Cindy oh Cindy

He had woken up with a fierce headache, breath that breached the Chemical Weapons Convention, and a nasty sense of foreboding. His brain hurt. He knew something was wrong. He knew he would have spent the better part of the previous evening trying to impress the new girl on the till at the local drugstore, and that he would have, probably, likely, definitely, have said something stupid, claimed a non-existing ability, promised something he was now committed to and would never in a month of Sundays be able to deliver. This wasn’t the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

The phone rang. It was her. “A great evening. Thanks for that. Hope you got home okay. And so you’re going to do that for me? Run the marathon? Raise money for the cancer fund? That’s really sweet of you. I’ll pop the entry forms through your letter box this evening.”

Thirty eight years old and not in his prime. Not that he had ever had  a prime or foresaw himself as having one. “Show me a minicab driver who has a prime, who can flex a muscle, who can even bloody locate a muscle,” he thought to himself. Too much time behind the wheel. Too many kebabs or hamburgers or parcels of fish and chips – snatched meals taken whenever there was a lull in the job. Not exactly healthy. Not exactly regular. Run a marathon? Could never happen.

But she was sweet. Cindy. That’s her name. Newly divorced, new in town, new at the job, new at the till. And she had treated him sweetly. Happy to go out with him, happy to sit and chat in an ordinary bar. Didn’t need to be taken to a swish club so she could spend all his money on overpriced champagne substitutes. Insisted on paying for a couple of the rounds of drinks. She knows what life is really like. She’s got a few miles under the bonnet herself and it’s made her generous, unselfish. He likes her. It seems he likes her a lot. He wants her to like him. He wants her to admire him. And so, a drink or two down the road and his head spinning with what might be, he says yes, yes to supporting the charity, yes to running the marathon, yes to doing it for her. How could he refuse her? Sweet Cindy.

He knew how many miles there are in a marathon. More than his normal minicab trips, more than he could run in a million years. But Cindy, oh Cindy, he wasn’t going to let her down, he wasn’t going to say no. The forms arrived, the forms went off, and he worked on his training strategy, his tactics, his battle plan. He would get the medal, get the respect and get the girl.

He pored over the route of the race, he studied the town map, he marked up all the rat runs, hidden alleyways, and illegal short cuts that he had learnt when he was doing the Knowledge and he reckoned that if he turned up at the start, he could cross the finish line in about four and a half hours with having run only five miles. He knew he could do it. The downside was the five miles, but for Cindy he could do it. And so for the next few weeks before his shift, he walked, then jogged, then cantered, then galloped until he knew that the five miles (and hopefully Cindy) were in the bag.

It all went smoothly. He crossed the line with hundreds of others with a time of just under four and a half hours.

“My best time ever,” he said to the official handing out the medals.

“Respect,” said one of the policemen helping with crowd control.

“Oh, thank you,” said Cindy, kissing him full on the mouth. “Let’s meet up later.”

By the time he had fought the crowds back to his home, washed and shaved and put on his second best casual gear (he would save the best for another time) the list of runners who hadn’t passed through all the check points and were consequently automatically disqualified, had been published and tweeted and retweeted and his name was third on the list.

No medal, no respect, and no girl.

Early morning. The phone rings. It’s her. “You owe me five miles of sponsorship and I like the way you kiss. Can we meet up again tonight?”

How can he refuse her? Sweet Cindy.

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Bad Luck

Image copyright: CE Ayr

“It’s a good price – the owners need to move for a job and want a quick sale. Also I reckon the location is right for us.”

Maddie gripped my hand, “Oh, it’s ideal. And my horoscope said this week is going to be good for investments.”

I touched the wooden table, stroked my rabbit’s foot; just what we’re looking for and well within our price range. “We’ll look at it tomorrow.”

But despite a black cat crossing our path, despite some bird droppings landing on my head, the thirteen steps to the front door killed it for us.

Ah well.

 

Written for Runtshell Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here.

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Hope

Image copyright: Susan Eames

Everyone in that tight knit community knows him, knows the story, and are successful in protecting him from curious holiday makers and ambitious young city journalists.

Every morning he comes down to that particular part of the beach, coffee flask and wife-made sandwiches in his backpack, lays out his mat, and sits and watches the waves, looking, looking, looking. Occasionally he will sit up straight, peer through his binoculars, shake his head and sit back, shoulders slumped.

It’s three years since the incident. He blames himself; his wife says it could happen to anyone.

Grief burdens them both.

 

Written for Marvelettes Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here.

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The Entrepreneur

Image copyright: J Hardy Carroll

It was during his MBA that he realised there was good money to be made out of being cruel to children. He immediately registered the name c2c, bought the url, and set up Twitter and Facebook accounts. His crowdfunding target of £5000 was quickly overtaken thanks to investments from any number of step parents, and supporters in the cattle prod industry.

Their first product was a pin-the-tail-on-the donkey game complete with see-through blindfolds. It was an instant success, outselling Lego and Barbie in its first year.

His own children, he sent to private boarding schools.

Cruel to the very end.

 

Written in response to Rollingpin Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word photo prompt found here.

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Not a drop to drink

Image copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

It’s no fun being Supreme Leader in these days of ever-blue skies and never-green landscapes. He tried to think back to when it had last rained. Was it before the last purge? Or the one before?

What he did know was that across the country, taps were running dry, farms were being abandoned. Every day stories came in of suicides, familial violence, such was the stress from the drought. Schools no longer opened, hospitals were barely functioning.

He sighed, took a deep breath, dived into the clear, cool, water of his pool.

There’s nothing like swimming to clear the mind.

 

Written in response to Diving-Helmet Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here.

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Never go back

Image copyright: Jean L. Hays

He brought the car to a nostalgic stop, applied the handbrake.

“There it is, a ruin now. Roof’s gone, no windows, no doors. It was a happy home back then. Always full of laughter. Despite not having two pennies to rub together. Somehow we made do; mum always had at least one meal a day for us. Clothes were always neatly darned, clean. We all did well at school. And then came success and money. Ruined it for us.”

Bertha glanced up from her knitting, said, “Yes, dear.”

Teenagers in the back said, “Why’ve we stopped?”

He sighed. Drove on.

 

Written in response to Rococo Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge, found here.

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Cash only

Image copyright: Sandra Crook

They visit me here. It’s safe for all of us. The occasional train rumbles overhead, the occasional rat scuttles past.

I wear my lab coat. It’s not too clean right now, but it gives me some sort of cachet.

“Backpain?” I ask, “Or suffering from an old war wound? Or just want to feel alive alive?”

“I can help,” I say. “I’ve got the pills. Blue, pink? Yellow, green? Any shape you like. Packs of ten, thirty, one hundred?”

I tell them, “Go down this road, soon you’ll be dead dead.”

They seem not to care. I take their money.

 

Written in response to Riptide Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here.

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Slow learners

 

Image copyright: Roger Bultot

And this is where Strongman did dwell. He, the chosen one, anointed by the people.

And the people did love him, did flock to his assemblies, did worship at his gilded altar.

And they had faith in his word, believed him to be true.

But after a time, thoughtfulness returned to the land, and the people grew to know that he was false. They saw his wealth grow, his granaries overflow. Beyond his mansion did hunger and disease flourish but Strongman cared not.

And so the people did rebel, and history tells us so.

Again. And again. And yet again.

 

Written in response to Rockinghorse Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here.

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The Tree of Life

Image copyright: Ronda Del Boccio

 

She bought me an oak tree for our first anniversary. We dug a big hole in the back garden, filled it with tender kisses, loving embraces, vows, and some peat free compost mixed with bone meal. We watered it well over the next two or three years and then left it to nature.

Some while later, acorns dropped, seedlings appeared demanded to be nurtured until that time they matured into saplings and started staying out all night.

Over the years there were times when oak wilt disturbed the status quo, but that’s normal in any long-lasting relationship, don’t you think.

 

Written in response to Rowanberry Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word picture prompt found here.

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A good news story

Image copyright: Sandra Crook

Beth’s wedding dress was magnificent, made from cotton grown in Papa’s very own fields, designed by Mama, and cut and stitched by the plantation’s in-house seamstress, a second generation mulatto slave and Beth’s half-sister.

The bales of raw cotton had been shipped across the seas to the home country where it was ginned, spun, woven, and dyed before being shipped back as fine fabric. Only three mill children had been injured in the conversion process; no-one had died.

With the Governor and his wife in attendance, the reception was everything Mama had hoped for.

The slaves were given extra rations.

 

Written a bit late in response to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word prompt found here.

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All’s fair…

Image copyright: Anshu Bhojnagarwala

She had trained at the Conservartoire de Paris and later would sell-out most of the great concert halls in the west. Her recordings were in every aficionado’s collection.

She gave it all up after a particular messy love affair went bad and came to live here in the village. She advertises herself as a piano teacher but as far as us kids know, she’s never had any pupils.

Gerry Anderson who runs the guitar shop says it’s because she chops off a finger for every wrong note played.

Gerry also teaches guitar apart from selling them.

His business is thriving.

 

Written in response to Rachmaninoff  Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here

And here’s a link to some info on the collection of short stories I’ve just published: Life Thinly Sliced

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