Friday Fictioneers – Grace Notes

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Passing Notes 200401

PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

Grace notes

Back and forth, back and forth went the rocking chair as Lizzie waited.

Her back twinged and she grimaced.

Early spring sunshine brightened the room. Lizzie could see the cheerful yellow daffodils in her yard.

She eyed the phone. Would it ring? No, her daughter had rung in the morning. She never rang twice in a day. Lizzie told herself not to be greedy.

A bird perched on the window-ledge. Lizzie wished she wasn’t deaf.

But she heard it!

Birdsong! A blackbird’s melodious tones. A thrush. A robin’s piping.

The notes tumbled over each other.

The light grew and grew.

Inlinkz – click here to join the fun!

What Pegman Saw – The Ice Maiden

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s location is Greenland.

WPS - The Ice Maiden 190309

Image by Ellasommer on Pixabay

The Ice Maiden

Lars sighed and looked up from his homework. It was no use. He was going to have to see her again.

After the indoor smell of food, the autumn air felt fresh and chill. A dog howled somewhere.

Was he foolish, leaving without a rifle? A bear had been seen pillaging trash cans. He shrugged. If he went back into the house, his mom would probably catch him and make him go back to his studies.

It grew ever colder as he walked out of town, but his clothes were warm. His fingers tingled and his mouth was dry with anticipation.

And there she was. Beautiful. Perfect. The moonlight shone through her, making her glow with every shade of blue. Her sculpted features were proud and yet alluring, warm and yet ice-cold. Pinpoint reflections of stars sparkled on her like scattered diamonds.

Lars sank to his knees – and worshipped.

Poem – I shall set beauty

This morning I read a beautiful poem by someone I know who suffers from cancer. I was overwhelmed by her courage, and the wonderful images she had conjured up. It inspired me to write the poem below. (Just in case any reader is concerned that I am the subject of the poem – I am not, thank goodness.)

I shall set beauty seagull - 180424

I shall set beauty

Against this thing,

This gnawing thing,

Against this greedy, gnawing thing

That steals my body, steals my ease,

This greedy, gnawing, agonising thing

That steals my light,

I shall set beauty.

 

The beauty of an owl’s flight

In the dark night,

The beauty of a gull that glides

Above the endless tides,

The golden beauty, pure and bright,

Of an angel shining with gentle light,

These will defend me in my fight.

 

And yet the beast grows strong,

It feasts, a glutton,

It swallows all I savour,

It swells, burgeons,

Spawns

As I grow frail

And slowly crumble.

 

What help is beauty as the end draws near?

Even the gold of angel’s wings cannot stop fear,

The gull soars free while I lie helpless here.

 

And yet…

It is enough…

 

Friday Fictioneers – The Artist’s Take

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - The Artist's Take 171227

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

The Artist’s Take

“When looking at conceptual art, we need to consider what the artist means.”

The tour guide scanned her group. Mostly earnest attention; one stifled yawn.

“For example, this sculpture is displayed in an attractive garden. Why? Is it to contrast the unforced beauty of nature with the decorated but crudely angular construction?

A hidden drive turns the wheels, and some wheels drive others – wheels within wheels – but the work itself goes nowhere. Is that a metaphor?”

Damien, the artist, grinned as he listened. He knew what he meant; he didn’t care what the punters thought – as long as they paid.

What Pegman saw – A beautiful world

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. I found this week’s location so stimulating that I wrote a second story, and here it is!

WPS - puerto rico - 170909

 The sun warmed José as he sat on a bench overlooking the sea in the main plaza of the old fort. Dazzling white birds swooped above the ultramarine water. José, listening to their plaintive voices, could imagine them diving, seizing silver fish, swallowing them whole.

He heard the stranger approach, but didn’t turn; he had no wish to be disturbed.

“Señor, good day! May I join you?”

José grunted, and the man sat down.

“Cigarette?”

“No, thank you.”

“Do you mind if I…?”

“Go ahead.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Jose seldom indulged in a cigarette, but he enjoyed the smoke that trickled to him on the breeze.

The clock struck eleven. Time to go. Acindina would nag him if he were late for his midday meal.

“Isn’t the view beautiful?” exclaimed the stranger.

José turned to the man, smiled at him.

“Good day, Señor,” he said.

He rose and walked away slowly, tapping the pathway before him with a white cane.

 

At first sight – part IV

What do you do when you first meet your true love the day before she flies back to Australia? For Jon, the answer was simple; you follow her as soon as possible. One small problem – PhD students like Jon have very little money. For Vikki, his beloved, the answer was more difficult; handsome, clever, surf-hero Dan has carried a torch for her for years…

Jon rang his mum and chatted; about his work, her work, and the latest news from his dad’s parish; before raising the subject that was uppermost in his thoughts.

“Mum, I need to borrow some money. It’s rather a lot, I’m afraid.”

Carolyn Hall thought for a moment. It wasn’t like Jon to ask for money. He’d managed on his own since his first term at university.

“How much do you need, love?”

“About two thousand pounds, I’m afraid.”

“You’re not in any trouble, are you?”

“No, and I should be able to pay you back quite soon; within about six months, I think.”

“I’ll have to talk to Dad first.” She hesitated for a moment, and then added, “I know it’s none of my business, but Dad will want to know why you need it.”

She waited for the explosion. Jon had always made it very clear that he needed to be independent; that he was going to live his life without interference from his parents. She sighed. It must be difficult for him, being James’s son.

“It’s a bit tricky. And it sounds as though I’m going bonkers. All I can say is that it’s very real to me. I’ve met this girl.”

“Oh, Jon, I am pleased for you!”

“The trouble is, she lives in Australia. I met her just before she went home, and now she’s there and I’m here.”

“What’s her name? What’s she like?”

“Vikki; that’s with two kays and an i. She’s beautiful, Mum, just beautiful. And clever; she’s just finished a master’s degree in education at Cambridge. I knew the instant I saw her that she was the right girl…” His voice trailed away as he relived the moment.

“Oh, Jon, you’ve got it bad, haven’t you?”

Jon tensed, and then relaxed. He laughed.

“Yes, I suppose I have! But that doesn’t make the feeling less real, you know?”

“I know, Jon, I know. That was how I felt about Dad when we first met. It’s worked for us so far! I still feel the same about him. But it wasn’t the way he fell in love with me, if you follow me?”

“Thank you, Mum. For telling me about you and Dad, I mean. Do you think it would be better for me to ring him and ask about a loan?”

“I think Dad would appreciate that, yes. Man to man, you know.”

“Okay, I’ll do that. Thanks for the advice.”

Dressing table 170617 (2)

Vikki scooped up the letter from the mat, and raced to her room. The sun struck obliquely through the window, making the wall at her bedhead dazzlingly white. The petals of the posy on her dressing table glowed translucent in the reflected light.

Vikki looked at Jon’s handwriting, with its firm downstrokes, its well-formed letters, its fluidity. Her heart sang. His voice was vivid in her memory, and she imagined him sitting beside her on the bed reading the letter to her.

“Dear Vikki,

Thank you so much for writing. You made me really happy when I read that you had ‘danced with delight’ because I planned to visit!

You’re right; we don’t know each other very well. You say that matters to you, and that you guess it matters to me. Be reassured; it does. I want to know everything about you, the big things and the little things, the essential and the trivial. It will be such a joy learning about all these from you!

Or do you mean that you have doubts about whether what we felt that magical night will prove ephemeral? Is that why you say, “We mustn’t be carried away”?

Let me tell you how I feel. I love you. You have changed me. In the past, I’ve always thought carefully before doing anything, but you make me feel so certain that we belong together that I don’t need to think about it, I just know it.

I want you to know this, Vikki. The thing I want more than anything in the world is that you should be happy. If, in the future, my love for you becomes an obstacle to your happiness, I shall let you go. It would break my heart – I can hardly bear even thinking about it – but I would do it.

By the way, there is something more practical that I need to tell you. I had another run-in with Guy. He was after your address in Australia. I didn’t tell him, of course, but yesterday somebody broke into my flat. They didn’t take anything – and there was quite an expensive laptop on the desk in full view – so I suppose Guy might have been the burglar. Take care, my dearest.

I hope so much that I shall soon see you in Australia; I should be able to suggest some dates next time I write in a few days. How I wish I was with you now!

With all my love

Jon”

Vikki held the letter against her lips, smiling.

At first sight - letter and phone 170617

“Jonathan! This is an unexpected pleasure. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Dad. How are you? And the parish, of course?”

“We’re doing nicely, thank you. The occasional hiccup. If you want the latest news, the organist has just quit. I don’t suppose you want to hear about that, though?”

They chatted casually for a few minutes, until Jon said, “Actually, Dad, I had an ulterior motive in ringing you.”

“I thought you might have.”

Jon winced. That accomplished, cultured, know-it-all, self-satisfied tone of voice had haunted his childhood.

“Would you lend me two thousand pounds, please.”

There was a short silence. James Hall waited for the explanation to be offered. Jon struggled with his pride.

“I’m in love with a woman who lives in Australia. I need to go and see her.”

There was a longer silence.

“That’s a fair sum, Jon.”

“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think I needed it.”

“There may be a difference between what you think you need and what you actually need.”

Jon struggled to relax, to remain calm, to remain courteous. This constant assumption that he didn’t know what he was doing, that he would screw up if left to himself…

“Dad, if you hang on a minute, I’ll explain. I met Vikki the day before she was due to fly home. It was – astonishing – stunning. I just knew immediately that she’s the one. She seems to feel the same way. I want to go to Australia to confirm what we feel.

You may think it’s a gamble. Maybe you’re right. But it’s my gamble. Your money will be safe, whatever the outcome.”

“Oh, for goodness sake, Jonathan, it’s not the safety of my money that concerns me. It’s your future, your studies, putting all that at risk just because you’ve met an attractive girl who’s bowled you over. What about your studies, anyway?”

“My professor is happy. In fact, he’s asked me to go into the University of Melbourne to establish personal links with the staff there. It’s a great chance to network.”

“I just don’t want to see you hurt, Jon.”

“Not going to Australia and losing her would hurt me more than anything I can imagine.”

“Mm. Yes, I can see that might be so.”

Jon waited.

“All right. You may have the money. I’ll transfer it to your account this afternoon. Would you be happy to repay it in twelve months?”

“I’m taking on some more tutoring. Can I pay it back monthly over six months starting in October, please?”

“Yes, that’ll be okay. Take care of yourself, Jon. I’m proud of you, son. You’re growing up into a fine man.”

Jon almost dropped the phone. He stammered goodbye.

James Hall replaced his receiver. Two thousand pounds was almost his entire savings. He would just have to hope that there was no emergency in the next ten months.

After the call, Jon put his phone on the desk and stared out of the window.

Right. Time to check availability of those cheap flights he’d found!

In the moment – beautiful tulips

How beautiful tulips are, and how diverse! The chaste elegance of pure white, the sombre glow of purple, the flamboyance of scarlet and yellow parrot tulips, all grace borders and vases. In our garden there are some crimson and white blooms that are almost heartbreakingly lovely.

Tulips crimson and white 170501

And they seem to last so well, even as cut flowers. I’m sure they last longer than they used to in my childhood. Human actions have modified tulips dramatically. It’s an intriguing thought that this has been done largely for aesthetic reasons. We have changed the world to indulge our passion for beautiful things.

While we’re thinking about our impact on the world, we could also consider what we eat. Although most of my food is locally sourced, today I will also eat food from Morocco, Kenya and – where do bananas come from anyway?! The greater variety of food means that it is easier to prepare tasty, nutritious meals; but it comes at an environmental cost because the food is transported further.

It’s good to eat tasty, nourishing food. It’s good to plan a garden, to work to achieve harmony of colour and form and scent. It’s good to enjoy the results of that effort.

There is, though, a way that we can enrich our lives and, at the same time, lighten our environmental footprint. We can explore locally sourced food; appreciate seasonal variation in availability. We can be aware, too, of the beauty that is around us all the time, without effort on our part. Bluebells in a wood under the bright new leaves of the trees. Brave scarlet poppies flourishing on a building site for a few short days. The tiny flowers of toadflax clinging tenaciously to dry stone walls.

If we live in the moment, we will see beauty everywhere, perhaps in the sunset, or a cloudscape, or the harmony of a building’s proportions, or in the face of someone dear to us.

Let’s be awake to our surroundings, and open to the possibility of beauty wherever we are!

In the moment – Three worlds

wp_20160127_11_48_12_richI wrote this poem late one August afternoon, sitting in the sunshine beside my fishpond. I thought about living in the moment – but which moment in which world? Sometimes, if we wish to be in the moment, we have to look beneath our surface feelings into a place that may look dark; but may, too, be a home of beauty.

Three worlds

The koi, red, black, white, metallic gold, slip through the water,

Their paths traced by slow ripples that roll across the pond

To make a panelled lattice of silver, through which the fish

Slide, now visible, now unseen,

Hide, by light, by movement.

A vine’s reflection, leaves hard-edged against

The black and silver water, seems more solid than the plant itself

As it strives sunwards from the same root in the bank.

The moment of reality shimmers.

Red, black, white, metallic gold, appear – and vanish.

In the moment

wp_20170213_15_57_40_proThe pack on my back was heavy; the weekend shopping included tins of soup, oranges, meat and red wine. The air was cold, freezing, and it was snowing very lightly. As I walked up the hill towards the mill, a car passed me.
At the mill entrance, it paused, not quite stopping but moving very slowly. Another car came up quickly behind it. It edged closer – and closer. The driver of the first car presumably noticed him and went a little faster; the driver of the second car matched him for speed, and stayed tight on his tail. I felt his impatience.
The two cars vanished round the corner. I trudged on up the hill and I thought, “That’s what dying is going to be like. So many interesting things happening, and I shall never see how they conclude.”
The wind stung my face; the snowflakes danced; beauty was all around. I remembered the affection of the friend to whom I had been talking a few minutes earlier. I had beef and wine in my backpack, and Daphne was waiting at home.
Life is good.
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