Taverna Odysseus – a flash fiction inspired by a trip to Greece

I’ve been technology free for over a week, and let me tell you, it’s been great. I haven’t once missed being able to check my e-mails, update the blog or tweet. I only turned my mobile on to use the camera. It has been a release from the electronic ties that we all have. Returning from holiday on Sunday I couldn’t quite bring myself to come back to the other side and delayed switching on until yesterday. Once I had, I felt I had instantly lost something. I did not enjoy yesterday. This might also have been a serious case of post holiday blues, which is now waning; I feel more myself today, and have even summoned the strength to come back to my blog.

The holiday in question was a terrific week sailing in the south Ionian Sea of Greece. Flyingscribbler is not a sailor, but my co-pilot is and between the two of us we sailed our way around some beautiful islands. The last day was notable for a storm, eight foot high waves and one terrifying hour on the high seas. I had thought that this would form the basis of a story, but after a while thinking about it, I realised that it did not sum up my mood after the holiday. I enjoyed it all so much, had such a good time with all the people I met on the flotilla, something much lighter and altogether more cheery was called for.

This story then, comes to you from the very real island of Ithaca and the stunning village of Kioni. It’s a little in the same vein as my story about redundant dialog tags. This is also my next foray into #fridayflash. Yes, it is early, but I’m away again this week for six days (work, alas, not holiday), so apologies again for another absence.

Taverna Odysseus

The almighty crash from the kitchen was followed by an even louder roar from its chef. Seconds later the taverna owner came running out to his wife.

‘That’s the last of the moussaka off the menu Penelope,’ he panted.

‘What in heaven’s name has he done now?’ she cried.

‘He missed the counter as he took it out of the oven.’

‘Well,’ said Penelope crossing her arms, ‘that’s what you get for employing a blind, one-eyed chef. I told you he’d be no good.’

‘I felt sorry for him, he had nowhere to go.’

Penelope gave her husband a withering look.

‘You’ve become too soft Odysseus. We can’t keep taking on every out of work mythological creature you come across. It’s hard enough with that great lumbering idiot.’

As if on cue, another almighty roar launched itself from the kitchen as more dishes crashed to the tiled floor.

‘It’s not my fault no-one reads Homer any more,’ said Odysseus impatiently, ‘nearly all the other characters are out of work. We’re the lucky ones.’

‘Lucky!’ shrieked Penelope, ‘I’ll give you lucky.’ She gestured to a long table of rowdy young men. ‘You try serving that bunch of slobbering drunks every night.’

‘Are they still bothering you?’

Penelope turned away and sighed.

‘I can handle it,’ she said.

Looking out over the harbour and the watery reflection of the Taverna Odysseus’s bright sign, Penelope lifted her gaze to the moonlight. Dear Zeus, she thought, how could you have let this happen?

copyright: fyingscribbler 2010.

Long Beach Diner- a flash fiction story from the West Coast.

One of the more exciting things I’ve found since starting this blog is where stories present themselves. For the most part I am restricting myself to posting flash fiction stories based on or inspired in some way by my trips around the world with the airline. Unending source of ideas? Well, yes, but simply being somewhere different, looking at a famous sight, or listening in on a conversation in a foreign language doesn’t necessarily offer instant inspiration. Sometimes the spark just isn’t there. Perhaps this has more to do with my state of mind, (or jet lag), I don’t know. But I do know that after nearly 48 hours in Los Angeles this week, (well, Long Beach to be more precise), I was still looking for that one prompt for my story. I had been on a 30 mile cycle along the coast, eaten out a couple of times with ample people watching opportunities and walked around Long Beach itself. I even took a photo of a converted watch tower, which I may still use for a story, but still had no starting point which I wanted to use. Then, when I wasn’t even thinking about it, my story walked into the diner where I was having breakfast. My story literally presented itself to me on a plate. So, here it is, my flash fiction (and my #fridayflash entry) from LA, with thanks to the lovely people and food at the Long Beach Cafe. (Credit where it’s due I think).  I am off sailing in Greece this weekend for a week. No technology available, so in between pulling ropes (the right ones I hope), and dropping anchor, I shall dust off my notepad and pen and look for inspiration. Or perhaps it will just come floating by.

Long Beach Diner

The woman wrung her hands and slouched over the counter, her sheep-dog hair falling in greasy drapes over a thrift-store lumberjack shirt.

‘More coffee Bella?’

She looked up at the waitress.

‘Busy today, ain’t it?’

‘Convention’s on. More coming in now.’

The door opened drenching the counter in bright Pacific light.

Bella looked nervously at the booth on her left, but the waitress left it empty. She grunted. Wrung her hands. Sipped coffee.

Her shadow was thrown against the wall as someone else entered. This was her; she could smell her soap.

The newcomer took the empty booth and the waitress dropped a menu on the table, smiling at Bella as she passed.

‘Not long now hon.’

Bella glanced furtively at the booth, straining to hear the waitress take the order.

When her food arrived, the woman carefully split the pancakes between two plates and took one over to the counter.

‘Breakfast,’ she said quietly.

Bella nodded, eyes staring at the food. She counted to ten then began to eat; slowly; methodically.

As she left, the woman placed a hand on Bella’s shoulder.

‘Didn’t see you at the cemetery yesterday. It was Mom and Dad’s anniversary.’

‘I was with the Queen,’ said Bella, flinching.

Outside, the woman looked over the sparkling water to the red funnels of the Queen Mary standing proudly in line; beneath them, in the ballroom, danced memories of a wedding anniversary and two young sisters held hands as their parents entwined in a lost embrace.

Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

copyright: flyingscribbler 2010.

The Hangman’s Hangknot- a flash fiction story inspired by a length of rope. And Woody Guthrie.

It’s funny how ideas for stories come about. I’d been thinking about another story to write, but since I’ve not been flying this weekend, I needed an alternative source of inspiration. Enter the length of rope. No regular rope this; rather proper sailing rope. We at the flyingscribbler hangar are not prone to keep such things to hand.; however, we are shortly to go on a sailing holiday in Greece (oh, the material I’ll have after that!), and have been advised to practice our knots. For this reason, we borrowed the rope after a day’s sailing on the Forth with A’s Dad. I’d been happily tieing the bowline knot for an hour or so when A nonchalantly walked past (he was a scout and so these things come more naturally, apparently) and suggested I write a story about knots. With a  gauntlet  like this cast at my feet, how could I refuse?

I looked on the net for a little inspiration and came across the lyrics for Woody Guthrie’s song ‘Hangknot, Slipknot’. I don’t know this, or any other of his songs, but will endeavor to listen to him soon. In the meantime, and with thanks to A and Woody Guthrie, I offer you the following. (Hope you weren’t tuning in for an upbeat, Saturday kind of story).

The Hangman’s Hangknot

‘Can you tie a knot lad?’ The Mayor looked at Joseph, searching for resolve and stamina.

‘No,’ replied Joseph, ‘but I can learn. I’ve been walking for weeks, I need work.’

The Mayor considered.

‘The town needs a hangman. There’s no one here will do it. Learn your knots and the job’s yours.’

‘Thank you Sir. But who’ll teach me?’

‘Old Jack will. You’ll find him at the harbour. Tell him it’s worth a six month of ale at the Sailor’s Rest.’

‘Job’s cursed,’ wheezed Old Jack through his pipe, ‘Bill Riley, the last in the job, ‘e were forced to tie ‘is own noose.’

‘What was his crime?’

‘The town hanged four smugglers, March last. Only Bill fixed it so the nooses didn’t kill. ‘E cut ‘em down at nightfall and let ‘em loose. ‘E was caught.’

Joseph looked forlornly out to sea. His stomach growled with hunger.

‘I need to learn.’

‘Aye,’ said Jack, ‘and for a six month ale, I’ll teach you. Don’t worry lad, your noose won’t fail you like poor Bill’s.’

Joseph decorated his hangman’s cottage with the knots he’d mastered; all save one which he practised each day with fearful anticipation.

His first gallows were raised against the winter sun as the condemned man was marched to his fate.

‘Another smuggler,’ said the Mayor, as Joseph checked his noose.

Old Jack climbed the steps, hands tied. He raised his old head.

‘Will it hold?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ replied Joseph, ‘I was taught well.’

copyright: flyingscribbler, 2010.

Redundant dialog tags-where do they go?…a flash fiction about dialog tags

What’s this? Two postings in two days. Why yes, and how lucky you are.

Think of this as a flash fiction special, a buy one get one free, two for the price of one….

No, really, the reason for this unexpected story is quite simple. I came across a posting about the unnecessary use of dialog tags, which then promted me to edit a short story I was about to send out to a competition. Reading the story again this morning I noticed that three unashamed tags had either crept back in or been overlooked. As I was commenting on this to the blogger in question, a story occured to me: what happens to the dialog tags we discard? Where do out of work dialog tags go etc? And so, I give you this story. A quick note: I have exceeded my self-imposed word limit of 250, but since this story is about writing rules and whether to break or not to break, I choose break.

TAGS ANONYMOUS

‘Humph!’ grunted Mutter, ‘where are we?’

‘Looks like a waiting room,’ muttered Snort.

‘Waiting!’ snorted Grunt, ‘waiting for what?’

‘Tag counselling,’ answered a girl sitting at a computer, ‘take a leaflet and wait for Dr Said to call you in.’

Grunt walked over to the desk.

‘Who are you?’ he grunted.

‘My name is Answer,’ she replied, handing over three leaflets, ‘now please sit down and be patient.’

The new arrivals sat on a bench next to a nervous looking tag.

‘How long have you been waiting?’ muttered Mutter.

‘About two hours,’ whispered the tag.

‘Speak up,’ snorted Snort, ‘I can’t hear you.’

‘Two hours,’ repeated the tag, ‘someone called Muse was the last tag called in. They might be a while.’

‘Don’t see why we should be here at all,’ grunted Grunt.

Just then, the door opened; a highly distressed tag came in, held on either side by guards.

‘Let me go this instant!’ she shrieked, ‘you have no right to do this!’

‘Name?’ asked Answer.

‘Shriek!’ shrieked Shriek.

‘Where shall we put her?’ asked one of the guards.

‘Containment,’ answered Answer, ‘she’ll be happy there with Scream and Howl. Don’t forget to chain her up. Wail escaped yesterday on the way to counselling. He’s still missing.’

‘Listen to this’ snorted Snort, holding up the leaflet, ‘”Said says you should say said more.”’

‘It gets worse,’ muttered Mutter, ‘”Said says said sounds better!” it says here.’

‘Brainwashing,’ grunted Grunt.

‘Let’s make a break for it,’ cried Snort excitedly.

‘All for one!’ yelled Mutter emphatically.

‘And one for all!’ roared Grunt forcefully, ‘and bring your adverbs with you, we’ll need the ammunition.’

copyright: flyingscribbler 2010.



‘Baroque’ as a place to go to……and a new flash fiction inspired by Botero.

Baroque.

I’ve been thinking about this word recently. It has cropped up a couple of times and has become stuck in my head. Firstly, I discovered the fantastic, (or fanciful, flamboyant, florid and fussy- thank you Mr Thesaurus), Baroque in Hackney blog, and then it appears again at the Botero exhibiton I mentioned yesterday: ‘The Baroque World of Fernando Botero’ at the Glenbow, Calgary.

If the word were a place, I would want to visit it. It is inviting, interesting and myserious. (Belle Epoque has a similar effect on me).

Of course, over the years I have used ‘baroque’ thinking that I knew its meaning; and I probably had a certain grasp of what it meant in the same way that I know roughly what ‘rococo’ means. Now, I begin to see it more clearly. The dictionary helps: it is bold, vigerous and exuberant. The blurb at the exhibition puts it more practically: ‘willing and able to break the rules of classical art.’ There’s no doubt that Botero’s view of the world breaks a few rules. Maybe that is what is so inviting about the word: it’s a bit naughty and goes against the run of things.

I’m less sure of what Baroque music is, but intend to find out.

I’d be interested if anyone else has a word they would like to visit.

And now to my new story. As promised, it is inspired my my trip to Calgary, but neccesarily stems from my visit to the Botero exhibition there. As I mentioned yesterday, I was treated to a virtual private audience with the works on display. How rare to be able to stand/sit in front of a wonderful work of art without a single person intruding on your thoughts. And then to have this for every one of the 80 or so pieces? It was an experience I have never had before. Not good for the museum’s bottom line, but wonderful for my view of Botero’s sculptures’ bottoms. (Couldn’t resist that. It’s amazing what a night’s sleep does for your sense of humour). Enough of this, on with the show….

RESPECTING THE RULES

There were no other visitors in the gallery and yet James felt an overwhelming presence. As he made his way to the centre of the space, he sensed that his progress was observed by the over-sized faces on the canvases.

Mournful eyes peered out from each corner of the room, pained and without hope.

James fixed his gaze on a quartet of musicians; they played a soundless folk song to an unseen dance hall, their eternal rhythm frozen in a melancholic moment.

Sitting on a bench in front of a giant sculpture of a voluptuously naked woman, James began to take notes.

‘I wouldn’t do that Sir, if I were you.’

James stopped writing. The words were low, whispered and resonated with metallic depth. Holding his breath, pen poised above the page in a concrete grip, James turned slowly. He looked into her smooth eyes.

‘Thank you Sir.’

The voice came from over the sculpture’s unashamed rump; a museum guard stepped out and approached.

‘They don’t like it, you see,’ he said.

‘Who doesn’t?’

‘They don’t,’ said the guard, gesturing towards the rest of the gallery.

‘I thought that was taking photos,’ said James.

‘It’s not the gallery,’ whispered the guard, ‘this lot don’t like it. It makes them nervous.

James scanned the wall; motionless agreement surrounded him.

‘I think you’d better leave.’

At the entrance, James looked back. The guard was returning to his place in the corner.

‘Sorry everyone,’ he was saying, ‘it won’t happen again.’

copyright: flyingscribbler 2010.

The Orchestra

Botero's The Orchestra