"Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. … To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus." Enid Bagnold
She throws a soirée instead of a party. She calls her suitcase a portmanteau. She says restaurrrrant with the rolled r and the silent t. She allez to the ballet, she’d never go to a show. I suppose she’s got some je ne sais quoi, but what do I know? What I know is, she can’t even speak French.
I tried so hard to write a response involving a really clever portmanteau word this week. I hoped I could coin my own, or failing that, that I could cleverly write a story using as many existing ones as I could. I spent a lot of time thinking, and zero time writing, and finally accepted the sweet relief of giving up and going in another direction after all! I’m going to call it a joyfeat (you see? This is why I shouldn’t coin a portmanteau).
If you look closely, however, you’ll notice a portmanteau word in there after all – albeit only in the title!
Thanks to Rochelle for bringing us all together each week, and to Liz Young for today’s prompt.
Step Away from the Light
I blink, and the lights swim with the cruel brightness of a thousand memories. The Christmas lights hung with loving care. “Oh, for goodness sake, what a mess.” The romantic lamps along the canal in Amsterdam. “People will think you’re a prostitute in that miniskirt.” The flickering bulbs in the restaurant on my birthday. “Haven’t you noticed how no-one finds you funny?” Beside his sparkling fluorescence my candle burnt dim.
I blink, and see only artificial lights reflecting from empty glass.
Now I walk in the dark, and I am not afraid, for my darkness holds the promise of dawn.
Darkness, and light
A somewhat dark (geddit?) on the prompt this week, probably because I am fighting off a rotten cold so I was never going to be in the mood for sparkling humour.
I followed a somewhat random train of thought to get here, largely through word association. Lights –> artificial –> reflections –> dazzling –> illusion –> nothing what it seems… and so on, to the question of whether there might be a scenario in which darkness is preferable to light. I’m always fascinated by how people arrive at their responses to the prompt, so I thought I’d share a bit of my journey this week!
“Wasting his time in that shed all day,” sniffed Dad.
Mum smiled. “At least he’s not always on his phone. Remember those lovely stones he polished, sea glass or something. I don’t know how he made them glow like that.”
Danny grinned as he retreated to the shed. So she liked those stones? Maybe he’d get her some more.
He bolted the door, covered the windows, then carefully moved the ramshackle pile of junk that hid the strange hieroglyph etched into the wall.
As he touched it the shed filled with unearthly light.
The portal was open.
Thanks to Sammi Cox for the word prompt, as always! Only a snapshot this week, the start of a longer story than I could manage in 97 words, but a good exercise in trying to set up an intriguing scenario, and one I might return to at some future point!
I was properly on the struggle bus with today’s prompt, until I started to think about the eagle in the picture and chose him as the centrepiece of my story. And then I ended up with two closely related ideas, and wrote them both down, and I’m dashed if I’m going to put the effort into two takes and not insist that you read them both, so here they are. Both from the perspective of the eagle, but both… well, very different in tone.
I have been Guardian. Sacred. Revered. The sun dancers bowed to my nest, whistled with my bones.
I have been Messenger. The medicine man fanned prayers upwards with my feathers, pleading with me to carry his people’s suffering to their gods.
I have been Victory. A young nation, thrusting with ambition, chose me as its symbol of all-conquering power.
And now? Now, I am a hundred hashtags, the background of a thousand inspirational quotes, snapped into frozen irrelevance on a plastic screen by those who seek self-knowledge but desire only the approval of others.
How did it come to this?
Take 2: Bald eagle?
The poet follows his train of thought out loud, to his own great delight.
‘If only they could speak. What would the bald eagle tell us? What is foretold in that contemptuous gaze? That cold, distant stare? What stories could he tell? Ah, the wonder of the bald eagle!’ And wanders off to capture his profound thoughts and broadcast them to an admiring public.
Meanwhile, had he remained but a second longer to listen in the profound silence of the forest, he would have heard the eagle speak these immortal words:
‘They’re white feathers, you utterly moronic imbecile.’
Click HERE to read other people’s very different responses. You won’t regret it!
A final note
I had an interesting time reading about the place of the bald eagle in the indigenous cultures of North America. It’s fascinating and I was only able to capture a fraction of it in my story!
I’d like to say that I probably come across as a tad judgmental this week. I have nothing against tourism, or nature tourism – in fact, one of the most magical experiences of my life was watching the condors fly in Peru. It was just what random thought came to me when idly wondering what the animal might think of it all!
Ma loves that rocking chair. Pa found it at a yard sale, he liked a bargain. Until he hit 50 and started complaining. “Too old,” he said. “Too big,” and he went off to Macy’s to find a newer model. And he found one, too, nineteen and platinum blonde.
But Ma, well, she’s loyal. She adores that old battered chair. Its curves enfold her. She sits every day on the veranda, singing and rocking her beloved grandchildren.
They all love that chair too.
Another Saturday, another weekend word prompt from Sammi! If 100 words was tricky, 83 would be even more so, right? But actually, this story sprang almost fully formed into my mind as soon as I saw the prompt, and the first draft was 88 words. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, and it’s certainly something of a well-worn narrative, but sometimes, you have to write the story that’s there.
It was exactly as described in the glossy brochure. The fields, a glorious patchwork stretching away to the misty horizon. The azure sky – or was it cerulean? – arching over the elegant Manor, its wings enfolding stunning gardens, its towers providing a fairytale backdrop. The guests joyously laughing. The bride’s mother shedding a tear. Actually, lots of tears. As was the bride, and the groom, purple-faced, appeared to be shouting.
Albert quietly reversed the tractor. He had a feeling he’d be hearing from Mr Fortescue again. On reflection, perhaps he should have picked a different day to do the muck spreading.
Click HERE to see other people’s responses. I learn so much from reading them, and it’s great fun, too!
The story behind the story
It’s a good thing that the stories don’t have to slavishly follow the photo, because I’m well aware that the tractor in the picture isn’t muck-spreading. But what struck me first when I saw the photo was the contrast between the elegance of the setting and the somewhat earthy practicalities of farming – and contrast, as they say, is life. Living in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, I love rural life in all its fullness, smells and all!
Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for organising this flash fiction challenge, as always, and to Penny Gadd for the photo prompt. I took this one fairly literally, because it stirred up some lovely memories of carefree childhood moments that I was trying to capture with my story.
Every spring it was harder to slither under the tangled branches.
What was that splash? Not one of Them, with their interminable lectures on Being Sensible and Not Coming Home With Your Clothes Ruined Every Single Day? No, just the moorhen. All safe.
Home again. Maybe later the others would come. Maybe they’d go on a life-or-death mission behind enemy lines. Maybe they’d maintain a siege against the armies of Them, or dig for gold in ancient tombs. Or maybe they’d just go paddling.
Billy settled into his branch, the one that overhung the water, and watched the moorhen build her nest.
A five-minute poem today, from a prompt by Sammi Cox. I haven’t written a poem for at least 20 years so please be gentle!
Floating on endless moorland waves Eyes closed, I drift unmoored in an ocean of honeyed heather Birds wheel and cry Marshalling my aimless thoughts To navigate to a safe haven A pub garden Beer in hand Anchored once more.
It’s that time again! It took me ages to find a response to the prompt, but once I did I had a lot of fun. Thanks to Rochelle for organising.
Linda interrupted Philip as he was educating the sommelier on the correct way to pour wine.
“Darling, meet Chris. He enjoys cycling too.” She wafted away.
“Ah, a fellow lycra lout! Get out much?”
“Not so much these days.”
“Well, of course,” Philip gestured towards the furiously pedalling hoards on the silent screen, “I’ve done a fair bit of this myself. It’s about building up to it. Start small, time yourself to the shops and back…”
Ten minutes later, he wound up, “So, were you ever in a club? Makes all the difference, y’know.”
I love using adjectives. I’m a terrible tell, not show-er. This 100 word challenge is brilliant for making me stop that. I hope I managed to convey what I wanted about Philip without any of the adjectives I’d usually deploy. I’m just sad that I wasn’t able to give more words to developing Linda’s character. For those of you who might be wondering, I think she knows exactly what she’s doing, introducing Chris to Philip…