‘Pigeon Chasing’. My return to #fridayflash

It’s been a long while, but I’m finally getting myself back into my writing groove. Moving house (country) sapped my fiction juices away for the duration; I feel they might be returning. Whether they are back to pre-move levels or not remains to be seen (read).

I am marking my return with a very short flash fiction piece for #fridayflash. Other #fridayflash contributors were asking where I’d got to. I’m still here and thank you for asking after me. Comments always welcome.

Pigeon Chasing

Image from google images

When Robert was a toddler he discovered that chasing pigeons was more fun than almost anything else. His aunt, something of a self-taught psychotherapist, assumed his behaviour was an effort to escape the over-bearing clutches of her sister-in-law; but in truth, in was all about the birds.

Robert continued to chase pigeons with an escalating degree of intensity, often resulting in painful collisions: town-square fountains, bicycles, and thorny shrubs, for example.

During a family outing to a picturesque fishing harbour – one famed locally for the quality of its crab cakes sold from a pier-end shack – Robert chased the most beautiful pigeon he’d ever seen. He chased its metallic iridescence along the harbour wall. He chased as he’d never chased before. He chased, ignoring his mother’s anguished shrieks and his father’s stern commands. He chased with increasing joy; joy which rose within him as he neared the terminal velocity of a nine year old.

Unable to perform the bird’s last minute aerial manoeuvre, Robert chased his elation over the edge, plunging into the ocean.

Within moments, he found the close deafness of the water a comforting change from the endless noises and voices he was used to enduring, and so, quite reasonably, he resolved to remain under.

 Briefly distracted from his efforts to stay submerged by the distorted image of a pigeon flying just above the waves, Robert was reminded of his new aquatic ambition by the flickering lustre of a passing school of mackerel.

With any luck, he thought, kicking down into the depths, I’ll develop gills of my own.

© flyingscribbler 2013

‘Table for One’ A new flash fiction

I didn’t think I was going to get a story written today. I’ve got some winter virus and it’s snowing. The snow has nothing to do with my ability to write a story, but it sets the scene for you.

Don’t ask me where this one came from; all I know is I did eat a tuna wrap last week. So there you go.

Table for One

They said at the inquest that it came down to sun-dried tomatoes. That might seem strange to someone who wasn’t there to hear the evidence, but having sat through the whole thing, it made perfect sense.

The arsonist, they said, was a loner (aren’t they always?), or he at least kept himself to himself. He sat alone in the restaurant every day, facing the wall. ‘Not exactly what you’d call a conversationalist,’ said Patti, one of the waitresses, who, by chance, had been having a temporary crown fitted the day of the fire, ‘but never rude.’

Patti’s evidence was crucial: no-one else had ever spoken to him; at least none that were still living. His landlord recalled a brief exchange of words from the day he arrived in the town five years earlier; the man had apparently moved around a fair bit until he’d “found a town where they serve my lunch the way I like it”.

Patti thought he probably only ate once a day, and always the same thing: tuna wrap with potato salad. ‘So you see,’ she told the inquest, ‘he never had a reason to talk. But he always tipped.’

She explained that a new chef had started. ‘He was anti-frills and Food Network, if you know what I mean.’ I don’t suppose everyone present did, but she continued anyway. ‘We said don’t mess with the menu, but I guess he had a vision of his own, like chefs do.’

The man had taken a single bite of his wrap before calling Patti over.

‘He asked me where the tomato was. The only words he ever spoke to me in all those years. “Where’s the sun-dried tomato?”’

The inquest concluded he’d been insane; at least, he was when he ran into the restaurant holding a petrol bomb.

Afterwards, when I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the time my mother forgot to take mustard to the beach for our hot dogs.

© flyingscribbler 2013

Your comments are important, so keep them coming.

‘Roots to Love’ A new flash fiction

I woke up this morning thinking that root vegetables would be an interesting starting point for some flash fiction. It seemed like a good idea at the time anyway…..

google images

google images

Roots to Love

George was halfway through the hourly sweep of his section, surprised, as always, at how much produce ended up on the floor.

‘Excuse me. Are those yam or cassava? I’m never quite sure.’

George was on his knees, reaching under the display for an escaped turnip, but he could still tell that the woman was taller than him; and she was solid, in the way that well-nourished women were.

‘The ones on the left are the yams. Beautiful thinly sliced and fried.’

‘That sounds delicious.’

George stood up. She was about an inch taller.

‘But not as good as plantain.’

The woman scanned the shelves.

‘I don’t see any here.’

‘That,’ said George, ‘is because I bought the last of them yesterday.’

‘Shame. I’d like to have tried them.’

George replaced the turnip, checking the pile for stability.

‘I could make some for us, if you like.’

It took three months to work their way through the whole root vegetable section. Patricia insisted on their taking turns, although George preferred to be in charge of the hot oil.

‘It’s dangerous,’ he said, ‘for a beginner.’

The carrot was the surprise success, and they agreed that parsnip was both reliable and tasty; but the sweet potato was disappointing.

‘Pappy,’ said Patricia, ‘like cheap bread.’

They had just finished a second bowl of ‘Yukon Gold’ one evening, (“crispy yet predictable”), when Patricia suggested they lay off the fried food for a while. George wiped the bowl with his finger.

‘But what will we do instead?’

It was a sensible question to which neither George or Patricia had an answer.

George continued experimenting alone, tweaking his technique. Each vegetable, he found, had its particular thickness for the optimum fry. Only the oil was a constant; the temperature and brand never varied. The oil, he understood, acted as a conduit for the vegetables, transporting each to a higher plane of enjoyment.

Patricia hadn’t been back to the supermarket for a while, but appeared one Tuesday morning at George’s check out.

‘You’ve progressed from fruit and veg then?’

George glanced at the mountain of carrots making their way along the conveyor.

‘My manager said I’d be more comfortable here, sitting,’ said George. His swivel seat creaked in protest as he shifted position.

‘Good for you,’ said Patricia.

‘They’ll make you a lot of carrot chips,’ said George, ‘you’ll never get through all them on your own.’

‘These?’ said Patricia, laughing, ‘oh, we’re juicing them. You wouldn’t believe how many carrots it takes to make two glasses.’

‘We?’

‘Yes. Peter, that’s my partner; he just loves carrot juice.’

George pushed the carrots into the bagging area.

‘You said a relationship couldn’t be based on a mutual love of root vegetables.’

‘Did I?’

‘Yes. I wrote it down. On a ‘post-it’.’

‘I don’t remember.’ Patricia looked at the counter. ‘Don’t forget our celery. They taste great together; the celery gives the juice an edge.’

‘But celery isn’t a root vegetable.’

‘No George, it isn’t. But a varied diet is healthier.’ Patricia bagged her vegetables. ‘How much will that be please?’

© flyingscribbler 2013

Please comment on my writing, if you have the time. It’s really very useful. Other flash fiction writers can be found at #fridayflash on twitter and at fridayflash.org.

Did you catch my post about historical accuracy in weights and measures? Vital advice indeed for budding historical fiction writers.

 

 

 

Vital Signs. A new flash fiction.

It’s been such a long time since I have posted a story here, that I was beginning to think it was never going to happen again. However, I decided to start the year as I hope to go on, writing more and posting more frequently. I haven’t written anything for a month or so, having taken the month of December off (I wrote about this the other day), and I found it much harder than I though to get back into the swing of things. Having said that, the subject matter for this one came to me easily: a leaflet was posted to me recently, offering ‘life signs’ screening. Clearly, this is the sort of thing which starts happening when you reach your forties; it’s just a matter of time until I’m being offered invisible hearing aids and bulk purchase trusses. Until then, I aim to continue writing and posting.

Incidentally, I had some flash fiction success this week: my story ‘Worm Hole’ was published at Every Day Fiction. Please nip over and tell me what you think.

On with my first #fridayflash offering for the year. As always, comments are hugely useful, so please take a second to leave one. And don’t forget to check out all the other #fridayflash writers over at fridayflash.org .

image: google images

image: google images

Vital Signs

Dr Lovric re-examined the evidence. For the first time in his career he wasn’t quite sure how to proceed; whichever way he looked at it, his client was clinically dead.

‘Are you certain?’ The client was on the bed, attached by electrodes to the clinic’s machinery.

‘The facts, Mr Kanting, do not lie; you have no vital signs.’

The client stared down at the mass of wires stuck to his torso.

‘You’re telling me that you are one hundred percent certain that I have no discernable heartbeat?’

Dr Lovric paused for a moment. It was his belief that one ought always to appear to consider a question carefully, especially when the answer contained such monumental tidings.

‘I am certain.’

It was another of Dr Lovric’s beliefs that uncertainties in life were unnecessary and dangerous complications which, left unresolved, bred pessimism and misery. Certainty was so central to his philosophy that it had led him to establish his screening clinic whose motto, “It’s your future; be certain of it”, placed the concept centre-stage.

‘I’m sorry,’ the client closed his eyes and shook his head, ‘I must be missing something.’

At Med School, where the young doctor had had a reputation for a macabre bedside humour, his response would have been ‘you’re not wrong there’, but today it seemed inappropriate.

‘Missing?’

‘Yes, missing. You said these tests were supposed to identify the absence or presence of an irregular heartbeat.’

‘That is correct.’

‘Well,’ continued the client, ripping an electrode from his chest, ‘they haven’t, have they?’

Dr Lovric took a step back. Experience had taught him that when a consultation appeared to be going badly, it paid to be prepared to make a quick exit.

‘They haven’t what?’

‘Found the absence or presence of an irregular heartbeat.’

Dr Lovric nodded sagely.

‘Indeed.’

‘So, I’ll be requiring a full refund.’

‘Mr Kanting, I haven’t been able to discern whether your heartbeat is either regular or irregular because I have been unable to discern any type of heartbeat at all.’

‘Exactly. I want a refund.’

‘Mr Kanting, the situation, or more precisely, your situation, is very serious.’

‘Dr Lovric, I have paid to have my life signs screened, which thus far you have singularly failed to do.’

Dr Lovric couldn’t recall an occasion where a client had been so difficult. He prided himself on his clinic’s professional service and even those people who needed to be referred for specialist care left his clinic happy; happy in the knowledge that a medical disaster had been averted.

‘I’ve looked for your vital signs Mr Kanting, several times. In fact,’ and now the doctor finally felt he was rising to this most unusual of challenges, ‘you could say that you have received rather more of our service than you have paid for.’

‘I don’t believe I’m hearing this,’ said the client, ripping off the remaining electrodes.

‘Please get back on the bed Mr Kanting; I’m sure we can come to an arrangement.’

‘Arrangement?’

The doctor cleared his throat. The clinic’s satisfaction ratings were riding very high and this client wasn’t going to change that.

‘The ‘Signs of Life’ clinic is prepared to offer you a full refund.’

‘It is?’

‘Indeed. But I must advise you to seek urgent specialist attention.’

The client laughed.

‘You must take me for a fool Doctor,’ he said, ‘according to you I am no longer alive.’

‘Well, medically speaking, that is correct.’

‘And yet, here I am, talking to you.’ The client reached for his shirt. ‘Philosophically speaking, since you can see me, I must be here, and since you can hear me speaking, I must be alive.’

Dr Lovric squirmed. It was arguments like this which had led him to dropping out of his philosophy minor at college.

‘So Doctor, am I alive or not?’

‘Medically? No.’

‘But philosophically, you must agree, I am alive.’

Dr Lovric felt he was being backed into a corner.

‘You could say that the two points of view cancel each other out.’

‘Which,’ said the client, ‘leaves us back where we started.’

‘Indeed.’ Dr Lovric took a deep breath. ‘Would you like to be re-tested? At no cost, of course.’

‘I think not,’ said the client, ‘I am, on balance, happy with the status quo.’

‘That’s probably for the best,’ said Dr Lovric, leading his client to the door.

 But despite his best efforts, the doctor couldn’t forget about the unexplained phenomenon. He’d never previously been stumped like this; there was, in his experience, a medical explanation for every anomaly.

Before closing for the day, he wandered past the bed recently vacated by Mr Kanting. The doctor couldn’t help wishing that he’d never set eyes on the man. In fact, he wished he’d never known about his existence.

Suddenly, a thought struck him: in one of the few philosophy lectures he’d attended-metaphysics, was it?-hadn’t they discussed unperceived existence? A quote rang in his ears, dredged up from the murky depths of his academic memory, “To be is to be perceived”. Yes, thought Dr Lovric, that was it, and he smiled for the first time in over two hours. If he could no longer see Mr Kanting, he must no longer exist, which meant that none of that afternoon’s shenanigans had ever happened;  and even if they had, it no longer mattered.

Dr Lovric locked the door behind him and headed for his car. He might, he thought, have made an equally brilliant philosopher after all.

© flyingscribbler 2012

The Narcissist’s Vindication. A flash fiction.

I entered this flash in a competition recently. It didn’t win. Let’s be honest; it didn’t even get an honourable mention. I was quite pleased with my effort though, so here it is for #fridayflash. The rules required use of the phrase ‘a race against time’.

Please comment if you feel like it. Go on. You know you want to.

Nip over to #fridayflash to find many other writers flashing furiously.

 

The Narcissist’s Vindication

 

In his twenties, Nigel lacked the maturity to control his flashes of inspiration.

‘Life,’ he said, checking his date was awake with a judiciously placed poke, ‘is a race against time.’

‘And death,’ replied Jane, ‘is when you come in last. It’s three in the morning and I was fast asleep. Goodnight.’

Unused to having his genius reposted with such cruel efficiency, Nigel ended the romance over breakfast.

With the passing years, Nigel’s situational awareness improved enough to deliver his bons mots on occasions appropriate to the subject matter.

‘Eating in such an establishment,’ he announced one evening at The Ivy, ‘is simply disguising man’s bestial urge for self-nourishment with the culinary gewgaws of the privileged.’

‘Oh,’ said Rebecca, ‘and there was me thinking we were celebrating my thirtieth birthday.’

The trouble with other people, he’d decided by his forties, is that they lack enquiring minds.

‘The fact is, no-one seems to be able to analyse life like me.’

‘Is that another of your pearls of wisdom?’ asked Amy, whose capacity to endure Nigel’s insightful affirmations had significantly diminished.

‘Just one of many.’

‘I see,’ she said, rising from the bed, ‘well, string them together and there should be enough to hang yourself. Goodbye.’

As the door slammed, Nigel decided that such arrogance was misplaced and grossly inappropriate in a person of limited intelligence.

In his later years, Nigel resorted to specialist, MENSA-approved dating agencies and cleverly-worded, cryptic ads in the high-end papers. The few dates which resulted from his efforts proved predictably inept at matching his mental capacity; a fact which he shared with Fiona one evening, as he poured the wine.

‘Believe me,’ she said, noticing with approval how a well-aimed glass of Château Lafite stains a shirt as thoroughly as the cheapest of wines, ‘you’re no Stephen Hawking.’

Later that night, Nigel paused to wonder how the eminent professor might apply physics to the problem of measuring out just the right length of rope required to break a man’s neck.

‘I might not actually be him,’ he thought, ‘but I’m surely equal to the task.’

He was.

© flyingscribbler 2012

 

‘The Whale Crier’s Last Post’. A new flash fiction.

It’s been a while, but I’ve finally written a new story for #fridayflash. This one was inspired by a trip to Hermanus, South Africa. If you haven’t heard of it, Hermanus is the world’s top place for whale watching from the coast. Between April and October, Southern Right Whales head to the coast to mate, calve and generally roll around in the kelp. They do amazing things like ‘sail’ with their tail fins sticking out of the water, and ‘spyhop’, which is when they poke their heads out to have look. All this can be seen at close quarters from the cliff tops. This clip (which is a tourist info video) gives you some idea.

Hermanus is also home to the world’s only whale crier. I heard him blowing his kelp horn, which he does to let everyone know that whales are in the bay. It’s an amazing place. I hope this does it justice. (My whale crier is, of course, entirely fictitious).

 

The Whale Crier’s Last Post

Albert wasn’t used to competition. As the town’s, no, the world’s sole whale crier, he enjoyed the fame and celebrity which his unique situation attracted; it was an unexpected, but welcome joy at his time of life.

So, on the bright spring morning when the unmistakable sound of a horn drifted across from the other side of the bay, he was understandably concerned.

Until that moment, Albert’s professional worries extended to the small number of tourists who were concerned that the sound of his kelp horn represented a danger to the health of the whales; his explanation that it was outside of the animals’ sonic range appeared, somehow, to satisfy them.

But this was a new and altogether more worrying development. He listened carefully for a minute: it was definitely another horn, but not kelp. He listened again, recalling the days he spent playing in the brass section of his school orchestra (he had the perfect lip formation apparently). If he wasn’t mistaken, the horn that was now causing so much interest, at least amongst the whale watchers currently assembled along the cliff top, wasn’t orchestral at all, but a traditional hunting horn; the type so beloved of generations of English aristocrats.

Albert was not given to expletive utterances. He was, after all, a public figure; one of not insignificant importance to the town’s economy. However, he made an exception on this occasion. Not that it mattered: the tourists were already migrating towards the new, vibrant sound, scampering like hounds around the cliff edge.

‘Shit.’

This wasn’t good.

He peered over the edge. The whales he’d spotted, and whose presence he’d announced so ably not half an hour ago, were gone. He looked out into the bay.

‘Oh hell.’

They were lumbering steadily through the swell towards the new horn, whose brass rim Albert could see twinkling in the sun.

Sensing a threat to his future prospects, Albert tucked his kelp horn under his arm and joined the throng in their progress through the strengthening breeze.

‘Excuse me,’ said Albert, during a break in the young pretender’s trumpeting, ‘the town has only one license for a whale crier; I am its holder.’

‘Perhaps, old-timer, the town should reconsider its selection.’

‘But I’ve been the crier for years.’

‘Indeed, and look how you rush about with your seaweed horn, trying to catch up with the whales like the fat kid in the back row of a marching band. I however, have studied the hydrophonic qualities of their sonic vibrations.’ The young pretender now blew his horn to demonstrate his theory. ‘I can dictate where the whales will appear. I am the maestro, old-timer; I conduct the whales.’

And he did. With astonishing precision. Before the week was out, the young pretender had become the de facto whale crier, revelling in the glory, not to mention generous tips, which his new status afforded him.

But still Albert blew his old kelp horn, standing alone on the cliff top. He blew it all day, in the gaps when the young pretender took a breath or posed for photos. He blew it not to announce the presence of whales in the bay; rather his own. But far from being a rallying cry, the town’s people assumed he was playing his Last Post.

Yet still he blew. And as he blew, his horn’s resonations surfed the air’s waves across the bay to the narrow headland upon which the young pretender performed his baleen symphony. He blew until the rocks began to crumble and the headland disappeared into the ocean; swallowing both horn and much-surprised maestro.

There were many explanations for the unfortunate accident. One which was given little credence by the local investigators was based on an old paper buried in a defunct scientific journal. It centred on the stability of certain coastal rock types and the possibility of sudden and destructive erosion caused by unusual sonic resonance.

None of which mattered now to the town’s reinstated whale crier, Albert van der Berg, Professor (retired) of Geology.

 

© flyingscribbler 2012

By the way, this isn’t my first story inspired by whales and Hermanus. I wrote this one last year after my first visit to the town.

Head over to fridayflash.org to see what other #fridayflash writers are up to.

 

 

 

Not My Mother, Teresa. A new flash fiction.

Being rather short on time at the moment, I’ve decided to offer up a story I recently wrote for some competition or other. The rules asked for a really short piece of flash fiction. I came up with, for some reason, a story about coincidence. The story didn’t place, leaving me at liberty to share it with you instead. I’d be interested to know what you think about it in terms of a story light on action.

 

Not My Mother, Teresa

 I once found myself sharing a table in a London café with a nun called Sister Teresa. It was the anniversary of my mother’s disappearance; her name was Teresa as well.

That encounter sprang to mind when the guy sitting next to me on the plane introduced himself as John Latimer. I didn’t tell him that we shared the same name; instead we discussed cloud formations and why they always seem to look like rabbits.

He told me he lived in Brighton and asked me where I was from. I lied and said Oxford; I’ve never been there but it was the first place I could think of. Thankfully he hadn’t been there either. It sounds like Brighton’s changed a bit since we moved away. Dad returned once after an old neighbour thought she’d spotted Mum at the train station, but it can’t have been her because her note said she’d never come back.

Before landing, John got up to use the toilet. I wouldn’t normally have looked in his passport but it was just lying there, on the seat. I wondered how many other people were born the same day that the two of us were; tens of thousands, probably.

‘You never know,’ he said, as we waited at the carrousel, ‘our paths may cross again, if you believe in that sort of thing.’

I don’t. What’s the point? It wasn’t my mother who turned up in that café was it?

 

© flyingscribbler 2012