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The Authortrek Author of the Month competition for October is drawing to a close. It would mean so much to me to achieve this.
Please take a minute to read my story and vote here: On The Button <- There.
Thank you and thanks to anyone reading this who's voted already!

Update 02/11/2010:

Authortrek Writer of the Month
Congratulations to Rachel Carter for winning the most votes in October with her story On the Button, especially since she has become the Authortrek Writer of the Month on her first attempt. On the Button is also the first science fiction tale to win the most votes in a month, so don’t be afraid to submit genre stories if you have any, because any genre from Romance, Horror, Erotica, Thrillers, Fantasy, to even Westerns is very much welcome on the site

I won! Yahoo!
Thanks to everyone for voting, but most importantly taking the time to pop over and read.

Interminable Gloom

Some autumn days are not beautiful but oppressive and uninspiring. The interminable gloom never quite allows enough light to energise one’s spirits.

By the window Clay poised thoughtfully, waiting to begin. Sketches and notes pinned all around, palette prepared, brush in hand.
The light was deadened by a dull grey wash of depressing sky. Self-doubt and frustration rose. Where to start? Despite days of planning he felt uninspired. He couldn’t remember why he painted. He’d been fooling himself – he couldn’t really paint at all.
‘I can’t do this,’ he growled, lashing out at the canvas with violent strokes.
‘What a useless waste of life. I wish I was dead!’ His palette hit the door. He threw his beaker of water too, just because it was there.
Head in hands he looked around at a room of mess and failure.
The scrap of human dignity remaining prevented him from roaring in frustration. He grabbed his jacket and stormed out, slamming the door behind him.

Clay’s angry strides pounded the pavement. His arms swung crossly at the cool dull October air and his lungs punched out angry breaths. Women saw beauty in the unkempt, dark-haired, artist. They caught his eye and smiled. He felt vaguely amused.
He walked around older, slower people, dodged parents with young children and was forced to wait behind a wheelchair at a pedestrian crossing. All signs that said, ‘This life isn’t just about you.’
Humbled, he began to calm and realised he was hungry.
Mrs. Mack’s was the best place for late breakfast. Slowing as he checked his pockets for money he let the anticipation of fresh coffee and homemade omelette push the frustration of his painting from the top of his hierarchy of concerns.

In the lull between breakfast and lunch Mrs. Mack was grinding coffee beans. Clay’s hair and every stitch of his clothing was instantly soaked with the sweet, smoky fragrance as he entering the building.
He recognised a young mother with two daughters at the table in the window where they had already been served drinks with straws and sticky cakes and greeted them as he walked past. The smallest girl repeatedly dropped crayons on the table, laughing at the sound and waiting for her mother to pick them up so she could do it again. ‘Don’t take the pinks, I need the pinks,’ the older child was saying.

Clay relaxed back with his coffee, watching Mrs Mack fry up his exquisite-smelling omelette while his gastric juices voiced their impatience.
The mother smiled at him. Flattered, as always, he smiled back but realised as she stood up, walked towards him and reached over that her youngest was sniffing his jacket on the back of his chair.
‘I’m sorry – she likes to sniff people. Come away Abby, the man’s got hot coffee.’
‘Hot,’ repeated the child holding her free arm out in front of her as her mother guided her away.
Clay suddenly realised: Abby was blind.
Abby’s sister sat quietly drawing. Her head rose and fell as she copied the pink plastic flowers in the middle of the table. He wondered if Abby could draw and if so, what? Clay felt at once bereft for her lack of sight. She could never see the colours that her sister could see. She didn’t know that last week the sky was blue and inspiring yet today he could barely get out of bed due to the low insipid light.

Back at his apartment he cleared up with the TV for company.
These terrific hot oranges give this otherwise dark border a real sense of warmth, said the woman on some gardening programme.
He continued cleaning.
The voice described shapes and sizes of borders, structures of spiky plants, and different scents.
How amazing that someone could describe a scent,’ Clay thought.
Strolling through the lavender walkway, one instinctively brushes the flower heads and the clean, familiar fragrance lifts and comforts. You hear the swish of the ornamental grasses and now, even if you close your eyes, you know you’ve reached the rose garden. The climbing rose against the south-facing brick wall gives off the most heady scent, so we thought this would be the best place for a small lawn and seating area. And, because the surrounding hedgerows encourage lots of birds, we’ve put up feeders and are rewarded with beautiful birdsong.

Without once glancing at the TV, Clay’s head became full of shapes, scents, sounds, brightness and animation. He imagined a garden. Maybe not the same as the one on the programme – maybe better. In Clay’s garden a basket of plump strawberries sat atop a mosaic bistro table and a child’s small hands felt their way over the tiny tiles to the woven texture of the basket, reached in and grabbed the juicy fruit. He imagined the welcome refreshment of the delicious fruit explosion after running around in the sun.
Sounds, smells, textures, taste – all vivid things that lit his darkness and coloured his greys. Grabbing a sketchbook Clay began a plan for a picture that he would call Abby’s Garden, with tactile sculptures, different walkway surfaces such as brick and gravel so you could hear where you were and not get lost, wind chimes, water features…The creative possibilities for the other four senses were endless…

This is an edit to fit Flash length of a short story I wrote a couple of weeks ago called Colourless Day
(This version is better 🙂 )

New Feet

Sometimes you’ll do anything for a pair of feet you desire.

The boy and his mother arrived at the shoe shop and stood waiting.
And waiting.
He was a good boy. He didn’t mind.

His mother suggested he took off his shoes so that he would be ready when his turn came.

Winter had hit hard and everyone suddenly wanted winter boots or winter shoes and all the children found that last year’s shoes and boots no longer fitted. So here they all were. All at once. Everyone waiting their turn. Waiting and waiting.

The boy released himself from his mother as she went into an “I’ve been waiting for so long that I’m not really paying attention anymore” trance and “I’ve gone back home in my head and I’m planning the table for Christmas dinner” trance and a “Will there be enough potatoes for mash tonight” trance and the “When I was nineteen I thought I’d be having more fun than this; not worrying about money for food because my child needs new shoes” trance.

The boy walked around in his socks looking at all the shoes and boots on display. He stared at this pair, picked up that pair, stroked the suede ones, curled his lip up at the fluffy ones and quietly watched other children getting their feet measured.

And that’s when they chose him.
The green leather boots.

‘That’s the one we want’ they said to each other. ‘He’s the one we want to go home with.
‘Look at those perfect feet.’
‘Look at those stripy socks.’
‘We haven’t seen another boy in this shop all day that we like the look of. He’s the one.’

Oblivious, the boy went back to his mother.
She looked at his pale face, his pink eyes, his wind sore lips. ‘Shall we come back another day? It’s getting near closing time. You must be hungry.’ He nodded. He was a gentle boy. Disappointed but hungry he never saw the point in complaining; he never felt the need. He knew his mother loved him. They walked out.
‘Come back! Don’t go!’ the boots squeaked. ‘Take us with you!’
The boots threw themselves off the stand and shuffled underneath, watching for an opportunity to follow. Then when no one was looking they pattered out into the cold, dark night feeling very worried but excited.
‘Quick! There he is!’

They followed the boy and his mother all the way home, in through the front door and then they hid behind the coats licking themselves clean with their long tongues until bedtime. They were exhausted. (It is very rare for boots to travel that far alone.)

When the house was quiet they scaled the stairs, taking it in turn to haul each other up by the laces, and found the boy sleeping in his bed with his feet showing. He had outgrown his toddler bed and was waiting until his mother could find him a bigger one that she could afford but for now he slept in his socks with his feet hanging over the edge.
The boots couldn’t wait until morning to be tried on. They were too excited. They wanted to feel those warm feet filling the empty space and those wriggly toes tapping up and down inside their leathery bodies. With one final burst of energy they scrambled up onto the bed and slipped themselves onto the boy’s feet.
Just as they thought: the feet were a perfect fit.
‘Ahhh… Mmmm – new feeeeet,’ they sighed, releasing tiny squeaks of bliss. ‘We just had to have these feet.’
‘I hope we don’t have to go back.’
‘It would be a shame to take us back.’

They would deal with the consequences in the morning.


I have a parking space.
I have a routine. I stride to my desk.
Resolute and punctual, smart and efficient, controlled and organised; I deliver and I walk tall.
Dates turned down and alcohol refused; I watch films and drink cocoa, I read books and I sleep. No. No thank you. Always no. No surprises. No disappointments. No hangovers.

I have a team that follows rules. Everyone fits in. Eventually.
Please tell the new employee, ‘Don’t put that there. Don’t call the boss Fi.’ Professionalism rules.

Emotions contained; I deal with him politely, waiting by my car. The boss doesn’t give lifts. He won’t ask again.
But he does.
His tears appease me, I offer cab fare. Her final breath – he might miss her final breath. The boss gives a lift. Just this once.
I wait outside. A good boss shows concern of course. Emotionally detached, of course.

The lift home, politely listening, the silent sympathy, the “just one” drink.

Glowing cheeks, secret glances and office whispers to lunch-time walks, and dizzy frolics in Autumn leaves under naked trees.
Laid bare.

Loosing my grip, dropping, whirling, tumbling, falling.
In love.

I give, I trust, I walk slower. I relax and I say yes. Yes to impulses. Yes to sharing, yes to bending rules. Yes, yes, yes!
Yes to surprises?

The increasing mystery and the endless waiting. The uncertainty of being stood up and the falling bank balance. The phone call from the dead mother.

I lose control. I am disorganised. I am late. I am hung over and I am confused. I don’t drive. I am unsure.
Violated, punctured, deflated.

He clears off. I clean up. I get clean. I knock out the dents in my armour. I watch films, I drink cocoa, I read books and I sleep.

My choice on National Poetry Day


If we could get the hang of it entirely
It would take too long;
All we know is the splash of words in passing
and falling twigs of song,
And when we try to eavesdrop on the great
Presences it is rarely
That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate
Even a phrase entirely.

If we could find our happiness entirely
In somebody else’s arms
We should not fear the spears of the spring nor the city’s
Yammering fire alarms
But, as it is, the spears each year go through
Our flesh and almost hourly
Bell or siren banishes the blue
Eyes of love entirely.

And if the world were black or white entirely
And all the charts were plain
Instead of a mad weir of tigerish waters,
A prism of delight and pain,
We might be surer where we wished to go
Or again we might be merely
Bored but in brute reality there is no
Road that is right entirely



Louis MacNeice 1907-1963

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