Total Pageviews

Friday, 27 August 2010

'The Letter' #fridayflash

Something quite different to my usual contributions, an ultra-short piece of writing inspired by a Leeds Savages ( writers group task.

As she recoiled at the acrid taste of the glue, she reflected on how the letter, in its physical form, was a sadly dying breed. A generation of young lovers were now exchanging ‘billet doux’ instantly through the air, the romance historically borne of distance and separation lost now that constant, instant communication was available to all. In this digital age poetic expression had been replaced with acronyms unintelligible to anyone over the age of 30, and the missive was sealed not with a kiss but with a smiley emoticon.

She folded over the flap and ran her finger along it firmly. The words within this envelope were not for sharing on a blog or tweeting to the world. They were not words to be read on a screen in impersonal Times new roman, size 12 print, but thoughts brought to life on paper, their meaning conveyed not just through the juxtaposition of characters and spaces but through the smudged imperfection of a manuscript speckled with tears.

She carefully placed the envelope in the middle of the open hearth. For a few seconds it sat there untouched, flames dancing around it but making no mark. Then the crackling tongues of fire wrapped themselves around the corner of the envelope, consuming the paper with ravenous hunger. She watched as the name that she had lovingly inscribed disappeared, sucked up the chimney with the other fragments, a memory to be carried on the wind.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Holy Cow! - #fridayflash

A whimsical story written for a Leeds Savages writers group task on the rather challenging theme of 'Heavenly Cows'. Hope you enjoy it!


Ever since he’d got his pensioners bus pass Frank had continued to bore and distress his family in equal measure with constant talk of his own mortality. After all their protestations that he was as fit as a fiddle and would without a doubt be winding them up for another twenty years yet, he was smugly pleased to have proved them wrong. Frank couldn’t recall what he had been doing when he died, only that everything went dark and he was overwhelmed by a sensation of weightlessness, as if floating away from his body on the gentlest of breezes. It was quite a pleasant experience really, the nearest comparison he could make from his mortal experience being the bliss he’d felt whilst having a full body massage performed at the skilful hands of a young woman on holiday in Turkey back in 2003, but on this occasion without the inappropriate erotic thoughts.

Although he may have once or twice in his seventy years of existence uttered the expression ‘Holy Cow’, Frank had never for a minute considered there to be anything divine about the bovine kind. Cows were useful, granted, in terms of their capacity to provide the creamy gold top in which he liked to bathe his rice crispies of a morning and the occasional Big Mac, but he had never had any interest in the hooved milk-bars beyond consuming their by-products. It came as a surprise, therefore, when he found himself staring straight into the big expressionless eyes of a Friesian, its black and white head surrounded by a halo of light In the back of his mind he seemed to recall hearing that certain religions believed cows to be sacred, but he certainly didn’t remember the sermons he’d experienced during forty years of weekly attendance at St David’s (or at least the ten percent which he’d managed to stay awake through) ever touching on the subject of being welcomed into the afterlife by a farm animal.

“Moo-oooo-oooooooo-ooooooooo” said the cow dolefully. “Mooo-ooooo-ooooo-ooooooooooooo.”

“Yes, I get it, you’re a cow;” replied Frank. “Mooooooooooo to you too. So what’s going on? Don’t tell me that those fellows wearing dresses and banging on tambourines outside Sainsburys were right all along with that reincarnation mumbo-jumbo and I’m now a mouse or something. I really have wasted a lot of Sundays if that’s the case.”

“Moooooooooooooooooooooo.” The cow broke its eye contact with Frank and pointed its damp pink nose down his body.

“Oh, what a relief, all four limbs appear to be present and correct. You got me worried for a minute there! So what happens next, girl? Is St Peter out at lunch or something? I’ve thought there’d be angels playing sweet ‘moo-sic’ on harps or something – ‘moo’sic, you get it? No, of course you don’t, I’m being ‘udderly’ stupid trying to crack jokes to a cow. I’m going to milk this for all its worth though, haha!”

With another languid moo the cow stepped back and Frank was bathed in the blinding light which had previously been casting an ethereal glow around the heifer.

“Oh lord, I’m sorry if it looks like I’ve not been taking the situation seriously, it’s just that I’ve always brought out the puns when I get nervous. Take me now, lord, I’m ready;” Frank prayed out loud, closing his eyes. “Ready for what I’m not quite sure, as this really isn’t what I was expecting, but I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” The last thing Frank felt was a big wet tongue licking his face, and then darkness swallowed him once more.

“Mum, mum, I think he’s waking up!”

Frank slowly prised open a lead heavy eyelid to see his wife, daughter and grandson all stood looking over him like some kind of museum exhibit.

“What the? What the?” Frank stuttered, the forming of each single syllable requiring an inordinate level of effort.

“Hush, Dad, you need to rest;” his daughter said. “You’ve given us all a scare, but you’re going to be ok.”

“The cow? Where’s the cow?”

“He remembers the cow, Mum!” his grandson said excitedly. “I thought the doctor said he probably wouldn’t remember anything?”

“Keep your voice down darling, I’m sure Grandad doesn’t want to hear you shouting.”

Unable to move his head having been wedged between a barricade of pillows on either side, Frank rolled his eyes from left to right, taking in a variety of tubes and beeping machines which all appeared to be attached to his body.

“I’m in hospital;” he stated, looking to his wife who nodded in confirmation. “I’m not dead at all. But what about the angel cow? I was dead, I’m sure of it.”

“I’m not sure if it was of the heavenly variety, but it’s probably thanks to that cow that you’re alive. You were walking through the field berry picking when you collapsed in some kind of fit – the doctors think you probably ate something poisonous whilst you were foraging, never could wait until you got home, could you? The cow kept nudging you which they reckon may have stopped you falling into a coma or even worse; and apparently it was making such a racket that it caught the attention of some walkers who went over to the animal thinking it was in some kind of distress only to find you prostrate on the grass with berries smeared all round your face.”

“I’m so sorry for giving you a scare;” Frank replied. “I may have joked with you before that I was on my last legs but I reckon that there’s actually plenty of life in this dog yet, and I want to spend as many years as God is willing to give me with all of you. Can you all forgive me for being a foolish old man?”

“Nothing to apologise for, Dad, you weren’t to know, although from now on you’re getting all of your fruit from the grocers!” his daughter replied. “So is it safe to say we’re going to see a more serious side to you after your near-death experience?”

Frank paused for several seconds with an expressionless face before bursting into a massive grin.

“You’d butter believe it!”

Saturday, 7 August 2010

An opening chapter....

Been a little while since I posted anything on here but aim to change that from now on!

This is an opening chapter (untitled as of yet) that I wrote for a recent Leeds Savages writers group meet. Not sure whether to continue with it or not, but see it as being packed with twists and turns as the protagonist uncovers dramatic family secrets....


It was a damp, unremarkable Friday night and Kate was toasting the end of yet another unremarkable working week with a white wine spritzer in local watering hole The Black Bull. The prim cardigan that had been buttoned up to the neck all day had been shrugged off to reveal a slinky salmon pink camisole which nicely showed off the remnants of the tan she had recently acquired on holiday with her husband. Although marriage meant she was a firmly one guy girl these days, it was nonetheless satisfying to know that the wedding ring hadn’t rendered her completely invisible to the opposite sex, even if the only admiring glances she received came from a cluster of elderly locals who looked like they had been propping up the bar since long before she was born. Mike had never really minded her flirty ways; if anything he was worse, a real charmer once he had a few beers inside of him.

“Excuse me miss, are you Kate Scott?”

Kate looked up from her drink to face a tall, broad shouldered man with an unkempt beard; a bit scruffy looking for her tastes but probably nothing that couldn’t be sorted with a good haircut and shave. Kate’s initial thought was that her plunging neckline had finally worked its magic and caught the attention of someone under forty, but then it suddenly dawned on her that he had addressed her by name, strange given that she was sure that she’d never met him in her life.

“Do I know you?”

“I’m afraid not, but I’ve been asked to give you this package.” He placed a brown envelope on the table next to Kate’s drink. “I was just stopped outside by a woman who said that she needed to get this to you. She wouldn’t give me her name but she was probably eighteen, twenty at the most, short blonde hair, nice fitted red coat, good figure.”

“Whatever;” Kate replied, more interested in finding out the contents of the envelope than the method of its delivery. “So what is it?”

“Its a disc, a DVD I guess? She said to tell you to make sure that you’re sitting down when you look at it as it will change your life completely. She looked really on edge, as if she was desperate to get away as quickly as she could. Seemed a bit mental to me.”

“What the???” Kate snatched the envelope off the table and pulled out the contents; a clear plastic case containing an unlabelled silver disc. “I need to go find her. I don’t get it, who is she, what’s this big life changing message?”

Kate leapt to her feet and grabbed her cardigan, not bothering to bid farewell to the colleagues who were engrossed in their own conversations about the latest office gossip and oblivious to the drama unfolding beside them.

“I wouldn’t bother if I were you;” replied the bearded stranger. “As soon as she’d given it to me she leapt in her car and drove off. A silver hatchback it was, not sure what make. Anyway Kate Scott, do you fancy a drink?”

Without replying Kate pushed past him and ran out onto the street. November rain was hammering down and there was no sign of anyone, let alone the girl in the red coat. She glanced back through the door of the pub and could see that the man who had handed me the envelope was now imposing his questionable charms on her line manager. Holding the envelope above her head she ran around the corner to the taxi rank where she was fortunately able to leap straight into the dry comfort of a cab.

As the taxi wound through the town centre the words of the man in the pub spun around Kate’s head – ‘Make sure you’re sitting down when you look at it, it will change your life completely’. Thinking about this statement made her feel very nervous indeed; who was this woman to turn up and rock her previously comfortable world? Her thoughts quickly turned to Mike, Mike who worked in a trendy advertising agency surrounded by young, attractive girls, the kind of pert figured girls who could effortlessly rock an edgy blonde haircut and red coat, girls a world away from a thirty something wife kidding herself that she’s still got it just because she can wear a low cut top in public. She’d met some of the women that Mike worked with and imagined that they would grab male attention even if they were trussed up in a hessian sack. What if the red coat girl had been spurned by Mike and was now determined to make his life a misery somehow? Or maybe, even worse, he hadn’t spurned her at all and the disc contained evidence of an affair? Kate imagined sliding the disc into her laptop and being greeted with images of Mike and the mysterious woman in compromising positions. He’d cheated on her before, almost a decade ago, but at the time they had only been going out for a few months and she’d managed to bring herself to forgive him when he confessed the truth in a sobbing declaration that the guilt had been tearing him apart, that he’d never loved a woman before but had come to realise that she was the one he wanted to spend his life with – oh, and by the way would she marry him? She’d believed him at the time but now, in the face of the unknown, wondered whether she’d been right to put my trust in him given his chequered history. Amazing how thoughts of gowns and veils and fairy tales could warp the most rational of minds...

“Here you go love, that’ll be nine pounds twenty.”

Out of the window of the taxi Kate could see the light on in the living room; Mike was home and probably curled on the sofa next to the dog with a bottle of wine chilling in anticipation of her arrival. She looked down at the envelope on the seat beside her, then up again at the house, before slipping the envelope onto the floor of the taxi. As she stepped out of the cab she made sure that she speared the envelope with the heel of her stiletto, breathing a deep sigh of relief as she felt the satisfying crack of the CD. She didn’t want her life to be changed at all; she was perfectly happy with things as they were, thank you very much.