Monthly Archives: September 2013

Trifecta 97 – A Matter of Priorities

gas station

Another stupid argument with the old lady had me reaching out for a smoke. I’d somehow resisted the craving – a fresh supply of gum would have to suffice. I hated the stuff, made my teeth ache, but the lungs were already on their final warning. The drive to the gas station was calming. On the horizon the snow tipped summit of Mt. Pechakeek reflected the late November sun; the winter air was icy fresh. I loved this time of year.

Filling up I’d resolved to make my peace with Vicky. I’d grovel if needed. We’d head up to the cabin at the weekend: a second honeymoon, or would it be the third? Jeesh, I’d lost count. It was a miracle she was still with me. Entering the shop the cashier stared straight at me. More like through me. She seemed to be sweating profusely which was weird considering it was a good 10 below.

The cold mouth of a gun snuggled up tight to the back of my neck.

‘On your knees,’ came a croaky, almost adolescent voice.

Slowly I crouched down. My knees creaked.

There was two of them – both with automatics; both kids. One was Jack Darby – his father was a good friend of mine.

‘This will be over quick as long as nobody does anything stupid,’ shouted the kid I didn’t recognise.

I don’t know why I then said it, but I did.

‘Jack, what are you doing son? This is crazy!’

As Jack glanced my way he bit his lower lip. He was sweating almost as much as the cashier.

‘Shut it, Mister. Don’t need no dumb-ass hero here. Just let them take the frickin’ money!’ said a man cowering in the corner, next to the Diet Coke machine.

The pleading, desperate look in  Jack’s eyes told me today would a bad day to be a hero. I lay back down, face first on the floor. Suddenly I was frightened. All I wanted was to get home to Vicky.

trifecta

These 333 words, based on the third definition of the word ass , form my entry into the Trifecta 97 writing challenge.

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Mugwump

hairybob

The first year on his travels had been a blur. From town to town; village to village Robert kept moving on. He wasn’t sure where he was going. All he knew was that he had to get further away from Ferndale Falls – from the memories; from the family who had shunned him and Annie when they needed them most.  It was late autumn ‘59 when Robert hitched up at Mitch Dawson’s dairy farm, about two hundred miles north west of Bismarck. Heck, he hated farms and farming, but it was the only way he knew how to earn a living.

After another hot, tiring day in the fields Robert’s aching body needed out of the baking sun. Wandering across the farmyard he spotted  an gnarly looking oak tree; dark patches of cooling shade within its canopy of twisting branches appeared just the place to grab some desperately needed sleep. Mopping his brow, Robert took a quick swig from his hip-flask before settling down with his back against the trunk. Within moments his eyes started to close.

Yip. Yip. Yip.

Robert eyes slowly re-opened. Glancing around he couldn’t see anything, or anyone. Then it came again. The noise. It sounded like it was coming from inside a timber outhouse a few yards from his oak tree. Crawling towards a knot in the wooden panelling he peered through. He couldn’t see much, a few bales of straw: they seemed to be forming some sort of barrier. Suddenly a pair of paws breached the straw horizon. Quickly followed by a head – a pup, and by the sounds of it there were plenty more. Robert watched for a few minutes before returning back to the shade. This time his eyes closed without interruption.

***

When Robert woke again all was quiet. The memory of the pups stuck with him though as he headed off to help with evening’s milking. The Belmonts had always had packs of working dogs on their farm; it was probably the one thing he missed about being on the road.

‘Howdy there Bob. Have a good snooze?’ enquired Mitch.

(Most folks called him Bob these days. He was happy enough with this – felt like he was shedding one more piece of baggage from his previous life.)

‘Yes, thanks Mr Dawson. Found a spot under the oak tree in the yard. Nice and cool it was,’ he said.

‘Ahh right, hope the critters in the outhouse didn’t keep you awake!’

‘Oh no, Mr Dawson. Sounded a lively bunch right enough. How many are there?’

‘Seven: their mother’s third litter. Got homes for most of them already. You a dog man Bob?’

‘We were when I was growing up. Never let you down dogs. Not like family can,’ he replied.

***

As milking was finishing Mitch Dawson tapped Bob on the shoulder.

‘Would you like to see the pups, Bob?’

‘Sure, Mr Dawson. I’d like that just fine,’ he replied.

Closing the outhouse door behind them they were greeted with the same excited yips that Bob had heard from the shade of his oak tree. Moving closer he could see the source of the noise. Labrador puppies. Seven, as Mr Dawson had said: three golden, three black and one brown.

‘Never seen a brown one before’ said Bob.

‘Yeh, the brownies always the last to go. Folks only seems to want the blacks and golds,’ replied Mr Dawson.

Over the next week Bob returned to the outhouse every evening. Quickly he had his favourite. While new owners came and went with their pups there was now only one left. Tomorrow he was hitting the road again – he’d miss the little brownie.

***

As the chill morning mist began to burn away Bob packed up his knapsack. His possessions didn’t amount to much but he had all he needed. Mr Dawson would already be out in the fields – he’d see him again next time he was up this way. Bob took one last look around the yard and turned to head down the long, dusty road back to the highway.

‘Bob, Bob! Wait up,’ came the cry.

Turning,  Bob saw Mr Dawson jogging towards him. In his arms he appeared to be carrying a bundle of blankets. Mr Dawson had always been very kind to Bob.

‘Hey, no, I have enough blankets Mr Dawson. Honest, I’m fine.’

Mr Dawson laughed as he drew up to Bob. Buried deep in the blankets something was moving, yipping. Suddenly a head and then two brown ears poked out, blinking in the morning light.

‘Take him with you Bob. He’ll keep you company. I trust you to look after him.’

Before he could answer Mr Dawson had passed the wriggling bundle into Bob’s arms.

‘Just promise me one thing Bob, you’ll bring him back to see us on the farm from time to time. Will you do that?’

‘Err, of course, yes, yes of course’ he stuttered.

‘Good. Now I’ve got to go Bob. Take care of yourselves. See you again soon?’

With that Mr Dawson rushed off; Robert and his squirming bundle went on their way.

As dusk fell Bob made camp in woods near Jonesdale. His new companion was curled up snoring close to the crackling fire. Bob had to admit it was nice not to be alone. He hadn’t missed people so much, but he had missed company. Now though he wasn’t just looking after himself. There was someone else relying on him. He had to think where to go next. Where he and brownie were going next.

This is story 2 in an ongoing series of tales about the life of Hairy Bob and Mugwump.

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Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Show of Faith

27-09-september-29th-2013The ministry was the last building to fall. Its cold, brutal facade symbolised everything about the regime. We’d all known friends, family and enemies who’d  been taken there – most never heard of again; bodies rarely found.

Today office after office was being ransacked. Files and folders scattered. Everything was going up in flames. It didn’t matter what notes they’d taken on us over the centuries. They were gone; the old ways were over. Everyone’s sheet was now blank.

Shouts up ahead said they had something, or someone. I waited for my second to catch up. He would need to see this. Make sure the message was relayed.

Nods of respect followed my walk up the dimly light corridor. Above a strip light flickered. Papers burned behind every broken door – except the last one. Behind that one was a woman. Everyone knew her. It was likely the last face many who disappeared in this place saw.  I could see her regulation dark blue overalls and boyish, greying hair. Her back was turned to me.

Entering the room my second passed me the loaded revolver. Without turning around the woman spoke in a soft, unemotional voice.

‘Go ahead son. I know you have to.’

She was right – I did.

apf

These words form my entry into this week’s Photo Fiction challenge on Alastair’s WordPress site. The picture is copyright of http://kattermonran.com/.

Trifextra 87 – What Might Have Been

musketeers

‘How’s the new book coming along?’ queried the agent.

‘First draft complete. Have a really good feeling about this one – the working title is The Two Musketeers

‘Sounds fabby Alexandre  – keep me posted.’

trifecta

These 33 words form my ‘famous trio’ themed entry into the Trifextra 87 writing challenge. 

This piece became my fourth effort to get into the Trifecta Writing Challenge winner’s circle – my first in the weekend Trifextra – achieving a third place. As ever I am flattered that those judging (my fellow writers!) saw something in my work. 

Friday Fictioneers – The Culture Clash

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“A stunning juxtaposition of life’s choices,” proffered Tarquin Pumpernickel.

“Oh indeed. Who’s the artist Tarqy?” drooled Jocelyn Cumberbatch.

“Seems to be an unnamed piece. All adds to the mystique” he nodded, sagely.

The art lover’s musings were suddenly shattered by the disturbing presence of a full bodied, whiskey fuelled belch. Turning to protest they were confronted with the brusque, unshaven scruffiness of local builder Billy-Bob Hempton.

“Excuse us ladies,” said Billy-Bob, as he signalled for his young apprentice to reverse their rusty 4×4 onto the grass.

“Damn kids, if they steal any of my doors again I’ll swing for ’em,” spat Billy-Bob, as he brushed past a crestfallen Tarqy.

friday-fictioneers

This is my entry into this week’s 100 word challenge over at Friday Fictioneers.

Trifecta 96 – Down in the Woods

woods

I loves animals. They’ve always been good to me and mine. Same goes for plenty of folks round here. We live for ‘em and they lives their lives to help us. It ain’t just all about meat and milk neither. My little Debs has her horses. Anywhere I goes on the farm my dogs is there. That’s why it upset so many people round here. What they said, it weren’t right.

Jimmy Crawfoot wasn’t an animal: he was a sick, fucking psycho. Papers didn’t care. They got their headlines. Beast, animal, whatever. What do they know? Go ask the parents of Cassie Green and they’ll tell you. That fucker hadn’t earned the right to be associated with one of God’s creatures. He was just scum. Pure and simple. He didn’t deserve to keep breathin’. He’s getting what he had coming.

I ain’t got any beefs about what we’re doing – none of us have. The other men wanted to string him from the tree down by the sawmill. Me and Mr Green thought that was too good for the bastard. Too easy. That’s why we’re here this morning – even Sheriff Flannigan. There was no way this was ever going out the county. This is our problem and round here we deal with our own.

Gotta say it’s a fine morning for it. This mist in the Deepvale wood has just lifted. The smell of damp leaves; the rabble of bird song – smells and sounds which make me sure glad to be alive. Our friend here doesn’t appear to be so happy. Squealing like one of old Bob Waterman’s prize porkers he is. Isn’t half making a fuss. Some animal! None of my herd ever went down like this feller. Crying for his mother. Tears rolling down his face.

Cry? You ain’t earned the right for tears. Rot in hell you bastard!

Henry Green is going first. Others will need to wait their turn. It’s gonna be messy,  but it’s justice.

trifecta

These 333 words, based on the third definition of the word ‘animal‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 96 writing challenge.

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Listen To The Children

26-09-september-22nd-2013

As we waited by the bus stop on the bridge I slipped free of my mother’s hand.  A few small steps away and I was peering down into the still stream below. It was overrun with reeds; frothy scum rode up against both banks, while a cracked pipe oozed its steaming offerings into the murky water.

As I was about to turn away I saw them – bubbles. Then breaking the surface a long, thin, shiny body: green scales glinting in the late afternoon sunlight. The merest slit of an eye pushing up through the scum. It quickly disappeared under the bridge.

I ran over to mother; yanked at her arm – excitedly told her the whole story. She didn’t believe me of course. My Dad just laughed it off; my brothers thought I was an idiot.

It was never mentioned again.

Surfing the web all these years later I came across a story from my old home town newspaper. A tramp had gone missing – last seen down by the stream, near the bridge.

I reached for the phone. Pausing, I put the receiver back in the holder.

They didn’t believe me then. Why would they believe me now? 

apf

These words form my entry into this week’s Photo Fiction challenge on Alastair’s WordPress site. The picture is copyright of http://kattermonran.com/.

Robert Jones Belmont II

hairybobHairy’s first memories are those of his mother’s dying screams. As they echoed throughout the house a young Robert watched on helplessly as one anxiety stained face after another came and went from his parent’s bedroom. Suddenly amongst the tears Tommy appeared – tiny but alive. With Robert’s newest brother clinging desperately to life, Emma-Louise Belmont lost her own battle. Robert was only four at the time – he didn’t understand where his mother had gone. He thought she’d just left him; he felt cheated.

In the wake of his mother’s death, Robert’s father immersed himself in the running of the family farm – one of the largest in North Dakota, over 5,000 acres at the last count. Robert and his other brothers rarely saw their father. As the eldest boy, Robert would have been expected to take over one day – Robert though never shared the love for farming his father and brothers had. As the years passed Robert’s views on his future plans didn’t change much: farming wasn’t for him. Problem was he didn’t know exactly what was for him.

What he could tell you though with exactness was when he first saw Annie Milligan. Last day of August ’58, one of the stickiest evenings of another long, hot North Dakotan summer. That first sighting remains etched on his memory – the glow of her hair in the fading sunlight, the dimples on her pink cheeks. The smile, the shyness, the innocence. She was beautiful. She was also the daughter of his father’s chief farmhand. She certainly wasn’t the woman of Robert’s father’s dreams.

Robert and Annie married on his 17th birthday. The only witness at the tiny wooden church in Ferndale Falls was Annie’s sister. None of the Belmonts showed. Nobody who relied on the Belmonts for a living made time either. Annie’s parents were heartbroken; Robert’s father was seething. He’d already arranged for his rightful heir to be written out of his will. Robert was now on his own.

The three years that followed with Annie were the happiest of his life. The illness which took his love from him engulfed Robert in an almost suffocating darkness. He had to get away from everything. From everyone. Even seeing Annie’s likeness in her sister would send him spiraling into another bottomless pool of self pity. His family offered no comfort. The bridge between Robert and his father was out of commission, never likely to be repaired.

A part of him blamed his father for Annie. The Belmonts were a rich, well connected family. Surely they could have helped, got Annie the best treatment. Instead when she died in his arms they were alone. Helpless. Robert was a broken man.

Robert Jones Belmont II left town a couple of months after his Annie’s funeral. The open roads awaited; he didn’t plan on being back. There was nothing for him there anymore.

This is story 1 in an ongoing series of tales about the life of Hairy Bob and Mugwump.

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Trifextra 86 – 45th September 3419

MDX05~Try-Try-Again-American-Proverb-PostersMy alarm sounded.

We were here – again.

“45/09/3419”  flashed the ship’s chronometer.

Week 73198’s Trifextra was famed throughout the galaxies;

I was determined to win it – eventually.

Could today finally be the day?

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These 33 words form my ‘time travel’ themed entry into the Trifextra 86 writing challenge. 

Friday Fictioneers – Keeping The Memory Alive

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They’d married young. Too young folks had said, but they loved each other.

It started out just fine. Him working, her making a home. Her illness shattered him. Her death saw a darkness enshroud him; he’s been on the road ever since.

Back in town today Annie’s dress is still there. The little money he earns from odd jobs ensures the storekeeper leaves it on display. Not for sale though. Never.

Wiping away a tear, Hairy Bob gathers up his knapsack before turning towards his faithful old lab, Mugwump.

‘Come on boy – she’ll still be there when we come this way again. Bye for now Annie my love.’

friday-fictioneers

This is my entry into this weeks 100 word challenge over at Friday FictioneersIt features happy go lucky tramp Hairy Bob and his dog Mugwump.  Hairy is a recurring character of mine who features in stories from time to time. It’s not an ongoing tale; just occasional slices of life through the eyes of Hairy and Mugwump. 

Trifecta 95 – My Inspiration

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Looking back, it was probably the most important day of my life. I was only eight, but I remember every moment as if I was there now. Today of all days it seems sharper than ever.

It was winter, early January; the windows on my Dad’s study were frosted over. The fireplace crackled as another log submitted to the flames. My Dad hated the cold. Always did, right up to the end.

We often used to spend hours in his study – just us boys. He would be tapping away at his keyboard; I’d be fixing the wing onto a 747, or just watching Dad. He always had an answer for everything. I knew he would that day too.

‘Dad?’ I asked.

‘What is it Joey?’ he replied, glancing up from his work.

‘Why is it wrong to chase a rainbow?’

‘Who said it was son?’

‘Mr Jones at school. He tells everybody that. I like rainbows. I don’t understand.’

‘Well son, what he means is not to chase impossible dreams. But you take it from your old Dad – you aim for the impossible. The more impossible the better. Even if you don’t find it you’ll likely still achieve plenty. You can tell Mr Jones that I said that.’

With that he smiled his all knowing smile before turning back to the screen. Satisfied and happy I carried on struggling with pesky wing of my 747.

I never did tell Mr Jones what Dad said. However, I took Dad’s advice and aimed high. Heck, there were disappointments along the way. Plenty of doubts. My Dad’s words though never left me and I kept chasing. It wasn’t easy but I’ve done pretty well: small chain of bookstores over three states. I wanted one in every state, and one in each country over the world. Didn’t get it, but trying got me this far.

Today we said goodbye to my Dad. He died a proud man – proud of a son who wasn’t afraid to dream.

trifecta

These 333 words, based on the third definition of the word rainbow‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 95 writing challenge.

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Family Ties

25-09-september-15th-2013

Tom was back again at Glen Morich Manor, the ancient family seat of the once feared Clan Macpherson. Tom had always known about his family’s shameful part in the Macphersons downfall – blood lines tied him directly to the man who triggered their gory demise.

All this fool had to do was let them know when the MacDonalds breached the horizon. Give a signal. A sign. Instead as he slumped into a drunken stupor the Macphersons were ransacked; the family all killed, their mutilated bodies then paraded through the village.

Walking into the main hall again there came the usual slow creep of guilt.  He knew he was being watched. The eyes on the painting. The face on the plaque above the fire. Even the bronze bust of Lord Macpherson seemed to be turned towards him with a look of icy cold contempt.

He bolted.

The only exit was flanked by a pair of Macpherson battle suits. The suit on the left suddenly stepped in front of Tom. He froze. Slowly a sword rose. The blade glinting. Higher and higher. Then it fell.

Tom woke with a start. The nightmare over for now. However, he knew the manor would be awaiting his return soon.

apf

These words form my entry into this week’s Photo Fiction challenge on Alastair’s WordPress site. The picture is copyright of http://kattermonran.com/.

Trifextra 85 – Pledge of Allegiance

oath

Oh Blessed Trifecta how so you tease,

Another prompt – another chance to esteemed judges please.

To write, to delight is the weekly goal,

Oh Blessed Trifecta (and Trifextra) you have my soul.

trifecta

This 33 word apostrophe forms my entry into the Trifextra 85 writing challenge.

Friday Fictioneers – Close Encounter

the-boat-and-miss-libertyI saw it down by the mouth of the river.

A long ripple. The water gurgling.

The crown of a scaled head broke the surface. Leathered skin covered in barnacles; seaweed drooping from water spewing nostrils. A huge yellow eye scanned the city. It then turned to me.

For a moment we both froze. Afraid. Questioning.

The water then went silent. I remained watching. Waiting.

Turning towards the ocean I thought I saw a splash; a glint of yellow, the flick of a huge tail.

It had gone.

I headed home with the rising dawn sun as the city woke.

friday-fictioneers

This is my entry into this weeks 100 word challenge over at Friday Fictioneers.

Trifecta 94 – Looking For Mr Right

Tokyo-Metro

I’d been glancing her way for a couple of weeks. Just over there: in the seat underneath the scrolling screen. Her black hair, hazel eyes – mouth and nose covered by the pink surgical mask. Her small, delicate frame made her look like a child. Those eyes told a different story.

Think she might have noticed me. I was so clumsy at this sort of thing. She probably thought I was a stalker. However, my mind was made up. I had to speak to her.

“…Next stop Otemachi…” flashed the sign.

This is where she always got off. It was a stop early for me, but that didn’t matter.

Out of the train, up the escalators. I kept pace. I’d no idea what I was doing. What if she stopped? What was I going to say? Hadn’t really thought it through properly. Typical, but it was too late.

The station concourse was heaving. We somehow ended up at the waiting room near Starbucks. Together. Alone. She stood there. She knew I’d been following her. I approached slowly – still no idea what to say. A single delicate finger against her masked lips said no words were required. She moved in close. She was only a tiny thing. So tiny. So pale. Stroking my arm, reaching up to my face. Touching. Sensing. She gently lifted her mask and began to smell. Everywhere. All over.

‘No,’ she whispered.

The door flew open as a mother and a child crashed in screaming insults at each other. I only looked away for a moment, but she was gone.

As I ride the subway this morning the headlines tell of a man found castrated and garroted at Otemachi station.  Reports were already linking him with the murder of a tiny, hazel eyed girl two weeks ago. They’d found her pathetic, crumpled body in the waiting room near Starbucks

Her name was Mayuko.

As I look up, the seat underneath the sign is empty.

Mayuko had found her man.

trifecta

These 333 words, based on the third definition of the wordmask , form my entry into the Trifecta 94 writing challenge.

This piece became my third effort to get into the Trifecta winner’s circle, achieving a second place. As ever I am flattered that the judges saw something in my work.