Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Impulse Stories’ Category

Better

‘Mrs. Mahoney, it is quite clear to me that you need fixing,’ Dr. Schwein said paternally, interrupting Jess mid-sentence and reaching for his prescription pad. ‘I can give you some pills to help you move on from your parents’ deaths and stop you from driving your husband mad by talking about it quite so much. It’s certainly driving me mad. My wife found that taking these after – ’

‘But I don’t want pills. I want counselling. And it’s Miss Mahoney – I haven’t got a husband.’

‘Oh dear, at your age? I’m so sorry. No takers? Having trouble finding a husband? You’ve left it a bit late to have children you know? What have you been doing all these years?!’

‘I’m in a band. You know, a musician? Been touring all over the world. You may have heard of us: The – ‘

‘Having trouble settling down?’
Sense of dissatisfaction, particularly with self, he wrote.

‘No, that’s not it at all…’ Jess stared at him in disbelief.

Dr. Schwein scrutinised her face, squinting over the top of his half moon specs.
‘Manic depression? Bipolar? You mustn’t dwell, you know. Get fresh air and exercise and how about a hobby? Get a pet? My wife found she was able to be much more practical again when she began to control… And you never know, you might meet Mr. Right…’

‘Don’t dwell?! But my whole life has been turned upside down. The two most important people in my life have gone. Just like that!’ She screwed her palms up tightly until her nails cut into her skin.

Dr. Schwein watched. He saw the marks.
Anger, he wrote. Self harm? he wrote.

‘Please. Can you refer me to a counsellor? I need to talk to someone.’

‘Some pills to tide you over, I think. I don’t want you to be a danger to yourself – or anyone else for that matter. I’ll put you on the waiting list, but you’ll find you probably won’t need it after a month of taking these.’

‘I’m not depressed! I’m not a danger! I’m grieving! I need time to talk about this and rebuild my life. I know what I need!’

‘I think I’ll be the judge of that. I am the doctor here, after all. You have some issues I’m not happy with. That anger could get dangerous. And the sadness from being lonely and childless when most people your age have a family by now… It’s understandable. I see plenty of women who have lost their sense of purpose and femininity these days. It’s so sad. You could try dying the grey hair away you know.’

‘I don’t use chemicals.’

‘And what about the way you dress? And that’s quite a scar you have on your face – have you considered cosmetic surgery?… Hang on… a friend of mine… where’s his card…’

‘Look! I realise I’m not flawless. How long is the waiting list for a counsellor?’

Dr Schwein leant forward in his chair. ‘Some things can’t be just talked away you know? What do you think talking will achieve? It won’t fix anything. I know it must be difficult to stop feeling sorry for yourself when you’ve only got yourself to think about – no family to worry about. This sense of emptiness you feel is most likely because you’re not fulfilling your role as a woman. Obviously, yes, the guidance and support you must have received from your father has gone, but if you were married, you’d have a husband to keep you on the right track. You wouldn’t have been gallivanting across the world all these years like a loose canon. Have you noticed how married women are so much quieter and calmer?’

‘Not particularly.’

‘Oh. Ahem. Well, it’s healthy for a woman to have someone to look up to, you know. We men are natural leaders and natural decision makers. Who’s in charge of your er – band?’

‘I am. I write all the songs and I’m lead guitar and lead vocals.’

‘All girl group, is it? He smiled predatorily.

‘No. The others are all blokes.’

Dr Schwein lost interest and swivelled his chair back to the desk to write a prescription. ‘Come back in six weeks and see one of my colleagues. I’m retiring today.’
He turned back and passed the piece of paper over, creating finality to the appointment.
‘Can’t you marry one of them?’

No. They’re my best friends. I can’t marry one of my mates. Besides I don’t fancy any of them.

Oh dear, dear. Are you a lesbian? Hormone imbalance. That explains a lot. Sit back down.



(inspired by the prompt word ‘balls’ )

Comfort Food

Decision made, deed done. Everything could go back to normal now and his family need never find out. So why didn’t he feel lighter? Why did he feel so troubled, sorry and guilty?

Adam dressed and went downstairs at the usual time, put the kitchen TV on and rummaged around in the cupboard for cereal. He sighed. He wasn’t hungry but he knew it would be noted and there would be questions if he didn’t eat, so he chose one of Millie’s kids’ cereals for a change. There was something comforting about the primary colours and child-friendly design. The jolly little shapes tinkled brightly in his bowl. Same stool at the breakfast bar, same morning news programme, same thumping, voices and watery bathroom sounds from above.

He looked down at his phone, thinking of Jess. He started to text her. ‘Hi. So sorry. Can’t stop thinking about you. Hope you’re ok?’
He didn’t send it.
They’d promised each other. No more texts. No one must know. He turned his phone off and turned his attention to his cereal. He forced in a couple of mouthfuls and looked up at the TV.

Poor Jess.

This was deep. He knew in years to come he would still feel scarred. He would carry what had happened forever and possibly never get to share it.

‘Don’t talk to me. Don’t talk about it,’ she’d said. ‘It hurts too much. I know we’ll see each other around the place but I’d rather we kept away from each other. Please?’
So that’s what they’d done. Or tried to do. He tried to block it and pretend it had never happened. But when she didn’t come in on Friday he knew why and he ended up looking it up on the Internet at lunchtime.
At eight weeks of pregnancy a six-week-old foetus is about one point six centimetres long… He got out a ruler and looked at one point six centimetres.

All weekend he’d thought about her bravery, her pain, his shame. This shouldn’t have happened.

He clenched his fist and thumped his forehead with his knuckles. ‘Awww Jess,’ he whispered, ‘I’m such an idiot. I’m so sorry.’

He forced himself back to the here and now. Life had to go on for them both. Separately. He looked at the time. He had a bus to catch in fifteen minutes and there was still three quarters of a bowl of cereal to negotiate. The multi-grained shapes floated soggy and lifelessly in the off-white swamp.
One point six centimetres…
He began to feel his chest heave and stomach lurch with an unfamiliar combination of sorrow and disgust and he swallowed hard to control it. He had to stop himself crying. He mustn’t cry in front of Millie whom he could hear bumping down the stairs now, chattering incessantly to her mother.

‘Morning love.’ A woman’s affectionate hand ruffled his hair and then she kissed the top of his head. Adam grunted and stared at the TV as he knew would be expected of him. But Millie, clever Mille, had spotted the difference.

‘That’s my cereal. He’s eating my cereal!’

‘That’s okay, Millie,’ said her mother, ‘there’s plenty left.’
She sat opposite Adam, blocking his view of the TV and examined his face. ‘What’s up love? Not hungry? C’mon. It’s me. I always know when something’s up.’
‘Oh… um… they were just talking about road accidents a minute ago and it made me think about when Cookie got run over.’
‘Bless him – the daft dog. But he was fifteen Ad’ and that’s a good old age for a dog, you know?’

She sighed and patted his hand. ‘It’s so sweet that all you have to worry about is our old dog. Oh – to have that innocence back again. Just school and mates. No commitments or worries at all, you lucky so-and-so. Long may it last. So cheer up young man and tell me what you’d like to do for your sixteenth birthday.’

Chickens! Story Challenge

Here’s a short story I wrote this afternoon from a word prompt chickens!, provided by Vickie Jones ( @VicksG ) on Twitter (thank you so very much!… ) and Rosie ( @ciderwithrosie ) who suggested using the prompt webbed toes (good grief!)

Vickie and Rosie, I dedicate this story to you:

(Comments welcome!)

CHICKENS!

You won’t know how happy we were to find that house. You can’t know. It won’t have happened to you, so how can you know? Have you ever dreamed of something for twenty years? Something you thought was impossible and then it materialises perfectly, exactly as you imagined it, in one day? No, I didn’t think so. It just doesn’t happen. Even if you win the lottery and never want for anything ever again (other than all the important stuff like love, happiness, an end to starvation in third world countries, world peace, a cure for cancer, a way to keep babies happy every night – all that stuff money can’t buy) even then you won’t have got it as perfect as we did.
We were giving up, to be honest, on our dream house in the country. We were like the most impossible clients on Location, Location, Location.

‘You’re going to have to accept, Dawn and Tom, that the house you want just doesn’t exist,’I could hear Kirsty Allsop saying.

We wanted to stay near the pubs and the school, still have access to bus stops and village-life; we wanted country living with all the comforts of a local community. It had to be a property that kept us close to all we knew and loved. We only had three hundred grand and we wanted land. But we didn’t think we were crazy. We kept dreaming, kept hoping, kept looking. Our vivid little imaginations had caused us to sketch our dream home on paper at the kitchen table with labels and codes for all the essential extras like a chicken run, a veggie plot, a play area for the children, bee houses, access to woodland for kindle and even a pony paddock.

That was in 1991, before we got married, before we had children and before we lost our youthful optimism. The picture stayed blue-tacked to the kitchen wall, yellowing and curling until it could only be seen by pressing and smoothing it with two hands. And I was the only person that did that these days. I knew Tom wanted me to move on and look at other houses outside of my distinct criteria but I didn’t see the point.

To move somewhere else would be like dropping the dream, being unfaithful almost. So we stayed in the same rented house for twenty years and kept saving and I held on to my dream. Milly, Ben and Dottie were born, became toddlers, preschoolers, went to the local primary school and then Milly became a teenager. I secretly worried that my dream was more and more out-of-reach and my children would all soon be gone.

And then there it was in the local paper, ten days before Christmas: ‘Halfacre Farm’, a recent repossession after the Fox and Hounds’ landlord went bankrupt. Just half a mile from the school with it’s own private lane and immediate occupancy to the highest bidder at an auction the following week. We went round to have a look. Perfect. Simply, truly, perfect. Inside it was the most tasteless hideous monstrosity of a home needing to be totally gutted. It looked like a swingers’ den (Yes, I don’t know how I would know either!) from the seventies. Who else would want to take on such a job, at this time of year, in this ‘current financial climate’? It wasn’t even a farm to be honest. The landlord had just been pompous by renaming an old carpenter’s cottage. And, outside… well… Outside was my dream. The size and shape we needed and South-facing with a wood behind the house, a neglected veggie plot and even evidence that a previous owner had kept bees and chickens.

Had I been here before? I wondered. It all seemed so familiar.
We stood facing each other in the icy December rain, grabbed each others arms and jumped up and down yelling:

‘Yes! Yes, yes, yes. Bloody yes!’
‘This is it Tom!’
‘I know!’
‘This is my dream – our dream.’
‘I know!’
‘Exactly what I wanted.’
‘Well not the inside.’
‘I didn’t imagine an inside. Remember? We never drew an inside? The house was always just a box in the middle of a small field.’ I had the picture in my jacket. ‘See? Remember?’

As I uncurled the paper the rain flooded our drawing and the coloured lines slid off the page onto the ground at our feet. It became real right where we stood.
‘So Dawn…’ Tom slid his arm round me, pointing. ‘Bees?’
‘Yes.’
‘Veggies?’
‘Yes.’
‘Play area?’
‘Yes.’
‘Chickens?’
‘Yes! Oh how fab! I can get those ex-battery rescue hens from the Internet now. Chicken, chickens, chickens! We’re going to have chickens!’ I pulled Tom into a dance.

‘We’re going to have eggs – fresh eggs for breakfast! We did it! We found it! And before the children grew up and left home too!’

‘You two must be getting cold?’ The auctioneer came out from locking up the house, grinning at us. ‘I’ve got a good feeling about this. You’re in a good position. I suspect it’ll all fall into place quite easily for you.’

He was almost right.
The auction was a quiet affair; no one else had the time, money or confidence to take on a renovation at that time of year. While we waited for the solicitors to get on with the paperwork after Christmas and make unnecessary work for themselves, we bought bee houses, garden tools and five chickens. The chickens arrived before we moved and we made a makeshift pen for them in the garage. Not ideal, but better than they were used to. We got on the phone to nag our solicitor.

‘Oh just a few more forms to sign. We’re nearly there,’ she said. ‘I’ll send them out and we’ll be all done by the end of February.
‘End of February? Another month?’
I thought of the chickens in the garage, I thought of the veggie plot I wanted to dig. I wasn’t waiting that long.
‘We’ll drive over to you and sign them there.’

‘So here, here and here, both of you please,’ pointed the solicitor with her cheap biro. ‘Boundary rights and upkeep, then permission for farmer to use the lane past your house and then just the silly pigs and chickens one.’
I looked up. ‘Pigs and chickens?’
‘Yes. It’s quite a common one these days. You just have to agree not to keep pigs and chickens.’ She laughed. ‘Silly huh?’
‘No chickens?’ I put the pen down and scratched the side of my face. ‘Tom?’
‘Excuse me one minute,’ said the solicitor leaving the room.
‘Don’t worry,’ mumbled Tom worried he might be overheard. ‘Just sign. We’ll sort it.’
‘I’m not saying I won’t keep chickens! It’s my dream!’
‘No,’ insisted Tom. ‘The house and the land are your dream. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just sign.’

The solicitor came back into the room. We signed, shook hands. I left before she saw me crying.

We moved in with the children and the chickens. We set up the bee houses and the play area and dug over the veggie plot. We re-decorated upstairs and ordered a new kitchen. We bought wire for a chicken run and ordered a hen house, but we hid the chickens in the garden shed, afraid their noise might give them away to the people living in the houses either side of our hedge. The chickens looked well and I was pleased with the recovery from their former cruel lives. I wanted more chickens and a cockerel but that was looking impossible. Ben and Dottie fostered two Dartmoor ponies and the farmer came round to fence off a paddock area on his land for them.
‘You can’t keep chickens ‘ere,’ he said sniffing the air. ‘You’ll ‘av the council knocking on your door, soon as someone finds out. Tiz supposed to be unfair noise and smell for your neighbours in modern houses these days.’ He gestured over the hedge to the street of small tightly packed modern box houses with postage stamp gardens on our right. ‘There’s a covenant against poultry put in in the eighties all over yere.’
‘Don’t worry. We’ll sort it,’ Tom insisted again.

I said nothing. I’d seen this coming. I knew we wouldn’t get away with it. I sulked for weeks and looked on Google for someone to adopt my lovely newly re-feathered friends.

One early spring evening, weeks after we’d moved in I was just hanging up the phone and sighing regretfully after speaking to a potential chicken-buyer when Tom burst in on me.
‘Sorted.’ He beamed proudly. ‘Come outside and meet Rocky,’ he said pulling me out with him.

Rocky was a tall, skinny version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, with messy, wiry hair that stood out from his head, specs and a large pointy nose. He wore a red neckerchief and brown cut off trousers – or maybe he was just wearing the wrong size for his extra-long, bony legs. He had a ruddy, wind-bashed complexion and I could tell – but didn’t look down – that he wasn’t wearing any shoes. ‘Dawn, meet Rocky – our local chicken expert and allotment campaigner. Met him in the pub.’
Bloody hell, it really was another Fearnley-Whitingstall.

‘Tell her, mate. Tell her the good news.’ Tom was rubbing my back enthusiastically as he spoke.

‘Well. First and most importantly, you can keep your chickens because they are ex-battery and not strictly livestock. It’s a bit of a loop-hole in the covenant.’
I loved this ugly, gangly man instantly.
‘Secondly, you won’t have any trouble from your neighbours, because I live over the fence in that tasteful mini-mansion there and I keep two ex-batts with no trouble at all from my neighbours. There is also a chance you could appeal against your covenant, especially if you were to change your garden use to smallholding. I’d look into it if I were you.’

‘Gosh… I… ’ I was lost for words.

‘So while I’m here… You look like you need a hand getting your run putting up. I’m a dab hand with the old hammer and nails.’

In the pink spring sunset I rushed off gleefully to fetch the nails with a renewed love for my dream home. This man was a Godsend. He had arrived, as if by magic, in our hour of need. I couldn’t believe that it was all coming together so perfectly at last. Where did he come from? Why had I never met him before? I wondered if it was all really happening. I skipped back out of the shed hurtling towards Tom and Rocky a little too fast for my thirty-eight-year-old legs and as I got close to them I tripped over my own feet and dropped a box of nails on Rocky’s left foot.
‘Oh my goodness. I am so sorry. How clumsy. Are you okay? Are your ’ …. I looked down at the damage.. ‘Are your chickens – I mean toes – okay?’ I put my hand up to my mouth in the horror of not only what I had just done and said, but at what I had seen…

In the darkening pink sky Rocky’s raised hair took on a red appearance, his pointy, sharp nose overshadowed the rest of his face as he picked at the ground rescuing nails in the half-light, his skinny legs stretched and jutted in jerking movements and yes, as he picked his way carefully over the ground in a movement that one could only describe as a strut, I looked again and saw that his bony white feet really did have webbed toes.

Quadrilateral Sunset

David didn’t particularly like Jess – which was fine because she didn’t particularly like him either. He was a suited, efficient and serious maths teacher. She was a forgetful, emotional, harassed drama teacher and young, single mum. They had nothing in common, none of the same friends and probably none of the same interests.
She saw him at the end of the corridor and put her head down. She was tired and in no mood for false-sounding “Good mornings”, so she hurried along clasping a ripped cardboard folder to her chest, homework papers edging further out with every step. Under the cover of the folder, her long bead necklace had caught on a blouse button and was yanking it down dangerously, ready to pop at any second. The overfull handbag that had started at her shoulder was now swinging from the crook of her arm and walloping against her leg with every step. She was hot and uncomfortable and really struggling with PMS and tiredness.
Following a disastrous weekend attempting to mend bridges with Luke, including a painful two-hour sit next to him at the theatre – after he had told her it was over, she had driven home to perform the necessary wine bottle and tear-duct emptying. Damn it. Luke was perfect. She adored him. There wasn’t anyone else with all the same interests as her. Everyone had said that living apart would be a test of their relationship. Well it had failed the test. He just didn’t love her enough. “Oh Jessie, you’re great…A real pal. We have so much fun together! I do love you. And I get on so well with little Ollie. But I don’t want to live where you live and I don’t want to do this long distance thing. And, let’s face it – we’re still pretty young. It’s a bit soon to be chucking in my little black book” He winked. That’s when the play started and Jess had to sit next to him, with her stomach turning itself inside out as she imagined Luke buying drinks for another woman, chatting up another girl, taking someone else’s hand, cupping someone else’s face with his warm hands… The urge to shout, groan, sob, vomit was immense but she held back and tried to concentrate on the stage. It finished, they said goodbye, she drove home, picked up Oliver from her Mum’s and put him to bed. Then she slipped into a rejection and wine-induced misery, finally falling asleep in front of the telly at 3am.
So now, at ten to nine on a cold November Monday morning, empty of all the necessary inspiration or pizzazz to teach drama to thirty indifferent teenagers, she was staggering towards the staffroom with every intention of ignoring David bloody Fisher, then recomposing herself and her belongings and grabbing herself a large comforting coffee before the bell.
David had turned his back on her by the time she reached him and could be heard complaining about something that sounded like “wasting time teaching basic primary school stuff” and “ unprepared….” to fellow maths teacher, Joe Timms.
“Quadrilaterals Jess!” Timms suddenly bellowed. Jess started at the noise and lost half of her papers, which began to float about on the movement induced breeze circulating within the busy corridors.
“Hey? What? Me?” she answered as she struggled to keep her bag, folder and blouse all within safe realms whist stamping on the escaping sheets of homework.
This is bad, this is really really bad. I don’t NEED this. Shit. Damn him. Damn them. Damn all of them.
Without stopping to help her Timms explained himself: “You have a child at the primary, starting here next year, yes? How is his maths knowledge? Are they preparing him for secondary education? David and I were just saying how they don’t know the basic geometry required and we’re always having to backtrack. Quadrilaterals. I spent the whole lesson last Friday explaining quadrilaterals to year 8. I just don’t have time ”
“Er no. Me neither” muttered Jess as she scanned the floor for more papers and considered her next move. There was no need. David Fisher had rescued all the stray sheets and was handing them back to her. He turned and walked away abruptly. “Thanks” she called after him, but suspected he didn’t hear her.
Bell.
No coffee time. No composing herself time. Straight to first lesson. Hot, tired, thirsty, broken-hearted, deflated and feeling quite detached from life buzzing all around her, she headed for room 53.

David Fisher came out of his final lesson and took his marking to the staffroom. That irritating airhead Jess Murphy was in there. He was still astounded at how rude she had been to Joe Timms that morning, but wasn’t at all surprised at her lack of gratitude when he had picked up her papers for her. He knew she didn’t like him. He had noticed that many of the homework sheets were quite smudged and splattered with what looked like red wine stains. Her marking had been done with a purple felt tip pen which he thought highly unprofessional. Unsurprisingly, neither one acknowledged the other as they shifted around the room, David turning on a laptop and boiling the kettle, Jess rummaging through bags for books and pens, turning on her mobile to text Oliver. Jess had a missed call from Oliver and immediately phoned him back.
“Ollie. Are you okay?”
David quietly seethed having to be party to this conversation
“Why? Did she? Oh, don’t worry I’ll come now. No, I’ll have to get the bus. Oh Ollie – don’t get upset, I’ll be as quick as I can”
Jess gathered her belongings and fled from the room, accidentally leaving her mobile phone on the arm of a chair.
The phone began to ring. “Great” said David and leapt up, grabbed the phone and dashed after Jess.
She was going so fast that he was outside and the phone had stopped ringing by the time he caught up with her.
“Miss Murphy! . . . Er – Jess!” he yelled.
She turned around and as she did so he could see tears streaming down her face. She looked terrible and he was immediately concerned for her.
“Crikey. Is he in trouble?” David asked.
“Oh, no. Not really” Jess replied and sniffed. “He had a call from my mum to say she’s got a doctor’s appointment and could he let himself into the house, but he’s forgotten his key”. He just doesn’t want to be outside in the dark on his own while he waits for me.
David’s car keys were in his pocket. “I’ll drive you. How far?”
“Really? Oh thanks. Just up to Mill Street in the centre of town” She didn’t care whether they liked each other or not. She wanted to be safely at home with her son right now.
Ollie was stood at the door to the flat holding something large and flat with tassels that quivered in the evening air. He looked totally unperturbed by his mini-ordeal “Can we go fly it?” he asked as he thrust a homemade kite at her. The sun was beginning to set and the three of them were lit by the golden glow of a low winter sun.
“Quadrilateral” said Jess suddenly and smiled.
David had an enormous urge to laugh, but instead he smiled and turned to them both.
“Enjoy yourselves. See you tomorrow Jess.”
“Thanks so much” she replied “And for earlier. I’m really grateful”
You can get people so wrong sometimes she thought, and hoped he was thinking something similar.

Mist

Will took his bike a bit higher this time. He was becoming more comfortable with both the mountain and the bike now that they’d been living there for a month. It was a good mountain bike – a birthday present from the whole family. His parents uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins had all clubbed together to get him something really decent and sturdy and it had been worth it. He loved it! Every day he went up the mountain and every day he became more confident about his own capabilities and those of his bike on the steep slopes.
He’d also walked right up to the top of the mountain with his parents a few times and had assessed the terrain. He’d had ‘The Lecture’ from his dad about just how far up he was allowed to go, weather conditions to look out for and which places to avoid.

He snuck a look back down the valley to the village below to find that he was becoming engulfed in a fine mist and the village was becoming hazy. As he looked back up the track, that also began to disappear. A little flutter of nerves filled his chest, but he found that he liked the feeling and he tingled with excitement at the thought of an adventure in the mist. He looked down at the brittle grey slate gravel beneath his feet and realised that he was straying from the well worn path. The sound of cars from the roads below was fading as he continued upwards, to be replaced by the sounds of sheep calling to each other in the eery mistiness.
But it wasn’t long before he cycled up out of the mist, back into the sunshine and then he could look around for the path. He couldn’t see it and he decided to get off his bike and walk. This part of the mountain was dotted with large holes and littered with loose slaty gravel which made him feel unsafe. He was also quite wobbly, tired and hot from cycling uphill so hard and sat down for a rest with his back against a rock. He stared back down at what looked like a thick white blanket of cotton wool completely obscuring his view of the village as if there were no houses there at all.
Suspecting he was the only human around for miles he began to talk to himself “Orrr-righty. Where am I then? Where’s the blummin’ path?” He chewed at the inside of his cheek and wiped the sweat from his face with his sleeve. The warm sun beat down on his head and he felt quite sleepy and thirsty.
“Where’s the blummin’ path!” a voice echoed. Only it wasn’t an echo, it was more of a mimic. He heard giggling and footsteps crunching in the gravel. Small, fast footsteps of a child. Then a young person, perhaps a year or so younger than Will, stood a few metres down the hill from him. Was it a boy? The child came closer; a lone figure against a backdrop of soft white. Now he could see that it was a small girl. Her clothes and short hair were limp from the mist and clinging to her. Her dusty, dress looked as if it had once been pink with white flowers, but was now a dusky colour with grey flowers and dirty grey streaks around the hem. Her face too was dirty as if she had wiped away her wet hair with grubby palms. In her hands were great clumps of sheep’s wool. She gazed back at him amused. Surely she shouldn’t be up here on her own. Was she lost, or had she just run on ahead of whoever was with her?
Will tried to speak, but his mouth was stuck closed with dryness. He thought perhaps he would stand up to see if anyone else was coming, but realised he couldn’t move. He couldn’t seem to get his lead-like limbs to budge. So he just continued to sit and stare. The little girl looked a moment longer and then ran past him laughing. As she did so he noticed that her boots were unlike anything he’d ever seen before; great big thick, soft leather boots with long rows of lace-holes.
He sat there bewildered for a moment longer and then decided he should go home and tell his parents. But suddenly he realised that he had closed his eyes for a moment and shaking his head forced them back open. He looked around for his bike and stood up. He was surprised to see that he was standing on the missing footpath. He’d been on it all the time? The tricky terrain and loose chippings were gone and the well-worn path back down the hill was right under his feet. Could he have moved?
He cycled down and was home in minutes.
Gasping for water he deprived himself of the kitchen tap for a few more seconds while he went to report the girl on the mountain to his father. He found him in the garden with Mum and Granny and rasped out the story through his tired dry mouth. Dad put his boots on and was off to investigate before Will had finished talking.
“Oh you’ve been collecting spare wool!” said Granny suddenly. Will was mystified to see his own pockets bulging with scraps of sheep’s wool.
“Ahhh, we used to do that years ago. Used it for stuffing for doll’s cushions and all sorts.” Mind you that all stopped after Rose’s accident. We used to walk up the steep side nearer the church – everyone went that way in those days, ’cause it was quicker.” She sighed. “That long way up with the path was made after Rose fell collecting wool when we were little girls……so sad…..”

Lemon

I walked to the desk saying to my daughter "Give me a word, any word and I'll write about it." So she said "Lemon"

Read more

Shoes

She stepped off the bus and let her breath out slowly as she took in her surroundings. Immediately she found that she was in the path of bustling city people and had no choice but to move quickly. She had painstakingly planned this trip in great detail and knew that she had to take a right but instead she hurried straight forward to the safety of a department store window to get her bearings and steady her nerves.
“Okay girl, you can do this” she thought to herself. She took another deep breath, brought the directions she had memorised to the front of her mind and set off on her mission to prove herself to a bunch of strangers.
She’d caught the only bus she could from her village and was ridiculously early, but at that moment it was a blessing. She wanted to find the place and the right room and then she would just have the interview to worry about. A short walk, one pedestrian crossing and a left turn and she was there. The enormous austere doors were daunting, but she was determined to play the part of confident business woman and strode in purposefully.

The entrance lobby was impressive. What a floor! The shiniest, most reflective surface she had ever seen! And the echo… Heels clipping and clopping all around her, she looked down at her own mediocre footwear and immediately felt inadequate. “Damn”, she thought “Shoes. Oh God, why didn’t I think about shoes?!?” She turned and fled back out of the building. She was early after all and she knew where the nearest department store was, she had just been there. She strode back through the traffic and crowds to the store by the bus stop and scanned the aisles as she marched through the glass doors. “Shoes, shoes, shoes” she muttered to herself. “Ah, here we go”.
It didn’t take long to find a pair she really liked, several pairs she really liked and jigging impatiently her eyes darted around the room in an attempt to spot the possibility of a helpful shop assistant. The silly women were all busy straightening things and looking in every direction but hers. “Oh come ON” she groaned to herself quietly.
“Pardon?” Said a man’s voice next to her.
“Oh…I…um..er…Do you work here?” she asked
He squinted as if trying to focus on the question and then smiled briefly and let out one of those tiny little down-the-nose laughs that are possible without opening one’s mouth.
“No, not me. Sorry” He replied and turned away from her.
As he walked out of the building he tapped a member of staff on the arm gently and smiled. One of the silly women finally came over to assist and the shoe trying on could begin.
Fifteen minutes later she had made her choice and found herself in a queue to pay while a young member of staff seemed to be having till training. Glancing down at her watch she now realised that she was due at her interview in five minutes and she still hadn’t found the right room!

Eventually she made it back outside only to discover that it was beginning to rain. “Oh no. Why me?” she thought and dashed back to the impressive doors and through them into the grand lobby. As she hurtled through the doors she ran straight into the back of a man who didn’t seem to be in quite such a hurry as her and as he turned to identify his assailant their eyes flickered recognition at each other from their brief encounter in the shoe area of the department store. “Sorry, sorry” she muttered, sounding more irritated than apologetic and made a swift move to the right to avoid his path. But as she swung sideways her new wet shoes slid unceremoniously across the floor and took her several metres at a very fast pace right into the middle of the bodies hurrying about their work.
Grabbing instinctively at what ever she could as she hurtled through the black suits and laptop bags and eventually came to an undignified stop in a heap on the floor. The possibility of shattered bones avoided only by the number of people who had broken her fall along the way.
She kept her eyes closed for a moment while she tried to compose herself. And then slowly lifted her head and looked about her to assess the damage. A few sympathetic onlookers had remained to check she was alright, but most other people were moving away now.
“Shoes, new shoes” She tried to explain “It’s the rain. Slippy wet shoes. Oh God, my interview! I have to get… Oh shit!” She couldn’t stand up. Her shoes were still wet, she was shaking terribly from the shock, had a very sore bottom and was more ashamed than she thought possible.
Department store man suddenly appeared and offered her his arm. She grabbed it rather too roughly as she nearly lost her balance again.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this” he said. You ran into me and now I’m late for an interview. There’s some poor soul upstairs nervously waiting for a job interview with me and you’re keeping them waiting” . . .

%d bloggers like this: