photo prompt

The Unsung Ballad of Rod Taylor, Actor

a flash-fiction piece

You see some strange looking abodes in my job: hot food courier for Deliveroo. Take no. 73, Jackbottom Lane; its frontage put me in mind of the post-apocalyptic underground shelter inhabited by the cannibalistic Morlocks, in the film, The Time Machine, starring Australian actor, Rod Taylor.

Before landing the role, Taylor won an award in Sydney which included a ticket to London, with a stop over in L.A. He didn’t go to London, deciding Hollywood was a better bet. It was.

The Eloi exhibited no such subversiveness having evolved into a complaisant race, commanded only by the siren’s call, causing them to file, like Pavlov’s dogs, into the Morlocks’ shelter, to be consumed.

That is, until Rod arrives with our 20th century ethics: folks eating other folks? Wrong! But is it right to impose one society’s ethics on another?

I hand no. 73 their Hawaiian pizza. Buon appetito.

(150 words)


written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #32

“Every Wednesday I post a photo (this week it’s that one above.)
You respond with something CREATIVE.

You have plenty of scope and only two criteria:

Your creative offering is indeed yours
Your writing is kept to 150 words or less.”

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A Big Small Act of Kindness #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

She ran an efficient refuge hostel, you couldn’t say less. Two spots to the right, six spots to the left, but strictly No Harlequins! Those were her rules.

“Yes, love, how can we help you? Need a space for the winter?”

The ladybird at the door looked shaken.

“Erm, no, thank you, but I was hoping you might have taken in some children…”

“Children!” she said, horrified, “What children would these be, then?”

She gave a quizzical glance to the tiny red thing hiding behind the larger one before her.

“Who’s this one, then?” she asked, accusingly.

The ladybird looked around, as if she hadn’t been aware of the little thing all along.

“This is my little Ann,” she replied, “she’s all I found, after the fire…”

“Fire?!” the manageress exclaimed with stern suspicion, “What fire would this be, then? We don’t tolerate no firebugs here…”

“No, no, no!” the mother implored. “I was out collecting aphids when I heard the cry; fly away home! But too late, the house was gone, as were the kids, except little Ann who had the sense to crawl beneath a pan…”

“Oh, you poor thing,” interrupted the manageress, because bugs have sensibilities too. She turned to face the twin entrances and bellowed into the masses,

“Oi! Anyone seen this here lady’s children?! Seeking refuge from an house fire, they are!”

There was a scuffle and a tussle, a bit of pushing, and a shove, and a faint cry of “Mum!”, and three two-spots in increasing sizes finally came to the fore, and all five of them then burst into tears. Though not the manageress; she was made of tougher stuff. At least that’s what her reputation had you believe. But under the hard elytra beat a heart of gold.

“You’ll be needing somewhere to stay,” she whispered, “take my place, two stones down the aisle, on the left. I can just as easily put my head down here, if you like,”

She then gestured to the masses behind her, “Keep an eye on this lot.”

And so the Ladybird spent the winter in the manageress’s house, and when Spring arrived, and with the help of her children, she built a brand new house, with fire retardant materials, and with reliable smoke alarms installed everywhere for good measure.


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

With the Sea, One Can Never Be Too Careful

a flash-fiction piece

It would’ve been better not to occur to me, that scene from a movie, which may have been Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, where a sign painter, like me, is in the middle of painting the name of a boat which is on a trailer, on a beach, like this one. It’s relevant that he is on the port side, the stern facing down, and so when somebody, Monsieur Hulot likely, releases the boat to gravity and the call of the sea, the painter, frozen in surprise, fails to lift his brush and paints a perfectly straight line through his painstakingly crafted work.

There are many things which affect the superstitious sensibilities of seafaring men: women on board; bananas; the second Monday in August; the killing of an albatross; and renaming a boat.

I put the brush down and check the spelling again. With the sea, one can never be too careful.

(150 words)


written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #31

“Every Wednesday I post a photo (this week it’s that one above.)
You respond with something CREATIVE.

You have plenty of scope and only two criteria:

Your creative offering is indeed yours
Your writing is kept to 150 words or less.”

Tempting the gods #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

I stand high on the cliff’s edge observing the one below; I cannot make out their sex. My head spins and my knees feel like jelly from acrophobia, though it’s not the height that worries me so much as what’s below my feet. Solid earth all the way down or just an outcrop of unreliable rock and then nothing but unsupportive air? All that and the look of the unimpeded edge, and this fallen angel on my shoulder who may, for reasons of mischief, cast a spell of impetuousness in my mind, urging me to step forwards.

But the scene below entices a curiosity. The person stands stock still looking towards the sea which, by stealthy degrees, creeps ever closer to their feet. I begin to count the waves. There is a rhythm of seven: six in a row simply tease and never appear to advance before the backwash reclaims them. Then comes the seventh, stronger than before. Taking all by surprise, it rushes the shore, an inch or two, or three, a line closer than before. Yet the person stands firm.

I think of King Cnut, poised on a throne brought by attendants to face the waves. The purpose was to show he had no rule over nature and could not command the tides. Mother Earth treats all her kin the same, whether pauper or king. She gets on with the business of running her house and we all have to fall in with her scheme, like it or not. It is better to like it, I think, and speaking of falls; what plans has she for this cliff edge now? I decide not to tempt her, nor my impish angel. I step away from the cliff, and leave the person below to a fate of their own choosing.

(300 words)


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

Five Sisters

a flash-fiction piece

Five sisters had, at different times, placed a candle below the window to mourn the death of the sixth. She’d been found early that morning, poisoned. The inspector considered the obvious rule: whoever saw the victim last was the murderer.

After questioning the rector, he had a clear idea which candle each had laid. Did the first belong to the perpetrator? Or had the ruse only occur to them upon seeing the first candle lit?
He noticed how one candle had been placed but retained its fresh white wick. Why had it not been lit?

“Chief?”

His sergeant’s voice behind him seemed to echo the thought. In actuality, the man was merely wanting instructions, having finished questioning the neighbours.

The inspector took one last look at the five candles then spun around briskly to face the sergeant.

“Right, Sergeant,” he said, confidently, “I think we can make an arrest now.”

(150 words)


written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #29

Only two criteria:

Your creative offering is indeed yours.
Your writing is kept to 150 words or less
.

image by Crispina Kemp.

Subject: M30s-A537860 (Bradford H. Willoughby)

a flash-fiction piece

Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia; 16:34; 05/13/2023.

The second traverse of the Amazon Monitoring and Accumulating Surveillance System, AMASS, confirms its targets efficiently. Like subject #M30s-A537860, known to its human associates as “Brad”. It will only be a matter of time before this identity is assessed by the data hub at HQ. But for the moment it’s safe, providing Brad doesn’t remove his shades: the satellite has been equipped with the latest long-distance iris recognition software.

Nevertheless, within nanoseconds it has harvested plenty. The beer he drinks, not craft but a popular Italian brand, brewed in Belgium on license, from a recipe obtained in a food lab in Latvia. His cigarettes are American, filter tipped, medium quality and inexpensive; and he doesn’t inhale too deeply. His clothes, hat and sandals are a combination of chain store chic and designer label styles, though the majority of the latter are cheap copies. His wristwatch is, surprisingly, vintage Omega and the shades he hasn’t yet removed are Ray-Bans. He has chosen to read Stephen King, a lesser novel; his reading glasses have a diopter of +1.5 and were purchased over-the-counter.

Now the satellite has passed and the data banked and a micro-assessment made as to the subject’s potential: does #M30s-A537860 warrant a third pass; is identity validation cost effective at this point? For the time being, Brad is safe, or at least his credit account is. There are more viable targets on hand, and the satellite, having gathered and assessed, moves ever on…

(247 words)


written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie photo challenge prompt #265

Waiting for Drain-O

a flash-fiction piece

“The restroom’s round the back, ma’am, but I’m afraid it’s blocked. If you can wait thirty more minutes, there’s the bus due in from Phillipsville.”

She gave the proprietor a quizzical look, so he continued,

“It’ll have Drain-O, I put in an order with the groceries. See, we keep all sorts here but there ain’t much call for Drain-O. Can I interest you in a cup of coffee, ma’am?”

“Isn’t it diuretic?”

“Don’t think so, ma’am. It’s just the catering brand; comes in a can without no fancy label, just “Coffee” writ on it. Want some pie?”

She gave the pie a glance, enough to confirm her suspicions.

“I’ll pass,” she said. “Say, seeing as there’s no neighbours, how about I go find a quiet corner out back?”

He leant towards her, conspiratorially.

“Ma’am, normally, I’d say, ‘go right ahead’ but,” he said, pausing momentarily then, “the Deputy over there has had a peaceful week and is itching for someone to book. Best you wait half an hour for the Drain-O.”

She took in the figure of the Deputy at the furthest end, slouched behind a plate of crumbs suggesting he wasn’t as discerning about pie as she was. And he did look in need of something to do. Then she wondered how far away the jailhouse could be; was she that desperate?

“How ‘bout a Lotto card, ma’am?” the proprietor said, smiling, “Take your mind off.”

Was he actually enjoying this? she thought. He continued,

“Ain’t had a winner in a long time. Must be our turn, I reckon.”

“Thanks, but I don’t think I could take the shock,” she said.

What were the odds of finding yourself at the only rest stop without a working restroom, and a resident trigger-happy deputy, and was it worthwhile packing your own road trip Drain-O? The wall clock said twenty minutes to touchdown. She would have to bet on its sure arrival.


written for Fandango’s Flash-fiction challenge (#FFFC) photo flash-fiction prompt #15

Transition #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

All the time when we lived opposite and she was alive, I would envy the woman her house across the courtyard from mine. It was serene: the wonderful stone gable, the stout, reliable oak door, and a small, teak garden bench for sitting out, catching the morning sun, while my own was cast in morbid shadow. Then, in the afternoon, when my half was scorched in a blistering oppression of the merciless sun’s heat, hers was sheltered, and shady, and cool. I’d notice her seating outside, on her bench, under her window, sipping wine, or maybe some cold cordial; a book open upon her lap. She was often smiling; contented.

And then she died. A brief illness, I don’t know what. An ambulance came one day last Spring and took her away, and the next thing I knew about it was the agent’s man coming around to fix up a board. “For Sale”. Of course, I bought it; a ridiculous price but I had to have it, see? After all those years, looking out upon it.

There is a new family in my old house now. Two children play in the courtyard after school, in the afternoon sunshine, while the couple cuddle up on my old bench, under my old window. They are always laughing. Sometimes they notice me looking out and they give a little wave, and occasionally mime a friendly “hello”. They seem happy and at home, in my old house, and I envy them.

(287 words)


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

The Jigsaw Moth

(a lepidopterology poem)

The Jigsaw moth is an horrendous pest,

the great horticulturist alleges,

because it consumes the leaf middles first

when it ought to begin with the edges.


written for Willow Poetry “What Do You See? weekly picture prompt, by Hélène Vaillant.

I know it looks like a butterfly but my thinking is with a moth. I’m not sure about using the word “horticulturist” either: it’s a bit of a mouthful.

Rorschach Test

a flash-fiction piece

“To me, this image represents our excesses, our gluttony and greed. It’s chaotic, unconstrained, undisciplined. Disrespectful. It is a metaphor of the state of the world as I see it today…”

He separated the notes he intermittently made on Patient P’s interpretations of Card X with a vertical line down the page. On the right hand side he wrote, “tomatoes, beetroot, string beans, avocado”. Then, on the left hand side, “vivid, politicised, abstraction”. He thought for a while, sucking on his pen, and then added, “carrots”. Then he wondered how well off he was for bananas. She liked bananas, he recalled, but he wasn’t sure how much he liked them himself.

“Clearly, it’s a fat lady wearing a blue bra and not much else,” smirked Patient F. “Apart from yellow gloves! She has long, curly, violently red hair…green stockings…”

He wrote down Martha’s number, just to see if he could remember it. It didn’t look right so he scratched it out and tried a different combination. This too looked odd. He wondered if Martha was still single after their split. She wasn’t the dating kind; they’d met in unusual circumstances, by pure chance; an accident, or coincidence, one might say. Though she wasn’t shy. She had been adventurous, full of surprises, sometimes shockingly so…but he really missed sharing the intimacy.

“An aquarium. See, tropical fish, coral, hermit crabs, a bit of a weed, bladderwrack..”

“What?” he said, his attention coming suddenly back to the test.

“Bladderwrack,” reiterated Patient W, “a bit of a weed.”

He wrote it down and gestured for the patient to continue. As the voice drifted further back into his conscious awareness, he began doodling in the margin: a desert island with a palm tree protruding dead centre, and little waves lapping around. They met on the sands of a lonely beach. He was taking photographs, she was sunbathing. He had been shocked to come across her, quite nude, while he was changing lenses: a wide angle for a zoom, the very longest. He fumbled clumsily, she squinted up at him through the bright sunlight, he coughed, and she laughed, without a shred of embarrassment. Propping herself up on one side, she offered him a drink from an open can, and he found he had a thirst he needed to quench.

“Well, it’s just a load of ink randomly splattered on a bit of card, then someone’s obviously folded it down the middle and opened it out again. It’s meaningless. Utterly meaningless. I could tell you it was the man in the moon. I could say pie in the sky. I could say it was two lovers in love, making love, but it would be ridiculous to do so.”

He didn’t know what to write now. No one had yet not played along. He looked into the eyes of Patient X and was bewitched by their clarity. Almond shaped and blue, sitting in absolute symmetry within the freshest of complexions, framed with auburn curls. She smiled at his dumb gaze, her plump lips parting ever so slightly revealing the edges of straight lines of pearly teeth. He wondered how unethical it would be to ask her out for a date.

“Shall I go on?” she asked, not breaking the spell.

“Yes, please do,” he said, putting down the blank clipboard.

(545 words)


written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Sunday writing prompt – “Rorschach Test”

image: Rorschach Test, card X – the final test card.