My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

The Train Window

I was still breathing deeply and out of breath as the train left Milan and entered the countryside.  My heart was beating like a hammer on an anvil.  Did I really just witness someone killed?  Did I really see those men take a life?  Did those men see me as I ran for the safety of people and the station?  I was too far away to do something and hopefully to far away to be considered a witness, at least by those men.  Who were they?  What had the dead man done?  I relax into my seat, breathing under control and look out of the train window.

The flat, still-green farmlands speed by my view at about a 100 miles per hour; la Frecciarossa – the Red Arrow – is the train taking me across the northern Italian plain.  The vineyards; with vines now stripped of their fruit and displaying their autumnal dress.  Shades of green, red, yellow and brown fill my view: The window view.  Like the mother whose son has upped and left home, bearing the weight of the grapes is now a memory for the vine, which will soon be bare for the coming winter.

The low pylon wires running parallel to the track, powering the great train on its way, keep me company but spoil my view of the pale blue sky, slowly suffocating under fat, moist, grey clouds from the east.

The tilled earth of the northern plain, the soil, freshly turned, contrasting with the green, showing brown but somehow…clean.  The appearance of a hard job done well, of a tidy desk left in its place after a day at the office.  For the farmer it is his desk.  Where is that farmer now?  Enjoying the fruits of his labours?  Probably not; it’s a little early to get on the wine but I appreciate his spotless fields.

Now I’ve left the fields and entered a town.  Grey, monotonous concrete destroys any view I might have had.  It’s strange how grey feels so dismal, especially concrete, even in the sunshine.  If I can’t see out the window then I prefer the black of night, at least I can use my imagination.  God forbid it rain; there’s nothing more depressing than a miserable, wet winter’s day, with the light failing early and the concrete, sodden and cold, both to the touch and eye.  But it ends.

The fields have returned.  In the sunshine the fields come to life, even in the autumn.  The sunshine brings animation, inspiration, motivation even.  Motivation to keep moving; to follow the sun.  To not allow the autumn sun to set forever on another year and be followed with a violent sadness by the arrival of winter.  The sunlight flickers continuously from the flashing shade of the pylons and I shield my eyes.  Then relief comes as the train enters a tunnel, if I remember rightly it’s a long one.  I continue to stare out of the window.  The train roars through and I can’t hear myself think, so I don’t: I just stare, waiting. 

It’s then I notice in the window a shape behind me, blacker than the tunnel wall.  A man; standing…also waiting.  In the reflection is that a knife I see in his hand?

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It’s that time again…

Reflections: Word up, word out

Yes, November around the corner.  Get Hallowe’en, or possibly the Hallpwe’en party out of your system and the very next day… NaNoWriMo starts again.  After last year’s first and (to some extent) failed attempt, in addition to current commitments, I’ve been intent on ignoring it this year.  In fact until last weekend I was convinced I’d pay it no attention; but…

But I have a story which I’ve been working on and it looks destined for the trash bin – it’s going nowhere and when it starts becoming a stone around your neck you have to think twice about investing time and effort into it.  However, thanks to some positive input from a friend, I’ve decided that the idea itself isn’t a bad one – I just cocked-up on how it was presented.  It needs a back-to-the-bare-bones rewrite, a complete rewrite, which after 12,000 words doesn’t make me the happiest…

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Damage Limitation

The crack appeared; tiny, hairline; barely noticeable.  The scalding liquid started to spread upwards towards the crack, seeking, soaking and finally seeping into it, weakening it; the weight becoming too much to bear.  I watched, unsure of my next move.  Speed was the only way to avoid total destruction.  Damage limitation they call it.  I had no option, I couldn’t just sit there, impartial, unwilling.  I breathed in, preparing to move.  My hand shook and the liquid still rose and seeped in.  It was too late.  Whatever I did now would have consequences. The silence of the room waited with me in anticipation.

 

With a hot splash the biscuit, my last Digestive, fell into my tea.

Death by Touch Screen

I was walking home from work.  I guess I could have seen it coming, maybe should have.  Now it’s a tad late.  Happens.

The dog owner was dawdling along, retractable dog lead in one hand and mobile phone in the other, a million miles away.  Facebook?  Twitter?  It’s all the same, he was distracted.  The dog, a Jack Russell, was happy though; 5 yards away peeing up a conifer.  The owner looked up, frowned and reined it in.

The suited owner of the Range Rover was also a million miles away; steering wheel in one hand and mobile phone in the other.  Bloomberg?  BBC news?  It’s all the same, he was distracted.

The grey tabby was sitting on the wall across the road, watching the dog, unconcerned and not distracted.

The dog saw the cat, looked at its owner engrossed in his telephone and made a run for it.  The cat did likewise.  The dog got most of the way when the owner looked up and tried to put the brake on the lead.  The car driver looked up, saw the dog run in front of the car, braked, swerved and mounted the kerb.  The dog ran between the wheels.

The owner didn’t.

Flash Fiction Friday 108: A Shrinking World by Christopher Farley

Thanks once again to Morgen Bailey.
Still can’t get the hang of this reblogging malarkey though…

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The greens and greys reflect on the surface of the lake. It’s almost 11pm and it’s still hot and humid. There may be another storm tonight.  More water.  At least the clouds will block out the sun, which won’t set, not this far north.  It’s like having a yellow moon in the night sky. Or what should be night.

You see, Greenland really is a green land now.  The glaciers turned into water quite a while ago.   This high up on the plateau we’re safe from the rising waters, for now.  Ice at the North Pole?  That’s a memory for some of us, for others, the kids, it’s just a myth, like dragons and hoards of gold.

Oh, the push on the boundaries of science.  Fools! In their search to prove or disprove something called Higgs Boson with their atom particle collider something went wrong, horribly.  They shrunk the planet.  Continents started sliding under or over each other and the world, as the old communications advert used to say, just got smaller.  All that water had to go somewhere and so it went up.

The world became estranged mountain communities; the Rockies, Andes, Himalayas.  I even heard there’s a small Alpine community but no one has ever returned to confirm this.  They want to and they try.  They leave in old, rusty ships from time-to-time.  People still insist on leaving, buoyed by hope but not by water.  The oceans are far too dangerous now.  The Earth has become one continuous stretch of water so when a storm hits there’s no longer any landmass to break up the huge waves that just continue to build and the wind continues to blow.  I’ve heard even the most massive ships wouldn’t have a chance out there.  My chance?  I’ll take it on the land under my feet, what remains of it, and hope.

At one time, the world worried about nuclear war and an atomic winter. Now the Earth’s crust is edging nearer to its core and it keeps getting hotter; they created an atomic-particle summer.

And the waters keep on rising.

 

Morgen Bailey

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and eighth piece in this series. This week’s is a 349-worder by Christopher Farley. This story will be podcasted in episode 34 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 1st December.

A Shrinking World

The greens and greys reflect on the surface of the lake. It’s almost 11pm and it’s still hot and humid. There may be another storm tonight.  More water.  At least the clouds will block out the sun, which won’t set, not this far north.  It’s like having a yellow moon in the night sky. Or what should be night.

You see, Greenland really is a green land now.  The glaciers turned into water quite a while ago.   This high up on the plateau we’re safe from the rising waters, for now.  Ice at the North Pole?  That’s a memory for some of us, for…

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Steps

I walk alone

I walk in company

I walk directionless

I walk with purpose

I walk in the sun,

and in the shade.

Every step nearer to my destination

Every step nearer to that final one I’ll take

So I shall walk

While I can

And be grateful.

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Jack and the Beanstalk – Modern day London remix

I’ve not blogged for a while, a holiday (finally), a short trip back to the UK (again finally) and work got in the way, as well as some evening studies just to completely muddle my brain.  I have also been working on a short story which has now got out of hand and is slowly heading towards (at least) novelette territory.

However, last week back in the UK I came across a book of fairy tales in the second-hand bookshop.  I flicked through and came back home with an idea, which, after my Little Red Riding Hood of last year, I just had to get it down.

Take it away Jack…

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Once upon a time, in fact not that long ago, in a small flat overlooking Clapham Junction there lived ateenager called Jack and his single mother, Tracy.  They were poor.  Tracy was on benefit and had a bit of a problem with the vodka so Jack, ever resourceful, had to go out and steal so they could eat.

One day, while out thieving a couple of BLTs from M&S, Jack was caught by the security guard, taken to the office and held while the police came, and eventually they did.  Jack was also linked to a spate of other thefts but they couldn’t prove anything but he still finished the day with the promise of an ASBO over his head.

He was eventually let out but was in tears, as he’d promised his mum he would bring home some supper.  “Nothing for it,” sobbed the young lad, “I’m gonna have to go up Kings Cross and sell a piece of me so we can eat.”

One of the two coppers, big and burly with a sergeant-major moustache and a funny walk, was following him out of the station and overheard his lament.  He tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hello again son,” said the copper.

“Alright sir?” answered Jack.

“Where are you going?” asked the copper.

“I am going to Kings Cross to earn some dough sir.”

“It’s lucky I met you son,” said the copper. “You may save yourself the trouble of going so far, and save you the expense, though I’d bet you would have jumped the train barrier anyway.”

With this, he put his hand in his pocket, and pulled out five curious-looking beans.

“What do you call these, beans?  Ain’t seen nothing like them before,” said Jack.

Yes,” said the copper, “beans, but they’re the most wonderful beans ever known.  If you plant them overnight, by the next morning they’ll grow up and reach the sky. But to save you the trouble of going all the way to Kings Cross, I don’t mind exchanging them for a piece of you,” he said, fiddling his truncheon.

“Done!” cried Jack, who was so delighted with the bargain that after the deed was done he minced all the way home to tell his mother how lucky he had been.

But oh! How disappointed his poor single mother was.

“Off to bed with you, and no PlayStation!” she cried; and she was so angry that she threw the beans out of the window and they landed on the embankment next to the railway line.  Poor Jack went to bed without any supper (not that there was any, apart from the lemon in his mother’s vodka) or PlayStation, and cried himself to sleep.

When he woke up the next morning, the room was almost dark, which even for an English autumn was rare if not impossible at 10.30.  Jack jumped out of bed and ran to the window to see what the matter was.  The sun was shining brightly outside, which was strange for Clapham but from the ground right up beside his window there grew a great beanstalk, which stretched up and up as far as he could see, into the sky.

“I’ll just see where it leads to,” thought Jack, and with that he put on his stolen Reeboks, gangster-boy jeans with the arse down to his knees and a hoody bought in the last winter sale from the nearby camping shop and stepped out of the window and on to the beanstalk, and he began to climb upwards. He climbed up and up, till after a time his block of flats, an eyesore from the 70s, looked a mere speck below, but at last the stalk ended, and he found himself in a new and beautiful country. He immediately looked around for something to steal but there was nothing going.  A little way off there was a great castle, with a broad road leading straight up to the front gate. “I’ll ‘ave some of that.” He said, to no one in particular.  But then a beautiful maiden appeared from nowhere.

“Bleedin’ ‘ell,” he said, “I wish I could do that, I’d ‘ave a few things away I’ll tell ya, luv.”

The maiden winced at the lad’s massacre of the English language.  Staring at his jeans, wondering if in fact Jack was incontinent; after all, why else would they hang so low.  Then she saw his hoody from Millets, felt pity and decided to tell him.

“Hello Jack.”

Jack, not the quickest on the uptake, wondered how she knew his name and then presumed she’d got news of his earlier arrest, soon found out she knew a great deal about him.  She told him how, when he was quite a little baby, his father, a semi-successful drug-dealer, had been slain for trying to rip off the giant who imported directly from Columbia and lived in yonder castle, and how Jack’s mother, in order to save Jack and for a few cases of Smirnoff, had been obliged to promise never to tell the secret.

“All that the giant has is yours,” she said, and then disappeared quite as suddenly as she came.

“She must be a fairy, or there were still some ‘shrooms left over in that tea-pot from Mum’s girly night in,” thought Jack.

As he drew near to the castle, he saw the giant’s wife standing at the door.

“If you please, missus,” said he, “you wouldn’t ‘ave a bite to eat would ya?  I ain’t had nothing to eat since yesterday.”

Now, the giant’s wife, although very big and very ugly, had a kind heart, at least before she got on the Tennents Super, so she said: “Very well little man, come in; but you must be quick about it, for if my husband the giant finds you here, he will beat you up, break your bones and all.”

So in Jack went in, and the giant’s wife gave him a good breakfast, but before he had half-finished it there came a terrible knock at the front door, which seemed to shake even the thick walls of the castle.

“Oh shite, that’s my husband!” said the giantess, in a terrible fright; “we must hide you somehow,” and she lifted Jack up and popped him into the empty kettle.

“Oi!” shouted Jack, scared shitless in the dark.

“Shut up a minute you silly little git,” she said, sticking her finger in the kettle spout and cutting off any sound the saggy arsed-trouser boy could make.  No sooner had she done so the giant roared out:

“Fee, fum, fi, fo;
I smell the blood of a young ASBO;
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll bust his teeth and jump on his head!”

Oh shoosh!” said his wife; “you having a laugh love.  You been on the ale already?  It’s the T-bone steaks you smell.” So the giant sat down, and ate 5 kilos of T-bone with a gallon of home-made ale. When he finished he said:  “Woman, bring me my money-bags.” So his wife brought him two full bags of gold, and the giant began to count his money. But he was so sleepy from the meal and ale that his head soon began to nod, and then he began to snore, like the rumbling of thunder. Then Jack, slipping and sliding with his Reeboks in the copper kettle, crept out, and made off with the two bags, and though the giant’s dog, an enormous Pit-bull, barked loudly, he made his way down the beanstalk back to the flat before the giant awoke.

Jack and his mother were now in the money; she hugged him and after the fourth vodka and tonic told him she loved him.  Jack went down Maccy Dee’s and had a couple of Big Macs to celebrate, before buying an ounce of puff from his classmate.  Things were rosy for a few weeks but his mum’s shopping sprees and nights down the pub along with Jack’s computerised home entertainment fixation soon meant they were down to shopping at Lidl in no time at all so it occurred to him one day that he would like to see how matters were going on at the giant’s castle. So while his mother was away, offering favours to the owner of the local off-licence in the hope of something to drink, he climbed up, and up, and up, and up, until he got to the top of the beanstalk again.

The giantess was standing at the door, just as before, but she did not know Jack, who was more finely dressed than on his first visit. Well, that wasn’t hard, compared to the first time.  Maybe she was dazzled by the bling.  “’Ello missus,” said he, “will you give me some breakfast?”

“Run away,” said she, “or my husband the giant will beat you up, broken bones and all. The last boy who came here stole two bags of gold – off with you!”  But the giantess had a kind heart, although she looked eagerly at her watch, waiting for Tennents hour to arrive, and she allowed Jack to come into the kitchen, where she set before him enough breakfast to last him a week. Scarcely had he begun to eat than there was a great rumbling like an earthquake, and the giantess had only time to bundle Jack into the oven when in came the giant.  No sooner was he inside the kitchen when he roared:

“Fee, fum, fi, fo;
I smell the blood of a young ASBO;
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll bust his teeth and jump on his head!”

But his wife told him he was mistaken, and after breakfasting on a dozen deep-fried chickens and a gallon of home-made ale, he called out: “Wife, bring the little brown hen!”  The giantess dutifully went out and brought in a little brown hen, which she placed on the table.

“Lay!” said the giant; and the hen at once laid a golden egg.  His wife breathed a sigh of relief, glad that he wasn’t referring to her for a quick shag.  “Lay!” said the giant a second time; and the hen laid another golden egg. “Lay!” said the giant a third time; and she laid a third golden egg.

“That’ll do for to-day,” said he, and stretched himself out to go to sleep. As soon as he began to snore, Jack crept out of the oven, went on tiptoe to the table and, snatching up the little brown hen made a dash for the door. Then the hen began to cackle, and the giant began to wake up; but before he was quite awake, Jack had escaped from the castle, and, climbing as fast as he could down the beanstalk, got home safe to his scruffy flat.

The little brown hen laid so many golden eggs that Jack and his mother had now more money than ever but the vodka, designer clothes and bling took their toll once more so, one day, afraid of getting caught stealing or even selling himself in train station toilets, Jack crept out of the window again, and climbed up, and up, and up, and up, until he reached the top.

This time he decided he would have none of that ugly, beastly woman on the doorstep malarkey; so he crept round to the back of the castle, and when the giant’s wife went out to the shed, full of Tennents Super, he slipped into the kitchen and hid himself in the oven. In came the giant, roaring louder than ever:

“Fee, fum, fi, fo;
I smell the blood of a young ASBO;
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll bust his teeth and jump on his head!”

But the giantess was quite sure that she had seen no little boys that morning; and after grumbling a great deal, the giant sat down to breakfast. Even then he was not quite satisfied, for every now and again he would mumble:

“Fee, fum, fi, fo;
I smell the blood of a young ASBO.”

and once he even got up and looked in the kettle. But, of course, Jack was in the oven all the time.

When the giant had finished, he called out: “Wife, bring me the golden harp!”  So she brought in the golden harp, and placed it on the table, turned round and knocked her fifth can of Tennents over the rug. “Wife, you are a drunken bint” said the giant, “start sobering up and get the dinner on or something.  I’m bloody starving!”  Seconds later the harp began to sing the most beautiful songs that ever were heard. It sang so sweetly that the giant soon fell fast asleep, flagon of ale in his hand; then Jack crept quietly out of the oven, and going on tiptoe to the table, seized hold of the golden harp. But the harp at once called out: “Master! Master!” and the giant woke up just in time to catch sight of Jack legging it out of the kitchen-door.

With a fearful roar, he seized his oak-tree club, and dashed after Jack, who held the harp tight, and ran faster than he had ever run before.

“Sod the bleedin’ fags, I need to stop smoking” thought Jack, out of breath after the first fifty yards.  The giant, brandishing his club, and taking massive strides, gained on Jack with every step, who would have been caught if the giant had not tripped over a case of Tennents his wife had hidden, half-buried in the ground.  Before he could pick himself up, Jack began to climb down the beanstalk, and by the time the giant arrived at the edge he was nearly half-way to the horrible, dingy flat he called home.

The giant, not only pissed but also very pissed off, began to climb down too; but as soon as Jack saw him coming, he called out: “Oi Mum, bring us the can of petrol we wanted to burn old Mr. Jacobs from number 76 with!” and the single mother, pissed as a fart but thinking about the longevity of her vodka supply, came out with a gallon of unleaded and a box of Swan Vestas.  Jack had no sooner reached the ground than he chucked the petrol all over the base of the beanstalk and lit a match.  WHOOSH! went the beanstalk, along with Jack’s eyebrows and down came the giant with a terrible crash and made a huge hole in the ground, big enough to be buried in, which is precisely what Jack and his mother did after they went through his rather large pockets to see what they could find, which, apart from a snotty hanky that would have made a bedspread, was nothing.  What became of the giantess and the castle nobody knows, but Jack now had enough money to start dealing, taking over from where his father once left off whilst his mother could now drink enough to be able to spend one month in and three months out of the Betty Ford clinic.  It is supposed they lived happy ever after, especially after moving up-market from Clapham Junction to Tooting Bec. 

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