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Fabulous Flash Award

Many thanks to Diandra on http://shortstoriesandmadrants.blogspot.com/ for the Fabulous Flash Award last week.

For details on Fabulous Flash Award see http://jmstrother.com/MadUtopia/

The rules state that on receiving this award, you should pass it on to four other fabulous flashers, so here goes:

http://www.nettiethomson.blogspot.com/ Nettie is mistress of the unexpected. She extracts the slightly creepy from the ordinary situation or person, and makes you believe.

http://jackyfowler.wordpress.com/ Jacky writes fabulous, original stories, with wonderful twists. I particularly like ‘Creation’ in her short stories category, which is beautifully written, and sees things from an unexpected perspective.

http://ramblingsofarustywriter.blogspot.com/ I love Rebecca’s’ writing, it is always so fresh and alive. She can turn her hand with ease to several different genres. My favourite of her stories is Listen, posted on 1.07.10, which is very poetic, and can be read on several different levels.

http://eit.posterous.com/ I’ve only discovered Elijah Toten today, and immediately want to post an award for him. He is able to see things from an unusual perspective, and writes about life, but not quite as we know it. All is beautifully written.

I have taken far too long deciding on the above, and hope that I have carried the Award on it the way it is meant to be done. I deliberately chose 4 writers with totally different styles, and above all, whose writing I enjoy.  I aimed at blogs where fiction is clearly separated from other writing, to enable easy access to the stories. There are so many wonderful writers on Twitter, I wish I could choose you all!

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Management Skills – a #fridayflash

Babs ignored Peter for the whole evening. At first, he smiled secretly with relief, and, if the truth be told, not a little spite. However, as the frozen arrows of displeasure were silently released in his direction more and more frequently and painfully, his mental armour, just a veneer, was easily demolished.

‘I’m sorry dear; I seem to have upset you. What have I done?’

‘Sniff!’

‘Whatever it was, I’m sure I didn’t mean it.’

He replayed events in his mind, and realised that the frost had descended soon after he reached home after picking her up from work. It must have been when she was recounting the tale of her attempt to get poor Ben to give up smoking; he had obviously given the wrong reaction. The crime of smoking was one of the many bees buzzing around in Babs’ bonnet. He had often mused on the possibility that these bees were a direct result of the plethora of ‘B’s in her name – Barbara Bradbury. He was sure that she didn’t have so many bees before she bustled him off into married life, when she was still Barbara Jones.

Peter knew she’d had her problems: her parents died within three months of each other, when she was sixteen, and she’d had to live with a stern grandmother; she was compelled to leave school immediately and earn a living, despite being earmarked for a certain university place. The school she had attended had fed her insecurity, coming as she did from a poor background, armed with a scholarship, and arriving into the halls of middle class self-assurance. It taught her a snobbery which she still wore like a cloak, although she had nothing with which to feed it. She adorned herself with evidence of the most suitable hobbies, and never allowed anybody who gave her a lift home to drop her off outside the terraced ex-council house, requesting instead to be dropped round the corner, which had far more desirable residences.

It was her sense of fun that had first attracted him, the witty off-the-wall jokes and the streak of rebellion that peeped out frequently from under her assumed cover of refinement. He forgave her the arrogance; it wasn’t her fault. He knew her controlling habits were an obsessive result of her difficult childhood, but dealing with them got more and more difficult. Take the doors, for instance: they always had to be tightly shut. The upstairs ones would, if left open, ‘cause fire to spread throughout the house’. Downstairs, these open doors would ‘let people see right through the house’. He didn’t really see the problem with that, but tried to keep Babs happy by complying when he remembered. She ruled the garden with a green fist of iron. He obediently mowed the lawn, when ordered, and took great care not to shred flowers in his path, or at least to hide the evidence afterwards. She said that this rose should go here, so it went there; twelve inches, or as near as possible without a ruler, were pruned off certain shrubs, as instructed. The plants spread into and throughout the house. They brought a freshness and naturalness to the rather rigid interior decor of harsh, solid colours, stern furniture, and curtains tied back to within an inch of their life. Peter would have appreciated them, were it not for the strict regime of caring, feeding and watering that was imposed on him.

Meals were another problem. Babs wasn’t a bad cook, but she followed fads. Heaven help him if he turned down a portion of his five a day fruit and vegetables, or requested red meat. He used to love her desserts when they were first married; she made a mean apple crumble with her own delicately flavoured vanilla pouring custard. These had been vetoed long ago in favour of an orange or an apple to follow his meals.

Television viewing was strictly monitored for suitability. News programmes and  documentaries of a serious nature were judged appropriate, as were Pinteresque dramas and adaptations of the classics, but soap operas never dared to show themselves in that house. As for reality programmes, which Peter secretly would have loved to have watched, they were deemed to be like ‘watching paint dry’, the worst type of sop for the masses.

Babs’ most outrageous demand was that he should kneel down to use the toilet:

‘You will never learn to aim straight, I won’t have you dripping and splashing everywhere.’

‘Couldn’t we get a lavatory mat, dear?’ he snivelled, appalled at this attack on the final vestige of manhood that remained to him.

‘Lavatory mats are naff. I’m not having one in my house. They are unnecessary if you kneel down.’

She performed spot checks, spying on him when he was in the bathroom, which he was not allowed to lock.

‘I never know what filthy habits you get up to in there if you lock the door.’

She sniffed like a bloodhound to find evidence of illicit peeing. He gave up and allowed himself to be brought to his knees.

During workdays, whilst silently rejoicing in his daytime Babs-free existence, he felt a deep sorrow for the members of her department. Liz was fine, she could more than look after herself, mistress of the rebuff or refusal so subtle that it was only later that people asked themselves ‘Was that really what she meant?’ But quiet little Paula, and the lads, Ben with the artistic soul and little Rob, six foot two and still growing, were not yet equipped with the tools to manage their manager. He could just see her demanding: ‘Coffee, Paula!’ ‘Door, Rob!’ Why Babs had been appointed manager, God only knew. Maybe she had demanded it, and nobody had the guts to refuse her. He could not deny that it was useful; money was very tight after his redundancy, but the power inevitably went to her head, making his life unbearable. She had requested that people, including Peter, call her Barbara after her promotion, but although lip service was paid to that demand, everybody still thought of her as Babs.

Later during the evening in question, that of the icy silence which was eventually cracked by Babs with a sharp throat clearing, the nature of his misdemeanour was revealed to him when she exclaimed, ‘I am not a bully!’

‘Whoever said that you are, dear?’

‘You did.’

‘I would never have said that!’

‘You accused me of hectoring Ben.’

‘I was teasing you, dear. I only said that the poor chap must have dragged himself into work from his deathbed with that dreadful ‘flu, only to be met by you hectoring him to give up smoking. It was a joke, dear, nothing was meant.’

‘I am not a bully. I will not stand for people calling me a bully.’

‘I’m very sorry dear, It won’t happen again.’

Not long after that, it happened that Babs died suddenly. The post-mortem revealed a myocardial infarction, but was inconclusive on why the heart attack had occurred. It was put down to excess weight. Peter did grieve for the Babs he had first known, but he had been doing that long before her physical death. He did all the things he had to do, notifications, registrations, funeral arrangements, financial appointments, hardly knowing that he was performing these ritual actions, unable to focus on dates, details or documentation.

The sun beamed down on the day of the funeral, a gentle breeze played round the hearse. Peter was giving Babs a funeral to remember, the send-off she would have required: majestic, but not over the top, accompanied by just the right amount of choral music; a dignified eulogy with no mawkishness; a reception in a tasteful hotel, with excellent food chosen for its simplicity and suitability. All their old friends were there, including some who had only been a name on a Christmas card for too many years. Babs had wondered why they had stopped visiting. Their daughters, Chloe and Phoebe, came of course, with boyfriends as escorts, and all Peter’s family turned up. Bab’s older sister, had stopped talking to her years ago, and had also died young, without any attempt at rapprochement ever being made. A large contingent from the office attended, some who had known her since she first started working there, twenty four years ago.

‘Well we need to be sure that she really has gone’, muttered little Rob.

The guests started to leave, and the girls insisted on accompanying Peter home.

‘You can’t go home to an empty house today,’ worried Chloe.

Once there, he felt guilty that he couldn’t wait for them to leave, but they fussed around him until he persuaded them that his headache needed nursing in bed, in silence.

As soon as they had gone, he went around the house, throwing open every door as wide as he could. He threw out the pot plants that were looking agreeably brown and droopy without the attentions he had lavished on them under the dictatorship. He switched on the television and found the Big Brother live feed, increasing the volume to a pleasingly high level. He ate two cream cakes and a bar of chocolate, and savoured the slightly nauseous feeling they left in him. He went to the bathroom, leaving open the door, of course, threw up the seat, and peed standing up, deliberately misaiming at times. He had been saving up his urine for this occasion. He whished and whooshed it with wild abandonment, leaning over the loo in ecstasy. He had just a few last drops still to come when the seat and lid seemed to hurl themselves down upon him, with demonic force. He sat on the floor and cried.

The Rhubarb Fight #fridayflash

It was one of those summer days when the sun seems set to shine forever, and the cloudless sky is blue to infinity. They were running into Uncle Mick’s new garden. The two pairs of cousins ignored the colours and perfumes of the flowers all around and the dragonfly hovering over the pond, and ran instead to the fruit & vegetable plot. They could see the vastly overgrown stalks of rhubarb, the tallest, fattest stems of rhubarb ever seen, blushing to the roots at their own excess. Each stalk outdid the last in joie de vivre. Eyes wide with surprise, the children laughed spontaneously.

Looking back, nobody remembered how it started or whose idea it was, but all in a moment they were brandishing their rhubarb swords, and, armed with the leaves as shields, they were transformed into knights of the garden, fighting to win the rhubarb crown. They lunged and parried, ducked and dodged, thrust and went right for the kill. If a sword snapped, what did it matter? There were plenty more held in that rose-red armoury.

The entire surrounding world was focused on that outbreak of joy. The bees’ chuckles reverberated in their throats, the doves cooed in wonder. The magpies scolded as they scavenged, the wood pigeons beat their wings in applause. The bonfire in the next garden sent smoke signals of encouragement at first, until the breeze held its breath in wonder. Uncle Mick’s geriatric spaniel, already three feet in the grave, jogged doggedly towards the arena, scenting a sense of fun he had not experienced since his puppy days; a reminder shot through his limbs that he was no longer a pup, and he sank back down to rest, but the pain couldn’t blot out the gleam in his eye that had not been seen for months.

Eventually, the sun could last out no longer, and brought to an end that perfect day. The jousting abated and the tournament was over, with everyone a champion. The children went in, tired but happy. Their arms and legs were painted red and green. Their clothes, Picasso-style, would reveal a perfect image of childhood joy, if you knew how to look. The ruby memories went with them into adulthood.

Not Guilty

My words are  offered merely to amuse,

To muse upon life’s triviality.

I have not the intention to abuse

– Albeit I’ll show partiality,

Reacting to injustice with “j’accuse”,

But celebrating joviality.

My humour (dire) I beg you to excuse,

Along with my peculiarity.

Mrs Meadow’s Medical Matters

Our Maggie isn’t very well,

Her GP can do nowt.

Mick’s taken her to hospital

To have her insides out.

They’re shaving her to operate

She says ‘Don’t take much trouble

I hear it’s a la mode to have

A slight designer stubble.

The prepping’s done, the needle’s in

She says a little prayer,

While Mucky Mick investigates

The nurses’ underwear.

His ogling’s getting far too close

For comfort for the nurse.

She turns round with a backhand swipe.

He topples with a curse.

He’s hit his head, he’s out stone cold

They’ve put him on a trolley.

The doctor wheels him off while cursing

Loudly at his folly.

‘We’ll deal with him’, our doc declares.

‘Twill only take a minute’

And soon enough the trolley’s back

With Michael lying in it.

‘Please do not fear, he now will be

Unable to embarrass.

We’ve bound him up from head to foot

In Plaster sent from Paris.’

The op takes place, our Maggie’s fixed,

She wakes to whooziness

‘Oh dear’, she groans, I’m feeling now

A good and proper mess.’

‘Oh doctor, what has happened

To make me suffer so?’

He answers, ‘Its gone very well

In general, although

There’s been a little accident –

This doctor standing next to me,

He lost his balance, knocked my knife,

And performed a vaginectomy.

But do not cry, your luck was in,

He’s a transplant expert too,

We found a donor pretty fast

And got to work on you.

You see that horse in yonder field,

Jumping like Sally Gunnell?

We whipped it out and sewed it in,

It’s as big as the Channel Tunnel.’

The stallion’s not too happy

He’s galloped off to pack.

She said you’re welcome to it

It will get him off her back.

‘Its all in working order now’

The errant surgeon gloats,

‘We’ll swiftly make you stable and

Soon Mick will get his oats.’

*******

Now Maggie’s home and healing well,

When Mike wants his wicked way,

He’ll say “’Ere ‘ow about it then?”

She’s sure to answer “Neigh!”