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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Lockdown

He’d been in lockdown for five weeks; it was getting to him. The only time out of the house had been to the post box, the only human contact was with the people who delivered the food parcels (baked beans, white bread, breakfast cereals, a four pack of economy toilet paper). He was getting bored. He thought of zooming somebody, but who? The benefits office was closed and he didn’t really know anyone else.

The radio agony aunt said do something positive, like tidy the house. So he collected up six months’ worth of newspapers, chucked them into the recycling bin; shook the tablecloth out into the back yard – plenty for the birds and mice to squabble over. Spent a morning washing milk bottles. Scrubbed the toilet. Repaired the broom, did a bit of sweeping.

Tried the vacuum cleaner on the carpet, but it didn’t work anymore – he should have remembered that from last year. Dumped it in the yard with the broken microwave and an old bicycle frame.

The agony aunt said, why not tidy up your back yard, be proud of your space; if it’s old and doesn’t work, ditch it. He knew that the junk collectors scavenged items left outside so he hauled the vacuum cleaner, the broken microwave, and the old bicycle frame to the front pavement and hoped the lockdown hadn’t upset the system.

It hadn’t.

The radio agony aunt said, have a make-over – if it’s past its best and it’s just clutter, get rid – free up some space. So he carried the old lady downstairs, tipped her into her wheelchair and pushed her out front.

Lucky for her it wasn’t raining.

 

 

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Pile ’em high

Image copyright: Jeff Arnold

The cure, he said, can be found at the end of the rainbow. Ignore that old shepherd’s tale that there’s a crock of gold to be found; that’s a load of sheepshit. Until then, he said, you can stave off the virus by gargling with garlic (or is it gargling with baking powder and wearing garlic round your neck, I can’t remember). And don’t forget that God will provide; don’t let this man-made 5G disease keep you from your seasonal celebrations with family and community; collective prayer works.

As for the vulnerable, bring out your dead.

You’ll pile ’em high.

 

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ (long may she self-isolate) weekly 100 word challenge found here.

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Murder Most Fowl

Image copyright: Douglas M. MacIlroy

“Let him call his lawyer. He’s already confessed.”

“Sparrow? Was there a witness?”

“Yep. Fly, with his little eye, he saw him die.”

“Any forensics to support our case?”

“Bow and arrow are being dusted for prints. Fish collected blood in his little dish.”

“Need to get this done pronto. There’s gonna be a lot of a-sighing and a-sobbing out there. Feathers’ll be ruffled.”

“Yeah, and Beetle’s making the shroud and Dove’s gonna be chief mourner. Bull’s tolling the bell. All high profile stuff.”

“Good work, Team. Now go get some nest and be on time for tomorrow’s dawn chorus.”

 

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

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Sunny side up

Image copyright: J Hardy Carroll

It is mistakenly held by the locals that the bodies of missing Rudi Rogers and Fifi Fantasia, bottle-blonde and always generous waitress, would be found if anyone were to smash open the concrete pedestal holding up the 1972 Oldsmobile 442, now relegated to the role of billboard for widow Raisha Rogers’s ever popular roadhouse on the main drag into St Louis.

A landmark for miles around, Raisha keeps the junk bucket in pristine condition, climbing the ladder once a week to wash and polish and buff and shine. She also pops open the boot, examines its contents, smiles to herself.

 

Written in response to Rogers Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge found here: https://rochellewisoff.com/

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RIP Spartacus

Spartacus hadn’t been in Hollywood for all that long when he was spotted in the Gladiator night club by a sharp-eyed talent scout. He protested that he could speak only Latin and a smidgen of Turkish (another beer please; has she got a sister? etc), but the scout said he would arrange for him to have English lessons and help him brush up on his table manners.

His first big break came when he was given the lead in the wide screen sand and sandals production The Man with a Hole in his Chin. The critics and the movie-going public alike thought it the best film of 1968 and Spartacus went on to become famous for his delivery of the line, “I am Kirk Douglas.”

Vale, Spartacus.

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Hot Lover

 

Image copyright: Jean L. Hays

He could tell from the way she held a needle that this babe was hot. He invited her onto the dance floor and to the frenzied beat of the B52s they discussed safety pins, button holing, quilt making, zip replacement, and the green credentials of some modern pinning techniques.

She asked whether he knew about transparent threads. He blushed, said no. She whispered there’s a lot she could teach him. He said, Please.

Later they took it in turns to underlock, overlock and flatlock. Didn’t teach that at the convent, she said.

In the morning they drank fresh coffee together.

 

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

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Once upon a time

Image copyright: CE Ayr

Nowadays we can’t see the wood for the trees. Or the trees for that matter. Ever since reading hard copy books exploded as the world’s major leisure activity, coinciding with the success of literacy programmes in less developed countries, there has been an existential attack on the plantations and natural forests of the world as paper mills struggle to supply the raw material demanded by the mushrooming publishing industry.

In her leafy garden, Violet turns another page, wondering what D’Arcy will say next, how Elizabeth will respond, hears not the screams of chain saws, sees not the approaching tree thieves.

 

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

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Suus ‘sera numquam est ad discendum

Image copyright: Penny Gadd

He hadn’t studied Classics but he reckoned he knew enough to get by. Mention the Elgin Marbles and he’d picture them in his mind’s eye. He’d smile whenever he heard, ‘Aeì koloiòs parà koloiôi hizánei’ or ‘Apò toû hēlíou metástēthi’. Phrases such as ‘veni, vidi, vici’ and ‘Barba non facit philosophum’ came easily to him and he used them appropriately and in modest moderation.

But when he attended a taster session on Classical life drawing, he hadn’t realized the attractive model wouldn’t have even a fig leaf to keep her warm.

He signed up for the intensive one year course.

 

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

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Denial

 

Image copyright: Sandra Crook

They’ve started shipping out the corpses in trains, taking them up north, stopping at any starving hamlet or town that will do some burials for 50kg of flour a body. The empty sacks are used as shrouds.

When the trains run out of track they return to the city, loaded up again.

It’s the whole mix of topsy-turvy weather that’s killing us – the extreme heat, mid-summer freezing snowstorms, year-round tornados. Flooding has polluted our drinking water, destroyed our crops.

We’re overrun by refugees from the low-lying areas.

Rats rule! The stench!

Still we hear, “Fake news”, “Chinese hoax.”

Help!

 

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

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The Nail Bar

 

Image copyright: Roger Bultot

“Windows to the soul,” she said, “Forget the eyes, it’s the hands. Our hands are always out there, gesticulating, signposting, shaping, emphasising, assenting, dissenting, framing our language. Hands? They’re the divas of our existence, the celebrities of our id, the press officers of our egos.”

The heady fragrance of nail lacquer permeated the air. I inhaled deeply.

“Hands?” she continued, “If you really want to know a person, watch the hands (love this knock-’em-dead scarlet, matches your lipstick beautifully) watch their hands, forget the eyes.”

I smiled. Paid. Reached discreetly for my white stick. Tapped my way onto the pavement.

 

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

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