The Indulgence

This is for the next Storycraft flash fiction challenge. Tell a story in 300-500 words of dialogue. Tags and action description are okay, but no exposition!

The Indulgence

‘How long have you been dead?’ asked the angel, not even looking up once at the pretty young woman sitting across the desk in front of him.
‘About 30 years,’ she replied. ‘I am not sure. Time moves slowly when you have nothing to do.’
‘Do you miss your children? Your family?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘I can’t remember. Did I have any? Children that is, I must have had a family of some sort. Is this a job interview?’
‘Some might call it that. Personally I would call it an “indulgence”.’ The angel dipped his pen in a bottle of Quink and continued scratching shapes on the page.
‘Have I been good? Is that why you are “indulging” me?’
‘It’s not about good or bad,’ he replied, ‘it’s just your time.’
‘30 years? Is that my time?’ She fidgeted nervously.
‘Yes,’ said the angel, never even glancing at this small, slight woman who was twitching and rubbing her hands together. Anyone with a modicum of compassion would have appreciated how she felt. But not him…
‘Am I still pretty?’ She asked.
‘I wouldn’t know,’ he replied. ‘That’s not my department. You need to ask someone from the Department of Girlfriends, Models and Attention Seekers, or DoGMAS for short.’
‘Why? Do they keep all our pictures in the attic? Do they age and we don’t, like Dorian Gray?’
‘Gray? Dorian? Oh yes, accidental death by poisoning? No, no, he was the one in the boat, when the engine caught….’
‘Forget it,’ she said, ‘It’s a book, by Oscar Wilde.’
‘Ah, so you remember that.’
‘A little, from school….Did my children die with me?’ She asked.
‘Who’s conducting the interview?’ The angel swore under his breath as his nib split and ink splattered across the page.
‘Sorry, I need to know.’
‘You don’t have any.’
‘But you said….’
‘I was just testing. But you had a cat called Tabitha. She’s dead too, of course, natural causes. Old age, but then she’d be 42 if she was still alive.’ He chuckled, as if he had cracked a really good joke.
It wasn’t that funny, she thought. Poor Tabitha, not that she remembered her. The angel stood up, picked up his pen, wiping it methodically with a piece of cloth, followed by his ink and his paper, placed them neatly in a small leather bag and began to walk away.
‘My indulgence, you haven’t told me what it is.’
‘Tomorrow,’ he replied, ‘we’ll have another session and I will tell you then. In the meantime, try and remember what your father did for a living, who your friends were or what school you went to, or anything useful. Goodbye.’ And he was gone.

Paint me

This is for the flash fiction challenge set by Storycraft fiction writing chat. Subject is POV of an inanimate object – in this case an angry garden gnome:

Paint me

Please paint me! My lovely red hat is all faded and chipped from the harsh winter frost and even my fishing rod is broken on the end. All through December the pond was frozen and now my feet are like brass monkeys. Were my boots blue or black? I can’t remember and they are so muddy, look at them!

I wanted to go to that poncy flower show at Kew Gardens this summer, but they said gnomes aren’t allowed in. Not posh enough? Not posh enough for toffs like that new prime minister or Judith Chalmers.

Oh yes! We keep up with politics and such. Just because we sit out here all day watching the world go by and scratching our arses doesn’t mean we ain’t educated. I can name all the capital cities of South America. Brasilia – that’s the capital of Brazil – thought you’d catch me out didn’t you. Peru – that’s Lima, Venezuela – that’s….er…I’m BORED NOW!!

Where is everyone? Paint me you lazy gits! I want to go to the flower show and have a good laugh when the punters turn their noses up. Hee hee. I want to fly round the world and see the Great Wall of China. I could sit on it like frigging Humpty Dumpty. You could steal me and send me off and I could end up in the newspapers: ‘Garden gnome disappears and returns with photo album from exotic places’. Might even make the One Show. Corrr…I love that Christine thingy. Don’t like the other one though. Miserable so and so.

What’s that noise? Sounds like a car. No it’s the lawn mower. Hooray! Means my lot are coming out here at last. Look out lads! Look sharp! Time for a new coat. Might even get a slurp of Carlsberg after the barbeque. Roll on summer – it’s party time.

Outlandish Tales of Folklore

Apologies for having posted the first three before, albeit ages ago, but I wanted to keep them altogether somewhere.

A sonnet is a 14 line lyrical poem traditionally written about beauty, unrequited love, romance, faith, death etc. Contemporary sonnets use modern language but the subject matter is often the same or similar. These attempt to break the mould, hopefully.

As they are a sequence, I thought it would be fun and challenging to link them. I used something similar to the film technique of ‘leitmotifs’ which are described as ‘poetic images that repeat like refrains in each strand’. This linkage can be seen in the 3rd line of each poem which is always ‘captures (kidnaps, snatches etc) babies in the night’.

Outlandish Tales of Folklore

A sequence of sonnets

Cooking with Elves

Around the campfire they sit and
Squabble, the Dark Elves, the Svartálfar,
Who capture babies in the night,
While slumbering peacefully in their beds
Tangling their hair in elflocks
They squeal with horrid delight,
Throw them in… Throw them in…
No beauty here, just the sharp pain of fright.

So before you sprinkle Buckthorn in a circle
And dance wildly under the full moon,
Think wisely if you cry before he flees
Dark Elf! Halt and grant my boon!
And wish not for help or harm
Or harm will harm you soon.

The Curse of Baba Jaga

Where are the servants? Don’t ask or
She’ll kill you, Baba Jaga, of the forest
Who kidnaps babies in the night.
The cat… The dog… The tree… The gate…
Her invisible servants, silent like the riders,
I am Day, says one, all dressed in white,
Who comes in red? I am the Sun,
Then dressed in black, I am the Night.

She’s coming now, look out, look out,
Sweeping their hoof-tracks with her broom.
The wailing wind begins to blow
While trees around her moan and groan
And shrieking spirits follow in her wake,
Leading you flailing to your doom

Hansel and Gretel

Deep in the forest, two children cry alone,
Finding a friend; a witch, a fiendish hag
Who snatches babies in the night,
Fattens them… Cooks them… Eats them…
Oh Hansel, Gretel, be afraid and run,
Hide in the bushes, stay out of sight.
Too thin, too thin, I like them fat,
The witch-hag cries with sheer delight.

Gretel, now her servant, fetches sweets
To force feed Hansel, trapped alone.
She’s coming now, the witch, she squeals
Be he fat or lean , I’ll eat him soon
But it’s too late, in the oven she goes
The children flee and the tale is done.

The Faerie Queen

Made from children’s laughs and squeals
She skips and flutters high above
While stealing babies in the night
And changelings substitute in their place
The faerie queen with faerie dust
Will disappear when it gets light
Shape-shifting now as if a ghost
Taking the dead with her in fright

Oh faerie queen with angel wings
And charms which magic potions soon
From sage and rowan, herbs and spice
Will stir her magic ‘neath the moon.
So if you think this faerie kind, just
Think again, she’ll cast your doom.

The Hag of the Mist

With filthy hair and stark black eyes
She stalks her victim through the fog
And snatches spirits in the night
And death to he who hears her cries
Calling his name she laughs and wails
He hears her call and dies of fright
And not a jot cares who you be
The banshee screams with sheer delight

So if you hear your name out loud
You cannot hide from what comes soon
The ugly hag has found you out
She calls your name, what’s done is done
You catch a glimpse, a second split
She’ll drag you down and down alone

A Christmas Haiku

What will happen when
Christmas ends. Will the New Year
Be any better?

The Man Behind the Masquerade

In 1979, the artist Kit Williams published a book called Masquerade in which Britain became a giant treasure map and the book was actually a riddle which readers had to solve in order to find and win the treasure. The first person to do so won a ‘golden hare’, which was buried in the earth somewhere. Masquerade proved so popular that the hysteria which followed drove Williams underground, where he has continued to create complex and beautiful art, but refuses to publicly exhibit. In his first interview in two decades, Kit tells his story before and after Masquerade.

However, here in Cheltenham, in the heart of the Costwolds, we have a piece of Kit Williams. It’s a clock in the centre of the Regent Arcade, which he designed. Poeple have come for miles over the years to see the famous Wishing Fish Clock. Over 45 feet tall, the clock features a duck that lays a never-ending stream of golden eggs and includes a family of mice that are continually trying to evade a snake sitting on top of the clock. Hanging from the base of the clock is a large wooden fish that blows bubbles every half hour while playing the song I’m for ever blowing bubbles. Catching one of these bubbles entitles you to make a wish, hence the name of the clock. Originally it was on the hour only – if anyone thinks this is wrong please let me know.

The Man Behind the Masquerade was shown on BBC Four tonight but you can catch it on iPlayer.

Mad about celebrity?

Are you interested in celebrities and their lives? Probably not if you are reading this blog.

However, I have another blog about celebrities and fashion. Very different from this one. Hope you enjoy it!
Go to www.madaboutcelebrity.co.uk

Running out of Haikus

I’ve been posting my Haikus on www.TwiHaiku.com.
Trouble is I’ve posted them all so I’ve run out.
What to do next?
I guess I’ll have to write some more.
Maybe I’ll write a Haiku about running out of Haikus.

No more haikus

Whatever happened to all the Haikus
They watched their time burn
No more Haikus any more

With thanks to The Stranglers

Finally a decision

I’ve been sitting on my story Miss Havisham’s Ghost for over two (or even three) months, unable to go anywhere with it, so I decided the best thing to do was to give up. Not give up on writing the story but on trying to combine the two stories into one.

I have done this – bring in something autobiographical – before in a story and one of my friends thought the real person I was talking about was the grown up version of the child in the story. It hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would, but I thought if that story was confusing then this one would be even more so! So this morning I split them up.

And now I have two stories – each one almost 4,000 words. One is a traditional (so far) ghost story without a title, while the other is mainly autobiographical. All I need to do is progress the ghost story without the added complication of weaving in the other. The challenges of course, remain the same as ever!

Short novel or long short story – that is the question

About a year ago I wrote the first chapter of a novel for an assignment. It was called Miss Havisham’s Ghost and was loosely based on my own childhood but was intended to be a work of fiction. To be honest it didn’t get that good a mark so I shelved it. 

Then a couple of months ago (or more) I started writing a ghost story. The story is really two stories which come together about half way through. At some point I decided that the original assignment could be stripped down, rewritten and incorporated into the story along with some other real life incidents I wrote about for a life writing project.

Unfortunately I’m struggling with the bringing them together part. I’ve been stuck on 7,600 words for so long I don’t know where to go with it now. Should I give up at 10,000 words and call it a long short story or keep going till I get to however long a novel has to be? It’s still called Miss Havisham’s Ghost.  This is the last bit of the first chapter (the ghost story) and the start of the next chapter (autobiographical):

…In the middle of the room a coffin was laid out on the oak dining table. She had never been in this room before; it was dark and strange with old dusty books lining the four walls. It smelt a little like the school library. She had also never seen a coffin before or a dead body, if there was a body. There must be someone inside or why would it be here? Her breath came in shallow gulps as she moved closer. The lid was open and she could see the satin lining around the edges, pure white like her skin in winter. She didn’t want to look inside. It was bound to be someone she knew. Someone she knew and loved.

She was not prepared for what she saw inside. At first she could see only a small pair of feet encased in gold pumps sticking out from underneath the white gossamer dress, with its pink sash, like the one she had worn for her first communion three or four years ago. Then she saw the flaxen hair spread out like a fan on the small rosebud-embroidered pillow, the cold pale hands pressed together, as if praying for forgiveness. A tiny golden crucifix on a slim chain was wrapped around them. Then finally she saw the face – her face. The body in the coffin was hers. As dead as she was alive, the lips were slightly blue and there was a tiny trickle of blood in one corner of the mouth. She tried to scream but no sound came out. And then everything became blackness as she fainted.

Chapter Two

In 1978, when I was in my twenties, I went to Poland with my father. He hadn’t been there since before the war so it was both a treat and a surprise for him. Even when his mother died in 1966 he had been unable to return. Then just when we were about to leave he received a message from his younger sister Frania that Halce, the second oldest, had passed away. The funeral was arranged for the day after we arrived and we were told that we could pay our respects beforehand.

Oh the shock! I had never seen a dead body before that day. My first impression and most lasting memory was of a small coffin (she was only about five feet tall) with its lid open and a pair of feet in laced up boots sticking out from beneath a calf-length black dress. I went in a little closer. She can’t harm me. What was I afraid of? I saw that her cold pale hands were pressed together, as if praying for forgiveness. A tiny golden crucifix on a slim chain was wrapped around them. She was at peace….

In one corner of the church a group of widows dressed in black sat huddled together, wailing and crying and crossing themselves. Such was their custom.

‘Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Misereatur tui omnipotens Deus, et dimissis peccatis tuis, perducat te ad vitam aeternam.’

‘May Almighty God have mercy on me, forgive me my sins and bring me to everlasting life.’

Of course. That made everything alright then.

Not quite what we are used to



I know this has nothing to do with creative writing or poetry or anything else appropriate to this blog, but I just had to mention it. Yesterday my husband and I took our two Jack Russells to a local companion dog show called ‘A Dog’s Day Out’.

They (the dogs that is) were suitably badly behaved as only Jack Russells can be, but I still registered Pancake, hoping to enter her in the Best Biscuit Catcher category or something equally silly. Pancake is the undisputed champion terrier racer in the nearby village of Cowley, but then that’s an event where yapping, snarling and snapping are positively encouraged.

Then the call came for the Best Veteran over 10 years old so I thought, what the heck, I’ll put Cookie in as she’s nearly 11. The judge said she had good ears, good coat, good teeth, did I clean them regularly etc. No I said, the vet does it from time to time. What a shock I had when she won! A rosette bigger than her head (bigger than my head almost) and a packet of lamb and rice nibbles.

Eventually Pancake disgraced herself in the Prettiest Bitch class by snarling at another terrier and pulling some fur out of a fluffy puppy’s nose. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon apologising.

Stage of Fools and other stories

‘Stage of Fools’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear. However, I used it as the title of a short story in which a theatre director decides to stage a production of The Medea, a Greek tragedy by Euripedes. Peter, the director, is a pretentious fool with ideas well above his station and talent. In the meanime his marriage to his French wife, Justine, is falling apart and while Peter is looking for funding by seducing the daughter of a rich publisher, Justine (like Medea) is plotting her revenge.

I have always had a ‘thing’ about The Medea ever since I studied it in the second year of my OU degree. However, I never imagined it would become the plot of a short story!

Here is an exceprt from Stage of Fools, the last and longest story in An Irrational Fear of Dogs and other short stories.

It was a fascination with Greek tragedy, brought on no doubt by a boy’s experiences of the Classics at public school that led Peter Meadows to follow his childhood ambition and stage a West End production of Medea. Now approaching that milestone age which shall only be spoken in whispers when one is quasi-famous, he believed it to be now or never. Justine preferred never, but then always more pragmatic and less self-indulgent than her husband, she was the one who paid (or frequently didn’t pay when they had no money) the ever increasing bills that fanned themselves out on the floor of the porch like the spreading flare of a peacock’s tail feathers, vying for attention.

‘They’ll take care of themselves,’ Peter would say if she tutted and then throw them over his shoulder to land in a pile on the floor.

‘Non cherie, they will not,’ she replied and picked them up, stuffing them into the sagging pockets of her long brown cardigan, before adding them to the teetering pile that was now becoming a fire hazard in the conservatory.

Thus began the daily ritual of will they won’t they which perfectly demonstrated the widening chasm between two people who had met at university when the whole world stretched out before them, filled with happiness and opportunity. Peter, two years older than Justine, was dashing, attractive and extremely persuasive. The year was 1988 and he was in his third year reading Drama at Reading University when the beautiful exchange student walked into the bar of the Student’s Union and asked for a glass of Chardonnay in perfect, yet broken, English. Slim, chic and better dressed than the average university student, she was obviously French.

‘I’ll get that,’ Peter said to the barmaid (another of his recent conquests but no hard feelings eh), who was pouring Hock out of a wine box, ‘and I’ll have a beer.’

It didn’t take him long to discover that Justine, as her name turned out to be, was in her first year studying the Classics at the Sorbonne and was in England to discover the museums and art galleries.

‘J’adore Oxford, en particulier le musée Ashmolean.’

‘Then we must go there,’ Peter replied, everyone at his school had at least passed basic O level French, ‘I know, let’s go tomorrow and take a picnic and go boating on the river.’

Within a week they were sharing his digs and were head over heels in love.

Mad about celebrity

I just started a new blog about celebrities and fashion. Very different from this one. Hope you enjoy it!
Go to www.madaboutcelebrity.co.uk
Oh and I added some links on here. And on Mad About Celebrity. I think they look quite classy!