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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Local News

He was certainly the oldest man in Whitby. Occasionally the odd cub reporter would be sent by the editor of the local rag to try and get a story. “Silly old bugger won’t ever tell us anything, but you have a go. Fresh face and all that.”

But he was never one for talking. The last thing he wanted was for people to start digging up the grounds inside the ruins of the abbey, to discover the coffins that lay beneath, the coffins from the doomed ss Dmitri, the undead ready to rise and wreak havoc, the bodies of his siblings.

 

 

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Exciting times

They’re starting to move into the new town houses next to the station. “Exclusive development.” Three stories high, two bathrooms – bedrooms you couldn’t swing a cat in. Integrated kitchen appliances, thermostatic shower to bathroom. Not enough garden space for both a sun lounger and a barbecue. Yeehaw!

Location? On one side, a railway line carrying high speed (noisy) passenger trains and low speed (noisy) very long goods trains; on the other, a busy busy road carrying commuters, service vans, shoppers – a noise sandwich. Price? Double that of the usual around here. There will always be suckers.

Last week I saw a couple pull up outside the show home in their shiny black bimmer. She, a fish eyed blonde in sheath skirt and six inch heels; he, slicked back hair and froggy-eyed in a shiny cashmere suit. Not our sort, I thought. Drug dealers seeking a bolthole? Captured Russian agents in a MI6 safe house? Difficult to know.

Later, somebody told me they were probably the estate agents. Makes sense.

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Summertime fun

Image copyright: Jan Wayne Fields

“It’s called camping.”

“Uhuh?”

“Yeah. You haul out this canvas house, a tent, that’s full of mould and dirt, clean it up, spend an hour folding it, and put it into the boot of the car together with awning, groundsheet, mallet, pegs, miniature cooker, plates, cups saucers, cutlery, lots of food, mattresses, bedding, towels, toiletries, mosquito repellant, insect bite medicine, plasters and bandages, throat lozenges, nasal spray, antihistamine, torches, lamps, frisbee, cricket bat, ball and wickets, raincoats, and umbrellas.”

“Uhuh?”

“And bags with clothes for sightseeing, hiking, sleeping, swimming, for all of us including Aunt Agnes.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“Hmmmmmm.”

 

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

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Playtime for playboys

Image copyright: CE Ayr

“Scissors, rock, paper. C’mon, you big sissy.”
“Sticks ‘n stones can break my bones. But words can never hurt me. Nya nya nya. Mummy’s boy.”
“Cross that line, buddy, just cross that line.”
“You cross this line. My line, you chicken.”

“He’s scared.”
“They’re both scared.”
“Crazy.”
“Mad.”

“C’mon, feel that. That’s what we call muscle.”
“That’s nothing. Feel that!”

“Weird hairstyles, both of them.”
“Maybe that explains it.”

“See you after class. Behind the bike sheds.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
“My gang’s bigger than your gang.”
“My gang’s better than yours.”

“Kids!”
“Pathetic.”

“Fire and fury.”
“Absolute force.”

Boooooooooooooooom.

Sad.

 

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

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The Florist

Image Copyright: Dale Rogerson

In this world there are people you can trust. And those you can’t. Sometimes it’s difficult to know who falls into which category. It’s a bummer. We spend energy working out who to confide in, to deal with, to befriend; we sometimes get it right, other times wrong. There’s no magic formula, no algorithm, no crystal ball. We consult colleagues, friends, the internet, shaman; we mull over what we’ve learnt, double check those sources in turn; we sweat, worry, pray. In the end, we are islands, by ourselves, alone, lonely.

Flowers, on the other hand, can always be relied on.

 

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word challenge. Visit it here.

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Paranoid

Smaller

Image copyright: Patrick Prinsloo

Our writing group has always been a mix of covert jealousy and overt distrust. Why the library continues to let us have access to one of their meeting rooms each week, God alone knows. The snarling, the shouting, the vitriol that no doubt pass through the walls into the lending and reading areas must cause no end of distress to the book borrowers of our peace-loving town. It’s not been unknown for the library staff to step in and prevent a concerned public-spirited citizen from phoning the police or the ambulance service. “It’s just a bunch of amateur writers,” they will say, “Nothing to be concerned about. Not as bad as it sounds. Blood rarely drawn. Nothing that we can’t address with our own in-house first aid kit.” Later on the cleaners will gather together the ripped up sheets of paper, broken pencils, sharpened paper clips and clumps of human hair, and sigh. “Ah, must be Thursday, writing group again,” and get on with their honest toil.

It’s not surprising that there are tensions in the group. At a superficial level, members brazenly cheat on the weekly fee, sometimes shortchanging the money bowl as it’s passed around, sometimes actually stealing from the pot. Certain members habitually take more biscuits than the allowance, others will demand a second cup of tea. At a more serious level, charges of plagiarism are thrown about at random with members threatening to call in m’learned friends at the slightest and imaginary whiff of a copied phrase or storyline. Poets disparage prose writers, prose writers sniff at silly rhyming structures and pretentious formats. Computer users sneer at the pen and paper brigade, who in turn question the creativity to be found in a keyboard.

Some of us have taken to wearing stab vests for these sessions.

This week’s meeting was the last until after the summer break. Somebody brought in some cookies. Colourfully iced. Sprinkles and sparkles on top. That was a first. No peace had been declared. As far as we were all concerned the war was ongoing. But some clever clogs mentioned the Christmas Day truce in the World War 1 trenches, there was a brief discussion, nods, knowing looks, and then everyone started munching, making mmmms and hmmmms and all sorts of eating-agreeable sounds. I held back. I’m not that easily taken in. I’ve read about this sort of thing; crikey, even as a child I learnt about poisoned apples, toxic gingerbread houses, and mind-altering eat-me cookies.

I left early. I wonder how many of the original group will turn up for the autumn term. I guess I’ll just have to keep a close watch on the obituaries over the next week or so.

Don’t you just hate poets.

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100 Words – Yellow

Image copyright: J Hardy Carroll

Being an outsider artist isn’t always easy.

At first Ned’s latest urinal installation, Telephone – Yellow, didn’t attract positive write-ups, certainly not in the magazines that count. But he persisted.

Later an agent started working for him and, despite Ned’s low (invisible) profile, the curators began paying attention.

After a protracted bidding war between MOMA and the Getty, a deal was done, and the piece was duly installed in a place of pride.

Trouble was when Ned tried to call up about his money, he found his phone had been ripped from the wall.

Being a stupid artist isn’t always easy.

 

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

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Petals fall

Image copyright: Patrick Prinsloo

A dozen red roses. Chocolates. Meet the friends, meet the family. Share front door keys.

Shop for ring.

Plan wedding. Agree guest list, caterer. Choose flowers. Order limo.

Make vows. Kiss. Lively music. Confetti showers.

Child one, child two.

Domesticity.

Seven year itch, roving eye, roaming hands. Betrayal. Reconciliation.

Child three.

Roving eye, roaming hands. Betrayal.

Tears, anger, threats.

Trial separation. Zero reconciliation

Lawyers, courts orders, access rights. Loss of friends, family. Dirge.

Record collection divided.

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Basic Skills

Image copyright: Kent Bonham

“Swivel on this,” he roared, stretching out his right arm, palm of hand facing upwards, middle finger pointing to the sky.

“Swivel on this,” they echoed, mostly getting the gesture right – some body language is universal.

“Again,” he said. Again they echoed.

The language students were a motley bunch from a number of countries and mostly from war zones. Just getting here had shown determination and spirit – essential for survival in this deprived neighbourhood in which the authorities had dumped them.

The curriculum he had devised was eccentric – but then this wasn’t a ladies’ Swiss finishing school.

“Once more,” he called.

 

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly 100 word Friday Fictioneers challenge found here.

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Romance, doomed.

Our eyes met across the crowded room.

Later, at the dinner table, I saw she was seated two places from me. I turned and said, “Hello.”

Afterwards we chanced to meet in the orangery. “It must be fate,” I said.

She said, “I think you should know I don’t like cricket.”

I made my excuses and left.

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