Flash

Sometimes on Sundays... by Rebecca Johnstone

Sundays aren’t always lazy days of lie-ins and reading the papers.

To be honest, I’ve never really read the papers anyway. The magazines inside them maybe yes, but not the papers. Too real. Too newsy, taking me away from the orb of my own experience and the daydreams I prefer.

Sometimes on Sundays you have to get up early or even want to get up early. You start the same as any other day: tea, big cup, no exceptions. Shower, breakfast. Things to do. Always something to do. Lunch and tidying up, clearing away. More tea.

Nothing lazy about the day at all.

And then out for some errands. A lot of traffic on the roads and so it seems that other people aren’t having relaxing days either. They’re out there - here - too. On the road. Commuting like it’s a work day but in less of a hurry.

An over-cautious blue Yaris. A vintage matte-black Porsche. Lots of powerful cars never reaching their potential because it’s Sunday.

Before that, an argument over who will go up into the loft and get that thing. You know the thing that you’d forgotten you had but now suddenly need and it disrupts the whole day. You need it. Now. Like right now. It’s just out of reach up there, laughing down on your head from a dark and spider-filled nook. Don’t even get me started on the tins of paint that are up there, saved, just in case, but that will never be used. By the time they are needed, they will be so far past their best you won’t even be able to lever the lids off. And if you do manage it, you’ll most certainly break a nail. Or a finger. Or wrench some brutal damage on the only good screwdriver you own. The Phillips, probably. (Sorry Mr Phillips.)

And by the time you’ve resolved everything and been out and back and done a few loads of washing and folded up the wash from a few days ago and made a meal: the day has meandered away leaving in its wake the scent of Sunday Night Dread.

Can that really be a thing when you don’t actually go in to a place of work? Surely not. But there is an incredible and complex psychology that makes Sunday nights feel somewhat grim; layered in a mysterious fog that only thickens as the hours tick on by. More tea. Make a to-do list. Make the week ahead seem fun and alive and relevant and not like the last. Of course it won’t be anyway: you’re older. Just slightly, but still. Tick, tick.

There is something good though - I found this amazing place where an abundance of wild blackberries are just begging to be picked. They’re protruding gently over and through a scratch of hedge on the way to the Post Office, and when I looked a bit closer, there were more than I thought, then a whole patch of bracken and bramble over a waist-height wall. I thought of climbing in but it felt rude; not right somehow.

Sundays are Blackberries by Rebecca Johnstone

But maybe I should go back. Tomorrow. Just brazen it out with a big Tupperware to stash the spoils of my autumn victory?

Yes. A plan.

Sundays proffer the perfect occasion to brood plans from tiny asides; plans that burgeon and grow.

Plans are good, and so are days when you only just manage to… drift. You’ve probably done more than you think.

Sundays are great. One of my favourite days when I think about it. Better than Monday’s that’s for sure, though Monday’s have a lot more going for them on the productivity front. And maybe more fruit. In Tupperware. But it all started with Sunday, in a way.

Sometimes Sundays are like blackberries. Dark and cosy and fruity and soft. Halt the clock while I revel in the sensation of it for just a little bit longer.

Autumn Thoughts: Part 1 by Rebecca Johnstone

Meteorological autumn has arrived with September: it's autumn now, fair and square. 

Swiss Alps, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

Autumn feels like a gentle bleach washing the streets clean of summer's grease and heat; replacing it with a comforting carpet of leaves. 

Each year I collect leaves and display them in baskets and on windowsills. I struggle to let them go once spring arrives, yet I know I have to because that's how things go. I find them crumbling in pockets and at the bottom of bags and laid out carefully in the foot-well of the passenger seat of my car, only to be crushed by an unsuspecting and unexpected passenger.

'Mind the leaves' should be my new refrain.

I just read this beautiful and poetic article about the secret life of fog, and although it can appear during any season - even in the desert as illustrated in the article - I particularly associate fog with the colder months, mostly autumn.

Early morning layers of it burn away in the sun, while dusky blankets of it swathe a dark November eve.

Winter is harsh and summer so brash and in-your-face, but autumn is the perfect season of fog for me. I also realise now how underrated it is and how clever it can be; transporting microbes far and wide and spurring relationships between them in unforeseen places.

Trees in the Fog, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

Continually I wonder: is there nothing in nature that isn't well thought out, intricate, delicate, careful, deliberate and eye-opening? For all that we know and discover daily, oh we still have so much to learn and nature is our best teacher.

For now I'm going to stick with my leaves and start my collection in earnest. I might meditate over the wonders of fog, too.

But what is the difference between mist and fog? I imagine they are easily confused, though I could be wrong...

Summer Observations: Part 2 by Rebecca Johnstone

Half-formed thoughts perspiring in the slumber of the afternoon and melted ice cream sticky between fingers and down wrists licking it off because it still tastes so good; even mixed with sun cream from earlier in the day and someone shouting, calling, up to no good or just kidding around and isn't that what summer's for before the reality of winter grabs you by the throat and abandons you in your darkest nightmare?
Summer Observations Part 2 Rebecca Johnstone.jpg
Chips greasy in the heat and scraped-off tomato ketchup left on the plate attracting flies and how many tomatoes are in a bottle of ketchup anyway and who cares and who polices that because they're always trying to cut things down and make them smaller with less sugar and salt and fat but not cheaper. One less triangle.
A man scratches his crotch and a mother pulls her little boy in the opposite direction; away, hoping to god that her son won't end up like that but knowing he will because testosterone and genetics and social conditioning and we're all animals at the end of the day. Nevermind. She isn't religious anyway but who else is there to pray to? No don't ask. Seriously. There are other deities and spirits. Don't start that conversation. Just carry on, hurry to the bus stop and check your destination on the solar-powered timetable (clever that) and pay the driver and take a seat. Not at the back, too rough at the back, she's not sat at the back since she was a teenager and definitely not with her son. He's too young for the back. Plenty of time for that but the front feels out of bounds too - not yet in need of those seats so she opts for the middle. The no man's land of the bus. Like her whole life in a way, but noisier. Why can't everyone shut up and get off their phones? God (him again) she's sounding old. She's sticking in the middle though she's not giving an inch.
The bus pulls away and so does the image of the man and his itching crotch framed in the doorway of a boarded up Woolworth's. An empty can rolls up the aisle leaving a stain of residue in its wake. Dirt. It'll attract the dirt, she thinks, though everything feels unfresh in the heat anyway. She can't wait for the clean slate of autumn in more ways than one.

Summer Observations: Part 1 by Rebecca Johnstone

City streets, hot smoke, fag ends in litter bins billowing around Big Issue vendors and chewing gum trodden hard into tarmac, the mint all chewed out. Mojitos sweating on unshaded tables laid in the middle of the street and a beautiful Japanese man wearing a scarf even though it's hot because it's not hot enough for him. Laughter in glasses, lipstick attracting flies and shop doors open; beckoning, but it's not enough to compete with the street. Alleys crowded with smokers the conversation sparkier than inside air-conned bars with bags on the table getting quietly raided by stray hands and curious dogs' noses. Exposed faces, vulnerable, low down in derelict doorways soiled sleeping bags homeless people no change to spare but there's a soup kitchen over there offering sandwiches scrutinised earlier in the day, unwanted by the popular paying public with coins to spare.

Alpine Flash Fiction by daintydora

'ALPINE' was the prompt for a 50-word flash fiction piece in my last mail-out of THE WORD - a *new* newsletter for writers and word-lovers. (View the 'Alpine' newsletter.) I love this image which I matched to the prompt, which (for me) evokes the beautiful serenity of a lake-side hideaway, whilst also hinting at the potential for mystery, intrigue, betrayal and danger.

Alpine Flash Fiction inspiration for THE WORD

All these elements are whispered under the breath of an autumnal (or winter?) sun, and echoed in the mountains. A picture speaks a thousand words.

I received some lovely responses on this theme, and also penned my own attempt:

Fresh air

At the checkout, seeing the five cans of pine-scented air freshener in her basket, he pictured her working in a care home, holding a frail hand in her own lovely fingers.

It was a pity the freezer had gone off, she thought. She’d have to move Peter to another location.

Isobel Horsburgh

 

Seeing Stars

Face damp, fingers numb, I lay back searching for stars. It was dark, cold and I could just make out Pegasus or was it The Bear, Ursa? I tried to move to get a better look and that’s when I realised: it wasn't stars, I was buried under the snow.

Anon

 

Escape

I felt their eyes bore into me; the silence of the forest pounding through my head. An involuntary twitch and I daren’t turn for fear of giving myself away.

When it finally came, the air shivered through my wings, the shot reverberating long after I could hear.

Rebecca Johnstone (me!)

Thank you to those who submitted - I was delighted to receive these responses to my 'creative inspiration task', and hope I can continue to inspire with my short, fun creative writing prompts.

Please spread THE WORD with like-minded writers and word-lovers - the next word is due out later today!

In other news, I read this article in the Guardian last week about a collection of F Scott Fitzgerald's previously unseen works which are to be published next year (2017) by US publisher Scribner. Apparently...

Rather than permit changes and sanitising by his contemporary editors, Fitzgerald preferred to let his work remain unpublished, even at a time when he was in great need of money and review attention.

I respect that, very much. And this statement from Scribner seemed so apt for the 'ALPINE' theme:

With the addition of a Hollywood star and film crew to the Smoky Mountain lakes and pines, Fitzgerald brings in the cinematic world in which he would soon be living.

Quite. Hollywood pizzazz at the Lakes. I can only imagine.

If you're inspired, share your own 'alpine' reverie below.

'Heartbreaker' - TubeFlash Fiction *Published* by daintydora

Today is perfect timing for my Flash Fiction piece to be published on the TubeFlash site - it's a real 'anti-Valentine'. Read my story 'Heartbreaker', inspired by the London Underground station of Pinner (on the Metropolitan Line) and a beautiful vintage brooch with scissors, threads and a heart-shaped pin cushion.

Here's a little extract:Pinner

It had to be perfect of course.  A seamless, symmetrical curve over the mountain summit; two peaks beating as one.
She pressed the seams together, the iron burning into every stitch right-side and wrong. Some might have called it love, others revenge, others still, obsession.

This story will be professionally voice-recorded and published as an audio download on iTunes on 23rd March 2016. Subscribe to the TubeFlash podcast.

Also published on TubeFlash and iTunes, my story 'The Pact'.

 

A midsummer interlude: "the cicadas ached and danced" by daintydora

The cicadas ached and danced and clicked as they made love, the tall grasses veiling their passionate embrace.

Midsummer - Jake Givens - Sunset in the Park

(Or perhaps it was just my imagination. It's Scotland, after all.)

Pansies turned their faces to the sky, disapproving of the marigolds who were not yet in full-bloom. The woman next door pushed a lawn-mower in horizontal stripes across her lawn; the grass-collecting compartment filling much too quickly with the lush growth of the first of July. An intermittent drill whirred from the garage opposite.

Such a jingling cacophony of midsummer sounds led me outside, barefoot, my feet inhaling the warmth from the hard flat surface of the patio flags, coming to rest in the deep-down dew of just-cut grass.

It was the kind of afternoon where you could imagine something happening. Something significant.

But it didn't.

Instead Vera Lynn trilled from a top-floor window, wafting through the too-tall hedge, irritating ladybirds a-quiver in their leafy realms.

A daisy pricked at my heel as an Easyjet flight - probably bound for the Canaries - flew right over my head.

And so. A cacophonous midsummer interlude.

Pointless really, except, well, maybe you needed a little interlude from your day?

To smell the smell of fresh cut grass and dream a dream of being high up in the sky forging the flight path through the clouds on your way to a place where they really do have cicadas. Perhaps you're already there. In your head. With your inside eyes.

 

100-word Flash Fiction: Christmas by daintydora

  The Christmas tree shone in the window, and the candles whispered on the mantelpiece. I hadn’t lit the fire. I stood a while watching for the headlights of your car, buffering myself between the thick velvet of the curtains and the cold air that fogged the window with its breath.

I waited there until my legs got numb with standing. Until I remembered.

I saw it in my mind; black ice on the road, the sharp bend, tyres, glass, smash. I stared into the fairy lights searching for you in their cheerful colours, but found only our bright, shining memories.

 

Observations on a City Street by daintydora

Look up. The shadows of sunlight on sandstone. The mouldings in the stone, intricate, but forgotten by those far below. A graveyard of design, engineering, history, effort and love.

Imagine the chiseler at work, in a workshop, with his tools. Then high up on a ladder, or scaffolding, sand slipping away into the hot streams of air, mixing with the workman’s sweat, melding with his thoughts.

Now, be-mossed, greened by damp and time, and the occasional encrustation of pigeon shit.

A billowing black plastic bag, tied roughly around a street sign, no longer for public view. The wind has pierced its synthetic strength and stretch, blowing holes in the substrate and allowing the sign to peep through. Soon people will be able to see the sign again, and perhaps be mis-directed by the wind and its work. The occasion of wind, an unseen marauder.

Clouds scuttle observing the scenes below, soaking up the emotions of the city dwellers; their anger and their tears.

Then lights appear as dusk beckons. Neon lights. Traffic lights. Repetitive and timed, lacking the beauty and the camouflage of the Victorian lantern. Everything lit up so bright and wide it hurts. No stars in sight.

But which street? Do you recognise it? Where the architecture and the art and the lights and the cars converge. Any street and every street. Your street and my street and every city centre street. Abundant with observations still to be had, there for the taking.

This one is in Glasgow though, of course. Imagine it with your inside eyes.

 

 

Waiting to cross the road in the rain by daintydora

It's raining. And it's Sunday. And I found this observation I wrote a few years ago about waiting to cross the road in the rain. It feels very apt for today:

Leave the train station and hope the lights are red for cars, green for me.

They're not.

Stand, shift, put one foot into the road, puddle, taxi, step back. Want to cross. Not yet. Waiting. It doesn't normally take as long as this. Lights change. Car in the wrong lane. Buses don’t care. Crater in the street. Full. Murky waters splash.

Finally cross. Run. Dart. Skim across slippery pavements dirty with oil and the pollution of the city. Footprints washed away. No trace.

Another road to cross.

Lights change to green - for them. Waiting again.

Teetering off the kerb. Criss-cross of flagstones and paving, an expanse to cross, nearly there. Boots letting in. Soggy-sock-sensation. Quick strides. Scarf wet. Tendrils of hair on cheek. Glasses dotted with blur.

If only the lights had been on green.

I love it when you find something that you didn't even know you had, didn't even know you had written, or capture something that you didn't mean to. That's when the creative magic is truly at work.

Midnight in Paris

This image is from a trip to Paris last year, taken on the night of my birthday. As I pressed the button on my phone, two droplets of rain landed on my screen refracting the lights in an artful blur of colour which I couldn't have recreated if I tried.

The observation was in Glasgow. The image taken in Paris. Yet they fit together like a rain-soaked street.