#FridayFlash

#fridayflash CODES

#fridayflash is a community on Twitter, Facebook and here. The idea is that you post a short fiction up to 1000 words each or any week on your blog and you link to it using the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter as well as adding the link to the collector. Everyone who posts tries to read as many of each others’ stories as possible and post some constructive feedback. For general readers it’s a great way to discover brand new fiction and authors.

I’ve posted elsewhere about how flash fiction and fridayflash in particular has changed my writing life. It provides a regular deadline, allows you to get feedback on your work and to try new genres and formats as well as making you hone your writing for smaller wordcounts. You can even set yourself challenges for tiny wordcounts while still telling a great story.

The flash fiction I’m posting today is the result in many ways of my whole #fridayflash expenence. I’ve been working on a novel for a while so haven’t posted here. However, #fridayflash had led to me accumulating a body of work of interrelated flash fictions features a core set of characters and locations, life through a prism with stories told from different angles and with crossovers. I’m now working on consolidating what will be a flash fiction novella, called Unusual Flashes Of Light. (Some of my characters   believe they’ve seen UFOS). I’m delighted to be back posting #fridayflash. I’ve had such fun and success with the form that I’ll be shortly running a flash fiction workshop as part of my Head Above Water courses in Bray so keep an eye on the listings. After that ramble, here’s today’s story. (For related stories see Lethargy and The Solid Table Fallacy.)

Killiney Bay

Killiney Bay

CODES

Morrison Pentworthy had a motor car, an Aston Martin DB4 convertible that belonged to his Dad. They drove to Killiney with the top down. Sandra and Karen sat in the back.
‘What does DB stand for?’ Sandra wanted to know.
“David Brown,” Morrison shouted back against the wind.
‘Oh,’ replied Sandra and Karen together.

Morrison stopped at the garage for some mints.
‘If we drove away now we could be Thelma and Louise,’ said Karen.
Sandra laughed. They watched Morrison moving about in the shop, he seemed a bit lost between crisps and cold drinks. They looked at him, willing him on, wishing him the best.

Down the coast road, barely clinging on, Sandra wriggled herself forward to shout in Morrison’s ear.
‘I thought your Dad was into Doors.’
‘He’s into cars as well.’
‘Fancy.’
Morrison chucked something small and hard into their laps. It wasn’t mints. It was a packet of Love Hearts with inscribed messages of endearment. Be mine, I love you, lucky star, love bug.
‘What does your one say Morrison?’
‘Find me,’ he said, then crushed it between his teeth.
‘Smile’ read Sandra and held Karen’s hand.

Morrison pressed a button on the dashboard and they heard rain.
‘Can he do that?’ said Karen looking into the lately summer sky.
‘It’s Riders on the Storm’ Sandra said, tightening the scarf round her head.

Over the beach the grouchy cumulus hung. Karen admired Sandra’s newly painted toes. Morrison was scribbling. The water did that to him.
Some men ran down the beach, feet pounding, sand exploding between their toes
‘It’s like Chariots of Fire,’ remarked Sandra.
Except for the dog,’ Karen suggested, watching a yappy terrier having a go at their heels.
‘There should be horses…’ Sandra mused. She thought of how they would kick up the sand with their hooves and make the air seem fast around them. The riders would lift up from their seats and have their hair flying back and it would make anything seem possible.

Far away a woman and her two children were playing at the water’s edge. The children had a bucket, the woman had rolled up her skirt and was writing something in the wet sand as the sea rolled towards them. Morrison was taken by the scene, as if it stood for something. The woman and the girls, there was something familiar. Yes, he could hardly believe…She was here. Emily, Emily, Emily, wuthering, could not stop for death.

He heard a rustling, behind him, turned from the scene, found Karen and Sandra reading his notebooks.

“0100100100100000011011000110111101110110
0110010100100000011110010110111101110101” Sandra read out, very precisely.
Morrison put out his hand, digits starfish spread, his face all tenderness and fury.

Sandra threaded her fingers through the spaces of his. ‘Sorry,’
‘We just wanted to have a gander,’ added Karen.
Sandra kept on holding his hand, keeping the drowning man above water. ‘What are these?’
‘Codes,’ he said. ‘That one’s binary and that ones Morse.’ He pointed to another.

.. .-.. — …- . -.– — ..-

‘What do they mean?’
‘I can’t tell you that or I would have to kill you…’ Morrison turned back to the water. He was wearing Karen’s big dark sunglasses. His hair was blown back at the front like a New Romantic. His toes made holes in the sand.
‘I love you.’ said Sandra and Karen looked up. ‘I love you, That’s what the codes mean. I studied science in college.”
‘Surprising,’ Karen said, her eyes on Sandra.

Morrison didn’t hear. He was looking at the seashore with sunglasses. The youngest child had the mother’s face between her hands. She kissed her on the lips. ‘I love you mummy,’ the child was saying. That’s what the child must be saying, down at the shore, holding her mother’s face so precious.

Later Morrison bought 99s for Karen and Sandra from the ice-cream van. He was walking away from the ice-cream van when he stopped and went back for sprinkles and syrup, Karen and Sandra were sprinkles and syrup kind of people. They knew that Morrison was no longer mad at them for reading his notebooks.
After the ice-creams they lay down and looked at the deep blue of the sky.
‘Do you think this will go on forever?’ Karen asked, roasting her toes in the sun.
‘Probably,’ said Sandra from behind dark glasses, big ones like the celebrities wore.

The two children and their mother were coming closer, the smallest girl was running up the beach with a spade in her hand. She seemed very determined. It was the way her shoulders moved, the way her small legs carried her without hesitation.
“Isn’t that the woman from the bus,” remarked Sandra and they all sat up.
Morrison didn’t say anything, he stood and brushed the sand from his rolled up trousers.

The little girl flew past them up the slipway, her feet were dark with mud, her spade raised for action. The woman was rushing, holding too many bags, the handle of one fell down and the older girl rushed forward to hold it. They hurried by, each holding a handle of the bag. Morrison stood like an anatomical exhibit demonstrating forward motion. A few metres away the family disappeared up the slipway into the car park.

Sandra lay back down, adjusting her glasses. “I thought you were going to do something there for a minute, Morrison..”
“Ouch,” said Karen, wriggling on her beach towel, she reached under her, and revealed a rogue Love Heart.
Dream On she read out and then crunched it between her even white teeth.
Morrison sat back down. He kept looking in the direction of the shore but now the sun was in his eyes and he could no longer see.

#fridayflash Anise Fish and Colin behind the Glass

#FridayFlash (check it out, anyone can do it) as I’ve said many times before has been the single most important influence and inspiration for me in my writing development over the last few years, since I began calling myself a writer, writing everyday and striving to say things that were important to me but to say them new. There are phases when we beaver away in the background – I haven’t posted in FridayFlash for some time while finishing novel work. Due to the inspiration of Fridayflash I wrote a flash fiction about a girl eating the world that is forthcoming in wonderful mag The Stinging Fly. But the story didn’t end there, various vignettes arrived, which will be combined into a very human tale of psychotic consumption, loss, love, depravity – all very human things, many of which are rooted in the excesses and tragedies of the Irish economic boom and bust. Anyhow that’s for later, for the novel but here is a taster as my fridayflash piece today. All feedback very much appreciated.

“What is the sickness that you have?” Colin behind the glass wondered.

“Too much world,” said Anise Fish.

“We have that in common.”

“I’ve always had it, since I was tiny.’ Anise stroked the glass. ‘I ate four cots. They had to keep replacing them… I ate the curtains and the table legs like a puppy. Things used to go missing – pegs, toothbrushes, spoons…”

“Spoons?”

“Yes, and yoghurt cartons an’ all. One day a man came to the house. He lifted me up and spun me around and I jingle jangled. They did an x-ray and found all sorts of things inside. Once my uncle said that I must have eaten the constituents of a garden. Mud, worms, flowers, rocks, bits of twigs. ..So in a way I have a garden inside me…“

“You do?” he said, then he reached out for her and their fingers touched through the glass.

She saw him pale as wafers, as edible as the moon. “Come outside with me, you can’t live in here.”

He felt: homemade lemonade and the assault of her eyes. He took a deep breath and turned the handle of the window.

“Come into my room,” he said.

He stepped back as she leaned on the window sill and clambered up. He felt the oxygen of the world as she opened the window wider and climbed through. He relived for an instant that trip on the train when he was five and the countryside was moving too fast. The grass was a blur, the cows, dry stone walls, the sidings, wide motorways. Victorian warehouses with old kiln dried bricks, the metal skeletons of goods trains, graffiti filth, the onslaught of cities and their electric lights.

Anise Fish had brought the outside in. He covered his face with his hands and then he felt her hands on him. Her face so immediate, so close. He reached out for her.

There was no honey. There was salt, seaweed and sand, and yellow; the colour of buttercups under her chin. Her skin felt like paper first and feathers and old books, all those old musty books from his room that he had buried his nose in, face down flat on his bed. Her tongue was slippery and muscular like a fish.

She kissed every inch of the half-moons under his eyes, the dark inventive hollows, the hamlets of his temples, his lip topography, licked his cheeks of fragile dawns and fever.

He tasted the air on her skin and the sky with kites, sea spray, bog ale, moss and pine needles, forest floors and old dung at stiles with wind waves of dried sedge beyond, the snap of licorice dogwood, red twig fire between the teeth.

Come outside she had said.  “Come outside.” whispered Anise Fish. And she kissed him again, that soft fishy tongue in the salt of his mouth. And he sucked on her mouth for air and he held onto her shoulders and ribs for his scafenfolding.

He was inside now, right inside, inside this room, inside this girl, all sensation.

Anise: the tips of her fingers were popping, her groin was burrowing into the molten earth core, into dark tunnels of ancient trolls with groping gnarled fingers, down smooth slippery rivers of ice and fire.

Their legs had gone from under them. They sunk into the soft billow of sun sheets. They lay at the bottom of the pond, in the salty rockpools then; watching shoals of tiny two-spotted gobys, sea anemones waving fronds.

His hand fell from her as she rolled away. He heard water running and remembered trips to waterfalls; his own perpetual screaming at the overwhelming sound and the relentless pouring. He recalled his parents’ bemusement. He caught a glimpse of her hair and it was the sun in his eyes. He covered his face.

He rolled onto his back, naked, onto the sheets that were not too anything, feeling his own fingers in his own space, the ghosts of trains still clattering in his exerted heart. He put his finger to his lips and could taste the world from them.

He became aware of an insatiable yearning.

From the pale iced door, returning, Anise’s face contorted. He closed his eyes against the view of her and continued to chew. The bedstead tasted of meatloaf.

Copyright: Alison Wells

Real

That was the start of it, the vigils. Every night at the foot of the Gilt Spears a group of people congregated in a housing estate to look up at the stars. Housewives with working away husbands, fractious toddlers hanging upside down in their grim grip, wailing at the night. Comic book men with costume fetishes, conspiracy theorists with tales of Area 51, young pensioners with an eye for travel, Agatha Burns’ mother, Sandra and Karen (a hairdresser and a florist) and my father, congregating like they did the day of the total eclipse of the sun.

Nothing had ever surprised me more than when my father phoned me. In fact it was more surprising than what he rang to say. Over the years he had maintained an attitude of studied ignorance to my existence even as he indexed his Star Wars magazines. When my mother drew his attention to me, he often seemed taken aback as if he had no idea where I’d come from. And maybe that should have been a clue.

He was breathless – but that was normal by then. Roy spoke urgently into the phone. He said he had seen the lights. He said, ‘we are not alone’.  He said that he had heard music first, five notes on a scale and that he had made his way out to the back garden. Years before his first port of call would have been his telescope in the attic but his mobility was now poor. The world was travelling away from him; his feet could no longer find the floor, he constantly misheard, his near vision was almost gone. He had no trouble seeing the stars however, the further away the better. He drank champagne the night they announced the Glise 581g – the star closest in make up to ours, the Golidlocks planet that was just right for life.

He was even more bubbly there on the phone, he mentioned the music again, then the lights, three lights ‘dancing’ he said, ‘dancing’ It was a word I’d never heard him use, it was something I’d never seen him do although my mother was the kind of woman who should have been whisked about the floor. But he was changed that day, his voice was honey bright, he went on, telling me. I watched the lights fall through the sky. They stopped and hovered over my head. Then they flicked and dipped like the tail of a fish. Then they disappeared, ‘behind the Gilt Spears,’ he said, referring to the hills nearby.

‘Why me?’ I said

‘Come again?’

‘Why me?’

‘I thought you might like to know.’

Then he admitted he couldn’t get Barry, that he’d left a message on his mobile. I think he’d forgotten that Barry was no longer talking to him.

Of course he didn’t expect me to come, especially after the accident, it wasn’t so easy for me to get round. I visited him the next evening after sundown. He helped me take the wheelchair from the car. People were congregating on the green. They were organised. Mrs Burns had made sandwiches and the two young women made hot chocolate for everyone.

That first night we saw nothing but there was a sense of optimism. I watched my father’s face contain an alien happiness. He told jokes, he became considerate, draping a blanket over my legs to save me from the cold. After a couple of hours I went back into my father’s house with him and he talked and talked, a great river of information, all the vital statistics that were necessary for understanding what might be about to happen.

But then in the onslaught he paused, he asked me a question and he listened. I heard myself talking, and I saw him taking notice and I became real.

Night after night for seven days I returned for the vigil. I never believed, but look what had been accomplished – every night talking with my father, repairing the old mottled cloth. On the sixth night, he took my hand and shed tears when talking about my accident. He’d never referred to it before. ‘No one was on the look out for you.’ He said.

The next night we looked up at the sky over towards the Gilt Spears. Again the residents standing with their mouths open and their breaths baited. ‘Do you think there is anything out there?’ said the lady called Karen. ‘Might be, Sandra replied, biting into a marshmallow. Some of the group had given up, they were in front of their televisions watching repeats of Family Ties.

There was a sudden lull, like the bottom fell out of something. I looked up in the sky and I heard the music, the music that I seem to come from a long time ago from among the forest of chair legs as I sat underneath, the girl forgotten. I heard music but I saw nothing, nothing at all.

The people were oohing and swooning, shouting about the lights. ‘Dancing,’ called my father, pointing. When I looked there was nothing there but I heard above my head his perpetual humming, five notes from Close Encounters, this humming I had heard my lifetime through.

‘Three lights!’ he yelled, ‘Look, Look.’ But I couldn’t see anything. Maybe I wasn’t the daughter for him. My father clasped my hand, his tears illuminated in the street lamps.

‘Do you see it?’ he said.

‘Yes!’ I shouted. ‘Yes, isn’t it wonderful!’

He kissed my cheek. ‘Gertie,’ he said, his shoulders heaving. ‘It’s real isn’t it?’

‘Yes!’ I said. He lent down. I placed my lips against the damp wool of his coat. My fingers were crossed.

#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 Reunion

They met again in a supermarket. It was Christmas Eve and everyone was there. All around the shop assaults of memory, surreptitious sightings of people from the past, back, nasty girls from school now snapped and pummeled, lost boys made good in chinos and suits, friends of her mother patting her arm in the biscuit aisle, their shortbread faces softening because they had been fond of Louise.

Eddie had a trolley. It had been abandoned in the car park. Now he wished he hadn’t bothered.

The Jingle Bells playing over the tannoy had the musicality of scraping nails.

Emily had a basket; Cream, cream cheese, crackers perhaps and mincemeat for mince pies. She’d found a jar rolled on its side behind the sugar. The basket crashed against her, the metal mesh fighting, there was a tailback of trolleys and a crush for the cheese boards.

So it was there, beside the cheese after, what, twenty years? All those many kinds of cheese both melty and hard, cheese with holes and mould and cranberries and apricots. In slow motion you could see their hands both reaching for the Wesleydale.

In a flash you could see their hands now older but familiar, touching like the so old days. In a moment, a place and time where Christmas crackers didn’t matter, everything here and now so close, the chill of the cabinet, the solid resistance of the floor tiles, the glare of the fluorescent lights, the past racing up, a train with flickering windows. Emily and Eddie baiting forked lighting on the quay, her hands around his waist driving on the motorbike up past the Hellfire Club to the view of the night town like stars. Emily and Eddie flinging plums into the sea on the day before he left. Why did he leave?

“Emily,” he said. A woman pushed passed with a chocolate assortment. Emily said nothing. She could not choose a word out of so many. She couldn’t pick out which thread to tell him.

“How are you?”

“Fine.”

“It’s been…”

Ages.

“I didn’t know you liked Wensleydale.”

The basket was digging into her fingers. The girls were with her father. He sometimes got nervous.

“My mother died,” she said.

He nodded, mumbled.

“I have a daughter,” he said.

Her hair was darker, shorter.

His eyes hadn’t changed.

The woman with the chocolate assortment came back the other way. They were truffles with many luscious centres.

“I’m a photographer now,” he said. His hand disappeared. She waited. Over the tannoy came a plea for more checkout operators. He gave her a card.

Edward White, Portraits, Special Occasions she read. There was a phone number.

“I have two girls,” she said.

“I live in Blackrock now,” he replied.

On the train that day, it had been him she’d seen. It was like the folds of paper coming together.

She looked at the basket with the Wensleydale on top. Her ex-husband had refused to make the trip to see the girls at Christmas. He said he would Skype if he got the chance. When Eddie had left he had said he would write her a letter.

“My number is there,” he said pointing. Emily put the card in her bag among the rest of the debris.

He wondered whether he should kiss her on the cheek. People were pushing to get round them. Good to see you Emily and Eddie said and smiled at each other.

Then Eddie turned the trolley and headed towards the milk.

#fridayflash Finding the bog body

This is a short incident from my novel in revision The Book of Remembered Possibilities. A driver finds what turns out to be a bog body. This piece is one of three juxtaposed ‘moments’.

The bulldozer judders, throwing sound across the bog’s wide valley back to the jagged hills.

In the broad sweep of a valley, the heron’s wings beat determined across the fretful sky, the crickets sing. Over the ground moves the breath of dragonflies and moths, ticks and red ants. Small birds scratch among the lichen, tracking beetles.  A hawk hangs in the ether.

The driver takes slices off the skin of the bog.  He peels back the carpet of woven sedge, heather, moss, the wings of insects, feathers of bog cotton, leaves of clover. The blade of the bucket cuts into it, making a scar through the tapestry of green. It opens up the seeping interior, accesses the bog’s bitter ale…

The driver sees something in the ground. He throws the machine into neutral. He powers down the roar.  He jumps out of the cab onto the springy turf, the mud going into the grooves in his soles. The spring adds a lightness to his mood. This is a man who gets up before his wife and teenage children, puts his sensible sandwich and a flask of tea in the car and drives to the site as the light fills in around the edges of the landscape’s developing photograph. He plays Springsteen and Cohen and the Blades and Thin Lizzy. He has a good voice. It attracted his wife’s attention before she was his wife when he was just one more rugby head watching the match with his lager aloft. Later someone gave him a guitar and he sang Sarah and it happened to be her name. He thinks of his wife, leaning against the breakfast bar that sly wry smile on her face. He bloody fancies her still, the curve of her in those black jeans, she keeps herself well, no messing.

It’s a bitch of a day, devious. It started out calm and then those monsoon showers hit. The lads legged it back to the vans for a bit of a warm sup. He was going to follow them. The rain machine-gunned the window. He bent his head against it before he figured he was in the cab. He said he might as well continue while it poured. Then he spotted whatever it was. He goes to investigate. The sun comes out to make a fool of him and the drips are speed-bombing off the door as he reaches the ground. The rain slides into the run of his wrist, his hair is splattered.

The bog still stretches for miles, blends into the hills, runs up the face of it until the crags split it, solid heather hewn hunks hurtling off the rock face, clinging to the crag underside.

He almost trips on it, this coagulation of leaves, this what, this shrivelled thing, rag and bones. Above his head a hawk cries, dips his wing. The roar of lorries on the arterial is silenced. The hawk halts at this present moment. Waits for what has been found.

New short story collection, #Fridayflash and Smashwords news

Self-published in a library

Smashwords have just announced an exciting new library initiative for their bestselling titles. Read more about it here.

Publishing is in a state

Here’s a very very interesting article about the state of publishing today and the role of ‘indie’ publishers in that.

Today’s #Fridayflash

Today my #fridayflash short fiction is on the amwriting website which features daily blogposts from authors and fiction on Fridays. My story this week is called Brown and Blue, you can read it here.

Mini short story collections

Many of you who’ve read the blog would have read my #fridayflashes and other fiction. I have many many longer short stories, some published in various magazines and some that have never been read. I’ve decided to release a few mini collections for Kindle ebook and app. Other formats will follow. The first one is called ‘Stories to make you go ‘ah’. There are three stories about love, life and desire. One of the stories in the collection was longlisted in the Sean O’ Faolain prize.

Stories to make you to ‘ah’ UK

Stories to make you go ‘ah’ US/IRELAND

#Fridayflash From the hospital

This is a segment from my literary novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities which I’m revising for submission. This is a stand alone episode where Freya comes out of the hospital after a coma.

The way she placed her feet seemed to have many possibilities, the way this oriented her body in the surrounding space. It was the wrong body, in the wrong space, the wrong skin. The children ran about, random molecules in a heating liquid. Daniel was taller, Ben more talkative, Grace thinner, Aidan greyer in the skin. There was birdsong, a constant, chirrup, but no identifiable source, heard through the sirens arriving at the A&E.

Into the car in the multi-storey car park, the dimness made the children dozy. There were things that she may or may not have noticed before; the resistance of the seat fabric against the body, the precarious nature of small negotiated spaces, the arcing trajectory on the exit descent, so sudden she might be flung into orbit.  She gripped the seat with her fingers, discovered the regular pattern of embossed squares like Braille. Then out into the irregular world, the cars in the opposite lane approaching violently. She mentally steered to her own kerb like a learner driver, leaned back against the headrest.

In the hospital leaned against the pillows, trying to remember.“It’s common,” said the consultant, “that the memory can be lost in spots.” She’d thought, suddenly, starkly of a colander, had a vision of herself in the kitchen, water pouring through the holes.

Of the accident, freeze frames, a sudden backwards rush, the sound of glass smashing.

She began to recognise her family but with a stranger’s detachment. Now she sidles up to points in the past, recovering particular events.  But when she tries to zoom in they slip.

Back in the hospital bed: her chin on her chest, the suck of the blood pressure monitors, other patients’ hidden snufflings, the sound of a far off infant.

Freya turned her head. In the car, Ben – fastened into his baby seat – had fallen asleep, his head lolling against the insert, his cheeks made round, the corner of his mouth moist. Grace examined the sky. Daniel stared at nothing. Aidan looked straight forward, driving back.

Everything is strange.

They came to a stretch of dual carriageway where they picked up speed and skimmed along the sleek tarmac. Wheels always look like they are going backwards when they spin. In the sky, she saw clouds that defied possibility, improbable birds aloft. On the ground she saw long concrete barriers fencing in the relentless route, lone figures at the side of the dual carriageway, ahead, then suddenly left behind. All along the road the signs were blanked out. They were going nowhere.

But going home. On the last descent before their exit, an alien spaceship cloud hovering above the Devil’s Glen, the rest of the sky vacant. Freya stared. Altocumulus lenticularis.  Minutes to go before they were home.

Walking into the house she felt the airlock close, eyes on the back of her head. The lead player in this story of her homecoming, the audience holding its breath.

“Where is everything?”

“What do you mean?” Aidan asked, close, proprietorial.

“I don’t know. It’s all just different.”

“Granny came and cleaned up,” Daniel announced triumphantly. He tapped against the floorboards with his study shoes.

“Yeah,” said Aidan.

“We wanted it to be a nice surprise,” Grace was eager to intervene.

This was the cue for her lines, her play at pleasure.

She said nothing. She sat down among her things, things chosen once, things she’d gathered to tell herself and others of her tastes; not that vase, but this one, not that book, but this one.

But everything was not the same. The bookshelves were lighter, the ornaments rearranged, foreign bedclothes had infiltrated the bedrooms, her children had lost something –  naivety was it? They were leaner, more wary. They followed her round the house. Ben held onto her leg until she lifted him up. Then he put his hand down the neck of her loose clothes and fell asleep on her shoulder.

“Good to be home?” Aidan asked. She nodded, swallowing. On any day you might wake up to the feeling, of a dream gone wrong; that you were living the wrong life or perhaps you were just the wrong person for this.

Aidan’s face in the hospital. The quick turn of his head, the restlessness of his gaze. Ben held firmly on his knee, the children chided for noise. The staccato beat of his flight at the end of visiting hours. Now it was Ben who held her face, looked directly into her eyes.  It was Ben, not Aidan who made her realise that she was really there.

She got into the wrong bed. Now texture was a language. And through the scent of the bed she recollected Aidan. Although he was right there, she experienced it as an old impression travelling back to her along an interminable pathway to when she had loved him.

Later, in the months to come he will say; “You are not the same. I don’t know you anymore.” I cannot help it if in reality he speaks clichéd lines. I could have told you it differently and perhaps I will.

Later, he will say, “you are not yourself, you are not making sense, you are…”

”Unhinged?” Freya will say, looking at the door, wondering if one day he will go out of it and not come back.

That night, the night she returned to her life, Aidan reaching for her, in this changed body. She saw herself in the mirror, this other woman in this other life, this strange intimacy.

#FridayFlash Self-Possession

I have a 300 word flash up on the #amwriting site today. It’s called Self-Possession. It was written in response to one of the paintings on view at the Irish Writers Centre. (Full details on my guest post). If you can’t post a comment there I’d love to have your thoughts here.

Update: I’ve added my story here today Sat Mar 10th.

 

Fiona stepped around a dead bird in the road. By the railings and the rush of the buses, she became aware of implausible nausea, olfactory conspiracies of street tarmac, cafe onions. She saw Jack. The momentum of her body checked. Inside her the tiny astronaut unravelled, tethered to the mother ship; a jolt under the skin.

Self-possession. He had it. In his arctic white t-shirt; blonde haired, broad shouldered, unburdened. “I will make you love me” he had said, in a bar.

In the street she reached him. He kissed her, leaning in. He possessed her neck. At dusk in the flat he tore at her clothes under milk white window sills. In the entrance hall his hand at the small of her back.

The figure in the painting stared at the caged bird. She had been proud of herself before meeting Jack.

Jack was an architect. During lovemaking he considered her geometry, their wall shadows thrashing against each other; parabola, rhombus, polygon.

“The bird – it’s beautiful don’t you think?” Jack stroked her hand.

She didn’t answer.

“Look at it” he commanded.” She did as she was told.

She leaned her other hand against her stomach. Her midriff was becoming convex. Soon he would notice, insist.

“You don’t know what’s good for you” he’d said, that first time at her flat.

Even the bars of the cage were lovely.

His fingers loosened. She made her arm bird bone thin and slipped it from him. Eventually he would turn his eyes from the painting, his face dark against the outline of her absence.

Fleeing to Pearse Street, a feather stuck to her shoe.

In the train she watched the framed shapes of her possible lives flicker. In the bleached air an arrow of birds headed south.

his story was written in response to the painting The Caged Bird by Gerald Dillon on view at the Irish Writer’s Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin and part of the Frank Buckley Collection. The painting can be viewed among others here.