gents.

I’m afraid I’ve broken Rule Number One of Writing, which is perhaps not coincidentally Rule Number One of this Blog. DO you know what that rule is? It’s WRITE. Doesn’t matter what, doesn’t matter when, or why, or especially how well (although I suppose it sometimes matters where) Write Write Write Write Write. It’s practice. It’s learning.

Something I realised recently is that there’s nothing you start good at, and to get good at anything, you need to be able to make a fool of yourself before you can learn how to improve. Old dogs can learn new tricks, if they’re not afraid of embarrassing themselves and setbacks. Kids are good at learning because they overcome these. They pick themselves up and try again. And this goes for learning to cook, learning to do stand up. It goes for my adult friend who can’t swim, and my other adult friend who can’t draw. It definitely goes for learning a foreign language, which I can tell you from both sides of the fence about, and it goes for writing.

Self-Lecture over, on to writing. As I missed the Mid-Week post (I have literally 6 excuses, but I won’t bother writing them), I’ve got two things for you here today. One of them is co-written. And is definitely full of grammatical mistakes, inconsistencies, and an underdeveloped plot, with a conclusion that makes no sense with the rest of the story. It was difficult to keep up with the creative genius that is my co-writer. Let’s post that one first. I will call it, for now, “Coconut Together”, by Matt and Lily. See if you can spot which bits are mine, and which bits are Lily.

Coconut Together

Once upon a time, there was a girl called

LILYP1010086

and she had a friend called

HANNAH

and they had lots of adventures together.

One day, HANNAH and LILY were at Buckley House. It was summer, and it was hot.
Let’s play Hide and Seek, said Hannah.
Okay, said Lily. You hide first. I’ll come and find you.

So Hannah went off to hide, and she found a big bush to hide in.
She climbed into the bush, and suddenly she heard a voice, “OW!” said the voice.
“Who’s there?” said Hannah.
“My name is Philip”, said the voice, “and I am a rabbit.
“Hello Philip the Rabbit, said Hannah. I’m Hannah, and I’m a little girl. But we need to be
quiet now, Philip. Lily and I are playing Hide and Seek, and she’ll find us.

“Ok”, said Philip, but there was dust in his little nose, and he felt like he was going
to sneeze.
Aaaaha
aaaaaaaaaaah
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaTCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
sneezed Philip.
“I’ve found you!” said Lily, who heard the sneeze. “Is that you Hannah, sneezing?”
“No, Lily,” said Hannah, “It’s my new friend. His name is Phillip, and he’s a rabbit.

“He’s a very loud rabbit,” said Lily.
“Yes”, said Hannah, that’s how you found me.

Let’s play again, said Lily, only this time, I’ll hide.
Can I play too? said Philip the Rabbit.
No! says Lily,. You can’t play.
Why not? says Philip
Coz your naughty, and you pees in your house, on the floor, and the police get you, out of the garden.
I’m not naughty, said Philip. I used to pee in my house, but now, I pee on a potty.
You’re still naughty, said LIly and Hannah together
Why? said Philip.
Cause your naughty and the police will get you.
Suddenly, Lily and Hannah heard a police car coming. NEE NAW NEE NAW went the police car.
“They’re coming now!” sadi Lily
“Run, Philip!” said Hannah.
and Philip the Rabbit ran away. hoppity hop.
He ran into Buckley House, past Papa Ray, and up the stairs.
Then, the police were in the garden.
“have you seen a naughty rabbit?” said the police to Lily and Hannah.

Me and my co-author
Me and my co-author

“Yeah,” said Lily. “He’s in the house!”
And then Lots of police went into Buckley House.
They saw Papa Ray. “Where’s the Rabbit?” said all the police to Papa Ray. Lily and Hannah followed the police.
“He’s in the house! said Papa Ray. “Come and catch him. He went to…. his dance class with the other bunnies and the other pigs. In dresses.”

Thje police went into the dance class, and there were lots of bunnies and pigs in dresses.
Which bunny is the naughty bunny? they said.
And they heard a noise.
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It was Philip the sneezy bunny, all covered in bogies.
We’ve found you! Said the police.
And then they threw the bunny in the air!
They threw him out of the window! And then he stayed in the air, and started to fly. with wings!
WOW!!!! said Lily and Hannah, “he’s got wings! and
And then lots of bunnies started flying all around Buckley House. Mummy and Daddy were very surprised.

The pigs in dresses were flying too!
And Hannah and Lily got some wings from the pigs, and they started to fly with the pigs

WWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeee
said Lily
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO said Hannah
And the Yaya and Papa and Mummy and Daddy and all the family were flying in the air.,
And the police couldn’t fly. so the police got in helicopters and planes, and they flew too, but Lily and Hannah and Philip had wings, and all the different animals had wings.

And Philip dies. but he’s still flying, even though he’s dead.

And Lily flies to Plaza Trippy with Hannah and they had lots of warm milks and juice. And Lily had yoghurts.
Hannah had a yoghurt too. Coconut together.

THE END

a

And now, to extend this special edition post even longer, here’s a poem I’m trying to improve. It’s a riddle, so the first thing you have to do is solve “What am I?” If your name is John, Raoul, or Carmen, or if for some other reason I’ve already told you the solution, don’t post it at the bottom. If you have suggestions to improve it, however silly, then tell me, because like writing, swimming, drawing and cooking, giving criticism to writing is something that you don’t improve at ’til you try and ’til you’re ready to make a fool of yourself.

Tease

This is how I am.
I tempt and tease
at the surface, wavering,
a persistent challenge,
your growing unrest interfering
but presenting an innocent front.

Your approach is expected,
I see a reflection with your eyes.
You think you can take me,
while I, half eager for
your teeth to sink
through my skin, bite,
your tongue against my side

I bounce away, unready, unsure.

Do I want you? Deep down?
Or just the thrill of the chase?
I bob in the shallows,
my purpose undecided.
My core as elusive
To me as to you.

– – –

Violence or gentility;
neither succeed.
Hot from the shame of defeat,
most do not care to try twice.
I wait for one who does.

It’s No Fun, Getting Old

Good afternoon, good afternoon.

I promised you a short story today, and I shall not disappoint. This is a story that I’m both proud and fond of – I’ve put quite a bit of effort into it, and it’s something that, every time I come back to it, I see ways to make it a little tighter, a little better. I hope that by “publishing” it here, it doesn’t stop this move to always improve.

I’m still looking for pictures to go with this story. If you have any, send me some?

It's No Fun, Getting Old
It's No Fun, Getting Old

It’s No Fun, Getting Old

Ok, so. It was lunchtime, and I was just sitting on a bench in Charing Cross Station. I had just finished my lunch, I think I had a magazine, I was inside in the shade, so my chocolate bar didn’t melt onto my good skirt. I remember at the time I was all worried about why Kyle hadn’t called or left a message, and why he’d been all distant on the phone the night before. This was back when I was with Kyle, but it wasn’t a major deal, he explained it all later, but at the time I was really worried ‘cause I thought he thought I was too young for him, I’d seen a photo of his ex online, and I was nothing like her, so you know, was I even his type?

But anyway, none of that’s important, it was a little thing, it blew over in like, no time.

So I was on this bench, and I was enjoying having lunch breaks, ‘cause after years of being a student, you know, managing my own time? it was nice to have a bit of structure, you know? It was before I really knew anyone at work, so I wasn’t up for lunch with anyone, and like I said, I wanted to think about Kyle and maybe text him again.

And while I was sitting there, this old guy in a suit came over and stood really close to me. Really close, like he was in my personal space. And at first I was like, what’s with this, you know, because it wasn’t like there was a shortage of space, but you know when someone’s in your space you feel really uncomfortable? So I moved over, to give him space to sit down, and I carried on reading my magazine.

But I’d lost my focus and I was thinking about this guy, now. He didn’t move to sit down next to me, but he spoke to me, he said, “I wonder if you could help me.” He was really old, like in his seventies, and he smelt of alcohol.

And he said, “Oh, I’ve just been today to my sister’s funeral, and I was wondering if could you assist me to a taxi because I need to get over there.”

And I was like, ok, of course I can help you, but I was a bit miffed at first, because it was like – no wait, he didn’t say that at first, he just came over and said can you help me to a taxi.

And I thought, they’re just over there, they’re no distance at all, and he’s made it here from wherever, presumably a train. So why’s he come over to talk to me, you know? And afterwards, I felt really guilty for thinking this, for thinking, is this some sort of scam, is he some kind of perve, but actually, it’s natural isn’t it? To think that. Because no one comes up to you and talks to you in London, you have a kind of open privacy, where everyone can see you but no one talks to you. Everyone has this kind of personal space bubble, and when you’re in it, you don’t talk to strangers.

And I know that – I reckon I’ve got the kind of face, you know the kind of personality, that’s open and foreigners and tourists come up to me and ask me for directions. But this one old man, he smelt of booze and I thought, what’s he after?

But, then it was no distance at all, my train wasn’t for ages, and I could see everyone else rushing past not looking, and now he’d asked me, so what could I do? I couldn’t like say no once he’d asked me, I obviously had nothing better to do.

So I got up to help him, and he was pretty drunk, you know? His jacket was all crinkled, and his white shirt had this big blotchy red wine stain down it, and he stank of booze, and he was like, “I’ve got to lean on you.”

So I had his suitcase by the arm, and he told me to put my other arm round his waist, right? But I just thought, let’s get this done, and I started leading him across to the taxis, but obviously we were walking really slow, and he wants to lean on me, and I’m thinking why, and I later found out he was limping, but he was just all like “I’ve got to lean on you”, so I was being cautious.

And we stopped for a break, about half way there, and then he really announced it to me, all of a sudden; “I’ve just come from my sister’s funeral,” all clear and precise, and then he started crying.

And what do you do in that situation? I tried to be comforting, and say the right things, like “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” and then I didn’t know what to say, and he was crying.

“Where was the funeral?”

“Out in Bournemouth. I went over there last night, the funeral was this morning. She died of cancer.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, that’s awful. Was it unexpected?”

“There were a few months notice, but there was no time to do anything. She was younger than me,” he said, “she was younger, she was only 82.”

And most of the time, I didn’t say anything, he just talked and I said sympathetic things, and I started to ask him questions, thinking it might help him to talk it out. He said he lived alone, out in Shepherd’s Bush in a flat, and sometimes a neighbour comes in, but if he dies in his flat, like no one would know. He didn’t seem to have any kids, well he didn’t mention any. Some of the time I asked questions, and he just sort of stared.

At one point I realised he was leading the way, looking straight ahead, not looking at me, and he was going the wrong way, and I said “No, no, the taxis are over here,” and he said, “No, it’s this way,” but we could see the taxis by this point, so I pointed them out.

And he said “I’ve not got long now, myself,” and I thought maybe he had cancer too, but he didn’t say, but he repeated it, and, and then he thanked me for helping him. He was very polite.

And I explained slowly and politely that we were about to get to some steps, and that he should just take his time, no rush, and he, he thanked me again, and I walked at his pace down the steps, he was really leaning on me heavy, and I didn’t want him to fall and hurt himself. I was being careful of the limp, and I was encouraging him, you know, not to give up hope, you know? Trying to be cheery. And I was like “It’s no fun getting old, is it?”

And when we were halfway down, this woman and man came over and the woman asked us if we needed any help?

So I said I was taking him to a taxi, and she asked me where the taxi was to, and I said, “Oh, no, I’m not, not with him, I’m just helping out.” So the old man told her Shepherd’s Bush. She was in her thirties, and she was very helpful, she went over and got a taxi to come to the bottom of the steps, and told the driver where he was going, and to wait. And he started telling them the same story, that he was coming from his sister’s funeral in Bournemouth, and the man was really sympathetic and took the bag, and put it in the boot.

We all helped him into the taxi together, and got his legs in on the passenger seat at the back, and he pressed my hands together and it was like, like, god bless you, and he smiled at me, a kind of worn-out smile, and still crying, but he said, “you’re a Samaritan, you really are, you’re all Samaritans. Thank you. Thank you very much.” And the woman closed the door, and the taxi drove off, and she and the man left into the station.

I stood there for a minute in the heat, and thought about it, and I got all emotional and went and sat down somewhere quiet. It was a real mix of emotions, ‘cause I sort of thought, why did he come up to me, why, did he choose me? I sort of felt quite honoured.

I called up Sarah and told her, and I think I even cried a bit. ‘Cause he was such a sweet old man, and it must be horrible to have your younger sister die before you, and feel all alone.

But I’ve thought about it since, and wondered if it was all an act, a way to get help from people, but that’s a horrible thing to think, isn’t it? And then I felt bad for questioning it, you know?

a
I’ve been playing with writing in a different voice, and it’s actually a lot of fun to be a step further distant from the action – it means I feel more comfortable editing details, for a start, and I got to have a little go at being an unreliable narrator. Hope you like it!

“Goodbye” Story, and Lessons to Learn

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:

old-lady

“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.

“Goodbye.”

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.

Please feel free to post comments!