Made Up Stuff

Gender

a flash-fiction piece

Felicity and Ben make the perfect couple. When they set up home, Felicity brought the tools. She’d followed her father and took a plumber’s apprenticeship. Over time, working alongside other trades, she’d picked up skills like carpentry, bricklaying, rendering and plastering. She rarely shied away from dirty work; she was strong. She was persuaded to try out for the women’s rugby team, which she enjoyed.

They’d met in the library where Ben worked: some pipes needed replacing. He’d brought in brownies he’d baked for the other librarians and offered her one. She accepted; it was love at first sight.

(99 words)


written for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge, 18 April – “Gender”

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Gender. It can be fixed or fluid. Explore the topic on your own terms and open your mind to possibilities and understanding. Go where the prompt leads!

Advertisements

Perspective

I don’t believe anyone isn’t familiar with the scene in the Irish comedy series, Father Ted. It’s in the episode where the three priests are holidaying in a caravan in a field during inclement weather, so they are stuck indoors. In the brilliant scene, Father Ted is sat across the table from the young dimwit, Father Dougal, and on the table is a toy set of plastic farmyard animals.

The scene opens with Ted picking up two toy cows and he says to Dougal,

Okay, one last time. These…,” showing Dougal the cows, “are small,”

then gesturing to the window, he continues, “but the ones out there…are far away.” Then deliberately more slowly, he hammers it home,

Small. Far away.”

And Dougal’s face says he simply doesn’t get it. And for a long time neither did artists, this illusion of perspective. Even today, artists make mistakes in perspective.


Technical drawing was probably my favourite class in school because a lot of the tricks involved in drawing geometry absolutely fascinated me, and this included the way to do a perspective representation using vanishing points, or VPs, and projection lines. Of course, revealing the working out – these points and lines – isn’t often desirable but I think it looks beautiful, probably because it shows an understanding.

An important benefit of practicing drawing and fine art, and even photography providing it’s not done carelessly and superficially, is the way it encourages the practitioner to see things accurately, and to notice things in relationship with other things.

And it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve got this germ inside your mind, I think it expands into other aspects of life: abstract thought, philosophy, innovation and generally understanding of most things. Everyone ought to try a little perspective representation, once in a while.


inspired by and written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #83 – “Perspective”.

image: from The Book of Perspective by Jan Vredeman de Vries, (1604)

Here’s that scene from Father Ted,

Beyond #writephoto

Everything alive here, now and before, is the favour of the sun; its light and warmth. In the cold of late winter, before the spring, before the earth has warmed and, in its turn, warmed the air which remains chill to our senses, our sun can give its warmth directly: the wonderful experience of feeling its heat on your body as you walk outdoors, or through a sunlit window as you sit.

To think of all the sentient creatures of the world which have sensed this too. From the time of insects energising their gossamer wings for flight, and upon the scales of giant lizards, the dinosaurs, and the feathers and down of early birds, then the mammals and us.

It is believed, with the irreversible stresses we have placed on the Earth, that the next life forms will not be organic but cybernetic, in order to survive the heat and extremes of the environment. What will a cognitive machine make of the sun’s radiant energy, if it analyses it through an electronic sensor chip, with artificial intelligence; or even senses it at all? What meaning will such an experience have for the soulless beyond?


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto challenge – “Beyond”.

Rejuvenating

a flash-fiction piece

The Fountain of Youth in the town of Bellum-La-Gosee was extremely old and had sprung a leak. The fact had first come to the attention of townsfolk when it was noticed how new the paving surrounding the fountain was looking and how the weeds at its base were turning to seeds. Not “going to seed”, exactly, in the parlance of gardeners, say, but quite literally transmogrifying themselves into the seed from which they came. It was decided something ought to be done least the whole town was rendered rejuvenated at a considerable loss to the historical tourist trade.

The Mayor proclaimed an open tender for the works and set about interviewing tradespersons, but all that bid for the contract had to be turned away, being considered not old enough and at risk of becoming too young over the course of the repairs and leading the Mayor into accusations of committing the crime of exploiting child labour.

Eventually, they found a plumber so old, and with tools so badly worn, bent and broken, that they decided it was worth a chance that he could fix it whilst remaining an adult and before his equipment would turn back into the raw materials of the earth.

And thus the fountain was restored and the plumber went back to his own town a very wealthy young man. Yet no one thought to ask, how was it that the fountain sprung a leak in the first place and did not naturally repair itself? There are some things we will never know, not because the answer is elusive but because we don’t think to ask.


written for The Haunted Wordsmith’s Elemental Writing Challenge – “Rejuvenating”

This week’s elemental focus is Water. The prompt word is Rejuvenating.

image by John Wilson via Unsplash.com

The Sign Writer’s Decision | #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

The carpenter had done his job: a sturdy monument to his trade; the fencer had brought it directly to the site and sunk it firmly in the ground; the surveyor, having previously measured out the respective distances, had paid the sign writer a florin to finish the work. And so the painter walked the mile up from the village of Long Standing and stood before the unfinished post with the coin jangling in his pocket, a brush behind one ear and, amongst the few possessions in his knapsack, a can of fresh white paint.

The surveyor had instructed him thus: the post being a mile from the village, two miles to “Great Risingham”, and two and one half to “Little Risingham”. He would be along shortly to oversee the work.

The painter, satisfied to be at the right place, sat resting his back against the post and waited on the surveyor. Over time, not being of those parts, he wondered idly which way the two villages of Great and Little might be set. As he saw things, either way could boast the same. He plucked a stem of tall grass from the side and sucked on its sweet fractured end for inspiration, though nothing came.

Not even any sign of the Surveyor by the time the sun was at its zenith. An hour later, he took a quarter of game pie, an apple and a water bottle from his sack and began his lunch. When he had gnawed the fruit to its core, the Surveyor still hadn’t shown. He threw the core into the hedgerow and sighed. His paint was thickening in the heat; his patience was running thin. He stood to look at the post and, thrusting his hands into his pockets, felt the hardness of the coin within. Taking it out, he played with it in his agile fingers and, wanting to go home, an idea came to him. Little and Great Risinghams? He would toss the coin.

And this he did and just before dusk he had completed the work, packed his sack and was on his way, back towards Long Standing. He would, of course, give half the fee back to the Surveyor, if he met him; it was only right and fair. And any traveller wanting to know the way, and coming upon the sign, would have to do what he had done: toss a coin, or simply choose, being forewarned, for the painter’s coin had chosen “Little Risington”, and this is what he had placed upon both markers, his contract fulfilled for precisely half the bargain.


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Decisions”

Everything I know about black holes and a lot more that I don’t and made up anyway

a writing prompt challenge

When is a hole not a hole? When it is a Black Hole.

It’s a misnomer but what ought it to be called? A Black Attraction. A black hole, hypothetically, is where everything that’s lost in the Universe might end up: A rogue planet; the Death Star; Voyager I; the boy with the face on the milk carton; Lord Lucan; last Tuesday; and your car keys, but don’t go thinking that’s the last place to look for your lost car keys because black holes are so literally massive, not only will your insignificant keys remain lost, even if you luckily found them, you would find it impossible to return to where you left your car. You would, in essence, be lost too.

The Black Nowhere? They say that even light cannot escape a black hole but what do they say about time? Time will not escape a black hole. You can lose your watch in a black hole and what would it matter?

The Black Nowhen? I have no idea whether these things move through space or whether they’re so big they stay put, not at all influenced by anything around them. What if two black holes came close to each other, would they battle it out? Maybe all the lost stuff in the lesser would get sucked out by the greater. Freedom! Maybe not. I wouldn’t want to risk it.

(231 words)


written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge prompt #82 – “Black Holes”

image: black hole at the centre of galaxy, “M87”, 55 million light years from Earth, taken from data amassed by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) – not a telescope exactly but an array of many radio telescopes covering the whole Earth.

Private Detective

a flash-fiction piece

“Three guineas per day, and any expenses.”

“And what would constitute ‘expenses’?”

“A fare for a hansom cab, in pursuit; information bought; …possibly a bribe.”

“Illicit?”

“Not necessarily, though probably. It’s also likely we’d need an eye-witness statement…”

“And that would need to be bought?”

“Yes, but only after it’s submitted to the magistrate or judge. I would require some payment in advance; shall we say… for three days? Nine guineas?”

Removing a glove, Lady Ergmount reached into her bag and brought out a silk purse from which she extracted five five-pound notes.

“We ought not to risk any… slip-ups,” she said.

She handed them to the detective, furtively, even though they were the only two in the room, and as if to impress clearly that the exchange was normally beneath her. The detective, having no such inhibitions, inspected each note separately before collecting them up again and folding them into her own purse.

“Let me assure you, Lady Ergmount, I execute my service with the utmost professional diligence. There will not be any mistakes, indiscretions or errors,” the detective said, “You have the photograph I requested?”

Lady Ergmount had brought a gilt-framed daguerreotype she kept in her dressing room drawer. It showed a well-groomed man dressed in military uniform, with a waxed moustache and Van Dyke beard. He looked between thirty and forty years of age. The detective studied it for the briefest moment then slipped it into her outer coat pocket. She then took up her parasol, and checked the secureness of her hat.

“Allow me a minute to descend the stairs before you follow on, Lady Ergmount, if you will. We cannot be too sure if you were followed. I will contact you in code, by telegram, within three days. We shall meet here again, I think. Good day to you, Lady Ergmount.”

As she descended the stairs to the library’s main hall, the detective smiled broadly to herself. In one coat pocket she had a picture of the man, and in the other she had a picture of Lady Ergmount herself, collected earlier that morning from the gentleman in a tea room in Chapel Street, along with a further three guineas. Life was looking up, at last.

(370 words)


written for The Haunted Wordsmith’s photo prompt and genre writing challenge April 11 – “Private Detective”.

image provided by The Haunted Wordsmith (click to enlarge)

The Stories Stones Tell

When out walking the countryside and coming through a village, I like to visit both the pub and the church, if there are ones. Sadly, public houses are closing down and being converted into private houses leaving a village “dry”, but there’s always a church.

Outside of Sundays, I find the church is usually deserted. Inside, there is something serene and timeless about the experience of having a church to myself. I’m not a believer so whatever it is I feel must be beyond belief. Of course, I’m open to an idea that it may be the legacy of some cultural meme.


I remembered I had this photo, taken on my mobile on a walk last Summer to the village of Withington. As you can see, it’s the gravestone of Richard Gegg who lived for 79 years and died in 1908. It doesn’t say when he was born but as he died fairly early in the year, let’s assume it was before his birthday that year when he should have seen his 80th year. Therefore, he was likely born in 1828.

In the year master Richard came into view, King George IV was on the throne, the Duke of Wellington – of Waterloo and rubber gardening boot fame – became the UK’s Prime Minister, the World’s first science zoo opened in London, Catholics were finally permitted in law to hold public office, and two Williams, Burke and Hare, were doing steady business illicitly providing the physician, Robert Knox, with human bodies for his anatomy lectures. But, of course, towards the end of the year, they’d both be tried and hung for multiple murders.

However, what took my interest was the story within the stone’s inscription. Not only did our Richard survive two wives but they both were named Elizabeth and they both died on a 9th December, just eight years apart. I’d be curious to know what he thought about that, whether he believed there was something significant in the name and the date. They were also nearly the same age, within twelve months. They might have been acquainted for all I know. Maybe the second one had her eye on Richard whilst he was married. You can make your own story up if you wish.

Though the stone looks pristine, the grassy plot is indiscrete and I can only assume it’s a grave marker where the three remains are buried. The inscription doesn’t give any other clues to who these people were.

I did a little googling and I think I found our man. At age 22, a man with the same name, but born 1829 (okay, I was wrong), is recorded in Withington as a journeyman. This is a worker who plies his trade or skill from place to place. Ten years later, in a subsequent census, he is recorded as a grocer and ten years on, a grocer and baker, and again, ten years after this, a grocer and baker.

There is also a record for an Elizabeth Gegg, born 1828, recorded as a baker and grocer’s wife. As his second wife died between censuses, there’s no indication of a woman with an occupation matching the surname yet there is a certified death of an Elizabeth Gegg for both years 1886 and 1894.

I could try further and pay for the genealogy service and get full documents from the national census archive but I won’t: the reality might be mundane or unsatisfactory. I’m letting this go in favour of a little fictional imagining.

If you wish to write your own short story, please do. It would be fun to read.

click on either image to enlarge.

We Grow Accustomed To The Darkness

a writing prompt challenge

In the school where I go to learn yoga, the men’s changing room is just off the entrance hall. It’s a small room, not much more than six feet by eight. There is a low bench along the wall on which to put your clothes and the arrangement of its sparse furniture has been the same for more than fifteen years.

I arrive early: to bag a good spot and get into the right frame of mind for the session. I’m usually the first in and, entering the changing room, there is enough light spilling in from the bright hall to see by so I won’t turn on the light. How much do you need to see to remove one’s trousers and top, fold them and place them on the bench which has always been there? An act most could do with their eyes closed, and besides, it all takes no more than ten seconds.

If another student comes in while I’m changing, usually his hand goes automatically to the light switch; he may give me an odd look and may question me about getting changed in the dark. But the question surely is; why do something habitually, without any thought?


When I was a boy scout, one of my favourite exercises was the night hike. There were six patrols in our group, about five to six boys in each, and we’d be driven in a minibus and several volunteers’ cars to six different places in the countryside. Having been deposited in the strange gloom, the patrol leader was handed a map and compass, shown where we were on the map and a destination to arrive at before dawn.

I don’t remember it ever being frightening. When you’re the youngest, you look up to the older members, even though the oldest is only sixteen, four years older than yourself. When you are the oldest, you are their patrol leader. If you’re the mindful sort, you feel the responsibility for the others, especially the new boy, but you’ve been there before, and several times. Not the same place, exactly, nor the same destination sought but the nighttime, in very unfamiliar surroundings, can appear as a homogeneity: the habit we form of seeing it instinctively. It’s not a place you want to give in to.

When the grownups leave, it’s better we face our situation squarely and piece together the clues that eventually reveal themselves, as we grow accustomed to the darkness.


written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge writing prompt #81 – “as we grow accustomed to the darkness”

Reena’s prompt this week is also provided by the poem, “We Grow Accustomed To The Dark” by Emily Dickinson, in this animation by Hannah Jacobs

image: “Full moon over Greece” by Jason Blackeye via Unsplash.com

Threshold #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

“It’s a bit big.”

“What is, woman?”, said Mr. Neanderthal regarding Mrs. Neanderthal with despair.

“The door”, she replied. Mr. Neanderthal turned to take in the enormity of the threshold to the world outside as if for the first time. It was a bit big, he thought.

“Give over, missus!”, he said at length, “This is what you’ve said you’ve always wanted.”

He turned imploringly towards the woman, gesturing with his arms outstretched.

“Look at all this space; you wanted new open plan living, a nice sea view, cold running water, five minutes walk to the gathering bushes… and now you’ve got it. So stop your whining.”

“Neighbourhood’s not all that though, is it?”

The wife’s mother had an annoying habit of saying the wrong thing at the worst times. She sat in a dark corner of the cave, sucking on a tusk. He felt the blood rise to his cheeks at the same time his heart seemed to fall into his aurochs-skin boots. It was something he might have considered ironic had he any notion of human physiology, but he hadn’t. He had only raw gut instinct and a few things his father taught him about flints and never to approach any wild animal downwind.

“What are you saying, mother?”, he said after a lengthy sigh.

She took the tusk from her mouth and spat something onto the floor before jabbing the tusk’s sharp end vaguely towards the scene outside.

“Place is full of them bloody Homo Sapiens, isn’t it? Coming over here, diluting the gene pool…”, she began. He’d heard it all before and he wasn’t having any more.

“Look, mum, there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re good people. I’ve hunted with them and they’re okay, very cooperative, very generous too, with their skills, give you their last…”

“Bah!”, the woman interrupted, “Well, the Great Elder has called us to have a vote and we say an end to it. We want tighter control on who comes in, and we don’t want them telling us what to do: the size and shape of the berries we should be picking and how many fish…”

“Don’t talk daft, woman!” Mr. Neanderthal’s dander was up. “You’ve been reading the wrong cave paintings again. You don’t want to believe what Boris drew on the side of the cliff – Many More Mammoths = Neanderthal Health Service. What is a Neanderthal Health Service anyway? Look, it’s our kids future; you’ll be dead soon, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Charming, I’m sure”, the old woman said quietly. He regretted mentioning the D word to her now. After a while, she spoke more,

“So you reckon our kids will have a future then?”, she said.

If he was honest, he’d say he wasn’t sure. The world seemed to be forever shrinking and the last ice age seemed generations ago. He’d like to trust there’d be Neanderthals while there were still flints to knap and elephants roaming the south downs, but who knows really?

“How about I fetch some skins and you and mum can make some curtains?”, he said, “Might give us a little privacy, at night, when we light a fire.”

He got no answer. The older woman was breaking the tusk open with a lump of granite while Mrs. Neanderthal busied herself with some ironing. He shrugged his shoulders and turning to the mouth of the cave, walked out into the evening light.

(567 words)


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Threshold”.

apologies to one of my favourite authors, William Golding, who wrote “The Inheritors”. This is more a reflection on Brexit, its probable causes and the aftermath, the sorriest mess I hope ever to see in this country of mine.