The answer to life, the universe and everything

Image copyright: Janet Webb

He has access to Deep Thought Version 72.12.5, and the latest supercomputers including the Sunway TaihuLight (93 PFLOPS, since you ask). The boy (and girl) genius techies in China, India and California are listed on his Favourites.

For balance he calls on leading economists, philosophers and religious leaders. No head of state can be sure their beauty sleep won’t be shattered by his early morning call.

He’s one of a handful of thinkers which hasn’t accepted 42 as the final answer and he leads the drive for the truth.

He should visit his mum, enjoy her home cooking; speak to her. She knows.


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

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Modern Times

Image copyright: Claire Sheldon

The office Twitterati are determined to hound me into the ground. When I walk through the open office I feel them watching, watching, tweeting, tweeting. Occasionally I catch someone’s eye; they return my gaze without blinking; I hear their infrasonic refrain, “Die, die, bastard, die.”
At my desk, behind the bullet-proof, one-way glass, I log in, activate the office-spy software, read their unsuspecting vitriol. I now know who the tweetleaders are, the ones who will benefit most from my going.
I confront them; denials are forthcoming. I make threats; they laugh.
Tomorrow I will set the cat among the canaries.

Written on a Wednesday in response to the weekly 100 word Friday Fictioneers challenge found here. Go have a peep.

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The Salesman’s Script

Image: Wikipedia

Wanna buy a watch? Here, take a look at this – it’s my last one, already sold six this afternoon.
Listen to that tick, a real Swiss tick, not like that Japanese stuff, Swiss, honestly the real McCoy, listen, tick, tick, tick, you hear that?
Whoops, don’t look, is that the rozzers, bloody nuisance they are, don’t understand the market, nah, we’re okay, false alarm.
You remember that burglary at Boodles last year, the place on Hatton Street, the Royals shop there, you don’t remember? It was all over the papers, stuff worth millions, I tell yer millions. No, you didn’t? Ah well, it was big news, had the rozzers on the hop, questions were asked in parliament, the loot never found, can’t trust nobody these days, bleeding tea leaves everywhere. Look at that face, oyster, the real thing, from the China Sea, pukka stuff.
Whoops again, don’t look around, nah, another false alarm. So the insurance company does a deal with Boodles, yeah, great strap, genuine ostrich, and all the gear comes back on the market and I manages to get some at a good price, not cheap, nah, never cheap, but a good price, a fair price.
I mean, forty seven jewels, no less, that’s forty seven, now where else can you find that sort of thing nowadays for less than a grand, I mean to say, let’s be honest.
No, no, no, wait, I have good contacts and I got this stuff at an honest price, seeing as it’s the last one and I’ve got to visit my missus in hospital in twenty five, I can let this one go for two fifty, a real bargain. Feel the weight of that.
Yeah, yeah, I can come down a bit, try that on yer wrist, a perfeck fit, don’t yer reckon, comfy eh, okay one fifty, cash mind you, and yer bleeding me dry, but you look honest and deserve something good in life, so yeah, no, what? fifty only, that’s bleeding robbery.
Whoah, the rozzers, okay fifty, give me the cash, hold on that’s only thirty, what you mean that’s all you have, on my life, quickly take the bleeding thing. Now get before those rozzers put the arm on you.

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Jaw Jaw War War

Image copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

They’d found the tunnel at last.
It had taken fifty years: supranationals, governments, and peace movements had been sweating away for all those years, talking, negotiating, bargaining, mediating, as well as schmoozing, begging, cajoling and threatening, but seemingly to no avail.
But then they found the tunnel.
“Peace In Our Time,” screamed the headlines, “No More War”, “Spears into Ploughs”.
Monarchs, Presidents, and Prime Ministers all promised peace dividends, battleships became community centres, soldiers signed up for flower arranging classes.
A lone voice in India cried out, “Yes, it’s the tunnel, but as yet there’s no light.”
Nobody paid attention…


Written for the weekly Friday Fictioneers 100 word challenge found here. We dare you.

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Me. Them.

Eyes at my back. I feel them.

I wonder why I take this route. It’s a short cut, of course, saves about five minutes of an otherwise twenty five minute walk, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I always feel tense, alert, while I’m walking through the housing estate. It’s not that anything threatening has happened. Nobody has thrown a bottle at me or even said anything nasty to me; or about me, I assume. But nonetheless, I always feel tense, alert. The space between my shoulders tightens, I hunch up, I take my hands out of my pockets, I prepare for flight.

The other route, the longer route, the scenic route, conjures up no threats for me. I don’t feel tense or alert on that path. I walk head up high, carefree. I greet others, they respond; others greet me, I respond. Always cheerful, friendly. Sometimes a comment about weather, petrol prices, the headlines. The newspapers they carry show no sign of red on the front pages. The shopping bags I see are reusable, organic. The dog walkers clear up after their dogs; round-eyed, soft-mouthed friendly dogs, dogs to be petted. Both dog walkers and non-dog walkers place their litter in the pavement bins. They are me, I am them. I am comfortable.

Today, as usual, the short cut offers different. Two women chatting. Smokers’ voices, smokers’ coughs. A pack’s worth of butts in the gutter. At eleven o’clock on a warm schoolday morning their dressing gowns jar. They pause briefly as I pass. Watching. I force a greeting. They say nothing. I feel their watching. Watching the enemy.

Pig-eyed dogs roam seemingly as strays. But the smoking piles on the pavement suggest they are well fed, owned. As do the muzzles. These are not soft mouthed friendly dogs, not dogs to be petted; not dogs to love, but dogs to respect. I avoid them, for fear of being bitten; they avoid me for fear of being kicked. They too are tense, alert. I know dogs, they know humans.

The litter in the gutters and unkempt gardens, the discarded mattresses, children’s bikes, and abandoned shopping trolleys in a wooded space adjoining the bus stop suggest a community out of love with itself. And everybody else. And as I walk I know I am part of everybody else.

I feel them watching. Out of the corners of my eyes, I study windows, doorways, alleyways, hoping to see them, hoping not to see them. They are not my enemy. I am theirs.

Tomorrow, I think, tomorrow I will take the longer route, the scenic route, the polite route. There will be no threats, no need to be alert. No cause to feel alive.

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Day 11: Coffee

Image: Wikimedia Commons

He shouldered through the swing doors, sauntered up to the bar, iron studs echoing on the polished hardwood floor, spurs jingling.
“Four Americanos, one macchiato, one latte, a cafe mocha, and two cappuccinos. To drink in. Pronto, signor.”
“No problemo,” said the barista, “You just back from a drive. How was it?”
Slim pushed back his battered Stetson, mopped his brow with his neckerchief, “Sure was long. Long ’n dusty.” He narrowed his eyes, stared into the distance, thoughts of days in the saddle, meals of bacon and beans, the taste of dust, all running through his mind. They hadn’t lost many this time – one or two to coyotes, half a dozen to rustlers. Not bad for a herd of several hundred. The boss would be pleased.
“Anything else?” said the barista.
Slim looked over his shoulder at his crew slouching at the window table, “Any pastries, boys? Or cookies? Chocolate, mayhaps?”
The men hadn’t had any luxury for weeks now and it took a bit of time to for them to make their decisions. The spell away from town had taken its toll and tongues were tripping over some of the pronounciations. French didn’t come easy to unschooled cowhands like these and they were far too proud to walk up to the displays of croissants, pan aux raisins, and mille-feuille and point.
Just as the barista was about to complete the order, the older of the hands, Ole Rusty, called out. “I’ll have me an Earl Grey, not a cappuccino.”
The room went quiet. Chair legs scraped on the hardwood. Slim tensed, adopted the position, legs akimbo, hands loose at his sides only inches from the butt of his Colt 45. He spat out his well chewed cigar. In the opposite corner a hard man dressed all in black and with a star pinned to his chest reached for the shotgun resting on his knees. The two saloon girls crept out through the back door.
“Sure, no problemo,” said the barista.
The relief was palpable. Slim tossed some coins into the tips saucer, the man in black went back to his Sudoku, and the saloon girls returned to drum up some business.
“Now, lads,” said Slim sipping on his coffee, “After this, it’s off to the Gents’ Emporium for showers and some grooming. Try and avoid hipster style. And your wages have been deposited in your accounts.”
“Yippee-Yi-Ay,” sang Rusty.
“Ghost riders in the sky,” chorused the others.

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Day six: No Place to Write

I’m here most days. It’s my regular spot. The others seem to accept that, although sometimes someone new has drifted in and throws down his (or, nowadays, her) cardboard, fishes out the dog’s water bowl from his backpack, and settles down, and I have to suggest he finds another pitch, maybe next to the war memorial or just beyond the chippy near the cash machine, and usually they move on possibly hoping that they’ve made a friend in me, not that there’s much chance of that; in this community you learn very fast not to trust. Homeless on homeless – that’s the new danger.

The manager of the shop isn’t at all fussed about me being here. Sometimes he pops out, asks me what I’m writing about, maybe reads a little. He may even slip me the odd sheet of paper. He probably believes that having a writer as his homeless mascot will up the image of his discount store; adds a little je ne sais quoi. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. I think I’ve become a fixture here as far as the local citizenry is concerned and they’d kick up a fuss if he tries to move me on. Even the local constabulary turn a blind eye.

I generally do quite well, nearly all coins, mostly small stuff, but some heavier pieces every now and then; occasionally a bank note. Once in a while a punter will ask to buy a story and we’ll discuss why and if I think it’s because they’re simply being charitable I’ll say no and try and negotiate a straight donation; mostly they’re happy with that. When I do get a serious buyer, we’ll talk literature and poetry and about their likes and dislikes and then I’ll show them some scribbles and if there’s something they fancy, we’ll talk money, paper money of course.

The high street is a gold mine, the place to be if you’re going to write about people, humanity. You see them all here (we all need to shop); the rich, the poor, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad. Sometimes you just want to shout with joy, other times you struggle to hold back the tears. I wouldn’t give up this patch for all the tea in China; well, maybe – it all depends on market prices.

Usually around five o’clock, when the stores are all closed and the shoppers are queuing for buses or trains, making their way to their homes in the suburbs, I pack up my gear, give the street a grateful goodbye and make my way up the car park stairs to where Rusty is waiting for me in the Jag – the old Mark 2, not the XE – far too conspicuous. I will slide into the back seat, sip at the freshly made gin and tonic (one of Rusty’s specialities), lie back in the expensive leather upholstery, and think of the hot bath and three course meal that awaits.

Margaret will have all my work typed up by morning ready for my agent to view.

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Day 7: World War III Tweets

@POTUS: Armada heading south to North Korea. Massive.
@VP: POTUS fools world media with fake news. Armada is heading north.
@POTUS: Armada now heads north to South Korea. Goodbye @Kim.
@PresXi: Love ya Donald. Knew you would join my team.
@VP: #PresXi not cool. North Korea, South Korea, who cares. #USA has the power.
@KIM: We will destroy convoy with powerful inter-ballistics. #USA to become redundant.
@POTUS: #USA standby. Massive deployment. Good. Hide in cellars. Under tables. Huge.
@Triggercarrier: #POTUS your nuclear button briefcase is at Mar-a-Lago.
@Vladimir: Heh heh. Sad.
@Kim: So many mad leaders in the club.
@PopeFrancis: We thank you Lord.

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Day 4: A proposal is rejected


Wikipedia Media

The church is booked, the caterers signed up, and the florist is standing by.
All I need now is someone to love me, someone to say, Oh aye.
I’ve been lonely a long, long time, for far too many a year,
And a lonely bachelor I’ll remain, it’s what me and my family fear.
But when I asked a sweet young lass to be my love, my bride
And to cook my meals and wash and iron and scrub and tup and tup and scrub
I got dark looks and frowns and tears and I sighed when she replied,
“Ah, Old Herbert, woo me not but keep tha nose in tha beer.”

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Day 3: Choice

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