Paranoid

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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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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


Psssst!
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.
Psssst.

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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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