Friday Fictioneers – Boat for Sale

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!

smart

PHOTO PROMPT © C E AYR

Boat for sale

It’s an immaculate vessel. The fishing tackle in the bow looks brand-new. The engine fires at the first attempt. The paintwork is almost unmarked. It’s also pink. Hmm.

I ask the agent who is handling the sale how long it has been on the market. He shrugs.

“A few months, maybe.”

“Who owned it?” I ask, curious.

“A lady.”

“Did she ever use it?”

The agent shrugs again.

“She took it out every day, monsieur, sometimes more than once.”

“Did she catch many fish?”

He grins.

“Not fish, monsieur. She had a large, pink bed in the hold!”

Vive l’amour!

Inlinkz – Click here to join the fun!

Friday Fictioneers – Change the Date

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 - Change the Date 190320

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Change the Date

Once more Denise counted the lamp-posts to the bridge. She was sure she was waiting in the right place.

She called Alan again. No answer.

Something must be wrong! He wouldn’t stand her up. Not on New Year’s Eve. Would he?

The minutes were ticking away, and the crowd was growing steadily thicker, noisier and more exuberant.

Her phone pinged. A message. From Alan.

“Sorry. Dozed off. Enjoy the fireworks!”

Before she could answer, she felt a tap on her shoulder.

“Mark! How lovely to see you!”

“Here for the fireworks? Shall we watch them together?”

Why not? Bugger Alan!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

 

What Pegman Saw – The First Sunny Day

“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 Terni in Italy, the birthplace of St Valentine.

WPS - The first sunny day 180210

The first sunny day

Italy in August is supposed to be hot and sunny, but for the first week of my holiday it had been cold and rainy. I might just as well have been in Wales. Mind you, the weather hadn’t deterred the mosquitos. Worse, one bite on my ankle had become infected and swollen, and I’d had to pay for treatment.

When the sun eventually came out, the heat was sultry, heavy, enervating. I was strolling up the street, wondering half-heartedly if I could allow myself a beer, when I heard a peculiar sound.

“Huffa-huffa-huffa…” I looked right and left. Nothing.

“Huffa-huffa-huffa…”

And there, in the porch of a house, I saw him, a dog mounted on a bitch.

“Huffa-huffa-huffa…”

He looked at me with world-weary eyes, as though to say, “A gentleman must pass the time somehow.”

“Huffa-huffa-huffa…”

I gave him a grin, and strolled on to buy myself that beer.

What Pegman Saw – Five Star Wife

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview, and this week it takes us to a beach resort in Mexico. Using the 360 degree view of 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.

WPS - Five Star Wife - 171118

Five Star Wife

“What a dump!”

“Sun, you said. Sun, sand and sea! And there they are!” Sue gestured at the gritty beach with the sullen Pacific half a mile away. The sun beat down. It was thirty degrees and only ten in the morning.

“Five star luxury, you said” grumbled Jeff.

“The hotel is lovely. If you don’t fancy the beach, go back, sit by the pool and ogle that American girl!”

“I didn’t…” began Jeff.

“Oh, it’s all right. Look, but don’t touch.”

“Anyway, I’d rather be with you.”

“Then sit here, in the shade, and quit moaning.”

The barman smiled at her.

“Could I get a sangria for me and a beer for him?”

“Of course, Senora. I’ll bring them to your table.”

“Do you have wifi?”

“Naturally.” He handed her a printed card. “Network. Password.”

Sue strolled back to Jeff and ruffled his hair.

“Miserable old git,” she said, tenderly.

What Pegman saw – Literary Fiction

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the 360 degree view of 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.

WPS Poisson-Blanc Quebec 170901

Literary Fiction

Every mile driven between the trees was a mile further from civilisation, a mile further from the concerts, plays and libraries that Estelle enjoyed so much.

“Never mind,” she thought. “Next year, when I start my postgrad studies, I’ll have a cast-iron excuse not to holiday with the family.” And at least the books in the car’s trunk should last through the fortnight – probably.

The resort was beautiful, the lake deep blue in the evening twilight. Birdsong filled the air, and the fresh breeze carried a scent of pine. Their host proudly told them about the camp sites on the islands dotting the lake. He seemed to feel that the provision of latrines was a cause for celebration.

“And here,” he concluded, “are your canoes.”

Canoes. We paddle there? Really?

Estelle stared at him.

He was tall, well-muscled, attractive – and he had a copy of “Wolf Hall” in his hand.

Short story – The trouble with heaven

Every Saturday I have been posting an episode of ‘At first sight’, and last Saturday was episode 5. There are (probably) three more to go. I suddenly realised that I’m missing writing other stuff, and some of my readers might prefer more variety too. So here is a whimsical piece of flash fiction that I hope you’ll enjoy!

Trouble with heaven 170628

“The trouble with heaven,” thought Edwin, “is the singing.” It was all very well if you had a wonderful voice like his best mate, Luciano. Or if you were a rock god (oops, sorry, he thought) like his other best mate, Brian. You could sing your heart out, as though you were headlining at Glastonbury. Very satisfying, no doubt, only he was tone-deaf with a sense of rhythm that stuttered like a car running out of fuel.

Other people told him how lucky he was to stand between Luciano and Brian. Edwin, though, felt it was probably a ruse by Saint Peter to ensure that he didn’t spoil the ensemble of the heavenly host.

Then he was handed the microphone for a solo.

A Good Day’s Work

Just the contents of my tool-bag could earn me a prison sentence. ‘Going equipped’ the police call it – and what an apt description it is. I’m equipped to force windows, pick locks, and snip wires. I even have a little electro-magnetic gizmo to neutralize some of the latest digital alarms. Not that I expect to need that this afternoon.
This is my favourite sort of property, a big, detached house at the end of the village, high hedge surrounding the garden and no alarm system. Both adults work and the kids are at school. Easy. Virtually risk-free.
I reverse my battered white van with the recycled number plates through the gate and park just inside. Nobody from the street can see past the van; it’s as good as being invisible.
Just in case, I ring the doorbell. I’m dressed as a workman, white overalls, white gloves, even a fake identity badge. No answer. Let’s get cracking then. I score along the edges of the glass pane nearest the lock, cover the glass with sticky paper and give it a sharp knock. It falls out, sweet as a nut, and leaves no jagged edges on which I could cut myself. I put my hand through, turn the handle of the Yale and the door swings open. I don’t know – some people just invite crime; no deadlock, no security bolt, nothing.
I’m not malicious in the way that I search a property, but I am thorough. Drawers out and upturned and not just to inspect the contents quickly – you’d be amazed at what people tape underneath drawers. Most of what I find is in desks and dressing tables, but every so often there’s a waterproof package in the cistern or a neat little envelope of cash in the drawer under the bed. I don’t bother to lift creaky floorboards; if you go to that much trouble you can keep your money as far as I’m concerned. Cash, jewellery, cameras, watches – small, high value items, that’s all I take
The last place that I look is always the kitchen. I check the biscuit tins and the tea caddy even though I’ve never found anything there. You can call it sentiment or superstition if you like, but my Gran in South Wales used to keep her savings in the caddy, and it would feel wrong, almost impolite, to leave without checking.
The kitchen here is at the back, and it‘s while I’m looking through the cupboards that I hear footsteps crunch across the gravel towards the front door. Crucial question number one; is it the family or neighbours? Family will come in, neighbours may not. Crucial question number two; can I get out of the back door, sprint to the van and get out of the drive without being seen clearly? I congratulate myself on my cautious habit of always parking the van facing outwards.
The footsteps have stopped. Whoever it is, they’re examining the door, realising that a burglary has taken place and wondering whether the burglar is still inside. “Indeed I am, madam,” I think to myself. The humour galvanises me, and I slide noiselessly across the kitchen towards the back door.
Hell! Two big bolts and a mortice lock. I strain up to the top bolt and try to slide it silently back. Silently! The only reason it makes no noise is because it doesn’t move. I put my full force behind it, heedless of any disturbance. It won’t budge, and I can’t get any leverage because it’s too high.
I hear somebody clear their throat. It is a young male cough, the sort that means “I’m scared stiff but I’m coming for you anyway”. Hell!
I don’t do violence, I do flight. As the footsteps stride up the hall to the kitchen, I’m on the work surface opening the catch of the window, pushing it and – it doesn’t open. It’s security bolted. I sprint for the door to the dining room, just as the kitchen door bursts open.
As I dodge through, I hear my pursuer’s steps slither as he changes direction abruptly to follow me. I sidestep through into the lounge and head across the room towards the hallway, the front door and freedom. I get as far as the middle of the room when fourteen stone of muscle takes me round the legs and I crash down, luckily falling onto a heavily padded sofa rather than the highly polished wooden floor. Even so, the impact and the fact that I stunned myself on the arm of the sofa leaves me feeling groggy and in no condition to run. I give myself a few seconds breather.
A forceful arm grabs my shoulder, and a triumphant voice snarls, “Right, let’s have a look at you then.” There’s no way I can resist and I’m turned over.
My captor’s grin of satisfaction fades rapidly.
“Ruth?” he enquires hoarsely. Oh my God, he’s a student on the same course as me. What are the odds against that?
“Alan! I didn’t know you lived in this part of the country.”
“What the hell are you doing in the house?”
“Burgling it, of course. You really ought to get your parents to upgrade their security. It was laughably easy to get in. Now, would you mind letting me sit up? This is hardly decorous. I won’t try running away, I promise.”
Alan moves away – a shame really, he’s quite cosy close to, and he smells very nice. His eyes are warm and brown. I gingerly sit up and straighten my overalls and try to tidy my hair.
“Well, you’ve put me in a tricky position haven’t you?” he grumbles.
“Oh, I don’t know. You call the police, hand me over and receive the applause I would have thought. What’s tricky about that?”
“You know perfectly well that I’m not going to do that, Ruth. How am I going to explain the busted glass in the door to my parents if I’m covering up for you?”
Alan’s such a sweetie. Six foot one, broad, athletic and tender-hearted. Pity he’s so stupid.
“Yellow pages. Glazier. They’ll do an instant job probably. Listen, if you’re letting me go, I’ll pay for the glass to be replaced.”
“Damn right you will. Hey, you didn’t – well, pinch anything before I got here did you?”
I point to the rifled drawers of the desk.
“You’ll have to give it back.”
With a show of reluctance I open my bag and take out two cameras, an iPod, a handful of jewellery and a rather nice Rolex. A pity; it would have been a good haul, at least a couple of grand even from the villain with whom I deal.
“Right, go and put it back and tidy up, while I arrange for the door to be mended. Then, would you like a cup of tea?” Tender-hearted? Daft as a brush, more like.
I’m almost as quick and neat in putting things back as I am in searching them in the first place, and it’s not long before I’ve finished. Alan solemnly hands me a cup of tea.
“Why do you do it, Ruth?” Now that the excitement of the chase is over he looks pained.
“I’ve got to pay my way through college somehow, Alan, and it beats hell out of bar work.”
“Yeah, but there’s student loans and things”. He sounds peevish.
“Start my career with a great big debt of twenty grand? Do me a favour. I bet that’s not how you’re doing it!”
“No, you’re right. My parents are being very generous. Are you really hard up, then?”
“Pretty short.”
“Look, don’t worry about the glass; I’ll sort that.” Taking candy from a kid.
“Alan, you’re a real sweetie,” I assure him earnestly, gazing into his eyes. I let my lips barely brush against his, feel the sparks fly, and pull away slowly, gently, with seeming reluctance.
“I must go now. Thank you. Thank you for being so understanding, Alan. See you next term!”
I leave him standing in a haze of endorphins, walk through the front door – still swinging open – and drive away.
I park the van in the yard – the scrapyard from which I recycle my number plates – and pull out the water-proof package. Nobody who hides things in a cistern is likely to report them missing…..
I open it neatly, and turn the contents over and over in my hands. A stack of fifty pound notes, no fewer than one hundred of them. Not such a bad day’s work after all!

The Wonky Wand

It’s been a difficult week with Donald Trump becoming President-Elect of the USA. So here’s a piece of total whimsy to lighten the mood!

The wonky wand

The fairy’s name was Gwendolen, and she was dumpy and pasty-faced. Her wings, although iridescent, were lop-sided and looked clumsy despite their delicacy. And, yes, she carried a wand; the star on the end not so much twinkling as flickering like a faulty fluorescent tube. I wanted to hug her, then brush her hair, straighten her wings and fix her wand; but as she was only eight inches tall and a supernatural being, I settled for smiling in a friendly fashion.

“Oh shit!” she said. “That just about wraps up the perfect day. Wrong time of the month, wand goes wonky, lost the rest of the troop and now, stone me, an adult human spots me. Shit. And bugger!” She glared at me. “You can see me, can’t you?” she said. “If I’m hallucinating as well, I might as well top myself.”
“Yes, I’m rather afraid I can. And I wish you hadn’t said that about hallucinating, because I don’t bel….”
“Stop!” Her exclamation was so unexpectedly loud that I jumped. “That Peter Pan stuff about a fairy dying every time someone says ‘I don’t believe in fairies’ is bollocks, of course, but we don’t like it. How would you like it if I said ‘I don’t believe in humans’?”
“You just did,” I pointed out. “At least, you implied that I was a hallucination.”
“Hmmph.” She glowered morosely at me. “You’ve given me a right problem. Really I should cast a spell on you to make you forget me. Or turn you into a frog. Or something. But the wand’s bust. It could turn you into a forget-me-not, or make you lost in a fog. Or nothing.”
“Really? I mean, can you really turn people into frogs?”
“Well, we don’t unless we have to, you know.”
I wondered under what circumstances it could ever be imperative to turn someone into a frog, but the look on Gwendolen’s face discouraged me from asking the question. For all I knew a fairy might consider mild curiosity by a mortal to be ample grounds for amphibian metamorphosis.

“I’m really glad to have seen you,” I ventured. “I never saw fairies when I was a little girl.”
“Well surprise, surprise! What sort of little girl sees fairies, do you suppose?”
“Some of my friends said they did.”
“Some people will say anything. Look, are you going to keep me here all night?”
“What do you mean?”
“As long as you’re aware of me, I can’t leave. Your attention keeps me here.”
“So if I stop looking at you, you’ll vanish?”
“Like a shot.”

I looked her over carefully, the golden hair streaked and in rats’ tails, the slight pot belly, the silky blue dress with a hem that had come down at one side. I wanted to remember her clearly; after all, this was a unique experience. Then I courteously turned my back.

I was just considering turning round again when I heard an embarrassed cough.
“Shit.”
“And bugger?”
“Definitely ‘And bugger’. I seem to be stuck.”
“How d’you mean, stuck?”
She looked pityingly at me. “Have I vanished or am I still here? I am temporally and spatially stuck, and it doesn’t appear to be your attention that’s holding me here. I really can think of better places to be stuck than the bedroom of a cheap hotel.”

“I’m staying here,” I pointed out. “By the way, your wand seems to have died completely.”
Gwendolen looked at the star. Even though it had guttered like a wind-blown candle, the glow had given it a crystalline beauty; with no light at all it looked like a particularly tawdry piece of plastic.
“Ah,” she said.
“Might that have anything to do with your inability to leave?”
Gwendolen tightened her lips and remained silent.
“I’ll take that as a yes, then. So how do you recharge a wand?”
Her eyes flicked right then left. “It’s no good,” she sighed. “If you were eight you might be able to help, but you’re old.”
“I’m forty two, you cheeky so-and-so. How old are you?”
“Oh, er, older than that.”
“Yes?”
“I was eight hundred and thirty last birthday. Look, what I need to recharge my wand is someone who wants something really badly, really single-mindedly. Human girls are especially good at that. We offer to grant a wish. They think ‘Oh, I wish I had so-and-so!’, there’s a great surge of energy into the wand, and we use a little bit of that to grant the wish. The rest of the charge will last a month with careful use. If you humans understood properly how to harness the power of your dreams you’d be unstoppable. I don’t suppose you know any eight year old girls locally, do you?”
“You didn’t expect me to be able to see you, did you?”
“Well, no….”
“Could that mean that I might be able to wish hard enough?”
“They’re different.”
But I could see hesitation and a dawning hope on her face. She looked almost pretty as her frown receded. “We could try,” she admitted.

“Do I have to tell you what I wish for?”
“Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no. What small girl would do that? You oldies are so crass; you think too much.”
I closed my eyes. I wished. I felt a surge of energy cascade through me, sparkling and crackling, tingling like intense pins and needles.
“Wow!” I exclaimed, and opened my eyes.
The room was empty. There may or may not have been just the faintest hint of fading sparkle by the television, and the memory of a sweet scent. I smiled, feeling more cheerful than I had for weeks. I strolled down to the bar and ordered a G and T.
“Hi! Are you Fiona? Fiona Last?”
He was tall, dark, well-dressed. His voice was resonant, melodious.
“I shall be working with you on your assignment. I’m Paul. I thought I’d drop by and introduce myself.” His smile was warm and open.
Like an echo in my inner ear, I heard a fairy voice. “Not a very original wish, but good enough. Thanks – and good luck!”

Cats

Sue loved her garden. She loved the muted purple and green of the lavender, and the sweet buzzing of the bees mingling with the chuckle of water falling gently into the small fishpond. She loved its air of peace and serenity, even here in the middle of the city. True, it was neither as neat nor as well-stocked as she would have liked, but she had done what she could in the time left after work and looking after two teenagers.
She sat near the pond, a tumbler of gin and tonic on the table beside her, her eyes closed to intensify the feeling of the sun on her face; it was warm for a September evening. Some time she would have to finish her presentation for tomorrow, but not yet. And she’d better make sure that Guy had finished his homework. Oh, and bother, Damien had football at school tomorrow and his kit was dirty; he’d left it at school, in the kitbag, in his locker all week, only bringing it home this afternoon. Her eyes opened, the sense of peace dispelled.
Thea, the tabby cat, sat on the edge of the pond gazing into the water at the koi. She looked up and blinked at Sue, uncurled herself in a leisurely fashion, and strolled over. She stopped just beyond Sue’s reach and looked up expectantly. Sue patted her lap, and made encouraging noises.
“Come on then, Thea! Up you come!”
Thea stayed put, and raised a paw in the gesture that meant “Please stroke me.” Sue took a swallow of gin and tonic, and smiled. The ice-cubes tinkled in the tumbler, the lemon rubbed against her nose as she drank, and her hand was wet with the condensation on the glass.
Thea closed her eyes twice, slowly, and walked away. She pushed past the lavender, pausing to pat at a furry, tan bumblebee, and then leapt up the brick wall to perch on the top.
“Not bad for an oldie,” commented Sue.
Thea ignored her, sniffing carefully at her perch. Sue wondered whether a stranger cat had been into their garden. Thea waggled her haunches and sprang into the adjacent garden. Sue closed her eyes again. There’d been caterwauling last night, and Thea had raced out through the cat-flap. She’d been dishevelled when she came back in at about 11 o’clock; she’d seemed smug. You couldn’t help wondering what she’d been doing.
Sue drank the last mouthful of gin and tonic without opening her eyes, and imagined herself a cat. She crept through the bushes, staying out of the moonlight. The feeling of the shrubs against her fur helped her to know where she was. She could smell the warmth of a small mammal, and held herself completely motionless while she listened for the rustling that would tell her where it was. She was hungry, she wanted to tear through thick skin into the tender meat below, to feel the juices run down her chin.
And then she was distracted by a still more enticing scent, the musk of a tomcat. Her tail became erect with anticipation, with pride…
“Darling? Dinner’s ready. Are you cold? Would you like a cardigan?”
Sue opened her eyes. There was Clive, looking unnecessarily concerned. She smiled at him, took his hand and pulled him towards her, kissed him hard on the lips.
“I’m fine, just fine. Let’s go eat!”