photo prompt

Honour #writephoto

A rose plucked and laid
red across a pallid stone
for love enduring,
memories of adonis’ wounds
mingled with a turmoiled earth
which, amongst the remains,
bore blossoms of a different kind
though red, not of a rose,
though dead, not for love
but honour.


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo Photo Prompt Challenge – “Honour”

Up against Quintus Horatius Flaccus and Wilfred Owen, I ought not to try for a poem this time but I simply didn’t have a story.

I then wondered, in my ignorance, whether poetry was a higher form of literature and should therefore be truthful. From the heart, so to speak. I don’t think I believe in the sentiment of “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

Amour sans frontières.

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#writephoto: Before The Flood

Removing themselves from the tent, the three of them sat cross-legged on the sheet of tarpaulin, and looked skywards.

“Red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning”, said Japheth.

“Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight”, added Shem.

“Baked potatoes on lamb, shepherds’ pie!”, said Ham.

Shem plucked a sod of grass and threw it at Ham. It struck the top of his head and bounced away; they all laughed at that.

Outside of the city, the sky appeared vast and overwhelming, its shocking redness increasing its imposingness; the broken plane of cloud resembled a sheet of bloody tripe.

“I imagine it’s like being inside the belly of a dragon”, said Japheth.

“Like a belly of fire?”, asked Shem.

“Do you think the dragon’s fire starts in its belly?”, said Ham, “wouldn’t it more likely start from its lungs?”

“Don’t be daft. If we were inside its lungs, it’d have a coughing fit. It’d cough us to the other side of this field!”, cried Shem.

“It’s commonly held that the dragon makes fire from its pyrotid glands, situated at the back of its throat”, said Japheth.

“Are they very big, these pyro whatsit glands?”, asked Ham.

Japheth shrugged in ignorance and said, “Dunno. Why?”

“Well, they’d have to be to get us, this tarp’, the tent, the field and all these trees inside…”

Shem plucked up another sod to throw at Ham and caught him squarely on the side of his face. Pieces of grit flew into his ear. Just then, the dragon coughed and expelled all three across the field and over the trees in a plume of flame. They screamed but Ham screamed the loudest.

He woke in the dim half-light of new day with Shem barking hotly into his left ear. A rasping, congested voice, something about his turn to light the fire, put the water on, and make breakfast. He’d been dreaming again. Outside it was raining; he could hear it softly pattering on the canvas overhead. It looked like another wet day ahead, like the six before; and how many more?

Removing himself from the tent, he crouched down and lifted a corner of the tarpaulin which covered the fire pit and the wood. The wood seemed dry but the pit was waterlogged. He looked skywards and cursed until the rain burned his eyes and he had to turn again to the ground. It was a good job they weren’t shepherds, he thought, because they sure hadn’t heeded the warning.

(415 words)


Inspired by and written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Renewal”.

image by Sue Vincent.

The Name Of The Cloud That Ate The Sun

In the ages of yore, a sky ogre, becoming jealous of the day, transformed himself into a great cloud and, gliding stealthily through the high air, swallowed the sun whole. As he slowly digested the heavenly orb, the Earth below became dark and dismal until nighttime seemed to reign the hours in perpetuity.

The men of Earth, fearing for their futures, sent an emissary to appease the cloud and plead that he might release the sun, if only for part of the time.

“And what shall I receive in return?”, demanded the cloud.

The emissary thought hard for a while until a notion occurred to him and he said,

“If you allow the sun’s release for part of the day, we will honour your name in a great book made exclusively for this purpose.”

The cloud considered the offer for a moment and then asked, curiously, “What name?”

The question shocked the emissary as he hadn’t an answer to hand, but he wasn’t anything if not quick of mind, and so he explained,

“Is any name enough for one as eminent as yourself, sir? Surely, we would honour you with many names, each befitting your many natures: there shall be high Cirrus, and broad Altostratus, and elegant Cumulus, and bold Cumulonimbus, and…”

“Wait!”, screamed the cloud, “What are you suggesting? Those…names!”

“Do they not please, sir?”, asked the emissary growing nervous. “Are they not honourable enough”

The cloud curled itself around, self-consciously, and grew slightly redder.

“Well,”, it said, “I was thinking…. of some names…. a bit like Sith, or Neff, or Porr. Something like those. Memorable names; simple ones as the sun, the sky, and the moon have!”

The emissary thought hard and fast.

“But, your honour, are you not greater than the sun you’ve consumed? And as for the moon, well… An eminence as yourself, my lord, deserves the greatest of names, the longest of names, and, clearly, the most obtuse of names, to be both scholarly and divine.”

The cloud considered this and, growing increasingly flattered, finally agreed and spat out the sun into a clear portion of blue sky. It then regarded the emissary below,

“Go on then, man, go and write the book!,” he insisted.

And so the great book was bound and the many names inscribed therein and that is why few men remember, or even know, the names of clouds now, whereas even a child knows the sun, the sky and the moon. Yet a deal has been made and is appropriately honoured, and the sun is set free for some of the day, or until the cloud deems it is time enough and devours it some more.

(448 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

photo provided by Sue Vincent.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;” said Shakespeare through Juliette.

I am, it seems, still stuck on the issue of the naming of things. If, I wonder, a rose was called a pig, would it smell as sweet? The subjectiveness of taste, the prejudice of association, the scepticism in the face of a simple truth – who knows? Maybe the pig would become the ideal house pet.

The Ends

“What shall I do with all the end pieces, sir?”

Said the new Apprentice Meat Pasty Pastry Case End Trimmer brandishing his snippers aloft in a rather careless way.

“Are there that many, boy?”

Questioned the Chief Meat Pasty Pastry Chef in reply from the farther end of the conveyor.

“Did thee cut off too thickly? Did thee waste a lot a pastry?”, he added.

The boy assessed the damage and wondered if he’d done wrong.

“Ney, lad, don’t fret. We’ll cover them bits in cheese and ground black pepper and bake ‘em with the rest, then we’ll have a nibble while we wait on turkey to roast. Ma’s bought a bird big as an ostrich this year, and we won’t be eating him before teatime, I reckon.”

Relieved, the boy grinned, put down his snippers and skipped off to the fridge to get the round of cheddar.

(148 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Photo Prompt – Week #197.

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Yarnspinnerr.

Thanks Yarnspinnerr!

Happy Christmas, Everyone.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

The Naming of Things

Imagine the sun rising, an bright, early dawn, in the garden at Eden. Adam rolling to his right side to lean on one elbow, the back of the hand on his other arm coming up to rub the sleepy dust from his eyes, blinking towards the divine yellow light. In a moment, he jumps up.

“Eve, where are my clean fig leaves?”

Eve, already in the midst of making the first brew, calls back,

“In the airing cupboard, dear!”

It’s another big day ahead, another commission of naming things. It’s hopelessly random; up until yesterday, Adam had to confront Eve with a mime for fig leaf. Leaf turned out to be a cinch but fig, for some reason, caused much hilarity which reduced Eve to tears, entirely down to the fruit’s similarity to the parts of Adam which differentiated him from her. And so fig and leaf had to be summarily named.

Today, for a change, he would name some of the things which stayed put: immobile, stationary, inanimate, and inert. Of course, such words as those would be as alien to him as discombobulation would be to a child, but the sense of it is understood. Intellect precedes language. In fact, were it not for Eve, he needn’t bother with the task of naming stuff at all; he knew what he meant without words, and a leaf is a leaf is a leaf.

(234 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

I was also inspired by the following quote,

“Finding the words is another step in learning to see”

This is from an article in Brain Pickings on the book, Gathering Moss, by bryologist, Robin Wall Kimmerer and on how she believes naming confers dignity upon life.

“Bryologist” was a word unknown to me and the significance for me is that as a young child, mosses fascinated me. I used to collect them and study their forms under a small optical microscope I had asked Father Christmas for. All that time and I hadn’t known there was a name for what I could have become had it not been for the distractions of teen culture and girls.

The resemblance of the fruit of the fig to both man and woman body parts is a well established one, I believe.

Santa’s Secret

“Well, Rudolph, my old red-nosed buddy”, said Santa, “I won’t be doing this for much longer.”

“Really?”, said Rudolph.

“Kids today have it all; they’re not fussed about some random fat man coming around once a year.”

Rudolph’s nose began to glow. Santa continued,

“When I first started out, a kid would be thrilled to get an orange or a balloon. I once turned up at one house having forgotten the present. So I just painted a great big lump of coal red and he was over the moon. Kids today? You can’t satisfy them.”

They stood in silence for a bit.

“What about Christmas?”, asked Rudolph.

“What of it?”, replied Santa.

“Well, I mean, the true spirit, apart from the cynical commercialism and all that”, said Rudolph

“Well, it’s a funny thing, Rudolph. It wasn’t mentioned when I applied for this job but I’ll let you into a secret. I’m a Buddhist.”

“How strange”, said Rudolph, becoming that excited, his nose seemed on the verge of meltdown, “me too!”

(171 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Photo Prompt – Week #196.

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Akshata Ram.

Thanks Akshata!

In fact, I’m all for Christmas and have no issue with Santa being Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Sikh, Jain or whatever. I’m not religious but I’m not anti-religious. It’s all a fascinating aspect of being human.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

Alice At The Lake

Alice looked up after a sup from her daisy cup and said, with a frown, “Everything in there looks upside down”.

At this the toad remarked, “Whatever’s good for you, for us it’s the other way around”, and with a hop and a plop he disappeared below.

“Strange fellow”, thought Alice, and the voice in her head agreed, “Strange fellow indeed. Though wouldn’t you like to follow, just to see, the world not as it is but how it could be?”

Alice didn’t like the voice in her head; it was always too clever by half, often just contradictory for the sake of it and, on occasion, not beyond a little sarcasm. She sensed the start of a battle of wills.

“Follow him, in this dress?!”, she cried. And the voice in her head, caught off guards, replied, “Oh well, dear, you know best”.

But then it continued, “Oh! I can’t stay here all day gossiping, I’ve got better things to do”, and was off. Alice knew not where the voice went when it was sulking; suddenly she felt alone and melancholic.

“One needs to break the tension.”

Alice looked around but saw no one. “Pardon?”, she said.

“The tension, one needs to break it.”

“Who are you?”, asked Alice, “and where are you?”

“I am the lake”, it said. “look, down here.” It went on,

“For pity sake, I see your confusion but what you see is just an illusion; it’s as I did mention, all down to the tension, which one may break by casting a stone, then one will see, what lies beneath will be gone.”

“Oh”, thought Alice and picked out a nice stone by the bank but hesitated. Ought she to cast it? The lake noticing her dilemma, said,

“One ought to do as one’s heart wishes. But, please, if one does it, do mind the fishes.”

Alice considered the fishes, and the kind toad, in their upside down world and dropped the stone where she stood. She wiped her hands down her dress, because, in the great scheme of things, wearing a clean dress didn’t really matter. Then, taking one long last look at the lake, she went off to find where the voice in her head was hiding.

(373 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto Prompt – “Beneath”

Yes, it Lewis Carroll’s Alice. I was thinking of calling her something else but a) it was a problem coming up with a name, and b) it would be too obvious who it was really.

I think it became, unconsciously, a bit of a parable of first world politics. If you can see this, all well and good; and if you can’t, just go ahead and cast a stone, I don’t mind.

A Long and Lonely Road

You can wait a good while for a lift on a lonely road like this. He’d spent three hours stamping his feet and blowing into his hands; he couldn’t say how this helped the cold but it seemed instinctive, something learned in the womb. For the first hour, some residual warmth from the heater had sustained him but this had petered away and he had resorted to pacing the highway.

He’d passed a gas station ten miles back. Emptying out the trunk onto the road, he’d found the can he’d kept for such an emergency. He was in the middle of putting everything back when he saw the headlights. Leaving the rest littered on the dirt, he picked up the can and stuck out a hand. The car slowed to a promise but within five yards, it suddenly accelerated and swiftly passed; he watched it disappear into the gloom. He shook his head looking down at the contents of his trunk. It’s not easy getting a ride when you’re a hockey mask and chainsaw salesman.

(174 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Photo Prompt – Week #195.

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Jodi McKinney.

Thanks Jodi!

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

A Perceived Threat

The impertinence!

It was an unlawful violation of sovereign territory, it was a threat to national security, and it could be justification for war!

The object appeared over the horizon, a black, shapeless entity, obviously some highly technical design devised to avoid radar. Yet now it was visible to the eyes of the inhabitants of the mountains surrounding the capital.

Call the Militia!“, came the call. And they came, patriotic volunteers, every one, and each adequately armed as all men are required to be.

When they arrived, the threat had not moved. They took aim and fired. The rattle of Kalashnikovs reverberated around the valleys, but the threat stood firm.

When all their bullets were fired, the commander called for ammunition. Meanwhile, Marko, the freshest recruit, studied the threat more closely. Hesitantly, he moved forwards, his useless rifle still trained on the object. By inches he moved, and then all at once dropped his arms and shrieked.

Haa!”, he cried, turning to his comrades. “It’s just a speck of dust on the photo!

(173 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers – 194th Photo Prompt

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Yinglan.

Thanks Yinglan!

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

#writephoto – Calm

Calm Excites

Calm excites. An accidental paradox.
Emotion springs, gathers in pools, gains ground, and flows:
a vibrant stream; a turbulent brook; a rolling
river, winding down but never petering out,
sustaining through innate strength; on the surface,
barely a ripple noticed, while below, the deep
unspeakable swell of the soul easing.


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #WritePhoto Prompt – “Calm”

For me, there is a sense of peace which is attainable, although it might be just momentarily experienced, but imagining or being given an image of such a place, or time, elicits excitement. Even in a moment of calm, sometimes I catch myself unawares and it’s thrilling to realise, here I am at peace. A paradox of responses.