Friday Fictioneers – Growing marigolds

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 - Growing Marigolds 190313

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

Growing marigolds

Ferenc’s fingers hammered the final chords of the Polonaise, and the audience roared its approval.

“A new Liszt!” exclaimed one man to his wife.

Ferenc bowed and swept off stage.

Out of the shadows, the heavy hands of the secret police grasped him, forcing him from the building.

“You are an associate of terrorists.” The interrogator was implacable. “Give us their names, and we will let you live.”

One by one, he broke Ferenc’s fingers.

Now those twisted fingers painfully press marigold seedlings into the compost filling his piano case.

The seedlings will bloom prettily – but you can grow marigolds anywhere.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

 

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What Pegman Saw – Last Night Nerves

“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. As regards the link with the location, Tallinn has some very nice restaurants – sorry it’s so tenuous!

wps - last night nerves 190126

Talinn, Estonia | Daniel Pettersson, Google Maps

Last night nerves

She looked radiant. He was nervous, constantly rummaging in the pocket of his jacket. I gave them my best smile and a menu each.

He stammered while ordering, and checked repeatedly with the young woman exactly what she wanted.

“Would you like red wine with the duck, Margit? They would go well together. Or – how presumptuous of me to assume you want wine! – perhaps you would prefer something different altogether?”

“Red wine will be lovely, Andrus.”

She seemed to greatly enjoy her meal, but he picked at his, pushing it round his plate with his fork and leaving half of it.

“I’m sorry Andrus left so much,” said Margit as she paid. “He is ill – a brain tumour.”

Andrus pressed a 50 Euro note into my hand. “More use to you than me,” he said, white-faced.

They left.

The door had hardly closed behind them when two shots rang out.

Friday Fictioneers – Betrayal

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 - Betrayal 181212

Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

Betrayal

After the betrayal Samuel had hidden in the garage and turned to Facebook for consolation.

“In life, we never lose friends, we only learn who the true ones are.”

The truism had hit him like a bullet.

The one person – the one person he had entrusted with his secret, had told the world. Now everybody knew that Samuel was gay. Now he had no friends at all.

The daintily typeset words on the screen mocked him as his feet kicked and the noose tightened around his neck.

What Pegman Saw – Payback time

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. 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 prompt is New Orleans, Louisiana.

WPS - Payback time 181020

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana | Save Our Cemeteris Jean Mensa Google Maps

Payback time

She was skinny, dirty, and bruised and obstructed his passage through the cemetery. Clark tried to walk past her but, without seeming to move, she still blocked his path. Clark swiped, casually, to knock her out of the way but his blow hit nothing.

He looked more closely; she seemed familiar.

“I was the first,” she murmured, so quietly that he could scarcely hear.

Another girl, perhaps fourteen years old, stepped out bringing the stench of decay. Clark gasped. He’d left this one in a garbage dumpster.

“You sold my body for sex and then you murdered me.” She whispered the words.

Fire crackled ahead of him, fierce and orange.

He bolted from it, but the flames were faster. All around him children stared, accusing; judging.

When his screams eventually stopped, his corpse lay between the tombs, contorted but unburned. The children sighed in unison – and gently turned to mist.

What Pegman Saw – Disappeared

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. 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 prompt is Montevideo, Uruguay.

WPS - Disappeared 180811

Aeropuerto de Carrasco – Montevideo Uruguay | Google Maps

Genre: Historical fiction

Word count: 149

Disappeared

The car hummed south from Montevideo.

“They pulled another body out of the river this morning, a woman,” said Mateo.

“I heard the plane,” replied Jorge. “Heartless bastards those Argentinians. We should pray for her.”

I had been on that plane.

With forty others I had sat on the plane’s hard metal floor for perhaps an hour. I wasn’t afraid; after months of being beaten, or burned with electricity I saved terror for the torture cell.

A man in a white coat moved down the plane injecting each of us.

A door opened to the sky. Soldiers picked me up.

“Madre de Dios! This one’s awake!”

“Who cares? Toss her out!”

I plunged, until the thunder of air was replaced by the explosion of water and the shattering of my bones.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Author’s Notes

This story is essentially true.

From 1974 – 1983 the Argentinian government conducted a campaign of terror, the ‘Dirty War’, against those of its citizens who held contrary political views. Thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured and their bodies disposed of; they became known as ‘los desaparecidos’, or ‘the disappeared’. Sedating them and throwing them (alive) from aircraft was one of the ways they were ‘disappeared’. Many were dropped into the River Plate and some washed up in Uruguay, near Montevideo.

Wikipedia, as always, has a good deal of information.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War

The novel ‘The Memory Stones’ by Caroline Brothers tells the story of how the dirty war affected one Argentinian family. It’s very powerful, in fact it’s painful to read, but it’s extremely well written. Her website can be found at http://www.carolinebrothers.com/index.php/books/the-memory-stones/80-the-memory-stones

Friday Fictioneers – PTSD

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 - Candid Camera 180704

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

PTSD

“Incoming!”

I wake up sweating and sobbing. Even after I force myself to open my eyes, to stop biting the pillow, to stop clawing the sheets, I can still smell the blood. Shaking uncontrollably, I stumble into the kitchen. The crimson ketchup on last night’s plate explodes into my field of view. I dive for cover.

“Pull y’self together, Private.”

“Suh!”

I drag myself to my feet and salute. Okay, so he’s dead, but you still gotta salute an officer.

Jimmy’s foot’s lying on the floor.

He’s lucky.

They’ve given him a prosthetic.

Wish they’d give me a new mind.

Pillars of the Community – back story

Last Wednesday I wrote a piece of flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers that I titled “Pillars of the Community”. People were kind enough to show an interest in what had happened to cause three very respectable women to keep a secret for fifty years, surrounding it with ritual and a dread oath. I promised to publish the back story – and here it is!

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Pillars of the Community – back story

Diane. Abigail. Susan.

They were inseparable.

When Diane was four, she had insisted on going to see Abigail and Susan to show them her Christmas present – on Christmas day – before lunch.

When Susan was five, she had demanded that Diane and Abigail should come on holiday with her family and had thrown multiple tantrums when this didn’t happen.

And Abigail always had to have the same things as Diane; if Diane had a pink hair-slide, then so must Abigail; if Diane read ‘Bunty’ then so must Abigail.

They all joined the Brownies on the same day. They moved up to the guides on the same day. They went to the same school, and when Diane had said “I want to do Ten Tors,” the other two had said “Great!” and “What a good idea!” even though Susan normally shunned strenuous activity, and Abigail was scared to death if she was ever alone outside after dark.

The training was tough. For their first outing on Dartmoor, Mr Johnson took them six miles on a rough track, allowed them thirty minutes to eat lunch and then marched them the six miles back on the same track. “A nice gentle stroll” was his description of the day. Susan slept in the minibus all the way back to school.

“What do you think of Mr Johnson?” Abigail asked Diane the next day.

“He’s okay.” Diane thought for a minute or two. “What did you think of him?”

“I think he’s creepy.” She looked at the ground. “Didn’t you mind when he put his arm around you?”

Diane flushed.

“Not really.” She studied the expression on her friend’s face. “I suppose I was a bit surprised.”

A few weeks later, they were practising packing their kit properly when Diane noticed that Abigail had disappeared – and so had Mr Johnson. A few moments later Abigail was back, scarlet and breathing heavily.

“Are you alright?”

Abigail nodded, but Diane could see the tracks of tears on her face.

“Here, let me help you,” she said.

Abigail sniffled; she never had a handkerchief. Diane passed over her own.

During the lunch-break, Diane said to Abigail, “Do you want to tell us about it?” Abigail’s face puckered, and she shook her head.

“I can’t,” she said.

“One for all, and all for one,” said Susan.

“No, I really can’t.”

“Was it Johnson?”

“He told me not to tell anybody,” wept Abigail.

“Yeah, well we’re your friends. You know you can trust us.”

“He kissed me. I said not to but he did anyway.”

Diane and Susan looked at each other. Susan put an arm round Abigail.

Diane was indignant. “I’ll find him after school and tell him he’s out of order.”

“No! No, please don’t, Di, or he’ll know I’ve told.”

“Somebody ought to say something, Abi, otherwise he’ll think he’s got away with it, and can try again.”

“You said I could trust you…” wailed Abigail.

“Yes, you can, of course you can, pet. Di won’t say anything, will you, Di?”

“Not if Abi doesn’t want it, of course I won’t. But Abi, I really think we should say something.”

Abigail’s tears were slowing. She shook her head.

“I’d much rather not,” she said.

A week or so later, Diane and Susan were waiting at the school gate for Abigail, who was coming from the private study classroom.

Diane glanced at her watch. “Where on earth can she be? She’s usually here before us. Shall we look for her, Sue?”

“We might miss her. She’s probably had to run an errand for the Head Mistress or something.”

Just then, they saw Abigail, trudging, dragging her feet. As she approached, they could see she was ashen.

Susan hugged her and held her close.

“Was it Johnson again?” demanded Diane. “What did he do?”

“I don’t want to say,” muttered Abigail.

Susan looked at Diane, and held her finger to her lips.

“You don’t need to say anything, Abi, dear. We understand. You’re alright now, you’re with us. We’ll take care of you.” She looked at Diane, who was fidgeting in her anxiety to say something. “Shut up, Di! Now is not the time.”

They set off home in silence. When they came to the bridge over the river, they stopped. They often did, for the river was beautiful in all seasons and at all times of the day.

Abigail leant over the parapet. Her feet left the pavement. Diane took hold of her arm.

“Don’t do that,” she said. Abigail sighed and put her feet back on the ground.

“He kissed me again. Then he tried to…to feel me, you know. I pushed his hand away but he’s so strong.” Her face was no longer pallid, but fiery red with shame. “It felt…it felt…” She couldn’t finish.

“What a bastard!”

“Really, Diane! You don’t need to swear!” Susan was indignant.

Diane took hold of Abigail’s shoulders. “Abi. Listen to me. We’ve got to tell someone now. Will you let us all go and talk to the Head Mistress tomorrow morning?”

Abigail pondered for a long moment, then, “Alright,” she said.

Next day it was Diane who took the lead, Diane who made an appointment with the Head Mistress, Diane who cajoled Abigail to speak.

The Head Mistress listened carefully. These were trustworthy girls. She would have believed them about almost anything. Why, she was hoping that Abigail would win a scholarship to Cambridge in a few years time!

And yet, Mr Johnson was a highly respected teacher. There had never been a hint of scandal about him. He was highly qualified and his pupils did well. Surely he would have shown signs of this sort of weakness before?

“Did he leave any marks on you, Abigail?”

“No, Miss Carter.”

“Did he expose himself to you?”

“No, Miss Carter.”

Miss Carter folded her hands on the desk. Any hint of this would end Mr Johnson’s career. There wasn’t enough evidence to report to the police. She couldn’t, she really couldn’t take action. She cleared her throat.

“Now, girls. You’ve come to me and made a most serious accusation against a senior member of my staff. If I believed for one moment that you were motivated by malice, I would punish you all; you would be facing expulsion from the school.”

She paused.

“Diane and Susan, neither of you witnessed any impropriety. Your testimony is that you saw your friend badly upset, and she told you about an assault that she said had been made on her. Abigail. You tell me that you have been assaulted, but there is no physical evidence of an assault having been made. Is that a fair summary of the situation?”

“Yes, Miss Carter,” they mumbled. Even Diane didn’t dare to contradict.

“I believe that all three of you are truthful girls. I can only conclude that you, Abigail, must have misunderstood an ambiguous situation. The matter must stop here. All of you understand, please, that you must say nothing about this outside this office. I will treat any slander against Mr Johnson with great severity.”

She looked at each of them in turn. One by one they dropped their eyes.

“You are dismissed.”

The three girls slunk out. As they walked down the corridor, Diane whispered, “I’m sorry, Abi. You were right. We shouldn’t have said anything.”

In her office, the Head Mistress worried for the entire morning as to what she should do.

Abigail became very quiet. As far as possible she avoided being anywhere near Johnson. She changed her private study group on the pretext that she needed to work in the library to be able to use reference books. Susan and Diane became expert at spotting when something had happened. Without questioning, they just offered support, love and encouragement.

“Are you sure you want to come on the overnight camp, Abigail?” said Susan.

“I can’t do the Ten Tors if I don’t, and then the rest of you in the Patrol would miss the event too.”

“You’re very brave,” said Susan, hugging her tightly.

“We’ll look after you,” said Diane, fiercely. “He’d jolly well better not try anything.”

They camped near the Mires.

“Don’t stray out of your tents tonight! One false step into the Mires, and it’s down you go, never to be seen again!” Johnson laughed ghoulishly and rubbed his hands.

He took Abigail with him to fetch water for the evening meal. When they returned she was shivering.

“Are you alright, Abi?”

“Yes. Just a bit cold.”

The six girls of the Patrol bedded down in two three-person tents. Susan and Diane slept in sleeping bags either side of Abigail, whose head was by the entrance to the tent. She lay there, stiff with fright.

Minutes passed. Diane fell asleep first. Susan turned over several times, but then her breathing became regular. She snored, gently but noticeably. Abigail waited a few minutes longer, and then, as quietly as she could, wriggled out of her sleeping bag. As though hypnotised she undid the tent flaps and walked into the night.

Diane stirred. Something was wrong. Her eyes opened. She felt the chill air of the moor. She saw the open flaps of the tent. Abigail was missing.

“Quick, Sue! Abi’s gone!”

Susan stretched, then sat up abruptly.

“What do you mean, gone?”

Diane pointed to the empty sleeping bag and the open tent. Susan scrambled out of her bag and started scrabbling for her trousers.

“Come on! We haven’t got time for that!”

Diane led the way outside. There was torchlight in Johnson’s tent, and noises. They could hear Abigail, sobbing, protesting.

Diane picked up a heavy stone.

The two girls ran to the tent and tore open the door. Johnson was lying on Abigail, who was struggling, weeping, trying to push him away. Her legs were spread, and Johnson, trousers around ankles, lay between them. He looked up – and Diane hit him with the stone, hard. He slumped.

There was quiet.

There was silence.

“He’s not breathing,” whispered Susan.

“You’ve killed him,” whispered Abigail.

“It’s my fault. I’ll have to take the consequences.” Diane breathed heavily as she thought of the implications. Prison, not university. Disgrace. Shame for her parents.

“One for all, and all for one.” Susan and Abigail spoke simultaneously.

“No. I can’t let you,” began Diane.

“Let’s put the body in the Mires,” said Susan.

They looked at each other.

One for all and all for one.

They hauled the body out of the tent, tidied the interior and tied back the entrance, so it would look as though Johnson had walked out.

“Lucky there’s no blood,” said Susan.

They lifted the body as best they could, and carried it to the edge of the path.

“We’ll swing it like we were giving him the bumps,” declared Susan.

The body splashed into the water about five feet from the path and started to sink immediately. The girls watched. Was the corpse going to disappear entirely? It was submerged to the waist, then to the chest, then to the neck.

And then the eyes flickered open. A look of terror flashed across Johnson’s face, and the girls recoiled. A whispered “Help me” came from his mouth. Susan seized a stone and threw it at the distorted face. There was silence once again, and then bubbles as the head went under.

“Good riddance,” said Susan.