Friday Fictioneers: Falling

I’m free-falling, diving deep and down, down the rabbit hole with the red pill stinging my tongue. I’m Alice trying to find my way home, Dean Moriarty searching desperately for oblivion, Ahab obsessed to the death with his whale. I am every character I’ve ever read, my self dissipating into the long slow blue that lies before me, trails of who I used to be drifting across country like wildfire. I’m every fear and loathing you’ve ever had, the warning raven at your window, the silent wolf behind that door. I’m melting into water, crying for my red shoes.

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This week’s genre was non-fiction out of mind experience – the bus reminded me of nightmares I had after having an anaesthetic. Word count = 99 words.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction writing challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Friday Fictioneers: Bruise

The sky was bruise-black, her arm the same. This time it had been the shopping that was wrong: not enough of what he wanted, whatever that was. Her mother told her the best way to deal with it was to stay silent and, above all, never blame him. Always take responsibility. When Susannah asked why, why was it like that for her, her grandmother shook her head, said she didn’t know but that was how it was. Always had been, always will be. Round and round and round it went, violence passed down the generations like a bad gene.

 

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Friday Fictioneersa 100 flash fiction writing challenge in response to the weekly photo prompt. Hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Word count = 99 words

Friday Fictioneers: Chickens

The clucking starts at daybreak, soft and slow, drifting over the ground like wood smoke across the sky. As the light gets stronger so the sound starts building, until eventually a crescendo of cackles and squawks indicates the birds need for food. Speckled feathers shake, claws scratch on the straw beneath and the biggest bird edges to the door, greedy for grain. The rest crowd round, waiting for whatever they can scavenge, turning on each other relentlessly. He sighs, knowing they can’t be ignored any longer. He opens the cage door and steps out of safety, into a world where chickens are king.

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Friday Fictioneers

Betrayal

My name is Billy but he called me William, with a tone that was meant to be kindly but slid across my ears like a snake. He painted me often – loved my skin he said, and touched it wherever and whenever he could. He said it was for the good of the painting, that he needed to get the texture right but the stroke turned into a caress that lasted just too long. I knew what he wanted, of course, we all did. Henry (he asked us to call him Harry) had a fine reputation for being what we called ‘odd’ – a codeword between us boys that stood for something much more menacing. He’d picked me out the first time he saw me at the house, with my postbag and blue uniform. I’d tried hard to get that job and didn’t want him ruining it by complaining to the postmaster about my lack of respect. So when he asked to paint me, “do some brief sketches” he said, I agreed though I knew what would become of it. “Thank you William” he said, and smiled. It wasn’t too bad, at first. Quicker than I thought it would be and he was always sorry after, though not so sorry he wouldn’t do it again. What made me most ashamed though was how he made me look in those paintings. Look at me, standing there staring right at you like I wanted it. Leaning against the door, looking into your eyes while no one else was watching. Henry made it look like it was my fault, like it was my choice and I’m here to tell you that wasn’t, not for a minute. That’s what he wanted to see though, he didn’t want to see the disgust, the fear, the pain. He wanted me to look at him like a lover, so that’s what he painted me as and there I am. With my eyes looking into yours, leaning on the kitchen door like I know what’s going to happen next. The bastard.

Based on the painting ‘The Message’ by Henry Scott Tuke in Falmouth Art Gallery.

The Message

Friday Fictioneers: Brumaire

He smiled, somewhat nervously. You could never tell what the crowds would do, rapturously applaud him or rip him apart. The sound swelled up from below, rising like a heatwave, wrapping him in its warmth. They shouted but he couldn’t catch their words, floating away on the wintry Parisian air – something to do with Vive la Revolution perhaps or that godawful refrain about equality that he hated so much. He’d seen what fraternity had meant in the last ten years, nothing more than a bloodthirsty joke that he meant to put an end to.

Napoleon stepped forward and waved.

 

Friday Fictioneers

I can’t save the picture today for some reason but the photo credit is Sandra Crook (here’s the link for the photo here) but it’s a building in France and so Napoleon came to mind.

Friday Fictioneers: Transition

It was a slow, stale spring when Charlie lost Sam. He’d been trying to get rid of her for ages but couldn’t shake her off: she was as persistent in her refusal to leave him as one of those old mutts you read about in sentimental novels. You know, the ones who stay by their owners grave until they themselves rotted away. He had tried to lose her but the bitch wouldn’t leave, kept hanging around as if he were going to change his mind. As if! It was the surgery that cut her out, cut her off, let him be.

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Friday Fictioneers

Friday Fictioneers: Bugs

It was nearly twilight and the family were getting ready for dinner. Gathered in the kitchen, the warm light spilling out the door into the garden, they all had their tasks. Grating cheese for the pasta, washing the knives and forks, warming the plates – they moved in a familiar harmony, produced after years of cooking and eating together. This was a tradition inherited from grandparents and would be handed down to grandchildren in turn: the Sunday night dinner. Cosy and comforting in the winter, sunny and relaxed in the summer. And outside the bugs watched. Nearly time. Nearly time.yellow-bug-shaktiki

Photo credit: Shaktiki Sharma.

Friday Fictioneers

Friday Fictioneers: Storm

It was coming, he could smell it. Trouble, massing over the horizon, just out of view but ready to hit the moment he turned his back on it. The temperature dropping, a sudden shiver up his spine and the imperceptible sense of hairs standing up on arms and neck. The air changed quality, began to bite warningly, and all of sudden there wasn’t a bird to be seen in the trees. The small animals scurried into burrows and holes, the bigger ones stood resignedly, hoping to ride it out. He had a feeling that somehow he wouldn’t.

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Photo credit: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Friday Fictioneers

750 words

Seven hundred and fifty words. Seems so short, barely a paragraph or two (or three). I can write that. After all, I’ve been writing – the act of making shapes with a pen on paper or banging keyboards with my fingers – for most of my life: reports, reviews, booklets, handouts, notes (research and random), essays, dissertations, theses, Facebook posts, texts, emails. I have spend vast sections of my life writing, writing, writing. So now, why does 750 words a day seem impossible?

Proper writing comes hard to me. I want to write, but I want to write well. I want the words to flow, to run off my page and into your mind like silver threads of mercury, like a blue-grey river rushing furiously over stones and boulders with flashes of foam in the sunlight, like a black panther gliding effortlessly over the grasslands. (I know, the panther does not work at all). I don’t want to write badly, boringly, amateurishly: I find it difficult to accept my status as a hobbyist or, worse, a pretend-writer: someone who says they write but never actually does (I don’t include day to day writing as ‘writing’, of course). I can’t bear to write badly – when I say badly I mean like actual published authors whose books or genres I dislike. Would I prefer to never write a complete novel, to never get published if it meant writing ‘badly’? Sometimes I do consider this seriously even though the rational, sensible writer is shouting ‘bullshit’ at the top of its voice. I need to lower my standards, forget all ideas of writing like my favourite authors, let go of my ridiculous pretensions and just….write. Write as if no-one else, not even me, is reading. Write like I don’t care, write as if I welcome criticism and mockery and lack of success, and failure and humiliation. Come on, let’s have them!!

The painful writer in me is shrinking at the thought of this, this vulnerability. I feel like the hermit crab who has lost its shell: waiting for the fish or octopus or whatever eats hermit crabs to pounce and crush my soft, unprotected body in its sharp bite. I want my armour, my sky-high tower of bricks, built so diligently over years of self-imposed criticism and judgement. But, if I’m being honest I suppose, grudgingly, all that protection hasn’t really worked has it (it’s a rhetorical question, I can hear the answer loud and clear in my own voice). So maybe it is time to be vulnerable, to write like I just don’t care in order that I can actually write at all. It will be crap. Of course it will. But, here and there, like the green shine of sea-glass in the sand, like the sunlight floating through the motes before the window, there may be brief touches of ‘okayness’. Just a sentence in the whole piece, a phrase in a paragraph, an opening sentence that grips and grabs like a vice and a closing line that makes you sigh, regretting the ending already. A character that stays in your head for more than two minutes, a scene that you can just picture, a plot that seems vaguely interesting, that you consider reading to the end. And if these things come once then they will come again, like leaves drifting down one by one at the start of autumn. Firstly just a couple, then a brief flurry and then finally (in about twenty years maybe) a great gust of wind drags them off the branch, turns them upside down and round about and lands them on the ground, to lie in a big heap where hedgehogs hide and children kick. And in that daily process, which starts with writing 750 words a day, you may discover things you never knew existed, rediscovered things you always knew you had but were buried under years of pretending not to give a fuck. Found things you really wish you hadn’t but you know it’s too late to painfully push them back under the rock you found them under.

Writing is more than the act of putting shapes on paper or on a computer screen. We (how presumptuous, using the writerly ‘we’) write to tell the truth as we see it, to lay down our lives through describing the journeys of others, to seek out things we can just see out of the side of one eye, if we squint and crane our neck first one way, then the other. We are writing ourselves into life, making a will through our words.

This is my first piece of an online group where you write 750 words a day – it’s based on the ideas from Julia Cameron’s ‘An Artist’s Way’.  Website link is below.

750 words

Friday Fictioneers: Snow

Softly it fell, pale in the moonlight like stars drifting down. It settled on everything it touched, gently covering surfaces with a gauzy veil of ice. The cold caught the back of your throat as you breathed it in, snow dusting eyelashes and hair like powdered sugar. The dark seemed brighter, held within the shine of the flakes and velvety soft as the night wore on. The leaves shivered and the pavements grew quiet, awed by their smoothness, for once untouched. He stepped out of the car and promptly fell over. “Fuck’s sake” he shouted. “I bloody hate the winter”.

The prompt was historical fiction but nothing came so I went for hysterical fiction instead.

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Photo credit: Sarah Potter

Friday Fictioneers