Take Seven – 15th October 2021

Our words were:

duty, event, exchanged, hefty, hole, missing, particular, piece, quality, quizzical, riot, roast, secret, see, segment, sixty, spend, tapped, terrific, traditional, wire.

***

Sixty years together in a traditionally conservative marriage and at the point in my life where I should be cruising, all about to hit the fan.

The first ten years were terrific. I’d found the missing piece of the puzzle and would tell all and sundry that I was happy to spend my remaining years with this one, good woman.

But she had a secret, see. While I saw everything with those rosy glasses, she was involved in a lengthy extramarital affair. At first, she was waiting for the kids to leave the nest, and then I had a health scare. She wanted to be kind. She felt duty bound, vows exchanged were not to be thwarted, she said.

She waited a bloody life‑changing amount of time to break the news. To face me. In the end, she chose the event of the christening of our first great grandchild to create the hefty hole in my heart. Broken into segments, as cleanly as if cut with piano wire.

I was tucking into the particularly delicious roast prepared with love by ‘her’ hands for the celebratory feast, when she asked if we could chat. I looked up at her, oblivious to the cuts she was about to impart, and felt gravy sliding down my chin and a large, odorous burp escaped my lips.

She grimaced, then smiled brightly again.

“When you’re ready, darling,” she said.

I continued to eat the quality meat. Only the best for our table. I raised my fork to get the attention of my riotous extended family.

“Oi, you lot. I get the sense a surprise is in the offing. Any of you know what Mum has up her sleeve?”

There was a pause in conversation as several faces turned toward me, various degrees of stupidity, disinterest and general boredom reflected back. There was only one quizzical expression, shown in raised eyebrows and a nervous smile. That was the face of Johnny, my longest and dearest friend.

“No? Nobody? Alright then, must just be something between Joanie and me”, I called. ”Carry on!”

I got up from the table and followed my beloved wife to the nook, our cosy winter space. Scene of many a companionable evening, cuddled together in front of a roaring fire.

“My darling,” she began. “There’s no easy way to say this …”

“What is it, Joanie? Just say it, quickly. Rip the band aid,” I said, encouragingly.

“I want a divorce,” she said.

“Wow, not what I was expecting,” I said. I sank into the nearest sofa. “But it is probably about time.”

“Sorry? Um, you’re not surprised,” she said. “I’m in love with Johnny.”

“Ah, Johnny. Our Johnny? Johnny imbibing of our fabulously rich celebratory feast, right now. In the other room. That Johnny?”

“Yes. What other Johnny could it be,” she asked. I could see that she was puzzled, intrigued, and frustrated all wrapped in a messy package.

“Just checking, my love. Because, that Johnny has been my lover for the last twenty years,” I said.

“I … can’t believe it,” said Joanie. “He … we’ve been talking about leaving you for years.”

“As have we. We have discussed and planned what we’d do with the divorce proceeds. Where we will travel to, where we’d live …”.

“No,” she said. “No. That can’t be right.”

“Do you think, darling that he has hedged his bets and we’ve been tapped for our marital fortune?” I asked Joanie, angry and confident that we’d both been played. “He has always been a greedy bastard.”

As we have done for over sixty years, we came to an easy telepathic decision. We were a team. Together we could conquer all. And we would not be played.

We walked back into that party, took our places at table and I threw into the conversation … “Has anybody heard … Uncle Johnny has syphilis. Unfortunately, he’ll be checking into a sanatorium tomorrow.”

Stunned silence and a beetroot red, sweating Johnny jumps to his feet and crashes away from the table. Without a word, he wobbles to the door grabs his coat on the way and slams the door behind him.

“Well,” said my elderly mother. “That was different.” [701 words]

Take Seven

MLMM Wordle #261 – Awakening

Yves is our host for the Monday MLMM wordle. You can join in here

Our words this week are:
sorrow, cringeworthy, miscreant, hide, hilltops, swivel, plaid, freeze, privacy, escape, mermaid, limp

***

On my pre-dawn walk, I stumble upon the mermaid, limp and freezing on the beach.

I’m not so much up early as I haven’t been to bed.

A widower, I hide from society and nurture my sorrow by doing night shift for the paper that employs me. I get the darkest most cringeworthy stories. Evil stalks at night. Miscreant youth roaming in gangs, hassling the homeless, looking for sport find the inside of a prison van.

As I approach what is clearly a body, I hesitate. Consider escape. I live with darkness. I do not let the light in. But can I handle one more moment in that world? Another death?

I swivel on my hilltops, and with that turn dig a divot into the sand that seems to suck me in. Stay, the stickiness pleads. Bring the best of yourself.

Reluctantly, breath held, I bend down to the woman and press her neck for a pulse. Nothing. I survey her form. Scales glisten in the moonlight. Her long, lean torso ends in that flipper. I look to her face, beautiful in repose. Porcelain skin, rosy, red lips. Hair that tumbles like tangled seaweed.

I feel my heart stir.

Removing my jacket, I place the plaid over her, providing some privacy. Protection.

I turn away, swipe the screen of my phone to call for help.

Something grabs my ankle, a powerful hold. A sweet voice whispers, “Help me, please.”

I look down into emerald eyes and I am bludgeoned by my burgeoning heart.

Welcome back light, life, love.

I return the phone to my pocket. [265 words]

Simply 6 Minutes – Strike a Pose

Thanks to Christine at #StineWriting for the weekly Simply 6 Minutes challenge. Use the photo prompt to write anything that comes to mind, in six minutes. Submit as is, or quick edits allowed. Enjoy.

Giraffe

You have what it takes, babes. Go for it.

Estelle continues posing and pouting, checking her refection off the glassy surface of the waterhole.

I don’t know, she moans. Jasmine has a better shape. She births all the calves.

Girl, you have the height, the lashes, the ‘to die for’ coat. Perfect natural trout pout. Those wildlife photographers will eat you up!

You really think so? Mmm, okay. Maybe a new lippy though.

Yes, babe. Loud and glorious red. No, a brilliant orange will suit your fur type. Loud and proud, baby.

Oh, Johnny. You’re the best friend a gal could ever have. Will you come with me to the callup?

Yeah, baby. I’m your man and there ain’t nobody can hold a candle to your bodaciousness. Don’t waste those lashes on me, darling. I’m already sold. Strike a pose, and I’ll fill your portfolio.

You got it, darling. [6 minutes, 149 words]

FF – Carousels in the Sky

brenda-cox-merry-go-round

Photo by Brenda Cox

Round and round and round … he whispers.

James. Stop that, now. Look at mummy.

Mama, he slurs. Can you see them?

She touches his forehead. Burning.

His eyes roll and hands wave whimsical shapes in the air.

The mother worries. His fever has burned for three days.

There is no money for a doctor.

The boy’s inner world is completely joyful.

Horses from the uptown carousel they cannot afford, have come to him.

A kaleidoscope of colour, costume, prancing and dancing.

He laughs aloud. A crackling, wet laugh.

They love me, Mama.

She laughs through sobs.

Loud and lonely. [100 words]

Thank you Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for continuing to set this 100 word or less challenge. It is certainly a commitment appreciated by many. Other 100 word stories can be read here.

Friday Fictioneers – Home

Thank you Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for continuing to set this 100 word or less challenge. It is certainly a commitment appreciated by many. Other 100 word stories can be read here.

Photo by Roger Bultot

Photo by Roger Bultot

How wonderful. How old are these photos?

Late 1800s, something like that.

Amazing, and precious. I wish I had that kind of past connection. Something as tangible.

Yeah, it is special.

Do you see a family resemblance?

Definitely. I’ve always seen my dad in the older lady. My four times great grandma. She had like 12 kids, who all lived. There are so many cousins. You can’t turn a corner in my hometown without meeting a relation.

You’ve a tribe. Awesome. We’ve never had that. Immigrants.

Sounds lonely. Sad.

It can be. We’re a community of six. [97 words]

I have to admit that I wrote this based on the other photos Rochelle had in her post. By mistake, so perhaps the story doesn’t make sense in relation to the actual prompt. Hope you enjoyed it anyway. 

grandmothers-weinberg-finis

Photo by Rochelle

Simply Six Minutes – Divine

Thanks to Christine at #StineWriting for the weekly Simply 6 Minutes challenge. Use the photo prompt to write anything that comes to mind, in six minutes. Submit as is, or quick edits allowed. Enjoy.

Lake Scene

Simply6Minutes Photo Prompt

I lay supine

And dream

Drowse

Listen

Learn

I feel, the tingle of growth, the scratch of life, upon my face.

I hear, the chatter of birds and the susurration of trees.

With open eyes I always see, the faces of friends supporting me.

Gorilla, orang-o, rock faces.

Cloud spirits and water nymphs fill nearby spaces.

To you it seems I am alone. Adrift, aloft on waters, prone.

I am alive. I am alert.

This life to me has depth, has girth.

Eons pass, my friends are quiet. My own visage thins off, erodes.

But I have learned and loved; been enveloped by all above.

Peace and quiet embolden the life that bustles and babbles and keeps me alive.

I lay supine.

In peace.

In love. [6 minutes, 126 words]

Life on the Edge

This piece was inspired by two items. Last week’s Simply 6 Minutes photo prompt (photo below) and the criteria for AWC October Furious Fiction – which were ‘500 words, set in a court of some kind, with a character who measures something, and include the words balloon, rock and umbrella.’ I didn’t submit to either – but kept thinking about life on the edge, of a pin. A little more than 500 words. 

*****

Court, on the head of a nail, said the colourful old man.

Seems a stretch. Somebody’s having a lend!

I gazed around what appeared to be the set of a French arthouse movie. Sumptuous furnishings, gold everywhere, fussy hairpieces and much braying laughter. Overdressed people. Bosoms bled over the top of gowns.

I couldn’t imagine one of my mates setting this up. Hooded and dumped into the trunk of a car and dragged into a strip club, was more their style. This was a step up.

“Are you okay, sir,” asked the man.

“You’re the court jester? That’s why you’re dressed so … flamboyantly,” I said. “Those balloon pants, that loud … harlequin style.”

“The knock to the head addled your brains worse than I thought,” he said. “I am the surgeon, sir. You took a bad fall. And … landed here.”

“And here is?”

“The court of King Joseph of the land of technicoloured haberdashery.”

“The land of … on the head of a nail,” I stifled a laugh. He was quite earnest. Who’d hit their head?

“Or pin. Some others describe it so. We are relaxed about the exact determination and description of our home. We are one of the peoples that inhabit the heads of tacks, pins, and nails.

Oh sir, it is quite the precarious way of life. At the mercy of man and his humours. Pin quakes are common here, as we are often nudged or moved indiscriminately. And of course, we get a lot of drop off. It comes with the territory.”

“That old furphy, falling off the edge of the world. This rock is round, a globe. Scientifically proven.”

We are not the world, sir. Only of the world. A microcosm, the edge of which is unprotected and therefore perilous to the unwary.”

I am a grown man. We are atop a nail,” I said, smirking. “How does that work?”

“A magic I cannot explain. If a man stumbles in exactly the right manner, instead of being impaled he lands atop,” the doctor said. “It is not a reciprocal magic. We are not protected the other way. We believe that our lost have splattered on impact, been trampled underfoot or eaten.”

“What science do you have? Machines, perhaps the power of flight?”

“We understand the sense of these things, but not the devices.” Then smiling, added “we can fly!”

“No bull,” I said.

“We have established contact and sometimes trade with other pin communities. We’ve captured flying insects over which we assert some control. Dandelions are useful too. Beautiful, but fragile and whimsical. Used mainly by the more adventurous type and prone to disaster.”

“Have you tried flight by umbrella?” I offered “Using updrafts and thermals?” The doctor shook his head. “They could be kept at the ready at the edge of your … nail. A last second grab and someone could land safely on the earth.”

“An intriguing idea,” he said. “We have tried lowering brave citizens to the ground via bucket. It is, however, fraught with danger. We run out of rope before achieving success. The distance seems immeasurable and the winds daunting.”

“And telescopes? If you could look more closely at mankind …” I said.

“I gather you mean a device that allows us to distinguish detail, like the zoom glass used for tiny stitches,” he said.

“I guess so.”

“The outside world is so large and so immediate that all is a blur. To stand at the edge of a nail or pin and gaze outward is to witness a kaleidoscope of murky colour, with no clear lines. It causes severe nausea in most,” he said. “I believe that disorientation contributes to the numbers lost.”

“So, what now?” I asked. “Can I return home?”

“Definitely, sir. When you are ready, we shall farewell His Majesty and then shove you off the nearest edge,” he said. He looked quite cheerful at this, with his thumbs hooked into his belt, bouncing on his toes.

“Hang on!”

“Oh, don’t you mind. It will be nothing to you. Once you step off, you’ll immediately regain your usual earthly parameters.”

“I’m ready,” I cried.

After shaking the hand of the indolent king, the doctor led me through the courtyard to a sign that read No further, on pain of death. Ominous.

“Farewell, young man. Just one step and you will be home.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said as we shook hands.

With confidence I placed one foot over the edge. And as my second foot began to lift, panic hit. Stepping blindly, I landed on solid ground.

“Phew,” I exhaled.

One more step and I stumbled over a piece of wood. Arms wind milling for balance, I settled heavily onto a large nail.

“Bollocks,” I whispered. [791 words]

Animal mosaic