Category Archives: Trifecta

Weekly 33 to 333 word challenge. My entries will usually be of the 333 word variety.

Trifecta 97 – A Matter of Priorities

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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.

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

Trifecta 96 – Down in the Woods

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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.

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

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.

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

Trifecta 94 – Looking For Mr Right

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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.

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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. 

Trifecta 93 – Coming Home

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The harr rolls slowly off the sea. The join between water and land confused by the damp, salty blanket. In the distance white tailed eagles swoop down from the ridges of Ben Vorlich – their grace eternal; their majesty unchallenged. Terrified rabbits sprint for cover; the Laird’s sheep chase each other in their never ending game of follow the leader. The heather sways in the fields. I stand and watch as breathless as the first time I’d set eyes on this scene.

At the end of the track it lies – the whitewashed house. As the sun fights bravely for the right to brighten my day, the memories flow – memories of mild Scottish summers spent by the sea. Nothing ever changed. The rusty gate. The windows which shook when the waves crashed into the headland. The salt bite on the tongue when taking a breath. Mother’s washing fluttering in the breeze – forever damp, but somehow satisfyingly clean and fresh. Its sins blown away.

Every day I used to wait for the fisherman from round the point. He’d go puttering past and wave. I’d wave back. I always hoped one day he’d stop and take me with him. He never did, but I’d still be there each day. Hoping. Down by the rocks I’d find everything. The upturned hull of a yellow rowing boat, ropes, nets, odd boots – even found a bible once. I’d tell my mother about it all; she’d smile and I’d rush back out refreshed by her love. This happened every summer. This was summer.

Standing here today I remember it all. A tear forms. I somehow manage a smile.

My mother passed in the spring. She hadn’t been back to the house in years. She always wanted to, but I was always too busy. Now we are back. Up above she soars with the eagles. Watching over me. Protecting.

Ahead the ‘For Sale’ sign lies ripped from the sandy soil.

We are home again mother.

Home by the sea.

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These 333 words, based on the word ‘grace‘ , form my entry into the Trifecta 93 writing challenge. I’ve written a lot of stories based in the US – today I stayed at home. I am a proud Scot and this week’s entry is unapologetically sentimental and Scottish.

Trifecta 92 – Banged to Rights

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I hated almost every minute of working in that place, especially having to deal with that power crazed shit: him with the blackboard and his ‘strikes’. Every day he’d creep around the centre putting the fear of God into the snot nosed kids who staffed the place. I can see him now: one hand scratching his balls, the other tossing his chalk into the air. So many times I felt like reaching out for that damned chalk and ramming it down his throat. However, I was on two strikes; that would have probably made it three.

I remember one morning he sloped past my desk – he rarely looked me in the eye. He was just itching to give me another strike but didn’t have the guts. He knew how much money I was pulling in. More importantly the real bosses knew. A few feet further up the office he paused and out it came – his catchphrase:

‘Let me say it in language you might understand. This ain’t damn bowling friend: a turkey round here and you disappear – one strike left. Am I making myself clear?’

The spotty sixteen year old he’d just chewed out was shaking. The poor bastard looked almost on the verge of tears.  I gave the kid a quick thumbs up and a wink – it brought a smile back to his face. However, I’m not going to shit you: as bad as it was I was actually making some good money.

There were other benefits to working there: we thought we’d kept it quiet – the prick was meant to be out of town at a conference. Him coming back and catching his daughter and me going at it like Easter bunnies kinda signaled the end of my career in the centre.

He almost died when I turned up for work the next day.

‘Don’t worry I won’t be staying’

Heading straight for his blackboard I marked up my third strike – had to admit I’d probably earned it.

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These 333 words, based on the Tenpin bowling ‘turkey’, form my entry into the Trifecta 92 writing challenge.

Trifextra 82 – Teletales

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Hello <Insert Name>, thank you for ordering AMCO International Bedtime Services.

Please select from one of the following story themes:

1 Handsome Princes

2 Ponies & Puppies

3  Pageant Queens

4 Repeat Options

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These 33 words from my entry into the Trifextra 82 writing challenge.

Trifecta 91- The Code Breaker

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Billy-Jo smelled of raspberries. Her eyes were green as frogs; her hair the colour of coke. Billy-Jo’s father ran the sawmill and he hated his ‘princess’ mixing with the likes of me. But we got round the old buzzard easy enough, thanks to Mitchells Cattle supplies! On their front wall was every darned brand mark in the county. Each one was a different farm – I knew ‘em all.

I wrote up a sheet for Billy-Jo. It had all the marks on it; said what each one meant. When her school bus drove by Mitchells she’d see one of the marks circled in chalk. Worked a treat. Allowed us to arrange meets and nobody was none the wiser. I never went anywhere near their house, not once.

We’d been dating for a good while and I was having them urges. All the other boys had ‘em and their girls sorted them good. She seemed wary; a bit nervous likes. However, she eventually agreed it was time. That morning I chalked the ‘Barons’ brand mark. Across from their place was Verndale Lake. Lots of long grass – a perfect spot.

I got there early. Heck, I was nervous too. The rustling of the leaves signalled company.  ‘Hi Mikey,’ said Jemima.

I couldn’t think of much to say. It weren’t who I was expecting but boy she did look good. Jemima didn’t smell of raspberries. She smelled more like my mother. Her hair was blond but the black bits said it weren’t natural. That day was the last  I chalked on Mitchell’s wall.

Never did figure out where Billy-Jo got to that night or how Jem turned up instead: ‘just fate,’ Jem would say with a smile. I ended up doing thirty years in the sawmill while Jem brung up our kids. She left me young when the sickness hit the town. God took her early said the preacher. I can still smell her on my shirt now. The smell of love I always told her.

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These 333 words, based on the word ‘brand’, form my entry into the Trifecta 91 writing challenge. 

Trifecta 90 – A Man’s Best Friend

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It was a small town; everybody knew Peter Wingdale. He had a reputation for being a cold, heartless soul. Any grasp of right and wrong had been lost somewhere along the way for Peter. He wouldn’t think twice about picking on helpless old folks or kids;  animals too – more than one neighbourhood cat had been found hanging, gutted in his tool shed. He was crazy if truth be told. However, that summer he seemed to change. He looked so proud. Her blond curls twinkled in the spring sunshine. Long walks in the woods, afternoons in the park, paddling in the lake – they became inseparable.

She was clearly wary of him. Never a sound when he was close. People began to think it was strange – she almost look scared of him. One time old Mrs Haggerty says she saw Peter giving her a fearful smack outside the off licence. As she began to cry Peter grabbed her by the throat; screamed for her to be quiet. He threw her in the car. They weren’t seen again for a week. She now limped but still stayed firmly by his side. Loyal as ever.

For a while things appeared back to normal. Peter and his girl walking about town. He never did say what her name was. Then one day they disappeared again. No more sightings. No more public admonishments from Peter. Late Monday last week the police were called out to the Wingdale place: gun shots had been heard. Peter was in his mother’s room – well most of him was. His brains were sprayed all over the landing wall. He must have been facing his mother’s bed when he pulled the trigger.

Down in the basement they heard whimpering. They found her curled up on a blanket at the back of a cage, trembling but alive – just. Turned out Jennifer was her name. Peter may have treated her like a dog but she had somehow survived  both him and his cruelty.

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These 333 words, based on the word ‘grasp’, form my entry into the Trifecta 90 writing challenge. If you would like to vote for me in the community voting then you can do so on Thursday night or Friday morning. 

Trifecta 89 – The Final Judgement

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Robert William Xavier Mallard had long been regarded as one of the finest Judges in the state. Many an aspiring Johnnie Cochran had run aground on the rocks of Mallard reef. He took no nonsense; nobody knew the law better than Bob.

Only one local firm thought they had the better of Judge Mallard – Cressmans. To give them their full names, Cressman, Fernandez & Cressman. For every criminal the Judge had banged to rights there would be another the damn Cressmans would get off. Grudging professional respect aside, he loathed them.

Any Client, Any Case’ was their motto. Most of their clients were as guilty as sin. Weak excuses, even weaker legal arguments – it didn’t matter. The gleaming smiles and razor sharp Cressman suits worked their magic more times than the Judge cared to forget.

And there they were at his retirement party. Fernandez didn’t show – Bob wasn’t absolutely sure there was a Fernandez. He wouldn’t have put it past the Cressmans to add the name simply to appeal more to Hispanics. It’s the kind of thing the shysters would do.

‘No hard feelings Judge, I mean Bob’ grinned Wally Cressman as he approached the bar. His pearly white teeth and recently acquired suntan glowed as he sat on the stool next to Bob.

‘Not many’ Bob replied, barely looking up from his cocktail.

‘That’s the spirit, and hey if you ever need a solicitor…well, maybe not, eh Bob?’

‘No, I’ll take a card. You never know.’

As Wally reached into his jacket pocket Bob pounced. The punch came from way back – delivered with the zest of a young sweetheart defending his maiden’s honour. Wally didn’t see it coming. It landed flush on the nose, blood splattering against his tanned cheeks. Bob calmly removed his phone and dialled.

‘Cressman, Fernandez & Cressman. Any Client, Any Case. How can I help you?’

‘Yes, I need a lawyer,’ Bob replied, a satisfied grin on his face, as he resumed sipping his Manhattan.

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These 333 words form my entry into the Trifecta 89 writing challenge.

For those who don’t know, the picture used is of Saul Goodman from ‘Breaking Bad’. Saul is the archetypal shyster lawyer, and one of the stars of the show. If you haven’t watched ‘Breaking Bad’ then I suggest you make plans to do so!

Trifecta 88 – Voice of Korea

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A week in North Korea hadn’t been high on my bucket list, but as one of the few corporations with an office in Pyongyang, I was up. Whether through a sense of curiosity or sadism – I wasn’t sure which – I almost began to look forward to it. Could this place really be as grim as it was painted?

I was barely out of the plane when they came towards me. One introduced himself as my official interpreter. He introduced the other one as a party observer. No names; certainly no informalities. I decided to call the interpreter Mr K. He didn’t object. He called me Sir. Both men wore identical clothing.  Just about the only way to tell them apart was the striking flash of grey in the interpreter’s otherwise matt black hair.

Over the following week I would only lose my double shadow when my bedroom door closed. On my last full day a cultural tour was undertaken; it seemed to be obligatory. Driving through the eerily deserted city streets my interpreter pointed out one particularly bold propaganda poster:

“We Koreans Band Together For Victory”

Probably not a literal translation, pointed out Mr K, but the unification rhetoric sounded familiar. I laughed. We both did, surprisingly. He suddenly started telling me about his family – even showed me a small picture of a pretty little girl, red ribbons in her hair. It was his daughter. The observer took note.

On my last morning Mr K wasn’t there. The observer turned up alone and pointed the way. I didn’t think too much of it. We were quickly herded to the station and the train south to Seoul. As we waited I spotted a crowded train opposite, with armed guards on the doors. I was told it was going north. I was told not to ask any more questions.

As the northbound train left I caught a flash of grey. Our eyes briefly met. In his lap a little girl’s red ribbons fluttered.

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These 333 words form my entry into the Trifecta 88 writing challenge.

The ‘Voice of Korea‘ is international broadcasting service of North Korea. If you have a moment please visit this page and listen to the crackling segments of VoK – they send a shiver down the spine.

For the crime of laughter Mr K was possibly heading here:

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Trifecta 87 – First Love, Only Love

t87‘You are invited to the reading of the last will and testament of Charlie Duffin,’ said the letter. Louisa-May had barely seen Charlie in years: he’d upped and left her back in ’65, leaving three kids and his ageing mother. He’d show up from time to time. No matter how angry she’d be he’d always win her round.

‘Charm a crab out of its shell. That’s you Charlie Duffin,’ she always used to say. He’d stay for a few nights and sometimes it looked like things may go back to the way they were. They never did.

As she sat in the lawyer’s office others began to arrive. Louisa-May knew he’d remarried; Charlie hadn’t contested the divorce. Three more recently bereaved women soon showed up. A fourth had died: drunk herself to death apparently. As the lawyer began eyebrows were quickly raised.

‘The following conditions apply to any beneficiaries of this will….’

It was a long list. Look out for his youngest kids was one. Tending to his old mother’s grave was another. One by one the former wives cursed Charlie’s name before storming out. Charlie knew they would. After a dozen or so more conditions were announced, only one Mrs Duffin remained. The lawyer continued:

‘If I’m right the only one of you still listening will be my Louisa-May. Are you there Lou? Louisa, I’m sorry for all the hurt I caused you girl. Sorry for leaving you with them kids and my crazy old mother. You know you were the only one I really loved. Them others? That was my ego getting the better of me. You knew how much I couldn’t resist laying a line on someone. Got me in a right mess at times. Please forgive me Louisa. Please don’t think bad of me. Whatever I had left is yours. Love Charlie.”

The lawyer stopped; Louisa-May smiled. She wasn’t interested in any of Charlie’s old possessions. She had their shared memories, good and bad. She didn’t need anything else.

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These 333 words form my entry into the Trifecta 87 writing challenge. I hope you like them.

Trifecta 86 – A Family Matter

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They shuffled in and out. Faces without names. Names without faces. No one made any attempt to disturb her. It’s her life they probably thought.  All sense of time was lost on Carrie. Days, weeks, minutes. She could have been lying there for years. The sheets underneath her were stained through with her own waste. Her once blond curls matted, ripped and torn beyond recognition. She’d lost all respect for herself. Nobody else seemed to care. She was beyond saving.

Carrie would just lie there all day staring into nothing. Then she saw it. A bright light. A blinding light pouring through a deep crack in the wall. As she looked around the room nobody else seemed to notice. Maybe nobody else wanted to see it. Perhaps nobody else needed to.

“Is it a way in? Is it a way out?” she whispered. No answer came.

Then suddenly they appeared. One by one.

Her father said he loved her. He doesn’t blame her for what happened. She’s still his baby girl. He forgives her. Can she forgive him? Should she forgive him? She’d loved him once. Maybe she still did.

With Carrie’s mother’s arrival there followed silence. Hushed moments of pained but somehow mutual understanding. He’s my husband! He was my father! Tears flowed on both sides. If asked her mother would say she knew nothing. Her mother would know what her father wanted her to know.

Brad. Catcher’s mitt ready to play. Carrie had been such a sport when younger. Brad said she’d be the first girl to play for the Springvale Lancers. She was good enough but things just didn’t work out. Girls are meant for other things. That’s what her father assured her. She loved her brother. He was the only one who ever really listened to her. The only one who believed.

As suddenly as it had come the light quickly began to fade. The crack was almost closed. Carrie’s eyes rolled skywards. The needle fell to the floor

These 333 words are my entry into the Trifecta Week 86 writing challenge. 

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Trifecta 85 – The Cruelest Trick of All

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Most people would walk straight by without knowing it was even there. Mr Kenningway’s antique bookstore cowered down a dank, musty alley off Farrendale Avenue. It was the kind of spot more likely to attract passing rats than customers. However, if you needed to, you’d find it. Just as I did on that Christmas Eve 20 years past.

I’d been told about Kenningways and it sounded ideal. It was. Within minutes I’d found the book I wanted: “Chess Classics by Bobby Fischer”. Father was terrible at Chess but liked to read about people who weren’t. Mr Kenningway was a charming old man. He seemed to have read every book in the shop. When I’d drop by we’d talk about old times. His old times. It was a pleasure to share them.

I moved away from town. College, marriage, job, children. The usual things. I couldn’t have been happier. However, I often wondered if it was still there. If he was still there. They both were. Mr Kenningway looked old. He said I did too! We laughed. I soon started to make regular trips back to town and always stopped at the bookstore. One day I noticed it. He appeared frustrated. Cranky. I’d never known Mr Kenningway to fly off the handle before. However, he seemed confused. He couldn’t find things which were only a few feet away. He complained his memory wasn’t what it was.

That was three years ago. I still visit him. He’s living in the sheltered housing units where the old railway sidings used to be. Whenever I walk in he always looks up. He recognises the face, he just can’t remember the name. Some days I’m his nephew, the next his grandson. I don’t mind. It’s too late and too complicated to explain. As long as we continue to have our moments together, looking at his old photos, remembering the old days I can be whoever he wants me to be. I’m there for him, that’s all that matters.

These 333 words are my entry into the Trifecta Week 85 writing challenge. 

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This story is dedicated to the ongoing research into the cruelest trick life can play on an active mind.

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For more on the above early signs of Alzheimer’s please look here.

Trifecta 84 – A Life in Letters

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Mr Brownside was a lover. His passion was almost insatiable as Mrs Brownside would readily confirm. Night after night he would satisfy his lust with one classic or another. The wonder and beauty of the English language was the only mistress he required. Mrs Brownside had become used to being the other woman in his life.

The teenagers of Gainsfield High rarely shared Mr Brownside’s thirst for their mother tongue. As hard as he tried to relay the wonders of Shakespeare, Bronte and Wells the vacant looks from the assembled gum chewers told him he was onto a loser. Most who left his care at the end of the school year would sadly do so with a crude notion of how to use their own language. All except one. One face looked back with interest.

Cam Saunders seemed half the age of his classmates. However, from reading his first assignment Mr Brownside knew he had stumbled upon something special. Someone special. With his teacher’s encouragement Cam quickly became Mr Brownside’s star pupil. Local and national writing competitions were entered and won. Even outside of the school people were getting to know the name of Cam Saunders.

Why then? Why can children be so cruel? Why is it a crime to some young, twisted minds to want to be different? Why is it wrong to want to make the most of your talents? Why?

Mr Brownside had tortured himself with these questions in the years since. The heartbreaking note Cam left behind forever haunts him. Tears still fall when Cam’s desperate but beautiful final words drift through his mind. He would never truly get over it.

Each autumn the falling leaves bring with them a new class. Sometimes he thinks he sees Cam walking through his door again. He knows that won’t happen. However, one day there will be another who wants to learn. Another someone special. There has to be. Mr Brownside will never give up hope. Never give up on his children.

These 333 words are my entry into the Trifecta Week 84 writing challenge. If you want further information on school bullying and youth suicide then you could do worse than to take a look at this

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