flash fiction

#fridayflash Ode to Morrison

This is one of many many interrelated flashes. This is for lovely Morrison from The Solid Table Fallacy.

If you’d like to see me reading it instead Click Here. Ignore the robot time check near the end.

I suppose it won’t surprise you to know that I’m a little bit in love with Morrison Pentworthy. He is a poet who bends towards the otherwise forgotten things; sandworm castings on the shore and the fractal repetitions of trees. He is Morrison, a little bit in love with everything. So a story, a story for him.

It was just a year or two ago, many years after everything that happened. Eddie was now Edward White, Photographer. He had tried to make sense of things too – those strange stories from old men and children about lights in the sky, fishy goings on, people from nowhere and flugtags that flew right up to the sun. He had taken pictures, pictures that my father might have called ‘life fancied up’; photographs that made the everyday extraordinary.

There was an exhibition, small scale. One of those where the force unimaginable is contained in a municipal building, slinking quietly into the background of polystyrene cups and industrial carpets, no hype, miles from the Tate or the Turner prize. Of the lights themselves he captured, somehow the hovering, the held breath beautiful and the hope of them. Despite himself Edward White had created something great. Only a handful of people would ever know. But this is Morrison’s story.

Morrison liked to ride the buses, sometimes randomly. He would take a 42 or an 11b or a 49A from the city centre and find out where they ended up. Later he might take the train back and admire the view over Killiney Bay or look into back gardens with clotheslines and old trikes and fashionable extensions. Sometimes on the bus he would have his notebook on his lap. He would awake from this reverie and alight the bus; emerge blinking into some foreign thoroughfare, some anonymous corner of brick and juxtaposition, enjoy the sensation of making sense of it.

Serendipity was one of his touchstones. We all have them. Whether its magpies, astrology, anniversaries, betting odds or Gods or our favourite jersey or bugbear, we all need something to give us a guide rail.

Serendipity. He went out of the bus and in front of him was the small door on which was fixed, modestly, quietly details of this photography exhibition. Inside, moving through the exhibition he felt his chest inflate, words ramming against his vocal chord. His fingers hummed. Yes. He went home and wrote this poem on a scrap of paper and his mother nearly threw it out when she was hoovering later in the week.

Send

Send me a secret story in a song just for me
Send me a grain of dust
Send me a heartbeat flipped, squeezed with lemon juice, soaked with sugar
Send me the sharp stars
Send me the winks in the water
Send me
Send me songs, photographs, breaths, petals, kisses, muddy puddles
Send send
Send send me the satellites and the lights of Japan and the sizzle of electric eels
Send send send
Send me the weave and the weft, the ragged starts and endings
Send

And between the lines, if you could see as microscopically as I do, yes, you would see the word Emily repeated over and over as if it was the shape of his breath. For since he had seen her in the furniture shop three and half years ago, with her children and her disgruntled husband, Emily had become another of his guiderails.

Emily too had gone to the exhibition. She was there on the opening night. She had seen a small write up in the paper and although she hadn’t rung Eddie since he’d handed her his business card at the supermarket when they’d met after all those years, she knew he’d be pleased to see her.

It felt grown up, standing there with a glass of wine and listening to the speeches, watching Eddie from a distance when she’d only ever been wrapped around him, lips, ideas, interests, limbs, kisses, kisses. She felt like a person, away from the children. She went out into the fuzzy evening with a more solid feeling.

She would not have gone back, only it was her mother’s anniversary and she was thinking about the sea. The sea healed, her mother had said, although for Barbara the healing had been only in the head. Eddie had taken some pictures that made the sea look like metal, rising, like the arc of a spaceship or the rim of the earth from space. The way she had felt about Eddie, all that potential was like the sea rushing in but now, (years later) it was all too late. The crest of the wave had fallen and the sea had gone out again.

Morrison with his notebook, his poetry and the secret codes for his sightings of Emily and yet that day, fated, at the exhibition he didn’t recognise her. She was so still, naked of the trappings of life, buses, bustle. Then he saw her hand and remembered the way she had placed it on the dining table in Furniture Land.

The leaf of the poem fell out of his book. There were red and gold highlights in her hair as she bent to pick it up. It was Autumn then and everything was tumbling. A slow light was coming through the window. She did not mean to read it but ‘Send’ she said as she held in in her hand. He watched her as she kept reading.

‘Send,’ she read and the rest and she thought of all the things she wished had been sent.

‘We met years ago,’ said Morrison ‘You wanted me to sell you a table.’  And there it was, that quiet beginning. Later they sat together in a café with plastic flowers and dreadful coffee despite being run by a middle-aged Italian with slicked back oily hair. There were plastic tablecloths so they could not see the grain of the table underneath and the whispers between the grain that silently said, ‘I love you’.

But many years later Morrison Pentworthy stepped down from the podium at a reading of his poetry, now popular and admired, to the steady, constant arm of a white haired lady with eyes like the sky; that strange, inconstant blue. Emily, Emily, Emily. Can you imagine their kiss?

#FridayFlash Further chronicles of Mars (in tribute to Ray Bradbury)

In tribute to Ray Bradbury

In the long years of silence he waited, not knowing he waited. Ears that had been turned to him closed, the dust lifted and fell. He looked through the clearing for signs. He saw nothing, heard nothing without knowing he wanted to see, or hear. But his hands sought the gravel instinctively as he stood, sentry to the silence, to the stillness, to the waiting. He dug, unearthed.

There is a special kind of loneliness that might trigger a metal tear. There became a feeling in him, his long arm, his fingers, digging. There was a sound, Soi, Soi, another sound, Spi, Spi. His fingers in the soil as red as blood tingled. Fingers.

Followed then, a sense of what was old and over. Echoes. Flash memoryDeletion…Rebooting.

Sleepy Hollow. Yes. Humphrey Rock. Bonneville Crater.

Dust devils, this whirlwind of fire sand. Soi, Soi, Spi, Spi, Sil, Sil.

His fingers leapt. Sicila, they said, hot springs, fumeroles, microbial life. Life.

Precipitated then, a sense of what was possible and probable. Opportunity. Opportunity.

It was the judder and tug he needed, he opened his eyes, looked with his long metal eye. Spirit. I am Spirit.

In the long years, all the orbits, the moons of Phobos and Deimos, spinning.

In the long years of silence. Not knowing but now knowing, sentient, conscious. He remembered. Sol, Sol, Soil, his name, Spirit, his lost companion, Opportunity. Mars explorers.

For the last time he waited for the Transit of Earth, that tiny marble tracing across the sun. If there could be a metal tear… He had been stranded in the loose soil, in the red dust and they prayed for him, there was a memorial. He did not know that but their love had been evident, he felt their efforts, reaching out.  He watched the marble cross the sun and disappear. He might live forever, he might see it again.

First he travelled Olympus Mons, named for the home of the old  gods. Down he went into the caves named by the Earth men for their loved ones. The final ray of the sun through the gathering dust. He disappeared into the caves to begin.

So many years, Opportunity retrieved perhaps, oh joy then, or conjecture, (that is all the Earth men have). They wonder where life began and where it ends and can it start again.

In the caves he began for love, for the Earth people who had sent him there, that Rover mission for their constant attention and their prayers. What would he make, his long arm capable of lifting rocks, making monuments, pyramids in the shape of the descending sun? Monuments already existed on the surface in the memory of souls lost in human atrocities. The twin moons were named after Fear and Panic, the lackeys of Mars, that god of war. Now. No. New. Not Fear, Not Panic, Not War.

In the long years, he spoke, he built, he became. And in the dark caves a new secret, hidden from flyby probes and the imagination of men. In these new caves, names for the loved ones, Bradbury, Clarke, Rover, in these new worlds, old landscapes, terraformed pastures and glades and the enduring sea and under that miraculous water not sand, not dust, not yet, not ever. Instead the red Martian rocks, deep hue, deep hewn, everlasting. To the sound of the water on rock, Spirit thought and unravelled his infant imagination and began, and began and began.

#FridayFlash A Sense of Danger

Along the long pavement on the straight road she imagined being run down by a wayward driver mounting the kerb, her body crushed, the car ricocheting over her bones. Her feet became manic on the path, slapping the cruel concrete over and over. At the high voltage sub station the grid of the mesh gate zinged. She imagined her fingers sizzling, her body dancing with electric; that mad scientist hair before she slumped.

Around the ring road, strangers walking too close. She felt disliked by ivy, she passed quickly but felt their liquid tendrils round the slim lines of her throat. She had trouble breathing. Planes in the sky had that falling note, clouds rallied like the fists of boxers, rain spat, buses roared warnings from Hades.

She might eat her own fingers, her nails nibbled away in ancient times, long gone, she might unravel her clothes, picking away at loose threads, she might rub holes in her trouser legs, in her own legs, she might erase herself. Yes.

Round and round the ring road.

Chewing on her lip.

Stabbing the cruel concrete with her toes.

Bullets came.

On the back of her slim neck, on her head, firing, raining down, stones of ice. The heavens were out to get her. In Asia a hailstone killed a man.

The ice rain obliterated the view, all hail, all falling down. The long pavement grey with a kind of mourning. Dark rumbles from above, light daggers through the clouds stabbed at her. This constant raining of pain. Her heart galloped, leapt into her mouth.

And her heart saw out, this strange beautiful land washed clean. She held a hailstone in her bitten fingers, watched it melt. And the top of her head was cold and renewed. Liquid slid down her warm cheeks.

She lay in the abandoned road. Her arms out in the way of making snow angels. And the cars didn’t come and mow her down and above her the clouds parted and on the walls the ivy shone.

Hurray for National Flash Fiction Day & Free Housewife!

Well I’ve spoken before about National Flash Fiction Day and now it’s here! Congratulations to director Calum Kerr for the initiative and to all those involved in the mass of events in the UK and those in Dublin. It’s a lively celebration of a wonderful form! Here’s an interview I did with Calum.

To celebrate National Flash Fiction Day, I’m making my space comedy fiction Housewife with a Half-Life Kindle version FREE on both Amazon US and Amazon UK for one day only (May 16th) . There are some other great books on offer for the free day including the amazing Jawbreakers collection of flash fictions itself. Get yourself some free stuff, see here.

I’ll be reading tonight May 16 at the Big Smoke Writing Factory (Inter) National flash fiction event in the Back Loft (La Catedral Studios, 7-11 Augustine Street, Dublin 8 from 7-9pm. If in Dublin come along.

If you can’t make it, here I am on a video, yes! reading my piece from the National Flash Fiction Day anthology Jawbreakers. The story is called Elsewhere.

For more details on National Flash Fiction Day.

The full National Flash-Fiction Day blog is at http://nationalflashfictionday.blogspot.co.uk/
The website is at http://www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/
Follow on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nationalflashfictionday

Random Acts of Posting: April 15

Here are some of my writing.ie posts that you may have missed in the last while. Enjoy!

Historical Fiction: Hazel Gaynor’s Titanic Novel The Girl Who Came Home Hazel Gaynor explains the intricacies of writing historical fiction for her Titanic novel.

Love: Writer & Journalist Lucille Redmond on her short story collection Writer and journalist Lucille Redmond’s new ebook of short stories is striking and powerfully descriptive.

Guest post by Dr. Ailsa Cox, founder of the Edge Hill Prize for Short stories. Dr. Ailsa Cox, founder of the Edge Hill Prize on the origins and selection process of this prestigious prize for short story collections.

Emotional Energy and Novel Writing Novel writing requires emotional energy: How do we maintain and access it?

Why Flash Fiction will last What Flash Fiction is and why it’s here to stay

Flash fiction thoughts and A.J. Ashworth’s short stories

Howdy. I’ve been putting myself about elsewhere today. On writing.ie I interview A.J. Ashworth whose wonderful short story collection Somewhere Else, Or Even Here won the Scott Prize and is now released by Salt Publishing. The collection is fabulous. Read more about it and A.J. Ashworths views on short stories here.

I’ve also been pontificating here about what flash fiction is and whether it is really real for the National Flash Fiction Day site. I say lots of fancy things so go see if they make any sense.

Flash 365 plus 1

Calum Kerr the organiser of National Flash Fiction day is also writing a flash a day on his Flash 365 blog. With this, Feb 29 being a bonus day, he has got lots of us to provide the bonus day stories on his blog including one of mine to be put up. With some great names in short story writing there give the stories a read and don’t forget to go back to Callum’s blog to see his new stories each day.

He’s also ran a flash competition and the winners of those very short pieces can be read here.

Metro Mums – Submission Opportunity

Metro Moms Network is an online magazine which provides content aimed at urban parents topics including those related to both parenting and work-life. Metro Moms Network supports all parents, but particularly those who are starting up small businesses or doing freelancing work.

One element of the Metro Mums Network is the Metro Fiction slot. It’s editor is P.J. Kaiser, and editorial advisor Debra Marr both familiar to many from the #fridayflash community. The fiction slot  requires stories between 900 and 1100 words that will appeal to a largely female audience. Genres include fantasy, historical, literary, paranormal, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction. It is a fee paying market.

For more details see here and for full submission guidelines see here and for the metro fiction slot see here.

My story Agatha Burns will appear on Metro Fiction tomorrow, check back here for the link!

#fridayflash Do not forget the girl forgotten

I’m very happy to have been invited by Johanna Harness to post my #fridayflash today on the #amwriting website. This beautifully designed website has plenty of terrific articles by writers who use the #amwriting twitter hashtag to connect. If for any reason, you can’t access or comment on the story there, here it is:

It was the 70s, sideburns and plaid. There was a birthday party. Gertie had seen the trifle with the sugary spongey fingers and the hundreds and thousands on top. It must have been Saturday because the man who was her Dad was there, he was in the garden trying to catch butterflies with a net, actually a fishing net – it still had straggles of seaweed wrapped round it. Gertie had seen on the telly that nets were made in Bridport by a woman who was very skilled at hooking the twine round. Bridport had a tradition of net making the programme said. They started with fishing nets but later they went on to other nets for things like football. The netmaking people said that one of their brilliant nets had been used in the 1966 World Cup between England and Germany. That wasn’t very fair to Germany then, was it? Dad’s net didn’t come from Bridport, it came from the seafront in a place they had been on holidays.

Gertie was under the table. From out of her pocket she took out the string of a cat’s cradle. She wound it round her fingers in the long parallel strings of candles and the concertina of diamonds. One, two, three, four, five. Gertie wasn’t sure what age she was. No-one had told her.

Gertie thought about the food above her head, about the rows of sponge fingers at the bottom of the trifle, about the bowl in which the trifle was made, pale green glass with a pattern of repeating diamonds, the plaid on her skirt, repeating intersecting bands of colour. The wallpaper’s repeating rhomboids.

The birthday party wasn’t for her, she didn’t think. She wasn’t sure who it was for although that girl from next door was here, the one who’s right thumb was half the size of her left and was constantly spongy. And there was the girl who sat beside her in school and stole her fancy pencils. And there was her cousin Lily who had a very thin and delicate name but a wide body like a descending parachute and fat black boots and a heavy stomp. She was affectionate, like a Great Dane, she often came up close to Gertie whispering gibberish intimacies while spraying a mist of spittle against her skin.

What Gertie wanted right now was a person, a person she supposed you might call a friend who would know how to do the cat’s cradle with her, pinch out the strings, help her turn it into something else

A head appeared under the table, upside down so that he had a beard of curly black hair and his eyes spoke. “You aren’t real” said the boy. “You don’t talk normal. What’s wrong with your mouth?” Gertie didn’t answer. Sometimes she didn’t feel she had a mouth. Sometimes she felt like those special post boxes where you pulled up the lever to see all the letters inside and then pulled it shut again so it was just metal, boxed up. The boy disappeared and then it was just feet. Patent shoes, a pair of wellington wellies, scuffed runners. Then legs, skinny pales ones like cricket bats turned sideways.

There was a lot of noise from the garden. From under the table Gertie could just see out the kitchen door but only through a gap that was triangle shaped like the segments in her aunty’s special tray for what she called ‘nibbles’. From what Gertie could see, her father had put down the net and was helping Barry arrange fireworks beside a realistic cardboard model of an Apollo shuttle. They had laughed at Gertie because she called it a Polo shuttle. She had been thinking about those round sweets with a hole in the middle that came in mint or fruit. Barry and her father had forgotten her, and her mother was busy talking to her Aunty who was holding the nibbles tray. Gertie looked back down at the cat’s cradle. It was lovely once she held it tight but she couldn’t do that forever.

When Gertie’s was three months old her mother left her in the pram outside the butchers and went home. Once they forgot her when they went on holidays – her grandad found her when he called round to put out the bins. He said that her parents were away with the fairies. She thought they had gone with Barry and Gary. When her mother told the stories of her family they always left her out. She heard her grandmother say once that she had been an afterthought. Somehow that made her think of after dinner mints with the green stuff inside. That cheered her up. But then \again there was the time when her mother leapt up after a dinner party exclaiming – “The after dinner mints! I forgot to put them out!” There was always some kind of tragedy or commotion.

Gertie had been hopeful for her mother, despite her forgetfulness until she started hanging things up, wind chimes, dream catchers, those yellow sticky strips that caught flies. Gertie used to dance in front of her, trying to catch her attention but it never worked. It was as if she wasn’t there, as if she was an after dinner mint from the after life.

But if she had been from the afterlife they might have seen her. Gertie’s family were always looking to the sky, to the butterflies and the UFOs, the trajectory of comets, the parallel vapour trails of airshow jets. Gertie looked at the cat’s cradle. She heard the fireworks whoosh in the dusk, she heard the cheers of all the faraway people. Perhaps it actually had been her birthday, but now she was utterly forgotten. She sat quite still under the table until she could not longer be seen, until, in fact she disappeared, in the finger shadows of chair legs.