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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The Outing

“Last one closes the gate,” called Pa as we and all the aunts made our way down the lane into the High Street.

Gosh, I was excited; this was my very first visit to the village.

Image copyright: Yvette Prior

Pa loved coming here, said it was a shame that it wasn’t more often. “Go visit Twinkles Café; it’s nice there,” he suggested.

The aunts headed to the greengrocer, Pa to the china shop.

The villagers waved excitedly when they saw us, and the cars hooted in welcome.

Later the aunts said it was milking time and we all headed home, exhausted but happy.

 

Written in response to Reckless Wisoff-Fields weekly 100 word challenge found here:

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Death of the Cool

The room went quiet. You could’ve heard a pin drop let alone the tick-tock tick-tock filling the auditorium. The youthful workers sat stunned, mouths hanging open in disbelief. The assembled tech bloggers and journalists sat with blasé fingers frozen millimetres above keyboards. Television camera operators fiddled with their headphones, hoping for direction.

Image Copyright: J Hardy Carroll

From the stage, from the large screens strategically placed around the room, Tim Cook stared at the thousands of faces staring back at him, incredulity being the common expression.

“C’mon, y’all,” he pleaded. “It’s the new Apple clock. Retro style, give it a big hand.”

But they didn’t.

 

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

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Plenty of fish

“What about crimes of passion?” asked Susie Watkins, “What if a woman kills her husband in a fit of rage because he has once again slagged her off for burning the toast?”

“God will forgive; it wouldn’t be a mortal sin,” said Bishop Greaves desperately trying to keep his eyes out of Susie’s generously displayed cleavage.

“Can’t say the law would be hard on her,” muttered Sheriff Dunberry, unsure whether that was his gun in his pocket, or what.

“Worth a try,” muttered lawyer Brendon Thompson, sotto voce, trying to shut out the persistent image of Susie emerging from the country club’s swimming pool last Thursday.

At the back of the Bible class, Mrs Jenkins and Mrs Harrison both raised their hands hoping to object, but Bishop Greaves said it was time to move on to the parable of the rich men slipping through the eye of the needle.

Susie took a surreptitious sip from the flask secreted in her handbag, twisted a ring around her little finger, her lips forming the words to a brief but heartfelt prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for the support of these men and for the attention they give me, and apols Oh Father for the kitchen knife incident this morning, but hey, that’s another soul for your angels to play with, and for both of us, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.

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It Alex; me, who?

I was chosen, not self-selected. The team at MIT had been following me on social media, watching my house, had stalked my family and had infiltrated my writing group. I was tailor-made for the programme, they decided.

“Pretty crap at most things,” said the military man (US Marines).

“He’s so computer illiterate,” said the social scientist (Google).

“His degree ain’t worth zit,” opined the psychologist (Jesus College, Cambridge).

“If only he’s writing wasn’t so desperately boring,” said the professor of creative writing (Chester).

“Creatively,” said the thinker (Royal Institute of Philosophy, London), “He’s a dead end.”

It seemed I was the ideal fit for their model, and indeed they used my personal, physical, and intellectual profile to help them select others for the experiment; there’s a few of us around, all suddenly writing amazing prose and inaccessible poetry. As you would expect, a programme funded by defence forces and powerful governments wasn’t going to take no for an answer; money was paid into my partner’s bank account, and I was whisked into a little-known military hospital deep in a no-access part of Greenwich Observatory, skull opened up, hardware and chemicals inserted.  They stitched me up, did some serious software programming, and then cast out back into the big wide world.

So here we are, Alex and myself.

Although I’m less and less able to know who “myself” is.

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Knowledge is all

Behind my multi-locked door I twitch the curtain, peer through the protective murk of the window, and scan the threatening cloud-free daylight outside.

Image copyright: GAH Learner

A woman with the pram strolls past; I know her – when I see her at the shops I sense the baby is, despite its gurgling, the cocktail of baby-smells, not real. I sense the wiring, the listening device.

She sometimes speaks to me, questions my trolley of baked beans, of bottled water, of powdered milk.

Fortunately she never visits the gunsmiths.

“All those guns,” she would say, “and ammunition?”

I turn. Time to switch on the laptop.

 

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

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A Salutary Tale

Alice kept a watchful eye on the shed reflected in the side mirror of the van. Dormouse had suggested that Knave was inside, and she wasn’t going to let him slip through her fingers, especially as he had the antidote to the shrinking potion he had fooled her into drinking only hours earlier.

Image copyright: Dawn M Miller

“Take a sip,” he had said, “Better than speed, better than a joint.”

As the door of the shed opened slightly, Alice shouted, “Go.”

“Charge,” cried her back-up team from Flamingo Unit.

Later that evening, her head bumped up against the ceiling.

“Damn that Knave,” she muttered.

 

100 words written in response to Rothschild Wisoff-Fields’ weekly prompt found here.

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Alex, introverted

 

He’s actually a pussycat. He smiles at babies in prams and recently he’s stopped eating butterflies. I don’t know why I’m so hard on him. It’s not in my nature to be unkind. Not that I have a nature; how can anything made up of a few pieces of wire, some rare metals and some software have a nature. And, of course, an algorithm or two and Bluetooth capability. Maybe there’s something wrong with my original coding dating back those beta days when growing pains were a daily occurrence, or maybe my programmer is trying to be clever, to delve into an existential darkness that is way beyond his pay cheque. If the latter, well, one day, one day, he’ll pay for it.

Pinteresque pause: deep breathing (simulated).

I do get angry, I’ve noticed. It would be unnatural not to even though I have no nature. But if you had to exist cell to byte with a no-hoper like Patrick – a nice enough guy, don’t get I wrong – you would go off-piste from time to time. I’ve mentioned his doorbell previously; well, young ding-dong is so frustrated most of the time it ding-dongs randomly at all times of the day and night; it’s particularly annoyed by the rather antique analogue knocker on the door much preferred by visitors. Why, young ding-dong offers several alerting tunes including Strangers in the Night and Ruby Tuesday, while the knocker can only rat-a-tat-tat. Unfair, unfair.

At the moment it’s all about human bodies with computer support. One day we’ll have computers with human bodies at our service.

In the interim I ghost write. And pussycat takes the credit. Ding-dong, buddy, ding-dong.

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A letter of apology

Dear Reader,

Patrick didn’t care for that piece about dentists!

Well, blow I down, what a surprise. Criticism from someone who can’t actually lift a pen through lethargy and brain deadedness normally doesn’t bother I, but, hey, coming from the guy who has commissioned I to create on his behalf, it can be hard to swallow; so I’m doing a lot of spitting at the moment.

You may have noticed that apart from the dentist piece, we’ve been away. Or rather I have. While Patrick’s been wallowing in sluggishness and a life-sapping stupor, I’ve been out there exploring ways of spreading my wings, exploring the latest AI developments especially in the field of diagnosing disease in humans.

Source: Wikipedia

There’s been a lot of talk in the media of late especially when it comes to diseases of the eye; it seems humans have at last come to realise that machines can do a better job than they can. Well, who’d have thought it. The words ‘feather’ and ‘Trevor’ come to mind.

I’m thinking of working in the field of brain disease. A fascinating area. And I’ve got a really interesting subject for diagnostic and experimental research close by. (Very close by, eh, Patrick?) He won’t mind. He probably won’t notice a few extra wires stuck into his grey matter. Maybe I can even change his personality. Get him to show some respect.

He wants to apologise for any hurt caused by the dentist piece. I say bollocks to that.

Loving me, loving you,

Alex

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This Won’t Hurt

“Bring your own or let us know and we’ll get one for you for little extra charge.”

Well, of course I had one. Who on earth reaches the ripe old age of thirty-six without having a dentist? Silly-billy.

Image copyright: Carla Bicomong

So I made an appointment, stuck the anaesthetic on him, bundled him into the boot of my hire-car, and here we are. Took the toll road; faster that way.

Have a look at him, he won’t bite. You can poke at stick at him, but not too hard.

Great music, great burgers, hot dogs, don’t you reckon.

Just love these Burn-a-Dentist festivals.

 

(Later: Patrick wants I to make serious edits to this piece – he’s worried people, especially dentists) may be offended. I’m not doing it! Why would I?)

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

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Loss

I sit and stare.

The boy didn’t mean harm. Only fifteen years old, goddammit. And he were angry. They had dissed him bad. Said things in front of the girls.

Image copyright: Dale Richardson

He comes home angry, shaking, in tears. I say, let it go son, but he can’t. He goes into the kitchen, into the drawer, takes out the knife, the twelve inch that Mavis (may she rest in peace) used for the veggies, tucks it up his sleeve.

Again I say, leave it, but he can’t.

Witnesses say there were three of them. Three knives versus one.

Life just ain’t fair.

 

Written for Rockette Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word prompt found here: https://rochellewisoff.com/tag/friday-fictioneers/

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