Friday Flash Fiction 626 – Working From Home

Today’s tale follows on from Sunday’s short story.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/sunday-short-story-720-the-queue/

Working from home was not quite how Cassie had imagined. Working on her own was fine, no interruptions, but conference calls with colleagues, from work or overseas, took much longer than expected. She had reckoned without the domestic factors.

They’re sharing a table with home schooling children, they have to be joking, haven’t they got grandparents to dump them with?
‘Sorry Cassie, isn’t it a nightmare, can’t leave them with Mum, she’s just had chemo.’
Cassie looked at the squabbling pair who kept looming into view; surely these were not the two adorable angels that they heard so much about from Gabbie in the office. At least she couldn’t get out of work now; Gabbie was usually more out of the office than in, taking time off every time one of the little darlings had a sniffle.
‘Did you email Singapore Gabbie?’
‘Singapore, oh my god, I was just about to when Felicity fell down the stairs.’

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It was quite entertaining though, who would have imagined Gavin would choose such décor? What room was he actually working in, would it be rude to ask?
A huge black hairy face filled the computer screen.
‘Down Hugo. Sorry Cassie, he’s usually out with the dog walker at this time of the day, he thinks it’s Christmas. Yes I’ll take you out in a moment, Hugo that is, not you Cassie… Did Gabbie email Singapore? It’s chaos at her place.’

‘Good morning Cassie, meet Mr. Snuggles.’
A bundle of fur with an evil face sat on John’s lap.
‘If we get cut off, blame the cat.’
They got cut off.

She did not even recognise the woman on the three way conference call and what on earth was that top she was wearing or was it a …
‘Good morning, is Singapore sorted yet, did that email go, hope you don’t mind the baby… isn’t this working from home great, no pumping and expressing.’

Cassie needed a coffee, but she ought to touch base with the boss first.
‘Yes Mr. Fenton, no, I’m going to email Singapore right now, it’s not easy getting everyone into this working from home routine.’
A slender brown arm appeared at the side of her screen and placed a bone china cup and saucer on Mr. Fenton’s mahogany desk, followed by a delicate tea plate with two chocolate biscuits. Who was that woman? Unlikely to be the insipid plump wife he had brought to the Christmas dinner and dance.

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The one person she had not linked up with, had any contact with, was the chap from the queue at the chemist. She had looked him up as soon as she got home; a completely different department, which was good from a professional versus socialising point of view. Would he contact her, what were the rules of dating for the over forties, not that they were dating… had he thought better of it, wrongly assuming she could be desperately seeking a responsible man to impregnate her before it was too late. This morning’s glimpses into the home life of others had confirmed she had no desire for a baby, dog, or cat… but supposing he had children of his own, they knew nothing about each other…
Her computer pinged, a new email, from him.
‘Coffee break time, do you want to Zoom or Facetime?’
Five minutes later Cassie was laughing; the blue eyes were just as penetrating on the screen with crinkle lines evidence that he laughed a lot and could make her laugh as he described his morning.
‘Mummy, Mummy, Felix has done a poo on the carpetI didn’t know if Felix was a cat or a brat…. Oh Cassie, sorry, do you have children or pets…’
‘No way, well only a vivarium…’

 

Sunday Short Story 720 – The Queue

The ringing startled Cassie, nobody ever called her on the landline, few people called her mobile either. She was tempted to ignore it, but the sound penetrated the calm of her little house.
‘Hello Dear, it’s Doris.’
Cassie was slow to react.
‘Doris next door.’
‘Oh, of course…’
In a rare moment of neighbourliness, when Cassie moved in a year ago, she had given the old lady next door her number, just in case…
‘You said to call if there was an emergency.’
Had she really said that? Cassie pictured Doris lying on the floor with a broken hip. That would be the end of her pleasant Day One working from home.
‘Yes, yes of course, what happened?’
‘Nothing yet, but I can’t get out to collect my prescriptions. Boris said I had to stay indoors with my lungs.’
‘Well we all do…’
‘Yes, but you’re not vulnerable dear, you could cycle down to the chemist.’
Relief that she would not have to apply first aid lifted Cassie’s spirits, she brightened her voice to what she hoped was a caring tone.
‘Of course, I’m going out anyway for my one permitted exercise of the day.’

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Self isolation was what Cassie practised most of the time, why she had moved to that quiet road, but neither did she want to be stuck indoors all the time. As she turned her bike into the high street, what looked like a new Antony Gormley art installation filled the pavement outside several shops. Suddenly every figure moved two paces, perhaps it was a flash mob; she waited for them to break into song and dance. She wheeled her bike a few inches towards a woman now rooted firmly to the spot. The woman backed away a few inches.
‘Excuse me, what’s going on?’
‘Queue for the chemist, one out, one in.’
‘Oh god, how long have you been here?’
‘Thirty minutes, you’d better get to the end of the queue.’
Cassie padlocked her bike and took up position outside the closed card and gift shop. The woman six feet in front of her turned and smiled. Cassie groaned inwardly, not one of those who liked to chat…
‘Nice day for it, I was here yesterday, but I don’t mind standing out in the sunshine; it’s for my dad, didn’t have all his meds yesterday. He’s got OCD, or is it COPD and diabetes, you wouldn’t believe how many different tablets he takes… he had a funny turn yesterday and I was worried it was the Coronavirus, but he didn’t have a temperature, at least I don’t think he did, we couldn’t find a thermometer…’
‘Oh well it must be…’
Cassie glanced up ahead, four more shops before she was even near the chemist. She glanced behind and noted three more people hovering. One chap looked vaguely familiar.
‘Is this the queue for…
‘The chemist.’
‘Ahh, not how I planned to spend my first day working from home.’
‘Me neither, it’s not for me, the old lady next door.’

‘Same here, shoot me if I ever end up collecting a bag of medicines every week.’
Cassie laughed, someone with the same sense of humour. ‘Let’s hope we have nice neighbours if we get like that.’
‘Well the old lady isn’t exactly a neighbour, it’s my mother, I live with her.’
Oh no, a chap in his forties who still lived with his mother, not what she needed. Well standing two yards away from a bloke hardly rated as being chatted up, though even at that distance she had noted his piercing blue eyes. She realised he was still talking.
‘I know, sounds a bit sad, you get divorced and instead of freedom your sister expects you to take your turn at responsibility, it didn’t help getting transferred here… speaking of which, I’m sure you look familiar, you don’t work for MPJ as well do you?’
She could say no, but then if she bumped into him at work… if they ever went back to work, how long was this virus thing going to last, would her job even survive. He was still talking.
‘So we can hardly go out for a drink with everything closed, but it might get lonely working at home, perhaps we could link up on line.’
‘Okay, I’m Cassie…

Friday Flash Fiction – Health Crisis

I looked at the list of unpronounceable names on the drugs list. They actually trusted people to administer these to their loved ones? Trusted wives, sons, nieces, the next door neighbour to hand out the right tablets in the right number at the right time? The hospital expected me to ‘do the meds’ without a key or a trolley?

Four tonight, next two days four twice a day, the following day three twice a day… take one three times a day… what a collection, what a selection of pretty sweets for Brian’s ghastly grandchildren; pity they won’t be visiting. This corona virus; good excuse for his daughter to get out of helping and Young Brian away in Spain, couldn’t get a flight back. Not so resentful of me now they have a free carer for their father. I certainly didn’t sign up for this.

Better get organised. Take with food… must be taken one hour before eating… swallow with one glass of water… box of 32 paracetamol, that’s handy, in great demand at the moment, I’m sure Brian doesn’t need those with all the other stuff. A quarter tablet, how the hell am I meant to cut up that microscopic tablet. See leaflet for possible side effects, take me all night to read this… must seek medical help immediately if you accidentally take more than the prescribed dose. Wouldn’t that be a shame, could happen easily, especially with the size of the writing on those little brown bottles… oh, I thought it said 12 not 2 tablets. Ah… ONE 3 times a day, not 3, 3 times a day? No wonder, that explains it…

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Silly Saturday Short Story – Jolly Jumper

I was looking forward to a quiet Saturday when the doorbell rang. I only half opened the door, hoping to keep out the torrential rain and wind. On the doorstep stood a complete stranger, or at least it was hard to recognise who she might be with her head bowed and face concealed by the hood of her sodden coat. When she looked up, her expression was one of confusion.
‘Oh, er sorry, is your daughter in?’
I relaxed, pushing the door back another inch. ‘I think you must have the wrong house, I don’t have a daughter.’
‘Oh erm… is this The Lighthouse? Only I was a bit confused because it doesn’t look like the pictures and it isn’t very near the sea.’
Who was this stranger and what pictures?
‘It is only ten minutes walk from the cliff top’ I retorted.
And what business of hers what I called my house? It was a bit of a joke, my fantasy of living in a lighthouse on a rocky outcrop hadn’t quite materialised. The little featureless home in a row of similar houses could have been in any suburb anywhere, but I could walk to the sea; if my knee wasn’t playing up or the weather wasn’t too dreadful.
‘I don’t suppose mine is the only house called The Lighthouse, did you use SatNav?’
‘I came on the train.’
That explained her drowned rat appearance, a cliché, but she did actually look like a drowned rat; it was a good walk from the station. What was I supposed to do with her? She had an accent I couldn’t place.
‘I’m sorry I can’t help you, is it a friend or relative you’re looking for?’
‘I was sure this was the right place, Sandbourne, Wessex, I’m over in England for a writers’ convention in London next week.’
I felt a touch of sympathy for a fellow writer and a niggle of guilt that I had not invited her to put even a toe inside the door.
‘What a shame you have such awful weather for your day at the seaside, it might brighten up later. I hope you manage to find your friend.’
‘She’s a fellow blogger, I’ve never actually met her.’
A disquieting bell began to ring inside my head. I am a blogger, but who on earth would want to meet me in real life. Perhaps Sandbourne was full of bloggers who would welcome a visit, but I had no desire to meet fellow bloggers in real life. The whole point of blogging was surely to avoid people.
The woman blinked away large drops of water splashing down from my gutter. ‘She’s called Scribbletide, her blog’s called ‘To The Lighthouse’ … you know, after the Virginia Woolf novel.’
‘Yes, yes, I have read it, they never actually get to the lighthouse.’
Hmm, just like me, that’s why I called my blog that… I never get to the lighthouse. But how on earth had this bedraggled refugee from abroad found out where I lived and how long before she cottoned on that I no longer looked like that picture of me taken thirty years ago, nor do I live on Portland Bill. I could carry on feigning ignorance and hope she cleared off, but what if she told the rest of the blogging world the truth? No more Likes and ‘hugs’, no more followers. And I was intrigued, which of my thirteen followers was she?

17
‘You had better come in, as long as you promise not to write a blog about me.’
With her dripping coat hanging over the kitchen chair and a mug of tea in her hands she looked a bit more presentable, but with no resemblance to any blogger I could think of.
‘So are you Scribbletide?’ she stared at me suspiciously.
‘Well it’s a long story… why don’t you tell me what your blog is called.’
‘Leaping into the Unknown, it’s my day today, my sixth birthday.’
It took me a few moments to cotton on. ‘Leap Year, 29th February today, your birthday, not a very exciting way to spend it. I don’t Do birthdays, but if you only have one every four years I guess it should be special. Do I follow your blog?’
‘Yes, all the time, I’m Jolly Jumper, you love my daredevil adventures.’
Now I knew why she did not look familiar, her blog persona was a cartoon superwoman who wore a colourful Scandiknit jumper. Her real self looked like she would get vertigo climbing a step ladder.

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I took her to the cliff top café for tea and a big slice of cake. She wouldn’t go near the edge of the cliff as she was scared of heights, but with the dreadful weather, we were happy to sit inside and chat. After seeing her off on the train back to London I went home to start my new blog post.
P1070246What a thrill today to meet a fellow blogger from over the ocean. My special visitor, Jolly Jumper, was dropped off by the Sandbourne Lifeboat and scrambled up the craggy rocks to knock on the door of my lighthouse. It was so windy I could hardly open the heavy wooden door…

Friday Flash Fiction 900 – Excluded

At 9.30a.m. John sat with his pen poised; it was his turn to attend the compulsory one day workshop entitled ‘Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace’. On the whiteboard were written words and phrases and they were required to jot down their initial thoughts about each. EXCLUDED; John had certainly never been excluded, because he had never been or done anything interesting enough to warrant exclusion. SENT TO COVENTRY; well if he had been sent there he probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway. He still hadn’t put pen to paper but he was thinking. The classroom situation brought back memories of sixth form. All through lower sixth he had secretly adored Annabel; on the first day of upper sixth he was thrilled she was in his form again, this year he would try and approach her. Whose form were you in last year? she had asked innocently. Yours he had muttered bleakly, the crushing awareness of his invisibility blighting further conversation.
Teenagers usually imagine two things; everyone else is having a better time than they are and their parents are boring; in John’s case both were true. As a teenager he had vowed never to live in a suburb, have a mortgage or endlessly discuss double glazing and patio doors; but these things had all come to pass.

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Still nothing written and now everyone was gathering in their discussion groups. No one noticed John had nothing to offer; they were all eager to relate their own unfair treatment in life and work; smokers, pregnant women, drivers, people passed over for promotion… he was glad when the ten minutes was up.
The next question was How have your origins affected your life? For a moment he was stumped; then it dawned on him what was missing from his life; he had nowhere to go back to. He really envied people who could return to their roots; the Welsh had their valleys, the Scots their islands and highlands and the Irish were always getting on ferries to go back home for holidays. But one could hardly say dramatically ‘I need to get back to Middlesex or Middlesex will always be in my blood’. He had never left Middlesex, but it had left him; swallowed up by Greater London, ironic since Middlesex used to surround London.
He realised the group were talking again; proudly relating how their parents’ struggles had inspired them to succeed or how keeping in touch with their roots had given them strong values. John thought of his dreary family, John Smith, they hadn’t even the imagination to give him a middle name. Granddad had been too young for the Great War and his father just too young for the Second World War; they hadn’t needed to go anywhere so they didn’t, he could hardly blame them, where had he been?
That woman was talking again, what did she call herself? Not teacher, oh yes, just call me Jilly everyone. She was asking them to write down what languages they spoke, easy, one. John was filled with admiration for folk who could slip easily from one tongue to another. He was convinced he would have been a more interesting person if he had grown up bilingual, what another dimension to life. You could be 100% British but fly away, step off the plane and stride confidently into another way of life.
Last question before coffee;

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Which aspect of your life or work makes you feel most excluded?
At last John spoke up ‘Well I feel excluded because I haven’t got any diversity.’ They all looked at him blankly, ‘I haven’t even got any issues.’
‘What do you mean by issues?’ asked Call me Jilly.
‘You know, ISSUES, when they say at the end of a programme If you have been affected by any of the issues raised by this programme, please call our helpline, well they should have a helpline for people who can’t find any issues.’ The others laughed, he was getting into his stride. ‘I can’t even find a community to belong to, not the cycling, the deaf or the travelling… and I can’t help the police.’
The discussion was turning into the liveliest of the day.
‘You look like a law abiding chap’ replied one man.
‘Precisely, the police never stop me and when they put out a plea for information from members of the such-and-such community, that is never me’ explained John.
Call me Jilly was getting exasperated now, the workshop was not going the way she intended…
‘I know just what you mean’ piped up a woman’s voice.
John looked over to see an ordinary looking woman he hadn’t noticed before.
‘You go to the art gallery to see a photographic exhibition but it never says on the wall We went to work among members of the Boring Community, giving them cameras to take pictures of their dreary lives and asking them to describe the images in their own dull words. No one ever wants my picture or my opinion.’
She looked around as the others cheered, hardly believing she had spoken up. Everyone was enjoying themselves now, the workshop was much more interesting than expected; with one accord they surged out for their coffee break.
Call me Jilly tried in vain to hold the group back. ‘Everyone, everyone another five minutes till coffee break, we haven’t summed up yet.’ but no one heard her.

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Friday Flash Fiction 840 – Grounded

‘You’re grounded.’
‘Wha…at, nobody gets grounded these days.’
Dean patted his pocket, he was quite happy to retreat to his bedroom away from the ageing love birds. They hadn’t got Sky yet, but with his new smart phone (bribery present from his mother) and the TV, he shouldn’t be too bored.
‘You are grounded till school starts tomorrow’ said Rob.
‘Suits me, there’s nothing to do around here anyway, nowhere to go in this godforsaken place, I’m happy to stay in my room.’
‘You won’t be in your room; grounded means on the ground, you can come out and work with me.’
‘Muu…m?’
‘I’ve got unpacking to do and dinner to get, I’ll make you both something really nice, what do you fancy?’
‘A takeway.’
‘I’ll do chicken the way you like it; now go out and get some fresh air, you’ll enjoy helping Rob.’

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Dean slouched out behind Rob and sneered at the vehicle parked in the driveway. ‘Green Man with Green Van’ was emblazoned on its side. He took the phone out of his pocket and started tapping in.
‘…and you can leave that at home, we’ve got work to do.’
‘Nobody leaves their phone at home. It’s my only contact with the outside world.’
‘The outside world can do without you for a few hours.’
‘Yeah, but I can’t do without the outside world, I didn’t want to come and live here.’
Rob laughed as he pulled out of the driveway. ‘I think you may have mentioned that already and I didn’t want you living with me, but neither of us has any choice. Try thinking of your mother for a change, she’s very happy to get away from the other place.’
‘She married you just so she could live in Woodycopse? I don’t think.’
‘You’ll be glad she married me one day. Stick it out here for a couple of years then you can go out into the world without worrying about your mother, she’ll have me to look after her.’
‘She’s quite capable of looking after herself.’
‘I know, but she deserves more than that. I don’t expect you to understand, just don’t spoil all this for her.’

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‘Oh hello Kate, yes we’re back, had a wonderful time, a week of sheer bliss, yes and that as well, no complaints in that department. Anyway, it’s true what they say about Venice.
Dean? Yes, he’s fine, gone out with Rob, they really get on well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob doesn’t take him on in the business in a few years time. I think he would have liked a son of his own… at my age? Yes of course it’s biologically possible, but it wouldn’t be fair on Dean, he’s still my baby… he starts at the new school tomorrow, once he meets some kids his own age… No I’m looking forward to my new life, imagine me living in Woodycopse, bit of a change from Fenbridge… Yes, once we’ve settled in you must come down and stay. Right, I’d better get on with dinner, Dean especially requested his favourite chicken dish, a week of his granny’s cooking, he’s probably starving.’

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The short drive to the house on the edge of the village was spent in silence, except for exaggerated sighs from Dean. Without ceremony Rob parked the van, jumped out, opened the back doors, beckoned to Dean and handed him a cluster of wooden handles with strange metallic attachments.
‘What the hell am I supposed to do with these?’
‘You’ll soon find out, it’s all clearing today, so you can’t do much harm.’
‘What a jungle.’
‘In a few weeks you won’t recognise it, do you want to see the plans?’
‘Nope.’
‘Suit yourself.’

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Dean quite enjoyed the hacking and chopping, though he was careful not to show it, but when he felt blisters coming up on his palms any enthusiasm quickly evaporated.
‘Can we stop now?’
‘No, we need to break the back of the work today, so it will be easier when we come after school tomorrow.’
‘Wha…at, I’m not your slave and you can’t make me do it, you’re not my Dad.’
‘I wondered how long before you came out with that cliché. You’re not my son thank goodness, just a reminder of why I never wanted children.’
‘At least you won’t want to adopt me, but why didn’t you want kids?’
‘I’m too selfish or didn’t want to inflict another teenager like me on the world?’
‘What were you like?’
‘Let’s just say my mother strongly suggested I join the army. By the time I realised that was a mistake, it was too late.’
‘Gran and Mum say Dad loved the army, never wanted to do anything else.’
‘I know, he was a great bloke and I’ve never pretended to your mother that I could replace him. Marrying me is better for your mother than being alone and that is all I can expect. And the least we can do for her is pretend we get along, perhaps one day we will…’

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Friday Flash Fiction – 727 – Musical Chairs

‘Mother’s decided she would like to go out for her birthday.’
‘We could take her to a film matinee at the Regent Centre’ suggested Roger.
‘No, she wants to go to a concert.’
‘Even better, free lunchtime organ concert at The Pavilion, sorted.’
‘I don’t think that’s what she had in mind; she was talking about the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, wants to look at the book when she comes round.’
‘When did she say she was coming?’
‘You’re picking her up now.’

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Twenty minutes later Roger helped his mother-in-law out of the car and escorted her to the back door via a conducted tour of the garden.
‘I see you haven’t got that gutter fixed yet’ she exclaimed triumphantly.
With gritted teeth he ushered her into the kitchen, the kettle was already boiling.

Leaflets were laid out on the coffee table as they sipped their tea.
‘How about Melodies From The Musicals,’ said Roger ‘or a piano recital on Sunday?’
‘Too dull; next Wednesday night at The Lighthouse sounds good’ she passed the brochure to her daughter.
‘Shostakovich, an hour and a quarter, are you sure?’
‘Yes, is that the symphony with the big orchestra and lots of drums? Good, let’s go to that, it may well be my last birthday.’
‘It may be rather loud’ said Roger hopefully.
‘Not for someone hard of hearing’ she retorted.
‘Roger, why don’t you go on the internet and see if they have any seats left? Make sure they’re on the end of the row in case Mother has one of her funny turns.’
He stomped upstairs while the two women perused the brochure.
‘Oh look Mum, the second half is a new commission, can’t pronounce the composer. Making full use of the percussion section, this exciting new composer takes Shostakovich as his inspiration. The fifty five minute work is a profound comment on post soviet, Twenty First Century Russia sounds a bit heavy.’
‘You’re never too old to try something new’ her mother chuckled.

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On Wednesday night Roger queued up for a programme as he waited for his wife and mother-in-law to come out of the ladies.
‘Thought you were never coming out.’
‘Long queue, everyone making sure they went before it started, it is a long piece.’
The old lady was pleased with her seat in the front row and settled back to watch the orchestra manoeuvre onto the stage. The symphony lived up to her expectations, the percussionists put their heart and soul into the performance. She tapped her feet and strummed her fingers on the arms of the seat. The vibrations shook every ache and pain out of her body, she hadn’t felt so alive for years.
As the applause died down she turned excitedly to her daughter and son-in-law.
‘You didn’t fall asleep in that Roger. Do you remember the last time we came here, the poor bloke only pinged his triangle twice; tonight he was in his element.’
‘Do you want to pop to the ladies Mother?’
She shook her head. ‘I wouldn’t mind an ice cream.’
‘We’ll try not to be too long.’
The old lady nodded and watched everyone get up to stretch their legs; she was soon sitting alone staring at the empty stage, wondering how steep the steps were. She stood up; within moments she was perched on the seat behind the timpani; how different everything looked from up here. She admired the array of instruments, drums, xylophones, glockenspiels and chimes; just as fascinating were the selection of implements to strike them. She picked up a stick and hesitantly tapped the drum, then struck it firmly.

A young man in tails strode onto the stage then stopped. An old lady smiled disarmingly at him.
‘You don’t mind do you dear, it is my birthday.’
He looked round nervously, then demonstrated each instrument and let her try.

Backstage the conductor was glad to hear the percussion section practising for the difficult new piece.

As Roger returned with three tubs of New Forest ice cream he was surprised to see his mother-in-law being escorted back to her seat by a member of the orchestra. Settling down, he read the programme with dismay.
‘Oh dear, I don’t think we’re going to enjoy the next piece, we could leave…’
‘Certainly not, I wouldn’t miss it for the world’ the old lady replied.

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Friday Flash Fiction 575 – Bonfire

I walked down the hill to Tuckton Village and passed boarded up shops; as I rounded the bend I saw the guards at the bridge over the River Stour turning people away; it was true, we still had twelve hours before we left the European Union, but Remainer movement was restricted more each day. There was still a chance; I slipped past the ruins of Tuckton Tea Gardens and joined a straggle of people wandering aimlessly, their eyes darting to the river. One man suddenly dashed to an empty boat, struggling to untie the mooring, a shot rang out and the rest of us dived for cover. Round the bend we kept to the trees, it was quiet, we all had the same goal.
‘Fifteen pounds each, this is my last trip!’ whispered the Wick ferryman.
I was the last to squeeze on board, we lay low in the water. I proffered two notes, my last cash now the dispensers were gone. I doubted I would need them; no annual literary dinner now all the Christchurch hotels were commandeered; our writers’ group was unlikely to last another four weeks. As we landed across the river I scrambled to get off, whilst others struggled to get on. They looked desperate, carrying as many belongings as possible, waving wads of money; the only words on their lips ‘Isle of Wight’. I watched as the little boat set off down river, things were worse than I thought. My fears were confirmed when I heard the bell of the Priory tolling. Many people were still around, madness in the air; we surged towards the high street and saw a spiral of smoke rising up.

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Brexit Extreme had grown in power, disconcerting the respectable conservative Brexiteers, confounding the confused abstainers and putting terror in the hearts of Remainers. Hiding amongst the crowds, I made my way towards a bonfire in the centre of the road. The rabble were rushing out of the Regent Centre tossing paintings on the fire. Outside the tourist office a guard urged people to destroy the seditious pamphlets inside. As I edged along the pavement towards the library, guards and civilians came out carrying piles of books, throwing them gleefully on to the blaze. Anything that smacked of elitism or liberalism was being destroyed. I looked up, from an open window fluttered white sheets of paper, the precious work of our writers’ group. I tried to catch them.
A guard spoke gruffly to me ‘You don’t belong to the writers’ group do you?’
‘No, No of course not’ I stuttered, moving on.
Someone fleeing from the library, shielding their eyes from the glare, shouted to me.
‘Aren’t you from the writers’ group?’
‘No, you must be thinking of someone else.’
I tucked my blue scarf with its gold stars deeper under my collar and fled into Saxon Square away from the heat; coming towards me were two members of my writing group; I put my collar up, turned and slipped back into the crowds. I heard a cheer go up, someone was coming out of the Regent Centre carrying aloft the Wooden Quill Poetry Award; he tossed it into the flames. I patted my pocket, inside was the memory stick with all my writing on; was I too late to get to the Isle of Wight?

 

A second anthology from the author of Dark and Milk; some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.

Friday Flash Fiction 141 – Instructions

‘Just follow the instructions,’ said the exasperated father ‘you put too much water in last time.’
‘But it looked so beautiful and shiny.’
‘Sparkle and glitter are no good if it doesn’t work properly. You need to get the axis straight for a start.’
‘The axis would have been fine if my stupid sister hadn’t thrown lumps of rock.’
‘You must learn by your mistakes, the structure has been unstable all along, you were over ambitious. Now it’s time to get back to basics and before we can do that you need to dismantle E1. It’s all recycling these days… Don’t look at me like that, you knew we’d have to put them down; you can have new pets when I’m satisfied with E2; not so many this time, pets that don’t eat each other or kill one another.’

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Friday Flash Fiction 1000 – You Have One Friend

He still had the same smile, sitting on the bed, arms open in greeting.
‘We found him in a bag in the loft when we were moving.’ My mother’s voice startled me.
Teddy was the only recognisable object in the bedroom. Just back from a year in Australia, I had no choice but to stay with my parents while I searched for a job. During my absence they had downsized. I was consigned to the tiny guest bedroom.
‘I’ll go and put the kettle on.’ Mum retreated to the kitchen and I picked up Teddy.
He never had a name, but once upon a time he had been my best friend and I used to wish that he could speak. Mum assured me that if I held him close and listened carefully I would hear him. I responded by repeating his conversation, perhaps I really believed he spoke. Teddy was a poor substitute for a brother or sister, but I told him all my secrets.
Now I had other best friends and 677 Facebook friends.

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‘Is it okay if I use the computer?’ I asked after dinner.
My father’s new computer had been given a bigger room than me.
‘You can borrow your mother’s lap top, we’re on Wi Fi now.’
‘No one goes in Dad’s den’ laughed Mum.
‘It’s only till I get a new phone; you’re not on Facebook yet then?’
‘Load of rubbish,’ said Dad ‘we only got e-mail to keep in touch with you.’
‘We Skype Aunty Dot in Canada’ added Mum.
Things had moved on since I’d been away.
I spent a busy evening checking e-mails and looking up old friends instead of career opportunities.

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By the next evening I was trying out my new smart phone, the latest model. After a few phone calls I checked out Facebook.
You have one new friend.
Strange, I had not accepted any new friends.
The new friend was born 5th June 1987, a week after me. There was a picture of him with that familiar smile. It was Teddy. Who was playing a joke? Only my parents knew about Teddy, but they didn’t know how to get on Facebook and they didn’t have a sense of humour.
I scrolled down to see what other friends were up to, hoping I had imagined Teddy. Parties, weddings, jobs and feeble jokes, plenty had happened since I had been in the internet café in Sydney. I scrolled back up. Teddy had made a comment.
I’m back, the dark days are over.
I left Teddy on the windowsill where I had put him last night and went downstairs. My parents were watching a ‘Nordic Noir’ drama.
‘I thought you said you didn’t do Facebook, which of you put Teddy on?’
They were too busy reading the sub titles to take in what I was saying.
‘Oh people put such rubbish on the internet.’
When the titles came up they came back to life. ‘Any luck yet? It’s not easy for anyone to get a job at the moment. Have you been in touch with your uni. friends? You have to network these days.’
I retreated with the genuine excuse that I was still suffering from jet lag and went to bed with a book, but I could not resist one last look at my phone.
New e-mails;
Come over and see my new flat, Dilly.
Welcome back, do you want to meet up for a drink for old time’s sake? Tom.
Where are you staying? P.S. Like your new Facebook friend, L.O.L. xx Tim.
I went on Facebook. Teddy now had 5 likes and 1 comment from Tim.
Welcome back Teddy.
I logged out and tried to get to sleep, Teddy was still smiling on the window sill.

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I slept in, woken by my phone ringing. It was Kate.
Sorry to wake you, but there’s a position going at my place, thought you might be interested… is everything okay, only you unfriended me on Facebook.
The house was quiet, my parents had gone to work. Teddy had not moved since last night. I sneaked into Dad’s den, perhaps on the large screen everything would be normal.
You have been tagged in Teddy’s picture.
A picture of us together when we were both the same size. I went into the tiny lounge. They had kept the best bookcase and in it were the precious photograph albums.
Amy, one week old, with new friend.
There I was lying on the sofa with Teddy. There had to be a rational explanation. I returned to the screen. My bear now had 35 friends, my friends. I looked up his details.
Work and education: St. Bear’s Infant’s School.
Interested in: Humans
Activities: Chillaxing at home.
Teddy had been the only pupil at St. Bear’s, I was his teacher.
When I glanced back at the page he had posted a message.
Ho Hum, sitting on the windowsill…
That was how he spoke to me when I was a child, he always prefaced each sentence with Ho Hum when he whispered in my ear.

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Another phone call; friends at a conference nearby; a proper evening out with sensible adults, but when I got there I did not get the warm greeting I expected.
‘What’s going on Amy, you’ve unfriended us all on Facebook.’
‘No, it’s a great joke, I’ve got a teddy bear for a friend’ said one of the guys who had drunk too much, already keying into his phone. ‘Another message’ Ho Hum, all on my own, Amy’s gone out. ‘Hey, you’ve been tagged in his picture… I like the underwear.’
Despite my best intentions I had taken my phone out of my bag and logged onto Facebook. Teddy had posted a picture of me in the bedroom, about to put on the dress I was wearing now. On the windowsill behind me he sat smiling.
Teddy has 196 friends.
I checked my details.
You have 1 friend.

‘You Have One Friend’ is one of the stories in Dark and Milk – download for only 99 pence.